Wednesday, 7 September 2011
If the story feels right, there will be a fact to be found. Maybe it will take a day or two and an omnibus poll to validate the idea, but it's worth the wait.
Friday, 15 July 2011
Why are so many people are puzzled at the length of time it has taken Rebekah Brooks to resign? The delay between major organizational crisis and senior executive resignation is most frequently part of the crisis management process. The more that public and media fury can be concentrated on an individual, the more it moves away from the organization itself. Once the individual has soaked up the wrath, he or she is shunted off, leaving a rather less personal and therefore less engaging focus for public outrage in its wake. Tony Hayward soaked up a large part of the criticism for the gulf oil spill and by the time he was dispatched BP had already taken decisive concrete steps to get the recovery programme underway. Similarly, NI is now couching its communications in the past tense. “We have already done x, y and z” is now part of the narrative. I’m not saying that the worst is over – who knows? – but the timing, in my view, is all part of the reputational fightback.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
It's easy to forget that one of the fastest routes to media coverage - and as importantly, creating a conversation about your story - is injecting a bit of humour into whatever it is you're writing about. Now clearly if you're in crisis management mode you don't want to be joking, but if you're in the throes of promoting something and it seems a bit dry, a bit of humour can really help.
One of my daily disciplines is to look at what the subs at the Sun make of the news of the day. Their ability to find a pun or a neologism that gets to the heart of the subject, often with a bit of humour, is unrivalled.
Write your release, or your email, or your blog post or your tweet and before you send it pause and ask yourself, what would the Sun do?
When I did B, I should have said that it stood for brevity, but I didn't, so rather than go on and on and on and on [That's enough ons - Ed] about it, I'll talk about delete.
I have seen stacks of press releases, briefing notes, case studies, blah, blah, that are much too long. If you're writing a press release and it goes on for more than a page and a half in 1.5 spacing, then you're saying too much.
Once you've finished a draft, do something else to take your mind off it so that you partially forget - and then flip back to your draft quickly. If, as you read it, it feels baggy, or if, more importantly, you don't get the gist of the story in the first two or three sentences, hover your hand over the delete key and don't hesitate to press.
If there's a superfluous quote, kill it. If there's a piece of jargon that you know that the recipient(s) will hate, get rid of it. Moreover, if it's all rubbish, delete the lot and start again.
There are a couple of books that I recommend: Strunk and White: "The Elements of Style" and William Zinsser: "On Writing Well". They're short, profound and proof that "less is more." Buy them.
Oh, it's so tempting. You're in a rush and you need to get your story out to as many correspondents, newsdesks, bloggers, wires as possible. So why not just CC them all? Or better still BCC them all? Try tapping CC on your keyboard now. Then try tapping your backspace button or delete button twice. Notice the similarity in the noise? I'm no scientist, but I'm pretty sure that Einstein or some other brainiac came up with a theory that said that every action had an equal and opposite or some such thing. The point I'm making, if it isn't achingly clear, is that correspondents like to be treated as individuals and if they aren't.....well.
When I started out in PR it was the days before email. PRs these days will not recognise the sensation of thin paper cuts and envelope glue on tongues. Nor will they recognise the hand ache that went with individualised, legible, handwritten notes. It was an occupational hazard. Or more accurately, an occupational opportunity. Back then, everything was personalised - and if you want something to work today it should still be personalised. You want a correspondent to respect you? Treat them with respect. Get to know what they want, get to know what they're like, amuse them, entertain them and never treat them like a commodity. "CC" is a no-no.
The survey industry that has grown up over the last decade (spurious stories based on research) is a direct result of a frantic chase to get a brand mention in papers on on the TV. The trouble is (a) that this is really an irrelevance for big brands (which don't need the mentions as much) and (b) the tortuous lengths that some agencies go to to get a brand mention take the storytelling miles away for anything approaching strategic relevance for the client.
For example, I saw a story a few years ago along the lines of "76% of us see Terry Wogan as the nation's favourite uncle says XYZ building society". How this advances the cause of XYZ building society defies belief, unless it catalyses an agency review.
Another big mistake with brand mentions comes when an inexperienced interviewee goes on the radio or TV to plug something. One contextual mention is OK, or maybe two, but I have heard people use their brand as a verb, rattling it off three times in a sentence. This is a bad thing. The viewer / listener hates it, the interviewer gets frustrated and the interviewee enters the "never again" database of the broadcaster.
No, the best approach with brand mentions is to construct a strong story which has your brand at the heart of it. By doing so, you make it impossible for journalists to avoid referencing your brand and you create a real sense of depth and relevance to the storytelling. It isn't that hard to do - it just takes a bit of imagination.
Saturday, 5 March 2011
I've been watching the coverage of World Book Night. As I was watching it, I was thinking about (and using) Twitter - mostly to pick on Sue Perkins' rather annoying take on contemporary literature.
Twitter condenses thought. What we tend to do with Twitter is look at it with a sense of its immediacy - not thinking about how the accumulation of words might feel over time.
No pretence here (honest), but I cut and pasted a bunch of my tweets over the last six or so months and made this. If nothing else, it's a nice diary, but it did make me think that Twitter in the hands of good writers might actually create a very rich and worthwhile pool of literature over time. A new literary medium that we'll read and absorb in a very different way........
It rained little green apples last night
They sound like paint names. Telegraph birth column: Ezra, a brother for Dolly, Albertine, and Lilac
The pigeons are doing their fat hang glider thing
Glorious morning. The sky looks enameled
Tennyson's last words were: "I have opened it."
The cat is watching telly, aka, staring in through the kitchen door
Now the cat is demanding pellets cooked four ways
The night has a melancholy the cat is anxious to embrace
Fionn Regan and Beirut on Friday night in a drizzly Welsh field
Memo to cat: You will get a jelly toupee each time until you learn to let me put it in the bowl first
Never trust a landlady with coffee icing eye shadow
What this cottage lacks is a few decent naff ornaments
14:11:02 Holiday tip - avoid cottages with guest books that are palimpsests
14:11:54 Holiday tip - avoid cottages with sofas that put you permanently in brace position
14:12:42 Holiday tip - avoid cottages with owner s who repeatedly say "I can only apologise"
Who let Autumn in?
A golden blue sky, which makes no sense, but it is
Cat has arrived. With attachments.
Grumpy old men. Followed by, er, Newsnight.
Am I alone in zoning out after the first sentence of Thought for the Day?
Across the land kids are getting an early night ahead of the morning march of misery.
Guy in full spiderman regalia in the dentist. I hope he isn't staff.
Right, $6 million tooth ordered.
Ice cream van in the driving rain. The pathos.
Potatoes. Recommended by 89% of Glamour readers.
And now I have bathroom puddle sock
The breeze feels like warm milk
Top top: interior designers - create the post-apocalypse look by letting your 18 yo daughter have"a gathering for a few friends"
Aftermath: "Which one was Demi?" "Oh, she's the one whose hair's in the garden."
Byzantine sky is back
Second spring? Fifth season? Some plants in the garden seem to be finding their second wind.
Today has been sponsored by Velcro and treacle
These SEO types - they buy followers from somewhere, right?
Hi @TopSeoPosition , what are your hobbies and interests?
Spiders have their nets out, fishing for stupid late season flies
Several fences away, Bobby, the world's most told off dog
There's a new Poundworld on the High Street. Loads of people in Sherpa mode.
Passing the new Hairdresser, Hair on the Heath. Sounds a bit forensic.
I've been out. How did Nick Clegg do?
Grilagem is Portuguese for "Putting a live cricket into a box of faked documents until the excrement makes them look convincingly old."
Inbound cat bird back door conundrum
Existential celebration. Facebook places can't locate me.
Dentist seems to have picked me out something from the sabre tooth range
In the shop of a zillion words.
I love the random names of wifi networks on the train as it slips by houses. Sumatran ladies bingo. Fussy shoes. Ping and Pong.
Vince, who has a face better suited to avuncular critique, finds himself in Reality Ave
On the tele: the slightly black and white sometimeago effect
There is now a book called 4 ingredients recipes. Some of the recipes have two ingredients.
I'm going to do a 1 ingredient recipe cookbook
Autumn Sunday plus point: "aagh, it's already 4.15" is replaced by "ah, it's only 4.15"
Achieve a trendy sedum effect by neglecting your roof for years
It's the season for those mini sci-fi bugs - all wings and legs and no coordination
Out in the Atlantic, the giant is playing with his spirograph set
Unsettling image earlier today. Fleeting glimpse of a guide dog in full regalia wandering without
Must be time for Avoid the Question Time
21:35:44 In Chile, synchronised praying/preying
08:59:01 What do you call it when you give birth to 33 people?
Monday, 14 February 2011
Thursday, 10 February 2011
Caitlin Moran - Times - @caitlinmoran
Dr Ben Goldacre - Guardian/Blogger - @bengoldacre
Emma Barnett - Telegraph - @EmmaBarnett
Sophy Ridge - Sky News - @sophyridge
Hilary Osborne - Guardian - @hilaryosborne
Jack Schofield - Freelance - @jackschofield
Johann Hari - Indy - @johannhari101
Rory Cellan Jones - BBC - @ruskin147
Sally Whittle - Freelance - @swhittle
India Knight - Sunday Times - @indiaknight
Tim Weber - BBC - @tim_weber