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6 FEB 2014: #SocialSummit event report (full day #2)

I blog after the second full day of the #SocialSummit (www.thesocial-summit.com) organised by Haymarket (an event that Event Editor is helping to promote).

After introductions by Brand Republic Group editor-in-chief Danny Rogers (an ex-colleague of mine at PR Week) and the day’s chairman, Andy Porteous (formerly of Unilever), delegates listened to keynote Malcolm Bell’s story of how he had – literally – made millions from ‘social media’.

The woolly-hat-sporting entrepreneur described how he had created a business called Zaggora, which sells ‘hot pants’ – exercise clothes that make the wearer hotter to help them try to lose weight – attributing 60 per cent of its revenue to Facebook. Bell said he pointed to this Facebook-fuelled success when a consumer-goods firm’s marketing head recently said to him that he was unable to ‘place a value on a Facebook ‘like’.”

The day’s first panel session – whose topic was ‘Measuring Success and ROI’ - featured Pete Markey, chief marketing officer at insurance firm RSA; Alanah Donnell from the Department for Work & Pensions; Paul Fabretti, digital and social media lead at Telefonica Europe; and Rylan Hooley, partner manager at Hootsuite. Hooley was clear that organisations’ social media strategy and targets “must be aligned to core business objectives, if you want to make sense of a ‘like’ or a ‘tweet’.” Fabretti said he was “some way off” identifying a “single ROI figure” for social media spending, while Markey said RSA was “still on a journey”.

One social network that cropped up repeatedly during the #SocialSummit’s first full day was Yammer, and it reared its head on numerous occasions also today, including Markey describing how RSA used it: “We have gone down the ‘employee engagement route’ to try and prove ROI [on social media].” Hooley noted that Yammer is a “great way to test people internally”.

On the crucial topic of measuring social media, the DWP’s Donnell said “the hardest part is the out-take”, explaining: “The immediate output is how many people tweeted about it, or attended the event. The outtake can be five years down the line.”

A further #SocialSummit theme has been speakers highlighting examples of organisations using Twitter for a friendly ‘Q&A’, only to have the Twitter handle hijacked by jokers or critics. As well as the notorious #AskBG example from last autumn, Tom Nixon – founder of #SocialSummit event partner Nixon McInnes – cited an aborted #Ask-style foray by JP Morgan that the investment bank swiftly and amusingly ended with the tweet: ‘Tomorrow’s Q&A is cancelled. Bad idea. Back to the drawing board’.

More brodly, Nixon name-checked brands including John Lewis and craft-ale firm BrewDog as among those he admired for their clearly stated ‘purpose’, but added “it’s not just sexy brands”. He lauded Barclays for its attempts to recover from the Libor-fixing scandal, saying “people are not being promoted if they can’t ‘live the [bank’s newly espoused] values’.”

Event Editor next attended a breakout session entitled ‘Legal and Compliance’, which examined issues such as celebrity endorsements and data protection. We heard that potential new EU rules could have a “quite substantive” impact.

A subsequent breakout session saw journalist-turned-comms trainer Alex Singleton lambasting brands whose Twitter teams tweet ‘Bye everyone, we’re off home’ at 6pm; press officers who think inquiries from non-traditional journalists are “beneath them”; and he advised organisations: “fix your call centres, and you reduce [potential] social-media problems”.

Over lunch it seemed the big talking point among delegates – as the previous day – continued to be a hunger for more concrete examples people could cite to justify spending on social media.

At the next panel session Richard Taylor, director of corporate affairs and communications at Morrisons, said he had three different ‘social’ teams, in customer relations, marketing and media/corporate comms. He recalled last year’s media storm - fuelled by social media - over the supermarket’s uniform policy after a staff member was suspended for wearing tributes to soldier Lee Rigby.

On the thorny topic of measurement, American Express’s head of social media and customer experience, Carl Barkey, said the financial services firm is “continually evolving” but that “it all starts from business objectives”.

The next platform speech came from Mark Brayton, head of brand marketing, innovation and social media at Barclays, who described how the bank had ploughed resources into Facebook but was still a “novice” at Twitter. Initiatives include encouraging people to suggest ideas for ‘making everyday banking better’ – he said more than 3,000 tangible ideas had flooded in, of which already 300 hadbeen implemented.

The marketing director of event partner Majestic SEO, Dixon Jones, discussed the relative merits of different ‘channels’ and ‘flow metrics’ before handing over to Jerry Daykin, European social media manager at snacks giant Mondelez.

The latter provided a concrete example of how investment in social media had apparently generated more sales – specifically, of the Cadbury Creme Egg. He said the firm had shifted promotional resource away from TV advertising towards Facebook, and sales, which had recorded two successive years of falling sales of greater than 10 per cent, had grown by nine per cent.

Daykin was also a fan of Google+ Hangouts – one PR initiative involved promoting a sickly-looking recipe for Creme Egg brownies – and overall concluded “we’re [Mondelez] starting to invest in social to match the scale of our business”.

The day concluded with presentations from Twitter UK’s brand and agency advocate Oli Newton, Pinterest UK country manager Sarah Bush, and Facebook director of sales for UK & Ireland, John Lamphiere.

Newton had little trouble impressing on the audience the power of Twitter but Bush had a tougher gig translating Pinterest’s apparently more niche appeal to retail-/fashion-hungry consumers (or recipe-seekers). She said Pinterest was “likely to be a paid platform next year”.

Facebook’s Lamphiere followed Mondelez’s Daykin in attempting to provide ‘hard stats’ as to social media’s ROI, saying that Coca-Cola “have found that for every €1 invested in Facebook they get a €2.74 return”.

The day – but not yet the overall conference – was over. I’ll be back again tomorrow morning for a half-day workshop on… 'Measurement and ROI'.

5 FEB 2014: #SocialSummit event report (full day #1)

I blog after a fascinating first full day of the #SocialSummit (www.thesocial-summit.com) organised by Haymarket. Event Editor is thrilled to be helping Haymarket to promote the event, a two-day conference flanked by a further two days of workshops.

The morning’s keynote was provided by Julian Payne, the BBC’s head of press and media relations, who described the challenges that social media – particularly Twitter - has created for PR people, particularly at large, heavily scrutinised organisations such as the BBC.

He described how Twitter has accelerated news cycles so much that organisations “get about 24 minutes”, as opposed to 24 hours, to digest and react to events. Within the BBC, he said, the rule of thumb is that “core teams must engage within one hour” to a major issue. Mulling social media’s “instant outrage” tendencies, he recalled a personal PR nightmare when the BBC shunted popular children’s programme Blue Peter away from main terrestrial channels to CBeebies, triggering instant suggestions the BBC was ‘killing’ the show. Payne reflected: “Within 20 minutes the world went mad.” He joked: “I tend not to [even have time to] get a cup of tea if we’re putting an announcement out now.”

Payne acknowledged that “future-gazing in social media is about as easy as picking the winning lottery numbers”, but that “younger audiences are moving away from Facebook”, with Instagram increasingly popular.

He humbly acknowledged that “in our organisation we don’t feel there’s a natural lead yet” on social media. He said criticism on Twitter directed at publicists’ personal accounts can “terrify” some, and joked that he “regularly wakes up and tears [his] hair out at what a [BBC] presenter may be saying about the illustrious organisation [BBC]”.

The day’s first breakout session was chaired by CME Group’s Allan Schoenberg and featured representatives from Nokia, Cancer Research UK and the Social Media Leadership Forum (SMLF).

Justin Hunt, founder of the SMLF, said how it is “very difficult” for major organisations to be transparent, “authentic and speak in a unified way”; in addition, he added, organisations in sensitive areas such as defence, can never be open.

Things are obviously very different for technology-based firms such as Nokia, whose global director for digital and social media, Craig Hepburn, described how he located a screen outside his CEO’s office showing the disconnect between messages the company was ‘pushing’ in its external communications and what people were saying on social-media.

Cancer Research UK’s head of PR and social media, Nicola Dodd, said the charity had an ex-journalist running their social media output, which she felt was very effective. This year, she said, CRUK “don’t need lots and lots of new followers - we want greater engagement”.

Richard Moynihan, social media and community manager at free newspaper Metro, was next to speak, and described how staff continually monitor the social popularity of Metro’s content via numerous TV screens. The past 12 months have witnessed “phenomenal” growth in social sharing of Metro content.

After an interactive session led by Max St John, managing director of conference partner NixonMcInnes, Keren Perrott from asset management firm M&G Investments described how her firm needs to tread cautiously. “I’ve never had a PR agency successfully sell me a social-media campaign in financial services,” she said, adding: “In financial services a lot of people are worried to make the first move. There’s pushback from senior management often.”

“You do need buy-in from everyone. It won’t work if people are half-hearted. A bit of [online] personality really helps – to show our clients we’re not all about financial services. But you need to be very careful how you use humour.”

Perrott also mentioned what she sees as the recent ‘internationalisation’ of social media, and how the importance M&G attaches to social media has “totally changed” across Europe over the past year or so, with a particular surge in interest in Italy.

After lunch the first session was a talk by Dom Dwight from Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate, who runs a small in-house team tasked with building online buzz around Yorkshire Tea. He cited how his team have used hashtags such as #teaonthetrain (promoting ‘selfies’) and #teasong (promoting a viral video).

Dwight was asked the killer question by an audience member: has his social-media work meant more tea sales? He responded that the tea-market is in decline “as young people don’t drink tea and older people are dying”, and that he’d at least tracked an increase in brand ‘affinity’.

Next up was Adam Cranfield, head of marketing at conference partner Mynewsdesk. He identified three criteria for social-media success: to be real-time; multi-channel; and multi-media. “Get good at these three and you’re likely to succeed,” Cranfield said.

Cranfield name-checked Klout, PeerIndex and Kred as tools to identify influence, and also particularly extolled the power of images in social-media.

In addition he touched upon trends in search engine optimisation (SEO), saying that SEO firms are “having to change their model to focus on quality content” and how important it is for websites to be designed for access via a mobile device.

The final panel session of the day, chaired by Kate Magee (a former colleague of mine on PR Week who recently moved to sister title Campaign), featured social media experts from BBC News, the Wall Street Journal, Guardian and Metro.

Martin Ashplant, head of online content at Metro, described how keeping tabs on content items’ ‘social shares’ is crucial. Laura Oliver, social and community editor (UK) for the Guardian, grinned that she has “a lot of slightly worthy conversations” internally about whether their work is “affecting change”. She was another of those to refer to mounting interest in Instagram.

The day concluded with a talk from Nicola Clark, head of marketing and communications at Chiltern Railways. She described how much of her job is inevitably spent on crisis communications – whether communicating about engineering works or snow/leaves/animals on the tracks, etc – and new members of her four-strong in-house team have ‘Twitter exams’ to make sure they “can stand up under pressure” when customer complaints and inquiries come in.

The conference resumes tomorrow, when Event Editor will again be tweeting away and hoping for further insight from some of the country’s top social marketers.

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