Daily Archives: 29 May, 2009

Digital Britain Unconference. An alternative view for Lord Carter.

Anyone familiar with this brief? “We’ve been working on this for nearly a year, but we’re not sure we’ve got anything good. You need to come up with a plan by next week that will save the world.” Alright, it’s not quite like that, but I was struck by the similarities between watching the Digital Britain Conference panel debates and the innumerable briefing meets I’ve been to over the years where the digital question has created an atmosphere of confusion, excitement, panic and opportunity amongst those charged with stewarding brands into the future. Everyone knows that a ‘lick of digital paint’ isn’t quite enough. But nobody knows quite enough to make a decision. And those that do know feel they haven’t been consulted.

In the case of Digital Britain, there are big unanswered questions. Defining ‘digital’ is problematic enough. Although the official consultation period was drawing to an end, it felt right to do something about these questions by posing them to a wider community of those who have been involved in the digital economy for rather longer than Lord Carter. From an original tweet by Bill Thompson on the backchannel at Gordon Brown’s Digital Conference, 12 unconferences were held (including London, Manchester, Glasgow and Cornwall) to discuss the interim report and provide useful feedback for the Digital Britain team at BERR. Most of the communication took place on twitter (unconference was, briefly, a trending topic). The outputs of these sessions were compiled and edited into a series of reports, and then edited into a single submission given in this week, which the Digital Britain team are reading ‘with interest’.

Will it make a difference? I hope so. Was it worth it? I guess so. As a whole new model of consultation it was an experience of our age, truly collaborative, intense, interested, bright people, with an interest in ‘doing something important’ and ‘doing the right thing.’  If only agencies could work this way.  

The full report is available here.  Other comments are available here, and here.

One man’s “Quality” is another man’s “useless page rank”!

In the complicated and interconnected worlds of SEO and digital PR I find myself increasingly talking about the importance of “quality”. However, after a series of déjà vous inducing client meetings I realise what a contentious and subjective term it can be.

From a brand, customer engagement, marketing perspective quality is key to delivering the right content to the right audience and ensuring brands aligning themselves with appropriate partners. But, from a link equity perspective quality relies on Google page rank, deep linking anchor text to the right page and ensuring spiders are able to follow those links. So how can we as an industry ensure we deliver the best “quality” work to clients to create brand buzz and excitement fuelling demand whilst also appearing at the top of the search engine listings to increase visitors to the site? If digital PR is the new SEO, how can we ensure that the right people are defining what constitutes quality?

There is no question that digital PR managed correctly can be a key tool in the link building armoury. Optimised content distributed to sites and syndicated across the web all containing back links can help to provide the crucial “votes of confidence” Google uses to help position web pages in their index. It sounds great and allows brands to deliver improved SERPs as a side effect of distributing engaging content. But the skills and techniques of natural link cultivation should be not forgotten in this wave of enthusiasm and excitement around digital PR. Whilst generic back links to a brand from high “quality” sites which reach the right audience will provide some small degree of improvement in their SERPs, a focused link building campaign on key pages and terms will deliver far greater results from a positional perspective and allow brands to improve positions on key revenue driving pages.

Of course brands should be protective of the environments in which they appear but they must also be pragmatic about the methods required to improve their SERPs. While adopting a holistic approach to all parts of the digital spectrum is crucial, this should not be done to the detriment of the subtleties and specialist knowledge available. Perhaps the solution is the same as any other marketing campaign, setting clear objectives and realistic goals.

As you’ll know by now, I preach about the importance of bringing distinct disciplines closer together, to understand the interplay between them and take advantage of the wide and diverse skills within this industry. But to suggest SEO is dead and it’s all about the PR seems to be moving the task from one team to another rather than combing skills to deliver results which are fundamentally greater than the sum of the parts.


I had to lol at the radio this morning. They were screaming how the stressed out Susan Boyle story is all over the news. Well, it is everywhere because mainstream media loves singing the same tune. Old media’s own re-tweeting system means bits of sensationalized gossip gets relayed from outlet to outlet, building up an ephemeral thundercloud of noise.


But why the rush to judge and jump on the unlikely celebrity they helped build up? Why must everybody have an opinion? Amanda Holden — who has buffed, blonded and botoxed her own naturally beautiful body — even had the nerve to tell this less genetically blessed woman not to change a thing.


Personally, I think the clever chaps behind Britain’s Got Talent have manipulated this whole song and dance. Rather than allow the Susan phenomenon to destroy the drama of the final show, they gushed about the other contestants. Anything to avoid viewer perception of a Ms. Boyle fait accompli win. So the new stars are an adorable little boy, then a darling little girl, then a lovable father and son. (Who strangely are allowed to celebrate flab and funny hair.) Now Susan is on the brink of quitting the show. Or so says Piers Morgan. Oooh noz.


OK, it is admittedly none of my business what Susan Boyle does. But as a fan and another person with an opinion, I hope she follows her Elaine Paige dream into musical theatre. She’d be perfect as Mother Superior in the Sound of Music, don’t you think? No need to dance around or act up. Just look good in black and sing your heart out. Climb ev’ry mountain, Susan. FTW.

Follow me on twitter as I root for #SusanBoyle