SMEs "get" social media while large co's miss the boat

Two reports were released today that indicates a big discrepancy in how small business and large enterprise are embracing social media: with the small guys leading the charge. One study claims that social media has become indispensable to small businesses and another claims Superbrands aren't latching onto Twitter.

According to V3.co.uk, this year’s largest UK survey of small and medium businesses was released today in the 2009 Business Pulse Report, conducted by BT and the British Chambers of Commerce. The survey indicates two-thirds of 72,000 small business respondents rated high search engine rankings as being very important to their business. And 73 per cent felt online presence was important to the running of their business.

Meanwhile over at new media age, a self-conducted study was published saying that of the 500 brands in the 2009 Superbrands list, a whopping 74 per cent had no presence on Twitter. Of the 500 brands, just 29 brands were tweeting every hour; just 50 were tweeting every day.

Certainly the most compelling story here is that big businesses, with all their resources, personnel, and fancy budgets, aren't getting the value of social media. Is that because social media is comparatively free, and they can't see value in anything that's not burning marketing budgets? Small business is benefiting from Twitter, even if the benefit is hard to quantify. One of the more interesting quotes in nma's coverage was from the head of creative at Innocent Drinks, who have built a following of 20,000 fans on Twitter, and yet who believe that by not defining a Twitter strategy, they have gotten more value out of it.

Dan Germain is quoted as saying: “If we’d had a set strategy at the start and defined some sort of ROI, then it wouldn’t be successful because Twitter doesn’t deliver on that,” he said. “For us it’s just another channel for talking to people.”

That says it all, really.


World's most marketable personality needs new publicist - stat

Since the weekend I've been resisting blogging about Tiger Woods' crash and subsequent PR "incident" but I just....can't....help....myself, especially as the mistakes keep rolling in.

It's implausible that the world's most marketable personality has publicists working for him who apparently don't understand reputation management, but that is exactly what appears to be the case. I just don't geddit.

Since his crash last Friday, it's been a catalogue of errors. Let's go through them:

MIstake 1: Lying about what happened. We are supposed to believe his wife shattered his back window to pull a 6'1" muscular man out of an SUV from the back? When the crash happened in the front of the car, not on both sides? Sorry, what?

Mistake 2: Allowing police reports to be the only source of information about the incident, when the reports pretty clearly show the couple wasn't entirely truthful about what took place.

Mistake 3: Not keeping to your commitments - if you want to show the world there is a problem, pull out of your next tournament, which happens to be your own tournament. if you want to show the world there is nothing to talk about, play in it like you were supposed to.

Mistake 4: Trying to cover up for his wife. If she shattered his back window in anger after seeing his name get trashed by the National Enquirer, causing him to crash, so what - a lot of women could relate to being that angry. It's infinitely more plausible than what they claim to have happened, so just own up it. Don't try to put all the blame on yourself, Tiger - it takes two to tango.

Mistake 5: Not being upfront about the fact your marriage / personal life is going through a rough patch, just like every single marriage on the planet does from time to time. Normal marital issues involve huge arguments once in awhile. If there are any marriages out there that are completely free of arguments, well, it's not a marriage I'd want to be in. Don't let it railroad your professional commitments though, or you do start to look abnormal. Normal people have fights and minor car crashes and show up to work in the morning.

All in all, the world can forgive and forget - Tiger is only human like the rest of us. Just look at Kate Moss's turnaround. In fact this incident could have even strengthened his reputation by making him seem more human and approachable. But basic tenets of reputation management haven't been followed. Any cover up is worse than the truth, and if you want the world to see you are on top of things, keep to your commitments.

Tiger: you need a new PR team and we happen to be available. Plus, we both really love golf. ;-)


Avoiding Marketing Cliches

For journalists and consumers alike, it’s baffling why so many companies aren’t willing to just use plain English to describe what they provide. Just what is an “innovative provider of fully-integrated, leading-edge, end-to-end business solutions” anyway?

We’ve recorded a podcast highlighting the importance of avoiding common stereotypes in marketing speak. Firstly, consumers and journalists want to know exactly what a company does before they consider buying their products or services, or consider writing about them in their articles or blogs.

On the media side this is particularly important as if you're not clear about what you provide then journalists will describe it for you and you lose control of your messaging.

Have a listen to our podcast on the common pitfalls to avoid. These are some of our pet hates:

1) Market/world’s leading: Unless you're BP, Real Madrid or Microsoft, you probably don't lead your category - this phrase is overused
2) Solutions: Everyone seems to offer 'solutions' but that implies there's a problem in the first place. What's the real picture?
3) Award-winning: Aren’t we all? If it's not significant, don't mention it
4) End-to-end: What end to what end?

Here's the podcast, we welcome your comments on your most hated cliches!


Shocking headline of the day: Twitter users read The Guardian

Avid Twitter fans know the link between Twitter, and its bedfellow liberal paper The Guardian, so won't be surprised to learn a study has suggested the group of Twitter users, as a whole, are the 3rd most liberal group in the UK just behind liberal democrat voters but ahead of the traditional leftist group of 16-34 year olds.

Dicey stats from a study written by Captain Obvious. But what is interesting to ponder is that leading media site Brand Republic has lent publicity to such a direct link between Twitter and liberal papers. Are we at risk of alienating the 'other half' of the population entirely? Twitter's best attribute is its democratic nature. If we alienate rightists aren't we undermining the very point of Twitter? Discuss.


Do PRs actually listen to journalists?

It’s quite interesting to work on both sides of the journalist/PR fence as I do, coupling my PR and social media work with writing for New Media Knowledge. I have to say that in my experience many typical PR approaches don’t seem to have changed all that much since 2000, when I was writing for the now defunct IT Week magazine. The platforms may have changed, but have the quality of pitches?

Journalists continue to rant about poor quality PR pitches, something I’ve blogged on before ad nauseum, so one has to wonder what effect endless PR degrees and expensive staff media training courses from former hacks have actually had on the PR industry. Or is it just a bad bunch of ostriches which have ignored advice and rants from those who should know but still continue to plough on in the old skool mode?

This podcast I recorded with freelance journalist Gordon Kelly for my new DIY marketing, PR and digital media resource, RunMarketing, should be listened to by all PRs and played to any clients who pressure them into peddling non-stories. By listening to each other we can improve this industry for the overall good of media and news reporting.


Social Media 09 - big budget noise, but where's the innovation?

New firm Run Marketing started up recently with an excellent website for digital marketing advice for small business. Hatch PR associate Chris Lee, director of Run Marketing, attended the Social Media 09 conference last week in London and posted a good summary of what was on offer.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed to hear the agenda was dominated (apparently) by big budget examples of brands using social media for integrated campaigns. For a start, the London conference schedule is rammed with shows like this and I wish they'd taken a different stance with this new show. Where are our grass roots, innovation on a shoestring examples? Small business showing how clever marketing doesn't require huge dollars? Isn't that exactly what social media is all about?

After all, how much is a Twitter account? Free. Creating a Facebook group? Free. Conducting question and answer sessions over LinkedIN? Free.

But many a 'digital media' agency seems to be perversely charging clients big sums for creative and innovative social media campaigns. If ideas have been the bread and butter for PR for a longtime, the 'value add' that comes as standard with every programme but doesn't have its own price tag attached, shouldn't social media be the same? Traditional PR requires some use of tools and resources that cost overheads. But social media doesn't. So why should social media cost a lot to implement?

Like Run Marketing says, we want to see examples of grassroots social media campaigns. They are more interesting, less error-prone (thinking about the Habitat debacle with that comment) and far more 'viral'. That's more effective, in our book.


Social Call: Two Unmissable Upcoming Events

There are two great social media networking events coming up which fellow digital media professionals should think about attending.

Firstly, Social Media 09, which runs over the course of an afternoon on 12 November in London (venue TBC) and includes some fantastic speakers, including TV property presenter Sarah Beeny, who’ll be talking about her new site Tepilo. I interviewed her earlier this year for New Media Knowledge with the site first launched so it’ll be interesting to see how Tepilo’s developed since then. Other speakers include PR specialists such as Porter Novelli’s Mat Morrison and Edelman’s Marshall Manson.

The Social PR Forum follows a few weeks later on 4 December at RIBA in London, featuring big household names such as Asda and T-Mobile on how they’re embracing social media to great effect. Also speaking will be Eb Adeyeri of Lewis PR and Dirk Singer of Cow PR, both worth turning up for.

I plan to attend both events, so I hope to see you there.


Podcast #7: Blogging and Blogger Relations

Blogging is a massively effective tool from both an SEO and thought leadership standpoint. In this podcast, Hatch PR’s Emily McDaid and freelance social media specialist Chris Lee discuss the best way to construct a blog, publicise it and also engage with other bloggers to benefit your business.

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Whose Dark Materials?

Whisper it gently but we think some people in the social media industry are holding up adoption of social media by trivialising it. Even most of the PR industry appears mystified by the whole thing. What’s my point? Social and digital media is NOT a dark art and the mystery needs to be taken out of it.

A case in point; Hatch PR was interviewed recently on podcasting with B2B Marketing magazine and we share an article with a firm which charges £1,500 for ‘top end’ podcasts. That seems an incredible amount to us, I'd love to know what you get for that. Given that one of the main themes of the article is that podcasts are extremely targeted and not going to give you an audience of thousands, an expensive podcast is quite a risk. We offer podcasts at a fraction of the cost. Overall we don’t believe that social media should be packaged as a dark art that only a few of us can handle. Some elements – such as podcasting – require skills but we shouldn’t put adoption off with high prices. And please, can we boycott the use of the word ‘guru’?

I recommend firms educate themselves on social media – that’s how we all learned, through trial and error. Experiment with podcasts and videos, get blogging, try Twitter out on a personal level, start a debate on LinkedIn and see where it takes you, and read up on the subject:

Meatball Sundae” – Seth Godin

Don’t make me think” – Steve Krug

Get to the top on Google” – Dave Viney

Social Media Marketing for Dummies” – Shiv Singh

And that gives us another cheap excuse to show this video again…


"Taglines: The Cheesy Way to Express What Your Business Does"

There's a lot of hilarious stuff out there on the World Wide Web. My current favourite source of belly laughs is People of Walmart - but I digress, as that site is purely for recreational purposes.

On the odd occasion, you stumble across a hilarious site that wasn't posted in jest. I found an amusing post today that wasn't meant to be funny at all - UK Business Labs asked, well, UK businesses to post their company taglines. And boy have they delivered.

I have a strong aversion to company taglines, when BtoB firms try to come up with three-word descriptions of who they are. Taglines are cheesy and they over simplify your message. It's like the corporate equivalent of sticking political bumper stickers on your car. No one wants to see that while driving. And every time a corporate marketing department has attempted to come up with a tagline, it's the most excruciating "brainstorm" experience I've sat through. Why? Because no tagline works in the BtoB world. You're not Nike and you can't tell your customers to 'just do it' without getting them all confused as to what you're really on about.

So, trust me, ditch the taglines, say what your company does in the most straightforward way possible (E.g. Hatch PR is a PR firm for digital companies) and carry on doing the great business you do. Stop wracking your brain for cheeseball, roundabout ways of saying it. You just wind up sounding like a Hallmark card on corporate crack.


Up With This Sort of Thing

The video from Thursday night's unofficial tech PR industry awards, the Jackenhacks (Flackenhacks as was) has surfaced (see below - thanks to Andrew Smith)

Re:medial's co-editor Chris Lee was shortlisted for the interestingly-named "Twitter Twat of the Year" award for his commentary on PR and journalism on Twitter, but luckily missed out to fellow blogger, Michael Litman.

It's great that the PR industry can meet up in these informal situations. I'd like to reverse Father Ted's sentiment of down with this sort of thing and paraphrase Oliver; please sir, can we have some more?


Podcast #6: Selecting a Company Spokesperson

Selecting the right 'figurehead' to act as company spokesperson for your brand is essential to the overall public perception of your brand. It shouldn't be assumed that the CEO is naturally the right choice. Emily McDaid, founder of boutique tech PR agency Hatch PR, and digital media freelancer Chris Lee discuss what makes a good company spokesperson.

Episode Six:
Selecting a Company Spokesperson

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Follow the link to hear the whole series of PR and digital marketing podcasts. We'll be adding another next week.


Recession '08-'09 Baby Boom - you heard it here first

In PR one of our jobs is to second guess media trends. We want to tip you off early on the Recession Baby Boom - because it's just a matter of time before you start hearing whispers in the mainstream press and PR campaigns start targeting the burgeoning baby products market.

Like all good media stories it may sound counter intuitive. People should have less money now, right? And we always talk about how expensive babies are. In fact, in the US it's a generally accepted fact that a baby currently costs its parents $250,000 from conception through to age 18. If you're the type of mom who accommodates her son well into his 30s, subsisting on your laundering abilities and meatloaf, your cost could soar well above that figure.

But, taking an extremely unscientific survey of friends, family, and Facebook contacts ('cause you gotta) there is something we have heard over and over again lately: "I'm pregnant." Why? Well, these declarations have come thick and fast a few months after we heard the same thing over and over again from female, working friends: "Since the economy is shitty right now, and I might get made redundant, we may as well just get pregnant. It's not like I'm going to get anywhere in my career in this climate."

So people started taking their frustrations on the poor economy out on more fruitful, fun, bedroom-focused, endeavours. And the babies are starting to come screaming into the world.

The first concrete evidence of the Recession Baby Boom? Leading baby and maternity retailer Mothercare released its earnings today - moving onto the FTSE 250 leaderboard and Q2 sales are up 7 per cent. The stock has risen 65 per cent since May.

You heard it here first. If your company can find a way to weave a Baby Boom message into its PR strategy over the next three to nine months you won't suffer for it.

Podcast #5: Writing for the Web

Every page on your website should be treated as a home page. To make those pages work more effectively, the way we write Web content needs to be approached differently from traditional printed copy. In this podcast, Emily McDaid of Hatch PR and freelance digital media specialist Chris Lee cover off how marketers can please dual audiences: readers and spiders...

Episode Five: Writing Search Engine-friendly Copy for the Web


Guardian gag order - we're officially at the point of no return

The Guardian gag order story of today has demonstrated better than any recent news event how digital media / social media / TWITTER has completely changed the game in how we consume media and the types of stories we react to.

A great blog post on The Media Blog sums up why quite nicely.

Bravo to The Guardian for quick, decisive action against a disgusting legal move on the part of the despicable Trafigura and a law firm which will rue the day they entered this motion - Carter-Ruck.

Rumour has it Newsnight will be covering the story tonight - we'll be tuning in.

Podcast #4 - Using Twitter for Business

Twitter has sprung to the fore of many marketing manager's agendas, but with a 40 per cent drop out rate in the first month, why should marketers use Twitter and, more importantly, how. Emily McDaid and Chris Lee from Hatch PR discuss.

Episode Four: Using Twitter for Business


Podcast #3 - Writing Press Releases

Small businesses often lack the skills or resource in-house to market themselves, but it's worth it and doesn't necessarily need to be time-consuming. In this podcast, we cover writing and distributing press releases, the most common form of communicating with the media.

Follow this link for the full list of PR and digital marketing podcasts.

Episode Three: Writing Press Releases


Why we need to leave the Nobel committee (and Obama) alone

This week produced yet another public relations quagmire for President Obama as he became the surprise recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He can't enjoy it, unfortunately, as people around the world are shouting that he won the award for rhetoric, not accomplishments; it was given far too early in his career; the fact that it's been bestowed upon him undermines the credibility of the award itself.

Why would the Nobel committee open itself up to such criticism? It's not like they wouldn't have seen this coming. They didn't bestow the award on Obama early in his career - they bestowed it really, REALLY early in his career.

They obviously want the award to become less reactionary, patting-ourselves-on-the-back type of Oscar-style exercise and more of an actionable, political aid for the world's most influential people who are working tirelessly to improve peace and prosperity for the world's citizens. They want to transform the nature of the award itself, throwing their weight behind individuals who are leading us towards greater peace. The Nobel can then give credo and additional influence to start conversations that wouldn't have been held, or to open doors that would have stayed shut, for people like Obama and future recipients who are still in the midst of their work. Effectively the award becomes a communications aid rather than an Oscar bestowed on retired greats who live on vineyards and ranches and spend their days sipping brandy.

In a world this messed up, with countless problems facing mankind, who can blame them? It's just this type of action-oriented, open communications approach, rather than introspective reviews of our accomplishments after they're done, that the world needs right now.

I suggest that we calm down and be grateful that the Nobel might help Obama achieve some of his lofty ambitions. Let's be honest - there isn't an award on this planet that isn't a PR invention, and inherently subjective by nature. The Nobel is granted on the opinions of a bunch of eccentric rich people in Oslo - it's never been any different. If they can start to make things happen rather than just being a reason to open a bottle of bubbly and donate a few million to charity, personally I think that's a good transition. Let's not blame Obama for being the first recipient of this nature.

And finally: if the Nobel wasn't granted on rhetoric, then Al Gore never would have gotten it for his undoubtedly incredible contribution to the fight against climate change. He has worked tirelessly to spread his message, so he definitely deserved his Nobel, but all the same, it's not like ice stopped melting in the Arctic Circle when An Inconvenient Truth came out. And that, my friends is an inconvenient truth.


Podcast #2: Social Media for Small Businesses and Start-ups

Small businesses and start-ups may not have thought about how they can use social media for their benefit. In episode two of Hatch PR's podcast guides for small businesses and start-ups, we give you the lowdown on how to leverage social media to increase your awareness and engage with your potential customers.

Episode Two: Social Media for Small Businesses and Start-ups

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You can hear the complete series, which we add to fortnightly, at either Hatch PR's site or Chris Lee's podcast page.


Separating the Social Media Guru from the Charlatan

This fantastic video highlights the many potential pitfalls when hiring ‘social media gurus’. My thanks go to Gordon Kelly for bringing this to my attention and it raises some really interesting points on the perception – and sometimes, alas, reality - of the emerging social media ‘expert’.

Many PR agencies make out like social media – and other digital media – is a black art which only a select few can master. This is rubbish, and I believe it’s this perception which the video plays on. Social media is something organisations can do themselves, but starting from scratch it requires a lot of time investment plus the associated trial and error element that goes with any self-education process.

This is where true social media experts can add value, because time and expertise are at a premium, especially in small firms. I recommend the below steps for screening social media professionals to assess whether they really can add value to your business.

· Make sure they have a PR/marketing background, otherwise they won’t be able to integrate the programme effectively into your overall marketing operation. Neither will they be able to suggest and create solid content

· Ensure you set monthly/quarterly objectives for social media. There’s no point accepting “go on Twitter, build a Facebook fan page, start blogging” if there’s no way of assessing whether the programme delivers benefits to the bottom line

· Be mindful of their age. Yes, social media is often associated with the yoof, but although a graduate with a funky haircut and skinny jeans might be good at setting up websites, what experience have they got of running and marketing a business?

· Ask for examples of previous projects and where they’ve delivered results. There should be a digital footprint available to back up their claims

If you’ve any other advice on selecting a social media specialist or any nightmare stories, do please share them with us.

Posted by Chris Lee


Hatch PR Launches Podcast Series for Small Businesses and Start-ups

Small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs may be driven innovators, but often they lack the skills and resources in-house to promote their own products and services. To help plug this knowledge gap, Hatch PR today launched a series of short podcasts to help small businesses deal with areas of digital marketing and PR.

Episode one covers the issue of selecting the right PR agency. To hear the entire series, visit Hatch PR's news page.

Episode One: Selecting a PR Agency


The New Digital Divide

I’m grateful to PR Week for carrying this article on digital complacency within the PR industry. I see it at a lot on non-technology agencies who may to ‘traditional PR’ very well but haven’t really kept up with the digital scene. Being such a fast-moving environment the longer these PR firms leave it, the harder it will be to catch up. Yesterday, we received confirmation that the Internet had overtaken TV for ad spend – it’s only a matter of time before online PR income trumps that from offline activity.

I count myself lucky to have worked in the tech sector as we’re the first to see these changes happening. Alas, many PR firms and practitioners aren’t even on Twitter, for example, or go on – because they feel they should – and become part of the 40 per cent drop-out stat. Replicate this for their knowledge and use of social networking, SEO, blogging and podcasting.

These little things will start to make a real difference in the PR agency selection process of organisations going forward. If you work for a PR firm and attend a new business pitch without an integrated digital campaign element or just a half-hearted jab at digital (“er, go on Twitter, form a Facebook fan page, er, er”) then you’re sunk, because your rivals will.

This is the digital divide within our own PR industry. Great news for some, not so good for others.

Posted by Chris Lee

I'm worth $1m, how 'bout you? Valuing web's latest thang

On the eve of Forbes' declaration that Faceback founder Mark Zuckerberg is worth $2 billion, investigative industry rag Silicon Alley Insider ponders whether MySpace is "now worthless" and whether it was even worth buying on the part of Rupert Murdoch. (He paid $580 million for it, which at the time was considered a steal. But that was back when people used the site ....for actual social networking rather than just to look up bands).

How quickly the tide comes in, and goes back out, in the internet world.

Let's consider the valuation of some of web's social networking trends, shall we? It's a fun game which a lot of industry sources like to play at - with no accepted formula and no right answer.

*Facebook - the social networking giant has been popular for awhile now, yet advertising revenues are still abysmal - the last valuation was published in May 2009 at $10 billion

*Twitter - arguably the web's latest 'thing' - currently valued at $1 billion - but no one knows if that figure is anywhere even close to accurate, since the company doesn't make any money and has no business model

*MySpace - currently valued at $500 million to $1.2 billion

*Friendster - remember them? they lost all their business to Facebook yet claim to have a handful of fans left in Asia - currently valued at $210 million

Again there is no right answer in this game, and perhaps this is what makes it so fun to watch. The only accepted truth is that once the site becomes unpopular, the valuation dips. Oftentimes this has no relation to the actual revenue the company is making. If only businesses in other sectors were valued on these vague, cloudy formulas! Just imagine a world where your bank was valued based on 'hype' and 'promise'!

Suggested reading: Ray Valdes at Gartner has posted an interesting and more educated viewpoint on how valuations happen and what they imply.