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Is it time to start moving in Google+ circles?

27 June 2013 at 22:36

When we discuss social media with clients and contacts, some of them mention having a Google+ account, but no one really uses it for social interactions.

The consensus seems to be that the ‘circles’ concept is just a bit too complex. And besides, as far as social media goes, it’s a bit of a ghost town. Why spend the time getting to grips with it if there’s nobody there?

Google muscle

However, the mighty Google engine is not easily deterred. It is getting increasingly difficult to access popular platforms such as YouTube without an account. And the rise of AuthorRank is likely to persuade many professionals to give those circles a second look.

It seems that change could be on the horizon. Word on the street is that weaving Google+ into your social mix is becoming increasingly important – especially in a B2B context.

Google+ advice

If you want to find out more about the potential of Google+ for your business, you might be interested in a couple of articles that ran earlier this week.

Social Media Examiner ran a piece on how to use Google+ to expand your business influence. (sourced via Marc Campman)

And Nadine Thomas from WSI blogged about how Google Hangouts can be used to promote your business.

As Nadine points out, Google+ just celebrated its second birthday. In its first six months, it accumulated 40 million users. At the last count (September 2012) membership had topped 400 million.

If, or when, those 400 million people start interacting, I know which side of the Google+ fence most businesses will want to be.

Tags: Google+ | WSI | Marc Campman | Nadine Thomas

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5 principles for effective comms, from the Grandfather of PR

14 June 2013 at 11:26

Lessons in public relations best practice from British PR pioneer, Basil Clarke (via PR Week).

What British PR's founding father can teach us today

Basil Clarke was a pioneer of British PR in the 1920s. Richard Evans looks at five of his principles for effective comms that still hold strong in today's market.

Basil Clarke was a war reporter who became the UK's first PR officer in 1917 and started PR firm Editorial Services in 1924. Despite him being the father of British PR, most people working in the industry today have never heard of him. Here are five things we can learn from him.

1. Claims in press releases should be sourced

Clarke insisted all press materials issued by Editorial Services had to include references for any claims so journalists could check them. He saw this as important in retaining credibility, particularly as the idea of PR was controversial in the 1920s. Referencing claims might seem obvious, but lots of press releases today do not do this.

2. PR firms should not canvass for business or accept payment by results

The question of how to make PR more professional is one of the big issues facing the industry today, just as it was in Clarke's time. He thought the reputation of PR depended on the actions of those working in it and he worried canvassing for business would mean people making promises they couldn't keep. He also considered payment by results beneath the dignity of the kind of profession he wanted PR to become.

3. Ethics are important

Clarke produced the world's first PR code of ethics and by the mid-1920s only accepted clients he believed would bring public benefit. He once rejected the chance to work for the spirits industry because he was already trying to convince the public that 'beer is best' and so was worried about the conflict of interest.

4. 'No single soul in this world is an enemy of the editor if he has fresh, live news to tell'

Just like today, in the 1920s stunts were a popular method for getting editorial coverage for clients. But Clarke rejected this approach, realising that the best way to secure coverage was simply to find the news value in a client's work and put it into a news format, and that he could make himself valuable to newspapers by producing newsworthy material regularly. It was a simple enough formula, but it worked: Editorial Services was the UK's leading PR agency throughout the 1920s.

5. Four factors determine news value

Clarke identified the four elements that can give a story news value as being its importance; human interest value; timeliness and the reliability of its source. He thought a story did not have to have all four factors, but that by strengthening one of the factors (for example, enhancing the human interest value by finding out more personal information about the people involved), you would also strengthen the news value of the story.

There was nothing particularly difficult about this, but he was dismissive about the ability of much of his competition, writing that 'news-value factors are woefully ignored in publicity departments across the country', with the result that '99 per cent of the propaganda copy on innumerable subjects sent to newspapers is doomed ab initio (from the beginning) to the waste paper basket'.

Richard Evans' biography of Basil Clarke, From the Frontline, is published on 14 June. It is available for pre-order at thehistorypress.co.uk.

Picture courtesy of Annie Bibbings

 

Tags: Basil Clarke | PR Week | The History Press | Annie Bibbings | From the Frontline | Richard Evans

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How to win awards – part 3

07 June 2013 at 12:18

Supporting material

Many award schemes give you the option of submitting supporting material to accompany your entry. Others make it compulsory to supply evidence such as copies of year-end accounts.

Whilst your ultimate success usually depends on the relevance and strength of the written entry, well presented supporting materials can take you a long way. If nothing else, they can capture judges’ attention and ensure your written entry also gets the attention it deserves.

Read the guidelines

Check the requirements for supporting materials before you begin work on the written entry. If any of them are compulsory, make sure you prepare them in good time – especially if you will rely on another department to compile them.

Summarise & explain

Make sure the materials convey what they need to quickly and easily. This is especially important if you need to provide trading figures. An internal spread sheet can look like complete gobbledegook to someone who isn’t familiar with your business. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t submit it, but consider attaching an explanatory note that summarises important figures, and highlight or label key areas of the document.

Get creative

Consider employing a designer to produce a display board with samples of your work, press coverage, customer testimonials or key facts and figures from the written entry. This can be a powerful way to persuade judges that your entry is a strong contender for its category. It’s also a great way to achieve standout as the judges sift through the entries.

Less is more

Supporting materials should complement your entry, not distract from it. Be selective about what you send. It’s unlikely that the judges want or need to see your full company brochure…

Attention to detail

Most importantly, make sure supporting materials are consistent with the main written entry. Cross reference any trading figures for accuracy, and check that what you’re sending is genuinely relevant.

Now you’re ready to go – good luck!

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How to win awards - part 2

31 May 2013 at 15:29

Crafting the entry

When you’re writing an award entry it’s important to realise that judges have a very limited amount of time to assess each entrant. You need to make sure every word counts to achieve standout and grab the judges’ attention.

Here are 5 tips to help you get started:

1.       Don’t forget to refer to the core criteria and ensure you address each of them clearly. Read the entry requirements at the outset – and cross reference them once you’ve written the entry. If the entry form isn’t laid out in a prescribed way, it can be useful to use the criteria as headings to structure your own copy. This approach also makes it easier for the judges to find relevant information quickly as they are assessing the entry.

2.       Write a long version first. Then edit it down.  Then edit it down again. You want to convey as mush pertinent information as you can in as few words as possible. Make sure your sentences are concise and easy to understand. And whatever happens, don’t go over the word count – it can result in immediate disqualification.

3.       Steer clear of jargon. If you are going for a general business award, the chances are that most of the judges won’t be familiar with your industry. Never assume that they will understand acronyms or technical terminology.  Even if you are entering an industry-focused award, the same terminology can sometimes have different connotations in different businesses. It’s always best to say what you mean in plain English.

4.       Find a way to highlight the key points that you think make your entry deserving of the award. An introductory summary can be an effective way to do this. Keep it short and sweet – try to condense the essence of the entry into a couple of sentences. You can also bullet-point key achievements that you think will capture the judges’ attention, such as evidence which backs up your claims (see last week’s blog).

5.       Never copy and paste material from press releases or brochures and hope it will do the trick. Award copy needs to be persuasive and passionate – but don’t overdo it – let the evidence do the talking. Once you’ve completed the entry, get someone to proofread it for you. It is easy to get snow-blind to typos, especially if you’re working to a deadline.

Next time we’ll look at how to ensure your supporting material works with your beautifully crafted entry to stop the judges in their tracks!

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How to win awards – part 1

24 May 2013 at 10:16

Preparation, preparation, preparation

We have written many award entries for our clients over the years. And we’ve had our fair share of gongs.

But crafting the entry write-up is only one part of process. Over the coming weeks, we will explore three core areas that we believe should be factored into the award entry process:

1.    preparing for the award

2.    crafting the entry

3.    compiling supporting information

Preparing for award entries

Many award entrants would be horrified to realise that the entry that they have worked so hard on doesn’t even make it through the first paper sift.

The simple fact is that a lot of entries are disqualified because they don’t satisfy basic criteria.

How can you avoid falling at the first hurdle? Before you begin writing the entry, read the award guidelines thoroughly and consider the following:

·         What is the most appropriate category, and does our work genuinely address all the areas that the judges will be looking for?

·         What evidence can we provide to back up the claims we will make in our entry?

·         Who do we need to speak to within the organisation to gather the necessary facts and figures?

·         Who is the best person to write the entry, and who should manage the overall process?

·         Do we need to get the entry approved by certain people within the organisation, or by customers who may be referenced in the write-up?

·         What are the timescales – can we gather everything we need on time?

·         What does it say in the small print? Read this properly: don’t get disqualified for a silly mistake like not numbering your pages or going over the maximum word count

Evidence of success

It is well worth spending time selecting the best category and sourcing relevant facts and figures before you make a start on the entry.

‘Business success’ award categories usually need to see evidence of growth – which generally translates into financial figures. If this is the case, involve your accounts team from the outset – let them know if you need figures broken down by product area or international market. If you can drill down into the detail of how and why your business is performing well, it is more likely to impress the judges than if you simply say ‘our turnover increased by xx%’.

Many award schemes also feature categories that focus on the wider impact and responsibilities of businesses. That might include environmental or CSR initiatives, investment in training or young people. Don’t be mistaken into thinking that these are ‘softer’ categories that are easy to win. Far from it. If you want judges to take note of your entry, you need to make a strong case for what you do, why you do it and the results of your activity. Evidence of success might include photographs, newspaper clippings, testimonials and statistics surrounding any improvements you've made.

Halfway there

A little preparation makes a big difference to the quality of an award entry. Once you are armed with relevant facts and figures, you are ready to make a start on crafting a strong entry… and we will look at that in next week’s blog.

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You’ve got to be in it to win it

17 May 2013 at 09:49

The Gloucestershire Business Awards are now open for entries. Do you think you’ve got what it takes to be a winner this year?

These awards really are catered to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Young, Family and Small Business categories ensure it isn’t just big, well-established firms that take the limelight. With other categories ranging from Export to Corporate Social Responsibility to Best Business Website there are lots opportunities for recognition.

 

It is free to enter, so you’ve got nothing to lose by having a go. There were some surprise winners last year from niche businesses – this year it could be you!

Gloucestershire Business Awards

Here is the full list of Gloucestershire Business Awards categories and sponsors:

·         Business of the Year (sponsor: Randall & Payne)

·         Small Business of the Year (sponsor: Gloucestershire Chamber of Commerce)

·         Family Business of the Year (sponsor: Harrison Clark Rickerbys)

·         Young Business of the Year (sponsor: Creed Foodservice)

·         Young Business Person of the Year (sponsor: Renishaw)

·         Export Award (sponsor: Santander)

·         Business Innovation (sponsor: University of Gloucestershire)

·         Communicator of the Year (sponsor: Leisure Ride Group)

·         Best Place to Work Award (sponsor: Expectations! Recruitment Services)

·         Rising Star of the Year (sponsor: Gloucestershire College)

·         Corporate Social Responsibility Award (sponsor: Gloucester Quays)

·         Best Employee Award (sponsor: The Warranty Group)

·         Best Business Website (sponsor: Colour Connection)

·         Environmental Business of the Year (sponsor: SWEA - Severn Wye Energy Agency)

 

You can register for the awards here. And if you want help crafting an entry – you know who to call!

 

 

Tags: Randall & Payne | Gloucestershire Chamber of Commerce | Harrison Clark Rickerbys | Creed Foodservice | Renishaw | Santander | University of Gloucestershire | Leisure Ride Group | Expectations! Recruitment Services | Severn Wye Energy Agency | Gloucester Quays

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Little red boxes

10 May 2013 at 09:11

It was great to read about plans for two of the area’s decommissioned red telephone boxes in Stroud Life and Stroud News and Journal this week.

When Sheepscombe village looked set to lose their iconic booth, a community group bought it from BT for £1. Now they are planning to renovate it over the summer, and are asking locals to suggest how it might be used.

Ideas proposed so far include using it as a village library, but other suggestions are welcome. Sheepscombe Society is also hoping local businesses might sponsor the renovation project in return for adverts inside the box.

A second red phone box on Summer Street in Stroud is now being managed by Summer Street Area Community Association – with the help of a grant from Stroud Town Council. Children in the area are clamouring for it to become a pop-up sweet shop, but apparently consultations are ongoing!

We love all the quirks associated with town and village life in Gloucestershire. From the annual cheese rolling on Coopers Hill, to Art Couture Painswick, to smaller initiatives like the phone box renovations. What do you most love about living in the West Country? Please share…

Tags: Stroud Town Council | Sheepscombe Society | Summer Street Area Community Association | Stroud Life | Stroud News and Journal

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Stroud’s Commercial Task Team is born

25 April 2013 at 12:27

We love initiatives that help the local business community, so it was a pleasure to take part in Leigh Young Solicitors' Stroud Commercial Task Team event last week.

The informal working lunch, hosted by MRG Systems on Upper Mills Estate, was attended by 30 local business owners and managers.

It involved quick-fire business advice from a collective of seven business leaders - including yours truly (Sabrina!). Each speaker took just five minutes to give attendees one or two nuggets of useful advice to help them run their operations more profitably and smoothly. Apart from struggling to keep to my own five minute limit, I thought the event was great - and hope we see more of the same in the future.

Margaret Young, Solicitor and Director at Leigh Young, came up with the idea for a Commercial Task Team. She says the event gave Stroud businesses an opportunity to access a wide range of valuable insights quickly and easily.

In Margaret's own words:

“Time is precious for owners and managers, but they also like to be aware of opportunities and potential pitfalls as their businesses grow and develop. We set up the Commercial Task Team to enable people to access useful advice without obligation, all within their lunch hour. The launch event was dynamic and feedback was very positive. By giving each speaker a five minute time limit, they had to get straight to the point. This meant delegates received clear, useful advice. If they wanted more detail on a given area, they had the opportunity to chat with the speakers over lunch.”

In addition to Leigh Young Solicitors, MRG Systems and us, speakers included representatives from LloydsTSB, chartered accountants Randall & Payne, Intranet Future and IFS Cotswold Planning. Topics ranged from the importance of taking care with Terms & Conditions to business promotion and financial advice.

Leigh Young Solicitors plans to take the Stroud Commercial Task Team to other local industrial estates over the coming months. If you would like to be notified of the next event, contact Margaret on mpy@leighyoung.co.uk or follow @LYSolicitors on Twitter.

Tags: Leigh Young Solicitors | MRG Systems | IFS Cotswold Planning | LloydsTSB | Randall & Payne | Intranet Future

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5 ways to drive Facebook engagement

19 April 2013 at 12:37

With half the UK population now using Facebook, it is naturally the first destination for many brands seeking to boost their social media presence. Whether Facebook is the best platform for your brand is another story, and before beginning any social media activity it is worth auditing the different platforms to see where your customers are most active and responsive.

But once you have decided to create a corporate Facebook profile, how do you keep your fan-base engaged beyond their initial ‘like’? Fans can be fickle, and will quickly ‘unlike’ you if you invade their Facebook space with irrelevant or boring content.

Here are five quick tips to help ensure you keep your fans onside for the long term:

1. Talk to your fans – don’t sell to them

If you constantly try to sell to your fans, they will very quickly get annoyed and probably ditch you. Facebook provides an opportunity for you to get to know each other better, and for you to keep your brand front of mind. Show an interest in what your fans are doing and posting, rather than only posting your own business-focused content. Share content that is genuinely interesting – but keep it short.

2. Use images

The Facebook timeline is a great platform for sharing visual content. It may be tempting to fill your profile with product shots – but they really should be kept to a minimum. Think about ‘behind the scenes’ images that give insights into how your business operates, and the type of people who work for you. If you pride yourself on corporate social responsibility, include pics of some of the initiatives you’re involved with. If most of your customers deal with you via phone or email, introduce some of the people who they might be dealing with.  

3. Run competitions, exclusive Facebook fan offers

Everyone loves to get something for nothing, and a great way to keep your fans engaged is to offer good deals and competitions via Facebook. They can provide a powerful incentive for your fans to recommend you to their own friend-base too.

4. Be original

Whilst it’s fine to share relevant images or news stories that you have sourced elsewhere on the web, don’t get lazy about it! It can be really refreshing to see a brand actively communicating in an original way, rather than simply regurgitating the same content as everyone else. Wouldn’t you rather talk with someone who speaks their own mind, rather than always telling you what other people think?

5. Call to action

Don’t just sit back and hope your fans will respond to your content – actively invite them to comment and join the conversation. If you have a good stock of images, a regular ‘caption this photo’ slot can be a fun way to get people involved – although you may need to moderate if any of the captions get a bit risqué!

 

Tags: Facebook

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How to avoid a bicycle crash

05 April 2013 at 13:09

Did you see Eddie Mair’s interview with Boris Johnson on the Andrew Marr show last week? Once you stopped cringing, you might have decided it was time to rethink your business’ approach to media interviews.

It’s unlikely that your CEO or subject experts will ever be hauled over the coals in quite the way Boris was. But even kindly interviewers can leave the interviewee exposed and floundering if they are poorly prepared.

Here are five tips to help you freewheel through media interviews:

1.    Never think you can wing it. Everybody needs to prepare for interviews to get the most out of them. Even if you are the business founder it is useful to have a stock response for simple questions like ‘so, what do you do?’. The journalist, or people listening or watching, will soon switch off if you bumble through a lengthy, overly technical or jargon-heavy description of your business. If you work in a complex industry, try to think of simple ways to talk about concepts that might baffle laypeople – without being patronising.

2.    Set goals for the interview – be clear about what you want to get out of the situation. That doesn’t mean plugging your company name into every sentence. But you should decide on two or three messages that you want to convey, and find ways to work them naturally into your responses. Practice saying key phrases or statements out loud beforehand – it will help ensure they flow well and you don’t trip over the words when it comes to the crunch.

3.    Think about your body language. If you are being interviewed for TV or video, make sure you are comfortable and relaxed. Try not to fidget and make sure you arrive in good time, so you don’t feel hurried and tense. Stay calm – and remember to breathe! It will help you to feel in control.

4.    Take your time. Let the interviewer finish their questions, and pause before you answer. Repeat the question back to them if you want to clarify what they are after, or if you need to buy time to think.

5.    Remember that nothing is ever ‘off the record’. Even if the journalist has put their notepad away and you think the cameras have stopped rolling, keep quiet about anything you wouldn’t want attributed to you in the media.

Have you ever had a nightmare interview? Feel free to share, and tell us what you learned…

 

 

 

Tags: Boris Johnson | Andrew Marr | Eddie Mair

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Keep social simple

22 March 2013 at 14:28

The Drum magazine held its Digital Convergence event in London this week – and we rather liked this overview of Dr Martens’ attitude towards social media and ROI.

Consumer marketing manager Simon Wilkinson talked about the transition from the traditional ‘four Ps’ of marketing (product, place, promotion and price) to today’s ‘four Cs’: conversation, customisation, community and co-creation.

You can read The Drum’s full write-up on his session below – or see the original article here: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/03/22/don-t-over-complicate-social-media-and-social-roi-advises-dr-martens-consumer

Don’t over-complicate social media and social ROI, advises Dr Martens consumer marketing manager

There is too much confusion when it comes to establishing the right ROI for social media. At least that’s the opinion of Dr Martens’ consumer marketing manager Simon Wilkinson.

“The hot potato of social media is ROI. I could write books about the people who write books about social ROI, but it really shouldn’t be so complicated. We know why we do social media at Dr Martens - because it leads to sales,” he said.

In fact Dr Martens has found that its Facebook fans are four times more likely to buy than those who aren’t, according to Wilkinson. Half its fans say they have bought Dr Martens since becoming a fan and 15 per cent have bought from a post. “These are hugely significant statistics for us."

Speaking at the Drum’s Digital Convergence event in London this week Wilkinson took delegates through the journey the shoe retailer has taken, shifting from the four Ps – product, place, promotion and price, to the 4 Cs – conversation, customisation, community and co-creation.

Dr Martens realised the necessity of integrating social media into its strategy when it first picked up on the fact that tens of thousands of conversations were being had independently across media not owned by the brand, according to Wilkinson. “There were unofficial fanbases of about 40,000 fans on unofficial fan sites – that’s 40,000 strangers who had come together to talk about Dr Martens on platforms we didn’t own. We had to earn the right to be there,” he explained.

It has achieved this by stripping away back the complexity surrounding some businesses approach to social media and adopting a simple but effective content-driven strategy. “This may sound basic and I make no apology for that, because there is often a lot of confusion over what is meant by social media within Dr Martens.

“Traditional media is one-way broadcast which has led to many people believing social media is two-way – but we don’t see it like that - we define it as a network of conversations about Dr Martens with a large amount of content created by that community.”

Much of its focus is on ensuring its brand is visible in the social space via a mix of encouraging its communities to create their own content, and engaging them in conversations, all of which are it accompanies with “bursts” of paid media.

It centres all activity around a clear content strategy and framework which consists of: a defined tone of voice; standard guidelines across all regions; regular and standardised reporting, according to Wilkinson. “People can over complicate things. Some of our most engaged posts have been ones showing images we have taken ourselves in the office. “We begin every day with a product post and that can drive some of our biggest engagement and in some cases a post has been seen by 250,000 people within 24 hours and generated 9,000 Likes – that’s free reach,” he said.

It has created a break-out area on its Facebook page where people can upload their own content and has also launched an Instagram page, accruing 60,000 fans within eight months.

Tags: The Drum | Dr Martens | SImon Wilkinson

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Was Yahoo! right to ban flexible working?

01 March 2013 at 14:18

Flexible working is central to Trailblazer PR’s ethos, so we have been following coverage of Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban homeworking at Yahoo! with interest.

In her internal memo announcing the changes, Mayer claimed: “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home”.

That’s not a sentiment we share, but as the week has progressed it has become clear that the real problem at Yahoo! was not homeworking per se, but some people’s abuse of it, as reported in the Huffington Post.

In our experience, homeworking offers many advantages. The benefits for working parents are just one part of the equation – it can also lead to better efficiency, fewer distractions, more flexibility in dealing with client and journalist requirements. And it doesn’t mean the team can’t get together when necessary for planning, reviewing or creative development sessions.

Insisting that people are chained to a desk in the workplace from 9-5 doesn’t make them more productive or more creative. It might prove that they are putting the hours in, but it doesn’t ensure those hours are put to good use.

At the end of the day it comes down to trust and integrity. Whether your team is home-based or office-based is irrelevant.  

 

 

Tags: Yahoo! | PR

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Brand birthdays: does anyone really care?

22 February 2013 at 10:07

Brands seem to have an obsession with letting people know how old they are.

This is equally true of iconic household names and smaller regional businesses.

The FT recently celebrated its 125 year anniversary with a bit of a fanfare and Diet Coke is hinting that it may bring back its classic hunk as it turns 30 this year. If you take a quick flick through your local paper’s business pages, there’s sure to be a ‘Joe Blogs enterprises celebrates xx years trading’ story.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on brand birthdays. Do you care at all? Do you think it depends on the business size / sector / target audience? Is it more relevant for business-to-business brands whose audiences may associate longevity with industry knowledge and expertise? Or does it all come down to the objectives and the strategy of associated PR and marketing?

If you’d like to consider some more views on brand birthdays, Marketing magazine recently ran this feature on the topic:

Are brand birthdays really a cause for celebration?

 

Coca-Cola, VW and The Financial Times are among the growing number of brands who have invited consumers to join in their birthday celebrations. But does anyone want to join the party? John Reynolds and Ben Bold investigate.

What do the Tube, The Financial Times, Harley Davidson, Coca-Cola, Cartier, Volkswagen, Starbucks and Marmite have in common?

Answer: they have all recently trumpeted their birthdays in a bid to attract publicity, boost their brands, increase sales, and remind consumers of their heritage.

Earlier this week, the FT celebrated its 125th anniversary with a global marketing campaign spanning press, digital, experiential and outdoor, telling readers it is "Still guiding the way for global business".

Meanwhile, last month Marketing reported that, as part of its 30th anniversary, Diet Coke had unveiled a teaser ad on its Facebook page, hinting at the return of the "hunk" from its classic TV ads.

Lager brand Heineken is celebrating its 140th birthday, while Heineken UK this week announced the launch of a multimillion-pound marketing campaign for Foster's to begin a year-long celebration of the lager brand's 125th anniversary.

Meanwhile, Harley Davidson is marking its 140th anniversary, and Coca-Cola last year reproduced some of its heritage bottle designs as part of its 125-years celebrations.

But are these brands akin to the kid at school who witters on about it being his birthday, when the sad reality is that nobody cares? Or are their celebratory fanfares being heard and appreciated by the consuming public?

Marketing asked two experts – Alistair Green at media agency Mindshare UK, and David Goudge of consultancy The Brand Development Business – what they thought of this trend of self-congratulation.

Alistair Green, head of strategy, Mindshare UK 

My birthday is in April and I may mark the occasion with a day off work and an evening out withfriends and family. People make a certain amount of effort when a birthday comes round: they buy presents, post cards or e-cards, send good wishes on Facebook, phone or Skype to catch up.

So, it's not surprising brands try to reap the same benefits when their birthday rolls around. Heineken is celebrating its 140th, Cartier its 155th, Coca Cola turned 125, and the youngsters Volkswagen (60), Starbucks (40), and Diet Coke (30), are out celebrating with anyone who will join in.

Since their inception, brands have always tried to position themselves as our best friend, and with a new media landscape to aid more personable interaction than ever before, brands continue to humanise their relationship with us to garner our loyalty. It's called good marketing, and brands that do it best make it a fun and rewarding experience, like any good birthday party should be.

Even though there is an ulterior motive for brands celebrating a birthday – to drive sales and ROI – it's not that different from my nine-year-old inviting both classes of boys in his year so he could get more presents.

As Hobbes explained, all acts are selfish by default. So a brand deciding to celebrate its birth date is a good strategy, as long as like any good host, it makes sure its guests have a good time and it doesn't use it as an opportunity to pontificate about its entire life story.

David Goudge, managing director, The Brand Development Business 

Diet Coke is 30, Doctor Who is 50, Harley Davidson is 110; but who cares?

Certainly the brand team, and their ad and PR agencies. But what about the consumer?

In tough economic times, there is a natural tendency to look back to the past with affection and nostalgia, and as a brand, it's great to have the opportunity to reassure consumers of your longevity.

But in the hangover year following the Jubilee and Olympics, when the economic gloom looms large, should brands be using just any excuse to jump onto the bandwagon?

Some anniversaries are clearly worth celebrating: the Tube’s 150th encourages us to re-evaluate and appreciate a London icon as the pioneer that it is.  Equally, the Football Association’s 150th birthday is worthy of celebration.

But as more and more brands jump onto the bandwagon, the me-toos will have to work harder to stand out – ensuring their activity adds relevancy to the narrative of their brand story.

A brilliant case in point is Marmite's celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee. They didn't trot out just another Jubilee pack – they delighted us with the humour of Ma'amite, whilst quietly upstaging the Queen by pointing out they were born in 1902.

 

Tags: Marketing magazine | FT | David Goudge | Alistair Green | Coca-Cola | VW

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PR fall-out of the horsemeat saga

14 February 2013 at 16:21

Over the past four weeks, the biggest food scandal to hit the UK for decades has unfolded before our eyes.

The horsemeat contamination issue is complex and raises questions over the integrity and traceability of the entire food chain. But it is inevitably the household brands selling contaminated products that consumers are demanding answers from.

Downing Street has criticised retailers for a reluctance to comment publicly on the situation, saying "it isn't acceptable for retailers to remain silent while customers have been misled about the content of the food they have been buying" - see this morning's BBC coverage.

The price of cutting PR

PR Week magazine has been charting media developments surrounding the crisis. Findus has been particularly lambasted for a perceived slowness of response and an unwillingness to address the issue head on.

In an article published this week, PR Week Deputy Editor Alec Mattinson suggests that the Findus brand is reaping the rewards of cost-cutting measures, which saw the senior UK comms team axed in 2011: http://www.prweek.com/uk/opinion/1170709/Findus-pays-price-cutting-costs-PR/

More light will be shed on horsemeatgate over the coming weeks. But wherever the blame lies - and whether it transpires to be a food safety issue, a fraud issue, or both - food retailers have a lot of work ahead. They need to pay due diligence to food traceability and communications strategies if they are to re-gain public trust.

 

Tags: PR Week | Findus | Alec Mattinson | BBC

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The real Super Bowl winner

08 February 2013 at 12:07

Commercials aired during premier US sporting event the Super Bowl spark almost as much discussion as the game itself.

TV spots are sold at a premium, and leading brands create big budget flagship ads to maximise their exposure as most of America tunes in.

But Oreo’s Twitter activity on this year’s Super Bowl Sunday showed that a canny approach to social media can also score a touchdown.

When a power blackout disrupted play, Oreo whipped up an ad with the caption: “Power out? No problem” / “You can still dunk in the dark”. Within an hour it had been shared more than 10,000 times on Twitter, and was retweeted and favourited more than 18,000 times.

It’s a lovely example of how a partnership approach between a brand and its agency can enable intuitive, agile activity that reaps dividends.

Here’s a full write-up on the story from Brand Republic’s Gordon Macmillan:

Oreo scores big win on Super Bowl night with Twitter power-out ad

The biggest moment on Twitter during last night's Super Bowl was not during play itself, but when the lights went out at the New Orleans Superdome for 35 minutes and cookie brand Oreo scored the biggest ad win of the night.

The power went early in the third quarter, with the Baltimore Ravens leading the San Francisco 49ers 28-6.

As soon as the power went down, Oreo and its agency went to work on an ad that was quickly Tweeted. Within an hour, the Oreo ad, with the caption, "Power out? No problem", had been shared more than 10,000 times on Twitter and went on to be retweeted and favourited more than 18,000 times.

That means one of the most talked-about ads on the Super Bowl night, when TV spots were being sold by CBS for between $3.8m (£2.4m) and $4m (£2.5m), was done for free on Twitter.

It was the perfect case of being ready at the right time and taking advantage of a golden opportunity.

Oreo wasn't the only advertiser to try it. Several others did as well, including Audi, with more than 9,000 retweets and 2,800 favourites, Tide, with around 1,500 retweets and favourites, and Calvin Klein, which picked up a couple of hundred.

It was only freely posted ads. Twitter said that marketers started bidding on "power outage" as a search term just minutes after the lights went out.

Oreo however won big, as it was when the lights were out that Twitter really lit up with 231,500 – that's almost 50,000 more than when the clock expired after play had resumed, with just over 13 minutes left in the third quarter, and the game was won by the Ravens 34-31.
So how did Oreo manage to get an ad out so fast? The answer is that it was down to its agency Dentsu-owned 360i.

The agency said that the ad was "designed, captioned and approved within minutes," according to Sarah Hofstetter, president of 360i.

She said all the decisions were made in real time, as the marketers and agency members were sitting together at a "mission control" centre watching the game unfold.

"We had a mission control set up at our office with the brand and 360i, and when the blackout happened, the team looked at it as an opportunity. Because the brand team was there, it was easy to get approvals and get it up in minutes," Hofstetter told BuzzFeed.

Laurie Guzzinati, a spokeswoman for Mondelez, which owns Oreo, said: "They saw a real-time opportunity with the power outage and jumped it, doing so in a social voice true to the Oreo brand."

The agency was able to get the ad approved so quickly because members of the Oreo marketing team were on hand to sign it off.

Hofstetter said: "You need a brave brand to approve content that quickly. When all of the stakeholders come together so quickly, you've got magic."

See the original article here: http://www.brandrepublic.com/news/1169362/Oreo-scores-big-win-Super-Bowl-night-Twitter-power-out-ad

Tags: Super Bowl | Oreo | Brand Republic

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PR as an agent for change

01 February 2013 at 12:27

Can PR play an active role in accelerating change and progress? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’, but it can require a significant leap of faith.

PR power

The Guardian ran an excellent article by Andrew Last this week on using PR as an agent for change in corporate sustainability. His three tips for getting it right are:

• Set and communicate a clear direction on sustainability, which liberates people throughout your organisation to talk passionately and freely about what you're doing. They are your best advocates.

• Be transparent about your motives. Business needs to pursue business objectives if any initiative is to be sustainable. Don't let PR wrap your business motives in cloying half stories about the social good your business is driving.

• Tell the story of the journey. Be open about what's not working as much as what is. Vulnerability plays surprisingly well with sustainability stakeholders and a cynical public.

We couldn’t agree more.

Honesty, transparency and clarity of vision are fundamental to the success of any communications strategy. Andrew is writing from the perspective of global giants such as GlaxoSmithKline and Unilever wanting to make an impact on the global sustainability agenda. But the message is equally true for niche engineering firms seeking to break into challenging new markets or fledgling regional businesses beginning to stretch their wings.   

Instead of simply dressing up what you do to generate nebulous, self-gratifying media coverage, identify the issues that really matter to your industry and your target audience. Create space to think about those issues, encourage colleagues and employees to do the same and empower them to find their own voices. This can create a fertile bed for meaningful PR activity. PR that plays a role in enhancing the industry at large, as well as clearly communicating what your organisation stands for.

You can see Andrew’s full article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/blog/pr-change-corporate-sustainability-greenwash-trust

Tags: Andrew Last | Salt | The Guardian | GlaxoSmithKline | Unilever

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Snow PR of the week

24 January 2013 at 12:41

Hats off to Longleat Safari Park for snow-exploitation PR that rivals even the AA and RAC.

The park’s ‘tigers in the snow’ video – go on, take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tB1JVp6db-w&NR=1 - has been an unexpected media star this week.

At the last count, it had been covered by ITN, The Guardian, Daily Mail, The Times & The Daily Telegraph. Not to mention a prime spot on CBBC’s Newsround, and ‘most shared’ status on the BBC website at the weekend.

The social media ad placement award of the week has to go to WWF for its ‘sponsor a tiger’ ad next to the official Longleat video on YouTube. Sweet.

So far, the official YouTube video has had close to 14,000 views and it’s also been seeded elsewhere – with almost 36,000 views via appworld7.

All in all, a job well done. But my personal favourite of the Longleat videos is still the naughty monkeys ransacking a car: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6dUBMBSTew.

 

Tags: Longleat Safari Park | BBC | CBBC | Newsround | The Times | The Daily Telegraph | ITN | The Guardian | Daily Mail | WWF

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PR ethics and the Code of Athens

17 January 2013 at 21:28

Do you subscribe to the Code of Athens?  Are you even aware of it?

Chances are, unless you have an academic PR qualification you may never have heard of the Code. In a nutshell, it is an undertaking of ethical behaviour adopted by members of the International Public Relations Association and recommended to PR practitioners worldwide.

You can read it in full here: http://ipra.org/images/Code%20of%20Athens.pdf

In my experience, many PR practitioners who aren’t aware of the Code do instinctively follow its guiding principles. But all communications professionals and organisations that use PR could really benefit from taking ten minutes to read the guidelines.

Whilst the Code is almost 50 years old (it was first adopted in 1965, then amended in 1968 and 2009), its core principles are as relevant as ever today. In the digital age, the question of ethics is thrown into sharp relief – not least because unscrupulous behaviour is far less likely to go unnoticed.

The European Association of Communication Directors recently held a debate on ‘Defining ethics for today’s communicators’. Stuart Bruce wrote an interesting blog on the debate, and his take on it, here: http://stuartbruce.biz/2013/01/pr-ethics-eacd.html

Were you aware of the Code, and do you think PR practitioners should be required to abide by it? Or should we simply rely on our own intuitive moral compass?

Tags: European Association of Communication Directors | Stuart Brice | Code of Athens

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21 Social Media Predictions for 2013 From the Pros

11 January 2013 at 11:43

January has seen the usual deluge of predictions for the year ahead. But we rather like this article from US website Social Media Examiner: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-predictions-2013/

The two predictions that resonate most with us are #5 and #13:

#5: Content Marketing Is the New Social Media Marketing

As social media begins to come of age in 2013, brands will realize that with unprecedented clutter coming from both people and brands, the need for beautiful and engaging content is greater than ever.

In B2B, content marketing has already taken center stage with white papers, ebooks, webinars, infographics and articles.

In 2013, as Instagram, Pinterest and other multimedia social networks grow, you’ll see more and more B2C brands using social media to produce and share beautiful photos, sophisticated comics and other visual aids, and brilliant TV-level videos.

#17: The Number of Podcasters Doubles

With more than 1 billion smartphone users and hundreds of millions more coming in 2013, the consumer demand for quality on-demand talk in the form of podcasts will grow enormously in 2013.

As marketers begin to realize this new publishing opportunity, we will see a land grab as more and more podcasts are released to appease an ever-growing demand for audio content. NOW is the time to start podcasting.

 

What do you think will be the key social trends this year? 

 

Tags: Social Media Examiner

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3 ways to get lucky in 2013

03 January 2013 at 20:54

Successful PR always involves a mixture of luck and judgement. But we believe that you make your own luck – and here are three things you can do to ensure your communications activity gets off to a flying start in 2013.

2013 PR

1. Analyse 2012 performance – take an objective look at what you did last year, and evaluate your achievements. Did you hit all your major goals? How do results compare to 2011? Don’t just look at the quantity of media coverage generated. Consider the quality too – in terms of message, media type and reach. Look at the scope and scale of digital activity. Did you truly engage with target audiences online? Is online media coverage working hard to direct traffic to your website, or enhance your search engine rankings? Don’t forget to review wider communications activity such as newsletters, speaker opportunities, awards – and identify areas that may need a bit more focus this year.

It is important to take a step back once in a while and critique your own activity. Even if you achieved your main targets, there is always room for improvement. Analysing what worked well – and deciding what could have been even better – will help to shape 2013 activity and ensure you maximise every opportunity.

2. Get planning – if you don’t already have a clear strategy for your communications, now is the time! Look at your organisation’s business goals and ensure PR is well aligned to make impact where it matters most. Talk to the sales team and the wider marketing team to ensure you are all working cohesively and pulling in the same direction.

A good communications plan begins with well-defined objectives that can realistically be achieved through PR. Take a look at the PRCA’s guide to setting good objectives to underpin an effective communications strategy: http://www.prca.org.uk/default.asp?pid=51

3. Remember you have two ears, one mouth – As the dust settles on the digital revolution, businesses are beginning to understand that they can make significant inroads to target audiences with earned media. The role and remit of PR is getting bigger and it is becoming more reliant than ever on the core skill of all the best consultants: the ability to listen. Yes, the world of communications is more fast-paced than ever, and intuition and speed of response are critical. But the best strategies also create space to monitor and analyse what is going on in the world at large - how else can you ensure what you are saying is relevant and interesting?

As far as PR is concerned, 2013 will be as lucky as you make it.

 

Tags: PRCA

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Merry Christmas Starbucks, #spreadthecheer

20 December 2012 at 21:06

They say that success breeds success. But perhaps it’s also true to say that bad press breeds bad press. This has been evidenced by Starbucks’ vicious circle of negative PR in recent weeks.

Once a darling of the high street, which seemed to really ‘get’ consumers with its crowd sourcing initiatives, the British public have found the brand’s apparent tax avoidance hard to swallow.

Despite voluntarily pledging to pay £20million in corporation tax over the next two years, public opinion of the brand is still at an all-time low.

So why, oh why did the coffee chain expose itself to a public Twitter hashtag campaign this week?

If you missed the story, Starbucks encouraged Twitterati to use #spreadthecheer to broadcast messages on a giant screen alongside the ice rink it’s sponsoring at the Natural History Museum. But the initiative fell foul of a content filtering malfunction. Sadly for Starbucks, its critics sabotaged the hashtag and used it as a sounding board to criticise the firm.

As we move into 2013 a big question mark hangs over the future of Starbucks. We’ll be watching with interest to see if the coffee giant can reverse its fortunes and win back public favour over the next 12 months.

Here’s a full write-up on the hashtag malfunction from The Drum:

Starbucks #spreadthecheer campaign backfires as tax protestors inundate feed with complaints

Starbucks embarked on a Christmas campaign on Twitter at the weekend which was played out on a big screen in the Natural History Museum, where the coffee chain is sponsoring the ice rink.

Starbucks asked fans to tweet using the hashtag #spreadthecheer. The messages were then were blown up onto the giant screen.

Unfortunately the filtering system crashed, allowing those critical of Starbucks' tax bill, or lack of it, to flood the feed with less than complimentary messages. One tweet called Starbucks "tax dodging MoFos", while another simply said: "Hey Starbucks, PAY YOUR F**KING TAX".

Another Twitter user encouraged customers to tip staff "as Starbucks has just cut their wages", while another wrote: "If firms like Starbucks paid proper taxes, Museums wouldn't have to prostitute themselves to advertisers."

The National History Museum apologised for the mistake and said that sponsorship deals such as the one with Starbucks helped the museum to put on extra events.

A Starbucks spokesman said: “We apologise to any visitors who may have been offended by inappropriate messages displayed on the Twitter wall screen at the Natural History Museum’s ice rink café. This was due to a temporary malfunction with the content filtering system."

http://www.thedrum.com/news/2012/12/17/starbucks-spreadthecheer-campaign-backfires-tax-protesters-inundate-feed-complaints

 

 

Tags: Twitter | Startbucks

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7 steps to social heaven

14 December 2012 at 12:15

What does it take to create a social media campaign that really works? As with all communications activity, it comes down to the planning and implementation. You need to define your objectives and build a strategy from there, it’s not about waking up one morning and deciding ‘we need to be on Twitter’.

Social media planning

 

US agency Fandon has published a great guide to social media campaign planning this week. You can see the full article here, but in a nutshell, their chief social strategist advises:

1. Stick to your priorities

Determine what's most important to your brand then stick to it. As marketers, we've all been in situations where a good idea eventually gets convoluted after making its rounds through the organization. Everyone has a stake, especially when it comes to social, and your stakeholders can be the biggest killer of your killer idea. This is not to say that collaboration and integration are not important, these are absolutely key elements for success. What I am stressing is focus. One concept cannot be everything to everyone.

2. Find out what's important to your audience

A killer campaign entertains, engages, and delights people. It also provides an insurmountable benefit to a brand in the form of word-of-mouth. You have to work harder in today's marketing to get people talking and finding out what to talk to them about can be easy. Set down your brand playbook, clean your slate, and study your audience to understand what matters in their life, what makes them happy and, most importantly, where your brand fits into their conversations with their friends.

3. Search all corners of the universe for your "aha" moment

It's all about finding the "aha" moment. It has to be different, surprising, emotional, and entertaining… All you need is one strong concept and it might come from the quiet guy in the office who is never asked for an opinion -- or it could come from your top art director. Lead a focused but open forum, then sleep on it, and you'll have some gems to work with when you launch into strategic planning.

4. Plant your campaign right in front of your audience

Take your campaign to your audience in one or more spaces they like to be online. While Pinterest is cool and shiny it might not be where your people hang out. If you don't already have a following there it will be difficult to drum up support to launch your campaign with. "Viral" doesn't just happen. It is seeded. Gaining traction for your social campaign involves leveraging your existing audiences and their friends.

5. Develop an integrated strategy

I'm a bit biased so I'll just get it out and tell you that social media is darn special. I will also admit that it's not magic. It can be often treated as a stand-alone tactic. A killer campaign does not stand alone. It involves 360-degree communications, paid advertising (yes I said it!), and many of the other treatments any other promotion would require. Work cross-functionally to develop an integrated communications plan and multi-channel promotion through advertising, email marketing, PR, and other social networks.

6. Execute like a master

The devil is in the details. Human communication is complex and sometimes mind-boggling -- it's what keeps us social marketing people on our toes. Proper execution will make or break your campaign. You have to understand how people speak to each other in Facebook versus Twitter versus Instagram and how they use it. Otherwise, your "follow me on Facebook @brand" will be laughed upon and no one will want to associate with your silly little campaign. "Post your photo on Facebook using #happy" will also be laughed at. If you do not immediately understand why, I suggest hiring a social marketing specialist ASAP.

7. Make it shareable

There's no such thing as social that doesn't involve sharing. It's a key component so be sure to incorporate it. Sharing can be how someone "enters to win" or a way to earn a fun reward or offer. The benefit is two-fold, they engage with your brand and they spread the word to their friends. Every time someone shares his or her message, your content or a link to your page, the effectiveness of your marketing is compounded. Some call this earned media. I call it earned awesomeness.

 

If you want to talk about how a social media strategy might enhance your communications, give us a call today.

 

Tags: Fandon | PR | social media

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The Leveson report

30 November 2012 at 11:02

The hotly anticipated Leveson report into press standards was finally released yesterday. It recommends tougher, legislation-backed self-regulation to protect the rights of victims and uphold press standards.

There are reams of media coverage surrounding the report, but we think the best place to go for thorough, thought provoking editorial is The Guardian online.  

The paper’s politics and media correspondents pulled all the stops out with excellent live coverage during yesterday’s developments, charting ongoing reactions to the report.

Live online coverage

In the hours before the report was made public, Andrew Sparrow’s Politics Live blog put it like this:

Millions of words have probably been written about press regulation in recent weeks, and many more are to come (not least here), but few people have summed up the arguments better than Tom Stoppard in one of his early plays, Night and Day. A character called Jacob Milne, an idealist young journalist who is not naive about the grubbier aspects of newspapers, puts the case for a free press better than anyone since John Stuart Mill.

“Some of the best times in my life have been spent sitting in a clapped-out Ford Consul outside a suburban house with a packet of polos and twenty players waiting to grab a crooked landlord or a footballer’s runaway wife who might be good for one front page between oblivion and oblivion. I felt part of a privileged group, inside society and yet outside it, with a licence to scourge it and a duty to defend it, night and day, the street of adventure, the fourth estate. And the thing is - I was dead right. That’s what it was, and I was part of it because it’s indivisible. Junk journalism is the evidence of a society that has got at least one thing right, that there should be nobody with the power to dictate where responsible journalism begins.”

And the counter argument is put equally by another character in this conversation, Ruth Carson.

“I’m with you on the free press. It’s the newspapers I can’t stand.”

Today we will find out whether Lord Justice Leveson is with Jacob or with Ruth - and whether David Cameron agrees.

You can see Andrew Sparrow’s full blog here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2012/nov/29/leveson-cameron-statement-commons-live-blog

 

Also well worth a look is the media blog written by Andrew Sparrow’s colleagues Paul Owen, Jemima Kiss and David Batty:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/nov/29/leveson-report-published-and-brooks-and-coulson-in-court-live-coverage

 

And if you want to get straight to the report itself, you can see it here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/interactive/2012/nov/29/leveson-report-executive-summary

 

What are your thoughts on the report? Please share them here…

 

Tags: Leveson report | The Guardian

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How video can boost manufacturing & engineering brands

09 November 2012 at 10:55

Many manufacturing and engineering brands invest in a big-ticket corporate video every few years. It takes pride of place on the website, on exhibition stands and in reception.

That’s all well and good. But we believe that coupling this with a more regular stream of lower-budget video content is a recipe for success.

Lots of trade and industry publications are keen to run interesting videos on their websites these days. And the medium is perfect for thought leadership content. Instead of channelling all of your thought leadership efforts into by-lined articles and speaker opportunities, why not consider a monthly video where subject experts wax lyrical about a topic that is close to their heart? Or ask the CEO to record their thoughts on a red-hot issue affecting your sector.

The most important thing is that you are not overly self-promotional – talk about the issues and you will demonstrate your expertise implicitly. Don’t fall into the trap of talking about your products and services – viewers will switch off!

Thought leadership videos don’t necessarily need to involve a large budget and high-end production. Some of the best examples are quite basic. You just need to make sure the audio is clear and the set-up looks professional, and this can be achieved with a handycam, a tripod, basic lighting and a quick tidy-up.

In addition to thought leadership videos, you might consider video case studies (get your clients to sing your praises!), factory tours, product demonstrations or testing/qualification demonstrations.

If you pitch it right, the content is likely to be of interest to the industry websites that are trusted and respected by your target audiences.

Adding video to your own website and YouTube channel on a regular basis, and optimising it appropriately, can also help pump up your search rankings. Forrester research shows that videos are 53 times more likely than text pages to appear on page one of search results.

So dust off your handycam, plan your content and give it a go!

 

 

Tags: YouTube | Forrester | PR

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3 tips for a vibrant roundtable

02 November 2012 at 10:26

Planning and preparation are everything if your roundtable is to provide a platform for stimulating debate, rather than awkward silence. Here are three tips for success.

Manufacturing and engineering journalists love to receive nuggets of insight from sector leaders. Last week we blogged about the value of opinion-led editorial in industry publications.

However if you really want to enthuse a journalist, you can take this approach a step further. This week we’re talking about the often under-used tactic of industry roundtables.

If there’s one thing journalists love more than an industry leader’s musings, it is the musings of a group of industry leaders. So why not create an environment for industry debate, and invite a journalist along to observe?

You don’t necessarily need to go to any great expense. You just need to take some time to plan a theme and invite a handful of peers (perhaps even competitors) whose opinions you respect and take it from there.

1. If there is a specific publication that you’re really keen to hit, engage the editor upfront and offer them exclusive coverage of the event. Ask what they see as the most topical or thorny issues of the day, and what they would like to get out of the debate. By involving them from an early stage you are more likely to create an event that is relevant and interesting to the publication and its readers. They may also have prior experience of roundtables and be able to hook you up with other important contacts. Which brings us to…

2. Selecting the chair. Much as it is tempting to control the event yourself, appointing a third party chair can be a very wise move. They need to be able to take a neutral view of the proceedings and ideally have some prior experience so they can stimulate discussion and ensure all participants’ voices are heard. A good chair will play an active role in the roundtable, facilitating a natural flow of conversation and eliciting pearls of wisdom from the participants, whilst remaining impartial throughout.

3. Last but not least, don’t expect your participants to simply turn up on the day brimming with insightful comments without any prior direction from you.

Circulating the roundtable theme a few weeks before the event is a must. Are you concerned that one or two participants may dominate the proceedings? Or that there will be a stony silence once the roundtable begins? If so, consider giving everybody a discussion area in advance and ask them to prepare a five minute speech.

This will encourage participants to give the debate some proper thought ahead of the day, so the chances are that discussion will be free-flowing and you won’t need them to rely on their speeches at all. However, they give you something to fall back on if the conversation is slow to warm up or if you need to re-stimulate the conversation or take it in a new direction.

 

Roundtables can be a powerful way to secure in-depth coverage on the issues that matter to you, and build relationships with influential journalists. Why not give it a go! 

 

Tags: PR | communications

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How to secure a double page spread (or triple, or quadruple)

25 October 2012 at 21:22

We haven’t issued a news release for three months for one of our manufacturing and engineering clients.

Do you think we’re about to get fired? Far from it.

Many of the leading manufacturing and engineering trade publications dedicate very little editorial space to breaking news. Instead they prefer to drill down into the issues that really interest their readers. Those issues might be technical or legislative, they might surround where the industry is going or how it is evolving.

Who are the best people to talk about those issues, sharing insights and shedding light? The people at the coalface, of course. It might surprise you to learn that the journalists who give your exciting new product development or facilities expansion a measly two-line write-up are all ears (and editorial space) when it comes to your views and ideas.

The role of a PR consultant is to act as a facilitator for you to manage and enhance your reputation with key audiences. Often this is achieved through media relations.

We don’t need to tell you that any manufacturing or engineering firm’s reputation is largely dependent on its expertise. And this expertise can be a wonderfully effective platform for securing editorial coverage.

A good PR agency will spend time with you, teasing out areas of knowledge that could act as a nucleus for in-depth editorial. They will consider how these areas relate to topical themes being covered in the media to ensure maximum industry relevance – then develop angles that interest journalists and position you as a leader in the field. 

The results can be sensational. I’ve lost count of the number of times a chance remark from a client ultimately led to two or three pages of high-quality coverage in publications that were next to impossible to hit with traditional news releases.

So take a step back from time to time. Go for a coffee with your PR consultant and chew the fat. Talk openly and honestly about your views on the industry at large, and the role your organisation plays in it.

You might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

 

Tags: manufacturing | engineering | PR

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3 ways to get more from exhibitions

19 October 2012 at 09:38

Every year, our manufacturing and engineering clients spend a small fortune on attending industry exhibitions. But sometimes, when an event comes round, they feel like they are just one tiny cog in an immense wheel. Despite making a significant investment, they are left feeling like an insignificant player in their industry.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A little lateral thinking can help make the investment work much harder. Even if you only have a relatively modest presence at an exhibition, you can take steps to ensure you are noticed by the right people.

Consider these three tips when planning your next exhibition.

1. Decide on your objectives

It sounds obvious doesn’t it – naturally your objective is to get new business. But try breaking this down into smaller, more defined goals. They will be more achievable, more manageable and more likely to set you on the path to winning that landmark contract.

Instead of setting huge business objectives that are unlikely to be achieved in the space of a few days, try setting objectives for the event itself. These might include:

  • Bringing a more structured and measurable approach to exhibition management
  • Facilitating better all-round communication with (potential) customers before, during and after the exhibition
  • Achieving better stand-out during the exhibition

 

2. Take a 3-pronged approach

Exhibition management should be seen as a long-term, on-going process. It doesn’t come to an end when you’ve dismantled the stand. Develop a strategy for before, during and after the event.

Pre-show

Get in touch with customers or contacts who may be attending, let them know you’ll be there and see if you can set up meetings. Some conferences give exhibitors a generous allowance of free passes which you could offer to key customers who you really want to attend.

Media relations should start at an early stage. Key industry publications may be running show previews, so make sure they have all the background information they need. If they are running an editorial feature alongside a list of exhibitors, offer to provide comment. Try to think about the bigger picture – topical issues and themes that are relevant to your industry sector – rather than talking specifically about your own products or services. You are much more likely to achieve an editorial presence if you’re not overtly trying to sell your wares.

Most exhibitions have a media partner who produces a bespoke ‘show daily’ publication. These are more well-read than any other media or marketing collateral handed out to delegates. If you have a genuinely big or interesting story, the show daily can be an ideal platform from which to launch it. But let them have it a week or so before the show – and if you really want to maximise your chances, give them an exclusive.

 

During the show

Drawing people to your stand – and keeping them there – is the main aim during the show itself. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing streams of people drifting past your expensive patch of exhibition real-estate without a second glance.

You need to find innovative, cost-effective ways to stand out from other exhibitors, especially if you don’t have one of the prime spots.

Think about your audience – who are they and what interests them. Yes, you want them to be interested in your business, but remember that they are people with interests outside work.

As well as showcasing products on your stand, consider investing in some device or activity that will engage people, create a bit of excitement, and entice more people over to see what’s going on. Simply setting up a mini golf range or PlayStation and creating a league table with a decent prize for the best score can be a great place to start. If budget allows, you could create your own app or computer game that has some relevance to your business and might have a continued lifespan when the exhibition comes to a close.

It’s true that with this approach people might not be coming to your stand to look at your product offering. However, once you have them there they are more likely to be open to conversation. They might even take more than a cursory glance at those exhibition banners and displays that you spent so much time over.

 

After the show

Don’t leave people hanging after the event. If you have had good conversations with people, or captured their data, make sure somebody gets in touch with them sooner rather than later. Try to make it as personal as possible. A group email isn’t a patch on a personal phone call or email referring to issues that you discussed during the show – or their score on the PlayStation!

 

3. Evaluate success (and failure)

Like all PR and marketing, attendance at exhibitions should be properly evaluated so that you can make smarter decisions about how to allocate budget in the future. Since most manufacturing and engineering projects take a long time to come to fruition, an immediate look at the impact on sales is unlikely to be very encouraging. Nevertheless, it is worth asking all attendees – especially the sales team – their ‘gut feel’ about the success of the event, and what worked or didn’t work.

Additional measures of success to consider might include:

  • Number of people who visited the stand
  • Approximate / average length of time people spent there
  • Any face-to-face meetings, or sales-led conversations
  • Whether they took, or read, marketing materials
  • Whether they were engaged by devices such as corporate videos, games or giveaways
  • Editorial presence in show previews and the show daily


Building a communications element into your exhibition plan can help maximise standout and ensure you are noticed by your target audiences. Use these three tips as a starting point, and you could come away from your next exhibition feeling like it was money well spent, rather than fearing it was money wasted. 

 

Tags: Trailblazer PR | event | conference

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Shaping the news agenda - manufacturing and engineering PR advice

12 October 2012 at 12:16

When we speak with new or prospective clients in the manufacturing and engineering sector, they often tell us ‘we have no news’. There is a misconception that if you don’t have a constant stream of new products churning out of the R&D department, you have nothing of interest to say to journalists.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Product news is just one part of the equation. In fact, it is a very small part. Most of the time, journalists writing for manufacturing and engineering media are much more interested in the industry at large than they are in any one firm’s products.

This is where we can help you find your voice and get noticed.

Think about what you are doing on a day-to-day basis. The orders you have coming in, the conversations your sales teams are having with customers, trends that you notice when repairing or servicing equipment in the field. All of these things can provide a rich seam of information that a good PR consultant can tap into to create news. And we mean the type of news that really excites and stimulates journalists – opening the door for in-depth commentary and analysis.

If you are a major player in your industry, your views and observations will be of interest to journalists. And if you are a niche player, it could be that trends or developments you notice are a micro-indicator of bigger things at play in the wider industry. Either way, with an experienced PR consultancy that understands your industry supporting you, there are sure to be editorial opportunities waiting to be discovered.

This approach to PR is as strategic as it is creative. The aim is to position you as a leader in your field. It also enables implicit and engaging communication of your messages and strengths. By looking objectively at issues or trends facing the industry, and taking a stance, you can actively shape the news agenda.

Sometimes you just need to take a step back so you can see the wood for the trees – and a good PR consultant can help you do just that.

 

Tags: PR | manufacturing | engineering | industry

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The Pride of Gloucestershire

05 October 2012 at 10:06

Last night’s Diamond Jubilee Gloucestershire Business Awards 2012 were a night to remember. Naturally the winners and finalists represent all that is great about business in the county and it was a privilege to celebrate their success.

But last night’s event was about more than that. As the UK creeps slowly towards economic recovery, the Awards reminded us that ambition, innovation and sheer tenacity are very much alive in Gloucestershire. I think everybody in the room felt a surge of optimism that grew as the evening progressed. And I am sure that many of us felt inspired to take a new look at our own businesses and consider how we can keep striving for bigger and better achievements.

It was fantastic to see how many Gloucestershire businesses were recognised in the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise this year. Our client Severn Glocon Group was a winner in the International Trade category in 2011, so we can second Sir David McMurtry’s claim that ‘If you export, it will put you on the map’. As Founder and Chief Executive of Renishaw (15-time Queen’s Award winner), Sir David knows a thing or two about the prestige of this particular accolade!

Of course, we have to make a special mention of our client Will Rees of Direct Online Services, who won Young Businessperson of the Year. The firm was also a finalist in Family Business of the Year.

The other winners were:

Business of the Year: Avon Metals

Small Business of the Year: National Shower Spares

Family Business of the Year: Miles Mann Ltd

Young Business of the Year: Haremi Ltd

Communicator of the Year: Gloucestershire Constabulary

Business Innovation: Versarien Ltd

Environmental Award: Creed Foodservice

Apprenticeship Development Award: Messier Bugatti Dowty

Best Place to Work: Messier Bugatti Dowty

Corporate Social Responsibility:Peter Hickman Hairdressing

Gloucestershire Ambassador: Terry Morgan, Federation of Small Businesses

 

Big congratulations to everybody – and here’s to more of the same in 2013!

 

 

Tags: Queen's Award | Gloucestershire Business Awards

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5 tips for choosing a corporate video location

28 September 2012 at 06:41


Location, location, location might be the mantra of the real estate industry, but it is just as relevant to film production. And when it comes to corporate videos, choosing the right location can really help maximise the investment.

Halo Films recently recorded an interview with Trailblazer PR’s MD Sabrina at the beautiful Hawkwood College in Stroud. It was the ideal setting for what we wanted to convey. So, when we had a break between takes we asked Halo Films’ Managing Director Peter Georgi what his main criteria are when choosing a location. He gave us these five tips:

1. Ensure location and message are complementary

Location is about more than providing wallpaper. It adds depth to the message of a film and when it comes to corporate films, the location can speak volumes about the ethos of a brand.

At the outset of the project you need to define exactly what you are trying to achieve and what you want to communicate. Once you have nailed this, it is important to think very carefully about the location for the shoot, ensuring that it won’t detract from or contradict the overall message. Clearly you wouldn’t film the MD of a successful, forward thinking business against a shabby backdrop. But it goes further than that. With a little care and lateral thinking the location can really add something to the end product.

Hawkwood College was ideal for the Trailblazer PR shoot because it has a real warmth to it, and it exudes the composed air that you would look for in a communications consultancy.

2. Think about sound

Most people consider the visual aspects when choosing a location, but it is easy to forget the second vital component: sound (or lack of it).

When you are doing the initial recce, pay close attention to anything that might interfere with the audio. That might include traffic passing by, or it could be farm animals or barking dogs. Don’t overlook background noise, as it can cause a lot of problems once it comes to editing.

3. Try to keep control

 In an ideal world you would have complete control of the location and surrounding

In reality, you often have to contend with a lot of distractions and annoying interruptions. But with a bit of planning and communication you can keep these to a minimum and achieve some level of control. environment. There would be no risk of random people walking into the frame, or starting up their lawnmower in a nearby garden.

When you first visit the location, assess the surrounding area and consider any potential problems. Then work proactively to overcome them – perhaps putting up signs, or visiting neighbouring businesses or residents to let them know that you will be filming.

Advance preparation can help things run a lot more smoothly on the day.

4. Don’t set the interviewee up for a fall

When the main focus of the film is an interview, you need to be sensitive to the interviewee’s level of confidence. If they are likely to be nervous, it is a good idea to ensure the location is relatively private.

For instance, the staff canteen at lunchtime might seem like a fantastic, buzzing environment. But if you are trying to film a chief executive who has little filming experience, and they go to pieces in front of their employees, they won’t thank you for it.

It is vital that the interviewee is as relaxed and confident as possible. By choosing an environment that fosters this, you are making life easier and enhancing the outcome for everyone.

5. Remember parking!

It sounds mundane, but you really do need to think about how accessible the location is. Filming requires a lot of heavy gear, and you don’t want to be hiking over fields or lugging it up ten flights of stairs.

Try to arrange parking as close to the filming location as possible, then organise trolleys and whatever help you can muster to ensure the film crew aren’t exhausted before they’ve even done the first take.

 

Sabrina’s interview will be streaming here soon, but in the meantime, here are some pictures from the shoot, showing Hawkwood College in all its glory:

Trailblazer FilmingSabrina Pace-HumphreysTrailblazer Video

Tags: PR | Halo Films | Hawkwood College

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PR & advertising collaboration of the week

21 September 2012 at 13:37

 

This week we want to celebrate a brand that has seized a situation that might have been a disaster and turned it into a golden PR opportunity.

The brand in question is St John’s Ambulance. You may have seen – or heard about – the organisation’s current TV campaign.

You can see the ad here – but be warned, it is quite emotive. In short, it shows a man diagnosed with cancer, undergoing treatment, then getting the all-clear – only to choke to death (or so it appears) at a family BBQ.

The objective of the campaign is to demonstrate that simple first aid techniques can save lives – and to persuade people to brush up on their own first aid skills. The relevance of the cancer link is that 140,000 UK deaths each year might have been prevented by first aid – the same number of people die from cancer.

Many people have been distressed – even outraged – by the ad. Some say it is too graphic, others say it belittles the ordeal faced by people with cancer. It has sparked a torrent of media coverage this week across print, online, broadcast and social platforms. 

St John’s Ambulance has been quick to ride the wave of media interest and – in our opinion – has done a sterling job at getting its message across. Spokespeople have been well-versed on the risks of choking and how it can be prevented, passionate about the importance of basic first aid skills, and sensitive about the public response to the ad. They have clearly communicated that the ‘big C’ statistic has been used to underline the importance of basic first aid, not to diminish cancer.

We think this is one of the best examples of integrated PR and advertising in a long time. It shows that when PR and marketing or advertising teams collaborate effectively, the results can be magic. The advert’s call to action was to apply for a free first aid guide via text. But the surrounding media coverage was also very persuasive in its own way. One of our own consultants heard the Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Show debate surrounding the ad when driving to a client meeting. She booked herself onto a St John’s Ambulance first aid course that day, without even seeing the ad itself.

Hats off to St John’s Ambulance’s in-house PR team, and to their agency Golin Haris

 

Tags: St John's Ambulance | Golin Harris | Jeremy Vine Show

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5-minute tips to make your LinkedIn profile work harder

14 September 2012 at 13:37

 

Hands up if you have a LinkedIn profile?

Hands up if it’s more than a week since you last looked at it or updated it… or more than a month?

For many professionals, LinkedIn acts as a convenient online contact book. That’s all well and good, but with a little time and effort you can make the platform work powerfully to promote you and your business.

If you are new to LinkedIn, or don’t really feel that you are using it properly, these five tips will help you get more out of it. They only take five minutes each, so take a quick coffee break and enhance your online reputation!

 

1. Upload a photo

It’s so important to have a photo of yourself (not your company logo) on your LinkedIn profile page. But it is quite surprising how many people don’t get round to including any image at all. If you are one of them, take five minutes to do it today.

Not sure how to do it?

First of all, choose a suitable photo (i.e. one that you are happy for business connections to see) and save it somewhere on your system. It needs to be less than 4Mb, so if the one you choose is too big, simply downsize it using your own software or a free tool like Light Image Resizer

Open your LinkedIn page, hover over ‘profile’ on the top bar and click on ‘edit profile’. Then, hover over the icon where your photo should be and click through to the edit / upload photo page and click ‘upload photo’. Open the file where you saved the photo and click on it. Job done!

 

2. Make sure your profile is complete

OK, so this one may take more than five minutes. But better to attack it in five minute chunks than to leave it unfinished.

One tip – it can get really annoying for your connections if they get ten 'updated profile' alerts in a row because you are making a lot of additions at one time, or playing with the wording of your Personal Summary page. To avoid telling everyone each time you tinker with your punctuation, switch off your automatic updates until you are happy with your profile.

You can do this by hovering over your name on the top bar of your profile page, click on ‘settings’, then in the Profile section under ‘privacy controls’ you can opt to switch off your activity broadcasts. But don’t forget to switch them back on if you are updating your profile with something you want to tell the world about!

 

3. Personalise your URL

Did you know you can create your own memorable LinkedIn URL, rather than using the one that it is automatically generated when you sign up? This can enhance your search rankings, and it makes it easier to include your personal LinkedIn address on offline materials such as business cards.

Again, click through to ‘edit profile’. Then, under your photo, you will see your current LinkedIn address, probably beginning uk.linkedin.com/in/. Click on the edit button next to that, and you will be taken to a new page. On the right hand side you will find a box with a link to ‘customise your public profile URL’.  

 

4. Talk like a real person

If you really want people to respond to your requests to connect or to recommend you, it’s worth taking five minutes to write a personal message rather than using the automatic LinkedIn messages. Just overwrite the box that pops up with a few lines of your own – or add a quick hello and a note above the automatic message.

 

5. Take five minutes as often as you can

Many LinkedIn experts recommend that you spend 30 minutes a day being active on the platform: networking, making recommendations, joining discussions etc. But this isn’t practical or realistic for most people.

Instead, we recommend taking five minutes as often as you can. It doesn’t need to be a chore. Simply sharing links to interesting articles you have read, congratulating a contact who has a new job, posting a thought on an industry debate or connecting with people you have recently met in the real world are quick and easy ways to keep your profile active.

 

The potential of LinkedIn for reputation management is huge. This week’s ramble has simply scratched the surface, so watch this space for more tips on how it can play a role in your communications strategy.

We’d love it if you’d share your own five-minute tips for LinkedIn profiles below.

Over and out.


 

Tags: LinkedIn

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Friday ramble: a good opportunity gone bad

07 September 2012 at 15:03

If there’s one thing worse than a missed opportunity, it’s a good opportunity turned bad. IT firm Atos Healthcare has discovered this, with its sponsorship of the Paralympics spectacularly turning around to bite it on the backside over the past week or so.

Atos Healthcare is an occupational health service provider, and one of its contracts is with the Department of Work & Pensions, providing the much maligned ‘fitness to work’ assessments for people claiming incapacity benefits. Clearly the firm is in no way responsible for ministerial policy decisions, but we all know that people can have a tendency to want to ‘shoot the messenger’ (or in this case, the assessor).

So, just as all eyes are on the Paralympic Games and positive media coverage surrounding people with disabilities is at an all-time high, hundreds descended on the firm’s UK HQ to protest against its assessment methods and practices. The Disabled People Against Cuts protestors have ensured Atos is in the media spotlight, but for all the wrong reasons.

Atos has responded by saying that it believes its services are professional and compassionate. But this message is lost in the many voices, including those of former Paralympians, who say that Atos is responsible for ‘destroying disabled people’s lives on behalf of the government’.

Why on earth did nobody foresee this inevitable backlash? With a more strategic and astute approach to communications, the Paralympic Games could have given Atos a platform to convey its own positive messages about what it does and its rationale behind supporting the Games. Even as late as this week, a more assertive approach to damage limitation / crisis management could have reaped some benefits.

This was Atos’ big chance to have its voice heard, but the firm seems to have blown it.

Over and out…

 

Tags: Paralympics; Atos Healthcare

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Three ways to encourage regional media to write about your business

20 August 2012 at 20:08

We have rambled before about local and regional media relations. Far from being the poor relation of PR, we believe it deserves the same level of strategic and creative thought as other parts of the communications mix.

Many organisations simply don’t realise when they are sitting on a goldmine of information that would delight and excite regional media. Here are three approaches we have used to secure media coverage in our home turf of Gloucestershire and further afield in the past few weeks:

1.    Shout about relocation, expansion – and best of all, jobs!

These three magic ingredients are pretty much guaranteed to attract the interest of regional journalists. But you need to package the information up effectively to maximise coverage. Here is an example of a story we placed with the Huddersfield Examiner for engineering client Severn Unival:

Severn Unival move to create more jobs

2.    Talk about the people behind the business

Many regional publications like to showcase the personalities and motivations of successful businesspeople in their patch. Talk to some of the people you employ, find out about their interests outside work, or what they did and where they lived before they worked for you. You might uncover a wealth of information that could lead to positive coverage. Take a look at this profile of two recent graduates from our client School of Homeopathy in Stroud Life:

Couple work in perfect unison on new venture

3.    Provide lots of lovely stats and facts

Relevance is a critical success factor for all media relations. But if you are trying to build a presence in regional media across the UK, or in a region where you don’t have a physical presence, it can be difficult to achieve. Tailored research can be a powerful way to overcome this problem. We used the regional breakdown of national research findings for HealBee to secure coverage around the UK, as well as in national newspapers. Media included Metro Scotland, The Sun (Scotland), Western Daily Press and Belfast Telegraph.

So, if you want to enhance your regional media presence – either close to home or across the UK – take a look in your own back yard and you might find some real gems just waiting to be discovered.

Over and out. 

 

Tags: Severn Unival | School of Homeopathy | HealBee

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Friday ramble: Top 10 marketing lessons from the Olympic Games

20 August 2012 at 19:59

With the Paralympic Games opening next week, we’d like to hand this week’s Friday Ramble over to Marketing magazine’s Nicola Clark who wrote a fine article about lessons marketers can learn from London 2012.

For us, the unexpected Brand Hero of the Olympics was Royal Mail. The golden post boxes and commemorative stamps really tapped in to the spirit of the Games. The two initiatives worked wonders for Royal Mail’s image – so much great publicity! And we are quite sure that many people will have gone out of their way to write to friends and family to take advantage of the special stamps. Who knows, maybe it has reminded people how nice it is to send and receive a ‘real’ letter for a change, rather than a text message or email.

Many of Nicola’s comments can apply specifically to PR as well as marketing in the broadest sense. Her article is definitely worth a read:

We love sport in our household; watching it, playing it, taking about it and just occasionally, arguing about it. The life-affirming nature of it; its ability to bring people together across generations; the pure unbridled joy of victory and learning to be noble in taking the crushing disappointment of defeat.  From jumpers for goal posts to the breath-taking skill of Usain Bolt’s phenomenal style and speed, sport's power to engage and inspire is endless.

For the marketing industry London 2012 has been a great opportunity to showcase its talent, and bask in London’s history and beauty. In the warm glow of Olympic glory there will be a flurry of analysis on who won the marketing Olympics, which brands stood and out and which ones didn’t even make it off the starting blocks. But there is one thing that unites all these brands: they recognize the importance and power of sport and the passion it inspires in consumers. More importantly they have provided the financial support so vital to London 2012’s success.

So thank you Adidas for creating a campaign, which was an epic trailer for a spectacular main event. Congratulations Royal Mail for reminding me to send a proper letter rather than an email, adorned with a beautifully-designed stamp starring Team GB’s myriad gold-medalists. Thank you LOCOG for making me a tourist in my own city by taking the time to admire its majestic beauty.

And to all the athletes, brands, businesses, individuals, armed forces and volunteers, they have given us the confidence to believe that ‘Inspire a generation’ could be so much more than just a marketing slogan.  

You can read Nicola’s full article and the ‘ten lessons’ on Marketing magazine’s website.

 

Which brand did you think made the most of London 2012? Please share!

Over and out. 

Tags: Marketing Magazine | Nicola Clark

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Friday ramble: I've got an app for that

17 August 2012 at 12:26

 

You will rarely find one of Trailblazer PR’s consultants more than a pace away from their smartphone or iPad. And naturally, we are addicted to apps.

From a communications perspective, offering a great app is a fantastic way to stay front of mind with your customers. And if you’re canny, you can use it to implicitly communicate your brand proposition and personality (with ‘implicit’ being the operative word – you don’t need to take a sledgehammer-approach).

The best apps are those that do something useful, entertaining or both. And there is a groundswell of excellent business-focused apps that are being snapped up by professionals. However, there are also thousands out there that are never even downloaded.

So what’s the secret to creating a business app that people will genuinely want to use time and time again?

It’s all about knowing your audience. If your app helps make people’s lives easier, overcome a problem or streamline their business activity, you could be on to a winner. Do some research and find out if you can fill a niche with something really helpful – you might be surprised at how simple it could be.

Before you jump in at the deep-end, look at the competition and make sure the app you create offers something different and valuable.

Then, the fun starts. It’s worth consulting with a professional designer / programmer to make sure the app looks good and that the flow and design are as smooth as possible.

You also need to think about marketing and PR – it will never get downloaded if nobody knows it is there. Tactics will vary depending on your audience and sector, but as a rule of thumb a blend of offline and online activity is usually best.

If you approach app development strategically – and do it in the right way for the right reasons (i.e. not just for the sake of it, or because one of your competitors has one) – it can form a powerful part of the communications mix.

We quite like some of the apps mentioned in this article on Mashable: Ten Essential Tablet Apps for Business.

Do you use any that you’d like to recommend?

Over and out…

Tags: Mashable | PR | apps

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Silly season story of the day

10 August 2012 at 12:29

Well, the excitement surrounding the Olympics has meant a slow start to the media silly season this year. But we rather like this piece from today’s Daily Mail:

OMG! Don't forget to leave an Out of Office, and never leave a kiss for clients: The email pitfalls we all should avoid

Hats off to Staples UK (and their PR team) for hitting the Daily Mail – and HR Magazine – with this story.

Fun stories like this can play a valuable role in a serious PR strategy. When it’s done well, with editorial objectives in mind, market research can be a fantastic investment that adds real substance to communications activity.

It doesn’t have to be quirky (or silly) either.

Think about industry issues that are relevant to your audiences, from emerging legislation to skills crises, and there is sure to be scope for market research.

Findings are likely to be of interest to your target media, and they can also play a role in wider communications activity. They may provide a platform for an industry roundtable, help shape proposition development or generate a rich seam of content for social media.

Have you spotted a good silly season story this week that you’d like to share?

Tags: Staples UK | Daily Mail | HR Magazine

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A better way of working: unlocking the potential of PR parents

27 July 2012 at 12:24

“Nearly half of working mums are thinking of leaving their PR jobs” was the headline finding of research published by recruitment firm Hanson Search earlier this month, as reported on PR Moment.

Whilst the headline may sensationalise the issue, the full results of the Gender Balance Survey, which was undertaken in association with the CIPR, should be taken seriously.

Over 550 people (men and women) in the communications industry were surveyed and findings revealed:

• 9.4% of employers felt they had serious reservations about hiring women aged between 30-40 years old fearing they would, at some point, fall pregnant
• 62% of employees felt that they would be discriminated against if they were to become pregnant
• 49.3% of respondents have observed issues or problems among colleagues directly related to their return from maternity leave, such as difficulty with flexible working hours (64.6%), reduction in perceived status (59.9%) and negotiating part-time employment (53.2%)

It was further revealed that 48.5% of women would consider seeking employment elsewhere if such issues concerning flexibility were not addressed. What’s more, 13.4% of senior female employees plan to quit the industry in the next two years if employers continue to deny flexible provisions for those wishing to return from maternity leave.

This trend is worrying for agency owners and PR professionals alike. People in their 30s and 40s typically have ten plus years’ experience, and they are a valuable asset to the industry.

But does balancing parenthood with a career really have to be such a minefield? If both sides are prepared to communicate and get creative about working practices it is possible for working parents to make full use of their professional skills without compromising family life.

The Trailblazer PR business model is a case in point. Most of our consultants are parents – and thanks to our flexible home-working culture they can combine excellent PR careers with parenthood very nicely. Many of the consultants previously held senior roles in city agencies and have either relocated to the South West or decided that it is the commute (not the actual working hours) that interferes with work-life balance at traditional agencies. Whilst we are headquartered in Stroud, consultants are based throughout Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol – they attend meetings when needed, but otherwise are free to choose their own hours and place of work.

In many traditional agencies, there is a myth that if you work part-time or from home you can’t operate at a senior level. The belief is that you’re just not around enough to be available for clients and colleagues when they need you. Our consultants understand that they need to be able to interact with clients and journalists during business hours, but other than that they can complete their work as and when they want to. OK – they may sometimes find themselves sending emails while waiting at the school gates or with a toddler hanging off one arm. But is it really any different to responding to clients on the hoof when you’re out at a meeting?

The beauty of the Trailblazer PR model is that consultants are allocated roles based on their skills and expertise – their family circumstances are irrelevant. They can operate at the same level as they would in a traditional agency and continue to progress their careers. What’s more, they are generally able to meet – or exceed - what they would earn pro rata in a traditional, permanent role. In most agencies, part-time hours tend to only be an option for lower-paid roles, not for top table senior positions.

Of course, flexibility and trust are central to this arrangement. But if both the agency and the consultant are honest and transparent – and committed to make the situation work - there is no reason why flexible and/or home based working can’t be a win-win situation.

People with children may not want to be tied to a desk from 9-5.30 every day. But this doesn’t mean that they can’t make a valuable contribution to the PR industry. If more agencies could look at flexible and intuitive working practices, it could unlock a whole tranche of talent and expertise that is too often put to one side once children are on the scene.

As the PR Moment article says: PR is an industry based on conversation and engagement – so why doesn’t this happen at a senior level for women considering having a family?

Quite.

 

What are your thoughts on this issue? We’d love to hear them.

Over and out…

Tags: Hanson Search | CIPR

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Friday ramble: A bit more American, a bit less British

20 July 2012 at 13:25

Friday ramble: A bit more American, a bit less British

We seem to be in full swing business award season at the moment. Whether it’s local, regional, national or industry business awards, there seems to be a constant stream of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn updates full of awards pictures and winner information from events across the UK.

Is it me or, as the years go by, are we as businesses becoming more confident when it comes to shouting about ourselves and the good things that we are doing? And is this a good thing? Well, my opinion is, yes!

Some say it’s very American to ‘big up’ yourself and that it could turn some customers off. I say, it’s a crowded market place and therefore, from a customer point of view, it’s about making your voice heard. Going for business awards is part of this. The associated marketing and promotion that goes with being shortlisted – or winning - is invaluable from a PR point of view.

We are still in tough economic times and, more than ever, customers are being more savvy about the companies that they choose to buy products and services from. They want more from brands. Whether it’s better customer service, more environmental credentials, innovative products etc. For many customers, a company being a recognised award ‘nominee’ or indeed ‘winner’ is the tick in the box that’s needed for the sale to proceed.

Part of the work we do day-to-day is researching and discussing specific awards with our clients. Having long term relationships with a lot of our clients means that we can take much of the leg work out of award selection and nomination for them. We are their PR agency and therefore have our fingers on the pulse when it comes to their businesses marketing and PR.

And due to our experience of assisting our clients with creating award-winning nominations over the past 8 years, we are often asked to advise businesses on pre-written nominations. Questions such as ‘does my nomination contain all of the information that the judges might be looking for?’, ‘what supporting information is needed?’, ‘how should I present my information? etc. are often asked and we can respond to these quickly.

The common reason that I believe companies don’t go for awards is due to being concerned about it being ‘a waste of time’ - especially if they aren’t shortlisted.

But believe me when I say that gathering information on specific aspects of, or people in, your company is never a waste of time. When it comes to PR this information can be used in many ways and often provides a base platform for many other PR tactics such as editorial, internal communications, speaking opportunities and much more.

So go on, enter that award that you think you might have a chance of winning. You really have got nothing to lose!

NOTE FOR GLOUCESTERSHIRE BUSINESSES: The deadline for the Diamond Jubilee Gloucestershire business awards is Friday 3rd August. There’s still time! For award categories and to register your interest click here

 

Tags: Awards; business awards

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Friday ramble – all is quiet on the LinkedIn front

06 July 2012 at 09:00

Friday ramble – all is quiet on the LinkedIn front

Regular users of LinkedIn will have noticed this week that things have been, well, a little bit quiet. The normally heaving updates pages just don’t have the usual reams of content streaming through them.

It’s because, as of 29 June, the arrangement whereby Twitter and LinkedIn could be synced so that Tweets were automatically pushed to users’ LinkedIn pages has been abolished.

You can read more about it here.

Some people are quite upset about the move – after all, the syncing was a convenient way to keep a high profile on both platforms.

But is it really such a bad thing? LinkedIn is a business platform, whereas many people use Twitter across both their personal and professional worlds.

So, it is appropriate to post work-related updates on Twitter, but is it really acceptable or advisable to stream Twitter-chatter through LinkedIn? Do you really want all of your professional contacts to know what is going on in your personal life?

You can still opt for LinkedIn updates to be pushed to your Twitter profile. And that seems like a much more sensible option for anyone trying to manage their social media presence strategically.

We quite like Steve Revill’s take on the situation, so we’re going to pass the rest of this week’s Friday ramble over to him – or you can see his original blog here:

 

Twitter no longer LinkedIn

There’s no doubt we live in a digitally connected world.

But, with the growing number of mobile apps and platforms, it is easy to forget exactly how it’s all connected.

So I welcome yesterday’s news that tweets will no longer be displayed on LinkedIn- as should everyone that hasn’t appreciated the impact that automated cross-posting can have on their digital personal brand.

I use LinkedIn for professional networking. I’m ‘virtually’ suited and booted whenever I’m on the platform and am certainly in ‘work mode’. Yet I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen a tweet appear in their LinkedIn timeline and thought, ‘why are you sharing this with me?’.

The way I look at it, most people wouldn’t dream of bursting into a business networking event in their shorts and running vest and shouting “I’VE JUST COMPLETED A THREE MILE RUN IN 26MINS 19SECS”. So either they’ve forgotten these tools are connected or they simply aren’t thinking about the impact of the updates on their audience.

Although this automatic link from twitter has now been broken, it serves as a timely reminder to take a look at the what, why and how to manage your digital personal brand using social media.

  • WHAT tools do you currently use? Make a ‘map’ of how they’re all connected and ensure you understand what automated cross-posting is happening as a result.
  • WHY are you using them? Ask yourself about your audience on each of these platforms and how your updates impact their perception of you.
  • HOW can you effectively add value to your audiences using automation tools, but only once you’ve defined your ‘digital publishing strategy’- what will you send, to whom, how often and why?

 

There’s a number of tools that are out there that can help you to schedule and automate updates across a number of platforms. Personally, I’m a fan of TweetDeck, but the tool to use first is the one you have between your ears to make sure your digital publishing strategy adds value to your audience and fully aligns to your digital personal brand.

 

 

What are your thought on Twitter updates no longer being streamed through LinkedIn? We'd love to hear your views.

 

Over and out.

Tags: Twitter | LinkedIn | social media | PR strategy

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Friday Ramble: Wiki cheats

29 June 2012 at 09:15

Earlier this week, the CIPR launched a best practice guide for PR professionals’ use of Wikipedia. Essentially it recommends that PRs should not edit Wikipedia pages on behalf of their clients.

A lot of PRs have mixed feelings about this guide. After all, it stems from the furore at the end of 2011 surrounding some leading London agencies’ tactics for managing (or rather controlling) clients’ reputations anonymously via Wikipedia. They say no half decent PR agency would resort to such ‘black hat’ tactics on any communications platform. And those that would probably won’t pay any attention to the CIPR’s guide anyway.

But if you read the guide in detail, you will see that the CIPR has worked closely with Wikipedia to make it a valuable tool for PR consultants. It gives clear advice on the correct protocol for updating content and raising concerns. It acknowledges that, since Wikipedia editors are volunteers, it can take time for issues to be resolved – but explains how to escalate matters when a quick resolution is required.

Successful media relations (and I mean that in the broadest sense – covering social and traditional media) has always required good instinct and common sense. But as the media environment continues to grow and change, it is important to understand that the etiquette of media relations is evolving. PR consultants need to be able to work intuitively to manage clients’ reputations in the right way, without compromising their integrity.

The CIPR’s CEO Jane Wilson says:

“This guidance is aimed at helping public relations practitioners reach a better understanding of how to properly engage with one of the most visited sources of information on the internet and clearly lays out the process through which PR people can positively contribute to the encyclopaedia. The main theme of the guidance is quite simple – where there is a clear conflict of interest created by the relationship between the public relations professional and the subject of the Wikipedia entry, such as a client or employer, they should not directly edit it”.

On the whole, the guide is definitely worth a read – take a look and let us know what you think: CIPR Wikipedia Best Practice Guidance.

Over and out.

 

Tags: PR | WIkipedia | CIPR | social media

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Friday ramble - 3 tips for social media

22 June 2012 at 14:59

Many of our clients tell us ‘we want to do social media’. And for most businesses, a well-handled social media presence is a good thing. But as with traditional PR, it’s important to consider your objectives in the first instance – and then decide which media (social or otherwise) offer the best opportunities to help achieve your goals.

These three tips provide a starting point for any brand considering dipping a toe in the water, or making more of an existing social media presence. But remember – with social media, your reputation needs to be earned, and this takes time and effort. Nurture your online presence, don’t expect to become a millionaire overnight, and enjoy the experience.

1. Find out which social media your audiences are already using

A little preparation goes a long way. Before you jump in at the deep end with a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account (currently the Big Three social media platforms – but there are many more!) do a spot of lurking. No, you don’t need to hang around on street corners in an anorak, but it is well worth spending a few hours looking around to establish where the online hubs are for your industry.

Have a look at what your competitors are doing, and think about what you might like to emulate – or steer clear of.

Listen and learn – where do your typical customers seem to congregate, and what are they talking about? What could you bring to the conversation?

2. Decide which social media are best for you

As a rule of thumb, LinkedIn is the premium platform for business to business organisations and Facebook tends to be more in-tune with consumer brands. But rules are made to be broken – it is about choosing the best social media for your brand. And that will partly depend on what your customers are like, and your brand’s personality.

It’s a mistake to simply set up profiles everywhere if you don’t really have the time or inclination to keep them updated with interesting content. Think very carefully about your business and communications goals, and how each social media channel can provide a platform to help achieve them. The profiles themselves are not the answer – it’s all about how you use them.  

3. Focus – and take a long-term view

Hands up if you’ve ever gone to look at a clip on YouTube, then finally emerged three hours later?

Social media can be one of the biggest time-wasters out there. And no business can afford to waste time these days!

If you have a well-disciplined social media strategy you will be able to develop and nurture your presence without it becoming a fulltime job. For many small businesses – or those with scant resources – it can be better to choose one or two social media channels and use them well. Otherwise you risk spending all day updating and Tweeting, or at the other end of the scale, having six Twitter accounts that haven’t made a peep for three months.

 

Here are some examples of businesses in our home county of Gloucestershire using social media well, in our humble opinion:

Winstones Ice Cream, Stroud – a nice, interactive Twitter account ...same goes for Giffords Circus.

Cotswolds Farm Park’s Facebook page makes us want to get down there with the little ones this weekend...and our client Campden BRI is making good use of its LinkedIn presence.

 

Are there any more that you would like to share with us?

Over and out…

 

Tags: social media | PR | public relations | PR strategy

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Friday ramble: Why chocolate trounced fashion for us this week…

15 June 2012 at 17:05

This week has been a mass of engagements and events for us here at Trailblazer. On Tuesday we attended the annual open day for one of our clients’ members, titled Campden BRI Day. It’s an opportunity for all of the organisation’s members to come together to network, find out more about the services that Campden BRI offers and listen to a lecture by a person of note.

This year that person of note was Fiona Dawson, President of Mars Chocolate UK *great job alert!*. The title of Fiona’s lecture was ‘A sustainable future’. Through her lecture or ‘conversation’ as she called it, she educated the audience about the struggles that the chocolate industry faces in terms of sustainability, the issues with cocoa crops and the future for cocoa farmers in places such as Cote d’Ivoire. To listen to her lecture, download here.

Listening to Fiona, we felt inspired and actually learnt quite a lot about chocolate manufacture and how the food and drink industry needs to work ever more collaboratively in order to be sustainable in the future. Fiona was informative and engaging, eloquent and to the point. In short, we left the lecture feeling inspired to take action.

Then on Wednesday night I was invited to attend the Cheltenham Science Festival to listen to Vivienne Westwood talk about climate change. Now, this Dame is a legend – that is not to be disputed. The foothold that she has, and continues to have, on the UK – and indeed worldwide - fashion industry is immense. And, from my personal point of view, she just seems to get better with age.

She was hosted by Jonathan Porrit and started talking about her views on climate change – and the world – with gusto and inspiration but 10 minutes in she’d kind of said all she had to say *umm, there’s 50 minutes to go*. It seemed that Vivienne found it difficult to really elaborate or remain on topic when it came to climate change, and especially ‘climate change and the fashion industry’ which is what many of us in the audience believed that the talk would centre on. We waited with bated breath to hear about the brand’s plans for sustainability, how it was seeking to find and use eco cottons, how it was seeking to reduce its carbon footprint. The response, in order was a) Vivienne Westwood doesn’t have time to source eco cottons due to tight deadlines getting collections out. If anyone wants to send them eco cottons then they’ll be considered b) Vivienne Westwood doesn’t know what the brand’s carbon footprint is.

Unfortunately, the feeling in the room – from whispers we heard – was that Vivienne Westwood, although obviously passionate about the environment, had left many people thinking ‘well, if she can’t be bothered from a business point of view, why should we?’ I don’t think this is what she intended the general reaction to be.

I really felt for Vivienne and, from a PR point of view, it didn’t look like she’d been briefed correctly or, sorry to say, even spent time thinking, or being advised, about the clear points she wanted to get across and how she was going to do this while urging people to take action. I actually thought that if I saw any of our clients in this position I would pack up shop and do something different.

We spend so much time researching and selling our clients in for speaking engagements at a host of events and training them for these is a crucial part of the process. What’s the aim of the talk? What key points do you want to get across? How can you engage the audience from the start and keep them with you until the end? What’s the call to action? These are just some of the areas we train on. To be honest, if Vivienne Westwood had this prior to speaking on Wednesday night, it didn’t work. But did she even have the training?

While typing this, I thought to myself ‘what’s that saying about being properly prepared’, so I looked it up. It’s the 7Ps… ‘Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance’. I think, out of the two mentioned above, I know who’s presentation I’ll be advising my clients to learn from in the future.

I’d be interested in hearing anyone else’s thoughts about both talks – either if you were present or listened online. Please do comment below. 

Over and out…

 

 

 

 

Tags: Campden BRI | speaker opportunities | PR | training

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Friday ramble - Regional PR: who you know and what you know

08 June 2012 at 14:26

Local and regional PR can be a tricky beast. People often assume that generating media coverage in the ‘local rag’ or securing opportunities at local events is easy as pie. Sometimes it is. But to be truly effective, regional campaigns require all the strategic thought and creativity of national activity.

Some say that regional PR is a classic case of ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. We believe it’s a combination of both.

It’s true that personal relationships are a good thing: from knowing the area’s key journalists and broadcasters to the people who head up local committees or community groups. If you are in touch with the region’s movers and shakers you’re likely to hear about emerging initiatives or events, and have the opportunity to get involved early – even steer the direction that they take.

But it doesn’t begin and end there.

PR is about building and managing reputations amongst relevant audiences. So, from a campaign planning point of view, you need to think carefully about who you are trying to communicate with, where you are likely to find them, what you want to convey and – most importantly – how to go about it.

Sometimes this can be easier said than done! But a combination of local knowledge, contacts and experience go a long way towards developing and implementing campaigns that make the right noise in the right places.

It’s no good churning out press releases to the local newspapers and hoping that they will run your corporate stories week after week. Even if they did, people would soon get bored of reading them.

Instead of always thinking: ‘what do we want to talk about?’, it can be much more beneficial to think: ‘what do people in the region want?’.

This attitude can lay the foundation for an excellent local and regional profile. Here are just two examples of how it might translate into PR initiatives:

1.    Support local schools: for instance, an engineering firm might build relationships with schools by providing opportunities to bring the maths and science curriculum to life in new and exciting ways. The benefits? Well, local media are sure to be interested – there could be scope for broadcast and print coverage, as well as exciting social media potential. Not to mention the corporate social responsibility brownie points. Plus the students could be potential future employees (or even customers!)… investing in young people can make a huge difference to their lives, as well as bringing short and long term benefits to organisations who take the time to do so.

2.    Get involved with regional events: think laterally about local festivals, initiatives or developments that could have synergy with your organisation, and find ways to build on this. If you want to prove that you are a family-focused business, why not donate staff time to help out manning stalls or selling programmes at local fetes and fairs. You’re sure to get positive media coverage, and your team can actively demonstrate your family-friendly credentials just by interacting with people – you’re showing it, rather than simply saying it, which is far more powerful.

The most important thing to remember with local and regional PR is that a good reputation needs to be earned. It can’t be achieved over night, and it needs to be nurtured. Effective reputation management doesn’t need to cost the earth, but it does need to be handled by people who have a finger on the pulse and know the nuances of the region and its people.

 

Over and out…

 

Tags: regional pr | local pr | pr agency | pr consultant | media relations | events

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Friday ramble: Lilibet – you’re a real Diamond!

01 June 2012 at 11:55

Our diamond queenSo the Diamond Jubilee bank holiday weekend is finally upon us. For us at Trailblazer PR it’s an action packed weekend of water festivals, street parties, barbecues and music concerts. How about you? What are you up to on this 4 day party weekend?

 

But whilst we are partying let’s not forget – which can be all too easy – what the point of this weekend is. Yes, yes, some of you reading this will think ‘if only we could forget’ and I appreciate that we all have a different view on the royal family but for me it’s important to take some time out to celebrate the 60 year reign of our Queen. To celebrate her life, her achievements, and how they have affected our country, and personal lives, thus far.

 

From a PR point of view, and from a personal opinion, I believe that over the past few years the Queen, and her family, have really come into their own. With current public opinion about the royal family being at an all-time high I think that the royals – and their special advisors of course – should give themselves a bit of a pat on the back for a job well done. Long may it continue.

 

Our diamond queenYes, some may say the ‘good times’ started with the romance and subsequent marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and, to a point, the UK’s renewed love for the royals may have been ignited here but you cannot underestimate that the family as a whole – led by Lilibet – have really taken time to show us more of their lives in these past few years. The public thirst for inside information on all things royal has been there and the royals have willingly fed, to a point, our thirst for information. We like it.

 

This morning I was touched when watching BBC Breakfast who were promoting the documentary that is on BBC One this evening at 8pm. It’s titled ‘A Jubilee Tribute to the Queen by Prince Charles’ and consists of Prince Charles talking about his mother while showing old film clips of his mother, father, brothers and sisters as they were growing up. The Queen, in her time, has been accused by us, her subjects, of many things – one of them that she was a ‘hands off’ mother. It looks like this documentary shows an altogether different view.

 

As a working mother (not a head of state, granted!) I can totally relate to how difficult it can be to juggle responsibility and motherhood – we all make mistakes. But it’s our ability to learn from them that allows us to develop as people and flourish and I certainly believe that, over the years, our Queen – and royal family – have done so.

 

We’ve all had periods in our lives like the Queen’s annus horribilis and it is hard dealing with it as a normal person, never mind as head of state. I think if you really take the time there’s a lot that can be learnt from the way she has conducted herself over her 60 year reign. You’ve just got to ‘want’ to take the time.

 

Let them eat cakeSo whether it’s for five minutes or longer, raise a glass or cucumber sandwich to our monarch this bank holiday weekend. Because, actually, when you compare her to other heads of state, she’s a real Diamond!

 

Over and out…

Tags: the queen | queen elizabeth II | royal family | good pr | bank holiday |

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Friday ramble – The day the Olympic torch came to Stroud

25 May 2012 at 11:06

This Friday ramble should be re-named the Friday gush…as I intend to gush on about how fantastic this week has been for my hometown of Stroud.

 

What happened? Do I need to say… the Olympic torch came to Stroud! And, personally, I think it was the event of the year so far.

 

Crowds flock to Stroud for Olympic Torch RelayNow, I knew that there would be crowds and was prepared for that. What I didn’t bank on was the Olympic torch ‘feeling’ that gripped every person I saw, from small toddlers to the elderly.

 

You could tell from their excited, expectant faces that they were totally engrossed in this historic event, with many of them waiting hours in hot sunshine *yes, the sun came out too* for just a short look at the flame that had travelled to our market town from Greece.

Crowds flock to Stroud for Olympic Torch Relay

Thousands of people from our beautiful Cotswold town and the valleys surrounding it congregated in Stroud and came together for this event. The community spirit was overwhelming.

 

As we were waiting for the flame to come, people were running up and down the streets to cheers from the crowd, there were acrobatics in Rowcroft, dancing at the Brewery Bridge and general merriment wherever you went. It was a sight to behold.

 

Crowds flock to Stroud for Olympic Torch Relay

    Convoy

 

And then the torch cameAnd then the torch came and I saw faces light up, spurred on by the Olympic torch convoy of cars, coaches and ice cream vans. ‘Where is it? Can you see it?’ were the shouts. And then – like Aphrodite from the waves – it appeared. The Flame. In all its splendour, burning strong from a golden torch…and people went silent. Flash bulbs going off, camera phones held high trying to capture an historical moment forever. ‘I saw it mummy, I saw the flame’. Tears flowed.

 

And then it was gone, but the Stroud community spirit lived on. With crowds of people - a swarm - following the torch to Beeches Green, where it was transferred safely to its lantern. The celebration continued, for many, into the night with a host of BBQs, parties and local beer gardens buzzing with customers.And then it was gone

 

WOW!

 

Since then there has been an ongoing conversation happening in Stroud circles about how we can get this community togetherness happening again. Many have likened what happened on Wednesday to the old ‘Stroud Show’ days.

 

Back in those days, we had a yearly carnival where a procession of floats designed by community groups, charities etc. would convoy through the town to Stratford Park where, on the fields, there would be music, food, fun fairs, craft stalls, candy floss, dancing and so much more. It was the highlight of the year, the place to be seen.

 

Granted, we have our yearly country show, but my feeling is that community support for this has waned over the years. We need to get that carnival feeling back… the people want it. Let’s come together to make it happen.

 

Over and out…

Tags: Olympics | Olympic Torch Relay | #glostorchrelay | stroud | London 2012 | community event |

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Friday ramble - How valuable is paid-for editorial

18 May 2012 at 14:57

I was contacted earlier this week by a Scottish national newspaper that was looking for advice on paid-for online content.Paid-for editorial

 

The man said that, as they are a paper that is based in the north, they don’t really have a good scope on what is going on with PR agencies ‘down south’. He said they’d been contacted by numerous PR agencies from the south (that’s every agency from Scotch Corner downwards) who wanted to pay for their press releases to go onto this particular paper’s website. So basically: ‘paid-for editorial’.

 

He wanted to know whether this was common practice for PR agencies ‘down south’. My response… ‘Um, NO, well not for those that really understand their craft anyway’.

 

He said that one particular PR agency – London-based as you would have it – never send editorial for the consideration of editorial sections of the paper or website. He said that they only ever sent content which they knew they had to pay for. And he said that this was common practice from a lot of agencies ‘down south’.

 

Now I smell something fishy here. My reckoning is that said London agency has guaranteed their client coverage in this Scottish newspaper and – as the stories they are creating aren’t strong or relevant enough – they have to pay for them to appear. Is the client aware of this, or is the agency passing the coverage off as true editorial? If so, where is the money coming from to pay for the coverage?

 

It is true that there is a time and a place for paid-for content, advertorials, sponsored columns etc. And we all know that some trade magazines operate on a colour separation model. But when it comes to national newspapers, their value is in their editorial integrity. Surely allowing people to pay for their news stories to appear undermines this. And PR agencies that pay to secure coverage – rather than finding ways to create truly newsworthy stories – are undermining themselves and their clients’ brands.

 

So, I asked my caller whether the commercial editorial section he was referring to on their website had a particularly high ‘unique user’ figure and what the conversion rates for stories that appeared on the page were like. How much traffic was being sent to specific links in the stories and, from a PR point of view, what the agencies were reporting from the client end? In essence, how many of his readers were actually engaging with the content – or even reading it… he didn’t have the answers.

 

What he did say was: ‘wouldn’t the fact that we had their story on our site mean that they would immediately climb the pages of Google and therefore improve their SEO?’

 

I spoke to Paul Locke from Epicado Web Marketing – a company we work with a lot – about this, and he said:

 

“A truly genuine link from a national newspaper would undoubtedly be regarded by Google as a good thing. Google gives higher value to links from well-known and trusted brands. The question is whether Google would regard this type of link as truly genuine or a ‘paid for’ link – it usually penalises sites that sell links but there’s some evidence that it’s less than even-handed in the way that it applies this policy. If you’re a big brand, it seems that Google is more forgiving. Google has recently made some very significant changes to the way that it evaluates websites for ranking in its search results. In the past, if you acquired lots of links from low value blogs, forums and directories, hey presto, you could rank very well. Google now places more emphasis on good quality links and on the extent to which your website’s content is shared by real people via their social media accounts.

 

“In other words, if Google sees that a national newspaper that it trusts is sending a link to your website from a genuine piece of editorial, it’s likely to give that more value than 100 links from a blog that nobody reads. Similarly, if it detects lots of ‘buzz’ around your website content, it will reward you. There are more than 200 ranking factors in the Google algorithm so it’s not quite as simple as that – but the main point is that businesses which can generate genuine interest in their content will do well.”

 

And so, we come full circle… for paid-for content to really have any impact or value, it needs to be of genuine interest to readers. And if it is of interest to readers, it will be of interest to journalists, which means it should be able to stand up as pure-play editorial, rather than paid-for content.

 

I feel very strongly that PR agencies have to be honest with both potential and existing clients. Whether pitching for new work or providing advice to retained clients on a day-to-day basis, we need to be clear about which angles and topics will truly interest readers and journalists.

 

When the route to media coverage relies solely upon paid-for editorial, something is seriously wrong. As consultants, it’s our job to consult rather than just churn out press releases – paid-for or otherwise.

 

Tell me what you think? I’d be really keen to hear your thoughts on this.

 

Over and out…

 

 

 

 

Tags: public relations | pr | press releases | paid for content | editorial |

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Friday ramble - Regional PR agencies: We’re not all wellie boots and cheese rolling you know!

11 May 2012 at 12:41

Wellie boot wearers do it betterOn Wednesday I read with interest a story which had been published in The Guardian titled ‘London PR agencies – do you know where you’re coming from?’

 

In essence the feature was asking the question ‘are London agencies best placed to get regional arts venues the profile they need?’ The feature talks about the positives and negatives of using London PR agencies for guaranteed *scratches head* (I think guaranteed coverage is called an advert or advertorial?!) national media coverage.

 

Although the feature highlights many interesting points, there is one vital thing that has been missed and, as a regional agency head, I have to comment on it. Here it is, get ready, and hold the front page… You don’t have to employ a London agency to achieve national media coverage for an event, product or new service launch… Who knew? Well, many of us working hard to grow our regional PR agencies do actually.

 

The feature insinuated that to ‘guarantee’ (see above comment) coverage  regional arts organisations were engaging with London agencies as ‘London PR agencies tend to have better personal relationships with national journalists and writers – it's a matter of proximity’.

 

C’mon now, you’re doing us regional PR people a bit of a disservice here. Insinuating that just because someone is based in London means that by nature they’d have a better relationship with a journalist due to their proximity is like saying a higher percentage of people living in close proximity to a brewery will drink beer – I think what you’ll find is that it’s a matter of taste! Or, from a PR point of view, knowing the difference between a story that will sell and one that won’t.

 

Many of us wellie wearing country folk have spent years working on our relationships with journalists and the fact that were not based in London makes not one iota of difference.

 

I don’t need to tell you that the media landscape has changed – or, due to some of the comments in this story, maybe I do?

 

Yes, of course PRs and Journalists still like to go out and socialise together but times are a lot tougher than they used to be. With the rise of online and social media and the fall of print circulation numbers, many journalists just don’t have the luxury of time to be able to ‘socialise’ in the ways that they once did.

 

Believe me many of them, on a day-to-day basis, are too busy juggling increased workload with decreased in house support while meeting their deadlines. Add to the mix online and social media responsibilities and, for icing, having to think commercially and you might get the picture.

 

So where lunches and evening drinks were once the cornerstone of creating and maintaining relationships, things have changed.  More and more relationships are formed and maintained in the ether – using emails, telephone, social networks etc.

 

Over the 8 years we have been in business, and for the time before that when I was working at other regional PR agencies, I can honestly say that I never once came across us ‘not being based in London’ as a barrier for getting a story into the press.

 

At the end of the day, if the story is strong enough in terms of news or interest for a specific page and you have targeted it at the right journalist in the manner, at the right time, with the right spokesperson etc it will be picked up. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting at a desk pitching it from Soho or Scunthorpe!

 

Too many fantastic regional agencies are still suffering – or being omitted from pitch lists - from this frankly out of date opinion that to get national coverage, the agency needs to be based in London. Just look at some of us. Ask us when the last piece of national coverage we generated was and I bet you that it will have been in the past week. It’s not all wellie boots and cheese rolling out here you know….

 

Over and out… 

Tags: public relations | PR | media coverage |

Posted in Friday Rambles | 1 Comments »

Friday ramble - The 'people's Olympics' - I think not!

04 May 2012 at 13:36

 

Who has tickets to the Olympics then? No, not a lot of you I can imagine.Supporting picture not used due to silly marketing guidelines

 

We managed to snare ourselves 4 tickets to Super Saturday on 11th August, the day when a lot of the finals are on. Yes, we feel lucky and I am happy that some of my children will get the chance to see some of the World’s finest athletes up close and personal (well, not so personal). But I’m annoyed and here’s why…

 

Last week I tweeted a really interesting article that had been written by Mark Ritzon, a journalist from leading industry title ‘Marketing Week’, titled ‘No Gold for Locog’s brand management’. I read the article with my head nodding, mouthing ‘yes, exactly’ and post reading the article, sent it online to everyone I knew.

 

Over the past few months in particular many of our clients, especially smaller local and regional ones, have wanted to somehow get involved in the Olympics buzz. We have the Olympic torch passing through Stroud on 23rd May and, let me tell you something, this is a big thing for our town! It’s a reason for people of all walks of life from the five valleys to come together and celebrate what, for many, will be the start of the build up to this once in a lifetime event being held in our country.

 

Here’s how pathetic it has become. One of our clients is based very near to where the torch will be passing and, to give something back to the community, they wanted to hire an ice cream van and give away ice creams to members of the public. Having looked at Locog’s marketing guidelines this, this small thing, is classed as ambush marketing and therefore – if deemed inappropriate – could potentially lead to a hefty fine! An ice cream van, parked in a private car park, giving away ice creams… to the public! C’,mon… I mean they weren’t talking about painting the rings on the side of it. It was just an ice cream van…

 

As Mark says in his feature ‘this was meant to be the people’s games’, but my feeling is its not. If it was then I believe that more normal/everyday people would be further engaged with it. For me on a personal level, I want to hear about more events that are going on in my locality, I want to hear about quirky products and services that have been launched to celebrate this occasion, I want to go into my town and take part in sports events that have been put on purely for fun… I’m not hearing about these, and why not? Well the answer to that lies with Locog and their over the top restrictions when it comes to marketing.

 

Oh of course the main sponsors are all over this like a rash – whether the target audience associates them with the games or not (again, refer to Mark’s feature for information on this). And they’ve paid millions of £’s to be associated with the, so I appreciate that they want to keep the marketing buzz for themselves.

 

But it’s about more than that for me. Were in a recession and, even more then ever, our high street shops – independents especially – and small businesses need all the help they can get to keep afloat and stimulate growth. The way I see it, if handled correctly, this could have been a really great platform for our high street, and smaller businesses, to connect with a world-wide event and potential customers through initiatives that would have generated more passion about the games – a win / win situation surely?!

 

But no, their hands have been tied yet again and it’s an opportunity missed.

 

Thanks Locog. Thanks for stopping small market towns like Stroud help you to make this event a success in valley, town and shire.

 

I’m sure I’m not alone and that these thoughts are being echoed across the UK – let me know what you think?

 

Over and out…

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: olympics | marketing | pr | high street | small business | stroud | locog | olympics | marketing | pr | high street | small business | stroud | locog

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The end goal...

27 April 2012 at 10:28

London bound

As you all know, since the beginning of the year I have been training for running the London marathon. It’s been tough, as I explained in last week’s Friday ramble, but in the end I completed the marathon.

 

While I was training for this race I would often find myself comparing my race preparation to my business. Let me explain.

 

When you embark on any kind of training, there's always a goal in mind. If you're a runner, it’s a race: be it a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon - whatever. If you're a cyclist it might be a sprint or endurance race, a darts player - a tournament. Whatever it is, normally, before you embark - you set yourself a goal. Something to aim for, something to focus on. Isn't it the same for those of us who have set up a business? In those times when we'd get home from a hard day at the office, working for someone else, wishing we were somewhere else. 'If only I was master of my own destiny!', 'If only I ran my own business things would be different'. For me, my goal in those early days was to start a PR agency that would be one of the, if not THE, best PR agency in Gloucestershire. I had a goal, a vision, I knew what I wanted my agency to look like, the kind of people I wanted as consultants, the kind of people I wanted as clients. Having that goal gave me something to focus on and it set me on my way.

 

Then there's the training. I undertook 16 weeks of training to get to marathon day and every week I learnt something new about myself, my mind and my body. Hold your head higher, it'll make your running posture better, sip water rather than inhale it like an elephant, your stomach will feel better. Stop looking at your Garmin so much, it'll make the miles go faster. The same can be said for business, although in that case for me the training is ongoing - I learn new things about my profession, my business, my customers etc every day and the more I learn the more honed and 'fit' I feel my business gets. They say that PR can't be measured…piddle, say I! I'm constantly looking for new ways to evaluate the PR campaigns that we execute. Working with clients to really understand how to justify PR spend to the board or re-educate in terms of how PR fits into the overall marketing mix (and why marketing is so intrinsic to business). I'm constantly reading, going to seminars, speaking to others in my profession at how to best service our customers for 'the good of the industry'. For me, it’s imperative to take time to continue to train - or develop - the business and myself as a business manager this way.

 

I've been injured at some points during my training. Yes, it’s got me down and made me think 'why am I doing this?' But then I remember the end goal - as described above - and I dust off my trainers, seek help to fix my injury and get on the road again. Same applies to business. We've all had to deal with knocks, projects that haven't come off the way we'd hoped, clients and members of staff who haven't conducted themselves the way we'd hoped. Issues with payment etc. But we try and work through these, get professional advice and seek to fix problems (or part company in the most amicable way). We see the injury, tend to it and move forwards towards the goal.

 

And then there's the end goal. The Holy Grail. The race. Getting that medal on Sunday was one of the best moments of my life. Holding it in my hand and knowing that I'd done it. WOW, what a feeling.

 

But for me the business goal is still to be realised. Oh believe me, it will be realised but there's more training to be done, more miles to be covered. And I'm sure a few more injuries to suffer! But I know deep in my heart that I’ll reach the business end goal! I’m well on my way there and have big plans for the forthcoming months\years. I wonder what it'll feel like when I get there?!

 

So what are your business goals? Share them with us on here and let's work together to realise them!

 

Over and out... 

Tags: business | running | marathon | public relations

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Friday ramble - I'm London Marathon Bound

20 April 2012 at 11:31

Virgin London Marathon 2012

After 16 weeks of dedicated training in the ice, snow, rain, wind and – sometimes – sunshine, the big day is almost here.

 

I am running the London Marathon on Sunday and I have to say I am a mixture of emotions right now. I’ve never run this 26.2 mile race before but it’s been on my bucket list ever since I donned a pair of old trainers 3 years ago and walked/ran my first mile.

 

In brief, my running story to date is that after giving birth to my fourth child, I was seriously overweight. I was too embarrassed to visit the gym as I thought people would point and stare (they don’t by the way!) I HATED running and could never manage more than 5 minutes on the treadmill at the gym. But in my heart I knew that something had to be done about my cuddly bits! So one balmy summers evening I set off with my sister-in-law and a friend who were also interested in ‘getting into running’.

 

My oh my…what a sight I must have been. I thought I was having an asthma attack 200 metres in. The movement I was performing wasn’t even really a run – more of a shuffle. I can remember doing a pretty special walk/run to the half mile mark and, thank goodness, at 800m found a railing to lean/slowly slide down.

 

I can remember that a friend who was passing in his car beeped and waved, I however couldn’t even lift my arm to wave back as it seemed to be weighed down by small running demons who were trying to pull me to the ground in submission (this friend has since said that, on that particular day, I looked like I was breathing out of my derriere!).

 

However from somewhere I managed to find the strength to run/walk the half mile back home and literally fell in the back door. I can remember thinking to myself ‘never again’ but, after about 4 days of the DOMS, I thought – ‘OK, c’mon Sabrina lets try again’.

 

As I said, that was almost three years ago and since then I have found this love/obsession for road and off road running.

 

I can’t put my finger on exactly why I love this sport. Is it the change that I have seen in my body, the strength that I feel when doing the ‘long weekend run’, the feeling of my fitness improving, the friends I have made, the fact that although I have lived in Stroud for more than 20 years, I have seen more of our beautiful countryside in the last 3 years than all of the time previous to that, is it the feeling that, due to getting better at running every month *small steps*, that I’m so elated when I knock even seconds off my previous 5K, 10K and ½ marathon PBs… to be honest it’s a mixture of those things. But I do LOVE it so much and I’ve now become such an advocate of this sport.

 

I have become a member of a local athletics club that gives me the encouragement and motivation I need to keep going even when I’m not having such a good time (we all have periods of doubt!) and have a loving husband and family who support me in my training and at races – all of which are so important I think.

 

I feel very privileged and excited to be running this famous race on Sunday. To line up with thousands of people who will be participating for many different reasons. Us runners from all over the world who have shared the experience of training for months for this one race, to accomplish this one goal. I doff my cap to you all and look forward to meeting some of you throughout the 26.2 miles.

 

And when times get tough I will repeat silently to myself ‘the pain is temporary but the beauty remains’.

 

Over and out… Sabrina

Tags: london marathon 2012 | running | motivation | road race | fitness | health | body image

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Friday ramble… What’s in a name?

13 April 2012 at 12:43

One Direction

Over the past few days the whole One Direction name issue has come to light. Apparently, there is a US band, also called One Direction, that has come out of the woodwork and is now taking Simon Cowell and the One Direction (or 1D / Stud muffins as my teenage daughter calls them!) to court in the US over the name.

Now, I have a few thoughts on this. Firstly: GREAT PR for you US boys. I am imagining – although don’t quote me on it – that you have not been a top selling US billboard band, or won an armful of Grammies? Well, if so, I certainly haven’t heard of you.

All this media coverage is certainly going to get your name out there and who better to get into a game of verbal ping pong than Mr Music himself – you know he loves those 1D boys and would do anything for them *kerching* I think, as I’m sure you do, that you’ll get a few more fans to your gigs, sales of your records and – who knows – young girls might mistake you for the UK 1D stud muffins and flock to your gigs… its all about the fan conversion boys! Surely you can rock up ‘what makes you beautiful’?! This flurry of media interest has been handed to you on a plate, digest it well and it could result in a whole host of opportunities for you. I’d definitely be doing the same thing if I was in your place… *high five*

But, Mr Cowell, really? Isn’t this the second time that you’ve had an issue with an X Factor band? Didn’t Tulisa have to change the name of Rhythmix to Little Mix last year due to a music charity threatening to sue?

Surely, one would imagine that Mr Cowell surrounds himself with semi-intelligent people? And surely, before giving bands names, they’d do some research so that this ‘trading off’ situation didn’t occur…isn’t there some kind of worldwide band name register and, if not, why not?

I had a situation vaguely similar to this when I first set up Trailblazer. I checked online, via my main trade body and through Companies House that no other UK company had the same name as I then did – they didn’t! I then set up the company and was trading well for a few years and then, by luck, won a huge account which generated a lot of trade coverage. One grey Friday morning I received an email which basically said ‘change your name, or else!’ *leave me alone scary national PR company director* Now, I knew that I had done the right research and that, if taken to court, I’d have a strong case, but as I was still a young company I decided I couldn’t afford it and that my clients could cope with a name change. I then came up with the name Trailblazer PR which was much better – so HA! But it made me think then, as it does now, we invest so much in the marketing of our names, our brands. So, just like One Direction (US), how far would you go for yours?!

 

Over and out…. 

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