Archive for November, 2010

Rebranding a postcode’s chequered past

Thursday, November 11th, 2010 by Jon Clements


Aside from rebranding the Yemen Tourist Board, what could be harder than overhauling the image of a entire city suburb dogged with a bad reputation stretching back several generations?

That’s been the job faced by Manchester district, Wythenshawe, as it tries to replace stubborn perceptions of crime and social malaise brought to national attention more recently when Prime Minister, David Cameron – then in opposition – visited the area.

When the Wythenshawe “image campaign”, Real Lives, was launched two years ago, PR Media Blog covered some of the contrary views expressed about the virtues of applying a PR brush to the face of the estate.

But, two years on, the campaign claims to have made headway in breaking down what it calls the myths about the area.

This is helped in no small way by the investment from companies such as manufacturer PZ Cussons – of Imperial Leather and Original Source fame – relocating its offices to Wythenshawe, along with numerous examples of inward investment totalling £805m over the past 12 years.

PZ Cussons’ managing director, Elaine Birchall, panellist at a special Wythenshawe-themed event hosted by Insider Media pointed out how “progressive this community is” in taking “control of its own destiny” and “dispelling the myths”.

Fellow panellist, Andy Wilson, regeneration manager at Manchester City Council, while highlighting the good work done to attract investment and training to the area, was under no illusion about Wythenshawe’s image problem: “The brand needs to shift from industrial estates to what it is today.”

But before a convincing image of change can be portrayed, the people whose lives are most affected by the area – its residents – need to believe it. As Felicity Goodey, chairman of University Hospital South Manchester, said: “It takes time to change perceptions and the most important thing is to get people to acknowledge that there is change afoot. They are the most important ambassadors.”

But Anne Taylor of the Wythenshawe Regeneration Team, who has been involved in hosting “seeing is believing” tours of the area to persuade people that things have changed, is realistic about the image challenge: “The London-based media aren’t easily swayed and we still need to supplant images of Cameron and the ‘hoodie’ with positive stories. But it isn’t about gloss – everything we’re presenting is reality.”

As rebranding campaigns go, it rarely comes harder than showing the improvements in a living, breathing community where – unlike a corporate entity or a product – it’s impossible to keep everyone “on message”. And, as shown by TV presenter, Terry Christian’s recent comments about Manchester’s Moss Side, the good work done on building a fresh face for a postcode can melt away in a minute.

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 ''

The poppy appeal brand under attack

Monday, November 8th, 2010 by Jon Clements


Brands that could be considered sacrosanct are not immune from criticism – and sometimes from the most unexpected quarters.

This year’s Poppy Appeal, staged annually around the time of Remembrance Sunday to raise money for the work of the Royal British Legion, has attracted fire from veterans who accuse it of “showbiz hype” and being a “drum roll of support for current wars”.

The former military personnel claim that the true purpose of the poppy – to remind people of the “horror and futility of war is forgotten and ignored”.

The Royal British Legion fired back in its defence: “We are the natural custodians of remembrance but we are living in contemporary society…there is nothing in our appeal or campaigning which supports or, does not support, war: we are totally neutral.”

Nevertheless, it’s a tough one to defend when those who, in theory, should champion your cause take arms against it.

But do the veterans have a point? Does launching a campaign around a serious and sombre subject with girl group, The Saturdays, diminish its solemnity? Does it devalue the message that those who died in battle were the victims of human folly and we shouldn’t forget the stupidity of war?

But the risk the Poppy Appeal runs by looking trendy is nothing new. Eyebrows were raised in 1997 when the Spice Girls – at the height of Girl Power mania – were used to make the campaign more appealing to young people in light of falling revenues. But, as this PR Week analysis at the time shows, the risky move paid off.

It’s a balance the British Legion needs to strike; between being seen to muddy the message about war and being able to fund ongoing help for our military victims of conflict. And as the last remaining veterans from World War 2, and their tales of all-encompassing conflict touching millions, pass away, the more remote we become from the topic of war.

The Poppy Appeal is taking a pragmatic approach that clearly doesn’t please everyone. But if that means getting the judges of the currently most watched TV programme X Factor to wear poppies – prompting questions on Twitter as to what they are – the British Legion is making the best job of a sensitive situation.

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 manchester turns two

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Jon Clements


The freewheeling, one-time social media transit van-turned juggernaut, the Social Media Cafe Manchester, was two years old last night.

Organised, yet endearingly chaotic, it has become the unostentatious hub for sharing social media savvy and collaboration in the city.

Though itinerant – moving between venues diverse as BBC North and MadLab – #smc_mcr has maintained the momentum initially fired up by people including Martin Bryant, Julian Tait and Sarah Hartley on a similarly inclement November night in 2008. For history buffs, PR Media Blog captured the spirit of that first happening here and here.

Social media activity springing from Manchester’s most creative communicators reached a new zenith recently: its city police force used a 24-hour Twitter-thon to simultaneously publish every police enquiry in that period, demonstrate the scope of police work that’s, in fact, social work and gain several thousand new and engaged Twitter followers in the process.

So, it was apt that Kevin Hoy and Amanda Coleman of Greater Manchester Police provided the main attraction for this milestone in Manchester’s social media evolution.

Equally, the Manchester Social Media Surgery – an off-shoot of the cafe designed to hand out free social media advice to organisations new to the medium – has gained traction in the past year, mainly due to the hard work of organiser, Chi-chi Ekweozor.

And so, two years on, what do the unconference-like organisers of #smc_mcr – past and present – think about it now?

Listen here to Martin Bryant and Josh, aka @technicalfault, summing up its impact.


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 ''

Google Analytics Data Goes Missing

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Rob Brown


Web analysts pouring over on-line data from the US mid-term elections will be amongst the many people across the globe scratching their heads when they open their Google Analytics accounts.  Sites have been registering no visits at all for November 2nd.   A quick look at the hits for this site yesterday evening showed over 200 unique visitors but this morning Google Analytics, which tracks and reports on website visitor numbers for hundreds of thousands of organisations, showed zero.  Not even the people posting comments had visited the site according to the data.

Whilst this will be a major headache it looks likely that the issue lies with the web reporting rather than the data collection.  The fact that data was appearing yesterday and is now missing supports that theory and a look at the Google Analytics status dashboard shows that there have been already been two issues this week with web reporting.  The report on Monday’s bug says “Starting Oct 25th, a 24hr delay with processing in sampled reports was identified in some accounts. No data has been lost and a fix is in progress.”  It therefore looks likely that the data will be restored.  Today’s information appears to be displaying normally.

So far however there has been no word from Google on the latest issue and political analysts and businesses around the world will be in a state of some turmoil until Google’s Web Analytics software restores the data.

Update 12.15pm UTC

Google Analytics has resolved the issue.  The status dashboard now says “The problem with Web Report should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support.

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).

Is The Times Paywall Ready to Tumble?

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 by Rob Brown

News International took a bullish line today with the announcement of early results for The Times and Sunday Times paywall experiment.  Times editor James Harding said the papers were “hugely encouraged” by paying subscribers that have hit 105,000 after four months.

The BBC’s Rory Cellan Jones estimated that the annual revenue from this subscription base  with “very rough back-of-the envelope calculations” would be around £7m.  I think that might be optimistic given that News International haven’t indicated churn rates or how many of that 105,000 are currently in the introductory £1 for thirty day trial period.  Given that we’re just four months in it might be a quarter.

Where this really doesn’t add up is when you look at ad revenue.  The Guardian is pulling in £40 million a year in online revenues more than double that of the Times and bear in mind that doesn’t account for the fact we are not looking at a full year position for The Times.  It looks like online ads at the Guardian represent serious value in comparison.  From their pre-paywall high point the audience for the TimesOnline has dropped almost 90% and the figures from (below) will include anyone stopping by to look at the free to view front page.

What is most worrying of all for the 225 year old news title is that reach is still falling, 7% in the last month, at a time when most free on line national newspapers in the UK are seeing significant growth.   If there is a new financial model for national daily news titles, and there is no guarantee that there will be, you wouldn’t expect an old-style news baron to come up with the magic formula.  On the strength of the figures released today The Times paywall very definitely isn’t it.

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).

Fortune500’s blogging blues

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 by Jon Clements
Update: friend of PR Media Blog, blogger at PR Communications Blog and head of digital marketing at Pace Communications, John Cass, has produced a useful table of F500 companies with blogs and where to find them
As UK social media practitioners muse about 2011 as the real golden dawn for social media uptake in business, the view from the United States is perplexing.

The latest study into social media activity among Fortune 500 companies, fresh from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts, is remarkable mainly for revealing the unexpected.

While 23% of the F500 companies now have a public-facing corporate blog against 16% when the study first came out in 2008, it’s only a 1% increase on last year’s figure, suggesting a slowdown in the battle of the blogs.

And while a third of all blogs among the F500 fall within the top 100 companies, this group has also seen the biggest decline in blog usage, down from 39% to 32% year on year.

While the study hailed blog activity across the F500 as a truly interactive exercise, its companies lag behind the occupants of the Inc.500 list of the fastest growing US private companies, 45% of which have an active corporate blog.

However, blogs aside, corporate adoption of other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook paints a very different picture: 60% of the F500 have an official Twitter account (up 35% on last year) with – according to the study – a high level of interaction with other users. Meanwhile, Facebook now features 56% of corporate America’s leading businesses.

So, what does it mean? This decline in blog activity could reflect the sometimes Herculean effort it takes to maintain a flow of compelling and hard-working (i.e., richly-linked and optimised) blog content. If blog content creation is not an effective mixture of planned posts plus material reacting to a breaking sector topic, it can quickly lose its way and its audience. And if internal ownership of the blog is vague, stasis tends to result.

But is this wrong?

Online marketing consultant, Chris Kieff, seems to think so: in his Social Media Today blog post he asserts that this is a “lack of commitment of these Fortune 500 companies to become engaged, transparent and authentic with their communities in social media” because “blogging also naturally promotes a deeper discourse with comments of substance that would have to be addressed. In simple terms it’s harder to hide when you blog, compared to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.”

While you would expect PR Media Blog to concur with the value of blogging, I think Chris Kieff is wrong to suggest that working in other social media platforms is less “engaged, transparent and authentic”. On the contrary, Twitter and Facebook have the potential to engender a dialogue that many blog comment sections would kill for. Equally, Twitter and Facebook don’t require the posting of new content by a brand for customers to kick off a conversation, whereas a blog needs that regularly refreshed content to inspire engagement. Without it, discussion dries up quickly.

And as far as transparency goes, a blog-based discussion will often remain within its digital walls, unless either owner or commenter has the desire to take it beyond. Meanwhile, the highly versatile sharing capabilities of both Twitter and Facebook mean a debate can literally go viral in seconds.

Clearly, there’s room for all methods of social media interaction. And if the F500 has decided to scale back its blogging, you’d hope it was done on the basis of analytical evidence that the return on effort wasn’t worth it. It might suggest that less is more in the depth of editorial content required by social media consumers.

Whatever the reasons, you can be sure any marketing method failing to provide a tangible return for business will not last long.

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 ''