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Cheltenham

Are you a South West entrepreneur thinking ‘why bother with Twitter’?

Today I was asked to write a blog post about Twitter – so I’m happy to oblige.

Why? Well, as a media consultant and journalist I often hear comments like ‘why bother with Twitter?’ or ‘I’m on Twitter but I’ve no idea what to do’.

These phrases are familiar because a few years ago that’s exactly what I thought. When I became self-employed in 2009, I had a Twitter account which sat there doing absolutely nothing. I would occasionally send out a tweet but couldn’t really see how much good it would do for me in business.

However after about 18 months, for some reason, I really thought about it compared with other social media platforms. I realised it’s potentially a great way to connect with people – and here’s the key thing – very quickly with minimum effort. Also as a journalist, I’m often looking for good stories so this could be an effective way to achieve another good outcome. So I set myself a challenge – to give Twitter a year and try to systematically build my audience to work for me more effectively.

I put out of my mind the fact that Twitter is global, has billions of accounts, loads of spam accounts and can be risky in terms of trolling etc. I trusted my common sense to deal with these issues as they arose (and they have from time to time and I’ve dealt with them as needed). I decided to use Twitter according to my agenda, my audience and my desired business reach. Therefore good connections for me are in the south west and London, they are people rather than organisations and one key thing – I share, I share a lot, I share as much as I tweet and I share things which interest me or which I think are generally interesting. If you do this, I guarantee at some point someone will say to you ‘I really enjoy your Twitter feed you share some good stuff’ or ‘Oh yes, I saw you talking about that on Twitter’.  You are creating your own news service.

Fiona 2013 - 3

Very quickly, having made that decision to take Twitter seriously, it became addictive and I got engaged in various conversations. I then decided to think about the best times to tweet – and you will find me talking most in the evenings and the mornings.

However the pivotal moment came when I saw a tweet asking for someone who could write a script and who had experience in the education sector. I answered as I met those criteria with a phrase ‘that’s me’. That tweet led to another tweet, which led to an email which led to a telephone conversation which led to a paid-for trip to London for a meeting which then led to a project which paid me £3,000. This was a short-term piece of work which I could relate directly back to a single tweet with a company which would never have found me – or vice versa – if it wasn’t for this amazing social platform.

That sold me on Twitter and I’ve had many great outcomes since. I’ve been offered work by people who’ve engaged with me, made the effort to research me online and then offered me work. I’ve been able to place publicity for clients and myself, and I’ve raised my profile in my own community in the south west. I will often go into a room full of business people – many of whom I’ve never met – and  people start talking to me as if they know me. Talk about the best ice-breaker.

Another outcome is that those who are beginners now pay me to get them started on Twitter – a totally unexpected outcome. So I’ve actually put my ad hoc strategy into something more strategic and started to apply it across Facebook and, more recently Pinterest. I don’t claim to be an expert, I just understand the concept of social conversation over the internet and how to control some of that conversation. I’m still discovering and I often go to workshops by others to increase my own personal knowledge.

My top tips are:

Really be clear as to what is a good outcome on Twitter for you. That way you can track success.

When you make a clear connection – take the conversation from the virtual world to the real world.

Share, share, share.

And finally please follow me @mum3fi

 

Three poor excuses for not taking part in difficult interviews.

Today I want to talk about some of the things journalists are asked to when they approach organisations for an interview – particularly when that interview might be difficult.

This might be a business which is facing some kind of legal action, industrial tribunal or a local authority involved in an investigation, a school involved in a court case. It could involve a news interview, a sit-down interview for a longer programme or a fly-on-the-wall or ‘reality’ type programme.

Most businesses will feel uplifted by such a request and would tend to look at reasons ‘to do’ it, sometimes without asking the correct questions about the project.

Many organisations, or public service bodies, would often look for the reasons ‘not to do’ something, considering in much detail the possible risks or pitfalls.

Excuses to avoid being interviewed are often not pretty

Excuses to avoid being interviewed are often not pretty

Both approaches need modifying – a business could do damage to itself by not considering the messaging, however a public body could miss out on a valuable opportunity by not engaging.

So what are the top three excuses might a journalist be given for not giving an interview?

The first and most common when there is some kind of legal action is ‘it’s subjudice’ ie. it could prejudice a court case to do it. This can be a very good reason but journalists are also subject to the same laws around contempt of court so they do know what this means. Don’t use this as an excuse – journalists see through it. Be clear about the law for a journalist – subjudice in a criminal case starts technically when a person is arrested though in practice it’s when a person is charged. When that point is reached, the Magistrates Courts Act comes into effect to which all are subject. In a civil case, however,  proceedings are active (subjudice comes into play) when a date for a hearing is set. This might be very late in the day, many months after the issue has arisen. Don’t try to baffle a journalist using this excuse.

The second request is ‘we’re interested but we want editorial control’. I’ve heard that many, many times. Understand this – YOU WILL NEVER GET IT. We have a free press in this country, that’s what makes PR so powerful. You cannot have editorial control over what a journalist does when they are writing for a third party publication as a contributor. Editorial control means I write, record or film an interview, let you see it, allow you to change anything you don’t like, and then it goes out. Not only is that time consuming – is that really what you want? Do you want to see a programme about, for example, MPs expenses where the MPs have ‘editorial control’?

If you’ve ever employed a PR consultant or company – they should clearly state that coverage isn’t guaranteed – and that’s because it is independent and therefore more credible.

A third and final one is – ‘it isn’t our fault, it’s their’s’ – this is often used when partnerships between organisations falls down. For example, a local authority and a building company hoping to build homes on a new site, it fails and the work is not done as originally intended. The local authority blames the housebuilder. The housebuilder blames the recession. Remember this, if your organisation is associated with a project – even if it’s not your fault that it failed – the perception will be that you are involved. Blaming another organisation won’t work. You will have to contribute to demonstrate what’s gone wrong – or people will assume you’ve done something wrong/don’t care/have something to hide.

When you have done something wrong – admit it, say sorry and outline what you’ve done to sort it out.

Now I really have got a little Klout! – Have you?

Today I have done a little dance around the room because my Klout score has gone up to 65 – the highest it’s ever been.

This may seem like a small victory but it’s taken me four years to get to 60 and a week to jump five points – so I believe blogging more often must have something to do with that. It’s not so much the blog itself, as only a few people take the time to comment on the blog page. It’s the interactions and comments on other virtual spaces, the shares and the likes which seem to make the difference.

 

What's your number?

What’s your number?

There are many analytics around Klout – which will interest those of you who use figures, numbers, systems, columns, detail and ROI stuff. I tend, according to my profile (and it’s true) more general results – like seeing 65 pop up unexpectedly on a Monday afternoon.

When I started learning about social media and its potential three years ago, and learned about Klout and the fact that it measures your true influence across the internet, my score was 28. That was at a time where I messed around a bit with Facebook, had a Twitter account but did nothing with it – and the same with LinkedIn. I’ve not really done Pinterest, Flickr or other things which are now more common.

 

Gradually my influence rose as I became more active. As I became more active I saw more results. I gathered case studies for stories, ideas for stories, have made friends and have made connections which have brought me clients. But it’s not been overnight, it’s been gradual and it’s required work. But I can point to at least two clients, one long term, which have been the direct result of doing stuff in the virtual space. You would be surprised who is watching you and saying nothing but absorbing that information. I’m not talking about this in a creepy sense, but more in a ‘putting yourself in the forefront of someone’s mind’ sense.

When I reached the golden 50 – I got a free gift of business cards – thanks very much. That was when I found out that in the USA, there are many high end business activities or events that you cannot access without a score that high. Big internet companies will filter guests by looking at how ‘engaged’ they are. I suspect that this will be coming our way too, though we’re not there yet.

So everyone, don’t be afraid of Klout. If you like facts and figures, it will give you all of that data. If, like me, you just want to see results and are not hung up on the detail, then know this one fact – if you engage, you will be engaging and if you’re engaging, you will be engaged – and I’m not necessarily talking romance here!

 

I don’t want to talk about Rebekah or Charlie Brooks – okay?

We all know it was all over the news yesterday, don’t we? Among the chatter and noise, there were a few voices of reason – saying ‘shut up!’, ‘contempt of court‘. I responded to a couple. Is this going to be the case where the social media chatter and speculation and judgements cause a court case to collapse? Is that in anyone’s interests?

That’s all I plan to say on that matter. However in a quieter corner of social media land, I stumbled across an interesting debate on whether or not it is legal to ‘name and shame’ a company online when they’ve not paid their bills or allegedly given bad service. I joined that chatter as it interests me as a journalist – though, I’m no lawyer.

It was a timely debate because only last week such a message about a company in the Bath area was put on Twitter and I flagged up how damaging that can be with the social media outlets we all have access to these days. It’s easy for someone to vent their spleen over such things. Within seconds though, many Tweeters had defended this company and supported it. I felt it right that I re-tweet those comments to redress the balance. For me, the fact that that happened did re-dress the balance. So even if that company had that negative comment on its Twitterfeed on its website, for example, the positive comments would come in behind and cancel out the effect. If the company then went on to deal positively with that complaint (as it should any way), a negative can become a positive.

So back to the debate. Can you post statements online about a company’s bad service, non-payment or any matter about a company or organisation – would that make you subject to legal action? My answer is yes, you can put anything you like online about a company even if it’s defamatory. But like anything, beware the consequences. We do live in a democracy and we should have freedom of speech.

Defamation can be defended. If what you are saying is true and you have paperwork to support your claim, it’s fine. If it’s your experience and then you claim it’s true, ask yourself can the company defend itself against such claims? If it cannot, you are fine. Truth is the best defence – though there are others such as fair comment and public interest. These are harder to prove.

For me it’s about common sense.

Also beware of ‘malicious’ intent – it’s fine to say “I’m having a problem with such and such company, is anyone out there having problems too?’ but it’s not fine to get Twitter followers to continually malign that said company, especially if they have no direct experience of it. What I don’t know is if it’s fine for people to keep re-tweeting negative messages. I don’t think this has been examined in court yet.

People have a very funny view of defamation and libel. It’s the same with invasion of privacy. As journalists we often come across this. Don’t assume that just because you don’t want something said, that it won’t be expressed.

Don't tell tall stories online - stick to the truth....

I once had a recruitment agency in the Swindon area which threatened to take me to court if I mentioned the fact that one of its former employees was taking it to an industrial tribunal. What nonsense! I almost shrieked with laughter.

Industrial tribunals are public events and the press are informed of them – any journalist can go along and report on proceedings. If someone lies in those proceedings (same with a court) as long as a company is approached for a right of reply, a journalist is free to print that lie with any response (contemporaneously). If the company doesn’t like it, that’s tough and  completely irrelevant.

I recently had someone talk to me about an inquest and how could she stop a journalist attending as a family member had passed away suddenly and it was traumatic all round. I gently told her that she couldn’t. An inquest is a public event and journalists are informed. It’s often fifty/fifty whether they will turn up or not – but they are perfectly entitled to do so. In this case, as it happens, no journalist attended.

I had another case where I was producing a short film about a Cheltenham-based company which was clearly  ripping people off for thousands of pounds. We contacted the boss  – remember, you can only defame a person, not a company – and he responded with legal threats.

The day of transmission, he turned up at the studio with a lawyer and sat in a room with us outlining why we were defaming him, his fellow director and therefore his company. It was a long drawn-out meeting but we knew he had no real defence. The pivotal moment came when I said ‘you’re right we are defaming you’. He was silenced by this. I went on to say ‘but there are defences for doing so and one is ‘it’s true’. His solicitor nodded in agreement. The item was aired that night.

The funny thing was, about two months’ later,  I had a call from this man’s solicitor. He wanted  me to know – and laugh ironically – at the fact that he had been employed to defend this business man’s honour (and I use the term loosely) and had not been paid! Probably never was!

Bristol’s gorillas are up for sale? Want one?

Gorillas with style......

In the south west tonight there’s a little fundraising event going on in Bristol –  gorillas are being auctioned off.

Price tag – up to £10,000 each. 

What? I hear you exclaim.

Yes, this is one of several very successful ‘stunts’ that this area has seen over the last few years.
This involves an organisation in need of money, building up the tension by commissioning the creation of colourful models of animals.

These are dotted around the relevant area for quite a long time and then auctioned off to local businesses or individuals to raise money.

Tonight it’s all about gorillas, to raise funds for Bristol Zoo Gardens – a marvellous organisation for us living in the region.

These models have been dotted around for several months.
Watching the news tonight, the target of raising £100,000 by auctioning them off has been far exceeded.

The former swimmer Sharron Davies has bought a wonderful purple gorilla gilded with a silver leaf design. Where will she put it? I’d love to know.

Sounds mad – but I love it.

I recognise that the gorillas, all identical in size but all colourfully different, are not new.

We’ve already had pigs and lions in Bath.

And I’m sure someone somewhere has done the same with horses. But I think they are absolutely wonderful.
In Bristol, the gorillas popped up all around the city and captivated people, especially children.
They were not placed always in obvious places, though some were outside of particular business – perhaps those which sponsored their creation.
I regularly saw the dotty one outside the BBC signed by the DIY SOS team, one with colourful handprints outside Waitrose and a beautiful one in green pyjamas outside a city hotel.

Without fail, every time I saw these creatures at random times of day, photographs were being taken. It’s a gem for social media pr as well as traditional stuff.

They just brightened up the day when wandering round the city.

Even last week when attending an auction house near Bath, I walked into reception and there was a lion from a similar campaign. It was wonderful to see, you just have to touch it, feel it and enjoy it.
The PR value of these objects – which from a practical point of view could be seen as completely useless – has been powerful for the Bristol locality.
And for Bristol Zoo it may be a happy coincidence that one of their gorillas, Salome, gave birth to a new baby just this week. So gorillas are good, strong, local news this week.
The model gorillas will be a talking point for years to come for any business which snaps them up.

At the same time a local facility which carries out research into conservation of wildlife will now be at least £300,000 richer. Some people paid £10,000 for their gorillas.

My only wish – that I could afford to buy one too!!

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