Monday, July 27, 2009

We ALL work in PR.

Looks like a flume, but isn't. Guess. Photo via Whatsername?

It's a little bit of a black hole, isn't it? This being on the internet malarky, creating a digital footprint with every tweet. God knows where it all goes.

I was a touch worried to find out (don't worry, I haven't been googling myself that much...honest) from Priyanka that if you type in my name into google, it begins to auto complete. Fuck me. I'm one of them proper internet people (or tremendous nerds - in fact, almost certainly the latter).

Something, in truth, I never really thought about when I first got into blogging, or writing nonsense on the internet. I wrote to amuse myself. And it got me to thinking. Has this sort of attitude changed?

With the tremendous takeup of twitter by celebrities, do people now primarily use the web as a source of fame, rather than writing to express their opinion? And if so, at what cost? Has 'honesty' been bastardised?

I've always been acutely aware of just what I write online. I don't write anything that I wouldn't say in real life (yes, even taking the piss out of social media, or ranting about how badly put together most organisations seem to be). And I wonder, as people grow up with the technology to say whatever they want, whenever they want to - whether it'll begin to have more negative aspects.

Kids who've never thought about censorship will continue to be positively encouraged to tell brands what they think. With this power, do you honestly think it'll make things better in real life? I don't. I think it'll lead to a lot of people who speak first and ask questions later.

Surely, some of the benefits of being online - being able to enforce change, to speak your mind and improve things - will persist. But I do worry about the other side of things. Is it a job for parents? Part of me shudders at that; no-one had to teach me how to 'be' online. But then, I didn't get online properly until I was about 14 or so, I didn't blog until I was 21.

I'm not suggesting anything so drastic as a code of conduct. That seems like bollocks to me, tremendous overkill.

But, as the title of the post aludes, we are all in PR. All of us have a measure of responsibility of ensuring our online image corresponds to the real thing. I'm not suggesting naming your kids some unique name to ensure you can get the URL (God, that'd be cringey, wouldn't it?), but taking care when you're online is undoubtedly a Very Good Thing.

And this includes those older folk in the communications business. I get hacked off when I get told how to think about twitter by a supposed communications 'guru' who has 34 tweets to his name. Or worse, one with 20,000 followers, who hires people to tweet for him (which he does constantly) - that's not communications, that's the equivalent to pushing 5 yellow pages through the internet's post box daily.

Maybe it comes down to some form of web manners. Which shouldn't mean a stuffy, fastidious code - but more behaviour centred around basic politeness or thoughtfulness.

And to even THINK about this sort of thing boggles my mind. Alongside people needing media training (which is one of the ultimate examples of money for old rope), it's staggering to think people don't interact with media as an everyday thing.

I'm sure the passive massive are out there, but i'm sure their number is dwindling, what with ever increasing opportunities to interact - either to post product reviews or participate in their interests.

And, to me, it's somewhat comforting to know the individuals, not the organisations behind certain things. I like knowing who i'm dealing with, not some faceless agency or business. I can have a relationship with a person. I'm not quite so sure I'd ever value a PR or ad bod's paid opinion in the same way.

In short, it seems honesty's a bit of a two way street online. I'm interested in how it helps (or hurts) people. Especially those who have always had the tools to express it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Funny old thing, nostalgia...

What a cheeky chappy. Not as good a frontman as Liam, but still.

Like a lot of people, last weekend, I was at Glastonbury. Yes, I'm sure you're sick to the back teeth of hearing about it. Hell, I am, and I was there.

There's a point to this post, rather than shamelessly sticking it to those who weren't there. Chiefly, this; it was the first time in my life that a band (that I can actually remember, and know most of their music) that formed a major part of a musical movement, were reformed. I remember both incarnations.

It's not like the Smashing Pumpkins reforming. In truth, I was too young to properly remember the early Pumpkins - i'd have been about 6 when they first started making music.

No, Blur reforming and headlining on the Sunday was an odd experience for me. I was always more of an Oasis fan (they have two cracking albums, whereas, in my eyes, Blur have none, though they are a great singles band), and in all honesty, was keen to see Blur, but just as excited to have seen the Dead Weather earlier in the weekend, as well as Neil Young (who was the unquestioned highlight of the weekend for me).

And, looking back as the week went on, I failed to understand just what it was that led to such a mass outpouring of nostalgia for Blur. I mean, they've only not been recording for 6 years. Add to that Damon Albarn's faux emotion at Glastonbury; I thought it smacked of a cash in.

I could fully understand the Neil Young fans cheering wildly when he played stuff from Harvest. I mean, imagine finally seeing your hero at Glasto (he'd never played there in his 40+ year career) playing songs from his most successful album. Absolutely brilliant.

But then, I thought about it some more. Do I think that because I wasn't around then? Do my incredibly rose-tinted notions about the 60's and 70's entirely colour my beliefs about Neil Young?

I reckon they do. I lived through Britpop, and to me, Blur were a good band. But then, so were the Bluetones and Supergrass, and they weren't still headlining (though not having split up probably has a large part to do with it) Glastonbury. They also weren't seen to have begun the movement, as Blur were.

But my memories remain - Britpop, for me, doesn't really feature Blur. It's all about Oasis, about Definitely Maybe, about playing and watching football, about What's The Story and knowing all the words to do, about discovering the Stone Roses after, about knowing the day it died (somewhere between Urban Hymns and the Spice Girls, in truth). I dislike what's been seem to be a reframing of a musical movement that I was a part of. Hell, I base getting old on whether people I talk to can remember What's The Story. If they were born late 80s or early 90s, they probably don't, and fuck me, does that make me feel like i'm getting old.

Interestingly though (especially given the ranty nature of the previous post), when you look at the etymology of the word nostalgia, it comes from the combination of two Greek words (nostos a return home and algios pain). It's not necessarily a particularly positive thing.

Listening to Blur DID bring on feelings of nostalgia for me - for what i've just outlined. And (God, I KNEW a smattering of Godin-like tendencies would creep in...sorry) it also made me think about the heavy reliance a lot of brands have on nostalgia.

Why would you willingly induce nostalgia if it can provoke such sadness? I know sadness can sell, but God, it's not a long term position. Memories get fuzzy, worn and replaced (I'm sure in ten or twenty years time, I'll believe Blur were one of the better Britpop bands). So then can the point of certain brands, unless they keep providing me with new experiences to show how they fit into my life now.

Blur stopped being relevant to me after 1997. And so did a lot of brands.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Reason to believe?

Tastes like piss, or so i'm told. Picture from PreciousKitty, usual rules apply.

I'm beginning to think that if any organisation gets to a certain size, it has to invent jobs for the boys. That is, those people who don't really have 'proper' jobs, save producing the rather lovely vintage above.

I'm talking about brewing up a healthy bottle or two of jargon. Needless, pointless, bollocks talk. It'd seem that those who work in communications have come down with a particularly large measure of it. Words and phrases which really mean nothing.

Let's look at that old favourite, 'Reason to believe', or RTB for short. RTB? I mean, come on. It's phrase you'd never even contemplate if you thought about it. It implies that there is one universal reason why people buy a particular product/service or brand. If it's a value brand, the RTB MUST be price. That's horseshit. Sometimes it's because people, shockingly, prefer the taste or convenience.

RTB is a terrible word as well, because it assumes oh so much. It's a lazy shorthand for people who can't be fucked to research things properly, or realise that circumstances and attitudes may have changed. It's a monolithic expression, which should be consigned to the 1950s.

Another wonderful term is 'social media'. I've already ranted about this earlier, so i'll leave it alone, if only to say one thing - all media is social. Yes, even press. It's such a wide ranging term as to be utterly useless.

Let's have a look at another term which needs to be consigned to the dustbin. This one's one of Sam and Eaon's least favourite terms. Yep, it's a 'viral'.

For something to be viral, it has to be spread around. To call something a viral and assume it's going to spread is hugely naive. Until it does, what you want, dear agency or client, is a short film that you hope people will watch. Mostly, these aren't pieces of branded film. Nope, they're things like Keyboard Cat (click the first video, it is a JOY).

Let's have one from Cluetrain (much as I agree with lots of it), shall we? Yes, the prosumer. Like any frankenword (an unholy combination between two words which really shouldn't ever be brought together), it deserves to beaten like the red headed stepchild it is.

Dissecting it (as the wikipedia article does), prosumer could have multiple meanings. However, the one most commonly arrived on by comms folk is to suggest that it's a proactive consumer, who can now self publish, and will change the world. Have these people done any groups with people (you know, those people who you sell, yes SELL stuff to) in the last six months? Or ever been in the pub and talked to their mates?

I'd bet most people who don't live in the comms industry bubble aren't fucked when it comes to self publishing, much less behave like prosumers. Your average punter may take matters into his or her own hands now and then, but that doesn't mean they can operate as a separate segment. People are motivated by their own ends, and more often than not, that has the square root of fuck all to do with publishing stuff on the internet.

Judge people by how they have behaved, but to assume people will become or are prosumers because of past behaviour is a fucking nonsense. Research only tells you what's gone before, after all - people are motivated by a variety of things; by their own situation, by the environment around them - and God knows, most are passive. It's why telly ads won't die off, or the printed word.

There's one underlying theme with all of these words. They are damned assumptive. Lazy shorthand for not putting the hours in. Using them means you can easily dismiss certain options, or suggest things because they ARE the RTB for our prosumers, who are engaged by social media, especially virals (!)

Nonsense. If you work in communications, and pride yourself on the ability to be able to speak directly to your audience (I don't have a problem with the term target audience, but that's another post), why the fuck would you use words like that? If you can't communicate internally or to your clients, what hope do you have of communicating to punters?

The next post will be less ranty. Promise. It may even be about Glastonbury, though i'm sure you're all bored of that by now.
Google Analytics Alternative

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner