Archive for June, 2008

More on the Catwalk Queen/Panorama brouhaha

Last week I did a hastly-written comment about the BBC failing to credit fashion blog Catwalk Queen in their Panorama documentary on Primark. Interestingly, it’s made it around the internet and into Media Guardian, among others.

In a way, it neatly highlights what I mused about – that this was another conversation on the internet that makes the corporation look bad and adds another chip to that link between old and new media (I really have to stop using those terms, they’re so outdated). Although it feels like an individual error rather than systematic blogger pillaging, the damage has still been done. How many bloggers may think twice about accepting interview requests?

Charles Arthur probably has one of the best pieces of commentary on the topic:

Certainly this tendency to think that because people blog they’re (a) happy to get any exposure (b) not that important except as a source of opinion is one that’s taking some time to permeate through the many, many layers of conventional news organisations.

Again, it comes down to the subject of transparency on the net. Any organisation – be it PR, journalism, politicians or whoever needs to understand the idea of reciprocracy that permeates throughout online communities, and that you need to be transparent throughout all levels of the conversation. That includes credits.

To the Panorama’s credit, editor Sandy Smith apologised on the original Shiny Media blog post. How many ‘traditional’ media outlets would have done that a year or two ago? How many would do it now. That’s fed into the conversation, been acknowledged, and probably gone a long way to stopping any criticism going any further.

Having seen again the bits Panorama used without credit, it’s certainly a wee bit naughty and Shiny are definitely right to be a little peeved. The editor of Catwalk Queen, Gemma Cartwright, sums things up nicely:

So to Sandy Smith I say thank you for recognising that a mistake was made. I hope this is a lesson to all of us for the future. To bloggers – don’t be afraid to ask for credit, a fee or both. To the BBC – don’t underestimate or undermine bloggers. They have more power than you realise.

Perhaps its time for all media organisations to, at the very least, starting having informal discussions about dealing with bloggers, assuming they haven’t already.

Although one (as likely unexpected) flipside to this for Shiny Media is that Catwalk Queen’s managed to get a fair bit of exposure and, I’d imagine, increased brand recognition out of this, especially in the online community. I think it’s fair to say that if I’m asked to recommend a fashion blog, that would be the first one that comes to mind now. And if, in the incredibly unlikely event I had to do something work-related with fashion and blogging, or just fashion in general, CQ would probably be my starting point*. Clouds, silver linings and all that 🙂

*Not that I understand a great deal of what’s written on there. I imagine it’s akin to one of the writers there trying to make sense of one of my more rambling pieces on Ebbsfleet United, or non-league football in general.

And yes, it is a great excuse to use the word brouhaha. It doesn’t get used often enough.

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The world may not have stopped for tea. I did.

Saturday, and I headed to Fortnum and Mason for a global teaparty, of sorts. The idea started from the Facebook Group A Cup of Tea Solves Everything, where one of two of the members suggested it might be quite nice to get together to drink tea in London.

This duly expand the original remit, when several more members said they couldn’t make it but would raise a cuppa at 4pm, the time of the tea-meet. This then expanded further to the idea of a global rolling tea party, where everybody on the group had a cup of tea at 4pm, local time.

I then blogged about it (and I suspect a couple of other people did too) and before I knew it, there were links and comments and searches coming left right and centre about the idea of a global rolling tea party. Something that started as a small idea on Facebook and grown beyond what could ever be imagined.

The Fortnum’s meet-up may not have been well-populated, but judging from the comments on Facebook, plenty of others had a cuppa at 4pm. It was, though, a very pleasant afternoon on my part (when is drinking tea not a pleasant way to spend an afternoon) and a range of topics were discussed, one of which was the Global Tea Party Mark II.

The idea was reasonably simple – if a little bit of chatter had spread around the world just from a simple Facebook suggestion and a few blogs, why not have a worldwide rolling tea party to raise money for charity. Macmillan Cancer have the world’s largest coffee morning, so why not have a worldwide tea party?

Ok, so there’s still a lot to be thought of – which charity, publicity, logistics, etc – but it’s such a, well, nice idea that it may well happen.

And if it does… well, that’s just from one small idea in one even smaller corner of the internet.

Sometimes a small idea is all you need.

[Just before anybody thinks I’m getting all posh and London on you, the meetup was organised for Fortnums, a place I’d normally be too terrified and poor to go into. But it’s all rather nice, and very pleasant and enjoyable. The kind of place you’d take your mum if she came to visit. That is to say, I now have another idea of the list of places to take my mother if she comes to visit me. She likes a good cuppa even more than me.]

That brief Euro 2008 blackout last night

One of the unexpected and rather joyful side-effects of the sound and pictures going down during last night’s Euro 2008 semi-final was, for at least five minutes, we got 5Live commentary rather than Motty & Lawro.

Occasionally I’ve selected the 5Live option via the red button but, in the pub last night, having the commentary flip between Motson and Alan Green made you realise firstly how good 5Live’s football commentary is (despite the fact they were commentating primarily for a radio audience, it actually enhanced the pictures), and how poor TV commentary is in general.

A few years ago a friend of mine did a short radio feature on provisions for blind fans at football matches. At Ipswich Town this included audio commentary throughout the match so blind and partially-sighted fans could take in the atmosphere of live games and follow the match. One of the interviewees remarked on the poor quality of TV football commentary, a point that was well emphasised last night.

I’ve done a bit of radio summarising at matches in the past and it’s not an easy skill but it’s still a bit of a puzzler when radio commentators (and ex-player pundits) can describe a game so well yet TV commentary is so lacking. (It might be one of the reasons I don’t mind Jonathan Pearce too much. Hyperbolic he may be, but at least I have a fair idea of what’s going on when I nip into the kitchen for a cuppa). Although this may be just my general love of speech-based radio coming to the fore here.

For Sunday’s final, I’ll be putting 5live on. And for every other game as well. It’s like broadband vs 56k. Both do their job, but it’s impossible to willingly go back once you’ve got used to the superior product.

[Incidentally, I’m loving the Guardian using the word snafu in a news report!]

Manbag: woe

I gave in. I’ve been fed up of cramming stuff into my pockets, so I’ve only gone and brought a bloody manbag. At least that’s what I think it is. It was in the men’s section in Next, so I’m assuming this is what it is. And it’s a good size, not like one of those rubbish purse-like things that I always assumed were portable washbags.

And not only have I brought one, I’ve been using it. And finding it useful. It even has compartments. Bloody compartments for Christ’s sake.

I’m worried what this says about me now. Does it now mean that I’ve finally crashed the line from occasional media tosser into fullblown media wanker? Does it mark me out as a radiohead fan? Does it imply that I’m one of those men who is so concerned with bulging pockets that he can’t cope without a bloody bag? A bag with compartments, if I hadn’t already mention that. And does it make my bum look big?

The answer to all of the above, I think, is probably yes.

Face it, I’d probably be a metrosexual by now if it wasn’t for the fact:

  1. I have ginger stubble
  2. I wouldn’t know a cologne if it sprayed itself on my nose
  3. I don’t like wearing suits
  4. I know nothing about branded clothing
  5. I’d still rather watch football than go to the theatre
  6. I don’t like cocktails
  7. I’m far too ugly
  8. I don’t know what a metrosexual is

On the flipside, I’m not a particularly bloke-like bloke. I can cook, iron, clean the house, really despise those WKD adverts. I’m sure there are other things but I can’t think of them. actually, I’ve now panicked myself into thinking I’m far too blokey and am probably the equivalent of a knuckle-dragging sexist version of early man.

London can do strange things to a chap though. If you told me a year ago I’d be buying a bag – with compartments, no less – I’d have stuck it over my head in shame.

UPDATE: I’ve just been informed my the girls in the office that I’ve not purchased a manbag. According to them I have a masculine-orientated unisex bag. However, it’s been countered by another colleague than, as it was purchased from a menswear department, it should come under the category of manbag. Maybe it’s a Bag For Men rather than a Manbag? Is there a difference? Are there any other names for it? I’m confused. And just slightly relieved.

Catwalking into social media

A post today on the web that kind of emphasises one of the points made yesterday at Online Marketing and Media 08. Shiny Media’s fashion blog team – Catwalk Queen – appeared on the Panorama programme about Primark and they’re a bit miffed they didn’t get a credit when other businesses did – the bloggers weren’t even credited as such [1].

In the pre-social media days, if somebody didn’t like how they’d been portrayed in the media then they could complain and that was it [2]. Now there’s blogging, and conversation and that conversation feeds into Google rankings and searches and, perhaps while not necessarily a big issue (in the whole grand scheme of things) is another complaint about the Beeb that will end up washing around the net. It also increases the them-us divide that can exist in places between journalists and bloggers (even if CQ is pretty much damn nearly journalism anyway).

There’s also a potential downside for journalists if the Shiny Media bloggers decided they weren’t going to accept any requests from the BBC as that’s a good contact lost. And a source of potential publicity for Shiny gone as well (this is a hypothetical situation, I’d like to point out. But I’ve seen similar situations with other companies in the past). Nobody really wins.

But one of the joys about social media is the conversation is a two-way thing. We’ve seen some companies, like Comcast dealing with Techcrunch on Twitter, who react to criticism on the web, and engaging on the post would be an interesting way of starting to turn the conversation from a no-win to a more satisfactory resolution. Of course, it’s a brave soul who’d enter a conversation where they could get a hammering.

Now, obviously there are ins and outs I don’t know of here but if they were invited to contribute as bloggers then they should have been labelled as such. Ok, CQ would have been hoping for some free publicity [3], but it’s not as if they were flogging their own product. If I was invited on a football discussion show, I’d want to be credited as a blogger/writer rather than a ‘fan’.

[1] I watched the programme and I don’t remember them. Had they been credited as bloggers, I would have probably remembered them.

[2] And you’d be surprised how many people I’ve met over the years who says they’re not speaking to another journalist after a bad experience. It makes you wonder.

[3] Although perhaps not so free, given that their business is the blog so the cost could be worked out.

Online Marketing and Media ’08: What I did on my day at the conference

If there was one overarching theme from the first day of the Online Marketing and Media ’08 Conference it was creativity. Creativity and engagement. Creativity, engagement and communities. Creativity, engagement, communities and conversation. And nice red uniforms. I’ll start again shall I?

Ok, there wasn’t one underlying theme but the Spanish Inquisition aside, the four elements listed above were repeated regularly throughout all sessions I was at and some of the workshops. The message is clear. The level of conversation has changed and if you’re not engaging with communities who connect with your brand on whatever level then you’re at best losing out and, at worst, leaving the door open to some serious damage online.

Respond. Engage. Listen

New Media Age’s editor-in-chief Michael Nutley set the tone with his keynote overview of the industry. In many respects much of what was said shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody in the room, yet it pulled many different strands together neatly. For traditional media it was both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because of the possibilities and terrifying because it was clear how easy it would be to get left behind.

Trends, said Nutley, were here to stay. Nobody wants to go back to 56k after experiencing broadband. And while Facebook et al may be slightly less indispensible than broadband, the social media landscape and conversation has cemented itself into far enough into our culture to have profoundly changed how we get our information and engage with brands.

But it wasn’t just Facebook, MySpace and Bebo that were regularly brought up as social media conversation-enablers. YouTube, lastfm, Flickr, del.icio.us, WAYN, moneysupermarket.com, Top Table, Lego enthusiast communities and many more even more niche sites were mentioned throughout the day.

The message here is clear. These conversation about lego, travel, food, pictures, video, music and brands are happening online and if PR and marketing professionals want to be part of this they need to be prepared to enter the conversation and, occasionally, get their fingers burnt.

The dialogue is never ending either. Nutwell gave the example of Nike, who’d built such a successful social social community for runners surrounding the launch of their new trainer that when the marketers wanted to move onto focus on a different area they found the community had grown organically to such a stage that it couldn’t realistically be abandoned. But Nike also had a valuable commodity on their hands  a direct line to consumers who were prepared to enthusiastically engage with the brand.

Then there was the example of the wine company who did their research on forums and blogs and sent out cases of wine to the most influential of these. They were rewarded with a large spike in sales, but when other companies tried to copy the tactic, the success was a lot more muted.

Yet engaging with the online community – especially leading opinion makers, with samples of good occasionally – is necessary. Sally Cowdry from O2 told the audience of a similar success with the Cocoon handset, again by offering free samples.

Yet their were notes of caution here. One aspect which will terrify some CEOs, marketeers and PR professionals is once the brand or product is thrown out into the wilds of the internet there’s no control of what may come back.

As Cowdry emphasised, you’ve got to be prepared to offer yourself up to criticism, so if you’re engaging with the communities you’ve got to really believe in whatever issue or product you’re having the conversation around. Because if you get it wrong, then one of the first things anybody could see if they type the keywords into Google is a long post or forum thread tearing strips off the product you were hoping to promote.

To that end, any engagement has to be done transparently. All communities, be it clubbers, students, people discussing travel arrangements, or Lego enthusiasts, will react badly if they discover you’re covertly setting up ‘clean’ blogs or user profiles to promote a product or defend a brand without making it clear it’s affiliated to whatever the brand, product or topic is. Again, that’s likely to have a seriously negative impact on your Google rankings.

But starting the conversation is very different and if you hit the right note with the right campaign, piece of PR, or just the right post on the right community, then that conversation will organically grow with your brand at the centre of it.

To that end, Leo Ryan from Ryan MacMillian produced some fascinating data from the London Elections. Using various social media analyzing tools – like Technorati, Facebook Leixcon, Google Trends, Clusty, del.icio.us tagclouds and others – for the London Mayor election, the stats showed Boris had better buzzmetrics than Ken on just about everything bar blogs, where Ken was slightly more talked about it. In particular, the Boris-related chatter on Facebook was nearly three times that of Ken.

But what was interesting was this conversation was taking place around Boris’s announcements and NOT the debate between Ken and Boris. When Boris put out a new release or a new policy, traffic and chatter would spike, unlike when Ken tried to debate Boris’s policies. In some respects, it’s not unreasonable to assume that part of Ken’s strategy was blunted because he was simply repeating the online conversation rather than starting it.

Whether the chatter for Boris was positive or negative isn’t so easy to ascertain and, unlike using the free services, more powerful paid-for tools were needed here.

But Leo Ryan’s talk, the most illuminating of the lot, showed it was easy to track your social media footprint (in the above case, Boris and Ken’s footprint) using readily available free tools. The results wouldn’t produce perfect results every time and would have to go through several levels of cleaning or analysing.

So that means checking results against each other, finding the key phrases, refining them and playing the results of the tools off against each other, rinsing out aspects that may skew the results (for example, an unrelated term cropping up on a regular basis in the tools).

Taken together the tools – Technorati, Summize, Clusty, Google’s assorted services, Twing, Blogpulse and others – offer a way to spot who’s talking about you, what they’re saying and, perhaps just as important, what they’re not saying. It’s a great way to gauge the level of feedback and can be done in a morning.

Conclusions (but by no means the end of it all)

In truth, most of the conclusions that I drew from the day were already mentioned in the first paragraph, bar the nice red uniforms (and I’d prefer white stripes with mine anyway).

Firsty, this social media malarky isn’t difficult. Yes, some of today may have, in my case, been preaching to the converted but it really does emphasise how easy it is to start engaging with communities and track results. Anybody who gets scared by these tools shouldn’t be. They’re not necessarily the be all or end all but neither are they like a piece of tricky technology that only a select few can master. Anybody can get involved and engage if they want to. And chances are they already do, be it fan forums, review sites and research before purchasing a product, exchanging travel tips, sharing YouTube videos and the like.

And it’s never been easier to find and share this content, be it through social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us and Digg, music sites like Lastfm, networking places like Facebook and LinkedIn, even the reviews section of Amazon. It’s all out there.

Secondly, the nature of the conversation has changed significantly from a few years ago and will continue to evolve. Traditional advertising models still have a place but are no longer as effective. Given the controversy over Facebook’s Beacon project, and the fact that it’s becoming easier than even to skip adverts on TV, be it watching online, using Sky+ or other recorders, communities don’t want people talking at them. They want to be engaged with, to have their say, to get responses. Conversation is a two-way process, but many companies treat it as if there’s only one person with anything to say or worth saying. That attitude’s a surefire way to the deadpool.

But, above all, it’s worth trying new things. It’s worth being creative. Not every potential viral will be shared around offices by bored workers on a Thursday afternoon. Not every attempt to engage with bloggers, forums and other sites will be a success. But it still doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. Starting the conversation in an open, transparent and prepared-to-engage way stands a good chance of getting whatever is being promoted talked about online. It’s not the same or in place of traditional media outlets but its still just as valuable.

Hey, journalists, I’ve not forgotten you!

While the above all sounds very marketeer-like, the journalist in me can easily see how these tools and insights into the social media conversation (sorry, I’m doing it again. I’ll try and stop that) could be useful. Using the right tools – again Technorati, Google Alerts, del.icio.us, Digg, Summize, etc – it should be possible for the modern Web 2.0-literate journalist to have a handle on a story or their patch either through an hour’s work online or, better still, waiting for them in their inbox each morning.

I’ve already shown how useful tools like Twitter, Google, Technorati and forums are when you’re tracking a breaking news story, and that’s only going to increase as more users adopt assorted social media.

If the conversation is happening online, then that, in a way, is no different from the conversation down the pub. In my time I’ve been taught by assorted journalists that firstly the pub is a great source of news stories and, secondly, is a good benchmark of if your story is relevant to your audience – ie can you imagine people talking about it down the pub.

Well, now you’ve got your virtual ‘pub’ in so many locations Blogs, Facebook Groups, Google Groups, Twitter, feedback sites, the lot. Not only are these a great way of getting stories, but also to build contacts for the future by listening and engaging in the conversation with communities.

See, I’m doing it again. Journalists, publicists and marketeers may be after different ends but the means can be the same.

Gary elsewhere

At Soccerlens. Cambridge United’s difficult summer. It’s a bit out of date, actually, given that inbetween me posting the article last night and now the U’s have got a new manager.

C’est la vie. The perils of writing pieces around ever-changing news. I’m sure Heraclitus would have something to on this, more so if rivers were involved.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com