Category Archives: Opinion

Orla Kiely x Uniqlo (via @wishwishwish)

Influencer marketing – or good old fashioned PR?

In the olden days, or at least as long ago as 2005, the formula was simple: send out a press release to journalists and follow up with a phone call. Play it right and you’d see your client’s name in print. Timing and context were essential, plus the strength of your story, and the depth of your relationship with the journalist.

What’s changed? Very little actually. A good story presented to the right person at the right time will still be passed on, but the mechanism of presentation is completely different.

We no longer deal in press releases, but in the essence of an idea. And the “right” person is no longer necessarily a journalist, he or she is just as likely to be a blogger, a vlogger, a Viner or a Pinner. Or something else entirely. Or a mixture of things.
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Six top tips for 2015

Sparkers by Ben K Adams

Five years ago this month, I published Monkeys with Typewriters – a bit of a hippy treatise on the importance of social media to business. I wanted to look at how social tools could help businesses and all their relevant stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers and the like – be more productive, effective and – yes – even fulfilled and happy, because they would be communicating a whole lot better. Well, that shouldn’t be rocket science, should it?

Half a decade on, the six behavioural changes outlined in the book are still relevant and, if anything, even more mainstream today. And I stand by them. Here’s what they are – and how to incorporate them into your everyday way of doing things in 2015.

1. Go forth and co-create!

The DIY and customisation trend is only getting bigger. Why only the other week The Guardian Guide ran a special on it. Creative Commons licensed photos are increasingly used on websites as an alternative to stock photography and just last July Google added a usage rights function to its image search. The web is overflowing with free, re-usable material – don’t be afraid to experiment. Set up a playlist on Spotify or Soundcloud. Start your own WordPress or Tumblog and share anything that takes your fancy. Find inspiration by curating some Pinterest boards. Join a #tag conversation on Twitter and realise that sharing and responding to other people’s ideas is just as enjoyable as broadcasting your own. Instragram and Vine stuff you see around you. Free your inner creative genius.
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Say hello to social – or wave goodbye to your top talent

Freedom by Thorsten Becker
Does your boss ban Facebook? Is YouTube access blocked from your office? Do colleagues look nervous when you mention Twitter? If so, chances are your employer is a large corporate or public sector organisation with deeply-ingrained concerns about productivity and time-wasting. Many large companies (and the more traditional smaller enterprises) have a myriad of communications restrictions in place.

IT departments nearly always cite security and legal issues as justification for this draconian behaviour. A few years back I heard a talk by the head of social media at a leading US retail bank. He referred to legal, compliance, fraud and security as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”. It’s difficult for ordinary employees to argue, he said, when confronted with effective corporate death as an alternative.

So what about startups – are they cool with social and other new technologies? Well, yes, they generally are. They’re digital natives, aren’t they? It’s hardly surprising that a recent survey by online recruitment platform Tyba found 68 per cent of people working in big companies said they’d move to a smaller startup if they had the chance…and bad IT was cited as a key reason by 27 per cent of respondents.
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Aspiration nation – why we all want a piece of Pinterest

Pinboards by Shannon Lamden on Flickr

Twitter is for now and Facebook’s for yesterday – but you can see the future on Pinterest. From recipes, wishlists and wedding plans to visualisations of new husbands and dream homes, Pinterest has it all.

In a neurotic, self-obsessed, keeping up with the Joneses world, what could be better than a social network that defines not so much who you are, but who you want to be?

Pinterest’s 70 million users (“pinners”) share what they want, not what they own. For a generation where identity is built around shared ideas and experiences, Pinterest could be the de facto social network.

“Pinterest is a search engine, first and foremost” says Sarah Bush, Pinterest’s UK country lead. Pinterest wants to take on Google – by being a social discovery engine where images are curated by other people. A Google search for “red dress” (for example) will serve up a selection of sponsored links under the “shopping” tab – Pinterest gives you a range of styles selected and commented on by fellow users.

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The positive network effect of truly great friends

Ring around the beach by Patrick
I’m talking to some Year 12 pupils on Monday and I’m thinking of using this as my main point: the world is your oyster – it’s down to you. But the number one most important thing in your life is to make the right friends.

What do you think? Will I sound too much like their mother?
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Swearing as a PR strategy: how big and clever is it?

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So BrewDog, the craft beer brewery, has responded to latest criticism from the Portman Group in typical form: “I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today’s ruling”, said James Watt, BrewDog’s co-founder. “Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to say.”

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Social media must be more than skin deep

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I had a bad brand experience this week.

A trendy online retailer with the tagline “Europe’s largest provider of high quality repro designer furniture” sold me some stuff that never arrived – and is clearly never going to arrive.

I came to this realisation while on the phone to a man called Anthony who apologised for delays at the warehouse. After 20 weeks? What a ridiculously poor excuse I thought (or words to that effect). I wondered if anyone else had been given similar excuses…so I Googled the company. And my search query returned page after page of customer “reviews” talking of lost deposits, unpaid refunds, even upheld county court judgements.

Unfortunately I didn’t see these comments prior to parting with my cash. I only saw the things “Europe’s largest provider of repro designer furniture” wanted me to see. The customer reviews on the website are glowing. They have had hundreds of pins on Pinterest; tens of thousands of views on Youtube. The website is beautiful, super slick and easy to use – oh, and very easy to pay.

But look a little closer, scratch below the surface, and it’s all a little like one of those stage doors that opens up into nowhere. It’s easy to say in retrospect, but I should have seen the warning signs. And there were plenty of them:

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The Social Revolution

Karl Marx as a hippy

Words like “collaboration”, “community” and “engagement” are used frequently in organisations, but check the subtext – you may find they’re little more than sticking plasters on the same old creaky top-down, hierarchical models (or, worse still, a deliberate ploy to distract from real, less inclusive, agendas).

Eliane Glaser’s recent RSA talk on How to de-spin a party conference (a topical take on her new book) looked at the way people – specifically politicians but also brand managers and marketers – appropriate the language of “social” business into traditional “business as usual” models.

Glaser’s critics describe her as a conspiracy theorist, and it’s easy to see why. She paints a picture of a Matrix-like world where we are all kept happy with rustic, homespun consumables while just below the surface rumbles a monstrous, corporate machine dedicated to serving a wealthy elite. This machine cares nothing for the long-term welfare of humankind – in fact, it will ultimately destroy it.

If you presumed for a moment that this was true, you’d find yourself in good company: it’s a familiar argument used by environmentalists, NGOs and the Occupy movement. You would find that George Orwell and Larry and Andy Wachowski (creators of The Matrix) were right: if only we could wake up from our mass prole-like sleepwalk, we might see the horror for what it is and build a better world.

Glaser’s book is a call to arms: a manifesto for revolution. If you take her anger on (and be warned, she’s quite persuasive), you may find yourself dusting off your student copy of the Communist Manifesto and questioning the painfully slow evolution of business.

But as Francis Fukiyama wrote in The End of History (and Glaser herself admits), revolution ain’t what it used to be. The “workers” have been seduced by Sky TV and warm shopping malls. The language of “isms” has long since disappeared from everyday conversation. Unemployed teenagers are interviewed on TV saying their sole aim of rioting was “to get free stuff”. 

Glaser’s argument is that we are unable to articulate what we want. We are doing a lot of talking (on social media). It is up to us to make it meaningful.

Brands are trying to appear more ethical, and that’s a good sign. We forget that social computing is still relatively new – to some extent we’re like children playing with a new toy. When a child first starts to speak, they imitate. And that is what the big brands are doing now – imitating. Some are doing more than that, they are following through – they are actually creating more ethical businesses.

The great thing about social media is that we now have the tools to hold the non-ethical businesses to account. So, what are we waiting for? Bring on the social revolution!

Photo courtesy of Georgia Spears

 

How to get married in the 21st Century…who needs embossed card when you’ve got Facebook?

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Icecream

Last weekend my friend Jill got married to her lovely fiance Saf. The wedding was at Castlerigg Stone Circle and the bride wore purple, but the real first for me (and to be honest I’ll be surprised to ever see its like again, not in this generation anyway), was that the whole thing was planned entirely on Facebook.

No invitations, no wedding list, no complicated maps or instructions: the bride set up an event page and the guests self-organised. There was a ceremony and a stonking great party, but what people did in and around and between those was up to them. 

That’s how a handful of us came to do a three hour hike with three children under six, some of them dressed in fake fur and tiaras (but all of them carrying ice cream). 

Big thanks to Jill and Saf – a wonderful day!

(And thanks to Jill’s mum for the fab wedding pic)