Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Excellent campaign website

The Campaign to End Child Poverty has published a report today which maps child poverty by parliamentary constituency. There's a great map on the BBC website, which must have been lots of effort from their press team.

We've done a quick audit of the website to identify its success:
  • endchildpoverty.org.uk has a 138 incoming links, meaning that it only has low authority
  • however, on average they are 457 times more authoritative than the ECP site, increasing its authority to medium
  • they are well indexed on Google - ranked number 1 and 2 under 'Campaign to End Child Poverty' and 2nd under 'child poverty' - a very valuable search term.
  • there are over 2000 members of its Facebook group (also prominent on Google) many of whom have over 100 friends.
The site is aided by its campaign banners, frequent press releases and celebrity endorsements.

There are other things they could do to improve their reputation further (which will remain confidential between Newscounter and the campaign - should they wish to ask) but it's a very good example of a well executed campaign site.

Where will it end?

Matthew Taylor's blog on the economy is worth reading. He's wise, clever and imaginative (as demonstrated by becoming a board member of Newscounter!)

He says things will never be the same again. But we don't yet know how profoundly because this crisis is not over. It probably won't stop with banks. But by what criteria should governments intervene? If the market for internet advertising collapses, should a government support Google? It is far more inter-connected, with a bigger customer base and more dependants than any AIG or HBOS.

Is Cameron slipping?

David Cameron's poll lead may be slipping.

There's an interesting parallel here with Obama. I was in the US just after his trip to Germany and a considerable poll lead. Then it started to slip. Analysts were convinced that he had failed to 'seal the deal' with the electorate who were intrigued by him, liked him but weren't convinced. Attack ads from McCain started to have an impact.

Is it the same for David Cameron?

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Good practice in Liverpool

You may not have heard of LFC TV. It's the reason I subscribe to Setanta and it gives me live coverage of the reserve team games, clips of former games and extensive highlights packages.

The channel is a year old and can sometimes appear amateurish. I set Sky+ to record the highlights of our game against Crewe (we won 2-1 in case you missed it) but it didn't record because the EPG was inaccurate.

One of the channel's editors has gone onto a Liverpool FC fans' site to explain why this happened - and why the coverage sometimes slips up. It's a brave thing to do: corporations often struggle to engage successfully in fora for customers because they lack credibility. Why has this worked?

I'm interested in your views but would suggest it includes:
* transparency of their motives,
* no anonymity
* consistency of engaging in the same way
* plain English,
* no obfuscation

any other thoughts?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Problems with Virgin Trains

One of the members of the Newscounter board has written about a bad day in a more amusing way than I ever could:


Will Virgin Trains pay attention?

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Perceptions of Cow and Gate

After my (slightly petty) complaint about Cow and Gate, I set up a basic monitoring alert for "Cow and Gate" and discovered that a recent TV commercial has attracted criticism in the UK and ROI.

Half Pint Pixie complained to the Food Safety Authority (Ireland) about this ad which, according to the blog, confuses follow on milk and infant formula and idealises formula milk over breast milk and Boycott Nestle also flashed up, with concerns over product contamination.

So what impact have these websites had on Cow and Gate's reputation? I think it's significant.

Both websites have a greater authority than cowandgate.co.uk measured by how many sites are linking to them and how authoritative those sites are, on average.
  • Half Pint Pixie has 233 sites linking to it which are (on average) 240 times more authoritative than that site
  • Boycott Nestle has 167 / 114
  • Cow and Gate has just 71 / 60
Search engines
Both sites are ranked in the top 20 (13th and 14th) results in Google for a search of 'Cow and Gate Ad' whilst five other sites about Cow and Gate's advertising appear in the first two pages. A search for 'Cow and Gate advertising standards' is even worse for the company. Negative reports are 3rd 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th 9th and 10th.

Even a search for Cow and Gate (which over 18,000 people do each month according to Google) shows that the company is vulnerable to negative articles being displayed prominently.

Social networks
The videos have been well received on YouTube with over 30,000 views and largely favourable comments. However, they are not substantive and largely refer to the 'cute babies' rather than the ethics of the ad.

So in conclusion, Cow and Gate's website carries little authority. This means that the company's defence of the advert is hard to find and that anyone concerned about the company's advertising practices is only likely to find further criticisms rather than arguments in defence. Although the videos are widely viewed and favourably received, this is probably in insufficient numbers to outweigh the negative impact of the controversy.

If Cow and Gate were to engage in the debate, they could improve the authority of their website and enable customers who are interested in hearing a balanced debate, the information to make an informed decision.

I think the information is probably there, on their own site. And the social networking element of cowandgate.co.uk is innovative for a large company. But - as so often - the information isn't packaged well for web 2.0.

Fair play, Dolphin

Dolphin Bathrooms called to apologise for standing us up. They said that they'd had problems with their designers and liked to check on the quality.

I appreciate them calling to apologise and not simply using it as an opportunity to try and force another salesman onto us.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Fair play, ITV

I wrote to ITV the other night after the episode in which "Mel Morton" and her PC friend were attacked in Manchester. The closing credits declared the attackers to be 'Chavs' (number 1 to 4 I think). It caught my eye because I don't like the word, its frequent use and the underlying criticism of working class culture.

Corrie is better than most TV shows at giving a fair depiction of working class characters. But the associations between chav and violence are weak. The wikipedia entry specifically states "youth and aggression are not the defining attributes of a 'chav". These were just criminals (none had any other role in the show) and should have been described as such.

This response from ITV may miss the point slightly, but that they've responded in a timely fashion and in a sensible manner makes me feel much better about the show and shows that they take such things seriously.

Cow and Gate making it more difficult?

The manufacturers of baby milk tend to get a tough time. See, for example. George Monbiot or anything by the pressure group Baby Milk Action.

The criticisms may or may not be fair. However, if the average UK consumer is like me, you know that baby milk is not as good as breast milk but also that there is no alternative and you want it to be as good as possible. Therefore, you want to know that the company is acting as responsibly as possible.

I was surprised, therefore, when I purchased my second carton of Cow and Gate 1 for my baby. The instructions explained that each packet needs to be started from scratch - that you can't take powder from a previous packet and mix it with powder from a new packet. Apparently, they innovate so often that the powders may be different.

I'm delighted that Cow and Gate decides to innovate. And surprised that when a new innovation is introduced, it isn't advertised on the packet. I'm even more surprised that the balance of chemicals contained in the powder is so vulnerable that mixing two different versions may be unhealthy. (I'm discounting the possibility that a five month old baby who has only previously drunk milk has a highly developed palate.

The cynic in me would suggest an alternative hypothesis: that:
a) Cow and Gate know that the average packet contains a volume of powder that ensures that the average customer will always be left with two or more scoops (I had four) at the end of a packet.
b) Consumers intuitively mix and match with old and new packets (as you would with, say, chopped tomatos)
c) consumers would rather protect their baby's health than lose a few pence
d) by urging us not to mix powders 'because of the innovation' they can make 20-30p extra per packet

Because if I'm wrong - and it is because the mixture of ingredients is so volatile that it shouldn't be mixed - the FSA should investigate immediately.

Claiming my blog on Technorati

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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Nat West - could do better

Problems with Nat West. I've been banking with them for at least ten years. However, I ordered a debit card on 12 July because my old one had broken. The telephone call centre sounded pleased that a new one would arrive within 10 days. That sounded a lot to me, but I wasn't in a position to question.

The new card arrived with my name spelt wrongly - Cane instead of Cain - a strange mistake. I'm not too fussy, but it served as a poor form of identity so I cancelled it and ordered another.

The card arrived 13 days later with instructions to activate it by post or online. I followed the instructions online, just before the football on Saturday afternoon. I then went into central London to work. At about 8.30pm I needed a pie and a pint so went to the cashpoint. Unfortunately, my card did not accept the PIN.

When I called Nat West, the woman that I spoke to was really helpful. She explained that the PIN didn't work because a new one had been generated and she had no way of overriding the system. I was surprised because on all previous occassions I've been able to use my existing PIN.

I went on to explain my plight and she suggested cancelling the card which would enable me to type a special code into the ATM to release emergency funds. I was grateful for the effort she went to but ultimately preferred to go hungry than wait another two weeks for a new card.

When I arrived home, I double checked the paperwork. As you can see, it clearly states that "If this card replaces your previous card for any reasons . . . Any existing PIN number should continue to be used."

I can't be alone in experiencing this. If the system is automated, why doesn't it work consistently?

Why go to Dolphin Bathrooms?

I've been trying to convince my wife to invest in improving our bathroom. After the problems we had with our kitchen, it's a hard sell. However, I've made progress of late after suggesting that people thought twice about visiting us because of its poor condition.

My wife, ever contentious, looked up three possible providers. Dolphin Bathrooms was the most attractive because it came with a recommendation from family, they have a 50% sale and they looked mid-range in terms of cost and quality.

After making an enquiry online, she had a phone call back on the same day to arrange an appointment. However, they called back the same day to rearrange the date, putting the visit back six days. Two days letter, we received a brochure in the post with a confirmation letter (albeit for the previous meeting date). So far, we were impressed.

However, 20 minutes before the visit, my wife had a call to say that the member of staff was off sick and asking to re-arrange. We did so, reluctantly.

This morning, one hour before the appointment, they called again, ostensibly to find out about parking. You can park opposite our house and pay at a meter (it's about £1 for an hour). At the end of the conversation, the Dolphin rep mentioned that the person coming to see us was "running a little late". When pressed as to how late, the rep said that they would be with us "around 1pm" - two hours late.

When my wife said that this was not acceptable, the person apologised, but did not offer any alternative. We cancelled the appointment.

As it currently stands, we won't be buying a bathroom from Dolphin. Not so much, why buy a bathroom from Dolphin as 'can anyone buy a bathroom from Dolphin'?
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