Thursday, 17 May 2007


I've been surfing around LinkedIn for a while now, but only just started to set up my networks, and search for people. It was fascinating to see how many people I knew are on there already, and how many of them are from workplaces from years ago. Ah, the nostalgia... *wipes away a tear*

A couple of things struck me about LinkedIn though:

1. How similar the model is to many "dating" and *ahem* "personals" websites. The ability to post quasi-anonymously, with just teaser information about yourself to get others hooked; how you can list your interests and attract others of a similar mindset; how you can set up networks of people you recommend and know... so on and so on...

2. How expensive it was. Dating sites SO have to learn from this particular business model - people are apparently prepared to pay way more for professional hookups than they are for private ones. Or maybe we're all just expensing membership on our company credit card.

3. How easy it was to identify people - I managed to find someone sitting 12 feet away from me in the first 15 minutes of searching (interesting reading it was, too!). Unfortunately, the major drawback of this (for them, not for me) was that I got to see which of my (readily identifiable) work colleagues are on the lookout for a new job.

Let's hope our Talent Management team in HR don't learn how this stuff works any time soon...

Wednesday, 16 May 2007


There's been a lot of discussion recently in New Media Age about client and agency relationships, particularly around the issue of paying for pitch work.

My background is both agency and client-side. Yes, it is frustrating (and pretty expensive!) pitching for work as an agency. And when you don't get the job, and the reason from the client seems pretty spurious or poorly judged, then it can be devastating.

But it's also pretty expensive client-side as well. We have to arrange the review process, manage it (in a global company that ain't easy!), and then go through formalised selection and ranking criteria, before contacting successful agencies (and dealing with the fall out from the others, seriously some agency sales directors can get downright aggressive).

This takes hours and hours! Trust me, clients don't really like agency pitches either.

One solution is to use a number of preferred agencies only. You only then have to go through the pitch process once: judge them on their past agency work, on their ability offer specific digital requirements, on cultural/business fit, and then test them on a small amount of work to see if they fit (could they handle the pressure, is the work up to scratch etc etc) without making undue resource demands.

We did something similar, and now have a roster of agencies across a good mix of disciplines- technical, visual, content, user experience, production etc.

Once on the list, if we have a project for them we only ask for proposals (costs, approach, timescales etc) as we are confident in their particular abilities. Noone has let us down yet.

The plan is to update our list irregularly, and this should keep the pitch input from both sides down.

Result? Happy agencies, getting regular work + happy client, getting good service from selected, trusted agencies.

So, to learn - treat your clients and your agencies with respect, coz you both need each other. Respect that you have different requirements, and appreciate the differences.

But above all, talk to each other, so if the level of "free" input on a pitch is unrealistic (too much/too little) you both discuss other ways of achieving a fair selection.

Monday, 14 May 2007

May you live in interesting times

Interesting times for us at the moment. Lots of rumour and analyst suggestions (they're gambling that we may be bought by another large mining company, BHP Billiton, or even by private equity) over the past week have led to a lots of movement in our share price.

Most interesting was the blog coverage. Financial and investment blogs seem to be breeding like rabbits, but many of them simply cut and paste the stories they read elsewhere (or RSS feed them... ) , unfortunately often without thinking how accurate the source story might be.
From Technorati - posts that contain "Rio Tinto" per day for the last 30 days...
Technorati Chart

Popular amongst the "cut and pasters" seems to be press releases from Reuters and Bloomberg. Understandable, as they are probably bit better thought through than many others, but I can't really see the point. I don't see the blogger adding any value, and there is no personal opinion or voice to the stories.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Trade shows

Just back from Internet World 2007 in Earl's Court. There are days I wonder why I bother with these events - full of sales people who seem to be more interested in looking at your name badge (busy working out the "company name x job title = budgetary control = purchase /15% = my personal commission [optional licking of lips and rubbing of hands]" equation).

Interesting to see some of our existing suppliers there, and worrying to see so little technical innovation. More worrying than any of that though was the truly horrible sight of consultants, agencies and vendors trying to talk up the hype around web 2.0. Seriously, look... over there, on the horizon - those sails over there... that's the ship leaving port. Some of the seminars were pretty relevant, giving guidance to webmasters on how to incorporate some of the social stuff, how to build trust etc. However some of the tat on offer was truly shocking (pretty much anything with "next generation" or "2.0" in the title kinda missed the boat *points at horizon again*).

I'm not sure what I was most uncomfortable with - that digital professionals aren't familiar with the basics of this stuff yet (and can kinda see through all the hype), or that companies are still lazily bandwagonning (see "portals" in about 1999) and looking at social networking content as almost a replacement for innovation and new ideas. I would have thought we'd moved on a lot and people would want to see real world examples for UGC and ways to use online social networks, other than trying to surreptitiously "blog-flog" the latest gadget/pizza/car.