PR Arrogance: Case Study – Stuart Bruce of Wolfstar Consultancy

Not having much luck with the PR profession lately.

Let's take the case of Stuart Bruce of Wolfstar Consultancy.

In July of this year, Stuart came to us with his weblog which he wanted to move from Typepad to WordPress rather urgently. He dropped the future work promise very early:

Just need to move the A PR Guy's Musings blog. It is quite highly ranked so it is important that the permalinks move properly. As I run a global PR company specialising in social media I might potentially have other WordPress development work in the near future.

Fortunately I don't fall for that kind of talk anymore. "Future work" is kind of like the guy on the first date promising that it's not just a one-night stand.

No worries. We aim to help people get out of Typepad. Typepad to WordPress is not really a money maker for us in comparison to the other work we do, as it is such painstaking work (thanks Anil). We just want to help others get out of the nightmare situation of having years of their lives locked into a limited and rotting system (the so called improvements actually made Typepad worse and less search engine friendly, i.e. numbered images).

We do get lots of additional work from the people we help from Typepad to WordPress, as they are invariably impressed at the smoothness of the move and how quickly they are reindexed in Google and how pleasant and helpful our team is. We work hard at this. No reason on this earth that web designers and programmers should be unhelpful and incommunicative.

There is no obligation for follow-up work. We're happy to help. But we are not happy not to be paid. Nor are we happy to have to send out a manhunt to get paid. Not only did Stuart Bruce not pay his invoice, he just disappeared without saying thank you or even letting us know the job was finished.

Repeated contact brought absolutely no response.

Apparently Stuart Bruce doesn't think much of web designers. Here's what he wrote about why decided to go with Typepad instead of WordPress back in 2005 (emphasis mine):

I’ve experimented with both Movable Type and WordPress but decided to go with Typepad because that’s what I’m already using for several clients. As it has the ability to import/export posts I can always change the platform later.

Despite the recent problems with Typepad I still have faith in it. It remains a good solution for small businesses and organisations (although the Yahoo Movable Type offering might present a viable alternative). Movable Type and WordPress might both be better, but a business that doesn’t have an IT person needs something that it much easier to install and maintain.

Even in 2006, he's still cursing technology and throwing around the geek epithet (emphasis mine):

Typepad – despite the outages it is still the best platform to introduce people and if used with your own mapped domain is ‘business grade’ for SMEs/SMBs. Unless you are a geek or have an IT department to support you then and Movable Type are just too hard. Most SMEs/SMBs aren’t geeks, don’t have an IT department and don’t have time to mess around. Time is more precious than 0.0005% annual server downtime!

Stuart, you'd like your clients to hire professional PR people (who for inexplicable reasons generally cost far more than competent help setting up a weblog or even a good designer) but not competent tech support?

  • Properly set up WordPress will do wonders for your search engine results.
  • A strong design will do wonder for your branding.
  • WordPress can serve as a full-blown website with advanced programming integrated into the core. Check out our Canadian life insurance site for what can be done in WordPress, so there is room to grow. Unlike in Typepad where you run into a brick wall as soon as you want to leave the blog format.
  • WordPress is built on open source so your data remains your own and doesn't get surreptitiously encoded into the SixApart data hoard from which it is nearly impossible to rescue it.

In any case, Stuart Bruce is not using Typepad anymore. Being cheap up front cost him a fair amount of money (although very little trouble as he engaged us for Typepad to WordPress) to get out of Typepad. Stuart did have a nice site as we set it up until he decided to go the DIY route and put in one of the worst contact form plugins I've ever seen (the original source is here for perusal and posterity: hopefully Stuart will correct this after he reads this article - free tips, saving money on his IT bill again).

Free IT Tips for Stuart Bruce/Wolfstar Consultancy

  1. Stuart: You'd have more luck with WordPress if you'd had us build your contact form. Your pages are 70% unnecessary gunk for your shoddy DIY contact form Stuart.
  2. Stuart: your site is throwing a lot of 500 errors. If you hadn't cheaped out and gone with you wouldn't have those. No need to blame WordPress for the shoddy hosting you chose.

I hope for the sake of his clients that Stuart makes better tech recommendations when they are paying the freight than he does for himself.

Leaving WordPress, Typepad and the web behind, I have a few general business tips for Stuart Bruce and Wolfstar Consultancy.

Free General Business Tips for Stuart Bruce/Wolfstar Consultancy

  1. Tip #1: when you ask for special consideration, it's considered good form to say thank you for a job well done.
  2. Tip #2: when you ask for special consideration, pay your bills promptly.
  3. Tip #3: when employing an SEO company (poor you Stuart, you thought we were just a bunch of web coolies to stomp on), don't try and pull a runner.
  4. Tip #4: Don't have old-school English biddies from your accounting department give lectures on "how things are done in England", i.e. "We only pay paper invoices, not online ones." You had no problems paying the deposit, I don't see why it was so difficult to pay the balance.
  5. Tip #5: Don't have your assistant lecture said director of web design and SEO company about how busy you are: "Stuart Bruce is a very busy man and director of this company. He doesn't have time to correspond with suppliers."

Thanks for nothing, Stuart. Chasing you around for payment for two months was actually worth more than the price of your order. Martin also really appreciated working over the weekend on your rush job and then receiving neither private thanks nor public acknowledgement.

I hope your clients treat you better than you treat your suppliers.

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2 Responses to PR Arrogance: Case Study – Stuart Bruce of Wolfstar Consultancy

  1. Hi Alec – I just wanted to let you know I’d seen this and I’m disappointed that this has become such a big issue for you.

    I know you’d sent emails through but as they were marked as invoices and not statements I’m afraid I missed them. My fault. You telephoned to chase it for the first time on Thursday and spoke to our office manager who asked you to email an invoice to her so we could pay it. We are a small business like you so I was keen to ensure we turned this around. However from what I can see nothing went to Ruth, but you did send another ‘statement’ to me.

    I appreciate your anxiety but it would have been far better to have sent the right thing i.e. an invoice, to the right person, and if you could have picked up the phone and chased or re-confirmed what it was we needed to do we could have got the money to you by now.

    We value our relationships and always strive to do better.

  2. Hello Stuart,

    I did send the invoice (about five times).

    I did send emails. You ignored them.

    I did call. You did not take my calls.

    I really don’t know why you think I should have to chase you around for two months for a few hundred dollars. That is a total disrespect for my time.

    My personal hypothesis is that you thought it was a small enough sum that if you avoided me long enough, I’d just forget about it.

    Your mistake. I suggest you don’t make it again.

    Our Typepad to WordPress service is very competitively priced and does not include dunning.

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