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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.

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 https://PRtwopointoh.pbwiki.com 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.

This morning, driving in to work, I was wondering what my next post would be about. I got in, switched on the computer, loaded up outlook and three emails later this post was practically written.

 

Email 1 – Title: Request for coverage on All Things PR.

Despite the arrogant title, the body of the email was very polite, asking me if I’d blog about an International Association of Online Communicators (IAOC) event. Once I’d worked out that they didn’t want to inspect my nuclear arsenal I gave the speakers a quick google and it turns out, they aren’t international at all, they’re American. I’m not anti-american but International means more than one nation and I don’t like the assumption. So no, I won’t blog about it.

 

Email 2 – Title: All Things PR

This was from an ad agency who have developed an “interactive” periodic table of marketing bullshit terminology. Firstly, It was clear from the pitch that either the agency in question had never read my blog, or they were just stupid.  I blog about PR and Politics and Web 2.0 stuff and many other things but I don’t blog about “brand penetration” and “market segmentation” because these things don’t interest me. Secondly, the table was a bit… well rubbish.

 

Email 3 – Title: Property Week – Read today’s issue NOW

“Over the next two weeks your copy of Property Week may be delayed due to the knock-on effect of the Royal Mail strike.

To ensure you still have access to Property Week on Friday, we will host digital editions on the 12th and 19th of October.”

Link provided, Property Week ready to download, brilliant. It isn’t arrogant or presumptive, it shows that they’ve thought about how they can make a good publication more accessible and improve life for their readers, and it uses appropriate technology to do it. PW, have a gold star.

If ony they’d sort out an RSS feed from their news page and stop closing down the one I made with Pony Fish

 

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If anyone needed an example of quite how drastically PR has changed since web 2.0 got its teeth into it, this weekend has provided plenty.

Screw print deadlines, gone are the days when you could prevaricate your way out of a news cycle. Danny Finklestein and Con Home were broadcasting the news of the election that wasn’t over their RSS feeds hours before any TV had wised up to the story, and whilst one campaign may have come to an end, another managed to continue, just. Lewis Hamilton may have been let off but his story just goes to show that you can no longer manage TV cameras.

In a nutshell the problem is this, when the mechanisms of content delivery were few and linear, they could be managed. Now they are many and networked and they can’t. Those who succeed will be those who recognise that message management never really made it out of the 20th century. I don’t know what the next step for PR is, there is allot of talk about engagement and it all sounds good but, to be honest, I don’t know what real corporate engagement looks like. For the moment I’m happy if clients can stick to a very simple formula.

1. Consider PR before a decision is made, PR applied after a decision is spin.

2. Be open and honest. You can’t hide anything if the guy next door to you with a mobile phone  is every bit as able to publish a story as a BBC news crew.

3. Try to understand the power of content. The ubiquity of search based as opposed to channel based provision means that the internet rewards excellence in a way that traditional media never has and never will.

 

 

 

Just had my first click around amazon MP3 and I’m unbelievably impressed. It’s quicker, simpler and cheaper than iTunes and all the downloads are DRM free.

iPods are great, there’s no denying it they are well designed, well priced and well marketed but in the development of iTunes, apple showed the extent to which they have failed to “get” the internet. Introducing the ridiculous usage restrictions on downloads was a huge mistake and one which will cost apple dearly.

I don’t think this will happen quickly – iTunes has a pretty advanced infrastructure with a lot of unsigned bands able to upload etc… but unless apple can learn to let go, and for some reason I just don’t think they will, I can see a massive shift towards the Amazon platform.

Intellectual property doesn’t work the same online as it did in world where mass distribution required funding, and the record industry has been incredibly slow to react. iTunes’ DRM regs looked and felt like the last gasp of a desperate industry that was inextricably tied to an obsolete format. In contrast, Amazon MP3 feels like a breath of fresh air. Obviously it has a long way to go but whereas iTunes felt like an (albeit valiant) attempt to hang on to something old, Amazon’s attempt, whilst tentative, feels new.

 

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Facebook is taking a big step today, making their search facility available to the public. To quote from the facebook blog:

“Starting today, we are making limited public search listings available to people who are not logged in to Facebook. We’re expanding search so that people can see which of their friends are on Facebook more easily. The public search listing contains less information than someone could find right after signing up anyway, so we’re not exposing any new information, and you have complete control over your public search listing.”

They also comment that, “In a few weeks, we will allow these Public Search listings (depending on users’ individual privacy settings) to be found by search engines like Google, MSN Live, Yahoo, etc.”

The blog entry is here but from the look of it people may be able to send messages via facebook withou signing up. I can’t believe the people at facebook would actually allow that, and the torrent of facebook spam that would result.

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It seems Yahoo are developing a social network of their own. “Kickstart,” as it seems like it will be called, looks like it will be a career driven network linking students with ex – students at certain companies.

Hat tip to Jemima Kiss at the Guardian’s Organ Grinder for the info. She claims the feel is “more LinkedIn than Facebook,” which strikes me as about the right place to go with something like this. I have a LinkedIn profile but I never really engaged in it – the process of introductions was too cumbersome and the rest cost money. Just a few of Facebook’s innovations would have made it much easier.

Personally, I’m not sure of the need for a network like this. There’s a good post over at Simon Collister’s blog that, quite neatly, demonstrates how the nature of social networks delineates between different groups within a given set of Facebook friends. If networks don’t overlap as much as we think, why would I need a separate network for work colleagues?

It’s possible I’m being too negative, I look forward to being proved wrong.

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I’ve just got back from a seminar on email marketing put on by the chaps from Communigator. I didn’t go because I wanted to find out more about email marketing. I don’t have the time, expertise, or infrastructure for a departure like that, but I was interested in how people developed channels of communication.

After a few hours of listening, revolutionary insights all stored up in my brain shaped head I mosied on back to the office, (is that how you spell mosey?) only to find that Collister (bah humbug) has once again thieved my thunder.

The presentation from communigator was genuinely impressive, but if you took the words “email marketing” out the entire section on content could easily have been a piece on blogging or any other kind of electronically delivered communications channel. It seems that despite the different channels, the fundamentals of communication don’t really change.

I have to admit that before today I thought of email marketing as just an online version of the leaflets that get stuffed into my mailbox and summarily discarded but I was dead wrong. Email can be just as communicative as what I had previously regarded as the more “real” conversations taking place in the blogosphere and through social networking sites. The only real difference is the mechanics of delivery and the context.

I get frustrated when I find myself blogging about new technology for new technology’s sake. Email is not a new technology. In fact, along with PR, Blogging, and bizarrely, Bill Gates it has been, on more than one occasion declared dead. What the presentation this

morning showed me was that actually, all technology, all systems, all methodologies are dead – right up until the point when someone brings them alive with a bit of creativity and thought.

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