in (further) defense of public relations.

The Long Version:

Newsmedia, and Journalism, isn't the paragon of ethics it pretends to be. This massive concentration of power is in the hands of business interests, like anything else. Journalists are influential, intelligent, and often have an agenda, whether based on personal opinions or editorial mandate. A careful twisting of an off the cuff statement has the potential to do massive damage to a reputation and business, without necessarily crossing the boundaries of libel or slander. PR has an image problem. PR has a lot of catching up to do with developing media, and the changing way people get information. PR will be necessary as long as there is a concentration of influence among media outlets that may be biased, because individuals will always try to protect their personal interests, including their image.

The Short Version:

Everyone thinks the world would be better without Lawyers, too, until they actually consider what the law would look like without individual representatives.

why can't i be ripped off by somewhere reputable.

Oh look, a year old blog post of mine has be re-published somewhere.

To be fair, I don't have a specific problem as long as there's reasonable attribution (which there isn't, in this case). I don't hoard ideas, generally. But I'd like at least a link and my real name if you're going to use my material to draw attention to your work.

Of course, this got me thinking about my own piratical actions. I'll probably blog about that later on today.


fake follow = fail feed.

Reading PSFK today I saw a post about Fake Follow, a feature on FriendFeed that makes me supremely uneasy.

What amuses me, is that this is getting positive feedback so soon after the 'PR is evil' meme showed up.

Social media is supposed to run on a principle of honesty, I'm so often told. We're supposed to connect on a personal level, even if it's mediated. Sharing, caring, etc. Fake Follow is more or less designed to create the impression of a connection, without the upkeep that a true connection would require.

This is sad, because the amount of effort necessary to maintain a single connection online is comparably negligible, when you take a look at relationships that exist in meatspace.

Social media is about relationships. If you get angry when outsiders step in, and either attempt to game the system, or to interfere without an understanding of how those relationships work, you should be fairly disgusted with the idea of something like Fake Follow. If you want the connection, you should be willing to listen to what that person has to say. Transparency, in things like this, is only reasonable.

Otherwise, you're campaigning for the fake web. You're asking for the least desirable, most charicatured aspects of the media industry to take precedence over the concepts behind social networking.

This may be the reason FriendFeed, which I hear so much about, has such minimal penetration in comparison with the hype. The people this would appeal to most are the people who are the notable pundits who love FriendFeed so much - the people who aren't actually participating in social media anymore.

on google's android.

I love Google. My blogging, email, search, online document, etc etc etc needs are fulfilled by them nearly exclusively. But I have no interest in seeing an Android phone, because I don't understand why that should excite me.

Google has never knocked me on my ass with an interface. Google has never created a beautiful UX that has changed my life. Google has always excelled at one thing - organizing and increasing access to information.

This isn't what a phone is for, really. I conduct a lot of business over the phone and via email, but my contact list isn't usually long enough to need a Google-level of search to sort it out. Phones are more about use than they are about organization.

In my mind, I already have a Google Phone - one that connects to the internet, has wi-fi, and has direct links to Google apps stored online.

All I can picture is a blank screen with one text box, and one button. This isn't so appealing, when I'm looking for a service rather than a well edited, well maintained list.



Talking about Bell's new ad campaign on the subway today, and I realised something. The entire thing, and therefore Bell's current identity for consumers, is predicated on 'er', a sound that is more or less used as a tentative delaying tactic.

Bell = 'errr...'

Maybe they know something I don't.



I'll be M.I.A. this weekend. Spending some time at the cottage with my wonderful girlfriend.

Expect more bloggery come Monday.


passive promotion; or, i want hyperdunks.

[This is very much an example of blogging as talking out an idea.  Sorry if it meanders.]

I love creative advertising.  A great idea, something original well executed, ceases to become advertising to me - it becomes content.  Great content is watched, shared, etc.  But such a small portion of advertising reaches this level.

Which brings me to passive promotions.  Product placement, gift lounges, product seeding, etc.  Letting the presence and value of a thing speak for itself.  Product placement is valuable, but most often I find I think of it in terms of 'ways to keep television afloat despite rampant bittorrent downloads'.  This is a failing on my part.

If advertising is about creating awareness and interest, on-the-street visibility is priceless.  my question is why poorly done, low budget traditional advertising isn't almost always replaced by careful seeding.  Gifting lounges have been brought to consumer level in other countries already, letting random people from the street visit and test products, in hopes of creating word of mouth and interest.  While this isn't suitable for everything, it's suitable for something.

While lots of people will attack advertising because it represents a point of view, and offers something to be countered, the only arguments against free product are based on the quality, ethics, and environmental effects of what is offered, other than knee-jerk hate from the Adbusters crowd who sees an enemy behind any commercial offering.

This wouldn't be worth anything to many companies.  But, Nike consistently has the best advertising in the world, from a creativity, ingenuity, and beauty standpoint.  And I didn't want a pair of Hyperdunks until I saw the Chinese and American Olympic basketball teams squaring off in them.

Passive promotion is the simplest response to the army of people who like to pretend they aren't affected by marketing.  All it takes is a product that speaks for it self, and a well planned means of introduction.


pr, journalism, blogs, and going off on a tangent.

Email made it too easy.

As soon as you could build a list of contacts, reach each one of them seemingly individually, and fire everything at them instantaneously, building a tight, targeted, well maintained list fell off most PR firms radar - and, depressingly, with good reason.  If you can send out a loosely targeted blast, and then follow up with a series of tightly, carefully targeted pitches, it's possible to get more results for a minimally greater amount of work.

But it involves a lot of risk, because PR is a reputation and relationship business.  Now, though irritated, traditional media journalists have learned to tolerate this.  While reporting may be a vocation, a calling, and an integral part of identity, in the end it's a job, done to secure the means of live a comfortable life.

Blogs are different.  The majority of them don't result in rich writers, and the ones that are centered on a personality/brand rather than a brand, and then hired personalities, are as much identity as work.  If you email a blogger, there's a good chance it's at the address his friends email him at.  If you ignore his published history, you aren't ignoring the last 6 weeks of his work, you're ignoring the last 6 weeks of his ideas, conclusions, and concepts.  Blogs are more personal.  At least, based on my experience blogging and my interactions with journalists.

The long and short is, blogging is comparatively new, influential, and generally not willing to conform to the rules of the game as it is played.  There is both more (in a personal sense) and less (in a financial sense) on the line.  What amuses me is, the journalists who will get high and mighty about the importance of their industry in a proper democracy are usually half as uptight about freedoms and independence as bloggers who cover the same information.  And, those same journalists are twice as uptight about standards, sourcing, and credibility of the reportage.

I realize I wrote bitterly yesterday about the quarterly crucifixion of PR at the hands of the social media punditerati, and I don't really think I was wrong.

But if I'm going to expect new media publishers and creators to accept that there is a lot of good in my industry despite failings, I'm also going to have to ask PR to recognize that expecting anyone they interact with to behave the same, despite the differences in mandate, delivery, drives and accountability, is insane.

The right message, in the right way, to the right person.  Sounds so damn easy, but it's also more or less the only question in communication theory, asked a thousand different ways.


in defense of public relations.

In what is a fairly common occurrence, the blogosphere hates PR this week.

This is going to come off defensive, as PR is what I do for a living, but I feel like two things need to be brought to light.

My mother is a teacher, and her and I have a fairly regular argument regarding the children she works with.  She consistently argues that the internet has ruined research skills in the generation of kids she currently works with.  I argue that the failure isn’t based on the internet, it’s a failure to teach children research skills that relate to the research tools that are relevant to them.

This came to mind when I was reading about the Cuil fiasco, and chuckled when people blamed overzealous PR, etc, for the fact the bloggers, print media, and television collectively went crazy over an experience that is more or less completely underwhelming.

If the situation has changed, and you’re having trouble delivering results, blaming someone else isn’t the solution to the problem.  If you work in a journalistic capacity, you are supposed to be the gatekeepers.  If you can’t fulfill that role, you probably shouldn’t be blaming someone for providing information that led you in the wrong direction.  Update your skill set, so you can judge what is worth covering, and how to cover it.

That said, there’s no excuse for PR reps that out and out lie.  No one, especially not the clients, is helped by that.

The other thing I’ve noticed, despite everyone complaining about PR, is that traditional media journalists complain about PR the way I complain about taxes.  I hate paying them, but I recognize they serve an important purpose.  That said, I get irritated when my taxes are wasted, or used against my own beliefs.

More often than not, it seems like bloggers complain about PR the way a 15 year old complains about curfew - they have something resembling the point, but they irritatingly ignore every positive aspect, and would rather throw the entire industry out with the bath-water than learn to work with the practitioners who get it, and the aspects which are positive.

PR has an image problem.  A serious one.  That’s something I look forward to working against.  Pretending PR has become irrelevant, however, because there is an ever larger number of unofficial information sources to parse, makes no sense whatsoever.

Signal is noise, because anyone with an opinion can publish.  Crafting valid, relevant signals, as getting them in front of the right people, is what I do.  Done well, that’s inarguably valuable.  But only done well, and with an understanding of how the game is changing.


just for the record.

There's someone out there on answerbag who also goes by the broken gentleman, although he seems to prefer capitalization.  I am in no way affiliated with him, other than getting many, many google alerts related to his answerbag postings.

Carry on.


digital conscription and the potential for nationalised botnets.

I accidentally listened to CBC radio one this morning, and the topic of discussion was the denial of service attacks that made up a portion of the Russian attacks on Georgia.

This is going to become standard operating procedure in a major conflict, I think.

In terms of basic background, the DDoS attacks started before the physical invasion, and seem to have been conducted not by the Russian Military, but by a criminal syndicate, either for patriotic, or financial reasons.

This is interesting as a means of disrupting communication – you no longer have to just worry about mainstream media outlets, when you are trying to enforce a media blackout, which is why the attacks also attempted to take down the Georgian internet access altogether.  Citizen media has more or less made it essential to take down the internet first.  You can’t silence people as long as the internet exists as an option to them.

What I’m wondering about, is how long it takes before some nations more or less mandate every computer in the country being ‘subscribed’ to a botnet controlled by the government agency responsible for online communications, or the military.

What happens when governments and military leaders realize that conscription is a viable option in building their capacity for cyberwarfare?  Is this option better, or worse than contracting out the dirty work to organized crime?

So, that was my morning.


blackberry vs iphone.

I'm weighing in now; the people who love to argue that the iPhone is overpriced, over-hyped, and inferior to the Blackberries they have been using for the last couple years, are the equivalent of the people who until 2003 or so, would argue that Apple products were overpriced crap, and that Windows was vastly superior, and the far more intelligent choice.

You're confusing familiarity with usability. You're arguing that a cheaper, more limited experience is always better than a more expensive, broader one. And, more than slightly amusing since we're living in the soon-to-be cloud computing age, you're arguing that a full featured, desktop class mobile web browsing environment isn't a game breaker.

We're living in times of change. Microsoft has stopped copying Apple in favour of Nintendo, and the new 'sensible' choice in competition with Apple is RIM's Blackberry.

[N.B. - I am currently less than 24 hours into owning an iPhone. I am reserving the right to revise my impressions if this just turns out to be afterglow.]



In the last week, I had a (decidedly positive) change in my employment situation, spent a weekend away with friends, and fell into a pile of new clients this monday.

Expect a post tonight or tomorrow, but sometimes work will crush me.


absurdity is not an argument.

A common mistake in attempts to make a strong political statement, is to drawing a parallel between a commonly held position, and a contradictory position that people will likely react strongly to.

In these two examples, the parallels are between torture as a government sanctioned activity, and torture as a Coney Island attraction, and between the brutal, disturbing murder of a young man on a bus, and the use of animals as food and test subjects.

All I’m going to say is that these ideas only work if the point made falls carefully between two extremes - either people need to generally agree that, despite exaggeration, the points are the same, or people need to be able to justify the comparison made as less directly offensive than the thing you are trying to argue against.

I understand that there is a notable segment of the population that thinks hurting animals is wrong.  But arguing that human life is of the same value as animal life gets people to stop listening to appeals for the animals at all.  

I understand that if people are offended by seeing torture, they should be offended by it being government sanctioned.  But taking a day out with the kids and turning it into some thing mildly traumatizing doesn’t exactly cause a groundswell in support of civil liberties.

If the parallel you are drawing approaches the absurdity than the offensive action that inspired it, you are doing something wrong.  You are doing your argument a disservice.

All attention is good attention, if the only thing you want is attention.  If you want change, you’ll have to do better.

a small note from personal experience.

I meet /  know a lot of people more or less my age who are facing a crisis of identity - i.e., they want to find themselves.

For some reason, this usually manifests itself in wanting to go on an exotic vacation, or move to another country where you don't know anyone, for a little while.

I'm of two minds on this.  My recent, short, wonderful vacation has resulted in my being notably more driven, and having greater focus on how to achieve the things I want.  More or less, being in Jamaica gave me enough distance to evaluate my life without my usual bias.

But I think this was based on my having some clue what I wanted, and being fairly certain who I was.  I'm not sure I would have gotten any closer to a positive outcome if I hadn't known those things.

Where you are is part of who you are.  So, going somewhere else to decide who you are will probably result in, at best, a temporary definition that doesn't fit as well when you get back to real life.

As a round-about way of tying in to the stated purpose of this blog, you don't define a brand by changing everything first, and figuring out what it means second.  Figuring out what a company is, is the same as figuring out who you are - you should do the hard thinking and honest answers part before you get to the radical changes.

Otherwise people will just assume you're trying anything that keeps the hard questions at bay.


the bare minimum is insufficient.

No one is ever going to appreciate a person who just does exactly what they are supposed to do.

I don’t mean to suggest that completing tasks on-time, and competently is inherently insufficient.  I’m just saying that good enough doesn’t really warrant praise.  Praise is for exceeding expectations.

Some people, and many companies, deal with this fact by habitually under-promising, so they can guarantee over-delivering.  This works fine, but has the effect of underwhelming clients during a crucial phase, when you’re still trying to hook them.

The solution I aim for is to use the approach, and the creativity and strategy behind it, as a way of creating the interest, hooking the people I work with, and over-promising without committing to results that aren’t reasonable.

Of course, I will still under-sell the potential results.  The last thing anyone wants is a client expecting a best case scenario, and not getting it.  But if I’m going to impress someone with my pitch, it’s bad strategy to attempt to impress them preemptively with the results, rather than with the ambition and beauty of the strategy.

The more important part, though, is that a strategy or approach that impresses a client is more likely to bring intense work and dedication out of people on the implementation side - you don’t get people to work harder than they intend to by telling them they need to achieve impossible results.  You do it by giving them a process that is interesting enough to care about.

Alternately, you can under-promise, get people to do nothing more than what is expected, and then complain about your reputation, or lack thereof as ‘okay’.


nike+ human race.

Nike’s Human Race is probably the best promotion I’ve heard of this year.  This is fairly unsurprising, considering it’s directly tied to Nike+, a joint product of Nike and Apple, the two greatest media machines in the corporate world.

The premise is dead simple.  You’ve got an army of people, running all over the world, using the Nike+ product to track their progress, training against themselves day after day.  You use the product, and the behaviour they’ve integrated into their daily lives, and you make it a marathon, run individually, tracked over the software.  A global event that has no costs tied directly to the physical event.  Just aggregating the data that’s already being tracked and stored, creating a central side for participants to visit, and donating some of the massive advertising budget to publicize the event.

I personally have only heard about it through local radio, but I don’t see why it would need to be a huge media blitz, considering the only participants are those who already use the Nike+ system, and are therefore accessible through that channel.

This is what the internet is for: taking people from different areas, with different experiences, and reminding them that they are indeed connected.  Attaching that feeling of connectedness with your product, which the consumer has already connected to a physical pursuit, and achievements related to that pursuit, furthers the long, impressive history of Nike crafting itself as something people want to be associated with for competitive, social, and quality reasons.

That, and really, a global crowd-sourced marathon called the Human Race is more or less guaranteed to get my attention.

aggregation does not a destination make.

Interesting observation:

I set up Facebook to import my posts from BrokenGentleman.com as notes.  A post that appeared both on my blog, and tumblr, to no response, got 5 comments within 5 hours on Facebook.

This, oddly enough, got me thinking about FriendFeed.

If a service’s only value as a destination is the ability to import data from multiple places and aggregate the same grouping of data from multiple contacts, then why am I headed there instead of to Facebook, which can do many of the same things (and could do all of them, if Zuckerberg and company saw potential there), while providing an established wealth of value and content of it’s own.

Honestly, if Facebook would let me set it to import more than one blog feed, and expanded importing support to more outside services, I could easily see it becoming even more of a destination than it already is.  If people are already going there to see what is going on in the lives of their associates, why not take advantage of that and put the things you are doing in front of them, whether they are RL or online based.

This is likely one of the posts that is more for me than for anyone else.

upsetting realizations.

I just came to an unappealing realization; all of my more original ideas are about revitalizing or expanding on established brands, ideas, products, etc, rather than breaking new ones into public consciousness.

Obviously, I'm going to need to think on this.


starbucks, personalization, and brand as signal.

Starbucks is, to put it lightly, in a wee bit of trouble.

What they have on their side, is a rabid customer base, who sees the brand as a reflection of their own taste and sophistication.  Lots of people who love starbucks would argue with me about this, but I’d bet the majority of them take some form of pride in being able to order their quad long non-fat venti no-foam caramel macchiato.

Starbucks should draw attention to this type of customer, and this specific skill, in it’s promotions.

A simple idea:

Run a contest inviting customers to submit their own drink modifications, combinations, etc.  The things you can do when you actually know the Starbucks menu and ordering process are pretty interesting.  Let people enter a drink of choice, or if you really want to go overboard, create a Facebook application that makes the ‘signature drink’ a badge on their profile.

Get some big wigs at Starbucks headquarters, or some high profile Starbucks fanatics (there are a lot of them out there) to test out 10 selections, and pick a winner.  Prizes are fairly easy, maybe a trip for 2 to Seattle, your signature drink added to the menu at the Pike Place location for the duration of your trip, and your chosen ‘home’ Starbucks location for a year.

This wouldn’t cost much, but considering the amount of press it could generate based on 1) the number of people addicted to Starbucks in some capacity or another, and 2) the celebrity connection Starbucks has developed, it seems like a solid investment with a probable high return.

The key points here are recognizing the potential for personalization in the brand, and recognizing the need for each location to serve as an anchor point for its customers.  I fully admit that’s why I was at Starbucks last night, and will probably be there tonight.


the integrated content debate.

Over the last month, I've been trying to keep my online writing / outposts / profiles more up to date, and more connected.  This has gone fairly well, as it serves to keep me involved in more of my accounts online, commenting, communicating, writing and linking more.  But I also wonder if the feeling of RSS incest that I get when something particularly vapid travels my watched corner of the blogosphere, is going to start to kick in for the small group of people who follow me, and the even smaller group who follow me on several different networks.

Currently, My tumblr, twitter, and facebook accounts will post links to anything that goes up on broken gent.  Similarly, facebook and broken gent link to all other accounts online of note.  It won't be long until I try to integrate my tumblr feed into my facebook account as well.  I admit I worry that people will think the multiple locations are meaningless if they interconnect too much, but my rationale is this:

Brokengentleman.com is for my theory and experience related to communications.  I use tumblr as a less focused clearing house for what interests me, and brokengent is definitely part of that world, as well.  Facebook is about me in entirety, so I intend to unify my various accounts there as well as I can.  Twitter is really just a collection of status messages, and linking to blog posts there is the same (in my mind) as changing my MSN status to 'New post at brokengentleman.com'.

Is this level of interconnectedness, which will probably only increase, beneficial, or will it only serve to over-saturate my already limited market / audience with the same content.  I can't say yet, but I'll be watching, and probably changing my approach to fit my observations.