Oxfam and DEC – Crisis Communications experts
Nov 2013 12

We’re still adjusting to the destruction and havoc caused by the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and there’s plenty more we don’t know about, so it seems almost churlish to look at the crisis communications involved while there’s still so much suffering on the ground. But I want to applaud the comms efforts of the Aid agencies, particularly Oxfam and the DEC. And criticise the automated ad-booking systems of Expedia and Booking.com (amongst others).

I regularly look at how corporates respond to a social media crisis, or a crisis that plays out in social media. Typically it’s about them and how they react. But something like the typhoon is much bigger than that. It’s about how the world reacts. And how (in many cases) the Governments and Aid agencies act to motivate people to donate.

In this case, the speed at which the Aid agencies have acted both operationally (getting people on the ground) but also in comms terms has been extremely impressive. The use of ‘dark sites’, populated extremely quickly and updated in real-time is commendable. The DEC have got a decent site live, but Oxfam’s is really very excellent. In particular the way they’ve rolled in a liveblog to publish their news and collate others’. Fingers crossed it helps increase donations, and then action.

But on the other hand, we have Booking.com and Expedia. Really, did no-one think to stop buying ads against Google searches for ‘Philippines Hotel’? At least for a week or so. Hats off to Oxfam (again) for bidding for the top spot, but, while I appreciate Expedia, Booking.com, Asiarooms etc. have businesses to run, surely they could put one aspect on hold for a little while?

[update - after spotting booking.com initially I couldn't screengrab it. Maybe they've turned their booking off]

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 11.43.33 Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 11.46.06


Google goes behind the firewall
Nov 2013 06

Perhaps it’s not the most exciting news in social media land, but I think it’s certainly some of the stealthiest.

Google+ has just announced ‘restricted communities’ to complement ‘restricted posts’. Not particularly glamorous, but what it does do is open the doors for enterprises to start adopting the tool internally, safe in the knowledge that restricted information would be much less likely to breach the corporate firewall.

It also gives Google potentially huge amounts more sensitive corporate data to crawl over and index, but that’s another thing entirely.

I still think G+ will be big (especially behind the firewall - something the Altimeter crew have picked up on too). Hangouts are the future for customer service imho. And Google’s recent change to YouTube commenting – meaning you now need to have a G+ profile and can’t post anonymously (there goes Adam Buxton’s Bug comedy set) will bring even more people into the G+ fold – in many YouTubers cases kicking and screaming…

We are all advertisements now – and that’s not a good thing
Sep 2013 18

Here’s a little piece I originally wrote for The Wall Blog:

I’m not saying we should rewind the clock. But I am saying we need to discuss the future.

I spend a lot of time noodling around Facebook and on blogs and forums, much of it for professional reasons.

But the blurring of editorial and advertising via personal (and apparently editorial) endorsements is starting to genuinely worry me. I therefore really like the fact that in the last couple of days, regulators on both sides of the Atlantic seem to have started to pay close attention to how the world is changing

In the United States, a coalition of consumer privacy groups has written to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) complaining that Facebook’s proposed changes violate a 2011 agreement by making it easier for the social network to use personal data about its users, including children under 18, in advertising on the site.

And in the UK, the Committee of Advertising Practice (the body that writes the rules the advertising industry has to follow) recently reminded advertisers of the rules around ‘native advertising’ – essentially that brands should not misrepresent paid-for content as editorial endorsement anywhere, in particular online.

Of course the two things are totally separate, but they’re also linked – it’s getting increasingly difficult to understand which endorsements are genuine, and which are paid for. And who gets paid.

And we’re potentially all about to lose our own image rights on Facebook.

Facebook’s proposed rule change, in simple terms, means that unless you explicitly opt-out (which actually seems harder than ever to do), any user can have their name and their image associated with anything they ‘like’ on the platform.

Where once you had to opt in, now you have to explicitly opt-out if you don’t want your face to appear in your friends’ timeline giving a virtual ‘thumbs up’ to a place or brand you’ve liked on the platform.

Oh, and you don’t get any credit/payment for it either. (Tough luck Z-list celebs – there goes another income stream). In fact, you won’t even know when it’s happened. Or how often it has happened. Whoever sees your normal updates can also see branded ads with your face in.

Of course, Facebook’s ads are clearly labeled as ‘sponsored stories’, but the link between individuals’ faces, likes, and ads is now potentially closer than ever. Too close in my opinion.

In the good old days, we could choose which logo or band we would wear on our T shirts, and we’d walk down the street wearing it with pride. But if this change happens then it’s the brands who will get to choose who endorses their products, based on what might have been one casual ‘like’ on Facebook.

Such a massive change in such a short a time.

I already feel sorry for the teenagers who ‘like’ the uncool brands and then un-knowingly advertise it to all their Facebook friends – so I welcome the FTC and CAP’s involvement.

I’ll also urge a degree of caution to our clients. Just because you might be able to use people’s faces in ads, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

And of course, just because Facebook is consulting on these changes doesn’t mean they’ll happen. But clearly it’s what could happen. It’s yet another reminder of who the media ‘owner’ is, how they make their money and how they rely on all of us to do so.

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