The Communication Initiative and Haiti: how we, public relators, can hope to add real value

This post is by from PR Conversations

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My good friend Warren Feek, from the Communication Initiative, has sent the following message…very relevant in general, but even more specifically for our professional community. Please read and, where possible, participate. Thank you.

Dear Drum Beat network participant,

On behalf of all connected with The Communication Initiative network, we wish to express our support for and solidarity with the people of Haiti as they struggle to overcome this massive disaster.

We have received some requests, and need your help. We also want to provide some connections for people and organisations hoping to relate to organisations in Haiti - when communications become possible. Plus, we all know from previous times like this that spaces to communicate, debate, and struggle with the meaning and implications of are vitally important. Consequently, we have created these spaces through The CI and include links to these spaces here below. (more…)

Advice for Behind the Spin contributors

I welcome approaches to write for Behind the Spin, but frequently find myself having similar email exchanges with would-be contributors. So this post should make the process clearer for all (and save me some time).

We are a magazine for public relations students and graduates. If you have news of interest to our readers, then please contact If you would like to write a feature, then contact

What is news?

We're very keen to hear news about PR students or PR degree courses. 

News typically describes an event, frequently in the recent past. News tends to be written in the past tense, is usually objective (it or they, not I or we), and news articles should be as short as possible. The best way to write news is to answer this question: what happened? 

What is a feature?

A feature article should be about a theme or idea. It can be longer than a news article (our features are typically 1000 words) and can be personal. But your feature does not have to express your opinion: you can contact others and include a range of opinions in the form of quotations. Or you can write a profile on one person.

What can I write about?

We give some indication of the type of features we're looking for on the About page. But you're also welcome to contact us with your own ideas. You could:

  • Write a profile of a senior practitioner
  • Spend a day with a junior PR practitioner and write about their working day
  • Focus on careers: how to get a graduate job in a top consultancy; how to earn big money
  • Focus on issues: why are there so few men in PR?
  • Focus on sectors: how to find work in fashion PR?; what's it like working in NHS comms?
  • Focus on change: how is social media changing PR?
  • Focus on courses: is a PR degree worth it?
  • Answer a question: is media relations declining in importance?
  • Turn your dissertation or essay into an article
  • Write a review of a recent book about (or of relevance to) public relations

Socially Engaged

This post is by from The Flack

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A few years back, my long-time friend, collaborator and sometimes client Rob Key of award-winning social media consultancy Converseon outlined how companies ideally should endeavor to engage the social graph.

He called the process "cultural anthropology," and by so doing, recognized that each social channel or community had distinct customs and a language of its own. (At the time, the objects of clients' affections were a burgeoning Facebook, MySpace, Wikipedia, Second Life, and some niche online communities.)

Rob warned that companies must first take time to gain a clear understanding of these nets' disparate languages and customs before attempting to make their presence known. At the time, many "forward-thinking" marketers blindly jumped into the social fray, hoping to exert or exact influence, and instead ended up paying a price in sullied reputation.

I've since heard others echo Rob's mantra using that now clichéd party metaphor, i.e., don't walk up to a group in deep conversation at a cocktail party and just start blathering away.

Today, the advice to individually engage each social channel also rings true for those building their personal brand identities (and spheres of influence). I ask:
  • How many online communities are you active in?
  • Are your "friends" the same from channel to channel?
  • How do you determine whom to friend or unfriend from community to community?
  • Do you intra-link your comments, tweets and posts between your social nets?
User protocols vary from person to person. Personally, I can't figure out the rationale for following tens of thousands of people on Twitter, or why one would give perfect strangers access to your real-time whereabouts on FourSquare.

Anyway, I thought I'd take some time to outline the approach I make to the social channels in which I have an active presence. Please know that they are not by any stretch a model for everyone. They just happen to work for me...for now:

  • Followers: I welcome and encourage anyone to follow me, except for SPAM artists, Twitter-baiters who extol the secret sauce for building followers, and dubious 3rd party app promoters requesting both my Twitter name AND password.
  • Following: I am very judicious about whom I follow. They tend to be authoritative voices in the media, marketing, technology, and PR space. Those who post pics showing what's on their dinner plates or describe their daily exercise regimen almost always get "the unfollow."

  • Contrary to how most Facebookers use this channel, I limit my FB friends to business associates and thought-leaders, also in the media, marketing, PR, and technology space.
  • As a result, I've been put on the spot by my brothers, sister, and many forgotten high school and college friends and acquaintances. Fortunately, my three sons proceeded to block me after I signed up, which saved me even more agida.

  • This is probably the most inclusive of my social networks. I have more than 500 friends who run the gamut from industry thought leaders to current and past clients to former colleagues at the agencies I've worked over a long career in PR.
  • As a rule, I have not accepted LinkedIn invitations from people I don't know or know about. I also refrain from linking in with PR industry service vendors or headhunters, both of which stand to gain more from mining my network than I do from tapping theirs.

  • I'm finding more and more digerati whom I know or know of, have joined this location-based social network(ing game). Who doesn't love the surprise of earning a new badge or moniker when periodically checking-in?
  • However, the CEO of a major fashion house told me over the holidays that he finds it creepy to share one's whereabouts with a bunch of randoids. He's right. Hence, I have thus far resisted invitations to connect on FourSquare with people I really don't know (and trust).

  • I apply the same rules of familiarity to Dopplr, which tracks and promotes my travel plans by city versus FourSquare's local venue approach.

  • What's TimesPeople? It's a growing network of New York Times readers who follow each others' story recommendations from It allows users to keep tabs on the most recommended, commented and tweeted stories.
  • Like Twitter, I welcome anyone to follow my story recommendations, but try to follow those whose opinions I respect. I may not know them personally, as is the case with some Times staffers, but I'm always curious to learn what they deem worth reading.

  • I joined Friendfeed after Scobleizer began touting its magical powers of connection. Since that time, however, my use of the channel for posting original content has waned.
  • My Friendfeed today, with 342 followers, captures and streams my editorial output from several sources including my blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page.
In addition to those mentioned above, I use (now owned by Seesmic) to aggregate these disparate social networks (not unlike Friedfeed), for bookmarking, as a URL shortening/bookmarking tool, and am now experimenting with Gist, Google Wave, and Brizzly.

The reasons why I've embraced the social graph would merit a whole other post, but suffice to say that these (and others on the horizon) are the channels that eventually will serve as vital links to your client's core constituencies (and your own ability to exert influence). Those in the PR biz should take the time to learn how to navigate them.

The COI – Making Taxes Work For You?

This post is by from As It Happens, from TPPR

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Although the talk since the Reagan-Thatcher years has tended to be of the reduction in the power of the State and the importance of markets, the rhetoric does not quite fit the actuality.

All that has happened over thirty years is that the threat of a public sector monopoly over productive capacity has been replaced by a duopoly of power in which innovation and infrastructure have shifted into private hands but provision of services remains state-led.

Decentralising The State

Radical conservatives (including many who purport to be on the centre-left) were moving to change this balance in the boom years before the 'credit crunch'.

This position has gone underground while the public is forced to place more trust in the State as a guarantor of last resort against financial system failures - but it has not gone away. The British public sector is now readying itself not just for spending cuts but for a possible administrative revolution.

Currently, our national administration is operating on a 'care and maintenance' basis because of the uncertainties of the coming General Election.

It may take months after the result is announced to get things started again (if only because new ministers will not rubber-stamp predecessors' decisions). By the time that they do, in the Autumn, the mantra will be cost-savings and cuts, regardless of who is in office.

The current theme, partly dictated by the full employment and votes requirements of the incumbent Government but also by economic strategy, is that capital investment is to be cut but head-count ('front-line' services in the speeches) will be sustained.

This is, of course, absurd in the very long term. It is capital investment that creates sustainable wealth and greater efficiencies (as well as jobs). Having lots of people working within a crumbling infrastructure is tantamount to embedding long term economic decline for fear of short term unemployment figures.

Beyond Cynicism

What can be done about this? The first and most cynical thing to say is that this delay in cuts affecting head-count is only partly to do with keeping the economy going. It is also a determination by an incumbent not to disturb a public sector whose votes will go to it all things being equal.

Another cynical observation would be that one cost, neither truly capital investment nor head-count, that might be cut to buy time is the elimination of consultants (before the election) and the quangocracy (after the election) - just work the existing staff harder. We'll come on to that.

If the economists are wrong and if the IMF manages to hold the line in the outer rim of Europe and we are not faced by a sterling crisis, then, perhaps, just perhaps, the infrastructure of the State and 'frontline services' will hold together and we can go back to business as usual in due course.

Through natural wastage and slow growth, with such a strategy, the State can retain its role in society as something more than law enforcement against the surly unemployed. The remnants of social democracy, which is always civil servants' natural preference, might be preserved.

However, we hold to the view (based on experience) that all institutions have an acute sense of their own survival. The machinery of the State cannot be identified entirely with the people who pay for it and whom it serves. It has a politics all of its own.

State Survivalism

As the months go by, you are likely to see at least three 'survival tactics' emerge that are quite new and are designed to preserve the core of the State against radical decentralisers who have emerged on the Right of New Labour and, above all, in the Tory Party.

The new Tory Parliamentary intake will include many experienced local government 'cutters'. Influential Tory 'intellectual' politicians like Douglas Carswell are pushing hard (with some Liberal Democrat sympathy to be expected) for a significant decentralisation of power.

We have already noted the first 'survival tactic' - the slashing of the use of consultants, in effect a decision to throw the private sector hangers-on who have benefited so much from New Labour approaches to private/public partnership overboard to sink or swim.

The second is to start bringing in academics to 'nudge' the population into acceptance of the value of the State and the third, perhaps most interesting of all, are tentative moves to try to quantify the value of what Government does in preparation for aggressive media and PAC questioning.

Away With Agents & Consultants

Since we are associated with the public relations industry, this might be the place to start looking at signs of what is to come. Government communications are an easy target for a new Parliament of Tory provincials - they represent 'spin' and they cost a lot.

On December 11th, PR Week 'revealed' that the COI was going to undertake a highest-level review of government communications with planned efficiency savings of £650m from marketing and management consultancy spend.

Some of the savings will come from an eventual assault on the quangocracy (123 bodies seem to have been targeted for merger or abolition across Government). The claim is that overall consultancy spending in Whitehall will be cut by 50% and marketing by 25%.

What is perhaps most interesting (especially to those exercised by what the centralisation of gritting roads says about New Labour) is the hint that the COI will become more powerful as the central point for all Government communications efforts, which is certainly logical in terms of economies of scale.

This, of course, centralises the State's effort even further into 'one message' communications. This is a challenge to the Tory instinct for the decentralisation of power, although it might suit the Right to have a smaller State communicating more clearly.

However, before we get too excited, New Labour is not cutting a steady-state marketing capability. The COI spend on PR and news management (according to PR week) in 2008/2009 was actually 50% up on the previous year at £41m so a big slash could merely return it to 2007/2008 levels.

The suspicion of Tories has always been that the relatively recent surge in expenditures on education and health communications was 'political' - designed to increase awareness of New Labour's zone of electoral advantage.

A true cynic (not us!) might wonder whether this was legerdemain. A surge of expenditure in the run-up to a known election year and then newspaper-friendly responsible cuts  - back to normal once the vote was in. Surely not!

Nudging Approval

We have already raised concerns in As It Happens and elsewhere about the politicians' new fascination with anthropology and the cognitive sciences. This is a general phenomenon, to be found in Cameron's circle as much as anywhere else.

We have cruelly likened it to the fashion for race politics in the first half of the twentieth century that led to the death camps. It is imperfect science within an undeveloped paradigm seized upon by politicians desperate for a solution to their problems of social order and legitimacy.

In the same edition of PR Week, having announced cuts in consultancy and agency, the COI also announced a new raft of advisers - a planned panel of 'behaviour change experts' (i.e. psychologists, behavioural economists, anthropologists and sociologists) to assist in PR planning.

There are philosophical issues here - should your or my money be spent on systems that try to change my behaviour rather than just require compliance with the law? Should a democratic state be using techniques designed to sell goods and services against its own people?

This is the famous 'nudge' approach to public policy and probably as doomed in the long run as all such theoretical and manipulative interventions into our lives, but we can rant as much as we wish - clearly Government thinks that this is the way forward.

In fact, much of this is benign. There is an obesity problem and behavioural psychology can legitimately be used to change behaviour in the interests of the public (assuming they retain the right to be obese by choice). What we have to watch for is drift into projects that suit them and not us.

The point is that the State is now shifting from simply being the client to agencies who take the cash and communicate messages into a more complex animal that learns how to manage perception of itself and so the skills institutionally to embed itself in society against threats to its legitimacy.

This is a major challenge to libertarians because the main claim against the State at the moment is, in fact, that it is not truly competent (often unfairly so but a widespread perception). Changing perception does not change competence but merely perception of competence.

The COI And Value For Money

We leave the best to last. Hidden away but public domain on the COI 'big thinkers' blog is a paper boringly entitled Payback and Return on Marketing Investment [ROMI] in the Public Sector. It is what it says on the tin and the tin was opened up to consultation within the COI family at the end of November.

We don't propose to analyse it here but it is very significant and very creative. In essence, it is taking the bull by the horns of value in marketing (an old debate that has created a mini-industry of evaluation in public relations for nervous corporations).

It is a pre-emptive strike against Parliamentary scrutiny. Under the current regime, 'spin' is good if the Cabinet office or the Prime Minister's Office thinks it is good. There was no need to evaluate. But things change.

'Spin' is not going to be good if New Labour loses the next election (any post mortem will place the collapse down to a history of public manipulation going back to the mid-1990s) and the COI is going to have to demonstrate quantifiable social benefits to ministers under increasing backbench pressure.

Although all these initiatives relate just to one key Department (the Central Office of Information), their appearance at the end of 2009 in anticipation of new conditions by mid-2010 is neither accidental nor unique to communications.

The threat to the State is not simply sheer lack of funds but also legitimacy under conditions where more funds are being raised from the private sector through taxation for services that are undoubtedly going to weaken through cuts - and this may go on for many years.

The new Parliament, regardless of Government, is going to have a phalanx of cost-cutting anti-statist libertarians in place hungry for decentralisation and placing constant pressure on the State to justify its existence against starving packs of private sector rivals and angry letters from constituents.

Legitimacy & Cuts

These three strategies: bringing business back in-house, using academics to build strategies for legitimacy and demonstrating value to Parliament more quantitatively: are three survival tools of value to public administration in very difficult new times. They are pre-emptive strikes against slash and burn.

One last note - the agencies and consultancies who are about to be pushed out may have little to say in the matter (though they will no doubt be lobbying to get back in when things pick up) but many civil servants are not going to like Mark Cross' initiative at the COI one little bit.

If you are used to making relatively unstressful decisions based on your Oxbridge judgement and keeping your head below the parapet to avoid fairly rare Parliamentary scrutiny, Cross' initative, if it spreads through Whitehall, sounds like a lot of hard work and risk.

The Luddites would be mistaken. It is not just the Tory backwoodsman that the State has to worry about (after all most will sink back into relative laziness or end up on the payroll vote after a while) but the new breed of citizen journalist and blogger.

In the coming decades, the issue is not whether Parliament backs the State but whether the public backs both State and Parliament. Parliament is in bad odor with a written warning in its HR file. The State needs direct public legitimacy if taxes are to be paid and laws obeyed.

And here's a thought that should concentrate minds - what if an enraged and angry electorate decides that not only should bankers' bonuses be clawed back but also 'fat cat' public sector pensions? Unlikely, yes, but Luddites ought not be complacent - the anger out there is palpable.

We should take the current planned cuts with a pinch of a salt and be highly suspicious of government by 'nudge' but the COI's initiative on ROMI should be welcomed and encouraged - in the public interest.

The rise of the community manager

This post is by from PR Studies

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I've been monitoring the emergence of the community manager role for some time, but it's good to be able to put names and career trajectories to it.

New Media Age reports that ASOS social media manager Ilana Fox is leaving next month. She was previously community editor at The Sun and before that she had a similar role at The Daily Mail. At ASOS, she led the launch of the ASOS Life community. (Via Vikki Chowney)

Start with the customer

This post is by from Blog Feed

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Read this interview with Jeff Bezos in Newsweek recently.  He makes an interesting point about how Amazon drives its growth.

Amazon started off as a retailer. Now you’re also selling computing services, and you’re in the consumer-electronics business with the Kindle. How do you define what Amazon is today?
We start with the customer and we work backward. We learn whatever skills we need to service the customer. We build whatever technology we need to service the customer. The second thing is, we are inventors, so you won’t see us focusing on "me too" areas. We like to go down unexplored alleys and see what’s at the end. Sometimes they’re dead ends. Sometimes they open up into broad avenues and we find something really exciting. And then the third thing is, we’re willing to be long-term-oriented, which I think is one of the rarest characteristics. If you look at the corporate world, a genuine focus on the long term is not that common. But a lot of the most important things we’ve done have taken a long time.

Start with the customer and work backward.  How simple is that.  We muddy the waters with talk of the need to focus on “core competencies”, we react to trends by calling them “passing fads”, we jealously guard our core business and expect the customer to come to their senses and realize what we’re best at, so that they can get the best out of us.  Meanwhile the customer has moved on.

Stepping out is hard.  That’s why so many PR agencies still struggle with how to turn on a dime and become digital agencies, while preserving their client base. How do you preserve current skill sets while learning new ones, keep your strongest players motivated while you transform the company in a way that may render them irrelevant? Or perhaps you have a sister company that already competes with you in digital, how do you avoid cannibalizing your respective revenues?

Short-term pain is inevitable if you want long-term gain.  Witness how the traditional media market is suffering these days.  But creative destruction takes foresight, courage, willingness to take risk, and most importantly, leaders that are wiling to step up and step out.  It’s not easy.

My review of 2010

This post is by from PR Studies

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Let me look back on the present year (since it's too uncertain looking forward). Here's what I see:

Work: I have a better balance of university teaching, professional qualifications, training and consultancy. (I've already precipitated this change by reducing my university commitments). The freelance life isn't for everyone, but it suits me. There was more time for reading and writing too.

Politics: We needed an election, though a five month election campaign was unprecedented. Unfortunately, my vote counts for little as for the first time in my life I live in a safe seat (Skipton and Ripon). Living in Bristol North West and both Oxford constituencies made elections so much more interesting.

Sport: The World Cup galvanised the nation. To add to the excitement, I was teaching American graduate students in Italy when England played USA.

Profession: I had time to resolve some unfinished business. Time to help establish a specialist group for those in public relations academic and training roles (as distinct from the remit of the Education and Skills sectoral group).

The International History of Public Relations Conference was a highlight of the academic calendar.

Christian Constituents and The Blind Side

This post is by from The Flack

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The Daily Beast today reports on the remarkable box office success of the Sandra Bullock-starrer "The Blind Side." The film to date has grossed more that $200 million on a paltry budget (by Hollywood's standards) of $29 million. It usurped "Twilight: New Moon" in its third week atop the weekly rankings.

Could it be that Ms. Bullock's star has finally taken hold big time? (I'm told she's fab in the flick.) Does "The Blind Side" mark the resurrection of sports on the big screen after the disappointing George Clooney-starrer "Leatherheads?" The answers are likely neither, though the film's “four quadrant” appeal to male, female, young and old, certainly helps.

Apparently, the movie's marketers had the divine provenance to retain a PR firm that specializes in corralling the Christian coalition.
"Grace Hill Media, a marketing and PR firm that specializes in faith-based audiences, was aggressively selling The Blind Side to pastors and ministers around the country."
Now this is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that a studio tapped the faithful to drive box office receipts. In October 2005, I wrote about a similar scheme to support the "Chronicles of Narnia," and before that, another sports film - for golf. And then, who can forget the special screenings organized for Mel Gibson's (misguided but most profitable) "Passion," including one for the Pope? (Talk about engaging a key influencer!)

As for "The Blind Side," the tactics were familiar:
"One of Grace Hill’s most innovative techniques was to provide half a dozen clips from The Blind Side, along with “sermon outlines,” to 22,000 megachurches (most of which are equipped with huge screens, typically used to display lyrics to rock hymns). Pastors were encouraged to, while showing a movie clip to their congregation, apply a “biblical connection” and “life application” contained in the Grace Hill promotional materials."
The stategy to court constituents (and potential evangelists, literally) to create advance movie buzz is nothing new. I remember years ago working on the film "Absence of Malice" in which an everyday businessman (Paul Newman) was libeled by newspaper reporter (Sally Field). The studio retained PR legend John Scanlan to engage journalism and legal groups to explore what constitutes journalistic "malice" and in so doing, create buzz for the film. Our firm handled mainstream entertainment media outreach (as if there were any other).

And today, with the advent of niche social networks, the process of identifying or even building fresh channels of like-minded constituents becomes that much easier.

Personal Reputation Management: Review

This post is by from mediations

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I am about to start teaching three MA and BA modules in social media, and all will include significant amounts of hands-on practical work. As Bernie Goldbach observed, there's really no other way to do it.

One of the challenges is that, unlike most university assessments where there is pressure to blindmark, and students can expect a high degree of confidentiality in feedback, social media assignments are by definition played out in public, with flaws, weaknesses and sometimes plain stupidity on show for all to see, cache and index forever.

One of the reasons I am keen to add Louis Halpern and Roy Murphy's book, Personal Reputation Management: Making the Internet Work for You (2009, HalpernCowan) to the reading lists is that it constantly invites people to think about key issues of privacy and identity.

From the outset it's worth pointing out that the authors need a lot of white space, design creativity and none-too-stringent editing to break the 200 page barrier; the important bits could be delivered effectively in a much shorter and more focused way. At the same time, this is a good book for dipping in to, and if the 'relaxed' format succeeds in making students think, all well and good.

Halpern and Murphy start from the very reasonable position that "In the internet age, your personal 'brand' or identity is never off duty and your reputation is always 'switched on'. The internet is your 'reputation battleground'.

They claim, with some justification: "Privacy is in the past. It's gone. It's history.

"Imagine a scenario where every bad decision you made or every indiscretion was opened up for all to see. Scary thought? Welcome to the very connected world we now live in."

Backed by examples ranging from the talk radio DJ outed as a BNP member to a man whose reputation was shredded by bad reviews on a dating site, they conclude: "Your reputation is in serious danger if you don't look after it."

The problem is a lot broader than being caught doing bad things. If people look at what you knowingly and freelyhave posted, what will they conclude?

"What facets of your personality are you consistently projecting? Are you friendly? Efficient? Dynamic? Do you get on with people?"  

It's a good point. I have several facebook friends who are always complaining about being stressed, moaning about being put up on by colleagues, habitually disorganised (me!) or perpetually unlucky or unwell.  

The authors recommend a reputation action plan, assessing the brand values you are associated with (whether you like it or not!) coupled with a reputation audit of all the platforms on whuich information about you apears. The goal is to achieve a positive, consistent message across all 'digital touchpoints" that acts as an "executive summary of you", which can be bolstered by projecting key phrases and words to show you in a good light and "to help clarify the best aspects of your brand."

Perhaps this can go too far - as they say, "social media also allows a person to present an idealised version of themselves online." There is some truth in this, experience suggests that even the most scrupulous a few rough edges to show through.

Where the book doesn't deliver surrounds strategies for cleaning up a bad reputation. They give a few ideas but reality is that reputations are fragile and even resorting to the law is only a partial solution.    

Anyway, Halpern and Murphy "foresee a time in the near future when reputation management classes will be taught at school's and universities."

Well, that time is already here at Sunderland, and my students can expect to spend quite a bit of the coming semester working through the exercises in this useful and worthwhile book.  

UPDATE: You can download the first chapter free from the Personal Reputation Management website


The secrets of controlled media leaks…

This post is by from Tom Murphy - Murphy's Law

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There’s a lot of great content online.  If you wade back into the mists of time (I’m probably talking about oh 2001) then there really was very little information to find on subject areas like PR (believe me I used to look for it). 

But now we have the luxury of thousands of people actively blogging and twittering about PR and PR-related issues. This is fantastic.

Even when you consider quality-versus-volume, we’re still in a far far better place.

However, sometimes as I monitor what’s getting lots of Twitter love I just scratch my head and wonder.

The latest is this piece in MacObserver on How Apple Does Controlled Leaks (great headline) is a case in point.  You think ‘wow, we’re going to get the inside track here from a former Apple marketing dude’. (Well I personally wouldn’t say dude but come with me.)

This is being re-tweeted ad infinitum, people are getting ever so excited.

To save you the 45 seconds it’ll take you to read it, let me summarize:

“They call a reporter and tell them the leak.”

My God, why didn’t we think about that before? How clever, insightful, strategic and crafty. So, they ring a reporter and tell them the leak.  Fantastic.

I am now better equipped than ever to face the day.

Seriously, did everyone think they used to meet people in a dark corner of a parking garage? Did people think it was a mysterious envelope?



Seriously… dump that social media stuff and get back to work

This post is by from Tom Murphy - Murphy's Law

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Happy New Year. I had a lovely time, thanks for asking.

I have spent far too much time over the past couple of weeks monitoring the online chatter.  My god there’s a lot of noise.

I think I am having Social Media sweats. There are just so many articles, posts, rants and links.  Now don’t get me wrong it’s great that people are sharing their views, and opinions and, in a very small number of cases even their experiences.

But really… there are only so many Social Media Top 10s, 10 things to avoid, 10 brands that…. you know… enough already.

Social Media is incredibly exciting, important etc.

We get it. 


Enough with the colorful* graphs, bar charts and stock photography.

Honestly. If you don’t get the importance of the whole social media thing, then you are probably still faxing and spamming people with press releases and let’s be frank there’s little hope for you is there?

The reality however is that most of us aren’t paid a princely sum just for thinking about social media or antagonizing about the global impact of a new widget or phone. At least not me, if I missed that memo can you send me an e-mail or even a letter, please.

The reality is that we’ve got a day job and that day job requires us to think about mundane things like personal and professional objectives, managing our ever growing workload, understanding how our audiences are using social and unsocial media, how we can be more creative and how we can fundamentally change the way we write and think about communications.  In summary we are focusing on how we can be more effective in communicating with people who matter to our clients or employers. People not tools, widgets or hardware.

Social media is important for all of us, but as my grandmother often said don’t forget the knitting, it’s cold out there.

At least that’s what I think she said.



*Yes I’ve migrated to US spelling full-time.  I keep getting blank stares from my colleagues when I deliver pithy and if I say so myself, witty phrases that didn’t travel over the Atlantic, so US spelling reduces other risks.


Anatomy of a Controlled Leak

This post is by from The Flack

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On Monday evening, I tweeted the following:
@PeterHimler March shipping date. Price of $1K. My my. How unApple-like for new product details to leak in advance of the launch.
8:43 PM Jan 4th from Power Twitter
Late yesterday, the good folks from The Mac Observer peeled back the skin of Apple's seemingly invincible PR department with the following post "How Apple Does Controlled Leaks." Former Apple senior marketing manager John Montellaro writes:
"Often Apple has a need to let information out, unofficially. The company has been doing that for years, and it helps preserve Apple's consistent, official reputation for never talking about unreleased products."
He then applies his parer even deeper:
"The way it works is that a senior exec will come in and say, 'We need to release this specific information. John, do you have a trusted friend at a major outlet? If so, call him/her and have a conversation. Idly mention this information and suggest that if it were published, that would be nice. No e-mails!'"
He reveals that no "paper trail" should be left behind. All clandestine outreach is conducted over the (i)Phone. In the case of Tuesday's "controlled leak" in the Wall Street Journal, the sources cited were "people briefed by the company". Hmmm.

Of course, this is a win-win situation for Apple PR. The company can't be accused of playing media favorites, yet still gets the word out via a most influential outlet. What's more, Mr. Montellaro writes,
"Walt Mossberg was bypassed so that Mr. Mossberg would remain above the fray, above reproach. Also, two journalists at the WSJ were involved. That way, each one could point the finger at the other and claim, "I thought he told me to run with this story! Sorry."
Gee. I knew something was not right in the state of Cupertino, but then again maybe this is how Apple typically leverages its mojo with its journalistic followers. Whatever the case, can you blame the company for leaking its ace in the hole what with Google PR's slam dunk yesterday for its new "superphone" the Nexus One?

Now we just have to wait until the formal announcement on January 26 January 27, a date that was first leaked in late December.

Photo via

Bloggers Note: Guest Posts

This post is by from Tom Murphy - Murphy's Law

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

General note to all those people kindly sending me offers to write guest posts.

Unfortunately this blog only gets about 5 visitors a month (and that’s if I hit refresh a couple of times) so you’re probably better spending your time pitching and writing for a real blog like the Huffington Post or Engadget or something like that.

That approach has the upside that there’s a chance that someone other than you and me will read it.

Secondly, even if this blog did get visitors and I did take contributed posts, I’m not sure hands-on tutorials on scripting, or business transformation really float my boat, so to speak.

If the policy changes, I’ll let you know, don’t worry.


PS: Thanks to everyone who keeps sending me random press releases. I read all of them, they are a constant source of solace in a sea of irrelevance.


Search and reputation optimisation

This post is by from PR Studies

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Domainrenewal2 One day on from my rant about Domain Renewal Group, and Google has ranked my post higher than the company's own website (for the admittedly rather odd search string 'pop domain renewal group'). I know this because someone found my blog having typed this search in Belgium.

Other recent visitors to PR Studies came here having entered 'meaning PR', 'dissertation public relations', 'why want to work in PR', 'emergence social media public relations'.

This is a fair overview of this blog's content over several years - and a hint of what I should write more about if I'm to attract more visitors through search.

The origins of CSR

This post is by from GoodGreenPR

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Some interesting back reading about CSR, and also about the structure (what 'bits' make up CSR) in this post by Toby Webb.If the link to the Drucker article doesn't work try here.

A PR Nexus

This post is by from The Flack

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Wasn't it just swell of Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) to set up a video camera at today's Google presser introducing the Nexus One, Google's presumed iPhone killer?

Midway through the event, I counted some 16,000+ people signed on to watch the historical event unfold. (You see, Robert, having all those followers can come in handy.)

I just wonder why Google's PR peeps didn't go through the trouble of web-streaming their own news conference, while arranging for on-site attendees to record wirelessly, to ensure optimal site lines and audio. But then again, Google likely wouldn't have enabled the dialog box that accompanied Scoble's Ustream feed. (See photo above.)

Of course when the Google executive-in-charge announced that all in-person (Googleplex) attendees could pick up their own Nexus One's "starting at 12 Noon downstairs," I had to suggest that those on the webcast should also take part in the payola. Someone then likened it to the Oprah auto giveaway.

Still, you have to give Google credit for getting all those early adopters to eat out of its hand. Virtually every tech influencer I follow on Twitter regurgitated today's talking points. And why wouldn't they? Here were a few of the highlights I caught when not penning a client news release:
  • "The Nexus One belongs in an emerging category of devices we call 'super phones.'"
  • The text-driven apps are all voice-enabled, e.g., "take me to Mt. Fuji" on Google Earth or, "Hey, I'm really enjoying the phone's QWERTY keyboard" on GMail.
  • Google's Nexus One (w/Android OS) can be purchased via new Google-hosted web store, a first for the company (though in during the Q&A, Wired's Fred Vogelstein questioned Google's retailing acumen, or rather lack thereof)
And last, but hardly least:
  • Google's Nexus One to be available through Verizon Wireless come this spring via Google's new web store
Wow. So much fort Verizon jumping in to bed with the iPhone. Herer's a round-up of some of the coverage of today's big event:
Hey. Didn't Google give Joshua Topolsky of Engadget the exclusive back on December 14? "Exclusive: First Google hone/Nexus One Photos, Android 2.1 On Board"

And if this all wasn't enough, you can watch Scoble's video of today's presser here.

Compass – An ‘Ersatz’ Left Within New Labour?

This post is by from As It Happens, from TPPR

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Within six months, the United Kingdom will have a new Government. It might be a Tory Government or a Government of the centre-right or centre-left precariously juggling nationalists or Liberal Democrats before being forced to return to the country - or we might see the return of New Labour ...

How New Labour Might Return From The Dead

New Labour's return to power under Gordon Brown looks unlikely but it is far from impossible. Its coalition might yet remain solid while the opposition, although a majority in the country and almost certainly in Southern England, splits into its Tory, liberal and radical nationalist components.

The New Labour coalition has some pretty good reasons for holding together and getting its core vote out. The trades unions fear political evisceration under a vengeful Tory Government and the public sector always suffers more in terms of cuts under the centre-right.

The Celtic nations and decaying Northern urban communities have lived off the fat of the South. They know that the machine for taking Southerners cash and re-laundering it back to them via the EU, and more directly, will come to a sharp halt as the Tories look for quick and easy cuts.

Finally, there is a large middle class quangocracy and a fair body of liberal progressives who like the redistribution of English cash to the emerging world. Neither trust claims of compassionate conservatism despite Cameron's attempts to win classical social liberals over to the Tory cause.

For all these reasons and others, New Labour could squeak back in with a majority but if and only if its traditional voters walk out of their front door on the day, forget their rage and frustration - with wars overseas, failures to deal with poverty and 'political correctness gone mad' - and vote.


And this is where Compass comes in - a sort of ersatz Leftist movement, led by Jon Cruddas, MP, a key figure in the liaison between the trades union political officers and New Labour in the early days of the party's 'modernisation' but now reinvented as the main Left challenger to the consensus.

Its latest mailshot (admittedly to the faithful) is red in hue, its main symbol the internationalist one of a man holding a globe and weighed down by the responsibility, with much talk of 'change' through action (an obvious nod to the Obama phenomenon).

It claims 30,000 members and supporters which, if true, is significant in recent political terms. It is probably 10 times the size of the real membership of the last grassroots revolt within the Party in the mid-1990s.

If Compass succeeds in mobilising its growing number of discouraged activists, students and fringe intellectuals into a machinery for winning Labour a victory in 2010, Jon Cruddas and those associated with him can justifiably demand preferment. Cruddas is Cabinet material under such circumstances.


I used the harsh word 'ersatz' to describe Compass but I write objectively not to denigrate what Cruddas and his supporters believe themselves to be. They believe themselves to be of the Left because they have taken radical positions within an essentially conservative movement.

Naturally they continue to avoid the 'S' word. Socialism frightens the English horses and is now unacceptable to a progressive mentality that hated Sovietism more than 'American imperialism'. If they are attempting anything, it is to take over the contested word 'progressive' and own it.

Instead Compass speaks of 'greater radicalism' (as if New Labour has been radical at all). This term radical refers back to a late nineteenth century pre-Labour Representation Committee culture of dissent before the socialists and Fabians muddied the waters and confused trades unionists with theory.

To back this up, in their fund-raising and recruitment campaigns, Compass makes seven claims that define what they are and how they want to capture the Labour Party and, through the Labour Party, the Government:

  1. Their support for Jon Cruddas as Deputy Leader is positioned as instrumental in getting housing and inequality up the Party agenda.
  2. Compass MPs campaigned to add 'ethical', social and environmental obligations (or 'burdens' as the centre-right might put it) on businesses through amendments to the Companies Bill.
  3. They have 'led calls' for a High Pay Commission.
  4. They campaigned for greater 'tax justice' just before the 2009 Budget and claim that three of their demands were included in Darling's Speech.
  5. They campaigned for a windfall tax on the energy and oil firms which, they claim, was instrumental in the Government's subsequent £1bn energy package.
  6. They were part of a 'broad coalition' in opposing the part-privatisation of Royal Mail (and claim substantial credit for postponing, though not 'shelving' as they further claim, these plans in July 2009).
  7. They collaborated with CND, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to delay the renewal of the Trident nuclear WMD system.


This is not a bad record over eighteen months or so - certainly so when compared to the complete failure of any Left challenge to the prevailing order within the Party since the middle years of Kinnock's leadership.

But it is not quite as impressive as they claim. The determination in their literature to tell us that 63% supported a High Pay Commission and 67% supported the windfall tax on energy tells us that the campaigns are still not built on principle but on populism.

Compass is not a coherent ideological challenge to New Labour. It is pitching for a place in New Labour's sun, adopting its assumption that power derives from political mobilisation. Compass will claim its place on mobilising votes for New Labour rather than by mounting a cogent critique of its failures.

Nor has it achieved a great deal of a practical nature. The changes to the Companies Bill may be irritating to business but they are insignificant. The windfall tax and the postponement of Royal Mail part-privatisation and Trident owe far more to straightened economic circumstances than Compass.

Compass' power resides entirely on its ability to mobilise disillusioned activists to vote for a Party that has (by any standards) been involved in illegal war, been a mere adjunct to a foreign power and reduced basic civil liberties (albeit in return for increased 'human rights').

It has also been administratively incompetent, done little about inequality and presided over a disastrous economic meltdown built on an unsustainable use of credit to promote growth. So, the critique of particular policies rather than the system is telling - loyalty and solidarity trump analysis.

The Limits of Compass

Closer analysis of Compass' claims show that its power is extremely limited. The big wins are merely postponements of controversial policies. The use by the State of their street pressure to mount windfall raids on the prosperous are not signs of a shift to the Left but of economic weakness.

The particular failure to position housing (a sector which cheap credit was designed to deal with) as ring-fenced, alongside the educational and healthcare expenditures that most concern the swing middle classes, shows that Compass is still mostly noise and fury.

In fact, the Government has done very little to claw back bonuses or deal with high pay as a structural issue. It bought into 'international competitiveness' arguments about the City, on which welfare spending now largely depends. Compass has no consistent alternative critique of this strategy.

Compass is being used by New Labour to give itself the opportunity of stabilising and even advancing its vote in the street. Compass offers the Party the chance to mobilise activists to knock on doors and show enthusiasm on the day without having to make any promises it has to keep!

Hope Again!

What New Labour needs is students and activists on the doorstep able to counter negative arguments with a message of hope and hope is best spread by believers and not by bureaucrats.

We have covered hope before in our postings - it is a very powerful political tool but also one that raises expectations. Growing disillusion with Obama in the US is the price paid for using hope as a campaign weapon. But New Labour is now desperate - later disillusion it can live with, loss of office it cannot.

Any New Labour Government that emerges on a bit of populist Left legerdemain will not be radically different from the one that it replaced. It will still have a PLP dominated by the centre-right of the Party and figures like Mandelson and Miliband, even Purnell, will be of more significance than Cruddas.

If Brown remains in office (it would be hard to dispose of an election winner for perhaps another two years), the Brownites will be manouevring to protect their future. Cruddas and the Compassites are likely to be seen as merely the mobiliser of the OMOV vote in a Leadership contest.

But this is where Compass pays off for its PLP and union promoters. It builds bridges across the Party to non-Party progressives. Its real power will lie either in its value as a chip in a leadership contest if existing factions are prepared to bid for its vote or in the immediate aftermath of a defeat.

Compass' populist stance has thus nothing to do with the country and everything to do with the Party. If it can 'own' the grassroots activists and then pull disillusioned outsiders into the party for the first time or as returnees, it could, with trades union support, transform the balance of power within the Party.

What Compass Means

This is what Compass is about - the recapture of the main centre-left Party by the Labour Movement so that it can resist, in coalition with progressives and the regions, a vicious class attack from the Southern middle classes.

What the Labour Movement fears is the ending of the New Labour commitment to full employment, deregulation of the labour market and cuts in public spending affecting their members. Civil liberties, issues of war and peace and national sovereignty are trivial next to these concerns.

A beaten New Labour Party with a disillusioned and divided activist base might open the door to decisive action by the Conservatives to break the link between the trades unions and politics, decentralise public services (removing union bargaining power) and turn the labour market into a free-for-all.

For trades unions, the best and only option is to ensure the return of a Labour Government against the odds so that the Tories collapse back into a futile English nationalism. But if that option fails, the second line of defence is a united 'resistance movement' that has forgotten the failures of New Labour.

So, Compass is not unimportant. It is of no direct political consequence currently in terms of policy but, as a tool of Labour/trades union recovery, as a potential influencer in the next Leadership contest and as a centre of labour resistance to Tory 'reform' on defeat, it needs to be watched.

But, at the end of the day, it is still an 'ersatz' Left. It has no coherent ideology other than a general and vague progressivism and labourism where labourism represents a decreasing number of people. 

Labourism just wants more 'working class representation' within an existing Blairite politics. Compass, in this context, replaces coherent thought with populism. It suffers from the same disease as New Labour - a preference for power over principle.

This is not its fault. The structures of New Labour offer no alternative to challengers - and there are signs that Cruddas may be sympathetic to reform of those structures. But what Compass offers to anyone outside the special interests operating within Labour coalition remains unclear.