Lies, damn lies and statistics

5 08 2008

I know my headline is probably the most over-used quote of all time but nothing else would do for this BBC News Magazine article on PR-driven surveys.

The author of the piece is very kind to not point the finger at lazy PR people for peddling this kind of trash and giving the rest of us a bad name.  All too often, “communications strategy” turns to “research” when things are quiet on the news-front in an attempt to create news.  And all too often it is a load of crap.  I don’t mind using research and commissioning surveys, but I do mind when the findings are so obviously created to advertise a product or service.  The example in the article actually isn’t the worst research I’ve seen…

Proper research should survey more than a handful of people.  Proper research should set out to prove something worth proving – and preferably vaguely interesting (though I admit that the latter point is subjective).  Proper research can certainly be newsworthy but shouldn’t be used to create news that doesn’t exist.

“The news is chock full of surveys.  Many are blatant self-promotion and/or statistical garbage.”

I don’t know if I am more dismayed at the PR people that create this stuff, the readers that believe it or the journalists that write it up as news..?





A “very unfortunate mistake”

8 07 2008

If any PR people need reminding why briefing documents should be written and distributed carefully, read this.

It seems that a rather ‘honest’ biography of Silvio Berlusconi was included in a briefing pack to journalists travelling with George W Bush to the G8 Summit that described the Italian PM as “an amateur in politics” and “hated by many”.

The statement from the White House says, “We apologise to Italy and to the Prime Minister for this very unfortunate mistake.”  I bet you do…





You’re Gordon who..?

29 05 2008

Oh dear – not sure this is the best PR move from Downing Street but I would assume that reviving Mr Brown’s image has reached the desperation stage.

“Gordon Brown’s latest comms offensive involves cold-calling members of the public who have written him letters, according to sources close to Downing Street.”

I reckon most unsuspecting recipients of a call from Mr B will assume it is a Fonejacker-type hoax and will less-than-politely tell him to “shuv orf”.   I now have a sudden urge to write a letter of complaint to see if he calls me… not sure that was the idea behind this scheme, though.





Oops – not a great opening day

27 03 2008

Today sees the first passengers using Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and I had to click through to read the full story when I noticed a headline that said, “Passengers leaving new T5 Heathrow terminal report no bags on flights.”

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Apparently this was due to “staff familiarisation”, which loosely translates to the BA folks not having a ‘scooby doo’ what they are supposed to be doing… “There were also complaints from passengers about confusing road signs, problems when paying at a car park, and broken down escalator.”

Looks like it was £4.3bn well spent then… Makes you proud to be British and I can’t wait for the Olympics..!

Note: Scooby Doo = Clue…

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PR Lady – How VERY dare you, Apple

20 12 2007

…and to think that I was nice about these people and their ‘oh-so-shiny’ products. I take this VERY personally..!





Discontinuity…

19 12 2007

I know that’s not a pretty word but a former client of mine used it (about fifteen times) in a presentation a few years back and now it jumps into my head every time something doesn’t quite add up. Anyway, the point is that something has been bugging me for a while about the changing world of PR and it was only when I attended a webinar a couple of weeks back on ‘managing risk in the enterprise’ and later saw a blog posting from Charles Arthur on dealing with a [PR] crisis, that I pieced it all together…

I keep hearing (both inside the world of PR and elsewhere) that effective businesses need their smartest people to take risks. Entrepreneurs tell stories that ‘made them’ of facing critical decisions leading to either immediate dismissal or huge recognition and glory (funny how you don’t tend to hear from the ones that got fired). The message is always take a risk, make some scary decisions and be bold and confident. The world needs people to take risks… apparently.

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Charles Arthur talks about “the PR world really struggling with the decentralised nature of media information-gathering” and how a speedy response can only be achieved when there isn’t a huge reliance on securing central approval. And this is where I am struggling because approvals processes seem to be getting more rigorous rather than less so. More and more people seem to need to be involved in signing off a message, or even a response – and don’t get me started on letting a non-approved spokesperson speak to anyone, including their own mother. Maybe it is the post-Enron, Sarbanes Oxley driven world that we live in but I think there are fewer risk-takers (especially in corporate communications) not more.

So, with new and different audiences to talk to, something has got to give. I really think that those companies that make it difficult to communicate with these new audiences will find that their ‘wall of silence’ will be met with customers taking their business elsewhere. Imagine if you went into a shop to ask questions but were ignored completely. But for that to happen, a massive mind-shift is needed amongst both the communicators and those that pay they salaries.

The real risk to be encouraged lies with those people granting the communicators the freedom to actually communicate.





Forget Generation X, we are the Re-Generation pt. II

15 12 2007

Thanks to Sean from Dell’s environment program for this. I’m impressed that Dell is taking the lead on this and wonder if they are going to encourage/invite other big companies to join in – similar to the Liberty Alliance..?