When #PricelessSurprises became #CostlyMistakes

We wouldn’t have wanted to be in House PR’s shoes yesterday.  No, not even a ticket to the Brit Awards (and the remote possibility of rubbing shoulders with David Bowie), would have made us change places with them after the furore that blew up on Twitter around #PricelessSurprises for their client MasterCard.  So what did House PR do that was so wrong?

The agency committed what is commonly known in the PR world as the eighth deadly sin.  They presumed to tell a journalist what they should write.  They used the sought-after Brit Awards press seat allocation as collateral, dangling the tickets tantalisingly in front of some of the UK’s top showbiz reporters, in return for an agreed list of specific coverage. This even included a suggested Tweet for each journalist to cut and paste.

The relationship between hack and PR professional is a delicate thing, and it’s driven by our news media’s need for authenticity and balance.  There is a fine, unspoken line that both parties respect and don’t cross. For the journalist,  this means cutting the PR person enough slack to let them ask for a brand or website mention in the article that they, after all, supplied the idea, spokespeople, evidence and statistics for. Within the boundaries of good balance and objectivity, sometimes a journalist will be able to do exactly that.

For the PR person, this means perhaps working some of the brand’s key messages into the story that they pass on or perhaps supplying an image or b-roll that incorporates client branding in it. Or even perhaps asking in a slightly embarrassed, humble tone, if they would mind awfully, if it’s not too much trouble, mentioning their client by name in their piece. But true PR professionals never, ever presume to have rights over what the journalist will finally publish. Once that line is crossed, the trusted relationship is over.  Which does nobody any favours.

Telegraph Mandrake columnist, Tim Walker has pointed out, what House PR should have done is to pay for advertising alone.  This, in marketing terms, is how you control what appears in the press and is posted on social channels.  Well, direct advertising is probably not the right medium for subtle brand placement.  But there are an increasing number of other forms of paid and owned media that could have been explored. A paid blogging programme for example, could have delivered the brand mentions and hashtags that they were looking to journalists for. Not to mention targeted, sponsored posts on Linkedin.  House PR was already paying to promote #PricelessSurprises on Twitter and we’re pretty sure, if they’d just asked the journalists that were invited to the Brit Awards to use that hashtag, most of them probably would have done so.

As it stands, #PricelessSurprises was hijacked yesterday by just about every p*ssed off hack in London and yet was still promoted all day. But then there’s no such thing as bad PR, so they say…

It might not have helped the PR industry’s reputation, but this story has certainly provided us with a useful case study for our trainees at Racepoint and for those degree students we regularly provide workshops to.

The Digital Marketer

“If the first thing a business person does when starting a new venture is build a website, then he will fail.”

The words of our Chairman, Larry Weber, speaking at the Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford event yesterday on the topic of his new book, The Digital Marketer: Ten New Skills You Must Learn to Stay Relevant and Consumer Centric.

Today’s consumer is bored of generic websites with their landing pages and standard buttons ‘About Us’, ‘Products and Services’ etc.  Digital marketing today is all about personalised, targeted information disseminated through microsites and online communities that are relevant only to a small group of people. That’s why Larry believes that Facebook will eventually fail.  Nobody wants or needs to be connected to 40 million people.  It is trying to be all things to all people and it can’t be that.

Essentially Larry sees marketing as “the influence of opinion through content.” The impact of the content comes through the way it is distributed and then amplified by people who engage with it.  Which is where Twitter comes in.

Big data and the insights it brings is going to change the way that marketers operate, but the challenge is interpreting and using this data in the right way.

The ultimate challenge for any marketer today is to create a digital environment where people want to go in the first place and then make them want to stay there. How? Visual content. Yes, content is still King, but only if it is NOT heavily based on text, but rich in video, images and animation.

Want to know more?  Read his book!  It’ll be available from May 2014 on Amazon.

The average Twitter user only has 27 followers…and other interesting facts (infographic)

Here’s a brand new, fresh infographic for you – all about Twitter and Twitter usage. There’s usually one or two of these flying about at any given time, but this one has some pretty interesting bits and bytes that show Twitter’s scale isn’t necessary all good:

  • Rejoice fellow UK tweeters, for our green and pleasant land has the second highest number of users – being pipped to gold by the yanks. Sadly, it is quite a big pip – over 50% of Twitter users are in the US, compared to just over 17% in the UK (which also means English is likely the prominently language of Twitter). Still not bad for a small, overly proud country
  • Over one million new Twitter profiles are created every day, on average 11 every second. Which would be good news except…
  • 40% of Twitter users have never tweeted. Not even a little chirp. Seems there’s a lot of spam-bots out there being silly and ruining the stats for everyone
  • The average Twitter user has only 27 followers, and a quarter have none at all –so the likes of Gaga, Obama and other important types ending in A* are seriously propping up the average
  • Good new for PR and marketing folks is over half of active Twitter users follow brand/product pages, and high numbers of US Twitter users are likely to recommend products or buy from brands they follow (79% and 67% respectively)

See the full graphic below.

twitter infographic facts figures

*other influential twitter users with names not ending in A are available

Source Website Monitoring via The Wall

The common sense approach isn’t working: Police arrest man for poppy burning on Facebook

The British police aren’t doing a great job of adjusting to life with social media. After trying a “common sense approach” to Twitter in the wake of several ludicrous cases, Kent Police have fallen victim, so to speak, to issues surrounding the arrest of a Facebook user.

Facebook poppy law

Said arrest concerns a 19-year-old who, for reasons best known to his own tiny mind, decided to post a photo of a burning poppy on his Facebook page. With an offensive caption. On Remembrance Day. Lovely.

Now, I’m not for such behaviour. Not one iota of me thinks such an image is in the same universal realm as things that are ‘okay’. But extremely offensive images aside, the idea of arresting a person over a Facebook post of this nature sounds insane. The image reportedly falls under section 127 of the Communications Act, which covers sending “a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” on a “public electronic communications network”. Or to the layman in this case, something nasty or threatening posted on the Internet.

This doesn’t sound quite right, and a world away from a ‘common sense approach’. Common sense should dictate if you wouldn’t arrest a person for committing a certain act in public, you shouldn’t arrest them for posting an image of it online. I’m not legal expert, but I suspect you’d be hard-pressed to find a copper who’d arrest someone for burning  a poppy. More likely a stern finger wag and a clip ‘round the ear before being moved on (esp if you’re local police station happens to be in Ashfordly).

Expert legal types tend to agree. David Allen Green, the defence loyal for the Paul Chambers / ‘Joke Twitter Trial’ tweeted “Dear idiots at @kent_police, burning a poppy may be obnoxious, but it is not a criminal offence”. He also seems to be starting the hashtag #PoppyCock – clever clogs.

Social media isn’t going to go away, and neither are idiots who choose to use it to peddle their own brand of offensive nonsense. So, the police and social media sites themselves need to come up with a solution to policing content without restricting freedom of speech, or tying up the judicial system with an increasing number of random cases.

That’s obviously an enormous challenge, and won’t happen overnight. The widespread use of social media could lead to the requirement of dedicated team (or department, branch, bureau or other appropriate term) to work with social media sites to deal with complainants, and lay out new legal precedents to cover online activity and offenses.

This may seem crazy – but it’s far saner than trying to arrest everyone who is offensive on Facebook.

Nothing lasts forever…except for T-Mobile top ups

The ASA has been a little quite in tech matters lately, after a busy period of rulings on Twitter led campaigns earlier in the year. But recent complaints regarding T-Mobile’s mobile top up advertising has meant the regulator has waded in and redefined the word ‘forever’.

According to PC Pro, a ruling on the slogan “unlimited free texts forever” has changed the meaning of forever to “not literally forever”.  The line is used by T-Mobile to advertise a PAYG top up offer; when a user tops up £10 a month or more they get free unlimited texts.

In response to two complaints brought to light through the ASA, T-Mobile stated the company has “no business plan to remove the offer from customers who had joined during the offer period and who continued to top up by at least £10 a month”. Of course, this doesn’t mean the text offer will literally last forever. Even if T-Mobile is committed to keeping the deal going, you have to imagine it won’t keep going indefinitely. Sadly these kinds of ‘unless of course’ T&Cs aren’t the close friends of those clever advertisers getting paid to write catchy slogans.

But the ASA is cool with it, putting a little more faith in the average consumer than the two complainants did. The regulator stated “We considered consumers were likely to interpret the claim as containing an element of advertising puffery and were unlikely to infer that texts would be available literally forever”. A common sense ruling, even if they did have to get a little dig in at the advertisers. Ouch.