Archive for October, 2008

Google Ad Words And The US Election

Friday, October 31st, 2008 by Mark Hanson


Google has taken a huge amount of campaign dollars in this Presidential election and its argued that the two candidates that have made best use of it are the two chosen by their Parties to fight it out on Nov 4th.

Both McCain and Obama spent big and early on paid search. Anyone that searched for particular terms that were closely associated with either campaign during the primary season would have found sponsored links to Obama or McCain sites. The main objective was to start to build up list of supporters’ email addresses. People who you get to to do things and give you money! Hillary Clinton came in late to this tactic and suffered for it with a much smaller volunteer list.

The key is to keep an eye on search trends and ensure you are responding properly with your Ad Word messages and where you point people to. This is current data from Hitwise on search trends. It shows people are no longer researching issues, they are looking for where to vote. What you’ll see is both campaigns geo-targeting information on polling stations, help to get there and last minute messaging like this

EXCLUSIVE: Hillary Nearly Came To Obama’s Rescue

Friday, October 31st, 2008 by Mark Hanson


The press is full of Bill Clinton/Barack Obama’s embrace at a rally last night. It was hugely symbolic to have Mr Clinton warmly endorse Obama last night. Whilst Obama is favourite to win the race for the White House, the Democrats have been here before. Seemingly ahead in the polls, an unpopular Republican administration, huge donations, media and international sentiment behind you. Then polling day brings that sinking feeling!

Barack’s strategists have a nagging feeling, almost like toothache, that the white working class just won’t go with their man. Is it the elitist label that the Republicans are aiming at him or is it just the racial element? Either way its a problem and the so called ‘Reagan Democrats’ need to be brought into the stable.

The last Democrat that brought these people behind a Democrat candidate was a guy called Clinton and that’s why the former President turning out last night was so significant.

HOWEVER I am told from two separate sources that Mrs Clinton was ready to REACTIVATE her campaign to bring her core vote behind Obama.

Clinton paid off most of her staff just BEFORE she even announced she was pulling out of the primary race. However she has not formally closed her campaign, which you would normally do, by informing the FEC. This could be an oversight or because she hasn’t had time? Possibly, but she’s still been filing reports to them on a quarterly basis.

I have it on good authority that several members of the Clinton campaign had been contacted in the last six weeks and were putting teams of volunteers together to phone canvass their people i.e. the white working class and female voters that would’ve been Hillary supporters but are now unsure about Obama or feel that voting for him would be disloyal to Hillary.

There was also a sizeable sum put aside for Google AdWords to drive that demographic towards ‘Hillary messages’.

Of course Hillary wouldn’t be doing this purely out of Party loyalty. She eyed some influence in an Obama White House or a chance to cement her reputation as a hero for many parts of the Democrat movement.

Obama played it cute though. He saw the polls were soaring to an extent that he didn’t need to give concessions to Hillary. 

A Sign The Political Press Is Turning Against Cameron/Osborne

Friday, October 31st, 2008 by Mark Hanson

There’s been some comment on the web about a dossier put out by Labour’s new improved spin machine. It’s a very detailed research document put out by Labour to act as material for the media to ‘balance’ any reporting of Tory economic policy and announcements that come out of Osborne’s office. Juicy red meat to be used in the ‘baiting game’ so eagerly pursued by the lobby.

What’s interesting here is that this dossier is the SEVENTH to be put out by Labour but only the first to be picked up by the press. There were others on tax, crime and health with a strong media relations campaign undertaken by Party HQ during Party Conference season. But no interest, not even a side-bar against various shadow ministers’ policy pronouncements.

This tells us that the atmosphere is changing somewhat. There’s an appetite to scrutinise Cameron now and the press, which hunts as a pack, is after Osborne.

Media Future#3 – Get Out Of The Office And Find Your Audiences

Thursday, October 30th, 2008 by Mark Hanson


Most of the interesting debate around the future of journalism seems to be led by regional journalists at the moment – check out Manchester Evening News’s Sarah Hartley and the Birmingham Post’s Joanna Geary.

But I had to share with you the lessons from the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby-style road trip of the US that is being taken by the Guardian blogs editor, Kevin Anderson. He’s getting under the skin of the US election, taking a gruelling state-to-state view of how this race is playing out at grassroots. Fascinating to read and it has many lessons in how print journalists can truly adapt to a changing society. Its not just about allowing comments on your articles, publishing your email address and having flexible deadlines:)

What Kevin is doing involving his audience in the story. The destinations and topics are influenced by his audience’s input, he’s meeting real people (!) everyday and encouraging people to get in touch and meet for coffee, beer, burger…

He also understands the necessity of freeing content from within the walls of your website and taking it to where the audience is. He’s mapped his network of blogs, citizen media and played a part in that network. He’s used the full array of social networking tools to share content and taken full advantage of Twitter to stay in touch with his audience in a more personalised fashion while on the road.

To learn more about the reasons for doing this, the interesting toys he’s used and views on the future of journalism, check out this interview.

Did the Social Web ‘do’ for Ross & Brand?

Thursday, October 30th, 2008 by Rob Brown

For me there are two fascinating questions about the Brand and Ross debacle.  Why did they put out the show with the item in when it wasn’t live and why did the furore gather so much momentum in such a short time over a week after the broadcast?

Why was it broadcast?  Any fool could have guessed there would be an issue and there were some very experienced heads in the approval chain.  I believe that the reason for broadcasting may lie in the fact that by recording the messages on an answer machine the comments were already potentially in the public domain.   With the social web anyone can publish and Ross and Brand realised that.  By not broadcasting they would have acknowledged fault and the recording could still reach the public via the web.  The evidence might be there is in their comments in the a part of the programme that was edited out of the final broadcast: 

Ross: “let’s both put on striped t-shirts and break into his house, merely to delete the answerphone message – let’s see what happens. What could go wrong?” 

Brand:  “Nothing, literally, nothing could go wrong as we smash our way into Andrew Sachs’s house”

Ross: “break in like cat burglars tonight when he’s in bed”

Brand: “yes while he sleeps”

They must have felt that they had escaped censure when a week went by with no outcry but the press got hold of the story when Andrew Sachs complained.  It might have ended there but for the intervention of the social web once more.  The recording appeared on YouTube and there have been a million hits – somewhat more than the average listenership for Brand’s show.  As the hits on YouTube went up so did the complaints.  A week after the show went out there were just 69 complaints to the BBC at the last count there were more than 30,000.  A coincidence?  I doubt it.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

In with the in-crowd

Thursday, October 30th, 2008 by Jon Clements


As “Sachs-Gate” rises up the BBC hierarchy, the whole Brand/Ross furore has been an instructive lesson in crowd psychology and crisis management.

On the first point, by yesterday morning 18,000 people had complained about the offending broadcast on Russell Brand’s show. By last night, when both presenters had already been suspended and Brand, ultimately, resigned, another 11,000 had added their ire. Why? And how many of them had heard the actual radio item?

Thanks to Wise Geek for the science bit, it might be something to do with “individuals adapting to the expectations of the surrounding culture…in order to identify with the crowd”. A bit of shared experience or, in this case, a collective moan. It’s certainly a phenomenon that’s playing out in social media situations and shows how a poor response to a crisis can escalate.

It took the BBC from Sunday, when the story broke, to yesterday for the Corporation to act decisively. A Sun journalist I spoke to last night suggested it was the worst example of crisis comms he’d seen. If the BBC had apologised and suspended them both straight away, he felt, the story would have died and each presenter could have carried on as before, though probably wiser to the boundaries of public taste.

The old wag, John Cleese – no stranger to media controversy affecting comedians – says in today’s Times: “It’s important to hire people with enough taste to censor  themselves. I thought Jonathan Ross had that.”

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Will Barack Create Government 2.0?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 by Mark Hanson


My good friend Alex Hilton is in New York at the moment, helping with the Obama campaign. He’s drawn on his experiences for his PR Week column (published tomorrow) and makes the point that Obama’s successes in engaging with people and making them feel part of his campaign provide the mouthwatering prospect that he could import these principles into the White House.

Everyone said it was inevitable that young people wouldn’t vote and people of all ages would think of politicians as remote, elitist and ‘not like them’. Obama has changed that.  He’s lowered the barriers and enabled supporters to participate, own a bit of the campaign and reach each other. Its a relationship story with the internet as the facilitator.

Obama can similarly destroy the other accepted wisdom that politicans govern in ivory towers, society as we used to know it is disintegrating and we are all powerless against the ‘system’.

For an Obama government there will be greater expectations on feedback and accountability. Ideas being suggested include online forums where the public can comment on legislation, YouTube townhall style meetings where citizens can question the President and an enlightened approach to sharing information and asking people to contribute at local level to achieving improvements in their own communities.

A point made by Rebecca Knight in the FT was that he was recreating the intimacy developed by FDR’s fireside chats with the nation, seeking support from the public for his New Deal measures to revive the economy. Old principles applied in a modern setting!

Lots of potential here to take the use and knowledge of social media to a new level amongst the mass population. Lets just hope he gets elected:)

New Online Strategy For The Inde

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 by Mark Hanson


The battleground between the big mainstream media providers, or newspaper groups as they used to be called, is well and truly online. The Guardian and then the Telegraph were the pioneers and it was between the two of them for a while. It all changed when Rupert Murdoch belatedly joined the fray, after previously ignoring the growth of the internet by sticking his fingers in his ears and saying ‘lah lah lah – I can’t hear you!’ whenever it was raised by staff.

The laggard was always the Independent, whose previous editor, Simon Kellner, never saw the point of providing a free product that would give regular readers an excuse not to pay for the newspaper. However that’s changed and Kellner poached Jimmy Leach from his PR company, Freud. Leach was a key player in the original Guardian online revolution, so it will be interesting to watch developments at the Inde.

One of his first acts has been to use a ‘pull’ strategy to serve audiences. Media consumption happens in different contexts now and its much more immediate. The Telegraph has responded with enhanced web content, video, podcasts, they even trialled an an electronic newspaper with a round-up of the day’s news. Almost like a newspaper looking to deliver itself through many different letter boxes.

They also have a very sophisticated Google strategy, flooding the market with search friendly news so that people will find them almost not mattering what they search for. So its never United, it’s always ‘Manchester’ United as that’s what people search for. References to Paris Hilton are squeezed in to economic stories, everything they can do to tempt Google.

The Inde is taking a different approach. The younger, metropolitan audience takes a more pick n’ mix approach to taking in media and does it throughout the day, so the strategy is to get into as many feeds as possible.

The feeds pick up relevant content, when its generated by the Inde’s news operation and distributes it automatically to the correct feed. Anything related to the US election will go onto their Twitter/US election feed and may also find its way onto their Twitter/news feed. As the audience grows it will be interesting to see if they experiment with a bit more personality to build more of a community and an ownership of the brand amongst users in the way that brands such as Starbucks and Dell are doing and Channel 4, which has a similar audience profile to the Inde, have started to do.

PR in the Downturn

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 by Rob Brown

Batten down the hatches, most pundits are agreed, recession is here.  Forget the US rule of thumb that we have to register two successive quarters of negative GDP – we’ve already had one quarter of zero growth and all indicators suggest that contraction is underway.  That means that marketing budgets will be slashed and PR will be amongst the first to feel the chill. 

Well it’s not that simple.   Public Relations is not recession proof but it’s not usually the hardest hit either.  Companies that hold their marketing budgets in a downturn are the ones that fare best.  Harvard Business School professor John Quelch said in March this year that it is a well documented fact that brands that increase their spend in a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and the return on their investment.  There will be pressure on budgets but the smart money will still be there.

PR companies are going to play a key role in advising clients on how to navigate very difficult and for some uncharted waters.  There will be complex messages to deliver.   More than ever when times are taxing the media needs substance not fluff. 

I’ve always believed that PR thrives on the ideas and enthusiasm of its young.  It is a vital industry and the particular zeal of its youthful practitioners is a crucial part of every agency.  When the economy is in ‘bust’ business must turn to experience.  The UK largely escaped the 2001 global recession so the last time we were in a situation approaching the current one was nearly twenty years ago.   PR in the current climate won’t be seeing grown men and women running around city centres dressed as creme eggs.   Chief executives will need the knowledge and experience from PR people that were around the last time.  They will need strategic counsel and there will be growth in corporate PR and in crisis and issues management. 

When he was a young knife Matthew Freud, probably the world’s most well connected PR person said “there’s nothing sadder than a 40-year-old PR person”.  Matthew is chairman of Freud Communications. He’s 45.

A version of this article first appeared in the Manchester Evening News on Tuesday 28th October 2008.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

Brand Devaluation

Monday, October 27th, 2008 by Rob Brown


Against my better judgement I listened to the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand radio debacle, not on the radio you understand but on Youtube.  To put this in context I should say that the Jonathan Ross show on Friday night is one of my few ‘appointments to view’ on tv these days.  I’m not a big fan of Russell Brand – he’s very clever, I like reading his column in The Guardian but I find him almost impossible to listen to. 

If  you are new to this story, on Brand’s Radio 2 Saturday night show, Ross and Brand left a string of offensive answerphone messages for 78-year-old Fawlty Towers star, Andrew Sachs.  They claimed, using slightly more direct language, Brand had slept with Mr Sachs’ 23-year-old granddaughter.What I heard of the excerpts from Brand’s radio show was not what I’d expected.  We expect the f-word from both Ross and Brand and that’s fine, we want sharpness but what I heard was akin to bullying.  What was really embarrassing was that it sounded very much like they were trying to outdo each other in terms of shock value.   It felt very much like Ross (47) was trying too hard to hold onto his crown as the emperor of edge and that’s just well…not at all cool. 

We want Jonathan Ross to be cool.  That’s part of his brand and we all pay a lot of money for it and I’m not sure I want to any more.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).