MPs


Some of you may well have seen this research from the Guardian earlier this week, which aimed to highlight the top journalist tweeters in the UK – headed by Neil Mann, aka @fieldproducer, digital news editor at Sky News.

There just seemed to be one problem – the list was, perhaps unsurprisingly, absolutely dominated by Grauniad hacks, with half the top ten being employed by the paper running the research. The highest placed non-Guardian ‘paper scribe on the list was the FT’s Tim Bradshaw who came in a lowly eighteenth, while the Times could only muster one journalist in the top 50 – Michael Savage, in at #35.

Shurely shome mishtake?

We’ve run the findings through the tweetlevel  algorithm instead to give it some more context, and the same list appear in a very different order, with Charles Arthur the highest placed hack on the list, and afore-mentioned Tim Bradshaw rocketing up to eighth.

Check out the revised list here.

top tweeters grab

Picking a couple of other tech journos at random, there were notable exceptions in the original list: from The Times, Murad Ahmed would have been in the top fifty; the Telegraph’s digital media editor Emma Barnett would have triumphed in at #20; while arguably one of the UK’s most influential tech industry bods, Mike Butcher, would have come in joint with Tim Bradshaw.

To be clear, we’re not saying ‘our list is better than yours’, nor are we saying our methodology is better – we’re just saying that if you’re producing a list of the influential people in your industry, it might be a good idea to widen the scope to people who don’t work for you.

Let us know what you make of our version of the list originally produced by the Guardian. For more info on the algorithm used, make your brain hurt reading this.

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

 

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

# # #

Borges' Bookshelf

If you haven't read the short-story by Borges. Do. It's awesome.

A timely post perhaps – what with yesterday’s revelations about the war in Afghanistan.  Without doubt the Wikileaks story marks a significant milestone in terms of the use of data and transparency and there are interesting debates to be had around the role of information, state security and the freedom of the press that more intelligent people than I will have.

I wanted to post about the bulging shelves of Wikipedia (like a wing of the Library of Babel) because while dancing around the South Bank on Sunday – I was struck by how the ‘trusted’ source of info has become far more ingrained in culture than any encyclopaedia before it.

On Sunday I participated as an audience member in Domini Public – presented in the UK buy the Gate Theatre, but ‘staged’ outside the National.  (Incidentally I did this alone as a friend couldn’t get out of bed) The concept of the ‘play’ is aces.  The audience wear headphones, and are guided by an authoritative yet kindly voice, around the play space.  At first the instructions are simple enough: “stand to the right if you were born North of the river”.  As the play progresses, however, the audience is divided into three factions: police, prisoner, red cross.  What follows is a simple, yet insightful, comment on civil unrest, law and order and the role of the individual within society – all delivered with a wry smile.  Alas, Sunday was the last London performance – but should you ever come across the company behind this production do check it out.

So what does Wikipedia have to do with all this?  Well, during the warm-up section the entire cast/audience were grouped at one side of the space.  We then had to take four steps forward, if we could answer yes to the following questions:

  • Have you finished a book in the last week?
  • Have you seen a concert in the last seven days?
  • Have you been to the cinema this week?
  • Have you referenced Wikipedia this week?

Watching the  70 or so audience/cast members play out their answers to these questions, was really quite interesting.  I wouldn’t go as far as saying we displayed a microcosm of society (it was the Southbank on a Sunday, not a census), but what followed was quite startling.  I’d say the audience were aged between 16 and 60, though, so a good mix of ‘consumers’.  I’ve put in brackets below the rough percentage of who in the audience/cast moved.

  • Have you finished a book in the last week? (15 per cent)
  • Have you seen a concert in the last seven days? (10 per cent)
  • Have you been to the cinema this week? (20 per cent)
  • Have you referenced Wikipedia this week? (85 per cent)

So why did this interest me?  Well, it was a clear illustration that online media, entertainment and  information are all now a central part of our once analogue culture.  The immediacy, ease and (in many cases) low cost of social entertainment encourages us to use the internet as a more frequent source form of  entertainment and information than traditional mediums.  On Sunday, as a crowd of people, of mixed  backgrounds and ages, surged forward four steps – broadcasting their association with Wikipedia – it made a profound statement about the place of Wikipedia, and the internet, within the future of our society.  I’m not very good at maths but if 15 per cent of people are reading a book, but 85 are reading online – you can see how this is going to continue to snowball.

In case you’re interested, I took 12 steps…

@LukeMackay

Gordon Brown had hardly uttered the last syllable of the word ‘bigoted’ and already the Twitterverse was awash with Tweets about the Prime Minister’s supposed gaffe. Opposition Tweeters were gleeful in their condemnation of the PM – using tags like #bigotgate to propagate the story – while ordinary folk – yours truly included – waded in with their views in 140 characters or less. Strangely, the Labour Tweeters were – at the time of writing this post – noticeably silent. I don’t blame them to be honest.

Ignoring the rights and wrongs of the PM’s comment, this issue highlights yet again the power of Twitter in the run up to the general election. Writing in the Media Guardian on April 26th, Roy Greenslade said it was impossible to say how influential Twitter will be have come May 6th but the tone of his article suggested that Twitter would and already was having some form of influence. I agree completely.

Thanks to Twitter, I’ve found out that a former male glamour model who was kicked out of the Lib Dems for sending sexually explicit texts has been barred from standing as a Labour candidate in the election. I also know that Vince Cable has become a popular muse for musicians looking to pen a tune about installing him as Chancellor and that David Cameron can be made to look like Elvis with just a few strokes of a black marker. Marvellous.

Silliness aside, for me Twitter is making the election far more engaging. Reading endless political blog posts is dull, whereas I’ll happily read Tweets from all sides of the house. Like most people I suspect, I’d rather stick red hot pokers somewhere intimate than watch an election broadcast on TV but I’ll happily read a policy Tweet and click through to link on a party’s website. Twitter is also ace for debating with friends and randoms without getting drawn into heated debates that normally end with the line “I can’t believe you vote ***king Tory.”

The fact that I’m going to ***king vote at all is probably down to Twitter and I encourage everyone to get involved. Follow a few good (in terms of active) political Tweeters . Diversify, don’t just stick with your political allegiances and don’t be afraid to engage in debate just make sure you have something to say with your 140 characters.

And for PRs reading this, you can pick up real insight into how stories are broken and managed by following how a political story breaks and then develops within Twitter. You get a 360 view of all sides of an argument or incident and thanks to the 140 character limit, you tend to get the key information rather than the associated waffle that you get in the off-line world.

For the record, I don’t think Twitter is going to dictate who wins the general election but I do think it has allowed many more people than would previously have gotten involved in the debate to easily access and engage in the election process. So it’s definitely played a part.

 

@paulwooding1973

The upcoming General Election has been branded ‘the social media election’, with many claiming that this is the first British Election where social media will make the difference. Although we must be careful not to overstate the importance of ‘the online debate’, the use of social media has really come to the fore and is bringing a whole new audience to politics who might not have previously engaged before. It was social media that was credited with being pivotal in the success of Barack Obama’s 2008 US election campaign. The direct connections that Obama was able to forge with voters added extra depth to an already strong candidate.

Now for the first time ever, the general public can ask party leaders questions directly via their favourite social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. People can post articles, YouTube videos and photos which can be distributed much more widely and quickly through social networking sites. Facebook and Twitter can be thanked for an increase in the number of people who have registered to vote this year.  There is even a Facebook application that allows people to write or film questions for Gordon Brown, David Cameron, or Nick Clegg. Feeling more personally connected to the party leaders is helping to break down some of the barriers that have long-existed which make people feel very separate from their politicians.

Increased transparency of information has become something that people are demanding and the web is the perfect forum to store and share what the people to demand to see. The internet presents us with an enormous wealth of information about the election and its candidates, with new widgets available for example the BBC widget that allows you to compare party policies side by side. Power has seen a shift from the party and politician’s control and that of journalist and newspapers over to the public and how well they can interact with their people via social networking sites. Now that the potential for engagement is enormous those politicians who ignore it or are less active than others do so at their own peril.

@natfut

Two deadly explosions in Moscow metro became the main theme in the Runet (Russian Internet) on March 29, 2010. The blasts occurred during the morning rush hour in central Moscow. The first was at the Lubyanka metro station (7:50 am), the second came 40 minutes later at the Park Kultury station.

Social media in this extreme situation appeared to be much faster than traditional media. But despite the activity and efficiency, it also became a source of panic and misinformation as well.

Here, Olga Rasulova, Director, Digital Department, Edelman Imageland Russia discusses the positive and negative aspects about social media’s role in the attack response.

1. 40 Tweets per second

The tragedy in Moscow metro has become an example of how news now moves much faster than traditional media often allows: “40 Tweets per second on the terrorist attacks in the Moscow metro vs. only 4 TV newscasts in the morning” via @krassnova. People were very active in sharing the information from the places where the tragedy took place. While the Twitter user base in Russia is not very large at only 183 thousand users, everyone including TV channels and the Russian government saw Twitter’s value.

2. Check what you retweet

As good as Twitter was at facilitating quick transmission and response, it also spread rumors and unverified facts. The information sometimes appeared to be incorrect or without links to sources. Twitter was full of rumors such as ”I’ve heard that another explosion occurred at another metro station“ or ”Officials don’t speak about the new explosions, why?! “. Thousands of retweets of unchecked information created significant panic among users.

3. Hashtags: real help – real spam

People used Twitter to lend a helping hand by encouraging blood donations or appealing to car owners to drive people from the metro and bring them to their destinations for free (as opposed to using taxi drivers who raised the prices for their services.) To make these efforts easier to follow and coordinate, Twitter members used hash tags like #metro29 and  #moscow. At the same time, however, some unethical marketers used these hash tags for spam and advertising, taking advantage of the high levels of interest.

4. Lack of control

Videos and photos that people gathered and placed on their blogs inspired passionate debates about the ethical aspects of posting the pictures of victims without the permission of their relatives. Moreover, such content was posted and distributed uncut among unprepared users. The lack of editorial control shocked people.

5. Mr. President on Twitter

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is going to launch his official microblog on Twitter in the near future. In related news, the Presidential Administration sent an official notification to the administration of Twitter with request to remove the fake Medvedev account, which was very active during the Moscow metro terrorist attack.

As a comms professional I’m loving the sparring that’s taking place between the Labour and Conservative parties over the issue of cutting the budget deficit.

You have to take your hat off to the Labour comms team for turning a Tory strength  – less Government spending – into a weakness in the minds of the voter, a strategy that has seen the opposition’s double digit lead cut to less than three points in some polls.

Today we’ve seen the Labour team do a political 180 on the messaging front in response to the Tory promise to partially overturn the rise in National Insurance set to come into force in 2011. They’ve gone from warning over Tory cuts damaging the economic recovery to trying to convince the public that the Tory’s are promising tax cuts that will divert funds away from cutting the deficit.

Personally, I feel this goes back somewhat on what’s been very successful anti-Tory message and allows the Tories to get their ‘tax less, spend less’ creed back onto the media agenda. However, it goes to show how agile the parties have become in reacting quickly to policy changes from either side of the house.

At Edelman’s recent Budget 2010 Breakfast Briefing, the Executive Editor of The Times Daniel Finkelstein, gave a great overview of how Labour managed to get cut through with the general public by making them worried about what they could lose due to the Tory’s proposed cost cutting strategy. I dare say Tory HQ is working on a way to get voters to appreciate what they could save under the same set of policies. It’s all fascinating stuff.

I wonder what lessons, if any, PR professionals can take from this issue and apply to their day to day work? A big takeaway for me is that nothing is sacred.I think It was a bold move for Labour to focus on de-constructing such a core pillar of Conservative messaging – and one that has served the party well even over the last 13 years in opposition, yet it’s clearly paid off. Perhaps Election 2010 will provide a case study in how to win the messaging battle around a modern election? Whatever the result, you can safely say that the comms teams will have had a major role in deciding who’s in No.10 Downing Street this Summer.

You may have heard or read about two seemingly rather dull announcements from the UK government relating to Met Office and the Ordnance Survey data in the last day or so. What has actually been announced though is quite interesting – and perhaps even revolutionary.

The government has decided to make data from these organisations (or at least a certain amount of it) freely available to the public. What they are hoping to do is encourage entrepreneurs to develop new businesses through the inventive use of this data. It is hoped this will generate tax revenue greater than could have been realised by selling that data for commercial use.

This is a very interesting move on the part of the government that could result in the creation of a wide range of new businesses.

But surely this is a bit too forward thinking of a government that is most likely approaching the end of its days? Well yes it is. The idea was actually seeded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the web, and Professor Nigel Shadbolt from the University of Southampton. Both were recently appointed as government advisers on technology.

For Sir Tim and Professor Shadbolt, the real motivation here will be to encourage the growth of the semantic web, which has been long talked about but painfully slow in realisation.

Essentially, the semantic web is an ongoing effort to make the web more “intelligent” by allowing it to "understand" and satisfy user requests (including requests from machines) to a greater degree. At the heart of the semantic web is linked data and because much of the data held Met Office and Ordinance Survey can be classified as linked, it is essentially semantic web ready, making it ideally suited to the purpose of encouraging the next stage in the Internet’s evolution.

This article from the FT provides more detail on the government’s announcement and is worth reading: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cdcc60a2-e399-11de-9f4f-00144feab49a.html

@AndyRobertson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Star Wars example of how semantic web works – taken from the excellent folk at http://www.howstuffworks.com/semantic-web.htm

billy-no-mates

Right, well according to news issued today and a new Twitter index – tweetlevel – launched today, if this was used to measure who would win at the next election, Labour would win by a landslide (see release below, which also claims the Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown, is more popular than the PM himself, although to be honest this is not a big surprise). Anyway, politics aside, let’s be honest – we all know Twitter is one great big popularity contest and as much as you’d admit to otherwise, you desperately want to be more popular than your peers, colleagues and friends. Well, now is the time to check  go to TweetLevel and put your names in and see who you’re more popular, more influential, and more engaged with. Go on, you know you want to. Are you more influential than some of the names up for the title at the recent World’s Leading Awards? Or, is a tweeting dog more influential than you?

Labour would win a landslide victory at the next election based on their influence in the Twittersphere

But Sarah Brown more Trusted than Gordon

Global PR Agency Edelman unveils ‘TweetLevel’ to measure your importance on Twitter

 

 

Labour MPs would win a landslide victory at the next election if their influence in the Twittersphere is anything to go by, according to Edelman’s TweetLevel index launched today.

Labour MPs make up 58.2% of the most influential MPs using social media tool Twitter, compared to 19.7% of Lib Dems and 15.3% of Tories.

Based on the UK Polling Report’s swing calculator which benchmarks opinion poll data against results at the last General Election, the tweet numbers would give Labour a majority of 450 – a veritable Tweetatorship.  Labour would hold 550 seats, the Liberal Democrats 63 seats and the Tories a poor third with 14 seats.

It is not all good news for the Labour party.  Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown, is an enthusiastic Twitter user and her glimpses of day to day life at number 10 have clearly struck a chord with the nation in a way that her husband has not.  With a trust ranking of 68%, she is more trusted than the Prime Minister in the Twittersphere by 63.9% points.

TweetLevel has been developed by Edelman, one of the world’s leading PR agencies, using a unique algorithm which takes into account the quality and quantity of someone’s tweets, how engaged and trusted a tweeter is, as well as how popular they are.

By entering their Twitter details into Edelman’s free online tool at www.tweetlevel.com, individuals can measure their own importance and rank themselves against a range of factors including influence, engagement, trust and popularity.

TweetLevel allows individuals the opportunity to compare their own importance in the Twittersphere to that of their friends, colleagues and others they choose to ‘follow’.

“This may seem like a bit of fun but there is a really serious side to it.  Too often people think that mere popularity is important but influence and ultimately engagement are what matters.    Barack Obama showed that the use of social media can be an extremely powerful tool in reaching grassroots and motivating local voter groups.   Just signing up isn’t enough – the power of Twitter lies in genuine engagement” said Robert Phillips, UK CEO of Edelman.

Jonny Bentwood, Edelman’s Head of Strategic Analysis, created the algorithm at the heart of the TweetLevel.

“We used over 30 metrics to create the algorithm behind the index.  Unlike most rankings that look merely at the number of followers someone has, TweetLevel gives you a really clear picture of who is important within this increasingly influential forum.”

There are four result metrics:

  • Influence – what you say is interesting and many people listen to it.  This is the primary ranking metric.
  • Popularity – how many people follow you.
  • Engagement – how actively you participate within your community
  • Trust – do people believe what you say.

Each score is rated out of 100 – in other words, the higher your score, the more important you are.

Among the most influential tweeters are show biz blogger Perez Hilton, Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher and Social media blog Mashable.

The above rankings and scores were taken on Tuesday 10 November 2009.  TweetLevel is a dynamic tool and the statistics will vary based on individuals’ levels of activity on Twitter.

 

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