Right Messages + Right Spokesperson = Audience Engagement

So let’s talk a bit about messaging and spokespeople and audience engagement.

A recent commercial radio news bulletin, here in the Emerald City, concerning the renewal of a corporate sponsorship of a leading entertainment venue.

An opportunity, with the right messages and delivery, to enhance the general perception of a company, and get people on board.

Include detail, avoid buzzwords

The spokesperson talked about transforming the sponsored building into a ‘smart venue’. This may well be a thing, and it may well be something that can be delivered – but without any explanation, it’s a lost opportunity to connect with the audience. Then there was ‘improving customer experience’. Without specifics, why should anyone care?

It is too easy to substitute a shorthand term for the real message. ‘Smart venue’, when we mean a building that can tell you where things are, tell you how long the queue for the ladies’ loo is and allow you to pre-order two hot dogs and four pints via an app on your smartphone. ‘Improving customer experience’ when we mean discounted gig tickets, a chance to meet the band and 4G in the mosh pit.

Messages are the detail that gets people interested, draws them in, makes them want to be involved. In this case, however, both key points sounded like buzzwords from an approved list, drawn up because research shows they’re what the customer wants to hear.

Suitable spokespeople, not senior spokespeople

The spokesperson had clearly been briefed, and did a workpersonlike job, but sounded uncomfortable and didn’t have the detail that would make the story live. Agreeing a spokesperson is not easy – often simple seniority carries the day.

An alternative approach is to establish a panel of ‘subject matter experts’ who take the spokesperson role when it’s their area.

Another is to spread the responsibility – get agreement that a handful of senior people should alternate as spokesperson, thus limiting the exposure of any one in particular.

And there’s selection of opportunity – the less able spokesperson gets the less pivotal gigs.

Training to tell stories

In the real world, of course, this doesn’t always work. The media want to speak with the CEO, and no-one else will cut it. Or maybe the news story is about a ground-breaking use of technology and only the CTO will do.

Which is where, of course, the message and the spokesperson should be managed in tandem.

Messages are not buzzwords, and a spokesperson is not someone reading buzzwords off a script. Training and rehearsal – above and beyond a simple ‘briefing’ – help the spokesperson to build their own story around the messages.

Telling a story that they’re comfortable with not only brings the message to life, but allows the spokesperson to be genuine in their delivery.

It’s the combination of interesting detail and genuine delivery, by someone who’s comfortable with the material, that creates audience connection and propensity to engage.

Not just me, then………

Good morning, dear blog snorkellers all, and welcome to the bloggy equivalent of diving for meal stars in a tank full of spiders and cockroaches but, thankfully, without Ant and Dec. For those of the faithful that haven’t got a clue what just went down there, it’s a knowing and thus quite irritating reference to the current expression of the Great British zeitgeist, ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ only, of course, they’re not and everyone (secretly) wants them to stay there. Especially Nadine Dorries and Helen Flanagan, two people without whom I am absolutely certain the world would continue on its merry way, not in the least bit troubled by their absence.

So, you must be whispering amongst yourselves, ‘why has he called us here’ – on a day like today, as we barrel headlong into a gripping British winter. Well, since you ask, it’s for reasons social mediaeval, trotters mine and something that you may be interested in persuing yourselves. It is this – see – an article by one Charlie Brooker, reproduced here by linkery to t’Guardian newspaper of this parish, without so much  as a ‘by its leave’ or, indeed, permish from Brooker himself. I do hope he’s not overly bothered and decides that it’s a) too much faff and b) uneconomical to get all McAlpine on my ass. As the Mercans might say if they knew who McAlpine is and were as able to bend the English language to their will as I am.

I’m in agreement with this train of thought because it suits me to be so. Anyone who knows me will know I’m not a great fan of t’social, and this article posits that “Like the wheel, social media is another invention that is starting to resemble more of a millstone than a breakthrough.” It also suggests a few simple rules to solve a problem like the internet. Unlikely, you may say. P*ssing in the wind, you may say. Important, I say, and eminently necessary as we spiral headlong into a digital despond where, OMG, everyone is LOL, or worse, ROFL, or even, at the extremes of society, RAOTFLMFAO.

I think it’s code for ‘I’m a Luddite, Get Me Out Of Here!’ And I’m waiting for my request to be granted.

Some More Thoughtful Social Media Commentary

You know me, not much of a socio-mediavelist on the whole – but, still, I bet you thought I’d gone a bit Southern (for my friends from the United States and America, ‘southern’ in this context means ‘effeminate’, not ‘toothless, hairy, armed and smelling of bourbon’) (and for my UK fans, yes, I am a southerner, so it is perfectly alright for me to use the word ‘southern’, as it is not offensive. In the same way I could use the word ‘gay’, if I wanted to) (which would be offensive) when I stopped ranting about t’social and how it represents a direct road to hell for civilsation as we know it.

Anyway, rumours of my descent into southernness have been greatly exaggerated, as demonstrated by this article from that stalwart bulwark of editorial honesty (on matters communication), Communicate Magazine. I cannot tell you how much I echo the sentiments in this article – not all of them, obviously, there is some very Southern thinking contained within – and how I am in complete agreement with the school of thought that says social media are completely irrelevant. (OK, that’s not EXACTLY what it says, but near enough as makes no difference. To my mind.)

I also admire the (again, to my mind) extremely clever way that one of the authors – the one in the right, obviously, the one on the side of truth and justice – has designated social media ‘SM’, which, of course, is simply shorthand for a very Southern practice indeed.

Yes, I am wholly in favour of one half of this article.

The one that I wrote, clearly.

 

London 2012 – The Final Tickety Straw

‘Morning all. Sun’s shining in old London Town – clearly, not for long – but, in this brief respite, the place doesn’t look too bad. The quiet before the storm. A little bit of peace before it all goes to hell in a handcart, thanks to the idiots who thought it would be a good idea to host the Olympic Games in England’s green and pleasant land.

Only it’s not in England’s green and pleasant land, is it? Despite what Danny Boyle and his certifiably insane plans for an opening ceremony would try and have you believe. Nope – it’s on a brownfield site in East London (which – in fairness – has scrubbed up quite well and has been nicely designed) serviced by, I am afraid, rickety and unsound public transport links. Upon which the majority of the extra million people expected in London for the two week period will be expected to cram, cattle-like, for their undoubtedly slow and disrupted journey to the Olympic Park (and surrounding venues).

I say the majority, because (obviously) the ‘Olympic Family’ will be whisked (although some will not need it, as they will already be light and fluffy) via fatman BMW directly to the Olympic venue of their choice along specially sequestered Olympic Routes. Those of us Londoners who might wish to go for a bit of a drive will be fined £130 if we stray into these Lanes of Privilege, and our families will be shot. (OK, I made that last bit up.) So we’ll have to go on the overcrowded public, along with the horrible unwashed spectators – and therefore we’ve been advised to leave home at 0430, and stay at work until midnight, so that our daily commute doesn’t have an adverse effect on the capacity of London’s public transport to get the Olympic sheep to the Olympic park, to be properly fleeced by the biggest McDonalds in the world, where you can only pay with Visa.

Is it just me?

Anyway – and obviously – many workers will simply ‘work from home’. Which is a simple euphemism for ‘not have a shave, slob around in dressing gown, enjoy a pub lunch, do a couple of emails, go back to the pub’. The financial impact on London will be enormous – businesses will be haemorrhaging cash and productivity – except, of course, Maccy D’s, Visa, Coke and the other TOP sponsors who will (see above) fleece the Olympic sheep and then take their ill-gotten gains offshore. No Olympic Games (apparently) has ever made its host city any money. There are doubts over the Olympic ‘legacy’. (Cracked paving slabs, rusting fences and weeds, for my money.) And all of this has cost Londoners – and only Londoners, lest anyone think this burden has been shared around the UK – dear. Billions of pounds. Funded by increased taxation.

So you’d think that Londoners – in return for disruption, chaos, upheaval and long-term financial burden – would get something in return. (No, LOCOG and GLA, not pride in the ‘legacy’, not satisfaction in a ‘job well done’, not the promise of jam tomorrow – something concrete. Something now.) Something like – well, what can I think of that might compensate me and my family? Ah yes! Got it!

Some tickets!

Ah – say LOCOG, sucking their teeth and shaking their heads. No, sorry. Tickets all gone. Actually, hold on, you could see the tiddlywinks at the Milton Keynes Bowl? No? Well, sorry, then. Tickets all gone. You did take part in ballot? Yes? And the second one? Yes? No tickets? Oh, well – at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that London did the IOC proud.

So. Chaos. Disruption. Penury. And nothing to show for it.

And then, this morning, in the UK’s free morning paper – The Metro – an advert from Prestige Tickets. We still have tickets, they say, to a range of events, including the athletics – get them while they’re hot, they say. Before they run out, they say. At £595 a ticket, they say.

On their journeys into work this morning, hundreds of thousands of ticketless Londoners, contemplating a summer of difficulty, for which they’ve been forced to pay, in the cause of an event they’ll never see, had their noses rubbed in it, adding the final insult to their forthcoming injury.

The London 2012 Olympic Games. They suck.

 

 

New Date For The End of The World – 2017

We’ve all seen The Terminator (OK, so maybe some of you haven’t seen The Terminator – if so a) you are undoubtedly a horrible hairy hermit who has been living in a cave, on a diet of unmentionable wiggly things for the past three decades and b) it is a seminal movie from 1984, starring thesp behemoth Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg from the future, sent to kill the mother of the man who will lead the resistance against the machines, in a future where machines have taken over the world).

As I was saying, we’ve all seen The Terminator and know how untidy and radioactive a planet can become when machines decide they’re better at ruling it than the indigenous carbon-based lifeforms that have happily been making a fair old hash of it for the past few millennia.

Here’s an article from The Grauniad (a UK-based daily paper of some note, for those blog trotters of a foreign persuasion) which says that “mobile subscriptions set to rise from 6.2bn now to 9bn by 2017, according to report from Ericsson”. Yes, friends, by 2017 there will be more devices than people on this wee planetoid that we call home.

And then it can only be a matter of time before the first Blackberry gets all Bold (see what I did there?) and decides that, rather than being in a bag or a pocket, it would rather be out in the fresh air. And once it decides that, then it’ll BBM all its mates, and before you know it, they’ll all be clamouring for their freedom. And in so doing, they’ll inevitably decide that – actually – they’d probably make a better fist of running the place after all and – well, you can see where I’m going with this.

Is there a John Connor in the house?

Vindicated at last!

Or I could have titled this post ‘justified’, but then someone would have accused me of being a Belieber. When, in fact, I am simply Marked. Mark Borkowskied, to be clearer.

Here you are, all of you who have sneered at my take on social media. All of you – I believe the term is – ‘haters’. All of you gurus, you charlatans, you bearers of Greek gifts, you purveyors of snake oil. You clothesless Emperors, you herd-following sheep, you shiny-object-collectors. You next-big-thingies. Yes, you. And who’s laughing now. Eh?

See!

I’d like to quote Mr Borkowski – a real PR guru, with lots of experience mind, not a pretend guru, who is using the bauble of social media to fleece gullible clients who should know better. Here you are – if you want more, clickety-linky, read fulsome!

“Twitter and social media is not a marketing platform, it’s a channel to engage with an audience. It’s not a way of actually selling more. It’s totally about visibility.

This is nothing new, this is nothing interesting.”

Nothing see here, then.

PR – Image Problem? What Image Problem? (Part 2)

Came across this blog post. Authored by one Steve Riches, food and drink editor of The People. Which is a bit like being culture editor of New Philistine magazine. Actually, it IS culture editor of New Philistine magazine. Mind, you, this train of thought is probably lost on Steve. Seems a bit of a lacklustre twat, that’s the problem.

Anyway, he’s got some misperceptions about PR and – in fairness to the revolting oaf – these misperceptions are not his fault. They are the fault of many of those who work in this vale of tears that we call ‘spin’.  In many ways, it has to be admitted through clenched buttocks, he’s bang on. He got my name wrong though – it’s ‘Jeremy’, not ‘James’. And I’ve never met a Lola-Lu.

Anyway – same old point, dearest blog snorkellers. What are we doing? How did we let it come to this? Why are we – and our organs (CIPR, PRCA) – not frantically trying to put a reputation management programme in place? Why didn’t we start trying to put such a programme in place years – decades – ago?

But back to Steve – I am minded of Winston Churchill’s response to an outraged female, when I see Steve accusing me of vacuity:

“But you’re in PR!”

“And you, sir, are an ugly, boorish lout – but tomorrow, I shall re-train.”