When is a blog not a blog?

September 27, 2007

Coming back round to the important “social media” question, which is obviously “how to pitch to bloggers?” there are still a couple of things that seem to be lost between the “PR2.0” group and the “web2.0” group.

There’s a lot of talk on the PR2.0 side about how to treat bloggers, but there appears to be little direct involvement from the kind of bloggers that most tech PRs want to pitch to, just more of the same from the PR bloggers. On the other side there are the tech blogs that everyone would like to pitch, but make themselves fairly difficult to pitch to. (OK, not necessarily difficult, but the result of this form is effectively going to be an emailed list of bits of info, surely the original release would be better – I mean we do try to make an effort with the releases..!)

On a corporate level, Google’s official blog appears not to be a blog, whereas Yahoo’s is. Is this a collection of blogs? It certainly says that it is. Or this? What about this? Would the real blogs please stand up?

How about a survey? Better still a kind of registration – All tech blog editors are invite to state clearly whether they want to be pitched to or not. And once the call is made, all releases have to be returned unopened! Use the comments here if you want to.

So, to pitch or not to pitch? In other words, how to follow the very sensible “PR2.0” groups eminently sound guidelines?

Can we count on the fact that 90% of the time, if you get your pitch far up enough the “MSM” foodchain, it’ll appear on the blogs in any case. If your clients is at CES or MacWorld, do you need to pitch to, say, engadget, when in the couple of weeks around the two shows appear to throw everything they see onto the site?

What we need here isn’t another stand alone “social media outreach policy” but a bit more input from the target audience – the bloggers, and that can’t happen without their engagement in “the conversation”

Where’s Sally?

September 22, 2007

I’m a little worried, Sally Whittle’s blog – Getting Ink – keeps asking me for a password which I don’t have, and then casting aspersions on my credentials (well, I guess the second part is less surprising).

Anyone know what’s up over there?

Is Katherine Tate’s Lauren Cooper a freelance writer? But is she though?

From today’s slew of response source requests…

Has facebook caused arguments in your relationship or a break up? have it caused rows with friends? Have you experienced cyber bullying? If so, get in touch as I’m writing a report on this subject

and if you need a bit of hi tech kit for your holidays…?

Help! I’m doing a travel piece for the Daily Express and my trusty digital camera just died… is there a sweet, kind, wonderful PR out there who can lend me a camera that will be suitable for publication quality pics for a week?
Oh – and please – unless it’s an offer of a loan camera I REALLY REALLY don’t have time to deal with a bazillion random press releases! Honest – all I need is a camera… thank you!

Apologies for the prolonged absence… found myself press ganged by a group of Tibetan freedom fighters in Finsbury Park – not sure which bit was worse, being taken halfway round the world to indulge in hand to hand combat with Nepalese guerillas in an epic struggle to regain the sixteen square feet of the Himalayan foothills that is known as pni folong (roughly translates as “boggy patch”) or finding myself back in the Manor House neck of the woods for the first time in many a long year – some things just never change.

Anyway, among the seemingly endless lists of hapless flacks being soundly and justifiably beaten up by hacks who don’t have the time to respond to these releases (but manage to find the time to blog about how they don’t have the time to respond to releases) there have been a couple of interesting posts concerning the incredible liberties that some hacks take with this new-fangled internet technology and how mindlessly easy it has become to ask everyone for a favour, but few on the quality of the tech press. Now I’ve been vociferous on the whole issue of whether individuals should be exposed, so I’m not about to step over my own lines, but I hope the article on Coputers gets a proper kicking by the subs involved, otherwise I’ll have to buy dozens of copies and distribute them with a little note that says….

QUERY: Computers, Broadcast and Television equipment, Coputer hardware, Coputers Software, mobile phones, media players, PDA’s, motorbikes, technology,lifestyle, coputers business, marketing…

And if I’m not mistook, TWL is currently running not one but TWO competitions/awards affairs at the same time! And sponsored by Edelman no less…

Catching up

June 25, 2007

Much like Sally over at Getting ink, The Spud has just completed a relocation to a “more desirable” field, so I’m a little behind the goings-on. I did, however, catch up with Sally’s interesting set of suggestions on how to get a hack to make/take a phone call.

The post seems to have been inspired by a flack having gone over a hack’s head to complain at the singular lack of cooperation shown by the unnamed hack in the phone interview stakes. I agree completely that going over anyone’s head to complain to their boss is unforgivable, although if, as I suspect the flack involved had exhausted all other possibilities, what option would he have been left with? Said flack is, presumably trying to provide a valuable contributor to said hack’s article (otherwise hack would have made it clear that it wasn’t his bag) so why the lack of cooperation from hack?

If Sally’s thoughts on the nature of grudges and, more specifically journalistic ones is anything to go by then the answer is somewhere not far removed from childishness. Are there hacks in the UK who believe that certain flacks have personal vendettas against them? Do hacks really believe that the endless stream of irrelevant releases are sent solely to them? I didn’t think so, so why the over zealous reaction?

“The unfortunate thing about being so darned helpful is that you’ve instantly and permanently killed your working relationship with the hack. He’s going to remember your name long after he’s forgotten the name of your client, your agency, or the chap at the council. Next time he has two equally good pitches? He’s gonna take the one that’s not from you. Every time.
It’s a harsh truth that hacks bear grudges.”

Shame, all that. One day we’ll perhaps wake up and notice that we’re all in this to get stuff published, one way or another. I just hope I don’t ever get the wrong side of one of Sally’s grudges.

Another League

June 21, 2007

Charles Arthur came up with a good idea the other day – although one that I’m sure was suggested in jest – a league table for PR’s and journalists. Works like this:

“If you’re not in the top league, you can’t pitch to national papers. You have to work your way up through the trades and so on. Like football – third division clubs don’t get to take on Chelsea or Man U or whatever. Fascinating idea. How do we implement it? Equally, of course, journos on trade papers and so on couldn’t ring up Max Clifford – but then, do they anyway?”

Now, I don’t know if anyone ever phones Max Clifford, and if they do I have no idea why, but what I do know is a good idea when I see one, and this is it. it would be great!

Imagine the scene – Charles being high profile ‘n’ all, would be talking to the top five all day – and I’d be talking to the International Journal of Cardboard Packaging Manufacturers – on a monthly basis.

What this particular idea highlights once again is the notion of status. That the size and “power” that a high profile agency has is reflective of the quality of the products that they’ll flog. It’s simply not true, at least not any more.

Let’s imagine an overseas client bringing a new product (or more likely a new version of an existing product) to the UK market, he will be face with an army of tech PR agencies vying for the right to promote its wares. The choice for the client is between the influence that agency x carries, and the retainer that agency y is asking for. If we add the league table to this equation then the lightweights are blown out of the water and the middleweights are once again scrapping on activity for the pieces.

I’m a long-standing reader of Technology Guardian, and I hope that one day I’ll work for an agency big enough and prestigious enough that I’ll be allowed to call Charles and pitch a client to him that he’s not already aware of – although I’m worried that because I work for the big agency, he’ll already know about my client, whereas while I was at the little agency I wasn’t allowed to call Charles and pitch a client that he hadn’t heard of.

Am I the only one not looking forward to a time when Charles’ writing becomes samey and dull, because he’s too far up the food chain to get news from the plankton of the PR world…?

Attacked! (again)

June 14, 2007

There seems to have been a fair bit of keyboard bashing lately concerning the annoying habits that some of the more inept among the PR fraternity insist on preserving, and the scatter gun press release looks like it comes out on top.

The Spud isn’t about to defend it, it is poor, lazy practice and it ends up tarring all of us with the same broad brush, but there seems to be a rather disconcerting trend toward “outing” the culprits involved, which has reached a line over which, I hope for all our sakes, it doesn’t cross.

Charles Arthur kicked off the current round of PR bashing last week with the wonderfully titled Die, PR, die, a post full of (perfectly valid) complaints, but – more importantly for such a high profile hack, the names of the villains involved.

If that, combined with the ongoing efforts of the Bad Pitch Blog et al, wasn’t uncomfortable enough, today the Spud stumbled across “Idiot PRs” a page of Systeme D’s site dedicated to reproducing example’s of releases that he’s received which aren’t relevant to his publication, which , just in case anyone’s really interested, is the positively addictive Waterways World.

There’s a whole separate post about Systeme D’s arrogance, self righteousness and self importance (not that he’s alone – he’s by no means the most insufferable) but that can wait. I’m sure he’s really a lovely fellow.
For now the Spud’s only concern with Systeme D’s approach is the inclusion of email addresses. I ask you, is that necessary? Before you tut and roll your eyes – no, the Spud’s not on his list (at least not yet) but the Spud is left wondering if the stakes aren’t likely to be raised in the inevitable next round of assassinations by the inclusion of home phone numbers, addresses maybe even photos?

And there’s the line – I would hate to see it crossed, but I fear it has already.

The Spud’s question is whether attacking, exposing and ridiculing those at the bottom of this food chain is anything like a constructive manner in which to approach an already difficult situation? Is Systeme D satisfied with the idea that there’s an AE in one of the many piss poor agencies getting ripped to bits by a director not only because they fucked up, but because SD and others choose to make that public – not the agency, the individual within the agency who’s probably either out of a job now or making the tea. Has that improved things? Do you get fewer irrelevant emails now?

Those who send badly aimed releases don’t do it for fun – no honest they don’t – they aren’t just trying to annoy you for a laugh. They’re doing it because they can’t afford to miss you. Because the primary force driving their agency and their directors isn’t the vision of a better tomorrow for all concerned, a world of softly lit sun dappled media relations where everyone is bestest mates, Instead it’s the fear of not being able to justify the fee, not delivering what you’ve already vastly over promised and not keeping the client. It stinks from the top down, not from the bottom up.

The PR industry in the UK – and the vast body of “middleweight” tech PR agencies in particular – find themselves working for increasingly demanding clients, competing with each other on excessive activity instead of attainable quality, over servicing to a degree that simply cannot be sustained and most importantly and as a side effect struggling to find good people (see TWL’s excellent post on the subject). All of this produces a poor quality, poorly focused output. It is under-prepared, under-researched, and aimed at everything and anything that moves. None of this is an excuse, just an effort at outlining the circumstances under which some of your favourite “PR idiots” are working. Nor is it a call for sympathy either, as I said the problem lies inside of the PR industry and the Spud does not and will not defend or condone it.

Above and beyond all of that is the fact that those rare, freshly qualified, capable people that we so desperately need to draw into UK PR will be doing a bit of research while wondering if getting into PR is as sinister as they’ve been told, and will soon (and increasingly) find that the average AE’s idea of a good day at the office is not getting a hatful of shit hot clippings, securing an interview with #1 target publication or front paging The Times, but having avoided ending up on someone’s “hit list”. Not a good result by anyone’s standards.

These specifically targeted blasts are not going to help us entice good candidates into the game, people who could help to raise standards all round. It’s going to drive them away.

It’s easy to snipe, dig and laugh – but once we’ve frightened them all off, Richard, you won’t even have an irrelevant press release to complain about.