Archive for the ‘PR’ Category

My latest work projects

macbook pro

A brief update on the latest projects on which I’ve been working.

I continue to run lots of training workshops on social media and online pr, I’ve been doing this for four years now and have worked with all sorts of different organisations. Training is bespoke, either full day sessions (on all aspects of social media), platform specific, or more presentation style events.  Here are just a few of those I’ve worked with over the last six months: Econsultancy, Arts Marketing Association, Museums and Galleries Scotland, Mediacontact, University of Bristol Students’ Union, Cornerhouse Manchester (public sessions) plus many PR and digital agencies.

In October I was lucky enough to be asked to work on one of my favourite projects, the Creative Tourist Manchester Weekender, I was tasked with using social media to help promote the many events that were taking place and to measure the results of our online activity.  Over the weekend itself I was also on the ground, helping to document everything by taking photos and capturing audioboo interviews with participants and attendees.  You can see a Storify of the weekend here.  For anyone in the tourism business, you might be interested to know that Creative Tourist now has a consultancy arm, Creative Tourist Consults, which specialises in cultural tourism strategy and digital communications.

I continue to write the monthly social media ‘Web Pro’ page for the brilliant .net magazine and am hoping to report from sxsw for them again.  Other writing commissions have included a, soon to be launched, ebook for My Newsdesk, aimed at small businesses and SMEs, it’s for anyone new to PR and wanting to understand how you can use it to promote your business.

I’m also coming to the end of a significant piece of work developing a social media strategy for a large organisation, this involved conducting a thorough audit of their current activity, producing a detailed recommended strategy and providing follow up training for staff.

And finally, around 60% of my time is taken up working as a director of Pyjama Drama, a franchise business that provides drama & creative play classes for toddlers and children.  We have 27 franchises across the UK and are growing fast.

If you have a social media or writing project with which you need a hand, or a training need, please do get in touch.  You can view some testimonials on my LinkedIn page.


I’ve always had an ambivalent relationships with Maths.  It’s not a subject that comes easily to me, I have clear memories of battling my way through it at school, occasionally glimpsing a small chink of light but mostly swimming in a fog of frustration.  Figures became slightly more comprehensible at Economics A-level, somehow applying sums to the real world made it seem clearer, but essentially I’ve always felt maths is a door that remains firmly closed to me and even worse, that if I could somehow prise it open, I’d love what was behind it.

Clearly PR isn’t a profession where its practitioners are renowned for their statistical skills, being able to calculate AVE was about as far as it went.  But increasingly I think data analysis will become a vital skill in PR.  Whether it’s understanding web analytics or mining monitoring data or figuring out how you can game the search algorithm to get your clients to the top (not your area of responsibility? watch out because those SEO guys are closing in on PR territory). Business owners love figures and you need to be able to demonstrate your value in cold hard stats.

Yesterday this article, From Fish to Infinity definitely struck a cord with me and I will be keeping my eye on his regular column.  But for now, I’m about at Humphrey’s level.

image courtesy of

Are Maclaren losing the online reputation battle?

Pushchair manufacturer Maclaren announced yesterday that it was recalling some of its models in the US over fears of little fingers getting trapped and injured in the hinges.  Potentially hugely damaging to its reputation: it's one of the most important purchases a parent makes, as of this morning, it's looking like Maclaren are struggling to win the PR battle.  Firstly they're only recalling products in the US which has led to comments like this one popping up all over the internet:



It may well be that there is a valid reason for it (they vaguely try to answer it in the guardian piece) but if so, they're not getting the message across.

Secondly their PR response appears to be woefully inadequate. There is an overlay on the home page of the site explaining the recall and a 'click here for more information' but you are then taken to a general news page (below) rather than straight to the information, meaning you have to click again to see details.  That page does have a FAQ but again it's a bit woolly about why they are recalling in the US and not the UK.


Thirdly it's hard to see them doing much proactive outreach.  The twitterverse is full of chatter about the recall and yet their own twitter feed appears to be broken? Oh dear Maclaren, come on.  You've got to move now, not in 2 hours or 12 hours or 24 hours.  The clock is ticking…..

Twitter fail

SideWiki – PRs ignore at your peril

Today's Guardian has a good piece from Mark Borkowski about how Google SideWiki is a potential game changer for brands.  He's right of course although I'm surprised its taken the Guardian this long to write about it (in the context of PR).  Neville Hobson's piece on the subject, which was written a couple of weeks ago, is better; much more comprehensive and also flags up the rather essential issue of adoption.  SideWiki has the potential to be incredibly disruptive – user comments in your own brand space, the marketers should be taking note.  But as always, it will stand or fall on whether it becomes adopted by mainstream users.


SideWiki entries for

Where does PR sit with social media?


Often I find debates curated on twitter fairly dull. Lots of posts all about the same thing flooding your twitter stream and adding nothing but the other day there was a really interesting one set up by hashtagsocialmediaTodd Defren moderated a conversation about the role of PRs within social media.  He covered topics such as where does social media belong within a corporate environment,what should a PR plan integrated with social media look like plus the relationship between PR, social media and SEO.

Many people suggest that the PR team within an organisation are not the right people to look after social  media because PR = spin whereas social media = transparency.  I'd completely disagree with that.  Having worked with digital agencies, SEO agencies and PR agencies, I'd say that PR people are the most natural to look after social media because they are familiar with building relationships, generating that 'talkability' factor and starting conversations.  The irony is however that at the moment PR agencies are the least well equipped to be able to handle social media effectively since, with a few notable exceptions, they're lagging behind in their understanding of the online environment.  They need to change that…and quickly.

You can see some of the twitter responses to Todd Defren's questions on the righthand side of the page here (although this page may well change in the future).

A very bad week for PR

Oh dear, dear me.  It's been a shocking week for the PR industry.

First we get a PR firm revealed as giving their clients positive reviews in the app store, then we get the PR spammers  who don't understand the basics about how to send an email (although to be fair the offender has subsequently set up a blog to 'learn' from the experience).

This morning respected entrepreneur Loic Le Meur blasted the PR industry wholesale and although there are some wild generalisations in his piece, much of what he says is fair comment.  And to round it off we have PR agencies sending 7MB attachments to journalists. 

It's just shoddy.  There's no excuse for any of this.  It's not brain surgery people, it's PR.  

Pr fail 

Shame on you

There is a mighty internet storm brewing and one of the UK's leading retailers is right at the heart of it.  Habitat has attracted a certain amount of, ahem, negative attention for their supposed Twitter spamming (basically they attached trending topic hashtags to their tweets in the hope it would gain them some attention).  Bad – yes definitely. But would you believe it, there is worse.

When the spam tweets were discovered, devoured and retweeted by twitter users, did Habitat hold their hands up, say, "oh dear, we're sorry, we f***ed up"? No, they turned smartly around, raised their hand and pointed their finger at…the intern

I mean there's lame and then there's disgraceful behaviour.  It's going to be a treat watching them dig themselves out of this PR nightmare.

That’s the way to do it

Mulled wine

Great example of good corporate communications (in stark contrast to shockingly bad approach).  Norwich Council sent out a letter telling hair salon owners that they would be prosecuted if they served mulled wine (or any alcohol) to customers during the festive period – warning them they could face six months in jail and a £20,000 fine.  Prime example of public sector over zealous madness.  Cue Steve Morphew, city council leader on the Today show – you could hear the glee in John Humphrys' voice at the prospect of grilling another bumbling bureaucrat.  But this is where it got interesting, he launched into a "So Mr Morphew, isn't it ridiculous to be wasting public money chasing hairdressers who are just giving their customers a bit of festive cheer?" (or words to that effect).  "Yes" came the answer. Now agreeing with him isn't something JH is used to so there was a slight pause at which point Mr Morphew carried on, "It was a complete mistake, that letter should never have gone out.  I can only apologise and say that although it's technically correct to say that we could prosecute hairdressers for serving alcohol, of course this was heavy handed and unnecessary." Hurrah, a public figure that doesn't try to dress it up and argue the difference, they just hold their hands up and say sorry.  It's such a better approach than the one Council's usually take.  Everyone is forgiving of mistakes but they're not forgiving of spin.  He went on to have a chat with JH who, you could tell, was feeling exactly the same thing, and it ended up being a positive piece.  Just a shame that you can't appease Google the same way.

*image courtesy of Satbir

Mad* mums and learning PR

Life has been crazy the last couple of weeks.  It's an on-going battle trying to get the work life balance right, especially when a) you have young children and b) the current economic climate makes it very difficult to turn down work – you never know what's around the next corner and all that. 
So in lieu of some wise and profound observation (I wish), just wanted to flag up, albeit a bit belatedly, a couple of things of interest.

1. Firstly, a cautionary tale for anyone that doubts the power of the social network and the speed at which things can go Very. Badly. Wrong.  Neville Hobson gives the best summary of the Motrin Mums meltdown.  Beware the power of Twitter….
2. Can you teach PR or is it something you learn on the job/are either good at or not?  Jed Hallam's question, is a PR degree worth it? has generated a really interesting debate.  As to my opinion – well I'd say it's like learning to drive, you pass your test and think you're skilled but it's only after doing it for a few years that you realise how naive/dangerous you actually were.

*ps, I mean mad as in angry not as in bonkers

It’s not rocket science

Quite often PR practitioners get a bad press, whether it's talk of spin or pestering journalists with non news.  Some sections of the media will always have an ambivalent attitude to PRs and I can understand that especially when you're being bombarded with 400  press releases a day, of which perhaps 10% are relevant.  I do think good PR people do an important job (but then I would say that wouldn't I) but occasionally you see something that makes you catch your breath and hang your head in shame at the actions of other supposed PR 'professionals'.

Firstly, I was gobsmacked an interview I heard on Radio 4's PM the day the dreadful news about Baby P broke.   Sharon Shoesmith, who chairs the Haringey Local Safeguarding Children Board was questioned about how social workers had managed to have the wool pulled over their eyes by the mother of this poor little toddler.  After refusing to apologise for the tragedy, and insisting no-one would be sacked, she said:

"This was a family that needed, and was given, extensive help and support.The very sad fact is that we can't stop people who are determined
to kill children. I am satisfied that the action that should have been
taken was taken." 

OK, well whatever I think about that response (and I think it's outrageous by the way) that wasn't the part that really got to me.  Later in the interview, after presenter Eddie Mair pointed out that Haringey must have some seriously entrenched problems given that it's the same borough in which Victoria Climbie died, Ms Shoesmith started to talk about what a good council it was and how it was a "3 star local authority"  – I mean what?!  How inappropriate is that? It was clear that Eddie Mair thought the same since he responded, "what does that mean?" and then "do you think you should lose a star now then?".  It beggers belief that in a converation about a vunerable child being battered to death, you can start on with some kind of coporate 'good PR' message.  Utterly crass doesn't even begin to describe how bad it was.  Maybe I'm wrong but I have a terrible suspicsion that she was briefed beforehand by a PR person and advised to try and get across some "positive" messages about the Council.  Whatever happened, it is a prime example of the worst side of PR.

Secondly, the Sun Microsystems 'how to turn 6,000 redundancies into a great story' debacle.  I was first alerted to it on Twitter via a tweet by Jeremiah Owyang but it quickly grew legs and then hemorrhaged all over the web.  The blog post that I think sums it up best is by e-consultancy's editor in chief, Chris Lake, Sun Microsystems axes 6,000 staff, digs PR hole, jumps in.  I mean come on people, it's PR, not rocket science, anyone with even a tiny modicum of common sense would realise that this approach was at best incredibly dim and at worst, inappropriate, immoral and just downright wrong.  But I bet that whoever is in charge of PR there is being paid a huge (and completely undeserved) salary.  Well probably not for much longer….