Selfies and the value of plenty of PR groundwork

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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”.

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Budget no barrier to communication

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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.

 

 

The image control cat is out of the bag

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A miss today, for not just Beyonce’s PR people, but the entertainment industry as a whole.

It seems she wasn’t impressed with some pictures taken of her at the Superbowl by fans which were subsequently shared online and her management tried to have the images removed – story here.

I think this reveals how out of touch the image manufacturers and maintainers in the industry actually are. They might be very adept at using social media as a push technology to carry brand messages and associated images to the world, but they clearly haven’t understood that the traditional concepts of image control and management no longer exist in the new world of user generated content.

Just as corporate bodies have had to accept that social media means they are no longer able to shape how they are perceived solely from the top, people in the entertainment industry are going to have to realise that they can no longer easily manufacture stars and impose them on an accepting public.

Like the corporates who “get it” perhaps in the medium to long term we will see more genuine and human talents coming to the fore at the expense of created “plastic personalities” emerging from the entertainment industry and a recognition that honest, open , truthful images build reputation far more than censorship.

We can but hope.

Social media in your business

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No hit or miss this time , just a link to a blog by Brian Solis – social media guru.

For a long time I have held out that social media are often used just because they are new platforms that excite the individual user, and the danger is that they just aren’t plugged in to the needs of the organisation or the people it needs to engage with to be a success.

So it was gratifying to see a tweet this morning from Brian Solis supporting this idea. He says the start point for using social media in an organisation has to be the business need first and foremost.

http://www.briansolis.com/2012/08/q-whats-your-best-advice-to-social-media-managers-a-stop-talking-about-social-media/

It’s well worth a look.

The Charity Sector and Social Media

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There was some good analysis and advcie in a piece in the Guardian this week on the use of social Media in the not for profit sector.http://www.guardian.co.uk/voluntary-sector-network/2011/apr/21/charity-sector-and-social-media

What I don’t think it caught however was how easy it is for the use of Social Media to be seen as an end in it’s own right and as something separate from all of the other channels an organisation has to use to reach out to all the audiences it wishes to engage with.

As the article says, the commercial sector has grasped the use of social media with both hands, and it suggests that the not for profit sector needs to do the same. I would agree, but with the warning that charities don’t simply copy the commercial sector. If they do they risk repeating the mistakes many big companies have made in establishing a presence in the world of social networks unconnnected to the other paths through which they interact with customers – from sales promotion to their CSR activities.

No doubt PR will work out how to integrate social media into the wider effort to build reputation just as the next new sexy way to communicate comes along.