Google+ is no more. Who knew it still existed??

So Google+ is no more, it’s been withdrawn amid huge data exposure. I can’t say I’m surprised. I can say that I am surprised that it was still going and still had a user base to close down – we’ve not heard much about it for many years.

Even when it launched – and as it started to generate interest/news coverage, I wasn’t convinced it would take off. It all felt a bit too little, too late. Facebook was already dominant; Twitter was arguably in its heyday. I felt they were already too established to be replaced, even by a single platform that wanted to do it better.  The forced sign-up via YouTube et al, and the rumours that you would need to use Google+ for SEO purposes also failed to build a popular platform.

It didn’t really have anything to offer to pull users away from Facebook or Twitter –despite being in a strong position with the power of Google behind it. Why would I go to Google+ when I already had an established network on other platforms? The IT and tech crowd seemed to take to it, and they soon stopped releasing user numbers – not a good sign.

And the data loss, Google chose not to inform any of their users, whether this will be seen as a bad idea, only time will tell. Reports suggest it was not significant or important data (I wonder if that is because so few users actually had any important data on the platform).

Overall it is a lesson on the need to offer significant improvements and differences, if you are going to join the party late.

I’m back! And here’s a great way to quickly find the news

Ok, so it has been a while since I have had a moment to sit down and pen a blog (so long, in fact, that I had forgotten the password….). I have had a couple of really interesting, if challenging, clients over the past year which have taken up all (if not more) of my attention.

Besides, it’s not like I’ve missed much in the world of news, and PR and facts and lies and anything like that. Bell Pottinger haven’t done anything worth noting, Trump and Brexit are both running as we expected, Facebook is still a reputable organisation and no news is fake. It’s not like there was much for me to share my thoughts on.

All that said, I’m back now (I hope you are all suitably excited) and I am hoping to get this back up and running and share some inane ramblings on news and PR and anything else that might take my fancy.

On another note – and I’m probably late to the table on this one – but a comrade shared the Quartz News app with me last week, and I have to say, I bloody love it. It is like having a text conversation on the news (albeit with a bot). It shares the headline from the top global news (complete with image/gif/witty line) and you can find out more about that story or move on to the next one. It’s a great way to quickly get on top of the news, if you only have a few moments and don’t have time to scroll through all the nonsense on Twitter. Highly recommended by this news geek.

Here you go:

Blog post: The state of our once globally respected Press and the chase for clicks…

I just came across this article on the Telegraph’s website this evening:

“Will the 2017 solar eclipse cause a secret planet called ‘Nibiru’ to destroy Earth next month?”

It even has a countdown!?!

The once great Telegraph with 1.6m readers back in the 1990s, publisher of the MP Expenses Scandal back in 2009. The Telegraph that claims to be trusted the world over.

Today it published a story so far away from its ideals that I had to check I hadn’t been caught up in a spoof.

Quite obviously, the answer is no. So what evidence is the Telegraph using to support this story – editorial standards and all that?? Let’s take a look:

“Despite the lack evidence” the article states.

So why is it being printed? Straight off. There is no evidence, so how has the ramblings of a nut job, who is basing his theory that the world will end next month of a line from the bible, getting quoted in a ‘quality’ daily newspaper?

How has the UK press got into such a state that this is deemed as editorially acceptable??

Quite simply it is clicks. The more clicks, the more readers, the more advertising money. So a story about the end of the world is bound to draw in some non-traditional Telegraph readers (worked for me…), so the fact that it is inane nonsense from a nut job does not stop in appearing on the site.

And we wonder why the reputation of our press is taking such a hit these days…

Blog Post: Why the Pepsi advert and United Airlines debacles prove Boards need a corporate affairs voice

Last week we were all talking about how the Execs at Pepsi managed to approve THAT advert. This week we’re talking about United Airlines. Again. Barely days after miss-handling the incident over leggings, now we are all talking about their response to a viral video of a passenger being forcibly removed from a recent fight, blood stained face and all – a great way to look after customers.

He was removed because the flight was overbooked. Ignoring the issue around how did they not know it was full BEFORE everyone got on, and why drag him by his hair off, it’s their response to the video going viral that is of interest to me. Especially considering the Independent is reporting that United Airlines forcibly removed over 3.5k passengers in 2016, you would have thought they had a pretty good crisis response plan for this.

First of all, here is the CEO of United Airlines Oscar Munoz:

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation”

 “Re-accommodate” – I think he means to drag, pull and injure someone while removing them from the flight. While it sounds like PR talk, I hope this wasn’t the work of the PR team, as all it has done is further flame the fire they are already engulfed in. It is also a non-apology apology. He is apologising for having to remove these customers, not for the way it was done (badly) or accepting responsibility for the fault. “reach out”/ ”resolve this situation” – no-one talks like this and it does not come across as particularly sincere. The investigation is a good start (as long as that doesn’t mean kick into the long grass and hope everyone loses interest), but I’m not sure why it needed quite so many words to say there will be a full investigation into what happened.

So as well as there being a viral video being shown across the globe of a United Airlines passenger being assaulted while being forced to leave the plane, we now have the “re-accommodate” response.

United also released the following statement:

 “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation.”

“after looking for volunteers” “one customer refused leave” – so not much of a volunteer then was he guys! Again, they are apologising for overbooking the flight. Not beating up one of their passengers (or at least allowing one to be beaten up).

As with the Pepsi debacle last week, this should remind us all of the importance of having an experienced PR/Media relations voice at the Top Table. Not reporting into HR, or Sales/Marketing Director, but a Corporate Affairs voice on the Board. There is no-way an experienced Corporate Affairs Director, with a background in media relations would have watched the Pepsi advert and not thought “Whoa, really? Are we actually doing this?”. And in the case of United Airlines, they would have quickly been able to get hold of this story, apologised (for the overbooking, and the process – that clearly doesn’t work – and the violent assault), investigated and promised to improve the process/future approach to overbooking. It wouldn’t have stopped the video going viral, but we wouldn’t all be here talking about another terrible response to a crisis and Googling the definition of “volunteer”

Although, I suppose one good outcome of this may be that United Airlines won’t have to worry about overbooking for a while.

#UPDATE# Since writing this piece the esteemed CEO of United Airlines has emailed all staff and called the customer in question “disruptive and belligerent” – there is good overview on the BBC here, as well as some examples of other airline PR ‘issues’

More detail on the United Airlines story here:

And if you’ve been on a desert island without people, news or the internet, here’s a bit on the Pepsi advert:


CIPR State of Profession Report 2017 – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.


I finally got around to looking at the CIPR’s State of Profession 2017 report that they published a few weeks ago. Below are my thoughts on the findings.

The Good

  • Strategic planning is up 10% (69% vs 59% in 2016):

So this is an encouraging piece of news and suggests that strategy is becoming more prevalent within the industry. As some who is obsessed with strategy (some say in an unhealthy way) and the importance of doing things as part of a strategic objective, and not just for the sake of doing something, this is music to my ears. Invariably, PR teams are small, there is only so much we can do and achieve, so hopefully this direction of travel will continue and we will see more work being done for ‘strategic’ reasons.

  • Diversity – fewer asking for a Degree:

While there is still bad news (see below) around diversity, there is a little a bit of good news, in that the number of recruiters demanding undergraduate degrees from junior candidates fell by four points. While it’s still at 52%, I’m pleased to see it moving in the right direction. I have written before about this but this obsession with a University Degree still confuses me. My experience from launching the PR Apprenticeship taught me that there is so much energy and talent and enthusiasm and quality out there from those who didn’t want to go to university, who didn’t fancy it, despite having the grades and knowledge, so why not tap into that!?! We really do need to be a bit more clever sometimes.

  • Increasing salaries:

Also good to see an increase in salaries from 2016 numbers – suggests the industry is still in a good shape and still growing. Words I like to hear during uncertain times.

  • The importance of diversity in campaigns.

Another encouraging result from the survey was the increase in practitioners who agreed that campaigns were more effective with diverse teams. This is up to 59% from 51%. I have to wonder why 39% would disagree with this? As an industry that is 90% white, 86% University educated, how we are supposed to run campaigns that target minorities or want to reach across the country? That intelligence, that insight, is vital. It needs to be harnessed as much as. Different people react differently to different messages and different media. A diverse team can create better campaigns that are more likely to cross these boundaries and ultimately be more successful and prove a higher return on the investment of our clients.


The Bad

  • Only 4% fear ‘automation’

This is a concern. I believe that a lot of our work is going to disappear over the next 10-15 years – like a lot of industries. We are already seeing an impact in areas like media monitoring – when I started out it was us that had to scour the papers and trade publications for our client’s mentions (and woe behold when anything was missed), now it’s all automated. I also remember spending nearly a whole day sending fax invites to 650 MPs to invite them to an event – speed dialling and mail/email merge wasn’t a thing back then. Proofreading/editing has been ‘supported’ by the computer for 20 years (and thankfully it has been, my spelling is still dodgy, and without spellchecker, I would not be as successful as I have been). But how long until content creation is automated. Computers can already write copy from scratch, maybe not as well as the well trained and emotional input of the human being, but how long until they can write crisp, quality copy in half the time of us?? Translation, social media, research, are all going the way of the computer.

Obviously, there is still strategy and the emotional understanding of the human and human interaction that I wonder if a computer will ever truly understand, but that won’t need as many practitioners as it needs now.

I expect there will be a lot less work for us all over the next 10-15 years, and hardly anyone in the industry seems to be worried about this.

  • Tightening budgets and the impact of Brexit

Unsurprisingly budgets are being tightened. We are in uncertain times, and no-one really knows the impact that Brexit is going to have, so we have to keep doing more for less, and actually I always like to see us challenged on offering value for money and do we need to spend as much as we do. 57% think that Brexit will have a negative impact, and there was 8% who thought it would be positive! But I am putting that 8% to the Comms team in Conservative Central Office and the handful in UKIP who have to keep up the pretence that Brexit is a good idea.

  • Internal comms importance reducing

Also worrying was the drop in the importance to internal communications – down by 3%. This may be statistically insignificant and just down to different recipients, but internal comms is so important I worry when it drops even a little bit. I have blogged about its importance before, and I still feel the same. There really is little point in spending £££ on a great PR campaign, to convince your publics that you are something, when the employees, the people who live and breathe the organisation, who engage with said publics every day are not on board or not happy or don’t feel engaged. They should be your first priority, not an afterthought, and the fact that they have dropped in importance, suggests that my message has not got through. I must do better!

  • Mental health low

A little red flag to me was that 90% of responders said they didn’t have any mental health issues. Considering PR is one of the most stressful jobs about, is there really so few of us with mental health issues, or is it so stigmatised, such a thing that is not conducive to successful career in PR that we don’t talk about. Or are we not educating our teams on mental health, and how important it is. Are people leaving the industry due to mental health issues as we’re not offering the support they deserve?

I don’t know the answer to a lot of these, but I think we should try to find out.


The Ugly

  • 90% white, 86% University educated

90% white. 86% university educated. Let’s just look at those stats for a moment. As an industry, we have been talking about the lack of diversity for decades. And yet, we are still making little to no progress. While it was encouraging to see earlier that diversity is seen as more important in campaign planning, all the meetings, working groups, forums etc. have still not had an impact. The PR Apprenticeship was meant to help with this, and it is a bit of a tragedy that the sector isn’t embracing it with the same vigour as when it was first launched. Especially when you consider the impact, and how well some of these young people are now getting on in the industry.

It appears we remain to be a lot of talk and hot air, and not a lot of action when it comes to diversity – and it’s not the first time that is something we have been accused of.

  • Gender pay gap

The PR industry is 61% female (although other recent surveys have put that figure higher), and yet we have a gender pay gap of more than 5k. On top of that, more men are earning the top/100k figures than women – 11% to 5%. How are we not still ashamed of ourselves for this. How are we not doing everything in our power to overcome this? We are not an Old Boys Club. Women make up a majority of our industry. The CIPR Women in PR Group is making great strides, but until all of us, every single one of us is just plain embarrassed by the fact that we are paying men more than women, then we’re not going deal with this. We are a majority female industry. And that is great. But why aren’t we leading the way on this!?!


On another note, I came across a few interesting facts while reading through as well….

The Interesting

  • 60% with more than 11 years’ experience

Now, this surprised me. I’ve always thought that this was a young person’s game. And that it’s the SAE/AMs that are the most prevalent. That people soon get worn down and broken by the industry and soon move on to more family friendly, less stressful, less all action careers… (at least that was my experience from my peer group). But this report showed that 60% have more than 11 years’ experience, which suggests my theory was a load of cobblers…

  • In-house public sector largest area

Another surprise. Of all the different sectors, the largest was ‘In House, public sector’. It goes against all we’ve been told about the savage cuts in the public sector. But more likely is that the importance of communications, and of quality, measurable PR is seen as more important than ever in the public sector. So it’s a credit to our public sector comrades that industry is in such good shape in that sector. Long may it continue.


How long will The Times keep its paywall….

My current morning routine as I sit on the tube into the office is to flick through Twitter and Facebook and click and open any interesting news articles that I find. That way, when I go underground and lose The Today programme I read through news from many sources – the Guardian, Telegraph, BBC, and even the New York Times. I doubt if I’m the only news fiend that does this.

This morning I noticed that it was never The Times.

Despite being a paid subscriber (which really I have to be to be in my job) articles rarely crop up from The Times. And that got me wondering about the paywall. I’ve been critical of The Times paywall before (see here) but it seemed to be bucking the trend and reports suggest that it is making money through the Hard Wall. But surely it can’t be sustainable. There cannot be enough loyal readers, who only want the Times to keep it up. With so much traffic now going to The Times’ competitors via social media, so much ad spend being lost, it can’t be long until – like its sister paper The Sun – we wake up one morning to find the paywall has fallen.

That said, it doesn’t have to come completely down. I would suggest that the model adopted by the Telegraph or the New York Times is a better option (a limited number of articles for free before the paywall hits). That way you get the loyal customer bases subscribing and the more fickle SM crowd ad spend. Seems pretty sensible to me.

I wonder how much of the Times position is now stubbornness on behalf of the owner.

Are controversial social media posts on your personal accounts a matter for your employer?

I came across this article on the Guardian website a few weeks ago and noticed it again yesterday on the Evening Standard site. It is about an employee at the British Council (the Head of Global Estates no less) who on her personal Facebook account, made comments ‘mocking’ Prince George. If you’re really interested in what she said… “I know he’s only two years old, but Prince George already looks like a F****** D***head (these are the Guardian’s asterisks, I am unsure if the original post included them).

If this was the British Council’s Facebook account or Twitter feed, and the employee had posted it, I would understand the uproar. But it wasn’t. It was her own personal account, and she was expressing her own, personal opinion. An opinion I should add that many others have.

Why is this a national news story? I appreciate that she is a senior employee, but why are the British Council investigating, and why has said employee had her name dragged through social and print media??

I really don’t know the answer. Maybe she didn’t have the “Comments are my own” line on her account (which I’ve always considered a waste of time). We can still clock off, head to the pub and say what we like about the Royal Family or our employer for that matter and know that our personal thoughts and opinions are just that. This would not have been an issue before social media so why now??

Ok so there is an argument that if these were racist comments, then the story would be different, but where does Freedom of Speech start and stop??

I also think the way the British Council have handled it is all wrong. By saying they are investigating an employee for personal posts, they have flamed the story and made it much stronger story “British Council to investigate employee” instead of “British Council employee says something rude about Prince George in her own personal time away from work”.

My advice would have a simple “The comment was made on a private social media account and has no connection to the British Council and does not represent the views of the British Council”. And that’s it. I would have been tempted to add “what employees do and say in their own time is their own business”, but I wouldn’t, as it’s not our place (I’m thinking as if I’m working for the BC) to be the moral compass for the Fourth estate.

I would expect it from the Mail, or Express, but I would hazard a guess that a lot of Guardian journalist share this person’s republicanism.

It’s interesting that the Guardian didn’t open comments on this piece, I wonder if it’s because they knew their reader’s response would have been “yeah, so what” and “I agree”.