Irrelevance – the pollution of the Online Media World?

Pollution Protecting the real world from the ravages of pollution and preserving our natural resources was once considered the preserve of environmental activists. Not anymore. Recycling, energy conservation and reducing our carbon footprint are now mainstream activities.

In the Online Media World I would suggest the equivalent to pollution is irrelevance, and the time, and money, that are wasted dealing with it (never mind the frustration caused). Unfortunately the PR industry is one of the culprits in producing this pollution; with the interesting stories it does create often getting lost in the millions of press releases produced each year, many of which are often sent to significant numbers of people for whom they are irrelevant. This means only a small proportion of these messages actually lead to someone talking about a story.

The positive response to our recent Online PR animation suggests that many (all?) people in the PR industry are aware of the importance of remembering that there are real people at the end of each of these messages. Given this, if irrelevance is polluting their environment shouldn’t we all be asking one simple question:

What have we done to improve our relevance today?

For us at RealWire this means making sure the existing things we do to improve our relevance are performed 100 per cent and looking for new ways to reduce our “irrelevance footprint” all the time. Many of these improvements and processes are based on feedback from the receivers of our news themselves. Some things are simple, the equivalent to turning the light off when you leave a room or not leaving your TV on standby, and others take more effort and investment on our part. They all have one end purpose though – to deliver greater relevance to all the receivers of our news and so reduce the amount of pollution we create.

We realise we’re far from perfect, but then how many people recycle 100 per cent of their waste in the real world? Does that mean that we shouldn’t all try and recycle more just because perfection is probably unattainable? That’s why we are always looking to improve. After all it is only through delivering relevance that the PR industry can ever hope to release the influence it desires.

I noticed today that PRNewswire have recently started to provide their content through sector specific Twitter feeds e.g. PRNTech, rather than all through one single feed. RealWire also did this a few months ago as we realised, as PRN would appear to, that people following news content would find this would significantly improve the relevance of the content to them. It’s not rocket science, nor is turning off your TV, and it won’t solve the problem of PR pollution by itself, but as with the environment a lot of small individual measures can make a big difference overall.

So hats off to PRN for also taking this step and perhaps we could all ask ourselves what have we done today to improve the environment in the Online Media World we all inhabit?

Government 2010 I’ll be the one trying to keep up


Government 2010 is a one day conference on 22nd October that in the organisers words “will examine how next generation government is set to change in the light of social, media and technology change.” [Disclosure: Realwire is one of the media sponsors].

I will be part of the panel discussing the impact of blogging and social media. Given the quality of the panel – Iain Dale (Dales Diary), Mick Fealty (Slugger O’Toole), Stephen Tall (Editor LibDem Voice) and Craig Elder (Conservative Online Communities Editor) – I may be like the celebrity on Question Time who has to try and keep up with the rest. Except without the celebrity :-)

The line up for the event as a whole is very high quality and by the wonders of streaming you don’t even need to travel to the venue (though you can if you wish), as the whole event will be broadcast live.

To get the conversation started the organisers have put together a quick survey about the impact of technology and new media on government and the political landscape. (Note you can skip questions if you would prefer not to disclose information like your voting preference).

As politics and new media are two of my favourite topics I am really looking forward to the day. Hope you can join us –  either in person or virtually.

Online PR is all about Community

Well the silly season is pretty much over and at RealWire we have been using this quiet time to go on holidays, get married (congratulations Hollie!) and put the finishing touches to our new animation.

The video is called “Online PR is all about Community” and tries to provide a simple analogy for people to bear in mind when approaching online PR. Here it is:

Online PR is all about Community from RealWire on Vimeo.

There are lots of white papers, reports, posts, articles etc giving instructions, guidance, facts and knowledge around this subject of course. Commoncraft for instance do a brilliant job with their videos, but these focus more on the specifics of the elements of the online world themselves – e.g. RSS, Twitter, Social Bookmarking etc.

We hadn’t really seen someone attempt to produce something that tried to distil things into a simple story that gets at the fundamentals and then produce it in a (hopefully) entertaining way. The analogy we use in the video isn’t new, in fact its as old as the hills, but perhaps it will help to serve as a reminder of what sits at the heart of good “people” relations.

So far we have had a great response from people all over the world with the video already clocking up almost 4,000 views in its first week and over 100 tweets. Thank you to everyone who has watched the video to date and been kind enough to take the time to provide their feedback either directly or indirectly. We really appreciate it.

The production of the video, and in particular the script development, focussed our minds on confirming that the way that we at RealWire do things fits this approach.  We have given an overview of how we think our approach to distribution strives to be consistent with the principles outlined here. We aren’t resting on our laurels though, we will make mistakes sometimes, but we will always be open to feedback and suggestions of how we can improve, so that we can play a valuable role in the online community.

Finally a big, big thank you to Owen and the team at Thumb Digital our partners in crime when it comes to making these videos. And a special thank you to Steve, the designer who has produced both of our videos, and has to put up with me in particular being very picky! :-)

Email is number one for referrals

I was reviewing the stats relating to my last post about the performance of Social Media Releases earlier today. Apart from being very pleasantly surprised to have nearly reached 1000 unique views (making this easily my most visited post to date!) I also found that the number one source of traffic was “direct”.

This means traffic that has been referred to the urls directly and not from another online source. Now unless anyone is able to remember a url with 141 characters, which I am guessing is unlikely, then I assume all of these visits must have come from people visiting the post from emails that include a hyperlink.

The breakdown of unique visits and their sources is as follows:


Direct/mail 481 49%
Twitter 284 29%
Blogs 83 8%
Search 68 7%
Facebook 42 4%
Other 23 2%
981 100%

Twitter also counts for almost a third of the visits, which isn’t surprising given that the post has been tweeted 128 times to date (thank you to everyone who RT’d).

But the fact that almost half of all visits were direct demonstrates the power that email still has as a tool for sharing information with your community. Glad we didn’t forget to mention it in our video (2:25) on how news spreads online :-)

Why all the fuss about Twitter?

I have just got back from a few days at the annual Communication Directors’ Forum. At the event I got to speak to many key communications professionals from some of the UK’s most well known brands. The common questions that I was asked were about how the online world was changing and why all the fuss about Twitter?

Apart from the obvious celebrity focus, Twitter’s success, in my view, is down to a number of factors, the three primary ones being:

– speed,
– permission;
– and relevance.

It is these three characteristics that I see as being key to the further development of online communications in the future.


When the Internet first appeared speed of communications was a key area everyone focussed on. We were all now “surfing the information superhighway”. No more relying on snail mail or faxes, a message could be sent by email or online messenger within minutes. With the advent of blogs and low cost publishing platforms this ability to communicate at speed was then increased in reach with individuals being able to tell their stories to a much wider audience, again within minutes.

Now Twitter has taken the reach of blogs and increased the speed to another level.  News can be written in the time it takes to write 140 characters and passed from person to person via “retweeting” in a matter of a couple of seconds. This means news travels at a much greater speed than even blogs can achieve.


In a “traditional” social networking environment, like Facebook for instance, there needs to be two sided permission. I have to want to be your friend and you have to want to be mine for communication to occur. So I have two choices – to be, or not to be, your friend.

In Twitter’s case if you start to follow me I have three choices. I can say no and block you. I can say yes and follow you back. Both basically the same options as with social networking. But I also have a third option. I can let you follow me, but not follow you back. This allows people who want to know more about a person and what they have to say to listen in without the person you are following having to follow you back. This partially explains the growth in celebrity tweeters. This gives huge amounts of flexibility in the nature of the relationships that participants in the Twitter community can enjoy.


This is crucial in any form of communication as it is only through being relevant to someone that you can ever achieve any form of influence.

The permission choices above allow participants to also have much greater control over the relevance of the information and relationships they have. If I decide that someone I have been following is irrelevant to me I can just stop following them. If I see that someone is talking about a topic that is relevant to me, e.g. a search in Twitter for my company name, I can choose to start following them and listen to what they say and finally I can potentially start a conversation with them about that topic if they want to talk back to me.

But again the other participants also have all of these choices so we are all able to decide who is relevant to us. It is this choice, our own personal relevance filter, which makes for a more efficient dialogue.

What do others think? What characteristic/s of Twitter do others think explain its adoption?