Blog : Brainiacs

Fibs over facts: why is faking it making it?

Fibs over facts: why is faking it making it?

 

Whether in the form of breaking news that pigs really can fly, political manipulation or clean eating ambassadors claiming nutritionist status, fake news is one for us all to watch in 2017.

Often tricky to spot, bogus and bizarre headlines are halting the thumbs of social media scrollers worldwide and feeding us a variety of fibs. From stirring up a finger-wagging frenzy of political scandal to helping websites cash in by luring in traffic with “clickbait”, audiences are becoming all too easy to fool with online content.

Since the Brexit vote last year and most recently the inauguration of the new US President, we are beginning to see the rise of “alternative facts” in our newsfeeds. The press’ purpose is to guide us with quality information and of course to encourage democratic opinion and debate, but when the president’s own media adviser declares war on it, it’s not hard to see how vulnerable audiences are becoming completely suspicious of the media; people want to source and share information that mirrors their own views and beliefs.

So why all the fuss now?

Digital = shareable, and pretty much anyone can be their own author. Recent surveys conducted in the US have found that people are getting their news from social media sites 62% of the time, and 80% of students are unable to identify a real from a fake story. Why bother looking any further for a source when credible-looking headlines can be shared in one click? And to add to that, we as content consumers are doing less and less actual consuming before we share. A study last year found that up to 59% of links aren’t even being clicked on let alone read until the end before sharing in our own feeds.

And it’s not all politics and propaganda – Richard Branson recently learned about his own “passing” from the release of a fake news story which subsequently prompted the creation of an RIP Facebook page. The page cranked up over a million likes, an indication of how unconfirmed news can spread like wildfire. Branson spoke out to the official media to reassure the public that he is not only alive and well, but he is now calling for police intervention on the rise of fake news reporting.

The good news is that the government are now working on establishing an industry-standard definition of the phenomenon, whilst also delving into what platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter can and should do to look out for the not-so-social media-savvy among us. It will be interesting as well as useful to see how the psychology behind it works too, and how online adverts might be adding to what has also been dubbed as an “epidemic”.

PR will be crucial for guiding businesses through the “post-truth” minefield, and as well as the media, we all need to tune in to the evolving sources we get our information from and regain trust in journalism. It’s great that the likes of Facebook have now accepted a level of responsibility for protecting its users from fake news scams with its flagging feature, but I hope that both the media and general public call perpetrators out on their bluff to make sure it doesn’t reach a point where we’re all living in conflicting realities.

Tackling the challenges of gender inequality through listening and empowering

Tackling the challenges of gender inequality through listening and empowering

Today the Marketing Society Scotland called for the industry to commit to building an equal and thriving community after new research found the sector to be rife with inequality and gender discrimination.  The research makes some stark reading but am I surprised? Sadly, no I’m not.

For me, Mind the Gap started a year ago when I joined a group of members to see if we could get something off the ground which would help us understand the issues relating to the retention of women and devise a plan to raise awareness and make a difference. I don’t think we ever imagined that we would be where we are today.  Whilst the state of equality in our industry is not something to be proud of, we are at least admitting there’s a problem. There’s no hiding from the fact that almost half (48%) of women in the marketing community in Scotland have either definitely or possibly experienced gender related discrimination compared to 16% of men.

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I feel incredibly proud of the Society’s openness to accepting where we are and more importantly, supporting a proactive plan of action to drive significant change.

In my career, I feel very lucky that I’ve always worked in environments where my gender has never been a barrier.  Sure, there are countless things that have been said or done which have been inappropriate or crossed the line, and rightly or wrong I’ve always just accepted that’s part of being a woman, but much more importantly I never let it distract from what I needed to do.  You see, regardless of what’s said or done I truly believe I am equal and as we know, lacking self-confidence is one of the greatest barriers to women’s success.

At Stripe this is an issue close to our hearts.  Like the rest of our profession the majority of our team are female. Whilst our Board is 50/50, our leadership team in Scotland is entirely female.  For us however, this is not about gender, it’s about culture.  We believe if we put our people at the heart of every business decision, we will create an environment where they are motivated to deliver great work and the business will succeed. When you run a small business, you experience the full spectrum of life’s ups and downs and we recognise that what’s going on for people out of work impacts the role they play in the business.  In the last five years 25% of our team and 90% of senior management have taken time off to have children. When faced with this challenge rather than viewing it as a problem we decided to treat it as an opportunity.  We set out to champion flexible working and the retention of women, so that first and foremost we could retain our talent, whilst hopefully setting an example for others.

I recognise that the Stripe culture and approach is unique. It isn’t just about a policy in a handbook, it works because our leadership team get it. There’s an unspoken understanding that it’s hard to balance everything, that you’re constantly making choices about what to prioritise and that sometimes you just need to be somewhere else. I believe more than anything it is our culture that helps women thrive. We listen and support, but we also try to inspire them to have the confidence to fulfil their potential, which from my experience is more important than anything. That said this is a business and it isn’t a one-way street. In return, we ask for their continued commitment and drive to help the business fulfil its potential too.

I’m not going to lie, we haven’t always got it right and we’re constantly learning, but we’re fully committed to creating an environment where all our staff regardless of their gender can balance their home and working lives and continue to have a successful career.

Quite honestly I don’t understand why any business would not want to help every individual fulfil their potential, so enough now. Let’s close the gap.

To find out more and pledge visit:  www.mindthegapscotland.co.uk

#BoysDoCry – HuffPost breaks down emotional barriers

#BoysDoCry – HuffPost breaks down emotional barriers

This week, HuffPost UK launched a new campaign to raise awareness of male suicide in the UK. #BoysDoCry encourages men to confront and acknowledge their own emotions and speak out about bottled up thoughts and feelings.

Using a host of famous faces, from political heavyweights to Rizzle Kicks and body coach Joe Wicks, the campaign addresses the tough topic with humour and honesty. HuffPost also welcomed Andy Murray as a guest editor for its accompanying editorial series. What better ambassador could it have than the man who cried in front of a global audience after losing his first final to Roger Federer at Wimbledon?

HuffPost has beefed up the campaign with research from 2014 that shows male suicide accounted for 76% of all suicides. It’s the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. Men are almost four times more likely than women to take their own life, but the medical community can’t conclusively say why that is.

The subject of male emotions is notoriously difficult to discuss. Last year, Stripe worked on a joint campaign with Cello’s Talking Taboos Foundation and YoungMinds called ‘Mates Matter’. It aimed to encourage young people – particularly teenage boys – to paying attention to what their friends say on social media channels to spot signs of mental health problems.

When I read the transcripts of focus groups and saw the research findings on self-harm and suicide, it painted a bleak picture of a nation that’s uncomfortable speaking about their problems. For example, when we researched attitudes to self-harm 71% of young people, 70% of parents and 60% of teachers said they wouldn’t feel able to talk about it.

Male emotions are practically a taboo. #BoysDoCry and #matesmatter are the male equivalents of the iconic Always #LikeAGirl campaign – they stand up to gender stereotypes and reject the social pressures they create. #LikeAGirl spawned 177,000 tweets from around the world in the first three months, including a huge number of tweets from celebrities. Only time will tell how #BoysDoCry will fare.

Regardless, if you haven’t seen the HuffPost video, it’s worth checking it out. And, in case you’re wondering, the last time I cried was when my partner moved to Asia for four months. That’s fair enough, right?

Snapchat: the gift that keeps on giving

Snapchat: the gift that keeps on giving

It’s been quite the summer for Snapchat. The introduction of Memories, Instagram causing outrage by basically stealing Stories, CEO Evan Spiegel popping the question to Victoria’s Secret Angel Miranda Kerr – every tech geek’s dream – and now its rebrand to Snap Inc. and of course the launch of Spectacles.

We’re a bit obsessed by Snapchat at the moment, everything they do seems to work. But Spectacles? Spectacles caused a bit of a discussion on Monday morning. What’s the point? Can anyone really be bothered buying and wearing a pair of sunglasses for the sole purpose of capturing a video? Have they learned nothing from Google Glass?

We weren’t sure. However, having dug a little deeper we think this might actually work.

 

What are ‘Spectacles’?

If you haven’t heard – which from a bit of research (a question in the girls’ WhatsApp group) not many outside of the communications industry have – a bit of background for you. Spectacles are the latest piece of wearable tech. A range of sunglasses from Snap Inc. that will record 10 to 30 second video clips with just a tap, the video footage will then wirelessly transfer to a user’s Memories in the Snapchat app. Spectacles look nice, nicer than Google Glass anyway, and will be available in three colours when they launch in the US this autumn for $129.99.

Initially, I had no idea who would want these. Why wouldn’t you just use your phone like we have been? But, actually, imagine being able to capture one of your favourite memories or events, then going back to see that memory exactly the way you experienced it. For me, it feels like they’ve introduced the GoPro for everyday members of Gen Z. Instead of capturing outdoor, extreme activities you can record everyday moments – the last day of school, the family BBQ, your best friend’s wedding. They’ve introduced the fun factor that was missing from Google Glass.

 

How will this work for brands?

A recent piece of research by Cisco Systems predicted that 80% of consumer internet consumption will be video content by 2019, and just last month Facebook sheepishly confirmed that text posts are declining on the platform in favour of video and images. We know video is becoming more and more important and it looks very much like its popularity will continue. The technology Snap Inc. are introducing means that the circular video can play full screen on any device, in any orientation, and captures the human perspective with a 115 degree field of view. Meaning even if you aren’t there, you can experience it, not just watch it – exactly what got people so excited about VR tech this year.

I think the popularity will depend on the early adopters. Will Gen Z influencers get on board; can we imagine the likes of Kylie Jenner, Zoella and Calvin Harris, some of Snapchats most loyal users, wearing Spectacles? I’m not sure. But, I’m looking forward to seeing how it works.

What if The Great British Bake Off refuses to go with the dough?

What if The Great British Bake Off refuses to go with the dough?

There are three things guaranteed to get the British public hot under the collar: Jeremy Clarkson, a political expenses scandal, and The Great British Bake Off.

Since the show first hit our screens in 2010, it has undergone its fair share of scandal. From the infamous Baked Alaska #bingate of 2014, to the custard stealing antics of the series 3 contestants, and even a flurry of bet-rigging accusations. There was nothing however that could have prepared us for the announcement made on Monday that the BBC’s posterchild programme will be moving to Channel 4.

The BBC was balanced, measured and generally very BBC in the way it broke the news:

bbc-tweet-bake-off

Channel 4, on the other hand, was slightly more excitable:

channel-4-tweet- bake-off

Within minutes, #GBBO was trending across the nation as fans voiced their indignation. Most were horrified by the idea of the show featuring adverts, a sentiment that anyone who has been attempting to follow the Paralympic Games in Rio will no doubt echo.

There’s an additional catch. The £75million, three-year deal cut by Love Productions with Channel 4 only includes the rights to the show, not the all-important quartet of presenters and judges.

Yesterday, a blow as hard as an unexpected soggy pie bottom was dealt to Channel 4. In typical pun-filled style, presenters Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc announced that they will not be leaving the BBC:

“We made no secret of our desire for the show to remain where it was. The BBC nurtured the show from its infancy and helped give it its distinctive warmth and charm, growing it from an audience of two million to nearly 15m at its peak.

“We’ve had the most amazing time on Bake Off, and have loved seeing it rise and rise like a pair of yeasted Latvian baps. We’re not going with the dough. We wish all the future bakers every success”

The immortal Mary Berry, stalwart of British baking television and someone you would definitely want as your grandmother, has yet to comment on the move, but I have a feeling that at 81 she doesn’t have time for this nonsense.

For all her diplomacy, kindness and compassion in times of cake-based crisis, Mary definitely isn’t someone I would mess with. At 13, she contracted polio which left her with a twisted spine and weakness in her left arm. She was told at school she would never amount to much, but look at her now: she is currently filming for the US version of Bake Off and has published more books than JK Rowling (a true fact!).

Paul Hollywood is harder to read. A Liverpudlian with a penchant for expensive cars, he can be forgiven for wanting to have his cake and eat it. At the end of the day though, he’s a smart cookie. Without the softness of Mary and the innuendo-laced moral support of Mel and Sue to balance his blunt manner, the show would be sorely lacking.

The Great British Bake Off is British television at its finest: a quintessentially twee hour of weekly escapism amidst a schedule full of ‘gritty realism’, chilling thrillers and police dramas. The battle for the rights to the show is set to be piping bags at dawn though, and I can’t wait to see the drama unfold.

How useful is the introduction of Snapchat Memories for brands?

How useful is the introduction of Snapchat Memories for brands?

Snapchat recently introduced its Memories function to the photo messaging app. Users are now able to create and save snaps and albums. One key feature is that you will be able to log memories and not just from new snaps. People can now compile retrospective memories from existing saved snaps and camera roll images. This update signals the next chapter in Snapchat’s evolution moving away from the short-lived disappearing image messages and giving users a wider choice of content posting formats.

HOW DOES THIS IMPACT BRANDS?

The big plus for brands on Snapchat is that Memories allows you, for the first time, to access your camera roll, and use a wealth of existing content. Over the past few weeks we’ve found it especially useful for sustaining momentum after a big brand event and getting more value from the exclusive images and video captured there. Telling a behind the scenes story after people have seen the end result often has more impact and gives much more flexibility in how and when you distribute content before, during and after a special event or campaign. With Memories, brands can present any relevant existing content or plan out future opportunities rather than having to dedicate time to creating content solely via the app, a great step in broadening the scope of content that brands can present to their audiences.

Interested in understanding more about Snapchat for brands? Have a look at our recent campaign with the Scottish Youth Parliament where we ran Snapchat geo-filter ads to target young people.

Game, set, match. Wimbledon embraces the new digital age

Game, set, match. Wimbledon embraces the new digital age

Today sees the opening of one of the greatest tennis championships in the sporting calendar; Wimbledon. Here, we take a look at what the event is doing to cater for a younger audience and the preparation being taken for days when broadcast television is almost a thing of the past.

Growing up in the Crate household, there was a constant green screen in the living room for the same two weeks of June every year, as the well-manicured lawns of Wimbledon took over the TV viewing schedule. But with new forms of media continuing to develop as the tournament rolls around each year, Wimbledon has to embrace new platforms and look ahead to the day when TV is no longer watched at the volume it is today and people instead rely on other media.

For 2016’s coverage of the championship, Wimbledon is expanding the level of content they push out, with fans being able to see more than ever before. One of the main platforms they will be making more use of, is its app. They will be adding a Snapchat-inspired ‘Create your own story’ element, allowing fans to share their own experiences for other app-users to see. They’ll also be adding a ‘Plan your visit’ feature, which will be targeting first time ticketholders, offering them tips and personalised content to make their visit the best it can possibly be.

Wimbledon is also looking to make more use of their social media channels this year, promising to share more behind the scenes footage on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. They’re also looking to double its live content on Snapchat with four Live Stories being shared this year and on Periscope, they’ll be broadcasting more footage to an audience that’s grown to 500,000.

For the first time, they will be working with Apple TV to create an app that will enable fans and followers of the tournament to experience live matches and radio online, meaning no compulsory TV watching for fans of the game.

Wimbledon isn’t the only sporting competition which has our attention for the next fortnight though, as the UEFA’s Euro 2016 comes to a close. The two have entered into partnership to mutually attract viewers to both Euro 2016 and Wimbledon, which is a smart move recognising that Britain is a fan of sports in general as opposed to necessarily just the game being played.

It seems like Wimbledon has it sussed, aiming to be at the forefront of sports competitions, doing what they need to do to stay current and engage a younger audience. In a tournament that has been a TV staple for many in the calendar, it’s great to see that Wimbledon has recognised that TV won’t be around forever, as people use their personal devices more and more.

It’s exciting to see the developments in the transmission of such a quintessentially British event that spans fans of all ages and interests. It will be great to see what’s next. Now, I’m off to grab my phone, download the app and indulge in a cream scone!

 

Photo credit: StuartSlavicky/shutterstock.com

Love is love

Love is love

As reports flooded in from Orlando on Sunday morning my heart sank. 49 dead. 53 injured. A gay nightclub gunned down in cold blood in an act of terrorism. Tears welled in my eyes as I thought: “Those poor people. It could so easily have been here.”

In the wake of the hatred and horror is a message of hope: #LoveisLove. Around the world there has been an incredible outpouring of love for those affected by the atrocities in Orlando, millions of messages of support and public debates on how such a homophobic attack could take place.

Two years ago, Stripe worked on the Speak Up Against Hate Crime campaign. For months afterwards I was haunted by the stories we’d heard and the pain people experience at the hands of others simply for being themselves. Fortunately, Police crime statistics showed that homophobic crimes have become the territory of a very small group of marginalised extremists. Such hate crime is no longer a common occurrence.

In 2014, we relaunched the Scottish Government’s One Scotland brand as a national equality campaign. At that time, YouGov research showed three-quarters of Scots thought Scotland had made great progress towards equality in the last decade. I believe those figures would be even higher if polled today with the Western cultural shift that’s seen mainstream homophobia crumble away.

One of my best friends is LGBT equality campaigner John Naples-Campbell. When equal marriage was introduced, he turned to me and said: “we’ve fought our cause for so long that I never thought this day would come. I’m so proud of our country.” It was one of the most poignant moments in our friendship.

Tonight, some of the Stripe team is attending a candlelight vigil to celebrate the lives and mark the deaths of those killed in Orlando. We will stand proud together because #LoveisLove.

What PR lessons can be learnt from ‘Boaty McBoatface’ debacle?

What PR lessons can be learnt from ‘Boaty McBoatface’ debacle?

If there is one thing that we can all agree on – the naming of a polar research ship is not something which would traditionally generate the kind of nationwide media coverage it has over the past month.

When former BBC presenter James Hand jokingly entered a public competition to name the new £200m state-of-the-art ship, which is due to be built in 2019, he could have had no idea that his suggestion of ‘Boaty McBoatface’ would garner such public support and capture the imagination of the country so successfully.

Garnering quick support from the blog-o-sphere and social media channels, the ‘Boaty McBoatface’ suggestion soon went viral, with the public overwhelmingly endorsing the comical name for the new ship- and why not? It’s neither offensive nor particularly outlandish but I challenge anyone not to adopt a wry smile across their face every time they hear the name mentioned on TV and radio. It’s pretty much impossible.

Eventually, after achieving over 124,000 votes online, Boaty McBoatface triumphed in a bigger landslide than Labour’s famous 1997 general election victory. This is where the story takes a massive wrong turn – veering off the edge of a cliff and turning the PR dream into a politically correct nightmare of epic proportions.

Because, we all now know, Boaty McBoatface did not win – the decision was quickly taken out of the hands of the public and moved in-house to the Government who have now decided that the RRS (Royal Research Ship) David Attenborough is a much more befitting name than poor ‘Boaty McBoatface’.

In the public poll, David Attenborough came 4th overall – nowhere even close to the popularity of Boaty McBoatface – so why was the decision made to award the 4th choice as the overall winner?

By this point, Sky News, BBC, the Daily Mail and most of the British press had dedicated countless minutes and column-inches to the story which captured the hearts of a British public, looking for a rare glimmer of positive news amidst the daily turmoil of foreign conflict, asylum seekers, the Calais ‘Jungle’, a government at war with the NHS and junior doctors and massive job losses at BHS and in the country’s traditional steel and coal industries.

From a communications perspective, this is where major lessons could and should be learned.

Why was the decision made to, despite overwhelming public support, cast the social media competition aside and take the decision out of the hands of the public? Why even have a public competition in the first place if the decision is ultimately going to be taken by the ‘powers that be’ rather than allowing people a rare moment of joy?

Positive PR could have easily been achieved had they taken the nationwide publicity and utilised it to the advantage of the Royal Research Society. The RRS has probably never had such a far reaching media story and if the Government had been smart it would have harnessed this popularity and made the most out of it. It’s what we in the industry call an ‘easy-win’.

Instead the Government with its ill-thought decision has not only missed an open-goal of Chris Iwelumo-esque proportions, but blasted the ball into the back of its own proverbial net.

Just think of the goodwill and opportunities that could have been afforded to the RRS had they allowed ‘Boaty McBoatface’ to become a reality – the research ship could have eventually become a national tourist attraction, such is the level of support attributed to it.

I think there are two main lessons to be learnt from ‘Boaty McBoatface’ –

  1. If you’re not willing to let go of control and give the public the overall say in a public competition – don’t do it in the first place. The Government would have been well aware of the potential risks attached when opening up a naming competition to the public.
  2. If you do go ahead with such a competition – whatever you do, don’t backtrack once you’ve gone live and score an own-goal from a PR perspective. The public is more shrewd than it is given credit for and it is exactly this type of scenario that fuels scepticism of politics and politicians.

The Government has now backtracked on its original backtrack and announced that while the polar ship itself will not be named Boaty McBoatface, one of its remotely operated sub-sea vehicles will be named Boaty in recognition of the vote. A more futile attempt to save some face, I can’t remember.

Overall, I can’t help but feel that a massive opportunity has been missed.

To paraphrase a much used quote “Boaty McBoatface is dead. Long live Boaty McBoatface!”

A sad day for the New Day

A sad day for the New Day

After only two months in circulation, the New Day is to close due to poor sales. But why did such a seemingly popular addition to our daily news fail so quickly?

I was convinced it was going to revolutionise the newspaper industry. The bite-sized, easy to digest news is just what we need in our busy lives, while its bold graphics made it stand out, and its attention grabbing front pages captured readers instantly. It had a fresh take on features, focusing more on people than products, and it made striking use of photography, giving it visual appeal.

The New Day felt like it came from the same family as Metro, Shortlist and Stylist: easy to read, informative and entertaining. But what the latter three publications all have in common is their distribution method. You can pick them up on public transport or from stands in high footfall locations, and the major appeal is the cost: all three are free.

Could the New Day have survived if it had been a free sheet? I would say undoubtedly yes. The premium advertising rates charged by titles like Metro or Stylist surely go to show that revenue can be generated by creating a title that people look forward to reading.

Of course there have to be limitations on the number of publications that are distributed on our transport networks, but why not give people a choice of what they want to read? Maybe that’s the real way forward for print media? People have a choice of which newspaper to buy, so why not give them options on which one to pick up for free?

I’m sad to see the end of the New Day, and I’m not alone. Its Facebook page is full of supportive comments. Who knows, perhaps Trinity Mirror will take heed of some of the positive vibes and find a way of giving it another day…