The sphere and scope of social networking are becoming ever greater. More and more websites are emerging that enable users to share content with their friends. Pinterest is one of these websites. The idea behind it is very simple. A “newsfeed” of images is created depending on users’ selected interests, and from this they can then decide to “re-pin” items on to their own virtual pin boards. Having re-pinned a pin this is then fed through to their friends’ newsfeeds.
The question that I want to raise however is this: How effective is Pinterest for small businesses? And with the pressure of being on Facebook and Twitter already mounting, do companies really have the time to update yet another website?
The most striking element of Pinterest that sets it apart from other sites, is that it works primarily with images. This has meant that it has been an instant success with B to C businesses, offering easily photographable products (shoes/bags etc), but less so with service-led companies. There has, however, been an exception to this rule with Pet Plan Insurance. Despite being a company who may not naturally be drawn to Pinterest, it has used the site to its advantage by posting pictures of puppies and pet tips, resulting in a following of 5,975. Pet Plan has paved the way for a different type of pinner, and its pins stress the importance of being creative and quirky with updates.
Due to the picture-based nature of Pinterest, the frequency that users upload and re-pin is less than on other sites and the pace of new content being shown is far slower than its competitors. Whilst this may sound like a negative point to make, it is actually a useful tip to bear in mind. This website hasn’t become saturated with second by second updates, meaning a well thought out and effective pin has a longer shelf life and is less likely to be swallowed up by other marketing messages. That isn’t to say that Pinterest may not one day see minute by minute updates similar to its Facebook and Twitter competitors, but as the youngest of the three, it is still growing and there is still time.
Whilst Pinterest is still in its infancy, and newsfeeds haven’t already been swamped by larger corporations, I do think that it can be used effectively for the right small business. Just always remember to think creatively!
4 February 2013 - Public Relations
Social media is one of the fastest growing platforms for engaging with existing customers and drawing in new ones. But does everyone really get it and can you trust everyone in your office to run your social media accounts to a high enough standard? After all, they are a window into your organisation.
10 December 2012 - Public Relations
A social media mishap can be harmful for any brand. At HROC, we’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to airlines recently, with more than a few occasions where some of the biggest brands have got social media all wrong. Here are just four that we’ve spotted:
When Qantas Airways decided to do a competition on Twitter where the entrants had to use ‘#Qantasluxury’ and mention what to them typified ‘Qantas Luxury’ to win prizes, Qantas didn’t realise that they were staking a claim for worst timing of the year award!
That’s because at the time of launch, they had thousands of stranded passengers from cancelled flights, checking the feed for updates regarding the service. Within minutes of the hashtag going live there were thousands of responses to the tweet complaining about the services Qantas provide.
The furor was such that the company ended up winning the prestigious Top Gaffe 2011 award from a top social network tracking site and spawned a hilarious parody video of how people behind the scenes may have tried to calm the storm.
Lets hope the company’s next twitter endeavor is a little better thought out and timed!
When musician Dave Carroll’s $3,500 guitar was destroyed in transit he was more than a little annoyed. But following a year fighting with United Airlines to get compensation for his guitar, and continually being ignored by United Airlines, his annoyance became good for only one thing… music!
So, like many musicians he used the experience for inspiration and created a series of videos called “United Breaks Guitars” where he told the story of his treatment using a little humour. The videos went viral and, within days, thousands were tweeting and posting about the airline and its lack of accountability.
Finally, despite the best efforts of United to ignore the situation and not reply to any of the social media mentions (showing a complete lack of social media understanding), United was forced to concede its error and, having little other choice, apologised by donating $3,000 to the Thelonious Monk Jazz institute at Carroll’s request.
Whilst Carroll never did get the money back for his guitar, the 12m views on YouTube of just one of the videos, not to mention the subsequent book deal, didn’t do his career much harm – shame the same can’t be said for United’s reputation!
Ryanair is an airline that is not unused to hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons. But when they decided to insult one blogger and then the entire blogosphere in 2009, they showed themselves to have poor social media savvy.
It all started with a seemingly innocuous comment on a technical issue that Dublin based web developer Jason Roe published on his blog. Roe stated he had found a problem with Ryanair’s website which meant that when booking a flight the price went to zero (although Roe admitted that he could not actually book said flight). He posted about the glitch on his blog and put it on Twitter also. Cue the comments!
Within hours of the post going live Roe had received a number of offensive responses including one calling him an ‘idiot’ for trying to book the free flight, while another mocked his ‘pathetic life’.
Let’s get one thing clear – negative comments are a risk people take with twitter, blogs and social media in general and are part and parcel of the community. The problem is these weren’t your average anonymous users. When Roe traced the IP addresses they came from Ryanair’s head offices… doh!
Subsequently the company issued the following statement from spokesman Stephen McNamara:
“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again. Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel.”
Not only does this show how out of touch Ryanair is with social media and PR but customer engagement in general. All they had to do in the first instance was issue a response saying ‘thank you for bringing this to our attention and we are looking into the matter’ or a comment of the same ilk.
Instead, their willingness to support employees who abuse customers and then blatantly attempt to rubbish a prominent form of social media, which millions use to influence others, will do their brand reputation no good in the long run.
It probably wasn’t the wisest of ideas when Southwest Airlines decided to throw media personality Kevin Smith off one of their planes for being ‘too wide.’
Kevin Smith reached out to his 1.65 million followers on twitter and tweeted “Wanna tell me I’m too wide for the sky? Totally cool, but fair warning folks: If you look like me, you may be ejected from Southwest Airlines.”
Once this had been announced on twitter, Mr Smith continued to write a blog post and a podcast on the matter. By the time Southwest Airlines made their apology on Twitter and on the blog post, Mr Smith’s substantial followers had already come to their own conclusions on the airline.
From now on we’re sure Southwest will ensure to check how many followers a passenger has before making the decision to eject them from an airplane!
All four of these examples show how a simple social media fail can have a long lasting and detrimental effect on brand reputation. With the airline industry struggling during the recession, surely it’s more important than ever to use social media well and get ahead of the competition.
To talk to us about our social media offering and how we can help you end up on an epic fail highlight reel on YouTube call 0121 454 9707.
5 November 2012 - Public Relations
Birmingham based PR agency HROC is celebrating after winning five prestigious Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) PRide awards – more than any other Midlands agency.
The awards, which took place on Friday night at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel, is the biggest night in the Midlands PR calendar with more than 300 of the regions leading practitioners in attendance representing over 40 agencies, all vying for the top honours.
HROC scooped Gold in Corporate and Business Communications, Best Campaign £10,000 and under, Consumer Relations and Measurement & Evaluation. The team also won Silver in the Best Event category.
Steve Sherran, Managing Director of HROC PR, commented: “Just to be nominated against the back drop of such strong competition is an honour in itself but to win gold in four awards and a silver is truly something special.
“The awards are a testament to the hard work, dedication and creativity of the entire team but also to our clients without whom we would not have been able to achieve this.”
Over the last few years HROC PR has gone from strength to strength, taking on numerous new clients and growing despite a difficult economic climate. The company has more than 50 communication experts working across its PR, digital, creative services and design divisions, with nine dedicated PR specialists.
For more information on the PR, digital, design and creative services offered by HROC visit the website at www.hroc.co.uk or call 0121 454 9707.
23 August 2012 - Public Relations
A picture is worth 1000 words (or so they say) and that’s what makes Pinterest the current must-do hot social media channel.
It’s a well-known fact that users will not stay on a webpage for long if it does not interest them with wordy pages often falling victim to the short attention span of readers. Pinterest eliminates this factor by cutting out words and focusing on the photo/video sharing aspect of social media.
What makes Pinterest unique to other photo sharing networks such as Flickr, is that the content is shared from the original source. Online marketers take note – this feature makes Pinterest a fundamental asset for your brand’s SEO strategy.
Here are four ways to make Pinterest work for your hotel:
1. Show off your hotel’s location why the area is a ‘must visit’ place by focusing on the attractions close by!
By carefully crafting and presenting the location of your hotel, your Pinterest profile can become your hotel’s virtual destination concierge, while local attractions and the demonstration of your local knowledge will become an incentive for holidaymakers to stay in your hotel.
The beauty of using Pinterest is that you don’t actually have to own the content; you can find the images or videos online of upcoming events or local attractions and showcase them quickly and easily on your board.
Pinterest’s board feature is also the perfect tool to target specific audiences. By creating boards to cater to different interests you can show off the richness and diversity of your destination and attract a pool of consumers. Consider the following audiences as a starting point:
- A family destination with fun day out activities
- A couples retreat or honey moon destination
- Boys holiday or stag destination
- Girls holiday or hen destination
- Night owls – a board displaying the vibrant nightlife
- The naturalists – a board to show off the natural beauty hotspots for the outdoor lovers
- A cultural calendar for the anthropologists
But make sure you first have a clear idea of the identity of your hotel and the surrounding area as what attracts one person may put off another.
2. Don’t be afraid to show off your hotel!
The strength of Pinterest is its visual power. If you’ve invested in great photography, this is the place to use it.
Display all the features and design elements that make your hotel unique and attractive – show off the best bits of your business on your board. Showcase your facilities and what would make the ideal venue for a conference, a banquet, a party or a wedding. Include shots of layouts, gift ideas from the gift store, signature drinks, surrounding gardens and other areas and of course, the bedrooms.
The culinary talent and chef’s imagination will be a strong selling incentive, Pinterest gives you the opportunity to market everything great about your hotel with its visual strength. So think chef profiles, speciality dishes, recipes and healthy eating tips, signature drinks and wine recommendations. Make a board to show off your in-house restaurant.
Do the same with the gift shop (if you have one) and display the unique qualities of your gifts. Include the occasions for which they would make a great buy and in doing so urge the visitor to buy directly from your on board facility.
3. Website referrals and traffic
As mentioned above, Pinterest is proven to be a brilliant generator of direct referral traffic, even beating Twitter according to a survey this year by sharing tool Sharaholic. Especially in the case of lifestyle and retail content which makes it the ideal tool to help positively impact your SEO strategy.
As more users ‘repin’ your pins and give your products more exposure, the greater the chances they will be attracted to inbound links from external sources. Given that off-page SEO dictates roughly 75% of how well you rank in search engine results, Pinterest is not something to neglect.
4. To crowd source customer feedback
It’s important to remember that Pinterest is all about interests (it’s not a secret, its in the name!) What this means though is that it’s not a place to display your general promotions and ads, and especially not to seed out your marketing messages – as with ALL social media channels, it’s a place to provide engaging and interesting content. So keep your activity stream exciting and fresh.
Self-promotion is BAD (not in the hip bad meaning good way…it’s just bad)! No one likes a company that only talks about how wonderful they are. The way to get around this is by displaying positive feedback from previous customers and encouraging them to engage with your page. Users are more likely to believe the positive messages of others not affiliated with the premises.
This then makes Pinterest a brilliant recommendation device, and because others can directly track the source of the positive recommendation, it is deemed to be reliable and independent. Try to encourage past visitors to leave feedback by running a competition. By doing this you are able to connect with visitors, both old and new in an interesting and engaging way that not only leaves you with positive recommendations, but also visually support your facility.
Are you a hotelier currently using Pinterest as part of your marketing strategy? Let us know how you’re getting along, or any challenges you’re facing by tweeting us at @hroc_pr.
9 August 2012 - Public Relations
Evaluation and Return on Investment (ROI) are two terms that have been used by PR professionals for decades now to demonstrate the value of what we do for our clients.
Whilst there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to evaluation, in years gone by, this used to simply be about measuring the number of press cuttings achieved and what the advertising value equivalent (AVE) was of that coverage to give a client their ROI. In some cases, savvier PRO’s might also have included the delivery of key messages and any other KPI’s agreed with the client to add value to the service they were providing.
However, the impact of the economic crisis and the subsequent tightening of marketing and PR budgets has led to much more scrutiny about the role that PR can play in helping a business meet its commercial objectives.
The result of this has changed the face of PR evaluation. No longer are AVE figures and PR values enough, our industry is being challenged to demonstrate the impact that PR can have on sales leads and enquiries, website traffic through Google analytics, number of likes and followers on social media channels, engagement, share of voice and favourability of coverage for example.
Whilst this might be more time intensive, plus the fact that the majority of clients are not prepared to pay for it, it can only be good news for our industry.
There’s no doubt in our mind that most CEO’s, MD’s and Marketing Director’s that are at the coal face of a brand’s reputation still see the value of PR. Proving this and ensuring it is communicated to board level not only protects our profession, but also shows how accountable we are and how important our discipline is in the marketing mix, particularly as the economy continues to contract.
2 August 2012 - Public Relations
Just over a month ago, the CIPR produced its long anticipated first edition of its Best Practice Guidance report relating to the appropriate use and editing of Wikipedia by PR’s.
Developed with the assistance of Wikipedians, the report has been quickly endorsed by some of the leading public relations bodies across the world such as the PRCA, Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) and the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA).
The report is designed to guide PR’s when it comes to editing false or inaccurate information on clients, companies or individual’s pages. It comes following revelations last year that big name PR agencies were able to ‘sort’ unfavourable Wiki pages regarding clients, putting a more favourable spin on posts and, in some cases, leaving pages completely unrecognisable from the original document.
The incident was significant enough to warrant an investigation by the CIPR which invested large sums of money and considerable amounts of time in producing the Best Practice guide that discourages any PR who has a vested interest in a company and/or individual, from directly making amends to a Wiki page that relates in any way to that client, company or person.
This has always been a contentious and frowned upon practice, with Wiki’s co-founder Jimmy Wales stating in 2006 that “PR firms editing Wikipedia is something that we frown upon very, very strongly”.
However…should PR’s be able to edit Wiki pages that relate to their clients and are, therefore, a fundamental aspect of brand and reputation management?
Let me give you an example. When I was at Uni, the use of Wikipedia was rife and got to the point where the Dean of the university sent out a blanket email discouraging the use of the online encyclopedia as its content was regarded as largely unreliable in the academic community, and referencing this source would result in a loss of marks.
A prime example of inaccurate page information is the case of American journalist, John Seigenthaler, who had a hoax Wiki page set up about him that stated as fact that he had been/was a suspect in the assassination of President John.F Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F Kennedy, whom he had been friend and aid to.
The incorrect assertion that he had been involved in either incident was referred to by Seigenthaler as tantamount to ‘internet character assassination’ and became known as the ‘Seigenthaler Incident’ and a key component in the argument regarding the validity of Wiki information.
Back at Uni and during one of our seminars one of my fellow students asked our lecturer, a prominent author, why the practice was being discouraged when BBC articles stated that Wiki was as accurate as the Encyclopedia when it came to Science?
He did not dispute that fact, as it had been reported a year previously, but he then proceeded to get his own page up on his laptop. To our amusement it listed him as an actively ‘gay’ member of the community when he had been married to his wife for more than 20 years and, even more inaccurate, it said he had been dead for more than five years and his novels were in fact being released posthumously.
Clearly, the accuracy of Wiki arguments is debatable and a serious issue that stems from the fact that ANYONE can edit a Wiki article and add to it whatever information they choose, fact or fiction, which is where it becomes a dangerous tool. Undoubtedly, my tutor’s page had been doctored by a disgruntled former pupil or someone that did not like him, but it highlights the potential for mischief.
Couple that with the fact that Wiki themselves admit they have no ‘hard-and-fast’ rules on submission and you have a recipe for disaster.
With business being such a competitive sphere, rivalry between companies can sometimes spill over into unscrupulous waters. In the media, it is the job of a PR to rebuff any inaccurate reports about the financial and ethical (along with others) standpoints of a client all under the umbrella of ‘brand’ and ‘reputation’ management. Why should Wikipedia be any different?
In fact if anything, should it not be made easier to counteract inaccurate and blatantly false claims about a client that are made on said client’s page? PR’s that have tried to go down the right path, submitting changes to Wiki Editors have sometimes not seen the changes take effect for months or have had their request completely ignored. With clients frequently wanting something done yesterday, is it best for a PR to simply wait and hope that the changes they suggest take effect quickly or should they be proactive in the defence of their client?
Whatever your position, the CIPR’s report does not say a PR ‘cannot’ change the content of a Wikipedia page but that it discourages the practice of amending information. Instead, PR’s are encouraged to work with Wiki editors, supplying valid information so they can take the appropriate action and change the content of the page. But, as mentioned previously, with the problems of getting amends done in a timely fashion what is a PR to do?
Once again, PR’s are left with no clear rules of engagement when it comes to Wikipedia as Wiki has not yet set any specific rules regarding the editing and with the CIPR report being somewhat ambiguous in how it would deal with PR’s found to be doctoring Wiki pages, the debate will undoubtedly continue to rage on.
To read the report – click the link or to comment tweet us @hroc_PR
13 July 2012 - Public Relations
Here at HROC we have noticed that there seems to be a renewed fascination with the humble vending machine, with many companies choosing one to create a PR stunt to generate buzz and awareness of their product. Giving consumers a free sample to encourage them to make a future purchase is a PR technique that is undeniably successful, but this new twist on a traditional method is one that is proving even more effective. Here we count down our top five PR Stunts involving a vending machine as a celebration of this growing trend.
5 First up at number five we have the most recent vending machine stunt by drinks giant Coca-Cola. They placed a single vending machine in Singapore which offered a free can of coke in exchange for a hug. Yep, you’ve got it, free coke for hugging a machine. The stunt forms part of the brands ‘open happiness’ campaign and was so successful they are planning to carry out similar stunts across Asia.
4 At number four is tourism company British Columbia who placed a giant 14-foot tall, 10-foot wide vending machine in San Francisco. The machine was used to advertise activities included in the British Columbia holiday experience. Users were given gifts ranging from camping blankets to mountain bikes!
3 Coming in at number three is a campaign by Australian snacks brand, Fantastic Snacks. They used a vending machine to see how far people would go to get their products. They asked consumers to complete a number of challenges before receiving their free snack box. The challenges ranged from simply pressing a button a designated number of times to bowing down in front of the machine… check out this video which has more than 500,000 hits to see just how far people went!
2 Narrowly missing out on the top spot is the cake dispensing ads that were used by Mr Kipling. At first look the boards seem to be simple poster advertisements; however they are actually vending machines dispensing up to 500 pieces of free Angel Slices a day, once a minute, at the touch of a button. The stunt was used to promote the launch of their new snap pack angel slices. According to Creativity Online, one bus shelter on London’s Tottenham Court Road also emits a cakey scent!
1 So, at number one we have our favourite vending machine PR Stunt by South African drinks company BOS Ice Tea. They launched a vending machine called ‘BEV’ that dispenses samples of their tea when users tweet specifically to @BOS using the hashtag #BOSTWEET4T. The incorporation of social media ensures that any hype surrounding the stunt is focused directly to the brand by drawing attention to their twitter feed, genius!
10 July 2012 - Public Relations
We’ve all heard those horror stories about interns and people on work experience – spending their weeks learning how to make the perfect cup of tea but never really learning much else. I’ve heard them too, so needless to say, before coming to work at HROC, I was a little apprehensive!
Having next to no PR experience, I feared I was going to be completely intimidated by all the super slick, super confident PR personas that you see in sketch shows. As I walked to the door, I racked my brain for some sharp witty one liners to make that striking first impression.
However HROC certainly does not live up to any of the scary pre-conceptions I had about a PR agency. All the (obviously hilarious) one liners I had come up with seemed redundant in the friendly and relaxed environment I found myself in.
When I first arrived, I met Steve Sherran, Managing Director of PR, and after giving me a brief tour of the building he took me through a presentation about what exactly ‘PR’ entails! Within the first couple of hours I had already discovered loads of useful new stuff about the industry and what exactly a ‘PRO’ is. Who knew there were so many different ways to advertise a company without adverts?!
After that, I was introduced to the rest of the PR team and given my first brief; to plan a product launch for an up-and-coming release from one of the agency’s major clients. Although this was a slightly scary prospect, I was so excited to be working on an actual project and couldn’t wait to get stuck in! Throughout the week I have been working with Account Directors Heather Price and Sarah Cull, to find the perfect venue and theme for the launch, whilst also looking for appropriate brandable gifts to give to the attendees of the event (popcorn was a personal favourite).
I also got to experience my first client meeting, when Heather, Sarah and I along with Senior Account Director, Russell Clarke, headed down to Peterborough to meet the client representatives and discuss our ideas for the launch and ongoing account activity.
This week has been a valuable introduction to the PR world and to be given an actual client and event to work on, during my first week, was great. Working closely within the team has given me a real feel for the kind of day to day work that goes on in an agency like HROC. It is also refreshing to actually feel as if the work I am doing is valuable and contributing to the efforts of the agency, rather than being given seemingly pointless tasks to keep me busy.
I can’t believe how fast my first week has flown by, but I am loving working at HROC and I can safely say I have learnt more about the team and their work than just how many sugars they take in their tea!
Can’t wait for next week!
17 May 2012 - Public Relations
Against a backdrop of continued economic misery, rising unemployment and some extremely unnerving goings on in Greece and France in the past week, William Hague managed to single handedly infuriate the vast majority of business owners by telling them to stop complaining about the economy and work harder.
Brilliant. We hadn’t thought of this ourselves, so thanks for pointing it out.
Yet another media relations disaster for the coalition which currently seems to be reeling from one PR mess to another on a daily basis. The response from the business community has, not surprisingly, been one of fury, with David Cameron now holding talks with business leaders at Number 10 in a bid to “address the potentially damaging divide between the private sector and Government.”
Meanwhile, in other news, Rebekah Brooks has been charged with conspiracy to prevent the course of justice, once again dragging David Cameron into the spotlight given his relationship with Brooks and of course his former communications advisor Andy Coulson – see our previous blog “when a spokesperson needs a spokesperson”.
All we need now is for Greece to leave the Euro and the mess will be complete for this week. But hey, let’s not make a Drachma out of a crisis.