Archive for the 'Advice' Category

19
Jul
10

BBC site redesign prioritises ‘social sharing’

What’s a web user to do?

There you are, logging on to your favourite news website for your daily intake of current affairs, when suddenly, you find yourself in an unfamiliar land, desperately searching for the security of your familiar tabs.

Am I being overly dramatic? Maybe – but you wouldn’t think it reading the reactions to the BBC’s long publicised homepage redesign.

At the time of writing, almost eight hundred comments had been left in response to the move, with a further hundred awaiting moderation. The vast majority of these comments are predictably negative, highlighting an abiding truth of the online world – users hate change. At least initially.

For proof of this we need look no further than the proverbial hell that was raised when Facebook launched their new layout in February 2010. Hundreds of groups, pages and status updates rebuked the social network’s attempt to improve usability, leaving a lasting stain on the digital landscape. But, really – can you really remember the way Facebook used to look?

The BBC’s changes have provoked a similar reaction. Amidst the criticisms and the ensuing debate about the necessity of the changes, it’s important to remember why the BBC decided to implement them. It’s simple – because they believe the changes are an improvement

Of course, improvement is a matter of personal opinion.

It’s easy enough to find things to like about the redesign. The BBC is pushing the increased emphasis on video and picture quality the redesign allows, and the increased prominence the site allows sharing on social network buttons. The new layout arguably allows for more videos – and not just within article. The site has opted for a watch/listen subsection to the site, as well as adding ‘Most watched’ to its ‘Most read/shared’ feature.

The BBC is quick to highlight that videos now appear in bigger players, with improved streaming and quality (lessons no doubt learnt from the roll-out of iPlayer).

The site’s bread-and-butter, text-based news, has also seen a navigation update. “New”appears next to recently added stories, and news subsections are now part of the header, mimicking successful online newspaper sites, like the Guardian the Daily Mail.

What’s our verdict on these changes? Although some alterations appear to have been needless or purely aesthetic decisions, the majority of the changes demonstrate the growing importance online actors are attributing to social media. Sharing stories and pictures with your friends has become so ubiquitous that even ‘serious’ sites like BBC News are adapting to facilitate the practice. Credit to the Corporation is due; for recognising modern requirements and taking the risk of updating what was a strong and well-liked website.

To those still mourning the passing of the old site, Vivid London would like to pass on our condolences. Change is inevitable – and on an evolving platform like the internet, change is essential to development; a necessary element of online success.


Michael Haywood is a Junior PR Staffer with Vivid London

09
Jun
10

The right person for the job

The Right Person For the Job Left

Over the years you will have been told that it’s always better to put someone ‘on the frontline’ in front of the media – and this advice is still true. It’s clearly a better choice than a faceless spokesman, and a country mile better than using someone from your news or public relations agency, but let’s be quite clear: ‘frontline’ can mean the boss – but it doesn’t necessarily always need to be.

The Right Person For the Job Right

The right tone, and the person with the right tone, is so much more important than it being the most senior person you can throw at the media.

Recently we’ve seen some awful CEO performances – BP’s chief executive just doesn’t know how to speak ‘American’ – and shouldn’t be allowed to: he doesn’t get that what Britons perceive as a stiff-upper-lip, ‘get on with the job resolve’, can be seen in America as being uncaring. Tony Haywood would need to be blubbing to really touch the cord of deep sorrow that is expected of him presently. That’s something that he probably can’t do.

From a Brit to an American, Mark Zuckerberg is an appalling frontman for Facebook. He’s a geek, born and bred. His geeky humour and track-record of speaking straight from his dorm room instead of his boardroom is not what’s needed from one of the world’s most connected brands; especially when it’s fighting an uphill PR battle against the power privacy lobby.

Given the amount of times that bosses make awful PR gaffes, you’d think that agencies the world over would wise up to the mantra of picking the right person for the right job. Of course, it’s not always the agency that makes this choice – but the top-down ethos that only the most senior person in the organisation can be a viable spokesperson is inappropriate for today’s media landscape.

Think wisely about your message and work with your PR and media agencies to hone a message and a tone that’s appropriate for your audience. Don’t box yourself in to being the lead voice – being the media face of a corporation simply isn’t for everyone, and it’s not even always appropriate for the organisation. A spread of faces who understand their areas of specialism and speak the language of that niche are going to make your communications strategy far easier to manage than a one size fits all approach.

Most importantly – never forget that the time when this strategy will be tested the most is under crisis conditions: so plan right from the beginning to spread the load, control the message and make it appropriate for your audience to avoid the awfulness of saying something, or being heard to say something – whether you meant it or not, that you later regret, and your shareholders regret even more.


Neil Evans is Senior Partner and Creative Director of Vivid London.

Image by Anisha Chandarana, Junior Design Staff at Vivid London.

19
May
10

Three reasons why you should shake up your retainer.

Retainers are for all agencies the gold star – a retained client paying monthly or quarterly is exactly what most agencies strive to get: yes the big projects are all very nice, but a client paying you regularly… well that’s gold dust.

But does it encourage agencies to work harder for their clients?

The answer to that question in most cases is unfortunately no. It’s one of the reasons I started Vivid all those years ago, I got so depressed working at large agencies seeing great accounts lose their spark the minute they became retained. All to often in this industry, retained work becomes expected and standard, clients you’d once have fought for become clients that are just there, they pay and you deliver what’ll keep them happy, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with retained work, it must be treated with respect by the agency and an iron fist by the client, because otherwise it’s bad for you, and it’s bad for the reputation of our industry.

Firstly let’s look at you, it’s your money after all. At first you think you’re getting good value, you’ve got an almost ‘in house’ team – they deal with everything and you very rarely have to get into the bowels of the work, after a time things become routine, a few press releases a month, an issues awareness day or week, your happy face in the media when the easy picking stories come up for you to respond with, what’s wrong with that?

Well quite a bit – the routine falls into motions, easy to go through, well practiced – but essentially the same, day in day out. Good public relations and marketing is reliant on innovation and creativity, it relies on a hunger to find or create the good news, as well as just responding lazily to the bad. The second your retained team fall into that routine the quality of your press and marketing plummets, you need the fire of the pitch or at least an agency that retains the fire of the pitch to stave off the familiarity that breeds mediocrity.

Second, it’s bad for the agency: yes the money is nice – but a retained client is an agency football, yes the big guns are brought out for important matches, but the rest of the time the ‘b’ team will do – one of the reasons I got out of big agencies was because I was fed up with accounts being passed off to junior staff and interns the first time the client wasn’t looking: they’d bill the time as if it was the full team, but often that team was off working on new business – fighting hard on new projects because they’ve won the fight already on yours.

Third, it’s bad for the industry, it promotes laziness a worrying lack of transparency between the ‘account directors’ who meet with the client and those people who actually do the work on your retained account, but most concerning it promotes a culture where a complete lack of creativity is the norm: ‘it will do’ solutions overtake cutting edge thinking, the easy option becomes the only option – and when that happens it dulls the edge of our whole industry.

So what can you do? Well first – look long and hard at your agency, working with them should feel as fresh ten years in as it did when your first worked together; there should be a real sense that they know what they’re doing of course, but the thinking should still be filled with excitement and not tinged with cynicism.

Then, talk to your agency, don’t be afraid to ask exactly what they do for the retainer, if you think they should be doing more then make that clear, and a good way to start is to build in a monthly creative briefing – make them think for their money, good ideas will allow you and them to innovate and reach new goals.

And finally, talk goals – don’t let your agency get away with presenting a cuttings folder as ‘proof’ think hard about whether it’s met your goals, where is your return on investment – any agency worth their salt should be able to talk ROI, don’t be fooled by impressions to view or estimated worth, tie them down to how it impacts your business.

And if all this still doesn’t get you a better press and marketing service, why not talk to someone like us – never afraid to talk about your bottom line, and always happy to create and innovate, because we realise that real, measurable growth in your business is critical to the success of our own.

17
May
10

Video killed the….majority?

Considering that in the weeks before the election the Liberal Democrat Party were lagging severely behind both the then ruling Labour Party and the Conservative Party, it is almost shocking to discover that they are now sitting alongside the Conservative Party in a coalition government. This is despite the fact that they actually lost seats during this election campaign. Somehow Nick Clegg seems to have wormed his way into the nation’s hearts, but how? The answer, that antiquated form of entertainment…the television.

In the US, televised debates between political leaders before an election have been commonplace for many years, but the idea was only recently adopted in the UK. The reason for this was quite simple, the British people were bored and uninspired with their politics. During the 2005 general election, the public’s interest in politics was at an all time low, with less than half the population even bothering to vote. The situation had to be remedied.


So, to revitalise the general public’s interest in politics and rectify the situation, it was decided that for the 2010 general election three televised debates would be set up, each focussing on a key theme, domestic affairs, foreign affairs and economic affairs. To ensure fairness, they would include all three party leaders and be broadcast across the UK’s three major networks, ITV, Sky and the BBC.



As the person representing the party with the lowest majority, Nick Clegg had nothing to lose and everything to gain. So, where David Cameron and Gordon Brown were hesitant or unclear with their opinions, Nick Clegg took a different route, showing remarkable accessibility. Following the first debate, Clegg’s public profile increased enormously, and the Liberal Democrat’s position in the opinion polls skyrocketed, to the extent that some newspapers were predicting a Liberal Democrat victory.


However, as the other debates would show, support for Clegg would eventually wane as the other leaders arguments became stronger. Following the third and final debate, just a week before the election, it appeared that all three parties were within a hairs breath of each other. It was clear this was going to be down to the wire.

In the end, this resulted in a hung parliament, which resolved itself as the Conservative Party (who won the largest amount of seats) and the Liberal Democrats entered into coalition. The televised debates however, had been a massive success. They had succeeded in providing a platform for all the major parties to put their views across directly to the public. The close result bears testament to the fact that a much larger percentage of the UK’s population came out to vote in 2010. It appears the public’s political flame has been reignited, lets hope that continues.

13
May
10

What does your collateral say about you?

What our collateral says about us

What we say about ourselves

It’s easy to get caught up in design. We see it time and time again: beautifully designed collateral (that’s your brochures, menus, business cards, letter heads, signage, and the like) with badly written copy.

Customers will notice bad design immediately: I’m sure that everyone reading this has a shop/salon/cinema/whatever in their neighbourhood whose brand and collateral looks like the owner was left alone with MS Paint and Wordart for an afternoon. Design gives your brand credibility with your market. Even the most boring or run-of-the-mill service can be set apart from its competitors through pleasing design.

But what you say about yourself is equally important. Beautiful design won’t make up for wooly or badly written copy. Sit down and think of what your customers need to make the decision to use your service or buy your product. Are they all intelligently placed in your collateral? Are you sure that this is what your marketplace needs to hear – as opposed to what you want to tell them?

To inspire you, we’ve included the words we use to describe ourselves. If you want some help making your copy as beautiful as your design, talk to us today.

29
Apr
10

Expecting fireworks?

The United Kingdom is currently in the grip of what is arguably its most important election for 25 years. The main three parties are a divided bunch. The Labour party, the UK’s current leaders, led by Gordon Brown are currently languishing 3rd in the polls. Then theres the Conservatives the official opposition, led by David Cameron. And finally, last but certainly not least are the dark horse’s of this election, the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg, and currently leading Labour in the polls, seemingly to the entire countries surprise. 


Now, I could go on about policies, but that is not the aim of this piece. I want to talk about how each party is utilising social media to further the message of their campaigns. Over the past week, I have been following each of the political parties, via their official Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, as well as through the general wider media channels, and it has to be said….nothing has happened.


Im disappointed by this, after all this is the 21st century and what easier way to communicate with the populace at large than by using the power of the 21st centuries greatest tool, the internet. I was expecting vast online debates, political mudslinging and smear campaigns from all sides. But nothing has occurred, at least nothing controversial. Even in the face of Gordon Browns “Bigotgate” not a derogatory word has been uttered from the official party Twitter feeds and Facebook pages.


The televised political debates have overshadowed the web, as all the ‘dirty laundry‘ of the campaigns appears to have been aired live on air, so why bother repeating it online? The public are much more hungry to see a fierce, visceral, verbal and live debate between the party leaders, than just an idle, sniping tweet or comment.

The sad truth of the matter is we were expecting fireworks and have been given a sparkler. The main reason for this is that the election race is currently so close that the main parties are unwilling to compromise the overall scope of their campaigns for the sake of scoring some cheap political points. The risk, and margin for error are just far too high at this late stage.


That said with the final debate due to be broadcast tonight, it will be interesting to see if in the week between the broadcast, and election day, any final shots are hurled online. The internet may yet have a role to play, only time will tell….


28
Apr
10

“That was a disaster”

Well, it was his words not mine…. Gordon Brown appears to have today been caught in what must surely be the political cock-up of his premiership. Forget the usual parliamentary skullduggery, no this comes down to a simple mistake, a microphone left on.


When Mr Brown awoke this morning I am willing to bet he had no idea that such a bad day lay before him, and frankly the day began well. When Gordon got to Rochdale, he engaged in a ‘friendly chat’ with some local voters, one of whom was 65 year old retiree Gillian Duffy, a lifelong Labour supporter. She grilled the PM, not unfairly it must be added, on issues such as taxes, pensions and immigration – issues that mattered to her. The debate seemed fair and balanced, with both sides putting forward valid arguments. That is until Gordon Brown departed the scene. Upon setting foot inside his Jaguar campaign car, he immediately labeled the exchange a “disaster”, before going on to launch an angry attack on both Gillian Duffy, labeling her a “bigot”; and his staff, for allowing her to speak to him.


What Gordon Brown evidently did not know is that the lapel microphone he was wearing (which incidently his own party had insisted upon) was still on, and broadcasting exactly what he was saying live and direct to Sky News. Matters weren’t exactly helped when about half an hour later he appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show to talk about the incident, only to not know he was also being filmed. Whilst Brown may have been trying to sound optimistic, the visual showed a defeated, tired and broken figure, clearly frustrated by the day’s events.

As I write this, Mr Brown has just emerged from within Gillian Duffy’s house, possibly after being on his knees begging for forgiveness: after all, this is an election campaign.

I am at least slightly impressed that both he and the Labour party in general have managed to turn this incident around from occurrence to personal visit and apology in under four hours.


That said, he really should have known better. The other candidates, and their parties, will no doubt be watching this with great interest for the obvious political benefit it will give them, but also no doubt be breathing a sigh of relief that they didn’t make the same mistake themselves.


PR Lesson No. 1, Mr Brown – the mic is always on. Yes, you thought you were in private, and yes, you’re entitled to your opinion – but the mic was attached (which your probably by now ex-press secretary should have told you). And when it’s attached, it’s always on – especially if you want to call one of your voters a ‘bigot’.




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