Football


I must admit to being unusually intrigued by the above headline spotted on Twitter yesterday. Knowing my boss as I do, I can attest to his absolute commitment to, and vision for, influencer marketing through channels such as YouTube.

However, YouTube to “save his career” seemed a bit extreme even in these times of crisis!

Then a follow up headline shed more light on the mystery “Hargreaves to prove fitness by YouTube” . . . . a click on the link revealed a different Hargreaves, England and ex-Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves, who has turned to social media in an attempt to convince clubs of his recovery from knee injury.

Apart from the ease with one can confuse one of English football’s leading proponents of the holding midfielder (formerly “Makalele”) role and Edelman’s European Managing Director of Technology, this story revealed some interesting insights into the use of social media within the workplace.

By turning to YouTube, Hargreaves (Owen) is seeking to convince not merely prospective clubs but also their fans; a vital constituency in any eventual transaction. While no club would seriously rank armchair or bar room insight above that of professional scouts or medical experts, they ignore this community at their own risk as Hargreaves is fully aware.

He will be wanting to remind them of his prodigious past; winning the Champions League with Bayern Munich aged 20 and England performances in the 2006 World Cup (where he was one of the few England players man enough to take and score a penalty in the shoot out against Portugal.

With staff review season fast approaching at ‘Edelman Towers’, how could Hargreaves’ approach be adapted to the workplace in general? Am I about to receive a dozen urls from aspiring account managers highlighting their best pitch moments, the phone call of the year when they secured additional out of pocket expenses, or – even – their network moment of the year when they collared a journalist/prospect in a bar over cocktails?

Perhaps these links will be shared “a la Hargreaves” with the wider PR community as part of a genuine influencer marketing campaign supporting their bid for promotion (“did you see that pitch . . . ? S/he still has it . . . they haven’t lost their touch!”). [although the YouTube pitching stunt by 10Yetis split the PR world; either ingenious or desperate? – Ed]

Football is a distinct workplace given the level of media coverage, discussion and opinion that it generates, but the principles of influencer marketing could still apply in terms of promoting your cause internally. I like to think that we in the PR profession would produce something a little bit more sophisticated that the Owen Hargreaves keep fit video, but the logic of seeking endorsement from a wider community (i.e. beyond that of your immediate line manager) is equally relevant.

I am, therefore, standing by for the creative videos and virals extolling the virtues and professional prowess of my colleagues. Jonathan Hargreaves scoring a penalty against Portugal in the World Cup finals; now that’s a YouTube video I would not want to miss!

@RogerDara

It’s pretty safe to say that it isn’t too often that The European Convention on Human Rights, originally set out in 1950, isn’t something that gets cited too often in casual debates around freedom of expression. Yet two particular articles sit at the heart of many debates surrounding the press and, arguably, in many debates around our society in general.

Article 8 states:

“everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

A simple sentiment, but one which sits at the core of the spate of recent super injunction cases and which is frequently winning arguments in court. The sentiment is one which few would realistically argue with; we all have a right to privacy, an essential aspect of a truly free society.

Key to the discussion around super injunctions is the interpretation of this right to privacy as the right to a protection of reputation.

Reputations are legally perceived to have a monetary value and, as dictated by legal precedent in the UK courts, everyone starts with a good reputation – unless proven otherwise. This idea sits at the heart of defamation rulings, the idea that the unfair tarnishing of someone’s reputation can have a negative effect on their potential income.

And yet all too often this idea is emphatically contradicted by the opening line in Article 10 of the same convention:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression”.

 

Essentially, everyone has the right to say what they want, when they want to – and if that is damaging to someone else’s reputation, so be it.

With two such contradictory statements at the heart of super injunctions and defamation rulings, it’s easy to see why cases can last for years following the original comments and/or story.

Nevertheless Article 8 has dominated proceedings in recent years, and a key reason for this is Mr. Justice Eady. If you don’t know Mr. Justice Eady, he is a UK judge frequently appointed to high profile defamation cases.

Numerous publishers have bones to pick with him and it’s rumored that champagne corks were being popped around Fleet Street (metaphorically speaking, at least) when he announced that he was standing down, and it looks as though his replacement might be somewhat more liberal towards freedom of expression, meaning we could see some change in precedence over the coming years.

The phrase “in the public interest” is frequently bandied about in defamation cases. This is the happy compromise between the two articles; you can only impact on someone’s reputation if it’s in the public interest.

So while it might not be in the public interest to know that Princess Caroline of Monaco goes out to dinner with her kids, (unsurprisingly, she received compensation over photographs published of just this), but that it might be good for the public to know about the less-than-wholesome life Tommy Sheridan (then an MSP) was leading; a case which only gets more extraordinary the more you hear about it.

Reeling out 17 witnesses, Sheridan initially won damages from the News of the World over claims that he was visiting an illicit club; five years on and he’s serving jail time for perjury, though one suspects we haven’t heard the last of it yet.

However, the “public interest” argument is also a pretty flimsy and arbitrary compromise which represents the only middle ground between the two. It’s frequently sullied by the press stretching the definition of public interest to, say, knowing that a premier league footballer had relations with someone they shouldn’t have.

It’s also quickly worth mentioning the increasingly prominent trend for “Libel Tourism”, wherein cases can be brought about in territories which have no bearing on the original comments or participants. This, as you may have guessed, is because the internet is ubiquitous and as such as long as you can prove that a comment made in America has been seen in the UK, then proceedings can be pressed in UK Courts – as seen with King vs. Lewis in 2004. Article 8 makes it easier to win damages in defamation cases (and to win super injunctions) in the UK than it does in the US, meaning that this is a trend which isn’t going anywhere.

This has interesting implications for PRs and the use of social media, as it’s increasingly becoming vital to ensure that social media policies are rigid and right, and to ensure that you watch what you say on social networks – either by yourself or on behalf of a client.

Article 8 is currently winning over Article 10 in the UK, so while you’re free to express yourself, you basically can’t express yourself too much. Or something like that. Even if only one person sees a defamatory comment it could be prosecuted.

It’s also worth remembering that Clients taking legal action in order to protect their reputation isn’t always A Great Thing. In fact, it’s pretty much very rare to see any real benefit. See McLibel, which ultimately had a damaging effect on McDonald’s brand. Looking at the reasons that McDonalds originally took action it could be argued that the head honchos at Google would be within their rights to consider similar action against Facebook and BM, yet I believe they are intelligent and perceptive enough not to.

The interpretation of these two articles sits at the heart of one of the key debates around the media at the moment; it’s important that as PR practitioners we fully understand what they stand for.

@tmbrntt

 

For the uninitiated, Wes Brown is Manchester United´s much maligned defender; even for Man United aficionados, he is hardly likely to set the pulse racing. The mere mention of his name on the team sheet is more likely to strike fear amongst his own team than the opposition; Wes Brown has scored more goals against Manchester United (5) than for them (3) – a net deficit you may say. There is even a Facebook dedicated to Wes Brown’s unusual prowess, entitled “Wes Brown is the most boring and rubbish footballer EVER”.

Probably not a good idea to associate with him you may think. Well, to date, most companies appear to agree . . . .Brown currently enjoys only one personal endorsement contract, with the sports footwear manufacturer Concave. A deal which he shares with John O’Shea strangely enough; or “O Shit” as one Facebook group would prefer to call him. A far cry from the $7 million worth of endorsements enjoyed by team mates Wayne Rooney (Nike, Nokia, Ford, Asda, and (until recently) Coca-Cola), or the $6 million man and ex-England captain Rio Ferdinand (complete with his 688,000 Twitter followers and 430,000 Facebook fans).

Well, here’s a thought . . . . given Manchester United’s training, playing and travelling schedule Wes Brown probably spends more time with Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs etc. than with his own wife. Wes joined Manchester United in 1999 and has played for them all his life; I think it is fair to say that he and his teammates know each other inside out, the good, the bad and the ugly.

But here’s the point. Take a look at who global icon Rio Ferdinand sits next to in the dressing room. Yes, it´s our hero, the “most boring and rubbish footballer EVER” Wesley Michael “Wes” Brown!

Twice a week + training and travel, Wes Brown sits and chews the fat with one of the most influential people in the UK, and (judging by the recent media coverage surrounding his loss of the England captaincy), Europe and even the World.

And here is the other thing . . . . Wes Brown is not very good at football, he does not command celebrity endorsement fees, but he is more accessible and approachable than those more famous (i.e. “better”) players who do.

As a means to reach those key influencers – who themselves will be inaccessible and beyond the means of most organizations, who will be difficult to work with and – ultimately – will steal the limelight for themselves – Wes Brown could be a great option.

Endorsers are unlikely to be queuing up to sign up a “one club” Manchester United player who has scored more goals against them than for them, and this means that Brown’s endorsement would be more exclusive (as opposed to simply another brand name on a retainer) and, potentially, more powerful.

Particularly given his proximity to Rio Ferdinand at least twice a week. Most importantly – with all due respect – he is no Rio Ferdinand and unlikely to steal the limelight for himself either. In fact, he’d probably be flattered to be approached in the first place!

Beyond the world of football, these are the types of relationships and influences that organizations should consider when recruiting endorsers to start ideas and amplify their messages. The most popular blogger or most visible online community may not be the most effective place to start; there may be an even smarter way to reach them in a way that generates real benefit for both the organization and the influencer being approached.

Back to the football analogy . . . do players still share hotel rooms? If so, taking the Wes Brown dressing room logic to its natural conclusion, who shares with Wayne Rooney, that would be powerful information to have . . .

@RogerDara

Many of you will be aware of how the above question applied to the Roman Empire during Monty Python’s Life of Brian

“alright –APART from sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order…”

 

I was reminded to apply the same question to Europeans in general as part of an investigation into the future of work being undertaken for a client. The findings to date predict a truly global and “frictionless” marketplace where, by 2020, skills and experience will be matched with job profiles and budgets through a sort of “global employment dashboard”, probably residing somewhere in the Cloud.

How will Europe compete in such a competitive environment? Well, it certainly won’t be on cost…

Europeans will have to find clear distinction; what they are good at, where their value lies in order to compete in an increasingly frictionless market.

To this end, my colleagues and I have been trying to compile a list of sectors, expertise, and markets where Europe really excels. These are areas where skills and heritage built up over centuries give Europe an unassailable competitive advantage.

First, we start with the serious list; by 2020, Europeans will still be in a position of competitive advantage in the following:

Next, the list of slightly less serious areas where the Europeans excel however:

I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for either list.  So in 2020, when the question arises, “What have the Europeans ever done for us?” we’ll have our answers ready!

@RogerDara

UK Times journalist Rod Liddle can barely hide is contempt for Twitter and its proponents who claim to be “changing the World in 140 characters”.  Liddle is referring to the uncompromising (sometimes pompous) pronouncements made by politicians to various leaders of the Libyan government:
• “My message to Saif Qadhafi today: violence we are seeing against the Libyan people is unacceptable” (@WilliamJHague; UK Foreign Minister) 
“Great honour to Egypt today. People Power has forced regime change. Needs equal focus and discipline to bring in something better” (@DMiliband; ex UK Foreign Minister)

Given that these messages appear aimed directly at the regime of another country; I wonder if Twitter is the most appropriate medium. 

“I tried to see if ol’ Saif had responded online to this stinging rebuke — perhaps with an ‘Oh, bugger me, you’re quite right, William — we’ll call off the bombings and relinquish power immediately’. But no luck. Saif probably tweets under a different name,” muses Liddle of Hague´s message.

“ . . one assumes the bloodied and determined Egyptian democrats stopped in their tracks at this important missive and immediately gathered together to thrash out a more disciplined and focused approach to social change. Thank you, David — valuable advice. Please go on,” he adds with respect to Milliband´s words of encouragement. 

In the most blatant example of ‘bigging up’ the medium, Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United and England football captain, claimed that he and other Twitter users “are involved (if not directly)in a powerful #movement ! …” (@rioferdy5).

With all due respect Rio . . . . we are not. We are simply exchanging opinions on football, the state of your back injury, Man Yoo’s failed attempt to rebuff a rejuvenated Liverpool FC this weekend, quite how Ferguson continues to flout broadcast regulations, and how he is turning into Kevin The Teenager.

And here is the shame . . . . As a social media platform Twitter can provide a valuable and unique support for those looking to deliver the most sensitive message to the most specific of audiences; the key is that Twitter not just about the Tweet.

The Twitter platform can provide a wealth of information about a particular audience, where it meets, what subjects it cares about, with what frequency and style it communicates, who are the idea starters, who are the amplifiers.  It can also provide this level of detail about a subject or theme; who is leading the discussion, do these people remain constant or does leadership vary over time or cyclically, on what other platforms are these themes addressed (traditional media, blogs, other communities, physical meetings etc)?  Tools such as Edelman’s TweetLevel can deliver analysis by audience or theme, level of engagement, the trust or authority associated with each contributor, all of which can be broken down on the basis of geography or language.

This powerful insight can be delivered without the necessity of making a single Tweet.  The shame being that for many – from Rod Liddle to Rio Ferdinand – Twitter simply means Tweeting. 

And this misapprehension gives social media in general a bad name because it assumes that – in the final analysis – everything can and should be broken down to 140 characters; which is really missing the point. 

In some instances Twitter may be the most appropriate medium on which to communicate or participate in dialogue with a given audience; but in others it is wholly inappropriate.  Perhaps discreet diplomatic channels would have been more appropriate method of influencing the Libyan regime (telephone calls, summits, relationship meetings, official (confidential) memos etc).  Government to government communication via Twitter just seems wrong in this context.

However, the insight that platforms such as Twitter can provide into a target audience or theme remains both invaluable but all too often neglected.   This analysis should help define how a given message can be credibly delivered whether through face to face meetings, traditional media, telephone calls, roundtables, third party events, blogs, conferences, or – indeed – a Twitter feed. 

A final word to those Twitter incontinents out there; to “use Twitter” does not necessarily mean to “Tweet”.

@RogerDara

# # #

…or the one phrase they you will never see in 140 characters

Ever since I tweeted some light -hearted comments concerning Liverpool’s ongoing search for the glory years following last month’s sacking of manager, Roy Hodgson, I´ve been aware of the polarizing nature of the 140 character medium.   I simply pointed out that (ex Manchester United on pitch legend (and off pitch clown!)) Roy Keane was currently available to fill any managerial vacancy.   Within a few hours my in box was full of the most obscene venom and I was forced to clean my account of unwanted followers. 

More so than blogs, Twitter does encourage confrontation and the exchange of opposing views; but it is not really a medium for discussion.

Worse though than venom and more pervasive than outright confrontation is the trend towards extreme political correctness (PC) on Twitter which kills any type of reasoned argument or exchange of views stone dead.

There have been a number of instances of “PC mob mentality” in recent weeks, including the excoriation and subsequent dismissal of Sky Sports football pundits, Andy Gray and Richard Keys.  Gray was caught off camera (but on microphone) questioning the ability of a female linesman (and women in general) to understand the rules of football. Keys’ misogynism was exposed off air (but on camera) in a verbal tirade concerning an ex girlfriend of a fellow commentator, Jamie Rednapp.

The resulting wave of opprobrium across all media proved irresistible and both commentators were out of work by the end of the week.  Twitter was at the forefront of the campaign to oust them citing their sexist, insulting behaviour as unfit and inappropriate for modern broadcast.  

However, it’s not quite as simple as that; I suspect that Sky’s reaction and subsequent dismissal of Gray was more a reaction to the “PC mob” in full cry over Twitter.  The issue surely merited a more analytical assessment than possible in 140 characters…

What was Sky´s real agenda; for a broadcaster comfortable with using attractive presenters to boost viewing figures, I’m not sure that the “moral indignation” card is entirely credible?

How do the alleged “victims” of these attitudes feel? to date there have been no interviews with the female referee in question (Sian Massey) or the ex girlfriend referred to by Keys? 

At least one leading sportswomen, Rachel Heyhoe Flint former captain of England female cricket team was supportive of Keys and Gray, describing their exchange as "banter” (light hearted).

Did anyone ever actually listen to either Keys or Gray in any capacity?  Given the level of credibility both of them seem to enjoy (even on football-related matters) a more pertinent debate could have concerned their reputed €1 million+ salaries to impersonate a couple of pub bores who most sports fans (and probably all women) would pay good money to avoid.

But alas Twitter does not provision such debate; it is simply heroes or villains, black or white, angels or devils and nothing in between, with political correctness acting as the final arbiter.  That’s the thing about Twitter; once the moral majority (or even minority) take hold of an issue there is no room for debate.  That’s because in 140 characters, at least, one phrase remains absolutely taboo . . . “I’m not sure about  . . .  .”

Back to Sky Sports, political correctness and the unfortunate Richard Keys; a brief return to Key’s diatribe could offer an alternative insight: “Mind you, that’s a stupid question, if you were anywhere near it, you definitely smashed it. You could have gone round there any night and found Redknapp hanging out the back of it . . .” (“It” referring to Mr Rednapp’s erstwhile partner).

Keys appears to be suffering from an acute form of Tourette’s syndrome, there can be no other explanation.  Given that Keys is gallantly battling on in the face of a medical condition we should be defending him – or Twitter’s PC mob should.  In 140 character terms, he is the real victim after all.

@RogerDara

As a Premiership manager who goes to extreme measures to avoid the inconvenience of post match interviews and who has refused to even speak to any reporter from the BBC for last 6 years, Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson would be an unlikely source of advice for PR agencies. But in a sector whose principal assets arrive in the morning and leave at night, football can provide some remarkable insights on the management of human capital, or “talent” as it is otherwise known.

The Financial Times – no less – drew attention to the techniques employed by Sir Alex in his management of highly paid stars in a recent Lex column. The piece draws parallels to the management of talent within the banking sector.

PR agencies are not protected by patented machinery, capital equipment or (as in the case of the banking sector) high speed technology and layers of regulation; all that´s required to conduct a PR campaign today is a telephone line and an email account. The performance of a PR agency really is driven by the talent at its disposal.

As in football some agencies or teams pay staff higher salaries than others, but – as with football – a higher salary budget does not automatically lead to greater team success (cue gratuitous jibe about the number of years Manchester City and Newcastle United have remained trophyless). The key is in the management.

In PR agency terms, this is typically summed up at the recruitment or review stage; does it make sense to recruit (or remunerate) the team “star” or the team “worker bee”? As Lex puts it:

“The tension is created by the conflict between bureaucracy and charisma (in the words of sociologist Max Weber). Bureaucracies are efficient, but dull and prone to run out of imagination and energy. Charisma is exciting and effective – it scores goals, both literal and metaphorical – but can be disorganised and disruptive.”

In practice, agencies need both; creative risk takers and reliable process implementers. The key is to understand which, what level of each role is required in your team and who is best equipped to play it.

The same is true of football, no team could compete if made up exclusively of charismatic stars (cue snide asides about The Netherlands never having won a World Cup); or in other words, the reason why John O´Shea has four Premiership and one Champions League medals (as this group helpfully remind Liverpool fans). You can blame it all on Max Weber.

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