My latest gripe is about the number of organisations that don't seem to want to spend a couple of hundred quid to invest in some decent photographs of their business. Instead they think they can take a couple of quick snaps with their mobile and expect to end up on the cover of Time.
It really is a false economy. No, we're not all David Baileys - face up to it please - and there are people out there called "professional photographers" who are trained to take GOOD photos. (Ever tried Google...?)
A good photo really helps to sell a story. You can go to all the trouble in the world to write a polished press release, only to be emailed a sad little JPEG of someone gurning in what looks to be a broom cupboard, with the inevitable line "I hope this is OK". Well no, frankly it's not!
Spend the money, get a good set of photos taken and use them for months and years to come for marketing and PR purposes, and really show off your business in the best possible light.
There, rant over. I feel better now...
Posted at 10:10am on 3rd December 2008
Phew! We've finally offset last year's carbon emissions by pledging four trees to be planted in Manchester.
Ethos public relations monitors the journeys taken in the course of business and in 07-08 we did over 15,000 miles. Using the Carbon Footprint calculator we worked out that this equates to 3.24 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
As a tree absorbs approximately 1 tonne of carbon dioxide emissions in its lifetime, we pledged four trees through Carbon Footprint, to be planted in Manchester. These trees will more than offset our business travel carbon emissions for the year and would not have been planted without our support.
As we are in a serviced office, it is not possible for us to measure our office energy usage / carbon footprint, but we take lots of steps to make sure we minimise this - see our social report. By monitoring and offsetting our travel emissions, at least we are doing something to address this part of our carbon footprint.
However, I know that carbon offset is quite a contentious issue. Is planting a tree now, which will take maybe 100 years to absorb a tonne of carbon dioxide, the best solution? Although we aim to minimise our emissions, for those emissions we do create, we think it is important to do something to offset them, but are there other, better solutions? What do you think?
Posted at 11:28am on 7th November 2008
With all the doom and gloom in the news about the economic crisis and violence, both in the UK and across the world, it is good to see that there are still those with a great sense of humour.
Lately, while going through the BBC News website, newspaper websites, etc, I have been finding myself chuckling away at some of the stories they have included.
For instance - did you read about the man who got stuck (well I say stuck - I mean glued!) to the toilet seat? And you must have heard about US vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin being the victim of a prank call at the weekend?
My personal favourite though was the story of a man who got his hand stuck down a toilet!
With all these stories in the media it shows a funnier side to the news in contrast to the endless stories of falling house prices and rising fuel bills.
Posted at 4:48pm on 5th November 2008
I was talking to a journalist on a local newspaper recently and she was telling me that she only had time to read the subject line of an email to decide whether a story was worth following up on.
On the one hand, I can understand with the amount of emails we all get, that this could sometimes be inevitable, but on the other hand, it is a bit worrying if the local news agenda is being determined by the subject line of an email. This could mean that many good, relevant stories are overlooked and all the work that goes into PR and writing press releases is wasted.
I guess the important thing from a PR point of view is to make sure that the subject line of your email succinctly reflects the story you trying to communicate, and focuses on the appropriate angle for that publication. As an obvious example, if the release is about an organisation in Liverpool and you're sending it to the Liverpool newspapers, make sure you tell them that it's about Liverpool in the subject line. (Generic 'subject' descriptions which don't have an obvious local angle will almost surely be overlooked.)
As a result, my email distribution rules are fourfold:
1) Get the 'subject' description right for the media you are targeting.
2) Carefully summarise the relevant points of the press release in your covering email.
3)Include the full press release, of course, but assume that the journalist is only likely to read if if they have got through stages one and two.
4) Follow up with a phone call (probably most important).
Now, why did I send that press release about Norwich to the Edinburgh newspapers? (Only joking...)
Posted at 1:29pm on 1st October 2008
So.... after all the planning and organising and tasting and...and.. we now have properly entered our 11th year as a PR agency in Manchester.
Thanks to everyone who came along to our cocktail evening to help us celebrate. I certainly had a great time meeting you all. The Manchester Brambler cocktail - invented to celebrate our Birthday - has now been unveiled to the world and is available at Bluu in Manchester's Northern Quarter. So why not pop in and help make it as famous as the Singapore Sling!
Or if Bluu is a little out of the way for you, here is the recipe.
Shaken with crushed ice and served on the rocks with a mint leaf floating.
Posted at 1:44pm on 12th September 2008
Four weeks today we'll be putting the final pieces in place for our 10th birthday bash at Bluu!
The excitement's building as the days pass and we're all looking forward to getting together with our friends, colleagues, clients and suppliers for a bit of a knees up. It's just our way of saying thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years.
I understand that work on the cocktail brochure is progressing nicely, and we're on tenterhooks to find out whose cocktail won the competition (...well some of us might know, but everyone else will have to wait until the party!) We certainly enjoyed tasting our way through all the entries to come up with a short list and the winning cocktail will be served on the night.
Roll on Wednesday 10 September...
(PS: If you've had an invitation, don't forget to RSVP)
Posted at 4:02pm on 13th August 2008
When the radio came on this morning, I thought there'd been a time shift and it was April Fool's Day. As I struggled into consciousness I began to remember it was August and the annual news "silly season". In fact, what I heard was so silly it really was quite funny...
There was a talking head on the Today programme telling us all that basically northern cities should be closed down and we should all move to Oxford and Cambridge! You've got to laugh, haven't you?
The fact that a right wing think tank comes up with a theory that northern cities are beyond revival (someone should have told John Lewis before they opened their superb new store in Liverpool the other week) maybe isn't that surprising. The fact that Today dedicated an earnest five minutes at prime time to this dross was. It might seem that there's not much news at the moment, except The Olympics and the Russian invasion of Georgia, but come on, there must be something better than that!
I won't be packing my bags to move down south just yet - but then I do live in Chester. Is that city safe for the moment, do you think?
Posted at 3:43pm on 13th August 2008
As part of my part-time course in public relations - www.cipr.co.uk - I had to choose and write an essay of my own choice, and I choose one examining PR 'spin'.
Since having quite a big career change last year and moving into public relations, it's been met with mixed reactions from friends and family - usually who don't understand what it is that I do and occasionally claim it's all fluffy stories and 'spin'.
So the burning question, did I find that PR is all 'spin'? Well no but, as expected, it is quite a complex issue. PR has a chequered history. For instance, Edward Bernays - considered to be the Father of PR - was a nephew of Sigmund Freud and studied social sciences. He believed that we should 'control the masses' through PR.
And then we are awash with examples of wartime propaganda distributed by the Government, again where truth wasn't always essential. The recent example of spinmeister Alistair Campbell and his production of documents on why Britain should go to war with Iraq has again done very little for the reputation of public relations. So it seems that labels of 'spin' are understandable.
But PR has evolved and is evolving. Just analysing examples of PR campaigns today show that not all PRs can be tarnished with the same brush. Campaigns now are well planned and often involve two-way communication, so reliant on the feedback of the public. PR isn't just a case of 'pumping out' information.
Some PR campaigns involve an element of persuasion - as within many other professions like sales and advertising - but the full arguments were spelt out and evidence was based on fact.
Yes, even today there are bad examples of PR practitioners who do use 'spin' - and unfortunately when this happens it often turns up in print because of our close relationships with journalists. This just wouldn't happen in other professions.
But there's a lot to a PR function other than media relations (i.e. speaking to journalists and issuing press releases). We also do community relations, internal communications, marketing, production of publications, website development and writing blogs like this one!
So no, PR isn't all 'spin' and I have a 2500 word essay on it if any one disagrees!
Posted at 10:29am on 1st August 2008
I had the pleasure to spend a night in a field last Friday night.
I know you will all think that that is far too boring for a PR professional - well unless it is at some trendy, uber-cool outdoor festival. But no, I spent a night in a field at the Leek Show, where Rudyard Sailability had a marquee to promote sailing for people with disabilities. For those that don't know it Leek is a smallish town in Staffordshire and I was surprised just how loud the local road was during the night.
Added to that was a fair amount of noise pollution from all the holiday flights in and out of Manchester airport. But all in all I had a great night, lots of fresh air and had a good day on the Saturday supporting a worthwhile charity.
And now I am off to Bluu Bar to taste the cocktails that will be at our 10th Anniversary Party... now that's PR - isn't it?
Posted at 4:10pm on 28th July 2008
Although the title of this blog entry does sound like a weekend of drinking and dancing I was actually in Blackpool (for only the second time in my life) to work.
One of our clients were holding a weekend conference on the seafront at the north west of England's version of Majorca - minus the sun of course! Sean and I made our way to the venue with our Ethos public relations/Blackpool postcards in hand to promote our business and also to help our clients.
Throughout the weekend I did many things that I don't usually do on a normal weekend. Out went the football practice and a couple of quiet beers and in came getting our blood pressure and cholesterol measurement taken, becoming a cameraman and having 'lessons' on photography, stitching and tree felling (yes that's right - tree felling - ask me anything about it because I am an expert now)!
It was my first Co-operative Congress - the annual event for the co-operative sector in the United Kingdom - and I was pleasantly surprised by it. I even got to do some celebrity spotting - well that is if you call Hazel Blears and Camilla Parker Bowles celebrities.
Right I must go - I have to fell a tree - I am an expert now don't you know!
Posted at 12:56pm on 9th July 2008
Rudyard Sailability is calling on Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to support their application for planning permission to build a boat store at Rudyard Lake.
As a member of Rudyard Sailability, which provides a unique and valuable service for disabled people to learn to sail, I can't stress how important this facility is.
Suitable storage is vital if Rudyard Sailability is to improve and enhance its service and provide opportunities to more disabled people. The current boat storage is in a poor state and totally inadequate. In fact it's an eye-sore which could be replaced by a new building that complements the local surroundings.
Without the new boat storage, it's hard to see how Rudyard Sailability can continue its fantastic role. It would be a shame if, after all the hard work of so many volunteers, the scheme had to end because of a lack of suitable storage facilities.
Rudyard Sailability is a very special facility which Staffordshire Moorlands District Council should be proud of and should support. It is developing into a national resource which is helping to promote Rudyard Lake and this part of England.
The location and design of the boat store will provide greater independence, security and comfort to the Rudyard Sailabilty operation, and will fit naturally into the landscape, blending in with the existing Victorian-style, lakeside buildings.
If you can support our application visit: http://publicaccess.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/publicaccess/tdc/DcApplication/application_detailview.aspx?caseno=K1D7E5PG08600&searchtype=WEEKLY
Posted at 1:43pm on 1st July 2008
Girls are better than boys - they really are!
As I was 'pretend' wrestling with my 7 year old son in the park - he did his WWE pin down on me until I had surrendered and then jumped up shouting 'yeah boys are better than girls'.
Naturally, I found this totally unacceptable so kicked his legs from underneath him, threw him to the floor, sat on his chest and said 'what do you have to say now sucker??'
No, don't worry child protection agencies - of course I didn't. I explained calmly and rationally that sexual stereotypes were simply not acceptable in the 21st century and that anything he could do - his sister could do too (and better, faster and more efficiently - only I said that bit in my head so as not to dent his tender developing male ego). But multi tasking and managing that duel role of career and housework does make girls better than boys.
For example before I've arrived at work I've dressed, washed and fed two children, delivered them to school on time, walked and fed the dog and of course titivated myself to look reasonable to clients and colleagues.
Before my male colleagues have arrived at work - well, they've just arrived at work!
OK we all have a full and busy day - but as we leave exhausted, tired and ready to collapse - what happens next.
Well, I collect child number one from the childminders and child number two from after school club. I get home and start to prepare supper. (Male colleague arrives home and opened his Chardonnay). Whilst that's cooking I'll start making the lunches for the following day. After supper I'll load the dishwasher around my husband who stands masterfully in the kitchen with a dishcloth in hand looking at any minute that he's going to use it - but never quite does. (Male colleague changed into something more comfortable and just finished his M&S supper).
Then there's usually washing to load, ironing to be done or a floor to be vacuumed. Of course there's home work (which I always have to do as Dad shouts when they can't do it), bath time and bedtime (which I usually have to do as I tell better stories).
(Male colleague - prostrate on sofa watching The Apprentice).
With children in bed or at least safely locked in their cells for the evening - I'll usually spend at hour on the computer finishing up work from the day or preparing for a meeting the next day and by now it's 10 pm and I?m ready for bed. (Male colleague, glances at his blackberry).
Just as I'm creeping up the stairs, hubby will say, aren't you going to talk to me then, I've not seen you all day. AAARGH.(Male colleague, slips of his kimono and into bed).
Seriously folks - I do believe women can have it all. They can have the job and motherhood. And housework and drudgery and basically every other day to day mundane task that without us would just not happen. And that's because girls are better than boys.
PS Just in case husband is reading this I haven't mentioned the extension he's built, the garden he's re-turfed, the wooden flooring he's laid or the new kitchen he's fitted because they don't really count as day to day stuff!
Posted at 1:52pm on 27th May 2008
The sorry spectacle of MPs scrabbling to keep their expenses secret probably bemuses most of us. For people like me involved in running a business, I am sure it appears even more ludicrous. The thought of anyone trying to hide their expenses or deliberately claiming for things they weren't supposed to claim for would be pretty outrageous. Openness and accountability are essential in business. Why should it be any different for MPs?
The irony is, I think most reasonable people recognise that MPs have a unique job - with homes in different places, a lot of travel and many social expenses - and most of us would probably expect them to be able to claim for many more things that those of us in other jobs wouldn't need to.
A clear, publicly-accessible expenses policy, with claims open to public scrutiny is long overdue. To me, anything less would be unacceptable. After all it's our money they're spending!
Posted at 9:23am on 27th May 2008
I was one of 31,000 people that ran yesterday's Great Manchester 10K in the city centre and the atmosphere was fantastic!
Runners of all abilities took part in the race many of whom, like me, were raising money for charities with important causes - and doing a very good job of it too from what I could see!
The support from the crowds cheering us all on was amazing and I didn't realise that it would spur me on so much in the final 2K when I really wanted to just stop and walk! But I kept going and finished in exactly 1 hour (well, 1 hour 9 seconds to be exact) which I was happy with.
At the end of it, I was absolutely knackered and determined never to put myself through another 10K - but today I'm looking back with rose tinted glasses and searching other runs in the area that I could do!
I can certainly see why running is so addictive - apart from getting you fit, there's always the challenge to keep beating your time that runners re-enter races like the Great Manchester 10K every year. I'm already thinking about those 10 seconds that I need to knock off to get under the hour!
To read more about the race, go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester
Posted at 12:13pm on 19th May 2008
With our office being based in Manchester city centre the last few days have been - well quite interesting.
The usual sounds of a car or two going past the window or other office workers having a chat and a cigarette (or 'a fag and a nag' as I like to call it!) were replaced by the sounds of thousands of Glasgow Rangers football fans professing their love for their club and bagpipes!
It's fair to say that the UEFA Cup Final has made the usual city work day a
lot different - and I think that that is a good thing.
The usual suits were overwhelmed by 100,000 plus blue shirts and the area had a buzz around it that I have never experienced. Even non-football fans must have been amazed with the sight that appeared in from off them on their normally tranquil streets.
Mind you now that the fans are gone, the helicopters over head are silent, the city squares are clean, it makes you enjoy the city the way it is!
Posted at 3:06pm on 15th May 2008
There have been many posts and much discussion about the use of plastic bags in shops in the past and almost all of it seems to focus on reducing the number of bags used - rightly. The environmental consensus seems to be that shops should shop giving them out. But yesterday I heard an alternative view.
I turned down a free carrier bag in a shop yesterday and the shop assistant said she always did the same if the bag were not paper. She said that her shop had recently changed from using paper bags to plastic ones.
From now on I am always going to ask shops if they have paper bags (in non-food stores) because if I chose to take one, I can at least recycle it after I have finished with it.
Why don't we all do the same and get more stores to use paper?
Posted at 9:25am on 2nd May 2008
There's been pretty universal condemnation of China's actions in Tibet, and the Olympic protests have certainly raised awareness of the issue, but in my opinion, if people really want to have an impact, they should stop buying Chinese goods. I know it's not easy when nearly every product on the high street seems to be made in China, but it's possible, even if it does require a bit of effort.
It would also be good if people were more willing to ask retailers for non-Chinese products, as then they might think more about sourcing goods from elsewhere. Politics aside, the predominance of Chinese manufacturing is not good for the world economy - other countries need jobs and income too. China might be cheapest, but it certainly isn't best.
Posted at 5:51pm on 7th April 2008
Like everyone else in the UK I have a Facebook profile. I have a MySpace profile too. I also have a Where Are You Now profile. People are also inviting me to join Bebo and have a profile there. But is there any real need for me to have all these profiles?
I check my Facebook profile daily to see if anyone has wrote on my wall or poked me. But I rarely check my other two profiles. For me, one social networking profile is enough. This is why I find it interesting that so many social networking sites are springing up all over the place.
There are specific sites for old school friends, specific sites for people working in public relations, specific sites for people looking for that special person and now there are even specific sites just for mothers! An example of this is a website called Netmums - dubbed the MySpace for mothers - where mums can exchange their views and thoughts on parenthood.
I am all up for there being sites where people feel included in a 'community' and are able to learn new things from people in similar positions but sometime soon a line has to be drawn. In the not too distant future there could be a social networking site dedicated to those that are addicted to social networking sites!
And don't get me started on Virtual worlds!
What ever happened to going down to the pub to have a drink face to face with a mate you haven't seen in a while?
Anyway rant over - I am away to poke one of my mates and have a wall to wall conversation with someone who only lives five minutes away?
Posted at 11:00am on 1st April 2008
No-one can have missed the increasing debate over plastic carrier bags given away by stores.
Not least as the Chancellor mentioned it in his Budget speech but when I was last shopping for food it struck me just how many products are wrapped in unnecessary layers of plastic. For example, a box of tea bags, wrapped in another layer of polythene? Why, they are already protected by the box.
Don't get me wrong, I know some products need to be carefully wrapped and I also want to see fewer carrier bags being used. But it needs to be in proportion. I am absolutely sure that the plastic contained in the products I bought far outweighed the extra contained in the thin bags usually given away at the checkout. So, come on retailers, reduce this plastic first, then the Chancellor might not bother legislating!
Posted at 5:40pm on 23rd March 2008
I've worked at home on and off since starting at Ethos public relations and I have to say it's great! I'm sure it wouldn't suit everyone, but for me it works well. You've got to be disciplined and self motivated, of course, but it is nice to get that extra flexibility.
In the beginning I imagined (as I'm sure most people would) that I could do a couple of hours work here and there and then go and sit in the garden or whatever, but to be honest that has never happened as I've always been too busy, and besides, I would feel incredibly guilty!It's typical, as well, that the minute you think of easing up for half an hour, the phone rings and you're straight back at your PC.
On the other hand, it is far too easy to work longer hours and to 'do a bit' at the weekend or in the evening. Of course, as with many jobs, sometimes this is necessary, but again it comes down to discipline. The key, for me, is to keep a time in mind after which I won't work unless it's an emergency and to try and stick to it. Then it's best to close the 'office' door and not go back until the next morning.
There's also the issue of social interaction, but to be honest, that has never been a problem for me, especially when you're on and off the phone all day. (I do go to the Manchester office from time to time too!)
It's true, of course, that realistically not everyone in an organisation such as ours could work from home all the time, but it suits my personal circumstances and thankfully my colleagues are very supportive!
Posted at 3:03pm on 18th March 2008