On the train back from Newcastle this morning, I had my journey seriously enlivened with the first few then many then thousands of tweets coming through my timeline with the hashtag #neverseconds.
Here's how it went... It's got many layers, and lots of learnings, for those of us who project ourselves or our company, brand to the outside world...
Six weeks ago, 9 year old schoolgirl Martha Payne started taking pics of her daily school lunch (with the teachers' permission) and posting them on her "Never Seconds" blog here. She rated the meals, with a food-o-meter and in its unusual 'social media word of mouse' way, the world started to hear about it.
So far, so good. Even Jame Oliver tweeted her on reaching 100,000 views.
Then big brother (aka Argyll & Bute Council) stepped in, as not all of her posts about her school lunches were entirely complimentary and issued a somewhat 'strongly' worded statement (now removed, but you can probably find it somewhere), as well as instructing her to remove the pictures from her blog, and never do it again. Despite the fact that her blogpost also involved her setting up a justgiving page to raise money for African kids charity, Martha's Meals (you can donate here) with a fund raising target of £7,000 (she'd raised about £2,000).
The 'story' has all the ingredients doesn't it. 9 year old school girl. School dinners (some great, some not). Her blog getting people sending her pictures of their lunches. Jamie Oliver (School Dinners Campaigner). The nasty council, who don't like their school dinners being criticised. A charity which raises money for hungry kids in Africa.
The digital Native meets the digitally Naive.
"Council Ban 9 Year Old Schoolgirl From Taking Pictures Of Her School Dinners & Helping Raise Money For Charity".
Of COURSE, a journalist picks up on this story - after all - it's got all the ingredients (hasn't it) of headline news. Google search indexes the increasing number of visits to the councils big brother statement. The blog, cutely titled Never Seconds immediately gets hashtagged #neverseconds. People, who can't quite believe A) the council's heavy handed approach B) their innate stupidity and lack of commensense in putting it out C) the fact that dodgy carb rich, not always great school dinners make headline news (Sack the Dinner Ladies) and D) that people like Jamie Oliver have LOTS of followers on twitter start tweeting out about it.
And of course, it also involves the use of humour - one tweet I saw was the England Team management banning photographers incase the team played badly - there were dozens and dozens. Check them out using #neverseconds.
Back in the day, pre-twitter -this would have been one story in one newspaper in the UK. Within a matter of hours, it had over 326 news hit references on google (sorry, 425 now - 10 minutes later) and this world-wide. WORLD-WIDE.
So, a Scottish council @argyllandbute a 9 year old school-girl (martha payne) and #neverseconds became the top three world-wide trending topics on Friday.
All that money Channel 4 spent with Jamie Oliver on trying to improve school dinners, millions, achieved in a nanosecond by a 9 year old phone with a camera and a free blog. World-wide.
A masterclass on "how not to do it" in terms of disaster execution then limitation, until the leader of the council retracted their statement and allowed the blog to continue - see article here from the Guardian (there are probably now 430 others...!) The fact, that although the council are on twitter (@ArgyllandBute) they didn't use it in a way that it's meant to be used
Repeat after me: Say SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY in 140 Characters and be proactive about their dumbness.
And behaved as so many companies behave with a PR molehill turning into one the size of Everest, by behaving as if it wasn't going on around them.
I say "Well done Martha, nice work". Well done to the investigative journalist, Stephen Naysmith who's on twitter here @StephenNaysmith Editor of the Herald Society". Well done to the now hundreds of thousands or - undoubtedly millions - of people who took a unanimous view here, and forced A&B to do a 100% climbdown.
And delightfully, the story has a silver lining, because Martha's justgiving page has now topped £25,000 smashing her target, and - I reckon - could hit £50,000 by the end of the weekend - feeding more than just a few hungry kids in Africa. They're able to build Kitchens!
Martha. Got to the top of the class! Jamie, you've got your follow up series. And Argyll & Bute Council, your just desserts.