Pilot Light

Inferno is a PR consultancy. This is not. This is Inferno’s blog.

Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Slice of Crisis Comms to go?

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Fast food contaminations continue....

One thing that has engulfed the blogosphere and web this week was the antics of some people with the IQ of a salami finding pleasure in flatulating on someone’s fast food order. Now this is nothing new. For years urban legends have been around about employees of Mc Dougals spitting in hamburgers or Ken’s Fried Chicken ejaculating into the coleslaw so this was no surprise that bored pizza employees would do this, but two things did surprise me:

The first surprise was the PR buzz that this created on the web. Incidents like this have been around in one form or another from the dawn of time – and well before the internet was ever invented. Imagine the PR office in Rome when they caught wind of the Semon on the Mount? The obvious thing to PR professionals is: it’s not the buzz, but the response, and in a situation like this, the speed of reply. Whether a member of your staff has soiled a burger with body fluid or your drunken employee has just sailed 1.5 million barrels of crude oil onto a reef in Alaska, getting out the message as quickly as you can is the most important thing to limit brand damage. And in situations like this no-one does it better than the airline industry.

In crisis situations I think every PR professional, regardless of industry or vertical sector, should take a leaf out of the airline industry’s book- and I’m surprised Domino’s didn’t. These people are crisis comms veterans. They have bibles of the stuff and every time a plane goes down they roll their communications out with surgical accuracy. More importantly, the airline industry has a knack of moving the focus of the story from the loss of life, which is devastating to any brand, and onto another factor in the story which takes the brunt of the blame. Whether it is debris on the runway or a hero crew member – shift the focus and the story will contain itself. This is where Domino’s missed the boat.

By focusing the story on Twitter, YouTube and social networks bringing the culprits to justice, how this was global netizens working together to weed out injustice and wrong doing, I think the story would have taken a better turn. This would have taken the focus away from the apology and turned a negative into a positive. BA did this brilliantly with the Boeing 777 that came down at the end of the Heathrow runway – focusing on the ‘heroic’ crew to distract from questions about BA’s maintenance record- and I think Domino’s should have done the same.

Their comms may still shift, but speed is now of the essence.

Matt L


Written by pilotlight

17/04/2009 at 10:54 am

Is twitter the new email?

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Next stop Tweeters corner - Hyde Park

Now that Twitter, the micro blogging site, has reached the heady heights of one of the top 100 sites in the UK, I thought it might be useful to have some kind of Twitter language discussion; not just the usual how you should use it, why you should use it, how it helps you business (or not) etc, but also tone, language and style of tweets.

Following in the footsteps of email, 10 or more years ago, Twitter has people excited, bored and cautious all in the same breadth. And, in the same vein as email, businesses are attempting to understand how this new form of communication can help their company develop, or indeed if it’s just a time-wasting, productivity-reducing, miniature FaceBook ‘status’ type application.

But while FaceBook is designed for and mainly used by Friends to reunite and share their lives, email has become the primary source of business communications. Back in the mid-1990s, email was shrouded in FUD, and many businesses blocked their workers from using it – an eventuality that could happen to Twitter.

To stop that from happening I have come up with the following ten tips for those of you starting out in the Twitter tundra.

1 ) If your followers are mainly colleagues use appropriate language – if you wouldn’t use it in an email to a client – don’t Tweet it

2 ) Saying that, don’t be boring and corporate. Twitter is a social networking tool, so keep the tone light and simple

3 ) Twitter is only 140 characters, but this is no excuse to start using text language like a teenager. L8r and 4u aren’t professional

4 ) Abbreviations can be things such as, pls, tho, thru – general rule of thumb – if your parents would understand it, then you can use it

5 ) Ensure you use the right capital letters in the right place, this is 140 characters, it doesn’t mean 140 characters of bad grammar

6 ) Use punctuation, otherwise people will not understand what you are talking about and may misinterpret your tone

7 ) Remember discretion. You wouldn’t put what you think about your customer/client in an email to them, so don’t announce it on Twitter

8 ) Don’t run over 140 characters – if you can’t say it in the allotted space then maybe you shouldn’t be saying it to a Twitter audience

9 ) Be useful – you wouldn’t just send an email out to customers telling them what you had for breakfast so don’t Tweet it

10 ) Twitter is developing a sub-language. Don’t succumb to this. Twitter is just micro blogging no need for a new vocabulary

And there you have it. 10 rules all succinctly conveyed in 140 characters or less in true Twitter style. But in the meantime, let’s make hay and get busy twittering our thoughts, passions, funnies and important news articles, to our loyal followers. With any form of communications you have to think about the audience – who is reading this and why? And from that point, adapt your style, language and content accordingly.

Happy tweeting.


Written by pilotlight

16/02/2009 at 2:03 pm

Getting social with social media

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Feathered geeks

The brouhaha surrounding social media is reaching a crescendo; is it a good thing, does it bring people together and can it drive business, or is it a waste of time, bad for productivity and, well, just so last season? There are no definitive answers and every Tom, Dick and Sally has their own opinion. But for what it’s worth, social media is here and here to stay no doubt.

MySpace graduated to FaceBook, and FaceBook has upgraded to Twitter, but what’s next? No-one has a crystal ball about where this phenomenon will go, but we can shape and mould its future – after all we are all part of the numerous communities that social networking and tools such as Twitter bring together.

This is why I’m excited to be able to get together with some fellow ponderers this Friday that my first ever Tuttle Club event. The event seems fairly fluid and is open to anyone, meets every Friday and is to “sit, chat, drink coffee, eat delicious cupcakes from the bar, do some work, meet old friends, find some new workmates, stick around for lunch, start an exciting new business, plan a rave… whatever bag you’re into,” according to its web site.

Attending with my colleague Beth, I have no idea what we might learn or take away from the event, but that is the whole point of going to new things and sharing ideas – the surprise outcomes that occur. I do have one certainty though…. I very much doubt we’ll be planning a rave.

Sara Driscoll

Written by pilotlight

05/02/2009 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Blogging, Web 2.0

Tagged with , ,

Thanks for sharing

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Pull to flush

Pull to flush

So during my lunch break today I logged onto Facebook and something caught my eye. My American friends (and some UK as well), who so often utilise the status updates function to impart comical/pointless one liners on how their days are panning out, are utilising it for something a little deeper today. Almost all of them have updates related to the US elections, invariably supporting Obama but many simply imploring their fellow countrymen to get out and vote.


I found this intriguing for a number of reasons.


How strange it is that despite being several thousands of miles away we are now able to get real time updates on peoples thoughts and feelings in real time about an election which will ultimately affect us here in the UK


Did the creators of Facebook ever envisage the site being used as a political campaigning tool?


Would people aged below 30 in the UK be so keen to voice political opinions in such an open and campaigning way?


I have no definitive answers on any of those points but it would be interesting to hear what thoughts are out there.




Written by pilotlight

04/11/2008 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Blogging, Media, Tech, Web 2.0

Tagged with ,

Suitably clad

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It’s always a bit of a struggle, but finally we’ve got our new website up and running.

I’ve always found picking the theme, the tone, the style – even the colour of the hyperlinks – a bit like picking what to wear when going out somewhere new. Say, to a bar that you’ve not been to before, where people could be in jeans, havaianas and t-shirts – but could just as likely be doing the ‘jacket and jeans’ look that men of a certain age (yep, author included) and Will Young cling desperately to.

In the case of the sparkly new InfernoPR.com, we knew we wanted the ‘look’ of the site to demonstrate a step change from the previous site. Which is a grandiose way of saying we briefed the design team to ‘get rid of the fire pictures’. We also wanted to ‘broaden our palate’ (= ‘be more interesting than grey, black and orange’). Additionally, we wanted the site to show off our most important asset: our people. So rather than just having bland biographies of the management team, the new site contains quirky and, in some cases, rather worrying photographic insights into what makes every single Infernal click – from the lady that hits us around the head for not submitting our expense claims on time to the managing director, who hits us around the head for different reasons.

Anyway…it’s live now. Hopefully we’ve clothed our brand in a suitable way for those outside that will be looking in – either to see what we’ve done for clients past and present, or to weigh up what kind of crowd we might be to work with. Let us know what you think – outfit horror or jolly well dressed. We’re proud but thick skinned, and everyone loves constructive criticism on the way they look, don’t they.

Matt S.

Written by pilotlight

28/08/2008 at 8:39 am

Blunting the ‘Tipping Point’?

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Too true

This got some buzz on BoingBoing and is well worth a read.

Like many in the trade, I read The Tipping Point years ago and loved it. However, since then I have heard it was not rigorous enough and confused complex, multi-causal trends with quick, simple solutions celebrated by interested parties. In the case of NYC crime – zero tolerance targeting of antisocial behaviour was important, but was just a part of the puzzle compared to abortion law changes, highly accountable and computer-assisted strategic policing, economic growth, etc. In all marcomms, where there is so much chance at work, it can be very tempting to search for magic formulas to help us understand (or, ahem, sell, our services).

Yahoo’s own Duncan Watts has been featured in a US article trashing the concept of ‘influentials’ (and selling a new technique of his own). He makes some great points about how those who cite influentials rarely describe how and why they do their influencing. Joe Bloggs can be just as important to getting a trend going and the word out than a young hipster. Watts by and large rejects the idea of influencers in favour of traditional forms of mass marketing, enhanced by some digital good sense and goodness. He also seems to suggest that if pitched right, reasonably good ideas presented at the right time can make an impact. Watts also has the courage to see how chaotic the world can be and admit that a lot of marcomms is a question of dice rolling rather than dart throwing.

However, I would argue that in the B2B world (and in specialised, small markets generally, like high fashion, professional cameras, etc etc) influencers do exist and are powerful especially on the blogosphere. People can base, or at least justify, brand preference using them like celebrity endorsers.

There are no answers yet in this game that will satisfy every question and never will be but Duncan Watts is a thinker to watch.


Written by pilotlight

30/01/2008 at 3:56 pm

Puppets, muppets and blogs

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Buying the Blog

Sometimes it seems like we live in a permanent cycle of crazes. No sooner has Leonardo sheathed his Ninja sword on his turtle shell than Dr Who brandishes his sonic screwdriver. The hypey world of technology and social media is no different. No sooner has Friends Reunited faded than Facebook comes along and so the cycle continues. It can be difficult to work out which is the puppet and which is the muppet.

Twelve months or so ago, blogs were at the “peak of inflated expectations”, to use Gartner’s Hype Cycle metaphor. But blogging was then a mainly consumer activity. With a few pioneering exceptions, businesses weren’t blogging. Simply put, its value as a business tool was not proven. Then some US studies started to examine the case for business blogging, some books on the subject were published and it seemed the business community was waking up to the power of social media.

But, while the US can be a good indicator of future UK behaviour, there are enough differences between the two countries to see the need for a UK-centric view of business blogging. How many UK businesses are involved in blogging? Do they see it as a valuable business tool and if so, in what ways?

At Inferno, we wanted to know the answers to these questions and rather than wait for someone else to do it, we decided to research the matter ourselves. So, we asked Billy Hamilton-Stent at Loudhouse Research to look into the matter for us. The result was a research report called “Buying the Blog” which we launched at the Lords Media Centre last week. It surveyed 300 managers from UK companies of more than 250 employees on their views of blogs and blogging.

To help us launch it were Hugh McLeod, Neville Hobson and for an overview of the research findings, Billy Hamilton-Stent. The audience of senior PR and marketing practitioners were raving afterwards about how valuable and interesting they found the event – so thank you guys!

Reaction to the results themselves varied. I was surprised that as many as 50% of UK companies are now involved in blogging, but others were less surprised. What was clear though, is that a full year or more on from the peak of blogging hype, those UK businesses that took a more cautious attitude to business blogging are now ramping up their involvement in the blogosphere. The survey found that 64% of UK corporate blogs have been launched in the last 6 months. And, perhaps most encouragingly 86% of companies that have a blog credit it with generating more business opportunities for their company.

So, the trend is clear – UK businesses see the value of blogging and are now experimenting with how it can add value to their businesses. As we said at the launch, the risk is that businesses rush headlong into blogging without thinking and start to behave inappropriately. A blog is not the place to sell, it is the place to start genuine relationships that offer indirect value to their businesses. Some will need some help to get the balance right, which is where businesses like Inferno will be needed.

We thought you may like to see some of the presentations that Grant, Billy, Neville and Hugh gave at the event. The video highlights are posted below (if you are using a reader scroll down to see the four separate posts). There are also some great photos which can be viewed on Flickr.

An overview of the research report’s findings can be found on our website. If you would like to see the full report with all the different nuances of data, then drop Grant Currie (Inferno’s MD) a line at grant.currie@infernopr.com and we’d be delighted to take you through it.


Written by pilotlight

21/09/2007 at 5:35 pm