London Standard is Sorry, Whilst Boston Globe is on the Brink

6 05 2009

The London Evening Standard is saying sorry to Londoners for being negative, losing touch and taking them for granted.

The apology is part of an advertising campaign launched in response to market research, commissioned by the newspaper’s new editor, Geordie Greig. The research found that the paper was seen as negative and didn’t fit with the needs of Londoners.  With a new editor and a new owner it is unsurprising that the newspaper wants to grab some media limelight.  It may even be sincere but it is missing the point.  We consumers don’t mind a bit of negativity – Charlie Brooker’s huge fan base is a testament to that. 

The part of the research that is important is the fact that the paper no longer meets the need of the people and the city.  More particularly many of these needs are being met elsewhere.  Why look up the restaurant pages when Urbanspoon on your iPod will provide location based prices and reviews for restaurants close to where you are standing.

Boston is a city of 4.5 million people.  Its biggest paper the Boston Globe has been teetering on the brink of collapse this week.  In the early hours of this morning the New York Times company which owns the Globe reached tentative a deal with the Globe’s largest union, the Guild.  The company had demanded savings of  $10 million a year, and the end of employment guarantees for Guild members.

Whether the Globe will live to fight another day is uncertain.  What is for sure is that regional and city newspapers around the world are in decline.  Saying sorry might not be enough.





Budget, Blogs and Twitter

22 04 2009

budget red boxToday Chancellor Alistair Darling delivers what must be the toughest budget in living memory. 

What makes the challenge even more acute is that his pronouncement will be followed and commented upon in public even before he retakes his seat in the Commons at the end of his speech.

Blogs will comment well in advance of the considered reactions appearing in print in  the national press.  The national media will however be playing a big part in populating the blogosphere.  Joanna Geary at the Times will be coordinating a live Budget blog with analysis as it happens. 

To that end this blog is taking live comment from the web – comments on the budget posted across the twitter network will appear as they are posted throughout the day.





The Sex Pistols – God Save the Meme

6 04 2009

We think of memes or ‘viral’ as internet phenomena but whilst the internet is particularly suited to the spread of memes this kind of effect was observed long before the internet came into being. 

Fashion and music are areas where this is common and there are also crazes like the Rubik’s Cube the mechanical puzzle invented in 1974 but which exploded in popularity during a few months in early 1980 eventually selling over 300,000,000.

Whilst we can not promise to deliver memes as part of a PR campaign we should be able to recognise them and to facilitate their development.  Punk Rock which crash landed on youth culture in the seventies was memetic in its spread; starting as an underground idea but quickly crossing into the mainstream leaving a lasting stamp on fashion, music and design.  The punk explosion was also partly the result of Malcolm McLaren’s  innate understanding of the media and his ability to manage the message and provide press, radio and TV with strong themed stories surrounding the ‘Sex Pistols’.

The creation of memes is often beyond our control but when we recognise the opportunity PR people are well placed to propagate their spread.  (Adapted from the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ available  from Amazon and other book sellers).





Media Should Say No To Max

24 03 2009

It is time for the British media to end their unholy alliance with the publicist Max Clifford.  Max plies his trade by doing deals and peddling untruths, he says so himself and I have witnessed it at first hand.  

If Max wants to be part of the story then his own integrity should come under press scrutiny.  During the sad demise of Jade Goody he was ever present but I have never seen him asked or answering the question as to whether his normally substantial fees have gone towards Jade’s estate or the future of her family.

The public relations industry has never been particularly celebrated for its ethics.  In fact we PR people are right up there with politicians and journalists in terms of how our honesty is often perceived.  To some extent we only have ourselves to blame and in part it is because we allow the line between Public Relations advisers and publicists to become blurred.  Public Relations is a strategic marketing discipline, whereas publicity is a rather more straightforward activity that more readily accepts compromise.  In some cases both publicists and journalists have gone along with the old maxim to never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  

At the heart of the social web is the concept of transparency. The access that it affords should mean we are at the beginning of the end for publicists like Clifford.





Guardian’s Rusbridger on Twitter

20 03 2009

Alan Rusbridger the Editor of the Guardian has started to twitter.  Along the the Telegraph’s William Lewis he is blazing the trail for major newspaper editors in using the microblogging social network*. It should be of little surprise that he is leading the way.  Many of  his colleagues at the paper are avid users and the Guardian itself is redefining media concepts.  The Guardian is no longer just a newspaper. It is a trusted media brand that delivers audio, video, web content as well as a daily, dead wood and ink edition.

When the Guardian re-launched itself in the smaller Berliner format in 2005,  Rusbridger said that the Guardian website was cannibalising newspaper readership and that this was a factor in the prior fall in the paper’s circulation.  He also said something else that provided a fascinating insight into the future of national daily newspapers.  The new format required the purchase of new printers at some considerable cost; £62 million, £12 million more than the paper had budgeted.  Rusbridger apparently said that he thought they would be the last printers that the paper bought.  

This blog is a companion to the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ available now from Amazon which examines the changing media landscape and its continuing evolution.  

 * Amended after Mick Fealty’s comment  correcting the original assertion.





Advice to Hacks from a Flack

6 02 2009

Ever wondered why PR people are sometimes called flacks?  No, me neither but come to think of it I’ve dodged some in my time as a PR person and too often from journalists.  

This post was inspired partly by a really interesting piece from the Guardian’s technology editor Charles Arthur and partly as a result of a dare from fellow PR person Megan Codling  (some of us can be quite wary of the press….seriously).  Charles’s post was the first time I have ever seen a  journalist acknowledge the fact that we are advocates for our clients and paymasters.  We are in thrall to the media too but the relationship should be mutually beneficial.  So, swallowing hard, here are a few tips for the fourth estate: 

  • Don’t let fly when you get a call from a PR person about a story you are not interested in.  Politely and firmly let them know.  They may well be lacking in experience and sometimes even judgement but they have summoned up the courage to call you and they’ve probably been polite.
  • When you get something you don’t want by e-mail (or DM) click delete and chill.  Don’t get annoyed because there is an attachment or the story isn’t up your street.  We strive to send you what you want but we don’t always get it right and often we are under pressure too. 
  • Resist the urge to take us down a peg or three.  Most PR people have a great deal of respect for who you are and what you do (and sometimes a well developed sense of inferiority).  It tends to evaporate when you turn up the heat.
  • Believe it or not we counsel clients on what they should release to the media.  We have to develop a keen news sense and we work hard to dissuade clients from issuing non-news
  • Work with us, we can be a very useful resource, we will endeavour to respond swifly with words,  images or a good interviewee.  We really don’t expect you to use what we give you verbatim.  We know the value of your endorsement and we strive for it but we don’t expect it.

Let me know what you think, whichever side of the fence that you sit on.  Let’s have a heated debate.





Are Bloggers Journalists?

22 01 2009

If blogging is citizen journalism then bloggers are citizen journalists, which by definition is a form of journalism.  Blogger relations might then have much in common with media relations.

I argued this case or something much akin to it in a lecture I gave for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in May 2008 at Leeds Metropolitan University.  

I had pursued this argument before with little opposition but when the Q&A section came round my argument hit a wall.  Richard Bailey, an academic blogger and university lecturer at Leeds took me to task on this view and Chris Norton Account Director at Wolfstar supported his assertion that blogger relations and media relations are very different. 

The two points of view can be broadly summarised thus:

The case for the prosecution

  • Bloggers don’t like and seldom use press releases
  • Bloggers are generally of independent mind and blog because they want to express their own views and opinions and not those of others
  • Blogs are not edited in the traditional sense and therefore can not be considered to be media in the conventional sense
  • Many blogs simply don’t have an audience
  • We have to engage with bloggers in a different way involving more dialogue and discussion

The case for the defense

  • Journalists don’t much like press releases either and never did.
  • I’ve met some pretty independent minded journalists in my time.  If in doubt read Nick Davies’s excellent ‘Flat Earth News’.  He’s man of independent mind (although he describes others that are not). 
  • The difference between blogs and ‘traditional media’ on line is becoming blurred.  The process of editing creates authority but it does not mean that blogs can’t be authoritative.  

I modified my view after listening to both Richard and Chris but I do believe there is a significant amount of common ground in how we approach the most influential bloggers and how we have deal with journalists who fit the more traditional mould.  I imagine however that the debate will run and run.








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