Some time ago I attended a conference and heard the very enigmatic Tim Langlois talk about Specsavers' simple, but extremely effective consumer digital strategy. "We give them entertainment and then when they need new glasses, they come to us." Langlois said that real time reaction to the media agenda with hilarious content was the key to their success. In June 2014, during the decisive World Cup Group D match between Uruguay and Italy, Specsavers' digital team responded to Luis Suarez biting Giorgio Chiellini by tweeting a picture of the Italian defender next to a picture of cannelloni, along with the #shouldhavegonetospecsavers hashtag. This week, Specsavers outdid themselves again with this simple but brilliantly timed tweet after Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty presented the award for best picture to La La Land, instead of moonlight, after being handed the wrong envelope by PWC. Their catchprase has now even been shortened to #shouldve, having become so popular that it no longer even requires the inclusion of the brand name for it to be recognisable.
The next unlikely heroes of the week are British Transport Police, whose reaction to a rather bizarre situation on a train that got out of hand, had the hashtag #bagelgate trending on twitter. The BTP were called to investigate a brawl that started when passengers on the 00.54 Great Northern service from Kings Cross put the baked goods on fellow passengers' heads. The police diffused the situation but it was their playful response with a serious message that got the Twittersphere talking.
I recently attended the PRCA’s 2017: The Year of… where great minds of the PR industry gathered to gaze into their metaphorical crystal balls and predict the future trends in media and communications for the forthcoming year.
The legacy of 2016 loomed large in the collective consciousness: communications and the media played a major role in the enactment of and reaction to seismic events such as Brexit and the election of Trump. In the UK, bloody battles were played out on social media between Brexiteers and Remoaners; meanwhile Trump gained momentum off the back of two of the best soundbites of the year – ‘Take back control’ and ‘Make America Great Again’.
There is no doubt now that we are operating in a ‘post truth world’, proliferated with ‘alternative facts’. As people turn more and more to social media, to grieve, grumble and groan to those with the same political views as themselves, sharing soundbites without ‘fact checking them’, there is a fear that they are simply shouting into the echo chamber. This is compounded by the fact that we are now consuming more and more content dictated by algorithm. Will algorithms become the future authorities and editors? In a world where a Hong Kong VC appointed an AI to sit on its board, this reality could be scarily closer than we think.
So where does this leave PRs? If our readers are ‘sick of experts’, what does that say about authority and the traditional trust invested in us? How do we ensure that we continue to communicate broadly across all our stakeholders? And how do we deal with the rift between our polarised audiences?
One of the suggestions put forward by Trevor Hardy, CEO of the Future Laboratory was for us become ‘future fit’ by embracing uncertainty and randomness. Hardy’s thoughts were that moving forward, ‘positive complexity’ will have more currency than simplicity. That means being open to ambiguity, being a bedfellow of nuance and moving away from the traditional reductive nature of our craft. Brands increasingly operate in an emotional economy, driven by people and how things make them feel. Those who will be successful, Hardy predicted, will embrace these emotional responses, in all of the complexities they embody.
And all of this could be a good thing – because after all, what may emerge from the media ashes is a new dialetic – one of radical transparency, openness and, progress.
When the hashtag #IamFeminist appeared in the Twitterverse, I was keen to jump onboard. As someone who has always maintained that 'feminism' means nothing other than 'equality', I felt that it was important to express my position and show solidarity. Literally, within seconds, my feed started to twitch with responses. Clearly this was touching a nerve in the collective Twitter psyche of those who believe that 'feminism' is a dirty word and inherently implies that all self proclaimed feminists are many-headed-misandry-hydras.
That Twitter has recently become a place where these kinds of view seem to sanctioned by those able to scream into the echo chamber led me to questions whether or not women should boycott Twitter altogether. Here's a blog I wrote with some thoughts on this.
As many of you know, I'm a great advocate of gender equality, particularly when it comes to the field of business. Having spent most of my career in male-dominated industries and often being the only woman sitting around the boardroom table, I have had to learn the hard way how to climb the often greasy pole to success.
I was pleased, therefore, to have this article published in We Are The City, '5 things women must learn to be successful'.
I hope that you enjoy it and I'm keen to hear your thoughts.
On 11th June I was enjoying the most wonderful, inspirational evening watching my friend the fantastic Mr. Ed Fox performing in ‘His Story’ by the London Gay Men’s Chorus.
A celebration of its Silver Jubilee, the show commemorated the choir’s last 25 years – with moments from its history in parts whimsically, hilariously and emotionally recollected. These vignettes appeared against the larger backdrop of world history over the last quarter century, just as this ensemble represents a community within a community, an integral piece of the jigsaw of our society.
The spirit was celebratory – there was a sense that, in 25 years we have come so far, moving away from repression and discrimination and are now at a point where we are finally able to openly celebrate the contribution that the gay community makes to the wider world. The exhilaration of members of the chorus who had been through those life changing times was palpable. The music was goddam good, as was the mind boggling logistical curation: by way of a curious magical formulae, all moved as one to seamlessly take their new places in arrangement after each song, over many multiples of permutations. And don't get even me started on the jazz hands!
Imagine my surprise and horror, then, to wake up to the news of the Orlando shooting. 49 dead, 53 injured in an attack on a gay nightclub. Words can’t do justice to the horror.
I support Owen Jones in his disgust at fellow reviewers on Sky Papers not acknowledging that this was a homophobic attack . To not speak this truth is collective amnesia, tantamount to insanity.
Although I work just around the corner from Old Compton street, I was very sad that I was unable to go and join arms with everyone in solidarity on Monday evening.
Meanwhile, London did us proud as throngs of people of all sexual persuasion, literally came out in support and shared grief.
I did, however, take the opportunity today to wander around the spontaneous memorials that have been placed in St Anne’s Churchyard on Wardour St and the remnants of Monday’s vigil on Old Compton St to engage in a moment of quiet reflection for those who have tragically lost their lives for doing nothing. Nothing but being themselves, enjoying themselves and each other. Dancing. Joyfully.
It is to these haunting images that I defer to words more powerful than my own, especially in a week that, for global news and media has been one of the darkest. “All for love and love for all”.
My thoughts and condolences are with all of the victims and their families, friends and loved ones.
,As someone whose vocation is a 'storyteller', I am always writing, writing, writing, but mostly, that work never really gets seen as being 'mine'. I'm writing in the ghost voice of the other. Or I'm writing for utilitarian purposes- for pitches, proposals and presentations. I'm not really getting down my own thoughts and opinions.
So I've decided to keep a blog here - nothing too arduous - I don't want to feel intimated by the prospect of having to write whole tracts or theses on a subject. The purpose is simply to document and record reflections and musings on life, London, media, the world of work and my diverse interest groups. I hope that in the process I might cultivate pithiness at the same time as authentically expressing myself.
All opinions my own and constructive feedback welcomed. Haters or trolls not welcome here.
Here is a 5 minute sample of an hour long live interview I did, talking about the value of PR.
I wrote this article on 5 Things Women Must Learn To Be Successful
I wrote for TVB Europe, celebrating ten inspirational women in the broadcast industry