29 August 2008

Will the Zoom message be lost on consumers?

When the first reports came in yesterday afternoon about Zoom aircraft being impounded my first thoughts were 'what a shame for everyone involved. It was a good airline on a noble cause; trying to operate low fare flights over the Atlantic'.

My second thought was... 'told you so!'

I've been banging on and on about the role of the internet for travellers...

Unless you are buying simple short-haul flights & a hotel for a weekend break, use the Internet for research only. Always book holidays and long-haul travel on the phone and with a bonded agent or operator.

This is for a number of reasons, but in the case of the Zoom collapse, I think The Times puts it rather succinctly:

Travellers left stranded by the collapse of the budget airline Zoom were forced today to pay thousands of pounds for alternative flights, or cancel their dream holidays.

The airline's collapse has left 4,500 UK passengers already on holiday abroad high and dry. The Civil Aviation Authority warned that only those who had booked their flights as part of a package deal were guaranteed a flight home without having to buy another ticket.

"If you book direct, you're on your own," a spokesman said..

26 August 2008

So! Pyjama-men are real!

I was half asleep when I heard this story this morning on the radio, but awake enough to realise that it was a significant sighting of what I've always called "pyjama-men".

Pyjama-men (and women) are professional Web 2.0/PR 2.0 opinion formers or guiders. Their job is to present the 'company line', and seed the 'right' ideas in forums, in blog comments, and in social networks.

I named them after those old style pyjama bottoms with the thick string that gets pulled out of balance in the washing machine. To get the missing end back out of its hole you have to slowly & gently coax, massage, cajoal, prod, pull, push and persuade it back towards the daylight. That's what pyjama-men do online.

Up until now their existance has been semi-theoretical, but because the influence of the Internet is so great, I can't imagine they don't exist. This medium is simply too important to just leave opinion-forming to the great unwashed.

I've always supposed that lobby groups, political parties, government and corporations have shadowy PR people performing this sort of role, and sometimes thought I've spotted their posts.

After all, if for example you were an airline who had suffered a spate of airborne incidents. Wouldn't you want to have an anonymous poster on the aviation forums posing the balanced or counter view to all the "their maintenance sucks" postings springing up where the mainstream media journalists are reading them?

It's a job that requires a knowledge of the net, subtlety, patience and good writing skills (nobody will read bad stuff)...hmm.....I wonder what the pay is like....? ;)

New...ish website from the TIA

There's a little bit of Internet lag here.

USA Today reports......today..... that the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) has launched a new website, through which it is "reaching out to foreign tourists".

What's odd, and what confused me at first, is that the TIA told us about this over a month ago (15 July).

It is actually an Associated Press article, but I don't think is was AP who were lagging behind.

Also slightly confusing was the TIA's lead assertion: that DiscoverAmerica.com is "the United States' first-ever official travel and tourism website".

So what was SeeAmerica.org which they launched in Jan 06??

25 August 2008

US voters will decide our online future

There may not be much distance between US presidential candidates Obama & McLean in the polls but there is a wide blue ocean of open water between their policies on the Internet.

It's mostly about 'net neutrality' - a huge talking point in the geekosphere. I'll summarise it as snappily as I can: the big telcos who carry all this digital traffic on their wires would like to charge not purely by volume but by content too, offering a 2-speed highway with a premium service for big corporations and ordinary speeds/bandwidths to everything else.

McLean says (roughly) it should all be left up to the marketplace. ("an open marketplace with a variety of consumer choices is the best deterrent against unfair practices").

Obama says he will prevent the telcos from creating"a two-tier Internet in which websites with the best relationships with network providers can get the fastest access to consumers".

Government manderins and corporate fat cats have been cursing the gods since that fateful day in 1989 when an academic published his ideas for a World Wide Web. "Why couldn't it have been a commercial visionary? One of us!"

This could be their chance to turn the Internet from an open-access social network to a commercial one.

...pity we don't all get a vote

18 August 2008

Who are your most influential communicators?

New Wave PR have started a meme on the top 3 most influential communicators.

As you can see, several peeps have picked it up and run with it.

I didn't get tagged, but I'm joining in anyway!

The greatest communicators, almost by definition, must be among those with the greatest charisma. So logically the likes of Nelson Mandela or Bill Clinton should be there.

But the question is a subjective one: who's communication skills have most influenced the way I think about communicating?

  1. No 1 is easy. I agree with whoever nominated Richard Branson. I've met him a couple of times (and his dad & mum, once!) and I like him, even if I don't always applaud what he does. The important thing is that he was personifying his company, and talking to consumers as real people, in a Web 2.0 bloggy non-corporate style... before Tim Berners Lee (another nominee) even invented Web 0.1!

    And that has always felt instinctively right to me. The relationship between corporation and consumer in the old world was un-balanced and formal. Companies (and PRs) paid lip service to the 'customer always being right', but micro-managed the relationship and kept them at arms length. In the new world the relationship is consensual, and a street-savvy consumer/audience has to be engaged naturally.

    So, who else have I seen doing that, and sub-consciously emulated?

  2. (I'm going to regret this because I think I am possibly the last person in London standing up for him) Ken Livingstone. A real wysiwyg politician. Like him or loathe him, his communication style - NOT patronising his audience and inviting dialogue & engagement with them at every opportunity - again, pre-dates PR/Web2.0.

  3. And for my third...

    I'm going to give it to a true communicator whose 'off the script' style is WAY more influential than I think anyone suspects... BBC Radio 4's Eddie Mair.

15 August 2008

British Guild of Travel Writers new website

It's been a busy week

...made seriously more stressful on Tuesday evening when my Pro Tools digital audio editing computer died just as I was trying to finish a job, and not 24hrs after my friends at Webit PR - the social media news release specialists had just made me a business partner (making audio clips for their clients)!

( I took it apart and fixed it with a bit of open heart surgery. So now I'm feeling VERY smug!)

Anyway... That was not why the week was busy...

British Guild of Travel Writers websiteThe week was busy because we finally launched the BGTW's new website (www.bgtw.org) after years of planning and months of building. (Busy for me because I'm the webmaster. But made easier by the guys at Marbrow who did the programming!).

Monday & Tuesday were tied up in re-directing the nameservers from our old site to our new one, connecting up the e-commerce, and adding all the last bits of missing info, not to mention recording my thoughts for the press release...

Weds was the launch night at the trendy Ambassadors hotel in Bloomsbury (thanks guys for hosting it!) and the last two days have been hectic as it fills up with visitors and registered users logging on for the first time.

So... the normal routine of travel editing and blogging has taken a back seat. I'll need to catch up now.

Comment spam - what are they thinking?

I will happily publish comments, even bad ones, on this blog as long as they are not obvious spam (feels like spam, looks like spam, smells like spam - easy to spot!) AND they are roughly 'on subject'.

I amazed at how often a comment arrives in my in-tray for moderation and I think 'oh good. I hope this will be interesting' only to find it's somebody sounding off on a subject completely of their own choosing.

...like the recent one from somebody upset about geographical names used in a publication I have never once mentioned in the 3+ years this blog has been running!

You know who you are! Muppet!

07 August 2008

PR speak - you've gotta love it!

I love this!

A press release from MSC Cruises....

MSC Cruises' UK & Ireland office has appointed Sarah Longbottom as Head of Public Relations, effective from 1 August.

Ms Longbottom has more than a decade of experience working in the travel industry, as editor of leading B2B publications TTG Middle East & North Africa, based in Cyprus and, most recently, Travel Weekly in the UK.

Commenting on her appointment, a newly created role in the company, Ms Longbottom said: "MSC Cruises is a dynamic company with a young fleet and big plans for further expansion.

"There is much untapped potential for cruising in the UK market and we anticipate a huge response to our new products and itineraries for next year".


How quickly they learn 'PR speak' when they change sides!

And how disappointingly quick to generate the bland quote.

She would never have written anything like that as a journalist.

At a tangent... there are a couple of things for Ms Longbottom to address when she starts work...

1) .pdf is not a suitable medium for press releases. Change it to Word docs.

2) make sure the website keeps up to date. This release is dated yesterday. I read it as a news story, and came to the MSC website hoping to source the original release. To my amazement, it was actually there. That is VERY rare. Most companies' website media pages are hopelessly out of date. They issue/distribute a release today but don't get around to posting on their website for weeks. Note to Ms Longbottom - keep up the good work!

Singapore Airlines A380 milestone

Blimey! Already?

Singapore Airlines has just operated its 1000th A380 commercial flight.

I know these (V expensive) pieces of capital equipment are not making money when they are sitting on the ground, but it seems like only yesterday they were taking off on their first commercial flight!

(Actually it was 25th Oct last year)

Yeah, yeah....I know.... and policemen aren't really getting younger either.....groan