About a Book

17 03 2009

book-coverThis blog is a companion to the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’.  It will be published in a couple of weeks.  Last week as a first time author, I got to see my book in printed, hard copy form for the first time.   For me at least, writing the book was a long held ambition, I found myself on garden leave with some free time but even when the book was accepted for publication it seemed unreal.  There are various stages that make the unreal, real; the point when I stumbled across it on Amazon was one, but getting hold of the physical manifestation was the real milestone.  

If you have a book struggling to get out or you are in an early stages of the process of getting your first book out here are a few things that I wasn’t prepared for;

  • The publisher decides what it looks like, as a first time author you have no experience of what works and your views or wishes won’t count for much.
  • You write, edit, re-read and proof read.  An author will read their own book four or five times in its entirity before publication.   
  • Reading your own book when it is printed sometimes feels like you are reading someone else’s book.  I suspect that in the months between submitting and publication you start to forget some of the 60,000+ words.  I really felt when I dipped in to the published copy that some of it was new to me (and I found it interesting!)  
  • When you’ve finished writing, the writing doesn’t stop, there are blogs, guest posts and articles that all need to be written.  Time consuming but if you were never sure whether you were a writer or not, the confirmation is right there.  

If you are interested in reading it too it’s available to order from the publisher Kogan Page and from Amazon.





The Third Wave of Digital Influence

23 02 2009

A fierce debate is playing out as to what skills are best suited to the conditions created by a digital world to which everybody has access.   The era of single message mass marketing is coming to an end. In a presentation to 250 marketing and advertising executives in New York in late 2007,  Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “for the last hundred years media has been pushed out to people, but now marketers are going to be a part of the conversation and they’re going to do this by using the social graph in the same way our users do.”

I believe that we have now entered a third phase since the inception of digital marketing.  The first phase was a technical one, the second was built around design and creativity and this third phase is characterised by the democratisation of content.   In the nineties when businesses first launched commercial web sites you hade to be a programmer or coder to build a website.  The industry was wholly reliant on technicians.  Specialist agencies sprang up and clients were in their thrall and people had to place their trust entirely in the hands of digital specialists.  Over time coding became more commoditised and new programmes allowed the less technical to do more and more.  The creative and design community started to be able to exert more of an influence.  The look and feel as well as the functionality of a website becomes more important.  In this second phase designers and creatives gained pre-eminence in the field of digital marketing. 

The third wave of digital communications is characterised by user generated content and templated designs that can be adapted and customised  (like the Wordpress template for this blog)  and are now widely available. More importantly much of what we see on screen is originated in a space beyond the control of clients or agencies.  Content comes from lots of different places the skills that are important to the marketing function are not hard technical skills, nor are they predominantly aesthetic but they are the softer management skills of diplomacy and influence. In short these are the skills that PR people have always used in their interactions with traditional media.





WOM on SocNets, is it the Future?

17 02 2009

Last night I got involved in a heated debate about PR and search engine optimisation (SEO) .  Partly because the debate was on twitter and it was late into the evening (I think most of us were on UK time) it was fast moving, free flowing and it also involved many of the people who know most about the emerging roles of digital PR.

The discussion became confusing at times…talk about distributed conversations.  I think however that the main points can be summarised as follows, (and there may be I admit a little bias towards my own views here):

  • Public relations on line can play a significant role in SEO or raising the rank and therefore importance of sites in Google and other search engines
  • It is an inexact science, there are probably lots of ways to make this work but they are not publicly available or widely discusssed in the PR community
  • Some SEO agencies know this and are hiring PR people
  • Some PR people know this and are hiring SEO people
  • The PR industry has lost out so far to the SEO industry in selling skills in this area to major companies and brands
  • Planning and use of analytics will be key to how the PR industry develops in the field
  • WOM in SocNets is the future (or even the present).

I want to take issue with the last point not because I disagree but because it points up a problem.  I’ve been in PR a long time and have been involved with the social web in various ways for a good few years but the phrase threw me and I had to look it up. When I found that it meant Word of Mouth in Social Networks I felt like a fool…of course.  Let’s demystify and let’s not be too enthusiastic about the next big thing before it happens.

It is true that social reputation and peer to peer recomendation will assert themselves in the digital space but let’s not downgrade search just yet.  I went to Twestival in Manchester and met lots of mates ….it was packed with PR people and digital marketing people, so I conclude that at the moment we are talking to each other a lot of the time.

For the time being search and content are critical for the PR industry but let’s keep and eye on the growing importance of SocNets.

Many thanks to Tim Hoang, Stephen Davies, Stephen WaddingtonJed Hallam, Jaz Cummins, Lewis Webb, Melanie Seasons, Pete Goold, Ian Delaney and many more!

Stop post (that’s stop press for the blogging era): read Stephen Waddington’s take on the debate here and Jed Hallam’s note from the geekfest here.





The Marriage of Search and PR

9 02 2009

1 + 1 = 1 by Grrrega. “Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system, and that’s one of the most powerful reasons so many CEOs have become more transparent: Online, your rep is quantifiable, findable, and totally unavoidable. In other words, radical transparency is a double-edged sword, but once you know the new rules, you can use it to control your image in ways you never could before.”    These were the sage like words of Clive Thompson in a piece called the ‘The See-Through CEO’ in Wired. March 2007. He identified a major new challenge for the PR industry; the need to consider and deliver against the results of relevant search.

Many forms of PR related content are starting to rank highly in search.  Social networks have become important in terms of creating searchable and relevant content. Considering the increasing importance of public relations generated content we now need to deliver that content in a way that is itself optimised for search. The public relations industry needs to start adopting some of the techniques of search engine optimisation or SEO. For example the type of language that we use in our written output needs to use terms more likely to be used when our audiences are using search engines. We must avoid complex or convoluted terms and phrases that in the past have been favoured by some branding campaigns to more straightforward and descriptive terminology that will raise our search rankings.

The need for this and the positive results are becoming increasingly clear. Properly used editorial content can push web sites to the top of Google search rankings without spending a penny on traditional SEO.

 





Changing Communications

29 11 2008

 

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We are experiencing a communications revolution that began in the 1960s with the birth of the pre-cursor to the internet, but entered a significant new phase in 2004 with the arrival of Web 2.0.  


This is an iteration of the web where ordinary users can add words, pictures, sounds and video.  A simple idea in theory which in practise signifies the transfer of control of the internet from the few to the many. It is the democratisation of the internet.    

The phrase web 2.0 was coined in 2004 but nothing fundamentally changed that year from a technological point of view.  The tools that were available to create Web 2.0 environments already existed.  What changed was the way that people started to view the internet.








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