Revealing your children online

This may seem practically luddite but something I won’t be doing here – well, not deliberately often at any rate – is posting a lot involving my children’s names , schools, pictures and so on. I don’t even do a lot of it on Facebook.

The main reason is that I think online should be their place  to go onto and discover as and when they want and it’s not up to me to put them online: they should have the ability to decide how much (and if) they want to be online. In the meantime I still get to blog about them and the people who know them – grandparents and so on who can’t do Facebook – can still check in here from time to time.

(it reminds me of a chat I had with Warren Ellis around the time Matt Fraction had his kid and we differed on revealing so much online. Warren felt that the sheer quantity of stuff put out by parents and others would swamp anything that prospective employers and so on might find, while I felt data mining would get better and besides, it was the kid’s choice as to how much was online anyway.)

All of which does beg one question: when this generation grows up, how are they going to take parents having posted chunks of details about their lives online? Even worse, there will be intimate details of their parents online…

U2 live broadcast will be battle of radio versus internet and piracy

As every U2 fan knows, tonight sees Bauer Media broadcast a full U2 show live from Sheffield, which is quite an interesting and audacious stunt (and must have cost a bomb).

Where this excites me is it will be interesting to see the figures afterwards. Most people I know aren’t intending to listen to this on the radio – they’re listening to it on their desktops and laptops so that they can record a digital version of the show that they can then put on iPods and so on.

So what’s the lesson from this? Old media can survive in new times – as long as they have the good content.

(What will be really interesting is to see if there’s any provision made for blocking people from outside the UK from listening.)

Tale of an old newspaper shows why paid news websites may be the future after all

(bear with me for a couple of pars, this is all relevant)

Once upon a time, there was a paper in Scotland with 30 staff. They were passionate, they worked hard, they broke a lot of good scoops and – along with some decent sales and marketing promotions – they got their circulation up to 115,000, putting it in the top four papers at the time.

But it was 10p and, as this wasn’t a News International title, that sort of thing can’t be sustained and as the price went up, circulation went down – but the reporters and staff battled on.

Then two weeks before one Xmas, 26 were shown the door. Circulation went down a little but stabilised around the 40,000 mark before slowly declining some more – but the paper was full price so it was way more profitable than it had been at 115,000 at 10p and a staff of 30.

Then three more reporters were sacked and circulation went down to around 33,000 at full price, making it even more profitable.

(That’s the Scottish Daily Mirror for those wondering)

What does this have to do with online news? Well Stewart Kirkpatrick, Shaun Milne, Iain Bruce have all had their stab at the recent chat over paywalls. They think – like the vast majority of people – that the concept is ultimately flawed.

And they may have a point. In an age of the BBC and where the news in most papers seems identical, why should they pay?

But here’s the thing: if you have 100,000 readers online and 99,500 run away when you bring in a paywall, the other 500 paying mean that your site is suddenly making more money than it did before. Even if they only pay £1 each, that’s £500 you never had before. And I’ll bet that right now, most would take the 500 who pay over the 99,500 freetards.

And it may sound cartel-like but if one of them starts to make even a little money, you’ll see all the other papers have a little tinker with it as well until they learn how to use advertising better for the digital age.

This may well be the one case where less truly is more. Don’t make it right, but I’ll bet it’s the thinking.

Twitter PR advice line set up

The site here will be going back to being a blog about everything-but-PR soon (with the PR and media posts appearing elsewhere) but for the next week or so it’s a bit of an interim period.

Anyway, as part of the changes, I’ve decided that instead of having a PR mailing list, I’ve set up a PR Tips Tweet stream (I may add in something with FriendFeed at some point too) – it makes more sense, especially if you’re meant to or want to learn about social media.

Anyway, you can find it at and it will be getting updated at least four times daily.

Daily Mirror Shows Even More Contempt for Scotland and Scottish Readers

(usual disclaimer: The Mirror sacked me and 26 other people two weeks before Xmas a few years ago leaving a team of four. They’ve since sacked the rest of the team, leaving one person to cover a country in the UK with 5million people)

Anyway, the Daily Mirror is launching a new football website and there’s a blurb there about what it’s going to have, which is all fine and fair enough. And it’s early days, but what’s there that will grate on a few Scotsmen?

  • Is it the lack of Scottish pictures? (They couldn’t even put one up?)
  • Is the the lack of mention of the first UK team to lift the top European trophy?
  • Or is it a shot from 1966 and the build-up to that game?

Actually, what I think annoys me most is the writing on it – there’s not one mention of Scottish achievements or even a hint that the Scottish clubs will be mentioned and the pictures updated. The text implies that it’s covering one Premiership in one country and it isn’t Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.

Anyone know? I’m sure they are going to have Scottish stuff but would be nice to know…and let’s be honest, the Old Firm fans (and the others) will fork out if there are some nice shots to be bought.

And, will there be  a tidy iPhone app to go along with it?

Herald freelance deal isn’t great – but it could be a lot worse

There ‘s been another stushie kicked off with The Herald revealing the new pay rates for shifters and casuals. AllMediaScotland has the details here.

Now the rates and offers aren’t great, but let’s take a reality check here and consider some of the offers that have come from media companies, it’s not horrifically bad, particularly if you are young and starting out or have a decent redundancy payment already in your back pocket.

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Review: Apple iPhone as a tool for journalism or PR – epic failure

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved the potential of mobile communications for professional communicators including journalists and PR types. I remember in 2000 sitting with glee at getting a Nokia 6210 to work with a Targus folding keyboard and a Handspring Visor. I loved using that kit in the field. Others used the Nokia Communicator for similar results but back then the Communicator was a pricey piece of kit.

Fast forward to 2009 and there’s two real contenders out there for journalists wanting as much of an all in one solution as possible: Nokia’s N97 and Apple’s third stab at the iPhone, the iPhone 3GS.

Last year I had the chance to go up to the music festival T in the Park and put the N95 through a heavy duty field test. Since then I’ve also had a run-through with the Flip and Qik. This year’s T in the Park gave me a chance to test Apple’s latest hyped phone and, as you may have guessed from the headline, boy was I disappointed.

Note: Lots of video and pic links after the jump…

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Is T in the Park PR reporting offer PR genius, #prfail or journalism’s worst nightmare?

I know I’ve blogged in the past about companies buying reporters as a way of guaranteeting coverage, but at last weekend’s T in the Park, I saw an offering by Material PR (who, as always, played a blinder for most of the weekend) that was either out and out genius or the 21st Century Faustian bargain. In short, it was this: “unable to cover all the acts you need/want to cover? Tell us, the T in the Park PR company and we’ll arrange for words and pics for you.”

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Note to Press: I’m not the T in the Park press guy

Last week I had a few calls asking if I could arrange tickets for T in the Park for people. Not an unusual request in itself it has to be said. I’m sure at this time of year most PR types, especially those with music festival and drink brand experience, find themselves being asked that by friends.

What was unusual was that these requests were coming from press down south and abroad, not from friends and family (either that or my friends and family are now impersonating press. Hope they aren’t phone tapping too…)

One quick look at Google showed why: I’m ranking number one under the phrase ‘T in the Park PR‘ which is nice, mostly on the back of my post about using the Nokia N95 as a PR/reporting tool. (for those interested in that sort of comparison review, here’s one with the N95 and Flip camera.)

Now I’m heading up again this year, staying at Airth Castle, and instead of the N95 it’s going to be the first real tryout for the new white 32GB iPhone 3GS that turned up here thank to Carphone Warehouse last week. Should be interesting to see how they compare, especially as the iPhone has the weaker battery and camera.

And in the meantime, anyone looking for the real T in the Park PR for this year should get in touch with these fine fellows.

Now I know there’s money in social media: Gordon Beattie’s hiring

Since setting out solo to specialise in digital/social media PR (but still offering traditional PR to those who aren’t convinced of digital), there’s been many of those 5am moments where I’ve wondered if I made the right move. After all it can be a scary thing, especially in a country which has been slow to embrace a lot of the positives of digital communications for reaching out to customers.

But now I know there’s money to be made in social media – Gordon Beattie’s looking for people in that area.

Now lots of people have opinions about Gordon, but one undeniable fact is this: he’s a damn canny businessman with one of the most successful traditional PR companies in the UK at Beattie Communications (you could also argue that he was behind the success of The Big Partnership as well because it was his seniors from Beattie who started that after working with Gordon) and he doesn’t throw money into schemes that he doesn’t think won’t make money back. And he now has a house in Monaco to prove how successful he’s been, which by any benchmark is a job well done.

(interesting sidenote: I see on the Beattie homepage, it now says ‘London PR Agency’ – has the company moved away from its Scottish roots?)

It’s also good to see the larger PR companies accept and realise that social media and digital comms have a role to play. I know I was banging on that drum more than two years ago when I worked at Beattie, so it’s good to see Gordon taking a lead amongst the agencies in Scotland. He already has the very talented Chris Marritt on his books so the person coming in will need to know their stuff and I’m sure they’ll be able to create some good work worth talking about.

The knock-on effect is that others will also have to keep up and start hiring/training which in turns means more people out there showcasing the benefits of digital and social media communications in Scotland.

Gordon Beattie: still trailblazing. Heh. That gives me a chuckle over my cornflakes.

(Anyway, for those interested in the positions: the programmer job is based in Falkirk but the social media post can be in any of the Beattie offices.) (And if you need to ask how to apply then you haven’t grasped enough of social media yet.)

PR sex scandal shows why you should always keep your desk clean

(Sex scandal might be a bit much, but let’s be honest the gossip scene has been a tad quiet recently. The recession’s got everywhere!)

Anyway, word – and evidence – reaches me of the following scenario involving a junior PR person. The man had been taken on for a three-month trial period, it hadn’t worked out, so he was let go. Now unfortunately the guy was a tad egomaniacal so the non-renewal of contract didn’t end well and he was told that his desk items would be sent out to him.

So the MD of the company decides to get his hands a little dirty by clearing the desk and send the stuff away in a box. At first it’s all the usual stuff – letters from home, pictures of wife and kids, bank statements, notepads, business cards and so on – until he finds (in the second drawer) a page ripped from a popular, evening mass-market Scottish newspaper.

He’s in PR, a newspaper cutting isn’t unusual right?

Except for one fact: this was the page from said newspaper that advertised saunas (or rather “saunas”) and other services that some know to be fronts for sexual services and prostitution.

Now, hang on, you might say, it was the other side of the page he was interested in. And I might agree if it wasn’t for one thing: each of the “services” had been circled, some had comments next to them and most had handwritten notes on how much they charged for an hour and a half-hour of services.

A quick check of the company’s phone logs revealed that, yup, the member of staff had called each of these establishments, leading to cries of “dirty git” (and some word that sounded like banker) from the MD. Said MD was also more than a tad peeved that his ex-member of staff hadn’t got any of the sex companies signed up for PR services (what? There’s a recession going on.). A further check also revealed said member of staff had been calling premium rate phone number services.

Now said MD is peeved as this guy had been given latitude to be a PR superstar and this was how he was rewarded. But he’s not going to take it any further. All he’s done is post all his items back to the guy, newspaper page at the top of the box. What the MD can’t remember is if he addressed the box just to the ex-employee or to the ex-employee and his wife…

So the motto of the tale is this kiddies: keep your desk tidy , keep on the good side of your MD and try to never leave an employer under a bad cloud.

And for those wondering: yes I’ve seen the page in question (I doubted this tale until a scan was sent over to me) and no I’m not naming the bloke (but he lives and works in Edinburgh) (in Scotland) (or used to work there) but if anyone hires me to help with social media/digital media recruitment and this guy’s name comes up. Well…

NLA goes hell for leather to destroy newspapers online with backlink charging plan

(I know the site is still in a state but this is too important not to post quickly)

Now, here’s an interesting one, passed on to me by someone we shall call CIPRMole where basically the NLA (the Newspaper Licensing Association) want to charge organisations – starting with cuttings services then moving on to others by 2010 – for including links to newspaper stories:

The NLA has informed us that from 1 September 2009 it is introducing a new licence for web aggregator services (such as Meltwater News) that forward links to newspaper websites and for Press Cuttings Agencies undertaking this type of activity. From January 2010, the licence charges will also apply to PR practitioners and other organisations forwarding links to newspaper websites as part of their commercial activity. This will apply to almost all newspaper websites excluding News International titles and the FT.

I’ve dropped an email into the NLA, telling them about this blogpost and asking a few questions, but what I want to know is:

1) Are they targetting everyone with this? So every backlink to a paper is going to result in a charge?

2) Are they going to backdate the charging?

3) If they are only targetting companies and not individuals, why the discrimination?

4) How are they going to enforce this? Particularly on anonymous blogs or blogs hosted outside the UK?

5) Are they prepared to destroy the hits going to the newspaper websites while the BBC rakes in the hits?

6) Google Alerts and Google News are the biggest news aggregator that exist. Are they going after them or just small companies they think they have a chance of getting money from?

7) If they are collecting cash on behalf of the content generators – ie, the papers, will they put pressure on the papers to share that extra money with the original content generators – the news agencies and so on?

8 ) What about services like the Daily Dust and Net News Daily? Will you collect funds for them?

9) Do you accept that your actions may stop people linking to newspapers sites, therefore causing traffic to collapse, which could lead to more redundancies and potentially (when you factor in the decline of print editions) brands disappearing completely?

This idea smacks to me of the best of old-school thinking. I’m still processing it, so I’ll add more thoughts later, but I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts from both sides of the PR/Journalism debate as it affects everyone.

Tell you one thing, if it comes through I’d say to clients, to hell with going through NLA members, build your own networks, send your info out to interested parties and those that won’t cost you money. The more I look at this, the more it seems like the NLA wants to press fast forward on not only destroying print media but print media online too.

BBC News Boss in Spam my Staff Plea

While I get here sorted out, you’ll find me doing some guest blogging over at the site of Edinburgh PR firm Holyrood Partnership and I’ve put up a post today where it appears that Scottish BBC News boss Atholl Duncan was asking for PRs to send more releases to his staff – something I’m sure they’re delighted of. Anyway you can find the post at Holyrood Partnership’s: BBC Scotland News Boss: Spam All My Staff Please

RETROFEST 2009 is not cancelled

Mentioning this quickly for a mate. Despite the rumour that appeared on Facebook, Retrofest 2009 in Glasgow has not been cancelled and is going ahead as planned. I have this straight from the organisers.

Why Facebook could cost you $10million – and well done Daily Record for Strachan story

It amazes me how people still don’t think before posting online. Lots of people have been following the couple who made off with the $10million accidentally put in their bank account. Now I’ll leave it to others to debate the morality of it all, but I find it hilarious (in a WTF sort of way) that the reason the cops may now be able to trace them is because of the sister-in-law and her Facebook postings.

I mean, how can we still have people not realising that what they post online will catch up with them in the real world?

(while on the note of social media, well done to the Daily Record for breaking the scoop online about Gordon Strachan resigning – even beating some Celtic diehards – on Twitter. I know some doubt the use of Twitter but things like this show the benefit – quick filing of copy to a mass audience and easily spread about. Well done there chaps)

Beginner’s Guide to Social Media: a talk

Thanks to an invite from Platform PR’s talented Kate Trussler, I’ll be speaking at the May CIPR Young Communicators Networking Event at The Grill on the Corner, Bothwell Street, Glasgow. Won’t be anything too intense – heck, wait and see the young ‘uns will probably end up teaching me a thing or two – but it will definitely be fun.

Anyone wanting to head along should drop Kate a line – it’s a good thing she’s doing here. In her words: “Aimed at those who are relatively new to the industry – at account assistant or executive level – these informal monthly events are a chance to bulk up your contact book and discuss industry issues over wine and nibbles.”

Anyway, perhaps see you there. Failing that, I’m booked for a few more speaking engagements later in the year, details of which I’ll drop in nearer the time.

Nottinghamshire County Council coverup is poor PR with Channel 4’s The Unloved

Just watched and been left drained by Channel4’s The Unloved (part of their Britain’s Forgotten Children week) and there’s a missed PR opportunity – damage limitation and positive PR – for the local council in the tale, Nottinghamshire County Council as well as finding homes for children needing help.

It was a harrowing tale of what children go through in the UK care system and was all the more painful for being told through a child’s point of view. (If you missed the show you can watch it here free until the middle of June.)

What was surprising though was that Nottinghamshire social services (and by extension, their bosses at Nottinghamshire County Council) don’t seem to have been ready for this coming. According to director (and Hollywood actress) Samantha Morton in an Independent interview:

And while Nottinghamshire County Council proved helpful, the county’s social services department were less amenable. “Nottinghamshire social services blocked every single meeting. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anybody. I said to them ‘talk to me… read the script… I want to get this right’. They said no. Staff were warned off. Once again it’s a culture of cover-up.”

In the end, Morton says, she didn’t require their assistance. “I didn’t need to do much research because I’m very much active in the care system. I work for a charity called A National Voice (for children in care) and I’m an ambassador for Save the Children. I also have lots of friends who are residential social workers, who looked after me as a child. I was able to ask them lots of questions off the record.”

Now regardless of what the council’s social work department may think of helping the filming out, the fact is that people are going to watch this, see that it’s set in Nottinghamshire and assume that this show is depicting how it is in the care system in the area. To that end, you would think they would have arranged the following:

  • Positive press – nationally and locally – before the show aired.
  • Someone online monitoring/responding what people were saying about the show as it aired – there was plenty of chat about The Unloved on Twitter for example. (C4 should have done this as well)
  • Video and testimony available from the following – care workers, councillors, those in the system, carers and others who have been through the system.
  • All and any reports praising the system.
  • Had something ready to counter the claims of cover-up.
  • Make sure that there’s something in all the local media this week – interviews and features – showing the service off in a positive light.

If feeling brave at the outset they could have worked with the film with a condition being that Samantha Morton also did a 5-10 minute video speaking about how the services have improved since she was in care. That would have been a PR coup for them.

Now while there’s the obvious issue of damage limitation – after all, the film certainly doesn’t do them any favours – there’s another aspect to this in that the next-door city council is currently looking for foster parents – a bit of savvy and the council could have been promoting this or their own foster requirements and who knows how many people that may have helped?

Even if one child could have found a home or a little more funding brought in, then every piece of PR effort would have been worth it.

And yes, it may well be that the council has plans to do something from Monday morning to counter the show but that’s at least a day too late – good PR deals with things before and during as well as after. PR and public opinion doesn’t just work Monday-Friday 9am -5pm and too many still think that it does.

The Biggest Problem with the new Star Trek plot

Fairly decent-sized spoiler for the new Star Trek film after the jump (not a review or anything, just a nagging plot point):

Ok, so Spock and Nero both come from the normal timeline to around 130 or so years in the past yeah? 130 years before the star that blows up Romulus goes critical.

Is it just me or would you go with the red matter to the star and collapse it 130 years early? Job done. Everyone saved, use some red matter or whip around the sun to go home.

(I know, I know, but that’s really bugging me. The film is generally very good – definitely better than the last few, though the plot has… issues if you think it through logically. The worse thing I can say is that I thought the music was poor – especially compared to the trailers. And where was Paul McGillion?)

And feel free to come back here Monday for some Trek/PR fun – leaving it until then to try and minimise folk moaning about spoilers.