The PR Guru

January 31, 2012


I mentioned my involvement with Young Enterprise last week (thanks to those of you who came to the trade fair on Saturday by the way – and we have another this Saturday for those of you who couldn’t make it), and this time I thought I’d talk about my link with another voluntary organisation, the Staffordshire Marketing Academy.

We have an event on March 30th, called Action for Business Live! 3, which will inspire and motivate you to take your business to the next level!

As with our two previous events, we’ll be having a range of speakers, an interview with one of Staffordshire’s most successful businesses, and an unmissable keynote speaker.

Here’s who we have lined up so far:

  • marketing specialist Caroline Law will be talking about putting a winning marketing strategy in place
  • Matt O’Connor from Cyberzia will be covering your website, and how to make it work for you


  • you will learn how to turn conversations into transactions with sales expert David Hughes, from print vendors Annodata (Europe’s largest independent print specialists)

Our case study, keynote speaker and other presenters are still tbc. But let’s just say we are talking to one of Staffordshire’s biggest tourist attractions, and one of Europe’s biggest networking strategists, about getting involved…

It’s at the Moat House, Stoke-on-Trent, on March 30th (9am-1pm), and tickets are £35 + booking fee. Early bird tickets, priced at £30 (+BF), are available until February 17th.

More info to be announced shortly.

In the meantime keep in touch with us on Twitter, @staffsma, for the latest updates.




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.

December 21, 2010

LHR (London Heathrow) Flight Timetable not working and they are not allowing customers into the Departure Lounges until 4 hours before take-off time

The BAA Heathrow Flight Timetable on the website is not working due to the conditions and the number of people trying to access it. Customers are also being refused entry to the Departures Lounge until 4 hours before the flight. Not the best way of keeping customers happy.

News from yesterday – This is twice in recent weeks that we’ve blogged about The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4.

Presenter John Humphrys interviewed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in his first face-to-face broadcast interview since his release from prison on bail. As you would expect Assange defended his organisation and explained why he is fighting extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations.

He said he believed the most probable explanation for the allegations was that two women “found out that they were mutual lovers of mine and they had unprotected sex and they got into a tizzy about whether there was a possibility of sexually transmitted diseases“.

Assange’s use of the word “tizzy” is unlikely to do him any favours, since it makes it sound like he is not treating a serious issue with the amount of concern he should be.

It was a “ridiculous thing to go to the police about,” he added.

In a wide-ranging interview, he denied that the leaks had prevented diplomats from being able to operate.

People on Twitter have been angered at the fact that Humphreys asked Assange how many women he slept with, even though this does not directly relate to the reason he was on the programme.

It has also been revealed that the Wikileaks App has been removed from the Apple App Store.

December 20, 2010

More4 gets image change as X Factor gets into trouble by OFCOM for its image

More4 have announced that they are reducing the number of daytime TV shows they broadcast in order to focus on showing more high-end American programmes.

To do this they are cutting back from five editions of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart per week to just one. However, lots of people on Twitter are dead set against this, because they like the satirical news programme. Something that is proven even more by the news that it attracts an average of between 60,000 and 90,000 viewers in the UK.

Channel 4’s digital service will now only air the Monday Daily Show Global Edition, marking an end to the 5 year deal which began with More4’s launch in 2005.

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said, “More4 will continue to show The Daily Show Global edition on Monday nights in the new year, so viewers will still have the opportunity to see the best of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show in the UK.”

In other news, needing a change of image is the X Factor. The racy final involving Christina Aguilera is being investigated by broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.

The show saw the star perform a suggestive routine with scantily clad dancers, while Rihanna also gave a raunchy performance when she stripped off her gown to parade around the stage in a bikini.

Ofcom received around 2,750 complaints about the pre-watershed scenes and broadcaster ITV had more than 1,000.

Christina’s routine was the most explicit of the night, with her dancers wearing only stockings, knickers and bras.

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 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 3, 2010

Frank Field makes PR Gaffe by saying that a child’s chances in life are determined before they start in education

Labour lawmaker Frank Field has caused outrage today by saying that the upbringing of a child affects the amount of money and social standing of the individual when they get older.

Comments against these remarks on Twitter include saying that they are old fashioned, that parents should take responsibility for children and not the government, and that it should never be stated that a child’s chances in life are determined before they start primary school.

After all, children have to go to school and if they are intelligent and hardworking then they do have options open to them.

The government is being urged to introduce parenting classes in Britain’s junior schools, after the report by Frank Field suggested the government should focus on the first five years of a child’s life.

The report also proposed spending money on projects aimed at the under-fives rather than increasing welfare payments. It said the level of nurture parents provide is more important to a child’s prospects than their jobs or incomes.

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 25, 2010

The Sentinel launch Stoke News

Our local newspaper, The Sentinel, have today launched a new section of their website called Stoke news: The best of what’s going on in and around Staffordshire.

This gathers tweets from Twitter that include the hashtag #stokenews and puts them together, so that people have access to all the local stories and events that are taking place in the area.

This is great news for local businesses who should be able to get some publicity from the website – although I think tweets are manually selected according to the newspaper’s guidelines, so some editing will still take place.

It is great for The Sentinel too, as they are seen as embracing the community and coming together to provide a useful resource. Currently the service is a trial, which means that things will continually change and improve. I hope it manages to take off.

November 23, 2010

Publicising a uranium enrichment facility and Korea’s heir leads to Korean warfare, plus… Stoke-on-Trent likened to Afghanistan by pottery director

EDIT 25/11 – Sarah Palin made a PR Gaffe yesterday by saying Americans were going to “stand with our North Korean allies” so much to the shock of the world that it is not only trending on twitter in the US but in the UK as well. Her interviewer pointed out that in fact, it’s South Korea, not North Korea, that is the US’s ally.

This comes on the same day that it is revealed campaigners accused The Prime Minister of breaking the law by jokingly comparing Commons Speaker John Bercow to one of the Seven Dwarfs; and on the day that Mr Cameron disowns remarks by MP Howard Flight, saying welfare changes would encourage ‘breeding’ among those on benefits. These high profile politicans need to learn to watch the way they phrase things.

Mr Flight was named by David Cameron last week as one of more than 20 new Conservative peers, after having previously been sacked as Tory candidate ahead of the 2005 election for suggesting the party had secret cuts plans. The MP, who is yet to take his seat in the House of Lords, was commenting on the government’s plans to axe child benefit for top rate taxpayers.

South Korea says two marines have been killed and 16 others injured in a North Korean attack on a South Korean island near the western sea border.

South Korea returned fire and launched fighter jets in response.

The skirmish came amid tension over North Korea’s claim that it has a new uranium enrichment facility, and just six weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il unveiled his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his heir.

In South Korea, people initially responded with shock and various celebrities have expressed their concerns and feelings via. Twitter.

Jay Park wrote on his personal Twitter, “I just heard the news. Please be safe.

Simon D of Supreme Team said, “I hope that the issue does not escalate and there are no more casualties. NO WAR”.

T-ara’s Eunjung added, “I know. This is an extremely serious matter. I’m worried”, while actress Park Shinhye wrote, “My heart aches. All the people who wished for peace had their hopes ruined in a second. Please no more injuries.

Comedian Park Kyung Lim tweeted, “I just finished filming and what is this. At a time like this, we must have accurate news and unite to comfort each other.”

It seems that Korea’s decision to release this information to the world was the wrong decision and launced severe carnage. Let’s hope the fighting ends soon.

In more local news, Stoke-on-Trent has been likened to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province by Matthew Rice, director of Emma Bridgewater.

Referring to city planning as “feckless”, he called on the local council and developers to use historic buildings and former factories during regeneration rather than to knock them down.

He said, “If you go around Stoke these days there is lots of bare land where things have been demolished. I’ve no idea what it looks like in Helmand Province but I get a feeling it would look a little like here. There is always this idea that we have got to demolish everything to put things right. A blank canvas they call it. But I’d rather see people use the buildings in regeneration and development.”

Stoke was once the site of the country’s biggest pottery firms including Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. However, the decline in manufacturing the 1980s and 1990s saw dozens of factories, mines and steelworks closing and historic buildings left to fall derelict. At its height, Stoke housed 2,000 bottle kilns and 200 factories. Only around 30 factories now operate.

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