Saturday, 24 April 2010

Social Media News Releases - Mini case Study

Katie raised some interesting points about Social Media News Releases (SMNR) in her blog – ‘The Future of Press Releases’. In my opinion a SMNR can be a valuable tool in a PR campaign.

As part of the launch of the Bahrain World Trade Center, the world’s first building with integrated wind turbines we used a SMNR in addition to a ‘traditional’ press release. There were both advantages and disadvantages to this.


1. Exposure was significantly higher – more people were exposed to the story.

2. Traffic to the companies website increased 300% percent.

3. The number of people bloging about the project increased dramatically.

4. The news was shared through social media communities including Twitter, You-Tube and Facebook.


1. The quality of footage in the SMNR was not high enough for television broadcasting companies to use it. As a result in addition to distributing the SMNR we also had to upload the event footage through a satellite uplink, the cost of this was over $3500 – an additional cost that was not explained clearly.

2. The cost of the SMNR was high.

3. The SMNR was popular among international media but the local / regional media (in the Middle East)

did not have the software capable of using this type of release. As a result, if we had only sent a SMNR coverage in this region would have been significantly affected.

Overall my experience with SMNR was positive, saying that I haven’t used one since then and that was 2 years ago. That’s not to say I wouldn’t in the future.

I have seen a number of companies use SMNR to great effect, my favorite example is Dominos Pizza.

Following a spate of negative publicity. Domino’s had no other option but to tackle the issue head on. They released a SMNR, which included a clip fronted by the CEO.

This proved successful; it enabled Domino’s to tap into the real-time double-edged sword of social media – speed and counter the negative publicity. The SMNR was key to this. It helped the company resolve the issue and provided a good example on how SMNRs can be used as a solution to a crisis.

Sunday, 18 April 2010


As far as I am concerned the jury is still out on Twitter.

In one way it acts as a vehicle for self-obsession. Individuals can tweet about themselves e.g. Lindsay Lohan and the 'twits' who monitor her progress falling out of nightclubs. In this gossip thirsty age Twitter presents the public with the perfect means to this end. I cannot understand why anybody else would care about what I or Lindsay Lohan are doing. It’s not interesting or worthy of a tweet. In my opinion such vacuous impulsive 140-character communications warblings bolster already over inflated egos.

However Twitter also allows individuals to confer about business and events which I do find to be of interest and of use. Local news channels and newspaper have Twitter accounts that allow me to keep abreast of National and International News. A good example of this was following the ongoing tweets from airlines about the disruption to European commercial fly zones. To ensure that I could follow tweets with greater facility I procured myself ‘Tweet Deck’ which allowed me to group people and sites into different columns. This is more streamlined and allows me to chosen exactly what I want to read. I simply have to all click on the column and my chosen information appears. This personalized niche-specific news feed cuts out the clutter.

Twitter is a new communication tool and one has to ask ‘Is it just a fashion or a permanent fixture?’ Will celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore become bored with Twitter or will their followers eventually stop following? If so will Twitter survive in the world of business and education? The political parties are even involved, with Obama, Brown and Cameron all jumping on board the latest ‘too cool for school’ communication technique. Will it be used as frequently in an election 4 years down the line or will there be a new communication tool on the block?

Twitter has a learning-curve and I am still trying to figure out Twitter protocol and the norms surrounding it. It has the potential to become a superior communication tool for business but in this respect its full potential has not been exploited and in many cases I would argue it blunts office efficiency, hence only the PR department at my workplace have access to it!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Should PR Practitioners become Language Guardians?

Over the years online communication has increased exponentially and with it a whole new array of words, symbols and rules have been developed. Talking has become increasingly obsolete in businesses and it’s not unusual for colleagues sitting in the same office to e-mail each other rather than communicate verbally.

This shift in business communication patterns is interesting especially given that today’s society demands information more quickly when in reality typing takes more time than talking. As a result people have created ways to reduce the time spent on typing by using an abbreviated and informal version of English. I regularly receive e-mails that omit punctuation and grammar and include smiley faces.

This is a worrying trend and something I believe PR practitioners should advise companies on how to manage. Employees represent their company when they send corporate e-mails and using a bastardized form of English can affect the company’s image.

More informal communication can lead people to open up more and let down their guard. This is not always a good thing, companies need to demonstrate a level of professionalism and manage their reputation. A company would not post a smiley face on its corporate website but you will find employees sending them in e-mails, is this not one in the same?

The older generation would never draw a smily face, shortened words or compromised on punctuation and grammar in a corporate communication but the same cannot be said about future generations.

And the future doesn't look promising. In a recent survey the Professor of linguistics at Lancaster University, Tony McEnery, found that the top 20 words used by teenagers, including 'yeah', 'no' and 'but', account for about a third of all words used.

It will be interesting to see if companies recognize the need to monitor this and introduce their own net-etiquette in regards to online communication.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Twitter Talk

It struck me as slightly ironic and somewhat amusing that the software on the xtranormal video creation site was unable to recognize and pronounce the lingo created by the Internet and in particular Twitter!

Twitter Glossary for those of you who didn’t understand a word!

Dweet: A tweet sent when you’re drunk.

MisTweet: A tweet you regret sending later.

ReTweet: To repost something that's already in the Twitter stream.

SnapTweet: A tweet that includes a photo taken with a cell phone, uploaded to Flickr and posted to Twitter via snaptweet.

Twittcrastination: Procrastination brought on by Twitter use.

Twadd: To add someone as a friend or follower.

Twaigslist/Twebay: To sell something on Twitter.

Tweeter/Twitterer: Someone who uses Twitter.

TwinkedIn: Inviting friends made on Twitter to connect on LinkedIn.

Twittectomy: To remove someone from the list of people you follow.

Twitterati: The A-list twitterers everyone follows.

Twitterlooing: Twittering from the bathroom.

Twitterpated: Overwhelmed with Twitter messages.

Twittfeinated, Twigged Out, Twired: To be so hyped up on twittering that you cannot sleep.

Source: Bloomberg Business

Over Exposed.....

A week ago I hadn’t hear of location-based social networking sites such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and Loopt, so I began a cyber journey to discover what the hype surrounding next years predicted social networking phenomenon was all about!

Location-based social networking sites use technology such as GPS-enabled smartphones to pinpoint a person’s location. Applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla let you post comments about the locations you visit. Foursquare and Gowalla are games; the aim is to ‘check-in’ to as many different places as you can when you’re out. The more places you ‘check-in’ to the more points you earn. You can become the “mayor” (if using Foursquare) or a “Founder” (if using Gowalla) of a venue if you ‘check-in’ to it more times than anyone else. In some places you can collect “badges” based on the number of times you visit. Some venues offer discounts etc on products. There is also a facility to find out where other ‘friends’ have visited and you can post reviews / recommendations about where you have been.

As you can imagine these applications provide a wealth of for opportunity for marketers. Not only do they have the ability track people’s habits, they can also drive business directly to a venue through offering an incentive directly to customers. But their ultimate power for businesses is word of mouth; of course this can be a double-edged sword.

PR companies have already started harnessing the power of location based social networking sites. Ogilvy and Intel used Foursquare as part of a PR campaign to drive traffic and build a buzz for Intel’s offline events at the Consumer Electronics Show.

A branded Foursquare page was created, featuring venues where Intel had events. Users were rewarded for ‘check-in’s’ to key events with branded badges, and a competition to win an Intel-powered computer.

The campaign was a success, Intel was able to track and build relationships with over 400 active users on Foursquare who were also attending CES and drive attendance to various hosted events.

Undoubtedly, location-based social networking sites such as Foursquare have the potential to add value to social media campaigns and are definitely an option I would consider using. Having said that, I would not personally subscribe to a location-based social networking site. The idea of my friends being able to track my whereabouts fills me with dread, let alone the thought of large corporations using the data sold to them from these sites to drive their own commercial agendas. Whatever they claim their interests are never the same as that of users. In addition to this there are a number of safely and security issues associated with recording your every move, in the worst-case scenario you could become the target of a crime. A slightly satirical website called Please Rob Me is worth a read; it highlights some of the potential pitfalls surrounding location-based social media.

So in conclusion, after a week of online adventures with location based social networking sites, I would defiantly recommend using them as part of a social media campaign but not for personal use and herein lies the quandary. How many people would feel the same way I do? Hopefully not too many I want my PR campaign to be as successful as possible! :-)

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The ROI from Social Media?

It is always satisfying to present the monthly PR report to senior managers, the front page boldly highlighting the departments ROI - calculated in terms of ad value. I love to watch the smile spread across the ‘bean counters’ and managers’ faces as they swim in the zeros in front of them.

With PR being still not being understood by some executives, demonstrating ROI in terms of a monetary value helps justify the value of PR, as the age old adage says, ‘money talks’. While I don’t believe this is the best way to measure the true value of PR it is an important requirement in requesting budget.

One of the main obstacles facing PR practitioners’ wishing to spend money on social media is the question of how to demonstrate ROI? A recent study by e-marketer found that only 16% of those polled said they currently measured ROI for their social media programs and more than 40% of the respondents were not even aware if social media tools had ROI measurement capabilities.

There are a few sites around that offer free social media analysis - Google Analytics, PostRank Analytics, Viral Heat and Crimson Hexagon. These offer a range of tools and functions to track visitors from referrers, including search engines, display advertising, pay-per-click networks, email marketing and digital collateral such as links within PDF documents. Viral heat and crimson hexagon also track sentiment, i.e. whether the information is negative or positive, this is useful to look at before implementing or changing a social media strategy.

While these sites are good and offer a solution for analyzing social media, they do not offer a way to calculate a monetary ROI. If PR practitioners want to increase spend on social media they will need to be better able to justify the ROI, in my opinion the tools to do this are still weak. I would strongly advocate the development of industry standards for social media evaluation. This would enable different campaigns to evaluated against each other and executives to educated to understand one set of benchmarks.

Have you been FLOGGED?

How often do you question the authenticity of the blogs you read? Never, well you could be the subject of a flog! A flog is essentially a fake blog that appears to originate from a credible, non-biased source, but, which in fact is created by a company.

Over the years there have been numerous examples of high profile flog scandals, some linked to high profile international PR agencies and their clients. Three years ago, Edelman was responsible for a fake Wal-Mart blog called ‘Wal-Marting’ across America. It featured the journey of a couple as they traveled across America in their RV (recreational v

ehicle), during which they parked their RV in friendly Wal-Mart's parking lots. They weren't customers though; they were writers being paid to blog positively about Wal-Mart.

In another case, Edelman was accused of bribing bloggers to write favorable reviews of Microsoft's new Vista operating system after it sent a group of top bloggers top-of-the-range Acer Ferrari notebook computers, pre-loaded with Windows Vista.

In both these cases bloggers were quick to condemn the companies, in the first case the blog was removed. In the latter, following the bribery allegations, Microsoft encouraged the bloggers to donate the laptops to charities after they had tried and reviewed Vista.

Another tactic being used by companies today is - pay-per-post blogs. Bloggers are offered cash to write about products. Disclosure is optional, and often the bloggers are required to only express positive comments.

Is there anything wrong with flogs?

I don’t believe there is. Is there any difference between a company creating a ‘flog’ and sending out a press release or paying for an advertorial? There have been calls recently to regulate blogs; despite not being practical this is also is a form of censorship.

However there is an ethical debate surrounding this subject that should make PR practitioners think twice before recommending such a tactic to a client. If PR wants to establish its self as a profession, it needs to establish a code of conduct that by nature advocates honesty and transparency. A flog is not ethical, practitioners need to decide what is more important –establishing a profession or acting to promote a company at whatever cost.