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Stuart Bruce - Wolfstar
Leeds
Interests: business, current affairs, cooking, technology, politics, dining, computer games and reading.
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Stuart Bruce - Wolfstar is now following The Typepad Team
Mar 15, 2010
Great post. I couldn't agree more. One of my main drivers behind setting up Wolfstar is I disagreed with the approach of setting up 'digital' or 'social media' divisions with PR consutancies. Our approach is that 'digital' is a core skill no different to media relations and that everyone in the team has to 'get it'.
It's one I've been pondering as well. It's to do with trust. Think it depends on why you're in that private space. For example, I was at Tom Watson's leaving party for stepping down as digital engagement minister. That was a semi-public event (lots of people who didn't all know each other), but it would have been a breach of trust to report from it. Overhearing a conversation in a hotel lobby, airport lounge or train where I have NO RELATIONSHIP with the people involved isn't a breach of trust. If I KNOW them, however slightly or even through a third party relationship, then it does start to become a breach of trust. At least I think that's what I think!
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Sally is spot on. The other point is that decent PR folk won't want to work with you if you're just doing it for the freebies or cash. We're looking for genuine blogs that are well written and really of interest to their readers. If they are just full of re-hashed content then the readership won't be very good. PRs have got to work it even harder to think of things that will genuinely be of interest to the bloggers we're talking to. This might also mean that for one client we're doing different things for different people, so that we're meeting your needs just as much as we're meeting our clients. There's no point unless there is something in it for 'you' as well as 'us'!
Susanna, some great points both in your post and the comments. I think part of the problem is PR people who are afraid to push back against their clients/senior management. One of the benefits of being 'old' (40!) in this space is I've got 20 years of standing up to clients. At Wolfstar the first question we ask is "What's in it for the blogger?" There has got to be something in it for both them and our client. That usually means something that's good for your readers. Something that will help you amuse, entertain, inform and draw new readers to your blog that are interested enough in what you've written to want to comment and share it with their friends. We're also always really interested in hearing feedback from you. Did we get the approach right? We try hard, but sometimes get it wrong, so tell us how to do it better. Above all we should all be trying to put something back into the community, that's PRs and bloggers alike.
@wadds but surely that was the point? Marr wanted to talk gossip and rumours, and Mandelson wouldn't let him. He wanted a conversation about real issues and facts. You can't not rebut if the journalist is spinning half-truths. Mandelson was the one who tried to engage in conversation and Marr failed. You're right the loser was democracy, but 110% Marr's fault.
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@Guido Yep, you and me both I was a regular frequenter of Usenet and email lists back in the 90s when most of the folk who run things like Social Media Library were probably still in nappies. That's almost 15 years of learning how not to spam people.
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Having done both, I'm not so sure there is such a huge difference between political PR and corporate PR. The media focus on the tip of the iceberg (the attack, sleaze type stuff), but the vast majority of work is quite mundane and simiar to the business world - researching and writing articles/speeches, organising events, messaging, responding to interview requests etc.
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@James Tutt - good point. What I meant about Derek is that he made very senior figures actually listen and agree that Labour needed to be much, much better in this space. That was a huge achievement. His mistake then came by partially squandering the opportunity by doing the wrong things. What we often tell potential clients is that there are LOTS of so called online PR/social media experts who can list what can be done and do it. But it doesn't mean they can do it right! Obama v. McCain is a good example. McCain did most of the same things online that Obama did, it's just that Obama did it right and did it much better. @GuidoFawkes - can't believe I'm saying this, but I agree with everything you say! Except I wasn't suggesting that Tom should head LabourList. That's not what Jeremy Hunt does, I've explained more fully on Kerry McCarthy's blog (not actually up yet!).
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Steve, that's why I said it was a risk. The response has actually been very mixed, with some seeing the 'joke' and others taking offence. Personally, it's a risk I wouldn't have taken, even though I did think it was amusing.
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@Robin I'm not sure that "time and the market" is the same thing. The brighter and swifter ad folk are recognising the sea change and buying in the appropriate skills. They already command the lion's share of budgets and it's easier to hang on to budget and spend it in a different way than it is for other disciplines to win new business.
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Really good points Andrew. I think there is a difference between what clients want to pay you for and where you can add real value. Some of my 'best' work has been where I've only counselled clients and haven't been involved very much in implementation. Unfortunately, there isn't enough of that work for me to create a sustainable business model. That's why lots of what we do, and most PR firms do, is at a tactical delivery level. Can you manage reputation? I think so, in that you can have processes and disciplines that influence it. What you can't do is control it.
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@Ian - thanks mate, but The World's Leading got there before you on slagging off the logo http://www.theworldsleading.net/index.php/2007/07/24/there-is-no-try-i-see-that-bruce-has-started-a/ @Rob Brown - thanks for the reminder about the Wired article. Richard Edelman keeps saying "Google never forgets" @Roger - page rank is too crude a measure to really be about reputation, digital firms are only disqualified from doing PR because they only do digital. Digital is always part of reputation, but only ever part. @Stephen Waddington - agreed, especially about the market size and potential fees issue. PR supporting the sales cycle is great (excellent source of revenue!), as long as we remember it is only part of what it/we can do @Pete Goold - I think that's partially my point that digital needs to be a core competency for public relations people
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Mark, my original post referenced that, but it began to become quite long and rambling ;-) Time allowing I'm going to do a second post on the 'other' Labour stuff that is out there.
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That's the problem with The West Wing - there are just too many good characters. Whenever I'm dealing with a crisis scenario I stop and ask myself "What would Leo do?".
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I'll be presenting a series of case studies showing practical UK examples of successful social media programmes/campaigns. Some will be ours, but I'll also be covering good ones from other brands.
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Machiavelli's The Prince is actually well worth a read by anyone in business or public realtions - not that I'm suggesting you follow all its advice, but it is thought provoking. Another ancient text well worth reading is Sun Tzu's The Art of War.
Toggle Commented Oct 22, 2008 on Peter's friends at PR Studies
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OK Iain, mea culpa, sorry. You're right you didn't mention Mandelson and the oligarch. My mistake, although my defence was that I was on holiday and wasn't paying as much attention my RSS feeds as normal ;-)
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@Mark - I don't use Virgin much, but when I have I've had a pretty good experience. I was once stuck on a cancelled train and decided to abandon my journey rather than continue by coach. They let me use my ticket next day and refunded the original cost. @Seb - I can't understand what's so hard about a 'frequent traveller' programme. GNER had one, it's totally unacceptable that National Express is still in the process of setting one up. @Andy - hotels usually have a room or two for emergencies even when full. @Stephen - You're definitely the first person I've heard say that they prefer National Express to GNER, absolutely everyone else I've spoken to thinks they are far worse. I don't buy the "hard and fast rules" as GNER did use to be more understanding. I think what irritated me most was that it was a straight no, rather than "I'm sorry sir, I do understand and would like to help....".
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Yep, you and David Brain were the two that I immediately spotted as missing, hence my reference, but I'm sure there are others. It still gives you a little tingle down the spine, even though you know it is nonsense.
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I was struggling to understand Wadd's comment about 3 until Matthew commented and then it suddenly made sense. My confusion was around top 50 or top 60 and top 10 or top 12. If you look at the UK top 12 then it is 3 PR agencies as Matthew's blog is at 12 so it becomes Rainier, Hotwire and Wolfstar. My mistake was just looking at the top 10. Apologies to Rainier.
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Hi Urs, thanks for commenting. I guessed the "confusing" element might have been down to length, great that you managed to pack so much in! On the "expensive" I still think that it is less than the equivalent time that a CEO could have to spend to prepare for and attend say an external or employee conference, or a media interview.
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Sam, I agree with you about Pickles, and on reflection I should have made Blears/Pickles a score draw as I honestely think both are doing a very good job. You probably have a better impression of Mitchell than me, as he is one of the ones that even a political junkie like me had to check out to refresh my memory as to which one he was! Don't agree with you on Smith who constantly appears out of her depth, althougnh I do agree that Davis comes across as "a man who's time and come and gone" - perhaps they should both have been a NEITHER. And finally, you wouldn't expect me to agree about Alan!
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Steve, thanks for responding and trying to help Andy out - good to see a social media campaign being done properly. It's interesting that Andy's question reflects my criticism of the awful Cocoon manual.
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Rob, you're right it is more polemic than usual.And on re-reading it I'm not sure I accurately conveyed my thoughts. My point was that it isn't about the rights/wrongs of the dispute, but that certain tactics are morally reprehensible and beyond the pale. It is very bad CSR. Strike breaking is NOT the way a responsible corporate acts. Industrial disputes are part of business and sometimes the company is right, sometimes the union, more usually somewhere between the two. But both sides must act responsibly and there are things that unions should never do (intimidation, flying pickets etc) and things that employers should never do (intimidation, flying workers/scabs) should never do.
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