Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

While it’s easy to give We Are Social (WAS) a right good pasting over their handling of the Eurostar debacle over the weekend – let’s put things into perspective.

For starters: less than 24hrs after the whole thing started playing out, there was a video response from the Eurostar CEO himself, Richard Brown. This is not something to be sniffed at kids.

A video apology, delivered via YouTube, to the LittleBreak website in the form of a blog post. In this day, that is a feat in itself.

How many other CEOs of train operators could you name who would consider doing that (outside of a BBC interview)?  Seriously?

Please do not think for one second that I’m making light of all those people trapped on the train/in the tunnel/in folkestone for God knows how many hours – I’m not.

But look at it like this – if the CEO had put that video up within, say four hours of the incident taking place, how easy would it have been to cry:

“OMG! What is he doing wasting time posting on a blog? He should be out there dedicating his time to getting those people out!”

WAS were originally (I assume), hired to create sales and conversation around ‘little breaks’ – facilitated, naturally, by Eurostar. Note: This would mean working with Eurostar’s Marketing and PR team, not their Customer Care dept. Whether or not the addition of a reactive care stream to We Are Social’s (now ongoing?) brief is the mark of a bad agency remains to be seen.

What isn’t necessary – in my opinion at least – is playing the blame game when it comes to addressing ‘twitter concerns’.

Remember – this happened on a Friday night and played out over the midnight hours. Come Saturday morning, the problem was still going on. I know I (at least try to) take weekends off sometimes, I’m pretty sure others do too. But, when the call came in, the WAS guys got themselves over to Eurostar HQ pronto and were camped out there from midday onwards.

By the end of play, they had that video up.

If care was part of the package then someone SHOULD have been online.
It wasn’t, so there wasn’t.

The end.

Come on, someone just do it already #1

This might turn into a semi-regular feature.
Hence the number. We’ll see.

On with the post.

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These adverts – from UK-based electronics retailer, Dixons – have been springing up all around London lately. Take a look:

Read all that? Good. Right then.

Is it just me or is there a MASSIVE opportunity here for a competitor to come along and have some fun with this?

Alright the ads are actually quite well done. Providing a playful spin on the words ‘the last place you want to go’ as well as taking a cheeky swipe at some of the more… stuffier… of London’s largest department stores, these billboards do raise a smile.

But still. If I was a keen-eyed ad man I might be tempted, with the right client, of course (someone like ebay maybe?) to go away, knock up some good-sized stickers and then in one night, do one big hit on them all.

Guerrilla style.

You see what I mean? Bam.

So come on, someone just do it already!

And that was going to be it from me but, when I researched the ads some more it turned out that not everyone is a fan of this new campaign.

Nigel Paine writes:

“Then there are the nasty Dixons Ads on the tube at the moment. They tell you to spend your time learning about your product from well-trained (threfore ponsy) shop assistants in well-known stores like Harrods, Peter Jones and John Lewis and then buy at Dixons on line. Why do I not find this amusing?

.

Firstly because of the snobbery, and secondly that Dixon’s shop assistants are the diametric opposite of knowledgable and helpful, and a terrible glimpse at what shopping might become if Dixons had its way. Thirdly the idea of checking out the store first and talking about what you want, and then checking out online vendors to get the best price happens all the time.

.

Better not bite the hand that feeds you!”

He makes a good point.

The value of the online shopping market is growing year on year while that of the high street is steadily declining. And while you have to applaud Dixons for attempting to drive traffic to their online store, I for one can’t help thinking that there is a slight danger of them shooting themselves in the foot:

Time will tell.  After all, similar things have happened before.

Thanks for reading.

A Hero’s Quest: Launching a TV channel in 2009

Back in the Spring, I attended a launch party for a new free-to-air digital channel called Quest TV.

Unfortunately, due to some last minute complications, the launch was inexplicably delayed and is now scheduled to go live tomorrow instead.

What follows it the post I wrote on May 22nd. Most of the points still stand so I have no qualms about dusting it off and finally publishing.

Your thoughts and comments, as always, are welcome.

Enjoy.

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Hero Quest was one of my favourite board games when i was a kid. Yeah you had your Monopoly and your Cluedo, but when it came to getting your Wizard on (and if D&D was too complicated) then Hero Quest was the way to go…

Last night folks, I attended the launch party for Quest TV.

With previews of programs such as Heli-loggers, Rescue Me and the old school Mission Impossible, the whole package was delivered in a jaunty, rather tongue-in-cheek but seriously amusing way.

However, because of the trek down to London from my office in Marlow however, I was late and arrived just as they were showing the channel’s idents. These I thought were quite clever and the scope to expand on them is definitely there, but we’ll come back to this one later.

As the evening went on I was introduced to a couple of representatives from Discovery – the television company behind Quest TV, and we spoke about how/why the social media outreach had been done specifically for this Quest TV’s launch. Aside from the low-cost aspect (and subsequent potential ROI), they insisted it was mainly stemmed from their desire to try something different.

A courageous move for sure and one that should be applauded. What with there being no real case studies to point to (regarding successes/failures with new ‘old media’ channel launches), they have carte blanche to pretty much do as they please. New TV Channels are a rarity here in the UK, so it’ll be interesting to see how they move this forward; it was noted at the time that the worst thing they could possibly do right now, would be to reach out… and then walk away.

Social media isn’t a channel, it’s the nonsense term applied to all things conversational and online, (these days I’ve taken to calling it ‘the web’), however – sticking to that principal – the web isn’t just another channel either. It opens up a world of interactivity and engagement which has never been seen before, especially in the world of ‘old/traditional’ media.

The idents that I touched upon earlier, are a great example of how the web could be used to further their brand.

Here’s a selection of the ones they had on show last night:

Not bad at all.

I can totally see an online campaign which involves viewers at home producing their own Quest TV idents. The ones shown above are short, fun and relatively easy to make. Why not further the conversation by reaching out to your own ‘users’ to help build the Quest TV brand?

Or, maybe ask viewers if they are on some kind of quest themselves. I’m reminded of the Britglyph project which famously had a mad Scotsman take part by placing his own rock in the rain in the middle of the night.
Hilarious, but awesome.

If that was online, what kind of scope do we have with TV?

Like I said the channel launches tomorrow and it seems Quest have already dipped their toes in, let’s see if they’re ready for a swim.

When does Batman sleep? – Part 2

This has been a long time coming…

A few months ago I posted Part One to discuss this question and its relation to the ‘always on’ generation that we seem to live in today. If like many others who find themselves working in this field, you are expected to be on call at every hour of the day…

Well no, let’s stop right there. Is it actually expected?

Or is it the case that you simply feel obliged?
You assume that that the expectation in there, when in fact it isn’t.

See?

I have written at length about the importance of humanity being at the heart of everything you do. The onus being placed on the term ‘being human‘ throughout my work is on purpose people.
The question asked above is not about the duality of Batman’s psyche, moreover about his pig-headedness about asking for help and his lack of self-forgiveness when he gets it wrong.

He is after all only human.
As are we all.

When things got tough the Bat brought in Robin and then soon after that, the Justice League. His skills, unique and awesome on their own, work considerably better when placed into a team of similar, like minded people (sharing an equal goal).

The point is, that developer guy that I mentioned?
He who I quoted way back when:

Sometimes, I find myself stuck in front of the laptop at like 10pm on a Sunday night. The kids are in bed, the wife isn’t far behind and there I am answering customer care questions over Twitter with some guy in Geneva! This isn’t my day job. I’m a developer. My question to you is Sir; when does Batman sleep?

This man, he cared about his company’s brand and (online) reputation so much that he took it upon himself to make things better on his own.

Much like the Caped Crusader, he fixed it himself, working solo and acting independently from his own company’s PR team and, just as Batman did with the Gotham City Police Department (GPD), both sides became infuriated.

However, it is written than the Dark Knight works best when he works with his friend and ‘colleague’, Commissioner Gordon, coordinating strategies that incorporate traditional routes & methods (like the GPD) as well as the new found tools of our erstwhile hero.

More things get done.

When I first started in this job, within weeks I was at loggerheads with the Director of Communications. Our very own Jim Gordon if you will. He wanted to vet every single message and blog post that was to be written and sent out. A stand up argument ensued which ended with me simply saying:

Invent a box of words…
Put in everything I can use and take out everything I can’t.


Then leave the box with me.

It took some time, but we got there in the end.
There are laws and rules as well as traditional ways of enforcing or adhering to them.

However, these days there are ways to play, push up against and generally find new parameters to work within these rules.
Call it operating under the radar if you will.

Batman doesn’t kill.
Something which he is continually pushed on.
He doesn’t go looking for trouble (at least not in the traditional sense of the word), but instead works within rules.
First those he sets himself, then later within those set by others.

It is at this point where our super hero can pause, his allies know his work and can defend it in his absence.
Yes that’s right, his absence.

I started this post with the intention of highlighting the often over-looked ideal of humanity on both sides of the coin.

Corporations can be human but so can consumers.

Yes, it’s great to be on call 24hrs a day, seven days a week, but your customers are not robots. If you don’t get back to them on a Sunday night, they’ll understand.

It’s all well and good being human, but never forget everyone else is too.

The value of ideas

They can be good, they can be awesome – some can even change the world.

But who owns them?

If your idea is shared with another, does that other then co-own it with you?

Your ideas maybe the most valuable things you ever, ever own. Guard them well and be careful with whom you share them with.

Something that maybe so obvious to you may not be as obvious to the next person.
Before opening your mouth next time, take a moment – pause, take a break and think.

How much do you value your time? Your ideas?

Is it the price of a coffee? Lunch? Dinner?
Or is it a day of work, a week maybe?

How much are you worth?

Writing this, as I am currently, in the bar of the ICA – home of the London Social Media Cafe – I am comforted by words of wisdom from my good friend Carl Jeffrey:

“Share your ideas and your dreams, you’ll be surprised how many people come out of the woodwork to help you – but make sure to hold off telling the full story until the end. Remember; genius has limits, stupidity has none.”

When does Batman sleep? – Part 1

Back in September last year, fresh from the awesomeness that was Nokia OpenLab in Helsinki, I found myself at the Web 2.0 Expo, NYC.

It was day two of the conference and Brian Solis was taking us through his presentation on PR 2.0. It would seem that in today’s ‘2.0’ environment, that PR was no longer about Public Relations, but Personal Relationships.

Brian’s written and talked extensively about this subject in the past and while I have a great respect for him and his work, this particular session was faltering.

You see, the presentation wasn’t anything new to me. Having studied his work in the past, I was just hearing everything I’d read being spoken back to me.

Admittedly this was not Brian’s fault. He had to speak to the lowest common denominator in the room and he was doing a very good job of it. However, some of the attendees were losing interest. Actually, my good friend and blog designer Vero Pepperrell touched upon this in her most recent post on That Canadian Girl.

Upon her return from the South by South West Interactive (SXSWi) festival, in Austin, Texas – Vero had this to say to the organisers:

Mark panels as Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced on the pocket schedule and ask speakers to stick to that level. The vast majority of panels I attended were far too Beginner level, which sometimes felt like a waste of time. The panelists aren’t necessarily to blame, as they aimed to be as inclusive as possible, but when every panel is lowest-common-denominator, it can be tricky to learn new things.

Good point, well made. So… What’s up with the Batman reference?

Well jumping back to New York for a second, the PR 2.0 session at Web2 was coming to an end and Mr Solis had opened the floor to questions…

A few short ones at first;

– “Should we be using Twitter?” (Yes)
– “What if people start talking back?” (Talk back to them)
– “Can I have a copy of your presentation?” (Yes)

And then this one guy came up to the mic, rather shy fella actually, and quietly told Brian and the audience around him, what he did for a living. This man was a developer who, after spending some time wandering the world wide web, had discovered that people were talking about the company he worked for. Sometimes good, sometimes bad and, being the nice human being that he was, this man decided to do something about it.

At first, starting small; just fixing little bugs here, offering help and guidance there. Soon, word spread that this was the go-to guy online if you had any questions regarding the company he worked for. Again, being the kind man that he was, he found himself answering query after query and question after question, not once being mean or nasty or just plain rude. This man cared:

“Sometimes Brian, I find myself stuck in front of the laptop at like 10pm on a Sunday night. The kids are in bed, the wife isn’t far behind and there I am answering customer care questions over Twitter with some guy in Geneva! This isn’t my day job. I’m a developer. My question to you is sir; when does Batman sleep?”

This prompted a huge round of applause from the majority of the room. Being the face of your brand isn’t supposed to be a 24hr job (is it?), so when are we supposed to take time out? What about those of us to whom this isn’t even their job?

I have answers, mainly through my own experiences.
But first I wanted to ask the question to you, dear reader:

When do you think Batman should sleep?

.

Part 2.

MIR: A tech evangelist’s perspective on the o2/CPW saga

Please note: It must be pointed out for reasons that will soon become clear that the following is my own personal opinion and not necessarily those of my employer, SpinVox.

Hello folks,

If you haven?t read Ben Jennings? excellent post on his view of how to deal with the iPhone debacle, then go and do that now.

This post is related.

How?

…I’ll tell you.

It was with great interest that I read Ben?s three step proposal for dealing with said horrifying iPhone badness. All three steps were interesting but for me, it was step two that really made me sit up and pay attention?

For those of you that missed yesterday’s piece ? here?s the part I?m referring to:
?Step 2: Hire an Evangelist.

Ben writes:
This only needs to be one person. Heck, they could even be a student, as long as they have the right information. Maybe they could run the information page [in step 1] too. This person?s role would be to engage with the customers on the O2 forums. Wouldn?t it be fantastic if CPW had forums too? Are CPW even aware that they are being talked about on O2?s forums just because there is nowhere else for this conversation to take place? The evangelist would be an invaluable tool to act as a barometer of what are the specific hot issues. The evangelist would also make the customers feel like they were being listened to, rather than ignored. They could even Twitter updates to gain that Web 2.0 cool.?

Why am I interested in this?

Well this actually makes up a part of what I do for SpinVox and, hand on heart, I honestly have NO IDEA why other companies/brands, big and small aren?t following suit.

There really is NO EXCUSE for not at least listening to the web to find out what people are saying about you, your products, you level of customer service, your shops… Basically, if anyone out there is saying ANYTHING about you, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re saying it online.

“Well that’s lovely James, well done. But CPW is everso slightly different from SpinVox…” I hear you cry.

Yes… and no.

Admittedly, not every company is like SpinVox and I do not pretend for one second to have a single clue about the inner workings of Carphone Warehouse, however what I do have is a certain amount of knowledge about being a Product Evangelist.

And rule number one? LISTEN!

OK, so it would seem that someone out there at O2/CPW is obviously ?listening? to the web, (or maybe just to Ewan), or else I doubt very much Dan Lane would have his iPhone activated right now, (which he does by the way ? in case you were worried).

But knowing how to engage with your community once the listening period has begun can be a fantastic way to circumnavigate these kinds of troubles and tribulations.

I cannot imagine for a second that someone, somewhere along the line at O2 and/or CPW didn?t put their hand up in THAT meeting and say:

?Err? But what if it all goes wrong??

What IF it all goes wrong? It DID all go wrong!

Fair enough, it?s going to take some balls for someone to say:
?Well it?s alright, we?ve got an Evangelist, it’ll be fine!?

But by having one as part of an over-arching customer service team (aligned with the PR and the Tech Teams) can and will make all the difference. Hell, why not make it part and parcel of the lead up to launch?

At least those savvy enough to know about said person/representative will know they have someone to turn to who isn?t bound by a single ?Failed Security Check? message.

Like Ben says, an evangelist can help the customers feel like they are being listened to rather than be ignored.

Having sales folk in-store? Standard.

What about on the end of your customer service line? Yep. Got that.

Ok, so how about ONLINE?

….Anyone? Hello?!

Having a reputation manager, product evangelist, community manager, customer champion, social media manager or just ANY kind of digital representative that can talk to your customers for you can and WILL make SO MUCH difference to your online reputation!

If CPW had their own forums then they could?ve redirected their complaints to the static info page that Ben laid out in Step 1, (see post referenced at the beginning of this one). If they had their own representatives on those forums then they could feed back live information.

Hell, it doesn?t even to be their forums. They could trawl the o2 ones!

Also, being an evangelist isn?t just about talking up your stuff all over the place (online and off), it?s about being a trusted face and a trusted place. The first port of call not just should anything go wrong, but also for potential customers, partners or even just for those who are looking for information about you.

(A recent SV example from a day or so ago can be found here, on Twitter).

Sticking with the point – if the CPW website is broken? Get to X.

Oh, not happy with the CPW customer service? You should drop a note to X.

Having trouble with that thing you bought from CPW? You should follow X, (s)he’ll help.

These are all examples where an evangelist would help your brand reputation.

Something, ANYTHING to calm those folk down who think they?ve been misled, cheated, defrauded, messed around, screwed over? (do I need to go on?) ?by CPW (and/or O2).

This isn’t rocket science folks and I am most certainly not revealing nuclear codes here –
A simple Google Alert will tell you who?s talking about you RIGHT NOW.

“It can’t be that simple James!” – No really.

It is THAT SIMPLE.

I just set one up for Carphone Warehouse, (set to ‘as-it-happens’) and within minutes I got a ping?

The first link points to the second link, the second link look something like this:

Familiar story huh?

Well how about hiring an evangelist to monitor this stuff?

To reach out to these disgruntled bloggers and say something like:
?Hi Tom
Look, we messed up. Big. We are REALLY sorry. In equal measure we also REALLY want you to get your iPhone. I honestly do not know when we will be shipping your iPhone 3G out to you, but if you?d like to email me your details I will do my best to find out what the current state of play is regarding your account.
Yours,

John Smith
CPW Evangelist?

Reasonably simple; make it personal, reach out to your critics and let them know they are being heard.

Help them understand that you are here to help and yes, even humans mess up sometimes.
Fingers crossed, Tom?s account details would be passed back, a rapport would build, information would be shared and the next thing you know you might even have a fan who?s happy to tell the world that actually, yeah CPW got it wrong.. but y’know what, they ARE trying to get things done.

CPW, if you’re listneing, engage your online community and ignore them at your peril.

And if you want to tack a bit of science on the end of that just to really hammer it home:
Recent studies show that the internet is the most influential medium when it comes to consumers purchasing decisions; twice as strong as that of Television and almost eight times the influence of traditional printed media.

Source – http://pov.fleishman.com/blogs/fhsocialnetwork/2008/06/new_research_reveals_the_impac.php

Here endeth the lesson.