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.

Handling a crisis through openess

Palm is in a bad way. The only person that I know personally who bought a Pre regrets he did so and tweeted yesterday about how ‘crap’ the device was. But respect where it is due, yesterday’s handling of their forthcoming financial results was handled sensibly to try and control market explanations. It is also interesting to see how internal communications were also written with an eye to an external audiences.

Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week

Links of the day

Marketing Interactive | Facebook asserts interest in Asia

Are Modern Web Apps Killjoys?

The Facebook Imperative – owes a creative debt to Clara Shih (ex-Salesforce exec) but still a good read

Is your social media breaking the law? 81% not sure | Tempero

Time to Worry about China? – US fund managers are apparently going bearish on China

Giles Coren reviews Empress of Sichuan review | Times Online Food & Drink

Anatomy of ‘Chao Ren’ (’Hipsters’) | China Youth Watch by China Youthology 青年志 – so this explains why Milk magazine runs big pieces on McDonald’s restaurants.

Social media not a core part of marketing for most – Brand Republic News – Brand Republic

European Public Policy Blog: Committed to competing fairly – Google’s response to the EU probe

DownThemAll! – great plugin for Firefox

mflow is the new way of discovering music through people – consumer affiliate marketing for the music industry courtesy of Chris Reed

Hayes Davidson – Skyline – this is too cool, but then I am not a great fan of heritage

Sigma re-introduces SD15 digital SLR – Sigma re-introduces SD15 digital SLR: PMA 2010: More than a year after first showcasing it at the 2008 Photokina trade show, Sigma has re-announced the SD15 digital SLR. Successor to the SD14, it incorporates a 14MP sensor

EU Opens Antitrust Investigation Into Google. Microsoft’s Fingerprints Are Everywhere. – yes they have a monopoly, but have they exploited their position and why would anybody give Foundem any credence?

PR Advocate: Corporates Using Social Media

Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy? There’s An App For That

Smartphone Sales Up 24 Percent, iPhone’s Share Nearly Doubled Last Year (Gartner)

McKinsey Perspectives on Business Technology: The promises, and challenges, of user participation

New Media Knowledge – One Young World Global Youth study reveals the real-time generation

When using open source makes you an enemy of the state | Technology | – interesting evidence against MPAA and RIAA of trying to incite unilateral US government actions against Indonesia because it uses open source software

Driving seat:

flavors dot me, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara. is a website that allows you to aggregate your social media personas in one place without having to build your own web page to do it. In sharp contrast to profiles like LinkedIn, it provides a lot of customisation.

You can direct URI to it, pick one of half a dozen or so layouts, chose colours and backgrounds with more flexibility than Twitter offers and put your own background image in.

I set one up, not because I think that is the future, but that it allows my personal presences such as my blog to become even more discoverable.

In the end, sits between two stools. On the one hand you live an active social life online, but on the other hand you don’t want to spend your time creating your own web presence then is for you.

It is refreshing to see a web service that isn’t suckling from the tit of online advertising as is a freemium product; if you want increased flexibility, analytics or your own URI on the site, then you need to pay an annual fee.

Jargon Watch: Splinternet

Up until very recently ‘super-standards’ like Internet Explorer for Windows-only features that plugged into .Net frameworks made using some corporate electronics services like banking a pain-in-the-ass. In fact, I still don’t do electronic banking because my bank of choice thinks that user experience should be the digital equivalent of Hellraiser’s cenobites that said bank probably paid a heinous amount of money for.

Forrester Research uses the phrase Splinternet to describe the divergent aspects of services via the worldwide web. Applications such as Twitter clients and iPhone services, mobile web services, the private walled gardens like Facebook and Friendster, games consoles and connected televisions.  The compatibility issues that once made the web’s experience torturous are likely to return because of the divergent nature of web access devices – web development is likely to get a lot more complex.

Dr Marten’s shop window

Dr Marten’s shop window, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

Dr Marten’s shop window on Neal Street caught my eye with its display of colourful metallic finish boots.

The display took the Dr Marten’s boot out of the its heritage as a work shoe, beloved of the various different tribes under the broad church of skinhead culture and the long-suffering footwear of the community policeman.

It is unrecognisable as the footwear of choice for indie kids and the Skins in Gavin Watson’s iconic pictures.

Air Wair was the shoe of choice for the Mod-revival loving kids that I knew in Merseyside though I never saw the attraction of boots myself until I took to wearing Timberland boots to stave off cold wet feet on the warehouse party scene.

Hong Kong-style viral

Courtesy of chinaSMACK (who trawl Chinese bulletin boards to get the latest memes) I found this video of a young Hong Kong woman apparently berating her ex-boyfriend on YouTube. Look at the way she thrusts the vitamin container into view everytime she talks about the letter c – I along with a number of other viewers thought viral. A translation of the video dialogue into English can be found at chinaSMACK.

Links of the day

New delivery auction websites save money and CO2 – eBay-type model for delivery services. I would love to see this for international shipping

Social Networking Watch: Social Media Use Up 82% Worldwide

UK Says ‘No’ To Disconnecting File-Sharers, Sort Of | TorrentFreak

MPs attack ‘regressive’ broadband tax | Media |

HSBC rethinks strategy with wealth-based plan – Brand Republic

China Everbright boss says property prices ‘frightening’ – China Economic Review

China PLA officer urges new Internet control agency | Reuters – People’s Liberation Army Major General Huang Yongyin ‘For national security, the Internet has already become a new battlefield without gunpowder’

EU privacy watchdog warns Commission on controversial ACTA negotiations | Pinsent Masons LLP – why do I read this and think of Colonel Kurtz?

Crib Sheet: The Social Media Landscape « Ed Lee’s Blogging Me Blogging You

The best phones, stunts, and demos of Mobile World Congress | VentureBeat

Researcher creates ‘Facebook for Scientists’ | VentureBeat

Neff Ink Goes Bananas With a Playful Brand Refresh for Chiquita | Design and Innovation | Fast Company – smart, playful inspired genius

The Mystery of China’s Labor Shortage – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Focus On… France – PR Week – interesting market focus on France.

Photographer films his own ‘anti-terror’ arrest – the funny thing was I had no problems taking pictures other countries like France, Spain, Germany, the US or China.

Nice brand extension by Innocent

Nice brand extension by Innocent, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

Really nice brand extension by Innocent, keeping to their core values and competencies

Jargon Watch: Altimeter envy

Social media changed the relationship between audiences and experts. Individual experts surfaced like John Battelle and Danny Sullivan built successful businesses as experts based on their blog presence. Some of the most profitable arbiters of expertise are the market analyst houses like Gartner and Forrester Research and this change in relationship with experts is a potential disruptor for their business models.

Forrester CEO George Colony has looked to gain some respite from the new expert model through strict non-compete contracts with high-profile current employees and a recent change in policy to restrict their off-platform personal social media activity. Forrester suffered the most out of the analyst houses with a number of high profile departures including Charlene Li, Jeremiah Oywang and R Ray Wang to the Altimeter Group.

Altimeter Envy is described by SageCircle:

The buzz around Forrester superstars Jeremiah Owyang and R “Ray” Wang joining Altimeter Group was several orders of magnitude larger than all the departures in the summer of 2008. Plus there is just the general increase in hype and fever around social media. This buzz is bound to percolate into the awareness of even the most heads-down, lost-in-his-work analyst at Gartner, Forrester, IDC, AMR and so on. This may be case even if the analyst does not cover the social media market. After all, Ray Wang covers the unsexy enterprise applications market. There was a lot of hoopla around how Charlene, Ray, Jeremiah and their non-analyst colleague Deb Schultz used social media to build up their personal brands giving them the platform for a potentially lucrative new career path. Also, all the analyst firm layoffs in the last year certainly have some analysts thinking that they need to hedge their employment bets. “Altimeter envy” then is a condition that strikes an analyst who uplevels his or her use of social media for a potential departure from their current employer.

Is knee-capping (a la Forrester’s new social media policy) a knowledge professional’s personal brand a step too far, given that there is no such thing as a job-for-life any more?