Odds and sods

Sanity in politics?

Perhaps there is some sanity in parts of the Anglosphere. Well at least the beginning of it. Both parties in the UK, mainly Labour but also the Tories, have finally woken up to the fact that Germany might be a good source of information about how to run a successful economy.

For much of the past few decades the conventional wisdom in the US, the UK, Australia (and some places like Chile under Pinochet) was about the unparalleled benefits of de-regulation, encouraging the finance sector and generally behaving as if Hayek and Thatcher were not a theorist and politician respectively but the author of a sacred text and a messiah come to proclaim it. However, according to de Spiegel there is a growing interest in the UK about what they have got right in Germany. The following was published before the recent Queen’s Speech, which seems to have been concept tested in a few bars full of tweedy men and horsey women somewhere in the Home Counties, but it might be an indicator of a new approach.  http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/britain-increasingly-regarding-germany-as-an-economic-role-model-a-898399.html read more

Asking stupid questions

At the PRIA’s Women in PR lunch last week one of the guests asked one of the guest speakers for any advice on what to do when you are the only woman in a meeting. The response: it gives you a chance to ask the stupid question.

Now the blog has always been a great advocate of the stupid question in the form of the question that no-one else wants to ask in case it makes them look stupid. These are normally the most important questions. For instance, it is the groupthink question to ask what everyone thinks of the Emperor’s clothes while it is the stupid question to ask why he’s not wearing any? read more

New world for media and PR

“In 2012 a continued erosion of news reporting resources converged with growing opportunities for those in politics, government agencies, companies and others to take their messages directly to the public.”

These are the first words of the Pew Research Centres Project for Excellence in Journalism report, The State of the News Media 2013 (http://stateofthemedia.org/). They have significant implications for the media and the public relations industry.  The blog has been talking about the issues in various forums for some years now, always trying to stress that the situation is very unclear and, despite the confident assertions of many, it is still uncertain how PR people should respond to this new situation. Suggestions that we simply turn to social media are facile when we are still unclear as to how precisely to use the proliferation of new media for specific target audiences and target messages. This hasn’t stopped many people offering services which pre-suppose that we have found the answers but the blog is unsure if we have even formulated all the right questions yet. read more

Telling the truth

The real offence of Abbott adviser, Mark Roberts, was not telling the head of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation that an incoming Abbott Government would ‘cut your throat’ but rather the more serious one – telling the truth and allowing the private language of politics to become public. read more

Any questions?

Writers’ festivals are always entertaining and educational – at least until the question time.

You hear a fascinating discussion of someone’s work or their background and then….. the floor is thrown open to questions and there is a procession of people who preface questions with an identify signifier and then launch into some long statement. The session chair starts to politely ask about where the question is and the audience starts to groan. Eventually the ‘questioner’ sits down. read more

Language, culture and PR

Although PR people are constantly trying to shape cultures – both community and corporate – with language it is striking how often they just focus on trying to use language to shape the culture rather than considering the complex inter-relationships between the two.

In all human societies throughout history language has been shaped by culture while language has also shaped the culture. Far too often, in internal communications for instance, PR people fail to notice a massive disconnect between the messages they are trying to communicate and the meanings conferred on those messages by the culture in which they are delivered. The simplest examples are always around messages about change, downsizing and so on – the listeners know it is bad news for them irrespective of the spin the PR staff put on them at the direction of management. read more

Irony and/or paradox?

It seems to be a great irony or paradox that, at a time when corporate communicators are preaching the virtues of apologies when things go wrong, Right wing political communicators are preaching the virtues of ne regrette rien.

Equally, it is odd that at a time when some of the world’s most successful companies are becoming more and more like universities used to be, universities are becoming more and more like very old-fashioned companies. read more

Kissinger and Orwell were right

Whatever you think of Henry Kissinger (and reading Christopher Hitchens book The Trial of Henry Kissinger suggests war crimes might be part of the thinking process) he did have a great way with quotes. For instance: Power is the great aphrodisiac and; best of all, just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean you’re not being persecuted (or have enemies in various attributions). Equally quotable, and one of the great English stylists as well as a towering moral force, George Orwell, made vivid the persecution which comes with all-seeing surveillance. read more

Robotic reporters

The threat to the newspaper industry might be at an end. Unfortunately for some in the media the solution seems to be the replacement of journalists with algorithms which create news stories.

The algorithms have been developed by a US company, Narrative Science, which produces computer-written news stories. The development was first talked about in Wired last year (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/04/can-an-algorithm-write-a-better-news-story-than-a-human-reporter/ ) but it now appears the product is becoming more successful. In a post, Ray Kurzweil (a remarkable author, inventor, innovator and futurist) has updated how it is going. (http://www.kurzweilai.net/can-an-algorithm-write-a-better-news-story-than-a-human-reporter-2) . read more

Online reputation management in China

Online reputation management (see this blog 18/3/2013) is now being used in China – although the government isn’t too keen on it and the users seem to have slightly different motivations to those who seek to clean up their online footprint in other countries.

In a culture where face (which is sort of like reputation) is all-important it is perhaps not surprising that people worry about new threats to their reputation and new ways of losing face. Now an enterprising company has stepped in to exploit these concerns. read more