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Time to re-tune

After a period of change in my life, I’ve decided it was time to have a major rethink about my approach to blogging.

So, I’ve parked this blog.  I thought it was time to get up out of the ditch.

If you want to continue to follow my musings, which should hopefully be more regular, and more wide-ranging, you will now find me at .  I hope to see you there.


The ark as a channel in PR?

In my last post, I celebrated one of my favourite PR campaign’s, the Elephant Parade.  While I warned against the dangers of over exposing a new idea, I was particularly drawn recently to what had been done in a similar way with painted donkeys.

What I had not quite been prepared was was quite how much of an industry there now was in ‘painted animals’ as a channel of communication in PR.  Towns and cities using art in the template form of the painting of a sculpted animal by celebrities, artists, designers and local opinion leaders, to do something for their profile and reputation.  In the process, they also do something for the profile (and fundraising) of a charity, usually related to the animal involved.

For Southampton, try rhinos, supporting three charities.

A painted rhino in Southampton

A painted rhino in Southampton

For Norwich, try gorillas, raising money for the Born Free Foundation, and Break.

One of Norwich's gorilla's with local celebrity Jake Humphrey.

One of Norwich’s gorilla’s with local celebrity Jake Humphrey.

For Bristol, try local canine celebrity, Gromit.  Here, the idea brought 1.8 million people out to see the sculptures, is estimate to have brought  £75 million to the city, and raised £2.3 million for the Bristol Children’s Hospital – as reported by the BBC.

One of Bristol's many popular Gromits.

One of Bristol’s many popular Gromits.

Berlin has its bears, promoting peace and tolerance on its behalf around the world, and children’s charities at home.

Berlin's painted bears celebrate the city around the world.

Berlin’s painted bears celebrate the city around the world.

And cities around the world compete for the right to host the annual ‘Cow Parade’ – this year stopping off in both Valenciennes in France, and in Hong Kong.

One of the cows in the Cow Parade

One of the cows in the Cow Parade

The technique has become such a phenomenon that there are now even dedicated specialist animal casting companies, offering animals including goats, buffalo and horses too, ready to be painted.

A great example of PR increasing our involvement with an issue by promoting the public’s following of a city’s animal trail, initiatives such as painting workshops for children, and ultimately, the auction.

A great example of engaging opinion leaders and celebrities in designing their own versions of the particular animal.

A great example of linking the cause to the tactic involved – and embedding the technique in, and benefiting from sense of ‘place’, or local pride.

I’m looking forward to the animals continuing to stream on board the PR ark!

Elephants and Donkeys form the frontline in PR tactical offensive – what is next?

One of my favourite campaigns of recent years was the Elephant Parade in London in 2010.  It sought to raise the profile of the plight of the Asian elephant, and the destruction of their environment.

London's Elephant Parade in 2010 (Telegraph)

London’s Elephant Parade in 2010 (Telegraph)

It was innovative, not just in the way it harnessed art as tactic in the PR practitioner’s reportoire, but it was thoughtful in how it correctly recognised that if it had any chance of success, it must increase the audience’s level of involvement with the campaign, rather than just ‘turning up the volume’.

It did this in two particular ways.  The first was by exploiting the interest of children, laying on painting workshops for them and their parents.  By getting their hands dirty with paint, and creating their own ‘collateral’, this guaranteed that when the issue was next raised, these ‘fans’ would be more likely to be supporters (and have a greater level of understanding of the issues).

The second was to engage artists and celebrities to design their own elephants, which, after appearing in random locations around the capital, would be auctioned off at a VIP auction to raise funds for the cause.  In this way, an army of active opinion-formers were recruited to the cause, loyal because of their level of engagement too, in which they could take some level of pride.

Elephant Parade (2010) outside City Hall

Elephant Parade (2010) outside City Hall

Without such an approach, ‘involvement’ would have been less, and levels of support for a far-off cause less enduring.

The campaign was also endearing in how it sought to capture the attention of the public, and the media at large.  Rather than going for the more traditional ‘stunt’, or a lavish press conference featuring a ‘star’ from ‘Made in Chelsea’ or equivalent, organisers let the public find the painted elephants for themselves.

More of the elephants in the Parade (2010)

More of the elephants in the Parade (2010)

One morning, listeners to phone-in shows started to call in, reporting their appearance, as if by magic.  Through ‘word-of-mouth’ speculation was under starter’s orders.  By the following day, the media was full of photos and reports, and hordes of families and tourists in particular were ticking off lists of elephants that they wanted to find for themselves on the trail.

If I’m honest with myself, although strategy has to come first in public relations, I will always be a tactics girl.  I get a personal thrill and apply academic conceptual relish in discovering new, and ever more effective PR tactics.  I do not mean inauthentic, ‘shouty’ stunts of old, but anything that really works – whatever that can be shown to mean.  Usually, when it comes to that search, there is nothing more soul destroying that upturning a pale-imitation that betrays a lack of imagination.

Painted Donkeys at St Paul's

Painted Donkeys at St Paul’s

At first sight, that is what I thought I had discovered last week when I heard the story of the painted donkeys – “what have they done to my elephants?”, I thought.  But on closer examination, I realised that this was another example of a similar use of the techniques deployed, arguably with greater authenticity and depth, if not exposure.

The CARAVAN Exhibition seeks to communicate the message of tolerance between Christianity and Islam, and similarly commissioned a range of artists to paint an animal.  It is sponsored by the Embassy of Switzerland and supported by the British Council, and arrived at St Paul’s after transferring from the streets of Cairo!  A fabulous campaign.  The organisers may not describe it as PR, but it is, and I salute them.

The search continues for the next innovation in PR tactics.  Anything might have its uses.  We’ve seen media, photography, events, sponsorship – I could go on for some time.  More recently, we’ve had a wide range of arts, even baking.

Citizen Science - camera in hand

Citizen Science – camera in hand

My top tip came as a eureka moment listening to a BBC radio documentary in the last week on Citizen Science.

Citizen Science - another meaningful method to garner involvement

Citizen Science – another meaningful method to garner involvement

The feature was highlighting the story of a project engaging locals on Montserrat to fly kites with cameras tied on to them over the crater of a volcano to make important readings.  A great example of story-telling, and captivating for media relations, but it was also a gateway to other recent examples, such as the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, and a project looking to save trees from disease in Norfolk.

While such projects might not yet have the glamour of art, they have that vital ingredient of offering a genuine way for someone to get involved, and feel they can make a real difference.  If a PR campaign could offer that, it is well on the way to success.  With social media offering more ways of the public to report data finds, and their smart-phones offering a ready made data recorder of so many varieties, my money is on a lab coat, rather than another painted animal as the next big thing in PR.

Make way, make way… Clearing 2013

With A-Level results due out tomorrow (Thursday 15th August), the Clearing operation for this year gets into full swing.  There are opportunities out there for those students who haven’t done as well as they expected, as well as for those who have done better than they had hoped, or might have changed their mind about the course or subject they wish to pursue.

The people over at the University of Greenwich have put together a useful animated guide to the clearing process.  I hope it is of help to anyone who might be feeling daunted by it, rather than seeing it as a new door of opportunity opening up.

I teach on the BA (Hons) Public Relations and Communications degree at Greenwich, and while the degree has seen a surge in interest, with a record number set to start in September, we are still keeping our doors open for potential recruits during Clearing.

Students who have taken Greenwich PR courses have gone on to great success in the public relations world.  Recent graduates Leila Mountford and Arianna Anzaoloni are currently with Weber Shandwick.  Graduate of 2011 Thom Will is working in the world of entertainment/drama PR across a string of TV productions on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky at Ian Johnson Publicity.  And Ingrid Asoni has just set up her own PR/Events/Lifestyle consultancy in Marrakech!



More details about these and other members of the Greenwich PR student community, and alumni can be found at their Pinterest site, The PR Fraternity.

The degree welcomes a clutch of new lecturers to its courses alongside established lecturers Mark Phillimore, Dr. Nicky Garsten and myself.  These include Dr. Ed de Quincey, Kathy Watson, and visiting lecturer Ezri Carlebach, alongside established visiting lecturers who include Rebecca Stiasny and Ann Longley.  We are all very excited about the number of guest contributors we have got coming in to do sessions during the course of the year.  I have already got sessions confirmed from the Deputy Programme Director of Kiss FM, Simon Long; and from Andy Parfitt, the Executive Director, Talent at Saatchi & Saatchi, Chair of UK Charity, Youth Music, and former Controller of BBC Radio 1, BBC 1Xtra and BBC Asian Network (amongst other BBC responsibilities).

If you think you might be in Clearing and want to know more about the degree, don’t hesitate to contact the Clearing team at the University who will be happy to help you out – and if you still want more, here’s another video that will give you a little bit more of a flavour.

Whatever your results, good luck in navigating your future career options.

Nil By Mouth

I have been wanting an excuse for an entry with a focus on ‘regulation‘ for some time, and a number of issues have come together at the same time to provide one.

Right: The (now) 89 year old Frank Holland - the original 'Dutch'

Last week, my 89 year old ‘Gramps‘ was admitted by ambulance to hospital, with severe stomach pains, and bleeding.  He is like a second Dad, with me having been a latch-key kid during the 1970s and 80s – and it is from him that much of the inspiration for the name ‘Dutch‘ comes.

For five days since his emergency admission, there was little progress on a diagnosis of his problem.  He was in the very ward visited by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley, from where they kicked off their ‘Pause, Listen, etc’ consultation exercise on the NHS reforms in March.

NHS consultation, kicking-off at the local hospital where Gramps found himself admitted via A&E recently

This blog isn’t a rant against those changes (I’ve done that elsewhere), but more one against a general atmosphere which prevents us ‘little people’ ever really getting their hands on the source of a problem; of seeking accountability, and for people in their every-day work being given the autonomy to flourish (but also to take a sense of responsibility for what they do) – in short, it is against a ‘tick-box’ regulation culture that prevents any kind of resolution or authentic reaction.

My ‘Gramps’ lay in his hospital ward.  Cameron and Clegg have been and gone.  So, I am reliably informed has the regular and pre-announced Care ‘Quality’ inspection. Check  ✔. Check  ✔.  100% compliance laminated bar charts produced and placed on walls around ward?  Check  ✔.  Check  ✔.

Funny though, the shiny, new, wipe clean metal signs above every bed on the ward remained empty.  I’m told they were there for ‘Quality’ Care’s inspection and for Cameron’s visit (must have made a better photo opportunity), but actually, to fill them in breaches patient confidentiality.

Nil by Mouth? (Source:  BBC: 'Getting On')

Nil by Mouth? (Source: BBC: 'Getting On')

Staff needed to know that my ‘Gramps’ was ‘Nil By Mouth‘.  By relying on this tick-box approach to managing care, they have encouraged him to eat food when he shouldn’t;  then when it has been decided that it is too late and he should carry on eating, the message hasn’t kept up, and the people with the food have decided he is ‘Nil By Mouth’ again, even though he is not.  As a result, there is no progress on diagnosis, and he has not even advanced out of the care of ‘A&E’ to a surgical consultant.

Breaching patient confidentiality?  The same information was kept on a chart in the corridor of the ward for ALL passing to see, but somehow, that did not breach confidentiality.

'Nils By Mouth' - not the actual state of the walls

By Day Five of his stay, and no further forward on his care, the Hospital told him he could go home.  Before he had a chance to leave the grounds of the hospital, he had been manhandled by a three-strong security team, who saw fit to prevent him leaving the hospital, and having done so, did not seem to have an idea of how to manage the intervention in someone’s physical space without winding him up further.

Back on the ward, but after I had whisked him off site bruised and incensed, a doctor had finally read his notes – and realised that he should not have been discharged – and because of his medication regime, should have been treated immediately, as we had been originally told.  Too late – I’m not sure he’ll ever set foot in a hospital again.

This is not an issue about a single hospital, or nursing staff – although who orders an 89 year old with a violent stomach condition and an unlikely relationship with ‘exotic’ food sweet and sour pork for dinner?  He was also discharged with someone else’s medication – another breach of confidentiality that was somehow ‘ok’.

For me, this is about an issue prevalent in every walk of life.

It hits the headlines in the regulation of private care homes; bonuses and credit availability in the banking sector; railway companies and ticketing; the Press Complaints Commission and ‘phone hacking‘; and quality of care in the NHS through the Care Quality Commission.  I had first hand experience this last week of how the latter’s pre-announced inspections are more interested in the punctuation used on a member of staff’s CV, than they are the real life experiences of people like my Gramps (I saw such an incident happen).

Closer to home, in higher education, students at my former university, University of the Arts London were vindicated recently, when in a landmark ruling, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) made a general ruling under its ‘Cause for Concern’ procedures about the issues I have been blogging about for some time (and resigned my job over in November 2009).  This is a big deal, as it is difficult enough to find your way around the system, let alone have the confidence to do anything about it.  And for it to take 18 months to get ‘justice’ after exhausting the democratic procedures of the elected college structure; one-to-one meetings; demonstrations; occupations and public meetings.

But the result of that regulator’s ruling?  Nothing!  While it found in favour of the student complainants, It also found that there were no future issues for concern likely to impact on the student experience.  This is from a university that left students on courses with NO dissertation supervisior for a term, no personal tutor, and countless examples of courses with no lecturers, purely as a result of the decisions of the head of college – and this was courses that did NOT close.

LCC's Head of College, Sandra Kemp

Who is to say that cannot happen again?  It happened because one senior member of staff decided to make changes without sticking to the relevant course change procedures, and ignoring warnings about lack of staff cover on existing courses.  Guarantees of quality, yes, but look more closely, and you would have seen courses having very little money spent on them, few unique resources, and in the case of the degree I am proud to have resigned from rather than ‘play the game’, they have been unable to appoint a permanent, specialist replacement in over 18 months, despite advertising, shortlisting and making job offers – because everyone else has seen through them too.  They, like me have made an ethical judgement.

"Nil By Mouth" you could say - Jacob Black finds himself gagged, just like lecturing staff

We were even asked to lie to parents of incoming students about whether courses were to close – “Nil By Mouth” you could say.

When I asked QAA if they were interested in my testimony, after six weeks of no reply, a prod resulted in another “Nil By Mouth” response.  Now they have got what the THE described as their “unprecedented” slap on the wrists, it is likely that my former College will seek to shore up what is left of its reputation by seeking accreditation from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations for the PR degree course it kept.  There is no way it should get it, purely on the staffing situation alone.  But they will pay their accreditation fee.  Someone will ask a ‘difficult’ question.  Its answer will be minuted.  And all will be well in the world?

Regulation isn’t working.  Unless citizens or consumers are given the tools to become more active in using the channels available to them, I despair.  Unless we all reflect a little more about how power is at play, we may as well all give up.  Fees will increase next year from around £3k per year to £9k – effectively a ‘blank cheque’ for the unpunished institution, which was making in the region of £100k per year clear profit from courses such as this even back then!  It is also about effective policy-making (or lack of) which often is responsible for creating the messes which need regulating in the first place.

If any of those students did want to try their hand at securing compensation for what even the regulator described as disrupted studies, they wouldn’t get it from the university, they wouldn’t get it from the university funding body (HEFCE) – they wouldn’t get it from the regulator, QAA.  No, they would have start a whole new separate process, through a totally different body, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA)!  Run for your lives!!!!!

I think Charles Dickens perfectly fingered the regulators in Little Dorritt.

“The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office.”

Idealism? Take a Stand? or Give Up? Chicken Soup with Barley

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got my own laminated bar charts to produce – another successful year you’ll be surprised to hear.  If you are interested in the issues raised, I thoroughly recommend Arnold Wesker’s play “Chicken Soup with Barley” at the Royal Court till July 16th.  After a slow start, tracking one family’s fight against the fascists in the East End of London in the 1930s, by the end I didn’t think the tears would ever stop – and that was a matinee performance!

Do we give up on our idealism?  Maybe we need to adapt our tactics to the terrain?  But surely we can’t cease caring in the face of a ceaseless, faceless bureaucratic onslaught?  It is tempting when the weight of forms take us away from the frontline, and from our talents, but when we remind ourselves that we are part of a wider human fraternity: real people like my 89 year old Gramps;  young people starting out on their careers?  We must put them at the centre of everything we do – in life, and in professions, such as mine of public relations.  Ethical codes and regulation are a sign that we have already failed, as are playing too safe in the delivery of our communication strategies in PR.  Kirsty Maccoll could have taught Ed Miliband a few things about Labour’s message and delivery had she still been alive.

Gramps meanwhile has forbidden the family from getting involved, but he needs us to bat on his behalf and navigate the official procedures.  He has already started seeking justice – in his mind, he ‘naturally’ went to the local police force.  They have since referred it to the neighbouring police force (where the hospital is based), who have since referred it back to the Hospital, who insist he submit a formal complaint about the hospital – but he does not want to complain about nurses personally, and does not understand these elaborate procedures.  We all know, “Computer Says No“!  ‘PALS’ process activated?  Check ✔  Letter to CEO?  Check ✔  What’s the betting the computer will still say ‘No’, even if it says ‘Yes’?

* Apologies for being away so long

A Liberal dose of cognitive dissonance

Most of us have been disturbed by the strange case of the Liberal Democrats and their actions on student fees and a number of other issues within the ruling Coalition in the UK.  As a member between 1987 and 2010, I have been disturbed more than most.  Today, we hear they have slipped to a new low of 8% in a YouGov opinion poll!

Theories in the shape of Cognitive Dissonance Theory more usually used in understanding the mechanics of persuasion can help us understand just what the Lib Dems are up to.

The feeling of ‘dissonance’ (just like that uncomfortable feeling at the bottom of your stomach when you feel sick) hits when an individual:-

a) holds two clearly incongruent thoughts;

b) freely performs a behaviour that is inconsistent with an attitutude they hold;

c) makes a decision that rules out a desirable alternative behaviour;

d) expends effort to participate in  what turns out to be less than ideal activity; or

e) in general, is unable to find sufficient psychological justification for an attitude or behaviour he or she adopts. (Perloff, 2010)

In order to get rid of this feeling, Perloff (2010) suggests that we can do one of the following.  Alongside each, I will give an example of the party doing just that – except the path that would provide it with the option of getting rid of the most dissonance – change it’s behaviour and either voting against specific measures, or leaving the coalition, or at least more likely, waving a white flag, apologising, and admitting they had done a volte-face.  No – that would involve them admitting they were wrong.

1. Change your attitude: It’s not just student fees, or social housing. Here, Chris Huhne does an about turn on nuclear power.  The video shows his position BEFORE the election; weeks after the election, Huhne is announcing the green light for a new generation of nuclear power.  It is not a compromise, as it is clear those involved didn’t seem to want to put up a fight for the abandoned policy.

2. Add consonant cognitions:  Suddenly, there are new ways of appreciating the policy that, according to the proponents, we could not possibly have known before the election – except we did!  For example, the depth of the financial situation;  the compromises of coalition;  sticking to the ambition of progressive outcomes by targeting the number of those on free school meals going to Oxford and Cambridge.

3. Derogate the unchosen alternative:  If in doubt, ignore the questions, and just ‘slag-off’ the opposition in a less than subtle form.

4. Spread apart the alternatives:  This is an interesting one.  Compare with an imaginary situation had the Lib Dems not been involved, which implies that your Coalition ‘friends’ are beastly.  That’s not nice, is it?

5. Alter the importance of the cognitives elements:  It doesn’t matter that students will be saddled with three times as much debt (a proposition which will put poorer students like my 17 year old self off going to university), they will be paying off less per month when they pay it back.  Yay – it sounds like a Paul Daniels trick!

6. Suppress thoughts:  I was good friends with Tim Farron as a student politician – I’d like to think he still is a friend.  But this clip is a classic example of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.  Ignore the fact that everyone in the party is talking about what is going on.  Tim is at a local party function in Islington, and it’s as if all he can find to talk about is the content of the vol-au-vents and the fact that Trident’s renewal has been delayed for a year.  On that basis, members should be reassured – “we are getting so much out of the coalition”.

7. Communicate:  Newly elected Party President-Elect Tim Farron MP here appeals for votes as he runs in an internal elections, promising members he will make them feel better about themselves again – just like they did when they campaigned against the Iraq War.

8. Alter the behaviour:  99.9% of Liberal Democrats have not taken this option.  The vociferous response of a generation of voters lied to at the ballot box, whose idealism and enthusiasm has been smashed, let alone their vote lost is just a foretaste of what the party can expect to reap in return for not having altering its behaviour.

It is difficult to change your behaviour – to admit that it is out of step with your attitudes and beliefs – but it is the only way to TRULY eradicate cognitive dissonance.  To do so involves admitting that you have been wrong, or have completed changed your mind – and that is something politicians just don’t do.  Instead, they wriggle, they self-justify, and as a result, self-combust.

As a result, they obviously become less persuasive – and the case of the Lib Dems, to many people, an obscene let-down; to others, a laughing stock.  For example:-

Sadly, the only people who cannot see it are the afflicted themselves.  It’s very much like the behaviour of an addict.  For me, it is heart-breaking to see a party I have campaigned and worked for behave in such a way.  I have had no alternative but to let my membership of the party lapse.

The title of one of the most readable books on the subjects sums up where the party finds itself.  “Mistakes were made, (but not by me): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions and hurtful acts.” (Tavris and Aronson, 2007)  If only THEY had been able to say they got it wrong.

Still more Blanche Hunt than Gene Hunt, but things are looking up

My last post bemoaned how little the three main political parties were making use of the possibilities afforded by social media.  Campaigns were tending towards the negative, sometimes even the bile-drenched, rather than harnessing the interactive and the viral opportunities on offer.

This week has campaigns from each of the three hitting the headlines in the ‘old media’, and while I would still describe them as being more evocative of ‘Blanche Hunt‘ (the dear departed, pensioner queen of the sour one-liner in ITV1’s ‘Coronation Street’) than the ‘Gene Hunt‘ from BBC1’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’ contained in the imagery in some of them, things are looking up in the sophistication of their ambitions.

Blanche Hunt, played by Maggie Jones, who died on 2 Dec 2009

The first to come under the spotlight is Labour.  Rather than deciding to use an agency for the creative in their next advertising poster, they decided to invite members and supporters to take part and share their creative ideas.  It provides a way of scouring the horizon for potential creative ideas that the party may have missed, and provides a route for conversation with supporters, enabling them to feel they are getting involved.  It was dubbed “The People’s Poster“, with updates on entries provided via Twitter, and behind the scenes video of the competition given on You Tube.  Some of the entries were negative, some were very funny, and some were iconic.

Brilliant!  All of this provided perfect material for media relations too when the eventual winner was announced.

Labour's winning "People's Poster"

Labour could have intervened on the quality control, as one of the problems with social media is there is no control over what will be said or submitted.

In this case, Labour were too caught up with the message submitted, and its essential negative content to be able to stand back and see its essential weakness, that other people on social media, and the Conservatives were able to turn to their advantage.  The main character depicted on the poster – Gene Hunt – is a national hero, who despite tending towards the racist and the sexist, is essentially viewed as a redeemable fictional character of a particular time.  He is also a ‘bit of a dish‘, from an award-winning programme that regularly tops the ratings – a bit like The Sweeney, and A Touch of Frost too, for example.  Oh dear – cue Conservative mash-up of poster.

Conservative 'mash-up' of Labour's poster

I think it would be even stronger if you view it while playing this jingle, as sourced from the car horn of the ‘General Lee’ car in “Dukes of Hazzard” – another immigrant from TV in the 1980s.

It’s humour, and use of rhetoric are stronger, and so it is able to deliver its attack back with a a more memorable, stronger punch.

The Conservatives tried their hand at viral humour on April Fools’ Day, with a mock story about the Department of Government Waste.  A quick look at the view counter will demonstrate that it has not been as effective as the Liberal Democrat campaign for a spoof political party called the Labservatives complete with Twitter and Facebook presence.  The lesson here appears to be better research, with the Lib Dem message appearing to have a stronger resonance with voters, and delivered in a not particularly tribal fashion that has worked well.

The Conservatives may have made more productive use of new media through their use of ‘crowdsourcing‘ in their analysing of the budget’s effects on pensioners, and it may be behind the scenes use of new media which help supply old media with stories which may prove the most effective during the coming campaign.

Before signing off, a better example of how social media (working in tandem with old media) works best, with The Guardian newspaper’s own spoof April Fools’ Day story about Labour’s fictional ‘Step outside posh boy’ campaign.

Guardian spoof

Not only did it go viral on social media, and get reported as a spoof on old media, the paper encouraged readers to submit their own versions of the artwork, tapping into this alleged ‘side’ of the PM’s character.  It became a top trending topic of discussion on Twitter, is still accepted as one of the better ideas, and now the Guardian is even retailing limited edition T-shirts.  If only it had been real!

The lessons from all of this, if there are any, are:-

>  to let go a little, and employ as many sets of eyes and ears as possible – audience understanding.  In my limited experience, the political party activists need to get out and live life a little bit.  The press conference where David and Ed Milliband announced the “People’s Poster” looked a little odd.  It looked like the brother’s didn’t get out enough, or knew enough about popular culture.  If they had, the initiative might have worked a lot better;

> to continue getting rid of the bile in their campaigning efforts in favour of humour juice.  They are still too much like Blanche Hunt than Gene Hunt in how they conduct themselves.

These types of attack-ad inspired campaigns only scratch the surface in terms of what is possible with regard to integration with other comms channels, and nimbleness of foot.  For that, I sense we will be looking towards the pressure groups, and less formalised groupings of campaigners.