Archive for the 'Public Relations' Category


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.


Somewhere over the Rainbow

Conservative PRs couldn’t have planned it any better: As the sun set on Gordon Brown’s premiership, a rainbow appeared in the skies over Westminster. All talk of a possible ‘rainbow coalition’ ended as David Cameron stood on the steps of No 10 to announce a Liberal-Conservative coalition government.

Soon after Mr Cameron’s speech, discussions of a very different rainbow were underway in Westminster.When Michael Gove joined the cabinet the next day, he became the Shadow Secretary of State for Education; unlike his predecessor, Ed Balls, who had been in charge of ‘Children, Schools, and Families’.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families, with its ‘massage room’ and ‘contemplation suite’, had already featured prominently in the election campaign. Its overnight rebrand to the ‘Department for Education’ may be a sign of things to come, both for educators and marketeers.

The DCSF’s brand guidelines, which cost the taxpayer several thousand pounds, called it “A united organisation, working together to ‘build the rainbow’ – the brighter future we want for children and young people”. The new Department for Education doesn’t have brand guidelines or a prominent marque. The iconic rainbow that featured in the department’s atrium has also disappeared. The media was immediately awash with speculation – Did the name change indicate a refocussing of the department?

Terina Keene, CEO of ‘Railway Children’ worried that focussing purely on education would cause very underprivileged young people to ‘fall off the radar’. Mr Gove’s drive to refocus the department on its core purpose of supporting teaching and learning does mean a significant shift in government policy; one that won’t come as a surprise to many commentators.

The Conservatives’ election pledges focussed on the right of parent groups to set up their own schools, with children and families being covered by the Tories’ ‘Big Society’ idea.

The rebranding – done ‘on the cheap’ – reflects a move away from the huge government advertising budgets of previous years. It also reflects a waste of several thousand pounds invested by the previous government in the DCSF brand, which existed for only three years. That’s a better return on investment than the rebrand of the Department for Trade and Industry to the Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry, though – which, at a cost of £30,000, lasted only a week before reversion to the previous moniker.

The lost investment in the DCSF brand is likely to be recouped in the long-run as advertising spend returns to its 1997 level. You’ll probably be hearing a lot less about the Department of Education outside of the press than you did its predecessor.

Will any of this matter to ‘real people’? Probably not – our brand development staff all agree that brands need to be reflected throughout their collateral and messaging; but given the scale of forthcoming budgetary cutbacks, the name change is likely to do just that.

The move is a warning to some in the creative industry. Gone are the large COI contracts of yesteryear. This is a government that wants to be judged by its actions, not its words. That’s a sentiment that we agree with wholeheartedly.


It’s time for the creative industry to take responsibility

Our thoughts on COI Reform and today’s General Election

On the eve of the United Kingdom’s most interesting General Election in modern times, many in the advertising and marketing sectors are still concerned about the future of the Central Office of Information (COI), the British government’s marketing agency.

As well as being Britain’s largest advertiser, the COI is the Government’s main procurer of advertising and marketing services. Most British agencies are therefore stakeholders in the organisation.

The COI’s current way of working has been called in to question; both by the Government in recent months, and by the battling governments-in-waiting during this election campaign.
As things stand, the Treasury, led by Chancellor Alastair Darling, has ordered a 25% reduction in the marketing and advertising budgets of all Whitehall departments for the current two years. Both main opposition parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have no objections to this cut.

But there is more to the parties’ plans for the COI. Campaigns that have worked in the past are now failing to reach their audiences or drive them to action. There have been success stories, like the recent binge drinking virals by VCCP which certainly caught the public’s attention.

Generally, though, the political consensus seems to be that COI campaigns aren’t as effective as they once were – mainly because they are becoming increasingly middle of the road, arguably as larger agencies begin to count on COI business regardless of creative content. Campaigns that fail to reach their objectives and don’t provide a great deal of return on investment are a problem for the taxpayer.

The Conservatives have announced plans to move COI contracts to a pay per results model. At Vivid London, we’d be happy to work under those conditions – we are confident in our abilities – but a lot of other agencies see the practice as unfair. They argue that ads can only promote behavioural change, not guarantee it.

Nothing’s certain in the world of marketing. You can never guarantee that a press release you send out, however interesting the story or full of hooks the content, will be picked up by the media. You can never guarantee that any advertising campaign that you run will change the audiences behaviour (purchasing or otherwise). And you can never be sure that your shiny new communications strategy will reach all of its audiences.

But you can mitigate these uncertainties. Our work at Vivid London is informed by thorough research – meaning that we audit all previous marketing efforts, analyse target audiences counterintuitively and focus on measurable deliverables. We’re upfront about our expected results and are happy to be judged (and paid) by them.

All in all, this will mean more efficient use of taxpayer money and more heated battles for part of the COI’s £232m annual budget. It will also lead to more stylish, effective and better advertising in the future. This is better for both agencies and consumers – after all, talking to the audience in a way that they understand is what creative agencies are supposed to do! Becoming reliant on government contracts not only impedes an agency’s creativity, but can also lead to disaster when these contracts are withdrawn. Just ask i-Level.

Whatever the colour(s) of the next government, the creative industry needs to become more efficient and adaptable – and it needs to accept direct responsibility for campaign performance. We always have – and always will.

Adam James Morecroft & Camille le Goff


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….


“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’.


Should news websites be free of charge?

Picking up a newspaper each morning gives you the most essential bits of information about what is happening in the world around you – keeping up with changes in economics, politics, society and culture. But the UK press is changing. With the evolvement of social media and the rising power of the internet it is getting harder for the newspapers to maintain their readership.

Nearly 80% of the UK population now have internet access and use it regularly. Of those, 16 million people use the internet through mobile devices – to update statuses on various social networks or to catch up with the latest news. Twitter and co. make it easy to see what’s happening throughout the world right now – how are the newspapers supposed to keep up?

Over the last decade the newspapers have been engaged in a price war. The Times is a case in point as it has been constantly battling with The Guardian for both price and readership. However, recently The Times bucked this trend by putting its cover price up to £1.00 during the week, £1.50 on saturdays and £2.00 for the Sunday Times.

Furthermore, The Times and its complementary Sunday paper have decided to be the first published papers to charge for their online services with a £2 fee per week from June. This may come as a shock to their readers, and questions are already being raised as to how this will affect readership and if the website will yield a profit.

So, increasing the price for the paper and announcing a pay-per-view arrangement on their website, all within a few months – the stakes are high for The Times. However, they might not have made the worst decision according to a study by Baba Shiv, a marketing professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He argues that prices are changing people’s experiences of a product and therefore the outcomes from consuming this product. Research has shown that people are mentally influenced by the price of a product. For example, Shiv has shown that ‘people who had paid a higher price for an energy drink, such as Red Bull, were able to solve more brain teasers than those who paid a discounted price for the same product.’ Are consumers being psychologically deceived by pricing? If so, how will it affect The Times?

It is well known that people are curious. It’s human nature. But users will ask what is so different about the website, what does it offer that others don’t? This curiosity will drive traffic to both sites during the first few days of launch. After they have experienced the digital presence they will be more likely to consider a repetitive purchase of that service.

One thing that will happen is that the changes will reposition the newspaper in the marketplace. The Times has been known as qualitative paper and it will continue to create qualitative content. It promises to increase the engagement of its online users by offering the opportunity to talk to staff, writers and experts to create deep and intelligent conversation.

Should others follow in The Times footsteps? Only time will tell, the battle of gaining and maintaining both paper and digital readership will continue to change the landscape of the UK press as we have known it.

Lisa Beck


Can a brand die online?

Nestle and Greenpeace battle it out in a PR scandal that is challenging the ‘David vs. Goliath’ equation

Greenpeace recently released an attack video aimed at Nestlé’s KitKat brand. The video, which shows that Nestlé is all but condoning the destruction of orangutans’ natural habitat, has been a viral hit, causing the company to address an issue it otherwise may not have. Social media is much lauded as an agent of change – but can it affect a change in the typical David and Goliath relationship?

Nestlé are not having a good year, as far as their social media campaigns are concerned. The FMCG producer has recently had to deal with a barrage of criticism over their invitation of several influential “mummy bloggers” to an all-expense paid trip to Nestlé’s HQ. The brand is starting to lose it’s hard-won “mummy” image.

Greenpeace’s spot names and shames Nestlé for using palm oil in the production of its KitKat chocolate bars. Using high-impact pictures to appeal to an eco-conscious public, Greenpeace challenges Nestlé’s choice of Indonesian suppliers, who apparently clear rainforest areas, endangering the natural habitat of orangutans.
The spot is effective: it starts out as you’d imagine a KitKat ad spot would, but quickly turns into a bloodbath. A man opens a KitKat bar, but rips off the bloody finger of an orangutan instead of a finger of chocolate. If that wasn’t enough to discourage consumers, Greenpeace ups the ante with a further clip, showing a KitKat bar plowing through the rainforest, destroying trees and killing orangutans.

Greenpeace, have according to their spokespeople, not unfairly singled out the company. Their discussions with Knorr and Unilever have been fruitful: both companies have stopped using controversial palm oil suppliers. The organisation contests that Nestlé have been dragging their feet on the issue for years – the spot is a ‘last ditch’ attempt to affect a change.

“It’s all about causing pressure,” says spokesperson Björn Jettka.

Nestlé did try to respond to the criticism using the same viral platforms, but failed to understand the nature of that platform. Their response on social media was a link to their press release; hardly an attempt at ‘speaking the language of their users’! 

The brand responded to critcisms on its Facebook page, but the flurry of negativity became all too much. Instead of seeking a superior communications strategy based on the correct tone of voice for the medium, the brand decided to delete critical comments. Rather than using another YouTube video to explain their response (which, on balance, was quite good), the brand focussed on getting the UK version of the Greenpeace viral deleted.

Social media doesn’t seem to be the brand’s forté. Who likes someone that seeks to camouflage negative sentiment to their own advantage? This attack on the freedom of opinion hardly helped their eco-friendly claims.
Big brands are still facing problems adapting their communications to new and developing platforms, especially ones that rely on user engagement. Online marketing isn’t a one-way road. The classic ‘transceiver’ model of marketing is long gone. Only open dialogue can raise a brand’s awareness online – traditional marketing cannot be directly transferred to an online audience without significant ‘translation’.

Brands have a real problem reacting to online criticism; a danger with any engagement campaign. Brands will need to add digital natives to their teams, if they want to strategically influence their consumers online.

Luisa Keuler

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