Canapés and Cock-Ups for Phoebe Cripps

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canapes and cock A spectacular typo and evidence, if it were needed, of the decline of the sub-editor. Caterer Phoebe Cripps was featured in the Suffolk Free Press in anrticle about her venture specialising in canapés and cocktails not, er well, you can see for yourself.  She has seen the funny side, tweeting “What could only be described as an unfortunate printing error…. #foodtruck #Suffolk #vintage #catering”. However there may be an upside for Phoebe as she’s about to be famous and that might be good for business – we have it on good authority that the Daily Mirror is planning a piece about the cock-up. The post Canapés and Cock-Ups for Phoebe Cripps appeared first on

Mirror Sock-Puppet & the Real Sophie Wittam

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Ex Tory Minister Brooks Newmark is a fool at best,but his entrapment via social media sets a pretty low bar for journalism.  A supposed freelance journalist created a fake Twitter account in the name of Sophie Wittam, a twenty something Tory PR girl, and started to pursue MPs with a view to persuading one of them to drop their trousers on WhatsApp.  Mr Newmark duly obliged.  The reporter was a “carrying out an undercover probe into claims by sources that MPs were using social media networks to meet women”.  In this case though it seems that it was “Sophie” who was trying to meet MPs rather than vice-versa.  The Twitter account has since been deleted but I found the cache and you can see it here. We know very little about the journalist responsible other that he used a fake ID and profile picture.  There has been lots of speculation as to whose picture has been used.  A number of tweeters have suggested that it is Lisa Kimble but the G+ account looks fake.  A little more likely is Maria Stotskaya a 24 years old Russian with a VKontacke profile that uses the picture.  I’m pretty sure the picture is actually of  a Swedish model called Malin Sahlén.  A reverse search of the image leads to her WeHeartIt page.  The original has been removed but there are lots of other images of her and the likeness is pretty strong. Sophie Wittam Malin SahlénWhat is far more interesting of course is the real identity of the journalist behind the “Sophie Wittam” Twitter account.  The web leaves lots of clues even if you attempt to erase them.   There are certainly staff at the Mirror who know. Reporter Matthew Drake who was bylined on the Mirror article must be an individual close to the source.   There has also been convincing speculation that Sophie is in fact Guido Fawkes Reporter and Sun contributor Alex Whickam.   He appeared to know about the sting before anyone else and has written about being on the receiving end of unwanted attention from MPs. The post Mirror Sock-Puppet & the Real Sophie Wittam appeared first on

Murdoch and The End of Press Power

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The Sun Front Pages There has been an enormous amount of speculation in the final days of the Scottish Independence debate as to whether Rupert Murdoch would use the front page of The Scottish Sun to back Alex Salmond’s Yes campaign.    Bruised by the phone hacking scandal the newspaper mogul appeared to be set to back Scottish Independence and aim a missile at the Cameron premiership. The BBC’s Andrew Neil, who is a former editor of The Sunday Times and confidant of Murdoch tweeted: “He thinks the hacking scandal was revenge of the British establishment on him. Break up of Britain would be his revenge.” Neil also reported that Murdoch and Salmond spoke a week ago about a swing in the polls in favour of independence. Up until 2009 The Sun had consistently backed the winner in UK general elections but by that year press power was already visibly on the slide. In 1992 after Kinnock lost to Major the headline screamed “It Was The Sun Wot Won It’, Tory MPs acknowledged that The Sun contributed to their election triumph and Kinnock himself blamed the paper for his failure to win the election.  Today the sun has finally set on that level of power and influence.  The Sun’s front pages in both England and Scotland reflect the mood of the public without attempting to influence it.  The Scottish Sun echoes the uncertainty of the vote with its blank page and in the rest of the Union a story about Prince Harry and his girlfriend makes an unsubtle nod to the overwhelming sentiment south of the border.  Whatever the outcome we should celebrate the end of an era where one man can change the fortunes of a nature by deciding on a headline. The post Murdoch and The End of Press Power appeared first on

Moto 360 – the 1st Mainstream Smart Watch ?

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Motorola today unveiled a Smart Watch that people actually might wear.  The secret appears to be that it actually looks good.  The Moto 360 will work with all smartphones using Android 4.3 or higher.  Unlike most devices on the market, it’s round, like a real watch. “When you go back through modern civilisation time is represented by a circle” said design chief Jim Wicks design chief. It comes with leather and metal straps too.

During a somewhat delayed Google Hangout (embarrassing when time is literally of the essence) we could see Jim swiping the watch to manage the user interface and if the stills are anything to go by the user experience and the design aesthetic both look good.  The information is contextually relevant so when you are using maps it will help you see where you are going and it has voice activation.  “We are creating a device with mass appeal” said Wicks.

In fact the Moto 360 appears to do most of the things that Google Glass has promised minus obvious drawback of looking like a “glasshole”.  The other plus being that watches are glance-able.  It appears that the technology developers have finally come to the realisation that wearable tech will only be worn if it is well designed and looks right.

There’s no price available as yet or indication of the battery life although a good life and imaginative approach to charging have been hinted at . The Moto 360 will be available in globally in Summer 2014.

Here’s the full interview with Jim Wicks.


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The Prince of social media

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Prince and 3rdEyeGirl - Manchester 21st Feb (2)

Prince and Social Media are two things which have been hard not to notice and have caused quite a stir in the UK recently.

Prince has been in the country performing a series of ‘pop-up’ concerts, promoting a forthcoming album and, if speculation is to be believed, working on some summer festival deals.

It’s not just the concerts themselves, taking place in small venues in London and Manchester, that have reasserted Prince as a man who stands out from the crowd in both talent and approach, but the way those concerts have been promoted.

As Econsultancy’s David Moth points out, “the ‘guerilla’ shows are part of Prince’s policy of avoiding middlemen and traditional marketing.”  Famously (infamously, perhaps), Prince has given away new albums with UK newspapers and was part of a long and well-documented dispute with his former record label, Warner Bros. over creative ownership and control.

And so, no one was really surprised that the man who once said “the internet is dead” promoted the recent spate of gigs almost entirely through Social Media, not only prompting queues thousands-long outside the venues but also gaining print and broadcast media coverage, most notably through Woman’s Hour and Newsnight.  As noted in The Sunday Times’s profile, “when a current affairs news show takes notice, you have got an event.”

Prince’s management and PR duties fall to CEO of Kikit Ltd. and Entrepreneur of the Year Nominee, Kiran Sharma, and the aptly named Purple PR.  Ms Sharma was very visible throughout the campaign, using her personal Twitter account to make announcements and share comments from fans and Prince’s current band, 3rdEyeGirl.  The PR company, however, seemed almost invisible.  And that’s where the success of the last few weeks lies.

The perception was that Prince and his troupe had arrived in the UK and were looking for some small venues to play, with no real planning.  On the red carpet of The Brit Awards, a member of 3rdEyeGirl said, “we don’t know until the morning where we’ll be playing that night.”  This sent fans into a frenzy, connecting via Social Media from across the UK to try and dig out and share any vital information on the gigs.  The hashtags #princewatch and #princearmy appeared, seemingly from the fans, and a fan-run account @PrinceWatchUK was set-up specifically for this purpose.

Kevin Costner was once told “if you build it, they will come” and here was an excellent example of this at work.  The hashtags trended, there was 24 hour engagement and this all seemed to be coming just from the fans, with a few pieces of input from Ms Sharma and 3rdEyeGirl (for example with official YouTube clips from the gigs).

Clearly there was more going on behind the scenes than was presented.  In order to move that many people around London, let alone the UK, this had to be well-planned.  There’s even been suggestion that, on the night that tickets rose from being £10 to £70 and fans created the #10poundprince hashtag as a backlash, prompting tickets to be reduced again, it was actually Purple PR hard at work creating some trickery to gain yet more attention.

Whatever mastery was at work, this was a unique event, promoted in a unique way.  This was a utilisation of modern media, the like of which has not been seen before, purely relying on the word-of-mouth generated by Social Media output to sell-out each show played and generate a huge amount of valuable mainstream exposure. (They even turned Manchester Town Hall purple for the occasion!)

What has all this done for Prince’s reputation?  Certainly there has been upset from those who don’t regularly use Social Media; has he alienated a large amount of people?  Those who are disabled and unable to queue all day outside gigs have also been challenged by his tactics.

I would suggest that Prince’s team will be more likely asking the question, “Has all this helped us achieve our goals?”  If those goals were indeed to pre-promote the new album and secure that lucrative summer deal then only time and album sales will tell.  For a few days near the end of February, though, one didn’t have to look far (be it online on the radio or on the newspaper rack) to read word of Prince, hear his new music and see fans going crazy!

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Is Zuckerberg a Human Rights Champion?

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Mark Zuckerberg has just released a white paper announcing a plan to connect 5 billion more people in the developing world to the Internet. It’s called Is Connectivity a Human Right?, is a partnership with six other companies, Ericsson, MediaTek , Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung to “develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilize industry and governments”. The plan is to get the world online and that means connecting two-thirds of the global population who are not yet connected.

Zuckerberg is well placed to lead such a charge but is he right to claim the mantle of human rights campaigner?  Whilst cogently argued the paper is didactic.  It lapses into the repetitive style more commonly asscociated wth propaganda and the last five paragraphs before the conclusion all begin with the words; “This is good…”.

The Facebook founder may be strong on connectivity but is he credible on human rights? His former colleague Charlie Cheever, who went on to start Quora has said; ”I feel Mark doesn’t believe in privacy that much, or at least believes in privacy as a stepping-stone. Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong.”

Maybe privacy isn’t a right but a privilege.  Either way as Robert Hofs says in Forbes today “I can’t help wondering why these companies feel the need to trot out such idealistic concepts. Ultimately, there’s only one reason all these businesses are involved with this project: money”.

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Social media cafe Manchester – smc_mcr – logging out

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Social Media Cafe Manchester – or smc-mcr as it morphed into – came along at the right time to meet a ravenous appetite for digital communications.

But now, it’s no more.

I’m grateful to Tom Mason for bringing the news to my attention and for his affectionate “eulogy” to this rather modest and yet highly influential fixture in Manchester’s calendar of digital creativity. For the definitive insight into why smc_mcr is logging out, check out co-founder, Martin Bryant’s post on the smc_mcr website itself.

So, what made it special?

In the digital sector – one that has now become big business for learning seminars, training courses, day-long conferences, etc – smc_mcr offered collective insight from real-life practitioners (often early adopters of digital technologies and communications platforms) at no cost to the participants whatsoever. All those great brains in one room, willing to pass on their knowledge because, well, they were passionate about their subject and the sharing ethos seemed to meld well with the social media milieu.

At times, smc_mcr was unapologetically and hilariously shambolic in its structure and organisation. But that was more than compensated for by the wealth of interesting people and topics you could expect to encounter over a couple of hours on a Tuesday night, once a month.

On a simplistic level, it was networking with people you also had a relationship with online; but it was really so much more than that.

And, it supplied a regular flow of great material for PR Media Blog which, at the time, was itself trying to make sense of the ever-quickening revolution in digital communications.

Normally, an institution coming to an end is a sad affair. But smc_mcr has done its job, if ever it had a “job description”. It wasn’t its style to have some sort of “manifesto”; that would be far too bloody organised.


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Adland Shock at Omnicom Publicis Merger

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Levy and Wren

The scale of incredulity that greeted the news that started to emerge this weekend over the rumours that Omnicom and Publicis were set to merge was summed up in a tweet.   David Jones the CEO of Havas  the 6th largest global advertising and communications network and No. 2 in France behind Publicis posted a tweet on Saturday saying:

Publicis Said to Be in Late-Stage Merger Talks With Omnicom – via – oh wow just saw a flying pig.

Twenty four hours later the pigs were airborne as Maurice Lévy and John Wren were confirmed as joint CEOs of what is now the world’s largest advertising and communications group.


The CEOs said jointly: “For many years, we have had great respect for one another as well as for the companies we each lead. This respect has grown in the past few months as we have worked to make this combination a reality. We look forward to co-leading the combined company and are excited about what our people can achieve together for our clients and our shareholders.”

The announcement also suggests that the new combined company is expected to generate efficiencies or cost savings of $500 million/€377 million.

The surprise in adland is matched by some scepticism. David Jones again: “Obsession with mergers & acquisitions still amazes me…digital & technology have made scale irrelevant.”

Update 10am 29.7.13

As the shock subsides I’m indebted to Mark Pinsent for pointing out that I haven’t provided a point of view on the merger. Well here goes.

There’s no doubt that seismic changes in communications in the last decade have rocked the advertising world. Consolidation was inevitable. Consolidation must be on the cards with £500 million of “efficiencies” promised in the announcement.

Whether this was a good deal, as ever, you have to ask for whom. If the goal was to create the biggest marketing communications group in the world merging the 2nd and 3rd agencies is a hard trick to pull off. For Maurice Lévy and John Wren, and especially the former, this was an amazing deal. However there may well be client fall out, restructuring and potential erosion of value. In the final analysis the creation of the Publicis Omnicom Group may be at best as Martin Sorrell describes it a ‘nil premium merger’.

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5 ways to beat the trolls

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Until fairly recently a troll was one of those odd little plastic naked fellows with fluorescent hair. Repulsive, but harmless and easy to avoid. How times have changed. Nowadays, any communications professional incorporating social media into their campaigns must always, always ask “how could the trolls hijack this?” before trying to mobilise the masses online.

Durex is one of the latest brands to fall victim to internet pranksters. Its online poll invited nominations for anywhere in the world to be covered by its ‘SOS Condoms Service’; emergency condom delivery for frisky but not risky couples. But it returned a less than ideal winner – the conservative Muslim town of Batman in southern Turkey.

Inspired by just how avoidable that outcome was, here are five things I think every one of us should do to either pre-empt the trolls or at least manage them when they rear their ugly heads.

1) Think like a troll – forewarned is forearmed, he who fails to plan and all that. Get the team together and run through every imaginable scenario, or open it up to the entire company. Be ruthless and get enough brains on the job and you stand a good chance of uncovering at least the most obvious potential slip ups, and probably some of the more left field ones too.

2) Establish some boundaries, or nudge people down (or away from) a particular route. This might sound counter to the spirit of social media, but what Durex got completely wrong was to allow the general public – which includes some very cheeky little monkeys – to choose anywhere in the world. If the choice had been limited to London, Paris, New York or Dagenham, their poll might not have had such a limp ending.

3) Know your audience…and your haters. McDonalds’ now infamous #McDStories campaign might have been avoided if they’d remembered that antipathy for their brand probably equals the love for it, and hate is often more of a call to action than love. Waitrose learned a similar lesson with its “Finish the sentence: I shop at Waitrose because…… #waitrosereasons” Twitter campaign. Everybody thinks they’re more popular than they actually are, but when planning a social media campaign it will pay off to be real. Remember that when pressing the launch button, you’re not likely to get in front of just fans.

4) Have a clear response policy – nine times out of ten it’s best not to respond at all, but there may be some anticipated scenarios identified in advance that can or should be managed. In these cases, flow diagrams illustrating the twists and turns, the “ifs” or “ands” that you’ve planned for will help you maintain a bit of control with measured responses. However, exercise a bit of pragmatism in actual delivery – stock responses that vaguely relate to the original prompt come across as stilted and impersonal. If you have someone with a genuine problem, then this kind of response is unlikely to lead to a satisfactory resolution. Still, if you suspect you have a real live troll on your hands, then it really is better not to give them the satisfaction. And remember, don’t take it personally – or you might be provoked into doing something rash.

5) Not all angry people are trolls. It’s important not to adopt a siege mentality, because not all angry people are trolls; some may have a real issue with you that needs addressing. Scratch the surface of that angry tweet and you might find an easily solvable problem that you can publicly solve.


David Jamieson (@JamiesonDavid) is an Account Manager at TopLine Communications, a specialist digital communications and crisis PR agency

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Max and My Letter to PR Week

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Max Clifford

Two weeks ago PR Week published a blog post praising Max Clifford’s handling of his own PR following his arrest as part of Operation Yewtree. I thought they were wrong to do so and last week they published my letter explaining why. Letters to the magazine are only available in the print edition so I have posted it online here on PR Media Blog.

“For years, those of us that work in PR have lamented the mediocre reputation of our profession.  At the same time we have, it seems, been powerless to prevent the omnipresent Max Clifford acting as a de facto voice of public relations.  The media carries a fair share of the blame, seeking sound bites from a celebrity publicist who cites his secrets of success as “confidence and the ability to lie with conviction”.

I wasn’t alone in being horrified with Ian Monk’s homage to Clifford’s PR skills in the pages PR Week a fortnight ago. It joins a catalogue of misplaced eulogies for Clifford and I don’t think PR Week should have carried it. The subject of Ian Monk’s praise was Clifford’s personal PR in the face of his recent arrest but if you watch it back, his performance is unremarkable and his statement is stilted and self-absorbed.  There is nothing to admire and nothing for the fervent student of PR to learn.

Most PR people agree that Max Clifford is not one of us; he’s a publicist, a self-promoter and self-confessed dissembler. Many of us feel that he has besmirched the reputation of PR for decades.  Quite aside from the fact it’s possible that that he may become unable to carry on speaking on behalf of the public relations industry it is time that we found new voices to represent us.  We have some brilliant minds and some great speakers.  It may be a case cobblers shoes, but now is time for PR to manage its own reputation.”

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Vote Wadds – A New Voice for PR

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Wadds CIPR ii

There has been much talk of late about about how the PR industry represents itself to the outside world.  One area in which we have failed consistently is providing credible voices that will represent our industry in the media.   There are many reasons why Stephen Waddington is ideally suited to be the next president of the CIPR, I also believe he could transform the reputation of PR as its leading commentator. Here are ten reasons why:

  1. 1. He’s a very charismatic individual. People like him with good reason, he is a genuinely good guy.
  2. 2. He understands the breadth of the industry and range of work we do in PR.
  3. 3. Wadds is a unifier.  In particular he has a good relationship with the PRCA as well as high standing in the CIPR.
  4. 4. The camera likes him – perhaps not the most critical factor but important nevertheless.
  5. 5. He has been at the forefront of facing the important changes that continue to challenge the industry. He understands the huge changes that are taking place in the media. He is an acknowledged expert in the field and an acclaimed author.
  6. 6. He’s thorough and takes time to get to grips with issues, so will always speak with authority.
  7. 7. He lives in London during the week but is a northerner whose home is in Northumberland.
  8. 8. His day job for as European digital and social media director for Ketchum give him an international perspective.
  9. 9. He is both a former journalist and moderniser.  He understands the past, present and the future of PR.
  10. 10. Wadds makes things happen.  Lot’s of people in PR are excellent at talking, Stephen does the walking too.  I recently handed over the chair of the CIPR Social Media Panel to Wadds not least because I know he will expand and grow the work of the panel, in which he has already played a central role.

Voting is now open in the CIPR presidential election.  If you have a vote use it now.  Vote for Stephen Waddington.  Make him our president and the voice of the industry and take the first step in building a more vibrant reputation for the Public Relations profession.

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Corporate blogging for the CEO – a missed opportunity?

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How can the busiest person in the company possibly have time for corporate blogging?

The notion that a CEO could metaphorically “put pen to paper” while running a multi-million Euro, Yen, Dollar or pound company is, surely, preposterous.

It is, indeed, just that, if you consider the findings of Weber Shandwick’s report, Socializing your CEO: From (Un)Social to Social, which show that not one CEO in the top 50 firms featured in Fortune Global 500 rankings can be bothered with a blog. The chief executive communications effort is, instead, directed towards online video (40% of CEOs appearing on a company YouTube channel) or by simply having an biography on the website (which ought to be a given).

The finding that CEOs – according to the research – are disengaged from social media channels is no surprise, with fewer on Twitter and even fewer on Google+. The rapid-fire and potentially free-for-all nature of Twitter is going to be a disincentive for someone who simultaneously carries the bulk of reputation responsibility for the organisation while probably having the least time to be firing up Tweetdeck to monitor brand mentions or haranguing hashtags.

But the lack of CEO interest in corporate blogging is, I think, a missed opportunity.

Take the example of former BDO Chief Executive, Jeremy Newman, who was one of the leading exponents of effective corporate blogging.

In this interview – remarkably done nearly four years ago – he spoke of the value to the business of blogging:

“I have people who track the statistics and they tell me it is doing just fine. Now, did we win a new client or get that world class graduate trainee because of the blog? I cannot say but these days, I frequently meet people who say they’ve read the blog. That’s gratifying and means we already have a common connection. At one time it would have been very difficult for me to get an appointment with the CEO/CFO of a FTSE 350, these days it’s easier. Is that because of the blog? I’d like to think it has had a part to play.”

Four years on and the corporate blog has not gone away, despite the lacklustre performance of the top 50 in Weber Shandwick’s research report.

And with more recent developments such as Google Authorship, there is even more reason for experts – and certainly CEOs – to reconsider the value of committing to a regular habit of corporate blogging.

This example of a CEO blog at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, perhaps unexpectedly emanating from the public sector, shows a willingness for the person at the top of the ladder to talk openly and directly to the hospital’s patients, visitors and staff. It combines personal reflections and opinions with a professional insight into healthcare issues which instils confidence in the reader – just what you want and need from the head of a large hospital.

There’s no denying that the CEO’s role is busy already. But the corporate blog may offer the CEO something that other, competing, voices cannot.

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Ferguson delivers media masterclass

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The wily old Sir Alex Ferguson has today shown that he knows how to play the media and at the same time stop the media frenzy of rumour and speculation about the future of striker Wayne Rooney.

Since Rooney’s omission from the team to play Real Madrid this week, the media and twitter has seen this as an indication that Ferguson’s relationship with him is broken and that he would be leaving the club in the summer.

This morning football journalists speculated on twitter about the weekly press conference and who would ask the first question.  Ferguson’s reputation for being taciturn and banning journalists for asking difficult questions is legendary.  Indeed it transpired that he has imposed a ban on two newspapers – the Mail and Independent – because of the speculation this week.

Ferguson has shown how to take back the agenda from the media. He started the press conference by putting his points across before any questions were asked.

“The Wayne Rooney nonsense first? Or do you want to talk sense? The issue you’re all going on about is absolute rubbish. There is absolutely no issue between Wayne and I. Rooney will be here next season you have my word. To suggest we don’t talk to each other on the training ground is absolute nonsense.”

Having done that he was able to put across the positive messages about where the club goes from here.

Some of the sceptical football journalists who have seen it all with Ferguson even acknowledge a solid performance. The Sunday Times’ Jonathan Northcroft tweeted:  “SAF in prime form, all in all. Joking, grabbing back the agenda.”

Ferguson’s performance has shown that in the whirl of a media storm that addressing the issues up front and being prepared to stand by your convictions enables you to put your side of the story across in a much more strident way than responding to questions.

With Rooney however, only time will tell if his omission was the beginning of the end of this time at Manchester United as Ferguson is known for, sometimes, giving the media the wrong steer. But for now for him it is mission accomplished.

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The real reason companies fail at social media

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Social media is pointless for companies. According to a 10-year social media study at Northwestern University’s Medill School in the Integrated Marketing Communication Department, social media users do not use social media seeking products and they have no brand preference. Professors Don E. Schultz, PhD, and Martin P. Block, PhD, conducted this survey and concluded that social media users will not become brand loyalists because people use social media simply for “social purposes.” So is social media just a wasteland of meaningless social chatter? No, says Dave Kerpen. What companies should do is join the social chatter and view that chatter as an opportunity to learn more about people. Kerpen is the founder and chairperson of Likeable Media, a social media and word-of-mouth marketing firm handling the social media presence for more than 200 companies. And he’s also the author of Likeable Social Media, a book of social media strategies. The real reason why companies are failing at social media is due to their incapability or unwillingness to just shut up and listen. Like with any other type of conversation listening is the key to a successful interaction. Kerpen’s latest book Likeable Business explains how companies can listen to and benefit from the social chatter. “Likeable Media has grown over 2,000 percent in the last five years,” says Kerpen, “and I credit listening as being a big part of that growth. Social media allows for better listening than ever before.” Think of social media as an impromptu focus group, a place to find out what people need or wished they had. Listen to their problems. Listen to their interests.” Companies need to listen with the intention of understanding, considering, figuring out what is important to people. Kerpen offers Blockbuster LLC’s bankruptcy as an example of a company that didn’t see the value of social chatter. “Blockbuster failed to listen to the massive negative volume of tweets and Facebook posts about their late fees. Had they been listening and paying attention, they could have adjusted their business strategy earlier and avoided their downfall to Netflix.” When Netflix experienced its own massive negative social chatter about its decision to split into two companies, Netflix listened to the chatter and nixed its plan solely because the plan was unpopular with people. Kerpen admits he used to be a poor listener and had to learn how to listen. “You can work on listening. The best way to do it is to practice. Measure how many minutes you spend listening versus talking in any given meeting or conversation. Practice asking questions instead of giving answers. Those who excel at listening talk only when necessary.” Yes, people use social media to be social and are not interested in hearing any business marketing spiels. But there is business value in that social chatter. It’s an opportunity to listen and find out what people really want. And when your company isn’t listening to the social chatter your competition is.   This was a guest post by Bridgett Gayle. The post The real reason companies fail at social media appeared first on

Silence isn’t golden: Crisis management through social media

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Outpost Outsight Report image - credit Eva Rinaldi (640x427)

Social media is now an incredibly important tool for communication both when things are going well and when crisis hits. Twitter and Facebook will often be the first port of call for both the public and the media seeking updates on incidents. If those updates aren’t there, they’ll draw their own conclusions or find them elsewhere.

When things go wrong, a festival can face hundreds of tweets about issues such as over-crowding, a shutdown, or a slow evacuation. On many occasions, however, none comes from the official Twitter feed.

If a festival says nothing, a stream of misunderstandings, unverified updates, and untruths spread through tweets from people both on and offsite. A journalist at the event can became a key source of information, despite only being there as a festivalgoer and having no more access to official updates than anybody else.

Large scale events are also a slave to the weather and knock-on effects such as traffic jams can create havoc.

In these situations, any statements and advice issued via Twitter can be pushed down the feed by regular updates extolling what a great time is being had by all who have managed to get on site. For those still stuck and looking to Twitter for official information, this can serve largely to antagonise them. A situation then develops where those people then tweet themselves and speak about their complaints.

Often, the problem can be that the wrong people are operating events’ social media accounts. In many cases, the ‘social media strategy’ is simply telling interns to go out and keep people updated on how much fun they’re having. But an intern is not qualified to deal with logistical queries or complaints – which may come at any point during an event – nor manage information flow when major problems arise.

All events have plans and systems in place for when the unexpected happens, but social media is not always considered within this. If the public and the press can’t see that something is being done, the fast pace of information online means opinion of an event can quickly turn.

Here are five top tips for crisis management through social media:

1. Designate a social media manager

The moment something goes wrong, someone with the authority to speak for you should be able to take over or direct social media updates.

2. Provide clear information promptly

Make it clear that you know that something is wrong and that you are dealing with it as soon as possible, even if it is not immediately possible to go into details. Removing any content from your website that might no longer be suitable is something to consider.

3. Ensure that important updates aren’t lost

When you need to relay important information, ensure that it’s at the top of your social media feeds for as long as possible. This could mean pinning it to the top of your Facebook feed or ceasing all other updates completely.

4. Know when to stop being positive

A continuation of point three, but it’s important to know when positive updates about what’s happening at your event should stop, even if only temporarily.

5. Address rumours quickly

Rumours will spread fast at a festival, especially if people don’t have up to date information from its organisers. Monitor the spread of rumours both on and off site and address them promptly. Without an official message early on, rumours can be picked up by official news sources and become a lot more difficult to address further down the line.


This was a guest blog post from David Silverman. Photo courtesy of Eva Rinaldi.

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Corporate reputation begets consumer behaviour – Harris Interactive

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Another week, and yet another piece of research about the state of corporate reputation at the larger end of the business world.

But Harris Interactive’s latest – and, in fact 14th – Annual Harris Poll RQ Study tells us something both interesting and sobering for the guardians of corporate reputation in organisations worldwide.

The study, conducted with a suitably robust sample size of 19,000 Americans, has found this year that:

  • More than 60 percent of consumers now “pro-actively try to learn more about how a company conducts itself” before they are willing to consider that company’s products or services.

  • [They] proactively engage in conversations with others about what they find out about a company.

  • In 60 percent of cases, decide NOT to do business with a company because of something they learn about that company.

  • Actively try to influence friends and family on whether to do business or not with a company based upon what they have learned about that company’s conduct.

Though buried at the very bottom of Harris Interactive’s press release based on its survey – where the main headline was the relatively unsurprising news that Amazon, Apple, Google and Disney grace the top five of US companies with the best reputations – the consumer trend that Harris has identified is the most startling element.

Harris’ interpretation of the influence of corporate reputation on the consumer continues: “Companies need to evaluate and understand the increasing importance that playing a valuable social role has on reputation, purchase consideration, advocacy and positive word of mouth. This is about a business having a purpose, not just checking the box on social responsibility or sustainability.”

If right, this is the story of not a passive, but active – or, dare it be said, “activist” – consumer; a consumer that is applying Timothy Leary’s 1960s mantra of “Turn on, tune in, drop out” to its consumption habits (though without the need for added psychedelics). In other words, the consumer is listening, watching and taking action in response to the behaviour of business.

Yet, if the consumer has become the righteous crusader that Harris claims, it remains curious why the corporation tax travails of some of the top businesses named above, and the issues Apple faced with its flawed mapping software, has not had a bigger impact on these companies’ reputations.

Nevertheless, companies would be wise to not dismiss the influence their actions – both in their wider relationship with the world as well as their core products and services – have on the attitude of the consumer.

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Online content marketing – on the “must-do” list

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Content marketing

If online content marketing is now a “must-do” rather than a “should-do”, how does a company or brand make it work?

A couple of useful guides to content marketing reached PR Media Blog’s attention at about the same time, care of the clever people at EConsultancy and SEOmoz.

Chris Lake, director of product development at EConsultancy produced a sprawling epic on content marketing (linked to later on) while Ashley Tate, content specialist at SEOmoz, hosted a ideas-packed webinar on the topic.

As Chris Lake puts it content marketing is “a kind of umbrella term for five disciplines: editorial, marketing, PR, SEO and social. It is the glue that bonds these things together, and a predefined content marketing strategy can help [these] teams to focus on long-term goals.”

Ashley Tate kicked off her webinar with the image at the head of this blog post, summarising the overall value of producing content and her practical guidance included:


  • Stop waiting for resources to appear…

Brainstorm content topics, which might involve new product updates, interesting community engagement or even an enlightening team meeting – all making potential content.


  • Make structure from chaos

Decide what type of content will support your vision (blog posts, video, audio, infographics, etc) and set specific content goals – in other words how regularly will your content appear. Test the effectiveness of your content over – wait for it – several months to understand how it is resonating with the audience.


  • Use guest post authors

They can come from among your suppliers, associates, customers and – even better – your community, as long as they are clear on the preferred topics, work to your guidelines and maintain a distinctive, individual voice that feels authentic rather than a piece of marketing.


  • Test and gather data

Measure content analytics, including the number of social shares, thumbs up and down, comments, traffic sources and page views.


  • Evaluate and improve

Stick to your voice and strategy, but be flexible enough to grow with your audience and respond to their wants and needs.

Quoting Chris Lake again: “digital marketing in the second decade seems to be paying more attention to retention, and I think it’s crucial to produce the right kind of content for your existing customers / audience.”

Read his in-depth advice on content marketing and gear yourself up for some heavy lifting, but rewarding results, from online content generation.

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Manchester B2B PR consultancy Metamorphic PR launches

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Jon Clements - Chartered PR practitioner

Metamorphic PR – a Manchester-based B2B, corporate and marketing communications consultancy has been launched.

In a rare interruption to PR Media Blog’s normal blogging business – and for that I appreciate your patient indulgence – I invite you to visit the brand spanking new website where you’ll find the story behind the launch of Metamorphic PR.

And, keep your eyes peeled from Monday for the first in a special launch series of five, daily blog posts, each tackling a relevant area of activity that could have a bearing on a business’ PR and communications activity.

The first one – going live on Monday morning – tackles the benefits of blogging.

And – just in case you were wondering – PR Media Blog won’t be going away…!

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Corporate reputation put on notice in Edelman Trust Barometer 2013

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A crisis of trust in organisational leadership and corporate reputation – nothing less – dominates the latest Edelman Trust Barometer 2013.

And the responsibility of business to rebuild trust and reputation couldn’t be more urgent.

The general population polled across 26 countries showed an average trust level of 49 in government, business, media and NGOs – where the most trusting populace (China) scored 70 and the least (Russia) bottomed out at 30.

But when it came to those trusting the business community less year-on-year, a cumulative 50 per cent cited “fraud, corruption and wrong incentives driving business decisions”; an unholy trinity of unethical slurry if ever there was one.

The banks and financial services, unsurprisingly – as covered widely before on PR Media Blog – bring up the rear among trusted sectors, polling only 50 per cent trust apiece. And nearly 60 per cent of the failings leading to such a poor trust rating for banks lay with the institutions themselves; theoretically within their control; though – seemingly – not practically (Libor fixing and PPI mis-selling, please stand up). As the Brand Builder blog writer, Olivier Blanchard says in his commentary on this year’s Trust Barometer: “Leadership and corporate culture are cited as the primary causes of corporate wrongdoing. (And rightly so.)”

For leaders at the top of their companies, the news doesn’t get much better: while academics, company experts and a “person like you” ranked highest for trustworthiness, CEOs came lowest in the corporate hierarchy. A mere 18 per cent of Edelman’s research sample trust business leaders to “tell the truth, regardless of how complex or unpopular it is”. To paraphrase punk poet, John Cooper Clarke, nobody has a good word for it, but Olivier Blanchard does: “execrable”.

Art can mirror life, and the consequences of a trust-fuelled crisis are played out well in the Danish drama, Borgen, currently lighting up Saturday night television in the UK.

In a recent episode, the character Amir – Climate Minister and Green Party member in a coalition government – who is causing aggravation for the Cabinet by his intransigence to relaxing environmental policies, so scuppering a broader policy agenda – has something of an anti-green skeleton in the cupboard.

The “gas guzzling car imported from Cuba” he owns for the occasional weekend pleasure drive does nothing for his environmental credentials, reputation and ability to instil trust in his motivation to impede the government’s social agenda for the good of the planet.

And his hypocrisy – however innocent – plays directly into the hands of his opponents and the media, labelling him a “big, fat liar”. Ultimately, he ends up, in the words of another character, “cornered” and immersed in the “worst experience of his life” at the hands of the media.

Similarly, companies with dark secrets should take to heart one of the lessons for leaders distilled by Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2013: “Trust is fragile and perceived behaviours are an anchor”.

As communicator and blogger, Neville Hobson, opines in his summary, “Edelman’s latest research adds a significant layer of credibility to the broad premise that the system really is broken and does need fixing.”

Here’s the full study from Edelman:


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Tarantino’s challenger brand lesson for brand leaders

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How far does a company need to deviate from its established brand identity to achieve “cut-through” or “stand-out”?

It’s understandable that mature brands feel they have a lot to lose by taking risks with their customers’ expectations and this can result, with brands becoming inherently conservative in their marketing communications; in a competitive B2B or B2C market, brands can begin to look increasingly homogenous.

The challenger or upstart brand, conversely, isn’t inhibited by such mundane considerations.

Take “Brand Quentin Tarantino”…

This weekend his latest film, the violent Western and slavery drama, Django Unchained, opened in the UK, after three weeks in which it became the director’s highest grossing film in the US market ever. And despite high profile criticism from African Americans such as fellow film director, Spike Lee, it appears a large proportion of the US black population is unperturbed by accusations of disrespect for its ancestors, with 30% of the audience coming from that community.

However, 25 years after his first film, Reservoir Dogs, was released – establishing Tarantino as the new “enfant terrible” of independent cinema – the director is no longer the upstart brand, with “Django” placed fourth in the US box office top 10, ahead of blockbusters including Les Miserables and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

I was fortunate enough, in 1993 – as arts reporter for the Nottingham Evening Post – to interview Tarantino as part of the UK premiere of Reservoir Dogs at the city’s Broadway Cinema. The young writer-director was a highly-engaging study in obsessive and infectious enthusiasm for film, and his inaugural piece of work made me walk out of the cinema, mid-film, in disgust. Not that I was afraid of challenging films, but the violence – particularly the infamous ear-slicing scene sound-tracked by the Steeler’s Wheel song, “Stuck in the Middle with You” – seemed like cinematic shock for shock’s sake and neither clever nor innovative.

But Tarantino wasn’t making films typical of the time – Home Alone 3, The Bodyguard or Wayne’s World, for example – and he didn’t need to care about big film studio box office. Of course, my myopic viewpoint on Reservoir Dogs was wrong and Tarantino’s work changed not just independent cinema, but all cinema thereafter.

And while the blood-drenched, Tarantino-esque violence remains an integral part of his cinematic “brand”, his films have clearly extended their appeal to a more mainstream audience since 1993.

But what he’s done to make each successive film continually stand out – while simultaneously broadening his mass appeal and becoming a mature fixture in cinema – is by taking familiar, well-trodden celluloid territory and giving it a fresh and unexpected feel. His Jackie Brown added another shade to crime film noir, the Kill Bills put new kick into the Kung Fu genre and, now, Django Unchained is a brilliant homage to the radically diverse Westerns of John Ford, Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah. With each new film, the audience isn’t alienated, but reassured, that it’s being led into a world it knows, but then thrilled with Tarantino’s daring take on that world.

And so, a well-established brand needn’t be afraid of taking a previously unheard-of risk in its marketing communications, if the customer or other audience has already a high degree of trust and regard for the quality of what it provides. In fact, taking a calculated risk might be the only way to really stand out during a period of competitive consideration by the customer.

Risk is a relative concept, and only you know how far you need, or should, go to stand out in your business or industry. But Tarantino, 25 years on, is still taking daring risks in his work and attracting flak from some quarters while, at the same time, clowning around as a guest on Graham Norton’s late night light entertainment TV show. You can’t get much cuddlier than that, can you?

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