Hashtags for pr

By Bekki Bushnell, Head of Business Development

Shameless plug alert – we won the inaugural Whiteoaks five-a-side football tournament last week. Some would be embarrassed that the hosts rather ungraciously picked up the trophy at their own event, but those of us who were fortunate to play lack any such humility.

First and foremost, however, we were delighted with the turnout from valued Whiteoaks clients – one of whom even brought former England international striker Emile Heskey to bolster their ranks. In vain, ultimately.

The purpose of this post is not purely to highlight to those avid blog readers that we have a shiny new trophy on display in our reception, but as an introduction to discussing the hashtag.

Aside from being an irritant on Facebook (Gone out for dinner #yummy #fullbelly #wonteatforaweek), it is not something I had really considered until the lead up to the football tournament, where #Whiteoaks5s was earnestly peddled across the Twittersphere.

In an earlier post I touched upon the topic of hashtags, but it got me thinking about how they’re used as a PR tool. Those wanting to promote Susan Boyle’s new album will forever rue the day they tried their hand at a new hashtag (a consensus among my team was that I should not include it here, due to the distinct possibility of causing offence). Indeed, McDonalds’ savvy digital team did not consider that #McDstories could morph into a vehicle with which to share horror stories. Anyone up for fingernails in their hamburger?

Starting a hashtag is all well and good, but it has to catch on in order to get any real traction. While there is little rhyme or reason as to how certain things go viral, in the B2B sector, you clearly need a captive audience. Building up an active and engaged following, and hitting upon something in the news, makes it possible to earn retweets and therefore spread a hashtag.

So to bring this full circle, #Whiteoaks5s did prove a success. It touched upon something people were eager to get involved with (in this case, football), a competitive element and the chance to spread your message across social media. A retweet from Emile Heskey wouldn’t hurt, though…