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Alison Flood writing in the Guardian this week shares the advocacy campaign of Burlington county librarian Andy Woodworth, who set up Facebook group ‘People for a library-themed Ben & Jerry’s flavor!‘: the aim? Get Ben and Jerry’s to introdce a library themed icecream!

Ice-cream-001

Why? Well as Andy puts it, libraries are awesome and B&J’s is tasty: where could this ever go wrong?!

What makes this a really neat little PR campaign is firstly the completely random marriage of libraries and icecream, coupled with the witty names of flavours suggested. My favourite has to be sh-sh-sh-sherbet!

Working for an academic publisher we always have a number of activities underway targeting the library market. But too often academic PR can be stuffy and unimaginative. Librarians are – as Andy has said – awesome. Why can’t we be more fun in our campaigns, try out new and creative ideas, and most of all treat these people as ‘awesome’ individuals who clearly have a sense of humour!

Ok, so this was a public library campaign, so maybe I’m being unfair and perhaps there are some amazing advocacy campaigns out there that I just haven’t seen before, but this is the first one that I have seen in this market doing something very creative and getting amazing profile as a result. Major kudos.

This is slightly off-topic for this blog, but I just got married. It’s been all-consuming for the past eight months, and then now it’s all over. I haven’t got that completely crushing feeling of loss just yet – I suppose that will come as soon as I get back to work on Monday. In the meantime I’m still just basking in all the amazing memories from the past week.

Apart from the obvious similarities of putting on a wedding and a large-scale corporate event – bookings; suppliers; muchos coordination etc etc – I feel like there are other things I must have learned along the way that I can take back to work with me.

Having said that though, planning a wedding was a hugely personal and emotional investment that I don’t think I could ever give to a single corporate event. While I’m sure I’ve shed tears over work many times, not quite with the same intensity as I did over my own wedding!

I wonder whether wedding planners get to the point where they have no emotional response to the events they help to create. Or whether they get the same rush every time. I was talking to our waitress at our honeymoon hotel who had previously worked for an events company planning weddings. She said it was a hugely-responsible job – arranging the most important day of someone’s life was an exteremely stressful occupation. But while that may certainly be true, I wonder what it must be like to work with people who are so very very happy. I’d love to know.

I’m doing a live blog post. Right now! Yes right now! This week I’ve been doing some social network research. My experiment this evening is Ning.

So far I’ve created a user name, named my network after this lovely blog, and selected some colours and features

 

It’s pretty clever how you can pull features in and out – selection range includes description, members, forum, blog, videos, events…and more.

For the design the advanced settings are fairly bog standard. There is a nice selection of existing templates too. I’ve opted for something quite simple from the ‘do it yourself’ range. There may be more playing later on but this will do for now.

I’ve now been playing around with the questions people will see when they wish to sign up to my network. These are also customizable which is good. I really don’t care what my members’ favourite tv shows are…no offense, and you should feel free to tell me if you really want to…but I can’t pretend to care. I can’t think of a good set of answers around ‘day job’…any suggestions?

Ooh exciting. So now investigating security. There seem to be three tiers. You can close off the entire network, so it’s only accessible to registered members. This seems like a waste to me, because if you don’t really know from the name what the network’s about, why on earth would you bother to join? The middle tier is being able to see the front page, but then having to register to see anything else. That’s what I’ve gone for. The lightest security tier is being able to see everything without registering. What I can’t see is what someone who isn’t me that tries to join the site will see…will have to rope in the other half to try that one shortly.

Moving on to notification settings. Users get a lot of choice in terms of what email notifications they can get. They can opt to get none, or they can drill down through a detailed list of options.

Right have just convinced the other half to sign up, and being a nice lad he has done so. So the procedure was fairly painless. And the window displayed looked tasteful. It doesn’t ask you for masses of information – just a user name and password, plus the additional questions that you set. What’s interesting is that the user ID runs across the entire Ning network: Dan had already signed up to another Ning site a while back, so to join this network he could use that same user ID from the previous network, and it kept his user profile.

Another nifty feature: under each member is the option to ‘feature on home’, which allows for lots of fun to be had with profiling any significant figures that decide to join up! Come on now celebrity PRs I know you’re all desperate to join my Ning network…

Well I have to say my enthusiasm is waning. It looks like there’s still lots of playing to do here, and it’s not always clear what I can see as administrator and what a user can see, so there’ll need to be some triple-account holding to check and cross check what things look like, but this is a cool site and I’ll be spending some more time on here…

So the launch was…not quite a success. But just over five months on, BA are launching a new campaign to shift public opinion and reassure the world that ‘Terminal 5 is working’.

According to coverage the campaign will be a multi million pound marketing campaign covering print, online, radio and billboard advertising.

The one ad I saw on my way home today is…well it’s ok. It’s doing exactly what the campaign aims to do, which is concentrate on the simple messaging, and the campaign is apparently going to make use of real ‘genuine customer experience’, look at stats showing how T5’s improving security, baggage handling and general timeliness.

I have to say it’s not blow-away, but will be interesting to see how far this goes to shift public opinion. I’d be interested to know how much the campaign is going to make use of online media – for example through travel booking sites and holiday forums. What are they doing to promote to previous customers also, i.e. those who have travelled since March?

Most importantly, whether the message is believed or not, will this actually change people’s travelling habits? Had their travelling habits been changed in the first place, or is this more just to redress what was an embarrassing opening to a very expensive venture? As the Londonist aptly puts it, are BA just reminding people of previous mistakes unnecessarily?

Will be interesting to see reactions to this campaign as it develops.

Interesting that the highlights from Carol Lewis’ Meet the Editor Session are mirrored in the PRWeek 2008 Media Survey.

They highlight the integration of journalists working on print and online. They also highlight the move towards constant activity and increased workload due to blogging becoming core to their daily lives. It’s not surprising really: just for the same reason PRs are advocating increased use of blogs to maintain two-way relationships with stakeholders, journalists now have a better chance than ever to find out what their readers think and interact with them as soon as their stories are published. They’re also contributing with their comments and additional content.

Some of the other interesting highlights: company websites rated highest on journalists’ ways of finding out more about a business, so it’s about time these were prioritized if you want people to know what you’re up to. Email (unsurprisingly) is medium of choice for contact.

I downloaded this a while ago (it’s been a busy few months) but the details of the survey are dated March 31 2008 if you want to look it up.

CIPR are running a series of ‘Meet the Editor’ sessions over 2008. This one took place on May 19.

Carol Lewis gave a brief yet informative talk on her role as Editor of Career, The Times and Times Online. These sessions have been designed as an opportunity to brief PRs on how to work better with the press, and it was certainly very well attended and I hope these sessions extend beyond the CIPR’s anniversary celebrations.

Carol’s overview was straightforward and to the point: know who/what you’re pitching to. Read it, know what they will be interested in. Don’t send them something they won’t want, or something they’ve just written about already.

Nothing new there of course, but there were some interesting insights. One thing for example is that the Times and Times Online are now fully integrated. This is the second time I’ve heard of the broadsheets doing this in recent months (the first time being with the Telegraph). Interesting, since it suggests that there’s more than one opportunity to get a story heard, and suggests that a story may get a better chance to be expanded as an online story as well as getting into print. The Careers section is not the only example of a paper that also has some content exclusively online, which again widens opportunities when pitching.

Another interesting point: while the print paper has a majority UK-focus, stories with a wider EU/international appeal do have a better chance of getting used online, where the audience is more like 1/3 UK, 1/3 EU and 1/3 ROW.

Third very useful point. It’s not something as a single-handed PR office I get much of an opportunity to do anyway, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind: ringing to meet over coffee? good. Meeting for lunch? bad. No time, not interested. I’d be interested in knowing whether this stands true for the smaller B2B and niche media as well as the mainstream. I’m guessing yes: particularly as multitasking print and online and the 24hr news and blogging cycle are now the norm.

Overall it was a useful session, and I’m looking forward to hearing about the next one.

I am in the middle of pitching three stories right now and stuck waiting for information on two of those. This always happens when you try and take a holiday…you can guarantee I’ll need to keep checking in on them tomorrow to meet deadlines. Luckily the weather is due to be rubbish. Also typical that this happens when I’m taking time off. Great.

Whinging aside, I just quickly wanted to make a note to follow up on this: Rob Ashwell has written a piece on the ongoing twitter/PR blacklisting that has been kicking off, but he also points to theFoot’s great channel, which is really quite something.

Essentially this is a suite of individually pitched stories: targeted, each with an individual message to the company it’s being pitched at. Not expensive, not flashy – just plain old simple talking mixed up with some natty clips of the hook (incidentally quite amusing clips on e-commerce). The videos keep freezing on my laptop so I haven’t watched them properly, but will definitely be going back to them, and looking for examples of more of this kind of thing.

Just goes to show that PR should always be about the message: not the fancy packaging. There’s too much discussion around producing high quality clips and not enough on just getting the content on film. I really need to get myself some kit and start playing around with this. It’s rapidly moving up my to-do. 

Browsing tags on PR this week I came across Kristin Foster’s post on the value of the blog. It hits on some really key pointers: not just the benefits to the author but what the blog can bring to a community. Worth a read.

Elsewhere seemingly the hot topic of the week has been using Twitter for PR. Now I have to confess until reading through all the dialogue this week I hadn’t yet got to the point where I saw any potential value for Twitter beyond low-scale friend to friend messaging – essentially a shift from something like IM (which incidentally has now been intrroduced on Facebook this week – will be interesting to see what take-up is like) to something to several users at once and not necessarily instant…? Is that an accurate summary? 

Not so say’s Jeremy of PR for Pirates, amongst a number of others (sorry I read but failed to save links) who has 10 top tips for using Twitter for PR. I found these all really valuable, and suddenly the whole Twittering thing has started to make a lot more sense. He makes some very sensible suggestions (business account: not personal, but a ‘person’ not a ‘corporation’) and, most interestingly in my point of view, points out that this is about following and listening as much as sharing – so this may be a golden opportunity to follow where the journalists you want to pick up your stories are heading and what they’re working on. So much potential therefore for a much more up to date and accurate ‘forward features’ essentially. Neat.

As with all the blogging, networking etc etc, the Twittering is all about keeping things nicely hooked up – so the linkability, ensuring wider serendipity, is what this is also about – read the post for the detailed advice on this.

So with that in mind I am off to check out who of my contacts are a-Twittering, and will report back on how I get on…

LATE ADDITION: just noticed there’s an update to the Pirate post here

I was saddened to read the stories this week about Marks and Spencer banning balloons from their stores since one almost strangled a lamb. As my partner commented on hearing the tale, perhaps it was a cry for help from the lamb. Or not. But despite a fondness for our four-legged farmyard friends, I wasn’t sad for the lamb on this occasion (ok yes I was sad for the lamb too). But my main sadness was for the demise of the promotional balloon.

While I applaud M&S for reacting to criticism from the farming community, I’m struggling with elements of this tale. For one thing, balloons aren’t something I’ve generally come to associate with the store. Knickers yes. Socks? Suits, and even more recently some rather tasteful casual and formalwear in their special collections, yes. But balloons? Did I miss something? Also, what exactly was the lamb doing at the store? Shopping for for organic lettuce? Oh wait. I see from the coverage the balloon had “travelled 40 miles from a promotional event in Spalding, Lincolnshire.” Right.

In their statement M&S went on to say they had been gradually phasing out balloons from its promotional events anyway due to environmental considerations. Oh I see. Well, erm, no actually I don’t. How exactly did this tale make headline news? Hardly something that is going to affect the way M&S are trading on a daily basis. The only people it is likely to have an impact on is M&S’ PR team. If they are anything like the teams I have worked with, balloons have in the past offered a cheap but cheerful way to tart up an otherwise bare launch party. Hiring rooms/booths and adding catering is an expensive business, and unless you are fortunate enough to have access to a large budget, once you have paid for some posh nibbles and some wine, there really isn’t much left over for decoration. Branded balloons have been a stalwart, along with the cheery branded cake, and the corporate pop-up dragged across the country on some poor PR’s back.

So, the hunt for an ethical, environmentally-friendly replacement for the balloon begins. Maybe they can introduce a lamb-proof balloon variety? Or ensure they are tied down and don’t find themselves floating 40miles across farmland?

What a shame. No seriously. Promotional balloons, may you rest in peace. And the lamb too.

You may have come across my previous blog when I initially started doing my dissertation for a CIPR diploma in 2007. Having finished in September last year, I’ve since been a little quiet, and have not been doing a great job of managing my professional development. So with the arrival of a rather snowy April, I’m setting out my thoughts on PR in publishing, and hoping to pen some ideas for professional development on the way. All comments as ever are very welcome.