Vote Wadds – A New Voice for PR

May 7th, 2013 by Rob Brown

Wadds CIPR ii

There has been much talk of late about about how the PR industry represents itself to the outside world.  One area in which we have failed consistently is providing credible voices that will represent our industry in the media.   There are many reasons why Stephen Waddington is ideally suited to be the next president of the CIPR, I also believe he could transform the reputation of PR as its leading commentator. Here are ten reasons why:

  1. 1. He’s a very charismatic individual. People like him with good reason, he is a genuinely good guy.
  2. 2. He understands the breadth of the industry and range of work we do in PR.
  3. 3. Wadds is a unifier.  In particular he has a good relationship with the PRCA as well as high standing in the CIPR.
  4. 4. The camera likes him – perhaps not the most critical factor but important nevertheless.
  5. 5. He has been at the forefront of facing the important changes that continue to challenge the industry. He understands the huge changes that are taking place in the media. He is an acknowledged expert in the field and an acclaimed author.
  6. 6. He’s thorough and takes time to get to grips with issues, so will always speak with authority.
  7. 7. He lives in London during the week but is a northerner whose home is in Northumberland.
  8. 8. His day job for as European digital and social media director for Ketchum give him an international perspective.
  9. 9. He is both a former journalist and moderniser.  He understands the past, present and the future of PR.
  10. 10. Wadds makes things happen.  Lot’s of people in PR are excellent at talking, Stephen does the walking too.  I recently handed over the chair of the CIPR Social Media Panel to Wadds not least because I know he will expand and grow the work of the panel, in which he has already played a central role.

Voting is now open in the CIPR presidential election.  If you have a vote use it now.  Vote for Stephen Waddington.  Make him our president and the voice of the industry and take the first step in building a more vibrant reputation for the Public Relations profession.

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).

Corporate blogging for the CEO – a missed opportunity?

March 22nd, 2013 by Jon Clements

How can the busiest person in the company possibly have time for corporate blogging?

The notion that a CEO could metaphorically “put pen to paper” while running a multi-million Euro, Yen, Dollar or pound company is, surely, preposterous.

It is, indeed, just that, if you consider the findings of Weber Shandwick’s report, Socializing your CEO: From (Un)Social to Social, which show that not one CEO in the top 50 firms featured in Fortune Global 500 rankings can be bothered with a blog. The chief executive communications effort is, instead, directed towards online video (40% of CEOs appearing on a company YouTube channel) or by simply having an biography on the website (which ought to be a given).

The finding that CEOs – according to the research – are disengaged from social media channels is no surprise, with fewer on Twitter and even fewer on Google+. The rapid-fire and potentially free-for-all nature of Twitter is going to be a disincentive for someone who simultaneously carries the bulk of reputation responsibility for the organisation while probably having the least time to be firing up Tweetdeck to monitor brand mentions or haranguing hashtags.

But the lack of CEO interest in corporate blogging is, I think, a missed opportunity.

Take the example of former BDO Chief Executive, Jeremy Newman, who was one of the leading exponents of effective corporate blogging.

In this interview – remarkably done nearly four years ago – he spoke of the value to the business of blogging:

“I have people who track the statistics and they tell me it is doing just fine. Now, did we win a new client or get that world class graduate trainee because of the blog? I cannot say but these days, I frequently meet people who say they’ve read the blog. That’s gratifying and means we already have a common connection. At one time it would have been very difficult for me to get an appointment with the CEO/CFO of a FTSE 350, these days it’s easier. Is that because of the blog? I’d like to think it has had a part to play.”

Four years on and the corporate blog has not gone away, despite the lacklustre performance of the top 50 in Weber Shandwick’s research report.

And with more recent developments such as Google Authorship, there is even more reason for experts – and certainly CEOs – to reconsider the value of committing to a regular habit of corporate blogging.

This example of a CEO blog at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, perhaps unexpectedly emanating from the public sector, shows a willingness for the person at the top of the ladder to talk openly and directly to the hospital’s patients, visitors and staff. It combines personal reflections and opinions with a professional insight into healthcare issues which instils confidence in the reader – just what you want and need from the head of a large hospital.

There’s no denying that the CEO’s role is busy already. But the corporate blog may offer the CEO something that other, competing, voices cannot.

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 ''

Ferguson delivers media masterclass

March 8th, 2013 by Mark Perry

 

The wily old Sir Alex Ferguson has today shown that he knows how to play the media and at the same time stop the media frenzy of rumour and speculation about the future of striker Wayne Rooney.

Since Rooney’s omission from the team to play Real Madrid this week, the media and twitter has seen this as an indication that Ferguson’s relationship with him is broken and that he would be leaving the club in the summer.

This morning football journalists speculated on twitter about the weekly press conference and who would ask the first question.  Ferguson’s reputation for being taciturn and banning journalists for asking difficult questions is legendary.  Indeed it transpired that he has imposed a ban on two newspapers – the Mail and Independent – because of the speculation this week.

Ferguson has shown how to take back the agenda from the media. He started the press conference by putting his points across before any questions were asked.

“The Wayne Rooney nonsense first? Or do you want to talk sense? The issue you’re all going on about is absolute rubbish. There is absolutely no issue between Wayne and I. Rooney will be here next season you have my word. To suggest we don’t talk to each other on the training ground is absolute nonsense.”

Having done that he was able to put across the positive messages about where the club goes from here.

Some of the sceptical football journalists who have seen it all with Ferguson even acknowledge a solid performance. The Sunday Times’ Jonathan Northcroft tweeted:  “SAF in prime form, all in all. Joking, grabbing back the agenda.”

Ferguson’s performance has shown that in the whirl of a media storm that addressing the issues up front and being prepared to stand by your convictions enables you to put your side of the story across in a much more strident way than responding to questions.

With Rooney however, only time will tell if his omission was the beginning of the end of this time at Manchester United as Ferguson is known for, sometimes, giving the media the wrong steer. But for now for him it is mission accomplished.

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 real reason companies fail at social media

March 1st, 2013 by Bridgett Gayle

Social media is pointless for companies. According to a 10-year social media study at Northwestern University’s Medill School in the Integrated Marketing Communication Department, social media users do not use social media seeking products and they have no brand preference. Professors Don E. Schultz, PhD, and Martin P. Block, PhD, conducted this survey and concluded that social media users will not become brand loyalists because people use social media simply for “social purposes.”

So is social media just a wasteland of meaningless social chatter?

No, says Dave Kerpen. What companies should do is join the social chatter and view that chatter as an opportunity to learn more about people. Kerpen is the founder and chairperson of Likeable Media, a social media and word-of-mouth marketing firm handling the social media presence for more than 200 companies. And he’s also the author of Likeable Social Media, a book of social media strategies. The real reason why companies are failing at social media is due to their incapability or unwillingness to just shut up and listen.

Like with any other type of conversation listening is the key to a successful interaction. Kerpen’s latest book Likeable Business explains how companies can listen to and benefit from the social chatter.

“Likeable Media has grown over 2,000 percent in the last five years,” says Kerpen, “and I credit listening as being a big part of that growth. Social media allows for better listening than ever before.” Think of social media as an impromptu focus group, a place to find out what people need or wished they had. Listen to their problems. Listen to their interests.”

Companies need to listen with the intention of understanding, considering, figuring out what is important to people. Kerpen offers Blockbuster LLC’s bankruptcy as an example of a company that didn’t see the value of social chatter.

“Blockbuster failed to listen to the massive negative volume of tweets and Facebook posts about their late fees. Had they been listening and paying attention, they could have adjusted their business strategy earlier and avoided their downfall to Netflix.”

When Netflix experienced its own massive negative social chatter about its decision to split into two companies, Netflix listened to the chatter and nixed its plan solely because the plan was unpopular with people.

Kerpen admits he used to be a poor listener and had to learn how to listen. “You can work on listening. The best way to do it is to practice. Measure how many minutes you spend listening versus talking in any given meeting or conversation. Practice asking questions instead of giving answers. Those who excel at listening talk only when necessary.”

Yes, people use social media to be social and are not interested in hearing any business marketing spiels. But there is business value in that social chatter. It’s an opportunity to listen and find out what people really want. And when your company isn’t listening to the social chatter your competition is.

 

This was a guest post by Bridgett Gayle.

About Bridgett Gayle

Bridgett Gayle is a writer and content marketer bringing common sense solutions to improve the business-customer relationship.

Silence isn’t golden: Crisis management through social media

February 25th, 2013 by David Silverman

Outpost Outsight Report image - credit Eva Rinaldi (640x427)

Social media is now an incredibly important tool for communication both when things are going well and when crisis hits. Twitter and Facebook will often be the first port of call for both the public and the media seeking updates on incidents. If those updates aren’t there, they’ll draw their own conclusions or find them elsewhere.

When things go wrong, a festival can face hundreds of tweets about issues such as over-crowding, a shutdown, or a slow evacuation. On many occasions, however, none comes from the official Twitter feed.

If a festival says nothing, a stream of misunderstandings, unverified updates, and untruths spread through tweets from people both on and offsite. A journalist at the event can became a key source of information, despite only being there as a festivalgoer and having no more access to official updates than anybody else.

Large scale events are also a slave to the weather and knock-on effects such as traffic jams can create havoc.

In these situations, any statements and advice issued via Twitter can be pushed down the feed by regular updates extolling what a great time is being had by all who have managed to get on site. For those still stuck and looking to Twitter for official information, this can serve largely to antagonise them. A situation then develops where those people then tweet themselves and speak about their complaints.

Often, the problem can be that the wrong people are operating events’ social media accounts. In many cases, the ‘social media strategy’ is simply telling interns to go out and keep people updated on how much fun they’re having. But an intern is not qualified to deal with logistical queries or complaints – which may come at any point during an event – nor manage information flow when major problems arise.

All events have plans and systems in place for when the unexpected happens, but social media is not always considered within this. If the public and the press can’t see that something is being done, the fast pace of information online means opinion of an event can quickly turn.

Here are five top tips for crisis management through social media:

1. Designate a social media manager

The moment something goes wrong, someone with the authority to speak for you should be able to take over or direct social media updates.

2. Provide clear information promptly

Make it clear that you know that something is wrong and that you are dealing with it as soon as possible, even if it is not immediately possible to go into details. Removing any content from your website that might no longer be suitable is something to consider.

3. Ensure that important updates aren’t lost

When you need to relay important information, ensure that it’s at the top of your social media feeds for as long as possible. This could mean pinning it to the top of your Facebook feed or ceasing all other updates completely.

4. Know when to stop being positive

A continuation of point three, but it’s important to know when positive updates about what’s happening at your event should stop, even if only temporarily.

5. Address rumours quickly

Rumours will spread fast at a festival, especially if people don’t have up to date information from its organisers. Monitor the spread of rumours both on and off site and address them promptly. Without an official message early on, rumours can be picked up by official news sources and become a lot more difficult to address further down the line.

 

This was a guest blog post from David Silverman. Photo courtesy of Eva Rinaldi.

About David Silverman

David Silverman is managing director of Outpost, a PR company based in east London.

Corporate reputation begets consumer behaviour – Harris Interactive

February 18th, 2013 by Jon Clements

Another week, and yet another piece of research about the state of corporate reputation at the larger end of the business world.

But Harris Interactive’s latest – and, in fact 14th – Annual Harris Poll RQ Study tells us something both interesting and sobering for the guardians of corporate reputation in organisations worldwide.

The study, conducted with a suitably robust sample size of 19,000 Americans, has found this year that:

  • More than 60 percent of consumers now “pro-actively try to learn more about how a company conducts itself” before they are willing to consider that company’s products or services.

  • [They] proactively engage in conversations with others about what they find out about a company.

  • In 60 percent of cases, decide NOT to do business with a company because of something they learn about that company.

  • Actively try to influence friends and family on whether to do business or not with a company based upon what they have learned about that company’s conduct.

Though buried at the very bottom of Harris Interactive’s press release based on its survey – where the main headline was the relatively unsurprising news that Amazon, Apple, Google and Disney grace the top five of US companies with the best reputations – the consumer trend that Harris has identified is the most startling element.

Harris’ interpretation of the influence of corporate reputation on the consumer continues: “Companies need to evaluate and understand the increasing importance that playing a valuable social role has on reputation, purchase consideration, advocacy and positive word of mouth. This is about a business having a purpose, not just checking the box on social responsibility or sustainability.”

If right, this is the story of not a passive, but active – or, dare it be said, “activist” – consumer; a consumer that is applying Timothy Leary’s 1960s mantra of “Turn on, tune in, drop out” to its consumption habits (though without the need for added psychedelics). In other words, the consumer is listening, watching and taking action in response to the behaviour of business.

Yet, if the consumer has become the righteous crusader that Harris claims, it remains curious why the corporation tax travails of some of the top businesses named above, and the issues Apple faced with its flawed mapping software, has not had a bigger impact on these companies’ reputations.

Nevertheless, companies would be wise to not dismiss the influence their actions – both in their wider relationship with the world as well as their core products and services – have on the attitude of the consumer.

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 ''

Online content marketing – on the “must-do” list

February 10th, 2013 by Jon Clements

Content marketing

If online content marketing is now a “must-do” rather than a “should-do”, how does a company or brand make it work?

A couple of useful guides to content marketing reached PR Media Blog’s attention at about the same time, care of the clever people at EConsultancy and SEOmoz.

Chris Lake, director of product development at EConsultancy produced a sprawling epic on content marketing (linked to later on) while Ashley Tate, content specialist at SEOmoz, hosted a ideas-packed webinar on the topic.

As Chris Lake puts it content marketing is “a kind of umbrella term for five disciplines: editorial, marketing, PR, SEO and social. It is the glue that bonds these things together, and a predefined content marketing strategy can help [these] teams to focus on long-term goals.”

Ashley Tate kicked off her webinar with the image at the head of this blog post, summarising the overall value of producing content and her practical guidance included:

 

  • Stop waiting for resources to appear…

Brainstorm content topics, which might involve new product updates, interesting community engagement or even an enlightening team meeting – all making potential content.

 

  • Make structure from chaos

Decide what type of content will support your vision (blog posts, video, audio, infographics, etc) and set specific content goals – in other words how regularly will your content appear. Test the effectiveness of your content over – wait for it – several months to understand how it is resonating with the audience.

 

  • Use guest post authors

They can come from among your suppliers, associates, customers and – even better – your community, as long as they are clear on the preferred topics, work to your guidelines and maintain a distinctive, individual voice that feels authentic rather than a piece of marketing.

 

  • Test and gather data

Measure content analytics, including the number of social shares, thumbs up and down, comments, traffic sources and page views.

 

  • Evaluate and improve

Stick to your voice and strategy, but be flexible enough to grow with your audience and respond to their wants and needs.

Quoting Chris Lake again: “digital marketing in the second decade seems to be paying more attention to retention, and I think it’s crucial to produce the right kind of content for your existing customers / audience.”

Read his in-depth advice on content marketing and gear yourself up for some heavy lifting, but rewarding results, from online content generation.

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 ''

Manchester B2B PR consultancy Metamorphic PR launches

February 1st, 2013 by Jon Clements

 

Jon Clements - Chartered PR practitioner

Metamorphic PR – a Manchester-based B2B, corporate and marketing communications consultancy has been launched.

In a rare interruption to PR Media Blog’s normal blogging business – and for that I appreciate your patient indulgence – I invite you to visit the brand spanking new website where you’ll find the story behind the launch of Metamorphic PR.

And, keep your eyes peeled from Monday for the first in a special launch series of five, daily blog posts, each tackling a relevant area of activity that could have a bearing on a business’ PR and communications activity.

The first one – going live on Monday morning – tackles the benefits of blogging.

And – just in case you were wondering – PR Media Blog won’t be going away…!

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 ''

Corporate reputation put on notice in Edelman Trust Barometer 2013

January 23rd, 2013 by Jon Clements

A crisis of trust in organisational leadership and corporate reputation – nothing less – dominates the latest Edelman Trust Barometer 2013.

And the responsibility of business to rebuild trust and reputation couldn’t be more urgent.

The general population polled across 26 countries showed an average trust level of 49 in government, business, media and NGOs – where the most trusting populace (China) scored 70 and the least (Russia) bottomed out at 30.

But when it came to those trusting the business community less year-on-year, a cumulative 50 per cent cited “fraud, corruption and wrong incentives driving business decisions”; an unholy trinity of unethical slurry if ever there was one.

The banks and financial services, unsurprisingly – as covered widely before on PR Media Blog – bring up the rear among trusted sectors, polling only 50 per cent trust apiece. And nearly 60 per cent of the failings leading to such a poor trust rating for banks lay with the institutions themselves; theoretically within their control; though – seemingly – not practically (Libor fixing and PPI mis-selling, please stand up). As the Brand Builder blog writer, Olivier Blanchard says in his commentary on this year’s Trust Barometer: “Leadership and corporate culture are cited as the primary causes of corporate wrongdoing. (And rightly so.)”

For leaders at the top of their companies, the news doesn’t get much better: while academics, company experts and a “person like you” ranked highest for trustworthiness, CEOs came lowest in the corporate hierarchy. A mere 18 per cent of Edelman’s research sample trust business leaders to “tell the truth, regardless of how complex or unpopular it is”. To paraphrase punk poet, John Cooper Clarke, nobody has a good word for it, but Olivier Blanchard does: “execrable”.

Art can mirror life, and the consequences of a trust-fuelled crisis are played out well in the Danish drama, Borgen, currently lighting up Saturday night television in the UK.

In a recent episode, the character Amir – Climate Minister and Green Party member in a coalition government – who is causing aggravation for the Cabinet by his intransigence to relaxing environmental policies, so scuppering a broader policy agenda – has something of an anti-green skeleton in the cupboard.

The “gas guzzling car imported from Cuba” he owns for the occasional weekend pleasure drive does nothing for his environmental credentials, reputation and ability to instil trust in his motivation to impede the government’s social agenda for the good of the planet.

And his hypocrisy – however innocent – plays directly into the hands of his opponents and the media, labelling him a “big, fat liar”. Ultimately, he ends up, in the words of another character, “cornered” and immersed in the “worst experience of his life” at the hands of the media.

Similarly, companies with dark secrets should take to heart one of the lessons for leaders distilled by Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2013: “Trust is fragile and perceived behaviours are an anchor”.

As communicator and blogger, Neville Hobson, opines in his summary, “Edelman’s latest research adds a significant layer of credibility to the broad premise that the system really is broken and does need fixing.”

Here’s the full study from Edelman:


 

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 ''

Tarantino’s challenger brand lesson for brand leaders

January 20th, 2013 by Jon Clements

How far does a company need to deviate from its established brand identity to achieve “cut-through” or “stand-out”?

It’s understandable that mature brands feel they have a lot to lose by taking risks with their customers’ expectations and this can result, with brands becoming inherently conservative in their marketing communications; in a competitive B2B or B2C market, brands can begin to look increasingly homogenous.

The challenger or upstart brand, conversely, isn’t inhibited by such mundane considerations.

Take “Brand Quentin Tarantino”…

This weekend his latest film, the violent Western and slavery drama, Django Unchained, opened in the UK, after three weeks in which it became the director’s highest grossing film in the US market ever. And despite high profile criticism from African Americans such as fellow film director, Spike Lee, it appears a large proportion of the US black population is unperturbed by accusations of disrespect for its ancestors, with 30% of the audience coming from that community.

However, 25 years after his first film, Reservoir Dogs, was released – establishing Tarantino as the new “enfant terrible” of independent cinema – the director is no longer the upstart brand, with “Django” placed fourth in the US box office top 10, ahead of blockbusters including Les Miserables and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

I was fortunate enough, in 1993 – as arts reporter for the Nottingham Evening Post – to interview Tarantino as part of the UK premiere of Reservoir Dogs at the city’s Broadway Cinema. The young writer-director was a highly-engaging study in obsessive and infectious enthusiasm for film, and his inaugural piece of work made me walk out of the cinema, mid-film, in disgust. Not that I was afraid of challenging films, but the violence – particularly the infamous ear-slicing scene sound-tracked by the Steeler’s Wheel song, “Stuck in the Middle with You” – seemed like cinematic shock for shock’s sake and neither clever nor innovative.

But Tarantino wasn’t making films typical of the time – Home Alone 3, The Bodyguard or Wayne’s World, for example – and he didn’t need to care about big film studio box office. Of course, my myopic viewpoint on Reservoir Dogs was wrong and Tarantino’s work changed not just independent cinema, but all cinema thereafter.

And while the blood-drenched, Tarantino-esque violence remains an integral part of his cinematic “brand”, his films have clearly extended their appeal to a more mainstream audience since 1993.

But what he’s done to make each successive film continually stand out – while simultaneously broadening his mass appeal and becoming a mature fixture in cinema – is by taking familiar, well-trodden celluloid territory and giving it a fresh and unexpected feel. His Jackie Brown added another shade to crime film noir, the Kill Bills put new kick into the Kung Fu genre and, now, Django Unchained is a brilliant homage to the radically diverse Westerns of John Ford, Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah. With each new film, the audience isn’t alienated, but reassured, that it’s being led into a world it knows, but then thrilled with Tarantino’s daring take on that world.

And so, a well-established brand needn’t be afraid of taking a previously unheard-of risk in its marketing communications, if the customer or other audience has already a high degree of trust and regard for the quality of what it provides. In fact, taking a calculated risk might be the only way to really stand out during a period of competitive consideration by the customer.

Risk is a relative concept, and only you know how far you need, or should, go to stand out in your business or industry. But Tarantino, 25 years on, is still taking daring risks in his work and attracting flak from some quarters while, at the same time, clowning around as a guest on Graham Norton’s late night light entertainment TV show. You can’t get much cuddlier than that, can you?

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 ''