The PR Guru

January 17, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — richardswancott @ 6:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Hi everyone,

Tomorrow (Wed) there will be a major online protest against some anti-piracy proposals the US Govt is thinking of bringing in.

All English language content on some pretty big sites like Reddit,, and Wikipedia will be shutdown for the day (here’s a list), between 8am and 8pm Eastern Standard Time – or from 3am to 3pm in the UK. As far as we know Facebook will not be part of the protest, as had been claimed.

The issue is sharing content, and two bills heading for Congress on illegal file-sharing – SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). They would make it a crime to stream copyrighted content on a website without permission.

Not a bad idea, you might think. But some high profile opponents, like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, believe it would cripple the internet by making them responsible for policing the content of all the sites they link to.

Some sites, they argue, could be blocked by ISPs for sharing music, movies etc. And others, like Google, could be stopped from linking to sites which share files. They claim this could reduce freedom of expression, and leave the door open for internet censorship.

Personally, I don’t really understand their argument. They say they want to help prevent illegal file-sharing, but I don’t see any other way of preventing it than taking down the sites responsible. And I don’t really see how this restricts freedom of speech. The only thing which is restricting freedom of speech is the strike, isn’t it?

Perhaps someone would care to enlighten me?

There’s some more info here for those of you who want to know more:

Wikipedia Blackout, SOPA and PIPA explained, ABC News

Stop Online Piracy Act, Wikipedia

10 big sites that will blackout tomorrow and four possible false alarms, The Wall

Stopped they must be; on this all depends, Reddit



November 11, 2011


In light of today’s gaffes from Cornetto UK and British Gas (updating during the Remembrance Day silences – surely you know better than that!), I thought I’d mention some of my favourite epic fails of the past couple of years.

Coming in at three, it’s the 2009 fail from Domino’s Pizza.

When employees Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer filmed themselves doing vile stuff while they prepared their orders – none of which can be mentioned on a family blog – Domino’s management were so slow to respond it did untold damage to their brand in the States.

The video was posted on YouTube, and you can guess the rest – within days, it had been viewed over a million times, and by the time bosses had caught up with the puerile pair – who were subsequently fired and arrested – and posted their own reply on YouTube, the damage had been done.

Their mistake was to ignore what was being said about them on social media. Or perhaps they just didn’t know about it.

Make sure you are paying attention to what the world is saying about you online – it will help you nip a crisis in the bud and show how effective you are at dealing with customer service issues.

My second favourite is the complete failure of Nestle to deal with a Greenpeace campaign to save orang-utans in Borneo last year.

Greenpeace had put together a mock KitKat ad, substituting the chocolate fingers for orang-utan ones, and posted it on YouTube. The idea was to force Nestle to change suppliers of a key KitKat ingredient (palm oil), which had been sourced from the rainforests of Borneo – thus contributing to mass deforestation in the area and threatening the orang-utan habitat.

Nestle responded with aggression, making YouTube remove the film, and when people complained on Nestle’s Facebook and Twitter pages, they were dealt with rudely – making the situation ten times worse.

Eventually Nestle came to an agreement with Greenpeace, and changed their palm oil supplier, so all that fuss was for nothing.

My tip here is to be professional and courteous should someone be saying negative things about you on social media. Imagine how you would deal with a customer face-to-face if they had a problem – and then times it by ten, because the world is watching how you respond.

And finally, my Number One social media gaffe is courtesy of United Airlines, which caused irreparable damage to some guitars belonging to Canadian band Sons of Maxwell in 2008.

Instead of offering compensation, some free flights, or even an apology, the airline ignored the issue. As a response, the band wrote a song called United Breaks Guitars and posted it on YouTube. You can watch it here:

It has since become one of the most popular viral videos, being watched more than 11m times, and supposedly wiped $180m from UA’s share price. Cue some very unhappy shareholders! And all for the sake of an apology.

It’s easy for simple accidents to turn into a crisis – PR people deal with this all the time. The best response is always to be honest and face things head on – offer sincere apologies, and promise to launch thorough investigations. Don’t run away from it, because it will come back and bite you!

With that in mind, I thought one company dealt with a crisis very well this week. They probably won’t thank me for mentioning it, but a welder died of severe burns after an incident at the John Pointon & Sons animal rendering plant in Cheddleton, Staffordshire.

With the HSE investigating the incident, the firm clearly had to be circumspect about their comments, but here was their response…

A company spokesman said: “All at John Pointon and Sons, including directors and employees, are devastated by the tragic death of Mark Bullock, who was a highly valued member of the workforce.

“Our thoughts go out to his family and we are determined to find out how this tragic accident occurred.

“The company is co-operating with the investigation and as such cannot make any further comment.”

It remains to be seen what the HSE will make of what happened. And they may have another crisis to deal with when the findings are announced.

But saying nothing is not an option – it implies whatever has been said or written was correct, and in this case would’ve been seen as a tacit admission of guilt on the company’s part.

Compare that to Ryan Giggs’ response to the media stories about his private life (and Tiger Woods’ response last year).

They will have learnt to their cost that keeping a low profile/your mouth shut does not make the story go away.

February 18, 2011

10 Reasons to use PR, part two

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardswancott @ 6:25 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

A couple of weeks ago we discussed the main reason for using PR to promote your business – namely it helps you spread your marketing investment.

There are plenty of other reasons though! In my opinion the second biggest reason for using public relations is this:


This is something we are all looking for in business. Getting another person to recommend you to someone else is the Holy Grail really, especially if the ‘someone else’ is a friend or family member.

That’s because the referrer is putting their reputation on the line by saying you are great at what you do, or your product is fantastic. If the opposite proved to be true, they would have egg on their face and their reputation would take a tiny little hit.

Social media has a big part to play here, and that’s why many businesses are cottoning on to the importance of sites like Facebook for generating word of mouth. If they can persuade other people to do the selling, for example by posting your video on their profile, or liking your business’ page, that’s half the battle and will save them a lot of money in the long run.

PR has a big role here though as well, with one major difference – rather than a person making the endorsement, it’s a newspaper, magazine, website or broadcaster. And for that reason, it carries A LOT of weight.

By having your story in a respected national newspaper, like The Times, or an interview broadcast on the BBC, or a feature in a leading industry magazine, you are gaining the stamp of approval from their editor or producer.

They are saying your story is so interesting, so ground-breaking and so relevant that they had to tell people about it by giving you airtime or space on their pages. They knew their readers, their listeners, their viewers would want to know about it.

And they have plenty to lose if their endorsement comes back to bite them. It’s bad enough to lose face with your family or friends – can you imagine what it would be like if that endorsement cost you sales or ratings? Ultimately it could cost people their jobs, or drive that media title out of existence.

So I would strongly recommend looking at raising your profile through PR – it could give you the best testimonial you’ve ever had.

February 3, 2011

10 Reasons to use PR, part one

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardswancott @ 1:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

There’s plenty of confusion about what public relations is and what it can do for a business. Most people seem to assume it’s about some Machiavellian character in the shadows, pulling the strings. Or it’s something a big company, local authority or Government department would do.

For that reason PR has a reputation as just being all about spin. While there is some merit in that argument – the aim of a PR campaign is to portray someone/something in a positive light – there is a difference between looking for the positive and massaging the facts/burying bad news, which the Blair/Brown Government was often guilty of.

The fact is, PR can work for any organisation – it doesn’t have to be one in the public sector, or with a massive budget. There are various reasons for this, which I’ll run through over the next few weeks, but first you have to promise me something.

I want you to promise me you won’t be cynical about PR. If you consider PR to be spin, it will not work for you. Keep an open mind, give it a try, and you will get the results you want. There are countless examples and famous endorsements which prove it.

Google and Facebook, for instance, have become massive international brands without spending a penny on advertising (or at least until very recently, in Google’s case). They concentrated on PR and word of mouth to build their reputation. And Google now has enough cash in the bank to pay off the UK’s budget deficit without blinking!

PR could bring you similar success.

Ok, if that was not reason enough to try it, let’s go into a bit more detail.

Here’s reason number one for using PR to promote your business.


Let me explain. Imagine you wanted to promote your business in five different trade magazines, which you have identified as the publications with the biggest circulations, and the best reputation in your industry.

If you were to advertise in all of them, you would have to pay for each magazine you went into. This could cost thousands of pounds – in trade mags the cost of a full page colour ad is usually between £2000 and £3000. So five adverts would, as a conservative estimate, cost you at least £2500.

PR would allow you to get into all of those magazines for free! The only cost involved would be your time, and a few phone calls. So it would save you over £2400, based on our example, which you could spend on other forms of marketing, plough back into the business, or just leave in your bank account.

Not bad eh?! 🙂

And that’s not the only reason! Come back next week for reason number two.

December 16, 2010

Ainsworth calls for drugs to be decriminalised and Apple tries to focus on creating a specific image for its iPad

In what could affect the image of the country and our government, a former minister with responsibility for drugs policy has called for the decriminalisation of all drugs.

Bob Ainsworth said the current policy left the drugs trade in the hands of criminal gangs.

Ministers have insisted they remain opposed to legalisation and Mr Ainsworth is the most senior politician to publicly call for drugs, including heroin and cocaine, to be decriminalised.

He said he realised while he was a minister in the Home Office in charge of drugs policy that the so-called war on drugs could not be won.

The Labour backbencher said successive governments had been frightened to raise the issue because they feared a media backlash.

He feels that, in the end, ministers will have no option but to adopt a different approach.

In other news, Apple has just named Flipboard (an application that gives Twitter and Facebook a magazine format) its iPad App of the Year.

Flipboard translates the web into something unique for iPad users, which is exactly what Apple wants. It also makes the Internet like a book, which is what a tablet is supposed to replace – so it seems rather fitting and handy that they have chosen this as their winner.

December 10, 2010

Liz Thursfield

Struggle using the Internet? Want to know how to get your business online?

You’re in luck! The next session of our PR Coaching Programme will be here before you know it.

On 20th December at Lymedale Business Centre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, we have a great speaker coming along to give you advice on how your business can utilise the power of Facebook to bring in enquiries and for promotion.

There are currently more than 500 million people on Facebook and it is one of the most visited websites on the Internet, so getting your business a page/group on here is bound to get you noticed.

Not only that… our session is taken by a professional Social Media Advisor, Liz Thursfield, who has her own website Ariadne’s Thread.

Liz’ approach to consultancy is to concentrate on getting you the results you want and not imposing her own agenda. She is direct and straightforward, giving workable solutions!

When we did a LinkedIn poll, a lot of you said you would like more information on how to harness the power of the Internet, so why not come along and get some advice from Liz?

We hope to see you there.

If you’d like to join us, give us a call on 01782 472035/07880 733138 or e-mail

The two-hour session takes place between 12 and 2. Places cost £60 + VAT.

Our Coaching Programme consists of 12 sessions, each covering a different aspect of PR. These include organising local media coverage, using social networking sites, and putting together events on a limited budget.

December 6, 2010

James Naughtie and Andrew Marr make spoonerism relating to Jeremy Hunt and real meaning behind supposed NSPCC Facebook campaign still unclear

The Today presenter James Naughtie and BBC presenter Andrew Marr have both made the same mistake today by introducing the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, as Jeremy C*** live on air.

The mistake came just before the 8am news and, following this slip of the tongue, Naughtie struggled to deliver the main news over what sounded like a coughing fit.

Twitter, as per usual, was suddenly flooded with comments relating to the incident with Naughtie and Jeremy Hunt both trending topics.

Naughtie came back on air at around 8.20am, apologising and saying he had “got into an awful tangle just before the 8am news, courtesy of Dr Spooner“.

Dr Spooner was so famous for muddling his words that he gave rise to the term “Spoonerism”.

Also in the news the past couple of days is that a Facebook campaign which was supposed to fight child abuse by asking users to change their profile picture to that of their favourite cartoon character has run into controversy.

The campaign was supported by over 90,000 fans who joined a group and many others that decided to join in after they saw an update from their friends. The NSPCC was supposed to have come up with the idea but has denied any involvement, although welcomes the focus on the work it does.

However, disturbingly, rumours are now sweeping the net that the campaign is actually a smokescreen for paedophiles hoping to narrow down which users are children.

One user posted this warning: ‘The paedophiles have it easy finding the kids this way from a cartoon in your past! Obviously if someone posts Spongebob Square Pants it’s probably a kid, now Betty Boop an adult!’

Finally, fans of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing will probably be glad to hear that Ann Widdecombe did finally pack up her dancing shoes and leave the competition on Saturday.

This leaves rugby player Gavin Henson, psychologist Pamela Stephenson, actress Kara Tointon, TV presenter Matt Baker and actor Scott Maslen (who surprisingly went into the bottom two this week) to compete in the semi-finals next week.

In an attempt to attract viewers, last weekend the programme went with a Hollywood theme. Pamela Stephenson got perfect 10s for her dance to the classic theme from Ghost, whilst Scott Maslen was praised as giving Daniel Craig a run for his money as James Bond.

The show has already begun publicising next week’s event, saying it will be the hardest yet (and taking place over three nights – Friday, Saturday and Sunday) as the couples must learn two dance routines as well as taking part in a brand new dance challenge they are calling the ‘Swing-A-Thon’.

During the Swing dance, the judges will confer and judge Len Goodman will eliminate one couple at a time. When a couple is eliminated they will leave the floor but the remaining couples will keep dancing until only one couple is left.

The first to be eliminated will score 1, the second couple eliminated will score 2, the third couple 3, and the fourth couple eliminated score 4. The last couple still dancing will receive the maximum score of 5.

December 1, 2010

Celebrities brought back to life thanks to generous donation

Celebrities across Twitter and Facebook faced frustration as the planned 6 day removal from the social networking websites spread out for a lot longer.

They digitally died in the hope of raising $1 million for Alicia Keys’ Keep a Child Alive Foundation, where they vouched not to tweet or post anything on their social networking profiles. The only catch was that they didn’t foresee it would take so long!

The organization expected that it would only take a week. But six days after the campaign launch, all they got was $450,000! And it would have dragged on longer if Stewart Rahr, a billionaire pharmaceutical executive, hadn’t donated $500,000 to the cause.

Rahr made his donation yesterday ending the frustration.

Usher didn’t waste any time accessing his Twitter. He immediately notified his fans that he’s back and thanked them for their support.

Ryan Seacrest also tweeted, “So stoked to be back on twitter! Special shout out to Stewie Rah Rah for his generous donation.”

November 18, 2010

Capello comes under attack by world’s media, Harry Potter footage is leaked online, Eva Longoria files for divorce after husband’s affair and Lincoln Prison made a translation error

The media have today given England manager Fabio Capello a new nickname – Prat in a Hat – for constantly making mistakes when it comes to crucial decisions.

In fact, England and Liverpool have both confirmed that an agreement was broken over the amount of time Steven Gerrard would spend on the pitch against France, during the match last night.

It was agreed, pre-match, that Fabio Capello would play Gerrard for no more than an hour.

However, Gerrard ended up playing until just six minutes from time when he was forced off with a hamstring injury.

Capello’s decision saw Liverpool’s head of fitness and conditioning Darren Burgess post a tweet slamming England’s behaviour as ‘disgraceful’.

Burgess said: “Unbelievable from all associated with England and English FA with regard to Steven Gerrard’s injury. Completely ignored agreement and past history.”

He removed the tweet from his page around an hour later but has since reposted it, a few minutes ago.

Capello admitted that an injury to Gareth Barry meant Stevie had to stay on beyond the previously agreed schedule.

However, Capello insisted that any club cannot dictate to a national team how long somebody should play.

For now though, even French journalists have called into question his capabilities as an international manager.

In other news, a 36-minute clip of the Harry Potter film (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1) has been leaked online ahead of its international release. Warner Bros. said it was working to remove the video, which was stolen and illegally posted on file-sharing websites on Tuesday. However, a film like this doesn’t need to worry. The leak won’t stop people from going to the cinema to see it on the big screen – with a massive Box-Office advance and tickets being sold out for days.

Eva Longoria has filed for divorce after reading flirtatious text messages sent from her husband Tony Parker to the wife of one of his NBA team-mates. In fact, the couples were close friends but this has taken it a step too far – with other messages apparently being posted on Facebook. Eva tweeted earlier that she has filed for divorce and Tony later said the same thing. It just goes to show that in the days of social media it is incredibly easy for mistakes to be made and for word to get out to the press almost immediately about what is going on. This certainly isn’t going to do anything for Tony’s reputation because the Desperate Housewives actress is incredibly popular and his affair will be seen as an uncalled-for betrayel.

And, finally, a translation error at Lincoln prison labelled an exercise yard as an execution yard in the draft of an information booklet for Russian inmates. Luckily the mistake was spotted in an early draft, but if it had been used then it would have been extremely unnerving for the Russians, who may not even realise that we don’t have execution yards in this country.

November 16, 2010

Asda to create 7,500 new jobs

In an age where more and more people are finding themselves without a job, the news that Asda are creating 7,500 new vacancies is very positive PR.

The supermarket chain is to open lots of new stores, where over half these vacancies will be available.

In fact, it seems that this is a very popular time for supermarkets to be opening – with the new Sainsburys in Newcastle, the new Tesco in Hanley and the new Sainsburys in Biddulph (a Facebook group has even been launched to chart the redevelopment of Biddulph due to the Sainsburys).

3,500 people are required for the new Asda stores, 2,400 to work on the home shopping service (something that is becoming increasingly popular and convenient) and 100 in new pharmacies.

Asda will also recruit 1,500 staff at Netto stores, which they bought in May – showing just how popular these international shops are. Netto have even created a page on their website where users can submit details of any available land where a new store can be built.

Also popular at this time of year are the egg-nog lattes that Starbucks bring out at Christmas Time. Selling a seasonal product seems to work a treat, with a lot of coffee shops selling out and lots of people wanting one. I think it’s a great idea and something that other small businesses should think of doing. Think of a way to make your products Christmassy and it may just pay off.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at