Archive for July, 2011

Stepping in the wrong direction

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould

Following the news that broke last week regarding Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, and the deaths of five poor people, it likely there will be a long-winded process for getting the hospital’s reputation back to what it was.

In this instance, the hospital’s reputation will be damaged on many levels. From credibility to competitive position to the fact that a hospital – not everyone’s idea of a attractive place to spend their time – has now become more unattractive.

PR agency, Bell Pottinger North, has the mammoth task of handling the hospital’s crisis communication.  Associate Director, Richard Clein said: “The reality is that in this situation the police will take the lead on comms – our job is to ensure our messaging is consistent and to ensure we are reiterating the statement that the hospital is a safe place. It’s about reassuring patients and staff as well.”

Exploring the classic procedures of crisis management, there will be a process of being readily accessible to the media, showing empathy for all involved, delivering an appropriate level of communications that reinforces what the hospital does well, and laying down clear preventative processes for the future. In this instance, sending out a chain of press releases about the hospital’s goals and achievements is not the answer. People will not forget this easily, therefore a broad ranging, strategic plan is necessary to rebuild reputation.

But in the situation of a hospital crisis, how will a damaged reputation affect the “customer”?  If a person is picked up by a paramedic, there is no choice about the hospital destination. Are patients at the hospital now feeling nervous about being there? Reassuring these people is a key task for every hospital employee in the wake of what has happened.

How do staff feel about working there at the moment? A medical student or nurse who has studied hard to get a job at a previously good hospital must could well be feeling tainted right now by association with Stepping Hill.

It will be interesting to see how they recover from this. The work of dedicated and trustworthy staff at the hospital needs to be highlighted so the public doesn’t judge a whole hospital by the actions of one person.

*Quote as from PRWeek, July 2011

Will the new Dragon breathe fire?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 by Jo Rosenberg


With reality shows at an all-time high (TOWIE anyone?) and the likes of The Apprentice shaking things up with a new format, Dragons’ Den can’t afford to rest on its laurels.

Back on BBC Two this Sunday, Dragons’ Den has a new and – some might say – controversial addition to its mega-rich line up.

Hilary Devey, entrepreneur and award winning business woman, will replace James Caan alongside Duncan Bannatyne, Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis.

The daughter of a pub landlord from Bolton, Hilary Devey is no stranger to TV having already appeared on The Secret Millionaire and The Business Inspector.

Despite Devey’s unquestionable success in business (she owns Pall-Ex, a freight distribution company with an annual turnover of £100m) she has had her fair share of ups and downs in her personal life and it’s these turbulences which I suspect is what the BBC is most attracted to.

In an interview with financial website This Is Money earlier this year, Devey admits that her achievement has come at great personal cost. Among the life challenges facing her was helping her 24-year-old son to kick a chronic drug addiction.

“Sometimes I can’t help but feel responsible. I ask myself if things would have been different had I not been so busy doing Pall-Ex,” she told This Is Money.

Meanwhile, Hilary herself, who watched her parents lose everything when her father’s heating company went bust in the Sixties, has been divorced twice and suffered a stroke following a tummy tuck operation.

Clearly this is a woman who has triumphed against all odds; a positive role model with a keen interest in helping women succeed in male dominated industries. It’ll be interesting to see how she fares as the show’s new PR vehicle.


United In Grief, Divided By Opinion

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 by Julie Wilson


This weekend saw the world rocked by the tragic events in Oslo, the shock news of Amy Winehouse’s death and sadness surrounding the Chinese rail disaster.  These incidents combined with the on-going plight in Somalia saw the nation united in grief.

A world united in sadness was not, however, one united in opinion as anyone monitoring Facebook and Twitter during the unfolding of the events would have seen.

Within just minutes of news of the passing of one of the UK’s most talented musicians breaking, users of social media platforms became embroiled in debate as to the significance of one event over that of another.

The comments which emerged, including distasteful jokes (which I will not repeat), did not surprise me.  What did, however, was the response of the authors of such comments, whom appeared genuinely surprised by the disapproving and angry response of fellow users.

“My profile, my opinion, I’m entitled to it” was one such response.

The answer is of course yes, that is true, but it is naive to think that posts of such a sensitive matter will not provoke a response and users should be reminded that social media platforms are a public place.  In the same way that you would not expect to walk into a crowded bar and loudly voice a potentially provocative opinion without being challenged, the same is true online.

Whilst it is a free world, social etiquette does, I was warmed to read, still exist online.  The overarching opinion of most users this weekend being that “there is no ranking of tragedy.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Should you wish to support the work of those in Somalia visit or text 70000 to donate £5 to the Disasters Emergency Committee.


Has Andy Parfitt jumped a sinking (flag)ship?

Friday, July 22nd, 2011 by Gemma Ellis

Yesterday’s surprise announcement that Andy Parfitt is to step down as Radio 1 Controller provoked a surge of public tributes for taking the station to where it is today. But, while the accolades continue to roll in, I can’t help thinking that Parfitt’s resignation marks the beginning of the end for Radio 1 in its current guise.

With audience numbers at a record high under Parfitt’s leadership – official measurement body RAJAR recorded listening figures of 11.83 million in the first quarter of 2011 – the popularity of Radio 1 can be at no doubt. The question, however, is how much of this audience is made up by the youth station’s target demographic, 15-to 29-year-olds.

Both 52-year-old Parfitt and his prodigal son, shock jock Chris Moyles, have come under fire for being considerably older and, dare I say it, out of touch with Radio 1’s target audience. Certainly, there has long been speculation surrounding 37-year-old Moyles’ suitability as the face of the ‘nation’s favourite’ breakfast show, although his future at the station has been secured, for the time being at least, following the signing of a reported £1 million contract.

But what next for the station that’s been criticised as being out of touch with its listeners?

Parfitt has been instrumental in progressing Radio 1 from an analogue platform to a visually stimulating and digitally relevant multimedia experience, and leaves behind him an impressive legacy that includes the launch of esteemed sister station, 1extra. His most recent reforms include the addition of a new generation of young DJs to primetime and fringe slots, such as Fearne Cotton, Greg James and Nick Grimshaw.

Perhaps Parfitt himself is aware of the changing landscape at Radio 1, in which the schedules are dominated by broadcasters who neatly sit within the target audience age bracket. It will be interesting to see if Parfitt’s as yet unnamed successor will continue with this out with the old, in with the new (and young), vein. Only time will tell if Moyles can retain his mantle as the ‘saviour of Radio 1’ or if young upstart is brought on board to capture the elusive youth market.



Did the Sundays miss a trick?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 by Jo Rosenberg

With 2.7 million people now without their regular Sunday newspaper you would think that the surviving few would do everything possible to reel in all those extra readers.

Not so. Granted, from a marketing perspective they pulled out all the stops with price cuts (Mail on Sunday was on sale for £1 as opposed to its usual £1.50) and TV advertising; yes Saturday night TV was littered with ads from all the major players, yet the editorial content remained the same celebrity fuelled nonsense.

Perhaps I’m naïve to assume that lessons should have been learnt and that the Sundays would evolve following the appalling sequence of events at NOTW but from this weekend’s evidence, it appears not.

Front pages were littered with intrusive celebrity and royal tittle-tattle about the usual suspects, Cheryl and Ashley (“Ashley’s Rat It Again”), Katie Price (“speaking Spanglish”) and Kate Middleton (“Too Thin To Get Pregnant”).

It’s almost disrespectful that despite the closure of NOTW, the Mirror, People and Daily Star are still dredging up intrusive and mindless celebrity gossip.

If there was ever an opportunity to bridge the gap between the red tops and the middle market Mail on Sunday, then this should be it. UK newspapers owe it to us to deliver more balanced content.

It was refreshing in some respects to see that despite millions of NOTW readers looking for a replacement newspaper, The Mail on Sunday didn’t try to fill the void and didn’t overload the celebrity content.

That said, looking at early sales figures based on a sample of 250 retailers, the big winner last Sunday was the Daily Star Sunday, up more than 110% but that’s from a starting point of just 306,000 last month. The People improved by more than 50% and the Sunday Mirror was up by 40%. The Mail on Sunday added just 13% but this was enough to take it beyond its 2m circulation. The Sunday Times was reported to have lost just over 1% of its normal sales.

We wait to see what the Sunday Sun will bring to the party…


Murdochs meet their phone hacking nemesis

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 by Jon Clements

The Murdochs – father, Rupert, and son, James – face Parliament today to answer for the phone hacking scandal that has dominated UK media coverage in what is normally the so-called “Silly Season” of newslessness.

Predictably, the Today programme rolled out a big hitter this morning – former Labour leader, Neil Kinnock – to debate this afternoon’s grand political theatre; and Kinnock is – in no small way – relevant to the topic, as the principal whipping boy for Murdoch-owned media in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Whether or not today’s Culture Select Committee interrogation will achieve anything concrete, Kinnock is hoping for nothing less than “from now on, no-one ever in politics will seek to serve the interests of any newspaper proprietor” and a “readiness to confront the ownership of newspapers”. I suppose his revenge has been a long-time coming.

It’s 30 years since Rupert Murdoch became the owner of The Times and The Sunday Times and – in light of where News International finds itself today – it’s worth considering the history of the man who has wielded such media power for so long.

Former Times and Sunday Times editor, Harold Evans, captured the period from Murdoch’s initial entry into UK newspapers in his 1983 book, Good Times. Bad Times.

Evans, reflecting on Murdoch’s success with the “soar away Sun”, more than tripling daily sales to three million in three years, says: “He [Murdoch] had done much for the newspaper business, but had he done anything for journalism?” He quotes an Australian editor of the time, Graham Perkin, who knew Murdoch from his earlier career as media magnate in the country, who was “at odds with Murdoch in what he saw as his contempt for political objectivity and professional standards”.

Following a News of the World article involving the photograph of a government minister, Lord Lamton, in bed with a prostitute, which brought criticism from the Press Council (the precursor to the Press Complaints Commission). Evans had responded with an article in The Sunday Times, criticising the “pornographic surveillance and the sloppy way the paper had allowed the unpublished photographs, instruments of blackmail, to be taken away by a petty crook.”  Murdoch responded to Evans with: “I do not hate the Press Council. I just think they are a pussy-footing arm of the establishment.” From this, Evans concludes: “We got the message – he wanted it to be known he didn’t give a damn.”

Plus ça change…

While BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, calls today’s potential,, verbal evisceration of the Murdochs a “cathartic moment”, Kinnock turns to mythology to frame its importance: “It may be that in the true Greek fashion, what we are now witnessing is at least a partial nemesis.”

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 ''

Newspapers with a ‘hyper local’ future

Monday, July 18th, 2011 by Mark Perry

Local newspapers have a future if you listen to Sir Ray Tindle, owner of regional newspaper group, the Tindle Group which publishes 27 newspapers.

In a message last week to his staff he advocated launching more titles as a way to combat the downturn – and this in a year which has seen his group’s revenues half.

At the end of June Tindle launched the Chingford News and earlier this month the Pembroke and Pembroke Dock Observer in West Wales joined the stable.

Interestingly he sees the key to this being ‘hyper-local content’ focusing on ‘names, faces and places – but strictly local names, faces and places.

This puts him in direct competition with one of the key attributes of social media which can deliver content directly relevant to the user.

Is the offer great enough to encourage people to start buying a newspaper again? His response to this is: “Make it a really good paper and you’ll find people will pay for it. Forget going free.”

Time will tell if his hunch is right.

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.

Edelman grasps the Murdoch PR nettle

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 by Jon Clements


Update: @tim_weber, BBC business and technology editor, sees a PR presence in the “dramatic change of tone” from News Corp.

As PR people, surely we should feel vindicated that News International’s reputation implosion has prompted the hiring of PR company Edelman for “general comms support and public affairs counsel” following the phone hacking scandal.

After all, doesn’t everyone – as in David Cameron’s oft-repeated words about Andy Coulson – deserve a second chance?

There will be some that say there is no coming back from a reputation disaster such as a newspaper hacking the phone of a murder victim and deleting voicemail messages, so giving the family false hope she was still alive.

Neverthless, reputation rehabilitation is not impossible, Edelman has got the gig and good luck to it.  But what will the PR planning agenda look like?

Rebuilding News International’s reputation is key to the Murdochs’ long game – gaining total control of BSkyB. Though it has ditched the bid now, News Corporation, News International’s parent company, needs to regain the trust of the public, politicians and regulators to stand a chance of being deemed “fit and proper” to own not just all but any of the broadcasting giant.

In terms of reputation management, closing the News of the World has been the Murdochs’ symbolic gesture that rogue companies within their organisation will pay the ultimate price, despite the inconvenient fact that the wrongdoing was done on someone else’s watch.

But for any PR provider tasked with restoring corporate reputation, having access to the “warts and all” truth of what goes on behind closed doors is essential; otherwise, life will become a continual fire-fighting exercise rather than a strategic campaign to not only talk about how the company is effecting positive change, but prove it.

And this is where I think Edelman’s biggest challenge lies: how does an outside organisation negotiate a corporate culture where the most senior executives have been willing to cover up grossly bad practices with denials,  selective amnesia or claims of complete ignorance? As Steve Richards comments in The Independent today, “Here was a company that evidently thought it was powerful enough to get away with it, able to block police enquiries and to pay off victims of crime”. Demonstrating a fundamental overhaul of corporate behaviour will need more than cosmetic communications based on half-truths to prove that change has genuinely taken root in News International.

Good PR has to be founded on truth, and Edelman needs to be confident that what News Corp is telling them – at any point – is true. As the Burson Marsteller/Facebook debacle showed, the agency has a reputation problem just as big as its client’s when forced to base a campaign on spin.

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 ''

Social media – an unhealthy medical mix?

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould

Medics have been warned that adding patients to their social media network is a big mistake and could jeopardise their career. The British Medical Association has pointed out that doctors may face  problems if they decide to befriend their patients on Facebook and Twitter.

The main problem is the fine line between personal and professional lives becoming blurred and has the potential to threaten any student nurse or doctor’s career.

The new guidance, titled ‘Using Social Media – Practical and ethical guidance for doctors and medical students’ addresses topics such as the ethical need to keep patient confidentiality which is as  important online as it is in any other media. It expresses that it’s inappropriate to post comments relating to patients that are personal or derogatory, that doctors and medical students have an obligation to declare any conflicts of interest and defamation law can apply to any comments posted on the web in either a personal or professional capacity.

This follows a series of cases in which a number of NHS staff were suspended from work due to content posted on social media sites, including one member being suspended for being photographed on a hospital helipad.

Although many medical students and doctors use social media sites without having any problems, there is the chance that they are damaging their professionalism, but isn’t this true of any career?

There is a growing concern that posts by doctors could offend their patients and colleagues without even realising.  Something posted innocently or as a joke could come across in a totally offensive manner. Vice versa, patients could be commenting on things that haven’t been analysed in a normal consultation.



BBC tackles social media open goal

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 by Mark Perry

Could the BBC have been shamed by the power of Twitter and the blogosphere when it decided to show the semi-final between England and France in the women’s World Cup semi-final live on BBC2 on Saturday evening.

Until then all England’s matches at the tournament had been available through the red button or as a highlights package. As the team progressed through the quarter finals questions were being asked as to why the BBC wasn’t showing the team’s achievements on the main channels. The tournament itself was receiving great support with the German tournament organisers getting near sell-out crowds.  

Comments started to appear on Twitter and on blogs with Sunder Katwala reflecting the general view that: “Several of our newspapers are reporting the tournament pretty well. But we’re being let down by the BBC which isn’t doing its job properly – so failing to promote the fast-growing women’s game with the energy we should all expect.”

It did appear as if the corporation’s reporters on Twitter felt compelled to fight back against the flack that they were receiving.

Sports reporter Jacqui Oatley tweeted that “General point to those complaining of lack of media coverage of #WWC, folk should write to sports editors BEFORE tournos to express interest.”

Nigel Adderley who was reporting following the tournament in Germany for 5Live re-tweeted The Guardian’s John Ashdown’s comments; “Worth pointing out while the BBC is getting all this flak that they have made up 50% of the British national press pack over here #wwc2011.” and later he tweeted comments from England manager Hope Powell saying: “I have to compliment the BBC. They’ve been fantastic for women’s football and how they’ve raised our profile”#bbcfootball.”

The general feeling reading those was that they were feeling defensive about the accusations and, lo and behold, less than 24 hours before the game the BBC seemed to turn tail and cleared re-runs of Porridge, Flog it! and Dads’ Army to show the game. But just like the men’s game the team went out after extra time and penalties.

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.