Posted by & filed under Media.

There are plenty of people rushing to judge Eurostar this weekend. The headline on TechCrunch is almost comical – “As hundreds of Eurostar passengers languish, Eurostar ignores Twitter.” On the face of it, it’s rather like saying “As shelves run dry of food, Tesco ignores Susan Boyle.” It’s quite random. TechCrunch’s view of the issue is pretty narrow (as this post from We are social shows.)

The whole communications effort could have been better, and the speed of the social media response is just one symptom – hopefully Eurostar will take some lessons away from this weekend.

Where did Eurostar go wrong?

  • It’s worth saying that when it comes to PR, Eurostar were unlucky – as ever there’s not a lot of news around at Christmas, and this is a big story which is relatively low effort / low cost to cover.  Dramatic though it is, is it really a bigger story than a vulnerable toddler being abducted from a police station? Personally I don’t believe so – but there are unfortunately a lot of angry passengers in the Eurostar story who are able to keep the story running.
  • It sounds like there was confusion in Eurostar HQWe are social’s Robin Grant describes grabbing the chief executive for a minute “in between various crisis meetings”, and being sat alongside the Sales and Marketing Director.  In a situation as fast moving and high profile as this, the key people could have worked better together if they had been co-located in one room. It would have been good to see Eurostar’s crisis team validate or update their corporate message every thirty minutes, while managing the operational challenge.
  • I think Eurostar could have picked a better core message – the explanation offered about changes in temperature affecting the trains left more questions than answers. Over time it looked like the company didn’t know what was causing the breakdowns, so it would have been more credible to say “we don’t know what’s happened to the trains, but we’re working as fast as possible to understand it.” There was also an attempt to move too quickly to the final stage of the comms plan – the review and compensation line – when practical operational comms to passengers was needed. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Online, Politics.

It comes round so regularly you could set an incredibly slow clock by it – the question “will the next election be the Internet election?

It’s impossible to answer that question without first defining what an “Internet election” is. Traditionally to my mind there have been two possible definitions:

  1. An election where a stasticically significant number of seats, ten or more, change hands either as the direct result of online campaigns by political parties candidates, or because positive online campaigning was a critical factor.
  2. An election where any number of MPs, as low as a single MP, is undeniably ousted from their seat by a negative campaign either by political opponents or independent critics, mustered online.

But a third possibility is emerging.

My belief is that when we look back on the General Election of 2010, for all the effort poured in to them the defining story will not come from My Conservatives, or the Liberal Democrats’ soon to be launched competitor, Act.

It could come from a signature pre-planned campaign. If, for example, the TaxPayer’s Alliance aren’t working right now on a postcode searchable system in which voters can see what their sitting MP has claimed on expenses, and what their opponents have said their approach to expenses will be, then they need to sack the person responsible for their digital effort and re-hire quickly.

More likely, the defining online moment of GE2010 will come from Twitter.  Watch this short video before you go any further:

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Froth and frippery, theatre.

How many people do you know whose influence on you has lasted more than a decade? After my parents, one name stands out for me – my high school drama teacher, Mike Fry.
Mike FryMr Fry was my GCSE and A-level drama teacher at Haydon Bridge High School in Northumberland. After a career in which he transformed hundreds of young lives, he died in a nursing home in Witham on Friday. He died of cancer, having also suffered a stroke.

Those of us who were so deeply fortunate to have been taught by Mr Fry remember his passion for his subject, and his desire, sometimes a desperate driven urge, to see his pupils succeed and achieve their potential. Those who weren’t taught by him remember him too – for the man he was, for his character and his values.

An old school friend said today “I never knew him through drama, but through his amazing ability to walk up and down mountains all day and do fell-runs in the evening, all the while shouting “Well done chaps!””

“A good teacher is like a candle – he consumes himself to light the way for others.”  – Anon

There was no front with Mike Fry, no act when he was teaching – he was sincere and generous with his praise, quick too to show when he was feeling black. He had an incredible ability to carry his entire class along with his mood. When he was excited, and inspired, and enthusiastic – which was most of the time – so too were his pupils. He fizzed like a catherine wheel, firing off thoughts and praise in all directions.

“All knowledge is precious whether or not it serves the slightest human use.” – A.E. Housman

As well as an extraordinary teacher, I knew Mr Fry to be a bachelor who professed eyes for only Judi Dench and Maria Callas; a clergyman;  a pillar of the community; and a friend to anyone who needed a friend. He was a complex man with simple, admirable values which shone through in all he did. Generosity. Admiration. Humility. Passion. Kindness. Sincerity. Care. He couldn’t even walk to school without stopping to pick up every bit of litter that had been dropped in the street.

Whenever I have seen or heard Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys, I have been tempted to draw parallels between aspects of Bennett’s character Hector, and Mr Fry. He brought scripts and books to life so that his pupils would experience theatre and literature, but moreover he taught us the importance of self-belief, of daring to be passionate, to stand out from the crowd. He taught his pupils to think about what was right, and then to seek it out. Above all, he taught us that life is precious, that we should use whatever gifts we have to the full, and that we must never let life slip through our fingers. Don’t waste a single day. He never did.

Finally, I’m not as prone as I used to be to quoting scripture, but as Mr Fry’s religious conviction was strong, this passage from John 14 seems fitting:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid. You heard me say, ‘I am going away, and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

There will be a Service of Thanksgiving at 11.00 on Saturday 19 September at St. Cuthbert’s church, Haydon Bridge. Tributes are flooding in on Facebook.