What #HimToo’s mum and son memes teach us about how to rescue online reputation

When a republican mum waded into the highly emotive and important #MeToo discussion to complain that her son was afraid to go on dates due to the risk of false accusations of sexual assault, Twitter was outraged 😱 (while quietly rubbing its hands with glee).

This post had everything.

1) It plugged directly into Donald Trump’s outrageous claims that this is a ‘very scary time’ for young men, as women are increasingly coming forward to discuss their experiences of sexual assault (I imagine that the vast majority of respectful young men were very perplexed by this comment! 🙄). It also arrived in the aftermath of Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed as Supreme Court Justice despite an enormously high profile sexual assault allegation, the accuser of whom Trump had openly mocked with his ‘she doesn’t remember’ performance. 🖕🏼🤬 This highly charged issue is arguably the most prominent and important discussion of the moment and something that people across ages, genders and political leanings rightly feel passionately about.

2) The guy in the photo was doing a really embarrassing pose in his navy uniform. 🙈😂

It’s no wonder then that Twitter began tumbling over itself to post hilarious memes. Here are some pretty good ones:

So suddenly, the son in question, Pieter Hanson, is the subject of an internet meme. Thanks mom! 😂

But it’s what happened next that is arguably the most interesting aspect of this story. He responded with the following post and, seemingly, won the Internet. Well done Pieter! 🙌🏻

Here are three reasons why I think his response was so 👌🏼 and what others, including businesses who find themselves at the centre of an embarrassing Twitter storm, can learn from him.

1. He responded, when it would have been easier not to

Pieter was suddenly and unexpectedly made ‘internet famous’ by his mum. Imagine that! You’re in the middle of an exam when your phone starts buzzing with messages from friends letting you know you’re now something of a villain on Twitter. And you don’t even have a Twitter account!

Looking at the posts by that stage, his role was cast. He was a spoilt, entitled, republican misogynist. We didn’t need his response, it was clear as day. So it would have been very easy for Pieter to conclude that there was little he could do here and so the best course of action would probably be to keep his head down and wait for it to blow over. However, it seems Pieter has a little more courage and character than that. He got himself a Twitter – going straight to the source of the discussion – and jumped right in. By doing so he took control of the conversation, changing its tone and the direction of the narrative. He changed people’s perception of him – often a PR goal – and he did it by engaging in the discussion.

2. He didn’t slag anyone else off

No one. Not the trolls, not the cause, not even his mum – who of course started all this! In fact he was incredibly gracious 😇 He let us know that while his mum had misrepresented him, she didn’t mean it and he loved her. He let us know his positive position as an ally of women. And he applauded Twitter for its memes. It’s hard not to admire someone who stays so calm in the face of public criticism, who applauds the good humour of those critics and who joins in, rather than shouts down, conversations. His President could learn a thing or two from him…

3. He had a sense of humour about it all

There’s no doubt Pieter’s mum’s post made him look like a bit of a 🔧 . There was all the stuff she said, but there was also the photo and that pose. Reminding us a little of the David Brent ‘maybe if you just sit down’ scene, it only served to reinforce the idea that this guy was a bit of an odd-bod. So what better way for Pieter to respond than to include a nod to the ridiculousness of the photo by recreating it in normal clothes for his response post. Describing himself as a cat dad and applauding the memes might not be LOL funny but it shows a lightness of touch and that he doesn’t take himself too seriously – the cardinal sin of the internet age. He was self-deprecating, amusing and entirely appropriate for the situation and discussion point. Nice work Pieter!


What a whirlwind few days it has been for Pieter Hanson. From complete unknown, to spoilt villain to global hero. Or something like that. His mum put him in a difficult situation but he got himself out of it brilliantly. Apparently he was feeling too afraid to go on dates before, but judging by the response to his post, he might well get a few more offers now. 👫❤️


Plot twist: why Banksy’s shock painting-shredding stunt means more money in the Banksy

Plot twists have been a popular part of our storytelling for centuries (1) and, more recently, films like Sixth Sense, Fight Club, Usual Suspects and Empire Strikes Back have become loved for shock endings that throw a fresh perspective on what’s gone on before.

A good plot twist catches us off-guard, causing us to frantically rewind our brains through the previous narrative to try to uncover the clues we missed. That’s great in a film, but when it happens in real life… wow!

On 8th January 2016, David Bowie’s brilliant Blackstar album landed to rave reviews. Two days later its creator had died of liver cancer and the record was revealed as a dying artist’s parting gift to fans. Lyrics like ‘look up here, I’m in heaven’ were heard with fresh ears and the album came to be seen by many as Bowie’s greatest ever performance; a perfectly executed swan song and a fitting final masterpiece.

No less elaborate (though slightly less morbid) is Banksy’s shredding stunt. After his iconic ‘Girl With Balloon’ piece sold at auction for more than £1m, onlookers witnessed the painting being shredded by a contraption housed within the picture frame itself.

The Girl With Balloon painting was last year voted the UK’s favourite ever work of art and so the sale of a 2006 version for more than £1m might well have gathered some column inches on its own, particularly given the mystery that continues to surround its creator.

However, Banksy added a twist to this tale that will lead to it being talked about for years. Perfectly on brand, the stunt reinforces Banksy’s reputation as a rebellious subversive street artist with a dark sense of humour. That the prank unfolded in the prestigious Sotheby’s (were they secretly involved?) only seems to add to the punk nature of it all.

The stunt has been covered by leading news outlets around the world and was trending on Twitter all yesterday, showing once again the incredible PR potential of a well-executed plot twist stunt.

That some art experts suggest that the resulting hysteria could mean that the value of Banksy’s now shredded painting has actually doubled (2) following the stunt, only helps to illustrate the value of capturing people’s imagination through creativity and surprise.

The plot twist here is that the opportunity isn’t limited to famous artists. As Greggs showed a few months ago with their fabulous undercover Gregory & Gregory stall at the London Foodie Festival (3), businesses have the opportunity to be creative, to add humour and to surprise their audiences too. We need to keep hold of that thought; not let it go like the girl with the balloon in the picture.

(1) the unreliable narrator of ‘The Three Apples’ in Arabian Nights is noted as one of the earliest examples

(2) Joey Syer, founder of MyArtBroker.com, speaking in the Evening Standard https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/banksy-artwork-selfdestructs-moments-after-being-sold-at-sothebys-for-1million-a3955111.html

(3) the video by Taylor Herring has been widely picked up by the media https://m.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/greggs-goes-undercover-at-a-gourmet-food-festival-to-prove-theyre-more-than-just-a-steak-bake_uk_5b0fb23ae4b05ef4c22af0c1

The benefits of volunteering your PR skills through the Media Trust

Earlier this month, Third Sector wrote a piece about how the double whammy of diminished resources and increased demand for their services means that times are tough right now for small charities.

Few grassroots charities can afford to recruit a PR or marketing professional to shout about the great work they’re doing, and this can lead to fewer people accessing their services and less money in donations. So that’s a vicious cycle and a double whammy.

Media Trust is a UK charity that ‘matches creative professionals from every kind of media with charities that need their skills and experience’. All you need in order to get involved is around two years professional experience and to want to do it.


I watched the brilliant Ken Loach film ‘I Daniel Blake’ (funny, tragic and hugely political, it won the 2016 Palme d’Or) a week or so after registering with the Media Trust and immediately offered to support a charity called Inspire Middleton who wanted help in developing a PR strategy.

Inspire Middleton is a local community charity that runs a food bank and also supports local people who need support with things like digital skills, careers advice, health and wellbeing support, community engagement and much more. A lot like the charity in I Daniel Blake.

Over the next couple of months I did plenty of reading around the issues, and put together a strategy based around story ideas and relationship building, to help them increase awareness of their service among local people who need support and others who might donate and volunteer. I got a brilliant response from them and we plan to touch base in a few weeks to discuss how they will implement it

Working with a charity through Media Trust was an interesting and rewarding experience and I’d recommend it to anyone. If you’re an in-house PR professional, like me, it’s great to get the opportunity to see things from a different angle by working with a different sort of organisation. It’s a bit like when footballers go out on loan. You learn a lot and then you bring it back to your day job.

The added bonus is that you get 20 points towards your CIPR CPD too!

To find out more about Media Trust visit their website.

Have you volunteered through Media Trust? Would you like to? Feel free to get in touch if you’d like more information.

9 things I learned at the Google & MediaCom digital marketing event in Manchester

On Thursday I took a trip with colleagues to the all-mod-cons MediaCom offices in Manchester for a special client-only event featuring a number of sessions led by experts at Google and MediaCom.

Kicking off the day I had some fantastic treacle drenched waffles for breakfast, fish, chips and halloumi for lunch and, peppered throughout the event, a big bag of pick ’n’ mix. It was wonderful. In between all of this, I learnt some things about digital marketing.

The MediaCom offices awaiting the arrival of the day’s guests. Image by @kboneva.

1. Google knows loads about us as consumers
Through its huge portfolio of products, Google is able to piece together quite a detailed picture of who we are, where we live and what we are interested in. You can find out what they know about you here.

2. Data can be used to automatically select relevant adverts for individualsTHEY
If the aim of marketing is to reach a consumer with a message that will strike a chord with them at that particular moment, then programmatic marketing techniques make success far more likely. This technology picks up on signals such as recent searches, check-ins and location settings and serves consumers adverts that it thinks, statistically speaking, they will be most interested in at that time. Clever huh?

3. Consumers prefer adverts that are relevant to them
While it can seem a bit creepy that the brown brogues you found on Urban Outfitters are now following you around the Internet, research shows that more than half of consumers see personal relevance as the key reason why they would engage with an advert. Having a strong data foundation enables brands to more effectively target people with the right adverts.

4. Technology cannot replace great ideas
While it’s easy to get carried away by fancy technology, it’s important to remember that with consumers being hit by an estimated 5,000 marketing messages each day it’s harder than ever to ensure that your message is one that resonates. Getting the idea right will always have more impact than choosing the right channels. Start with the creative. The amazing Always campaign #likeagirl illustrates that perfectly. And 54 million views don’t lie.

5. There is a recipe for creative meetingsTHEY
To be effective, creative meetings should: take place in the morning, enable physical space, have a leader, have a relatively small number of people present and be between people who are comfortable to speak openly with each other. Using the sieve method, the first half of the meeting should value quantity of ideas over quality, with greater focus given to the better ideas in the second stage of the meeting. The flow method is all about killing off your inner critic and letting your ideas flow like insults in a rap battle.

6. Brands need to be ‘mobile first’
It appears that lots of brands are misinterpreting their data and assuming that because most of their sales still occur in-store and those that are online tend to be through desktop, their mobile site is not that important. However, figures show that while people may buy less often through mobile than through other means, their smartphone is now the device they use to surf, read, research and, ultimately, decide whether to buy that product.

7. Video will soon account for more than half of the Internet
The Economist estimates that by 2018, 60% of web traffic will be accounted for by video. Marketers need to make video a focus now.

8. Brands must use analytics to their full potential
Through Google Analytics, brands can now build a more detailed picture of their customers’ (increasingly complex) journey to purchase. So rather than looking only at final click attribution (which interaction led to the final sale), brands can now build a much richer picture of which communication led to their first interaction with a new customer and which other activities assisted in the conversion. These learnings can help brands to tailor communications accordingly and help them take a big picture view when deciding which areas to invest in.

9. In a way, nothing has changed
We can’t deny that there have been huge technological advances in recent years and, as one expert said, digital marketing is now data driven and technology fuelled. However, the one constant message coming through from Google and MediaCom throughout this event was that good marketing is still about getting the right message to the right person at the right time in the right place. Digital just makes that process a little easier.

‘Best Healthcare Campaign’ at the CIPR PRide Midlands Awards

I’m really pleased to announce that a research-based campaign I led at Slimming World received the Gold award for ‘Best Healthcare Campaign’ at the CIPR PRide Awards for the Midlands on Friday (14 November).

The ‘What’s Your Tipping Point?’ campaign was designed to encourage people to be mindful of how drinking alcohol past a certain ‘tipping point’ can lead to us drinking more than intended, making more unhealthy food choices and cancelling physical activity plans. I think the full English breakfast and lack of a Park Run on Saturday confirm that there is at least some truth in our findings.

The event took place at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena on Friday night, which had just been purchased by the Rugby team ‘Wasps’ (an announcement was published by The Guardian at about the same time as we arrived at the venue). Yet while we definitely detected a buzz in the room, for the 300 attendees, tonight was all about the CIPR PRide Awards.

This was the first CIPR event I had attended but having learnt so much from their Diploma course I already had a pretty good impression of them. After watching these two dudes do football tricks on stage that positive impression was set in stone.


It was a well-presented event with an air of professionalism that matched the CIPR’s reputation. There was an interesting video about the CIPR council, a three-course dinner and, for once, free wifi! Could it get any better?

Our shortlisted ‘What’s Your Tipping point?’ campaign was released back in April and we had been delighted with the results achieved. Our report generated more than 150 news articles, led to more than 70,000 people taking an online quiz to find out how alcohol might be affecting their weight and kick-started ongoing discussion among politicians and health experts about the benefits of adding calorie counts to alcohol labels. A campaign evaluation showed that 29% of the UK population heard about the report in the 2-weeks after the launch and, of those, 23% reported drinking less as a result. So it was a strong campaign, but we still didn’t expect to win.

There seemed to be a gap of X Factor proportions between announcing the nominees and revealing the winner, but fortunately our campaign struck all the right notes with the judges (ba-dum-ch!) and we were announced as the Gold winners. The CIPR commented:

“Strong objectives with defined measurability, this was a campaign talking about something people often deflect from engaging with – drinking too much. The team used research well to understand the audience and how best to reach them – through creative and equally main stream channels. Excellent results showed true behavioural change and impact on people’s health.”

The CIPR PRide awards recognise excellence in public relations and communications work, so it’s a real honour to win one of their awards. Having also been named ‘In-house PR Team of the year’ for the Midlands at the PRCA DARE awards in April, it’s been a pretty good year! Here we are on-stage collecting our award.

CIPR Pride awards photo
Slimming World’s PR team collecting our award from CIPR Midlands chairman Lisa Jones (far left) and Sky News presenters Tom Parmenter (second from left) and Lisa Dowd (far right). From left to right in-between, Slimming World PR and Public Affairs team members Megan, Jenny, me, Amy, Nicala and Sarah.

So there you have it, our second award of the year and the perfect end to a very busy week. We’d hit the majority of the papers on Wednesday with our announcement of a remarkable lady called Bríanán McEnteggart, who lost 20st, as Slimming World’s Woman of the Year 2014. So, as you can imagine, after winning the ‘Best Healthcare Campaign’ award we were even more in the mood to celebrate. There was champagne and we definitely passed our tipping point!

ps – you can see our entry used a case study on the CIPR website here.

How to use the national news agenda to get your brand into the media

After attending an incredibly useful Gorkana media briefing with BBC Breakfast and BBC Radio 5Live a few weeks ago I posted my top-5 take-outs from the session.

It seems to be advice worth following too as, since the briefing, I’ve managed to place a guest on the BBC Breakfast sofa (watch the amazing Brendan O’Donnell who lost 11st with Slimming World talk calories on alcohol labels) and provided another to the Radio 5Live breakfast show. Woop!


The key to both of these stories was linking to the national news agenda. Here’s how it’s done:

#1 Monitor the news in your industry
At Slimming World we use media cuttings agencies to source news relating to diet and obesity, while also setting up Google alerts and monitoring social media channels. This enables us to have a really clear view of what the big stories are and an understanding of ongoing issues. Regular monitoring also ensures we know which journalists cover the sorts of stories we’re interested in, so we know who to target when an opportunity comes up.

#2 Decide your company view
As soon as you have spotted a story that you might wish to comment on you need to start thinking about your company view. Start by reading everything you can in connection with the story so that you can be sure that you are making an informed comment. You should then think about how your organisation can add value to the story and demonstrate its leadership in this area. If you can add genuine insight you’ll have a far greater chance of success.

#3 Pitch your expert or case study
Whether you pitch by phone or email you need to be really clear on what you’re offering. Let the journalist know which story you’re getting in touch about, who your spokesperson or case study is and the general point they will be making in any interview. Be clear and concise and include a written quote in any email to print journalists. Pitching a spokesperson or case study as soon as a story lands shows that you’re on the ball and if you have a strong company view and a high quality interviewee on offer then you’ll have a great chance of being part of the conversation.

#4 Brief your spokesperson or case study
Once your expert or case study has been selected for interview you need to start working with them on a brief. Consider the three key messages your brand wants to get across through the interview and work together with your spokesperson to find a way of expressing them that feels natural and fits with their view. You should also talk about how they will weave a brand mention into the conversation in a genuine way. Providing your spokesperson with a bullet point list of the key messages so that they can refer back to them before the interview can also be useful.

#5 Say thanks – to your spokesperson and to the journalist
It’s a scary business putting yourself up for interview, so make sure your spokesperson knows you appreciated them doing it by saying thanks afterwards. If it went well, then positive feedback will boost their confidence, making them more willing to be interviewed again in the future. If it didn’t go so well, then a sensitive discussion about what they might change next time, coupled with lots of reassurance, will make them more likely to get back in the saddle.
You’ll also want to thank the journalist for working with you. Getting in touch after a great interview can help to solidify the relationship so say thanks, let them know what else you can provide and invite them to come to you again in future. Journalists want to work with PR’s they can trust to provide high quality contributors, so if you provided a great interviewee you’ll hopefully get a thank you in return and a great new contact.

What is the new Facebook ‘Rooms’ app and how can brands use it?

Last week Facebook launched a brand new app called Rooms. The app, which is currently only available on iPhone, allows users to create discussion rooms based around a subject of their choice and invite people to join them.


Once in a room, users can post a mixture of text, photo and video content – a bit like Facebook. Engagement comes in the form of comments or room-specific ‘likes’ (that’s a ‘yum’ in food rooms or a ‘save’ in tech rooms) with images that put the iPhone’s emoticons to good use.

Sadly there’s no search function in Rooms and so the only way to know that a room exists, is to be invited. This is in line with Facebook’s closed community feel and suggests that Rooms will primarily be used for private conversations between individuals who already know each other in some way – a bit like Whatsapp.

The second thing worth noting is that unlike other social networks, there is no such thing as a profile on Rooms. Users simply choose a nickname and this can be different for every room – a bit like old school chat room users flitting between different forums and using different identities in each. Coming from a network that takes so many steps to encourage users to give their real life identities, it’s quite surprising that anonymity is such a central feature of Rooms, but Facebook product manager James Miller says it will give users the opportunity to “be whoever you want to be”. However, as users will most likely have been invited to a room by someone they know, I’m not sure they’ll feel quite as free as Miller suggests…

So there you have it. It’s a bit like Whatsapp , a bit like old school chat forums and a bit like, well, Facebook. So, how might businesses use Rooms? Here are three ideas.

#1 Reach a new audience by posting in related rooms
While there isn’t a search function, the app does highlight a handful of popular rooms. And if it grows in popularity, people and companies will soon start sharing room invites more openly with their Facebook and Twitter audience. Looking out for rooms that are based around your brand’s subject area could provide another outlet for content.

#2 Use it as a space to share ideas on-the-go with an exclusive community
As it’s been made specifically for iPhone (with an Android version to follow) Rooms is easy to use on-the-go, while its invite-only set-up gives you complete control over who is invited. It could be used as a private space to share ideas with colleagues, as a community forum for customers or simply as a place to chat with other people who are interested in the subject that your business is in, with you as the host.

#3 Ask for honest feedback on a specific event or campaign
If you’ve held an event or launched a new service or product and want some honest feedback, Rooms could be just the ticket. The fact that people can create a different nickname for every room means that they’ll be able to give feedback anonymously and without it impacting on their conversations in other rooms, which could encourage greater honesty. Content can also be moderated so you would have the option to not publish something if you felt it wasn’t appropriate.