Tuesday, 31 March 2009

A very welcome return to TWL

This week sees The World's Leading burst back to life with its (until now) much-missed sideways view of the PR world. I'm unreasonably pleased that's it's back. Any industry that takes itself as seriously as PR needs someone to poke fun at it now and then - and who better than TWL. Welcome back!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

AIG, bonuses, PR hires and the media response

I don’t want to get into a debate about the whys and wherefore’s of AIG hiring Burson Marsteller to ‘clean up its image’. I haven’t seen Burson’s brief, so I don’t know what they were hired to do.

But a few things interest me about the way this has panned out in the media.

Today AIG announces that nine out of 10 of its top execs will repay their bonuses . I’m guessing they didn’t need to hire a PR firm to work that one out. And media interest was such that no journalist needed PR's help to get this story.

Hiring a PR company isn’t enough to improve your image when you’ve ballsed up this badly. You have to put the wrong right. Act responsibly (call it part of your
Corporate Social Responsibility programme if ‘doing the right thing’ sticks in your throat). Apologise. Publicly. And above all, don’t pay your top execs billions of public money in bonuses for the single biggest failure in financial history. Then spend public money on PR. Oh, and then have to give back the bonuses anyway.

I find it really interesting that the very act of hiring Buson Marsteller has got AIG such bad coverage via the Rachel Maddow show (including the follow up story that was supposed to make it better). AIG is made to look even worse (is that possible?) by being associated with previous B-M clients. It’s not exactly a great start to the relationship.

Wouldn’t it have been more sensible to do the right thing first, and then hire the PR company?

Thursday, 19 March 2009

"We were going to do that": protecting pitch ideas

This piece from PR Week started me thinking about the issue of IP in PR pitches. It’s almost impossible to copyright an idea or concept – as Graham Goodkind points out, it’s easy for the client to say that the winning agency also had the same idea. And indeed they might have done.

I think expecting the PRCA to ‘do something about it’ is a bit ridiculous. If we insist on giving away ideas for free at the pitch stage, then we can’t expect them not to be copied. Of course, we could build in pre-pitch contracts that state we own the IP, and put the onus on the prospective client to prove the other agency had the idea (by showing original pitch documents, for example). But if a prospect isn't put off by that, they could get round it. It's a bit heavy handed, too – and in this market, I'll bet agencies won't do it, for fear of getting struck of the pitch list, now or in the future. I suspect this is a bit of PRCA-bashing, because individual agencies can’t work out how to manage the issue themselves, and want (shock) a bit of press coverage.

The problem is deeper than a rather petulant “they nicked our idea”. If we’re offering prospects something that anyone else can do, we’re not really differentiating ourselves, nor are we demonstrating the value that we could bring implementing that idea. Until we can do that, there’s not much the PRCA or anyone else, can do to help.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Why should companies use Twitter in their communications?

We often get asked by clients: “What’s the point of Twitter?” “I’m not sure I get it.” “Do we need to use it?”

Darren Waters of BBC Online has written a great piece about how he / the BBC uses Twitter in reporting / researching.

In his words:
1.Talking to and responding to queries from readers, fellow professionals and colleagues.
2.Asking the audience questions and using the crowd as a source of information
3.Reporting updates, breaking news, and giving colour and texture
4.Pushing out headlines and blogposts to Twitter via RSS and TwitterFeed.com
5.Getting a very fast and very global sense of events
6.Using hashtags to find viewpoints around breaking news as well as a source of user generated content
7.Unifying different threads of reporting - news website, blog, Flickr etc

I think this sums up nicely why and how Twitter is a useful tool and is as applicable to businesses as to the BBC’s reporting. Twitter is a great tool for companies to talk to and respond to their audiences fast – customers, prospects, influencers (including journalists – particularly in tech areas); to test new ideas; to inform audiences about new products, services or updates; and to create and monitor conversations between groups of consumers.

Also worth a read is Forrester’s blog about its 'POST' approach, which is really about applying common sense to using blogs, social media, Twitter etc. In summary, work out: who you need to reach and where they are gathered; your objective; your strategy for engaging with them; and the best technology / place to do it.