Been away…

Apologies for the radio silence.

DSCN3008

I’ve been living in a Yurt of late. Normal blogging service will be resumed
shortly. :)

Introducing my wife: the mummy blogger

Screen shot 2009-09-08 at 08.23.53

It had to happen, finally my wife has started blogging.

As a new mum returning to work she's decided to blog about her experiences and become a fully paid up Mummy blogger.

I think she's doing an amazing job so far (although I am biased) and it would be great if you wanted to stop by and have a read. http://sarahcollister.wordpress.com

She's already received her first product to review, DermaH20's natural babywipes, courtesy of @fashionelf at 77PR.

I think Sarah's planning on reviewing them properly but here's my 2p worth:

The idea behind the DermaH20 wipes is that while you're advised to use cooled boiled water and cotton wool on babies it's very easy to get into the habit of using standard babywipes which are jam-packed full of horrible chemicals likely to cash rashes.

We started using water and cotton wool, but even the health visitors and community midwives gave me funny looks when I asked for some cotton wool at a newborn clinic. With this in mind, I am totally behind anything which makes it easier to wipe you baby down without exposing them to crap.

The drawback with the wipes is that they are flipping expensive, so it boils down to a choice between cheap and slightly annoying cleaning or hassle-free but expensive natural babywipes. You pays your money and takes your choice.

There's a Derma H2O blog too – but no comments enabled :(

Tags: Sarah Collister, mummy bloggers, DermaH20

Have we finally breached the symbolic ‘real media’ vs social media divide?

There's an interesting post over at the Journalism.co.uk blog where they are trying to crowd source the perfect press release.

The post offers some great press release-writing tips for people new to the industry and even acts as a reminder to those more seasoned PR professionals about what journalists really want to know about a story.

But what's interesting about the results is the inclusion of social mediia elements which are being specifically requested by journalists.

Maybe I'm wrong to be surprised, but when journalists are asking for "a headline have crossed over into … short enough for a Twitter update including a link." then it seems we really have gotten over the online vs offline; 'real media' vs social media divide.

The only thing is…. while journalists are adapting quickly to a new, more real-time media environment have PR professionals? I still see a lot of "no-one really reads blogs" or "Yes, but what's the reach of that Tweet?" from PROs.

So here's the real incentive: even if you want to ignore that the media landscape and infrastructure is changing around you….. the journalists you are pitching stories to already get it and if you don't adapt accordingly then you'll be less effective at doing your job. Simples!

Tags: Journalism.co.uk, social media, press release

SuperThirdThursday Podcast: Me on eDemocracy

As mentioned in my previous post, I spoke at an event in the Isle of Man last month about edemocracy (thnks to Sherrilynn for hosting and Charterhouse International for sponsoring). You can get my presentation over at Slideshare.

I was also interviewed by the local radio station for their current affairs programme and Sherrilyne has kindly uploaded audio to share.

Tags: Super Third Thursday, Isle of Man, edemocracy, Strive PR, Charterhouse International

New Statesman misses the point on political blogging

The New Statesman has published an article on political blogging which, while I'm all for MSM coverage of the great political communications stuff going on at the moment, kind of misses the point a bit.

Having followed (and studied) political blogging since 2006 it pisses me off that this sort of who has more blgogers than who argument still gains credence.

Political blogging has a UK legacy from at least 2003 – and earlier in the US – so why then, in 2009, are we getting articles that cover old ground or make sweeping judgements with little evidence or insight.

The answer is perhaps simple: that's what journalism (or at least a lot of modern 'churnalism') does. And ironically this sort of lazy shorthand reporting is onen reason blogs and social media prolifereated in the first place.

The article in particular regurgitates the line from a press release (I presume there was a press release as the story is based on report by a compnay that offers a commerical product) that there are more Tory bloggers that Labour and Lib Dem ones because:

"the [Red Flag] email smears scandal, which forced LabourList editor Derek Draper to resign, ha[s] stunted Labour’s online efforts."

The thing is: there's no evidence in the article to suggest that Labour's online growth has slowed. I would argue it's a fairly common belief that the Tories were generally ahead online (for a number of inconclusive, complex reasons) which is why Labour retaliated with LabourList and other digital grassroots initiatives.

What really annoys me though is the presumption that the perceived values of traditional media simply transfer of the networked space with an emphasis on successful examples being celebrity. Former Daily Mirror reporter and Labour's best known liar spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, is described as: "one of Labour’s most prominent bloggers". I would suggest that while Campbell is a prominent person associated with Labour, he isn't one of their most prominent bloggers. That would be Recess Monkey or Tom Watson.

Maybe I'm splitting heirs here, but I think it's justified to make the point: social media isn't about numbers or celebrity. It isn't about which party has the msot MP's blogging. It is about conversation, debate, transparency, authenticity, accountability and social production of knowledge.

These are things traditional media (or even traditional democracy) can't deliver. And this is what makes social media one of the key driving forces for the future of not just our media, but for our democratic existence.

*UPDATED* I've just spotted Stuart Bruce (political blogger since 2003) has posted on the subject too.

Tags: New Statesman, political blogging, democracy

Review: Social Media Insight 2009

An interesting report from a firm called Social Media Library came my way a few weeks back but I’ve only got around to blogging it today. First up my overall thoughts and then a break-down of some of the specific results.

The report, Social Media Insight 2009, offers a detailed analysis of the UK blogosphere, Twittersphere and …er …. Forums broken down by ‘influencers’, sectors – and perhaps most interestingly, geographical location.

I put the term ‘influencer’ in inverted commas because I have long-standing concerns about the idea of online influence and especially from the perspective with which the PR, advertising and marketing likes to conceive the concept (IMHO we primarily perceive ‘influence’ as power, i.e. the ability to persuade people to do or buy things. But the concept of power in networks is still being worked out and is vastly different to traditional conceptions – anyway I digress).

My theoretical worries aside, Social Media Library CEO, Graham Lee, tells me that the report uses a proprietary methodology they call BlogScore (Twitterscore, etc) which uses two main metrics: “a blog's incoming links, but also, importantly, the number of incoming links that those links have” as well as “the performance of a blog on relevant keywords in search returns”.

Crucially for me the system gains credibility by involving both automated data mining and then analysis of each site by a real, live, human. This is important for two reasons: firstly Social Media Library should be fairly confident in guaranteeing each site is UK-based.This process is a significant improvement on purely automated tools which filter UK blogs based on .co.uk domains or UK-based IP address. Secondly it means that their geographical data break-down can again be fairly accurate.

So far, so good. My big question was: what does the data *really* tell us? Putting my cynical hat on I read the main findings of the report and the charts and while it is interesting to note that 38% of influential UK blogs are about consumer issues; or that 32% of UK B2B blogs are about the marketing and PR industries; or Coventry Twitterers have the highest average number of followers (594), what does his really tell us?

Graham’s answer was as follows:

The purpose of the report is to help people get more of a feel of the social media landscape as it currently stands. Social media is immensely complex, and particularly if you are not immersed in it day-to-day, quite confusing. Add to this the fact that our shared English language with the US – making it exceedingly hard to garner actual engagement levels in the UK – and it becomes a difficult beast for people to get their heads around. … One other breakthrough has been the potential to look at the spread of social media regionally, across the UK. Understanding this, I hope, helps people > better determine the scope for social media to help support regional campaigns and initiatives.

While I definitely agree with Graham’s final statement my key take-out from the report is that it gives a real top-level ‘feel’ for the state of social media in the UK. A potentially useful tool for non-digital specialists – so I suppose I'm not necessarily the primary audience for this.

But this isn’t a criticism. Using social media effectively means getting down and dirty with data; finding relevant communities and immersing yourself in them. If the approach to scraping, measuring and analysing social media presented in the report can be tailored and drilled down into further and sliced in different ways then it definitely offers great scope for UK-focussed digital campaigns.

If you want to know more take a peek at their blog.

Tags: Social Media Library, Social Media Insight 2009

Metropolitan Police’s turn to social media after G20 policing scandal likely to fail, IMHO

As an interesting footnote to my post below about the need for the Metropolitan Police to make significant changes to its organisational communications culture the force's Director of Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, Dick Fedorcio, is interviewed in this week's PR Week.

From my reading and expert opinion form others Fedorcio's comments indicate that the Met is unable or unwilling to make the real changes necessary.

In a telling statement, Fedorcio, tells PR Week that he won't be looking to run a blogger engagement programme any time soon as:

"If I was seeking to
manipulate people, it would raise a question about how that reduced our
integrity. To be leaning on someone to say "give us a good blog" starts
to raise some ethical issues.
"

This is a damning insight into the Met's current communications practice as it suggests that its media strategy is built on manipulation.

Commenting on the interview, Diffusion's Ivan Ristic, adds his expert comment that when an organisation has a "reputation of stonewalling" it "makes it difficult
in a social marketing context.
" Too true. You need to tell your story as openly as possible and engage and empower others to help tell your story.

However, while what Ivan says is correct I disagree with his reading of the situation. The Met does not have a reputation to stonewall – at least in the G20/Tomlinson context.

Here the Met/City police and IPCC were extremely proactive in issuing media releases and briefings to frame the story based on what has emerged as an untrue account of events.

Admitedly organisational change isn't easy and takes time and resources – something Fedorcio claims is currently lacking. But stepping into the social media space without evening considering what adaptions you need to make to your corporate communications strategy is setting yourself up to fail – or at least be burned very publicly before you get your strategy right.

I wonder if Dick or the Met will ever monitor this psot and respond? :)

Tags: Metropolitan Police, Dick Fedorcio, PR Week, blogger engagement, social media strategy

Chinwagging tonight

Whoops – I meant to post about this in advance but clearly I have to organise my time better.

I'll be on the panel tonght at Chinwag's event: Xmas Futures, Crystal Balls? discussing, um, I guess, what 2009 will bring.

Others speaking on the panel include:

  • Neville Hobson – blogger, communicator, digital luminary
  • Jonathan Mitchener – Futurologist & Principal Research Scientist, Devices, BT
  • Jamie Coomber – Head of Digital Strategy, Profero

I'll be bringing up the issues of the economy, the perennial echo of "next year will be *all about* digital, the direction a lot of digital PR and marketing seems to taking compared to the route I believe it should be and how this leads my thinking right up to Doc's vision of the "end of the social bubble."

Hopefully see some people there.

Technorati tags: Chinwag, Future watching, Crystal balls

Elephant in the Room: Ideology in political blogging

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while but somehow didn’t quite get around to it.

Back in July director of LSE’s Polis media think-tank, Charlie Beckett, posted a great analysis of where the UK political blogosphere will go if/when Labour lose the next general election.

I won’t rehash his article, you can read it for yourselves. However, I do want to highlight an important observation he makes that is regularly overlooked: the influence of political ideology on political bloggers.

Many commentators fall back on the argument that right wing bloggers have the flexibility to attack the government while in opposition, while left wing (predominantly Labour) bloggers have to more or less put up or shut up as the party in government.

But Charlie rightfully suggests that the respective types of blogging carried out by left and right wing bloggers may also be influenced by their personal, political preferences.

Or more specifically as Charlie puts it:

Perhaps the individualism of blogging better suits the less collectivist mentalities on the right.” while “the fragmentation of leftwing blogs is very much a reflection of the divided nature of the post-Iraq, post-Blair left.”

But then Charlie (perhaps deliberately?) undermines this position by reflecting candidly that maybe this cacophony of voices and opinions is “a tribute to the variety in style and substance of what we call political bloggers.”

And that line is perhaps the key takeaway for political analysts, commentators, journalists and PROs.

Political bloggers are lumped together on party lines primarily (although not always) by others – most often the political analysts, commentators, journalists and PROs.

Blogging allows grassroots politicos the opportunity to become active around an issue or series of issues that may not always fall on party political lines. We then retrospectively interpret these as party political as our political system is clearly delinated and doesn’t really allow us to think beyond the Lib/Lab/Con/Green(?) silos.

Of course there are some caveats: Sites like ConservativeHome, LabourHome and Lib Dem Voice are clearly party affiliated, but it can be agued that they are affiliated only in name as many of their ideas differ from the official party line.

Similarly, many political bloggers happen to be party affiliated. But again, this doesn’t mean they always follow the party line. I would go further and argue that joining a political party will become more and more irrelevant for politicos (as it already has for most of the population.

As David Wilcox has already argued:

It used to be that you joined associations because it was a way of meeting like-minded people and getting help, facilities, information and other things difficult or costly to organise for yourself. These days it is much easier to find people and resources online.”

Moreover, blogging allows politically motivated people to organize themselves around particular issues that reject or cross traditional political party boundaries.

Charlie poses the question:

What will happen to political bloggers when the government changes?"

I want us to consider this point another way – what will happen to government  when political bloggers change the way we (self)organize ourselves into issue driven groups, no longer reliant on the traditional and formal structures of membership organizations which have been built on a model first established by thinking during the early days of western Enlightenment more than 200 years ago.

The answer to that question says a lot about the condition of political debate in this country. Both left and right have seen the internet as a chance to push for power.

Technorati tags: Blogging, politics, Charlie Beckett, Enlightenment

More Berocca

Following on from receiving a Berocca blogger stress relief pack last week Rick Lamb and Lolly Borel have more round-ups and analysis of the campaign.

Rick actually manages to identify the people behind the initiative… step forward digital marketing agency i-Level.

I’m presuming it was their social media unit, Jam, who came up with the strategy and execution. I’d recommend them to use a bit more personalisation and transparency in their communications. ;-)

Technorati tags: Berocca, i-Level