The recent hoo-ha over Instagram’s possible change in Terms and Conditions got me thinking. Thinking how lucky I am.

I have the skills needed to host my own web sites. Take a bit of WordPress, add some plugins and a bit of php coding and you’ve got a family tree web site. Or an image library, or a blog.

But most people don’t; so if they want to share their lives, they turn to Facebook, Google, Instagram, My Space, Bobo, Friends Reunited, whatever. Someone else does the work for them – but the downside is that those companies do need to turn a profit, or at least break even. Why should they host your stuff for free?

Most of the WordPress community comments seem to encourage people to do a self-hosted site, or to open a WordPress.com account; there was even a plug for an Instagram-to-WordPress importer. But ultimately, it only works if you’re comfortable with coping when things go wrong; when you run out of disk space, or the software needs updating.

Maybe we should just all learn more computer skills…?

I work in the centre of Leeds, which means every lunchtime – pretty much – I leave my office and head out for some food. One of my lunch routes takes me across several busy roads, and I’m often struck – not literally – by the number of vehicles parked on double yellow lines.

Out of my office and turn left: double yellows and a contraflow cycle lane on Wellington Street. Most Thursdays there is a beer delivery truck parked on the roadside, but more usually partially over the cycle lane. There is a road between my office building and the pub, but the delivery truck uses the road. This narrows Wellington Street, so that if buses have called at the stops, only smaller vehicles (cars) can get past.

Left up this road and onto Quebec Street, part of the City Loop. Two lanes of traffic, double yellows on both sides. There’s usually a food or drink delivery truck parked up, which narrows the road down to one lane and makes it difficult to cross the road because the parked truck obscures the view (and Quebec Street can get busy).

Negotiate that, and your next road is Infirmary Street. This has seven bus stands and is in constant use; it also has a loading bay (which coaches sometimes park in) and double yellows (which are ignored by anyone delivering to any of the Toronto Square buildings, even though there is vehicular access for deliveries in there). The road way is just about wide enough for traffic to pass when a bus is at a stand, so a delivery truck will cause problems at busy times.

When I head home at night, if I catch my bus on Aire Street, my bus has to negotiate the odd-shaped roundabout and any cars parked on the double-yellows just outside the Rail Station. Cars will be waiting there to do pick-ups because the spots on the inbound part of the roundabout are full (not parking bays though as they, too, are marked with double-yellows). Then westbound traffic has to hope that there are no vans doing late deliveries or pick-ups at the end of Aire Street near the traffic lights, as the lights are staggered so that one lane (the lane with the inevitable van) clears before the other – so even though your way is clear you’re stuck behind turning traffic, which can’t always turn if inbound traffic is heavy – the junction can’t clear.

If Leeds City Council enforced these regulations they’d make a fortune, so one assumes they’re scared by the potential outcry (‘negative PR’, in the tabloid vernacular) rather than a lack of staff. Or incompetence.

de jure what these drivers do is against the law, and punishable; de facto nobody gives a stuff, it’s common practice, stop complaining.

Press regulation will only work if the laws we make are enforceable and enforced. Trouble is, most of the wrong-doing that Leveson’s report includes is covered by existing legislation; we just never enforce it, probably because everyone’s doing it and it only affects a few ‘celebrities’, etc…

So  what makes anyone think we’ll do so in the future? And who do we trust to do it?

Congratulations to my Alma Mater on becoming Leeds Trinity University (formerly Leeds Trinity University College, formerly Leeds Trinity and All Saints, formerly Trinity and All Saints University College, formerly Trinity and All Saints, A College of the University of Leeds, formerly Trinity and All Saints College, originally Trinity and All Saints’ Colleges)).

That’s about one name change every seven years!

It’s odd for me, having an undergraduate degree, postgraduate degree and a postgraduate diploma from all three institutions in Leeds – but only one is from an actual University, the other two being from a Polytechnic and a University College…

Me, Lucy and lots of unclaimed awards.

Well, I just about survived PRide this year!

It’s the big event in the PR diary regionally, and always a lot of fun – if you remember to moderate your alcohol intake…

This year – as last year – I got to present the Award to the Communicator of the Year. Unlike last year though, there were four winners; Nicola Adams, Jess Ennis, Sophie Wells and Seb Coe. Also unlike last year, none of the winners were there… which is why Lucy and I can be seen with all the uncollected Awards.

All being well, I’ll be Chair of the Group for the next two Awards and I am thoroughly looking forward to it.

The dust has settled, the displays have been folded up and now its time to fill in the relevant section on the CIPR CPD form. So what did I learn from Northern Conference?

Well, it was quite odd, really. Jane (Wilson – CEO, CIPR) took the opportunity to announce the new CIPR Public Relations Register, a searchable register of CIPR members, designed to help employers and clients determine if people are members of the Institute when they say they are, and which acts a guarantee of professionalism if you’re on it.

In of itself this would be a good thing – like having a list of Corgi-registered gas fitters – but in the context of a ‘fit for purpose’ profession, and the day’s other speakers. workshops and sessions it highlighted that old phrase ‘caveat emptor’ – let the buyer beware.

So if ‘pax dictum’ isn’t good enough for your clients, then there’s the CIPR Register to back you up.

And as for Max…

I think he showed that sometimes we get it wrong. As professionals, educators and mentors, we assume things from our students and new profession-entrants.

Do the kind of PR you enjoy doing” – well, yes.

There’s no substitute for experience” – no argument there.

Tweets from students picked up on these sentiments, and agreed with them. The older, experienced practitioners all went “Yes. And?”

But, sadly, no tweets seemed to say “My lecturer told me that as well”.

Perhaps, in among the modules on ethics, transparency, accountability and professionalism we should also spend 10 minutes telling students ‘the bleedin’ obvious’?

Max Clifford is coming to Northern Conference on 31 October, and it’s raised a bit of a stink in some circles.

Now: as a transparent PR person, I have to say that I was one of the people in favour of him coming to Northern Conference. Very much in favour, if we’re being honest, and I’m still having trouble seeing what the problem is.

I know some people get upset when they hear Max being referred to as a ‘PR guru’ when he isn’t – but I don’t see them waving placards outside the BBC when Ab Fab is on, and AB Fab is even more removed from the wonderful world of public relations than Max is.

We’d rather people think of us a profession full of Bolly-swigging, past-their-prime alcoholics than people who [insert list of Max’s ‘achievements’ here]? Really?

I work in public relations, and I’m a CIPR member, which means I subscribe to the CIPR Code of Conduct. Max is a publicist, and frequently a self-seeking one. One who, by dent of not trying very hard at all, seems to know exactly how to wind people up (and not just the PROs). But for some, it’s as if the Code of Conduct is the creed by which we PROs must all live, and anyone who doesn’t believe in the Code must be cast out for all time into the fires of Hell and eternal damnation (or the PRCA), which is a bit harsh on those thousands of professionals who aren’t members. Now, I’m a Roman Catholic (“and I have been since before I were born“), I know dogma when I see it; the Code is just a Code, it’s not going to guarantee you a future in the afterlife at the right hand of Saints Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee.

And Max isn’t the Devil Incarnate: he’s just a very naughty boy.

As an aside, Bernays is apparently the man whose work encouraged millions of American women to take up smoking in public, helped overthrow the Government of Guatemala and revelled in the title of “America’s No. 1 Publicist”. Makes “Freddie Starr ate my hamster” look a bit tame, doesn’t it?

The argument for Creationism (sorry, more religion) goes: “If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?” So if modern public relations evolved from publicists, why do we still have publicists? I can’t speak for creationists, but publicists *are* part of the broad public relations church (er, spectrum). A good PRO can do what a publicist can, though the reverse is rarely true; just like men can swing on tyres and travel into space while monkeys… oh.

So stop worrying about Max and some of the things he does (and, sadly, some of the things he says). Let’s concentrate instead of improving our profession – not just for CIPR members but for everyone engaged in all the different branches of public relations activities – so that we can show the value of our profession and change public perception of it.

Oooh: you know what the PR profession could do with? A really good publicist…

Edited 30 October 2012 owing to a small typo.

A classic example, one feels, of how to make a story where none should ever exist.

Should George Osbourne be allowed to travel in First Class, in order to avoid sitting with everyone else / do some work / sleep?

Absolutely.

Should he try to do it for free, on the grounds that he’s the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Absolutely not.

I’ve travelled in First Class: I can either buy a First Class ticket or pay the upgrade. In not paying – and worse yet, seemingly getting his aide to do the negotiating – he’s made a story that hands his opponents with some jucy material and gives his own PR people extra work to do.

Or, perhaps, it’s just that in order to climb the greasy pole you need to leave your common sense behind to lighten the load?

Yesterday was the Third Annual Nigel Scott Charity Pub Quiz.

Which is always a good laugh, and great to see so many PR people turn up (well over 100), and last year’s winners one again. One or two minor disasters… like running out of food, again. And with it being held at a casino, you had to 18 years old at least to get in (which is why Nigel’s widow, Melanie, couldn’t – she’d brought her youngest with her).

What made is fun for me was that I was in a team of three, with two friends and we came equal-sixth, just seven points behind the winners, who had a full team of 10!

Roll on next year…

Self-portrait of the photographer as a double-chinned fashion icon.
Self-portrait of the photographer as a double-chinned fashion icon.

So: middle of last month, and my off-road marathon-running friend and I decided on a morning out, traipsing round the Dales near to Long Preston.

Now, I am not the fastest walker in the world, but I do enjoy it. And it was a chance to spend time with a chum and have a natter (when I had the breath to speak).

I thought it would be good to show the route we took – but of course, the technology is never that simple, is it? Firstly, I had to download Google Earth, as some of our trail was off-road. Mapped all the route out just fine, then thought I’d import it into Google Maps so that I could ‘finesse’ the route (yes, I can be a bit anal on such things).

Google Maps pulled the single route in as three different routes, all connected, all of different lengths. I know this because I was able to colour them differently. Now, you think that Google Earth and Google Maps would talk to each other, as it were, rather than doing this just to annoy the chuff out of me…

And what I can’t do is show exactly where on the route the picture above was taken (somewhere near the top, on the return leg).

But who knows, if we ever hit the trails again I might open up a whole new walks & maps section of this site.

I know I’m late to the game, but I really do like this video. And it’s a good example of how WordPress uses oEmbed.

Me, Megan and Shirley.
Me, Megan and Shirley.

One of the more pleasant duties as 2IC CIPR Y&L is that I get to stand in for the Chair when they’re not available. Last year it was at the PRide Awards Dinner; this year I got to present the medal to the best student on the BA Public Relations course at Leeds Metropolitan University. By amazing good fortune she happened to be the person who was Trophy Assistant at the Awards Dinner – handy, when it came to making a short speech I wasn’t warned I had to give.

The presentation was on 27 July and a copy of the photo came through today. I’m the one on the left.

On a personal note, the Olympics has been quite fun so far. I know three of the squad of 18 in the Team GB Women’s Football team (Steph Houghton, Sophie Bradley, Ellen White) and two of the standbys (Jess Clarke and Emma Higgins) because they used to play for Leeds United Ladies (disclaimer: I still volunteer there, just). As did co-commentator Lucy Ward. As did studio pundit Sue Smith (disclaimer: I host and developed her current web site).

I’m loving the fencing. As I only have Freeview I’m limited to what Auntie shows me, and this morning they showed the Men’s Team Foil match between Team GB and Italy. Italy has the top two men foilists in the world, so losing 40-45 is very respectable. Foil fencing was the only event I wanted a ticket for (one measly ticket, and I missed out).

But the rowing on Friday… Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger. You know when a face looks familiar but you can’t remember why? Finally came to me. In 2009, Leeds United (Carnegie) Ladies picked up the Club Media Award at the FA Women’s Awards, which was the first one I attended. So, as Media Guru, I got volunteered to pick up the award… from Katherine Grainger.

Great, thinks I, there must be a photo somewhere I can make my profile photo on Facebook. And having found it, it will never see the light of day. Two reasons:

1) I wasn’t ready for the photo, so I look a right grump;

2) Both Katherine and Robbie Earle – host of the Awards that year – tower over me.

Even my mum’s not going to see that photo.