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: (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.


Coulson’s Last Hope For Crisis Management – At Least Phone Hacking Happened Before Twitter

Andy Coulson's regnation

Crisis which couldn't be managed

So, Andy Coulson fell on his sword.

Neatly he repeated the well-worn maxim that the PR man should never become the story, stating: “When the spokesman needs a spokesman it’s time to move on”.

As guiding principles go, it’s a good one and few in PR or media relations could justify becoming the centre of a news story.

Yet such a turn of events is survivable. The rules of crisis management apply even to troubled spin doctors: acknowledge the problem; address it rapidly and transparently; concentrate on the facts.

But the prime minister’s most trusted media adviser wasn’t really brought low by a mobile phone hacking scandal from five years ago. As David Cameron regularly pointed out, Coulson paid the price for that by quitting the Editor’s chair at Britain’s biggest Sunday newspaper.

Coulson was actually scuppered by the claims of innocence which let him leave the paper with his head held high. Effectively he quit the NoTW saying: “I’m an honourable guy, so I’ll shoulder the responsibility, though I was never complicit in the wrongdoing.”

His problem is that precious few – including the Westminster and political media – believe his claims that he was blissfully unaware of widespread use of phone hacking at his paper thought (he’s repeated it so often he might just about believe it himself).

In crisis management terms, how do you concentrate on facts, when your central ‘truth’ is almost universally derided as a fabrication? And what does that do for the notion of ‘transparency’?

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Twitter-led Outrage Won’t Change the Sunday Newspaper Tale of the Tape

Offensive flim flam?

Twitter outrage led me to an article I would otherwise have missed: the pitiable flim-flam on the Jo Yeates murder case, penned by the Mail on Sunday’s Liz Jones.

Left feeling sullied by the risible piece, I followed the unfolding outrage and contempt in the comments section, on blogs – and most notably on Twitter.

There, it became clear for many the most shocking aspect of Jones’ piece was the sheer, breathtaking depths of her self-absorption in the face of brutality, tragedy and grief.

Jones is the latest writer at the Daily Mail group to attract the ire of the Twittering classes.

Jan Moir discovered that a cap of 140 characters sets no limit on public expressions of distaste, when her opinions on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately provoked a public backlash.

Here’s the thing though: For all the morally superior headshaking; the public expressions of distaste and outrage; the excoriation of the controversial columnists, the Mail Group newspapers are incredibly successful, in a sector where successes are few and far between.

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Black and White and Machine Readable All Over – Welcome to the World of QR Codes

Please scan me!

Scan with your smartphone

In case you haven’t noticed, the official name of this blog is Black and White and Read All Over.

Now the monochrome theme has just been dragged into the 21st century thanks to the image you see on this page – which looks like some pixellated piece of modern art.

It’s actually a QR Code, which is the latest take on the old concept of a barcode.

The great thing about these QR codes is that most smart phones – iPhones and the rival handsets with cameras and touch screens – can get cheap, easy to install software which will ‘read’ QR codes.

You may have got here from the QR code which is currently masquerading as my Twitter profile. If so, thanks for the visit.

Anyone (and I’ll grant you, there aren’t too many people currently using the QR  technology) who got here by another means might want to try it out.

So, simply download the app to your iPhone, Android device or Blackberry (I’m using the free QR Code Reader on the iPhone) and then use the camera to line up this black and white box, as if you’re about to take a picture.

Hold it steady for a few second (you don’t have to press any buttons) and your phone should recognise the pattern and take you to another web page.

You don’t have to imagine too hard to see how these codes can be really useful for business. I’ve already followed links in newspapers and magazines which open video adverts, business cards, web links.

I’ve also heard of refuse collection lorries carrying QR codes on the side, which let interested members of the public immediately link to a web page giving more information about rubbish collection in their area.

Likewise, estate agents are wising up to how to use these QR Codes on For Sale signs and other marketing material – which take interested house hunters straight to a schedule or online description of a property.

Businesses can use them to track take up on special offers and discount vouchers. Imagine waiting for a bus and being able to quickly and easily get access to a QR code from an ad that will get you a free coffee at the other end of your journey.

Have you thought about the ways your business could be using QR Codes creatively?

You can contact me or the team at Holyrood Partnership on 0131 561 2244 or (or use the QR code on this page!).

From Mashable To Shagable – Or How Geeks Are The New Gods

Pete Cashmore in Scotland On Sunday

Scotland on Sunday's Eligibles

Great to see the founder of, getting the recognition he is due here in his home country.

However, Pete Cashmore isn’t being feted for the amazing achievements of his website, which reports the latest in online and social media news.

Nah. He’s actually graced the pages of Scotland on Sunday as one of the nation’s 25 most eligible bachelors (coming in at an impressive number 4).

Little surprise really.  The 25-year-old is at the helm of one of the hottest properties on the web.

As founder and CEO of mashable, he runs a multi-million pound business in an arena which was once a geeky backwater – but is now one of the planet’s sexiest sectors.

Tech knowhow aside, it helps that Cashmore is also a lantern-jawed lothario, with  handsome, camera-friendly features.

As a result he is regularly photographed with the many attractive women who queue up to meet him at parties and other tech-sector bunfights.

You can read Cashmore’s full biog at mashable and I also enjoyed this article, which seemed in awe of his ability to attract women.

Putting aside my envy, I have to confess I love this guy too! Mashable is one of the best, most useful sites on the web and is on my regular must-read list.

I’m also glad to see the young tech-star getting any sort of recognition in Scotland.

It might be the case that just about everybody with enough fingers to type with has got a Facebook account or a Twitter stream. However, the reality is that most of them still don’t much know or care what goes on behind the scenes.

Understandable, really. I wouldn’t expect EastEnders fans to be able to name the director general of the BBC and most newspaper readers couldn’t name the editor of their favourite title.

However, in Banchory-based Cashmore (at least he spends time in the Deeside town, when he’s not on playboy duties in either New York or San Francisco) Scotland has a genuine social media superstar.

So it might be doing him a bit of a dis-service that he is now earning mainstream media recognition more for being shagable, than for mashable.

But it’s a start and I suspect he’s not complaining.

At Holyrood Partnership PR Scotland, we’ve had a client feature in Scotland on Sunday’s annual list of the nation’s 50 most eligible singles.

Being a true gent, Thomas Ashdown, founder of online business Citylets, only smiles wryly and refuses to comment, when asked what a mention in the list did for his love life.

My guess is that it can’t do a man’s chances any harm, so it seems inevitable that Mr Mashable’s  mention in The Eligibiles 2010 will see him doing even more to put the “social” into media this year.

Perhaps a name change might even be in order – Pete Catchmore.

Good luck to the jammy sod.

Safe Arrival Of Mini Milne Announced Via Social Media

Congratulations to media maven Shaun Milne who has made the most important addition yet to his long list of achievement – becoming a dad.

Well known across Scottish journalism for a career spanning almost 20 years and for his influential blog, Milne Media, he may be notable by his absence from the media scene in the next few weeks.

His wife Rachel went into labour at near 11pm on Wednesday and bouncing baby boy Joshua finally made his appearance almost 24 hours later.

In typical Shaun fashion, he eschewed the usual round of texts and phonecalls to his wide circle of pals – instead announcing safe delivery of the young ‘un via (how else?) Twitter.

Shaun now runs the show at Deadline News in Edinburgh also took a suitably new media approach in breaking the news to the team at Deadline, with this announcement on the company’s in-house social network, The Bond:

Joshua John Milne born 10.42pm on Thursday, weighing 7lb 14oz. Rachel and baby doing fine. I face a long recovery.

Eventually I managed to squeeze in an old-fashioned phone call with the man himself.

He was still on cloud nine and somewhat in awe of how Rachel coped with the whole experience (“barely a breath of gas and air and nary a peep out of her through the whole thing”).

Having recently purchased a fancy dan new camera, he was getting ready this morning to visit wife and wee one in hospital – with the promise of photies of the baby to follow.

I’ve always though that all newborns look like Winston Churchill, but Shaun insisted: “The baby’s definitley got my good looks.”

I’ll post a pic here just as soon as Mr Milne provides one – though I suspect there will be plenty more to see on a number of digital channels near you.

UPDATE – just noticed that Shaun also made his announcement (I wanted an iPad – instead I got a baby) on his Facebook page, where it is a pleasure to see so many people offering their congratulations.