• Monday mutterings…Renault and sport in a PR fix

    Sep 21 • Sport • 1525 Views

    It must be an interesting time to be in Sports PR. First we had bloodgate

    Rugby's reputaton gets a bloody nose

    Rugby's reputation gets a bloody nose

    with Dean Richards et al, as rugby players, (the perennial darlings of “gentlemanly conduct”) were found guilty shock/horror of cheating. My word, what next? We’ll soon be hearing of the little saints feigning injury (sorry, already had that), illegal tackles (ditto) and becoming obsessed with their own celebrity (oh, been there too).

    Gavin Henson the celebrity

    Gavin Henson the celebrity

    Sport is increasingly high profile. The proliferation of media outlets dedicated to sport magnifies each twist and turn, tactic and tantrum in High Def glorious detail.

    Now the money men of F1 have been caught messing with the mechanics of the sport (so to speak!). The future of the team will be decided by the sport’s governing body at a hearing today in Paris. The team has been accused of ordering Brazilian Nelson Piquet  to crash in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to help Renault team mate Fernando Alonso win.

    Piquet

    Piquet Jr

    Renault announced that it would not contest the charges and last week Renault team boss Flavio Briatore  and engineering director Pat Symonds both stepped down. My colleagues in the PR world have been having their say today, urging Renault to move on quickly and Briartore has been vilified by the press.

    However, what of Piquet himself? Would this story have even come to light had he not lost his seat at Renault and in F1 for the season? Would he not have accepted his role as a “professional sportsman” quietly and happily continued as a team player if he had not been deemed surplus to requirements at Renault?

    Whatever the decision, one might suspect the media and the profile boost it would promise his stalling career would have been a major driving force behind that decision.

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  • BBC for Breakfast? We’re radio gaga!

    Sep 11 • Inspiration • 1964 Views

    What a start to the weekend! Vishal from Blak Pearl and I headed over to the BBC studios in Nottingham at 8am today to do an interview on the Breakfast Show – an exhilarating feeling as we walked up the steps and signed in at the front desk.

    BBC studios in Nottingham

    BBC studios in Nottingham

    We were there to promote ILSG 2010 and as we were shown upstairs by the broadcast assistant and took our seats, we attempted to look calm as the reporters and editors rushed around behind us. We had done some prep earlier on Thursday and I’ve done radio interviews before but they were often recorded – not this one! This was going to be “Live in 5″ as the producer put it, peering around the door of the editing suite with cheerful gaiety.

    Sure, just another day for her but for us, what an opportunity to spread the word, especially after the earlier coverage in the press this week Nervous? Us? Never. Well, ok, we were but we weren’t going to let that stop us.

    Having waited around whilst other people came and went from the studio, including a representative of Experian PLC who was promoting Sunday’s Experian Robin Hood Festival of Running we were ushered inside the hallowed ground of the editing suite.

    The producer was busy now, trying to get hold of James Caan on the other line to do a live link to us and we barely had time for a last minute tactical chat before Vishal was ushered into the studio to meet the presenter. Some quick chat followed whilst they ran a traffic report before they were live on air.

    Vishal was excellent, conveying the message of potential in everyone very eloquently and even managing a sneaky plug of the Train to Gain angle which we’ve recently been accredited with and then….enter the Dragon. James Caan himself.

    As usual, James was his effortless charming self, chatting with ease about entrepreneurship and about our event with great energy and enthusiasm. Then, with barely 10 minutes on the clock it was over and Vishal could escape into the glare of the beautiful Friday morning sunshine. Rest assured though Vishal, that glare will get brighter and brighter as the media starts knocking on your door.

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  • Lessons from the recession

    Aug 18 • General business, Innovation, Inspiration • 1216 Views

    Last Friday I had the priviledge of meeting James Caan, CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw and the “friendly” Dragon on Dragons’ Den.

    The Blak Pearl team with James Caan

    The Blak Pearl team with James Caan

    I was in his office with the Blakpearl team www.blakpearl.com as we began filming our documentary, Lessons from the Recession” to be screened at Blak Pearl’s ILSG 2010 event in January. Mr Caan will be a keynote speaker at ILSG 2010 alongside US guru Brian Tracy and kindly agreed to be a part of the documentary.

    Buoyed by our brush with fame, we hit the streets of London to ask retailers what they had learnt thus far from the recession,  on camera, naturally. The first thing we learnt was that fear is dominant. Fear of change, fear of the unknown and fear of opportunity. Before we even got their permission to film, the vast majority of people we spoke to had decided that whatever it was that we were doing was to be viewed as a threat rather than an opportunity.

    What we were actually offering was a chance for them to air their views, give their business exposure to an audience of over 3000 international delegates at ILSG 2010 and an even larger one through James Caan but the majority would rather not get involved. There was also a chance to be involved in a world record attempt (more to follow on that in the coming weeks) but fear dominated.

    Procrastination was rife, “leave us some info”, “can we discuss it next week”, well frankly, no. We are filming a documentary, it is meant to be natural and we are in London now. Take the chance, seize the opportunity, TRY something new. Sadly many didn’t but thankfully about 20% did. The comon theme with these businesses? All were being run by younger managers/owners. They saw a glass half full. They saw an opportunity and took it.

    It is these sort of people that we need to lead us out of this recession. They embrace the new, they are eager to learn, they want to be a part of things.

    First lesson from the recession: give young entrepreneurs a chance, you never know what might happen – but then again, perhaps that scares you?

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  • Peter Andre v Jordan – I’m a celebrity PR me out of here

    Aug 11 • Celebrity • 3271 Views

    Granted, I haven’t had the “celebs” beating a path to my door during my 10 year PR career but I have to say I would run a mile from Jordan’s briefs even if they did (was that a Freudian “slip”?).

    Katie Price plus wedding ring with her new cage fighter chap

    Katie Price plus wedding ring with her new cage fighter chap

    The latest tabloid battle between these two “estranged” former darlings of the media has now descended into all-out war and I fail to see how it helps either of them in their personal relationships….oh, wait, maybe it is a more cynical ploy. Could it be that one of them has a book/single coming out? Oh yes, there it is, Peter has a new single out this week.

    When this “story” about their split first broke I was one amongst many who raised a cynical eyebrow. It would have been a pretty hard-bitten strategy for most folk I know but in the world of Price and Andre it could quite conceivably have been a PR stunt.

    Now it seems that their relationship is over, it seems even sadder to me that they continue to use the break-up as a vehicle for their careers. None of my business but I wouldn’t want to be their PR today, yesterday or any day in the future if that is the brief from the client.

    Even worse, imagine if that brief comes from the record company or publisher. Talk about pressure but I would hope I’d be able to walk from that sort of nightmare.

    Oh well, just another day in the world of celebrity PR.

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  • That Friday feeling

    Aug 7 • General business, Inspiration • 1400 Views

    Phew, what a day (hmmm, sound like Tommy 2 Days from the Direct Line insurance ad there). Great meeting with the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, the genuinely genuine Jeannie Packer http://tinyurl.com/lstdzx and her colleagues at Nottingham City Council.

    I went with the Blak Pearl team to see if the Mayor and the council would get behind the ILSG 2010 event in London next year http://www.blakpearl.com/events/ and the answer was an emphatic YES!

    It was great to see their enthusiasm in supporting Vishal in his business venture and I hope that once we get this show on the road we will be able to demonstrate that Nottingham has a heck of a lot going for it, especially with regards to innovative businesses and student enterprise.

    Credit must go to the Enterprise Lab at The University of Nottingham http://tinyurl.com/kkg7qk for their support in getting Blak Pearl started but much of it is down to sheer force of self belief, probably engendered by exactly the sort of speakers we expect to see at ILSG 2010, Brian Tracy being the keynote.

    Brian Tracy sales, management and personal success guru.

    Brian Tracy sales, management and personal success guru.

    I’ve already heard a few people question how well this style of event and coaching technique will go down in the UK but it has to be said, no negative feedback has come from entrepreneurs and that is the attitude we need to foster here in the UK as we battle our way out of this recession.

    There’s always something to learn from every situation, you just have to use it if you possibly can.



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  • Taking the Michael…Ryan Air standing room seats a PR stunt?

    Jul 6 • General business • 3871 Views

    I often wonder what it would be like to work on some of the trickier PR campaigns. Politicians trying to change their public image, failed pop stars seeking another comeback etc but I have to say, there’s never a dull day in the Ryan Air press office.

    Michael O’Leary’s gift for getting media attention (or one of his very smart colleague’s gifts) is incredible. There was the mooted “Fat Tax” which was met with extreme hostilty, a plot to remove the number of toilets and now we have them floating the idea of a standing room only seat. These will be cheaper and maybe even free.

    http://tinyurl.com/plqfbs

    It was communicated (as ever by O’Leary) in simple, dynamic, “what’s wrong with that?” style and I have to say the idea appeals to me. As a taller gent of around 6ft 4-ish I regularly feel uncomfortable sitting down/hovering between the armrests and would love to be able to stand up, I can almost feel the threat of DVT retreating as I type.

    So, is this a genuine offer, designed to cut costs and reduce the fares even further or is it a PR stunt? O’Leary spent nearly as much time on-air (Sky News) talking down British Airways as he did talking about this latest scheme which seemed at first glance a gimmick to allow him to announce Ryan Air’s continuing surge in sales.

    Whatever it was, I’m sure there’s plenty of folks right now talking about it, once again ensurring that Ryan Air and their maverick boss get their share of media attention and even more.

    ends

    Standing room only with Ryan Air

    Standing room only with Ryan Air

    Ryan Air’s Michael O’Leary plans standing room only

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  • The Apprentice – lesson 1, deals just fall into your lap…

    Mar 26 • Uncategorized • 1302 Views

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/apprentice/

    Seconds into the opening titles and I’m already cringing about the future for the British economy. Where do they find these self-styled “business leaders of the future”? The great book of business cliches?

    “I’m a fighter”, “I’ve got a mouthy personality”, “I take no prisoners”, “I love money more than anything”, “winner takes all” etc etc. Yawn, they were just one more stereotype away from “Lunch is for wimps” or, I don’t know, “You’re fired!”. No, wait.

    I tuned into the first ever series intrigued to find yet another reality tv show (for this is what it essentially is folks, no matter how you style it) but one that was going to reward skill, effort, creativity and business acumen. You didn’t even have to like the participants. Excellent, could be interesting.

    Sadly, no. My interest waned as the show became more about re-working Alan Sugar’s damaged public profile post-Tottenham Hotspur and less about engaging the young fertile minds of Britain’s new business world order.

    I’ve skipped it since but I came back to it last night, encouraged by the promise of a more realistic, sober, credit-crunch conscious approach. Once the posturing was finally over, it looked promising. “Get out there and clean things” boomed Sir Alan or “SrAln” as the apprentices seemed to call him. That’s more like it, get out there with some raw materials,a bit of charm and turn some hard graft into hard cash.

    Unfortunately, that hard graft seemed conveninently glossed over. Now, I’m sure watching cold-calling sales patter is about as exciting as watching 10 strangers in a house arguing but it seemed rather too easy for both teams, despite the in-fighting to secure major potential contracts right off the bat.

    In the twinkling of SrAln’s eye, the boys had tracked down one of London’s biggest mini-cab firms and the girls had got hold of a luxury car dealership. Naturally, both businesses were happy to drop everything to have them pop over to negotiate terms as they happened to need their entire fleets cleaning.

    I can imagine the conversation amongst the directors…”Sorry? BBC prime time wants to come over to our lot and film a load of oiks cleaning our cars? For free? When? Sure, where do we sign? Make sure you’ve all had your hair cut and you’re dressed smartly guys – ooooh, who’s gonna play bad cop and who will be good cop? Our usual suppliers who we pay a retainer too? Oh, we’ll be ok, who needs to watch their costs? We’ll just absorb it.”

    So it was clearly all a set up. The BBC’s done the ground work, setting up potential gold mines for the teams to exploit and yes, I realise that is what is required to make the programme instantly compelling rather than seeing the teams pound the shoe leather and the phones searching for clients. However, that hard graft done for them, the tasks decended into a popularity and shouting competition.

    Who would emerge as top dog, or perhaps more fittingly, top bitch? Both the boys and the girls spent more time running eachother down, questioning leadership and style over outlining the business plan. As a result, lots of mess, a few tears (ok, I imagined that but they’ll be there next episode) and a spot of personality clashes.

    Is that business? Maybe. Is it reality? No. Is it reality TV? Yes. It did give nod to these more challenging economic times until the teams retired after a hard day to their luxury penthouse apartment complete with cocktail team and the real fun and fighting could begin. How long before we’re asked by Radio 1 who we think fancies who or which apprentice is the hottest? Important questions I’m sure.

    Anyway, I’m off to find a bucket, a sponge and Nottingham’s biggest cab firm. By my calculations I can make £200 profit by 7pm. Thanks SrAln.

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  • Crisis? What crisis? PR in a tight spot.

    Feb 10 • Crisis PR, General business • 1372 Views

    Ok, you’re going to need to take a look at your crisis communications plan. You have got one haven’t you? You haven’t? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Let’s take a look at what you SHOULD have done before this all kicked off.

    PR and handling the media is about relationships. You can’t expect to just waltz up to a journalist “delighted” with your good news if he/she doesn’t know you or your company from Adam/Eve.

    Well, you can, but you’ll have a far better chance of a positive response and some quality editorial if you have bothered to do some groundwork, found out what they want, when they want it and begun to build a two-way relationship.

    Relationships in business are crucial, whether it is with clients, suppliers, employees or the media. Journalists need stories. Good news stories make great copy but unfortunately so do negative stories. Journalists deal in news. Your bad news is just as important to them as your good news.

    So, what can you do? Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope it will go away because the deadline for comment will pass before you get back to them. There really are two sides to every story and you need to ensure you get yours over. If it involves you, or your business, you really should be on top of the facts. If you are still looking into the situation or are legally shackled, say so, but clarify any information that you can and don’t leave things open to speculation. If you ignore or shun a journalist, speculation is all they have to go on and any relationship built up to date is ruined or scuppered before you’ve even begun.

    If you do go down the “no comment” route, you don’t look like an iron-willed corporate shark, you look ill-informed, unprepared and sometimes, unsympathetic. There is only one thing you can control in a crisis – preparation. If you work in a more high risk environment consider the “what if” scenarios.

    What would you do if X happened? What are your processes for clarifying the situation, communicating it to colleagues and then the media? In that order? Yes, I think so. Your employees deserve to know the facts from you and not from tomorrow’s papers. Also, if you do go for the “no comment” approach, guess where the journalist is heading next?

    In conclusion, journalists are not out to get you, they are out to get a story. Make sure at least half of it is yours.

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  • Gordon Bennett! Brown in black and white.

    Sep 23 • Politics • 1258 Views

    Gordon Brown Labour Party Conference

    Gordon Brown Labour Party Conference

    I’ve just spent an hour watching Gordon Brown deliver his crucial speech to the Labour Party Conference. For a man who struggles with what his media personality actually is, he did very well. Why? Well, he was himself. I think.

    Gordon admitted he has been criticised in the media for being too serious. His response? “These are serious times.” He then softened his delivery using real-life anecdotes to describe his passion for a strong NHS. There was tub thumping but equally there was admission of mistakes made, notably in relation to the 10p tax debacle.

    He attacked the Tories, his party craved that and he did it pretty well. However, he didn’t get too tempted to launch into what they can’t or won’t do and concentrated on what Labour will do.

    Standing ovations greeted him a number of times as he delivered a strong performance but I wonder if his wife Sarah, who actually opened the conference and introduced him, will receive just as many plaudits in tomorrow’s tabloids?

    He also managed a sly dig at those questioning his leadership credentials. “These are no times for an apprentice,” he joked. Which David was that aimed at I wonder?

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