Category: Blog

Best of British

There seems to be a poll for everything now a days but when I read recently that Sweet Eve Strawberries had commissioned a survey to ask members of the public what fifty things they love about Britain I had to smile.

The top five were as follows:

  1. Fish and Chips
  2. A cup of tea
  3. Yorkshire pudding
  4. Strawberries and Cream
  5. Sunday roast

As someone who really enjoys my food – a little too much over recent months perhaps – I had to wonder if Britain really is this obsessed with the culinary delights gracing our tables at lunch and dinner.

It goes without saying that we are very lucky in Yorkshire to be surrounding by manufacturers of the finest local produce including Womersley Vinegars, The Wensleydale Creamery, Ossett Brewery and not forgetting of course Ramsay Fish and Chips (*blatant plug*).

Number 2 on the list of things we love has to raise a smile – a good cup of tea. There is nothing quite like a good cup of tea after a long day, or when things aren’t going so well. It seems to have made it through the years as a classic with any self respecting Brit housing a cupboard full of the stuff.

Perhaps the problem is that having such wonderful food and drink on our doorstep means that there is very little else we think about. Is this a bad thing? Are we spoilt for choice? You have to wonder if we are simply used to the finer things in life without even realising it.

And on that note I wonder what I’m going to have for lunch?

A ‘straight’ talking business man

Networking events can be a drag – especially when you have to sit in a room with people you don’t know listening to a ‘speaker’ talk about their life experiences, how hard it was in the start and how successful they are now with a villa in Monte Carlo and a private jet.

It’s not that I don’t like listening to people talk about their experiences, and in particular the mistakes that they have made so that we can learn from them as a business, but it seems to be the same old spiel every time.

That was until today when I attended the monthly Wakefield First, First Friday event. Jonathan Straight from Straight Plc was talking and as a business man that I am genuinely intrigued by – not least because his business has evolved from strength to strength but also how he famously makes himself stand out from the crowd – I was eager to see what he had to say.

He started by saying that he has Ten Commandments in business and then followed on to tell his story using them throughout. Not only was his story compelling and not your usual ‘I started a business, had a few hiccups and now I’m a multi-millionaire’ it was also insightful and made me think about Open Communications and how we are different and actually follow many of his commandments without realising it.

To recap Jonathan Straight’s Ten Commandments are:

  1. Set clear goals
  2. Communicate effectively
  3. Tell the truth
  4. Be persistent – never, never, never give up
  5. Be memorable
  6. Dare to be different – think outside of the box
  7. Know your competition
  8. Keep reinventing the model
  9. Lead by example
  10. Help others

As a PR agency the first thing we did was choose a name and we wanted it to reflect straight talking and honesty – hence Open Communications. Telling the truth comes with the territory in our business, if you don’t you will soon get found out and as for being persistent – well, those of you who know me also know that it may as well be my middle name.

Communicating effectively is what we do, day in and day out and I would like to think that we are memorable, particularly as we are so different and chose not to conform to the stereotypes often associated with the PR industry.

We know our competition, it’s not difficult when you work in PR, and I would like to think that we lead by example and help others when we can.

So, I would like to thank Jonathan, not just for the talk that he gave today but also for saying it like it is and inspiring a room full of business people. He is without doubt one of the best speakers I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I just hope now that I can put the final few commandments into practice.

After a brief chat with him I’m working on it so watch this space.

A networking step too far

I’m all for networking and actually get a real buzz when I meet with new people who I can share ideas and best practice with. It can be a daunting experience for some though and there are obviously a few tips that can help people to get started including:

  • If it’s your first event then go with a business colleague or friend
  • If you have to give a 60 second pitch keep it simple
  • Don’t forget to let people know who you are and what you do
  • Find a friendly face and take the time to say hello
  • Remember that everyone is there for the same reason – to meet people
  • Take lots of business cards

I don’t profess to be an expert networker but I do enjoy going to a few regular events that take place in and around West Yorkshire. That said I am always on the hunt for new hints and tips to help me to improve my networking skills and increase the contacts I have.

So when a link came through last week I was intrigued. It was titled Gender proofing your 1-2-1’s. I thought that sounded a little strange but still proceeded to open the link to read what gems of advice and wisdom would await me.

To say that I was astounded is an understatement. The piece was more of a warning than anything else, and after reading through it I didn’t know whether to laugh or be completely insulted.

The piece provided the following advice:

Consider this: A married person and a single person have to measure the obvious potential dangers of networking with the opposite sex. Without careful consideration, you could easily find yourself in an awkward situation which might diminish both your credibility and integrity.

Here are four guidelines to keep you on a productive course when networking with the opposite sex.

  • Keep your meeting times early. Plan to meet either for breakfast or lunch. Try to avoid after-hour connections or a quick glass of wine…

  • Keep your meetings brief. Set your initial meetings for no longer than an hour. No matter how well it is going, the initial discovery contact should not extend beyond your set time. Let your partner know you have a schedule to keep, which will help keep your business meeting focused on the details of each others’ goals…

  • Fine-tune your filter. A word of caution to singles: Do not let your chit-chat drift into describing the wild party you attended last week or how many people you are dating. In other words, do not become a distraction or temptation to your partner. And if you’re married, feel free to mention your wife and kids, but edit your complaints…
  • Set the tone. Show how serious you take the other person by doing some background research on them and their company. Have some specific questions ready; this is standard protocol for anyone you network with but particularly important when networking with the opposite sex. Compliment the other person on their capabilities and achievements and avoid the “I love your dress” and “you look so young” type of remarks which moves you quickly off your business agenda…

As a married business woman I found this piece offensive and very short sighted. I network with both men and women, married and single and I can honestly say I have never ever had to consider any of the points listed above – not once.

I consider many of the people I network with regularly to be friends, as well as business acquaintances, and would like to think I’m a good judge of character. I would expect that if I were to take this advice seriously they would be especially hurt, as would I if it were the other way around.

This may have been relevant advice in the 60’s but I would like to think that times have changed and I wouldn’t for one second recommend that we take these suggestions into the real world of business, not least because it puts unnecessary barriers up against communication and professional engagement.

In complete contrast however, and as a warning to all – it would appear that there are still a small breed who don’t quite ‘get it’ and perhaps would benefit from the advice given about gender proofing your 1-2-1’s.

I was amazed to see in today’s Daily Telegraph Jeremy Irons explains that a ‘pat on the bottom’ is just friendly and that it shouldn’t end up in court. He is actually quoted as saying ‘Most people are robust. If a man puts his hand on a woman’s bottom, any women worth her salt can deal with it. It’s communications. Can’t we be friendly?’

No Jeremy you can’t be ‘friendly’ and the reason is because that isn’t friendly it’s rude, suggestive and perverse. As Chris Evans said on the radio this morning, if you pat a woman’s bottom with your right hand expect her husband’s right hand across your face.

The boundaries seem clear enough to sensible people, personal space is exactly that and watch what you say – it’s not that difficult, or is it?

Swearing online – WTF?

Social media and online communication is nothing new with everyone from consumers to job hunters turning to the internet to engage with audiences from across the globe.

Whether it is a shared interest or hobby, a specific need or request that you have, the internet has proven immeasurably popular with forums and online stores for almost anything you can think of.

Unfortunately the internet hasn’t helped with basic communication with smileys and abbreviations used in every day speech. The dropping of letters, or use of numbers to create words such as ‘gr8’, are also common practice both on forums and when sending messages to others.

Although abbreviations really annoy me – and don’t even get me started on smileys – what has really shocked me is the number of people who feel it is appropriate to swear when using social media tools. Twitter and facebook are both classic examples with people sending expletives via their status updates to hundreds and in some cases thousands of contacts.

Now there is an argument that if you are using facebook for personal use, what you choose to write is entirely up to you however the number of people I know who seem to be confusing the purpose of social media tools is astounding.

Do you really want your client to know how you feel about your boyfriends ex girlfriend or your mother in law? Is it absolutely necessary regardless of how frustrated that you send a four letter tirade out via twitter?

The problem is that those feeds give people an insight into your personality, they show you for who you really are and I’m guessing nine times out of ten that isn’t the person you promote to your clients or boss.

Here are just five things to think about before you update your next status:

  1. Who could see this message if it goes live
  2. What would you think if you received a similar message from someone you work with
  3. Is your annoyance at this moment in time enough to damage your reputation
  4. Could other more appropriate words be used and be as expressive
  5.  What will be achieved if you do decide to swear online

The power of the internet isn’t just about the reach that it has on a global scale but also its ability to save data and information. This information includes imagery and comments from social media feeds.

Not surprisingly most employers now turn to the internet before interviewing candidates for jobs – imagine if their search comes up with an inappropriate picture of you on facebook with an accompanying status or if a link to your twitter feed shows some less than flattering comments you have recently posted.

My advice would be to decide what you are using each tool for and change the way you communicate accordingly. Don’t use one tool for both business and pleasure, it simply doesn’t work. Decide if facebook is for personal and twitter or LInkedIn for business, that way you will be less likely to offend someone and you can keep your reputation intact.

Manners cost nothing – oh but they do!

As a small agency and I would like to think a friendly team we all pick up the phone when it rings. It’s more about who gets their first than who is responsible for answering the call. So many people are shocked to find that when they ask to speak to the ‘Director’ the answer is often ‘you are’.

In some instances though, and an alarmingly increasing number at that, I have found that people are nothing short of rude when they think that they are speaking to a receptionist. Just recently I answered the phone to a potential supplier who asked to speak to Emma, my business partner and the other Director at Open Communications.

As I explained that Emma was in a meeting but that I was more than willing to take a message the person became very dismissive and tutted at me. They then took the time to refer to their notes and realised that there was another Director in the business that they could pitch their services to – unlucky for them that other Director was me!

All I could think during this whole conversation was that when I was younger I was told that manners cost nothing but that statement couldn’t be more wrong. You see we were actually looking for the services offered by this business but following the way that they spoke to me, believing that I was someone else, all they managed to do was ensure that we will never, ever work with them and I certainly won’t be recommending them to others – in fact quite the opposite.

What this particularly rude person did teach me however is that manners cost a great deal and although the principle behind the original statement remains the same – that it isn’t difficult to be polite – it pays to remember that it is irrelevant of who you are speaking to or what role they have within a business, they deserve your respect in the same way that you deserve theirs.

In my opinion the best business leaders are those who remember their routes, work from the bottom up and often go back to ‘shop floor’, those who don’t are those who fail first and realise why later.

A proud day for the Ramsay household

Some people say Richard Branson others Alan Sugar but when I’m asked who has most inspired me when it comes to business I have to admit that it’s my Dad.

Ok, now before you all start jeering or feigning sickness there are good reasons why. My Dad launched a business aged 26 with no industry experience and no money. Not only did he do this, which for those of you reading this who own a business will understand just how difficult it can be, he launched a fish and chip van in the Yorkshire Dales.

Yes, a fish and chip van. Having never fried so much as an egg (he led a sheltered life as far as the kitchen was concerned with my Mum taking over from my Nanna when he married) he launched Ramsay’s Fish and Chips.

Despite the many people who said it wouldn’t work my Dad decided that it would and set to work launching not just any fish and chip van but ‘the best’ fish and chip van in the Yorkshire Dales. Not only has it worked but Dad has a following of fans who know where he will be, at what time and they wait in queues throughout the Yorkshire Dales eagerly for their weekly portion of fish, chips and peas.

People always look at me strangely when I tell them what my parents do for a living, it isn’t like when you can say a banker or teacher it’s not an office job or a vocation it’s completely unique and I love it. But it’s not just me who thinks they are great, Welcome to Yorkshire recently launched their new TV advert and guess who features – yes, my Mum and Dad!

http://www.yorkshire.com/tv-advert-2011

The Ramsay family is finally famous and for all the right reasons. So well done Dad, you are a true inspiration and I couldn’t be more proud of you, Mum and the job that you have chosen to do. It’s quirky and fun and I think it’s brilliant. Now get the fryers on we are coming home for a proper Yorkshire fish supper.

 

Open Comms Shortlisted for Wakefield Business Award

We received some great news last week in the Open Comms’ office when we found out that Open Communications has been shortlisted for the Small to Medium Business Award for the Wakefield Business Awards 2011.

It’s fantastic to receive recognition for something we genuinely believe in and are so passionate about.

Launched in the midst of the recession, Open Communications has gone from strength to strength, which we credit to our honest and open approach, and our ability to work as an extension of our clients’ teams.

Not ones to sit back and relax, directors Emma and Lindsey have gained new clients as well as retaining companies that have been with Open since day one.  In addition to expanding the team and moving to larger premises, Open Communications are developing their Open for New Business package as well as launching Open for Crisis this summer, a new service that supports organisations with their communication when they need it the most – during a crisis.

Our results speak for themselves, whether that’s achieving full page editorial in UK and international newspapers for clients including HARIBO and The Ridings Shopping Centre, or obtaining coverage which results in an appearance on Dragon’s Den.

We’re proud to be part of the Wakefield business community and as well positioning ourselves as down-to-earth Yorkshire gals, we also use local suppliers and agencies.

There are some fantastic companies who have been nominated for Small to Medium Business of the Year Award, so we’ll just have to wait and see – fingers crossed!

Regional and results driven

The most commonly asked question we get at Open Communications when meeting with a potential client is “As a PR agency based in Yorkshire do you work with the national media?”

Of course we work with the national media! We work with trade media, consumer media, regional media, national media, on and off line media and broadcast media. In fact if its media we work with it.

There was a myth circulating the PR industry some time ago which said that to be the best PR professional you had to work in London but I certainly don’t think that is the case anymore – or ever was if I’m honest. Journalists don’t have the time to do as much ‘shmoozing’ as they used to and so have to be choosy about the stories they cover. If they take time out they need to go back to the office with a good quality story to show for it.

No amount of lunching is going to ensure that your story hits the headlines so it’s down to good solid graft and that’s what ‘us Yorkshire folk’ are good at.

We are a regional agency and we are proud to be based in Yorkshire, we fly the flag for results driven PR and our credentials do the talking for us. So next time you meet with a regional agency don’t discard them because of it – embrace the opportunity to do business with companies that just may have the best approach and most creative ideas to offer.

On Your Doorstep

I’m a big music fan – always have been and always will be.  The first artist I went to go see was Bryan Adams, when I was still in junior school, and since then the acts have ranged from Sugababes, right through to Slipknot.  I’ve always been happy to travel to gigs and festivals (or at least persuaded my mum to drive me all the way to Scotland so I could go to T in the Park) but it never fails to amaze me how many great local bands and venues there are.

Putting aside Leeds festival, which attracts tens of thousands of people across the UK, there are other great smaller events within Yorkshire.  In particular, The Crown of Lights festival is a two day event (one in July, the other in September) held in a small green in the middle of Heckmondwike.  The festivals are free and family friendly, and are always a great laugh.  Alongside these summer events, monthly acoustic nights and band nights are held at the Comrades club, where again they aim to showcase the best of local talent for free.  The Crown Of Lights festivals and band/acoustic nights are run by two of the most dedicated music lovers I know, who campaign tirelessly to get great local acts to perform at accessible music events which people can attend for free.

Leeds hosts some great music venues for smaller bands, such as the Brudnell Social Club, as well as managing to attract some larger names at the 02 Academy, The Cockpit and The Refectory.  With the intended opening of Leeds Arena in 2012, this should hopefully put West Yorkshire even more on the map for great music.

As well as seeing bigger artists, I love supporting unsigned bands.  Sunday night for me was spent watching Further From The Truth, my favourite local band (admittedly, those who know me might view that as a slightly biased opinion…) supporting American rock act Taking Dawn at The Cockpit.  There are few things in life that make me happier than seeing a relatively unknown band being able to warm up a crowd and start to get a dedicated following.

It’s the same with businesses in Yorkshire.  There are so many great companies out there, achieving great things.  Open Comms work with local suppliers and enjoy networking with Yorkshire’s finest business men and women.  It’s brilliant to see companies go from strength to strength and develop in such a fantastic region.

So, whether you’re looking for an agency to work with for your business, or simply want to go see an amazing band out of office hours, my point remains the same.  Before getting the train to London, or saving your pennies for Glastonbury, look on your doorstep – Yorkshire has a lot to offer.

The art of crime – a fine (but clean) line

I came across a story in the Yorkshire Evening Post recently, which reported that Leeds County Council has decided to launch a full investigation into a previous agreement to allow a reverse graffiti campaign to take place in the city throughout 2011.

Not only was the agreement basically allowing a company to clean the streets for the Council but also to share in any revenues generated as a result – nice you may think but oh no. Apparently the agreement wasn’t discussed with the environmental officer at the council – erm, is it just me?

Reverse graffiti, despite the name (which should really have been thought about), is the art of cleaning pavements or walls to create an image, message or advert. How can that be negative? As long as the messaging or image is agreed beforehand it seems to make perfect sense.

So in a nut shell rather than spraying or painting something on to the walls, the artist cleans from them. It’s only temporary (until the pavements or walls become grubby again) and the council’s gripe is the environmental association – surely it can’t be faulted.

Personally I think we should be giving out branded water bottles to the ‘youths of today’ and a scrubbing brush – let’s see what they can come up with. I’d much rather see artistic flair and talents than grubby walls.