PR Industry gets Guidance on Wikipedia

27 06 2012

The UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has today published a guide advising PR professionals on how to approach Wikipedia.  The primary principle is that PR people should not directly edit Wikipedia pages that relate to their organisation or clients.  Instead they should use the network to suggest amendments to Wikipedians – the active Wikipedia editors.

A consultation hosted on Wikimedia UK received more than 160 direct edits.  The guidance document published by the CIPR today is version one – it will continue to be reviewed as the relationship between Wikipedia and the PR communities evolves.  The guidance is supported by the Canadian Public Relations Society, the Public Relations Consultants Association and the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

CIPR CEO Jane Wilson, said: “This guidance is aimed at helping public relations practitioners reach a better understanding of how to properly engage with one of the most visited sources of information on the internet and clearly lays out the process through which PR people can positively contribute to the encyclopaedia. The main theme of the guidance is quite simple – where there is a clear conflict of interest created by the relationship between the public relations professional and the subject of the Wikipedia entry, such as a client or employer, they should not directly edit it.”

Chief Executive of Wikimedia UK Jon Davies, said: “I’m pleased that the PR industry is taking steps to learn more about Wikipedia and how it works.”

This clear guidance coming directly from the industry should reduce the areas of grey surrounding the editing of pages by some well established PR firms.

You can download the guide here.

Jimmy Carr and the Decline of the Press Release

26 06 2012

David Cameron’s allegation that Jimmy Carr was tax dodging put the comedian into crisis mode last Friday.  Five years ago there would have been a press release and possibly a brief statement given to a carefully chosen news channel.  It can’t have escaped your notice that Jimmy Carr put his statement out on Twitter, even though it took five tweets to get the full apology out.

“I appreciate as a comedian, people will expect me to ‘make light’ of this situation, but I’m not going to in this statement,  as this is obviously a serious matter.  I met with a financial advisor and he said to me “Do you want to pay less tax? It’s totally legal.” I said “Yes.”  I now realise I’ve made a terrible error of judgement.  Although I’ve been advised the K2 Tax scheme is entirely legal, and has been fully disclosed to HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs), I’m no longer involved in it and will in future conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly.  Apologies to everyone.  Jimmy Carr.”

Although Carr hasn’t emerged entirely unscathed it is broadly agreed that he did a good job of defusing the story.    So why Twitter?  He has over two million followers, that’s more than the circulation of any newspaper.  He was able to decide the timing of the announcement and he could ensure it was free from comment or selective editing.  So if celebrities are side-stepping the press then they don’t need PR people either?  Not so.  Carr sought the help of  his trusted advisor entertainment PR guru Gary Farrow on the handling of the apology.

Not every celebrity has a multi million follower list and certainly few corporate accounts can boast that sort of number, but if you are at the centre of a media storm is doesn’t matter whether you have 200 or two million, people will be watching and Twitter provides a faster, more effective route than the press release.

Twitter, Branding and the Batman Bird

18 06 2012

Just under two weeks ago Twitter revealed a ‘tweaked’ redesign of their iconic bird logo (image 1).  They rolled out some brand guidelines that  included usage rules that stated that you should not ‘rotate or change the direction of the bird’ (image 2). Some eagle-eyed twitter users noticed that when you rotate the bird anti-clockwise by 90 degrees it looks oddly like Batman (image 3).

As well as updating the bird, Twitter is aiming to rid the web of the huge range of twitter icons; the boxed ‘t’, the variety of birds and  the lowercase bubble script ‘twitter’ (Pico font with an adapted ‘e’ if you are interested).

The announcement highlights the difficulties in controlling a brand image in an inter-operable and collaborative web.  Brand guidelines are endemic in the culture in large organisations, but the ability to enforce rules on the use of the brand logo is much diminished.   Five years ago a phenomenon emerged where people were reinterpreting the logos of iconic brands as if they were new web brands.  Logo 2.0 interpretations took these identities and played around with them.  My favourite was ‘Quakr 2.Oats’.

It will be interesting to see how successful Twitter is at controlling its brand identity in a world users as well as corporate  communications departments make the rules.

Argyll and Bute U-Turn After Cooking Up a Storm

15 06 2012

The speed at which a PR crisis can now strike and escalate has seldom been better illustrated than the #schooldinnerbloggate debacle ignited by Argyll and Bute council after it banned a nine-year old girl from blogging about school lunches.

Yesterday school girl Martha Payne wrote on her blog  “this morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today…I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners …I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either.  Goodbye, VEG”

At 10.53 this morning Argyll and Bute Council (strapline – ‘Raising our Potential Together’) posted a statement which began “Argyll and Bute Council wholly refutes the unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service which culminated in national press headlines which have led catering staff to fear for their jobs.  The Council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the ‘never seconds’ blog …despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils…so a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.”   I’ve screen grabbed the full statement.

By lunchtime today ‘Argyll and Bute’, ‘neverseconds’, and ‘Martha Payne’ were all trending on Twitter.  The leader of the council appeared on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme and reversed the decision.   Whilst the initial action and statement was a PR disaster you have to admire the speed of the resolution.

Perhaps the happiest outcome of all is the extra £15,000 in donations added to the appeal for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals a charity that provides lunches for schoolchildren in Africa.

Update: As of 5pm donations to Martha’s appeal have passed the £35,000 mark.

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