Artisan Marketing Communications offers clients PR and marketing communications advice, practical support and implementation.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Getting the most out of your PR agency - with just a little more effort.

If you treat your marketing or PR agency as simply a supplier they will loose motivation. Your work will be undertaken, professionally perhaps, but it will be just a job to the agency staff.

Treat your agency with respect and interest and they will give you their best.

Agency staff are human. They also have to juggle a multitude of projects from a number of clients at any one time. Companies that treat their agency staff as a welcome extension of their company will receive that little bit extra of effort from their agency, irrespective of whether they are stretched or not.

It takes very little to get the best from an agency providing you have chosen the right one for you. The following, easy to do tips, will take up no more budget. A little time and a positive approach could transform your marketing and online output. The bottom line is that it will produce better results.

10 agency handling tips to improve your results:

Meet your agency team regularly to an agreed timetable

Work through problems – when difficulties arise work with the agency to overcome them: consultation not confrontation

Make briefs as simple and clear as possible – take the time to convey exactly what you want to achieve: it will save time later if the agency understand your aims from the start

Listen to your agency – you pay them for their guidance and advice

Be open and realistic in your interaction

Take an interest in the agency’s work – many companies surprisingly pay for a service and then place it at the bottom of their priorities

Convey enthusiasm in your company and want it wants to achieve – if you are not enthusiastic how will your agency be?

Return e-mails and calls – constant chasing to get a sign off or flag up an opportunity is not an effective use of the agency’s time

Praise good work and results – agency teams are human as well and a little appreciation goes a long way

Payment – late payment or fear of not being paid dampens enthusiasm very quickly; many agencies are perceived as rich but margins can be thinner than clients appreciate

Monday, February 26, 2007

Choosing your PR agency tips

I occasionally read pieces in magazines on how to choose a PR or marketing agency.

All too often they offer some insight followed by a call to action that gives you the answer you suspect all along: choose the author's agency. It's as simple as 2 + 2.

Some companies select an agency based on recommendation or previous experience. Both very good ways to start a search to find the right supplier.

However, many enterprises do not have the benefit of their own or a trusted opinion's experience to make a choice that can be crucial to the success of the company, let alone a marketing campaign.

With no advice to resort to it is easy to use the Internet, a directory or a vague recall of an agency's name.

Within an hour's drive of my home town, Manchester, there must be at least 50 PR agencies. There maybe 100 or more. And if you include freelancers....

And then there are the full service marketing agencies as well.

I am not sure on exact figures as you can see. But the fact is there is so much choice any company would be a little perplexed when confronted, for the first time, with the problem of finding who's right for them.

Here are 10 tips on finding the right PR agency:

Shop around - do not choose the first agency you see, even if you believe they are the right agency. Get a feel of the market and if the first agency is the right supplier, at least you go into the relationship better informed.

Bigger is not always better - it can be as they might have particular expertise not found in a smaller agency. But it could be that a smaller agency has plenty of experience in your sector as well. There are lots of pros and cons - judge on the benefits, not size.

A rule of thumb is look at their client lists and see if you fit their portfolio in terms of size and prestige. You do not want to be their smallest client as there is the possibility that you will be of less importance to them.

Personal rapport - it is essential you get on with your agency's staff.

Enthusiasm - how keen are the agency to work with you? Even if they have the expertise and skills you want, it will only be to your benefit if they are motivated and really want to work with you. It is a two way process.

Will the director work on your account? - Director level staff often pitch for your business. You might be impressed by their knowledge and develop a rapport. But will they work on your account if you work with their agency? Often not. Make sure you have assurances if you are keen that they do.

Industry experience - Does your agency have knowledge of your industry? Does it have the necessary contacts? It is not always essential they do. But it can cut down the time it takes to get results.

First experiences - If your agency treats you with respect and acts professionally on your initial encounters then this is a likely sign of how they will act when hired. If the first contacts are negative take this as a warning sign and look at other agencies.

Client references - Most agencies will oblige with references and you should ask especially for ones in your sector.

What does your PR agency do? - Some PR agencies are strong in media relations others in exhibitions, some in both. Check that their expertise is in the area you want to achieve results in.

Take your time - Still not sure? Do not rush in or be hurried into a decision. Take as much time as you need to choose the right PR agency.

And the directory reference from an earlier entry? Well, I have a client who wins a lot of business after being spotted in Yellow Pages and delivers a quality service. There are exceptions to the rules.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

100 greatest Mancunians

I was in the offices of the Liverpool Daily Post on Friday. Inside the foyer there is an exhibition called 100 Heads by Liverpool artist Anthony Brown.

The exhibition of the city's personalities has been conveyed in a unique way - pictures, words and other important mementos and references to each of the subject's portraits makes up the picture. The multi-layered approach is quite striking as you can see through the painted portrait to the references.

The selection of the 100 heads has some omissions based on popularity or notoriety: Paul McCartney being one. But focuses on contributions and passion for the city.

Who would the top living 100 heads be for Manchester?

Well a start could feature these 20 that are listed:

Colin Bell - Manchester City legend and charity worker
Tony Wilson - media personality and founder of Factory Records
Bez - Happy Mondays
Pete Postlethwaite - actor
Steve Smith - former England rugby union captain and joint owner of Cotton Traders
Mani - bass player for the Stones Roses
Pete Shelley - Buzzcocks
Morrissey - The Smiths
Andrew Flintoff - cricketer
John Thomson - actor
Sir Cyril Smith - former Liberal MP
Mike Doyle - Manchester City legend
Peter Hook - bass player for New Order
Yeung brothers - owners of the Yang Sing restaurant
Mark E Smith - lead singer of The Fall
Howard Jacobson - Jewish writer
Sir Norman Foster - architect
Terry Christian - DJ and television personality
Steve Coogan - comedian
Ricky Hatton - undefeated welterweight boxer

Is it close to your list of living Mancunians that refelect the city?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Marketing is all about relationships

Today I got a call from India; he found my number on a directory. The caller asked me did I have a mobile. I said "yes" and that I was not interested.

The other day I was in Manchester City Centre, on Market Street, and there were a couple of young men asking shoppers if they had had an accident with a view to legal action. They looked disinterested and they puffed on their cigarettes while they regrouped after a series of rebuttals. Not a reassuring image.

What is the link?

In both cases they are unsolicited and cold approaches for business. We buy, surely, when we like and trust the supplier.

I have, since I first acquired a mobile some 10 years ago, only bought through Carphone Warehouse because of their excellent service and advice. Was a cold call going to break that relationship? No.

In the case of a personal injury I would go first to lawyer my family have known for many years. Would I trust a company that is so cheap as to use minimum wage sales on Market Street? Would I break an association going back 50 years or more? No.

Marketing needs to make your potential client aware of you, then like you and then trust you. It still amazes me these lessons have not been learnt. Some companies persist with direct marketing that is not targeted on the premise that mud against a wall sticks. Let them have their mud, I am sure they do not mind dealing with unqualified and in many cases unprofitable leads.

Surely new marketing techniques such as blogging as well as older ones such as PR and networking must be the way forward as more and more people buy on relationships.

There is still a place for direct marketing, but only if it done well.

As for directories I am having my doubts but there is a case for them as I will discuss on the next entry.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

An introduction to feelance writing

Matthew Stibbe has written a very good introduction to approaching freelance writing.

Matthew advises, amongst many insightful tips, that it is imperative to read lots, write lots and although a little unglamorous be organised.

Thanks to master blogger Craig McGinty for his link, which helped me find Matthew's site.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Manchester buys four islands in virtual game Second Life

Manchester is in the process of creating a virtual version of itself in the online world of Second Life as reported in The Manchester Evening News this Saturday.

The popular virtual game has nearly 4 million members and an active population in the thousands.

The MEN states that the aim of this latest initiative is to "promote the Manchester brand and raise awareness of the city in the real world." Four islands have been bought jointly by Urbis, MDDA and agency Clicks and Links, which will allow Second Lifers to wander around streets and buildings, visit events and talk to real Mancunians.

So I might see you at the Linden art gallery (pictured) for the exhibition on Manchester. Well probably not I am too preoccupied in this life.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is there no such thing as bad publicity?

I often hear this but it is far from a watertight statement. Ask Vladimir Romanov.

The Lithuanian / Russian has an uncanny knack of seeking the spotlight by alienating all those around him including his own players at Heart of Midlothian and the Scottish players' union. (Picture of Hearts fans marching in protest through Edinburgh).

Mr Romanov's entry on Wikipedia has an interjection offered by a kindly Hearts fan on his unorthodox management technique. The quote manages to encompasses two four letter expletives and strongly requests Mr Romanov to go back home all in one sentence - quite impressive.

The Hearts owner has managed once more to upset the Scottish football fraternity by stating that Rangers and Celtic bribe referees, are underhand and could be beaten by his other club , the mighty FC Kaunas.

Some people grow by generating brilliant PR, other die by poor PR being written against them and some decide they are going to damage themselves for a chance to be in the spotlight.

The Romanov dynasty, no relations, which ruled Russia was excellent at inflicting damage on itself as well.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Microsoft Vista divides the industry

Microsoft's new operating system Vista is upon us and PushON has taken the opportunity to assess this latest system, which has been in development for five years.

The initial view is positive in terms of interface, usability and new features.

Will it be shared? Not likely, it seems that Microsoft continue to divide opinions.

For more information click here

Thornton's MySpace hell or something like that

My thanks to Phil Birchenall from Creative Industries for alerting me to this beauty that he saw in NW Business Insider.

It happened before new year but it is worth a look if you do not know the story and gives another small insight into the power of social media and brand reputation.

A 20 year old university student, Steve Beall, was sent from his home town in the North East to go to Barrow to run the local Thorntons. The day before the launch day the shop was burgled and the shop window smashed.

Living in a Travel Lodge, bored and lonely and stressed out from shoplifters he wrote on his MySpace blog that the town was a "shithole." Nothing wrong there many might think. I do not know Barrow so you might say that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

However it was picked up by the local paper the North West Evening Mail, apparently through a Google alert. The story wasn't a brief mention but a sizable piece of outrage and indignation against the scandalous remarks.

The reaction was such that locals went in droves to complain about his comments at the shop, so much so that the police were called in. Steve Beall laid low in his hotel and despite a recant he lost his job; with Thorntons offering free chocolates to angry customers the PR crisis was narrowly averted.

I have to agree with Stephen Newton's comments that the editor was at fault for his "lack of proportion" and "immaturity" at publishing a minor piece and blowing it up so someone lost his living and the police needed to be called in because of the reaction to a personal and in many ways a private thought or restricted thought.

It all shows that a small story on a blog can be picked up to become something bigger and how the reputation battle will be fought online and in the print media.

Anyway I leave it to a quote on the North West Evening Mail website (under the story itself) to end this entry:

"Leave the poor lad alone, he's young, away from home and entitled to an opinion. Plus, anyone who's ever been to Barrow knows it is a s**thole."

RHR Manchester

Dreamscape Solutions is recruiting

is continuing its recruitment drive thanks to prestigious wins that include the Liverpool International Tennis Tournament and Amec NNC.

To facilitate the growth further the creative digital media company is actively looking to recruit an experienced account manager for its Manchester office.

Dreamscape Solutions has already recruited three new members of staff in as many months.

To find out more details about the position and Dreamscape Solutions please click here.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Goodfellas changes the rules of journalism

Belfast restaurant Goodfellas is re-writing the rules about whether journalists can voice their opinions freely.

When Irish News journalist Caroline Workman criticised the pizzeria giving it a paltry 1 out of 5 and commenting that its staff were unhelpful and the chicken marsala was "so sweet as to be inedible" the owner decided to take legal action over "the hatchet job" of the reviewer.

Goodfellas won and was awarded £25,000 over the review last week, which was originally published in 2000.

The Irish News commented: "The outcome of the case raises profound questions involving the freedom of the press." The National Union of Journalists described the verdict as "disturbing" according to the Guardian.

So where does it leave the boundaries between being able to voice an opinion and writing defamatory comments?

We must all hope the Irish News wins on appeal.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Apple tries to take a bite out of the PC market

Anyone who has been on the Internet recently must have seen the new Webb and Mitchell fronted Apple Mac advert.

The idea, replicated in Japanese and US versions (or should I say our replicated version), pits Apple Macs in the guise of comedian David Mitchell against Macs personified by Robert Webb.

The advert shows cool Mac being used for fun while the PC is for dull things: nobody works on a Mac and no one play games on a PC. Really?

I think Charlie Brooker of the Guardian might have a point with his view that "the only way to have fun with a Mac is to poke its insufferable owner in the eye."

The advert is less than convincing, especially the assertion that Macs are virus free. Viruses are supposedly confined to PCs! No they are not - they are conducted through the software not the operating system, and the software can be run on either. Have a look at the Mac virus attacks ad here.

The BBC does quite a good appraisal pointing out Apple have used Mitchell and Webb because of their popularity from The Peep Show. Yet, as they further point out David Mitchell (PC) was the likable and underachieving character and Robert Webb (Mac) was the sleazy dishonest character from the sitcom. The BBC says that Apple are trying to have it both ways. Charlie Brooker in his Guardian article sums up, "PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers." Is the Guardian allowed to use such language?

I will leave the conclusion to this discussion to the Letterman show and YouTube.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Manchester second rate - by Birmingham PR!

Birmingham based PR outfit Groves Media has claimed on their blog that their city does not want to be seen as the second city of the UK!

That would equate to being second rate and Birmingham should not be seen as such. Why fight over the crumbs when London is the top city? To do so would, it seems, be purile in their opinion; let Manchester fight for that meaningless title.

Strangely, Groves comments section is now closed although this is true for many of their other entries. Is that second rate for a blog?

I hasten to write that the link to the Birmingham Post piece that triggered the non-story story is incorrect on the Groves blog. (Links do not have brackets). The link for my first rate readers can be found by clicking here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Toby Harnden entry features in South Manchester Reporter

The South Manchester Reporter has picked up on the recent entry about Toby Harnden, which featured on the Artisan blog on the 31st January, in this week's edition of the newspaper.

The piece shows the real power of blogging and the changing balance of the media - small PR outfit interacting with senior US journalist for The Telegraph about a damaging piece written in the Guardian about him.

I would like to thank everyone who left a comment or linked or tagged the piece. Toby was given a rough deal that could have ended his career and perhaps we can redress, even if it is slightly, the hollow accusations and tarnishing of his credibility and integrity that he has faced.

If you want to read the story again or are a South Manchester Reporter reader and wish to read in full the original piece please scroll down. The newspaper piece begins to unravel the story near its end and so a cursory glance can make it look as though Toby was in the wrong. He is not. It is the bloggers who left personal attacks and newspapers that did not check out their story. Please read the entry here for the complete picture.

The Internet can be a difficult place to police and this includes blogs - maybe that is the story.

Comments and any tagging or linking is welcome. Let's see if we can get the truth of the story out online.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tenders for sale

From time to time it is tempting to look at a tender and think of whether it is worth having a go.

Jim Symcox, a Manchester based marketing consultant, tackles the subject on his blog. He points out that it is not completely the quality of the tender document that is key in many cases, but whether the company wants to do business with you. This could be based on location, rapport with sales team, on-going relationship or another reason.

So is it worth spending so much time on what can be lengthy and ultimately futile process?

If the organisation offering the tender is fair, it could be; it depends on your offering against the competitions and how well you meet the criteria of the brief.

If not, build that rapport or develop that relationship.

But how do you know who is fair and who is not? You don't generally - that is why so few companies make tenders the main aspect of their new business development.

The death of daily newspapers has been greatly exagerated

With so many newspapers giving away free copies in the city centre, the Manchester Evening News and Liverpool Daily Post among them, and the redundancies that have affected the industry it has been an accepted conclusion that dailies are in decline.

The World Association of Newspapers claims that this assertion is wrong as quoted by the Press Gazette. The real picture is quite the reverse:

The number of dailies has risen above 10,000

2 million people are employed worldwide by dailies

European circulation has risen for the past 5 years

The newspaper industry is worth $180 billion worldwide

Do the dailies and Internet complement each other or is the Internet squeezing the newspapers? It is an interesting point and one that will divide opinion.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

An insight into the world of Westminster politics and PR - are you sure BBC?

I am waiting with anticipation for Wednesday's Party Animals - a drama that presents the world of lobbying in Westminster in its true light.

Broadcast for the first time last week, it follows the lives and careers of twenty something researchers and assistants in the corridors of power. It sounds like another This Life - not a bad thing in itself.

So is it really a drama about dysfunctional young professionals trying to get on with a career and relationships or a real look at the pursuit of power?

I have seen MPs who claim it is very real being interviewed on TV, but many people fail to be convinced - just one example here.

I missed the first episode but I hope to find out a little about how to get Artisan into political PR....I think your right, stick to what you know best.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ronaldo: a fantastic insidious PR campaign

Anyone that picked up Thursday's Manchester Evening News might have thought Ronaldo was a lead story because of the continued speculation about a move to Real Madrid.

No, you couldn't have been more wrong.

Ronaldo merited a lead story and a sizable following piece because he had parked his car across two spaces at the training ground. When asked to park it up more carefully he acquiesced to a steward's request.

Ace Ronaldo - what a guy!

But why was such a no story a story?

Well, when Ronaldo decided to help get his club colleague Wayne Rooney sent off he rightly brought a lot of criticism on himself. He wanted to leave his club because of the perceived lack of support from Alex Ferguson and the abuse he was sure to get.

Yet, the situation from outcast to best player in the league, if not the world, is the new norm; the World Cup is forgotten.

How has this happened?

Ronaldo has played well, very well.

And his PR has been superb.

Instead of a major campaign after the World Cup, the PR team has slowly but surely, and extremely regularly, filtered through positive stories such as his desire to win trophies with Manchester United to show his commitment.

You might be aware of his team mates awe of him being regular news - that's the ability and team contribution part. The latest story, whether fixed or not, shows he is a real nice guy - that's the image part.

So another story of Ronaldo saving a cat in a tree or a snap of him helping an elderly dear across the road organised by the PR team - you bet.