Is it worth blogging anymore? Is anybody out there?

is there anybody out there

Is there anybody still out there?

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here but there’s a simple explanation. Since I started this blog I’ve had three amazing children born so my time away from PR world is precious. Given the choice between football with my sons or writing a post about social media PR strategies, I’ve chosen the former. PR parents, I’m sure, will understand.

During this time I’ve been using Twitter and Linked-In quite a lot more than ever to communicate with people.

Taking a look at this blog made me reflect on the reasons why I launched it in the first place and got me pondering whether a blog about PR is relevant in 2015?

The reason I started this blog was simply to see if I could rank a website organically, pretty quickly, for the term ‘Manchester PR agency’. It ranked pretty quickly and was doing really well in Google climbing to the first page. As I’ve blogged less frequently it has dropped down Google quite a bit but it still holds a respectable position and I still get quite a lot of traffic through the site.

When I started this blog it was generally assumed that to be a ‘thought leader’ you had to host your own blog on your own domain and maintain it regularly. I started this blog in 2011 and the social media boom which has occurred since has given blogs like this a run for their money in terms of ‘engagement’. All the UK PR bloggers will probably agree.

The attention span of people is smaller than at any other point in humanity. Consumer attention span is now measured in milliseconds and B2B attention span is even less. The chances that you’re still reading this and not flicked elsewhere are pretty slim indeed (thank you for bearing with me!).

For the same reason that pre-roll advertising on YouTube doesn’t work for most brands the art and power of self-hosted blogs has been lost during the past five years. I know many people who had their own personal and professional blog who simply don’t bother anymore – preferring instead to spend time curating their Twitter timeline or their Linked-In posts. What’s also apparent is that people can tweet in real time as events unfold. Although the life of these tweets is shorter, the impact of an artfully constructed blog is less.

I don’t think the art of the blog has died – I think there’s less value in it because more people are using social as a means of search. So, if I want to find out about anything or research a product, movie or company I’ll use social media as a way of finding out more – and getting (what I believe to be) more independent viewpoints (from complete strangers in real life).

So, the conclusion I’ve drawn is that it’s not the death of the blog but the blog needs to bring something that social media can’t. I’m still working out what that is.

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Why nobody cares about your business

Why are people bored by your brand?

In my line of work I meet many people who love their business.

There’s an infectious and attractive energy surrounding managing directors and CEOs who started off their empires on the kitchen table/spare room/potting shed and grew to become a business success story.

I mean, these guys really, really love their company.

Often, they have the skill to inspire teams of people in the company who also feel the same love for the business. In doing so they create brilliant, motivational places to work, amazing products and services, loyalty from staff, respect from peers, trust of customers and healthy profits.

But after a while they feel they’re missing something.

They’ll say things like: “we need to take a fresh look at our PR and marketing strategy” or “we need to grow more awareness of our products and services” or “we need to get our brand out there” and “we need to sell more.”

However, what I think they’re really trying to say is:

I want more people to love my company.

The root of the issue for many of them is a feeling that nobody else loves their business as much as they do. And they feel they should. After all why not? It’s a successful business with great people running it and working in it. What’s the problem?

The benefit of being loved outside your organisation is obvious. Everything that’s already good is instantly amplified to thousands, if not millions, more people through marketing and PR campaigns.

But how do you go about getting people to love you? How do good brands subconsciously seduce people?

There are four basic truths to grasp:

Being great isn’t good enough

Just having a great service or great product alone isn’t enough. The world is full of nice, funny, charming, bright people doing lots of amazing work. They already work in your company, my company and your competitors. To get people to love what you do needs extra effort.

Your vision is not bold enough

Having a long-term vision is essential. The vision has to be bigger than standard business metrics connected to sales, money or status. You have to answer the question: what are we doing to change the world we live in? The best brands know how they are changing the world and are consistently making a real impact on real people’s lives. Be dramatic and daring with your vision and execute it within the business.

Your voice is (probably) not distinctive enough

I’ve posted before about the irony of authenticity in marketing. There’s a distinct lack of distinctive voices in most industry sectors. I’d wager that the text on your website is written in exactly the same style and tone of voice as others in your marketplace. The images (your visual identity) you use are also used by someone else and you’re trying too hard to catch up with competitor marketing campaigns rather than cutting a rug your own way.

Finding out who you are as a business (and a brand) is fundamental to creating your own distinct positioning, visual, verbal and corporate identity.

You can’t make everyone love you

You can’t please everybody all the time. Stop going for the lowest common denominator in your brand positioning. After you’ve defined what your brand is all about your have to know who you target audience is and focus your key messages on this group of potential ‘raving super-fans’. These brand advocates who love your business are the seeds from which love will blossom in the wider world for your business.

Starting a company is easy. Growing a business is really tough and the natural order of things dictates only the minority succeed.

Building a brand is even trickier and very few manage to do so. Hopefully, by facing up to some truths about your own business you can make the first step that takes you beyond others.

 

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Our new PR agency video

I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently with our own in-house video production team to create a new HD video for our Manchester PR agency.

We’re working with lots of companies now to amplify their video presence online.

If you’re looking for a new Manchester PR agency video team to promote your business and get across your brand and marketing messages then just give me a call on 0161 927 3131.

PS: I recommend watching the out-takes at then end of the film…

Meet the team from award winning PR agency RMS PR from RMS PR on Vimeo.

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The irony of authenticity

It’s the most common marketing advice offered to brands and businesses: be authentic!

But what does that mean in a world saturated by brands spending millions of pounds heeding this advice?

It’s actually poor advice. By definition it means that the alternative to authenticity is inauthenticity and nobody wants to be perceived as that anyway. So what on earth does it mean when PR agencies and marketers bang on incessantly about authenticity?

There’s a great article in PR Week this week written by Nicola Green, director of communications and reputation at Telefónica UK, in which she states:

“Creativity is all around us. But the creative idea without the foundation of authenticity is a bubble in the wind. Authenticity has to permeate everything we do.”

There’s a sort of ‘forced fun’ element to all this ‘authenticity’ vibe. If you have to ‘create’ or ‘develop’ an authentic brand is it really authentic?

Real people are at the heart of authenticity for me.

Often, meeting people you follow on Twitter is a bit like meeting Morrisssey*. You end up disappointed the reality doesn’t meet the myth. Many people adopt their own social media persona which is usually a tweak of their real life persona.

People who say their Twitter profile is the real ‘them’ are bending the truth. There’s usually a degree of self-editing going on in that they are actively projecting an image of themselves they want the world to see.

It’s the same in business. On Twitter you never see business folk experiencing the downs or the rages or the tears. It’s all platitudes, positivity and back-slapping. There’s nothing wrong with all this positivity and it clearly has commercial advantages but it’s hard to argue that it’s authentic.

The reality of life (and business) for most people is that you do occasionally have challenging days, doubts, insecurities and pain. As long as these times are outweighed by good times you’ll do fine.

So, next time you hear someone spouting off about the need to be ‘authentic’ – check out their own individual social media profile and see if they practice what they preach.

Saying authentic things doesn’t mean being authentic.

Now, that’s quite enough of authenticity for this year.

*I know this because I met him once in the health food shop next to the vegetarian cafe on Oxford Road in Altrincham. He was kind enough to sign my Strangeways here we come CD but it was an underwhelming experience.

 

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What’s the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing?

inbound v content

As clients and agencies shift their focus (and budgets) into content marketing and inbound marketing – the first question most people ask is what’s the difference between the two? 

The answer: nothing. Or, very little. Or, quite a lot.

Let me explain…

There was some really, really good research conducted by HubSpot on the subject where it reached out to thousands of marketers across the globe as part of its ‘State of Inbound’ report.

HubSpot is the company that originally coined the phrase inbound marketing so they asked 3,500 marketing and sales professionals the following question:

Which of the following best describes the relationship between ‘content marketing’ and ‘inbound marketing’?” and provided five options:

  1. They are synonyms.
  2. Content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing.
  3. Inbound marketing is a subset of content marketing.
  4. The two are fundamentally different.
  5. Don’t know.

I won’t spoil the result of the research but if you want to know what marketers think – take a look at this excellent post by Joe Chernov where he offers his slant.

In my view content marketing is a sub-set of inbound marketing.

I personally prefer inbound marketing as the lead descriptor and see content marketing as a distinct process which happens within the ‘inbound marketing strategy’.

For me it makes more sense to talk about the inbound marketing strategy first because it’s a clearer definition and means more than the nebulous concept of ‘content’. Anyway, content is an over used term to describe almost everything anyone does in marketing departments these days.

Top six tips for inbound marketing

The power of inbound marketing is well documented elsewhere but I thought I’d put together six quick tips which should help you mull over in your own mind thinking about what it can do for your business. So, here goes:

  1. Having a clear and distinct tone of voice and corporate identity is more important than the content itself. Why? Because there’s more content out there than you can shake a stick at. If I want to know everything about a subject – I simply use Google – and that’s just a starting point. People are more likely to be drawn to something presented beautifully and differently. This usually comes down to the tone and visual interpretation of the offer. If your business doesn’t have a distinct tone of voice it needs to get one quick.
  2. Tracking leads and monitoring results is essential to generate a ROI. There are plenty of good marketing automation tools that help to segment, nurture, track and close leads and these tools are essential for the the businesses making a success of inbound marketing activity.
  3. It’s not all about online. Sure, online content is the simplest and cheapest way to get ‘out there’ and draw people in – but there is still room for the real world. One example is the Red Bull ‘leap into space’.
  4. PR agencies are in a really good spot to manage your inbound marketing activity. In PR we’re used to telling (and re-telling) stories all the time in different and new ways to get the attention of multiple audiences. The fact that the filtering mechanism of a journalist or editor is less important (because we can reach an audience directly) to get a message across makes PR agencies a wise choice for setting an inbound strategy.
  5. Good design matters. When stuff looks better it just works better from a marketing point of view. Too many great ideas and wonderful content is spoiled by a poor design treatment.
  6. Less is more. You should focus on producing less content but making it better quality. Creating a deeper and richer experience for your target market through a campaign that cuts across as many ‘earned media’ and ‘owned media’ platforms you can is key to success.

Of course the idea which is formed from having a clear strategy of where you want to be is still the thing. It’s everything. Without a good idea you’ll see no success at all with your inbound marketing and content marketing efforts.

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The total awesomeness of having the BBC in Manchester

broadcast pr agency manchester

Me at the BBC this week supporting a PR client

Having the BBC on our doorstep here in Manchester Salford is one of the best thing to happen to Manchester PR agencies since…well… forever.

The ability to get to Media City in five minutes flat by simply hopping in a cab with a client and clutching a decent press release to get out to the world provides huge opportunities for everyone in the public relations business in the North West.

The BBC has an enormous amount of people involved in content creation and knowing who to contact to pitch your story can be tricky even for PR people with impeccable media contacts.

There’s plenty of fluidity at the BBC between job roles and flexibility in terms of content creation for television, radio and digital that it can be quite easy to lose track of who does what and where.

Reporters and producers are expected to be multi-skilled and are increasingly having to consider the wider BBC audience when creating content – not just focusing on traditional channel silos. This is something I find myself increasingly advising PR clients of the agency.

My latest trip to the BBC was with a legal client of mine this week who was explaining the complexities of the care home funding system to listeners of Radio Four, viewers of the news channel and readers of the web (and by definition followers of the BBC’s social media). He did a brilliant job and the content is being widely used and his target market being successfully influenced.

The power of the BBC can’t be underestimated. It is still the most trusted media organisation in the world.

It should be the ambition of your brand or business to be positively featured on the BBC as many times as possible.

One of the things to note about the multi-channel approach taken by BBC researchers and producers is that it highlights the increasing requirement for businesses to be multimedia savvy.

It isn’t good enough to know how to talk to a journalist for print requirements. Messages must be framed so that there is a degree of evergreen-ness in the content so that the PR exposure generated lives on long (and high) in the search engines months and years after the initial news story has broken. Being able to communicate with the media and position your business or spokespeople accordingly across multiple channels takes real skill and not everyone can pull it off.

If you’re in business you should make more of a point of really noticing what content the media uses and try to understand why someone comes across as more of a thought leader, interesting or persuasive on the radio, TV or in an online piece.

The ‘stand out’ people you see can really help inform your own approach to media appearances and help you get the most out of a broadcast PR opportunity with the BBC or indeed any other media spot.

Of course, you could just speak to me and my colleagues and we’ll help you out.

 

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What use is a white paper in PR and B2B marketing?

White papers in business-to-business (B2B) marketing

Since the early 1990s, the term “white paper” has been applied to documents used as marketing or sales tools in business. These white papers are long-form content designed to promote the products or services from a specific company. As a marketing tool, these papers use selected facts and logical arguments to build a case favourable to the company sponsoring the document.

B2B white papers are often used to generate sales leads, establish thought leadership, make a business case, or inform and persuade prospective customers, channel partners, journalists, analysts, or investors. In digital marketing, white papers are often referred to as a form of content marketing.

Many of these white papers argue that one particular technologyproduct or method is superior for solving a specific business problem. They may also present research findings, list a set of questions or tips about a certain business issue, or highlight a particular product or service from a vendor.

There are, essentially, three main types of commercial white papers:

  • Backgrounder: Describes the technical and/or business benefits of a certain vendor’s offering, either a product, service, or methodology. This type of white paper is best used to supplement a product launch, argue a business case, or support a technical evaluation at the bottom of the sales funnel.
  • Numbered list: Presents a set of tips, questions, or points about a certain business issue. This type is best used to get attention with new or provocative views, or cast aspersions on competitors, especially by using FUD.
  • Problem/solution: Recommends a new, improved solution to a nagging business problem. This type is best used to generate leads at the top of the sales funnel, build mind share, or inform and persuade stakeholders.

While a numbered list may be combined with either other type, it is not workable to combine the detailed product information of a backgrounder with the industry-wide perspective of a problem/solution white paper.

I’ve done plenty of white papers for B2B clients in particular and they are excellent tools for generating thought leadership and attention from key journalists.

 

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My interview with the BBC

media training in manchesterAs a PR it’s probably sensible that I stay in the background on stories and let our clients do the talking. However, sometimes the media is looking for an angle and a perspective from a PR professional. That’s where I’ve been stepping in…

I was interviewed by the BBC on the subject of fixing cricket matches – and my view on the PR issues surrounding the candid public apology by professional cricketer Lou Vincent.

It does me good once in a while to get grilled by the media. After all, it’s something that I routinely put my clients through. Even after media training sessions and thorough debriefings it can be challenging for people to make the most of a media interview.

The market for media training in Manchester is booming, especially as more and more clients are starting to appear on BBC broadcast media channels (radio, TV and the ever expanding BBC website) thanks to its handy location at Media City.

It was reported the other day that officials the foreign office had spent thousands of pounds on media training – as if if it was somehow a waste of money. It’s really important for organisations to have coherent, intelligible media spokespeople and it is money worth spending.

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My talk at the PM Forum in Manchester

I was delighted to be invited to present my thoughts on ‘The Professions in the digital age’ at a seminar organised by the PM Forum. The forum aims to provide ‘insight and inspiration for professional marketers’.

There was an abundance of law firms, accountants and corporate finance marketers in the audience and the event was hosted by Pinsents in Spinningfields.

Joining me on the discussion panel was Dan Clark, the marketing manager at JMW who described the positive impact that investing in digital marketing is having on his firm. Dan Nolan of the E-Word gave a very informative and engaging presentation about SEO and the future direction of the sector.

Special thanks to Scott Hadden of Aaron & Partners who was kind enough to invite me on. It was good to catch up with so many familiar faces on the Manchester professional services PR and marketing scene.

If you missed the event – there’s a really good review of it here.

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Thank you Carluccio’s in Hale

carluccios hale

I’m delighted to see Carluccio’s opening up a new restaurant in Hale, Cheshire not far from my office in Altrincham. I was even happier to receive this really cool invitation in the form of a tea  towel to the champagne and hog-roast launch party in September.

Thanks to the awesome Anneka for sorting me out with a ‘plus one’ for the launch party. Good luck to all the staff who have joined. I’m sure it will be a huge success.

 

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Property PR agency in Manchester

property pr agencies manchester

Being a specialist property PR agency in Manchester enables you to get involved at an early stage in all sorts of exciting and dynamic regeneration projects. Our property PR team in Manchester is seeing growth on all fronts. PR work with developers, agents, architects and contractors is all flowing positively.

Our media connections at places like Manchester Business Week, Manchester Evening News and North West Business Insider have all reported plenty of movement in the property sector and higher advertising and sponsorship spends as property brands compete to get their share of attention.

One client we’re working with is HB Villages which designs and develops independent living facilities for adults with disabilities all over the UK.

Being the father of a child born with a disability this sort of work is great to be involved with and I can vouch for the guys behind the business (because I happen to know one of them personally).

You can read more about our work with HB Villages in Prolific North – the website for creative and marketing agency folk in the North West.

The article also features cool picture of Lucy Oates and Emma Johnson from RMS PR.

If you’re a developer, agent or architect – and need a boost to your PR –  just give me a call on 07779 033 016.

 

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Ten ways to kill creativity and motivation

Many organisations typically approach managing people and projects in a way that kills the creative incentive and capabilities of creative people.

Here are ten ways to murder creativity, leadership, growth and development, innovation and motivation:

  1. Always pretend to know more than everybody around you.
  2. Get employees to fill in time sheets.
  3. Run daily checks on progress of everyone’s work.
  4. Ensure that highly qualified people do mundane work for long periods.
  5. Put barriers up between departments.
  6. Don’t speak personally to employees, except when announcing increased targets, shortened deadlines and tightened cost restraints.
  7. Ask for a 200-page document to justify every new idea.
  8. Call lots of meetings.
  9. Place the biggest emphasis on the budget.
  10. Buy lots of computers.

Do you recognize the model?

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How to get on a BBC quiz show

how to get on a bbc quiz show

Me on a BBC quiz show

I’ve always wanted to appear on a BBC quiz show. A couple of years ago I nearly got on Eggheads. This time I actually appeared on a different show.

However, I’m sworn to secrecy and can’t tell you which show – or how I did – until after it’s aired later this year. Watch  this space!

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Just because you can doesn’t mean you should (JBYCDMYS)

Don't ever use a QR code ... ever

Don’t ever use a QR code…ever

Inspired by an article I read in Marketing magazine – written by Helen Edwards of Passionbrand I’ve come up with six things in PR you shouldn’t do just because you can.

1)      Use QR codes in your campaigns. Nobody ever uses QR codes. They never have and they never will. They look ugly too.

2)      Blog. You probably can’t write. Even if your brand could write – what would it say? Your brand would probably use a different tone of voice and sentiment than you do. So close that WordPress blog down.

3)      Tweet. Unless you are James Dyson, Alan Sugar or Richard Branson don’t tweet on behalf of your brand in your own tone of voice. Unless you are a micro business it is likely you need a close look at your own brand sentiment.

4)      Use service station business card machines. I know its fun. It’s cheap. The quickest way to fuck up your own personal branding is to hand over a cheap business card.

5)      Upload videos to YouTube. Of course you’ve got an iPhone. Of course you’ve got an editing app. Of course you can make your own corporate video. After all everyone’s after authenticity. Aren’t they? Err, no.

6) Create a Facebook fan page without paying to play. If you don’t pay Facebook – nobody will read your posts. Well, less than 3% of people who have liked it will. You need to support your Facebook campaign with cash or your efforts will fail.

So remember people – JBYCDMYS – just because you can doesn’t mean you should! 

You can follow Helen on Twitter here.

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Jaffa Cake’s pound coin PR stunt is sweet

Nice online PR stunt by Jaffa Cakes which went mainstream. A quickly re-artworked version of the new dodecagon shaped pound coin was tweeted out to it’s 11,000 followers:

Jaffa Cake New Pound Coin PR Stunt

This is great work by the Jaffa Cakes team to capitalise on the news with a pound coin PR stunt. It just goes to show that with some quick thinking – you can bag millions of pounds worth of free publicity.

If you’re interested in what the new pound coin looks like – here’s a picture…

new pound coin

 

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Eight basic PR mistakes made with Malaysian Airlines MH370

Malaysia Airlines MH370 PR mistakes

Like most people I’ve been gripped by the mystery of what happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. Until the black box is recovered this will be a story that ‘has legs’ in the media and will not go away. The agony for the families affected is clear to see from the pictures beamed around the world. Anyone with a shred of humanity can’t fail to be moved by the plight of loved ones desperate for hope and good news. Sadly, this didn’t happen.

I’ve studied the public relations activity surrounding the news and in particular the responses and reactions by Malaysian Airlines and the Malaysian authorities.

Hishammuddin Hussein, the acting transport minister, led the press conferences. It’s fair to say he’s not come over as well as he had hoped.

It seems to me that the Malaysian authorities made eight critical basic PR mistakes to create a public relations disaster which will last for generations.

When the Chinese state-run media is able to criticise the openness of the Malaysian authorities you know you’ve got communication problems.

It is fair to say that this type of story – on this scale – is unprecedented but that doesn’t avoid the fact that the communications and public relations approach was a disaster from the outset.

The catalogue of basic errors can be summed up in eight critical basic PR mistakes which other organisations (not just airlines) should take heed of.

1)   Failure to grasp the level of interest in the story. From the outset it was clear the Malaysians had underestimated the global interest that an airline disaster creates. If the same were to happen in the UK I’m confident that basic staples like the size of the press conference room would be large enough to accommodate the hundreds of journalists attending. Every press conference was shambolic.

2)   Inconsistent information was a key feature of the dialogue between media and authorities. Sure, the story was a fast evolving feast but it’s crucial that leaders are able to stick to the facts and not get side-tracked by theories and rumours. The ‘open forum’ format of a press conference is all well and good when the facts are clear. Concurring with wild speculation about suicides, terrorism and rogue passengers was a howler.

3)   Forgetting the human touch. The families of the missing passengers were kept separate and penned elsewhere by being shoved at the back of the room (if they were allowed in at all). The dehumanising spectacle of security forces bundling upset, emotional family members in the gaze of the world’s media was a jaw-dropping PR disaster and does nothing to reflect on the Malaysian government.

4)   Poor spokespeople. The golden rule of crisis management is to ensure cool-headed, calm rational people are well briefed. What we got was a couple of abrasive and flippant characters running the show.

5)   Too proud to get outside help. Despite the fact Malaysian Airlines employs a number of PR agencies it decided to cut the professionals out and go it alone. This was a mistake. Brands should seek external advice from crisis management consultants who can bring a detached, clinical view of the situation. Also, it means that if the PR is poorly handled – the agency can be blamed rather than the brand or organisation.

6)   Speaking on the hoof. The Chamberlain-esque image of Hishammuddin Hussein, unfolding crumpled piece of paper and holding it aloft victoriously is one that will go down in the annals of PR folklore.

7)   Death by email. There is no sensible reason to communicate the ‘probable’ death of a family member via SMS. I need not expand on how much of a PR faux pas this is. In fact, it’s not even a PR issue – it’s a human issue.

8)   Talking and walking. Time should be allocated for the media to ask questions in a sensible format. Allowing themselves to be trawled by swarms of media contact – and then engaging and speculating further whilst on the way out of the venue was a classic mistake. “Say what you’re going to say. Say it. Then shut up.” Should have been the mantra.

The case of missing flight MH370 will be discussed for years ahead. Something also tells me the lessons drawn from the PR activity surrounding the mystery will also be discussed by public relations consultants in terms of crisis management handling.

Mainly as fine example of what not to do.

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Caffe Nero PR agency account is great news

Caffe Nero loyalty cardMassive congratulations to the awesome Kazoo PR team who beat off several agencies to win the Caffe Nero PR account. Of all the places in the world Caffe Nero in Altrincham is one of my favourites. I love the vibe in there – proving that you don’t need to be an independent coffee shop to be cool.

I like the fact that when the coffee went up by 5p in price this week the staff responded by giving away samples of croissants and pastries to regular customer to soften the blow.

In fact, the company’s founders recently started the Nero Foundation to support coffee growing communities. Funds from the Foundation will be invested to enhance community amenities, such as schools, in rural areas where the company sources its coffee beans. The brand also encourages staff to support local causes that are close to their heart.

Caffè Nero is also a supporter of UK Coffee Week. Project Waterfall is the central focus for fundraising during UK Coffee Week, and aims to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in African coffee-growing countries. 100% of all funds raised from consumer donations will directly benefit this cause. Caffè Nero customers can choose to add 5p to the price of a coffee – a sum matched by the Nero Foundation.

Caffe Nero is by far and away the best of the coffee chains – it should be a pleasure for the new PR agency to burnish the brand. With an enthusiastic PR team behind them I’m sure we’ll see the brand hitting the headlines and occupying more online territory more often than it has in the past. It deserves to.

Mine’s an large Americano.

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Well done Iceland PR team

logo for icelandI’m impressed with the PR nous waged by the North West-based supermarket chain ‘Iceland’ following the news about three people accused of taking food from the bins outside their Kentish Town store.

It told the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that it did not agree with or instigate the prosecution of the trio who got nicked.

When my eldest daughter came home from University with tales of ‘skipping’ (rooting around in bins outside supermarkets for free food chucked out by over-zealous supermarket managers) I was impressed. What a great way to eat for free and make a political statement I thought. It sounded like good fun – larking about in the dead of night with a load of hippies.

The ‘food bank’ generation now doesn’t need to buy basic provisions such as milk, tea, sugar and biscuits. It can politely queue up at a local food bank and get it for free. Some people say this is the ‘fault’ of the nasty coalition Government and a clear signal of the ‘cost of living crisis’ spin spewed out by Labour. They’re wrong.

The growth in the number of food banks is simply supply and demand. People would rather get stuff (especially basic commodities) for free than pay for it.

Is it any wonder that people are queuing around the block?

I digress. The fact that Iceland recognised the potential backlash from certain members of its parish is testament to skilful PR management and a lesson in how to avoid being tarred as a ‘nasty’ brand.

Iceland PR team – I salute you.

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Future of PR agencies: research

future of pr industry

There’s some nice research being undertaken by the PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Association) of which I hope to see more of during 2014.

YouGov and the PRCA surveyed 51 in-house PR professionals and 63 agency PR professionals during the summer across a variety of sectors. So what is the future for PR agencies in 2014?

More than half of agency respondents (52%) predicted that during the next five years agencies would need to offer more evidence of ROI and increasingly integrated comms.

In-house respondents agreed these were the key threats facing the agency world (45% and 39% respectively), but also highlighted the need to offer better value for money (27%) and a better social media offering (30%).

Overall, the picture is relatively positive for agencies, with more than 80% of clients highlighting the value PR agencies bring to brand awareness, equity and credibility.

Clients were also generally happy with the skills available in PR agencies (in fact more content than agencies themselves), though agencies being unable to delivery strategic consultancy was highlighted by one in four clients.

However, 86% of clients also use a non-PR agency with “specialist expertise that their PR agency lacks”, pointing to the need for agencies to expand their skill set.

One in-house respondent said: “The offer needs to be across communications and engagement and all its disciplines – not just narrow PR.”

Eighty-five per cent of clients believed that traditional PR services would continue to be needed in the future, but 55% said they would consider buying traditional PR services from another type of agency.

Agency respondents also foresaw increased competition from other marketing disciplines, with 36% seeing other marketing agencies encroaching on PR.

Meanwhile, the move from retainer to projects is expected to continue (expected by 38% of agencies and 29% of clients), while 57 per cent of clients felt it was likely they would take more work in-house during the next five years.

While clients are clearly happy with the work agencies do to build brand awareness and reputation, the industry faces some challenges in convincing clients of our wider skillset.

You can find out more here.

 

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KitKat advertisement by Nestle 2013

I saw this kitkat advertisement by Nestle and liked it so much I had to share it. Enjoy.

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How to brief a PR agency

clients from hell logo

There’s a nice piece in PR Week this week about successful client-agency relationships. Larry Franks from Beige PR makes some brilliant comments which resonated with me. Some of the stuff helps clients understand how to brief a PR agency.

The piece focuses on tricky client relationships but as most PR folk know there are some clients out there who are ‘challenging’ before you’ve even started working with them.

Having been on the receiving end of a couple of ‘real life new business briefs from hell’ this week I thought I’d share a few bits of advice for businesses seeking a new PR agency:

1) Don’t be coy about your budget. Firstly, it makes PR agencies think you’ve got no money to pay their bills. Secondly, how can a PR agency cost up a ‘amazing PR product launch for 150 key people in the industry’ if you won’t give them a budget to work to? I’ve politely declined the opportunity to work with two of these chancers twice this week. More PR agencies should do the same to avoid wasted work and effort.

2) Don’t ask PR agencies to pitch for projects that aren’t even guaranteed to happen. I’ve lost count of the number of people in 2013 who have asked PR agencies to provide ideas for free in order to pitch them internally to their own business. In other words, they don’t even know if they can appoint a PR agency.

3) Don’t tell us your existing PR agency is “for the chop” – but then tell us that they are being invited to re-pitch for the work. It proves you have no ethics and we won’t trust you to be fair with us.

Every agency has ‘clients from hell’ but some clients are hellish before the relationship even starts.

 

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Old Alts and Altrincham Grammar School for Boys

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)

  1. Mr Coleman – legend
  2. Mr Black – “whan that Aprille with his shoures soote”
  3. Mr Cleland – “J’habite sunny Lymm”
  4. Mr Gledhill – “Baa”
  5. Mr Barton – “Homework – what will the score be in Rotterdam tonight?
  6. Mr Fallows – hardest man in the world. Ever.
  7. Mr Taylor – “spunky lips/Sid Weston”
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Content marketing infographic

Here’s a content marketing infographic to ease you softly into 2013.

Happy New Year to everyone!

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Costello’s Altrincham real ale and pump clips

One of the finest places to sup real ale in Altrincham is Costello’s situated in Goose Green.

Costello’s Altrincham is hybrid bar-pub and is operated by the Dunham Massey Brewing Company.

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

The current pump clip for Altrincham Pilsner

Dunham Massey Brewing Company Altrincham Pilsner - new pump clip

Our freshly designed pump clip for Altrincham Pilsner

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Manchester PR agencies deliver the’ best ideas’

The brain is exposed to 3000 brands every dayPR 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 Manchester 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.

I see this fluidity as an opportunity.

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Where are all the creative PR ideas?

Creative PR ideas

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 of creative PR ideas.

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.

I repeat:

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?

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Top ten PR tips for SMEs

PR tips for small businesses

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. I’ve put together ten quick PR tips for your  company.

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.

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Urgent – please help find Chris Brahney

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. 

Find Chris Brahney

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

or

  • 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.

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Media training in Manchester

I’ve been quick to promote my 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 you are looking for media training in Manchester – then call me now on 07779 033 016. I work with ex-BBC journalists, ex-editors of national and regional newspapers.

Since 1999, I have coached Chief Executives, Managing Directors, Partners and other professional and business executives on how to handle broadcast, print and online interviews. 

I host my sessions at Media City UK and each delegate receives a fully integrated media training covering broadcast, print and online techniques to handle the media. 

If you are an in-house PR department looking to book media training I can help arrange a practical, valuable half-day or full-day training session. Prices start at just £750 per person. Call me now on 07779 033 016 for more details.

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.

 

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The impact of late pizza on your PR

Late pizza PR campaign

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?

 

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Nice PR stunt for the humble…sponge

If you handle PR for a company that makes sponges then it can be a be a tough brief to make them famous.

This PR agency came up with the idea of giving restaurant punters the choice of paying the bill for their meal – or washing up in the kitchen using the sponge.

A great example of a simple product with no USP getting global media coverage from some brilliant PR executed by the creative PR company.

 

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PR lesson #2…don’t sue the Daily Mail

Don't sue the Daily MailEveryone makes mistakes. However, there’s none as stupid as Carima Trimingham’s idea to sue the Daily Mail.

It seems the PR adviser took exception to some childish name-calling by the newspaper and wanted a massive amount of compensation. Boo-hoo.

You can read all about her case here. To save you the bother of reading the gleeful Daily Mail’s slant on the story I’ll sum it up for you. She failed and has been landed with a bill for £250,000.

Lesson for PR consultants? Don’t try and sue the Daily Mail…it’ll only bite you in the ass.

 

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Did you make the PR Week Top 150 Agencies list?

PR Week Top 150 AgenciesIt 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.

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PR fun with Google Street View

FIAT PR Stunt outside the VW showroom

Ever since I first saw Google Street View a couple of years ago I’ve been hooked. Being able to do a virtual walk up memory lane is a great way to while away a lunch hour or two.

I hadn’t ever thought of using it as a PR opportunity though. Until now.

Hats off to the Fiat PR agency who had the great idea to pull a fast one over rival Volkswagen  after tracking the Google Street car and having their Fiat 500 model snapped outside the VW headquarters.

A really nice and cost-effective PR stunt – you can see the images by clicking here.

Volkswagen will now have to put up with its new role as a virtual Fiat showroom for at least a year – which is the normal length of time it takes Google to update its street views.

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The universal truth about working in a PR agency

The truth about working in a Manchester PR companySometimes some clever clogs comes along with a nifty bit of creative that really cuts through. To the genius who made this about working in a PR agency – I don’t know who you are but I salute you.

Enjoy.

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Stop talking bullshit

jargon cartoon

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 of The 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? 

  1. Select a passage (such as one or more full paragraphs) of around 100 words. Do not omit any sentences;
  2. Determine the average sentence length. (Divide the number of words by the number of sentences.);
  3. 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;
  4. Add the average sentence length and the percentage of complex words; and…
  5. Multiply the result by 0.4.
The formula looks like this: 
 

fog index

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.

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PR and SEO for Manchester solicitors

seo cartoon

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:

  1. Generate fresh content for your website on a daily basis
  2. Focus on getting links back to your site from a diversity of different sites and blogs
  3. Use social media to ‘seed’ your content across the web
  4. Use keyword rich URLs for each page of your site
  5. Have unique page descriptions and titles for each page of your site
  6. Register your firm with Google Places so you can be found on map searches
  7. Create a blog and link back to your main site
  8. Encourage happy clients to link back to your own website by giving them  useful content
  9. Create short videos relevant to your work and ensure they are tagged with target keywords to benefit from Google’s blended search results
  10. 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. 
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Can HR and PR work together?

personal and corporate values

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

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.

Non-believers

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.

Know-it-alls

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!

Blockers

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.

 

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Manchester and Cheshire PR and corporate photography service

pr photographers cheshire

After more than ten years of working with Manchester and Cheshire’s best PR photographers I’ve decided to launch my own photography studio for clients looking for corporate and commercial photography.

If you need photography, for a fixed-price, to accompany:

  • a PR story or press release
  • a corporate brochure
  • pictures for your website
  • an advert or direct mail

How to choose a PR photographer

Traditionally, you’d take a risk on a local photographer to do the work who charges by the hour – anything up to £250 per hour.

With my service, all you need to do is brief me – and I’ll do the rest.

What I will do:

  1. Discuss your brief
  2. Provide you with a fixed-fee cost
  3. Hire the most suitable PR photographer
  4. Project manage the photography session and report back to you
  5. Job done!

*All work includes travel, post-production and a master disk with all the session images.

Why work with me?

  • TrustI’ve pulled together some of the best PR photographers in the Manchester and Cheshire corporate photography scene and secured the best rates from a trusted bank of professionals.
  • ChoiceI work with the widest range of photographers in Manchester and Cheshire to ensure that the photographer on the day is the right person for the job.
  • Experience… I’ve organised  more than 250 photo sessions and photoshoots for clients since 1999.
  • Rates…I guarantee my rates will be more cost effective than going directly to photographers
  • Guarantee…I guarantee you will be 100 per-cent delighted with my service or your money back.

Call me – Peter Davies – now – on 0161 927 3131 or 07779 033 016 to discuss your photography brief and I’m happy to help!

 

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How to value a brand

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.

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PR agencies save ‘millions of pounds’

Are we happy or sad?

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.

 

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Smoking is less addictive than tweeting

facebook addictionResearchers 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.

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PR gets personal with social media

heinz get well soon cans

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.

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Freelance PR Manchester

freelance pr manchester

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 there a freelance PR Manchester boom?

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 employing 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 in 2007 for obvious reasons.

So, who are the best freelance PR consultants in Manchester? And when is it better to go to a PR agency? Freelance PR Manchester style certainly looks set to grow in 2014 and beyond.

Some clients need breadth of knowledge across a bigger, deeper agency. Others are looking for smaller, more nimble operators. Marketing budgets are an issue of course.

It’s not necessarily cheaper to hire a freelance PR Manchester but it can make sense if the brief is a pure regional media relations role. If there are other components to a campaign and you’re looking to fulfil it all under one roof with one sole point of contact then a PR agency may be a better bet.

The choice is bewildering for clients and for the inexperienced marketer choosing a PR agency can be a tricky task. Manchester is a hotbed of marketing talent and there are plenty of agencies and freelance PR people to choose from. You have to take your time, meet a few and see what approach you prefer. Most PR people should be happy to meet you if you are serious about your brief and are prepared to share as much detail as you can about your objectives.

If you get stuck choosing between a PR freelancer and a PR agency in Manchester – don’t hesitate to call me on 0161 927 3131.

 

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Does Twitter need a PR Agency?

Twitter cartoon

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.

Anyone who wants to be on Twitter is surely on it by now. Aren’t they?  If people in the most repressive vountries in the world are on Twitter (witness Iran) then surely its reached saturation point in terms of users?

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.

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The best slogan of all time is on my wall

Who thought of the Beanz Meanz Heinz slogan?

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:

  1. Beanz Meanz Heinz – Heinz [1967]
  2. Just Do It – Nike [1987]
  3. Does Exactly What It Says On the tin – Ronseal [1994]
  4. Make Love Not War – various [1965]
  5. Every Little Helps – Tesco [1993]
  6. Have a Break. Have a Kit Kat – Kit Kat [1957]
  7. Vorsprung Durch Technik – Audi [1982]
  8. Think Different – Apple [1997]
  9. It is. Are You? – The Independent [1986]
  10. It’s Finger Lickin’ Good – KFC [1950s]
  11. Say It With Flowers – FTD [1917]
  12. Keep Calm and Carry On – HM Gov [1939]
  13. It’s The Real Thing – Coca-Cola [1940]
  14. You Either Love It Or Hate It – Marmite [1996]
  15. Because I’m Worth It – L’Oreal [1971]
  16.  Snap! Crackle! Pop!- Kellogg’s [1932]
  17. Never Knowingly Undersold – John Lewis [1925]
  18. Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite – France [1789]
  19. Refreshes the Parts Other Beers Cannot Reach – Heineken [1973]
  20. 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.

What’s your favourite slogan?

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Join the CIPR North West

CIPR awards winners RMS PR in Manchester

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.
  • You can enter awards like the CIPR Pride NW awards (we won a silver one this year for our consumer PR work for Swizzels Matlow 🙂 )
  • You get to meet and share experiences with more than 600 other PR consultants in Manchester and the North West as well as meeting loads of different PR companies in Manchester.
I’m a big supporter of the CIPR and so are the best PR professionals in Cheshire, Manchester, Cumbria, Lancashire and Liverpool. Join up here

 

CIPR members RMS in Manchester winning an award Collecting a consumer PR agency award in Manchester at the Lowry

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Ten simple truths for clients and Manchester PR companies

hand drawn social media icons buttonsI hope my industry peers working in Manchester PR companies, brand marketers and businesses find this post valuable.

Here follows ten simple truths about social media marketing, the role of the client and the role of the PR agency…

  1. It’s easy and free to set up a Facebook page for your brand. Do it yourself.
  2. It’s easy and free to set up a Linked-In profile for your brand. Do it yourself.
  3. It’s easy and free to set up a Twitter profile for your brand. Do it yourself.
  4. It’s easy and free to set up a YouTube channel for your brand. Do it yourself.
  5. It’s easy and free to set up a Flickr page for your brand. Do it yourself.
  6. It’s easy and free to set up a Google+ profile for your brand. Do it yourself.
  7. It’s easy and free to set up a blog for your brand. Do it yourself.
  8. It’s easy and free to set up a Squidoo page for your brand. Do it yourself.
  9. It’s easy and free to set up Wikipedia entry for your brand. Do it yourself.
  10. It’s hard to manage, create content and measure it all. Let us handle all that.

The first nine truths will take a nine-year old no longer than half an hour to accomplish. Three minutes on each one will suffice. Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.

It’s the tenth simple truth that’s the really important one. It’s worth paying a premium.

Manchester PR agency colleagues…tell me I’m wrong.

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Is PR the new advertising?

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.

 

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The internet is always wrong…sometimes

Come To Bed Now

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?

For now, I’ll just rant at Question Time.

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How to PR a new product or service

consumer pr agency manchester

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. 

  1. The two-step hypothesis – information and acceptance flows, via the media, first to opinion leaders, then to the general population
  2. 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
  3. The Everett Rogers Diffusion of innovations theory – for any given product category, there are five categories of product adopters best ilustrated by this simple graphic:
Stages of consumer adoption

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.

So, the rate of diffusion is influenced by:

  • The product’s perceived advantage or benefit.
  • Riskiness of purchase.
  • Ease of product use – complexity of the product.
  • Immediacy of benefits.
  • Observability.
  • Trialability.
  • Price.
  • Extent of behavioural changes required.
  • PR-ability
  • Return on investment.

Lesson over. Back to work. 


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Five stages of the game

Seth Godin - genius marketerI 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.
  • And then a new, different game begins.
What stage are you at in the game? 

 

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Where are the best PR photographers in Manchester?

manchester PR photographerWho are the best PR photographers 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?

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What DO you do again?

cartoon confused face

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?

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Linked-In infographic for digital numpties

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.

Enjoy.

Linked In Infographics

 

 

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Does price matter?

Google Products Logo

“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.

 

 

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PR in Altrincham

Altrincham Art

I was thrilled to be invited by the leader of Trafford Council to share some thoughts, informally, with some industry colleagues about a future PR strategy for Altrincham.

We met up at the excellent Francs in Goose Green and I was pleased to meet several agency bosses from successful local PR companies including Tony Tighe of Mere PR, Jean-Philippe Glaskie of Peppermint PR, Jane Smith of Smith and Smith PR and Gareth Clements of Rumpus Communications.

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.

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What makes you so special?

Branding and logo examples

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?

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Local press gets PR boost

Vintage Manchester Evening News Paperboy in Altrincham

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.

 

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Stone Roses, PR, Life and Death

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.

2)      I went to the same school as Ian Brown and John Squire (Altrincham Grammar School for Boys) and had the same teachers.

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.

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How can brands exploit Facebook video chat?

Facebook Video Chat for Brands

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?

 

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Pitches can be bitches

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.

Pitches can be bitches

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Neuromarketing is PR

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.

 

 

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A new PR infographic

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.

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Agency personality . . . which one are you?

 

stakeholder charmerPR 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.

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How to fire a client

Illustration by David Sparshott

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.

 

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Idea#1…Manchester Think Tank

I love Manchester logo

So, I’ve got this idea called Manchester Think Tank.

It’s a website where people share their big idea for Manchester. It’s a crowd sourcing hub for ideas at a time when people are swelling with civic pride.

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)
Independence People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them. (can operate annonymously in isolation)
Decentralization People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge. (local people are clever at local stuff)
Aggregation 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.

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