Monthly Archives: May 2011

Follow me!

It can be really frustrating when you are putting together a Twitter campaign and the people you need to make it work won’t follow you back.

You have a great list of people who would be perfect to spread your message across their networks and many of them are coming on board, but there are a niggly few that just won’t bite!

It’s tempting then to bombard them with @messages, follow Fridays and Re-tweets to try to get their attention.


There is nothing worse than feeling like you are a pawn in someone elses game and if someone starts stalking me for some follow-back attention then I am most likely to ignore them. After all when I decide to follow someone back it really is a considered decision. I check out profiles, old tweets, profile pictures – the whole nine yards. If at the end of it I can’t work out why I should follow back then I won’t – simple as that.

Patience is a virtue  as we all know and I have managed to get follow backs from highly prized individuals by waiting and then doing that person a favour when they were looking for help. This is all part of the natural play of give and take. So many people seem to go in all-guns-blazing and then act all hurt when you don’t follow them back.

Another tip? Let the person know why you specifically want them to follow you . If you want them to help you, then tell them what unique quality they bring to your campaign. It could turn out that you are chasing someone you think is a lynch pin, but actually they have zero influence and you are wasting your time.

So desperate twitter people – chill out, take your time, design your campaign in plenty of time and be up-front.

Why you should say yes more often.

I don’t have much patience with people who go on about their amazing feats of personal endurance. It’s like yeh yeh – get on with it already.

But I must just say that if you are ever faced with a huge challenge and you do decide to step up to it, you will experience the most amazing sense of relief and calm.

Yes! Deciding to do something brave is the brave bit all over and done with. Now you just have to do it.

What am I talking about? I have decided to run a half marathon. It is something I have thought about on several occasions but have always dismissed as out of the question. I don’t know what is different this time, but I suddenly feel that I actually can do it and what’s more I can see myself doing it.

Now I feel light and happy about it. (I am going to look so stupid when this doesn’t work out)

So if you are wrestling with big plans and don’t know whether to go for it – I can assure you that saying yes makes you feel a whole lot better.

Just an illusion – a marketing lesson from pop.

Bloggers are always writing about Lady Gaga and when I see the headline “Why Gaga is a marketing genius” or “How to  use social media like Gaga” I put my hands over my ears to block out the sound of  bandwagons rolling by.

But look – I confess – I have written about Gaga – it was a couple of years ago now, but I wrote the post because I was and still am a huge fan and am in awe of her genius. So with apologies all done I am going to do it again!

Gaga did a show at the Radio 1 festival in Carlisle at the weekend and I watched it go out live on BBC3. It was terrific of course, but quite self-indulgent in parts – with the big hits knocked off in a breathless medley at the start to make time for a much slower section in which she played jazz and latin and bashed about on the piano.

How do you sell that?

You sell it by calling on the relationship you have with your audience. Sat at the piano she was unapologetic – “my record company didn’t want me to play this” she says “but I’m going to anyway.”

Oh Gaga really? Just for us? Because you want us to hear it and you know best and you want to share this moment with us?

That’s right. She drew the audience into her confidence and allowed everyone to play hooky from the record company together. In an interview with her later, I read that she likes to mix things up a little at festivals and go with the vibe.

Do you know what? I don’t believe a single word of it – I think every note was planned in advance – she’d been there since 9 in the morning to make sure that it was all perfect but I was still charmed by the illusion that we were all in it together, just making it up as we went along.

So there you have it – the genius of Gaga – making her audience feel involved. It was like we were getting the good stuff, the stuff she keeps at the back of the cupboard for especially good friends – the best deal in the show room – the diamond studded real thing and not the plastic version.

To fall for it is human nature. As someone said on the radio this morning, we like to think we are rational beings but we are actually governed by our need for human relationships.

Take a lesson and apply.

How to avoid press release road rage

There’s a lot of noise and fury about press releases at the moment. People grumble about how much they hate them – how unimaginative and old-fashioned they are – how insulting and how infuriating.

I wonder if we’ve lost sight of what a press release was supposed to be in the first place? To me it is a means of communicating an idea (or information) from one person to another.

It doesn’t really matter how that message is sent – so long as it is relevant and to the point.

Some people put press releases online for search engine purposes but that is irrelevant here because they are clearly not trying to communicate useful ideas – they simply want to boost their profile artificially with Google. If you read any of this badly written gobbledy gook you will quickly realise that they don’t expect anyone to actually write about it.

So, I think the words Press and Release are holding up our efforts to communicate. If instead of saying “we need to send out a press release” we said,”we need to let people know about this” – we might be getting somewhere.

Obviously there are many different ways to let people know something and by refusing to tie yourself to a rigid format, like a press release, you can come to it fresh every time.

Thinking hard about each message – who might be interested and how they might want to hear about it – is the answer to wiping out press release road rage.

There will always be people who resent you contacting them with any kind of message. Some journalists and producers just love to be affronted and being affronted by a pr person is their favourite. There’s not a great deal you can do about them. Having said that, I do try to work out what they are so cross about and what it is they really want. The answer is usually a story that’s going to win them a book deal or get them on the front page – sadly I don’t often have one of those.

Effective communicators – either born or trained – know this already. It is not news to them that each message should be tailored. Where people struggle is when they are locked into tired processes which dictate that there has to be a press release – or when clients don’t really understand how it all works and ask for what feels safe.

Such a lot of this game is luck and timing – or simply lucky timing. Your idea arrives at exactly the point where producer A is thinking of doing a story about your thing. Our job is to try to get the right messages, to the right people at exactly the right time and now in the right format.

Good luck with that! And remember, to increase your chances of success – come to it fresh every time.

P.S. I have not listed all the alternatives to the press release – the point is not to be prescriptive and I would love to hear your ideas – but for what it’s worth I prefer an e-mail with the option of more information on request, but whatever you do don’t refer to that as a press release!

Do we get the service we deserve?

I am just back from the States and it was, as ever, fabulous.

I was struck this time around by the excellence of the service. I have to disclose straight away that I spent an awful lot of time at various Disney theme parks and they do service very well indeed. But it’s not just Disney –  making you feel as though nothing is too much trouble seems to be a national preoccupation.

It started at a toll booth coming in on the highway from Orlando airport, when a passer-by stopped to help us. Needless to say we had no change and the booth was unmanned. I was paranoid that we were about to be robbed but the guy just pulled over to give us some friendly advice (drive through the check point without paying) – we’ll see how that one works out!

Elsewhere, staff in shops and servers in restaurants were impeccably polite and helpful as was anyone remotely connected to the Disney corporation – of course.

By contrast, only yesterday while ordering a complicated list of sandwiches in a local pub I felt as though the woman behind the bar was deliberately trying to humiliate me. I’m sure she wasn’t – but the way she kept questioning my order and smirking left me feeling as though I was undergoing some sort of exam.  Do I want the bacon hot or cold? Do I want butter on the bread?  Isn’t there always butter on the bread in sandwiches? Why am I being asked this question?

We are such a cynical nation – full of self-deprecation and sarcasm, perhaps we don’t deserve American levels of service. Goodness knows,  I celebrate our humour and the determination not to take life too seriously but unless we square up to the metaphorical bar and look that server in the eye, there’s always the risk someone will be smirking at you.