2010 – The Year of the Virtual PR Team?

6 05 2010

The concept of the virtual PR team is not a new one but it’s one that seems to be resonating within the client community at the moment. This week, Paratus Communications won Vodafone’s £500,000 B2B and social media account based, in part, on a mix of core in-agency experience and specialist skills picked from the UK’s freelance network.

The Virtual Team

The move is indicative of a move towards a more tailored, skills-centric approach to communications. In the last six months, myself and my freelance / virtual colleagues have spoken to a number of large organisations looking to rationalise their approach and choose support from companies and individuals with the right skills, rather than settle for the team that their agencies provide.

For many organisations this might be a step too far – many still prefer the ‘safety’ of a traditional agency set-up but,  for an increasing number, it’s more important to ensure that the team is right and fit for purpose. In Paratus’ case, they have provided Vodafone with a team that perfectly fits its needs and won the business as a result.

This is good news for a growing number of ‘virtual agencies’ both old and new and the growing number of, what I call, IVANs (International Virtual Agency Networks). It’s also good news for freelancers who have something to offer big corporate accounts but have, until now, perhaps not been considered. There’s such a wealth of quality support and experience out there that there’s no longer any reason for pitch teams not to involve external parties – especially if the skills fit the brief.


Internet of Things: inspiration lies in B2B apps

5 05 2010

Last night’s Internet of Things mashup* event, hosted by BCS, was illuminating. What’s clear is that there is a varied level of understanding around M2M; what it is, what the technology comprises and, crucially, its usefulness to business. It was interesting, therefore, that the debate started with the idea we are at the start of something big, rather than, as some would argue, at the point at which tried and tested technology becomes a mainstream concern.

M2M in the field

I agree that the market sits at a tipping point of sorts. M2M / Internet of Things, or data connectivity and analysis at its simplest, isn’t a new idea. Two of the companies sitting on the panel – Wireless Logic and Arkessa – have been designing, implementing and mangaging B2B M2M projects for 10 and eight years, respectively, Wireless Logic focusing on mobile data connectivity, Arkessa focusing more on Fixed Line. But what is new is the idea that embedded data connnectivity solutions have a use outside of sector applications and have a role to play in consumerland.

I can see it but I think it’ll be a while before we’ll start seeing our home appliances chatting to eachother. The final discussion around privacy and data protection identified a key concern for companies looking to extract data from consumer M2M implementations which needs to be worked through – as well as the thorny discussion around standards – that one could run and run.

This also doesn’t mean that there isn’t serious money already being made in M2M. Companies like Wireless Logic, in harmonious partnership with the four major networks, are forging ahead in the development of interesting and innovative applications, designed with a particular need in mind. Companies like Tunstall are pioneering the use of Fixed IP SIM cards in patient monitoring, online fast food outlets such as Just Eat are using Fixed IP SIMs to cut out the need for unreliable fax-printers and companies like Konica Minolta are saving thousands being able to remotely diagnose printing problems and remotely re-order consumables.

I also think that some of the tried and tested business models / management platforms / provisioning / SIM estate management and analysis tools already being used in industry provide useful benchmarks against what can be acheived. There are now ways for companies to create their own private networks, alongside the MNOs in a fully managed and guaranteed environment. I can’t help thinking that the inspiration for the growth of the maket already exists amongst the collective experience of those that are already doing good business in M2M.

If you need any evidence of the size and scale of the M2M opportunity, this is a good starting point.

Is Twitter only for the thick-skinned?

2 11 2009

I was reading The Mirror’s account of Stephen Fry’s mortification at being branded a Twitter bore and it made me think about the delicate desire for approval and appreciation that, I think, we all harbour in relation to our contribution on Twitter.  For what it’s worth, I don’t think Stephen is at all boring and, come on, the man’s busy enough being fabulous without having to be sparkling, 24/7, in only 140 characters!

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry

A few months ago, when I left my job, rather than finding myself with acres of time to Tweet, I spent most of my days looking for work and building my business.  What had become a daily and constant ritual was relegated to the ‘nice to have’ section of the priority list; once the need to apply myself in the hunt for work really kicked in.  At the end of the first month, I had spent (according to the stats) 60% less time Tweeting than the previous month and around 80% less than the month before.

Naturally, I lost a few followers – understandable really – why would you follow someone who never says anything?  But more interesting is how the level of interaction that I previously had with some Tweeps had changed once I started engaging properly again – and how that made me feel.  Whereas when I was most active and, possibly, a bit more interesting (redundancy can stifle your enthusiasm for most things!), my discussion and interaction was richer.  Once other priorities got in the way, I Tweeted less and, as a result, have lost some of those closer connections that I once had.

I could take it personally, and the thing with Twitter is that you do get out what you put in, but it’s important to remember that  it really isn’t easy to remain effervescent, 7 days a week, especially when life gets in the way.  I think the secret is to make every Tweet count, not to Tweet inanely (god, I am so guilty of that), and to maintain contact with your followers as often as possible and hope they remain interested.

If they don’t, and perhaps this is the point, that’s fine!  My contribution to Twitter is as much, if not more, about me learning from others as it is about others listening to what I have to say.  As my life and its challenges change, so my interaction with Twitter will change and, doubtless my interests and, therefore, followers.

Rather than feeling upset every time I lose a follower, or perhaps am not quite as interesting as I should be, I think I’ll accept that for what it is.  Life’s too short.

Nokia kinda didn’t come with music….

2 11 2009

I’ve been on about this on Twitter a bit lately as it’s something that is really mystifying me.  We bought a Nokia ‘Comes With Music’ phone a little while ago now, having seen it at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year.  When we got it home we found out that, because we’d bought the phone a week before the advertising campaign started, we weren’t entitled to our free tunes.  And we’re not the only ones.

Nokia fails to come up with much

Tune-free zone

I have spoken to a few people, mainly by accosting people on the street, who tell the same story.  There are others that claim the service is tough to use and increases in price the more you use it.  I don’t know how representative those views are but the figures speak for themselves.  A recent article claims that, although Nokia says it sold 3 million units by end April, only 32,728 had used the service in the UK by the end of July.

It strikes me that a great many of the millions of us that bought a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic or Nokia N96 may have fallen the victim to the ‘ad campaign’ loophole.  The public new about Comes With Music a long while before the ad campaign started, in fact many of us had been waiting impatiently after Mobile World Congress.

The XpressMusic phone was sold on the basis of Comes With Music, regardless of when the marketing campaign began – removing this privilege negates the reason for buying it in the first place.  Or am I being naive?

I’d be very interested to know how many others have been affected in this way!