Modern communication: The 10 ways we speak to each other

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I saw this tweet on Friday from finance journalist James Andrews (@financejames).

Of course the first thing it makes you want to do is count up your own channels, which is exactly what I did.

I have 11 altogether.  I found it pretty shocking to be honest – and a little scary when you think about just how connected we are nowadays.

What about you? What channels do you use that I’ve missed off? And is it a good or a bad thing that we are so connected 24/7?

USED DAILY:

1. Email

Ah, good old email, how I love thee. Simple to use, lets you write as much or as little as you like, send attachments, group contacts, instantly file messages into separate client/personal folders. Email is still my favourite way to be contacted and it is still the most popular way people contact me in work, and out of work for anything other than a friendly chat.

2. Phone

Look at me! I have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR phone numbers I can be reached on. I have to admit I sometimes think the phone call is a little neglected nowadays. The downside of virtual communication is that tone and humour can often be misunderstood. I often think that one quick call would make things so much simpler.

3. Twitter

It took me a while to ‘get’ it but I wouldn’t be without it now.  I don’t really use it to organise things as such, or chat with people at length, but it’s a nice way to connect with people outside of my immediate circle, and keep up-to-date with news and opinions.

4. Facebook

Facebook for me is most definitely for friends only. It’s probably the main way that I sort out where and when I‘m meeting friends for dinner, drinks or whatever. Plus it’s a good way to connect with those you don’t see as often as you like. A quick ‘hello’ on someone’s wall is the modern day equivalent of a postcard.

5. Text message

I probably shouldn’t admit this; but I hate texting. I find it laborious and boring and I am much more inclined to simply pick up the phone to speak to someone. Still ‘tis a necessity sometimes, and friends still seem to prefer to text than anything else.

6. Forums

Possibly not one on most people’s list (anymore), but I check my sports team’s forum everyday. Not only do I play the sport (roller derby if you’re interested!) but I’m also the league’s PR spokesperson and there always seems to be plenty of news to catch up on and posts to reply to.

LESS FREQUENTLY:

7. Skype

I don’t use this as often as I used to when I lived in America, but I still love using Skype to catch up with old friends in different countries – both via calls and messages. I’m also trying to get it used more at work to speak to international clients.

8. Instant Messaging

There was a day when Hotmail messenger was the hottest tool around, but it’s moved on now to Facebook chat and Blackberry Messenger. I don’t use IM as much as I used to, but I have a feeling my new Blackberry next month might change this!

9. LinkedIn

Usually I use LinkedIn simply for the initial connection. If I’m interested in speaking to anyone after that it usually migrates to email, Twitter or phone.

10. Snail mail

I love receiving post, and writing a good old letter or postcard. I liaise by post regularly with my auntie in Canada and my close friend in New York. Nothing will ever quite beat the excitement you get when you receive a letter (that you know for sure isn’t a bill!), or the feeling that actually, someone must care about you a fair bit to spend the time and money to contact you the ‘old school’ way.

AND A BONUS ONE:

11. In person

Yes, that’s right! I am not just an Avatar – I am indeed a real person. If you ever want to speak to me properly I promise you I am not a hologram and I am fully capable of conversation without aid of technological tools or methods.

New social network – on the Path to success?

I read with interest earlier in the week the announcement of a new social networking site which is launching – Path.

Referred to by some as ‘the anti-social network’ and by itself as ‘the personal network’ it promises to limit friends to just 50 people.

On its blog Path says;

‘Because your personal network is limited to your 50 closest friends and family, you can always trust that you can post any moment, no matter how personal. Path is a place where you can be yourself.’

Bit full on for my liking, but I get where they’re coming from.

On Twitter there is a constant pressure that you need to impress – you have to be funny and intelligent, and source amazing articles, and engage with strangers without sounding pushy or false. Everyone who’s on it wants to be an industry ‘expert’ and, no matter how many blog articles there are saying that ‘it’s quality not quantity’ when it comes to followers, there is still that pressure that you should have more.

Then there’s Facebook – where you have a constantly updated stream of boring ‘I’m eating a sandwich’ or ‘I hate my boyfriend’ status updates and over-shares. Plus, you have the constant de-tagging of hideous photos to worry about, which instantly appear on your profile even if you don’t want them to.

The idea of only having 50 of your closest friends is very appealing.

But it does make me wonder if it will truly work.

It is very easy to limit the size of your existing social networks – you simply IGNORE the random friend requests from old school friends and the weirdo you met down the pub last Saturday.

But the fact is that the majority of people don’t ignore them.

Perhaps its people’s natural curiosity – they like spying on their ex and seeing how much weight they’ve put on, they enjoy nosing on the school ground bully and seeing that she’s now an unemployed chav with a bad taste in bomber jackets.

On Twitter – people like the idea that they are being followed. Indeed even the name ‘followers’ makes you feel special, like some kind of cult leader, or perhaps Jesus.

So, for these reasons I’m intrigued.

Has Path got staying power or will people get bored of just seeing the same 50 people?

The fact its launching on iPhone I see as a good thing – iPhone owners already feel slightly holier-than-thou, so the fact they will now have their very own social network (for the time being at least) will no doubt only serve to be benificial. And a great way to test if the concept works.

And besides, with social networking heavyweights behind the project including former Facebook senior platform manager Dave Morin, Macster co-creator Dustin Mierau and Napster co-founder Shawn Fannin I have a feeling that they won’t take fail as an option.

What do you think – are you going to sign up to Path? Or would you miss the banalities of other networking sites?

Full interview transcripts online? No thanks.

There has been talk across the Atlantic this week about making journalist’s primary source material and transcipts more readily available online.

Washington Post economic and domestic policy blogger Ezra Klein has called for transcipts to be used alongside traditional write ups, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has criticised the media for not making use of the huge amount of space available online to host source material.

Klein says: “It’s safer to have your full comments, and the questions that led to them, out in the open, rather than just the lines the author thought interesting enough to include in the article.”

I couldn’t disagree more.

The main point of a journalist is that you, as a consumer, don’t NEED to read through 10 pages before getting to the point.

It is a journalist’s responsibility to tell you the who, what, where, why, when and how in the first couple of paragraphs – not hidden within a 15 minute interview spiel.

Also, there may be the space there to host the material – but what about the audience to read it?

I have no idea who would read a transcript – which often (if you’ve had the pleasure of transcribing anything) doesn’t make sense, has people talking over each other and is full of pauses, ums, ahs and corrections.

So, what it would perhaps mean in reality, is that  journalists would need to turn every last word of an interview into a feature, or at least write it up in a way that is easy to digest for the reader.

Of course, there may be some exceptions – you may get the odd interviewee who is full of top information, which they express in a way that is interesting and engaging.

But it’s highly unlikely that there are enough of them to enable publishing transcripts online to become the norm.

Also, what about the interviewees themselves?

They are trusting (sometimes naively it must be said) that the journalists can turn their rambles into something useful.

Many would cringe at the thought of their unpolished answers being bared for the whole world to see.

Why have some businesses taken so long to blog?

It’s been a busy week in the office with four of our clients taking up an exciting opportunity to blog on a regional business news website.

Blogs were one of the first forms of so-called social media. They offer a platform for commentary, an opportunity for reflection and, of course, encourage comments and discussion among peers.

But ultimately, a blog is there to make you a thought-leader, to get your name out there and boost your SEO.

So, why has it taken so long for some businesses to catch on?

Writing a blog can be a scary experience fraught with questions: what do I say? Am I good enough to say it? Who is going to want to read it? How can I talk about my business without giving away too much?

All of these are valid questions and ones PRs have to tackle on a daily basis when persuading clients of the potential of these platforms.

But they are questions that can be answered easily by examining your objectives and looking for examples from those in your industry that are already using blogging to their advantage.

Like all social media it can seem a bit daunting or confusing. Alot of businesses perceive it as a ‘fad’ or something the ‘kids’ do.

But don’t underestimate the power of blogging, or indeed other social networking methods like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

It’s not a fad – it’s a fundamental shift in the way the world communicates.

And it doesn’t matter what your business is, whether it’s a PR agency, a firm of solicitors or a paper clip factory.

Somewhere, there are people who want to read about your company, your news and your opinions.

There are over 9 million blogs out there with 40,000 new ones popping up each day.

Some of them are primitive, but a lot of them are incredibly powerful, and if you utilise the skills of the communications and IT professionals around you there is no reason why your blog can’t become one of your greatest assets.

Oriella survey – are the findings really that surprising?

A report, which studied over 770 journalists from across the globe to find out how digital technology is affecting journalism, has been issued by Oriella PR Network.

 A lot of the findings are to be expected; nearly half of journalists surveyed expect the print press to decline even further, and many realise that future editorial opportunities exist online.

 There were a couple of stats that made me chuckle though.

Around 46% of journalists said they were expected to produce more work, 30% said they are working longer hours and 28% have less time to research stories.

So, realistically, 54% of journalists are working the same amount as before, 70% are leaving bang on 5.30pm and 72% have loads of time to research stories!?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining.

A busy journalist is far more likely to accept a (decent) PR story than one who is brimming with their own ideas, and the time and resources to develop them.

The Guardian breaks down the report quite handily into ‘the good’, ‘the bad’ and ‘the ugly,’ and for me there were two findings that I found particularly interesting:

1. PRESS RELEASES STILL THE BEST WAY TO PITCH STORIES TO JOURNALISTS

Surprisingly – in my view – The Guardian has put the fact that 75 per cent of journalists still want emailed press releases and photographs into the ‘bad’ section of their report:

Journalists are less interested in receiving multimedia content from PRs; 75% want emailed releases and half want photographs. Does this mean less imaginative and experimental editorial?

Now, I know there has been all this talk about ‘the death of the press release’ but for me, and the clients I work with, it’s still a vital part of a successful PR programme.

As long as it’s done well and features targeted content, a strong news or local angle and a decent supporting photo, it can, and does, get great results.

2. PAID FOR CONTENT COULD BECOME THE NORM

There was huge controversy when The Times announced they would be charging for their online content (check out my previous post here).

But it looks as though, despite the outcry from The Times’ competitors and readers, that more newspapers may be set to follow, with 30 per cent of publishers exploring paid-for websites and 22 per cent looking at charges for smartphone apps.

Personally, although I don’t like the idea of having to pay (when I can still get it for free), the fact that journalists contributions are being given a tangible value I actually find quite refreshing.

Good marketing or bad customer service?

I read an interesting story today about the founder of My Voucher Codes, Mark Pearson, who is under fire after offering the new Apple IPhone 4G for £99 on his website Groupola.

Groupola were offering the IPhone 4G at just £99

Sounds great right?

Especially considering they are retailing at a massive £499 in normal stores – most of which are already sold out.

The site had just 200 of the handsets on sale, but when the deal opened at 9.30am this morning 5 million users attempted to log in to get their hands on the cut price phone.

Subsequently the site crashed – resulting in problem number one.

This lead to an outburst on Twitter, with many consumers assuming the deal was fake – becoming problem number two.

But, as Real Business reports it’s not the deal, or either of those problems that is under scrutiny – it’s the way in which the site went about advertising the deal in the first place.

They say:

Consumers’ main gripe is that they had to pre-register their interest for the iPhone 4 by signing up to Groupola’s daily alerts. This is the main problem. If Groupola had just held it as a regular daily deal (where you don’t have to pre-register for Groupola’s marketing emails), I’m fairly confident the backlash would have been less strong. Don’t forget that Groupola claims to have received over five million hits this morning – so that’s a lot of people signing up to Groupola’s daily email alerts.

Fair point I suppose (though if the site hadn’t  frozen would the backlash have happened at all?)

To be honest I feel a bit bad for Groupola – it was a great deal, but one where supply would always be far outweighed by demand. But they were very honest with the terms – there would be a limited amount available and to have a chance you had to sign up to the email alerts.

A two minute online form and a daily email (which you can unsubscribe from easily) seems to me a very small price to pay for the chance to win, and I’m sure the 200 lucky winners aren’t complaining.

But it does create an interesting question.

When does a good marketing ploy become bad customer service?