24 April 2015
When reading an article about the difficulty publishers have in balancing the needs of advertisers against editorial independence, the ad that popped up in the middle of showed that there are always more tensions to business decisions than are apparent.
The irony was not lost on me that, when reading this very good article by Jane Martinson, the head of media at the Guardian, about the difficulty publishers have in balancing the needs of advertisers against editorial independence, the ad that popped up in the middle of the piece was recruiting for MI5.
Leave aside the intriguing thought process that led the Security Service to think of recruiting from among those who read Media Guardian, it showed that there are always more tensions to business decisions than are apparent.
The MI5 recruitment ad invited people to “create tomorrow’s headlines”. Presumably, they meant that MI5 officers could perform acts of derring-do in thwarting society’s enemies and thus be part of the newspaper stories of tomorrow.
But it was hard, especially given MI5’s history of subverting the press in pre-war and post-war Britain, recruiting spies within most national newspapers and leaning heavily on editors thought to be malleable, to think of other interpretations of that phrase.
And it showed that, while juggling simple concerns of “Church vs State” in the commercial sphere, publishers also have to be concerned at what role they play in the security of the state where they operate, and how they might be manipulated. The Guardian, with its Snowden revelations, has that concern more than others.
When I refreshed the page, as is the way with the digital display advertising model, the advertising space was occupied by a slot offering hair colouring products (a service I am equally unlikely to pursue) and MI5 was nowhere to be seen.
24 April 2015
The breadth vs depth debate: in essence, do we teach too much detail around too few subjects, causing students to study some aspects of a particular British era in depth, but with less idea of the broader non-British events which shaped it?
My memories of teaching A-Level History are pretty grim. Dragging a class through the ins and outs of, say, why the Whigs lost power in 1841 always seemed to me to be a peculiar waste of time.
This is called the breadth vs depth debate, which in essence is about whether we teach too much detail around too few subjects, causing students to rock up at University having studied in depth some British aspects of a particular era, but with less idea of the broader non-British events which shaped it. (Despite how clever our specialist knowledge might make us sound down the pub).
So students might be ignorant of the formation of the Paris Commune, but they can tell you the names of the maids fired in the Bedchamber Crisis of 1839.
Personally, I always felt that the weight of our own history prevented enough syllabus time being devoted to many significant events that happened to be done by others to others.
This matters, of course, because if we have not heard or learned of something by the time we leave school, doesn’t it imply that the event isn’t important, relevant or even real to us?
Take the utter slaughter of British troops during the First World War. Most young adults, and over the past few years most schoolchildren – in the UK can probably tell you about the Great War and the loss of lives in the trenches. A few more could probably name the battlegrounds of Passchendaele, Ypres, the Somme or Gallipoli. But what about the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians which began in 1915 and lasted a full eight years?
Our familiarity with the tragedy unfolding on the Western side of Europe has shrouded the suffering of the Armenian people as they endured the darkest years imaginable. These were events which have never been given the attention they deserve here in the UK.
Today’s centenary commemorating the beginning of the Armenian Genocide may begin to correct this by provoking global discussion and increased recognition of something that would otherwise pass under the radar of international consciousness.
While the centenary will pass, and the news crews move on, it is important that the Armenian Genocide is not parked in textbook, but is actively taught.
Edelman have been closely involved in the creation and delivery of the 100 LIVES initiative . It’s an enlightened, forward-looking way of engaging a wide audience on the impact of the Armenian genocide (and indeed all genocides), through recording and sharing stories of those who survived, and by recognising and offering gratitude to those who put their own lives on the line to save others. The initiative also includes the creation of the Aurora Prize, which is co-chaired by the Nobel prizewinning author Elie Wiesel and George Clooney.
100 LIVES was launched with a global call for stories from the survivors of the Genocide and those who saved them. The stories will then be shared on the site, and preserved for posterity.
100 LIVES helps build global empathy about a terrible event which has shaped the lives of millions.
If you take time to visit the site and read the stories, you’ll see that, even three generations later, the stories have not lost their power.
In his remarkable work “Night”, Elie Wiesel reminds us of the importance of testimony and recognition: “For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
We can’t change the past but we can continue to teach and educate, ensuring we are learning the right lessons from the past and that the most significant events in history are not lost to us simply because they didn’t happen to us.
22 April 2015
In an age of 24/7 social media commentary and in a world where word-of-mouth can make or break a business more quickly than ever, brands aspire to properly monitor the Twittersphere and respond promptly to anything their customers deem important enough to mention in public - however insignificant it may seem.
Until recently, the sign below resided in the male changing rooms of my local gym. And as an unashamed grammatical pedant, it invariably succeeded in raising my pulse-rate more quickly than any session on the treadmill could do.
Twenty-three words, three errors. Four if you count the missing full stop at the end (which, of course, I do!). So finally, after several months of silent discomfort, I did what any self-respecting inhabitant of the 21st century would do: I tweeted my displeasure.
But why am I bothering you with this? In part, because today is official Shakespeare Day, so what better way to honour the Bard than with a quick rant about writing standards?! But also because what happened after my 140 character complaint was…well….rather impressive actually.
Within minutes of making my comment, the owners of the gym had direct messaged me back, expressing their shock and disappointment, and politely enquiring as to which branch was the culprit.
So here was a brand not only monitoring the Twittersphere properly but willing to respond promptly and humbly to something their customer (however geeky) deemed important enough to mention in public.
In an age of 24/7 social media commentary and in a world where word-of-mouth can make or break a business more quickly than ever, it’s something to which many organisations quite rightly aspire. A way for them to engage and excite audiences in real-time and nip any antipathy in the bud.
But how many brands are there who can actually say they do it? Honestly that is, not in an ‘of-course-we-respond-but-we-always-need-to-check-with-the-US-overnight-first’ kind of way. Possibly not as many as there should be.
In this case, the gym’s timely answer was enough to divert my irritation from its sign-writers to the barbell I couldn’t lift in the free weights section. It also reminded me that a mistake is, after all, just a mistake (or four). Ignoring it or, worse, taking offence at someone pointing it out are the real crimes – for brands more than anyone and now more than ever.
So I responded to their response, proffering the name of the branch in question and tendering my own writing services to help put things right….in exchange for a free massage in the onsite Spa of course.
And although my offer has so far gone unanswered and the offending sign has already been replaced with a less grammatically troubling one (another tick), I’m pretty sure I’ll get that massage too.
I guess they just need to check with the US first…
21 April 2015
Edelman President and CEO Richard Edelman on storytelling trends, content creation and the increasing overlap of creative skills.
Today Edelman will be hosting the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Day Lab storytelling program. The New Frontier program is designed to showcase new technologies and methods in storytelling, such as immersive designs, game theory and virtual reality. Founded in 2007, New Frontier has an annual exhibition during the Sundance Film Festival to show its work.
A large number of our clients are creating content, as part of the theory that every company can be a media company. One key way to do so is via partnerships with the right people and platforms that will allow them to tell their stories in a more authentic, credible and meaningful way. For example, last week, GE* inked a deal with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer to do films on innovation for the National Geographic Channel.
Kamal Sinclair, co-director of New Frontier (Lab Programs) and transmedia producer, will talk about the four trends in storytelling: Co-creation (including social or algorithm co-design); Interactive storytelling (includes game-based stories and touchable media); Transmedia Storytelling; and Immersion with Expanded Senses (motion capture performance). Among those who will be at Edelman today are Jon Harris, an expert in data visualization, Nonny de la Peña, who uses virtual reality and 3D environments to convey the feeling of news as part of immersive journalism, and Scott Snibbe, a pioneer in digital art who asks viewers to engage physically with diverse media such as digital projections. We have already seen companies such as Dick’s Sporting Goods use the short film on kids and sports to good effect, with an entry in the Tribeca Film Festival.
We are doing this type of creative work in other venues. In Sweden, we created a room in Minecraft for A Non Smoking Generation* that gives teens a safe place to discuss their fears around growing up without resorting to smoking. We engaged with the passionate Facebook community for Adobe’s* Photoshop with a Halloween murder mystery game using a layered file, with fans swapping clues and theories on the murder weapon, with 22,000 game downloads and big jump in brand sentiment.
The reality of our industry is an increasing overlap of skills with advertising, digital and media buying agencies, all of whom seek to be the leading purveyor of ideas that drive campaigns. But in today’s marketplace brands can no longer demand the attention of consumers, they must earn it. This requires that communications be grounded in the rigor and analytics of marketing, while infusing marketing with the storytelling mindset and marketplace reality of communications.
Our advantage in PR is that our creative work stimulates earned media and thereby social conversation, as in the case of Photoshop with 4.8 million media impressions. We also have built communities on platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, which demand engaging content (and participants provide their own, which we can move around to others). All of us should have the courage to experiment with organizations such as Sundance in order to change the client perception of public relations from a supporting to a primary marketing communications function.
This article originally appeared on 6A.M., Richard Edelman’s blog on trends in communications, issues, lessons and insights.
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