Archive for March, 2008

Where to take a client to lunch

March 31, 2008

Ok so last week I said that the PR lunch was dead, maybe that was a little hasty. Lunch isin’t dead, it just needs to work a little harder now that Breakfast has got it’s act together.              

Impressing someone with a lunch venue is one of the easiet things to do and yet we will all have horror stories of picking the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people.

As my PR and Comms colleagues will vouch for, I love a good feed, so i’ve put together a quick guide for those of you new to the lunching game or for those who just need a little help.

First of all three tips:

1.       Use the time wisely : If time is going to be an issue, don’t book at 1pm, go for 12.30pm. More often than not, you’ll be seated, served and fed quicker and will give you far more chance to do business over ‘coffee’ rather than trying to talk shop over a mouthful of linguine.

2.       Don’t try and be clever: Everyone loves to impress dinner dates with the line ‘ oh yeah this is a great little place, I come here all the time’ but trying to impress a journalist or client and getting it wrong will not produce good ROI. If you haven’t eaten at the restaurant before, admit it – if the meal is rubbish you can both feel smugly superior together rather than just you looking stupid.

3.       If you do drink, don’t do drunk: I’ve seen some real horror stories of a client getting a little too tipsy at lunch and inadvertently reveal trade secrets to a grateful journalist. As a general rule, I don’t drink at lunch.

Armed with all this useful information, where should you go?

Arbutus – Located just off Soho Square, this restaurant is so ‘media’…  Very light/bright decor, a Michelin starred European Menu and a fantastic wine list (try the Girardin Santenay) one of my absolutely favourite restaurants. Price £30-40 per head

Soho Japan – Probably my most visited sushi restaurant, Soho Japan is authentic, unpretentious and one of the most friendly places you can eat. Traditional Sushi for those of us that make out like we know what we’re doing, as well as great Japanese curries. Tucked away off Mortimer Street, this is a real find. Price: £20-30 per head

Navaros – If you have a slightly larger crowd, Tapas is always the way forward Navaros on Charlotte Street is the perfect place to ‘go Spanish’. A great selection of traditional Spanish cooking as well as a deli to take away your favourite bits and pieces. The chairs are a little bit uncomfortable, but who cares, you aren’t there for the seating arrangement. Price: £30-40

If you’re stuck for a lunch time partner, take me – I’m always hungry.

Personal PR and ‘over promotion’

March 28, 2008

When I was 23 (all those many years ago….ok last year), I was obsessed with this idea of being promoted.  Conversations with my trainee colleagues would be one of two topics:

“When will we be promoted?” 

“Forward Features are destroying my will to live! “

Often, the two conversations were inextricable linked – “when will I be promoted so I can give this crap to someone else”.

Then, I left a big company and joined a very small company and found that I enjoyed life in a smaller aquarium much better and that life wasn’t all about being promoted and more about actually enjoying the work you do, a sense of satisfaction. The frustrations were larger, and when things didn’t work there was no one I could call on to sort it out other than my own initiative, and sometimes that was badly lacking!

If you are thinking about getting into the media business, think about what you want from a working environment? The buzz of a large agency or the intimacy of a small start up?  The perks of a large corporate or the edginess of a small start up?

In terms of the ‘next step’, being promoted is all well and good but the absolutely worst thing a business can do is promote people before their time.  Your business card and email signature might look nice with the word ‘senior ’ in it but when your new subordinates realise that you aren’t capable enough, mature enough or experienced enough to deal with the responsibilities a role demands, they won’t take kindly to you.

Be careful what you wish for….

The most powerful people in PR….

March 27, 2008

… are in the PR Week Power Book

The Breakfast Meeting

March 27, 2008

I have long been an evangelist for the breakfast meeting and this week’s FT article about the subject, hit the spot. Breakfast is the new lunch and no amount of midday posh nosh is going to make me change my mind.

Breakfast is one of those meals that most of us spent most of our teens and early University years feeling guilty about,  we were either too hung over or too asleep to partake. I was at University at Exeter and spent my first year in a catered hall where I had at most, 5 breakfasts for my entire time there. Even then, one of those because the fire alarm went off at 7.30 and going back to bed was too much like hard work.

How often did we hear maternal musings lecturing us that breakfast was the ‘most important’ meal of the day and yet how many of us actually took a blind bit of notice?  I certainly didn’t.

My damascan conversion happened in my first year in PR when it became too hard to find a free lunch spot in friend’s diaries and too many evenings were spent working late. Breakfast afforded a good hour’s chat as well as a shot of caffeine and a bit of food.

For the blackberry generation it also meant you could send emails at 6.30am and look very keen!

So where should you go for breakfast?

If it’s a client you are dining with, try here, here or here. Warning – Ordering ten deadly sins at Simpsons tends to slow you down for the first few hours of your day!

If it’s a mate you are breakfasting with, then go for Costa who do the best croissants by far! Balans in Soho is a favourite of mine for a fuller start to the day and the Scandinavian Kitchen do great hot chocolates if you’re already caffeined out!

Maybe the PR and Comms Network should arrange a breakfast networking session? Anyone keen?

Death by PowerPoint

March 25, 2008

The first thing I picked up on in my PR career was that no one likes a long PowerPoint presentation. For some reason I seem to be subjected to cruelly high number during my average week, so I have seen all sorts. Sahara dry to Willy Wonka wonderful, every type you can imagine and the one universal truth is that the shorter they are, the better they are.

 

Once upon a time, many moons ago, a client came to us with a PowerPoint which was 46 slides long. Forget the fear we had at just amending the document, there was a pronounced dread at just reading it – this badboy was a real humdinger. We copied all the words out of the document and found that there was over 12,000 words right off the bat. Translate that into the presentation and you have a mammoth show on your hands. Despite our advice, the client resisted all but the most obvious of cutbacks and went ahead with a 40-slide long presentation. Predictably, it died on its arse and the story the next day had less to do with the content and more to do with the time it took to relay the content.

Similarly, a friend of mine told me he had to sit through a 40+ presentation in an internal meeting at his agency and thought more than once about taking his own life.

 

For an industry that likes to bullet point information wherever possible, there seems to be a disease, which is rife, that compels people when a PowerPoint document is open to gush out the entire contents of Wikipedia.com.

 

In my tender experience, I would advise:

  • Bullet point wherever possible
  • Don’t just read the words of the screen – summarise
  • Don’t play around with the mouse, the arrow only distracts
  • Try not to stare at the screen, look at the audience
  • Never go more than 15 slides
  • If you go above 15, don’t handout the presentation, it will only put off your audience
  • Before finalising, read through and ask these questions: does that word need to be there? Does that line repeat something already stated? Will anyone care if this isn’t here but is in your speech?

Sounds very, very obvious – which makes the PowerPoint epidemic in our industry all the more bizarre because we are all (probably) aware of it.

Were I to offer any advice to those looking to get into PR, it would be to keep in mind “less is more” when it comes to PowerPoint. Clients, journalists and colleagues will all thank you.

Catholicism, Politics and PR.

March 22, 2008

The various Catholic Leaders who are putting pressure on Catholic MP’s to vote a certain way should be publically censured for an outrageous abuse of PR.

It’s Easter, a time in which Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a time remembered for the meddling of ‘High Priests’ and Politiciansk, yet the Archbishop of Cardiff (and others) has attempted to manipulate public opinion against Catholic Members of Parliament.

The archbishop told BBC Radio 4: “Those MPs who have approached me over recent weeks have said: ‘Look, I don’t think this is right. I accept the teachings of the Church, yet I am a Government minister, or I am a Labour MP. Can I discuss with you the moral dilemma I have got?”

Religion is and should always be a private matter for an individual and the Catholic leaders who have effectively tried to blackmail Catholic MP’s into voting against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, should be publically reprimanded by Catholic MP’s.

In a world in which we are trying to build religious tolerance and understand why certain groups are driven to extremism, it seems odd that our Religious leaders still think that MP’s are to be used as religious pawns as there were in the 18th Century.

In PR terms I feel that the Catholic Church and those MP’s who admit to be practising Catholics have been damaged by a very awkwardly executed media campaign. The campaign should have been solely focused on the need for a free vote on this issue and not suggested that Catholic MP’s are undertaking some conspiracy that will see them all voting against the bill.

We should be free to vote for Politicians who will represent constituencies and constituents without being clouded by religious sentiment.

PR vs. VOIP Technology

March 20, 2008

As we all know, the FT Digital Business is the holy grail for Tech PR consultants. I used to work for a major Telecoms company who ring fenced FT Dig Biz features for their own use. If I wanted to pitch an idea to the supplement it had to be approved by the in house PR manager first, then the Press Office before it was actually emailed to the journalist. Fast Response PR anyone?

Anyway, yesterday’s FT Dig Biz was very good and of particular interest was the article about VOIP and Mobile phones.

This line caught my eye – “The mobile operators aren’t offering bundles for VoIP; they’re positively trying to make it go away. So there is no immediate benefit for the business user or purchasing folks to adopt it.”

There is going to be a very interesting battle in the coming months about mobile technology as it seems to me that some Mobile operators have more to lose than others from VOIP technology. For example, O2 (my operator) prevents me from accessing Skype on my phone where if I switched to 3, I could have a skype phone which would enable me to talk to friends who use Skype and business contacts in LA, completely free! National mobile operators are going to have to face up to this communications challenge and it will be interesting to see how the big guns answer criticisms of banning applications like Skype.

In PR terms it’s going to be interesting to see how Businesses focused publications deal with VOIP, interesting because SME’s have the most to gain from VOIP over mobile technology. It’s also interesting to see BT offer their BT Office anywhere solution which think is the only major non mobile telecoms operator providing a business VOIP solution.

So O2, I want to use SKYPE on my N95, can you sort this out?

On a side note, whoever does the PR for Research in Motion, ( the makers of Blackberry) take a bow. There were several mentions of the company in yesterday Digital Business as well as a profile of the CEO. If that isn’t worth a ‘thank you’ from the client, I am not sure what is. Enjoy the Easter Break

Easter PR calendar hooks

March 20, 2008

Two positive pearls from the fine art of PR calendar hookery today. Which appear to have been received with  amusment by ever-cynical journos..First the Times,  covering the Philipine governmnet release, cleverly hitting upon the fact Jesus was indeed crucified, to push a story promoting tetanus jabs…See below for an excerpt. Thanks to my colleague Dan for spotting,

Secondly, RAC/Aviva with FT Alphaville picking up their regular bank holiday travel choas story, which this year has alighted on the credit crunch as an exacerbating factor. Well worth a read for some very funny journalism.

If you’re going to be crucified get a tetanus jabJoanna Sugden

Of all the health risks associated with being crucified tetanus infection is not the first that springs to mind. But the Filipino government has issued a health warning to devotees who re-enact the Crucifixion every Good Friday advising them to get a Tetanus jab before being nailed to the cross. In a move aimed at cure rather than prevention the Department of Health has strongly advised devout Catholics to get a vaccination before taking part in crucifixion ceremonies to prevent infection. ..

If you’re going to be crucified get a tetanus jab Joanna Sugden – Of all the health risks associated with being crucified tetanus infection is not the first that springs to mind. But the Filipino government has issued a health warning to devotees who re-enact the Crucifixion every Good Friday advising them to get a Tetanus jab before being nailed to the cross.

In a move aimed at cure rather than prevention the Department of Health has strongly advised devout Catholics to get a vaccination before taking part in crucifixion ceremonies to prevent infection. ..

Correction, I’m right

March 17, 2008

One of the most difficult things I found when I first entered into the PR industry was getting used to having work corrected. After several years in academia excelling in multiple essays, I was suddenly the class dunce when it came to writing documents. Whether it was pride, shock or simply embarrassment, I didn’t take it well. To begin with it really hurt my confidence and that was reflected in the work I did. I think it very much depends on how the senior member of the team dishes out the feedback, but no matter how it’s presented – someone is essentially telling you they think your work is toilet.

Early on I sat down with a colleague and asked them if they felt the same. They did and I was reassured that I wasn’t the only person suffering.

As time went on and I felt myself getting better at what I was doing, my work was still getting corrected. This time however it wasn’t silly mistakes like punctuation and grammar that was getting corrected, it was style and content. Many times I would look at my original press release and think: “fine, that looks good, I’m happy with it” only for it to be sent back with a massive amount of track changes. I scratched my head and wondered if I was cut out for this job after all, but I persevered.

Time went on and I grew in confidence due to my performance in other aspects of my job. Yet my written work was still getting corrected. Frustrating was not the word for it. I resolved to write the best damn by-lined article known to man and put my absolute heart and soul into it. Hours of painstaking drafting which, I ‘m embarrassed to say, stretched into the wee small hours resulted in an article which I felt was absolutely air-tight. With a pounding heart and sweaty palms I pressed send on the email with the article attached. As my manger ran the rule (well, ruler actually) over it, I found my eye creeping every time they got out their trusty red biro.

The article again came back and it was splattered with red – a massacre. My manager went through the corrections, explaining why they had been made and it hit me: “there was nothing wrong with the original; the changes were changes for the sake of changes!!!”

I looked over my version several times and was convinced it was strong enough without the corrections. Resigned to my junior position I made the changes and the article was sent.

But from that moment on, I never took that kind of criticism to heart ever again. When work is corrected now, I think to myself; “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and make the changes.

I also remind myself to look up the meaning of the word “justification”………………

Whatever happened to customer service?

March 17, 2008

For a country that likes orderly queues as much as the Brits, it seems odd that we are so bad at customer service. Advertising Agencies make vast amounts of profits each year for seemingly repeating the same adverts (Mars – Private Eye 1205) and yet no one has sought to put advertising money to better use by transferring the investment into training front line staff.

Good customer service makes a retailer stand out… ITSU for example are brilliant at it. The store on Regents Street where I often pick up lunch should be used as a case study for how to train staff. Servers are always polite, tidy and helpful. YoSushi!, however, spends remarkably more on its marketing and communications ( I think Limelight do the PR) and are a mess. Of the three restaurants that I’ve been into, surly and uncommunicative service have been the order of the day.

Other than getting a leg up on the high horse, what’s my point?

If major high street brands spent more training staff on how to deal with members of the public and concentrating on keeping the customers they have, rather than advertising for new ones, they might find the whole exercise a great deal more profitable.To use another example, I pay more for my mobile because on the whole, I find 02 staff helpful. When I think about my other brand choices, I see a similar pattern developing.

Internal comms, employee satisfaction or internal advertising… call it what you want. Just do it!