Wealth of information = poverty of attention

As we get bombarded by Facebook alerts, e-mails and RSS feeds, I thought this quote from 1978 Nobel Prize winning scientist Herbert Simon was rather appropriate:

"What information consumes is rather obvious: it
consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information
creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention
efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might
consume it."

How true is that?


Jargon Watch – more plus ca change

While we are on the subject of books that fell down the back of the filing cabinet, here’s another little pocket book from 10 years ago – Jargon Watch – a pocket dictionary for the jitterati. (Also available on Amazon for 1p.)

The dot come era certainly proved a fertile period for neologisms (coinages) – and interesting to see how some first came about and how they have mutated into current day usage. For example, we are all familiar with the term flashmob – but I hadn’t realised the term was originally "flash crowds" – and this in turn had come from a Larry Niven short story of the same name. In the story, riots break out when thousands of people our out of teleportation booths to see major social events.

Other phases appear to have dropped by the wayside of lexical history (but perhaps we ought to bring some back). A particular favourite of mine is ‘dustbuster’: a phone call or e-mail message sent to someone after a long silence just to "shake the dust off" and see if the connection still works.


Never Confuse A Memo With Reality

During a recent office tidy up, I stumbled across a small book I’d bought about 14 years ago. It’s called Never Confuse A Memo With Reality (and according to Amazon you can pick up a copy for as little as 1p).

It’s simply a series of pithy business aphorisms – and if anything exemplifies the idea of "plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose", this is it.

Here’s a few worthwhile nuggets:

124: Give presentations that tell stories, not just provide data.
135. Spend your department’s (or client’s) budget as if it were your own.
150. Never go to more than two meetings a day or you will never get anything done.
168. Use metaphors to convey your point.
169. Be the first to use technology  don’t fight it. People talk about the Luddites, but they’re history.
171. Being good is important; being trusted is essential.
199. The size of your office is not as important as the size of your pay check.
342. Career planning is an oxymoron. The most exciting opportunities tend to be unplanned.

Technology PR

How do you position a fridge? Common misuses of words in PR

Over there. In the corner. Next to the deep freeze.

Though not according to Firefly.They’ve just won a global brief to launch Korean electronics conglomerate LG’s new range of ‘chic’ touch-sensitive refrigerators.

According to PR Week: "Firefly’s brief includes ­positioning these fridges as interior design
elements rather than simple kitchen appliances. The range includes
silver titanium and stainless steel designs as well as a Swarovski
crystal-embellished fridge available only by special order. The rest of
the line will be available in the UK exclusively at Harrods from the
end of the month, with each fridge costing up to £1,199."

Firefly’s task is thus to persuade (at least a section) of the global fridge buying public to part with an extra £1000 to buy "an interior design element" rather than a "a simple kitchen appliance." Quite a tall order – but good luck to Firefly – it looks like they are being paid handsomely to try and achieve this.

However, the thing that irritated me about this story was PR Week’s use of the word "positioning".

I’ve always been irked by the rather lax way this word gets used in PR. Anybody who as ever read  Geoffery Moore’s books (Crossing the Chasm, etc) will know that companies or their PR companies can never position a product – the market positions you. You can attempt to influence the market perception of where your position in the market it is – but ultimately, the market (or your customers or propects) decide what that position will be.

In which case, it would be nice to see places like PR Week stop referring to PR briefs being to "position" companies. No PR company has that power.

Technology PR

Great 2.0 bores of our time: TWL

Nice piece of Private Eye-style satire at TWL. Enjoy.

General PR

“Triaging Corporate Snafus”: Forbes guide to PR

Forbes magazine has just published a piece about the PR biz, describing it as The Single Greatest Marketing Tool. No huge surprises in it. But I was intrigued to learn that one of the key roles of PR is "triaging corporate snafus"

Yes, it had me wondering for a few minutes – however, after a quick look at the dictionary, I think the author was trying to think of a different way of saying "crisis communications."

Still, she may be on to something. Describing yourself as a snafu triagist sounds way more exotic than crisis communications consultant.

General PR

More on the disconnect between PR/marketing agencies and their potential customers

Just stumbled across Rainmaker’s latest New Business Survey which reports
on how U.S. marketing communications agencies should best engage with
prospective clients for the purpose of winning new business.

They polled
opinion from 150 major US brand spenders, in respect of three areas
where accurate insights are critical for effective new business
activity. A series of questions were put to marketing decision-makers to
confirm: (1) what prompts them to search for a new agency, (2) the most
effective ways for agencies to engage with them, and (3) the reasons
they choose one agency over another.

Says Rainmaker: "The findings reveal sharp contrasts between what marketing agencies
tell us and what marketing decision-makers are telling us. These have
enabled us to make some straightforward recommendations for how
agencies might alter their approach to become more effective at new
business". (And even though this is a US based survey, I think you’d find a similar situation here in the UK):

In the main, clients don’t feel that size matters, but in the main agencies do. Agencies should not sell themselves so vigorously on size, neither should they worry so much about size being an issue.

The majority of clients (83%) don’t feel geographical location is an issue – many agencies think it is. Agencies should not overly worry that their physical location will prevent clients from buying a winning solution from them.

85% of clients don’t feel agencies prepare enough –
many agencies don’t invest much in this area or prefer to fire from the
hip – which looks cool, but you can often miss. Agencies must invest more in effective intelligence on their prospects.

Most clients (75%) are buying solutions to their
business problems – most agencies think the client is looking for
advertising, or PR, or design or whatever other silo fits their model. Agencies should present a solution, not a discipline.

Clients want agencies to be far more proactive – most agencies like to sit in the bunker. Agencies should proactively reach out to the brands they want to work with.

A major trend, and one which will undoubtedly impact
on all marketing communications agencies depending on how prepared they
already are, is the increase in demand from clients for better customer
insights. This tallies with our own experience – the improved new
business performance of agencies that embrace this point speaks for
itself. Agencies should develop keener customer insights and communicate these energetically to their prospect-base.


Download the full Survey results here.  

General PR

PR industry’s biggest punch up begins



Fight! Fight! Fight!  Amanda Chapel at Stumpette has issued an open (and very forthright) letter to the CEOs and Chief Execs of the top 50 PR agencies in the US and UK.

Her question was: "Where are you?!! Listen… we had a Call to Action last week where we invited a number of you here to a critical debate about the future of our business. Not one showed up."

She concludes by saying: "Bottom line, the business has never been more pathetic and you are
endorsing it with your silence. Used to be that once a year or so a
major paper would variously satirize us; today, on Strumpette, there’s
something daily. Frankly, we cannot keep up.IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE! Help us end the silence. Speak up now
or forever hold you peace. We invite you to join us the concerned
majority in an effort to reestablish the respected professional
discipline of PR. No more obfuscation. We’d like each of you to stand
up and show your support and especially your smarts.TELL US! What should we do and how do you personally plan to lead us there?"

And first off the blocks with a response is  Joel Postman, EVP of Eastwick Communications. His piece titled "The Costcofication of Media" is well worth a read.

I agree with some his conclusions, namely: "As corporate marketing budgets tighten, and internal communications
staff is cut, and turned over to junior (read less expensive, more
easily abused) people, it is inevitable that corporations will look to
outsource more and more communications functions and projects to PR and
advertising agencies and marketing firms. Giovanni Rodriguez terms it
"a crisis of identity" for agencies. I would call it a crisis of
quality for clients. The result is that many corporations have
inadvertently chosen to do one-stop shopping for a cart full of
generic, low-cost media."

However, I took the following comment with a pinch of salt: "Messaging, writing and media relations, along with analyst relations,
are at the core of the universe of things that PR agencies do very
well. Better than anyone in fact. It’s why we exist. And clients who
understand the importance of these three things, pursue them, commit to
them, budget for them, and listen to counsel, get results."

Messaging, writing and media relations are things that PR agencies OUGHT to do very well – but as we’ve documented here ad nauseum, the general skill level in writing and media relations is on the decline. Is it all the nasty client’s fault for cutting budgets? Which means that agency training budgets get cut and cheaper, less experienced labour has to be deployed? It is certainly a factor – but it can’t all be the client’s fault. Can it?


Facebook whales

Apparently, Facebook employees refer to users with over 1000 friends as whales. After 2 months, I’m approaching the 200 mark, which presumably makes me a small porpoise. It’s worth considering that it took me nearly 3 years to get that number of contacts on LinkedIn.

Of course, we aren’t comparing apples with apples here. My Facebook friends list contains pretty much everybody I know – personal friends, clients, ex-clients, journalists, people I’ve met virtually through blogging, etc. LinkedIn is purely for work contacts. But there is no doubt at the moment that FB is getting more of my time than LinkedIn. 

I’m curious to know what LinkedIn intends to do to redress the balance.


Pandora, and Facebook in 3 way mash up

I’ve written before about PandoraFM which allows you to "scrobble" your Pandora tracks to your profile. Now there is a new Facebook app, What I’m Listening To, which displays your current playlist on your Facebook profile. So now your Pandora music "audit trail" is displayed on Facebook via

I’m not so much interested by the fact that my questionable musical tastes can now be shared on Facebook so much as this is another example of the useful inter-meshing of data and applications that seems to be so much easier to achieve these days.

Interesting musical times indeed.