Blogging Phenomenon

Blogging, blogging, blogging and more blogging. It is a peculiar phenomenon really. It can’t be said that people earn a particular amount of money from writing down their experiences, thoughts and opinions. At least the majority of individuals don’t.

bizarro-05242008

Although you may know it already I’ll begin with a little explanation to what the blogging phenomenon is. The word ‘blog’ is a contraction of the word ‘weblog’. Essentially a weblog is an online journal, the digital alternative to column inches in a newspaper. Although an alternative it is very similar. For a year I kept an online journal at YourLocalGuardian.co.uk which was just identical to the stories a columnist may cover in the newspaper. The same applies for the writings I made for Space Newspaper at the University of Gloucestershire.

I started to keep a blog a few years ago, the catalyst of which was certainly two-fold. I had been reading an awful lot of factual books and had formed some opinions around certain subjects but a passion to write also existed. Before I kept the blog I would attempt to write books when on holiday or write the occasional poem to release some anxiety or troubles I had been going through. So on a person scale blogging provided me the ability to share with an audience but to also view their reactions. As highlighted, blogging really doesn’t pay for the majority of us. An article which I read about 8 months ago in the Daily Telegraph observed how the blogosphere had been taken over by the larger blogs such as The Huffington Post, TechCrunch and Engadget. A full list of the top 100 blogs can be found using Technorati.

Despite the views of that particular journalist in the Daily Telegraph I am inclined to believe that smaller blogs have not been put out of business by the larger competitor blogs. Websites such as BlogCatalog, MyBlogLog and BUMPzee allow blog promotion by interacting within an online community. One of the most effective methods of blog promotion for me has been through using Blog Carnival. Essentially you contribute an article (by providing a link) to a collage of similar posts on the same subject. All these posts are summarised and linked from another blog which can provide large exposure for your own website.  

Essentially I am inclined to think that it must primarily be a passion to produce and share content which causes people to begin a blog. Whether that passion is to share videos in a vlog or focus on art in an artlog. YouTube and deviantART specialise in these two areas. There are many other variants of blog which I shall leave you to invent! As with written blogging there are a range of websites which provide a simple platform to share your musings; such as Blogger, LiveJournal and Typepad.

The geekier of you who wish to write but also have full control over everything “under the bonnet” should try WordPress. The project started in 2003 and since then has become the most popular blogging tool on the internet. The package is simply installed on a server, linked to a MySQL database and then ready for all your blogging needs. No WordPress installation needs to look the same as can be seen by comparing this current blog with my other website asuperfluousramble.com.

What is the purpose behind all this blogging though? It will depend. Blogs have become an effective PR technique for companies to quickly provide content to their audience. Individuals use blogs for communicating with their friends, leaking their passions, keeping a diary, smuggling information out of dangerous countries, etc. There are a vast amount of reasons why people blog and unquestionably many who will still label blogging as another waste of time which can be found on the internet.

Mr Loïc Le Meur? Oh dear

An article concerning Public Relations by a Mr Loïc Le Meur has recently come to my attention. The charming title of his article is “PR Secrets? Bullshit” and can be found here.

Mr Loïc Le Meur
Mr Loïc Le Meur

There are a worrying amount of users, particularly on Twitter, labelling themselves entrepreneurs. Unfortunately Mr Loïc Le Meur falls into this category with a difference, he is a serial entrepreneur. I have no personal discrepancy towards Mr Loïc Le Meur for choosing this title but the definition of entrepreneur is so widespread and almost a cliché for anybody trying to avoid the title “business man”. A “serial entrepreneur” only raises questions in my mind of other associated titles such as “serial killer” or “serial rapist”. Anybody confessing to be a “serial entrepreneur” then signs his own death warrant in my mind. There is also a worrying trend between the arrogance needed behind this un-academic title which is usually associated within the individual’s views. You are not to be disappointed with Mr Loïc Le Meur where this is concerned.

I’ll begin by assessing the term ‘PR Secrets’ as seen in the article title. He associates that the term is simply fuelled by those working within the industry to capture clients. With this I completely agree. Of course the PR industry will need a hook in order to sell its services but that is the purpose of PR, to provide a method behind the madness. It is clear that Mr Loïc Le Meur does not understand this concept as his advice behind PR is, “Get a community and focus on your friends is the way to go”. Of course that is the way to go but how? All organisations need a PR department; international companies usually have PR departments focusing on the different geographical areas. Mr Loïc Le Meur claims that, “PR is no secret science and it is not complicated”. To this the fellow must either know everything or nothing. It certainly throws questions behind my PR degree which I’m currently studying towards. This aside PR is deeply associated with communication theory and psychology.

PR is an art itself, a constantly changing one in the current technological climate. Interestingly Mr Loïc Le Meur seems to place journalists and bloggers side by side together. I say interesting since social networking could be partially responsible for many journalists losing their jobs. Of course, the costs of advertising in the current economic climate have also had a large part to play behind many local papers shrinking in size or being discontinued. To me this only places a higher need for PR. Especially since PR on the internet is free of charge and does not rely on the material needs of newspapers.

As a student I fulfil both the enthusiastic blogger and the need for PR. I would consider myself part of the blogging community but PR is not purely about communicating a message. The invention and development of a product largely depends upon the audience it is focused at. If the audience has no desire for a product then it will not sell. PR can be used, with surprisingly little effort, to monitor an audience’s reaction to a product on the market. In a way PR cheats the rule in some ways by attempting to create desires within a targeted audience. So as Mr Loïc Le Meur says, “If the product gets traction, it will get coverage anyway”. Quite right, PR often helps discover that traction and keeps those desires fuelled.     

It must not be forgotten that PR is really a subset of Marketing, much like Advertising. Mr Loïc Le Meur seems to be attempting to merge Marketing with Public Relations. Whilst essentially there is a merge, like there is with advertising, they are both separate beasts. If a PR person of a company or organisation is not the spokesperson then you can be sure there is a PR shadow in the background instead. The mistake made is that PR is not only just active within companies and organisations. How can there not be PR secrets, more accurately methods, behind those within government? It was primarily PR, Tim Bell, who corrected Margret Thatcher’s image for the British Public. There is a need for distinction between being a Publicist and a Public Relations person I think. Both job roles are too similar and so cannot be ignored.

I completely agree with Mr Loïc Le Meur that, “participation is NOT marketing”. Here I think he has again confused the distinction between Public Relations and Marketing. Modern PR is all about participating within an audience. This is exactly how ePR works, granted not perfectly yet but this is the method. You cannot compare blogging to a business environment. I have started at least seven different websites up in the last four years. All had communities and this is how ePR will primarily work at the moment. If participation causes awareness or/and an increase in profit then PR has fulfilled its basic task.

It seems entirely clear to me that targets do still exist within an audience. There is no such thing as a homogenous audience anymore in today’s culture and society. Everything has its subsections and subcategories. The ability for people to choose what channels on television they would rather watch, which websites appeal to them or even cultural diversity in a geographical sense. I completely agree with Mr Loïc Le Meur that targeting may result in missed opportunities but targeting is required to a certain degree which ever product is to be promoted.

I agree with Mr Loïc Le Meur that launch days are fairly pointless. Too many times have I seen Apple and Microsoft further their launch days due to issues and this just usually ends in bad media attention. Obviously there needs to be a rough date, perhaps divide a launch into a particular quarter of the year. Although, launches do have their benefits such as creating a suspense and a media boom. If launches didn’t work why would people use them? With the promotion of a product of course journalists should be targeted. Not to be treated as a means to an end but simply to ensure journalists receive material that is relevant for the publication they work for. One of the worst things a PR person can do is send a blanket email to a whole range of publications.

I am intrigued that Mr Loïc Le Meur could go on about PR and I urge him to do so if he comes across this blog post. Hopefully I have grasped all of his points accurately and I can expand on anything I have written here.     

First Year Completed

I have now finished first year of University! Although what an inconsiderate amount of time it has been since this blog was last updated. Unfortunately this may become habit since University work was more than I first expected.

So much has happened since I last wrote a blog upon this website and indeed throughout my whole first year of university. Not that years of university are actual years, closer to 9 months, which begs the question why tuition fees are being raised and terms are being shortened. Undoubtly university is the place to be in this abysmal economic climate. It might be sunny outside but the job market is terrible. Many friends of those at university have come down to visit complaining about the death of the temporary job market and how their jobs are constantly on the line. Strangely it is the furniture industry which seems very badly hit. People are just not replacing their furniture, causing a lack of orders and the loss of jobs. When furniture chain MFI closed many smaller manufacturers also went bust. It seems that our country is slowly becoming far more focused upon the smaller businesses as the larger chains fall. Then shock sweeps across my face when people vote for the conservatives to come back in. Much blame could be focused upon Margret Thatcher for creating these problems in the first place. It must be realised though that this economic instability is worldwide. It has been said that Karl Marx is rolling in his grave once the government started injecting industries with money. Like with all theoretical systems it makes sense that a balance has to be found between capitalism and communism. The government has pretty much proved this point through these cash injections.

Now what do we have? A possible swine flu pandemic. The whole world watches the situation carefully as the bitter second wave may wipe out a large chunk of the population. The sceptical part of my mind can’t help but notice how the media has diverted attention away from the truth breaking budget Labour have now released with the introduction of the 50p tax rate. Could it be that the government have raised the profile of Swine Flu to hide other hideous details of this new budget? Quite possibly, smells like a PR tactic to me.

Either way, we are all still alive, especially if you are reading this blog. So as a self confessed hedonist I must continue with a pleasure seeking life. The thought has occurred to me that if I am faced by a God when I die who asks about the purpose of my life. I suppose my response would have to be, “An endless pursuit of happiness”. It is after all my seeking of pleasure to gain happiness. For all of those who say that money doesn’t bring happiness, well, how can that be true? Money brings comfort which must make one happy to an extent. The University of Gloucestershire has provided me many experiences which have provided me with much contentment.

This started with my fortnightly column in the university newspaper. Something I wish to continue next year but perhaps with a different subject focus. This year I deliberately requested that my column would be called, “A Student’s Matter”. The title allowed a wide range of articles so that I could easily smatter my thoughts around each week. Just over a month ago I was invited to the volunteering awards at the university and received an award for my column. This gave me a chance to meet Niki Rose, the editor of Space for my first academic ‘year’. Coincidentally we both share a passion for Public Relations.

Then a few months ago I applied for a job to become a Student Ambassador and my CV managed to slip through. To be a Student Ambassador is almost the larger equivalent of becoming a Prefect at Primary or Secondary school. In a way it seems inevitable that I managed this place at the University. After all, I had been a prefect at both Primary and Secondary. The difference with being a student ambassador is that you get paid for the work you do. Mostly this will be helping out at the open days. So if you’re a prospective student around September or June looking at Pittville campus at the University of Gloucestershire then request a tour from Michael White! The job also involves visiting primary schools and other away trips.

Then to the glory of Cheltenham. Seriously, when I first heard Cheltenham I had just imagined a group of elders had decided to begin a new town in the middle of nowhere. Cheltenham is so active though, the amount of celebrities which visit here is totally astounding. A couple of weeks into my first semester I was fortunate enough to attend a signing Stephen Fry was present for. I managed to get to first in the queue, one of the benefits of being an occasional early starter!

This celebrity experience was followed by Simon Pegg visiting Cheltenham Race Course for a graduation ceremony. As I was a Public Relations student it was possible for me to attend the press conference. Unfortunately I missed an opportunity to visit Russell T Davis and John Barrowman doing a talk about Doctor Who at the Race Course. With the Jazz, Science and Literature festivals Cheltenham hosts there is quite a buzz within the community between all ages and genders.  

So in an extracted way this has been my first year at university. University teaches how to live with oneself and for some of us begins with a feeling of intense loneliness. The range of people at university surpasses any experience you would have in a local secondary school. The lesson all of us learn at university is to find a balance between work and a social life. Some people have failed this very concept already this year and have decided to leave as a result. So whilst it may be seen that you are paying a few thousand pounds for course fees you are in fact simply buying into the university lifestyle. Get the balance right, find a course you can enjoy and don’t forget the person you were before university.

M White xx