Nine-year-old Martha Payne’s blog NeverSeconds is proof that, through blogging, anyone can make an impact. In its first month, the Scottish primary schoolgirl’s blog about her school dinners went viral, clocking up over 105,000 views.
Calling herself ‘Veg’, Martha dictates while her dad writes. Along with a photo of every meal, each post is rated out of ten and evaluated per the below criteria:
“Food-o-meter- Out of 10 a rank of how great my lunch was!
Mouthfuls- How else can we judge portion size!
Courses- Starter/main or main/dessert
Health Rating- Out of 10, can healthy foods top the food-o-meter?
Price- Currently £2 I think, its all done on a cashless catering card
Pieces of hair- It wont happen, will it?
Evident from the above, the blog’s spelling and punctuation isn’t perfect, but its popularity shows you don’t need to be an aspiring journalist or English Literature graduate to be a good blogger. What you absolutely do need, though, is the right ingredients: timing, topic and originality.
The phenomenal number of comments under each of Martha’s posts is testament to a blog that definitely has the right ingredients. It is also proof that you don’t have to be a certain age, status, or have something world-shattering to say in order to go viral. Just look at the example last December of a young girl’s makeup tutorial video on how to cover up acne going viral in a very short space of time.
The amount of worldwide coverage and publicity generated by NeverSeconds in the space of a few weeks is a PR’s dream. So what lessons can be learnt from Martha?
Her prolific use of images is a big part of the blog’s success, because they make it easier for readers to connect and empathise with the experience she is communicating to the world. Indeed, as well as gleaning ample comments and raking in followers and viewers, NeverSeconds has had a huge amount of interaction from other children around the world who send in pictures of their own school dinners – a few of which Martha includes in her own posts as comparisons. The use of images is something we always preach the value of in PR as they are often the deal breaker between getting a client a great piece of coverage or a mediocre one.
Also, it is well documented in our industry how powerful an engaged audience can become when combined with the immediacy of social media. Martha’s case highlights both the potentially positive and negative consequences of this when coupled with massive publicity.
Martha and her family decided to do some good with the publicity surrounding her blog and, as a result, have so far raised more than £85,429 for Mary’s Meals, a charity that helps to feed children in Africa, a suitable foundation based on the topic of her blog. On the flipside, Martha posted a poignant entry titled ‘Goodbye’ last Thursday – the day her local council banned her from continuing to take photos of her school dinners following negative publicity about the school and its meals. The story of her censorship went global, covered in the US, Europe and Australia, and last Friday #neverseconds trended globally on Twitter. Ultimately this publicity backfired on the council who, due to pressure from a number of angles, ended up lifting the ban and Monday night saw Martha back blogging again.
In hindsight, should the council have thought twice about messing with a little person with such a huge following? Or just let her get on with it? Because, in the end, its intervention only served to heighten the buzz around Martha and her blog further.
To paraphrase Christie Todd Whitman, anyone who thinks they are too small to make a difference has clearly never blogged about their school dinners.