Crisis Management – The Idiot’s Guide To Creating A Plan – Eurostar

Ooooooooh, ouch. Eurostar provide an object lesson for everyone in how not to do it. The reason I come to this now is because of this piece – which I have lifted from Steve Virgin’s blog (most excellent, by the way, wholly recommended) – which details Eurostar’s commercial and marketing reaction to the – well – cock-up, frankly.

It mentions their social media concerns and demonstrates that social media was not included in their crisis management plan. Oooops.

It simply isn’t something you can ignore. Be prepared – or be prepared for the consequences.

Social Media – Raging Against The Machine

News reaches Wordmonger Towers that the triumph of shouty rap metal outfit Rage Against the Machine over what, apparently, is Olly Murs wearing Joe McEldery’s skin in their race to grab the coveted Christmas No 1 spot is being seen as final, irrefutable proof that social media works as a marketing/communications tool.

As you’ll all know, dearest blog snorkellers, RATM’s win was driven through Facebook (by two people who, according to the tittle tattle, have now been offered jobs by Simon Cowell. And turned them down). As a result, you have otherwise fairly sensible marketing people running around implementing Facebook and Twitter strategies, because – quite clearly – social media can motivate hundreds of thousands of people to buy a product.

No. And stop it, before I get cross. There are a number of reasons why the RATM/OMIJM’sS battle was so big, and why it worked through Facebook. None of them are applicable to a brand, business or organisation.

Most importantly, this issue became so big because of the seething hatred of being manipulated by Simon Cowell that was latent in – well – most people, actually. I hate to state the obvious, but were it not for trad media (TV, print etc etc) there wouldn’t be any hatred for Simon Cowell (or his creations), because he wouldn’t be mainstream.

Social media did not invent the Cowell Beast and thus while Facebook stoked the fire, the fire itself was laid, fuelled, had petrol poured on it and was lit through traditional channels. The audience was ripe for this and I’d like to bet that many of those who visited Facebook for this particular issue had never done so before, were driven there by what they read in the papers or heard on the news, and will never go back because there’s nothing for them there.

And the fact that this was all about reclaiming the Christmas No 1 for the people (and the Christmas No 1 is an analogue tradition) meant that RATM’s victory was assured from the word go, social media or no social media. (And don’t go moaning that the victory was achieved through downloads – downloading music is not the same as using social media, and, in any case, had the single been only available on acetate through selected branches of John Lewis, it STILL would have sold enough copies.) Music is important to people – certainly it’s more important to more people than social media brands are – and it calls them to action.

So, today’s lessons. Social media is not a valid marketing or communications tool. It is not. (Yesterday I read yet another article about ‘great uses of social media’ and yet again, the example used was Zappo in the States. It’s about time we realised that THERE ARE NO OTHER EXAMPLES.) In this case, while the Facebook element was hyped beyond proportion, it was just one communications channel, which was amplified beyond belief by the swathes of trad media coverage. The other important point to make is that the subject matter – the product, if you like – was something close to very, very many hearts. It was personal. It was not corporate – in fact it was dramatically anti-corporate.

Social media, I conclude, can only really work if you are independent, anti-establishment, small in size and in tune with the current popular mood. Any hint of slogan, brand, message or intent to sell and you become Simon Cowell – and probably end up on the receiving end of protest through the very media you’re trying to harness.

Social Media – Explaining It To The Non-Believer

Never let it be said, that just because I don’t believe in it (as a valid or valuable communications and marketing tool) that I don’t share the opposing viewpoint for the benefit and edification of you, my dear, dear blog snorkellers. So here is the script of a presentation given recently at an events industry event. (Yes, you read that right.) As I read it, I thought – well, if I HAD to try and convince someone of the value of social media, this is the sort of thing I’d use. I will issue a health warning though. It doesn’t, at any point, answer the questions ‘how much will I have to invest to leverage social media to my advantage’ and ‘what sort of return can I expect on my investment’. This is OK for the events industry, who have always struggled with ROI, and just keep talking until people forget what it was they wanted to know, but in other, more focused sectors, this might be an issue. Make up your own mind.


Social media is “an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos, and audio.”

More simply it just describes the millions of conversations people are having with each other across the world 24/7 

Why the HELL should I care?  Here are 10 really, really good reasons why…  

Because social media is now the number one online activity beating porn and personal email to the top spot. 
(Nielsen Wire)  
REASON #2   

Because 2/3 of the global internet population visit social networks.

(Nielsen, Global Faces & Networked Places) 
REASON #3   

Because time spent on social networks is growing at 3x the overall internet rate, accounting for 10% of all internet time.

(Nielsen, Global Faces & Networked Places) 
REASON #4   

Because online including social media has become the most influential source in helping consumer make purchasing decisions.

(Weber Shandwick Inline Research)
REASON #5   

Because social media is like word of mouth on steroids.

Because social media is democratizing communications. Big time.

“Technology is shifting the power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the media elite. Now it’s the people who are in control.”

(Rupert Murdoch, Global Media Entrepreneur)  

Because millions of people are creating content for the social web.

Your competitors are already there. Your customers have been there for a long time. If your business isn’t putting itself out there, it ought to be.

(Business Week, February 19, 2009)
The next 3 billion consumers will access the internet from a mobile device.   Google Already 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices.  People update anywhere, anytime. 
Imagine what that means for bad customer experiences!       
REASON #9   

In almost all cases social media is free.  All it will cost you is time.

Because social media is hell of a force to be reckoned with.
Years to reach 50 million users:  
Radio – 38 years
TV – 13 years
Internet – 4 years
iPod – 3 years
Facebook added 175 million users between in less than 11 months 
The phenomenal growth of Facebook:
January 2009: 150 million users
April 2009: 200 million users
July 2009: 250 million users
September 2009: 300 million users
Friday, November 6th, 2009: 325 million users
That’s half a million users every single day

If Facebook were a country it would be bigger than the USA and the 3rd largest in the World  
1.                         China
2.                         India
3.                         Facebook
4.                         United States
5.                         Indonesia
6.                         Brazil
7.                         Pakistan
8.                         Bangladesh
9.                         Russia
10.                      Nigeria     

13 hours:  the amount of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.

412.3 years: the length of time it would take to view every YouTube video.

1 billion: the number of YouTube videos viewed per day.

3.06 billion: The number of photos archived on as of June 2009. That’s roughly 1 photo per every 2 people on the planet.

1382%: The year on year growth rate of Twitter users from February 2008 to February 2009.

3,000,000: the average number of Tweets sent per day on

5.4 billion: The number of twitter messages sent since launch
5 billion: The number of minutes spent on Facebook each day
1 billion: The amount of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) shared each week on Facebook.

Social media is not yet another channel for broadcasting bullsh*t.

You see, it’s supposed to be a dialogue, not a monologue.

One way marketing has had its day! 

Stop thinking “campaigns”. Start thinking “conversations”.

Listening first, selling second 
Unfortunately most companies are still treating social media like just another marketing channel when in fact it’s so much more…

1: public relations

2: customer service

3: loyalty-building

4: collaboration

5: networking

6: thought-leadership

And yes, customer acquisition, too.  

If your product sucks, social media won’t fix it.

However, if your customer service sucks, social media can help.

If your repeat business sucks, social media can help.

If your company’s word of mouth sucks, social media can help.

Social media playtime is over – its time to get serious!     
Never forget the basic rules…

Rule #1: listen – Google alerts and Tweetdeck (for starters)

Rule #2: engage

Rule #3: measure – audience, engagement , loyalty, influence action (metrics should map to goals)

Now go out there and get social!  Because this is only the beginning.”

Social Media – B*ll*cks to Twitter

Better late than never. Trawling through my backlog of trade magazines, I came across an issue of Marketing from September 30. Almost a month old. I’d be a really crap journalist.

Luckily I’m not. And neither is Mark Ritson, who wrote this (to my mind) brilliant article. Mr Ritson is an ‘associate professor of marketing’ – whatever that is – and these are his thoughts on the parallel between what’s happening now with social media and what happened 10 years ago just prior to the dotcom bust. Here’s a flavour:

“If you believe the hype, Twitter is the future of media and marketing. John Borthwick, chief executive of web investor Betaworks, told the New York Times last week that Twitter ‘represents a next layer of innovation on the internet’ and that the investment was justified ‘because it represents a shift’. Ten years ago, I would have gulped, assumed I was missing something, and nodded my head at this.

“These days I am older, fatter and a good deal wiser, and I say (in fewer that 140 characters): bollocks to Twitter. And bollocks to it being worth a billion dollars.”

It’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

(Mind – a month is a long time in social media and Mr Ritson may already have changed his mind.)

Public Relations – Best Practice…..I Think

I’m seriously anti-fluffy. I think there’s too much fluff in PR. Sadly, I think there are too many la-las as well. Thus, when I come across a trend-setting (or identifying) newsletter from an up-to-the-minute PR agency, my heart sinks and my stomach turns over. I know what it’s going to contain. Lots of laaaa, and Dysons full of fluff. “How great are we?” sort of stuff, with garish graphics and pictures of Charlotte, a junior account exec from their sTYleWerKs division, riding camels in an amusing manner. (Or is that just me?)

Anyway, much as it pains me, a shout out to Lexis PR for this. (Particularly for the Meatwater heads-up, which my regular readers – ho ho ho – will know sparked off a bit of a diatribe.)

Tentatively, because I’m not one to get all definite about anything, I think this might, actually, be quite good. No pictures of Charlotte riding camels, you see. I hope they can keep it going.

But – because nothing, here on Wordmonger Farm, is ever without its ‘but’.

“Dear Lexis,

Loving your website – but does it not take an absolute age to load? Is it, perhaps, slightly more clever than it needs to be? I hope this is seen as constructive criticism.

Also, in your lovely e-newsletter, just a small thing, you namecheck Bring Me The Horizon as being a beat combo who may achieve some popularity in the mainstream hit parade in 2010 and have a ‘new sound’. I’m seriously middle-aged and I know that Bring Me The Horizon have been around since 2004 and the sound, far from being new, is an evolution of that well-established and popular easy-listening genre, deathcore. Possibly not as cutting edge as you might be, here.

Good luck with it!

All the best


The Philosophy of Public Relations

“The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept. And in these realms there are exquisitely sophisticated craftsmen who — with the help of advanced and demanding techniques of market research, of public opinion polling, of psychological testing, and so forth — dedicate themselves tirelessly to getting every word and image they produce exactly right.

Yet there is something more to be said about this. However studiously and conscientiously the bullshitter proceeds, it remains true that he is also trying to get away with something. There is surely in his work, as in the work of the slovenly craftsman, some kind of laxity which resists or eludes the demands of a disinterested and austere discipline.”

This  is by (as you probably know) Harry Gordon Frankfurt (born May 29, 1929), professor emeritus of philosophy, Princeton University and is taken from his 1986 essay ‘On Bullshit’.

Something everyone should read.

Social Media – Eliminate the Negative

On Monday, I noticed that the latest post on the Domino’s Pizza Facebook wall read something like – who am I kidding, it read EXACTLY like – this:


At the time, I mused that – while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I’d rather gather my consumer feedback in a rather less public manner. Focus groups, for example. Or an online survey. Anyway, who am I.

Thing is, this raises one of those thorny social media issues. The whole thing about social media is that it is supposed to be an open and transparent dialogue. It’s free-to-air. Anyone can join in. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and if you disagree, then you should attempt to convert the other party through engaging and persuasive conversation. The medium is not the message. Oh – and this one really make me laugh – you cannot control the message.

But. When you get the sort of comment that Domino’s got on Monday, and you’ve got over 330k Facebook fans (who ARE these people, who want to share the fact that they ‘just order (sic) a Pastabowl and a Sandwich’? I don’t care! Although I do find it odd that you’re ordering a pastabowl and a sandwich from a caterer specialising in pizza) – well, no doubt about it, it’s damaging.

Here’s where the social media thing breaks down and all you can hear is the sound of social media gurus’ heads exploding. Yep – the basic principle of social media says everyone’s entitled, and therefore you cannot take the post down. But – the post is damaging to your corporate reputation – and you must take it down. What to do?

Simples (thanks, Aleksandr). You do what Domino’s has done. You take the post down. You censor the horrible mutant who thinks it’s a good idea to post comments of this nature on a public forum. You put an end to your Facebook group, release your fans back to their ridiculously needy litle lives – I’m sure they’ll find another large caterer to be their (only) friend – and start re-investing the marketing budget that you’ve just liberated into something that’s actually going to make a difference and deliver some real ROI.

Unfortunately, Domino’s stopped short of closing its Facebook group and you can still visit it and – should you wish – poke fun at the trolls, gnolls and dweebs who live there.

A big up to Domino’s however – I’ve been posting about the consumer need for Free Stuff over the last couple of days, and drawing the conclusion that social media cannot realistically satisfy this need. I still run with this opinion, but (thanks Domino’s) I’m forced to qualify it – you can use social media to publicise your free stuff amongst the trolls, gnolls and dweebs and – according to the stats – of 330k fans, 95 of them like it.

In fairness, Domino’s would probably have captured those people through its website without the social media aspect but – hey. I’m just an old grouch.

Social Media – What They Really Want (2)

Since my last post I’ve been inundated with quite literally no requests for clarification of the term ‘Free Stuff’. This complete lack of interest seems to centre round the misapprehension that, when I say ‘Free Stuff’, I’m talking about tangible goods, for free.

No. It’s a metaphor. What I’m talking about is something that a consumer (or stakeholder) wouldn’t otherwise have, that adds value to their existence, and comes without charge. So – it could be tangible goods for free, or it might be an exclusive discount, or a print-and-play voucher, or a competition, or simply some useful information.

As we’re discussing this in the context of social media, I know there are those who will maintain that this is exactly what social media does – through the medium of the conversation, the Q&A, ‘Free Stuff’ (generally information) is provided.

Well, yes and no. Mostly no. Social media are populated by several groups. Those who seek to belong, those who seek validation (through followers and fans), those who cannot bear to be alone, those who believe others are interested, those who are there by mistake and the ghosts who came once, never go again, yet leave traces of themselves in terms of usernames and unfinished profiles. All untraceable, unevaluable and – mostly – unquantifiable.

And as they are so diverse and give little clue to what they really, really want (and I’m certain that many of them do, simply, want to zigazig ah) a brand or organisation wishing to give them ‘Free Stuff’ actually can’t. Because one size does not fit all and they don’t ask directly (well, not often).

What this means is that brand or corporate pursuing its benighted and expensive social media ‘strategy’ is obliged to provide one of three things. Reaction to negative comment, general product or corporate info or Irritating Voiceover. Or any combination of the three.

Well, the pedants will say, this IS, by the definition outlined here, Free Stuff.

And indeed it is. But it’s low-level, generic Free Stuff that should be on your website anyway. If your consumers are having to get, or ask for, general info via Twitter or Facebook, then there is something seriously wrong in another area of your communications mix. Or, maybe, those consumers (stakeholders) are just sad and needy and desperately crave human contact. Any human contact.

Going back to Free Stuff – the Free Stuff that people want is stuff that feels special and unique – unique to them and their group. It’s stuff that cannot be delivered via mass-market social media, open to everyone. It’s stuff that can only be delivered on a ‘personal’ basis – in today’s internet age, signing up to a brand’s website is personal enough.

Two things, then.

  • Social media cannot fulfil the consumer’s defining need for Free Stuff
  • Your website (and associated digital marketing) can

Why, therefore, are you wasting time, money and effort on social media?

Social Media – I’ll Tell You What They Want

So. There I was, sprawled on the couch (the grey one that used to be cream in a time Before Children) in what passes for a living room (which is, incidentally, supposed to be a Child-Free Zone, but has recently, I’ve noticed, been threatened by a slow-moving but inexorable tsunami of plastic cars, aircraft and soldiery) pondering life, t’universe and everything and waiting for the second episode of Flash Forward. 

(For those who haven’t been exposed to this meisterwerk of the television producer’s art, Flash Forward, and its cast of thousands, deals with the premise that everyone on earth suffered a two minute and 17 second blackout – at exactly the same time – during which they all experienced some sort of glimpse of their individual futures. The rest of the series, I’m presuming, will be spent finding out why, who, how and – most importantly – how to stop the future happening.)

Now, Flash Forward isn’t a bad programme, but I’m getting the feeling that Channel Five are absolutely desperate for it to achieve cult status. It’s the irritating voiceover you see. Just when you think it’s safe to sit on your sofa and watch your programme of choice, you get some voiceover lovely (on behalf of the station) telling you just how marvellous the programme is going to be. And, by implication, what a wonderful human being, a paragon of taste and style, you are for watching it. Indeed for discovering it in the first place. You are well and truly sat in one of the very frontest seats in the tip of the pointy end of the vanguard. And then Irritating Voiceover Woman starts asking rhetorical questions! As if you hadn’t noticed the f***ing kangaroo hopping down the street and the strange person in black who should have blacked out but didn’t!

Thing is, this is a blatant sales technique. It’s not adding anything to my enjoyment. It’s simply hyping something that I’ve already bought into. It is uneccesary puffery – preaching to the converted – a waste of resources. It does not bring the consumer in – in fact, speaking personally, it alienates them (me). Worst of all, it’s pitched at a very low level – I recognise it for what it is and find it mildly insulting. And if I do, then, speaking as no Einstein here, so do thousands of others. (And finally, in this instance, unforgiveably, Flash Forward ain’t no Twin Peaks – don’t even think about drawing a parallel. )

Briefly – very briefly, because I didn’t want to miss any programme (I’m terribly respectful of my audience, but I’m afraid, dear blog snorkellers, you’re not as important as Flash Forward) – I was minded of stuff I’ve read and conversations I’ve had about the nature of content. Specifically, obviously, content posted to social media by brands (companies or organisations) as part of a social media strategy.

It’s one of the main tenets of the big US argument for letting employees post to social media, without going through the PR department. As I understand it, the (US) feeling is that anything coming out of the PR department is like the Irritating Voiceover – full of needless promotional puffery, recognised for what it is, and – truth be told – slightly insulting  to the consumer. This, obviously, is not what the social media consumer wants.

Unfortunately, in their mad rush to get away from what the social media consumer doesn’t want, the social media gurus seem to have lost track of what it is that the consumer ALWAYS wants – always has done and always will do.

There’s this belief that the consumer wants a say, wants a conversation, wants to be asked questions. Well some of them probably do – and they’re the ones who are tweeting Starbucks or Facebooking Domino’s Pizza. (Is it just me or is there something rather sad and depressing about Facebooking a global pizza company?) But I’d be willing to bet that most of them don’t. From my experience, there’s one thing that consumers want from a brand (once they’re vaguely satisfied that the brand doesn’t kill babies or manufacture its products from toxic waste).

Consumers want Free Stuff. They don’t want an Irritating Voiceover – although they’ll put up with it, if there’s some Free Stuff at the end of it. They want Free Stuff, given to them in a non-threatening, non-patronising, non-strings-attached manner. They don’t want to be told they’re brilliant, they (mostly) don’t want to be asked their opinions, they don’t really want to have a say.

They want Free Stuff. And if it’s good Free Stuff, they’ll probably come back and buy it next time. The moral of the story, therefore, is:

  • PR people – stop doing irritating voiceover – be genuine, be honest and, occasionally, tell people how to get Free Stuff.
  • Social Media Gurus – stop asking for opinions, stop trying to start conversations and keep them going – acknowledge those who want to say something and tell people how to get Free Stuff.

Tell me I’m wrong.

Social Media – Not the Internet and Vice-Versa

At last week’s PRWeek Global Conference, there appeared to be some confusion between digital strategy and online management and use of social media.

Reporting on the conference, PRWeek itself quoted one Mark Adams, co-founder and partner, The Conversation Group, as saying “Most firms use avoidance strategies or lip-service strategies. ‘Let’s get some monkey in the basement to run a Twitter account and then we’ll review it in a year’s time.’ It’s not uncommon.”

This seems to be at odds with another of the speakers, Dominic Chambers, who said digital strategy was ‘too low down in companies’ and that ‘online management often continued to sit within a client’s IT department’. I’m not going to continue quoting from the article – you can find it yourselves here.

I suppose they’re both valid points, but they’re talking about two completely different things. Social Media – which Mark Adams is dealing with – is but a small and not-terribly-well-understood piece of the online jigsaw, one that shouldn’t be ignored but, as yet, is probably not worthy of massive investment in terms of budget, time and human resource.

Dominic Chambers appears to be talking about online in its fullest sense – the corporate website, SEO, PPC, online research, online media relations (story placement, media release distribution), email marketing, online promotions and advertising – and he cited British Airways as a company which has made its website a fundamental part of its business. He suggests that online should sit with marketing and comms, with IT as a support function.

Be that as it may – they are both valid points (one on a smaller scale that the other, mind) – but they highlight a real issue which is that the social media evangelists are slowly and insidiously taking the terms ‘online’ and ‘digital’ for themselves. As they do that, so it becomes easier for those new to the disciplines to believe that you can’t have a digital strategy without some sort of social media element.

You can. Digital marketing and digital communication has been around much longer than Facebook and Twitter. A good corporate website is, arguably, one of your most powerful communications tools – with it you can build customer/stakeholder loyalty and community, engage their interest, build their trust, share their opinions and give them something in return. Permission-based marketing – via email – is ncredibly powerful. Proximity communication – via bluetooth – has novelty (still) and delivers an effect. The internet is a boon and is both cost and time efficient.

The same cannot be said – yet – for social media. It’s a shame, therefore,  that at a key event for the industry, the organisers (and the participants?) can’t seem to make the distinction. Apparently, we (the communicators) are the ones who are supposed to own digital strategy, and its subset, social media strategy. Why’s anyone going to take us seriously if we don’t understand what we’re talking about and how to differentiate the two?

Finally, who thought it was a good idea to let the editor of PRWeek (UK) publish this? As statements of the obvious go, it’s a work of genius and it will definitely get my nomination for this year’s ‘Sorry I’m Late – Have I Missed Anything?’ award. (Note to Danny – if you’re going to join a debate of this size, make sure you’ve got more than 200 words and do a bit of research first. There’s a good chap.)