Reddit releases their first transparency report to improve reputation

In an era where our personal data fuels the currency of all social sites, trust emerges as a real issue. It has led to the growth of new sites such as Ello who distinguish themselves from the competition by stating the uncomfortable truth “Your social network is owned by advertisers.” What happens to our personal data also sits at the center of the ‘Snoopers’ charter’ (the Draft Communications Data Bill).

So it’s of no surprise that the (infamous) social site Reddit has jumped onto the transparency report bandwagon. Sharing the stage with the big boys such as Google and Facebook. Reddit has been gradually trying to alter its image from an anonymous playground of online debauchery, to something a little more socially acceptable. There is no doubt that releasing their first transparency report was a PR push towards this goal.

Over the last year Reddit has already removed controversial subreddit forum topics, pushed its mainstream ‘Ask Me Anything (AMA)’ chat that features global celebrities and business leaders, and has even attempted to moderate controversial discussions (inevitably this wasn’t received well with their online community).

So what does the newly released Reddit transparency report show? Not a lot really. Despite receiving approximately 2 million unique visits a day, Reddit only received 55 requests for user data in 2014. A figure that seems insignificant against Google’s 32,000 requests that were generated in just 6 months over the same period.

Reddit published in their latest blog post,

“In 2014, we decided not to provide user information in response to 42% of all government and civil requests for private information. We pushed back and did not remove content in 69% of requests to remove content.”

This highlights the privacy commitment Reddit has to their users. This may also be a key reason behind why there were such a low amount of requests reported; most Reddit personal information is false. You don’t need to provide an email address or even a real name. It’s a social site of aliases.

This is exactly why Reddit needed to release their first transparency report. The sites’ foundations are at stake. In an era where our personal data fuels the currency of social sites, Reddit protects privacy to promote free speech. Although even in this case, free speech needs moderating.

The No More Page 3 campaign is being played by The Sun

This article was written yesterday before The Sun published a topless model this morning whilst they thanked media outlets for their speculation about Page 3 being dropped. Thankfully, this move only reinforces my understanding of the PR situation, as outlined below!

The media furore about The Sun dropping Page 3 from their newspaper has been hailed by many No More Page 3 campaigners as a victory for feminism. They were joined by influential voices, including Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, and News Statesman contributing editor Laurie Penny. However, the truth behind News UK’s decision may not be down to No More Page 3’s campaigners.

And read this post knowing that I’m personally a supporter of their campaign (read this blog post from last year) and the agency I work for invited the campaign to speak at our Social Media Week London event.

The No More Page 3 campaign has led an active social media campaign that is organised by a dozen or so passionate campaigners through social media. Their Twitter profile is surrounded by thousands of supporters who believe Page 3 must go. When counter arguments are proposed, supporters are quick to provide rebuttal (and surround any trolls).

  • Tactically, their campaign is brilliant.
  • Strategically, I think it needs more work.

This has been highlighted by the current decision by News UK. Great, Page 3 has now been dropped from The Sun, but I imagine many Page 3 supporters may feel like their job is left unfinished. Because in reality, Page 3 still exists, and No More Page 3 never successfully positioned itself as a single-issue campaign.

This lack of strategic focus is the main reason why No More Page 3 supporters have just been lured into a gigantic PR bear trap. Yes. I really think The Sun has just thrown a PR curve ball.

As recently published in the Financial Times, “Page 3 move reveals Sun’s online challenge” (£),

“Only 225,000 people have a digital subscription to The Sun — compared with the paper’s daily print circulation of 1.9m. As audiences move online, The Sun is gaining fewer than two digital subscribers for every three print copies lost.”

This is a big problem for The Sun. Business Insider claims the newspaper is still going through a transitional period and has shed visitors since going behind a paywall last year. In this transitional period, The Sun has a major weapon, Page 3 (A.K.A. ‘soft porn’ in my opinion…).

The newspapers may be saying that The Sun has ‘dropped’ Page 3, but in reality it has just moved online. Why? So the newspaper can increase their digital subscribers. This frames Rupert Murdoch’s frequently referenced tweet about Page 3 in a rather different light (there were other tweets too).

It was an orchestrated media effort designed to provide a tangible timeline of The Sun dropping Page 3 from the newspaper, suggesting that the feature was dated. This would then generate speculation, discussion and eventually the claim of victory from the No More Page 3 campaign. The elephant in the room is that Page 3 is far from dead, thriving as part of their online newspaper (which is where opportunity for business growth lies anyway). Every comment about Page 3 being dropped from the newspaper simply acts as a reminder that the feature is now only available online.

The evidence for this will be the next time The Sun’s digital subscribers are counted. I’m willing to bet that this unique selling point for the newspaper’s digital subscription may be enough to sway some readers away from paper.

Still, despite my understanding of the media situation, I’m delighted Page 3 girls will need to wear clothes in the newspaper. As argued in the past, my main concern with the feature was that it isn’t news; porn should not be in a family focused newspaper. From a business perspective, Page 3 is wrongly positioned in this day and age to even exist in print.

However, my views aren’t nearly as strong as some supporters, who see Page 3 as a small part of a much wider feminist debate.

If I had some advice for No More Page 3 it would be this:

  1. Understand whether you are a single-issue campaign or if you’re willing to take part in the wider debate about feminism. If you are single-issue, what is this issue? Is it really No More Page 3? Is it to remove Page 3 from the print newspaper? Is it to campaign against glamour modelling? Your messaging in the media is not clear.
  2. Stop thinking about tactics. Get a strategic focus. Thousands of Twitter followers look good but will it drive real change? Think about who makes the decisions about Page 3. Would what influence those people? In my experience subtle campaigns frequently drive bigger results than EXPLOSIVE CONSUMER BOLLOCKS.
  3. Don’t let The Sun play you, because you are being played right now. The newspaper is using your campaign to drive their digital subscribers. The burn of the media light is on you. What are you going to say that people will clearly remember?

Get Virgin’s Super Hub 2 working with the Xbox One

A storm is brewing for Virgin Media as thousands of their customers complain that their Super Hub 2 is not working with the Xbox One games console. Whilst the Xbox One can connect to the router, the Internet connection will drop every 10/15 minutes whilst playing online games. I’ve experienced this particular issue with Call of Duty Ghosts and Destiny. It’s driven me bananas!

Just Google the problem and the top results are all from Virgin Media’s community forums. Despite support engineers appearing occasionally, the only fixes being shared seem to have been crowd sourced from tech savvy gamers.

Whilst it’s not clear what the problem is (potentially IPv6 incompatibility with the Super Hub 2), the below fixes have worked for me:

Head over to the Bungie forums and a user called TotallyTom85 has posted a relatively simple fix by slowing down the wireless speed of the router to 54mbs.

Login into your Super Hub 2 router settings (using a browser type into the address bar).

Default password is “changeme”.

Select “Advanced Settings”.

Select “Wireless Radio”.

Depending which frequency you are connected to (2G or 5G), change the wireless mode to 54Mbps.

Click “Apply”.

If this doesn’t work for you and you’re a confident techy, then try my backup option. As my Xbox One sits next to my desktop computer, I was able to bridge a network connection on Windows 8, which meant I could connect the Xbox One via a wired connection, using the desktop’s wireless adaptor. For instructions visit the Xbox help pages.



Toyota knocks down traditional corporate boundaries with royalty-free patents

Beyond the acrobatic drones and Apple iWatch imitators of the international technology show CES 2015, was an announcement that made corporate history. Toyota announced, to audible gasps of surprise from the audience, that they would make over 5,600 of its fuel cell patents available royalty-free. It has only happened once before, when Tesla decided to make its electric technology open to competitors.

It was a move swiftly hailed to eventually bring the end of our dependence on fossil fuels (although it’s difficult to argue this view as oil prices crash, leaving us paying below £1/litre at the pumps). With Bob Carter, Senior Vice-President of Automotive Operations at Toyota, adding,

“By eliminating traditional corporate boundaries, we can speed the development of new technologies, and move into the future of mobility more quickly, effectively and economically…”

By offering these technologies royalty-free, some for an indefinite time period, Toyota has turbocharged the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology for at least the next five years.

There is a lot of nonsensical ‘guff’ online about how businesses should behave in the Internet age. In this instance, Toyota has stood out as a shining example of a 21st Century corporation who isn’t afraid to knock down traditional corporate boundaries to kick start technological development. Their move to make fuel cell technology patents royalty-free could almost be inspired by how projects operate in the open source technology space.

As Obama talks security, US Military social media is hacked

Whilst Obama delivered a speech on cyber security at the Federal Trade Commission, Twitter and YouTube accounts belonging to US Central Command were hacked by a group supporting the Islamic State (IS). Ironic, as his speech called for better data protection and disclosure about security breaches. And embarrassing?


In a statement Centcom said that the hack was,

“… a case of cyber- vandalism”, “These sites reside on commercial, non-Defense Department servers and both sites have been temporarily taken offline while we look into the incident further.”

Centcom were right to downplay the hack. It’s been widely reported that the various documents shared on Twitter that appeared to reveal confidential information, were already in the public domain. No physical damage was done, and as this is Twitter we’re talking about, there is no real compelling evidence to say that this really was IS.

From a corporate communications standpoint, the hacking of Centcom’s social media profiles represent a potentially devastating reputation issue. The @CENTCOM Twitter account boasts 121,000 followers, regularly publishing rich media about recent operations. For example, a recent YouTube video shows an airstrike being conducted against three IS warehouses.

The US were fortunate to have their Twitter account hacked so obviously by an IS support group. The tactic deployed could suggest amateurs were working behind the scene. A more subtle, and reputational devastating hack, would perhaps have been an intelligent shift in Centcom’s messages. To 121,000 people, phishing links could have been shared that planted computer viruses, data could have been stolen from users, computers hijacked. Alternatively the account could have published IS propaganda, showing the devastation the West may have caused civilian populations.

Yet, what was the purpose of this hack? The group published the addresses of retired army generals, tweeting “AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK!” Revealing information that could easily be perceived as top secret (we now know it was public domain material). The aim here was to generate fear; that you are unable to escape the terrorism of IS.

This is pure and simple propaganda. Terrorism is born from various ingredients of certain messaging that together forms the emotionally charged noun ter-ror-ism. Violence will be used or suggested to achieve a political goal. It’s incredible that even in Twitter’s 140 characters, terrorism can be expressed. That perceptions can be generated.

Imagine the corporate damage that could be caused if JP Morgan’s Twitter account was infiltrated. What could environmental groups post on the Twitter feed of a fracking group? In a Machiavellian move, what could one corporate competitor plant on another’s Twitter feed? This US hack dealt in changing perceptions, this isn’t new; it’s public relations.

Did the IS support group achieve their goal in this case? Perhaps. The wanted to generate fear, and unless it was for the mainstream media’s settling statements, they could have succeeded.

More importantly, what does this hack tell us about corporate communication? Faster action was needed. The hack lasted for 30 minutes before Twitter suspended the account. Beyond this there are important questions about Centcom’s security procedures and their communication response to the crisis (which was a traditional media statement).

This wasn’t a terrorist attack, it was a corporate case of cyber vandalism. Something every corporation can protect against.

Also published in the Keene Communications blog.

Preparing for the #MarsdenMarch, 10 weeks to go

“The activity for which you are registering (the “Event”) is physically challenging and pose a risk of discomfort, illness, injury, and even death. You need to be satisfied that you are physically capable of doing the Event without risk to your health or your life. We do not conduct health or fitness checks on entrants.”

Will I be base-jumping from buildings? Surfing with sharks? Bullfighting in Spain? No. I’ll be walking 14 miles on the Marsden March on Sunday 22nd March 2015. And I signed the above disclaimer knowing full well that my physical ‘condition’ needs a LOT of training.

The Marsden March is an annual charity walk (14 or 5 miles) that takes place between The Royal Marsden’s Chelsea and Sutton hospitals. It’s an exciting community occasion to raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

So many people have had their lives touched by cancer, directly or indirectly. Including myself, but thankfully I’ve never had to experience the stress or loss of a close family, friend or colleague to cancer. I’ll be walking as part of the Goldsmiths Team, of which my girlfriend is a member (for her second year).

As I said on the very first day of the year, I want to focus on charity. It’s so easy being selfish in life, and it’s time to give back to the world. However, in some ways this walk is a purely selfish endeavour to get fitter, as it’s much easier working towards a goal!

So at the end of each week I’ll be blogging about my #MarsdenMarch training progress. I’ll be eagerly following official training guides and be looking for support on social media too… please?

If you can, I would really appreciate any donations as the big day approaches. Anything. Even the smallest amount will help improve a life. As it’s still early days, Goldsmiths haven’t setup the JustGiving page yet… but it should be online in the next couple of weeks.

Let the training commence! If you are also blogging about your progress or tweeting it, do leave a comment below. I’ll follow you and ask silly questions.

This is how you build an award winning blog

For just under two years I’ve been working with the team at Keene Communications to deliver world-class digital strategies to clients. So we were delighted to hear the news that our client, St Helena Tourism, has had their blog recognised as one of the top ten travel industry blogs in the UK in the UK Blog Awards 2015. It was shortlisted alongside others such as WWF Holidays, Thomson Blog and Teletext Holidays.

This is a significant achievement. Especially as St Helena has been blogging for less than 2 years. It’s been a real team effort at the agency, with St Helena Tourism and their island community. So we are very excited for their success.

This win is an extraordinary achievement for our client. Why? Just read the quote from St Helena Tourism.

“To have been shortlisted in the UK Blog Awards 2015 is an achievement beyond our wildest dreams. As a remote British overseas territory we launched the St Helena Wirebird blog to give potential travellers a digital experience of the island before they arrived. A feat in itself, as St Helena Island doesn’t have a mobile network or widespread Internet access. Which makes being shortlisted as a top travel industry blog extra special, as the island community who are mostly new to the Internet age is managing the blog.” – Chanelle Marais, Marketing & Communications Manager

So how do you go about building an award winning blog?
The simple answer is apply for awards. But before you do that, you must build a blog that is successful.

We measure success by:

  • Seeing increased visits year-on-year
  • Monitoring who is sharing or recommending posts
  • Having a disciplined publishing schedule

Being shortlisted in the UK Blog Awards 2015 was reliant on blog readers voting for St Helena. Therefore a significant amount of readers were needed to generate enough ‘umph’ to be shortlisted, especially as readers need to ‘give away’ their email addresses.

We worked with St Helena to build an award winning blog in under two years by following these below steps. Perhaps they’ll help you too?

  1. Leverage your existing audience

We all have an existing online audience, whether they are personal or professional contacts. St Helena has an audience of Saints (those who come from St Helena) living in the UK, potential travellers and those who have visited the island. For the St Helena Wirebird travel blog, this was the starting user base.

We then built this audience through creative copywriting and by addressing topics that were directly related to the audience. As St Helena’s PR agency, our overall focus is to increase visitation to the island. Therefore the blog needed to tell potential travellers a story about the island, which is delivered by collaborating with Saints.

You then publish posts, make sure they are shared on social media, and capture as much data as possible. On a blog this is simple: have an email subscribe form.

  1. Have a robust publishing schedule

Blogging is a marathon and not a sprint. To succeed you need a robust publishing schedule that can survive the ups and downs of daily life. Even in stretched weeks, a post must be published. Every post will generate more views; over a period of time a visitor base will grow and eventually you may have a blog that can rival traditional news outlets.

This means planning a content calendar that looks ahead for at least the next three months. Knowing the dates of upcoming events, getting guest bloggers to write their posts in advance, and drafting copy way ahead of deadlines will all help.

  1. Be transparent. Be social.

Online news publications can only survive if they are tapped into social networks. This applies for mainstream news, trade publications, and every blog ever created. Unless people share posts, then it will be extremely difficult building any sort of audience.

Blogging is completely social. This means networking with other bloggers. At Keene we’ve invested huge amounts of time networking with various blogging communities. This has even involved travelling abroad to meet with blogging groups. We treat bloggers as we would journalists, because their craft has just as much influence. Part of owning a blog means commenting on other peoples blogs – get involved in the community.

  1. The most important question is ‘Why?’

St Helena Tourism has a blog to generate tourism for the island. Keene Communications has a blog to show our team’s insight to generate business. I personally run a blog to help make a name for myself in the PR industry. Your blog needs a ‘Why?’ element; no matter if you are an individual or organisation.

This post was also published in the Keene Communications blog.

How technology turbocharges news monitoring

“Just where do you get your news?” is a common question for those who work in the media.

Fellow practitioners tend to get their snippets from friends, family or colleagues, various social sites (although these can be unhelpful “echo chambers” of opinion), and online sources.

If you work in the digital media environment we find ourselves in today, it’s unlikely that your first exposure to news in the morning will be from a physical news ‘PAPER’. It’s just not fast enough, doesn’t provide a variety of opinion and certainly not a full-proof method of getting a feeling of the day ahead. In public affairs (and PR), newsgathering is a critical part of client delivery. If something happens, consultants need to act quickly.

The trick is how to get your news. It has to be:

  • Instantaneous (from publish to inbox)
  • Reliable
  • Monitor a variety of sources

Some agencies may chose to employ dozens of interns or account executives to manually monitor sources. At Keene Communications we rely on technological solutions, news monitoring tools, which means staff efforts can focus on feeding the bottom-line. Everyone is responsible for business growth, and certain aspects of client delivery can be turbocharged through technology, even news monitoring.

This is how I get my news.

RSS Readers
Okay, it’s an old technology that hails from 1999, but it’s stable and proven. The RSS Reader landscape was rocked in 2013 when Google closed its popular Google Reader service, despite 154,000+ messages of support. Thankfully RSS Reader technology is far from unique, and many competitors revealed themselves. At Keene we tend to rely on Feedly to organise our news sources list.

Feedly screenshot
My personal Feedly for work and pleasure. A mixture of tech, politics, travel, philosophy and geek.

RSS Readers are perfect for news monitoring because they allow you to see the latest updates from hundreds of news sources in just a few minutes. As RSS feeds are widespread (on every newspaper or blog I’ve visited), it allows a wide variety of publications to be tracked.

In the morning I can access Feedly on my iPhone, then access it via Google Chrome on my Mac once in the office. It allows me to read widely, efficiently, and broaden my knowledge – critical for business meetings. The whole team at Keene use feed readers and it’s one way to build our insight.

Social Media Sources
By “social media sources”, I really mean relying on social media contacts to recommend the news I read. Social media is often criticised for its recommendations, as social contacts tend to share similar stories, creating an “echo chamber” of media monitoring. This can mean missing rising stories or niche subject areas that may serve our clients best. Despite its shortcomings, any trending topic on social sites are worth taking note of, especially if you have a consumer client looking for a juicy news hook.

The most popular way to source social media news is usually by just logging into your social sites Reddit, Twitter, Delicious, Google+. You can choose more advanced and expensive options (as an organisation) by signing up for Brandwatch (which even delivers email alerts), Radian6 or Pulsar (and many in-between). If you want to get really technical then check out the open source tools developed by the Social Media Research Foundation.

Reddit, also known as the front page of the internet.
Reddit, also known as the front page of the internet.

Many of our clients use social media as a source of research. Gauging public opinion, identifying online communities and influential conversations happening beyond newspapers. It’s another news source that can be accessed by any agency member, across any digital device. To be read alongside other sources (such as RSS Readers).

Make no mistake, newspapers are still the media. It is where clients want to see their coverage and even a little read article can have fortuitous or cataclysmic consequences under the title of a mainstream paper title. As a PR and public affairs agency, newspapers are still the bread and butter of our business.

We keep tabs of newspapers by registering to them via RSS Readers, through subscription to beat pay walls, and by receiving paper copies to the office. Some in the agency believe nothing beats a paper copy, as the layout allows easy reading (especially the Financial Times). I personally prefer accessing digital versions, especially The Times or Guardian apps.

The Guardian leads the way for data journalism.
The Guardian leads the way for data journalism.

There is still a misconception in the media industry that newspapers have no hope. Being challenged by falling circulation rates, the speed of social media (including feisty bloggers) and through their own ‘dated’ internal structures. I personally believe whilst some publications will eventually face closure, others will manage to adapt their business to successfully make use of digital. For instance, the rise of data journalism plays to the strength of mainstream media.

Also published in the Keene Communications blog.