Archive for March, 2009

Love my company, love my blog

Thursday, March 26th, 2009 by Jon Clements


SXSW Flash Panel: Corporations & Social Media from Kipp Bodnar on Vimeo.

Once you’ve got over the initial impression that this is a convention of intellectual truckers, the above film is a great insight into how and why US companies are using social media – and particularly blogs – to facilitate a conversation with customers and understand what they really want.

Social media evangelist, Chris Brogan, brought together people from companies including GM, Crocs, Best Buy, Pepsico, AMD and Jet Blue to share their ways of working online.

And as one commentator on Brogan’s blog succinctly puts it, the value companies get from using social media is being able to say to their customers: “This is me. Love me. Hate me. But ultimately, tell me how to be better.”

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

We’re Talking About People

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 by David Meerman Scott

This is a guest post from David Meerman Scott adapted from his new book World Wide Rave. His previous book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR was a number-one bestseller and is published in 24 languages.  

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This debate about social media in the enterprise is just so damn silly. It seems crazy to me to try to regulate technology in the workplace when the real harm (or benefit!) comes from the people using that technology. I’ve witnessed the same phenomena twice in the past two decades: when personal computers entered the workplace in the 1980s, and during the Web and email debates of the 1990s. If you were in the workforce at the time, you might recall when executives believed email would expose a corporation’s secrets, and therefore only “important employees” (often defined as director-level and above) were given computers and email addresses. Years later (beginning in 1994), companies fretted about employees freely using the public Internet and being exposed to “unverified information” that was not written by “real journalists.”

The solution has always been the same: Don’t provide employees with computers. Refuse to provide a company email address. Ban the Internet within the corporate firewalls. Block YouTube, Facebook, blogs, and forums from view. Yet how many companies today refuse to provide a computer to employees at work if it can help them do their job? How many don’t provide company email? How many ban Internet access completely? Virtually none. So why are companies falling into the same old foolish patterns? 

My recommendations to organizations are simple: Have guidelines about what you can and cannot do at work. Hold employees to a measurable standard for performance on the job. But don’t try to ban a specific set of social media technologies. Your guidelines should include advice about how to communicate in any medium, including face-to-face conversation, presentations at events, email, social media, online forums and chat rooms, and other forms of communication. Rather than putting restrictions on social media (the technology), it’s better to focus on guiding the way people behave. The corporate guidelines could inform employees that they can’t reveal company secrets, they can’t use inside information to trade stock or influence prices, and they must be transparent and provide their real name and affiliation when communicating.

As long as your employees get their work done in a satisfactory manner, there should be no need to regulate their minute-to-minute behaviour. You don’t regulate how often people can use the restroom, when they can chat with a colleague in the hallway about their kids, or whether they use a mobile phone for company calls while taking a cigarette break, so why regulate when they can look at an online video? If you have individual cases of people not getting their jobs done in a satisfactory manner, deal with that problem as the “people issue” it really is. If it persists after several warnings, fire the employee, but make sure your expectations were clear from the start.

David Meerman Scott blogs at Web Ink Now

To Interest the Kids, Target the Big Boys

Thursday, March 19th, 2009 by Chris Bull
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Nissan’s flagship car, the GTR is delivered to its first UK owners this month. The GTR is the replacement for the Skyline, Nissan’s previous flagship model. Out of production since 2000, it was essentially a regular two door saloon, with a whopping big turbo, and some clever technology under the bonnet. Its close association with the launch of the Gran Turismo computer game in the nineties meant that it became a bit of a cult classic among the ‘playstation generation’, especially in its native Japan. It was good, but not earth-shatteringly so. The fact that it was ugly as hell meant it never really made it into the mainstream. Nissan needed to broaden the appeal…

Initial rumours claimed that the Skyline’s replacement would be tame, non-turbo charged, and timid. However, backlash from the hoards of hardcore Skyline fans was so unremitting, that Nissan reconsidered. And then they got carried away…

What they have produced is nothing short of astonishing. In track tests, the GTR has disposed of anything this side of £100k, but itself costs just over £50,000. And with its styling based on the traditional Japanese art of Oregami, I actually think it’s quite a looker.

You may imagine then, that they spent all their time and money making sure it would go around a track fast, and not much else…but no. The attention to detail, and the strides for perfection, is absolutely remarkable. The tyres are not filled with plain old air, but instead nitrogen (if your front drivers side is looking a little flat, don’t expect your local BP to be much help). The engines, for example, are hand-built in a hermetically sealed room, to ensure that they are not infiltrated by minuscule dust particles. Further, each engine is hand built from start to finish by one person, meaning that each engine has a slightly different power output and ‘personality’. One tested by a popular car magazine, for example, had 30 bhp more than Nissans already impressive claims of 480bhp.

But what has all this got to do with PR? Well sound bites such as those just mentioned will get quoted so many times (like now then, doh!) that it doesn’t really matter if it makes much difference on the road. They have got people talking: job done. In my opinion, this car is some of the best PR money can buy.

I mean let’s be honest, five years ago, would you have considered Nissan ‘cool’? I certainly wouldn’t have. Would I have considered buying a Nissan? Nope. How much money could Nissan have spent in vain trying to engineer a better image? But one thing is a certainty; products speak for themselves.

The whole Nissan brand, much like a proverbial celeb hanger-on-er has become cool-by-association. Traditionally, Nissan was just another huge car manufacturer, outputting millions of dull, but worthy and reliable cars every year.

What Nissan has done with the GTR, however, has sent shockwaves through the performance car industry. They have shown that, whenever they feel like it, they can produce a car that can beat a Porsche 911 Turbo (a £100k car) around a track, for half the price. It is worth bearing in mind that Porsche specialise in making performance cars, and they have been fine-tuning their formula in the 911 since the sixties!

By creating this car and aiming it at those who can afford to splash out 55k on a car (the proverbial big boys) people a little lower down the financial ladder (the kids) will get a bit more interested in the cars in their price bracket. Perhaps someone my sort of age may find the Nissan Cube a bit more desirable as a result. And for any brands long term survival, it needs to appeal to the kids, as today’s kids are tomorrows key influencers.

I guess it pretty much work like this: Imagine for a second you are back at school. If your older brother is the 6’5″ captain of the rugby team, no one is going to mess you around. You are cool by association with them. Well now all the cars in the Nissan range have the coolest and hardest older brother around. Suddenly, people have a bit more time and respect for them.

(Nissan is a client at Staniforth but Chris Bull does not work with the brand and the views are entirely his own).  

About Chris Bull

Account Exec for Staniforth PR, based in the TBWA\ Building in Whitfield Street, London. Areas of interest include politics, the car industry and sport.

Nothing’s sacred in the online jungle

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 by Jon Clements

What has happened, in recent hours, to the sanctity of death and accuracy in its reporting?

First, OK! Magazine publishes a “tribute” edition to the critically ill, reality TV star, Jade Goody, who is – at time of writing – not dead.

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Though the move has apparently not received public condemnation, a quick peek at the blogosphere doesn’t reveal an avalanche of support. As David O’Keefe points out, Goody “didn’t meet OK!’s deadline” while Culch.ie labels it – simply – “disgracefully tasteless”.

And then, following the skiing accident involving actress, Natasha Richardson, Time Out New York magazine reported her as dead, only to retract it later when it became clear she wasn’t. Yet the magazine, in its breathtaking arrogance, said it “stood by its sources”. Let me get this straight – it reported someone dead who wasn’t, basing this on the word of a “family friend” who rang back later with a different story. Never mind staking groundless claims to journalistic ethics; a full page, unreserved apology would be the very least it could offer. As a former reporter on a local newspaper, getting the official facts on a fatality from the police or hospital spokesperson was journalism 101.

If that’s not bad enough, take a look at the Daily Stab’s attempt to correct its own misinformation on the Richardson story:

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It doesn’t come much worse than this and neatly encapsulates the risk of democratised, online reporting.

Whether it’s the sloppy, inaccurate reporting of a tragedy or incorrect opinions expressed about a company or other organisation, online it spreads like a conversational bushfire. And those with a reputation to protect have to understand that handling a crisis online takes more than speaking to a relative handful of editors as in a media furore of yesteryear. You need to know where the conversations are taking place, be where they are and know how to converse.

If the media treats death as they’ve done with Jade and Natasha Richardson, what might they do with something far less important?

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

Today BBC Radio Four Gets Viral

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 by Rob Brown

The Today Programme on Radio Four has released a viral video which is actually very funny in a wry fashion rather than a ROFL way (…that’s ‘roll on the floor laughing’, please note Jim & John).   Given that Today is a radio programme they unsurprisingly focus on the presenters’ wardrobe requirements, but there are some good lines, not least when the head of hair, make-up and wardrobe refers to Jim “Nokkertie”.

The experiment points out a couple of things.  Viral can spread very fast…if I type quick enough this post will be up on PR Media Blog before the programme in which it was mentioned has finished (I’ve got 22 minutes).  Secondly, in the excitement about new media and new marketing we must not underestimate the power of mainstream media brands.  What makes this viral interesting and what is promoting its spread is the Today programme itself.  Now there are few greater bastions of mainstream media than that.     

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).

Guardian Announces The Future Of News Brands

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 by Mark Hanson

 

Exciting news from the Guardian where they’ve announced they will make their content available on an Open Platform. Great, but what does this mean??!

Essentially the Guardian are saying they see the future for news brands as content providers, making themselves useful to readers on the web by allowing other content providers eg online niche news sites, bloggers, forums to repackage Guardian content by making their code widely available.

But wouldn’t the Guardian lose out by losing control? I don’t think so. The best place to come for Guardian content in one place will be the Guardian’s site and its articles will still rank very highly in search – much more than most other sites. But where users have a close relationship with a particular blog or forum then it makes sense for Guardian content to appear there, with the potential for online publishers to innovate with that content to produce something even more tailored. 

The Guardian are ensuring they have a place in audience’s networks in a way that keeps pace with their viewing preferences. 

UPDATE – Jeremiah has a great post on what innovation may result from the Guardian extending control beyond the walls of their site.

All details are here and a summary of what is planned is below: 

The Open Platform is the suite of services that make it possible for our partners to build applications with the Guardian. We’ve opened up our platform so that everyone can benefit from our journalism, our brand, and the technologies that power guardian.co.uk.

The Open Platform currently includes two products, the Content API and the Data Store:

1. The Content API is a mechanism for getting Guardian content. You can query our content database for articles and get them back in formats that are geared toward integration with other internet applications.

The Content API is a free service. We have some limits and restrictions detailed in our terms and conditions, but we hope that you will use our service for whatever needs you have, including commercial applications.

2. The Data Store is a collection of important and high quality data sets curated by Guardian journalists. You can find useful data here, download it, and integrate it with other internet applications.

The Data Store has a range of different uses for different types of partners. We will include relevant terms and conditions along with each service.

Our aim is to make the Guardian Open Platform a useful environment for anyone who creates for the internet. We will offer more services in the future such as an ad network and an application platform.

This initial release is a beta trial that will help us identify the ways our partners want to work with us. Access will be granted on a limited basis.

If you want to use the Content API, read the Getting started guide and apply for a key.

Blind you with rebranding science

Monday, March 9th, 2009 by Jon Clements

What’s in a name? Well, sufficient for companies to keep the media buying industry afloat right now.

The perils of renaming and rebranding a business are spelled out clearly in this insightful article from the editor of Marketing, Lucy Barrett.

I too had wondered why kitchen paper towel brand, Bounty, had bothered to spend the ad money on its slightly unsettling she-male characters to herald the new name, Plenty. If the brand logo and packaging colour scheme had been ditched altogether, they might have been rightly concerned. But as it is, I wonder how many absorbent kitchen wipe customers will even notice the difference.

As Barrett points out, yet more intriguing is Coca Cola’s use of Welsh soul singer on a bike, Duffy, in it latest campaign. There’s no denying she’s attractive with a bag full of music awards to boot. But what is it all about?

On the topic of fizzy pop, Pepsi has strayed into the powerfully critical gravitational force of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science column, which tends to bring charlatans and peddlers of inscrutable nonsense down to earth with a bump. If you’ve seen what he does to lazy PR surveys, then you’ll be relieved it wasn’t your rebranding exercise he found.

He greets Pepsi’s “Gravitational Field” document with the jocular “welcome to the science of PR”, before moving on to the more unambiguous: “It is gibberish”. Lampooning the document aside, Goldacre seems more miffed that this pseudo-science is staking a claim against real scientific endeavour.

And Bad Science isn’t the only place that’s stuck the boot in, as here, here and here testify.

Does this harm people’s proclivity to drink Pepsi? Probably not. But does it help the cause of the marketing communications industry to be taken seriously? I fear it just hastens our frogmarching to the firing squad wall once the revolution arrives.

Thanks to blowatlife.blogspot.com for the pic

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

Govt Launches Trip Advisor-Style Websites For Health and Education

Monday, March 9th, 2009 by Mark Hanson

 

Three cheers to Liam Byrne, Cabinet Office Minister, and a guy credited with helping get Number Ten organised. He’s talking up an idea to empower the public and make our grand monolitic public services more accountable to the citizens they serve, using the web. A kind of Trip Advisor model where the public can talk up the good and raise issue with the bad. 

The issue of ensuring extra investment into public services isn’t just gobbled up into swathes of bureaucracy and instead produces better and more responsive services is as old as Beveridge. Various approaches have been tried by governments of all colours – swathes of targets, internal competition, constant cost-cutting. But the only way to gain a mandate from the public for more investment is to involve them.

The idea that we can have elections for health directors just wouldn’t take off. The beauty of the web, though, is that people can gather and have a collective voice if they have issue with how their services are organised, rather than feeling like they’re just a number. Interestingly, Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, is floating the idea of using the web to boost police engagement with the public on a day-to-day level – almost a virtual Dixon of Dock Green.

An active user base can drive change and innovation in services and more importantly make taxpayers feel as though they’re getting a voice in return for paying in.

I blogged about this exact topic a few months back and generated quite a reaction:)

Amnesty right on time with social media

Friday, March 6th, 2009 by Jon Clements

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From 1.10pm today, Amnesty International showed what social media can do to propogate awareness of and support for a critical cause.

Its 1:10 campaign – based on the statistic that one-in-ten UK women are raped or subject to violence each year – asked Twitter users (along with MySpace and Facebook folk) to replace their avatar with the above logo and, at 1.10pm, update their status message to reflect the main one-in-ten campaign message and pass on the web site URL.

It’s a simple idea, but one that is memorable and easy for the social media audience to get behind and share (seeing as that’s what they do best!).

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

Publish and be damned careful

Thursday, March 5th, 2009 by Jon Clements

There’s a great line in Al Pacino film, Carlito’s Way, when his eponymous ex-mobster character delivers a stark lesson to corrupt lawyer, David Kleinfeld, played by Sean Penn. After Penn has killed the head of an Italian-American crime family with a tyre iron around the head, Pacino recommends he keep a loaded pistol close at hand because: “You a gangster now, Dave”.

This makes me think of the shift one makes when having the power to press “publish” on your blogging software and bring your carefully crafted thoughts to the world. To paraphrase Pacino, “You a publisher now!”

And in the new dawn of social media, that’s something PR Media Blog is encouraging companies to do, alongside a chorus of others persuading them that the customer (consumer, B2B or public sector) is no longer expecting the internet to consist of well-designed but static websites of one-way communication, but a dynamic stream of compelling content and mutually beneficial conversation. Hence, whatever line of work you’re in, publishing such material online – that demonstrates your expertise and creates a dialogue – should make good business sense.

But while we urge you to press “publish”, we also urge you to beware. One of the critical lessons learned at journalism college is about the laws of libel and slander. They are there to protect those whose reputation has been unfairly sullied by the written word, though they are also used unfairly by powerful, vested interests to scare away journalists willing to probe and uncover wrongdoing.

But publishers are used to this and have lawyers well-versed in libel law on standby. That’s the nature of the game; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But if YOUR business has launched a blog, has a Twitter feed, populates a Facebook page or contributes to online forums, regardless of whether you make concrete mixers, cable ties or cola, that makes you a publisher too.

This week at the High Court, several newspapers and a broadcaster have agreed to pay “substantial damages” to a mother who felt she was wrongly accused of poor parental supervision, after the party her daughter organised through a social network ended up with some minor damage, but not the destruction the newspapers had alleged.

A pertinent element of this publishing saga is the fact that comments added to the newspapers’ online versions of the story (n.b. people should be able to add comments to your blog posts too) turned out to be false, which doesn’t help your case if you’re defending your right to publish and be damned in the High Court.

The likelihood is that most of what you’d ever want to say online will be, in the eyes of the law, “fair comment”. The same goes for those who decide to comment on your blog posts or interact with you elsewhere in the world of social networks and forums. But there’s substance in the old proverb that “the pen is mightier than the sword”; so seek good advice from those accustomed to publishing material online and just pray that David Kleinfeld doesn’t end up your lawyer.

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