Archive for December, 2009

High Speed Boiling Point

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 by Jo Rosenberg

An interesting piece of research by broadband provider Talk Talk has revealed that due to high speed internet access, we’ve become a highly impatient nation with 70% of us “losing it” if we have to wait any longer than one minute for a page to load.

And this somewhat inflated level of impatience is also apparent in the offline world where in a restaurant, we’ll demand our meal after just eight minutes and 38 seconds, we’ll wait only 10 minutes and 43 seconds for a tradesman to show up and we’ll allow 10 minutes and 1 second for a friend before we burst with annoyance.

It’s clear that patience, once a Great British trait, is slowly wearing away as we embrace an era of high speed internet activity and that’s not just down to the advent of broadband. Twitter, for example, offers a unique feed of real-time conversation and sentiment with news being delivered faster than any other medium, providing us with an immediate global sense of events.

And gone are the days when journalists conducted a quick vox pop to gauge opinion, now they simply use the Twitter crowd as a source of immediate information and push out headlines and blogposts to Twitter via RSS and

A recent fault with Virgin Media which left many customers without TV and broadband, displayed not only consumer impatience (understandably) but infuriation at the fact that Virgin had not considered using Twitter to inform their customers of the problem, regardless of the fact that a number of people were tweeting about Virgin’s service issues which suggested a major outrage was brewing.

Clearly a massive oversight from Virgin and one which other service providers should take note of. Twitter is a critical vehicle for communicating information, instantly, and could quite easily have dampened the fire that was raging amongst its tweeting customers.

It’s clear we want speed. We thrive on being the first to know and unsurprisingly, it’s the 18-24 year olds who are least prepared to wait, which questions just how impatient future generations will be.

Public transport operators, call centre workers…. you have been warned.

Are Online Spats the New Marketing?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 by Rob Brown


In March this year I had a digital dispute with Derek Draper then architect of Labour’s social media strategy. This was weeks before the Damien McBride episode.  It remains the most read and most commented post on ‘PR and the Social Web’ the blog that accompanies my book of a similar name.  As a result I probably also shifted more books that day than any other.

I mention this only because of the recent spat between between sofware entrepreneur Simon Edhouse and designer/blogger/wit David Thorne.  The email exchange about the commission of a logo design and pie charts for a presentation is so spectacular that it has been labelled the funniest email conversation ever and if you haven’t read it yet you should.   The email is doing the rounds on the internet and fast achieving meme status or ‘viral’ if you are of the old skool.  My first reaction was that it had to be fictitious but Simon and David are very real.  Simon however is clear that David invented the entire exchange “it’s a hoax” he said.   If that is the case it is doesn’t seem to be doing any harm for the fortunes of either party.  The twitter follower numbers for both represent a sharp uptake in interest.



Perhaps even more significantly there is according to Google Insights for Search a big spike in interest in Simon’s company Virtusoft and David has a natty new line in t-shirts featuring his own pie-chart design.  It may not be at the core of every campaign but it appears that a a fiery falling out, even a fictional one, can drive significant traffic on the web.  Do you have a problem with that?

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).

Does the motor trade want to sell cars?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 by Jon Clements


Are you in the market for a new car?

Good luck – you may have trouble finding a dealership wanting to sell you one.  Bear with me – this isn’t a post about cars, but about customer service.

This year, the UK’s retail motor industry welcomed, with outstretched arms, a new word into its lexicon – “scrappage”. In the middle of a thumping recession, the Government-funded scheme has helped the car business boost sales with a £2k sweetener for buyers agreeing to scrap their 10-year-old vehicle when buying a new one. Without it, the world of the motor trader in 2009 would have been a very different one.

A world without scrappage was depicted in a recent speech by Joe Greenwell, Ford’s UK chairman and president of the Society of Manufacturers and Motor Traders at its recent annual dinner. He said: “Without scrappage, this year’s total registrations would have been less than 1.7m. Against a high of nearly 2.6 million units in 2003, current expectations are for car registrations to fall to 1.8m in 2010. There is no doubt that..underlying demand remains weak.”

And this is the point. At a time like now, every customer counts.

It was Chris Brogan’s recent blog post on frustration with bricks and mortar retail that came to mind on a weekend trip to several high end car dealerships from which I came away convinced that some dealerships don’t want to sell cars.

First up – VW: we entered an empty showroom where the only person keen to talk was the receptionist. A salesman just about managed to grab some brochures but the car we wanted to see was “being used by a colleague over the weekend”. That’s fine, but did he want to arrange a viewing? No.

Next, BMW: we were sitting ducks, asking to be sold the benefits of a particular model. The salesman – not looking terribly busy – said: “I’ll get you a brochure. It’s all in there.” What about the boot space? The car battery was flat so the boot wouldn’t open. Now there was a veritable crowd of customers awaiting the grand boot opening. Eventually the lid was lifted and off the salesman skipped: “Leave it up, won’t you,” he chirped.

Lastly, Mercedes: best of the lot, but not great. We did get invited to sit down, but for a rather lacklustre chat about the car in question and promises about the great vehicles coming out of that manufacturer in the next couple of years.

For an industry facing a steep incline next year with a spluttering engine, it’s a worrying picture of customer interaction.

One man who knows a bit about car sales is one Derek Clements (disclosure: my father) who spent more than 50 years in the car business and ended his career training dealership staff in customer care. He said: “Getting new customer enquiries is expensive and dealers have to make the most of every one. It’s vital that sales staff make people truly welcome, comfortable and unthreatened before talking to them about what the customer wants or needs and matching that with the features and benefits of a car.

“In other words, make the customer feel important, listen to what they’re saying and start to build their confidence in dealing with you.”

With all this in mind, I asked Letty – a woman of advancing years and 10 years on the local Tesco checkout – what she felt customer service was all about and she said: “It’s just about being friendly. People seem so detached from each other these days and it costs nothing to smile.”

Listen to Letty – you could do much worse.

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 ''

Online charging starts on local newspapers

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 by Mark Perry

A quiet revolution started this week in the small Yorkshire town of Whitby.

The Whitby Gazette became one of three newspapers from the Johnson Press stable to start charging for content. Readers of the Gazette as well as Northumberland Gazette and Southern Reporter now have to pay £5 for a three-month subscription – or 40p a week.

While it has been Rupert Murdoch and his News International titles that have caught the headlines about when they will charge for access, it is regional newspaper publisher Johnson that has taken the first bold step.

What is interesting is that this move covers local rather than the national and international content that Murdoch’s titles provides.

Johnson’s chief executive John Fry said that he felt that local newspapers offered a “unique” service for which readers may be prepared to pay.

According to HoldtheFrontpage it has seen an internal memo circulated by senior managers in one Johnson division that says “Customers are used to paying for content in-paper and we are simply transferring this thinking online.”

Is this all a bit of reverse psychology with the ultimate aim to drive people back to buying newspapers? Michael Woolf writing in Vanity Fair last month hinted that Murdoch’s aim in charging for content is to drive people back to buying newspapers. Certainly an interesting thought from a newspaperman through and through.

The issue of charging form content also surfaced at the recent Society of Editors’ conference where the editor of the Newquest title the Worcester News, Kevin Ward felt that local newspapers had: “more opportunity to charge for the web” than their national counterparts. He added:  “What we produce is niche. Nobody else sits in our courts every day. Nobody else scrutinises our public bodies.

One thing that is for sure is that newspaper groups will be watching the latest move from Johnson Press with interest.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

Tiger’s In The Rough

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by Jo Rosenberg


Update: Tiger breaks his silence – is he right in what he says? 

Until now, Tiger Woods, the world’s number one golfer, highest paid sportsman and global icon, has built himself a wholesome, clean-living reputation.

His brand, the success of which is the result of his apparent honesty and integrity, has earned him a massive income from sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike, Gatorade and Gillette.

But unlike the bad boys of sport, whose antics are a regular fixture in the pages of the Sunday tabloids, the actions of a clean cut sporting hero seemingly brought low have far more mileage for the media.

With the recent car-to-hydrant incident, the world is becoming incredibly suspicious and wants answers. Perhaps a little unfair, and some may think his private life should be respected, but there’s a price to pay for being the world’s biggest sportsman.

What’s more, the entire situation has become almost embarrassing with not a trace of crisis management about it.

He appears, to his detriment, to be saying nothing, no explanation whatsoever, despite the rumours of an affair with a New York showclub hostess and his Swedish model wife who allegedly rescued him from his Cadillac SUV by smashing a window with a golf club.

Not only that but the opportunity to clear the air once and for all was laid on a plate at his very own golf tournament in California this week which he declined to attend, with no real explanation.

Tiger needs to be very wary, the Gillette curse is taking its hold. First Thierry Henry handballs in a World Cup play-off, Roger Federer crashes out of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and Tiger’s 2am dalliance with a fire hydrant remains a mystery.

US celebrity PR crisis expert, Gene Grabowski, recommends that those who find themselves in the eye of a media storm should take a leaf out of talk show host, David Letterman’s book and come clean early in a supposed scandal and take control of the information flow.

As the American’s would say; “Tiger, take a Mulligan.”

Clearing out the social media clutter in 2010

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 by Marita Upeniece


The social media arena has been dominated by the growth of Twitter, Facebook and other networking sites this year. As we’re nearing 2010, there’s chatter about how networks will evolve going forward and one of the key points I’ve seen in almost every trend forecast is filtering out the clutter.

According to Pingdom, Twitter is already closing in on 30 million tweets a day and the latest figures from Facebook reveal that over 45 million status updates are uploaded on the site each day. It’s no surprise that some users are starting to tune out and some still think that Twitter is a waste of time.

David Armano predicts on the Harvard Business Conversation Starter blog that social media will begin to look less social next year – i.e. we will try to get more value out of our networks through filtering messages (hiding from hyperactive updaters etc).

Twitter has already started tackling this with Twitter Lists, but it raises an interesting question – do we actually want to connect with people we don’t know? The majority of people using social media connect almost exclusively with people they already know in the real world. Or is it simply information overload and we need to be able to administer the incoming messages better?

Either way, it emphasises yet again that successful online PR does not equate to a large number of followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook. As people start to sift through the clutter (and some will probably do this early next year as everyone jumps on the New Year’s resolutions bandwagon and pledge to tidy up their lives in general), brands which aren’t offering something really valuable are likely to be the first ones to fall off the list. Relevant and trusted content has always been important but more aggressive filters will mean it’s paramount to digital PR success next year.

How do you see 2010 panning out? Will it become more difficult for brands to reach consumers through social networks as people are increasingly being bombarded with marketing messages?

About Marita Upeniece

Account Manager at Staniforth