Ideas and opinions from the world of PR
So here’s a little scenario for you.
You’re driving along the motorway in your little car, and ahead of you is a lorry which is apparently from a cheese company. Let’s call them ‘Cheddar Gorgeous’ because we like a pun. Suddenly the truck starts to jack-knife. The trailer’s rear doors swing open! Cheeses start bouncing all over the motorway lanes! There’s cheese everywhere! Eventually the truck slows to a halt, likewise the traffic behind it, leading to a huge traffic jam and a motorway covered with cheese.
It becomes apparent that the lorry driver had fallen asleep at the wheel at the end of a crazily long stint at the wheel. It’s a miracle nobody was hurt, although thousands of pounds’ worth of cheese was damaged. What a palaver! Wait till everybody hears about this! After all, it’s not every day you witness a cheese truck shedding its load. A great little anecdote for the pub.
Of course, a good PR person of the type you would find at Small Man Media, would not see the story this way.
In fact, a good PR person would see this little scenario as a whole load of stories and angles, interlinking to create the whole. They would think of the potential coverage, and start salivating.
Local news is a given, because any local newspaper would kill for a bizarre story like this – indeed, with a photo of the cheese-strewn motorway, you’d probably be looking at the front page (suggested headline: ‘CHEESED OFF!’). An image that bizarre, in fact, you could reasonably expect to graduate to national newspaper level, which is why you made sure you got plenty of photographs of the ‘cheese slick’.
You’d also reasonably expect the story to make it to local TV news and radio, as it is heavily image-driven and, of course, major traffic disruption is always newsworthy – especially if it involves errant dairy products.
That’s all you could get from the story though, right?
Of course it’s not. Does the UK cheese industry have its own publications? They’ll be wanting to run a story on this tragedy. Likewise the UK commercial trucking industry and its publications. What about the cheese company? Where are they based? There’s another local news story right there. How hard will the loss of cheese hit them? More material for the industry publications, and for the local newspapers’ business sections. Were they adequately insured? One for the insurance trade press. What about the driver? What does he have to say about the workload of the modern trucker? Back to the trucking magazines for stories on the dangers of sleep deprivation and overwork. What would a medical publication have to say? Is it now time to go back to the nationals again? ‘UK truckers put under intolerable strain’, kinda thing? On and on it goes…
What this rather convoluted [you can say that again – Ben and Rach] little tale illustrates is that there is always more to a story than ‘just a bunch of stuff that happened’. The closer you look at something, whether that be a brand or an event or a personality or a cheese lorry mishap, the more the angles present themselves, ripe and ready to be pursued. There are always, always, always more angles than the naked eye can perceive, and if you study something long enough, they will become apparent. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is what maketh a good PR.
See, there are some people out there, dang their hides, who seem to think that PR is all champers at the desk and parties, what you might call ‘the Absolutely Fabulous effect’, with very little actual work. Some people think that PR is an unnecessary link between source and journalist and that they’d be just fine without us. The fools! The reality is that we at Small Man like to perform a role that most would say is pretty much priceless, that of making life as easy as possible for everybody with whom we work.
In a nutshell, we worry so that our clients and connections don’t have to.
There’s nothing wrong with worrying if you do it creatively, you see. It gives rise to soul-searching questions like: Have we covered all the angles (it’s ALWAYS about the angles, y’all!) here? Has every last relevant media outlet been kept very much in the loop? If a cheeky journalist wanted to do such a thing, could he take this press release and effectively drop it onto his page as is, so faultless is its spelling and grammar? Have we ensured that the transitional process from client to media outlet is as smooth and seamless as it can possibly be?
Of course we have. We are Small Man Media. That is what we do.
The next time you see an interesting news story, a unique product or a quirky campaign that tickles you, try giving it the ‘cheese truck disaster’ treatment and seeing just how many angles from which it could be approached. If you can come up with angles and ideas that the next person just doesn’t see, than congratulations, my child. A PR person you could be…
If you want to use Small Man Media’s angle-spotting magic and turn it to your brand’s advantage, drop us a line or pop in for coffee and doughnuts. We’re at Twitter @smallmanmedia and on Facebook at facebook.com/smallmanmedia but, let’s face it, we had you at ‘doughnuts’, didn’t we?
This blog was composed by our Writer Monkey Pete. There he is, look.
Here at Small Man Media, we like to think of ourselves as a forward-thinking agency, but we’re not averse to looking back a little too. In fact, right about now we’re going to look back to January 2017 when we helped Derwent Pencils to launch their Procolour pencil range.
It was quite a thing, that launch. In the first half of last year, our social media campaign threw up some pretty spectacular numbers: Over half a million people were reached on Facebook and Twitter; followers of Derwent shared posts on Procolour over a thousand times; 24,000 people were inspired to like or comment on the pencils on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram before grabbing their new pencils and sharing their artwork with us. That’s a whole heap of engagement right there.
Well, this week we’ve been at it again. Last weekend Derwent attended the CreativeWorld show in Frankfurt, the hot ticket if you’re in the stationery industry.
Launching their Lightfast range and the Inktense Paint Pan Set to expectant buyers is one thing, but naturally, the Cumbrian art supremos called upon our expertise, and particularly that of Dynamo Dan, to ensure that the launch was, as they say in hip-hop circles, ‘poppin’ off’.
Well, it has been less than a week and those aforementioned products are well on the way to achieving, nay outstripping, those figures from the Procolour launch. On Facebook and Twitter, the launch campaign has already reached about 145,000 people; across the big three social media channels, Lightfast has racked up well over 8,000 likes, and has been shared more than 1,200 times. In five days, ladies and gentlemen. No, stop it, you’re making us blush.
What this proves is that a successful launch doesn’t need a party to accompany it. Launch parties are all well and good but in the digital age in which we now operate, prone to being a tad pointless. The media is no longer staked out solely in the major cities, after all – indeed, if the media thinks it looks a bit nippy out, it can put on its fluffy slippers and never leave the house. We’re all interconnected now anyway, so really, the main beneficiary of launch parties nowadays is the vol-au-vent industry.
All it took was a few well-timed, well-honed and well-illustrated social media posts to set in motion what would rapidly become an avalanche of buzz. They say that ‘prior planning prevents poor performance,’ well in our case it’s ‘prior planning produces persistent pencil performance.’
A fantastic selection of imagery, accompanied by the ideal selection of words helped launch the campaign, but the consumer interaction post-posts (which is a mouthful!) were where our social media nouse came into it’s own.
Dan, like a Facebook Nostradamus, prepared an extensive list of expected questions (which he prides like a son or 3 points for West Brom-cheeky!) to ensure that every excited art buff, would receive the correct information and prepare themselves for the Lightfast range.
Says young Daniel, his chest swelling with pride: “I knew the kind of things people would ask – it’s all about the who, what, why. We had some beautiful imagery to accompany the posts. We knew what every status update wanted to say, in advance. All I really had to do was keep an eye on social media over the weekend, which I do anyway, and answer subscriber questions ‘live’ as and when they came in. Basically, I stimulated the conversation and kept each person engaged.”
And days later, that conversation is still being stimulated, including with those who commented seven days before!
Obviously, we’re not saying that launch parties are all bad – indeed, if it wasn’t for launch parties then some journalists would never eat. But when you have identified your audience – and you can reasonably extrapolate that artists are artistic(!) as well as open to sharing, likely to engage in online discussion, spending a fair amount of their time online and ready to feed back on the quality of their instruments of work – then the merits of a social media launch such as Lightfast’s become readily apparent.
If you know where your audience is, what they want to see and know that they are likely to engage, then your launch party can exist entirely on social media, and a heck of a lot more people will show up – with no pressing of flesh and hard sell spiel necessary.
A little food for thought on launching in the social media age. And while we’re on the subject of food, here is a photograph of some vol-au-vents. We could murder some of these right now.
If you think your company could benefit from Small Man Media’s product-launching skills, masterful social media knowledge or award-winning copy, visit us at facebook.com/smallmanmedia or hurl a tweet at us at twitter.com/smallmanmedia – we’re very approachable and our office has many, many biscuits to share.
(Advance warning: The following blog contains as many as ten animal / bird / fish / natural world metaphors, and all of them are equally important, to explain how fantastic we are here at Small Man Media)
So. Let’s say you have gone and got yourself a PR team sorted. We know how excited you must be because, like birds of paradise, PR people are rare and beautiful things (well, good ones are, anyway) to be admired and treasured. And, like big old fluffy dogs, they are loyal and affectionate and will repay your interest in them three times over. And, like Mogwai, you cannot feed them after midnight or they will turn into Gremlins.
Actually, PR people ARE like Mogwai, and we don’t mean that we are small (which we are not), fluffy (which we are) and we give birth when you spill water on our backs (no comment). No, what we mean is that you can enjoy a long and loving relationship with us if you remember a few simple… We won’t call them rules because that makes us sound like dictators, when we are in fact your most humble servants. Let’s call them ‘Things To Remember To Get The Very Best Out Of Your PR’ – commit them to your mind and you’ll always get the biggest yield of coverage milk from your PR cow. How many animals is that? Four already, five if you count Mogwai and Gremlins as different species? Wow, we’re on fire.
Okay, on with the things…
THING #1: SYMBIOSIS
Symbiosis. Isn’t that a lovely word? It sounds like the title of a percussion-heavy jazz album from the 1970s, but actually it means a natural relationship that benefits and serves both parties involved, due to the way in which their abilities or activities compliment each other for mutual gain.
A good example of a symbiotic relationship is the one that exists between the cleaner wrasse fish, and larger fish such as sharks. In this relationship, the sharks allow the cleaner wrasse to swim into their mouths. But, rather than being eaten, the wrasse then does the eating itself, nibbling away all the parasites that live in your average shark’s mouth. The wrasse gets a lovely meal and manages to survive a trip into the gob of an animal that would usually want to eat it; the shark gets a fine pearly-white set of teeth. That’s symbiosis at work.
We’re not going to be picking any parasites from off our clients’ teeth – we’re sure there are agencies out there who would but we just don’t need the work that badly – but we like to think of ourselves as industrious like cleaner wrasses, and helping out the big fish which are both the clients for whom we work, and the publications, websites, blogs, radio and TV shows to whom we pitch. Clients provide the very finest, most vibrant products that they can, which means that our working days are more fun; and so we get inspired to come up with genius ideas like the Cross Office Dog Of The Year contest and get them lots of commensurately vibrant coverage. Making the Small Man Media coral reef a happy place, like in Finding Nemo. Symbiosis, kids – it’s the way forward.
THING #2: WE’RE LIKE A BIRD (BUT A WEIRD HYBRID ONE)
When we talk of being like a bird, we don’t mean that we’re channelling Nelly Furtado here. No, we prefer to think of ourselves as taking an owl-slash-pigeon-slash-magpie approach to our work here at Small Man. To explain…
LIKE AN OWL! We may not have a fully-rotating 360-degree-swivelling head, but we like to think that see all the angles, in much the way that an owl can. And this is what makes us so very wise.
LIKE A PIGEON! Fascinating fact: Pigeons process visual information four times faster than humans. Seriously, the way that their brains work is that they work out visual stimuli at four times human speed, so that, to them, a car travelling towards them at 40mph appears to be moving at 10mph.
This is why they always take off so late when you think your car’s gonna hit ’em. They’re not stupid, they’re just in a state of calm because they have a quicker brain than the average bird, and so can exist in a world free of stress and rushed decisions. You see where we’re going with this?
LIKE A MAGPIE! Because we like things with a bit of sparkle to them and we’re happy to take them and use them to form an even finer structure, in much the same way that a magpie builds its flashy nest.
So yeah. We’re a bizarre yet beautiful gene-spliced hybrid of owl, pigeon and magpie – who wouldn’t want one of those in their metaphorical aviary?
THING #3: THE DR DOOLITTLE APPROACH
As Sir Cliff Richard once sang: It’s so funny, how we don’t talk any more. Except it’s not really funny, is it? It’s a crying shame, like the bit in Bambi when his mum gets shot. Poor, poor little Bambi, lying next to his dying mummy… What? No, we’re not crying, we’ve just got something in our eye.
We’ll admit it to you: We’re talkers here at Small Man Media, and if we’re not being talkers, then we’re being listeners. Emailing is fine and everything, but emails get deleted, ignored, diverted unfairly into junk folders or simply shunted to the end of an ever-growing queue. Nope, we’d much rather talk to our clients, preferably over a cup of coffee and numerous biscuit, which is why we’ve just bought the office a fancy new coffee-maker.
You see, we know that it is in the ebb and flow of conversation, the back and forth of the exchange of ideas, that genius concepts are born. For was it not in the swelling and subsiding of the ocean tide that life on Earth itself was formed [we think you may be pushing this theme a bit too far now Pete – Ben and Rach]?
The other good thing about talking is that you also get to listen, and be listened to. Talk and listen. Yin and yang. The very balance of life [see, this is better, keep going – Ben and Rach]. The giving and the taking of information; the absorption of concepts and themes, however bizarre; the offering up of fanciful notions and hare-brained schemes; a chance remark about a stupendously absurd gif or terrible TV advert someone may have seen; even a nice meal we may have had – as Dr Doolittle might tell you, it’s amazing what can come out of talking and listening. And, of course, those are two things that an email or a tweet just cannot do.
So, as you may have noticed, there was a bit of a ‘natural world’ theme to this latest blog, but then here at Small Man Media, we are PR naturals. And as you can see, we’re birds of paradise, big fluffy dogs, Mogwai, cows, big fish, little fish, owls, pigeons, magpies, the ebb and flow of the tides and the very balance of life on this planet, as well, all rolled into a package as fluffy as a gosling. So drop us a line at facebook.com/smallmanmedia or at @smallmanmedia on Twitter and we can tell you how we can give you a sprinkling of our animal magic. You know that Sir David, below, would approve.
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.