A selfless selfie?

UK soap star Kym Marsh’s ‘no make-up selfie’

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or stranded on a desert island for the past fortnight, you’ll have undoubtedly caught wind of the newest social media trend to hit Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – the ‘no make-up selfie’.

Playing on the fact that most social media users are keen to post pictures of themselves at every opportunity, a young teenager from the UK posted an image of herself sans the slap and asked her Facebook friends to do the same, all in the name of charity.

While it seems noble, the biggest question raised when the idea really started to take hold was pretty obvious – how on earth was it actually helping anyone who either had cancer or had experienced it within their family?

It was a perfect demonstration of how quick we all are to participate in a bit of shameless self-promotion under the guise of charity. However, it angered many people who regularly give to charity without needing tens or hundreds of people to ‘Like’ a picture of them without make-up.

Thankfully, the PR machine at Breast Cancer Awareness UK quickly piggy-backed on the trend and issued a selfie of its employees imploring that anyone who posted a no make-up selfie also texted ‘BEAT” to 70099 in order to donate £3.

Suddenly, it all seemed a lot more credible and worthy – and celebrities hopped on the bandwagon. In fact, it was so popular that it made its way across the ocean to Australia, although we’re yet to see a charity affiliation with pictures. At the moment, Aussie women are doing their bit to ‘raise awareness’. The real question is, are they raising awareness for themselves or the cause?

The craze has been an eye-opener. Many people who normally don’t dip in their pockets to donate to charity did so on this occasion because they received gratification in return. Misanthropists around the world will be having a field day as it provides yet another example of our shallow society.

But on a serious note, is this the future of charity fundraising? Do we expect to be given something in return for our support? It’s an interesting question and one I am sure charities globally are asking themselves.

Loyalty schemes: the new approach

Why the cookie-cutter approach just won’t shape up.

It is rare to find a retailer today that doesn’t have a customer loyalty scheme of some sort. However, an increasing number of consumers are seemingly walking away from these programs, with a recent survey showing more than a quarter had defected from a loyalty scheme over the past few years*.

In a struggling retail environment, consumer loyalty is more important to business than ever. So where are retailers going wrong with their attempts to retain valued customers?

The answer is really quite simple: retailers aren’t offering incentives their customers want or need. Our own research showed that although three-quarters of Australians are members of a loyalty scheme, only two-thirds used it each time they visited the retailer. The biggest reason given for this was they didn’t see the value or benefits of the offering.

Despite this, more than half (55 per cent) of the respondents in our research still said they were more likely to recommend a retailer that has a loyalty scheme over one that doesn’t, so there is quite clearly a place for these programs.

What retailers must, therefore, ensure is that they are incentivising customers with a strong and relevant proposition to maintain loyalty and encourage repeat visits. The ‘cookie-cutter’ approach adopted by so many businesses simply doesn’t work.

Whether you provide points or product-based accrual, automatic discounts or vouchers, what you are offering should be dictated by what your customers are telling you they want.

Once a retailer has established what its consumers are asking for, it needs to turn its attention to how it can best deliver these incentives.

For example, with 69 per cent of consumers saying they would be more inclined to use an electronic loyalty scheme, retailers still embracing the traditional ‘stamp card’ may wish to rethink their strategy.

Modern technology allows for loyalty schemes which are software-based and easier for consumers to use. Their details, including any vouchers or individual offers, are stored in the cloud and accessed whenever their member card is scanned. They have access to a website where they can edit their details, view their transactions and accruals and see the offers, vouchers or other benefits available to them. They have ownership over their shopping experience.

In a nutshell: it’s quicker, easier and more convenient for customers. Retailers also have more information available to them to identify sales trends and improve their marketing efficacy.

Many of our clients are taking their loyalty programs a step further and using mobile technology so members don’t even need a card. Instead they can get their points or discount simply using their smartphone, which they can also use to store, view and edit details, transactions and vouchers. Soon members will be able to pre-order via this app too, so their order is ready and waiting to collect or enjoy.

However cutting-edge the program, it must always come back to the relevance of the offer to your core customer base. Whether this means revisiting what you offer or how you’re offering it, really understanding your consumer is critical to getting it right.

Jono Britton, Shift8 founder and director

* Share the Love: 2014 Consumer Study into Australian Loyalty Programs

This opinion piece from our client, Shift8‘s Jono Britton, first appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald website. 

Corporate Trolls

We are all familiar with the recent case of Charlotte Dawson who used her large online presence to bring to the fore the issue of trolls. Unfortunately, this gave the offenders the public recognition they undeniably crave and we saw every troll come out from under their metaphorical bridges and poor Dawson wound up in hospital.

While this example was a personal attack, the issue with trolls extends to the corporate world and businesses need to be prepared to handle them.

There is a rise in “Corporate trolling” and we are not talking about healthy online banter where people share opinions and views about a product or an opinion. Troll comments are usually unwarranted negativity that is personal, defamatory and generally anonymous.

The perception is that because the comments are made online they are somehow easier to ignore or “block”, but taking it from public view does not eliminate the problem and at times can add fuel to the fire.

Social media is the forefront for trolls and unfortunately victims are not able to confront their faceless attackers thanks to privacy policies that many online platforms have. These policies that exist to protect our online information from being shared is now the “mask” for these online predators.

Earlier this year Commonwealth Bank Australia was the victim of a troll who impersonated one of its senior Bankwest executives. The troll created a fake account under the guise of the staff member and posted inflammatory material about the company. Uncovering the identity of the troll was a costly and unsuccessful exercise because of privacy policies set up by Twitter.          

Social media risk management is fast becoming a profession in itself with businesses looking to their protect brands online and prevent them from becoming prey to these kinds of attacks.

While it’s important your brand is using social media as part of its online strategy, equally imperative is identifying risks of online networking and implementing a plan to deal with issues quickly and effectively.


Remind staff of their responsibilities online. Employees are able to associate themselves with your brand via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. In doing so they have a responsibility to ensure these connections do not reflect negatively on your brand. Develop a staff policy that covers posts both personally and on behalf of your brand.

Intellectual property

Company trolls are fast becoming an issue. Staff should be warned about the consequence of anyone found leaking sensitive or confidential information online or using “inside” information against their employers.

She said what?!

Trolls like to attack the vulnerable. Keep messaging in post’s clear and concise. Don’t be left apologising for a comment that was misconstrued or taken the wrong way by a user. Online faux pas spread quicker than wildfire, so always proofread. .


Hashtags are an excellent way to comment on trending topics. However creating your own can result in what is called a hashtag hijack. Be wary of personalised tags especially in a crisis.

Customer relations

Indentifying genuine customer concerns from a troll can be difficult. A real issue left by a customer will provide a means of contacting the user, content will have information that is related to a store, time or place and they will be able to provide evidence of the incident. Trolls are usually anonymous and leave little information.

Social media provides a large opportunity for businesses to engage online with a broad audience. Trolls are a minority of that audience and with the right policy you will be able to handle issues and negativity quickly and effectively before they become a trending topic on twitter.

Social Media Age


If you haven’t already noticed social media looks like it’s around to stay. Choosing to ignore it could mean you are missing out on golden opportunities to communicate with customers, gain valuable exposure for your brand and keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. Whilst I am sure you don’t doubt the importance of social media it is time consuming, at times stressful and involves a whole hearted approach. So if you are considering tackling the world of social media here are a few good reasons to look at involving an agency.


Whilst it’s ok to sometimes post fun irrelevant updates too many businesses make the mistake of making these post’s the core of their content. The flip side to this is don’t want to flood your followers/friends etc. with all business and no pleasure either. It is all about balance and finding that balance is easier when you have a strategy. This involves planning content, knowing your audience and having social media guidelines for your business to follow.


These three letter acronyms are on everyone’s lips. If we had a dollar for every time we heard “I want to be the first listing on Google” we probably wouldn’t be writing this blog. Social Media Optimisation, Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing all go hand in hand when increasing your Google ranking. Social media plays an important role in keeping up to date information about your company online and accessible to potential customers, while assisting in flushing out negative sentiment that may be online about your brand. Social media enables you to utilise links and content that works with Google’s search algorithms. Remember, if Google rankings are your goal it should always be coupled with a SEM and SEO plan.

Rules of engagement

The experts in social media will be able to give you tips and techniques on handling social media engagement, good and bad. The potential for negativity is a real risk for any brand but it is not a bad thing if it is handled well and never ignored. Proper engagement and management is just as important as being on the platform. Followers of your page never want blatant advertising, narcissistic self promotion or constant pictures of your two pugs, not matter how cute they are. Keep it real always engaging and remember who you are talking to and why.

Choose your platforms wisely

While it’s great to be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, have a blog and YouTube channel, unless you’re managing social media 24/7 – and let’s be serious who has the time- the result will be stagnant pages. Maintaining quality consistent content is imperative for social media success. An agency will be able to give you expert advice on what platforms your business should be focussing on and assisting in creating quality content for you.

Social media should be treated with as much care and scrutiny as any other form of marketing you decide to invest in. This is why you want to start it off on the right foot. Treat it like any relationship with your customers, and remember you don’t have a second chance at a first impression.

If you are looking at Social Media as part of your PR and Marketing strategy for 2012 contact Ignite PR & Marketing for more tips.

Image Source – Mashable Comics

Hashtag Highjack – Lessons from the #Qantasluxury Fiasco

You’ve heard the story of Pandora’s Box: Zeus gives the trinket to Pandora as a gift and tells her never to open it, but curiosity gets the best of Pandora and she does anyway.  In doing so she unleashes untold evils into the world, which can never be put back in the box.

Enter #Qantasluxury, stage left.

Just in case you missed it here’s how it went down. On Tuesday November 22 Qantas kicked off a competition on Twitter to win a set of its first-class pyjamas:

It wasn’t long before #QantasLuxury was the top Twitter trending topic in Australia with over 14,700 mentions. Unfortunately for Qantas almost all of them came with a double helping of either sarcasm or outright anger:

#QantasLuxury is getting from A to B without the plane being grounded or an engine catching fire

#QantasLuxury is a complimentary cheap hotel room because your airline left you stranded in Adelaide, of all places. Adelaide.

#QantasLuxury is a massive executive bonus while your workers starve and your former customers choke

#QantasLuxury is more than 3mins notice that the whole service has been grounded

My #QantasLuxury experience would be no matter what time or duration of the flight a proper meal is served a cookie is not a meal it’s a joke

#QantasLuxury is flights that leave on schedule because Management doesn’t arbitrarily shut down the airline

#QantasLuxury is planes that arrive intact and on time because they’re staffed and maintained by properly paid, Australia-based personnel.

#Qantasluxury is not being told you can apply for refund online & finding out they only refund via a phone that no one answers for 4hrs

And my personal favourite

#Qantasluxury Somewhere inside Qantas HQ a middle aged manager is yelling at a Gen Y social media “expert” to make it stop

So what went wrong and what can we learn from the Qantas Luxury fail.

Like comedy, in social media timing is everything

What’s puzzling is that a consensus could be reached in the Qantas marketing ranks that this was a good idea. Qantas simply should have known to be more cautious about dipping their toe in the murky waters of social media so soon after the grounding of the Qantas fleet in October. Alicia Kennedy of online monitoring service Meltwater puts it beautifully.

Had the thousands of people who were inconvenienced by the recent lock out moved past the issue?  Were the public ready to talk about the positives of the company yet again? Judging from a social media analysis, the answer is a resounding no .In the three days after the Qantas grounding, the brand received over 37,000 negative social media mentions and that alone should have sent warning signals to Qantas’ social media team.”

Should have, but didn’t.

Any publicity is NOT good publicity

Some observers will swear this was a deliberate ploy from Qantas to re-engage with customers.

Make no mistake, the grounding of the Qantas fleet has tarnished the brand significantly and this gaffe has rubbed salt into an open wound. The once untouchable flying kangaroo has battled a string of issues that have affected customers, then turned around and given them a public platform to publish their grievances for all to see, share and compare. There’s just no up-side to it.

Bad campaigns = bad news

How is it that Australia’s largest airline, with its multimillion dollar marketing budget, couldn’t come up with a better social media campaign than a pair of pyjamas and a self-serving hashtag. The fact is #QantasLuxury was ill conceived to begin with. Toss in the existing negative sentiment and it goes from being a poor campaign to a nightmare one that achieved nothing beyond highlighting a company out of touch with customers.

Respond – especially if you started it

Twitter facilitates conversations which don’t occur in our day-to-day lives and these are often between customers and brands. As in a real-life chat, you can’t always control the direction of the conversation. It’s a two way street, but you can respond, and you must respond if you initiated the dialogue in the first place.

After announcing the competition and being hounded with complaints, Qantas tweeted the following – “Some very creative tweeps out there. Keep the entries coming”, along with the hashtag “QantasWeHearYou”.

They deserve to be commended for this at least.

Even if it will probably be ignored, a considered, empathetic response which reaffirms your core brand values is always best.

Don’t despair and don’t give up

Whether Qantas handled the saga appropriately is an open question, but ultimately what #QantasLuxury does is highlight the importance of taking full ownership of your brand presence online.

If your brand is being trashed on social media, you must address it. If, instead, you disconnected from your social media platforms and simply choose “not to get involved” you will be viewed as silent and uncaring.

Giving up on social media after bad feedback, or even a campaign as poor as #QantasLuxury, is the worst thing you can do.

If you find yourself totally overwhelmed I recommend revisiting Pandora. Re-read the story and you’ll find that after the contents had escaped, one thing remained in the bottom of the box – Hope!

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Media storm of the month August 2011 – Channel 9 Choppergate

When a media outlet is caught up in a scandal, rather than busy exposing one, the results are often nasty and always very public.

The News of the World scandal shone the light on the worst of the U.K tabloids and their non-existent relationship with ethics – and the scalps followed.

Now here we are with the cringe worthy media storm of the month for August: Channel NINE Brisbane’s faked chopper crosses.

Sure, the deceit might be less extreme than the phone tapping saga, but the recriminations have been just as severe.

Since the fakery was exposed two NINE journalists (Melissa Mallet, Cameron Price) and a producer have been given their marching orders and seasoned news director Lee Anderson has resigned in protest over the sackings.

So what exactly went down? It goes a little something like this:

It was a wet and windy night in Brisbane on Sunday August 2 and the NINE news chopper was grounded on the network’s helipad by air traffic control.

The search for the body of Daniel Morcombe was big news in Queensland and the obvious lead story of the day. In TV newsland this kind of news necessitates a live cross, as throwing to a reporter who is “on the scene” lends an added layer of credibility to the report.

With this in mind it’s easy to see, with the 6pm deadline looming, how the fudged cross could have happened.

Viewers were none the wiser that Cameron Price was in fact sitting in the grounded chopper at Mt Coot-tha, despite apparently hovering somewhere “near Beerwah”.

The next day the secret was revealed. Seven News footage showed the NINE chopper on the helipad at the time of the cross and the network was forced into the usual motions: apologies were issued, investigations were launched.

But the real kicker came the following day, Tuesday August 23, when it was revealed that NINE had also faked another live cross just a day earlier.

On Saturday August 20 the NINE news anchor threw to Journalist Melissa Mallet apparently again “Near Beerwah” for an update on the Daniel Morcombe Story.

Unfortunately for NINE Airservices Australia flight tracker data showed the helicopter again nowhere near Beerwah at the time of the cross.

The chopper orbited NINE HQ at Mt Coot-tha for about ten minutes, then hovered above nearby Chapel Hill before landing again.

Commentators mourned the death of honest journalism, NINE was blasted from all sides and the embarrassed network was forced to fire some of those involved as damage control.

So what have we learned?

It’s obvious the journalists involved may have had no choice in the faked crosses and it’s sad to see promising careers ruined by some very poor judgment somewhere in the chain of command at NINE.

In the increasingly cutthroat, budget driven media landscape it’s not surprising that fakeries of this kind occur. Expect to see more as newsroom budgets in Australia continue to contract.

But despite all this, the biggest lesson for NINE must be that duping its audience for the sake of cheap showmanship is never, ever a good idea.

The level of public backlash to the faked crosses is proof positive that in 2011 people still value, and expect, truth and accuracy in news – a fact all media outlets would do well to heed.

Image Source:  www.couriermail.com.au

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Adding value to your brand through Facebook

Just this month Commonwealth Bank became one of the first Australian banks to start using location-based marketing through Facebook giving away a year’s worth of free movie tickets to anyone who opened an account with the bank after “checking in”. The offer was available to the first 2,200 customers and expired within weeks.

Gone are the days of broadcasting through Facebook – raving about new products, pushing news stories. Just as our friends don’t care when we boast, we’ve come to realise our Facebook fans don’t either.

Facebook has developed into an important communication tool for businesses and the better we understand its fundaments the better we can utilise it.

The opportunity Facebook presents to connect with our customers is enormous. With just the click of a button we can engage a new audience and interact with existing customers in new and exciting ways.

But with the amount of posts generated each day we need to produce engaging content to be noticed. We need to use Facebook as added value to have consumers create a connection with the brand – customers won’t react if we don’t excite them. We need to be fun, creative and respond to their needs.

Here are some things that show you’re doing it right:

Content is key. Build a resource, be creative

Think about what your customers are interesting in. We should be offering our customers something extra that they can’t get elsewhere.

Creating a resource is a great way for customers to engage with our brands – providing information and tips on how to use our products and services, for example. Understanding that small business owners buy computers Dell created a social media resource so small business owners interested in social media keep Dell top of mind.

Give fans teasers in the lead up to a product launch, exclusive information or a sneak peek. We’re not all good writers so be fun and creative. Use engaging materials like video blogs, photos and interesting links. Offer contests and coupons exclusively to Facebook users.

Two-way communication

Invoke responses by asking questions (questions at the end of posts are likely to generate a better response). Utilise the opportunity to listen and interact with customers. Listen and learn about your product, how customers use it and how it’s perceived.

Try to respond to all customer questions and comments and facilitate conversation but remember you can’t change what they think. We only have to go back a year to Nestlé’s palm oil social media debacle to see why.


Source: http://socialmediainfluence.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/jpg-Nestle-Facebook.jpg

Fun and casual tone to match the medium

Keep messages clear and concise – shorter posts have a higher engagement rate. Words like “winner”, “win”, “event”, “special”, and “offer” will resonate well if running a promotion. Requests to “like”, “post”, “comment”, or “tell” us something improve our chances of engagement.

Snapshot of the best

Coca-cola  runs innovative promotions and fun, interactive features and has been great at encouraging its 33+ million fans to leave comments, photos and videos on its page.

When a non-fan lands on Red Bull’s page, they’re encouraged to “Like” it with an attention-grabbing image straight away. The team behind the page is extremely in tune with Red Bull’s target audience and creates custom apps and unique content.

Competitions and games are a great way to engage fans and Skittles does this well.  “Fame the Rainbow”, which puts a fans face as the profile pic for a week, does this well and is consistent with the brand. 

Creating a Facebook fan page for your business is simple, but getting it well established with customers takes time and planning. You can’t expect to have a huge following overnight. Content is key – be creative and interesting and make it easy to share or participate in.

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Media storm of the month – June 2011

One of the previous month’s biggest stories has been a tragic one – the murder of a Gold Coast police officer Damian Leeding. Shot in the head late in the evening on Sunday May 29, his family then had to make the heartbreaking decision to turn off his life support machine.

The media coverage of the murder and subsequent funeral was extensive with all mainstream print and broadcast media covering the initial reports, the following progress of the officer and then his state funeral on the Gold Coast, attended by thousands.

The sheer scale of the response was huge. The power of the media was used for good as all the major TV stations were asking the public to donate to the Damian Leeding Remembrance Fund for his young family left behind – more than $150,000 has been raised so far, a huge amount for what might have been a small local charitable fund.

Damian had one of the biggest state funerals ever with the public moved to show their support. The event was broadcast live and online and was a topic of much interest on the social networking site Twitter. The Catholic Leader printed the homily delivered at the funeral.

And other brands got in on the act to help out – the police officer’s young son even got to meet the Queensland State of Origin team.

The murder itself exposed issues of police protection – a new taskforce was announced following Damian’s death. There has been a spate of violent crime in the Gold Coast so far in 2011, predominantly linked to drugs and biker gangs. In fact, Damian’s boss was himself injured following a drug raid just weeks after his death.

Trying to make some sense of the increase in crime, the Queensland Police Union has linked it to the global financial crisis.

But as well as the heartbreak for Damian’s family and the tragic loss for his police colleagues, the media storm surrounding the current crime spree on the Gold Coast has further negative implications.

Local politicians have claimed it’s having an effect on education with foreign students cancelling their courses after seeing the recent stories in the news.

The evaluating committee for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, for which the Gold Coast is a contender, have had to make a statement saying that the crimes won’t affect Gold Coast’s chances of hosting, but it’s hard to see how it won’t.

And there are some indications that tourists are cancelling trips. The new CEO of Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd has even said that selling his destination as a safe place to holiday could help them attract the tourists now not visiting the Gold Coast.

If we want to help the Gold Coast now to try and stop these crimes happening we shouldn’t be deserting the area in its hour of need but keep visiting in our droves to keep the tourism and surrounding industry buoyant so that people can have gainful employment and less need for the drugs as a result of despair. It’s a simplistic viewpoint, but something worth considering. The media are doing their job in reporting the facts, but it would be good if they can help with the recovery as well.

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What is crowdsourcing?

An interesting infographic from oBizMedia.com giving a visual representation of crowdsourcing.

A talk at the recent Ideas Festival 2011 at the State Library of Queensland talked about ‘Crowdsourcing: how do you engage those on the edge?’. It was an interesting look at the history of crowdsourcing and how to unlock its potential. It was presented by Tom Hulme from OpenIDEO, which also ran a workshop to actively demonstrate the power of crowdsourcing.

How can you get others involved in your business challenges? And how can you incorporate the techniques used to encourage innovation within your own ranks?

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Media Storm of the Month – May 2011

By the time you read this, the media phenomenon that is ‘planking’ will have gone the way of Y2K, Napster and Rebecca Black – relegated to the scrapheap of dull irrelevant news from yesteryear.

But if you can cast your mind right back to the beginning of the month, you might recall the social media driven pastime was hitting the news in a big way, especially after the tragic death of an intoxicated Brisbane planker.

Fairfax papers had plenty to say after the incident:

It was a harmless craze just four days ago. Kerri-Anne Kennerley opened her television talk show lying balanced, face-down, on the back of a couch. Karl Stefanovic was lying flat on the Today show desk in front of the cameras.

But early yesterday morning, the ”planking” fad sweeping social networking sites proved fatal. Acton Beale, 20, was positioning himself on a balcony railing seven storeys up in Brisbane when he lost his footing and plunged to his death in the car park below.

Calls to ban the fad came thick and fast. News Limited described the phenomenon as “spreading like a virus around the world” and conservative commentators derided the youth of today and called for reinstated compulsory national service to give Gen Y something constructive to do.

So what gave the planking craze such strong media kudos? Sure 130,000 odd people ‘liked’ the Planking Australia page on Facebook. So what? More than four million people ‘like’ the page for chocolate chip cookies, but you don’t see Karl gorging himself on biscuits on Today, nor do we hear about the “cookie eating plague sweeping the globe”.

The answer comes down to a couple of simple journalistic rules known as news values.

The idea goes that any potential news item can be assessed for newsworthiness based on six or seven key criteria.

These are often defined as impact, timeliness, prominence, proximity, bizarreness, conflict and currency, or some combination of these.

Unfortunately for all of us, planking ticks a couple of these boxes with a big red felt pen.

First is impact. The story ‘grew legs and ran’ after the first death associated with the craze. This was made doubly appetising for media due to two extra factors.

1)      The man who died was a young person, i.e. under 30, and;

2)      The man who died was under the influence of alcohol at the time (Australia’s binge drinking culture is another hot media topic).

This brings us to the second key media value that planking satisfies perfectly: currency.

The rapid rise of social media has sparked an insatiable news appetite for the phenomenon. This means stories that might be insignificant on their own, for example bullying, infidelity or petty crimes, are given extra exposure whenever the issue is linked to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t believe me? Consider how often you hear media reports concerning cyber-bullying compared with plain old garden variety harassment.

News values drive all news coverage and this often leads to criticism of media for ‘sexing up’ some trends far beyond what is warranted, while completely ignoring others which don’t fit the necessary criteria.

So, if you found yourself drowning in the sea of planking stories in May, hopefully now you understand a little more about why.