Corporate response in good taste

Being prepared for the unexpected is an asset within every marketing team, but being prepared to have your brand (or your client’s brand) used to express a political position is not something you would expect.

Last week however, that is precisely the challenge presented to Wrigley’s America when Donald Trump Jr. chose to use Skittles to visually demonstrate an analogy about the Syrian refugee crisis.

picture2The tweet and its associated image (which has since been removed) stated bluntly: “If I offered you a bowl of Skittles and told you three were poisoned, would you take a handful?”, garnered nearly 30’000 mentions by that evening. The majority of responses, however, were (thankfully) disgusted by the comparison and poked fun at Trump’s campaign.

In contrast, Denise Young‘s response as Wrigley America’s VP of Corporate Affairs showed the company took the matter seriously, issuing the following statement.

“Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

– Denise Young, VP of Corporate Affairs, Wrigley’s America.

Not only was this thoughtful statement quickly shared by Wrigley’s team, but its humble avoidance of getting caught up in any kind of political drama is a credit to how occasions like these should be handled, and likely increased the public’s trust and respect of the brand.

Props to you Wrigleys. Excuse me whilst I go buy some Skittles.

EDIT:

To reflect the fact that ‘The Donald’ still hasn’t quite learnt his lesson regarding including brand references in his comments, we’ve been graced with this gem from TicTacUSA.

picture1 For all those who haven’t seen the latest video release showing Trump claiming in 2005 that he’s “got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case [I] start kissing her,” (referencing Days of Our Lives actress, Arienne Zucker), continuing to say, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet.”

Gross.

 

 

Hootsuite Certification: What? Why? and How?

So last weekend, I took the plunge and – in between bouts of frantically revising for my final research exam this Monday (which I really shouldn’t have bothered stressing about as it was super straightforward) – I finally got around to completing my Hootsuite Professional Certification. YAY! With that in mind, I thought it might be an idea to give a bit of a breakdown as to what Hootsuite is and what value a certification in it might (or might not) have within a creative career.

Hootsuite Certified Professional

So what IS Hootsuite?

Hootsuite is a social media management system that collates the feeds of all your social media profiles, such as Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, WordPress, Reddit etc.), and integrates them all within one handy dashboard.

Whether its your Twitter ‘mentions’, your Facebook comments, or your Instagram feed, you can have multiple streams that are personalised to whatever areas you are interested in keeping on top of. Plus, when you upgrade to Hootsuite Pro, you’ll also get access to ‘Bulk upload’ features, the ability to filter your feed by your user’s Klout score, AND the ability to analyse your data to give you the info on how to increase your followers, your content’s reach and your engagement with your community.

How do you get certified?

Honestly? It’s pretty simple. All you need to do is upgrade to Hootsuite Pro, Sign up to Hootsuite university (which is free with the Pro setup, go through the video lessons in ‘Getting started’ and ‘Advanced Tactics’, and then take the 40 question, multiple-choice exam. Super straightforward and super easy!

Why bother?

Although I am without doubt more than a bit of a social media addict, and (to be perfectly honest) this certification is incredibly easy to pass (in part because half the questions seemed a tad too ‘self-congratulatory’ about their work), I wanted to be certified in part because A) it gave me the opportunity to learn how to apply the professional features of a REALLY commonly used tool in PR, Advertising and Marketing, and B) it gave me the reassurance that I was using the software properly.

Would I recommend?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: It depends.

On the one hand, if you’re already working in a professional role where using Hootsuite is a daily part of your role, then getting professionally certified might be a bit of an overkill as you’re most likely going to pick up what you need to know merely through doing your job.

On the other hand though, if you’re still a student, or are yet to secure a job where social media plays a part, its always good to have another skill box to tick – especially when you can take advantage of the free trial to get it done. The (only) downside of this however, is that once you downgrade/stop paying for Hootsuite Pro, you lose your place within their ‘Certified Professionals’ database. Whether this is an issue for you however is up to you. For me, I’d hope my work would demonstrate my knowledge more than having my name in a database – though admittedly that is nice to have.

Do you smell what “The Rock” has been cooking?

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Source: David Shankbone (Flickr)

When it comes to personal branding, some get it and some don’t. Some are branding masterminds; falling easily into their brand ‘personas’. Some need a team to help them with branding decisions, something which, by the way, is perfectly okay – it’s what we are here to help with after all.

And – so there’s no doubt – when we’re talking about ‘electrifying’ personalities, we’re talking about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – my childhood (and admittedly adulthood) celebrity crush. Successfully transforming himself from a one-time Pro Wrestler to “The Great One”, “The Rock” not only branched out from the esteemed ranks of the WWE elite but, in recent years, has become an undisputed Hollywood heavyweight.

It would be fair to say a big part of what is driving “The Rock”‘s ‘brand’ is his social media presence. After all, what with 49.5 Million Facebook ‘likes’, 16.7 Million Instagram followers, and 8.8 Million Twitter followers; there’s no denying the figures regardless of whether they’re ‘fitness fanatics’, ‘film afficionados’, or one of the Millions AND MILLIONS of fans of the good ol’ “People’s Champ”.

Despite being a late adopter due to his claim of being “a very private

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It’s not just wine that ages well Source: Ifran.nasir05 (Flickr)

person and therefore unsure how to engage”, Dwayne’s approach perfectly encapsulates the concept that “Organisations don’t tweet, people do.”

When he finally took the plunge and opened his Twitter account, he claimed (according to Social Media Expert, Amy Jo Martin) that his biggest goal was “just to be authentic, so that people know that when their tweet alert goes off on their device, that it’s coming directly from my hands.”

It is this – his hands-on approach – that is unmatched in today’s world of celebrity. Nobody speaks on his behalf. Ever. Dwayne’s success is argued by Ms Martin, as being due to his being “fully and personally committed to delivering value to his audience”, by using platforms to “Motivate, Encourage and Entertain”.

By constantly delivering value when, where, and how his fans wanted it, ‘The Rock’ was able to establish a two-way, dynamic relationship which consistently increases his personal reach (generating a larger following) and deepens the loyalty of his existing followers’ (through stimulating greater engagement)—two goals of every business on the planet.

With that in mind, can you smell what ‘The Rock’ is cookin’? Because whatever it is? It’s something we should ALL be getting a taste of.

Are we oversharing on social media? #SOSM2015

Ever since the rise of social media, there has been a flare in stories of people being fired over their tweets, over their Instagram pictures, and over their Facebook posts.

A glance at the social networking privacy experiment weknowhwatyouredoing.com demonstrates the huge number of people who happily and publicly express their love for drugs, their hungover state or their hatred for their boss. Below is one of many examples (this one being particularly popular) which I feel clearly demonstrates both the power of social media – and the dangers of not being careful about what you post – to great effect.

Facebookoops

The rest is, as they say, history, ending (as you can see) with the swift firing of the employee in question.

Being online seems somehow to spur us to share aspects of our lives we would otherwise keep to ourselves but, until recently, few have looked into the reasons why.

Last year however, Jennifer Golbeck, Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland, outlined six reasons for our over-sharing and occasionally risky online behaviour as part of a feature for Psychology Today.

Firstly, “[People] begin to disassociate their online persona with their offline persona,” wrote Golbeck. This ‘Anonymity’ of course decreases the individual’s perceived risk of posting something they’d normally not say. This could be used for good reasons, such as for the pursuit of advice regarding a personal issue or concern on Reddit using a throwaway account (one which cannot be clearly linked to an offline individual), or for bad, as in the case of the rising number of social ‘Trolling’ cases, whereby an individual uses an online persona to harass and belittle someone else – often a celebrity, politician or public campaigner. Feminist cultural critic, Anita Sarkeesian, for example, was subject to death threats after releasing a new ‘Tropes VS Women in Video Games’ episode titled ‘Women as background decoration, part 2‘ last August.

This anonymity feeds into both Golbeck’s second reason of ‘Invisibility’, which allows people to feel they can say things because “the other person (or people) aren’t looking at the poster”; and third reason of ‘Filling in the other person’, as “missing verbal cues like tone and delivery as well as body language causes people to perceive the conversation as somehow “less real.”

Similarly, her fourth reason for oversharing also centres on the individual’s belief that ‘It’s not real’ as she hypothesises that “If we feel like we aren’t interacting in a real environment where there are real implications from our runawayactions, it can lead us to drop inhibitions.”

This belief can be exacerbated by the ‘Delayed communication’ of social media. Although electronic communication is incredibly fast (cue the term ‘instant messaging’), there is still opportunity to delay conversations, even if it’s just by pausing before responding.

This of course can result in lowered inhibitions as we may feel more free to overshare things that are personal because we can post it and then leave it, dealing with the reactions later. I know this was something I was personally guilty of during my teenage years, particularly when expressing my feelings to someone I liked.

FWhat I think we are aware of but choose to ignore is that everything we post on social media (and online in general) is added to our permanent digital record. Nothing is ever truly erasable from the internet and the last thing we would ever want (or ever consider for that matter) is that what we offhandedly post when we’re young (and perhaps a little bit stupid?) might come back and bite us in the butts when it comes to finding (and keeping) a job. Do we really want our personal brand (as discussed in this previous post) to be cluttered with depressing details of our past break-ups? or rammed with photo after photo of our drunken nights out?

inally, Golbeck proposes that social media’s perceived ‘Lack of authority’ plays a key part in why people might disassociate themselves from their online identity, causing them to blurt out something they would never would in real life, say, in front of an authority figure.

What I think we are aware of (but choose to ignore) is that everything we post on social media (and online in general) is added to our permanent digital record. Nothing is ever truly erasable from the internet and the last thing we would ever want (or ever consider for that matter) is that what we offhandedly post when we’re young (and perhaps a little bit stupid?) might come back and bite us in the butt when it comes to finding (and keeping) a job.

Do we really want our personal brand (as discussed in this previous post) to be cluttered with depressing details of our past break-ups? Do we really want future employers to see that during the years we were attending university (and beyond) our profiles are rammed full with photo after photo of our drunken nights out?

I certainly don’t!

Anyway, there certainly seems to be a lot of advice online about how to stop oversharing. To me though, it boils down to two key thoughts:

  • What does this post say about me?
  •  Do I really want people to be reading this?

I picture not only my mother reading it, but my partner, my boss, even just my friends. I picture meeting someone for the first time and their already knowing me because of something I’ve posted online, and their subsequent perception of me because of it. This could be great if they knew me from this blog, for example, or even from my radio appearances, but from a seemingly innocuous Facebook post or Tweet that I’ve probably forgotten I even posted? I’d rather not.

When you think ahead (particularly when you think of the worst case scenarios), oversharing becomes pretty scary, and what becomes scary is therefore pretty easy to avoid.

#GE2015. Britain’s ‘Social Media Election’

Sixty years since the 1955 ‘Television election’, 2015 is looking to be the year in which social media platforms will play a decisive role in reaching Britain’s electorate.

Although Marketing Magazine reports that the Conservatives are expected to “outspend Labour 3:1, opting for traditional media”, Labour is putting more emphasis on door-to-door canvassing due to Miliband’s desire to have “4 million face-to-face conversations”. This means that despite less financial spend, Labour is equally more likely to be harnessing the influence and engagement potential of digital and social platforms.

This I think has been perfectly demonstrated during tonight’s Sky/Channel 4 Leader debate between PM David Cameron and Labour leader, Ed Miliband, which generated a considerable amount of simultaneous discussion across Twitter via the amazing – if a tad long – hashtag #Battlefornumber10.

Tweets ranged from the tongue-in-cheek:

To the thoughtfully considered:

To the frustrated outrage in response to the behaviour of Kay Burnley and Jeremy Paxman:

The vital role of social media within politics is becoming ever more widely accepted, and now it is becoming increasingly obvious that whichever party is first to develop and implement a convincing social media strategy will have a distinct advantage this upcoming May. Sites such as Facebook have already been used successfully in the US as a way to engage with – and gather information from – potential voters, and in the UK, 24million people have signed up to the service. This of course gives political parties a pool of voters from which to fish (or more accurately target and engage) on a more personal and responsive level than anything offered via traditional forms.

According to some however, social media is “massively overrated”. Richard Huntington, group chief strategy officer at Saatchi & Saatchi, argues that “It’s great at preaching to the converted and distributing leaders’ speeches or policy points, but political messaging rarely escapes its bubble, unless it’s very amusing.” Personally I think I’d disagree with this.

Although ‘amusing’ posts and tweets (particularly tongue-in-cheek satire) create increased ‘talkability’ online (thus enhancing a post (and brand’s) potential reach), I think this view doesn’t take into consideration the age old adage that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.

I mean, it’s no real coincidence that only 55% of MPs in the safest seats use Twitter compared to nearly 90% of MPs in the most marginal seats. Being in a ‘safe’ seat erases the need for an MP to engage in a two-way conversation with their electorate – which I honestly think is to the detriment of the political sphere as I’m wholeheartedly a supporter of the ways that engagement and communication builds trust and brand loyalty.

Personally, I think a multi-pronged/integrated campaign approach will work best. Combine the power of Ad agencies which deliver strong, strategic messages, with the considerable influence and attention generated by public relations, as well as the personalisation and responsiveness allowed by digital and social platforms, and I think you’re/your brand is in with a winning recipe for increased engagement, trust and loyalty from your audiences.

Overall I think tonight has given me a lot to think about…

I was planning on dedicating a considerable part of my dissertation this year to analysing @Nick_Clegg’s Twitter use in the month prior to the election using a range of frameworks, but I have to say that tonight’s debate raises a new potential focus…

Do I continue looking at the influence of (and need for) trust within political (ie. the Liberal Democrats) brands, or….

do I look at the role of and way that social media is being used in the run up to the election….

Social Media: How lowering the partisan filter changed political communication forever

Since the early 2000’s, and the explosive development of social media platforms, the Internet has become a new dimension of the public sphere “to which all citizens should have access”, according to Habermas, 1989, as “a forum for the formation of public opinion.” Part of the attraction of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is arguably that that the ‘average’ person – being someone with little or no advanced computer skills – can be successful using them to generate content.

contentContent – being anything from a 140 character ‘tweet’ on the online social network ‘Twitter’, to a video of puppies uploaded to ‘YouTube’ (a video content distribution forum created in 2005) – can not only be created easily, but can be accessed with something as simple as a smartphone and can be easily linked between different web-pages, making it one of the most efficient and versatile forms of mass communication.

Henry Giroux, an American cultural critic and one of the founding theorists behind the concept of critical pedagogy, best summarised the impact of the development of social media when he said:

The Internet, in all its variety, has effectively re-constituted – especially amongst young people – how social relationships are constructed; and how communication is produced, mediated and received. Under such circumstances, state power becomes more porous and there is less control and regulation as to what is said. Text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the internet have given rise to a reservoir of political energy that poses a new relationship between the new media technologies, politics, and public life.”

Suffice to say that the influence of social media is making huge changes in combating the issue of political apathy by providing new ways to stimulate engagement in politics through allowing politicians and political parties to communicate faster (and in a more targeted manner without the need of mass media) with potential voters, and vice versa.

No longer can it be said that the traditional forms of media communications have “significant influence over voting behaviour at election time” (Joyce, 2010), as the rise in popularity and diversity of social media has allowed what is known as ‘the partisan filter of politics’ to be lowered, thus increasing the range of political parties and ideals available to be disseminated by the public. This changing face of political campaign marketing has been seen on both sides of the Atlantic, but most of all in the 2008 Presidential Election campaign of (now President) Barack Obama, whose use of social media raised over half a billion dollars in online donations, and labelled that year as the first real “social media election”.

Obama’s embracing of social media platforms is largely thought to be a part of his appeal, and his digitally savvy campaign strategy is argued as being one of the key reasons he was able to take his seat in the White House. But, his engagement didn’t just stop once he achieved office. Instead, during his 2012 re-election campaign Obama averaged 29 tweets per day (compared to Mitt Romney’s 1 tweet per day) which, since 2008, has spurred his Twitter following to have grown from approximately 100’000 to 19 million, and his Facebook fanbase from 2 million to 28 million.

obama

Here in the UK, social media has had a similarly profound effect on our political sphere, quickly becoming a vital campaign platform that is re-shaping the way elections are won and lost, how policy is made, and how people get involved in formal and informal politics. Social media strategies by political parties however vary greatly in their approaches, from single-issue campaigns to established political party Facebook accounts with strict control over the content.

What they have in common though, is the idea of a direct, free and easy involvement (or engagement) with the public via the publication and promotion of regular updates and information as well as the active participation of members. Party leaders and their MPs, for example, now commonly have Twitter accounts, giving them the ability to reach their advocates and the general public within a matter of seconds through regularly posted messages or purchased, promoted advertising.

multistepmodel

Additionally, social media has become a leading aspect in the development of the multi-step model of communications, giving reporters and other social influencers the opportunity and platforms to voice their opinions as often and loudly as they like as they record, disseminate and analyse every detail of the UK political sphere, creating a 24/7 news cycle.

The downside of this however is that it has inadvertently given rise in media coverage and popularity of previously socially frowned upon radical right-wing parties, such as the English Defence League and the UK Independence party, who have employed social media to rapidly grow and create a significant political and social impact over the past few years.

The Oxford Internet Survey shows a very definite shift toward online political activism, with the percentage of people who signed an online petition doubling to 14 % between 2007 and 2011 compared to that of those doing this offline falling from 20% to 18% within the same time-frame. Recent research by Demos into the Facebook groups of radical right-wing parties also showed that members and online supporters of these groups are particularly active in comparison to the average ‘fan’, with around 2/3 voting for that party in the last general election, and 1/4 having been involved in a demonstration or strike within the last year – a figure considerably higher than the national average.

One potential reason for this has been argued that online political participation increases individuals’ political efficacy (the confidence they have in feeling they can influence politics). This is something which has been shown to have a strong correlation within research by the Oxford Internet Institute, which suggests that those with low political efficacy are less likely to participate overall in engaging in politics, and when they do participate, it is entirely offline (10% offline to 0% online). This is compared to 60% of internet users with high political efficacy participating politically online.

Personally, I love the way that social media allows not only better engagement with political parties and politics in general, but also a greater scrutiny (and mockery) of MPs and their views. Twitter for example is a common tool in this with, for example, Conservative MP Karl McCartney being left red-faced last year after being caught ‘favouriting’ an image of a naked and tied-up woman with a pillow over her face by the Labour candidate he was standing against in the next general election.

PoliticalOops

Understandably, Mr McCartney quickly explained the situation: He’d been hacked, as he “doesn’t use the ‘fav[sic] button”… despite having a total of 56 ‘favourited tweets’ in the above screenshot…. Methinks that was some quick (albeit not very logical) thinking.