Archive for June, 2009

Fashion PR and the Social Web

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by Rob Brown

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For 100 years marketing has been about business to business communications (B2B) and consumer targeting (B2C).  With the impact of the social web, consumer to consumer communications are edging out some of the traditional brand PR messaging.  Consumer opinions are more important than ever in influencing the dreams and desires of the consumer.  Fashion has always been influenced by independent opinion.  Now fellow consumers sit alongside magazine editors as a source of ideas and inspiration.    

Social media provides consumers with front row access to all of the international shows and this enables them to see trends without the intervention of the mainstream fashion media.  They get the unedited vision of the designers and fashion houses.  In previous years the success of a new season launch was down entirely to the reviews the press gave it, if indeed they featured your product at all.  Now PRs can launch collections directly to the consumer.

Working with social media and social networks offers potential access to a broad spectrum of consumers. Traditional PR routes can encounter many obstacles. Regional newspapers for example won’t run features on items that aren’t available in their region or if the brand doesn’t have wide recognition.  Social media can overcome this, breakdown the boundaries and reach out to new audiences. 

There is a burgeoning portfolio of examples where old brand rules are being broken and rebuilt on the web.  American Apparel addressed their customer base directly by hooking up with Chictopia to invite real girls to become real models for the brand.  American Apparel has built part of its brand image by refusing to airbrush models in their advertisements.  By going a step further and engaging their customers and fans to appear in their ads was bang on brand and generated significant PR.

Victoria’s Secret Pink has a Facebook group with over a million fans.   It contains nearly a thousand images posted by fans plus catwalk videos and official images and hundreds of thousand of comment postings.  Swedish fashion brand H&M also uses Facebook to engage with its customers and also has over a million fans signed up on the site.

Fundamental to communications in the era of the social web is dialogue. This is not about brands talking to consumer; it involves consumers talking back to brands and consumers talking to each other.   In this environment the scope for inspiration through interaction is huge.  Filipino fashion fan and blogger Bryanboy wrote and posted on Youtube about his love of Marc Jacobs design.  In response Jacobs named an ostrich handbag “the BB” in his honour.  

Facebook, MySpace, blog posts and the social network du jour twitter are all contributing to a culture in which instant feedback is available with a mouse click, so brands can test ideas and source public opinion in an instant.  The discussions that happen on line will influence the market and provide the endorsement that drives fashion.   Being involved and sharing knowledge with consumers in the space where these conversations are taking place will become vital. Twitter is sure to emerge as a prime location for fashion brands and fashion fans.  What began as a niche network has emerged as a major sphere of communication with the twitter accounts passing the million follower mark for the first time this month (April 2009).  If you are not convinced in less than three months Women’s Wear Daily has gained over 300,000 followers on twitter.  

This article is an edited version of one that was published on WGSN.com the world’s leading fashion and style forecaster.  My colleague at Staniforth Julie Wilson provided much of the insight into the world of fashion.

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).

Cut the BullTwit

Friday, June 19th, 2009 by Phil Jones

What Are the Business Benefits?

…asks Phil Jones, Sales and Marketing Director of technology brand Brother, in the second of two guest posts on PR Media Blog.

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Here’s the $100 million question.  I’ve put the key stuff down as bullet-points so you can work through it quickly:

For your business

1. Transparency. It’s a great way to build authenticity for your brand. Do you have brand values that you want to shine through? Then build a personality on Twitter. But don’t do it if you’ve nothing interesting to say. If you’re a small business, build trust with potential purchasers of your product and look for people in your locality using the search tool.

2. Traffic with no jams. It’s a great way to build traffic to your official website or blog. A well worded Tweet can entice people to click through to your website as part of your overall traffic-building strategy. But don’t cheat people or bend the truth or they won’t click on your link again; make it interesting. My blog traffic increased threefold after I started Twittering and readership has expanded to more than 20 countries, so it works.

3. Treasure and measure. Give something unique to your followers. Many of the well known global brands are already offering unique offers or pre-launches to their Twitter followers. This gives incredible ROI measurement when using unique codes.

4. Join the conversation. It’s a great way to understand what others are saying about your product or brand, and for people to share positive experiences with others. Buyer remorse is rife; the more support and reinforcement available, the better.

5. Shareware. I’m making this point twice (see below). The whole point of these platforms is to acquire and spread knowledge; if you build your brand/company reputation through a loyal following of people, they will help you spread your word.

For you in business

1. Grow up. You can increase your own personal learning and growth. There are some awesome and really clever people on Twitter who share their daily insights. Some of their Tweets are really thought-provoking. It’s free mind food.

2. Stay in touch.You can keep up with your key customers and contacts. A great reason to interrupt someone with something totally personalised: “I saw that you were… how interesting. Did you know?” You can see where people are and what they’re up to. Could you both be in the same place at the same time for an impromptu get together (called a Tweetup)?

3. I’m free. I’ve seen some really good consultants offer “free consulting” in their downtime between meetings. You can take advantage of this or give tasters of your goods or services to others. This is brilliant for smaller businesses – free advice.

4. Feed me. Ask questions of your followers to get instant feedback. Got a problem? You only need ask; people will give advice. Want to see some early feedback on a new product or service? Ask and people will reply. The community is building.

5. Shareware. The more you give, the more you will receive and the more your personal reputation will grow.

Phil Jones is Vice-President of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Sales & Marketing Director of technology brand Brother.  He writes a daily blog at http://thecorporatebubble.blogspot.com/ and can be found on Twitter @Philjones40. 

Will Twitter Do the Business?

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by Phil Jones

The first of two guest posts from Phil Jones, Sales and Marketing Director of technology brand Brother.

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It’s super, it’s shiny and the “twalk” of the town.  So, is Twitter just another social networking tool being hyped up by the media luvvies as a way to earn fee income in a flat market?  Or is this a new tool that business should be paying proper attention to?  If we’re to believe it, untold riches, overwhelming customer demand and speaking engagements are only 140 characters away, so should we drop everything and rush at Twitter as our economic saviour?

Show me the money….

If that’s your basic expectation – time in = money out – may I nudge you to read Seth Godin’s book Meatball Sundae or The Soul of the New Consumer by David Lewis to understand where the world is at now in terms of buyer behaviour.  It’s not about the traditional business model of instant cash, it’s about engaging in the big conversation that’s going on out there amongst your customers, then using that conversation or credibility to draw people towards your business.

Fad or Twend?

Interestingly many businesspeople I meet are simply put off by the name Twitter, arguing that it sounds silly and unserious.  The issue isn’t necessarily about Twitter; Twitter is merely the platform that allows people to “connect” up, discuss, make new contacts, share instantaneously, join tribes and interest groups, learn and push forward their contact base, in a very dynamic way.  This is a macro trend, not a fad.  The fad might be Twitter as the micro-blogging platform, in the same way that myspace was overshadowed by Facebook.  Someone else might come up with something new.  What about a business-only version called Bitter (laughs out loud)?  Google won’t  stand by for long; they’ll either acquire Twitter or do it themselves, and Twitter will dissolve into the background as the pioneer who didn’t keep up.

How does business get a “Twicket” to the party?

To the uninitiated, it can seem like there’s a big party going on that you haven’t been invited to.  However, before you rush to put your party outfit on, stop and think a minute.  Is this a party you need to be at?  Is it one you’re going to enjoy?  Are you going to go and leave early?  Are the people there your kind of people?  Are you going to turn up and then not talk to anyone?  If so, might be best not to go.  Right now, I’ve held off from a brand perspective but went with it from a personal perspective to learn it inside out.  Now I have, expect something soon.

The thing is, it is worth going if you fully understand that the world is changing as people continue to divide and divide again into interest groups, seeking like minds in an increasingly hostile and lonely society.  Web 2.0 genuinely has changed the world as we know it.  The big conversation is going on all around us in the ether, like a scene from The Matrix.  Twitter offers a way of tapping into that dynamic conversation in real time.

I would advise any business to register, create a profile and start listening.  In the early days, you don’t need to do so much talking.  After signing up, do this:

  • Type the names of people you know (customers, contacts or staff) into the “Find people” search function at the top of the screen. When you find someone you know, follow them.
  • Type your company name into the search box and see if any conversations are being had about your company or brand. Do the same for your competitors.
  • Sit back and watch it for a couple of weeks before you jump in and start Tweeting yourself. See the tone, the style, the content of what people say in your “Twittersphere”.  Authenticity is everything; people won’t want to interact with a marketing machine or automated service.

Phil Jones is Vice-President of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Sales & Marketing Director of technology brand Brother.  He writes a daily blog at http://thecorporatebubble.blogspot.com/ and can be found on Twitter @Philjones40.The second post on this subject will appear on PR Media Blog tomorrow, Friday 19th June. 

Journalism on a wing and a prayer

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by Jon Clements

 

I’m sorry, but who says the life of a journalist isn’t glamorous?

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings and a new documentary about the event – James May on the Moon Daily Telegraph writer, Harry Wallop, agreed to experience that aeronautical delight, zero gravity.

Reading his piece about it you get not only amusement, but a very palpable sense of sheer, unadulterated terror.

Space helmets off to Harry for not losing his lunch on film.

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 Frenchman at the #fodm

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 by Jon Clements

Even top talent at the head of your online marketing campaign is no guarantee of winning, as delegates at The Future of Digital Marketing event learned this morning.

Keynote speaker, Eric Frenchman, Chief Internet Strategist for the online political agency Connell Donatelli Inc and online consultant to the John McCain presidential campaign, is clearly no slouch in the field of online political marketing. But why did McCain lose?

Thanks to various attendees tweeting from the Congress Centre, London during the speech,  we were treated to an insight into the online machinations of US politics.

Frenchman called search marketing “the great equaliser” and the “one place where you can compete or even beat your competition with less money” – a critical issue in political campaigning where your budget is only as good as the funds you raise. As he told the audience, search is not the sexiest but is the lifeblood of your digital campaign.

But some online tactics can backfire. So popular was the click through rate on a “hippy Hilary Clinton” ad used by the Republican campaign, it had to be switched off for being too successful.

As for Obama, he had 90 staff working on his digital strategy – according to Frenchman – and managed to tap into Facebook and online video in a way the Republicans failed to. Creating useful tools, such as “register to vote” widgets on Facebook helped Obama to reach 3.1m followers against McCain’s 610,000. And the Yes We Can video clocked up 18.2m views, alongside the millions of views for “home made” Obama films – equating to an alleged $40m  equivalent of TV advertising spend.

Frenchmen also voiced his frustration at the McCain campaign’s use of Twitter, which rather than focusing on engagement and conversation erred on the side of broadcast or one-way communication.

Though clearly fascinated by the material, some delegates tweeted their concern about the “questionable tactics” of political search, US campaigning and the presence of Frenchman himself.

James Sandoval tweeted: “Why is Eric F of John McCain’s losing digital campaign marketing efforts the keynote? Does this represent FODM – Hmmm”. Anna Rafferty’s “feeling a bit sick about all the childish tricks used online during the US election” got the re-tweet treatment while the nausea theme continued with Tanya Goodin who mentioned a certain “queasiness” about US political video: “We’re just too cynical in the UK for this stuff to work!” she said.

Despite some clearly brilliant and clever online strategy, the Republicans lacked the most important element: a winning product.

Michelle Goodall noted an earth tremor or floor wobble towards the end of the keynote speech. Was it a tube train or the restless ghost of John McCain’s election campaign?

Thanks to all tweeps above, plus @johnmac71, @thetafferboy, @linusgreg @jake_hird, @cragster.

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

Clever PR makes quick headlines for the BBC

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 by Jo Rosenberg

 

With the furore of press coverage the story achieved, it was hard to miss the fact that some of the BBC’s “top talent” are facing drastic pay cuts. It was reported that a gathering of stars were invited to a less than extravagant affair held at Television Centre to be told that anyone earning over £100,000 a year would face a massive pay cut, with some deals being halved.

Brucie is now contemplating his future as host on Strictly Come Dancing as his considerable £900,000 earnings could be slashed to a mere £500,000.

Terry Wogan, who’s Radio 2 breakfast show Wake up to Wogan averages 7.8 million listeners a week, is facing a similar cut, from £800,000 to £500,000.

Other personalities who may face a drop in salary when their contracts come up for renewal include Chris Moyles, Jeremy Clarkson and Jonathan Ross.

In the current economic climate it comes as no surprise that the BBC is making “efficiency savings” and talent fees are not excluded from the economic pressures.

It’s also no secret that ITV and Channel 4 are struggling in these hard economic times, but throw the licence fee – that’s public money – into the melting pot and it becomes a rather more interesting issue.

As the Telegraph’s Neil Midgley writes; “the PR line from the BBC is clear. Don’t take the licence fee away from us.”

With the amount of press coverage this “top talent” gathering attracted, it soon became clear that the BBC’s PR machine has been working particularly hard since the report by the House of Commons public accounts select committee which criticised the corporation’s reluctance to open its books to public scrutiny, not to mention separate talks of freezing the licence fee.

Clearly the BBC must be seen to be doing all it can to make savings and not waste public money on hugely inflated salaries and what better way to tell the world that’s what it’s doing than at the expense, quite literally, of its biggest, news generating stars.

With this in mind, one can’t help question whether the recent pay cuts were more of a shrewd PR move than a strategic business decision, as it seems the corporation’s freelance production staff (who can command £1,000 a week or more) have, for the moment, been left unscathed.

Last week the Times suggested that BBC insiders hoped that a high-profile name would walk out in a row over pay, to allow the corporation to say that it is refusing to meet overpriced salary demands.  But that doesn’t seem likely. No big stars have publicly complained which is now rather incidental as the headlines have already been grabbed.

When social media moguls get it wrong

Monday, June 15th, 2009 by Jon Clements

Gary Vaynerchuck is a name well known to those immersing themselves in social media – and is one which carries some weight, as the success of his online Wine Library TV is testament to. 

But he’s had to swallow a substantial slice of humble pie in recent days and clean up the mess left by his representative, who decided to pitch countless bloggers to support a “promotional bonanza” around the launch of Vaynerchuck’s first book.

In response, blogger, John Cass, wrote on his PR Communications blog that apart from being a “form pitch letter” (i.e., a mass, unpersonalised pitch, a.k.a. chucking mud at the wall and hoping something sticks), the approach failed at a more fundamental level: the pitch was wrong for the medium and simply reading Cass’s blog would’ve revealed that. It’s a tactic that’s sent journalists’ blood boiling for eons and does precisely the same with bloggers today.

And Cass emphasises that the promise of getting extra online “traffic” by participating in the book launch is meaningless to him: “I’d much rather have people who want to engage in a dialogue with me, where that dialogue results in me learning something I can use as material for my blog, ideas for my work, or building relationships that convert into into customers.”

To his credit, Vaynerchuck is obviously listening and pitched in on the comments section to answer Cass and other commentators and confess he’d “messed up”. So, in the end, he used the medium in the way it should be used – to engage in dialogue.

It goes to show: in communications – and especially social media – you can never afford to stop learning.

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 Calls CNN to Account Over Iran

Monday, June 15th, 2009 by Rob Brown

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Iranians protesting at the outcome of the recent election have been mobilising through social networks like twitter and Facebook. 

In addition to challenging the ‘surprising’ results of the presidential election, social networks are being used to organise protests and direct action.   Moreover opponent of the current regime, who claim the election was rigged, have been taking on one of the world’s largest media organisations via twitter.

Whilst organisations like the BBC and New York Times were covering the events as they unfolded, CNN was singled out by twitter users inside Iran and around the world for failing to give sufficient prominence to the outrage at the reported election result emanating from inside the country.  Twitter users in their thousands started to use the hashtag #CNNfail in their messages to point out the limited CNN coverage.   In a direct response to the demands of web users the TV network increased its coverage of events and made the protests their lead story.  

The major news brands around the world remain our most trusted sources of news and comment but the social web is emerging as a critical provider of checks and balance.  

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).