Women


ENTER MUS-GRAMMYS 226 LAIn today’s social media driven world it seems like all companies are using social media and are trying to be the experts in the field. But as we all know creating a Facebook page or Twitter handle and frequently shouting about your brand is not likely to make you an expert in social media. 

This post comes as a result of the Twitter storm that was sparked around Adele the night of the Grammys. This suggests that personalities work better than brands with online conversations often backfiring on brands and advertising often taking over true conversations. Instead, it is about being able to create content which users can discuss, share and recommend while also supporting customer service and experience.

There is no doubt that brands must embrace social media. The fast-changing landscape means that many companies remain confused about exactly why they are on social media sites – beyond the usual talk about building a fan base there are many ways that brands can interact with customers using social media including handling customer complaints, offering discounts and listening to online conversations.

There are only a small number of brands that are using social media to really connect and interact with customers. For example Dell, has a social media ‘listening command centre’ that identifies customer service issues along with brand evangelists. KLM also is using social media to improve customer service and gleam customer insights. They have a unique 24hr customer service platform on Facebook and Twitter, employees held up large poster with individual letters and created a living alphabet that was videoed and sent to customers to spell out customer questions. Unisys also has a social knowledge sharing platform for employees to network and share information.

Another great example of a brand excelling in their use of social media is American Steak house ‘Morton’s’, who identified that a social media guru tweeted about craving a @Mortons steak after a long flight. Morton Steak House acted quickly and used this as a media opportunity organising a number of employees to greet the influencer with a juicy steak at the arrivals gate. This highlights the importance of noticing a PR opportunity and acting fast.

Looking at these brands examples gives useful insights into why these companies are succeeding in social media.The small handful that really are using social media successfully are listening and communicating with their customers by two way communication that is not overly brand biased. Improving customer service is a key theme flowing through the above examples; customers who feel like they are listened too and understood are likely to be more loyal to the brand. Successful brands are talking to customers about what they actually care about.

Brands who demonstrate understanding, creativity and innovative thinking which moves them out of their comfort zones seems to be winning ingredient. 

@T_Bloore

A very interesting blog post on the FT about changes in the fashion industry caught my attention and I wanted to share the most subversive etail initiative I have ever heard about. 

www.honestby.com is the brainchild of Belgian designer Bruno Pieters. The site will sell a collection of 56 pieces for men and women. But what is groundbreaking about it is its transparency. It is transparent both financially and in terms of manufacturing.

By the time you press “buy” you will know exactly what you are paying for – everything from the material used, weight, who spun it, whether it is organic, a website for the supplier and so on – and you will find this for the fabric, the zipper, the lining, the trim, the label, the buttons, the thread etc. Under “price information” you will find out the cost per meter of the fabric, how much was ordered, how much was used, how much labour was involved, what the mark-up was, and how the profit was used.

High-end fashion has historically been a business built on opacity. Things cost what they cost and the less the consumer knows about the literal value of these, the better off the brands are and the more they can charge. It is precisely this attitude that Bruno wants to change as he thinks it breeds consumer mistrust – and why he wanted absolute clarity in his own brand. He has even gone so far to have said that if orders go up and he achieves economies of scale, his prices will come down.

It seems to me this has the potential to be a real game-changer in fashion, because if consumers get used to having this sort of information available, who knows, maybe they could start demanding it from other brands…

@natfut

honest-by

The world can be full of contradictions and online stores going offline is another example. Some of the biggest names such as eBay, Amazon and Google are leading the way back to traditional roots.

With commentators at the start of last year announcing the end of ‘bricks and mortar’ stores, what is the reason for this fast turnaround? In my humble opinion it is the shopping experience. Love them or hate them physically stores can (I emphasise can) give a more fulfilling and satisfying experience than offline. I realise that online shopping is quick, simple and saves fighting the crowds but who has not bought something online and then been disappointed either because of the fit, look or size? We have all been there.

‘Bricks and mortar’ stores allows customers to touch, try and god forbid socialise with others which is just not comparable to the online shopping experience. However as we are all aware the online experience is hardly on the decline with record online sales this Christmas. In December, Amazon announced that 1.4 million orders had taken place on their website on Cyber Monday alone and on Christmas day itself 186 million pounds was spent online in the UK. Shopping online is quick, easy and hassle free, so it is no wonder that traditional offline stores are turning to non-traditional means to encourage shoppers in-store. House of Fraser is luring customers into their stores by offering free WiFi in-store; Marks and Spencer’s ‘brick and click’ campaign combining in-store and e-commerce offerings as well augmented reality changing rooms at Topshop that save queuing for the changing room.

It seems that the lines are blurring and both traditional and new retailers are seeing the benefit of each other’s position.

topshop

@t_bloore

Until last week, 2011 seemed to be the year of the empowered female. won the Nobel Peace Prize; not one but two women were appointed to the position of CEO for two of the world’s largest technology brands; the Commonwealth leaders agreed to give girls equal rights to the British throne; and even Beyoncé became the first woman to headline at Glastonbury in the past 40 years.

However, the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report, which launched in New York last week, brought a new take to the picture and underlined that women still fall massively behind in gender equality. Maybe it’s because I was brought-up in the Destiny’s Child era, or perhaps it’s Serbian tenacity kicking in, but in this day and age, how have we not moved forward and why are we still facing such inequalities when there are much more pressing matters that both men and women could resolve by working together as equals?

The report highlighted that women hold fewer than 20 per cent of all decision-making national positions, and little advances in economic and political parity have been made since the first report was published in 2006. The UK, specifically, ranked 33rd for economic participation and opportunity, and the outcome was that more needs to be done by governments and the private sector to support and leverage female successes, and to implement policies to promote women’s economic and political roles.

This was closely followed by the Fawcett ReportA Life Raft for Women’s Equality – which was released on Friday, suggesting that women’s financial security and human rights are “under attack on a scale not seen in living memory due to the coalition’s austerity measures.” Talk about a bleak week.

It certainly set the scene for Theresa May’s announcement at the Royal Commonwealth Society on Friday, where she launched a package of measures that aspires to help women ‘fulfil their potential’ in business, through a £2m scheme that will see 5,000 volunteer mentors trained by next year to become role models for female entrepreneurs. She said, “For too long, as a country, we have failed to make the most of the skills, experience and talents of women and despite the difficult decisions that need to be taken, there is much we can do to make sure that our economy emerges stronger and fairer, and operates in the interests of the working majority.”

It certainly sounds like a step in the right direction, but I wish it was a leap, and a giant one at that. It will certainly be interesting to see what the conclusion is in another five years; whether we’ll have put this one to bed or will it continue to haunt?

In case you haven’t seen them yet – there’s an early Christmas battle going on between M&S and John Lewis for who can produce the best festive advert. I say ‘battle’ but it’s been won hands down by John Lewis for this wonderful, charming story. In case you haven’t seen the M&S one, have a look, if you dare, here. It’s basically, everything that was quite clever and well executed in the collective ‘Perfect Day’ remake for Children in Need, but made bloody horrible by using the X Factor contestants. Honestly, it’s just unpleasantly “"sixth-form-project”.

One key element here, in tapping into the Christmas market, is getting the tone, sentiment, and festive spirit *just right*. What underpins all of this is the soundtrack – get that wrong, and you’re on the back foot from the off.

John Lewis have used a wonderful, understated and elegant remake of the Smiths’ classic ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’, evoking an emotional feeling in those watching it, and – if initial reaction if to be considered – making is a success and something people are sharing across social media.

The M&S advert however, has a clumsy, hard on the ears and downright unlistenable cocktail of different vocals, vocal styles, and most importantly vocal abilities. Say what you like about Frankie being apparently quite rock ‘n’ roll and meaning well, but let’s be honest, that guy CANNOT sing. He just doesn’t suit ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’.

The soundtrack is the key to associating emotion and sentiment in the brain – if you have that fixed in, the advert is memorable for the right reasons and something people want to share and comment on. Watch the ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ trailer if you don’t believe me – it’s a wonderful example.

John Lewis hit the nail on the head, but M&S has sadly missed this entirely.

*UPDATE* we told you it was all about the music – someone’s done a minor mash-up using the theme from the Shining instead. changes it somewhat….

@wonky_donky

How social technologies breed solo shopping – at least in the real world

The days of meeting up with friends and going on a shopping spree are long gone. With so much choice brought about by the increasing number of ecommerce platforms, retailers introducing more ranges online, and the growth of social technologies,applications and contactless payment systems, serious shoppers have drifted from the pack and prefer to go it alone.

Today, if you ask – “does my bum look book in this?” – you’re more likely to be ‘BBMing’ a picture to your friends, getting ‘liked’ on Facebook, or checking out real-time personal shopping apps than asking a friend who is actually shopping with you. That’s because any opportunity can be a purchasing opportunity. Whether you’re on your smartphone, visiting a supermarket or perusing Facebook, the opportunity to buy and price-check a range of goods in real-time is at your fingertips making it even harder for traditional retailers to make that initial sell, cross-sell, and most importantly getting customers into stores.

We’ve heard more regularly over recent months about the decline of the high-street and the future need for physical stores continues to be questioned. In recent years online fashion retailers such as ASOS and Net-A-Porter have done a good job of removing what some would describe as the stressful in-store experience and have brought the changing room right into your home – all of which has been done seamlessly, particularly when returning items. This in turn has made retailers think more strategically about the in-store experience and customer service they want to provide for shoppers in order to differentiate from online.

The most valuable part of any fashion store is the window display and the right-hand side of the shop as you walk in as it is what draws people in. These areas need to be stocked with bestsellers, new lines, adverts, packaging and items promoted in the press. Generally anything visible from the front of the shop should be high profit or popular items, and presented in an exclusive fashion so if your size is out it will bring out the animal instinct in you to hunt it down until it’s yours.

Highstreet retailers such as Topshop have also done a lot in recent years to try and keep shoppers in stores for as long as possible by offering different services. In the flagship store on Oxford Street, for example, you can now visit the nail bar, blow-dry salon, have your eyebrows threaded, grab a coffee and buy sweets while also doing your shopping. 

Customer service as always continues to be high priority for both stores that sell on commission and those that don’t. If sales assistants don’t say “hello” to customers who walk into stores like Reiss, Whistles and Hobbs, they’re likely to be pulled up for it. A recent and indeed very irregular visit to River Island, ahem, saw six different sales assistants approach me to ask how my day was going in literally under two minutes of entering. The need to appear helpful and make intelligent cross-sell recommendations is indeed a valuable differentiator compared to online, particularly when the customer feels they are getting that little bit extra when it comes to service.

Personally, from a serious shopper’s perspective, cool mobile apps are great for quick viewing, but online doesn’t have the same buzz for me that walking into a store does. Nothing beats seeing a sea of colours, fabrics, textures, coordinating items and ‘store models’ in real life. Obviously there are exceptions. However, as much as I enjoy the experience of walking into a store, shopping alone is definitely more suited to my patience levels. I’m also quite happy to BBM a picture to my friends and get their opinion that way rather than having them waiting around for me on the other side of a dressing room curtain.

@LucyDesaDavies

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

 

“Meet the man that banned Facebook at work,” was how I was gleefully introduced to co workers when I started my current job. This fearful epithet was not entirely merited on my part – I simply discouraged staff updating their Facebook profiles or tweeting when they were supposed to be participating in conference calls (and being paid to do so).

“Vindication” was the word that came to mind when I stumbled across a report compellingly titled (for me, at any rate): Is Web Surfing Distracting Your Workers?

However, my superficial reaction was premature. According to the research conducted by Harvard Business School research fellow Marco Piovesan, banning such activities is not merely futile but potentially counter-productive. The act of resisting temptation (in the case of the research to watch a funny video or – when reproduced amongst children – to each succulent marshmallow), actually makes people less productive.

So, while idle web browsing can certainly reduce the level of attention and focus that people apply to their work, overtly prohibiting such access could be even worse for productivity.

Here´s a summary of the findings:
• Psychologists have theorized that the energy spent resisting temptation takes attention away from other tasks, but this is the first experiment to test it in the context of a work environment.
• Researchers found that subjects exhibited a decrease in productivity when they were tempted to watch a funny video but then told not to do so. Comparatively, subjects who were allowed to watch the video were more productive.
• The research indicates that prohibiting private Internet use at work is actually bad for employees’ productivity. That effect could be especially critical in jobs where small mistakes could mean a big difference in performance.

Despite the above, I still believe that the benefits of multi-tasking to be greatly exaggerated. My experience at work, instance, is that tweeting and updating Facebook at the same time as doing work is not conducive to effective proof reading, budget planning, contract negotiations, exchange rate calculations or – even – conference calls. Regarding the latter, I believe that all conference calls could be reduced to 15 minutes of everyone genuinely paid attention!

The benefits of social media within the workplace are indisputable – from market research and brand management to internal communications and R&D; such activities should not be considered as “accompaniments” to work but fundamental to it. If your Facebook page requires updating . . . update it, then move on to the next task. This is what I call “uni-tasking”; concentrating on a single task until it is complete before moving onto the next. Do you think it will catch on . . . ?

That’s not to say that there is no role for multi-tasking within the workplace . . . . I’m convinced that it is still possible to eat lunch at your desk, while continuing to email, of course! Does that count?

@RogerDarathe man in the centre has not read this blog

The man in the centre  has not read this post.

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

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