Tuesday 28 July 2009

The future of PR, no really!

Between Rubel & Solis the debate on the future of PR has been active for a good couple of years now but for me the above Conversation Prism image by Solis & co is well worth studying and the best thing to emerge yet.

It represents the skill set anyone involved in 'Future PR' needs to have in their toolbox. Engagement and discussion will be the battleground so if it ain't yet purple then as a business you need to invest in getting creative now. From the start. Not halfway through or at the end. Otherwise come the future you'll be left having to buy what your more creative competitors will be getting for free. And that is unlikely to be sustainable for any business.

Thanks to Diana Verde Nieto of Clownfish Marketing for hosting the event where Niku Banaie of Isobar introduced me to the image.

Sunday 19 July 2009

Terrorist Newspaper?

I spend a lot of time mulling the future of publishing and the future of media. I recently asked the following question on Facebook:

Could a newspaper be guilty of acts of terrorism for spreading fear to sell papers?

I had 3 replies, all great.

David N replied:
Good question Al. I think the media tends to position itself as a mirror, observer, mediator of an objective reality but, in truth, is probably the single most active agent in shaping that reality. So yes, imo, they can be responsible for all manner of unethical practice.

Karen K replied:
That's why I believe the happiest and least fearful people are those who don't read/watch news. IMO, if it's big enough or affects me in some way, I'll hear about it via word of mouth. Otherwise, I have my own news to make!

Steven B replied:
interesting having moved abroad recently my consumption of news has changed completely...I get it 100% web (twitter, fb, publicnow,digg, blogs, feeds) no tv or papers and I feel better off for it. used to work in tv so reading all papers daily each with their own agenda was normal. now i prefer as Karen says to make my own news and changes to my own world, everything important filters to me anyway...

I replied:
David is that an argument for the nationalisation of the media? Karen/Steve, very good points and I agree.

The timely updates and exclusive access/sources MSM (Mainstream Media) used to provide are becoming less relevant in a digital age of freely available ubiquitous information. However the value of confirmation and analysis are going up.

It would appear therefore that the media is evolving from being a source of timely information/news to being channels for reliability & analysis. With huge impact on the world as a result....

Curious to hear your thoughts...

Saturday 18 July 2009

My God! It's Full of Stars!

One common thread uniting every person that has ever lived is our search for meaning. Whether we find it or not is debatable of course and what we do with it is often lacking.

For me the image below defines much of the meaning I find. It's why my chosen background is a Deep Field Hubble image. It's why this blog is called Virtual Cortex. The connections between Hinduism & Quantum are well-explored in Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics. To me, that's the direction 'the truth' lies in. And it excites 'the hell' out of me. No pun or irony intended. It literally keeps me smiling and positive and keeps 'the abyss' that human psychology and behavior can sink into at bay.

Have you found meaning? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Who will be my #1sunday this week

Last Friday I tweeted:
Seems to me like #followfriday is winding down now as a meme...so what's next twitterati?
As if by design, and clearly proving that great minds think alike, my good green buddy Greensmith tweeted the following today:
Note To Twitter Users: Please Stop Doing #FollowFriday Tweets. Here's why: http://bit.ly/14nBNR #fb
And I have to say, I agree with him. The value of follow memes i.e. #followfriday, #ecomonday and so on is eroded when over-used. I myself have been guilty of RTing when I've been included and have tired lately of playing along. At the start it was nice to be named. But recently the value to name or be named is almost non-existent really.

So I am going to do something new inspired by Carla's comments in Greensmith's article. Each sunday I am going to recommend just one tweeter for people to follow. I will not do it at any other time during the week. I will have only one recommendation a week. I will also include a reason why they have been chosen. That should keep it valuable for all involved.

The hashtag will be: #1sunday

Feel free to play along...

Tuesday 14 July 2009


Read an interesting and through-provoking post titled 'The Next Twitter?' and realise more than ever the future of web is already about what comes next after Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster et al. Post-social?

For me the best place to look for the answer is to look at what happens around social. To use an analogy let's imagine that social networking sites are bars. We need to accept there are enough bars and the next plays will be in the associated services related to bars. Who makes money from people going out to bars? Food, travel, fashion, others? So three questions to consider might be:

What do social surfers consume?
How do social surfers move around the web?
How do social surfers express their sense of style online?

One might therefore propose that future new developments are not going to be mature (by web standards at least) spaces ie search, social etc. Rather future new developments on the scale of google, facebook, twitter are likely to be in relation to:

- consumption: content - Hulu? et al.
- travel: bookmarking - the longest-burning 'yet to pop' development of the last few years i.e. stumbleupon, yahoo/del.icio.us - digg and reddit are seemingly too gamed? social bookmarking just did not cross to mainstream yet and I have a feeling it will in the next 2-3 years.
- style: personal sites - I think we are going to see a burst of site-building apps as non-tech people start to want to drive stakes in the virtual ground creating their own hubs and stream aggregating spaces. A second wave of blogging & personal sites? Remember geocities - way too early. What about moonfruit, squarespace, blogger, typepad, wordpress et al?


Mrgn Stnly LOL & Google Sweatshop

Two of my fave tweets from recent days...

Teen world = free content/comms says Matthew Robson. But its the fact this is news to Morgan Stanley is what scares me...

"Give it six months and we'll probably discover Google's sewn together by orphans in sweatshops." http://bit.ly/rhGfS

Friday 10 July 2009

The future of Twitter: From cult to utility

Whether Twitter is a cult or not has been approached before by @jayoatway and more recently and more directly by @jtoeman but the time seems right to go take the debate further.

What is a cult?
In uni my best profs told me to start a paper by defining my terms so let's start with defining what a cult is:
A cult is a cohesive social group and their devotional beliefs or practices, which the surrounding population considers to be outside of mainstream cultures. Wikipedia
Twitter is certainly a cohesive social group and our devotional practices, Tweeting, #ing & RTing seem outside of mainstream culture, for now.

6 reasons Twitter is a cult
This checklist of 6 Cult Characteristics by Eileen Barker helps us examine that definition further - Eileen's list is the simplest so I've used that. Perhaps someone else wants to test the theory against the other more complex checklists?

1) A movement that separates itself from society, either geographically or socially;

Twitter is separated from wider society by both technical (using twitter requires basic web skills) and financial barriers (net access needed i.e. mobile phone or laptop) not to mention the requirement of an extrovert personality, one way or another.

>>> Twitter is clearly separate from society, in technological, financial and social ways.

2) Adherents who become increasingly dependent on the movement for their view on reality;

Twitter's role in #iranelection clearly helped define reality both inside and outside of Iran. To the point that the US State Department suggested Twitter reschedule some downtime so as not to disconnect protestors in Iran from the wider world at a crucial time.

>>> Tweeters are clearly increasingly dependent on Twitter for their view on reality.

Interestingly you might argue that my theory falls over as there is no singular dominating voice commonly found in cults and that we are being influenced by each other more democratically. But the presence of trending and a Western, Liberal, Democratic, Capitalist, Technological bias should go some way to establishing that ideological hegemony and a singular dominating content voice exists on Twitter. And if that is not enough proof then you could argue that Twitter does actually have a singular dominating structural voice. More about that in the next point.

3) Important decisions in the lives of the adherents are made by others;

Twitter is software owned by a company run by key individuals. If we accept as truisms (& I defy you not to) Marshall McLuhan's 'the medium is the message' and Mitch Kapor's (@mkapor) 'architecture is politics' (no doubt we could even squeeze in some Chomsky here if we tried) then we must conclude that @ev, @biz & @jack get to define the space and what is possible in it. So at the architectural layer there is a singular dominating structural voice and at the content layer given the bias outlined above in the previous point one could argue the ideological hegemony is the singular dominating content voice.

>>> Important decisions in the lives of adherents are clearly made by others (and the closer to the structural core one looks the smaller that group of 'others' becomes).

4) Making sharp distinctions between us and them, divine and Satanic, good and evil, etc. that are not open for discussion;

You either tweet or you don't. If you do, you are often [random negative adjective] to those who don't. If you don't you are often [random negative adjective] to those that do.

>>> There are obvious distinctions in society between those who tweet and those who don't.

5) Leaders who claim divine authority for their deeds and for their orders to their followers;

Ok, I'll grant this is a toughie as I don't recall @ev, @biz & @jack ever claiming 'God told them to' but then again, an absence of evidence is not evidence ;) If you were them would you say 'God told you to do it'? Probably not. Plus let's face it 'divine authority' could mean different things to different people. Capitalism could bestow 'divine authority' to those in business. A committment to a higher social purpose could equally grant one a sense of 'divine authority'.

>>> The leaders claim 'divine authority' of a sort.

6) Leaders and movements who are unequivocally focused on achieving a certain goal.

The one thing I always come back to when I think of an all-encompassing common thread connecting the 'founders' and the 'tweeters' is social alchemy, whether it's for good, for business, or for love etc.

>>> Twitter's leaders and movement have a unifying goal.

So Twitter is clearly a cult but is that a good or a bad thing? Being a cult in this context and at this time in the companies development has immense value. Being a cult is a good thing.

But in the long-term Twitter needs to stop being a cult and start being a dominant utility. In the same way email is a dominant utility. Think how powerful Twitter could be at the scale of a dominant utility. To do this Twitter needs to do two things really well and really fast:

1) Twitter needs to be even more platform neutral
Twitter is already hugely mobile and it needs to continue that push off the web into mobile as more people around the planet have access to mobiles than have access to the web.

2) Twitter needs to KISS
I think Twitter is spot on by staying focused on providing the architecture and not getting into the 'interior design' i.e. interface apps.


Tuesday 7 July 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen's next move?

Have been wondering for a while what Sacha Baron Cohen's next move might be. Having conquered the world with Ali G, Borat and most recently Bruno one might be tempted to imagine he will go for more of the same.

But I think we need to look at the King for inspiration as to Sacha Baron Cohen's next move. Andy Kaufman went far beyond character comedy and that's exactly where I predict Sacha Baron Cohen will go.

After pulling the wool over celebrities eyes who better to fool next than the general public themselves. I think we should expect significantly different performances designed to bring out the best and worst in us. The key to his getting away with it will be to select a character very off-piste and come from an angle we just would not expect. I expect we will not even realise its comedy at the start.

An interview with Sacha Baron Cohen recently implied he was motivated by politics. That's where my money is going.

Sacha Baron Cohen to spoof the general public as a politician, probably as himself. You heard it hear first.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Wasp Whisperer

I posted an article a while ago on ooffoo and other sites about an experience I had with wasps a few years ago. Still freaks me out to this day but thought it worth sharing.

You're having a laugh, right?

It is well established that laughter is good for the body and soul so what Dr Madan Kataria does and what Yogi Ramesh (The Laughing Yogi seen below) does makes a lot of sense. John Cleese agrees! And come on, admit it. You secretly want to have a go. I know I do.

Advice to a Marketing student

Was recently asked by a young man studying for a Marketing degree (just finished year 1) whether they should finish their degree or get a job and study CIM courses. I offered the following advice:
I think getting a degree is vital. Once you have it, you have it. CIM & experience with no degree will not give you an edge against people who more often than not will have both plus the degree. Once you have your degree you can then study CIM etc and believe me the studying never ends, one way or another. The key is to study something you enjoy.

I work in online marketing and would strongly advise you specialise there. Everything is heading digital. Take as many courses in that direction as possible. The best advice I could give to anyone heading into communications in any form would be:

To be in communications you need to be a communicator:
Go to blogger.com (there are other platforms but this is the easiest) and start a blog. Pick an obsession you have: a food, a singer, a sports team, whatever. Then blog/write about it, help people find out more about it, post links and so on. Get into the community of people that surround that topic/obsession. Get into blogging, read about what makes a good blog and a good blogger. Obsess about it. Learn about tagging: start an account on www.stumbleupon.com. Get into twitter.com. Start networking and building up your capacity to project yourself. Learning to market you is the place to start.
What would you have said? I will pass your advice on to him...

Friday 3 July 2009

Top 5 Eco Music Videos

Just posted a Top 5 Eco Music Videos list over on ooffoo - did I miss any good ones? The Johnny Cash 'Sesame Street' cover is awesome! Enjoy...

Thursday 2 July 2009

Twitter Tips: My List of 'Lists of Lists'

I use twitter as you may know and the one great thing about twitter is that there is a plethora of helpful types only to happy to point you at even better ways to make use of twitter.

As the number of said tips grew it became logical to create lists of tips as you might expect. And as the number of lists of tips grew it became further logical to create lists of lists. Still with me? Now there are so many 'lists of lists' out there that I thought I would give you my contribution. A list of 'lists of lists' if you will...

The Ultimate Collection Of Twitter Tips in one seriously huge list by those nice people at Mashable.

10 Superb Social Media Presentations

Top 5 Twitter Lists

Top 10 Online PR Fails

10 Useful Twitter Presentations

Top 10 Twitter Apps

99 Essential Twitter Tools And Applications

100 Twitter Tools To Help You Achieve All Your Goals

Ten Reasons Not To Follow People On Twitter

15 Tools Lists, Twitter Business & Social Life Resources

Top Twitter Tools

16 Bitchin Commands & Shortcuts for Twitter

Have I missed any?

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Post VRM: Towards a consumer-led economy

Last week at VRM Hub I spoke for 10 minutes about my thoughts on the interplay between retail, community and data and how they relate to my own vision of VRM etc.

These are the summary notes I made to speak from. It was recorded too so am sure that will pop up at some point. Curiour to hear any thoughts.
Business takes all the credit but the web and more recently the social web as Adrianna recently commented happened without the help of business. In fact you will recall business had a hard time finding the revenue models on the web as they are now with the social web so why do businesses try and take the credit for driving innovation?

The answer is the establishment of a desirable power dynamic: if we tell them we're in charge they will mostly believe us.

A quick look at the global economy absolutely reinforces this point: If we live in financial times as the FT would have us believe then how do we reconcile the public bailouts, the need for business to come crying to mummy? Let's face it: business is the petulant teenager and wider society is the parent in this relationship. But like most parent-teenager relationships the teens often believe they are in charge. We have gone wrong by letting that paradigm dominate and define. Where's supernanny when you need her eh? We need to re-establish the true power dynamic and for me VRM is the best chance we have of doing it.

If the currency of business is data, and it so is, then VRM is the Robin Hood come to redress the imposed imbalance of wealth and to restore to the people what is rightfully theirs.

Now this may sound revolutionary but it is not anti-business. Far from it. One thing the recent economic strife has proven is that false economy will out. You can run but you just can't hide. So VRM is the true bringer of sustainable (not in the environmental sense mind) business.

Ironically for me the environment & VRM actually do fit together as both seek to address externalities. Again as Adrianna has previously pointed out, data is a positive externality, pollution is a negative externality. Both need to be internalised, valued and paid for. Enter VRM.

My experience in eco retail for Natural Collection is that one tries to take as many relevant social and environmental externalities and address them responsibly. There is clearly immense value to be found in being respectful in this manner. The rise of fairtrade and organic supports this view.

Let me just paint a vision of how the logical intersect between business and people might look in a world where VRM has been a success. Post VRM if you will. What impact will VRM have had? Am curious to explore what a post VRM world might look like...

Why are we called end users? How patronising is it to be the end of the process? It's not about what we are called. It's the fact that we are placed at the end of the chain by business. We are the start of the process. Not then end. No need = no business. At best we are equal partners in a transaction based economy. But this expression by the business world of us being subject to them flies in the face of reality really and is quite telling psychologically, which reinforces the point above about 'the establishment of a desirable power dynamic'.

Lets call businesses end-users for a moment. Imagine that. Consumer needs and wants driving businesses. The opposite of marketing would be sourcing. That's what I want: let businesses come to me! And how do you gain my trust to be able to know what I want? To be privy to my needs? Be respectful and trustworthy. I want to live in a world where I can be friends with a business, where they can be a valued part of my world instead of something to be shunned and inherently distrusted as they have sadly all too often become.

I will end with another quote from Adrianna: "It may actually be cheaper and more effective to treat people with respect and establish relationships with them, so the data they share is of quality that makes a difference to businesses."

What is happening is that the cost of data is being established, the balance of power is shifting and VRM seeks to create the first tools to do the job. Just as the triple bottom line is gaining in market relevance so is respect for data. VRM will accelerate that respect and empower data owners i.e. you and me. As with the environment so with data. Those businesses that embrace this spirit of respect stand to gain the most. Those that don't will die out in time.

Social Networking & Business

I just wrote a piece on ooffoo.com about why I believe social networking is good for the health of your business. You might like or have comments to add.

Why social networking is vital for your business