A couple of weekends ago I went to visit my mate Fran up in Hagley. Fran and I used to work together and had a real baptism of fire to PR in 1997 when we started at a little cowboy, sorry I meant interactive agency in my home hood of the Medway Towns. We got into many a scrape over those heady years and in addition I had my first real education in the world of ‘I love gadgets’ from Fran’s now husband the lovely Tony who once uttered the immortal line ‘I’m creaming myself’ when I commented on how excited he is about the TV goggles he had acquired sometime in 98.
Anyway, those days are gone and while I’m still intent on inflicting public relations on the world Fran is a mum to two boys. One is almost four and named after a popular character from Star Wars (of course he is) and the other is… well I forgot but smaller and not named after a science fiction character.
Like most children of that age I have come across in my newish role of ‘Auntie Sarah’ they definitely own the telly, at least in daylight hours. I watched countless hours of CBeebies, countless hours. In fact whenever I thought the coast was clear and was settling in for an episode of America’s Next Top Model (Cycle 9) I was scuppered by the doe-eyed request for ‘one of my programmes’.
Now none of this is new of course, he is going to want to watch the brightly coloured inane chatter that kids TV inflicts. However, when I was left to babysit the eldest one for a couple of hours I came across something interesting.
Despite being in a village Fran & Tony’s house is of course house of tech and like any house of tech they have Sky Plus. I don’t have Sky Plus, hell I barely have digital TV, (I don’t when the 333 bus goes by that’s for sure). While Fran was out and I was asked to put on ‘my programmes’ I had no idea how to access the stored programmes and figured if we started to flick through the actual channels we might find something other than Dora the (grrrrr**%$) Explorer anyway. We did but we also came across the adverts.
Kid: “You’re watching the adverts – I can see you!”
Me: (Puzzled) “Yes that’s right”
Kid: (Sings the jingle) “This one is good; it cleans the dishes much better than the other one”
Kid: “Look they come out much shinier.”
Me: “Er, okay, yes I guess so, yes, er shall we watch Dora?”
Later when Fran came back I quizzed her on this strange conversation. “Oh yes he loves adverts” she says “Can’t get enough of them”. “Strange kid” I remark. “No, well not really, he doesn’t get to watch them does he? We only watch Sky Plus or DVDs, in fact one of his first words was DVD and adverts are a novelty aren’t they?”
I thought about this for a bit and considered the relationship that children and teenagers have with advertising. Fran’s kids will grow up not seeing ads as I do, as an irritant, (the cause of the disruption of my suspension of disbelief during a demon grilling episode of Charmed) they seem to see them as exciting, a break from the norm, something to be celebrated. What’s going to happen in the future? What’s going to happen when these kids get online? Will there be advert cults? Kids that dress like Barry Scott from Cillit Bang?
The Observer’s article ‘How TV ads are taking the net by storm’ says that the reaction to pieces of mini genius like Cadbury ‘Eyebrow’s (which has gone global as a viral) has convinced advertisers that their future lies online.
So in the future if ads are only online and audiences have to actually make an appointment to view whatever The Man is trying to flog, you can be damn straight that Yes Car Credit are going to have to pull their fingers out or they should start a clothing line.
First of all, yes I know I haven’t posted anything on this blog for sometime. There are a number of reasons for this.
1. I had nothing of any interest that a PR person at the BBC could say on her blog. I know such things are all about transparency but sometimes in my position its safer to say nothing at all.
2. The workload of my day job increased spectacularly.
3. I felt guilty I never finished reading the cluetrain. I gotta tell you for me its hard work, and to be honest although there are many interesting ideas in there they are repeated a lot. Mind you didn’t or should I say haven’t yet read the whole thing so I’m not in the best position to predict the ending.
Excuses, excuses? Perhaps. Short attention span? Definitely. However, I am back on the blog because I have a new project.
One of the lovely engineers that I look after has got me a little computer to use which runs on Linux. I didn’t have one at all so it made looking at people’s stuff when I was abroad at something like IBC or indeed next week when I’m on a TV technology course (prepared to be bamboozled Sarah) more than a little difficult.
I tried it out last night. So far, its bloody excellent. You can teach yourself Chinese for gods sake! Wasn’t expecting that. The best thing about it though is that it includes all the packages that I expect from Windows (if appearing slightly, slightly different) and for free! Actually bone fide free! I’m a PR person we like free. Also and I like this better than the Chinese language bit but there’s a star map! Yesterday I travelled round the world in about 35 seconds, not bad is it?
I know you sit with breath that is bated for the next installment. I’ll keep you in the loop.
I don’t quite know who came up with the term Public Relations (and no I can’t be bothered to look it up so to coin an old school BBC phrase ‘answers on a postcard please’), but most of the time what I do could not strictly be termed as dealing with the public.
If we are going on that tip I did more actual Public Relations when I sold shoes in my first Saturday job or stamped out books at the local library. Being a pretty black and white person (and more so the older I get I have found) I think the sort of activities have just described could be seen as much more Public than the time I now spend, to quote Bridget Jones ‘fannying around with press releases’.
So in a very long winded way what I am saying is that I am really, really looking forward to Mashed. I couldn’t hack my way out of a paper bag but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy soaking up the atmosphere and it doesn’t mean that I don’t love going back to my roots and actually talking to and helping out our attendees. You know, members of the public. Grant you these are a pretty special lot whose PR I may end up doing one way or another one day when they have created the next widget of widgets, but they are still people on the ground who frankly usually know a lot more about what is actually going on than we do in our corporate ivory towers.
God only knows what Matthew Cashmore has in store. Well I mean, I know some of it but I think he’s probably been doing some ducking and diving that I don’t know about, (he gets about that one, in a nice way). What ever it is I know damn sure he will be doing it to put on the best damn event ever!
I only hope we don’t get struck by lightening. Oh, yeah we already did. ;-)
Recently I have been getting a newsletter from Contagious , a quarterly intelligence briefing in publication that claims to identify ‘ideas, trends and innovations behind the world’s most’ (and I hate this word but ho hum) ‘revolutionary marketing strategies.’ To date it has been interesting but not sparked more in me than a ‘Hmm’. This issue however, it lead me back to the philosophies of the Cluetrain.
This time it featured an article about how web trends are cyclical and how a twitter brand extension called tweetcret which takes us back to having an anonymous voice on the web. It made me wonder how this will play out with the hardcore internet community who from my experience definitely follow the Cluetrain’s mantra that everyone and everything should be transparent and named online. Indeed, at a recent event
Mirona Lliescu a lovely lady I have met since I have touched this world commented that she is glad that my blog is not anonymous anymore. I explained that I was new to blogging and frankly was more than a bit nervous but I listened to the arguments and figured it was better if people did know who I am even though to be honest a part of me still feels a tad uncomfortable with it.
But back to tweetcret, I am definitely going to watch that space. As you (probably have already seen) from the current entries the posts are predictably more ‘out there’ than they would be if the poster were named and shamed. The site is on pause at the moment to sort out its spam filter or something and I suspect as does one of the people who has posted that it’s the comments are from ‘the same five girls’ at the moment. The look of the site is distinctly aimed at females and our gossip gene so who knows whether it will gather momentum.
I guess the argument is that should some areas of the web should be a place where people can “anonymously” rant and express themselves? Will such services be used by a different more mainstream demographic than the hardcore net community? Or will they just reflect the divided identities of our online selves? Or, will such services just die in the water? Personally, I think it will be a combination of ranting and a split personality.
Before I blogged as a BBC person I had a personal kind of anonymous blog somewhere else. I enjoyed it, I like a rant. It was mostly concerned with kids playing-out their mobile phones on public transport, (I hate that), nightmare dates (why I won’t go out with someone who tattoos VEGAN on the bottom of their back) and my general opinions on life and society. It was for me, and a very small readership of my friends e.g. Fran and Claire (not that I am exactly nudging JK Rowling off her pedestal now of course) I just liked having a place to say what I wanted, get it off my chest without worrying about the consequences. To be honest I don’t feel I can do that here when even my minimal readership know where I work.
Hmm, maybe I should subscribe to Tweetcret or as one of the posts on the site says “if you cant say it to her face then that makes you a pussy. grow up.”
I am probably going to get hammered for this but I am compelled to write about a blog post by Roy Greenslade that I found today. It’s titled ‘People believe PR officers lie – survey’. Obviously as a PR person who doesn’t believe that my job is actually lying this sort of statement is immediately going to get my back up.
The piece however isn’t nearly as annoying as I first thought, (note to self, it helps if you actually read the whole article before you let your blood pressure rise) it comments on a survey by Ciao Surveys which is really annoying.
First of all, who the hell are Ciao Surveys? Prior to my escape to the BBC I worked in PR agencies where the survey has been a fall back mechanic for getting lots of coverage quickly. I have heard of MORI, I have heard of YouGov, but who the funk is Ciao Surveys? The fact that they have the word goodbye in the title, (I grant you in Italian to me does not bode well). ‘Yes we’ve done you a survey; no you probably won’t get any coverage, err ciao!’
To be honest I don’t know how Ciao work or who uses them, in the past I have used MORI because they are a trusted company and the public recognised the name. They are used frequently by PR companies as is YouGov more recently and the results were usually good, (in terms of coverage volume anyway). But Ciao, well I had a bit of a Google and they get some pretty bad press.
But obviously it’s more the subject matter that’s got my goat on this occasion. Like Mr Greenslade I am going to state some facts and put my spin on them (hope you get the irony there…)
First of all according to this Goodbye, sorry Ciao Survey ‘60.3% of people in Britain believe that PR officers often lie’. Do they? Do they really? Do 60% of people in the UK actually know we exist? Perhaps they have just seen the term bandied about in the tabloids next to stories about ex wives of a Beatle or sex tape victims represented by Max Clifford in which case I guess fair enough. But to be honest, I really don’t buy that the majority of the population know what this job is even if they have heard the term.
When I first left Uni I wanted to make films (like many of the people at the BBC I guess, although I am happy to say that I no longer want this, I have the patience of a gnat so standing around watching Take 26 of some actor giving a false tongue sandwich doesn’t really float my boat anymore) but I digress. So I left Uni and did a bit of work experience here, (Kent Today) a bit of work experience there (Live TV) but then ended up running out of money (read Dad said get a bloody paying job Sarah) and trotting back down the Job Centre. At said Job Centre I came upon an admin role in a PR and Events agency. Hmm, what is this? I thought, part time I thought, full time would be better, but my boyfriend at the time also told me to get my arse down there so off I went.
What they did at this agency was not really my concern. I didn’t know what PR was (it has just occurred to me that surely some of them would have called me up when I was at Live TV, ho hum, dunno how that passed me by) but I knew I could answer a phone and would attempt to type and I am a bit gobby so needless to say I got the job.
Five minutes later (read weeks) da boss had decided that he would promote me to being an Account Executive because of my interest in the media and so a new PR was born. But again, the concept of what this actually meant I still found difficult to grasp and I was actually doing it, (okay, before you say it yes I might well be a bit thick but you have to admit PR is a bit intangible).
Anyway, my long drawn out explanation illustrates my point. PR what is it? My Dad still asks me if I wrote the story when I excitably show him a bit of coverage I helped arrange so I am definitely not the only one who has found this a difficult concept to grasp. Maybe it’s a Mines thing.
Apparently a third of Britons believe that the PR industry is necessary – well thank goodness for that.
Roy’s next point is related to peoples understanding of what a PR’s job function involves. They correctly stated media relations, event planning, advertising (not that correct grrr) and word of mouth marketing. As Roy points out these would have been the options they got on the form which says it all.
Roy also points out later on that Ciao had to admit that half the respondents couldn’t answer the questions because they either didn’t care or didn’t know the answers. So again, the amount of people who know what the funk PR people do, (if they know they exist at all) or give a monkeys is bound to be minimal.
The thing about a survey is that like all documents based on statistics; it can be manipulated, knowing this. Some of them may still be a useful gauge to find out what a small percentage of the population think about a subject but my reaction to this one is that a survey about what people think of the PR industry is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. Did a company really commission this or did the people at Ciao just get bored?
- His first word was DVD
- My little computer
- Badge justification – time to MASH IT UP!!!!!
- Have you got a Tweetcret? To name or not to name, that is the question.
- And our survey said…
- Another 48 hours…
- Count down to Over the Air – 9 working days to go!!!!!!!
- Who gives us permission to explore our world?
- Over the Air
- 8 random things about me
- Good Week Bad Week
- Cubic Garden
- The London Biker
- Nick Reynolds At Work
- Stowe Boyd
- The Century of the Self
- BBC Internet Blog
- Son of ID
- Jemima Kiss
- Stephen Fry
- Boing boing
- Heather Armstrong
- Perez Hilton
- Stuart Dredge personal blog
- Adrian Monck Views on the news biz
- Charles Arthur – Guardian
- Obvious Euan Semple
- Taking Life For Granted a novel by Christopher Hardy