Digital Media, Hughes PR, Media, Public relations

20 years ago today…

Tim Hughes writes…

“It was 20 years ago today …” So go the lyrics to the Beatles song “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

The Beatles at a press conference

Twenty years on from establishing Hughes Public Relations, there are few practicing public relations professionals who would ever have known those words, let alone remember them. Similarly, they wouldn’t remember type-writers, teletext machines, and our industry’s reliance on couriers to deliver urgent news releases to clients for approval – and to media for coverage.

A lot has changed – for the better.

Over the past 20 years, I have seen the widespread adoption of mobile phones and mobile technologies (I look back and laugh at the brick phone I invested in when I started the consultancy in 1992!); the advent of the internet; the establishment of email as the instant global communication tool; the emergence of digital media including social media, citizen journalism and the delivery of instant, global news to our fingertips 24/7.

New technologies have brought many opportunities to the public relations profession. We have been able to lift our sights geographically and look after our clients’ global needs from one location; we can reach media around the world at the touch of a button; and demand for our services as ‘brand managers’ as a result of the instant transmission of news, the rapid escalation of issues and their exponential global spread has led to our services being more highly valued by business and government.

New technologies have also brought challenges. In 1992, I personally knew most of the journalists I dealt with; our clients’ marketplace lay largely within 20 kilometres of the office; and most just wanted to see themselves in the Adelaide media. Today, we are charged with delivering communication support to clients around the world; reaching audiences  who today don’t read newspapers, listen to radio or watch free to air TV but who instead glean their information and entertainment from the web, through social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and a myriad of special interest blogs and apps on their mobile phones and iPads.

The new global landscape has also placed far heavier responsibilities on the shoulders of professional communicators. Today, we are charged with managing the reputation (and value) of global brands in an unforgiving environment where instantly available information (or mis-information) can have a multi-million dollar positive or negative impact on the value of shares or sales.

Twenty years on, the fundamentals of business communication haven’t changed.

  • Reputation (or brand) is vitally important to organisational success;
  • Honesty (as opposed to “spin”), delivery of the “promise”, and transparency remain fundamental to a positive reputation;
  • Effective communication strategies (tied irrevocably to business strategy) – and their timely delivery – are essential tools in promoting and protecting ‘brands’ in an increasingly crowded, competitive and ‘fickle’ global market.

Today, however, developing and delivering these strategies is far more complex – and that’s where experience counts.

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy in Adelaide with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital and social media, community engagement, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.

Hughes PR, Media training, Social media

What Woody Harrelson’s Reddit disaster can teach us about social media

Today I wanted to touch on another “social media gone wrong” story – but this time it highlights personal branding, not company branding (although it could be argued that it ties into both). This social media stuff-up breaks two of the top “rules” in social media – rules which are vital to follow for social media success.

The interaction in question occurred on a website we haven’t discussed before here on the Hughes Public Relations blog, Reddit. I wasn’t quite sure how to describe Reddit, because it is a lot of different things, but Wikipedia has a nice concise description: “Reddit is a social news website where the registered users submit content, in the form of either a link or a text ‘self’ post. Other users then vote the submission ‘up’ or ‘down’, which is used to rank the post and determine its position on the site’s pages and front page.”

Woody Harrelson Rampart memeReddit’s community is passionate, loyal, funny, and they have a lot of “in” jokes.

A unique part of Reddit is “AMA” – which stands for “ask me anything”. People head to AMA to talk about their unique stories – and anyone who has registered with the site can ask a question in the hope that it will be answered by the originator of the post. The posts are varied, anything from people talking about interesting home renovations, talking about their inter-cultural relationships, users answering questions about physical disabilities they have, and everything in between.

In the past, a couple of celebrities have done an AMA. Earlier this week, in fact, actress Ali Larter did an AMA which was well received by the Reddit community.

And then you get celebrities who might have heard that Reddit is a good place to reach a lot of people, people who are likely to belong to the right target audience for their latest project, and so these celebrities decide, unsurprisingly, to use Reddit as a communications channel to promote said project.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. Comedian Louis CK did it the right way. He did an AMA which promoted his new project, but he was open to whatever the Reddit community threw at him. The questions were obviously answered by him, he spent a lot of time on it, and he didn’t shy away from any questions that were upvoted by the community for him to answer.

The wrong way? Actor Woody Harrelson showed us the wrong way to do an AMA. He told people he only had an hour to answer questions, and when someone questioned him on that, he told them “my time is valuable“. From what I can see, he answered a total of 15 questions out of thousands of comments that Redditors were putting to him. Answers were brief and for the most part, referred right back to the new movie he was promoting, Rampart.

You can read about how the full disaster went down on sites like Mediaite and the New York Observer, but for me I just wanted to focus on two very important social media lessons that we can all learn from this example.

Number one is the importance of listening to a community before diving in. You’ve got to learn about how it works, the etiquette, the way people use the platform. You don’t use LinkedIn the same way you use Twitter and you don’t use Twitter the same way you use Facebook. Each community has its own set of rules and ways to communicate. Reddit’s no different. I’ve been reading Reddit for many months now and I’m still working out how the community ticks!

Number two is something people can spot from a mile away – lack of authenticity. If you don’t show the social media community your true self, they’ll soon see right through it. Pretending to be something you’re not will get you nowhere.

These rules aren’t just for people selling a project, a product or an idea – they’re for all users of social media.

If you follow rule number one, you’ll soon see that the Reddit community don’t have any tolerance for inauthentic interactions by people who just want to sell them something. Watch out, you could find yourself created into a meme* before you know it!

*Don’t know what a meme is? A whole world of Internet sub-culture is about to open up to you. Start here.

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy in Adelaide with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital and social media, community engagement, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.

Facebook, Hughes PR, LinkedIn, Social media

Beware the perils of Address Book Importing

Are you unwittingly spamming your contacts?

Hayley Burwell writes…

Ever received an odd friend recommendation on Facebook and wondered how and why Facebook thought you knew each other? Or received a LinkedIn invitation to join someone’s professional network even though they work in a completely different industry and you can’t remember when or why you would ever have done business with them?

The chances are that you, or someone you’re connected to, however loosely or however long ago, has fallen victim to a seemingly innocuous technique called Address Book Importing (ABI).

ABI lies behind the majority of social networks’ ‘friend finding’ tools and any other platforms that rely on email correspondence such as competition entry or newsletter pages. If used carefully these tools are often an incredibly useful and time-efficient way of getting your addresses all in one place and creating and boosting online connections.

But, as always, there’s a catch.

I discovered the true power of ABI this weekend in an unfortunate incident that resulted in LinkedIn sending an invitation to everyone I had ever had contact with, however fleetingly, since I first entered the digital world more than ten years ago. These unwitting victims ranged from the just plain odd, like the hippy yoga studio I visited once on a whim, to the professionally inappropriate, like the top personnel at organisations where I used to be just a lowly work experience student, to the toecurlingly embarrassing like an ex-boyfriend….and his mum.

By clicking ‘yes’ to importing and inviting my contacts, I had given LinkedIn permission to delve not only into my current Gmail account but right across all my other online accounts and my desktop in order to send out invitations to every email address it could find, at lightning speed, before I had a chance to review them. 642 in all.

To make it worse, I then discovered that to prevent LinkedIn from spamming these contacts with constant reminders to connect to a virtual stranger, simply bulk deleting these invitations wasn’t enough. Instead I had to click ‘withdraw’ on every single invitation. One by one. (That’s one Sunday evening that I’ll never get back!)

What makes such a situation even trickier is that by allowing social networks access to all of your contacts, you’re also giving them the green light to make connection recommendations for all of those people too. This could be disastrous for those working in fields where broadcasting your professional or personal connections is highly inappropriate, such as journalists with confidential sources, or health professionals and patients, or those working on projects that are yet to be launched publicly.

And finally, there’s the moral and privacy aspect to consider. Why should I have the right to allow a third party website to store someone else’s email address and to start interacting with that person without first getting permission from that individual? In the worst case scenario, is it my fault if that person’s address gets hacked or spammed as a result?

I hope this tale doesn’t detract attention from the wealth of benefits LinkedIn and other similar sites offer because I still consider them to be a fantastic way to network within your industry, to connect with people wherever they are in the world and to discover training and career opportunities that may otherwise have passed you by.

But what I’ve learnt from this experience is that whenever you are asked to upload or import your contacts by any website, no matter how innocent or helpful the request appears, you need to do your homework to understand exactly what you are permitting that site to do with those addresses and over what timeframe. Yes, it’s tedious, but it’s always a good idea to read the organisation’s FAQs and privacy policy first before clicking ‘yes’ to any request that involves personal data.

And if you’re still in any doubt, then the best approach is to make a cup of tea and send your invitations the old fashioned way, one by one.

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy in Adelaide with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital and social media, community engagement, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.