ŠKODA plugs “youthful” Citigo on Facebook

Friday 8th June 2012   by Neil Dicken

Skoda.uk - Meet Tiesto

ŠKODA UK is using the power of Facebook to make itself more attractive to younger car buyers with the launch of its new car, the Citigo.

It promoted a free concert by top international DJ Tiësto at the LG Arena in Birmingham through Facebook.

The  approach made perfect sense as ŠKODA is seeking to attract a younger buyer for the car.

“The new Citigo is youthful and fresh and this partnership with Tiësto fits perfectly with our positioning of this new car,” said Helen Bainbridge, ŠKODA National Communications Manager.

Users signed up to the competition through Facebook to win tickets for the gig. Winners could send friends details allowing them a greater chance of also winning tickets.

Winners printed out their tickets via the ‘meet Tiësto app’ on the ŠKODA Facebook page.


The app also allowed friends to organise to meet up at a certain place, and app users could win the opportunity to meet Tiësto after the gig.


I was lucky enough to win a ticket. The gig was great and more intimate than previous ones I had been to, maybe also part of the ŠKODA plan to make you felt you belong. As yet, though, I haven’t bought a Citigo.

We’re loving that – QR Codes at the Bike Show

Monday 13th February 2012   by Neil Dicken

The Motorcycle Live show took place at the LG Arena, Birmingham – and the qr codes were out in force! Pretty much every corner of the hall had companies getting on the qr code bandwagon, including manufacture stands, bike product spec stands, retail outlets and competition forms. Below are a few examples of the various ways qr codes were used on the day:

Here at matm we are able to quickly produce qr codes for you and have generated a number for clients’ business cards. As well as holding personal information such as website details, email address and phone number, qr codes are being used more and more for product/loyalty marketing, as above. Lots of companies are using qr codes, so if you are not yet ‘scannable’ then click on contact us and let us help!

Facebook App for football fans

Tuesday 31st January 2012   by Neil Dicken

In late 2011, Arsenal Football Club introduced a Facebook app for its fans. Supporters are able to customise banners which show support for their team.  Designs are entered into a competition, with the lucky winners having their banners produced and displayed around the Emirates Stadium during certain home games throughout the season.

The campaign uses social media to allow Arsenal supporters from around the world, who are unable to attend a home game, to show their support for the London club.

Hal Stokes, of media agency Essence, said:

“A supporters commitment to their club is embodied in their thinking, communication and behavior, and is a passion that is often impossible to truly reflect in marketing activity. Capitalising on the social interactivity of the medium, the app harnesses the culture of Facebook to bring supporters together around the club online as well as offline. I think this is a fantastic initiative by Arsenal FC that will be widely embraced by their huge global supporter base as they try to create online content that comes alive in the excitement of an Arsenal home game.”

Maybe we’ll see a similar use of social media at one of Shropshire’s football clubs, Shrewsbury or Telford…?


Friday 4th November 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

We were sent this link to a short piece on search engine optimisation and pay per click and thought that it was worth passing on.

SEO beats PPC & social media for generating leads, new industry report says.

Interesting point that stood out to me – ’60 percent of respondents (to a survey) said they plan to increase their budget for social media marketing in 2012′

What do you think?

Facebook for business – get noticed, get liked and build relationships with matm

Friday 24th June 2011   by Neil Dicken

Facebook is the global social media powerhouse.

It’s the place more than 350 million people make friends, fall in love, chat, laugh, share ideas, tell people what they’ve done, are doing and plan to do, what they like, what they love and who they love. Oh, and what they spend their money on.

So Facebook is a great place for a business and show off your brand to be as well.

Which is why we’ve developed a range of highly effective and affordable design and function options for business Facebook Pages. If you run a business, charity, sports club, community group or public service, there will be an option that’s right for you.


matm - Facebook for Business

Jamie’s top ten email gripes! Grrrrr…

Friday 1st April 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

Emails are a day to day necessity – but here is my top ten most ANNOYING emails list! Let me know if you agree…


Jamie at matm gets to grips with his latest email

1. Replying all when you really don’t need to

2. Sending me an email with nothing in the subject box

3. Marking it high priority with your red exclamation mark when it isn’t

4. Read receipts


6. Using text speak

7. Sending me huge emails

8. Using emoticons

9. Using ‘LOL’, ‘ROFLMAO’ etc..

10. If you are a spammer – YOU!

Rant over,



Information at your Fingertips with QR Code Technology

Friday 18th March 2011   by Neil Dicken

matm designer Neil Dicken visited a car show at the Telford International Centre,  where he spotted a Shropshire-based company using QR codes.

A QR code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by a dedicated QR barcode reader, camera phone or smart phone. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data. The company had three in total:

• Contact information (added all forms of contact to your smart phone)
• Video explaining the process and the benefits of using Black Code
• Link to the company’s website

Here at matm we are also incorporating QR codes in design. Most smart phones already have the software to read QR codes, or there are free apps available. Software to create your own QR codes is also available on the web.

Neil said: “I felt it was a great way to give information to visitors at the show, as there’s nothing I hate more than being handed endless leaflets that you later throw in the bin on the way back to your car. With the QR code, I was able to browse the company’s site, view specific information related to my needs and even request a quote.”

matm is already busy including QR codes in promotional material for clients and can also create branded QR codes for marketing campaigns, but if you fancy having a go now, the QR code below is the one from the show. The BBC QR code below is also a great example of how a branded code can look.


QR code used by shropshire based firm at exhibiton





Mobile ads – right message, right person, right time. Sounds familiar, asks matm?

Monday 21st February 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

Here at matm, we found this BBC News report on the explosion of mobile phone ads an interesting video

With social media behomoth Facebook and search engine colossus Google just two players working hard to dominate the advertising dollars of the future, it’s going to be an interesting time.

However, of all the talk of a new era in marketing and advertising the main message is not a great surprise to Stuart Bickerton – MAKE IT RELEVANT

Fan boxes, fbml and branded landing pages, 5 ways to promote yourself on facebook

Wednesday 16th February 2011   by Neil Dicken

You have just created your facebook page, but what is the best way to promote it? Here are five great ways to attract followers.

1. Use FBML
FBML is Facebook Mark-up Language. It is web coding that allows you to customise your facebook page. Adding a basic static page that incorporates your company style can greatly increase the impact and attractiveness of your page. You can use regular SEO techniques here too.

2. Put a Facebook Fan Box on your blog
Initally this can be daunting when you have only a few fans, but once you have your first few, why shouldn’t you show how popular you are? By the way, would you like to become an matm fan?

matm facebook page

3. Post a tweet or two
With Twitter a major influence within social media, you will be suprised at how many new fans you will get.

4. Add a link to your email signature
A straightforward addition, but very often overlooked.

5. Submit your facebook page to bookmarking sites

With pages like Delicious, Faves.com becoming increasingly popular, you may attract followers who might otherwise miss you the chance to see what you have to offer.

Once you have 25 or more Facebook Fans, you can give your facebook page its own unique url. For example: http://www.facebook.com/team.matm

Doing these five things will be a good start to promoting yourself on facebook. And there’re a lot more things you can do. If you want to know more, get in touch with Neil Dicken, here at matm.

We’re loving that! Feel the force of a top TV advert from VW

Tuesday 8th February 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

Every self-respecting six-year-old boy believes he has supernormal powers – right? VW takes this concept to create a super-powered TV advert to launch its new Passat.

VW plays on humour, family and the big kid in all of us as a mini Darth Vader tries to use The Force around his family home.

The company chose its strategy wisely (my son). It launched the ad first on YouTube, creating viral interest like a gathering storm. Then it gave it a first TV airing in the US during the Imperial sporting battle to beat all sporting battles that was Superbowl 2011 at the weekend.

At an estimated cost of £4m for the full minute.

Add the back story of the six-year-old Max ‘Darth Vader’ Page who was born with a heart defect and we think the team who planned the Volkswagen Passat advert deserve a hearty pat on the back.

VW’s ad is now fast approaching 20 million views on You Tube. It is interesting, in itself, that we are measuring the success of a TV ad in terms of how much it is seen on the internet.

Here at matm, we’re wondering if there’ll be a sequel…or even a prequel?


matm’s Freaky Friday – we’re loving the TV ad about the fish that can mend a broken heart

Friday 4th February 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

The British Hearth Foundation has launched its ‘Mending Broken Hearts’ appeal with a very subtle yet eye-catching TV ad. It’s a touching story in two parts – seen from the view of a woman and a zebrafish. That’s right – a fish!

Amazing facts about the zebrafish

  • Their hearts mend themselves – if part of a zebrafish heart is damaged, it is repaired in a few weeks, just like mending a broken arm (human, not fish…silly)
  • They are see-through – in their early development, they are transparent, allowing scientist to watch the development of their heart and blood vessels
  • Zebrafish are commonly studied by genetics scientists, looking to develop new medicines and therapies


Mending Broken Hearts Appeal – British Heart Foundation

Nick Radmore, BHF’s Head of Social Marketing and Brand, said: “The idea was to bring the science to life. The zebrafish helps people understand how complex regenerative medicine [on human hearts] could bring hope to millions of people in the UK.”

It’s not very often an ad such as this makes me want to go and google about it, said Neil Dicken, a designer at matm, the marketing, design, web development and PR agency, at Jackfield near Telford, Shropshire.

But as it came to an end, I already had my Iphone out, reading up on this amazing fish!

Find out more about this BHF’s Mending Broken Hearts Appeal.

Find out more about matm’s transparently effective and affordable video service.

Mobile marketers are rapidly catching on to quick response barcodes

Monday 10th January 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

In between numerous episodes of CSI (my guilty pleasure of the moment), I’ve been watching Delia Smith talking about posh pastry on behalf of Waitrose.

Given their strong corporate ID I had a bit of a moment when I saw a large jagged box on the TV, writes Lindsay Crayton, Senior Creative at matm, the marketing, graphic and web design, web development, PR agency at Jackfield, near Telford in Shropshire.

It took me back to a conversation I had with a colleague sometime ago about these ‘boxes’, it went something along the lines of:

Me: Stuart take a look at this!

Stuart: What is it?

Me: A bar code that you can scan in using your mobile phone, it can hold information like a web address or text.

Stuart: Eyes have glazed over…

Moving swiftly on, a bit of research found these boxes to be called QR codes, QR being Quick Response.

They were originally developed, as long ago as 1994, by Denso-Wave in Japan for tracking car parts for Toyota. The main objective was that they could be read at high speed from any angle.

The QR-Code carries information horizontally and vertically whereas a standard barcode contains data only in one direction.

Also, a standard bar code can only hold 20 digits but a QR code can hold more than 7,000 and can be made to be a fraction of the size (approximately one-tenth) so less room taken up on packaging.

Companies are now increasingly using the technology to market products and services via mobile phones.

Pepsi using a QR code on a promotional billboard. It helps that the code looks arty and intriguing

A smart phone with a camera and decoding software can be used to capture and read the information on a QR code – whether it appears on the TV, billboard, in a magazine advert or on a t-shirt. The process of is called mobile tagging, while the the specific act of linking from a physical object is called physical world hyperlinking.

You can also create your own QR codes using free software. The social media site Mashable recently explained how to do it.

Facebook has a dedicated QR-Code page with lots of creative and business uses. It’s also finding its way into the art world.

An edible and scannable waffle created at NYC Resistor in 2010

I wasn’t able to scan the QR-code on the TV, I have an older phone, but if anyone else has I’d love to know…

matm uses advertising, social media, print and video in Shropshire smoking campaign

Thursday 30th December 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

matm has helped devise a major New Year marketing campaign to encourage thousands of smokers in Shropshire to ‘Pledge to Quit’ in 2011.

We’ve been working working with Help2Quit, an NHS stop smoking service.

Help2Quit runs drop-in clinics across Shropshire offering one-to-one support for smokers. It also provides a free workplace service where smoking rates are high. Results show smokers are four times more likely to stop with Help2Quit support.

Key elements of the New Year campaign include bus shelter advertising, a leaflet drop to 40,000 homes, video clips of people explaining why and how they quit and a social media campaign.

Pledge To Quit leaflet designed by matm as part of Help2Quit's 2011 campaign

Stuart Bickerton, Director of the matm marketing, graphic and web design, web development and PR agency at Jackfield near Telford in Shropshire, says: “It’s vital that you use the right methods to reach target groups to generate the best value for money and the greatest impact.

“That’s one reason why social media, such as Facebook, will play a part in the campaign. Video provides excellent social media content and can be packaged differently for a range of purposes. Because we have the expertise to shoot and edit the video ourselves, it’s very cost effective.”

The bus shelter advertising campaign will be focused in the Telford and Wrekin area on busy main roads close to supermarkets. The leaflet mailing will be targeted in other areas of the county where there are high levels of smoking.

The Pledge to Quit message challenges smokers to think about the personal benefits of giving up – and explains the range of help at hand if they want to quit.

Find out more about Help2Quit: 01743 366940, www.Help2QuitShropshire.co.uk, facebook.com/Help2Quit

Soccer boss Sepp Blatter proves the benefits of media training

Wednesday 15th December 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

There are some public figures who appear to think they can get away with just about anything under the media spotlight. Take Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA.

When asked, at a press conference yesterday, what gay people should do if they want to go to the 2022 World Cup in Quatar, where homosexuality is currently illegal, his flippant response merely enraged gay rights organisations – and many others besides. You would have thought he would know better.

Mr Blatter may think he has the power and influence to ride out any storm. Time will tell. Certainly, the same cannot be said for almost everyone else.

Which is why most people who have a public profile or position of responsibility should consider receiving media training, says Andy Comber, PR Manager at matm, the marketing, public relations, graphic design, web design and web development agency at the Maws Centre in Jackfield, near Telford in Shropshire.

We’ve just published a brochure outlining matm’s media training services. These include formal media relations training, media crisis training and one-to-one coaching. The brochure can be found on matm’s web home page.

Andy says: “As a journalist I created stories for newspapers and TV that caused the downfall of more than a few public figures. And as a senior PR advisor I have protected just as many as well.

“Some people cause their own demise. However, I’m a firm believer that cock-up is a more powerful force in a media crisis than conspiracy – and many pitfalls are avoidable if you think ahead and know the tricks of the trade.

“And now, with the many opportunities and risks presented by social media, as well as the traditional media, taking the right approach to protecting and enhancing your public reputation is more important than ever before.

“A media gaff can be out and running on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn within seconds and can then be much more difficult to recover. The good thing is, most media howlers are avoidable.”

Customise your social media with new Twitter app – is professional web design here to stay?

Monday 8th November 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

matm designer Tom Blockley has come across what appears to be a useful new app while doing a bit of social media browsing – giving the opportunity to share some thoughts on creating distinct personalities through customised Twitter profiles.

customise you twitter profile with themeleon

Will this ever take the place of professional twitter profile design?

The app is called Themeleon and the main advantage is the large range of patterns and colours to choose from. You can customise background pattern colours quickly and there are quite a few patterns to choose from. Tom says:

“The browsing experience is a little limited and I thought that being able to view more at once would improve the system.

The range of colour pallets are a bit garish and similar to other popular social media sites like My Space, with horrible colour combinations. But you can create your own colour pallets, to match your personality.

Themeleon is built by COLOURlovers, it has more than 600,000 background patterns and more than 1 million colour palettes. That’s a lot but it’s fun and incredibly easy to use.”

In a few simple steps you can create some fun and professional profiles.
Step 1 – Login
Step 2 – Edit your Design
Step 3 – Save your theme

Tom, a designer at Shropshire marketing, design, PR and web design agency matm, based at Jackfield, near Telford, says: “Customised Twitter profiles are an extension of the user. The ability to create your own using a web app is a great idea and has good potential.

That said, I don’t think they will ever replace a professionally-designed profile that can be provided by the likes of matm. They will, though raise expectations which I think is a good thing.”

Do you have any cool social media apps or themes? Tell us about them by adding a comment to this post.

High five! See if Shropshire design agency matm can make YOU happier

Friday 22nd October 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

matm, Telford, Shropshire - High Five Logo design

matm, Telford, Shropshire - graphic device, 5 ways to a happier life

There are simple things we can all do to help give us a healthier and happier life – and matm has developed a brand design to show just what those things are.

matm has been working with NHS Telford and Wrekin’s Health Promotion Team to create High Five – which promotes the five main things we can all do to be more healthy and happy.

The clear and colourful brand design reflects five ways we can all make a difference:

  • Connect
  • Be active
  • Take notice
  • Keep Learning
  • Give

Tom Blockley, one of the graphic designers at Shropshire marketing, design, web and PR firm matm, says: “The brand and logo design process is an enjoyable and creative one. We work very closely with the client, listen carefully to what they require and the campaign objectives.”

High Five will show how you think about and do the small things everyday can help you to feel good about yourself, appreciate what matters to you and get the most out of life.

The Five Ways branding is due to be rolled out across a range of promotional media including print, web, social media and video over the coming weeks and months, helping health promotion professionals to join together all the support services they provide.

Five ways for a healthier, happier life. It’s simple, quick and it works. Try it for a week and see if you notice a difference. . . what have you got to lose?

Oh, and if you want matm to make a difference for you, we’d love to hear from you!

Police tweet for transparency, social media comment from shrosphire based matm

Friday 15th October 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

It ended at 5am this morning.  As I write, at noon, there are well over 590 news articles on Google in the last 24 hours alone.

Greater Manchester Police’s entry into the Twittersphere, sirens wailing and blue lights flashing, has grabbed the headlines, says Stuart Bickerton, of Shropshire marketing, graphic design, PR and web agency matm. The police explain why they’ve done it on this video on their website.

It has tweeted every one of its 3205 emergency calls in 24 hours. Though, as it became clear, to describe many of the calls emergencies would be a crime against common sense.

Despite burning through multiple accounts (Twitter blocks excess tweeting to halt spammers) and coping (or should that be reacting angrily?) with spoof twitter accounts, the exercise has been very well received.

It has certainly prompted conversation, comedy and, it appears, renewed respect for police, given what the public throws their way. Here are just some of the calls that have attracted an incredulous reaction and 14,000 followers on Twitter:

GMP call this an exercise in transparency, which is at the forefront of all good communication strategies. The serious subtext of this exercise is looming public sector budget cuts. The people of Greater Manchester now know how much time and money is being wasted on policing – and who is to blame.

It’s been a brave step but with careful planning, the importance of which cannot be overlooked here, Greater Manchester Police has certainly provided an inventive way of saying “look how busy we are “ as well as “look at all the rubbish we deal with.”

If they’d have a popped a press release out saying we’re a bit busy, can you be a bit nice to us please (or words to that effect) I’m not sure we’d have listened – would we?

So, as an exercise to highlight the difficulty of the work the police do, it looks to me like a job well done, an impressive conversation starter. Where it goes from here will be interesting to watch.

PR is changing and is all the better for it I say.

Follow us: @team_matm


Twitter shows Greater Manchester Police’s 3,205 calls BBC NEWS
Police hail 24-hour Twitter move a success INDEPENDENT
Police hail “bobby on the tweet” experiment REUTERS
Cops in online scuffle over fake Twitter posts THINQ
Best of the Greater Manchester Police 24-hour Twitter experiment BEEHIVE CITY

Video for web – it CAN be affordable as well as effective

Thursday 7th October 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

Video is rapidly becoming an essential element of the PR mix, especially for web and mobile media content where it enhances search engine optimisation, SEO, and promotes viral, word of mouth sharing through social media. So whether you are into video blogging – or vlogging as it’s also called – or more conventional video for web, you are in good company.

Our PR manager, Andy Comber, is a former senior television journalist who has years of experience producing and editing broadcast-standard video features. So, in most cases, we can keep video production in-house, saving clients a good deal of money.

At matm, we can now make your high quality blog video, corporate video or promotional video affordable and quick to produce. For example, we’re producing a series of online marketing videos for one client to promote oxygen as a sports and fitness supplement – showing how sportsmen and women benefit from using it.

Triathlete Dan Sims Oxyfit Pt 1 from matm on Vimeo.

Andy says: “The cost of producing video is falling rapidly. For example, in some cases it even makes sense for clients to make the videos themselves and we can advise on how to do that. What always makes the difference is having compelling content that is right for your target audience.”

Now, when matm puts together a conventional PR story for print or web, we can create a video package at the same time. And, in if need be, we can have it edited and ready for use on the same day. Interested? Contact Andy for a chat.

Can paid-for news stories and features be value for money?

Tuesday 5th October 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

As with many public relations agencies, here at matm we receive a good number of offers from publications to place advertorials – often called colour separations or ‘seps’ – on behalf of our clients.

Colour separations are paid-for articles, usually accompanied by a picture (which is where the colour separation term comes from), writes Andy Comber, PR Manager at Shrophire-based marketing, design, web and design agency matm. They became increasingly common in the 1980s when advertising revenue fell sharply – and can also be called editorial reproductions, product insertions or digital profiles in web media.

These offers can be viewed by PR companies and clients alike with some degree of suspicion. Quite rightly, the client doesn’t want to spend money without considering the ROI.

PR professionals like to think they can generate stories that are so compelling that publications will jump at carrying them for no charge. And it doesn’t look good to keep asking clients to dip their hands in their pockets for every Tom, Dick and Harry media opportunity that comes along.

All that said, with the right degree of caution, colour seps can be useful elements of the PR mix.

They are an integral part of the marketing and revenue model for many publications. So paid-for stories may not mean the publication is poor quality or that readers don’t value the content. Also, a colour sep allows the public relations agency and client to exert control over content, image use and page placement in a publication aimed precisely at a desirable target audience.

As an example, matm recently secured for a client a two page feature with multiple pictures in a national building renovation title at a cost of £350. The article generated eight keen sales/information inquiries through the publication’s internal feedback system alone.

So here are some tips when using colour seps as a marketing tactic:

* If there is time, ask to be sent copies of the publication to assess suitability– and check web pages
* Be selective – make sure you are clear about the target audience you want and what is being offered
* Ask yourself if the publication is right for your brand in terms of style and quality
* Ask about readership and reach. Is the publication ABC audited?
* Don’t accept the first price offered – in most cases there is room to haggle
* If there’s no movement on price, negotiate on content, position on page and which page you are being offered, for example the right hand page and the outside edge of the page are favoured positions
* Check the size of any picture offered
* Make sure the article includes a call to action box or strap with contact details
* Be aware that most publications can offer online content as part of the mix
* Require copy and design proof approval
* Think twice about using a publication’s in-house writers. In most cases, they won’t understand your needs
* Don’t pay up front. If a publication doesn’t deliver all it promises, you can withhold payment or negotiate a lower price
* Use targeted advertorials as part of a coordinated marketing communications strategy, also involving web content, e-shots and social media
* Monitor the response. Did the article generate interest or sales inquiries?

Ultimately, the decision should focus on task and objective. Knowing clearly what you want to achieve and targeting marketing and PR spend accordingly should be the key test for whether to pay for publicity or not.

Hospice lotteries can friend-raise and fundraise with social media

Friday 24th September 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

Hospices face the challenge of raising millions of pounds each year to keep their excellent and highly valued services running. So any new ideas for boosting profile, encouraging participation and increasing support are well worth considering.

Last week, Julia Davies, account manager for Shropshire marketing, design, web and PR agency matm, was asked to speak to 67 hospice lotteries, at their annual conference, about social media – and, in particular, facebook and Twitter. Social media is an area of marketing that matm is increasingly asked to help with.

The audience reflected a wide range of experience, from those who are terrified to tweet to those who are avid facebook fans. Most, though, were clearly keen to embrace all options and reap the benefits.

Charity fundraising is increasingly about building longterm relationships and social media offers great tools for finding new friends and supporters and helping to make relationships last.

Some hospices are already finding social media activity is generating rewards, says Julia. One reported: “It has helped us attract new lottery donors, obtain professional photography, recruit volunteers for marshalling events, find people to lend us equipment and generate lots of enthusiasm for our hospice.”

One clear message, says Julia, is that you need the right social media approach – and to give it time to bed in and work. She adds: “Don’t be scared, get started with your social media ‘friend-raising’. You never know where it may take you!”

A small flame creates a burning global issue, viewpoint from a Shropshire PR agency

Wednesday 8th September 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

Many people will view the debate generated about the threat by an American pastor to burn copies of the Quran with decidedly mixed emotions, and that’s putting it mildly, writes matm‘s PR manager Andy Comber. But you’ve got to give The Rev Terry Jones one thing, he has succeeded in creating an extremely intoxicating and ‘sticky’ story, whether he did it by design (is that intelligent?) or not.  The fact that I am bothered to write this blog entry is one more sliver of evidence of that.

It’s worth, then, wondering how an otherwise unknown leader of a tiny, tiny church in a the backwaters of Florida can trigger such global alarm, prompting the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton herself, to condemn him and implore him not to go ahead with his threat and US generals to raise serious concerns that soldiers will now die in revenge attacks.

The mechanism is, I am sure, complex. But in simple terms it is because Terry Jones has created a simple, sticky message. This is a term popularised by Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Made to Stick. I am not going to slavishly follow their model here but make some quick observations about why Terry Jones’s views represent a burning issue (sorry, last one) right now.

  • Firstly, the timing is perfect. The US has just announced the war has ended in Iraq and attention is turning wholly on Afghanstan – a war which began after the 9/11 attack in New York. And The Rev Jones has homed in on that anniversary too. So this is a hot issue in the States at a time when mid-term elections are looming.
  • Secondly it generates a strong, simple, visual image, as all the best stunts do. It’s  no accident that Hitler used the same technique.
  • Thirdly, it is controversial and polarising while remaining relevant to a wide number of individuals and groups. A debate is guaranteed, whether it goes global or not is another matter. The idea of a special Burn the Quran Day also creates a focus, allows people to belong and join in.
  • It is also a cliff hanger – will he or won’t he? The latest news reports say The Rev is still praying to God to ask if he should go ahead with the burning. As newspaper editors might say “this story’s got legs.”
  • It is also a debate fueled by social media. The last time I looked, Twitter analytics showed ‘quran’ and ‘koran’ are spiking in popularity. By my reckoning, together, they account for around 0.08% of all Tweets over the last 24 hours. That’s around 4 million messages. ‘Burn the quran’ was the 31st most popular Google search entry – generating 1.33 million searches.

Word of mouth mechanisms are complex so there will be many other triggers that played a part. There’s no need to advocate distasteful stunts to gain publicity, but there are PR lessons to learn – choose the right time, keep it simple, use strong visuals and create a message that relevant to your audience and generates a debate that people will want to share, whether it be in fun or horror.  Oh, and think twice about giving the story legs by writing about it. Well, I’ve broken that PR rule now haven’t I?