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Politics, PR and Social Gambling

28 03 2010

You might have noticed the InVinceCable badge top right.  It’s a campaign to promote Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman as the best candidate to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I became involved following an e-mail discussion with Philip Sheldrake, someone who I’ve still never met, but knew of by reputation.  In fact he is mentioned in my book (right) as one of the experts in social web analytics.  Philip along with Mark Pinsent, an ex Edelman Director and communications expert who lives in Bordeaux, was corralling a collection of media, PR and digital people to launch and participate in the campaign.  It launches officially tomorrow although it has been ‘live’ for about three weeks.

It’s one of the most extraordinary things that I have ever been involved in.  Pretty much everything happens on-line even the meeting are held using the Skype conference facility.  Many of the people involved don’t know each other.  We have no funding yet we managed last week to attract the attention of the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones.

Then on Friday after an e-mail exchange a bunch of us decided to have a little bet on Vince Cable giving the next budget speech as Chancellor in the new parliament. We decided to give the social gamble a hashtag #crowdflutter and we invited others to join in.    Within a few hours the odds on Vince had fallen from 12-1 down to 8-1.  By early afternoon #invincecable caused William Hill to do the unthinkable they suspended betting. Later in the evening the following appeared on their press room “William Hill have slashed their odds about Vince Cable delivering the next Budget from 12/1 to 7/1 after a stream of internet bets for him to do so.  For reasons not immediately apparent to us we suddenly took a slew of internet bets for Mr Cable to be Chancellor when the next Budget is delivered.”

Next stop tomorrow night’s Ask the Chancellors debate on Channel Four at 8pm.

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Social Web Traps Be Careful Out There

22 03 2010

The social web has started to feel like a bloody dangerous place.  In the last few days there have been not one but two major PR disasters befalling household names.  The first was Nestle’s appallingly handled response to the Greenpeace Palm Oil campaign, and today the CashGordon debacle has left both Labour and the Tories with pre-election bruising.

The Nestle debacle was covered in detail by my colleague Jon Clements on PR Media Blog but to summarise; a naive confrontation on the company’s Facebook Fan Page led to a full-scale debate on-line about deforestation in Indonesia and whether the brand’s use of palm oil was endangering the Orang Utan.  It was a text-book case of  ill preparedness and it seemed to outsiders as if the office junior in the marketing department had been entrusted with the global brand image.  Whoever was looking after the Facebook page was unable to deal appropriately with criticism of the company and rather than defuse the situation the flames were fanned.   For many people it was the first time they had linked KitKats with deforestation and it remains to be seen how many people will take a break from Nestle products.

Today’s pratfall was the collapse of the Tory attack site Cash Gordon.  The site allowed web users to post unmoderated tweets with the #cashgordon hashtag.   Having the words “Cameron is a paedophile” on a Conservative web site was just one of the unimagined consequences. Things got worse when a security flaw allowed the site to be hacked redirecting visitors in turn to the Labour website, a rickroll and a variety of shock sites.   Twitter users were circulating the code online required for the hack before Tory HQ regained control and directed users back to the main party site.

Solutions are to be found in a mixture of digital know how good old-fashioned PR practise; plan and test assiduously in advance, rehearse Q&As, monitor and respond, escalate responsibility during a crisis and just becasue they are digital natives don’t let inexperienced people manage the fall out.





BBC Radio 4 The Media Show – Rentokil

17 03 2010

I’ll be appearing on The Media Show today at 1.30pm on BBC Radio 4.  It’s a discussion involving Ben Goldacre who has condemned Rentokil’s PR in the light of a story about bugs and public transport that they put out last week. 

I will be defending the PR industry in general and talking about how social media is making the world a better and more transparent place and how PR people will need to sharpen their game. 

I will also point the finger at certain sectors of the media, the journalists who have an unholy alliance with the likes of Max Clifford and who are complicit in reporting inaccurate stories.





Social Media Experts. Real or Fake?

9 03 2010

I’m sick of hearing that ‘there is no such thing as a social media expert’.  I hear it a lot.

The latest protagonist was Bloom Media’s Alex Craven talking to The Drum magazine. To be fair to Alex he actually supports his argument by referring to the Wikipedia definition (you need 10,000 hours experience to be an expert – although it requires a citation).

What I dislike is that most people who proclaim the absence of social media expertise are doing so to show just how much they know about social media i.e establish their own expertise.  As an aside I’m conscious of the internal irony of this rant and I’ll try to avoid it becoming too meta.

The simple truth is that there are quite a number of genuine social media experts out there.  Chris Brogan is an expert on social media, Todd Defren is an expert on PR in the social space, as are David Meerman Scott and Brian Solis.  Journalist Aleks Krotoski has an encyclopaedic knowledge of social media.  With the upcoming UK election people like Mark Pack, Stuart Bruce and Iain Dale will be in demand for their expertise in politics and the social web.  Philip Sheldrake is an expert in social web analytics.  There are many more of you I know.

I have a slightly different view on the notion of ‘gurus’.  If you encounter anyone that describes *themselves* as a social media guru (or a guru in anything at all for that matter) I suggest you give them a very wide berth.





Why PR Needs to Wake-Up

4 03 2010

The bulk of the PR profession needs a wake up call and fast.   We have seen what is happening to print media at a regional level in the UK and US and the UK national newspaper heartland will be the next sector to feel the squeeze.  Never mind the quality of the Sunday papers, feel the width.  Not as bulky as they used to be are they?

Broadcast media is changing too, with event TV dominating schedules and more traditional content being driven by on-demand services.  The cosy relationships where PR people sit between journalists and clients trafficking ‘news’ just isn’t enough any more.

So here are five things every PR person should be thinking about.

1. Earned Media 

Media coverage achieved for clients in the digital world falls into three categories; bought, earned and owned.  ‘Bought media’ was always and is still the province of the advertising business.  ‘Earned media’ is the heartland of PR.  At one level this is just the online version of editorial but it is richer and deeper than that.  We should be collaborating to create content that will earn coverage.  Audio interviews, creative videos posted on YouTube and disseminated across the web as well as words and pictures are the collateral we must use.

 2. Owned Media 

We can create our own spaces on-line that have the capacity to become channels in their own right.  I firmly believe that PR people should blog but the concept of ‘owned media’ can extend much further.  Relevant content brings people to you.  The PR and corporate communications team at ASDA know this.  They have 18 million shoppers, mostly mums and they have used that weight to engage with the major parties during the coming general election and will be using their ‘owned’ channels to host political debate.

3. Reputation Online

“Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system. And that’s one of the most powerful reasons so many CEOs have become more transparent: Online, your rep is quantifiable, findable, and totally unavoidable. In other words, radical transparency is a double-edged sword, but once you know the new rules, you can use it to control your image in ways you never could before.”  These words were written by Clive Thompson in Wired almost three years ago. PR has always been about reputation management  and arguably a key determinant of reputation is the content on page one of a Google Search. Search therefore is very important to PR.

4. PR & SEO 

If you’re not sure what SEO is you may be in the wrong job.  The most important tool that search engine optimisation specialists have at their disposal is now the ‘press release’. They may in many cases be badly written, off message and even inaccurate but the SEO companies are all using them, with embedded links.   This is a serious threat to the PR industry as it stands.  If we don’t educate ourselves about the value of good editorial and link strategies as part of PR, we’ll be left behind.  Whatever you think about the idea of ‘social media releases’ when you send out content to the media you should embed links. 

5. Evaluation     

We’ve always claimed we don’t like rate card equivalent and then used it any way.  Well now is our chance.  So much of what is online can be measured, sorted and analysed and we need to know how to do this.  Every PR person should have a least a working knowledge of web analytics and should be able to manage tools for analysing conversations on-line.

All of these areas are natural extensions of traditional PR but that doesn’t mean we own them.  We need to stake our claim …or others will.





Breaking the Twitter 2000 Follow Limit

1 03 2010

Follow me TwitterNew users may not be aware but established twitter users who follow large numbers of tweeters usually hit a wall when they attempt to add follow number 2001.

So, how do you get past the twitter follower limit of 2,000?  Well the only way to do it is to grow your own follower list.

You don’t however have to have 2,000 followers; the magic number is in fact 1,819.  Twitter lets you follow the number of followers that you have plus 10%.  When you hit the figure of 1819 you are allowed to follow that number plus a further 182.  Your follower limit is now 2001 and you have broken through the barrier, just.

For every ten new followers you gain you can follow eleven new tweeters, and so on. Using that formula Ashton Kutcher would be allowed to follow over 5 million users, slightly more than the 320 currently on his radar.  So now you know.








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