Monday, 11 November 2013

Theresa May says BBC is undermining local newspapers

Speaking at the Society of Editors conference, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has accused the BBC of undermining local newspapers.

According to the Home Secretary, the BBC's online local news sites are a juggernaut which eclipse local newspapers and create a culture where local people don't need to buy newspapers.

I don't agree with this assertion and here's why:

- Here's the site for BBC Manchester where I live. You will immediately see there are three headline stories, four links to other regions and six links to stories from local newspapers. In other words, the BBC is giving links to local newspapers while carrying little in-depth local news. It's performing an aggregation function and offering little in the way of in-depth local reporting as competition

- The people who access newspapers online are a different audience than those who purchase a newspaper. The editor of Trinity Mirror North East told me this himself recently. To help grow the two together newspaper websites are offering more news from smaller areas within a city. They need to make the advertising or paid for model work to fund this, but the challenge here is also to make businesses aware of the continued power of regional and local advertising...

- Which brings me on to my next point.  According to YouGov research into CSR and local communities commissioned by Havas PR, 67% of people trust local newspapers and two thirds of people still buy a local newspaper. This level of trust and popularity hasn't been affected by the BBC for more than a decade, so why the panic now at a time when the BBC is actually linking to those sites?

- If the Government is actually serious about supporting local newspapers it should start by discussing support for journalists in terms of training, investment in jobs and incentives for publishers who invest in journalism, not strip the products down because they aren't making their advertising models work in light of competition on the internet

- Advertisers are going elsewhere than local newspapers, correct - but they aren't going to the BBC, so yet again Theresa May is confusing the issue here by being too broad-brushed in her assessment of the situation.

I welcome the Home Secretary's comments as a chance to draw attention to local newspapers, but not as a cheap way to bash the Beeb.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Why I hate the Great British Bake Off

After much flirting, crying, icing and, finally, baking, Frances Quinn has been crowned The Great British Bake Off winner. 

The surprise BBC Two hit from 2010 has gained even more viewers this year and saw off a terrible copycat from Simon Cowell, earning it a slot on BBC One next year - which also guarantees its demise, naturally.

Now I have an admission to make - I think the show is turgid and my heart sinks when Mrs Welsh puts it on. 

I would rather watch re-runs of John Major in Prime Minister's Questions than be subjected to Paul Hollywood, who must have the most bizarre rise to fame as any man could have.

The Twitter chaos when the show is transmitted is mind-blowing, nobody seems to watch it any way but live and it's like someone has taken Twitter and dumped it in 1995. I half expect Mr Blobby to walk in with his home made Blobby buns.

I also can't decide if it strikes a blow for sexual equality with the male baker helping the mainly female cast achieve stardom in this male dominated TV world, or if it is some sort of secret misogynist plot, concocted after TV chiefs realised their wives were too busy watching X-Factor and not making them enough cake.

And there's the thing about cake, I like eating it, not looking at it. Bring me some cake, Hollywood, damn you.

But despite all this it has given the Beeb a format success that the more expensive The Voice failed so miserably to do.

It catches the British eccentricity and its success all over the world shows why people continue to flock to our great isles to capture this unique mix of politeness, imagination and creative rebellion.

I admire that and the BBC for having the guts to commission it.

So I'll have a slice of cake after all, Mr Hollywood.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Labour uses Audioboo to announce Ed Miliband energy prices freeze plan

Labour has used Audioboo to break the story of Ed Miliband's plan to freeze energy prices until 2017.

It plays some dispiriting music to talk about price rises under David Cameron (no mention of Cleggers) and is in contrast to the chirpy 'Britain can do better' message in his actual conference speech.

I personally think releasing detail like this distracts from the actual speech, but I like the Audioboo format and think it is a powerful advert which will damage the Coalition.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Stonewall and Paddy Power campaign scores with Everton

Everton have become the first Premier League club to support the 'Right Behind Gay Footballers' campaign by gay-rights charity, Stonewall, in association with online bookmaker, Paddy Power.

It's left the Premier League 'disappointed' and complaining, gently I might add, that the charity didn't go directly to them.

Instead, it has worked with rebel footballer extraordinaire, Joey Barton, and controversial master of stunt marketing, Paddy Power, to encourage players and teams to sport rainbow laces this weekend.

The Premier League has, in private, expressed doubts of the suitability of a bookmaker to support this campaign and questioned why it wasn't a part of it.

And that's exactly why it is a great marketing campaign.

Targeted at anti-authority figures such as Barton and Paddy Power, Stonewall has managed to give the brand some street credibility, and juxtaposed this against a Premier League and Football League which it has to be said haven't exactly pioneered gay rights in the league - there are currently no gay footballers in the league, out of 5000...

This has allowed the campaign to have an edge of rebellion and it was a great PR move by Alan Myers and the team at Everton to throw their weight behind it first.

This issue will take generations to fix, a cursory glance at the comments underneath some of the articles is evidence of that, yet the media coverage received at least puts it front of mind and moves the debate on.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The evolution of modern consumer PR

Marketing managers, ever wondered how PR geniuses create the strategic plans which result in the 'coverage' your brand craves?

This diagram spills the amazing secrets of success. It is believed to have been obtained using PRISM...

Probably missing an option for a shortage of bras...

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Recent guest blog posts

Been quiet on here recently but I've done some guest blogs elsewhere, including research based posts for Huffington Post UK, and thought I'd share the links:
Hope you enjoy.


Friday, 17 May 2013

David Beckham - master of the PR stunt

Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance?

Henry IV, 3.4.283

Goodbye, David Beckham, master of the PR stunt and first modern global English sporting brand. From Goldenballs to golden locks, tattoos to missed penalties, you will be missed on the pitch. Yet, off the green grass, things will be strange only for their familiarity.

Brand Beckham is well publicised and SFX, then Simon Fuller, have helped the Beckhams create a niche market in happy family sporting icons; a brand not reliant on sporting success but shrewd endorsements, CSR and choosing the right moment, be it the 2012 Olympics or when not to put your name to a doomed musical.

This will undoubtedly be Beckham's epitaph, his gift not to the game but to the individuals who followed him, From Wayne Rooney to the next big thing, he has made English footballers a market force again, something not seen even with players of a higher quality, such as Gazza.

So why has Beckham's PR been so successful? Firstly, he understood the power of pictures to move around the globe faster than words. Not one for naval gazing interviews, his team knew when and where to ensure the right picture was taken. The finest example of this was when a local Manchester photographer who had always been respectful to Beckham was, allegedly, given a tip-off to be at a certain place and time one deserted Sunday morning. There he happened to get the shot of Becks with a rather large plaster on his forehead, following a heated row with Sir Alex. The photographer was rewarded with a shot that would be sold around the globe and Beckham said everything he needed to about his relationship with the manager, without ever uttering a disrespectful word.

One gets the sense Alex Ferguson would somehow have appreciated the gesture, he himself often using the silent but deadly approach to getting his point across - most recently demonstrated with Wayne Rooney being benched against Real Madrid.

Beckham never relied on this understanding and marketing team, though, he always worked hard. Gary Neville, his closest ally, often commented on his after hours practice and relentless approach to self-improvement.

What he showed was that even though his performances had long deserted him, Beckham was able to sustain a place at the top of world football for ten extra years through sheer desire. A desire to win, to build his image, to be remembered.

In the end, it was this lofty ambition was marked him apart. A gentleman, a fine sportsman and a good-looking man with an eye for a PR opportunity.

David Beckham won his place at court by seducing those who mattered. He gained glory in battles, despite not actually winning the fights himself, such as his 'redemptive' penalty against Argentina in the 2002 World Cup.

Yet desire is more than most can apply to their careers and it carried him through to win the game almost single-handedly against Greece in 2001. It was a performance fitting of the man, through its drama through to the conclusion.

People mock Beckham, they are foolish to do so. He has opened the door for many young men from poorer backgrounds to market their modest abilities and achieve superstardom in modern pop culture.

For all this is good, bad, and indifferent, it could not have been achieved without a unique desire.

Goldenballs always had balls.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Ed Miliband's 'new settlement' is a direct response to Tony Blair but it's Lord Heseltine he should listen to

Ed Miliband's call for a 'new settlement' is a direct response to criticisms from Blairites this week and shows that the Labour leader is clearly worried about the damage caused by those who have accused him of turning Labour into a protest party.

Today's proposals tackle employment, tax, housing and regional businesses. It's an attempt to re-light the Labour flame after Ed Ball's poor ratings and the intervention of the former PM which has caused Labour to become weird and introspective while the Tories have handled the death of Baroness Thatcher with aplomb. It says a lot about the state of Labour that Polly Toynbee warned this week about Blair 'making the same mistake' as Thatcher in interfering with the leadership after he has left.

Out of the policies it's the talk about regional banks which I would look to focus on if I were Miliband. I've mentioned before about Lord Heseltine's regional regeneration strategy and today he's urged LEPs to 'revolt' against central Government to demand finances and power. For me, these can have a greater impact than regional banks which will undoubtedly face regulative and trust issues.

As small business lending fails to take off, LEPs will fight the regional battles and gain traction with their regional media and public. Talk of a regional fight is exactly what people want to hear, they care little for devolution or credit ratings in the whole (the issues are too complicated for many voters), they are concerned about the local economy, jobs and prospects for their families and children.

I've been working on a project in work with YouGov, looking at how people view their communities, and there is massive appetite for getting disadvantaged people into work locally, sharing expertise and injecting cash into local communities.

Nationally Ed Miliband might not have time to become as popular as he needs to be, and to do so he's probably going to have to play yet more personality politics. But if he wants to truly impact Labour's vote regionally he could do worse than side with Lord Heseltine and start asking Ed Balls to talk more serious regional economics. It means Labour can build localised policies and not get caught up about the national 'who cuts what, how fast?' picture.

The irony that I'm referring to Lord Heseltine leading the way for regional economic policy in the week Baroness Thatcher's funeral was held, is not lost on me. Yet Labour could do worse than follow the old war horse's lead in this instance.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher's death leaves gaping hole in politics

I was born and bred in Liverpool. So the news that Baroness Thatcher, Britain's first woman prime minster, has died brings up a raft of emotions. Many will discuss her career and legacy in great detail and frankly I'm not adding anything to that debate, but I'm going to side-step the politics and think about why she had the impact she did.

What I do remember, vividly, is being about seven years old and the playground on fire with Chinese whispers that 'She's quit!'. That was in 1990 and we didn't talk about politics much on the playground, and I don't remember her being in Top Trumps - yet everyone knew about 'Maggie'.

From Right to Buy and The Falklands, to the closure of coal miners and denationalisation, her legislative programme was bold, divisive, relentless and created a divide between London and the rest of the UK which has since grown at pace beyond wildest expectation, the City becoming the Emerald Castle to the rest of Oz.

What marked her as a politician though, was character, she was 'not for turning' and she galvanised the Conservative party in a way which transcended in a way not seen post second world war. And she did this as a woman, a trailblazer for the modern boardroom and a shatterer of glass ceilings. It's no coincidence that many accused her of having blood on her hands, Thatcher echoed Lady Macbeth's unrelenting ambition, right up to the point of her career's end and the ghost of Heseltine.

Compare her no-nonsense style, her cut-glass tongue and merciless march of capitalism, with the bland  'middle ground' of today. Standing next to her, Cameron, Clegg and Milliband resemble the Spitting Image caricature of John Major. Ironically, this too is because of Thatcher. Her unpopularity in the North, the divisions that remain in the Conservatives to this day, all acting as a lesson that to survive beyond Thatcher a leader had to walk the middle ground. John Smith's death arguably denied Labour its modern era equivalent and instead New Labour is now the template for gaining and retaining power.

She's still being attacked for decisions she made in 2013, yet hundreds of other politicians since have made unpopular and unwise decisions and hid behind civil servants, the media, or special advisers, deliberately alienating themselves from the aftermath of their work. In many cases it's unclear whose policies belong to who.

I'll miss Baroness Thatcher. The fierce hate her name provoked in some, the tales of how her policies destroyed towns, the loyalty and free market leader others declared her to be. She defined her principles and she acted upon them, so be damned those who disliked her way of doing things.

You knew where you stood with Maggie. Even a playground of scouse kids. if David Cameron visited the school it would no doubt be a bland stage managed photo.

We'd have egged Maggie's car -and she would have shut down our school. Those were the days.

RIP Baroness Thatcher.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

'Where Are We Now?' - David Bowie's unfussy single launch is perfect PR

It is all about Mr Bowie at the moment so I have penned a short note for The Drum on his perfect PR - do have a gander...

'Where Are We Now?' - David Bowie's unfussy single launch is perfect PR

Thursday, 3 January 2013

AC Milan player walks off pitch due to racism

Taking a stand against racism in sport is oft-discussed but rarely practiced  so you have to respect the former Portsmouth and Spurs player, Kevin Prince-Boateng, for walking off the pitch during a football match due to racism from an Italian crowd.

If you haven't seen it yet, you can see the video here at ITV news.

It's about time a player took such action and while the game was a low-profile friendly and won't have the impact it would have had in a similar league match, the act could well serve to inspire other players to take a stand, or act as a deterrent for the idiots in the crowd.

It caps off a bad few days for the beautiful game, after a poll of professional players by Four Four Two Magazine revealed drug taking, homophobia and racism was rife in the game.

It's not the first time this year football has suffered and with the contrast between London 2012 still glaringly obvious, there's work to be done by the FA, clubs, players and sponsors to rebuild the game's wider image outside of core fans.

Globally, the racism issue is a much tougher nut to crack, and the actions of the Milan player are an important step in tackling such thuggery.