Archive for June, 2011

Strictly’s plan to pip X-Factor in ratings war

Thursday, June 30th, 2011 by Jo Rosenberg

It seems the Pippa Middleton media machine is working like a dream…

Undeniably, the 27-year old party planner displayed an enviable rear at her sister’s wedding in April this year, but the dizzy heights she has reached throughout the world’s media is meteoric.

Just three weeks after the royal wedding, Pippa Middleton, dubbed “P-Middy” by the red tops, became the most talked about Middleton in the media. In one week alone she had a whopping 60 stories broadcast and printed about her – not bad considering that all she did was show off her taut derriere in what was an unquestionably stylish Sarah Burton dress.

And, although this will by no means be the pinnacle of her new found fame, it seems Pippa Middleton has been approached by the BBC to appear in the next series of Strictly Come Dancing.

According to the Sun, the Beeb has offered her a five figure sum and will go to “any lengths” to get her to take part in the show. A sure fire way to beat rival X Factor in the ratings war.

No doubt this is just one of thousands of offers Pippa’s had since she wore That dress on April 29 and, as a result, has dutifully deflected the media gaze from her elder sister, who is quietly settling into the role as Prince William’s wife.

Google Pippa Middleton and you are presented with around 30,000,000 results (the first being Ok, so it by no means rivals Lady Gaga’s 600,000,000 but nonetheless, it’s staggering given that she shot to fame on the basis of a good backside.

Pippa’s always going to make headlines, but when it comes to sashaying around the dancefloor on primetime TV, perhaps, as the future queen’s only sister and closest confidante, she should think twice and maintain an air of obscurity.

And if all else fails and heaven forbid the P-Middy media machine slows down, she could always make use of her best asset and bring out a celebrity fitness DVD.

Financial services’ reputation crossroads

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 by Jon Clements

Goodbye Financial Services Authority; hello Financial Conduct Authority – but how much does this really mean for reputation improvement in financial services?

It’s a hot topic this week, as the FT reports the promise of the FCA to be “tougher…bolder” and to “intervene earlier”, unlike its infamously “light tough” predecessor, which failed to prevent the financial crisis in the UK banking system.

The FSA’s Margaret Cole, director of enforcement and financial crime, summed up the stark reality for financial serviceswith the analogy:  “If a supermarket sold rotten food to its customers, how long would it stay in business?”

And, just today, a Reputation in Financial Services conference is focusing on ways the sector can “rebuild the relationship of trust with the public”.

tweet from the conference, via Tony Langham of Lansons Communications – quoting Stephen Hammond MP – asserts that “regulation is a tool of international business performance and therefore reputation”. By that, you would assume that regulation was the panacea for the financial sector’s reputation sickness.

But, as reported by Insurance Age, Kay Blair, vice chair of the Financial Services Consumer Panel, has described the required shift in regulatory effectiveness to be a “quantum leap”. She said: “…the causes [of misconduct in financial services] are systemic, built in to business models, rather than random events. By addressing suspect business models and potentially toxic products, a more effective regulator will nip problems such as any future PPI in the bud well before consumer detriment escalates and certainly before consumers have lost millions of pounds.”

So, in between the hill the regulator needs to climb and the public’s trust in financial services floundering, what are firms in the sector to do?

As long as there is a disproportionate emphasis on brand building (think Meerkats), this is a manifestation of external image, which may not necessarily equate to establishing a sound reputation, which is the more compelling and enduring reason customers choose to do business with you or not. Building – or rebuilding – reputation begins at the core of what an organisation does, hence Kay Blair’s apposite reference to “business models” being fundamentally at fault.

Investing in corporate reputation may involve a business sticking its neck out and standing up for what’s right for its stakeholders. This is crucial as stakeholders – defined in another tweet from today’s reputation conference – are “anyone who can bugger up your company”.


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 Shrek Effect

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould

This week saw the notorious website, accidently let 30,000 ‘ugly’ people onto its web dating social networking site.

The website, known for brutally only accepting people it thinks are beautiful contracted a virus allowing 30,000 not-so-beautiful people to use the site. But not to fear….They have now been booted off at a financial cost of $100,000 to the site operators.

The Virus that the site contracted was named ‘Shrek’- after the well-known film that has a key message that ‘looks should not matter’.

People who were axed from the site have now been offered counselling in the hope that they are not permanently distressed with the decision that they are not pretty enough for the website. Hopefully the site’s actions will not leave too much permanent damage.

In saying this, who actually agrees with this website anyway? It only seems fair that it should contract a virus that gives equal opportunities to all people.  In a report by the Guardian it was stated the website claims that Irish people are the ugliest in the world and Swedes the most beautiful with only 20% of Irish women and 70% of Swedish women being accepted. And, who says that people who have been accepted to the website haven’t enhanced their photographs via Photoshop or even further, if the image they upload is even of them?

It appears that the virus was installed by a former employee at the company.

Greg Hodge, Managing Director of the website said: “it was like planting an evil Easter egg – It was a very embarrassing day.” Well Greg, think how you make people feel when you reject them on a daily basis.



Think Before You…

Friday, June 24th, 2011 by Julie Wilson

It’s good to talk, but not online is the message from the Ministry of Defence.

In a drive to protect its service men and women and prevent the leaking of sensitive information, the MoD has launched a campaign highlighting the dangers of service personnel engaging on social media sites.

The campaign, a revival of the 1940’s ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ poster campaign, is entitled ‘Think Before You…’ and demonstrates the potentially devastating repercussions of service men and women sharing too much information online through a series of short films.

In the first of the films, two sailors are seen heading out for the night, casually messaging friends to confirm the evening’s meeting point and checking-in along the way.  The film cuts to the sailors laughing on the dance floor before panning to two armed men in balaclavas.  “Is it just your mates who know where you have checked in?” the film asks.

A second film sees a soldier’s mum enjoying tea with an armed terrorist.
The films, the first in a series, close with the message “think before you tweet, blog, update, tag, comment, check-in, upload, text, share.”

Commenting in a Defence Policy and Business News article, Major General John Lorimer, the Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategic Communications Officer, said:

“Social media has enabled our personnel to stay in touch with their families and their friends no matter where they are in the world. We want our men and women to embrace the use of sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, but also want them to be aware of the risks that sharing too much information may pose. You don’t always know who else is watching in cyberspace.

“The MOD Headquarters has its own Facebook, YouTube and Twitter feeds and we see no reason to stop our personnel from tweeting or posting on their own walls. But the MOD has a responsibility to warn personnel of the risks they could be exposing themselves to, hence the launch of this new campaign.

“‘Think Before You…’ is a reminder that personal and operational security should be a primary concern and that social media merely provides a different context where sensitive details can be found.”

With over 50% of the UK population registered Facebook users and Twitter amassing over 145 million users worldwide, the MoD campaign is a stark reminder as to the potential risks of sharing personal information on social networking sites.

Online conversation may not carry such potentially devastating results for the majority of social media users, but for servicemen and women, careless talk can cost lives.


Economic times force daily paper switch

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 by Mark Perry

Having battled falling circulations and the digital revolution this week’s news from the daily Torquay Herald Express gives a new warning to regional newspapers. Northcliffe has decided to cease daily production and to turn it in to a weekly.

This is not an unprecedented move, the Birmingham Post went weekly in 2009 as did the Bath Chronicle in 2007, it seems that it is the economic downturn and the failure to attract advertising that has forced the change.

Compared with other regional newspapers its circulation has held up well with a daily sale according to the last ABCs of more than 21,000 down only 3.7 per cent compared with an average 6.7 per cent for the sector. According to the editor Andy Phelan it is one of Northcliffe’s best performing in terms of circulation.

Despite this strength, as a daily the Herald Express is deemed to be no longer viable. As Torquay is predominately a holiday location, there simply is not the sustainable advertising to support the newspaper in a sector where most revenue comes from advertising rather than sales. It seems as if Northcliffe has taken the decision it can’t wait for better times.

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.

Blanchard leads the way with social media

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 by Jon Clements


Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard, the 73-year-old co-author of the One Minute Manager may need his grandchildren’s help with the technology; but this hasn’t stopped his lifetime commitment to building relationships through embracing social media.

This was among many illuminating lessons in Altimeter Group’s excellent webinar, “The Power of Relationships in the Facebook Era” yesterday.

Hosted by Altimeter’s co-founder, Charlene Li, Blanchard evangelised about the way technology has taken his effective leadership beliefs to their natural conclusion:

“Leadership today is not about you, it’s about the people you are serving; it’s about treating your employees as business partners, working side-by-side with them and sharing information, ” said Blanchard. To emphasise the point, Li added that adding social media tools to the mix means encouraging people within businesses who may be more familiar with the technical tools to communicate and develop relationships.

Where young people and their use of digital technology, Blanchard claims, are “all about relationships”, he points out the perceived threat to those further up the food chain, and particularly those managers who are “ego-driven”: “They are afraid of the feedback and what they might learn!” Feedback, he says (a number of times, in what must be one of his favourite motivational catch phrases) is “the breakfast of champions”.

Clearly, there is no place for ego in building relationships and making social media interaction work. Li describes it as having the “humility and confidence to give up the need to control” while Blanchard asserts how top managers should be “empowerment” rather than “control” freaks, freeing up their teams to develop client relationships and treating profit as the by-product, not the reverse.

However, he qualifies, the traditional management hierarchy still has its value in terms of setting strategic direction, goals and plotting the journey.

But how can the business case be made for the focus on relationships, via social media or otherwise? Blanchard is in no doubt that companies “blow people away by responding to them”. He added, “the customer is NOT always right, but it does need dialogue”. Problems tend to arise when companies try to cover up their mistakes, where admitting to them is the first step towards customer service recovery.

And so, as leaders may finally be realising they can no longer control the spread of information as previously, they can certainly – as Li suggests – “get in on the act”. She says: “As a leader, think what you can share today – then figure out the channel.”

Not unexpectedly, both Blanchard and Li acknowledge the vital role of the CEO in the move to social media/relationship building. He says: “The CEO needs to see the value to really make it work and has so much to do with whether it goes viral or not” while Li adds: “The CEO needs to be the arbiter of how social should be owned across organisations.”

If there was ever an excuse that social media as a tool for relationship building should belong only to a younger generation, Ken Blanchard heartily disproves it!


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 ''

Facebook stores an alternative to websites?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 by Ghida Basma

According to Facebook’s official statistics, the site currently has 500 million active users and half of them log into their accounts on a daily basis. Even better, figures show that people spend an astonishing 700 million minutes/ month browsing the network.

These substantial figures provide masses of opportunity for retailers and many of them are already capitalising on the social networking site’s various benefits. Initially Facebook was used to grow fans, interact with consumers and keep them up to date with all the latest trends and business news through targeted Facebook pages. However, the growing relevance of the site and its new applications is providing retailers with even more value.

Recently, Facebook has plunged into the realm of retailing and many businesses are using Facebook applications to sell products on their pages. An increasing number of retailers across different industries are opening Facebook stores, which not only allow customers to browse brochures and catalogues but also make direct transactions on the page.

Marks & Spencer and Odeon cinemas are two of the latest retailers in the UK to adopt the idea and open their own stores on the site. As reported in Brand Republic, Marks & Spencer used its Facebook presence to target shoppers ahead of Father’s Day on Sunday, by selling themed products on a new store on the social network

Facebook stores provide a convenient all-in one service for customers, in one place, and that can potentially trigger impulse buying, which justifies why retailers might be willing to make the transition.  Facebook  is a common platform for  socialising with friends, building relationships,  interacting with our favourite brands and even playing games so ideally it  would make perfect sense for it to be a place where we can also shop.

The move marks another transition from traditional retailing and can potentially see retailers use these new mediums to promote and sell their products as an alternative to building a website.




Google Voice & Image Search Rolls Out

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 by Rob Brown

If you use Google on your smart phone you’ll probably already be familiar with voice activated search technology. This morning I came across a tiny microphone symbol in my Google search bar and gave it a go.  It appears that Google is quietly rolling out Voice Search for desktop.

You’ll need a microphone on your PC (natch) and for now you at least will need to use the Chrome browser (quelle suprise).  Search by Image is also available across browser platforms and allows you to upload a picture which it will match against the billions of images Google indexes.  Click the camera icon in the Google Images search bar.

So just how good is Google voice search?  This morning when I gave it a try I said (clearly and loudly imho) “Staniforth Public Relations”.  Instead I got results for “Michael Buble license”.

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).

TV war coverage battles image boundaries

Friday, June 17th, 2011 by Mark Perry


This week’s thought-provoking Channel 4 documentary ‘Killing Fields’ investigating war crimes during the 2009 Sri Lankan civil war, has opened up a debate about how far news organisations should push the boundaries.

The programme, shown after the watershed and attracting 800,000 viewers,  contained footage of atrocities previously deemed too graphic to show on news programmes at the time, but told far more of the story what actually happened.

Much of the ‘never seen before’ footage shown in this week’s programme was already available on the web for those wishing to search it out as it had originally been filmed on mobile phones.

During the Arab Spring news organisations have been unable to witness many of the marches and demonstrations which have led to bloodshed. They have regularly used unattributed footage, some of which is fairly graphic, taken from sites such as You Tube to report the latest events. Some of this footage has been shown with warnings about its content.

I can remember attending a lecture in the 1980s about news organisations responsibilities towards the victims and the viewers. Examples were given from the Vietnam war comparing broadcast and raw footage. It was pretty shocking and gave pause to thought about the editorial decisions taken. How times have changed. I have seen that raw footage appearing on pre-watershed programmes.

Times have moved on and we have all become a great deal more desensitised to events we see unfolding on our TV screens. While news organisations still have serious editorial decisions to make about the suitability of footage with the competition to break news stories how far will they push the boundaries? Next time, it might not take two years to see disturbing images from the next Killing Fields.

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.

Can social media help diagnose illness?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould

With social media used for so many different things, should it really be used  by people to self-diagnose  health problems because they are too scared or embarrassed to visit a GP?

We are all guilty of visiting Google and typing in the symptoms and praying we don’t see something more serious than a common cold. However, more and more people are going online to diagnose their symptoms and even sometimes taking it one step further by ordering drugs using an online pharmacy. However, is this really a safe method of finding a quick fix to our problems health problems?

GPs are now campaigning that people, specifically males, should be targeted through social networking and phone applications They believe that giving any males the chance to use a new app will encourage them to search for their symptoms and then to visit their GP. The beauty of this is the anonymity but is it really safe and accurate?

Over 42% of men die before the age of 75 compared to 26% of women, however, men visit their GP 20% less frequently. Surely encouraging men to visit the doctor and giving them access to booking appointments online and via phone apps is only a positive approach. Access to information about health problems should be made readily available to men, as long as the information is accurate and it does then go on to encourage guys to make that dreaded appointment.

The Department of Health says that a new health campaign aimed at young people using Facebook and smart phone apps will start this year, though these are not specifically targeted at men.