Archive for February, 2009

How Do You Measure A Smile?

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 by Mark Hanson

 

I do most of my best thinking on holiday and my favourite place to go is the US. My bestest friends live there, I’m obsessed with US politics and media and I generally love the people.

One of the things that always makes an impression on me is the hotel staff. Always friendly and helpful, not (just) in an obviously fake way but asking you the kind of questions that conveys some kind of interest in you having a good time. Frontline staff are such great PR!

I smiled when I noticed this from Josh Bernoff. He stayed at a Hyatt Hotel recently and had to complain. Next time he stayed there he arrived at his room to find nice food and drink and a special note from the manager.

They’d obviously logged him and his complaint somewhere….and done something small but significant that showed they listened and value him.

I don’t know if Hyatt are savvy in social media but they sound like the sort of company that would be.

Why the client/agency love-in works

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 by Jon Clements

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Companies will, no doubt, say that PR agencies don’t always live up to the heady promises made in the heat of the client pitch. Anyone working in PR who disagrees with that should be washing their mouth out with soap.

But companies procuring PR are sometimes equally guilty of not getting the best out of their agencies. Versus buying stationery or getting the photocopier repaired, buying PR is different. That might seem obvious, but despite the agency/client relationship working best as a true partnership,  some businesses still behave as if an agency is just another supplier.

Yet some of the most visceral exchanges I’ve ever seen in business relationships occur between a client and its PR agency. Why? Because the reputation of a company, the success of promoting what it does and the vital connections it needs to build with its audiences – be they customers, neighbours, stakeholders, media or the CEO’s wife – are all critical. The best agencies understand this dynamic and don’t take it lightly.

So, creating an environment in which a company can really share the responsibility for the business’ future with its agency (the guy who comes in to water the plants or check the rodent poison won’t offer this) will engender a united approach to the task. A wise business trainer once suggested that there is no client and supplier, just an objective which we all need to treat as the client. 

Sure, you might say, of course PR Media Blog would come out with all this malarkey. So, in the interest of unbiased reporting, I’ll hand you over to Nicole Jordan, a marketing and PR professional on the client side in LA, who has been willing to share her views on getting the best from PR agencies with Todd Defren’s PR Squared blog.

And thanks to Todd, for being willing to let a former client air her views on PR, with his company her most recent experience.

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 power of the Tweet

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 by Cat Breckwoldt

 

After being very careful not to mention brands, especially clients, in my tweets as I did not want to provoke any controversy, I was so frustrated with one aspect of the Gorkana Database (a media directory for PR people) that I decided to break my own rule and tweet about it!

‘Cat Breckwoldt can’t believe Gorkana regional mapping function STILL isn’t working!! But I am happy that the speed for the rest of the website has improved.’

I posted this on Twitter at approximately 3.53pm on Friday 20th February, thought nothing of it and continued working until 4.54pm when an e-mail from Gorkana popped into my inbox! After noticing my recent comment on their regional mapping section, they sent me a very apologetic e-mail, apologising for the maintenance work taking place to the site and promised to have it back up again and working soon.

I feel this highlights two major points: first of all the power of Twitter to communicate problems and voice one’s opinions in a very public forum. This is a very powerful tool for brands who want to communicate directly with customers and proves how influential social media can be for companies to solve any problems that their customers may be encountering.

Second, it highlights that you should always be aware of who may be watching or following you.  In the world of social media nothing is private, as George Orwell says in 1984 ‘Big Brother is watching you.’ Remember this before your next Tweet.

Is it just monkey business?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 by Rekha Purwaha

Last week, the Murdoch-owned, clearly Republican, New York Post, published a cartoon of a monkey shot dead by police (this actually happened earlier in the week in the city).

The sketch caused outcry and mass demonstrations have been held outside the NYP offices calling for a public apology to be printed in the paper and for the resignation of the editor who allowed the cartoon to be published.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, the caption to the sketch read: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill”. This clearly relates to the stimulus bill which President Obama had just signed that week.

On publication, the NYP was at the receiving end of much criticism and subsequently published an apology the very next day stating the sketch was simply conveying their views about the bill which they feel is ‘ineptly written’ and that this was not ‘a thinly veiled expression of racism’.

There’s no denying the cartoon evokes strong, racist references and would inevitably cause an outcry from the public – especially as the world is still on such a high over the appointment of the US’s first black president.

The NYP vehemently denies any racist motive behind the sketch but apparently, on the page before the cartoon appeared, there was a big picture of Obama signing the bill – to me it seems it wouldn’t be hard for the reader to put the two together…

Of course, opinion seems to be divided as to whether this was intentionally racist or not.

The Huffington Post strongly disagrees with the NYP’s defence that “sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon” arguing that “media images can sway a country to war” and newspapers tend to be a reflection of their communities, deciding who is in favour at a particular time and who is not. On the other hand, a Conservative blogger has similar strong feelings about the cartoon but argues that there are clearly double standards going on here as there have been many cartoons of George W Bush in the past and no one batted an eye lid.

That all said, does this not show a lack of judgement and insensitivity on behalf of the paper? Any person with half a brain would know that this kind of cartoon would be open to interpretation and therefore cause huge debate, and not just on a national scale.

I also wonder what kind of effect this might have on the NYP’s sales as there is so much support for Obama in America? Could this kind of negative publicity have an adverse affect on the sales of the paper? Especially at a time when online is growing so much?

See the cartoon, then read the apology – make up your own mind…

Digital kindness – a new concept?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 by Jon Clements

2009 is supposed to be the year more companies finally decide that social media is not just for the kids, but as integral a part of business as having a call centre, buying ad space, sending out news stories, etc.

But how should the bigger companies and brands – often steeped in a particular way of marketing themselves – make best use of the new tools and ways of working?

First things first: while there are new tools (Twitter, Facebook, et al), many of the ways of working are not so new; they are just being delivered in a different way. Listening to customers and meeting their needs – it’s been going on a lot longer than we have.

Valeria Maltoni’s Conversation Age blog gives a good appraisal of how companies should be responding to the “diminishing returns from traditional marketing”.

She talks about being able to read “digital body language” – how consumers behave online – and how business needs to recognise that control of the buying decision is now very much in the hands of the buyer.

Maltoni also highlights the importance of the impression companies make online, creating compelling content, measuring interaction and being willing to give to online communities rather than aspiring to control them.

One of the comments on her post, from social media monitoring firm, Radian6’s David Alston, emphasises that the principles that work online have been present for some time offline. He cites the example of an effective clothes shop salesperson who reads the customer well enough to know when to approach and how to be helpful, so heightening the chance of a sale – or, at very least, a conversation.

In its simplest form, effective online interaction with your audience could be deemed as “kindness”. BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week debated a new book on the subject – “On Kindness” by psychoanalyst, Adam Philips – which suggests that, in our society, being kind has become a sort of guilty pleasure rather than an instinctive response. The book says the preferable route is having a “sympathetic identification” with others.

Without wanting to – heaven forbid – come over all touchy feely, isn’t that the essence of social media? And when companies grasp that, is it not a more commercially beneficial approach to the “non-engagement policy” mentioned in some recent PR Media Blog comments?

Whether you are at the point of unravelling the myths of social media  or not, it’s certainly time to participate.

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

Seeing Red for Comic Relief

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 by Rob Brown

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People are painting social networks red to publicise their support for Comic Relief.  Individuals are changing their profile pictures on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere to red squares to demonstrate their allegiance to the charity.  As red nose day approaches expect these square to pop up all over the social media space. It already has the backing of high profile media influencers Chris Moyles producer (@ahf on twitter) was one of the first to go red.

This phenomenon is not entirely new.  In the last ten days campaigners have been using black squares to show their opposition to  New Zealand’s controversial ‘three strikes’ copyright law which would mean that if a person is accused of downloading copyrighted material three times their internet account would face closure – even if there is no proof to the allegations.

Stephen Fry was one of the highest profile campaigners replacing his Twitter picture with a black square.   There is no hard evidence that the campaign worked but New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has revealed that the implementation of the law will now take place on 27 March this year.

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).

Kit Kat Web Ad Does Nothing

Friday, February 20th, 2009 by Rob Brown

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Friday night is no time to post so I’m going to keep it snappy and then take a break.  I simply wanted to record my glowing admiration for the latest Kit Kat campaign.

It is simplicity itself. The first worldwide website where nothing happens does nothing but invite visitors to take a break and the branding is just visible enough to make the point.  It is bang on brand, reinforces the core message and it uses the web in an innovative way.   It also takes real advantage of the trend towards word of mouth communication across the social web.  My recommendation to view the site came via twitter from the Guardian’s Jemima Kiss, no less.  Fans and followers of Jemima will understand just what an achievement that is.

  

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).

I only asked a question…

Friday, February 20th, 2009 by Jon Clements

It’s the interview, and interviewee, from hell…

A Fox news presenter tries to get some sense (and a straight answer) out of Mayor Virg Bernaro of Lansing, Michigan, whose constituents are likely to be affected by General Motors’ production cutbacks.

Frankly, neither of them come out of this well. And never has a “thank you very much” for the interview sounded quite so hollow.

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

What are you talking about?

Friday, February 20th, 2009 by Jon Clements

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I’m going to run this up the flag pole and see who salutes it; but before I do that, I might parachute in some ideas to help the blue sky thinking that’s going on around here.

If you haven’t reached for a loaded firearm yet, what’s stopping you? How difficult can it be – in business – for people to say what they mean?

Yet we are plagued with meaningless, lazy phrases that have spread with viral efficiency through our working lives so that we use them now without even registering how ludicrous they are. It has inspired some office pastimes, such as totting up the number of nonsense words your colleagues and clients come up with in meetings (Bull**** bingo, anyone?) but shouldn’t we rather be finding the right words instead? Didn’t David Brent do enough to lampoon the habit of some managers to talk in riddles?

So, when people start throwing around words like “value add”, you’re probably doing them a favour to ask “what do you mean by that?”

David Silverman over at Harvard Business has listed his top 10 “most pompous business words and phrases” he’d “never like to see or hear again”. What are yours?

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

News in an instant (coffee)

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by Jon Clements

Maybe it’s the relentless onslaught of appalling economic news that makes us long for something lighter; maybe it really is important. So why is the world jumping like beans for the launch of a Starbucks brand of instant coffee, Via Ready Brew?

Well, for those who like their lattes skinny or fat, it’s a big deal that such an iconic global chain of coffee shops is venturing into a product that most Americans hate (statistics here claim only 7% of the US population drink the stuff, against 81% of Britons).

Harvard Business School professor, John Quelch, sees Starbucks’ move as showing “great commercial courage” and “innovation”  in a section of the coffee business that has been “an unspeakable wasteland” (boy, the Yanks really do hate instant coffee!). John Moore at Brand Autopsy begs to differ, viewing Via as a “distraction” that won’t help the company save its core business of selling upmarket coffee in easy-chair surroundings.

And that grump over at The Guardian, Zoe Williams, just can’t stand it.

But the word on the Tweet street shows how Starbucks has harnessed the good will spring within social media. Following Twitter users’ comments over the past couple of days reveals the naysayers you’d expect, but also a stream of encouragement for the coffee king’s new departure. Having its own regularly updated Twitter feed and real people responding to Tweets positions Starbucks well with its existing customers as well as potential converts.

Initial taste testers on Twitter are suggesting “It’s not that bad”, which is a veritable declaration of love from a nation so averse to water soluble java. Requests for free samples are coming in from other countries and even clarifications that the new product is Kosher (it is).

Twitter has also proven itself a useful viral channel for spreading the word and uptake of free Via samples, now allegedly sold out due to demand.

Will it work? Who knows. And the riskiness of Starbucks’ gamble is summed up neatly in a tweet this morning from @space_needle: “I will try this instant coffee #Via. I’m a big coffee snob. YOU started that, by the way.”

 

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