The times they are a-changin’

Observing the way people communicate has always fascinated me. The process by which organisations, companies and the people who make decisions within them take their ideas and explain them to others is what prompted me to enter a career of PR rather than one of engineering.

I’ve had the privilege of being at the forefront of the evolution of the change that has gone on within the PR sector. Social media has forced organisations to re-evaluate how they communicate with those they seek to influence.

In the same way the industry has grown up, so have I. Using the power of communication to help organisations achieve their goals has always been professional mission statement. The tsunami that is social media allowed me to flex my communication skills in ways I never could pre the ‘twitter days’.

It’s time now to take what has always been my strength to the next level. We are now in a world where actions and conversations taken on social networks have the potential for real implications for the way a business operates. Social business is the ‘cool’ trend but in reality we’re witnessing the genesis of the way businesses will look like in the future. For me the challenge of helping businesses both big and small through this metamorphosis is genuinely exciting. Looking at how organisations such as IBM (who I’ve been fortunate to work with) have truly taken a social approach to they work them operate, I believe it won’t be long before other companies start to truly appreciate what it means to ‘be social’.

So with this in mind I’ve joined the Dachis Group (who I’ve admired for some time now) where I’ll be focused on helping brands fully exploit the power of adopting a social approach both to an internal workforce and external customers.

Interesting times lie ahead.

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Creativity + content + speed = future of comms

It’s fascinating observing the way the comms industry is changing. I got into PR by accident. Then into ‘social media’ because of morbid curiosity about the way the industry was changing. All this time, I’ve been watching an industry being shaken to the core by its players, funders, detractors and stakeholders alike. It’s scary but good.

Then just when you thought you’d figured it all out, it changes again. (The debate as to whether social media has any relevance within a corporate armoury is largely done. If you don’t think it does, I’m sorry I can’t help you). Now we’re on to the debate about content marketing, brand journalism and transmedia storytelling.

We’ve moved past the why to the what. And in all honesty that’s the hard part. Using a crude analogy. It’s like you’re at a party and you’ve debated and decided with yourself that you like that girl (or guy). Well now you actually have to go up to them and say something. Gulp.

Working out what to say, how you’re going to say are one thing. Then there’s the timing. When’s the right moment to approach?

This is the new paradigm for the modern marketer or communicator. We live in the attention economy. You got one shot so you’d better make it good or I’m off to the next thing.

Creativity isn’t new. Ad men have been doing it and doing it well for years. What’s changed is the speed in which it can be delivered. Coming up with brilliant ideas takes on a whole new dimension when you have to do it under the pressure of the clock.

Those in the know will have heard of the great examples from the likes of SmartBodyform and of course Old Spice.

While it’s not a science in predicting how to get a ‘social media home run’, there are a few tips I’ve come across over the years that should help:

  • Brainstorm different scenarios for your and create responses to be delivered that scenario (like a comedian does) when creating a content calendar
  • Make sure you know the entire history of the brand (warts and all). It help you tell the story better.
  • Have a listening team on hand to pick out trends that can be acted upon
  • Make sure your team has a real web geek (you know the kind of guy that spends a lot of time on Reddit or 4Chan). They’re invaluable in understanding the obscure channels to help get the content seeded out as well as the ‘next big thing’ on the web
  • Don’t be afraid to use a bit of paid action to get content seen. Expecting things to ‘go viral’ organically is one of the biggest misconceptions around social media marketing

I truly believe this is future of communications (note I did not say PR). Coming up with a concept in the morning, developing it the afternoon and publishing it in the evening. Scary. But then again scary is good right?

Thinking about social, luxury and China

I attended a fascinating conference in Paris a few weeks ago. (I meant to publish this then but work and child got in the way). It was the L2 thinktank. A research firm I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of before particularly because of the quality (and honesty) of the research work they produce is really insightful.

The crux of the conference was about how luxury brands could take advantage of markets like China where the online world is vast compared to Blighty or the good ol US of A. I was even allowed to throw in my two penith in about what to consider when building an integrated global campaign.

I’m not going to lie. It was a stats fest but in a good way. Here’s some of the key nuggets that I jotted down.

  • Only 8% of luxury companies localise their social presences for language
  • Household incomes of over $30k is considered luxury in China
  • Russians spend on average 10 hours per month on social networks compared to a global average of 4.5 globally

Other things I was impressed by:

  • The presenter of the Digital IQ stats ability to deliver a great presentation despite someone snoring, very loudly, in the audience. (I believe he took advantage of the ‘drink wine with lunch’ policy).
  • The cookies served in the coffee break
  • Me spilling an entire cup of coffee but managing to miss the lady I was speaking to

If you’re into the luxury market scene, I’d highly recommend checking out the L2 guys

Grad life sure ain’t easy

It must be tough being a grad looking for work. On a day when the UK officially entered back into recession, I was invited to attend a session to speak on how to get into PR.

The panel included a broad spectrum of people from different backgrounds and was organised by Ignite – a firm dedicated to promoting cultural diversity within PR.

A few things stood out for me:

1) Getting a job through the grad process isn’t easy. When you’re competing against 1000 applicants you have to be amazing to stand out

2) Although employers love to see confidence in a potential recruit, it ain’t easy being confident as a grad when you have no experience about anything

3) Networking should be taught as part of a PR degree. I spoke to a few attendees but not one asked for my business card nor had one when I asked

4) Although the event was about getting people from diverse backgrounds into PR, I genuinely think that in this day and age getting a job is more about your attitude than where you come from.

5) With the 24 hour access to information about anything and everything, there really is no excuse for grads not to have a basic understanding of an industry sector or news agenda.

All in all it was an enjoyable event. Just a shame we got turfed out of the bar early. Then again on a school night that was probably for the best.

The law catches up with Twitterers

Not a day goes by  now when some footballer doesn’t get into trouble for posting something they shouldn’t have on Twitter (or some other form of blogging platform). Sometimes it’s relatively harmeless such as Ryan Babel, other times it takes on a more sinister tone. Sheffield United’s Connor Brown and his alleged comments on Twitter over the Ched Evans conviction is the perfect case of footballers not really understanding the power of the publishing tools they possess. In fairness, to footballer it appears that many don’t understand the laws of the land when it comes to publishing. After the whole Giggs incident, it seems the law is finally getting a hand on policing the internet by arresting Twitter uses who named the victim as well as investigating Sky who accidentally amplified matters.

Maybe sites such as Twitter need users to download and read a code of ethics or idiots guide to publishing law before being allowed to sign up.

Getting back in the game

It’s been far too long. Babies, work and being lazy have gotten in the way but spurred on by @Whatleydude I’m getting back in the blogging game properly.

Rather than getting bogged down about what area I should write, it’s going to be on anything and everything that captures my imagination (and frustration).

So to kick things off, I’ll start with a nod to my best piece of writing to date (and probably in my life). I had the pleasure of writing a chapter in a book called ‘The Social Media MBA“. My chapter is on creativity within the social space but there are a lot of other very smart people who have pulled together their ideas and experience on what businesses need to navigate the social media world.

Well worth a read, even if I do say so myself.

(Oh yeah. Here’s a podcast with me banging on about it)

Moving on…

Six years ago I entered the doors of Millbank Tower to be greeted by a cacophony of people talking loudly on phones, blaring TV screens, and iMacs aplenty. I remember thinking, ‘wow so this is what a PR agency is like.’

Within a week I’d been lemonpartied (I’m not linking to that), told I’d never ‘make it’ at the agency due to being an Arsenal fan (thanks Nick) and got pissed with the CEO who warned me about the then marketing manager scaring new recruits with requests to ‘nosh him off’ (anyone who worked at LEWIS pre-2007 will know who I mean). Thanks Chris.

I knew then I’d have lots of fun and learn a lot about the industry. And that’s exactly what happened. From the infamous LMC parties to countless nights at the Muppet, the last six years have been a blast. I’ve also managed to learn one to two things about this thing the kids are calling social media, work with some brilliant characters and on some great (not too mention challenging) clients.

However as they say all good things come to an end and from next week I’ll be joining Ogilvy’s 360 digital influence team. For some time, I’ve admired Ogilvy’s approach to social marketing; from creating a blogger outreach code of ethics to some very smart thinking around influencer marketing. So at a time when there’s a lot of talk about how social media is bringing a convergence of marketing disciplines (my own thoughts on the matter here) the opportunity to work right at the heart of this was just too good to pass up.

I’m told the ethos for my new team is fun, fame and fortune so looks like I’m going to be doing a lot more schmoozing, helping the agency pick up more of these and making a ton of cash in the process. I just hope they also feed my Mac addiction.

Linc up live

I had the pleasure of in Lincoln last week where the good people of Linc Up Live invited me to speak about the intersection between social media and business (yeah I know a well trodden path). I decided to pick up on the topic of influencer relations which is very much a hot topic particular with the likes of Klout and PeerIndex getting so many column inches.

You can view my ppt from the day here.

The highlights of the day though were the other brilliant speakers. Maz Nadjm kicked things off with an insightful view on social commerce. It is fascinating to see some of things companies are doing to harness the power of social.

Joanne Jacobs (who you should definitely follow if you work in PR) gave a ‘pull no punches’ talk on the art of linking in the context of influencer tools (like Klout and PeerIndex). This was based on an experiment she conducting on whether the scores could be games (spoiler alert – they can). You can view her presentation here.

Last but certainly not least was Kate Day from the Telegraph who gave an overview of how modern newsrooms use social networks. The fact that her desk was plonked right in the middle of the newsroom where the editor used to sit says a lot about the value the Telegraph places on uses social media to report and tell stories.

All in all it was a very informative day. A special mention to Glenn Le Santo, Celia Lacy, Andy Clayton and Tim Downing (who I promised a beer but shamelessly forgot to get it) for organising a top day.

Looking forward to the next one already.

You say potato, I say potarto – how much does diversity play within your search marketing?

One of the benefits of social media is that it has forced marketers to focus more on building and nurturing communities rather than the spray and pray, one size fits one model that has defined the industry for decades.

But how much of a role does diversity play when it comes to really understanding the different communities marketers seek to engage with? And what how much should search marketers get to know or exploit colloquiums when optimising keywords?

Search is a particularly hot topic for PR professionals now. Perhaps not quite as sexy as social media but many in the industry are starting to realise that search is very much interlinked (excuse the pun) with its more glamourous cousin in helping a marketing campaign meet its objectives.  They might be late to the party but PR pros are starting to wake to the importance search engines play in communicating a message. While they might not have the technical skills of SEO marketers, PR brings a certain advantage when it comes to relationship building but also in the form of keyword research and understanding what audiences are actually looking for when they ‘Google’ something.

Added to this is the rise in social search. This is where recommendations from your friends show up in your search results. You type ‘football boots’ into Google and within the search results that come back you’re alerted to the fact that your brother-in-law who had a trial at the Emirates recently ‘liked’ the latest Nike boots on Facebook. As a consumer, you want to know personal recommendations before making buying decisions. And as a marketer, you can finally get some of the coveted ROI that your finance director has been hounding you for.

As a web evolves to fit around our lives having a social elements to marketing campaigns will become the rule rather than the exception. Having a diverse campaign team that is not only able to tap into local lingo and jargon but is also astute enough to spot and capitalise on opportunities in the mainstream media that drive search trends is worth its weight in gold.