Category Archives: PR

Heavy handed PR – Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem Forever for PS3

This is a flavour of heavy-handed PR-ing that I normally attribute to former newsroom editors rather than long-time video games comms pros, but I guess when you’re PR-ing the ‘longest’ if not ‘most heavily anticipated’ video game of all time (“FOREVER is a reference to how long its been in development) the pressure might be on:

Ars Technica tells the full story of how a blacklist threat was issued for negative reviewers of the new Duke Nuke’m game.

"Too many went too far with their reviews…we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom," the company tweeted. "Bad scores are fine. Venom filled reviews…that’s completely different," another tweet read.

I guess this is one video game you have to be careful with, before, as Duke might put it, you "rip off its head and s**t down its neck." –> although in this case, the Duke turned on his own, with 2k Games firing the PR in question fairly swiftly.

My heart goes out to the guy, though, if his apologies (see the Ars Technica piece) were genuine. It can be heart-wrenching if a project you’ve put a lot of soul into gets universally panned. However; I’m a little dubious at how much the PR can have contributed… after all, the job of PR-ing one of the biggest names in gaming wouldn’t be as emotionally involved as, say, developing it in the first place….

The European Digital Journalism Survey 2011

Updated: to include my boss’ take on the survey and its findings, via Vimeo embed, below.

The EDJS 2011 – “Clicks, Communities and Conversations” – was launched today by my agency, Brands2Life, in coordination with the Oriella PR Network – our partner network of independent agencies around the world.  It examines the views of 478 journalists polled over the last few months.

Fronted by my esteemed colleague and Head of International @mistergrainger and our co-founder, @gilesfraser, we were joined by a panel made up of @kieranalger, @tphallett and @reutermarkjones to comment on the key findings of the study.

The headline trends:

The slump in advertising revenues is slowing. This year, barely 20 percent of the journalists surveyed expected their publications to see a fall in revenue. In 2010, however, 62 percent said this was the case, and in 2009 the figure was 66 per cent.

Those polled say that the popularity of online media is gradually eclipsing that of ‘offline’ publications. This year, the proportion of respondents who agreed their offline print or broadcast outlet had the biggest audience fell to 50 percent for the first time.

Social media are permeating the newsroom. Increasingly journalists are using digital channels such as blogs and Twitter to source and verify story leads.

You can read the study in full here and read SamKano’s take on the findings over on the Oriella blog, but I took a few notes and thought I’d share perspectives here too.

One of the things I found most interesting about the presentation and discussion was a conversation about the value of social media to newsrooms.

Reuters’ Mark Jones said: “I don’t think any serious professional journalist could do their job any more, without being on Twitter.” Talking about the Osama story (which Chris played his part in), Mark said: “One of the things that came out of this was that expert views came into the conversation very quickly. You didn’t have to wait for the TV broadcast or full form stories to get the analyst view. You could see the story being formed in front of your eyes on Twitter. That’s where news is going – and it has profound implications for what journalists and communicators do.”

By the same token, disintermediation in social media is an important development for journalists in sourcing expert views and validating stories.  Mark continued: “When people are looking for comments from experts or company representatives, time is of the essence. Twitter supercharges this. In a straw poll of my colleagues – [the delays are] their number one complaint. The answer is in the media.” The challenge to PR execs is to do what’s necessary to research and be hyperconnected with their media contacts.

The flip side to that question came up in discussion – does disintermediation threaten media, as it allows consumers direct access to news from the people making it, at the scene, et al? The panel didn’t come to a conclusion – though I have my views here – in that the role of the media needs to shift – less churnalism and more investigative reporting, less simple narrative and more dynamic storytelling, less straight reportage and more insightful analysis. Some of this relates to the Public Business agenda, in my view: ‘The People’ need to demand this sort of journalism, and allow publishers to fund it.

T3’s Kieran Alger made some interesting comments building on this – as a publication – T3 is working with brands on reciprocal promotion: “Today we have 20,000 followers on Twitter and 17,000 on Facebook. On any day they’ll deliver about 10,000 unique users or 20% of our overall traffic. We increasingly look to people running brands, Twitter feeds and so on to help out with that – asking PRs to help promote our stories to their followers. Big brands like Samsung, for example, have massive numbers of fans.”

Talking about the plethora of social media venues and communities that media outlets run – and the fact that survey showed a reduction in the number of reporters whose media outlets run their own communities – there was an interesting discussion as to what the different public social media outlets do for media publications. Talking about the rise of Facebook, CBS Interactive’s Tony Hallett said: “It’s horses for courses – some forms of content work on different platforms. Facebook works well for a particular type of very loyal users. Traffic that media gets from social outlets is still small compared to Google, for example, but you do get a certain type of super-user – people that interact with you in a big way. [These users] make for a very fun environment.”

Tony had given us another example of a passionate audience earlier in the discussion (making an entirely separate point): “On ZDNet, we have a subset of users that go crazy for photos of data centres – data centre porn… These are extremely secure, secretive environments, so we will take photography and video supplied to us – and are transparent about sourced material.” Which, whilst it makes the serious point that publishers are keen for more interactive comment, is amusing for the fact that it underlines the adage – that it takes all kinds.

For me, the overall takeaway is that the platforms and mechanics for engaging with media continue to shift, and professional communicators need to evolve their comms infrastructure – from the content they create to the way we pitch the media – to suit.

Also, spend more time on Twitter.

I’ll add my thanks to those of my colleagues for the fantastic discussion and encourage you to head over to the Oriella blog to join the digital debate.


Oriella Digital Journalism Study 2011 from Brands2Life on Vimeo.

Six skills today’s PR professional needs to have

One in a sporadic series of work-related posts. I’ve been thinking about some of these for a while, and a couple of them in particular sparked the idea for a post. What do you think? These are in no particular order…

1. Polymath tendencies. I think a good consultant is able to shift with the winds, being as interested in mechanical engineering one day as social anthropology or fiscal policy the next. Being able to understand the drivers behind major political, social, economic and technological trend is a key skill in helping clients meet the media agenda and too many people come into careers without even the curiosity to help them evolve to a state of general interestedness in the world. If you can step into the shoes of a psychologist, information architect, one of your client’s customers – whatever it may be – it will provide an additional lens through which you can see campaign ideas, and provide another basis of insight on which you can build your ideas.

2. Hyperconnectivity. By this I mean that you are able to connect yourself into different information and social streams with deft facility – coping with dialogues on multiple channels, and absorbing information at a quick pace. It’ll help you cope with the burgeoning requirement of enterprise to keep tabs and engage with social media conversation, it’ll support your ability to engage with hyperconnected media contacts, it’ll let you be on the edge of what’s happening.

3. Numeracy (and visual thinking). I’ve talked about data before, and the ridiculous accessibility of it – more than most people can understand or make use of. A PR’s job, in its simplest sense, is in crafting and communicating stories for and with its clients. Telling these stories increasingly requires a ludicrous amount of context and capturing this context in visual representations is a vital part of contemporary journalism and blogging. Everyone loves a good infographic – can you tell a story in pictures as readily as you can in words? Note that I don’t mean that you need to be a statistician, or a designer – just equipped enough to do some basic number crunching so that you can build the story – and think visually enough to brief a graphic designer to create what you want.

4. Literacy. I’ve met in equal number over the years – of PRs who treat the English language like an bat, crushing messages into as short a space as possible – and those that throw flowery turns of phrase into every other sentence. Good PR writing is jargon free, to the point, well-referenced, in context and over all else – concise.

5. Confidence. Whilst it may be possible to be a mild-mannered Clark Kent in the world of media (and I’m doubtful about that), PR calls for a strong temperament – you have to be able to consult (either into the business or to clients) which by definition may require taking a contrary view, you have to be able to deal with investigative journalists, you’ll probably have to deal with a crisis or two – all of this requires a steady hand and an occasionally loud voice. Not to mention confidence goes hand-in-hand with having no fear of the phone.

6. Ethics. It may be out of fashion for some, but at our agency – and in my own moral framework – it’s important to maintain certain boundaries. I’m not going to mention the obvious example here – if you’re in the industry you’ll know the current showcase example of dubious professional practice.

Have I missed any? Tell me in the comments.

Spurs and the Olympic stadium–tactical bid?


So I’m possibly the world’s worst football fan. When my classmate Bozza explained the offside rule to me in 1994 I decided I supported Spurs, and when, at college and beyond, it transpired that Damo and Jimbo were also Spurs fans, it somewhat invigorated my ‘interest’ and I’ve paid some attention to the team – over the years – and particularly over the last two or three.

Now as a general rule (which I intend to break a bit over the weeks ahead) I don’t write about “comms strategies” and suchlike on here, but this has been an absolutely fascinating story. Other than submitting the application and speaking in controversial theoreticals (smashing down the stadium / getting rid of the athletics track etc), Spurs has held relatively quiet on the whole topic, with Redknapp in particular focussed on getting his team to the top of the table. As well he should be.

But of course, the negative outcry has begun. Football in the UK, despite its internationalisation, and that of the Premier League in particular, has ever been a local thing. The “North London Derby” galvanises the residents of different parts of the city into a neighbourly frenzy of competitive spirit. I’m brought to mind of the episode of “Life on Mars” in which Man City and Man United fans started to wage war on each other, and of course of Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel

So the move to Stratford makes little sense. Except that its a fantastic story, and despite the outcry, it seems as much flack is hitting the Olympics Legacy company as Spurs itself – which makes sense. After all, if the legacy of the Olympics should retain something of the Olympics (which makes no sense to me – after all, no country needs four velodromes running at 1% utilisation!), then it’s unsurprising that the global athletics wonks are getting upset about it all.

Of course, if I’m right in thinking the whole thing is just Spurs going after some profile-raising publicity, and in trying to eke out some regeneration money – then when they step magnanimously away from Stratford and commit their £500m of redevelopment to their local neighbourhood, local residents will be relieved and it’ll just be the Olympic legacy company that has to contend with the fallout of ever having considered such a thing. And odds are, Spurs chairman Dan Levy will get the “regeneration monies” he needs to invest in his local neighbourhood…

What do you think? Tactical bid vs. genuine interest? Comms / negotiation strategy vs. club migration? Be interested to hear.

Full disclosure

If I wax particularly lyrical about Google Apps in the near future, it is because I think they’re awesome, but it is important readers understand that we’ve been appointed to handle the PR for Google Enterprise in the UK. This is the division of Google that helps businesses organise their information with its cloud-based productivity applications, its Enterprise Search products and its Geo applications.

You can imagine this is somewhat exciting for me, and my increasing use of Apps is one of the factors that has me wanting an EEE PC so much.

And, to answer your unasked questions, no, I haven’t met Larry, Sergey or Eric, but yes, I’ve been to the Googleplex in London, and yes, it is as awesome as you’d imagine.

PR vs Journo: FIGHT

Sorry for the delay in this post. Been planning to put it together for ages, but struggled to find the time and brainspace.

Danny writes about PR hits and misses (and about a specific miss), and highlights some of the things that PRs do wrong when supporting journalists. He very kindly credits me as being someone who stands out from the PR perspective. Thanks Danny, I think you’re a great tech journo and enjoy our conversations too ;). /mutualbackslap.

My job, for those of you who don’t know, often involves (amongst other things) supporting journalists writing stories by facilitating conversations with my clients (technology companies, for the most part) or their customers, and relevant third parties when we have access to them. Matching the relevant spokesperson/angle/customer often requires a certain amount of research/understanding of the subject areas, and the journalists in question. My status as a creative geek and my past experience as a (student/freelance) journalist does translate into a passion for technology stories that helps me here, as Danny notes. And I love doing it — you have great conversations with very bright people on a daily basis, both media and client-side.

Danny laments, however, that many PR people often don’t get it and proceeds to give a whole string of (mostly pertinent) advice… But I had a couple of issues with the post as a whole:

(1) Bashing at inept PRs publicly is harsh. Even the most experienced PR professionals will occasionally slip up (as do the most experienced journalists), but where Danny pretty much names and shames an entire agency, PRs are often not in a situation where they can respond. Not that I think online feuds would be helpful, but the context of these PR slip-ups is often complex – deadlines, client pressure, etc… events that are mirrored and cause parallel crapness in the world of journalism. Given that most people, never mind most journalists, don’t have the faintest idea what goes on inside a PR agency (“PR, that’s like advertising, innit?”) setting the community of PR professionals up to sound like more of a hindrance than a help through public moaning seems unnecessary. I appreciate that’s not what Danny’s doing, but people don’t tend to focus on the positive with posts of this nature.

(2) The advice — great. The tone, I thought, was unnecessarily harsh. How many PRs treat Danny’s emails / requests for interviews for a National story “with contempt”? Is it possible they were ill / away / the email got caught in their spam filter / the story sounded negative so they needed to get client input? Not excuses, granted, but explanations, and things that could happen to anyone. If they were that hopeless, rude or unpleasant without just cause – then I agree, it’s a major issue. You should take it up with them / their managers / the owners of their agency, etc., especially if it had an impact on your story. If it really happens regularly, then they probably sould be sacked, but it does seem hard to believe that there are (m)any PRs who’ll let straightforward National opportunities slip through their fingers.

(3) The move to RSS. Yes. Absolutely. I agree — all of our clients should have RSS enabled newsfeeds. We advise them accordingly. But… how many PR agencies have complete control over website content, and therefore any control over how quickly that happens? Not many. And does the fact that we have clients with RSS enabled newsfeeds mean that our clients will be happy with us not sending out press releases by email / calling journalists etc? Of course not. So the press list issue will be ongoing, I’m afraid, and will face the same difficulties any significant adminstrative task does.

So in essence: yes, PRs sometimes mess up. So do journalists. And the advice that people like Danny and Charles give out is often helpful. But getting het-up about inadequate PRs in specific circumstances (just like getting het-up over specific journalists in specific circumstances) is, I think, going above and beyond the call… After all, if every PR who had a blog posted about circumstances where journalists cancelled at the last minute/forgot to turn up to/were late for/were rude at meetings with our clients… well, I’d have a lot more stuff under the tag ‘whinge‘. And of course – we couldn’t do this anyway. As a workmate pointed out, four things would likely happen:

    we might get the sack
    the journalists might not write about our clients
    we might damage opportunities for the rest of the agency’s clients
    we’d look petty

…which is probably a bit more of a risk than any of us would be prepared to take just to get it off our chests. And my thanks to the colleagues who looked at this post to make sure I wasn’t risking any of the above!

Update: Chris spotted that I misread one of Danny’s points, re; RSS. Danny seems to suggest that PR agencies should host newsfeeds for their clients, not their clients’ websites as I implied, as an alternative way of receiving press releases. This is a whole separate debate which I’ll come back to at some point… but apologies for now, I stand corrected.

Chris Anderson gives traditional media 10-15 years to live (on current business model)

DSC01981c Most traditional ‘media’ – television, magazines, newspapers, etc, sustain themselves on advertising content – the cover fee, if there is one, is nominal and doesn’t go a long way to covering the costs of production. So, my question to the editor-in-chief of an extremely successfuly print and online magazine, Wired, — how long can this model sustain itself, given the rapid growth of social media and the ‘long tail’ – Chris’ concept – of media proliferation? That is to say, as blogs and niche media outlets continue to spread on the internet that have very low costs, and an increasingly high standard of content, how will the behemoths who rely on ad dollars react when advertising finally wakes up to the impact of the social media-scape and spreads their huge cash reserves more evenly? (Actually, I think I tried to be a bit more dramatic and asked how long Wired could survive in its current incarnation…)

Chris’ response: “Oh. That question…” – which amused me; it did seem likely that if I didn’t ask it, someone else would. He guessed at 10-15 years before it happened, and when we chatted later – we talked about why. And the web, RSS and social media are clearly key contributing factors. How would traditional media be sustained? A part of me had a kind of doom and gloom thought to it all – that all we’d have left was vacuous blogs of people spouting off unresearched, primary-research free journalism… And to this Chris made two points – first he (metaphorically) slapped me into remembering just how blogs add value in other ways (hopefully this one too!), and second — he said that the traditional media that failed to embrace RSS, etc., and provide value in the new order of things, would disappear. But other media companies – and he flagged the BBC and Reuters as two in the UK that were doing good things – will find their way to a new model of sustainability. Obviously the beeb has a slightly different funding model…

Interestingly, in the period where business models adapt and print media starts to subside (and it will, no matter how much you like newsprint the future will be more, if not exclusively, digital) – Chris pointed out how substantial the savings would be for Wired, at least – who could cut costs by 60% by eliminating the print and distribution arms of their business.

60%. Jeez.

This isn’t true for everyone, though. The cost of producing a newspaper is far, far lower — the print process, volume of production, different distribution channels and cheap paper sees to that… so will be harder for a lot of newspapers than it will be for Wired to make the transition from being print-ad funded… to something else, that will probably involve Google adwords…

We talked about the problems with RSS too – primary amongst them the fact that people don’t get it. I’m on a personal crusade to explain the technology to everyone I speak to… but is it enough?? Will you join me in a campaign to get RSS for all? Will you?

On a side note: Chris was attending to promote his new book, the Long Tail, and was very generous with his time – it was a good experience meeting him and I’d recommend anyone interested in market dynamics, social media and the ‘new economy’ kick off with his blog, articles on Wired and the various Wikipedia entries, and if you’re hungry for more… buy the book!

Like shot from a sling

Arvind’s company officially launched this week, to a chunky piece in the Guardian, amongst others (loads of peeps I know seem to have been in the guardian this week).

I’ve mentioned before that Slingshot Studios is specialising in all-digital film production – and Arvind’s working with some cool folks, on some interesting looking projects (from the little I’ve seen). I imagine more will go up at the Slingshot blog (in due course).

I’ll be speaking to them at some point soon about blogging and movie making — will need to look into quite how successfully people have used blogs to market films of late — but the if the paridigmata that are the King Kong and Superman Returns blogs is anything to go by, I suspect film-goers do want to hear things straight from the movie makers mouths (although those examples are arguably atypical ;)).

Using social bookmarking to do PR

Was asked the other day about using Digg to promote clients and gave the shotgun response: don’t do it. It’s not ethical, and its and abuse of the social system. Also – it won’t work unless you can work out how to engineer yourself a bot…

Rather gratifyingly, when browsing Steve Rubel’s blog, I found that he said the same thing just a couple of days ago.

One of the problems I’ve found with this whole social media lark is the rapid proliferation of new services. I use, and have got the hang of,, but now think that Digg might be worth my while as I work in (and love) technology… and I haven’t even got round to looking at reddit. How do people keep up? And do we need yet another social bookmarking service?