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.





Twitter Outs Trenton Oldfield the Boat Race Swimmer

7 04 2012

Looking for information on the web about the protester that disrupted the boat race today there was nothing via Google News and the in-depth report on the Daily Mail gave no clue as to the swimmer’s identity.

A twitter search revealed his identity in a trice.  His name was spreading across twitter less than an hour after the race was finally completed.  Despite the less coiffured hair in the pictures taken after he was dragged from the Thames, there’s an unmistakable likeness to this image from a conference in Zagreb.

Oldfield had planned his protest meticulously and had prepared a long blog post explaining his ‘anti-elitist’ act of “civil disobedience”.  I’m not going to bore you with his reasons (he does that very well in his post if you are inclined to read it).  A quick search will also tell you that he’s a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and studied at the London School of Economics.  He says in his post  that “part of my inspiration for today’s action comes from a protest action that took place 99 years ago – when Emily Davison ran into Epson (sic) Derby race. On the 4 June 1913 Emily ran into the horse that the king had entered.”  Ironic really considering that Emily went to Oxford.





Kutcher to Play Steve Jobs in Biopic

2 04 2012

If you are casting a biopic and you can find a high profile actor that looks  remarkably like the subject of the film then you have a great PR story from the off.  It’s even better when the subject of the film is perhaps the most iconic figure in a generation.

I had never considered it before but the resemblance between actor Ashton Kutcher and Apple founder Steve Jobs is really quite uncanny.  Kutcher at 34 is only three years older than Jobs was at the career defining moment when he was ousted from Apple for the first time.

Two films about Jobs are in planning, and this one needs a boost as the other is based on based on Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography of the Apple founder, backed by Sony with Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing and The Social Network) rumoured to be the screenwriter.  Not much is known about this version other than it will follow Jobs  from “wayward hippie” to Apple co-founder “where he became one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of our time”.  It will have a  screenplay by Matt Whiteley and is slated to shoot from May.

One obvious challenge will be maintaining the likeness as Jobs ages and succumbs to ill health, which prompted a dramatic weight loss over the last few years of his life.  That said, many actors, including Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and 50 Cent have lost substantial amounts of weight where the screen role has demanded it.





Prime the Pump or it Tends to Run Dry

30 03 2012

old petrol pump

The current UK public panic at the petrol pumps started me thinking about the certain similarities with social media.  Before you decide that’s a stretch  bear with me

Some years ago when I took my first look at analytics I was shocked to discover there was no ‘long tail’ when it came to traffic stats.  When you  post on a blog or add something to a social network site the impact usually last for a very short time, it’s quite normal for 90% of hits to be in the first 24 hours.   That basically means that if you want to engage through social media you need to do it regularly and preferably on a daily basis.  Pioneer PR blogger Richard Edelman knew it with his daily ‘6AM’ blog.  The founders of BEBO knew it (Blog Early Blog Often).

There are some exceptions, traffic from search tends to increase over time, but it’s no substitute for new content, and without new content your page rank will decline.  Social networks, where the content is ephemeral, are on course to drive more traffic than search: for a few days if February Facebook drove more visits to The Guardian than Google did.

The message is simple – if you wanted to fuel traffic you have to make sure that sure that you are providing new content all the time, if you don’t your visitors will fill up somewhere else.





SXSW – Al Gore and Sean Parker

13 03 2012

A session with the founding President of Facebook and the former Vice President of the USA is the sort of one off experience that on its own can justify the trip to Austin. The excitement in the vast auditorium was palpable.

This was a tour of the history and future of democracy and how it might be shaped by the social web. The Athenian ideal and the importance of the Gutenberg press were the scene setters. Gore remains the master of the sound bite. He illustrated the impact of print on the spread of democratic ideas with the line “Thomas Payne’s Common Sense was the Harry Potter of the18th Century”.

There was agreement between the two that democracy in the US in its current form is deeply flawed. The ability of people to promote and publish on-line may have an even more significant impact than the arrival of the printing press. Whilst the people in power don’t really understand the power of the social web says Sean Parker “we may have an opportunity to take back the system.”

Gore is a great orator but at times he seemed unaware that for this audience Parker was the person that many of the SXSW audience came to hear. That said when the the “Nerd Spring” arrives and the history of democracy and the web is written both of these men will be cited in dispatches.





SXSW – Biz Stone: Content as a Means for Social Change

12 03 2012

20120312-161727.jpg

Biz Stone is back at SXSW for the first time since Twitter blew up there in 2007. In the first of a series of stories he tells is about the birth of Twitter. Twitter wasn’t conveived as a channel for serious communication, it was meant to be fun and social. In the prototype stage, one of the first things Evan Williams tweeted (before the real tweets began to flow) was “Sipping Pinot Noir after a massage in Napa valley”.

By 2007 there were about 5000 twitter users and they “were all the dorks that go to SXSW”. It gave them the “South-West bump” and after that there was seldom a major world event that didn’t feature Twitter. When Biz was called by a journalist and asked about his involvement in a student uprising in Moldova he had to look up Moldova to find out where it was.

The remaining stories cover creativity, being prepared to fail, illustrated with reference to Wim Wenders ‘Wings of Desire’ and the compound value of doing good. Whilst the stories that Biz tells are only loosely connected, they are linked by a theme that links the future of marketing and corporate success to philanthropy. Its his philosophy for business and he walks the talk. Twitter had a CSR person years before it had a sales person.





SXSW – The Future of The New York Times

12 03 2012

href=”https://prandtheweb.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/20120312-115452.jpg”>20120312-115452.jpg

It didn’t take long for the Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith to get to the heart of the matter in his interview with New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Is the metered model really working for the New York Times? Abramson was unequivocal, at 390,000 at the last count, subscribers are a key revenue stream.

So does that mean that we can envisage a time when the print version will go altogether? “I don’t think we’re going to get there any time zoom” said Abramson and with 850,000 print copies still being delivered it is difficult to disagree.

Unsuprisingly Evan Smith is a great interviewer. The post Murdoch Wall Street Journal comes under fire, but Abramson isn’t drawn into criticising the direction the journal has taken under News Corp. “It’s still a major competitor”.

Despite, or maybe because of the paywall, The New York Times has embraced social media both as a way of gathering news and promoting their content “400 reporters are on twitter” says Abramson. Tweetdeck is used as part of the news gathering process.

The New York Times makes the metered model work because it is a powerful brand with loyal readers. Social media is an increasingly important part of the mix and inevitably, in the medium term, that will place pressure on the paywall. Abramson concedes “The free model works in terms of scale in certain ways”.








%d bloggers like this: