Greggs – Digital triumph lacks integration

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MC900433800 Hit

This week Greggs the bakers have been in the PR news because of their response to a social media crisis that hit their brand. You can read the full story here but in summary Google automatically attached an incorrect and rather insulting spoof logo to their business entry which Greggs’ social media team responded to rapidly and with humour.

It’s a good example of how a bad situation can be turned into an opportunity so quickly with social media and the digital brand manager has been quite rightly highly praised for his response.

What takes the shine of this for me as an example is the very last bit of the Independent article which states that the digital manager couldn’t offer a quote to the paper unless authorised by the head of marketing. A digital crisis isn’t just confined to the digital world, just as a crisis with production at Greggs wouldn’t stop on the bakery floor. The digital and non-digital worlds are interlinked and the response here should have been joined up to offer an integrated communications response – including empowering the person responsible for the digital reaction to respond in the real world too. 


Yes yes yes – the 2 speech affectations

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Yes yes yes – the 2 speech affectations I hate most highlighted at last

Looking forward to getting back in the s

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Looking forward to getting back in the saddle at Lincoln Uni and to meeting PR course students new and old.

Basil Clarke – a PR hero for our time

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It’s not often a new hero comes along, still yet one who was working on reputation management almost a century ago.

This PR Week article about Basil Clarke was a revelation and I can’t wait to read more about this remarkable man.

Almost a century ago Clarke was developing a way of working which would put many of today’s practitioners to shame. His ethical approach was not driven by codes of conduct or the risk of bad press in the trade media, but on a strong and practical understanding of what was right.

I try to impress on students that working ethically is not an altruistic choice – there are strong business reasons for working in a way which considers the needs of others. Clarke knew that his business relied on relationships and trust and the examples given in the PR week article show him to be a man of great vision and understanding.

Some of this, no doubt came from his experiences in the First World war and the picture of him is one in Uniform – to come through the carnage of the trenches must have made many men question the values of the society in which they lived, yet Clarke shows a down to earth understanding of fairness and honesty in business which many today fail to understand.

We can learn a great deal from men such as Clarke.

Five a day – Fibs or Fitness?

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I came across this article today on the BBC web site about the “Five a day” healthy eating campaign which has been running in the UK since the 1980’s and it’s prompted me to offer some thoughts.

Apart from making me feel quite guilty about my Christmas and New Year eating the article reminded me about this classic health promotion campaign, with it’s simple, easy to follow mantra that eating five portions of fruit or veg a day is the secret to good health. What interested me in particular about the article though is it exposes the space between the people who know stuff, and the people who communicate it.

Looking at the background to the campaign it’s clear that there is actually little evidence for it’s core strap line. There can be no doubt that eating more fruit and veg is good for you, and the campaign was and is a positive influence within society, but there is a gap between this and the specific “Five a Day” statement.

Why not four, why not six (one response from a Canadian reader on the BBC web site says it is five to ten portions recommended each day). The answer is, of course from a PR point of view, that the language has to be simple and memorable and it’s specific detail is not important as long as it covers the essence of the message.

Yet when a message carries with it a suggestion of a scientific basis I believe this can become an issue , and part of the Five a day campaign’s history has, almost from the start, been an undercurrent of questioning it’s validity.

What is a portion? What constitutes fruit and veg? Does preparation have a bearing? Now, perhaps the very act of asking these questions achieves the campaign’s aim to make us more aware of the importance of what we eat on our health, but as far as advice or guidance is concerned it leaves much to be desired.

All in all, a classic health promotion campaign and an interesting article from the BBC about it, and one that prompts real consideration as to how important the interface between science and PR is.

Commerciality isn’t a crime

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Having worked in the Third sector for more than a quarter of a century, I’m well aware of the antipathy to the commercial sector held by many in not for profit organisations. Indeed most of my working life has been spent trying to get charitable organisations to recognise that professional communication is not just for the commercial sector.

Sadly this mistrust of the culture of commerce means the sector has for years been missing a trick when it comes to developing adaptability, economy and efficiency. Grant based income has essentially hobbled the development of the sector by allowing it to become comfortable and complacent. The harder economic climate of the past few years has therefore come as a shock to many who now seek other means of generating income.

This change to the economic environment may now be leading to a refreshing change in attitudes within the sector.

A poll run by the Guardian supported by an article by NCVO’s senior sustainability officer, Olaf Williamson, shows more than 80% of respondents (who will in the main be from the sector) are in favour of  the Third Sector improving its commercial instincts.

Working in PR I’d clearly support this, as marketing and the ability to tell a tale to engage clients, customers and partners is an essential part of viewing the world in a more commercial way and engaging not just to make money but to shape opinions as well.

And what could be better for the sector than that?

When you’re in a hole….

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The cancellation of the rugby match between Ireland and France at the weekend was a fine example of poor crisis communication, and like all crises the signs of an impending problem were there for all to see well in advance.

As the Daily Telegraph article today about this says, many people had questioned the wisdom of an evening kick off in February at a ground without under pitch heating, but the French Rugby authorities refused to change their plans.

Inevitably the problem came to a head just before kick off when the game was called off with just 10 minutes to go leaving fans feeling cheated and mislead.

But there was worse to follow. Having failed to plan ahead and assess the risks properly (the root of many a crisis), the French Rugby authorities then kept the world’s media waiting for a statement (with deadlines looming) before finally saying they would make no comment.

I wonder what the French for  “When you’re in a hole… stop digging” is?

More on mergers

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It seems my thoughts on Charity mergers aren’t as unpopular as I thought.

The results of a Guardian voluntary sector network poll published today show that 62% of the respondents felt a merger would make their organisation more effective.

If you are one of those respondents and are looking for an easy to use pool of ideas and information try the Fusion Third Sector web site.

Thinking about mergers

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Mergers are on the agenda again in the not for profit sector according to Third Sector magazine. 

In this case it’s two big organisations who are looking to come together – but merging, or at least working in close partnerships –  is something organisations of all sizes should consider on a regular basis as part of their positioning strategy.

There is often a tendency to “go it alone” ploughing on irrespective of external factors in the Third Sector, especially in small to medium sized organisations where the managerial experience isn’t as extensive as it could be or where there is a strong “localist” feeling or identity which encourages too tight a focus on being self contained.

However this can lead to a situation where a number of small organisations end up working within an area on overlapping issues without co-ordination or co-operation. At one time this may have been sustainable, but in today’s economic climate this kind of competition cannot surely be justified.

A few months ago I helped set up a web site pooling a variety of resources around the issue of mergers and partnerships for the voluntary sector – Fusion Third Sector .

The site is designed to offer advice on the pros and cons of mergers and partnerships, and information to assist organisations wishing to explore them further or , indeed, go further.

Merging may seem a big step but no body should discount it and in my view every organisation should periodically look at its position and those of other organisations around it and at least consider the options for closer working relationships.

Microsoft drop the big one

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When on line self build web sites started to appear Microsoft were (unsurprisingly) one of the first on the market with their Small Business Offering. This gave small business es the ability to create and maintain a web site without having to rely on a web designer. This is a fantastic way to get an online presence , and the beauty of the Microsoft tool was that it was absolutely free.

About 18 months ago this all changed. First Microsoft stopped taking new registrations – without notice. Then they announced that existing accounts would be transferred to Microsoft’s 365 tool – a paid offering online access to a range of products on the cloud – including web design and management.

And this has been where we we’ve been at for around a year. Now the change is imminent – all sites must either be transferred to Microsoft 365 by the end of april or they will be closed. The only other option is to build the site again in another tool and transfer the domain name.

It’s a lot of “faff” for small charities and not for profits who have built up sites in Microsoft small office, and even the transfer to 365 isn’t straightforward. I know quite a few who have – I helped them set their sites up, but there is nothing in the Microsoft changeover information to help not for profits with this change.

BT have a great free web tool for not for profits and Moonfruit is a great tool which costs less than Microsoft. I’m recommending all of my contacts change to one of these.

I’m sure Microsoft won’t notice, but ownership of a site is important.

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