Archive for January, 2010

Keeping Mum – the new political battlefield

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 by Ben Furber


Today’s guest blog post by Ben Furber, a design and communications professional based in Manchester who specialises in political and non-profit organisations, and who has worked on new media campaigns for Labour, focuses on how politicians are working hard to win over she who knows best: Mum…

Every week one columnist or another is hypothesising about what the general election will be about. So when, in November, Rachel Sylvester wrote that the ‘election will be won at the school gate’ and cited the Biscuitgate affair on Mumsnet, I paid the column little attention.Why wouldn’t I? I’m a young single male with no plans for or interest in having dependents any time soon. But now, once again, Mumsnet is on my radar. On Friday, with exclamation marks and many profanities, I was emailed a link to a Mumsnet forum thread — 35 pages then (and 38 pages now) of its readers’ very own David Cameron billboards. Clearly not all of the 140,000 plus attempts have been generated by political activists!

Luckily for me I was in the same room as a young mother, so I asked her: ‘What’s with Mumsnet?’ She told me: “When you have a question, it’s where you go. When you’re concerned about something, it’s where you go. When you need support, it’s where you go.”

This was when it clicked. Mumsnet isn’t just a website, it is a community — just like the coffee mornings that go on all over the country on a daily basis in community centres and local churches, but virtual and available twenty-four hours a day. It’s Mums and Dads meeting, talking and providing each other with support.

Many candidates are prepared to sell their right arms to talk to these community groups, explaining their party’s family and child policies. No wonder the parties centrally are doing the same with Mumsnet.

The perceived wisdom is based on a fine communications model: senior party officers flood the lobby with targeted policies and spin, hoping the national media will write about it and those that glance at a paper the next day read the headline. At the same time the well connected candidates talk to those local community groups that they can blag their way into. But as Mumsnet (as well as others) show, there is a new way of connecting, a better way of connecting.

Local campaigning is working for Labour this year – that return to the fundamentals of what it is to ask someone for their vote. In many places this is being done effortlessly. The street endorser and direct mail models are working wonders. But at the other end we have a hostile national and mainstream media which continues to try to convince the public that the election has already happened and Cameron has won with a landslide.

What Number 10 seem to have understood with Mumsnet is that instead of relying on journalists with their clear editorial focus, specific groups can be talked to direct. So politicians have started talking straight to engaged groups at a national level, just like they do in community centres,  but they are now doing so online.

But more is needed.

It could be the tip of the iceberg: the parties could start talking about the benefits of community campaigning versus local campaigning, not because it’s fundamentally difficult  – it isn’t – but because it increases the scope and provides the additional focus of new and social media.

So we all know about Mumsnet now, great. But there are others, too, and time needs to be put into finding those groups and communicating with their users.

It is scary for a lot of people, accepting and understanding that certain websites have the potential to engage – just as we do on the doorstep. But everyone needs to. Mumsnet provides all the data needed. There are interested groups online with diverse interests that are becoming communities. With over 350 Cameron billboards submitted on Mumsnet, these communities are clearly engaged and each one, each Mum, is a constituent.

Broadcasters’ respond to Haiti earthquake

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 by Mark Perry


With 24 hour news channels we have instant access to the latest information when incidents like the Haiti earthquake happen. Within hours broadcasters have teams reporting from the front line.

But what we don’t often think about is how many people broadcasters like the BBC, Sky and others are committing to the story and how they are able to sustain themselves while all around there appears to be hardship and suffering. 

This was the subject tackled on Newswatch, a 15 minute weekly segment on News 24, where the public get to ask questions about the BBC’s news coverage.

It was interesting to learn from John Williams, BBC World news editor, that a team of 20 people including reporters, engineers and cameramen were providing coverage across the BBC news outlets. ITV News has 22 and Channel 4 News 14 while the figure from Sky is unknown. That is just from the UK and other news organisations from around the world are also on the ground in Haiti. 

Is there really a need for 56 people from different organisations to provide the UK with news about the earthquake and its aftermath?

You just wonder if in unprecedented circumstances like this if the news organisations should not have an agreement where they can pool resources, much as they do in conflict zones. I am sure there would still be opportunities for them to get their own ‘take’ on the story.  

What John Williams also revealed was that the supplies they need in terms of water and ration packs are brought in so not as burden the emergency aid. They had also been able to locate a hotel which was still standing after the earthquake to use as their base.

It cannot be denied, however, that their pictures have played a key part in driving public donations to the charity appeals.

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.

Bill Opens Twitter Flood Gates

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 by Rob Brown

Tweeting just three times in 24 hours @BillGates has amassed over 165,000 followers on his twitter account.  Twitter Counter is predicting that by tomorrow he will have reached the quarter million mark. 

The account was set up last June but was dormant until yesterday when the Microsoft supremo broke his silence with the words ‘Hello World’.  He also mentioned that he would be publishing a letter on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a few days. The missive from his philanthropic organisation will land on the 25th January.   We can only guess at the content but Gates has also tweeted his concerns about the situation in Haiti.

The Hollywood celeb Ashton Kutcher was the first to break the million follower mark on twitter.  He took three months and some active campaigning to hit that figure.   It looks like Bill Gates will reach a million within a week or so.   This puts paid to any notion that twitter can’t be a broadcast channel for certain individuals and organisations. 

Some quick twitter facts about Bill Gates first day of tweeting:

  • He is using rather than a twitter client
  • No mobile posts as yet (not too suprsing from the founder of Microsoft)
  • He has tweeted 5 times but two of these have been retweets (using the native function on twitter)
  • He has already been ‘listed’ over 5000 times
  • He has @posted twice – both to US celebs
  • The first person he followed was New York Times columnist Nick Kristof

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).

Does social media beget brands?

Monday, January 18th, 2010 by Jon Clements


Postrank’s top blogs of 2009 has just placed PR Media Blog at number 15 among our peers, based on a level of engagement and influence.

Aside from creating regular content (our job), the engagement factor is down to you, the reader; so, we must thank you heartily for that.

To receive such an accolade makes one wonder whether we have, in a small way, created a brand of our own. If a brand is something that has built trust and influence among a group of people, then PR Media Blog might just be that. But if it possesses any semblance of brand values, these have not been created in isolation. Though we do the legwork in creating something for you to read, it has been the comments on posts, the feedback and retweets on Twitter and the trackbacks from other blogs that have helped us to refine and shape the blog. Equally, our guest bloggers are entitled to part-ownership of our micro-brand.

So, is our humble example emblematic of a shift in the evolution of a brand and who owns it?

Naomi Klein’s seminal book and examination of brand power, No Logo, is 10 years old and gets an update to be published later this month. The author’s latest article describes how, at the height of her fame, “megabrands and advertising agencies…wanted me to give them seminars on why they were so hated…a kind of anti-corporate dominatrix making overpaid executives feel good by telling them what bad, bad brands they were.”

To her credit, Klein never donned the metaphorical leather and whips. But, today, organisations don’t need to call upon Klein for such flagellation. Social media has amassed an army of brand critics only too happy to share their disappointment with the performance of companies. However, happy customers share their praise too.

In providing positive and negative sentiment online, they are giving organisations the opportunity to improve on their failings while interacting with a community of – well – fans. But to harness this wealth of management information, there has, first, to be a willingness to listen.

Listening to and acting on customer feedback is the essential precursor to worrying about brand. Klein illustrates this with the example of Price Floyd, erstwhile media relations direction at the US State Department. When, during the reviled Bush presidency, his colleagues urged more media activity and more messaging in an attempt to turn around “brand America”, Floyd nailed the problem: “It’s not the packaging, it’s the substance that’s giving us trouble”.

If organisations believe they can create a brand in isolation and simply tell the world what it stands for, they may be disappointed. As Tamsen McMahon says in a recent guest post on the Conversation Agent blog: “A brand is the collective impression people gain not only from you and your marketing efforts, but from all of their interactions with you-and the interactions others have as well (newly amplified through 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 ''

‘Tw-eath’ of a Football Legend

Monday, January 18th, 2010 by Linda Nuttall


Football fans were devastated by rumours appearing on Twitter last weekend that football star John Barnes had died of a heart attack. Thankfully, the former midfielder is alive and well; no doubt blissfully unaware of the thousands of die-hard football fans lamenting the sad loss of a legend.   

As the news first reached me on the way home from a party on Saturday night, Twitter users were already tweeting “John Barnes died tonight, just a rumour at the mo” and “you heard about John Barnes rumour? Heart attack? Someone at Arrow Park leaked”, even a local journalist at the Liverpool Echo was tweeting for clarification.  

Naturally, those first to hear the whispers spent Sunday morning checking online and broadcast media for official news. As Twitter emerged as the sole online source of the rumour, Liverpool Supporters’ Twitter feed Empire of the Kop quite rightly tweeted to its 57,000 followers: “The John Barnes rumour first appeared 4 hours ago, if it was true it would be all over the media by now.”

The tweet: “John Barnes is fine. Heard from someone who has spoken 2 him this morning. Whoever started the rumour should b ashamed” put the final nail in the coffin for the rumours. Empire of the Kop confirmed on Twitter: “John Barnes dead rumour started by a Leeds fan” and identified his user name for all football fans who had been duped to vent their anger directly.

Although Twitter can be a fantastic source of breaking news, the micro-blogging site can be used by anyone and is not always accurate. To say someone is dead may not be defamatory but if inaccurate reports such as these were published in a newspaper, there would be a clear breach of the PCC Code of Conduct. 

Twitter is not devoid of defamation and privacy laws but if the ‘tw-eath’ of John Barnes proves one thing, it’s the frightening speed at which inaccurate rumours can spread online, whether they’re about people, businesses or organisations.

Another reason why brands need to be more aware than ever of what is being said about them online. Mis-information needs to be identified and corrected at the earliest opportunity, before people begin to treat what they read as fact, by which time, the damage to company reputation is already done.

Long live John Barnes!   

New Decade Newer Media

Monday, January 4th, 2010 by Rob Brown


It’s the first working day of a new decade and there is a lot to do but I thought it was worth pausing for a few moments to reflect on just how much the media and public relations have changed in the last ten years.  

When the sun pulled up on the new millenium we didn’t give much thought to creating video content to support PR campaigns, it was just too expensive in most cases.  Oh, and there was no Youtube, it didn’t launch until 2005.  Podcasts were still a thing of the future; the term “podcasting” wouldn’t be coined for another four years.  It was first used by Ben Hammersley in The Guardian in a February 2004 article.    The debate on the ethics of editing Wikipedia articles hadn’t begun because, well there was no Wikipedia until 2001.   Even Google had only been around for 18 months when the ‘noughties’ began.

More recently we have seen the beginning of the end for many newspapers but new and exciting channels are emerging.  The Guardian iPhone app launched last month may be the clearest indication yet as to the way forward for newspaper brands.  The impending launch of the Apple tablet (iPad or iSlate, take your pick) may be the saviour of the newspaper albeit in a modern guise.

There is a lot to contend with for the PR practitioner in the coming decade; media fragmentation, the continued rise of the user as publisher and the convergence of marketing disciplines to name a few of the challenges.  The ubiquity of iPhones, Google phones, tablets, slates or pads will mean that location based communication will become a powerful and empowering reality.

Oh and for those celebrating the end of the decade with the silliest moniker in history it looks like another daft description of a decade is in play as the ‘noughties’ make way for the ‘teenies’.  We only have ourselves to blame.

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).