Monday, 13 September 2010

Friday, 23 April 2010

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Getting Strategic with Social Media

During my week on placement at Speed Communications, Wadds kindly invited me along to the Don’t Panic Strategic Social Media Conference. The conference boasted an impressive line up of leading industry figures and the room was full of delegates from the world of PR. It presented me with the opportunity to hear how social media can be implemented in to a campaign to solve real client problems. Here are a list of my highlights.

Rob Brown from Staniforth and author of Public Relations and the Social Web kicked off proceedings by offering up evidence that the companies who are investing most into social media are the best performing ones. Rob said that companies need to be strategic when using social media and warned of the dangers of social media in the hands of an inexperienced person.

Rob discussed the drawbacks of social media analytics and cited the difficulty of using sentiment as a metric. To a younger audience the terms “wicked” and “sick” now hold positive connotations, but sentiment analysis is unable to identify this, making the results inaccurate.
Rob also introduced the Slapometer, a website that allows frustrated voters to bitchslap the three party leaders. So if you’ve had quite enough of the election already, why not vent your frustration with some mindless online violence and cast your vote with the back of your hand. The three politicians have been virtually slapped over 20 million times between them.

Stuart Bruce founder and MD, Wolfstar, was second on the bill and provided the audience with some great case studies. The Leeds-based consultancy has created a social media newsroom for First Direct. The newsroom was initially set up as part of the internal communication strategy and aimed at providing staff with a space to receive news and be part of the content, however it has now become a place for customers to get a taste of the working culture and the weekly hits have gone from a lowly 7 to over 2,500.

Stuart said that companies should concentrate on quality not quantity when it comes to Twitter followers. Leeds Loves Food is a collection of influential food bloggers and Tweeters who formally did not have a collective platform until Wolfstar created one for them. Wolfstar then offered the 102 followers the chance to interview celebrity chef James Martin which provided them with an opportunity not available to local press. By improving stakeholder engagement and building small communities with important and influential people, Wolfstar has created a genuine community by making social media strategic.

Merlin Sinclair from the The Westminster City Council was the most animated of the speakers and gave great insight in to the client side of social media. After a Twitter heavy morning it was surprising to find that only 2% of Westminster residents use it and consequently Martin’s department did not either.

Martin’s team utilised social media in other ways, for instance in their SatLav campaign which provided the people of Westminster with a GPS service to find their nearest toilet. A rather trivial story soon gained coverage as far afield as Canada and in total was covered 75 times for a very small budget. The service itself still helps over 70 people caught short in Westminster a week.

Martin went on to explain the reasons behind the success of his newsletter, he attributed the success to using words like “discount”, “free” and “offer”, using short sharp sentences and providing people with redeemable vouchers to spend on leisure services. Martin suggested that social media is incapable of generating national coverage, an opinion which was not shared by the Tweeting delegates or by some of the other speakers. Martin produced the biggest laugh of the conference when he proclaimed the mantra “Don’t engage with nutters” when asked about how he deals with persistently negative bloggers and trolls.

Stephen Waddington, MD of Speed answered the question all delegates were asking, “Why the hell is there a copy of The Beano on my table?” The point being that D.C Thompson is one of the last remaining publishers on Fleet Street and has retained his 50,000 readership by providing quality content that is tailor made to his audience.

Wadds went on to illustrate how local media had missed a trick online by using the same boring template and constantly chasing national stories and attempting to give them a local angle. He showed the brilliant SR2 blog created by Sunderland Journalism student Josh Halliday, which is not only visually interesting but it provides content strictly relating to the people of Sunderland.
Wadds identified the Guardian as being a market leader online and sited their microblogs for big sporting events and hyperlocal news bloggers as the future of news online.

Sarah Lundy from the Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board provided fantastic case studies and was my highlight of the whole day. Sarah explained that her job was not strictly about consumer marketing as a lot of what she does involves stakeholder engagement with quality local businesses who ultimately are what attracts people to the area.

Sarah wowed the crowd with the fantastic viral that created a huge amount of national and international coverage for the seaside resort. It not only proved social media can provoke national coverage, contrary to the belief of Martin Wilson, but it also gave a big boost to the Tweeters who were arguing that “content is king”.

Sarah also explained how she cleverly uses Flicker instead of commissioning photographers to provide content for blogs, tweets and even press releases. Wadds had earlier made the point that mainstream media are not utilizing social media when it comes to acquiring images of real time events, citing the Haiti disaster as an example.

Robin Wilson from McCann Erikson rounded off the day by suggesting some useful information about free social media analytical tools. How Sociable, Ice Rocket and Blog Pulse were all described as great tools to give you a basic understanding of what people are saying about you, however they can at times be rather inaccurate. Robin also discussed paid for analytics which included a tool that can use artificial intelligence so that things like sarcasm and satire can be detected, it is worth pointing out that these could set a business back £10,000 a month.

Robin giggled as he talked the audience through how he used social media as part of a campaign for a Durex product which enhances the female orgasm. The “Things that make you go O” campaign aimed to associate the product with things women put in their handbag rather than their medical cupboard. They sponsored a Take That concert and encouraged women to video themselves recreating an orgasm in a big pink frock outside the venue and then send it in to the big screen inside the concert. Robin included the case study to point out that by providing their audience with something to talk about which detached itself from the rather personal subject matter.

There was a fierce debate on Twitter under the hashtag #stratsm to whether content or conversation was king. From Robin’s great example it seems the two kings can be bedfellows.

Friday, 5 February 2010

I had the balls to go to counselling!

A Leeds Met student has won a poster competition aimed at raising the awareness of mental health amongst young men.

John Barton, a second year Graphic Design student at our University was crowned the winner of the 'Big Boys Should Cry' campaign which was set up by the Leeds Met Students' Union.
The campaign aims to raise the awareness of the Leeds Met Counselling Service amongst young male students and to break down the stigma attached to men seeking counselling. The winning poster which was entitled "I had the balls to go to counselling" was chosen from a shortlist of 12 and will appear in around 25 participating bars and clubs regularly visited by male students.

Adam Burns, PR Officer for Leeds Metropolitan's Students' Union said: "Male students should not feel embarrassed about seeking counselling and this is what we hope John's poster will communicate to them. The counselling services is a fantastic outlet for people to share their problems however big or small and we want more male students to feel comfortable to do this rather than suffer in silence."

Counsellor at Leeds Met, Sue Dominey said: "It can be difficult to admit you are experiencing problems, feeling emotionallly upset and worried, if everyone else around you appears fine. Sometimes men wear a 'mask of cool' on the outside, which hides inner distress and vulnerablilty. I believe it is a sign of strength and courage for a man to ask for help."

Not only does John's poster become the face of the Big Boys Should Cry campaign, his prize also includes gig tickets for The Cockpit, a book on poster design from OK Comics and a gym membership.

John said: "I wanted my poster to be memorable and to really make a differeance to the lives of my fellow male students. I felt it was important to add a touch of humour, however. Behind the humour, the poster maintains a powerful underlining message that it takes guts and honesty to seek counselling

Monday, 7 December 2009

Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it

It has been nearly 3 weeks since our last post and although I have been inundated with messages (Thanks Mum) to tell our hungry audience about the recent goings on in the PR office, we have simply been too busy!!

The "Big Boys Should Cry" campaign is generating some good coverage already. Richard Bailey was kind enough to mention it in Behind the Spin and the Leeds Met press office also covered the story. Another big thank you must go to Neill Crispian as he has created a permanent banner for the Counselling service (It's the second from last image). Not sure who the ginger bearded model is, but he plays "young troubled man" superbly in my opinion!!
The poster competition winner is decided this week and I have to say the standard of entries is just superb!!! We are hopefully having Aidan Winterburn a graphic design lecturer and Sue Dominey a counsellor at Leeds Met judging the entries.

In other news the team were part of the BBC's attempt to break the world record for planting the most trees in one hour. Yes it was Tree O’clock. Clare and I flexed our green fingers and helped plant 1000 trees on the Hawksforth Estate in Leeds. We will find out on the 14th whether or not the record has been broken, but regardless it was a fun day and our efforts have made the Hawksforth Estate a much greener area!! We will hopefully have some nice coverage in the YEP this week, so look out for it Mum.

Look at what Clare and I conjured up on Friday. It was lots of fun, but has struggled to gain coverage thus far (It does not reflect the views of the Students Union or the University). We will soldier on, you never know it might be on "Have I got news for you" next week!

Another personal achievement for yours truly coming your way this week. This may warrant double pocket money Mum. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Throw a lucky man in the sea, and he will come up with a fish in his mouth

PRCA Guest Lecture

How & when to sell digital PR to a client

I've got to say, without sounding like a creepy little brown nose, that PR students at Leeds Met are lucky little buggers. We are on a weekly basis treated with talks from industry professionals all eager to give us an insight into how we can best equip ourselves as we take our first small steps in to the world of PR. We are of course paying for the privilege and I'm sure most would argue that our fees warrant such calibre of guests, however what has impressed me is the energy the speakers have exerted, they haven't used the ninety minutes to massage their egos, quite the opposite in fact. They've willingly laid bare their experiences and filled our pockets with pearls of wisdom which will enable us to hopefully follow in their footsteps. This year we have heard from Daryl Wilcox, Andy Carter, Andy Green, Carl Christopher and this week Fernando Rizo from KetchumPleon educated and entertained in his thick New York accent.

Yes we had our first American speaker and just like Jack, the kid who joined my middle school after moving from Arizona and was straight away know as "the cool American kid", Fernando had his audience hanging on his every word. He was also pretty funny, like a cool Ross Gellar, sickening. Fernando aimed to teach us "How and when to sell digital PR to a client" and after some ironic technical difficulties, resolved by Theilmann the German tech master, we were on our way.

Fernando began by talking us through the evolution of the media, he explained throughout history the dissemination of ideas to media was solely dependent on capital investment, until of course the internet was born and everyone inherited the power to publish, "even the stamp collector from Belgrade". Answer this rhetorical question Fernando then asked "Is the New York Times print based media or online?" his answer, "Who gives a crap! No traditional media worth its salt should be without an online presence" he bellowed in his Regis Philbin like tones.

Fernando went on to talk about something I have always found hard, creating an audience, he began by asking how many of us had a blog, a stupid question really as it's probably the first thing Richard Bailey told us to do, Fernando followed this up by asking how many of these blogs have a bigger following than “your mum and your room mate” or house mate for you English types. Of course a few of the smarmy students kept their hands up, but most conceded their blogs had audiences similar to that of an "Audience with John Barrowman" on the day England face Germany in the World Cup Final. Fernando's point was clear, it's very difficult, expensive and time consuming to create a brand new audience and much easier to borrow or steal from a community that already exists. The example we were shown was Open Forum, a resource for small businesses. Open Forum purchased content from influential bloggers and posted it on the website, therefore borrowing an audience which already exists.

Fernando went on to show us his favourite example of bad PR and told us "If you ever find an example of bad PR keep it and learn from it", his point being of course you are unlikely to hear about poor PR campaigns. His was from an American tuna company who had teamed up with the American Apprentice and asked people to come up with a new idea for a tuna product and pitch it to them in an online video. Fernando explained that offline to online tie-ins very rarely work and that although this campaign was opportunistic, it was neither strategic nor defined the personality of the brand in any way.

I always enjoy lectures in which we are presented with examples of campaigns that practitioners feel illustrate their point and Fernando certainly delivered in this area. Other successful campaigns that the American maestro had worked on himself included the bounty for the “Montauk Monster” on behalf of an energy drink called Venom and a campaign for Stride gum who wanted to target 18 to 24 year old computer gamers. The latter started by reading something said by Uwe Boll a German film director famous for transforming computer games in to disastrously bad films, he was quoted as saying “If the petition to stop me making films reaches 1 million signatures then I will retire”. On behalf of Stride Gum Fernando’s team jumped on this and gained as much coverage as possible for the petition using influential computer game bloggers and journalists. Needless to say the petition reached its target. The Stride Gum campaign was indeed opportunistic and incredibly topical and Fernando explained that these type of campaigns are made possible because of the “marrying up of account executives interests with what they work on” he went on to say that he himself would never be able to run a campaign for a gardening magazine “It just wouldn’t happen” he said.

Favourite quote of the guest lecture: “When Google takes over the world, I hope they eat me last”

I left the Rose Bowl inspired to make my next PR campaign innovative, cheeky and for it to be a success both in traditional and digital media. I am currently working with Leeds Carnegie Men’s Football in an attempt to improve the attendances at games. I believe this a perfect example to launch a digital media campaign as a large majority of our target audience, students, will use digital media daily. I will keep you updated.

I would also like to congratulate myself for finding £20 on the street the other day. Here I am celebrating just after the fortunate event. I did the honourable thing though and put the money back in to the local community, well I should say temporary local community as I treated myself and Gem to beers, mulled wine and Bratwurst at the German Christmas Market.

For now I bid you a fond Farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight.


Saturday, 14 November 2009

Meet our team...Elizabeth Taylor

My name is Elizabeth Taylor, I'm from Manchester and I’m a second year Public Relations student. I am often asked, “Did your parents name you after the actress?” My boyfriend also likes to try and embarrass me by laughing out loud and saying, “No it's not don't be silly” when I use my name in a shop! But no, my parents just loved the name Elizabeth, as do I!

I truly love my home city, but decided to flee the nest to conquer another big city, Leeds. A year on, Leeds has made me feel very welcome. I lived in halls where I had an amazing time and really found my feet (as well as new friends). Now, myself and two girlfriends have a beautiful ''apartment'' in Headingley, Leeds students' haven.

This year I am determined to get my foot in the door in the PR industry. I currently have a weekly placement in the PR department at Brahm, a large marketing company. I am finding the experience of being in an agency extremely valuable and looking forward to developing my skills further. I am also interested in gaining more experience in different sectors, perhaps from in-house departments. I have proved my dedication to the industry by becoming a member of the CIPR. After attending the CIPR guest lectures at University and especially Andy Carter’s lecture from Leeds City Council press office, the public sector is definitely an area I would like to further my knowledge in.

I’m excited to be part of the Student Union’s PR Unit. It is a relatively new project and I’m sure that with hard work and effort as a team it can be a successful project. I am especially looking forward to working on the ‘Mind Your Head’ campaign, more information will be blogged soon!

In University I am a ‘STAR’. Obviously I’m brilliant, but this actually stands for ‘Student Academic Representative’. This means I attend monthly meetings with staff during which I represent my classmates, and can express their opinions on anything that is bugging them or that they particularly enjoy I am also part of the volunteering society, CALM (community action @ Leeds Met),I love helping those people who are less-fortunate, it is thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling. I have recently become the secretary for the committee so I am looking forward to becoming even more involved. Please keep an eye on our blog for the latest press releases!

At the weekends I work for an event catering company which gives me the chance to work at different types of private functions, such as weddings, birthday parties and many others. It's giving me an insight into how large events are organised and managed from start to finish.

To end, I would like to share with you my three favourite things in the world: Twilight, DHL Vans and Jedward off X-Factor (get voting people!).