Archive for July, 2009

News Channels Close the Gap on Twitter

Friday, July 31st, 2009 by Rob Brown

Around the middle of the morning the words Sir, Bobby, Robson and RIP started to trend on twitter.  It seemed that once again the social web had broken the news of the sad demise of a celebrity.  There have been several instances where this happened, a phenomenon first identified by this blog in October of last year, with the most notable occurrence being with the recent departure of Michael Jackson.

An analysis seemed to confirm that twitter was first to the news if only by a few minutes. At 10.18am (BST) @RobertMNHarvey was the first to tweet ‘RIP Bobby Robson’.  The Yorkshire Evening Press website was hot on his heels with an article timed at 10.22am, the first of the so-called conventional media to publish the story.  Four minutes later the news was on Bobby Robson’s Wikipedia entry but there was still nothing on Google News.    

I contacted the author of the twitter scoop.  Was he a hospital worker, a friend of the family, a football agent with inside knowledge perhaps? No, he had seen the story on the TV, Sky Sports News to be exact.  The crowd are are on the twits and they think it’s all over.  If you think it is time to blow the whistle on conventional news media, think again.

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).

No Twitter Please, We’re Teenagers

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 by Chris Bull

Most people who read a newspaper will have picked up on the story of Mathew Robson, a 15-year-old intern at Morgan Stanley who wrote a report into teenage consumption of the media which broke surface a little over a week ago. At first glance this smacked of a well executed PR stunt after the story made a huge splash in the nationals and had significant penetration online.

However, upon reading the report in its entirety – rather than reading what other people have said about the report, which is where most conversations have derived from – it is actually surprisingly simplistic, logical, and to someone who was not a teenager all that long ago, far less than groundbreaking than you might imagine. Everything contained in the report, well, it just seemed rather self-evident.

For instance, one of the key points that the media picked up on is that teenagers don’t Twitter. Of course they don’t. You actually have to invest some time in Twitter to get anything out of it. It takes months, if not years, to actually build up enough followers for one to feel their tweets are actually reaching an audience which could be, in any way, defined as significant. And even once you do, there is little content other than the oh so boring medium of text.

Compare this to the Facebook experience where you can jump into a ready made group, lured by a diversity of visually stimulating and engaging content, such as pictures, applications and games. It’s all rather Scrabulous.

Many of the other observations are fairly straightforward, claiming, for example that most teenagers don’t read newspapers or watch the news…is this news? Were you interested in global geo-politics or the lack of transparency within the political system when you were 14? No, thought not. Funnily enough, kids aren’t now either.

Most kids have mobiles on pay-as-you-go because they can’t afford contracts…hold the front bleedin’ page…the FT did.

So ok, this isn’t a PR stunt, but it does demonstrate a few things. Firstly, that if you want a report into the habits of media consumption – or anything for that matter – to have penetration, keep it simply and write it in language that is not impenetrable to the man in the street. Secondly, if you want to know how teenagers consume the media or anything else, just ask them. Thirdly, a story really does not have to be groundbreaking to get blanket coverage; it just has to be insightful, informative and PR’d within an inch of its life.

The report in its entirety can be viewed here.

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.

Social media really means business says study

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 by Jon Clements


Is this what the social media world has been waiting for: a detailed study that equates companies’ social media activity with (gasp!) pounds and pence, dollars and cents?

Well, technology and business analyst, Charlene Li and her digital consulting firm, Altimeter Group, have come up with just that. The study took the top 100 brands according the Business Week index and, first, analysed their engagement across 11 social media channels.

The top 10 list of social media performers contains no surprises – Starbucks, Dell, Google, etc – but it’s the next part of the engagement analysis that should put a spring in the step of social media advocates everywhere and give marketeers with metrics on their mind something to think about.

The study claims that revenues of the most social media-engaged companies – or “Social Media Mavens” as the report has it – rose 18% on average in the past 12 months, compared with an average decline of 6% among the least engaged. Finance people (welcome, if you were looking for the FT and have found yourself at PR Media Blog by accident) take note: the same results were identifed in gross margin and net profit figures.

What’s that you hear? It’s the sound of a few thousand social media experts saying “Phew! We knew we were on to something…”

But not content with showing how it benefits the bottom line, Altimeter’s work goes on to deconstruct how the top performers’ social media efforts are paying off. For those who consider themselves social media literate, this will seem obvious; but companies which refresh content regularly and actually respond to comments left on their blogs (i.e., conversing) are already streets ahead. It’s the difference between saying “we must get some of that social media magic” and actually doing it.

Other useful findings show that effective social media engagement is not the realm of the few in an organisation, but the many. This goes against the traditional marketing communications approach of maintaining a vice-like grip around every utterance from within an organisation and is, without doubt, a hard habit to shake off.

Finally, the study focuses on the importance of companies’ attitude to social media, in that it’s no longer something that can be dismissed as irrelevant to a particular business or business sector or something that be treated as a campaign with a finite life span. Sorry folks, but if you want some of those numbers that make the FD smile, it’s in for a penny, in for a pound. 

And in the fine PR tradition of giving catchy names to different modes of behaviour, the study categorises companies from the top flight “Mavens” to the bottom end”Wallflowers”, which are involved in social media, but only just. This tool gives you the chance to rank yourself.

So will you be Maven, Wallflower or something in between? If the study is to be believed – and real, financial fruits can be harvested from social media – then maybe it’s time to stop being (my term) the potted plant, that sits on the shelf waiting to be watered and hoping the sun will shine.

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 ''

Baby boom defies economic gloom

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 by Julie Wilson


Historically signifying good times and economic stability, this year, during one of the worst ever recessions, a new type of Baby Boom is emerging.   

No I’m not talking about an increase in the number of babies being born (although it could be suggested we’re all burying ourselves under the covers), but the down-turn defying sales in the infant sector. 

Maternity retailers Mothercare and JoJo Maman Bebe have both reported particularly strong results this year, with JoJo Maman Bebe recording a positive 11 per cent hike in like-for-like sales.  Speaking to Retail Week, the founder and managing director of the successful retailer, Laura Tenison, said: “we have never suffered from the recession; our sales have been consistently good.” 

And it’s not just the babywear sector that’s happily gurgling through the bad times but the food sector too. Research commissioned by Mintel revealed that families are set to spend £491 million on baby food this year – 50 per cent more than the amount spent in 2004. 

The staggering figure is largely driven by the organic baby food sector, accounting for one fifth of all baby food sold. The reason behind the sector’s continuing success is, I’m told, “guilt purchasing”, the title given by parents to their physical inability to buy anything less than the best for their little ones, even when money is tight. One parent told me they’d rather live on jam sandwiches than deny their child his daily helpings of organic spinach, salmon and wild risotto dinners.

Speaking to the Scotsman, Susie Willis, a former chef and mother of three who launched Plum Baby in 2006 and now has 5% of the UK baby food market, supports the theory and said: “Mums may be tightening their purse strings for the rest of the household, but baby food remains number one when it comes to giving them the best food.”

So, when we’re all looking for a way out of the recession, maybe there are worse things we could do than to duck for the covers – nine months from now and we could be contributing to a booming and blooming economic climate.

Run that up the flagpole again, will you?

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 by Linda Isted


With all the uproar about phone blagging and What Andy Coulson Knew, you may have missed the fact that the Public Administration Committee has been holding a public hearing on how the government uses, and misuses, language.

On the Today programme Matthew Parris made the usual cheap shots at “spin”, but what was more interesting was the way they singled out the creep of management speak (top down, bottom up, total envelope) into so called “accessible” language.

This isn’t about civil servant jargon – the deliverables and outputs and visions – it’s about new ways of saying nothing, using what appear to be nifty analogies (anyone remember Who Moved My Cheese?) to give the impression that was you are saying is easily understood, when in fact it’s even more obscure and nonsensical than ever.

As they played a clip of Liam Byrne, my first thought was that they hadn’t used a very good example, that he was actually using quite simple language.  It wasn’t until he reached the end that I got the point – or rather, realised that there was no point at all and he had just wasted several seconds of my life and doubtless several hundred valuable brain cells trying to figure out what on earth he was talking about. 

What we fondly used to call Fleet Street understood perfectly that simple, clear, impactful writing was the most difficult thing in the world – which is why traditionally the Sun’s sub-editors were the best paid and most jealously guarded.

I wouldn’t deny for a second that many people in corporate PR spend a great deal of time trying to say very little at length and with great authority. A vital skill in crisis management is the ability to talk to a journalist for ten minutes helpfully explaining what you can’t tell them anything at all. 

But being clear and making sense generally runs contrary to human nature – apart for the politicians, just listen to Vicky Pollard or the cute little monster in Outnumbered.  So everyone in the public sector should be making superhuman efforts to say what they actually mean. 

Twitter doesn’t just ‘Bumble’ along

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Mark Perry

Sky Sports have been hyping The Ashes for months in their own inimitable way and who can blame them with the money they have spent to secure sole television rights.

It is one of their older commentators, the former England player and coach David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, who has taken on their coverage to another level with his tweets from the commentary box.

Reading his tweets reminds me of listening to the grandfather of cricket coverage Test Match Special (TMS).

Over the first two days we have learnt from Lloyd his views on the food being delivered, suggested player look-a-likes and that he even listened to the Inspiral Carpets and Mark E Smith on the way to the ground this morning.

It is not just the occasional tweet either from Lloyd there is regular comment and views through each session. While the BBC’s Jonathan Agnew is sending regular tweets, it seems as if Lloyd has edge. Perhaps Agnew, sitting in the TMS commentary box can add little to what is being said.

Both set up their accounts within days of each other last week and Lloyd has taken a first innings lead with Lloyd having 8885 followers compared with 6820 following Aggers. Interestingly, old stalwart Henry Blofeld has started up his own Twitter account – only yesterday – most of tweets seem to be just retweets.

Sky, along with Bumble, seems to have grasped the extra dimension that Twitter can bring to fans – some of whom are sitting in the office and can’t watch the TV or listen to the radio.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

The spy who loved Facebook

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Jo Rosenberg

Last year MI6 was using Facebook to recruit the next generation of spies. This year it appears, indirectly, to be using the social networking site as a family photo album. As the wife of Sir John Sawers, the next head of MI6, put family details on Facebook, diplomats and civil servants are being warned of the danger of putting family and career information on social networking websites.

Lady Sawers disclosed the location of their London flat, the whereabouts of their children and the couple’s friendship with senior diplomats and actors without putting any privacy protection on her account. She also uploaded over 40 photographs from beach holidays to family parties and publicly congratulated her husband on his new and very secret job. Facebook has more than 200 million active users, 100 million of which log on to Facebook at least once a day. With this in mind, one could assume that Lady Sawers has made one huge security blunder.

That said, could this “blunder” in fact be a sign of the times? According to IT security firm, NCC Group, UK intelligence agencies are concerned that social networking sites are ruining the spy industry. Finding recruits who have no online presence will become nearly impossible, and with the ability to take photos on a mobile phone and upload to the internet, the days of locking away incriminating photos and files are long gone.

The brutal fact is however that Lady Sawers and her “Facebook frivolity” has left the Ministry of Defence with a security headache which will cost the tax payer. Relocation costs and extra security don’t come cheap and in today’s economy, it doesn’t bode well.

Social Media Cafe Manchester goes hopping mad

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009 by Jon Clements


How do you convert a piece of social media-driven awareness raising to a real-life, bodies on the ground, event? The answer is this: with a certain amount of difficulty.  

But given that was the challenge Manchester-based web company, Cahoona, teamed up with events agency, Ear to the Ground, to put Cutting Room Square – a redeveloped part of city district, Ancoats – on the map.

As they described at last night’s Social Media Cafe Manchester meeting at the BBC, (#smc_mcr) with no budget for big names or attractions to stimulate interest in the place, the plan hatched was to create a user-generated event – The Cutting Room Experiment – in which the public became the curators, participants and audience for it.

Using social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and others, the public was encouraged to take ownership of the ideas while promoting them to their online social connections. Using the campaign website as a destination, the activity generated more than 100 ideas and attracted 10,000 unique visitors in 10 weeks. The Facebook group amassed more than 500 members – not bad for a highly niche area of interest.

And the ideas themselves culminated in a live event, involving activites such as the “world’s smallest festival” (comprising three girls, a busker and a tent), a clothes swapping event and Space Hopper race.

Cutting Room Experiment: Space Hopper Race from Ben Holden on Vimeo.

The team hit its various targets for online engagement and turnout on the day – as well as generating £100k in media coverage. But, as David Norris of Ear to the Ground said: “It’s hard to turn a devoted online audience into vibrant offline one”.

Though some questioned the validity of using global social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to promote a highly localised event, the results suggest that global can be local too, especially as people in the same geographical area are often already talking to each other across the same social media platforms.

And how can you argue with a Space Hopper race – as long as the Health and Safety Executive isn’t watching.

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 ''