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Google’s ex-CEO Eric Schmidt gave a speech at London’s Science Museum last night where he said he sees the web becoming nothing and everything; how it will drive change in society and how he believes the world will become more democratic as a result.
I personally can’t ‘live’ without the web. It has changed the way that I work and go about all facets of my life. I use it at least a hundred times a day to do just about anything from research, to shopping for food, clothes and cars, to buying a house to booking myself into dressage comps. When I look back at how I had to do research when I was a student, it was a case of spending days in the library, searching through dusty books and looking through microfiche (I actually look back at this through rose-tinted glasses and when I regale such tales to my nephew he looks at me as though I am at least one hundred years old). However, the reality was, it took a ‘while’ to find what you needed. Now, a few keywords later and hundreds of references are at my fingertips, so productivity is so much higher.
The downside of this instant encyclopaedia is the issue of misinformation; after all, anyone can put anything up there. And the other big problem is access. How many people actually have Internet at home or work that they can use – there is without doubt a digital divide in this country let alone the rest of the world. Communities have even resorted to building their own broadband networks due to the lack of investment from operators.
However, one thing that cannot be ignored is that the web really has become significant when it comes to news. Once a story is on the web, it’s out there. No taking it back. But will the web become nothing and everything, well only time will tell.
Ofcom recently opened up the application process to companies looking to run local TV in towns and cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.
Jeremy Hunt’s vision for hyper-local news reflects people’s desire to be connected and influence their community. For brands, it will offer a new opportunity to become embedded with local people. But why wait? People love brands they feel a connection with, feeling local can achieve this. Aside from the established media (such as BBC Radio Manchester that paints pictures in the minds of half the city’s population every week, or the iconic Granada Reports), a review of digital media for a local audience reveals new opportunities.
A new addition to the media scene is Manchester.TV, “the UK’s first totally independent Internet TV channel dedicated purely to one great UK city”. Founded by former Daily Mail journalist, James Black, starting next Tuesday (29 May) this site will feature a daily ‘90 second news’ video and a host of fascinating insights into the people and businesses of Manchester.
Talking to James, he has a clear vision for his fledgling site and is determined to focus on quality, champion uplifting local stories, whilst avoiding the many financial pitfalls of local media. Getting on board with this innovative site before its formal launch may offer great rewards down the line. TV over the internet means that such organisations are not burdened with a significant licence fee and will capitalise on the super fast broadband that will be available to everyone in Manchester by the end of 2013.
Like their national peers, local newspapers are seeing a decline in circulation figures. In the last six months of 2011 the Manchester Evening News lost 9.5% in sales year on year and the Liverpool Echo lost 6.5% (source: ABC). But this doesn’t mean the public has fallen out of love with their local news brand, they have simply changed the way they view it. Over the same six month period, the MEN’s website saw daily traffic increase by 26.1% and the Liverpool Echo’s website visitors rose by 11%. Yet despite this shift in media, the majority of stories sent to the MEN are not accompanied by a compelling video, video suggestion or photograph that can enhance their site. Thinking about the specific needs of the web editor will help increase your chances of coverage.
Social media has already made Jeremy Hunt’s term “hyper-local news” sound outdated. It enables people to follow news at a more granular level. Didsbury Life has 5,073 followers on twitter; over one third of local residents receive up-to-the-minute news and offers in their community. Aligning with the right communities or creating your own social channel offers brands the ability to bring out your personality, interact with your market – all good things to help people feel like they know you.
Writing in his regular Liverpool Post column, Phil Redmond said of Jeremy Hunt’s local TV framework: “It will create a platform and exhibition space for voices and social issues that do not get properly exposed or debated.” Depending on who wins each contract this may be the case. But looking at today’s local media landscape, I would say why wait – use the local channels already flourishing.
If there’s anything more likely to cause a skirmish in a PR office than the battle over the last bourbon biscuit, it’s got to be the age old debate of footloose PR babe versus working PR mum.
Can a working mother with all her juggling balls flying through the air, ever be as committed and available as the 20-something year old who has to fit in a few trips to the gym and a Sunday visit to the folks, but aside from that, can give freely of her time?
Eagle eyed readers will note that this debate is confined to the women in the office. For today I’m leaving aside the fact that few daddies in PR ever stumble across this discussion and also stepping over the issue of ‘PR – a female dominated industry?’ and sticking to the basics.
Yes, if you work full-time and have children, then the chances are you will spend your life with lists of lists and a nagging feeling that you may have forgotten something. But that’s true of any profession and I’m betting my last chocolate button that most mums are (whisper it) more effective than most of their childless colleagues, mainly because they have to be. There are only so many hours in the day so you have to make every single one count. Conference calls are an excellent time to catch up with your inbox backlog, meetings can nearly always be done in half the time and decisions are made quickly – the spirit of ‘just do it’ lives in the heart of most working mums.
Kids bring challenges: when they’re sick you balance your laptop on their sleeping bodies as you work from the sofa and your day doesn’t end in the pub with colleagues. But children bring a huge wealth and quality of experience to you and your job and boy, do they give you stamina.
Negotiating a £100K contract is a breeze after you’ve done the pocket money deal, there’s no conflict resolution training like refereeing the battle over the wii remote and if you want to talk multi-tasking, then talk to a working mum in December. Aside from the 24 people coming for Christmas lunch, the client bash that you can’t miss, there’s also the small matter of an angel costume (to be conjured out of thin air after even the 24 hour Asda has sold out), the nativity to attend and let’s not forget, the endless Christmas present buying.
So young things with no kids take note – you may be at your desk until 7pm working hard when we’ve dived out of the door to drive like a manic to make the after-school club curfew, but we know that sometimes you use that staying late time to chat to your friends on Facebook and anyway, if you’re very lucky, it could be you one day.
Embrace mummy power. It’s a quality that works just as brilliantly in the office as in the home. We don’t stress the small stuff and if pushed, we can usually rustle up a pretty good cake although as every working mum will tell you, shop-bought, roughed up around the edges does exactly the same job.
Bill Gates once said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”
That may seem a little extreme but the sentiment really is quite savvy.
In these austere times, many businesses are feeling the financial pinch as reports of quantitive easing and double-dips become the norm. Competition is fierce with only the strongest surviving in an extremely turbulent marketplace.
Unfortunately, all too often marketing and PR budgets are among the first to be cut in a knee-jerk attempt to save money and cut costs.
What is ironic, is that it is exactly these areas that, I think, companies should be investing money and effort into to differentiate their brand and give them the competitive advantage needed to survive in what is becoming an increasingly ‘me too’ market.
Managed properly and integrated, a strategic PR campaign can provide a cost-effective tool that can positively affect businesses when skies are grey. Effectively communicating with your target customers and keeping your firm in the public eye; commenting on the issues that matter, can help you stay ahead in a difficult climate.
PR is an investment that can deliver real benefit to the bottom line so whilst I I would certainly advocate Mr Gates’ philosophy, I probably wouldn’t want to bankrupt myself in the process! But then, who am I to disagree with Bill?
It was a dark, dreary November day when I received the news that I had successfully secured myself a place in the 2012 Paris Marathon. I was ecstatic (and a little terrified) to have the opportunity to run along the famous Champs Elysees and past the Eiffel Tower in my inaugural marathon. After the initial excitement my thoughts immediately turned to establishing an effective training plan that would enable me to successfully complete the 26.2 miles, in my desired time of three hours and 50 minutes.
I scoured my library of back and current copies of Runners World and Women’s Running and sought advice from (running) friends and websites. I started to lay the foundations, planning my training schedule, running regularly and researching foods and recovery techniques. Based on my research, I devised a 15 week schedule that involved training five to six days per week including three key elements, a tempo run, a speed session and a long run, working out the pace for each session.
From January 1st 2012 for 106 days I was consumed by the marathon. Every week I meticulously logged the miles completed and the pace they were run at as well as the food I consumed. I wanted to ensure that when I rocked up to the start line on Sunday 15th April that I had done all I could to prepare for the 26.2 miles that lay ahead of me in the best possible time.
Whilst undertaking the challenge I realised that my approach to planning and preparing for the marathon echoes the process of devising and implementing a communications campaign for both prospective and current clients. First of all you research the market, competitors, target audience(s) and using this intelligence devise a communications campaign that will meet the client’s objectives.
So how did I do? I crossed the line in 3 hours 50 minutes and 31 seconds. I was pleased but my first thought was I know I can do better and I will. Completing a marathon makes you feel like you can do anything and we all can. It also made me realise that if I continue to apply the same attitude to managing the PR for my clients as I do to my running then I know that I will succeed in making a positive contribution to their business.
Earlier this year, I travelled down to London to see some old friends from my first job in the world of PR. With our gossiping drawing to a close, the subject of work soon hit the agenda. I’d never told some of my former colleagues that I’d made the move back up North and it came as quite a shock when I explained that by ‘North’ I did mean north of Watford. Bemused and slightly appalled, one former colleague added: “I didn’t know they did PR north of Birmingham?” After I picked myself up from the floor, I quickly made a point of correcting him. This wasn’t the first time I’d encountered these issues, I was once asked whether Northern PR’s wrote their press releases differently. I don’t recall ever starting a press release with an “eee by gum”!
Now I know London is the home of the national press, the seat of political power and a cultural hub, but there is life outside of the M25. Over the last few years, the North West has seen an explosion in the media, creative and digital industries with the fantastic MediaCity playing host to some of the UK’s leading and pioneering media professionals. The BBC’s relocation up North is a great example of this. The move was greeted with much dismay in the capital but it presented the North West with an opportunity to cement its place as the ‘new London’, the second home of the UK media.
In the PR industry in particular, there was once a myth that only London agencies could successfully mount a national PR campaign, but there are a plethora of Northern agencies that can quite easily blow that myth out of the water including us at Bell Pottinger North. Today, geography needn’t be a barrier to PR perfection; believe it or not, we speak to national journalists every day, giving them national stories from a regional base.
Don’t just take my word for it; take a look at some of our work here http://www.bellpottingernorth.co.uk/case-studies/consumer/co-operative-energy/
It’s 21years today since I started this company. During those years we have seen off two recessions and the dot com crash. In parts of our business we have seen globalisation really take hold and have changed our offer fundamentally. Yet I am still passionate about the role of communications in making great businesses great.
In those 21 years and with a good dose of hindsight I could have predicted which client businesses would do well over the long term with just a quick look at their attitude to communication.
Those clients that talked to their employees, customers and partners with relish; listened and learned through what they heard are largely the ones that have succeeded. Those which we have had to cajole into communicating and for whom it appeared to be a marginally necessary evil are the ones that history has shown to have struggled.
Those that have talked consistently through upturns, downturns and various crises whether self inflicted or otherwise are the ones that have built respected, trusted brands within their chosen sector.
As we return to recession in the UK I see organisations once more disappearing under the nearest rock, cutting communications budgets and retreating into themselves.
History will be the judge, but these bad times will end and it is those organisations that seek to continue dialogue with all their key audiences that are the ones that will emerge the strongest.
It might just be the determining factor as to whether they emerge at all.
Hopes of maintaining a sophisticated air were dashed at the weekend as I settled down to three hours of comic capers at the Odeon, whooping and clapping with the best of them. Although ostensibly ‘passing time’ while waiting to give my other half a lift home, I donned a pair of 3D glasses and settled down with a giant coke and popcorn, and quickly became engrossed in the new Avengers movie.
For those who don’t know, Avengers Assemble takes heroes from a series of other Marvel comic movies and puts them together in one almighty super sequence. I’ve not actually seen most of the prequels (Hulk 1&2, IronMan 1&2, Thor, Captain America) but that wasn’t entirely necessary thanks to a fairly thin plot, a brilliantly funny script and action sequences that could have included any good guy / bad guy spat. The characters, with all their back stories and variety of superskills, combine to take on the dangerous ambitions of the ‘puny god’ Loki.
It’s a recognisable formula, the age old feel good scenario of putting characters with different skills and experiences together, to triumph for the greater good. In this respect, it’s not dissimilar to a communications campaign (my tongue may be firmly in my cheek, but you’ll have to give me this one as you are, after all, reading a PR blog). You’ve got the Hulk that is advertising – it might cost you but boy is it powerful – and the subtle insights of public affairs (ably demonstrated, for the purposes of this comparison, by Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow). The ‘get up and go’ of Captain America can be likened to that of your events manager, while the IronMan’s innovative, technical expertise, are what’s need from a social media specialist. The pinpoint accuracy of Hawkeye the archer is all you’d ask from a photographer and drawing it all together to protect the future of humanity (I’ve no doubt this is the first and last time I will ever use a sentence like this) is the PR professional that is Samuel L Jackson’s General Nick Fury.
Each of these characters can, on its own, carry a movie. Some will appeal to one type of viewer, others will be a hit with an entirely different group of people. Equally, each element of the communications mix can be useful in targeting a particular audience via a variety of channels. But, as with our superheroes, when an overall strategy has to be managed, more than one angle needs covering off, and reinforcement is required, bringing all the powers together can lift things to another dimension.
A comprehensive communications campaign, led by the public relations strategist, is the most effective way of meeting a client’s brief. Drawing on a multitude of different skills can be the best route to achieving the desired outcome, whether the challenge is saving the world or promoting a product. The modern communications professional is no longer simply a master of one talent, they can multi task and they’ll have a team of colleagues and partners who will come together to plan the battles and wage the war on your behalf. In the current climate, and with the way communications channels are changing, public relations professionals need to use all the weapons in the arsenal to make sure their client’s voice is heard. Clients too must pick their teams wisely and be prepared to consider new lines of attack to complement their media relations, be that digital and social media, hosting face-to-face events or incorporating targeted advertising, all aspects should be considered.
There may not be many lessons we can learn from a film about a bunch of fictional superheroes but, having thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I’ll certainly be keeping more of an open mind in future.