Ideas and opinions from the world of PR
So how was your Christmas? Ours was very nice, thank you for asking. We all ate our own body weight in chocolate coins and mince pies, and as such the Small Man Media office now has ‘subsidence issues’. Any more pigs in blankets and we might sink into the ground for good.
Someone else who had a good Christmas was, by coincidence, another Black Country firm, namely Poundland, who are based just down the road from SMM HQ, in Willenhall. You might have been aware of the hoo-haa they created – in fact, for a few days, it was difficult to avoid it.
In a nutshell, Poundland’s Twitter feed, in the run-up to Christmas, put out a series of risque – in fact, let’s not mince words here, some of them were downright rude – images in which an elf doll, coincidentally one sold at Poundland, got into a number of rather saucy situations, often with one or more lady dolls. About the most family-friendly one is the one below, and even that one is… well, unsettling, to say the least.
The one that really kicked up a stink involved the elf, a lady friend and a teabag. Outrageous! And indeed a lot of people actually were outraged, as is often the case nowadays. In the days that followed, a Twitter storm swelled and erupted, think-pieces appeared on how distasteful the Poundland campaign was, with a counter-reaction from even more people along the lines of: Can you fuddy-duddies not take a (rather rude) joke?
The punchline to said joke, dubbed the ‘Elf Behaving Badly’ campaign, was that Poundland tabled record sales for the week running up to Christmas, totalling £59 million, sales that were bolstered by 200,000 toy elves and over a million elf-related products, as the saying goes, flying off the shelves (elves off the shelves, anyone?). So the campaign clearly worked. What seems blindingly obvious is that, had so many people not been so repulsed by the tweets, to the point that they felt compelled to express their disgust, then the campaign would not have been nearly so successful.
So really, the professionally outraged – and there are a good many people out there who really do carve an entire career out of being horrified by things – played right into Poundland’s hands. It’s hard to remember a social media campaign so custom-designed to provoke a negative reaction, and thus garner column inches (of which there were oodles) and reap the benefits. In the process, a lot of the objectors made themselves look a bit silly, saying that they would never buy the type of stuff sold at Poundland when, of course, they sell the same brands sold at pretty much any other supermarket chain.
What Poundland seem to have realised, quite reasonably, is that this type of collective outrage can be easily and effectively monetised, because the ratio of people shrieking ‘DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING!’ to those sighing ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake, it’s just a joke’ and deciding that they rather like Poundland after all, is about 1:10. At a conservative estimate. And, of course, when a campaign tactic works, lots of people suddenly sit up and take an interest. One of those, at the time of writing, is the Advertising Standards Authority, who are ‘looking into’ the adverts, but that’s very much the definition of closing the stable door about a fortnight after the horse has bolted.
So we’re going to make a prediction: In 2018, we’re going to see more campaigns like the Poundland one, specifically designed to flirt with the boundaries of taste, test their elasticity, and nark those who are more prone to being narked. There are sure to be some slapped wrists along the way, because the thing about deliberately nearly going too far, is that some people inevitably will overshoot that crucial ‘not quite too far’ mark.
As luck would have it, January has already thrown up a perfect example of social media sass going horribly wrong. It started when train user Emily Cole complained, via Twitter, to Virgin Trains that a male train manager had called her ‘honey’, which seems fair enough, this isn’t the 1970s. Whoever was running the Twitter feed of the fantastically unreliable train company at that moment thought it would be hilarious to respond thusly:
Oh dear. It’s like… Just NO. Outrage obviously followed, but there was simply no way for a positive spin to be put on what was, from top to toe, a company being needlessly rude to, and dismissive of, one of their customers, a fact borne out by the very rapid and suitably grovelling apology from Virgin. It’s one thing to embark upon a campaign that’s saucy-rude, with no specific victim, for example one featuring a slightly horny elf – but you can’t just be snippy-rude purely for the sake of it. The next step down that road is to tell all of your customer complainants to go jump in a lake.
The Small Man Media opinion is this: If the ‘calculated outrage campaign’ trend does kick off, then so be it – these things flare up from time to time, they’ll burn out soon enough. When you decide to go down the route of echoing someone else’s shock tactics – let’s call it a ‘tribute act campaign’ – then it betrays a lack of original thinking and a certain lack of faith in one’s own PR abilities, but then not all PR agencies a) think originally or b) have any abilities. We’re of the opinion that it is better to be lovely and come up with commensurately lovely new ideas, but hey, that’s just second nature to us.
If you think your business could benefit from lovely brand support that doesn’t involve elf doll pornography or calling people things like ‘sweet cheeks’ or ‘hot stuff’, then have a gander at @smallmanmedia on the aforementioned Twitter or on Facebook at facebook.com/smallmanmedia if it pleases you. This blog was composed by our Writer Monkey Pete, who seems to have a lot of opinions this week.
It’s a new year! And so we’d like to wish you all a very happy one, and indeed hope that you already are having one. We’re going to start 2018 with a little quiz for you, because as you all know by now, we here at Small Man Media do like a quiz.
It’s a pretty simple one really: All you have to do is name what you think were decided to be the BBC’s three most dominant hashtags on Twitter in 2017. We’ll give you a somewhat cryptic clue and tell you that all of them, in some small way, relate to Donald Trump.
We’ll just wait here for a few minutes while you think it over.
Okay, do you have your final answer?
Right then. If you answered hashtags that in some way relate to Star Wars, Theresa May or the petition to rename a street with a rather rude name, then I’m afraid you are not close and so win no cigar. If, however, you went for #metoo, #takeaknee and #covfefe then you can go straight to the top of the class.
So you can probably see how Trump, in some small way, relates to three hashtags that, between them, racked up a good seven million tweets in a running total that is still climbing by the hour. The first one, and by far the most utilised, was of course #metoo, a hashtag that threw a harsh spotlight on sexual harassment, something which President Trump is apparently happy to encourage. The second, #takeaknee, originated as a peaceful way in which to respectfully challenge institutional racism in the United States, mainly via the medium of sport, and this, of course, President Donald found absolutely outrageous. So: Sexual harassment, fine. Peaceful and respectful racism protests: Totally beyond the pale!
And finally, bless his cotton socks, there was DT’s extremely peculiar tweeting of the phrase ‘covfefe’ which rapidly became a hashtag sensation all of its own, serving as a salutary reminder to us all that the most powerful man in the world is a lunatic who invents his own words and that we must all laugh at his planet-sized idiocy. What’s particularly brilliant about #covfefe was that the preponderance of the hashtag led to this meaningless word entering the cultural lexicon as short-hand for, well, any meaningless word at all. If that’s not an indicator of the power of the hashtag, we’re jiggered if we know what is.
Hashtags. They’re an interesting thing. The received wisdom is that Twitter has somehow plateaued, and indeed did so a while ago and faces a slow and ignominious slide into obscurity. And yet if this were truly the case, why is it that such simple hashtags – totalling just 21 letters between them – can become front page and TV news? In a sense, it seems to be telling us that, much like the pen is always mightier than the sword, then the hashtag is more powerful than the tweet.
The thing about hashtags is that they are simple, often devastatingly effective, tend to just flourish organically, and create an instant sense of unity on a given theme, which is much less the case with ‘original’ tweets. Hashtags are inclusive – ‘I agree with the sentiments expressed here or get on board with this phenomenon’ – where tweets can be rather exclusive – ‘Damn, I wish I’d thought of saying that, why can’t I get these RT numbers?’
This being a blog in which we started with a ‘top three’ hashtags, we’re going to end with another top three, namely the top three Small Man Media hashtags from 2017. The first two are perhaps not surprising – they’re #nationalstationeryweek and #worldstationeryday, both of them massive ‘event’ hashtags with a commensurately massive social media uptake. But the third was something of a surprise package, of which we (and in particular Dynamite Dan, who had the idea) are very proud because, well, WE STARTED IT.
And here it is – #crosspenhunt. A tiny little hashtag that made waves. The idea behind it was a touch on the insane side, but it worked, as crazy ideas sometimes do if they’re touched with genius. In a nutshell: A special Cross pen, with a tracking device in it, was hidden in a London location. Via the #crosspenhunt hashtag, and the subsequent clues that it threw up, social media users were able to… Well, to hunt the pen, with a substantial prize at the end of it (not just a pen). Simple, effective, easy to remember, and of course, that sense of unity for the participants we mentioned earlier. That’s how to hash it up.
Before we go, it would be remiss of us to not mention our first significant hashtag of 2018, namely #crossofficedogoftheyear. This (as you might guess) is to accompany the Cross Office Dog Of The Year competition, which kick-started this week, in which Cross Pens are searching for the greatest workplace-based dog in the UK. It could be you! Or rather, it could be your dog. Stay tuned for more information, and indeed hashtags – or should that be dog-tags? – in the coming weeks…
You can find us on Twitter @smallmanmedia and on Facebook at facebook.com/smallmanmedia and our door is always open to discuss subjects like the power of a good hashtag and how it can help your business out. We have many, many types of tea and biscuits too.
They say that a picture paints a thousand words. What a load of rubbish! Pictures can’t paint, they don’t have hands! And you don’t paint words, you write them! Utter balderdash, honestly. What are these people on about?
Actually, the phrase is often misquoted. The original was simply: A picture is worth a thousand words. Originally uttered in the fledgling days of the US press, it was an eloquent way of communicating the notion that a single photograph can often communicate as much drama and emotion as you could cram into a thousand words of reportage. Truer words have ne’er been spoken.
It is with this in mind that we decided to look back at 2017 via some of the iconic images that have come to define our triumphant year. We just have to break it to our Writer Monkey that he doesn’t get to invoice us for 13,000 words [wait, what? – Pete].
This has been 2017 at Small Man Media. We’ve had a great year working with some fantastic clients, including (in alphabetical order) Artline, Bridgestone, Britannia, Cross, Derwent, ETB, Firestone, First Stop, Manuscript, Mustard, National Stationery Week and Sheaffer. If you are keen on learning more about the services we provide and are interested in an award winning PR-agency creating exposure and interest around your business, then please drop us a line. Find us on Twitter @smallmanmedia or on Facebook at ‘Small Man Media’. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year from Ben, Rachel, Dan, Michelle and Pete, and send any unwanted Celebrations, Heroes and Roses to us at the Small Man Address. Please, no miniature Bounty bars.
“Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend.” Abba, ‘Happy New Year’
Yes, as Abba seem so keen to remind us, it’s the end of the year, pretty much, a time when, if you are the world’s most award-winningest top-banana PR agency, you look back at the year gone by and ponder all your many successes. It has been something of a terrific 2017 here at Small Man Media, where every neighbour really IS a friend, just because we’re nice like that and it means we get more cards.
PR, as we all know, is not an exact science, but if it were, then we’d be on some Nobel Prize-winning just-discovered-a-new-metal-that’s-better-than-all-the-others type of tip. We live PR, we breathe PR, and when we sleep, which isn’t very often, we dream of doing the PR for sheep. The idea is that, when the end of the year comes around, our almost psychotic commitment to the Small Man cause has reaped its dividends and we can look back on a good PR job well done. In a sense, this blog is like the Small Man equivalent of Christmas Day Top Of The Pops, as it gathers together some of our year’s biggest hits in a party atmosphere.
Because when it comes to feeling a warm, Christmassy, mulled wine glow inside, every PR type gets as toasty as a chestnut roasting on an open fire (or indeed, a closed one, all fire is pretty hot as far as we can see) when all of their hard work results in coverage. Lovely, lovely coverage. It’s not the most important ‘C’ word in the world right now, thanks to Christmas, crackers, chocolate, Claus (Santa) and cheese plates, but over the course of the year just gone, it was the one word that stoked the Small Man Media engine. When the scent of coverage is in our nostrils, we can’t be stopped. We’re like hogs hunting for truffles.
Which is why our end-of-the-year fact fondue (sorry about all the food metaphors, it’s the Small Man Christmas dinner on Tuesday) serves up some pretty delicious figures. Imagine, if you can, that you are Bridgestone Tyres, one of our beloved clients. You’d have no reason to shout ‘BAH HUMBUG!’ when faced with figures like the following:
- 538 proactive articles in the consumer press
- 354 million views online of viral content like golf star Charley Hull, below, showing off her golfing chops in the Bridgestone Skills Challenge
- An Equivalent Advertising Value, or EAV, of ONE MILLION, ONE HUNDRED AND THREE THOUSAND, SEVEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY TWO POUNDS, or £1,103,772 for short
- Appearances in The Sun, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Record, The Scotsman, Men’s Health and Sky Sports News.
That’s a tasty pig in a blanket right there! The key figure in that mix is the one of EAV. What is EAV, we hear you cry? Well, as the name suggests, it is the amount of money that someone would have to spend in order to secure that coverage as pure advertising space. One point one million quid’s worth, ladies and gentlemen – put that coverage under the mistletoe and give it a great big kiss!
Did someone mention pigs in blankets? Of course we did, we’re absolutely obsessed. Now, one thing that tastes nice with pigs in blankets is mustard, which brings us neatly on to another resident in our stable of talent, Mustard stationery, who have actually featured on ITV’s This Morning – that means that in the region of 1.5 million people will have seen them – while this very blog was being written. MORE COVERAGE, LIVE FROM THE SCENE! The coverage keeps on rollin’ in, kids! This comes in the same week that Mustard’s insanely ingenious creations have also popped up in Heat magazine – that’s a weekly readership of 120,000 people right there – with other major national magazine appearances already in the offing.
And yet still we work like elves on Christmas Eve – we just can’t stand still for a second. You could say we don’t like being stationary. Which is ironic, because we REALLY like stationery (see what we did there?) and nowhere did we get a better chance to showcase our love, than during National Stationery Week in the spring. Oh, what a week that was. And if it’s figures you want to help you understand EXACTLY what a week it was:
- 74.5 million people reached via print and online coverage
- The National Stationery Week hashtag trending on that Twitter for three days in a row
- 35 million listeners reached by coverage on national radio shows
- Social media likes from people in over 90 countries worldwide.
It’s handy, really, that this is the season of goodwill to all, because you just can’t argue with those results. It just proves that if you refuse to rest on your laurels, strive to come up with new and arresting ideas and stay tirelessly proactive with your clients, all good things will come your way.
So what does 2018 have in store for Small Man Media? More of the same. Much more of the same. Only even better. Remember: Coverage is the truffle, and we are the happy pigs (not in blankets this time) who find it.
WOW. That’s all we can say. WOW. Again. The size of the thing. It’s not a bus, it’s a hotel on wheels. It’s a bus so big that wherever it parks, it is automatically given a new postcode. It’s a bus so big that you could play a concert in Manchester, get on the bus, walk to the other end and play a concert in London. It’s a BIG OLD BUS.
Sorry! Went off on a bit of a tangent there. It’s just that last week, top pop turn Rag’n’Bone Man, he who is only human after all, rocked up in Wolverhampton, the city that Small Man Media calls home, to play a concert at the Civic Hall. Now, the Small Man offices are very close to the Civic Hall (or, as locals prefer to put it, ‘Civic Hall? Just next door to the legendary Small Man Media, mate’) and we’re very used to seeing top music, showbiz and sports turns show up in their swish modes of transport. Some of them are absolutely huge. Indeed, just a couple of weeks back, it was the Grand Slam Of Darts, so it wasn’t just the cars and minivans that were vastly overweight.
Rag’n’Bone Man’s tour bus though! It’s so big that the concert was on Monday and it’s actually still trying to parallel-park. It was so thunderous and huge that its arrival made the Small Man office shake, causing many of our NUMEROUS INDUSTRY AWARDS to fall off the shelves. It’s the biggest thing to hit Wolverhampton this year since Nuno Espirito Santo took over the mighty Wolves, and much like Wolves’ promotion charge, the wheels ain’t comin’ off it.
What we’re trying to say is: Rag’n’Bone Man has a really big tour bus.
Fair enough really, his band is quite hefty too. We did actually invite him via Twitter to pop over the office for a cup of tea but he never got back to us, presumably because he had tried to find one of the toilets on his bus and had got lost. But we have a Rag’n’Bone Man anecdote which just goes to underline just how fantastically well-connected we are, and it involves Carol Vorderman, a popular brand of tonic wine and fried chicken, and you can’t say that about your typical run-of-the-mill anecdote.
Writer Monkey Pete, who has taken to referring to himself in the third person in this blog for some reason, knows Rag’n’Bone Man. Pete, in his spare moments, does a bit of rap music journalism on the side, and in 2014 wrote, for the price of one bottle of Malbec and a pizza, the press bumff for Brighton hip-hop collective Rum Committee’s Boozetown LP. And Rag’n’Bone Man was, and indeed is, a member of Rum Committee, as well as being a top soul-singing troubadour of some standing and reputation. This is why Rag’n’Bone Man has just brought out his own brand of rum. Are you getting all of this?
Earlier this year, Rum Committee provided the support for Rag’n’Bone Man’s last tour, including shows in Bristol and Nottingham. Around about this time, former Countdown host Carol Vorderman expressed the desire to go and see Rag’n’Bone Man in Bristol. Now, in addition to knowing Rag’n’Bone Man, Pete also knows Carol Vorderman (DON’T EVEN ASK) and so brokered the tricky deal of getting her into the Bristol show, which went as follows:
Pete: “Hey Rag’n’Bone Man and Rum Committee, can you get Carol Vorderman into your Bristol show?”
Rag’n’Bone Man and Rum Committee: “Hi Pete! Yes, that’s fine, but she has to come backstage and see us.”
So it wasn’t actually that tricky really. The long and short of it is that TV’s Carol Vorderman DID go to the Bristol show, and indeed the Nottingham show a few nights later, DID end up partying with the South Coast’s most hard-living hip-hop collective, and DID, by all accounts, bring them not one but THREE bottles of Buckfast tonic wine (we’re not familiar with this particular beverage, but apparently it has the same corrosive properties as Alien blood) and merrily joining them as they tucked into a huge post-show fried chicken buffet on the very same gigantic tour bus that was parked outside our palatial residence.
The whole unseemly brouhaha ended up in the national press, as showbiz writers gleefully leaped upon this tale of La Vorderman’s unlikely bonding with the nation’s naughtiest rap collective. All of which is a roundabout way of saying: If we can engineer a way of getting column inches for Rag’n’Bone Man AND Carol Vorderman AND a popular extra-strength alcoholic beverage AND a high street fried chicken chain of some note at the same time, just think what we could do for YOU.
Follow us! Follow us on Twitter, for example, at www.twitter.com/smallmanmedia, or on Facebook at facebook.com/smallmanmedia. There’s a bottle of Buckfast in it for you if you do. Maybe.