• All fools – what Justin Bieber and I have in common

    Apr 4 • Uncategorized • 492 Views

    Here’s a clue, it isn’t our dancing, our torsos or our lexical dexterity.

    What we have in common is that we both played an April Fools trick to generate attention and get people flocking.

    However, whilst one of us had texts of congratulations on a job well done for mocking the pretentious self-promotion of some marketing agencies we have known, the other was slammed in the press for insensitivity to people who have lost babies or struggle to have children of their own.

    Spoiler alert, I was the former. 

    Mr Bieber thought it would be ‘funny’ to post a fake story about his girlfriend being pregnant on social media.

    You see, whilst I understand my audience and could have some fun with some gentle mickey-taking, even getting the regional business press involved in covering it what ‘the Bieber’ did was purely done for attention.

    There was no thought to tone, the message, the downside, the risk to reputation. He just focused on the ‘reward’ which again, was far too vague. 

    He was only interested in the clicks, the notoriety and probably the need to ‘stay relevant’.

    This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do April Fools angles or PR stunts in general, just make sure that if you do go for it you have measured the downside as well as the upside.

    There’s two really easy questions to ask here which are basically at the root of satire…

    Will this offend someone who is vulnerable or make someone feel more vulnerable who has no recourse to fight back against me? Will it cause harm?

    If it might, stay well away.

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  • Pidgin English – PR guru invests in latest messaging tech

    Apr 1 • Uncategorized • 222 Views

    Nottingham-based PR agency, Press For Attention PR, has announced plans to revolutionise the way businesses communicate in post-Brexit Britain with the addition of a flock of pigeons to the team.

    The agency is led by Greg Simpson, a former business journalist and published author on PR who admittedly never lets and opportunity go past to mention that he used to live in Papua New Guinea and the Peak District.
    A press release which arrived this morning, delivered by intern carrier ‘April’ indicates that Simpson believes his background and his passion to ‘think outside the coup’ made the latest hire a logical step.
    ‘Every PR agency and expert in marketing is always looking for the next innovation to help their clients get fantastic results from their campaigns. I looked into various technologies and spoke to a series of investors who were keen to get in early on my latest idea before settling on the carrier pigeon solution.
    ‘There is so much noise out there with regards the latest digital media solutions and they have their place but April and I hope to really deliver with this.’
    Simpson is understood to have been deluged by CVs of varying quality and hygiene along with numerous LinkedIn requests and questions about shared parental leave.
    ‘The response so far has been fantastic,’ Simpson added, sitting in a hastily constructed loft on Old Market Square. 
    ‘April knows the area like the back of her claw and is clearly very talonted, plus she has virtually zero carbon footprint which is great news for us a a modern agency with a responsible approach to the environment. I look forward to working with her as we soar to new heights.’

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  • Testimonials – grab them by the you know whats

    Mar 28 • Uncategorized • 373 Views

    There’s a reason why testimonials are thus called. 

    Folk on trial in the days of ancient Rome tended to be men and tended to fear loss of some key ‘assets’ rather keenly.

    I have spared ‘David’s’ blushes in the photo above but I think you get the picture. 

    No, scrolling down won’t work.

    Anyway, when promising to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth they would place their hands…well…you can fill in the blanks here.

    It lends trust.

    The problem is, when it comes to too many testimonials that I read on websites or that are increasingly read out by politicians, the lack of detail does exactly the opposite. 

    ‘M Smith’ may well think your widgets are amazing, as may ‘B Jones’ or to add greater veracity, ‘P Piper of Peterborough’.

    The problem is, too many people don’t believe them. They are not proper testimonials as there is no ownership. No traceability and ultimately, no proof.

    Now, in some situations, this may be unavoidable due to data protection and confidentiality issues. If that is the case, I’d argue you are better leaving them out altogether UNLESS people can ask you for the reference following agreed clearance by you and your client. 

    Sometimes, that can add an extra layer of trust, especially if you work in a very discreet industry.

    If you struggle gaining true testimonials, the best tactic is actually very simple. Just ask.

    You can point people to your Google Reviews, mine are HERE and yes I need more or you can use your LinkedIn endorsements or extract them and put them on your website. Again, here’s a few of mine and crucially, you can see the people who left them and even click them to go to their LinkedIn profile.

    That is great proof and adds another layer of trust as the people testifying are able to be seen in greater detail.

    So if you are looking into this area for your own marketing material, don’t be scared to ask, do make it easy for people to leave reviews and don’t be tempted to ‘fake it ’til you make it’. 

    Grab this project by the you know whats and do it properly.

    Happy Headlines.


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  • This blog contains big BUTS…

    Mar 14 • Uncategorized • 412 Views

    …and I cannot lie.

    Fear not, gentle reader, this particular giant but – note singular ‘t’ – is the one most people are defaulting to right now and is another dreaded ‘B’ word…yep, Brexit.

    Negotiations are much in the news today. I’m writing this ahead of watching PMQs because I have to as a business to business PR specialist.

    There’s always an angle my clients can comment on so it is great fodder for me but my word it is depressing stuff.

    I’ve lost count of the ways people have found to use Brexit as a ‘reason’ aka ‘excuse’ not to make decisions. Of course in certain situations that is absolutely correct and we’re balancing risk v reward.

    However, people seem to have forgotten the REWARD part of the equation.

    When it comes to investing in your marketing, I understand people being more cautious, nobody really knows what is coming down the road after Brexit but guess what…

    Nobody REALLY knew before.

    They rarely do.

    The best marketers however do know that if they get X amount of enquiries they make Y amount of conversions and Z amount of sales.

    They also know what that means in terms of profit.

    So before you start lining up your buts, make sure you are basing your ‘reasons’ on sound marketing information, not just delaying because it appears safer.

    Also, remember that if everyone else is doing the same thing, that gives you a HUGE opportunity to be seen and heard.

    I will make you one peach of a guarantee with regards your sales if you do keep putting off decisions…

    You won’t make many and that, frankly, is the bottom line.

    Happy Headlines.




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  • Stuck for ideas for a CSR initiative? Google it.

    Feb 27 • Uncategorized • 500 Views

    ‘Don’t be evil’ a key part of Google’s Code of Conduct was quietly shelved back in 2018, probably due to the fact that suggesting it as a possibility hinted at likelihood of it occurring…

    Anyway, they now work within a more vague ‘ethical business conduct’ guideline which is somewhat dull but does conjure fewer mental images of white cats and hidden lairs and informs their CSR efforts.

    However, they aren’t just talking about NOT being evil, they are actively seeking to DO good as part of their extensive CSR campaign.

    According to an article by Kevin Xu for Entrepreneur.com recently ‘Google.org — the company’s nonprofit arm — donates 1 percent of Google’s total equity and profits to charity. Recently, moreover, the initiative has furthered its efforts in that sphere by focusing on actions, not just investments.

    Critically, they are getting their employees involved too, this ain’t all about the money folks.

    Kevin goes on;

    They will be able to spend up to six months offering their full-time expertise to nonprofits. In fact this year alone alone, Google will ‘deploy between 40 and 60 people to nonprofit offices in numerous cities, offering 50,000 hours of skilled labor in fields like computer engineering, data analysis and artificial intelligence.’

    That is a HUGE effort.

    Now most people reading this don’t have anywhere near the budgets or resource to divert to similar schemes but don’t worry about what you CAN’T do, look at what you COULD do.

    You might raise funds for a charity directly or help them to raise funds by providing volunteers for instance. If you are expert in something, such as photography or video, could you help them get their message across that way?

    I work with Forever Stars, the stillbirth and child bereavement charity and this year will be donating a percentage of my fees for each press release I write to them, whilst supporting their media efforts at the same time.

    Within that, I will be profiling the businesses and people who help the charity with their free time, with events, fundraising, donations and in all manner of other ways.

    If I came into your business right now, one of the first questions I would ask is what good causes you support or are thinking about supporting.

    I do not do this to try and curry favour in the media, although it is a fantastic way to gain positive PR. I do it because it starts out as an internal marketing campaign, a way to create and foster a positive culture within an organisation.

    So if you aren’t doing something already, have a think about what you could be doing or better still, ask your team. Someone will be hugely keen to support something and will most likely want to take the lead and run the project for you.

    Your job is to give them the tools and resources to help them help others.

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  • There’s a Hole in Your Bucket Dear Liza

    Jan 16 • General business, Other • 270 Views

    OK, so you’re not Liza BUT I’m about to save you a fortune on wasted marketing anyway.

    All you need to do is find the holes in your bucket which sounds simple but after a number of similar different experiences in the last month, maybe it isn’t.

    In the last month I have sourced quotes for a bathroom tiling project along with many other bits and bobs.

    My wife and I scoured Trusted Trader, found some good reviews and asked for quotes. Two different people got back to us. Great marketing.

    However, neither of them showed up.

    What a waste of time, effort and marketing investment.

    They’ve got zero chance of being asked to quote again and if a friend asked me for a recommendation I would tell them to run a mile. They had Facebook pages, not great but they were there.

    We checked them. Again, that effort is totally wasted but they can’t blame their marketing for that.

    Eventually we went old school and I checked the local Post Office window. We were in luck. I dropped a text to the chap and then and he replied immediately, even offering to come over there and then. On a Saturday.

    Talk about impressed.

    We arranged to meet on Monday. He was 10 minutes late which did worry me as he didn’t warn me of this which would have been courteous, never mind sensible for a trader seeking to quote for a job.

    Anyway, he arrived and was very polite and professional. He even gave me ideas on how to save money rather than waste it. There’s a theme here folks.

    We agreed to a schedule just after Christmas which was even more impressive, especially as he said he was starting a corporate job in the new year so wanted to get this done and dusted for us pronto.

    Altogether now…’Oh it’s all gone quiet over there.’

    Then it went a bit quiet.

    Very quiet.

    I chased him to check he was STILL coming over the next day. Silence and then…an excuse about family illness and that no, he couldn’t make it.

    That’s fine. We’ve all been there and it is awful. I asked him for when he could pop over, it was only a day’s work according to him.

    Silence again.

    Well, it turns out he couldn’t make it at all and that he was starting his new job soon so he can’t do it now but he does have a mate who might be able to help.

    If you think I was going to call his mate who ‘might’ be able to help you’d be wrong. I associate his mate with him and his professionalism, or lack thereof.

    These things happen but all he had to do was to tell me proactively. Then I’d have been tempted to call his mate IF he had already set it up for me, which would have made sense.

    ‘Sorry Greg, I can’t but Gary is a specialist and I’ve briefed him. Same cost and he’s available to help you’.

    I didn’t reply.

    I have since gone out to a national outfit who have bigger marketing pockets and better systems. They actually paid NOTHING to get my work other than the investment in their branding over the years.

    What a wasted opportunity for the local tradesman.

    Now, just think to yourself before you invest in an awareness campaign, do you want the leads it might bring? Do you have capacity? Do you have the skills?

    If you can’t, it is no problem at all. You can tweak your marketing message to make sure it fits your skills or hold back on your campaign until you can do the work.

    Just don’t blame your marketing campaign if you don’t convert open goals and don’t pour marketing budgets into leaking buckets.

    Fix the holes first dear Henry.

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  • Tight swimming trunks and goal setting – let’s be brief

    Dec 19 • Uncategorized • 467 Views

    I am a member of a well known health club, which, due to its location, tends to include a fair few famous faces – typically footballers and cricketers but also a former undisputed super middle weight boxing champion.
    He’s getting very good at tennis and has a volley with real venom.
    This is because he’s decided he wants to be good at tennis and he practices. 
    A lot.
    Now, I was in the gym yesterday doing some ‘on the business’ work, reflecting on the year and working out how I can be just that bit better again next year in my business and personal life.
    I do this every quarter, examining current goals and setting new ones, bite-sized markers that help me to my bigger picture. This stuff really doesn’t work that well if you just do it on December 31st after a few too many sherries.
    Anyway, this former champion was preparing to go onto court as I was setting my fitness and health goals and these include swimming.
    There’s no time like the present I reasoned so I headed off to buy some snazzy new swimming shorts. New gear and gadgets always motivate me.
    The problem was, the only shorts available were, well…a little ‘ambitious’ size wise. They were the shorts I should be wearing AFTER I have been swimming for about a month.
    Maybe 2 months.
    Here was a lovely excuse to not bother with the idea and put off the fitness goal for another day. Start in January, once I’m totally ready, with the correct shorts.
    But I didn’t do that. I bought the shorts and went for a swim.
    They weren’t THAT bad size wise, a bit of breath holding along the poolside catwalk would see me safely under the water with nobody any the wiser.
    They were however pinching a tad and I knew I was pushing it a bit.
    But that’s the point with goals. They are very easy to put off, to make too easy, to vaguely promise to start working towards in January once you’ve got everything perfect.
    They are also far easier to attain if you have a visual cue, whether that’s a picture on the fridge, a sales brochure of a car or a house or some shorts that make you think twice about ordering pizza this evening.
    Or ever again.
    So as you reflect on 2018 and plan ahead for 2019, whether your goals are business related such as getting more press coverage (call Greg) or personal such as health and fitness, don’t be afraid if they pinch a bit.
    Don’t put them off either. In fact, don’t wait until you get back in January, get a head start now. 
    In 2019, think a little bit big bigger, be a little bit bolder. 
    There’s a reason they call them ‘stretch goals’ you know.

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  • ‘Cause you’ve got personality, Walk with personality…Talk, with personality.

    Dec 7 • Uncategorized • 270 Views

    Or do you? Are you just a little guilty of playing it too safe in your marketing?

    You know by now I don’t like the John Lewis advert. I also cannot abide most musicals. 

    However, I do LOVE the range of ads out this Christmas that aren’t afraid to be a bit cheeky. To stand out. To show their personality.

    As marketers and business owners we can learn a lot from these campaigns. Granted, it is horses for courses, I wouldn’t expect John Lewis to start parodying merrily, anymore than I’d expect to see Aldi spending mega bucks on something flashy but it does show where a sense of humour can come into play to great effect with your marketing. 

    Even John Lewis themselves have seen the funny side and joined in to show they are are good sports, which is of course is on brand for them.

    I think there is a huge opportunity for smaller businesses to inject a bit more personality into their PR. 

    I primarily work with experts. I help them to show what they know. 

    The problem is, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of playing it too safe with your messaging and your tone. It is absolutely fine if that is your market and your market responds well to this but I can guarantee that it drives editors up the wall when they receive expert comment on a key topic and they all sound the same.

    This means they will probably not get used – it is just noise.

    That may be because they have been filtered through the marketing teams and then onto someone with good intentions of brand value protection but there is a balance to be had between playing it safe and frankly, being boring. The latter rarely make much headway in PR terms if they are competing with bigger brands for the same market with the same message and the same method.

    A sense of humour helps you stand out. Don’t be afraid to try it when appropriate. This is from a man who sent 100 tins of Spam in the mail as part of a GDPR marketing campaign and as Elton said….I’m still standing.

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  • More than a Lidl bit funny

    Nov 21 • Crisis PR, General business, Uncategorized • 473 Views

    I’ll admit this right from the start, I don’t really like the John Lewis ad. 
    I am clearly soulless.
    Actually, it is great, it is warm, it is emotive but it’s just too ‘commercial’ for me, which sounds odd for an advert but it feels too much like a plug for Elton’s farewell tour. 
    Although it appears Sainsbury’s knows a thing or two about plugs too.
    That said, I’ve already been in to buy a very expensive wreath for my front door so it hasn’t damaged my relationship with them.
    However, what Lidl did in response with their #EltonJohnLewis parody was so utterly brilliant that it HAS started a relationship with them, from pretty much nowhere on my radar. The brands are poles apart but it just shows what can be done with a bit of fun, creativity and most of all, speed. 
    The ‘Lidl bit funny’ parody now ranks just ahead of my favourite social media campaign of the year, just pipping KFC’s ‘We’re sorry’ tweet during the great chicken crisis of February 2018.
    There’s clearly something in the water this year as all of the big brands are getting in on it, ‘hijacking’ one another’s campaigns and riding on the exposure of their rivals.
    It is superbly conceived and must be driving media buyers in marketing teams and agencies mad but you’ve gotta love it.
    The question is, will it shift your brand loyalty, even if it is just a one percent rise in your approval or awareness?
    After all the fairy dust has settled, that is what will win the day for the marketing teams.

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  • SEO v PR v Advertising v The Times – how NOT to win at media relations

    Nov 14 • General business, Other, PR Tips & Tricks, PR tips & tricks, Uncategorized • 272 Views

    The battle for hearts, minds and marketing budgets rages. Can’t we all just get along?
    The answer of course is YES, if you integrate these specialisms they wield HUGE power for the marketing arsenal.
    However, as with all weapons, they are dangerous in some hands.
    Especially if you throw social media into the mix….
    Can we get a backlink? A question I get asked by an increasing number of clients and understandably so. It is easy to measure and what gets measured, gets managed. 
    However, there is a reason why I never make promises about these slippery little links and it is this…it can REALLY RUIN all the hard work of getting them on board with you in the first place.
    Check out the Twitter storm that raged last week when an SEO ‘guru’ and folk on his side of the debate kept on at Deidre Hipwell, the Retail and Mergers and Acquisitions Editor of The Times.
    Read it, look at the impact short and long term and think about how carefully you need to play this game.

    Hipwell pointed out that a journalist’s role isn’t to market the companies they report about and the aim of a news article is to provide readers with all of the information they require without linking to external sources.

    As the Twitter war raged on, people rightly asked where it all ends because if you do it once, you have to do it for all or face accusations of bias.
    There is also the concern that links AWAY from the website might jeapordise the commercial model of the media – look at how good Facebook is at keeping you on their platform as you surf about merrily. 
    Now, I could argue that if the article needs MORE info, that can be provided by a link to a specific page on the client’s website that ADDS VALUE but don’t start asking for or even demanding hyperlinks just because it suits your marketing objectives.
    Good PR and media relations requires a delicate balance and a win/win mentality between the client and the media. That’s why PR experts are the people who should make these pitches to the press. They think Win/Win/Win.
    I’m not saying an SEO expert shouldn’t contact them but if they do, they should wear a PR hat when they do it. There’s no point in getting close to a great piece of coverage and doing all that hard work just to scupper by annoying a journalist.
    Also, how would you rate your chances of ever getting coverage from her/him again?
    My tip is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to media relations and the preferences of journalists. 
    Some like a phone call, some hate it. 
    Some encourage a pitch via Twitter, some will find it incredibly rude. 
    Linkedin can be a great place to start for some but not for all.

    Bottom line is it is all about horses for courses so be flexible and be strategic. PR is a long-term game, don’t lose goodwill over the loss of a link. 

    Happy Headlines
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