Archive for May, 2009

Bad for Breaking Bad News?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 by Rob Brown

Patrick Swayze

A few months ago I wrote about discovering via twitter that the French actor Guillaume Depardieu had died.  Six months ago it seemed an oddity that ordinary individuals would break news ahead of the major media sources.  It appears now that this is an established phenomenon.  The sad news of Natasha Richardson’s fatal skiing accident was spread via twitter, blogs and social networks long before the strictures of the established media allowed them to confirm the details.

At around 4pm UTC today (19th May) twitter started trending with the news that actor Patrick Swayze had died of pancreatic cancer.  But within half an hour or so the story had flipped to a denial.  The actor it appears is alive if unwell and continuing his battle against cancer.

Whilst trending topics on the web add a new dimension to breaking news inaccurate rumours can take hold.  The established media brands adhere to a largely common set of journalistic conventions that moderate the motivation to break news fast with the imperative of accuracy.  That’s why they are trusted.    

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).

Can social media make boring brands sexy?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Mr and Mrs Marketeer: how difficult is your job if your brand is…well…not sexy?

Forrester analyst, Josh Bernoff, writing on Groundswell reckons that anyone in marketing responsible for “boring brands” is really earning their keep, as “you are trying to get people interested in something they don’t really care about”.

Having worked in B2B public relations for more than a decade, I can testify to the sector having more than its fair share of companies that the world at large may call “boring”. It’s a totally subjective problem; where cable ties and ball bearings may be as effective as counting sheep to some, they are rock and roll personifed to someone else.

But back to Bernoff and the challenge of making the “boring” interesting…

Believe it or not, he sees social media as a thoroughly relevant way of bringing brands – that you wouldn’t automatically think of as social – to life.  

The point is, talking about your brand or company may be inherently dull to the customer, but talking about their problems isn’t. Bernoff calls this “borrowed relevance” – generating talk about things your audience really cares about. And the examples he cites show how coming at your company’s marketing from a lateral point of view (our sister company, TBWA Manchester, would call it “disruptive”) can achieve something that has significance for the customer and banishes the boring tag.

Especially with B2B organisations – where their overall customer base is unlikely to be on the same scale as consumer brands -creating a buzz about what you do and making it relevant to the people who matter is essential. And social media is another way of finding those people, keeping them interested and relishing just how beautifully boring your business is. 

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 ''

Time for a Twitter Twattergy?

Monday, May 18th, 2009 by Jon Clements


It sounds like something the speech-impeded Elmer Fud might say, but – in fact – it belongs to The Guardian, as writer Emily Bell shares with us in today’s 25th anniversary edition of Media Guardian.

Apparently, it’s what the Guardian’s head of social media has come up with to describe the necessary approach to digital that the traditional media must take – rather than the tried and trusted journalistic tactic of focusing on exclusivity.

As Bell says, the Guardian’s “twattergy” is to “positively encourage people to use [these] social platforms [Twitter, Facebook, YouTube] in the most effective ways possible”.

And that’s not a bad approach for any organisation which believes that people with an interest in it might be searching it out on the internet. But relying on the corporate website of old – static, closed, communicating in one direction, i.e., at you – is no longer enough and will more likely do your business a disservice in the socially connected world of the today’s world wide web.

Take Twitter: a major retailer we’ve been working with recently had made a humble start with the social network by setting up Twitter accounts, but not going much further. But once its people began to test the medium and find that their tweets were not necessarily disappearing into the online equivalent of a black hole – and were starting to generate results – the activity suddenly made sense.

What it takes is a…well…twattergy. For existing Twitter users, this isn’t a bad place to start.

If you are just thinking about dipping a virtual toe in the social media pond, then either read as much as you can about it or get some good advice from someone who’s doing it before taking the plunge. The opportunities are great, but so are the risks.

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 is inevitable says Jeremiah Owyang

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Minutes ago, Forrester analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, (pictured) concluded his presentation at the Dutch social media conference, CSN 09, leaving no-one in doubt about the future of social media.

And though I wasn’t lucky enough to be in Amsterdam myself,  through the magic of Twitter and the tweeting fingers of various attendees, we can all share (in an oh-so-social media fashion) some of the insights that Jeremiah gained from the recent research project, The Future of the Social Web.

Points picked up at the conference included:

– Social is inevitable: everything will be social

– The needs of the (online) community must come first – brand second

– Put the most popular part of your corporate website on social networks where they can become social

– Products and services will be rated by online communities, like it or not

– Make your online content social and aim to share it on the right platforms (yes – that means “fishing where the fish are”)

– When selling social media to your company, focus on the C-word: customers

– Communities take the driving seat when it comes to buying

– (Imposing) registration online is for one thing only – to allow marketeers to bug you and bug you again 

(Thanks to Tweeps for the Tweets: @marcvanderput, @AmazingPR, @RobertLommers, @csnconference, @evr)

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 ''

Freedoma gives customers the hippy shake

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Today sees the official launch of , a Manchester-based customer review site which seems to take its ethics from another era.

Promising to “spread the love”, Freedoma can’t help but make you want to reach for a kaftan and head for San Francisco with flowers in your hair. Well, you might want to ask your parents first if there was anything wrong with free love.

PR Media Blog agreed to share the love with Freedoma’s brain (love) child and MD, Caleb Storkey, and blow away the joss stick smoke to reveal all about this latest social media business: 

PRMB: Why is Freedoma needed in Manchester at this point? 

Freedoma: Freedoma promotes and supports local businesses, helping customers share their thoughts on the organisations they love and those to steer clear of. For Manchester, it’s all about getting alongside the local, independent stores. For businesses, it’s all about them being given the opportunity to grow and develop their reputation online, so that customers choose them not based on how big their marketing wallet is, but on how good they are.
PRMB: How does it differ in what it does?

F: Unlike which only offers an address listing and very little additional information, Freedoma collects and collates feedback from customers of each business to get the lowdown on what a business is really like. It also make it possible for local businesses to offer special offers directly to customers. There is the ability for users to see which businesses their friends use and rate. There is a whole bunch of stuff in development, that is already knocking our socks off, and will be unveiled in the forthcoming weeks and months.  

PRMB: How will people find you online?

F: We’ve a lot of quirky activity going on offline that will bolster up the finding online. Shortly people will find us when searching for special offers, plumbers in Manchester, cafes in Leeds, etc, through our SEO and SMO campaigns. But, the power and incentive of word of mouth will be a key to our success. 

PRMB: How will the site make money?

F: The simple way that the site will initially make money is through businesses taking out enhanced listing, which entitles them to a bunch of additional features. We’re rollling out intially with special offers during the launching season. There are a number of additional monetisation routes, but these are currently under wraps until these features are launched. 

PRMB: Will you be aligning it with other social media, e.g., Twitter feed?

F: Yes- integration with other social media is an important part of phase 2.

PRMB: How will you police potentially libellous material?

F: People will have the capacity to flag reviews that are libellous, which will then be assessed. 

PRMB: Freedoma has a very different feel about it. Has it been inspired by another company with similar values or from your own personal outlook on life?

F:  I’ll take that as a compliment (I think ;). It’s come from my personal outlook on life. I really believe in desiring the best for people, and that if businesses adopted more of a position of serving society, society would be all the better for it. The financial bottom line is one motivator for people, but appreciation, spreading the love and the recognition that their hard work can positively impact people’s life, is a far greater motivator. I guess we’re all learning how this can outplay itself. Little bit hippy and change the world (ish), but I’m convinced somehow life and business can work like that. I think if done well, that’s one of the major potentials of social 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 ''

Come fly with me, Twitter bird

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Twitter turned three years old this weekend and those who are now converts/addicts must wonder how we ever lived without it. And while Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb has taken the time to hail its significance to social media, Forrester analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, is describing how companies are starting to ask questions about Twitter that suggest it’s now considered a serious business tool.

But how is it working for companies and their customers in the UK?

Travel writer, Mark Hodson, has been tasked by the Times to vet the Twitter performance of various travel companies , and interesting reading it makes.

And taking the example of each travel company in turn provides a handy illustration of some of the better principles of using Twitter. So…

Easy Jet – A real human being makes good customer service accessible and fixes problems.

Lonely Planet – Gathers useful/interesting travel tips from real people and makes them easily searchable via a hash tag.

Brittany Ferries – Shares good deals with its Twitter followers.

Mr & Mrs Smith – Is responsive to customer queries.

Black Tomato – Is conversational rather than salesy and drives people to other content online.

Visit Britain – Shares useful ideas.

Thomson Holidays – Communicates to customers’ concerns in a crisis (in this case, flights to places affected by Swine Flu).

Hodson also takes a look at some travel Twitter feeds distinctly underperforming – namely Virgin Atlantic and London City Airport – which share a similar problem: seemingly having no clear idea of what to do on Twitter or why. 

But his appraisal of Butlins’ Twitter feed seems a bit harsh. After all, it provides offers; monitors and responds to discussion of its brand (including Hodson’s piece in the Times); finds and re-uses positive, third party mentions of Butlins; provides teasers for new openings; directs followers to other content online and handles customer complaints openly and sympathetically. Maybe Mr Hodson just doesn’t like Butlins; or maybe I’m still overwhelmed by my 1975 visit to Butlins at Bognor Regis that’s never been bettered.

OK, I exaggerate…

(Thanks to @adrian_johnson for bringing the original article to our attention)

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 ''

Keeping abreast of your customer

Monday, May 11th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Saying sorry is very much back in fashion.

How much it will help him and his party’s election hopes is another matter, but Gordon Brown has now apologised “on behalf of all politicians” for the current expenses scandal engulfing Parliament.

And last week, M&S took the step of advertising its apology to more ample women who were having to pay extra for the retailer’s larger sized bras. The issue had spawned a Facebook Group, Busts 4 Justice – set up by Brighton’s Beckie Williams (pictured above) with more than 17,000 members at time of writing – and national media interest.  Meanwhile, rival retailer, Asda, joined the fray by introducing a “one price fits all” bra.

But the point is, M&S did just the thing that companies find hard to swallow: to admit publicly it was wrong, change policy and offer customers a discount sweetener. It also reflects two truisms; one old as the hills, the other a more recent phenomenon.

The first is about crisis management. If you’ve upset your public, then recognise it and respond. As Alison Theaker says in The Public Relations Handbook, “Tell it first, tell it fast”.

The second is about the growth of online people power. Busts 4 Justice not only reflected the views of women – all potential underwear customers – but the support it generated got noticed in the mainstream media, so multiplying awareness of the issue.

M&S – with its response to the D cup storm – managed to meet the two essential elements of human interaction described by The Conversation Agent’s Valeria Maltoni as 1. Do you care? and 2. Can I trust you?

Who knows – maybe Elton John will have to abandon singing “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” altogether, as it no longer is.

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 ''