Monday, May 11, 2009

Social Media Bullying – it’s not just in schools

The Four Corners report that aired last Monday (11th May) was a well overdue expose of NRL players, managers and administrators behaving badly. A full transcript of the show can be found here. It makes compelling reading and the courage showed by the women who came forward to be interviewed is to be commended.

But that’s when social media steps up to the plate and shows us the ugly face of Australia with a hate group created on Facebook directed at one of the women who was interviewed on the show. If it hasn’t been pulled already, the link is here.

Whatever your views on Ms Palavi’s dating habits, this is a major issue for any social media platform. The fact that Facebook has allowed a hate group like this to be set up – despite it being reported – is irresponsible. It is simply personal vilification and the group’s followers should take a moment to consider the seriousness of supporting it.

This highlights my concern about social media forums. While they can share valuable ideas and knowledge, they also provide a very prominent forum for the ugly side of our society. Through the flimsy defence of humour on sites like Facebook or YouTube serious issues are being trivialised which is impacting on what people consider acceptable behaviour in society.

Rape, sexual harassment or verbal abuse of women leading to trauma are criminal offenses. Harassing someone who has given evidence to police andmedia (an NRL whistleblower for want of a better term) about these sorts of incidents is akin to aiding and abetting criminal activity – or being part of the “bad NRL culture” cheer squad at best.

The harassment of women in any form should be discouraged – especially on social media forums like Facebook. I commend the efforts of groups like White Ribbon who actively campaign to address male attitudes regarding violence toward women.

However when 113 people can sign up for groups like the one mentioned above, it shows we still have a long way to go.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why PR agencies should not guarantee media results

Sally Romano, founder and principal of Publicity Queen, has defended her offer to guarantee media results for clients in a letter to the editor of B&T Magazine (17 April).

She wants to remove the financial risk for clients and portrays those who don’t as defensive PR purists without any “brio”. Sally has certainly achieved some good publicity by challenging the established PR Code of Ethics and the professionalism of the PR industry.

To respond to Sally's letter, let me offer the following:

#1: Any agency can guarantee media results for clients. They buy an ad. It’s commonly called advertising (or advertorials).

#2: If a PR person guarantees the same outcome from a journalist interaction, it devalues the credibility and integrity of the journalist and the editorial they produce.

Let’s take Sally’s client X who wants some coverage on new product Y. Sally guarantees the result and pitches the story to a journalist who has written on that issue in the past. In receiving that pitch, the journalist must realise that Sally thinks she’s on a sure thing for a story on product Y (they read B&T, Sally).

I don’t know too many journalists who appreciate being known as a PR patsy so I’m not sure how that improves Sally’s relations with journalists. And if the journalist does write something on Sally’s client, irrespective of the news value, how will he or she be viewed by their colleagues. A sell out or simply a PR stooge?

They’re damned if they do and she’s damned if they don’t.

Sally, the editorial independence of journalists is critical to maintain the integrity of the news and is the underlying reason why people read their stories. That’s why PR people and the brands they represent are so keen to gain coverage through media relations.

As soon as you start guaranteeing results, the perception of independence breaks down and the news value of the editorial that is produced is no more than an ad. Media relations then turns into media buying.

What happens then Sally? Your guaranteed media relations puts you up against media buyers who can offer those 'ads' to your clients more cheaply, more often and in a better position. It's just not PR.

So if that means the PR industry lacks “brio”, then I’m happy to settle for “adagio” any day.

Yours sincerely,

Monday, January 19, 2009

Will 2009 be the Year of the Fake Viral

First Tourism Queensland and the tattoo and now the Youtube girl with a jacket story have been revealed as fakes. Let's give the ad agencies who came up with them a hand, 10/10 for creativity. But seriously, 0/10 for authenticity. Did they actually think beyond the execution to what the audience reaction would be if their lies were exposed? News media don't appreciate being misled. Denying you knew anything about it is cowardly. And what does that exposure do for trust in the brand they represent?

Hiring actresses and having agency staff film fake tattoo parlours showcase all the hallmarks of why ad creatives don't get social media. Let's call these efforts the "reality" TV show approach. It's entertainment designed to gain maximum exposure in the various news mediums. Fake is ok because we aren't really hurting anyone, right?? Wrong.

Real everyday Joe's and Joanne's are reading these stories and believing them. They are being reported in mainstream press. When it's proven to be false, the brand connection is instantly severed. The trust is gone. And I'm sure the integrity of the news agency also fades slightly but that's another issue.

So consider a different approach. Tourism Qld promotes the video of an actual entry. The clothing label finds a real girl looking for a real boy (plenty of those out there). The stories are followed to a happy conclusion. The brand behind the campaign is revealed as part of the narrative. And a relationship between brand and audience begins. The hard marketing campaign can then laud that Jack and Jill wore this apparel on their first date. Almost a Carrie and Milano Blahnik moment or was that Jimmy Choo...

Certainly saves you the cost of an actress.