There’s Nothing New Under the Sun – Or On Twitter

Media Frenzy

Social Media Kerfuffle Is a Carbon, A Clone and a Copy

Wise old newspaper hacks will tell you there’s nothing new under the sun. Every story has been told before.

In the accelerated, amped-up world of Twitter, this has been amplified and exaggerated to rather ridiculous extremes.

If you’ve picked up a newspaper or surfed the news blogs today, chances are you’ve come across the latest social media firestorm, involving schoolgirl magnet Claire’s Accessories and the trendy jewellery designer Tatty Devine.

It all kicked off when the social media savvy folks at Tatty Devine blogged on Wednesday asking ‘Can you spot the difference?‘ – and laid out a series of their clever jewellery designs alongside, er, remarkably similar-looking trinkets being flogged by Claire’s.

When the design team at Tatty Devine came up with necklaces that looked like the contents of Top Cat’s trashcan (fish bones, half-peeled bananas and curly, comedy moustaches), they probably didn’t expect they’d be calling Officer Dibble to investigate allegations of intellectual property theft.

To the casual observer, it seems a pretty cut and dried case of the big, faceless corporation ripping off the edgier and way cooler small business to cash in – and that’s why the social media world has lit up with this story. Everybody loves an underdog, especially when the ‘wee guy’ comes out fighting against a villain of pantomime proportions.

In fact, Tatty Devine’s latest blog post yesterday (Thu) confirmed the company intends to take legal action, while offering thanks to its army of social media supporters:

We want to say a big thank you to everyone who commented, and for all the support on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest too. We are truly heartened and impressed by the amazing response on this issue.

Here’s the thing though. If you’ve been around in social media for a while, this whole stramash (that’s Scottish for ‘kerfuffle’) might sound remarkably familiar.

That’s because it is almost a year since one-women jewellery designer Stevie Koerner took to social media to highlight how faceless fashion giant Urban Outfitters had magically come up with silver trinkets which looked exactly like hers.

Indeed, in May last year I pulled together this wee zooming, video thingy (check it out, it’s on Prezi, which is waaaay cool!) to show how the whole thing turned into a massive PR disaster for Urban Outfitters.

you can view it here: http://bit.ly/xmM3AU (last I looked it had been viewed 2116 times).

Last year’s case in America was driven by Twitter, Tumblr and Etsy. The Tatty Devine brouhaha (I think that’s French for ‘kerfuffle’) has been fuelled by Twitter, Facebook and … Pinterest. That in itself is very telling indeed.

Pinterest is the scorchio , shiny new social media darling – and what it tells is that the media team at Tatty Devine are no slouches, especially since the insanely fast-growing site is still ‘in Beta’ and accessible by invitation only.

Tatty Devine on Pinterest

And the point is? Just a whimsical thought that copying jewellery designs is a very naughty no-no that will get you a nasty knuckle-rapping. But copying (and let’s face it, this really is a carbon, copycat, clone) a social media guerrilla strategy against a bigger rival is … well, PR genius.

Congratulations to the very smart social media team at Tatty Devine on a public relations success story.

They’ve managed to give a bigger rival a reputational bloody nose for shameless imitation, while pulling the same trick themselves yet somehow passing it off as the sincerest form of flattery.

How Do You Tell Greedy, Grasping MPs from Hard-working Politicians? There’s an App for That!

Technology's stormtroppers

Technology's Stormtroopers

So, our MPs in the House of Commons are likely to each to be given their own iPads, eh?

Unsurprisingly, the story has split opinion.

The Sun branded the plan “barmy”, while quoting members of the Tax Payers’ Alliance who were gnashing teeth over the prospect of giving our elected politicians shiny “new toys”.
Coverage from the Press Association was more measured, reporting how a test rollout has already taken place; how buying in bulk for 650 MPs will yield savings; and how long-term costs will be cut through reduced paper and printing costs.

Take both sides with a pinch of salt.

Progress is almost always accompanied by protest. With the expenses scandal still fresh in memories, the knee jerk reaction was always going to involve claims of pampering the politicos by giving them gadgets.
Meanwhile the justification from the cross-party committee backing the plan is weak at best. At worst it is downright misleading.
Virtually anyone working in 2012 who has been in the workforce for a decade or more knows that the much-vaunted paperless office is near mythical.
So, the chances of our MPs (who can’t agree on climate change, renewables or recycling) suddenly becoming paragons of paperless virtue is laughable.

Many of those who already own iPads or other tablets know what fantastic consumption devices they are.
Fantastic for reading news and magazines; watching streaming video or catch-up TV; using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter; playing games and keeping entertained.
For productivity and more directly work-related activity? Meh – not so much. That’s why so many early iPad advocates still can’t see beyond their Macbook Air machines, or similar ultrabooks, when it comes to the must-have gadgets for work purposes.

Already our MPs are already entitled to three PCs and two laptops per office. It may well be most of those are used by aides and staff.  Others, I suspect, are expensive dust collectors, bookends or doorstops. Yet PCs, laptops and notebooks have never been seen as anything more than vital work tools, so no-one baulks at this.
With careful training our parliamentary representatives really could see the use of iPads or similar tablets cut costs, reduce the need for other PCs and laptops  and – yes – even reduce the amount of paper they use.
Hopefully though, you didn’t miss the most important word in there: training.

Some very smart and clever things are possible with an iPad. However, even after 18 months of owning one, I still rarely use it as a direct productivity tool
If we give our MPs tablets (and I’m not talking crushing them up and serving them in cocktails in the Commons bars to make them more pliant), no doubt many of them will quickly find ways to use them in useful, helpful and possibly even productive ways.  But others will be little more than expensive internet browsers.

The key to this issue isn’t to hand out iPads en masse. Nor is it to grumble, luddite-fashion, as those who run the country experiment with genuinely useful new technology.
The rollout of iPads to interested MPs should continue, with the caveat that those receiving them commit to at least a like-for-like reduction in the amount of money they can spend on other computing hardware and to paper reduction targets.
Consider that just about every business in the country has an IT usage policy and provides basic training for staff on applications from Word and Excel to sales software and email through to bespoke software.
More and more those training and policies now cover applications on the cloud.
The same should apply to MPs using iPads. They should be trained in usage of key productivity apps and encouraged to use them to streamline the business of being an MP.

Winning buy-in from a sceptical public the solution is easy: demonstrate tangible and measurable value – whether that means reduced hardware bills, lower paper usage, a reduced carbon footprint or greater engagement with constituents.
If our MPs really want shiny new iPads it should be clear they have to earn them.

Better and more accountable democracy? I’m afraid there still isn’t an App for that.

(For some recent musing on the  kind of work related productivity possible with a tablet computer, see my weekend Google + post, written from the comfort of my warm bed!)

Leak, Leaking, Leakey – Toilet Talk Can Leave Businesses Scared of Twitter

Twitter Logo

Twitter Leaks

I’m amused by a couple of Twitter stories today. But aside from raising a couple of wry smiles, these stories also raise a couple of business points.
First up this yarn from The Scotsman about tennis star Andy Murray’s mum leaving Black Rod infuriated:
Black Rod is a parliamentary official whose position has existed since 1350. And the current holder of that title was none too pleased when Judy Murray Tweeted out a picture from inside Parliament.
It seems the officious Black Rod considered this an inappropriate leak from inside the Mother of Parliaments.
Even funnier when you consider the offending photo was of a toilet door sign which read: “Women Peers”. In other words, the place where the mightiest women in the land go to, er, take a leak (women pee-ers?)
What trumped it for me though was the real name of Black Rod, a former military man known to his nearest and dearest as, Lieutenant-General David Leakey.

Next up is the story about a Twitter fuss which blew up when it appeared that Pulitzer Prize-winning author and playwright Cormac McCarthy had set aside his legendary distaste for modern technology and deigned to grace Twitter with his presence.
However, it turned out all to have been a hoax, perpetrated by none other than an aspiring (but as yet unpublished) author from Renfrewshire:
It’s a shame really. The lean, spare, yet beautiful prose which typifies McCarthy’s work means he’d be a must follow in 140 characters. And I bet there wouldn’t be a “just ate a tuna sandwich for lunch” Tweet anywhere to be found in his stream.

On a serious note, these are the kind of stories which show that the mainstream world is fully waking up to Twitter.
Yet they are also the kind of stories which may still prevent some businesses from using the new social media tools to extract the undoubted value they offer.

Do you remember a time there were similar stories about Facebook, YouTube – and before that email (yep, believe it or not, there was a time when email was viewed with suspicion as a threat to business).
Not to mention the days when the very internet and world wide web themselves were a cause for concern and frowny faces (real frowning expressions, as opposed to digital emoticons) among serious business people.
Later there were media stories galore about the risks of shopping online (my mum still won’t use a credit or debit card over the internet).
Hell, perm it back further and it’s easy to find historical reference to the time when the credible voices of the day were fearful and suspicious of telephones.

Now, try to imagine business world without websites or e-commerce. And no matter how full your inbox is, consider trying to do business without email.
Then consider the two stories above. It may take longer than a year, but at some point in the not-too-distant future Twitter usage will be so commonplace it’ll no longer merit stories like these.

If you work in a business which is still suspicious about Twitter – or other social media – then give us a call at Holyrood PR. We’ll be happy to show how it can work in your favour and help prepare you for that point when it is every bit as important to your product or service as a website, an online shopping cart or an email address.

Ours is info@holyroodpr.co.uk.
Or if you’re a bit more old school, you can get us on 0131 561 2244.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can get me on @scottgdouglas or the Holyrood PR team @holyroodpr.
However you choose to contact us, we’d love to hear from you.