Archive for January, 2009

Couldn’t give a Buck…

Friday, January 30th, 2009 by Chris Bull

After reading Julie’s recent post on new men’s magazine Buck, I felt compelled to pick up a copy. Emblazoned with the title in a font reminiscent of a million UCLA hoodies and t-shirts seen around the UK recently, it is accompanied by a primary colour palate and a student lookey-likey on the front cover.

These facts conspired to convince me that I was actually looking at the latest copy of my old university’s monthly mag.  Inside, contrastingly, we are bombarded with adverts for high-end, aspirational brands. The back page for example carries an advert for Bombay Sapphire; the drink of choice for much of Britain’s upper-crust if there is no Tanqueray available.  

I was at this stage wondering who Buck was primarily aimed at. It concerns itself solely with the beautifully alliterative ‘food, furniture and fashion’. I presumed that due to this content it would be the affluent, fashion conscious city-dweller, in his mid-to-late twenties or early thirties. Indeed you would need a fair amount of disposable income to purchase most of what is advertised. The product reviews are along the same lines; £45 moisturizing balm anyone? £423.50 Cube lamp? Lemon and Coriander deodorant?

In my opinion the only place lemon and coriander should be combined is in a Thai curry.  Despite my misgivings, apparently Buck is aimed at me; the 20 year old male. Ok, I’m 21, but let’s not get pedantic here. All was rather baffling, as very little appealed to me. 

Things made a little more sense when I considered the fate of the current generation of men’s lifestyle mags, or as they have been known since the nineties; the lad’s mag. No matter whether you look to the top of the scale (GQ and Esquire) or at the bottom (Loaded, Zoo) they all follow essentially the same formula of cars, interviews, reviews, columns, gadgets, the odd recipe and a few nipples, and they define their originality and message by simply offering these joys in varying amounts and contexts.  

But declining sales figures across the board for men’s lifestyle magazines have shown that this formula is no longer working. It is not because men’s base desires are changing. Rather, that due to the new environment of media saturation and the ubiquitousness of internet access, we don’t have to lug around a 400 page magazine, and wait a month for the pleasure.

Nearly anything you would find in a mag you can get on the net, and most people now have a full web browser on their mobile phones.  Perhaps based on this realisation and the fact that a new generation of more discerning consumers expect a magazine to offer something more than a monthly summary of manliness, Buck’s limited, more focused remit, could be the way forward. 

This bold new direction is admirable, but still, if people of my age – apparently its core demographic – can’t relate to the magazine, is it doomed to failure? Not necessarily. Apart from the terrible front cover, this magazine would be damn good coffee table fodder. It would fit in, opened at a random page, in a Harley Street waiting room or the First Class airport lounge I used to work in.  It might not sell like hot cakes at a local newsagent, but I bet within a year Buck has a hell of a lot of subscribers, even if they are companies and not individuals.

My summary? I wouldn’t buy Buck to read something cool, but I could always buy Buck to look cool.  

About Chris Bull

Account Exec for Staniforth PR, based in the TBWA\ Building in Whitfield Street, London. Areas of interest include politics, the car industry and sport.

Brand Repugnant

Friday, January 30th, 2009 by Ginnie Oram

Was having an interesting chat with a couple of friends about the flurry of offers and discounts that have been flaunted by some of the high street’s perceived high end brands. We all couldn’t help wondering that, while there’s no doubt such offers have been helping people to rein in their spending, whether the brands have suffered as a result, or, if people’s perceptions of brands have changed?

There’s no denying that feeling of smug satisfaction when you manage to bag that perfect LBD or whistle n flute from your favourite top end retailer at 50% – sometimes 70% – less than it was originally being sold for, but do you ever think – as my friends and I were doing – about how much we were all being ripped off during the good ole times? Surely if a retailer can afford to drop prices so drastically in search of a sale, does it beg the question ‘how much is this really worth and how much have retailers been marking up in the past’?

Another thought that has entered my head is have people who used to shop freely without a second thought of the price tag, been put off by the barrage of offers out there or, more importantly, have their perceptions of their favourite brands changed? Does it make the affordable, throw away fashion more appealing if the more exclusive shops seem ever less so? Or do you upgrade to true investment pieces that will stand the good times and the bad?

From a PR point of view, I think brands need to remember their roots during the tough times – who are they really appealing to, where are those customers and how do brands reach them? Social media is a great way of speaking to customers directly – particularly when trust in the UK traditional media is at a low – and positive stories that communicate core values are valuable and a breath of fresh air amidst the landscape of bad headlines. Look for services/products that inspire confidence and give reassurance back to the customer and then tell your story. Focus on your original USPs in a fresh, forward-thinking way, know your strengths and trust in the reasons your customers came to you in the first place.

About Ginnie Oram

Partner in Staniforth's London office, she has worked in PR for 10 years handling a broad range of consumer fashion, food and retail brands. Ginnie is slowly, but surely, embracing the wonder that is social media.

B2B needn’t shy away from social media

Friday, January 30th, 2009 by Jon Clements

 

While the digital world is immersing itself in social media, with something else finally overtaking pornography as the UK’s favoured online pastime, companies operating in “business-to-business” remain sceptical.

So says US-based communications expert, Shel Holtz, who appears to have repeatedly heard the refrain: “There’s no role for social media in B2B”.

But it’s quite the opposite: social media, with its focus on creating intelligent, useful and compelling online content and generating mutually beneficial conversations is just right for B2B.  

Holtz goes on to explain how social media makes sense for those selling in the B2B arena, building relationships with niche audiences via online dialogue and creating a community of “customer evangelists”, inspired by your company’s openness and willingness to exchange information and ideas.

PR Media Blog has advocated this before, but with the caveat that dipping your foot in the social media ocean has its fair share of hazards lurking in the depths. In short, it’s not an advertising medium in the traditional sense and brazenly pushing product in the faces of your new-found community doesn’t gel.

Research from Gartner suggests that B2B social media campaigns will fail if companies rush in to an online community “without a mutual purpose” and that firms need to recognise social media as an ongoing activity; a conversation that lasts beyond the adrenaline-fuelled fuss surrounding a product launch.

But companies operating in B2B shouldn’t rule out social media as something just for the kids or those kooky consumer brands.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

That Virgin Complaint Letter – What Should The PR Team Do?

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 by Mark Hanson

 

I can’t work out who first got hold of the Virgin complaint letter but its all over the web with a vengeance. Take a look at the amount of people sharing it on Twitter in the last few minutes alone. Even Stephen Fry is Tweeting. Check out the amount of comments from The Times blog and and Yahoo!. Its bound to be in the papers tomorrow!

But this is PRMediaBlog. You haven’t come here for a reheat of what’s everywhere else on the web. The key question is ”what should Virgin’s PR team do to respond?”

Paul Charles is their Director of Comms. Very online savvy and a former client or mine at a dotcom start-up back in 2000. He doesn’t need me sticking my nose in, but as he’ll be busy right now, I thought we could talk amongst ourselves. Here’s what I’d advise if he was my client now, would love your suggestions also.

– If you Google ‘Virgin ‘Complaint’ you find that virtually the whole page is links to stories about ‘that letter’ or seperate negative discussions. Virgin should buy Google AdWords that link anyone who is sniffing around for that story, is planning to blog about it or who has a similar problem with Virgin, towards a landing page that has the company’s response. It should be written in plain and accessible language, not legal-speak and be as sharable as possible.

– They need to agree a line that responds to the specific issues in this letter but also the broader concerns it raises. They need someone who can go and articulate that line in an accessible, human and humorous way. Virgin is a humourous and accessible brand and they need somebody to be the human face of that in social media. This may or may not be the same person that they are putting up to handle broadcast bids on it.

– That person could then respond to blog comments, post on the stories that are getting big reaction on Yahoo! and Timesonline, may be even contact the authors of those blogs and ask for an update to be added with their side of the story. This could include a link back to the landing page mentioned above, a short video response – basically whatever they feel comfortable with.

– Its also worth Tweeting a short view. Targeting those people who have already Tweeted, may be prioritisng those with over 200 followers or who have some demonstrable Twitter influence. Never underestimate the power of the Retweet.

The most important thing is for a brand to learn from these situations once the dust has settled. It’s always nice in a storm like this to have loyal customers who step foward and defend the brand unprompted. It may well be that this happens in the next day or so but its always an idea to grow and support this group of people.

Virgin should look closely to involve people in its brand online, through getting the views of regular flyers and making them feel part of the brand. So, when it’s attacked, they feel compelled to defend it.

These are my topline thoughts – would love yours!

UPDATE: Virgin Airlines’ Director of Comms, Paul Charles, responds below

Media Future – Birmingham Post Scores In Social Media

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 by Mark Hanson

 

Every now and then we should remind ourselves that traditional media brands have a strong part to play in social media.

Newspapers are a big part of our society and we turn to them for help in interpreting the events of the day. The problem lies in trying to adapt to modern expectations of how and when we get that information and how involved we want to be in it.

10/10 to the Birmingham Post for the way they covered a key event affecting their community i.e. the long-awaited announcement from the governement on the help it will give the automotive industry, upon which so many livelihoods in the Midlands depend.

They live-blogged Lord Mandelson’s statement, led by social media guru/journalist, Joanna Geary but drawing in comments from experts on the Post staff such as the business corr, motoring and politics staffers.

And guess what? Readers were allowed in too. Anyone can jump in and add to the conversation with the journalists, rather than them having a dialogue between themselves that the rest of us watch down below.

This is embryonic so I guess if the Post had data on viewership of the event, they wouldn’t release it. But they’ve proved it works as very simple content and it didn’t exactly take a lot of resource. It was largely a conversation that the journalists would have been having in the office anyway.

Take a look at an archive version here 

Obama’s Web Strategist: What PR People Can Learn From The Campaign

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 by Thomas Gensemer

This is a guest post from Thomas Gensemer, Managing Partner of Blue State Digital, the strategy and software company that spearheaded the Obama campaign’s web operation.

He has chosen PRMediaBlog to exclusively reveal his thoughts on how the PR industry can learn the lessons of Barack’s online success.

 

What can communication professionals learn from the Obama campaign?

The network is better than you are. 

Obama for America changed the economics of campaigns. Instead of seeing supporters as passive recipients of message, they were seen as an integral part of the team that would propel Obama to the Whitehouse. 

And it had a simple strategy behind it all – find your support, recruit them, give them something to do and then say thank you. And by repeating these steps, changing the calls to action, and monitoring how each user responds, the campaign quickly built an organization of unpredicted scale and commitment to Barack Obama. 

While much of Obama’s success came from his capacity to promote a message that authentically resonated with the American people, this connection was dramatically amplified by supporters willing to adopt his messages and then share this endorsement within their own peer groups.   

By focusing the campaign on this process, Obama’s message was strengthened through independent third party support – and then shared with an audience that Obama could never have reached without his networks support.  

They embraced the idea that in a world of communication divergence you can’t afford to be a single message campaign in a multi-message world – and accordingly provided groups and networks for traditional and non-traditional support alike. So what happens when other groups – firms, charities, unions – start talking directly to communities? 

Imagine neighbours, friends, and family members, colleagues uniting for a shared love or cause. And then imagine what’d happen if you asked for their help.   

The key concept of Obama’s campaign still applies; whose advocacy are you most likely to respond to – your best friend or a monolithic organisation’s centralized message? Digital strategists often become blinded by technology.  But the Obama campaign wasn’t about cheap gimmicks, short term tactical wins.

It was about people – and the awe-inspiring capacity of a huge number of individuals to take small actions which in turn generate a huge communal effect. $500 million dollars, 1.2 billion emails, 10 million phone calls, and 300,000 grassroots events later, Barack Obama won the Presidency. And it all started with a “do this now” call to action. 

The Internet did not win the election – it simply provided the capacity to release and develop the communities potential, and in a far more efficient and analytical manner then ever before. 

That chemical romance with the media

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 by Jon Clements

 

If there was one science at school that was fun, it was chemistry. Throwing potassium in water and watching it combust? Bliss!

And if you wanted, truly, to define yourself as a world-beating brainbox, the surest route was to get an A grade at A-level chemistry.

Which is why I’ve been so impressed with the Royal Society of Chemistry’s recent experiments in media relations. An early news page in Saturday’s Guardian  carried a great weekend story about the Society’s competition to find the best way of saving the looted gold in the closing scene of the iconic 1960s heist film The Italian Job. How could chemistry, surely the preserve of men sporting corduroy jackets with leather elbow pads, be this hip?

Only a couple of weeks previously, there was the Society again, launching its 2009 theme of food sustainability with servings on the street in Piccadilly, London, of Victorian workhouse staple -gruel -prepared by a French chef and dished up on the day before Dickensian musical, “Oliver”, was revived in West End theatreland. 

And, in between times, the Society’s latest report into food sustainability was bolstered by a timely reference to new President Obama’s placing of science back on the US Government’s agenda.

With some creative ideas and clever execution, what could have been as dry as reciting the Periodic Table is given life and some great media coverage to boot.

Royal Society of Chemistry, go to the top of the class, but please be careful with that bunsen burner.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Bucking the Trend

Monday, January 26th, 2009 by Julie Wilson

THE NEW MEN’S MAGAZINE WITH MORE THAN NAKED LADIES

Only the other day I was asking my male colleagues if they knew of any credible male fashion/lifestyle websites… Welcome Buck, a new lad’s mag and website aimed at the modern dandy, with food features, fashion and interiors in place of topless women.

The brainchild of Steve Doyle, a 26-year old with a background in fashion and publishing, as well as a year working in the City, Buck strives to carve a niche in the men’s magazine market, bridging the gap between high-end fashion titles such as Another Man and established mainstream publications GQ and Arena.

Refreshingly different, over a quarter of the magazine’s content is food-related.  Restaurant and bar reviews, recipes, debates and good old fashioned cookery tips that guarantee you’ll be able to serve up a good Sunday roast are a plenty and feature alongside a healthy smattering of fashion and style, Buck’s primary focus.

In an interview with The Independent Doyle describes the target reader: “He knows his own style.  He’s very confident with dressing the way he wants, cooking with friends, living his life the way he wants to.  He doesn’t want to aspire to a lifestyle, or to be told by that magazine what to do.”

A secret follower of men’s fashion and avid supporter of any new developments in the men’s magazine arena, I really hope Buck manages to succeed where so many others have failed, but does it really stand a chance?

Launched in November 2008, in a year that saw many of the men’s titles struggle – Maxim’s sales were down 59.6 per cent year on year, FHM down 10 per cent and Loaded down 20.8 per cent – the magazine has certainly taken on a challenge. It’s one, it appears, the ten-man Buck team are prepared to take head on.  With its third edition currently on shelf and a full year’s themed issues planned and in progress, Buck means business.

Buck is available at WHSmith, Borders, Tesco, and all good newsagents.  Or visit http://www.buckstyle.com/

Eyebrow Dancing Cadburys Style

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 by Rob Brown

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Cadbury’s broke new ground with the drumming Gorilla, mixing TV advertising, viral and PR.  When you have a great marketing campaign like that there is client pressure and a real desire on the part of the protagonists to repeat the success.  It seldom works.  The follow up to ‘Gorilla’ was a case in point.  The runaway trucks racing on a runway to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ was nice enough but no match for the simian skin beater.   

However Cadbury’s might just have made marketing lightning strike twice.  Launching on Channel 4 tonight is a 60 second film that is quirky enough to set tongues wagging and destined to be a YouTube must see.  Two siblings perform some serious eyebrow dance moves to a piece of eighties electronica called Don’t Stop The Rock by Freestyle. You need to see it really.

This time the muti-level marketing ducks are all lined up.  They’ve added some good PR lines – publishing a list of top ten famous eyebrows and renaming the second month in the calendar Fe-brow-ary.  They’ve even gone for a shade of branding in the ad by putting the sister in the film in a Cadbury’s trade mark purple dress.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

Fry and Ross Twitter on TV

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Rob Brown

 

It’s official ‘Twitter’ is on the agenda for Jonathan Ross’s comeback show on BBC One this week.  Stephen Fry revealed it in a “tweet” shortly after the recording of the show, which also features Tom Cruise and Lee Evans with music from Franz Ferdinand.  

TV programme makers have tried to clamp down on ‘twitter leaks’ by both Ross and Fry because of the speed with which they are now being picked up by the mainstream media, although their twitter streams could almost be regarded as minor media channels in themselves; Stephen Fry has almost 55,000 followers.  Fry also revealed a soft spot for Tom Cruise in his micro bulletin.

“All over. Won’t reveal too much as press seem anxious to be all over this. JR & I discussed Twitter. Hope it makes the cut. Cruise charming !” @stephenfry

Ross’s twitter stream has so far been silent on the subject. This represents another step towards the mainstream for twitter and a rise in the use of twitter by celebrities to engage directly with fans a trend predicted in this blog last September.   

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).