PalmOne, official provider of PDAs to Renaissance Chambara, has announced a portal for Mac users. Admittedly the content is as sparse as a supermodels buffet at the moment, but I have hopes that it will get better. If they want this to happen at a rate of knots they can throw a fat roll of benjamins at me: gedcarroll at mac.com.
Coca-Cola, the troubled beverage company is in the midst of a major marketing promotion to try and bolster sales of its signature drink. Throughout the US, Coca-Cola has put 120 special cans into multipacks of original Coke. These cans look like a Coke, feel like a Coke, but instead of the secret formula contain a GPS device and a cell phone courtesy of Airtel.
You find the can, you activate it and some marketing klutz can show up at any time in a Bell Jetranger to drop a giant 4WD off for you – with surprise being the operative word. This is in a country where security is verging on paranoia since 11/9/2001, has the highest number of gun nuts, conspiracy theorists and gangbangers.
Big Brother Awards
Privacy International tackles some of the most prevalent civil rights abuses currently occuring in the West. The decline of the right to privacy. Here is details of their forthcoming Big Brother Awards to be held at the London School of Economics.
I have abridged Lord Chadlington’s recent speech (June 15, 2004) to the Guild of Public Relations Practioners. In his speech Chadlington outlined the following rules:
– Everything is possible. Everything good and everything bad! Most things are uncontrollable – particularly in our business. Events will always upset the best – laid plans. In that context, rule one, is to be positive. That does not mean you have to be a joke-cracking comic when the world is collapsing around you. Nor do you have to be Polyanna! It means that you must face bad news, full frontal: face reality as it is. Do not hide. The solution to problems is not pretending they are not there. The answer often lies in the analysis of the problem itself. Dissect it. Do not shy away. Be positive. Above all else, be positive by grasping and taking responsibility. Do not allow yourself to be sidelined. Make yourself and your skills the driver that makes things happen by being accountable and responsible
– Never give up. Ours is a very difficult profession. We tend to be – despite the public image – remarkably sensitive, creative people. And were it not so – then we would be no good at our jobs! The result is that we are more hurt by the unpredictability of events, by the buffeting of clients and journalists, than we care to admit. Being resilient, robust, bouncing back – these are all the essentials of success
– Read. Yes read – and I do not mean the papers! For an industry that wishes to be regarded with esteem, our practitioners often seem very ill informed. If we aspire to be more than what we are, then we must stay ahead of what is going on in the world, in industry, in the arts, in politics, in literature. An evening reading Trollope is certainly a more constructive way of advancing your understanding of human nature than almost anything else
– Think. Reading and thinking go together. I have never met a PR professional who thinks too much! Learning to think is the most difficult part of education. Clients do not want the same solutions you gave to the last client – except the name has been changed. They want you to solve their particular problems. Think. Close the door for a few hours and think. Blackberries, emails, mobile phones and the like are the enemies of this process. What did Russell say? “ When all others options have failed, man is thrown back to the painful necessity of thought”
– Be much more questioning.Very often we are so keen to hear the good news: so encouraged that our client has good financial results to put out: so delighted by the client relationship we are developing – that we just do not want to upset the apple cart. Interrogate the clients. Argue with them. Make sure that they are running businesses in a way that enhance your reputations as advocates. What is the Washington quote? “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company”.
– Never mix business and pleasure. It is much more difficult to be objective, ask difficult questions, be independent, if your clients step over that line into friendship. Neither can you judge the performance of a colleague if that line between civility and friendship is crossed – and it is even more difficult if your families know each other socially as well! I agree with most of the rules, his never do business with friends statement I think needs to be more flexible, some of my best friends are former colleagues and they are the kind of people that I would trust with my PR programme. I would modify it to be cognisant of the effect your friendship may have on business and be professional about it.
– Pay well. Get the best people on board. Have clients pay well too. If your clients pay you top dollar then you can give them the best people you have and you have the time to think about their problems. The best work I have ever done is where the client has been generous in his fees. I have made money and the client has either saved it – or made it – many times over!
– Honesty is vital. Not just about the big things but the little things too. Best practice is so important. Every tiny deviation from being whiter than white undermines your credibility – not because you are found out – but because you are more likely to bend the rules next time
– Always manage expectations. Exceeding expectations by the tiniest margin is viewed as a great success. Failing by the tiniest smidgeon is always – what it is – failure! What is Maurice Saatchi’s famous equation? Satisfaction = performance – expectation.
– It is the small things that matter: the research you do for a meeting, the care you take, even the way you dress – all these things build up a cumulative effect and determine how your client or your boss view your performance.
I would add the following:
– Banish the word never, absolute blinkered thinking doesn’t have any place in PR. Keep things in prospective
– Contingency plan – at least think about what ifs and try to reduce risk of catastrophic failure
– Never leave home without business cards, every social or business meeting is a prospect
– Make like a union – get organised. Most people have a circle of contacts including work of about 150 people. With PR its is much wider (I’m up to 3,500+), together with juggling diaries, keeping track of prospects, doing client work and managing a multi-client work balance thing. My mentor Kirsty swore by lists and Excel spreadsheet workplans. I am a great believer in the Palm PDA, iCalender, iSync, critical path analysis and the use of project managment software (I recommend Intellisync Project Desktop). Archive business cards as they are a great visual cue to jog the memory even when you have gone electronic
– If you have more bad days than good days in a three month period, fix the situation, if you can’t change the people around you, change the people around you by resigning and go to a better role
I read a classic piece of spin in The Business, Microsoft races to stop bank account hackers by Tony Glover. Tony who has been shortlisted in a category for Business Journalist of the Year wrote “Technicians at the US software giant Microsoft are working flat out to prevent a new security threat that this week could give criminals access to computer systems used worldwide by banks and governments.”
The general threat that Tony outlined called phishing has been covered for quite a while by national newspapers, something that wasn’t made clear in the article. In fact eBay, HBOS and Barclays customers have all been exposed to phishing attacks. The article was an excellent piece of PR work (my hat goes off to the members of the Microsoft press team) that failed to point out:
– Phishing has been going on for quite a while now, though the vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer is new. It is one of many security vulnerabilities in the product and phishing as a security risk is well understood
– Microsoft was trying to plug yet another security gap in their software that facilitates phishing? . Despite repeated promises to get tough security, Microsoft have failed to do so
– Using an alternative browser like Opera can help prevent the risk of phishing (though nothing in IT systems can be labeled foolproof)
– It is yet another good argument against software bundling like Microsoft (and increasingly Apple) have been doing and is an excellent riposte to critics of the EU competition commissions case against Microsoft. Bundling of software restricts the ability of competition to spur innovation and improvements in both quality and service
Free Internet calls move a step closer on page six goes on to talk breathlessly about a new feature in Microsoft Office that provides Internet calls. Its not that big a deal, I know of people who used Skype and before it Net2Phone and other over the net software phones. In fact Stephen Waddington, managing director of geeky PR firm Rainier was quoted in a newspaper case study talking about his firms uses of voice over the ‘net for international conference calls a few years ago.
In addition, many instant messenger programmes such as Yahoo! Instant Messenger, AIM and iChat offer audio and video calls between users. Another fallacy in technology circles is the concept of ‘free’, you’d think that technology marketers would be mature enough to realise that nothing ever comes for free, even ‘free’ pirated MP3s or DiVX movie files via a P2P network is partly financed by banner advertisements, spyware and adware in the P2P software itself. Freeware is often produced for altruistic reasons, even if it is to build a community of users or make ones mark with an elegant solution to a problem. In the case of ‘free internet calls’ it will help increase sales of broadband connections, where calls leave the domain of a connection between IP addresses over PCs some sort of ‘interconnection charge’ will be due. Its not new, its history repeating.
Back to business with companies starting to stand out from rivals.
Over the past few years (from about the third quarter of 2000 onwards), I have been going to meetings with cash-strapped start-up companies with me-too products looking for PR to work sales objectives and marketing communications programmes for the price of a McDonalds Happy Meal.
On Thursday evening, I went to a more refreshing meeting for a potential new start-up (any more than that I cannot tell you because I have signed an non-disclosure agreement). The operation was obviously boot-strapped together, however the first added ingredients I noticed was that there was a real sense of enthusiasm and excitement about the project. This is in stark contrast to the meetings that I have with many start-up companies who are desparate to avoid the VC ‘dead zone’ of low growth or even an incurable burn rate.
After I had got over the enthusiasm, I noticed that they had managed to assemble a strong talented team; something sorely missing in many of the other meetings that I had been to as talent seemed to have migrated to safer larger firms or had left the rat race to have a better quality of life.
Finally, I noticed enthusiastic funders, both from financial institutions and private individuals, and no I don’t mean enthusiasm in the rapid dot.com type way; but people buying into a compelling offering. It was obvious from the discussion and questions asked that they had thought a lot about the project. Something that is missing from the UK funding scene at the best of times
I left the meeting thinking thank fc:uk for that!