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”.

Horses for Courses

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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.

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.

There’s nothing new in the world of PR

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Today’s hit is a bit of research a friend passed to me about social networking from Brian Solis.

http://www.briansolis.com/2011/10/social-medias-impending-flood-of-customer-unlikes-and-unfollows/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+briansolis+%28Brian+Solis%29

It strikes me the Social Networking bubble may be reaching its popping stage for commercial use. This blog by new media guru Brian Solis reveals the emerging limitations to the “click on like” “become our friend” culture of most social networks that means organisations may be getting far less benefit than they hoped.

But should we be surprised?

Another top guy from the new media world, Paul Adams of Google published this slidshare presentation a few months back.

http://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-network-v2#

As someone who has always advocated the importance of keeping people at the centre of our thinking when we try to communicate on behalf of organisations, this really struck a chord with me.

He states “New technology doesnʼt change how our brains work. Social networks are not new. For thousands of years, people have formed into groups, built strong and weak relationships with others, formed allegiances, and spread rumor and gossip.
The emergence of the social web is simply our online world catching up with our offline world. As technology changes the tools we use to communicate, we still use the same behavior patterns that we evolved over those thousands of years.”

What I take from both of these pieces of comment is; focus on the people you want to engage with, before you focus on the means of engagement and the technology you can employ.

We’re always guilty in PR, marketing and advertising of fetishising technology, we’re drawn to the new and shiny gizmos of communication when what we should first consider are human factors that are many millenia old.