For Those in Media Awaiting Lots of Extra Web Staff…

I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that lots of companies – newspapers, TV and PR/marketing – are all saying that they aren’t dipping their toes into a proper web presence or web2.0-skilled staff until they get more staff to do so.

Here’s a newsflash: they aren’t coming.

Is that crap: yes. Is it fair: probably not, but it’s the way it is.

Basic abilities to make audio recordings, some simple video shooting/editing, understand concepts like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube should now all be standard for anyone wanting to come into media fields. Apple alone make enough tools to make the above simple.

If you don’t want to learn, then fine. There’s plenty like you and there’s plenty of places you’ll be able to get by. (And just so you know, the above are the basics – as elementary as learning how to type.)

But you shouldn’t have got into media to get by.

Here’s some web2.0 advice for PR firms hit with negative publicity

As reported on The Guardian here, Finsbury has found itself becoming part of the story – in this case, involving their involvement with mining firm Vedanta and land involving one of India’s most isolated tribes – the Dongria Kondh. Basically, a group of protestors from Survivor International turned up outside the Finsbury London office.

Now, the article is balanced and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops. No doubt Finsbury will be their usual excellent and professional operation, but here’s how I would have played this, once the protestors had turned up:

0) Pre-plan from the moment you know this is controversial.
1) See what happens, but have documents backing up the claims in The Guardian article ready. Realise that now the firm is involved in the story, it’s about the PR firm and the client.
2) Get a release out there, place it on the company blog and website, back this up with other documents and interviews with key client personnel. For PR press have someone ready with comment in text, audio and video. Be available for podcasts with key press.
3) Take control of the story. Don’t be seen to be reacting to the protest. Put out a statement on the facts and ensure it goes to all the social media outlets that Survival are using.
4) Move on, using a positive news element. Continue monitoring websites and press.

That way, the story is totally balanced and you are seen to be handling it. All of that can be done before a news cycle is complete. In fact, that should all be done for lunchtime if the protest happened at 9am.

And that’s just the basics of what firms should be doing in terms of PR in these web2.0 times.

(and yes, the same tips could be applied for a counter-offensive by Survival)

(anyone wondering why I don’t post the indepth tips – well, that’s what the dayjob and rates are for 🙂 )

More than one way to tell a story

The headline’s hardly new and as those who know me can back up, I love seeing how different forms of media report on events. And just as we’ve seen Twitters alert people to what happened in China, it turns out that one of the world’s oldest forms of communication has been doing it as well and providing a very human side to the earthquakes.

Seven pages of human stories from the China disaster here.

UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that there’s an interview with Coco Wang, the writer and illustrator, talking about the project here – and that they plan to do at least 100 stories this way.

Herald loses Michael Tierney

Let’s role play: you’re a senior person at a well-regarded newspaper. Let’s call it The Herald. You have a reporter that’s won more awards than the rest of the paper put together. Let’s call him Michael Tierney.

The newspaper beancounters insist on more cuts – and the award-winner takes it.


This is a shame for the Herald (formerly known as the Glasgow Herald). I know there’s more talented staff there and they’ll rally round and keep on getting the best paper and website out that they can with their resources, but what is it with the Scottish media scene at the moment and its hell-bent determination to get the best people out of jobs?

As for Michael? I hear he’s wrapping up a book and I’m sure newspapers who like award-winning feature writers (at a Scottish and UK level) will be in touch. 

After all, how often do journalists who have had the likes of Washington Post Watergate-era editor Ben Bradlee backing them come up?


Michael at the recent Scottish Press Awards after winning

Why is so much PR crap?

It’s a question that’s been put to me time and time again – and I’ve asked it myself when in various journalism job and up until now, I’ve wondered if perhaps Oli Norman of Dada had a point when he bemoaned the lack of Scottish PR talent.

Now I don’t know every PR person in Scotland, but I know there are a helluva lot of good operators up here and I consider myself lucky to have learned or worked with a lot of them, but ultimately a lot of journalists still think PR output is crap – in fact they would use stronger words.

A lot of reporters and news editors moan about the quality of news releases – and this has been bugging me because a lot of ex-reporters are now PR types, so surely the one thing you could count on would be a decent press release.

Well, no, as it turns out.

I’ve seen lots of reporters come into PR over the last few years and asked them – after they’ve written it – if they would use their own release and the answer, more often than expected has been ‘naw’.

And why? Most common answer was that the release was about what they saw as a non-story (but one the client had demanded a release about), however the second point was more telling: it was written like a press release and not a news story.

Upon further probing, it transpired that the hacks-turned-flacks were writing what they thought was press release style – based on what they had been handed/seen in the newsrooms they had worked in.

So while there might be a lot of talent up here now, the sins of sloppy writing in the past are still impacting on the trade today.

In closing then, a tip for hacks who jump over: a press release for a news page should be written like a news story for the publication you are aiming for.

Do that and at some point I can guarantee your release will be cut and pasted straight in with just a byline (never yours mind) added on.

If you don’t have a Scottish PR person, does that mean you don’t care about the brands?

As has been reported here and here, InBev PR supremo Rob Bruce has moved on from the drinks giant and while the reasons for it are being kept confidential, the fact that there isn’t someone in place right away suggests that it wasn’t a planned move and for a large brand like that – especially as T in the Park is just around the corner and there’s a lot of pressure on the booze industry – that’s dangerous and for a company the size of Tennents it seems incredible that their PR team was just one man.

Now no doubt the agency who work with Tennents, the incredibly talented Burt Greener, will keep the ship on an even keel, but an agency still needs guidance from in-house. 

And it does raise an interesting question: do multinationals like InBev need a PR team in countries like Scotland or can they rule from elsewhere and leave the local work to agencies?

There are those who may think that for InBev it would be a PR disaster if they didn’t appoint a Scottish person as you’d have concerns that the Scottish brand didn’t matter and that it was being ruled from a foreign country at a time when everyone else in Scotland is talking about more independence or increased devolution, but there is also the point of view that as long as you have a good agency, then all is well.

I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle – that you can have smaller staff press/marketing teams as long as you have one or two staff in-house backed by an excellent agency (I can think of at least one off the top of my head.)

As for Rob, there’s not a lot of senior posts at his level in the country, but someone with more than a decade of experience of large-scale sporting and public events, political astuteness, crisis skills and a fantastic reputation amongst journalists like him should be able to find something soon.

If only there was an international event needing a head of PR…

Herald to be gone in six years – but to live online

As has been well reported in the UK and Scottish media, 40 more jobs are to go at The Herald newspaper in Glasgow (technically, it claims to be a Scottish paper but the vast majority of staff are based in Glasgow and for many it’s still a West Coast paper).

Now morale is as you would expect, hellishly low (and it wasn’t exactly high to start with) but the staff at all the titles still keep pushing to get the best papers they can out and a number of people are wondering if now is the time to take the two-weeks-for-every-year option on offer. But there may be big changes ahead – and sadly more redundancies. But it will mean that The Herald can live on.

I’ve spoken to a number of people inside Newsquest who believe that there is a plan for within six years for one of the three main Scottish Newsquest titles to no longer be available in print but be a web-only publication. 

Could The Herald live on? It would be a brave move, but in an age where we already have unlimited data tariffs for phones and PDAs and mobile broadband is becoming even more ubiquitous.

One sad thing is for sure though – it won’t be produced with as many staff as it is today.

Unless there’s a massive upswing in Scottish companies embracing the internet and advertising styles, the money just simply won’t be there – unless we see a return to the Press Barons of old who weren’t always concerned with news being a profitable business. 

And why should this matter to those in PR? Quite obvious. If The Herald does go fully online – and it’s done properly (something I have my doubts about given the current state of Scottish news on the internet), any company that thinks just throwing out a press release and nothing else will get it the hits is going to be sadly mistaken.