Archive for August, 2010

Thompson’s nod to social media power

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 by Jon Clements

If the holiday weekend excitement took your attention away from the BBC director general, Mark Thompson’s MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, you can find a handy summary of the main points c/o of the BBC here and a media overview here.

But in the midst of the gladiatorial BBC vs Sky debate, what I noticed in the Guardian’s extract from his speech was the mention of Twitter; how the news about BBC cuts “provoked an extraordinary rash of Twitter feeds…” and that “some of those ‘I love the BBC’ Twitter feeds trended in the top five in the world”. And all because “they care about British television and …will be prepared to fight for it in their thousands and perhaps their millions”.

Is this the first time a BBC director general has acknowledged the influence of social media on shaping decisions made in higher places? Clearly, the references to Twitter had to be carefully chosen, knowing the surgeon-like precision with which  this year’s MacTaggart lecture would be dissected.

It’s one thing – as the BBC does – to use social media as a channel, but quite another to recognise it as a world-wide driver of opinion to be taken seriously.

I wonder what James Murdoch makes of all that? And, if he does Tweet, does he do it (as the article at the end of the previous link would suggest) standing up?

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’s strength its lack of a premium edition

Friday, August 27th, 2010 by Patrick Chester


How likely is it that a PR account executive in Manchester – in the role for only a matter of months – would gain access to talk with one of the most important PR professionals of our time?  Yesterday I shared a brief exchange with Tony Blair’s chief spin doctor Alastair Campbell over Twitter. I write book reviews at On Thursday I wrote a review for Alastair Campbell’s The Blair Years.  

It wasn’t a nice review, but I was honest:


The book is surprisingly tedious – Campbell is a former Mirror journalist, so why didn’t he write his memoirs like one? It is full of tiresome detail and repetition, and could be around 300 pages shorter.  The Blair Years is a frustrating read – I recommend Alastair Campbell by Peter Oborne and Simon Walters as a more illuminating account of Blair’s communications machine. Having published the review, I looked to see if Campbell was on Twitter. There’s no reason to hide a bad review from an author, and I wanted to see his response.  

He was, and so I told him I didn’t enjoy his book:  


His response was predictable: 


Troubled by such a dignified reply, I made amends: 


And, ever the communications maestro, Campbell was provocative in summing up: 


Although retired, it still feels like a major coup to have spoken to such a high-profile figure as Alastair Campbell, even if only on Twitter. Twitter’s strength is its fairness. Email, telephone and letters – all private media – provide the opportunity for the other person to ignore them – with Twitter, it’s much more difficult. Campbell searched for his name and saw that review was out there. He had to respond. Everyone on Twitter is on an equal footing. Besides “Verified Accounts”, there are no premium features for members with millions of followers, and no added benefits have been introduced for those willing to pay. Because of this, it allows an anonymous PR person the opportunity to interact with a person who worked in the corridors of power for over a decade.  

I’m reading John Prescott’s Prezza: My Story: Pulling No Punches soon. Wish me luck – he might put up more of a fight.

About Patrick Chester

Patrick is an account executive at Staniforth. He also runs a book review site at

Is your brand up to social media speed?

Friday, August 27th, 2010 by Jon Clements


As we segue into the last part of 2010, it’s worth asking how social your marketing has been this year.

Or, maybe more pertinent a question: how social should it have been?

Reading back on a commentary piece from Interbrand in 2009, focused on the use of social media and subtitled “Make 2009 the year you engage”, the sentiments should seem almost quaint in August 2010. But are they really so quaint and how far have brands genuinely moved with the uptake of social media marketing?

Writers, Bunny Ellerin and Nora Geiss pointed out at the time that “there is still much confusion about how to integrate new forms of communication, particularly digital and mobile, into a brand’s marketing plan.”

And this was despite a predicted compound annual growth rate in US social media spend of 34% – which, based on Interbrand’s figures would mean a figure of $3.1bn by 2014. According to a recent analysis by eMarketer, this level of investment is well underway, with the actual social media spend (by advertisers) this year predicted to be $1.7bn in the US and $3.3bn worldwide.

With all this extra money being spent (granted, calculated on advertising spend rather than other forms of social media engagement) are companies making the most effective use of social media?

Ellerin and Geiss provided a handy six-point social media plan for brands in 2009.

How many of these can you tick off as we reach the final furlong of 2010?

1. Start tracking your brand online.

2. Establish a relationship with an [online] opinion leader.

3. Support a social network in your category.

4. Engage with consumers at one of their many online haunts.

5. Use video to communicate and educate.

6. Go mobile [i.e., phone apps].

I’d be very interested to know if your response to all this is “Duh! Course we are, stupid!” or “Hmmm. Maybe 2011 is the year we’ll engage”.

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 Top 10s and the Social Media Mainstream

Thursday, August 26th, 2010 by Rob Brown

I wasn’t much of an early bird with twitter but is is remarkable how much the world of microblogging has changed in the two years since I joined.  In the summer of 2008 it was very much the playground of ubergeeks, bloggers and of course Barack Obama.   Now (amongst many other things) it has embraced mainstream entertainment media, evidenced not least by the twitter ascendancy of the first lady of glam pop to a rank once enjoyed by the prospective President.The comparison is even more stark when you compare the top 10 twitter accounts two years ago with the current ten.Top Twitter Users 2008 (12.10.08)

1.  BarackObama 94,600
2.  kevinrose 66,251
3.  leolaporte 57,703
4.  cnnbrk 43,628
5.  alexalbrecht 38,595
6.  MarsPhoenix 36,182
7.  JasonCalacanis 36,083
8.  Scobleizer 35,473
9.  Veronica 33,333
10. twitter 31,820

Top Twitter Users 2010 (26.08.10)

1.  LadyGaga 5,829,503
2.  BritneySpears 5,745,242
3.  aplusK 5,605,776
4.  BarackObama 5,107,068
5.  TheEllenShow 5,100,414
6.  JustinBieber 4,773,390
7.  KimKardashian 4,566,926
8.  Oprah 4,092,737
9.  TaylorSwift13 4,013,783
10.JohnCMayer 3,628,576

The size of the audience is the first thing that leaps out – the individual follower numbers have grown 100 fold.  The most powerful man on the planet is the only person to make both lists and though he has grown his following by over five million he has long since given up the top spot, perhaps because he no longer tweets himself.Apart from that we have seen social media super stars eclipsed by mainstream megastars.  With the exception of el presidente the top ten now are all from the worlds of showbiz.  In 2008 we had Digg founder Kevin Rose, podcaster Leo Laporte and tech bloggers Richard Scoble and Veronica Belmont.  Twitter itself was just in the list and we were listening in our thousands to tweets from the surface of Mars.  Oh happy days.

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).

Ignore social media? Not a cat’s chance…

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 by Jon Clements

Type “woman” into Google search today – in fact, go as far as “w-o-m” and you will be presented with “woman puts cat in bin”; 1.97m searches on this term alone, just a day after a Coventry woman was filmed putting kitty in the litter.

Not only is the story a shocking example of animal cruelty, it’s a salutary lesson to any organisation that hasn’t yet recognised the power of social media. Imagine that the hapless Coventry woman at the centre of the furore was, instead, your company or brand.

Look at the facts: number one in Google search; more than 50,000 views on YouTube; nearly 30,000 fans on Facebook, posting nearly 1,000 comments on the matter; 743-and-counting online news articles and, now, a police guard on the offending woman’s home.

Granted, the ire of the British animal lover should never be underestimated.

But where did this firestorm take hold? Within 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 ''

Social media surveys – the latest views

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 by Jon Clements

Another day, another load of social media survey data to circumnavigate…

But interesting nonetheless.

First, a UK survey from Skillsoft (e-learning company), giving the social media view among “learning professionals”; noteworthy because it suggests that specific sectors are each finding a distinct value in embracing social media.

Unsurprisingly, the learning professionals recognised the social media worth in “exchanging ideas to create community content” (28%) and “empowerment through shared knowledge” (28%) – not the usual marketing/customer relationship mantra one tends to find in analyses of social media usage. In fact, the brand awareness and sales/marketing applications of social media came respectively 4th and 5th as corporate benefits, according to the polled group. 

For those involved in learning, the emphasis of social media appears to fall on “collaborative online communications”. But then Skillsoft’s survey and accompanying commentary could be accused of straying into the mildly Utopian when it describes the power of social media to “create unprecedented knowledge bases that can empower entire industries and even society as a whole”. Not if people get fed up of Facebook’s privacy goalpost changing, it won’t.

As a footnote, it seems that having a social networking policy has not occured to most of the companies whose people answered SkillSoft’s poll. But it’s the issue of lacking serious investment in managing and measuring social media effectiveness that troubles Brand Builder Blog author, Olivier Blanchard, more.

This he picks up from the latest KingFish Media social media usage survey among marketeers, showing that only 9% of the 72% of companies with a social media programme employ someone to manage it while fewer than half (43%) don’t need to show positive ROI to get funding for their social media activities. Blanchard’s conclusion? “Dismal”. He does – however – acknowledge the limitations of the data, with most of the companies polled being small, mostly B2B marketing/media businesses.

Still, it might suggest that outside a few huge brands investing in comprehensive and dedicated social media activity, many organisations are still dabbling in the hope that something miraculous will happen. Maybe it’s because dabbling feels like a low-risk approach with a new, difficult to evaluate discipline -“undiscipline” even, as consumers don’t just behave themselves and act accordingly because social media is part of your marketing effort.

What Blanchard’s comments do underline is that it takes a combination of skills, time, effort and money for social media marketing to stand a chance of working.

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 ''

Has The X-Factor Jumped the Shark?

Monday, August 23rd, 2010 by Rob Brown

Most pundits and TV insiders have regarded The X-Factor as a piece of TV entertainment rather than a genuine competition for years, but for the many fans that pay to vote the integrity of the contest is still vital.That’s why the producers’ admission that they used ‘Auto-Tune’ in the opener in the new series just may be the beginning of a downward slide for Simon Cowell’s ratings phenomenon.  Auto-Tune is used by a multitude of artists to correct pitch on record and in vocal performances.  In a singing competition its use strays some way from fair play.It seems that the producers interpretation of the series has moved so far from the audience view that they were unprepared for the backlash.  They’ve admitted using Auto-Tune but said that they only tamper with the acts’ voices in the audition stages, never in the live shows.   That sounds a bit like a mid series u-turn.  Cowell and co. were caught with their pants down because of the growing trend towards live tweeting during event TV.   It was the viewers that identified the signature audio effects of Auto-Tune during Saturday’s broadcast and looking at the comments, they weren’t at all happy.   Viewer @shortymcsteve tweeted X factor is such a joke, they are even using auto tune… during the auditions. Talk about faking talent.”There is a way to go before X-Faxtor loses its crown but this could be a tipping point.  There are talent shows in the wings that are positioning themselves as the genuine article.  There is also growing disillusionment at the way Simon Cowell and his company Syco ties up revenue streams not least with the artists themselves.  Sky 1’s new series ‘Must be the Music’ actually provides downloads for songs performed by the acts after each show through iTunes with the net profits of the sales going directly to the artists.

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).

Foursquare Facebook and Twifficiency. The War on Privacy

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Rob Brown

Online privacy has blown up on several fronts in the last few days.  Yesterday the twittersphere took collective umbrage at the audacity of  James Cunnigham and his Twifficiency site.  It was publishing twitter efficiency ratings (huh?) without users’ permission.  

This is pretty small beer in privacy terms when you put it alongside the comments of Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google, who in an interview with the Wall Street Journal issued stark warnings about the volume of personal data people upload to social networks.   “The internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy we’ve ever had” he said.  “I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time.”

Foursquare has also been under fire.  Are you sure that you want all of your friends, family and people you do business with to know that you are the mayor of some of your home town’s finest drinking establishments?  Foursquare is endeavouring to square up to the issue.  In a blog this week the company said “We’re always looking for ways to give our users more control over the data they share through foursquare… For example, you can now choose to share your email or phone number with friends, opt out of all Mayorships, and have more control over email settings.”   

The Facebook privacy debate is well documented but we really haven’t seen anything yet.  I wrote a book about PR and the social web which was published last year and in the final chapter I speculated “imagine combining the huge volume of photographs on the web with facial recognition software and… data gleaned from social networks… We could use a camera to inform us about a person’s history.”   Well that day is almost upon us.   “We know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are” says the Google chief.  “Show us 14 photos of yourself and we can identify who you are. You think you don’t have 14 photos of yourself on the internet? You’ve got Facebook photos.”

We can already point a camera a bulding and recieve a wealth of data.  How long before we can do the same with people?

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).

Jazzing up social media for Manchester Jazz Festival

Friday, August 6th, 2010 by Jon Clements

© William Ellis

Exactly one week ago the annual Manchester Jazz Festival was entering its penultimate day of nine, which had seen crowds packed into venues across the city to see more than 80 bands.

It was also the culmination of a festival marketing campaign that, for the first time, had social media hot wired into it.

With a small core team, a modest budget and a principal focus of getting the music right, the festival organisers gave a couple of people – myself included – a fairly free rein to see what social media could do for audiences this year.

So, did the social investment work? The honest answer is, I don’t know. Hopefully the research among gig-goers during the week will reveal all. But what I do know is that using a small selection of social media platforms effectively exposed the festival to a greater number of eyes and ears, and created the beginnings of loyal online community.

The main issue we faced was having little concrete information to work with until a few weeks before the festival, when the line-up was finally confirmed and published. Add to that a pre-existing suspicion among the general public about what they think jazz is: in other words, elitist, pretentious and a whole load of screeching noise.

So, what did we do?

  • Invited festival Facebook Group followers to migrate to the newer (and more versatile) Facebook fan page.
  • Trawled the festival’s existing Twitter follower and followee lists to pinpoint and connect with the influential/popular feeds in Manchester and North West England music/arts and entertainment.
  • Began retweeting others’ content; showing the willingness to share.
  • Started conversations where appropriate and where we could add something meaningful.
  • Set up an Audioboo account to generate some low-cost content, by way of interviews with scheduled bands and music samples.
  • Set up Google alerts to track all mentions of the festival by bloggers and venues to provide a steady stream of content for Facebook and Twitter updates.
  • Used the Twitter “all friends” feed to find useful jazz content to keep the platforms refreshed with audio and video.

By the time the festival’s new website came online, with extra facility for multimedia content, we already had a burgeoning online community eager for festival fodder. Using links from static parts of the website (such as daily gig listings) on the Facebook page provided another route in to the online materials.

What did we achieve?

From a humble base of just over one hundred Facebook fans two months before festival launch, this reached nearly 500 by the time the music started.

Interaction on the page had also increased considerably:


 Twitter followers doubled from 600 to 1,200 and we had developed some great contacts, including leisure and entertainment bloggers who featured festival previews, reviews, competitions and – amazingly – became jazz converts! Granted, the numbers weren’t in their tens of thousands but, don’t forget, this is jazz not Kylie Minogue!

If an increase in social media followers for the festival – and the user generated content that showed up on the sites – is indicative of active audience interest in the event, I would like to believe this contributed to the week of packed houses.

In the words of the old jazz tune, “T’ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it (and that’s what gets results)”

(Photo of Adam Nussbaum, drums, and Steve Swallow, bass, c/o William Ellis)

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 ''

Radio Ga-Ga? Not so for PR and marketing.

Thursday, August 5th, 2010 by Jon Clements

There’s no doubt that social media has become the favoured flavour of the PR and marketing community’s month.

As mentioned in a recent post the demand for social media consultancy is on the rise as well as the search for people with the right skills in the field.

And brands are getting their fair share of flack when retro-fitting traditional marketing methods for the social media domain.

So is there anything left for PR and marketing in the channels looking comparatively long-in-the-tooth? Take radio: is it merely what writer and broadcaster, Garrison Keillor describes as (and I paraphrase) “the thing that sits in the corner giving you a warm feeling and makes you think of your Mum”.

Well, not so fast it seems.

The latest RAJAR figures for UK radio (covering changes in radio station audiences) show that commercial radio – said to be in terminal decline only a few months ago – suggest it’s gaining more listeners from the BBC and achieving its highest ever levels of reach (ie, the number of people tuning in for longer). Unsurprisingly, the figures are welcomed by the media buying community.

So, what does this mean for PR and marketing people?

Independent radio buyer for On Air Promotions, Shehnaz Sirkhiel, says the time has never been better to buy into commercial radio: “Stations are enticing listeners back to local radio by streamlining their programming, making it a lot more accessible and giving their output a national sound with networked shows while holding on to a local feel.”

According to Sirkhiel, this means there’s a great opportunity for brands to stand out from the on air clutter and reach enlarged audiences via sponsorships and promotions, which sit more in the editorial than advertising sections of programmes.

And if companies are looking for a good radio deal the time is now, as they will – until the new RAJAR figures are implemented on station planning systems – pay radio rates based on the previous figures, while obtaining a higher listenership.

Meanwhile digital radio, once considered the white elephant of the medium, is also gaining more “ear time”. Sirkhiel says this is another boon for businesses wanting to ride the radio wave: “Brands should be taking digital radio more seriously, especially those stations integrating their broadcasting with commercial activity online.” She cites Jazz FM  as a digital-only station whose programming “doesn’t shout, but excites” and which provides a currently cost-effective way of reaching a targeted audience.

Keillor’s book title “WLT: A Radio Romance” suggests there is still love to be had with the old “wireless telegraph”. The investor who said in the 1920s, “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular,” might just have been wrong.

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 ''