I didn’t want to write about PRISM, mainly because I felt so many other people would write out it. The issue that has been thrown up is one of perception and realisation – two things that PR is intimately involved in, but I prefer to take the blog post less written if you’ll excuse the pun. With all the noise about PRISM it would have been easy to overlook that Google is now adversely affecting the ranking of sites that are misconfigured for mobile use.
This downgrade will only affect mobile search, but is yet another brick in the wall to emphasise the importance of mobile to clients. If a site is built with mobile first in mind, there shouldn’t be the necessity of a mobile domain (m.whatever.com) in the first place.
Changes in rankings of smartphone search results | Google Webmaster Central Blog
Blogging platform WordPress celebrated its ten year anniversary over the past few days with parties around the world. WordPress with its easy expandable platform has allowed marketers to cheaply deploy press rooms, forums and corporate blogs in a way unimaginable at the turn of the century. Here’s to ten more successful years for a piece of software that has become the bed rock for modern public relations.
Whilst the story may have been lost in the Yahoo! acquisition of Tumblr, the company had also given flickr a visual upgrade. Photo sharing site flickr has been a stalwart of online PR life for the past eight years and hadn’t changed that much, which is a measure of how much Yahoo! neglected it and how forward thinking the original flickr team were in the way they had developed the site.
flickr now provides free accounts with greater storage capacity and an account page re-design that is more visually appealing. A second aspect of the change is that flickr allows more space for branding a given account. There is now a banner image at the top of the page that is 1,350 x 185 pixels, in addition to the original postage stamp sized account icon. My colleagues and I spent the last day exploring the new design and have been implementing a more branded experience for clients. We think that the new banner offers a better uninterrupted visual branding space than many other social platforms.
You can find out more about the new flickr design here. More on using flickr for PR on a post I wrote for the Ruder Finn blog here.
When I was young my Dad once told me that if you could never see yourself getting the last word in on an argument, you had already lost. I got that feeling this week when Frank X. Shaw responded to the epitaph of ‘New Coke’ being attached to Windows 8. The comparison was made by Richard Doherty of Envisioneering; a market analyst firm. The phrase ‘New Coke’ has resonance for marketers. When I was in college the ‘New Coke’ fiasco was a cautionary tale alongside Hoover’s free flights offer that we were supposed to learn from and I can understand why Mr Doherty went there.
Windows has recently focused in its marketing about how it listened to consumers; New Coke came about from extensive taste test research. Both products were launched and provoked a consumer backlash; both products were altered – Coke brought back original Coke as Coke Classic and eventually phased out New Coke. Windows has its Blue update in the wings. Coke managed to rectify its change in three months and critics claim Windows 8 has taken at least seven months.
Frank X. Shaw wrote a blog post to defend Windows 8 which I read over the weekend. The challenge Frank had to meet was complex:
- Set what Microsoft considered to be record straight
- Not come across as whiny and bring down more flack on the brand
- Control expectations about the next big update widely expected to be delivered soon
I suspect that the post was as much for internal audiences as it was for the general public.
It’s a post that I am glad I didn’t have to write; despite the fact that Frank’s argument had a lot of merit to it.
Microsoft did have a previous ‘New Coke’ moment and dealt with it very fast (within two months). This happened with a set of youth-orientated phones called the Kin. You probably won’t have heard much about them to remember them, but back in 2010 they were a successor to the Sidekick. Microsoft yanked them out of Verizon stores, modified the software and pushed them into the channel as ‘burner’ phones – writing off the product as soon as it showed signs of tanking. All of this goes to show that company is aware and does make hard calls.
There were also risks there, the post was dealing with coverage from the Financial Times and The Economist; two serious heavy hitting publications that most businesses would kill to be in on the kind of frequency that Microsoft appears. Secondly it would provide critics with material to extend the story narrative into yet more news cycles because with online publishing you never get the last word in.
Looking at the response the post has received via coverage comments on CNET; Frank has won over at least some of the public. But only hindsight will be the ultimate arbiter of success.
Microsoft prepares rethink on Windows 8 flagship software | FT
Staying Centered | The Official Microsoft Blog
Adobe’s announcement that they were moving away from boxed software for its Creative SPhuite products to more of a pay-as-you-go model called Creative Cloud was a surprise in its timing, but not it’s direction. The bulk of my friends who use Creative Suite have one or two seats to use the software, paying the monthly some helps with cash flow better than forking out for the 800 GBP plus box of disks. It also means that there is no longer the incentive to spend the 30GBP for a cracked copy (that maybe loaded with the finest malware) and use of a product like Little Snitch to stop it ‘phoning home’ or fearing the knock on the door of the copyright police.
As Steve Jobs said, the best way of dealing with piracy is not more regulation, but a better product and this is what Creative Cloud is designed to produce. This is also a time to reflect on Creative Suite. The software is not a cohesive set of designed products but a history lesson in the software industry. Products like Flash and Dreamweaver were acquisitions; originally part of Macromedia Studio.
PhotoShop was originally developed in 1987 by the Knoll Brothers and Adobe bought a licence to sell the software from them in 1988. Just over two decades later the software is a by-word for flattering makeovers and visual alterations.
As time passes well loved applications have been created and dropped. This time is the turn of Fireworks; which was originally part of Macromedia Studio and has been a rapid prototyping design tool for web developers for the past 15 years, supported by a passionate community of users, so stopping development of future versions is going to be hard for users. 15 years of learned behaviour and muscle memory out the window.
One last thing. Today is the CIPR president’s election. Whichever candidate you favour, please vote as this affects the direction of our industry. Here is what I thought were the important issues in this year’s election.
The Future of Adobe Fireworks | Adobe Blog
One tends to forget the efforts that goes into elections until one sits down spends a serious amount of time reading the content put out by candidates. Despite my ambivalence towards politics I sat down and read some of the content around the CIPR presidential debate. The posts were thoughtful, well-crafted and honed to score rhetorical points against their opponent. But where is the place for the audience in this forum fencing?
I am atypical of the CIPR voter. I am male, caucasian and the wrong side of 30. I work in the private sector for an agency: you could argue that I am a largely irrelevant demographic in the CIPR electorate.
My definition of PR is whatever I can sell to my clients that will solve their organisational problem efficiently and effectively. Increasingly that involves a significant amount of paid, owned and earned media across both online and offline channels. My partners and competitors for the delivery of these services are often not PR agencies or even organisations that use PR specialists.
From my perspective a debate on the degree of emphasis to put on social media seems a mute point. I applaud and welcome CIPR members who want to de-emphasise social media in their roles; it provides people like me with a business opportunity to go in and sell these services de-positioning incumbent suppliers unwilling to provide them.
Social media is now a fact of life in my world and mobile is the next challenge on the horizon that is a bigger concept to deal with. It is not merely a channel change and an accelerant but a change in context. But do these issues really matter to what ails the industry? I would argue, probably not. In order for the CIPR to move the public relations industry forwards it needs to look beyond rhetoric and semantic sword-play.
I recommend that time is taken to look differently at what needs to be done and I admit that I don’t have all the answers but I would start with:
- Adopting professional standards. I started drafting this post at a quarter to midnight as agency PR isn’t a 9-5 job, so the idea of completing some arcane folder on continuous professional development fills me with dread. But I make time to read widely around my field, learn new skills and study related disciplines. This is more about mindset than it is about letters: maturity, curiosity and bravery
- It means looking at different set of peers: media buying agencies, digital agencies, advertising agencies and management consultants. Where return on investment is a discussion that isn’t ducked
This changes would open up opportunities for practitioners, providing increased opportunities for women to build careers based on a meritocracy and provide encouragement for men to start PR careers that would help move the industry beyond it’s current pink collar ghetto with a senior management that is largely white, male and middle-class.
The question is, which candidate is most likely to be a catalyst for change? I can’t imagine any of the candidates moving the needle on all the items I have outlined, but at least make a start. It is a question of voting for the candidate that has more of the qualities to start this change, from what I’ve read Stephen Waddington seems to best fit the bill.
The US edition of Wired has a post about defence contractors using the Boston bombings as a way to tout their services, utilising PRs to do this. In many respects it is a formula familiar to people who have done technology PR. Criminal act happens, clients weigh in with how they could prevent it, coverage appears. Only this time it wasn’t a computer virus but homemade explosives that destroyed lives and livelihoods rather than financial and data losses. It seems that whilst PR can be taught, the soft skills of good judgement are harder to pass on to the aspiring PR operator.
One of the big problems that US PROs looking after homeland security clients will face is how long to they have to wait until their clients are no longer tasteless, but still relevant to the media agenda?
Lulu, a kind of women-only version of Hot or Not that runs off the back of Facebook data and allows women to rate men that they know across different attributes struck me as an ideal tool for a journalist to get the measure of a senior executive one would be about to profile. Are they rated as having a Napoleon Complex? If so, maybe time to phone the nice PR people and tell them you’ve been left in the lurch by the people who usually walk your goldfish.
In a world of constant reputation challenges for corporate communications professionals Lulu is yet another channel for them to keep their eye on (or alternatively have their client remove themselves from Facebook ASAP).
Like most of you, my office is no longer my office. I work in the office on a couple of laptops, I use a smartphone to go through news feeds and interact with clients. I get updates via email, Skype, WeChat, WhatsApp and SMS. I haven’t been an Evernote fan as it feels too ‘heavy’ and complex. Instead I rely on Pinboard.in (similar to Delicious prior to the Yahoo! sell-off), Newsblur as a social news reader and Clippick.
Clippick allows me to cut on one device and paste to another, a really simple idea that has a lot of complexity behind it. If we really are going to have device mirroring and a multi-screen environment then a secure device-agnostic cut-and-paste is essential for working in a multi-screen real-time world. You can find out more about Clippick here. Let me know what you think. For me it’s been like Google, in the sense that I found myself wondering how on earth did I get by with it before now.
I was in a new client meeting and one of the things that they said crystalised what I had been heard articulated by other clients over the past few months.
We only have three criteria: responsiveness in responding to a brief, execution and price.
This echoed a requirement for ever more agile communications agencies to respond to client needs. All of this was brewing in the back of my mind and I was having a coffee with a colleague talking all this over when the caffeine worked its magic and pointed out how the Scrum methodology in software programming had changed an artisan craft that in some ways was similar to PR proposal writing. For the non-techy PRs more on scrum here. We have been experimenting adapting it to proposal writing, it’s day two so too early to say if its practical or not.
Of course, there is the temptation to say but this is way we have always done pitches, we love the martyr / hero model of the sole proposal writer with a supporting cast in their shadow. Try something different for a change.