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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Manchester Evening News to run more business pages

How Do, a valuable source of media knowledge, has reported that the Manchester Evening News will be running more pages in response to Crain's launching a weekly business magazine.

This is a positive development for all B2B PRs that do not have the bigger stage that B2C PRs enjoy.

With the new journalist joining the MEN business desk, who has an environmental background, will offer a another dimension to the stories they will be most amenable to, although the MEN has a small Green section each Tuesday.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Manchester online treasure

Every now again you come across a site or you might have heard of one without ever really exploring it

When you take a closer look you find something quite unique.

I was fortunate in the last week or so to talk to Aidan O'Rourke and Brian (sorry do not have your surname; not an impressive start) from Salford Online.

I have bumped into Aidan before but not really explored his site. When he showed me his website recently you cannot be anything but impressed: founded 10 years ago; over 4 years in the present format; and if my memory serves me well I believe there are 5,000 pages. Many of the photos (primarily) and copy have a Manchester theme but there are pages devoted to locations ranging from Dubai to Berlin, which, in the case of the latter, I looked at length. A really useful resource as a photo library for travel PRs - the images are impressive - or just to enjoy the images.

Salford Online is a newer venture but one that promises a lot. Lots of interesting copy and for PRs with Salford based clients or with news of interest to that area one that presents an opportunity.

My only criticism, and an easy one I hope to fix, is that when a section loads up it appears as though it is blank until you scroll down and see the wealth of stories.

I know they are very open to ideas and refining the site so this one is one to watch.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Newspaper online and offline reader numbers

Stephen Newton, Manchester PR specialist, has found an interesting article that shows the broadsheets dominating news readership online, while the tabloids are way in front in print.

A subject that demands some analysing to find out why that is. Perhaps as Stephen says it is evidence of the digital divide; I suspect that plays a part but it might be just one element of quite a complex question.

Oxford Union gifts far right a PR opportunity

That venerable and no down right stupid institution the Oxford Union has given far right racists and Holocaust deniers David Irving and Nick Griffin a stage.

Tonight sees them debate the right to free speech.

The invitation has been met with protests including that of MP Julian Lewis who has resigned his membership of the Union: "I think there are people confusing this with an issue of free speech. It's not an issue of free speech to offer someone a privileged platform from a prestige organisation.

Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission of Equalities and Human Rights hit the mark with: "This is not a question of freedom of speech, this is a juvenile provocation."

The debate, which is tonight, sees the two seasoned far right public speakers facing a couple of DPhil students and possibly a Liberal Democrat MP. They will show them hey. They shall not pass (with some regrettable irony).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

How do you solve an unsolvablePR crisis?

Well, judging by the two PR disasters that are dominating the new - losing 25 million records by the government and selecting an England manager that did not achieve the minimum requirement of qualifying for the European championship - you do what any leader of any high profile organisation does: blame someone else and accept no responsibility.

The government has blamed a junior civil servant and not cuts for not having better procedures for handling sensitive material. Moreover, staff at the Tyne and Wear office involved have been warned not to talk to the press with a strict warning.

Brian Barwick CEO at the FA has decided that he and the board should not go for selecting the wrong or at least an unsuccessful manager - let's not recount the Phil Scolari very public recruitment farce - whose fault was that Brian?.

Brian Clough once said that if the board make a mistake about a manger they should go. Sound advice.

In a blame culture solve your PR woes by making yourself blameless with your messaging and you can forget about the real problem.

Manchester's most famous 11 PR agencies

After some PR lobbying (well not too much) from Nathan Smith of Smith and Smith PR I have added their agency to the list of candidates for Manchester's most famous agency.

Smith and Smith have grown from 2 people when I first met them 18 months ago to 7 and still recruiting. Quite impressive and have amongst their clients Dragon's Den James Caan and The Football Association's League's Hall of Fame.

Without wanting to replace anyone, my lists now go up to 11.

BEX exhibition improves on last year

I was at the Business North West BEX exhibition yesterday and it has improved since last year. It seems a bit more energetic and upbeat compared to last year. A reason given was that it moved to the big GMEX facility in 2006 and lost a number of regular exhibitors in the process with the higher rents on the stands and was consequently a little quieter.

I made one particular contact that made it worthwhile as is often the case of analysing whether something is worthwhile.

It is on today so if you have a spare hour it is worth going along.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lessons from Gordon Ramsey

I am a bit of a fan I admit. Yet, I think there is real substance compared to some of the other reality business programs on television although he is not quite in this category - in fact you can learn more from him than the business reality trash that is dished out.

What do we learn from The Apprentice? Back biting, playing off contestants and politics are the only things worth knowing in business? Dragon's Den - a bit like the early stages of the X Factor when you have the rather strange contestants being mocked by the panel mixed with some with genuine talent.

Gordon Ramsey almost without exception gives the same lessons every week, which I believe can be transferred and are key:
  • Make it simple
  • Be organised
  • Communicate with staff and give them responsibility
  • Have passion
  • Give the client want they want - talk to them and find out what they want
  • Use marketing - not adverse to use a few gimics: the campaign for real gravy for instance; but it worked
  • hard work

Curry dog and viral PR

Last week I placed my friend's Pauline dog and his desire for curry in The South Manchester Reporter.

From there it was picked up in the Manchester Evening News. Now he has been featured in The Guardian, The Metro and The Scotsman as far as I know.

On a more serious note, there is no reason not to apply the same methods to B2C and B2B campaigns. There are certain media channels that almost act like a hub and point of reference for journalists.

A few years ago I did a story about broadband over the electrical network. I placed it in The Register, a leading online magazine read by techies across the globe. The story was picked up in Holland, Russia, USA, South Africa as well as other UK sites. About 10 sites in total used the story. Impressive coverage.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Manchester's most famous PR agency

When I was looking for jobs you could hazard a guess many times who the company was if the recruitment company gave you the clues.

A big defence company in Lancashire would not be hard to guess if a recruitment company offered your a PR position: BAE Systems

I came across a PR exec job of Totaljobs that has me guessing.

It opens, "Manchester’s most famous PR agency is looking for an Account Executive to work on some of its prestigious public relations clients."

Who is it?

If I had to narrow it to 10 I would choose the following (of course we could argue about famous in what circles and what locations etc):

Mason Williams
Golley Slater (although they are nationwide)
Weber Shandwick (North)

It is a competitive list for that title. So who are they talking about?

Why blog - for new clients? Maybe not

I was talking to Mike Ryan of Idaho and I asked why his website does not change.

The answer was because they only want clients that really want to work with them and who find them through referral. It is not a marketing tool to catch clients.

It goes against the grain of a lot of online marketing thinking, but it makes sense, for some businesses.

Sometimes you will be picked up through a search, as a PR agency, and will be asked to pitch. I have had some good opportunities through such cases. Yet, when you get into pitch you could be one of several PR agencies that is seen. Are you really distinguishable from anyone else? There is one differentiator that stands out - not everyone PR agency blogs. Other than that it is a little like a lottery.

When you have established a relationship with a business that wants to be a client or they have a trusted associates that has referred you then you are on a much better footing.

With Idaho they have an enviable reputation and so this outlook is understandable. Why pitch? The time and effort if you might be an also ran invited to make up numbers is draining.

As Mike said at last year's BEX, "Your clients are your sales people."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

PR v advertising

I was in Waterstones on Saturday and came across the advertising section. I have to say I was impressed. The quality of ideas is tremendous.

Nothing new there. However, advertising is sometimes seen as the arch rival of PR for budgets.

It is nothing new for me to hear that a company has spent thousands on advertising with no result and they might as well have given it away.

It is easy in a pitch to acquiesce and concede the point and that PR is wonderful and highly cost effective.

The point for me is that if advertising is creative and well targeted it can work well. It can really grab a reader's attention. There is no need to see advertising as a rival. Indeed, the impact of some of the advertising campaigns I leafed through could teach the PR profession a thing or two.

Make it easy to comment

I have been on a couple of sites recently where I have to log in on my Google account to comment.

I wanted to quickly put a comment, but I could not remember my password for my account. My fault. Yet, would it not be easier to enable readers to comment, with verification code, and then moderate if not unsuitable? I have only had an advert masquerading as a comment twice in over 300 entries and I do not recall one slanderous or offensive comment to date.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Facebook election battleground

My old sixth form pal and MP for Withington John Leech has been challenged by a Labour Party contender on Facebook.

Apparently Labour Party candidate Lucy Powell has 248 friends since joining 3 months ago and John has only 2 since joining a week ago. What a coup! Yes, Facebook is a useful tool, but claiming that somehow your rival is behind the times because you registered on it 3 months ago is a bit rich - and pathetic.

It reminds of Graucho Marx and his character - because he had come off the boat a few months earlier than the other immigrants he thinks he is somehow a bit of genius.

It all just seems like a cheap shot and it notes the use of Facebook, but obscures its value.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

To blog or to not blog - that is the question, and Craig McGinty will answer it

Craig McGinty will be talking about his experiences in blogging on Thurs 22nd November 1pm at Manchester Digital at 117-119 Portland Street.

A very reasonable £10 fee will get you in.

Curry dog and other stories

What makes a story?

Well today I have had Anne Holloway from the Cenacle Treatment Centre talking about reflexology on radio and having pictures taken for a forthcoming feature on baby yoga for the same client in the Stockport Express, Simpson Burgess Nash dominating a page in The Manchester Evening News about careers in tax and PushON in .NET magazine talking about viral video marketing.

But a story about a dog, his love of curry and his vet's ban in the South Manchester Reporter is top for me.

It is just something different, interesting and entertaining or engaging.

Enough showing off.

Mike Fahy to join Crain's

NW Entrepreneur stalwart Mike Fahy is to join to new business publication on the block Crain's, the weekly Manchester business magazine.

Crain's will launch in mid-December with fortnightly editions in January and it will eventually become weekly by February.

With the loss of a number of NW business publications over the last 18 months there is a need PR wise for new titles.

Friday, November 09, 2007

What makes a good story? Young traffic warden hits 58 year old 4 foot 11 motorist for instance

Estate agent King's Residential worker Terry built like a "gerbil" according to the blog report and only 4 11" and 58 years old has alleged he was hit by a traffic warden after being verbally abused. The traffic warden was in his mid-20s and 6 foot.

What is more, Terry says that he had not violated the parking laws and had parked legally in a dropping off bay for 4 or 5 minutes and had an allowance of 15 minutes.

The traffic warden is disputing the allegations although his story has holes.

Please link into the King's Residential story, click through above to find out more.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Stockport Express editor gives a few insights on journalists and PR

Peter Devine the editor of the Stockport Express gave an interesting business breakfast talk this morning.

Four key insights he gave on the papers were:

  1. Do not incessantly phone up a journalist asking about whether they have received and are going to use a piece. If it is interesting enough they probably will use it; pestering a journalist can just aggravate them. PRs should know this.
  2. Newspapers do not have axes to grind contrary to what a lot of people think, so do not take not getting in a paper personally - they are just too busy to harbour grudges.
  3. One unfortunate development is that titles are under so much pressure to make a substantial profits and so in some cases advertising departments are making decisions on editorial at some publications because there are not the editorial staff to cope with the workload.
  4. Online media will not swamp offline media and there will be a place for the newspaper in print.

Thanks to Peter and the Chamber for the talk.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Crain's Manchester Business preview

The staff at eagerly awaited Crain's Business Magazine have been out and about and I was lucky enough to bump into them in the last week.

There is enthusiasm, desire and if Crain's proves as big a success in Manchester as in the US it will be a very welcome edition to the North West business magazine press, especially after losing some good titles since the start of 2006.

For a preview of Crain's Manchester Business click here and take the opportunity to look at Craig McGinty's blog, which has collected some entries related to Crain's Business Manchester launch.

From these sources Crain's Manchester Business looks promising.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Happy birthday to me

I almost forgot. Really. Not a big one for birthdays. But the wonderful Craig McGinty wished me all the best, so I am going to exploit the situation.

Anyone who knows me can buy me a pint or something better. Everyone who I have not had the pleasure of meeting please can you give me a comment on one of the stories on my front page.

Crisis PR and Amaze, once the North West's biggest Internet agency

Arguably the North West's largest, or until recently largest Internet agency Amaze has been taken over by Hasgrove Group.

Allegedly Amaze had a £2 million hole in its accounts according to one comment left on a How Do report. Unfortunately 70 staff have lost their jobs. Melhuish the managing director has resigned and to be fair he would appreciate the tough actions of Hasgrove (although I am sure they did not want to let people go) as he was not averse to regularly chopping staff often on a whim; I am sure the new owners are being expedient rather than malicious or temperamental.

As the story breaks journalist interest will increase. The aim of the PR should be to
reassure the clients, market and Internet professionals, they might want to recruit one day and no-one joins a rocking ship.

There is plenty of work to do. However, if handled well it could be highly beneficial rather than just a firefighting exercise. If the PR agency has local business media contacts it would be very handy as it looks as though they have a southern team. The PR agency has to show imagination, clear communications and not shy away from difficult questions and prepare for questions in advance. Not be reactive, be proactive and tell the media first. We shall see what happens. If the PR is worth their fees we should see a stronger agency, if not confidence will take much longer to build. At a difficult time, time is not on their side but it must be made to work for them. There is no sign as yet of work on the site explaining the position, not a good sign.

Macca's smacker with a married cracker

The Sun once again surpasses its formidable reputation for headlines with its account of Paul McCartney being spotted with a mystery new lady.

It is hard to choose between that and Maccy Mouse - Mickey Mouse might be a better choice for England.

Reader's poll - which is best?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Manchester PR agencies: Wharton says it how he sees it

Simon Wharton (pictured) of online search marketing agency PushON is not one to shy away from offering strident, and often perceptive, statements on online marketing.

In this issue of NW Business Insider Simon makes no exception with his view on the common lack of understanding of the Internet amongst many PR and marketing agencies:

"Traditional PR and marketing needs a kick up the backside - a lot of it is hugely dated. PR and marketing agencies don't understand the Internet."

"A lot of Manchester PR agencies are absolute rubbish - saying you're a full-service agency is just words."

Sharon Nash of Simpson Burgess Nash and Mike Ryan of Idaho, who I pitched to get featured, are less controversial in their comments but no less interesting can be seen in the November issue.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Journalist blacklists PRs

Chris Anderson, editor of Wired and author of the Long Tail, has decided to blackball journalists that he believes have spammed him.

Chris is irritated by PRs that send releases and pitches without finding out whether his magazine is really interested in such pieces and without finding out if he is the best contact.

He has listed hundreds of PRs from a month's worth of "spamming." Weber Shandwick even have the unenviable distinction of 3 staff being blacklisted.

The piece has generated some interest with I think about hundred comments. PRs take note.

Thanks to Craig McGinty for alerting me to this one and pointing out that I forgot the important link on original publication.