Archive for March, 2009

Employing your own twit

Literally, ooh, dozens, perhaps handfuls, of people may have gone into shock at the revelation that 50 Cent isn’t keeping it real and has a web person writing his Twitter updates for him.

It does raise an interesting issue though. Many celebs and others – brands, CEOs, etc – are rushing to get onto Twitter (largely, I suspect, because it’s the flavour of the month). It’s a fair bet that more than a few aren’t actually Tweeting themselves but employ somebody to do it.

Does this actually matter? On one hand you could argue that as long as the message is getting out then, then possibly not. It also makes it easier, from a PR point of view, to control said message.

However, I’m not a fan of ghosted Twitter accounts. With brands, it’s a bit easier as you’re speaking as said brand, but it gets trickier when you get into the realms of real people.

If you’re replying as, say, 50 Cent then you’re opening yourself up to having your celebrity misquoted – or rather having words put into their mouth. It also does a disservice to those who follow the official account only to find out it isn’t their hero.

Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross, Phillip Schofield and many many other celebrities seem to have no problem being themselves on Twitter. If anything, the way they use the service has enhanced their personal brand.

Ultimately, if a celebrity isn’t that keen on the idea of Twitter or doesn’t want to Tweet, it’ll probably do more harm than good if they just pass it over to somebody else. I’d certainly feel uncomfortable in working on a ghosted Twitter account.

As for corporate ‘important people’ Twitter accounts (eg council bosses, company CEOs) ghosted accounts, I’d say, are even more of a no-no. It implies your brand or head honcho or whoever is on Twitter for the sake of being on there and can’t really be bothered.

It’s much like those corporate blogs where the head of the organisation or somebody else in a position of importance either decides they want to blog or get told they should blog. What follows is usually about two posts before they lose interest and make no attempt at engagement. It’s easy to see that being translated onto Twitter.

The only way that this may be acceptable is if the account was set up in the person’s name but it was made clear from the beginning that this was an account for the person’s ‘brand’ rather than the individual themselves.

Transparency, as ever, is the key aspect when you’re dealing with social media.

Ultimately, if whoever it is isn’t into Twittering or blogging or whatever you can’t make them, and it may do more harm to the individual’s brand in the long term that the brief 30 seconds of kudos they’ll get from the online community.

EDIT: Read Write Web ask a similar question.

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Come on PR, you can do better than this

Somehow, somewhere, one of the email addresses I use at work has got itself onto some kind of PR mailing list. How this happened I’m not exactly sure, but it’s the only explanation I can think of for the sudden influx of assorted press releases landing in the inbox each day.

Given that the address in question is a PR address, I doubt they’ll be getting coverage any time soon.

Interestingly, I’ve had a few colleagues and fellow PRs mention that they’ve been getting assorted press releases as well. There are clearly a few people out there in my chosen industry who haven’t done their homework.

It’s a tad depressing, to be honest, to see such bad PR first hand on a daily basis. I don’t want to indulge in a round of PR bashing – it’s not overly constructive for one thing – because I also see much more good PR than bad PR on a daily basis as well.

Nevertheless, my heart still sinks at the idea that there are PR people and companies who still think a mass mail out to all and sundry is an effective way of working. Sure, you’ll probably get a bit of coverage but, by the same token, if you throw a handful of tennis balls into a crowded street, chances are you’ll hit a couple of people.

Once, in a hurry, I did a mass send-out cobbling together a list from assorted sources. The pick-up was poor. I’ve since gone back to that list, made individual dialogue, established what form of contact and what type of stories they’re looking for, and the response has generally been a lot more receptive towards whatever I’m doing. I know, bad me for taking the lazy way out.

In many respects, I have some sympathy for Charles Arthur and others who’ve been known to lose it on occasions with PR. If you’re on several of these lists and constantly get an endless stream of emails, it can get very irritating. I’d never completely give up on emailed pitches though. During my full-time newsroom days, every now and then, amongst the dross, you’d find a little gem. Sure, it’s not substitute for actually going out there and getting stories, but it always a welcome surprise.

It still doesn’t excuse the arbitrary mail-out lists though. Part of me pities the companies who hire whatever firm it is that sends out these releases. The other part thinks that if they’ve chosen such a bad PR representative they deserve to see their cash go down the drain.

It’s so easy to do lazy, bad PR (then again, it’s also easy to do lazy, bad journalism). You wonder what they must do at work all day. Checking that you’re actually contacting the right person? That surely shouldn’t be too hard, no? I still wonder how this work email got onto the PR list. It’s not exactly easy to mistake for a journalist’s address.

Every now and then I consider emailing them back pointing out, politely, that they’re contacting the wrong person. Then again, I’ve had somebody insist I was the right person and got angry when I pointed out I couldn’t give his release coverage (reminding me somewhat of that woman from the Apprentice last night who insisted on arguing with the customer).

And then you occasionally get the truly impressive PR fails. Like today, when I emailed one of the random releases back, again politely pointing out they were going to the wrong place. I got an out of office. Ten minutes after we’d received the release.

Thankfully I know enough people in the industry who are doing inspiring stuff. My colleagues for one. Or the people I meet at varying networking events. But then it’s always the bad examples that drag down the industry’s reputation (justified or otherwise), and cause journalists to tut and sigh and roll their eyes and declare PR to be useless.

Generally speaking we’re not useless. But when, as a PR, you get pitched with hideously bad PR you wonder how these people managed to land a job in the industry. Or if they’ll still have one in a couple of years.

So this is why I’ve been a bit quiet on here

The first twofootedtackle podcast went live today, and a lot of the week has been spent preparing for it. Now that we’ve got the first one out of the way, it should get easier (I’m already working, mentally, two weeks in advance on them).

On this week’s pod, my partner in crime Chris Nee and I, along with my old friend, colleague and sports journalist John Stanton, discuss… *deep breath*

The Carlos Tevez saga, Champions League, MLS, the Premier League title race, England internationals, AFC Wimbledon, Tooting and Mitcham, the fall of Charlton Athletic, and our favourite football blog posts.

Phew.

That’s quite a bunch.

In all honesty, we could have probably gone on for another hour, but I think we’ve got it just about right. John was an excellent first guest and hopefully he’ll be back on the pod at some point. I cannot wait for next week’s recording.

And I’ve still found time to squeeze out a Soccerlens piece on Scarborough Athletic. They were formed from the ashes of Scarborough FC and they’ve just won their first promotion. Go Scarborough.

I also have stuff I want to write on here. This has been somewhat disrupted by only getting a bit over three hours sleep last night due to an accident with my contact lens and my eyeball that required a trip to A&E. Fun times.

On being dirty, southern and a twit

The best kind of nights, I’ve always found, are the ones where you end up in a completely unexpected place. Last night, for me, that unexpected place was a fascinating in-depth discussion of Belgian politics and media, and contrasting it with the UK.

This isn’t normally what I spend my nights down the pub doing, but then it’s also a neat illustration of why I enjoy going to the assorted social media meetups. Or in this case, Tweetup.

Back in December, Lolly and I decided we’d quite like a Twitter meetup that was easy to get home from (The Shoreditch Twit is ace, but for those of us south of the river, it’s a bit of a trek back) and the Dirty South Twit was born.

The first one was a nice chilled evening drinking cocktails in Clapham with a bunch of people who’d never really met before, but were all on Twitter. Then we both got a bit busy, remembered we’d do another one and organised the DST2 at the Roxy Bar and Screen in London Bridge.

It also happened to clash with St Patrick’s Day (completely unintentional on our part) and Guinness were kind enough to help the craic with assorted hats, inflatable pints, T-shirts and other goodies. Oh, and free booze. I’ve now got a few cans sitting in my kitchen needing care and attention. They really were too good to us (well, it was the 250th anniversary of signing their brewery lease in Dublin. Any excuse for a party is good enough by me). You can see photos here.

But one of the joys of these events is, as well as catching up with a few familiar faces, you get a chance to speak to people you’d never normally meet, such as PBizzle, Rufus Evison and Julie Bodart and Pascal. Somehow with the latter two, I got onto the topic of Belgian politics and media (not entirely randomly, given that she’s Belgian).

There’s some fascinating differences between the UK and Belgium. It certainly doesn’t sound as if blogging is as big over there as it is amongst the media in this country. The regional press also seems to thrive, mainly because there isn’t one main national paper. Instead the big papers are split between the Flemish and Walloon regions, depending on their point of view. I’d imagine it’d be a similar thing here if Scotland were larger and really agitating for a split from England.

I’ve taken a mild interest in Belgian politics since they went for around nine months without a proper government in 2007 / 08 and found the political system, basket case though it was (probably outdoing Italy in places), fascinating.

Certainly from Julie and Pascal’s point of view, our government seems a lot more stable. Yes, I probably replied, but it also makes it quite dull. And harder to kick the bastards out, I didn’t add. Certainly I’d appreciate something to re-engage me with the political process and makes it seem exciting and interesting again.

Ok, it may not be entirely fun when you’re living in a country that can barely form a government let alone rule effectively. But at least it makes things interesting. Hell, I’m very jealous of America where, thanks to Obama (and, dare I say it, probably helped by the fact Bush was the previous incumbent) politics has become interesting, cool and sexy again. Go on, try and apply any of those three adjectives to our political system, I dare you. You’ll fail miserably.

I’ve gone a bit tangential here. But that’s kind of like the conversation last night. I met some fascinating people at the Dirty South Twit, had some very interesting conversations (I won’t recount the whole Belgian politics and media chat, partly because I can’t quite remember it all) and had plenty of Guinness. And that’s why I love Twitter meetups.

A slightly more coherent, less tangential write-up, with no mention of Belgian politics, is on the Dirty South Twit blog.

Gary expanding elsewhere

Not around my waist, although I have recently gone up a trouser size.

So, in addition to this week’s Soccerlens column, which is mainly on Burton Albion’s title wobbles and includes references to Wilde and an impotence joke, there’s exciting news on the assorted football stuff I do.

As from next Tuesday (hopefully), my good friend Chris Nee and I will be producing the Two Footed Tackle podcast. Which is essentially chat about football, but hopefully an entertaining chat about football.

It’s not like this was planned. We’d both chatted about various podcasts we liked, he happened to mention he may have access to a radio studio, I mentioned my broadcasting background, and at that point we thought “why the hell not”.

It’ll be fun to get behind a broadcast desk again and even more fun to chat football for 40-odd minutes.

It’s very much a communal effort and we’ll be reviewing the big stories on the blogs as well as the papers, plus we’re hoping to get some guests, bloggers and general football fans, in the studio to counterbalance our witterings. Should be fun.

At some point in time, I should also be contributing (hopefully) to the excellent Soccerlens podcast, which is a couple of episodes old and a very good listen indeed. It’s also different to the one I’ll be doing with Chris, so you don’t get football fatigue.

It also means that all three of you who missed my dulcet tones after left the newsreading business will be able to get, um, aural pleasure from it again.

Or something.

Three chairs for local news

Some days you just have to love it when the following come together.

1. A wonderful non-story that all local journalists will have filed at some point or another that gets posted up on a local newspaper website.

2. A comments facility.

3. People with a sense of humour.

The result: 75 comments on a story on the Westmorland Gazette about a chair being set on fire.

This may, quite possibly, be one of the bestest things I’ve found on the internet this week đŸ™‚

From despair to where?

Otherwise known as a quick, likely-to-be-ill-thought-out, ill-informed pondering on the state of the media industry.

Everywhere media-related seems to be making cutbacks. Even places that you would normally have put down as safe are tightening their belts. Friends, colleagues and people I don’t know but have heard of are all getting laid off, and many of these have surprised given, given their jobs.

It’s not just that we’re in a global recession. It’s also that this industry really doesn’t know where the hell it’s going. Journalism. Broadcasting. PR. None of them safe. Or with any real idea of where they meant to be going.

If this were an interview and the media was asked where it would be in five years time, it’d have a hard job in answering. If it were then asked where it saw itself in ten years time, it’d find the question impossible to answer.

You do wonder if the skills you’ve been trained in, and others you’ve picked up along the way, will be completely redundant in the not-too-distant future.

Everywhere seems to be in trouble. We’re constantly told online is the future – and it IS the future – but it just doesn’t seem to be entirely sure how it wants to be the future.

I have an inkling things will pick up. Not in the sense of green shoots of recovery, but more to do with the fact that when this recession, and downturn and general media crisis of identity is over, there will be a need for quality journalism, PR and broadcasting.

Sadly this need will be because there will probably be huge holes in the market by this stage and, as with any good market, where there’s a hole and a demand, something will inevitably plug it.

So, yes, there will be an upturn. At some point. But when is anybody’s guess. If this were a Hollywood war movie, the sergeant would turn his face away and to the ground and sadly say: “We lost a lot of good men out there.”

At this stage it’s common for a blogger to offer his twopence worth on “hey, but this is how you can get through it.”

If only it were that easy.

All those of us in the industry – be it journalism, PR, broadcasting or a combination of some or all of these – can do is watch, learn, adapt to developments (both online and offline), try innovative stuff, and never ever compromise on quality or belief that nobody else, to quote Carly Simon, nobody does it better, no matter what we do. There, by the grace of God, we will survive. Hopefully.

(Then again, you do wonder if any print papers will survive when you read something like this.)

If anybody has any idea what they think this industry will look like in five to ten years type, please do leave a comment below. I’ll post my own thoughts at some point in the near future.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com