Blogging for business: Top Ten Tips

blogWe manage a number of blogs on behalf of many clients. Indeed, for some clients we manage all their social media communications from micro-sites, to blogs, to Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.
Too often though many companies fail to understand the purpose of a blog and how it is different from their corporate website. Many company blogs are just bland reproductions of the existing website. There is often no personality on display just a grey suit which uses and officious tone announcing the play-by-play updates of company news that invites no interaction with the reader… which is probably the customer or supplier.
With this in mind we’ve been thinking about what makes a good corporate blog. So, inevitably, here are our top ten tips for successful corporate blogs.

Set Your Guidelines
When creating a blog you must be able to define the value that it’s bringing to the reader. Your need to clearly define the focused theme that your team will follow. Choose a blog name and theme that fits well with your company’s expertise, but don’t be afraid to branch out into a larger space. Your blog should provide pertinent information for consumers interested in your area of business.
Once you’ve chosen an area to cover, create a set of editorial guidelines that your bloggers can follow. At GREEN we produce a number of guidelines on social media for a wide range of clients which clearly states the objectives of the blogs and the do’s and don’ts. This stops any abuse and helps the company avoid any potential controversy.
For instance at LINPAC Packaging they blog about, well, packaging and plastics. And not just about what they are doing internally on a new product release but offering some though leadership on the debate raging around packaging. The theme is specific enough for readers to understand what they may find, but it is such a broad topic, that almost limitless posts are possible.

Choose a Blogging Team
Not everyone can write – at least not in a manner that draws in the reader. More crucially, not everyone wants to write and many positively avoid it. So choose individuals that are knowledgeable and comfortable writing about the areas you would like to cover. Some companies prefer to elect an editor or group of editors to have a final look at all blog posts, while other companies allow their bloggers to publish directly. We prefer the later – if the guidelines are clear you should trust the people your working with.

Dress Down
If your website is the suited and booted face of your company, then your blog is your Dress Down Friday look. A blog is a place to let down your corporate hair and get to know your customers. Think of it as a conversation between people, not between a brand and one person. In order to have a conversation, you need two people — a blogger and a reader.
Give your corporate bloggers the freedom to be themselves. Encourage them to have their own personalities and writing styles. This type of diversity is more representative of your company than any monotonous tone that you could manufacture on your own.

Avoid PR and Marketing
Might seem like strange advice coming from a company that specialises in public relations and marketing but the insight, knowledge and expertise that a blog can impart is far more useful than any PR pitch that you could post. Stay away from trying to selling and marketing – you can do that on your website or in deadwood media publications.

Take it on the chin
Many organizations run scared off social media in the belief that some people (and their will be some people) will just use it as an opportunity to say bad things about you. But they would probably be mean about your anyway with its through social media or in a pub conversation.
Accept that you will have detractors but make a point of welcoming criticism and using it as an opportunity for providing feedback and improvement.

Outline Your Comment Policy
Open up your blog for full feedback, you will get a variety of comments – postivie, complimentary, hateful, and spam. Be prepared for everything and create a comment policy that your team can follow. GREEN’s comment policy is set out below:
Commenting on Greenblog
It is our policy to review all comments before publishing them, partly to reduce the possibility of spam comments and partly to ensure comments are in line with our list of blogger ethics below:

  • We will tell the truth. We will acknowledge and correct any mistakes promptly.
  • We will not delete comments unless they are spam, off-topic, or defamatory.
  • We will reply to comments when appropriate as promptly as possible.
  • We will link to online references and original source materials directly.
  • We will disagree with other opinions respectfully.

 

Get Social
Use share tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg.  Share tools allow your users to pass along your content and that’s a great way of creating brand ambassadors. We use a simple addthis button to make sharing easier.
Also, integrate you blog into other social media platroms by creating profiles across social networks that your readers and customers are active on. Facebook and Twitter are a good start, and YouTube is a must for video-sharing. When you post on your blog, announce the new post on your social networks and ask for your readers’ opinions on the subject.

Promote Your Blog
Just as you would promote any other company initiative, get the word out about your blog.  Share the URL on your website, social networks, business cards, e-mails, and advertisements.
Without promotion, building an audience can be difficult. Get behind the quality work that your team is putting into the blog and promote away.

Monitor and Feedback
One way to get a pulse on your blog and its effects on the community is to monitor mentions and feedback. Set up Google Alerts for your brand, blog name and any keywords that might be relevant.
At GREEN we use a number of programmes to monitor what our clients are saying online and what is being said about them.

Track Everything
Make sure your web analytics tools are switched on. We generally integrate Google Analytics into any blog we are managing. This tells us how much traffic the blog is receiving, where it’s coming from, where the referral websites are and which posts are being read the most.
Armed with this data we can then tweak future posts to ensure that we are getting the tone and content right.
Are missing anything? Leave a comment and let us know…

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It’s No Smoking Day next week

No Smoking Day is one of the UK’s biggest annual health awareness campaigns. Every year over a million smokers will use No Smoking Day to try to quit.
The campaign is run by the British Heart Foundation, and helps smokers who want to quit by creating a supportive
environment, and by highlighting the many sources of help and advice available. Find out more here…

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International Speak Like a Cockney Day – ‘the fird of the fird’.

heineken cockney ad

Is there a charity that wants to get free national, possibly international publicity, to raise its profile and get people talking about it?
Ideally, it should be a charity which aids speech/language learning difficulties or communications – possibly with a London link.
I am making available absolutely free of charge, with no commercial obligation to me a free powerful meme – which I’m confident will benefit someone, somewhere.
This meme will generate significant buzz, get people talking, with potential to leverage for fund-raising activity.
The criteria for potent memes are to be instantly understandable, create desire to engage with, and crucially pass on to others, while ideally also having potential for news and media buzz.
Are you ready for the meme?
Well it is…
‘International Speak Like a Cockney Day’ – on an ideal date of March 3rd: ‘the fird of the fird’.
Yes, by encouraging people to celebrate the Cockney accent, vernacular and phrases – including rhyming slang, as well as Cockney dancing, and another of my discoveries, the ‘Cockney laugh’ (characterized by laughing at others’ misfortune in a forced, repeated way – think of Alf Garnett) we can help celebrate Cockney and London culture while helping good causes.
Admit it. You can invoke a Michael Caine impression, or rabbit like someone from ‘East Enders’ (Practise on ‘Wellard’s gone missin’), or even the odd bit of rhyming slang.
Just visualize it: radio stations will be hosting phone-ins, Twitter will be alive with Londonisms and ‘geezer talk’, while rhyming slang will abound – you have to be brown bread to miss it. (Oops! Slipping into the theme already!)
You can have sponsored speak like a Cockney, a celebratory Ruby [Murray], or any other London-themed activity.
The idea is not pony, or Brad Pitt, and has great potential to link with a worthwhile cause.
Why March 3rd – have a go yourself, whatever your accent, but now say it with a London voice… If you need any help, here is a legendary Heineken ad to help you.
For me, every day is ‘International Speak Like a Cockney Day’ being born and brung up in Poplar, in London’s East End, before eventually moving to beautiful Barry Island. As someone once observed about me: “You can take Andy out of the East End, but you can’t take the East End out of Andy.”
As a child I was oblivious to the character of how I spoke until one day at school a teacher forcibly brought home to me the reality of my London-flavoured speech.
At class register every morning instead of shouting out your name to indicate you were present, you had to instead call out a number. And guess what my number was? Yes, “firty-free”!
The teacher got me out of in front of the class and hectored, admonished with several futile attempts of “Green! It’s Thhirty-Thhreeee”.
Needless, to say her efforts were wasted, and in hindsight, profoundly wrong in my view, seeking to impose her cultural values on another.
Regardless, I can now larf about it, and now even want to celebrate it.
I’m not Mother Theresa – but if I can do good, I will. So, there is a great meme going begging to be linked to a good cause. Any takers?

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The facts about the Blue Monday meme

It’s Blue Monday on Monday January 20th)  – symbolically the most depressing day of the year.
And it provides a great opportunity to promote greater understanding about mental well-being, positive psychology, or just an excuse to have a good time.
It’s also a wonderful example of experience how memes operate and how we live in a world where we largely operate in what the psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls ‘System 1 thinking’ – driven by emotions, perceptions, and shaping life how we want it.
Parallel to the world of System 1 Thinking is the world of System 2 Thinking, where rules, facts, logic, rationality rule.
Sometimes the two worlds collide and that’s the case of Blue Monday. And maybe people who live in the System 2 world need to understand more about System 1 thinking and memes, so they can have a better understanding of the reality of the world around them.
We now have a fact about Blue Monday: Blue Monday exists because people want it to.
Certainly there is no System 2 data to quantify the mood and state of people’s thinking on the particular day of ‘Blue Monday’. (Defined by the psychologist Cliff Arnall as usually being the third Monday of January.)
We do however have some ‘data’, some evidence, albeit of an informal kind: since 2005 the story of Blue Monday has grown and grown in terms of scale of media coverage and its ability to replicate with ease, with just the tiniest of promptings from yours truly.
This, I would suggest, is offering some evidence of an as yet undefined mass phenomena, a zeitgeist – a mood of a time – perhaps indicating an under-the-surface root cause.
For the last 8 years I have been promoting the third Monday in January as ‘Blue Monday’ – as now symbolically the most depressing day of the year, associating the concept with a call to promote better mental well-being and mental health issues.
Psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2005 originally devised a formula for ‘the most depressing day of the year’ in support of a public relations campaign (which I had nothing to do with).
I responded to the initial story and obtained some great media coverage. Everyone involved in the original story had no plans or use after its original use, but I recognised its meme potential, as a regular annual story.
I then took command of the opportunity, gave it a brand name of ‘Blue Monday and sought to link it with mental well-being and mental health causes and since 2006 have run with it. Note: I don’t own ‘Blue Monday’; if you learn more about memes, you will find, like the concept of brand, they reside in other people’s minds and networks.
I have been doing Blue Monday for no payment – I haven’t wanted or received a bean for my efforts with it. I do it partly as part of an academic interest in memes, using the world as a real-life laboratory, and it has real potential to do social good. I also do because I’m Britain’s oldest teenager.
If you know teenagers there are two ways to motivate them to do things: one is to pay them, the other is to say ‘No’.
And because a network of highly influential scientists who have done the equivalent of saying ‘No’ it has actually spurred me to keep going.
Cliff Arnall with his initial pinpointing of a date, and my later branding the
date ‘Blue Monday’ were merely triggers for uncovering what I believe is a latent phenomena.
Why is Christmas Day on December 25th? A common held theory is that the early Christians merely piggy-backed on the existing Pagan ritual of celebrating mid winter. Seemingly, our ancestors perhaps wanted some cheering up in the middle of a bleak season in the northern hemisphere.
Linking the event with a Pagan celebration with another underlying issue created a bigger occasion. (Does this seem a familiar strategy to you?) The underpinning rationale was presumably to make your new spiritual celebration more likely to be adopted by linking it with something that cheered people up in response to an undefined, no data-collected zeitgeist of people feeling fed up, a feeling of discontentment in mid winter.
Even though surveys show a decline in religious belief and attendances at Christian churches in the UK, Christmas as a celebration keeps going and growing.
Why?
Because people want it to be. It fulfils other emotional, psychological and sociological needs. And because as a meme it is very efficient: it’s easily copy-able, do-able, pass-onable and spreadable.
‘Blue Monday’, could merely be a further, perhaps a further tremor on the Richter scale of unhappiness, a minor wave of discontentment, a month after the mid-winter celebrations (now labelled ‘Christmas’).
Perhaps abetted by modern phenomena, such as the monthly pay check, the monthly on-coming of the credit card bill, and a social more of creating New Year’s resolutions, it all helps create a further wave of discontentment.
The additional dimension of many people receiving their December pay cheque on Christmas Eve, is good news for having money for the festivities but bad news in making January a ‘five week month’ in terms of pay: your monthly salary has to extend to a further week.
‘Blue Monday’ I would suggest, could merely be a further, perhaps minor wave of discontentment, a month after the mid-winter celebrations (now labelled ‘Christmas’).
Sure, there is no data to support this theory, but then again, I don’t see any statistical data about the mid winter blues timing with the Christmas period.
I would suggest the potency of the Blue Monday meme launched since 2005 is an intellectual touchstone for justifying Blue Monday, as it offers a clue to a possible Zeitgeist.
The origins of Blue Monday may be a bastard child in the world of artificially contrived days. Yet from my Blue Monday experience, I conclude that some members of the scientific community have problems engaging in a dialogue unless 100% data is available before the conversation begins. 100% data is only available for the closed mind in well-prescribed and defined situations.
In the cause of promoting greater understanding of science in the wider world, this is not a helpful characteristic. Indeed, it provides a prop, a support for not being able to connect fully with others – a scientific disconnect.
So, I am very proud of one of my babies. No, not one of my two daughters (of whom I’m immensely proud!) Rather, one of my creative off-springs, a meme – ‘Blue Monday’. It is a source of great happiness – but also some unhappiness.
1 .As a symbolic day it is now being used by a number of good causes to promote their message, generate activities and crucially raise valuable funds. Potentially, if Blue Monday could just generate less than 1% of that raised by say Comic Relief it could raise £500,000 a year for good causes.
2. It creates a precious talking point and potential media hook for subjects which face difficulty getting a hearing, such as mental health, depression and suicide.
3. It creates a welcome opportunity for positive well-being and asserting happiness and joy in the world.
Last year I listened to BBC Radio Wales on Blue Monday which not only played a series of uplifting, good mood enhancing songs, but also had a live outside broadcast from a school where youngsters had their jokes aired, (“Why did the chicken cross the playground? To get to the other slide!” was a typical effort.)
The show later got a text from a woman, who was foster mother to one of the children who had their jokes broadcast. She was delighted how it would boost the youngster’s confidence and self-esteem.
Doesn’t that make you feel good?
4. Blue Monday also serves as an example of a ‘meme’ – a fundamental aspect of communications which most people in PR don’t even know about.
Much work needs to be done on getting people to understand memes. In the communications business where I work, you would think that they are all over memes, recognising the mechanics of how they work and would harness meme-power as central, at the heart of communications campaigns – the Movember campaign is a great example.
But I’m still annoyed that Blue Monday is not fulfilling its power for good.
Yet, we are getting there.
This year the campaign group Action for Happiness who have previously refused to discuss my suggestions to them to harness Blue Monday as a vehicle to promote greater happiness now are doing their own campaign #screwBlueMonday – and I’m delighted: it’s harnessing the Blue Monday meme, promoting a message that you don’t have to be unhappy on this day, and it further spreads and deepens the Blue Monday meme.
I really hope the campaign generates positive added value for them.
For anyone System 2 Thinkers out there here are some suggestions:
Recognise the significance of System 1 thinking, and memes.
Maybe just realise that even if it is not completely to your taste, liking or measure, that other people may be getting some benefit out of it.
And also – please do enjoy yourself on Blue Monday. I know I will! – and do check out the campaign web site www.beatbluemonday.org.uk

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A home for UK creative mavericks – on the London Underground

TUBE_KULTURA_logo

Our Andy Green is launching a new initiative bringing together for the first time all the people across the UK who do weird and wonderful creative activities using the London Underground – from artists, to Tube racers, to Tube staff heroes.
Called ‘Tube Kultura’ the initiative provides a platform for maverick creatives to share their trails and tribulations to inspire, enthral or challenge conventional thinking.
Organized by Andy, the initiative is organizing its first ‘Tube Kultura’ event at 7.30pm-9.30pm Wednesday January 15th 2014 at Toynbee Studios, Aldgate, London. It  features seven great speakers from all over the UK, including Blackpool, Leicester, Swindon and Barry Island all doing inspirational things connected with the Tube – sharing their stories, each in just seven minutes.
‘Tube Kultura’ marks an alternative celebration of the next 150 years of the London Underground. It aims to run a regular series of events, a web site forum and crowd-sourced art publications.
The speakers are:
•    Andy Green who teaches creativity using the Tube as his creative classroom
•    Shaun Buswell from Swindon who created an orchestra from strangers who met on the Underground
•    Adham Fisher from Leicester who does the Tube Challenge around the world
•    Ben Langham from London who makes music using sounds from the Underground
•    Gabrielle McDonald from London a poet who works on the Underground
•    Geoff Marshall from London who holds the world record for the Tube Challenge
•    David Nevin from London an artist who works on the Underground
•    James Wannerton from Blackpool who created a Tube map based on taste.

Plus live music from some of the best buskers on the Underground and a free prize draw of a creative thinking training tour of the London Underground courtesy of Tubespiration!.
Tickets are just £5, with booking advisable. More details at www.Tubespiration.com
The event is organised by Tubespiration! and the Flexible Thinking Forum, a not-for-profit social enterprise, both founded by Andy Green.
Andy has written six books on creativity and brand communications. His latest book ‘Tubespiration!’ shows how you can use the London Underground – or any journey – as a creative tool. He also runs Tubespiration! Tours, where he uses the Tube as his classroom.
Andy received the ‘Outstanding PR Practitioner of the Year’ award from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ for 2013/14, an award voted for by members of the Institute.
Andy Green also runs the Barry IdeasBank – believed to be the UK’s longest running community ideas resource which will be celebrating its first anniversary. It provides a home for anyone with an idea to make Barry yet better and connects with other like-minded people to build and develop the ideas.
‘Brand Kultura’ is defined as artistic, sociopolitical, pedagogical, literary – or any cultural activity around a brand generated by the Brand’s community which is often maverick, alternative or fun: hence ‘Tube Kultura’.
Commenting on the first Tube Kultura Andy said: “There are some great people doing weird and wonderful things connected with the London Underground to make you laugh or be inspired.

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Xmas

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On the last day of the Liverpool Daily Post

Today the last edition of the Liverpool Daily Post after 158 years – it’s a very sad day for regional journalism.
The Daily Post, a pioneering newspaper that challenged the decision makers of the city and Merseyside, was my first newspaper where I worked for a while on the subs’ bench for the business desk. Since then I have worked on a number of regional newspapers as well as a spell on Fleet Street.
Back then we thought newspapers would last for ever but even by the 1980s we could see circulations were declining and that strong regional journalism was at risk. And then the internet came along and newspaper management were left scratching their heads about how they should respond.
Indeed, many simply ignored the world wide web and were unable to accept that the internet was one of those disruptive technologies which would impact on every industry including newspapers.
The slow, predictable decline of the UK’s regional newspaper is continuing unabated.
For the 257 regional and local papers that reported stats for the first six months of this year, there was a total year-on-year decline in circulation from 7.32 million to 7.1 million – a drop of three percent. Very few publications had anything very positive to report when to print figures:

  • 15 regionals saw a fall in circulation in excess of 20 percent.
  • 61 suffered a decline of at least 10 percent.
  • 40 saw a rise in circulation, but only four of those added more than 10 percent.

It’s not a great picture, but not a terrible one either. Industry-wide declines of three percent year-on-year seem sustainable for a while yet, even if some regionals are doing far worse than others. The transition from print to multiple digital screens is not an overnight phenomenon.
Among the top five dailies – total circulation dropped more than 40,000 year on year, or 10 percent of the total.
Looking at the sector from the outside – although I speak to journalists regularly – the future does not look good. Management still continue to make swinging job cuts, newsrooms are under staffed and under resourced.
There has always been a traditional of gallows humour in the newsroom. Even in my day when I think the regional press was still reasonably strong – the hacks would hark back to the good old days of boozy lunches, generous expenses and the opportunity to take the time to investigate and write really good news stories which impacted on peoples’ life.
It’s a sad day for the Post – but I do not think this will be the last obituary written for the regional Press.

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What are you going to do this Twixtmas?

It’s that time of year again. Not Christmas or New Year – but Twixtmas. The time to do 5 socially good things during the 5 days between the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Can you do five easy things to make the world a better place when, in a time poor age, you have lots of free time?
Ideas from making yourself happier, being better prepared for your death, to being a better driver or even helping good causes in your pyjamas are being promoted in a new ‘University of Twixtmas’.
Everyone is being encouraged to learn five new things, or do five things to make the world a better place during the five days of Twixtmas – the five days between the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Instead of binge shopping, or binge drinking, the virtual ‘University of Twixtmas’ is encouraging binge doing to overcome the problem of ‘time poverty’ – where people use the excuse of not having enough time to do things for themselves or others
What five books would you recommend to friends? What five steps can you take to learn new skills? What five people could you get in touch with? What five little things could you do to help the environment?
The campaign web site Twixtmas.com offers practical advice and inspiration to encourage everyone to make the most of this under-used opportunity. The site also provides a free facility for sending a Twixtmas e greeting card, and you can also download a Twixtmas pledge form.
The idea was originally conceived by me as a simple way of creating social good by thinking differently about the period between the two public holidays of Christmas and New Year, and make use of untapped resource, energy, and opportunities.
To help people get the most of period the campaign has themed each of the five days with a focus:

  • Day 1 is about spoiling yourself and thinking more positively about you.
  • Day 2 is do something for someone else, ideally a stranger – help a neighbour or good cause
  • Day 3 is help a friend
  • Day 4 is doing something for the planet
  • Day 5 is do something for your future

Further details about Twixtmas can be found at www.twixtmas.com
There is no excuse at Twixtmas of not having enough time to either learn new things or do something good to make your world better. Create your own ‘University of Twixtmas’ programme, doing five little things during each of the five days of Twixtmas.
What are you going to do this Twixtmas?

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A creative bookshelf

bookshelf

My home office is a powerhouse for creativity – I do most of my writing here, and repository for my much of my desk-based raw materials: books – along with a collection of miscellany I seem to pick up and collect along the way.
It came as a surprise when a new friend, New Zealand academic Michael Bourk came to stay with me this week, and my bookshelf caught his eye – and his camera lens.
Apparently, he liked the shot (above) so much he is now using it for his phone screenshot.
What does your creative bookshelf look like?

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Why the ‘JFK meme’ is so powerful – & how the grassy knoll isn’t grassy

grassy knoll

Why is there such a big celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy?
OK there is significance that he was an important world leader.
Yet, you could argue that there are other even more significant figures who met a tragic end at the hands of assassins but don’t have anywhere near like the legendary status of JFK. (The anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 by the way is April 15th)
I would suggest that JFK’s memory has been enhanced by being a great brand story  – his untimely death having all the narrative ingredients of the classic Tragedy storyline.
JFK crucially however, has also benefited from also having the ingredients of a great meme – an instantly copy-able, replicable message.
Firstly, there is the fact that a conspiracy meme, the most powerful meme going. You only have to think of other great conspiracy memes, such as; ‘Did man really land on the moon?’ Or the death of Princess Diana in order to respect their potency.
A conspiracy meme is indestructible because any time you provide any counter evidence to the meme, the conspiracy theorist will respond with: “They are bound to say that aren’t they?” And your counter-evidence deepens their conviction.
The Kennedy legend also benefits from some great supporting cast memes: ‘the grassy knoll’ and ‘the book repository’ (or ‘suppository as my wife calls it!)
What exactly is a ‘grassy knoll’?
I had the pleasure of visiting Dallas earlier this year as part of my trip to the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas – where I am working on a research project on ‘Weird Brands’.
In Dallas I did the Kennedy legend tourist trail: visiting the book repository and grassy knoll.
The book repository is well worth a visit. It’s now The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, which chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy http://www.jfk.org
The ‘grassy knoll’ however was, wel,l a letdown: there was no grass and also it made me realise that I didn’t really have a proper conception of what a ‘knoll’ is.
Do you know of any other ‘knolls’ or even ‘book repositories’?
What if subsequent news reports had referred to ‘a small grass bank’ and ‘a book warehouse’? The terms ‘knoll’ and ‘repository’ I would argue have added richness, colour and further depth to the telling of the Kennedy assassination story.
It has highlighted how memes and brand stories can be made even more powerful if there are meme-friendly supporting elements, to give further resonance, memorability and copy-ability.
The Kennedy legend will live on and on. (It was also helped by being at the right time for the advent of global television news – to facilitate the ‘Where were you when you heard the news?’ booster meme.)
And it will be helped by a ‘grassy knoll’ that isn’t grassy!

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