Archive for November, 2008

Mumbai Terror and the Power of Radio

Friday, November 28th, 2008 by Rob Brown

When the story broke on the terror attacks in Mumbai there was much talk of news spreading through blogs and social networks like Twitter.  Details of the siege were reported minute by minute by people who were there.  There is no doubt that the rise in citizen journalism and the availability of these channels has provided a new layer of news sourcing where information comes fast and direct.

It was the medium of radio however that brought the events into vivid and immediate focus.  As the siege was taking place Jim Naughtie on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme conducted an extraordinary interview.  Business lawyer Mark Abell was barricaded in his room inside the Oberoi hotel whist the murder and mayhem was taking place.  “As I entered my room there was a massive blast …and the gunfire has been going on throughout the night” he said, “there is no escape and we haven’t heard anything from anybody.”  The immediacy and reality of the situation along with Mark’s stoic bravery was evident throughout.Mark escaped and was interviewed again on Today, 24 hours later.  He described his release and the full horror of the carnage he saw when he was escorted under armed guard through the lobby of the hotel.

Radio can deliver insight that text or still image based channels never can.   I have always been persuaded by the views of Gary Carter of FremantleMedia who argues that so called ‘old media’ are not replaced by new they continue co-exist.  He argues  “The only mass communication medium in history to have been replaced by another is the telegraph and …arguably, of course, the telegram was not a mass communication technology.”

We need to stop thinking of media in terms of “newness” and think more in terms of “richness”.   We can be seduced by something shiny and new and but we must still celebrate that which we already have.

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).

Porkie pies maketh not PR

Thursday, November 27th, 2008 by Jon Clements

 

The upshot of this week’s PR Week crisis comms event should have PR practitioners breaking out in sweaty palms.

And why not? After all, it seems like common sense that journalists don’t like being lied to.

To emphasise the point – and with great foreboding – The Times home news editor Martin Barrow warned PROs: ‘If we know you’re lying, we will work extra hard to ensure we expose you and your company.’

In the steaming cauldron of PR sins, saying “no comment” suggests you have something to hide; trying to “spin” your communications is a way of dressing up something nasty as something nice and, finally, “lying” is just plain stupid.

Anyone with the job of speaking to the media on behalf of their organisation could do worse than take the advice put succinctly in Frank Jefkins’ book, Public Relations: “If PR is to be credible, it must avoid false image making…the media are prejudiced about PR to the extent of expecting false image polishing.”

If you’re lucky, the instances of having to break bad news to the wider world while journalists or bloggers bay for blood at your gates will be rare. And when it does happen, there are ways of tackling it – but lying isn’t one of them.

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 ''

Strictly Done Dancing …or is he?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 by Rob Brown

So John Sergeant has quit the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing after a barrage of complaints from the show’s judges.  It’s not something that I would usually find too troublesome as I’m not an avid viewer but the BBC has got it badly wrong here.  Strictly Come Dancing isn’t a genuine competition (it’s not even a genuine name – but the bastard offspring of ‘Come Dancing’ and the film ‘Strictly Ballroom’).

Shows like this rely on votes.  The voting, and therefore paying public have said quite clearly that they want to watch Sergeant strut his stuff.  This is Saturday night entertainment not an exercise in ballroom excellence.  Hounding John off the programme isn’t what the audience wants and they will say so loud and clear – cue national campaign of outrage through the media and on the web.   This kind of approach is also so outdated.  In a web 2.0 world where the audience can talk back it is no longer acceptable to treat their wishes with contempt. 

Judge Arlene Phillips said: “I’m always sad if a contestant leaves of choice, because you are always expecting to let the public vote them in or out – but John is his own person and he has his own reasons for doing this.”  Oh, come on Arlene.

Unless of course this is all just a brilliant publicity stunt in the classic showbiz mould.  Sergeant leaves, public outcry ensues and Sergeant waltzes back on to the show to dance his way to victory.  Stay tuned.  

    

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).

Manchester’s Social Media Cafe in film

Monday, November 17th, 2008 by Jon Clements

The recent launch of Manchester’s Social Media Cafe (#smc_mcr) brought like-minded people together to debate social media’s present and future.

Two of the people instrumental in Manchester’s burgeoning social media scene, Chi-chi Ekweozor of Real Fresh TV and Sarah Hartley, Head of Online Editorial at the Manchester Evening News (MEN), spoke to Staniforth after the event and we’ve captured it for you here on film.

Chi-chi considers the value of the Social Media Cafe concept, the growth of podcasts and video along with comparisons and contrasts between UK and US social media activity.

Sarah looks at the origins of her interest in digital media, the development of the MEN web presence and how journalists are integrating with new media.

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 ''

Twitter’s got the X-Factor

Monday, November 17th, 2008 by Rob Brown

This blog has got the scoop more than once on the emergence of twitter as a way for the entertainment industry to engage with fandom.  Andy Murray was one of the first to serve up insight bites from his life on the tennis pro-circuit.  More recently Stephen Fry  has amassed a gargantuan following whilst he travels through Africa filming ‘Last Chance to See’.

The latest “twend” (that’s a twitter trend…) is for tv shows to have a presence both to publicise the show, talk directly to viewers and to be first with the latest news “we plan to tweet stuff before it goes anywhere else” says the official twitter for ‘I’m A Celebrity …Get Me Out Of Here!”   Well it may be breaking news but it’s to an exclusive audience. There were less than 75 of us when the first episode of the season went live to a rather more substantial 8.9 million.

What the TV publicity machine doesn’t quite get yet is that the conversation has to be real, engaging and genuinely two way, something Mr Fry undoubtedly understands.   The authentic voice of an individual also carries more weight on the web that the call of the corporate even one “off the telly”. 

Other TV shows with a presence on Twitter include the X-Factor (59 followers)*, Coronation Street (41 followers)* and Emmerdale (just sweet sixteen)*.  It seems that it’s not quite over for ‘old media’ just yet.

* all figures accurate at the time of going to press…er I mean clicking the ‘publish’ button.  

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).

‘Ave a heart, Avatar

Monday, November 17th, 2008 by Jon Clements

As relationships go in the wired world, it’s been a weird week.

Real-life husband and wife, Dave Pollard and Amy Taylor, of Newquay, Cornwall – who originally met in virtual online world, Second Life – divorced after Mr Pollard was caught having cyber sex (to be precise, his Second Life persona and avatar, Dave Barmy, was) with another virtual person. For those who haven’t experienced Second Life, divorce might seem a bit extreme, as amorous avatar-ing is about as physical as a saucy text message, if not less so.

As a reader of the story comments: “This has got to be the dumbest thing I have read in a long time.”

But activities in virtual worlds, like Second Life, are becoming increasingly a part of people’s lives. Think 3-D chatroom, which allows you to bump into a myriad of other virtual people seeking virtual fun. I tried it myself; got an avatar and wandered around trippy-looking animations wondering what on earth to do.

And- literally – whatever you want to do, you can in Second Life, without suffering any of the ill after-effects of First Life hedonism (or so Mr Pollard thought). But after a while, it just became boring as well as having some glitch causing my avatar to continually morph into a facsimile of Bee Gee, Barry Gibb. Suddenly, it seemed like hard work which had no link with First Life – and everyone needs a screen break sometime. 

But Victor Keegan writing in The Observer is clearly an advocate, having bought land in Second Life, launching a book of poetry there as well as an art gallery. What’s interesting in his analysis is that the adults of tomorrow now provide millions of participants to various virtual worlds. So, as weird as it might seem to the mainstream today, it could well be our mainstream future. And people such as online entrepreneur, Jon Jacobs are making real life money out of it.

Clearly doing business in Second Life has been a success story for some, but is it really a place for larger companies? There has to be a note of caution when companies are thinking of ways to engage with social media. Just because it’s there doesn’t automatically mean you should be in it. For it to stand a chance, there has to be a meaningful and relevant connection between the organisation, the social medium and that medium’s users. A survey into the better performing larger companies on Second Life suggests it can be done, but (and I apologise for this) the data on these developments are now so old it’s difficult to tell whether a. corporations in SL are quietly getting on with the business of making money or b. it’s such a flop, everyone’s keeping their virtual mouths shut.

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 ''

The social media pool – just dive in?

Friday, November 14th, 2008 by Jon Clements

 

“Hungrier, less complacent and more willing to embrace new media” for business.

That’s just one view why the US’s fastest-growing private companies – The Inc.500 – are giving the Fortune 500 a beating in terms of social media uptake, including use of blogs, online video and podcasting.

The findings come from what The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth claims to be the first statistically significant reseach into the use of social media in companies.

Comparing last year with this, 11.6% of the Fortune 500 have a public blog against 39% of the Inc.500.  Only 3.6% more of the largest US corporations joined the blogosphere in the period, while 20% of private firms signed up. Now, nearly half (44%) of the Inc.500 companies reckon social media is “very important” to their marketing/business strategy – up nearly 20% on last year.

So, what’s bugging the bigger beasts in the forest about social media? And if this is the case in the States, where does that leave the biggest UK companies? The topic surfaced at this week’s Social Media Cafe launch (#smc_mcr) in Manchester, where it was agreed that large businesses tend to baulk at what they see as the uncontrollable world of social media.

Craig McGinty, with typical candour, told the assembled bloggers and social media-ites at the #smc_mcr: “It needs someone with the cahunas to get things going. But that means taking small steps, dipping their toe in and using a small team which can begin to feel comfortable with it.”

This suggests that despite the fears among gatekeepers, lawyers, compliance departments and whatnot within the larger organisations, the communications world is moving that way and companies run the risk of being left behind. 

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 ''

Ain’t she Tweet

Thursday, November 13th, 2008 by Jon Clements

Just when you’re waiting for something about Twitter to come along, a digital truck load arrives all at once.

Albert Maruggi – always a reliable listen – has a great podcast about how Twitter is more than just a way of micro blogging what you’re doing from minute to minute (though that happens too). He interviews Julio Ojeda-Zapata about his book “Twitter Means Business” and how Twitter can help build relationships with businesses and journalists.

Uber-blogger, Chris Brogan, gives a more personal take on what Twitter means to him plus some strategies on how to get the best out of it, without Twitter becoming a full-time job.

Finally, Stephen Davies over at PR Blogger, has created a roll-call (or Hall of Shame, depending on your viewpoint) of PR people now, officially, Twitter addicts.

As recession looms, anyone with a line in therapy for digital addictions is going to mop up.

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 ''

So is Blogging Journalism?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 by Linda Isted

The question (darling of media courses world wide) came up because it occurred to me that the reason I’m not an instinctive blogger is because it still says journalist on my passport. 

What journalists are supposed to do (foundation PR course 1.01 coming up) is news.  They ask questions, take notes, ask more questions, establish the facts, gather representative opinions and present it back in their audience’s favoured style. 

Most reporters firmly believe that journalists are born not made.  Which is why they are generally badly-paid, are prepared to sit through council meetings and corporate PR events and will always swing the car round to follow the third siren.  After five years away from a newsdesk I was still excited that the tip off I called into my local paper turned into a front page story. 

Journalism is the fourth estate (look it up), a cornerstone of democracy, blah blah.  But at the heart of all the self-importance is the absolute belief that news matters and opinion is a totally different beast. 

Opinion has always been cheap; columnists increased in inverse proportion to the profitability of newspapers.  Nothing wrong with cheap (preferably with one of its usual companions: cheerful, chic, and best of all, dirty), but let’s not pretend that it has the value of a real story.

What blogging does brilliantly, of course, is gossip and the uncorroborated.  In the early days of t’internet, a news editor at the FT told me that from his perspective virtually everything online was unchecked and uncheckable – and a serious journalist should be very scared of it.

I think the point is that while some journalists may blog, very, very few blogs are journalism.   Whether or not they are PR is another story…

Google Health Service

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 by Rob Brown

Google’s relentless march to world domination has taken another step with the realisation that the Google Trends search may play a powerful role in the prevention of the spread of viruses and infectious disease.

‘Google Flu trends’ uses a selection of search terms to predict how many people in a particular area are searching for relevant information about flu.   Not only have they found that there is an incredible correlation between these searches and numbers of actual cases of flu but they can show incidence of flu far faster than the current official channels in the United States. 

Google compared its data with that from a surveillance system managed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   Because of the time lag in collating and checking data Google believes it can accurately estimate flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports.  On January 28th 2008 Google flu trends showed a marked increase in ‘flu related searches in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, the available published CDC data showed no detectable increase for another week. 

Google has compared their search data with that of ‘influenza like illnesses’ tracked by the CDC over four years and there is a very close match between the two data sets.   The speed at which the Google data is available could prove to be of major importance in the case of a pandemic.  It would allow epidemiologists crucial extra time to respond to an outbreak, perhaps saving tens or even hundreds of thousands of lives. 

With the sheer volume of searches conducted on Google this real time trend tracking could be used to spot outbreaks of a range of illnesses or identify hot spots for disease giving public health services more time and more information, vital commodities in the battle against ill health.    

    

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).