The Independent from London, Greater London, England on March 22, 2016 · 35
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The Independent from London, Greater London, England · 35

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
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34 35 Section2/Features THE INDEPENDENT Tuesday 22 March 2016Tuesday 22 March 2016 THE INDEPENDENT Is a good deed still a good deed if you don’t post about it on social media? Well, according to a new Catholic “good deed” app, possibly not. Smartphone app Misericors – created recently by the Polish Church in honour of Pope Francis’s birthday – allows selfless social media users to keep both a personal and a public record of their altruistic acts, encouraging them to incorporate “works of mercy” into their daily lives and inspire others with their good deeds. The free app is available on Apple and Android and has been translated into 13 languages, including English, Spanish and Italian. Keen to find out more, I download it. I’m not a Catholic, but I do worship at the altar of social media, so I figure I’m up to the challenge. Misericors is laid out simply with the good deeds divided into two categories: “Spiritual Works of Mercy” – which include admonish- ing sinners, instructing the ignorant and coun- selling the doubtful – and “Corporal Works of Mercy”, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick. Within each sub-category are suggestions for good deeds. All the classics are there, of course (“I paid for someone’s grocery shopping”; “I put somebody up for the night”), as well as some slightly left-field options (“I admonished some- one face to face”; “I took an internet addict for a walk”.) Users scroll through the options, choose a deed, and upload a photo of them performing said deed, before adding a catchy hashtag and posting it onto their “wall”. Like on Twitter or Facebook, the post is then picked up by fellow good-deeders, who can click on “I will do it” or “I will pray” buttons, which are holy versions of a “like” or a “favourite”. The result is a seemingly endless feed of other people’s good deeds. But, while Misericors is meant to unite users’ spiritual and social lives, some Catholics think the idea is essentially flawed. Former editor of the Catholic Herald Peter Stanford thinks the app risks coming across as obnoxious. “The impetus to do good deeds can only be generated from within as part of your own faith, religious life, or social conscience. It can’t be prompted by some external communication means,” he says. “I thought you were meant to keep your good deeds to yourself. I thought you weren’t meant to boast about them.” Twenty-six-year-old Mike Kelly, who was brought up in a Catholic family, agrees. “Good deeds should be private and done for their own sake. It shouldn’t be like sharing food on Insta- gram,” he says. “Good deeds cease to become inherently ‘good’ if they’re done for approval. They become more like a currency.” With Pope Francis making a foray into Insta- gram this weekend, though, religion and social media are fast becoming intertwined. The Pope – who already has 1.5 million followers on the photo-sharing site – launched his Instagram account on Saturday with a photo of himself praying alongside the words “pray for me”. The Pontiff already uses Twitter regularly, tweeting to more than 27 million followers across the world under the handle @Pontifex. It’s thought his social media accounts are part of a push to engage young Catholics around the world. So, can such apps ever be advantageous for the digital savvy Catholic? Although he wouldn’t use it himself, Stanford can see some positives. “Spotlight has just won the Oscar for best film and I think there is a sense at the moment that when people think about Catholicism, they just think about the bad deeds that are done in its name,” he says. “I suppose there is a wish some- where along the line to redress that balance.” Scrolling through the “good deed feed”, it’s clear some Catholics are embracing the new world, posting about everything from visiting sick relatives to praying for Christians in need. I’m not spiritual myself, but even I can see the value in good deed reminders, although – like Stanford – I’m not sure I’d broadcast my philan- thropy. With so much hate in the world, though, it’s rather nice to have a site dedicated entirely to goodness – religious or otherwise. µ Britain is going Creme Egg crazy this Easter – with social media cracking under the weight of weird and wacky ways to eat them. According to maker Cadbury, more than 200 million are sold in the UK every year. And this Easter has seen an added eggs- plosion, with posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sharing Creme Egg-inspired hacks, recipes, stunts and record attempts. We’ve seen everything from battered versions at a Birming- ham chip shop; a Derby-based chef’s twist on the traditional scotch egg, with the gooey chocolate wrapped inside sausage meat; and a Creme Egg “crodough” – a croissant/doughnut hybrid – available in an east London bakery. The official Creme Egg Facebook page cur- rently has more than 2.5 million likes, while Instagram users are egging each other on to upload images of their creations with nearly 80,000 pictures tagged with #cremeegg. And on Twitter, the numerous recipes being shared range from the sublime to the ridicu- lous, all in a bid to tantalise tweeters’ tastebuds. There’s avocado with Creme Egg, a steady stream of Creme Egg cocktails (one particularly memorable one being a mojito with chocolate syrup), not to mention gut-busting Creme Egg burgers, pizzas or milkshakes. The extraordinary range and quantity of sug- gestions appears to show the nation’s love affair with the chocolate shell with its fondant centre is as strong as ever – despite last year’s contro- versy over Cadbury’s changing the recipe. In January, The Grocer reported that the chocolate company had lost £6m in 2015 because of the recipe change; the article also claimed that Cadbury was upping its marketing spend by £1m this Easter in a bid to reverse a Creme Egg sales slide of 7.4 per cent. The panic around plummeting sales figures also “It’s no surprise Eggs are seeing a boost from social media, with consumers extending the brand and doing the marketer’s job for them.” But, he says – and Cadbury would do well to take note if they’re entertaining the idea of a rebrand as part of their new sales drive – “What we like about brands is the way they remain the same. We must be careful not to change them too much and lose that emotional connection.” The number of applications for world records relating to Creme Eggs is also boom- ing – although there is currently only one offi- cial one. It’s held by Canadian Pete Czerwin- ski, who ate the most in a minute – six – in April 2014. Jakki Lewis, PR director for Guinness World Records, says, “We always see an increase at Easter of people wanting to break egg-related records – Creme Egg ones tend to be especially popular in the UK. We would encourage anyone who’s interested to apply to break the existing record, or to get creative and suggest a new one, which our records team will review.” µ It wasn’t necessarily a silly question, but in a nation of bored people genetically programmed to take the piss, it was perhaps predictable that it might invite a silly answer. So it was that a nice idea became a global public relations head- ache when the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) asked: “What shall we call our fancy new boat?” At the time of writing, the website built by the science body to host the competition to name its £200m polar research vessel had sunk without a trace, inundated as it was with votes for Boaty McBoatface, the submission of a former local radio presenter. As America may yet learn, democracy can be a risky way to get things done. “I read the list of entries and there were about 3,000 at the time,” James Hand, a communica- tions executive, told an old colleague at BBC Radio Jersey on Monday. “Some of them were really, really funny. Clifford the Big Red Boat was my favourite. So I thought I’d throw one into the ring to see what happens. It got a few likes and I thought nothing of it.” By Sunday, when the website crashed, almost 30,000 people had voted for Boaty McBoatface, and on Monday the social media fallout served as a fitting tribute to Twitter, the home of dumb diversions, on its tenth birthday. “It’s been quite a strange weekend,” Hand added, while revealing that he had apologised to NERC for inadvertently scuttling its contest. But there were no hard feelings at the other end. “The final decision will be made by NERC and the poll is to generate interest,” a spokesperson told The Independent. “That worked!” Inevitably, when the poll closes on 16 April (if the website surfaces again), Boaty McBoat- face will be rejected by committee in favour of a more sensible alternative. Hand himself subsequently voted for David Attenborough. When that happens, it will be a kick in the face for democracy – and a lesson for press offices in the sometimes perilous potential of public brainstorming. To its credit, a zoo in Tasmania stayed true to its word when it allowed a local primary school to sponsor – and name – its star emu. A sign on the giant bird’s enclosure introduces it as Spazzy McGee. Less is known about the owl enclosure that went viral in 2013 when a photo showed that one of its birds had been adopted and named by Lee Dixon. It was: Hooty McOwlface. The ex-Arsenal footballer of the same name (Lee Dixon) initially denied any involvement but later, either in a fit of honesty or an attempt to kill the story, he tweeted: “Ok ok it was me. I named Hooty! I was trying to keep it quiet. Now please just let it go. Blinding name though!” Greenpeace also followed through in 2007, when shortlisted names for a migrating hump- back whale it wanted to track to the Southern Ocean included Aiko, Mira, Kaimana and Aurora. But almost 80 per cent of votes went to Mr Splashy Pants. The example became a case study in the early days of social media marketing. In 2009, Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, gave a TED Talk about the whale called “How to make a splash in social media”. On the web, he said, “you lose control over your message − and that’s OK”. But not if you’re Waitrose, who was asking for trouble in 2012 when it invited customers on Twitter to complete the line “I shop at Wait- rose because …” using the hashtag “#Wait- roseReasons”. Submissions recorded before the supermarket swiftly checked out included: “...because Tesco Value quinoa gives my son Tarquin a nasty rash”; “because my butler’s on holiday”; and, in reference to its charity boxes: “because when the economy finally breaks down and dies, those little green tokens will serve as currency”. µ Beyond a yolk: a Creme Egg cake and (below) a scotch egg with a sweet twist JEssIE OlEsON MOOrE/ cakEsPy.cOM Stern warning: RRS... ‘Endeavour’? ‘Shakleton’? The public thought they could do better Pa When a poll suggested that a new ship be called ‘Boaty McBoatface’, it was just the latest strike in the risky business of ‘ask the public’ PR. s i m o n u s b o r n e reports they aSked For it... C roW Ds o u rC i n G Following a disastrous change to its Creme Egg recipe last year, Cadbury launched a social media fightback. Will this Easter be a time of redemption? By J o n AT H A n W e i n b e rG creme teaSe As the Pope joins Instagram, is it time the Catholic faith embraced social media? C H lo ë H A m i lTo n checks out an app that helps its followers to track – and share – charitable acts SmaLL aPPS oF mercy Good deed feed: the Misericors app allows users to record and post their daily kindnesses Co n f eC T i o n e ry r e l i G i o n prompted the confectionary giant – now owned by US food mega-brand Kraft – to open a pop- up Creme Egg Café in London, with dishes such as a Creme Egg-filled toastie, Creme Egg tray bake, and strawberries and creme (egg) on the menu. Cadbury is now also using Snapchat to reach a new generation of fans. Robert Opie, founder of the Museum of Brands, says he’s not surprised by the longevity of the Creme Egg. He explains: “They have been around for so long that they are a part of our calendar. Familiarity is a strength of any brand, and you know Easter’s coming when you see the first Creme Egg in the shops. “Nostalgia is key for many brands and parents would have introduced their children to them, and so on down the years… If they suddenly vanished we would feel desolate for a genera- tion.” Mr Opie may be slightly overegging things there, but you know what he means. “And it helps that chocolate produces endorphins in our brain and we relate Creme Eggs to special family moments”, adds Mr Opie. What we like about brands is the way they stay the same This will be a kick in the face for democracy and a warning for PRs against public brainstorming

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