A nice bit of newsjacking helps charities tell their stories

Leave a comment

MC900433800HIT

Three charities have recently used “newsjacking” of a Twitter hashtag  to make their case to London commuters according to the Guardian and I for one am impressed by the creativity they have shown and the confidence to “step on the turf” of a union.

“Newsjacking ” is  the art and science of injecting a different agenda into a breaking news story to generate media coverage and social media engagement.    See here for further info.

Macmillan Cancer, Save the Children and Leonard Cheshire have all made use of the #tubestrike to tell their story in different ways. First off the mark were Macmillan Cancer with this clever Tweet;

Macmillan Tweet

Later Save the Children used it to highlight the plight of children in Syria with Leonard Cheshire following with a Tweet highlighting the poor access for people with disabilities on many tube lines.

The tactic has provoked considerable debate with some commentators suggesting the tactic was “disrespectful” but I think they are right to make use of the interest in the strike and to draw attention to what in all honesty are much more worthy causes than a period of industrial action. In many ways the juxtaposition of these life affecting causes against the inconvenience of the tube strike helps show how easy it is to lose perspective on life, and to do it in a way which has wit and thoughtfulness merely adds to my admiration for them.

It is also worth pointing out to those who feel the tactic of “newsjacking” was wrong in this case, that Twitter is not limited to London, and whilst the strikes are undoubtedly a pain for people living and working in the capital, there are many more people across the country who would see these Tweets and  feel much more affinity to the charities piggy backing on the tube chaos.

Finally, one of the first lessons of social media is that brands are no longer in control and any hastag or Twitter newsfeed for that matter risks being used by other users for other purposes. That is the nature of the tool.

Advertisements

Selfies and the value of plenty of PR groundwork

Leave a comment

MC900433800HIT

The social media phenomenon encouraging women to post “selfies” (pictures taken them of themselves using a smart phone) without make-up with an associated donation to Cancer Research UK, has been a massive success, raising  millions for the charity.

Yet whilst this initiative has to be regarded as a “hit” in PR terms – perhaps the interesting question is  “who should take the credit for it?”.

Carolan Davidge, director of communications at Cancer Research UK, is quoted on Sky News saying: “The trend isn’t something Cancer Research UK started so it’s been fantastic to see so many people getting involved and wanting to use their selfie to raise money for our life-saving research.”

So it appears the initiative on Facebook and Twitter is something that appeared spontaneously and grew organically (see BBC story about its origins here). Some speculate it was inspired by the “Necknominate” game craze from early 2014 in which people challenged others via Facebook to undertake some form of alcoholic drinking stunt, but its origins are unclear. Wherever it came from it has truly spread like the best of memes.

The organic nature of its emergence is perhaps best illustrated in the confusion that has arisen over the donation process. With a designed campaign there would have been a very clearly planned and constructed process to turn the goodwill and awareness into cash – yet this recent trend is notable for the problems associated with it (see BBC story here). For instance, some people trying to donate have been connected to a WWF campaign to protect Polar Bears, others have inadvertently given their money to a fund run  by UNICEF and still other posts have no mention of donation at all, or reference to the cause.

Credit for this “PR Hit” therefore cannot be directly attributed to anyone – yet it can in a sense be laid at the door of good PR. What has been a spontaneous online initiative became linked to Cancer Research UK because the charity has invested consistently in its PR, building awareness of the issue and in its reputation over many years. This groundwork on its reputation is why people initiated and more importantly joined the “Selfie” phenomenon.

A final thought then about the value of PR for my Charity clients. It has been said that PR is “What people say about you when you are not in the room” – perhaps we might now say it is “Why people donate when you haven’t even asked for money”.

Water water everywhere – but who has stopped to think?

Leave a comment

MC900433800  & MC900431521

The floods across the UK which started before Christmas have had a devastating effect on those people and businesses hit by them. But who are the winners and who are the sinners in PR terms?

First of all the power companies. Friends who I know were without power over Christmas and the New Year say they felt some sympathy for the power companies, recognising the massive impact of high winds and floods on the infrastructure. What they could not understand was the slow response in terms of information – or worse still information about the return of power and compensation that changed from minute to minute. A classic example of the perfect storm (if you will excuse the pun) unprecedented weather affecting the business at a time when holidays impact on normal business operations anyway, and perhaps an indication in communications terms of a lack of pre-planning (always plan for the worst) and central control over messaging.

Next the Environment Agency. Here the work of the staff on the ground has been fantastic and their emergency communications function warning people of potential floods was a fine example of planned emergency communication. Where they did fail perhaps was at the very top.

Chair , Chris Smith, was notable by his absence on the ground until quite late on, especially in the South West where large areas of rural England have been affected.  Flooding is an incredibly personal tragedy. Early on he should have been advised to get down on the ground and be seen by the people affected and by the staff from the Agency responding. Leadership in times of crisis is not about management but about presence, and a figurehead showing direct awareness of the situation can convey a range of positives about an organisation.

Finally – and I never thought I would say this about a business I am not a fan of – but well done Tesco. The retailer has provided lorries to transport feed to farmers whose fields have been flooded and whose livestock are facing starvation. Working with farmers in drier areas of the country they have arranged to carry essential supplies of animal feed to those farmers whose livelihoods hang by a thread (read about it here) . For a business who has so often been criticised for the way it treats its farming suppliers this is a practical gesture with a strong message behind it. Quick thinking whoever at Tesco PR HQ had the idea.

Clothing stunt catches the eye

Leave a comment

MC900433800Hit (though it pains me to say it!)

 

Apparently people wearing animal print clothing have been banned from Chessington Zoo “because it is scaring the animals” in their new “African Zufari” area offering an “off road safari” experience. See article here.

From a PR perspective top marks to Frank PR for this media management stunt, which has caught the eye of news desks at national level – in some cases even using and crediting their photographs (see Daily Telegraph article here). Apparently they only got the Chessington contract at the start of this month (Article) so they have had to move rapidly to get the creative work done to organise and deliver this stunt.

With this bit of fun Frank PR have pulled the zoo right into the public eye at a time when zoos generally are probably not at the top of public awareness when it comes to leisure activities.

Of course, I should justify my comment that it “pains me to say” this PR stunt is a hit. There is no basis to the ruling – it really is a made up problem. Animals see the world with greater clarity than any of us and the fact that these “animal printed” humans will be sat in vehicles means they will never be seen as a threat to the wildlife – particularly in an environment entirely constructed by people.

I know from 20 years visiting Africa to view wildlife, that in the real, open spaces of the African plains, it is actually bright colours such as reds, yellows and blues that animals notice – and even then they only react when they see people on foot. Interestingly of the articles I’ve read generated by this stunt, only the BBC sought the views of other animal experts.

I suppose though that making anyone wearing red, yellow or blue wear the “grey overalls” supposedly being distributed at Chessington would have been an expensive proposition, and simply banning people for bad taste if they turned up in animal print clothing might have attracted the wrong sort of headlines.

Volunteer Britian?

Leave a comment

MC900433800HIT

 

Well done Lord Coe for highlighting the importance of volunteers and for calling on the nation to step up its efforts to encourage more people to give their time.

After the boom in enthusiasm for volunteering focused on the Olympics last year it appears the 70,000 “games makers” is not translating into a sea change in volunteer involvement in the UK ( Sunday Telegraph). But one of the key PR messages to come out of the Olympics has perhaps been missed.

The secret to encouraging people to give the time to good causes is not their recruitment – important and challenging though this is – but in ensuring that the people who do volunteer are appreciated and valued for their input and rewarded when they perform well. For too long volunteering has been seen by the Third sector as “free labour”, and the culture has been one of organisations taking rather than giving. This, in my opinion, is partly why volunteering in the UK never takes off in the way it could.

Traditionally there has been too much focus on the role of volunteers and too little on what the volunteers themselves get out of the experience. Certainly the Olympics couldn’t have happened without the volunteers – and whilst altruistic desire to see the games succeed will have been part of what made individuals come forward, the real drivers were much more personal factors, such as challenge, personal development, developing business opportunities, learning new skills and let’s not underplay it – sheer fun.

People working in the Third Sector responsible for persuading people to volunteer and for managing them when they do come forward need to switch their messaging focus from what’s in it for the charity or cause to what’s in it for the individual.

In 1961 JFK said “… ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Perhaps managers and communicators in the Third Sector could re-phrase this and say “Ask not what your volunteers can do for you – ask what you can do for them.

Budget no barrier to communication

Leave a comment

MC900433800HIT

 

Working with a small budget and volunteers is no barrier to PR success, and two examples of this close to my heart show this .

Now, it might seem like a bit of self promotion, but I can assure you I’m awarding a hit this week not for my role in the training, but for the attitude and approach of my colleagues in the Army Cadet Force, who, as volunteers with no previous PR experience are adapting and adopting techniques which just a few years ago would have been way beyond the budget of not for profit organisations.

First I’d like to highlight the work of a delegate on a recent training weekend who started with no video experience at all. A day and a half later this short film, now up on You tube is what she was able to create. It goes to show what can be achieved in a very short space of time with a little guidance (credit to my ACF PR Training team colleague Tony Lloyd) and a willingness to learn.

Where this then heads is my next PR Hit – Cleveland ACF. Their PR Officer, who recently attended our Social Media training weekend, has just placed a video of the cadets from his county achieving success at  athletics on Facebook . In just 24 hours the video had got more than 1000 views.

Together these successes show how easy it is now for volunteers to gain the basic skills and how significant free tools can be in giving not for profit organisations the reach traditionally associated with commercial concerns with big budgets.

 

 

Horses for Courses

Leave a comment

MC900433800HIT

 

Well done the Creation Trust based in Aylesbury for their clever use of text messaging ( See Guardian article here ).

One of the big temptations in the communications business is to be drawn to the latest, most shiny toys to get your message across. Yet often the old ways are the best.

In this case the Creation Trust used text messaging to promote their work with great success, a positive result they would not have obtained had they used other channels like Twitter or Pinterest perhaps.

Communication is all about understanding who you are trying to reach. Understanding your publics is not however just about shaping the messages, it’s also about identifying how to reach them. Often the old ways are the best and we can even extend this back to the tools we used before the digital wave broke over the industry. Events, face to face contact, leaflets and media work all still have a role to play. Certainly they may be used alongside digital tools, but it is the focus on the audience driving the mix of channels that is important.

Some of my chums in PR think I’m a dinosaur when I question their automatic focus on digital tools when formulating a communications strategy. It’s not that I am against the new tools we have at our disposal, but that I question whether they are always suitable for the target publics. We have choices and our choices should be based on who we are trying to reach, not what we enjoy or are excited by.

Horses for courses.

Older Entries