Apple – UK iPad page FAIL

Apple (United Kingdom) – iPad page FAIL, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

I noticed this on the Apple UK site. I guess this is what happens when you have a tightly held global campaign going up against local needs.

In case you can’t read the image it says:

A magic and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price.

Below this in smaller type:

Wi-Fi models shipping in late March.
3G models shipping in April.
UK pricing to be announced.

So what is unbelievable about a price that Apple has yet to announce? Attention to detail FAIL.

Public relations: the problem and the time-bomb

At the moment half the posts on seem to be either fee related or whether PR should be done on a payment by results basis. The general sentiment seems to be that PR people responding view the profession as strategic and the entrepreneurs view it as a ‘low cost’ tactic to drive sales or a call-to-action through awareness. The link can be quite tenuous and the results thin which doesn’t help matters either.

So who is right? Well they both are. Public relations is a broad church, at least some of the PR people act as reputation counsel or brand guardians to clients. However many people also just focus on media relations cranking out news-related coverage as best they can.

The challenge is that PR people cannot work miracles, they can not make a silk purse out of a sows ear and a race to the bottom to grind out press releases and pitch them in is only successful when there is a whole lot of interesting news going on. If you have a me-too product with no news and no real interest beyond the founder’s ego then you are wasting your time.

If you are trying to build a brand and longer term awareness then the payment-by-results press release grinder doesn’t work either.

Even if you have a good story, you may find that you have a limited amount of mileage from the coverage generated. I have a friend who works at a start-up who finds that only coverage in a few magazine columns delivers any kind of reasonable uplift for him.

This isn’t entirely surprising, research by Nielsen reported in Advertising Age (subscription required) found that offline media brands had a weaker than expected brand linkage with their associated online properties. So it doesn’t take a massive leap of faith to summise that the cross-media call to action for online marketers in offline publications may not be great either.

At this level it makes sense for many clients to put this money into a PPC campaign rather than PR, in fact, many entrepreneurs going down the payment-by-results route have struggled with their SEM campaigns as well; because since keywords are now for the most part optimally priced from an economic perspective they are no longer as good a value as they once were. Also clickthrough rates in general have declined over the past few years.

So the smart thing would be for PR people to leave many of the ‘bottom-feeding’ clients well alone because it just isn’t worthwhile playing in that space. For many of these campaigns it can be demotivating work for staff and not the kind great work that you want to discuss with other prospective clients or win awards with.

If only life where that simple. PR traditionally has had a demographic problem; people leave the industry, particularly agency life start a family, or a second career and then do PR work from home as a freelancer or a micro-agency. This completely undermines the cost-base of the industry. People who don’t need to do PR to pay their mortgage can undercut agencies with office overheads.

Then are the people from related sectors like journalism that try their hand at the business with varying degrees of success.

During a recession, their ranks are joined by a wealth of redundant agency staffers. Once the next election is over their ranks are about to be swelled even further by a legion of PR people currently working within government departments and services from NHS trusts, to county councils and housing associations. David Cameron’s conservatives have targeted PR teams as one of the first areas to cut costs, I mean would anyone notice if all the PR people sudden disappeared in the morning? (There is a delicious irony in this of course, David Cameron having worked in PR for Carlton Communications for seven years prior to being an MP).

If Labour get into power again, they too will need to get to work on balancing the books and PR people make a low risk target. Very few of them are union members, and in an age of sleeze and spin are unlikely to be missed.

What the PR agencies need is a blue water strategy, a way to put a clear distance between themselves and the press release-writing hordes. What the payment-by-results clients need is to wait for government cutbacks. With an over-supply at the bottom end of the market, they may even be able to get a free try-before-you-buy.

Links of the day

Google and antitrust: Searching questions | The Economist

Cellphone Applications Let Shoppers Point, Click and Buy –

The Wired Repo Man – He’s Not ‘As Seen on TV’ –

From Quantic Dream, a Child Killer and a Tormented Dad – – interesting new direction in gaming. In some ways it reminds me of Myst and the vision that Philips had for the CD-i platform

How Google got its Buzz | KomodoPR.comSelena Chan’s take on Google Buzz

Australians: Biggest Users of Social Media Worldwide – PSFK

Palm CEO’s Letter to Employees – Digits – WSJ – handling a crisis / China – China faces shortages of migrant workers – this is more about structural change than an economic problem. Shenzhen and similar areas will go to higher value products and industry permeate deeper into the country / Asia-Pacific – Labour shortage hits China export recovery

EU unveils plans to create new pan-Europe contract law | Pinsent Masons LLP

Palm Cuts Its Forecast, and Its Shares Fall –

BBC signals an end to era of expansion – Times Online – madness. Its like the Victorians scaled back on the industrial revolution to give the barrel-makers, crofters, blacksmiths and thatchers a chance.

The trouble with Palm

First of all some disclosure: I worked on the Palm PR account some ten years ago now and got to work with some of the smartest people in mobile device technology, notably the company’s chief competitive officer Michael Mace as an occasional media spokesperson back when his pictures had him with a Magnum PI-style moustache.

At the time I worked on the account the company was riding high on the PDA boom, but the seeds of its current problems were sown back then.

Even after working on the Palm account, I was a Palm customer. I had a Palm Vx which I used to death (quite literally) and spent a fortune on accessories including a Rhinoskin titanium slider hard case and a ThinkOutside portable keyboard. After that  I had a number of other Palm devices: a m515, a Tungsten3, a Treo 600 and a Treo 650.

The last device left such a bad taste in my mouth because of an address book full of duplicates and corrupted data that I migrated to Nokia E-series devices, which provided a superior experience to the Treo 650 despite serious software stability issues.

The company has been buffeted by critics over the years, many of them well-meaning.

With the arrival of Jon Rubenstein to give it flare and product smarts and a matching injection of new money into the company, there was every chance that Palm could reinvent itself.

Unfortunately it didn’t, and the company is now reaping the fruits of mediocre labours.

To be honest the signs where there that the new product line wasn’t great and I wasn’t surprised:

The communications-related signs are particularly damning as they indicate that at least some insiders at the company may have realised that the product despite the hoopla was not ready for primetime.

Palm Pre

The second good sign of a bad device is when after a decent amount of time virtually no one that you know owns one. I only know one person: the fashion-forward Rise co-founder Paul Allen; however on this occasion the Palm Pre has turned out not to be a fashion classic and more like a gadget equivalent of MC Hammer’s parachute pants.

Interestingly, in his letter to Palm employees, Rubenstein puts much of the weight of corrective action on working short-term tactics with carrier partners to create demand push with no clue about what execution improvements in terms of product redesigns and quality improvements (if any) would be coming to shore up a poor customer experience.

Enron – the play

I walked down to Robert Dyas on St Martin’s Lane and found out that the story of a former client, Enron, had been turned into a West End play.

Enron the play, St Martin's Lane, London

I felt conflicted about the whole thing.

Enron the play, St Martin's Lane, London

I had helped launch the Enron Broadband business in Europe including the ‘Enron Intelligent Network’ and a video-on-demand deal with Blockbuster that never went anywhere. We finished business with them before it all came crashing down, but it was a close call.