The CIPR had been slow to get on-board with social media public relations. The government sidelined it during consultation on marketing regulation of social channels a couple of years ago in favour of the ASA and IAB. In addition, there has been a widespread lack of knowledge within the industry that has provided hard to resolve over time.
Having worked in two agencies over the past six years, run train courses and done mentoring I’ve learned two things:
Digital knowledge is a minority sport even within savvy agencies
Ignorance can’t be profiled by whether someone is a digital native or digital immigrant. Some of the people that have most got it have been the over-50s, whilst that those in their 20s have rejected it as being too hard work
At a macro level, I thought digital was the ideal point of inflection to deal with the over-supply of PR agencies that currently plague the industry. Unfortunately digital just meant that every search, interactive, media buyer and advertising agency also began offering PR-like services (often called content strategy).
Within this context Share This is an interesting vignette of articles pulled together under the auspices of the CIPR to try and provide a blue print for the still largely analogue industry. And in this respect it largely succeeds providing a useful primer for the industry. Whether the industry makes good use of the books content is another subject entirely.
Doctoroff is advertising agency J Walter Thompson (JWT)’s man in China. He has been there since the mid-1990s and so has had the time and resources to try and make sense of Chinese culture and how it pertains to consumer behaviour.
Doctoroff provides a good introduction to Chinese culture and as a marketer I found some of the campaigns Doctoroff references really interesting. I read some of the reviews on Amazon and thought them a bit harsh. I would recommend What Chinese Want as a good informative read.
Mark Bowden is better known for his other non-fiction (non-technology) books Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo. He has a background as a journalist and has contributed to The Atlantic magazine. I was curious to know how a non-tech journalist would handle a story as complex as the Conficker botnet as some of the subtleties of technology are lost on people from outside the field.
In terms of timing Worm couldn’t have come out at a better time, Stuxnet autopsies were shedding light on the complexity of the software used to cripple Iran’s nuclear programme and at the time of my reading the book the details of FLAME started to permeate out into the public view.
Bowden did a good job getting to grips with the personalities that he chose to follow around Conficker and the hapless nature of the US government in facing the potential threat posed by Conficker; but I don’t think that he got under the skin of hacker culture or the technology.
Because of this aspects of the characters become cartoon-like and the technology in an overly superficial way that is more Marvel than Discovery Channel. And since no one knows who really built Conficker or what it was really designed to do it feels like one of them TV series that gets cut by the network half-way through first run with the script writers desperately trying to tidy away loose ends.
I found the book a welcome break from the academic books that seem to be my life at the moment, but somewhat wanting in terms of substance.
The Great Reset is a North American financial crisis tinged refresh of Richard Florida’s earlier work Who is your city? which looks at the way the knowledge economy and the creative classes who work within it tend to cluster in certain cities. Florida sets the scene by looking at the way two different financial recessions had affected the American landscape. Changes in 1870, saw emigration from the countryside to the cities to participate in the US version of the industrial revolution.
The 1930s with the rise of the motor car was the start of the suburb as an easier commute to work and a more pleasant environment than the inner city.
The financial crisis Florida posits will herald a reinvention of the city. Young people in the creative classes no longer own a car and have different aspirations including a lower propensity to buy luxury goods; they want to live closer to work and amenities. In an energy poor future local will become much more important, so high density urban living will happen in city clusters where the knowledge economies congregate.
Whilst interesting The Great Reset felt as if Richard Florida was phoning this book in rather than shaking the tree. Whilst his ideas were interesting there wasn’t the sense of discovery there. Secondly the book much more more North American centric than before. If you’ve read Who is your city? leave this one on the shelf and walk on by.
Disclaimer: I have known Wadds and Earl for 14 or so years, they were my bosses on the LSI Logic account when I worked in my first agency role.
The authors have distilled the wisdom of modern day PR practitioners into an accessible paperback. Attempts are made at populism with interviews from high profile pundits like Alistair Campbell.
This veneer of populism hides the real value of the book. Brand Anarchy isn’t a populist book like No Logo. Instead the value of it is for the likes of inexperienced account managers at an PR agency who need to have informed opinion once they start to think about providing strategic counsel to their clients.
The book bridges traditional corporate communications with the online world and discusses some recent crises that had a substantial online component. If you work in PR make Brand Anarchy part of your holiday reading.
I wanted some light reading as I traveled and Zuckerman’s account of how John Paulson bet against the US housing market seemed as good a read as any. As a non-financial person I found some if it very illuminating:
Like innovations such as the the light bulb there were a number of people trying to make this trade work, some of them like Michael Burry had the trade messed up by his own investors who were withdrawing funds as he was making money killing the trade in the water. Quite why Burry was a zero and Paulson was a hero wasn’t clearly articulated
The banks not only packed toxic investments that drove the market but also developed the interests that could hedge against it in a cost-effective manner, with many of them screwing themselves
Banks actively screwed their customers, even when they were being paid for advice. If I did that as an agency person I would leave myself open legally and would also likely get censured by the CIPR
There was generally a lack of critical thinking and what-if scenario planning at the banks involved. On the one hand some of the most numerate people I have known come from an investment banking background. On the other hand investment models are often kludged together with massive Excel spreadsheets and macros – which I imagine plays hell with trying to get a helicopter view of an institution’s financial position
The key problem was one of timing, with investors essentially continually betting on black until the roulette wheel swung in their favour. They had no sense of the when beyond a vague ‘soon’
Zuckerman managed to make the subject matter accessible and understandable. One gets the sense that Paulson was fortunate rather than immensely talented as there didn’t seem to be a lot separating him from other people making the same bet until he rolled the dice one last time.
I’ve known Graham for a number of years. We first met when he ran MobileYouth selling marketing research to mobile operators, focused on the youth market. All is social is a mix: Graham’s own journey as an observer of Japanese society during his time as a JET scheme member and onwards with his experience in market research to date and a treatise on the interactions of consumers and brands. He considers that this all has an essential social component which makes a lot of sense.
Graham puts out marketing, the idea of branding on its head. Instead brand comes from consumer’s use for the brand, or what we describe as ‘intent and context’ at Ruder Finn. He thinks that innovation is in the use rather than the design. I’d be less inclined to completely believe this, when I think about how iconic design and engineering can make a difference:
Dieter Rams work at Braun, which was part of the German economic miracle and has echoed down into many Apple products
Christian Lindholm’s work at Nokia on smartphone user experience: S60
The industrial of design of Sony from the 1960s through the 1990s
Henry Ford and the Model T
The user experience of Twitter and Google
But anthropological co-creation can make a real difference. Whilst Graham’s writing focuses on young people, I think that it the principles fit consumers in general. Check it out Kindle.
Daniel Yergin became the defacto historian of the oil industry when he published his first history of the industry with The Prize. The Quest is a logical successor to The Prize, whilst not exactly being a sequel to the book. Which means that readers who are new to Mr Yergin’s work can pick up the book and read The Quest without having read his earlier work.
Whilst the body of the book is from the decline of the cold war onwards, Yergin delves into history where context is needed. Secondly, Yergin dives into alternative energy sources including a balanced view on nuclear, wind and solar power. His insightful analysis of these alternatives makes compelling reading.
All of this detail comes at a cost; The Quest is a weighty book both in terms of its size and the amount of content that you have to go through. His work is a wake-up call to the energy industry, policy makers and environmentalists alike – all of which have been guilty of not having a sensible attitude towards energy.
I ended up sleeping a lot of the time during Christmas so my reading suffered. Here are the books that I am currently reading.
My Rugged 211 by Minoru Onozato – To be honest with you I am more leafing through this than avidly reading it for reasons that will become apparent. Onozato-san is editor-in-chief of Free&Easy; a Japanese style magazine that has been a driving force since the late 1990s in Japanese style circles. The magazine focuses on European and American work-wear and former fashions. This is one of the reasons why Japan is the home of brands that look to bring authenticity into their clothing from reproduction brands like Buzz Rickson, Iron Heart and Sugarcane to the likes of Neighborhood. It’s this movement that made Sperry Topsiders and Red Wing boots popular again – Hoxton was a johnny-come-lately to these trends.
In the same way that i-D magazine, Paul Smith, Shawn Stüssy and Vivienne Westwood were held dear by the Japanese fashion industry during the 1980s and early 1990s; Free&Easy shares a similar role in western stylists today. My Rugged 211 is a trip into Onozato-san’s wardrobe: my rugged actually means fashion staples for what Stüssy called Burly Gear: everything from vintage Ray-Ban classes and US Air Force service shoes to items from street-wear brands like Tenderloin. A lot of it is the clothing equivalent crate-digging for vinyl record fans. I have been surprised by the amount of Ralph Lauren that he liked.
Like the fashion items that Onozato-san outlines, My Rugged 211 is easiest ordered from eBay and costs about 60 quid.
The Quest by Daniel Yergin. The Quest is a sequel to his history of the energy sector The Prize which is the de-facto account of the oil and gas industry gracing the bookshelves of pretty much everyone I knew in the industry. The Quest picks up the story from the break up of the Soviet Union onwards. Providing an in-depth view of the events around this helps to explain recent history from before and through 9/11. Its a big dense book and it is compelling but slow-going.
Energy is linked to world events because it is the glue and the building blocks of our modern world – from the circuit board of my laptop to fueling the air cargo flight that brought my MacBook Pro in from the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen.
Reamde by Neal Stephenson. Reamde is the latest book by Neal Stephenson – its relatively uncomplicated cyberpunk book more akin of William Gibson’s recent work than Stephenson’s closest work Cryptonomicon. As with most of Stephenson’s other work it pulls in the reader. More on this once I have finished it.
New Rules for the New Economy by Kevin Kelly. Alongside the Wired reprint pamphlet Encyclopedia of the New Economy by John Browning and Spencer Reiss were probably some of the best books written in the late 1990s about how the interest was going to change things. New Rules for the New Economy is a book that I like to revisit now and again to take stock of things. Part of the reason is that Kelly was smart enough to put in caveats around his discussions of those changes which people tend to forget, like a former American colleague of mine who used to berate anyone whose clients wouldn’t put the budgets into social media as giving into scarcity thinking rather than plenty thinking like it was a demented new age mantra to ward off evil spirits.
Of course the tone of the book needs to be taken with a pinch of salt; it has a Gilderesque sense of boundless optimism that infused American writing from the end of the cold war until 9/11. It also failed to take account technical issues of network build-out, the limited capacity of wireless spectrum and buffer bloat; or the developing world’s desire to give over legislative powers to the media industry lobbyists and attempt to strangle the ‘net. Regardless of these issues it is a great read, and out of all the books, the one that I am making the most progress on.
I was interested by Mark Buchanan’s work because of the understanding that it promised for networks. Buchanan does a good job at simplifying scientific theory in a similar to James Gleick at the start of the book and it certainly provides food for thought. However, the book could be a third shorter if the editors had cut out the Malcolm Gladwellesque detours which add no value to the books central premise. I’d advise you to save your money and move on.
Happy Venture reading system books with Dick and Dora. My first memory of reading was about a boy named Dick and a girl named Dora. They had a pet dog called Nip and a cat called Fluff. Part of the reason why these books appeared is that although I didn’t have a sister I did share the house with a willful yellow Labrador that would get up to similar devilment to Nip. There was something of the haiku about the sentences in the book:
This is Dick.
Run, Dick, run.
Nip is a dog.
Nip, run to Dick.
What I didn’t know to much later is that the books were carefully crafted by a husband and wife team of Australian educationalists who had done a lot of research during the second world war on primary school learning. Fred and Eleanor Schonell’s books were the standard reading system for English pretty much everywhere outside the US. There are some who think that the US Dick and Jane books by Gray and Sharp plagarised the Happy Venture books. If you want to blame anybody for this blog, Fred and Eleanor Schonell would be as good a people as any.
Ireland: a history by Robert Kee. Growing up at the end of the 1970s was a complicated time. The world was a more chaotic place than it is now (though I realise that maybe hard to believe). My Dad believed that I needed to have a good grasp of my own history and that would allow me to drive my own path, so he got me to read this dense academic history book that was originally written to accompany Ireland: a TV history – a co-production between RTÉ & the BBC. Kee was a British journalist who’d worked on Panorama with the series producer Jeremy Isaacs. Isaacs had produced The World At War in the early 1970s and my Dad had been a fan of the series because of its thoroughness and multifaceted viewpoint. To be honest with you I dreaded reading this book at the time because it was so big and there was so many words, but my Dad’s rationale stuck with me.
How It Works – Marshall Cavendish part works. My Dad used to read a lot whilst working shifts in the shipyard. He used to buy pulp paperbacks by the likes of Hammond Innes and Alistair McLean from a second-hand bookseller in Birkenhead market. One day he came home after being to the bookseller that lunch time. Instead of the usual couple of paperbacks was an open cardboard box under his arm and inside was a 50-volume part-work magazine published by Marshall Cavendish called How It Works. I used to dip in and out of it coming out of it with the answers to questions that I never knew I wanted to ask. The articles were generally better written and illustrated than the comparable Wikipedia article and there was a serendipity in randomly picking an issue and reading. Marshall Cavendish have re-released this at different times in different editions and with different numbers of volumes.
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. I remember being at primary school and hating having to pretend being Bilbo creeping around the dragon’s lair as some sort of half-assed drama class. It was accompanied by the BBC dramatisation of the book. The recording inspired me to read Tolkien’s book despite the acting lesson trauma. The Hobbit acted as an on-ramp to the Lord Of The Rings series, I was fascinated by the intricate structure of it all: the multi-layered story that Tolkien created.
Modern Petroleum Technology – Institute of Petroleum. I had wanted to work in the oil industry for two main reasons: at the time I was living at the top of the Mersey basin which was dominated by oil refineries and chemical plants. Whilst environmentalists may see them as monstrosities in my child eyes they were a silver and fiery cathedral. The second influence was John Wayne’s portrayal of Red Adair in Hellfighters.
My Dad managed to borrow an old edition of Modern Petroleum Technology and I read through both volumes to help me prepare for a career in the oil industry. I eventually left the oil industry to study in marketing at university, but the experience that I gained put me in good stead for my subsequent roles.
The Art Of War – Sun Tzu. Despite having 13 chapters, The Art of War is a slim volume and an easy read. I dip into this book every so often and have done for the past 20 years. Everything else written on strategy is layered in unnecessary window dressing.
Principles of Marketing – Phillip Kottler. Doing my degree meant spending a lot of time with this book in a blue and grey Prentice Hall cover. Kotler’s work is thought to be the bible for marketers. To be honest with you, by the time I had finished my course I hated Kotler, his book sat on my shelf taunting me. It is the only book that I have burned.
Accidental Empires by Robert X. Cringely – I came across Accidental Empires in the library at university and it was a revelation. Mark Stephens aka Robert X. Cringely had lived and breathed Silicon Valley, working at employee number 12 at a very young Apple Computer; so he made the ideal guide to the technology industry. Unlike most books that provide a background in technology, Cringely wrote in an informal style and gave the warts and oil side to the story. The book gave me a really good primer on the technology sector which came in handy when I went to work for The Weber Group in their London office. Despite the fact that the book was last updated in 1997, it is still worthwhile getting a copy from your local book shop.
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig. I’d done and seen a lot by the time I got to college. One of the things I used to do was read a lot, especially whilst working a boring shift. I had an older friend who had was well educated, but bummed out and used to smoke a lot. He switched me on to ZATAOMM. On getting to college, during my final year there I spent a good deal of time sharing a house with a fellow ZATAOMM devotee. I still go back to this work and the follow-up Lila to reset my inner compass when life throws me a curve ball.
Ogilvy on Advertising – David Ogilvy. Everything that we do whether we realise it at the time or not builds on or is a derivative of the work of people who have gone before us. Reading Ogilvy on Advertising early in my agency career brought that home as I continually saw ideas redressed and polished for new audiences. For instance, some of the posts that I have written here to do with the ethics of social media mirror the same level of respect that Ogilvy had for the audience of his advertisement campaigns.
Everywhere is the latest (and I think third book on digital marketing) by Larry Weber. It is aimed at senior executives in large organisations who may not be that digital savvy; so I am about as far from the target market as you can get. So what does it give the digital marketer? It’s an easy-to-read book that you can get through on a long train ride or short haul plane journey. Weber has collated some great social business examples that you can use to pepper presentations to clients with.
It won’t change the world, it isn’t anything radically different, but it is extremely accessible.
I bought this book automatically because I had previously read and enjoyed Levy’s previous works: Insanely Great, Hackers and Chaos. Given his heritage covering technology companies and personalities as both an author and a journalist, I was curious what he would make of Google.
The book is expansive and provides a lot of additional colour around Google, some of which I found of interest as I had worked at Yahoo! competing against Google and working with some of the early darlings of the web 2.0 movement – Flickr and Delicious. There were a couple of things that surprised me such as Google’s use of machine learning on areas like translation explained why grammar is still so bad in this area as it needs heuristics that lexicographers could provide similar to that offered by Crystal Semantics.
Overall it was interesting to see that as with most large organisations Google is not only fallible but run through with realpolitik and a fair bit of serendipity. This contrasts with the external perception of Google as the technological Übermensch. A classic example of this is the series of missteps Google made whilst competing in China, which are documented in the book. From staffing practices, promotional tactics and legal to technology; Google blew it’s chances and Baidu did a better job.
As an aside it was interesting to note that Google used queries on rival search engines to try and work out how to comply with Chinese government regulations, which is eerily like bad practices that Google accused Bing of last February in ‘hiybbprqag’-gate.
There is a curious myopia that runs through a lot of later Google product thinking that reminded me of the reality and perceptions that I was aware of existing inside Microsoft from the contact I have had with the organisation through the various different agencies I have worked at. A classic example of this is the Google view of a file-less future, which by implication assumes that people won’t have legacy documents or use services other than the Google cloud. It is a myopia that comes part of arrogance and a patronising attitude towards the consumer that Google always knows best about every aspect of their needs.
Contrast this with Apple and iTunes. Whilst Apple would like to sell you only content from the iTunes store, it recognises that you will have content from different sources: Amazon MP3s, ripped CDs, podcasts and self-created files that iTunes needs to play nicely with.
The ‘no files’ approach assumes ubiquitous bandwidth which is likely to be a fiction for a while. (Part of the reason why I am able to write this post is that I was stuck for half-a-day on a train journey to Wales enjoying patchy mobile phone coverage and a wi-fi free environment, which allowed me to focus on reading this book in hardback). This approach smacks of the old data lock-in that Microsoft used to have with proprietary file formats for its Office documents.
Levy does a good job pulling all of this together and chronicling Google, but he fails to cast a critical eye over it all. I suspect that this is because he is too close to the company: the access that he gained enveloped him. Which is a shame as all the experience and insight Levy could bring to the book that would add value to the reader is omitted. Whilst In The Plex is an interesting historical document, it could be so much more.
On leaving office, Gordon Brown immediately spent a lot of time hammering out a book Beyond The Crash. Unlike Peter Mandelson this wasn’t the Westminster equivalent of a sordid kiss-and-tell exposé or a Tony Blair-esque sales brochure to secure speaking engagements. Instead Brown set out to do what he does best, putting on page deep thought and analysis about the knotty problem of global finances. He did an excellent job of marshaling ideas and sources in the book. His grasp on Asian economics and China in particular is very good. There is a whole section on the Asian crisis of 1998 which is well worth reading on its own.
In this respect, the book is a solid piece of work, Brown isn’t as compelling a writer as other economic thinkers that the Labour party has looked to like Will Hutton; but he does a good job at making his ideas and concepts understandable to the average reader.
Where things go wrong with the book is where Brown tries to humanise his writing. His comments of praise for colleagues and other politicians feels wooden, as if it was written into his book as a postscript. And it is because of this that we see a glimpse of Brown the politician; the polar opposite of his predecessor Tony Blair. Someone who thought at great depth and knew what to do but didn’t have the surface finish.
If you are prepared to persevere with the book, it is a good read, and is currently for sale in Amazon Marketplace at a massive discount to the cover price.