A Very Social Dilemma

I feel a bit like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City writing this – but are there certain unwritten rules for PR behaviour according to which social network you’re communicating over?

I say this because I received a PR pitch today over Facebook from an executive who I didn’t know and it was surprising how much it annoyed me. I don’t know about you but I like to think of Twitter and Linked In as professional networks and Facebook as personal – for friends only and an escape from (what for some people is) nine-to-five. Naturally, Facebook is good for some business networking if you’ve opted to sign up for a list or network, but I feel a direct mail from a stranger relating to work wasn’t appropriate. I’ve got email for that, so why not use that medium?

Maybe the protocol for social networking – and social not-working, which I see Facebook as largely – has yet to be established and I know as PR people we should encourage communication on new platforms. I wouldn’t mind at all if this executive was on my list of friends, but they weren’t. Did this individual overstep the accepted bounds of Facebook or is it me that’s not a very sociable networker?


People Get Real: Resistence is Futile

It can be hard for businesses to keep up with the latest internet fads but it is something that simply cannot be avoided. Whatever you think of Twitter, the microblogging site, its global influence cannot be understated and any company not engaging on the medium – especially in the technology sphere – is, quite frankly, a conspicuous absentee. Twitter is not Facebook, a personal nice-to-have social network which also bred some popular resistance; it’s an absolute business necessity.

You just have to look at the publicity afforded to it by Barack Obama and more recently its sixth most-followed celebrity, Stephen Fry, can be read here banging the drum for Twitter.

At Hatch PR we’ve been members for over a year, using Twitter to network and win business, yet repeatedly we meet potential clients whose thoroughly 1.0 PR agencies haven’t even mentioned the site to them, let alone its benefits.

With only 140 text characters with which to communicate Twitter finally cuts the convoluted rubbish out of marketing speak and forces marketers to focus on the core message. It’s imperative as a business to ensure the following when using Twitter to engage with their audience:

-Personalise your set up: don’t use a logo, use a person. For example, Virgin Atlantic uses Richard Branson’s image

- Have the marketing team manage it: Web 2.0 marketing is a conversation, a dialogue. This means firms need to respond to the public’s questions rather than the tradition one-way format of advertising

- Use Twitter to make offers, that way word-of-mouth will spread and you’ll pick up more followers

- Stay on message: Brands are always going to be treated with suspicion by some who may try and invoke a reaction. Don’t rise to the bate and get in a very public spat

- Check out TechCrunch’s guide to increasing your followers

Talk to us if you’d like more advice on Web 2.0 marketing. You can also follow us here and here. It’s imperative to keep abreast of developments, whatever you think of them and for however they remain current or relevant – until the next big thing, of course. And at Hatch PR you can bet we’ll be on top of that, too.

IT confidence could be further SAP-ed on Wednesday

The world's largest business software maker, SAP, will announce its performance on Wednesday in what should be a good measure of how the IT market is doing in the recession (which is now a recession, thanks to stats made available on Thursday, as if we didn't already know). Following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the company issued a warning it may not meet targets as large banks cut software spending, so Wednesday's announcement is keenly awaited by financial pundits.

As the banking system collapse still sends aftershocks through the entire IT community, the one thing I keep hearing from colleagues who work for banks is that 'reporting has gone crazy.' The number of reports and types of reports required on their work have risen dramatically since governments took a stake in their everyday business. Surely robust IT systems are needed in this climate more than ever before? If, instead of investing in sound technologies, banks are cobbling together homemade systems (which may be more likely), it seems logical to conclude that the problem of lacking checks and balances and early warning systems will get even worse. It's scary to think that our fragile banking system could be rebuilt on top of shaky IT systems. Wednesday's announcement should be a bell weather for this issue.


Advertising for the age we live in

I've seen two really creative new ads this week which do a great job of tapping into the times, in their own ways. I always look forward to January when the advertising industry turns over; always a fun time of year for the observant media consumer, but now, as we're facing our most challenging times, it's interesting to see how advertisers are reflecting our global fears, our struggles and our loss in confidence through ads.

And so the creativity abounds. Veet, whose tagline is 'World's number one depilatory products' nailed perhaps the best media placement imaginable with its 'Goodbye Bush' ad in the Daily Telegraph Australia on Inauguration Day. It captured the feeling of that day perfectly, through humour.

Another new ad which isn't humorous at all, but extremely powerful, was created for AARP - a huge American organisation dedicated to improving the lives of people aged 50+. The video ad must be watched in its entirety to get the message. It's been viewed more than a million times on YouTube and in the past day already has received 100k more views. It's about the "Lost Generation" and how young people feel about our role in changing these challenging times. It fits in perfectly with Obama's messages. I'll say no more as I can't capture it in words - this one's a must see.

One remarkable thing about these ads is that through digital sharing tools, Twitter, YouTube and email, the audience balloons, at exactly the moment it should be viewed rather than months or years later. How can advertisers capture this digital impact? Unfortunately the measurement tools of the advertising industry continue to be a real stumbling block - the technology has evolved much faster than the ways in which we measure impact.


Mixed Fortunes in Tech as IT Buyers Show True Colours

Contrary figures emerging this week from two of the leading global tech manufacturers give away some clear indications of the way IT purchasers are consolidating.

IBM, a firm which largely sells products and services by which firms can streamline infrastructure, cut overheads and protect data, posted a truly trend-bucking 12 per cent profit growth for the last quarter. Chip manufacturer Intel, on the other hand, relies largely on firms and consumers to upgrade their computers and saw a 90 per cent fall in profits for the same period as computer sales faltered.

These two conflicting reports tell you everything you need to know about the way CIOs across the world are thinking right now. PC upgrades can wait a year, let’s look at the way we can cut cost out of other areas of the business. IBM is perfectly set up to serve this market and could make hay this year. Hardware manufacturers may have to weather a storm and watch on with envy.


Capturing the inaugural moment

Of all the technology stories flying around the web related to Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the USA, the CNN / Microsoft Photosynth innovation is one of the best. Well done to Microsoft for getting in on possibly the best PR imaginable. People attending the inauguration can photograph Obama the exact moment he takes the oath, and email them to themoment@cnn.com. They'll use the pics to create a 3D image of the moment.

I wonder if the technology might help this event break a record in the most photographed moment in history?


Two Dot Obama

Disclaimer one - I'm a big Obama fan and think his election is a massive inspiration. Disclaimer two - this blog is not, and never will be, about politics so disclaimer one doesn't really matter. But I can no longer resist the urge to make a statement about Obama being the first 2.0 president. Yes, he is; no doubt about it. But should we really be that overcome with the fact we've elected somebody who can read emails?

Obama used the web masterfully to link up the common man with his campaign rhetoric and he used it with aplomb to raise funds from working-class people, many of whom had never donated hard-earned wages to a politician. He also had a well-paid PR machine behind him, who definitely should know how to do these things or could rightly be accused of living under a rock.

Judging by how much the papers are championing it, everyone is floored by how 2.0 Obama is, because he gets email, Twitter, and the power of online communities. And gee wizz, he even knows how to use that thing called a 'Crackberry.' Concepts that your 12 year old neighbour mastered five years ago (ok, possibly not Twitter since it was only created in '07).

Yes Obama's 2.0, and way more so than the current administration; yes he's brilliant. But it's annoying to champion his use of tools that every average Joe his age has mastered. That's just the thing. It's not his use of Web 2.0 that's so exemplary, it's him. He is the genius. He was a genius at raising campaign funds long before his staff started a Twitter account. A politician less exciting than Obama can't just 'copy' his 2.0 techniques (as some articles have suggested) and make it work out as well.

It's great that we have a world leader who gets the internet, and I hope he can continue to use email and Twitter without the Secret Service raining on the Two Dot Obama parade. I know I couldn't live, or do my job, without email or many of my 2.0 tools. Let's add that to the huge list of expectations he'll have to meet from tomorrow onwards. But I have a lot of faith in him that he'll find a way around it.


Sliding into the Abyss: The End of Print?

This week we saw the FT cut 80 staff from across the board to focus more on digital and The Economist Group also culled 13 of its own. Last week Exchange & Mart went online only and some experts are tipping the Independent to go the same way before the year is out.

So where does this leave print media and where does it leave PR?

I recently read a blog which centred on the New York Times’ desperate efforts to raise money and deal with online media, including carrying ads on the front page for the first time in its history. The writer singles out this comment from a reader:

“Print is just a device. The New York Times is not just a newspaper, it’s a news organization…This isn’t a storm! This isn’t something that’s going to pass! It’s the ice age. People aren’t going to suddenly open their eyes and we’re back in print.”

What a great statement. Personally, I think the best boardsheets will still have a print and an online version, but a subject I’ll be writing up this week for New Media Knowledge, the new media oracle of the University of Westminster, will be looking at whether the current economic downturn has accelerated the inevitable decline of print media as news organisations scramble for a piece of the growing online ad pie.

Where does this leave PR? I’ve been to two debates recently run by panels of journalists absolutely terrified that PR is taking over and damaging the integrity (their word, not mine) of the media. Less staff means they need quick access to more content to fill space, but I believe that only the good stuff will get through the editorial process – this means no sales bumpf, people.


Real mobility for retail

Retailers, this one's for you. Motorola's announced a new snap-on device for mobile payments, which you can attach to your phone and use to take payments for goods and services if you don't want to buy a dedicated payments device.

The implications for retailers and Motorola are pretty cool. The former can now offer true mobility: then next time you do a big shop at your farmer's market you could pay by card, with a simple swipe through your stallkeeper's phone. It also means using one device for more than one function - something that small business owners love.

In the (frustratingly, still nascent) m-payments market, any progress that creates a real, working device (one that's commercially-available, no less) is a step forward. It also might help Motorola scrape back some marketshare by positioning itself as solving tricky m-pay issues. Hopefully they'll be showcasing it at the upcoming MWC.


Unsavvy Zavvi, but who even knows if that rhymes?

I've walked past it countless times and yet never heard anyone say the name out loud. "Let's head to Zavvi's" hasn't exactly been on the tip of my mates' tongues. So it was unsurprising that 22 stores have closed. I feel bad for the 180 odd employees being laid off in the music industry's latest blight, but are they the only ones who care?

Tip: if you're going to do bricks and mortar in the face of the digital music revolution, there must be something to your brand. People need to be talking about you, and it needs to be more compelling than £9.99 CDs. How about customer experience? Go to an Apple store. I want to see a gigantic futuristic motherboard with every CD released in the past three months with a high tech labyrinth of scaffolding to climb around and look at the album covers, play music over digital headphones, poke and prod the CD. I'm clearly not a store designer, but visual impact is what I'm getting at. I don't want to fiddle with poorly-advertised barcode scanning technology. I just want to be wowed. Buying music in bricks and mortar used to be fun. Someone, somewhere, please get it right - after all, the cost of entry must be pretty low these days with all the clearance music around the joint.

Mecca for digital linguists

Urban Dictionary is the source for slang, written by you. If you like to observe how language is constantly shifting, this site is your new best friend. Plus it can add some colourful language to digital writing that's otherwise dry as the Sahara in July. Enjoy. www.urbandictionary.com

Tweet me six ways to Sunday

I've been using Twitter for about 6mos, only for work, not personal life. Already got Facebook for that. I'm not shy to admit it took at least 5 weeks until I really 'got' how Twitter helped my job - and a certain client gets the bragging rights for converting me. Now I find it invaluable.

My quandary is this: as my Twitterverse grew, so did the number of people I follow. How many is too many? In general, if someone works in a related area, I like to follow them. I try to follow people back for good digital etiquette purposes. But with 350 people on my 'following' list, I miss a lot of Tweets I'd like to see.

I wish there was a 'filter out the nonsense about eating a ham sandwich for lunch, and just keep the business Tweets' application. It would be cracking. Developers - get a move on!

Brand spankin' new

Hello and welcome to the new re:medial blog. It's all about starting 2009 with a blog-o-lution.