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)


Work Experience at EML

26 May, 2010

As a student looking at a possible future in PR, I knew that it would be a competitive industry to get into. Considering this, I thought that the best way to make myself more appealing to the PR market would be to undertake some PR work experience and thankfully I knew someone to place me in the right direction, that being with EML.

Before I started my work experience with EML I was petrified! This due to the fact that I was unsure as to whether or not I would be able to undertake the tasks given to me, how well I would get on with people in the company and whether I would impress. However, I can honestly say that throughout my whole 4 weeks of being here I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and learnt a lot about the PR industry. I was given worthwhile tasks that I found interesting and I feel like I actually learnt something from doing them. These included researching journalists through through various tools, which I was intrigued by as I didn’t have a clue as to how PR companies went about contacting the vast amount of journalists in the world. I was also given the privilege of being allowed to come along to witness a pitch given by EML to a possible client. This gave me an insight into how PR companies need to sell themselves and made me realise that I really need to brush up on my presenting skills! Going along to meet a journalist was also different and interesting, as I got to understand how EML has to maintain a keen interest from journalists.

What made it so much easier for me to find it interesting and worthwhile was the fact that I worked with such friendly, easygoing staff (not that they slack on the job!). I felt comfortable with asking questions, which is something that a lot of newcomers can struggle with.

Given the chance again, I would grab it with both hands and I would definitely recommend work experience to any student, purely to get a taster of what work life is actually like and whether they would actually enjoy their prospective career. EML has been brilliant with providing me with work experience and like I have said before, everything I have taken part in has given me a much better idea of how PR works. It’s a lot different learning about PR to actually working in it, in a good way.

I must also mention that all EML staff are immense cooks and so you can’t be afraid of eating plenty of food if you work with them!


*Unfortunately EML is not currently in a position to accept any more work experience requests

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.

Yet *another* Nestlé Hate campaign

22 March, 2010

It seems yet another Nestlé hate campaign has caught the eye of journalists. Not content with making me fat, the international choccie-peddler has been busy censoring critics on its Facebook page, only to cause a firestorm of indignation and attract massive attention to the issues criticised.


I’ve always thought of these Nestlé campaigns as being a bit like Jennifer Aniston movies:

1) They simply won’t go away. They keep cycling around long after you would have thought everyone would have grown tired of them. And terrible publicity never seems to kill them.
2) They all seem bizarrely familiar.
3) They often involve the poorly-thought-through involvement of z-list celebrities.
4) They tend to be surprisingly well-orchestrated and popular.
5) They usually revolve around something sickly-sweet, but ultimately make you feel sad for humanity.

Consider that metaphor laboured.

(Incidentally, as part of our recruitment process at EML Towers we usually ask interviewees to prepare a talk on a notable PR disaster. The boss has often lamented that the Nestlé/African powdered baby milk episode is the one incident that keeps being cited over and over. So be warned…)

While we must be careful not to appear to disrespect the weighty issues involved in the Nestlé debate(s), I suspect Nestlé may have become an institutionalised scratching-post of the anticapitalist and environmental movements, in a similar way to MacDonalds and Nike. They’re a big target. I’m sure there are plenty of other lower-profile companies doing these things.

Anyway, there are some simple lessons to be derived from the Nestlé Facebook page. It’s all too easy to fan the flames of hostile sentiments on social networks. That is, after all, why they call it ‘flaming’. So make sure the people that run the account are Social Media PR-savvy, and that you’re not going to attract undue attention by deleting unwanted comments.

See Digital Inspiration and the excellent for further PR observations on this episode.

I, for one, welcome our new robot-journalist overlords

19 March, 2010

How could we pass up this one? As reported by The Guardian and The Singularity Hub, pesky scientists in Tokyo, (where else!), have developed a fully-autonomous robot journalist.

Weren’t GM crops and identi-sheep enough? Damn you science… I think Dr Malcolm from Jurassic Park had it right.

Blah blah... scientists busy wondering if they 'could'... never stopped to think whether they 'should'.. 'chaos theory'... something something

If I was in a clever mood I’d suggest this story represents the natural evolution of what journalist Nick Davies in ‘Flat Earth News’ refers to as ‘churnalism’.

The idea behind this phenomenon is that journalists, with increasing financial and time pressures; are effectively reduced to machine-like roles, endlessly churning out many unchecked cookie-cutter stories.

But I’m not feeling clever, so here instead is a picture of ED209.

Do you mind if I Twitter this interview?

I don’t think it’s going to catch on.