How to turn your unknown expert into a media success story

News-jacking. Issues-tracking. Call it what you like, but a rapid response to breaking news has long been a route to PR success – particularly for challenger brand spokespeople who otherwise tend to get overlooked by journalists who have their tried and tested contacts to fall back on.

Image copyright: NY - http://nyphotographic.com/ (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Image copyright: NY – http://nyphotographic.com/
(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Having recently been asked to give my opinion on how to turn an unknown expert into a media success story, I decided to write a quick overview of how to run a PR rapid response programme; done well these have a very high success rate over time – they’re not always the overnight success some people would have you think they are.

Give journalists something that helps to move the story along

Your targeting will have to be impeccable (resist the urge to spam your entire media database). Instead, focus only on those you know have written about the subject in question.

You’ll be battling journalists’ inertia (nobody ever got fired for quoting IBM et al) so don’t be surprised if it takes a while to get a bite – just have faith and stick at it.

You’ll need to have something genuinely useful to say (don’t point out the obvious, help move the story on – this is crucial). If you send something like this to a journalist you’ll be ignored, and rightly so: “Hi, I saw your story about X. My client is an expert in X. Would you like to talk to them about X?”

Make it inescapably clear why they will end up with a really interesting story as a direct result of hearing from your client … “Hi, I saw your story about X. My client is an expert in X. Did you know that one of the unintended consequences of X is Y? Would you like to talk to my client about Y?”

The following advice is primarily aimed at those new to news-based PR, or maybe at smaller PR agencies lacking resources. Although some established agencies/practitioners may find the following of interest, I would expect it to be a little basic for anyone with a reasonable amount of experience in such matters. I’ll apologise up-front if any of it appears too basic; if it feels like I’m stating the obvious, feel free to move right along.

  • Agree, with your client, the top three issues / talking points they could potentially offer valuable comment on. These should be issues that have a tendency to arise in the media. It might be a shortage of acute-care beds in UK hospitals in winter, or the tension between GPs and A&E departments who both suffer from a lack of resources and too many patients. It might be something to do with protecting your smart-home devices from cyber attacks. Maybe it’s something to do with aquifers and fracking. Whatever it is, it’s going to be dictated by the sector your client operates in and their particular expertise.
  • Draft some short, to-the-point email copy for each of the topics you’ve agreed on – something you could cut and paste into an email giving a clear overview of who your client is, why they are someone to be listened to, and a breakdown of their expertise as it relates to the talking point / issue in question. Have it pre-written and pre-approved by the client.
  • Create a list of all the press contacts that write about your agreed issues … and issues related to them.
  • Track the media for stories relating to your agreed issues.
  • When such a story breaks cut and paste your drafted comment and send it to anyone in the press likely to follow-up on that story. The trick here is to give journalists something that moves the story on… something that gives them a good reason to pick up the story (which may have initially been written by a rival) and put their own stamp on it. So, take your pre-written copy and add to it a short explanation of how your client’s insight relates to the issue in question.
  • Make sure your client is available – either to talk to any interested press, or provide you with additional written answers if you get asked for them. That might mean a phone interview, or even broadcast appearances.

It can take a while to get traction, but if you are relentless in your determination to be the first to offer an additional view on a story – an extra nugget of information, an opinion that hasn’t been considered, etc – and the comments you send are genuinely interesting/valuable, eventually you’ll get results.

Good luck!

Banning AVEs in PR..? You Canute be serious

Over the last week or two there’s been a proper little shitstorm (someone else’s word for it, not mine) blowing because of a document produced by media monitoring and online sentiment analysis firm Meltwater.

Some of it has been a bit hysterical if you ask me.

But before I go any further, I want to state for the record that in the past Meltwater was a client of a PR consultancy I worked at; I managed their PR account. I have also been a Meltwater customer in the past. But I have had no dealings with the company or any of its staff for a number of years.

Back to the aforementioned shitstorm.

Ball of confusion

The document from Meltwater focused on the use of AVE (advertising value equivalents) as a way of measuring PR effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) in PR activity. In short, it works a bit like this – if you got your client some coverage in a newspaper and that coverage took up about half a page, then find out how much it would have cost to put an advert on that half a page. Then multiply that cost by three (or five, or eight, or magic beans, who cares). Why multiply it..? Because PR is more effective than advertising, and therefore more value is derived from it. Which is why companies read out press releases in those little commercial breaks between the TV shows you watch … oh, wait, I think I made that last bit up.

The shitstorm (there’s that word again) struck when some people who work in the PR industry who do not like AVEs, because they are unscientific and silly (the AVEs, not the PR people… ), took issue with Meltwater saying AVEs can be used as a way of measuring ROI in PR.

The things is, there are no universally used and accepted metrics for assessing ROI in PR. That’s one of the biggest weaknesses facing PR. It’s no surprise it’s a very touchy subject, because in these increasingly digital times, when everything can be measured, the inability to directly link a piece of PR activity to a tangible financial benefit is a perceived weakness for many. There’s a set of guidelines known as the Barcelona Principles which many in the PR sector adhere to (with a fervour that frankly makes me a little uncomfortable … it’s not a belief system… or is it?) as the future of measuring PR effectiveness. I’m no expert, and you can look it up online if you feel so inclined, but the Barcelona Principles strike me as a great attempt at defining the problem; I’m just not sure they are the answer. I’m also not sure a great many businesses hiring PR practitioners, whether as agency teams, solo service providers, or in-house resources, will have the patience or the interest in something as nebulous as “measurement must focus on “conversation” and “communities” not just “coverage”..”

Pass me my slide rule – I’m off to measure a conversation.

Anyway, back to the skitsnack (hej Sverige… kan du höra mig?).

Yours truly, angry mob

Things got a bit febrile in the old Twittersphere on Friday, with a lot of noise being made by a small number of PR practitioners (and others) all sounding off quite vociferously about how truly awful it was that Meltwater should be giving advice on how to measure AVEs, how truly truly awful AVEs are, and how truly truly truly awful anyone using AVEs must therefore be.

It all got a little bit angry mob, which is never anything other than ugly, and absolutely never productive.

I was saddened (although not much, in truth) to see some leading figures in the PR world among the mob’s chief agitators. People who ought to understand that PR agencies are at the beck and call of their clients, and that if those clients want AVE figures, then the agency will provide them – to do otherwise might put a client relationship in jeopardy.

These are still trying economic times in many parts of the UK and in many business sectors – not everyone is in London or the south east, and not everyone is working with clients who operate in booming sectors. When it comes to client/agency relationships, rocking the boat is a privilege few get to enjoy; you have to be big and influential to get away with it, usually.

I wondered what it might feel like to be the head of an agency that isn’t in London, that isn’t experiencing an economic upturn, watching others in the industry heaping scorn upon you from their privileged positions. I wondered what it would be like if you are constantly compromising on what you’d like to do in order to keep clients happy (or just to keep them) and seeing one of the things you have to do being so openly mocked.

Are there better ways to measure PR effectiveness than AVEs? Yes, probably. Although that really depends on what your definition of effective is in the case of the PR activity you are undertaking. However, I don’t think it’s good enough for those in a privileged position to be quite so scathing about something that only exists because of the demand for it from clients.

Calls to stamp it out are as ludicrous as they are unhelpful, and hint at a fundamental failure to understand the economics and mechanics of the PR industry. Which is just a bit mind boggling given that much of the ardent criticism was coming from people who have worked in the PR industry for a very long time and done very well. Maybe they’ve had it too good for too long. Maybe it’s easier to point and laugh, or yell and shout, than it is to offer constructive, actionable advice on how to get your clients to give up their AVE dependency.

Back to basics

Now, about five years ago one of my PR clients was a large and well-known bank. At a kick-off meeting we discussed – among other things – reporting … how would the client like to measure the progress we were intending to achieve? We talked about a range of options and measures, but in the end the client was resolute; they wanted a monthly AVE figure that could be easily circulated to other stakeholders within the bank who wouldn’t understand the subtleties of changed perceptions or share of voice, or whatever, but for whom a simple number was the lingua franca.

It’s all vaguely reminiscent of the bit in the book The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where a supercomputer is asked what’s the answer to question of life, the universe and everything (or words to that effect) – the answer is 42, apparently. A supremely unhelpful answer derived from not understanding the question; if you don’t measure the correct outcome, you’ll never know what progress you’re making.

It also reminds me of an old saying … he who pays the piper calls the tune.

If I want something and have the money to pay for it, whether it’s AVEs or a rendition of Scotland the Brave, you won’t change my mind by taking away someone’s bagpipes, or trying to ban AVEs (what a laughable idea that is when you see it written down).

There will always be other pipers. There will always be other PR agencies … more interested in servicing clients and saying yes to everything than they are with educating their clients.

It’s basic supply and demand.

Denying that reality is a bit like trying to turn back the tide by force of your own puffed up ego.


 

Additional reading – Explaining PR’s Barcelona Principles

 

The war for digital hearts and minds

There’s been a bit of a turf war going on in the advertising/marketing/PR world for several years now, and it’s not really showing any signs of resolving itself.

It’s the war for digital hearts and minds and it’s being fought across all the major social media networks. From the familiar landscapes of Twitter and Facebook, through to the newer territories of Microsoft’s Socl, the revitalised MySpace and on into Pintererst, Instagram and beyond.

In business communications circles, everyone acts like they have the right to own social media: advertising agencies, marketing consultancies and PR firms. And it doesn’t stop there – there are digital creative agencies, interactive marketing houses and tech-based SEO companies. All claiming they have the secret sauce that will help a brand cover itself in digital glory.

But it’s the PR world that has the strongest claim, in my opinion.

Before you pull a muscle shouting “he would say that, wouldn’t he” let me explain why I think that.

One of the key functions of the PR industry is to intercede with the media on behalf of its clients. The media is changing, indeed has already changed, due to the impact of the internet and social media. The PR industry is changing with it.

Circulation figures for all newspapers are lower, as are advertising revenues from their print-based activities. The BBC, the Financial Times and the Guardian are just three of the UK’s major broadcast and print names that are investing heavily in their digital output. Some titles, including Newsweek, have turned their backs on print altogether.

This move to more digital-friendly output from mainstream news providers is more than a passing phase. The traditional reliance on the written word has decreased as video and graphics are increasingly sought out by readers and viewers, and this is a tide that is unlikely to turn any time soon. As a result, the PR industry has had to learn how to craft its clients’ messages and brand stories into formats that meet the needs of these changed media requirements.

But my reasons go deeper than simply the ability to update story formats.

Despite the many different views on what constitutes successful social media engagement, there is perhaps one aspect that everyone agrees on, and that is that social media requires a more discursive approach to corporate communications. The audience you reach via Facebook, for example, is not receptive to one-way communications, they will expect brands to listen as much (more, even) than they talk.

Get that bit wrong, and the rest of whatever it is you’re up to won’t matter a jot.

This is why, in my opinion, if any of the marketing disciplines can claim any form of ownership of social media outreach, it has to be PR.

PR is the only branch, if I can call it that, of the marketing tree, and I realise I probably can’t call it that, where conversation is one of the fundamental building blocks of the whole discipline.

In the event of a crisis that has dragged you into the media spotlight, who is it that businesses turn to for help? It’s not the ad agency. It’s not the web designer. It’s not the marketing consultant. It’s the PR people.

Why..? PR people have no magic powers, after all. Well, it’s because the PR world knows how to listen, how and when to talk, how to avoid making things worse by lying, and how to think on its feet.

Nowhere are those traits more welcome than in the world of social media.

This piece was first published on the Nexus Communications website. You can find it here.

 

 

You can’t teach creativity in PR

You can’t teach creativity. That’s what I hear. I’ve heard it a lot, too. Well, relatively speaking. It tends to be the reaction some people have to the idea of creativity training or workshops.

To an extent, it’s hard to argue with the outlook that says you’re either born creative or you’re not. Picasso was born with an innate desire to create – to challenge the accepted ways of doing things and to push the creative boundaries.

He didn’t learn that in a workshop held in a medium-sized conference room in a hotel adjacent to an urban ring-road.

So, there you have it. Creativity… it’s either in your genes or it’s not. And if not, tough… you can’t learn it.

That outlook’s nonsense though, isn’t it?

I came to that stunning realisation after a conversation I had recently with a friend about the importance of collaborating with like-minded people. Some of her comments brought to mind a remark made in an interview I read with the guitarist Johnny Marr, who said something like “if you really want to open up your creative side you need to surround yourself with creative people.”

It may be true that we are all born with different talents and abilities, and that there is no substitute for natural ability. But it’s also true that it’s important to create an environment in which creativity flourishes.

It’s also remarkably easy to create an environment – particularly a working environment – in which creativity has no chance of flourishing.

So, while it might be true that you can’t teach the people in your agency to become creative geniuses from scratch, you can certainly achieve a great deal in terms of challenging existing working practices and fostering a culture where it’s ok to be creative, and to have ideas… even really bad ones.

I’d take a really bad idea over no idea at all any day. You can improve on a bad idea and make it a great one.

But those people who put hierarchy before ability, who put their own cosy self-interests before that of the client, the agency or the team… there’s not a lot you can do with them unless you challenge them.

Just how challenging you need to be in such cases depends on how entrenched their attitudes are and how willing – or otherwise – they are to accept that change can be a good thing.

The data-day challenges facing many PR firms

Data.

Data, data, data.

In PR circles data has become the new black.

Or the new designer drug, depending on which kind of overt cynicism you want to go with.

There has never been a better time to use data as part of a comms strategy, this much is self-evident. After all, who in PR doesn’t get approached from the purveyors of fine analytics tools on a regular basis?

From Radian6 to Brandwatch, from SDL SM2 to Meltwater, and well beyond… there are literally hundreds – possibly thousands – of monitoring tools out there that will track and report back on mentions of you, your clients, their competitors, market trends, hot topics, etc.

I read a post by Danny Whatmough at EML Wildfire in which he talks about this very topic. It’s a good piece that stresses the importance of evidence-based strategies for PR and marketing.

It made me think about some of the challenges I’ve witnessed and experienced in my PR career when it came to PR people using data.

The single biggest problem, or so it has always seemed to me, is the preponderance of data-intolerant people working in PR. I’m not talking about the stereotypical fluffy bunny syndrome. But simply that a lot of smart people in PR are not comfortable around raw numerical data.

There is little to be gained from having an agency-wide desire to do more data-based stuff if the people entrusted with bringing that to life couldn’t be trusted to count time in a marching band (yes, I know that’s a rubbish analogy but I couldn’t think of another one).

For decades now, the education system in the UK (well, England & Wales) has encouraged pupils to choose between arts and sciences at the age of 14/15. We can hope this divisiveness will be less prominent in the future, but that’s not going to affect the make up of our account teams any time soon.

So, here is my advice – given as someone who has run their own PR agency and as someone who has lectured in PR at a university in London.

Start firing those people in your agency who are rubbish at maths.

No, wait… I don’t mean that.

But audit their data-related skills and abilities. Do it methodically and without emotion – this isn’t pass or fail, this is about working out how you can help your people perform better.

Nurture those who have an aptitude for data, help them become better at it.

As for those who find numbers utterly baffling, provide them with coping mechanisms… ways to break it all down and make sense of it. Perhaps you’d never let them loose on a major piece of research. But you’d certainly want them to feel able to understand it, critique it and explain it. Wouldn’t you?

So… go forth and multiply your data-aware account teams.

 

Spinach, start-ups, and bloated tech companies

Dear Tesco, what is the point of this?
I’m referring to the pic of two baby spinach leaves with a speech bubble asking “what am I like?”
 At first glance, and maybe because I lived in Manchester for a time, when I see “what am I like” in my head I hear an annoying voice going “what am I like, eh? I’m just dead mad I am.
But no, the baby spinach is asking a straight question which is subsequently answered. For this is an attempt to tell anyone who has never tried baby spinach what it’s like.
“Young and tender dark green leaves…” is the first thing we are told. It’s also the first thing I have issue with.
“No shit,” one of the unfiltered voices in my head cries out. Baby anything tends to be young and tender.  And I can see there are dark green leaves, because much of the bag is transparent.
Next we are told the leaves come “.. with a distinctive flavour.”
I see.
A distinctive flavour.
Dog shit has a distinctive flavour (sorry, same unfiltered voice as above). So does toothpaste. Everything that isn’t a compound of other flavours has, by definition, a distinctive flavour.
Describing the flavour as distinctive doesn’t tell me anything useful.
So, what’s the point?
I’m not on some there’s-too-much-informationcrusade. I see this as yet another symptom of marketing departments populated by people with no real clue how to communicate with other people – well, with real people; they probably manage just fine talking utter garbage to other dullard marketing managers.
Anyone in PR will at some point have had to work with one of those people at a client. A mid-to-senior level marketing manager who is only in a position of responsibility because everyone better than them was either made redundant in the post-2008 downturn, or left to do something more rewarding.
These people don’t understand concepts like communicating effectively. They talk almost exclusively in jargon. Can’t cope with being challenged and have no frame of reference outside the impossibly narrow confines of their pointless job and equally uninspiring dimwit colleagues.
They add no value and, by and large, the only skills they have acquired are sufficient political nous to dodge the redundancy bullet and a few knife-wielding chops, but only when people’s backs are turned.
While so much of the tech sector is currently experiencing paroxysms of joy over the incredible talent of our burgeoning start-up communities, the heavier weight tech companies remain bloated by people who were hired during periods of rapid growth and who ought to have been jettisoned long ago.
In case you were wondering, yes I do feel better now thanks.

The recruitment mistake agency heads will make in 2012

There are too many young people chasing too few job vacancies in the UK.  It’s been that way for a few years, but youth unemployment is currently running at its highest rate since comparable records began almost 20 years ago, with more than one million 16 to 24 year olds out of work in the UK.

For any business with vacancies to fill this is, quite simply, a buyers’ market.  And while, broadly speaking, this can be a good thing, like so many things in life it doesn’t take much to make a mess of a golden opportunity.

A few weeks ago I met with one of the UK’s more successful and respected PR practitioners (no names, after all I didn’t ask their permission to refer to them in public).  Our conversation turned to the issue of attracting and retaining new people into the PR sector.

My companion expressed the belief that PR agencies should be restricting their recruitment to graduates from top universities, and only those with good degrees in solid academic subjects, and who have impressive A level results too.

Buyer’s market, you see.  Why bother hiring kids who don’t have degrees, or who have degrees in flaky subjects from tier-two institutions, when there are Oxbridge graduates desperate for work too?

Why?

Well, because intelligence and ability come in all shapes and sizes for one thing.

Not to mention that we’ve probably all met someone with a first class degree from Oxford or Cambridge who also happened, bizarrely, to be catastrophically stupid and lacking in any sense of instinctive intelligence.

Why else?

PR agencies, in the main, have teams.  The best teams are made up of people with different outlooks, backgrounds and skills.  The points of conflict, debate and interaction in such teams don’t just keep everyone on their toes but can lead to excellent results, well-structured campaigns and a more interesting working environment.

But what about the impact on the agencies who decide to fill their ranks with as many Oxbridge graduates as they can?  Surely this is a canny move on their part.  Cheap excellent new hires who, a few years ago, would probably not have considered working in PR.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, if this is how your agency has generally recruited then chances are nothing will go wrong.  Nothing that hasn’t already, anyway.

But if you are about to turn your back on the way you have traditionally recruited then you might want to ask yourself how you got to where you are now without such shining stars.  Where will it lead you?  What will your agency look like in a few years?  Will you have a shiny new company culture (mono-culture even) based on the über achievers club?  Is that what you always hoped for? When the market picks up, how will you stop the recently-arrived high-achievers from leaving?

What of the AEs and SAEs currently in the PR sector with degrees from universities like Bournemouth, or no degree at all?  In this brave new world they wouldn’t have stood a chance.  But they can’t be all that bad, surely?

I have a problem (actually it’s more of a chip on my shoulder) about this narcissistic outlook that says you should only hire “the best” now they are available.  There are bigger forces in play, frankly.

One of them is the mess the current government is making of higher education.  By stifling university funding and allowing institutions a free hand to increase their fees, the government has to all intents and purposes made going to study for a degree considerably more expensive at the stroke of a ministerial pen.

Fees of £9,000 per year at a time when (see above) youth unemployment rates are disgustingly high, is making some of the brightest and best turn their backs on university education.  And who the hell can blame them?  The prospect of graduating with £30,000+ debts and a dearth of job opportunities must be very dispiriting to say the least.

Going to university is a good thing.  Of course it is.  But it’s not right for everyone and it’s not always the right option.  Even while there many students simply don’t make the most of it.  It’s an experience that should broaden your mind, not just your book collection.

There are young people who could, quite easily, do fabulously well at any one of the UK’s top universities choosing not to bother at all.  Should we rule them out?  What do we value most – their potential or their pieces of paper?

Whichever way I look at it, I cannot help but think that the idea of only hiring Oxbridge graduates and eschewing all other candidates is a very bad idea indeed.  The kind that will eventually come back to bite you in the arse.  Well, here’s hoping.

The meaning of Christmas, and of PR

I went to see my youngest son’s school Christmas play recently. Twice. It was very enjoyable and he got a kick out of my being there such that I would have sat through anything he asked me to.

As I sat looking at the scenery my mind wandered inexplicably to a question both my children have asked me from time-to-time. What is it, they have asked, that I do for a living. It’s a question that I’ve often struggled to answer in terms they understand. And as I sat there, I asked myself…. what would Jesus do?

No, I didn’t. Of course I didn’t. But I did find myself wondering if I could take the elements of the nativity and use them to create an explanation of what I do for a living.

Let’s consider the main characters.

The inn-keeper
I’ve played the “no room at the inn” card when denying journalists access to my clients in times of crisis control and damage limitation. So he fits.

The angel Gabriel
If the angel of the Lord had come down and confronted a journalist the exchange would have gone something like this.

Angel: “I bring great news for you and all mankind!”
Journo: “If you have a press release you can email it to me and I may read it later, but please don’t call to ask me if I’ve received it.”

So the angel Gabriel fits the bill.

The shepherds
They watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground. I haven’t done a great deal of sitting on the ground during my time in PR, but I have frequently felt like I was watching my flock. Although herding cats is a description that feels more apt.
Either way, I look out for my clients’ reputations, and I look out for the best interests of the people I manage. So grab your crooks fellas… you’ve made the cut.

King Herod
Well, let’s face it…. we’ve all got a few client-from-hell stories to tell. You’re in, your majesty.

Three Wise Men
Trying to make sense of events that go on around them, they fit perfectly.

The holy family themselves is where I struggle. So I’m leaving them out – for now at least.

Were I to then take all the above elements and weave them into an explanation of what PR is, it might go a little like this.

I try to tell people important news, not my news. But news from someone else – I’m like a messenger. When I’m not doing that I’m protecting my clients from anyone who is trying to say bad things about them. And sometimes, like the inn-keeper, I have to be a bit stern and say no.

I often feel like one of the wise men, as I understand the bigger picture (Balthazar, probably, because he’s the only one of the wise men who ended up with his own animated TV show in the 1960s and 70s).  And I work in an industry so full of arrogance and ego that you’d be forgiven for thinking every other person believes they’ve been cast in the role of son of God.

Or daughter. No gender bias here, folk.

As descriptions of my job go, it’s far from perfect. But it beats the one my eldest son came up with at school when he was seven. Asked what his dad’s job is, he said “he visits people in their offices and they have to give him money.”

PR is dead – long live PR

When I hear – as I’m sure we all have – that social media has irrevocably changed the way in which people communicate with each other, and will therefore change the way in which brands (and their intermediaries) attempt to communicate with people, I reserve the right to remain sensibly sceptical.

Back in 2002 or so, I encountered a question in almost every client meeting I had, whether with existing or prospective clients.

“Do you do online PR?” I was asked.

Frankly, this question threw me into a spin – no PR pun intended. I would return to my desk and sit there reflecting on this question, or more to the point on my complete lack of a coherent answer to it. I felt like a latter-day Rip van Winkle that had woken up after a long nap only to find there’d been an unexpected shift of paradigm. The (PR) world had moved on without me.

You see, the problem was I didn’t even know what online PR was. Admittedly I wasn’t, back then, the grey-haired PR aficionado I am now. But I was no newbie either. And I had been the news editor of the UK’s foremost online news site. So, I felt if anyone ought to know what online PR was, and be all over it, it should be me.

But I didn’t. And that troubled me.

One of the nice(r) things about being a little older though, is you start to notice when things heralded as new are, in fact, a rehash of something that has gone before.

This brings me back to the issue of why I didn’t understand what online PR was? Because it never existed. In much the same way that social media has not and will not change the way people communicate – except, of course, at a fairly mechanical level.

I don’t know which was invented first – the fork or the spoon. But I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those implements was heralded as changing people’s relationship with food by some visionary or other. Sure, you scoop with one and, err, fork with the other. But the fundamentals remain utterly unchanged. You are eating. Transporting food into your mouth. Chopsticks will also do the job.

Back to PR. This is only my view, admittedly, but surely PR is the art of story telling – stories can be fact or fiction; if you don’t agree with me, ask yourself why some documentaries are more compelling than others, why some biographies are more gripping.

Story telling only works if you have something interesting to say and someone who wants to hear it. You can sit round the campfire, you can put it on a CD, you can go on stage and use performance art, you can make a movie or a one-act play, you can write a novel or even make a documentary. It is still, at some level, a story – words and images crafted to convey information in an interesting way.

I don’t doubt there are better and more sophisticated PR practitioners that will knock holes in my viewpoint with effortless ease. But I stand by the principle that if you can’t get the basics right – what’s my story and who do I want to tell it to – it doesn’t matter which medium you select for telling it.

The time has come to spam journos with video

Am I missing something?

A fully-functioning synapse or two? Or the point, perhaps.

I just read a piece on TheRealPRMoment about research from press release distribution company RealWire, which states “news releases including video content achieve three times more coverage than releases without multimedia content.”

It goes on…. “For those releases with editorial or blog coverage, the average number of pieces was 17.1 for the releases with video content. This was almost three times the figure for the sample without video content of 6.2 and four-and-a-half times more than the distribution industry average of 3.8 pieces.”

Drawing a comparison with the last such survey, the story tells us “Adam Parker, RealWire’s chief executive, attributed the lack of adoption of video to (among other things) the barriers that existed such as the prohibitive cost of some distribution services.”

Bit of a so-far-so-obvious, you may be thinking.

Here’s the thing I’m struggling with.

This is the same Adam Parker and the same RealWire behind the (always struck me implausibly-named) An Inconvenient PR Truth campaign, which put forward a bill of rights (frankly, I’ve never known whether to laugh or weep at that, and I still can’t make my mind up) regarding the manner in which PR people send information to journalists.

Let me break it down for you.

It’s a campaign that proposes 10 so-called rights intended to make PR people treat bloggers and journalists with more respect and, at its heart, stop spamming them with unwanted press releases and other forms of contact.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I dislike the campaign. I wrote about it here.

I’ve never claimed to be possessed of super-human intelligence, and what I’m now struggling with is that on one hand RealWire/Adam Parker (wearing the Inconvenient Truth hat) have advised me (and the rest of the PR industry) to tread carefully. On the other hand, the one that’s promoting distribution services via a news item about a piece of research, I’m now being advised to use video in press releases.

Too many people in PR can recount stories of journalists becoming quite irrationally upset just because there was a jpg or a pdf attached to an email.

Step forward if you’re brave enough to start punting video at people.

I’ll be the one eating popcorn and watching what happens.