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.





Harriet Harman Twitter Spam Victim

25 02 2010

The twitter ‘phishing’ scam has claimed the Leader of the House of Commons as one of its latest victims.  Harriet Harman’s twitter account @HarrietHarman has been sending out spam direct messages to her network including Tory grandee and twitter newbie Alan Duncan MP.

Harman and her colleagues deemed the twitter scam scandal of sufficient importance to be raised in parliament.  On discovering that her account had been hacked Harman tweeted at lunchtime today;  “last tweet genuinely from me was about Commons reform. Now changed password. Janet Anderson MP protested twitter misuse in Commons today”. 

Alan Duncan who has only been using twitter for a couple of days on receiving the scam DM sent a text message to Ms Harman which alerted her to the hack.  He commented on-line that the Times and the BBC had both contacted him about the story.

Now that twitter is deemed sufficiently important to be discussed in the house will the election campaign begin to move on-line?





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.





The Sun Won’t Win it

30 09 2009

File:It's The Sun Wot Won It.jpgThe Murdoch owned tabloid came out last night in favour of the Cameron led Conservative party.  It did so whilst trumpeting the claim that it always picks the winner in the UK general election.

There was more than a nod to the headline “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” printed after the 1992 vote when they backed John Major. In the confident proclamations of George Pascoe-Watson, the paper’s political editor, do we detect the hint of a suggestion that Britain’s biggest daily dose of dead wood and ink actually decides the outcome of the poll?

There is no question that Gordon Brown’s popularity is at the lowest of ebbs but there is plenty of evidence around the social networks that the Sun’s decision has actually brought people out in support of Gordon.  National papers simply do not carry the same political influence when the ordinary voter can cry ‘foul’ and then publish their own views.  With the opinion polls so solidly predicting a Conservative coup, Murdoch and his red top flagship might even be accused of bandwagon jumping.

We also now live in an era where the people talk back and are far less likely than ever before to be told by the media how to vote.  Labour’s chances don’t look good but The Sun may have given the divided activists something to rally around.  Former prime minister Harold Wilson said “a week is a long time in politics” and there are still quite a few weeks to go.





Upcoming Events

8 09 2009

This blog is a companion to my book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ , so if you are reading this you probably have some interest in the subject and might like to know about some events that I will be speaking at in the next few weeks. 

On the 16 September I will be talking about ‘The Cutting Edge of Digital PR’  at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations(CIPR) in London. It is a freshly squeezed breakfast briefing. 

Then on 6 October I will be running a session on Social Media in Leeds for the CIPR Northern Conference.  The one day conference has a great line up Alistair Campbell, former press secretary to Tony Blair, topping the bill.  Also in the line up are Yasmin Diamond, Director of Communication at the Home Office; Heather McGregor, Columnist for the Financial Times. 

There will also be masterclasses from Stuart Bruce, MD of Wolfstar; Sarah Knight, Engagement and PR Director at BJL; the eponymous Andy Green of Green Communications; Paul Willis, Director of the Centre for Public Relations Studies at Leeds Business School (LMU) and Robin Wilson Director of Digital PR and Social Media at McCann Erickson; plus more besides.

Then on the 30 October I will be speaking at the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) Summit at Merchant Taylors Hall, Threadneedle Street, London.





MPs in Commons Tweet Speaker Results

23 06 2009

The results of the House of Commons Speaker elections last night were delivered live via twitter throughout the evening.  At every voting round the results were posted live on Twitter within seconds of being announced to MPs. 

This was made possible because many of the MPs were doing the posting themselves, apparently live from the floor of the House.

Possibly the first to announce the result was Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire Jo Swinson, who earlier in the evening revealed who she was voting for in the supposed secret ballot.  Both Tom Watson MP and Jim Knight MP leaked the unofficial result five minutes before it was announced to MPs.  Whilst the voting figures they gave were wide of the mark, they both had the winner right, meaning for the first time ever ordinary voters had the result before many MPs.

The rapidly increasing number of MPs now microblogging (sometimes from inside the chamber) is potentially far more significant for the House than the appointment of John Bercow MP as a radical reforming Speaker.





This Week’s Best of the Blogs #2

19 06 2009

1. PR MEDIA BLOG – Will Twitter Do the Business?

Upfront PRMB is the Staniforth blog, where I work, but this is a guest post from Phil Jones, the Sales and Marketing Director at Brother (not a client).  It is a really excellent take on the benefits of microblogging to businesses.  It is the first of a two-parter, with the second published today.

2. GODDAMIT I’M MAD – Becoming a Man

Sister Wolf has been mad for a long time…and she’s getting madder.  This is a piece prompted by Chastity Bono’s plan to have a sex change.  The web can be a weird and wonderful place.

3. TED BLOG – Q&A with Clay Shirky on Twitter and Iran

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It began as a conference in 1984 and the brand has grown to cover a range of activities. The NYU professor Clay Shirky reveals how mobiles, the social web, Facebook and Twitter have changed the rules of the game in Iran.

4. ReadWriteWeb – Twitter Censoring Trending Topics

When the crowd decides to talk dirty it seems that twitter doesn’t want us to know.

5 Guardian.co.uk – Investigate Your MPs Expenses

Another piece of crowd sourcing. with the sheer volume of paperwork the Guardian has opened up the 700,000 documents of MPs’ expenses so the the public can identify individual claims, or expenses they think merit further investigation. You can even work through your own MP’s claims for the past four years.








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