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With the media spotlight firmly on sport, Marie O’Connor (@MMOC) shares her views on our Olympic legacy…
I recently took part in the second of the four Sale Sizzle 5km series along with over 500 competitors. This follows me issuing a press release regarding the Thwaites netball team competing at the UK Corporate Games alongside 4,500 participants and ahead of the Pudsey 10km run which I took part in on Sunday. However, it would seem that we’re a minority of active people, with new research stating that 63% of Brits are not doing the recommended amount of physical exercise.
The Lancet Medical Journal has strategically published the results days before the greatest sporting event on earth. A very wise move indeed. It has made me think though, in a time where the media is firmly focused on building up to the London 2012 Olympics with numerous sport documentaries (Victoria Pendleton: Cycling’s Golden Girl, Can Anyone Beat Bolt?), what legacy will the games leave in terms of sporting participation amongst the likes of you and me?
As both a runner and hockey player (at grass roots level) I cannot express enough the benefits of participating in sport. From improving health and self-esteem to providing an active social scene, taking part in sport is extremely rewarding on so many levels.
So, I for one truly hope that following the London 2012 Olympics more people are inspired and encouraged to get involved in sport, not just because of the benefits highlighted above, but by each and every one of us participating in a sporting activity the Olympic legacy will most certainly live on and that’s most definitely something we should all be a part of.
Not sure where to start? Then check out the below:
Just over a week ago, dozens of coach passengers found themselves at the centre of a terror alert after a concerned passenger dialled 999 on their mobile because they had seen smoke coming from a fellow passenger’s bag.
17 police cars and vans, 13 fire engines, four ambulances and the military all descended on the southbound M6 Toll plaza in Staffordshire and after four long hours, the cause of the smoke was confirmed to be from an electronic cigarette.
The chaos left thousands of motorists delayed and the motorway closed for more than six hours before police finally revealed the cause of the alert – an electronic cigarette.
This made me wonder….is any press exposure good press exposure? The whole incident was played out minute by minute on all major news channels and the following day the story dominated the headlines in the national press.
Although the authorities have since faced allegations of ‘gross over-action’, the driver of the Megabus en route from Preston to London has been praised for his professionalism and calm manner. Furthermore, more has been written about electronic cigarettes and how they work over the past week than when they first came onto the market.
The measure of a successful PR campaign is if the right messages are being reiterated about your client by the right people and at the right time. However, no matter how excellent a PR campaign may be, the reality is that there are some incidents like the Megabus story, which can’t be controlled or predicted.
In the event of an incident of this scale, all any PR professional worth their salt can do is to advise his or her client to stay calm, be proactive and available for interview and handle the incident with the care, compassion and control it deserves. In fact, it is during major incidents like this one, where a company is suddenly propelled into the media spotlight, where sound PR support can make all the difference.
Not all PR is good PR. Some stories can bring a company crashing to its knees. What is important to remember though, is that the hallmark of a great company is not whether it is or isn’t ever involved in stories like this one, but how it behaves and reacts if it is.
Kevin Murray, Chairman of the Good Relations Group recently published an article on how stories can make leaders more inspiring. We thought you would enjoy a short extract…
Storytelling in business is going through a renaissance and rightly so. Stories are indispensable to giving leaders in business the ‘emotional edge’ that leads to real competitive advantage. Stories have a powerful ability to hook the imagination and the versatility to fulfil varying needs at different times.
So will any story do? Absolutely not. To be effective, stories in business must have a defined business purpose. The purpose of story-telling in business is to change behaviours and achieve results.
To make sure you harness the power of storytelling, here are ten rules of great story-tellling:
1. Start with the audience in mind. What do you want them to do? Consider the takeout rather than the key message – think carefully about ‘What’s in it for them?’ What would you like them to be saying as a result of hearing your story?
2. Look for stories that drive home your points. Make sure they are active and about doing things.
3. There must be a turning point or resolution and an underlying theme or message that encourages us to change and say ‘yes’.
4. Be authentic – only use stories that bond to your deeply held values which overlap with those of your organisation.
5. Listen for stories everywhere and jot them down for later use.
6. Develop a strong point of view – be certain about what you truly believe and where you can be an exemplar.
7. Think about the story the situation demands – is it a ‘future,’ ‘customer’ or ‘values’ story?
8. Your stories must be short – no more than a minute – vivid, with strong characters and a protagonist to care about.
9. Use stories to make heroes of your people.
10. Never use a story you don’t love.
To receive the full copy of Kevin’s article, or to let us find your stories, get in touch!
Christopher Satterthwaite, Chief Executive of Chime Communications plc on how to build trusted communications…
Before reading this, please do me a favour. Think about the last three memorable purchases you’ve made: (in my case a holiday, an iPhone 4s and a fridge) and then ask yourself in each case – who or what influenced your purchase?
For me it goes like this. Holiday to Ibiza – Martin and Sophie. iPhone – my sons and Terry at Teamspirit (avid reader of MacUser). Fridge – Froogle, close friend of Google.
Now ask yourself, who do you trust? To which I answer based on the evidence above, -myself, my family, close friends, well known editorial sources and organisations I feel I know e.g. Froogle / Google.
The issue of “trusted communication” be it from brands, government or individuals is the central issue facing anyone with a message, nowadays.
Advertising and modern communication thinking were founded in an era when people generally trusted what they were told. They deferred to the teller. “Preparedness to defer” has been replaced in our minds by “preparedness to refer” i.e. confronted by information, a proposition or most of all persuasion, our first instinct is to ‘check-out’ the message with other trusted sources. At Chime, we captioned this change as the transition from “The Age of Deference, to the Age of Reference.”
Target audiences, ‘preparedness to refer’ is changing the communications model and should be changing the way companies invest their marketing communication spend.
Take the Automotive Sector. Our research of what influences consumer selection can be mapped against LBS / Marketing Expenditure trends to demonstrate considerable “credibility gaps.” Advertising is over spent by more than x2. Sales promotion, about right. Brand / PR / Sponsorship (a category including social, media and third party influences), is underspent by x3, likewise interactive. Finally, our research would suggest a large slice should be dedicated to improving the overall customer experience.
If you look at packaged goods, one sees too much expenditure on Awareness: not enough on point of purchase.
In Financial Services spend on intermediaries and public relations is woefully out of kilter with expenditure on Awareness.
These analyses of spend / influence suggest a number of conclusions.
Our view is that, money is being spent in the wrong places. The reason for this is that the ‘Awareness Model’ of communication which underpins most of marcoms thinking and training, has not been reformed to include “Influence”. Awareness alone does not work in the age of reference. ‘Preparedness to refer” rather than “Preparedness to defer” means influence has to be treated with equal importance.
Furthermore, customer experience of brands is not being developed in a trustworthy way. It’s not that we don’t trust anymore. It’s that we trust differently and to be a trusted communicator, you need to consider the following:
Involve target audiences and stakeholders so that people gain personal experience. We generally trust ourselves. Be open and transparent. And, understand that people turn to people they know or people they feel they know, so in your communications factor in the personal networks people rely on. ‘Social Search Engines’ are as powerful as web based search engines and in social web based network engines like ‘Trip Advisor’, you of course have both operating together.
In our minds “trusted communication” is based on building outstanding customer experiences and then building communications plans that involve trusted social, media and web based networks. If this is the case, why does the industry continue to invest in an Awareness led model of communication and whose fault is it?
Our view is that there is a passive conspiracy. No single vested interest is at fault – we’re all contributing. Creative agencies are not at fault because competitive advertising gives the basis on which customers will ‘refer’ to trusted sources be they social, media or web based; however, creative agencies could be less ad centric and appreciate that more money spent on ‘reference’ points through public relations would pay client dividends. Media agencies are not at fault as they pursue ‘media neutral planning’; but if the ad is good enough to prompt response or talking points, can anyone explain to me the point of a frequency tail in media plans? DM & SP Agencies have been demanding a re-appraisal of media spend for as long as I can remember; but their attitude has been too megalomaniac to be believable. Public Relations agencies have a deep understanding of the power of third party endorsement and referral; but they haven’t proposed a serious alternative to the awareness based model of communication that remains in place. Finally, clients have been demanding innovation and new thinking; but too often clients impose budget profiles based on LY and the previous LY which make a new approach mighty difficult. And they insist on departmental management and budgeting that makes a new ‘reference’ model a nightmare: how can public relations, advertising and research be kept so separate in a customer led business?
In conclusion, an understanding that people have a ‘preparedness to refer’ when confronted by communication, changes the marcoms investment map. ‘Influence’ should become an equal partner with ‘awareness’ because influence is communication through trusted third parties, to whom we all “refer” in the Age of Reference. Thank you Martin, Sophie, Terry, Jamie, Henry and Froogle. And of course, me.
Christopher Satterthwaite, Chief Executive of Chime Communications plc recalls his involvement in a memorable cause related marketing campaign…
In 1991 I worked for a sales promotion company and we discovered something called, ‘cause related marketing’. Texaco tasked us to find a cause about which their customers cared and to which they could make a significant contribution. We researched various issues, but the one which resonated with customers was road safety. Texaco had over 2,000 service stations in those days and the fact that road accidents took place in the proximity of their stations seemed to make it relevant to customers that perhaps Texaco could do something to help.
The late and much missed Richard Little, who was then Manager of Advertising and Promotion, was very taken by the research and suggested that if we were going to do something with road safety, we should do it properly or not at all. This led to the birth of a television campaign under the slogan, ‘Children should be seen and not hurt’, which raised the issue of child road safety with all drivers and invited them to Texaco stations to receive reflective stickers to give to children up and down the country. We gave away 10 million stickers, enough for all the children in the UK, and the campaign cost around £6,000,000 per annum.
The results of the campaign were extraordinary. Texaco’s corporate reputation scores improved dramatically. There was an increase in sales during the period child road safety was promoted. Most of all, I remember a senior civil servant addressing the Texaco sales force with the following words, “During the period of your campaign, the Department of Transport spent £1,000,000 on child safety road campaigns. You spent £6,000,000.
When we look at the incidence of child fatalities during the period of both campaigns across a three-month period, we can see that 20 less children were killed on the roads than in the previous year. I can’t promise you that all of those saved lives were completely down to your campaign, but what I can tell you is, that my judgement is that your campaign saved the lives of the majority of those 20 children.”
It was a very measured and effective way of expressing the impact of the campaign and you could have heard a pin drop in what was generally a fairly vocal audience. As the sales force and employees left the conference hall, they walked a bit taller. They started telling stories of the impact they knew the campaign had in relation to each of their sales patches. Many of them had undertaken school visits with people from ROSPA and built local relationships between Texaco and schools in the neighbourhood.
There is a sad aside to this story, which I always think is completely my fault. Next year, a new chief executive arrived at Texaco and we explained how successful the campaign had been and he asked me in that case how long should they run it for? Rather flippantly, I replied, “For a minimum of 25 years Sir.” It was the wrong answer and the programme dwindled away. However, great thinking does endure, as last year Texaco revived their commitment to road safety, with a brilliant new campaign.
Since 1991, the corporate responsibility agenda has clearly become both deeper and wider. Single issue promotion that is not backed up by an organisation that understands its overall responsibilities to its shareholders, its staff, its customers and the broader community would not be a credible positioning. However, I think there is still a lot to learn from the Texaco example and in many ways I don’t think there is a better creative example of cause related marketing since 1991. This makes me wonder if in furthering the corporate responsibility agenda and providing a degree of professionalism in its delivery, corporate responsibility has lost some of its competitive capability?
In his book, ‘The Living Company’, Arie de Geus proposed that there are four main reasons why companies survive. They are open to the outside world; they have a cohesive identity, they are tolerant and they are careful with their money.
Since 1991 the social agenda has developed considerably and any business that is not ‘open to the outside world’, is not just insulated from reality, but is also endangering its existence – according to Arie. As our consumer society has developed into the new millennium, there is increasing evidence that consumers are concerned about the consequences of their consumption. If Texaco could marshal a £6,000,000 budget behind their road safety corporate campaign in 1991, why is it that more companies have not made corporate responsibility an overt part of their competitive advantage?
I think there are two main reasons:
Firstly, not enough people understand that if your company or brand is not in tune with the social issues of the time, then you’re actually endangering the survival of your business. There is both a threat and an opportunity. Ignore the social issues of the time; cocoon yourself away from social developments and your business will choke on its own ashes. Embrace the social issues of the day, do your bit, communicate your role in doing so and you can attain a fair portion of competitive advantage in the hearts and minds of your customers.
Secondly, I think the corporate responsibility sector has become more professional and in doing so, perhaps more risk averse. Quite rightly, supply chains are scrutinised; labour rates benchmarked; carbon intensity measured; but no organisation is ever 100% perfect – and none will ever be so.
Now that corporate responsibility is a professional business discipline, my plea would be to rediscover some of the creativity first seen in those far off days of cause related marketing. Consumers and stakeholders don’t expect companies to be perfect, just as none of us expect our friends to be perfect.
‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’, sings Leonard Cohen. Cracks of light are illuminating and my hope is that the light of creativity may shine again on corporate responsibility adopted by companies as brilliantly when Texaco proposed that, ‘children should be seen and not hurt’.
Our parent company, Chime Communications, recently disposed of a number of PR agencies and formed a new Public Relations Division, the Good Relations Group.
We are the North of England team within the Good Relations Group. With over 60 consultants in offices across Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, we are the biggest PR agency in the North of England.
To reflect being part of the newly formed Good Relations Group, we have changed our name from Bell Pottinger North to Good Relations North.
Our commitment to client reputations is as resolute as ever. Our skills and creative expertise help companies to engage and win advocacy to achieve trusted relationships. As everybody knows, it is only by forming trusted relationships with customers, staff and stakeholders can companies thrive and achieve success. Trusted and admired brands are the engines of success.
The new group has been formed to build upon this.
To find out more, or to discuss how we can help you, please get in touch.
Chris Warham, Managing Director, Good Relations North
The Diamond Jubilee, The Olympic Torch Relay, Euro 2012 and the London Olympics, just a handful of events that seem to have whipped up a frenzy of patriotism in recent weeks. With the bunting and union jacks now a permanent fixture in communities up and down the country, brand Britain hasn’t been so in vogue since the days of ‘Cool Britannia’.
Keen to not miss the boat, some of the UK’s favourite consumer brands have ridden this wave of patriotism with specific marketing campaigns to exploit the swell of Britishness. Hovis, Heinz, Mcvitie’s and Schweppes are just a few brands who have celebrated the national spirit with new flavours, packaging and advertising campaigns.
However, it’s not just in the UK where the British brand is riding high. Consumer research by Deloitte found that the Olympic effect was also benefiting the UK’s tourism industry internationally. 63% of Chinese and 60% of Indian consumers interviewed said they would like to buy UK products, a further three quarters of those surveyed said they wanted to learn more about the UK as a result of the London Olympics.
With the eyes of the world focused on the UK this year, many companies will want to share in the sentiment. Of course aligning your brand with all things British can have significant PR benefits but it also comes with a word of caution. Simply jumping on the bandwagon for the Olympics can feel shallow very quickly, if you make your brand very ‘of the moment’, in six months time it can seem rather superficial if you’ve simply packed away the bunting until the mood takes you again.
I’ve been asked to write a blog entry. I’ve got nothing of any importance to say and, worse of all, nothing that anyone should waste their time reading. But as we have a blog it needs to be kept up to date, and in the absence of anything worth reading, with utter drivel.
And that says everything about the digital age. The cost barriers to becoming a publisher in the digital age are next to nothing, and so any wannabe journalist can tap away on their keyboards.
Does anyone read the nonsense that most of them churn out? Does anyone care what people say on their blog? In most cases, the answer is almost certainly no.
But occasionally, one of those wannabe journalist’s followers could be a real journalist – one who writes for an influential trade website or, perhaps, a national newspaper.
And there are cases when major national stories that have been damning of a company or product have started from a blog written on a kitchen computer.
The threat that this poses means that those of us in the communications industry need to be aware of these new digital threats to an organisation’s reputation and put in place strategies to ensure that online content is monitored and issues dealt with before they can escalate.
With the numbers of people posting content soaring, it’s clear that monitoring and responding to bloggers can be a burden for any organisation, but can such reputational threats be buried under the carpet?
Online should be treated like any other channel of communication. The first step to addressing the challenge is to identify which bloggers carry influence. Fortunately, there are tools and people to help.
The Mail on Sunday recently reported that the Post Office is to cut queues by installing ‘tap and go’ payment systems in all its 11,500 branches by the end of the year. While this initiative is no great surprise given the long lines of people one almost always faces at the Post Office, it does make you wonder if we are heading towards a service industry where there will be little to no human interaction at all.
Already gone are the days where you check in with the receptionist at the surgery on arriving for your doctor’s appointment. Instead, you face the challenge of fathoming the computerised check-in kiosks (which when you are feeling under the weather is no mean feat!). In fact, it is possible these days to do almost anything without actually speaking to a person whether it is checking in for a flight, cashing in a cheque or buying cinema tickets.
While this is all very well and good in some respects – being able to pay for your petrol at the pump or book train tickets online can be a great way of saving time and money – it does seem sad that these days we are having less and less human interaction.
Nowadays good customer service is less about a friendly chit chat with the nice lady scanning your groceries but more about efficiency. Consumers are not prepared to wait in a long queue or jump through endless hurdles to get what they want. They want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Ironically, staff are often needed to man self-service machinery as at times it can prove a challenge to operate – we have all been faced with the annoying ‘unexpected item in bagging area’ announcement when self-scanning at the supermarket!
The reality is that this type of technology is here to stay and set to grow. While companies and organisations will continue to employ people to man checkouts, Post Office kiosks and reception desks, they will also continue to look at ways of simplifying the service process, which will inevitably involve the use of technology. The onus is on us to ensure that good customer service continues to have a human element where possible, after all, however clever self service machinery is, the one thing it can’t provide consumers with is a service with a smile!
Many moons ago I started my career in publishing as a sub-editor on a range of trade titles until eventually reaching the giddy heights of editor.
Working in publishing, it is not uncommon to have quite a tarnished view of PRs. I often felt they were stalking me to check I’d received a press release and they frequently seemed unable to fulfil some fairly basic requests – was it really that difficult to get me a high resolution version of the picture I needed for my 12pm deadline?
Then a strange thing happened. I crossed over to the dark side and got myself a job in PR. Lured away from publishing by the expectations of cocktails after work and days spent on photo shoots with celebrities, I began my new job expecting life to take a far more glamorous turn.
However, those expectations were fairly short-lived and my impression of life as a PR very quickly changed. Far from the fluffy PR bunny image, PR consultants need to have many strings to their bow and frequently juggle the demands of many clients.
Now many years in, I do of course realise that those preconceptions I had as an editor were completely inaccurate. The reason I received so many calls from PRs on a daily basis is because they’re under immense pressure to achieve coverage for their clients. Why didn’t I get the images I so desperately needed? It wasn’t for want of trying; their client was unable to grasp the importance of my deadline and resolution requirements.
PR consultants need to be jack of all trades: able to create compelling, engaging and of course grammatically accurate copy at a moments notice; secure a slot for their client on the BBC Breakfast sofa and deliver sparkling PR campaigns on an often tiny budget.
So, far from mingling with celebrities and enjoying cocktails way into the early hours, PRs can mostly be found shackled to their desks trying to meet a tight deadline or on the phone negotiating a feature opportunity with an editor.
Now, if anyone reading this is aware of any careers where the main pre-requisites for the job are mingling with celebs and drinking Cosmopolitans please let me know – I’ll be brilliant at it.