A case of Style over Substance? Can an agency website do both?

The inspiration for this post comes from Steve Earl at Rainier PR (who looks like he could do some damage with a bottle of champagne) where he asks an interesting question..

Why are most PR agency websites a pile of turd?

Definitely recommend a read at the link above, brings up some great ideas for further debate.. eg whether the PR industry has when it comes to web design, learnt anything in recent years.. or whether an industry at the sharp edge of comms should be doing better.

What’s my favourite agency site? It’s a toss up between Mischief and Frank. Check them out for yourself, it’s definitely a wow moment when you visit for the first time, and every subsequent visit for that matter. Other notable agency sites I admire include Bray Leino, Cow, Diffusion, Freud, Hotwire, Kazoo and Nelson Bostock.

I believe an agency’s website should be attention grabbing and captivating from the off (see above for a few agencies who I think do that) along with pushing the envelope and getting a whole lot of positive press (like this perhaps) on the back of trying something different and separating themselves out from the rest. Their website is their promotional tool. In recent times the agency that most comes to mind is Lisa P Maxwell (whether it’s seen an uplift in client interest as much as it’s seen an uplift in hits from curious types like me is a question that remains unanswered though) More noise about them here and here.

From a tech point of view I think it’s a fantastic site which allows them to be more transparent in their business practices whilst also successfully breaking down the barriers of communication in such a way which positively encourages you to engage with everyone on the homepage, from top to bottom. I don’t know whether I should admit it but I’ve been checking back at ungodly hours just to see whether there’s anyone still in the office, not for any other reason than because I could! As Lisa P Maxwell’s site goes, some critics could argue that it is perhaps a bit of a win for style over breadth of content but this begs the question..

Should an agencies homepage be a championing of quality over quantity? Stripping down to the very bare basics, LPM still answers the same questions (About, Contact and Jobs) but in a unique and more personal way (WTF, Connect and Jobs) Have LPM shown the way in which all agencies will be heading in the near future or is it merely a short term ‘gimmick’ before resuming with something more ‘conventional’ ?

It’s been introduced most similarly yet not on such a scale by 10 Yeti’s and their YetiCam (which is pretty cool and I did also just have a look on a Sunday afternoon whether there was anything going on!) It’s quite well hidden though in comparison, almost as if they think it’s a great idea but are not sure where it should go. Something like that should be a showcase piece to be proud about on the homepage, it’s a USP when asking the question, Why 10 Yeti’s? (We have nothing to hide, you can see us doing our work, that’s why!)

However, and there’s always a however isn’t there?

Let’s contrast LMP above with an agency like Weber Shandwick (left) of which I’m a great fan of due to the monstrous breadth of content on site that is all readily accessible from the homepage. Interestingly, a recent article under their ‘What We Think’ section of the site is entitled ‘Less Flash, More Substance’ Maybe I’m on to something here!

Which agency websites do you admire the most and who do you think is achieving the best balance of Style Vs Substance?

[update] UK ‘Preeple’ on Twitter

UPDATE – The below is now outdated.. I’ve created a landing page of sorts for it here but to go straight to the Wiki Wiki Wikid then click here

Stephen Davies of Prblogger is a list machine. Following on from his brilliant list of ‘Jeeple’ (Journalists) where he categorised all known UK journalists on Twitter, he brings another list flavoured installment to the Twittersphere this time following up with ‘Preeple’ (PR People)

It’s been a rampant success thus far with it surely being hard to keep up with the deluge of comments, 36 to date, from users who have been missed off the list to be added. For the purpose of the new category page and the need for it to be abbreviated I’ve now added Tweeple to the mix!

Depending on which way you look at it, there is the possibility of a negative viewpoint being attributed to lists like this, so there’s two sides to the story. For example, case in point, it’s merely providing people with a prospective list of influential journo’s / PROs to use for their own advantage or commercial gain. It has caused Stephen problems before, for example, have a look here.

However, It depends how cynical you are but for me it’s a fantastic resource of the who’s who of the PR & Journalism world’s on Twitter. It’s great to think that these lists might become a bit of a competition for agencies to establish more of a presence online, proving the power of their own internal community.

Building on the brilliant usage of the list I thought it would be just as useful to get an instant snapshot of a listed agencies presence on Twitter in numerical order complimenting Stephen’s alphabetically ordered list.. So here goes!

At the time of writing (approx 12am 11th Nov having lost the entire post and redone!) :- I’ve created a bit of a league table of ‘Preeple’ below..

1. Hotwire (16)

2. Axicom (12)

3. Rainier (11)

4. Edelman (9)

5. Lewis (9)

6. Ruder Finn (9)

7. Cow (8)

8. Berkeley (6)

9. Freelance (6)

10. Wolfstar (6)

11. Hill & Knowlton (5)

12. Porter Novelli (5)

13. Six Degrees (5)

14. Text 100 (5)

15. ITV (4)

16. Liberate Media (4)

17. Mantra (4)

18. Microsoft (4)

19. Waggener Edstrom (4)

20. Weber Shandwick (4)

21. Diffusion (3)

22. Kaizo (3)

23. O2 (3)

24. Shiny Red (3)

25. Wildfire PR (3)

26. Fishburn Hedges (2)

27. Nelson Bostock (2)

28. Punch Communications (2)

29. Racepoint Group (2)

30. Splendid Communications (2)

31. Staniforth (2)

32. University of Warwick (2)

The greatest number being in the ‘Other’ section, either unaffiliated or possibly being their company’s Twitter champion.

Something to think about, perhaps Stephen’s list and this subsequent league table will encourage them to join their colleagues in making their company more visible in the Tworld (yeah, I just made that up..)

100 Best Ads / Campaigns

Well worth a read, the top 100 ads as voted by Creativethinkjuice.

It’s no surprise which is No1, an iconic classic in advertising history. Which is your favourite out of the Top 100?

The following list has been compiled by Creative Think Juice with the following considerations (from one degree-to-another): the marketing idea the behind ad, creative concept overall, and overall impact on brand.

100 Best Ads / Campaigns

More about that thing called Social Media..

The results of a new survey have been released recently on media relations practices, specifically how journalists use social media to stay on top of the game. Original Source.

A few key messages to take home..

YOY more blogs are being read, only 25% of journalists don’t read one or more.. what are they doing, living in a cave with no access to the world wide web?

Who said blogging was dead?! It would appear it’s only just beginning!

Over half are using tools like Twitter to seek out new business opportunities, story leads and to connect with peers in similar work.

Similarly, over half scan Google News to follow world events, a sign that there’s much more to Google than just search.. How to monetize news stories though? (New fan of Google reader here by the way) Speaking of which 1/5th have 5 more or RSS feeds delivered to their readers each work.

The users surveyed and indeed the general public alike appear to becoming more tech savvy, where the online world is more intertwined with their every day working life. As a result they’re better connected.. social media you could say has played a part in all of the above.

Let’s take Twitter as an example of a tool at the very heart of the social media world. So much so that I’ve been noticing a few job specifications for social media related roles noting within the requirements ‘If you don’t know what Twitter is, don’t bother applying’

I have connected with extraordinary individuals whom I’d never have had any contact with in every day life nor would possibly be able to, without jumping through a few hundred hoops. Twitter itself single handedly breaks down the barriers of communication and allows me to communicate and engage with CEOs, Directors, and inspirational visionaries whom I can learn greatly from.

What are your thoughts on the explosion in interest in Social Media over the last few months and years. Do you use Twitter? Is it something you have integrated in to your daily life or is it something you just don’t ‘get’ ?

Results in full below.

  • 75% of journalists read one blog or more (compared to 70% last year) and 29% read 5 or more blogs to keep up with their beat (compared to 25% a year ago).
  • More than three-fourths of journalists surveyed use social media to research stories (compared to 67% last year).
  • More than half (56%) use NewsStreams and micro-blogs like Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku to identify new leads.
  • Almost 38% of journalists now say they visit a social media site at least once a week as part of their reporting, compared to only 28% last year.
  • More than half (53%) of journalists say they visit Facebook, YouTube and Social Bookmarks at least once as month as part of their research – up from 44% last year.
  • Nearly 19% receive five or more RSS feeds of news services, blogs, podcasts or videocasts every week, compared with only 16% a year ago and 44% receive at least one regular RSS feed.
  • The majority (76.4%) of journalists said that they use local newspapers to follow news, while 63% check the New York Times, 51% scan Google News and 32% visit Yahoo! News to stay informed.
  • 34% of journalists use Wikis as a living media kit for the companies and beats they cover.

Getting a job in Social Media.

For anyone who is interested in the world of PR & Social Media then I’d definitely recommend checking out Jed’s article over at his blog Rock Star PR.

He’s been a brilliant mentor figure for me so far in offering useful tips and advice in my own quest to get in to Social Media.

Check it out.

M.

Facebook overtakes the BBC..

I was actually a bit surprised by this when I first heard about it, but Facebook has for the first time ever overtaken the monolith that is the BBC to become the fifth most visited site in the UK.

With an impressive 18.4m uniques in September it’s quite incredible, seeing an 80% YOY increase in traffic whilst BBC fell nearly 3% over the same period.

Although that looks negative, BBC has been hugely successful with it’s rollout of the iPlayer over Christmas last year and it’s subsequent updates improving on an already great platform with the ability to use the iPlayer on such devices like the iPhone / iPod touch and the Nintendo Wii and has definitely changed viewing habits for some, myself included. It’s always good to know if you miss a BBC programme it will more than likely be on there for downloading / streaming when convenient.

When it comes to Facebook, personally I started to see a downturn in my usage from June onwards this year, most likely due to graduating from University and getting on the job ladder. I presume due to the lack of free time it lost it’s stickyness for me as I wasn’t part of the University / Student bubble. For a period I stopped using it so much, as I didn’t have as much time and it wasn’t drawing me back on such a regular basis. I’d check it for a few minutes in the evening and that would be it.

What it lost in it’s stickyness it has gained more recently through it’s chat application. It’s by no means perfect, it’s horribly buggy and says you are offline when you are clearly not for example. It has however taken my time more away from MSN Messenger to using FB Chat. Anyone and everyone is on Facebook so it’s a lot more broad and diverse who you might chance upon talking to..

Back on track –

The top 5 most visited sites in the UK now look like so (over the same period, Oct 08) :-

1. Google 36m uniques

2. Microsoft 32m

3. Yahoo 21m

4. eBay 20m

5. Facebook 18m

It’s probably no surprise the names listed, predominantly search focussed. Facebook is impressively even gaining on eBay though, quite something when you think about it. eBay, the golden child of the dot com boom being caught up by the new kid on the block! Those that thought Facebook was starting to see it’s demise in recent months appear to have been silenced but the golden question still lies unanswered, how are investors going to see some real returns.

It would appear that the almighty Zuckerburg doesn’t have a direct answer to that either instead reiterating the value of building up the brand and the network of users. Nicely deflected! He did however recently mention that Facebook’s global userbase has risen to over 100 million and is also one of the top destinations online for photo sharing.

With that in mind, it would appear that there’s life in the old dog yet!

What do you think? Is Facebook here to stay?

Making the move to WordPress..

It’s coming up to 2 in the morning so just a quick one from me, sleep is something I’m rarely getting much of at the moment! A big hello to all my new readers, I plan on building up some steam in frequency of blog postings.. It’s been all too infrequent so far.

I’ve spent the last few days making the migration over from the mobile Vox platform to WordPress. Now, here we are with a completely fresh design and it’s added that lick of paint that I believe was needed. As much as I liked mobile blogging with Vox it just wasn’t all that user friendly and easy to manage.

What do you think to the new look?

M.

The ongoing travels of ‘Three for Three!’

Originally started by the undisputed Rock Star of PR and all round top bloke Jed Hallam this has certainly been doing the rounds recently, kudos Jed for making chain mail cool again!

Thanks to Rax for the tag and bringing me in to the ‘Three for Three’ meme fold. Like Gill from Minxology this is the first meme I’ve been tagged in so it’s with trepidation that I unleash my karaoke classics to the masses.. I thought I’d be able to keep them a secret a while longer!

For anyone unfamiliar with the concept it’s basically three lists which feature top three choices for certain categories. In this case cocktails and so forth. You get the idea, fairly straight forward. I can see there being scope for this Jed, to be a long running series, the variations are endless!

Top three non-work sites:


1. Delicious – I’ve recently started being reaallly anal about my bookmarks which is horribly geeky but brings out the neat freak in me, it comes out to play every now and again.
2. NewsNow – Nottingham Forest – Here’s where I get my footy fix of all related Forest news. I know I’m a glutton for punishment and that I don’t really need to check what’s new because they are always losing.. but it’s my home town club and someone’s got to support them!
3. This one was a close tie between Engadget , Mac Rumors and Digital Spy (I shouldn’t freely admit the last one) but Engadget pips them all marginally to the post.. and dya know why? Because there’s an iPhone formatted version of the site which means I can quickly check it on the way to the tube, on the toilet.. need I go on.. (I’ve long given up denying that I’m a geek and positively embrace it.)

Top three karaoke songs:

1. I Am The One And Only – Chesney Hawkes – The man himself came to our End of Year Ball at Uni one year and it was the biggest thing since.. Rik Waller?
2. Living On A Prayer – Bon Jovi – Absolute classic. I defy anyone to disagree with me!
3. I’ll Be Ready – Sunblock – Reminiscing over the good times, the Baywatch times.

Top three weekend cocktails:

1.  Jaeger Bomb – An old favourite from my student days.. fond memories.. horrible hangovers..
2.  Tequila Sunrise – Sweet and fruity enough to forget about the copious amounts of tequila in it..
3.  Amaretto and Coke  – Recently introduced to this and love it, tastes like Cherry Coke when done right.

Finally,

The lucky three I have chosen to tag in this meme are the following..

James at Whatleydude
Dan at DanLeach

Enjoy!

Google Maps..

I was in Shoreditch earlier on today and was a bit lost to say the least.

Photo(2)

I knew I wasn’t far away from where I wanted to be but was confronted with side roads wherever I turned.. this wasn’t going to be a happy ending, put a map in front of me and I turn in to Casper the not so friendly ghost.

For a while I walked around just taking in the sights and surroundings because I had a bit of time on my hands but that got a little tiring pretty quickly..

I found a friendly bus conductor who was stopped at the side having a smoke so I asked him where it was I was looking for.. he sent me in the completely wrong direction so after a while walking I stopped a lovely geeky chap who I thought would find me the way to my mecca.. and that he did.. hey I like to adhere to the geeky stereotype every now and then too you know.. He said he wasn’t entirely sure where it was but time was running out for me.. then he had a cunning plan and came to my rescue through the wonders of Google. Whoever said they were getting all evil!

He whipped out his iPhone and started up the Maps application. Genius I thought, why didn’t I think of that.. In the times I’ve used Google Maps in Milton Keynes it was really unreliable and you couldn’t trust the output so I didn’t tend to use it so much.. right there on the street we were having a bit of iPhone loving and sharing tips on cool apps, iPhone formatted sites etc.. I turned location services on on my iPhone (normally off to conserve batter) and pressed the button in the bottom left hand corner which magically located where I was with a nice flashing blue dot.. I whacked in the post code where I was heading for and it plotted me a line how to get there and directions!

Whereas I’ve had limited success with Google Maps previously, it absolutely was a lifesaver and took me exactly to where I wanted to be along with providing directions. I even had time to scope out where it was and then head back down the road to get a sandwich.. Perfect. It was quite a spectacle as your location updates itself on the map so you can see if you’re taking a wrong turn (which I did a few times just to try it out.. honest guv!) I was pretty impressed all in all.

Geeks & Dating..