Friday, 15 August 2008

Future for PR?

There’s been a huge amount of debate about whether or not there is a future for PR in the conversation-based, web 2.0, web 3.0, whatever you want to call it, world. There's a great summary of this debate at Robert Scoble's very thought provoking blog. Which made me think, how could web 2.0 suddenly stop the need for companies to promote themselves, or manage their reputations? Doesn’t it make it even more important now that there is even less corporate control over a message?

And then I realised – ‘PR’ is being substituted in this instance for ‘bad PR’. In other words, the kind of PR that makes no differentiation between online and offline, newspapers and social media sites, bloggers and journalists, a real story and a press release. And so on.

PR is changing, fundamentally. Agencies have a real uphill struggle to pull our clients on board with the new approach to PR – one that doesn’t rely on AVEs to prove return on investment, but actually considers the impact that a good PR strategy could have on end users. This approach involves two-way communication, not one-way ‘push’ communication, as many agencies have been used to in recent years. Companies don’t ‘launch’ any more, they are discovered. A new product won’t achieve national press coverage, until enough people use it to warrant the attention. I’m old enough to remember the days when you could send out a press release on a new company and expect at least one bit of national business coverage, if you positioned it right. These days we have to work much harder, and be much more humble in our approach.

I’m not pretending to know all the answers, not that our agency gets it right all the time. It’s a new world out there, and we’re all finding our way. But if we get it right, we could just strike gold – give good advice to our clients, and be a helpful resource to bloggers, journalists, and industry influencers.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Angry brides and Facebook: media heaven

At 4 o'clock this afternoon, ‘angry brides’ in their wedding dresses will march on HSBC in Canary Wharf, to protest HSBC’s apparent role in the demise of, the wedding list company that went into administration earlier this year, leaving a long list of undelivered wedding presents in its wake.

The protest has been arranged through Facebook, under the event heading: “Bridal March to HSBC Canary Wharf”. Great press fodder, and according to the organisers: “There is a flood of media request for interviews.” The story is all over the national media.

And understandably so. What could be more emotive than the site of thousands of unhappy brides in full wedding gear, who have been let down on the happiest day of their lives?

But look closer, and as I write this, two hours before the protest is due to start, there are only 31 brides confirmed to attend the march. No doubt the actual number will be much higher, thanks to the media furore surrounding the campaign run on Facebook.

Thirty-one people? Making the national media agenda? It really is a testament to the power of social media as an issue and campaigning tool that this has any media interest at all. But good on them; I hope they all get their gifts and or money back.

It makes for a very interesting PR dilemma. HSBC’s role was financial, not operational, and as such has no real role in the company’s collapse, a fact that the bank has issued in a statement. But clearly the pressure is now on for it to finance the return of goods promised. Were it not for the lobbyists, there is a reasonable chance that its involvement wouldn’t have been given a second thought. It will be interesting to see how the bank handles it from here.