Tag Archives: Communication design

“How’s the Review Going?” Spam

image

At a conference I have been attending I was asked to explain to PR folk there what journalists want. Apparently, by the time my session came around, the PR folk had been put off by several previous journalists who had presumably used clear language to express what they want because most didn’t turn up. Wisely, since the three who did either nodded off, feigned stomach convulsions and left the room or got overly fresh with their BlackBerry.

This didn’t stop me ranting and raving like a lunatic about how PR people don’t often understand what we want. One thing I didn’t mention is the Bane of the Follow-up Email. These are emails sent (often automatically) in the period after a journalist expresses interest in a product sufficiently to download it, or receive further details on it, or whatever. From then on the PR person will send a weekly email — exactly the same one, each time — asking for a status update. Forever, or until the PR company no longer represents the client, or the PR person dies, or the company they work for gets shut down for being a spammer.

Now, not many PR agencies do this, but those that do seem impervious to the irritation this causes folk like me. Imagine if every PR agency did this: A journalist’s inbox would be so full of these things they wouldn’t be able to do any reviewing at all. So my policy is never to reply to them for fear of encouraging the practice. But, frankly, it is no better than spam, and it leaves the journalist (well, this journalist) in a frayed and hostile mood, which can’t be good for the company or the product the PR person is being paid to promote.

So, please, no mindless follow-up emails unless it’s to offer fresh (and relevant and useful) information, and certainly no automated one that goes out every week. We’ll get to your products when it suits our schedule, not yours, and if you start to bombard us we’ll probably ditch the idea of writing about your product in a fit of petulance.

Mossberg

Ken Auletta writes about Walt Mossberg in the New Yorker:

clipped from www.newyorker.com

Eric Schmidt suggests that, while the Internet may yield enormous amounts of information, it is easy to drown in it. So consumers, Schmidt says, “go to brands they trust.” He adds, “Walt is a brand.”

Europe’s Top-heavy Leagues

Lg-spain Spanish Primera Liga (48%)
Lg-bundesliga German Bundesliga (54%)
Lg-epl2 English Premier League (47%)
Lg-france French Ligue 1 (47%)
Lg-greece Greek Ethniki Katigoria (6%)
Lg-holland Dutch Eredivisie (25%)
Lg-italy Italy Serie A (24%)

Lg-champ English Championship (29%)
Lg-scot Scottish Premier League (29%

This doesn’t have a lot to do with technology, but it’s an excuse to play around with sparklines, Edward Tufte’s approach to feeding data into text in the form of small data-rich graphics. And they might tell us a bit about soccer, competitiveness and which country is the powerhouse of Europe. (These ones are done with Bissantz’ excellent Office plugin.)

What started me off here was the comment on the BBC website that English soccer, while strong at the top (Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal), drops alarmingly in quality. Is there really no competition in the English Premier League? The absence of English clubs in the final 4 of the UEFA Cup would seem to indicate it’s true.

But I thought another way of exploring it would be to grab the points gathered by each team in each of the main European leagues, and then plot them as a simple sparkline, each bar indicating the points one by each club in the table. The steepness and evenness of the sparkline gradient should give a pretty clear impression of which leagues are split between great clubs and the mediocre rest.

Visually, Spain is clearly the most competitive league (with the exception of England’s second league, the Championship, which has an impressively smooth gradient.) The German Bundesliga comes second, with the English Premier League third. All the others, frankly, look too top heavy to be regarded as having any depth (Italy doesn’t really count as it’s in such a mess at the moment.)

The figures in brackets show how many points the bottom club has as a percentage of the top club, a figure that’s not particularly useful as, for example in Greece, the bottom club Ionikos doesn’t seem to has won only two games in 26.

The Sandwich Board Goes Hi-tech

I thought we had gotten beyond the era of people walking around with advertising hoardings hung around their necks like some medieval punishment, but apparently it ain’t so. Adwalker (motto: ‘You’ve got to find some way of saying it without saying it’, which apparently is something that Duke Ellington said) says that by

wearing the Adwalker i-pack, our personnel engage consumers at premium Out Of Home locations, delivering the highest quality brand experience through Adwalker’s Interactive applications.

Actually, it’s not quite as awful as it sounds, and probably this is the direction that the advertising world is likely to go in: The Adwalker patented media platform is worn as a compact body pack, enabling services and applications that include brand advertising, point of sale, data capture and multi media messaging. Like so:

Adwalker has signed a three year access agreement with British airports under which the folk above will be able to wander around the airports harassing passengers. Now you won’t be sure whether the person coming towards you with some device tied to their chest is a terrorist or a marketing person. In either case, I would advise running.

Non-intrusive Advertising in Your Browser

Here’s a new  idea for non-intrusive advertising: T&S Advertising. It’s basically a way for your website to rent out space in the title bar of your browser and its status bar (the bit at the bottom) to outside advertisers. Like this at the top:

Ts1

and this at the bottom:

Ts2

The idea here is that such advertising doesn’t take up any extra space, isn’t intrusive and could be easily configurable. A website would rent out space there in the same way it would rent out space to Google Ads, banner ads, or whatever. It’s the brainchild of a 23–year old Dutch student called Johan Struijk, who according to a press release made available yesterday hopes that

at only $1 per 1000 views this is a low cost but effective form of advertising. “I think this will mainly appeal to modern, forward thinking businesses,” Johan said, “and perhaps some of the larger blue chip companies who have established brand names and slogans.”

I’m not as convinced as he that this would take off big time since those places on a screen are so unobtrusive as to be invisible, but I could be wrong. And it’s good to see folks exploring ideas like this which don’t involve hoodwinking the user. Johan might want to run a spell checker over his website and press release, though, just so the blue chips take him seriously.

PR Pushes TiddlyWikis

An interesting development, according to Netimperative – The UK PR industry gets online trade body:

Public Relations Online (PRO), a new UK forum designed to promote the role of the Internet in the PR industry, has launched this week. The forum aims to educate the PR industry about the technologies and techniques needed to respond to the challenges of online communications. PRO is being launched by digital PR firms Market Sentinel and immediate future.

They are joined by contributors from Abakus Internet Marketing, Blogging Planet, Brand Energy Research, Creative Virtual, Custom Communications, Internet Reputation Services, Onalytica, Sitelynx and Tiddlywiki.

 Must confess I haven’t heard of any of those, but I love TiddlyWiki (shame they spelt it wrong.) I would love to see that tool go mainstream. If you haven’t checked out what it’s all about, do so. It’s basically a personal database in a single HTML file. There’s a great website dedicated to tips about using TiddlyWikis, a tutorial and a world map of TiddlyWiki users, courtesy of Frappr (I’m on it and I’m pumped to see how many users there are in this corner of the globe, although I still seem to be the only one working out of Indonesia.)

Forbes Quietly Drops The Misleading Link

Forbes has dropped its controversial embedded ad links, discussed on Loose Wire a few months back.

DMNews reports that Forbes has quietly removed the links “after editors objected to the appearance of advertising influencing editorial decisions”. Forbes says that the perception of a problem was more in its journalists’ minds than in those of the public.

The service, provided by Vibrant Media’s IntelliTXT, works like this, according to DMNews:

IntelliTxt links typically are double underlined and in a different color than non-paid hyperlinks. When a user hovers over an IntelliTxt link, the listings display a pop-up box with a “sponsored link” heading and site description. Forbes.com includes a “What’s this” link in the pop-up box directing users to an explanation page that offers the ability to turn off IntelliTxt for that site. Vibrant Media said fewer than 1 percent of the site’s users chose to banish IntelliTxt.

The article is worth reading for a more general debate about these contextual ads. My feeling is that unless the links are actually really contextual and intelligent — for example providing a link to something that that is clearly related to the text, is clearly marked as an ad and an ad that is exactly the same as the word it is next to, these things will quickly annoy and alienate readers. Sadly, so far, this has not been the case.

How (Not) To Pitch A Blogger

I get a the growing feeling that we bloggers are being targeted more than we were by PR folk. Sure, there’s the Warner/Secret Machines/MP3 blog debacle, where a Warner employee used some hamfisted tactics to get some bloggers to write about a Warner act. But there are other tactics too, and some are more impressive than others.

I lead a double life as a technology columnist — indeed, that’s why this blog exists — so I get quite a lot of PR pitches, some of whom are hoping I’ll do a column on their client, some of whom are just looking for a blog entry. All of this is fair game, and assumes a degree of professionalism on both sides.

But I didn’t realise until today that there are media “lists” of bloggers out there who are now being targetted by PR types. I received a pitch from a US-based public relations company for the Motorola DCP600 Digital Video Home Entertainment System. The email began thus:

As a blogger focusing on news and trends within the technology sector, I thought that you would be interested in this innovative home entertainment system from Motorola. Please consider covering this new product in your blog. Feel free to contact me if you need further info, have any questions, etc.

Fair enough, except for a couple of things. First off, the email address used has never been posted on this blog, and has only been used for spam, phishing attacks and Nigerian email fraud for the past year. The only exception: A pitch by another PR guy, back in June 2003. So where did they get my email address?

A quick email later, and the PR company tells me: “I received your information through a media research database.” Fair enough. Bloggers, clearly, are being tracked, and that’s probably no great shakes. But why the out-of-date email address? And why no basic data which might shape the nature of the pitch, such as I also happen to be a technology columnist for Dow Jones?

What makes it all a tad weirder is that the pitch is for a product that was announced in January, seven months ago, and won’t be available in the stores until “either October or
November (in time for the holiday shopping season)” — another two or three months away. Not exactly a hot story, either way you look at it. If I was half-asleep (not that unusual, I admit) I might have just edited down the attached press release and bingo! Motorola would have had a bit of free publicity to keep their product bubbling away on the search engines until the product actually appears in the stores.

Bottom line: I don’t mind being pitched. And I don’t mind it that much if the product is actually either too old to really get excited about, or too far away from the stores to burden readers with it. But couldn’t these media research databases, and the people who use them, do a bit of basic research (it’s called ‘Googling’) before they fire off their pitches? We bloggers, just like journalists, are a sensitive lot and hate to feel we’re being taken for a ride by folk who haven’t done their homework first. Otherwise it looks dangerously like spam.

Phone Commercials And Sloppy Eaters

Alan Reiter, the camera phone guy, has some interesting stuff to say about how phone companies are shooting themselves in the foot with dumb commercials that only reinforcing perceptions that camera+phone=public menace. He points to a TV commercial of a girl snapping a guy eating pasta like a slob, and then sending it to the guy’s fiancee. (I don’t know how this mini-story ends, but I assume the message is: “Buy a camera phone and avoid foolish mistakes like marrying a guy who doesn’t eat nice”.)

Anyway, Alan asks, “Wouldn’t you think that with all the money the handset vendors and cellular operators can spend on advertising and marketing, they would be able to come up with commercials that not only target the right demographics, but also wouldn’t wave a red flag in front of people who want to ban phones?” I agree. The ads I’ve seen in this part of the world only convince me that marketing folk haven’t got a clue about what users could do with these gadgets and so build their commercials around nonsensical scenarios involving butterflies, ocean-going yachts and beautiful people in tight sweaters. I think municipalities should ban the commercials, not the phones.

News: Draw Your Own Website

netomat, “a pioneer in communication software and network-based art”, has just released its new personal multimedia communication service. The beta (for both PC and Mac) is now available as a free download.

netomat allows anyone to “create and publish or send multimedia websites, emails and blogs using any combination of digital pictures, audio, voice, text, free-form drawing and animation — all in just a few minutes”. Looks intriguing.