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Witness for the prosecution

When prosecutors recently asked for an account of a crime from a “PC Peach”, they didn’t realise that Peach was the name of a police dog!  Officers were extremely irritated at the request and so they completed the form as it if had been written by the Alsatian – and signed it with a paw print!

The form was then pinned up at a West Midlands Police Station for the amusement of colleagues who are frequently at odds with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over their handling of cases.  Another officer then posted it on a Facebook page but quickly deleted it, though not before it was seen by colleagues in West Yorkshire police who liked it so much that they posted it on Twitter and the image has now gone viral, having been shared over 150 times.

PC Peach

The CPS, however, failed to see the funny side and officials are believed to  have complained to police that their mistake has been turned into a very public joke.

The original officer has referred himself to the internal discipline unit but sources say he is unlikely to be reprimanded, despite new guidelines in the last week for police on the safe use of the internet which advises officers against sharing “operational material” online.

PC Peach declined to comment as anything he might say could later be used as evidence against him!

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Hashtag #hashtag

NewsweekSo it’s official!  Hashtag has been voted ‘word of the year’ by the American Dialect Society.

While the word has been around for decades, hashtags initially became popular on Twitter, where users would put them within tweets to make a larger comment or joke.   From there, it spread onto Facebook and everyday speech and a tipping point came when the only three words used on the cover of Newsweek magazine’s final print issue were preceded by a hashtag, making the cross over from web to print complete.

Twitter hashtags are a great way to organize tweets for common subjects or events, but people also use them as a way to connect to others over a good laugh. Once the twitterverse starts putting in their two cents, you get crowd-sourced, viral comedy. I’ve put together what I think are five of the funniest hashtag PR disasters that I’m sure will make you laugh:

  1. #Susanalbumparty:  Susan Boyle’s PR people are probably wishing they had re-read their promotional hashtag after missing its alternative message to Twitter users.  Causing great mirth on the social network, the unfortunate hashtag spawned a deluge of mock invites to the party until it was hastily renamed #SusanBoylesAlbumParty.
  2. #McDStories: Back in January, McDonald’s #McDStories hashtag backfired when instead of offering “good news stories” about the fast-food chain, users began flooding the tag with claims of fingernails in burgers and other nasties.
  3.  #WaitroseReasons: When the supermarket asked shoppers to complete the sentence: “I shop at Waitrose because …” using the hashtag #WaitroseReasons in September, it perhaps should have expected the subsequent tirade of jokes about the brand’s posh image – though many have said the way Waitrose responded turned the campaign from disaster to success.
  4. #MadeMeSmile: Vodafone was left bemused when Twitter users redeployed the PR #mademesmile tag to publish tax avoidance allegations directly to the company’s website.
  5. #QantasLuxury: Airline Qantas won the accolade of PR disaster of the year at the end of 2011 after opening up their promotional hashtag #QantasLuxury at a time when thousands of passengers were stranded overseas.hashtag

Purists will of course say that hashtag isn’t in fact a word but a symbol (like exclamation mark or question mark) and that the real name for this symbol is octothorpe – not quite as catchy though is it?

#ridiculous

The world really has gone mad!    We read today about another poor baby being given THE most ridiculous name I’ve heard of to date!  Crazy baby names are nothing new, in fact they seem to be almost de rigueur in some circles but Hashtag?  As in, well, #hashtag?  Really?

“Hashtag Jameson was born at 10 o’clock  last nite,” the proud parent announced on Facebook  last Saturday night. “She weys 8pounds and i luv her so much!!!!!!”  Spelling-challenged friends started leaving equally creative congratulations in the comments.  “Aww babes you finally had youre Tweetybird xxx,” one wrote.

Now this could of course be just another poorly executed viral marketing campaign but it’s well within the realms of possibility – if Frank Zappa can call his offspring Moon Unit and Gwyneth Paltrow call hers Apple, why can’t a non-celebrity chose an equally ridiculous moniker?

The internet has of course been awash with some slightly cruel hashtags of their own, including #Foolishparents,  #YourParentsHateYou, #StupidestNameEver but despite the initial shock of this most recent naming debacle, parents have always named their kids after things that are important to them, whether it’s a beloved relative, a hot celebrity or, today, social media.  In 2011 a couple in Egypt named their daughter Facebook, while in Israel another was named Like.  Now that little Hashtag has arrived, all we need is a tiny Twitter, a sweet little YouTube and a delightful Digg and the social media baby name trend will be properly established!

Let us hope that little Hashtag will find a way to avoid problems in the playground that will surely happen when you carry such a mighty burden, but you can’t help but wonder what it will be like for her in 20 years time when she has to explain what a hashtag is!

They’re metaphors Richard

We should perhaps forgive the poor naive men who think that women spend their ‘time of the month’ horse-riding along beaches, rollerblading and skydiving, and that period blood is blue, for there are, it seems, a few of them out there.

One of these is Richard Neill, a disillusioned boyfriend who light-heartedly bemoaned being mis-sold the truth about menstruation on Bodyform’s Facebook page. His witty tale of woe prompted much amusement on the social networking site, and his message has, to date, received 86,743 ‘likes’ and 3,735 comments.  This is what he wrote on 8th October:

“Hi, as a man I must ask why you have lied to us for all these years.
As a child I watched your advertisements with interest as to how at this  wonderful time of the month that the female gets to enjoy so many  things, I felt a little jealous.
I mean bike riding, rollercoasters, dancing, parachuting, why couldn’t I  get to enjoy this time of joy and ‘blue water’ and wings!! Dam my  penis!!
Then I got a girlfriend, was so happy and couldn’t wait for this joyous adventurous time of the month to happen …..you lied !!
There was no joy, no extreme sports, no blue water spilling over wings and no rocking soundtrack oh no no no.
 Instead I had to fight against every male urge I had to resist screaming wooaaahhhhh bodddyyyyyyfooorrrmmm bodyformed for youuuuuuu as my lady  changed from the loving, gentle, normal skin coloured lady to the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin.  Thanks for setting me up for a fall bodyform, you crafty b*gger!”

Spotting a golden PR opportunity, the company responded with this hilarious spoof video response that has to be the funniest video I’ve seen in a long time – ladies, please watch and enjoy!

Think before you tweet!

I am all for freedom of speech but there are a few basic rules to follow when you decide to use Social Media sites such as Twitter and Facebook or if, like me, you want to also blog as well.  The main one being:

Think before you hit the Post or Publish button!

This advice is never more important than if you are a person who is already in the public eye – footballers especially please take note!  Some of the worst offenders have been:

  • Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand who was fined £45,000 in August for bringing the game into disrepute after responding to a racially-suggestive tweet about Ashley Cole
  • Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong was also fined £6,000 in the same month after he used a derogatory term about Tottenham fans
  • Then Liverpool winger Ryan Babel was fined £10,000 in January 2011 after he linked to a mocked-up picture of referee Howard Webb in a Manchester United shirt

So there was little surprise this morning when I read that Ashley Cole has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association in relation to a Twitter comment he posted about the governing body.   Responding to the FA’s judgement in the John Terry racism case, he tweeted on Friday: “Hahahahaa, well done #fa I lied did I, #BUNCHOFT***S”.   He has now deleted this tweet and issued an “unreserved apology” to the FA but the damage has already been done and he has until 16:00 BST on Thursday, 11 October to respond to the charge.

However, when former England captain Alan Shearer told the BBC at the weekend that Cole should be banned for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against San Marino as a punishment, Cole, 31, then responded by retweeting a message which criticised Shearer.  When will he learn?

Former England left-back Graeme Le Saux is working with the FA to guide players on how they communicate.  The former Southampton, Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers defender Le Saux is currently helping to make videos for the FA which will be shown to players about how the governing body operates and the punishments they can hand out for unacceptable behaviour, including the use of social media.  He said this weekend – “The whole pleasure and access that social media gives you is that you are in control of what goes out there, but you must be sensible enough to hold that back.”

Social Media is not for people to bully, insult or intimidate, it is for communication.  My advice to these players is straightforward.  Instead of using your hands to type insulting messages for all to see, try just using your feet to kick a ball – this is after all what you’re being paid for!!!

Laziness descends to another level!

I remember being appalled on a recent shopping trip to Waitrose to find pots of ready peeled garlic on sale in the vegetable aisle .  Now I’m all for saving time and making my life easy but really, just how difficult is it to peel a clove of garlic?

The madness continues however.  I’ve read this week about a supermarket chain which has been forced to apologise after they stacked their shelves at stores in Austria with peeled bananas – pre-packaged and wrapped in foil.  German-owned Billa, which calls on its own customers to use more common sense when it comes to the environment, was slammed by customers who took to Facebook and Twitter to condemn the move.

Shoppers first became aware of the wasteful product after the store itself allegedly posted pictures of the product online.

You have to ask yourself what is going to be next?  Are we really that consumed with our lives that eating, one of the most basic and simple pleasures in life, has become such a chore that we can’t do anything for ourselves any more.  Exactly how far away from just taking a pill to satisfy our hunger cravings are we?

I for one will definitely NOT be going down that route!  Quite apart from enjoying the whole process of preparing and cooking food, there is nothing more satisfying than others enjoying your handiwork.  So you can keep your ready-made meals and pre-prepared products – I’m not buying!!!

#KnowTheCode

I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the irreverent male body spray Lynx taking advantage of the Prince Harry story.  The Company ran these tongue in cheek adverts that reinforced what the brand is promising – helping get young men into naughty situations with attractive young ladies!

The adverts, playing on a previous campaign idea of the Lynx man being hounded by scantily clad women, have run with the tagline ‘Sorry Harry. If it had anything to do with us.’

Another advert has featured a pair of Union Jack briefs with the line ‘One has unleashed the chaos.’

Already used in newspapers, including The Sun which was the first paper to print the controversial pictures of Harry in the buff, the Lynx Effect ads have prompted a huge response on Twitter and Facebook.

It was also a masterstroke by Las Vegas itself to also use the event to reflect and reinforce their brand story of “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas“.   They ran the two adverts below, along with a social media campaign called #knowthecode . It was all about reminding people that the code is to ensure what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  

                            

I’m sure he thought that a lads holiday in Vegas wouldn’t be anywhere as big a minefield as serving in Helmand Province where he was dodging bullets and rocket attacks from Taliban insurgents and performing patrols in hostile areas – the mobile phone is clearly a much more dangerous weapon!!!

Happy 1st Anniversary!

It seems hard to believe that I started this blog a year ago today.  When I published the first post I was very unsure about whether I would be able to commit to blogging on a regular basis but now I can’t imagine not doing it. It has become a way of life – a place where I can explore ideas; share experiences and reflect on things I’ve read about.   Along the way I have learned a lot about blogging and so I’ve decided to share some of what I’ve learned, today, on my blog’s 1st Anniversary.  Here goes:

1.  It’s what you write that matters

It might sound obvious but it’s all about the content.  Find a theme that is clean and uncluttered so that people can just concentrate on what you have to say.  Pick interesting topics to write about and find your own writing style.  It isn’t a good idea to “nick” content from other writers but it is ok to use other’s ideas for inspiration!

2. It’s okay to post at your own pace

Starting to write a blog can be intimidating, particularly when you see that some bloggers post at least once a day, sometimes more.  I originally set out thinking that I would blog at least twice a week but I quickly realised that it was important to not just write for writing sake but only when I had something to say.  On the basis that this is my 127th post, I’m still meeting that target on average!  How often I post is affected by a number of factors but mainly by my workload.  Remember that quality is far more important than quantity! 

3. It’s important to post material that is provocative (from time to time)

I’m not suggesting here that you set your stall out to… but it will come as no surprise that many of my most read posts are the ones that were a little contentious, that focused on challenging issues where others will certainly have an opinion. And it is also good to pick up on topics that are being readily discussed. Here are some examples of posts that caused a storm:

4. Make sure your about page is up to scratch

The about page on your blog is arguably one of the most important pages as many new readers who come across your blog will want to know more about it and the person behind it. Who are you? Why do you write this blog? How often can they expect to see new posts? These are just some of the questions a new reader may have.

5. Harness social networks to spread the word

If you want to grow the number of visitors to your blog you must harness the power of social networks. Twitter and Facebook are two of the most powerful tools in driving people towards my blog content and have helped connect me with many other bloggers who share similar ideas and write about similar topics.   It is also worth sharing your content on topic specific forums if they let you – I’ve been banned for life by some of the Football boards as they seem to think I’m advertising, despite pointing out there is no financial gain whatsoever – hey ho!

6. It is about discussion

Most bloggers are looking to generate discussion around their posts. This is what the blogging thing is all about and it’s really important that you respond to comments from people.  I try to reply to comments within 24 hours although occasionally life gets in the way.

The commenting does not end there though.  It is not all about you.  If you want to drive people towards your blog and encourage them to comment on your own posts then you must comment on other people’s blog posts. It raises your profile amongst the blogging community and will encourage people to look up your blog when they have seen you comment on their own posts.

7. Understand SEO and analytics

Without going into too much detail, if you are serious about blogging and see it as more than an opportunity to collect your thoughts then it is worth taking a bit of time to understand ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. In very basic terms this is making your blog more visible to search engines like Google. I could end up writing an entire post on this and only scratch the surface in many ways. To really get a handle on how your blog is doing it is also worth signing up to Google analytics.  There is a very handy WordPress plugin to help with this.

And with that I will bring this post to an end.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last twelve months of blogging and I’m very excited about the next twelve.  There are some amazing events coming up such as the London Olympics later this year and the Glasgow2014 Commonwealth Games in 2 years time so expect lots more posts from me over the next few months and years!

Dress for success

Many years ago I read a book called ‘Dress for Success’ by John T Molloy which I understand has now spawned into several editions covering separate versions for men and women and updating the changes in fashion over the last 20/30 years since the original.

Many of the original principles, however, are still appropriate today and I know from personal experience that it is amazing how a minimum of effort in the style department can maximize results in both your professional and personal life.  For example, in my younger, thinner days I had a dress which was perfectly smart and business-like while I was standing up, but as soon as I sat down, there was a hint of cleavage and stocking tops that never failed to win me the order!  But I digress …

It was with interest therefore, that I’ve been reading today about the criticism of Mark Zuckerberg for wearing a “hoodie” to this weeks presentations to talk up Facebook’s floatation, its first major sale of shares.

Some observers were quick to suggest that this was perhaps a mark of immaturity or of not really caring … Might I suggest, however, that at the age of 28 and with the floatation potentially valuing Facebook as high as $100bn (£62bn),  he can wear what the hell he likes and all the suits in the world won’t change his amazing success!

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