October 2010


Independent consumer rights group Which? has launched its first online consumer rights community, that includes forums and topic areas for members to debate. One of these is whether toddlers should have social networking profiles, which opens up an interesting debate, considering a recent report shows that more than three quarters of children under the age of two have some kind of online presence.

AVG, which conducted the survey, [not a client] questioned over 2,000 mothers worldwide, and found some amusing / startling statistics…

81% of all children under the age of two have some kind of online presence, ranging from photos uploaded by parents, to a fully-fledged profile on a social networking site.

This is not hard to believe seeing as families and friends are so dispersed around the world nowadays. Putting photos on Facebook, FlickR and so on is arguably one of the quickest and most convenient ways for everyone to watch your baby grow up.

Thankfully,only 5% admitted that they had created Facebook profiles for their newborns. But nearly a quarter of parents upload prenatal sonograms to the web, something that seems rather personal to be shared so publicly.

So, are we living in a world that has gone a little mad, obsessed with posting every memory online? Is it even fair to create an ‘online footprint’ that your little one isn’t even aware of – or is it a harmless and effective way of sharing your fondest memories?

@natfut

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As part of our work with Orange, at a Group level, we’ve recently been involved in the launch of Mobile Exposure 2010 research and the launch of a new tool for advertisers – the Orange Mobile Targeting Monitor.

We wanted to share the research findings on the Pheasant for a couple of reasons:

  • The data is interesting from a tech point of view.  It reveals what content mobile media users in the UK, France, Poland and Spain are engaging with and when.   Of particular note is how applications are sitting alongside the mobile browser.  The research is a bit of a bench mark, so as Smartphone penetration grows it will be interesting to see how this usage evolves.
  • The advertising tool highlights the insight that is used to build advertising campaigns.  As I said in a post last week, PRs need to continue to use data to inform our thinking

Included here is a deck with the key research highlights.  If this subject is particularly of interest to you – then whiz over to the Orange micro-site to read and view more.

@LukeMackay

*just in case the above isn’t clear….  Disclaimer: Orange is a client, and I work on the account.  Our team was involved in the creation of some of the Exposure 2010 materials*

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There’s going to be a fair amount of chat over the next few days about brand ownership. Current laws state that a company – say Marks and Spencer’s cannot advertise the terms Interflora and hijack customers.

However, there is no such rule stopping M&S buying the keyword Interflora on Google and hijacking those same customers who search for the term.

This is exactly what has happened though with these two companies and will be fighting it out today in the courts.

This has caused a bit of a storm in the SEO world and has major significance for all clients who own SEO words. In other words if M&S win, then you will see many firms buy their competitors brands.

The ethics of this is damned as law is more important.

As for Google – don’t they have a play in all of this?

The Register states that Google used to work with brand owners to stop their trade marks being used by others as keywords. Controversially, it changed its policy on 5th May 2008. Now almost any word is available for sponsorship, though Google’s policies still control the text of adverts that the keywords trigger.

What is essential to understand is that the traditional advertising model has become less important as search-terms take priority online.

Cloud Computing will put customers in charge in the enterprise IT sector

How to apply the learnings of the ‘Cluetrain Manifesto’

We’re hosting a roundtable lunch time discussion with Doc Searls, internet visionary and leading academic from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, on Friday 22nd October.

Whether you call it Cloud Computing, Software/Platform/Infrastructure as a Service or just see it as a variant of the ‘dot com’ ASP model there is no doubt that the technology now exists to enable customers to redefine the relationship with their enterprise vendors. Despite this there does not appear to be a wholesale understanding of how fundamentally this technology platform could redefine the relationship between customer and supplier.

The latest in our series of debates anchored by Edelman’s Cairbre Sugrue, Managing Director, Technology and Jonathan Hargreaves, Head of Technology, Europe, will bring together leaders within the enterprise IT sector to understand how the Internet, in particular Cloud Computing, will fundamentally change the way that vendors engage with customers. It will discuss whether there are lessons to be learned from other industries and how other companies have been successful in this technological era. Above all it will show that with adjustments in the way enterprise vendors use socially-driven communications tools, how they can engage with their existing customers and find new opportunities.

Places are limited and need to be qualified but if you are interested in joining us for a fascinating insight into the engagement future of Enterprise IT please contact me. This isn’t open to sales people but purely senior level people in the industry.

Look forward to seeing you.

I’m as big a fan of the X Factor as the next person, possibly bigger having yesterday cajoled the team here into joining in an X Factor sweepstake (I got One Direction). I have to admit that I’m also quite the fan of Mr. Cowell, the puppet master extraordinaire.

As a fan and member of the dark arts of PR, I’m currently torn and struggling with a moral dilemma. The X Factor PR machine is a sight to behold and has dominated the news agenda since before the latest series even began. The campaign that has been built and is being executed around the show is the most well oiled of machines. Whether it be the spin around the nation’s sweetheart getting malaria or the ongoing ‘feud’ between judges, the show unapologetically dominates the headlines in a relentless fashion. So, on the one hand I have to doff my cap to the team for pulling it off yet again and getting the kind of coverage which no client could quibble with. But on the other hand, I have to question the moral approach to their tactics in taking no prisoners to get the column inches that the show’s creators demands.

I’m probably opening myself up to a barrage of abuse here, but in the era of openness, integrity and public engagement, the tactics employed by those behind the X Factor can’t help but jar a bit. A case in point has to be the latest charade around Gamu Nhengu, the young contestant who was presented to us as a frontrunner in the competition from the first episode.

Her rise to fame has been carefully built – her first audition was subject to much discussion because of the use of auto-tuning technology, this then disappeared from any other episode so we were groomed to notice this as a point of difference. This was coupled with a semi-emotional story of Gamu’s quest to escape to the safety of Britain, marking her out as one of the lead protagonists in the carefully scripted show we like to call ‘reality TV’. Along the way we see various other good, bad and ugly performances before we reach the stage of the competition where Gamu comes back to fight for her five minutes of fame. You’d have to be hidden under a rock to have missed what happened next but in a nutshell, our new favourite underdog was cast aside to make way for Cheryl Cole’s very own mini-me and the ‘baddie’ that is Katie. Cue dramatised reports of Gamu’s imminent deportation from the country alongside stories of her ‘wildcard’ re-appearance in the competition.

To those who haven’t yet succumbed to the cynicism that the X Factor can instil, Gamu’s exclusion is a misjudgement of the highest proportion. To others, it’s yet another incredibly well played tactic to own the tabloids once again and generate a lot of chatter on Facebook and Twitter.

On paper, this campaign is genius. The ‘product’ hasn’t been out of the media spotlight, has taken the audience on a rollercoaster and sparked a significant and very real emotional relationship with the audience. Only this isn’t a product, it’s a young girl dreaming of making it big in the profession she has set her sights on.

And so back to my moral dilemma. The story that has unfolded is an incredibly well executed PR campaign which no doubt achieves its objectives. But is it also a dark and quite disturbing indictment of just how much the contestants have become a prop in a PR game? It’s of course recognised by most that the show has long been a 12 week soap opera and really has nothing to do with finding a pop star, but you do have to wonder whether the contestants themselves can see it like this.

I love the show and I respect the Cowell machine for doing a job so well, but it is staring to leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth in the era of transparency.

@AJGriffiths

There is a lot of debate about the role of formal education in PR so what skill sets are important for success in the business?

On the Public Relations Professionals group on LinkedIn one question has received more comments than any of the industry association, trade or company groups I follow combined. Halim Mahfudz, the CEO of Halma Strategic, posed the question: “Is it necessary for PR professionals to have a PR or communications educational background?”

PR professionals apparently have strong views on what it may or may not take to make it in the business. The discussion has over 100 comments where PR professionals advocate differing paths to success in the profession.

With my own background as a magazine editor, I believe that a wide array of  backgrounds and skills make the strongest PR teams. This means I don’t believe it is necessary to have a PR or communications educational background to make an impact in PR but I’d certainly like to have people on my team with formal training. It is important to gather a diverse range of skill sets to mirror the diversifying communications landscape without neglecting the bedrock of traditional PR.

When I hired journalists, I preferred to hire young writers that had demonstrated that they were committed to the profession. Some had degrees in journalism but also had experience interning, volunteering and generally hanging around newspaper offices or publishing houses. It was more important to me that they were excited about being a journalist and had shown hustle in achieving that goal. A journalism degree was one proof point amongst several others.

All of the over 100 comments included one or more proof points for success in the business so what does it take to be successful in PR? Formalized education, writing skills, business experience, media knowledge, social media savvy or just a keen interest and enthusiasm?

@Matthew_Whalley

Data vis As information technology has grown, so has the impact of data on our lives. I’m calling this the new dicdataship. As data performs an increasingly important role in business, so too will it impact the work of the PR.

A few bits of data that have caught my eye in the last week or so:

  • The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story this week about the new industry that has emerged from the bulging data market (did I mention I’m in Sydney…). Data is valuable, so people are selling it. This is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a little bit unnerving. I’m sure most consumers would be upset to find out that their online habits are being tracked, and even more so that someone else is benefitting financially. Increasingly I’m sure we will be working with clients who either want to reassure customers that they are not selling their data, or indeed if they are selling it – that they are doing so responsibly. 
  • Wired is one of the historic champions of data, as is Guardian Technology whose Free Our Data campaign has been running for years. There is an awful lot of public data that isn’t public. Imagine what your commute would be like if TFL shared their data in real time, so you could avoid the trouble hotspots?
  • The Orange Group team at Edelman has spent the last few weeks working with Orange on the launch of their Orange Mobile Targeting Monitor and Exposure 2010 research. This tool will help advertisers better plan mobile marketing campaigns as the data gives real insight into current mobile behaviours. Check the microsite for more info.
  • We work with Last.fm who has a heritage in open APIs and data access. This awesome visualisation was recently developed to illustrate a listener’s daily musical habits.

So why have I suddenly got the data shakes? Well three fold:

  • The first two stories show that this is a pressing consumer issue. It may not be fully mainstream yet, but Joe Public will become increasingly concerned about what is done with his personal data. We have a responsibility to encourage the companies we work with to behave as transparently and responsibly as possible. 
  • The Orange Exposure research shows how advertisers and brands can use data to create more relevant conversations with consumers. As PRs we should also be looking at how data can inform the campaigns we build.
  • The Last.fm story shows how much fun can be had from data. Whether an infographic, a nifty visualisation, or a game. There’s a lot of potential both for creative, and informative builds.

If I look around at my PR peers, most of us come from an arts background. We studied literature, philosophy or history; we realised we were pretty good with words but journalists don’t get paid very well; we fell into PR. Erudite prose, charm and wit have got us thus far. I for one am rubbish with numbers. I suspect as our industry evolves alongside the rising dominance of data that it might be necessary for us to get a few more mathematicians in the room.

@LukeMackay

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