Archive for August, 2008

Tesco. The Librarian’s choice of supermarket.

August 31, 2008

How’s your grammar? Can you tell when to use ‘who’ and when ‘whom’? ‘me’ and ‘I’?

Hopefully those of us working in communications are pretty comfortable  with such niceties of linguistic convention. (I stress hopefully).

But given the woeful grammatical knowledge of the average member of the British public, should we be celebrating or raising an eyebrow at Tesco’s decision to replace signage on the quick tills, from ‘ten items or less’, to ‘up to 10 items’?

Personally I’m all in favour, but I’m even more in favour of Tesco making some posiitve press out of their decision. The Campaign for Plain English are admirable if normally ineffectual busybodies, but Tesco have taken notice of complaints/suggestion which could have been dismissed out of hand, and adapted them to fit their message.

“We’re high-brow enough to understand the need for good grammar, but realistic enough to know whats important is customer clarity”. Not to mention column (and blog) inches. Everything to everyone. Just as they’d aim to be.

(I have doubtless managed countless grammatical infractions across this post. Well, I don’t care, this is a medium for self-expression… Do you like the way I got my excuses in early?!)



PR Week social media podcast

August 28, 2008

So, can’t hear enough of my thoughts on PR and social media on this blog? Thought not (ahem).

Check out what I’ve got to say on why social media matters to PR, how you can go about monitoring online buzz, and where PRs can really add value.


Arsenal: A Club Wrestling With Itself

August 25, 2008

If anyone doubts the importance of watching your tongue and sticking to approved messaging when talking to the press, then the below example should change those thoughts. The man in question is a man who has been in his job for over ten years, has unparalleled success in terms of his product and balancing the books. His peers and rivals are all in agreement that he is one of the best in the industry. However, after a series of poorly considered quotes, this man is in danger of losing his post. This man is the until recently untouchable Arsene Wenger.

I realise this topic is a little out of leftfield and more than a bit of it has been inspired by my personal rage, but there is a good Comms story behind it.

For those who are not football experts, Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world and have moved to a new 60,000 stadium within the past 3 years. In preparation for the big move, Arsenal fans were given quotes like these from Wenger in the lead up to the move:  “The stadium will allow us to compete (in the transfer market) in time.”

Importantly Wenger caveated the quote with the words “in time.” Fine, the fans were well conditioned for a bumpy few years ahead and indeed they have not been a barrel of laughs!

This summer however, Wenger changed his messaging and came out with some pretty strong words which got me, half of North London and Arsenal fans everywhere very excited. Here are just a few of the gems Wenger has been saying this summer:

“We will bring in only super, super quality”

“I have come to Euro 2008 with my chequebook”

“We have money to compete for any player”

“I will sign a quality player by the return leg (in two days time)”

After a stumbling performance against a mediocre Fulham team, the messaging suddenly and very worryingly changed: “When you lose a game the solution is not always to buy.”

Now, this legend, this man who appeared to have a job for life at Arsenal, is suddenly very much under pressure.

Fans are fickle at the best of times, but after four years without a success and a summer where they feel they have been lied to, the pressure has been ratcheted up.

Had Wenger stuck to his normal messaging, stating he would only spend the club’s money at the right time for the club, he would be under a lot less scrutiny. By suddenly and very noticeably changing his position, only to change it back, it has left him a figure which looks confused, weak and destined to fail – much like his current team.

Just a giving sort of person-3rd sector networking

August 22, 2008

First time guest post from Beccy Allen, Creative Director STEP ( Southwark Theatres’ Education Partnership).

So, when the Director of the biggest arts network organisation in your field and locality takes you out for lunch and suddenly asks, halfway through a plate of pasta, “So, why do you think you’re so good at networking?”, you suddenly realise that this is more than lunch at a lovely little Italian in Camberwell.

Following a few minutes’ discussion about his research paper on whether you can teach networking to those who are bad at it, I had a eureka moment about networking, fundraising and profile in the 3rd Sector.


The Director in question commented that I am a “natural networker” (why, thank you) because I’m not afraid to ask for anything, mainly because of always being willing and eager to help (that’s charity for you, darling). So, turns out that the profile of the arts charity I work for, STEP (Southwark Theatres’ Education Partnership) rests on the favours its Director asks for.

The cheekier she is, the more “What did STEP ask you for this week?” conversations that take place around the water coolers of plush, central London offices and the closer STEP gets to attracting just a little more funding and profile. Brilliant.

All non-natural networkers take note: ask for more; get more. Turns out Mums and Dads were right on that score.

Call me provincial?

August 11, 2008

I’ve got a deeply unfashionable secret.

I subscribe to my local newspaper.

Not so unusual, you say? How about if I told you it was my local newspaper from Northumberland- the Hexham Courant? Sent to me every Friday, every week.

It covers all the big stories; a new swimming pool, wind farms, post offices, sheep prices and local sports teams. Why do I want to read this, despite being 300+ miles away? Is it just because I’m an odd individual? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

It’s about the level of engagement. I am engaged by my home community. My school rowing club, who I competed for. The local history society, which I’m a member of. The local businesses I support and shop with. The people I know and socialise with. The countryside I enjoy. Do I feel this engagement with the stories in the Times, or on BBC News? Of course not.

As a PR it’s easy to overlook regional and local media’s significance. It doesn’t have the glamour of an FT hit. It doesn’t give your evaluation figures an instant boost from the huge viewing numbers of BBC Breakfast.

But it does matter to people. They read every page. They discuss it around the kitchen table, in the pub, and at the supermarket. Getting your story into those local pages, onto those regional broadcasts, puts your client, your message, your spokesperson, into an environment where people care and notice.

Get provinical. Sexy? No. effective and engaging? Yes.