Social Hubs, War Rooms and Chief Engagement Officers – the latest csuite podcast

Back on the 26th February, I recorded show number 6 of the CIPR csuite podcast series I’m producing for the CIPR’s Social Media panel.  My guests this time were Stuart Thompson, European Director of new CIPR partners TINT and immediate past president of the CIPR and Chief Engagement Office at Ketchum, Stephen Waddington (Wadds).

In the first section of the show, we discussed the benefits of Social Hubs like Tint, which as Stuart explained, is ‘a technology platform that allows organisations to display social feeds and port them to any digital device, anywhere in the world’.

Stuart talked us through a great case study of how Tint worked with the People’s Climate March in New York, which broke all sorts of records in terms of digital engagement for a charity campaign, which then led us on to a side discussion about war rooms in PR agencies.  As Wadds explained, war rooms are a way to describe people working in an integrated agile way around a table for a campaign, although they call them newsrooms at Ketchum!

The interesting point for me about using technologies such as Tint though, was that by bringing all the user generated content from various platforms like Facebook and Instagram etc. into one hub, perhaps hosted on the brand’s website, it could help to bring ownership back to the brand itself, rather than lose it to the Social Networks, which I feel has been happening over the years.

Whether the likes of Tint ultimately benefit the client or not (and looking at their client base, it looks like they are doing something right!), Wadds feels that it’s beholden to anyone in the PR business to jump on any new tool and try it out and explore it as part of their continuous learning.

In the second half the show, Wadds talked through the role of a Chief Engagement Officer but first had to explain that he wasn’t after David Gallagher’s job of CEO of Ketchum Europe, as in an interview with McKinsey in April last year, Richard Edelman used the term to describe the CEO’s new role.  Stephen, however, explained that Ketchum have a slightly different view to that of Edelman explained in their Trust Barometer and so his brief is to make social and digital ‘normal’ across the agency, but that’s it’s good that both agencies, and indeed other organisations are using the same language around this issue.

We then went on to discuss the findings of the CIPR’s recent State of the Profession survey, specifically around the issues related to social media and how he was ‘pissed off’ with some of the results when he discovered that as an industry, our business is still slow to move, whilst the pace of technology and pace of change is incredibly fast but behavioural change is incredibly slow.  He believes that the industry is polarising between traditionalists and those at the forefront of the business, and feels strongly that members need to get to grips with digital and social media skills or face becoming irrelevant, one of a number of points he made in a recent blog post.  He summarised his thoughts by saying that we need to recognise that there is a massive shift from publicity to influencer relations then branded forms of media and communities as a means of engagement, and we either embrace it, or you say “no” and stick with what you’ve done traditionally.

We did finish off the podcast on a positive though, as a lot of the issues raised in the survey are being addressed by the CIPR and that Wadds believes that it’s an exciting time for PR and so we, as practitioners, have to embrace it.

Are you linked in or out?

At my most recent CIPR Social Media Panel ‘csuite podcast’ recording, I had the pleasure of welcoming Ketchum’s Stephen Waddington to the studio as one of my guests on the show.

Before we sat down in front of the mic, we got chatting about the pros and cons of LinkedIn, as you do, with me being a fan of the platform and Wadds arguing that it’s just become very noisy and full of spam.

As a result, Wadds asked me to write a guest post for his blog highlighting a few tips on how to get some true value from this particular social network.

Without justifying anything with user stats or how important your personal social media profiles have become in terms of social selling (let’s take it as read that that is the case) here are the ten suggestions I shared for why you should be LinkedIn and not LinkedOut.

  1. Share knowledge

If you blog, you may find you get far more engagement to your posts if you publish them on LinkedIn, and you never know who might end up reading them.  Over Christmas, my family visited Disneyland Paris, and I wrote a post about why I thought the park needed a sprinkle of pixie dust on my return.  The post has been read 490 times to date, but interestingly, it found its way to a number of employees of Disneyland Paris, which led me to now be connected with the company’s Senior CRM manager.  Having discussed this with Wadds, on his birthday last week, he published his first post on the platform – 45 lessons at age 45 – which I’m proud to take some credit for as he commented that he followed his own rule No. 36 after our discussion – ‘Knowledge is power’, which stated ‘Never stop learning and develop an openness and enthusiasm about the world. Curiosity wouldn’t have killed the cat if it had read more books.’   In the space of one weekend, his post had 550 views, 64 likes and 32 comments (Wadds has a little more influence than me!)

  1. Plan your travels

If you are heading anywhere for the day, whether in the UK or further afield, and have time in your diary to fill, search on LinkedIn for the destination you are visiting and see who you know there.  You can do a more detailed search using the ‘Advanced’ search feature and typing in the post code or city that you are travelling to.  This does rely on whether users type in their home postcode or work post code when they first register of course, and often (myself included) may forget to update it when they move jobs.

  1. Reconnect

In the 20+ years I’ve been working since graduating, I’ve picked up just a few business cards and every now and then, I do a cull of the ones I’ve not been in contact with for years, or can’t even remember where I met them.  But not before I do a quick search on LinkedIn to see where they are now and so try to reconnect with them if relevant.

  1. Welcome visitors

Look under your Profile tab to see who is viewing your profile? There could be a whole bunch of reasons for people visiting your LinkedIn page, including some going to the wrong person with the same name of course, but wouldn’t it be good to know why?  Send them a note, thank them for stopping by and ask how you can help.

  1. Don’t be afraid to network

That doesn’t mean spam people. The LinkedIn mobile app doesn’t currently allow you to personalise invites, so I only ever send them via my desktop, using the ‘Personalise invitation’ option, as that way I can introduce myself and give a summary of why I want to connect.  There is nothing more frustrating than getting an invite, accepting it, and then getting hit by a standard sales email.

  1. Say who you are.  

I hate the fact that when I look to see who has viewed my profile, I see the following:


The clue to getting the best out of Social Network like LinkedIn are in those two key words, i.e. being  sociable and using it to network.  You wouldn’t go up to someone in the real world at a conference, for example, ask them to explain who they are, but not introduce yourself, so why do it here?  What do you have to hide, even if you are a competitor?

  1. Join Groups

This, again, is a great way to find new people to connect with.  I am off to an industry conference in Seville this month, and so have joined the specific organisation’s group to start my networking early and see if I can set up meetings during the breaks at the conference. Being in a group also helps when you send out invites as it gives you more reason to connect with someone new, again enabling you to personalise invite further by saying you share x many connections and y number of groups, so you obviously have quite a bit in common.

  1. Give feedback

I’ll admit that I don’t tend to read many of the updates that appear in my home page stream – I often browse through the top few when I go on the site but that’s all – with over 2000 contacts, it’s impossible to read everything.  But if you’ve connected with likeminded individuals in a similar field to yours, then the chances are a lot of the updates will be relevant to your work, so it’s worth scrolling through every now and then and picking out the odd article to read that has been shared that catches your eye.  Similarly, if someone has taken the trouble to publish a post, and you liked it, or had something to add, tell them and share it too (feel free to do both to this).

  1. Keep your profile updated

Many people see LinkedIn as a dynamic CV to help find their next job and don’t appreciate that people/companies may be using it to seek you out for your expertise in your current role.  So keep your profile updated.  Let people know what you’ve been up to and what you do for a living.  Share your expertise by embedding your presentations from Slideshare, or if, like me, you record podcasts, you can embed those from Soundcloud.

  1. It’s not Facebook

And finally, just a polite reminder, this is a business social network, not a personal one.  Whilst I was flattered that 0.35% (8 people) of my LinkedIn network liked my new photo when I updated my profile recently, I also found it a little strange, but perhaps that’s just me.  Thanks all the same though!


There are lots more tips and ways to benefit from LinkedIn and these were just the first few that came to mind.  Of course, if you want to find out more, you can always connect with me and ask – I’m at

CPD Done!

Back in August last year I decided to stand for the CIPR Council elections and through that process I realised that in all the time I had been a member, I had never been questioned about what I do for my Continuing Professional Development (CPD), something I now believe every member should have to commit to.

The topic of ‘Professionalism’ was highlighted by Stephen Waddington.  As one of his 10 pledges when he was CIPR President in 2014, he stated that we need to ‘Recognise that the public relations industry must shift from a craft to a profession by putting Continuing Professional Development (CPD) at its core’, and therefore he wanted to ‘Set a roadmap to ensure that CPD is recognised and seen as a key CIPR member benefit’.

In his Handover report in Q4 (see slide 4), Wadds talked about how work is now underway on scoping the development of an enhanced CPD offer for mid-career and senior practitioners. He confirmed that CPD completion rates in the 2014 to 2015 cycle have continued to increase year-on-year and that increasing this number will be a key focus for 2015.

Whilst I didn’t win my seat on the Council, I have seen through my commitment to complete my CPD this year.  It was easy, provided me with a bit of needed focus, was educational and surprisingly, it was actually quite enjoyable.

Inspired by Stuart Bruce’s blog post over the weekend, I’m sharing my CPD report below:


I’ve actually been lazy in that I haven’t recorded anything like the number of CPD activities I’ve attended, downloaded, read, watched or been involved in myself in terms of supporting others.  I intend to improve this next year to ensure I keep a note of more than is required just to reach my 60 points.  However, having finally gotten involved, I do believe the system needs improving.  60 points isn’t a hard total to reach, especially as two thirds of that was achieved through my participation on the CIPR’s Social Media Panel (CIPRSM), and attending and presenting at the Festival of Marketing.  I also claimed an easy 5 points by listing the csuite Podcast series that I produce.  So in effect, the main bulk of my points are in me providing support, although to be fair, I’ve actually found this is the best way I learn new things too.  For example, the Festival of Marketing had a really high quality of delegates and the presentations that I managed to sit in on whilst there were excellent, especially the one by my fellow CIPRSM member Dom Burch who discussed how Asda have engaged with YouTubers for their Mum’s Eye View YouTube channel (this was a good review of it on Econsultancy).   Another great presentation was by Philip Byrne, creative director at Buzzfeed who talked about shareable content (again, another good review here on Econsultancy)

Similarly, being an active member of the CIPRSM has enabled me to meet some inspiring minds in our industry and I always come away from those meetings enthused and full of new ideas and I encourage members to get actively involved in other panels that are of interest to them, plus I won’t lie in that by doing so helps your business development as well as personal development too.  Finally, producing the Podcast series gives me access to some great guests.  I have committed to write up each interview as a blog post too and I can honestly say I have taken away some great learnings from each of the interviews I have carried out so far.

But I do feel that improvements can be made to the CPD process.  It will be interesting to see how many people, like me, are frantically completing their report this week ahead of the deadline – nothing changes really, from doing your homework on the bus, to calling your accountant on the last day that you can submit your tax returns!

So perhaps we need to encourage better participation and learning throughout the year.  Maybe there needs to be a monthly or quarterly target to reach, plus a commitment to participate in something from a number of different disciplines or different activities, just to show you have a commitment to learning more about our profession, rather than simply taking an easy route to reaching your target points.

In the meantime, however, I really do encourage all members to take part.  You can still reach your 60 points this week, even if you haven’t started yet, but if not, at least make a commitment to do so for 2015/16.  You never know, you might learn something!

Have you got the E Factor?

Earlier this week I met singer song-writer Janet Devlin and her manager Rick Chambers of Insomnia Music Management, who kindly gave up their evening to chat to me about how they use Social Media for Janet’s direct to fan engagement for my latest CIPR csuite podcast.

X Factor fans may recognise the name, as at just 16 years old, Janet came fifth in the show back in 2011.

But, to her credit, as she explains in the interview, rather than take the easy route of accepting the record deals that were on offer to her straight after the show, Janet has instead worked non-stop for the four years since, to produce the music she wants to write.  However, she acknowledges that her fans have had a huge influence on her achieving that aim, and that Social Media has enabled it to happen.

I was therefore keen to find out from Janet and Rick about all the channels they use to engage with her fans, and there’s enough of them (channels as well as fans that is) and whether the lessons they have learned can be used by people working in other sectors of PR & Marketing.

Janet regularly uses the usual suspects of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram, and, as Rick confirmed, she is rarely off her phone posting updates!  But the areas we explored in more detail in the podcast were how she crowdfunded her first album on Pledge Music, regularly plays live online on, and sells merchandise on Music Glue that she designs off the back of feedback and request from her fans.

I found StageIt fascinating as fans can pay whatever they want to enter the events, so as Rick explained, no one cannot afford to come in and watch.  However, they can also ‘tip’ Janet too, which they do regularly for shout outs for example.  He also said that it’s a progression coming from Pledge Music and it shows how you can give back to your fans by providing exclusive content who will in return help to fund you, which helps Janet to ‘hit the road’ and put on the live tours.

By the way, Janet’s next live show is on 4th Feb at 11.55pm (I’m assuming that’s GMT)

But with all the channels mentioned already, together with other content outlets such as Vevo, Vimeo and Spotify along with her own website too, there’s a lot of work going on to stay in touch with her fans, which of course, all takes a lot of planning and strategy, or as Rick calls it, choreography.

The key lesson that Rick and Janet said all industries can take from their experiences on fan/client/customer engagement is about keeping the content fresh and supplying them with what they want on a regular basis.  What is crucial, however, is not to just take and not give back, but to ensure you give more and more back instead, which could be by way of exclusive videos as that’s how word starts to spread.

Finally, Janet Devlin’s latest album, ‘Running with Scissors’, which I absolutely loved, is available to download from itunes, or you can order a physical copy from her store on Music Glue.


Why Disneyland Paris needs a sprinkle of pixie dust

Having recenlty returned from a Christmas family trip to Disneyland Paris, it was no surprise to read that the theme park had been reported to have received a €1 billion bail out a few months ago.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great few days away and there is, without doubt, a magical feeling you get when you walk through the entrance, which is still the case for my 17 and 14 year old too.  However, the park looks tired and clearly shows a lack of investment and it’s therefore no suprise to read that it’s been losing money for years.

I can’t pretend to know how to run a theme park, nor do I have any idea of the cost of building rides and maintaining them, but here are my ten very simple observations as to where that huge investment could be spent to help restore my faith in the Magic Kingdom.

  1. It’s time for Michael Jackson to Beat It

In Discoveryland you will find what’s described as ‘A fantastic 3D film relating the adventures of Captain EO, alias Michael Jackson, featuring a rhythm-packed musical soundtrack and a whole host of dazzling special effects’

This film was made in 1986.   At the time, it was the most expensive film ever produced on a per-minute basis, averaging out at $1.76 million per minute and starred the biggest pop sensation directed by the guy that brought us Star Wars.  It didn’t get any better.  But what does that mean to kids of today? Michael Jackson sadly passed away over five years ago now and I understand the reasons that this attraction was brought back to the park as a tribute to him, but it’s time to move it on.  The film couldn’t look more dated and the ‘dazzling special effects’ look so basic compared to what we’ve come to expect with films such as Avatar and Gravity its almost embarrassing to watch.

  1. Did they not wanna build a snowman?

Wandering around the park are of course the famous five of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto but you’ll also spot the likes of Chip & Dale and … Mr Smee.  Where are the new heroes like Olaf, the snowman who stole the show in Frozen?  Disney need to stop living in the past.  The choice of characters you can meet still seems to be based on the ‘trying to live your childhood through your kids’ theory.

  1. Time to update the rides, Savvy?

I get that Pirates of the Caribbean was a ride before it was a blockbuster film, but would most kids going to the park know that?  So when you get to the ride, it makes no sense to me and must surely be huge disappointment to many not to see any reference to Captain Jack Sparrow.  Time to have a facelift.

  1. The not so Fastpass®

‘You can save time with Fastpass’, except that when you read your small print, ‘you may only have one Fastpass ticket at a time’ and despite Disney Hotel guests being able to enter the parks early, the Fastpass machines don’t open until 10am.  So choose wisely which one you want, because within minutes you are already only able to get into that ride say about an hour later.  By the time you have then used your Fastpass, the next one you try to use isn’t available until about 2-3pm, after which you’ll be lucky to get another one.  The system simply doesn’t work

  1. #nohashtagorwifi

Disneyland Paris has had over 14.2m visits in 2014, and almost every one of those must have been taking photos just as we were. So with the amount of pictures that were no doubt being uploaded to social media, the park could be trending online pretty much every day if they simply offered free wifi throughout it, which is not currently available, and perhaps ran competitions encouraging you to tag your photos with a hashtag where the best photos won Disney related prizes.

  1. Figaro Figaro Figaro

Far be it from me to tell Disney how to sell product, but I do find it odd that you come off a ride, say in Fantasyland, such as Pinocchio, and in the store you can buy a Lilo and Stitch toy.  I may have a vested interest in this one as my favourite Disney character is Figaro, Mister Geppeto’s cat.  I know, an odd choice out of all the characters there have ever been. But my point is, would there not be more chance of selling more product if, when you finished the ride you could perhaps buy a bigger selection of toys from that particular film?  After all, there are stores all over the two parks and in the Disney Village area where you can buy all the other stuff.   FYI, there was no Figaro on sale, and surprisingly, neither could we find a cuddly Olaf.

  1. Early Starts, but not for all the workers

Guests of the Disney Hotels benefit from being allowed into the park earlier than the general public, which is great, if all the rides were open.  But they are not.  For example, we made a bee-line for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in Walt Disney Studios, but that didn’t open until 10am, so instead made the long walk back to the main park to go on Space Mountain, except that ride had ‘technical problems’ and was therefore closed at the time.  Unlucky I guess, so instead we went to the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, but by 9.30am, it was already at a 30min queue, and of course you couldn’t use a FastPass at it was too early!  Open all the rides and make it a true benefit to the guests to get up early.

  1. These are not the rides you are looking for

Disney paid over $4bn for LucasFilm, so I get that it wants to see an ROI out of Star Wars.  But still having the original Star Tours simulator, which like the Captain EO film, is almost 30 years old, is just simply not worth queuing for, when your time can be better spent on amazing new and original rides like Ratatouille, which opened earlied this year.  Star Wars also seems an odd choice to show on the screens in the Videopolis area which, despite having a stage, had no live show on it.  Instead, across the screens they were showing clips from the animated series Star Wars Rebels.  This seemed strange, especially at Christmas time.  Surely kids would prefer to see the songs of Frozen playing whilst they are having their lunch, or something from Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  I don’t have the stats, and haven’t done the research, but I can’t believe too many kids under 10 would get excited by Star Wars Rebels whilst at Disney.

  1. Interactive Queuing

We were lucky in that the longest queue we had was 45mins, but the timing of many queues were shown as 70 minutes or more.  So how hard can it be to make that time pass a little faster by giving something for you to do whilst standing in the freezing December cold.  The impressive ‘Crush’s Coaster’ ride did get it right by offering a local wifi link enabling you to download a game onto your smartphone, which certainly helps.  So why can’t they do something similar on all the rides, or why not have screens above the queues showing scenes from the films, or the characters walking along the queue giving the kids a chance to take a selfie with Snow White, for example.  How difficult could that last one be?

  1. Disney on-demand

And finally, when you do crash out in your room, why not offer the chance to watch a Disney movie of your choice on your TV.  I’ve never understood why, in this age of Netflix, which does indeed have Disney films on it menu, why the Disney Hotels don’t offer an on-demand service of all the films available to show.


So there you have it.  My 10 simple marketing tips (and I had plenty more) for the people at Disneyland Paris on where to start spending their billion Euros.

In summary, as I said, we had a great time away, but perhaps Disney need to take a leaf out of their own song that has driven just about everyone mad in 2014 and that I can’t get out of my head since returning from my trip:

“the past is in the past! Let it go, let it go.”

Social Media to Social Business

This week, I was back in the studio recording the fourth #ciprcsuite podcast for the CIPR Social Media Panel on the subject of Social Business and was joined by Andrew Grill, Global Partner for Social Business at IBM’s Global Business Services, Ben Smith, Founder of and Emma Hazan, Deputy Managing Director of Hotwire PR.

You can listen to the full show below:

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I started by asking Andrew how he defines a Social Business, which he said is when you actually get social content and social media deep inside the organisation, i.e. within the HR department or supply chain area, rather than just sat within the marketing and PR departments.  Andrew defines a Social Business as ‘an organisation whose culture and systems encourage networks and people to drive business value’, and he makes the point that there is no mention in that definition of fans, followers, likes or influencers and that when he uses that language with the csuite, they ‘get it’.

Ben added that integration of social into the business is absolutely critical and highlighted a number of social campaigns from 2014, including ‘nomakeupselfie’ as well as work by brands such as KLM, that have had a positive impact on business, both potentially from a reputation and brand perspective and sales perspective.  He said the key is simple in that Social has to have a business impact and we’ve seen huge progress of that over the last 12-24 months.  The challenge, however, according to Ben, is in how that integration happens on a day to day level within large businesses.

Emma then discussed the kind of questions her csuite clients’ pose, which are about the value that social media will bring them and how they can measure it. She explained that there is an education required in terms of how to use the channels to communicate and said that having learned how to reach people with a message in 140 characters or less [for twitter] that it’s all going to change again as we will have to teach the csuite about an even smaller screen and smaller space to communicate with when it comes to the Smartwatch, for example, but it’s about having seamless content.  The csuite are also interested in the risks are about using social media but often ask about what to tweet, which she feels is ironic given most of the csuite she works with are born communicators, motivating and empowering people in the organisation and talking to customers every day.  She believes they are perfectly lined up to be on twitter but perhaps just need some support parameters from someone like herself, or their marketing or digital departments.

Emma’s mention of the Smartwatch sparked a discussion about the relevance of content from brands that appear in our various social media feeds, but Andrew said that despite having posted over 32,000 tweets in the eight years he has been on twitter, he is yet to find a brand that’s used that valuable content and pitched a [relevant] message to him.

Our discussion then moved on to the topics of Social Serendipity, Social Eminence and Social Collaboration.  Andrew firstly gave an example of Social Serendipity in how one tweet that he sent in January 2011 created a chain of events that resulted in him being offered his current job at IBM.  He explained that it’s all linked to Social Eminence, which is about being visible, relevant and seen as someone who knows what they are talking about, which, of course, if you do, then people will recommend you or want to get in touch.  To be fair to Andrew, that’s exactly why he was on the show, as I had been recommended to approach him to be a guest!

Ben added that Digital & Social has given PR a big opportunity to demonstrate its ROI because Social creates a digital footprint, which becomes trackable and undoubtable social eminence ties into that and you can then track your impact on whatever objective you are trying to hit.  He says the key is that PR people should be good at two way conversations and driving engaging content and so the PR industry should have a significant impact in this area.

With regards to Social Collaboration, Andrew summed this up by predicting that in the future, your value to an organisation won’t be what you know, it will be what you share, but it’s a massive cultural change to do that across a whole organisation.  He gave an example of how one of IBM’s clients, Tesco, who in the UK have about 320,000 colleagues, share ideas across stores via their internal social collaboration network.  He also stressed that if people are collaborating openly on an internal social network, then just as the likes of Brandwatch measure the external social, if you measured the same things internally, then you will see the ideas, trends and issues pop up.  An HR Director could then have access to a live dashboard to see where there may be problems in their company and that, according to Andrew, is the real power of Social Business.

I wrapped up the session by asking each of my guests to give an example of a classic mistake they felt companies make with social media in general and to name an organisation that they thought already acted as a Social Business.

The classic mistakes were:

  • Lack of social training in people that are tweeting
  • Connectivity between different parts of an organisation
  • Companies that treat twitter like a ‘social switchboard’

Good examples of organisations doing Social Business well were:

  • Boots, who have an enterprise social network purely for actually being social [or sociable], to share news about who is going out where and when
  • O2, who push the boundaries pretty hard in terms of the use of humour on their customer services
  • Hotwire [not nominated by Emma] following on from a story Emma shared in our discussion about how they collaborate across offices in multiple territories on brainstorms

You’ll just have to listen to the show to hear who gave which examples!

If you would like to contact me about this series of podcasts, then simply email me or contact me on twitter using #cirpcsuite

Social Media in Government Communications

Back in September, for my third CIPR Social Media Panel c-suite podcast, I had the pleasure of interviewing Betony Kelly, currently the acting Head of Digital Communications at the Department of Business, Innovations & Skills (BIS) and my CIPR Social Media Panel colleague Elayne Phillips who is Head of Strategic Analytics and Evaluation in the Communications Group at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).  The podcast also featured a contribution from Alex Aiken, the executive Director for Government Communications, who explained how all government departments are evaluating their campaigns.

As I am back in the studio this week for show number four, I thought it time to write up a blog post with the key points raised from what we discussed in the last episode – apologies for the delay!

Of course, you can listen to the full show below:

And please do help us climb the itunes charts by subscribing here too.

Betony, kicked off the interview explaining how it was vitally important to get that direct connection with the very people her department is trying to reach with their communications and so Social Media allows them to be really reactive, immediate and reach people wherever they are to help answer the questions they want to ask, when they want to ask them, on the channels they choose.  BIS have experimented across lots of channels including Twitter, flickr, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, in each case using the channels to the best effect.  She believes is a fantastic time to work in Government as there is a real passion behind digital as a powerful channel for Government communications and interestingly, having previously worked for HSBC, she has not found a lot of difference between the private and public sectors in terms of regulations and what you can and can’t say through social channels.

Elayne agreed that using some of the low cost channels is a great way for Government to test and communicate with the audience in real time.

Similar to BIS, where responsibilities include apprenticeships, minimum wage, science funding, zero hours contracts and exporting amongst many other areas and issues, Defra also has broad remit, including air quality, food safety, water quality, waste, recycling and flooding.  This means that their large followings present a challenge as there is therefore naturally quite a diverse audience to talk to, hence they have such a large number of specialist social media accounts.  However, they need to update them regularly to keep the engagement high and to achieve that, they don’t just post Government announcements, but will talk about articles of interest and ask people what they think about them to encourage them to get involved in debates.  What’s important, however, is to focus on business objective and be effective, so they constantly use social analytics to check where the engagements are taking place.

Alex Aiken talked about how each Government team has a performance hub, which works as a communications centre for planning and evaluation, and how he expects every department to track its performance against their department’s business objectives.  Elayne then explained how they use communications plan templates like ‘OASIS’ – Objective, Audience Insight, Strategy, Implementation and Scoring – and Betony added that one of the major achievements of the performance hub is it has allowed her department to stop doing things!  She said that they often get requests to do things because someone thinks it’s a great idea, but now they can show the data as to why it may not actually resonate with the audience and so can avoid wasting tax payers’ money and the team’s time doing those things that don’t provide real value.

Elayne then discussed how she uses AMEC’s Social Media Measurement Framework in Defra’s ‘Chip my Dog’ campaign, and you can see a video of her explaining the full case study below:

This showed how to map results from exposure and engagement right across to impact and advocacy, the latter of which saves tax payers money as Defra ended up getting seeing user generated content about the campaign being shared through social media, meaning positive word was spreading without them having to do extra work.

Betony went on to explain that if you wanted to find out what Civil Servants can and can’t do on social media, you can go to the Government Communications Service website to see the Civil Servants guidance to social media, which in summary, she said basically says “Don’t be an idiot”! I loved that!  She said that she knows what it is to understand propriety and the boundaries they are expected to conduct themselves within including the fact that they are expected to be ambassadors for their departments and the UK Government and she feels this is exactly transferable into brands and organisations.  Betony understands the blurring between personal and professional and said that if you are trusting your press office to go down the pub and have a conversation with a journalist, you need to trust them with a twitter account.  The challenge is making sure your senior team are keeping an eye on the channels and knowing what is being communicated by whom and whom.  She summarised this topic by saying that best practice is about being human and not being a robot – people want faces, they want people and want opinion.

Elayne then talked about Open Policy Making and how it improves policy as the various departments are consulting the public earlier and in very innovative ways to gather comments early on, which she thinks is very effective.  She added that this is a lesson that everyone and not just government can learn from in terms of getting closer to their audience.

We finished off the podcast by focusing on how Government can ensure we get the best impact and value for the tax payer from the communications teams of the various departments, which Elayne said is all about focussing on the outcomes, targeting communications, and making sure the messaging that people need to hear is what they are receiving, through the channels they want to hear it on, at the right time, when they can respond and take the action they are seeking to achieve, using actionable insight to improve the results on the next campaign.

If you would like to contact me about this series of podcasts, then simply email me or contact me on twitter using #cirpcsuite

Do you speak Human?

Theories suggest that the myriad of global languages might one day die out – spelling the decline of translation and localisation services. But for now, these businesses provide critical support to CROs engaged in trials, although technology is changing the stakes.

The 50th Drug Information Association (DIA) conference that took place recently in San Diego, California, encouraged delegates to ‘celebrate the past and invent the future’. But by inventing the future, could we be consigning ourselves to the past?

Invention is what drives the human race forward. It is what sets us apart from other species and brings with it untold benefits.  Yet, for some, invention also creates fear for their own basic needs – there is concern that new technologies, for example, will replace their jobs and livelihoods.

This dilemma is, of course, nothing new. Some 50 years ago, when the first-ever DIA conference was being planned, the same concern was highlighted on the cover of LIFE magazine (July 1963), with the headline ‘Point of no return for everybody’ stating that ‘Automation’s really here; jobs go scarce’.

However, according to industry trend-spotter and futurologist, Magnus Lindkvist, the ‘will our jobs disappear?’ question is not necessarily something that should be tied to technology, but perhaps more to the underlying economic climate of the time.  Lindkvist believes that, while technology will replace the jobs that are highly repetitive and consist of boring tasks that can easily be automated, it can also be viewed as an enabler and empowerer. So it may be accused of stealing some jobs, but other roles will emerge in its wake.

Language Prediction

One such industry that has seen huge changes over the last 50 years is that of translation and localisation. According to applied futurist, Tom Cheesewright, the emergence of tools such as Google Translate could see a lingua franca – a bridge language – begin to emerge. He takes the view that as new words are created, they will spread like memes across the connected globe, becoming established in each language before local equivalents can be created.

But could we ever see a future where, if aliens landed on our planet 100 years from now, they could find us speaking only one language, Human? This is Cheesewright’s prediction, arguing that technology – in particular, the internet – is helping to break down the barriers, such as language and currencies, that once divided people.

He says that, just as disruptive finance businesses like PayPal have made the movement of money across borders easier – enabling everyone to forget what currency their partner was dealing in – languages will follow the same path.

Similarly to national currencies, Cheesewright believes that different languages will disappear from our daily lives over the next century. While they will not stop being used altogether, as technology abstracts us away from the complexity of translation, we will begin to forget that such great differences ever existed.

Business Impact

Exciting? Far fetched? Whichever way you look at it, it could be worrying for a business that services the CRO sector by supplying translation and localisation services. The implication is that such companies might become obsolete.

However, Gary Muddyman, Chief Executive Officer of Conversis Medical, is reassured that Cheesewright’s prediction means there is still a market for companies such as his, for the short to medium term at least. This confidence is, in part, because of the industry’s ongoing focus on emerging markets such as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where the population is expected to reach 598 million by 2050. More than 1,000 different languages are spoken in Africa alone, and it is estimated that up to 7,000 languages are spoken around the world.

A recent white paper published by Quintiles stated that, while the MENA region (excluding Israel) currently hosts only about 0.4% of clinical trial sites and patients, its percentage of global clinical trial patient-related R&D spend could increase by a factor of 8-10 in the next decade – building an annual market of around $1 billion.

Translation and localisation therefore becomes a vital part of the clinical trial process. As Ann Van Dessel, Head of Global Clinical Operations at Janssen Research & Development, explains: “It is very important that we provide high-quality translations so the information is understandable and clear for patients participating in the study. As required, we submit the translations to regulatory authorities and independent ethics committees for review. These steps help ensure patients have appropriate information to guide their decisions.”

Human Survival

Muddyman also believes that, while the process of converting content from one language to another will get more automated, it will never completely replace humans. “Things will evolve, they will change, and faster, more accurate, effective and cheaper translations will always be the challenge. But humans and machines will continue to co-exist, and I think we will continue to have a viable business for the foreseeable future,” he says.

Tahar Bouhafs, Chief Executive Officer of Common Sense Advisory, agrees. “Machine translation can be used as a pre-translation step to help speed up the work of human translators, but there is no evidence that the technology will ever eliminate the need for human editing or translation.” Bouhafs adds that: “No information publisher can afford the business risk of unedited machine output. The financial and brand damage that ensues from mistranslation is already a significant liability, even with fully vetted human translation.”

Matthew McCarty, Senior Director, Health Engagement and Communications at Quintiles, thinks that use of language is only part of the challenge when localising information for a clinical trial, all of which is vital to help accelerate the study’s timeline. The visuals used in patient recruitment materials, for instance, can be just as crucial in ensuring the right image is used in context of the cultural characteristics within the region you are working.

He uses differences in healthcare in the US and India as an example: the latter is much more about a relationship with your doctor who may have looked after your family for years, compared to what could be seen as the competitive nature of how medical advice is provided in the US.

Specialist Roles

But what of the future of language and translation services in particular? Muddyman disagrees with the notion that languages will continue to die out and that global communications will become homogenised. In his view, technology will allow us to protect and evolve minority languages, like many of those spoken in certain MENA countries. However, Cheesewright states that “the intermediaries will come first, who will insulate us from each other’s languages, seamlessly translating one to another”. Of course, technologies will only get faster and more nuanced as the inexorable, exponential advance of computing power continues.

There is, however, room for optimism. Lindkvist believes jobs will simply evolve. He says there will be fragmentation of roles that will include specialist translators within the medical industry. Such a move has already been taken by Conversis, which has recently employed a scientist, Dr Mark Hooper, to oversee translation projects specific to the pharmaceutical market. This optimises workflow by ensuring that medical terminology is translated correctly – something that machines can only do a certain percentage of, and that human translators would, understandably, not be aware of, being language experts rather than medical specialists.

Dion Wiggins, Asia Online CEO, believes it is ‘smart’ of Conversis to have recruited Dr Hooper.  He said that having someone who can optimise the workflow and understand the issues is key, as that will then enable you to do things you would otherwise not be able to do.  It’s the same reason he brought in Professor Phillip Koehn as his company’s Chief Scientist.   Koehn was the 2013 European Patent Office European Inventor of the Year Runner Up with his advanced method of automated computer translation.

Different Thinking

With all this thought about how technology can improve our lives, it is also important to remember how new inventions come about. Lindkvist uses the example of the aeroplane. He explains that for a long time in the late 1800s, we tried to make machines fly by imitating birds – but, of course, the flapping mechanical ‘wings’ did not work as they were unable to generate the lift required. It was only when looking at other dynamics that the likes of the Wright Brothers started to see progress, eventually leading to their first flight in 1903.

Lindvkvist therefore says that when we ask the question whether technology can do human activity ‘x’, we are usually posing the wrong question. Arguably, it does not need to be done in the same way. So, in terms of translation, perhaps we should stop trying to teach machines to ‘flap their wings’. Lindkvist also reminds us that some of our most valuable discoveries, particularly in the pharma industry, are the results of mistakes or by-products, citing penicillin and Viagra as two classic examples.

While the pharma industry cannot afford any mistakes, Lindkvist makes an important point that language is often about interpretation and ensuring we engage the audience who is reading or listening to us. McCarty stresses, for example, that when Quintiles prepares materials for adult patients in a clinical trial, it aims for a reading age of 10-12 years old so as not to exclude people. Similarly, it would not look to make its visuals too scientific as otherwise potential patients will not understand them, which would ultimately impact on patient safety.

Local Delivery

But it is not always about literal translation, as Angela Radcliffe, Vice President and Director of Clinical Trials at Vio Global, advises. She believes that localisation is just as important in the delivery of a project; without foregoing quality, this can mean a difference of millions of dollars to the pharma company developing a new drug. You cannot translate conceptual nuances, she says. Similar to McCarty’s view, Radcliffe makes the point that we need to take account of cultural differences when presenting information in different territories.

One area where this is becoming increasingly important is social media, where consumers – in particular, patients or sufferers of diseases – look to pharma companies for immediate information. Radcliffe says that while the public may tolerate some mistakes on social media, the pharma industry simply cannot afford to make any. According to Van Dessel, the important message her company’s founder, Dr Paul Janssen, gave was “the patients are waiting”.

She adds: “That sense of urgency inspires us to get our medicines to patients, regardless of where they are, as fast as we can. Bringing a medicine to market faster can have a significant financial impact for our company, but what is most important is the difference it can make in the life of a patient.”

Evolving Approach

According to Wiggins, at present 50-70% of machine-translated documents will not be changed by humans, but to get to a point where humans are not needed to translate at all, we will need machines to understand and think. At the moment, machines learn patterns and then repeat them.

Automation is a must for companies translating huge documents. One of Asia Online’s clients has 1.1 billion words translated every day, and Wiggins predicts that leading language service providers to CROs, such as Conversis Medical, will soon be translating more content in one year than in the previous five years combined.

However, even as technology develops over the next 30-50 years, Wiggins still believes humans will do a better job in many areas – machines will not out-think a human. In addition, Muddyman agrees that companies like his will need to evolve with better segmentations and analysis of the roles of humans and machines in their processes. It may therefore be some time before Cheesewright’s prediction of one global human language comes true.

This article first appeared in International Clinical Trials, November 2014.

Review of Social Media Measurement Solved event

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending a Social Media Measurement event at Ketchum’s office in London run by PRIME Research in conjunction with the CIPR Social Media Panel (CIPRSM) that I sit on, all in support of AMEC’s Measurement Week.

The afternoon included a line-up of excellent presentations, including four from my CIPRSM colleagues, so here are some of my key take outs that I thought worth sharing from their presentations – all slides are also available online.

The first of my fellow CIPRSM panel members to speak was Richard Bagnall, CEO or Prime Research UK and Chair AMEC Social Media Panel. His key point was that output numbers can be misleading. Richard shared a slide showing that 44% of the 11.2m followers of the BBC Breaking News‘ Twitter feed are fake and a further 43% inactive leaving just 13% that are good – so the real potential (and only potential) reach to their own followers of any tweet from them is actually only 1.45m – of course retweets enable a tweet to reach more people.

Richard warned the audience to be wary of ‘magic numbers’ and rattled off a load of numbers on how cheaply he can go and buy views, likes, followers etc. for his social channels [Richard has since shared with me this post by Stephen Waddington where he got some of the numbers from]. He also said that 40% of conversations taking place in social media are automated.

He then went on to introduce the AMEC’s Social Media Measurement Framework (which I’ve taken the liberty of copying the slide below – just click on the image to make it larger) by first talking about the Pepsi Refresh Project that boasted 3.5m likes, 60,000 twitter followers and 80m votes as it’s Social Media results, but stressed the fact that it failed to sell anymore Pepsi!

For more information on the framework visit, which I will be using on the projects I am currently working on.

Next up was Andrew Bruce Smith, MD of Escherman who worried most of the audience when he explained that, at best, only 3-5% of your Twitter followers will genuinely see what you put out there. He delivered, as he always does, an excellent presentation on Google Analytics and shared this link to a document he wrote to give PR practitioners insight into how Google Analytics can be used as a broad-based measurement platform to help better demonstrate the value of PR and communications activity.

Adam Parker, Founder of Lissted, took to the ‘stage’ next to talk about the real world of influencer measurement to further confirm some of the ridiculous things that many people believe means someone is influential, based on people’s profiles, which tell you very little.

The fourth CIPRSM member to talk was Elayne Phillips, Head of Strategic Analytics and Evaluation, DEFRA, who presented how she used the AMEC framework for her #chipmydog campaign, which you can also hear her explain in my CIPRSM c-suite podcast that I recorded the following day

Many thanks to all the speakers, Prime Research and Ketchum for an excellent afternoon.

Navigating the pitfalls of social media in the Pharma Industry

I have just had a three page article published in Innovations in Pharmaceutical Technology that was based on the CIPR Social Media Panel Podcast that I produced a couple of months ago, which can still be listened to here.

As the article is in digital magazine format only and not as a webpage, I thought I would reproduce it here should you wish to pick up a discussion about it – all comments welcome.

Social media can prove a minefield for pharma companies trying to find the best path through industry rules and regulations, but integrating new, relevant marketing strategies is a must to reach increasingly digital-savvy patients

According to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics’ Engaging Patients through Social Media report, the top 100 Wikipedia pages for healthcare topics were accessed, on average, 1.9 million times over the last year, with tuberculosis coming top at 4.2 million views.

Given Wikipedia is, according to an article in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, the most used online healthcare resource globally, it is important to know what information patients are finding when they get there and how the pharma industry can improve it.

Misleading the Public?

In June of this year, The New England Journal of Medicine investigated this exact issue by studying the content of healthcare-related Wikipedia pages identifying safety warnings for 22 prescription drugs that are indicated for a range of clinical conditions. Collectively, those drugs had triggered 13 million searches on Google and five million Wikipedia page views annually during their study period. FDA safety warnings were associated with an 82% increase, on average, in Google searches for the drugs during the week after the announcement, and a 175% increase in views of Wikipedia pages for the drugs on the day of the announcement – but they found 23% of Wikipedia pages were updated more than two weeks after the FDA warning was issued, and 36% of pages remained unchanged more than one year later (as of January 2014).

The potential for Wikipedia pages to mislead the public is further highlighted by Dr Mark Hooper, Director at Conversis Medical, who uses the example of the film The Constant Gardner, based on a book by John le Carré, where the plot involves a clinical trial. Hooper explains that the film includes deaths, shooting and mayhem, and is nothing like any clinical trial he has ever seen. However, when he looked up information about the film on Wikipedia, he found that the page asserted it was based on a real event which took place in Nigeria.

It was claimed that eleven patients had died, implying this was as a direct result of the trial, when in fact the trial had actually compared a new drug for meningitis with the best established treatment available at the time. Six patients died while on the current medication, while five died using the new treatment, which, Hooper emphasises, is not claimed as a significant improvement, but neither is it worse. He has since updated the page to ensure it offers a fair account of the facts, but he believes the wider pharma industry must ensure all updates on Wikipedia are accurate, particularly as the site is such a useful way to disseminate information.

Patient Empowerment

Gill Hayes, Global Director of Communications for R&D at AstraZeneca, agrees, and believes that in drug development, anything that prompts a conversation between a doctor and a patient is a good thing, referring specifically to the public self-diagnosing through online searches. While she believes that there are holes in how Wikipedia is put together, using it as a stimulus for getting people to engage with their GP and question why they are being recommended a certain treatment is good patient empowerment.

Of course, there are plenty of other websites where patients can gain information, including WebMD, which the FDA actually partnered with back in 2008 to expand access to timely and reliable information for consumers, while in the UK, the NHS offers the public a symptom checkers website. But Christian Gardner, Director of Media Services at and former Digital Communications Managerat AstraZeneca, states that the IMS report indicates people trust Wikipedia, and believes that pharma companies have a responsibility to contribute to the content on the site. After all, he adds, patients are actually very unlikely to go directly to their corporate websites.

However, at the moment, Gardner believes that Big Pharma regulations restrict their employees from contributing to Wikipedia, as by doing so they would essentially be updating the page on behalf of the company – thereby requiring various levels of approval. On the other hand, he is quick to point out that this is a huge opportunity; after all, the pharma industry has the experts and scientists who can engage with healthcare professionals, and who are best-placed to provide informed opinion.

So outside of the big information sites, what more can pharma companies do to engage directly with patients through social media applications such as blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn?

Growing Acceptance

Gardner believes that while the rules and regulations involved in engaging with patients through social media can make it a minefield for pharma companies, it is not impossible to come up with a successful marketing strategy. However, many are slow on the uptake – possibly due to the fact that measuring the effectiveness and return on investment of social media, as well as regulatory concerns, were both listed by 78% of health and pharma executives worldwide as their leading hurdle to social media adoption. But this situation seems to be changing.

KPMG’s Transforming healthcare: From volume to value report indicates that pharma executives expect their promotional activity will become much more technology-based, with 43% of them expecting to increase their communication to promote products through social media. At the same time, according to research by Accenture last year, over half of pharmaceutical executives list mastering multi-channel marketing and improving digital effectiveness within their top strategic priorities.

Gardner thinks there is a growing acceptance within the pharma industry that social media is becoming so central to communications, and is increasingly being considered in terms of budget, size of team and required resources, that we are now seeing a real growth of acceptance more generally. When Gardner was at AstraZeneca, he formed part of a team that was led with that mindset – one project he became involved with was the launch of an external science blog called Lab Talk, which was seen as a big step at the time as it meant opening up to engagement, but also brought additional responsibility as another channel to monitor and manage. However, his team succeeded in getting the site live due to the genuine support and buy-in they had from the leadership, who opened doors with the regulatory and legal teams and pulled together approval models that helped channel work and made their jobs much easier.

Regulatory Compliance

But as pharma companies look to engage with patients through social media, great care must be taken in what is published online, even if they believe they have followed the correct procedures. For example, the IMS report referred to a case in August last year where AstraZeneca had to pull a Twitter campaign from the Associated Press’s Twitter feed. A reference to a prescription drug could be seen if the ‘view summary’ link was selected within the tweet, which redirected to AstraZeneca’s YouTube channel – this resulted in the product name being included without the required safety information, breaching regulations.

The issue of regulatory compliance is understandably confusing for patients. In the US, the FDA allows pharma companies to market directly to patients, but the rules are very different under the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) in the UK and EMA in Europe, and information is easily accessible through social media whatever territory you may be in. While Gardner cannot ever foresee a merging of global regulations, he does believe the ABPI needs to advocate good examples of social media practice, sharing innovative but compliant examples from pharma companies.

Adverse Drug Reactions

Another important area that the IMS paper discussed was the major legal challenge faced by pharma companies around adverse drug reaction (ADR) reporting, as they are obligated to declare all known ADRs to regulators for the purpose of drug safety. The report went on to explain that if a company is monitoring social media channels, then it may also become responsible for reporting ADRs that come to light through this medium. However, by not actually having a formal social media strategy in place, companies can avoid this regulatory burden.

Gardner explains that if a pharma company is not using Facebook to talk directly to patients, then monitoring it is not their responsibility; but if they do, they must monitor all activity 24 hours a day, responding when necessary with information such as how the patient can get in touch in an emergency.

Language Barriers

Speed of response is another hurdle to overcome, especially when dealing on a global level, as information needs to be distributed in the appropriate languages for each country. Coupled with this is the fact that social media has created a new language of its own, with shortened words that are not so easily translatable or localised.

Dr Hooper, whose company, Conversis Medical, specialises in translation and localisation in the pharma sector, stresses that, in urgent situations, or when crisis communications are taking place, companies should still use professionals – ideally local translators – who can provide regional expertise, while keeping control centralised. This means ensuring that urgent social media updates are translated by people rather than via free online translation tools.

Reaching Out

As for the future, Gardner believes that with the right digital listening tools, there is a real opportunity to go far beyond responses to ADR, as patients share a great deal of information online about how they access drugs and what their experiences are in taking them.

He believes that better patient engagement is crucial, but he also feels that social media can provide pharma executives more air time, giving their companies more credibility and personality – just as the rise of online video has done in the last few years. This still applies even if it is necessary to enlist the support of a communications team.

Naturally, there may be concern over the fact that the more senior management shares information, the potential for protest groups to reach them increases, but these are challenges that need to be overcome if the pharma industry really wants to embrace this opportunity to engage their patients.

This article first appeared in Innovations in Pharmaceutical Technology, September 2014.