Evening Standard 2013 Budget Leak
Evening Standard 2013 Budget Leak

The London Evening Standard came under fire today for breaking the strict embargo placed on the 2013 Budget, as the newspaper published details of the Budget on Twitter before George Osborne took to the dispatch box.

The Standard shared a picture of it’s front page that detailed the 2013 Budget on Twitpic, an image that was picked up by MPs in the House of Commons and Journalists that were covering the 2013 Budget.

While the image was quickly deleted from the social network, the damage was done. Research from Topsy.com (select cached Page) reveals that over 2,000 viewed the image. It also got retweeted by Sky’s Adam Boulton (@adamboultonsky), The New York Times Sarah Lyall (@SarahLyall) and other influential journalists and bloggers.

The paper’s Political Editor Joe Murphy (@JoeMurphyLondon) was forced to issue an apology on Twitter even though it was certainly not him who shared that image. Editor Sarah Sands meanwhile issued the following statement, ‘An investigation is immediately underway into how this front page was made public and the individual who Tweeted the page has been suspended while this takes place. We have immediately reviewed our procedures. We are devastated that an embargo was breached and offer our heartfelt apologies.’

For some reason Osborne’s advisors chose today, when all eyes would be on him, to unveil his Twitter account. An odd choice of day given the Chancellor’s unpopularity in the polls and how the public share their views online. A very bad call in my opinion.

Twitter is a news channel, one that because of today’s real-time digital age can inflict greater damage. And while embargo’s have been a traditional tool in the armoury of PRs, in today’s digital world it is a public relations professional job to maintain total control of the story, especially a story which contains market sensitive information. Twitter and digital are hard to control. Conditions on the sharing of content online must have been secured.

It’s been a bad day for HM Treasury’s PR team, but a worse one for the Evening Standard.

Twitter is changing public relations. It’s making media outlets more competitive. As some on Twitter have said, The Standard’s story was just ‘too hot off the press’. Don’t take it for granted!

The end of Google Reader, but not for RSS feeds
The end of Google Reader, but not for RSS feeds

In a recent blog post Google announced the closure of Google Reader. The service, which is an aggregator of content served by web feeds, will cease on 1st July.

Google reader has become an essential tool for journalists, PRs and those in communications roles in business and the public sector. It has allowed users to subscribe to websites and content that used RSS web feed formats.

The announcement by Google in it’s blog ‘A Second Spring Cleaning‘ took many by surprise as the service is still very popular with influencers in media and communications. In a Sysomos blog post a few days back Mark Evans states, ‘When It Comes to Digital Influencers, Blogs Rule.’

Google Reader went live in October 2005. It was created by by Google engineer Chris Wetherell (@cw), Mihai Parparita (@mihai) and Jason Shellen (@shellen). Former Google Labs Product Marketing Manager and now Instagram founder Kevin Systrom (@kevin) was also responsible for pushing it out of the Google Labs team.

In the past five years, Reader has been adopted by a wide group of people, especially journalists and those working in communications roles in business or the public sectors.

Journalists have been using Google Reader to aggregate RSS links. It has enabled them to be alerted when an organisation in a sector they cover updates their website. Reader has also allowed them to monitor independent bloggers that could be first with insight and so be valuable independent commentators. And while we have taken to Twitter and other social networks, RSS feeds today still enable us to get the content, from the coal face, and without the noise.

Visiting Professor at London’s City University’s School of Journalism Professor Paul Bradshaw (@PaulBradshaw) is a fan of RSS feeds, having taught students about the value of feeds in his Online Journalism Courses.

Even for PRs, Google Reader has become an essential tool for monitoring content online. And the fact that Google Reader is cloud based is another reason why those working in-house or agency-side have it as a default tool on their desktop, mobile and tablet.

The fact is that while Google has killed Reader, it has not killed RSS feeds. And while a campaign has been started that asks Google to save Reader, it is unlikely to change the search giants decision.

If you are scratching you head and wandering what to do, then for the time being you need not panic. Google has given us three and a half months until 1st July to export our feeds and find an alternative service.

I use Silvio Rizzi ReederApp (@ReederApp). On Twitter, Silvio posted  yesterday, ‘Don’t worry, Reeder won’t die with Google Reader.’ This app enables me keep my feeds synced while I am on the go, hence the value of it being cloud based.

Paul Bradshaw has a Google Doc that lists all alternative RSS aggregators. A great document and one that’s worth a look.

And once you have found you alternative this Lifehacker post gives you details on how to export your feeds from Google Reader and import them to your new service.

For me, the essentials for an alternative include:

  • Be a cloud service – you can access your feeds from you desktop, mobile and tablet
  • You can star and tag content that you read
  • You can share content across your networks – Twitter, Evernote, Delicious
  • It have a Bitly functionality
  • It has search capability.

So, in short, what I want is for Google Reader to stay with us!!

***UPDATE 17/03/2013***

Social Times reports in a post ‘Why Google Is Really Pulling The Plug On Readerthat the reason behind Google’s decision to kill Reader is ‘that Google will launch mobile news subscriptions to compete with Apple’s lucrative Newsstand.’

Writing in Social Times Cameron Scott (@ConcertoMates) reports, ‘A former Google Reader product manager offered a different, but complementary, analysis on Quora. Brian Shih argues that Google repeatedly endeavored to pull technical staff from Reader and reassign the staffers to social products.

Shih’s account suggests that Google saw Reader as competition for Google+. The company may want its users to rely on Google+ to get more Web content in one place.’

Meanwhile BuzzFeed is reporting that Google Reader drives more traffic than Google+.

Twitter Cards
Twitter Cards – Julio Romo: Google AuthorRank, What PRs Need To Know

Earlier this year Twitter rolled out Twitter Cards, a unique feature that would allow partner websites to present their content on Twitter in a more engaging way.

The service was initially designed to help media organisations preview in their Expanded Tweets content, images and video that they had just published on their websites.

Initially developed for journalists and publishers, this opt-in feature allows sites that offer ‘great content and those that drive active discussion and activity on Twitter‘ to potentially secure increased click-throughs from to their websites their tweets.

For Twitter, the aim was simple, to further position the network as a primary source for real-time news, content and comment.

I have been testing Twitter Cards Expanded Tweets for a few months now, to see if the feature could be used by companies and brands. And if so, if Expanded Tweets could help content creators secure increased engagement from the communities they have around them.

For brands to make the most out of the Expanded Tweets feature they are going to have to seriously look at the content that they create and publish on their websites. Get the tone and voice wrong and you will see no change in the level of interaction – reinforce negative perceptions. Adapt your brand style and how you communicate online and Expanded Tweets could help how your content is seen and shared by influencers on Twitter. To put it in simple terms, brands are going to have to learn how to become publishers.

Here are a few tips to guide you how to use twitter cards for blogging and content marketing.

What is Twitter Cards?

Simply put, Twitter Cards is a facility that enables you to present the content you publish on your website in a more engaging way on Twitter.  The feature will:

  1. Give you control of how your content is displayed on Twitter
  2. Help drive more traffic to your site
  3. Increase the number of people following your company on Twitter through content attribution.

And it is content and the attribution of it that is central to what Expanded Tweets is. Facebook Open Graph already enables how content is displayed and shared by individuals, while Google’s own Author Rank, which I wrote in this earlier blog post, confirms how people and what they share has become central to how reputations are built and authority is gained online.

Today, PRs have to remember that to help establish your brand and the thought-leaders within it you have to think about people, the content and the knowledge that is there to be shared online.

How do I activate Twitter Cards for my website?

There are three quite simple things you will have to do:

  1. Read Twitter Cards documentation and add the appropriate markup to your website – typically just 3 lines of HTML
  2. Test the markup using Twitter Cards Preview tool, and
  3. Once you have added the markup to your website, fill out this Twitter Cards application form and include a link to a representative page containing markup. Note that your submission will be rejected automatically if you have incomplete or broken markup.
Twitter Cards HTML Code for Twitter Summary Card

Once you have submitted your email application you will have to wait for an email from Twitter confirming that your request to be included in Twitter Cards has hopefully been approved.  Following the activation and depending on the type of content you publish on your site, tweets will be shown in three different forms:

  • Summary: The default card, which includes the title of your story, description of the post, thumbnail image used on the article, and Twitter account attribution
  • Photo: A Tweet sized photo card showing image posted on your site
  • Player: A Tweet sized video/audio/media player card displaying content that can be clicked and played

Twitter Cards will attribute both the author of a post by mentioning their Twitter handle and the Twitter account of the site that carries the content.

Why has Twitter launched this service?

A lot of people are turning to Twitter for real-time news. Today though news comes not just from traditional media outlets, but from bloggers and influencers online. As I have mentioned before, many news outlets are no longer battling to be the first for breaking news. Instead they are focusing at verifying and curating the content that people are capturing and sharing around the globe.

Today, everybody has a community around them and Twitter is aiming to be the hardwire that connects us.

I am a PR within an organisation that traditionally just publishes press releases on our website, can I use Twitter Cards?

Yes, you can. But don’t expect to improve the level of engagement between your audience and your brand if the content that you share has no personality.

The challenge that you are going to have to overcome is that of developing a tone and personality that your brand is going to have to use online and in real-time. Think of your team as a newsroom. You might have to:

  • Adapt the structure of your website
  • Increase the amount of content that you share on your site,
  • Increase the frequency of the content
  • Attribute individuals to content – CEO, CIO and other internal thought-leaders, which will require you to develop their own online personalities. Google search results is pushing people with authority to the top of rankings. Twitter is looking to do the same.

Get it right and over time you could see increase engagement between your audience and your brand.

As a consultant I have spent time reviewing the communications departments of clients, restructuring and training teams to ensure that they are more flexible and their content is more in tune with what their audience wants.  Through PR and social media consultancy I help companies and brands capture the ground and enter the conversation – teaching how to listen and engage. The aim is to help get their audiences talking and carrying their messages off-line.

Twitter Cards is just one tool that can help brands increase engagement. One tool that can maximise conversations and discussions.

Ipsos Mori Hong Kong - Reporting Live From The Future
Ipsos Mori Hong Kong – Reporting Live From The Future.

PR, communications and advertising professionals have a battle on their hands as audiences become increasingly connected, more demanding and informed, according to research by Ipsos Mori Hong Kong.

In a report released last week, the global research firm sees innovation and creativity as essential skills to bring increasingly disloyal customers onside.

The report, which has a focus on the Asia-Pacific markets, identifies a number of key points that will affect in business in Europe, North and South America, Middle-East and Africa.  These include:

  • Convergence of disciplines – public relations, marketing and advertising
  • Rise of creativity for improved audience building and engagement
  • Increase usage of digital data in campaign development.

Convergence of Disciplines:

Audiences do not care about how brands are presented to them.  Far too often, the planning processes bring together siloed professionals that think of the integrated outreach from a singular point – advertising, marketing, public relations.

As I have argued many times, these disciplines are blending into one with the lead in campaign development being taken by communications professionals that understand the behaviour of audiences and individuals.  This in turn will force organisations to break down the internal barriers to ensure that their propositions are developed to ensure that digital maximises traditional channels.

Importance of Creativity:

Creativity, even in B2B, is becoming a must for brands and companies.  In the report, Ipsos Hong Kong found that , ‘Creative quality accounts for 75% of variance in campaign success‘ and that ‘strong creative can achieve higher recall in-market with less support that weak creative with a higher level of media support.’

Improving the creativity will help position messaging at the front of the audiences decision-making process.

Digital Data:

Social networks and media have gathered together data that empowers not just the audience, but marketeers and communicators.

At numerous conferences and speaking engagements I have stated that today’s PRs have to think in a forensic manner, understanding the audience and planning the delivery of messaging to create a response that will generate engagement.  Everything must be planned and accounted for.  From the concept, to the launch, to the touch points.  It is a journey that needs to be planned by PR, brining together disciplines to ensure that the audience engagement and journey is seamless.

Today though, PRs have data at their disposal.  Data that gives the business decision-makers better insight into audience behaviour.  Data that should rid us of that useless Advertising Value Equivalent.

Audiences are more disloyal than ever before, especially if they perceive that they are treated like the individual next to them.  Social networks makes people into individuals, empowering them to be unique and more demanding.  And it all starts with the listening and learning.

Essential Reading: The CIPR’s Share This Social Media Handbook

Public relations is a job that has seen enormous changes during the past seven years.  Digital and social channels have grown in importance, changing how audiences consume news and engage with companies, governments and individuals.

During the past 3 years the CIPR’s social media panel has provided counsel and guidance to the institute.  Made up of some of the UK’s leading PR professionals, last year we thought that the time was right to put together a book for everybody in business – those in PR and communications, as well as those in marketing, finance, sales and customer service.  After all, social cut’s across business disciplines.

The appropriately titled ‘Share This‘, delivers chapter after chapter on all things that you should know about if your job is to build brands and protect reputations.

If you are in PR , the fact is that you can no longer just broadcast your opinions and expect the audience to consume them without question.  People privately talked about you before, often without your knowledge.  Today though they do so publicly and it is a business requirement that you not just listen, but you understand your audiences, who create communities that in real-time forensically analyse your every message and statement.

If your business or organisation gets something wrong you’ll not just hear about it, but you’ll see the voice and sentiment in real-time.  Never has the old PR statement of ‘bad news being repeated 11 times, while good news being repeated only 3 times’ been so apt.

While social has empowered the public relations and communications professions, it still needs to change traditions that are engrained into the DNA of business.  PRs are a board’s counsel.  With social, PRs are empowered to better advise on communications and reputation building and management.

My chapter, Pitching Using Social Media, gives you best practice advice Using case studies using case studies on reaching out to journalists, bloggers and online influencers.  Their working practices have changed and you should know how best to reach those that you want to talk with.

Share This delivers insight that you can action in whatever organisation your work in.  It is not just a book for better PR.  It is a book for better business.

To buy the Share This book, head to Amazon where you can pre-order the book.  You can also buy Share This from iTunes for iBooks here.