Tag: newspapers

Open drives business forward with Ring appointment

Ring Head Office

We are really pleased to announce that we are driving the business forward *pun intended* with our appointment as preferred PR partner for Ring, the leading lighting and vehicle accessories specialist to the aftermarket.

Following a competitive pitch, we secured the account to deliver year-round support for the business with the remit covering corporate, consumer and trade PR. In addition, we will work with the team at Ring to develop strategic campaigns to reinforce the profile of the company’s growing product portfolio.

Director of Open Comms, Lindsey Davies said: “The brief from Ring was something we quickly got to grips with. Having met the team, we recognised that they needed an agency that would be an extension to their team. Not only did we address the brief but also provided some creative recommendations that would push the boundaries beyond the more traditional approach taken by many in the market. Securing this account gives us a great start to the year.”

Marketing Manager for Ring, Henry Bisson said: “It was apparent from the first meeting that we were going to get along with Open and that was really important to us. The automotive sector can be more complex than people recognise and it can take some time to get used to the nuances involved but the agency is already making an impression and journalists we have worked with for years are accepting them as our PR division.”

We are really looking forward to getting to grips with a business that sits outside of the sectors that we already support including FMCG, food and drink, third sector, manufacturing and retail. We launched in 2008 and you can find us in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

 

When 4-inches IS more than big enough!

There has been a bit of a ‘wobble’ within the media over recent days, with the findings of a report from the Women and Equalities Committee and the Petitions Committee announcing that women are regularly told to abide by discriminatory dress codes for work.  

This all follows a previous story about a young woman who was employed as a temp at a large professional services firm. On arriving at the job, she was told to change her smart black flats for 2-4 inch heels.

Ms Thorpe refused and was asked to leave the company unpaid. She subsequently launched a petition (they didn’t see that coming!) which encouraged over 150,000 signatures and achieved national headlines throughout the country in both print and across broadcast.

There are a few things I want to make clear here before we start:

1.       It is not ok to ask people to unbutton their shirts – ever

2.       It is not ok to ask people to wear shorter skirts – again, ever!

3.       If you have a dress code you must make it common knowledge before offering someone a position – it is not right to dismiss them afterwards

I have heard stories of PR agencies making people unbutton shirts before pitches and have seen pictures whereby teams (all women coincidentally) have been made to wear tight skirts and shirts in ‘corporate colours’, which by the way looked ridiculous!

The problem lies in the fact that these examples are extreme.

The issue here goes far beyond 4-inch heels or the press coverage that this story has generated. As is often the case, the truth behind the problem is dictated by the decisions that we make and the industries we choose to work in.

A doctor as an example has to wear scrubs. I’m sure that they don’t feel attractive in them and many would prefer to work in jeans and a t-shirt or perhaps even a dress and flats but that isn’t possible because it is permitted that they follow the rules of their employment for hygiene reasons.

You could – and I’m guessing you will – argue that an office is not a fair comparison and I agree BUT when you work in a professional environment there are certain expectations about dress code.

I would never put in place a dress code at Open Comms, it would go against everything we believe in, but I do expect that everyone in the team is a true representation of our brand and business – which isn’t ripped jeans and a t-shirt.

We don’t all dress in suits every day and on occasion we will come in wearing trousers and a top. There is absolutely no ‘rule’ in terms of footwear but again I wouldn’t expect anyone to turn up in trainers or wellington boots – the team use their judgement and know that they are representing Open when they are at work.

Within a half-page piece in the i newspaper, it said that the report findings had found “They heard repeatedly from women who said their feet would bleed and that they were in so much pain they were unable to walk properly or lead a normal life.”

Now, come on. I don’t know anyone at all that this has EVER happened to. I wear heels most days and I don’t suffer from feet that bleed or pain when I walk because I wear shoes that fit me properly, and I really don’t believe a 2-inch heel for most people would cause too many problems.  

I think the main point of the piece, which is eluded to but not spelt out, is that people want to wear what they choose – they don’t want to conform. I don’t agree at all with the extreme cases that are shared across the papers and to unbutton shirts and roll up skirts turns my stomach but there has to be some degree of making better judgements when you decide where to work.

As many of the jobs that are referenced are within the professional services you would expect that these people do in fact have choices and it is the responsibility of the employer to share any dress code during the recruitment process. It is then up to the candidate to decide if they abide by that or not.

We need to be really careful in these instances that we don’t get caught up in believing that looking smart and making an effort is to be criticised. I enjoy wearing dresses and heels to work, I like to feel smart and professional. When I wear jeans I’m usually at home and my mindset is completely different.

For me, putting on a dress, skirt or trouser suit takes me from Lin to Lindsey from Open Comms. I don’t think I’m alone in this thought and I hope that some common sense prevails over the coming weeks because quite frankly I don’t want to have to wear flats for fear of being demonised for choosing to wear 4-inch heels to work.

The extreme cases need to be dealt with but one size does not fit all. The impact that this report has on certain industries could be very damaging – and not for those wearing the heels!

Make sure spending a penny doesn’t make you an ar*e

Whilst browsing a local news site yesterday evening I came across a story which caught my attention. It was about the owner of a book store in Hawes, who has found himself in hot water – and headline news – for being a little less than friendly to his customers.

Wracking up an almost impressive 20 complaints in the last four years about his rudeness – in one instance referring to a customer as a ‘pain in the arse’ – Steve Bloom has got more than he bargained for. Not only is he considered rude but he brings new meaning to the phrase ‘spend a penny’ as he asks for a 50p donation for people to browse his store.

His excuse for being rude is that ‘he’s not really a people person’, but it does beg the question why he chooses to have a customer facing business. The donation on the other hand is apparently to make sure that his shoppers are ‘serious’. Book reading has suddenly become an extreme sport!

He resides in an area known for its attraction to hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, which are absolutely essential to the economic sustainability of the region, so again, to not be wholeheartedly welcoming is somewhat missing the point.

However… there’s always a but… and I feel quite sorry for this fella and I’ll explain why. For those who don’t know Hawes, it is a beautiful town in the North Yorkshire Dales and as well as being famed for its views, it is also the home to businesses such as The Wensleydale Creamery.

Coming from the Dales I am hugely biased and find it difficult to hear negative stories, however deserved, about the area and particularly the people and businesses based there. What did make me smile was that living in this area is like no other. People are ‘real’ and they say it as it is. There are no ‘airs and graces’ and everyone is on a level playing field, usually up to their knees in sheep muck.

There was many a time when we first arrived back in the Dales and I was astounded at how abrupt people were, only to realise that actually it’s just the way it is and you either like it or quite frankly leave.

People don’t always mean offence, they are just unwilling to change their ways to suit yours.

There has to be a little give and take. Clearly, not everyone is the same, and I suspect this man has made a bit of a nuisance of himself with the local parish council but is it the end of the world and should it be attracting national headlines?

The people in the Dales are honest, hardworking and typically friendly. They would do you a good turn before a bad and I am guessing some neighbours have been round to make sure that Mr Bloom, with his lovely flowery name, is doing ok following his rocket to fame.

We discussed this in the office and weren’t absolutely sure if this story wasn’t a PR stunt – albeit a good one. There must be an opportunity to find the grumpiest – yet most loved – shop owner in the country as a result. Someone that would make Mr Bloom smell like a sweet bouquet of fresh cut roses.

The outcome of the article in many media was a statement from Hawes Parish Council Chairman, John Blackie who said: “He is doing a disservice to the other traders, to the reputation of the town, which is very much a friendly town. We welcome people to come and visit us.”

The irony is that I would put 50p on the fact that this particularly book store owner is going to become somewhat of a local celebrity and tourists will be flocking to hand over their hard-earned coinage to take a serious nosy around his shop.

Not only will this benefit his business but also those around it. As they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity and I have to admit, I’ve considered suggesting a ride out on Saturday myself.

Feeling the ‘Press’ure

There is no doubt that the PR and marketing industry has changed over recent years and will never be the same again. This, in my opinion, is primarily down to people having less time and a shift in media consumption.

Once upon a time you would buy a paper, read it and pass it on. You may watch some TV and listen to the radio too, whereby you were likely to come across some strategically placed advertisements suggesting that you buy this or that.

Press advertising and outdoor displays have been around for as long as I can remember but the use of digital has taken consumer engagement to a completely new level and this is what has impacted on traditional media sales.

As more publications become available online, a greater number of commuters, business men and women, choose to read the press before they get into work – usually on their smart phones or iPads meaning that there is no need or desire for them to purchase a paper, never mind read it during work hours.

As a result of these changes printed media are having to do more to engage with their audience and showcase why they are different and what value a person can gain from both reading in print and online versions of their publications.

Many printed business press have chosen to hold round table events, which bring together market leaders – this gives them the time to debate current industry topics, while also providing the journalist with the chance to sit in a room full of potential content and if they time it right an exclusive or two!

Most publications now have online versions as well as printed options so it’s a balancing act between having what the consumer wants and still showcasing the value of print.

As an agency that has worked within the print market for more than 10 years, we know the value and benefit of print, not least the tangible aspect of a creatively designed, full colour piece. There is no doubt that there is still a place for print and The Drum, a marketing trade publication, has gone one step further.

I received an email yesterday with the subject: ‘My Big Mistake’. Naturally I wondered what that mistake would be – there can be some interesting #fails when you work in our industry. Never did I think this ‘mistake’ would be one of the most insightful, challenging and intriguing ideas I’ve come across.

The Drum have decided to complete an edition of the magazine in front of a live audience – yes, live! Those who attend the event on 3 July will see the team plan the publication layout, make decisions about the front cover story plus what other news will and won’t make the cut. In addition interviews will take place there and then with questions asked about the angles that should be chosen for feature pieces that will appear within the final piece.

Not only is this brave but it’s an incredible way of getting people to understand The Drum and how it works. It will give people a genuine insight into what makes good copy and what questions the team ask before submitting a final piece to go to print.

Unfortunately I won’t be in a position to attend the event but I can’t wait to read the final piece. Everyone attending will get an editorial credit – again, a very good ideas and just one way to get people to really buy in to the publication.

Well done to The Drum – a huge thumbs up! They are taking print to the masses, getting them involved, engaging with their audience, building brand loyalty and injecting some genuine creativity and excitement into what they do – nice work.

Finally, PR takes it seat at the boardroom table

I’ve just finished reading an excellent article in Management Today magazine. The piece focuses on the changing face of PR – and I don’t mean one shade of designer lipstick to another – no, finally it would appear that the industry is getting the recognition that it deserves and is taking a seat around the boardroom table.

Having worked in the PR industry for more than a decade and with a BA (Hons) degree in the specialism, I have long been an advocate of the merits of PR when it is practiced correctly and professionally.

As I see it there are problems with the PR industry in the same way that there are problems with any other; you have the good and you have the bad and it can be difficult to decide which is which. One will wine and dine you in fancy restaurants, while the other tells you the harsh truth and what to do about it – far less appealing than a good lunch but undoubtedly more beneficial in the long run.

The truth of the matter is that PR has always been about reputation – that has never changed and be it online or in print, what is said in the street or down the pub, it all goes back to the same thing; if you don’t know what people are saying about you, there is nothing you can do about it.

Businesses are thankfully coming around to the understanding that during any situation, good or bad, the first point of call is to make sure that you are communicating effectively with your audiences. In order to do this an organisation requires an advisor, a specialist, someone to rely on with their plans, aspirations and concerns.

The piece in Management Today very much focuses on the changes to PR based on the use of social media but I think there is more to it than that.

Tim Bell comments: “If you want to live in a transparent world then someone has to give the information about you. If you don’t want someone else to, you have to do it yourself. That’s what PR people do.”

Sure, social media and a desire by the consumer to share their thoughts and opinions with the world – plus having the ability to do so quickly and easily across a multitude of platforms – has meant that PR professionals have more to do but that is simply good practice and the evolution of an industry which spans hundreds of years.

The real change I think has come in a shift of mind set. People working in PR have thankfully taken a long, hard look at the industry and realised that as a discipline we were losing out. We weren’t taken seriously in our tottering high heels and we needed to toughen up and take our seat around the boardroom table.

Those who were serious about a career started to showcase their skills in the situations that deliver harsh recognition; a crisis without a communications professional who is experienced, able and capable of dealing with it can bring a business literally crashing to its knees.

In Management Today Jeremy Hazlehurst comments:

“PR the profession has changed beyond recognition in the past decade. Although media relations activities have burgeoned, involving the paper press, online publications, television and bloggers, it is only a small part of the job now. Press offices have been swallowed up by communications departments that deal with investor relations, analysts, shareholders, regulators and government. All are the guardians of the most precious and difficult to measure of assets – corporate reputation.”

I’ve never been ‘typically PR’ and have always felt that the discipline should be considered a necessity as opposed as a nice to have, not just because I work in the industry but because I see every day the benefits that it delivers, which are often measured less by coverage and more by ‘real life’ results and the situations which are in some cases avoided.

It’s no secret that I almost left the PR industry altogether before launching Open Communications with my business partner Emma because of the way in which some agencies work. I didn’t want to go to lunch or out to parties, I didn’t want to charge by the hour working on campaigns I knew were over-priced and wouldn’t deliver and I didn’t want to feel like I was doing the clients I was working with a disservice by not going that extra mile.

What I did want was to work with journalists so that my clients would hit the headlines, I wanted to use communication to generate business, really get to the heart of the companies I was working for and be a part of their success. I wanted to advise them in the best way possible and explain in no uncertain terms that as a direct result of my actions their business was stronger and that was down to reputation, which was driven by PR and communications.

Thankfully I can now do all of these things. I have always been a champion of ‘real PR’ but I am pleased that others are now recognising the merits to working with agencies and practitioners.

Cynical or otherwise when you look at the organisations that have failed over recent years in many instances arguably the banks have been at fault but it is also interesting to note that many of them were lacking in direction, their customers and prospects weren’t aware of exactly what they offered and this was down to poor communication. As a result they weren’t selling and in turn ceased to exist.

I hope that this new attitude to PR continues and that businesses recognise the value of the services that practitioners and agencies offer.  The truth of the matter is that PR should be at the heart of any business model and in order to get it right you need to rely on a professional.

 

Wakefield really does work!

I recently posted a blog about Open Communications agreeing to get involved with a local initiative, Wakefield Works. The concept was thought up by Andy Turner from First Choice Recruitment and Marcello Moccia from Room: 97, in partnership with the Wakefield Express.

Rather than sitting around and complaining about the lack of jobs for young people within the Wakefield District, these two entrepreneurs encouraged more than 35 local companies to agree to open their doors to prospective employees for a day. The only real commitment from the businesses who chose to get involved was to give some time and also a minimum of two weeks work experience to any relevant candidate that was interviewed.

As an example of businesses being pro-active and supporting the potential of the district I think this was a shining example of working together and making a difference.

In contrast, I attended the First Friday event last week and was disappointed to hear some people focusing on the negative and referencing the number of candidates who registered yet didn’t take the time to get turn up for the respective appointments.

I don’t think that when providing feedback about an event that this should have been the focus. I think it would have made more sense to give those who arranged the initiative the credit that they deserve for taking their time to do so and then for those involved to provide examples of how well the activity had worked.

We had two candidates turn up to Open Comms on the day and I am pleased to announce that we have agreed to provide a two week work placement for one of them. The candidate that we chose has relevant experience and has the chance to prove themselves to be a real asset to our team.

This is the kind of feedback that we should be focusing on, not the negative. Perhaps by showing how many work placements were agreed as a result of this activity those who didn’t bother to turn up to their appointments will recognise the mistake that they have made and the opportunity that they missed out on.

I would personally like to say a huge thank you to Andy, Marcello, the Wakefield Express and Wakefield Job Centre Plus for their support in making this initiative a success. Without their time and effort it would never have happened and we would be another city just sitting around waiting for someone else to turn the employment statistics around.

I’m hoping that businesses who did get involved in Wakefield Works will agree that it was worth the time and effort and that it should become a regular event in the Wakefield business calendar. Let’s get Wakefield working, focus on the positives and benefit from what we can achieve as a collective.

And finally…

The phrase ‘And finally…’ was often used by national and regional broadcast news channels to feature a positive story at the end of a programme. More often than not it was intended that this heart-warming feature would leave people with a smile, after the more serious updates from the day.

It would appear that this practice is less common than it used to be, possibly because there seems to be more bad news to report than good, leaving little chance for producers to include a light hearted piece to end on.

So why are we all so keen to hear bad news? Is it absolutely necessary that we surround ourselves with the disasters that face our daily lives? Is it not just as important to share in the good news and to keep our spirits up? And isn’t that what a balanced news agenda is all about – not necessarily just two sides of one story but some good and some bad?

Today there are some really positive stories hitting the headlines not least the announcement from Cancer Research UK reporting that deaths from certain cancers will fall by 17% by 2030. This is a great achievement and I’m pleased to note that it has ‘hit’ many national titles, as well as broadcast media.

Other good news today is the announcement of a new publication that has been launched called ‘The Positive’, which plans to only share good news. What a great idea – but the question remains, will it work?

I have to admit to being cynical about its chances of success because the simple fact of the matter is that people are more inclined to search for bad news than good. I remember a couple of years ago there was a paper which launched in Wakefield called the Wakefield Guardian and the idea was that it would share good news from the district.

Needless to say that the paper didn’t last and closed around 18 months after launching, which was a real shame.  I only hope that The Positive will have better fortune and that people will take the time to share good news. Sometimes I think we all need a good up lifting story to get us all going in the morning – and I intend to read The Positive and will tweet the best story from the day to share it with those who follow me.  In fact I might just add a hashtag #andfinally – who else is going to get behind the publication and join in?

Don’t presume to know that you know it all

This morning I had the opportunity to attend a Yorkshire Mafia event; Business Breakfast, Write Your Own Headlines delivered by Mary Askew, a former news writer and BBC broadcast journalist. 

People may be wondering why a PR professional with more than 15 years of experience would need to know how to write a press release and what to look out for when working with the media. Well, I will explain. It’s because I don’t believe you can ever know enough about the industry you work in and I’m always interested to hear what other professionals have to say and how they deliver to an audience.

As it happens the event was interesting and insightful, better still it was jargon free. I thought Mary did a great job of keeping the audience interested with examples, imagery and anecdotes. Geoff Major, a businessman and charity ambassador that many of you will know, was even interviewed live to camera. The presentation was clear and concise and I found that some of the ideas were an interesting take on what we already do here at Open Comms. It never hurts to try new things and we will be putting some of the lessons learnt into practice.

I also thought that although I didn’t agree with everything that was said – let’s be honest for a PR and journalist to agree on everything would be a little strange – I did understand the points and why they were being presented.

I don’t want to give too much away because I would recommend that people take the time to go to a session with Mary if they get the chance but needless to say if you need the basics, and a little bit more, then it’s worth a couple of hours out of the office.

Once again, a great session offered by the Yorkshire Mafia and an event that genuinely adds value to smaller businesses who want to manage their own PR and generate their own headlines.

An unusual approach to news

PR isn’t the simplest of industries to understand, especially when you don’t work within the media or creative sectors. I have often had to explain time and time again what it is that I do for a living and people (my closest family and friends included) still get it wrong.

My Dad spent the first 6 years of my career telling people I was a PA and my friends just leave it as you work with the media. Of course there is a lot more to my job than that – in fact a staggering amount when I take the time to think about it – but in a nut shell it will do as a top line explanation.

Things are changing so quickly within the media, with many titles choosing to go online and in some cases media launching with no print versions. Take the Business Desk as an example, launched by David Parkin formerly Business Editor of the Yorkshire Post. Great idea. Worked well. You can’t fault them for wanting to do something that at the time was a little different.

BDaily is another title which took a very similar approach. Based in the North East this news website, for want of a simple term, provides an update on what is going on in the business world in the North East. The concept is simple and it works well.

What BDaily have done which is completely unique to my understanding is that they have named the people who write the stories under the headline. So if they receive a story from a PR agency, they actually attribute the article to that company.

This is often why people find it so difficult to understand what we do. You see, we will draft a press release for a client and then send it on to the media. Often the copy can be literally pasted with an image as a completed article but rather than saying that it was written by us, the article is attributed to the journalist who places it.

This is very common practice and is what we have become used to but when I noticed what BDaily were doing it made me think. Is this the future? Will more online publications start to attribute copy to PR agencies and will the line become less blurred between what we do and don’t do?

I’m interested to see what other people think. I have no real desire to be labelled as the author of anything and I always take it as a compliment if articles appear unchanged but I wonder what the PR industry at large think of this?

Any comments, thoughts or opinions please do share them.

Has ‘STOP PRESS’ taken on a totally new meaning?

Having worked in the PR industry for more than a decade I have been some significant changes, not least the move to more online mediums and methods of communication. There was once a time when you would draft, approve and print a press release before spending hours at a fax machine – not any more.

Digital technology and new ways of working mean you can have a press release drafted and out of the door in a matter of hours. It isn’t just ways of working that have changed however with more newspapers featuring online content that can be viewed and then shared with millions of people around the globe at the touch of a button.

Despite how easy it is to go online I can’t help but feel a little sad that we are losing the tangible benefit to having a paper and more importantly, in my opinion, the experience that print media delivers; getting a cup of coffee, opening a paper, looking at the supplements, smelling the print, turning the pages, cutting pieces out for reference. It all adds to the whole experience of buying and reading the news.

There will be many people in the PR and marketing industry who will be shouting that I’m in the dark ages and to get with the times, after all you can bookmark or share articles in the same way you could cut out clippings and its simple and easy to turn on an iPad or even access the media through a smart phone while having a coffee but that’s not my point.

We still find that when given the choice a client would rather see a full page printed piece in a regional or national newspaper, rather than a URL to a piece online. This may well change over time as people become more receptive to online news, who knows?

One piece which caught my eye recently featured in The Drum, a trade publication for the marketing industry. The headline read ‘The Guardian moves to deny ‘absurd’ rumours that it will go online only next year.’ Despite moves by the paper to contradict this suggestion, it would seem to me there is no smoke without fire and that perhaps their plan was to implement their five year strategy sooner.

It’s a shame that the print industry is in decline. Not only because of the process that I feel is so heart-warming when you buy a newspaper but also because there is a whole industry reliant on that income – beyond the sale of the papers themselves.

If we consider printers who have spent years in the same role, machinists who are professionals and passionate about their work, maintenance technicians who know the presses inside and out, designers who set the copy and imagery and then let’s not forget the paper boys / girls it paints a very gloomy picture to consider that all of these people will be without work.

I don’t personally want to see printed papers become a memory of times gone by and I hope that others feel the same way. The problem is that being a time poor society, trying to make ends meet during difficult economic conditions, for many of us the choice is made – free online publications at your fingertips in seconds, or a paid for printed version, which requires you to go to the shops or take out a subscription.

Long live print is what I say! However I get the impression that ‘stop press’ is going to take on a very new meaning over the next few years.