Book review: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

Title: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World
Author: Gary Vaynerchuk
Page count: 256 pages
Publisher: Harper Business
Published: 2013


The general topic of this book is to challenge companies, whether large or small as to what their activity truly represents on social media. Using boxing terminology, it looks at the concept of a ’jab’, essentially a way in which to gain engagement with its publics or customers. Engagement has historically been that of driving sales however, with an ever evolving social media space, engagement is now considered far more expansive and can often mean simply that you are conversing with the public to gain stronger connections, brand loyalty which then ultimately turns into the ‘Right-hook’…the delivery of transactions.

Vaynerchuk has quickly become a notable expert within the social media landscape, offering no-nonsense advice about what works and what doesn’t and his refreshing style of writing has awarded him many accolades including a ‘New York Times best seller’. A relative newcomer to the industry, Gary runs VaynerMedia, a company that helps the likes of PepsiCo and Hasbro with their social media voice. It is apparent that his style of writing emulates from real-life experience and cuts across the grain of traditional social media academic writing.

The book in many ways challenges the existing scholarly writings of social media and the wider field of PR and marketing. It moves away from the ideals of the models of academic study, particularly those that put an emphasis on consistency of brand messaging. The book brings into questions whether consistency is in fact relevant, advising that organic changes should be made to social media messaging to ensure they are relevant to an ever evolving audience.

It also encourages development of sub-branding on different social media platforms which although is advised in earlier marketing and PR books to focus on different audiences, it now works in conjunction with one another, delivering tailored messaging for the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

It is evident that this book is written for a far-reaching group of audiences, as a PR student I found it relevant to the development on my own personal brand on social media however; the lessons indicated are just as relevant for the largest of corporations. It sets about a movable model of content and context that is essentially an idealistic framework of how one should operate on the relevant platforms.

The key themes within the book are simple in that, when using social media, it must be done with consideration and planning. It gives examples as to how businesses can often just arrive on social media because of obligation, rather than with good reason. It illustrates that without such forethought; companies can in fact get it entirely wrong and in turn can damage their brand.

It is true to say however that it encourages all businesses to be on social media as without a presence, the public will still talk about them and without a channel in which to respond, this can have even further detrimental consequences.

The underlying lesson is that social media is now a noisy space with a multitude of companies trying to be heard. In order to get above the parapet, a company must be able to provide compelling content in the right context on the right platforms to be noticed.

The layout of the book is simple yet effective, outlining each social media channel in a concise chapter giving key facts about each platform, giving advice on how to develop compelling content and then giving real-life examples on how some companies got it spot on and where others fell flat. These examples are particularly helpful, especially when there are so many different ways in which messaging, particularly in 140 characters or less can go incredibly wrong.

There are apparent potential issues within the book, no more so that of existing platforms having a shelf life of 3 – 5 years. It is true that social media platforms in the past have come and gone, notably the likes of MySpace and Bebo however, with developing technology and a huge increase in private investment into existing platforms, these are now evolving with the users. Although they may look and feel entirely different in five years, I believe we will still be using adaptations of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Overall this book is a compelling read and this is down to the style in which Vaynerchuk adopts. It is easy to understand and quickly makes you aware that academic models posed by marketers in years gone by are becoming irrelevant as the oldest and most crucial methods of message delivery returns, word of mouth. The light-hearted style coupled with the real-life examples make this book one that can be read, lessons applied and returned to in months to come. With all social media books it will also have a shelf life as the industry and technology develops however I believe that the underlying methodology of this book will be applicable for years to come.


What’s your social media magic number?

We’ve all been asked about our magic number in the past.  Whether on an awkward third date or with friends, it normally leaves us either multiplying or dividing where appropriate.

When it comes to social media it is much more apparent. At Leeds Met we had a ranking compiled by Richard Bailey, a senior lecturer with a passion for the art of social media. It added our Klout and Peer Index, both scored out of 100 and divided by two to give a definitive answer. The results posted weekly, it gave us a competitive urge to be better than our counterparts.

Although this has ended due to new constraints with obtaining figures, PR students still need to be aware. There is a growing trend of employers judging candidates on their social activity when it comes to PR and social media affiliated roles, an approach that could be considered short sighted.

To gain good Klout, Kred and Peer Index scores one must be active within social media however, that is pretty much where it ends. These scoring sites do not necessarily account for content. One could put on their CV that they have a Klout score of 60+ but if they only talk about Justin Bieber and cute cats, surely this is of no more use than knowing that social media exists.

However, clever employers are now going beyond this and assessing content. Looking at someone’s Twitter feed and judging their posts is becoming primary over the clinical stats offered by these sites. Although they’re still important in terms of influence, employers want someone in the know of their field and are will to forgo the initial stat makers who in fact may know nothing about their business.

All in all it seems to still be a job of judgement. The scores on the doors still represent time put in but the most crucial thing is that it is work spent wisely. Let’s hope the trend of judging a candidate on their score alone diminishes and quality, coupled with quantity wins the day.


Why Jet2 cracked it this Easter on social media

One of the most engaging social media campaigns that I have come across happened over the Easter weekend. It had me glued to my computer when I should have been enjoying the unexpected sunshine so I wanted to share my thoughts.

Jet2 launched chick-watch that ran on its website. It involved the hatching of six chicks streamed live from the Thursday until Easter Monday. The premise was that when each chick hatched, a promotion became live which offered different discounts on flights and holidays. A simple yet inspired way to increase engagement and bookings over a bank holiday with a wonderfully appropriate ‘Easter feel’ to boot.

An easy undertaking one might think, however, it was apparent that the work involved in the management of such a campaign was nothing short of brilliant.

Most corporate accounts on Twitter offer an endless stream of scheduled tweets which although are informative, go against the premise that social media is just that, social. Scheduled tweets and Facebook posts certainly do have their place in the consumer market however, these can alone turn into a notice board of information that can cause followers to become disinterested.

The reason why this campaign was so engaging was because it was just that, engaging. Every time I logged on to the live chick feed and Tweeted the latest update, they immediately replied, thanking me for my interest and asked me what I thought of it. It was almost shocking to have a two way conversation with a company, particularly on a Saturday night when I home alone and bored of the poor offering of weekend programming.

In addition to replying to posts, they tweeted about what the chicks were up to, gave ‘back-stage’ images of when they moved to the brooder and sent ‘breaking news’ updates of when an egg was about to hatch. This had me glued to the feed so that I could log on and watch it live…something reminiscent of a BBC nature documentary.

As you can tell I was very impressed and I’ll hope you’ll agree, well deserved. It goes to show that forward thinking companies are waking up to the fact that customers don’t just want something fun, but also a conversation. The egg hatching alone may have worked but without the interaction and conversation, I may have lost interest. All in all it was inspired campaign and although I didn’t book a holiday off the back of it, it will certainly make me think twice as to where my loyalty lies when booking one in the future.

Who’s leading the PR opinion on Twitter?

Looking back on some of my first blog posts I have to admit they are somewhat naive to say the least. However, one that still seems entirely relevant is the use of Twitter as a PR student.

One of the issues I had previously raised was that of those who follow you, you then follow back out of courtesy and then they unfollow you. I still believe that this is for the sole purpose of gaining ‘celebrity status’ on Twitter however thanks to the use of the ‘Just-unfollow’ app, these are now easy to spot, unfollow and then block…never having to darken a feed again.

However, one of the key lessons I have learnt is that Twitter isn’t just for gaining mutual connections. Some people on Twitter may have thousands, if not millions more followers than you however this is normally for a good reason. These are the opinion leaders of Twitter and by following these, even without an immediate follow back, you will gain more than you could imagine.

There are many in the field of PR and communications however notable accounts are those of Stephen Waddington, Christopher Rizzo and Rachael Miller to name but a few.

These people tweet up to the minute news about the PR industry, digital media and internal communications respectively and it is usually far more current than any text book has to offer. Obviously I wouldn’t promote ditching the books entirely however, by taking into account their insight accompanied by your academic reading; any work you submit for your PR course can only be enhanced.

I know this to be true purely from experience. On a superficial level, by engaging with opinion leaders I have incrementally increased my Twitter followers and social scoring on the likes of Kred and Klout. However, more importantly I have read their blogs and implemented their lessons into my work which have so far gained me excellent grades in my university work. The way in which I found these blogs is through Twitter alone and without this, who knows just how naive my work would still seem.

With this in mind, here are some tips for engaging with Twitter opinion leaders:

  • Follow regional and national high-profile PR companies such as Lucre, Edelman, and Ketchum. Although they will tweet regularly about company activity, they also offer industry insight and will help you establish their culture should you wish to work for them in the future.
  • Find your opinion leaders on the list. Most people, including myself, have lists set up in Twitter. Most will keep these public so why not use your first found opinion leader to locate more through their own lists.
  • Have a chat with your new followed friends. Just because you follow them it will not mean they’ll instantly follow back. Reply to their posts, engage and share your thoughts. If they think you’re interesting they’re likely to follow you back for future insight.
  • Use an old school #FF and tell the rest of your followers that these people are worth following.  This will show your followers that you know the right people and will increase engagement on your profile.


Why we should be more than just an email signature


There is definitely something to be said about how email has revolutionised the world we work in. There are a few veterans in the agency I work in who hark back to the days of faxing a press release to journalists, something unbelievable to the generation newly joining the industry.

Although it certainly speeds up the delivery of news, we have essentially become an email signature, a jumble of letters and logos that does little more than say who we are and not what we’re about. This fast paced way of sharing client’s news seems to have inadvertently left a huge void in the relationship between PR and journalist, a crucial component in effective media relations.

To help alleviate this, a good old fashion desk visit is a sure fire way to sustain that personal relationship and after months of conversing by email, I was lucky enough to be able to put faces to email signatures.

As many of the accounts I work on have a strong presence in the North West, I took myself over the Pennines last week to meet the people that essentially make or break my success at work.

What I found when I met with them was just how important it is to meet in person. Although I had an idea of what they liked, by meeting they open up in a way that is not possible over the phone. By asking open and honest questions, they shared their likes and dislikes, pet hates and how to almost guarantee a story in the paper based on format, style and content.

Journalists know their readers and what they want to consume and although at times it may not be what your client wishes to convey, you are able to consider both perspectives and hopefully find a balance in your delivery that pleases all parties.

All in all, I feel much more confident in being able to deliver the right content for my new found journalist friends and increase coverage for my respective clients, one of the most important measurable outputs in our industry. All of this for the price of a coffee and an afternoon out of the office? Now that’s what I call time and money well spent.

Am I too old to reach my potential in PR?

As I flick through a back issue of PR week and scan the ’30 under 30’ page it suddenly dawns on me, as of this week, I am no longer eligible for this category.

Slightly concerned, I try and reassure myself that if I had entered the PR sector at an earlier point in my life, I could well have been considered for such an accolade. But it does throw up another question, am I too old to reach my potential in PR?

As a mature student studying PR and Communications at Leeds Met, it is pretty apparent that I am years older than my fellow students. No matter how I dress or immerse myself in the group, the silver flecks in my hair and spreading crow’s feet around my eyes make it obvious that I am not a guy in my 20’s with a lifetime of career decisions ahead of me.

With an extra decade under my belt, I have however managed to draw on past work experiences to help with my university work which has been an unanticipated by greatly appreciated advantage. However, with some of my fellow students being ten years younger than me, when it comes to the crunch, an employer may prefer one of the younger graduates. We hear all the time that a younger person is beneficial to a business as they can be moulded to fit the ethos, are more aware of the modern ways to communicate and have fresher ideas. whereas the term ‘bad habits’ is often tagged to those slightly older and more experienced along with ‘slightly out of touch’ when it comes to the future of PR in the digital sector.

With this in mind, am I too old to succeed in PR? It is a question that cannot be answered as yet as only time will tell. I am however taking steps to ensure that I can answer a firm no in years to come. The plan is to learn as much as I can about PR at university, keep abreast of all technological and digital developments and focus strongly on industry experience. Fingers crossed this will help set me apart but failing that, a creative amend to my birth certificate and a lot of anti-wrinkle cream is waiting in the wings as ‘plan B’.
“You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream” C.S. Lewis

Restaurant review: Taro Soho, London

The true taste of Japanese cuisine is proclaimed by many but delivered by few. So when our fashionable London friend suggested we lunch at Taro in Soho, I was excited yet sceptical from previous disappointments.

Upon arriving at the restaurant it was apparent that this was something a bit special; almost all of the communal tables were filled with happy diners, waiters dashing between them delivering bento boxes and sushi platters with the elegance of ballet-esque boys.

The menu is extensive to the point of bewildering and packaged in a folder reminiscent of a Tenerife café however, this is not a problem. The only issue faced is how to whittle down the options to a suitable short list. Luckily our friend had already sampled many a delicacy at Taro so took the lead in ordering Octopus balls, the mixed sashimi and sushi, pickles platter and several noodle based main courses.

One thing to note is that the food doesn’t come out in a traditional sense. The British etiquette of starters followed by mains is replaced with ‘when it’s cooked, it’s on the table’. It was appropriate for our relaxed Sunday social, however evidently distressed fellow diners who apparently liked a little more order in their lives.
When every order arrived we were treated to another beautifully constructed dish; whether it was the perfectly sliced sashimi, expertly rolled sushi or the flavour packed noodles… all were works of Japanese culinary art.
The only negative was my naivety when our friend advised we cleanse our palette with a pickled plum. The sourness of this Japanese delicacy almost brought me to tears but was extremely amusing and enjoyable once the stinging pain had subsided.

All in all this place delivers. The menu is extensive, authentic and reasonably priced to boot. My only concern is that they have set the bar so very high for Japanese food, I’m not sure I’ll enjoy it as much anywhere else.