Branded Content: How well planned is too well planned?

It was the first day back after the first long weekend of the year, so you’d be forgiven for not having your head firmly screwed on earlier this week, at least you’d hope so if you were the Social Media Manager at Manchester United.

A brief recap if you’re not sure what I’m talking about. Moments after the news broke that David Moyes was to be sacked by Manchester United, Man U put a tweet out wishing a happy birthday to Dion Dublin, the former Manchester United striker. I’m sure we all wish Dion a happy birthday, but as news goes it pales in comparison to that of David Moyes. The tweet was deleted shortly after (sorry Dion), but the most repeated platitude about the Internet rings true again: once it’s out there, it’s out there; in this case immortalised by Manchester United’s quick-fingered followers.

The odd blooper is inevitable, that’s why the word exists. But what should brands be doing to make sure they’re few and far between, and that they aren’t sacrificing a digital presence in the process?

‘Stop operating in silos’ – You’ve heard it before, you’ll probably hear it again

Don’t blame the Man U social media manager, he or she was probably just waiting for the memo. The press release about David Moyes had probably been drafted, signed off and an embargoed version sent to key press figures, before anyone remembered to update the social media team on developments.

Fortunately social media teams are starting to sit alongside PR teams, which is fantastic for brand alignment, but in this case the same issue is at risk of arising when you add digital performance to the mix.

Take your digital presence more seriously, seriously.

It was over a year ago now that an unpaid intern from HMV appealed to a common sense of justice (and maybe a little schadenfreude among those who have interned for free) by using the brand’s twitter account to be completely honest about her employers. And it did cause brands to sit up and take note… a bit.

Hands up if you work in social media or content and the buzzwords ‘always on approach’ have never left your lips (if so, bravo). It’s all well and good talking about it, but brands need to be prepared to lay out the capital to find the right people who will live and breathe the brand. The Internet is ‘always on’ because people are always on, and responding in a timely manner is essential.

So how do you make ‘always on’ work for you? It comes down to stringent process and careful training and brand immersion. By assigning responsibility to the most relevant people for each type of media message, you should leave very little to chance. For most types of message, your community managers should be your final point of sign off, so train them well and trust them. After all, they’ll be the ones delivering the ‘banter’ that’s currently driving some of today’s popular brand stories, like the Argos response that was so funny The Metro picked it up or the conversation between Tesco Mobile, Yorkshire Tea, Jaffa Cakes etc…

The War Room

We’re all bored to tears with the quasi-mythological Oreo Dunk in the Dark case study. Lots of brands have since tried to emulate this by getting all their key players (PR, social, SEO, brand, compliance, pizza) in one place during a big event, but the reality is that Oreo’s success came from the combination of a good plan and some very good luck. I don’t mean to demean the concept of The War Room, but the greatest value for brands trying this in the future comes down to the simple truism that two heads are better than one.

The News Room

At iProspect we’ve developed an approach like a scaled back newsroom. Members of the team sit down each morning before the day officially starts and scour the papers for stories that may be of relevance to the brands we work with. It means we can anticipate things that may come up over the course of the day, and take brand direction on the most appropriate response.


It’s debatable whether today’s mistake was a result of automation. Either way, automation may help you to scale up your presence across channels and markets, particularly over national holidays. But don’t be fooled into thinking it could be a substitute for having someone ‘on the ground’ to respond appropriately to events and socio-political climates. Here’s a great post highlighting some of the dangers of sticking too rigidly to pre-scheduled content

It’s unlikely that the Manchester United twitter blip can be pinned on one person. It’s a result of the developments that communications teams in inflexible businesses are having to respond to today. But the recognition of these platforms as a serious public face of the brand is starting to lead to investment that will enable better training, responsibility sharing and process planning.