Sunday, December 24, 2006

Have a Good Christmas Readers!

Well, as sure as Santa's sleigh bells will soon be heard from above, this is going to be the last blog entry for a few days.

So Morgan PR would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Keep the comments coming and see you in 2007 - if we don't blog before that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Letting the Passengers Take the Strain

Who says you cannot do a U-turn on railway tracks? Passenger power has prompted First Great Western to announce it is reviewing the timetable it introduced less than two weeks ago.

Odd that people would object to being treated like livestock or left abandoned on freezing train platforms waiting hours for a connection that used to come in minutes.

The train rarely suits my professional journeys - and to be honest since axing that late service from Paddington and through Reading and Newbury it rarely suits full stop! However, something I have observed first hand is the way that failing to staff those late services is an excellent way to show how little they appear to be used. After all, if you do not collect any fares from passengers on these services, they quickly become inefficient and easy to axe.

In the last few years I did catch the training into Reading from Hungerford a few times; with no ticket machine at Hungerford I would board the train prepared to buy one - but discover there was no ticket collector. So anyone getting on at Hungerford, Kintbury, Thatcham Theale - or Newbury if they were smart enough not to buy a ticket - would only have to pay when they reached Reading. Little wonder many would claim to have ridden only from Theale. The last stop and the cheapest journey.

Services to Theale were increased in the review of services!

So now the axed late service, together with a host of others changed with little regard to passengers, will be reviewed and some will no doubt be reinstated. For what? More bad PR than any company would want and I suspect will taint First Great Western for many years to come.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Morgan PR on The Best of Newbury

When I decided to use e-Christmas Cards as a way to donate some money to charity I really did not know how much interest and support it would generate, but it certainly has - I have made more appointments today with contacts who we sufficiently motivated by my e-card to get in touch and book some time.

I'm also thrilled to say it has earned me some more publicity too - and when you are a PR company (and some!) that certainly helps! The above appeared today on The Best of Newbury and if you click on the image it will take you straight to the page - enjoy!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Morgan PR and the Virtual Christmas Card

Well Morgan PR's charitable gesture hit cyberspace this weekend and I am still emailing out batches but already the replies are coming back in raving about my ingenuity, together with nice words about the services we have provided throughout the year.

Interestingly, a couple have even sought to book appointments for January too, which is something that never happened with traditional cards. They rarely evoke a comment, let alone concrete appointments to discuss business!

So leaving aside the £200 donation I shared between the Motor Neurone Disease Association and The Newbury Weekly News Over 80s Christmas Parcel Fund, which does leave me with a warm cosy glow in my tummy, or the minimal carbon footprint from emailing my virtual cards to people (assuming they do not feel obliged to print them out!), it made good business sense too!

I felt particularly proud of the reply I received from Adrian Smith, the Group Commercial Director of The Swift Group of Companies in Newbury: Particularly this: "E-Cards…. A very sound idea, no less however than I would expect. Thanks for your input and support earlier this year, the piece you wrote had a positive effect on our business and I look forward to further profile enhancing pieces in the coming months."

Anyway, more cards to email!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Will Blogging Really Peak in 2007?

The BBC led with a dubious story yesterday, quoting technical 'gurus' Gartner as saying blogging will peak next year... Really?

As many blogs as there are out there, I cannot honestly believe that they are going to doing anything but continue to blossom. Some will flare and then die, like an ill-lit match in a thunderstorm, but others will flourish and become essential components of our every more personalised web experience.

Also, surely as technology advances we will simply migrate on to every more advanced versions of blogging. I already know how to post a blog entry from my mobile telephone (Admittedly I have had no requirement to do this!) and presumably the technology already exists for me to post a video entry too. Any future development of the blogging environment will encourage more people to lauch their own and leave others playing catch up or making the most of thoroughly established technology. Sort of belated adopters.

Before you get carried away and admire my foresight, the Internet Psychologist, Graham Jones has been saying much the same on his own blog and a quick Google search reveals that many are dismissing the story.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Refreshing Approach to Selling Homes

Among a host of interviews and meetings today I spent an refreshing hour with Paul Crickett, the Operations Manager at Cricketts, an estate agency in Newbury.

As some may have seen in today's Newbury Property News, Cricketts is some four years old and has always enjoyed a good reputation in the town, not least due to the warmth and enthusiasm of its founder, Kath Crickett and no doubt the unique charms of my former Thames Valley Police colleague Bill Crickett. However, success had brought its own challenges and this is where Paul joined his parents.

With a background in recruitment (he found the UK managers for MSN Hotmail and Xbox) he fully understood the need for the business to become more corporate in order to better support its ever growing number of customers. However, he equally understood how to gently introduce the systems that would facilitate the friendly approach of the Cricketts team, without stifling them with a blanket of corporate nonsense.

Visitors to the town will have noticed the refurbishment to the bricks and mortar and online visitors will marvel at the clicks and mortar - Cricketts new website is the most intuitive and approachable website I have seen an estate agency offer.

With a new image, new branding, all new offices and the same great team, one suspects Cricketts are going to enjoy 2007!

You can probably tell this is one of those interviews that is a real joy to write up!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Early Rewards from Profit Club

We got down to business at the first proper meeting of the Faringdon/Swindon Profit Club earlier today and already it has got the creative juices flowing and focused my mind on working on Morgan PR rather than simply in Morgan PR.

Our erstwhile Business Guru come coach, Sally Rainbow Ockwell, was brimming with her infectious enthusiasm as she explained how we could get the most from our membership of Profit Club and stressed our committment was the key to success.

There is this wonderful synergy between members that is free of that competitive edge that so often creeps into other networking events. People offer advice and ecouragement and share how they have handled a situation that somone else might be tackling for the first time.

In addition to the fortnightly lunchtime meetings, there is also a monthly Business Skills Training workshop - this is a two hour evening session, between 6pm and 8pm and the next will be on January 10th at the Faringdon Enterprise Gateway. If anyone would like to come as a guest please contact me - it will be about planning for 2007, so should be useful for everyone!

Neatly that comes just before the 90 Day Planning Workshop at Newbury Racecourse on 24th January. So my business strategy is coming together... is yours?

You can get an instant indication of what is working and what is not from Sally by clicking here and sign up here if you would like to receive her free monthly newsletter.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Charity Christmas Gesture from Morgan PR

This afternoon I have been putting the finishing touches to the email Christmas cards Morgan PR will soon be sending out to clients and contacts alike.

I have even had a few impatient emails from restless (optimistic wannabe receipients no doubt) readers who are anxiously awaiting their emailed Christmas greeting from Morgan PR.

As the story that featured in last week's edition of The Advertiser and the current edition of the Newbury Business News, explained, I decided to give the money I would normally spend on printing and posting out Christmas cards to charity.
Here you can read in this cutting from the Newbury Business News I chose to split the money between the Newbury Weekly News Over 80s Christmas Parcel Fund and the local branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Now, as I pick heavy, corporate cards up from my doormat each day, I am left wondering why companies feel the need to splash out on such luxurious missives? Even if they include a donation, surely email is the way to go? I've had a few email cards already without any link to a donation being made with the savings, but I am still happy to receive them. Each one is one less card I will need to recycle come 2007.

The Virtual Office Secretary in The Sunday Times!

I've just had an excited telephone call from The Virtual Office Secretary Sarah Rhoads who is on a very real hunt for a copy of yesterday's:

Rumours abound that her succesful business had been mentioned, but she was after the evidence. Despite being more of an 'Observer' kinda guy I was able to jump online and search the Times newspapers' website and lo - the rumours were true.

Matthew Wall had written a article entitled: 'Home in on a Better Lifestyle' which focused on the benefits of working from home with some essential web addresses for companies wanting to project a professional image... and he namechecks The Virtual Office Secretary!

Specifically he writes: "For more ad hoc secretarial services, such as organising mailshots and invoicing, the award-winning Virtual Office Secretary ( charges from £18 an hour."

How superb is that? We now wait to discover just how lucrative that mention may be for Sarah and her business. Oh yes, and if anyone has a copy of yesterday's Sunday Times...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Breakfast with Champions

I'm not convinced the normally insomniac birds in search of the fabled first worm were up when I ventured out this morning - but there were some dynamic business people motivated by more than the opportunity to enjoy a cooked breakfast.

I was technically the guest of Mia Drennan - but it was notable just how many people around the table had previously tried to tempt me to this early morning gathering. There were even more whom I had already met.

There was a delicious informality to The Newbury Business Group meeting, which lends itself to the building of relationships that will truly deliver quality referrals, rather than the risk people will feel compelled to provide a referral and offer a less than concrete lead over the fried eggs.

Mia, freshly promoted by yesterday's article and due to give a presentation on the work of Square Mile Connections, found her distinctive and easly adapted name worked into almost all the members one minute presentations. Mine was a rather feeble 'Meerkat' play on Mia, but some of the others were truly inventive. Others were truly awful!

I also managed to pick up some early stories for the January edition of the Newbury Business News and some leads for Morgan PR. So it was definitely worth that early start.

I could find myself being tempted out into the dark mornings a bit more often for this breakfast with champions.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

From Wall Street to Kings Road West

That was the headline on 'The Interview' with Mia Drennan in the Newbury Business News, published today and that article has paved the way to a blossoming array of opportunities to work with Mia in both her capacity as Managing Director of Square Mile Connections and in her role as the European President of the Transatlantic Business Council.

I met with Mia this afternoon, together with the Global CEO of the Council, John Baldwin and Square Mile's Recruitment Director, Nicola Ogston for a strategic planning session to determine the best way to promote both Mia's own business and the role of the Transatlantic Business Council. The two neatly overlap and there is much scope to promote them both.

Essentially the TBC exists to encourage and facilitate UK companies seeking to foster business links in the Tri-State area of New York, and equally any US companies seeking to set up here in the UK.

The productive meeting was adjourned to the amiable atmosphere of the Lock, Stock & Barrel, off Northbrook Street, where we met up with Square Mile Non-Executive Director, Rob Thomas, from Newbury Building Society and the meeting neatly transformed into a social occasion.

I shall be seeing Mia and John again in the morning, bright and early for the breakfast meeting of the Newbury Business Group at the Donnington Valley Golf Club.

Small But So Perfectly Formed

One of the many things I love about working in Public Relations is the diverse range of clients it brings me into contact with and equally the myriad of businesses, products and personalities I must adapt my skills to promote.

After all, I would never have imagined myself plotting strategies to raise awareness about a fabulous range of clothes for the petite woman or indeed the petite fashion designer and image consultant behind Dresscode UK.

I am indebted to Sarah Rhoads, The Virtual Office Secretary, for introducing me to Karen Gillam earlier this year. While only a 5' 2" tall in her bare feet, Karen is larger than life and one of those inspired and driven individuals that are so much fun to work with.

Sarah and I met earlier today with Karen to review the successes that we have enjoyed gaining promotional articles on the series of roadshows that Karen embarked on to promote her Capsule range of clothing over the last few months. It was interesting to note it was the glossy magazines that newspapers so often see as a accessory to their news stables, that were so successful at whipping up interest.

The next step was to look at ways that we can take the fashion business forward- and promote Karen's tremendous skills as an image consultant, for both corporate and invidual clients. A good PR never tells, but we were all buzzing with excitement with the different ideas that we came up with and how best to implement them.

Karen is also one of the speakers chosen to give a key address at the Berkshire Business Show on the 14th and 15th of February next year at Newbury College, so readers of this blog can check out her guru abilities then - not to mention mine as a fellow speaker!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Spit or Swallow?

Here you can see the most dedicated members of the West Berkshire Business Club, who battled through a calendar laden deep with seasonal invitations, to enjoy a Christmas wine tasting event earlier this evening.

The wise wine expert Ian Campbell, founder of Church House Vitners, was on hand to guide us through a eclectic selection of 10 wines.

We were asked to score everything from 1 to 5 and it soon became clear that we all had differing tastes and while the cost did tend to win over more fans for a particular vintage, it was by no means the deciding factor when members picked there favourites and placed orders in time for Christmas.

I chose a white and a red in modest quantities; the white was a 2005 Kelly's Farwell Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc from Western Australia - which neatly sits with my wine list practice of choosing wines from regions I've visted! However, I was also seduced by a 2005 Norte Chico Merlot from Chile. Quite possibly the first Chilean wine I have knowingly drunk, it was perky and full of berries, liquorice and deep too. And only half the price of the Argentinian 2004 Don David Reserve Malbec that won far more fans among the group.

Ian Campbell was a knowledgable guy and explained how much he enjoys finding wines to suit his clients taste and wallets, and certainly from the fans he won this evening he should be getting orders now and in the new year too!

It was a very enjoyable evening and I was delighted to have tried so many wines without actually consuming much at all. Certainly I was not at risk of drink driving!

The evening had begun with chairman Steve Mills, of Max Marketing, asking for us each to give a business tip; before offering his own. He urged those of us who bill clients monthly to consider switching to a four week cycle - instantly boosting revenue with that 13th payment each year.

I was up next and warned people who pay for services monthly to watch out for businesses trying to migrate you on to a four week cycle to boost their revenue!

Actually, my genuine tip was to maintain your blog!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Newbury Networking

For almost two years now I have been a member of Newbury Networking - a somewhat informal alternative to traditional networking, originally set up by a break away faction of BNI!

The group meets on Tuesday evenings - itself an alternative to the breakfast meetings that are so tricky for working parents - and visitors and guests are always welcome from 6.30pm for a 7pm start in the function room at The Traveller's Friend in Crookham Common. Incidentally, the pub currently has a four foot tall, guitar playing, carol singing, motion activated Santa that bursts into song as you enter. More than 30 seconds and you will be ready to destroy it!

Anyway, earlier this evening I attended what was my penultimate meeting and handed in my resignation. Nevertheless I was still asked to step in as chair, but had to decline as I needed leave early for another committment.

Shame really, it would have been fun to see if I copped as much flak as the group traditionally directs at the chair! I am sure it must stun some visitors; the ribaldry can be intense and probably exclusive as it often refers to running jokes.

For me it has proven a gentle introduction into the exciting world of networking, and one where the only pressure to make referrals was simply the pressure you put on yourself. A combination of factors have prompted me to step down - not least how hard I find it to attend every week and not being there is not fair on the group or guests - or someone who does have the time to attend every week.

I had been there with my web design hat on as the very name of the company: Morgan PR, tended to hint at some of the other services I might be able to offer. I've made some good friends there and was genuine when I said I would call back as a guest in the future or maybe offer the education slot on something PR.

The guests last night were Tony Ward and Neil Murphy from Armchair Answercall Ltd, an Andover company offer virtual receptionist and answering services, together with call centre facilities. In a particularly polished marketing move, Neil handed out proposal documents for each member. Simply a personalised front sheet in a bound brochure, but very impactive and complimented his presentation. Which infuriatingly (for him too no doubt) I had to leave half way through!

So any networkers who fancy a night out rather than an early morning should consider Newbury Networking and give them a try. I'm more than happy to introduce anyone.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Bear Necessities

Mixing business with pleasure may have had a bad press, for last night we spent the evening with friends made through business and it was certainly a pleasure!

Diane and I met up with Graham Chapple and Karen Holmes, respectively the powerhouses behind Garden4You and The Best of Newbury, at The Bear Hotel in Hungerford.

Ah the joy of spending an evening in such terrific and entertaining company while attentive staff bring excellent food to the table. Karen and Graham are good fun and manage that essential blend of being motivated and relaxed at the same time.

I also learned that my portrait that was featured in The Best Of and Breathe Pictures exhibition last month is set to go on tour and will shortly be appearing at the Madagascan Gin Palace in Newbury. Which has some delicious serendipity about it considering I have frequented the restaurant since it first opened.

Back to The Bear, I would urge anyone who hasn't been there recently to make the effort. Since it was taken over by Considered Hotels it was become an outstanding venue with a modern, cosmopolitan bar beneath its ancient beams.

The restaurant too is a delight and has tables spread at that optimum distance that they offer both privacy and eavesdropping potential in equal measure. Sadly, it never seems as busy as it deserves considering the food is both excellent and reasonably priced. As a fan of game the menu never disappoints at this time of year. However if it is on the menu you must choose the chateau briand; this superlative cut of beef is cooked to perfection and melts in the mere vicinity of the mouth. Perfect!

For the future sake of The Bear I only hope it does a roaring trade among discerning business travellers during the week and that will continue to offer superior eating to us locals in the evening.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Drink OR Drive. Just Choose One

My one time employers Thames Valley Police today launched their annual Christmas Anti drink drive campaign with what I think is a pretty lack lustre poster for such a crucial issue.

This is the TVP poster, which frankly looks more like an advert for something you might find on CBeebies than something that will deter the casual Christmas drink driver, let alone the hardcore who insist that they can handle it.

At least it is promoting the choice that I have always found obvious: you either drink or you drive. Like grape and grain, you should never mix. To be honest I have always absolutely adhered to this rule - the drink or drive rule, I've often mixed grape and grain - and would choose between the two before I was legally entitled to do either! (Ah, the joys of growing up with acres of farmland to keep me busy!).

To be honest the Government's main seasonal gesture in the same direction has involved merely laying Cliff Richard's 'Mistletoe & Wine' and the 1970s Roy Wood & Wizard hit 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day' over an anti drink drive television advert from 2004. You'll recall it because it etches itself on the memory - three guys in the pub, one tries half-heartedly to decline a second drink before their pub table slams into a pretty girl in a car like fashion. It effectively showed you become a drink driver in the pub.

Part of me suspects they have stuck with the advert because it is so effective. Then again, everyone must have seen it by now and thus those already ignoring are unlikely to pay attention because it has a Christmas tune attached.

It is all correctly intentioned. Professionally I have seen the impact of drink driving many times and it is never pretty. The stats are horrific: On average 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured each year in drink drive collisions and nearly one in six of all deaths on the road involved drivers who are over the legal alcohol limit.

Remember these anti drink drive posters from Christmasses past?

Either of these is still far more impactive than the effort at the top of the page: These make you stop and think and if nothing else admire how clever they are!

And how about this retro advice from 1982 - even then the idea of choosing between drinking or driving was an option!

Clearly neither was the idea of a pint of lager in a straight jar!