Sunday, December 31, 2006

Transparency and Tracking Back - Dan Keeney and NOKA Chocolate

After taking the advice of Kirk Brewer, Dan Keeney, APR has decided to post a disclosure comment on each of the blog posts he replied to in order to update them of his relationship to NOKA chocolate, the company whose marketing and pricing are under attack due to a report on Dallasfood.org.

I believe he has made the correct and necessary choice but he is still being pushed for more information as to the timings. This comment is curious:
I thought my level of disclosure has been pretty remarkable... ... I will simply say that my personal posts played no part in getting the business.
Remarkable is the right word. Dan is "amazed by the lack of critical thinking shown by the vast majority of bloggers who post about the series of reports in question." Thinking critically, I struggle to see how no prior relationship turns into a relationship a day or so apart when his personal posts (by which I assume he is talking about the comments he left) played no role.

The only conclusion that comes to mind is that DPK Public Relations are the only local PR firm that answer the phone on a Saturday.

I'm not in the PR game. It's only down to listening to FIR and subsequently hanging around the PR echo chamber (corner of the blogosphere) that I have become aware of the great work the PR profession does. But it is almost entirely unrecognised by the public at large. PR is equal to nothing but spin for the masses.

That is going to be why the vast majority of bloggers can't get past a PR person offering the only defence for a company under attack.
That is why the version of events stating that said PR person was hired by the company the next day where no relationship exist before is not being taken at its word.
That is why saying that the personal posts had nothing to do with getting the business is going to be hard to believe.

Personally, I believe Dan, or at least want to and hope we comes well out of it. I think he made a mistake, and that this should prove a valuable lesson for PR practitioners. In difficult circumstances I admire his original intention (to provide a counter argument to an assault on a local business) and his subsequent efforts to be transparent whilst trying to maintain some privacy.
However, he has to acknowledge that the "sticky" elements of this scenario means that curious, suspicious bloggers are expecting him to go the extra mile in order to believe that a man representing a company they don't trust is trustworthy.

Related post: NOKA Chocolate and DPK Public Relations

Other links:
DPK Public Relations: Caught With Its Hand in the Chocolate Jar?

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Resolution Time 2007

Normally I'm not so forthcoming with what are referred to as New Year's resolutions. This year, however, I'm feeling rather excited at the prospect of setting some goals since I forgot to do it on my birthday which is the time I prefer ordinarily.

This is what I want to do during the course of 2007:
  • To not allow myself to take part in a poor transaction
  • To present information better
  • Never perform a manual, repetitive task when I can feasibly build a system to do it or arrange to have a system built to do it
  • To better record my successes
  • The eliminate my attraction towards distractions

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Remembering 2006

Sunday means it is family day for the Hill tribe. During this time we discovered that nothing significant happened that we would all be able to remember the year 2006 for. No moon landings or anything of such magnitude.

So I had to have a think and work out what the year has meant for me.
Here is what I hope to remember 2006 for:
  • 2006 is when I found out that life is all about stories
  • 2006 is when, at age 23, I finally started towards a degree
  • 2006 is the first year where I recorded every purchase I made
  • 2006 was when I eradicated my debt
  • 2006 has got me closer to finding my life purpose
  • 2006 in which I discovered it might be possible for me to love another

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

NOKA chocolate maker and DPK Public Relations

Oh this is beautiful; small business PR dilemma at its best.

NOKA Chocolate has caught the attention of Scott from DallasFood.org and he has produced a ten part report that doesn’t look to kindly on NOKA’s pricing and marketing strategy; the pricing for being extraordinarily marked up and the marketing for obfuscation.

Scott concludes that the chocolate isn’t worth the price tag worth it and accuses the company owners as opportunistic (to the point of fault).

Judging by the evidence he produces it is hard not to agree. It’s just an example of a company charging the highest possible price they can (most companies share this interest) and making their marketing as pitched as possible to justify the luxury price tag.

However if Scott’s analysis is correct then it is hard to see how the corporate bumf can be correct too.
“returning chocolate to its pure, luxurious state”
“exclusive plantations”
“handcrafting”

All these points which are disputed in the report by saying that chocolate has never been enjoyed in a pure state and that’s why only 75% cocoa is used and not 100%, the chocolate makers are actually Bonnat, and the end product itself is uninspired and machine made.

This is interesting in itself to examine the chocolatier business (as an economics hobbyist) but what takes this story over the edge are the acts of public relations man Dan Keeney.

Shortly after the story broke into Google’s blog search Dan Keeney saw a local firm being struck down without a counter argument so stepped up to provide one. And he did this everywhere the issue was brought up.

Wait, a random PR guy defending a local company… that smell like he has a stake in it somewhere. And if there is one thing the blogosphere doesn’t abide by it is undisclosed PR practitioners despite the fact that the full name and therefore full agenda of the author of the report is undisclosed too.

However, Dan Keeney has posted his viewpoint on his blog. On some comments he made to other people’s blog posts he did indeed give his personal email. Also he wasn’t involved with NOKA at the time and so couldn’t possibly say he represented at the time of posting his comments. Fair enough. The counter-arguments were weak and as far as I have read unsupported by anyone else but he had every right to make them and provided as full as disclosure as was necessary.

The man saw a cause in defending a local company and got to it. As a crisis communication specialist with a hand or more in social media it is easy to see why he was so prolific in posting his comments across the blogosphere in his spare time. His actions seemingly did land him a gig with the NOKA shortly afterwards (less than a day by the looks of it).

And this is where the problem lies. The end result is we have a bucket full of negative commentary regarding a company and the only visible defence on each occasion is being spouted by a PR guy with no immediate disclosure. The disclosure is being provided by other commentators joining the dots later.

To me, this looks really ugly. Not everyone that reads these posts is going to go to the Keeney PR website to find the facts. What is Dan supposed to do to tidy up? Go to all those blogs again and post a subsequent comment saying “at the time of posting my original comment I was not representing NOKA Chocolate but now I am. This is just to present you with the facts.”?

What does it say about NOKA and their grasp on PR? If you have no PR representation or the ones you have aren’t representing should you hire this random PR guy that shows up and defends you? Should the PR accept the gig so soon after the event? Would it not have been better for NOKA to say “Thanks, we’ll think of you for our future needs” and Dan to say “Thank you. It was for a worthy cause.”?

Sadly it all looks rather messy and I don’t envy their task of trying to clean this one up.

Update 31.12.2006 - Furthering the subject Transparency and Tracking Back

Related links:
It's the Price, Not the Thought, That Counts? - Economist's View
Excellent series about Noka chocolate at Dallas Food - Kitchen Mage
What's Noka Chocolates Worth? - Marshall Sponder
Noka Chocolate Fun - Robert Synnott
Dan, Noka Chocolate’s Valiant Defender - Robert Synnott
Noka - An American Chocolate Story - Alec Muffett

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Wrong Type of Rain

I love a good bit of stormy weather every now and then. The standing water left after the rain aren't normally muddy so today's display was pretty strong. So just to illustrate:




Still, this is likely to be the wrong type of rain that'll see some counties seeing in the New Year with the hosepipe ban still in effect.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Superhero Test

Late night silliness.

Your results:
You are Iron Man
























Iron Man
65%
Batman
65%
Spider-Man
60%
The Flash
60%
Hulk
60%
Supergirl
57%
Superman
50%
Green Lantern
50%
Catwoman
45%
Robin
42%
Wonder Woman
37%
Inventor. Businessman. Genius.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test


Hat tip: Adam Bullied

Some Ammo for the Gentlemen...

...who believe a women's place is in the kitchen.

Housework cuts breast cancer risk

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Prostitution Argument

Due to the emergence of the Ipswich serial killer it has now become acceptable for the economists and social commentators to come out in favour of fully legalised prostitution without a public flailing.

Here are two countering views.

In favour: Chris Dillow
In opposition: Seth Freedman

Whilst appreciating some of Seth's sentiments I entirely agree with Chris. Seth's point sinks on two occasions. First his opening premise "The only thing that separates having sex with a prostitute from rape is a cash transaction" which is missing something. The cash doesn't make the separation, permission does. Second is comparing prostitution with child abuse. The mammoth difference is that adults are recognised as capable of making adult decisions for themselves where children are not.

As someone who is an advocate of aiming for perfect solutions this may take some explaining. To many, it might not seem obvious that a perfect world would have legalised prostitution. The simple answer being that the only things that should be illegal are the things which are certain to cause harm to participants and bystanders.
I am also an advocate of tackling a problem at its source as working around the real issue is inefficient.

As a single event:
  • If a woman wishes to sell their body and a man is willing to buy
  • The exchange ends with both parties end up happier than how they started
  • It harms no-one
Then that is a successful transaction.
In effect, that means that prostitution itself isn't the problem. The law in the UK currently has a mixed message where the act of selling your body is not illegal but most of the actions surrounding it are.

The problems are actually based around what leads to an undesirable transaction taking place. The men for making a market and the women for providing.
Typical reasons for women entering the trade are:
  • feeding a drug habit
  • raising children with no other means of income available.
For men it will be likely be that they:
  • wouldn't be able to have sex any other way
  • wouldn't be able to have the type of sex they are after with their partner
  • want to conduct violence against women
The flawed system of trying to enforce anti-prostitution based laws doesn't solve any of these real issues. It doesn't:
  • break the drug habit
  • help feed, clothe and house the children,
  • help with the male self esteem needed to seek a partner
  • stop a violent man wanting to be violent
With the revenue that legalisation would bring and the resources thrown into vice squads redirected to the undesirable causes of prostitution that would go a long way into leaving prostitution only to these that really want to be doing it. (pun may or may not be intended)

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Friday, December 22, 2006

To Identify Greatness

This is one of the best paragraphs I've read in a long time. Provided by Paul Graham.

Because you can't tell a great hacker except by working with him, hackers themselves can't tell how good they are. This is true to a degree in most fields. I've found that people who are great at something are not so much convinced of their own greatness as mystified at why everyone else seems so incompetent.

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Loose Fingers Cost Another Job

A Thorntons store manager got posted to a new store and has been forced out of town after posting his thoughts on myspace.

Steve Beall referred to Barrow-in-Furness as "a s**thole" on his myspace where he also revealed he was the manager of the Thorntons store in the town. The local newspaper got hold of the scope and once the townspeople caught wind of the young manager's thoughts they decided to show up at the store and have their say.

Seeing as the store got broken into on his first day and he's far away from home you can hardly expect his views to be particularly positive.

It seems this has all ended in the most disappointing way. With the blogger's comments taken in the most harshest way, run through the paper and then the townsfolk vent their wrath. But that's the only reason I know about it.
Imagine the alternative scenario, where the manager posts his thoughts more eloquently and proposes the topic: This is how new someone new to your town sees it. Help me see it differently. This story is then picked up by the local paper and drives a conversation that revolves around what is good about the town that he is missing and what can be done about the problems the town does have.

Maybe that has happened somewhere, but then that would never make it to the 6 o'clock news would it?

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ddot Receives a Pass Mark

Just a timestamp post folks, since the Google servers may last longer than the confirmation letter.
I received a nice note through the post letting me know I've passed my first OU course: Data, Computing & Information.

For the current me that looks back at the old me writing this post. You found this course a lot easier than the maths course the old you is currently doing right now.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

This is Why I Love The Japanese

My last post highlighted that the Japanese population is shrinking in number and I said that it is not a terrible thing that the human presence on this planet comes down a peg or two. However, I neglected to state that of all peoples in the world for there to be less of, I'm sad it is the Japanese.

Check out this BBC report on "Paris Syndrome".

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Population Declines

Last year the Japanese population declined for the first time since the last world war. A somewhat twisted turn of events considering life expectancy, on the whole, is on the up. The thought of populations going down always leads to fear of economic crisis among the political and academic.

I understand the argument (without a large young workforce, how the hell do you pay off the pensioners?) but personally I'm glad that as we plunder the Earth's resources at an unsustainable rate at least there is some form of balancing act with having less of us around to keep that level of consumption going.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Can the government solve the jobless culture?

Can the government solve the jobless culture?
Yes
28.01%
No
65.69%
Don't know
6.30%
889 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Snapshot taken at 12:30 GMT on Sunday 17th December

The BBC has conducted a vote asking "Can the government solve the jobless culture?" addressing an expected speech from Work & Pensions Secretary John Hutton who intends to get tough on "hardcore" job seeker allowance claimants.

Asked a yes or no answer for: "Can the government solve the jobless culture?" I'd easily answer yes. Of all the government's problems this is probably down as one of the more simple to fix.

However, if under the same constraint, asked the question I think they are getting at: "Will this government solve the jobless culture?" I'd have to say no. Lack of faith, trust and the ability to take a Labour pledge seriously sadly drives this response.
I'd love to be proven wrong. Blair isn't going to be there in 2009/10 to persuade me to vote Labour with his grand speeches so if they turn their attention to delivering results instead my vote is still theirs for the taking.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On Burnout

That coyote Adrian Savage has posted an interesting piece on understanding burnout. After an eleven hour day you have to wonder at the coincidence of such a post crossing your way when you get home. When the working hours go up and the pay remains the same, the important thing is always to keep an eye on productivity on the personal level and how things are panning out on a general level.

I can avoid burnout by simply pulling out of the situation as soon as it is evident I hit diminishing returns in the pursuit of happiness.

Some of the factors I take into account are:

Pride
Hopefully we all have some of this and take it to work with us. This is where the ego comes out to play. How much of a signature do I leave on this work?

Satisfaction
How do I feel about the work. Is the work itself good, worthy work? Am I helping people by doing the work? Do I enjoy it?

Remuneration
The green itself but also the possibility of more green to come.

Health
How's the noggin? How's the rest of the mortal shell coping?

Weight of expectation
Is it easy work? Is it late work that you know should have been done ages ago? Did you make a silly promise to the boss? Did you make a silly promise to a cute girl you are a sucker for? (don't judge me I'm only human!) Or was it just never going to get done but you were assigned it anyway?

Time considerations
How long have you had to put up with the situation? Is it improving? Is it the new status quo? (no caps)

Only when I lose the power of rational thought will I be caught suffering from burnout. However, doesn't hurt to flesh out my thought process from time to time.

Proposal for Prisoners to Vote

This is exactly why the Human Rights Act is held in poor regard. Because some who use forget to make a distinction between your God given rights as a human being and the society granted rights you receive for living a certain way in a certain area.

Prisoners lose all their society given rights because they refuse to obey society's laws and, lets face it, most of them aren't exactly hard to follow.

Their human rights extend to the length that as society keeps them incarcerated they have food, shelter and are not but in any conditions that threaten their health or existence.

That's it. Society given right to vote, they do not get. The only government that would offer them such a right would only do so for the governing party's own benefit and that is hardly an advert any sensible politician would want to put out to their constituency.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Goes to bed pondering...

Do rainchecks have to be cashed in within six months like the regular kind?

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tagged for the 5 Five Things Meme

My favourite Australian has gone and done the dastardly deed of tagging me on the 'five things you probably didn't know about me' meme.

1. If I agree to fulfil a request with the words "as you wish" it is influenced, of course, by the film The Princess Bride. However, I do use it very rarely and only for people I truly care about.

2. I like to keep my beard when my head is freshly shaven because I'm not a fan of my eyebrows making up the longest hairs on my head.

3. Stress goes straight to my bladder.

4. My favourite Transformers(TM) character was Soundwave. I won't lie to you; the parallels are scarily close at times.

5. I used to be able to do a good Victor Meldrew impression but now my sole remaining mimic is Dr Claw from the Inspector Gadget cartoon. (Shouldn't be too surprising to learn that the voices for the two mentioned cartoon characters in this post were voiced by the same person, Frank Welker)

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Raw Goods, Craftspeople and Merchants

Chris Brogan has been busy in his new role promoting vid-blogging, podcasting and all that new media jazz. Thankfully he still finds the time to post those personal development and realisation gems that got me subscribed to his blog in the first place.

One of his latest, although he did go into a posting frenzy on Thursday, highlights the differences of people type in the value chain and asks you where you want to be: Raw Goods, Craftspeople and Merchants.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Hampshire is one of the fittest regions in England

Look at Hampshire on the southern tip of the centre of comparative good health swindled from this BBC article.



To quote a fellow badger: Perhaps we should move to stop bringing the average down...

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

This Song Should be Far More Annoying Than it Actually is...



... but damn it is actually quite catchy. Something of the Bjork about this woman.

Regina Spektor - Fidelity