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Never rely on predictive text!

What do Leona Lewis and my lovely Dad have in common?   Well up until this week I would have said “absolutely nothing apart from a surname!”.  That was before I heard the story about a tweet sent by the ubiquitous Simon Cowell last week.

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Telling his 8.5 million Twitter followers about X Factor alumni Leona Lewis’ new Christmas album, he fell foul of dreaded predictive text and the message went out as Leonard Lewis instead – I’d like to think that Dad would have found that quite amusing, particularly since the Cowell and my Dad actually attended the same school in North London (albeit quite a few years apart!).

The story was also covered on the ITV2 show, Celebrity Juice, on Thursday night and was met with much hilarity from the studio guests and provided a laugh out loud moment for me in my living room too!!!

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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!

Situation Vacant

Pope resignsA unique opportunity has unexpectedly arisen with our client in Rome.  The ideal candidate will be of previous good character with excellent communication skills.  Fluency in several languages is also desirable, while the successful candidate will also enjoy occasional overseas travel and the adulation of millions wherever they go.

Whilst no specific qualifications have been requested, it would help if you hold strong views on subjects such as euthanasia, abortion and the use of artificial birth  control.

You should be available to start this new role with effect from 1st March 2013 and must look good in long, flowing white robes and a skullcap.  On occasions you may also be required to wear a bullet proof vest!

Applications are being taken by the incumbent via their official Twitter page @Pontifex.

Neigh, neigh and thrice neigh!!!

This week’s headlines would have been a gift for Frankie Howerd who, for my younger readers, was an English comedian and comic actor who died in 1992.  Famous for several catchphrases, I have used artistic licence to tweak one of these as a headline for this post – I’m sure he would have approved!

You must have been on another planet if you haven’t heard about the outrage of the revelation that the beef content in one Everyday Value burger sold by Tesco was actually 29 per  cent horse meat.Tesco article

There are of course many countries that find eating horsemeat totally acceptable [across Europe and South America for example], but in the UK we seem to find it abhorrent – but the main reason to be scandalised is not that Tesco was selling burgers containing horse, but that they weren’t labelled as such.  It’s not illegal to sell horsemeat in the UK, but it is illegal to sell food containing ingredients that aren’t listed on the label.

Of course the Social Media networks had a field day and the jokes were coming thick and fast.  However, no-one expected Tesco’s themselves to score such a spectacular “own goal” as they did last night when they tweeted this:

Tesco tweet

Despite claims that they had scheduled the tweet before the scandal broke, I can’t help but think this could come back and bite them on their proverbial backside [trying desperately not to succumb here to the temptation of a quip about a horse’s ass].   It may on the other hand prove to be the best marketing strategy ever … only time will tell.

So I leave you with my own favourite tweet on the subject … have a great weekend!

Food allergies are a pain … dairy products make me sneeze and #Tesco burgers make me a little hoarse!!!

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?

Holy hashtag!

The big news of the day seems to be the fact that Pope Benedict XVI has joined Twitter, although he won’t be sending his first tweet until 12th December – just in time for the Christmas messages I presume?!

Using the handle @pontifex, I am sure he won’t be sending the tweets himself [there’ll be a man for that in his entourage of course] but I’m probably not the only person who’d really enjoy seeing him bring out his Blackberry or iPad from underneath his cassock during an open air Mass!

Pope on Twitter

#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!

Farewell old friend

BBC Ceefax, the world’s first teletext service, has taken its final bow as the UK’s digital switchover is completed.

Ceefax was launched on 23 September 1974 to give BBC viewers the chance to check the latest news headlines, sports scores, weather forecast or TV listings – in a pre-internet era where the only alternative was to wait for the next TV or radio bulletin to be aired.  Its premise was to give viewers free access to the same information that was coming into the BBC newsroom, as soon as the BBC’s journalists had received it.

Initially developed when BBC engineers, exploring ways to provide subtitles to enable viewers with hearing problems to enjoy BBC TV programmes, found it was possible to transmit full pages of text information in the “spare lines” transmitted on the analogue TV signal.

It was called Ceefax, simply because viewers would be able to quickly “see the facts” of any story of the day.

Its audience peaked in the 1990s when it had 20 million viewers who checked the service at least once a week. Since the launch of the National Lottery in 1994, dozens of jackpot winners have revealed that they first learned their life had been changed when they checked their numbers on Ceefax.

Anyone who grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s will be familiar with Ceefax but because of the wonders of technology, these teletext-type services are no longer our go-to resource for the latest news and weather.  ITV and Channel 4’s Teletext was shut off in 2009 and now those with a soft spot for the BBC’s Ceefax have been cut off, too.

Today we’ve seen Twitter users are sharing #Ceefax memories and wishing the old girl farewell. The image below is currently doing the rounds.  I’m not sure who’s behind it but it certainly gave me a smile.

The launch of the UK’s TV digital signal, and the announcement that the analogue TV signal would disappear in a staged switch-off over five years meant a slow withdrawal of Ceefax, ending with the final broadcast tonight in Northern Ireland when Olympic Gold Medallist, Mary Peters, had the dubious honour of ending the service.

Another happy memory consigned to the virtual rubbish bin after 38 years of loyal service – what will we see disappear next?

Going down?

I’ve been reading an article today about the reasons why we behave so oddly in lifts.

Many of us use them several times a day without really noticing.   And yet the way we behave in lifts, or elevators as they are known in the US, reveals a hidden anxiety.   Most of us sort of shut down.   We walk in. We press the button. We stand perfectly still.

So why are we so awkward in lifts?

It is probably because you don’t have enough space.  Usually when we meet other people we have about an arm’s length of distance between us but that’s not possible in most lifts so it’s a very unusual setting.  It’s unnatural.   In such a small, enclosed space it becomes vital to act in a way that cannot be construed as threatening, odd or in any way ambiguous.  The easiest way to do this is to avoid eye-contact completely.

But perhaps there is more to it than just social awkwardness.  Perhaps it is more about being trapped inside this small enclosed space if the lift breaks down.  Regular Twitter followers will remember Stephen Fry’s amusing tweet when he got stuck in a lift at Centre Point in London in 2009 – it made the national news!  The reality of course is far from amusing as you have no idea how long it will be before you are set free from your incarceration and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be desperate to go to the toilet as well!

One thing I always do now when entering a lift is to read the name of the manufacturer which is usually displayed on the plaque where you find the buttons to operate the darn thing.  This goes back to when I worked on the 4th floor of a building in Edinburgh and each time I got in, I smiled inwardly, saying to myself “Schindler’s Lift”!  Not very mature I know, but it always made me smile [and colleagues groan!].

For what it’s worth, if the thought of travelling in a machine that’s moving and over which you have no control, you can’t see its engine and you don’t know how it’s working fills you with dread – err on the side of caution and take the stairs!

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!!!

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