Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Facebook is here to stay as trust in the channel increases

According to the latest corporate social responsibility report from Havas PR, communities are increasingly using Facebook as a source of local news, and the channel is gaining trust.

This means that despite the recent talk of Ello taking over, Facebook users in the UK aren't showing signs of abandoning it anytime soon. In fact, nine out of ten people claim they'll still be using the channel in two years' time.

I believe that although the results are good for the long term ambitions of Facebook/social media, it reflects the move to an older demographic and an increase in local community pages. Rather than compete with this, newspapers can take advantage through setting up strong and engaged pages which direct people to their site and paper.

The level of trust in local media for the second year running is a big selling point, and their advertisers would do well to notice it, in my humble opinion.

Check out the video for the full report.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ken Clarke PR comments show industry reputation still suffers

Ken Clarke, the big old Tory Beast, used his leaving party platform on Radio 4's Today Programme this morning to fire a warning to incoming Government Ministers to beware the 'lightweight sloganeering of PR men'.

Whether this means PR women are OK, I'm not so sure, but what it does show is that almost 20 years on from the birth of the 'sultans of spin', the PR industry is still regarded by many, including those in Government, as a hindrance to democracy and lacking in gravitas.

There's no doubt that 'spin' became a badly received four letter word during the end of the Blair years, as things can only get better gave way to dodgy dossiers and briefing wars.

Since then, the PR industry has been through a golden period where every organisation wanted their own Campbell-like operation, to some leaner times during the recession. During this period the sector fragmented and went through some very grown-up changes, now having two industry bodies with increasing national influence, to offering some of the very best training and opportunities for young people.

But all that is really a side issue to the point here, which is that 'PR' is still received by many as warmly as a cold cup of tea: it is a toxic phrase.

Part of that is because the communications industry is so vast that mainstream media and Joe Public wouldn't know where to begin to describe it, so the tabloid default sticks in the same way it does for 'public sector worker', 'freelancer' or any number of often lazily described professions.

But we still have to recognise that too many people within the industry are actually lightweight. Too many dinosaurs remain with their 2012  like jargon and inability to offer people anything other than a regurgitated marketing handbook.

The effect of this is that it often leaves 'PR' people somewhat lacking in confidence around the board table. Sure, they know how to get a message across (at least they should do) but ask them to pinpoint exactly how their work adds to the bottom line and they fold.

There's been too many 'the death of PR/the death of SEO/the death of lists about the death of' articles that I don't need to take that route, but it is clear that one of two things need to happen.

The Ken Clarke generation needs to retire and make way for impressive younger operators, especially women, who will win the public's respect through their professional and transparent modern two-way communications (I read that in a PR manual...).

Or, the P and the R need to quietly slip out for a drink one Friday afternoon and not come back. Its family move on and come Monday morning they are shacked up with digital communications in an integrated three bed semi in Richmond.

I'm not sure which one it will be, but I can assure voters that the squeezed middle won't suffer because of it, as we're all in this together.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Response to Floods Shows Public Relations Doesn't Have to Be a Dirty Word

'So then, what do we do about the floods?'
A question heard throughout boardrooms of businesses across the UK this past month. After one of the cruelest winters imaginable for thousands of families, big organisations were compelled to respond, not least because they too had been affected.
It is at times like this that public relations can really earn its money. Not in the hastily arranged 'wallies in wellies' photo opportunities (hello, Ed, Dave, Nick - how many sandbags did you fill?) but in the ability to advise decision makers within organisations of a simple truth:
Actions speak louder than words.
From supermarkets and clothing retailers, to mobile phone operators and white goods sellers, there have been thousands of businesses who have worked with, and without, the Government to help people, whether that be on a national scale, or supporting local communities.
Throughout the past few weeks, there has been a refreshing lack of advertising crowing about what a great effort companies have made, a dearth of staged-managed photo opportunities (the Royal family can be excused as a different case), and any media coverage has been truly 'earned' rather than sought.
Let's face it, many people see PR as a dirty word, but public relations is more than the knowing wink of the spurious survey, or the bikini-laden park bench work-out of a reality Z-lister with a new weight-loss DVD to flog.
It's about understanding and working with those people affected by an issue, regardless of their place in society, and knowing that communicating through action is just as important as rhetoric.
It's in the setting up a flood relief fund, as one major supermarket has, or in the donation of time and goods to local people whose lives have been turned upside down.
It's about knowing the good that this 'CSR' does for a brand locally and nationally, and not being ashamed by it. Of understanding that people are sophisticated enough to judge for themselves and that if you avoid exploiting disaster, and invest in the human condition, this judgement can be a positive one.
The floods continue to be terrible and the worst may be yet to come - but PR is part of the positive response, and we should be proud to work in an industry that can react like that.

First published at Huffington Post UK