(alt. title@ “how Gary Neville ever managed to play for Manchester United”)

Wanted; serious media hound, must possess exquisite writing skills which are perfectly adapted and adaptable to the needs of our clients (from corporate brochure to rap), must enjoy granular, detailed work such as formatting and proof reading, must possess and be prepared to nurture a deep pool of media contacts (from daily newspapers to the most obscure subscription trade title) and – most of all – must be prepared to take direction and work as part of an extremely structured team. Hobbies and interests? If you must, but see below for hours of work; and make sure it’s nothing too dangerous as we don’t provision much time for illness or injury. Hours of work, 9h until 18h (that’s just the weekends, we reserve the right to finish later during weekdays). In short, we are looking for a PR apprentice who is capable of and prepared to learn the roles of our esteemed industry.

Also wanted; social media guru, must live and breathe new media, possess a large and lively personal social media profile, must be prepared to improvise, work independently and convey the essential in 140 characters or less. Neither structured pros nor proof-reading nor formatting are likely to feature heavily as part of the role. Working hours are not structured, but you will be expected to deliver insight and response in real time from your mobile (wherever you may be; whether queuing for lunch or moshing at Glastonbury). Speaking of moshing; do people still do that? We are very interested in your hobbies and interests you see. In fact, your outside interests could actually be good for business, especially that of our clients; particularly if you regularly blog about them. Oh, yes we are quite relaxed about your blogging and Tweeting on company time; in fact, depending on your aforementioned outside interests, we’ll actually require you to furiously blog and Tweet on behalf of our clients. To summarise, just about as far a departure from the traditional PR apprenticeship as you could imagine.

And here’s the dilemma . . . agencies need both of these people. Despite the demise of Rupert (or perhaps because of it) traditional print and online media is not about to disappear. The proven skills required to deliver compelling PR will still be required; and that includes an attention to detail and pure copywriting skills. However, agencies also need social media experts to help give a voice to their clients’ products and services, to help position them across the increasing range of user generated content platforms and to continually monitor online opinion and feedback on the same.

So what’s the solution? I realize that this will prompt hails of “cop out” but I actually believe that there are two approaches to this dilemma. The challenge is basically to figure out which to apply to which candidate:

· Approach 1. The apprenticeship; social media mind sets should be coached and trained to deliver a minimal level of detail, copywriting and structure. They should also be required to undertake ‘due diligence’ in terms of media knowledge, press contact and drinks with the usual array of trade press misfits (insert your own).

“Traditional media mindsets” should likewise be supported to understand and participate in a minimum level of social media life (i.e.. on a personal level through Twitter, online communities etc.) and learn to effectively select and communicate the benefits of various platforms.

· Approach 2. Play to their strengths; in footballing terms, Gary Neville was never going to make a centre forward (despite his finishing), and Romario never likely to track back and defend. They were specialists, and what amazing specialists they turned out to be (well, Romario).

While Manchester United and FC Barcelona can afford such luxuries, can PR agencies afford employees who are not going to “track back”? In this case, adhere to deadlines, write up minutes from meetings or, even, proof read? I believe that agencies can employ specialists; but on certain conditions:

  • The size of the agency or department; while such social media specialists are great within a structured and functioning team, they are going to be of less use in a start up environment where staff are expected to do everything from cold calling prospects to making the tea.
  • What is the social media specialism? Does it fulfill a current or future client need, is it really a specialism we are talking about, or simply someone who never learned to punctuate
  • Does this person possess experience or knowledge that is not currently covered by the existing more generalist staff. This is a vital consideration if you decide to accommodate a genuine specialist, in order to avoid resentment amongst the incumbent team.
  • Finally, above all, do you want to see this person working for the competition? If not than you’d better him or her!

So that’s the agency dilemma and my dual approach (cop out) to addressing it. Specialists (particularly social media ones) can cause disruption and resentment within a team due to the nature and relative informality of their work. They can also prove a secret weapon for agencies who can genuinely harness them.

I’d love to hear any feedback on the dilemma and my suggested approach; at what size can a team/department start considering social media gurus as stand-alone hires? How can you tell if the candidate before you requires Approach 1 or Approach 2? What’s the best way to incorporate them into an existing team to maximize performance and minimize disruption? How should they be trained and measured?

If nothing else, let me know your thoughts on my incorporation of Gary Neville in yet another blog about PR!

As a Premiership manager who goes to extreme measures to avoid the inconvenience of post match interviews and who has refused to even speak to any reporter from the BBC for last 6 years, Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson would be an unlikely source of advice for PR agencies. But in a sector whose principal assets arrive in the morning and leave at night, football can provide some remarkable insights on the management of human capital, or “talent” as it is otherwise known.

The Financial Times – no less – drew attention to the techniques employed by Sir Alex in his management of highly paid stars in a recent Lex column. The piece draws parallels to the management of talent within the banking sector.

PR agencies are not protected by patented machinery, capital equipment or (as in the case of the banking sector) high speed technology and layers of regulation; all that´s required to conduct a PR campaign today is a telephone line and an email account. The performance of a PR agency really is driven by the talent at its disposal.

As in football some agencies or teams pay staff higher salaries than others, but – as with football – a higher salary budget does not automatically lead to greater team success (cue gratuitous jibe about the number of years Manchester City and Newcastle United have remained trophyless). The key is in the management.

In PR agency terms, this is typically summed up at the recruitment or review stage; does it make sense to recruit (or remunerate) the team “star” or the team “worker bee”? As Lex puts it:

“The tension is created by the conflict between bureaucracy and charisma (in the words of sociologist Max Weber). Bureaucracies are efficient, but dull and prone to run out of imagination and energy. Charisma is exciting and effective – it scores goals, both literal and metaphorical – but can be disorganised and disruptive.”

In practice, agencies need both; creative risk takers and reliable process implementers. The key is to understand which, what level of each role is required in your team and who is best equipped to play it.

The same is true of football, no team could compete if made up exclusively of charismatic stars (cue snide asides about The Netherlands never having won a World Cup); or in other words, the reason why John O´Shea has four Premiership and one Champions League medals (as this group helpfully remind Liverpool fans). You can blame it all on Max Weber.

following Monday’s insight from the analyst community on the trends and expectations for the year ahead (check out the full post here), we thought we’d have a bash ourselves at predicting the future. so here are our suggestions for the year ahead – let us know whether you agree with us, or think we’re miles off the mark…

(also – to anyone reading this in December, you have *not* got an eye condition; those floating white dots across the screen are snow. it’s festive.)

…and we’re putting together a mobile special in case you think it’s a bit thin on mobility right now – watch this space in Jan for the 2011 mobile outlook according to Edelman Tech…

Predictions for 2011:

Larry picks a fight…with God

Larry Ellison will never be accused of being the shy retiring type. In fact one of the well known legends is that he bases a lot of his modus operandi around ‘The Art of War’ and over the years he has picked a fight with pretty much everyone in the industry. Bill Gates, Ray Lane, Craig Conway, Tom Siebel and more recently SAP and HP. Frankly there isn’t anyone really left to fight so the speculation surely must be that the only person worthy of a challenge is God. Given the old joke – "What’s the difference between God and Larry Ellison?…God doesn’t think he’s Larry" – this may not be the case.

Facebook emerges as a powerful content player

Just a stab in the dark, but I’d hazard that before 2011 is out we’ll see Facebook commissioning its own content – or co-creating content at least. The ‘Like’ function is powerful – whether for selling products or amplifying conversation around content. We know that young audiences are watching more online. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook will start working closely with production companies to push something like KateModern into stratospheric proportions – the first social entertainment blockbuster.

‘Do no evil’ Google becomes ‘Bad Google’

In some respects it seems almost stereotypical that a company that was once the darling of the industry is now beginning to look over its shoulder, as the mutterings begin to increase. Like Intel and Microsoft before then they have incurred the wrath of the regulators and how the company reacts next year will be interesting to watch.

Hopefully it will have learnt from the mistakes of others, but there’s the danger its senior leadership team has drunk a little too much of the ‘Kool Aid’.’There is no doubt that the ‘noughties’ belonged to Google and today it remains one of the key drivers of the IT industry, but it needs to sustain that growth to justify its market cap. As a result its moved into a number of different areas with mixed results…Google Wave (#fail), Android (#successtodate), GoogleTV (#waitandsee). Similarly it has had the high profile embarrassment around China, which has severely dented its reputation and competitors like Facebook, Youtube and even Microsoft are beginning to make in-roads on its heartland. 2011 may be a sticky year for Google.

We will all be buying coffee via our mobiles by the end of next year

Whether paying for stuff with your mobile, buying online credits, or using Square we’ll be seeing a lot more money changing hands, without touching hands. Much of the rest of the world already is – Africa and Asia are well ahead of Europe and US in this field, (indeed Gartner predict that 60% of this market in 2011 will be in Asia). But there is some key technology coming that will make phones that much smarter and make it that much easier for us all to get involved. Google has confirmed the next version of Android will support NFC (near field communication) chips, and it’s rumoured that iPhone 5 will have this functionality in-built. Nokia and RIM are both also expected to follow-suit.

Creative Agency "ownership" of social media

This year the classic PR v marketing battle was augmented by the arrival of "customer services" onto the scene. The range of customer and support services using social media to support their communications and contacts has led to them claiming ownership (and budget). A valid claim (like all the rest).

Next year customer relationship management (CRM) will join the fray under the moniker "social" CRM, linking customer databases with social media to define whether, when, how often, on what medium companies communicate with their customers.

I see loads of privacy and "ownership" issues but for any company who gets this right it could be huge.

There are however always pitfalls, and twitter is flooded with examples of companies ‘doing’ social media very well and responding to customers and issues, but the actual customer service department in the clients’ back office not following up. To avoid this becoming a fad or people losing faith in social media platforms as a channel, companies need to place the same focus on the back office customer services departments as they do in keeping pace with an external zeitgeist.

Gamification of Life

There’s a lot of chat about the ‘gaming of everyday life’. Truth is ‘social games’ like Farmville  actually aren’t very social (people tell their friends there are playing, but are they playing with friends and telling others? I think not). FourSquare is often touted as the best example of the gamification of life but personally, I don’t think it is a very good game.

To its credit I think it’s a very promising form of direct marketing and I’m sure we’ll see more coupons next year. More interesting – if more niche – social games are playthings like Chromoroma. These sorts of initiatives will continue to garner interest from the press and trend watchers. Whether or not they will engage enough people to become ‘mainstream’ is perhaps unlikely.  But in a game of influencing the influencers – this sort of creative approach will be a top scorer.

Murdoch will just give up with his paywall.

Personally I think it’s all a little too little too late – the industry has sat back and watched itself be destroyed – news on the internet will be, and will always be, free. If you can’t get what you want from The Times you’ll go somewhere else to find it. The quality argument, for me personally, doesn’t stack up, people generally will accept a lower quality if it costs them nothing.

Mobile and application based news might be a short-term saviour, and there will be winners and losers in this area next year. It’s perhaps true that people are prepared to pay for innovation and the novel – but even then, the future of the mobile experience looks set to be a browser/cloud based model. Mobile applications will go the same way as desktop applications at some point in the not too distant future (let’s say 2013 for arguments sake).

News will become hyper-local & hyper-social. A location based service will join forces with a news site for location centric news – what’s happening where you are right now….. bringing you nearer to……

……‘Where’s that ambulance going?’

I don’t think 2010 has quite been the year of location, as many though it might be. Less than 4% of mobile users are using this feature. It’s growing though and expect next year – with the rise in popularity of Foursquare and Facebook places (sorry Gowalla you missed the boat) – for the term “where am I now” to be more popular than ever.

Combine this with the fact that media is looking to innovate, to tap into the power of social, than I can see a very logical next step to be a combination of owned and user generated news to be pushed to users based on location.

What is happening in the world you’re in right now. Whether this is in combination with one of the aforementioned services or a plug-in to a site like the BBC, Digg or the Guardian, I think we’ll start to see this as a powerful service. Indirectly, this may then only serve to fuel citizen journalism, as people are alerted more easily to incidents / events happening close to them.

Someone will figure out how to give everything, no matter how small, an IP address

Long shot this one, and is based on boozy conversations with colleagues on the outerweb and the internet of things, that this could be the next big breakthrough – giving everything a link to the internet.

This could be as simple as me seeing a sofa or salt shaker and “liking” it in real time or adding instantly to an Amazon wish list via a connection to my smartphone. It will happen, perhaps not next year, but it’s always good to have an outlandish prediction – and hell most food products do now have a link to the web via barcodes.

Videogames will shift from products to entertainment services

By the end of 2011, most blockbusters games will turn into an subscription-based service instead of releasing a new iteration each year (i.e.: the Call of Duty franchise). We’ve already seen this happening with the Steam platform offering games as uploads, and annoying retail outlets in the process, but the next year could see this become even more prominent. Gamers are currently predominantly ‘owned’ by their console (although multi-console owners are increasingly more common), but game manufacturers could see a niche in the market for tying them into series through exclusive uploads, game advances and new episodes. Given the dedication the most successful games generate, this would seem a seamless next step.

Cloudy outlook;  another year of unfulfilled promise, the return of hardware storage, and Everything-As-A-Service?

Seriously, can someone just make the cloud revolution finally happen? It’s been on everyone’s lips for years – YEARS – but is 2011 the year the cloud actually becomes the tech saviour it’s lined up as? Granted, there are already plenty of services claiming ‘cloud’ services, but on closer inspection many of these are simply network servers – can we finally envisage a true cloud? If we are to do so, the main obstacle is going to be keeping such services reliable and absolutely, unrelentingly secure – it’s the security issue which has held adoption up in many instances.

And if the security issue does remain unconquerable, we could perhaps see the return of hardware storage with servers and SSDs, as the perceived risks around cloud computing create too many anxieties to warrant full adoption.

If the cloud DOES finally break loose, expect ‘EaaS’ – Everything-as-a-Service – a growing offers with more collaborative tools and more complete applications to be proposed; everything becomes “on demand” with the cloud.

Social media will finally arrive in the enterprise

We’ve already witnessed the growing adoption of social media in the enterprise – for both internal and external usage – and we can expect to see more of the same as IT decision makers start to impact the business strategy discussions.

Once the C Suite understand the role social media plays in business, and how it can (positively) impact business efficiency, we’ll see this boom. Social media is currently viewed as a distraction to staff, but once this misapprehension is dealt with, and its proper adoption, integration and monitoring is understood, enterprises will rush to get involved.

The key issue which needs tackling in 2011 is to dispel the perception of social media adoption being simply an ‘allow or deny’ decision. It is simply not that black and white, and different employees require differing access and controls. The workforce coming into industry now is that which has grown up with the likes of Facebook, and they’ll expect the same in business – and if they don’t get it, they’ll find a way around security to use it none the less. “Allow or deny” is no longer a valid debate.

and the consumerisation of IT won’t be restricted to social media…

…Bring-your-own

We can’t get enough of having a familiar device in our pocket, even in the workplace – we’re moving into the age of ‘bring your own’- your own technology, that is – into work. With more Millennials/Generation Y/the L’Oréal generation, whatever you want to call them, coming into the workplace, we’ll see a shift in the technology we use and how we use it altogether. Businesses will support the idea – in theory. Employees using a familiar device has the obvious efficiency advantages. However, whether organisations, and infrastructure, will be able to support alien devices is another thing. After all, there’s the usual security, technical, data protection and legal issues that cloud computing has been dealing with for years. It will certainly be a step in the right direction, but we may very well get there at a snail’s pace.

with thanks for the following for contributions:

@RogerDara

@cairbreUK

@LukeMackay

@JustinWestcott

@LucyDesaDavies

@wonky_donky

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