Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Marmite and the unhappy tale of love and hate

Recently, I published a blog on Marmite and their spoof election. Since then, there have been some public relations developments and disasters, so here is my video discussing them!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Twitter and Grease (a delightful combination)

This blog is about Twitter (more than it is about Grease)! I know I have already written a blog on this topic but I feel it is time for an update on my thoughts on the subject. My last blog was less about my personal feelings and more about the productiveness of people using it so this one will be more about the former.

In my last blog I claimed to be merrily using Twitter on a fairly regular basis and this was true. Now, however, I realise I haven’t logged in for an age, nor have I noticed the lack of its presence in my life. This situation emerged because a few weeks ago I did not have internet in my flat and so I stopped being on Twitter all the time. When my internet reappeared, it transpired my enthusiasm of Twitter did not.

I am not sure if this is a recurring trend among people (perhaps you could tell me?) but it feels like it could be. You sign up for something and use it heavily, and then the novelty wears off. This is what happened with me and Twitter. I logged on, I even joined Hootsuite (‘The Professional Twitter Client’) to better manage my account, and I followed lots of people, many of whom I now have forgotten why I did so. I was never much of a tweeter, apart from informing my fellow classmates about my blog being up. I do not appear to be so coy on my Facebook page, where I frequently tell my friends things they do not need to know. I think my shyness on Twitter is more because it felt like it was a ‘work’ thing rather than a personal outlet of my deepest darkest feelings. We have had a lecture on our ‘personal brand’, and it really got me thinking about how we use social media for work and play and how difficult it can be to separate them.

I have been thinking about my short affair with Twitter and I have come to the conclusion that is much like a summer romance (bear with me...). There’s the initial butterfly stage (creating a new account and personalising it), then there is the getting to know one another (that is the following of many people because you think they are interesting). Things go well for a while; there is much chatting (tweeting) and holding of hands (em...don’t have a Twitter equivalent). But then, as the classic song goes, “It turned colder, that’s where is ends, So I told her, we’d still be friends” and things fizzle out. In Twitter terms, this means you start getting irritated by other people’s tweets, you wonder why you decided to follow some silly celebrity, and on the whole it feels like it is too much bother.

I do see the potential of Twitter as a useful tool, and I know that many people are whole-hearted tweeters and so I am not suggesting it is not something which should be considered for PR campaigns. I am just saying that for me and Twitter, the summer nights are over and it’s back to the wet September. I can envisage my enthusiasm increasing when I have to start on my dissertation, as one good thing I can say for Twitter is that is very good for up-to-the-minute academic papers, and so, who knows? Maybe Twitter and I will be reunited and I can wear a cat suit and sing ‘You’re the one that I want’. Don’t panic, I’ll do it in private.

Google Analytics

What can I say? It turns out I am not that the blogosphere, anyway. I logged on to see my Google Analytics report with some excitement, ready to see that thousands of people have read my blog, loved it, and told all their friends. Alas, it was not so. Though, as my title indicates, the past few weeks have included a lot of ranting, so who am I to blame the masses for not getting on board? Sorry, enough of my fishing for compliments from my avid readers. I have actually done OK, with 485 visitors registered on my blog, and Google Analytics coming up with 179. So, let us get on with the analysing.
I was particularly excited about the map- what strange and wonderful countries will turn up? ‘Not many’, appears to be the answer. Just over 80% of my traffic was from the UK. This is not very surprising considering Predominantly Ranting was written in the UK, in English, about things pertaining to the UK. Still, I am a tad disappointed Timbuktu did not register.
Though the throng of countries did not materialise, something I did find interesting was what website the traffic came from. It seems like my informing my friends on Facebook that my new blog was up has drummed up significant support. However, Twitter acquired very little visits, even though I had tweeted every time I uploaded a blog. Apparently, I garnered 41 visits from Facebook, while Twitter only gave me 5 (though perhaps I should include the 3 from Hootsuite, which would have also been from my tweets).

Overall, my Google Analytics was not hugely interesting for anyone but me. This is only because this blog is fairly small and pretty internalised among our classmates. However, I definitely see the potential value of Google Analytics for larger websites or blogs particularly for PR campaigns and the like. It is a good way of highlighting your current publics and then using them as a base to expand on or deciding to focus in on a particular section of your existing publics. Also, for evaluation purposes I can see how this is an incredibly useful tool. To be able to monitor where, when and for how long someone was on your website is brilliant. It can only add more brilliance by being free!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Marmite Election Campaign

In this second edition of my blog on our Social Networks presentation given on the 1st of April I will be taking a look at the Marmite election campaign which was created by DDB UK. For the campaign, "The Love Party" and "The Hate Party" have been set up, with each attempting to convince the public to vote for them on a specially created election website. Each party has a Marmite-related manifesto and a series of pledges to be implemented if they get in power.

Faye Freely leads The Love Party, which aims to "Spread the Love" of Marmite across the UK by highlighting its nutritional values and looking into new ways of using the product to help tackle social issues. Among the Party’s pledges are anger management courses for Marmite haters and a shrine for lovers of Marmite can congregate in peace.

The Hate Party will be led by Steve Heaving, and has called to "Stop the Spread" of Marmite by reducing its production and consumption. If they get into power there will be designated "Marmite-eating" zones, as well as a compulsory label change to "Tarmite".

The parties began campaigning on 2 April when their party political broadcasts were launched on TV and online. Both candidates have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds containing information on their manifestos, and will also launch press ads in various weekly magazines. The Marmite News Network (or MNN, an obvious nod to CNN) site will run rolling news coverage of the election campaign, broadcasting party announcements and events. Voting will close on Thursday 29 April, with the winning party being announced on 2 May.

I believe this is an excellent example of how social networks can be utilised. There has been much talk of this being the first truly ‘Facebook’ election where the apathetic 18-25 bracket can be finally brought into the fray. It is rather ingenious of Marmite to do the same thing and, no doubt, be more successful than the politicians. Marmite have, for a while, capitalised on the fact that their product has a ‘love it or hate it’ quality. This takes it to the next level in an innovative way which will step up the debate for and against Marmite and therefore pushing the product further into key public’s consciousness.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Heineken's Soccer Swindle

This week for class we were asked to do a presentation on the use of social network sites in public relations campaigns. For my part of the presentation, I chose Heineken’s Amazing Soccer Swindle and Marmite’s Election Campaign. I am going to split this into two blogs because these brands have used social media in different ways and cover different issues. For my first blog on the things I discovered while doing this presentation I will tackle Heineken.

Heineken are sponsors of UEFA Champions League and as part of the public relations surrounding this sponsorship they ran a guerrilla campaign which involved duping over 1000 AC Milan fans to go to a classical concert on the same night as the important game with Real Madrid on the 21st of October. Here is how they did it:

The results were published in a case study by (The Social Media Guide). 1,100 soccer fans got swindled while 1.5 million people saw their reactions on live on Sky Sports TV, and Heineken received five million visitors to the site devoted to the event. On top of this they received a great deal of news coverage for their troubles. While on the social network site YouTube there are currently over 450,000 hits.

This kind of viral video can be an extremely effective way of getting a brand’s message out. There are countless 'Top 20' lists of the best viral videos available on the internet, including one by Mashable. The popularity of conversations which begin 'Have you seen that video on YouTube?' are what public relations campaign should be aiming for. However, there are limitations to this method of utilising social network sites, for example, the video has to have some kind of interest or humour in it in order to ‘go viral’. But it also seems to need something else, a bit of j'ai ne sais quoi or x-factor, to make it popular enough to make an impact upon the vast quantities of such videos available on the internet. This makes it a bit of an elusive concept for public relations practitioners to chase. But surely that doesn't mean you can't try?

Getting the right video may be one thing but you also have problems once it is out 'there'. There is little control over what happens to it and as many times as there is positive feedback as there is negative. As Steve Chinn pointed out in a lecture given at Stirling University on the 31st of March, it is difficult to define whether viral videos are advertising or not. Personally, I think they fit nicely into the public relations niche as they fall into the task of ‘building relationships’ with all the dangers word-of-mouth networking brings.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Is Twitter Productive?

While meeting for a coffee the other night (though of course we had hot chocolate – don’t want to be up all night!) my friend told me Twitter was ridiculous and nobody used it. He also said that companies just used it to fire out messages that nobody reads. I argued back that it was for academics and professionals to exchange information, which seemed to convince him. Actually, I think I might agree with him. Sorry John, it was a reflex to disagree with you.

As I browse the 100s of tweets and re-tweets on the subject ‘PR and social media’, which I have typed into my rather snazzy Hootsuite account, something occurs to me. These people have jobs and, dare I say it, lives. Yet, instead of blatantly sitting on Facebook looking at their 2nd cousin's holiday snaps they are tweeting. Granted, they are tweeting about things related to their employment, for example, today it is mostly on the Nestle screw up. Twitter can feel much more productive that other sites such as Facebook. Mostly, Facebook is for personal use and so is classed as non-productive work. Twitter, however, can be used for professional use, apart from the few tweets to Stephen Fry you slipped under the radar. I can’t help but wonder if this is really a semi-productive way to alleviate the boredom of office work.

I know that I am finding Twitter a pleasant way to waste my time and I am almost definitely sure it is because it is all in the name of the Digital PR course I am doing and so is therefore, technically, work. Also, I secretly hope to be discovered by some prospective employer so I won’t have to go through the rigmarole of actually applying for a job, but that is another matter.

Brian Solis talks about this very thing. Part of his argument is that it using social media during working hours acts as a little break and reinvigorates you to start on some ‘real’ work. But I suppose my point is much more along the lines of Twitter as a PR campaign tool. PR practitioners can tweet happily away in the name of the organisation they represent and feel like they are doing something. But are they?

Derek Hodge has mentioned many times in our lectures that there is, as yet, no empirical evidence that Twitter works for organisations. I haven’t found any but I have a feeling there must be some in the pipeline – someone out there must be aching for a year off to do a PhD is something just up this alley. So until this research comes out it can’t really be qualified as a viable tool for organisations though I can’t help but hope it turns out to be a profoundly large waste of time for everyone involved, just for my own amusement.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Online Voting

A new poll by Lewis PR has found that more than three-quarters of the public would vote online if given the chance. This could herald in a new and interesting turn of events for the political process in the UK. The poll also says 56% of people are looking up political websites in order to learn more about political parties. This makes it clear that this election is already squarely on board the online communications train but what would online voting do to the next election?

Voter turnout in the UK is unpredictable, but the last two general elections have had particularly low turnouts of around 60%, while the average between 1922 and 1997 has been more than 70%. The low turnout of the past few elections can be explained by a variety of reasons, as Alison Park describes. However, it is difficult to predict, in light of the recent scandal of MPs’ expenses and financial crisis, how people will react this time round. The fact that Conservative and Labour parties are close in the polls may remove some of the apathy that the certainty of a Labour landslide induced in 2001 and 2005.

Online voting would remove the issues of actually getting to the polling station, as the clip from the The West Wing below, demonstrates. (Republicans in Orange County would be less likely to vote after work if it was raining...for those of you not obsessed with The West Wing).

For political public relations, as PRWeek brings up, online communications are measurable and enable engagement with specific publics, and in this case, the general public. If online voting became a real possibility, it could mean that politicians could be less inclined to go door-to-door and much more likely to be 'IM'ing their constituents instead. But though this ‘engagement’ is valid in its own right, is it really a replacement for getting to moan about the bins at your candidate in real life?

There is a plethora of issues online voting brings up. Vote tampering is just one of them. But I can’t help but think it would be interesting to see how much of a difference it would make and whether it would separate the wheat of apathy from the chaff of laziness when it comes to deciding the future of our country.