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Monday, June 26, 2006

Is green the new white?

The story that broke today about ‘green’ PCs and, more to the point, the amount more that users are willing to pay for them, was another opportunity for technology companies to jump on a friendly social issue.

Apart from Greenpeace – which commissioned the study – Dell seems to be the biggest recipient of positive coverage, with its own nicely-timed announcement that it plans to phase out dangerous chemicals from its products cross-referenced all over the place.

For once, Apple was mentioned in a negative light as a member the list of computer manufacturers yet to commit to eliminate hazardous materials from their products.

Are consumers really willing to pay more for greener PCs? According to the study, UK buyers are willing to spend £75 more. But when it comes to purchasing greener power, such as electricity from providers that source renewable energy, it’s been demonstrated time and time again that the public will only sign up if it’s the same price as ‘brown’ energy, or cheaper.

In the consumer electronics market, where prices are constantly being squeezed and expectation always rising, are consumers really likely to pay almost another £100 to ensure they get a green one? I doubt it. People are likely to say they’ll pay more – but when it comes down to it, they mean well but won't follow through.

Call me cynical, but this story appears to be another classic piece of solar-powered spin. If I was Mr Dell, I’d look at making my green PCs cheaper AND better than my normal ones, and doing something really responsible. That might even make Apple sit up and take notice.

Originally posted at LEWIS 360.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Long live the king

When I saw the picture of gapingvoid's Hugh Macleod signing 1,000 Stormhoek posters, it made me ask myself - "What does Hugh Macleod do?"

Here are the options so far:

1. Creative director
2. Blogvertising consultant
3. Cartoonist
4. Celebrity blogger
5. Tailor

Having a whizz around his site, and related business ventures' sites, his personal revenue model seems distributed. A bit of investment here, some consultancy there, and some monetized content here and there too. All underpinned by the blog, of course.

The fact that gapingvoid is arguably the most the most visible and popular of Hugh's ventures, which is - in his words - purely a way for him to exercise his hobby, I think I'm going to herald him as the new Blogging King for a while, now Scoble's left Microsoft (jumping the shark on his way out).

The creative mind is often completely unsuited to promoting its own creations for financial gain - it just doesn't think that way. If it did, the creativeness would be sapped as a result. But Hugh did what many artists are incapable of doing - he commercialised. He's obviously very astute, and used blogging to not only promote his own art, but his ability to use blogging to promote stuff.

All hail.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Is there a draft in here?

One thing I've noticed since being in PR is that we call writing 'drafting'. Now, this small difference may seem trivial. But it sums up - often subconsciously - the blurred line between journalism and PR.

When a PR person writes - even though it's a huge and critical part of the job - they draft. It's almost as if the task isn't worthy of the verb 'to write'. Often it's done as quickly as possible to a tight brief, with scant detail and little direction. Most of the time, PR drafters are given one shaky fact and a gigantic heap of 'messaging' and told to get on with it. It's also something that needs to be cleared as soon as possible so the media relations execs can get on with their core task of actually relating with the media.

In the last three months or so, I've found myself drafting things. It's not that I don't want to write, but drafting seems to fit the brief so much better. I get my fact - two if I'm lucky - then refer to the messaging, corporate profile and previous material to fill in the rest. Once my draft is drafted, it's sent to the client, who makes some tweaks and sends it back, normally because they want to soften it, or fine tune the messages. Then, the second draft is drafted and hopefully gains approval if the messaging is right and the sense is inoffensive. End of story. (Come to think of it, is it called 'drafting' as the only outcome is a 'draft'? Would anything more suggest to the client we were being cocky?)

Anyway, I actually wrote something the other day. It was an article that had been placed with a magazine (more PR terminology there - it means the editor had agreed to run it) on a particularly meaty and interesting subject. I got into it, did a lot of research, undertook some interviews, took my time and actually wrote. As a journalist, I was proud of the end result.

Predictably, the client I wrote it for hated it and changed almost every word.

But my goal here is not to whinge about my precious creative powers being curtailed. I'm only interested in happy clients - we'd be failing in our jobs otherwise. What I want to do is point out that bloggers are writers too, but they never admit it.

Most bloggers I read write more than journalists and are often funnier, more compelling and quicker with the news. Yet they seem petrified to call themselves writers. What gives?


Bill and Bob

So Bill's off now too?

Are any more people at Microsoft going to bail out just because their lord and master is leaving?

Tagged: Scoble Microsoft

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The day the music died

In all truth, Scoble's departure from Microsoft - and reality - was announced on May 8th.

For his entire reign, Robert Scoble had used his unexpected status to achieve a number of key objectives:

1. To singlehandedly create a small, but by no means insignificant, in-road into the dark and malevolent fortress of the Microsoft corporation

2. To boost his own standing as a proud leader among wannabe geeks - could anyone possibly blog as much as him without landing themselves a full-time blogging job or shunning sleep forever? (No.)

3. To get paid reasonable amounts of money to fulfill Microsoft's global PR and marketing objectives to be 'more friendly, like Apple'

4. To satisfy a niggling yearning to spend all his time surfing the web, then sharing his thoughts with a large reader base from across the planet

5. To make money.

When Scoble's 'mom' landed up in hospital, The Scobleizer didn't stop blogging. Oh no. He blogged about every minute detail of his experiences, from holding her hand by her bedside to his experiences trying to find a decent way to play MP3s at her funeral.

It was at this point, I reckon, that he decided to move on from Microsoft. As he blogged from his dying Mom's bedside, this is what ran through his mind:
"A little technology note (you know I couldn't resist) the machines that are keeping track of her vitals and helping her breathe are running Windows. Yet another demonstration of just how many machines Microsoft's software is running on."
Now, I'm not sure about you - but if that was me, I'd stop and think: "Hey! I'm sitting here, nursing my poorly mom who, if the truth be known, never find her way out of this stinkin' hospital save for a rest home with poor AV capability, and all I can think of is work."

It's no surprise that Scoble has now confirmed that he's off to join Silicon Valley startup TechnoPodcastBloggersComDotNet, or whatever they're called this week. I'm sure he's been offered an even reasonabler salary to sit and do what he has been doing for ages anyway (whatever he bloody well wants, basically), while wearing an 'I'm blogging this' t-shirt.

But I'm worried about my old pal Bob. While at Microsoft, he had a plan - to chip away at its image through his honest - sometimes far too honest - journal. At Microsoft, his honesty was his USP. What will it be now?


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Stories from the frontlines of PR

Intel gets Jacques Villeneuve along to a processor launch and shoehorns a Formula One message into its product marketing via Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel’s Server Platforms Group:
"If you look at Formula One car you have outstanding performance, then you can look at other cars with great miles per gallon. The IT industry is looking for a hybrid model where you don’t have to sacrifice performance for miles per gallon and efficiency," said Skaugen.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Deadly dull

Deadly dull? Deadly DULL?

That hurts. But it's probably true. I'll do my best to turn that around, anonymous. But if I was brave enough to 'come out', shouldn't you?