Encouraging parallel conversations during live events has been gathering pace recently. The Guardian have long had much success with their interactive minute-by-minute coverage of sport, and more recently live rolling news.

Even sweet old Radio 4 is getting in on the act; last night I heard them encouraging people to use the hashtag #r4riot and join in with one of their live shows.

But my favourite example recently is Riz Ahmed, an actor in Four Lions, tweeting live (simultweeting?) along with a screening of the film on TV. What a great way to spread the word and encouraging re-watching. It’s a bit like the audio commentaries you get as extras on DVD, but much more vital.


The crisis in crisis management

Like everyone else, I’ve been beguiled by the unfolding hacking drama at News International.

It’s been well discussed that it took the confluence of tenacious, brilliant reporting from the Guardian with the amplifying power of social media to really land the killer blows.

One thing that’s really struck me, though, is the impact of social media on crisis management PR.

NI took the understandable step (eventually) of publishing an apology last weekend in all the nationals, followed by “and now let’s put it right” the day after. These are classic steps in the crisis management playbook.

However, are they relevant any more? Within moments of the apology being published, it’d been dissected, remixed, lampooned and re-broadcast by the Twittersphere – undermining its power markedly.

Traditional crisis management has relied on a scarcity of the ability to broadcast. I.e. get your message on tv/in the papers and that’ll drown out dissenters.

Not any more.

Internet marketing – 1995 style

I’ve been clearing out some boxes from the spare room and found this cutting from Campaign magazine, July 28 1995. It features a profile of the 27 year old me looking quite marvellously serious.

It’s certainly of its time. Some of my statements still hold up, and some are more dubious. I love the no-irony reference to Information Superhighway and check that URL –! Someone in the US had grabbed, and we eventually got it back by offering him a weekend in Dublin and a trip to the brewery.

[click to enlarge]

The world’s hardest PR task

I’ve mentioned before a couple of examples where big companies have failed to understand internet culture and ended up paying the price.

Usually in these cases, there is a web-savvy way to deal with the wild west of social media, but in the case of the viciously satirical fake BP PR twitter account, I confess I’m at a loss what I’d do. Sample tweet:

We honestly didn’t think this was going to be a huge deal. No one cares when this happens in Nigeria

Not that I have any sympathy with BP over this, but if you were given the brief of responding to this (and assuming you’d accept the gig), what would you do??

Champions of search neutrality – how Google might win the PR war against Murdoch

Rumours abound that Murdoch and Microsoft might team up to make Bing the only place where News International content can be found in search.

As a stick to wield at Google, it’s pretty much the only one Rupert has. And as they trail by miles in search share, Microsoft won’t miss an opportunity to team up and gain an edge either.

It must be tempting for Google in turn to consider exclusive deals with Murdoch’s competitors.

But what do consumers want? Imagine a world where you have to know “I can find this kind of content on Google but that on Bing, or that on Google but not on Bing”. It’d be awful. Like having to dial 118 118 for these phone numbers, but 118 247 for those phone numbers.

We want everything in one place.

I wonder whether Google would open up a PR front championing “search neutrality“? i.e. position themselves as wanting to bring you the whole web and de-position others as wanting to fence it off.

PR as fireworks

It’s easier than ever to get a PR announcement out there. And easier than ever to cock it up.

A year or two ago, I had a chunky piece of product news to announce, but no budget. No problem I thought, I’ve got all these modern comms assets to play with.

So announce it I did – big bang style – sending the news simultaneously to the website, news wires, the forum, facebook, the press office blog, Twitter etc.

I thought I’d been terribly modern and efficient, but the story got nowhere. It was summed up when the blogger relations guy called me, pretty out of sorts.

I just called up one of our key targets saying ‘I’ve got something for you’ and he told me ‘yeah, I know, I just saw it in my facebook  inbox’. It’s old news isn’t it?’

Big lesson. Just because you have multiple comms routes to market doesn’t mean you should use them all at once.

Sequence matters. Think of PR as a fireworks display. You don’t set them all off at once. The impact is much greater if you build up to a crescendo.

Start with this release order and adapt from there:

  1. Inform internal stakeholders
    Key staff and shareholders should know first – especially customer service people
  2. Leak to bloggers
    Bloggers won’t write positive stuff if they don’t get to break it, so leak news to them and give them exclusive details/pictures.
  3. Tell passionate customers first
    Anyone following your brand on Twitter, contributing to your forum, being a fan on facebook or subscribing to your email should be the first to officially know. These people care about your brand. Critically, you should give them material they can share – eg, embeddable videos, pictures they can link to or exclusive offers.
  4. Mass anounce to journalists, visitors and previous customers
    This is when it’s actually public. Such is the pace of the web that this phase can follow just hours later.
  5. Post-launch management
    Reputation/news management in the days following the announcement is an intrinsic part of the launch task. Use social tools to monitor the conversation and respond to as many positive/negative comments as you can. In the first 24 hours, the prevailing opinion on your announcement will coalesce and you want it to settle down in your favour.

When is a joke not funny? When it’s pointed at you

You’ve surely seen the story of the musician with a beef against United Airlines for damaging his guitar. Being dissatisfied with their response to the incident, he wrote a song lampooning the airline and it’s become a monster hit on YouTube.

Very funny, but not unique. There are many examples of nimble Davids embarrassing organisational Goliaths by savvy use of the web. And how we all love to see things evened out and the big guy look a bit stoopid.

So, say you’re United – this is not good PR. What do you do? How do you respond when someone launches a satirical strike? My advice would include:

1. Be nice
There is no mileage in getting heavy. Be humble, generous, transparent and responsive. Give the guy a guitar!

2. Play along

There is no advantage in looking po-faced and corporate. The joke is on you and the only way out is to be a good sport. Perhaps in this instance, they could have made their own video response: a shoddy karaoke version of the same song with edited lyrics.

We’re sorry about the guitar, and we’re even more sorry about our singing

Dangerous PR opportunity

Boing Boing reports that, due to legal issues with his label, Danger Mouse is to release:

a blank CD-R in a jewel case with art and liner notes. Fans can just download the music off a P2P site and burn it to the CD-R.

I’m sure this is a genuine case of label/artist differences, but if it were a PR stunt cooked up to raise awareness of the album, it’d be genius.

Imagine: once the hype around Danger Mouse’s audacious blank CD release has peaked, both parties could suddenly come to an agreement to release the album for real and cash in on the publicity.

Beats working

Want to attract the best talent to your company? Releasing videos like this is far more effective than running ‘inspiring’ posters in airport corridors

The full 18 mins are worth watching, but if you want a flavour, start at 10’14”

Innocent and Coke – will it blend?

So Coke have bought c. 20% of Innocent drinks. There’s a feisty bit of feedback on the Innocent blog with many comments being negative, eg.

You thought wrong – you just killed your business 🙁

Disgrace but not surprising, you have sold your soul. Thats the last time we buy your products.

At best this is misguided – you’ll be a fig leaf for Coke’s unethical corporate machine. At worst it is a greed-driven betrayal of values and customers.

This is going to be an ongoing PR management issue for Innocent, but hats off for blogging it in the first place and keeping open the comments thread. This way the debate happens on their site and allows them to put their side of the story.

Indeed, so far the objectors have not gained much traction on other new protest platforms such as Facebook, and my bet is that this will die down. There’ll always be some people who object to corporate buy-ins (eg, McDonald’s and Pret. Btw, now no longer), but most people don’t care that much.

So long as Innocent remain open and engaged, they should be able to contain the dissent and continue with their plans.