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

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rather have a McJob than a Dominos one - PR disaster looms and it looks deserved

Dominos, that friendly global corporate giant that ensures that you never go hungry, when incapacitated to make yourself something after a drink, has got it itself on the edge of a PR disaster and it looks as though they will fall in a deep PR hole.

Domino has been accused by Eastern European workers of exploitative practice. Newsnight allowed both sides their chance to air views and I was much more impressed by the employees arguments. There were also UK employees with grievances including one that was deducted £100 for theft, well £400 went missing and as no-one could be identified as the culprit all four staff at one franchise were docked wages.

Alleged illegal deductions (including pay checks with minus figures!), forced evictions from workers' accommodation, massed sacking when employees stuck up for better rights, ageist policies favouring employing 16 year olds as they are not entitled to the minimum wage and so on certainly do nothing for Domino's image.

Does it have the potential to gather more publicity?

The union Unite are taking up the case and there will be a chance for employees in court.

Dominos will get through this as long as they stop any malpractice (if it has gone on) and even if it continues. But if we want an alternative to McDonalds (as another globalisation brand villain) they are putting themselves in the frame.

Communicating through posters

I am a little bit of a poster collector so The Imperial War Museum's poster exhibition, which is running from the 4th October, caught my eye.

Following the evolution of the poster from World War One to the present day, the exhibition follows how the themes developed and what was effective and built upon.

Even though the Internet seems to be displacing so much, there is room for the more primitive forms of communication in modern campaigns. If the Dunlop billboard near Birmingham is allowable in this category then it is one of the most effective pieces of communications I have seen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monopoly shows how to grab the headlines

Monopoly, the board game that is celebrating 75 years, has come up with an excellent PR initiative.

It has collated a poll, replied to by nearly a million respondents, on which UK cities and towns should occupy the board and where.

The prestiguous Mayfair and Park Lane goes to Saint Albans and Exeter.

Manchester got Whitehall, one of the cheaper locations. Some comfort for Mancunians is that rivals Leeds and Liverpool occupy the cheapest places, including Old Kent Road. I am not snearing at my Scouse friends.

It has caused a stir with some; leader of Manchester Council Pat Kearney has complained with some passion. Who cares? Not so many about his views, but the PR campaign has certainly caused some debate and generated great coverage across the country at what must be a reasonable outlay. The campaign must of generated millions of pounds worth of coverage.

Simple? Straight forward? Yes, but it is working and very well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ahmadinejad's PR gaff

Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, managed to make a vain PR trip to New York even worse and all of his own making.

He had initially been refused a photo opportunity at Ground Zero - probably a good thing for the US and Iran as he went on to question who actually carried out 9/11.

His assertions that the Holocaust was a "myth", Israel should be wiped off the map and his attempt to get a nuclear option are well known.

When questioned about Iran's execution of homosexuals at a presentation at Columbia University his reply was meet with incredulity:

"In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." The Soviets use to same the same thing.

If the Iranian president was hoping to allay US fears or more probably win over US public opinion it back fired.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Simple tools to increase the flow of traffic to your website - a presentation

Simon Wharton of PushON might be yellow but his forthcoming talk on online search marketing will be anything but jaundiced.

Simon will be presenting on October the 3rd at the Think Lab Salford University; full details available here.

Richard Hudson of Vanilla Storm and Alan McGlone of Eyecatcher Productions will also feature on establishing a web presence and using video to enhance Internet sites.

Places are free and limited to 30 places so if interested book now.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The end of the hyphen? and other stories

The Oxford English Dictionary has reported that 16,000 hyphenated words have been dispensed with in the current edition. Losses include:

  • Fig-leaf
  • Hobby-horse
  • Ice-cream
  • Pin-money
  • Pot-belly
  • Test-tube
All will be two words. While the following have been amalgamated:
  • Bumblebee
  • Chickpea
  • Crybaby
  • Leapfrog
  • Logjam
There are going to be some irritating instances will Spell-check or should it be Spell Check or Spellcheck?
My Spell Check says the last one is incorrect, but the first two are correct!

Don't despair for those that are interested in environmental and other issues there are plenty of new hyphen unambiguous words:

  • Carbon footprint
  • Chelsea tractor
  • WAGs
  • Nanny state

Friday, September 21, 2007

You don't have to be a great communicator to be president

I thought the entry from my George Bush calendar might amuse:

"So on behalf of a well-oiled unit of people who came together to serve something greater than themselves, congratulations."

Remarks to the University of Nebraska women's volleyball team, the 2001 national champions

Washington D.C. May 31, 2001

PR Week - what clients really think

PR Week commissioned a piece to see what clients think of PR agencies and the answers were not too reassuring to say the least:

  • More than a quarter claimed their agencies failed to deliver set objectives
  • Nearly 70% did not provide transparent budgeting
  • Nearly a quarter claimed they were not getting value for money
  • Industry knowledge was also a criticism although this can be learnt
Directors signing up new clients, disappearing and returning when the contract is up for renewal is one more gripe that was high on the list of clients' complaints.

While there is two sides to any story, it makes worrying reading. Not every relationship will work and you have to factor in the clients' input or not in working with the agency.

On a more positive note, essentials in making PR work for clients are catering to individual needs and ways of working, trust and accountability.

PR agencies meet clients expectations on four out of the eight factors stated:
  • Communicate satisfactorily
  • Provide the right level of resource
  • Deliver at consistently high quality levels
  • Take a proactive role in identifying needs
One important piece of advice was to have those difficult conversations at the start of a contract about expectations and ways or getting the most from a PR spend.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Facebook vs My Space according to Tom

Tom Cheesewright of Eggheads featured today on BBC Manchester Radio explaining the basics of Facebook and MySpace.

There are people out there who have no idea about social networking including the presenter. Still I cannot program a time setting on a DVD player nor did I work out the phone systems of places I have worked.

Tom believes that Facebook is superseding My Space as I recall it. The rest blurred in a busy day, but he was self assured and got some good exposure.

By the way he has just got married, which he might have mentioned but thinks he got away with it.

And another thing.......

I like Tom's suggestion of "proactive" as another meaningless word that has infiltrated the business world. Another one that comes to mind is "leverage," but this is American in use except for a marketing director in Surrey.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The currency of language

Language is like a currency, you over use a word it loses its potency and dilutes its meeting.

Words and phrases that strike me as being particularly subject to devaluation in terms of meaning and thus of less and less use or little use in many everyday situations are as follows:

Go getting - meaningless recruiting / business jargon
Dynamic - what does it mean when it refers to a person?
Fascist - when used as a term of abuse it hides its real meaning, which is irresponsible of the Rick (Young Ones) amongst us
Bubbly - is this a way for recruiters to say someone who will be a dogsbody and still be happy; anyone who is bubbly is usually annoying
Ethical - would you go to someone calling themselves "honest John" to buy a car; it is proven by your actions not words

I am sure there are many others and welcome suggestions.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Best wishes to Jeremy on his incredible escape

Just to wish Jeremy of Juicy Print all the best on his recovery from a frightening episode on the M6.

So much for taxi drivers.

It is not as uncommon as you might think.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Tax in virtual worlds

Mark Simpson (pictured in Second Life), a tax planning director at Simpson Burgess Nash, has published an interesting piece on how taxes apply to businesses in virtual worlds, such as Second Life.

It might seem comic but there have been US Dollar millionaires and the US Congress is about to publish a report on how to and to what extent taxes should be applied.

It is a little complex: how do you tax capital gains tax on property if it increases in value and only exists on a server? Moreover, Second Life reserves the right not to compensate you if you lose a property because of a technical problem.

There are plenty of other issues: inheritance tax, income tax, domicile, capital allowance.

A bit of fun you might think; the Second Life economy currently generates an annual turnover of $500 million and is growing at 10-15% monthly. Simpson Burgess Nash has established a presence - marketers as well as accountants.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lessons in social networking

My local adult education college is now offering courses in social media networking or more precisely how to customise your My Space page.

While it has seen a demand and you could say its marketing is proactive, has it missed the boat already?

As one client in IT put it (more or less) to me when I expressed my surprise at the course being offered, next to traditional lines in cooking and ceramics: "Shouldn't it focus on Facebook, My Space is already on its way out."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

To phone or not to phone - that is the question

From time to time PR blogs complain about journalists who complain about PRs phoning them to see if they received the e-mail that did not bounce back.

It makes good blog copy - comments abound after such entries.

It also brings up the question of following up. Generally if a journalist has received your e-mail they have made a decision on whether your release or offer is worth pursuing and they get back to you or use without correspondence.

So far, so good.

However, I have been following up today on 2 articles I have propositioned last week for a client.

The response initially was not so good although the proposition I believed was. It could be that many journalists are still on holiday and combined with deadlines looming I did not get the overwhelming flood of interest I expected. It could be my e-mail could have been better written.

I followed up and have had some expressions of interest, including a one page feature agreed and one highly likely. If I get one more then it will be a very good use of my time.

What strikes me is that some journalists do not read their e-mails or do not have time to read their in boxes thoroughly.

There is a delicate balance. However, sometimes it does seem wider than that; there is a difference between attracting attention to something that can be of some value that might have been missed and simply haranguing and pressuring a journalist.

Monday, September 03, 2007

What is the most important ingredient to success in PR - the client perhaps?

I am not sure if the title's assertion is obvious or not or if anyone agrees.

The most likely answer would be who you pick as your PR including DIY PRs.

However, I have come round to the fact that the clients' enthusiasm, interest in their communications, how they rate PR in terms of priority, relationship with PR agency and what they have to say are at least half the equation, if not more. You would expect the PR to be enthusiastic and reasonably knowledgeable as given, wouldn't you?

On the other side of the coin people are busy and PR is often an extra thing to occupy their time.

So how to square things? It is as much about the agency picking the client as it is about the client picking the agency.

Agencies chosen in the clients' image

One of the perennial problems of many a good agency and a boon to the bigger players is having a client that counts supplier size, kudos and higher fee as a key consideration in selecting their agency.

Of course, if you are a small agency it would probably not be feasible that a blue chip such as Tescos or British Gas is going to hire you. It is not impossible, especially if you have some very specialised and sought after skill, but unlikely.

However, for many clients size should not be everything. I wrote, with an advertising client called The Agency, a piece that reflected this sentiment for a notable marketing magazine. (For the record their MD has done well in establishing relationships with some impressive names). The article expressed that enthusiasm, skill and client understanding are not the sole preserve of a few larger players.

I once had a conversation that demonstrates how some clients and potential clients can misunderstand the options available. John, for this illustration, had hired a big agency for all their marketing. I called up 6 months later to see how they were getting on and they were not PR wise although the agency's other services had been fine.

John had initially said that a bigger agency was able to get more coverage because it had more sway and influence, just like a media buyer! This obviously would make all small to medium agencies redundant and there are many smaller agencies about.

Anyway, he said they had spent a lot but the fees must be worth it for a big agency.

I happened, at a Christmas quiz, to sit with a member of the agency he hired. When I mentioned John and his company the reply was, "Small account, the girl behind me works on it."

I think that says almost everything.