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.

Anyone who tells you that they remember that particular Tuesday minute-by-minute is lying. Memories are fragmented, sporadic and come in bursts. Everyone remembers the weather, funnily enough – it was simply gorgeous. At the time I was Managing Editor of Pipe Dream, the student paper at my University and Monday night was production night for the Tuesday edition, (we published twice a week). I drove the paper to printers at 3AM and managed a few hours of sleep but rolling out of bed for English Lit II.

My first class of the day started at 9:05AM, but by 8:46AM, it was clear that I wouldn’t be spending my morning discussing the religions and sexual undertones of Jane Eyre.

Shortly after the collapse of the North Tower, I headed the paper’s offices to seek solace in the comfy green sofas littered with news editors, staff writers and left over pizza from the night before. There and then we decided to put out a special edition for the next day.

I would have then phoned the printer and set to work purchasing images from Getty, but I have no recollection of either of these tasks.

I set to work planning the issue, blocking the stories and assigning reporters to cover angles of the story across campus. We had very large Muslim and Jewish communities on our campus and University administrators were worried about any clashes. I sent a reporter to go talk to the Muslim Student Union, and then phoned the President’s office to get an official comment about violence reported against Muslims on other University campuses. 

Safe and sheltered on a closed college campus, we were painfully aware of what was unfolding thanks to 24-hour news, but also frustratingly far from family and friends who were there and dealing with a very real personal tragedy – we were stuck in a parallel universe of sorts.

The University swiftly cancelled classes and invited students affected to come forward for counselling and help. Several students turned up at the Pipe Dream office seeking community and something to do. A candlelight vigil was organized for that evening.

One of our professors got in touch to ask if we were all okay and we just said, “Yes, Ma’am, we’re putting out a special issue tomorrow and are all over it”. Years later, I realized that’s not what she meant.

In the days that would follow, I think I must have gotten very little sleep. We had the Thursday paper to get out next and we focused on capturing the unfolding political sentiment right here on our doorstep.

I also had to keep our advertisers happy that we would still put out a paper. “Would we run the Thursday issue without advertisements?” Papa Johns wanted to know. Yes, because it felt it was the right thing to do. Instead, we would allow student groups to publicize counselling sessions, student vigils and chartered busses for free. I was making it up as went.

Ten years later, I think all of us on Pipe Dream must have summoned great maturity on that day. It’s still hard to make sense of the absolute flood of conflicting reports in the 24-hours that followed, and understand how a bunch of (essentially) teenagers  put a newspaper together, while coping amid all the unanswered questions; were there other targets? Where were the missing planes? Where was the President? Who was behind this? Were we safe? 

That weekend, the campus emptied out as students from the City went home in chartered buses. I drove to my parent’s house in Upstate New York. We settled into the rhythm of 24-hour news; MSNBC in the kitchen, CNN in the family room and 1010WINS in the shower.

10 years on I still think very few of us have figured out how to make sense of that day.

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

 

When you haven’t seen something fast growing for several weeks such as a child or Russian vine the temptation to say, ‘my haven’t you grown!’ is very great.

This urge should be avoided as it annoys those concerned, by patronising kids or rebuking gardeners. Yet returning from a short tweet break this morning I muttered these very words on reading about the fifth anniversary of twitter so breaking this rule of the blindingly obvious.

Yet leaping to my own defence it is not just the speed of growth with twitter that is dramatic. It is the manner of its growth and what it has done to the way internet-based opinion and influence has developed that is very interesting, and weirdly so. A really interesting post on Elise’s Review prompted this thought with the question ‘Is social media becoming more about mass broadcasting than conversation?’

Twitter’s growth has been about amplification of opinions, influence and conversations. At times this has made it appear more like broadcasting and certainly it has made the conversation louder, shorter and less genteel. Yet in interacting with media and blogs I would argue that twitter is amplifying and sharing ideas that often start in long form in other media platforms. This is different from broadcasting although it does make the conversation less sophisticated in many cases. I would describe it as a broader conversation rather than a broadcast.

Indeed as twitter grows its ability to amplify grows too so amplifying the amplifier. Some bloggers who began as highly focused ‘Influentials’ talking to only niche groups have become stars and engaged in very broad conversations. They often start to post less frequently but when they do they reach bigger, much bigger numbers.

The post pointed out that now more people get news from the Internet than traditional newspapers. This too is a part of the amplification process with e-zines merging with communities and a more dialogue driven view of the news.  The key dynamic here is the way twitter helps ideas and stories leapfrog between niche communities.  Again this seems to be of the great strengths of twitter it takes news from niches and can make them part of a broad community.

As it grows this does not mean twitter is all about these broader conversations. Clearly there a niche areas such as middle aged cycling that have drawn together quite large but discrete groups who don’t make it as trending topics. But even these conversations have become broader. So back to the blindingly obvious not always being easy to adopt I quote one point in the Elise’s Review below:

If Your Blog Doesn’t Have A “Tweet This” Or “Like This” Button On It, It Means That You Are Not Cool.

And yes – we know ours doesn’t. yet.

@Naked_Pheasant

The great challenge with blogging is that a blogger has to keep coming up with new ideas, thoughts, insights and ways of being interesting.  Unlike a traditional journalism few blogs are driven by news or constant announcements.  Those blogs that do so very quickly become online news platforms, e-zines or e-reporting.

This is why blogs are important as they become places where ideas, community sharing and thinking lives.   Without the narcotic element of live news, a blog has to create and curate insights within the community that it has shaped. 

This is the essence of the new hierarchy of influence because the blogger has to earn influence and continually re-earn that influence without the power of the mast head of heritage of a publishing house.

This dynamic drives the much commented upon democratic dynamic of the new media platforms. It sets up a cattle auction of ideas in which the communities within the Internet vote up and down your influence.   Importantly this democracy does not mean equality there is a fluid hierarchy of influence within the blogging community; not all blogs are created equal.

I believe that ideas are the currency within this voting system. It is the quality, nuance and originality of ideas and thoughts that drives a blog’s influence (what I mean by an idea is a meme or a new iterance. This does not have to be profound it can be trivial, humorous or a reflection on a previous meme). However, over time the depth and frequency of these new ideas does drive influence. You have to go back and if it is not for news it helps to have ideas as a currency. The place where these idea starters thrive most of all is the blogosphere.

Blogs and ideas in this way drive the new forms of engagement; without a flow of ideas it is very hard to engage with a community. This creates some rules for blogging engagement: it helps to have a consistent territory on which to comment; the more others interact and engage with your ideas the better the engagement; and of course the more transparent your references to other ideas the greater your authority becomes.

Every blogger knows that coming up with new thoughts and ideas is something of a curse as well as a thrill.

@Naked_Pheasant

There’s a joke which does the rounds in my house quite regularly stemming from my housemate’s exclamation that she ‘sees the world through media eyes’. This punchy statement was made without a hint or irony but a lot of innocence, as a 16 year old after her first ever media studies lesson. Since then, it has been held up as point of ridicule which she frequently cringes at. My point is that whilst I wouldn’t want to be quite so Nathan Barley about it, working in PR I feel I do have an awareness of a brand’s attempts to target consumers. As a result, whilst I’m genuinely interested in advertising and PR campaigns, I can be a tad cynical about the impact they will have on me as a consumer and can’t remember the last time I was consciously aware of an advert affecting my behaviour. That was until last week, when I went out and bought something, inspired purely by seeing an ad campaign.

It was a humble packet of the mint with the hole, the Polo. Polo hadn’t launched anything new, it hadn’t rebranded, it hadn’t done anything to alter the product I’ve bought and enjoyed in the past. But I was compelled to switch from my usual chewing gum, to a packet of the mints.

The campaign which caught my attention was very simple, centred on the question ‘Are you a sucker or a cruncher?’ A little Googling uncovers that this campaign is the first big advertising push Polo has done for 10 years and is targeted at medium to light buyers which make-up 80% of their customer base. The campaign was ‘designed to focus on emotional reasons for buying the brand by re-establishing its quirky, fun and playful personality rather than the rational thought process of the need for fresh breath’.

I’d have to say that they achieved this. I was compelled to buy a packet because of the element of participation the campaign suggests. Was I a sucker or was I a cruncher? I wanted to find out.

A bit more searching uncovered a Facebook presence to back up the campaign. Fan pages were built to form communities of‘suckers’ and ‘crunchers’, each attracting around 28,000 fans. The pages show a relatively good level of engagement and are very active, but out of curiosity I thought I’d see how my usual breath freshener of choice faired on the old ‘book. Wrigleys Extra has over 140,000 fans.

But does this matter? From my point of view, the campaign succeeded at its most fundamental level of changing my buying habits. But the people behind the campaign wanted to rebuild an emotional attachment and building a community around the brand is an important route to making this work long term. Only Polo’s sales figures will really be able to answer this, but in this case did an old school tactic of simple advertising trump more modern routes to success? My guess would be that in the short term yes, but once the current ad campaign ends, the lack of a sizeable community of online fans to carry on the conversations may prove a disappointment.

@AJGriffiths

There is a lot of debate about the role of formal education in PR so what skill sets are important for success in the business?

On the Public Relations Professionals group on LinkedIn one question has received more comments than any of the industry association, trade or company groups I follow combined. Halim Mahfudz, the CEO of Halma Strategic, posed the question: “Is it necessary for PR professionals to have a PR or communications educational background?”

PR professionals apparently have strong views on what it may or may not take to make it in the business. The discussion has over 100 comments where PR professionals advocate differing paths to success in the profession.

With my own background as a magazine editor, I believe that a wide array of  backgrounds and skills make the strongest PR teams. This means I don’t believe it is necessary to have a PR or communications educational background to make an impact in PR but I’d certainly like to have people on my team with formal training. It is important to gather a diverse range of skill sets to mirror the diversifying communications landscape without neglecting the bedrock of traditional PR.

When I hired journalists, I preferred to hire young writers that had demonstrated that they were committed to the profession. Some had degrees in journalism but also had experience interning, volunteering and generally hanging around newspaper offices or publishing houses. It was more important to me that they were excited about being a journalist and had shown hustle in achieving that goal. A journalism degree was one proof point amongst several others.

All of the over 100 comments included one or more proof points for success in the business so what does it take to be successful in PR? Formalized education, writing skills, business experience, media knowledge, social media savvy or just a keen interest and enthusiasm?

@Matthew_Whalley

Today we thought we’d celebrate the wonder that is Paper.li by adding it to the hallowed Gun Cabinet archive.

In case you’re unfamiliar with it – Paper.li is a wonderful tool that basically allows you to create a daily newspaper from #tags and Twitter names.  In their own words:

paper.li organizes links shared on Twitter into an easy to read newspaper-style format. Newspapers can be created for any Twitter user, list or #tag.

A great way to stay on top of all that is shared by the people you follow – even if you are not connected 24/7

The personal element is useful, erm, personally speaking.  You can read mine here, should you wish.  Where we think there is most potential for PRs though is in using #tags to capture a summary of event news.  Take the #IFA one we’ve created, for example.  It’s a nice piece of ‘added value’ to share with clients on each day of a trade event, as a summary of the big show news.  I need to play around with it, but I think could probably create a bespoke Client@Event newspaper as well.

Lovely stuff.

I was thinking about Twitter at the weekend. That’ll annoy the readers of the Guardian. Take a look…any article on the Guardian website that has any mention of Twitter seems to attract a stream of vitriolic comments like you’ve never seen. Lots of them are of the “Twitters for egotistical idiots who think that everyone’s interested in what they’re doing every minute of the day and it’s just a fad which’ll be around until the next shiny new thing come along” type.

And I can understand that. Hell, when I first came across Twitter, I had a similar reaction. But I don’t now.

When you first have a look at Twitter, it does seem a bit rubbish. And then you sign up and start following people like Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, which is fun for a bit but then gets really, really dull. In the meantime, you’ve started following people you know, people who work in the same area as you do, and people that make you laugh (this is really important, I reckon). As with any social media, there’s more to be had in listening than in talking.

Over time, you build a little network of people who add value to your life in one way or another. And I reckon it is a relatively small network. I follow fewer than 300 people. Any more than that and there’s no way that I’d be able to keep up. I’m still suspicious of people who follow thousands.

The 300 people I follow are what I might call my network of trusted sources. I’ve vetted then all and therefore listen when they say something or point me to some information. In fact, as my feed reader replaced a huge amount of my web browsing, so Twitter has reduced the amount of time I spend checking my feed reader. I’m either subscribing to the Twitter feeds of the same sources or, more often, I’m being pointed to relevant content by my network.

Which is why I don’t think Twitter’s a fad. It’s become as fundamental to my working life as email, IM, browsing and RSS feeds. All of these technologies had their naysayers. Honestly, I remember an old schoolmate of mine who was working in the City in the mid-90s who said that he “couldn’t see a day when his company would use email due to its inherent insecurity.” As long as my network’s on Twitter, I will be.

Mind you, email’s about as far as my mate’s got. His wife stuck him on Facebook but I’m not convinced he’s ever been there himself. Twitter’s as far away for him as a lightsabre is for me.

But he’ll get there (as will I, because The Force is strong in this one).

Mark Pinsent (@markpinsent)

I read some Yenning related rant about what is happening out there in the ocean that reminded me of what’s become of the Internet.

Way out in the Pacific Ocean, in an area once known as the doldrums, an enormous, accidental monument to modern society has formed. Invisible to satellites, poorly understood by scientists and perhaps twice the size of France, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not a solid mass, as is sometimes imagined, but a kind of marine soup whose main ingredient is floating plastic debris. Floating beneath the surface of the water, to a depth of 10 metres, is a multitude of small plastic flecks and particles, in many colours, swirling like snowflakes or fish food. Measuring the weight of plastic in the water compared to that of plankton reveals six times more plastic than plankton.

This plastic soup strikes me as being similar to the jumble of data, thoughts and opinions that are beginning to gather around certain issues and ideas that live online. The small bits of plastic that make up the garbage patch are referred to as nurdles and it seems that much of this digital soup is just this electronic nurdles – real but pretty pointless. Just look a the average tweet if you want an example of an online nurdle.

Now clearly amid all of this stuff lives electronic plankton: good wholesome stuff that strikes a cord; feeds the imagination or actually gives a buyer some valuable product information. I am not sure of the ratio of Internet nurdle to plankton but gut feel tells me it’s more than six fold. Indeed it feels that today the job PR has become very much a job of sieving the plankton from the nurdles we have in short become like a Basking Shark.

Jonathan Hargreaves (@Naked_Pheasant)

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