Radio 4 and the Social Media Mainstream

27 09 2011

R4BBC Radio 4 used to be the natural home of the cultural conservatives, high court judges who hadn’t heard of Take That, those sorts of people.  Not any more.  Lately there has been a whole strand in the Archers that is about search engine optimisation and the promotion of Tom Archer’s sausages using digital PR.

Not content with that, the schedulers at the favourite channel of the UK establishment have lined up three short stories themed around Twitter.

The first in the series ‘Between the Tweets’ is broadcast today at 3.30pm.  A TV star’s reputation comes under fire when an anonymous woman accuses him on Twitter of having an affair with her.   ‘Reputation manager’ Bella is called in to deal with the situation.  The story was written by Jojo Moyes, author, journalist and a regular tweeter herself.

Don’t Let Blue Monday Get You Down

17 01 2011

Bliue Monday coverI’ve been left in no doubt that today is the blue-est of the calendar year.  It’s in the papers, on the radio, I’ve been told on email and twitter is awash with tales of woe.

So where did this notion come from?  It’s medically proven, there is even a formula.  Well no, the truth is it was a PR stunt for a now defunct travel company that has in just a few short years seeped into our national consciousness.   The idea, I imagine was to stimulate holiday bookings just when we have the post-Christmas blues.

As PR stunts go it has been pretty effective in gaining media attention, although the brand it set out to promote has fared less well.  This evidence for the date being the most depressing day of the year was first published in 2005 in a press release for the Sky Travel Channel under the name of Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University.  Well sort of… Cliff was at the time a part-time tutor at  a Further Education centre attached to the University.  There is even a scientific formula:  ([W + (D-d)] x TQ) ÷ (M x Na)  where weather is W, D is the ability to pay, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions is Q, motivational levels are defined as M and the feeling of a need to take action is Na.   Clearly cod science.

Over the years commentators like Petra Boynton and Dr Ben Goldacre have got hot under the collar about Blue Monday and have given a red flag to the daft mathematical formula.  It has however has morphed into a bit of media fun that we needn’t get down about.  The fact that the formula predicted that the saddest day of the year was a Monday was claimed as a coincidence by Cliff Arnall in 2005 but the Blue Monday moniker it too tempting to resist and a Monday it has been for seven consecutive years.

The appetite for the story is apparent enough; January is a gloomy month and we all want confirmation that we’ve passed the nadir and are back on the way up.  Moreover with the demise of Sky Travel it has been used on successive occasions to promote awareness of mental health issues.  That’s not such a bad thing.  So chin up, it might never happen.

The Sex Pistols – God Save the Meme

6 04 2009

We think of memes or ‘viral’ as internet phenomena but whilst the internet is particularly suited to the spread of memes this kind of effect was observed long before the internet came into being. 

Fashion and music are areas where this is common and there are also crazes like the Rubik’s Cube the mechanical puzzle invented in 1974 but which exploded in popularity during a few months in early 1980 eventually selling over 300,000,000.

Whilst we can not promise to deliver memes as part of a PR campaign we should be able to recognise them and to facilitate their development.  Punk Rock which crash landed on youth culture in the seventies was memetic in its spread; starting as an underground idea but quickly crossing into the mainstream leaving a lasting stamp on fashion, music and design.  The punk explosion was also partly the result of Malcolm McLaren’s  innate understanding of the media and his ability to manage the message and provide press, radio and TV with strong themed stories surrounding the ‘Sex Pistols’.

The creation of memes is often beyond our control but when we recognise the opportunity PR people are well placed to propagate their spread.  (Adapted from the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ available  from Amazon and other book sellers).

Did U2 Spotify a New Trend?

1 03 2009

How do you promote sales of a new album in a world where few people buy albums any more? Radiohead broke new ground with ‘In Rainbows’ when they invited fans to pay what they liked for the downloads (on average $4.64 apparently). 

U2 launch their latest album ‘No Line on the Horizon’ at a time when over 90 per cent of digital music in the UK is believed to be obtained by via illegal downloading.  The veteran Irish rockers may have brought us a step closer to a the time when no-one buys music, they stream it all for free. 

U2 has teamed up with Spotify the music player that looks like a cross between iTunes and the original sharing site Napster.  On Spotify you can create playlists, listen to recommended music and you don’t own any of it. Users registering or logging in this weekend were presented with a bold banner advertising the availability free to stream online of the new U2 oeuvre.

You can pay a monthly subscription for Spotify or listen free with tracks interspersed with radio style ads. Doubtless U2 have agreed a funding model that sees a return on the promotion they have also accessed a significant online tie-up with all of the accompanying PR buzz.  Spotify will do rather well from the PR too. Just to cover all of the bases ‘No Line on the Horizon’ is also available on Vinyl.

It remains to be seen whether the free streaming model will provide artists with anything like the income they had in the the heady hay days of the late 20th century and U2 may not be the best artists to test new ways of appealing to the Gen Y music afficianados. The ‘”wired reading tea drinking music loving innovating green thinking” Tim Difford told me on Twitter that he wouldn’t even listen for free. 

Whether this works or not the established truth is now that the money is in live music. On March 9th the band will announce details of a new world tour.

Pirate Radio

3 12 2008


Radio has been available in a number of different ways and across a range of platforms for some time.  Podcasts are essentially radio downloads that aren’t broadcast in a traditional sense (although they may have been). The Director of the Radio Academy, Trevor Dann is in no doubt that radio and podcasts are essentially the same thing.  “I think it’s important that it’s called an Internet radio programme and not a podcast or audiostream because we shouldn’t define the content by the form of delivery.”   

Podcasts are incredibly cheap and easy to produce and simple to make available.  The key however is content.  It is easy to assume that because it is a low technology environment anyone can create a podcast.   As PR people we should need to place a value on the experience of people who have honed their skills in the highly competitive broadcast environment to help us create podcasts that our audiences will choose and want to listen to.

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