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Blogger’s block

24 Feb

When was the ‘year of the blog’? I can’t remember either, but it’s sometime in the past. That was the point when the early adopters became the early majority and everyone became excited by the growth in connections and conversations. (For reference, I started a home-coded website with blog-like characteristics in 2001 and this site replaced it in August 2003.)

Now that there are other ‘new new things’, where does the energy come from to keep blogging? And amongst PR bloggers, how to reconcile the need to be first and forthright with the professional duty to be discreet and retain confidences?

Here are some characteristics and approaches of those who manage to beat the block:

  • Keep company. Blogging needn’t be a solitary activity; find your community. Or aggregate individual efforts as at Hill & Knowlton and LEWIS. Erin may be drawing breath at her personal blog, but her lasting achievement was to establish Forward as a resource for PR students and young practitioners.
  • Speak up – and shut up. There’s too much noise, so why add to it? Dee Rambeau is falling silent. Richard Edelman, who has more to say than most of us, limits himself to posting once a week.
  • Lead an interesting life, in public. This applies to multitaskers and in particular to those who have their colours nailed to a party political mast: Stuart and Ellee spring to mind. But it also applies to anyone prepared to put themselves out there like Richard and Paull. And to those who can turn the quotidien into entertainment, like Heather and Luke.
  • Master your niche. Drew B is synonymous with social media; Heather Yaxley is an energetic and welcome addition to the small group of PR education bloggers.

If you’re a star of the ‘PR blogosphere’ and I’ve omitted you, then you don’t need my approval. Keep doing what works. Good bloggers don’t fear causing offence: Tom Murphy loves a fight and he’s been around – and earning a salary – from the beginning.

Cut the hype

7 Feb

Liam FitzPatrick’s analysis of the impact of blogs on internal communications (in the current issue of the CIPR’s Profile magazine) is sobering. He thinks the impact has been limited to date:

But [he writes] I think the interesting change will come in management attitudes to message control – internal communications is often the last refuge of totalitarian censorship.

It’s a frank admission for an internal comms specialist to make, and a good question to ask whether managers will be prepared to pay more than lip service to open debate.

The internet: from Auburn to Wales

28 Oct

I recommend Mick Brown’s article on Wikipedia and its founder Jimmy Wales in today’s Telegraph magazine. (It’s long: go out and buy the newspaper.) Here’s Wales’s vision of the internet, as a place where:

people can communicate from all over the world and build knowledge and share information. We went through the whole dot-com boom and bust, and the internet seemed to be about pop-up ads and spam and porn and selling dog food. And now Wikipedia kind of harks back to the original vision.

The discussion on authority, editing and a neutral point of view is helpful.

Growing inequality online

20 Oct

Bloggers and wiki editors delight in the low barriers to entry of social media. We’re doing something anyone can do, or so we assume. Research points the other way: Jakob Nielsen has identified a growing divide between lurkers and contributors.

With blogs the ratio is something like 90:9:1 (90% lurkers; 9% occasional contributors; 1% active contributors). With Wikipedia the gulf is even more pronounced, with active contributors making only 0.2% of the unique users in the US.

Nielsen argues that ‘participation inequality’ will always be with us – though there are some things that system designers can do to encourage participation. There are some things educators can do about this too, and I applaud the pioneering blogging and social media courses run by Philip and Robert.

Generation blogger or generation phoner?

16 Oct

A survey for The Guardian (free registration required) finds changing patterns of media consumption. Over three in ten have read a blog; almost one in ten have created one – more than the numbers of those downloading podcasts or using RSS. No mention in the survey of Second Life – though this virtual world makes it onto the front news page of the same newspaper.

Meanwhile, an academic at another university, writing in Behind the Spin (not yet online) finds that blogs aren’t the priority. She teaches her students how to engage directly with people on the phone.

Of all the communications technology advances in my lifetime, mobile telephony has been the most notable (I’d put it ahead of the web). Of course, the web still has much further to go and we’re now entering a world of convergence, as reported in The Economist’s survey.

What is social media?

29 Sep

Antony Mayfield has written a good, clear introduction to the social media phenomenon. It’s available as a free ebook from Spannerworks. (Via a Kami Huyse digression.)

Victoria should find this useful. She’s a PR student at another university, but her message grabbed my attention because it named two people we both know. Social networking in action.

Public relationships

17 Sep

The term public relations has been in use for a century. But for all of this time, people have in reality been conducting private relations. Not in the sense of illicit, but rather as discreet relations. Even today, the media can make a big story out of the normal conduct of these discreet relations. Newspapers should beware: public relationships will mean an end of the privileged access to information granted by most organisations to the media.

We are now entering a new era of public relationships. There are public networks such as LinkedIn championed by Simon and Alex, who have both used blogging to build personal-professional networks and advance their careers. And there’s the example of Paull, who is turning his global blogging network into a world tour and then into a new life.

Rabbit, rabbit warren

16 Jun

Only yesterday, Drew B was raising his eyebrows at James Warren being considered an expert on podcasting (what, no blog or podcast!).

I receive my copy of PR Week a day later (I’m well outside London). Here’s what I learn about James Warren from this issue: he’s quoted in the media analysis article on podcasting alongside Drew B(envie) and Antony Mayfield – whose name is misspelt. He’s cited and has his photo on a news story ‘Weber Shandwick constructs podcasting studio’. And he has a double page article in the Weber Shandwick magazine that falls out of my copy: ‘Coming to terms with losing control’.

We still don’t really know what expertise he has with blogs and podcasts – but he’s certainly done well with some good, old-fashioned media relations tricks.

Two geeks, one perspective

16 Jun

Robert Scoble, technology evangelist, blogger and author, leaves Microsoft and the so-called blogosphere reacts in a frenzy of excitement.

Bill Gates, personal computer industry evangelist, philanthropist and author, announces plans to step back from the helm at Microsoft after more than 30 years, and the so-called mainstream media has a field day.

A note for those struggling to see the difference between these two stories. One of these men has helped define a wealth-generating industry and is now on a mission to save millions of lives (not through evangelism, though). Those who lack perspective on this should back-off from their barrage against the ‘mainstream media’.

MySpace music myth

25 May

So teenage chatter on MySpace created the Arctic Monkeys? Yes, according to the standard media interpretation. Not so, according to Adam Webb writing in Technology Guardian. For one thing, the Arctic Monkeys phenomenon preceded MySpace.

But he doesn’t discount the importance of the internet. He quotes the band’s manager at Domino saying:

[The Arctic Monkeys] handed out 50 CD-Rs at the early shows to a small group of fans. As the fans started file sharing them, that’s how it spread over the internet. It was word of mouth.