Web Star Susan Boyle

20 04 2009

Susan Boyle is racking up close to 100 million views on Youtube with versions of her singing performance on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.  It isn’t a true example of an internet meme because it was propelled by broadcast TV but it shares many of the characteristics.  

Youtube has played a key role in spread of great number of memes.   The ‘Rickrolling’ phenomenon is ‘the’ classic example.  Rick Astley was a UK popstar who had number one hits on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1980s (full disclosure…and showing off; I had the pleasure working with Rick Astley in a PR capacity at the start of his singing career).  His still catchy hit “Never Gonna Give You Up”  went to number one throughout Europe and in Australia in 1987 and hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States on March 12, 1988. 

Rickrolling was a prank which originated on the image board site 4chan in which a link to somewhere (such as a specific picture or news item) would instead lead to a video of Rick performing ‘Never Gonna Give You Up”.  The first instance of a Rickroll claimed to be a link to the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV but instead it took you to Rick.  The prank quickly spread across the web.  Because most of the links were to Youtube they quickly became aware of the phenomenon and on April 1st 2008 as an April Fool joke the web site Rickrolled everybody who clicked on one of their front page featured videos.  There are several Rickroll links on Youtube which have had a combined total of hits of over thirty million.





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).





We are all in Public

4 02 2009

The BBC has dropped former Carol Thatcher daughter of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher from “The One Show” .  The BBC took the action after she apparently used the word “golliwog” to describe a tennis player.    The comments were allegedly made during a conversation with fellow presenters after filming for the programme had ended.  Carol has appeared on the show as a regular roving reporter for the last three years.

Other presenters reported her off-air remark to senior staff, leading to her sacking by the BBC.  The identity of the tennis player has not been revealed but there are rumours that it might even be Andy Murray. 

The critical issue here is not just the debate as to whether the remarks were racist (intentionally or not) but that the words of public figures are now seldom ever ‘private’.  Carol Thatcher needs to understand that the social web means that they can be published by anyone, anywhere in an instant.   The BBC should recognise this too and reveal the name of the tennis player.  Then we will all be better placed to make a judgement.





Twitter Tips for Jonathan Ross (and others)

21 12 2008

Jonathan Ross is the latest celebrity to seize the opportunity to self publish through the the microbogging channel Twitter.  It is part of the wonder of the the social web that a broadcaster can broadcast whilst still suspended from his BBC contract (although broadcasting is just one aspect of Twitter and if done exclusively defeats the object).  

Wossy as he calls himself on Twitter is not the first celebrity to use Twitter.  Stephen Fry has amassed an army of almost forty thousand followers.   What is fascinating is that Stephen Fry attracted the same number of followers in half a day (circa 1,500) that it took Wossy three weeks to attract.  

One of the reasons is that Stephen Fry, a technophile through and through,  picked up the online etiquette of micro-blogging immediately, whilst Wossy is still coming to terms with the finer points.  So here are some top tips.

1. Get a Clear Identity – It is fine to have an online persona if you’d rather travel the web incognito but most people want to identify themselves clearly.  Ross has used a doubtful soubriquet and a picture of his pooch in his profile. There is no link to any site that might validate that this is actually Jonathan Ross twittering.  I openly expressed doubt that it was actually he until a couple of journalists put me right.  

2. Follow Back  – This is an important part of the twitter ‘netiquette’.  You don’t have to follow everyone back but you should follow back a substantial proportion.   Twitter is a leveller and it requires reciprocity to work properly.   Many have talked of the frisson of excitement in getting an e-mail saying ‘Stephen Fry is now Following you on Twitter”.

3. Engage in Conversations – You can direct a comment directly at an individual with an ‘at post’ using the @ character at the start of the twitter name.  Clicking on the reply icon on any post does this automatically.  These conversations are in public (unlike the private direct messages that can only be sent to people who follow you) and they are an essential part of Twitter culture.  For celebrities this is really important because fans can get a piece of you and all it costs is 140 characters.  Wossy admits he didn’t get this at first but now converses with the best of them. 

4. Provide Some Real Insight Provide some information that people can’t get elsewhere.  It adds to the sense of community and it gives real reasons to follow.  I

5. Cross Promote – We all use Twitter to tell people what we are doing, what we think or to add links to something we have done.  We should also promote things which interest us that other people have done.  It is good to do and they might do it back.

6. Quality not just Quantity – this speaks for itself in both in terms of what we post and who we follow which in turn impacts on who follows us.  It’s not just about numbers.  

If you are reading this Wossy give it a go and watch your Twitter Rank rise and rise.  Sadly we may never hear you say the words Twitter Rank but we can imagine.





Tony Benn – The Father of UGC TV?

12 12 2008

old_tvTo those that worked in the ivory television towers of the late 20th Century the encroaching loss of control over TV content must feel like the barbarians at the gate.   However the battle for influence and control has always been there.  British politician Tony Benn foreshadowed many of the current changes in a speech he made in 1968.  

 “Broadcasting is really too important to be left to the broadcasters, and somehow we must find a new way of using radio and television to allow us to talk to each other. We’ve got to fight all over again the same battles that we fought centuries ago to get rid of the licence to print and the same battles to establish representative broadcasting in place of the benevolent paternalism by the constitutional monarchs who reside in the palatial Broadcasting House.”

Four decades later Conservative politician George Osborne  acknowledged that control of the media and the message was now changing hands.    “With all these profound changes …and the rise of user-generated content, we are seeing the democratisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange…People are no longer prepared to sit and be spoon fed. ”

Given their paramount need to communicate with the voters the politicians are able sometimes to see and understand the changes long before those that operate within rapidly changing media circles.  Barack Obama’s election is the proof that UGC and social media is now high up on every political campaign agenda.





What’s on the PC Tonight?

2 12 2008

 

Sky+, BBC I-player and TV on ITunes mean that we can watch programmes when we want rather than just when they are broadcast. We are now watching TV on PCs, laptops and mobile devices.

This means that broadcast TV, user generated content (UGC) and streaming content from the Internet can be viewed in the way that we used to channel hop. This means for the PR practitioner that there are new routes to market for video. Content is king and the viewer will watch what they want and not just what they the TV schedulers tell them to. Another interesting development is that big high definition TV screens in the living room will carry the same content as iPods and mobile phones. Will that work?

As the TV and the computer finally converge the opportunities for integrating web function with good TV will provide huge scope and opportunity for innovation.








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