Monthly Archives: November 2011

Keeping it real – How finely tuned is your b*llsh*t detector?

Christmas time and the media is full of it.

Good cheer that is, together with twee little adverts featuring ‘people’ just like you and me having a tremendous amount of seasonal fun. But how much of this stuff are you actually buying – both in reality and metaphorically?

Is that your kid up there on the stage buying you an i-pad – retail price £399 – or is yours the one that can’t wait for Christmas just so he can hand over a beautifully wrapped box that he happens to have sourced on the high street all by himself?

I have to say I don’t really go for any of it and that includes the Redknapp family (or whoever it is this year) all playing Wii together – cuddled up on the sofa – which they seem to be able to do without ripping each others’ heads off.

I know – it makes me come over all Charlie Brooker.

What I do like however, is a dose of reality, which came last week in the shape of Benton/Fenton and his owner in a simultaneously hilarious and horrific YouTube clip. You must know it by now , the one where a dog out for a jolly walk with his owner herds a bunch of London’s finest deer over a busy road in Richmond Park – it’s had 2 million hits so far….

The thing is, we are now all so media savvy, with our BS monitors turned up to 11, that good old reality in all its raw horror and comedy trumps expensive advertising every time.

And so it is when we come to post something on social media. Lord knows I love the challenge of a dull day with not much to say, creative and inventive are my watch words – but look at the stats when you post up a genuinely engaging set of pictures featuring real people or when you share proper news with your followers.

I think people respond instinctively to the genuine – so today’s take away?  Keep it real whenever you can and pray the Redknapps don’t drop round this Christmas for a game of Wii.

Sing something simple – simplicity in business & PR

There’s a new trend in the world – Simplicity.

It crops up as the very latest word in business efficiency and as a working party of that name looking into streamlining in the BBC.

It sounds like a great idea to me, although in truth we’re probably looking at yet another bunch of highly paid consultants helping managers to take a scythe to/increase profitability within their businesses.

I like the idea of “simplicity” because if reminds me what a good idea it is to keep your message clear and stripped back. It is no mistake that the management consultancy that calls itself The Simplicity Partnership is made up of the people who used to run Clear, the brand consultancy.

A clear simple message is the cornerstone of good PR – the “story” must shine through, as I told my daughter this week while she was writing a composition for a school competition. Her tale was so complex and dashed off at such speed that the result was a postmodern stream of consciousness in which the actual story was still trapped somewhere in her head.

It was with a heavy heart that I told her that she should treat her audience as if they were idiots, but it did help her get the message that you have to spell everything out clearly and simply if you want to take  people along with you. Once the architecture of the story, the actual message in PR terms, was there, she could decorate it with lots of creative and descriptive writing, which is her great strength.

It’s odd, but I think my daughter found simplicity something of a cop-out, she seemed to think that the more sophisticated and grown-up she wanted to be, the more complex her work needed to become. I think we all fall in to that trap sometimes, which is why the management consultants are now out in force trying to get businesses to believe that simple really is best.

Twitter biographies – no modesty required?

I’ve been thinking about image and personal branding all week after writing that post about CVs. As I said then, the words you write about yourself have got to be good – you can’t afford to squander the chance to control your own publicity.

But this has led to some interesting cultural differences. Take, for example, Twitter biographies. Without being too sweeping – American tend to have less problems than we do with self-promotion. An American accountant is “the best in the Tri-state area” – round here he may just be “good with figures”.

We feel the need to down play ourselves, to turn down the volume, when of course what we should be doing is turning it up to be heard through the melee.

But take care – cautionary tale approaching.

Do you know the racing pundit Brough Scott? He is a face and voice from my childhood when  inexplicably, I watched a lot of racing on TV. I remember him looking rather dashing in a hat and a Barbour jacket although I should imagine he had other clothes. Apparently when he first took to Twitter he decided that modesty was not required and sensibly decided to use his brief Twitter bio to say exactly what needed to be said and I quote;

Brough Scott is one of the best known figures in racing and sport.

This did not go down well.

His peers ribbed him mercilessly, introducing him as “Brough Scott one of the best known figures in racing and sport” whenever they got the chance. After an initial stab at standing his ground he was forced to back down and now writes under a much reduced bio (in bragging terms at least.)

One time ghost writer for Lester Piggott. Presenter of TV shows from the Derby to Books by my Bedside. Still active – on the page at least.

We Brits like modesty much better than braggadocio and the challenge is to self-promote in a way that is going to do us justice without leading to ridicule from our peers. Dry humour helps, but I think you have to be well-known and brilliant to pull off the really self-deprecating.

Part-time Radio 4 Presenter

British actor, writer.

These are the bios of broadcaster Jane Garvey and all round treasure Stephen Fry (you’re a treasure too Jane.) I think both can be confident that we know they are more than that – and their bios go on somewhat flippantly to reference poor motherhood and swimwear – you guess which is which.

So don’t oversell, don’t undersell, be funny but not flippant, have fun and make yourself heard. Simple!

One really sound piece of takeaway advice?

  • If you want people to offer you work – add a URL to your LinkedIn profile.

Is your cv/resume on your side? What they can tell about you from your cv.

My work often takes me into areas I know very little about and the challenge is always to make social media relevant and usable to whichever sector I am working in.

This week I have been working with recruiters and as part of that process we looked at a lot of CVs  – and goodness me, isn’t that world a shocker!?

I will tell you now that this has very little to do with social media directly but everything to do with how we present ourselves. To many this is all part of personal branding and is therefore all of a piece with  what we say about ourselves on social media – so I am going to press on!

We all know that a CV or resume says a tremendous amount about us and that we should make a big effort with lay-out, grammar and spelling, but did you know how much you reveal of yourself to a trained eye reading between the lines?

For example; if I choose to use bullet points and highlight my achievements in precise figures, then I am organized and analytical while someone who prefers a flowing prose style is going to get pegged as someone who puts more value on the communication and social side of things.

Do you include information about your personal status? That may come across as desperate. Why do you feel the need to explain yourself, what insecurities are you hiding? Do your hobbies reveal just how unfulfilled and frustrated you are – would you need to throw yourself off quite so many mountains if your career had been that bit more demanding?

I’m not an expert and I have no right to lecture, but I was quite shocked by how revealing these things are. Plus, did you know that your information is likely to be transferred onto a data base for reference – so things like e-mail address and phone numbers must be crystal clear otherwise those fields will be left blank? One CV I saw had the person’s name, number and address as a watermark on every page which was not cut and pasteable and would therefore be missed by an automatic transfer of data.

In a world where some companies are searching the things we put online about ourselves in order to judge us – we can’t afford to neglect the judgements they make by reading the one thing we hand them on a plate.

Why owned really is the new earned.

Have you heard the buzz phrase – PEO is the new SEO?

Do you think it’s portentous nonsense and another example of appalling jargon? Me too. But there is something really important we can take from it.

If P is paid for and represents advertising and E stands for earned, which is what old style PR was all about ie. getting clients in the newspapers or on TV – then it is the O that we really want to look at.

O stands for Owned and is a key marketing development to emerge from the internet maelstrom.

Advertising and PR experts were all about getting exposure for a brand. They took the established media, whether that was billboards, tv spots or magazine editorial and worked hard to get their clients some space there in order to showcase their wares.

But the internet turned the world upside down and made space, which was scarce and expensive, into an infinitely available commodity. Anyone can publish content on the internet. You want a blog post? – Have ten. You want to show me your beautifully shot arty photos? Have an account with Flickr.

The O part of PEO – the Owned bit – looks at all that cheap space and says – ok, we are going to use this freedom – we are going to become our own publishers with our own community of readers and viewers, with our own agenda, which we OWN.

This is a marvellous opportunity for brands with a strong following to step off the treadmill of someone elses agenda to make their own and the kings of this, in my view, are Boden.

This upmarket clothing label didn’t even have a blog a year ago, now they have an entire community. It’s a hive of activity with hosted discussions and guest ‘columnists’ talking about style and kids parties and Christmas…..there are places to post photos, to chat and ask questions. It is, in short. a brilliant use of the owned space.

Would it work with a smaller community for a lesser known brand? I think this is basically what we all need to be aiming for and the medium is the Facebook page. It can be hard to get a community going when people are reluctant to comment and get stuck in, but if we don’t start engaging people then I think the consequences are serious.

Pages with low levels of engagement simply won’t show up in people’s news feeds. If you want your page to thrive you are going to have to start creating the kind of content that people want.

If you build your own buzz, nurture it and develop it you may find that the O part of PEO turns into more than just jargon.