PR Week ‘Twinterview’

29 04 2009

I am going to be interviewed about my book today by PR Week’s Digital Editor Peter Hay.   The interview is going to be a bit different as it will be conducted entirely on Twitter. 

The questions will come from Peter @PRWExtra and I will be responding from @RobBrown.  You can follow the interview by following us both or by using the hashtag  #PRWInterview .

The action starts at 10am, I hope one or two of you will drop by!

Swine Flu Pandemic & Web Viral Panic

27 04 2009

Whether or not the current outbreak of swine flu translates into a world pandemic, we are already seeing information and and data spreading around the web at a staggering pace. 

The speed at which information travels brings opportunities and threats and we need to treat information we see on line with caution and respect.  The social web will deliver information on which we can rely and data which will deceive. 

Many news organisations around the world today are linking to a Google map showing almost live data on reported cases. Whilst this may be a very useful tool, what few of the news organisations report is that it appears to have been created by Henry Niman, a biomedical researcher with a history of using the internet to forecast doom. Niman has claimed global pandemics were under way several times before.

The spread of disinformation does not mean that there is no risk.   The truth is at this point we just don’t know the scale of the threat.   A much better source of information may come from Google.  ‘Google Flu trends’ which I wrote about in PR Media Blog  last November, uses search terms to predict how many people in a particular area are searching for relevant information about flu.  There is a high correlation between the searches and numbers of actual cases of flu and they can show incidence faster official channels like the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   Google believes it can accurately estimate flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports.

The problem at the moment is that the data covers just the US and is only updated weekly.  If Google were able to update faster and use the technology to cover the whole planet we would have a much better picture of what is actually happening.

Follow Friday Five #8

24 04 2009

PoolBall.png image by harrinator1After a couple of weeks absence (Easter and all that) I have another five blogs for you to take a look at on a Friday. It’s the usual plan – I give you five choices and you leave this blog to visit one of them.   The rules are flexible you can come back and visit another and repeat up to five times should you wish to.

It is the usual mix – from the established and mighty to the new kids on the block.  Once again it’s media, PR,  social web, politics and more besides.   

1.  Nikki Girvan First up is freelance journalist and Liverpool based PR Nikki with her take on the landscape of the media and PR, how the web is changing the way we think, work and interact.  Just two weeks old so catch it early.

2. Seth Godin’s Blog From the minnow to the mammoth by the way of mixed metaphor. Godin is author of ten bestselling books that have changed the way many people think about marketing.  This is probably the most influential marketing blog there is.

3. Becky McMichael’s PR Balancing Act Becky is head of the technology and corporate division at Ruder Finn UK. Here is where she posts where she links and what she thinks on subjects that range from The Apprentice to how businesses can cut costs and keep staff.  

4. Open (minds, finds, conversations)…  The musings of Anthony Mayfield on web: media, culture, commerce and the social, political, economic and commercial implications of online culture.  He works for iCrossing, where he heads up social media.

5 Craig McGill  The Scottish Digital Media Guy writing about media (social and not so social), PR, tech,  marketing, content managing and communication. Oh and there’s stuff on comics too.

Grade to Step Down at ITV

23 04 2009

The news this morning that the Executive Chairman of ITV is to step back from his post is further evidence of the changing role of television.

The former BBC Chairman and nephew of Lew Grade a founding father of ITV is part the generation that presided in the golden era of television.   The early sixties through to the early nineties provided the most watched TV shows of all time.   The very idea of a TV channel is under threat with the web providing higher quality and varied means of delivery.  Channels have to be brands to have a role in future models.

In the last year ITV has shed 1600 jobs and is a brand that needs to embrace change in the medium if it is to survive.   Whilst the channel struggles to deliver it’s programmes via the web others are innovating.  Last night the BBC’s webcast of the apprentice had a live vote and a chat room attached where viewers could share their opinions about which hopeful would be the next to get the finger from Mr Sugar.   The BBC has also just announceed that the hugely successful iPlayer will go to HD.

ITV still has great products and brand equity.  Its place on the  digital dial is still valuable but unless it finds a new way to embrace the web its time is ebbing away.

Budget, Blogs and Twitter

22 04 2009

budget red boxToday Chancellor Alistair Darling delivers what must be the toughest budget in living memory. 

What makes the challenge even more acute is that his pronouncement will be followed and commented upon in public even before he retakes his seat in the Commons at the end of his speech.

Blogs will comment well in advance of the considered reactions appearing in print in  the national press.  The national media will however be playing a big part in populating the blogosphere.  Joanna Geary at the Times will be coordinating a live Budget blog with analysis as it happens. 

To that end this blog is taking live comment from the web – comments on the budget posted across the twitter network will appear as they are posted throughout the day.

Web Star Susan Boyle

20 04 2009

Susan Boyle is racking up close to 100 million views on Youtube with versions of her singing performance on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.  It isn’t a true example of an internet meme because it was propelled by broadcast TV but it shares many of the characteristics.  

Youtube has played a key role in spread of great number of memes.   The ‘Rickrolling’ phenomenon is ‘the’ classic example.  Rick Astley was a UK popstar who had number one hits on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1980s (full disclosure…and showing off; I had the pleasure working with Rick Astley in a PR capacity at the start of his singing career).  His still catchy hit “Never Gonna Give You Up”  went to number one throughout Europe and in Australia in 1987 and hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States on March 12, 1988. 

Rickrolling was a prank which originated on the image board site 4chan in which a link to somewhere (such as a specific picture or news item) would instead lead to a video of Rick performing ‘Never Gonna Give You Up”.  The first instance of a Rickroll claimed to be a link to the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV but instead it took you to Rick.  The prank quickly spread across the web.  Because most of the links were to Youtube they quickly became aware of the phenomenon and on April 1st 2008 as an April Fool joke the web site Rickrolled everybody who clicked on one of their front page featured videos.  There are several Rickroll links on Youtube which have had a combined total of hits of over thirty million.

Update: Kutcher Twitter Million

18 04 2009

Ashton Kutcher used conventional advertising, billboards to be precise, to gain victory over CNN in his twitter sprint to a million followers.  Lamar Advertising, in a PR coup for the traditional ad network, delivered free of charge “Follow Ashton Kutcher” outdoor ads across its 1,133 digital billboards. 

With Kutcher appearing on Oprah within hours of passing the million mark, this seems like a carefully co-ordinated integrated PR campaign.  Even twitter has been fingerered with the accusation that they made it hard for users to unfollow @aplusk (Kutcher’s twitter handle).

Kutcher Beats CNN to Twitter Million

17 04 2009

Actor Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) became the first twitter user to achieve a million (1,000,000) followers at 6.12 UTC today.  He narrowly beat CNN breaking news (@cnnbrk) which had overtaken the Barack Obama twitter account as the world’s most popular in the last few months.  CNN became the second account with a million followers just under half an hour later . Both users had been heavily promoting their race to a million, Kutcher using and CNN using their own broadcast channel.  The Huffington Post carried a live counter and follower graph that looked like something from a US presidential election.

This milestone confirms a number of observations about twitter as a ‘channel’.

  • On-line popularity is linked to off-line popularity – both Kutcher and CNN are hardly unknown.
  • Twitter can be a broadcast channel.  It is neither the principal function nor does it reflect twitter’s flexibilty but if enough people subscribe to a feed you can ‘broadcast’ information and links. 
  • Twitter works as a news feed – lots of traditional news meda are bulding large follower numbers. Group them together and you have a powerful customisable news channnel.
  • Twitter is now firmly part of the celebrity PR portfolio.

For those that say that twitter is just this year’s social web fad it’s not about to fizzle out just yet.

McBride & Draper: New Media, Old School

14 04 2009

A month ago I wrote a piece on this blog about Derek Draper and how unsuited I thought he was to lead Labour’s social media campaigns.  I pointed out that he had recently been suspended from the social network de jour – ‘twitter’.   

Little did I know what I had unleashed.  Derek blogged about me using false quotes and misrepresenting my recently published book.  He e-mailed me stating “your legal threats are pathetic,  i can – and will – pour a bucket of shit over anyone’s head who has tried to do the same to me” (sic).  He later the same day emailed many of my colleagues and others in the PR industry with links to his “satirical” blog post.

This was very small beer in comparison to what was in the pipeline for the proposed ‘Red Rag’ site.  Derek Draper and Damian McBride are of the old school ‘command and control’  approach to political media management.   They just don’t get the openness that the social web brings with it.  If you deceive or intimidate there is every chance that it will be made public.  The Guido Fawkes Order Order blog that they appear to want to emulate is anti-government and you just can’t replicate that if you represent the government.

Also of the old school is Tom Watson, the Cabinet Office Minister with overall responsibility for ‘digital engagement’.  The debate rages still as to whether he knew about ‘Red Rag’ but if it had reached the stage where content suggestions were being made by one of his charges then he should have.  The point is quite simple; like Draper and McBride he doesn’t understand the implications for open and transparent politics that come with citizen media.  If you don’t get it, you can’t run it.

Update: In Store

8 04 2009


For a first time author (that still doesn’t sound right) there are various milestones that provide a certain frisson. Finding that your just published work is in a bookshop is one of them. 

I had a call from my daughter this afternoon to tell me that my book was available in Waterstones in Piccadilly.  I still haven’t seen the book in-store for myself but via the power of  mobile technology I am able to see a pic …and share it with you. 

I think she may have positioned it a little more prominently than the store intended.

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