Ophelia, Don’t go breaking my heart!

October 17, 2017 by

Alison Nulty Ophelia preparation

If Ophelia hit this time last year, I would have been one of those storm chasing journalists, imploring viewers not to make any unnecessary journeys…….while I made the same unnecessary journeys I was warning them not to!

What a difference a year makes…

Fortunately, I now have a job where I can work from home, and a boss that recognises and champions flexible working styles (thanks Dee!).

Now I was fairly prepared for ex-Hurricane Ophelia, I even made a to-do list on Sunday afternoon.

But as I sat at home this morning, listening to Ophelia bellow and roar, it got me thinking. How prepared are any of us for when a disaster strikes?

And if you’re a business owner, how crisis-ready is your company?

Preparing for a Crisis

While the nature of the crisis remains unknown, there are plenty of steps that can be taken ahead of that crisis. Preparation is key, and being prepared can save you valuable time, when you feel like you don’t have any to spare.

We know only too well from our work with clients that a crisis isn’t always caused by a major incident either. An ill-conceived tweet, or a failure to respond to customer feedback can quickly snowball out of control. Again, having a plan in place to monitor and manage your social media, and customer feedback channels is vital to helping you protect your reputation.

At Fuzion we have a very specific and robust process that helps our clients to prepare in the event of a crisis situation, big or small occurring.

Ophelia’s flexing her muscles today, as she rages her destructive path through our little island. So, until she leaves us in her devastating wake, batten down the hatches, and keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Are you prepared for when the storm clouds gather above your business?

How prepared are you for when a crisis strikes?

You know here we are…

Alison Nulty, Fuzion CommunicationsAlison Nulty is a Senior PR Manger, Media Trainer, and Crisis Communications Specialist with Fuzion Communications, a full service agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland.

Listening and doing nothing

October 11, 2017 by

Donald Trump - Twitter

Right now, we are living in an ever increasingly strange era.

A bright orange barely human is in charge of the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, and seemingly quite anxious to have a go at using it.

His counterpart in the East – with equally baffling hair – is egging him on and approximately 7 billion people are at the mercy of their moods. This will go down as the dumbest period of human life on earth, or at very least, as the dumbest period of untethered “leadership” in the developed world. 

On a somewhat lighter (but connected) note, both Twitter and Instagram have made some small but significant changes to their platforms recently, in an attempt to improve users’ experiences making them easier and faster to use. 

As users of social media for the past ten or so years, we should be ok with ongoing updates where features that we know and love are “updated” (i.e. removed or positioned elsewhere on the platform, in an non-linear manner – yes, I’m looking at you Facebook for all the things that you’ve done to the time-line. #smt). 

As recently as June 2017, Grace Kim, Twitter’s head of research and design said “…with lots of feedback and ideas from you, we’re refreshing our product… We listened closely and kept what you love. And for the things you didn’t, we took a new approach to fix and make better,”. 

But its quite apparent that these companies are not listening to their users. 

In this turbulent time, where people carrying swastika flags, can declare themselves NOT nazis, (note – we are deliberately not giving these words the respect of Uppercase first letter) and use Twitter to publish messages of hate and violence, where threats of sexual violence can be made against people for “offences” such as not shaving their legs, or wanting to be referred to as she/her or he/his, where people can be called offensive terms by the president (he doesn’t a capital “P” either!) of the USA for taking a knee protest, neither changing profile pictures to circles nor increasing the character limit to #280 was not on anyone’s agenda. 

Mike Monteiro has been an outspoken member of the Twitter community asking for DT’s removal for repeatedly touting the terms of service of Twitter, writing on Medium he says “DT has been violating Twitter’s “rules” for years. Calling out individuals, entire ethnic groups, dog whistling his violent white supremacist base, taking on a Gold Star family, a US judge of Mexican heritage, retweeting a gif of Hillary Clinton being attacked, going after journalists. This is hardly acceptable behaviour for a regular human being, much less a US President. Twitter has, rightfully albeit slowly, banned other users for similar behaviour. 

Monteiro intelligently and correctly has spent considerable amount of time and effort engaging with @Jack and @Biz (Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO & Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter) highlighting the many instances of misuse of their platform by extremists (I’m including DT in that description…) and what should be done with them, according to their own Terms of Service.

By the levels of engagement between them, they clearly see what he’s saying, but they aren’t listening or are deliberately choosing not to do anything having listened. If they were, there would be less hoo-haa about #280 (which, lets face it, just makes Twitter a rubbish Facebook) and more about ensuring that users behaviour on Twitter was appropriate, respectful and not warmongering. 

In a similar manner, Instagram recently updated its app, allowing users greater functionality (to use multiple images in a single post, landscape and portrait modes, and, errr,  stickers, similar to Snapchat – you know those annoying floral headdresses and bunny rabbit noses? Yeah, those!!).

Some of the updates have been great – threaded comments, the previously mentioned multiple images per post, and Instagram Stories, but there is one simple thing that users have been crying out for, and that is a chronological order of posts. 

Clearly Instagram, much like Twitter, is a commercial endeavour, not some sort of altruistic venture, and its algorithm is built so that the advertising (which thankfully has become less invasive in recent months) is aimed at the correct target audiences, but forcing users into a system that they have clearly expressed as not being something that they want, is a sign that a company is clearly not listening to its user base. 

Perhaps the numbers won’t fall, perhaps we have all become immune to asking for something from a service, and never getting it, but surely that’s a strange set of behaviours to adhere to!

What does any of this to do with design?

Well, everything we do in Fuzion Communications is a reaction to a briefing from our clients.

They tell us what they need and what they want, and we take it from there. Design is a heavy mix of solution providing, communications and creativity, and as designers a huge part of our process is listening to our clients to provide them with creative work, that satisfies their brief. 

Ultimately, our design comes from listening.  

Phew…that’s off my chest!

Jonathan Leahy Maharaj - FuzionJonathan

Jonathan Leahy Maharaj leads the Graphic Design Department in Fuzion with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland 

 

New Business or Brand Name – Check first before you launch!

October 8, 2017 by

 

Coca Cola

I am perhaps betraying my age here, but when I was a young boy, I sang along enthusiastically to the ‘Safe, Cross, Code’ song, which was part of a road safety campaign on Irish TV fronted by ‘Judge’, a puppet dog with a patched eye.

The mantra of the road safety campaign was always to look left and right before you cross the road. The same rule applies when choosing a new name for your new business or launching a new branded product to the market. Always check first to ensure that your new business name or brand is not being used by somebody else.

Very often, many start-ups make the mistake in believing that a positive search result of the Companies and/or Business Name registers means they are free to trade under their desired name. This can be a fatal and very expensive mistake to make.

Only a comprehensive ‘Freedom to Operate’ search of the Trade Marks Registers in the territory where you propose to trade can provide you with a comprehensive risk assessment of whether you are free to operate under your desired business name.

The very same applies when you want to launch a new branded product to the market. You need to ensure that your proposed brand, in whatever forms it takes, be it a word or logo, does not clash with identical or similar existing brands already in the marketplace in your industry sector.

Wanderly Wagon - Judge

Why, you may ask, is it actually necessary to do a Trade Mark search?

The reason lies in the fact that a trade mark is a sign which distinguishes the goods and/or services of one trader from those of its competitors.

When a trade mark is registered in the territory where a trader operates or proposes to operate, it gives the trader a legally enforceable right to stop others from using, without consent, identical and similar signs in relation to goods and services which are identical or similar to those of the trader’s trade mark registration. You therefore need to be aware of these legally enforceable rights.

Undertaking and analysing trade mark and design searches is a highly specialised skill which only a Trade Mark and Design attorney with years of experience and knowledge of ‘risk of confusion’ law can provide.

Doing ‘DIY’ online searches runs the serious risk that the owner of an identical or confusingly similar trademark that you have not discovered will come out of the woodwork and sue you. You may either have to abandon your plans or incur significant expenditure in contesting a legal challenge from the owner of that earlier trademark.

In some cases, a legal challenge may result in the holder of an earlier trade mark obtaining a temporary injunction from the courts prohibiting you from trading under your chosen name or brand. This could be disastrous, particularly if you have already spent time and money in developing your brand. You may also be faced with the prospect of having to pay the earlier trade mark owner’s legal costs should they win in court against you.

In Ireland, a further complicating factor is that not all earlier rights may actually be on the Trade Marks register.

Ireland is a ‘First to Use’ country which means that the owner of an earlier brand may have sufficiently strong unregistered rights to sue you for ‘Passing Off‘. Passing Off is an action which protects the goodwill and reputation built up under a brand name. Additional non-trade mark register searches will therefore need to be carried out and analysed to provide you with a robust and comprehensive risk assessment.

I have many years of experience in undertaking ‘Freedom-to-Operate’ and Trade Mark clearance searches, having assisted some of the world’s largest companies in clearing their most important brands.

In a recent instruction, l assisted and advised an Irish based software company to clear its trading name in Ireland, the European Union and the United States. Also, in a complex instruction a number of years ago, I advised a large multi-national FMCG corporation to clear a brand for use throughout the European Union.

The brand I cleared is now highly successful and one of the leading pet snack food brands on the market. In both cases, it would have been highly risky for my clients to operate and launch their new brands without first undertaking a comprehensive trade mark search program.

The process is quite straight forward and relatively inexpensive, so its always much better to be sure before committing big budgets.

So…can you remember that song?

Niall Tierney - IP LawyerNiall Tierney

Niall Tierney is a Legal Brand Consultant to Fuzion Communications and an IP Lawyer located in Dublin, Ireland,  Managing Director of TIERNEY IP, a specialist law firm which assists and advises businesses in clearing, protecting, enforcing and monetising trade marks, designs and other Intellectual Property rights.

 

Ryanair – Is the biggest crisis the attitude?

October 1, 2017 by

Ryanair - Always Getting Better

Early last week we were asked to comment by the publication Fora.ie about the whole Ryanair fiasco and what we thought of how they handled their crisis.

In a crisis situation we always advise –

  • Don’t hide
  • Quickly establish the facts
  • Be 100% truthful
  • Always provide a solution (or a least be honest about working hard to find one)
  • Don’t be afraid to say sorry (as long as you mean it)
  • Don’t be shy about telling people the good things you are doing

This can be achieved with a combination of holding statements, follow up statements, interviews and implementing any necessary changes.

In the case of Ryanair there wasn’t really a formal apology but Michael O’Leary was door stopped by reporters and did say it was “clearly a mess” but he went on to point out that it was just 2% of their passengers that had been affected. I think Michael is missing the point here about focussing on the good things!

On their website where they have a page dedicated to the cancelled flights they also remind people of this “2%” as well as listing the flights that have been cancelled. They also provide a ‘link’ to a page that directs people to an EU legislation document about entitlements to refunds and compensation.

The words “sorry” or “apologise” don’t appear anywhere!

Ryanair - Cancelled Flights

Understandably customers are irate – Ryanair are not helping the situation by drip feeding news about cancelled flights, their customer contact lines not being managed efficiently and are still overheating their situation by promoting flights at “€19.99”.

Furthermore, they have been denying that part of the problem is pilots leaving to take jobs in other airlines.

This scenario has got even worse with pilots going public with their gripes and painting a pretty awful picture about what life is like working for the ‘low care’ airline.

All of this comes at a time when the airline has been trying to refocus it’s brand with their “Always Getting Better” campaign.

A different scenario? 

So – would it have made a difference if Ryanair were upfront, issued a formal apology and showed genuine empathy with inconvenienced customers and were honest about solutions and assurances going forward?

The answer would be a big “Yes” but there is also a big “But” to contend with.

The effectiveness of this approach will depend on what people feel about the company when embarks on such a course –

  • Do people feel warmly towards the airline?
  • Do they believe that there is a genuine concern for customers?
  • Do they believe that staff at the airline are treated well?
  • Do they believe that this company does charitable work?
  • Do they believe there is a strong moral compass at the airline?
  • Have they communicated the great things (if such things exist) they have been doing to the general public and stakeholders?

Maybe realising this Michael felt there was no point pretending to care?

In a crisis a robust process will definitely help but the best preparation for a crisis is to be good and do good things and communicate this effectively – it is only then that people will be willing to listen to your apology and accept it.

Leopards don’t change their spots and not caring will bite you in the butt eventually.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Crisis Consultancy Services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Finding the Right Fit – Part 2

September 7, 2017 by

Norwegian Airlines - Cork to Boston

Five years ago I wrote my first blog which looked at the importance of finding the right fit for your requirements.

This is something I still firmly believe in, and which was reinforced this summer when I travelled on the new Norwegian Air direct flight from Cork to Providence in Rhode Island.

Some people were a little sceptical of this new option, which was billed as a more affordable way to get from Ireland to the USA; saying things along the lines of:

That’s not bringing you directly into Boston, Providence is miles away… a completely different state in fact!” and

But you have to pay extra for your bags and meals.”..

..and yes, they are correct in saying those things; however for me, the flight into Providence was exactly what I was after as I was holidaying in Rhode Island.

And better yet, we travelled for that very reasonable price we kept hearing about!

So what am I getting at here?

I could have chosen to fly in a little “more comfort” with Ireland’s only 4 star airline, directly into Boston; but it would have meant a two hour or more journey to either Shannon or Dublin on this side of the Atlantic, and a similar transfer at the other side; all the while costing me more.

That wasn’t the right fit for me on this occasion, whereas this new option did and so I was more than happy to give it a go and if necessary, learn from my mistakes.

I think the same goes when choosing business partners to work with.

You may have people “advising” you, saying things such as:

You must work with X, Y or Z – everyone who’s anyone works with them” or

They’ve been around for years, they must be the best.

..but at the end of the day, what it really comes down to is whether or not they are going to be able to fulfil your requirements and bring you where you need to be, via the most direct route, and of course, at the best price for you!

When it comes down to it, a business option that compares to Norwegian Air’s offering, where you can pick and choose add-ons as required, is something definitely worth considering – you may find they’ll bring you exactly where you need to be.

Alison O'Brien, Fuzion CommunicationsAlison O’Brien

Alison O’Brien is an Account Director with Fuzion PR, Marketing & Design, who have offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Gina London – The Message is clear: Soft skills are a critical part of success

September 3, 2017 by

Back to school

It’s back to school time for the kids!

While we prepare to deal with the school-run surge in morning traffic, my daughter Lulu and the rest of Ireland’s students are (blessedly) preparing to sling on their book bags again.

Which reminds me, I spoke last Tuesday to a high level group of HR directors from an assortment of top tech companies.

Why do these professionals remind me of schoolchildren? – because we grown-up employees have a lot in common with not-yet-grown-up pupils!

The HR directors shared some of the biggest issues employees say they’re facing.

Top concerns centered around well-being and communications. They’re connected – and they’re issues children face as well.

When I lived in Italy, Lulu went to Aliotti, the most progressive primary school in town.

There, under the guidance of director Donata Baroni and English instructor Pavlina Checcacci, students are taught so-called ‘soft-skills’ alongside other subjects as part of core curriculum.

You can’t teach only knowledge anymore,” Pavlina says. “Twenty years ago, you went to university and studied a subject like engineering. The methodologies didn’t change for about every 10 years. Now it’s every five years. So, when you get out of school, what you learned is already out of date. Today, we need people who can communicate. That makes the difference.

If two people have the same amount of knowledge, yet one also has soft skills and the other one does not, the difference in their success is significant. Your success in business starts in primary school,” Pavlina says.

Likewise, here in Ireland, John Doran, guidance counsellor at Patrician Secondary School in Newbridge, is championing his own approach called ‘Ways to Wellbeing‘, which, he says, “encourages students to adopt a growth mindset and to communicate with confidence“. It is currently being taught in 120 schools in Ireland and Europe. “If we don’t consciously teach young people to communicate, find their voice and create a literacy around emotional intelligence, we may end up with a generation in a fast-changing world that is unemployed, under-employed, or unemployable” John states.

Here in the business world, it’s high time to get serious about soft skills.

They’re not soft, they’re critical!

Let’s compare some student approaches to what we can do in our own professional lives:

1 Learn to give and receive constructive feedback

Here’s an example from Aliotti: Each child draws a picture. The artwork is put up on the wall. Each child is given a Post-it note and instructed to write one thing they like about the picture, one suggestion of what to do differently next time and then another thing they like.  The classic “compliment sandwich”.

At an early age and with a distinct twist, the children aren’t allowed to simply write something they “don’t like” in the middle. They must frame the criticism as a suggestion for the future.

Each artist reads the feedback aloud and thanks the writers.

This approach is structured and it’s a big deal – Imagine how more effective our business meeting debriefs would be if we had all learned, as children, how to organise our thoughts this way.

Productivity would surely increase if we spent less time getting personally offended and defensive from feedback. Learning not to punish the past but empower the future is a trademark of effective communicators.

2 Learn to work in groups

The HR directors who gathered at McKesson Cork’s remodelled offices, checked out the new “collaboration pods” – designed to get employees away from individual work stations and come together as teams.

More and more firms are updating work environments this way.

Similarly, John’s ‘Ways to Wellbeing‘ programme encourages group sharing for his students and Aliotti’s Pavlina says they’re committed to stop requiring children to work quietly alone.

When in your life will you sit in a room of 30 adults and not take opportunities to discuss things? We can’t prepare kids for a reality that doesn’t exist.”

3 Learn to be kind to others and yourself

Studies show the number one factor in team effectiveness is emotional sensitivity to the others.

Learning empathy is key because effective teams make sure everyone speaks and contributes to get a lot of ideas on the table and build consensus around the best idea.

‘Ways to Wellbeing’, stresses techniques to help develop more positive and constructive relationships. “We help them change their emotional state from one of fear and anxiety to one of effort and application” says John.

4 Learn how to learn from your mistakes

Aliotti concentrates less on grades and more on the process of problem-solving.

Pavlina puts it this way: “Life is all about the mistakes and errors and learning from them. So, we don’t just correct tests, we ask questions like ‘What did you do? Why did you do that? What can you do differently next time?’

We find the child who gets perfect grades and never makes mistakes may actually have difficulty as they get older. Children who learn how to try again and again may have an advantage.

Top university business schools like Stanford and Harvard are also adding highly interactive classes and exercises to develop these types of people to people skills. Your place of employment can introduce them too. After all, we’re all students in this school called life.

It’s time to learn soft!

From presentations, to one-on-one scenarios, from spoken to written if you have a question about communications that you would like me to deal with in my column in the Sunday Independent please send me an email at gina@fuzion.ie .

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina London

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a Strategic Communications director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

Facebook capitalises on Celebrity Endorsements and Influencer Marketing

August 31, 2017 by

Recently Facebook announced new controls and capabilities for branded content marketers.

What does this mean?

For brands

This means that any influencer sponsored content can be seen and promoted by the brand once it is tagged and flagged. This gives the brand the ability to publish the post and also reach bigger audiences by boosting it.

Facebook - Influencer content

Once boosted the post will then appear with a ‘sponsored‘ tag allowing followers to see what is a paid for collaboration and what is not.

Facebook - Influencer posts

Now I know people are thinking about ways of getting around this but lets face it, it’s Facebook and there is no way around the all seeing, all knowing Wizard of OZ!

What will happen and is happening quiet frequently already, is that Facebook will suppress posts that do not carry any budget. Without extra budget a collaboration with an influencer may not generate the desired results/visibility.

A really positive outlook for this new change with Facebook is that brands can have peace of mind when it comes to being properly represented and can be selective with who they work with. Another plus is that the post will appear as originated by the creator with access to the content insights such as reach, engagement, total spend and cost per 1000 impression(CPM) to help them determine the effectiveness of posts that creators tagged them in.

For Influencers/Celebrities

This new way of collaborating on Facebook is a great way to show their followers how selective they are when choosing a brand to work with and to show that they are loyal to brands, not just promoting brands for the sake of it.

A lot of influencers are already very selective about the brands they work with it but this will change how some influencers approach this part of their job.

It will also separate those who have always been true and honest to their followers from those who are taking everything on in order to build a following and reach that “Everyone who wants to work with me” status, ultimately rendering their audience useless!

For PR/Digital Agencies

For agencies this is great news and helps when preparing post-campaign reports as well as building relationships for all involved – We love MEASUREMENT! (well our clients do!).

Your clients can rest easy that the collaborations you have suggested with the influencers you suggested were worth the spend. With access to the content insights all parties can see the results enabling you to measure what activity was the most successful and with what influencer. This can determine who the client might work with again in the future.

This new approach could see brands turning to lesser know influencers or celebrities that are not as much in the limelight as The Kardashians but have a genuine following. Choosing to work with then could allow brands to reach a bigger audience that they may not have tapped into yet.

For more information check out the Facebook announcement here: www.facebook.com/business/news/new-controls-and-capabilities-for-branded-content-marketers

Arlene

Arlene Foy is an Account Manager with Fuzion Communications, a full service agency who have offices in Dublin and Cork. 

Fuzion offer a full Social Media Consultancy service.

Spinners, Patents, Trade Marks and protecting your most valuable assets

August 30, 2017 by

Spinners

Most parents will no doubt be aware of the latest on-going fad; fidget spinners.

Few will realise however that the original inventor of the fidget spinner, Catherine Hettinger, has lost out on millions because she did not take steps to renew the US Design Patent, which she previously took out for her invention.

Design Patent

In a nutshell, a Design Patent (simply known as Design Registration in Europe) is a monopoly right given to you by the territory where you require protection in return for your agreement to publish the details of your design. This means that nobody can use your design without your consent, which is usually granted by means of a written licence agreement.

In most countries, your Design Registration will last for 25 years provided you pay a renewal fee every five years.

On a recent trip to Florida, I learnt about Catherine Hettinger’s unfortunate story. Due to the perceived high cost of renewing her Design Patent, Ms Hettinger allowed it to lapse. This meant that she could no longer prevent third parties from using and commercialising her design.

As expected others have now commercialised Ms Hettinger’ design and have earned millions from doing so. Catherine Hettinger’s tale is a salutary one and applies equally to brand and new business owners.

Trade Mark

All too often, businesses will spend considerable time and money in developing and bringing a new brand to market, but will fail to take any steps to protect the very brand they have spent so much developing.

Unless you have been trading under a particular business name or have established significant business goodwill under your brand, you will find it very difficult to stop a copycat from starting a business under an identical or confusingly similar brand.

The only way you can stop a copycat if by registering your brand as a Trade Mark.

What is a Trade Mark?

A Trade Mark is essentially any sign you use in your business to distinguish your products and/or services from other traders.

By registering a Trade Mark, you get an instant State backed exclusive right to prevent others, without your consent, from using identical or similar signs upon, or in relation to the goods and/or services covered by your registration.

If you find that somebody else is using a sign which you believe is identical or confusingly similar to your trade mark, you only need to produce your Certificate of Registration in court as proof of your right.

Without this trade mark registration, you would have to convince a court that you have been trading long enough to establish a protectable business goodwill under your business or brand name.

Obviously, new business and brand owners will not even be able to get past this first hurdle.

A Trade Mark registration also has other advantages.

For example, few businesses realise that their brands are their most important and valuable assets. The law recognises this and therefore regards a trade mark registration as a property right. Like any other property right, you can use your registered trade mark, or registered design, as collateral for loan or investment finance.

I once acted for a client who did just this and was able to save its business from collapse. Trade Mark and Design registrations can also be licensed, transferred and bequeathed like any other property right.

Trade Mark and Design registrations also have the advantage that they are protected as property rights under the Irish Constitution and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which effectively makes it near impossible for the Government to sequestrate it.

So, what does it cost to secure a trade mark registration?

Like Catherine Hettinger, many businesses are initially put off by the upfront costs of protecting a brand by means of trade mark registration. This is false economy.

By way of illustration, the upfront cost of registering your brand as a pan-EU trade mark (EUTM), without any objections or challenges, starts at approximately €1,500 ex VAT.

While this might seem a lot to many SMEs, you have to bear in mind that you are securing a monopoly in each EU Member State for an initial period of 10 years (an EUTM can be renewed indefinitely every 10 years). Rounded up slightly, this works out at an annual cost of €5.50 per EU Member State. I know of no insurance policy that would cost this little!

Niall Tierney - IP LawyerNiall Tierney

Niall Tierney is an IP lawyer located in Dublin, Ireland brand – Design protection lawyer and Managing Director of TIERNEY IP, a specialist law firm which assists and advises businesses in clearing, protecting, enforcing and monetising trade marks, designs and other Intellectual Property rights.

If you would like to discuss the protection of your brands or business names, please email Niall at niall@tierneyip.com. Alternatively, he can be reached at 01 2544116.

10 Years of Hashtags – The Magic is in The Message

August 23, 2017 by

Hasttags Explained

I see the confused look on their faces and Hashtags are often just one step too far!

What is all this hashtag business?” I get asked.

At times it does feel like we are talking another language…

At my social media courses I think it is the one thing that definitely seems to bother people the most. It is a step too far: On Twitter they understand followers, they get following and know that tweets must be less than 140 characters but the mere mention of Hashtags and it seems to add that Tipping Point of confusion that never fails to get a few moans and groans of exasperation. Too much!

So what the hell are these nasty things and how and when might you use them?

In very simple terms a Hashtag is a means of adding a “tag” or label to a post (tweet) on Twitter by using the “#” symbol followed by a continuous set of characters. This is normally a word or a few words joined together.

For example if I prepared a tweet about a new shop opening in town I might tweet “Great to see a new shop opening on Grafton Street #Positivity

When you do this on Twitter it automatically changes the colour of this text, making it stand out and it also adds some “link” functionality to that word(s). If you click on this “link” Twitter will display a list of all the tweets where this hashtag was used.

In a way it gathers them together, which is really handy if it brings the reader to a bunch of tweets about a topic they were very interested in.

While Twitter will track popular topics and show you the keywords that are used most frequently in posts (trending) it will also track the most frequently used hashtags. If everyone who is talking about a popular topic uses a particular hashtag to label these posts it not only gathers them together but it also helps to get the topic trending.

Hashtag ExplainedSo when might I use a hashtag?

For me the single biggest advantage to the use of a hashtag is the simple colour change to that keyword. The text appearing in a different colour draws the readers attention to it and when used properly it can help to communicate the subject matter of that post. The link functionality as discussed earlier is an added bonus.

You can use your own hashtags (there is no ownership of them) or decide to join in on conversations about topics where a particular hashtag is being used already and use it in your posts – this can give you and your tweet visibility if this topic has stirred up a lot of interest.

For me a hashtag can be used in a powerful way to signify a Key Message of yours or a significant  “Breadcrumb” (click that link for my blog about key messages) that you wish to leave behind about you and your business for the reader.

You might use a hashtag to label posts about:

  • An event or concert #LondonFoodFest or #EP14 (Electric Picnic 2014)
  • Elections #LE14 (Local Elections 2014)
  • A place #Dublin
  • A cause #LGBTRights
  • A sentiment #LoveCork
  • An outlook #Positivity
  • A philosophy #WinHappy
  • A show #Murnaghan
  • Your team #LFC #YNWA
  • Publicising job opportunities #Jobs or #JobFairy

You can use the hashtags in very many ways to suit the occasion and to draw extra attention to the point you want to make or a particular keyword(s) in your post.

Murnaghan

You will find the more progressive TV shows will encourage the viewer to tweet about a topic being discussed and will suggest a hashtag to use – in a way the viewer is asked to “join the discussion“.

Hashtags are also appearing in adverts for brands, where they are often used to help create an association for the consumer between a sentiment and the product or service #LoveLife.

For me hashtags are used best when you decide on a “family” of these, which should be used consistently for you and your business.

Having decided on your key messages you might devise a range of hashtags that might best be used to communicate these little breadcrumbs about you and your business.

For example a restaurant in Dublin who prides themselves on using local artisan suppliers, who have an extensive menu with good gluten free and vegetarian options, who stock a range of craft beers and is very proud of the city and who offer free treats on a Tuesday, might regularly tweet using hashtags such as:

#SourceLocal #Artisan  #GlutenFree  #VegMenus  #CraftBeers  #LoveDublin  #TreatTuesday (hopefully not all at the same time!)

When you are posting you are best keeping your hashtags as short as possible, memorable and try to use them just one at a time in tweets. Used consistently and in the right context you would be surprised how quickly a place gets known for these things.

For example when I tweet I use hashtags a lot to draw attention to particular things in my posts and the ones I use most frequently are #Positivity (when talking about good news or job announcements) #WinHappy (when talking about Fuzion – this is a core philosophy) #FuzionFriday (when talking about our Friday lunch with the team) #FuzionPlaylist (when I mention the music playing in the office).

It amazes me when people play these back to me (“I’d love to join ye for FuzionFriday some day”) in the context that I intended and I then realise that I have managed to convey our key messages effectively by using this simple Twitter device.

I do fully understand people’s frustration with all of this new media and it’s quirks and idiosyncrasies but most of it is built to be easy to use ….once you know how!

You may prefer not to use hashtags at all (sometimes there may be no need) but if you want to get that special message across then start using this new language…

 #HashtagHeaven

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

Fuzion Communications offer Social Media Consultancy and Training from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Political Marketing – The Irish Perspective

August 17, 2017 by

Simpsons - Irish Political Parties

Many phrases such as “political management”, “packaged politics”, “promotional politics”, or “modern political communications”, have been used to describe what is mostly commonly referred to as “political marketing”.

As such, there is a general confusion about the definition of ‘political marketing’ but we can mostly agree that it is where political parties adopt business concepts that help to them to achieve electoral success.

There are three main categories to describe political parties in Ireland, the ‘convinced ideologist’, the ‘tactical populist’, and the ‘relationship builder’.

Notwithstanding a cursory glance, it can hardly be said that any of the political parties in Ireland are a ‘convinced ideologist’, this is where they lead the political market, and ignore public opinion, as they know their political approach is one they believe to be the right one.

Fianna Fáíl and their strategic position on nationalism is interesting, as their actions rarely match up with their past verbal rhetoric.

Fianna Fáil prides itself on a core value of nationalism, yet nationalism does not appear to supersede its aims for electoral success. For example, their past actions while in government have often been to maintain the ‘status quo’ in Northern Ireland, with the last real action being evident in the 1980’s when Charlie Haughey met with the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In addition to this, Fianna Fáil has often been responsible for the imprisonment of IRA members, as well as enacting legislation to curtail their actions. Despite this, the party still brands itself as the “Republican Party.”

Let’s compare them to Sinn Fein; while the “Shinners” have embraced their political ideology of nationalism, they have never been in government in the South; so their political commitment to this cause has never been challenged.

Similarly, it would be difficult to reconcile Sinn Féin’s inherent shroud of secrecy with openness and inclusion, where as a leader of the political market, this requires placing openness and inclusion as a high priority.

Likewise, other parties that have had their time in government, Fine Gael, the Greens, and the Labour Party, have also encountered challenges to their core tenets.

Fine Gael is more or less associated with a moralistic discourse and ideology of Church teachings, for example in 1983 it was faced with the abortion referendum. Similarly, while Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have often been successful in uniting people under a core message, Fine Gael have failed to sell their message to their supporters of being the fiscally responsible party of GE16, with their “Let’s Keep the Recovery Going” slogan – which was undoubtedly a nod to their gallant efforts of bringing the country back from the brink of economic ruin (something that they attributed to Fianna Fáil at every chance they got).

Any time I think of the Labour Party I often find myself using the quote by Eamon De Valera “Labour must wait”. Indeed, Labour waited for its time in government, they got it, messed it up, got it again, and the cycle of political woe (or stupidity) followed suit.

Labour have been traditionally associated with a political ideology, explicitly representing the working class and preaching ‘social democracy’. Think back to the years of austerity, when Labour paid harshly for selling their political ideology during election campaigns, and were hung out to dry by voters for delivering something completely different.

Don’t worry; all parties will get their turn!

Next, the Green Party. Preachers of climate change and eco-warriors, now led by Eamon Ryan, the three-person party, has not always been the climate change heroes we think they are.

At first glance, we often see the party leading the fight against climate change, often bringing legislation forward for the good of the people, irrespective of public opinion. Yet, they entered into a coalition government with Fianna Fáil, allowing the development for a motorway through an archaeological sensitive area near the Hill of Tara. They are not the eco-warriors they sell themselves to be.

AAA/Solidarity/PBP and any other acronym they come up with to be more relevant.

The two party coalition of hard leftists advocate strongly against austerity, yet in recent months they rebranded themselves as ‘Solidarity’ – signifying their cognisance that public opinion designs their policy goals, as opposed to strict anti-austerity ideologies.

As such, this left ‘party’ bloc – along with the newer, smaller parties (Socdems and Renua), and the occasional independent grouping, would often favour public opinion over ideology.

This is often termed as the ‘tactical populist’, adopting for a top-down approach, having a reliance on external groups, they follow the market, and their activities consist of uncovering and responding to public opinion as opposed to focusing on ideology.

Foe example: Solidarity/PBP on their position of water charges, or the Dáíl prayer; the Socdems on their positon of the Church and State separation in respect of the public furore over the National Maternity Hospital. In this regard, they are more inclined to focus on relationships with the media, voters, and the expense of other stakeholders.

In Ireland, each of the larger political parties are professionally organised from the bottom up (Fianna Fáíl and Sinn Féin started as underground grass-root movements).

This subsequently resulted in the parties holding annual conferences, ostensibly, to discuss party ideologies and policy with their members. In comparison to the Labour Party, they are often forced to follow conference policy. For example, the party must have a special conference before the parliamentary party enters into a coalition.

By contrast, Fine Gael and other parties – the Greens, Socdems, and Renua – are less bound by the decision of the party conferences, and Fianna Fáil being the least of all.

The policies of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and fringe parties are much vaguer and of little relevance to party members.

Since the support of the party does not depend on party policy, party leaders are often free to advocate whatever policy is most electorally beneficial – as such; they are more or less termed as a ‘relationship builder’.

They develop policies that are in line with their core values, but also consider public opinion to be just as important – an attempt to balance being responsive to public opinion while following the party’s core beliefs. As such, their marketing activities often consist of synthesising the diverse opinions that exist within society.

For example, Fianna Fáil is really a ‘catch-all’ party. Party policy is widely regarded as whatever is most likely to be popular amongst voters, or embarrassing the opposition. In other words, they make policies that reflect what the market ‘really wants’, and reduce their ideological baggage.

To sum this strategy up, here is a quote from an unnamed Fianna Fáíl TD in an Irish Times article in the early 1980’s; “The party works out which side of an issue will win electorally and that’s the side it will always be on – the winning side.”

With that said, their actions are restricted party ideology e.g nationalism and reunification for Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, proper Catholic ethics for Fine Gael.

In an Irish context, political parties often change their political marketing strategy, with their strategy often being a matter of degree and dynamic in which parties can choose to gravitate from being a convinced ideologist, relationship builder, and so on.

Moving from one position to the next depends on the competitive environment the party inhabits.

For example, Tony Blair and ‘New Labour’, Fianna Fáil’s position on the contentious issue of water charges – abolition of water charges was key to its electoral offering and its corresponding rejuvenation during GE16. Once elected, their position changed on multiple occasions as it repeatedly sought to align its ideology with public opinion.

All parties have there own way of going about their business and as voters we need to decide whose beliefs do we align with and if it is important to us that they will actually stand by their convictions.

Andrew RooneyAndrew Rooney

Andrew Rooney is a PR Intern with Fuzion Communications


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