Hello Digital 2010 – Alex Hunter steals the show by Simon Partington

a lightning bolt momentFor those who’ve ever wondered what a lightning bolt moment feels like, I can lay testament to having one at this year’s Hello Digital conference.

It came in the middle of a seminar from Alex Hunter, head of digital at Virgin Global.  He spoke passionately on a subject that rarely gets addressed in such a literal way – social media (check out Alex’s blog here). For those that couldn’t make his session, I’ve put a few of his top line thoughts below.  Brands lacking in self awareness and using social media, read on …


  • “The social web isn’t about connecting brands with people, it’s about connecting people with people.”
  • “Why is Steve Jobs so intrinsically linked to Apple in our minds? Because he cares enough about the brand to stick his personal reputation on it.”
  • “Screw consistency (in social media).  If we’re all moving in the same direction, the consistency will come out.”
  • “The brands that are winning (on social media), are the ones keeping it real by being true to what they believe in online.”

These thoughts are interesting, particularly number two.  In the PR industry, we strive to find brand advocates within a business that truly care – not just on the social media front, but across communications in general.  Finding enlightened individuals to speak up on behalf of a business adds more weight to their offering – in short, it’s better to have substance before showmanship.

Cases rarely come as perfect as the likes of Apple or Digg (the online social bookmarking service). In the real world, harnessing the power of a corporate brand through an individual takes guts. It’s something that, if communicated correctly, can give true meaning to a corporate entity.  We’ve all heard the adage that ‘people buy from people’, but in the case of social media, it really rings true.

The second point that opened my eyes was the one about consistency, or the need for a less rigid approach to it.  In PR, we talk a lot about consistency.  An awful lot.  In reality, if we’re having to plumb consistency into a brand before it ventures out into the social world, then in many cases, it will come across as lacking in credibility.  Bad for you. Bad for the client.  Just generally bad.

For communications online to come across as credible, it needs a balanced approach – a loose set of guidelines is fine, but for people to have proper conversations, they need to have a personality.  Just remember Groove Armada’s track from the 90s – ‘if everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other’.

It all comes back to the ‘Steve Jobs model’ – throw your weight behind a brand and people might just love you for it.  Fake it, and risk being found out!


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