Digital Essays: Way to Blue - Seven deadly online sins

One expert's guide to the worst atrocities that PR companies can commit in today's online environment.


If you don't treat the new emerging digital media with respect, they will eat your comms message, your product, your career and your company alive.

Digital is not a last-minute add-on. You cannot just reformat your offline strategy and expect it to work. The internet is maturing at a rate that makes the development of print, radio and TV before it look positively pedestrian. It took radio 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million. TV did it in 13 years. The internet took four.

Are you really prepared not to take it very, very seriously? A little humility never did anyone any harm.


So, now you're taking it seriously and you fancy a bit of the action. You've cast your eyes about and are excited by the efforts of others.

But why hitch your wagon to the latest fad only for it to end up littering the wastelands of Facebook? The medium might be new, but your core brand values are not. Sure, be creative, but stay focused on your marketing message rather than filming your HR team doing the can-can.

Get green-eyed and you'll have swung all the way from apathy to expensive, damp squib in the time it takes the geeks at MIT to unleash another billion-dollar 'new sensation' on an unsuspecting stock market.


No-one in their right mind thinks patience is a bad thing, so keep your cool. Your offline strategy can't simply be bolted on at the last minute and the blue-sky thinking that came out of the box was a fun waste of time and money.

But don't go getting the idea that the internet is different. Yes, it moves fast and, yes, there is a lot of confusing terminology. But this is just people communicating. Get your message in the right place at the right time and people will listen.

PR is a long-term strategy of brand-building and awareness. Why should it be different online?


Nothing stinks like lazy tokenism. Better not to bother at all. Users know 'send to a friend' means 'sell your soul'. They don't want you clogging up their inboxes and blogs with uninvited messages, so don't do it. Diligently work to gain their trust. Yes, you've got a sales pitch. They don't mind; in fact, they might even want to hear more. And if they do, don't be caught out - the thirst for information is unquenchable if it is pitched right.


Once you've gained their trust, don't then keep them out in the cold. Nothing ruins a great first date like not calling. You invited them into a dialogue, now you've got to keep talking to them, feeding them new information and new content, in a medium that's always on, never sleeps and is ever ready to bite you.

Sound difficult? Tough. The record executive who once seriously told me 'the interweb will never catch on' now has selective amnesia and looks like he has been through all nine circles of hell.


So, the internet is here to stay and it is a hungry beast that needs constant feeding. But not with any old rubbish.

While I would not recommend abstinence, quality over quantity is supreme. I don't understand why a company that spends $300m making a movie lets a web designer build a flash-based game when what users really want to see is - surprise, surprise - the movie. Information must be finely diced and sliced to ensure a constant flow and that everyone feels they are getting something new and different.

Thankfully, the exclusive has taken on a huge degree of elasticity. That's not to say it has lost its importance - quite the reverse. We once held a prolonged and hard-fought three-way battle for exclusive first play of a new and long-awaited music video. The winning website's two-hour exclusive delivered an eye-watering AEV (and the bragging rights thereafter).


Exclusives, first plays, positive editorial endorsement, interviews, reviews, user reviews, front page deals...

Sound familiar? It should, because this is PR. Don't fall in love with buzzwords - or for consultants whose only value is they know their 'long tail' from their 'tipping point'. If your online 'experts' can't explain it in simple terms, then they are hiding behind the jargon. And if they are not straight-up PR people with proven track records, why are you letting them loose on your comms message in the first place?

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