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Image Credit: bubblews.comWe've been talking about sentiment in social media terms for a long time. How to measure it; are the three most common metrics (positive, negative, neutral) enough to help us understand the overall perception of our organisation or brand; and whether we even should measure it! And also, what on earth do you do about the negative sentiment?When I think about how negative sentiment scores are visualised, I always call them ‘the mean reds’. Audrey Hepburn so eloquently used this term in Breakfast at Tiffanys to describe the feeling of being afraid, yet not knowing what you are afraid of.But if you’re measuring sentiment using a third party app, the chances are there might not be that much to be afraid of.Many of even the sophisticated monitoring tools still haven’t cracked attributing sentiment to a mention of your brand because they’re not making human assumptions. Only a human can really know if someone is being outright damning about you, or whether it’s just banter and they’re being cheeky or sarcastic. And only human logic can ascertain whether what a system might deem to be a negative word or association of a word (e.g. ‘waste’) actually may be positive, if what you’re promoting is directly linked to that term (e.g. recycling bags).Assessing these things with a human eye will help you establish what, if anything, you can do about it. Some more sophisticated software actually allows you to re-tag sentiment and will, over time, learn what is or isn’t negativity around your brand. You may, however, just have a ‘hunch’ based on mentions of your brand that you have tracked yourself (and, by the way, there's nothing inherently wrong with this).If you’ve sense checked and established the negativity is accurate, then your next step is to decide if you’re going to act on it. So, do you need to do anything?Certainly if the negativity is coming directly from customer complaints, for example, it’s crucial to acknowledge and address this. Some big brands have been getting into hot water recently by deleting critical comments on Facebook about their brand or service. Doing this will only serve to rile your community and even loyal fans and customers will find themselves falling out of favour. With the majority of other channels, you don’t have the chance to revoke someone’s voice. So respond positively, in line with your brand’s messaging, and try and help individuals out as far as possible. For less complicated complaints, dealing with them through public comments or replies is often a way of showing your other following that you’re a responsive and responsible company who wants to put things right when they go wrong.But what if the so-called ‘negativity’ is simply stemming from the perception of your brand?Value retail giant and BOTTLE client Poundland has certainly risen to the challenge of trying to turn any negativity into something positive, and this all started by recognising it. While watching and reacting to its direct @replies on Twitter, Poundland also monitors several thousand indirect brand mentions every month and where appropriate, responds in an appropriately light-hearted manner. It has accepted and, furthermore, embraced the fact that the brand may by-and-large be perceived in a particular way, and engages positively by talking both to fans and 'anti-fans'. Banter meets banter, as Poundland holds its head high in its bracket of the retail sector. Sometimes those mean reds aren’t actually so mean after all...by Viki Coppin, Social Media Account Manager Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

Image Credit: Smallfoodbiz.comThe debate on best practice for pitching rages on and everyone has got different opinions. Even here at BOTTLE HQ we can’t reach a consensus. But there is one thing that really grinds my gears and I just can’t compromise on: following up on a news release just after you sent it.As highly respected journalist Guy Clapperton recently Tweeted: "Calls from PR people to follow up emails can be annoying enough, but after only an hour? Come on, guys, get real!"To me, immediately chasing an email with a phone call is lazy and borderline arrogant. Some of these poor hacks receive thousands of emails every day. For goodness sake give them time to digest the information and take the hint if they haven’t replied. Of course we need to do a good job and drive coverage for our clients, but achieving that goal doesn’t give us a free ticket to act like a pain in the butt!So what’s my alternative? Well, as I said, everyone seems to have a different view, but the advice I would give is as follows.1. Take all that time you would have spent following up and invest it in putting together a press list you feel 100% confident with. Look at the publications and get a really good feel for where the news would go. Does it tie into a theme that the publication is working on, or an upcoming feature? Has the journalist written on the topic before? Is it pertinent to their readership? Publications are more often than not commercial organisations who want to drive readership: is your news going to help them with that?         If they have never written about it before and you can’t see where it would go, don’t put them on the press list. It's that simple. 2. In terms of selling it in, if it’s really super-hot news (and be honest with yourself on this score), choose the top two or three journalists and give them a quick call the day before to ask if they would like to receive the news under embargo.3. On the day, send the news to your honed press list and personalise each pitch. Quickly outline why you have sent it to them. If you expect them to take the time to write your story, then you should take the time to outline why. 4. Lastly, and in my view, most crucially, once they have covered your story, take a moment to send them a quick email to say thank you. As I say, everyone seems to have a method that works for them. What’s yours?by Claire Jones, Senior PR Consultant Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

Image credit: the TelegraphDid you hear this refreshing (or well-refreshed) interview-over-lunch with the UKIP treasurer, Stuart Wheeler recently? UKIP (damn them) are, as Marketing Week pointed out, the best current example of a challenger brand in British politics. Because, as all brands know deep down (but challenger brands know and do), it’s all about distinctiveness. And with their unashamedly blunt stance, UKIP are distinctive. In fact, I’ve found myself wondering whether, for challenger brands, it’s all about the attitude, with no heed to content.Stuart Wheeler has nothing to say, or what he says is pretty risible (to the extent that I thought I was hearing an excerpt from the Fast Show when I first heard the interview on Radio 4). But it made me: a) think (my main thought was “blimey, the other parties would’ve never let this go out. There are no Coulsons, Mandelsons and Campbells in UKIP”); and b) remember it.All the lessons the establishment brands (and political parties) learned on their way up are so often unlearned or forgotten once they’re in top-spot. And that’s because:- They enter a defensive ‘protecting reputation’ mode: as if “all that risky differentiation-nonsense is over now”. (It isn’t.)- They mistake biggest market share with needing to be for everyone. So distinctiveness is intolerable. Because distinctiveness implies being not for everyone. (It does.)- They threw out all the innovators and personality-creators when they got a boardroom table and a policy of Dress-Down Fridays.I’m not going to vote for UKIP. But they knew that already. They’re not trying to be for me. And as long as they remember that, they’ll stay meaningful for lots more ‘not me’ people.And finally, from across the pond, news reaches us that Michele Bachmann just stepped down from Congress. So, as we consider questions of challengers and politics and whether how you say it matters more than what you say, let’s soak for a moment with arguably the Tea Party’s most distinctive: by Colin Cather, Marketing Director Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

Image from The Social Part of Social Media infographic featured on Hubspot"Brands are getting it wrong in social media", wrote Brian Solis last week. A damning and sweeping statement maybe, but faced with the evidence he presents to back it up, it’s hard to argue. An Altimeter study in the USA found that only one in three businesses felt their social strategy was aligned to business outcomes, and a paltry 12% were confident that they had a plan spanning more than twelve months. That’s pretty shocking. It’s not like digital media is new anymore. And what disturbs me more is that the USA is generally a couple of years ahead of the UK in terms of digital and social media adoption and usage.So why is this? Why are so many businesses still failing to plan social strategy effectively, or at all? Well personally, I don’t believe it’s the fault of the business owners. I think it’s the fault of the very people they’re entrusting to do this stuff for them; the social and digital media managers.Many social media professionals talk the language of the geek, not the language of the business owner. Businessmen want to understand what value social media adds to their company and, ultimately, they want to understand the impact this has on the bottom line. They simply don’t care about Facebook this and Twitter that. As Solis himself states: “stop talking about social media as a means to an end”. In fact, I’d go further: stop talking about social media at all! Social is simply a channel; an enabler to communicate a compelling case for the customer.And this leads to another failing of many social media marketers: focusing on selling instead of building relationships. Consider your own experiences for a moment: are you more likely to buy a product or service from company XYZ if a) it repeatedly fires product ads at you when you’re chatting to your friends on Facebook, or b) when you get to know someone who works for it on LinkedIn and learn to trust and respect their opinion? The best form of marketing is when you don’t even know you’re being marketed to.According to Worldcom, 49% of people claim brands and companies’ social posts are too promotional, and 46% say they communicate too frequently. I saw a great infographic recently (part of which is illustrated above) that sought to address this imbalance between social marketers who understand about relationship building and engagement, and those who simply use social media to blast out product messages to as many people as they possibly can. It offers a simple guide to doing things the right way; to ‘being social’. And yet the cynic in me says that things may get a lot worse before they get better. Communications professionals must learn to treat digital as just another channel and not the holy grail; to make a real effort to understand that social is about long-term relationship building rather than short-term revenue generation; and to learn how to communicate this to the boardroom. Until then, we may have to put up with many, many more advert-style postings on Twitter, Facebook et al. It doesn’t HAVE to be this way, however. If you’d like to discuss how effective social media strategy can benefit your business or brand, please get in touch. by Paul Sutton, Head of Social Communications. Follow Paul on Twitter and check out his social media blog, FutureComms Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

My grandfather was a very particular fellow and kept notes of everything. He was always on the lookout for ways to streamline what he was doing as an old pieceworker it was just a habit of efficiency that he never got out of. “A tidy mind is a healthy mind” was his motto. So when I heard about the new Facebook updates I had to think of my dear old Grumps. With the strapline “Goodbye Clutter. Hello bright, beautiful stories” the ‘new’ Facebook seems right up his street. The changes to the newsfeed that Facebook announced last week, allow for consistency across the mobile and desktop experiences and giving the user more control over what they see, and what they show. In theory Facebook’s new updates should remove the endless scrolling through updates that aren’t of interest to you – it’s a proper spring clean for your timeline. Scheduled to be unveiled to all members over the next three to four weeks, the new News Feed will eventually impact each and every way users interact with the world’s most popular social utility. From laptops and desktops to mobile phones the look and feel will be entirely unified from platform to device. It’s streamlined, but it’s also been designed to encourage people to spend more time on the platform – Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to become a “personal newspaper” for all your friends to read. But what will all this mean for brands? Increased focus on subsections such as music and photography will mean that brands will need to fight for attention, and at the same time create content that is immersive, engaging and that people will want to engage with in order to earn their place in the new news feed. It may be a little while before Facebook gets the balance right and are able to please both the brands that fork out for advertising, and the main user base of consumers. But one thing is for certain – Facebook is tidying things up and streamlining processes, and in a world where we’re used to doing things faster and easier I don’t see anything wrong with that.by Claire Dunford, Social Media Executive Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

I’ve just started working with global customer experience research company Strativity, and as so often happens when I’m getting under the skin of a new client, I start seeing brand interactions through their lenses. The passionate team at Strativity focuses on the need for companies to act energetically on the principle that simply meeting expectations isn’t enough; that a brand must be exceptional for customers to remain excited, interested and therefore loyal. Reviewing brand interactions with that filter has made me think about PR. I loved Jessops. The chap in the Oxford shop sold me my first Digital SLR camera last year and he never once failed to ask me if I was enjoying it, each time I popped in for a filter or photos. It delighted me every time and it was authentic. I’m gutted they’ve gone. Hobbycraft has possibly the most helpful people I have ever encountered. I went in for advice about a piece of textile art that I didn’t want to frame behind glass. The minute I explained my problem, a member of the team swiftly got someone to take over from her on the till and chatted to me for a good ten minutes or so until she had worked out a solution. She surprised me with such fantastic service and if I were the crafty type I would be a regular. Contrast those experiences with my trip to The Phoenix Picturehouse, part of the chain recently acquired by Cineworld. I’m a Phoenix devotee and this weekend I indulged in a Saturday afternoon trip on the spur of the moment (Lincoln, since you ask). When my small popcorn arrived I quipped that it was too big for one person and that next time I’d ask for a child’s box. Rather than laughing along or even saying "here, let me do that now", the guy behind the desk said with no smile: "You could try but I don’t think you’ll have much luck. That’s for the children’s shows".Imagine the difference if he had said: "tell you what: give me 20p less and you can have a child’s one". If front line staff were allowed to be spontaneous and go off script occasionally, wouldn’t we all get a better experience? I’m sure retail jobs must be more interesting when you can devote time or thought to little acts of kindness. This is what got me thinking about the relation to PR. If customer service strategists asked their PR folk to join them in creating exceptional experiences for customers, I’m convinced we could help. We’re used to working with tight budgets but heaps of imagination. When we communications people are dreaming up media headlines or engaging campaigns for Facebook, we should ask: ‘Does this fit the brand promise? Will frontline staff live up to this experience?’ These two sides of a business are coming together in social media, driven by the increased use of Twitter and Facebook as channels for complaints. Wouldn’t it be better if we teamed up regularly for positive results, creating exceptional experiences for customers?by Carole Scott, Director Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

A few weeks ago, Twitter launched something new and shiny upon the world of social media in the form of Vine. Vine is essentially Twitter in video form; short, six second looping videos without sound. Twitter says Vine is “a new way to share video” and stresses that the brevity of six seconds means that you have to be highly creative. Many, including myself, have already been highly dismissive of the concept due to the way it encourages insanely fast cuts and pace. But in the interest of balance, there are definitely opportunities for brands to utilise Vine effectively if they spend some time getting to grips with it.Vine lends itself nicely to creating a call-to-action. If you’re a clothing retailer and you’ve got a great new range of jeans, you could film them, flash up the price and a web address where you can ‘buy them now’. If you’re a charity, you could encourage people to take part in fundraising activity. Or if you’re holding an event, you could show what’s going on backstage in the build up and highlight your event’s Twitter hashtag. Things like testimonials may work with Vine. Or product launches. Or meeting your teams.The most important advice I can offer if you’re considering getting involved in the world of Vine is to spend some time testing things out and seeing what works. Too many cuts and trying to force too much content into six seconds makes for a confusing, head-spinning experience that’s good for man nor beast. But do have fun with it; Vine is new, so the more innovative and creative you are with it, the better. Worth bearing in mind is that the Vine app still has a long, long way to go in terms of functionality. It only works on mobile devices, so everything you do must be done through your phone, not your computer. If you choose not to share immediately, getting a link to your video to share on is a torturous process. And you cannot really edit your video once you’ve filmed it. You could spend half an hour setting things up and filming the first five seconds, screw something up in the last second and have to start all over again. I know; I’ve done it. Also, Vine is currently only available for iPhone, so if you’re on Android, tough. My overall advice? Vine is very, very new and worth considering as a small part of your wider social media engagement activity (despite my personal scepticism). But please don’t just rush in before considering how you’re going to use it, doing your research and planning out your video beforehand, and weighing up whether it will actually add anything to your communications mix.  by Paul Sutton, Head of Social Communications. Follow Paul on Twitter and check out his social media blog, FutureComms Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

It’s never really been about the number of fans you acquire during the course of a social media campaign… Whilst seeing fan numbers tick up on Facebook, and your follower numbers slowly inflate on Twitter is certainly a boost to those people behind the social media activity, what has always been important is how relevant the people you are reaching are and whether claiming their fan-ship will ultimately have business impact. Even Google is looking to capture the human impact of influencer. It’s no longer the number of back-links your website has that impacts on SEO value, Google is now considering the role, and influence, of the people writing the content. I have to wonder whether changes like this increasingly recognize that, as much as we’d like to see the online word as a level playing field, some people’s opinion will matter more than others. The world has always been full of influencers – it’s why celebrity advocates are a popular tool to encourage consumers to buy into a brand - but this has been magnified online. Influencers now have the potential to not only drive opinion through recommendation, but also directly impact SEO. Companies with corporate blog for example now need to identify who should be their content authors (ideally those who are active/influential online) in order to ensure that they are maximizing both quality content and search engine optimization requirements. Whilst I see the value of Google Author (in fact it makes a lot of sense to me), I do worry that this will mean that the internet will, at least for in the short term, become even more the domain of the highly influential and opinionated. It will take people some time to jump on the Google Author band wagon, and adapt their strategies in such a way as to maximize their spokespeople – and then they might find themselves playing catch-up.by Claire Dunford, Social Media Executive Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

Can’t get you out of my head. Kylie put it so well, in what some people considered her finest pop song, and others of us instantly recognised as her thesis on branding. Because isn’t that what we’re trying to achieve – a brand pop-song? Isn’t song-writing a more apt description, than ‘storytelling’? All the stuff about ‘story’ can lead, too easily, into complexity – chapters, narrative arcs, dramatis personae. When really, we just want our brands to sing us a song. Medieval bards sang news-songs as they moved from village to village. In the sixties, David Frost and the ‘That Was The Week That Was’ team gave us a Topical Calypso. And Coke would still like to teach the world to sing (in perfect harmony). Catchy. Simple. Sticky. Boy meets girl. Man bites dog. Over and over. Like a rolling stone. Intro - Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge – Verse – Chorus - Outro. Applause. Verses, to move the simple story along. Choruses, for unashamed repetition of the theme. Bridge, to bring change, heighten tension: the turning point and fulcrum. Final Verse to resolve, big chorus to play out. The listener is left with the tickle of the brand ear-worm, and an infectious brand tune to whistle. It doesn’t have to ‘become’ a song, any more than a brand storyboard must become a 30-second TV spot. It’s just a succinct summation of the brand (and if you’re looking for something to play on the phones when customers are on hold, it gives a good place to start). My suggestion: Do the brand positioning work (competitors, customers, meaningful, relevant differentiation) Determine the brand persona (I’m an archetypes guy) Find the song to match: Shirley Bassey’s ‘Big Spender’ (for a ruler brand?) to Frank’s ‘My Way’ (for a maverick?)Have some fun re-writing the lyricsInnocent Smoothies: How about the theme song to the ‘Banana Splits’?Samsung (v Apple): ‘Blue Suede Shoes’?Berocca: Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’? Your thoughts, comments and MP3s are welcome. Now That’s What I Call Music...by Colin Cather, Marketing Director Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

Have you heard the news? Facebook is testing a new feature. Yes, more new features. It can’t just be me that has noticed how the social media giant seems to be whipping up a new tool, or advertising option or stream every week. As social media users we’re like a child at Christmas, surrounded by so many shiny things and strange shaped objects that we just don’t know what to play with first. But I have to wonder whether consumers are really interested in playing with all these news toys at all? Maybe our well-loved and familiar security blanket is all we need?Facebook’s newest update is planned to be a re-jig of company page timelines. Rather than the chronological stream of updates that currently appears on a brand’s timeline, the whisper is that Facebook is currently testing a timeline that prioritisesthose updates that have generated the most engagement.On the surface, 'ranked comments' sounds great. A brand wants to create engaging content, wants fans to engage with that content and push that content to a wider reaching network of potential fans who may then like the content and so on, and what better way to achieve that than by positioning it at the top of the timeline. Currently posts are pushed down the wall as they are succeeded by newer updates. But that’s my problem…what if those newer updates are actually more relevant to current fans?  What happens in a crisis situation? A company Facebook page often becomes the focus for consumers voicing their opinions, and when magnified enormously as in a crisis situation the 'engagement' of a post could go through the roof. But that’s not going to help the company manage the situation. If anything it could prolong it. Maybe Facebook is trying to turn itself into a more transparent platform where everyone is able to see the positives and negatives easily and things can’t be hidden down the wall but I can see this causing problems if there aren’t safeguards in place.The new feature also makes a big assumption that Facebook users travel away from their news feeds to consume their network’s updates. In fact, over 90% of all interactions take place inthe news feed, meaning that users have no need to travel to a Facebook wall – which makes the order that the posts appear in rather redundant.The new feature is still in testing, so it might be one of those things that gets refined when it is rolled out. But from what I’ve heard so far, I remain fairly sceptical.by Claire Dunford, Social Media Executive Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

Churchill Insurance's decisive action to cut its ties with Martin Clunes quickly and concisely is a great example of how best to handle celebrity relationships when they no longer fit the brand. It was clear from all the press coverage that Clunes had worked closely with the insurer to end the relationship in a responsible and planned way. As a result the coverage had a factual feel to it rather than dramatic or sensational. I felt warmer to the brand than I normally would. Usually the sight of that nodding dog and the tedious 'guessing game' conversations between it and Clunes are as much of a turn off as that bloody awful Go Compare opera singer (to be clear, I bear no grudge to the actual singer - merely the personality he has taken on for the ads! I'm sure he's a lovely man). When I can, I mute the ads to avoid the Clunes/Churchill deathly combo.So the question now is what direction will Churchill's creatives take the ads? Is it too late to make a plea to kill off the dog for good - a tongue in cheek ad that had the dog caught speedy and sacked would definitely push my creative buttons.Alas, it's unlikely to happen, as I'm sure research has shown time and again that the British public love their slow speaking, nodding dog. Probably as much as they love their acutely annoying meerkats.Yes, I know I'm a miserable old git and these brands have done a superb job on their campaigns. You don't need to tell me that. And I definitely don't have an alternative that would deliver a long-lasting campaign that could be spun through numerous creative iterations.But just because successful campaigns are successful doesn't mean I have to like them!by Carole Scott, Director Like This Post? Subscribe to BOTTLE uncorked

Press contacts

Nina Sawetz

Nina Sawetz

Press contact Executive PR Consultant 01865 882988
Paul Sutton

Paul Sutton

Press contact Head of Social Communications +44 (0)1865 882988

Award-winning PR & social communications agency serving organisations across the UK

Listed by PR Week as a top 100 UK PR agency and in the top 20 outside of London, BOTTLE is home to a team of 25 consultants.

Its award-winning campaigns embrace both traditional and digital PR disciplines for a diverse and enviable client base spanning consumer, business-to-business and technology sectors. BOTTLE's social communications activity is headed by an industry-renowned social media and online expert.

With clear targets and KPIs, BOTTLE achieves fantastic results for its clients, yet appreciates its efforts must meet an organisation's business objectives. Recent PR-driven business results include an 80% rise in year on year sales for a drinks client, an increase in website enquiries from 50 per day to over 3,000 for a utility supplier and a five-fold increase in awareness and understanding for a large public sector body over a six-month period.

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