Don’t mess with the press

10 August, 2010

There have been a couple of stories already this week that have illustrated just how hard it is now to stop both the media and the general public from talking about you – and the harder you try, the more they talk.

For some reason, Southampton FC’s executive chairman Nicola Cortese made the decision to ban national and local newspaper photographers from the game. Suffice to say both the local and national press didn’t take too kindly to being forced to use official photography. The Sun used the first part of its match report to complain about the decision and then for the rest refused to name Southampton, instead just calling them ‘the opposition.’

In contrast the Plymouth Herald newspaper hired artist Chris Robinson to sketch cartoons of the action resulting in some of the most unique pictures to accompany a match report in memory.  The second of the two is frankly brilliant and a trend that I’d like to see more of in football stories.

Also in the news is Tory MP Dominic Raab who has demanded his email be removed from website 38 Degrees as he doesn’t have time to go through all the emails he gets a result. The website has refused to back down (supported by the Information Commissioners office) saying that as an MP, his email address should be public. Suffice to say that as a result the story went viral on Twitter and this morning appears in many of the day’s papers gaining the hapless MP even more publicity (and no doubt emails) than he ever would have got originally.

The lesson for everyone here? Sometimes, no matter how much you think something is a good idea, it’s best not to take on either the media or the internet…

(Image from The Daily Nation)


Why blog?

5 July, 2010

I was talking to a client recently who asked if I had seen the company’s blog, which I had, and we got into a discussion on the topic of blogging.

I remember when blogs first appeared on the scene and a director saying I should pen one as my family seemed to lead such a disasterous life! (I didn’t as discretion is definitely the better part of valour.) And that was what blogging was all about then – commenting on what was happening around you and how you viewed life.

Now everyone is doing it and the blogsphere is awash with corporate comment.  The trouble is, the spontaneity has gone as these have to be check, checked and checked again before being passed to ‘legal’ for the final approval.  This means that the life is sucked out of the site and the blogs remain commentless because there is no content left to comment on.

If a company wants to be seen as a ‘thought leader’ it has to allow its bloggers some leeway.

(Hope this gets past the EML team!)

The police are listening

13 May, 2010

Must be a slow news day at the BBC. A man from Brighton was ‘shocked’ to find out that the local police force in Brighton were following him on Twitter. That’d be Twitter, the publicly viewable site where anyone can follow your updates unless you make your profile private. The one where if you mention certain keywords you quickly acquire a whole load of extra followers trying to sell you something from that industry.

Ssshh, the police are watching

As the spokesperson for the Police in Brighton said, “We use Twitter to engage with the community in a really immediate way. It’s really helpful for us because we can allay any fears or rumours going round.
We can also engage with them and ask them what they want. It’s better than traditional media in that sense.”

Quite. It’s hardly like you’re going to pick up people tweeting “just broken into a house, ROFLMAO,” but instead you might see people in the area complaining about the noise or something relevant where you can get in touch quickly to address these concerns. Twitter isn’t just a medium for businesses and the media, there’s no reason at all why public bodies such as the Police shouldn’t get involved to speak directly to those they serve.

Of course it can go completely overboard as the ‘joke’ tweet about blowing up an airport showed in what has to be one the most ridiculous court cases and conviction in memory.

Taking the fun out of Twitter

10 May, 2010

Reuters has reported that President Barack Obama has taken a swipe at the social media platforms that arguably catalysed his own rise to power. Addressing students at Hampton University, Virginia, yesterday, Obama criticised our 24/7 media environment for distracting and entertaining rather than empowering the masses. “This is not only putting new pressures on you. It is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy”, Obama said.

Interestingly, Obama also highlighted the importance of education in sifting through the many voices “clamouring for attention on blogs, on cable, on talk radio” in order to define what is ‘true’. He said that the reduction in barriers to entry to blogging platforms, which are now relatively simple to use, means “even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction”.

Now, I have to agree with the distracting qualities of social media; ask any undergraduate how the likes of Twitter and Facebook have impacted on their education and they will no doubt report hour upon hour of detrimental procrastination at the hands of these platforms! However, I can’t help but feel it is slightly hypocritical to criticise social media tools for imposing new strains on the operation of democracy whilst simultaneously demonstrating a dislike for the masses communicating freely. Essentially then, now that international social media platforms are increasingly accessible to every Joe Bloggs, we must educate people as to who they ought to listen to and who they shouldn’t, thus effectively removing the voices of the less politically desirable.

And there was me thinking that freedom of speech was a fundamental element of democracy.

Ironically, back in the UK our social media platforms exploded throughout the course of this year’s election and created a louder, wider-reaching publicity battle than ever before as political conversation enticed previously untapped audiences. The result? No clear winner and a hung parliament declared, which has consequently taken the right of choice away from the nation and a decision is now likely to be negotiated between the powers that be themselves.

Perhaps Obama had a point.

The social media election

16 April, 2010

First of all, is this really a ‘social media election’?

On the back of the successful Obama campaign politicians everywhere have been talking about the potential for social media and how it will shape this election. Social media is already playing a major role, with Rory Cellan-Jones of BBC news regularly analysing Twitter trends and sentiments, and several politicians, including Sarah Brown, tweeting regularly.

While it would be mad to suggest that social media alone could decide an election, it could however make a real difference with things so close between the three major parties.

Social media not only allows politicians, (and their significant others), to directly reach out to the public, (over 1 million in Sarah Brown’s case). It also allows them to track the sentiment and reactions of its users; something that was particularly interesting from the first TV debate.

This extra ‘human’ element to the campaign adds a new dimension that was tricky, if not impossible, during the last election. Even a simple reply to a tweet can make someone feel as though their point of view is important or that people are listening; an obvious vote winner.

By tracking Twitter and forums the reaction of the public to debates and news can be analysed instantly. People are more likely to be honest on their Twitter account or a forum compared to being interviewed by either a journalist or a polling company.

In November of last year stats showed that the UK makes up 8.2% of Twitter’s roughly 6 million registered users. This is set to be one of the closest elections in years and the party that does a good job of reaching out through social media could tip the balance in their favour.

Image taken from the excellent Matt.

The Times they are a’ charging

26 March, 2010

Today The Times and The Sunday Times announced that, from June, they will start charging for access to online content.

The whole pay-wall debate has been going on in the media for quite some time now, with the FT already charging for content and even a few of the trade press such as Global Telecoms Business joining in. While the FT has been successful, I’m not convinced that The Times or The Sunday Times will be able to pull it off.
The FT is so specialist that people don’t mind paying for the content. However news on The Times, aside from the columnists, is all available for free on The BBC and countless other websites. Admittedly the charge is only £1 a day or £2 for a week, which isn’t much. But that’s still £2 that you wouldn’t need to pay on the BBC.

Oddly one of the more sensible suggestions on the paid-for debate came from Charlie Brooker’s column in August. The idea of a system of micro payments is, I believe, a good one as it doesn’t really feel like you’re spending anything. But crucially this needs to be adopted across the board otherwise people will just go elsewhere for free.

It’ll be interesting to see how successful this experiment is, as a lot of people are commenting, why would you pay for content that you can get elsewhere for a similar (or better depending on your preference of newspaper/website) standard for free?

All eyes on Spain

15 February, 2010

Well, it’s here again. MWC is back and ‘hooray for that’ say journalists and PRs – I don’t think so.

It has been fun watching all the Tweets from journos about being pestered by PRs, including the classic one last Friday afternoon from a harassed editor who was still being called by PRs to see if he had time for an interview. It is difficult though for a PR to know when to stop. Some journalists fill their diaries as soon as Christmas is over and others are Tweeting in the last week to say they are just looking to start booking in meetings. Dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.

The first day has brought interesting industry news.  The popularity of Apple’s apps has led 24 of the other operators to get together to develop a single Apps platform that they can all incorporate into phones so that a rival Apps store can be created for use across many systems. With Apple having 3 billion downloads from its app store in the last 18 months they have a bit of catching up to do.

At least jealousy about Apple’s success has got them talking and producing an end product that will benefit consumers everywhere. It’s good to talk.