Monthly Archives: August 2009

The cultural impact of Barack Obama (via Ged)

Post from Ged demonstrating the cultural impact of Obama…he’s featured in a number of comic books alongside the likes of Spiderman.

Ged says he can’t see the same thing happening for political leaders in the UK, but I reckon Cameron, Brown et al are ideally suited to The Beano and Dandy. It’s like the Bash Street Kids down Westminster way…

Bloody ridiculous, unless someone knows otherwise?

I'm struggling to get myself a UK mobile on a contract. You'd think the operators would be biting my hands off. I use my mobile a lot…calls, texts, email and internet…and spend a fair bit of time overseas. I'm happy to pay a decent amount each month to get a load of stuff thrown in and I'll sign up for a good length of time too. I'm good for the cash. Frankly, though I say it myself, I'd be a fantastic customer.

The problem is, I live in France. But I want a UK mobile number. I have a UK bank account, but the fact that it's registered to a French address makes it useless (so I was told, just now, by a lady in the O2 shop). My UK credit card is also linked to my French address. The problem relates to the ability to credit check me apparently. And I was told in the Orange shop (Orange ffs! It's a French company) that this doesn't relate to the contract itself, but relates to the value of the handset they'd give me free with the contract. So I said I'd happily buy a handset full price if they'd stick it on a contract for me. No go.

This strikes me as utterly ridiculous. I'm desperate to give someone about £40 a month for the next couple of years at least in exchange for a decent mobile phone with a UK number. Is that unreasonable? Anyone got a solution?

Wired US: New rules for highly evolved humans…brilliant

My colleague Noor (@SpaceNK) returned to the office today from a flying visit to the US and immediately thrust the latest copy of Wired (the US version) into my hands, "you have to read this…it's hilarious."

She was referring to the cover story; 14 pages of genius advice on how to deal with modern-day predicaments, such as 'never broadcast your relationship status', 'friend your boss but not your boss's boss. Follow them both on Twitter', 'don't lie with your Facebook photo', 'don't send e-cards', 'turn off "sent from my iPhone" email signatures'…there's even a lovely flowchart guide to choosing the right ringtone. Brad Pitt offers additional advice in his Inglorious Basterds guise as seen in this picture on the cover, wearing his 'ear mullet' (caption: 'Rule No. 52 Ditch the headset. He can barely pull it off – and you are not him.')

It is, as Noor says, hilarious and well worth searching out. Or see it online.

Unity – fighting the good fight

After my mini rant about the death of PR (at least as it's come to be perceived) I then come across an agency that feels somewhat the same way, but which has the balls to fight for PR's rightful place in the marketing landscape. It's Unity, and this from its website:

Time for a change
Public relations? It’s a strange phrase isn’t it. For some, it represents spin, double-talk and propaganda and for others it’s the poorer, slightly fluffier relation to the big daddy of advertising. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

For us, relating to publics is an holistic process, involving all the marketing disciplines, often unified around a single, compelling theme and aimed at creating greater clarity and understanding. Sometimes a brand is misunderstood, sometimes it’s only too well understood and sometimes it’s just not being heard. Whatever the problem, we’d like to think we can help. The thing is, we also think it’s time our industry looked beyond the obvious.

Advertising can achieve “good PR”, so can direct, ambient and guerrilla marketing – in fact the possibilities are almost endless. Which begs the question, why do so many agencies immediately reach for the press release?

To a certain extent, we’ve only got ourselves to blame. We let other disciplines lead the thinking, we focus on the process (let’s do some “PR”) rather than the outcome, and we often lack the courage to pitch the client the big idea.

So we started Unity to challenge the way people think about PR.

Lovely. Some nice pics on the website too.

All’s well with kids online

Despite Dan's inability to spell its name correctly, even though it's an Edelman client (forgive him, he's new…), I think the list from Symantec of search terms used by kids online is quite encouraging (though there's no way of telling how old the kids were specifically).

Sure, some people might be aghast that 'sex' and 'porn' appear in the top 10, that 'boobs' comes in at number 28 (kids say 'boobs'? Brilliant!), 'pussy' at 72, 'naked girls' at 86, and 'Playboy' at 93, but how much has it really changed over the years? 

I know that all of those search terms were certainly running through my mind as a teenager.



So yesterday an old mate of mine who works on campaigns for the consumer insurance brands of RBS points me to the new 'Teamergency' campaign for Direct Line. It's a neat campaign. Some boffin-led research (it's a pdf, but not a big one) to identify a genuine link between tea and reduced levels of anxiety, which of course validates the traditional British reaction to any stress-inducing event of putting the kettle on. Lovely. 

This little piece of content (and it really is a pretty small piece of research) provides a nice news hook (I heard it mentioned on Sky News yesterday and apparently there's a dps in the Mirror today and a bunch of other coverage) but also the basis for some direct consumer engagement through social media. There's a well-designed website and a Twitter-based competition: the best examples of tea-mergencies tweeted with the hashtag #teamergency get some special tea delivered or, potentially, tea for two at The Ritz. There are also downloadable versions of the Tea is for Trouble poster (as above). All in all, a lovely little brand campaign for Direct Line.

Good content, well produced, interesting, entertaining, direct audience engagement as well as through media (but press coverage not being the primary driver). 

That's what we're talking about.


Fake, apparently (you’d kinda hope so, wouldn’t you?), but brilliantly done.

Me, next

Since I tweeted that I was moving back to the freelance life a few days ago, quite a few people have asked me what exactly I'm going to be up to. One of them, an MD of a social media agency for which I have huge respect (from afar…I've only met him once, and very briefly) asked me to send him an email with a bit of background on my career so far and what I fancied getting up to next, in case there might be an opportunity for us to work together. I did that, and thought it might be worth posting a slightly amended version for general consumption…so here it is.

I've been working in PR and marketing (mainly PR) since '93, after graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in Information Science. In typical fashion I fell into PR rather than it being a planned career choice. In '95 my short experience in PR allied to my degree in IT became an irresistible combination to Text 100 – then the UK's leading light in tech PR – and I joined the group in which I remained for the following eight years. In 2003 I moved my family to south-west France and became a freelance PR/comms consultant. After doing some freelance work for Edelman, I was offered a permanent position last year, though was still able to base myself in France, travelling to the UK every other week or so. Though Edelman has done its best to accommodate my unusual work/life structure, acting independently gives me the flexibility I like and want, hence the return to a freelance life next month.

To be honest, though, I'm keen to move in a slightly different direction. PR – which is really where I'm seen as working – is a dying discipline. Actually, that's probably a bit dramatic. How PR has become perceived, as a discipline that's dominated by an obsession with generating media coverage, is dying with old media. Of course a traditional definition of public relations is well-suited to the new world of direct audience engagement, but the perception of the sector is now too ingrained to change in my view. Why anyone would create a new agency today and call it a PR company, which they are doing, is rather beyond me. And in the rush to own the new communications landscape, PR companies are losing in the main (which in some part relates to PR being heard by the wrong people in client companies, but I could bang on about that all day).

I'm a content man. I love great content: words, video, audio, online, offline, books, magazines, photography, architecture. Digital for me is a really brilliant medium, but content will always be king. I like working with companies that are brave enough to create content that is entertaining, informative, controversial, thought-provoking, outrageous…whatever works to get the message across and inspire the audience. Companies that are prepared to take a few risks. I think these companies are few and far between and unfortunately to most of the comms people you often end up dealing with in big multinational companies, taking a risk comes a far second to covering their arse.

I generate my own content now and again. As an experiment that helped me get to grips with blogging and building communities I co-created the (what became) rather notorious tech PR industry blog …the world's leading…; I sporadically blog here about things that catch my eye or I need to get off my chest; I market our own gites here at our place in France, Les Chapelles, and I'm using social media in building some momentum around the small gentlemen's cycling club that I've established (that's a small club, not a club for small gentlemen), Les Veloistes Gentils…story of the 2009 ride here and our social network here.

I've got a few bits of work lined up which are quite exciting, fingers in a few other pies and, as always, a few ideas buzzing around for new stuff. I've never been driven by ultimate financial gain; I want to work with people and companies that I like, that like me and that want to do exciting stuff. As long as I feel that I'm being fairly rewarded for that, then I'm happy.

My email address is mark (dot) pinsent (at) gmail (dot) com. I'm always more than happy to meet people for coffee and a chat about, well, anything really. Something often comes of it.

Bloody hell it’s hot

The thermometer by the back door (which is in the shade) is reading 36 degrees this lunchtime. I’m out walking the dogs which, given two of them are black and hairy, might not be a good idea. The sunflowers are wilting fast, biut the seeds are getting ripe. Must be good for the vines too?

A step too far..?

If this works, I'll be amazed.

So, not only can I post to my Posterous by email, but I can set it up so that anything posted there gets fed into my Twitter stream and also my WordPress blog (though there's some slightly technical guff about needing to enable XML-RPC that I'm not sure I've done…but I think it might be automatic these days).

Anyway, let's give it a go. With a picture as well (Hammersmith Bridge, London).

Fingers are crossed.