Monthly Archives: November 2013

Do machines really need to do everything?

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I read an article this afternoon about search engine giant Google and the fact that they have patented plans for software that slowly learns how you react to things you see on social media networks. In layman’s terms, the software will mimic the way in which you usually respond to updates and messages from friends and relatives to help you ‘cope’ with the daily processes. The software sifts through the messages you receive and conducts an analysis of continuing interaction and goes on to flag messages that demand a more personal response.

I find it hard to believe that social media is that much of a chore that people need a robot to respond to your friends and family, or even just followers on your Twitter account! This entire concept just takes the personal touch away from what should be a conversation between two or more people!

A software engineer at Google, Ashish Bhatia, said that the popularity and use of social networks and other types of electronic communication has grown dramatically in recent years. It is often difficult for users to keep up with and reply to all the messages they are receiving. Again, I find this very hard to believe that a standard person finds this task difficult, that said, I do believe that businesses find it hard to maintain the amount of messages they receive, and I can see the benefits of having an automated personal response rather than a bog standard repetitive message to all your followers.

The system analyses the responses you initially make so it can eventually start making suggestions of its own that, ideally, should be indistinguishable from those of an actual person. Which asks the question, what is the point. Why do you need this? Does it automatically publish the responses? What if it got a response wrong and made a huge mistake? How could you answer that? This whole concept has many flaws to it, I can see the benefit to a company who wants to please its consumers, but I think it’s just another step in the wrong direction. Some things need to be personal and come from a real person in my eyes!

The article from BBC News went on to say that instead of writing every response individually or clicking buttons to “like” or forward messages, the software would generate suggested responses which a person could simply agree to be posted on their behalf. Now what is the point? The person would have to read the message that they received and then read the automated robot’s response and then decide whether or not it was suitable. Just answer the message! It seems like an awfully long winded approach to just simply writing out a response that takes no more than two minutes anyway!

An example given in the article was:

In response to learning that an acquaintance called David has changed jobs, the system might suggest: “Hey David, I am fine, You were in ABC corp for 3 years and you recently moved to XYZ corp, how do you feel about the difference, enjoying your new workplace?”

That to me reads like an automated response. If my friend told me that they had changed jobs, I wouldn’t feel the need to tell them that they had been working in their previous position for however many years. I think it is a really lazy way of keeping in touch with people!

I find that we have spent so long, especially in Public Relations, telling people why social media is so important, and why you should make every effort to personally respond to relevant messages personally has been totally disregarded with this software, and I find it a strange move on Google’s behalf. Social media allows human-to-human interaction, and I personally think that shouldn’t be messed with. As the old age saying goes, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!

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How to create a good headline!

 

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In order to gain good readership, you have to have the ability to write good, interesting headlines in order to make the reader want to continue reading your story. I consider the headline to be the most important aspect of an article, it is the first impression that you make to your readers, which deserves a decent amount of thinking time!

Of course, it is not just an article that requires the headline thought process, blog posts, book chapters, even dissertations all need to make the reader want to continue reading your handy work. The main question that you need to consider throughout the entire writing process is ‘would this make me want to read on?‘, if it doesn’t, don’t put it in!

There are various different methods of writing headlines and various different types of headlines, it all depends on the nature of the story which method you choose to use to construct it.

1. Direct Headlines

As the word ‘direct’ suggests, these types of headlines don’t beat around the bush, but instead sum up the story in a matter of words. For example ‘50% off all stock all weekend’.

2. Indirect Headlines

Indirect headlines are used to raise the curiosity of the reader, they pull the audience in and the content of the story fills in the rest of the information. Indirect headlines use a variety of different ways to interest the reader such as:

  • Puns
  • Double-meanings
  • Play on words
  • Figures of speech
  • Metaphors
  • Symbolism

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Miley Cyrus and her very strange and erratic behaviour, especially the stunt she pulled at the MTV EMA’s that were being held in Amsterdam. For those that don’t know what happened, Miley won an award for Best Music Video for her song Wrecking Ball, as she was giving her speech she proceeding to pull a joint out of her bag and light it up on stage. I read an article in the Metro whilst on the bus with the headline that read ‘Miley High Club’. This is a great example of an indirect headline, as I’m sure most of the people reading this blog post will know what mile high club means, and the obvious misleading meaning it has in terms of this story!

3. News Headline

This is kind of self-explanatory, as long as the news itself is actually news! This could be a product announcement, software updates. A great example of this type of headline is ‘Apple Release New Iphone 5s’

4. How to Headline

This is one of the most popular types of headlines as it is easy to gain readership with the promise that help is going to be provided for a topic the reader is not too sure about. This headline is very popular online and offline and a perfect example for this type of headline is, well, this blog post!

5. A Question Headline

This type of headline has to do more than ask a question. The question needs to be worthwhile and appropriate to the story and has to spark up some good answers in the readers mind that compliments the body of the article. Ideally the reader can empathise with the question and would like to see it answered. A good example of a question headline would be ‘Are You Tired of the Same Old Shopping Routine?’. After a question headline there needs to be instant recognition of the question, so the first paragraph of the content needs to have the answer before the information, for example ‘If so, then come to the new shopping centre here at … and let us revolutionise your shopping world!

6. The Command Headline

This basically tells the readers what to do. It is a simple headline option, and often helps get the results the author wants. The first word of this type of headline should be a strong verb demanding action, for instance ‘Subscribe to AKavanagh PR Today!

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‘PR’ – misunderstood

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I’ve noticed over the past few months in particular, that nobody other than PR practitioners (or indeed those in a communications role) actually understand what public relations actually is. After I graduated in July of this year, I went for an interview that was entitled ‘Marketing Trainees Wanted’. Now I thought that this was perfect for me, as I had just finished a 3 year Public Relations course and felt that jumping in to a full time PR practitioner role was a big leap from learning about the sector. I attended the interview and was told that it was definitely not a sales adviser role, but one that allowed me to progress quickly through an ever growing company whilst allowing me to progress my marketing and PR skills.

After leaving the interview feeling positive, I then got a call that evening letting me know that I had been invited to attend an open day. Long story short, I attended the open day, to find that my job for the next 12 months would be standing in various shopping centres throughout Yorkshire attempting to sell various products and services to shoppers. I weighed up my options and decided to leave the open day that wasn’t the job that was advertised to me.

I find it hard to accept people using the term ‘PR and marketing’ so freely and just conning people to believe they are getting one thing but actually it is something completely different.

The definition of Public Relations according to the CIPR is:

“Public relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

I obviously know the definition of PR, it’s hard not to know it after studying it for 3 years solid, but to someone who doesn’t understand the business aspect of PR, could quite easily think that the people on the streets handing out leaflets to passers by for the latest club night in the city centre are doing PR. They’re not, they’re handing leaflets out, BIG difference in my eyes!

As with most career sectors, if you don’t know about it, you come to your own conclusion about what the day to day roles of that job is. I find with PR, that it is often dumbed down a lot, especially with it being included in the ever so popular Sex and the City, where you see popular character Samantha Jones living the high life as a huge PR director. If I’ve learnt anything over the past 3 years, its that PR is nothing like what you see in the movies!

All in all, PR takes time and meticulous planning abilities, it is not a simple hour meeting where you can bash out the objectives and see results by morning. It’s something all businesses and organisations need to be successful, it is not to be taken lightly!

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#fail

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Back in May of this year, a fantastic example of a really bad PR decision came from a company called Ferraro, better known as the creator of a very popular chocolate spread named Nutella. Any company who wants to move forward and use social media as a tool rather than fear the advances it brings, knows that you have to utilise any social media hype.

Nutella is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide, and back in 2007, an American fan, Sarah Rosso, who lives in Italy decided to create World Nutella Day in order to show her dedication to the brand and maybe talk to some like minded people and just have a bit of fun with the Facebook page.

Fast forward to May 2013, and after 7 years of World Nutella Day, Ferraro decided that they were just not happy with the concept whatsoever and delivered a cease and desist letter to their #1 fan ordering her to shut down the fan page as there was a misuse of the brand.

The social media backlash to this was huge, after Rosso published the letter she received to the fan page she created, users took it upon themselves to comment on the official Facebook page for Nutella to express their disappointment in the way in which they went about this situation.

As I am someone who has grasped the concept of social media, and understand what it can do for a company, Ferrero completely missed a trick, not only were they receiving the benefits from a brilliant social media campaign, they were doing so for free with no work to do on their behalf! Stuff social media executives dreams are made of! Considering Nutella doesn’t even have an official Twitter feed, they should really have taken this in their stride and sent a letter of appreciation and a free jar of Nutella to Rosso at the very least!

After the huge social media backlash Ferrero went on to drop the cease and desist action which in turn saved World Nutella Day, head over to the website to see what it is all about, and prepare for the 8th World Nutella Day!

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PR Interview Questions – How to answer!

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I feel that throughout my time at university, and especially now that I have graduated, I’ve become a seasoned pro at going to job interviews and handling the questions you know that are coming, but also those that you aren’t expecting! 

1)    Tell me about yourself…

This question is usually the opening question of the interview, and it does not mean tell them that you love going for a few drinks on the weekend and you enjoy going the cinema! You should start by telling the interviewer your highest level of qualification, how you felt during your course (how did you feel you coped with the pressures of deadlines and working with different people that you are not used to). I would aim to talk for just a few moments about this topic, as the interviewer will ask more questions regarding a particular statement if they wish to know more. Remember that this is your first impression, and they really do count, you need to work on creating a rapport with the interviewer – these are your future employers and co-workers!

2)    Explain why you want to work in PR?

PR agencies look for a confident, people person with great communication skills who’s an all round media junkie. You really need to know your stuff, and not just say ‘PR is my life, I have always wanted to work in PR’, because lets face it, you haven’t. I will be the first one to admit that I haven’t always wanted to work in PR, I have spent a hell of a lot of money and time learning about PR and realising that my personality and my ability compliments the role a PR practitioner takes on board. I wanted to be a vet or a princess when I was younger, not a PR practitioner, got to take what you can though!

You need to talk about your passion for multimedia such as newspapers (remember to only say this if you actually know the difference between newspapers, tabloids to broadsheets etc), magazines, TV, radio, websites, social media and blogs. As somebody looking for a job in PR, you should be spending your time creating an online presence for yourself. You won’t get very far if you don’t practice what you preach!

3)    What are your strengths?

You need to ensure that you don’t come across as overly confident at this point. It is very easy to go over the top and say that you are the best person for this company and that they won’t find anybody more clued up than you. That’s a very naive thing to say, there is always going to be somebody better than you (understanding this keeps you grounded) but what you need to remember is that you know more than other people, and you have made it through to interview stages so be sure of yourself! Pick three strengths and explain how they can be a good addition to the company in question and how they can help you grow. You need to show them why they should employ you and how it would be a big mistake letting you go.

4)    What are your weaknesses?

Many people dread this question, as they think this is confessional time and they need to confess their sins against PR. It’s not. This question is asked purely to show the interviewer that you want to learn and you are aware that you are not the most experienced PR practitioner out there! Don’t sit there and say that you’re cranky and you love a good argument, show how you have constructively made positive steps to rectify something you’re not very good at. For instance, you could say that your IT skills aren’t the strongest but you have spent your own time doing courses to improve your skills and that you’re willing to learn.

The worst thing you could do in this situation is say ‘oh I don’t know!’ or ‘I don’t have any weaknesses!’ … You may as well shake their hand there and then and say thanks for your time, sorry to have wasted it! Also, don’t say that you have a tendency to work too hard as this is seen to be avoiding the question!

5)    What salary are you looking for?

Don’t be afraid of this question, in the past I have been a bit daunted by being underprepared and not really sure what to say! For a graduate PR practitioner going in at graduate entry level in Leeds (or anywhere up north really), you’re looking at about £16,000 – £19,000 depending on experience. Don’t feel like you’re being cheeky stating your salary, at the end of the day you’re there to be employed and they’re there to pay you!

6)    Ensure you ask your own questions!

Time and time again I have gone in for an interview and got to this question and panicked and said ‘everything has been answered thank you!’ Make sure you prepare around 5 questions that you can ask your interviewer, so you have the chance to find out more about the role you will be taking on and what the goals of the company are. You need to ensure you will fit in working at the company you are being interviewed for, at the end of the day, you want to be happy and so do they!

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Scheduling Tweets – Good or Bad?

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During my time interning at various different PR agencies, one of my many tasks was to compile a list of tweets that I could schedule to go out at different times of the week. A question that has been raised many times is, is this a good or bad idea? I personally believe that there are both positives and negatives to scheduling. As any PR practitioner would agree, the job is extremely demanding, and though social media is arguably one of the most powerful tools there is to hand, it is also extremely time consuming, and other tasks may be more urgent than others.

So, what are the positives?

  • Allows you to free up more time for bigger, more demanding tasks
  • Allows you time to find relevant stories to tweet about
  • You can plan ahead of time and ensure you tweet about important days or events relevant to you or your client

That said, the negatives I find are:

  • Seems less personal and doesn’t allow for you to engage in conversation with followers, which is the whole point of social media
  • PR is an exceptionally faced paced environment, so planning tweets doesn’t really make a huge amount of sense, you cannot predict what is going to happen in the world, and what will have an impact on you or your client, so you might miss out on posting important information
  • You run the risk of being repetitive, especially if you auto-tweet ‘thank you’ tweets to new followers or followers who have retweeted something on your profile
  • You can often sound impersonal and an information base apposed to a point of contact for your consumers or client base

I think that programmes such as Hootsuite can be useful to PR practitioners but I do disagree with completely depending on scheduling tweets for weeks at a time. As an up and coming practitioner myself, and after writing and researching so much in to social media, I fully understand the importance of social media and all it has to offer to public relations as another planning element. It is definitely time for businesses and organisations to open their eyes and start to take note of the importance and rewards this tool has to offer them. I have been to many interviews and carried out many internships throughout my time at university, and the majority of agencies or businesses have asked me what I thought of their social media presence, and I have always been honest and said exactly what I thought. All to often I have looked at blogs and twitter feeds that haven’t been updated for months, some even years, which is sad to see, as it is probably one of the only free PR tools we have!

That said, and taking all I have said in to consideration, a healthy and happy medium of scheduling tweets and taking the time to plan and construct useful tweets, but also taking the time to follow up posts once they have been published and actually interacting with followers is the only way to have a really successful twitter feed!

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Britain’s most influential tweeters

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I recently read an article published on the Telegraph online, about Britain’s most influential tweeters today. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I am extremely interested in social media and my dissertation topic was how to be classed as influential on Twitter, so this article was right up my street!

There is a huge mix of people on the list, which is constructed of 140 Twitter users. I have a problem with the way the word ‘influential’ is thrown about, when really, I think the word ‘popular’ is more suited to the users in the list. The meaning of the word influence is ‘the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.’ and the meaning of popular is ‘liked or admired by many people or by a particular person or group.’

As you can see, there is a fine line between the two words, and yes, I’m sure the One Direction boys are influential to their fans, but I don’t think they have the power to have an effect on the character, development or behaviour on someone who is not a fan of their music, or them as people.

There is an obvious correlation between popular celebrities today and the most ‘influential’ tweeters today in the article and the top 5 in the following order, are low and behold, One Direction members;

  1. Liam Payne
  2. Harry Styles
  3. Niall Horan
  4. Louis Tomlinson
  5. Zayn Malik

Move down the list to the 7th spot, and you find our Prime Minister, David Cameron. He is meant to be the most ‘influential’ person in our country, as the political leader of the United Kingdom, I find it hard to believe that Liam Payne has more power to influence a group of people than the Prime Minister does.

In the 63rd spot on the list, comes Anne Twist, for those who aren’t die hard fans, that is Harry Styles’ mother. Bringing back the notion of perhaps this list is for popular people, and not influential content that has the power to change the way people behave.

The whole list from 1 through to 140 is constructed from a mixture of people, ranging from politics to vloggers (mentioned in a previous blog post), and I have no issue with this information being formulated in to this article. I just think the word influential should be used in the correct manner, as Harry Styles’ tweeting about his dinner isn’t really ground breaking, thought provoking content is it?

As I found out when writing my dissertation, everyone is influential in some capacity. I am influential to my followers, but I may not be influential to yours. One Direction are influential to their fans, but they are popular on Twitter, and so forth.

To sum this post up, I believe the Telegraph published a list of popular people with a lot of followers, they did not publish a list of Britain’s most influential tweeters like the title would have you believe!

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The low down on vloggers

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As I like to keep up to date with all social media platforms, one that seems to shy away from ‘mainstream’ popularity seems to be YouTube. As the majority of people know that YouTube is a video sharing website with varying content, I don’t need to go in to too much detail of the basics of the website. What I will go in to though, is the rising fame ‘vloggers’ are finding for themselves. Vloggers are people that video blog, or ‘vlog’, their lives and upload the videos to their subscribers. The top vloggers I have noticed, who have a huge following of subscribers are:

  • Zoella (Zoe Sugg) – 2,611,816 subscribers
  • PointlessBlog (Alfie Deyes) – 1,430,821 subscribers
  • Marcus Butler – 1,631,663 subscribers
  • Jacks Gap (Jack & Finn Harries) – 2,951,126 subscribers
  • DailyGrace (Grace Helbig) – 2,230,481 subscribers

Each vlogger creates great content for their subscribers and have really found a natural approach to the way in which they create content. Now what I have an issue with, is when it comes to rating the most popular YouTube uploader’s as it seems to be channels like One Direction and mega celebrities like them. The 5 channels I have mentioned have chosen to make YouTube their career for the time being and are doing a very good job of it, so it must be frustrating to see One Direction’s channel attracting nearly 10,000,000 subscribers when all they upload are music videos and short videos advertising the longer ones!

YouTube is a huge business to be part of, there is a lot of money to be made! In order to earn good money from YouTube you have to create original content and you have to create it regularly and have your content viewed by thousands of YouTube users. A lot of users try and fail to attain the success of the aforementioned vloggers, but much like celebrities, vloggers have dedicated fans that watch every single video they upload and share the content on other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

I think YouTube used in this sense is great to see, many people just use it to listen to the latest music for free, or watch funny clips and pranks, but there is a huge world of vloggers who create brilliant content for a huge variety of people with different interests!

I think from a public relations point of view, YouTube is a fantastic platform for business to reach a huge amount of people in original and creative ways. Just like Twitter and Facebook, if you get it right, the world is your oyster!

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