Sunday, 19 January 2014

Lib Dem Lords come on Board - Rennard needs to apologise

Despite the decision to allow Lord (Chris) Rennard to rejoin the Liberal Democrat benches, several Lib Dem peers have now spoken out supporting Nick Clegg’s request for an apology before Lord Rennard is allowed to rejoin the Lib Dem team in the Lords.
The list of peers to make supportive statements in public or to Lib Dem members that have contacted them is influential and as follows:


Rock the Boat has spoken to others inside the House of Lords and there are more peers who share their concerns but do not wish to be publicly named.

The peers who sit with Lord Rennard all know him well and in many cases they have known him for several decades. The decision for them to publicly call for an apology cannot have been an easy one and Rock the Boat welcomes their courage and their leadership at this very difficult time for the party.

A spokesperson for Rock the Boat said: “It is a huge relief for ordinary Liberal Democrat members to see the Lords’ team responding to the concerns raised by the grassroots membership. This is a painful time for all Liberal Democrats, and publicly asking a long-term friend and colleague for this apology cannot have been easy.”


Contacts - Grace Goodlad - member of Rock the Boat Steering Group - 07957 464743


Rock the boat is a collective of over 400 Liberal Democrats who are campaigning to end the culture where sexual harassment is commonplace in politics.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Looking for me?

This blog is hardly ever updated these days.

So if you're looking for me - here's a guide.

Digital campaigning
I work at Blue State Digital.

Our London blog is here.
Our twitter feed is here.
My work twitter feed is here.
My LinkedIn profile is here.

My personal digital blog is here.

Liberal Democrat - from when I was a GLA candidate - occasionally updated.
Facebook page

Best to find me on Facebook. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

How can you make your events successful?

How can you get people to attend your events, and to stay involved as part of an all year round community?

That's what I tackled this week in a presentation I gave at Internet Week Europe:

I’m here today to talk about how you can turn engaging events into longer term communities based on experiences that you have told me that you want to hear about.

So what I’m not going to tell you to do today is to create a great event - I’m working on the assumption that you’re going to try and do that anyway. You told me that you were trying to do that anyway.

And when I wondered around asking people before this session what they wanted, you told me that you weren’t sure how to turn an event into a community.

So I’m going to try and show how behavioural economics and digital intersect - and what this means for creating a successful event. And the key insight of behavioural economics is that simple small changes can sometimes make huge changes to outcomes.

So here are five areas for discussion about how you can make your event into a community.

Firstly make it incredibly easy to participate. People are getting used to online interfaces which require almost no effort to use. Think of Amazon’s Buy-now-with1click service. Rory Sutherland points out that reducing the number of clicks required to buy a product from 4 to 3 can add 40% to your sales. And Amazon reckon that every 100ms of additional load time for a page reduces their sales by 1%.

Yet most online event services make it unnecessarily difficult to actually register. And often we make it easy to turn up for an event, but don’t capture people’s data and recruit them into our community.

A common mistake is to not take mobile seriously enough. People with smartphones, which is most people who will come to your events, read email heavily on them. And they love crossing things off their to do list - so if you can make it very easy to register on mobile, then many more of them will, and they will sign up to stay involved in the community afterwards.

Secondly use peer pressure. There is vast evidence of the power of peer pressure. And in Facebook, Twitter and other social networks we have built in peer pressure. If you visit an event page and see that a friend is attending, then you are much more likely to attend.

Equally post event the participation of your friends and peers will keep you participating in the community.

At a minimum you should never organise an event without a Like button on the event page.

The easiest way to build peer pressure is to contact a bunch of peers - and try to build momentum among them. So don’t just email your list and update your Facebook page. Also create a feedback loop by actively encouraging your attendees to invite their friends.

Equally during and after the event if you profile a wide series of attendees, even with simple mechanics like vox pops, then you’ll strengthen the peer effect.

Thirdly get people to commit. Ticketing agencies are great at getting people to book with early bird discounts - knowing that they will pay up front, even though many won’t turn up.

You can do this without getting people to pay. So give people exclusive access to something if they book early.

People hate missing out - the idea of all of your friends or peers having a good time without you is horrible.

So set a very low bar for tickets, tell people when the Gold tier is about to sell out. And then when it’s sold out, create the same shortage with a silver tier, bronze tier and so on until you reach the event.

You can use this to build a longer term community, for instance by getting early registrations to input on event content, as well as starting to build your community from earlier. Since time is one of the crucial ingredients to build a community then extending community building to before an event is a good way to strengthen your community.

Fourthly create your own media gathering operation for your event.

My friend and colleague Ryan Davis ran the social media for the X Factor auditions in the USA recently, which was phenomenally successful at creating buzz round the event.

The key to this was having a content gathering team - a couple of young guys who went around photographing and filming wacky contestants, and bringing them back to Ryan, who edited the highlights, tweeted them and interacted with the contestants.

Not rocket science - but there’s an underlying truth here about events. Which is that if you are at event, then you always have a nagging fear that something exciting is happening just round the corner. But if you’re normal height then you can’t see beyond the closest few people to you. And if there’s somebody incredibly high profile, like Mark Zuckerberg speaking, then you’re probably watching them.

But most of the time there are lots of potentially interesting people there - but you don’t know who they are, where they are or what they’re saying. So social media has a huge ability to act as your radar.

Now it’s often assumed that this will happen spontaneously. Actually only a small proportion of people will be creating content at any one time, it’s not necessarily covering the full range of stuff going on or promoting your agenda. So you can easily boost this at low cost. Get some journalism students to work for you for the day for instance.

Again what creates a great event also strengthens the longer term community, by making it a better event, by creating content that people will return to and my making a wider range of event heroes.

Finally understand why people come to events.

And this is an interesting question to ask in Internet Week.

Why, in fact, are Internet Week events face to face?

Well it turns out that we quite like meeting other people. In fact the main point of these events is to meet other people - presentations like mine are really just an excuse to mingle over coffee.

So the most valuable things you can do are to make it easy for people to find each other and to create and maintain links to each other.

The simplest, and one of the best, examples of this I know is the E-Campaigning Forum conference that happens annually in Oxford. A couple of hundred NGO campaigners come together and then stay together over the year through an email list.

So my challenge to everyone here is to create something for their conference that replicates our two most successful professional social networking apps.

LinkedIn has overcome our British aversion to becoming friends with people we don’t know.

And Grindr has been phenomenally successful at adding location and real time to internet dating.

If you combine the two, which is reasonably easy to do, then you have a locational app which allows you to find people at an event, connect with them after the event and share content while at the event. There are already numerous apps that do this, like Gruppio.

Or if you want to do something simpler, simply create lots of content during the event and email it to people afterwards.

So my final question for everyone here is who has already done this and how has it worked?

Monday, 26 September 2011

I've got a new job

I'm extremely pleased to announce that I'll be Managing Director of Blue State Digital in London, starting on 12th October.

Here's the press release announcing it:

Blue State Digital London Appoints Rob Blackie as Managing Director

London – Blue State Digital, Inc. (BSD) has appointed Rob Blackie as Managing Director of their London office. In his new role, Blackie will be providing leadership to the agency’s growing UK-based operations and assume responsibility for BSD’s continued expansion in the European markets.

Blue State Digital, which was acquired by WPP Digital in 2010, is known best for its work on U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Founded in 2004, the firm has achieved strong growth by successfully applying digital organising and advocacy strategies to the commercial, NGO and public sectors.

BSD’s client roster includes American Express, Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, Recylebank, and dozens of the world’s leading non-profits including the Red Cross, United Way Worldwide, and the Sundance Institute. The firm also works with political candidates and parties around the world.

Commenting on his appointment, Rob Blackie said:

“BSD-London does brilliant work with clients like the Tate, Hope Not Hate and the music matters campaign for the BPI, among many others. There’s great potential for BSD to gain recognition for this work, and to grow our client base across non-profits, government and corporates.”

Blackie comes to BSD from Blue Rubicon, which he joined in 2005 with a background in traditional media relations, and was Blue Rubicon’s founding Head of Digital from 2007.

Blue Rubicon’s digital work now covers almost all client accounts, from Facebook’s multi-award winning Democracy UK campaign to McDonald’s. Under Blackie’s guidance, Blue Rubicon was shortlisted for 13 digital awards in the past year alone.

BSD Managing Partner Thomas Gensemer said:

“Rob will be an incredible asset for Blue State Digital. We’ve seen his proven ability to introduce online communications for a broad spectrum of clients, and we’re excited to bring his knowledge, and tremendous business intuition into the fold. We know his experience will be instrumental in BSD’s continued success in Europe.”

About Rob Blackie 
Prior to joining BSD, Rob Blackie was Head of Digital at Blue Rubicon. He has a background in traditional media relations and has headed Blue Rubicon’s digital team since its formation in 2007. He advised a wide range of corporate and public clients—from large-scale government campaigns to Facebook and McDonald's —on integrating online and offline communications. Prior to joining Blue Rubicon, Rob played a large role in advising the central government Directors of Communications on the integration of digital into press office communications, and trained more than 500 government communicators on how best to implement these practices.

About Blue State Digital

Blue State Digital (BSD) is a full-service agency that provides integrated digital marketing strategy as well as a Web-based licensed software platform to help organizations drive concrete results by building communities online. BSD provides clients with a variety of strategic services, including program development and management, mass email strategy and execution, website design, content development, video and motion graphics, offline PR and social media outreach, analytics and online advertising. In addition, the BSD Online Tools, the company’s licensed software toolset, offers organizations of any size a core CRM/CMS technology platform for community-building and other advocacy initiatives. BSD has offices in New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Boston and London.

BSD is part of the WPP plc, one of the world's largest communications services organizations (NASDAQ: WPPGY, For more information, and

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Help. I've become a swear word

I have a slightly unusual surname. Not wildly so, but Blackie isn't like Smith. Our numbers are in the thousands though.

And like everyone else I occasionally have my emails go into people's junk mail folders.

Well I'm mildly distressed to see that my name is considered a profanity by a leading provider of online moderation tools.

This means that if I comment on Facebook pages or some websites and mention my surname then I'll be automatically put into a moderation queue, and disappear from websites. And it might explain some of my emails disappearing.

This feels like the first step on the slippery slope to being airbrushed out of history.

Still as my colleague Karin Robinson points out, Olympic gold medal gymnast Mitch Gaylord must have it much worse.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

August round up - Facebook, QR codes and more

Here are a few great little articles that we’ve seen recently that you might find interesting.

A guide to the Facebook Edgerank algorithm

The Edgerank algorithm is used by Facebook to decide which content to display in your news feed and when you search for content. It, for instance, shows me Diet Coke rather than Coke when I search for Coke on Facebook, because more of my friends are fans of Diet Coke than Coke.

This guide is the best explanation of Edgerank I’ve seen.

How connected are you?

We’re proud of this app we produced for Western Union, that shows you how globally connected you are compared to your friends. I’m currently ranked 138,084th out of 225,000 app users.

What does mobile mean for marketing?

Rory Sutherland’s talk at Google’s Think Mobile conference is characteristically entertaining and insightful on how mobile’s ability to provide contextual relevance can be influential for marketers

Misuse of QR codes by Crowne Plaza

Crowne Plaza’s recent advertising campaign that uses QR codes is nicely analysed here, explaining why a much simpler mechanic would probably have been successful.

When online PR goes wrong

This write up of a PR paid blogger trip to Magaluf is a great example of how badly executed blogger relations can go horribly wrong. [Warning – not for the faint hearted].

Friday, 26 August 2011

Google Plus round up

A lot has been written about Google Plus. While I’m a fan of its functionality, I’m not convinced that it’s taking off in the UK. With a relatively digital set of friends and colleagues I’ve only seen one update in my G+ stream in the last few days.

Here are two views that are worth reading:

  • ‘What Google Plus is really about’ – a view that it’s mainly about moving paid services to the cloud
  • Is social in Google’s DNA’ – a comparison of Google’s algorithmic approach to Facebook’s more behavioural approach to relevance by Tom Anderson, the founder of MySpace