• John Lewis – won’t somebody think of the children?

    Sep 5 • Thought leadership, Uncategorized • 145 Views

    X Factor auditions, the return of Strictly, John Lewis adverts dominating social media…yep, the end of the British summer is right on schedule.

    Only this time, it seems we’re not cooing over Buster the Boxer, the Man on the Moon or Monty the penguin, this time, we’re worrying about labelling, and we all know that’s wrong don’t we children?

    It has ’emerged,’ as the media likes to report, that the nation’s favourite retailer, bastion of battenbergs, picnic baskets, meritocracy and all things thoroughly pleasant, has OUTRAGED the nation by harmonising their new children’s range under one label – Girls AND Boys or, for the sake of parity, Boys AND Girls.

    There is an equal split you’ll be relieved to read, gentle reader.

    Of course it may well depend on what media you consume about whether you are outraged about this. It also depends on how many clicks and sales said media wants to generate and your knowledge of your readers’ own politics.

    However, what does the retailer itself say? Well, apart from pointing out they did this last year, here’s their thinking behind the move.

    Caroline Bettis, head of childrenswear at John Lewis, said in a statement on Monday:

    “We introduced new non-gender specific John Lewis stitched labels and combined ‘Girls & Boys’ swing tags to clothing for John Lewis own label collections in 2016.

    “We do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes within our John Lewis collections and instead want to provide greater choice and variety to our customers, so that the parent or child can choose what they would like to wear.”

    Now, all good retailers know their customers intimately. John Lewis isn’t doing this as a publicity stunt or to APPEAR politically correct. It will be doing it because to them, it makes business sense. It may well generate a tonne of publicity, both positive and negative. It may well alienate some people, many of whom shop there now and many of whom have never shopped there BUT this will be a strategic decision based on risk v reward.

    The question is, is this a risk worth taking? For my part, I’m totally neutral.

    Hey Greg, I’d love some PR tips and tricks please.

     

     

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  • You silly sausage…we don’t know WHAT you’re selling

    Sep 1 • PR Tips & Tricks, PR tips & tricks, Uncategorized • 199 Views

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that marketing folk are so busy with buzz words that they forget to tell us WHAT they actually do.

    This actually makes it hard to buy what they sell. Not a good thing.

    Why? Well…it seems we often don’t know what it is we are trying to sell.

    We’ve all heard about features v benefits. People don’t actually want to buy a drill. They want a hole in a wall.

    I had a good think about this the other day and came to a similar conclusion about PR. Marketers are not actually desperate to sign up a PR consultant or agency. They want the result of that purchase. They want coverage and awareness.

    All too often when I come in for a brief with a potential client and ask them what they do and for whom, they really don’t seem to know.

    They talk about “best practice”, “robust strategies”, “whole of market offerings” and “holistic approaches”.

    Waffle

    couple waffles being soaked in syrup.

     

    WHAT do you do? What actually changes once you are hired or your product is sold? What is the tangible ROI?

    My colleague, Martin Rockley, will head up our new copywriting service, ‘Press For Copy’, from September. Martin lives by the mantra “sell the sizzle, not the sausage”.

    Benefits. Results.

    So I asked Martin (or in current marketing phraseology I “reached out” to him) and asked him what he does.Here’s his reply worked through to the end:

    “Does a copywriter write copy? No. A copywriter sells stuff by using written words. We are the print or digital equivalent of the door-to-door salesmen we have replaced – we reveal how we can improve lives rather than describing the product features.

    “Nobody employs me because I’m an advertising Dostoevsky. They employ me because I can help them sell their products or services. I’m a problem solver. Someone who knows what buttons to press and how to press them.

    “So I’m a problem solver, salesperson and button presser – or copywriter for short.”

    Before anyone begins a marketing or PR campaign, they need to know their audience (their who) and their message (their what). So, can you tell me yours?

    What do you actually do? What changes once I make a decision to buy from you?

    Nail that and then we can talk about how I can help you tell other people that.

    I’d love some free PR tips and tricks please

     

     

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  • Stop selling vitamins, start curing headaches

    Jul 1, 17 | PR Tips & Tricks, PR tips & tricks

      Imagine you’ve just had a really stressful meeting. Your head is thumping. You’ve got 20 minutes until your next one. What will you do? You’ll find some paracetamol NOW. You’ll leave the office if need be. You’re curing a problem and you NEED...

  • General Reflection – which party has won voters’ hearts and minds?

    Jun 8 • Politics, Thought leadership • 319 Views

    Or should that question be which person has won hearts and minds?

    Now more than ever, politics is about the people behind the policy and by that, I don’t mean the voters, I mean the leaders.

    For many of the people stood at the polling booths today, the names on the ballot paper will be barely recognisable. Most UK voters do not really vote for their local politician or party, they are just not well known to them – that said, mine is a certain RT Kenneth Clarke QC.

    They vote based on their political standpoint and also, most crucially, on who they want to lead the country. That one thing can often change their decision as they step up to the booth. It is a strategy that the Conservatives have played to the max – Theresa May v Jeremy Corbyn.

    Their theory is that the floating voters, the ones that don’t really have their political colours nailed to the mast, will plump for the “stability” angle, the known factor. That is why they have hammered the “strong and stable” message. Even the suggestion that they are “strong and stable” conjures thoughts that the other parties can’t be. Therefore, they must be weak and unstable.

    They’ve even gone so far as to make it a vote for Theresa May, rather than a vote for the party. This is almost a US Presidential Election campaign. Take a look at their election battle bus…it is all about the leader, not the party.

    Contrast that with Labour. Here we have a man who divides the party, never-mind the voters. In some quarters, MPs have openly suggested that JC, just like Ed Miliband before him is the problem with the voters. So, they have tried to focus on the idea and possibility of change. His name is nowhere to be seen.

    Pundits are already calling a Tory landslide, however, on the last day that new voters could register, a record 622,000 applications were sent to the government’s Individual Registration digital service, exceeding the previous record of 525,000 applications on a single day ahead of last year’s EU referendum vote.

    Who are they? Who do they support? Have they been motivated by May or captured by Corbyn?

    PR Week has been featuring a panel a of expert Public Affairs advisers throughout the campaign, they conclude overall, our panel has judged Labour to have run the best political campaign, with the Conservatives and SNP in joint second place, while the Lib Dems and UKIP trail in third and fourth place respectively. But will the party that ran the best campaign be the one in power tomorrow?

    Or will the person?

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  • PR – more than words

    Jun 5 • PR Tips & Tricks, PR tips & tricks, Uncategorized • 492 Views

     

    Cue the guitars, the gentle beat, the smoky bar room set. It’s time to realise that PR is so much more than words, it is relationships…

    I speak to a lot of different people about what I do and essentially, it boils down to “I put you in the papers”. The questions that follow are invariably “how do you do that then?” and “how much do you charge?”

    In any service business, these can be tricky questions as briefs are so varied, but our offering is off the shelf or retainer so I can normally give a ball park figure, even for just one story, there and then.

    The response is then based on one crucial factor – perceived value.

    You see, some people will say “hmmm, I don’t think we’d outsource that, we can write pretty well so we’d do it ourselves” and others will say “that would be really handy for us as it would free me up to do X”.

    That’s a time v money debate for some but what it should really be is a value debate. Press for Attention PR writes dozens of stories a week. We’re not just good at it, we’re great at it.

    We know what makes a story versus what is glorified ad copy, and here’s the crucial bit: we know how the press thinks and we know them personally. We send them stories on a range of clients and topics. We help them meet deadlines and fill features. We help them construct panel debates, find venues and source interesting photography.

    In short, we are an asset to them. When you buy any service, you aren’t buying time, you are buying expertise. That’s why we don’t charge by the hour, the half day or the day. We charge by outcomes.

    If you are a service provider, start thinking about how you can make your outcome tangible to your customers. If you buy in services, look beyond the fee and examine the value.

    Sure, you could “save” money by doing it yourself but would you get the same results? Value your time, and leverage the time of the experts. You’ll soon find we do so much more than words. Now, try getting that song out of your head…

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  • United Airlines – don’t come fly with me!

    Apr 12 • Crisis PR, Thought leadership, Uncategorized • 784 Views

    A guest blog from our consumer PR expert Lucy Capaldo on this PR crisis.

    It started badly, trailed off in the middle and the less that can be said about the end…

    This week United Airlines has been globally vilified after aviation police officials violently removed a man from a plane at Chicago O’Hare international airport on Sunday.

    In an incident captured on smartphones by passengers and posted to social media, the video went viral and suddenly the PR disaster is a global talking point. 

    Airlines are legally allowed to deny ticketed passengers travel if a flight is overbooked. Passengers are entitled to either cash compensation or a similar flight landing near the same time. However, the (literally) heavy handed approach that United employed had far ranging consequences, not least an initial near $1 Billion dent to its share price on Tuesday.

    In a perhaps ill thought out and knee jerk move, CEO Oscar Munoz praised employees following the incident:

    “Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.”

    He also described the passenger who they forcibly removed as ‘disruptive and belligerent’.

    Of course, this letter was also leaked to the media which further exacerbated public feeling toward United. In a quick about-turn, Munoz released a public apology, calling the incident “truly horrific”.

    Later that day, Munoz said he was committed to “fix what’s broken so this never happens again”. He pledged to review the company’s policies for seeking volunteers to give up their seats, for handling oversold flights and for partnering with airport authorities and local law enforcement.

    So, what should have United done differently?

    It is sometimes easy to forget the simple fact that brands need to be transparent, especially when there are customers with smartphones itching to document your every move! On the United website it states its purpose as ‘Connecting People. Uniting The World’.

    It then goes on to say “Every day, we help unite the world by connecting people to the moments that matter most. This shared purpose drives us to be the best airline for our employees, customers and everyone we serve.”

    This purpose that isn’t ringing particularly true currently. The whole point of this is that a company’s behaviour needs to match its corporate values. It needs to be authentic, today’s customers are cannier and PR departments can’t control the messages in the way that they could 20 years ago, social media has meant the public can report news in real time and there is nowhere to hide now.

    Munoz needs to step down as CEO. This could potentially be the only way that the brand can start to rekindle its brand reputation from the ashes by having a fresh head at the helm with a different perspective on things.

    United’s initial reaction was a rookie mistake, when a passenger is injured and roughly man-handled off a plane in a shocking display of force the first response should be a deep and authentic apology. Regardless of whether this chap was a stubborn and slightly awkward passenger, the show of force was shocking and unjustifiable. In this situation, United should not have been pointing fingers and criticising the customer. It was its policy of overbooking seats that created the situation in the first place.

    Next should come a clear explanation of what the company will be doing to prevent this from ever happening again. What procedures will be reviewed and changed? Is staff training required? Will United change its policy on overbooking from now onward? The public are not idiots, they want strong and firm action and changes to culture if they are going to consider travelling with United again.

    Finally, PR disasters like this will take time to recover from, hence why a clear long-term PR strategy needs to be developed that puts customers at the forefront of what United does and how it operates as a business.

    Interestingly I was thinking about airlines and how Ryanair manages to straddle that fine line between providing a no-frills service and making a profit, no matter how much we moan about the brand, its flights are always on time and cheap (if you travel light and don’t book extras).

    CEO Michael O’Leary was well known for his blunt often hilarious quotes. However much his PR team have attempted to silence him in recent months, there was always something authentic about Ryanair- it does what it says on the tin and makes no apology for that. After all, today, brand transparency is key!

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  • There’s no such thing as bad PR…really?

    Mar 2 • PR Tips & Tricks, Thought leadership • 915 Views

    Here’s a lazy comment that comes up in casual conversation with alarming regularity…

    “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”.

    Really? That is perhaps the laziest and dangerous PR “advice” I’ve ever heard.

    Consider #PieGate – the story that muddied the “magic of the FA Cup” and derailed the wheels of good faith that had propelled Sutton United into the hearts and minds of the nation’s football fans and media alike.

    I was speaking at an event last week on this very subject and me being me I brought some props with me. Among them were a pork pie, a copy of The Sun and a dubious necklace fashioned from sweets – you remember them, tended to be sold alongside flying saucers and sherbet fountains?

    Anyway, as I held aloft the offending pastry and a copy of The Sun I asked what the audience thought I might be about to discuss. Everyone knew in an instant and this wasn’t what I would call a football audience. It was all about Wayne Shaw, the famous/infamous “roly-poly reserve goalie” for Sutton United.

    Basically, our Wayne, local hero, grass roots goalie and part-time caretaker at his beloved club potentially breached FA rules related to gambling. You know the rest so I won’t bother you with the details but the upshot of it is Wayne has now lost his job and Sutton United have been dragged into a controversy that has totally taken the shine off of their heroic Roy of the Rovers cup run.

    There is no way that this publicity is good publicity. PR is about what you are associated with, as much as being famous. To borrow a line from Billy the Kidd, I can make you famous in one hour. I have the media contacts, the reach and the news nous to make this happen.

    Tempting? Beware this Faustian pact! You may not want to be famous for what I have on offer. All of your PR efforts should always be about being known for what you want to be known for, by the people you want to know about you – your customers.

    Can you guess what the dodgy necklace prop referred to? I’ll give you a clue, first name Gerald…now tell me you didn’t instantly think of the phrase “total cr*p”. Would you want to be known for wiping £500 million from the value of Ratners jewellers with one speech?

    No, thought not. You see, there is such a thing as bad publicity!

    Sub-note, this weekend a certain football team had to play a defender in goal after their first choice goalkeeper got injured. The reason? Their reserve ‘keeper was sacked last week….we would never have heard about this normally…but we did thanks to a pie, an error of judgement and bad publicity.

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  • Pimp my omelette & the great #FoodPorn debate

    Feb 16 • Thought leadership • 1059 Views

    Not the long lost manuscript for the next Harry Potter book but a debate I was invited to join on BBC Radio Nottingham this weekend.

    It came about after local author Beth Moran wrote a really interesting piece about being invited to “pimp” her coffee at a family restaurant.

    NB: not a Prince lyric.

    I was invited by the producer to pop in and give the counter-argument as a professional writer and PR expert.

    The problem was, I kind of agreed. You see, I’m far from a prude and I relish the way language evolves and evokes emotion but Beth has a point, it was the context. Beth was with her family, in a family restaurant. It isn’t the sort of language I use but it is common parlance, hence it sneaks into casual questions, tweets and even menus.

    However, one wonders whether we say it so casually that it needs a greater degree of care. If I may quote Beth;

    “The way language changes is surely a mirror reflecting something of our culture, the attitudes of society. As a mother, fighting to raise my children to honour, respect and value women in a culture flooded with invitations to debase their images, if not their physical bodies, I think the sexualisation of everyday language matters.”

    As Beth says, language matters. Marketing folk such as I use it every day to tap into the zeitgeist and to show our customers that we are on their wavelength. So should we be more careful? Is Beth overreacting? I don’t think she is, I think she’s right to bring this up. Language should always be appropriate to your target audience, unless you are intentionally seeking to cause offence or court controversy. Either way, it should always be created consciously and with such considerations in mind..

    PS “Pimp my omelette” – that was my parting comment, live on the BBC. I hope it raised a smile, otherwise the yolk’s on me.

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  • Beckileaks – can brand Beckham bounce back?

    Feb 7 • Celebrity, Crisis PR, Sponsorship, Sport, Thought leadership • 1074 Views

    By now, you have probably heard about the latest celebrity email hack, this time of the beloved Becks.

    I’m a massive football fan and also a fan of David Beckham as a sportsman and role model but there is no doubt that this will raise more than a few Beckham-esque eyebrows amongst football fans and across the world, such is the reach and interest in brand Beckham.

    The material is said to have been discovered from a cache of leaked emails between David Beckham and his advisers, with some publications damning it as “exposing Beckham’s attempts to use his charity work as part of a campaign for a knighthood.”

    It does appear rather off-brand, in one message he branded the Honours Committee “unappreciative c***s” and dismissed lower awards, ranting: “Unless it’s a knighthood f*** off”.

    The damaging dossier was obtained by the Football Leaks website.

    Content was accessed from the servers of Doyen Global, the sports management firm run by PR guru Simon Oliveira, 43, over a three-year period. He was brought in to help Beckham’s PR machine during a period of strain with the British press in 2004.

    There is no doubt that he has done just that. Beckham is iconic as an example of fair play and decency, a gentleman footballer cast in the Bobby Moore mould – or so they would like us all to believe.

    A spokesman for Beckham has said the emails were “hacked”, “doctored” and “private” from a third-party server.

    Unicef also released a statement, saying it had not seen the hacked emails and did not want to comment on them, but emphasised the good work Beckham has done with the charity.

    He certainly has done a lot of good work. Is it enough to keep him in the hearts and minds of his followers, fans, sponsors and charity partners? I suspect the damage will initially be quite heavy, purely due to his massive media reach – this is front cover stuff, selling editions and clicks at a rate of knots.

    However, I wonder whether there will be a degree of sympathy for him, not in the phrasing of his rants (if indeed they prove true) but with his frustration. He may not have won international honours with England or be the record cap holder (both held by Wayne Rooney as an outfield player) but I’d argue he still has more love across the globe, even in retirement.

    How much love remains to be seen but hacking of emails is a worrying trend for PR professionals to keep an eye on. I suspect we have not heard the last of this. One wonders who might be next.

     

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  • How to tell if they’re faking it

    Feb 6 • Thought leadership • 995 Views

    It emerged in 2016 and will be the buzzword in media circles throughout the year – “fake news”.

    President Donald Trump even accused a respected CNN journalist of being “fake news” midway through a press conference.

    It is obviously a cause for concern. This week, MPs launched a parliamentary inquiry into the “growing phenomenon”, with the Culture, Media and Sport Committee saying it would investigate concerns “about the public being swayed by propaganda and untruths.”

    Now, let’s not pretend that propaganda hasn’t influenced the public before. Working with and through the press is par for the course, it’s what I do! However, whilst folk like me work hard to find and present GOOD and TRUE news for our clients, this inquiry will examine the sources of “fake news” and crucially, its impact on democracy.

    Damian Collins, the committee chairman, said the rise of propaganda and fabrications is “a threat to democracy and undermines confidence in the media in general”.

    Maybe so, according to a recent study, on the US election, fake news which favoured Donald Trump was shared 30 million times, four times more than false stories favouring Hillary Clinton. However, the authors said that only half of people who saw a false story believed it, and even the most widely circulated hoaxes were seen by only a fraction of voters.

    Still, that means that another half DID believe it – see how the stats can so easily skewed and used to sway an argument?

    So what is to be done? Won’t somebody think of the children?!

    According to Damian Collins, Facebook should verify its content to prove to users articles are not fake news and the big social media platforms have to start taking responsibility for the proliferation of stories that are not true.

    It sounds right on paper but how would that even be done? Is there a lag that can be imposed before something is posted during which it can be reviewed or verified?

    Hold on, does this begin to smack of censorship? Either way, this will be a huge subject and will not go away for a long while.

    I’d urge anyone to consider carefully what they mindlessly share online. It is so easy to like a Facebook status or tweet at the touch of a button, sometimes unwittingly spreading the fake news.

    Be aware people – especially around April 1st…

    PS share this mindfully!

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