Today I renewed my membership of ‘Old Alts‘ the alumni group for Altrincham Grammar School for Boys. I have fond memories of the school and I’m still good and close friends with at least a dozen of the lads I went to school with.
Top teachers at Altrincham Grammar School (when I was there)
Mr Coleman – legend
Mr Black – “whan that Aprille with his shoures soote”
Mr Cleland – “J’habite sunny Lymm”
Mr Gledhill – “Baa”
Mr Barton – “Homework – what will the score be in Rotterdam tonight?
Altrincham Pilsner is a lovely drop beloved of my agency’s creative department. In tribute, the team – lead by our head of design and award–winning illustrator Dave Merrell, designed this pump clip. It features the famous bronze statue of the market trader outside Altrincham Town Hall.
We dropped it off some time ago with a barman there. But we never heard back. We reckon its miles better than the current drab funerial black version.
We challenge Costello’s to try it on the pump for a month – and see how much more they sell. Beautiful design sells.
The current pump clip for Altrincham Pilsner
Our freshly designed pump clip for Altrincham Pilsner
PR agencies are the group most likely to deliver creativity and ‘best ideas’ to comms directors, according to research by PR Week. This is a big change from last year when agencies were lagging behind in-house teams and advertising agencies.
Earning attention – rather than buying attention – gets more important every single day as the human brain overflows with brands jostling for space. 3,000 marketing messages per day are soaked up by the brain.
Clearly, the ideas from PR agencies need to be budget conscious, carefully executed, cut through all channels and measured. The days of ‘throwing money at a problem’ have all but disappeared which explains why the ad agencies and media agencies are stumbling on the ‘ideas’ metric.
What’s really interesting is that PR agencies (those that are already directly employed) have better ideas than the marketing team employing them. This may appear obvious – after all that’s why they are being hired in the first place – but it’s encouraging that we (PR agencies) are more often than not coming up with the big idea from a marketing perspective.
Rather than being employed to amplify an existing campaign we’re now being hired to come up with the campaign in the first place. PR agencies that have invested in digital, design are reaping the benefits of this increasing trend.
Alarmingly for some readers, the average client/agency relationship is now 11 months.
There’s an increasing demand from clients for PR agencies to be more creative when it comes to executing campaigns.
PR Week carries a couple of interesting items on this theme.
The headline this week concerns Mars (the confectionery firm not the planet) who are in talks with various UK agencies to raise the profile of what it describes as ‘secondary brands’. The underlying message is that it is seeking a more creative PR strategy for its range of brands which include Milky Way, Bounty, Revels and Tracker.
It’s fair to say that Mars has fallen behind in the public’s mind in face of stiff competition from other chocolate brands like Cadburys and Nestle who have both overcome challenges in recent times too.
On the ‘we want more creativity’ theme there’s a piece entitled A failure of creativity? which describes the gloom felt amongst PR agencies that not a single PR agency won an award at the PR Lions in Cannes this year.
Every single award – including the PR awards – was won by advertising agencies.
Every single award – including the PR awards – was won by advertising agencies.
It prompted Weber Shandwick chief Colin Byrne to tweet:
Guide for PR at Cannes. Cheer up. Hug an ad creative. Drink their free booze. Pinch their ideas. (Maybe hire them). Pinch their business
The way PR agencies are traditionally structured with account handlers expected (in many cases) to be totally multi-skilled is perhaps one of the weaknesses of the traditional model.
It’s no wonder the emphasis on creativity is light when account executives and account directors are operating such a multi-faceted role. Segmenting people according to their skill-set in an agency (like Golin Harris has proposed) and enabling them to work in groups is a sensible idea.
Obviously, all agencies are structured differently. Larger corporates and networked agencies are a different beast from even the largest independents. At the small and medium sized agency level of the market the demand for multi-skilled ‘all rounders’ is as strong as ever. What do you think?
Getting the basics of PR right means that you’ll see the benefit of plenty of free media coverage for your business.
Too many businesses either don’t have the time or resource to focus on PR and marketing but there are a few small things that you can do to make a difference.
1) Write and place press releases
2) Get decent photography of your people
3) Place feature articles in key media
4) Contribute to features in the media
5) Manage your social media platforms
6) Meet some key journalists
7) Comment on industry issues
8) Make sure all your marketing collateral is joined-up
9) Collate and distribute your media coverage
10) Create and share ‘content marketing’ material – white papers, research and viewpoints
If you do a couple of these things you’ll see a real difference in no time at all.
UPDATE:Regretfully Chris was found in the Manchester Ship Canal. My thoughts go out to all his friends and family at this sad time. R.I.P Chris.
I went to see the Stone Roses on Friday 29th June 2012 and just about managed to get home to Timperley safely despite the organisational chaos after the gig.
Chris Brahney also lives in Timperley and went to see the Stone Roses on the same night as me. But he never came home.
If you have ANY information about Chris – no matter how small – please call Greater Manchester Police on 0161 856 7652.
Please also help join the search for Chris – you can find the latest information on this Facebook page which now has nearly 100,000 members - many of whom are helping the police and his parents and family search for Chris. I urge you to join the group – and join the actual search.
FACT: Chris Brahney (aged 22 from Timperley, Manchester) has been missing since Friday 29th June 2012.
FACT: Chris was last seen by his friends after the Stone Roses gig at Heaton Park in Manchester at around 11.30pm. He became separated from his friends when he went to look for his Sony Ericsson phone.
FACT: Chris is white, of slim build, and has short brown hair. On the night he went missing he was wearing a light blue shirt underneath a dark blue zip hoodie, maroon trousers and dark green wellington boots.
POSSIBLE LEAD #1 – BOWLEE PARK AND RIDE: There have been reports of a sighting of Chris either:
on a Park and Ride bus heading to Middleton
being at the Park and Ride bus area in Bowlee, Middleton between 11.30pm and after midnight on Friday after the gig.
This information has prompted both official and unofficial search teams to cover the Bowlee/Middleton area.
The route Chris is believed to have taken is plotted below in the below map:
BOWLEE / MIDDLETON SEARCH INFO: It is understood that there are ongoing searches of the Bowlee Park and Ride area in Middleton, Heaton Park, and surrounding areas such as Salford, Cheetham Hill, and Manchester City Centre towards Timperley.
POSSIBLE LEAD #2 – MACCABI CENTRE / BURY OLD ROAD: This morning there was an interview on BBC Breakfast with Chris’s dad, Stuart. Stuart stated that police have informed him of a confirmed sighting of Chris near the Maccabi Centre on Bury Old Road, around midnight on the night of the gig. Stuart mentioned that it may have been possible that Chris caught the Park and Ride bus to Bowlee and then doubled back on himself and travelled towards the Maccabi Centre.
The Maccabi Centre sighting was first mentioned on the Facebook group by a man named Roger and ties in with a sighting mentioned earlier in the week by a man named Tarik, who believes Chris walked with him and his friends on Bury Old Road towards the City Centre.
Tarik stated that he was with a group of people and a man believed to be Chris, walking towards Manchester City Centre from Heaton Park. Tarik recalls that the man had lost his friends and his phone, was of slim build and had dark hair. It seems that the group walked along Bury Old Road from Heaton Park towards the City Centre, and stopped for a rest outside the Maccabi Centre, in the vicinity of a red petrol station, shortly before midnight.
It was at this point that Roger recalls the man believed to be Chris left the group as he wanted to see if he could catch a tram from outside Heaton Park, and he then started walking back towards Heaton Park. Roger states that he told Chris if he walked past the Woodthorpe and turned right, he would probably get a tram that way.
It is not known whether Chris took this advice – he may have done so and subsequently walked along Sheepfoot Lane or he could have taken the Middleton Road route towards Heaton Park.
ASSUMPTIONS: We can safely assume that the police have checked for a mobile phone signal trace, checked bank card usage, and that they are doing all they can with search efforts recorded to include helicopters, dogs, rescue teams and investigators.
Finding Chris and showing respect for Chris’s family and friends is of utmost importance at this time.
If you are going to search for Chris, please be sensible and go in groups of more than 2 people, stay together, wear weather-appropriate clothing and take precautions. If you find any item(s) which you think may help the search for Chris, please do not touch or disturb the item(s) – call the police on 101 (non-emergency) and take a photograph on your phone in case anything happens to the item(s) after you have informed the police of the whereabouts.
If you think you have any information which may help in the search for Chris Brahney, I urge you to contact Greater Manchester Police straightaway on 0161 856 7652, or call the non-emergency number 101.
PR folk have been quick to plug their own media training services following the appearance of Chloe Smith on Newsnight.
If you haven’t seen the interview – and you’re prepared to cringe for several minutes as Smith gets owned by Paxman then here it is for your viewing pleasure.
However, I’d rather show you the only known example of Jeremy Paxman getting his own ass handed back to him to him after trying to outwit a Welsh economist with the same sneering interview technique. This time, he picked a battle with the wrong man.
If Chloe Smith’s appearance is an example of how not to handle Jeremy Paxman’s interview technique – then this effort below is a good example of exactly how to handle him. The fun really begins at 2:15.
A tasty PR campaign cooked up by ONIRIA/TBWA saw two pizza shops provide a deliberately slow service to help customers begin to understand those affected by hunger.
Teaming up with the Food Bank Foundation, the agency persuaded the “two important pizzerias” to accept delivery requests from customers, advising them that the food would arrive within 45 minutes.
Feigning bad service, all the pizzas were delivered much later than this specified time frame, prompting angry calls from those who had placed an order. However, when the food finally arrived, each box came with a note explaining:
When you’re hungry, you understand hunger.
Couriers then told each customer that the pizza was free of charge, but any money they did give would be donated to the Food Bank Foundation to help those for whom hunger is a genuine fear, rather than an irritation.
The idea behind the concept was to help those who can afford takeaway food to put their complaint into perspective, in return offering them a pizza for free as a thank you for taking part in the experience.
It ticks loads of boxes for me. It’s brave, innovative and entertaining. What do you think?
It was pleasing to see some Manchester-based PR agencies in this year’s PR Week Top 150 list.
The report (which features in this week’s issue) highlights the growth of some of the country’s top PR companies.
Manchester and Cheshire agencies on the list include: Citypress, Brazen, Tangerine, Scott Partnership Holdings and Peppermint PR. Brilliant work by all of these guys.
One of the interesting aspects of the report is the operating profit appendix which says that the average margin for agencies in 2011 was 17.6% (that’s a margin based on net profit as a proportion of PR income). I know that some agencies can run at a 87% margin – while at the opposite end of the spectrum there are many agencies barely breaking even despite impressive turnover. Different agencies use different accounting methods so (as PR Week acknowledges) its tricky to compare agencies on this basis.
The handful of PR companies in the Top 150 shows that Manchester actually has a lot further to go in terms of high-growth PR businesses. There are several London-based agencies that have seen (and are predicting) wildly aggressive growth and it is to these agencies that we must look for new ways of doing business.
PR league tables are always scrutinised by management teams and there is loads of debate around the validity of them. I tend to trust the PR Week rankings as a good measure of how the market is developing. It doesn’t include all the agencies that could have made the cut (only those that submitted audited accounts and actually wanted to feature) but it’s a nice snapshot.
I was really interested in one of the comments made by Matthew Freud (of huge independent agency Freud Communications) that he has banned the words ‘monthly retainer’ in his agency. His view is that it makes no sense for agencies and clients to think in such short-term alliances and instead suggests that for PR to be “muscular, strategic and well-resourced” we must place more emphasis on long-term strategies. I agree.
I’m anticipating some long overdue consolidation in the local market. There are clearly some obvious alliances in the market that would be best suited by pooling resources and sharing best practice. I long to see the day when the top ten agencies are dominated by Manchester-based practices.
Well done to all the local PR agencies that made the cut – let’s hope this clutch of agencies can help spearhead the growth of Manchester-based agencies in 2012/13 and beyond.
There’s too much waffle in the world. A nice blog post by my friend and creative genius Dave Milligan-Croft, found that he was exposed to more than 7,000 brands in one day. You can read his excellent ‘Brands for Breakfast’ post here.
The flow of communications from brands doesn’t just stop at the visual. There’s also the bullshit written in most corporate communications. Whether its on websites, sales collateral, presentations or (most criminal of all) in press releases there’s a massive case of verbal diarrhoea sweeping the nation.
What can PR agencies do to stem the flow of internal corporate bullshit they are expected to communicate externally?
Firstly, you need to get familiar with the concept ofThe Fog Index. I’ve used this formula for many years when copy-writing press releases or corporate communications for clients. It combats the common problem of new clients not understanding why you’re not called their spade a ‘mobile excavation device’.
The Fog Index measures the readability of the English language. It enables your PR material to be read easily by the intended audience (ie: journalists, opinion formers and end-users).
Texts for a wide audience generally need a fog index less than 12. Texts requiring near-universal understanding generally need an index less than 8.
So how do you apply The Fog Index to your PR material?
Select a passage (such as one or more full paragraphs) of around 100 words. Do not omit any sentences;
Determine the average sentence length. (Divide the number of words by the number of sentences.);
Count the “complex” words: those with three or more syllables. Do not include proper nouns, familiar jargon, or compound words. Do not include common suffixes (such as -es, -ed, or -ing) as a syllable;
Add the average sentence length and the percentage of complex words; and…
Multiply the result by 0.4.
The formula looks like this:
If that’s all too mathematical and complex then simply do what one senior PR person told me at the beginning of my PR career when I was a press officer at GMPTE on Portland Street in Manchester:
“Just call a spade a spade and you’ll be alreet.”
Back in 1994, the Plain English Campaign campaign scored a victory when a European Commission directive declared that any term in a consumer contract can only be enforced if it is written in ‘plain and intelligible language’ – which is worth knowing if anyone tries to baffle you.
You can read more about the fog index and other useful readability tools here. Hopefully it will make your world a step closer to becoming a bullshit-free zone.
I know from my PR work with lawyers that they tend to scoop up more work by targeting so-called ‘long tail keyword searches’ performed by Google users. Some research recently indicated that law firms are more likely to attract and convert clients searching for niche phrases than generic searches.
When the conversion rates of for law firms were tracked it was found that niche keywords converted more clients compared to the generic keywords.
Too many law firms in Manchester focus on being found for the wrong keywords. Being number one in Google for ‘Manchester law firm’ doesn’t convert as many clients as being number one for something more niche like ‘dispute with fellow directors’ if you’re a business lawyer.
Manchester solicitors can gain a lot by being placed higher up the Google rankings. As well as the reputational advantage, the commercial advantage is that clients are being more specific with the phrases they search for. The commercial intent of a client is higher with long tail keywords. Concentrating on niche terms brings gets faster results than more competitive generic terms.
To give a simple analogy, someone searching for ‘shoes’ is going to be less likely to be in buying mode than someone searching for ‘size ten tennis shoes’. Law firms need to get to grips with the habits of internet users and ensure their services are easily found through SEO tactics.
Here’s my top ten PR and SEO tips for lawyers and solicitors in Manchester:
Generate fresh content for your website on a daily basis
Focus on getting links back to your site from a diversity of different sites and blogs
Use social media to ‘seed’ your content across the web
Use keyword rich URLs for each page of your site
Have unique page descriptions and titles for each page of your site
Register your firm with Google Places so you can be found on map searches
Create a blog and link back to your main site
Encourage happy clients to link back to your own website by giving them useful content
Create short videos relevant to your work and ensure they are tagged with target keywords to benefit from Google’s blended search results
Ensure an analytics package is installed so you can track all the visitors to your site
Solicitors are getting better at marketing their services through online PR and SEO and this is evidenced by the increasingly tough competition in the online hunt for fresh clients.
Our work with the Manchester Law Society and the Manchester Legal Awards means we’re going to opening a new award category for ‘Best Legal PR and Digital Marketing Campaign’ open to people who have legal marketing jobs in Manchester. Watch this space.
“I wanted a happy culture…so I fired all the unhappy people”
There are many good reasons why your PR agency should work closely with your HR department.
At the most basic level HR departments are fertile ground for human interest and career development stories beloved by PR managers. The usual ‘new appointment’ story always makes good PR especially if the subject has a quirky hobby or an even quirkier surname.
At the opposite end of the spectrum staff redundancies need professionally communicating internally and externally. It pays dividends for PR and HR to work together on this aspect to ensure the corporate line is toed at the same time as meeting the requirements of the law and the needs of the people whose lives are affected.
PR and branding is often about emphasising the unique culture of a business. Every business is different – and what makes businesses different are the principals and personalities of the founder or founders.
A good article in Bloomberg Business identifies three types of people in your business to fire immediately: victims, non-believers, and know-it-alls. I’ve added an extra one into the mix: blockers.
How can PR and HR work better together? Are they compatible bed-fellows during the process of hiring firing? Should PR and HR work together to fire people who aren’t compatible with your future vision of your brand? Employee branding has been all the rage of at least a decade but what about employee non-branding?
Bad people = bad PR.
According to Blomberg if you have any of these characters in your business you should fire them right away because they are bad for business and bad for PR.
Victims believe that everything the business does harms them in some way. If a new initiative, PR or marketing campaign is kicking off – you can bet it spells doom and gloom for the victim. Victim’s typically say things like: waste of time/money and Can you believe what they want us to do now?And of course we have no time to do it. I don’t get paid enough for this. The boss is clueless.
Victims see problems as occasions for persecution rather than challenges to overcome. Victims aren’t looking for opportunities; they are looking for problems. Victims can’t innovate. Fire them.
These people just don’t trust anything anyone says to them. Especially if it’s from someone senior to them.
If you are a leader who says your mission is to innovate, but you have a staff that houses nonbelievers, you are either a lousy leader or in denial. Which is it? You deserve the staff you get. Terminate the nonbelievers.
People who are know-it-alls have seen it all before. They’ve worked with loads of PR companies and they’ve all been useless/rubbish/expensive and don’t know anything about what we do here. You people obviously don’t understand the business we are in.The regulations will not allow an idea like this, and our stakeholders won’t embrace it. Don’t even get me started on our IT infrastructure’s inability to support it. And then there is the problem of …”
Know-it-alls are a pain in the backside and will hamper your business and your PR. Sack them!
The first reaction of a blocker is to say ‘no’. The most insecure and defensive of creatures who never let you get an idea off the ground. They’ve often been scarred by something that happened in a previous job. It’s far easier to say ‘no’ to people than ‘yes’. It also carries less risk. After all who wants to stick their neck out on the line? Problem is, innovative businesses need to stick their necks on the line from time to time. You need calculated risk takers.
Blockers are people who use their knowledge to explain why something is impossible rather than possible. Get rid of them.
PR and HR make a good mix
PR and HR should work closely together to ensure these characters do not impinge on the future growth and prosperity of a brand. Not enough of it is happening here in the UK but as the article in Bloomberg reveals it’s hot stuff in the USA.
Which probably means that a call from the HR manager is coming into your PR agency or PR department very soon.
One of the questions clients ask marketing and branding agencies when undergoing a re-brand or a brand refresh exercise is how do we value it?
Let’s assume a client has already attributed a financial cost to a re-brand. Remember, that’s the cost of doing the re-brand – not the cost of not doing a re-brand – which is harder to calculate but is equally important.
The value question of a re-brand is best answered by firstly examining its current value. If you don’t know the value of your existing brand you will struggle to value it after a change.
Back to branding basics
The main benefit of having a respected brand is that you can charge higher prices for the same product or service as your competitors and therefore produce higher profit margins.
The larger the price premium you charge – the greater the value of your brand name.
To re-iterate: the value of your brand is based on the price premium you are able to charge because of it.
In practice, people attribute to brand value what they should really attribute to product quality, design, service and reliability.
If you possess a strong brand don’t assume that value is going to stay intact forever. There are companies that have dissipated back into remnants…if you have a valuable brand name, hold onto it; preserve the image.
Brand value is the most sustainable competitive advantage you can have. If you don’t believe that you have that power then you are, as George Harrison once sang, one of ‘them’.
What is a brand?
A brand is a cocktail of people, culture, visual identity, attitude, heritage, physical environment, emotion and language. It’s largely the embodiment set across different channels of ‘the way we do things around here’.
A brand is a way of creating a series of associations or connotations in people’s minds in such a way as it persuades them to ‘buy in’ to that product, event or idea. A brand is nothing without an audience. And a brand is only ever as good as peoples’ response to it.
Can you imagine a newspaper without any readers? A band without any listeners or gig-goers, or a product that no one buys? None of these could exist without their target audience believing in them.
I bet you can name all the brands featured above…and only half of the plants.
The starting point for marketing a brand is to uncover what it truly represents. If a branding agency has done its job properly and the market research is done and dusted what a business actually represents is very often not what it aspires to be.
Why is this?
One reason is a phenomenon I’m dubbing ‘soggy middle’.
Soggy middle occurs when time catches up with a brand. It affects fast-growing SME’s and large consumer brands in equal measure.
The most damaging aspect of soggy middle is that it affects growth and profits.
The key thing to know is that it occurs through no fault of the management team. It’s actually a sign that a business is ready for the next stage of growth.
Basically, it’s where a business has grown up from being an infant and is now looking like a sulky teenager. It needs some grooming and maturity to become a young adult.
This awkward middle phase is something that it has to go through – and it will be all the wiser and all the more profitable as a result.
Typical symptoms of ‘soggy middle’ affecting marketers and brand managers include:
Being unsure of the future strategic direction of the brand
Feeling like competitors are being braver in their brand creative
Discontent with existing creative execution of the brand
No sense of vision and value in the business
Outdated marketing collateral
We’re working together to uncover true values, vision and beliefs held by some of our clients. Re-examining core values is the starting point. During this process we’ll agree a fresh direction to future-proof the brand and the business. Before you start work on any PR campaign – its essential that you have the foundations of a brand that you truly love in place first.
After all, if you don’t love your brand as it is – who will?
Some good news has emerged for PR companies and their clients who are facing ever increasing redtape and fees – but the picture is still far from clear.
The Copyright Tribunal today slashed the licence fee increases the NLA had proposed for the web end user licence by up to 90% following legal proceedings brought by the PRCA and Meltwater Group. The changes to the web end user licence fee will save UK businesses (specifically PR companies) and public sector organisations millions of pounds over the next three years.
During the legal proceedings, which saw the Copyright Tribunal uphold seven of the nine changes the PRCA & Meltwater had requested to the licence.
However…and this bit is really important…and expensive for PR companies… the NLA also revealed that it will require anyone who uses Google News / Google Alerts for work to take a licence.
What?! So we need an extra licence to get Google Alerts sent to us which feature clients in them? I want to see Google get involved in this and support Meltwater and the PR industry (which in turn supports Google) to put a stop to this madness.
Meltwater has estimated the savings to the industry to be at least £100 million over the next three years – but what will be the cost of acquiring a licence to review Google News items?
Francis Ingham, PRCA chief executive said
“Both Meltwater and the PRCA have invested huge resources ensuring the PR industry and other Internet users are not subject to unreasonable costs. The savings we have achieved for the industry highlight how important it was that we stood up to this scheme when others just accepted it. This is a huge win for Meltwater, the PRCA and its members. We have won the battle. We must now continue to fight to protect the broader principles of the Internet.
“The mandate the NLA has been given is against the ethos of the Internet and sets UK Copyright Law in a head on collision course with every day Internet users. We share their concern and will now step up our campaign to make UK copyright law fit for a digital age.
“The ability to browse the Internet without fear of infringing copyright has always been a fundamental Internet principle. Society is not served by these rulings in the UK and it seems that this interpretation of the law fundamentally clashes with how millions of people use the Internet every day,” says Jorn Lyseggen, CEO of Meltwater. “Meltwater is a strong believer in copyright and a strong supporter of a sustainable, independent press. However, the UK needs a copyright law that allow its citizens to use the Internet without fear of unintentional infringement.”
Background to the PRCA’s and Meltwater Group’s fight against the Newspaper Licensing Agency Ltd’s (NLA) proposed licencing scheme for Media Monitoring Organisations (MMOs) and the clients of those MMOs is available here.
The full judgment of the Copyright Tribunal can be found here.
Researchers have found that we are more likely to reach for Facebook and Twitter than we are to reach for a cigarette or our favourite alcoholic beverage. The research involved more than 200 participants and researchers believe that this is likely to be because the dangers of smoking are more inherent and existent than any perceived dangers with social networking. This recent study is the latest that shows how we really love our social media websites.
Several months ago it was revealed that the first thing many of us do when we wake up is to log on to Facebook. Apparently, we do this even before we go to the toilet, get dressed, or do anything else. Numerous reports have also showed that we spend too much time on social media websites while at work and that social media usage on mobile devices is displaying a marked increase.
What does this mean for the a PR consultant?
Well, it means that you probably found this blog through Twitter, Facebook or Linked-In.
Does this mean you are addicted to social media? Probably.
Personalisation is one of the new four p’s of marketing which is why I’m impressed with this creative use of Facebook. Heinz used Facebook as a platform for fans to send personalized tins of soup to friends suffering with a cold.
Heinz partnered with top social media agency We Are Social in order to increase social media presence and sales, which resulted in a timely and relevant seasonal campaign acting as an alternative to a ‘Get Well Soon’ card.
After becoming a fan of the Heinz UK Facebook page, users could customize a can of Cream of Tomato or Chicken soup with the name of a sick friend or loved one, to be be delivered within three to four days. The service was only available in the UK, and cost £1.99 per personalized can.
It’s a simple idea, executed brilliantly by one of the world’s most iconic brands. Many a time have I suffered from a cold and reached for a tin of Heinz tomato soup to warm my cockles. Congratulations to everyone involved.
Since launching my PR career in 1999 I’ve noticed a huge increase in the number of experienced freelance PR consultants operating in Manchester.
There are still relatively few PR agencies in Manchester but the number and quality of freelance PR consultants is growing.
Why is this?
If you compare the number of PR companies to the number of law firms there is a 5,000% difference. With more than 400 law firms in Manchester and less than 25 established agencies that employ more than two people is it really true that Manchester is a good city for PR services?
The number of freelance PR agents in Manchester has grown since the recession for obvious reasons.
So…who are the best freelance PR consultants in Manchester? And when is it better to go to a PR agency?
One of the biggest PR firms in the world recently parted company with Twitter – after just a few weeks.
Rather than dwell on what makes a client fire a PR agency after just a few weeks (it was a load of changes in the marketing team at Twitter that forced their hand BTW) the question is – does Twitter really need a PR company?
Indeed, under what circumstances does a business or brand not need a PR agency?
Twitter is ubiquitous in the media. It is building up trust and influence on a daily basis. The more journalists quote tweets rather than getting a direct exclusive quote from a celebrity – the more the negation of the need for their existence. National journalists swallowing the bait set by the celebrity personal PR machine will lead to British tabloids being positvely owned by celebrities who are cocksure of their dominance following the phone hacking saga.
Twitter will need a financial PR agency if it decides to undergo an IPO like Facebook has announced today. Someone will be needed to manage the relentless flow of media requests to interview its founders. Underexploited brand extension opportunities will need to be strategically communicated.
What if Twitter relied on its own product for its PR? Is it possible to inform, educate and influence mass audiences in 140 characters? Can you sustain a reputation through Twitter on a meaningful basis with your audiences?
I heard a story the other day about a certain notoriously lairy Manchester corporate finance ‘professional’ who tweeted something racist shortly after joining a new firm. He was promptly (and quite rightly) fired and frogmarched out of the building.
So, for him, and his bosses, there is enough space in 140 characters to influence the destruction of a career and reputation. But is there enough space in 140 characters to position a brand into something so insightful, so persuasive and so motivational that it leads to millions of people into positive (commercial or political) action?
The riots summer riots in Manchester and London were blamed on Twitter, BBM and Facebook. The emergence of democratic society in the Arab spring were powered by 140 characters according to most western media reports.
So that’s it then. Sack your PR company, stop buying newspapers and just post tweets on Twitter to enhance and sustain your reputation.
Thankfully, most people realise that Twitter is just another channel. It’s not the be all and end all of a 21st century PR campaign. It’s addictive for marketers (and PR agencies) because it’s supplies the instant gratification of observing your marketing messages being shared by ‘real people’.
A fully rounded integrated marketing campaign using all the touch points are always going to be more successful than putting all your eggs into one basket.
There’s loads of media buzz flying about today discussing a poll which reveals the ‘best slogans of all time’.
The top spot goes to Maurice Drake who devised the classic Beanz Meanz Heinz slogan. His inspiration? A few pints with his mates over a pub lunch in 1967. Awesome stuff.
What’s interesting is that precisely none of the slogans were created after 1996. So what on earth happened in the advertising world after 1996 to stop the creativity and ‘wit and warmth’ that copywriter Nick Asbury describes?
My hunch is that it was the wider arrival of the internet and the late nineties, early millennial reliance on the medium over the message. Human memory recall is getting shorter and we’re bombarded with such an array of crass ‘brandlines’ that ‘wit and warmth’ is snubbed out all too often.
Here’s the twenty in full:
Beanz Meanz Heinz – Heinz 
Just Do It – Nike 
Does Exactly What It Says On the tin – Ronseal 
Make Love Not War – various 
Every Little Helps – Tesco 
Have a Break. Have a Kit Kat – Kit Kat 
Vorsprung Durch Technik – Audi 
Think Different – Apple 
It is. Are You? – The Independent 
It’s Finger Lickin’ Good – KFC [1950s]
Say It With Flowers – FTD 
Keep Calm and Carry On – HM Gov 
It’s The Real Thing – Coca-Cola 
You Either Love It Or Hate It – Marmite 
Because I’m Worth It – L’Oreal 
Snap! Crackle! Pop!- Kellogg’s 
Never Knowingly Undersold – John Lewis 
Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite – France 
Refreshes the Parts Other Beers Cannot Reach – Heineken 
No One Likes Us, We Don’t Care – Millwall FC [1970s]
There’s a framed slogan I have on the wall next to my desk in my office that reads WORK HARD & BE NICE TO PEOPLE.
It was given to me by my colleague Ruth Shearn. I don’t know the background to it or who originally wrote it and designed it but it seems a pretty good slogan to me and a decent statement to live your professional life by.
All the finance directors that I know are members of CIMA. All the HR managers I meet are members of the CIPD. Loads of managing directors I meet are members of the IOD.
The CIPR is the only chartered body for the PR profession. When you join the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, you gain access to unrivalled support, a wealth of specialist resources and professional development opportunities that grow with your career.
CIPR membership develops people, helps progress careers and inspires the industry to bigger and better things. CIPR memberships demonsrates to colleagues, clients and the boardroom that you are accountable, credible and committed to best practice.
What sort of stuff do you get access to as a CIPR member in the North West?
Free access to training webinars (worth £700)
Free subscription to PRWeek and PRWeek.com (worth £199)
Membership of CIPR regional groups and professional practice networks
Access to PR case studies and best practice guides online
Use of members’ lounge in central London
Free business and legal advice through a dedicated CIPR helpline
Access to CIPR CPD and accreditation
You’ll also get doscounts on PR workshop and PR events as well as on textbooks and other media.
Of course you know that PR is the best value for money marketing spend you can get and if you’re reading this blog you’ll know the power of PR over advertising.
Danny Rogers, editor of PR Week makes a neat observation in his opener for the PR Week ‘Top 150 Consultancies’ report that two current marketing trends play into the hands of PR specialists rather than the ad men.
Social media, which is more of a ‘conversation’ than a ‘broadcast’ is something that PR people are better at than advertising guys. Marketing budget trimming has also meant less spend on paid media (advertising) and more on earned media (PR) which generally has a lower cost and higher ROI.
Highlighting some key facts Danny explains:
“What we do know, however, from recent Advertising Association figures, is that ad spend from 2009-10 grew by 6.9 per cent. And yet PRWeek’s Top 150 PR Consultancies report, published today, reveals that PR spend over the same period grew, on average, by 9.24 per cent.”
I agree with Danny that PR is not the new advertising and that it doesn’t need to be. PR is PR and will continue to thrive in the current climate. Well done to all the Manchester PR agencies who made the grade this year in the PR Week report.
The more time you spend on the internet the more you realise that everyone is wrong and you are right. Paul Weller once sang the more I know the less I understand and I can relate to that.
I’ve got strong views on all the main current affairs stories that pop up in my social media feeds and inbox. I gave up years ago fruitlessly arguing online with people I didn’t know and the same is true for Twitter.
I now realise that my views probably aren’t any stronger than yours and if you’re reading this blog or following me on Twitter then you’re going to have similar interests as me anyway.
Perhaps I should become a councillor and work my way up to parliament? I just haven’t found a political party that represents me adequately.
I’m currently doing some work with Trafford MBC. Maybe it will prompt me into more direct action?
If you’re launching a new product or service into the UK market then PR is one of the weapons you’ll need to generate some sales momentum. You need to speed up the diffusion of the product into the marketplace.
Diffusion is the process by which a new idea, new service or new product is accepted by the market. The rate of diffusion is the speed that the new idea spreads from one consumer to the next. Adoption is similar to diffusion except that it deals with the psychological processes an individual goes through, rather than an aggregate market process.
There are several theories that purport to explain the mechanics of diffusion and these are really important to support your PR process. I know that some of this might come across as a bit “MMU PR MA” but I think it’s important for PR folk and clients to understand it fully.
the trickle-down effect - products tend to be expensive at first, and therefore only accessible to the wealthy social strata – in time they become less expensive and are diffused to lower and lower strata
The most difficult step is making the transition between visionaries (early adopters) and pragmatists (early majority). This is the chasm identified above. Products or services that cannot cross this chasm will die or remain niche. If successful, a PR agency will create a bandwagon effect in which the momentum builds and the product becomes ubiquitous.
I read this by Seth Godin (who also appears on my ‘Thought Leaders of Men’ list on the right-hand side of my homepage) and thought I’d share it with you.
You don’t even realize there’s a game. (And any contest, market, project or engagement is at some level a game).
You start getting involved and it feels like a matter of life or death. Every slight cuts deeply, every win feels permanent. “This is the most important meeting of my life…”
You realize that it’s a game and you play it with strategy. There’s enough remove for you to realize that winning is important but that continuing to play is more important than that. And playing well is most important.
You get bored with the game, because you’ve seen it before. Sometimes people at this stage quit, other times they sabotage their work merely to make the game feel the way it used to.
Who is the best PR photographer in Manchester? I’ve worked with dozens of good (and bad) ones down the years. But what makes a good PR photographer?
A well-known business editor tells me that stories with a good picture have got a 99 per cent chance of making it on the page. So many great stories have poor photography and it’s all too often overlooked by clients and PR agencies as extra expense.
An extra little investment goes a long way in getting the results everyone wants. There’s no getting around the fact that professional photography beats ham-fisted amateur attempts every time.
For the record, here are six things I look for in a professional PR photographer:
1) a decent online portfolio featuring testimonials from happy corporate clients.
2) a proper studio that is properly equipped with cameras, lighting and editing suite.
3) art direction deliverd with confidence and experience.
5) an eye for a ‘press pic’ as well as corporate photography.
6) good service and prompt editing and delivery of images.
7) long terms relationships. PR agencies often work for years with good photographers who are technically brilliant and able to build a trusted relationship at the same time.
So who is the best Manchester PR photographer? That’s a tough question to answer but I can highly recommend some of these guys who I know and trust to deliver an excellent job: Jason Locke, Matthew Seed, Karen Wright and Dave Thompson.
Who do you think are the best photographers in Manchester?
Considering most PR agency folk can’t explain to their own mothers what they do for a living here’s an initiative that should make life a lot simpler.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is supporting the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) “PR Defined” initiative, which is a collaborative, industry-wide effort to develop a modern definition for the new era of public relations.
Sounds like a load of hot air already…but bear with me on this one…
Apparently, the PRSA wants to modernise the definition of public relations and increase its value. I’ll have some of that I hear you murmuring.
The PRSA says that as the digital age has caused significant shifts in how organisations communicate internally and externally, a question frequently asked by the public, media and practitioners is, ‘What is public relations?’
You and me both buddy…you and me both…
This coincides with the publication of the CIPR’s own research “PR 2020: The Future of Public Relations,” which highlights the need for better definitions of public relations.
The PRSA is inviting PR professionals to share their insights and perspective on what defines the modern practice of public relations, and is working with industry partners to gain further input and support.
Jane Wilson, the big cheese at the CIPR, said:
Our own research in to what professionals believe will help build a successful future for PR points firmly to the need for better definitions of public relations. Our own definition is sound, but may not be entirely reflective of the scope of modern practice.
As our profession evolves, the challenge is not only to attempt to capture the diversity of disciplines within it but also to reflect the rapidity of changes in modern practice in an increasingly integrated and digital environment. Professional Public Relations makes a major impact to business and society and testing a sound and relevant definition is worthwhile and timely exercise to ensure that we properly communicate the value of what we do.
PR Professionals themselves have widely diverging opinions on the nature of public relations. It might be the case that a one-size-fits-all definition is very difficult to reach, but the process of trying will be very instructive. The PRSA have come up with a timely initiative and we will fully participate and will encourage our members to take up the chance to contribute.
I’m looking forward to the debate already. No really, I am. Honestly. Will you keep me posted please?
I’ve been connecting with people through Linked-In for about two years. Some of my colleagues have been on ‘boot camps’ to hone their skills.
Instead of paying for a course run by a ‘social media guru’ in a bland conference suite full of digital numpties who you’ll never meet again…use this nice infographic (below) in the comfort of your own home to help you get the most out this massive social media network for business types.
“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.”
That’s a quote by John Ruskin, the English art critic of the Victoria era. It still stands true today.
If you want to find a consumer product cheaper just go to Google Shopping and it will tell you in less than one second where to get it. Auto-bidding tools used by retailers to compete against each other offer up the cheapest price they are willing to sell to you – taking into account competitors prices too. It’s a sort of reverse version of eBay. With Amazon’s one click ordering you can click – and buy – while standing in the pair of shoes that you were going to buy from the store you are stood in.
If you want to find a service cheaper just get a load of quotes in and go for the cheapest. When you’ve got the cheapest simply go to a few more suppliers and tell them you want a better price. You will always get something cheap if you look for it. But bear in mind if the price is cheap then the value is low to buyer and seller.
If you’re not the cheapest then you recognise the value in your product and service. You have to convince other people to see that value too.
Does price matter? It only matters if you are the cheapest to start with. I hope you aren’t.
Everybody agreed that something needs to be done to improve the image of Altrincham. All agreed Altrincham has to improve first.
Here are my ten initial thoughts:
1) Altrincham lacks a consistent, coherent visual language and identity. If the vision can be expressed visually and illustrated through the use of typographic, photography, tone-of-voice and digital/printed/PR communications – a brand is powerfully delivered. Chester is a good example.
2) Altrincham needs to re-establish trust and pride with its own residents. Lots of research has already been done in Altrincham– feedback from residents/businesses. This intelligence needs collating, packaged and sharing with PR agencies in Altrincham.
3) Altrincham business owners need to feel that Trafford is fighting on their behalf re: rates/regeneration/planning. It’s great to see that Trafford is actively discussing business rates with David Cameron’s team – but the council should tell people that they are – and seed that news across Trafford.
4) The Stamford Quarter needs a marketing and PR overhaul. (I cited the example of outdoor advertising promoting a 50p parking rate on a Sunday…the gruesome stock images promoting the ‘brands’ coming to the town…the lack of communication…far better to sell the sizzle…) By the way, does anyone know if this is the longest, noisiest town centre retail development in the UK? (It’s 15 feet wide and about three bus lengths long FFS…)
5) Throwing a PR executive for “a day a month” might not work for Altrincham or an agency. Getting PR folk from opposing agencies to agree on doing stuff sounds like a tricky task. However, perhaps each agency could have a different ‘scope’ to cover? Business, leisure, transport, tourism, education, green spaces etc. I’m keeping an open-mind on this.
6) Retail is obviously important. I feel we should also highlight areas where Altrincham is already winning – education, green spaces, housing. These are core ingredients in the Altrincham brand.
7) No PR/marketing agency will understand the political issues and the scope of what can actually be achieved better than the council itself. It is not for the PR/marketing agency to drive practical steps (initiatives to clean up broken glass etc) but to focus on the bigger picture stuff. The strategic backbone (starting with content) has to come from people within the regeneration
8) The PR of Altrincham needs to be handled by a loving team and not seen as a job-list in the Trafford in-house PR team.
9) There is no doubt that a more proactive PR strategy with local press will pay dividends. ‘Professionalising’ the efforts of the PR for Altrincham Forward – will engender a sense of ‘we’re all in it together…’ I’d like to change the narrative from ‘angry militants with furrowed brows and folded arms’ to ‘successful entrepreneurs are claiming back the town with positive initiatives’.
10) A lasting brand isn’t built on the strength of a PR campaign alone – and in terms of destination marketing – it takes years to change opinion – not weeks and months. Altrincham has to be in it for the long haul. We should all consider this when debating what is best for Altrincham.
I’m looking forward to exploring the issues further with Trafford and the talented bunch of PR agencies that exist in Altrincham and Hale. Special thanks to Matthew Colledge who clearly has the passion, foresight and vision to drive Altrincham forward.
Every day you are exposed to more than 8,000 commercial messages.
How many do you remember? How many do you act on?
What can you do to cut through the clutter and get your product or service noticed?
Having a good service doesn’t matter. Having a good product doesn’t matter. Having good people doesn’t matter. Being cheapest doesn’t matter. So what the hell does matter?
Firstly, you have to be found when people are looking for what you sell. You need to be visible (physically and digitally). That means you need to ensure your website is sitting in the top three positions in Google for your chosen keywords in your business. Good SEO, social media and web design helps.
Secondly, you need to convert people who have found you with a strong, differential brand identity. If you’re not the cheapest (you’re probably not) this is the only thing that distinguishes you from your competition.
Just having ‘good people’ doesn’t cut it. I repeat – just having good people doesn’t cut it. Almost everyone I meet is good at their job. Or at least thinks they are good. Therefore being a good accountant, good solicitor, good doctor, good PR or a good dentist isn’t why people are going to choose you. Ryanair pilots possess the same skill as British Airways pilots. But I won’t fly Ryanair. Even if they are the cheapest. It’s just not for me. I’ve tried it and I didn’t like it.
Brand development, compelling design, tone-of-voice and powerful visual language is the fastest way to stand apart from your rivals when you can’t or won’t compete on price.
Thirdly, you need to be forefront of mind and associated with ‘what you do’. As well as being associated with your product and service you need to invoke a positive emotion too. It’s this emotional resonance that engenders brand loyalty, reapeat customers and goodwill. PR is the most powerful marketing channel for communicating this to your audiences.
So, if you aren’t going to compete on price…what makes you special?
Being famous in your own backyard is always the starting point for a PR campaign. If people in the same street, village or town haven’t heard of you – why should the rest of the world care?
A new campaign launched today by the Newspaper Society promotes the virtues of local media and is offering £15m of free advertising up for grabs to local businesses. Most PR guys will agree that local media is notoriously tricky to penetrate if it’s not your local media. That’s the reason why ‘Tamara’ from a London PR agency finds it tougher to sell in stories to the Manchester Evening News than slotting something in Vogue. It’s a hard gig in reverse too.
Local media is mission critical for any PR campaign you’re looking to run. It’s not all ‘cat stuck up a tree’ stuff. There are more than 1,200 regional and local newspapers and the local press is the UK’s most popular print medium, read by more than 33 million people each week. Local media employs 30,000 people in the UK including 10,000 journalists.
Whether papers will be replaced entirely by newswires (still…) remains to be seen. In my experience web-based publishers and print-based publishers are doing well or at least better than they were a couple of years ago in the depths of the recession.
If you’re a business in Manchester and you want a chance to win a slice of £15m of free advertising see here.
As well as feeding stories to the local press for the past twelve years I’m probably the only person on my street who still gets the Manchester Evening News delivered by a paperboy.
My gramp did it, my dad did it, now I do it. Will Harry? I hope so.
Running the press conference to announce the return of the mighty Stone Roses has got to be on my wish list of PR jobs.
Legendary music PR man Murray Chalmers landed the gig of promoting the resurrection of the Roses and in my book has done a brilliant job (although I’d have hosted it in Manchester at the Radisson – site of the ‘76 Sex Pistols gig).
Everyone in the country now knows the Roses have reformed and everyone between the ages of 30 and 50 are going to be queuing around the block for tickets. All 150,000 tickets for the two gigs at Heaton Park will sell out in minutes and the Roses will become instant millionaires (which is long overdue).
The press conference itself was a laid back affair with the Roses clearly enjoying the event – in marked contrast to their previous two press conferences (Manchester 1990 to announce Spike Island and Reading 1996). Murray Chalmers has done an excellent job on the PR and most impressively was able to keep it a secret for so long. Reni hats off to his PR team.
Here are ten reasons why I love the Stone Roses and why they are the greatest band in the world:
1) In 1989 they looked like the most perfect pop group in the world. Looking at the pictures from that time now they still look better than any other band before or since.
3) I grew up in Timperley – as did Squire and Brown on Sylvan Avenue.
4) I queued up for the Second Coming at midnight outside Virgin on Market Street in Manchester with my mate Stefan Tomkins (R.I.P). I bought it on CD and got a huge signed poster, which I still treasure. Stef bought in on tape so he could play it in his mum’s car on the way home. We were pictured in the Manchester Evening News.
5) When tickets for the 1995 tour went on sale I queued up outside the Apollo at 5am waiting for the box office to open at 9am. I got four tickets for my mates and me and lost one on the way home. I had to tell Stu Bradford that his ticket had got lost on Ardwick Green. To this day I still don’t know what happened to it.
6) On the way home from school once I met Ian Brown and he gave me his autograph. On another occasion I sat next to him at Timperley Metrolink Station and he gave me an Embassy Filter.
7) I did work experience at the Big Issue where I first met Roses uber-fan John Robb. The Roses have their first interview for the Second Coming to the Big Issue. Cyber-handsome John Robb was also the first journalist to ask a question at the Stone Roses press conference.
8) Two lads in my class at school (Casey Longden and Neil Nisbet) went on to form the Rub with Reni during his wilderness years.
9) I took my Roses vinyl to a Primal Scream gig and found Cressa outside the pub next door. He took all my records off me, disappeared backstage for five minutes and returned with Mani’s signature.
10) I went to the launch of the Gareth Evans/Mick Middles book ‘Breaking Into Heaven’ and got it signed by the authors – and thanks to Casey – Reni and Pete Garner (the original Stone Roses bassist).
The return of the Stone Roses is a great, great thing. You should celebrate it.
Facebook’s new feature is a real time live video chat facility. You don’t need to type text in real-time to your friends (yawn…it seems so antiquated already) but you can speak face-to-face via a Skype application embedded in Facebook anywhere in the world for free.
But how can brands capitalise?
The feature isn’t currently available for fan-pages. Grrr…
Until then. . . I’ve thought of an idea. Now, hear me out.
What follows is an interruption marketing tactic . . . on steroids:
1) As the PR person running a Fanpage you should ‘add’ all the people who have ‘liked’ your brand – accompanied with a message to say that you are the PR person representing your client and as loyal fans they’ve been chosen to take part in an exclusive competition to win £1,000 (or a lifetimes supply of the product you’re PR-ing)
2) Leave it a week while you wait for people to ‘confirm’ friendship.
3) Create a branded ‘Andy Crane / Gordon the Gopher / Edd the Duck style broom-cupboard’ in the PR agency.
4) Get to the office on a Monday morning, settle down into the branded broom cupboard, open your Facebook account on your laptop and see which of your new found friends are online.
5) Connect with one via video chat.
6) When they answer and you see the whites of their eyes say: “Hello! I’m xxxxx from xxxx and I’m delighted to tell you that you’ve won a year’s supply / £1000 for being such a loyal fan of our brand.”
7) Send prize.
8) Await online advocacy by delighted consumer.
9) Send press release to all the marketing/media/PR blogs and magazines explaining the campaign and what a clever agency you are.
10) Bask in the glory of being heralded as the creative PR agency that used the world’s first Facebook chat/real-time/social media/interruption marketing PR engagement strategy.
11) Collect award (judges get all excited over new social media tactics).
12) Get cited all over the web as a PR genius. The end.
It’s authentic, personal, positive, engaging and fun. Isn’t it? What do you think?
A good story about pitching is told by Jerry Della Femina in his seminal 1970 book ‘From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor’. The tale comprises of two hapless agency guys presenting a campaign to a prospect and ending up embroiled in what can only be described as ‘a right old pickle’.
I won’t spoil the story by lamely regurgitating it here but it’s the funniest description of hot-footing it out of door after a pitch I’ve ever read.
Pitches can be bitches. That’s why I salute the chaps who came up with this nice illustration currently doing the rounds at PR agencies in Manchester.
Neuromarketing is probably what Bill Hicks was really raging about in one of his most famous routines. Beefing up your brand with the help of clever, bespectacled men in white coats is de rigeur for big brands.
Neuromarketing helps brands to amplify their brand loyalty and powers profits. It’s been around for donkey’s years but little is known about it.
The science of branding is something I’m researching in more detail at the moment. Extra insight about the brain’s behaviour gives smart marketers and their creative agencies the ultimate edge.
Everybody already knows that a brand is not a logo. Most people know that you need to connect emotionally as well as rationally. Thanks to Kevin Roberts we know that Lovemarks provoke ‘loyalty beyond reason’.
A good starting point for newcomers to neuromarketing is a famous piece of research undertaken by Dr. P. Read Montague, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
When researchers monitored brain scans of 67 people who were given a blind taste test of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, each soft drink lit up the brain’s reward system, and the participants were evenly split as to which drink they preferred. But when the same people were told what they were drinking, activity in a different set of brain regions linked to brand loyalty overrode their original preferences. Three out of four said that they preferred Coca-Cola.
The study, published science journal Neuron, was the first to explore how cultural messages penetrate the human brain and shape personal preferences. Josh Braaton also has some thoughts around this and the book Buyology by Martin Lindstrom which are well worth checking out. There’s also a nice piece here which goes into more detail.
Now, while you’re watching Bill Hicks on marketing, I’m off to make a cup of PG Tips tea.
You can always rely on Brian Solis to come up with a nice infographic. The architect of the world famous Conversation Prism (as adorned on t-shirts and posters by social media agencies worldwide) made such a global impact in 2008 it’s since been translated into dozens of different languages.
Although perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing as the iconic Prism his latest effort (left) is also pretty good.
The approach of dividing PR channels into paid, earned and owned (and now promoted and shared thanks to Solis and Jesse Thomas) is something which should come naturally to modern PR professionals.
Solis is surely the world’s thought leader in rapidly evolving 21st century public relations.
Keeping up is hard to do but the PR who follows thought leaders like Solis and Seth gets a headstart on the oi polloi.
PR Week discusses the different personality types found in public relations. Research by the magazine and APCO reveals there are typically six personality types found working in-house.
In-house PROs were asked to pick which persona they identified with most in the workplace from a choice of six: stakeholder charmer, strategy king, media junky, padberry addict, clipboard wizard and ideas dreamer.
While the study focuses on in-house PRO’s it’s useful to get a handle on the personality types in the industry.
A good start for PR companies is the Belbin team role theory.
If you’ve never done the Belbin test in your business then I highly recommend it. It’s a good insight into what makes your people tick and where your next recruit should be coming from. According to Belbin, a business should have an even spread of team roles in order to truly excel. Here’s the PR Week item in full along with the most ‘typical’ PR types.
There’s a nice piece in the latest Creative Review about how to fire a client. Every PR agency I know has had to fire a client at some point and there’s lots of ways to do it and plenty of good (and bad) reasons for doing so.
What’s more common for PR agencies is declining the opportunity to work with a client.
PR agencies get bombarded with all kinds of people demanding advice. Picking the right clients to work with, even in these austere times, is a lifelong learning process but here’s some pointers on some of the criteria I use when considering whether to represent a client:
1) Ethical – if something just doesn’t sit well with your own values and that of your team then it’s wise to steer clear. If you don’ t believe in the very thing you’re supposed to be pitching then you’ll never do a good job.
2) Conflict of interest – it’s true that agencies have specialisms and often a bias towards one type of client or another. It’s this agency experience that attracts competitive clients in the first place. So how can agencies act in a PR capacity for rival clients? Transparency is the key here. Being transparent and open with all your clients is essential. Some conflicts are obvious (Coke v Pepsi) but others may not appear as obvious to agencies so that’s why alerting all your clients to every new client you pick up is sensible.
3) Budget – a major bug bear for agencies is the sheer number of timewasters out there. We’ve all been there. You’re excited about a brief and the ideas are flowing in the agency and the chemistry meeting has gone well but when it comes down to it the client won’t put his money where his mouth is.
4) Cumbersome pitch processes – most agencies are happy to pitch. Hell, some of us even love it. Asking ten agencies to pitch though isn’t the way to do it. If a client is seeing more than three agencies for a pitch then we’ll politely decline. I even know of some agencies who refuse to pitch altogether. Others demand a fee up front.
5) Promiscuity – agencies are switched on to the clients that shift their business every twelve months. PR is a small community and we all know who works on what account. There are bucket loads of accounts out there that have done the rounds. There are some good reasons for this – fresh ideas, fresh people, can’t retain their marketing director. Most PR guys prefer long term relationships though.
6) Specialism – no PR agency can do every job asked of them. We’re always happy to refer people to other agencies if we think their needs are better served by others. What goes around comes around baby.
7) Mad clients – some clients are simply as mad as hatters. Down the years I’ve been ‘briefed’ by the following nutters: a man from Chorley who developed the “British version of Facebook” . . . a company that got me to sign a NDA on a project that was so secret that he couldn’t tell me what sector they operated in, what the project was or what the business model was . . . a company that had invented the world’s first ‘tampon box’. . . and my personal favourite the man who invented a ‘new pair of scissors’ and demonstrated them in our office on his business partner’s hair.
The wisdom of crowds theory dictates that there are four things needed for the wisdom of ‘crowds’ to succeed.
Diversity of opinion
Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts. (MTT is free and open to anyone)
People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them. (can operate annonymously in isolation)
People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge. (local people are clever at local stuff)
Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision (the website is the mechanism)
So, the theory is that if Mancunians are given the opportunity to tip an idea into a big meting pot of ideas then some good will come of it. The ideas will be voted ‘up’ or ‘down’ on the site and the cream of the crop will rise to the top. Then, progressive politicians in the city, inspired individuals and private enterprise will fill the gap.
There are some great talkers in Manchester but even better thinkers. I’m sure that they’d love to take part. In the meantime I’m supporting the I LOVE MCR campaign organised by Marketing Manchester. If you’ve got any more than a droplet of Manc blood in you then you should too.
In many ways I’ve been a blagger blogger all my life.
I’ve always jotted and scribbled ideas, notes, opinions, expressions down in one way or another. I read all the marketing and PR trade press and come away inspired, annoyed, motivated and educated.
I’m constantly on a journey to learn more about this amazing industry. No other industry moves as quickly as PR.
There’s something really important I need to get out of the way first. And it’s this:
PR owns all elements of the marketing mix. It’s no longer the bridesmaid for advertising. It hasn’t been for donkey’s years. It’s certainly not the boring older brother of social media either.
PR is the head of the family. The boss. If you work in design, marketing, advertising, digital – it all falls under PR. There are many people who agree with me on this (and I hope to connect with them through this blog) and an equal amount who disagree (and I hope to connect with them too).
I love this business. I love the people in this business. PR folk are the brightest and funniest people I’ve ever met in my life. I want to learn more from them. I hope you do too.
The modern PR professional isn’t just a PR anymore. The new breed is an effervescent blend of creative director, strategist, copywriter, designer, brand manager, SEO, accountant, lawyer, social media planner, media buyer, project manager, networker, publicist, event manager, marketing director, affiliate relationship broker. It’s too twee to call this PR 2.0 so for me, in 2011, it’s just ‘PR’.
PR folk have skilfully shifted their expertise into paid media and owned media as well as maintaining our grip on the earned media we have traditionally specialised in.
That’s why I launched this blog. I want to open up the PR industry and shine a light on the best work, the best campaigns and the highs and lows of living and breathing a buzzing agency in the greatest city in the world.