Is it a trend, a craze or a band-wagon? Regardless, does the selfie as a PR tactic have a limited shelf life like charity wristbands, naked calendars and any similar idea that works the first couple of times and then becomes increasingly irritating?
The problem becomes how the first few examples are touted around as ‘successful’. In social media terms, perhaps it started with Cadbury’s Wispa and Facebook (thanks Mark Borkowski!), where everyone who subsequently created a Facebook campaign expected the same results (instead of generating likes from a few pets or other random followers). Same with clicktivism campaigns and so called ‘viral’ videos.
So the past week has been all about the #nomakeupselfie – which according to Sophia Moir was actually not the PR brainwave of Cancer Research UK, although it has supported the attention and fund-raising that has been generated. It has a group on its website and used the hashtag for search engine advertising. Add in a bit of controversy regarding the initiative’s relevance or the sense of ‘lazy social media marketing campaigns’ (as Kristina Egan writes in Huffpost students), and there’s a story with legs here.
Cue the #cockinasock testicular cancer selfie awareness campaign (not sure I am recommending clicking onto the Facebook page) to give the guys a go at the pointless personal pictures (yes, puns intended!). But another good cause that’s generating plenty of social media talk and maybe increasing awareness of the issue and some research funds. Again, whether or not the hand of charity PR is involved here, seems to be debated.
There’s no doubting that the #drivingselfie story was originated by the insurance company, Confused.com – of course with a disapproving air whilst touting statistics that reveal this is just the age old pretty standard publicity tactic of the PR survey. And, yes, it continues to work in catching the attention of journalists as an easy story – who cares that the same story generated coverage back in November? It will undoubtedly be around again before too many months. Goldfish PR anyone? To be honest, I cannot be bothered to look up which PR agency suggested the idea to Confused.com this time.
Does this all mean there is actually a long PR shelf-life for various selfie-stories? Or will we soon get so sick of them, they’ll be tired and dusty ideas within weeks? Well, I can guarantee PR practitioners (consultants and in-house) will be pitching selfie ideas to their bosses over the coming months – and in fact, there is likely to be an inverse correlation between the likelihood of generating interest in the selfie story and ideas getting the go-ahead. That’s because many managers are social media laggards and by the time they’ve heard of the trend/craze, and approve hopping on the band-wagon, it’s rapidly losing momentum.
Originality and creativity are important in public relations. An ability to be opportunistic and spot an emerging trend or opportunity is equally valid. But so too is timing – and having a strategic purpose. It is easy to use the fizz of today’s word of mouth idea to come up with extensions for clients. I’m anticipating for the toilet roll promotion or bowel cancer awareness version, alongside dozens of April 1st selfie spoofs next week.
But to be honest, what I’d rather see is real agenda setting within public relations. Let’s not rely on being able to launch a me-too idea off the back foot. Rather, we should be leaders in driving forwards critical issues that capture public attention and really make a difference.
Whether you are delivering public relations within a charity or cause-related organisation or have commercial motives in mind, the real art and science is in achieving your objectives by harnessing the public, media and political agendas to your organisational one – with the added energy offered by the ever-changing social media agenda (as proposed by my Dynamic Agenda Setting model – featured in the Public Relations Strategic Toolkit).
UPDATE: Yet to see the on-the-toilet selfies, but the #AfterSex Instagram ‘trend‘ has got the mainstream media in a bit of a lather at the start of April. And somehow I’d missed the promotion of the ‘couplie‘ around Valentine’s Day by One4all