April 1 – that dastardly day of deceit that often gets the media in on the customary pranks one way or another, and is now an annual maelstrom of sometimes-plausible social media stunts.
Here are our five favourite Australian April Fools’ pranks this year:
- Bigger is better: Kudos to the team at Mumbrella for their report on the Australian Financial Review announcing plans to move to broadsheet format. The AFR overhaul even had itseditor Michael Stutchbury and CEO Brett Clegg voicing support, with the backing of ‘neuroscience research’, no less
- Life in the fast lane – BMW owners only: BMW Australia (that’s German auto-maker Bavarian Motor Works) promoted the Australian Bureau of MotorWays’ (cue side-splitting laughter) decision to restrict the use of right-hand lanes to BMWs only for Easter Monday. The prank, which featured on BMW Australia’s Facebook page and was also noticed on page five of The Australian, included a nice mention for Hertz car rental
- Gina’s triumph: TV blog TV Tonight had a whopper of an exclusive - mining magnate and media mogul in the making Gina Rinehart supposedly took the reins at Channel TEN after the company’s board unseated CEO Hamish McLennan. Special mention for the creative, if a little stinging, remarks about McLennan from an unnamed source
- Raiders’ star has an inkling: Chinese telecoms technology company Huawei might not be rolling out high-speed fibre optic cabling any time soon, but it’s certainly doing its bit for Canberra’s NRL club, the Raiders. Raiders’ star Sandor Earl was so thankful for Huawei’s sponsorship, he decided to express his affection for the brand by having its logo tattooed to his right thigh. Or did he?
- That’s Krafty: Self-styled champion of truly Australian products Dick Smith got in early this year to remind us that one of the nation’s best loved most recognisable flavours is in fact owned by American fat cats. A mock press conference saw one of said fat cats announce a re-branding of the Australian classic to ‘Yankymite’ in honour of manufacturer Kraft’s owners overseas
Unless you’ve been learning from April Fools’ prank master and Family First Senator Steve Fielding. Senator Fielding proposed that the April Fools’ tradition be banned on the grounds that people had the right “to not be molested by pranks”. Given his campaign against the annual day of high-jinks took place on said day, this proved to be the ultimate prank of all. Inception.
Despite what you may have read, Pinterest wasn’t created a few months ago; it has been a long slow road of pins and people since 2009. How much market research went into coming up with the concept? How about none. In this session, co-founder and CEO Ben explains how Pinterest was just something he really wanted to see built.
How it came about
Taking a cue from the simplicity and success of Twitter, Ben decided to concentrate on just three things people, boards and pins. They went the venture capital route in order to delay discussion on monetisation. Making money was not the focus, and is still not the focus. Yet.
Labouring over the design stage, they had 12 fully coded versions before deciding on the final. If your collections didn’t look awesome, why would people spend time to build them? he says.
“The average consumer has really high expectations. If you don’t give them something that is worth their time, then they shouldn’t give you their time. They can watch TV or play Angry Birds.”
Pinterest has also put boards back on the map. While they had been very unpopular within the tech community, Pinterest persisted as Ben explains – “Boards are a very human way of looking at the world. I’ve always loved folders; they are a way to make sense of chaos.”
Then, why did it take so long to take off?
Ben doesn’t have an engineering or tech background, and I don’t think Pinterest would have been created if he had. Pinterest is unusual in that it wasn’t embraced by the tech community. Silicon Valley didn’t understand it, didn’t see a need for it. There was also no celebrity to join that made it go from 0 to 60, ala Ashton Kutcher with Twitter.
“I’m glad I didn’t read the proxy book on when to give up because it took a long time to get going. People ask me why I didn’t, and I think I just didn’t want to tell people that we blew it.”
It was just the everyday people that made it popular. And Ben made sure that these people were happy.
“I personally wrote to the first 5,000 users. I gave them my cell phone, and would meet them in person. People say that’s a lot of commitment, but I was just really happy people were using it and wanted to know what they thought.”
How did he know people would like it?
Ben was very much on the ground in developing Pinterest. He would peruse newsagencies and the amount of lifestyle magazines indicated that there is a great interest area and market for it.
“I loved the idea that you could take an offline activity and create an online service that could aid that.”
What is the actual purpose of Pinterest?
“The mission of Pinterest isn’t to keep them on the site, it’s to drive them out to get what they want, go to the places they want to go, cook the recipes they want to try. With or without Pinterest people have hobbies and interests, what we want to do is make sharing and collecting these easier. Helping people to discover things they didn’t know they wanted, he said.
“I also wanted to create a service that was timeless. If something’s your favourite book now, it’s going to be your favourite book in five years.
How has Pinterest been embraced that he didn’t expect?
“First to come to mind satire boards. A Fake Mit Romney account has already been created, with his suggestions on what yacht to buy, and how to take a San Pellegrino bath. You can find it here http://pinterest.com/fakemittromney/
“Museums have also started joining to showcase upcoming collections, and travel boards were also a surprise, as people created spaces to document their desired destinations.”
For SxSW I was particularly impressed with advertising agency GSD&M (who also created the Don’t Mess with Texas campaign) board with their Pinterest Guide to Austin http://pinterest.com/gsdm/, which is where is where I discovered Austin has a Pop Culture museum. I am in heaven.
What’s coming up for Pinterest?
Pinterest has reached the tipping point of mainstream success, and now the race is on to make sure Pinterest is the one and only pinning service worldwide. But Ben is not concerned about racing the clones: “We just want to make sure that what we release is of really high quality.”
Look for an all new profile design expected to be launched this week. We wanted to make it more beautiful, he said.
The team of 20, which was 10 people until a few months ago, wants it to be very different to your Facebook and Twitter profile – a snapshot of what you’re about.
You will also be able to see who people pin from and who is influencing others.
And something I am really looking forward to, they are expanding to include video. Sometimes you just need all your YouTube cat videos in one place, you know?
They are also working on platform expansion, with an iPad version, and planning to open up API, but no set date as yet.
I want Pinterest to feel like a human service.
He also values his workers; he is not looking to be the next figurehead of a company, the next Steve Jobs. The team is the most exciting product that we’re building.
Above all, Ben wants to celebrate people’s interests. Preferably on Pinterest.
People from the age of two to the age of 60 use iPads. My parents didn’t even like The Beatles.”
Is it true? Do we have more in common with our parents than ever before? Do we like the same things? Use the same things? Are we Facebook friends?
The digital evolution has been credited with breaking down many barriers – between brands and customers, PR professionals and journalists, politicians and their electorates. But what does this mean for the future?
Don Tapscott, author of “Macrowikisnomics,” believes we are not in an Information Age, but an age of collaboration and participation, enabled by social networks. While social networks might begin as weak ties in your life, they can grow into strong ones, ones that will make a difference in your life, and potentially the lives of others. And it doesn’t matter how old you are. We no longer need leaders for a revolution; self-organisation by communities and peers will contribute to change.
Leaders of the old regime are always the last to embrace the new, and business can’t succeed in a world that is failing. Vested interest might resist change, but it is inevitable and history dictates it will be powered by the youth.
So it’s a good thing those two-year-olds are already practicing with communication technology.
I’ll start by saying; this should be a Vlog, but, unlike hundreds of thousands of other people, I don’t like seeing myself on camera. Call me old-school – as opposed to some people: I really love cats.
So, I thought I’d ponder how more and more, we’re creating video to help us spread “the word”.
This is “word” that was once placed in a media release, splashed across collateral and blasted via email is coming to life. And, whether it’s something to make you laugh on a Friday or enact change on a Tuesday, or simply showcase the work we do, it’s a great space to play in.
I received an email the other dayabout the power of stories. It made me think about one thing we’re very good at: telling a story. That’s in our nature as ex-arts and comms students, ex-journos and generally people who, at school, were bad at maths and good at English.
In 2010 alone, 700 billion YouTube videoswere viewed. The 2010 Neilsen poll on Internet usetracked the amount of Australians who watched video content for September –more than three quarters of our population. More current figures show that YouTube is the second most viewed social media platform (after Facebook) in Australia, with 10 million unique visitors – up 100,000 unique visitors from 2010.1 It seems video content is king and it’s not just consumer brands that need to be there.
Newspaper mastheads are now broadcasters and broadcasters use print online bring black and white stories to life. It greatly changes the media landscape. This is something that we teach in media training; “if you have a handheld recording device, you can report the news.” So, while we usually raise this as an issues management matter; it’s also a lesson of how, with the right tools, we can create integrated media pitches that extend a news story to different platforms.
It’s no new news, things are changing in the land of communication. And it’s fun keeping up.
Social media is both an art and science (creative and/or practical). We can liken the life cycles of what are now “traditional” social media platforms to those of the fashion industry. What was all the rage as little as five years (or even 12 months) ago, we have now turned against. MySpacesuffered a protracted demise, as the younger, hipper social media user matured into the always on, always accessible, and increasingly professional user that we see today. But new ownership and purpose may yet re-invent MySpace in another, more effective way.
Will Facebook be the “jeans” of the internet and be just as timeless? When a baby is named after “Facebook” in Egypt, it signifies revolutionary power. Continual updates to the platform remind us of the importance of keeping our content and thinking fresh and relevant. However, as rapid as evolution is, and as rapidly as the online ‘hotspot’ can shift, the user still remains fundamentally the same.
MySpace and MSN have been the infancy of social media, that period of early life where little is remembered, but much is learned.
Now, with social media a powerful influence our consumer and belief preferences, the line between our online and offline personas fades.
Everybody must know by now why participation is important, but I like this infographic that puts some dollar flesh on the bones of that notion.
This week, Google announced the launch of the newest player in social networking: Google Plus. Described as “real-life sharing, rethought for the web,” Google Plus – still in trial stages – is being seen as Google’s answer to Facebook. Plus is made up of three key components – circles, hangouts and sparks. Mixing familiar elements of Twitter with differentiating features such as video conferencing and a real-time listing of web trends, Google hopes their version of bringing real-life social interaction to the web will be enough to persuade us to jump on board.
Has Google got it right or is this just another Google Wave?
Regardless of the eventual success or failure of Google Plus, we as public relations professionals need to take a step back before diving head-first into the next best thing and remind ourselves that social media is simply a tool. Since the infancy of social media, we have adjusted the way that we practice public relations. We have amended our strategies to incorporate Facebook groups, Twitter pages and blog activities. We have experimented with new platforms and tailored our communication tactics to fit in with the flavour of the week.
Is it really worth our time to adapt our practices to specific new media platforms that – in many cases – fade away when our basic principles as public relations professionals stay the same?
The introduction of new media is not a new occurrence for our profession – we have coped with the introduction of radio, television and the early days of the World Wide Web. We need to remember the core principles of our job: to influence behaviours and opinions for our clients. We cannot let the ever-changing, exciting landscape that is the internet change our underlying credo.
Myspace, having been sold this week by News Corp for a mere $35 million – a shadow of the $580 million it was worth six years ago, is a prime example of the transient nature of the internet and a reminder of why we need to approach new technological developments with a grain of salt. Though all media have their lifecycle and we inevitably have to adapt how we operate, the fact that the lifecycle of internet properties are so short should play into how we practice.
By developing an adaptable assessment tool to evaluate new technologies, we can better judge the role they will play in our PR toolkit. It’s easy to get caught up in the newness of things, but it’s essential to remember that technology is just that – a tool. By working together to create a framework for the medium, we can test out new platforms without losing sight of the ultimate goals for our clients.
Technological advancements are not going to slow down and the need for strategic advice as these new platforms arise will not fade away. We need to be prepared for our clients while developing a strategy that will allow us to use our time wisely.
Time will tell whether Google Plus will prove itself valuable, but ultimately it won’t change the way that we practice. If we remind ourselves of our core responsibilities to our clients, we will be able to get the most out of our ever-expanding PR toolkit.
What elements would you include in an adaptable platform assessment tool?
A wise Doctor of Philosophy once said: “You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”
That was Dr Seuss writing in 1986.
I mention it because it links with what’s happening in consumer health and self diagnosis.
A 2010 study showed about a quarter of Australians regularly sought health information online.
Health information sites are all over the web like a rash, from credible Government sites like http://www.healthinsite.gov.au/ to those claiming online diagnosis by doctors, albeit with a disclaimer that will read something like:
“We take no responsibilities for anybody using the site, nor for any information obtained from it, or as a result of using it.”
But, credible or not, a whopping 80 per cent of Australians surveyed by international health insurance giant, Bupa – a Porter Novelli client – admitted to going online for health information, with 47 per cent of these people making a self diagnosis based on what they found online.
Let’s say you have pins and needles. It could be – according to readily available online resources – a vitamin deficiency, sciatica……or multiple sclerosis. Got an earache? Check common cold, an ear infection. Or possibly a brain abscess.
As a former healthcare professional, I have to ask what this might mean for primary healthcare, without even considering what the implications are for the many health sector organisations we work with.
The question for us, as communications specialists, is how to beat the clutter?
Simple, really. What if we turn the tables? Instead of consumers having to find “us”, we go looking for “them”?
Our Australian Dental Association (Victoria) client is stepping into social media through the Caring for your kids’ teeth page; Mercy Health is a relative early adopter and keen experimenter; and we like the work of Cabrini here in Melbourne (that we don’t work on).
The one we aspire our health sector clients to be like remains Mayo Clinic. Check it out.
And if you have a nasty, persistent cough, might be worth a visit to the doctor. It’s probably not tuberculosis.
What comes after the internet revolution? The portable one. So is this a game changer on how we communicate?
No. Mobile does not spell the end of newspapers, radio, cinema, television and the internet, it is the combination of all of them in one handy, time efficient device. No form of mass media has ever died completely, and is not likely to now.
Yes. 70% of mobile phone traffic goes to social networks, and social by very definition is an ‘opt in’ network. It used to be that no matter what you had to say or at which point you started your campaign, if you had enough money you could saturate newspapers, radio and television, and your message would be heard. With social media, you need to build your network before you need it, and people have a choice if they want to follow you on Twitter, ‘like’ you on Facebook, and for influential bloggers, write about your product. You can’t buy in the way you used to. Any approach to this area with a ‘What’s in it for our brand’ mentality is not going to cut it.
What’s in it for everyone else? Particularly with mobile, if they choose to download your app, taking up real estate on their personal screen, it needs to provide value, and if it doesn’t maintain this value, it will be deleted. At this point you can shout about your brand as much as you like but they can’t hear you.
Be useful or entertaining. That is what people want, and have for a long time.
Social media and mobile make this possible, and brands that do this will be rewarded.
There have been a number of social media stings recently that will have many wondering whether using social media is really worth it.
The GPY&R and Defence Force review is just one example of a trend that is only likely to grow as web publishers, citizen or mainstream, ‘re-align the context’ of an image or post in order to attract web traffic. There’s nothing new in the tactic. It has been employed for decades by tabloid media to sensationalise celebrity marriages, separations, divorces and re-marriages, sometimes in the same edition. This post won’t question the ethics of the matter, just the context, ma’am.
Many social media users (otherwise known as your kids or staff members) don’t realise when they are posting that tweet late at night or uploading a great party shot on Facebook that they are in fact feeding the tabloid beast with content.
The tabloid beast that feasts on their tweet or Facebook image a day or a year later, won’t concern itself about the original context. In fact, if it’s a court case or, say a review of the ADF’s use of social media, it’s highly likely that the use of that image will have little or no resemblance to the original ‘best party ever’ context at all.
But before you switch the PC off and start burning the family photo albums, we recommend a less drastic application of the Three Laws of Context when posting anything on social media.
1. Stop and re-read/re-look before posting. Even if you have the highest privacy settings in place, realise that one day it will be publicly accessible.
2. Run the Grandma test. Ask whether your CEO or grandmother (the risk-adverse one, not the bikie), would approve.
3. Finally test it with a parental hypothetical. Ask yourself how you will explain it to your own kids in five years time.
If you’ve managed to get an answer that doesn’t involve the words, “you had to be there”, “I was young” or “it was completely taken out of context” then hit the friendly enter key.
In the social media enabled world, whether or not you inhaled won’t be judged by those who were actually there, but by the top ten results on a search engine. And remember, don’t feed the beast.