Popping the filter bubble

May 31, 2012

What’s the first image that pops into to your head when I say the word "Bubble"? Water? Champagne? Scuba Diving? House prices, the Economy? Whatever it was, my guess is it wasn’t "Democracy". And yet, in quite an ironic way, your choice is a great example of a newly defined "bubble" which potentially could have a profound effect on our understanding of the latter.

Whichever mental image sprang to mind when you thought of the word "Bubble" was not a random idea plucked from the ether, but in some ways conditioned by your preferences, your experiences and your current location. If I asked you this question when we are in an expensive restaurant supping Dom Perignon, or in an estate agents office or swimming in tropical seas, your answers would probably have been different each time.

OK – so what has this word association got to do with the concept of democracy? But before we get to that – let’s consider what the concept of press freedom has to do with democracy. Most people would accept that a functional free press is an indispensable part of a functioning democracy. The ability for ordinary citizens to ask questions, be exposed to different opinions, challenge facts and policies is a fundamental feature of a free society as most Westerners would understand it.  For the best part of 200 years, newspapers fulfilled this function. Now we have the internet, with its limitless capacity to connect us with different points of view and ideas. That’s got to be an improvement, right?

Well, it turns out it might not be thanks to a newly-identified phenomena called the "Filter Bubble". The argument goes that as our preferred internet destinations, Facebook, Google and now Twitter, are basing the information that they present us with on what they know about us, they are in effect creating a bubble around us – presenting us only with the things that, either by direct or implied choice, we have previously expressed an interest in. This is an invisible process, something that happens without you being aware of it – much like your unconscious choice of "Champagne" rather than "House Prices".

The originator of the Filter Bubble concept and author of a book by the same name is Eli Pariser. If you have some time to spare, watch his lecture at last year’s TED – thought provoking stuff.



A successful Tweeting…

June 29, 2011

Probably one of the biggest debates in PR & Marketing is the effectiveness – or otherwise – of social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. In a previous post, I noted that research seems to indicate that 48% of private businesses are, if not actually users themselves, then at least ambivalent to the usefulness of social media in promoting their businesses. But what about in a more tightly defined demographic such as manufacturing? Two things that have happened over the last week have bought this topic to the fore.

The first was a survey by Lee Anne Orange from the International Machine Tool Show 2012 which we wrote about on our Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2012 blog. In her informal survey of exhibitors, she found that the rate of adoption of social media channels in manufacturing is accelerating, yet is still a relatively small number in absolute terms. In total, around 20% of firms at the show use one or more forms of social media. So while that seems to indicate that there is still room for significant growth, their are many that remain unconvinced. One can only speculate what factors are inhibiting growth, but personally I suspect there are two main reasons: Effectiveness i.e. does it actually work? and Production i.e. who is actually going to write this stuff? For us, the question of effectiveness was answered quite conclusively this week in the second of our “social media happenings”

One of the hardest areas for PR to break into is the national media. This is particularly true for specialists like us who tend to work with b2b brands which are relatively unknown to the general public. Getting journalists from the national media interested in engineering and manufacturing stories is very hard work; that’s not a criticism as they have a completely different agenda to trade publications. But it’s none the less frustrating when our overtures concerning stories of genuine editorial value get passed-over because they are deemed too “niche” to be of interest. But we were surprised this week when a slightly sarcastic  (oops!)Tweet from us concerning the BBC’s lack of interest in grassroots manufacturing was answered in person by a well-known TV personality. This has led to a dialogue, which may well result in BBC TV covering Southern Manufacturing 2012! Hugely exciting for us and something we’ve been trying to achieve for the last 6 years. Time will tell, of course, but if there were any doubts remaining about the effectiveness of Twitter in reaching key journalists, they have now completely evaporated.

"Social media is useless" says Telegraph – but where’s the evidence?

October 21, 2010

The Daily Telegraph recently published an article in which it claimed that the majority of small businesses found social media of no use to their business under the heading “Small Firms: Social media is useless”

A survey conducted by the Forum of Private Business (FPB) found that 52pc of respondents who use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, regard them as ‘not useful’ or ‘useless’ to their businesses.

OK – 52% is technically a majority, but only just. What about the 48% of businesses that find social media tools useful? That’s a lot of businesses; and a lot of potential customers just waiting to be engaged.

FPB spokesman Phil McCabe said: “It’s clear that, while a lot of our members are certainly trying out social media for their businesses, many remain unconvinced of its benefits.”

That maybe true. But perhaps that has just as much to do with how effectively they’re using it, as it does the usefulness of the media itself. The same report goes on to state that nearly 20% of respondents “Didn’t have a website.” Would the Telegraph argue that this proves the internet is not a useful business tool? Social media is not the magic silver bullet of marketing, but it is a useful tool for some businesses to be able to engage with their customers.

When choosing to use social media, you should follow exactly the same evaluation criteria as you would use for any other marketing tactic: determine the target audience, the ability of your chosen medium to reach them and what you hope to achieve as a result. There’s nothing to say you have to use social media, any more than there is a rule that you have to use advertising, fly-posting or cold-calling in your marketing strategy. All these techniques will work in the right circumstances. But only you can decide whether they are appropriate for your aims.

Small firms: "Social media is useless" – Telegraph

A text book lesson in how to do Social Media

October 5, 2010

We’ve written before here about when Social Media goes bad: Those times when a company messes up, incurring the ire of bloggers or followers and gets torn to pieces online in a very public display of anger. But every so often, we run across the reverse – where something goes wrong, but the company concerned regains control of the agenda and turns what looks like being a sure-fire PR disaster into a triumph.

A recent thread we’ve been following on LinkedIn is a text-book example of how to deal with discontented customers and defuse a situation. The group in question was set up around a recent trade exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. Several people had commented on the bad service they’d received from the site services company Melville – the company that rents furniture, supplies electricity etc. What started as a minor grumble quickly escalated into a major demonstration of anger as more and more people joined in to voice their anger over allegedly bad service and what were perceived to be unfair prices. Melville holds the service contract for the NEC, meaning that exhibitors do not have a choice of supplier. This further inflamed commentators as they felt they were being held to ransom.

But just a few days into the discussion, two of the most vocal critics posted messages to say they’d been contacted by Melville’s CEO and the Account Director concerned, who promised to deal with their complaints personally.


Rather than just ignoring the gripes – as the only supplier of services at the NEC, they could have done so with no loss – Melville responded quickly and decisively, turning two vocal critics into supporters and stopping the flame war dead in its tracks. What can be learned from this incident?

1. When trouble starts – don’t ignore it. Monitor, evaluate and decide the point at which you’ll need to take action.

2. Keep senior personnel briefed on developments and agree your plan for when action becomes necessary.

3. Identify the most vocal critics, find out their grievances; decide what demands they are making and decide what you can do about them.

4. Engage your critics: connect them with senior people within the organisation, assure them their complaints are being taken seriously.

5. Act. Do everything reasonable to fix the problem. If you can’t fix the problem, explain why. It is not necessary to do this in the public domain, although it is important to be able to show that you have taken all reasonable steps to make amends for any shortcomings. If doing so doesn’t quell dissent, then at least you can demonstrate to others that you have acted reasonably and this can be used to defend your reputation against further problems.

Advertising Standards Authority gets online & social media power

September 10, 2010

Reproduced from Business Matters http://www.bmmagazine.co.uk/

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is extending its remit to cover the online realm, and so online marketing and ads will, from 1 March 2011, be subject to the same strict advertising rules as traditional media.

The ASA will also have the power to ban marketing statements on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter

Last year the body received over 3,500 complaints but over half of the adverts were outside of its remit.

"This is a massive step. Consumers don’t differentiate between adverts on TV or online and this ensures that claims online will be subject to the same strict scrutiny of those in traditional media," said an ASA spokesman.

The new rules will apply to adverts and any statement on a website that is intended to sell products or services.

Websites will be given until 1 March 2011 to comply with the new rules.

In an effort to protect online freedom of speech, the ASA’s new remit will not extend to the editorial content related to causes and ideas.

The ASA will also be given new sanctions against online ads found to be in breach of its regulations, including the removal of paid-for search advertising and the right to place its own advertisements highlighting an advertiser’s non-compliance.

At the heart of current advertising codes of practice is the protection of children and vulnerable people, protecting them from physical, mental or moral harm.

75% of the complaints received by the ASA are about misleading content.

In the tech sphere, the advertising of broadband speeds has been a major bone of contention.

Last week the ASA banned a BT TV advert about its new 20Mbps broadband service.

The speed with which a webpage loaded in the TV advert was not representative of real speeds and BT did not make it clear enough that many consumers would not be able to get full speeds, the ASA ruled.

Advertising Standards Authority gets online & social media power – Business Matters

Eido PR project management system recognised by 37 Signals

September 1, 2010

Our innovative online project management system has come to the attention of 37 Signals, the company behind the hugely successful Basecamp collaboration software. The guys at 37 Signals have featured our hybrid application on their product blog, a showcase for the best Basecamp applications around the world.

Our use of the API to join Basecamp to our in-house intranet system is a particularly innovation application, and one which is – we believe – totally unique to us. Using our system, it’s possible for clients and team members all over the world to collaborate on and manage complex PR projects, with the guarantee that everyone is looking at up-to-the-second information on job progress.

We are really pleased to have been recognised by 37 Signals, itself a ground-breaking innovator in cloud computing. You can read the whole article here


Genuine concern or marketing hype?

July 29, 2010

An update to our original posting on 28th April.

A new campaign against so-called PR spam is underway under the banner An Inconvenient PR Truth. The campaign is being orchestrated by a press release distribution service, so it is very far from being an impartial campaign. However the subject is a serious one which we believe warrants a response.

stop pr spam_r2_c2

The Inconvenient PR Truth campaign draws an analogy between pollution in the physical environment and ‘news’ pollution of the online environment caused in no small measure by PR companies blasting out irrelevant or inappropriate press releases indiscriminately. Journalists are bombarded with such stories daily and it is a source of great irritation – especially when followed-up by the inevitable ‘did you get my email’ call 15 minutes later.

There is no doubt that ‘PR spam’ is becoming a bigger problem, partly because of the ease with which stories can be circulated by email and partly by the increasing number of companies offering ‘media lists’ that are often poorly researched and out of date. Coupled with inexperience on the part of the PRO, this combination of flawed data and naivety creates a potent cocktail that can all too easily wreck delicate PR/Media relationships and create a strong negative backlash against the client.

In response to what some journos believe to be an increasingly serious problem, the campaign proposes a journalist’s Bill of Rights which enshrines a code of practice to be followed by PR companies. The code places specific obligations on behalf of the PR company to research its distribution list better and take further steps to ensure they are not spamming recipients with inappropriate stories.

From our point of view, we agree wholeheartedly with anything that helps ensure our stories land on receptive ears. That’s why we have always relied on lists that we research and maintain ourselves. There are some in the PR industry, however, who have raised concerns that the Bill goes too far in restricting our ability to sell-in stories to less familiar publications. We too share some of those concerns.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be looking seriously at what lessons can be drawn from the campaign and how we can incorporate those into our business practices. Our objective will be to draw up a code of conduct that encapsulates the essence of the Inconvenient PR Truth campaign. We’ll be posting more on this on our blog, Talkback, which you can find on the right hand side of this page.


As a result of our deliberations, we have been trialling a new approach to PR distribution that places greater emphasis on the idea of recipient consent.

We have always relied primarily on contact lists that we’ve researched ourselves, rather than bought-in lists. What we have done is to categorise those lists into key industry sectors, and given journalists receiving our press releases to ability to manage the lists that they appear on directly – even to the point of unsubscribing completely. We believe we are the first PR company to go this far – but it appears that our judgement has not been misplaced; we have had only 1 unsubscribe request since we started the trial in April.

From an editorial perspective, we believe the new system delivers some significant benefits over the mass distribution policies of some PR companies:

1 – Our press releases go to carefully selected editors and journalists, not to the general public, meaning they are genuine news stories, not a re-hash of material that is already in the public domain.

2 – Our distribution lists are restricted to the publications that we feel will be interested in the story, rather than just trying to make up the numbers.

3 – If we get it wrong, an editor or journalist has the ability to change the lists they appear on, or unsubscribe altogether.

4 – As editors and journalists move from one publication to another, they can manage the industry sectors they are receiving stories from. In this way the relationship built up between us and the journalist can adapt to changing needs. Also, links on each email press release we send make it easy to share information with colleagues.

We feel the time is right to take this step forward; we feel that editors and journalists will respect the trust we are placing in them and the net result will be a better working relationship for everyone. If you have any comments or if you require more information, please email us – enquiries “at” eido-pr.eu

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