Archive for April, 2009

PR Week ‘Twinterview’

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by Rob Brown


I am going to be interviewed about my book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ today by PR Week’s Digital Editor Peter Hay (pictured above).   The interview is going to be a bit different as it will be conducted entirely on Twitter.  The questions will come from Peter @PRWExtra and I will be responding from @RobBrown

You can follow the interview by following us both or by using the hashtag  #PRWInterview . The action starts at 10am, I hope one or two of you will drop by!

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).

New Mag Raises the Bar

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 by Chris Bull

 So somebody thought it was a good time to launch a new magazine, aimed primarily at men. We all know the lads mag sector is dying a slow death, so there is little hope here right? Well perhaps not. Partly because, despite being quite man-centric, this is certainly no lads mag.

Avid readers of PRMB may recall a recent post about another mag-for-men; Buck, which got a pretty bad write-up. It has apparently now been reduced to a bi-annual publication, oh dear. Well this month, WIRED has come along, and shown the boys at Buck how to write a top-draw magazine, that I guarantee you will be able to buy a copy of next month. Ok, WIRED has had 15 years of publication in the States, so you would expect those behind it to know what they are doing by now. Nonetheless it is incredibly refreshing to read a magazine that is genuinely innovative, both in presentation and content.

WIRED announces its intentions on the – beautifully tactile, cotton-papered – front cover as IDEAS / TECHNOLOGY / CULTURE / BUSINESS. Certainly an interesting and rather broad remit. Too ambitious perhaps? Not a chance. WIRED is superbly written throughout, treading a fine line where it manages to sound authoritative, without being condescending. It simply oozes quality, yet there aren’t 40 pages of adverts before you get to the index…which is nice.
The photography throughout is stunning and beautifully shot. It does a wonderful job of transforming the mundane into something resembling art. You may imagine, for example, that an image-led piece on the world’s most powerful computers may be dull beyond comprehension, but the visual splendour of this feature is utterly captivating.

There is plenty of value in here too for anyone who likes to keep under the skin of the latest media developments. There is a great mini-interview with the CEO of Twitter, and it doesn’t beat about the bush. First question is ‘How will you make money from Twitter?’

Similarly I hugely enjoyed an article on the development history of the massively popular BBC iPlayer, which was brilliantly insightful and sharply written. But really, everything about this mag is just clever. For example, instead of a video game review, and a celebrity interview, why not get a celeb reviewing a game? There is innovation in the formulaic. A coffee machine review is backed up by stats on cost per-cup, how much it will cost in your first year, how much you will save over a year compared to buying Starbucks etc. It has taken man’s desire to quantify everything, and done it for us.

I realise I am on the verge of sounding sycophantic about this magazine, but it really is quality through and through and is deserved praise for a job well done and a mag well produced.

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.

#PRWIN – Carphone Warehouse gets social

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 by Jon Clements


Companies using social media to become customer service champions seem to be flavour of the month right now.

Econsultancy has carried its fair share of insightful pieces on the topic, and businesses are really beginning to wake up to its benefits.

And not before time. Last December, I wrote about a personal customer service trial I was going through with a mobile phone company, whose name was spared in the hope the sorry mess would be resolved without resorting to name calling.

Needless to say, it wasn’t and – in desperation – I turned to Twitter to try to penetrate what felt like the huge, uncaring behemoth of Carphone Warehouse. And I found Guy Stephens, the company’s Knowledge and Online Help Manager, who appeared to be tackling customer rage in a passionately empathetic way on Twitter. I tweeted him at 8pm; by 8.07pm, I had a reply, rendering me unconditionally blown away. Three months of periodic call centre torture had got me nowhere, but via social media I felt listened to within minutes and my problem solved within a few days. 

True, I was a departing customer, but not before being turned from a “hater” to a fan of what Carphone Warehouse is doing to improve its customer experience via social media.  You can read the specifics about the company’s approach in Guy’s own words here, and he agreed to field a few questions from PR Media Blog on why embracing social media is important for the company. In customer service? Read and learn…

What prompted CPW to get involved with customer care via social media?

I think it’s more a recognition that our customers are taking part in that space. They’re conversing about us on Twitter, Facebook and the various feedback-type sites such as GetSatisfaction, ComplaintCommunity and Plebble. Regardless of whether we choose to ignore the conversations or take part in them, people are going to continue talking about us.        

How good/bad would you rate CPW’s customer service reputation previously?
Like many companies we’ve got both advocates and detractors. You tend to be more aware of the negative comments, and a company like CPW has no shortage of them on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. But, I see negative comments in a positive way, as it’s the customer telling us directly what we need to change. They’re the ones experiencing or living the process, not us.

How did CPW management deal with accusations of poor customer service online?
I think businesses have shied away from getting involved in this space. However, the landscape has changed so much now, that everything is happening out in the open. Businesses have the choice to take part or ignore it. Either way, customers will do what they want, write what they want, and we’re probably heading to a time when actually customer service may well be co-created or engineered by customers themselves between customers on sites such as Plebble or ComplaintCommunity.        
Is the social media customer approach part of an agreed management strategy or a dipping-toe-in experiment?

We weren’t sure what the response would be. We’ve learnt quickly on the job and I would say there’s a definite appetite for it. We recognise that Twitter has a part to play and we’re still defining what that is. New skills are required, or should I say a new mix of skills is required – part customer service, part PR, part maverick. Not a happy combination for any company.

How well has the social media activity/customer service activity been received so far?
There is an increasing awareness of the opportunities presented by social media and certainly a momentum for it within CPW. The key is to understand what each channel does well, and then see if it fits together. Social media won’t be for every company and that’s okay; companies shouldn’t feel the pressure of having to integrate it. But they should at the very least do their due diligence to see whether it’s something their customers want and, if so, how to use it.

Have you been able to measure the results of your social media activity to date?
We’re still at the early stages of using it and understanding it. However, Twitter is great for a customer to initiate a complaint and a subsequent dialogue with a company, though it’s not a resolution channel. Because of the nature of twitter and Data Protection Act requirements, it does take slightly longer to get to the complaint to deal with it. But that’s simply a process issue to overcome and we’ve simply got to find the best way to deal with it. And what you’ve got to remember with Twitter is that there are entry requirements – knowledge, propensity to tweet, requisite technology, etc. It’s not for everyone; it just gives those who use it another option.

How does it compare to what your competitors are doing?
We’re all doing different things but our angle is very much centred on customer service, whereas mydeco, asos or geek squad will be doing their thing.  There’s plenty of room for everyone.

What does the future hold for CPW’s social media engagement?

Onwards and upwards, more learning, but always being honest, transparent, open and feeling empathy for the person complaining. Stephen Covey calls it ‘empathetic listening’. It’s also understanding what this new world looks like: customers are setting the agenda almost, and with Twitter we have the possibility for real time customer engagement in both a positive and negative way, and we have the break up of centralised information held by companies. Companies are having to go out to where customers are; in other words, as I read somewhere, fishing where the fish are.

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 ''

A war footing for blogs

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 by Jon Clements

War reporting – whether factual or literary – has an illustrious history with some big names dominating the battlefront, from Robert Capa in the Spanish Civil War and Edward Murrow in World War II to our own Kate Adie and Martin Bell covering more recent conflicts.

But now, through the advent of blogging technology – you know, that thing that turns punter into publisher overnight – stories from the front can come directly from the keyboards of those fighting the war.

Such is the case of Colour Sergeant Michael Saunders – featured in the above BBC clip – whose blog posts from Afghanistan are being posted physically by his sister, Tracey Tyrls, in the Worcester pub where she works.

Apparently the blogs are well read by the drinkers and, as one customer says, they really “brings home what day to day life is like” in Helmand province.

Clearly, the content of Sergeant Saunders’ blogs will be what the Ministry of Defence will consider fit to print, and rightly so when soldiers’ lives are on the line.

But this instance of communication is instructive for businesses too: having a blog that enables you to communicate from the front line of your business activities hands you the opportunity to talk to your customers in a way unfettered by traditional media. Not that media coverage of your press releases and commentary is undesirable – in fact, third party filtering of your company’s claims to fame by journalists can carry added credibility. But with a blog, your corporate voice has licence to have an authenticity, personality and candour that gives your business the human touch.

And, as in the case of Tracey Tyrls, why not share your blog posts in a physical form by sticking them up on the notice board – as not everyone working in UKplc is glued to a computer screen all day.

Valeria Maltoni over at the Conversation Agent blog has a useful summary of corporate blogging dos and don’ts, along with examples of corporate blogs to whet your literary whistle.

Think of it as part of your business’s battle plan where, mercifully, you are building and protecting your company’s reputation rather than dodging mortar fire.

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 ''

Social media is a different playground – please play nice

Thursday, April 9th, 2009 by Jon Clements


The social media revolution is afoot – and we could be in the process of ruining it altogether.  

On the first point, thanks to Social Media Playground for bringing PR Media Blog’s attention to the latest research from IBM – “Beyond Advertising: choosing the strategic path for the digital consumer – which puts numbers against the current shift in consumer expectations and marketing responses.

The trends revealed in the study show US consumers wanting to be engaged with online: word of mouth and online marketing is expected to grow to 27% of overall expenditure by 2012 – up from 7% in 2002; 76% of people are watching video (up 27%) while 32% are consuming it on a mobile phone or other portable device. Advertisers are increasing online/interactive marketing spend by 63% and are engaging more in “brandsactional” advertising, by which I assume it means marketing activity that sits comfortably, rather than intrusively, in the social media arena.

So far, so good, right?

Well, on my second point, Spike Jones at Brains on Fire blog is already warning that the lunatics are taking over the asylum, with traditional marketers tumbling headlong into traditional methodologies that don’t belong in social media, namely making relentless noise, pushing out messages and screaming “listen to me!”.

It’s no surprise. Social media forces many marketing communciations people (across the spectrum of those with spiked hair, greying hair and those without hair) into a discomfort zone they’d rather not be. “Where’s the control? Do we really have to talk to the – urgh! – general public?” And this naturally brings a reversion to type; adopting the trusted methods of yore. Don’t get me wrong, many of yesterday’s practices remain relevant today, and may always have a role to play.

But treating social media as another medium to be “targeted” simply misses the point. As Spike Jones concludes, if marketers try to exploit social media to be the “centre of attention”, people will “just change the channel”.

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 ye do for Comic Relief

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Be you an aspiring writer or publisher, could you imagine producing a real, living and breathing book in a month?

Well, the team which brought us comedy writing collection, Twitter Titters, did just that – thanks to the medium of Twitter. Two of the organisers, Louise Bolotin and Christina McDermott, explained at last night’s Social Media Cafe Manchester (#smc_mcr) how the book, produced to raise money for Red Nose Day, wiped out a month of their lives in a good cause.

The idea was getting aspiring comic writers to send their work via Twitter to be judged by a panel (also sourced via Twitter) for a book that would be downloadable online (and promoted via Twitter), with all proceeds going to Children in Need.

The virtual collaboration also included writers, Craig McGinty and Guy Clapperton, who helped to keep the project’s blog updated through the process.

In the end, the judges, including Sci-fi writer, Martin Millar, had to select from 70 comic submissions for the book – including exclusive new writing from Phoenix Nights co-creator, Dave Spikey, which was made available either as a download or “print on demand”.

Christina, who lent production expertise to the job, said: “If anybody else plans to do something like this, then whatever time you think you need, double it! But despite all the heartache it was worth it – we made a book.” Since then sales of the book have raised £700 for Comic Relief.

But in the midst of being charitable, a rogue Twitterer was being distinctly uncharitable, accusing the team of “spamming” on Twitter, not being “transparent” and generally slating the project. Though experienced social networkers, the team was unprepared for a negative backlash – a potential by-product of the social medium that needs to be managed.

The book remains on sale at least until the end of April. Go on, have a laugh while assuaging your charity conscience.

Update: for an in-depth analysis of the Twitter Titters project, visit Real Fresh TV’s blog.

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 ''

Google gets the vote in Indian elections

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Google may be wondering what it did to upset the digital apple cart.

Since last week’s stand-off between the residents of leafy Broughton and the Google Street View van made national news, esteemed commentators have weighed in to the debate over Google’s hegemony.

The Observer’s Henry Porter – very much an enemy of the all-powerful and all-seeing State – is equally no great fan of Google, describing the company as a World Wide Monopoly (WWM for short and not unreminiscent of WMDs) and an “amoral brat” which demands compliance with its terms or else feeling “the weight of its boot on your windpipe”.

Rod Liddle over at The Times has less visceral feelings towards Google, but still manages to characterise it as having the “suspiciously smiling facade” of a place that probably has “a Red Nose Day every afternoon”.

So how would they view Google’s part in the upcoming Indian elections? Hat tips to and Palin Ningthoujam for bringing PR Media Blog’s attention to the Google Election Centre, which aims to provide Indian voters with various services including the ability to:

  • Confirm their voter registration status
  • Discover their polling location
  • View their constituency on a map
  • Consume relevant election-related news, blogs, videos, and quotations
  • Evaluate the status of development in their constituency across a range of indicators
  • Learn about the background of their Member of Parliament and this year’s candidates
  • Comments alongside TechCrunch’s report of the move appear broadly supportive of Google. So, if the company is helping to facilitate the smooth running of a democratic process, could it really be so bad?

    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 ''

    Sainsbury’s is Talking Pollacks

    Monday, April 6th, 2009 by Rob Brown

    There is something very fishy about about the news that Sainsbury’s is to rebrand the pollack as ‘colin’ (that’s with a heavily accented French pronunciation by the way).  Apparently their shoppers are fighting shy of asking for a “pair of fresh pollacks” at the fish counter.  

    The story has made quite a splash today but much of it doesn’t hold water.  Firstly the French for pollack is lieu jaune and ‘colin’ is a hake.  Secondly we are very close to April Fool’s day (that’s Poisson D’Avril in French).  Is this an April Fool idea that Sainsbury’s thought would grow legs and get more coverage?  If so they weren’t wrong.    

    There is also new ‘Colin’ packaging designed by Wayne Hemingway and based on the work of Jackson Pollock (please note not ‘Jackson Colin’).  Furthermore this initiative is also only being taken in 10 stores – so what of the blushes of the myriad of bashful fish fanciers in the other 750+ Sainsbury’s outlets?   Is this an old fashioned bit of PR puffery?  Will we see that after a trial period the ten stores get their pollacks back? 

    Has the media fallen for this hook, line and sinker? (OK that’s enough puns….Ed.)

    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).

    Extra! Extra! or Twitter?

    Monday, April 6th, 2009 by Jon Clements


    Does Management Today’s editor, Matthew Gwyther, have seriously Luddite tendencies or an incisive point when it comes to Twitter? 

    Aside from believing Twitter is a “tedious fad we would do well to pull the plug on”, he was singularly unimpressed with its use by news organisations as way of reporting the G20 shenanigans in the City of London last week. He called it “an unwholesome mess”, yearning for a return to “day-after-the-event” news consumption of a “page of newsprint”. Well, while Management Today lives on in hard copy, the printed news product is under increasing pressure and traditional news sources are looking more and more to the web.

    And despite Gwyther’s misgivings, the Guardian’s first real foray into front line reporting via Twitter was felt by Janine Gibson, editor of to have been a resounding success, as she recounts in the publication’s latest media podcast. The beauty of using Twitter to report, she mentions, is being able to show the many strands of a story that don’t necessarily evolve in a linear fashion. After all, the G20 protests were no more or less about smashed windows than they were about peaceful demonstration – they were many things at once, and – to steal Gwyther’s phrase – Twitter was able to help convey the messiness of that.

    EConsultancy’s Chris Lake, despite being a self-confessed “Internet fiend”, takes a phlegmatic view of Gwyther’s dismissal of Twitter: “Some things just don’t work so well on Twitter, which is obviously limited by 140 characters and is no place to tell a story”. But he draws a useful parallel with the Sky News coverage, which was lo-fi to say the least.

    As one of the comments posted on the Management Today blog post points out, Twitter could well be a fad; but the parent that spawned it – social media – seems very much “here to stay”.

    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 ''

    G20 – A Good Read?

    Friday, April 3rd, 2009 by Linda Isted


    I’ve been stupidly busy the last few days so my only real info on the G20 summit has been from the radio and occasional glances at news websites and Twitter feeds, until a rather sleepy view of the BBC 10 o’clock news last night. So I took time this morning for breakfast and a proper read of the paper.  (Guardian, but the other broadsheets gave a similar spread of coverage and comment.)  It was a joy. 

    The reporting was clear, the breakdown of the communiqué a good mix of fact and analysis, the comment pieces pertinent (these with a clear Guardian standpoint of course, but with Simon Jenkins to leaven the mix). There was a nod to the fashionistas with the provenance of Michelle Obama’s outfits, and a suitably laconic piece on the politics of the official picture. I enjoyed it so much I’m going to find time to read it all again in one of the other broadsheets tonight. So what does this say for the future of newspapers? 

    Well, it confirms that in my house at least (which is a very average establishment, I like to thing) Monday to Friday papers have the same status as the weekend ones – best enjoyed at leisure with a cup of tea.  The actual reading of them is the point.  I found time because I wanted to see a real spread of coverage of a story which I had skimmed but needed a longer shot. 

    A full fat latte version, if you will, rather than the expresso. There is a crucial difference, though, between that and traditional feature fare – this was current, grounded in real news, hard working and focused. I really felt the passion of the journalists who had been involved.  

    Can they replicate this on a daily basis?  Perhaps not, but it will keep me paying the newsagents bill for a bit longer. Will it be enough to sustain their future?  I’d like to think it will.  I think people are rediscovering the joy of a good read, and I think they are likely to be prepared to pay a premium for it. And where does PR fit in all this?  Well someone has been writing all those media information packs…