Archive for the ‘Online PR/Social Media’ Category

Social media workshops & talks

Quick update on workshops and talks I have coming up over the next few weeks.

If I can help you with any training or talks, please do get in touch


Social media reputation management: getting it right and getting it wrong


How to deal with negativity on social media platforms is one of the issues I’m asked about most frequently during training workshops.  Most organisations will at some time or another, have to face criticisms or complaints online.  If you find yourself on the receiving end of negative comments, the best way to respond is quickly, transparently and authentically.

But occasionally a bigger crisis occurs and last week there were two examples which neatly demonstrated the right and the wrong way to deal with a social media tsunami.

First up, Adecco who allegedly ripped off an idea from blogger Turner Barr, Around the World in 80 jobs and turned it into a strapline and campaign for their own ends.  There has been a huge amount of criticism on social media channels and Adecco’s main Facebook page is flooded with comments criticising them for seemingly stealing someone’s idea and passing it off as their own.  In response they posted a statement which is little more than an exercise in PR fluff, in it they say:

We have seen and heard your sincere concern about our recent youth employment initiative and take your feedback very seriously. We deeply regret if we hurt Turner Barr. This was never our intention when we set up our “Around the World in 80 Jobs” contest. We clearly see that Turner is an inspiration to many people. We feel there should be more of such initiatives that inspire people to live their dreams and achieve their ambitions. Unfortunately, we moved forward with a name and contest that clearly upset Turner and his community. We sincerely apologize for that mistake. 

When Turner contacted us about his concern, and we understood the full situation, we immediately engaged with him to try to make things right. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find common ground so far.

So what’s wrong with their approach so far?  Well firstly, it’s patronising to its audience.  The statement has a faux sincerity that is grating to read, it also doesn’t really tell us that much.   And while I’d never suggest trying to respond to every comment, having posted the statement to Facebook, they haven’t (so far) been back to engage further.  Secondly, they appear to be completely ignoring the issue on other social channels.  A quick search for ‘adecco’ on twitter reveals a huge number of people tweeting in support of Turner Barr and criticising Adecco but the sum total of their response is one tweet last Friday linking to a statement on the matter.  In that tweet they use the phrase:

We’re sorry for some recent negative comments on our global youth employment initiative

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? They’re sorry that they got something wrong or they’re sorry to be receiving end of so many negative comments?

Now obviously they could be involved in legal proceedings which means they’re unable to get into more detail but whatever they’re doing, they need to do it fast.  Of course in all of this the biggest problem is that what you say when something like this blows up is actually only a tiny part of dealing with it effectively, it’s what you do that matters.  Social media simply holds a mirror up to your organisation and reveals it as it is.  Rather than try and paper over the cracks you have to fix the issue.

Which leads me to Kickstarter, who had a similar social media crisis last week but who dealt with it in a completely different manner.  They came under fire from many different individuals and organisations when a ‘dating tips’ manual received funding despite the fact that it was, at best, a how-to on sexual harassment and at worst, a manual to encourage rape.  Their response was quick, decisive and included real action.  The tone of their apology is authentic and free from corporate speak.  They have explained the background and the action they’ve taken (no publications of this type will be allowed on Kickstarter in the future and they donated $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organisation).    The huge number of positive comments on the blog post demonstrates how positively people have responded to Kickstarter’s approach.  Yes there are a few counter opinions in there but the vast majority of commentators are congratulatory.

The key difference between them and Adecco is that Kickstarter have taken action and then been very clear about what action they’ve taken. Whereas, so far, Adecco have hidden behind a statement that is not just disingenuous but as it stands, has only served to add fuel to the fire.

My latest work projects

macbook pro

A brief update on the latest projects on which I’ve been working.

I continue to run lots of training workshops on social media and online pr, I’ve been doing this for four years now and have worked with all sorts of different organisations. Training is bespoke, either full day sessions (on all aspects of social media), platform specific, or more presentation style events.  Here are just a few of those I’ve worked with over the last six months: Econsultancy, Arts Marketing Association, Museums and Galleries Scotland, Mediacontact, University of Bristol Students’ Union, Cornerhouse Manchester (public sessions) plus many PR and digital agencies.

In October I was lucky enough to be asked to work on one of my favourite projects, the Creative Tourist Manchester Weekender, I was tasked with using social media to help promote the many events that were taking place and to measure the results of our online activity.  Over the weekend itself I was also on the ground, helping to document everything by taking photos and capturing audioboo interviews with participants and attendees.  You can see a Storify of the weekend here.  For anyone in the tourism business, you might be interested to know that Creative Tourist now has a consultancy arm, Creative Tourist Consults, which specialises in cultural tourism strategy and digital communications.

I continue to write the monthly social media ‘Web Pro’ page for the brilliant .net magazine and am hoping to report from sxsw for them again.  Other writing commissions have included a, soon to be launched, ebook for My Newsdesk, aimed at small businesses and SMEs, it’s for anyone new to PR and wanting to understand how you can use it to promote your business.

I’m also coming to the end of a significant piece of work developing a social media strategy for a large organisation, this involved conducting a thorough audit of their current activity, producing a detailed recommended strategy and providing follow up training for staff.

And finally, around 60% of my time is taken up working as a director of Pyjama Drama, a franchise business that provides drama & creative play classes for toddlers and children.  We have 27 franchises across the UK and are growing fast.

If you have a social media or writing project with which you need a hand, or a training need, please do get in touch.  You can view some testimonials on my LinkedIn page.

Facebook Promoted Posts for Profiles: WTF


In the tech world, Facebook comes in for quite a bit of stick, its business model as an ad supported platform is fundamentally flawed, its mobile strategy is essentially flawed and let’s not get into outrage over privacy issues and so on…

But the reality is that in the mainstream, non tech world, Facebook is still, by some considerable margin the king of social networks.  I’m sure I’m not unusual when I say that the vast majority of my non tech friends use Facebook as their only social network.  However, all that might be about to change.

In May Facebook announced promoted posts to pages (pay so that more of your userbase will see your updates) and as this rolled out to all pages they also tweaked Edgerank so that even less of your (page) updates will be seen by your Facebook community. Coincidence? But even that could be considered to be fair game, hey it’s a business, they have to make money, if you want to use it as a marketing channel for your own business you have to accept it won’t be free etc.

However, they’re now rolling out the promoted post options to people’s personal accounts.  So as an individual I can pay to have more of my friends/connections see one of my updates.  And this is where I believe Facebook may start to lose the very audience that is essentially loyal to Facebook and up until now haven’t been concerned with, or even aware of, most of the other contentious issues.

As the screenshot above shows, there is so much room for promoted posts on profiles to fail.  Aside from the risk of an insensitive ‘hey you want to promote that post about how depressed you are?’ situation, how will users feel when their feeds are cluttered up with paid for ‘look at ME type posts’.  It truly feels like a desperate attempt to bleed every last cent out of the platform.  There is another issue too, on Facebook’s sign up page it’s very clear with its message:

“It’s free and always will be.”

Clearly if some users are able to pay in order to obtain more prominence within the network then you can’t really claim it’s free.

For now it seems that promoted posts to profiles is only available for some people.  Facebook announced it a couple of weeks ago by saying that it’s ‘testing promoted posts for people in the US‘ but it’s definitely appearing as an option on UK profiles too (in response to a tweet I sent out earlier today, 10 UK based people with whom I’m connected had been randomly offered the opportunity to promote a post).

Perhaps they are genuinely only testing it and will withdraw it but if not, this could be the point in history that Facebook starts to lose appeal to its core user base.  And that’s the point from which is is very difficult to return. changing the face of social networks (possibly…)


In just 6 short years twitter has established itself in our lives.  Hashtags on most TV programmes, the @ sign has become ubiquitous and every day celebrities help to extend it’s mainstream audience a little further.

It’s here to stay right?  Well lately there have been rumblings that twitter is losing its way, the increasing restrictions on developers using the API, the disgraceful way in which it sucked up to a major advertiser, deleting a journalist’s account for daring to criticise NBCs coverage of the Olympics, it’s all looking a bit murky.

The problem of course with an ad supported network is that, as we all know, if you’re not paying, you’re the product; a commodity to be bought and sold.  This is something we have always accepted but perhaps in the future we will look back in surprise at our compliance (if you’ve not read it, highly recommend Michael Wolff’s excellent piece on the essential problem with the ad supported model).

Just because it’s the way it’s always been, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

The founders of are daring to do something bold.  In their words they’re building, “a real-time social service where users and developers come first, not advertisers”.  Asking users to commit to paying $50 per year for an account, they’ve raised nearly $300,000 of a $500,000 goal but with 5 days to go until their deadline to raise funding it’s looking questionable whether they’ll get there.

And it’s not just the relationship with the users, will offer much more flexibility (and therefore innovation?) for developers.

I really hope they reach their target.  It’s so easy to plug ourselves into these platforms with no real consideration of the Faustian pact into which we’re entering.  Go and let’s find a better way.

*UPDATE: There’s a great piece about just gone up on TNW, which includes a Q&A with founder Dalton Caaldwell

*UPDATE: With 19 hours to go, App.Net have exceeded their target (currently at $600,00), so now it gets interesting.  I also wanted to link to this post by Orian Max, since it explains very well, all the various benefits of a App.Net.

Number 10′s social media story

Storify is one of my favourite online tools

Every time I’ve ever demoed it to someone unfamiliar with it, they always love it and it’s not hard to see why; it has a great UI, is simple to use and has a ton of different potential applications; from curating a news story, a conference or event, to pulling together a discussion taking place on twitter or other places on the web, used in the right way it gives a story depth and resonance.

It was with interest then, that yesterday I saw that Downing Street has started using Storify. The irony of course was this was just as the news broke about the fact that Olympic volunteers have been tightly restricted from using social media while at events.   Storify makes perfect sense as a PR tool, you can carefully craft exactly the story you want your audience to see, with no messy bits that haven’t been approved.  But what number 10 need to understand is that, like any good story, it’s only going to be interesting with colour and variety; if you create a corporate, vanilla version of an event, no one is going to give it a second glance.  The ‘Olympic Cabinet meeting – 200 days to go’ Story from Number 10 is little more than a glossy press release with no commentary or content from third parties (which is of course, the beauty of Storify).

So Number10gov you may find that Storify doesn’t work for you, because if you insist on having complete control over every element of your social media ‘story’, you’ll find that no-one will give it a second glance.

Social Media & Digital Predictions for 2012

Tech and media bloggers fall over each other to herald in the new year with predictions that 2012 will be the ‘Year of….’
I’m adding my voice to that cacophony but with the proviso that I will come back in December, revisit them and we can decide whether I was completely off the mark, somewhere near or, in fact, the leading new oracle.

So my 5 predictions for 2012:

1. From real-time to slowing down. Heard a lot of talk about this at sxsw in 2011 but seeing an increasing number of blog posts about it from tech early adopters and certainly feeling it myself. Have we all gorged ourselves on ‘real-time’ instant communications to such an extent that we are feeling the need for abstinence? Inevitably when these new technologies were created, we all crammed ourselves with them in a feeding frenzy. But frequently now I want to shout “SLOW DOWN”, it’s not a race. Faster isn’t always better.

2. The rise and rise of the storyteller. It’s arguable that storytelling is already the comic sans of the digital world, so much is the term being banded about but there are two sides to this that I want to flag up. Firstly, this is the year that I think more and more organisations will come to understand the importance of storytelling when developing their content for social media content and secondly, the rise of live storytelling in the UK (see The Moth for an idea if you’ve never been to a live storytelling event). The first London Storytelling Festival took place in October 2011 and other small events are popping up all over the UK, like Tales of Whatever, in Manchester. This can only be a good thing. There is nothing and I repeat, nothing that warms the heart as much as a good story.

3. Listening as much as reading. Audio is on the up. Audio stories (see no 2 above and please, if you’ve never done so, go to This American Life this instant and listen to one of the podcasts) and audio for reporting. I know this isn’t new but I think 2012 will be the year that audio in social really explodes.

4. A return to long form. Five years ago, Twitter turned the heads of bloggers and they skipped off into the sunset holding hands, leaving behind a trail of broken and abandoned blogs. This was desperately sad as many brilliant writers went from posting 3 or 4 times a week to once a month if we were lucky. It’s great that so many are returning to those blogs, dusting them off and reacquainting themselves. Yes I know that blogging generally has continued to grow in the last 5 years but I’m talking about the really good, thought-provoking bloggers that you can’t wait to read. There aren’t many of those.

5. The year social media stopped being talked about as a separate ‘thing’. Will 2012 be the year that the overall knowledge level as risen to such an extent that we can stop the echo chamber discussions about whether social media ‘matters’ or how to measure engagement. Personally I’m hoping on this one but realise it’s a long shot.

So they are my wise {sic} predictions. Let’s see how we get on…

*Image: J W Waterhouse’s The Crystal Ball, courtesy oubliette (reproduced under Creative Commons license)

Being Influential

Social media influence is the new black.  Who’s got it? How to get more of it? Whether it matters? All of this is endless debated, dissected and discussed (well, within the walls of the social media echo chamber anyway).  Indeed, an entire industry  has sprung up with the sole purpose of showing who’s the popular/unpopular kids in the school yard exploring the notion of influence and helping brands to ‘connect’ with key influencers.  Klout, PeerIndex and newbie Kred will all tell you how influential you are and about which topics (amongst other things).

To be fair, and despite my sarcasm, although I’m sceptical about measuring influence in this way, I do see a value in it.  But today it looks like Klout have updated their topics and this is where the system starts to fall apart. In the past I’ve been deemed to be influential about Rugby (despite knowing precisely nothing about it), bacon (no idea) and free stuff (again, whaat?) and from today ladies and gentlemen, I am officially influential about… typos.   Now of course I’m as selective in my scorn as the next person, I’m happy to claim some of my other ‘influential’ – topics, PR, Manchester, Marketing, Social Media.  But really, if you’re a bacon maker and you want to connect with me, let me tell you, I’m not the blogger you’re looking for.

Seems I’m not alone in seeing this randomness as many friends in my twitter stream shared this afternoon.  From Octupi to birds, tea to soup, there was an endless list of odd topics.  Maybe someone needs to have a tinker around with that algorithm because while there’s no doubt that it can be useful to know who is (genuinely) authoritative on a subject.  It only works if it, well, you know, works.

Is Instagram even about the photos?

Foursquare, Quora, Color – the next Facebook, the next twitter….  Anyone who’s involved in technology knows to be very wary of the hype cycle but occasionally you do come across something that feels different.  You use an app and it feels useful, fun, different or exciting – whatever, the fact is that you start to give it more attention than just the initial 5 minutes sign up, never to be used again (Empire Avenue anyone?).

I’ve started to feel like that about Instagram, the iPhone photo sharing app that’s getting so much attention (it helps of course when you have such heavyweight backers).  On first glance, as with many apps, it’s seems a bit pointless, a jumble of good and bad (some very bad) photos, many quite heavy on the filter use (back to that in a minute) but increasingly, these days I find myself checking my Instagram feed before Twitter.  While accepting that my next statement makes me sounds like a bit of a twit…it really does feel like the earlier days of twitter; a smaller community, more spontaneity, less extraneous stuff to clutter it up.  Of course I’m far from alone in my love of Instagram.  But what I’ve seen much more recently is an increase in the number of blog posts from people saying how much they like it from a community point of view rather than a ‘isn’t this great technology, fun, quirky’ etc.  Greg Povey’s post on just that and ‘when an app feels like the world from‘ Will McInnes both sum it up nicely for me.

An then I had an interesting conversation with Kate Bevan on twitter who feels equally as strongly about Instagram but from a slightly different point of view.  You can view the conversation on Storify but the short version is Kate hates the overuse of filters on Instagram and feels that it spoils the photos and undermines truly creative, quality photography (she’s definitely not alone in this).  This conversation made me appreciate that I look at it from a completely different perspective, which I’d sum up as follows:

- I don’t so much care about the quality of the photos, I don’t use it as an app to find lovely images (flickr is of course, much better for that) but there is something very simple about images, much more so than words; you respond to them immediately, unconsciously – you like them. Or you don’t.  Simple (and satisfying).

- Granted there is quite a lot of ‘Instagramming absolutely everything I see’ but that’s just like twitter is/was.  Excessive tweeters – excessive poster = unfollow.

- Perhaps most importantly, I come back to my point that, like twitter, it’s all about who you follow.  I follow people that I find interesting.  Some of them I find interesting because of the quality of their photos but many are for other reasons – I like to see what they’re up to, they’re perceptive, funny, witty or show me something from a different point of view.

So maybe Instagram’s success will ultimately be nothing to do with the images themselves and everything to do with the community.

* photo is a completely unrelated Instgram pic of mine

*UPDATE 6/7/2011 – I now have a instagram vanity URL

Social media fatigue and tweeting taxi cabs

After coming back from SXSW I was suffering a bit from social media fatigue. Despite deliberately avoiding panels that had social media in any part of the description (always a rehash of the same stuff; the gems at SXSW are in random, bizarre and more pure tech based panels – oh and Clay Shirky), the endless talk about location based services being the next social media landgrab left me feeling a bit, well, bored of it all. Apart from my chat with the lovely James Hart of course ;)

And I’m even more dulled by the never ending “10 ways to demonstrate social media ROI”, “5 ways to build a blog”, “3 ways to skin a cat” blah blah blah.

Then I saw this post by Will McInnes about how taking a break from work, on holiday in the real world, made it even clearer to him how much of a feedback loop the world of social media can be, “Because it has got a bit cluttered and noisy and samey and frankly, a bit overwhelming hasn’t it?” I couldn’t agree more.

But then, just when I was feeling particularly jaded, I had a lovely experience that reminded me of why social media can be hugely enabling. I’ve talked before about the power of social media to build communities but down in London last week I came across a fantastic example. Tweetalondoncab are a collective of London black cab drivers who have got together to offer direct bookings of black cabs via twitter. It’s a great service and one I’d highly recommend. But it’s not the service itself that I wanted to mention, it’s the way in which their use of twitter has helped to build an offline community for the drivers.

My driver was @cabbydavid and he explained how twitter has been fantastic for building a network of like minded friends,”I love it, if it’s 2am and I’m quiet, I just tweet that I’m going to xyz cafe for a cup of tea and I meet up with some of the other cabbies for a chat”. He went on to say that using twitter had expanded his circle of friends and made the whole experience of being a London cab driver, just, well, better. Simple, effective and a reminder that social media doesn’t have to change the world, sometimes it’s enough that it helps us connect with others.

As an aside, we talked briefly about how they could incorporate Foursquare or Gowalla into their services. I’m still pondering this one; tie-ups with cafes, bars? 10% discount offered for cab journeys from various specific check-ins? If anyone has any bright ideas, I know @cabbiescapital would love to hear them.

Oh and I reckon @jackcabnory‘s audioboo election updates will be well worth a listen.

*image Patrick Mayon