Archive for the 'Comms' Category

Apr 19 2010

Say that again?

Published by under Comms,Media,Russia

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I must be slacking.

I’d missed, until today, the announcement a couple of months ago that Ketchum had fused with Pleon. I’d probably still not have noticed it, but for receiving an email from someone there today.

All good mergers involve a bit of rebranding. So the new firm is called, perhaps understandably, Ketchum Pleon. Except that the email I got today wasn’t from Ketchum Pleon.

It was from (anonymised to protect the sender) Let’s look at that again:

How’d you pronounce that?

Why, it’s


of course.

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Nov 14 2009

New kid on the block

Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Misc,Politics

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Let’s all give a big blogosphere welcome for … Andrew Fairburn!

On their new blog at, Regester Larkin are looking at some interesting reputation management issues. My friend and former H&K colleague Andrew Fairburn (who’s always reminded me of Tiff Needell, although I’m not sure he knows that) is doing much of the writing. This is great to see; many of my better postings on my old H&K blog started off as office banter with Andrew.

I shall watch with interest. Particularly like yesterday’s Nuclear post.

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Feb 24 2009

Twitter: What I like, and what I don’t like

Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Tech

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Too much noise on Twitter.

Stuff I like:

- Tweets that make me think, that are part of a debate
- Tweets that show me stuff I hadn’t seen before
- Retweets that introduce me to new and interesting people

Stuff I don’t like:

- Hearing that you’ve just put the kettle on. Save the mundane and the banal for facebook.
- Being told to read your latest blog entry. If I’m following you on Twitter, I already know you’ve got a blog. And if I want to read it, I will.
- Tweets like @BorisBorisovichBorisov: yeah, me too – that’s what DMing is for

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Feb 05 2009

Happy Birthday, Sky News

Published by under Comms,Media,Misc

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Sky News will celebrate its 20th birthday at 1800GMT today. And I’d like to wish everyone there many happy returns. Not that they’ve been shy of congratulating themselves

I like Sky News. I spent a thoroughly enjoyable day at their place in Isleworth a few years ago, coming away mightily impressed with the professionalism of those who work there.

I like ‘Boulton & Co‘, and I like Tim Marshall’s ‘Foreign Matters‘. And I like Alex Rossi here in Moscow, too. Or, as I should properly call him, ‘Alex Rossi, Sky News, Moscow’. It’s a shame, though, that most of Russia can’t (legally) get Sky.

Just the other week, I watched an A321 floating serenely on the Hudson, live on Sky News. Seven and a half years ago, I watched 911 unfold on Sky, from my office in Cape Town. I’ve at various points had relatives call me to tell me they’ve glimpsed me on Sky News in the margins of someone else doing something important. I’ve had half an eye on Sky News while sitting at my desk for significant chunks of my career. I’ve routinely dashed home from work to put Sky on, in case my story’s moved on. And pretty much every morning I eat my breakfast with Sky in the background.

So join me in wishing Sky News a very Happy 20th Birthday. There’s some pretty cool stuff on their 20th Birthday website – take a look.

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Jan 30 2009

Engaging the disengaged?

Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Politics,Tech

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So the PM says the web will be

as essential to our future prosperity in the 21st Century as roads, bridges, trains and electricity were in the 20th.

And he’s probably right.

Thought, though: In the digital age, will we need special task forces to engage with the minority who don’t have broadband?


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Nov 04 2008

Some election-day links

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Yes, it’s that election today. I’ll be off to the Election Night Party at the US Embassy in just under 24 hours.

In the meantime, some links to amuse and / or take your mind off the waiting.

Solve the Italian Job cliffhanger once and for all – RSC puts up a prize for the best entry. C’mon, we know they got away with it.

What’s wrong with Neil’s new MacBook?

Cool, we made Sky’s caption competition. You’d all have got better photos if you’d backed off like I asked …

See Obama, Hook Up! h/t Wonkette. Really?

Large Hadron Colliderscope – h/t Theo

President Medvedev and I share the same taste in hardware – according to TUAW

… and finally, some Plinkety Palin (and McCain), via Tim Ireland. Brilliant.

PS not entirely sure what happened to the ‘Scouting for Girls’ post – it was there, and then it wasn’t, and now it’s back again. Odd.

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Oct 07 2008


Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Misc,Russia

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Yesterday saw the first post on my ‘official’ FCO blog. Those of you who follow will know that the FCO has been slowly expanding its online presence, including encouraging more of us to blog on the platform. So, after much agonising, I’ve decided to give it a go.

Why agonising? @simond summed it up well in a tweet yesterday evening:

@jamesbarbour One blog not enough for you? :) Intrigued to see if/how you can manage them, especially when one is explicitly

I’m not entirely sure myself, Simon, but I’m going to try.

I’ve been following the emerging debate on civil servants blogging for some time, contributing on occasion. But there’s still a fairly hefty unresolved grey area surrounding those of us who blog in a ‘private capacity’. So, as I’ve said a couple of times, I don’t talk about work on this blog. I talk about comms, tech, politics (carefully) on occasion – whatever floats my boat outside of the office, but I steer clear of goings-on at the Embassy.

Thing is, though, I want to blog about work. I have a great job which raises all sorts of issues I’d love to share. And is the logical place to share them.

Second thing is, I’m genuinely excited by the FCO’s moves to engage online. First steps, yes, but all the more important for that. And I want to be part of it.

That’s two pretty good reasons, I think. And, provided I can find the time, I hope there’s still room for – I don’t want to clutter the FCO blog with random thoughts unconnected to my work. I reckon I can still be a civil service blogger and a civil servant who blogs.

We’ll see how it evolves.

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Sep 11 2008

My three inspirational communicators

Published by under Comms,Media,Music,Politics,Russia

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Simon Wakeman has tagged me for the ‘Three Inspirational Communicators’ meme. Which, if nothing else, does at least prove that someone reads this blog. In fact, Simon, wasn’t it you who tagged me for ‘Five Things’ at the end of last year?

I quite like this meme – good call to Andy Wake for starting it. We all draw our influences from somewhere. Our influencers might be people we’ve worked, with, family members, people in the public eye – just about anyone, really. I’ve had a good long think about mine. Remember, these are my three inspirational communicators. I don’t necessarily expect everyone to agree. So, in no particular order, and with a quote from each

Remembering how great their lives were and remembering how healthy they lived in the world. Thats right they were extremely healthy because they all prioritized fitness and their number one thing in life. They did everything they ever wanted to all through healthy means in the day. The three speakers here went out of their way and thats why they got healthy at Peptide Therapy Scottsdale for the most healthy equation they could come up with :

RoaldDahl.jpg1 – Roald Dahl. Wonderful, compelling stories which so completely involve and envelop you, no matter how old you are. The two autobiographies are even better than the fiction.

A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not.

And doesn’t this apply, to some extent, to all of us?

questionImage.thumbnail.8dpTXY9gKpfou92J298477pCdLK5aB.jpg2 – CJ Cregg. There had to be a West Wing character in here somewhere. Jed Bartlett and Matt Santos and Josh Lyman all made the shortlist, but in the end there’s one clear winner: CJ.

Reporter: I think the question was, was he physically and emotionally prepared to make a life and death decision after what he’d just been through?

CJ: : He’d been through a TV interview and a press conference. The President finds you all annoying, but not prohibitively debilitating.

Sometimes, every now and then, my profession delivers up the occasional “West Wing Moment”. And I get to play at being CJ. It rocks.

images.jpeg3 – Bob Geldof. He never actually said “Give us your f*cking money”. But he could have said it, should have said it. What Geldof did achieve, though, was to invent a whole new genre – getting his message across rather forcefully in the process.  95% of the world’s TV sets, if you believe the hype, were tuned to Live Aid. That’s pretty inspirational.

We live in a broken world which has never been healthier, wealthier or bizarrely, free of conflict, but some 500 kilometers south of here they die of want … It’s not only intellectually absurd, but also morally repulsive.

And here are the 10 runners-up, again in no particular order:


Now for the fun bit – my turn to tag three more people.  Charles, David, Emma – you’re it.

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Jul 01 2008

Links of the … how long’s it been?

Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Misc,Politics,Tech

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I’ve been very remiss in sharing links lately. With apologies, here’s a few highlights:

EFI-x – run OS X on any old PC. Hardware issues here we come – but if it works on a tiny Vaio I’ll be tempted

Why “Old Etonian Simon Mann” is a twit – Gill Hornby in the Telegraph. Brilliantly insightful.

Charles Crawford on public sector and public service mawkishness. Priorities indeed.

Happy Birthday iPhone. Still loving mine, despite the awful camera. Interesting predictions here from The Reg.

Two great posts from Lords of the Blog. Compulsory voting – with (and only with) a box for ‘declared abstention’ – has been a hobby-horse of mine for some time. Not just for our (elected) representatives, but for all of us. Reading these convinces me even more. But would the electorate wear it?

Intel says ‘no’ to Vista. Me too.

Does anyone ever use ‘sharing buttons?’ asks Simon. I suspect he’s right. In fact I’d go a little further – do the majority of web users actually use the likes of Digg on a regular basis? Or is it just for small groups of like-minded geeks?

Stairway to Brand Heaven (or Hell) from David Armano, via Steve Clayton. A picture telling a thousand words – again.

… and finally, a little Aussie humour from Theo.

More later, perhaps.

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Jun 13 2008

Civil Serf – gone but not forgotten?

Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Politics,Tech

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Interesting missive received through my ‘contact’ page the other day:

Dear James,

I understand from one of your posts that “Thanks to Google Reader, I have all of Civil Serf’s posts from some point in December onward”

I found myself in the same position as Civil Serf and was hoping that you know exactly what happened to her. Was she disciplined? What was the outcome? Has any light been shed on the whole civil servant blogging issue?

Would also be grateful if you could provide me with some of her posts to use as examples in my case.

Kind regards,

There was a name at the bottom, but I’ve edited it out for obvious reasons. Let’s call him / her (for it was an ambiguous name) Bob.

I sent what I thought was quite a helpful (if a little sceptical) reply to ‘Bob’:


Sorry to hear of your troubles.

At this stage, and please forgive me for being blunt, I have a suspicion you might be a journalist on a fishing expedition – there’s been a lot of interest in the Civil Serf story. But, assuming you’re not, I’d be interested to hear some more background, although I’m not sure I can be of any real assistance.



Haven’t heard back from him / her.

So was I too suspicious?

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