Events for Communicators: Edinburgh Science Festival 2015

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Edinburgh Science Festival Logo 2015

The Edinburgh International Science Festival returns in April packed with useful events for communicators.

As a Science graduate, I’m always amazed at how allergic professional communicators can be the world of science and evidence based practice. Research and insight (specifically from the study of psychology) can spark great ideas or remedy a bad one. As we move into world where proof of our effectiveness will be the expectation not the exception there has never been a better time to get to grips with a bit of scientific thinking.

Events like the Edinburgh International Science Festival are here for this very purpose. They make big ideas accessible without stripping their potential or trivializing them as soundbites.

So to help, I’ve read the programme for this year’s festival back to front and selected a handful of events that will enlighten, entertain and count towards your professional development.*

Edinburgh Science Festival Logo 2015

  • Spotlight On: Serious Games (Friday, 17 April) takes a look at gamification and how it is being used in business, healthcare and the arts. How can gamification be used in your comms activity?
  • Communicators exist to change people’s thoughts and behaviours. But what exactly are we messing with? The truth is we don’t really know. A panel discussion (Tuesday, 7th April) with a philosopher, a neuroscientist  and an artificial intelligence pioneer looks at how the meaty mass of nerve cells and connections  in our brain gives rise to the sensations, thoughts and emotions we call consciousness.
  • In Games For Everyone, By Everyone (Wednesday, 8th April), Dr Jo Twist, CEO of the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment will discuss diversity in computer games. It’s not just the PR industry that is trying to become more diverse and equality is high up the agenda in Scotland.
  • Are you trying to get your head around big data? Big Solutions in Big Data (Thursday, 16th April) take a look at the challenges and possibilities around turning big data into behavioural insight. How this could shape communications will be up to you.
  • Social Media: Spying? Sentiment? Source of data? (Thursday, 9 April) Three good questions that organisations big and small deal with everyday. This discussion includes the opportunity to explore academic tools being developed to curate and analyse social media.
  • Public relations is increasingly interested in algorithmic computation. Everyday we are faced with algorithms such as Google Search results, Facebook post displays and spam filters on our emails. Are you comfortable with ideas behind the growth of ‘web intelligence’ (Tuesday, 14 April) through increasingly sophisticated algorithms?
  • Public relations is often described as an art and language as our pallette. There is a long and interesting body of science around language and how it work that is useful for communicators. Speaking Our Minds, (Wednesday, 15 April) examines the fundamental question of what comes first, language or thought.

If you don’t see anything above to whet your imagination then have a look at the full programme and let some science into your life. There’s everything from the science of music to the science of food to discover.

*Probably – in the end, it’s up to the CPD people .


Life after PR Week. What’s next for the CIPR?

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It’s nearly January and a new year brings with it a PR Week shaped hole in the offer from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

PR Week was a tangible benefit for CIPR members. It landed on your desk with a thud that said “membership”. That’s going to be a miss and while it won’t have a immediate effect I think it will be important come renewal time.

Saying that, I agree with the decision. The old subsidised model based on reciprocal adverts and job advertising has been devalued as owned and free channels have come to the fore. The relationship was too unsymmetrical and an investment by the CIPR to provide the publishers of PR week with a ready made and verified readership was a little strange to me.


Members liked CIPR week but this is an opportunity to create something new and exciting. So what’s next? For me the solution – whatever it is – needs to achieve the following:

  • The solution needs to offer better value than the alternative investment in PR week to members across the country.
  • The value added has to be exclusive to members
  • A physical aspect to the offer is important to remind people about membership, at least for now
  • You’ve got to have rhythm. A periodical carries weight, used well it can be an event, it can set the tone for an industry and gets tongues wagging
  • It needs to appeal to practitioners across the board working in many different professions and in sectors
  • An appeal to the heart as well as the head, community is important to the PR industry and should be cultivated.

The obvious choice, a membership magazine feels a little too tried and will draw direct comparisons with PR Week, a dangerous road to follow.

The interim advice from the assembled CIPR editorial board is investment in the PR Conversation. Investing in a blog aggregation platform that members write the content for and is open to the public is bit of a raw deal for me. I’m happy to be proven wrong, though.

A social network for PRs has been tried before and failed. We already have linkedIn and this isn’t a option.

I would like the CIPR to look towards organisations like econsultancy. I’ve had access to the odd econsultancy report in return for taking part in research and they are genuinely useful. Perhaps a move to provide exclusive information to members to save them time and money would be useful. A sort of “which” magazine for PROs with investment in translating research into practice and money spent on developing exclusive tools and research led advice that go beyond the member created guides.

Away from publishing, is there enough money to reduce entry prices into PRide and the CIPR Excellence awards? A quarterly glossy publication of the top campaigns (as voted for by members) with real campaign insight could be a viable alternative and give members that “moment”.

There are no easy answers to the current situation, I wish I had them to offer. This is my contribution to the debate, the original announcement has others, where are yours?


SITC – Analytics for non-techies

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Today's latte, Google Analytics.

Thanks for coming to the presentation on Google Analytics. I hope it has opened your eyes to the possibilities. I have included a copy of the PREZI below and some links to resources I hope you find useful.

Here is the link to get started with analytics.

A handy glossary of Google Analytics Terms for the non-technically minded is available form the US environmental agency. Click here to download the PDF.

Great Books to Read

There are loads of book on Google Analytics. I would recommend Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics by Brian Clifton. Don’t be put up by the advanced moniker it is easily accessible. It has a very handy section on aligning google analytics with your objectives. The other ‘Analytics Guru’ is Avinash Kaushik. His book Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity is brilliant and he is an world renowned speaker.

 URL Builder Tools

A quick google for URL Building tools will uncover a lot but here are some handy pages to help tag your off-web links that won’t appear in analytics.

  • Google’s homepage for the URL Builder. Including how it works
  • An excellent plugin for Chrome users. This will save you loads of time
  • This spreadsheet will create the tagged URLs for you if you need to tag content with the same information all at once.
  • This Google spreadsheet will help you keep tabs of your tracked links if you are working as a team or want to use different information for one page. Just drag and autofill the necessary information.

Event Tracking

Event tracking is amazing, just remember to align them with your own goals.


A very thorough guide to getting you started is available from here, if you are using a third party shopping site this guide from shopify to their integration will be useful (even if you aren’t using them you can learn from their example) but look to your own supplier for how to integrate with your set up.

Want to go further

If you have been inspired to go further then why not take the Google Analytics Individual Qualification Exam, it can be done in your own time and costs very little. Tip – Brian’s book above offers a code for 50% off the exam paying for the book in itself.

Thanks for again, if you have any questions please leave them in the comments below or tweet me @babbleoftongues.

Today's latte, Google Analytics.


A very funny IFTTT recipe


Are there news sources out there you just don’t want to miss? Can a special feed gets lost in your reader or twitter stream? Do you absolutely positively need to know about something as soon as it’s public?

Then there’s a web app out there which is perfect for you.

I’ve been playing for IFTTT  (If This Then That) for a while and thought I would try a recipe to send a link to a can’t-miss-newsletter link straight to my phone as soon as it’s published. I tend to not read my personal emails during the day and newsletters are de-emphasised  in many email clients. Missing this very important newsletter was becoming a bit of a pain.

if this then that

Why is this newsletter so important

The best comedian in the UK by a mile is Daniel Kitson. He is part soul warming storyteller, part potty-mouthed-bear-pit-slaying compère and part grumpy misanthrope. He is a joy. If you haven’t heard of him that’s because he doesn’t do TV, does very little press (he hates PRs) and shuns the limelight. Have a look at his website where you purchase previous material.

Mr Kitson can literally break a box-office. When his shows go on sale phone lines are jammed and websites crash as his legion of fans tussle for tickets. Box office managers know when they have been kitsonned.

How can a man without a promotional machine do this? Well, he has a very excitable and strong fan base (The Market he call us) which he communicates with in a sporadic and very funny email newsletter*. You never know when it will land and when it does you want to be on the front foot with planning ticket purchase.

Sick of missing it or finding it days late, I thought I would give IFTTT a try to send a notification to my mobile. IFTTT let’s you create recipes that link web services together. A trigger causes an action in what they call a ‘Recipe’. It’s that simple. My Daniel Kitson Recipe below
IFTTT Recipe: Text a link to a new Daniel Kitson Newsletter.


How to create an SMS alert

I can only do this because Mr Kitson is using email newsletter software with RSS built in, MailChimp. Not all do this but MailChimp is an excellent service and this is but one of an avalanche of reasons for using it. In fact this would work with any MailChimp newsletters.

Here’s how you do it.

  1. Sign up to IFTTT – a vital step.
  2. Click the Feed trigger
  3. Click New Feed Item
  4. Open the newsletter in a browser and copy the RSS link from the top bar.
  5. Paste this into IFTTT and create the trigger.
  6. Set up with mobile channel in IFTTT and verify it with your phone.
  7. Add the necessary text to the action, Make sure the URL ingredient is included and that’s it.

If you have you own great uses for IFTTT or ways IFTTT can be used in comms why not leave them below?

*Content marketers and newsletter producers should read it. This is a newsletter that is opened, read and loved.


Using Google Hangouts On Air for a PR Chat

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How to Connect Your Youtube and Google Plus!

Just a quick post to say I was kindly allowed by the CIPR Scotland to try something new and host a Google Hangout on Air about how to win a PRide Award a couple of weeks ago.

You can see my efforts below.

There were a few mistakes but I picked up a lot from organising and hosting the event. Rather than keep it to myself, I have shared these lessons over on the CIPR Scotland blog. I hope it helps anyone thinking about hosting a hangout in the future.

All in all, Hangouts on Air gets a big thumbs up from me.