Why your people need to be your social media advocates

Yes Coke, it is about storytelling – but don’t forget your own people  So, the press release is dead. Long live the viral video. The corporate website – for consumer brands at least – may also have had its day. That’s the recent headline grabbing prediction of Coca Cola’s digital communications chief Ashley Brown. “Content is king”, apparently (think we might need a moratorium on this phrase!) and the company’s future communication efforts won’t be focusing on the mass media but on ‘storytelling’. So, more good news for the public relations profession. And also for the numerous journalists struggling to find work these days – brand journalism may be your saviour. The company makes plenty of valid points about the end of one way communication – and the need to be ‘authentic’ and ‘transparent’ in the online world. Oh and don’t forget to not take yourself too seriously. I think Coca Cola has absolutely got the focus right. Consumers probably aren’t interested in engaging with brands via corporate websites. And, yes, the best route to (increasingly short span) audience attention probably is via a short, snappy video that people want to share with their friends. Don’t care but want to share Brown says: “How do I package up (an) announcement as a story that someone who doesn’t work at Coke and doesn’t care would want to share with friends?” he said. Now, for a global consumer brand with the awareness levels of Coke, those who ‘don’t work for’ the company probably aren’t the critical catalysts which will get the viral ball rolling. But for (almost) everyone else, we’d do well to include our own people in our storytelling efforts. An organisation’s own employees should be part of the advocacy effort – they should be our fans, our subscribers and our followers too. Too many organisations see social media in particular as a distraction for employees. It’s something they do in their lunch hour – or perhaps even on their phones when they nip off for a ‘screen break’ to the loo. But I think this approach may be missing a trick. Everyone should be part of the storytelling effort. It doesn’t have to be a distraction from your organisational objectives – it can be integral to them. Here’s some quick tips: Put in place clear social media guidelines and advice to staff. Build some time in for formal training...

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The Green PR Agency launched today

I’ve launched a new pr agency today dedicated to the environmental and sustainability sectors. Here’s the website…  http://www.thegreenpragency.co.uk/ The Green PR Agency will provide specialist pr and copywriting services to businesses and organisations working in the following areas: Low carbon / carbon reduction technologies Renewable energy Micro-renewables CHP, micro CHP solar hot water, solar pv Wind turbines, wind energy Biomass Ground source heat pumps; air source heat pumps Energy efficiency Energy from waste; fuel from waste Waste management and recycling Sustainable development Green building, green architecture Mark Lupton Communications will continue to provide general public relations and copywriting services. Please let me know what you think of the new agency via the contact us section of the...

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PR: making the web less scary

Sometimes the internet can be a scary place. A lot of this stems from the sheer size of it – literally billions of web pages, blogs, Twitter comments and Facebook posts. In the old days pr was simple enough: there was radio, television and the print media. Formulate a coherent message, choose the medium and decide the balance between advertising and public relations. Easy enough. (By the way, don’t be fooled into thinking these old communications channels have gone away!) So when it comes to developing an effective social media strategy one of the first questions you have to ask is: where do I start? A recent CIPR webinar I participated in around public affairs and social media offered some reassuring thoughts for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the web. Delivered by pr, social affairs and corporate communications specialist Stuart Bruce the webinar offered a powerful analysis on the impact social media is having on all aspects of public affairs. Whether it’s businesses looking to protect their reputations or policy makers looking to develop effective initiatives the world of social media is transforming the way we operate. Bruce’s take was refreshing and reassuring: a lot of what’s out there on the internet doesn’t matter, he concludes. The trick is identifying what does matter and focusing your attention on that. “You have to shrink the space down and focus on the bits that matter to you,” says Bruce. “Monitor those that can have the biggest impact on your business.” In a crisis management situation or if your corporate reputation is at risk you have to show you’re doing something, that you have an action plan in place and are taking steps to promote your stance on an issue. Stuart cited the ‘Dell Hell’ customer service fiasco which hit the computer giant recently and which threatened to become a public relations disaster. The approach to crisis management in the age of social media was to rank the conversations which were taking place and decide which were worth taking action on. “It’s about deciding what’s worth taking action on – and which are the things you don’t want to take action on or which things may be counterproductive to do so,” adds Bruce. That’s a fine art surely and isn’t something which can be done by a computer alone. Monitoring social media, and responding to it, is a nuanced, subjective, and delicate task....

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Using Facebook and Twitter to promote brands

Not great news for the social media brand evangelists today. The Huffington Post reports that 61% of UK consumers don’t want to engage with brands via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. I found it surprising to be honest that such a large percentage do. Let’s face it – Facebook is where we go to tell our friends what we’re up to, and to find out what’s going on in their lives. Brands who barge in on that are going to come a cropper. The only recent ‘engagement’ I can think of was clicking on a link to get a free Boots voucher, which turned out to be Primark (huh?). There’s nothing like a decent ‘freebie’ to get people to like or share. So if you’re asking yourself how do I promote my brand using social media, or how do I use social media for pr, tread carefully. Remember, people aren’t going onto social networks to like your brand or to share your brand with their friends. They’re on there for a specific reason, and they don’t want you to elbow in on the action. On the other hand if you can use social media to provide consumers with great content – you might have more success. Join in, participate and listen to what customers say. Also, ask yourself: are we doing this for the sake of it or because it will genuinely help us achieve our business goals? Like any other marketing or pr activity, social media must justify itself. Can it help you increase sales, retain or attract employees, lower your costs, raise your profile or improve your customer service offering. There are certainly ways it can, but if it genuinely can’t, why...

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Stone Roses reunion: as easy to pr as the Second Coming

This week’s announcement that the Stone Roses are set to reform is one of those pr stories that will sell itself. No clever digital public relations strategies needed here. The traditional media will lap it up and social networks will go wild with discussion without the need for any nudging. Whether those comments are cynical, adoring, or indifferent it doesn’t matter – so long as there’s chatter. And no doubt tickets will sell like the proverbial hotcakes when they go on sale on Friday morning.  It’s what the world is waiting for after all. Maybe. So the agency charged with PRing the announcement, Murray Chalmers, didn’t exactly have its work cut out. Organise a press conference, invite a few select journalists and bloggers, sit back and watch the ensuing media frenzy. It helps that the band themselves are not exactly shrinking violets. The chances of their being any awkward silences when four mouthy Mancunians are faced with an array of microphones are next to zero. I was, however, slightly disappointed they chose not to have the press conference in their native Manchester. In the words of the late great Tony Wilson: where’s your excess of civic pride lads? Still, three nights at Heaton Park is a lot of bums on grass. And the agency will no doubt be thinking of ways to maintain the momentum in the run up to the concerts. There’ll be lots of news hooks along the way: announcements of the full line up, rumours about new material, perhaps some behind the scenes rows if we’re lucky, news of the rest of the world tour and the inevitable festival appearances. Here’s some other suggestions they could try: Film the band in rehearsal and post some clips on youtube. Get the band members to tweet and blog like crazy about how the run up to the gigs is going. Perhaps they could have a tweet up where fans suggest the best song for the encore or the ideal set list? Or perhaps they could tell us how they’re going to spend all the cash! Get them to guest edit the Today programme at Christmas. Or better still do the C4 alternative Christmas message! Secure a guest appearance on X Factor. (Ok, that last one’s a joke). One thing’s certain: ad spend will surely be close to zero, and the traditional media will probably only now play a...

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Why you’ve got to watch Twitter like a hawk

I’ll change the names in this blog post to protect the (not so) innocent. Actually I’ll just leave the names out so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings – and get myself into trouble. I was recently looking to brush up on my skills set with a spot of training. I emailed a training provider with some questions about a series of webinars they were planning which looked interesting.  Two weeks later: no response. So I sent  another email. Still no reply. Next I tried something different. I tweeted what had happened, mentioning the training provider’s Twitter account and adding a hashtag just for good measure. Within half an hour a rival training provider had spotted the tweet and posted a link to its courses. And they added a cheeky comment at the end: “we won’t ignore you”. But again, I received no immediate response from the original training provider I’d contacted. Sat watching TV later that evening an email landed in my inbox: from the CEO of the original training provider. It couldn’t have been a more eloquent mea culpa. And as an apology I was offered the chance to try all the webinars for free! So what does this tell us about pr and social media? Quite a lot I think. The CEO was devastated that her organisation had fallen down on the customer service front and that my tweet hadn’t been picked up earlier. She rescued the situation with her personal and thoughtful email and I was largely placated. She’s asked me to provide feedback on the webinars, which I will – both in private and probably in the social media sphere too. The fact is, any organisation worth its salt these days should be closely monitoring what’s being said about it on blogs, on Twitter and all the other places we use to sound off online. They’re a public communications channel as vital as any in the offline world. Reputations can be trashed or elevated in an instant (I don’t have a million Twitter followers, so little harm was probably done in this instance, though as the CEO pointed out from a customer service point of view it was poor). Reaction time is a factor and it’s essential organisations act super fast to head off a crisis or to make the most of an opportunity.  It’s made pr more complicated that’s for sure. But whoever said...

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