Archive | Social media RSS feed for this section

It’s not what we do, it’s whether it works

1 Jun

Measure what matters Book review: Measure What Matters: Online Tools for Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement and Key Relationships by Katie Delahaye Paine. Wiley.

Let's start with one of the author's anecdotes from her own practice experience.

"I spent millions of dollars each year writing, designing, and producing pieces of paper that were supposed to make my sales force more effective," she writes. "Whether it ever worked was never questioned, it was what we did."

She's right. The emphasis in public relations practice has traditionally been on what we do, not on whether it works.

This is true of public relations practice. What doesn't or shouldn't change are the principles behind the practice. Now for another quotation from the author:

"The future of public relations lies in the development of relationships, and the future of measurement lies in the accurate analysis of those relationships. Counting impressions will become increasingly irrelevant while measuring relationships and reputation will become ever more important" (p 219).

This quotation is from the conclusion to the same author's 2007 book, Measuring Public Relationships. She cites it again in this new text to point out that what was true then remains true now. Four years ago is not a long time, of course, unless you live in Twitter time.

Continue reading

With the benefit of hindsight

27 Mar

The question came via Twitter from a thoughtful student: 'Why do PR professionals still prioritise print coverage over online?'

Sean's question

It's a good question. Assuming they do – and with the exception of a few social media specialists it probably is true – then there are several likely explanations:

  • Print is tangible, and thus has a higher perceived value than online (or broadcast even)
  • Practitioners do what they know best (and avoid the risky and the uncertain)
  • Clients and bosses demand and expect it

I then asked myself a different question. Knowing what I now know, would I have practised differently back then in the bad old days before the web and social media rose to prominence?

I should have focused more on outcomes, not outputs (attendance at events, press coverage). But this would have meant turning away business. I recall the look I had from my consultancy managing director when, in a meeting with a potential new client, I asked 'what do you want press coverage for?'

I wish I'd focused more on finding the issue than promoting the product or service. Again, this would have meant turning down some easy hits in the media for a more sustainable strategy. We did try (and we knew we should), but sometimes the low hanging fruit was just too easy to pick…

What's interesting is to note how little has changed. These two should still be high on the wish list of current practitioners wanting to avoid obsolescence. Focus on the outcomes; and develop an issues-led approach. Otherwise what value are you adding, and what's to differentiate your advice from anyone else's?

Book review: Loose

13 Mar


Loose: The Future of Business is Letting Go
Martin Thomas, Headline Publishing Group 

Marketing consultant Martin Thomas was co-author of Crowd Surfing, one of my favourite books in 2008. When I saw the new book's contents page containing such chapters as 'Not a place for tidy minds' and 'The end of planning?' I knew I was in for a treat.

In follow up to Crowd Surfing and Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody (my top pick from 2008), this feels like a radical manifesto. It's certainly a challenge to the micro-managers, the planners and brand consultants whose traditional role has been to offer predictability and certainty.

We live in a complex, non-linear world – and the challenge is how to 'embrace the chaos and ambiguity of modern life'.

The author is keen to stress that this is not a web phenomenon. 'Something interesting is happening beyond the world of social media: public meetings are suddenly all the rage.'

It's a social phenomenon – and an understanding of behavioural economics is more useful than mastery of technology, Thomas argues. 'The simplistic view of man as a rational economic animal doesn't appear to fit the mood of the times.'

Simple prescriptions obviously won't do, though the author does offer some broad guiding principles for successful loose organisations (on page 168). He also gives many case studies to show where loose principles prevailed (ASDA, Pret a Manger, First Direct and Unilever among them).

He quotes Google's Shona Brown discussing loose management: 'The way to succeed in fast-paced, ambiguous situations is to avoid creating too much structure, but not to add too little either.'

Those singled out for criticism include business schools that have inculcated a rational approach to business. 'We are witnessing the unravelling of the most fundamental building blocks of the commercial world and a collapse of faith in tight, empirical rational models and ways of thinking.'

Thomas writes well of the millennial generation who 'take great pleasure in subverting any attempts by authority figures to silence them.' But I should say that I'm more likely to be criticised by my students for teaching in too 'loose' a way by those who want me to give them much more precise instructions ('just tell me what you want me to do').

The author is an articulate and well-read guide. Though it's a business book and not an academic text, he frequently makes me feel inadequate by his erudition.

While there's nothing I can disagree with the in the book's premise, it's not an original idea. I'm surprised the author makes no reference to open source, whose concepts have already been taken beyond software development into politics and marketing.

And a book that makes an even more compelling case for creativity and innovation in business is Charles Leadbeater's We Think (not cited here).

But it's an enjoyable and valuable read and the challenge for many will be to learn the lessons and put them into practice.

'The principles that appear to determine the success of any social media initiative are becoming well established: be responsive, be human, be transparent… Unfortunately, most institutions struggle to live by them.'

A week in the life

27 Jan

Increasingly it seems that education never sleeps. Particularly if there's an educational aspect to one's presence on social media.

I'm not complaining: it's a privilege to teach and I'm fortunate to be busy. Here are some things I'm looking forward to over the next seven days:

  • Teaching on a CIPR Diploma course in Bulgaria (Saturday and Sunday)
  • Teaching public relations to second year business, marketing and journalism students (Monday)
  • Moderating a batch of Diploma scripts and some MA PR Writing assignments (Tuesday)
  • Starting delivery of a new, experimental Public Relations and New Media module (Wednesday)
  • Giving positive feedback to returning CIPR Diploma students and first year PR students (Thursday)
  • Planning a paper for the International History of Public Relations conference
  • Discussing a proposed chapter for a textbook
  • Designing new social media modules for a revamped Sport Marketing course
  • Giving feedback to dissertation students
  • Hunting out more stories for our subject group blog
  • Attending the CIPR networking event on Thursday
  • Editing new stories for Behind the Spin
  • Keeping up with RSS, Twitter, blogs, news, email and books (last, not least)

We all fall short of our highest expectations, and I'm sure I'll slip up and forget some things I should be doing, but I like to keep my eye on the goal. If I can put it in one word, I aim to be encouraging.

Post sparingly, comment frequently

17 Dec

Participation inequality Remember the 90-9-1 rule?

This suggests that in a group of people, the overwhelming majority (90%) will be 'lurkers' – happy to visit blogs etc, but unwilling to participate actively.

Only 9% will even participate to the extent of leaving a blog comment, while a select 1% are the active content creators.

Despite the low barriers to entry and in spite of the growth of social networking sites built on user-generated content, these figures still seem broadly right.

But might they be too high? Are there really 9 commenters to every blogger?

My 862 posts on this blog to date have encouraged 1414 comments – that's fewer than two comments for each blog post.

For new bloggers, the situation is even worse – and it can be discouraging. Who wants to be that person on the street shouting at the passing traffic with people hurrying by and avoiding eye contact?

So here's what I've been doing over the past few weeks. I've only posted once a week to this blog (but more frequently to other group blogs I run). But I have been trying to leave encouraging comments on new student blogs I've discovered (the list down on the right sidebar has some new additions and my RSS feed has several more I'm following).

But even then I doubt I've managed a 1:9 ratio. But it's probably a good target to aim at. Why not make some other people happy today by spreading some seasonal cheer? Who knows, you may get some return visits (and even some comments) by doing so.

An hour of tweeting dangerously

18 Nov

Lecture tweets It all started with an innocent discussion on Twitter. Should we encourage students to tweet in lectures?

It resulted in this blog post and the follow-up comments.

There was only one way to find out: to experiment.

But how many would be in the lecture? How many would be registered on Twitter? How many would be holding a suitable device and willing to participate?

Surprise #1. The majority of first year students (based on this small and random sample) were already on Twitter and about half were prepared to give it a go.

I sprung surprise #2 on them. There were already a few people 'watching'.

We involved another through an @mention during the lecture.

Surprise #3 is no surprise at all. Employers – and consultancies in particular – are keen to work with digitally savvy students and graduates. I was able to announce a very appealing music industry internship with Rising Digital in the lecture. 

So what are the lessons?

  • Anything live is better than over-prepared, pre-recorded or the linearity of PowerPoint. My mistakes were visible for all to see, and we had fun
  • Clay Shirky's 'publish then filter' was clearly a memorable concept, mentioned in several tweets
  • We learnt about the use of hashtags to filter conversations
  • Students enjoyed the shift in the balance of power: I spoke, but they chose what to say about it
  • We should trust students more (the default setting is to ban mobiles in class)
  • No one in that room will forget that Twitter is a public channel and that people are watching


PR and the power of ideas

11 Nov

Evolving client needs 'The power of the idea is more important that ever'.

So reports @souljaof4tune attending today's Impress conference via Twitter.

It's an echo of the point made by Martin Thomas, co-author of Crowd Surfing, at last week's PRCA conference (illustrated here). The idea is central to all PR and marcoms campaigns.

You don't start with the execution (eg advertising); you start with the idea. We recall the 'Best Job in the World' campaign. Some will know that it won a PR award, though fewer recall that this was collected by an ad agency, Cummins Nitro. It's the idea that matters, not the agency or the discipline.

In passing, I did not attend either the Impress or the PRCA conference. Nor do I know Zubair Ahmed (souljaof4tune) or Martin Thomas personally (though I have read his book). But neither drawback is a barrier to the communication of (good) ideas.

Continue reading

The Halloween theory of social media

22 Oct

Halloween Boo! Not very scary, but perhaps a bit attention-grabbing.

Here's my Halloween theory developed from observation of various classes and courses over the last few years.

Young people aren't very supersticious – typically being action-orientated rather than reflective – and so they often need scaring.

There's a big, bad world out there (really?) and you need to consider the boundary between public and private (why?). In short, we have to remind them to 'think before jumping in.'

With mid career practitioners (and older), the constraints and criticisms are already apparent.

They have a hundred reasons ready why not to do something – and will sometimes miss the one compelling reason to take action. They don't need scaring, they need encouraging.

Social media may be scary – but so's life. The really scary thing is letting it slip by. Sure there are risks in taking action. But there are also risks in inaction.

Photo: by euart on Flickr (Creative Commons)

New year, new projects

29 Sep

20yearson I love this time of year; the optimism is infectious.

Though the mood will be different as we approach the darkest days of winter, it's always a good idea to capture the early year enthusiasm.

So here are three projects I'm involved in that welcome student input (NB only one is open to all).

Behind the Spin

Our PR student magazine is over two years old, and well established. But there's so much more we could do: all we need is time and ideas. I welcome contributors (ideally in response to our forward features listed on the About page) but also welcome those who'd like to contribute regularly by becoming a part of the editorial team. Tell me how you'd like to be involved – or tell me what we should be writing about.

PR@Leedsmet: 20 Years On

We're marking a 20th anniversary of public relations education in Leeds this autumn with a souvenir site profiling graduates and lecturers from the course. I need help reaching out to graduates and writing up profiles for the site. NB: this opportunity is only open to current Leeds Met PR or journalism students and will run to the end of November.

Euprera 2011

Next year's Euprera academic conference is in Leeds, and I'm hoping to work with some postgraduate students to develop content, connections and community around this forthcoming conference. This activity will continue until September 2011. NB: this opportunity is only open to current Leeds Met PR or marketing students.

My social media guidelines

22 Sep

I'm not too fond of rules, so here are the guidelines that help me navigate my favourite social networks (with particular reference to contact with students):

  • Facebook. It's great for entertainment and for friendships, but it's not my first choice network for business or education. I'll accept friends requests from students and others I know, but never ask students to 'friend' me for fear or blurring the boundaries between work and play.
  • Twitter. Unlike with Facebook, the default setting is public. My public role is as the editor of a PR magazine (@behindthespin), and I'll follow people of interest in this sphere, and follow you back if you're a PR student, practitioner or academic. I do occasionally unfollow people, usually when the noise gets too loud. Like most on Twitter, I'm still surprisingly pleased by @ mentions, so this is a good way to gain my attention when time is short.
  • LinkedIn. I follow people I know – and will write recommendations if I know you well enough and have something positive to say. I also join groups and display my blog posts and tweets on my LinkedIn profile – but I don't go looking for activity on this network and very rarely request connections.
  • Blogs. I do still have a blogroll and sporadically try to maintain it, though I will probably note your blog posts through RSS or a link on Twitter rather than by old-fashioned surfing. My list of PR student blogs needs some tending as so many start and give up, and the better ones soon graduate and belong on another list. Please alert me to your PR blog and I'll subscribe first before adding you to my blogroll later at my discretion. My blog is personal and uncommercial and I won't respond to requests for reciprocal links or sponsorship deals.
  • Behind the Spin: I'm pleased when people offer to write for the magazine, but it's best to check the About page for our forward features rather than ask me to spell it out in an email. I also value original content (please don't publish an article on your blog and then submit it to me as an afterthought). I welcome press releases (I enjoyed writing that) – and will sometimes use them on the news page.
  • PROpenMic. I like this specialist network and will try to comment on student blog posts I find interesting. I will accept friend requests out of courtesy, though I've never found out what friendship implies or bestows on this Ning network.