Twitter Tips for Jonathan Ross (and others)

21 12 2008

Jonathan Ross is the latest celebrity to seize the opportunity to self publish through the the microbogging channel Twitter.  It is part of the wonder of the the social web that a broadcaster can broadcast whilst still suspended from his BBC contract (although broadcasting is just one aspect of Twitter and if done exclusively defeats the object).  

Wossy as he calls himself on Twitter is not the first celebrity to use Twitter.  Stephen Fry has amassed an army of almost forty thousand followers.   What is fascinating is that Stephen Fry attracted the same number of followers in half a day (circa 1,500) that it took Wossy three weeks to attract.  

One of the reasons is that Stephen Fry, a technophile through and through,  picked up the online etiquette of micro-blogging immediately, whilst Wossy is still coming to terms with the finer points.  So here are some top tips.

1. Get a Clear Identity – It is fine to have an online persona if you’d rather travel the web incognito but most people want to identify themselves clearly.  Ross has used a doubtful soubriquet and a picture of his pooch in his profile. There is no link to any site that might validate that this is actually Jonathan Ross twittering.  I openly expressed doubt that it was actually he until a couple of journalists put me right.  

2. Follow Back  – This is an important part of the twitter ‘netiquette’.  You don’t have to follow everyone back but you should follow back a substantial proportion.   Twitter is a leveller and it requires reciprocity to work properly.   Many have talked of the frisson of excitement in getting an e-mail saying ‘Stephen Fry is now Following you on Twitter”.

3. Engage in Conversations – You can direct a comment directly at an individual with an ‘at post’ using the @ character at the start of the twitter name.  Clicking on the reply icon on any post does this automatically.  These conversations are in public (unlike the private direct messages that can only be sent to people who follow you) and they are an essential part of Twitter culture.  For celebrities this is really important because fans can get a piece of you and all it costs is 140 characters.  Wossy admits he didn’t get this at first but now converses with the best of them. 

4. Provide Some Real Insight Provide some information that people can’t get elsewhere.  It adds to the sense of community and it gives real reasons to follow.  I

5. Cross Promote – We all use Twitter to tell people what we are doing, what we think or to add links to something we have done.  We should also promote things which interest us that other people have done.  It is good to do and they might do it back.

6. Quality not just Quantity – this speaks for itself in both in terms of what we post and who we follow which in turn impacts on who follows us.  It’s not just about numbers.  

If you are reading this Wossy give it a go and watch your Twitter Rank rise and rise.  Sadly we may never hear you say the words Twitter Rank but we can imagine.

Blogger Engagement #2

18 12 2008

It is widely agreed that bloggers and podcasters dislike getting press releases; well, so do most journalists that I have met.   If we want to engage with bloggers we must establish certain things.  Are they relevant to us in terms of reach and authority?  Are we relevant to them, is what we are pitching well targeted, will they be interested and do they accept pitches at all?  Many bloggers do not.

If we have overcome all of these hurdles I firmly believe that we can talk to many bloggers or podcasters in the same way as we approach journalists – by e-mail and by telephone and on the odd occasion by actually meeting.   So is this new form of public relations just the same as the old?  Well, some bits of its are and some aspects are entirely new. 

The world is considerably more complex but the traditional skills of a good PR person are particularly useful in this new environment where much of the media has become socialised.   In addition to pitching ideas offline we can have  conversations with bloggers very simply just by adding a post or a comment to their blog.   Remember that this is a conversation in public and that mostly they will talk back.

Blogger Engagement #1

16 12 2008

Newspaper Boat by marcelgermain.A term frequently used in digital PR circles is ‘blogger engagement’.   Although many blogs are a form of participatory journalism they tend regard themselves as different from mainstream journalism.  Some bloggers are in fact journalists who see blogging as a channel for communicationg their views and opinions directly to the audience without editorial interference.

There has been much debate in PR circles as to whether bloggers are the new journalists.  Personally I think it is interesting that many of the people that say blogging is not journalism also say that digital PR is more or less the same as old style public relations.  Neither is wholly true.

There are thousands of bloggers and most have little relevance or influence.  For many of these people if it is simply about the pleasure and excitement of being able to self publish. For those that operating at the apex of the pyramid I believe that the similarity between what they do and what a good journalist does bears a great deal of scrutiny.

But as author and blogger David Meerman Scott says “Bloggers are not the same as journalists. We don’t have editors telling us what to do. We write about what interests us and we are always on the lookout for things to share.  But it is not our job to write about you and your stuff.”

A Short History of Blogging

15 12 2008

The word Blog is a contraction of ‘web log’.  It’s hard to be exact about when blogging started. The peripheral  ‘blogger’ Jorn Barger editor of the blog Robot Wisdom, effectively invented the term ‘weblog’ but the term “blog” was not used for another two and a half years.   It was first employed by Peter Merholz and intended as a joke. He broke the word weblog into two words we blog in his own blog.  In doing so he essentially created the verb “to blog,” meaning to create a weblog as well as initiating the contraction of the noun into its now popular form.

The first bloggers were the effectively online diarists, who would keep a running account of their lives.  These blogs began well before the term was coined and the authors referred to themselves usually as diarists or online journalists.  Perhaps the first of these and therefore the original blogger was Justin Hall, who began blogging in 1994 and posted his first regular blog ‘Justin’s links to the underground’ whilst a still a student.    Blogging took off when the publishing platform Blogger was launched in August 1999.  It quickly became the most popular and simple to use blogging tool and it allowed mainstream internet users with little or no technical knowledge to start blogs.  Blogger was bought by Google in 2003.

Tony Benn – The Father of UGC TV?

12 12 2008

old_tvTo those that worked in the ivory television towers of the late 20th Century the encroaching loss of control over TV content must feel like the barbarians at the gate.   However the battle for influence and control has always been there.  British politician Tony Benn foreshadowed many of the current changes in a speech he made in 1968.  

 “Broadcasting is really too important to be left to the broadcasters, and somehow we must find a new way of using radio and television to allow us to talk to each other. We’ve got to fight all over again the same battles that we fought centuries ago to get rid of the licence to print and the same battles to establish representative broadcasting in place of the benevolent paternalism by the constitutional monarchs who reside in the palatial Broadcasting House.”

Four decades later Conservative politician George Osborne  acknowledged that control of the media and the message was now changing hands.    “With all these profound changes …and the rise of user-generated content, we are seeing the democratisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange…People are no longer prepared to sit and be spoon fed. ”

Given their paramount need to communicate with the voters the politicians are able sometimes to see and understand the changes long before those that operate within rapidly changing media circles.  Barack Obama’s election is the proof that UGC and social media is now high up on every political campaign agenda.

Seeing the Wood for the Trees

11 12 2008

It can be hard to find the bits of the web that will be of interest to us and avoid the myriad of backwaters and blind alleys.  Too often it is difficult to see the wood for the trees.  

The front page rankings on any Google search give us a pretty good idea of sites that are relevant but search can be a fairly blunt instrument.  We PR people need to know more and a site’s popularity is only one measure.  We also need to focus on the concept of ‘authority’.  Broadly authority on the web is the same as  authority elsewhere but on the web it can be measured.  A very good example of this is via Technorati one of the most widely recognised ways of measuring ‘citizen media’. includes the Technorati Authority number for blogs.  This means the number of blogs linking to a site in the previous six months; the bigger the number, the greater the authority.  The Technorati Top 100 lists the blogs with the most authority.   Create content that is interesting and other bloggers are more likely to link to your blog thereby increasing your authority.    

There are lots of other guides to influential blogs for example the AdAge Power 150 lists the most influential media and marketing blogs.

How Big is the Web?

9 12 2008

To search the internet Google must first be able to index it  a process that involves continuous updates. The first Google index to be announced in 1998 estimated that the Internet already had 26 million pages. 

It took two years until the Google index passed the one billion mark.  Since then we’ve seen a lot of big numbers about how much content is really out there.  The official Google blog announced in July 2008 that their own search engineers stopped in awe when they discovered that their systems that process links on the web to find new content hit a new milestone: one trillion (or in digits 1,000,000,000,000) unique pages.  The number of individual web pages is still growing by several billion pages per day.

One aspect of the rapid growth of user generated content and the recognition of the importance of this content being linked to lots of other related content is that the web is becoming increasingly crowded, congested and complicated.  The explosion in the range and volume of content is matched by an inverse relationship with the average level of importance and impact of a single web page.

As PR people we need to understand this.  Just because something appears on the web doesn’t mean that anyone sees it. Hello, is there anyone there?

Searching for a White Christmas

8 12 2008


In additions to the posts here at PR & the Social Web, which is a companion blog for my forthcoming book  ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ , I have been blogging for a few months at ‘PR Media Blog’ the quasi-official blog for PR Agency Staniforth, which is where I work. 

I have just posted there on the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the role for editorial content.  In particular I looked at the impact of relevant calendar based content that might be likely to attract vistors via search engines, hence the reference to  a White Christmas. 

Rather than repeat the blog in full here you might want to visit   It is a PR blog but it also covers lots of other things too.  There are observations, opinions and comment on anything and everything that touches on PR and the media.    If you don’t have time now, just type PR Blog into Google – it should be there around number one or two.

Fear and Loathing

8 12 2008


Companies are waking up to what is happening with their brands and there is  concern in the boardroom.  To them the web 2.0 world is the wild west.  There are people staking claims, there are outlaws and there are wild rumours of huge fortunes.  This is a digital frontier where the laws of the old world do not apply and voices are raised against the might of the old corporations.  There are already celebrated examples of major brands and corporations capitulating in the face of on-line challenges like the David and Goliath battle between Jeff Jarvis and the mighty Dell. 

Because of this many businesses are fearful of Web 2.0.  They are starting to realise that the PR profession has a new role to play but they feel very uncomfortable about participating in an environment where the consumer talks back.   Ultimately the choice for organisations is a simple one, they either take part in these conversations or they don’t but the conversations won’t go away.  So ultimately there is no choice.   The consumer will demand that the corporate talks to them.  According to Brian Solis leading PR 2.0 evangelist  “Social Media is no longer an option or debatable. It is critically important to all businesses, without prejudice. It represents a powerful, and additional, channel to first listen to customers, stakeholders, media, bloggers, peers, and other influencers, and in turn, build two-way paths of conversations to them. the process, you become a resource to the very people looking for leadership, expertise, vision, and also solutions… it’s measurable and absolutely tied to the bottom line.”

That is why companies like Dell,  Starbucks and Chrysler are actively talking and listening to their customers.

Brand on the Run

5 12 2008


Coca-Cola bottleThe growth in the power of brands in the 20th Century was partly achieved with the use of iconic visual imagery.  

A sugary brown drink became one of the most powerful brands in the world using visual cues.  There is a simple but distinctive colour palette, an immediately identifiable bottle and a logoscript so individual that you don’t need to read it.  The brand guardians at Coca-Cola ensured that nothing was ever displayed in a way that fell foul of the brand guidelines.   Brand guidelines are part of the culture in large organisations.  Rules on the use of the brand logo,  colour references, and how it should be displayed in monotone are ubiquitous. 

An  interesting ‘craze’ has arisen in recent years.  People looked at how brands in the digital world were copying the brand rules of the past and also how the web was impacting on the newer net-based brand logos.  For example the use of the word ‘Beta’ as a way of demonstrating how new a site was or the use of   unusual names corrupted by say dropping a vowel as in ‘Flickr’. 

People were starting to invent their own spurious logos or were using design programmes to reinterpret the logos iconic brands as if they were new web brands.  Logo 2.0 interpretations take iconic identities and play around with them.  My favourite is the one for ‘Quakr 2.Oats’.

This is harmless fun but what  is interesting is the ease with which anyone can go to the heart of what brands spend fortunes trying to protect and overturn all of the rules.

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