Millions of people already use networking websites for social purposes - chatting, making friends, sharing photos and videos etc - but, to date, the use of social networks by UK businesses to communicate to their customers seems to have been somewhat sporadic and random. Of course, for those in the creative industries (including PR) 'social media', or communications based around conversations and two way dialogue on the internet, has been all the rage for what seems like ages, but for other sectors there's some catching up to do.
When I read recently that M&S are developing their use of social networking sites to engage more directly with their customers online, it struck me that this will have a huge impact not only on how high street retailers operate in future, but on the development of the economy as a whole. From recent client research I did, I'm aware that many of the 'young fashion' oriented retailers, such as Top Shop and River Island, already have a significant social network presence - whether on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc. In fact, M&S itself already has a Facebook group with over 90,000 followers. This level of engagement is not yet the case for all fashion retailers, but where M&S lead, the rest are likely to follow.
Other evidence also tends to indicate that, whereas up until now social media was just an optional add-on for many businesses - assuming they had even thought about it! - 2010 will be a watershed year, with many finally realising they need to allocate resources and expertise to make it happen, or risk missing the boat and losing out to more social media savvy competitors.
By enabling organisations to reach a huge audience of interested individuals easily and quickly, social media has the potential to become the hub of a business's (two-way) communications. I wonder how many people - never mind organisations - yet realise this.
Of course, it would be wrong to think social media will take over from all other forms of communication, but I think it will play an increasingly important role feeding into and guiding communications strategies for orgnaisations - and 2010 could be the year when UK businesses really embrace it.
Besides, if you can set up a Facebook group and drive sales of half a million singles in three and a half weeks (cf this year's Christmas number one) - businesses and organisations of all types would be daft not to pursue social networking opportunities on the web - and quickly!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
(Photo by Maggie Smith, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Posted at 1:10pm on 22nd December 2009
A recent enquiry about producing a printed document - yes people aren't 100% digital yet, says me writing a blog - got me thinking long and hard about pricing. The prospective client was interested in getting ideas for their publication before committing to produce it. The issue about doing up-front work before being awarded a contract is a perennial issue for those in the so called 'creative industries'. Being something of a 'thinker' I thought well into the night about what the correct solution should be.
It seems to me that there are two types of products in the world (gross over simplification, I know). There are those mass market products (and services) such as Mars bars or daily newspapers where the manufacturer makes hundreds of them and then takes them to market and we, consumers, decide to buy them - or not.
Then there are those bespoke products such as that specially tailored suit or corporate newsletter.
Seen in this context, I think the answer is clear as to who should 'fund' work on a new publication. All corporate communications, by their very nature, should be bespoke, if not especially tailored. It's therefore only right that any development work is paid by the commissioner.
What do you think?
Posted at 10:52am on 8th December 2009
Well, they do say that Ethos public relations reaches the parts that other PR agencies don't reach, so we were delighted when an interview we had written for a client magazine was quoted by Lord Graham of Edmonton in a House of Lords debate!
The interview that my colleague, Sean did with Mark Hoban MP, Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, was quoted by Lord Graham to highlight the opposition's position on credit unions. Not only is it rewarding that something we wrote was quoted, but it's even better when it is used to demonstrate to Peers how a party's position on credit unions has changed for the better! It feels like we're helping to shape the political agenda.
It was quite nice too that the debate was covered at prime time on BBC Parliament for all to see and hear, which (sadly) I happened to be watching!
So if you want to get your message heard at the heart of the political debate - you know where to come... (Our client got a mention in the debate too, of course!)
Photo courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted at 3:23pm on 23rd October 2009
Ethos public relations has been involved in quite a few new business pitches this year and there is quite a staggering difference between the ways in which organisations ask for information about prospective suppliers.
We have come, rather sadly, to the conclusion, that the weightier the tender documentation, the less likely we are, as an SME, to get the business. I know that public sector tenders are supposed to be fair, transparent and open blah, blah, blah but quite frankly sometimes I wonder if everything they ask for is necessary, or more importantly ever considered.
Do people actually read the reams and reams of pointless information they request?
Of course the blood, sweat and tears is worth it when we are successful in our new business bid - but I really think that the public sector really needs to make their tender processes less complicated and work with rather than against SME's. Apparently, the government has requested this and apparently the public sector has made it easier. But sometimes it is hard to see how.
Maybe tenderers could take a leaf out of our book...
When we are looking for contractors, we request references, meet them to see they are nice people, look at past examples of their work and check they are financially sound. If the price is right we work with them. It's not rocket science and we don't ask for them to jump through hoops before we work with them!!
Posted at 2:58pm on 19th October 2009
Well, the Band is Back!
Band on the Wall is now officially open following a fantastic opening night with Mica Paris and jazz pianist, Julian Joseph. Everyone at Ethos public relations has worked so hard to ensure good media coverage of the launch and we are proud to have been able to play a part in the reopening of such a legendary venue.
I hope you will have seen some of the coverage online and on telly or in the press and we hope that the people of Manchester, and further afield, come along and support the venue over the next few years. After all, the launch is only the beginning...
Before Band on the Wall closed some five years back, I remember passing the venue on Swan Street many times and seeing all the people on the street queuing to get inside and the building was a real icon for Manchester and for its music scene. The venue now has the opportunity to recapture some of this magic and to develop musical talent locally at the same time as showcasing muscial talent from around the world. Band on the Wall also has a unique opportunity to help the reinvigoration of the Northern Quarter area of Manchester.
Do pop in soon ... hope to see you there!
Posted at 3:02pm on 26th September 2009
It was great, travelling down to London last week on the train from Chester, to be able to get to the capital in two hours. The new service is excellent - just not sure why the train was so long and there were so few people on it. (Price perhaps?) A revamped Chester station also helped.
However, it still takes about an hour to get from Chester to Manchester - only 50 miles away. Surely it's time to speed up that route too? You can be in London in the time it takes to get from Chester to Manchester and back...
It's good news that proposals have been put forward to introduce a new high speed rail line for the West Coast line (some time in the future!) but even better news that new high speed trains will be able to run on conventional track, speeding up journey times sooner. This will not only open up access to the North West, improving prosperity, but will of course, get more cars off the roads.
Using existing infrastructure to improve existing train services is the approach of Go! Co-operative. Go! argues that we should be getting trains to stop at more of the stations? that currently exist and are aiming to provide new services to places like Melksham, Frome and Yeovil, which all have existing stations but a poor service.
In summary, it's time to make better use of the rail infrastructure we have.
Posted at 9:25am on 10th September 2009
A recent article in trade magazine PR Week suggests that PR companies don't have enough cash for work experience students.
I'm not sure it's cash that's the problem - but time. In order to give the placement any real value, it's imperative that students are mentored properly which means spending quite? bit of time with them.
As an SME we simply don't have that luxury so whilst in theory we would love to be able to help young PR folk get a taste of real agency work, chances are they would be sitting at a desk twiddling their thumbs.
Many PR graduates (like graduates in most professions) also tend to leave college under the illusion that they will immediately walk into a £25K job, thanks to a fabulous dissertation and their three years of theory.
We usually spend a week explaining the rudiments of answering the telephone!
Posted at 9:39am on 27th August 2009
A big sorry if you have been trying to email us today and have had problems. A power cut last night managed to knock out our server, meaning we couldn't get any emails from you. But it gave us all a great opportunity to talk to people by phone and to do some office tidying. Mind you, we still managed to fit in job interviews, interviews for local papers and radio as well as national Radio Four.
We hope normal service will be resumed quickly in the morning, but if you need us and emails don't seem to work, do give us a call.
We love to hear from you!
Posted at 4:04pm on 8th July 2009
Today I was present when Vince Cable MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, addressed Co-operatives 2009 in Old Windsor.
The annual conference of the co-operative sector is an important event, bringing together hundreds of co-operators to share information and learn from one another. Ethos public relations even led a presentation on marketing to a very appreciative audience. Like most of the presenters over the weekend we used a PowerPoint presentation to give the audience a visual representation of what we were saying.
Over the years I have sat through many hundreds of presentation and I am always glad when the slides are informative, colourful, the text is not too small and I prefer there not to be loads of unnecessary slides! So it was refreshing today to hear Vince Cable start his 'speech' with an apology for having no PowerPoint slides. He didn't need them. Obviously, in the House of Commons MPs use notes when making their contributions but Westminster is not the place for PowerPoint. Listening to Vince it reminded me of the power of a good speech and how it can help focus the mind on what is being said.
Posted at 3:54pm on 27th June 2009
Coming back from an event at the weekend we decided to abandon the usual overpriced mass catering of the motorway service station and track down a local restaurant or pub which served proper food.
Within a mile or two of the M5 we found a wonderful village pub called The Swan (www.theswaninn.co.uk), in Birlingham, Worcestershire. I guess we struck lucky, but the food was amazing! Locally grown asparagus, home baked bread, pork in cider and cream sauce - washed down by Cheddar scrumpy (for the non-driver of course - but luckily the driver was able to take a carton home with him!)
Coming across a timber framed inn on the edge of the Cotswolds on a warm summer's evening is a dream in itself, but finding that it served great food too was a bonus. The local people we spoke to in the pub were incredibly friendly?and made us feel really welcome - we've been invited back to the beer festival in September!
None of this should be surprising, but I think these days it is. Perhaps we were lucky but it reminded me that, even when you're travelling, you can find a world of real food - good food - out there. It pays to get off the motorway, away from the mass produced fast food.
Besides, many village pubs are struggling, so I think it's really important to support them, as they're the social hub of many communities and one of Britain's best traditions and assets. Not that there were too many tables free at The Swan!
Posted at 5:04pm on 18th June 2009
Just a quickie to let you know how things are working out with Broadband. We've been together five or six years now and I have to say I don't know what I'd do without it.
As you know from our previous correspondence, before Broadband came along I was feeling isolated, alone (PLEASE don't mention Teletext!). The hours spent trailing round supermarkets for food; even to book a holiday meant traipsing to a 'travel agent'. And then you introduced me to Broadband...
No more dial-up! No more hanging around for hours on the off chance you'll get through and then, just when you thought you'd made a connection, everything crashing. As you know, that feeling of being let down is unbearable.
Of course, broadband - like all of us - has faults too. Between you and me, I have to say that, at times, it's a little s..l..o..w. Nothing too much to worry about, and I know I've got to be more patient, but sometimes you get a 'need for speed', if you know what I mean. Oh, and a little extra bandwith wouldn't go a miss - but then size isn't everything. (I must confess that my thoughts have sometimes wandered to Next Generation Superfast Fibre Based Broadband - but it's nothing a five minute Google won't cure.)
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Broadband is there for me. Now there's not a lot in life you can say that about is there?
Anyway, must dash - got movies to download, iPlayer to play, clothes to buy and twitters to tweat (not to mention work to do!!)
Posted at 9:01am on 3rd June 2009
So Manchester has been chosen as the place to trial the UK's ID Card scheme. What a dubious honour for a city with radical roots and a long history of non-conformism.
In today's society no-one would deny that citizens need to be able to prove who they are when they are accessing certain services or crossing international borders. Passports have served very well for this for many years. What's the need for yet another way to prove who you are?
Does anyone seriously think that a would be terrorist or indeed any other criminal is going to be put off by the need to carry an ID Card - I think not. Reports that failed asylum seekers are able to abscond and become invisible to the authorities just shows that having an identity is not essential to living and working in this country.
At a time of financial uncertainty the last thing we need is more and more bureaucracy paid for by the taxpayer. Even people who previously thought compulsory ID Cards were essential to the security of our nation have now suggested that a cheaper option would be ensure that passports are more secure and less easy to falsify.
A straw poll in the office here doesn't see a great rush to go out and become a pioneer of the new scheme. If other Mancunians feel the same, this unnecessary scheme might, at last, be kicked out for good.
Posted at 3:27pm on 7th May 2009
Hallelujah! The United Nations has finally acknowledged that the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is illegal and is calling on the military regime to release her.
The judgment, by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, states that Aung San Suu Kyi's detention is in violation of both Burmese and international law.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been in detention for over 13 years, since her political party, the National League for Democracy, and its allies won the 1990 elections in Burma with more than 80% of the parliamentary seats. The military regime never recognised the election results.
In September 2007 a peaceful pro-democracy protest was brutally suppressed and there are now over 2,000 political prisoners who have been imprisoned just for peacefully calling for democracy and freedom in Burma.
The Burma Campaign UK is urging people to sign a petition calling on the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to make it his personal priority to secure the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. The petition target is 888,888 signatures, symbolising 8.8.88, the day the junta massacred some 3,000 people who courageously protested in Burma's largest democracy uprising.
As an organisation that believes in democracy and free speech, Ethos public relations supports the petition and would encourage others to do the same.
Sign the petition at http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/fbppn.htm
Aung San Suu Kyi's facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Aung-San-Suu-Kyi/9953503420?ref=pdb. 30,000 people are already supporting Aung San Suu Kyi on Facebook.
Photo credit: Burma Campaign UK
Posted at 5:42pm on 24th March 2009
At Ethos public relations one of the main jobs we do for our clients is to get their name in various media outlets to promote their business. It is also good however when we, ourselves, get our name in the media.
We have had the opportunity to get in the media lately thanks to bring enlisted by Manchester Credit Union to do their PR and by Yorkshire Housing to do their tenant magazines.
As well as making the public aware of what is going on it is good to see one of my colleagues have their 15 seconds of fame.
On a personal level I was quite pleased when I had my photograph taken and for it to appear in the Manchester Evening News. Its something to show off to your parents and your mates to show that you are working hard and getting your message across.
Sometimes its hard being a celebrity???
Posted at 5:07pm on 6th March 2009
Working in public relations, it's vital that we're not only extremely familiar with the print and broadcast press but that we're up to speed with new media too. Coverage in online newspapers, magazines and websites is really important as an increasing number of us read news on our PCs every day. Plus links to news on the web remain live for a long time - unlike our newspapers which end up in the recycling at the end of the day!
Despite all this, many of us still prefer a hard copy of our news and information and that's never been so true as this week when we begin a publications brief for Yorkshire Housing who would like us to write and edit not one, but three newsletters for its staff and residents. It just goes to show that although online publications are becoming increasingly important, printed publications still have their place and I'm happy about that - don't know what I'd do without my daily dose of the newspapers over breakfast in the morning!
Posted at 3:41pm on 26th February 2009
If you are reading this, then it's a sure bet that you have seen our new website and our new logo.
If I am honest - and I usually am - at times I was at the edge of my knowledge and understanding of the issues I was confronted with. But then, that's the benefit of working with people who know their craft, whether that's webdesign or Pantone and CMYK colour schemes. Over the next few weeks there will be some more exciting developments on the site, so please do come back soon to see how it's progressed. Or alternatively, Reddit, Facebook it, Nixx it, Digg it, Hugg it ...
Posted at 6:50pm on 5th February 2009
Now we all know that technology has taken over our lives - and this became abundantly clear when a power cut hit Manchester city centre recently. The power cut only lasted two hours (for the lucky workers in the city centre at least) but it caused a fair bit of disruption. Trams were stopped in their tracks (literally!), the Manchester Wheel stopped spinning (with people inside!) and the shops in the Arndale Centre had to shut until power was restored (not what you need in these credit crunching times!)
We, at Ethos public relations, were also affected by the power cut. The phones were off, the lights were off, the computers were off - we couldn't even make a cup of tea! But of course - we battled through and reverted back to the good old days!
Instead of having a cup of tea we had a glass of water. Instead of typing out a letter on the keyboard we wrote it by hand. Instead of using the calculator on the computer to work out a calculation we used a piece of paper and pen. And instead of using Google maps to work out the distance from one city to another we used an atlas!
My point is that it is amazing how much we rely on technology these days! About 20 years ago a power cut would not have affected a city centre that much, but now it brings it close to a standstill.
Anyway - I am off now to work on some HTML and use Skype. Ah the good old days?
Posted at 10:46am on 14th January 2009
It's now New Year and we are in the process of launching our new corporate identity. Having been around for some 10 years, we thought it was time to update our image a bit - though not our ethos! Very soon we will be able to unveil not only the logo but also a brand new website, worthy of the New Year. Along with our web designers we having been going through long discussions about readability, font sizes paragraph length and colours. Hopefully when it's launched you will like it as much as we do, but it did strike me that however modern web technology might be, it is incredibly similar to the old print issues that predated it.
Posted at 4:08pm on 5th January 2009