“Assume your industry is screwed”: Richard Koch 80/20 Principle

After another inspiring Castaway networking event last night (and meeting some very bright, energetic digital innovators from companies as diverse as Zopa, Kizoom and Fortune Cookie), I was reminded of a great quote from Richard Koch, author of the 80/20 Principle.

We tend to assume our organisations and our industries are doing pretty much the best they can. We tend to think that our business world is highly competitive and has reached some sort of equilibrium or end-game. Nothing could be further from the truth! It would be far better to start from the proposition that your industry is all screwed up and could be structured much more effectively to provide what customers want. And as far as your organisation is concerned, your ambition should be to transform it within the next decade, so that in 10 years time your people will look back, shake their heads ruefully and say to each other “I can’t believe we used to do things that way, We must have been crazy!”

There were certainly plenty of great ideas bouncing around last night about how PR and marketing can (and is) being transformed. Bring it on.

LinkedIn: a major source of blog traffic

I’ve noticed a large increase in referring links to to this blog from LinkedIn. A mixture of people clicking through from the WordPress app, or from Group postings.

No question that LinkedIn can now generate very good, targeted exposure for not much extra effort.

Average Brit makes four internet searches per day; receives over 2000 commercial messages

According to ComScore via the latest issue of Revolution magazine, we Brits make an average of 4.1bn Internet searches every month. If the UK Internet population is around 35.6m, then I calculate that the average UK internet user makes around four internet searches per day, every day.

According to some sources (in this case, a report touting the benefits of railway advertising), the average UK person is on the receiving end of over 2000 commercial messages every day.

I appreciate that a Google/Yahoo/MSN search isn’t the only way we seek out information (we talk to people, we still watch TV, we still read newspapers), but the contrast between how much we pro-actively seek out information via the Internet (commercial or otherwise) versus what gets pumped to us (whether we want it or not) seems huge.

If we accept that the vast majority of purchase decisions – business or consumer – begin or involve search, you do begin to wonder why more people don’t spend more time and money on inbound marketing as opposed to the traditional “push” model.

From a media relations perspective, it also occurred to me that the average journalist is exposed to way more commercial messages than the average person (because of all the additional PR related messaging that comes their way – and much of which doesn’t seem to work).

Isn’t it time we adopted an inbound approach to PR? Inbound media relations anyone?

More tips on supercharging your PR efforts with Twitter (a case study in open source PR)

Stephen Davies at PR Blogger is turning into a one man Twitter PR resource at the moment. And perhaps providing a useful case study in open source PR.

Last Friday, he posted his initial list of UK journalists on Twitter – thus sparking a healthy dose of comments from both PRs and hacks. Including some very useful tips for PRs in terms of how best to work with journalists on Twitter (see below).

And now Andrew Girdwood from Bigmouthmedia (the guys behind the 79 out of top 100 UK PR agencies don’t offer online services survey) has created an RSS feed that amalgamates all the public Tweets from Stephen’s list of UK journalists. As Andrew points out, having this kind of RSS feed is useful because: “you want to see what these journalists are tweeting just in case you’ve got a useful response handy, but you may also want to avoid adding dozens of people you don’t know very well to your Twitter follow list. It’s also possible that journalists don’t fancy having a bunch of strangers all rock up as brand new Twitter followers.”

And if that wasn’t enough, Stephen has now released a list of UK PR people on Twitter.

That’s a lot of useful PR innovation in the space of three days (two of which were a Saturday and Sunday).

Free and openly available PR resources that once made available inspire others to create other useful tools. If that can be achieved in three days, what can we expect in a week or a month’s time? Now that’s what I call the power of open source PR.

Journalist tips for PRs on using Twitter

Kat Hannaford at T3: (likes frozen peas, the Smiths, and ketjap manis sauce)

“I’ve got to say on the whole, I don’t mind too much when PRs follow me on Twitter – particularly if

-I know them
-if they are at an agency I’m aware of
-have clients who are relevant to what I write about.

As I only have limited time, and am trying to trim Twitter down a little, I only follow PRs back if at least two of those boxes are checked. And of course, a proper Twitter dialogue (and relationship) can only proceed if both parties follow one another – in which case, it just turns into me being unaware of your brand, and you peeking at 140-word descriptions of my private life.

I’ve had a couple of bad experiences on Twitter with PRs (people trying to push their releases onto me, people spamming me every ten minutes with their @replies and so on), but the worst experiences have actually been with other journalists – who generally don’t seem to understand Twitter (and its benefits) as most PRs, and spend their time peddling links to their dry-as-stale-bread posts. And arguing with me. And pleading for freelance from me. And generally being knobs.”
Linda Jones, Passionate Media:

“I don’t mind if PR people want to follow me on Twitter, and I am keen to hear from them IF they have relevant information that could be helpful in my work, I put together a list of current projects and have tweeted a link to it. I hope this may be useful for me in that I need to find case studies, expert comment and news of relevant organisations etc and I am looking in lots of other places apart from from PR people.

I can’t see that there would be any difference contacting me or ‘pitching’ me by Twitter as from any other means. So long as it’s done well then that’s okay. If you are a PR person following me on Twitter (and a few have signed up since reading this post) please take the time to find out about the work I do before you get in touch by Twitter or any other means.

If you feel that work by any of your clients could genuinely fit with what I’m writing about then please get in touch. Ultimately, for me, it’s not the means of keeping in touch that matters but the story. Don’t push me on stuff you have tweeted to all and sundry but please do think about if there’s anything specific that may be of interest according to the list of current projects I have gone to the trouble of preparing.”

The Economist confirms: “Blogging is useful and versatile”.

From The Economist, November 8th 2008 regarding blogging (Oh, Grow Up):

“Gone, in other words, is any sense that blogging as a technology is revolutionary, subversive or otherwise exalted, and this upsets some of its pioneers. Confirmed, however, is the idea that blogging is useful and versatile. In essence, it is a straightforward content-management system that posts updates in reverse-chronological order and allows comments and other social interactions. Viewed as such, blogging may “die” in much the same way that personal-digital assistants (PDAs) have died. A decade ago, PDAs were the preserve of digerati who liked using electronic address books and calendars. Now they are gone, but they are also ubiquitous, as features of almost every mobile phone.

6 reasons to supercharge your PR efforts with Twitter

Stephen Davies has posted a great list of prominent UK journalists who are on Twitter.

As he says: “Twitter isn’t something that immediately strikes you as anything good and explaining the benefits of it to someone who has never heard of it – particularly a pressed for time PR person – can be quite difficult.”

OK. Here’s my current top 6 reasons to use Twitter to supercharge you PR efforts:

1. Look at the numbers – as per Stephen’s list, many more journalists are using it. Not only that, but some journalists are giving priority to communication via Twitter over any other channel. For example, I’m willing to bet that you are far more likely to get the attention of someone like, say, Charles Arthur at the Guardian, by sending him a direct Tweet and/or a link to a dedicated info landing page than by trying to call him or e-mail him. Of course, you still need a good story, but I suspect he would give you more respect for using this approach.

2. It is much easier now to manage the Twitter info firehose because of tools like Tweetdeck. Being able to keep real time tabs on specific brands/issues/people is fantastic. The kind of insight you could only have dreamed of in the past.

3. People are beginning to develop their own individual styles of Twitter usage. Smart PRs will adapt their approach depending on the various Twitter “communities” they participate in (I can now see why having separate accounts for certain things makes sense eg having a dedicated client press release account so you can separate this from more general Twittering).

4. The 140 character limit imposes a healthy discipline on communicating clearly and succinctly.

5. Lets not forget the journalist research aspect of Twitter – checking out a journalist’s recent Tweets gives great insight into the kind of things they are really interested in.

6. Being there when you can’t be there – if you can’t get to an event, you can be sure that someone on Twitter will be – and will provide useful updates and commentary on proceedings – not only that, if they are journalists, you can feed them questions that might be worth asking….

I think the excuses for not using Twitter are dwindling by the day. The only way to really understand Twitter is to dive in and use it. What are you waiting for?

Why don’t we ask more questions via Google Search?

SEO keyword firm Wordtracker have released a new free tool that allows you to see the most popular questions people ask in relation to a specific keyword or phrase. For example, the most common phrase associated with public relations is: “what is public relations?”.

According to Wordtracker, by creating content related to relevant questions, you may improve your search efficacy – although they freely admit this is a “long tail” technique.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, questions are mainly of a Socratic variety ie “What is X?”

But it did make me wonder why we don’t ask more questions via Google? If you were looking for the best digital PR consultancy for example, wouldn’t it make sense to at least ask the question, just to see what results Google brings back? As I’ve blogged previously, this clearly isn’t the way we use Google (and it seems to apply across the board).

Perhaps if I ask the question “Why don’t more people use Google Search to ask questions?”, I might bring down the Internet?

PR still stuck with traditional mindset toward online news releases: ROI of Online Press Releases Survey

Further evidence (if it were needed) that most PR professionals are still putting the old wine of traditional press relations in the new bottle of online PR.

A new survey from the Society for New Communications Research into the ROI of Online Press Releases has identified that: “traditional patterns of press release usage might keep public relations practitioners
from adapting press releases to online contexts and new audiences.”

According to the SNCR: “PR professionals were consistently more interested than marketing professionals in reaching traditional media. Marketing professionals were consistently more interested than PR
practitioners in reaching new media or consumers directly.”

In other words, PR people still see online news releases first and foremost as a media relations tool.

The report also highlighted that there was a distinct “lack of knowledge about SEO on the part of most PR
Very few respondents indicated using social media release formats (26.3 percent) and even fewer reported adding video (12.8 percent) or audio (9 percent) enhancements. Of all multimedia elements, photos were the most popular, used in online press releases by 49.5 percent of respondents. “Even more puzzling is that less than half of respondents (48.8 percent) link to their own press releases after they have been posted online.”

On the measurement side, SNCR said that “the criteria used to evaluate the success of press releases….are the electronic equivalent of press clippings. However, these metrics provide no information about higher-level success indicators such as audience receipt; message comprehension, recall, and acceptance; and behavior change. Simply put, the fact that a press release has been republished on a website offers no certain evidence that the target audience actually read it, understood it, agreed with it and, if applicable, engaged in a different behavior (i.e. product purchase) as a result.”

As Metrica point out in their critique of this research: “we need to move to more robust models of capturing larger indicators of success, such as product sales from online articles and related behavioural shifts that result from online and offline PR.”

To adapt a line from Antony Mayfield, we may think we have developed a new discipline with online PR, but in many ways we have simply taken traditional models and simply transplanted them to the web. We have only progressed a small distance in terms of understanding the way the web works.

Investing effort in an outcome based approach to online PR will surely reap rewards.

Mike Butcher, Techcrunch UK: “Only a handful of PR firms are any good”

Why is it there is always a great blog post that you only catch up on a while after it is has been published?

For some reason I missed Mike Butcher’s “top 15 ways to get on with TechCrunch UK, and maybe other media” post when it first came out in August. No matter. It has some good, non time sensitive advice – all worth sharing.

However, I do have a difference of opinion with Mike on some of the following:

“Here’s the thing about PR firms. Only a small number are really any good. What happens is that there are individuals inside big PR firms who know their trade, understand how to interface with the media, read blogs, etc etc. If they’re good, they usually end up leaving and setting up their own boutique firm. In which case I still hear from them. The best PRs behave like the best contacts – they keep in contact, float ideas, check if something is of interest before bothering to send you a full-blown release, etc etc. Others are good, but decide instead to rise through the ranks inside MEGA PR CORP, and guys like me stop hearing from them because they have been replaced by a spotty teenager / recent graduate who just reads your name and number out on a list and “checks if you got the press release”. Or worse, they call you to check if they can email over the non-exclusive (Aargh!) press release. Either that person learns fast and turns into a decent PR or they stay being the person who who cold calls you with crap – at least until they eventually realise they’d do a lot better in life as a bingo caller.”

It is a truism that people don’t buy from companies, they buy from people. And the PR business is no different. PR firms build their businesses on the promise of the brand (ie you can count on a certain level of value and quality whoever works on your account). Of course, this just isn’t true. Mike seems to bemoan the fact good media relations people have the nerve to want to get promoted. However, I’ve blogged in the past about the fact that the really good media relations people in agencies are faced with a Catch 22 situation – if you are good, you tend to get more accounts pushed your way – however, there is a ceiling on the number of accounts you can possible service to an acceptable level (because most journalists have no idea about all the other stuff that is expected of a PR – account management, billing, reporting, internal politics, etc). If you want to get promoted, you have to take on a more managerial role. Which means not doing what you were good at in the first place. Smart agencies would hopefully get the good senior media relations folk to train the rookies. But as per previous downturns, training is usually the first budget to go.

When Mike talks about PRs who “learn fast” or “eventually realise they’d do a lot better in life as a bingo caller”, he seems to be laying all the blame on the individual. I’d say it is more a fault of management. If that person were trained properly in the first place, much of the “learning” that Mike thinks they require wouldn’t be needed in the first place. And if they don’t seem to be “learning”, it is just possible that their managers have told them to keep doing it this way. Which may explain why so many boutique firms emerge.

In reality, when Mike says they are only a handful PR firms that are any good, he means there are only a handful of good PR people. But what journalists regard as good PR people aren’t necessarily the same people who can build large, successful PR businesses. Given that such universally derided practices such as the press release follow up call still persist, a cynic might argue that people wouldn’t keep doing it if there weren’t some value in it.

79 out of 100 top UK PR companies don’t offer online PR services: Bigmouthmedia

I’ve just come across a recent survey from Bigmouthmedia that claims that 79 out of the 100 top UK PR companies don’t offer online PR services.

They also say that only 14% of the operations that claimed to have new media covered published their own blogs. And that taken as a whole, only 11% of UK PR Consultancies use blogs to communicate with clients, colleagues and the wider marketplace.

I have to say I found these figures overly low. On the basis of the above analysis, there are only 11 agencies out of the top 100 that have a blog. Surely not.

Then again, I remain curious about the terms online PR, digital PR, etc. Most people I talk to seem to think there is no real semantic difference between them – they are simply different ways of describing the same thing.

However, in terms of their relative search popularity, there clearly are differences. Here are the figures for October 2008 in the UK:
Online PR 2,900
Online public relations 1,600
Web PR 880
Digital PR 590
Internet PR 260
Internet Public Relations 170

Digital public relations 73

Taking Google’s Insight for Search Tool, you can see that interest in the term “online PR” for example was at its highest back at the beginning of March 2008 – and has been bouncing around below this figure ever since. Google Insight also shows the regional breakdown for the term – and it would seem no one outside of London searches for “online PR”.

So what are the implications of all this for the UK online PR market?

This suggests that although interest is growing, it still remains a niche. For example, the term “fashion PR” was searched for 6,600 times last month. Indeed, the term social media scored 9,900 (though its variants such as social media PR, social media marketing, etc hardly registered).

Adam Parker, Chief Executive of online news distribution company webitpr commented on the Bigmouthmedia survey saying: “Despite finding that an increasing number of UK PR professionals are on the ball when it comes to online PR, this survey confirms our experience that a high proportion are still more focussed on traditional media. However, given that this is most probably a reflection of client budget and resource allocations, perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is what this says about UK business’ attitude towards online communications.”

Indeed. Though I’d argue that there is a difference between being aware of the need for online PR and being “on the ball”. Based on the above, it seems that interest in online PR (or whatever term you prefer) is largely confined both client and agency side to a hard core bunch of London-based converts. That surely has to change.

As Adam Parker added: “On a positive note, we feel that with steadily growing interest in the online world from both agencies and in house departments, the tide is beginning to turn. But if it is to properly address the challenges and opportunities that new media offers, the industry must invest in relevant services and training at all levels. Those failing to do so run the long-term risk of losing out in the inevitable battle for the online communications market.”

That I think nails it on the head. Agencies understandably are reluctant to offer services their clients aren’t going to pay for – but unless clients are given the option to actually try or buy a new service, then how can they invest in it? Those agencies that take the risk of developing new online services are clearly going to give themselves a better long term advantage.

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