Facebook forces HSBC climb down

For a while now we have been advising clients about the power of Facebook and need to engage in conversations where their company is directly or even directly involved. Be Open, Be Honest is our motto.
So it was interesting to see that banking giant HSBC has been forced to back down on student overdraft fees after a campaign on Facebook orchestrated by the National Union of Students. More than 5,000 students got the bank to reverse its decision to stop free overdrafts for graduates after joining Facebook's Stop the Great HSBC Rip-Off!!! group.
The U-turn comes at a time of year when HSBC is trying to sign up potentially lucrative students. The bank said yesterday that it was not "too big" to listen to its customers – good on them.
According to a report in today’s Telegraphy Andy Ripley, HSBC's head of product development, said: "Like any service-orientated business we are not too big to listen to our customers. Following the feedback from our graduate account holders, both directly and via the National Union of Students [NUS], we have taken the decision to freeze interest charging on 2007 graduates' overdrafts up to £1,500 and refund any interest charged in August."
The NUS set up the protest site because it felt HSBC had reneged on the banking deal offered to students. It gave them accounts on the basis that they could have an interest-free overdraft of up to £1,500 for three years, reducing the facility by £500 a year.
But last month it informed customers that it would be charging this year's graduates for those overdrafts unless they paid a £9.95 monthly fee.
The move would have cost a graduate who had the maximum overdraft of £1,500 nearly £12 a month, or more than £142 a year.
Now according to a NUS statement on Facebook: “HSBC have contacted NUS to discuss this campaign. Following our discussions and negotiations, HSBC have decided to freeze interest on 2007 graduate overdrafts up to £1,500, with future policy subject to review. All those recent graduates who have been subject to additional interest charges this August will be eligible for a refund.
"Following this development, we will suspend the planned action on 4 September at HSBC HQ. We will send out a further communication later today."
The joint NUS/HSBC press release here.
"NUS would like to thank you all for your involvement in this campaign. The commitment, time and energy shown by the members of this group has precipitated real change. Despite all those who suggested that our concerns would not be listened to, our voice has been heard. HSBC have agreed to continue a dialogue with NUS, and we remain committed to expressing the concerns of students and graduates in our future correspondence.
“We recommend that all those HSBC customers who are affected get in touch with their local branches to discuss this matter in further detail.”
Who says social media doesn’t work? And who would still argue that companies should ignore it? Answers please.

Make Stupidity History

A one man effort to stem what he sees as the growing tide of stupid thinking in the world is being launched by our creativity expert Andy Green, in an ambitious week-long 14 venue tour across the UK from September 3.
Called Challenge Your thinking - 5½ ways to overcome stupidity by thinking more flexibly and creatively, the tour features a 35 minute, fun yet practical lecture sharing key techniques and tools to highlight how you are never more than 12ft from an opportunity.
The tour will visit Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Nottingham, Cambridge, Norwich, London, Reading, Southampton, Bristol and Cardiff and will also seek to raise funds for leading children’s and young people’s charity Barnardo's. Ticket prices will be just £25.
Andy says: “Every day we see examples of stupid thinking as individuals respond to the increasing complexity of the world around them coupled with the faster pace of life by doing the first thing that comes to mind, or what might appear superficially easy. As a result they often fall into a trap of producing stupid decisions.”
Andy is a world-leading expert on the subject of flexible thinking, creativity and opportunity spotting. Andy is author of Creativity in Public Relations the world’s first book on the subject, Effective Personal Communications Skills and A Minute with Tony Blair after a chance encounter with the former Prime Minister.
He is a partner at my company GREEN Communications and specialist flexible thinking skills consultancy creativity@work, and is also the driving force behind the Wakefield Media Centre which is Britain’s only moo-ing building and home to a community of creative businesses.
He works with blue chip organisations around the world to facilitate creativity and brainstorm sessions, and deliver training to enable his clients to achieve more with less.


Bloggers of the world unite

News just in about an international initiative of bloggers known as "Blog Action Day", with the aim of uniting thousands of blogging voices, talking about one issue for one day.
This year on Blog Action Day, October 15, 2007, bloggers will be discussing the environment. Major blogs have signed up to participate, including Lifehacker, Dumb Little Man,, Get Rich Slowly, Web Worker Daily, GigaOm, The Simple Dollar, Zen Habits, Freelance Switch, LifeClever, Unclutterer, Pronet Advertising, Wise Bread and many more. I’ve just added mine.
According to Collis Ta'eed, an Australian blogger from, and a co-founder of Blog Action Day: "For just one day, we'd like to unite as many of the millions of bloggers around the world and speak about one issue - the environment."
"We want to display the potential and the power of the blogging community, which is a disparate community but one with an amazing size, breadth and diversity. By bringing everyone together for one day, we can see just how much can be achieved, and how much we can be heard."
Blog Action Day is a non-profit initiative, and will be an annual event. As an alternative to blogging about the environment on Blog Action Day, bloggers can opt to participate by donating their blog's proceeds from October 15 to one of several environmental organizations chosen for this purpose: Greenpeace International, The Nature Conservancy, and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).


Making money from blogging

There was a conversation on Twitter recently, started, I think, by Mike Butcher. He asked the question: Who is making money from blogging in the UK?
It’s an interesting question, as the implicit assumption is that bloggers are making money by blogging, ie being paid to write, whether it by sponsors, advertisers etc. Or are they making money through their blog.
Well I certainly don’t make a bean from mine – I don’t even have AdScense on this blog – but I know plenty who do. The obvious ones are Mike Arrington’s TechCrunch in the US, but Sam Sethi is now carrying ads on Blog Nation.
Even The World’s Leading is hosting adverts on his(?) dedicated Tech PR blog – a good niche player who should be able to make a bob or two.
But the real money is to be made using blogs to boost your business. For instance English Cut and Des Merrion both earn a healthy living as bespoke tailors by offering their services via their blogs.
Meanwhile, companies like Innocent are making a mint by using their blogs to get close to the customers. At Wensleydaleblog, which we developed at GREEN Communications, we receive requests for product from across the globe and we are increasingly talking to clients how they can best generate a conversation about their business and, by extension, create some extra income.
A lot of small niche players are also benefiting from blogging too. I went to Otley Farmers Market recently and many of the stalls manned by local farmers, bakers, butchers, cheese makers etc – where using blogs to pimp their business and good luck to them.
Like the long tail – blogging levels the playing field and can, if done properly, let the little man or woman make a living.

TFG PowerPR List 2007

GREENblog has been named in The Friendly Ghost PowerPR Index for August 2007 – which is nice.
The Friendly Ghost has been compiling the PowerPR list for some time now and while I am dubious about the rankings – based as they are, by necessity, on the usual metrics thrown up by Technorati et al – I think it is pretty bang on as most of the PR bloggers I read are here.
The list is generated by Easy Bee Software and TFG will continue refine the list over time. TFG offers many interesting points but its best if you check him(?) out here.
It has always been my contention, however, that the blog ranks – while they are good fun (we all love list journalism) – perhaps don’t capture the quality of the bloggers, their intellectual rigor, journalistic nouse and good sense.
And I suspect that will only be achieved by some sort of qualitative poll. Meanwhile, social media has been so skewed by new tools like Twitter, Facebook, Pownce et al that it is getting harder to discover where real influence comes from. For instance Hugh MacLeod and Steven Rubel seem to spend most of their time on Twitter and others have all but given up on their blogs.
Interestingly GreenGathering doesn’t feature at all – in spite of the fact that I do shamelessly re-cycle some content from GREENblog. Perhaps that’s why! What is encouraging is that the ranking is not based on the shameless pimping of blogs by getting as many people as possible to link to a particular blog regardless of the content.
Anyway good luck to TFG and thanks for taking the time to create The Friendly Ghost PowerPR Index.


Where do the over-50s go to network?

Over at GREEN on behalf of a client we are looking at how we can use social networks to bring together men in the over-50s demographic and to be honest we are struggling.
The obvious starting place was Facebook and I’ve even asked the question on my Facebook account on where to find the over-50 users. But the answers so far have been of little help.
Clearly there are Baby Boomers on Facebook – thank you Neville for your observations – but they are very difficult to access as you can’t search Facebook by age, at least not so far as I can see.
There are some dedicated Boomer social networks like Eons – but they are largely US-centric. Saga has a social network in the UK but it is a bit clunky and when you look into it appears to be a dating agency for wrinklies.
I can’t find anywhere where there is a serious debate addressing the issues surrounding men’s health – possibly because men don’t like discussing their health. However, it does seem to me there is a gap in the market here – particularly in the UK.
Any thoughts and advice are welcome.


Coffee, cake and conversation

The OpenCoffee gig returns to Leeds next week – anyone is invited (just turn up) to talk about emerging technologies, social media, marketing – you name it and all over a nice cup of coffee too.
Imran Ali has done sterling work to organize this and the third event is on Tuesday, August 7 at 10.00am at Justin Whiston's Loftart gallery space just off Vicar Lane.
Everyone at OpenCoffee would love to share some interesting developments on co-working spaces for Leeds, the progress of BarCamp, participation in Seedcamp and the exciting new dot.north community. Ali and his mates (they are legion) want to make the North of England an essential hub for the web industry and we want you all to help make it happen.
Please come along and join us for free wifi, coffee and cakes...geeks, coders, bloggers, investors, entrepreneurs, designers, developers and anyone with a passing interest in digital.
Head on over to the event listing at Upcoming and let us know you're coming...see you on Tuesday, August 7.

Is SMNR the new PR?

For a while now over at GREEN we have been experimenting with out own social media news releases (SMNR) – which have been refined over a period of time to take in comments, Flickr, Digg, Technorati,, You Tube and other rich content. It’s a rather laborious process but very compelling once we get them out there.
Most recently we have been using the services of the excellent Stephen Davies and his new company webitpr to pump out some SMNR on behalf of a techie client and the team have been pleasantly surprised by the results.

Stephen has now issued five SMNRs and has some views on the latest shtick. Here they are in precise:

Not everyone links, not everyone references
I guess, in hindsight, I’m stating the obvious but just because you think you’ve got an uber cool, bleeding edge news release it doesn’t mean bloggers do too.

People are comment shy

Well, they are on the SMNR that’s for sure. As of yet, no one’s left a comment on any of the five we’ve done.

A SMNR is not for all news
Again, stating the obvious but it is interesting to see which SMNRs pick up more traction than others.

PR people get the concept
I really don’t want to sound like we’ve been trying to teach our granny to suck eggs but the people we’ve spoke with get the SMNR concept straight away. (Yes we did – Ian)

The provision of multimedia is an issue
A few people we have spoke with say that collecting multimedia (mainly audio and video) is a problem.

For Stephen’s more considered view check out his thought here.