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Fake News!

Fake News!

“We are living in an era of fake news” said a Downing Street spokesman as the UK Government unveiled the new national security communications unit to tackle disinformation.

President Trump announced the Fake News Awards on Twitter, the Pope just denounced “snake tactics” from those who spread fake news, and social media platforms are being threatened with sanctions if they don’t hand over information about misinformation campaigns.

This isn’t an episode of Black Mirror set in a disturbing dystopian future-universe. This is real life in 2018.

During times like this the public needs reliable sources of news more than ever. Major, trusted news outlets remain our bastions of the truth as organisations like the BBC, Press Association and Reuters pour resources into fact-checking and strive to present a balanced, unbiased story.

It will be interesting to see how they fare as Facebook begins piloting new algorithms to prioritise content from publications that people rate as trustworthy. The most trusted sources will rank higher in news feeds to help the truth rise to the top. While there are only tests in the US now, Facebook plans to roll it out internationally in the future.

In Norway, four of the country’s most influential media organisations have already formed a ‘fact-checking collaboration’ called Faktisk. It will manually fact-check Norway’s media and social media, public debates and politicians’ comments before ranking them with a truthfulness rating from one to five. The software is open source, so other media companies can use it too.

Fake news is no longer a joke. Around the world publishers, governments and social media platforms are under increased public scrutiny to address the issue. The race is on to find the best way to spot and flag fake news.

Will the UK Government be the first to crack the code? Only time will tell.

Stripe backs communications industry ban on AVE

Stripe backs communications industry ban on AVE

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has announced plans to ban its members from using AVE (advertising value equivalent). Communications practitioners found to be using AVE next year may face disciplinary action.

For those who aren’t long in the tooth, AVE is an old fashioned way to evaluate PR coverage as though it’s paid-for advertising content. Using column inches you would measure the size of an article and multiply it by a financial value provided in an advertising rate card.

Nobody pays full price for advertising when it’s bought as a package, so the AVE metric became more and more unreliable – especially when digital news and social media became increasingly important for measurement, as it simply couldn’t be measured accurately. I once saw someone using a wooden metre stick to measure online coverage on a computer screen. That was the final straw.

Stripe stopped using AVE about four years ago. At the time, we decided that providing an antiquated and inaccurate evaluation metric wasn’t right for us – we’re totally transparent in our reporting and measuring AVE isn’t a transparent process. As a quick fix, we provided CPI (cost per impression) and CPM (cost per thousand) which gave clients a financial value to track.

Since then, we’ve introduced advanced social listening services, developed an Influencer Index to measure influencer engagement on and offline, and worked in partnership with a range of data provider partners to develop our measurement approach. Our evaluations are focused on demonstrating the real-world value of our work, so we base our strategies on insights, invest in tools to help us measure in-depth, and ensure evaluation is built into our work right from the beginning. Measurement should never be an afterthought.

That’s why Stripe has a team of evaluation specialists running Stripe360, our in-house measurement and evaluation service. They use a suite of qualitative and quantitative measurement tools to provide 360 degrees of communications evaluation – from stakeholder influence and social analytics to media awareness and behavioural analysis. Their top priority is tracking real-world impact.

Banning AVE won’t affect Stripe or our clients – we don’t use it. However, we back the CIPR decision to change industry standard. Evaluations that hoodwink clients are completely unacceptable and banning deceptive metrics encourages communications practitioners to look for ways to properly measure their work with actual real-world impact.

For more information or to discuss our evaluation services, you can contact us on 0131 561 8628 or hello@stripecommunications.com.

#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?

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.

#EURchoice

#EURchoice

Young voter turnout is lower than any other demographic in the UK. That’s why the Scottish Youth Parliament briefed Stripe to develop and run a national campaign to encourage young people aged 18-25 in Scotland to register to vote ahead of the EU Referendum.

The campaign has already reached more than 400,000 young Scots and made 2.1 million impressions with the hashtag #EURchoice and the bold slogan “Get registered. Get voting. Get heard.” Using engaging videos and images we’ve rolled out content across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

We also created localised Snapchat geofilters targeting Scotland’s most densely populated areas.

Mock up group
This campaign is about young Scots standing up for their rights and getting their voices heard. It’s a tough issue but we know from our research that it resonates with young voters and drives behavioural change. So…

Gif 1 - Register

Crisis communications: preparing for the worst

Crisis communications: preparing for the worst

“You just have to deal with the situation. It’s not until afterwards that you realise how much it affects you emotionally” said one participant at an event Stripe was hosting this week.

In the wake of a tragic accident at a primary school, she was the local authority’s communications specialist – briefing councillors, consulting with emergency services and arranging plans for the school’s memorial. She was following protocol and process in the midst of a community’s grief.

This is surely the dark side of PR and comms if ever there was one: planning for worst case scenarios, considering how an organisation could respond, and pre-empting the emotions and sensitivities involved. Nothing prepares you for the reality of being at the centre of a real crisis, but having communications plans in place can be the difference between offering heartfelt condolences and being swallowed by your own emotions and negative media coverage.

Last week, CIPR Scotland hosted an event on ‘using digital channels in crisis communications’. The speaker talked about research from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer that showed 40% of organisations don’t have plans in place in case of a crisis.

The CIPR event focused on developing digital procedures for crisis situations. This included:

  • Act immediately – even if you need time to develop a public response.
  • Push pause on all planned content, including scheduled social media posts. Ask yourself “is this content suitable in the current circumstances?”
  • Integrate all parts of your communications structure into the crisis plan. This should range from social media and website content to SMS services, telephone hotlines and email bulletins.
  • Review your organisation’s tone of voice and spokesperson – sometimes the response needs to come from the CEO. No one else.
  • Start monitoring online discussions immediately – you need to understand what people and saying and why it’s being said.
  • Ensure internal communications is included at all stages. Getting your staff to understand the situation and how to correctly respond is vital.
  • Update your website. Add relevant information and check the tone being used on the homepage.
  • Engage your stakeholders and keep them updated. We develop these relationships and networks for a reason.
  • Always remember the emotions involved and act appropriately.

These considerations apply to brands not directly involved as well, as was demonstrated on Friday evening as the world watched and mourned for Paris.

As news poured in about the atrocities, many brands continued to post scheduled or automated content. The public reaction was disgust, even by those in the communications industry itself. Ad Week has run an article on how brands showed support without being insensitive. Facebook, Airbnb, Google, Skype and Verizon have been recognised for their appropriate support.

We can’t always predict when a crisis will occur, but real-life dictates that it will happen. It’s up to us to know how to respond, react fast and hope we never have to.

Reaching audiences: diversity matters

Reaching audiences: diversity matters

When Caitlyn Jenner came out as a transgender woman in Vanity Fair this year, she said: “I’m not doing this to be interesting. I’m doing this to live.” It was a powerful comment that’s stuck with me.

Last week the Equality Network hosted the first-ever Scottish LGBTI Awards – which shortlisted the Scottish Government’s ground-breaking One Scotland campaign for the Public Sector award. Our campaign slogan, “Scotland believes in equality”, is a bold message – honest, aspirational and indicative of work in progress. It resonates. For the general public, it’s a show of support. For visitors to Scotland, it celebrates diversity credentials. For campaigners, it shows the government is listening. For minority groups, it’s proof that they matter in our nation.

In 2014, on behalf of the One Scotland campaign, we commissioned a YouGov survey that found three-quarters of people agree Scotland has made great progress towards equality over the past 10 years. It also showed 89% of Scots believe more work needs to be done to ensure people are treated equally. There’s a desire for change that you can almost taste in the air.

To make it happen, everyone has a part to play.

As communications practitioners, it’s vital that we take diversity and equality into consideration when developing a campaign. It could be as simple as including subtitles on an online video, translating marketing material into the most relevant languages for your audiences and sense-checking that your messages won’t offend anyone.

One of the most important factors is audience profiling. The Department for Education released data this summer that shows school pupils in the UK speak 311 dialects and in some schools English speakers are the minority. In one school, the Daily Express found 342 of the 360 pupils considered Punjabi their first language. In that area, it would be critical to develop a campaign that worked in Pubjabi – not just in English.

CIPR’s Diversity working group has developed a series of research papers, reports and webinars which support PR professionals with an interest in diversity and equality. Did you know 16% of adults in the UK are functionally illiterate and the average reading age is nine years old?

Diversity Infographic 2015

When you start to think about diversity it can feel like a can of worms, but it genuinely affects everyone. It shouldn’t be seen as a choice, it’s a fact of life.

Turing Festival 2015: full stack marketing

Turing Festival 2015: full stack marketing

“As a general rule, everyone wants to be liked. Brands are no different because they’re created, represented and employed by people.” That was my Friday night take-away from the Turing Festival 2015, Edinburgh’s international technology festival.

For one weekend in Edinburgh, big hitters from across the technology industry share their inspirations, pet hates and hot tips on a range of topics. Friday was ‘full stack marketing’ day – from SEO to audience analysis and online behaviours. Headliners included Cyrus Shepard from Moz, Oli Gardner from Unbounce and Phil Nottingham from Wistia. The audience went wild when Rand Fishkin presented a ‘Whiteboard Friday’ especially for the festival.

With hundreds of tech-heads in one room, my expectation was impenetrable jargon and hours of discussion about algorithms and the merits of SEO. I was right – there was jargon, algorithm chat and SEO celebration, but dominating it all was the idea that the biggest challenge facing the communications industry is the need to ‘humanise’ brands and their digital presence. Sound familiar? “We humanise brands” has been Cello Signal’s tagline since 2014.

It’s not a new topic. Since computers started infiltrating customer services in the 1960s there’s been theorising that faceless industry puts off consumers. With every brand now competing for their piece of ‘digital space’, it’s never been more important to come across as honest, trustworthy and ‘real’ to customers.

The problem (and opportunity) for the comms industry is that so many businesses are doing it badly. Atrociously. Abominably. Unforgivably boringly. How often do you pointedly ignore Facebook posts from a sponsored brand that does nothing but switch you off?

Mark Johnstone from Distilled summed it up when he questioned “why will anyone care?” As communications consultants, it’s our job to take a step back, stop, play devil’s advocate and assess the psychology behind consumers’ experiences and perceptions of a brand and its messages. Without that research and assessment, there’s nothing to base a strategy on.

The inconvenience is that there isn’t a silver bullet. It takes time, effort and (usually) money to understand your customers; their likes, dislikes, behaviour, mood swings, passions, schedule and tolerance. It’s like they’re real people… because they are real people. To get a real person on your side takes time, effort and (usually) a bit of money.

It’s heart-warming to think that even in the most advanced technological age, we can still say the easiest way to build trust in a brand is by making people feel special and understood.

As a complete aside… thanks to the speakers at Turing Fest for an inspiring event. And to the guys at Codebase and Stipso for organising it.