Why Comms Blogging is in the Doldrums


“I walk a mile in your shoes. Now I’m a mile away. And I’ve got your shoes.”          Kings of Leon

Last week, influential writer Danny Brown announced that he was changing tack on his hugely popular blog. He said that he’s decided to move away from the marketing and social media topics that have formed the bedrock of his blog for six years, and write more about the things that interest him in a broader sense.

While it comes as a surprise, it’s certainly not a shock. Danny’s never been one for following the status quo. He’s always called a spade a spade. And he’s always looked to progress thinking and conversation rather than repeating the same, tired old stuff. In short, he does things the way he wants to do them.

That’s what, to my mind, makes him stand head and shoulders above other bloggers. A lot of writers could learn from his example.

Following Your Own Path

Danny’s decision set me thinking. The communications landscape is a crowded space. Creating any sort of cut-through is becoming harder and harder, and it’s becoming very difficult to be heard.

In fact, even writing anything original is becoming a challenge. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had an idea for a post, but ditched it after a few minutes’ research when I’ve discovered something similar written elsewhere. Sure I might say things differently, but unless I have a markedly different opinion, why spend time simply adding to the noise?

And that, along with having three kids to look after, is why my own blogging output is nowhere near as prolific or regular as it used to be. A few years back I was publishing three times a week, every week. Now it’s only once a week on average. I beat myself up about it sometimes.

But what’s the point of writing stuff for the sake of it?

I don’t even subscribe to that many blogs any more, preferring to discover content through mobile app, Zite.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But not when it comes to blogging it isn’t. Too many comms bloggers try and compete with the big, multi-authored blogs in the communications world, and there’s no way they’ll succeed. They get so far and then find themselves with waning reader interest and a redundant content strategy. It’s nonsense.

Bucking the Trend

Speaking personally, Danny Brown has been the single biggest influence on the way my own blogging ‘style’ has evolved in the last few years. I get criticised occasionally for my “cynical” and no-nonsense tone of voice. But that’s who I am. And, without wishing to sound like a fan boy, Danny gave me the confidence to voice what I like to refer to as a ‘healthy scepticism’, even if it sometimes goes against the grain.

There’s an awful lot to be said for doing things your own way on your blog, even if that means writing less often to try and maintain originality, and perhaps forgoing mass eyeballs. It garners respect and, as an independent blogger, it gives you a point of difference from the content machines that are increasingly becoming the way the blogosphere works.

So if you’re blogging about PR, comms or marketing, please do it like Danny, and do things your own way. Whatever that may be.

Download my FREE ebook Addressing Facebook Zero now!

Like this post? Subscribe to FutureComms and get it straight to your inbox.

Posted by Paul Sutton


So You’re a Social Media Junkie, Are You?

david brent

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” Bertrand Russell

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been interviewing graduate-level candidates for potential roles at BOTTLE. And pretty much without exception, each of them has announced excitedly that they’re crazy about social media.

They love it! It was the thing on their course that really fired them! They simply can’t get enough of it!

Only, when I question them about how this overwhelming passion manifests itself, it becomes apparent that it means little more to them than spending insane amounts of time farting around on Facebook and Instagram.

They struggle to name social media campaigns that have impressed them. They can’t really tell me about brands they think are utilising social media particularly well or creatively. They don’t read any social communications blogs.

There’s just nothing there beyond over-confident bluster. And yet that unwavering belief that their very veins have social media marketing blood coursing through them is unaffected.

I don’t mean to sound nasty. In an interview situation it pays to show enthusiasm and it’s important to demonstrate that you’re interested in a potential employer’s core business. I get it.

But for God’s sake, back it up with something. Anything!

Unskilled & Unaware

The process has put me in mind of a psychological phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is a theory which states that inept individuals are under the mistaken belief that their level of aptitude is much higher than it actually is. Their lack of awareness of their own incompetence robs them of the ability to be able to critically analyse their performance, leading to them significantly overestimating themselves.

Or, to put it more harshly, they’re too stupid to realise that they’re stupid.

dunning kruger effect

I’d have a far greater opinion of someone I interviewed who said that they have a genuine interest in social communications but who recognised that they wanted or needed to learn, than someone who’s a self-proclaimed “social media junkie”.

Imposter Syndrome

Personally speaking, I’m learning all the time. I read a LOT of articles and blog posts on the broad topic of digital marketing every single day. I hate being called an ‘expert’ by my colleagues. I’m not an expert. Not by a long shot. I’m just prepared to work at doing my job well and understanding my industry as best I can.

I’ve written before about constantly doubting my own ability and feeling like I’m about to be ‘found out’. As it turns out, this is what’s referred to as ‘Imposter Syndrome’, whereby competent people tend to underestimate their ability compared to others.

It’s hypothesised that actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others must have an equivalent understanding. And it’s the inverse of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Self-esteem is important. A strong ego and confidence in oneself enables us to produce our best work. There’s a Woody Allen joke about a guy who has such low self-esteem that when he is drowning, another person’s life flashes before his eyes.

But there’s a fine line in an interview situation between demonstrating confidence and enthusiasm and making unsubstantiated claims about your love for an industry, a job role or a topic. After all, the last impression you want to make is that you’re cocky or ignorant to your own limitations.

Download my FREE ebook Addressing Facebook Zero now!

Like this post? Subscribe to FutureComms and get it straight to your inbox.

Posted by Paul Sutton


[ebook] Addressing Facebook Zero: a new era for Facebook marketing

Addressing Facebook Zero

Over the last couple of months there has been an increasing sense of frustration and, recently, desperation with Facebook as a marketing channel. It’s long been understood by Page administrators that they could expect to reach a maximum of only 16% of their fans with any given status update. But Facebook threw the cat among the pigeons in December 2013 when it confirmed a “leaked” update to the newsfeed algorithm resulting in that figure falling dramatically to between 3% and 6%.

In the last couple of weeks, rumours have started to circulate that a further update will reduce organic reach still further to just 1% to 2% in the very near future.

Facebook Zero, the point where organic reach is at, or very close to nil, is imminent.

This has spawned a million and one blog posts in the last couple of months with titles such as ‘9 Ways to Game the Facebook News Feed’ and ’15 Free Facebook Marketing Tips’ that promise much but deliver very little. So rather than simply adding my own perspective, I decided to ask a number of highly respected Facebook marketers and community managers within my network for their opinions on the future of Facebook marketing. I also asked them to share their own experiences and thoughts on tackling dwindling organic reach.

The result is the ebook you see before you.

Addressing Facebook Zero is available on a number of platforms:

Addressing Facebook Zero contains varied viewpoints, perhaps illustrating that there is no simple answer. There is advice on advertising, content generation, analytics and community management, from those advanced in their use of the network on both sides of the Atlantic. Each contributor has provided a unique and valuable outlook, the combination of which makes fascinating reading. I recommend you connect with each of them.

Many thanks to Brian Carter, Emeric Ernoult, Danny Whatmough, Eb Adeyeri, Luke Williams and Alex Pearmain for their input.

The days of free Facebook marketing are over. Facebook Zero, a term coined by Social@Ogilvy, is a reality.

I hope this ebook helps you to make effective long-term decisions about content strategy, audience targeting and advertising strategy to make the most of Facebook going forward.

Like this post? Subscribe to FutureComms and get it straight to your inbox.

Posted by Paul Sutton


April Fool’s and the White Noise of Brand Marketing

Domino's edibox

Just in case you weren’t aware, yesterday was April Fool’s. A day for all manner of utterly hilarious japes and pranks (cling film over the toilet bowl, anyone?) when anarchy is not only allowed but actively encouraged.

In such an environment, brands come out to play. And boy, did brands come out to play!

April 1st 2014 saw an unprecedented number of brands getting in on the pranking act. Everyone from Tetley (biscuit-flavoured tea) to Specsavers (the Mona Lisa wore contacts) to Vegemite (new energy drink) to Lego (delivery by turtle) to Amazon (Kindle cover with the smell of old books) to Thorpe Park (dogs allowed to ride rollercoasters) was at it. And the list goes on and on and on and on.

In fact, Domino’s was so proud of its edible box (pictured above), it posted it no less than four times on its Facebook Page. It may have been well-executed, but four?! Is that not overkill?

White Noise

The issue I have with all of this good-natured japery is that there was so much of it that it all became a bit tiresome. The fun was taken out of it by yet another brand announcing a ‘hilarious’ new product variant or yet another media title posting a fake story. I mean really The Sun, the Queen fracking for gas? Jeesh.


The whole thing reminded me of #RoyalBaby, when everyone wanted a piece of the real-time marketing action. At the time I said that the reason so many brands attracted criticism was twofold: because everyone tried to ride the same topical wave, and because creative executions were lazy. For me, the same largely applies to April Fool’s.

I’ve seen very little that was genuinely inventive or clever from yesterday. It was all just a bit obvious. And real-time marketing it is not.

Is this fair criticism? Or am I just lacking a sense of humour?

Well, for balance, here are a couple of executions that I genuinely did like. Both of them work because although they’re mildly ridiculous, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they could actually be real things. They’re just the right side of unbelievable.

Marmite’s Doughmites was executed superbly. Did they actually make these? If you follow the brand, you’ll know they may well have done or may well do in future!


And American beer brand Samuel Adams’ helium-carbonated beer is just outright funny.


Like this post? Subscribe to FutureComms and get it straight to your inbox.

Posted by Paul Sutton


Recommended Reading: Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich

Spin Sucks book

With such an overt emphasis on digital, Spin Sucks is a book that will scare the living bejesus out of some in the PR industry. And believe me, that’s a very good thing.

In the book’s opening salvo, Gini Dietrich says: “Officially, the PR industry has been around since 1929, and it has remained pretty much the same for more than 70 years. The digital web has forever changed the way we communicate. It’s changed the way we all do business. And it has forever changed the way we, the PR professionals, perform our jobs.”

Reading this book will be a wake-up call for many communications professionals, and therein lies its massive inherent value. It’s a book that everyone in this industry should read.

The Future of PR

‘Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age’ was borne from the number one PR blog of the same name, which is one of only a small handful I’ve stayed loyal to over the last five years. So I was pretty fired up about getting stuck into its pages. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Having finished it in double-quick time, the lasting impression I have is that even if you’re still clinging to the last vestiges of media relations as being the fulcrum of PR because you’re too scared or intimidated to fully embrace digital, you will emerge from reading this book with a new view on the communications industry and in no doubt whatsoever about how you need to change your outlook.

Spin Sucks is an education in itself for those who are struggling to fully adapt to the worlds of digital marketing, SEO, content marketing and social media. It presents a clear and comprehensive guide to storytelling and genuine relationship building and, as such, is equally as valid to students as it is to seasoned PR professionals.


One thing Gini Dietrich could never be accused of is being preachy. If you want to learn about black hat SEO and keyword stuffing, creating content for the web, content optimisation, dealing with trolls and online reputation management, these and more are explained in Spin Sucks in Gini’s normal conversational and chatty tone. And everything is illustrated with real-life, personal stories that draw you in and gain your trust. The result is a book that’s stupidly easy to read and understand, while being incredibly educational.

What I particularly like about Spin Sucks is that Gini outlines practical advice to achieve the things she advocates. There are snappy, actionable guides to building lasting beneficial relationships with bloggers, creating an online crisis plan, adapting the news release into something that works for the web, and many other activities.

What Gini has done superbly well with this book is to illustrate two of the key tenets of contemporary PR: the art of storytelling and the benefit of creating meaningful relationships.

In the book itself there are so many stories it feels almost like reading a personal notebook rather than a business book. I suspect this comes from having written the Spin Sucks blog for so long. The storytelling within the pages is exemplary and is a lesson to all communications professionals on how to create meaningful content that resonates with the reader.

Relationship Building

It’s been noted many times before by Gini’s army of fans that she’s an expert at making each individual feel special. And the way Spin Sucks has been launched has been in itself an incredible lesson in the power of relationship building from the master.

A few weeks back, Gini set about establishing a private community of ‘ambassadors’, collated from readers of the Spin Sucks blog. She had more than 800 applicants, in itself a glowing tribute to her ability to generate a loyal following.

After selecting a hundred or so, we were invited to a private Facebook group, sent a pre-production digital copy of the book and kept in regular contact as the launch approached. The group was whipped into a frenzy to the point where, on launch date (this past Saturday), ambassadors were posting reviews and tweeting like a bunch of crazies within hours!

What this highlights to me is that Gini’s advice in Spin Sucks really does work. This is not a book of theory; it’s a practical guide to digital communications from one of the world’s leading experts. If the author puts into practice the advice in her new book herself to launch it, you know that advice is going to be good.


For balance, my one criticism of Spin Sucks is that for those of us more seasoned in the ways of social communications and digital marketing, the content within the book isn’t for the most part new or something we can (necessarily) learn from.

But Spin Sucks is written “for business leaders who need to better understand how the industry is changing and what to expect from PR professionals”, rather than those hardened to online communications, so I’m not sure you can really count that as a criticism anyway. Besides which, even to the likes of myself, Spin Sucks is a fantastic reference book that I really enjoyed reading.

In closing, my simple advice is to follow this link to Amazon, right this minute before you forget, and get yourself a copy of ‘Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age’.

If you’re relatively new to PR, it’s a fantastic guide to how to develop your career. If you’ve a little more experience, you’ll be able to learn a lot from Gini Dietrich. And if you’re senior or a business leader, Spin Sucks is a book that could move your company on leaps and bounds.

[Special Offer: if you buy a copy (or copies) of Spin Sucks before Saturday 5th April and email Gini a copy of your receipt, she'll send you $200 worth of free webinars. I told you she was good...]

Like this post? Subscribe to FutureComms and get it straight to your inbox.

Posted by Paul Sutton

1 Comment

10 Steps to Nailing a Killer Career in PR

public relations

PR is changing. Gone (for the most part) are the days of endless media relations and measurement using AVEs. So far, so obvious.

And so whether you’ve been in the industry for five years or you’re looking for your first role, you need to adapt your skill set and the way you position yourself if you want to forge a successful, long-term career in the industry. When I recruit new people, there are certain things I look for that go way beyond education or previous experience or even attitude. Those things are still important, but they’re balanced by less ‘obvious’ factors.

I was interested in whether my own recruitment preferences are reflected elsewhere. So I asked a friend of mine, Steve Ward from CloudNine Social & Digital Media Talent, what he’s commonly asked for by PR agencies. Below are our combined thoughts on what you must do if you want to be successful in the ‘new world of PR’.


Learn the Basics of SEO and Mobile

The worlds of PR, SEO and digital marketing are colliding more and more with every passing week. Which means that the role of a PR consultant is only going to become increasingly digital in the future. At the moment you can just about get by in PR without understanding SEO or the impact of mobile, but it won’t be like that for much longer. Make an effort to get to grips with how Google works and to understand how to optimise content for the web and for mobile, and you’ll stand out from those who don’t.

Get on Twitter

The news breaks on Twitter. Fact. If you’re still getting your news fix from the TV or (lord forbid) the newspapers, you’re way behind the curve. To be really successful in PR you need more than a simple working knowledge of ‘how to tweet’. If I’m going to hire you I want to be sure that you know how to use Twitter to track topics, brands, conversations and influential people. I want to see that you know how to build a network. And if you’ve already got an engaged network of industry professionals, journalists and bloggers, you’ve got a head start on those who haven’t.

Read, Read, Read

The worlds of PR and social communications move very fast. Developments and campaigns come and go in the blink of an eye, and the only way to keep up with them is to be an avid reader by subscribing to blogs and news sites. If I ask you what your favourite story is from the last couple of weeks and you either can’t tell me or you recite back the Oreo Super Bowl tweet from 2013, I’m not going to be impressed. Although, not as unimpressed as if you don’t even know what the Oreo Super Bowl tweet was…

Get Up-to-Date on your Tech

Given that PR is evolving and social media moves so fast, you have to enable your career as best you can. The good news is that there are plenty of technological solutions to the problems you’re facing in the form of online and mobile apps. For example, feedly is a brilliant RSS reader for blogs; zite and flipboard deliver the latest news straight to your mobile; current.ly tracks trending conversations on Twitter. But there’s other tech you may need to know about in PR. Self-publishing tools such as WordPress, Mynewsdesk and Releas’d (for example) are becoming the way PR is done, so at least being aware of them and what they can do is important.

Write a Blog

When I interview someone and they’ve never written or contributed to a blog, I die a little inside. Blogging illustrates to a potential employer not only that you can write, but also that you can have an opinion on something. It can help to illustrate each of my previous four points: you understand the basics of the web, you can use Twitter to promote yourself, you read enough to be able to write on topical matters, and that you use tech. It can also help you to understand the mindset of the blogosphere, which is something that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Yes it’s challenging, and yes it’s time consuming, and yes it does mean you have to spend your own time reading and researching and writing and tweeting. But running a blog speaks volumes about your attitude and desire to have a killer career in PR.


Research the Employer Well

It’s important to understand the company you are applying to and their style of communication and sector differentials. Mirror their style in your own communications, covering letter and approach. And be sure to be aware of their clients, work, blogs, the type of output they are responsible for and how they measure success. Businesses appreciate greatly the time and attention given to research and knowledge of them.

Connect and Integrate

The journey of applying for a role in the current media age is one the goes beyond the application letter, CV and interview. Good practice is to engage with the company on social media and through their blog, thus demonstrating an interest and relevance to their company. As part of the research process, this helps you to gain a better understanding of who it is you are applying to.

Use LinkedIn Effectively

Despite its many drawbacks, LinkedIn is still the primary zone for a professional profile online. Use it well to demonstrate the depth of your expertise, your experience and the potency of your connections in the industry. It’s a place where you can attach presentations and documents to emphasise your work, projects and skills. Make sure you are a member of groups which are essential to your profession, and demonstrate your integration and learning in the industry goings-on.

Stand Out

Wow. Here’s one. If you are going to be an effective PR professional you need to have something of the X Factor. That doesn’t mean ranting on Twitter like ‘actual’ X Factor winner James Arthur – that’s not really the X Factor! It’s about how prominent, creative and inventive you can be to say: “I’m the one”. It’s something to take a lot of care about: are you on YouTube? Are you a mixer, mover and shaker? Do you make people turn heads with your content, opinion and your personality in online communications? Do you ignite conversation? Stand out PRs in my experience have that X Factor without the exhibitionism (which is very different). You draw people to you, not push them away from you.

Clear and Concise Communication

Writing is a heck of a skill. Make sure your communications in applying for a role are potent, concise and to the point. Demonstrate the quality and efficiency of your writing from point one in the way you write your CV and covering letter. Your CV should be well thought out in content, emphasis and prioritisation of information. The font you use matters and the layout too. And in a covering note, keep it sharp, short and to the point. Don’t waffle about things that make no difference in the decision process; point directly to the redeeming reasons for applying and why you are suited. It’s often your first impression. It’s your press release to your forthcoming employer. Make it count.

Like this post? Subscribe to FutureComms and get it straight to your inbox.

Posted by Paul Sutton

Leave a comment

Facebook’s New Look and 3 Social Layout Tips

Social Layout Tips

This is a guest post by Rob Sutter.

Just recently, Facebook rolled out its newest layout; something that I am sure most social media enthusiasts have grown accustomed to. After all, it seems like every other week there’s something different on a particular site where there’s a massive audience, so news like this isn’t totally surprising. With that said, Facebook executed a layout change that could best be called ‘minimalist’. My take on the matter?

The layout looks fine. It doesn’t look sloppy or extravagant, which is fine on paper. As long as the overall functionality of the site is kept intact and the buttons remain where they were before, you will not hear many individuals complaining about a layout change. However, there are those who have taken to airing their grievances about this particular shift. Facebook now looks more like its mobile version on laptops as opposed to a proposed format which would feature prominent media like photos and videos.

Discussion regarding which layout would have been best is subjective, but it does raise a point that any online marketing company should be aware of. What makes a good layout on any social media platform or any website in general? What is it that drives visitors to come back time and time again?

Here is a list of 3 tips for those who would like to create the best possible layout.

1. Keep your layout aesthetically simple

One of the biggest turnoffs for me regarding any website is clutter. It doesn’t matter how well-designed certain images are or how many colors are utilized; if the layout itself is too busy, chances are that my attention is not going to be kept for long. While certain companies may want to go big – and understandably so – I’d argue that it’s much more effective to keep layouts more basic. Yes, identities should be clear on any website, so brand logos and aspects of that nature should not be cast aside. However, they have to be integrated in ways that doesn’t make the visitor feel overwhelmed.

2. Lower the number of pages as much as possible

Another aspect that should be seen in the way of simplicity is a minimal amount of pages to click between. There’s nothing wrong with a broad scope for your website but, ultimately, adding too much can wind up turning many people away. For example, what if you wanted to start a business that focused on repairing computers? Those who are tech-savvy may not be turned away by multiple pages but what about those who wouldn’t know the USB port from the HDMI port? The latter may feel intimidated to visit your page as a result, so it’s important to minimize the number of clickable links, which is a challenge that the strongest designers can overcome.

3. Make sure your layout is mobile friendly

CNN.com recently posted an article that covered how mobile app usage is greater than that of Internet through PCs. More specifically, this past January, 55% of Internet usage came from mobile devices like smartphones. It’s clear that there is a shift occurring in this regard and companies have to account for it. When they create layouts, they have to make sure that their layouts will not only fit computers but iPhones and other such phones with Internet access. If you are unable to cover both fields, the number of visitors that you retail might not be as high as your competition, so be mindful of various platforms.

Rob Sutter is a content writer for fishbat, a digital marketing firm in Bohemia, NY.

Like this post? Subscribe to FutureComms and get it straight to your inbox.

Posted by Paul Sutton


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,572 other followers