Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

Months of calm and moments of terror

Most of the time life as a PR agency person is a relatively smooth existance. Yes, you manage an ever changing influx of workload and often everything needs doing for every client at the same time but it balances out of the course of the week, the month and the year - the juggling of which is something I imagine we share with our journo friends who have a more extreme version of this exhilaration and exhaustion around deadline time.

But then, once in a blue moon, something big hits - really big. It might come like a bolt from the blue but immediately your senses snap to attention and PR overdrive kicks in. Anyone who's been in the game longer than a hot minute knows what I'm talking about - it might be a crisis, big financial news, a disaster, a product recall, the death or departure of a company leader - but no matter what it is it's those moments that make being a PR practitioner the best (and worst) job in the world.

Once upon a time I worked with an insurance company and a well flung expression in their organisation was "months of calm with moments of terror". And since then nothing else has summed it up quite the same for me. For them it was 99 percent of the time everything was a ship sailing on smooth seas, then one percent of the time was a mad scramble inspired often by natural disasters around the world to bring the ship back to even keel. And it was the one percent of the time I loved the most! The CEO probably didn't but heck it kept the rest of us on our toes.
So as much as we might whinge temporarily about a little lack of sleep or sudden shift in schedule, I'd like to think that most of us red blooded PR people out there love a good "moment of terror" - just so long as it passes within a week or two :)!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Digital impressions

I keep an eye on the British Psychologial Society's blog most days. Not because I have any sort of knowledge or qualification in the area, but because it is one of the few blogs which daily uploads genuinely interesting and fresh information.

Yesterday's research post really caught my thought-glands, and I wanted to share with you.
First impressions used to be all about the first time two people came face to face. These days, first impressions are as likely to be formed via perusal of a person's website or Facebook page, as they are to be formed from actually meeting them. Now a study has compared first impressions gleaned from face-to-face contact and from Facebook pages, and found a close parallel between the two. People judged to be likeable via one medium were also judged as likeable via the other.
You can see the full post here, including explanation of the experiment.

For me it was good to see some scientific proof of what I find anyway. Being an online addict I am aware I make judgements as to someone's 'likeability' all the time, and that the judgements are made with very little info.

Someone useing an apostophe incorrectly, or writing in "txt spk" can immediately earn my condescension. Someone on Facebook who doesn't have any photos (who the research would deem 'unexpressive' online) is cold and aloof - they aren't getting involved with the fun.

Worth considering that the old adage of 'It's not what you say but how you say it" works equally well online as it does in person.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gossip and bullying - a fine line online

Last week some year nine youngsters were expelled from a presitigious Eastern Suburbs of Sydney all-girls private school for a raft of cyber bullying offences. Now despite my dislike for stories that take delight in tearing down private schools just because they're private - like bullying, cyber or otherwise, only happens to children with money - this article by Paul Sheehan for the Sydney Morning Herald really sums it up.

Bullying has always existed but the power of online communities and social networkings means the shame of the bullied and the mirth of the bullies is multiplied and recorded for almost perpeptual posterity. Paul also blames the gossip culture our little online social bubble has created, pointing the finger at some of my (I must confess) favourite blog sites (namely GoFugYourself and Perez Hilton) who make their money being mean to others.

The relative anonymity of the online sphere also gives rise to bubbles or pockets of negativity that can easily become a swarm. Paul gives the Gretel Killeen at the Logies example where the Twitter backchannel was harsh from the word go. And I know how easy it is to be critical in 140 characters, when I went to a Social Media Club Sydney event a couple of weeks ago we were invited to tweet our comments and questions along with the events Twitter hashtag (#smcsyd). I did so liberally but the urge was always to tweet a criticism, it's the first thing to spring to mind and it's far more exciting than being positive. So I know just how easily the echo chamber becomes filled with negativity, but the problems begin when it spills over into reality.

These school girls are unfortunate to have been caught out doing what our society is doing left, right and centre - everywhere from the websites of major news publications to TV - but I'm glad they were punished for their actions. And we should remember that one day we might be too!

Friday, May 8, 2009


This morning a couple of the team went to Fastbreak, part of Vibewire's e-festival of ideas (which is, in turn, part of the Australian Innovation Festival).

It took the place of the weekly social media coffee on Friday mornings and was a coming together of a range of people discussing 'The biggest challenge to innovation'.

There were five speakers, covering the question from five angles; The four Cs of innovation, - creativity, commercialisation, collaboration and connections - plus a fifth – conversation.

* Creativity - Jye Smith (@jysemith)
* Connection - Scott Drummond (@Scott_Drummond)
* Collaboration - Isadore Biffin (@IsadoreBiffin)
* Commercialisation - Elias Bizannes (@liako)
* Conversation - Matt Moore (@Innotecture)

So... all the details out of the way, how was it?

Really interesting actually. I am not good in the mornings and it was an 8am start in Ultimo so the event for me started with a couple of mint teas while I met some familiar faces from other social media events, and a few new ones too.

Then the 4 minute presentations started.

Jye challenged us to be more creative in everything we do, and to create processes and structures which encourage creativity. He also asked what the difference was between innovation and creativity.

Scott told us to look not to the size of a network, but at the latent potential within that network.

Isadore reminded us to involve others in our projects as they bring experties and ideas we may not have considered.

I won't forget Elias' explanation of the supply/demand theory; a beautiful man can go to the gym all he likes, but if he doesn't know how to create demand for his product he will leave a nightclub alone. (After the presentations were over I spent half an hour in Elias' group, discussing commercialisation challenges - a very interesting discussion).

But the soundbite takeaway for me goes to Mark who gave us a quote from Theodore Zeldin from his book Conversation (and apologies if its a slight paraphrase - I didnt jot it down quickly enough to repeat word for word):
A conversation is an interaction which both parties enter with a willingness to change, and come out slightly different.
I think this is something PR people (and our clients) should always remember when we claim to be having conversations with our audiences/stakeholders/customers. A conversation is not a one way dialogue in which you convince the customer to your way of thinking. A true conversation will change the client as well as the customer.