Postings from the Edge

Global PR, new PR, social media and printing ink

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Time to move on

Two years ago I found myself drifitng towards the end of a job contract without any real idea of where to go next. I'd just done eight years in corporate PR and was coming to the end of a brief acquaintance with a global agency. Not wanting to return to corprate PR again I formed my own PR company, with the idea of specialising in international PR for Danish companies.

Since January 2007, I have learned a hugh amount: about myself and about the PR/communications business. I've worked with some of Denmark's biggest companies and some of the smallest and newest. I've launched products, written articles and press releases, developed media lists, talked to journalists all over the globe and found my way back into blogging and social media after a six-year break.

But from the end of the year I'm closing the company and moving on. My new job, which I have already started, is as a copywriter and strategist for Eye for Image, Denmark's leading English copywriting bureau. Why the change? Well, for starters, I've found myself doing less and less PR and more copywriting work for my clients. Public Relations is still underdeveloped in Denmark and is still focused on the traditional communication 'products' such as press releases, brochures and web sites. Even more so in the international arena.

So I have taken the consequences of my experience and teamed up with Eye for Image. I've known the guys at Eye for Image for about three - four years, first as a client, then they were kind enough to help me get my PR business up and running, generously giving their help to get me over the first hurdles as a business owner.

If you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly
For the past 18 months I've been the lodger in the Eye for Image offices and have had the opportunity to observe the team and the way they work at first hand. They are not only suberbly professional, but a great bunch to work alongside. So when I was offered a job, there was little doubt in my mind that I'd like to join. Running a business is a fascinating, frustrating thing to do, but I have discovered that on balance I prefer to concentrate on doing the best job I can for clients rather than worrying about tax returns.

And if you're going to work for someone else, it might as well be the best.

Over the next three months, I'm going to be winding down Native Edge working on Eye for Image clients alongside my own. So, I'd like to give a public thanks for all the people who have helped me over the past two years and to the clients who have trusted me - and here's to the future.

Andrew

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Quickbooks haters of the world unite

 Less Accounting - a web based accounting package for small business owners who aren't accountants - has developed a novel use for Twitter by creating the site We All Hate Quickbooks, Do You? - What Twitter Users Are Saying. The site pulls in all Twitter posts - good and bad - and displays them. Simple. Then it leaves it up to you to decide whether Quickbooks is good or bad.

Thanks to Russell for the link. 

Monday, 21 July 2008

Harold Evans: 'These grand designs must have stories to back them up'

An interview with one of the greatest journalists ever about the importance of good content. If you want to write well in any media you should get a copy of 'Newsman's English'.

Harold Evans: 'These grand designs must have stories to back them up' - Media, News - The Independent

Friday, 13 June 2008

Newspaper SEO to earn money

A good article by Joost de Valk that adds another angle to the new business model for newspapers - how many actually optimise their site and content to increase the number of visitors? That can reap benefits in advertising (why hasn't that already started to replace classifieds?) and paid for views of archive material for researchers.

Newspaper SEO

Friday, 6 June 2008

Why aren't publishers counting clicks?

I had  a nice surprise yesterday that made me realise there are publications that are beginning to see the opportunities in web-based media. In my inbox was a monthly report from Building Talk (part of the )giving me the statistics for a press release they published for a client in March. It told me which of my press releases had had the most views and how many views. It also told how many visitors had clicked on the link to visit my clients web site.

It also reminded me that a few months ago I had received a confirmation email from a journalist telling me that he had used the story and here was a link to it on the web.

The fact that these two happenings are pretty remarkable indicates how poor journalists are at dialogue - especially with PR people. (remember the PR blacklisting stories of recent weeks).

Now, as we keep being reminded that advertising revenues are falling, perhaps we could use some of the above to start developing a more workable business model for the publishing industry.

As well as monetising content, how about monetising information about content? There is lots of valuable metadata slopping around publishers, but no-one wants to use it. It was only this week that a vice-president of AP told the World Editors Forum in Gothenburg that metadata should be standard in digital publishing.

As a PR person I have to pay a lot of money to get that information second-hand from companies like Cision. Why aren't the newspapers and other publications gathering together to pool and sell the information they have? Right now if I get a story in the digital edition of Børsen or Berlingske Tidende, the most I can do is send a screendump to a customer and hope for a pat on the back.

For US-based web sites I can run them through Quantcast to see how many visitors a site gets and what demographic they belong to. But still nothing at the story level.

Think how much better it would be if I could have a report showing how many views a story had and where they went afterwards like I get from Building Talk.

Perhaps that's a job for all the ad reps who aren't selling ads?

All copy should be born with metatags that can guide it through its journey to the consumer. Not just to make that journey easier, but to help create a stream of revenue for that content. Think what it could reveal to companies about their potential customers, interests, habits, etc.

Right now publishers are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Journalism.co.uk :: WAN 08: AP calls for metadata as standard in US newspaper's digital content

Shock horror! Stop the presses and hold the front page; journalism moves into the 20th century.

Metadata should be a standard feature of digital news content in the US, a vice president of the Associated Press (AP) told an industry conference today.
The use of metadata, which involves invisible tagging of content with the names of people and places featured in an article, as standard would better serve the audience in their search for news, Jim Kennedy, vice president and director of strategic planning for AP, told the World Editors Forum

 

Er, yes. Of course, financial news wires have been tagging their content for at least 10 years but in plain text rather than html or xml. Perhaps we should see some progress towards decent rich media sites.

Journalism.co.uk :: WAN 08: AP calls for metadata as standard in US newspaper's digital content

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

The alternative to PR 'spam'

There's been lots of chat over this long weekend about PR people "spamming" bloggers and journalists with press releases. The kick-off to this was the decision by Gina Trapani of Lifehacker.com to blacklist PR companies because they sent press releases to her personal email, rather than to a specific address at Lifehacker.com Gina has chosen to blacklist whole domains (i.e. stopping emails from the entire company) rather than individuals as Chris Anderson, editor of Wired did.

I panicked when I saw this because only a day or two before I had sent a story pitch to Lifehacker on behalf of a client. I checked the blacklist and I wasn't on it; going back to my email client I could see that luckily I had sent it to the 'right' address.

However, if I had the option, I would have sent it to Gina Trapani on the basis that if it wasn't right for her she would send it on to the other journalists. I did this on the assumption that that's what an editor does.

On the whole, I can appreciate her frustration and to some extent her reaction. But the incident underlines that the rules are changing for both sides. Bloggers, journalists and blogger-journalists also have a duty to make it clear what they will and will not accept and how they will accept it.

I have more or less dropped buying in mailing lists from the usual suspects. That means I have to do a lot of research to hand-pick the right journalists and their publications. Generally that means ringing up beforehand to ask if they want to be part of a mailing list. It is hard and time-consuming work and I don't charge anything more than a flat rate for it because I see it as an investment in my business and my clients' business.

That experience has made me realise how poor most magazine and newspaper web sites are in dealing with their own relations. Few give a clear idea who edits the publication, what they are looking for, their deadlines, upcoming features etc. (Mind you, if I want advertising I have to beat them off with a shitty stick...). No wonder that PR people use mailing lists from Cision and PRNewswire.

On a wiki page Gina gives detailed instructions on how to set up a filter to stop unsolicited emails from PR companies. Perhaps her time would have been better spent setting up an automated response telling PR companies that they should really be sending their releases to the other email address and giving more detailed information on the web page.

Friday, 9 May 2008

The biter gets bit

You can guarantee that just when you start feeling particularly clever about something it'll turn round and bite you where you sit down. It just happened to me.

I've written a couple of posts recently about the need to change and adapt to the new conditions in PR and journalism. Of course, I was talking about everyone else's need to change. Me? I was fine with all the paradigm shifting going on.

Then a potential client with a brilliant product tripped me up. He asked me if I was willing to be paid by results. Well, I didn't quite fall off my chair. I had just started the "oh no, this is PR we can't guarantee anything, it is very hard to measure you know..." speech, when I began to feel a set of teeth in my back end. The biter was getting bit.

I've talked about payments by results and had just a touch of schadenfreude when ad agencies have been 'persuaded' by procurement departments of large companies. I've never really thought about how it might work in practice, though.

But I'm going to now. Not because I'm desperate for the work, but because the thought of payment by results appeals to me in this case. It fits the client and the industry and it fits the times.

I've already started scribbling and come up with a few models, but if you've got any more ideas I'd love to hear them...

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Who's afraid of the big, bad PR wolf?

The double-page spread in today's media supplement in the Danish business daily Børsen about the defection of journalists to PR in the country will nourish a feeding frenzy of media academics from years to come. What messages, what metaphors - what a load of rubbish.

Slap bang in the middle of the page is an illustration showing big business (yes he's smoking a cigar, yawn) ringed by faceless PR people in suits to keep away the poor, bemused journalist (yes, he's got a press pass in his hat bad).

And the headlines: "Media loses ground to PR", "Press departments threaten balance of power", "Course leader: We will not teach PR".

And all this comes on top of an excellent post by former FT journalist turned blogger Tom Foremski, MediaWatch: Why Some Journalists Won't Transition To The New Journalism  who references an excellent article by Amy Graham at www.poynter.org called Journalism: A Toxic Culture? (Or: Why Aren't We Having More Fun?)

Both the posts are about the inability of journalists to adapt to the new culture of internet-based media because of their unwillingness to accept change. One of the six reasons given by Graham and commented on by Foremski is:

  • Priesthood syndrome: Traditional journalists are the sole source of news that can and should be trusted -- which gives them a privileged and sacred role that society is ethically obligated to support.

Now let's look at that Børsen story again in the light of the fading light of the priesthood of journalism and the growing legions of faceless PR people.

Well, as Gruppenführer in a PR company (actually,that's not my real title, but if we succeed in crushing journalism forever, who knows?) I think that the Børsen article is one-sided and under-researched.

That the demand for communications people is growing in Denmark is not in doubt, but the article fails to look at some key facts such as:

  • Compared with other western, liberal economies, Denmark has a conservative business culture and has been way behind in their use of PR and communications people. The explosion of media outlets and the growing aggressiveness of primarily news journalists has meant they are playing catch-up.
  • The article doesn't say how many of the newly appointed communication people are internal or external. Denmark excels in internal communication that is inclusive and comprehensive; the faceless PR people are in fact concerned and committed colleagues who have been known to walk rather than communicate badly.
  • PR people on a global scale are also being challenged by the reduction in the number of journalists. We actually like journalists because they are the people we send our stories to.
  • The whole traditional media model is breaking down and that will effect all aspects of the business. PR people are also struggling to embrace new PR or PR 2.0 or web PR, call it what you will.

I started in this business as a journalist on a local paper more than 20 years ago and that has always informed my work in internal communications and PR. The "us and them" model doesn't work anymore. In the networking society where PR people and journalists live side by side on a LinkedIn profile, we are just kidding ourselves if we think it does.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Make Marketing History: The Top 5 Made-Up Words Of Web 2.0.

I've just come across John Dodd's fine blog Make Marketing History, which has some extremely straightforward and sensible comments on social media and the like. Starting with:

Conversation
It's a metaphor folks. It doesn't mean that your customers want a conversation with you. They generally want a quiet life without unwanted noise from you. They want the ability to interact with you on their terms, they want you to listen and, most crucially, they now have the ability to have a conversation about you when you screw up. Your focus should be on listening and not screwing up rather than having a conversation.

Make Marketing History: The Top 5 Made-Up Words Of Web 2.0.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Danish PR bureaus lack own blogging experience

Danish PR bureau Rescu Kommunikation has just published a survey that shows bureaus here aren't not very active, to say the least. According to Rescu, only seven out of 58 bureaus have a blog or one underway.

As Rescu points out, you don't have to have a blog as an agency, but if you are advising companies on whether to blog or not, then a bit of personal insight might be a good idea.

The reasons given in a follow-up newspaper article were:

  • Lack of subjects
  • Lack of time
  • Not wanting to appear as an opinion former

All fairly reasonable, but to my mind a bit thin.

If you are used to wandering round in the blogosphere (and you should be if you are advising companies) and can't find subjects I'd be worried.

As far as time is concerned, you can use as much or little as you need - just because you can update every 30 secs, doesn't mean you have to.

And finally, if you have a PR bureau that doesn't have an opinion on its profession that can be made public, then I'd go looking for another bureau...

Thursday, 28 February 2008

PR self-help in a recession

2007 was a fantastic year for PR and communication companies generally, but fear of coming recession or evening just a cooling of the economic climate in general has meant the businesses who employed them have already started cutting budgets or delaying spending. These budget restrictions often mean that these businesses suddenly find themselves without the qualified help they were used to.

So, faced with the same demands for awareness and results, how should businesses handle DIY PR?

  • Make sure you know who you're talking to and why. When your time is limited it is better to spend time with the journalists and others who can really help you. Don't waste time on national dailies if you have a niche product.
  • Don't disappear off the map. If the thought of a long drawn-out approval process for a press release is just too enervating, try ringing up journalists and giving them tips instead. Or just drop them an email with links they might find interesting - also about industry issues.
  • Be focused. Revisit you company's business objectives and make sure that your communication objectives match them - especially in the short term.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Are you a Poet or a Plumber?

Just back from the launch of Poets and Plumbers in Vanløse Bio in Copenhagen where 250 people met up to hear about a new initiative to get the classic and on-line marketing world to understand each other and work closer together. (Disclosure: one of my business partners is one of the founders).

Bringing together the Poets (brands, storytelling, visuals) with the Plumbers (data, processes and ROI) in an online/real world connected way is a great idea.

The presentations and ideas were excellent nearly all round. Two things stood out for me though: that the emphasis is on Poets becoming more Plumber-like and that there wasn't enough emphasis on listening to consumers.

To take the first. For a few years, I've been a member of 26, a group of business writers who have the goal of bringing more creativity into the workplace. That has shown me that even Plumbers can be Poets - I'd like to see more people recognise and work with that. We need to narrow the understanding gap from both sides.

Secondly, there was too much mention of terms such as "online mass media" and "online channels". Despite the fact that many presenters talked about engagement and involvement, not one of them mentioned ways of how to listen. Too much of the talk from Plumbers was about getting people to the shop - instead of getting the shop to the people.

In the context of the general high quality of the event these are minor points perhaps. But when Poets and Plumbers  come together they need to really grasp the idea that the internet is a collection of linked human beings not "demographics" or "users".

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

EXCLUSIVE! New Media Release group includes amateur

It looks like that my 15 minutes of fame has arrived. The satirical PR blog Strumpette has continued its slightly peevish campaign against social media with a  new video featuring a Brian Connolly interview with the Social Media Club's Chris Heuer. But wait, there's more!

NOTE: This interview was made possible by the New Media Release Workgroup and the tireless efforts of Shannon Whitley, Alison Minaglia, Andy Arnold, Dan Zarrella, David Weiner, David Parmet, Jason Ryan, Michael O'Connor Clarke, Paul Dyer, Paul Pritchard, Steve Kayser, Susan Watiker, and Todd Van Hoosear. Special thanks to Todd Defren for inventing the SMPR.

... says Brian.

Well, I'm honoured to be in the same list and it would be lovely to think that the work will now come flooding in, but the truth is a bit more prosaic. I'm not worthy.

I didn't join the working group because I'm a guru or aspire to guru status, but because I felt I didn't know enough about social media releases. I still don't and that's why I continue to follow developments at close hand, rather than making snarky comments from the sidelines. Certainly, social media releases, rich media releases, press releases - call them what you will - are an easy target and people talking about them can have a tendency to be, erm... unfocused on occasion.

Am I an evangelist? No. Am I interested in new ways to do my job better and help my clients get their messages across? Of course I am.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Why social media is like newspapers - not news stories

Chris Brogan has an interesting take on social media. He suggests companies look at Sunday newspapers when considering how to approach social media. It isn't as daft as it sounds.

Its good to see some more nuanced discussion about the different forms of media instead of the whole "dead tree" mainstream media diatribe. I really get annoyed when people from the online media world trash newspapers on the basis of comparing their business models. For me this is quite wrong. I have spent a lot of energy arguing against the dreaded "web writing is sooo different from writing for newspapers"

Yeah, right. Try telling that to a sub-editor (copy editor in the US) who has to cut down a 700-word outpouring to a 150-word brief, or to write a grabbing headline or standfirst that will advertise the story and work graphically as well. Or a magazine editor who has to work with pictures and typography to create a compelling layout. There may not be hyperlinks, but the good print journalist writes in the hyperlinks so you don't have to go somewhere else to get the story.

It's true many news stories are not suitable for publication on the web - but in the same way that broadsheet articles aren't suitable for publication in a tabloid. A good sub-editor could soon sort that out though.

Too many people look at the newspaper as a content delivery system instead of looking behind this to see a content creation system. Too many people judge newspapers on their circulation and advertising revenue - the business side - rather than the dynamic process of how content is created.

Of course the role of paper is going to be reduced - but don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

A Sunday Newspaper Strategy for Traditional Companies : [chrisbrogan.com]

Friday, 18 January 2008

The subject of objectivity

Objectivity and its implications for ethics in the PR and journalism communities is an issue at the moment and has been neatly covered by Peter Brill at Net.Mentor.

Ethics seems to be one of the new battlegrounds in the media industry. While PR and journalism have always had a love hate relationship, it seems to me that things have been worsened by the advent of social media. It was easier when you were defined by which side of the publishing fence you were on, although as Peter describes there has always been that grey area in trade/business to business publications.

But now, PR professionals and journalists are meant to be all things to all men and also have to compete with all men when it comes to breaking news, spreading news and having an opinion about. It's difficult to feel sure about yourself when the basis for your existence starts dissolving. The results?

All in all it could be pretty depressing - I for one have a foot in all these camps and I know others as well. After years of knowing what to do and how to do it, its hard to be confronted every other week with a new idea you have to take a position on. But, you know what? I think it is pretty exciting. We are on a moving escalator and no amount of whinging or complaining or disagreeing is going to stop the escalator. (Although sometimes it is difficult to see whether it's going up or down).

I'm not depressed because I try and look for the wood and not the trees. I have a sneaking sympathy for all sides. So until things change again I'll carry a newspaper because it is still the ultimate format for readability and portability, I'll keep a tag on my industries through trade mags and the growing number of web sites that complement them, I'll post on forums, receive messages on email subscription lists, follow my friends on Facebook, keep tabs on my professional life through LinkedIn, read opinions on blogs fed to my RSS reader and use Twitter and Jaiku because I might need to know about them in the future.

Despite their differences, most people in these various camps, despite what their detractors say and what they say about others, are not looking for what's best, but what works. That can only be positive.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Skype investor buys Danish free paper

Slightly batty Danish IT investor Morten Lund has taken over control of the Danish free newspaper Nyhedsavisen (Newspaper in English). The Danish media have reported the story with a mixture of amazement - the paper has made a loss since it launched in October 2006 - and glee. The glee of course coming from the fact that one of the many upstarts in their business is losing money faster than they are - slightly faster anyway.

But hang on. While Morten gives the impression of being slightly disorganized in his blog writing he has made some shrewd decisions over the years about where to put his money (such as being an early investor in Skype). He has a thoroughly good grounding in the workings of advertising, media and the internet that could stand Nyhedsavisen in good stead.

While most reporters have focused on Morten buying a newspaper, it'll be interesting to see how much paper is actually involved. I'd take a bet that what he has actually bought is a content platform that spans the virtual and the real worlds.

Morten Lund køber Nyhedsavisen - Medier & reklame

» Measuring the influence of social media

Edelman and others have released a good white paper that looks at the challenges and possibilities of measuring the influence of social media. The white paper is an attempt to further the discussion started in July last year on Edelman's  Social Media Index (SMI).

 » Distributed Influence white paper (or son of SMI) sixtysecondview: Sixty second interviews from pr, media and politics

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

PR Group’s Journalist Survey Identifies Blogs’ Influence on Traditional News Coverage

There is more and more information coming out about how blogging affects mainstream news gathering - rather than if. This makes a nice counterweight to the "all bloggers are bigmouths with their own agendas" idea that some PR and communications people have been pushing.

PR Group’s Journalist Survey Identifies Blogs’ Influence on Traditional News Coverage