Archive for November, 2008

Mumbai and the power of microblogging

The horrendous events in Mumbai prove once again that just when you thought you'd seen the worse of terrorism, you haven't.  But sitting at home on my sofa, shocked by the brutality of it all, I was sucked into the power of breaking news on Twitter. Watching tweets come in from those at the scene witnessing it, was both powerful and humbling.  And a service like hashtags makes it so easy to follow the stream of a particular story.  I honestly can't see how mainstream media can compete with the immediacy of this – they really need to incorporate it into their own news reporting or they'll just be left behind.

Mad* mums and learning PR

Life has been crazy the last couple of weeks.  It's an on-going battle trying to get the work life balance right, especially when a) you have young children and b) the current economic climate makes it very difficult to turn down work – you never know what's around the next corner and all that. 
So in lieu of some wise and profound observation (I wish), just wanted to flag up, albeit a bit belatedly, a couple of things of interest.

1. Firstly, a cautionary tale for anyone that doubts the power of the social network and the speed at which things can go Very. Badly. Wrong.  Neville Hobson gives the best summary of the Motrin Mums meltdown.  Beware the power of Twitter….
2. Can you teach PR or is it something you learn on the job/are either good at or not?  Jed Hallam's question, is a PR degree worth it? has generated a really interesting debate.  As to my opinion – well I'd say it's like learning to drive, you pass your test and think you're skilled but it's only after doing it for a few years that you realise how naive/dangerous you actually were.

*ps, I mean mad as in angry not as in bonkers

It’s not rocket science

Quite often PR practitioners get a bad press, whether it's talk of spin or pestering journalists with non news.  Some sections of the media will always have an ambivalent attitude to PRs and I can understand that especially when you're being bombarded with 400  press releases a day, of which perhaps 10% are relevant.  I do think good PR people do an important job (but then I would say that wouldn't I) but occasionally you see something that makes you catch your breath and hang your head in shame at the actions of other supposed PR 'professionals'.

Firstly, I was gobsmacked an interview I heard on Radio 4's PM the day the dreadful news about Baby P broke.   Sharon Shoesmith, who chairs the Haringey Local Safeguarding Children Board was questioned about how social workers had managed to have the wool pulled over their eyes by the mother of this poor little toddler.  After refusing to apologise for the tragedy, and insisting no-one would be sacked, she said:

"This was a family that needed, and was given, extensive help and support.The very sad fact is that we can't stop people who are determined
to kill children. I am satisfied that the action that should have been
taken was taken." 

OK, well whatever I think about that response (and I think it's outrageous by the way) that wasn't the part that really got to me.  Later in the interview, after presenter Eddie Mair pointed out that Haringey must have some seriously entrenched problems given that it's the same borough in which Victoria Climbie died, Ms Shoesmith started to talk about what a good council it was and how it was a "3 star local authority"  – I mean what?!  How inappropriate is that? It was clear that Eddie Mair thought the same since he responded, "what does that mean?" and then "do you think you should lose a star now then?".  It beggers belief that in a converation about a vunerable child being battered to death, you can start on with some kind of coporate 'good PR' message.  Utterly crass doesn't even begin to describe how bad it was.  Maybe I'm wrong but I have a terrible suspicsion that she was briefed beforehand by a PR person and advised to try and get across some "positive" messages about the Council.  Whatever happened, it is a prime example of the worst side of PR.

Secondly, the Sun Microsystems 'how to turn 6,000 redundancies into a great story' debacle.  I was first alerted to it on Twitter via a tweet by Jeremiah Owyang but it quickly grew legs and then hemorrhaged all over the web.  The blog post that I think sums it up best is by e-consultancy's editor in chief, Chris Lake, Sun Microsystems axes 6,000 staff, digs PR hole, jumps in.  I mean come on people, it's PR, not rocket science, anyone with even a tiny modicum of common sense would realise that this approach was at best incredibly dim and at worst, inappropriate, immoral and just downright wrong.  But I bet that whoever is in charge of PR there is being paid a huge (and completely undeserved) salary.  Well probably not for much longer….

Things that are bugging me this week

Following on from things I'm loving this week, I am not feeling in quite so benevolent a mood today.  So here, in no particular order are things that are bugging me this week.


  1. The instant negativity and cynicism that seemed to immediately grab hold of people following Barack Obama's fantastic win.  Faster than you could say, "the first ray of hope in years" there were mutterings that he won't be able to live up to the hype. GIVE THE MAN A CHANCE.
  2. Email on my iPhone not working. Gah.
  3. Clients who say they want to 'do' social media and online PR and make contact with networks online but, in the same breath, refuse to do anything that might mean others can 'question' their brand.

There, you see, after getting that off my chest, I'm feeling better already .

*photo courtesy of Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Go Barack Go

There has been so much written about how BO and his campaign team have leveraged the power of social media – at the time of writing we don't yet know whether this is going to go down as an example of how or how not to do it.  But whatever the result, it really is infectious, exciting stuff and it's been great to watch.  Like the way his website has his social media profiles right on the home page, wondering how many approaches he gets from the dreaded recruitment consultants via LinkedIn but it's just fantastic that they've seen how it extends the reach of their campaign.

However, leaving aside BO, this election the internet has been flooded with blog posts, viral videos, jokes and much more.  The best of this mass of campaign related gunk is, in my (humble) opinion, this excellent video from the ever reliable Onion.

Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President