CIPR Digital Impact Conference – 24 May

17 05 2010

There is a great digital PR conference lined up at the CIPR in London next week which I’m thrilled to be taking part in.   It takes place next Monday 24th May at the CIPR HQ in Russell Square, WC1.

Understanding and using digital channels should be part of what all of in public relations do, every day.  This one-day conference provides an opportunity to discuss ideas, hear the thoughts of some of the industry’s leading practitioners in digital PR and will show practical examples of how companies have successfully embraced social media.

The eminent list of speakers is as follows:

Paul Armstrong – Director of Social Media, Kindred

Drew Benvie – Managing Director, 33 Digital

Daljit Bhurji – Managing Director, Diffusion

Amanda Brown – Head of PR, First Direct

Rob Brown – Managing Director, Staniforth

Steve Earl – Managing Director, Speed Communications

Russell Goldsmith – Digital Media Director, markettiers4dc

Katy Howell – Managing Director, Immediate Future

Marshall Manson – Director of Digital Strategy, Edelman

Kieron Matthews – Director of Marketing, Internet Advertising, Bureau

Julio Romo – Communications and Social Media Consultant, twofourseven

Philip Sheldrake – Chartered Engineer, Founder and Partner of Influence Crowd.

There are still a few places so if you think you might be interested don’t hesitate and book now.

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.

Sorry is Not Enough in Social Media

19 02 2010

It seems that with the rise in public engagement that has naturally followed the growth of social networks, corporate bodies are in a desperate bid to be the first to apologise, humbly.

Admitting mistakes has always been one of the first rules in crisis PR handling.  Social media is however not the same conventional in crisis and issues management.  In the days of when conventional media were the sole channels at the time of a corporate failure, businesses could not control the message so they had to create a hierarchy of messaging.  The apology was quite rightly near or at the top.  Now sorry doesn’t seem to be the hardest word for top-tier executives it has become the easiest and sometimes the only word.

Now that corporate bodies can engage directly the messaging needs to be deeper and needs to answer the more complex questions that arise from a crisis situation.  With the recent Toyota recall, Miguel Fonseca, managing director of Toyota GB, apologised to customers in a video on the company’s website, apologised on the Today programme and generally echoed that sentiments of worldwide president Akio Toyoda, who was deeply sorry.

What businesses need to do is engage and explain.  When WordPress had a major outage last night the organisation used twitter to keep users informed of progress in restoring the site and service.  Here is a five point plan that could be applied to most crisis situations:

  1. Yes apologise, but don’t stop there move on to an explanation.
  2. Explain ‘what’ happened in the companies eyes
  3. Explain ‘why’ it happened – this may take time but is brand critical
  4. Communicate the steps being taken to rectify the problem
  5. Set up a dedicated and regularly updated communications channel.  This is the really important bit.  This could be a blog on the company website or perhaps a YouTube channel.  It needs to regularly updated and it needs to be open and honest. 

 When you explain things to people and convince them you are on the case they most will forgive.  A apology on its own is mereley regret for past mistakes, it says nothing about the future.

Guido Builds Kids Sledge Shock

10 01 2010

I’m often intrigued by the humanizing aspect of twitter.  Guido Fawkes, he of the Order Order blog is often portrayed by as part of some lunatic fringe but today he used twitter to talk about building a sledge for his kids:

Immensely satisfying afternoon, building wooden sledge, painting sledge, pulling kids on sledge. Tip : use carpet rails for runners.

In the past Guido hasn’t used twitter for much other than pointing people in the direction of his blog (much as SocialWebPR does).  However his occasional musing give a better sense of who he is.  It never fail to be amaze me,  just how much of a person’s character can be unmasked in just 140 characters.

Top 10 Web Wonders of the Decade #10

16 12 2009

As we draw to the end of the zeroes (sounds so much better than naughties surely?), this blog is counting down the ‘PR and the Social Web’ top ten wonders of the internet, brought to us over the last ten years.  No place here for the likes of Amazon or Google which appeared in the nineties. So in reverse order….

Number 10: WordPress

‘Blogger’ would have been in the running if it had launched six months later but the original blogging platform was a product of the nineties, just.  It is highly arguable that ‘WordPress’ is also the better bet.  The templates look better and it feels more accessible and straightforward to use, though admittedly less popular (it sits at number 20 on with Blogger currently at number 6).  Blogging platforms have been instrumental from redistributing publishing power from the few to the many.  User generated content and web 2.0  apre products of the blogging revolution. The social web has WordPress at its heart.

It isn’t just the ‘have a go’ bloggers that use WordPress (this site is built with using a standard themed template), many major organisations use a wordpress platform because it is both robust and easy to work with. CNN, Techcrunch, The New York Times and Le Monde all use the WordPress platform as does Playstation and Ben & Jerry’s.  

WordPress was launched in 2003 with less than twenty users it is now used on millions of sites and seen by tens of millions of people every day.  WordPress is an Open Source project, which means there are people all over the world work on it and everything  from the support documentation to the code itself, was created by and for the community.  It also means it is free to use.  As it says on the site Code is Poetry.

Top Ten Blog Posts of the Year

15 12 2009

As ‘PR and the Social Web’ drifts past the one year mark I thought I’d take a peek at which were the posts with most. 

One of the beauties of the social web is its extraordinary measurability.  WordPress provides a really powerful built-in analytics programme that make extracting the most popular posts  of the past twelve months on this small corner of the web a simple exercise.

When you look at the list there are some interesting themes that emerge.   People like to read about people and that has been a big feature of the most popular entries.  The other thing that seems to have been pretty popular in 2009 is wait for it….twitter. 

So time to click on the top posts link on the WordPress dashboard…

1 Labour Draper is at it Again   The number one post this year with some clear blue water was my tilt at the Labour party social spin meister Derek Draper.  I accused him of lacking the aptitude or inside for social media engagement.  It turned into an on-line spat that drew attention from elsewhere on the web and brought labour supporters and opponents in equal number.    
2. Apple Approves Spotify for iPhone?  The question mark is important here and it demonstrates the importance of scoop.  I had noticed rumours on twitter that Apple was about to approve the Spotify app.  I took a punt and luckily I was right as the official announcement appeared hours later.    
3 McBride & Draper: New Media, Old School  My follow-up piece after Draper and Damien McBride were busted in the smeargate scandal. Proving the point about the popularity posts of people. Helped along if there is a dose of scandal.    
4. Hacked Off with Twitter Spam  The first of a multitude of twitter entries. This one is about the cause and a cure for the twitter hacking scam that continues to plague the network.    
5. Twitter Tips for Jonathan Ross (and others)  A few simple twitter tips spiced up with a reference to one of its highest profile users.    
6. Twitter Profile Picture Gets the Bird   The day that twitter screwed up the avatars of thousands of users.    
7. Celebrity Twitters – Real or Fake?  A subject that continues to draw interest even after twitter introduced ‘verified’ celebrity accounts.    
8. Derren Brown’s Lottery Slips  Mainstream media still drives on-line in a big way (and the time is fast approaching when we cease to distinguish between on and off).  This was Derren Brown’s high-profile return to primetime and we revealed how he gave the game away on his lottery “prediction”.    
9. The Twit that made Stephen Fry Quit  Stephen Fry quit twitter for a bit.    
10. WOM on SocNets, is it the Future?   The title was deliberately abstruse.  I became embroiled in an online debate about the future of PR.  It was also the first time (and I think the last) that I encountered the phrase WOM on socnets. 

Now We Are One

14 12 2009

Is it more or less embarrassing to miss a birthday when it is you own?  ‘PR and the Social Web’ is one year old, or one and a bit actually as the first post appeared on the 29th November 2008.

The blog was set up to accompany my book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ which was published in April.  The initial plan was to run the blog for the six months up to launch and then three months after.  I then decided to extend it to a full year, but now that the first anniversary has come (and gone) it feels that the blog has a life of its own.  There may be a name change and a redesign for the blog, somewhere along the line but the subject matter will stay the same. 

The book has sold well and is on its second print run so it seems valuable to keep the link to the dead wood and ink version.  Another key reason for the blog was to provide a regular update for some of the themes in the book and that is exactly what it will continue to do .  The social web after all is a fairly fast-moving thing.

Snow Brings The Blog Traffic

11 12 2009

Adding snow to this blog has made Christmas come early.

The seasonal feature has increased traffic to the blog by more than 5% for the same period for the previous week.  The ‘snow’ feature is a WordPress plugin that allows you to make things a little more seasonal with a single click.

OK, it’s an entirely spurious claim and the blog traffic to this site fluctuates up and down by more than 5% most weeks.  However there is a slightly more serious point.  What really does drive blog traffic is dynamic content or put simply stuff that changes.  Usually that means new posts or new images but who is to say that adding a little frosting won’t make the site a little more appealing at this time of year.   Blogging about snow at this time of year also attracts the attention of the hordes of people Googling to see if we are going to have a white Christmas.  No harm in adding a little white hat SEO to the snow.

Strategic Social Media. Manchester

2 12 2009

I am currently at the Strategic Social Media Conference in Manchester. I gave the opening presentation and have been tweeting for most of the day using the hashtag #stratsm but I’ve been missing a trick.  I have an iPod touch with me and I could have been live blogging using the WordPress app on the touch.

Well I am now.  Robin Wilson of my alma mater McCann Manchester is now on stage talking about evaluation. I know Robin a bit but I’ve never seen him speak before.  He’s good and generous with his knowledge.

Evaluation is a major topic in social media marketing.  There are a myriad of free tools like HowSociable, Icerocket and Board Tracker; all using key word searches.  The really powerful tools however are paid for – Radian 6 and Andiamo are just two of the many Robin mentioned.

It’s been a good conference. Martin Thomas co-author of Crowdsurfing was a highlight for me but the live feedback for all of the sessions has been good;  Alex Aitken, Mark Hanson, Sarah Hartley, Ann Longley, Simon Collister, Sarah Lundy, Craig Elder and of course Robin have all provided great insight. 

Don’t Panic Events ran the UK’s first ever social media coverage in 2005 so no surprise that they know how to get it right.  By the way Robin is still speaking but my battery is running low.

Google Says No Need to Tag Along

23 09 2009

It seems that meta tags are no longer worth the paper they are printed on.  Google does not actually use the tags that we add to our posts for search.  

At a recent event (the video is included below)  Matt Cutts who works as a software engineer specialising in search engine optimisation (SEO) at the Search Quality Group in Google, gave this somewhat startling information in response to a question.  He said that Google “disregards keyword meta tags completely. They simply don’t have any effect in our search ranking at present”.  The reason being that they had been abused so extensively is the past.  Essentially this means that Google regards tagging as ‘black hat’ (or unethical SEO) irrespective of how responsibly the tagging is done. 

Google does however use the meta description (essentially the short summary tag) in some cases to offer a description of the page in the search results but they still don’t use this in the ranking.  So as far as Google is concerned the content is what matters (and the headline or the H1 tag as it is known in SEO circles).  So for the very first time I am going to add a blog post without meta tags…and hold my breath.

Google’s Matt Cutts

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