One of my colleagues was telling me about how their son was involved in the grime scene (funnily enough what Detroit was to soul music, my current neighbourhood of Bow is to the grime scene, but we digress). Like most teenagers he had some friends who were at best aimless if not a bad influence and he was spending the vast majority of his time designing MySpace pages for people on the scene.
Designing MySpace pages is something that I think is a constructive use of time, especially if it blossoms into a creative career. I thought about this when I came across a Starsky and Hutch Appreciation Fan Club wallet around my house. I was given it by some colleagues in my old agency one Christmas because of my love of Starsky and Hutch (it was the only TV programme I was allowed to stay up to watch when I was in infant school).
In marked contrast to the home spun creativity cranking out MySpace pages for grime artists, the true fan in the 1970s would have sent away Post Office vouchers or a cheque in order to receive the pack of fan club materials. This was the age of consumption rather than wholesale creation. TV shows like Sale of the Century and the conveyor belt of goods on The Generation Game seem strangely appropriate in this light, but the role of a fan was rather passive in comparison to their modern equivalent. What value did this passive role give these young fans in the coming years?
Say what you like about the kids of today, but on this score I think that they have it right.
I found out about Debenhams window display on Oxford Street from a friend who was fascinated by them. Once I had got over the original oohs and aarghs I was curious to find out how they had done it.
When I was a child, shop windows with animatronic displays were custom-made and fragile like a wedding cake. Their skillful construction often detracted from their entertaining nature.
The Debenham’s window display was a product of the 21st century. In sharp contrast to the wedding cake approach, this show was based on cheaply made common pieces. There is:
- Three types of cheap stuffed animal characters: owls, deer and foxes (which I presume Debenhams had made en mass for use in their store network
- A set of standardised electric motors
- Fishing line and the plastic tags used to secure pricing information to clothes labels
Everything else relied on the sense of theatre of the window dresser. The amount of slack in a line connected to the electric motor arm governed the ‘organic feel’ of the movement and the line was secured with the tags. One fox lay in the snow and the extremely slack line attached to his belly gave the appearance of breathing. It was impressive the way commoditised really simple dumb technology produced such ‘organic behaviour’ from the characters in way that would have otherwise cost a fortune in animatronic smarts.
I thought of it as kind of a real-world metaphor for modern web services and social media: lots of simple commoditised components being used to make something that is much more than the sum of their parts.
Unashamedly inspired by 25 Not Very Technical Things Journalists Should Know, I thought about the not very technical things that PROs should know. When I first started thinking about this piece, it was more to do with the gaining momentum of digital techniques, but given a recent PR Week article citing a report that claimed PR agencies cut cut staff by 40 per cent it took on a new tone as recommendations for PR people to include in their personal career survival strategies.
If you don’t know these things, acquire the knowledge by reading around; if you are agency-side and no one in your business know these things, start looking for another job – because you will need one soon.
In this time of financial constraints your clients will look for you to maximise the impact of campaigns with little or no additional cost to them. In order to do this, you need to embrace the following skills.
- How to manage your email inbox: this article from The Times is a good place to start
- How to touch type – if you can’t manage your email box or have to do hunt-and-peck typing how are you going to find the time to think about working smarter?
- How to create a link. Look at the source code of this blog post or Google it if you don’t know how.
- How to embed photos and videos
- How to buy a domain name
- How to set up a flickr account
- How to buy an ad on Google AdWords
- How to use an RSS reader
- How to set up Google Alerts
- How to do some advanced searches such as phrase matches, Boolean search terms, and site-specific searches
- How to conduct research efficiently and effectively using online tools
- How to understand the nature of a community and assess a blogs authority
- How Wikipedia works and how to get involved in the process for having a post changed
- Understand the nature of conversations and their appropriateness for your client
- How to upload photos and video to the web
- Understand the basics of how to record audio
- How to take interesting photos and the basic operation of a digital SLR
- Understand the basics of shooting video
- Understand the simple data of web analytics tools
- How to use social networks, beyond Facebook and LinkedIn
- How to use Twitter
- Understand the basics of community management.
- How to use free online survey tools
- How to use tags
- How to use social bookmarking tools and have a collection of useful and interesting resources
- How to share a presentation online
- How to use FTP software to move large files about (I can’t believe that PR people often don’t know this, especially when many picture desks have made use of FTP servers for a good while)
- How to use online calendar services
- How to use event registration management systems
This list is a work-in-progress, I will tag Jonathan Hopkins, Becky McMichael, Jonny Rosemont and Stephen Davies to see if they have any additional pearls of wisdom to share with you. Also feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments box.
Posts in this series
29 things: the basics of how to record audio
29 things: how Wikipedia works and how to get involved in the process of having a post changed
29 things: how to tweet
29 Things: Understand the nature of conversations and their appropriateness for your client
29 things: how to use Google for fun and profit
29 things: how to use an RSS reader
29 things: how to organise a PR account
29 things: how to embed pictures and video
29 things: how to create a link
29 things: how to touch-type
29 things: how to manage your communications platform
29 things for PR people
This was the post that started it all: 29 not-very-technical things that every PR person should know
I have been thinking a lot about James Warren’s essay on inline PR for PR Week’s digital essay’s supplement, which in its breaking down of silo-ed online and offline campaigns mirrors my own thoughts on marketing and the development of the ‘web-of-no-web’. I won’t repeat James’ essay you can go over to his blog and read it there, but instead I wanted to amplify a couple of salient points around it.
Working with our colleagues at Universal McCann we create what we call an Inline Profile for each campaign, an integrated influence model that reflects the audience we are trying to reach and the nature of the communications objective. The Inline Profile enables us to identify which combinations of channels (and therefore tactical execution) will be most effective in driving advocacy.
This profile also needs to really understand the client’s brand, for example, what would that brand be like as a person? And have the insight to really understand the root reasons why the consumer/customer should engage with that brand (Max Factor cosmetics make you feel confident apparently, Surf washing powder makes you a better Mum, Cadbury Dairy Milk makes you smile and Apple products make you hip, cool, creative and more productive).
Secondly there is a big need for ‘Inline’ thinking not only from the consumer side but from the technology side as well, what I call in homage to Bruce Lee the ‘web-of-no-web’. At the moment offline adverts now feature a QRCode, URI or a search box with suggested search terms in it (very popular in Japan). However we are also seeing the linkages coming the opposite way, when you think about technologies such as the Nintendo Wii, Twitter, Flickr, location-based services like Goodrec or Google Maps on the smart-phone of your choice; the boundaries between the web and the real world have been broken down. This is already resulting in changing behaviours: from my own personal experience, I no longer pack an A-Z as I go around London and my social plans have become even more fluid in nature.
Consequently silo-ed (and hence disjointed) online and offline programmes would produce a jarring confusing brand experience for the consumer where messages will get lost or negative consumer sentiment blossom between the ‘cracks’ in the marketing communications.