Awful story. Terrible PR – well, to be fair it made into the Telegraph, but that’s no measure of the story’s strength.

The story? Schoolkids here are being given a fiver to..wait for it…put rubbish in bins. Tenuous in the extreme. Who is worse – the PR who pitched the story, or the journalist who wrote up the press release? If your PR is as lazy as this, hire another Agency.

I’ll give a fiver to anybody who can spot the guilty PR party. Hint: the anti-litter scheme is sponsored by Sainsburys. Ahem.

If not, why not?

Many publishers and broadcasters are doing it, as highlighted here, so why not consider it for your business? After all, your online presence is another part of your promotional arsenal, so why not utilise the content there for maximum benefit and return?

I can see a time when businesses are using micropayments as a standard part of their commercial offering – irrespective of their sector, and certainly irrespective of whether they are in the media industry. Good content will always be in demand.

Funny how it works.

There’s me, having a few conversations over recent weeks with the owner of my local curry house about the power of getting online and gaining increased exposure through social media tools such as blogging, facebook, twitter ad infinitum.

Having popped in tonight for a weekly treat, as I order the culinary delights found at Bristol’s very finest Mango Tree, I spy the owner’s laptop underneath the counter…and he’s setting up a group on Facebook. Result!

Looks like he’s ditching the traditional and expensive routes of regional newspaper and magazine advertising, too, in favour of a more digitally-based approach – which, given the fact that the excellent indian restaurant gains much of its growing trade via word-of-mouth – only adds to the benefits his business will undoubtedly gain by utilising social media techniques in coming weeks.

Maybe I should pitch for a free weekly Balti, too?!

It appears that the upturn in the economy has not been noted by the PR team which produced this clanger, as pointed out by the excellent Guardian’s Media Monkey this week. Another poorly-constructed, unimaginative spin on the recession angle. Yawn.

Is your PR as lazy as this? If you’re still riding the economic downturn wave, it is likely that you’re going to have switched off the Press before you even click ‘send’ so do yourself – and the Media – a favour, and get creative with your press releases…

Nothing irritates editors more than a lazy, dubious piece of PR spin, such as a ‘survey’ which highlights nothing more than the lack of editorial talent in a PR team’s weekly brainstorming session.

Coming from a newsroom background, I was always of the understanding that a good PR creates and delivers new angles, exclusive information, and real value to my readerships – not dross. Ok, so this is a rant, but a recession-angled ‘Britons turn to curry to beat the economic blues’ is just so wrong!

Please, please, please make sure you create imaginative, exciting and original press releases for your target Media.

Many PR Agencies have been advocating blogging to their clients over the last 18 months – since they realised it was something they had to propose, whilst not necessarily understanding the real deal with setting up a blog – and although it is encouraging to see members of the UK PR community seeming to embrace the blogosphere, take note!

Before you embark upon setting up a blog, or are advised by your hip, trendy and oh sooo tweeting PR Agency to set up a corporate blog to drive traffic to you online and increase sales, consider these Top 10 Questions:

1. Do you have a blogging strategy in place, and does it align itself with your overall Comms plan for the year?

2. Who will update the blog content weekly?

3. Who will monitor the stats, trackbacks and site reports?

4. Are you comfortable with being challenged by other bloggers?

5. Do you actually have something to say, on an ongoing basis?

6. Does blogging align itself with the services and products you offer?

7. Have you checked out competitors’ blogs and researched?

8. Why do you want to blog – is there a specific set of reasons, other than you think you should?

9. Are you able to integrate blogging with other activities such as e-shots, tweeting and database PR?

10. Which platform are you using and who will organise the technical elements for you?

If you can answer the above with clarity, confidence and consistency, it’s likely that blogging will probably be an excellent addition to your Comms and PR mix. If you’re shaky on more than 3 of these questions, seek professional assistance today!

Surprising to see corporate giants Google popping their heads above the normal corporate PR messages today, with news that they have been defending accusations of dirty PR tricks in the ever-increasing war for Internet supremacy.

According to the Guardian, the online behemoth has been fighting off claims of a smear campaign against Privacy International over their concern around certain elements of the Street View tool which has gained so much media coverage recently.

It’s always a surprise when two corporates go head-to-head in this way – such as when Branson was fighting with Murdoch in the Press last year. The headlines and feature articles raged for…oooh, at least 6 days.

And, of course, it gave an inquisitive audience – which also happens to be target customers ie consumers – a perfect reason to investigate further into what exactly the fuss was all about by looking deeper into the Virgin offer at the time.

And today’s PR battle will open up further interest, debate, media attention and PR leverage for Google, and – possibly – for Privacy International too. They say that all PR is good PR. Not inclined to agree, especially when so much negative News is hitting the business Press at the moment. Try selling in a positive business story to the Nationals right now! May as well attempt to walk across the Thames in sandals.

It would be fantastic, however, to see the corporate egos rising above themselves, demonstrating they can take the higher moral ground, and maybe exercising something approaching that fabled business concept of collaboration?!

Now THAT would be a wonderful piece of PR for our doom-and-gloom times.

Interesting story here today regarding the launch by the FT of a new, dedicated business-focused search service called Newssift.

The story is particularly relevant, at a time when despite the increased push for free content online, there are still innovative publishers, such as the Financial Times Group, which is seeking to derive additional revenue streams online in the face of increasingly-poor offline sales.

This also raises a question from a PR perspective.

If the FT, with the strength of it’s Branding, history, heritage, and loyal readership, is dipping into Deep Search and the like online to claw additional revenues from the Web, what are you doing to promote your business online and gain extra revenues and clients via the Internet?

We’ve already seen in previous posts how few British business are blogging, utilising the Web, carrying out effective online marketing schemes, talking to online Press…generally, relying on old-school comfort zones to draw in limited revenues. This is a precarious position to place your company in, let alone during the grip of a global recession.

If, as a PR provider, we had a company which was utilising only traditional Methods to get new business on board and promote themselves, via traditional advertising campaigns only, it is highly likely that unless they were willing to go through a lengthy Audit process with significant improvements for business generation to happen, that we would be able to help them with contemporary PR tools and techniques. You only get out of it what you put in, as they say.

Is PR recession-proof?

March 18, 2009

It might appear so, if this story is anything to go by.

The reported 10 percent profit rise by Chime Communications, the marketing Group which owns Agencies such as Bell Pottinger, in the FT lends itself to the possibility that certain PR sectors – apart from financial PR of course, which is spending greatly-reduced Client fees on fire-fighting at the moment – have seen a marked increase in revenues in the public sector, as more and more organisations struggle to promote positive messages.

The results from Chime come at a time when Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive of WPP reported a revenues growth of four percent – and then went on record in the Guardian to announce that thousands of Group PR positions would need to be axed to protect the firm. It would appear that corporate PR is not the safe place it always used to be.

How does this affect the medium and smaller firms out there? Most businesses, whilst in the process of reducing elements of their marketing spend, will sensibly hold onto the PR part – seeing that PR remains one of the most cost-effective parts of the promotional mix.

So, in essence, I can see that for certain sectors of PR, the recession holds little real fear for their economic survival: after all, if Clients are cutting budget in other areas, but still recognising the need for PR messages in the marketplace, it can only be a good thing for the majority of smaller boutique PR Consultancies and Agencies.

The larger players, however, will see streamlining as Clients cut back on peripheral activities not essential to the overall marketing mix. More interestingly, there could well be a surge in smaller and medium-sized companies deciding to conduct their own PR activities. Which is never a bad thing for the Press, if they’re getting the information straight from the horses mouth, of course.

The only issue is whether the DIY PR approach gives the media exactly what they want, when they want it.

Interesting article in today’s media Guardian regarding the swathing cuts in regional journalism across the UK in recent months from Jon Slattery. And one by-product is currently the influx of editorial staff applying for PR positions in an attempt to stay in gainful employment amidst massive regional newsroom cutbacks.

The true state of British journalism is worrying indeed – those of us working in the media have known this for far longer than the recession-filled, fear-laden six months in which the Public has become fully aware of the current economic situation. The PR landscape has also changed, although not as drastically as the regional newsrooms.

The stream-lining of newsroom across the regions has appalled many of us, largely due to the very nature of the ways in which management and number-crunchers have dispatched editorial staff.

The excellent Guardian article from Slattery points out that there has been an influx of journos looking to organisations such as Councils for in-house work, and a significant drift to PR agencies by journalists and editors who would never have considered anything other than being committed Hacks for the rest of their writing careers this time last year. The PR Agencies are actually in a position of seeing more editors, news editors and senior reporters knocking on their doors for recruitment purposes.

Will this increase the quality of PR across the UK, or lead to a de-valuing of journalism, as more and more PRs submit editorial and images which needs less and less input from the newsrooms to make it onto the pages? After all, in the absence of a fully-fledged newsroom staff count, most editors rely heavily (too heavily, many would argue) on the submissions from PR Agencies to maintain their editorial deadline schedules. A tricky dilemma indeed.

The relationship between PRs and the Press is changing – and the results will be interesting for both parties.

The answer is bubbles. Aero bubbles to be precise.

As reported in today’s Guardian Media, corporate giant Nestlé have unveiled their latest attempt in wooing buyers – and they’re going for a more balanced approach than the previous Sex & the City male hunk explaining about choccie bubbles advert: this time, to draw in a younger male and female audience, it’s through the medium of skating.

Great advert and a fantastic piece of PR: it has increased appeal to both sexes, utilising scurrmy, yummy, fun bubbles on a skateboarding circuit with a backdrop music score from the Jacksons. Light, easy on the eyes and ears. Almost…fun…

Raises a different question in PR terms though – that of branding positioning and audience/customer perception. Would you risk re-positioning to appeal to a wider audience? Would you go for another market, even if you knew that your current PR and marketing efforts were working well on a specific target audience? It is tempting, when you have a PR hit, to keep talking to the same audience for further interest and sales. Hats off to the corporate Comms and marketing team for stepping out.

Let’s face it, the previous Aero campaign was hugely successful, and we all recall the female voiceover saying “Oh, was he saying something?” as Sex & the City actor Jason Smith cavorts around the telly talking about bubbles and body temperature.

Not convinced if the current skate routine from Bob Burnquist will have the same effect on a female audience, but seeing as Nestlé have allegedly invested £7m in the campaign, they must be feeling pretty confident their latest take on bubbles will hit the sweet spot, so to speak.