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Archive for the ‘web 2.0’ Category

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Red Ed or Dead Ed: The Leader of the Opposition’s lack of communications nous has cost him dear

January 24, 2012 | Written by


The Leader of the Opposition has had a tough 2012 so far. Photo courtesy of EdMiliband's Flickr photostream.

The Leader of the Opposition has had a tough 2012 so far. Photo courtesy of EdMiliband's Flickr photostream.

Ed Miliband has had a Christmas to forget. A series of gaffes have fermented pre-Christmas critical rumblings into a particularly distasteful cocktail of dissent. Several unions, one unruly peer, two racial slip-ups and a distinctly average set of public performances have conspired to cause him undue woe. And a great deal of it is due to a seemingly confused communications strategy. Fishing in the dark has never been more relevant. If a PR agency had committed and presided over the sort of gaffes that have taken place since Christmas Day then you’d expect a swift termination of contract to be followed by PR Week advertising for accomplished crisis management agencies to send their credentials ASAP to The Rt Hon. Ed Miliband, House of Commons, SW1A 0AA.

Before Christmas he was holding it together, just about. It is well documented that he lacks certain presentation skills, but he does have strengths, which he was playing to: he comes across as impassioned and caring with a strong handle on policy. He may not appear a natural leader at times, but by accident or design this has actually troubled David Cameron. In the cauldron of PMQs David Cameron’s polished put downs have given rise to accusations of a bullying and angry style, which is not Prime Ministerial.

Playing to these strengths, putting in a solid lent term of public performances and solidifying his Cabinet and policy direction seemed like the natural order of business for 2012. Consolidate and build.

But, Team Miliband had an ‘edgy’ moment around Christmas. Rather than regrouping under the radar and picking holes in the Cameron machine, responding to a packed and difficult news calendar for the Government in Q1 2012, they decided to play David Cameron at his own game in the New Year. They wanted to artificially create an equivalent of Cameron’s ‘Conference moment’ to dispel any doubts about Ed.

The Miliband media team put out the news that the Leader of the Opposition was gearing up for a major speech (or relaunch) in the New Year and a string of public performances. They then prepped the media, told the Government to listen up and turned the spotlight over to Ed.

And sadly there has been no way back. Problems began when the much-vaulted major speech was delayed, lacked originality and the set up highlighted Ed’s oratorial weakness. Bit of a non-event, not helped by the BBC calling him David Miliband.

Oh dear, and now there was no way to turn off the spotlight. Shortly afterwards one of his own Peers called him c**p and Diane Abbot began a race row on Twitter. In an ironic twist Ed then mistweeted at exactly the wrong time, ushering in Blackbustersgate.


Ed Miliband's ill-fated tweet. Taken from his Twitter Account.

Ed Miliband's ill-fated tweet. Taken from his Twitter Account.


Now the media were on the hunt for blood, Miliband was weak, And the organised publicity just made things worse, he was ill-prepared for a Today Programme interview with John Humphries; asked an ill-advised question at PMQs, which backfired embarrassingly and he then decided to start a fight with the unions, who are feeling more militant than ever.

All of this at a time when the Government’s Health and Welfare Bills are struggling, one of their MPs was caught in a very public and embarrassing stag do controversy and Europe is on the brink. David Cameron may well still be chuckling. Miliband seems one slip-up away from finishing his act early and letting the final curtain fall.

If only Ed could go back a month. But sadly he has found out that 24 hours is a long time in politics and a month can be transformational.

And I don’t blame Ed. At a time when Nick Clegg alone has 7 special advisers each on £68,000 you feel that the Labour party should be able to turn out a stronger policy, strategy and communications team than they have. This team have made basic mistakes on all fronts: mistweeting; poorly researching questions for Prime Minister’s Questions; organising big set-piece public speeches, when Ed’s strengths lie elsewhere and choosing his nadir as the right time to attack the organisations who paid for his leadership campaign, helped him best his brother and have spent all autumn spoiling for a fight.

It is a sorry state of affairs and one that could surely be used as a ‘what not to do’ case study for many agencies. Ed Miliband, who by all accounts make a big impression when people meet him face-to-face needs some emergency communications help because If they thought he was in a hole before Christmas then 2012 has delivered a crater.

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Buy buy baby

April 5, 2011 | Written by

I was reading an interesting article from Charlotte McEleny this afternoon about the next steps for social commerce and it got me thinking about my general attitude to shopping online. With the proliferation of retailers embracing social commerce it seems more of a norm than a rarity when you go onto an online store and can interact with others, read reviews and share experiences etc. I would be interested to know however how many of us feel that social commerce really does make a difference to our shopping habits? At the end of the day, yes I read reviews for products online but I will still send an email round the girls at work or to my mum to get a final opinion before I buy. In fact I’m not sure I find the reviews online massively helpful at all – just confusing – as they all tend to contradict each other and I know far too little about these people to know if their intent in buying matches mine and therefore if our opinion on the product will be the same. Do you trust the views of a complete stranger when making a decision to buy or not to buy?


As Charlotte points out, what is missing in social commerce of today ‘is a human element’ – ‘If we can now watch The X Factor or The Only Way Is Essex together online and comment and discuss what’s going on live, why can’t I take my friends shopping?’. We need more than just a static review on a site – we need proper interaction. Recognising this, Dell’s global VP of online Manish Mehta told new media age last year that the company wanted to take the social aspects of high street shopping and recreate them online by letting people interact and have discussions in real time when buying products from Dell’s website.

Perhaps this is also where the new Facebook shops will prove their worth? One of the first companies to announce a fully transactional Facebook shop was Asos in January. With its new application users will be able to buy directly from a brand without leaving the ultimate online social destination that is Facebook.

So what do you all think? Have you been taken in by social commerce or are you waiting for other retailers like Dell to push the technology even further? Do reviews help or hinder your purchase decision? Any and all thoughts appreciated…..

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Facebook places: in their own words

August 19, 2010 | Written by

Facebook have released a video to explain the hows and wherefores of their new location-based service addition to the social network Godzilla. You could argue about whether this is sharing too much in one place or what kind of privacy car-crash Facebook will make out of location data but that is for a another time. Here’s the video.

This is cross-posted from my personal blog.

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From the Floor of the FDA Social Media Hearing

November 13, 2009 | Written by

I’m sure I’m not the only one waiting with anticipation to see what will come out of the current FDA Hearing on Social Media. The very fact that this meeting is taking place puts the FDA under pressure to issue some coherent guidance on how pharma companies can and should be engaging in dialogue with patients and physicians online and how to address the issues around adverse event reporting. We’re fortunate enough to have a colleague at the hearing and below is her update from yesterday’s session. The updates are also being posted

HealthieRForum Exclusive: From the Floor of the FDA Social Media Hearing

Nicole Preiss-Riley, Senior Vice President in Ruder Finn’s Healthcare practice, is onsite at the FDA hearing on social media.  Based on the sessions from the first half of the day, here’s what she has to report:

Presenters were asked to focus their remarks on five key questions:

1.     For what online communications are manufacturers, packers or distributors accountable?

2.     How can manufacturers, packers or distributors fulfill regulatory requirements in their Internet and social media promotion, particularly when using tools that are associated with space limitations and tools that allow for real-time communications?

3.     What parameters should apply to the posting of corrective information on Web sites controlled by third parties?

4.     When is the use of links appropriate?

5.     How should adverse event reporting be addressed online?

Thus far, presenters have selectively responded to questions rather than answering each one of the five as part of their respective comments – much of the discussion has focused on the unique character of social media and the value it provides to both providers and consumers.

It’s clear that the pharmaceutical and medical device companies are eager to work with the FDA to determine parameters for working within the social media sphere as well as a plan for implementing those guidelines.  However, the question has been raised repeatedly as to what product-related information companies should be responsible for conveying.

Much of the commentary has focused on moderated sites (i.e., WebMD) that have discrete editorial roles. What has not yet been addressed with any robust discussion is the broader social media landscape of bloggers and opinion-based Web sites.

How this type of content can or should be regulated has not been touched yet. One independent blogger who is scheduled to present at the hearing tomorrow said, “It’s been a good meeting so far.  Based on what’s been said, I hope the FDA will come up with guidance within the next year.”

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Mixing business and pleasure

November 13, 2009 | Written by

I have to admit, I was fairly surprised when I started my new job and a member of my team already knew what I’d been up to the previous weekend.  I had underestimated my online visibility, as do a lot of people, and could have jeopardised my job before I’d even started.  Luckily I lead a quiet life so no damage done…

The online distinctions between business and pleasure, once so definite, now seem to be blurring. With the announcement of a partnership between LinkedIn and Twitter, allowing users to share status updates across sites, the gap between individual social networks, and indeed our online personas, is being bridged.   

Even Google is getting in on the act, announcing deals with Facebook and Twitter to include their live feeds into searches.  I googled myself and although I’m quite far down the list (I’m not as popular as the other Laura Strong from London) I’m definitely on there.

I’m sure many of you will have heard the story of an employee ranting about her boss on Facebook, only to be publicly humiliated and sacked on their own news feed.  The Guardian has devised three rules to avoid social media catastrophes as ‘behaviour is very important in public and we all live public lives now’:

  • Don’t be rude or abusive about people, projects or a company.
  • Don’t post rumours or revelations – Twitter never forgets.
  • Think before you type – some things are better left private.

So what do you think?  Do you think the two should be kept separate?  Can they be kept separate or should we be more aware of how we are perceived online?

My tip: do as your mother says and mind your P’s and Q’s…

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Why politicos shouldn’t fight online

November 10, 2009 | Written by

I love the way new media and digital communications have become intertwined with political discussion. It will hopefully lead to a bright future of government, political debate, public interaction and general engagement. But It is important to remember, just because it is a public conversational tool, doesn’t mean you need to have a public conversation. People who use social media for reasons other than just saying hi to your friends, should be clever about it and aware of potential ramifications, especially people who are in positions of respect and power.

This was what David Cameron meant when earlier in the year he said that twitter could cause problems for MPs because tweets can be taken out of context or the MPs could get involved in conversations that normally they shouldn’t. These conversations are also permanent and can be dug up at any time.

It is with these comments in mind, over the past few days, I have been watching an argument between Kerry McCarthy MP, Labour Twitter Tsar and Shane Greer, the executive editor of Total Politics.  Both of these people are in positions of power and respect. A senior and respected Member of Parliament on one side and a journalist who has a vast number of followers and loyal readers and edits a magazine with no-particular party politic on the other. People follow what both of these individuals say with interest and they, as a people’s representative and as a member of the fourth estate respectively,  are in a position where it is important where they act and carry themselves properly.

But as you can see from this twitter conversation, things have become a bit out of hand. Remember this all started over what music people should like as a display of their political ideals.

I won’t go into detail about what each said, but to be sure, it has clearly been a case of misrepresentation by both parties. Kerry McCarthy is at fault because she took the bait. But what is concerning is she has taken the bait before as you can see from these conversations with Nadine Dorries MP. In this case, as the Labour Twitter Tsar, Kerry should know better.

Shane Greer is at fault because from what I read, he is being antagonistic from the start. Reacting to a reasonably irreverent comment from Kerry, Shane has gone overboard. The tweet that made Shane bite was “@wallaceme @shanegreer To use that well-worn political phrase, I’m not taking any lessons about Northern Ireland from you two. Or music.”

As you can see, Shane went into a diatribe about being from Northern Ireland and his time there which sounds awful. But if Kerry hasn’t met him or heard his accent and she is right, there is no reason for her to research Shane’s birthplace or personal history. She is also right to suggest it is fairly egotistical to suggest she should know his heritage and she is right to not apologise. He then proceeded to blog about it with gusto.

A spat between these two is fine, it happens. But when these two started off at each other, each others followers and supporters joined in and attacked each other. Together they produced this;

As I said, both of these people are in positions of power and respect. Arguments like this turn people off politics, getting involved at the local level and engaging. As you can see, it is a pack mentality, but that is politics, but sometimes, someone needs to be the adult.

This whole argument won’t have any severe ramifications. It won’t lead to resignations and won’t even make the news. But it turns people off. As I said, it is important that people use social media conversational tools wisely.

What are your thoughts?

Cross posted with my own blog.

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Can we really predict the next Twitter?

November 6, 2009 | Written by

PR week today takes a look at the “Five up and coming social media sites every PR person should know about” and asks the question, what is the new Twitter for 2010?

This analysis by 14 digital PR experts shows that Google Wave is the site set to be the biggest hit. Farmville, Posterous and location-based network are next, with the all new comment-augmented BBC website in fifth.

While these are all exciting developments in the social media world, are we really able to predict the extent to which these sites are likely to take off and how strongly we should work them into our PR strategies for 2010? Are any of them really set to be the next Twitter?

I think that no one could really have predicted the extent of the unprecedented rise of Twitter. If it hadn’t been for the high profile support that the site received – through things like the Obama presidency campaign and Ashton Kutcher’s activities, in addition to the vast number of celebrity tweeters sharing the ins and outs of their celebrity lifestyles – Twitter may never have taken off as a viable and valuable communications platform.

However, while I predict that evolution of what we already have is more likely to take off than innovations like Farmville next year, it is certainly important for us, as PR and communications experts, to be ahead of the game with social media. We will all now be keeping a close eye on these big 5 to see how they all pan out for 2010 so watch this space!

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The mother of digital parliaments

November 5, 2009 | Written by

The Internet has been changing every facet of modern life, even the mother of parliaments (at least to a certain extent anyway). An exact state of affairs at parliament would be tricky to gauge, as innovation seems to be happening in different places.

Examples include the recent guide to Twitter, published by Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which outlined how the micro-blogging service could be used to share policy information and engage the general public around issues of interest.

The main political parties have shown enthusiasm in adopting social media as well, although this hasn’t necessarily translated across to their respective Parliamentary Members where there is the more familiar range of adoption patterns from early adopters to laggards to complete technophobes. Pretty much every Member of Parliament and election candidate not contesting a safe seat has a web presence of some sort, whether that is through a party backed website, or through extensive social media branding. Most of these are run through constituency or Westminster offices however, there are few MPs who are leading the way in the digital space.

Amongst the social media front-runners are:

Apart from the lack of uptake of social media tools across the Parliament as a whole, the biggest area where there seems to be a lack of understanding about social media is that it is a conversation. Although Twitter lends itself nicely to sound bites there doesn’t seem to be that much political engagement going on. There also doesn’t seem to be that much awareness about the impact of what they can be talking about. For instance, one MP recently complained about the workload required to deal with constituents. In another case, an automatic news feed on Peter Hain’s Facebook page prominently displayed an embarrassing piece of coverage.

Peter Hain's Facebook Feed

Peter Hain's Facebook Feed

Despite the high profile digital campaign of Barack Obama, the US generally isn’t anywhere near the level of near universal digital and social media adoption that one would expect. For example only 29.5 per cent of US Congress members and Senators are on Twitter – 123 House members and 35 Senators out of a possible total of 535. .

But the fact is, the next election is going to be a hard fought campaign and this is likely to have a transformative effect on digital politics as a new generation of politicians come through.

So where is the opportunity in digital for parliamentary and public affairs campaigns?

The most obvious use of social media is for campaigning as it is easy to demonstrate support for a cause, through re-tweets or number of members in a Facebook group. Social media both facilitates and reveals groundswells of popular support. Nixon’s famous silent majority, are no longer silent or invisible to politicians.

For electoral candidates, Obama’s secret was always to tweet asks and Calls-to-Action and this should be harnessed by MPs or PPCs. There is no particular need for an MP to tweet about what they are having for breakfast, although the ‘inane’ tweets do personalise the tweeter so they can be beneficial.

But the key is, actively engage and converse with users online by asking supporters, party members and voters to do something. Come to my rally, get one friend to help deliver leaflets, donate £5 to the party, come knock on doors with me. Tweets like these that actively call for support and include the public are far more likely to help the candidate get elected.

This method of personalised engagement and Calls-to-Action can also be harnessed for out and out public affairs campaigns. It isn’t something that will transfer well to asking for support for a bank’s or defence company’s campaign, because the public will always be wary of sinister motives. But it will transfer brilliantly to campaigns surrounding NGOs, charities, patient groups, green and sustainability projects, local engagement and welfare organisations due to the need to rally support through calls-to-action.

A second and underrated factor is providing content for researchers. Like the rest of the UK, parliamentary researchers will often hit Google as their first point of call when finding out about a new subject and developing a point-of-view for their MP. Providing the freshest, most relevant content around a particular area, particularly if it has an industry rather than a specific corporate slant is one of the best ways to influence from a digital point-of-view.

There has been an increasing level of political social media analysis in the recent months. Tweetminister essentially aggregates tweets by Members of Parliament, as well as blogs on interesting issues surrounding communication and an open Parliament while the Hansard Society has recently published a report into the use of Facebook by MPs.

We would love to hear your views on the matter, so please feel free to leave comments.

Cross posted with my personal blog

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Ruder Finn Digital workshop – Engaging your communities through social media, and evaluating success

October 30, 2009 | Written by

A social media platform couldn’t be a more appropriate tool for organisations who seek to engage a community of supporters. Most tools are free, and give you the ability to frequently interact with your audience, and many not-for-profits are already off to a start with these communications channels. Many, however, find it challenging to get the most out of the myriad of tools on offer.

Knowing how important having an online presence is and how cost effective it can be for any organisation, even the smallest not-for-profit, we will be running a free digital masterclass on engaging your communities through social media, and evaluating success.

The workshop will give you practical and tailored advice on engaging your audiences through social media platforms and take you through the interpretation of analytics to enable you to effectively evaluate your activities and build on success.

It will be led by Ged Carroll, e-consultancy trainer and Director of Digital Strategies at Ruder Finn, with added insights from the specialist Global Health and Advocacy team who are experienced in driving digital campaigns for not-for-profit organisations.

When and where? 30 November 2009 from 9-10.30am in central London

There are some places remaining, so if you’re from a not-for-profit and you want to learn more about online community engagement, email to confirm a spot and we’ll send you location details.

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Google Wave

October 20, 2009 | Written by

The office that I work in has been abuzz about Google Wave and Becky has been gently badgering me to air my thoughts on it. I have been reluctant to give a definitive judgement on it, as I believe that like Twitter; it’s true utility may not become apparent until there are a critical amount of users on it. It used to be that device manufacturers created a gizmo but the software on the device was the killer application (for instance the Apple II and VisiCalc, the Macintosh and Aldus PageMaker or the iPhone and 60,000+ applications), with the web the utility and the killer application is the network of people on there.

Google Wave001

Google Wave does herald some changes in the web which will require consumers to alter their behaviour.But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves, what is Google Wave anyway? Wave is a personal communications and collaboration tool. Say what? Google has looked trying to innovate by bringing together elements of different tools which are currently used by the members of the public to varying degrees: e-mail, instant messaging, wikis, and social networks.

When you use it, the bits that are immediately obvious are the instant messaging platform and the ability to share video clips. The interface isn’t as easy to use as other Google products like GMail so its questionable whether it will eventually find widespread consumer adoption in its present form. It is interesting in that it shows Google’s thinking about web communications.

The biggest aspect from my perspective is the move from the real-time web to what I term the thought-time web. When you are typing via instant messenger you don’t display your message until you press return on a conversation. With Wave people can see your message as you type, if you’re like me you work out the structure of what you’re going to say in the dialogue box, editing as you go having this transparency on your message creation may not be that good an idea.

With Wave you would have to use another editing programme and cut-and-paste into the Wave dialogue box in order to get the same functionality in message writing. this means that they can jump in at any point in the conversation and it also means message trails will become less meaningful as you can’t see the order in which responses happen against each other in the same way as IM.

A secondary aspect to this is what I can transient data. Think about it in terms of these two hypothetical scenarios:

  • A vulnerable 12-year old is taunted by members of her class who write in a message of hateful language about their weight or colour and then cut-and-paste homework-related dialogue in over the top and hit the return key. The abuse happens in real-time with no apparent evidence that the child can point to in order to get aid from parent or school
  • A consumer is looking for information about a camera, the customer services representative types in the specification of the model that the consumer wants at a too-good-to-be-true price and then cuts and pastes and presses return on a completely different, less favourable offer for the same price. The consumer doesn’t have a leg to stand on

Contrast this with the current culture of email and Facebook where is there is an evidence or document trail that the victim can use for recourse. The social aspects of thought-time communications a la Google Wave haven’t been fully understood yet and society’s way of dealing with the challenges are likely to take years to iron out. This is cross-posted from my personal blog.

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