As part of a client campaign rolling out soon (watch this space!), we wanted to explore the potential marketing opportunities for Vine. Following it’s first birthday, Vine is beginning to attract the relevant media attention it finally deserves (see Channel 4). This is the next big thing for social media PR (especially when targeting young people) with over 40 million people with an account.

It’s really interesting to see that Vine (like Instagram) is still quite a pure platform, and hasn’t really been touched by the ‘marketing monster’. So pure, in fact, it’s nearly impossible to upload any content that does not come from a smartphone. So here it is: a simple tutorial on how to create your first vine.

1) Set up your shot

Simple things like taking a stable shot really make the vine look professional. There are a few ways of doing this:

Tripod + iPhone Tripod adapter

Although Vines are meant to be pure and random, using a tripod really helps to create a good finish. You can buy tripods for a fairly reasonable price (starting at about £10) and adapters for about £2 too. These are probably the most important instruments in turning an average Vine video into a professionally worked up one.



There is a feature on the Vine app which reveals the shot before in a faded view. This is extremely helpful when creating a professional looking stop motion clip, as you can see the image before and therefore keep in line with the next image.



Gridlines are great (esp. if you don’t have a tripod). If you line up an object (preferably in the background) with the gridlines, and turn on the ghosting feature, you can create a stable shot to refer back to (as you your movable objects change, your stable objects will stay in the same place).

What you need


2) Making the magic happen

The magic is in your understanding of how to use Vine and keeping things simple and creative. The beauty of Vine is in it being a vacuum of six second stories, told with minimal special effects. This means the emphasis is not on the quality (as other Platforms such as Instagram are), but more on the creative.

All below are stories, using different techniques to tell them:


Ian Padgham

Nash Grier



Messing about with perspective can create a really good video. For instance, if an object is in the background, it will appear smaller, and therefore an object closer to the camera looks bigger. A Vine I made a while back, used a beer bottle placed quite far away and a hand nearer the lens to appear to be moving the bottle.

Understanding Stop Frame Motion

We’ve spent so long mastering special effects to eradicate the need for the time consuming stop motion technique for filming, that it’s now become an art that is well sought after by many brands trying to get into Vine. Just as the Polaroid camera has made it’s return, so has stop motion, showing this sector in the media industry has gone full circle on itself.

3) Film it!

Film your six second clip by touching the screen to take a shot. The longer you hold, the bigger the shot and therefore the less time you have left to film. Short sharp taps, allow you to create a stop motion effect.

4) Upload

The next thing to do is to upload your clip. Once you have more than four seconds of footage recorded, the arrow in the top right hand corner will appear. Tap that to move onto editing (for the more advanced “Viners”) and then tap it again to move onto publishing and sharing your Vine. You can share it on various networks including Twitter and Facebook, and you can embed it onto other websites too.

Be inspired

Don’t consider yourself a creator? Not to worry! Share the content others make. Lots of my friends have Vine accounts to watch other people’s stories and then to share it on Twitter to recommend their followers to watch too. Here’s some of my favourite Viners:

If you’d like some more information, or have a specific question about Vine, feel free to drop me an email –

Produced by Ben Caspersz as an informal introduction to Claremont, made with an iPhone and iMovies.

The painted logo was produced by Samnet via the stupendously useful website Fivrr.

Credit to Major Lazer for their ace track ‘Hold The Line’.

This short video – only 42 seconds in total – by Frauenzentrale Zürich about the huge affect that domestic violence has on children is the most heart-wrenching PSA to date.

Showing a young girl who can no be older than maybe four or five years old dressing up in her mother’s clothes and putting on her make-up all seems like something that every girl that age might be doing. But when the camera pans round to show that this small child has painted a black eye on herself, you can’t help but shudder.

The power of this terribly short video is the fact that, apart from ‘Mad World’ playing in the background there is no sound, making the whole thing much more striking and the message all the more potent. Also, we aren’t seeing – or hearing – any violence take place as we have with earlier PSA’s like the ‘Would you stop yourself?’ campaign. All we see are the effects, and not to the initial victim but the psychological affects that it has on children who witness such scenes.

To communicate more effectively with people we need to understand them better.

To do this we can do various things but assuming we’re using research we can use quantitative methods to get figures, stats and trends about people – the what, the where, the when – or we can use qualitative research to help us understand the how and the why. Or of course, we can use both.

When carrying out qualitative research it is likely to involve running group sessions which immediately creates difficulties seeing as group dynamics can change people. Below are just a few tips to help you get the most from your group and reach new levels of information.

Invest time upfront


Have a very clear idea of what your outcome is, or if you’re running the session on someone else’s behalf, make sure you’ve established what their desired outcome is and keep this at the forefront of your mind at all times.

Consider the best structure for your group: would an open discussion or breakout groups work better? How many people should be in the group? What type of person do you want? What is their relationship with the topic?

The session starts the moment you invite people to it. When inviting people remember two key things:

  • Be honest. That is, always give people a rough idea of what the session entails – are they going to be asked to share anything particularly personal. Is any level of ‘performance’ expected? Being faced with unexpected role-play is some (most) people’s worst nightmare and will immediately extinguish engagement
  • Sound excited. THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO PUT SUPER EXCITING EXCLAMATION MARKS ALL OVER YOUR EMAIL!! But it does mean that you have to sound as if you are looking forward to the session, otherwise why on earth would anyone else be?

Set the tone on the day

Remember that as facilitator it is almost impossible for you not to have an impact on the group:

  • If you’re open and friendly people are more likely to be the same – (but avoid the ‘I should have been a holiday rep’ vibe)
  • If you’re quiet, secretive and constantly taking notes it will make people feel uneasy and quiet.

Never scrimp on the introduction. It’s incredibly tempting to rush through this bit, especially if time is tight but I strongly advise giving it as much time as possible. This is the bit where you can put people on common ground by giving everyone a chance to say something.

Think of it like small talk – get it right and you’ll find your way to generating deeper, more meaningful conversations but get it wrong and you’ll find yourself forever chatting about the weather or some football team your granddad loosely supports and really, you know nothing about.

Never underestimate people’s natural urge to conform and be part of the norm.


It can be hugely challenging for humans to strike a balance between conforming (merging and belonging) and being individual – this fear of bucking the trend or rocking the status quo can skew results. (Experience of handling dominant/ quiet participants helps with this).

Reduce this practice of conforming by spending time making people feel comfortable around each other – this will encourage people to give more honest answers.  Try this:

    • Encourage each person to say something that is a bit private/that we don’t know. In this situation people will have, consciously or not, chosen to say something that puts them in a certain light to other people in the group.
    • A participant  may have chosen to say ‘I love to ride bikes’ out of any number of things he/she could have said
    • To provoke and get a little closer to other possible answers rather than responding with ‘why do you like bikes?’ ask them why they chose to disclose that particular piece of information out of others they could have chosen.

Finally remember to always respond positively or neutrally. It as a massive privilege that people are willing to share private information with you so treat it with respect and even offer up  some of your own bits of information to show you’re serious.




It’s really easy to slip into a bad habit of getting everything we want at the click of a button. This may seem great at the time, but it has diminished self-discipline and gratitude in many aspects of our lives.

Lots of things are to blame for this but I will avoid listing them because I’d rather not get too political.

With the new year, new hopes, new me, yadda yadda yadda, I’m sure a lot of people have been thinking about how they can better themselves by making new lifestyle choices and fixing personality flaws.

How about this one?

Delay your gratification


Think about it, make this choice and it actually applies to most common New Year’s resolutions: losing weight, lowering alcohol intake, dating, career success.

People have a sense of self-entitlement or self-pity when it comes to results. You haven’t got there, because you haven’t tried hard enough or haven’t stuck at it. It’s as simple as that. It is common knowledge that if you persevere you are a thousand times more likely to achieve results.

So you have two options: to reward yourself for nothing or to reward yourself for something.

And most importantly, there are two types of rewards: small rewards (instant gratification) and large rewards (delayed gratification).

The problem is most people don’t have a clue how to identify them.

Priorities must be reset. These obviously depend on your objective but let’s use a simple example – losing weight.

The small rewards (requires no work):

  • Watching TV instead of exercising.
  • Having a snack
  • Eating fast food
  • Drinking alcohol

Get healthy about your worklife

  • Go to the gym three times a week
  • Start your required diet and stick to it
  • Resist those snacks!



The big rewards

  • Your favourite meal and a drink at the end of the week (you will appreciate these a whole lot more)
  • Physical and mental health
  • Men/women will throw themselves at you – obviously!


Small rewards (what you think you want) < Work (what you don’t think you want) < Big rewards (what you really want).

Stand the test of time

The best thing is that once the work starts, it’s a lot easier to avoid those smaller rewards because you’ll have a lot more to lose.

See it like this – when you’re not working, you’re getting the small rewards and the small rewards are what hold you back.

Obviously there’s such a thing as too much work but it’s best to let common sense be the judge of that.

And of course, PERSIST.

Remember, good things come to those who wait.




Social media is now a well established platform for communicating in the public sector. Although some brands have been slower to adopt, it is fair to say, a large majority of public sector agencies have identified their audiences and created platforms appealing to them. Using technology to connect with your audience, and then (through ads) being able to personalise content based on key features of the individuals within that audience has provided unprecedented opportunities to tap into new behaviours and attract new followers.

However, the constant evolving of social media channels providing the aforementioned opportunities mean the pace of change is moving extremely quickly and advertising spaces are becoming less effective as users become more savvy and new channels gain popularity.

The relatively-low cost to advertise on social media encourages poor advertising which interweaves itself amongst genuinely engaging promoted posts, resulting in users ignoring all forms of advertising space. The user’s eye can skim across and “block out”  posts that do not have any meaning to them, and so it takes very clever targeting to achieve the result you want. This is one of the reasons that contribute to the growing popularity of Instagram; an ad-free channel and a “purer” sharing platform – in 2013, Instagram was the fastest growing network with 150 million users and 40 million photos being uploaded each day.

“I’m allowed the freedom to choose who I want to follow and what I want to see.”            

So purer channels sound like good news for users – but can they be used by (ethical) marketers?  As usual, the key is in high quality, engaging, relevant content that strikes an emotional chord with your audience – see Kristian’s post (How to write for social media and create content people want to see and share: a short guide).  However, running parallel to this, are two factors that should also be taken on board when considering using Instagram for business:

The rise and rise of devices:

  • Half of UK adults now use a mobile phone to go online and more than one in
    ten use a tablet computer, games console/ player or portable media player
  • 189 million of Facebook’s users are “mobile only”

The importance of images:

Images and imagery are the quickest way to connect with the mobile generation:

  • Photos on Facebook receive 53 percent more likes than posts without.
  • Tweets with images receive 18 percent more clicks than those without, 89 percent more favorites, and 150 percent more retweets.

Who’s doing it right?



A mixture of despair and hope, Oxfam’s Instagram has engaging pictures from all over the world. Of course, they’re a huge not-for-profit, but it’s good to note, the focus on their page is about the people they’re helping. No CEO selfies, no blowing their own trumpet. Just simple, emotive posts.



A brilliant example of using the channel for specific campaigns. The “I love Arctic” selfies taken at the Thames Festival integrate the platform with the people.

BBC Instafax


Moving on from the Ceefax pages, (which ceased in 2012) the BBC are trialing a round up of the day’s news in the form of Instagram videos. The one month trial aims to attract a new audience (the on-the-go generation) and was set up in response to new data showing mobile and tablet consumption has replaced desktop.

So, here are some stead fast rules for Instagram:

  • The importance of content cannot be underestimated; there needs to be a purpose as to why it is there
  • User experience must be kept front of mind when delivering content
    • People access Instagram whilst on the go, so time it well (finishing work – around 6pm?)
    • Scrolling is fast, so the image must be powerful in order for the user take it in
    • Instagram is still very “pure”. Your image must match the appeal of your user’s friend’s image
    • Focus on “likes” – there is no way you can tell if someone has reposted (“shared”) your post
    • KNOW YOUR BRAND – images speak a thousand words and each word is associated with your brand, so additionally, post wisely

So, Instagram for business?

The beauty of Instagram is in it’s brevity; it’s just images. Instagram is not a personal journal in the same respect as Facebook and Twitter are, and words won’t attract likes and shares as Facebook and Twitter do. In order to use Instagram for business, one must apply a traditional PR approach; using word of mouth to achieve results. Advertising on this network holds no weight as it’s impossible to do and so a clever, personal touch is needed instead.

Get the right content in the right place at the right time, and remember – however clever all this might seem, on the receiving end is a real human being just as impatient and busy as you.

Further reading:

This. Just no, okay?

This. Just no, okay?

Is it too late to stop the relentless march of the hashtag? I think it might be.

Hashtags used to be a useful tool for finding relevant and useful information on Twitter. But we now have better ways of doing this – through social search such as Topsy, Facebook Graph Search, Twitter’s Search engine and Twitter’s ‘Discover’ tab.

Even Facebook has Trending Topics now.

Instead, hashtags have now been a way for brands to clog up my Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds with branded garbage and witty asides.

Take a look at the #BlueMonday hashtag for instance, currently Trending on Twitter. Not one person seems to be addressing the fact that today is the most depressing day of the year (something that, incidentally, gets thoroughly debunked every year.)

No, it is just a way for marketers to prove how ‘plugged in’ they are to the conversation by linking a promotional tweet to a Trending Topic. Way to go guys! #socialstrategy!

Hashtags are proliferating for anything and everything – and, some exceptions aside (I love things like #LeedsHour, and of course #CVoclock), it’s maybe time we gave it a rest.

Anyway, a bad hashtag – or (ugh) a ‘bashtag’ – can be a massive liability. Just Ask British Gas.

Hashtag’s now appear to be hitting the mainstream, but my prediction is that we will one day look back on them as a bygone relic of a time when finding information on social media was hard.

Will 2014 be the year when the hashtag starts to decline? It looks like BuzzFeed agrees with me.

2015 General Election: Which way for charitiesThe 2015 General Election will be a key opportunity for charities to further their aims and objectives and gain more supporters. However, new research released by Claremont shows that many organisations have yet to start planning for the election.

With less than 18 months to go until the election on 7th May 2015, the research found that almost half of charity senior managers, trustees and communications staff (48%) believe the General Election will be important for charities from a campaigns perspective, but only 14% think that their organisation is well progressed in the planning for the election.

And yet, with the impact of the Lobbying Bill looking likely to be reduced for charities, the candidates mainly in place and manifestos starting to be written, charities need to act now.

A fuller guide for charities preparing for the general election is below, developed following a presentation to the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), but here’s five top tips on what charities should do now:

1) Decide if you need to campaign – and the objective

Just because there’s a general election, it doesn’t mean your charity has to campaign! It won’t be for every organisation and many will look to form coalitions to campaign together – many of the most important campaigns in the 2010 election (End Fuel Poverty, Every Disabled Child Matters, etc) were delivered by charity coalitions.

If you decide an election campaign is for your organisation, be clear on what you want to get out of it. For instance, is there a policy objective, an awareness raising aspect or is it to try and change the law?

2) Get the message right

Keep it simple. While all campaigns need to be rooted in evidence and informed policy, politicians will engage best with easy to understand – locally relevant – campaign messages.

3) Develop your communications grid

While Parliament won’t be disolved until the 30th March 2015, campaigners should develop a full communications grid for week-by-week (growing to day-by-day) activity. Cover your own peaks of activity and when the wider news agenda will peak around your issues.

4) Start to get on an election footing

Is your chief exec prepared to give up their Sunday to do BBC Breakfast the next day? Do you have supporters or spokespeople ready to take on every media request? Start planning holidays and rotas around your election campaign to make sure your charity can take on every opportunity.

5) Prepare your social media strategy

Additional research from Claremont has shown that the three main parties (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats) have seen an overall increase of 126% in social media engagement since the 2010 General Election. On Twitter alone, the number of followers of the three parties has increased six times since 2010, while the number of users of Twitter in the UK has increased just four times.

In 2015 social media, and real life stories, will play a huge role in the election campaign. Think about how you can inspire your supporters and staff to join the social media campaign – and what training they may need. From staff social media coaching, to campaign bootcamps for volunteers, empower your networks to get better campaign results.

For more ideas and examples of campaigns from 2010, watch the slideshare below:

When I first started working in communications there was a distinct gulf between those that ‘did marketing’ and those that ‘did PR’. For some old school PR colleagues, the idea of paid-for content was considered ‘cheating’ and the notion of your key media contacts being salesmen and not journalists would have been absurd.

Today however, that gulf is no longer there and media partnerships are a growing part of the work we do for clients. That’s not to say straight editorial work and traditional marketing are declining – far from it – but there is an emerging and often innovative space where these two elements meet in the middle.

Amongst the benefits of partnership working is the ability to make delivering your message more of a two way street, with the guaranteed coverage being largely editorial in appearance but allowing you more control over content. It also helps ensure a wider audience is engaged through combining communication channels.

But how do you approach this type of activity when it comes to negotiating the deal? Here are our top three learnings from 2013.

1. Ensure the partnership IS a partnership

When approaching media partnerships, always seek to ensure there are benefits for both parties.

This may include cross pollenating social media channels to offer both client and media partner a new audience, or be simply funding related.

Particularly for public sector or behaviour changing campaigns, if there is a call to action which readers or listeners are being urged to sign up for, make sure the media partner is leading by example and getting on board as part of the agreement.

Not only will this add credibility to the campaign but will also provide a genuine news angle for the editorial team to cover without needing to focus on your client alone – often a barrier in paid for content.

2. Get quality AND quantity

Partnership working offers the opportunity to be more creative with your campaign goals. If activity is sustained over a set period and across multiple channels, you can strike a balance of quality engagement targeting a more niche audience, with general awareness-raising messaging for the wider audience.

Ensuring the partnership includes content hosted on the media partner’s site with input into the user journey is key to this. For instance, the use of a competition element to your campaign offers a platform for the wider audience to be exposed to key messages, while a smaller audience of entrants is engaged with additional messaging via the application process.

3. Throw out the rulebook when it comes to negotiating

This type of campaign is still new territory for many media outlets – so don’t be afraid to be creative. There is huge potential for flexibility, particularly when it comes to online content, therefore don’t accept formulaic proposals which simply combine traditional elements.

Working with the editorial team as part of the negotiation process is one important factor to establish the boundaries of what will be created by them, what can be supplied by the client to be published unedited and what needs to be more clearly advertising led.

A recent example was an 8-page paid-for supplement created with a regional newspaper. Rather than pages of heavily branded, client written content, we worked with a journalist who wrote the content, guided by the client on subject matter for each page.

The client also contributed a by-lined foreword resulting in an unbiased supplement, which was not overtly branded yet clearly conveyed all the required messaging.

The result was a supplement made up of quality news content in keeping with the editorial tone of the publication. This in turn became more attractive for other advertisers and allowed the media partner to seek additional funding for the project.

Happy client + happy media + great coverage = Happy PR agency

1. Do get your timing right –

Planning a social media campaign? Then maybe bear in mind how the news agenda may be impacting on your customer base when you decide to kick off your engagement. You may find the mood of your audience is not quite what you were expecting – just like British Gas did when they decided to helpfully host a Twitter Q&A right after they’d announced their most recent price hikes this winter.  #fail

ask bg_0


2. Do talk to your audience in their own language –

Entering into a dialogue with your audience is something consumers are coming to expect, if not demand, from brands who are active on social media. When this goes right it can not only result in happy customers but in kudos for brands being human and engaging on a more personable level.  Netflix won plaudits this year for turning a standard customer service conversation in to something light hearted and amusing whilst retaining the primary goal of helping the consumer. On the other hand Bank of America found out that nothing infuriates a customer more than an automated (or in this case lack of judgement) response which does nothing to help. #win and #fail


3. Do brief your staff about expected social media conduct (oh and think through your reactive statement before you issue it) –

The question of where to draw the line between the point personal views meet professional tweeting is an often asked one, but when an employee (whose job was in Corporate Comms!) of US firm IAC tweeted this in late December

Justine Sacco

The inevitable Twitter storm erupted.

What made matters worse was the statement from IAC telling the world that the employee in question was on a long flight and the matter couldn’t be dealt with immediately. It has since transpired that the employee has parted company with IAC but not before the hashtag #hasjustinelandedyet had been trending worldwide.  #epicfail

4. Do think before you type


Tweets can be deleted so mistakes can be hidden right? Wrong. There’s always someone who will see it, screen grab it and if contentious enough, have it viral around the world within a matter of minutes. So always take a moment to ensure your social media post is not inappropriate and/or likely to cause offence to like, millions of people. The Home Depot discovered this when they decided it would be a great idea to post a racist photograph on their Twitter feed . . . #fail

5. Do always check you have the right twitter handle when @ing an individual –



Making the effort to engage and include people on Twitter is what it’s all about. It can make your message go further and make you seem collaborative. But not when your message goes to the wrong person, particularly if you are David Cameron and the person you mistakenly include is not a political colleague but a spoof account who goes to town with their response. #fail


1. Don’t ever close – the internet is open 24 hours


Having a community management team to run your social media is to be commended, and many brands do this incredibly well. However, if you have chosen to go down this route and your business is one which consumers use (and therefore may have issues with 24/7) – then why would your internet presence only be accessible during office hours. British Airways learned this lesson the hard way when one disgruntled customer paid for a promoted tweet to be seen by over 70,000 users and they didn’t respond for several hours. #fail

2. Don’t take life too seriously


Consumers increasingly want brands to be human, and engaging in conversation with automated tweets and robots can be infuriating. What’s more, while social media can be a fantastic tool for getting news and serious messages out there, it was spawned from the need for people to just hang out and chat. So it’s not difficult to see why this conversation between Tesco, Jaffa Cakes and Yorkshire Tea amongst others, was so well received by an amused audience. #win

3. Don’t have easily hackable passwords on social media accounts 


You’ve spent months, if not years, cultivating your social media following, finalising your messaging and your protocol for how and when to respond. But you’ve overlooked making your password secure and it all comes crashing down in minutes when a mischievous hacker gains access to your feed and has a field day – as Burger King recently found out when someone hacked into their feed and changed their logo to that of rival McDonalds.

4. Don’t swear too much . . . 

download (1)

Being human and not too corporate is one thing, but boundaries are still important and bad language can invoke a big reaction. Especially when said language is the C-word and is aimed at a 9 year old as US entertainment newspaper, as The Onion, found out when they were a bit too eager to ‘overshare’ ahead of the Oscars ceremony.

And finally . . . .

5. Don’t underestimate the power of the internet –

Not an example of a brand doing social media well, but a reminder not to forget the power of the internet. Everyone loves a good news story and this heart warming tale of how social media reunited a young girl with her favourite toy after it was lost on a train demonstrates just how powerful and effective social media can be when people are engaged. #epicwin



Evermore-PR-Logo-800pxSquareFor too long anyone approaching older age has been defined by age or illness stage in an institutionalised care sector putting the needs of its operating models first. But, as anyone with relatives in their 80s knows, this group are fiercely independent and want to continue to live life to the fullest.

And PR & Comms has a role to play in changing the way the country approaches getting older.

For a start we need to remove the fear and stigma of ‘going into care’ but only if we have a genuinely different way of approaching getting older to talk about – one which is fit for the changing demographics of the UK.

Second, we need to change the conversation about growing older, creating a shift in the way we approach later life and the lifestyle options available.

Therefore, we’re delighted that Evermore, a new lifestyle option for older people who are on their own but finding it increasingly difficult to cope without help, have asked Claremont to help with their launch.

The Evermore approach is tried and tested in the United States, but unique in the UK.

Primarily, the PR activity will play a vital role in raising the profile of Evermore and its innovative approach to helping people feel good for longer.  But we hope that our work with Sara McKee and colleagues will attract support from influencers, investors and the general public, lay the groundwork for driving sales and eventually change the way the country approaches getting older.


How do you define right and wrong in PR?Yesterday morning’s papers showed two different sides of PR.

While the boss of Bell Pottinger represents dictators claimed his firm are decent people in the Guardian, Save the Children are alleged to be supressing news stories to curry favour with corporate donors in the Independent. So how do you define right and wrong in PR?

Wrong on the right?

The Guardian led with a banner trailing a rare interview with the man who taught Thatcher how to pretend to relax and founder of PR firm Bell Pottinger, Lord Tim Bell. This man is portrayed by the left as evil incarnate and has a well recorded track record of defending the indefensible.

To firms like Lord Bell’s, a dodgy dossier can be the basis of a lucrative brief and they are not alone. As the Guardian points out, PR firms across the country are busy defending clients ranging from sweat shops to dictators.

Yet there is something admirable about the principle behind what they do – everyone has the right to representation in a democracy. Just because I (or, I hope many of my Claremont colleagues) would turn down almost every brief Bell Pottinger Private and the like would accept, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a belief system at work. Bell himself does hint at one principle that drives his firm:

We’ve never been approached by a leftwing government, that I’m aware of. You don’t want an adviser that doesn’t agree with you.

Towing a left-hand line?

One PR who has learned the hard way that you need to agree with your organisation featured on the Independent and i front pages.

The former Save the Children head of press has turned whistle blower on his charity’s dealings with big business and claims that, in order to safeguard corporate donations, he was ordered to spike a news story criticising energy firms.

Save the Children may well deny this. But just as any organisation can use busy news days to sneak out announcements they don’t want attention for (oh come on, everyone knows it still happens), so all charities will make sacrifices to keep their donors happy. Charities do not have a monopoly on ethics and principles – and just as there will always be politics in charity campaigns, there will always be money.

In essence, yesterday’s front pages told us that sometimes those we believe are amoral have princples and those charities we see as saintly are as easy to buy as any other organisation. But throughout both articles what is clear is that who you decide to work for will always remain a personal decision.

So just how do you define right and wrong in PR?

It simply comes down to your own personal beliefs.


I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about what it means to write for many devices, many audiences, and an audience that is time pressed.

When we’re planning our campaigns, we tend to gravitate towards a picture of our audience in our minds eye that is sat on the sofa, with iPad or daily newspaper, slowly digesting our messaging and its implications.

We wish. In reality, we probably have around thirty seconds of someone’s attention while they’re standing at a bus stop, with a latte in the other hand. And that’s a difficult shift for us to adjust to.

Social media will change how you write – and that’s ok

Writing for social media does mean changing the way we write – nothing less than designing short attention spans into our content. We now spend as much time planning outputs (interactive charts, punchy intros, subheadings, social media links) as we do messaging.

But it also means putting the processes in place that allow great content to happen. O2 is a superb example of this – they have created a ‘triage’ so that senior management understand how customer queries are going to be responded to, but don’t have control over what precisely is said. That is (rightly) the job of the community manager.


Do you invest appropriate time providing an accompanying image to a post? It’s tempting to think that once you’ve written a post the job is done, but a well-chosen image could increase engagement by over 300%. That could be the difference between a campaign succeeding or not – is it worth your time? With sites like Stocksy around, there really is no excuse.

Beware the Hummingbird


Within five years, Google Hummingbird will kill off ‘brochureware’ sites with only static pages, however well keyword optimised they are. That’s how big it is.

The rise of mobile search and mobile and voice search platforms such as Google Now and Siri are ushering in a future where very specific search terms are the norm.

It won’t matter where you rank for ‘PR agency London’ as no-one will be searching for it. They’ll be searching for help with brandjacking, social media crisis simulation, media relations for charities, or one of the many other myriad terms. If you don’t have a page for it, you won’t be in the race.

As such, you’ll need to invest now in thorough market research (emphatically not simply keyword research) to find out what it is your audience wants from you, and how you can help meet it. The strategy that is now being pioneered by the likes of will become commonplace within the next two years.

Tap into human emotion if you want people to share

People make content go viral. Specifically, it’s people’s emotional reactions to content that make it go viral. You can roll your eyes at BuzzFeed all you want, but they understand this.

It’s very difficult to get anyone to share anything without first asking “what is it about this post that would make people want to share it?”

In the real world, people share information to survive, to express themselves, to form social bonds, to help people and to manage how they are perceived. And that’s more or less it.

If you want to create content that is shared, you need to tap into one of those emotional states. We share feelings, not facts, and we share content that triggers emotions.

A strategy for social sharing

So then, what should your social media content strategy revolve around? It should have a healthy dollop of ‘Library’ content first up – that’s specific content that answers real questions for real people.

It should also have ‘Cafe’ content – short, visual, shareable content for social media that is delivered in packages for different audiences and platforms. Always, of course, created with an awareness of the culture of that particular platform.

But it’s also about what we don’t share. Facebook is incredibly unforgiving of poor content – its EdgeRank algorithm decides whether to display your content on someone’s News Feed based on their engagement with your previous content.

If that previous content happened to have been a duff Facebook update that a stakeholder had pressured you to put on the Facebook wall because ‘it would be popular with the kids,’ then there is a very real cost to that update.

Indeed, with Facebook now increasing emphasis on Promoted Posts, it may be that you have to pay to get that user back. Food for thought next time you’re asked to post a bad update!