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image I was listening to the radio on the way to work this morning and there was a segment with Sir Robert Winston talking about using robots in medicine.

His basic premise was don’t use them, they are expensive and can never respond like a human doctor could to any given situation. It reminded me of something CJ said in that west wing episode where they all get stuck in the kitchen only to find that there are no apples or peanut butter. It was about how spy satellites and wire taps were all very good but if you want to catch terrorists you have to have real human spies.

Two reasonably disparate examples I know, but there is a common thread. There are some things that are essentially human. Processes which machines and algorithms and, dare i say it, search engines simply cannot replicate.

I remember a debate I had with Simon Collister a couple of years ago about how you could actually use tagging, and one thing we both agreed on was that sites like delicious could eventually become human powered search engines to rival the crawling spider bots of google and its brethren.

It’s a strange twist of fate that, all tied up in this essential humanness, lies both social media’s greatest strength and its biggest weakness. The ability to engage in real conversations with present and potential customers is priceless. But that’s the problem, its price-less, we can’t put a number on it and we can’t measure the inherent value in a conversation.

Moreover, because in needs to be human, it can’t be turned into a system, it can’t be managed and it doesn’t fit into matrices or spreadsheets.

What really strikes me about the companies that refuse to accept this, is that the closer their assimilation of human behaviour gets to being real, the more artificial it looks, and the less effective.

My point is this; to all the people who email me with transparently computer generated messages starting with “Hi Sam…” Stop it. Stop trying to look human and just talk to me.


The above is John McCain’s new advert mocking the current media love in with Obama. I can’t begin to tell say how stupid it is. All it will serve to do is to remind people that Obama is popular. Worse, it reminds me of Kenneth Williams as Julius Ceasar – “Infamy Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me.”

It’s a shrill complaint that boils down to the fact that nobody is that interested in John McCain. What he was thinking i really don’t know. Can anyone enlighten me?

Wow, turns out I’m hugely important and influential and a general PR blogging Big Wig. Well, I’m probably none of those things (though I’m sure my mum thinks I’m special.)

This all comes from Matthew Watson’s new list of the top PR blogs in the world. Apparently I’m the 8th best person in the UK and the 46th best person in the whole world.

My new boss, Stuart Bruce, has a slightly more measured reaction over on his blog. Of course his would be more mature etc… what with him being the second best person in the UK and nearly, but not quite one of the top 10 best people of all time ever in the world. (Close but no cigar there.) 

I never used to like blog rankings much, they try to apply algorithms to what is an essentially human process and in doing so they rob it it of the one thing that gives it such puissance. But now I’m actually in one, I think they’re feckin great.

*Wanders of to the kitchen nonchalantly whistling the James Bond version of “nobody does it better”

Update: got strange looks when I got to the “baby you’re the best” bit.

Some bullet thoughts

  • When it comes to the current economic problems, newspapers write doom and gloom because it sells newspapers.
  • However, most newspapers make their money from ad sales,
  • not paper sales.
  • Media reporting of d&g has been a major factor in bringing about the forthcoming “R” word
  • and in an “R” word, business has to cut its costs.
  • Every marketeer knows that when it comes to cost cutting, Ad budgets are high on the list
  • so in order to sell their 50p papers the newspapers have decided to lose billions in ad revnue

wierd isn’t it?

I’m on my way down to London and have just seen here on Iain Dale’s blog, and here, confirmed by the telegraph, that David Davis will be stepping down from the shadow cabinet, resigning as an MP and triggering a by-election in his constituency.

According to the telegraph, Davis will then stand as a Conservative candidate, but on a platform based on his opposition to the 42 day detention limit.

The telegraph is billiing it as a disaster for Cameron. I disagree. Cameron’s biggest flaw (electorally speaking) is his lack of appeal “up north” people up here think he’s a bit of a slick southerner and  seem to have a soft spot for Davis’ hard man persona. Imagine the effect of Cameron whole heartedly supporting his home secretary’s principled stand?

What if the CCHQ line reads something like: “There aren’t enough men of priciple in politics today. David Davis is an examplary public servant and doesn’t feel he can carry on as an MP unless he has his constituents backing to cotinue to oppose this disatrous policy. He has our whole hearted support.”

Then, Cameron gets on a bus and spends three weeks in Hull working his magic. Davis gets re-elected with a hugely increased majority and the labour vote collapses. All of a sudden the DD “is principled” poll question starts to rub off on Cameron and labour’s last line of attack is shut off.

OK, there are alot of “what ifs” there but challenge or opportunity, this is certainly Cameron’s biggest judgement call to date. Interesting times…

For years now technology has offered marketeers portals into your life. First Radio, then TV allowed them into your home, then Computers and the internet allowed them to understand a little bit about the things you like, then social networks allowed them to get into your social sphere and really know quite alot about you. Now it seems a new mashup of technology will be able to tap into your geographical network. Not only allowing them to offer you things they think you might like, but in places you might like to get them.

OK I’m getting ahead of myself, this is all about Dash, an internet enabled semi social GPS system. It works like an ordinary gps system except that the internet link allows live streaming of traffic information and location based search facilities. I called it semi social because, unlike other GPS systems around at the moment, some of the traffic data is sourced from commercial outlets but alot of it comes from live updates provided by the community of people who own the devices.

How long before something like this partners with something like trusted places? if it did (and the price was right,) I’d buy one.  

One of my favourite sections in any of the PR trade media is PRWeek’s “Campaigns” section. Now, I don’t want this to get into one of the “PRWeek is rubbish” slanging matches that seem to crop up reasonably regularly when its name is mentioned on a blog. But, that said, I don’t remember it ever featuring a campaign that has made use of / enganged with social media in any meaningful way.

The aim of the campaigns section is to share best practice whilst giving a bit of a publicity boost to the people who had the ideas in the first place, a very “2.0,” win/win idea. I think best practice in this emerging (or emerged depending on where you live and your point of view,) field has been woefully overlooked and thus, in the spirit of social media, and using my ability to reach an audience of, ooh at least three at the click of a button, I’ve decided to do something about it.

Each month, starting in June, I’ll post a bit about some of the standout campigns that have been going on across the UK. I will try to spend some real time doing real research into this and make it worth reading. I’ve also set up a wiki at this is very much a nascent project at the moment but if anyone wants to be involoved in helping get it off the ground, please get in touch. 



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Here at Waterside we’ve been thinking about re-doing our website. It’s been one of those long term, bottom of the pile projects that we’ve been meaning to get on with for the last year or so, but could never quite get round to due to the weight of client work.

Last week I decided that enough was enough and that I would put the long overdue time aside to start work. First things first, find the best competition and see how we can improve things, build up a checklist and see how we can implement it.

After trawling through somewhere in the region of a billion agency websites not only do I have a huge headache, I’m no-where near finding my perfect PR website formula, they’re all well, a bit rubbish. I’m not saying ours is any better, there is some criminally old content and it’s designed in a way that makes papyrus look modern, but I really thought there’d be a few good ones out there?

So far, the best I can come up with would take the visual impact of MCG’s website, mix it with the web 2ness of Wolfstar, the campaigns pages of PR Week and aspects of the Harris Associates’ structure. Even then, it still wouldn’t be perfect.

I just wonder, in what other industry could this happen?  It probably says something about client focus but stil…

Also of note is that all three of the websites I have mentioned happen to be based in Yorkshire. Is there a niche forming?

Anyone out there who thinks I’m being unfair please send me a link to your website and if I am, I promise to take it all back.

Listening to Alan Johnson’s interview on Today this morning it struck me that we might be seeing the first incling of a strategy by Gordon Brown to get out of the mess he’s in.

If I’m right, then of particular importance was the bit when Johnson said something along the lines of: 

“Am I the leader of any particular Gordon Brown fanclub, No, but I have worked with him for 9 years and I’ve never” Blah blah blah… “but he’s a good honest and able politician.”

Translation: “look, you may not like Gordon but times are hard and he’s a safe competent pair of hands.”

It’s certainly the strategy I would go for if I was in the unenviable position of Gordon’s comms chief. Gordon Brown is not likeable, and ever since his move to number 10, his comms effort has gone into trying to change that perception. By any possible measure that effort has failed, but, and it’s a big but, if he can portray himself as the safe option, given the current climate he doesn’t need people to like him.

People are always worried by big picture problems, and that worry influences their vote, but right now they aren’t scared about abstract ideas, they are scared about very specific, very immediate problems – how much is my house worth? can I afford my mortgage if interest rates go up?

In these circumstances, if Gordon can succesfully blame the Americans for the property problems and portray the Tories as a risky choice then like him or not, its my guess that people would vote for him.

Granted, there are alot of ifs in this but, and here’s the final if of the day, if I’m right, you’ll see alot more ministers admitting that they may not be Gordo’s number one fan but…

(well if that title doesn’t generate some google juice…)

OK, so I haven’t posted in a while (why does saying that feel like I’m an American Politician admitting that he hasn’t been to church in a while?) but, as I’m on a train, and one made infinitely more tolerable due to my wife’s inspired packing of a cold Stella, I thought I’d use the time and free wifi put down some thoughts that have been buzzing round my head of late.

I like Boris. Not just because he’s Tory, there are plenty of Tories I loathe, but because I agree with the CIPR in thinking that he is not only a nice guy but a great communicator. I realise that this might be a dangerous comment for me to make right now (for reasons some will know and others will not,) but I do. Not only do I like him, but I think he’s going to win, in fact, I think he’s going to win because I like him, (well, more accurately because people like him.)

Somehow despite slagging off the scousers for wallowing in self pity and writing off large chunks of the South coast he is beating Ken “London” Livingstone, and not just, as many thought would be the case, amongst those frivolous, “vote for Boris, it’d be a laugh” voters. In fact, poll after poll, his lead is largest amongst those absolutely 10 out of 10 certain to vote. Somehow,  despite all the chat show jokes, people think he’s serious and despite more than one ill thought out comments on race, people (including me,) believe him when he says he loathes racism. If that isn’t evidence of great communication, I don’t know what is, – and it is because of this that Ken’s election strategy is fatally flawed.

Boris’s biggest stength is also his biggest weakness and Ken has fundamentally failed to appreciate this. He has Santos problem, to mis-quote from the West Wing “people want to go for a beer with him, they just don’t want to vote for him for president.” Ken’s increasingly desperate, increasingly personal attacks play to Boris’ strengths and actively encourage people to ignore his weaknesses, of which there are many.

For the other side of the argument see this post by Stuart Bruce, but when you read it remember that only 10% of communication is verbal, I reckon Boris has it 90% right.