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.





Blogroll, Shmogroll.

24 02 2009

toilet-rollNot long after I discovered the concept of blogging I became aware of the convention known as the ‘blogroll’; the list of blogs, usually placed in the sidebar, that reads as a list of other recommended blogs (you’ll find one to your right and down a bit).

As the web is built on the concept of links, I took it as read that this was a key defining element of what made a blog.  Moreover to be listed on a blogroll was to be included in that blog’s roll of honour.  Not really so.  Very few visitors ever click on the links in a blogroll.  The blogroll here lists just four blogs.  Two are WordPress links which were automatically generated when I set up the blog and it seemed a bit churlish to delete them.  One is for PRMediaBlog where I also post and the fourth is a link to Todd Defren’s PR Squared blog, which I included beacuse I believe that Todd is ‘the’ trailblazer for PR 2.0 or digital PR.  Of the four as the only link with no vested interest, it could be considered to be the ‘control’ in terms of click through.  The results are not spectacular.  The first 5000 visits to this blog generated just three visits to PR Squared or a 0.06% click through rate.

Blogrolls just don’t generated much traffic.  I predict that Todd’s blog will get more visits from this single post than from three months on the blog roll…but that’s up to you not me.





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.

 





Twitter Tips for Beginners #2

29 01 2009

With the use of twitter currently soaring there are many new users who sign up and then wonder just what to do next.  This is the second in a short series of blogs offering  a selection of  hints, tips and bits of advice for those wondering what to do with twitter …and how to do it.  

Getting followed

It feels odd typing out your 140 characters when you know there is no-one following you so here are a few suggestions for attracting your first followers;

  • Follow people.  Even if you are new at least one in four of the people you follow should follow you back.
  • Load a picture (or an avatar in social media-speak).  Don’t ponder too much just get something up there. You can change it any time but don’t delay many people won’t follow you until you’ve got an image.  Use the settings menu, top right.
  • Fill in a profile. Say as much as you can in the space allowed.  People may choose to follow you because of who you are or what you do.
  • Add a website to your profile.  It could be your own blog, your company website or perhaps your LinkedIn page but ideally it should prove information about you.
  • Oh….and follow more people.  

Say something

In Twitter Tips for Beginners #1 I suggested that you don’t worry too much about this at first but you should start soon.

  • Avoid platitudes and the mundane it will turn people off and they will stop following.
  • Post links to new sites and things that you have spotted on the web that will be of interest.
  • Ask questions….you’ll start getting replies. You can use twitter as a living, breathing search tool.
  • Reply to people.  Hover over their tweet and an arrow will appear at the right side (your right). Click it and you’ve started an @post. This is a tweet directed at one person but which everyone can see.  If your are the person receiving them they will go into your @Replies box so you shouldn’t miss them.

Stick with it and before you know it you will be twittering just like Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry.





Is Blogging Right for Business?

27 01 2009

Businesses are often nervous about the naked conversations that take place in and around blogs.  They are right to be concerned,  careless comments can hit a corporate share price.  

The more common danger is that a corporate blog will be boring.  Many argue that corporate blogs should only be written by the Chief Executive because anyone else in the company will avoid any controversy and the end result will be anodyne.  Vetting, reliance on press releases and caution result in blogs that interest noone.  Blogs must really allow comments, but businesses tend to block any challenging comments or any that generate real debate.    

 “A lot of companies are making the mistake that blogging is publishing,” says Bob Pearson Vice President of corporate group communications at Dell. “Blogging is two-way and, crucially, it’s the audience that decides what’s read, what gets linked to and so what is deemed successful. So it makes sense to listen to the conversations your target consumers are having and then shape your blog around them.”

Should corporates blog?  The answer to this is a qualified yes but there is a real challenge.   We have to ask the question is the blog going to be interesting and is it going to be relevant to its target audience.  Once you’ve started the blog you will quickly discover whether the answer to these questions is yes.   If it’s no, stop the blog.








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