Digital PR, jono, Marketing Thoughts

The normal person’s guide to creating an awesome social media measurement tool

When I worked at Cake I was part of a team of very bright energetic people working on developing Flightdeck, their proprietary social media monitoring tool. So when I felt a new and different tool was needed for my current agency Citizen Relations, I thought, can I really do this?  Was Flightdeck a one-off moment in time, one achieved by the unique combination of luck and circumstance of having the right minds together in one place? Or could I conceive a tool that would be a game-changer for my current agency?

So after the cliche sleepless night of self-doubt, I set to work and in the process I learned a few things I think are worth sharing, if you want to create a brilliant social media measurement tool:

1) Don’t worry about what will work

Start with your dream scenario.  For me it was a tool that would take all the potential different factors for online success for a brand and combine them: to provide just four separate scores out of hundred and one overall score that even someone who has never looked at social media analytics in their life could understand.  Like the judges scores on Simply Come Dancing – a lot taken into consideration, but a very clear simple output on the surface. Worry about dreaming it up first, the “how” can come later.

2) You need imagination, not a maths degree

During the creation of the Citizen Scorecard tool, I filled out mountains of paper with scrawled formulae, but not because I’m great at maths. My claim to fame as a teenager was doing maths GCSE a year early, only to beg my mum to write a letter to get me out of the maths A-level sessions as I was struggling so much!

I knew the formulae to draw up and work out all the elements required in the tool (like brand advocacy and brand awareness scores), not because of some profound mathematical ability, but because they involved an act of creativity on uncharted territory.  My only guide was an understanding of online marketing and a determination to get to the end result required.  If my formulae and maths were wrong, I quickly found out after a period of trial and error, not because I was Rain Man.

3) Put your balls on the line

I told the agency I was inventing a social media tool that would allow our brands to see at a glance at any given moment how well they were performing online, way before I had any idea if it could be done.  I wanted a tool that would make others agency’s existing tools look old-fashioned, or at least unwieldy.  Big talk, and safe to say, that very big talk focused my attention, to avoid utter humiliation later.   I presented it to certain clients and colleagues well before it was quite ready, constantly forcing me to propel the project on faster and faster.

4) Put it in front of nervous nellies

Nervous nellies are a proprietary measurement  tool’s best friend, as it nears completion.  They are the people that will constantly say “but how can that work? What if x happens?”  Their concerns inform and perfect you work,so they are to be listened to, though not at the beginning, otherwise you will never be intrepid enough.

5) Wheel it out at every given opportunity

Don’t present it to everyone possible for salesy reasons, present it so that you can get as much feedback as fast as possible.  It took me at least five formal presentations of the tool before I truly absorbed how to explain it in a clear and concise way that might chime with brand owners.

Finally, if at any point it is just looking too difficult, then just remember, it is not about creating something revolutionary, it is more about just moving things forward (or even sideways) by just a small step or two.  It is also about having a great and multi-skilled team around you, like @MyLostRomance@uemitoezcan@joebycro @yasiralani@laylahatia, @sunday_best

If you want to know what the scorecard tool actually tells you and how it works then give me a shout.

Digital PR, Marketing Thoughts

Clone Snores

Are digital directors at agencies becoming clones of each other?

I am deeply concerned that most digital directors at marketing and communication agencies are becoming clones of each other.   You know what I’m saying:

  • 29-35 years old
  • maybe a touch of premature grey in the hair
  • enthusiastic, authoritative sounding, personable, charismatic and at the fringes of geeky

And all SAYING THE SAME THING… in fact, saying the same thing in a smug manner that has been said by them for the last four years or so, as if it is something new they have just discovered:

“Must start by listening online”

“Content is key”

“Must engage in the long-term”

“Measurement is crucial…and only we have proprietary tools to do that”

Yawn!  Yawn! Yawn!

Everything Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss Digital Director says is true (just like it is true that the Bible is a big book) but please, digital comms (agency side) has become as generic as choosing between media space buying options or what phrases to go for in SEO. Are digital comms agencies now much of a muchness all talking about the same things?

You remember when politics got pretty dull in Britain when Blair & Cameron both strove for the middle ground? Well, the same thing is happening to the digitally equipped comms agency.  This is partly because, indeed, social media work  should be measurable, content does count and listening is important – but let’s just leave it at that. If I have to listen to one more digital director lecture a room full of other digital marketeers about these basic FACTS, to comforting murmurs of “here here” and “@digagencydir  well put!  so true”,  I am going to vomit over my own shoes.  Conferences of digital marketeers listening to each other spout off, without saying anything new is like hanging out with the mutual appreciation society.

I believe the reason digital agency directors aren’t saying anything new is because brand marketing managers are now (three, four, five years later) repeating their digital agencies’ well-worn cliches and truisms right back at them.  This is flattering and reassuring, and for the agency director, it means a budget pipeline, as long as he doesn’t screw up after waiting all this time.  So instead of continuing to dream, devise and take risks, the agency directors are looking to cash in by pandering to the marketing managers limited demands for the script that is cemented in their minds: listening, measurement and some distinctly average branded content-creation.

I have to agree with Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed in this week’s Marketing, where he writes that despite being a digital evangelist:

“I don’t have any particular love for digital.  I am, however, a firm believer we need to be where the consumers are… online”.

Marketing managers, please listen to me, forget being impressed by listening programs and measurement tools. That should comes as standard from your agency.  And don’t be impressed by a digital agency director telling you: “Content is king”.  Ask him / her what content he is suggesting you create or already have, that is so desirable to spread online. Then he/ she will be forced to actually give you ideas instead of talking about processes.

What marketing managers should be excited to hear about  is ideas that move a brand forward and great business ideas, not re-assuring buzz words. Digital directors need to stop dumbing-themselves-down with a feedback loop of self-reverence, recommending online listening with the greatest gravitas, and instead take on the mantle of what Weed expects from his ad agency:

“Creativity, experimentation, innovation…true creative leaps and custodians of our brand equity”

I say: let your clients know that online listening and measurement is the LEAST they should expect from you. Like the small cup of mouthwash you get when you go to the dentist, or clean cutlery when you go to a restaurant.

So once all the digital agency directors have stopped saying the same thing, what’s going to differentiate them?


Everyone’s processes are pretty damn similar; it’s the ideas and their quality that excite and differentiate.

Brand Campaigns, Digital PR, jono, Marketing Thoughts

What I was getting up to the other night…

The Lucre Social Panel Debate:

“Social media can not be ignored, but marketing principles remain the same” was the overriding message at Lucre Social’s debate around the use of social media in the retail sector.

An audience of 40 delegates gathered at the Mandeville hotel in central London to discuss the topic with a panel of industry big hitters from Unilever, Saatchi & Saatchi and Yahoo! Europe/Fanshake.

A write up by Will Ockenden….

Jono Marcus, Group director of social marketing and online strategy, Lucre Social

Introducing the event, which was held to mark the official launch of Lucre Social, Jono kicked off proceedings by setting out his stall with a resounding ‘yes’ to the question; ‘is social media the most important marketing vehicle for retail in 2010?’. He talked about how traditional maketeers are simply trying to sell more and more to their customers, pushing their existing marketing channels harder and harder. Jono argued that a more effective approach is for brands to look at building a more long-term and ultimately rewarding relationship with their customers through social media.

He compared traditional ‘push’ marketing models as being like a firework display but social media like a bonfire, providing ongoing and continuous benefits, with a much more elastic, and long-term ROI.

He concluded by speaking about the need for retailers to view social media as a marketing investment, and not just a marketing spend, and emphasised that social media will gradually and increasingly become the most effective route because of the psychology of the age we are entering.

Asad Rehman, Unilever’s global planning director

Asad started by saying he originally wanted to argue ‘no’ to the question to spark debate but simply couldn’t find a convincing reason to do so. To highlight the power of social media in retail, he quoted a recent stat from Sage saying that as many as 71% of people coming through social media channels when visiting a retail site make a purchase, considerably more than direct visitors. Yet despite this, just 5% of the retailers interviewed in the study were willing to believe social media is an effective marketing tool, something Asad found disappointing.

He also spoke about how the basis of social media is nothing new, and that many of the existing marketing techniques used by retailers, such as CRM, loyalty schemes and referrals are essentially social in nature anyway. He concluded by speaking about the dearth of PR practitioners sufficiently experienced in social media, and how, like other emerging marketing disciplines, it’s important for retailers to not to be fazed by social media and that time is fast running out to move into this area.

Dana al Salem CEO of FanShake and founding member Yahoo! Europe

Dana took a slightly different approach and spoke about her own experiences of engaging with consumers through social media in the music industry, but how the lessons of engagement with young people – the so-called YGen – can be applied to other sectors, including retail.

She spoke about no matter how much things change in society, the more they stay the same, citing how events tend to repeat themselves, including natural disasters like 2009’s Hurricane Katrina and 1969’s Hurricane Camille, and the foreign war protests in 2007 mirroring the Vietnam protests of the late sixties.

Dana also talked about how the key to understanding where social media marketing is going is that people shouldn’t look forwards, but should in fact look backwards, with Hippies from the 60s and YGen sharing many of the same characteristics and preferences. This includes distrust of establishment, anti-war values, organic food and fashion consciousness.

Dana concluded by arguing that the way to reach the YGen is through empowerment and engagement, and no matter what sector, social media is the most targeted and effective route to go.

Toffael Rashid, Planning Director, Asia, Saatchi & Saatchi

Taking a more controversial approach was Toffael, who started his presentation with the statement: “Yes…but so what”. He talked about how the latest marketing buzz is just around the corner; at the start of his career it was around direct marketing, then ambient media, moving on to the internet in 2000. However, he argued that there is a common thread running through all of this; brands looking at ways to get closer to the consumer.

Toffael said things have not really changed, it’s just about applying the marketing principle basics; brands are built, and then those brands need to communicate their messages through channels, and social media is just another channel.

He concluded by saying that while social media is undoubtedly amazing, what retailers are going to have to get better at is predicting what the next emotional insight among consumers is, and how to capitalise on this. And like the other speakers, he spoke about how one thing has never changed; brands, as they always have, need to understand what consumer insights are out there and what trends they can leverage to their benefit.

Speaking about the event, Asad Rehman said: “The event was great and was a change from the ubiquitous talking heads, one-way presentations. I enjoyed the panel debate format; the delegates clearly knew their stuff which meant some really lively debate, with the speaker’s views very much challenged, which is always a good thing. A particular lively discussion was around the potential for a shower brand to create interesting and ‘sexy’ content in the social space, the consensus being that yes, they could.”

Jono Marcus, said: “Feedback from the event has been great and it’s been the perfect forum to officially launch Lucre Social. Dana, Asad and Toffael added some real weight behind the debate and brought distinctive perspectives to the argument. My takeout is simple; retailers cannot ignore social media. But it’s important to not be scared, it’s not a different form of marketing, but rather another tool to use.”

Visit next week for a video of the key note speeches at the event.

Brand Campaigns, Digital PR, Marketing Thoughts

If clients were tenants


Wouldn't you go all Sherlock Holmes to protect your home, your money...or your clients?

Wouldn't you go all Sherlock Holmes to protect your home, your money...or your clients?

I have spent some of today going around my flat noting every single crevice, unit, appliance and piece of furniture, then judging their varying states of working order and presentation, and noting every possible imperfection.


Why? Well I am about to rent out my flat and I want my tenants to know that I am playing things straight with them andI want to lessen the chance of any grey areas when their tenancy ends and it is time to hand back full deposits.

Yes, every one of us will get very detailed and notice every scuff mark on the wall, and which pillowcases are from ASDA and which ones are from John Lewis, when there is money involved. Particularly when we could lose money or our property could be devalued if we don’t note down every little thing down. 

If we consistently go into as much pinpoint detail when we are evaluating the success of PR or social media campaigns for clients, then whether a campaign sets the world alight or not, surely we end up with clients that feel in very safe hands. And they would know we took their money, the equivalent of deposits (given in the hope of marketing success) very seriously.  This type of reporting would also show how seriously we take the justification of our fee to them and conversely how seriously we take them as a client.

Recently I have been working on a campaign promoting a piece of video content.  When we received the content it was very different by nature from what all parties had intended and didn’t have the imagined viral potential.  Diligently my team plugged away dotting every i and crossing every t to gain as much traffic for the video footage as possible, whilst appreciating its inherent limitations.  Every day reports would go over detailing coverage, work done, inbound links , anecdotal or email correspondence showing social media influencer engagement, demographic breakdowns of viewer ship of the video, twitter chatter about it, traffic to the brands site and so on.

The client didn’t ask for any of this: they simply wanted to be kept up-to-date weekly on the number of views.  And to be honest, when weeks went by, and apart from my phone calls to the client, I never heard any response to the daily updates, I thought maybe it was a wasted exercise to keep going above and beyond in all the reporting.  Sure, we were giving them all types of analysis and insight that might be useful to them internally when talking about the extent of interaction the video was receiving but maybe they were getting that from their media agency, another dedicated digital agency, or they just didn’t need it.

This was my thinking when I asked a colleague who had just been for a meeting with the client what their current response to the fact the video simply was not going to go viral.  They said that obviously the client had to reset expectations about how many views it would get internally which was uncomfortable, but that they were pleased with how the views were steadily climbing because of the work we were doing and how they are talking in glowing terms about the team and its work.

I thought that was odd, as normally if a campaign isn’t as success on a particular criteria as the marketeer intended, mud will hit the agency.  So I asked why the client was so happy with my team.

Apparently because of the daily reporting.  It meant they knew we took them and their investment seriously.  They could see how hard and tactically we were working each day, and they had constant and evolving evidence to present internally of when and why views were going up and down, based on our work.

This example highlights the importance of always noting everything down for clients to see, in order to provide them with insights and stats they may find useful, even though they would never think to ask you for them.

If you would do it to make sure your flat doesn’t get damaged, or to avoid a loss on a deposit, then you owe it to your client. This is being called :the age of the client”, but I think it is as much about the age of transparency and justification in the in the world of PR.

We talk about measurability, but isn’t that really jargon for being honest, informative and not bullshitting? Out of respect for the fact that we have moved into a time and epoch where every lost penny counts.  If this means PR has to grow up and become more accountable, then so be it and good, because I think clients will thanks us for it.  That doesn’t mean we can’t take gambles, but if we do, we much chart them, track them, explain them and be transparent about what the client is and isn’t getting all through the activation of that gamble.  So I suggest if you can find any sort of analysis, insight or statistic out that illustrates something about what you are up to, then you should be relaying it to the client.  The amount of tweets on a campaign you are working on in a day may not mean much to you, but it may mean a lot to a client on a page in one of their presentations!

Digital PR, Marketing Thoughts

Talking the talk… in order to walk the walk


New world / Our world

New world / Our world

Some large brands realising the importance of investing in a social media presence or outreach are having real crisis’s of confidence. They want to have facebook pages, twitter accounts, blogs but don’t want to invest time in their up-keep. They think being in the game is enough but it is not, you have got to look like a champion online and that requires regular exercise and up-keep in the social media space..a site that is always up to date and always offering more.


Over the last few months many marketing directors have demanded “edgy”, “cutting edge”, “trendsetting” social media led campaigns. When given proposals containing them, they have passed them up the ladder, then gone a little pale and said maybe we are not ready for a social media led campaign after all -”what about em, er…. party or picture stunt.  Offline PR should maybe lead instead just supported by social media outreach”.

So why don’t they think they are ready for a social media led campaign “after all”? Well it is not because they don’t think a social media lead campaign is a good idea, or because they don’t like the proposals, nor because measurables can’t be provided of response through social media engagement.

It is because their bosses are not used to dealing with the PR measurables that can be provided for social media: blog posts, conversations online, views, click throughs, views of website X etc. Their bosses, whose balls are on the line if they can’t prove a particular campaign has hit the target during these tough economic times ,wish to fall back on the safety of figures they are more familiar with: AVEs, PR Value, OTS (double page print spreads). Striking terror into their hearts are phrases like “We can provide you with these measures for social media campaigns as well, but more relevant would actually be the conversations stimulated in relevant forums online or the number of views of the branded video or your sites traffic increase during the campaign?”

And I’m not surprised! We all want things made simple and clear cut where possible; and things always seem hard until we realise they are easy. So I guess the answer is to make the MD and his boss realise it is easy, give them the measurables they don’t want as well as the ones they do, so they can get used to them. Then one day they’ll turn round and say “Why haven’t you given me inbound links as a measurable you usually do”. On this special day they really will be ready for that big social media lead campaign because they understand how best to measure it and explain it upwards.

We must help marketing directors to talk about social media measurables- and to feel secure talking about them- so they can elect what methods to use in a PR campaign, based on the most effective methods for reaching their audience and moving their brand forward, not just the one that provides results they can most easily explain upwards.