Latest blog posts

Rage Against The (X Factor) Machine

As you’ll have seen if you’ve been near a TV, radio, Twitter or Facebook, sweary activist rock group Rage Against The Machine have pipped the X Factor’s Joe McElderry to this year’s Christmas number one.

Like many people, I’m pretty pleased about this. And I’m also a bit suprised, because had you asked me a week ago, I’d have said the Facebook campaign to get the song to the top of the charts had about as much chance of success as the Monster Raving Loonies have of winning the next general election.

Why the scepticism? Well, joining a group on Facebook only takes a couple of seconds but it’s getting people to do more that has always seemed like the tricky bit. There are thousands of well-meaning Facebook groups and online petitions that have plenty of supporters but achieved nothing else of note.

So why did this campaign succeed – and make such a big impact – where others have failed?

  • It tapped into something people feel strongly about: frustration at the X Factor’s dominance of the Christmas number one slot.
  • It went huge on Facebook and Twitter. The sheer amount of support indicated that maybe it could actually happen.
  • Mainstream media picked it up in a big way. That lent credibility to the grass roots campaign and fostered a real belief it could work.
  • It wasn’t asking for a huge commitment. Sure, downloading the track cost a few pence, but it was easy and cheap to make a difference.

I think a lot of it came down to credibility. It wasn’t until Thursday, when Rage performed live on 5 Live’s breakfast show (swear words and all), that I seriously thought there was a possibility we’d see them at number one. And it was only at that point that I was willing to purchase the single myself. (more…)

Eurostar crisis compounded by embarrassing email

Last night, four Eurostar trains got stuck in the Channel Tunnel. People were stranded for 12 or more hours. You might have seen it on the news.

Not a pleasant experience for any of the passengers involved. So it was interesting to see a marketing email from Eurostar in my inbox this morning.

“Give a continental gift this Christmas,” proclaims the subject line, excitedly. And it gets worse: “Eurostar has the perfect present for your nearest and dearest – an experience they’ll never forget.” Twelve hours stuck on a train in a tunnel? You can say that again. Here’s the full email.

As this message arrived in the middle of the night, I assume it was scheduled to send at a specific time by their marketing team. However, by the time it reached my inbox, the stuck trains issue was hitting the headlines and clearly a serious problem.

Making sure your marketing, PR and customer service teams are communicating effectively is important at all times, but particularly essential during a crisis. The last thing you need is to make things any worse for yourself.

An important task should be to close down any communications that could make things even worse than they are already. That’s why companies sometimes pull ads at short notice – usually in response to a PR problem or major news story breaking.

In this case, that clearly hasn’t happened. And while you could argue that Eurostar had more pressing issues to deal with – like getting help to the 2,000-odd people stuck on trains – it usually takes a single click to stop a mailing. And that might have saved a little bit of embarassment.

Maybe there’s a lesson for all of us there.

Best of the web for writers: 10 December

In what’s rapidly becoming a semi-regular feature, here are a few interesting snippets I’ve spotted online in the last couple of  weeks:

  • Over at Men With Pens they’ve taken a good, hard look at how to deal with clients that suck. Let’s be honest, most freelancers have run into at least one or two of those. There’s no magic bullet, but these tips can help a lot.
  • Here’s one that’s relevant if you’ve ever worked longer hours on the basis you’ll automatically be more productive. Sorry to break it to you, but as this great article from Lost Garden explains, it doesn’t work like that. It’s worth grabbing the whole presentation there too.
  • I love Moo because their website just works, their products are gorgeous and they understand the freelance life. Their advent calendar is a case in point: every day till Christmas they’ll be linking to a great creative or marketing resource.