PR 2010

If you’ve arrived at reading my blog for the first time, or the first time this week, then you’ve come in the middle of a discussion on what I’m currently calling New PR, probably until a far buzzier word gets made up. This diagram above is how I see New PR working in 2010. Let me explain.

Metrics: Spreadability and Relevance

We all know that word of mouth is a not a marketing technique, because you can’t create it. You can only create the environment for it – by giving words for mouth, making something remarkable, etc. Spreadability therefore replaces reach, because as the volume of channels increase, the volume per channel decreases, and we therefore need more than ‘reach’ in a channel at one given time, we need spreadability over time and across channels. In many ways, this is value over volume. Continue…

PR, Static Wine and Dynamic Wineskins

So The Good Book says you don’t put old wine in new wineskins. You put in the old wine in the old wine skin, and the new wine in the new wine skin, and then that way, both old and new are preserved.

Yesterday I started a little fire, on the subject of New PR. We all agree that social media (Facebook, Twitter, the mobile web, and the concepts behind them) is bringing about change in marketing, PR, advertising, etc, and amongst much hyperbole my point was, and I quote;

Companies are no longer able to procure their voice through paying an agency to write distant, removed press releases and expect them to connect and engage with their customers. Why? Because the press doesn’t form opinion anymore.

What followed was some great discussion, mostly contrary to my point, which you can read here. Today is part 2, which is in part a response to the comments, and in another part it’s that uncomfortable middle movie in a trilogy. Oh well. Continue…

The New PR

In case you didn’t know, PR is changing. Companies are no longer able to procure their voice through paying an agency to write distant, removed press releases and expect them to connect and engage with their customers. Why? Because the press doesn’t form opinion anymore. Because customers have taken matters into their own hands, and found a way to get their reviews and opinions from real people with real experience.

Personally, I find it insane and insulting that companies think they can connect with me through cold and calculated statements that I might happen to read. PR needs to be reborn. Press Releases are antiquated remnants of a broadcast age and printed media. We need a rebirth for the engagement age of social media and beyond.

Allow me to introduce you to the New PR: Personal Relationship. Continue…

Keeping You In The Loop

Well, it’s finally happened. After 50 or so posts, I am writing my first ‘keeping you in the loop post’, in other words, a post about not posting.

I’ve agonised over leaving the blog blank while I get my thoughts into gear, or whether to throw out an update, but in realising that I myself go on and on about social media being relational, I can’t not practise what I preach. So, here goes with my first ‘keeping you in the loop’.

Of course, I’m not embarrassed or ashamed about this. In actual fact I’ve received loads of support from you all on my latest projects: Continue…

Copy and Paste

In setting the context for today’s post, it helps if I take a moment to shamelessly promote the good work a bunch of us have started with Like Minds. Last week I went from having a great idea, commitments from some speakers, and the help of a really great co-founder (Drew Ellis, take a bow) – to having a kicking website, paying sponsors, expert panelists, and best of all, actual paid bookings. It’s been a momentous seven days or so, but it would’ve been impossible if I wasn’t standing on the shoulders of giants.

You see this past week I’ve written copy, created press releases, and masterminded panels, but none of this thinking has been original on my part. It has been a case of finding those who’ve already done it, and copying and pasting. (Thank you, Media140.) Continue…

Patrick Swayze

I opened BBC News this morning to read the sad announcement that Patrick Swayze has passed away, no less than 20 months after being told he had only weeks to live. I remember thinking months ago that it would be a sad day when this day did indeed come, and now that it is here, I feel I must say something about this man.

I’m not one for celebrity. Hence I have no problem writing about Patrick Swayze – because he isn’t one of these new celebrities that clog up newspaper stands and gossips columns across the world. Personally I think glossy magazines are soul destroying material that promote fake lifestyles that no one can ever attain to, and spur a culture of ‘me me me’ rather than ‘we we we’. Continue…

Life, Not Lifestyle

I saw this on the interwebs recently. It’s one of those pictures that speaks more than a thousand words. On first glance, one chuckles at the commitment of this person to a movement. Perhaps it’s fashion gone too far. But then you realise this movement is in actual fact a brand: a compelling brand with exceptional strength, that stands for more than fashion or fads.

As you look at the ink that has pigmented the skin – creating quite literally a brand, a permanent mark – it dawns on you that this person is not likely just a follower or imitator. This person is more than likely a survivor. And they identify with these words on a level deeper than mimicry or fascination. The story of one person so strongly resonates with another, that they find strength through it – such strength that this brand is a constant reminder, a continual prompt. No doubt it is these two words that kept them going when they wanted to give up, kept them comforted in the midnight hour, and now, that they have come through the worst, to live in such a manner that they will do all that is within their strength to never go back. Continue…

Thinking Outside Of The Bin

Coincidence. Sometimes wonderful. Other times, darn right annoying.

Yesterday was the soft launch of Like Minds, a gathering of like minded people around creativity, technology and fresh thinking. The slogan sums it up best: Collaboration over Innovation.

So around midday yesterday, I send the tweet that Like Minds is now open, and ready for registrations to attend our first conference in Exeter on the 16th October. So I’m expecting a nice bunch of in-the-buzz-of-it registrations to come in over the following hours, right? Guess again. Eventbrite, the service we’re using to take all registrations, decides to one of those days that is plagued by intermittent service. It’s not until late last night that the first (get that: first) registration comes through.

That’s pretty bad, right? Guess again.

The beloved feed service Feedburner (the way blogs get into people’s inboxes and RSS readers) also decides to have a day off. So all the momentum I had built through my blog dissipates in one beautiful and inglorious moment. Fortunately some people visited my blog by tweet or by routine – but all my wonderful readers who are signed up the easy way, didn’t get the message.

It all ended ok though because as we all know, Google are great on customer service and this was all resolved last night, right?

Guess again.

Feedburner still hasn’t picked up my feed, meaning this blog post probably won’t make it to more than a precious few. (Of course, you can help out by retweeting this article using the button at the end of the post – thanks!)

Coincidence. Not my favouite word right now.

Yet coincidence is, as I’ve pointed out, much of how marketing apparently works. I wrote about casting your bread on the social media waters and the fact that very often when people tell me how they heard about me it was through a series of events I had never predicted, anticipated, or even planned for. What then do you do when coincidence conspires against you?

These last 48 hours I’ve learnt to think outside of the bin. Forget the luxury of even having a box with which to think outside of – thinking outside of the bin is survival mode – the kind of thinking you need when you are scratching the ground as you are descending into a pit of FAIL.

Here’s my survival kit for thinking outside of the bin, courtesy of ‘coincidence’:

  • Fix the problem. Easier said than done. The rule here is that if you can’t fix it immediately, get someone on it, and while they’re trying to figure it out, you can:
  • Have a contingency plan. When emotions get the better of you, you need a framework with which to stick to, that you’ve planned in advance. This helps keep your head cool while everyone else is loosing theirs. Failing this:
  • Use multiple channels. In the absence of my auto-posting, auto-emailing, auto-feed-reading, auto-marketing system, I’ve become best friends with Facebook walls and events, old Ning profiles and good ol’ texting. Failing this:
  • Ask your friends to help. It takes a good dose of humility to ask for help – but if you’re doing business personally, then you understand that friends in business help each other out. So, hopefully you’ve built good relationships with others who can reach some of your audience for you. Hopefully. Failing this:
  • Prepare to bounce back. Convert the stress of ‘it isn’t working and what on earth are we going to do?’ into preparation for a huge bounce back. Write a great press release. Make the website better. Write your contingency plan while it’s fresh in your mind.Again: convert stress into preparation. Failing this:
  • Watch The Office.

My descent last night actually went one step further. Failing owning the office, I embarked on the most fruitless of excercises: trawling through Google Groups to find a Google employee who could help. Yes, I went to bed late last night.

So anyway, I hope this helps. It’s fresh thinking, that’s for sure.

And one other thing is certain, this is the most peculiar blog post for announcing a new event ever. (Unless someone can find something even more off the wall?) Hopefully Feedburner will have me back up and running soon, but in the meantime, I want to thank you for being a loyal reader who visits my site. As you know, I really appreciate you, even more so today.

Yours, most truly,

Archived Comments

    • Ah, you went into where to find a Google employee! I haven’t seen a real life Google employee in “Google Groups” in a looong time! Unfortunately, even if you did find one you would likely join the queue of RSS publishers (including myself) who cannot stand the “non-realtime” delivery of content.

      Even with the release of PubSubHubbub, there has been no notable “real-time” improvement. I have better luck manually submitting via Twitter (where a lot of my RSS subscribers have moved to), then I do getting Feedburner to work properly!

    • Wow. The trifecta of defecta for sure. What a way to start. Just in case, I probably should plan to fly in a day early just in case we have another trifecta.

      You all are doing a great job gathering and building community in Exeter. When I was with you earlier this year, I felt the intensity of brotherhood amongst the friends who joined with us for the tweetup.

      It’s especially rewarding to see how Twitter was the tool—the track, as it were—enabling like-minded people to find each other, share wild ideas, and eventually, make it all happen.

      So, Scott, now it’s time for you to GO TO BED and get some rest!

      See you soon.


  • Trey, having you and Olivier over is going to be awesome.

    I can’t wait!!!!

Making It Personal

Last month, as part of Aaron+Gould’s first birthday, we gave away 3 experience consultancy sessions. On Monday, I had the opportunity of spending one of those sessions with Rick Timmis, and hear all about what he’s doing with making Customer Relationship Management (CRM) more personal and more friendly.

Other than the Exeter Tweetup I held in August, this is the only other time I’ve met Rick, but thanks to social media, we were able to build upon the conversation that we’d been having online for months and get straight into things. I don’t want to divulge the details of the consultation, as in short, we built a plan for Rick to take over the world, but I do want to harp on the one thing that we kept coming back round to: making it personal.

A shift is upon us, as we as enter the two-thousand-and-teenies, from the brand machine to people. In other words, people are despising the great awe and wonder and distance that big companies have, that once upon a time were considered the marks of success. This old school thinking went along the lines of “The more people between the CEO and the customer, the bigger, and therefore better, the company is.”

Not anymore.

Now, the more people between the CEO and the customer, the more bureaucratic and out-of-touch the company is. CEOs are tweeting and brands are becoming ‘Olivia at Coca-Cola’, ‘Rick at Abazander’ and ‘Michael Hyatt at Thomas Nelson’. Personal doesn’t just mean you give me your name – it means I can contact you personally. Hear that? I can contact you personally. In other words, the relationship is no longer you telling me what do to. It is about you and me having a conversation. You listen to what I have to say, take it on board, and I in turn listen to you, and when you are unable to deliver on something I’m fine with it – because we have a relationship.

Relationship. The beginning of business. Adam Stone was telling me yesterday about a keynote he had attended by behavioural economist Roger Martin-Fagg, who was boiling business down from economic grandeur to the level where it began: relationship, tribes, identity, and felt need.

When you begin to talk about getting personal, many businesses step away. They are afraid of personal, either because the people in their organisation are money hungry wolves with no care for the well being of the customers, or because they don’t want to make mistakes, or both. Me, I have no time to work with these companies, nor these people. I’m onto more relevant things than money. Businesses that invest in being personal will win in the future – they will help more people, make the world better, and yes, they’ll increase their revenue because their customers will be telling their friends just how much this company cares.

Of course, this won’t be mainstream for years to come. But do yourself a favour and think innovatively for a moment. My predictions:

  • The wise utility companies (Phone, Gas, etc) will start having personal reps. No longer does John from Vodafone call me but I can’t call John back and am instead stuck with Sally. In the years to come, I will become a client of John, my rep for Vodafone, just as much as I am of Vodafone.
  • The wise high streets store will start cultivating personal name based relationship with their customers, as opposed to only the few that currently do like independent retailers and the innovative Gap and Starbucks.
  • ‘Removed’, as a mark of stature, will be replaced by ‘In Touch’. The ‘In Touch’ CEO will nurture a more emotionally connecting brand, and will command greater respect than the ‘Removed’ CEO.
  • Mobile Phone numbers on websites will no longer be a mark of being ’shoddy and can’t afford a landline’, but be an expected way to directly get hold of the person you need to talk to.
  • Websites, then, without the names of the people who are running it and the people you want to speak to, will become essentially worthless. Average Joe loads the webpage, can’t find the person he needs to speak to, and figures ‘why bother?’ I don’t know about you, but business websites without names make me think they’re fake.
  • Company Twitter accounts, unless they are brands that have thousands of followers, will make you look small because why follow the company when you can follow the CEO? Hence, Company Twitter accounts will become CEO Twitter accounts.
  • Twitter, social media and realtime personal customer care – i.e. ubiquitous business – will boom as people flock to their mobiles for the internet. A quarter of Facebook’s 250 million users are mobile, for example. Decisions can finally be made in a moment – by checking on your mobile.
  • An extension of the above, reviews and rating of products and service has become real time and will continue to become more intuitive. For instance, is a realtime monitoring of HSBC tweets, creating an overall rating of how good / bad they are.
  • The current clumsy nature of getting train time updates, for example, will be replaced by digital personal assistants – a merger of the Google voice activated iPhone app and ReQall – only far faster. If I had the capital, I’d be investing in this technology. It’s Star Trek in action.
  • Mass personal customisation – a hallmark of the experience economy – will become increasingly more mainstream. Think about the personal card greeting market that is increasing, and then imagine it across over markets and products.

Is all of this new? Not at all. As our friend Roger Martin-Fagg points out, it all goes back to year-dot behaviour, just with modern technology. Hairdressers, shopping in upmarket stores, small businesses and coffee houses, as well as others, have been doing relational, personal business for years. It is now time that the big companies scale down and get personal. Big used to be an advantage, but now, consumers are wanting names – and the companies that are flexible enough to offer them will win.

Fast forward to Tuesday night as I’m putting the final touches on this post and talking to Dave Thomas over the phone. Dave was telling a story of contacting his clients and receiving referrals from them. The point was, that unlike the ‘Removed CEO’, Dave had built relationships with his clients, was in touch with them, and could personally ask for a referral without the fear of embarrassment – because, hey, friends ask each other for favours, don’t they? This takes me to the final punch for making business personal…

The old method of doing business – the one that’s currently struggling to survive in the face of the social media revolution – is based on fear. I, the customer, fears the business. The IT agency knows all, and I fear their knowledge. The web host mysteriously holds all my files, and I fear they’ll switch my hosting off. British Gas serves my utilities, and I fear their bills when they don’t reflect our monthly arrangement. I fear the big successful CEOs and Creative Directors, especially compared to my small budget. It’s all fear.

Making it personal means trading fear for friendship. I don’t fear the IT company who are friends with me (and incidentally, that’s Dave’s company down to a T). I don’t fear the big CEO because through Twitter, I’ve made friends with her. Sure, I’m not inviting the CEO over for dinner, but there is friendship and relationship in the place of fear and the unknown. Alistair Banks (@banksy6) put it like this:

People buy people and that is so important – without being personal you simply don’t get that.

The ball is in our court. As innovators, Executives, Directors, Pastors and thinkers, we’ve got to take the first step of friendship towards our customers. I know full well that if you went onto the high street and asked people if they wanted their mobile phone company becoming all personal with them, they’d say ‘no’. But what I gleaned from Steve Jobs and Henry Ford is this: you need to tell people what they want. If Henry Ford had made what people wanted, he’s just have tried to make horses faster. Thankfully, he saw beyond what others saw. And that’s the point. People are so used to customer sacrifice that talk of customer surprise seems alien to them. (BTW, for a great slideshow on this subject, check out this.)

The challenge, then, is for business to grow some kahunas and be the first to do it. Because second place just sucks.

Archived Comments

    • Robin_Dickinson
      Hey Scott,

      Making it personal adds tremendous value and builds profitable relationships. Where companies often struggle is finding the balance between value and volume i.e. scaling the value to deliver the volume.

      Businesses are being pressured to deliver the numbers for quarterly reporting (volume), but are growing to realize the opportunity cost of not personalizing (value).

      My business is based on long-term relationships. It’s 100% referral and I’ve never made a call for business, ever. But that takes time and effort. Relationships need engagement, interaction, communication, two-way exchange of value. Neglected relationships die.

      This “costs” time in the short and long-term. And time costs money i.e. salaries and on-costs. Communication – real communication – slows down processes. You can’t automate relationships – although many are deluded enough to think you can.

      What that balance is, I don’t know.

      There’s nothing better than waiting in a queue to buy a coffee and being recognized by the barista, who then engages in friendly conversation with you and takes a genuine interest in your loyal custom .

      There’s nothing worse than being in a queue – and in a hurry, waiting patiently to be served, only to be stuck behind a customer chatting away to the barista.

      Two people. Two customers. Two different experiences.

      No easy answer. What fascinates me is the effective implementation of sustainable, relationship-building, “personal” practices that are scalable to deliver volume metrics.

      Much to discuss,


    • OK – so, wow, awesome comment.

      You’re right, and i hadn’t even considered it, that this is largely a volume v value issue. Of course, you can’t automate relationship.

      And you’re bang on the with the queue metaphor – two people, two different experiences.

      So what frameworks do we provide? How do we strike this balance?

    • alexgreen
      Its a conundrum I face too, the guest arrives 5 to 10 minutes late and still wants / needs the full 1/2 hour, I give it to them but the person waiting is upset at having to wait. When they come in though, naturally they want their full 1/2 hour!

      Someone at some stage is probably going to feel undervalued. One hopes everyone will be understanding but its not always the case.

      The first thing you say to the person who has been waiting is crucial to how things are going to proceed from there.
      A few years ago I discovered (unfortunately to my loss) that asking them how they came to find out about my business (a completely valid and useful question for my information collecton in the context of my work) was definitely not the best question to ask first!

      I do think that however people come in, whether its like Robin’s scenario or otherwise, engaging with them as if they are the only other person in the world at that moment and really genuinely meaning it is only going to be a good approach.

    • This is tough – the type of thing that only expecting a guest to be late will fix.

      Of course you serve less people in the day, but without rushing ppl and giving them more time, you are giving a better experience?

    • Robin_Dickinson
      Yes, that’s the real conversation we need to have. The one that’s being skirted around by all and sundry.

      Let’s get some bright minds together and thrash it out.


    • I’m hoping we can tackle some of it at next month… :-)

      Robin it is hard work – it requires real thought – but without getting bogged down into bureaucracy…

    • timburley
      Do I want a relationship with John from Vodafone? No, I want a service from Vodafone that means I don’t need to interact with them at all. I want them, silent and efficient in the background, doing what they’re supposed to. John from Vodafone may be the nicest most personable guy imaginable, but as a customer I just don’t care.

      Actually, do you want to see my prediction for large scale customer service? Then see this video from gaming legend Peter Molyneux about the next big thing on Xbox. Then imagine the applications in business. We will always have relationships with people who we collaborate on projects with, and they’re important. But plenty of our relationships are actually very thin, and necessarily so – we don’t invest emotion or passion into them because they’re not important enough to us. These are the ones (utilities for example) that could become something else like >>>

      I’d suggest that customer service on Twitter is actually a form of PR, unless it’s buried in DMs. While there are relatively few people using Twitter for customer service, brands can manage it effectively, monitor “the conversation” and participate freely. Imagine if it became the defacto route, everyone is jabbering away and nobody can follow the multitude of threads that become a vast noise, crippling the system and sending the early adopters fleeing for the next big thing.

      Happy to be wrong, as ever…

    • Hey Tim

      Sure – you don’t want to be talking to John from Vodafone everyday. But having a relationship with him when you have an issue – then you want it.

      True twitter also would become drowning if it was de facto – hence social media is bigger than that. Companies could develop their own mobile apps, for instance.

    • alexgreen
      I hear where you are coming from but I think a lot of this will take a long time.
      I am still suspicious of ‘big’ companies that phone me up and try to be all pally & friendly as I don’t have a relationship with them and it feels really condescending of them and false.
      ‘Smaller’ companies where I know the people on a more personal basis, I don’t have the same problem becauswe as you say, we’ve built a relationship.
      The bigger companies – services, councils etc, I’m not sure whether it would be a totally good thing, because it really requires the person interacting with the customer to properly, genuinely care. I can’t see that happening in a rush because I can’t see how a salesman or technician or whatever, being paid a pittance is really going to care much about the fortunes of the big company and therefore have genuine concern and care for the customer they are interacting with. Maybe they don’t even get on with their boss, are being disciplined, want to be in a different job… Yes, the CEO might care, yes the self-employed might care and both be able to give the personal touch but I’m not so sure about the man who comes to service the boiler or cover your electricity statement review?
      Who knows? I wait in anticipation to see if your predictions ring true.
      Until then, my guests will (as ever) receive the personal, connected experience that will help them grow in trust and relationship with me in my business. It makes sense on my scale definitely.
      Grace & Peace


  • Alex this will take a very long time. But it will happen, and is already happening.

    Take Thomas Nelson – big book publishers – but their Tweeting CEO is genuine in his tweets – not fake. Yes some brands screw it up, but many aren’t.

    As for big companies having their staff acutally care – well this is the challenge – to up their game and hire better people. Let’s think about it – two companies, one offering greater customer service than the other, then who are you going to go with?

Give Yourself To The Season

Let me begin by saying that this post will share with you something that has become very close to my heart. My story pertains mostly to church life, however, now in my mid-twenties I face similar lessons in business – and I am certain this post will be applicable to most people in most life situations.

As everyone knows, our childhood is spent wanting to be older. And as the more ambitious and aspirational of you will know, it often doesn’t stop after teens but continues throughout every stage of life. At some point, the pointer tips the other way, and our desire turns to a longing to be younger. Whether it’s a different age, location or station in life that we desire, it seems to be a dissatisfaction, either big or small, with the current season that we are in. Continue…