Hashtag haters

There’s no denying the power of the hashtag. Every brand wants to see theirs trending on Twitter and its a BIG tick in the achievements box if a PR person can make this happen. They’re also, undoubtedly, a great way of following a news story without having to perform multiple searches.
But… has the media claimed the hashtag for its own and what will become of it?
The hashtag was, in my opinion, at its best when it was used to suggest irony or sarcasm in a tweet (like the enduringly popular #firstworldproblems series). Now, though:
  • TV producers have jumped on the bandwagon and promote their own hashtags continuously (Britain’s Got Talent creates new ones for almost all of its acts!)
  • They’re all over billboards…
Source: blog.jabbrag.com

Source: blog.jabbrag.com

  • And media hashtags like #Kisstory and #JeremyKyle compete on a daily basis:
@JustinWilkes: #Kisstory fights to trend on twitter against Jeremy Kyle every day! I see this as a good old fashioned battle between good and evil :o)
So, what does the future hold for the beloved hashtag and which camp are you in – “long live the hashtag” or “hashtag haters”?

Top 5 PR mistakes that’ll get you shamed on Twitter

Twitter is, undoubtedly, the social network of choice if you want to rant, vent or stand up for yourself in a very public way.
Yesterday we saw Katherine Jenkins take to Twitter to slam Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir’s critique of her London Marathon run (according to Moir she looked too good – go figure). As a result, Katherine Jenkins got lots of public support, lots of column inches and (hopefully) a bit more sponsorship; Jan Moir got shamed.
Source: Guardian.co.uk

Source: Guardian.co.uk

I’ve seen numerous examples of Twitter being used in this way and I don’t imagine it’s going to stop anytime soon.
Journalists naming and shaming – or simply venting about – PRs who just don’t get it is also very common and is definitely something to avoid if you want a long-lasting careerThe golden rule is: make it as easy as possible for a journalist to write about your product / client / brand. Doing anything other than that could not only mean your story doesn’t get picked up, you could get publicly called out on your indolence.
The top five mistakes that’ll get you shamed by a journalist on Twitter are:
1. Send a press release to “Sir” / “Madam” / incorrect name entirely

Establish connections with relevant journalists rather than sending your press release to anyone you think may have written about something in the general area that you’re targeting. Journalists have to do their research (and they have to do lots of it) so they appreciate it when you do yours.

2. Invite a ‘mummy blogger’ (for example) to an event that takes place in the evening, away from home, and doesn’t consider childcare

If you’re targeting a particular sector, take a moment to think about the most convenient time and place for them rather than trying to blow them away with a 5* London hotel and free all-night bar. Don’t expect them to rearrange their life around your event – make it as easy as possible for them to attend. 

3. Send a press release to a whole load of journalists without using that handy BCC function

Tailor your press releases when you can and don’t make journalists feel like they’re just one target on a huge list that includes all of their competitors. It won’t get you any brownie points and sharing someone’s email address with the world certainly won’t win you any friends.

4. Cram your press release full of jargon that the journalist’s readers will never understand – or write twice as much as you need to

This will result in journalists having to spend time editing it down into something that their readers will be able to digest and understand. Refer to the golden rule: make their job that bit easier whenever you can.

5. Invite a journalist to speak to a client / come to an event / write about your product without being able to provide the elements they’ll need

Respond quickly when journalists ask questions and make sure you can give them access to the person or product you’re asking them to write about – otherwise, what’s the point? Make it difficult for them and you’ll not only lose the story, you may lose your contact entirely.

Timing is everything

When it comes to news, timing really is everything.

UK fashion magazine InStyle suffered a bit of an embarassment recently when its March issue featured Heidi Klum on its cover in the same month that the supermodel made a big announcement.

Ms Klum was quoted on the cover talking openly about her love for husband Seal, but the pair publicly announced their split just as the magazine went on sale. Now that’s bad timing.


Image source: celebrity-gossip.net

I found out about Heidi and Seal’s break up via Twitter in the same way that I hear about most celebrity news – friends or magazine feeds tweet the news as it breaks and update their stories as more information is released.

Unfortunately, Twitter delivered the news to me the day before my InStyle subscription arrived, making the magazine seem instantly out of date and, therefore, unreliable.

Monthly magazines have a challenge, then, if they are to stay current in this world of instant news. Was it the responsibility of the InStyle editorial team to check that all was well with their cover star before they went to print, or was it the responsibility of Heidi’s publicist to warn the InStyle team about their client’s upcoming announcement?

I fear that once the magazine photo shoot and interview were done (and the money was paid, of course), Ms. Klum no longer felt that she had a responsibility to the magazine.

In an ideal world, good PR-journalist relationships would negate these situations, but will this embarassing incident cause a permanent rift between InStyle and Heidi Klum and could it result in other fashion magazines changing the way that they work with high profile stars?

Would you – and should you – ever trust an “unnamed” or “unconfirmed” source?

I was (rather unusually) flicking through a glossy, weekly magazine the other day and found myself reading quotes from an “unnamed source” time and time again.

I questioned each one’s credibility and marvelled at how full-page stories were created around them. But, if I was a regular reader, would that disbelief disappear? Is the frequency of their inclusion a sign that a specific set of magazine readers are happy to accept stories based on rumor and gossip? Could it actually be what they demand?

A movie released in 2000 called “Gossip” carried the tagline: You Know You Love It. Whoever came up with that was clearly very wise.

Ahead of the official World Cup 2018 announcement today, the Sky News team discussed at length “unconfirmed” reports that the England bid had been rejected during the first stage of voting; BBC Radio 5 live also prematurely quoted Spanish reports that (correctly) claimed Russia had been successful.

Twitter, of course, went into speculation overdrive:

Whether it was all a result of the delay of the official announcement, or simply an unfortunate and very public leak, the power of speculation was overwhelming.

People clearly love rumor and supposition, so will more of our news be delivered this way in the not so distance future?

Stephen Fry and Twitter give Marketing-and-PR a boost

Stephen Fry’s presence on Twitter, along with his advocacy of the site in its early days, has long been a topic of much discussion in the social media space, as well as in our mainstream media. Coverage of the networking site – and particularly of Mr Fry’s relationship with it – seems to have died down exponentially of late, despite its continued popularity with a wide range of users.

Stephen Fry inadvertently shone the spotlight on this blog on Monday, when its post on writing for the marketing and PR industries was featured in the @stephenfry Daily. The Daily is a collation of news and links that have appeared in an individual’s Twitter feed that they can share with their followers if they sign up for the service.

I must have advertised my post through Twitter at precisely the right time because Stephen Fry (who happens to “follow” my tweets), published his Daily shortly afterwards, including a link to my post and this site:

So thank you, Stephen, for your continued use of Twitter and for sending a few extra readers in this direction!

Seeking reality behind projected roles: online profiles and pretense

When you embark on a career in public relations, you accept very quickly that your name is rarely going to be the one that you see in lights. Instead, you celebrate and can’t help but smile when your clients’ brands, products and spokespeople appear in print or online as a result of your day-to-day workplace efforts.

The digital world has brought about a change though, with personal profiles becoming almost impossible to subdue. A blog like this one can not only be a place to record ponderings on issues that arise in my work, but also an undeniable promotional tool for my personal “brand”.

Since launching marketing-and-PR in April 2010, it has been featured three times in PR Week for which I am incredibly grateful. There’s a certain thrill that comes with seeing your name in a magazine, but I also hope that it might encourage more PR professionals to visit the blog thereby expanding its reach and improving its search potential.

Not everyone shares my aspirations though. A number of bloggers would rather conceal their identities or create new ones so that they can blog in disguise. This way their professional profile is not compromised by anything they share on a personal blog.

The evolution of a personal online brand can be coincidental and a surprising reward (as this blog seems to illustrate) but some individuals in the industry – entirely unlike the anonymous bloggers – pour their hearts and souls into the brand building task every single day. Blogging and Twitter have made it easily achievable but they can also put a person’s true identity in shadow so all that the world sees is a projection of expertise.

For instance, retweeting others’ comments and links they have shared on Twitter can very quickly make you look like an expert on a subject. Whether you read the posts that you’re recommending before you do so is almost irrelevant to your followers who will perceive you to understand that wealth of information. Of course I’m in no way promoting this activity, but it’s interesting to analyse how it can seem to an outsider who hasn’t thought to look beyond the mask.

A blog is a rather different exercise as the posts should contain fresh, new ideas. It is fairly easy to see when there’s little substance behind a post and when others’ experiences and opinions are being projected rather than those of the writer himself.

So, before you decide that someone you’ve found online is the new authority in your industry and their every word must be believed, make sure you check out their credentials a little more carefully and see whether you can decide how much substance is really behind the facade.

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H&M and Zara prepare to launch online stores – but are they turning up too late to the party?

Two high street fashion giants, H&M and Zara, will finally launch their ecommerce stores for the UK next month. It’s been a long time coming and I can’t help but wonder why it’s taken them so long to jump on the bandwagon.

H&M has a well established presence on Twitter, with separate profiles for a multitude of countries where it has high street stores. In my opinion it’s doing a good job with it, too. Not only does the UK profile provide brand, store, sale and product news, it’s also used to actively engage with bloggers and customers:

H&M seems to understand online engagement

H&M has also done a good job of creating buzz ahead of the ecommerce launch, inviting interested customers to sign up to receive the e-newsletter and shop the online store before its official launch. So if H&M already has a presence online and appears to really “get” social media, why has it taken the retailer so long to launch its online store?

The online Zara store poses a similar question. It’s a retailer that has been selling homeware online for some time now but bizarrely its fashion comes as a rather late addition. Why this is, I’m simply not sure. Could they have doubted women’s willingness to purchase clothes without the changing room experience?

While getting my fashion fix with last month’s issue of Vogue magazine, I was treated to a fascinating and very relevant interview with Natalie Massenet, the woman behind Net-A-Porter. Although she took a huge risk by choosing to sell such high value items online that women wouldn’t be able to see, feel and try on before parting with their cash, she knew that online shopping would work from the start:

Women just love to shop, and we found a whole new way for them to do it. Of course they will buy without trying things on because it is the act of shopping!

She’s been proven right, of course, and the success of ecommerce is clear for anyone to see.

By already doing so much right online, expectations are high for H&M and Zara’s new ecommerce stores. One thing’s for certain though (and I’m sure they’ll be pleased to hear it), shoppers in the UK simply can’t wait!

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