Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Prince William sleeps rough for Centrepoint


Many charities have high profile patrons but fail to utilise their PR potential effectively.

Hats off then to the comms team at Centrepoint for their brilliantly executed story about how Prince William spent the night sleeping rough in London (apart from a few armed guards no doubt!)

The story was perfectly timed so close to Christmas and the quotes from the Prince and the Centrepoint Chief Exec Seyi Obakin ensured that the message behind the campaign wasn't overshadowed by its use of our probable future King.

This is a campaign that will help raise money and awareness for homeless people during this treacherous weather and it's a great piece of PR because of the messaging; not just because of the Prince.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Gordon Brown to call snap election

After months of being hammered in the polls there is evidence that the vote is returning to Labour with the latest poll showing a 9% Tory lead. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/dec/14/tory-lead-nine-points-guardian-icm-poll

This is no surprise as mid term voters are more likely to protest against the government, with polls in between notoriously unreliable as lead identifiers for elections.

The big problem facing the Conservatives is the low key response from George Osborne and David Cameron to the Pre Budget Report. It has left voters, many of whom are unhappy with the Government, unsure as to what the opposition stands for.

Here in my local constituency we have had 3 recent glossy Tory pamphlets, with non from any other party.

This is evidence that although the Tories are awash with money, they have in many ways been fighting a campaign alone for 12 months and this means voters can become bored, to put it simplistically.

So the odds are Gordon Brown will go for a March election to try and capitalise on the small momentum Labour's core voters can create by returning to the fold.

This would greatly reduce the odds of a hung parliament and this narrative is one you can expect to see more of in the media over the coming weeks.

I will be speaking to my former employer's office in the red corner over the coming days, so hope to get a further insight then.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Scientists unveil formula for perfect parking...but Vauxhall Motors story was released by Esure just months earlier


Textbook piece of Christmas PR from the Vauxhall motors PR team today. Their story about scientists finding a formula for perfect parking is a tried and tested recipe for coverage but, excuse the pun, there's clearly no need to re-invent the wheel with a story like this.

Third party scientific research? Check. Survey showing regional divides? Check. An issue most Sunday newspaper readers can identify with? Check. Add in bylined quotes from the brand and you have a great story, well executed.

But, however, I'm sure I've seen this exact story before? Oh, yes, I have:


So as well executed as the story is I'm sure Esure won't be as complimentary of Vauxhall Motors as I've been. Well, let's face it, they probably nicked the idea off someone else too...it seems Flat Earth News really does travel!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Pre-Budget Report 09: Tories buy Pre-Budget Report Adwords

The interesting news to come out of the Pre-Budget report was that the Conservative digital team (according to Mesha Chhabra)  immediately purchased key Adwords on google, such as 'boiler scrappage' and 'PBR'.

The first thing to say is to hold your hands up and admit that they have gone on the front foot and gained a digital advantage.

I would, however, argue that political parties need tighter regulations over online ad spend and indeed strict rules about the content they can and can't pay for.

I'm all for digital campaigns and creative platforms, it's just the data sharing and paid for elements of online advertising that I'd like to see made fairer so come election time it doesn't become a free for all.

Not only can digital spend be harder to track, it can also be unfair. To have one party's ads come up when an ordinary voter looks to learn about the Pre-Budget Report means that, in my opinion, that party gains an unfair advantage. I think all parties should declare their digital spend in a transparent way and that they should not be allowed to pay to link themselves to topics or key words in such a manner.

I realise this sounds rather ridiculous given that it's hardly new but this particular examples re-enforces my uneasiness over how digital democracy can suffer if we don't have stricter online advertising rules.

The question is where do you draw the line between creativity and advertising - I think it's clearly on paid for links and Adwords.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Google unveils real time search results


Google's new real time search results and 'google goggles' will add further fuel to the 24 news hr cycle and increase pressure on public figures and comms professionals around the world...and I love it.

Real time news and search can often be a distraction if organisations don't have a strategy to deal with it but it can also be a force for democratic good - witness the MP's scandal and the waves of pressure unearthing truths in minutes that would have previously been buried.

The new real time searches will mean blogs and twitter will play an even greater role in forming opinions and reacting to stories, which should make for an intriguing backdrop to the mainstream media.

For PROs and comms teams the challenge will not just be on reacting but on monitoring and evaluation. Where do we have a genuine concern vs who is a lone voice?

It's these choices which will make or break an organisation's online reputation in the age of real time searches and the best thing PRs can do to prepare is to take a step back before reacting and ensure they know the key opinion formers for the relevant sector; rather than diving in ignorantly and adding fuel to a non-fire.

It's the difference between an unmissable opportunity and an irrelevant drop in the ocean yet the real time comms professional must be able to distinguish between both - it might not always be as obvious as it seems.

Exciting times ahead.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Harriet Harman condemns RBS board


Harriet Harman has attacked the RBS board in Parliament today for having 'no recognition of the public fury over bonuses'.

I'm sorry Harriet but politicians are mistaken if they think that they simply need to express their outrage over the action of bankers, whilst doing nothing about it.

All the parties are treading water on this issue until after the election as the truth is none of them truly want to alienate the city and both Labour and the Tories are aware that it would be stupid to handicap RBS in the face of aggressive market moves by Lloyds.

Admit this, tell us your policy for dealing with it and you can start winning our respect; but until then politicians should not patronise voters.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

David Cameron to water down plans for tax breaks for married couples


If a report in the Mail on Sunday is accurate, then David Cameron is already facing up to the same problems faced by President Obama in Amercia - gaining power during the global recession means it is near impossible to implement policies dreamt up in opposition.

For Cameron this could be especially damaging given the fan fare made over the announcement that the Tories would 'support marriage' and this formed the basis of his cure for fixing what he called 'broken Britain'.

If this report is accurate then expect problems in the coming weeks for the Conservatives as they struggle with the release of policy plans in an election campaign where their best strategy is to commit to as little as possible.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Neil Benson is right to look at new revenue streams but newspapers shouldn't seek to rival PR agencies

Following Trinity Mirror's deal with Northumberland Council to provide hyperlocal websites, Neil Benson of Trinity Mirror has argued that newspapers should team up with councils to provide 'arms length' PR services:


I admire the sentiments, as without new revenue streams then the regional print media will continue to die, but offering 'PR services' is not the way to do it.

To succeed in PR you need a myriad of skills, the most important lying away from the public face of 'press releases' and focusing on business planning and client management. In short, in takes years to master and is constantly evolving and this would come as an expensive shock to those newspaper groups who fail to commit to it properly.

In a pitch situation, it wouldn't be possible to hold an advantage by being linked to a particular newspaper group, as that would destroy editorial independence and would cause uproar, a crisis for the PRCA and that's just for starters.

Instead of trying to succeed in a different and shark infested sector, newspaper groups should focus on setting up and growing online micro communities so the move to online news doesn't destroy the communities represented by regional news. Rather, it's a massive opportunity to provide even more relevant and local news to the people who want it. So, the content of local news could differ depending on the profile of the reader. This could also help local democracy - especially during local council elections.

To acheive this dream newspapers need to stop trying to survive in the old world and further develop their hyperlocal offering, which aren't yet hyperlocal enough.

Finally, there's a great post by Rick Waghorn on this subject where he compares the NUJ with the old monks trying to fight off the printed press:


Thursday, 19 November 2009

Tony Blair loses EU President job but dodges a bullet


So, Tony Blair hasn't been chosen as first EU President and the job has gone to the Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy.

Although the former PM hadn't officially thrown his hat into the ring, he had clearly given serious thought to the role.

The news that he has been 'overlooked' is welcome, as his profile and influence would immediately been greater than most of the Prime and First Ministers in the EU countries, all of which are elected.

Furthermore, there's no denying that his role in the Iraq war would also have helped far right parties across Europe promote an anti-EU agenda, especially in the UK with the BNP. UKIP would also have benefited, although they are of course not an extremist party in that sense, so this is merely a comment about the effect on Labour votes at council and marginal seat level.

A Blair presidency would also have given David Cameron a chance to unite both sides of his party in an area much closer to the Tories' natural right - this could have provided him with a massive boost on the one area that still genuinely worries the Conservative leader.

So, the man who can breathe a sigh of release is Gordon Brown, especially given the new prominent role of Lord Ashton - a Brown favourite.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Newspaper circulations continuing to fall


The latest newspaper circulation figures show a decrease in circulation of between 0.5-4.5% for all the nationals, bar the Times and the Financial Times, who should be applauded for marginal increases.

It will be interesting to see how the online figures compare - I'm sure Rupert Murdoch is especially interested as he continues to push forward his plans to charge for online content.

Either way, with circulations decreasing at this rate the industry will need to propose a blanket solution to the problems before some of the national papers follow the lead of the regionals and fold. At the very least, some may need to consider going completely online as printing millions of copies to sell less than a third is not sustainable.

The problem is that no one wants to pay per article or per paper, as competition is too intense - there will always be a free source of news.

The BBC also poses a problem as it provides top quality content for free - that's reflected in the way so many in the media are clamouring to take pot shots at the BBC.

I'd like to see a DCMS review into the future of the industry made up of an expert panel of suitable talent such as Greg Dyke, for example.

It's essential for democracy and needs to happen sooner rather than later.

P.S. the Telegraph decline is interesting. Does this show a move to online readership or does it prove that in today's media marketplace, no matter how big the scoop - MP's scandal - a reader's loyalties cannot be sustained beyond the next story...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Observer shuts three out of its four monthly magazines


News that the Observer is shutting its sport, music and woman monthly magazines is shocking only in that it's not a wholesale closure.

I enjoy the Observer and will miss the sport magazine especially, but in a marketplace made ultra competitive by online news and features, blogs and gossip, only truly niche offerings will survive. That's what the Observer has in its food magazine, an unrivalled quality of supplement, proudly measuing up to the weekly offerings of writers like AA Gill.

So in the long term, the move will be seen as a success if it helps focus resource on keeping (or making) the Observer a competitive newspaper and perhaps also allow it to direct more time and energy into the successful Guardian blogs and Comment is Free sections.

That being said, it's probbaly the first of many changes to our national press as we know it and that's why, as I mentioned in a previous post, News International is trying to stay as master of its own destiny by an aggressive approach to online news content, the BBC and the Labour Government.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Sun: Prime Minister refused to apologise to dead soldier's mother

James Murdoch is trying to restore The Sun's fearsome political reputation and Gordon Brown is the victim. Rupert Murdoch, a quasi-ally and fan of the Prime Minister, would never have sought to vilify him in the way The Sun did today.

The story over the mis-spelt letter to the deceased soldier's mother is one of the most personal attacks on a British PM in living memory and is set to get worse tomorrow - when the Sun publishes a transcript of the PM's call with the mother, claiming he didn't say sorry.

Make no mistake, this is James Murdoch seeking to destroy the PM and reimpose The Sun's reputation as the paper of influence. And that's why his Father is happy to support the move, as it's an aggressive strategy in line with how News International aims to survive the changing media landscape - with ruthless aggression.

This is further evident by Rupert Murdoch's threat that he may sue the BBC over plagiarism of content:

Tough times for Gordon Brown and make or break time for News International. I know who I'd back to survive...

Friday, 6 November 2009

Nadine Dorries and Kerry McCarthy need less haste


The Daily Mirror story about a Tory MP accused of slapping the bottom of a female Labour MP has dragged two of Westminster's most prominent tweeters into the gutter.

Both @NadineDorriesMP and @kerrymp have begun a series of 'tit for tat' tweets, with further accusations of indecency and unproffessional conduct by MPs on both sides, flying around faster than a second home allowance.

My plea to both these MPs is please take a breath and not let the election play out in such a childish way - it will only turn off voters at a time when we need to build trust.

Both MPs should be applauded for their use of twitter and promoting open politics but please - there must be standards, even online.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Virtual Berlin wall campaign from Reporters Without Borders


The often innovative Reporters Without Borders have launched a virtual Berlin wall which the public can destroy via text message.

This is a brilliant idea and I'm keen to find out which creative agency is involved. I hope that they also include a provision for Twitter - Facebook is mention in the Indy report - and that plenty of historical images and facts are used to ensure the message of freedom and democracy shines through in the correct context, especially to educate younger people who don't remember the wall.

The media played a vital role in the collapse of the wall, especially reporting on the night the wall came down, so it is a fitting way to mark freedom of an industry still threatened today, as shown by the Guardian Trafigura affair (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/oct/13/guardian-gagged-parliamentary-question)

5Live step in to cover the story of the Dorking Albino Squirrel

It appears as though the hit and run murder of 'Percy', the famous albino squirrel from Dorking, is set to go national.

Someone from 5Live has been in touch via Facebook to appeal for memories for tonight's drive time show:

CXXX from 5Live here
We're looking for someone to tell us about Percy's life, his death and the hole he'll leave behind.

We want someone who can be near a phone for 5-10 mins just before 7pm.

Are you that person?

My number's 02*** *** ***



Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Lisbon Treaty ratification spells trouble for David Cameron


News that the Czechs have signed the Lisbon Treaty is a massive blow to David Cameron. He will now be forced to confront the reality that a post ratifcation referendum is a null and void task, meaning he must make a decision now as to how to pre-empt ratification.

This means he will undoubtedly need to upset the right of the party BEFORE the election - giving Labour an opportunity to show voters the Tories aren't the cohesive unit they claim to be.

If, however, Cameron can keep control over both sides of his party until after the election, then he has earned his shot at power.

Will Labour be able to seize this opportunity to crank up the pressure on Cameron? All of a sudden, David Milliband has a chance to step back in to the spotlight and make amends for a poor 12 months in the mainstream political arena.

How Milliband performs could decide if he gets the chance for a David v David election battle next time round.

Food and drink trends in 2010

I've been involved in Biss Lancaster sponsoring a report from Food and Drink Towers into 2010 trends in food and drink.

Our MD, Brian Beech is quoted throughout. It throws up some interesting points on what is a niche market - especially regarding the use of celebrity to promote brands, a move to positivity and quality and how brands need to tap into moods.

Here's some snippets from the report:

The ‘Marks and Spencer Effect’:

Brian Beech, joint managing director, Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster Public Relations:

“In times of austerity, consumers are turning increasingly to two main things: value and quality. Those brands operating outside these two parameters find themselves ostracised. Crucially, brands are turning back the clock to produce anachronistic marketing campaigns, which emphasise their history and origins, providing a link to consumers that reminds them of ‘safe haven’ memories of when things weren’t so bad, childhood or even the first time they saw or heard of the brand. This produces the best friend effect for brands and as far as consumers are concerned, you never forget your best friend”.
Quality and Price:

Beech at Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster Public Relations believes the current market trend is a paradox:
“Consumers with lower budgets are looking for quality at value prices. As the global downturn levels out in 2010, consumers will focus on the quality, origin, sustainability, value and simplicity of food and drink as the recession has seen a return to ‘back to basics’ family meal times. This means simple ingredients at lower prices; the process of cooking has once again become as important as the brand name. The challenge for brands of a local and national level is to prove they can provide the ingredients for families to cook and eat together. If they can do, they may just find an opportunity to infiltrate the family circle, meaning the opportunity is there for those brands brave enough to spot it”.


“Celebrity has never been as prominent in modern popular culture as it is right now,” said Beech at Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster Public Relations. “Food and drink markets are densely populated with rival brands and products competing for shelf space in every supermarket or deli. The use of a celebrity icon can trigger pester power among families and a sense of implicit trust amongst consumers.”

However, Beech believes that the mistake many brands make is choosing a celebrity ill suited to their brand, an over exposed celebrity or not checking out a celebrity’s credentials for their brand. “A good example of a meaningful celebrity link is Coca-Cola’s relationship with Wayne Rooney to help their Zero brand penetrate the male consumer drink market. Rooney is an icon to many men and the genius of the campaign is that Rooney is yet to do anything than play football in any of the advertising, meaning straight away the link between Coke and football is ingrained in the consumer’s minds. It also plays to the strengths of the celebrity and avoids trying to make the celebrity become something they are not.”

jonowelshy83 sent you a video: "A hazelnut dinner with an Albino Squirrel"

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jonowelshy83 has shared a video with you on YouTube:

A video tribute to the Dorking albino squirrel
I join the white wild albino squirrel in St Marys church graveyard for a light lunch of nuts.
© 2009 YouTube, LLC
901 Cherry Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066


As revealed on the @JamesCrawford blog yesterday, the 'famous' Albino Squirrel of Dorking is dead:


New scandal has broken though, as the town asks - "who killed the Albino squirrel"?


This is set to be THE murder case of 2009.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Truth is Darren Bent is ahead of the game

Premiership footballers suffer from poor reputations - as revealed in the recent PR Week survey (http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/search/928100/Footballers-lose-respect-survey-exclusive-PRWeek-finds/)

Despite the importance of footballers to multi-million pound marketing campaigns and the great reputation of the game compared to other sports, the players themselves currently suffer from disconnect from fans. Many have attributed this to increasing wages and money in the game, whilst the price of following a club has led many 'ordinary' fans to watch from afar, unable to afford a ticket to see their team.

That's why it's so refreshing to see @DBtheTruth - the Twitter account of Darren Bent - amassing a real popularity amongst football fans, especially after the recent exposure on Soccer AM.

Now Darren is no stranger to Twitter and was widely lampooned for venting his frustration on the site whilst waiting for a move away from Tottenham.

Rather then let this episode put him off social networking, Darren Bent has redesigned his page and learnt from his mistakes. The launch of the new Umbro football boot, complete with his Twitter username and Twitter logo, shows his team have also realised that Twitter can be a valuble marketing tool for the Darren Bent/Umbro partnership too.

This is especially interesting given the fact Darren Bent is one of several strikers trying to get on the plane to the World Cup. Could the reputation and openess of Darren Bent's Tweeting actually help drive a groundswell of support for the striker over the next eight months?

It's an interesting question and something I'll be watching closely. But hats off to Darren Bent for opening the golden gates of Premiership life and engaging with the public. If he continues to be a success it could lead the way for more footballers to consider their own public reputation rather than just the bank notes gained from marketing campaigns.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Gordon's deeper into the Brown after Recession gaffe

"The recession will be over by Christmas"

The statement by Gordon Brown that the recession will be over by Christmas is the final, damaging evidence that the PM is completely disconnected from voters.

Gordon deals in stats and counter-stats, and by the official definition of the term 'recession', the UK economy may indeed no longer be in negative growth, technically at least adding weight to Gordon's theory.

But this is an argument for economists not the PM of a country which will have millions of its families experience one of their bleakest Christmas periods for some time, not to mention thousands of unemployed parents unable to provide for their children. So how does Gordon connect with these voters? By using economic technicalities to tell them everything is all right, to show he has 'saved the world'.

Sadly, and perhaps ominously given the current situation in the Middle East, this has echoes of the misguided 'our troops will be home for Christmas' proclamation of the HH Asquith Government. A sheltered politician telling ordinary people how it isn't.

Labour MPs have a lot of thinking to do between now and the New Year.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Birmingham Post goes weekly


The news that the Birmingham Post is going weekly, coupled with the move to overnight production of the Mail, follows recent damage to the regional presses in Nottingham, Liverpool and Manchester.

The decline in regional advertising revenue coupled with the need to cut costs and squeeze productivity means that the cull in the regional print media is progressing at an even fast rate.

It's sad to see for those of us who believe in and support the regional media but we must hope that recent improvements to regional newsgroup websites will in the long term secure the future for the regional news which is so important for a pluralistic democracy.

It could also expediate the growth of micro local websites providing truly local content, such as this wonderful news blog in Kent: http://www.romneymarshtimes.com/

To me this means that the web which started the decline in regional newspaper revenues will ultimately secure the future of the vital regional news sector.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Twitter exposes Jan Moir Daily Mail homophobia

What a day it has been on Twitter, with the "#janmoir" article on Stephen Gatley's death being criticised for its homophobic views.

I've been tweeting on this all day and the point of the outage isn't that the Daily Mail is vile, everybody knows that, it's the sense that people now feel they have a platform to say "we're not going to stand for this anymore."

There are so far unconfirmed reports that the Mail has had to pull advertising from the Moir article. If this is true then it validates the Twitter and Facebook protests, which have also received support from high profile Twitter uses like Stephen Fry and Derren Brown.

Either way, it seems that this time the Mail has indeed gone too far. Some fellow journalists have bemoaned the fact that it will mean Moir is congratulated for a job well done but we won't know this until the news plays out tonight. Sky News are featuring it at 7pm and the Guardian continue to focus on the story.

I sincerely hope Moir is made to retract her sweeping accusations over the late Mr Gately and that the Mail is forced to apologise to his family.

This story is one to watch as a watermark for how much influence the Twitterati can have.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Too many tweets...

Ben Bradshaw's tweet about the Today programme was a rush of blood to the head the Minister will regret. As culture secretary, he should not be using Twitter to air his criticisms of the BBC in such a flippant and ill thought out way.

I admire Mr Bradshaw as a politician but as a former journalist he should know better than to take such an attack dog stance against Today.

My own view is that Today remains robust against all parties but the new Webb-Davis partnership of recent days lacks a hard hitting presence and Evan Davis tends to be to come across as placid because of his tone - it's not Dragon's Den, Evan!

Sorry Ben but this time too many tweets did indeed make...

Monday, 5 October 2009

Manchester goes blue

Coming out of work tonight I was met with the amusing site of three large Lexus vehicles with blue suited drivers trying to negotiate their way to their hotel. It can only mean the Tories are here.

I've been sitting back and reading the tweets, watching the message boards and looking for gossip. All of which strikes me as rather desperate on my part but even more so, helps me realise just how little the people of Manchester know about the party they are scrambling to elect.

But that's the point, cry the local journalists, it's our chance to form policy.

Er, it's not.

The Conservatives are holding their party conference safe in the knowledge that all they need to do is avoid echoes of Kinnock in Sheffield 92, talk vaguely on jobs, immigration, Europe and anti-social behavour and then hold out until the election. They will not be listening to the desperate local businesses, journalists, PRs and Councillors seeking to make friends with the new Govt.

The conference is the equivalent of a sporting showcase testimonial match. It looks good, costs millions but is hollow, without essence or meaning.

And that for the boys in blue (and er, a green tree) is exactly the right strategy.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Cable Guy

Andrew Neil's blog reveals that one of the best things about the Lib Dem conference is the almost comic tension between the leader that should have been and the leader that didn't have the bottle to be.

Clegg may be a lame duck but he still reatins enough allies to attempt to distance Vince from the party mainstream. In doing so, he risks alienating the only member of his 'front bench' trusted by voters.

This will be suicide for next year's election and means the piecemeal conversion of former Tory voters will rapdily unravel. Sadly for the Lib Dems they have built their whole ideology on this rather flacky ground instead of solidifying their own ideological base.

I fear Labour may not be the biggest losers in next year's election. Not in terms of votes but ideological ground. The irony of this is that the last ten years have been a golden opportunity to build this intellectual momentum, not sacking leaders and prostituting for cheap council election votes.

You pays your money you take your choice.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Spot the sad irony of these two stories on the same page of the BBC

I'll make this quick as I'm angry about it.

Spot the difference between the two news stories. It's a crying shame the second made the Beeb.


What a pathetic news story. No surprises where it came from...



Tuesday, 8 September 2009

End to the gravy train?

I have to be honest, I was a bit perplexed by two different messages from the Tories today.

The first sees David Cameron warn that subsidised food and drink for MPs would be cut under a Conservative Government.

The second was an email from the man himself inviting me for a pint at a nightclub for 'one of the biggest nights out the city has seen in some time'.

Make your mind up Mr Cameron!

Party for Change, Pure Nightclub, 7 October, 9.30pm till late

Manchester will be buzzing with the Conservative Party Conference between 5th-8th October, and this is your chance to get involved.

They're throwing a huge party at Pure Nightclub with live bands, a roller disco, celebrity DJs, an Xbox area, a chill-out lounge, and a VIP room.

With a 2,000 capacity, it's going to be one of the biggest nights out the city has seen in some time.

They're going all out because they think they've got a good chance of getting in at the next election and they want to reach as many new voters as they can. Go along, meet the party members, and educate yourself about what they have to offer. (And then have a go on the roller disco).

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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

A sting in the tail

I can't believe how fast my little boy is growing up. On the way home tonight, I had a call from my wife who told me that the little chap had found a wasp in his room and had attempted to make friends with it! Sadly, he got stung for his efforts - poor lad!

It was only a few weeks ago that he couldn't even crawl. Now his days are filled with seemingly boundless movement and a thirst for exploration. It's a magical time and as he approaches 9-10 months old, I feel a very proud Father.

Just need to get some insect repellant, just in case...

Monday, 24 August 2009

Washing his hands

Why does GB always insist on hiding when a controverisal decision needs to be made? Cameron has it spot on when he teases him about being elusive. It's just so obvious, it's cringeworthy.

To argue that releasing the only convicted perpetrator of Lockerbie is a decision for the Justice Minister of the devolved Scottish Govt and has nothing to do with Foreign affairs is cowardice.

The decision to hang the SNP out to dry stinks and although it will be lapped up by the media they will turn on Brown next. For a start, the US doesn't even grasp devolution so to most of the world it is a 'UK' decision. Secondly, Gaddafi has already thanked 'my friend Brown'!

GB suffers from either the worst advice or is genuinely the most deluded PM we've seen in modern times.

I despair that the man leading our country can hide over such an important decision.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Money talks

Lots of criticism today for Alan Duncan being caught on camera by Hayden Prowse (who is gaining quite the reputation for undercover reporting,) saying what every MP has been thinking.

I may not agree with Tory politics but what Duncan implied was the truth - the expenses witchhunt turned into a farce.

Having once worked for an MP, I can honestly say they work harder than 99% of professionals whose remuneration is much greater. Yes, the system needs reforming but let's not have a crusade against Duncan.

If anything, he's the most progressive and liberal Conservative MP and his enemies should not be allowed to exploit this incident to serve their own ends.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

End Game

Rupert Murdoch's extraordinary decision to charge for content on ALL News International websites, effectively forces an End Game in newspaper ad revenues.

If he succeeds, he can potentially solve the revenue stream crisis on Fleet St and across the world. If he fails, then he could potentially drive ad rates down and bring about the early demise of several national newspapers.

Revenue aside, he is also gambling that media consumers will pay for content that they can receive elsewhere for free, such as BBC News and google feeds.

It's a full circle turn for the industry, after early paid for content was phased out.

From my PR perspective, Murdoch's decision seems odd because surely he will expect to lose a large percentage of the people who consume his online media. If this % is high enough, it could play into the hands of his rivals. The Telegraph and the Mail, who many believe have the best British online offer, will be rubbing their hands with glee at his decision.

You never right Murdoch off but I think he has made a very bad decision. Time will tell.

Monday, 27 July 2009

We will remember them

The passing of Harry Patch reminds me of an interview I heard with him in The Today programme about four years ago.

What struck me then was the sense of a reluctant hero, a paradoxical achronism brought about by longevity. Mr Patch, despite his years, seemed all too aware of this and spoke of how he was merely a survivor, thrust into the spotlight by the passing of time.

A modest and brave man, he spoke of being wounded in WWI when he was 19 and his narrative was both stoic yet colourful, brought to life by the sagacity of his experience. Nevertheless, the one feature of the interview that I always remembered was that he was steadfast in his belief that war was a waste of human life. He also, worryingly, seemed convinced a third world war was looming, this time based on chemicals.

He expressed no wish to be alive when that time came.

I wish to echo the sentiments of Fortmer Timed editor, William Rees-Mogg, the importence of the first WW should never be understimated. In truth, way in which the world was carved up afterwards haunt us still today.

But, despite the mistakes, the valliance of those soldiers must never be forgotten and it's now our burden to carry the lessons of the first World War forward for future generations.

RIP Harry Patch.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Back to (modern) reality

I have just arrived back from a relaxing four days in Dumfries, in an old Blacksmith's Cottage which had no television or internet.

It was a back to basics trip, albeit with good company and food; and I can honestly say I didn't miss either...for the first three days! After that, I couldn't wait to check up on my emails, watch the golf highlights etc.

Despite breaking at three days, I do think we all need a break from the electrical prisons we unwittingly build around us. I am going to make such breaks a more regular thing, even in my own household.

Authors for the trip where Joseph O'Neil and Seb Faulkes. It was a good mix, accompanied by a rather more mixed-bag courtesy of my Mother in Law's i-pod...

Sleep wasn't at a premium during the trip, however, as my LO kept waking in the night because they are teething. I don't begrudge waking up though, it just means I need more coffee to function tomorrow.

The virtous circle of a parent...!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Echo, Echo...read all about it?

Growing up in Liverpool, I always enjoyed having two local daily papers. The Post was great for business and opinion whilst the Echo was its more famous brother; both influential and widely supported in and around the City.

Which is why it's even more depressing to hear TM are planning to turn the Echo into a morning paper:


I recently spoke to a contact at the Nottingham Evening Post, which has also moved to a morning paper. He agreed that such a move erodes confidence in a paper and destroys its sense of identity.

Times may be tough but cost cutting has and always be in the interests of corporations and not in local democracy or quality journalism.

I despair for the future of our regional print media.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The time I met Anthony Blair.

Now, I have never until this day remembered if it was me who put my arm round the PM. I'd like to think it wasn't. (I'm the one immediately to his right, hand rudely in the pocket.)

But, this picture is inconclusive at best. It will forever haunt me.

My old cats, Elmo and Minnie.

Had to get rid of them when we had our baby.

Ragdolls, worth every penny if you want a friendly cat who likes a cuddle. Just be prepared to hoover - a lot!

Bye Space

It was the first of its kind and now, like Friends Reunited, Myspace begins its death march towards obscurity.


Like the barcode battler, sega game gear and pagers, it has fallen victim to Father Time's insatiable appetite for progress.

So, Myspacers, good luck in your GCSEs and see you on Twitter when you've stopped hating the world.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


That's how I feel about the Shalid Malik witchhunt. Now I wouldn't say anything about the publications who are going after him with such vigour, but I do hope this pursuit ends as let's be honest, if he was as bent as the media are saying would Gordo have brought him back into Govenment?


Let's hope the MP in question can stand up to this 'closer inspection' and carry on what was a promising career...we need him to, especially after certain recent election results.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

End Game

The most predictably shocking result in political history looks to be upon us:


The problem now is that dozens of Labour MPs will now not only fear for their seat but will know for certian that they will lose the next election. This will serve to create distracted elected officials, and render the next term of parliament nothing but a lame duck prelude to the election.

This creates a dilemma for the Tories, who in their heart of hearts need another 10 months to prepare for government, as this will allow them to see which way the economy is going and therefore plan their policies accordingly.

Is Labour's best chance therefore to remove Brown, steady the ship with Johnson and try and save a few seats; or, is it to see Brown take down the sinking ship, clear the deadwood and hope the inexperienced Tories don't make a major impact in their first term? This would then allow a new leader (like Milliband) to 'Cameron', Cameron.

It's an interesting theory. But if I were a 30-50 year old Labour MP, I would rather save my re-launch for Opposition, not the last throws of a Government exhausted by over a decade in power.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


Weaning our little boy is one of the most fun things we've done so far! One thing I do object to though is tasting the food mashed up.Yes it tastes nice but the texture makes me gag!

His favourite food so far is sweet potato - because it's sweet, obviously!

I even admit to reading Annabel Karmel's baby cook book...what has happened to me?!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Gentleman's Club

Ben Macintyre's article in today's Times is one of the most accurate sumaries of the current expenses scandal:


The first time I went to the HOC, I remember my boss (an MP) offering to buy me a coffee and cake. I was worried, thinking my longing for a caramel short was about to put my employer down a tenner (pathetic I know!) My fear was rather shortlived when it cost less than £2, around 70% cheaper than the market price - don't you know!

On a serious note, this always struck me as odd because ultimately, it was a subsidy that the House made but it seemed to be part of a wider culture that reminded me instantly of University, where by bending the rules and knowing the right people in the Union could save you a few pounds here and there.

What I do find remarkable is the 'astonishment' the Telegraph is now projecting across the media landscape. Surely the lobby have been aware of this for years and indeed have on many occassions benefited from MP's expenses, on a scale higher than a caramel shortbread, I bet!

In 'What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics, John Lloyd accused the media of damaging the legitimacy of parliament and therefore democracy. In my eyes, the Telegraph's main aim is to destabilise the House until there has to be a change of the guard - a new, David Cameron led Parliament.

This misses the point made by Macintyre, the fact that all MP's are culpable but what he doesn't admit is that ultimately only Labour will suffer. Now you will tell me that Tories have had it just as bad, from Moats to Gardens and the the Lib Dems have too and...rubbish - we all know that it's not who is named but who it has the greatest effect on.

People may cry 'parliament is the true loser' but power will be retained and unaffected in the Palace, people will move on. The anachronistic system will modernise and Labour will be forced to cross the Chamber.

The 'Gentleman's Club' has been like a bloated game of pass the parcel and it's Gordon who won't be able to find a seat.

At least he can grab a cheap cake though if he goes quickly enough...

Friday, 15 May 2009

You will just feel a little prick...

Pitching for new business is a funny thing. Sit there with the brief and you can often draw a blank. Sit with your wife wilst she watches a programme about men's penis enlargement and you get inspiration.

Yes, it is for a prospective client in cosmetic surgery!!

Thanks honey...I think...

Monday, 11 May 2009

A dog of a day

Unusual day today to say the least. I nearly tripped up David Blunkett's dog (by accident). As some sort of doggy karma, I then fell down the escalator at Victoria.

I would like to point out that the dog was unharmed and I only suffered dented pride...

Met with a rather forward thinking 'old school' Labour MP, who talked a lot of sense about the problems Ministers have with communicating and making decisions. He said that to get policies changed, Ministers are often the last people to 'talk' to as they are so tied by their position and party line. It's a simple point often missed by lobbyists and PRs and it makes a lot of sense.

So how could this situation change? I think select committees should be given more powers and increased scope to question Ministers and hold them to account, as this could help unshackle Ministers and proivde a better insight into the workings of the Cabinet. At the moment, Ministers can just dance round them as they know thwy are ultimately powerless. The govt should also be forced to answer Committee reports within 8 weeks. I could go on but the point is Committees are one of the few mechanisms of parliament not damaged (most of the time) by party politics.

Anyhow, you will be glad to hear that the MP didn't offer me a drink and that has saved the taxpayer £1.80 in expenses...

Monday, 4 May 2009

Crunch time for Brown

Gordon Brown needs to regain control of his party before Summer recess, or he will not make Christmas. The dissenting voices are now into the realms of embarrassment and when you have Blears and Harman putting you down in public, it really is game over.

Although, as WRM says in the Times today, Labour may not have the balls to change: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/william_rees_mogg/article6216315.ece

I think they need a safe pair of hands to limit the damage. As a LP voter, I am all too aware that the party will lose the next election but they need to ensure public opinion isn't so badly damaged that they spend the next 3 Parliaments in the wilderness.

Sadly for Gordon, a seemingly intelligent man, that means relating to public perception - something all the Brains in Britain can't buy. That is the PM's major failing, a poor ability to judge and guess the public mood. Thus he is left to react to events whilst never truly being in control of the political or news agenda.

It should be an interesting month ahead.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Self Soothing

We are trying self soothing with our LO.

It involves letting the child cry but visitng them to soothe them at ever increasing intervals.

DW did the first night whilst I was away and so far, so good.

LO is now 5 months old and it's like they've suddenly learnt how to sleep on their own.

Raising a child is a wonderful thing, seeing a young brain develop, it really does take your breathe away - although I won't be saying that if LO wakes up at 3am!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

McBride won't face a grilling

PR week is running a story that Damian McBride will be 'hauled before a Parliamentary Select Committee' (http://www.prweek.com/uk/home/article/901117/Nightmare-Downing-Street-Damian-McBride-faces-Commons-grilling/).

That may well be true but Select Committees, especially on subjects like this, can be reduced to nothing more than Punch and Judy sideshows; with skilled orators able to dance through them with ease.

Campbell was the Master at this, as was Galloway (although his best performance was saved for over the Atlantic).

Whilst many would argue that democracy 'needs' McBride to be held to account, I doubt that will come through Committee. Only an independent review of the Prime Minister's advisers could come close to doing that and this clearly won't happen under Brown's watch.

Be interesting to see how far the Tories push this as Cameron should have noted with caution how easy a 'whiter than white' approach can come unstuck...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Death of journalism?

Sly Bailey backing up her comment from earlier this year. It's a crucial point and one that people within and outside of the industry need to wake up to. I agree with Sly and, putting any debate on the role of PR to one side, think that it boils down to upholding the quality of democracy in the UK:

Friday, 17 April 2009


My and my wife are in a bit of turmoil after we recently, out of desperation, started to let our LO sleep with his Mummy. He's only 19 wks old but the few times we have done it (aboyt 03:00am) he has slept right through.

It raises a lot of fear and questions but so far LO has been fine and it's let us get some sleep.Of course, this isn't something parents are meant to do; yet I've heard lots say it in public.

I defy anyone tired at 3am not take the option that lets you and LO get to sleep.

We're just hoping he starts sleeping better soon, as my wife especially feels like a good night's rest will never come...

Monday, 13 April 2009

Smeargate: Nothing new for Brown

I've heard it said that Smearggate will lead to increased accountability for social political blogging and improve democracy.

I don't buy that.

The print and broadcast media is, arguably at least, a professional and regulated democratic platform.

You can't regulate gossip and opinion in the UK and that's the simple reason why Smeargate is nothing more than a very public glimpse into the real world of politics.

Online it may be but nothing's changed since the 8o's rise in information trading.

If you haven't read it, I recommend 'Trading Information' by Nicholas Jones - a fascinating insight into how Gordon Brown does business:


Thursday, 9 April 2009

Humble pie

OK, I was off the mark about Bayern Munich.

Enough said! But Barcalona, what a team. Messi is by far the most talented footballer in the world and seems a nice man, which can't be said for a lot of sports stars.

What a player!


Great insight

Fantastic piece in today's Times on Bristol media, a regional case study for our current troubled regional landscape:


Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Champions League

United looking creaky again tonight. I think Bayern Munich are the dark horses. German teams haven't done well in recent years so I'm backing them in Ribery and Toni stay fit.

Mind you, Arsenal have a great chance with their best players returning fresh from injury. I'd fancy them against other English teams too...

£20 on Munich it is then!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Getting through books

I'm finding it a real pain that I'm taking ages to read books at the moment. Loving 'The Book Thief' at present but still got 150 pages left and I've had it for nearly two weeks! Back on the trains now though so things should change hopefully.

The best train books are either long masterpieces like David Copperfield, are short snappy poems or stories you can read in a day.

Better than Metro!

The early bird...?

The early start vs the late finish (OK, it's both for most of us). But, as Harry Hill might say, which is better?

From a PR perspective, getting in early lets you digest the news and sort out your actions, ready to make any contacts before client/planning meetings.

That being said, evening is often a good time to pitch, perhaps out of a grudging respect for fellow slaves.

Moral of the story? It's a 24 hr job these days! Personally, I'd rather wake up with the birds any day as I'm not as sharp after 16:00pm...

Monday, 30 March 2009

No recession for community spirit

I was at an opening event today for a client, in Suffolk. It was a sunny day and everyone seemed in the mood but I was really taken by how strong the local community seemed to be. One group, an over-60's club, all put on their dinner suits and sang for the crowds, it was a lovely scene.

Sounds sad, I realise, but I doubt whether there will be such groups around in 60 years.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Media Week article:


Read all about it

Interesting to see MPs this week jump to the defence of their local papers. Perhaps this has more to do with being worried about their own exposure to voters? Even so, democracy requires local media to call local decision makers to account and unless something is done to save the local media, websites will be the only local source of news in 5 years.

I know a lot of good local journalists, some of whom now face uncertain futures. Everyone should back their local paper, so why not take a moment to buy a copy next time you're out and about.



Salutations friends. As a young Father working in PR, there's a lot that goes on in my head and I thought it was about time I set up a blog.

I hope you enjoy talking to me over the coming months.