Sunday, 6 May 2007

Sifting through the bog of blogs

I was reading an interesting post on PR blogger regarding the proliferation of blogs and the question how many of them are actually relevant. Although Technorati are tracking 70 million blogs at the moment, only 15.5 million of these have been touched in the last 3 months. So, first lesson, you can't trust the figures.

The author posits various reasons as to why people DON'T blog, in contrast to the constant speculation we see about why people DO. One major factor (and I think this applies to me) relates to human narcissim. I'm not shy (ask anyone) but I don't think I'm so great that the world will want to read about what I have got up to. To be honest, if I wasn't doing this blog for academic purposes, I probably wouldn't be doing it all (that's not to say I haven't learned anything, or had fun, Derek!). And if I was doing it, it would probably go something like this:

"I went out and got hammered the other night. I left my shoe in the taxi. One of the girls from work met a guy who had a very nice stomach. We couldn't remember his name so we just called him 'Hot Stomach Guy'.
Stayed in last night, had a content analysis to do. Watched a bit of the Mighty Boosh, then fell asleep... etc."
(Disclaimer: These entries are based on fictional events and may not necessarily have happened.)
I mean, WHO WOULD WANT TO READ THAT? It's not that my life isn't fun, I have a great time being me but I have no reason to think that other people feel the same. I guess it's one of those 'you had to be there to appreciate it' situations.

Another problem I've come across is the time factor. Some people (not really me) actually have stuff going on, like careers and family and stuff and just simply would not have the time to sit down and document their thoughts for the world and his missus to read. I don't have a career or a family, just a Masters degree to finish and a social life and even I have struggled to find the spare time to sit down and write something that is actually worthwhile reading (which is still debatable). It all sounded so simple a few months ago, like it would be easy marks for the module. Post once a week? Yeah, that's nae bother. Post something relevent and interesting about PR? Er...

In defence of my blog, I have actually enjoyed maintaining it and it's opened my eyes to an unknown world of conversations, like a blogging Narnia but without the lions and witches and James MacAvoy dressed as a faun. Not only this but it's given me a whole new level of confidence about the techy-side of things. I'm still not great but I'm better than I was.
Summing up then, there is no denying that Web 2.0 has opened up a veritable wardrobe full of exciting new opportunities for the PR industry. But as many, such as Stuart Bruce, have pointed out, what is happening is an evolution, not a revolution. Tools such as blogging have simply facilitated its functions. Activities such as stakeholder engagement, environment scanning and that all-important two way-communications function, are things that PR should always have been practicising; PR 2.0 just makes it that much easier. We should be concentrating efforts on how to best incorporate these tools into daily practice so that they become the norm. So, there is no need to throw up ou hands in despair and start all over again.

Yes, I believe I will look upon my days a blogger (under coercion) with fondness.

More life in PR perils - this time, the Z-list

I recently commented on an interesting post on Believe the Spin regarding the ups and downs of celebrity. I say interesting because, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am tragically obsessed with the cult of celebrity; heat magazine is my Bible (if I can prise it out the hands of my flatmates!) and celebrity is my religion. 'Tis sad but true.

The author was commenting on the demise of the celebrity endorsement, arguing that, since anyone can be a celebrity these days (you can even be famous for not being famous, a la that dumb blonde from 'Celebrity (barrel-scraping) Big Brother'), the public has become entirely disillusioned about what celebrity actually is and no longer trusts what these so called role models have to say.

I entirely agree. The explosion of celebrity was a by-product of the 1980's, when materialism ruled and all we wanted was to be like the rich and famous. In the 21st century, the tactic of celebrity endorsement has been exposed as the cynical ploy that it always was. And it reeks of cheese! There is a much greater awareness in this personality-soaked world of the 'publicity seeker', perhaps a result of Britain opening it's eyes to the culture of spin, so wonderfully brought into the forefront by Blair's excuse for a government.

I think Americans buy into celebrity endorsement to a greater extent than us Brits because their celebrity culture is so different to ours. While our celebrities come and go in the blink of an eye, their A-listers tend to be the ones which have endured the test of time. Think about it. The afore-mentioned Chantelle Houghton was, for a brief time, gathering more column inches than any of your Victoria Beckhams. But in the States, it's the big personalities that people are interested in, and they always will be interested in them.

I'm researching my dissertation just now on the Make Poverty History campaign of 2005, which has raised entirely different issues when it comes to celebrity hi-fives. There was mucho in-fighting at the time about the perceived 'hi-jacking' of the campaign by Bob Geldof, with coalition members becoming concerned that the involvement of high profile celebrities would detract from the main messages of the campaign. So far, it looks like this is what happened. A great deal more column inches were devoted to the who's who of Live8 than to the three main campaign aims. Additionally, the stand alone campaign managed to gather only a smidgen of coverage compared to what exploded after Geldof got involved, even before Live8 was announced. The question is, how many celebrities got involved because they actually cared and how many jumped on the bandwagon to get in the spotlight? Call me cynical, but if they were that worried about Third World poverty, couldn't they have given up two of their annual holidays in Mustique and a small fraction of their weekly cocaine intake and donated the money on the quiet? On the other side of the coin, how many teeny boppers turned up for the gig at Hyde Park becaue they wanted to listen to Nelson Mandela and how many just wanted to see Madonna, Robbie and co living it up in the name of Africa? I know, I'm generalising, I'm sure there were plenty of people there who cared but there are other ways to show support besides just turning up for the party. And I am well aware that there are plenty of celebrities who use their advantageous position in society to gather support for good causes. It's just that they don't have to make a song and dance about it. Doing so, to me anyway, reeks of publicity seeking and opportunism.

On the other hand, some argue that Geldof's involvement gained some much-needed publicity for the campaign, which is correct; as long as the campaign message appeared alongside the list of do-gooders, that was still something wasn't it? It may appear buried somewhere in the middle, but at least it appeared.

So, the perilous trek through the alphabet-coded list of the stars, eh? Looks like a bit of a tightrope. Now give us your f***ing money.