Why PR needs to do SEO and NEO

Public relations has a paradox: on the one hand it needs to measure to the nth degree its impact in the digital world and embrace Search Engine Optimization (SEO) led PR. (Check out Stella Bayles excellent introduction).

On the other, it needs to calmly accept the fact that, like the ancient mariners who put monsters or dragons on their maps to indicate the unknown, we in public relations need to do the same – or what I call NEO – Nothing Evidently Observable.

We exist and operate in a world of increasing granularity where can know of things to precise detail. Yet, paradoxically, we operate at the same time in a world of deep darkness.

We can often be needlessly, and unhelpfully beating ourselves up, allowing ourselves to be put down because of a failure to recognise and respect this double-side reality.

Our PR world is increasingly becoming more granular in how it goes about measuring what it does. Forward-thinking communicators urgently need to address its big wake up call to measure, evaluate and iterate.

Yet we must also accept communications and PR operate in a world where we need to identify and consolidate our understanding of the equivalent of the dragons on our map – the NEO: Nothing Evidently Observable.


Dark Matter

If scientists can accept the existence of Dark Matter – where they readily admit that parts of our universe are beyond comprehension, or financial experts recognise ‘radical uncertainty’ where we cannot compute an outcome, shouldn’t we in PR be honest and comfortable to recognise at there is stuff in human activity and our communications universe that eludes definition and direct control?

In her book ‘Dark matter and the dinosaurs’ scientist Lisa Randall highlights how science recognises three components of our universe: dark energy – the expansive and delocalised property of space itself, ordinary matter – that includes atoms, subatomic particles and even Black Holes – and lastly, Dark matter.

Dark matter is only known through its gravitational pull and influence on ordinary matter. There’s no other inter-action. No one knows what it consists of.

Essentially, it’s ‘stuff we don’t know about’, but at least the scientists recognise it’s there and it is a fact of our universe.

Mervyn King, the former Governor of the Bank of England in his ‘The end of alchemy: money, banking and the future of the global economy’ highlights a world of growing complexity.

King argues that in a world of what economists now call ‘radical uncertainty’ it is not possible compute the expected utility of any action. There is simply no way of identifying the probabilities of all future events and no set of economists’ equations that describe people’s attempts to cope with that uncertainty.

King’s view has been expanded upon by former US regulator Richard Bookstaber. In his latest work ‘The End of Theory’ he challenges the conventional wisdom of how mathematical models can define and predict the market. He argues that the deductive science of maths, the very thing modern economics is based upon, is fundamentally flawed.

“We are not robots with fixed mechanical responses to inputs” he writes. “We face a changing world that, in turn, changes the context with which we view the world, and that changes us, again all the more so during periods of crisis. The critical implication is that we cannot plug numbers into a model and solve for the future. We cannot know where we will end up until we take the journey. And we cannot retake that journey once completed.”


Public Relations’ Holy Grail

Public relations people on the other hand are on a quest to quantify everything. In their universe. In search of a Holy Grail that will provide conclusive proof of the power and impact of their communications – and their validity.

For much of their quest I’m in total accord with them.

We now have a digital age of communications, with the world’s largest media platform, Google providing a heaven-sent opportunity to public relations people, through Penguin, to provide great tangible evidence of the results and impact of their work.

So now we are hurtling to create new frameworks, such as the Barcelona Principle 2.0, AMEC, the Government Communications Service OASIS model to provide new ways to create a direct measurement of causal links between communications activity, and ultimately behavioural change with bottom-line impacts.

Although, I believe much more needs to be done, to translate the warm reassuring feeling of these frameworks into everyday use, they do present a bridge to a better world of measuring what we do.

That’s good news. And offers much promise.

But there’s a danger.

There’s still stuff that never will be measured.


PR dinosaurs

In her book Lisa Randall theorises about a causal link between the meteors that crashed into the Earth 66 million years ago resulting in the wiping out of much of life on earth – notably the dinosaurs.

Now, we face a challenge of PR heretics who believe there is the equivalent of dark matter in our communications universe, stuff that can’t be measured being labelled ‘dinosaurs’ alongside those who blindly refuse to change and adapt.

Instead, we need a paradoxical approach of both SEO and NEO, where we need to intensely address the task of measuring as much as we can with our newly discovered powers and capabilities in the digital world of communications.

Parallel to this, we need to be honest and admit what we can’t measure, what is beyond our power to comprehend. The deepest complexities of ‘wicked problems’ in our world are not just systemic problems like Global warming, the rising power of China, or BREXIT but something much more closer at hand – human beings.

Humans are living, breathing complex problems on legs.

But why have we allowed this happen?


The curse of 2 way communications

One reason is our infatuation and comfort blanket of the concept of ‘2 Way Communications’.

The 2 Way Communications model assumes a static world, where it is possible to seek to establish a balance, a management of what’s out there. Our task being in PR to establish 2 Way communications.

I’d really like to believe this.

But 2 Way Communications fails to identify and respect complexity. It imposes a simplistic model on a chaotic world.

I really like Philip Sheldrake’s ‘6 Way Flow Model’ (or what I think is more accurately described as the ‘2×3 Flow Model’) as a way of breaking out of the 2 Way Flow model, to start recognising that there are different dimensions at work within our world. It’s a good tool to get you start interrogating your world.

Yet even Philip’s model has its limitations. I would add to it the dimensions of ‘Complexity’ and ‘Inertia’.

While we need to reject, or treat with cautious respect, simplistic models imposed on our world, ostensibly designed to enable us to think, manage and respond better, these in the end, can constrain our potential to understand our universe.

Instead, we need to embrace simplicity – that there is inevitably ‘stuff we don’t know about’.

On the one hand we need to be on a super-charged mission of embracing granularity and measurement.

On the other, we need to assert the reality that there is stuff we can never manage. The more we recognise this, starting scoping our dark matter, the more confidence this will give us in tackling the uncertainty in our world.

For NEO activity is it is about identifying wider narrative and narrative-patterns to guide actions. This needs to be coupled with great intra-personal skills of listening to one’s own instincts and ‘gut-feel’, a greater mindfulness, alongside any steer from SEO, digital, data-led intuition.

Others have their memes for the unknown. Scientists call it ‘dark matter’. Bankers refer to ‘radical uncertainty’. Ancient mariners had their dragons. I would call it ‘NEO’.

We need to wake up to our equivalent, and stop beating ourselves up about it, and stop others putting us down because ostensibly we are ‘weak at evaluation’.

Isn’t it time we all started talking about PR’s ‘dark holes’, the NEO part reality of our world?

Great training session offer

What an amazing ‘2 Masterclasses in 1’ offer‘. I have teamed-up with one of the leading mutli-channel Content producers to offer an exceptional value session in just a morning session on Wednesday May 10th in London.

It offers powerful story and narrative creation from me and, from Russell Goldsmith, you get how to realize your idea into compelling Content, particularly video.

We live in an age of integrated comms where ideas and stories have to succeed across multiple channels. In one morning session you can transform your abilities to deliver great stories through an integrated campaign.

Explore the opportunities available to you to use video to engage your audiences, be that owned, earned or paid for, from micro-content, such as Instagram and Snapchat, to streaming events through Periscope and Facebook Live.

Learn how to use video to amplify your message and improve reach through targeted coverage on online media and influential bloggers; work with Social Talent and YouTubers; generate buzz; improve SEO and increase your ROI

You will also see examples of how interactive video can drive sales both on and off-line, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality plus we finish with some production tips and what’s involved in subtitling and voice-overs as well.

Tickets and further details on this great ‘2 Masterclasses in 1’ offer here.

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Celebrating #SpeakCockneyDay

A month ago we launched #SpeakCockneyDay on March 3rd – the ‘fird of the ‘fird. Through the fabulously talented creative community @OneMinuteBriefs we challenged some of Britain’s finest rising creative talents to get the message over about the need to safeguard the cultural future of Cockneys.

Winner of the competition was John Elevenblack of The Hideout not based in London, but in Maidstone, Kent, just behind Leeds Castle. They created a series of images of an alternative reality, of a Transport for London that was proud of its London roots and spread the word about Cockney on it bus and Tube routes.

“We’ve no Cockneys in the studio, but just have a love for a good brief and Creative. Would be cool to try and do a little guerrilla advertising for next year’#SpeakCockneyDay using the idea.” said John.

Check out all the entries here.

A big Tom Hanks to all that entered.
What will you be doing to celebrate #SpeakCockneyDay 2018?

Why we need #SpeakCockneyDay on March 3rd

The Cockney accent will disappear from the streets of London – it will be brown bread – unless we do something.

#SpeakCockneyDay on March 3rd is celebrating what it is to speak, live and be a Cockney, to keep its spirit, sense and slang alive.

Cockney is more than an accent, or vernacular. It’s a state of being, a character, with virtues of self-reliance, magnanimity, a commercial nous, independence of spirit, egalitarianism, directness, and occasional subversion of pomposity, pretension and poshness.
However, linguistic experts predict the Cockney dialect faces a diabolical future – and will disappear within 30 years.

Whether you’re born within the sound of Bow Bells, have become a Londoner, or are now part of the Cockney diaspora, whatever your place of birth, colour or creed, ‘Speak Cockney Day’ is a time to celebrate Cockney life and culture – and do something to give it a new future.

Cockneys have always had to overcome class snobbery to survive. Now it needs to be made relevant to a new generation and new age to keep its cultural flame alive.

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Interview: Mark Borkowski and Andy Green

Andy:  Mark, how would you describe yourself?
Mark:   ‘A good human’.

A:  A good human in a vocational sense?
M: In a vocational sense I think my Skype handle is ‘publicist’ so I am a publicist. That’s on my passport. I think that I would have said ten years ago I was a storyteller, but that has become much maligned and everybody now’s a friggin’ storyteller. Read more

Why you should enjoy ‘Blue Monday’

It’s sort of officially Blue Monday on Monday January 16th –  the third Monday of January – symbolically the most depressing day of the year.

And it provides a great opportunity to promote greater understanding about mental well-being, positive psychology, or just an excuse to have a good time. And also for you to harness the power of memes in your life. Read more

Do a ‘Pre-Mortem’ on 2017 to make your planning and strategic thinking even more powerful

This plan failed - Why?

Do you want to be really prepared for all the opportunities and challenges that 2017 throws at you? Then you need to do a Pre-Mortem.

“You’re familiar with the concept of Post-Mortem – where you review and quickly identify what didn’t work, what went wrong – and who was to blame. All made easy by that greatest of gifts – hindsight.

One of your greatest enemies to your planning is over-optimism. Yes, even pessimistic you can be guilty of over emphasising the positive in your thinking.

Optimism bias is recognised by behavioural scientists, such as Robert Cialdini, for encouraging you to overstate the positive and underestimate the negative in your future planning.

So if you are planning for 2017, devising new strategies or new ideas you need to be aware of your optimism bias, and take constructive steps to counter its pervasiveness.

A great tool I use is the ‘Pre-Mortem’. It is a great way to help you overcome undue optimism or failing to fully appreciate certain risks. Read more

Interview: Chris Lewis, founder of world leading PR company Lewis Global Communications


Chris Lewis is the founder of Lewis Global Communications, one of the world’s leading public relations and communications agencies, with 600 staff across 27 offices throughout Asia, Europe and North America.

He is the author of three books; ‘The Unemployables’ a profile of 40 high achievers from all walks of life, ‘Brilliant Minds’ a satirical novel about politics and advertising, and his latest ‘Too Fast To Think’ – highlighting ways of reclaiming your creativity in a hyper-connected work culture, which recently topped the Amazon Hot New Releases chart. (All proceeds from his latest book are going to the creative arts foundation Kupambana.)

[Please note this interview was recorded before recent events in the Presidential elections in the United States.] Read more

Here’s a great storytelling tip to write a better script for your year ahead in 2017


The script for your year ahead – your speech lines and plot are already part-written. Yet is it the script you want? Is it the script that delivers the results you seek?

Luckily, you can do something to change your destiny, to create the outcomes you desire.

If you want to change things however, you first need to identify the script you are currently running. To change the behaviour or the expected outcome, you need to change the underlying script.

I teach about ‘story-listening’ in my Brand Story classes.

I share that there are 5 Prime Plots – by knowing the 5 Prime Plots you can listen and identify the plot at work in any message or communication. Read more

Celebrate Twixtmas


I love this time of year – forget Christmas or New Year – yes, Twixtmas is coming; the five days between the Christmas and New Year holidays. These days are a precious opportunity to do five things to make your world a better place.

We all complain of being ‘time poor’, yet we have five days where many complain of being bored, stuck in the house or fed up with the prospect of shopping or crowded car parks and city centres.

For several years now I have been promoting Twixtmas, tying into a theme of celebrating reciprocal altruism and building social capital. Twixtmas offers a fresh alternative to the excessive consumerism of Christmas, or the
over-indulgence of New Year.

It’s a time to do good, take stock, or look at things in a fresh light.

There are a lot of useful tips, advice and inspiration on the Twixtmas website.

Why not write your ten goals for the year, contact a friend or family member you’ve lost touch with, or do something for the environment?

Each day of Twixtmas has a special theme to encourage you to make the most of this special opportunity.

There’s even a test to measure how time poor you are (what do you mean? You haven’t got time to click through 🙂 ) Read more