Final chapter of the library@orchard

This is my last post about the library@orchard. Tomorrow, the library will be officially closed after the Moving On party. Unfortunately, I will not be in Singapore to attend the event. Hopefully, the other citizen bloggers will take some memorable pictures of the last hours of the library.

Here are some images that Jon and I took last couple of weeks:-

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It is definitely a really cool, boutique-styled library that I will miss.

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I was checking out the talented group – The Novelties that had a gig at the library@orchard two weeks ago. They are a group of friends, currently studying at the Singapore Management University (SMU). Cheryl, the cute lead singer could do a real good rendition of Cranberries and she commented that it is very sad that the library@orchard will be gone. The group was pleasantly surprised at the crowd that gathered to cheer them on during the performance at the library.

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I had to include this interesting picture of this group of girls who gathered at the library not to study or read but they sat at a little corner, enjoying the performance and folding little paper cranes. I was intrigued!

When asked what the girls think about the closing of the library, they were all teary … (ok, I am joking). They all thought, “it was unfortunate that such a nice library has to go very soon.”

“It has a great set-up, especially a special center stage for nice and free performances. This library also stocked up great selection of books and has nice librarians!” they added.

Another person I spoke with was a French gentleman who requested not to mention his name or include his photo. He stays near Orchard Road and is a big fan of the library. He has the following comments, “This is a really stylishly designed and 95% of the time, I can find the books I came to look for. It is definitely sad that it’ll be gone. Where & when is the new library opening?”

The library will re-open in 2010 in two re-incarnations – as library@*scape, a youth community space and as library@orchard at a redeveloped site along Orchard Road, according to the official press release.

So, there! I guess, this is Bye bye library@orchard.

Jon and my “final words” — “It is a shame to see you go. We wish we had known you better…”

Ridiculous clients and fearful PR agencies

“Pris, Today’s such a crappy day!!” A friend who was in a PR agency complained to me when who met up this afternoon. She went on to tell me about this particular demanding client of hers. I listened to her story with sympathy and great amusement.
What happened was that the client was expecting a news coverage over the weekend (for an interview/ event held last week) and it did not happen. This morning, the story came out in The Straits Times (note to my foreign friends who are reading this, The Straits Times is one of Singapore’s national English broadsheets). So, you would think, the client must be happy? Apparently not.

The client emailed my friend and the boss a note saying along the line of “We need a front page story!”

Unfortunately, the story came out in one of the news pages in The Straits Times, not too small but not the front page.

I rolled my eyes when I heard that. How do you explain to such clients that it is not only a tall order but it is an unreasonable and ridiculous demand?

It is very common for clients to ask PR agencies to perform tasks that are not only unreasonable, most of the times, they are totally ridiculous, especially when all the information the client can offer is not even newsworthy enough for a small column?
I was reading an interesting  The INQ’s article and I find a lot of truths in there:-

Because clients are as unreasonable as most journalists, by and large. They produce little widgets and expect their PRs to get a front page splash on the Financial Times. If the miserable PR manages to get any mention in said paper, the client will see it and rip the coverage to pieces, forgetting in the process that a journo is not a tool of the PR …

I was also reading Peter Shankman’s book that I mentioned in my last post and there is this rather funny paragraph that I just have to include here.

 I remembered a friend once called me, furious that the reporter didn’t mention him in a second story he did on my friend’s industry.

“Why should he have mentioned you?” I asked my friend.

“Because after he didn’t mention my company in the first story, I called him up and ripped him a new one! I told him that he should be ashamed of himself and not even call himself a journalist if he didn’t do his basic homework to realise that my company is in the space he covered!”

I find myself smiling when I read this. It reminded me of an ex-client who was (I used “was” because it seems to have disappeared, probably ceased operations), a very small player in a particular industry but he insisted that we get a story in the main dailies about his company as “the next big thing!”  and when there were stories about the big players in the industry and his company was not mentioned (because it was new, small and had alot of product flaws), he jumped and demanded that we explained why the company was not highlighted in the story.

Ok, the BIG question here is – Why then did PR agencies allow themselves to be stepped on all over by the clients’ unreasonable demands?

Fear! Yes, fear of losing the clients. Some PR professionals and even the bosses/ MDs/ Directors bend over and compromise to the extend of reducing integrity – just so to keep the client “happy”. Some will attempt to explain, offer alternatives, attempt to help the client to see the bigger picture and most of the times, the clients have their ways and some crappy campaigns were produced with unreasonable expectations and the miserable PR people had to annoy the hell out of journalists to try to get that “front page story.”

Andrew B. Smith wrote the following and again, I see alot of truth in there:-

However, to ask the journalist how much coverage the client can expect is clearly a redundant question – aside from the fact that it is up to the publication to decide how much space a story gets, this can’t be predicted or guaranteed in advance – and certainly not without any information on which to make even an educated guess. A bit like being asked to guarantee the outcome of a race when you have no idea who the runners and riders are.

I am trying to find out from my friend what she and her boss did to reply/ explain to the client about NOT GETTING the front page story.

Another PR person told me, “PR is definitely a misunderstood profession.” PR people are constantly under fire and often caught in between many different groups of people. There are many great PR people around, who are highly skilled, trained and have great credential. Perhaps, some “black sheeps” in the industry should be blamed for the bad name of PR. Perhaps there is just very limited understanding of what PR can or cannot do. Without the right understanding, things get misunderstood and resulted in grievance.

Take a break from blogs. Back to the books

I have been spending way too much time online – reading mails, clicking off “ignore” to all Facebook invites to become vampires and werewolves, reading endless RSS feeds etc. I tried to stay offline as much as I can the last one week and spend more time reading books that I have been buying and not started reading.

Here are three books that I am reading now and they have been great so far. For those who are clearing leaves or thinking of bringing a book to your holiday trip, here are my picks:-

(Since I am going away for a one-week beach holiday next week and have plenty of time to read while sitting by the sea. I am most happy to hear any recommendation to interesting books, so drop me a note if you have any in mind).

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(left): Notice the library tag on the book? I just picked it up from the library@Orchard (the one that is going to be closed down next week). Written by Peter Shankman, (the CEO of Geek Factory), the book has a rather long title, “Can We Do That?! :Outrageous PR Stunts That Work – and Why Your Company Needs Them”

Everytime I hear clients say “come up with some stunts!” I cringed. I wrote about my thoughts in a previous post “PR, back to basics”. However, I am all for a great idea that get communications messages across to the right target audience. Shankman has a great writing style and he even included a section on “Peter’s top six rules for allowing yourself to be creative and come up with off-the-wall ideas.” It reminded me of days when I was doing creatives and design work – when we were encouraged to do something different each day (ie: change our seats so that we see different things from our work station) to help the mind think differently! Shankman included a picture of himself at the Portland zoo, in order to be / think like a child and get some new ideas. I thought that was pretty cool for a busy CEO to do.

(middle): Carly Fiorina – Tough Choices, A Memoir – I must say, I just bought this book today and the last couple of hours was stuck flipping this book. I picked it up, partly because I’ve always loved biographies and the other reason was because Businessweek wrote “…Women will find this particularly interesting.”

Just in case you are living in some La La land and have never heard of Fiorina – She was recruited to be CEO of Hewlett Packard – the first female CEO of Fortune 20 company. Read more

I love the part (am at Chapter 6 now) that she wrote, “….don’t think about the next job; focus on doing the very best you can with the job you have. Learn everything you can from everyone you can. Focus on the possibilities of each job, not the limitations. Look for the people who will take a chance on you.”

(right): Some people might call this a self-help book, some call it a Christian/ religious book. It is one of my recent favourite books. “The Search for Satisfaction, looking for something new under the sun.” is inspiring.

Excerpts from the book:

…. No generation in history has witnessed the explosion of knowledge and technology we experience today….

…. Yet knowledge, information, awareness, and our sense of “connectedness” have not issued a glorious age of peace.

It brings me back to thinking of all the connectivity we raved about – the social networking, the new media, the endless amount of information we have to read online, process them each day with the hope to turn them into some satisfactory results. To me, those attempts usually ended up with hours in front of the computer, letting time slipped away and not getting much out of it.

Our iPods Collection

Jon and I got a new iPod each today. I got the new iPod Classic in gorgeous silver and he got the nano.

We are so addicted to buying new iPods every year, on top of the Macs that he kept changing every other year. We are starting to believe, we have developed some obsessive compulsive (Apple) buying behavior.

Ben Koe wrote about his thoughts about Apple and its brand promise, while he believes that he is objective when it comes to technoloy, I am totally bias when it comes to Apple. Since I was 17 and started using Macs, I’ve not found any Apple products that I really dislike.

Check out our iPods (the missing one is the mini that’s currently with my brother) from old bulky one to the latest new sleek one.

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Remember those first generation iPod? It didn’t know how to work with Windows, and was FireWire-only at first.

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The National Heritage Board campaign

This morning, Walter, the Communications Director of the National Heritage Board (NHB) was sharing with me a new initiative that they are rolling out.

I am one of those who had always think of museums and anything that has the word “heritage” as “boring and old”.

So, imagine my surprise when I first met Walter at a new media conference and he was one of the panel speakers. He was sharing a case study about how the NHB makes use of the social/ new media (by setting up a blogsite – Yesterday.sg) to reach out to more Singaporeans (especially the younger and tech savvy people) as well as anyone who’s interested in the heritage of Singapore (like Jon who’s British – he knows more about Singapore’s history than me).

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The new campaign is called Explore Singapore! and is ongoing from now until the end of December. There are more than 86 activities to choose from. Some of you (who are Singaporeans) probably would have read or heard about Mark Lee, our local celebrity who is engaged to host the tours at Singapore’s oldest museum.

The interesting part of this is, there will be a Heritage Photoblogging contest where you can win brand new Nikon Cameras including a D40 kit! The idea is not new but when I think about it, it’s a great move for NHB to get the old and the young, the tech savvy or not-so savvy folks to (1) join in the fun by attending those activities, (2) show-off your photography skills and (3) some great content to put up on the blog and of course, most importantly (4) win a new Nikon camera.

If you are interested, here’s what you can do!

To take part in NHB’s first photoblogging contest and participate in Explore Singapore! Simply follow these easy steps:

1) Attend an Explore Singapore! event. Take lots of pictures. 2) Blog about it on your blog (remember to post the pictures!)

3) Visit the Explore Singapore! Heritage In Pictures webpage. Register your blog post URL there.

4) If approved, your blog post will be posted on the contest listings page.

5) Check back regularly to see if your entry is up. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again

6) Get your friends to check out your entry by putting this Brag Badge on your blog.

Celebrity photographer Dominic Khoo of www.whatisthesight.com will select the winners, who will receive an exclusive National Heritage Board winners’ certificate to be placed on their blogs.

Registration is open from 10 November 2007 to 31 December 2007.

Since I have some time in December, I might just bring mummy along to a few of those activities.

PR’s nightmare

Brian and I had an interesting discussion over IM last Friday about whether or not all PR campaigns/ products launches should incorporate some form of social / new media.

We think, perhaps not.

Don’t misunderstand my point, I totally love the new media / the Internet and this blog is set up with the aim to explore and learn more about how the new and social media work and how they affect communications and how to integrate as part of marketing strategy

And this is what I believe …There is absolutely no need to insist on including a “new media” component (very typical nowadays) in PR briefs or to insist that some bloggers be invited to your PR events or to create some form of facebook group to get “social” with the people etc. I believe that when your campaign is carefully thought out, focusing on finding the best communications channel to meet your objectives, the rest will fall in place. If you have created something newsworthy, news coverage will happen. Communications and conversations with your target media – new or old as well as target audience (or people that matters to your brand) – online or offline will happen.

If anyone is reading my twitter/ del.icio.us stuff, I’ve been reading and saving links that are related to new/ social media. I am looking for case studies, some HOW TO. Enough of the WHAT AREs.

I think I get the parts where alot of “experts” are saying, “PR people should send new media pitches in this and that way, PR people should understand the importance of social media – it’s all about the PEOPLE, not the audience (uh?? if the people are not my target audience, I wouldn’t bother talking to them actually) and of course about the “stupid PR people should be banned and have their names and email addresses listed in public blogs to be ridicule etc etc…”

I get those. I understand what they are saying…

What I am hoping to find out are some really good “how tos?” Some great social/ new media case studies and I am really looking for NON- IT/ tech/ gadgets / Web related campaigns, I am looking for those where the target audiences of the brand/ products are not spending that much time reading the Techcrunch/ CNET or maybe not even New York Times and don’t know what Facebook is?

What if my “target people” of the brand are the socialities and the rich tai tais who spend most of their time shopping, flipping lifestyle magazine titles while doing their $600 hairdo, and I am trying to sell them a new croc skin handbag brand? How about if my brand targets older aunties and uncles who are not savvy enough to even read the local online newspapers?

How do I then incorporate the “social/ new media” elements into a consumer PR campaign to get these PEOPLE? OR, is it even necessary to use any of those new tools just to show that you are savvy in the new media?

I often hear about, “how companies need to use social and new media to share information OR risk falling into obscurity.”

Clients, brands, PR people are panicking and eager to jump onto the bandwagon but am I wrong to think that at the end of the day, it’s about finding the right communication/ conversation/ interaction channel to (1) get a message across (2) get a feedback to and from the people – the fundamental of PR, the basic of communications.

Understanding and using the tools in our new media toolkit is one important thing (I agree) but blindly trying to applying them to every other campaign we work on… that, to me is just letting tools control you and not you, utilizing them.

The conversations that drive and define Social Media require a genuine and participatory approach. Just because you have the latest tools to reach people, or have played around with them, doesn’t mean you can throw the same old marketing at them. And, it doesn’t qualify you to attempt to do so without first thinking about why and how, as it relates to the people you’re trying to reach..

I totally agree with what Brian Solis wrote. Even in Facebook, I find that creators of events and groups simply mass spam their “friends’ list” with invites to events that are totally irrelevant to the friend. I am really NOT interested in a programming/ coding event where programmers and tech engineers meet to discuss codes, neither do I want to join the group that talks about and attend football games, so stop spamming me on my social networks.

uh…Don’t know. Don’t really care.

library@orchard (pt 2)

In less than two weeks, the library@orchard will ceased operations, the books will be re-distributed to other libraries and the space that the library currently occupies will be rented out to other tenants. Taking a quick look at the other tenants beside and around the library, the space will probably be used for more beauty spas, salons or some fashion boutiques.

My trip to the library yesterday to fulfill my “job” as the citizen reporter turned out to be educational and at the same time, leaving me with some frustration and sadness.

Jillian Lim, the librarian is extremely helpful and I love talking to people who love books. I was told that despite the library’s aim to target the youth and promote a great reading culture amongst this target group (thus the reason why this library was set up in the midst of Orchard Road), the youths did not seem to pop by as expected. Instead, I see more adults (quite a lot of aunties), some foreigners and even tourists walking around.

My question to Jillian was, why on earth is the library tucked remotely on the top floor of Ngee Ann City – a mall that is currently known to house luxury brands such as the Gucci, Chanel and Tiffany? I was then told that several years ago, around the time that the library was set up, that particular location was a big hit with young people and had tenants that sell products targeting the youths. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the mall’s landlord but based on Brennan’s post about the closing of the library, I gathered that the landlord thinks the big space that the library is occupying now is more profitable and makes more sense to SELL to the youths rather than encouraging a reading lifestyle. Kind of sad, isn’t it?

Anyhow, Jon and I walked around the library with our notebooks, camera and recorders to try to capture any interesting things we can pick up. Jon, being a foreigner thinks Singapore really has world-class standard libraries and the library@orchard is definitely very cool and we should all count our blessings. But do Singaporeans really remember to count them? I am afraid, (based on the chats I had with some people), the answer is No.

I grabbed hold of some young people (age between 17 to 23) and asked the same questions at the library yesterday, “Do you know that the library is closing down end of this month? What are your thoughts abt that?”

80% of them went, “REALLY? Don’t know about the closing and ok lor… can go to other places or other libraries wat…”

Further probing from me, “Do you come to this library often? and do you think this space is better off used for other purposes like shopping or food places?”

70% of them said along the line of, “No. I usually come here to wait for my friends/watch some performances if there are, rest my feet after shopping since it’s free here. And oh! quite a good idea to turn it to more happening shops also lah. There is always Kinokuniya upstairs to get books.”

Gggrrrr… the quotes I got didn’t fit what I had planned to write in my original plan to post something, headlined “How sad we are to let you go..”

And now I am sad…

(However, all hope’s not lost. I managed to speak with others who have constructive and some great things to say about our lovely boutique, lifestyle-concept library@orchard. While I download the images and prepare for the next post, people who are reading this, do pay your final visits to the library@orchard, drop the library or this post some of your thoughts. Those who have images/ videos to share, visit http://blogs.nlb.gov.sg/orchard/ for more information.

The library is also holding a closing party on 30 November. Those who are free that evening, do come for the event. Registration details can be found at the library’s blog).

My next blog post of the library will also highlight one of the performances by The Novelties held at the library on 17 November 2007, and a short chat with the performers. I also found a group of young girls gathering near the entrance of the library – not studying, not reading books but folding 1000 paper cranes.

So, watch this space for part 3 of the closing of library@orchard!!

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