Social media* made easy

May 10, 2011

*Aka Online PR

There’s a lot of hype surrounding social media, and for many people, still much confusion.

To help get you started and ensure you get the most out of it, here are a few thoughts and ‘top tips’.

What is it?

Social media – or Online PR – is simply about having a conversation on line.  Both speaking and listening.

Many dismiss it – and especially Facebook as being just for kids, but collectively it is now a highly regarded form of business communication.

The key advance over traditional media communication is that it provides the opportunity for a two-way discussion with your stakeholders, not a one-way broadcast.  Traditionally PRs wrote press releases and spoke to journalists, but now journalists and their readers – your customers, are online, too.

The blogger has also arrived on the scene.  These can be journalists, politicians, opinion formers and pundits, or simply enthusiastic private individuals who write about things that interest them, become authoritative in their chosen subject, and because of what they are saying attract an audience.

The channels?  Many and various but primarily Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Double click on diagram to expand

Social media is not digital marketing

Social media isn’t about trying to sell you anything.  There isn’t an online shopping basket or PayPal page.  It is all about conversation, reputation and hearing what people think.  Imagine dropping into the pub for a drink or having friends round for a meal.  It’s not long before someone is recommending or deriding a product or service.  Reputations are made or lost based on third party endorsement.  So just ask yourself the question: do you know what’s being said about you, your product or brand online?  And if not, don’t you think you ought to be finding out by listening in?

Much of this relationship building work is what has been achieved by traditional PR for years.  The key difference is that now you can listen and converse directly and immediately.

So what’s the big deal?

Change happens, and arguably as in the case of social media, it now happens extraordinarily quickly.  Getting used to new ideas and new ways of doing things is just part of everyday life.

How did we cope before e-mail?  What business operates without the internet, and who doesn’t use a Blackberry or smart phone?  All have arrived and impacted on life in just a few years.

The way we communicate and do business evolves, and social media is just another new way of talking to your stakeholders, albeit in a very open and potentially global way.

Keep it simple

There are numerous computer tools and smart phone applications (apps) available to help, but to get going, we would recommend using Twitter, possibly Facebook and setting up a blog; YouTube if you can create or have access to relevant video footage, and LinkedIn is useful for professional networking.

Generation Y cut its teeth absorbing significant amounts of information from multiple sources – more so than any previous generation.  There’s less time for in-depth reading and attention levels are diminishing.  The 140 character tweet, images, video clips and web links are now the order of the day.  Short and punchy: just like a good newspaper headline.


As with any other business investment decision, you’ll need to think about a few things first.  This will obviously vary if you are representing a company or organisation, or just engaging as an individual:

  • Why are you going online?
  • What do you want to achieve?  Set some objectives
  • Agree who will be the ‘champion’ or spokesperson
  • What are you going to talk about?
  • What do you want to measure, and how often?

Start slowly

Dip a toe in.  Set up profiles, then watch, listen and learn.  You’ll soon feel ready to join in.

Starting to Tweet

Engage when you feel ready.  As with many things, the more you put into it the more you’ll get out.

Use it to network, to conduct research and find out what people think. It’s also valuable for accessing news, from topics of global importance to what’s happening in your neck of the woods, geographically or professionally.  You can search for any topic.

Trust your instincts

If you understand the basic principles of media communication you’ll be fine.

The same rules apply as for writing a press release.  News is still the number one reason for engaging, so be concise, keep the language simple, direct and to the point, and avoid overt advertising puffs.  If writing corporately, avoid personal views and opinions unless expressed as a statement from the company.

Check what you’re saying

Check spelling and grammar and keep it clean and legal!  The law applies to online just as it does to printed media.

Generate traffic

Make sure you include links to – and from your website, blog, online press office and all social media locations so there’s a virtuous circle. Add hyperlinks to the sign-off of your e-mails, and include the addresses on promotional literature, signage etc.

Double click on diagram to expand


You can measure your engagement in a variety of ways, and thereby validate the investment.  This can include:

  • Number of hits directed to your website
  • Number of followers on Twitter
  • Number of Facebook fans or ‘likes’
  • Number of customer complaints intercepted and satisfied, especially if you have turned a negative tweeter to a positive advocate
  • Number of YouTube viewings
  • Number of new bloggers writing positively – qualitative measures are also invaluable

What does it cost?

Here’s the good news – it’s free!  Well it is if you do it yourself.  If you employ a consultant to advise or manage it for you, expect to pay for their time, and only you can put a value on that and decide.

Getting help

Online PR – as with traditional PR, is fundamentally about reputation and relationship management, so a PR consultancy with social media experience or a specialist social media agency is where to head for, not a website designer or online marketing agency.

Just grasp the nettle – Don’t be afraid, you’ll soon be a natural!

Need to know more?

Follow us on Twitter, check out our website or mail Jeremy Clarke at

©LawsonClarke Ltd

Modesty prevents….

September 17, 2010

Yeah, like that’s going to happen!

Leading independent consumer motoring website,, has analysed six months of Twitter data to reveal the car manufacturers that are tweeted about the most, which models are frequently mentioned and which industry figures are the most influential.

The results can be seen at:

And at no. 10 in ‘The Top 20 motor industry influencers’ is…. you guessed it. (Scroll down if you didn’t!)

Their press release continues:

Those car companies that perform well are not just being mentioned on Twitter, but are actively influencing others, with research showing that it’s not just about building up a massive follower base, either. Although some of the most influential people identified through the research have a large follower base, others don’t. The most successful Tweeters influence the influencers, rather than speak to an audience that isn’t listening.

Top of the pile is Toyota’s Head of PR, Scott Brownlee, who used Twitter to great effect earlier in the year to keep owners updated with news of the brake pedal recall, in addition to more traditional forms of communication. Other top tweeters include Silverstone Race Circuit and the Driving Standards Authority – both of which really connect with their audiences.

“Having an authentic voice on Twitter is becoming crucial for any company that wants to actively communicate with those buying and owning its cars,” explained Daniel Harrison, Editor, “Those companies who are engaging with people are those that are leaving a lasting impression on them.

“There has been a lot of research done in the past into what’s causing a buzz on Twitter – in politics for instance. But this is the first time that anyone’s looked into the motor industry – despite its size and importance. At we found this lack of insight into motoring tweeters rather strange, so we have compiled the top motor industry tweets.

“This breakdown finally sheds some light as to who and what have captured the imagination on Twitter. But, things change quickly, so we’ll be updating this in coming months”, concluded Daniel Harrison.

The analysis has been broken down into three sections:

Most mentioned models
Top 20 motor industry influencers
Most used words in the bios of @_honestjohn followers

Top 20 UK Motor Industry Influencers**

1. @ToyotaPR // Head of PR for Toyota and Lexus in the UK

2. @SilverstoneUK// The UK’s premier motorsport venue

3. @DSAgovuk// Official Twitter channel of the Driving Standards Agency (DSA)

4. @NissanUKPR // Press office team for Nissan in the UK – Gabi, Linda & Gloria

5. @valvo // PR Manager for Toyota and Lexus in the UK

6. @AstonMartin // The official home of Aston Martin on Twitter

7. @AutomotivePR// Specialist PR Agency, providing services to the global motor industry

8. @UKNissanLEAF// Official Twitter for Nissan LEAF in the UK.

9. @Andy_Francis// Co-founder of sports and auto PR agency

10. @LawsonClarke// Twitter Stream from Jeremy Clarke of Lawson Clarke

11. @Honda_UK // Tweets from Steve Kirk at Honda (UK) on cars, motorcycles and power equipment

12. @grouplotusplc// Group Lotus plc – Manufacturers of the renowned lightweight performance sportscars

13. @JaguarUKPR // The Jaguar UK PR team and press office

14. @SEAT_cars_UK// Mike Orford – Head of PR for SEAT in the UK

15. @suzanne_tennant// Ex Fifth Gear now @ Golley Slater PR

16. @TomHyundai // PR Manager of Hyundai UK

17. @InsideVolvoUK// Official Twitter feed for Volvo Cars UK

18 @AlfaRomeo_UK// Official updates from various Tweeples in the Alfa Romeo UK PR team

19. @smartfortwoUK// Official smart car news and views from smart UK

20. @MercedesBenzUK// Official Mercedes-Benz news from the UK head office in Milton Keynes

**Calculated by analysing the ratio between activity, mentions and re-tweets.

Oh please, let’s put the ‘customer’ first!

July 13, 2010

The arrival of social media has opened up the age-old angst felt by PR, advertising and marketing folk; into whose domain should this new fangled idea fall?

PR people say that because it is all about the written word, it’s rightfully theirs. (And actually I don’t disagree!) Whereas the other lot talk about ‘integrated digital communication’ and ‘understanding the technology’ blah blah, so they should be responsible.

At the recent MIPAA (Motoring Industry Public Affairs Association) Masterclass, Simon Sproule, director, communications at Renault-Nissan Alliance expounded the view that perhaps now was the time to put an end to these turf wars, and for a new profession – a third-way – to steer a path between these warring factions.

He spoke about organisations still largely structured in functional chimneys – or silos – and gave a number of illustrations to ask the question: Is it marketing or is it PR?’

See presentation:

A brand’s involvement at an exhibition, say, is likely to have been led by marketing, had the PR people take over the stand for the first few press days, and then left for the sales people to look after the great unwashed and do their selling bit!

And that seems to be the nub of the problem. Communications – or as I have long preferred to call it, ‘the management of reputation’ – should not be process driven through tightly defined channels, but all-embracing. Neither should it be a top-down function: surely social media has taught us about inclusivity and dialogue, and torn up the rule book of one-way propaganda from organisation to audience?

Let’s just remember that the customer – aka the audience – doesn’t give a toss about any of the ‘mechanics’. All they want is a seamless join between the editorial they’re interested in, the Tweets, the ads, the exhibition stands, the guerrilla marketing stunts, the shop (sorry – retail experience!), how the ‘phones are answered, the brand values and yes – the product as they experience it, right from purchase through to after sales and repairs for the next umpteen years.

For them, whether they’re driving a Polo, sucking a Polo or watching the polo, it’s the totality of the experience – good, indifferent or bad, and from the first to the last encounter; that’s what forms their opinion and perception of a brand’s reputation.

So yes – I agree with Mr Sproule. We need to think beyond the platforms and processes and focus on changing behaviours and opinions. We need to tell a good, coherent and consistent story, and we need to do so in the round – the full 360 degrees. And critically in my view, we need to do all of this from the recipient’s perspective – the customer, rather than at the organisation’s convenience and via a traditional and evidently outmoded structure.

Survey of journalists across EMEA reveals depth of crisis in media sector

April 12, 2010

Gemma O’Reilly,, 12 April 2010

The traditional media industry in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) is struggling to cope with digital media and headcount cuts owing to the economic crisis, according to a new survey of senior journalists.

Burson-Marsteller interviewed 115 senior journalists from 27 countries throughout the region for the study.

According to the survey, an enormous numbers of journalists were being put out of work. Eighty-one per cent of respondents said that they were experiencing cost-cutting measures in their editorial teams.

There was broad agreement among the journalists interviewed that the quality and standards of their trade were being diminished. Thirty-four per cent said that internal cost-cutting was the biggest threat to high quality journalism today, while 17 per cent said that digital media was the biggest threat.

There was no consensus, however, about whether the digital revolution taking place in their industry was a positive or negative development. Most agreed that new digital tools had given them unprecedented access to information. However, the increased competition, as well as the de-professionalisation of their trade through citizen journalism, were all cited as serious causes for concern. Twenty-seven per cent of respondents said that blogs had damaged journalism, while 13 per cent said social media sites such as Facebook had also had a detrimental effect.

As one senior French journalist said: ‘The internet makes it much more difficult to distinguish news from noise.’

The majority of journalists surveyed said that PR agencies played an increasingly vital role in their work, either as sources of relevant information, leads for stories, or as conduits to relevant sources. Almost half (47 per cent) said that they dealt with PR agencies more than in previous years, while 28 per cent said they saw agencies as a source of relevant information.

Dennis Landsbert-Noon, chairman of the EMEA media practice, said: ‘As the media industry undergoes these tremendous changes, there is both an onus on us to ensure that our standards remain exemplary, as well as an opportunity for us to use new and exciting digital tools to communicate with traditional journalists as well as a whole new digital and social media landscape.’

Transparency on-line – there is no hiding place

March 19, 2010

Nestlé faces Facebook crisis over Greenpeace rainforest claims

Like it or not, warts and all, your reputation is now on-line for all to see. The critical points are:

i. Are you keeping an eye on it?

ii. Are you listening to what’s being said?

iii. Is someone sufficiently senior and competent engaging with your audience and responding appropriately?

Read PR Week’s report on the current Nestlé situation:

PR moves up the food chain

March 17, 2010
After years of being the ‘poor relation’ of the marketing mix, PR is coming of age.

This article by Gideon Spanier appeared in The London Evening Standard on Monday 15 March, 2010

Who does a CEO call first in crisis? The PR men

The recession has been brutal for most of the marketing industry but few sectors have performed better than public relations.

Last week Tim Bell, chairman of PR and advertising group Chime Communications, unveiled an impressive 15% jump in annual profits at his PR division which includes the firms Bell Pottinger and Good Relations. Lord Bell says Chime is capitalising on a long-term trend — the growing importance of PR for both corporations and high-profile individuals.

A decade ago, the first person a CEO might call when facing a major decision or crisis was his lawyer or financial adviser. Now it’s a top PR.

“The world of communications has changed,” says Bell, a founder of Saatchi & Saatchi and Margaret Thatcher‘s PR guru. “Now communications companies are invited to the top table at the first meeting. Look at the Greek Government [during its current economic crisis]. The first thing they did was tender for a PR company.” He adds dryly: “You could argue they should have started by doing something with the economy rather than find a PR agency.”

Top advisers such as Brunswick‘s Alan Parker, Finsbury’s Roland Rudd, and Matthew Freud of Freud Communications are hardly known outside the City, Whitehall and the media. Indeed they strive to stay in the shadows. But they can earn as much as a FTSE chief executive. Latest accounts show Rudd earned £2.9 million.

These external PRs do more than handle publicity and manage the financial calendar, with crisis management thrown in as required. They have top-level contacts that the client’s in-house PR can rarely hope to match. And increasingly, they are looking beyond PR — to offer strategic direction and political advice in the mould of a management consultancy such as McKinsey.

“PR has certainly moved up the food chain in the last five years,” says Danny Rogers, editor of PR Week. “Reputation is your biggest asset in the modern world.” The internet and 24-hour news have made it more important for a CEO to “know who the custodian of their reputation is”, he adds. “Media and public scrutiny of corporations, brands and individuals has increased. Your reputation can be destroyed so quickly now because it is so global.”

The dramatic safety recall of Toyota cars and the allegations surrounding England footballer John Terry‘s love life are two recent examples of how fast reputations can fall — for a business or an individual.

Many PR firms are privately owned and don’t disclose much financial detail but stock market-listed Chime’s past results give an indication of how demand from clients has grown. Between 2004 and 2009, profits from PR rose in successive years by 24%, 24%, 9%, 30% and 15%. Turnover almost doubled to £67 million — albeit with some help from acquisitions.

Historically, most of Chime’s revenues came from the UK but international clients are becoming more important. Bigger players have also seen growth in global PR. WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell, who controls a string of PR agencies including Hill & Knowlton, Ogilvy, Burson-Marsteller and Finsbury, told the recent FT Digital Media conference that when his team conducted an internal review of the past five years, it found that the PR division was among the best performers and “has shown consistent growth” with annual turnover of £796 million — although profits did slip in 2009.

Sorrell argues that investors should rate PR more highly as a revenue source, particularly as he believes it will have a growing role on social networking websites where “the invasion of that [space] by commercial messages” such as brand advertising “is not necessarily a good thing”.

No PR firm has been immune to the recession, of course, as clients cut budgets. In the City, a dearth of takeover deals has meant lower fees and redundancies. But Rogers, who is about to publish PR Week’s annual survey that tracks spend across the industry, believes that revenues were roughly flat last year. If that proves to be the case, it would be a decent performance considering advertising fell 12%.

Sorrell has suggested that part of the reason that PR has thrived is because it is relatively cheap for clients compared to, say, buying an ad campaign.

A PR firm’s basic retainer looks relatively modest — typically between £5000 and £25,000 a month, depending on the amount of work, with major clients paying £50,000 or more. Crisis management costs extra.

City PRs have tried to follow the same model as bankers and brokers — by offering lower retainers but then charging higher rates and “success fees” during a takeover or fundraising. But despite their growing influence, they do not charge the same as bankers, who might earn 0.5% of a mega-deal.

“One of the big challenges for a lot of PR people is that they still struggle to charge for they value they bring,” argues Rogers.

Surveying the PR industry, it’s notable how at many firms power remains in the hands of the founders, even if they have sold out to bigger conglomerates.

Some insiders complain that it is difficult for lower-ranking staff to join the “partnership” — the handful at the top who share the bulk of the profits.

“We are on the brink of a wave of start-ups,” predicts Rogers. “Good talent is getting ready to break away.” New agencies are likely to focus heavily on digital, handling internet search engines and social networking, as well as PR.

Whatever happens, reputation matters. So we can be sure there will be plenty of work for the PR industry.