p-p-p-pick up a pancake

Crêpes, blinis or a plain ol' pancake: whatever your preference, happy Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day/Mardi Gras (anyone in the Birmingham area, I recommend the Selly Sausage for the best pancakes around)


You've been Scooped!

After catching on to the '4 things' meme fairly late (I think I was standing in the kitchen at that particular blog party), I have been tagged by Philip Young's Scoop meme (via Serge 'No Copy' Cornelus) while I was on my way from the kitchen to the bar.

A well known and respected PR blogger and lecturer at Sunderland University, Philip has now turned his hand to memetics in a bid to widen the audience of his Scoop blog. His musings on the "Amazon problem" reminded me of an earlier post on this blog. Perhaps memetics is, if not the answer, at least an answer.

So, Philip, to the task in hand: After scouring my mental list of literary material (it needs a good tidy up, it had all got a bit messy and confused) and discounting the many non-European/UK sources, I am going to proffer parliamentary buffoon Boris Johnson's portrayal of Barry White, literary hack and plot device/catalyst (72 Virgins). I think it probably says a lot more about the honourable Mr Johnson's experience as a subject of the media, although as an editor/sometime journalist himself I am sure there is plenty of material in there that draws from his first-hand experiences at the sharp end of a pen.

My three tags:

Elizabeth CorporatePR Albrycht
Mack beyond Madison Avenue Collier
Karl 529 Binder



I braved the snow and rush hour traffic last night to go to the launch of the Birmingham Film Office at St Martin's Church. For those of you who don't know Birmingham, a church may seem like an unusual venue for a PR launch, especially one not associated with religion, but hats off to the organisers, it worked very well.

It might be a long way from Hollywood but Birmingham has got a history and, through the new Film Office a future, in the film business.
Office Director Suzie Ralph's objectives are to 'facilitate production, promote the city as a prime location and support film festivals.' With a strong BBC presence, Screen West Midlands and companies like Maverick television firmly established in the city, there is a real buzz around Birmingham's creative industries.

With cities like Manchester trading off the back of their music scene and a burgeoning visual arts scene in Newcastle, perhaps Birmingham has finally found a niche that can help it shake off the outmoded view of the city as a sprawling 70's concrete jungle.

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One small step for Sam...

Apologies for the lack of posting/commenting activity recently. I've been busy getting my foot on the property ladder. Yes, I've bought (well, had an offer accepted on) a house. I am now (nearly) a proud homeowner. No more shared rented accommodation, ambivalent landlords and magnolia woodchip. Hooray!

For a (relatively) small island, Britain is extremely densely populated. It lacks the space of North America and even parts of Europe and unlike many of it's European counterparts, the British are still clinging on to a home owning culture rather than the rented accommodation model that is popular in countries like France and Germany.

Despite government initiatives (part ownership, planned affordable new housing initiatives), many first time buyers are struggling to get a foot on the property ladder. Prices that soared between 2000 and 2003 and then plateau'd left the market deadlocked and many buyers frustrated. With average prices outside London (don't even think about buying in London unless you have some serious cash) hitting the £200,000+ mark for the first time will the ideal of owning your own house soon become out of reach for the under 30 generation?

[note - I didn't spend anywhere near £200,000]



I won a CIPR Silver award. Look how smiley I am.


364 days old (not all of them blogging)

Tomorrow, this blog will technically be a year old. I say technically because there was a bit of a hiatus between March and November 2005 where I went offline for a while. So, officially one year old but I'll celebrate properly on reincarnation day (21 November) when I can really say with conviction that I've been blogging for a year.

Take PRide in your work

Part of my work for the University is producing a fortnightly magazine/newsletter that covers both internal and external communications (never an easy task). Last year it was nominated for, and won, the CIPR PRide award for the Best In-House Magazine/Newsletter (Midlands). This year, we have been nominated again so tonight I will be donning the tuxedo and heading off to the National Motorcycle Museum for the awards ceremony.

I've been working on the Communications team at the University to try to get them to develop a better e-version of the magazine than we have at the moment (downloadable PDFs – ick!) and fingers crossed things seem to be moving at last. The new version will be HTML based so will be searchable, RSS compatible (subscribe to the whole thing or just the sections that you want), include links to further information/blogs on the University's site and will hopefully include sound and movie clips. It's all part of a drive to use the University's website and portals to improve internal comms. It also eases my guilt about the enormous amount of paper used/wasted by the University (hopefully we'll be able to dramatically reduce the number of printed copies we produce).

Check out the Howies site for an interesting approach to reducing paper waste

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Publish and be damned

Ever dreamed of being a published writer? Not satisfied with publishing via the web? Want something physical to put on your bookshelves that impresses those who haven't a clue what a blog is? This article, investigating self-publishing options, could be a warning shot across the bows of the big publishing companies.

Polishing our souls

Last week I sat on a train opposite a kid eating a packet of Walkers' Salt and Vinegar crisps (or chips for those of you on the other side of the Atlantic). When he'd finished enthusiastically eating the contents of the bag, he then tore the bag open and used his finger to mop up every last scrap of Salt and Vinegar flavouring from the bag, making sure that he got right into the corners of the bag so as not to miss any. Andrea Weckerle's post, What's Next ... Chicken Soup for the Blogger's Soul?, on the proliferation of the Chicken Soup series of books reminded me of this kid.

Andrea lists 9 Chicken Soup titles (as well as the asthma variation that prompted the post) from Chicken Soup for the Scrapbooker's Soul to Chicken Soup for the Country Soul (comes with its own CD). It seems that the authors of the series (messrs Victor Hansen and Canfield) have metaphorically torn open the bag and are delving into the corners to extract every last scrap of Chicken Soup flavour they can.

As we develop more sophisticated approaches to content delivery we are demanding relevant and personalised approaches from the information streams that we consume. As Andrea says: 'At a time when personalization and "all about me" don't show any sign of abating... pretty soon we'll all have our own Chicken Soup book.'

The Chicken Soup for the Blogger's Soul that Andrea is holding out for may be a way off but this got me thinking about what the differences are between souls. How does a sports fan's soul differ from the mother of a pre-schooler's soul, and what differences in approach and delivery of content is there in the Chicken Soup books? Mark Victor Hansen has hit upon a successful template and a way in which to deliver the kind of personalised content that we so desire.

The ultimate test, I suppose, would be to see if a Dentist who is also a golfer and mother of a pre-school child bought 3 different Chicken Soup books to care for each aspect of her soul.

[note - sorry, I couldn't resist the title]

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A breath of fresh air

384 votes to 184 (a majority of 200) in favour of a ban on smoking in all pubs, clubs and restaurants in England from the summer of 2007

Roll on 2007

[Edit - Of course there are 2 sides to every story. Check out Serge's Holy smoke (2) post on No-copy for the opposing view]

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Creatives branding creatively

I recently sat through a couple of hours of talks by 'the great and the good' at Birmingham's Chamber of Commerce on the subject of how the city was planning to promote its creative output. The evening's discussions were prompted by work already undertaken by the city (via Urban Communications), looking at how the sector could market itself more effectively. Stefan Lewandowski of 3Form's post about it sums the evening up nicely.

I'm not sure if/how it is related but
Channel 4's ideas factory magazine Ten4 has a feature on Branding Creative Birmingham to which Stefan and his 3Form colleagues contributed. As someone working within creative industry in Birmingham it's great to see the discussion started in the sector and by the people that it directly affects rather than committees of the usual suspects.

I just wonder who this whole branding exercise is being aimed at. The creative industry within the City is close knit, and will become more so as the developments in the East Side and Jewellery Quarter take root. Even within the City itself there is a certain amount of awareness of (through exposure to) the creative output of the City and certainly a degree of pride in what is coming out of Birmingham.

We are in danger of talking to ourselves and changing nothing. Any campaign we were to adopt should take into account the fact that it is an mainly audience outside the City that needs to be confronted with something that is appealing but that challenges their perceptions in a way that obviously ties into the City itself.

I can't make it to tonight's meeting of the discussion group but I have posted comments on a number of blogs and forums with my views and offered to (through
529) coordinate a blog network for the city's creatives to share their views. Watch this space.

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Smoke 'em if you got em…

… because you might not be able to for much longer. Following the UK Government's success in staving off a backbench rebellion to reverse changes imposed on the controversial ID Cards Bill by peers, MPs will vote today on an equally emotive subject – smoking.

Today's free vote will decide whether or not to implement a ban on smoking in all England's pubs and clubs (as well as a proposal to raise the legal age of buying cigarettes from 16 to 18).

While other countries such as Ireland have successfully implemented a ban without affecting revenue as its opponents predicted, the English have dithered and procrastinated. In typical nanny state mode, some Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs oppose a total ban for fear it could undermine civil liberties. Cynics have suggested that the amount of smokers in the commons and the fear of losing the massive amounts of revenue generated by a drop tobacco sales, if a ban has such an impact, holds more sway than the rights of non-smokers and workers in pubs and clubs to not be exposed to passive smoking.

Vote wisely. Ban it.

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Happy Valentine's Day blogosphere


Howard... Howard... Howard... Howard?

I don't know whether it was the bang on the head but I spent an extremely enjoyable if not a little surreal evening last night in the company of the Mighty Boosh.

'Who on Earth are the Mighty Boosh?' I hear you cry. I'm not sure I could actually explain. For those of you who like your comedy British, bizarre and slightly disturbing check out the Boosh. For those of you who don't, try a bang on the head and see if that helps.


I got tagged

While I was out on the rugby pitch getting my nose splattered across my face I got tagged by the Four Things gang ...

Four jobs I've had
▪ Barman
▪ Builder’s labourer
▪ Chef in a Tex-Mex restaurant
(I may have told a few fibs to get this one)
▪ Editor

Four movies I can watch over and over
Chasing Amy
True Romance
Y Tu Mama Tambien

Four places I have lived
• Toddington, Bedfordshire, England
• Wolfsven (nr Eindhoven) Holland
• Sydney, Australia
• Birmingham, England

Four TV shows I love (when I have time to watch them)
• Lost (suckered in)
• Dark Angel
• Father Ted
• Green Wing

Four places I've been on vacation
• The Yasawa Islands, Fiji
• Stockholm, Sweden
• Red Mountain, Canada
• Singapore City, Singapore

Four of my favorite dishes
• Apple Strudel
• Steak-frites with Bernaise sauce
• Spit-roasted chicken
• Pan-seared Tuna steak

Four sites I visit daily
BBC online
Guardian Unlimited
Wooster collective

Four places I would rather be right now
Red Mountain, Canada (powder baby!)
• India
The Sow and Pigs in Toddington with my Dad
• Eating chicken in the little tin shack on the beach in Noja

Four bloggers I am tagging
• Joel (that’ll teach you to spam my blog - I'm not linking to this one out of principle)
Steve Sloan

BTW - we won the rugby 72-5


Butler for hire

How great would it be to have a butler? Considering the struggle I had this morning to get up, get clean, get fed and dress smart enough for work and still get out of the house in something approaching enough time to make it to my desk at a respectable clocking-in time, the buttling skills of my very own Jeeves would come in very handy.

I might be in luck, rumour has it (via this link on the Guardian site) that search engine Ask Jeeves' American owners are to hand the distinctive face of the site his P45 (unemployment papers for all international readers) and send him off to the dole queue.

"We're expanding internationally, and a butler is very British. What the character did give us was a sense of humanity: that humanity will continue to be there, but it won't be in the form of Jeeves." said Rachel Johnson, the company's vice president of marketing for Europe.

Perhaps I could offer the virtual butler a home on this site?

'May I take your coat sir...'


Millennium PR reaches milestone

Andrea Weckerle's Millennium PR blog is a stone's throw from joining the illustrious century club. Amongst my scribbled notes from the Making the News conference in Sunderland last year I found a reference to the fact that, at the time, Technorati was listing 20 million blogs (at the time of writing it's now 27.4 million). A surf trough the 'next blog' option on blogger (see top right of this blog) or even in Technorati itself quickly reveals that a good number of this 27.4 million are either signpost pages used to boost search engine rankings or traffic to dodgy sales sites or blogs that don't get past the first 2 posts. [I suppose that's the downside of using a free service like blogger rather than something like typepad. I really should upgrade.]

Taking this into account,
Millennium PR's 99 posts (and more to come) is quite an achievement. Even more so when you take into account the 'Content rules' approach Andrea takes to her posts. So, take a minute to check out Andrea's blog, read her 'lessons learned' (wise words) and congratulate her on her graduation from 'bloddler-hood' [sic] to fully-fledged blogolescent.

[edit - following Andrea's link to Kami Huyse's blog I found a post that estimates of 27.2 million blogs listed, 13.7 are 'active' - interesting stuff. You know the drill. Here's the link.)

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(belated) Happy Nude Year

Vanity Fair's latest 'Hollywood' issue hit the newsstands to mixed opinion. Opinion seems to be as much divided over the issue of guest artistic director Tom Ford's appearance in his own concept (shot by Annie Liebowitz) as the relative merits of the shot and the age-old art v.s. porn debate.

Culture Vulture blogger Xan Brooks claims Ford's work is "neither arousing enough to sate the masturbators, nor artistic enough to appeal to the aesthetes" hitting neither the nude or the naked celebrity shot buttons, instead "falling between the (butt) crack"

Ford defended his appearance in the shot after Wedding Crashers star Rachel McAdams backed out: “Three girls in a bed is a bedful of girls, but two girls in a bed are lesbians…"

Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter commented: “A lot of women actually, a couple of men, too, wanted to [step in and] take their clothes off”

Really? I bet that was a long queue


529 global inc

SCONUL tender finished last night and sent off this morning. Another invitation came in to pitch for work for a [edited] 6th consortium (web design, content, strategy and print). New 529 content and design site templates up (content needs a pull through - I get bored of my own stuff so quickly). VOIP phone network nearly up and running.

World domination here we come

*cough* I can't come in today because...

According to Tim Dowling (via the Back Page of today's Guardian G2 section), the results of 'a survey' have concluded that yesterday/the first Monday in February, is 'the most popular day of the year ... for being off sick when there isn't anything wrong with you'.

Walking into work yesterday it definitely seemed quieter than usual on the roads and on campus. Perhaps the school traffic had been affected by the influenza B outbreak (the monkey was affected/infected and we are still running on a skeleton staff at work). I'd say next year's survey results might be a bit skewed with plenty of people off for genuine reasons.

Get well soon. I don't want your germs.


Hur hur, you said boobs

"[the web] is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"

Possibly an overused (and often misquoted) piece of Shakespeare but I'm sure you'll forgive me that and me making the tenuous link to the web. But I'm sure you'll agree, that whether it's the blogosphere or the web as a whole, there exists a vast amount of content of varying degrees of quality, presented in a myriad of forms (some good, some great, some awful). And it's getting bigger every day.

Sites like Flikr, Technorati and Del.icio.us that have adopted (and developed) tagging are making the web a lot friendlier and easier to use. There are a million different ways tags can be used to search for content. And the more we use them, the better it's going to get. But there will always be someone searching for 'boobs'.

Pictures on my flickr site usually get a few views and comments. Some of them get more than others but come on, 447 views in 2 days just from a single tag?


Happy burfdy the monkey!


Will podcast for cash/food...(part 2)

Writing in the Guardian's Business section, Cosima Marriner adds to the publisher's already considerable bank of reporting on the podcasting phenomenon. Following on from colleague Tim Dowling's earlier piece for the Guardian in which he coined the term 'podcost', Cosima sums up a lot of the attention podcasting is getting from the commercial world: 'What remains to be seen is if there is any money to be made.'

There will always be a bottom line with any product, even one as cheap as Emap's £150 a month Kerrang! Podcast. There may be cases where a podcast's content may be useful or desirable enough for a user to stump up for it - but have those who are looking to sell podcasts really understood the full potential of the medium?

For the smaller podcaster who may not have the capability or resource to sell his/her content, the podcast can still be an effective marketing/PR tool. Intelligent podcast content can be engineered to drive users to your site/business – a sprat to catch a mackerel in effect. And as Emap and Cosima have shown, podcasting can be a cheap way of spreading your message.

And that's before I've even got started on the viral marketing effect. Check out this cool podcast (made you look)

Walk towards the light

It was nearly light when I walked home from work last night. January and February are miserable months. Everyone's skint, it's cold, dark and there's still another few months of winter to go yet. But it's getting a little bit lighter each day and cold I can deal with (will definitely be adding one of these to my wishlist).

53 days till the clocks go forward. And counting.