Paddy Power’s Shock Tactic Breaks an Unwritten Rule

I’m a huge fan of Paddy Power’s marketing strategy. Its must-follow Facebook and Twitter profiles are packed full of great examples of eye-catching, topical and irreverent humour that give it fantastic reach across social media, and it’s become well-known for attention-grabbing PR stunts.

In the world of Paddy Power, everyone’s fair game for a bit of gentle teasing and, sometimes, not-so-gentle scorn.

But the company’s latest ad has provoked outrage by offering ‘money back if [Oscar Pistorious] walks’ with a not-guilty verdict from his murder trial.

Oscar-744x1024It’s difficult to even know where to start with this one.

Are victims of tragic violence, like Pistorious’ former girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, fair game for unashamed publicity stunts? Is it out of order to use a pun like ‘if he walks’ when applied to a double amputee?

After the new ad appeared yesterday morning, promoted on Paddy Power’s blog and spuriously timed to coincide with the Oscars, it caused an immediate storm of contempt and anger on Twitter. The Advertising Standards Authority has reportedly received numerous complaints from both anti-domestic violence campaigners and from disabled people’s rights groups demanding the ad be withdrawn.

And while I’m not easily offended, even I drew breath when I saw this on Twitter. To the point where I thought it was probably a wind up. There’s a line irreverent brands should not cross, but Paddy Power’s flown a long way past it with this. As Mark Perkins said on Twitter of the stunt: “A PR low. Paddy Power is scraping a barrel no one else would touch.” Quite.

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Posted by Paul Sutton


If You’re Going to Feed the Troll, Ensure You Own the Troll!

internet trollsPizza chain Domino’s has been all over the blogs and the news sites in the last few days for the way it handled a particularly insistent Twitter troll. And much of the commentary has pronounced how playing the troll with a very straight bat was a great strategy.

I completely disagree. For me, this was both naïve and a missed opportunity.

Domino’s responses to what was obviously someone have a bit of fun fell in the chasm between two camps; not responding at all, and responding playfully with wit and intelligence. They made what is a fun, consumer-facing fast food brand appear starchy and corporate.

As you can see, @Dominos_UK responded to the troll no less than four times simply stating that he should contact the chain’s customer services. One question: why?!

Dominos Twitter Troll

‘Don’t feed the troll’ is a common and widely understood refrain, and looking at the way the guy in question continually baits brands and celebrities, the best course of action for most brands would simply be to ignore him.

But there are some brands who can legitimately engage in this sort of humorous stuff and get away with it. For me, if you are going to respond to trolls, then do it with personality, humour and style. Singer James Blunt is perhaps the (unexpected) master at doing this, actively searching out people slating him on Twitter and firing off quick-witted put downs in the manner of Jimmy Carr destroying hecklers on stage (see video below).

If you’re doing that, don’t starve the troll. OWN the troll.

The initial tweet in this instance was obviously a joke (I’m just guessing here, but I don’t think the guy REALLY burned his penis while screwing a pizza…). And so Domino’s could and, to my mind, should have taken the James Blunt approach. Having decided to feed the troll (Domino’s is, after all, in the fast food business), it could have struck up some great banter. It could have taken the Sainsbury’s tack, as highlighted in this great Storify from Gabrielle Laine-Peters.

But instead, it responded to something in customer service mode that was not even a genuine customer service issue. No humour, no personality. Pointless.

To be clear, hundreds of users chimed in on Twitter either to comment on how professional Domino’s had remained, or to abuse @ITK_AGENT_VIGO. So I guess you could say that, between that and the ensuing blog coverage, Domino’s came out with a fantastic PR result.

I’m a big fan of what Domino’s did with #DominosMeltdown just a couple of weeks ago, which I thought was a spot of genius. But if one of my social media team responded in this manner to this tweet, I’d have hauled them over the coals for it. Do it properly or don’t do it at all.

Taking on a troll effectively takes confidence, personality and bravado, and the vast majority of brands should steer well clear and ignore troll-like behaviour. But if you’ve got the right tone of voice and attitude, it can work superbly well.

What do you make of Domino’s response?

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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Facebook, Maslow & the Psychology of Social Media

Facebook, Maslow & the Psychology of Social Media

A couple of years ago, Boston University released the results of a study into the psychological aspects of why people use Facebook. It looked at how Facebook specifically, but in a wider sense social media in general, fits into the context of human needs.

The research concluded that, in line with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Facebook meets two human desires; those of belonging and self-presentation, both linked closely to self-esteem and self-worth. It hypothesised that there are differences in the way people use and share on Facebook according to cultural factors, and that there is an aspirational element to how we portray ourselves online.

Now, flip your mind from user to marketer if you’d be so kind.

What do you think, given what I’ve just described, should be the key characteristic of social communications professionals in 2014?

I’d like to suggest ‘empathy’. The capacity to understand why people follow your brand on Facebook or have tweeted you.

But when we talk about social media marketing we tend to talk in phrases like ‘reaching out’, ‘building relationships’ and ‘engaging in conversation’. Huh?! When was the last time, talking to friends on Facebook or Twitter you ‘reached out to build relationships by engaging them in conversation’?

At the end of the day, I’m ‘me’ and you’re ‘you’. If you believe Boston University, we all just want some recognition from that fact. People respond to people. And we respond to innate human characteristics like understanding, humour and compassion. We respond to others’ ability to put themselves in our shoes, to appreciate how we feel and to make us feel great about ourselves.

So, as social marketers, should we not drop the bullshit and just ‘be human’?

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Posted by Paul Sutton


If They Say Jump, Do You Say ‘How High’?

skateboarderThe PR industry has a problem. It’s in the business of building and maintaining beneficial relationships for clients, whether that be with journalists, bloggers or, increasingly, direct with the public. It’s a people business.

So you’d think we’d be on top of our game when it comes to client relationships, right? Wrong.

What the PR industry is very good at is saying ‘yes’. And as an industry, it costs us.

PR companies are great when it comes to account management. There are lots of very talented account managers and directors out there who understand how to relate to clients and work with them for mutually beneficial results. Far better, in my experience, than those in similar positions in other types of agency.

As a general rule, they’ll bend over backwards to help and advise clients, to ensure that clients are happy, and to facilitate a client/agency relationship that runs very, very smoothly. Which is brilliant if you’re client side.

But from an agency perspective, PR people are generally awful when it comes to saying ‘no’.

In their desire to please clients, it’s my opinion that far too often PR people fail to challenge client directions even if those directions are at odds with overall strategy or will be very hard to implement successfully. The result is the industry standard 20% over-service levels that significantly affect profitability, or PR people desperately scrabbling around to gain some kind of traction or result from a weak initiative.

We need to get much, much better at saying ‘no’.

We need to get much, much better at valuing ourselves and our opinions. We need to stop saying ‘yes’ to things that undermine the profession and our reputation. After all, who wants to be called a PR anymore?!

If we seriously want a seat at the strategy table, we need to earn it. And the only way we’ll earn it is to gain the respect of our clients. Respect not for how much we can do or how lovely we are to work with or how compliant we are. Respect for the experience, knowledge and value that we can bring to the table. Respect for our honesty.

Start saying no. Now.

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Posted by Paul Sutton


SEO, PR or Advertising Agency: Which is Best for Social Media?

confusedIf you’re a brand with a social media requirement and you’re looking to hire agency support, you have several options open to you. Pretty much every marketing agency now offers social communications as a service: you could go down the PR route, the advertising route or the SEO route.

But what’s the difference? What can you expect from each of these agency types? And how will the type of agency you select influence the type of social media programme you will implement?

Over the last couple of years I’ve had exposure to the approaches of all three. And they differ significantly not only in their goals and what they deliver, but also in terms of how they bill clients. Here’s what I’ve learned to expect.

SEO Agencies

SEO agencies’ mindset is ultimately to increase a client’s position in Google with the aim of delivering increases in website traffic. They know that Google is trying its best to produce natural search results and bypass the effects of SEO completely, and that with the likes of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, it’s making significant inroads into this. So they are naturally turning to more creative digital executions delivered via social networks to create the natural backlinks and social share signals that Google is placing ever increasing emphasis on.

However, in my experience SEO agencies may struggle with the concept of any social media activity that doesn’t positively affect search engine rankings. They view social communications as one or a series of discrete initiatives in owned media, each of which requires a separate approach, a separate creative execution and a separate budget. They tend to bill clients with a small monthly fee topped up by separate projects. So while creative ideas are often good as each project needs to be ‘sold in’ to the client, the executions may be costly or not always quite live up to what is pitched. Blogger relations, for example, can be somewhat clumsy.

Good for: short-term social media campaigns that impact search
Bad for: ongoing results and strategic brand building
Most likely to measure: click-through and backlinks

PR Agencies

PR agencies focus on managing reputations. PR people are experts at creating and maintaining beneficial long-term relationships, so when it comes to social media they are naturally drawn to building online communities and serving those communities with content that engages them on an ongoing basis. They want to see their communities, whether bloggers or on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere, commenting, liking and sharing their content, and their focus is normally on earned media.

PR agencies take a long-term view of social media, and produce lots of content intended to start conversations. They bill using flat monthly fees based upon an agreed number of hours’ work and you normally sign up for a minimum of six months. The long-term view has benefits in that messages and content are usually devised to reinforce brand positioning over time and repeated exposure, but content may lack the ‘wow’ creativity of SEO agencies or the executional quality of advertising agencies.

Good for: building beneficial, personal online communities that gain repeated exposure to key brand messages over time
Bad for: instant wins and one off creative projects
Most likely to measure: engagement metrics

Disclosure: I work for BOTTLE, a PR and social communications agency

Advertising Agencies

Advertising agencies’ background lies in mass media that sells products and services. Accordingly, they tend to view social media as a one-to-many medium through which to broadcast key brand messages. As such, they are naturally drawn to paid media and are used to coming up with the ‘big idea’, and billing against creative commissions and media spend.

This approach can result in highly creative and extremely well-executed campaigns that may grab big short-term attention. However, it may lack the benefit of ongoing relationship building, with bloggers or social networks viewed as transient and a means to an end rather than as opportunities to create lasting, strategic dialogues.

Good for: the big idea and one-off, high impact campaigns
Bad for: long-term brand building, engagement and community advocacy
Most likely to measure: reach, impressions and fan/follower growth

These summaries should not be viewed as a rule for all agencies, but generally speaking each agency type has its own benefits and drawbacks. It’s important to be aware of the variations in implementation and billing structure when considering your options, and matching the agencies you talk to with your specific objectives.

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Posted by Paul Sutton


3 Steps That Will Completely Transform the Way You Use Facebook

d3e68cf1e59a3122b075260a010d612adc1dade0904b9bbef42f5cf80eacab8dOver the Christmas holiday I had something of a social media-related epiphany. With space and time to observe Facebook from a distance, it hit me just how overrun my newsfeed had become with irrelevant nonsense, and how many of the people and Pages I really wanted to hear from simply weren’t showing up at all.

For every intelligent, interesting or useful conversation or genuinely funny status update, there were 50 bits of inane rubbish from friends of friends and people I hardly knew. I started to question what the point is of investing time into a platform where you have little personal control over what appears in your own newsfeed.

A week ago I was so disillusioned that I was seriously, seriously considering ditching Facebook in favour of Google+. The one thing that stopped me switching was that there are some people I’m in touch with through Facebook and nowhere else.

And then I had a thought: what if there was a way of bypassing Facebook’s increasingly annoying algorithm and the newsfeed entirely?

The great news is that, as it turns out, there is. After a bit of lateral thinking I came up with something that’s extremely counter-intuitive as it involves removing pretty much everyone and everything from your newsfeed in order to actually see more of them. And it also takes time and thought to set up initially.

But within a matter of just hours of trying what I did think at the time was a last ditch attempt at making Facebook useful again, I was seeing the value I’d been missing. Facebook is now completely revitalised for me and a new place to spend time. I haven’t looked back since.

With a bit of effort you CAN beat Facebook at its own game. Here’s how…



What we’re going to do here is to strip out your newsfeed so that it ONLY shows you the people and things you highly value. You’ll still be able to see everyone and everything else, but you’ll access it via a click on the menu rather than in your newsfeed.

The first step is to sit down with a pen and paper and spend some time carving up ALL of the people and Pages you follow into lists. (Note: you can do this just with people if you wish.) Keep your lists fairly generic and limit their number to as few as makes sense (I’d suggest no more than half a dozen). This is important due to the way you’re going to use Facebook in future; you don’t want to have to be accessing many lists.

How you organise your other lists is up to you, but there are two that you MUST make.

The first is your ‘Value List’: the people you really, truly value for their insight or humour; the people whose status updates you look forward to; the people you’d really miss if you left Facebook. It’s important to be candid: no-one’s going to see this, so if your best friend posts too much nonsense and doesn’t make the cut, then don’t include them. Remember, you will still be able to see everyone’s updates, just not in the main newsfeed. Add to this list the Pages you follow that you definitely want to see a lot from.

If you’re honest, this list will probably be pretty short. And that’s a good thing as you’re trying to extract value from your Facebook connections. Mine, for example, contains only 17 of my 200 Facebook friends.

The second is your ‘Meh List’: people whose status updates you’re not bothered about seeing but don’t want to unfriend. Maybe they post too much. Maybe they post dross. Maybe they’re not that interesting. Maybe you’re just not that close (think ‘old school friends’). You’ll probably find that, if you’re truthful, this list is fairly long.

After trial and error, I opted for five lists in total:

  1. My Value List
  2. People I see often in real life (hence not necessarily needing to see their status updates)
  3. People I know professionally who I want to maintain friendly relationships with
  4. Pages not on my Value List that I’d like to see sometimes
  5. My Meh List



You’re now going to transfer your paper plan into Facebook.

First, create and name the lists you’ve identified. Note that you do NOT need to create and name your Value and Meh Lists. This is because you’ll still view your Value List in the newsfeed and you won’t see the Meh List at all unless you actually visit those people’s profiles.

The quickest way to do this is to choose someone from each of those lists, visit their profile and click on ‘Add to another list’ in the Friends dropdown. You can then click on ‘+New List’.

new list

Having done this, complete your created lists in Facebook. Visit each person on those lists and on their profile do two things. First, add them to the appropriate list within the Friends dropdown as above, and second, Unfollow them by unclicking the ‘Following’ button. This second action is very important as it cleans up your newsfeed to just the people and Pages you really value (identified in your Value List).


Next, visit each of the people in your Value List and add them as ‘Close Friends’, a pre-determined list in the dropdowns. Unless you want a Facebook notification every time they post something, make sure you unclick Get Notifications. DO NOT Unfollow them.


Now visit each of the people in your Meh List and simply Unfollow them. And finally, visit any Pages that aren’t in your Value List and Unfollow them too (you can add them to an Interest List of your choosing so that you can easily find them again).



You’ve now done all the hard work. The final step is to edit your Facebook ‘Favourites’ menu on the left hand side of your newsfeed.

Under the Friends section of the menu, click on the edit button of each of your created lists in turn and ‘Add to favourites’. Do the same under the Interests section if you created a list of Pages.

Once you’ve done this, click on the edit button on one of your lists under the Favourites menu and on ‘Rearrange’. Then just drag lists into the order you want (I recommend putting your lists directly under the newsfeed as they’re easy to find, especially on a mobile).


That’s it. You’ll probably want to tweak people over the next few days as you may have missed some or want to move them, and you need to remember to add new people and Pages to lists as you go, but essentially, you’re done.



When you use Facebook now, all that will appear in your newsfeed is updates from the people and Pages you have identified as truly valuable. So the newsfeed is still your first port of call. If you’ve been strict, you’ll be amazed how much more you see of these people and Pages as they’re no longer competing with all of the other stuff that was clogging your newsfeed.

What you’ll also do now though when you use Facebook is visit the lists you created to check in on others. And here’s the kicker: EVERYTHING from those people will appear in your lists as Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm doesn’t filter these. You can adjust the level of detail you see using the ‘Manage list/Choose update types’ function, which you can’t do in the newsfeed. But you’ll probably find, as I have, that after a week or so you visit these lists less as, if you’ve done your filtering well, all the valuable stuff should be in your newsfeed.

Using this method, you’re by and large side-stepping Edgerank and taking back control of your own profile from Facebook. You’re telling it what you want to see, rather than letting it show you what it guesses you want to see.

It’s early days for me using this method, and it will undoubtedly necessitate honing as I go, but I can honestly say that mass Unfollowing and using Lists instead has saved Facebook for me. It’s like an entirely new platform that I have complete control over, and I’d thoroughly recommend investing a couple of hours of your life to make this work for you.

Let me know what you think below. Will you be trying this? Any questions on the process? 

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Posted by Paul Sutton


20 Awesome Tools, Apps, People & Resources to Watch in 2014

20 Awesome Tools, Apps, People & Resources to Watch in 2014As the new year gets under way, I thought it might be useful to take a look at some of the people and resources that have been positively impacting my working life over the last few months and which will give you a kick start in 2014.

I’d dearly love your input too, so please leave a comment at the end with any additions you feel would benefit others reading this.

So without further ado, here goes…


6 PR Tools to Simplify Your Life

Releas’d: launched midway through 2013 but still in early development, Releas’d is an incredibly simply and intuitive way to create one-off web pages that can be used for interactive news releases, event invitations, reports, creds, case studies and more. It’s a tool that the PR industry has been crying out for for years.

InkyBee: blogger outreach made simple. Having tried several blogger outreach tools in the past, InkyBee is, for me, easily the best. It enables you to discover topic-related blogs, create and track campaigns and evaluate results.

Agorapulse: there are many Facebook Page management systems out there, but Agorapulse is the one that stands out for me in terms of simplicity and effectiveness. With multiple applications, statistics for reporting, CRM processes and moderation, it’s a great and reasonably priced all-rounder.

Pixlr: online photo editing software has always been a bit hit and miss, with nothing ever really coming close to Photoshop. But Pixlr is now a realistic challenger. And it’s free. For editing images wherever you are it’s worth a look, especially if you don’t have access to Photoshop.

Feed.ly: there was much ado about nothing when Google ditched Reader last year. I’d been using feed.ly for some time before then and others I’ve recommended it to since have never looked back. It works beautifully well (and seamlessly syncs) on both mobile and web, and is a must-have for tracking RSS and topic feeds.

Brandwatch: I appreciate that not every PR agency can afford to buy in a paid-for social media monitoring tool. But if you can, you could do a lot, lot worse than Brandwatch. It’s formed the backbone of many of BOTTLE’s campaigns in the last year, providing insightful data for campaign planning or management or evaluation.


5 People You Simply Need to Know on Twitter

Emily Leary: also known these days as @amummytoo, Emily is one of the most knowledgeable and approachable people on the web. Digital consultant by day, she’s highly respected for her work with the likes of BT and E.On. But arguably it’s her ‘mummy blogger by night’ creds that really show how good she is. Inside of 18 months since launching her blog, she’s hit the top 10s of most UK parent blogger charts, she’s been nominated for awards, she’s been on online chat shows and is a regular on the parent blogger speaking circuit. And she’s quite possibly the most helpful person on the web. Go follow and make friends.

Danny Brown: if you work in marketing, you probably already know of Danny Brown through his award-winning blog. Or you may have read his 2013 book, Influence Marketing. Danny’s someone who says it as it is, and for that deserves massive respect and is worthy of your time. I recently culled the list of blogs I’m subscribed to, but Danny’s is one of the few that I retained. A must-follow for anyone who seeks continuous improvement.

Gini Dietrich: I’ve had a running battle with Mrs Dietrich for about three years now. In a good way. Both she and I were too busy to lock horns in 2013, but I feel worse for that. Gini knows her PR stuff like very few others in the world and is someone whose opinion you simply have to respect (even if you…well, I…don’t agree with it all the time). If you work in or around PR and social media, you’d be a fool not to follow and get to know her.

Gabrielle Laine-Peters: I wrote back in October of my respect for Gabrielle and, without wishing to repeat that post, she’s someone who truly understands the social mindset. A voracious reader and tweeter, she’s someone who supplies a constant stream of interesting articles and nuggets on varying topics. She’s also generous with her time, opinions and conversations, and is someone you know you could rely upon.

Danny Whatmough: Danny’s someone who I’ve known for a few years and who has gone from strength to strength over the last year or so. Now working at Ketchum UK and chairman of the PRCA Digital Group, he knows his digital beans and is highly respected. If you work in PR and are based in the UK, Danny’s someone you should know.


5 Mobile Apps that Will Rock Your World

Zite: a lot is made of Flipboard, but for me, Zite is the de-facto news app I use every single day. Others such as Circa and Pulse show a lot of promise, but something about Zite’s layout and programmability, and the content it pulls in, makes it more efficient and useful than any other news/interests app I’ve tried.

MightyText: this Android only app provides a seamless link between mobile and desktop. It runs on the background of your device and enables you to text using your desktop screen and keyboard while your mobile is in your pocket or bag. Simple, but hugely effective.

Wunderlist: not a new app by any means, but as far as productivity management goes Wunderlist is a gem. Create multiple to-do lists and reminders, sync between mobile and web, collaborate with others – it really does help make life simpler.

BufferApp: you may already be familiar with Buffer, but if not check it out. Buffer enables you to schedule posts for multiple Twitter profiles, Facebook profiles and Pages, LinkedIn profiles, Pages and Groups and Google+ Pages according to a pre-set pattern with just a couple of clicks on your mobile. Also syncs with the web version to save huge amounts of time.

SwiftKey: I only discovered SwiftKey at the back end of the year, but it’s transformed the keyboard on my HTC One. It’s not just the speed with which you can enter text that counts, but the way SwiftKey intelligently predicts the next word you may use that makes this so impressive. Takes a little get used to initially, but it cuts typing time down by over 50%.


3 Slices of Top Notch Bedtime Reading

Newsjacking: Published in April last year by the authors of the Urgent Genius blog, Newsjacking is a great reference book of real-time advertising case studies from around the world. Beautifully presented and easy to flip through, it’s almost a coffee table book for geeks. If you’re seeking inspiration to cut through the real-time dross that’s emerged over the last few months, Newsjacking is a great guide to what can be achieved with data, insight and creativity.

Groundswell: this is not a new book. In fact, in social media terms it’s positively old, first published in 2008. Even the revised version (2011) could now be considered dated. But such is the trend it describes that it’s still hugely relevant and a book that everyone working in PR, social media and marketing should read and understand the implications of. If you haven’t read it yet, make a point of doing so soon. And if you have, read it again!

SpinSucks: I don’t know whether this is a good book or not as it’s yet to be published! But from the pen of Gini Dietrich, founder of the wonderful SpinSucks blog, it’s a book I’m very much looking forward to reading when it’s released in February. And if you work in PR or social media, you should be too.


1 Campaign You Should Know About

Pompeii Live: there’s no such thing as the perfect marketing campaign, but the British Museum’s Pompeii Live from last year is an example that many could learn from. Devised to promote an exhibition, the campaign fused elements of social media, real-time marketing and PR with an engrossing multimedia approach that paid huge benefits for the British Museum. Understanding how this worked and what went into it opens up all sorts of creative avenues, and if more campaigns like this emerge in 2014, we’ll all be better off for it.


That’s it for now. I hope you find the above useful, and please do leave your own recommendations and additions in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and I wish you and yours a wonderful 2014.

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Posted by Paul Sutton


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