This may be a slightly controversial post with many different opinions floating around. Let me know what you think and whether this is a global trend.
Nick Davies, an investigative journalist of 30 years’ standing who works mainly for England’s Guardian newspaper, has put the spotlight rather savagely on his own industry and questioned what he sees as a deeply disturbing decline in journalistic standards. He also cites PR as a contributor. These assertions were recently aired in a TV interview in Australia on the ABC.
Davies says that journalistic standards are declining the world over as cost cutting and government pressures take toll on the industry. In his book, Flat Earth News, which focuses mainly on the state of UK quality newspapers, he argues that the combination of manipulation by government and the PR industry on a media industry under endless cost-cutting pressures and an expanding workload is a pattern repeated the world over. An irony of timing with big staff cuts just announced at Australia’s oldest newspaper group, Fairfax Media.
In the interview Davies says, “Big corporations have taken over newspapers, which used to be owned by small family firms, and injected the logic of commercialism into newsrooms and that logic has overwhelmed the logic of journalism.
“The big structural sign of that is that all across the developed world these new corporate owners of the newsrooms have cut editorial staff at the same time as they’ve increased the output of those staff. And the result of that is, crudely put… in the UK we did a big calculation on this, your average Fleet Street reporter now has only a third of the time to spend on each story that he or she used to have 20 years ago. If you take away time from reporters, you are taking away their most important working asset. So they can’t do their jobs properly any more.
“In this commercialised world, you have journalists who instead of being active gatherers of news - going out and finding stories and making contacts and doing funny old-fashioned things like checking facts, they’ve become instead passive processors of second-hand information, stuff that come up on the wire Reuters or AP, stuff that comes from the PR industry. And they churn it out. I use this word “churnalism” instead of journalism.”
Davies clearly feels journalists are led along, particularly by the PR industry. His examples are not so much in the technology sector, although he does talk about the millennium bug, but more mainstream. He also notes a pattern of many journalists who have lost their job moving across to PR.
Davies says the impact of electronic technology is very complex on this whole problem.
Whilst he admits journalists can do more research from the desktop and stories remain online permanently, the second implication is that they’ve lost their deadlines. He says the pressure is immense, always there five minutes ahead of your nose every day. Not only that, but journalists now have to write the story, do an audio version, a vodcast, a podcast, and so it goes on. The end result is the quality of the work is going down even though the amount and the variation of the product is increasing.
And his thoughts on bloggers is also quite depressing.
“I don’t agree with the view that we will be saved by the operation of citizen journalists and bloggers…..an awful lot of what bloggers put out is false, is crazy ideas and crazy facts, to the extent that bloggers have reliable information very often that’s because they’re feeding off the small extent to which the mainstream media are coming up with reliable information. If the mainstream is going to carry on getting weaker, as I fear, then the proportion of reliable information which the bloggers come up with will also decline,” he says.
And his prognosis for TV and radio is no different. “It’s in the same kind of mess that the print media are in. There’s no difference, I’m afraid, because news is expensive and unless we find a new financial model we won’t be able to deliver it and I don’t quite see where that new financial model is coming from and I don’t know any media proprietor who can see it either. They’re all very worried.”
Personally, whilst there are some points in this article that I concur with, I think the accusation of PR being a big contributor to the quality of journalism is a bit of a stretch. Like many industries in this modern era, publishers have to change their business models and this will impact their operations. This is changing the way in which journalists spend their working day. But technology can also help and I don’t think Davies looks at that side much either in this interview. I haven’t read the book, but my hunch is that it will be overlooked.
I think the technology press are adapting well, blending online and print, or dropping print and going totally online. We have seen the size of editorial teams decline and technology journalists are getting younger. But the young ones seem very adaptable, taking content for print, shooting a video and posting fast. Many of them are also generalists rather than specialists. But despite those circumstances, they are smart, savvy people and it is no different trying to get a story up with them now than it was three years ago. In fact, with some smaller books due to the decline in advertising spend, in many instances it is getting harder.
In the past few years I saw a lot of PR agencies launching a Clean Tech Practice. In the interest of full disclosure, I was very tempted to do the same. I am passionate about tech and a big fan of everything green (and I am not even Irish!)
It was during a conversation with a major clean tech company that I understood that Clean Tech is just a label, not where “clean” tech companies should play nor should position themselves. It’s about Energy, or better yet about Renewable Energies and how new technologies can find new solutions to old problems (urgently).
At that point a light bulb went on (and it was a fluorescent bulb!) — As Ogilvy PR, we have a lot of expertise in green IT (from data centers to semiconductors), and we do have a lot of expertise in traditional energy and renewable energies — so the easy part was to combine our existing strengths in both public affairs and technology PR. Et voila! Suddenly we had something the market was craving for. An agency with deep knowledge of who influences and decides public policy and how to reach them with politically effective communications, while offering a broader perspective into technology and business-to-business PR that looks beyond product public relations.
It’s not a new practice, it’s not a new group, it’s just the combination of expertise we already have within our firm. Now available to our clients. Don’t just call it Clean Tech.
I read a really interesting article on the emerging social media trend of ‘dark marketing’ which takes a very much ‘covert’ approach. It provides examples of companies that have implemented stealth tactics in order to reach and sway influencers and potential influencers without engaging them directly with a brand.
Dark Marketing was defined as “…discretely sponsored online and real world entertainment intended to reach hipster audiences that would ordinarily shun corporate shilling” by Tom Edwards in this article.
In order to give a balanced account of this marketing approach, I have provided a couple of positive and negative examples. Sony recently launched a ‘Fake Tourist’ campaign in which it seeded Sony camera users in a central location and asked them to engage with people to take their picture with the desired goal to lead to a ‘pseudo-pitch’ around the product. This approach faced widespread criticism as it was considered a sly tactic to try and drive up sales of Sony’s latest camera product.
Another example is Vespa in the U.S. (which isn’t listed in this particular article I am referring to). Vespa actually hired attractive models to ride around on its scooters and up to bystanders in order to lure them, with their looks, into asking for their phone number. At this point, the Vespa driver would hand out a phone number and ride off (kind of like what you would expect to see in a movie). The catch? When the bystanders called the number, they were actually directly connected to a Vespa dealership!
Don’t be disillusioned. There are examples of this sort of activity that can work – but importantly, the activity needs to be ‘smart’ and cannot offend consumers.
An example used in the article of where this stealth tactic has worked is McDonalds and its recent ‘Lost Ring’ campaign. The Lost Ring was a virtual reality viral game targeted at youth and aimed at subtly promoting the McDonald’s brand and its partnership with the Olympics. It was in fact so discrete that it was almost (and still is) impossible to attribute this back to the McDonald’s brand. Not one single instance of a golden arch. The interesting thing here is that even post-campaign period – the site has a really simple survey mechanism to solicit feedback from site visitors – and still subtle in its branding.
Marketers are getting smarter – and so they must – especially if they (and we) want to be able to reach out to and make an impact on relevant brand influencers both online and offline.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on covert/ stealth marketing. Do you think it’s right/ wrong?
Nowadays, we worship and rely on Google. Can you actually remember what your life was like before it? Pretty hard, isn’t it?
While in New York earlier this summer, I got up to speed on a great service (and probably one I should have known about before), but it is perfect for those of us not always completely sure where we are going or just haven’t updated our electronic rolodexes on a regular basis.
Google Mobile makes our lives more streamlined, more on time and far less confusing. Simply text commands to 466453 (”Google” - as I’m sure you could have guessed). Commands can range from product prices (ex: PRICE Apple iphone) to weather (ex: WEATHER san francisco) to places (ex: Magnolia Bakery nyc). Other commands include sports, stocks, movie times, and directions. What more could ask you for?
Google Mobile is a great resource to have in the palm of your hand as you’re out and about going to meet a client, need to get a cross street for a lunch spot or just want to be able to obtain the necessities instead of dealing with the browser on your smart phone.
Now get those fingers typing and get on the move!
It seems like a logical move but who would have thought that we are well and truly advanced to the point where the Internet will be delivered to us in our livings rooms via our televisions. Intel and Yahoo are teaming up to bring this experience to consumers via a Widget Channel, representing a true evolution of the Internet as know it.
So what implications does this have for the consumer? If we are looking ahead, it means that we will have the ability to interact with these TV widgets via remote control - offering us an enhanced and all-immersive online experience. We’ll be able to purchase products online, converse with friends via email, frequent social networking sites, check out favourite videos online and share with friends during the ad breaks. The possibilities are endless.
If you are viewing an ad that features a new, must-have product, this new experience could mean that you don’t need to leave your house to purchase it. You see a product, love it, want it, jump online and purchase in real time - and from the comfort of your very own couch.
And the really cool thing - Intel and Yahoo are already collaborating with companies including Blockbuster, CBS Interactive, Comcast, eBay, Toshiba, MTV, Twitter and others in order to develop these widgets.
The future of the Internet is here! What will be next?
If you could access the Internet from your TV, what would you do with it?
Personally I am not a fan of Second Life - it has never captured my imagination and with three children, two of teenage years, it hasn’t captured their’s either. Clearly, for the virtual world creators at Linden Lab, and the early adopters that got on board at the start, it has been a success. But like most things, once the hype and excitement of a new application wanes, that is when the real effort begins. Can Second Life really sustain a presence, continue to innovate and attract new users, whether personal or business? You decide.
But one Australian researcher, Kim MacKenzie, a PhD student at the Queensland University of Technology, is trying to find the answer. Kim is completing her honours year thesis around the business applications of Second Life. She studied 20 international brands over three months last year and has come to the conclusion that many were either ghost towns or worse, had shut up shop. She often found herself wondering around with no evidence of anybody in. See the full article posted today by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Asher Moses.
Linden Labs released figures in April that showed Second Life active users in Australia were 12,245, down from 16,000 towards the end of last year. Not very impressive. According to the Herald article by Asher, it is suggested that brand engagement is not really going to be in Second Life, or not at this time.
MacKenzie herself suggests the application is still a few years ahead of the curve and companies hadn’t done enough to advertise their presence there; or, when more advanced features are added such as voice chat, she believes it will grow in popularity. I guess time will tell.
I don’t know what your experience is with or in Second Life. Are you a corporation that has had success? Or has it been an experiment or a tool to engage your staff? Or do you agree with Kate’s thesis? Or are we all missing the point? Do share.
I have seen so many posts and buzz these last few days about PR becoming obsolete, everywhere from TechCrunch to ZDNet. In some cases I felt compelled to post comments. Now I finally have a bit of time to log into my WordPress account and write a proper post about it.
Let me address the issue at its core: PR is not synonymous with “publicist”.
PR is much more than media relations or pitching bloggers. It’s much more than being the conduit between a company and the media (be it traditional or social.) It’s about been strategic on what you want to communicate, how, when and to whom. A good PR campaign can (and should) reach all the stakeholders and the influencers beyond media and blogs, such as financial analysts, industry analysts, academia, legislators, partners, employees, consumers, customers, local communities, online communities, Wall Street, etc. It depends on the company business and its business goals.
If the point of these posts is that the media landscape is changing and therefore PR people need to understand it in order to provide sound counsel to their clients (regardless of whether you are in-house or on the agency side) then I agree with you. However, good PR people are much more than publicists. They know that blasting a pitch email hoping that it sticks will not work. And most importantly, it never worked (not with media in the past, not with bloggers today.)
Knowing your audiences, building relationships, crafting stories, managing a crisis, engaging your stakeholders, and providing them with what they need is what PR is all about. Nothing new. What is changing is the complexity and the environment, which is richer, and, in my opinion, a lot more fun.
Good PR is here to stay. Good PR practitioners will always find a seat at the table if they continue to do what they have been doing for years: listening and adapting to an ever-changing landscape.
Our server at work was on the brink of crashing last week (ok, that’s an exaggeration but our IT manager did send out a warning email). Apparently, too many of us were ‘secretly’ streaming videos of the Olympics during work hours. Seems like many people around the world have the same idea, though.
These Olympics have been aptly dubbed “The Digital Games”. Millions of viewers – up to 5% - will watch the Olympics without ever turning on their tallies, and NBC Universal will stream a record 2,200 hours of live footage online.
With figures like these, it makes me wonder – will the Internet become our future medium of choice for watching the Olympics (or any other World Cup/Superbowl equivalent)? Call me old fashioned, but for me, part of the Olympic fun is about sharing the big screen with a bunch friends at the pub while cheering for your team. What do you think?
Either way, it sure is paving for an interesting way of marketing around the Olympics. Gone are the days when big sponsors “pay a gazillion dollars to the IOC, then pay a gazillion more to brag like heck about it on TV and in print ads” (read this article from USA Today ‘Faster, higher, stronger and digital’. It also has some great examples of the digital marketing strategies implemented by savvy companies like Lenovo and Johnson & Johnson – such as athletes blogging and video sharing).
Will the rise of the Internet mean the death of the TV? I hope not. (…but I may just be swayed if the pubs start streaming live internet videos on the big screen).
One wise man who arguably has the best bird’s eye view of the situation is Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP. According to Sir Martin in his interview with CNBC on the day of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, whilst “this is really the first truly digital games…[digital is] only 10% of client budgets, it’s 20% of consumer time. By the time clients move their budgets to 20%, we’ll be spending more time on the web. But you’re right. They all work together.”
It is becoming increasingly evident that more business users are jumping online during the work day to frequent social networking sites, using it as an online hub to conduct business and connect with other users for work purposes. For example, Twitter is becoming not only a hang out place to connect with friends but from a professional standpoint I am seeing that PR practitioners and journalists are using it as a portal to tap into useful networks, scoop out stories, identify spokespeople and generate outcomes.
Interestingly enough, as we see this trend escalate, eMarketer predicts that advertisers in the US will spend $40 million this year to reach the business audience on different social networking sites. And according to its forecasts, this spend is expected to reach $210 million in 2012.
The very nature of a social network is that it connects like-minded people and those with common hobbies and interests. It is therefore no surprise that we are seeing this behaviour among the business audience. And what’s more, the very nature of social network sites is providing advertisers and marketers with great opportunities to reach out to the exact audience they are wishing to tap into, as social networking sites become even more purpose-built and niche.
Another example is LinkedIn. LinkedIn describes itself as “A networking tool to find connections to recommend job candidates, industry experts and business partners…” This site is a recruiters dream! With its member subscription having doubled in the last year, this is the ideal environment to scope out and head hunt potential talent.
I recently viewed by profile on LinkedIn and I was able to track not only how many people viewed my profile in the last 27 days but it also told me who these people were. One was ’someone in the Human Resources industry’ and the other was an ‘Account Director at Howorth Communications’. Nothing is sacred anymore.
These are just a few proof points that indicate the power of social networking sites in business and how sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter (and others) are increasingly becoming poweful tools that facilitate important business connections.
Do you think this trend will continue to escalate? Or are social networking sites merely fad? Would love your thoughts.
As I sit here typing my debut post for this blog, I can’t help but think of the dozens of topics I should write about– my thoughts on social media, the new widgets I downloaded on my iPhone, my new obsession with Twitter, or even Facebooking at work (I am guilty, and so are you.) Just thinking of these topics made me realize how in one very short year after moving from Pennsylvania to San Francisco, I have warped into a digital girl. Prior to working as an AAE in the Technology Practice, I had no idea that blogs were big business and social networking was encouraged at work. I still can’t figure out where all the “stuff” goes when we upload pictures or download music, it’s all still a mystery. I’m still learning.
All this digital information, mind-numbing technology, and creative innovation that surrounds us each day is extremely overwhelming, borderline suffocating but in a strange way humbling and inspiring. While studying in college I refused to read dissertation papers or reports online, I had to feel the pages, trace the words, and touch the pictures. I hardly signed on to AIM and I refused to respond to text messages, thinking it was so silly to not pick up the phone and press “call.” I honestly thought personal blogs were rants and ramblings with no credibility (many still are), and heck, I created a blog last year just for my friends and family to read so they would stop calling me in the middle of the night while living abroad in South Korea, hence the very creative blog title. In one short year, my perception of technology has changed, drastically.
We, namely Gen Y, grew up bombarded with information overload. We are a spoiled generation, not in terms of material things, but in digital goods. We watched as the tech bubble burst in Silicon Valley, we witnessed 9/11 while sitting in classrooms, we quit Harvard and started an online yearbook, and we asked Google, not God, why the sky is blue. We have a reputation of being “know-it-alls” because of all this technology. You can’t blame us, because with the click of our fingers, we feel like we know it all.
This year, Gen Y Americans have more incentive, power and voice to rock the vote and elect the next President of the United States. Presidential Candidates are blogging and even YouTube is playing a fundamental role during debates. We are optimistic for the future and are more wired and globally connected with our peers than previous generations. Yet, we are facing an economic downturn, a grim job market and a mortgage crisis. We are renting, not buying, borrowing, not paying, dating, not marrying…or maybe that’s just me ;). We are aware of what’s imminent, but hopeful because like I said, we live in a digital world, and with technology, we can find answers, innovate, communicate, educate, spark controversy and conversation, and bring about change.
[Disclaimer: author is an extreme optimist.]
David Carlson: Social Media and Traditional PR