Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Christmas Past and Future

I have to confess that I do my best to avoid any town centre at Christmas - not a case of humbug you understand, just not wishing to have my Christmas spirit sapped by the hoards of stressed out shoppers that I fear I shall encounter.

It would seem I am in the minority! A review by the influential think tank - The Newbury Town Centre Management Steering Group - has revealed that Newbury enjoyed a bumper season of goodwill with takings and crowds both soaring. Probably a link there!

Anyway, a statement issued by the group today tells all, so here it is:

A comprehensive review of Christmas 2006 has revealed increased takings with larger crowds being drawn into Newbury than previous years.

The Newbury Town Centre Management Steering Group, which is made up of retailers, business professionals, representatives of the leisure and transport industries and other interested parties, met last week (Friday 26th January) to review economic activity in the town during December.

Town Centre Manager, Mitch Roberts commented: “There was already a sense that last Christmas had been a real success for Newbury, but there was clear evidence presented that shops had enjoyed increased takings, footfall through the town centre was up and the town centre’s car parks were in heavy demand as people chose to visit Newbury over Christmas.”

“There was overwhelming support for the ice rink and members felt this had been a major factor in the increased numbers of people visiting the town. The ice rink was delivered by a local partnership consisting of both the public and private sector and we are urging those that were involved, to, once again offer a similar attraction later this year.”

A working party has been formed to explore other ways the attraction of Newbury during Christmas can be enhanced, including the possibility of new Christmas illuminations, and will be reporting back at the steering group’s monthly meetings.

Mr Roberts said: “People joke about Christmas coming earlier each year; however we want to make sure this town celebrates in style and that people from Newbury and further a field wish to celebrate with us which is why this group has been formed.”

The steering group, which is a think tank made up of individuals and organisations invested in the future of Newbury, also discussed how other events are needed throughout the year and a small group of members is exploring ideas to promote the town during 2007.

Fellow Finalist - Netstationers

I interviewed Melvin Byles today, erstwhile general manager of the local franchise of Netstationers and fellow finalist in the West Berkshire Business Club Business of the Year competition.

We nailed what we needed for the advertisement feature he has won as part of the prize for reaching the finals, with Melvin capturing the essence of his company with powerful statements like:

“What makes us unique is how Netstationers believes in the value of technology, as a way to remove time and cost from businesses procurement. We were the first fully on-line office supplies company and are currently the fastest growing office supplies company in the UK.”

However, the reality was we were having far too much fun gossiping about the thrilling world that is enterprise in West Berkshire!

There was some modestly elevated drama when I took some photos of Mel and a businessman in another part of the foyer objected most rudely. First insisting he did not want to be in the photos (he wasn’t) and then that it was distracting him. Well, pick one! The truth is I felt obliged to take a couple more for good measure!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Meeting the Winner of the WBBC Award

One of the best parts of running Morgan PR is the wonderful insight I gain into other organisations and the people who run them. Today it was WinIT, winners of the West Berkshire Business of the Year and its founder Robin Winnett.

WinIT scooped a sumptuous full page in the forthcoming edition of the Newbury Business News and I spent a couple of hours with Robin and his team today securing the copy and the photos needed for that page.

I have met Robin on a number of occasions and warm to him more each time we meet and today was no exception. His warmth and humour were matched only by his passionate belief in his business and most of us would suspect that a hard job when you provide bespoke software solutions.

Pause for a moment and imagine if you could have a piece of software that streamlined your systems in the same way Microsoft Word facilitates word processing – or how ACT! handles your customer management? That is what WinIT do – in a paragraph anyway.

Naturally I have actually explained it in many more paragraphs, but you’ll have to wait until February 15th for that! But here is a sneak preview of one of the photos of just part of the WinIT team.

Robin also presented me with a copy of Michael E Gerber’s famous book ‘The E-Myth Revisited’, which has been on my literary to do list for far too long. It turns out Robin gives them to clients too and the book is a good metaphor for what companies need to realise before they embrace what Win IT offers.

As I am a gentleman I shall be no more specific than to reveal the general hilarity that ensured when I realised, moments after leaving, that I had left my phone at WinIT. Stepping back into their canal side offices I was just in time to see someone holding my phone aloft, announcing I’d forgotten it and asking if anyone had my number…

Monday, January 29, 2007

Kennet Valley at War Trust

I was at the opening of the Kennet Valley at War Trust Museum yesterday at Littlecote House, near Hungerford - and what a cracking museum it is.

It was officially opened by WWII veteran Ira Clyde Grube and his family; a former member of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

Pictured above with the KVWT trustees, he's a former paratrooper who married a local girl had, like so many, contributed memorabilia to the museum and was thrilled to see it take pride of place – including a Nazi armband he liberated from a surrendering German officer in 1945.

Outside, a stable that once housed American soldiers has been painstakingly rebuilt in the grounds to offer visitors a further glimpse of G.I. life in WWII.

Littlecote is the ideal location for a museum as it was HQ of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment; the regiment of the 'Band of Brothers' depicted in the TV series.

The official opening of the museum, the result of hard work by trustees Sam McCallum, Roger Day and Tim Green, was attended by more than 50 people.

Sam McCallum said: “We really are very excited about the museum; it is a kind of dream come true. The Kennet Valley served such an important role during the war and we felt there was a danger of this being overlooked”.

It was Sam and Tim, of Hartwood Oak fame, who rescued the stable - a repeat of their efforts two years ago when they took a block of stables over to a museum in Toccoa, Georgia.

The aim of the museum is to educate and inform people of this important part of our history so that there is no danger of forgetting what happened here and perhaps more importantly, remember all those that lost there lives so that we could live ours.

The museum is now open to the public and entry is free, although visitors are encouraged to make a donation to help towards the development of the attraction.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

And the Winner Is...

It is official! The winner of the West Berkshire Business Club Business of the Year 2006 is… WinIT Consultancy, headed by the charming Robin Winnett and delivering bespoke software solutions.

A worthy win indeed and I am proud to be a finalist in this prestigious competition. Chatting to Robin afterwards, and I will find out more when I interview him for the full page advertisement he has won as part of his prize, his business has achieved so much and is well established too.

Pictured: Nigel Morgan of Morgan PR recieves his award from Julie Harris of the Newbury Weekly News Group, one of the competition's sponsors. With kind permission of the NWN

The other finalist alongside Morgan PR was Netstationers, which offers office supplies with an IT twist that sets them apart from the others in their industry. Melvin Byles runs the franchise for West Berkshire and is another finalist I am proud to be considered alongside.

The drama unfolded at the Donnington Valley Hotel in Newbury where splendid food and even more splendid company were in plentiful supply. Joining us at our table were Karen Holmes from The Best of Newbury and partner Graham Chapple of Garden4You, together with Roger Hick of RhD Design and his with Pam.

We had a scream and I very nearly did when I caught a pea-shot projectile in the eye. The hard paper balls and pea shooters had been liberally sprinkled on the tables and were naturally used.
So today I have the makings of a subtle shiner – but otherwise no harm done!

Much was drunk by all to mark our respective achievements and it seems certain that something previous finalist Sarah Rhoads, the erstwhile Virtual Office Secretary said, that we would all enjoy a bond that would last beyond the contest, will prove true.

We were left distressed when early morning efforts to order champagne for the group failed when it turned out someone had gone home with the key to the wine cellar! However, some swift negotiation by Sarah Rhoads and we were all placated with drinks available from the bar!

I would say, that for such an important ceremony I did think the event lacked a certain amount of well, ceremony. It would have been very easy for the judges to have announced each of the finalists and given a quick profile of the company and how they impressed the judges and secured a place in the final.

Then the winner could have been announced and invited to say a few words, followed by the other two finalists and maybe they could have said something too - I'm never one to miss the chance to stand up and talk! I just think that could have added to the event and perhaps encouraged even more businesses to enter for the 2007 competition.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Charity Auction at Award Ceremony

Tomorrow is the big day! Scarcely 24 hours until one of three companies – including Morgan PR – is crowned West Berkshire Business Club, Business of the Year!

The black tie event is being held at the Donnington Valley Hotel in Newbury and includes an auction to raise money for the Naomi House Children’s Hospice.

I thought readers of this blog might like a peek at the lots on offer and please do not hesitate if you see something you like; let me know your maximum bid and I’ll happily bid on your behalf.

Auction Items

  1. Tickets to Newbury Races kindly donated by Newbury Racecourse
  2. SPA day for 2, kindly donated by Donnington Valley Hotel
  3. VIP Six Nations Lunch with Martin Johnson, Austin Healey & Jonathan Davies, for 2 at the Café Royal, kindly donated by The National Sporting Club
  4. Tour of Wembley Stadium (prior to opening to the public)
  5. Tennis Lesson, kindly donated by Max Marketing
  6. 1 month free membership at Cannons Health Club
  7. 1 month free membership for 2 people at Stables Leisure Club at Littlecote House Hotel
  8. Universal Power Supply, kindly donated by UPS System of Hungerford
  9. Case of Wine kindly donated by The Virtual Office Secretary
  10. ACT Customer Relationship Management software with 1 year telephone support kindly donated by Cameno Ltd
  11. Business Photo-shoot kindly donated by Breathe Pictures
  12. Family Photo-shoot kindly donated by Pebbles Photography
  13. Four Four Time Software & bottle of wine kindly donated by Four Four Time
  14. Sunday Lunch for 2 kindly donated by The Jade Cottage Chinese & Thai Restaurant
  15. Go behind the scenes at ITV Thames Valley, meet the presenters and see a show in production. This is an opportunity for 4 people. Kindly donated by Kim Hewitt of ITV Thames Valley and Morgan PR

Yes – we donated that last one. Or rather the generosity of Kim Hewitt at ITV Thames Valley made it possible for the auction to include this terrific prize - something not available to the general public.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Business Contest Featured on The Best of Newbury

Publicity surrounding the West Berkshire Business Club Business of the Year Competition continues with a story appearing on the news pages of The Best of Newbury.

One of the main rewards of entering such competitions is the publicity that it can secure and certainly even at this stage when there are three finalists counting down the hours to the result there are benefits to reap.

It bodes well for next year's competition that numerous businesses have been asking me to help with their entries and of course I shall be delighted to offer any tips . Part of the WBBC's regular programme of events includes a masterclass for 'How to Enter for Business Awards', normally held in September. So there is plenty of support available.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)

The Clic@Bric wall at Newbury Today is filling up at a rate of knots an assured by their suave sales team that my logo would look good splashed across two bricks I duly spent another £75 and sure enough, the Morgan PR logo does look better bigger!

Starting to have a few emails too, from visitors to the wall who follow the links and the link from the Morgan PR bricks brings surfers to this blog. No evidence it has attracted any work directly yet, but I shall keep you posted.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sausage King on Newbury Today

Not exactly breaking news, but something I only just discovered on the Newbury Weekly News website!

Gerry Parsons, the founder of the Butcher's Dog Sausage Company in Lambourn and former beat bobby in the same village is now featured in a video interview on Newbury Today.

I've been lucky enough to see the process when I've written about Gerry in the past, but it will be a fascinating insight for those who have either tried his sausages and marvelled, or for sausage fans who need convincing of the meaty quality.

A word of warning for those thinking in terms of numbers of sausages needed rather than weight. Three, possibly four of the Butcher's Dog Sausages weigh the same as a pack of eight of the limp supermarket variety.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Breakfast... at the Madagascan Gin Palace?

'New Goals, New Achievements, New Success' This was the upbeat title of this innovative piece of breakfast marketing hosted at the ever delightful Madagascan Gin Palace and organised by the ever charming Ron Webb and even more charming Carol Brown from Hopwood Ash to help them find clients and to help a whole bunch of businesses burst forth into 2007 with the enthusiasm their companies deserve.

It seemed somewhat bizarre to be at the Gin Palace so early in the morning without having had a spectacular 'night before'. Dawn outside the establishment just seemed wrong! Or as the erstwhile owner Richard Hayman commented 'I didn't know there were two 6.30s'. Thankfully the coffee at the Gin Palace was restorative and we were ready for the main event.

This was motivational speaker Gary Jennings, who was actually mercifully gentle for the time of the morning. We needed some solid business tips and would settle for munching hot bacon rolls rathen than trotting barefoot over hot coals.

Gary, who runs GJ International Ltd, knows his stuff; those blindingly obvious business tips that most of us are to busy to see and he must have been rewarded by the gently nodding heads as he spoke.

Admittedly mine stopped nodding when he ventured into PR territory and explained how simple it was to achieve... I began getting expectant looks from fellow guests I knew and was obliged to offer an alternative view when we each had the chance to speak.

Now you know me, and I have praised other businesses in the past on this very blog who offer free PR and marketing advice, but I did feel he was simplifying it a bit too much. It also proves the adage that the first rule of public speaking is 'know your audience'! Still, my riposte prompted other people to approach me and I am thrilled to have several firm appointments from this morning's meeting.

It was also rewarding to make some new contacts and discover some of the exciting businesses out there, including 'Everything Food', a business set up by chef Simon McKenzie and that offers everything from bespoke dinner parties to cookery classeses through to sandwiches for a business lunch. And maybe if you are lucky a story about Gordon Ramsey, one of the big Michelin starred chefs he has worked alongside.

Simon was a genuinely nice guy with an affability that seems contrary to our image of the traditional chef. I get the feeling he would be as comfortable teaching me how to cook something outside my limited skillset (I do PR!) as he would my four-year-old daughter!

Do check out his website and he also has a blog - - it is fair to bursting with restaurant reviews from venues he and his fellow chefs have visited.

It was also interesting to hear from solicitor Marc Chaudhuri about his passion for making legal matters more accessible - if you need convincing just take a look at his website March Solicitors - and the success of his Legal Eagle slot on West Berkshire radio station Kick FM and how much business it is driving towards his practice.

Ron Webb and his team are planning more of these events through the year so be sure to contact him here if you are interested in attending - and be sure to mention it was this fine blog that prompted such affirmative action.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Another Brick in the Wall

The Newbury Weekly News website has launched a wall of advertsing bricks on its website and Morgan PR is among the first to cement (pun intended) its position on the finite number of bricks offer click 'at' brick (Interesting discovery - Blogger does not allow the 'at' sign!

So there is a real chance you are reading this because you followed the multi-coloured brick road to this blog - welcome, read and enjoy and do add Morgan PR and the Great Blogging Adventure to your news reader and be sure to add comments or email me with your thoughts and observations.

It costs £75 for a single brick for a whole year, which seems very reasonable for a the chance to feature on the local take on the 'million dollar homepage' that captured acres of headlines when launched by the youthful Alex Tew.

We will keep you posted on how much traffic it generates and of course if any lucrative new clients are attracted by this idea.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Final Countdown

I guess it is a bit like a photo finish at Newbury Racecourse. Three fine beasts have made it to the finish line and there is nothing to do but wait for the verdict!

Tonight was the judging of the West Berkshire Business Club, Business of the Year Award and I think the three of us: Robin Winnitt, Melvin Byles and I all felt pretty similar as we sat in the bar of the Donnington Valley Hotel, awaiting our turn before the panel of judges.

Pictured below are myself (left), Robin (centre) and Melvin (obviously on the right!).

There was a real spirit of camaraderie among the finalists and I suspect whatever the outcome we shall all be keeping in touch. We all know each other already through networking and of course the WBBC, but now we are bound by a rather rare experience!

I enjoyed my time in the Judges Den, I say den because there was a little bit of Dragon’s Den about it. However, I felt I gave a good presentation and answered their questions fully and honestly.

A Close Shave in Hungerford

In searching online for a new bow tie, a requirement for the West Berkshire Business Club Annual Dinner Dance, Google brought me straight back to Hungerford and suggested The Gentleman’s Shop in Charnham Street.

This gentleman’s emporium is a splendid establishment that I frequent far too little. Run by Robert Johnston since 1988, it is one of the few places outside London where you can enjoy the indulgence of a cut throat shave – for that smoother finish.

Naturally with the judging of the West Berkshire Business Club, Business of the Year Award just a few hours away I want to look every bit the suave and sophisticated winner in waiting!

Robert was every bit as charming as the last time I saw him and it was fun to have such a close shave. I have done it before, most notably in Thailand. But that is another story entirely!

It was also wonderful to be back in The Gentleman’s Shop; I can only really describe it as adult sweet shop. Crammed full of wonderful things that the man about town wants needs or even doesn’t want or need – but will probably have.

Setting Goals for 2007 with Profit Club

It was back to Faringdon at lunchtime today for the first Profit Club of 2007 and the chance to step outside the business and focus on the future and how to maximise the potential of Morgan PR, which is already growing at a phenomenal rate.

Appropriately January is an intensive month with the business coaching, with an evening session tomorrow and then another lunchtime meeting in a couple of weeks and then the 90 Day Planning Seminar, which will be a full day.

The statistics make all this worthwhile. Only 3% of people have written goals and plans and these people account for 98% of the wealth.

Perhaps my favourite explanation for the difference between a task, goal and vision was that a task can be done straight away and you know how to do it. A goal is more long term and you kind of know how to do it. A vision – you will not have a clue how to get there! Lots of goals, naturally!

I’m being flippant. However the point to stress is how important goals are and by setting them for Morgan PR I know how much of a difference it makes.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Never Driven on a Sunday

Today, we have been putting the finishing touches to the editorial copy for next week’s Newbury Business News, and taking the last photographs too – which is how I ended up at Taylor’s of Newbury with used-car salesman extraordinaire. Duncan Taylor.

Duncan is an excellent example of that entrepreneurial spirit that keeps us business folk inspired. Just four years ago he was selling cars at a garage in Newbury – plenty of them mind!

However, then he launched Taylor’s of Newbury from a site on St. John’s Road in the town. Gradually he has been selling newer and newer used cars and then added commercial vehicles to his limited forecourt.

Then just before Christmas he secured a lease on a prime garage site on the A4 in Speen, just next door to the Shell garage and a location that has been a garage for almost a century.

Now he has a showroom and the cars are flying out of the big glass doors. Not a word of a lie, I had to wait this morning to take a photograph because of the steady flow of early morning customers – early Monday morning customers – buying cars! When they’d gone we had to replace the vehicles they’d bought with new ones for the photograph!

He also offers a fine line in hand car washes, the kind that refresh the part the automated washes gloss over.

Oh yes, today’s title? ‘Never Driven on a Sunday’ refers to a vicar’s car now in the showroom which counters the usual blurb about ‘Always Driven on Sunday’ Nice!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Morgan PR in the Finals of Business of the Year

It is official! Morgan PR has been selected as one of three finalists in the prestigious West Berkshire Business Club Business of the Year competition.

2006 was a fantastic year for Morgan PR and we put a lot of work into our entry to ensure it represented just how much we are achieving. There is no doubt in my mind that we have earned such an accolade, but it still feels fabulous to have made the finals.

Simply getting this far represents a marvellous public relations opportunity. To be a finalist in such a competition has a resonance with other business professionals. Just talking with a prospective client today you could clearly see how impressed they were. It is going to make a difference being a finalist – can you comprehend how powerful being the winner would be?

My fellow finalists are Melvin Byles and his online stationary company Netstationers and Robin Winnitt and Win IT, his bespoke software solutions business. They are two really nice guys with formidable businesses that are both very successful and enjoy a high profile.

It is fabulous to have three really high performing businesses in the final. It makes getting this far all the more of an achievement for each of us and means whoever wins will have really earned the title of: West Berkshire Business Club, Business of the Year.

The next stage is a presentation to a panel of judges next Tuesday, followed by a Q&A session. After each of us finalists has made their pitch the judges will retire to consider who they feel deserves the accolade.

Whilst their decision will be made next week, it will not be announced until a black tie dinner at the Donnington Valley Hotel at the end of the month.

Good luck gentlemen!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Marketing Without Money with Steve Mills

I have finally managed to sign up to one of Steve Mills intriguing ‘Marketing Without Money’ seminars; I have been invited a few times but work has always conspired to prevent me dipping into his insight.

There is a certain irony that a PR company such as Morgan PR, which encompasses some elements of marketing, should be so excited about an event that teaches people about how to gain a profile without spending money on businesses like ours.

However, and my clients will attest to this, there is so much advice and tips I do offer for free; simple solutions that they should be doing as a matter of course and separate from the heavyweight stuff they may need help from Morgan PR with.

I see it more about discovering if there is more of those tips I can offer my clients rather than discovering free stuff I should be charging for!

Apparently this was the talk that Steve gave to a conference in Lithuania last year, so I am thinking it is the business!

I suspect spaces for the lunchtime event in Hook on 1 February will go quickly, but if you are interested visit Steve Mills’ website Max Marketing, or contact him directly.

Might see you there?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Your Image is their Business

One of six companies I met with today was Branded Image and the ever cheerful Kevin Rhoads. His company, which was launched a year ago and specialises in embroidered workwear and has recently expanded into promotional merchandise.

Kevin understands his business, which made gathering the information for an article due to be published in the Newbury Business News was pretty straightforward; however we then had to decide on a photograph.

Simple product shots or a photo of Kevin would not do his business model justice – and then he mentioned he was learning to juggle, after getting a DVD for Christmas.

So I took some shots of him trying to juggle (it is early days people!) and then with a little help from the God of Image Manipulation that is Photoshop, I created this image of him juggling just a few of the thousands of promotional products Branded Image can supply.

You will be able to learn more in the forthcoming edition of the Newbury Business News, out on 18th January.

Of course, I could not resist having a little bit of fun too, after all what is the point of manipulating pictures if you don't tweak them in an amusing way... hence this photo of Kevin juggling kittens. No animals were harmed in the making of this image - although Kevin's son Oliver was left somewhat perturbed!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

Are you bursting with optimism? I am! 2007 is going to be fabulous. I can taste it! Seriously! There is something tangible about the wonderful and meteoric direction that 2007 is destined to take!

Maybe I am refreshed from having taken the Christmas period off work? Or maybe I have not realised how much work awaits me... but 2007 is feeling pretty good right now!

There were times today when I felt like the only one working; however, my sunny disposition soon interpreted that as an opportunity to drive on roads blissfully free of congestion!

My first appointment of 2007 was at Enham Binders in Enham Alamein, near Andover. It is years since I’d done anything but drive through this exciting community and it was great to hear that Enham as a company is doing so much to help disabled adults achieve their potential.

I cannot put it any better than their website:

“The ability to choose is fundamental to everyone in society. Enham is a charity that gives disabled adults opportunities to make real choices for a fulfilling life.

“Enham's vision is a society where disabled people are valued as individuals and are enabled to achieve their full potential through the choice of independence and the opportunity to work.

“From housing and employment to personal development and care, Enham delivers a wide range of essential services that provide choice and empower people to make their own decisions about their lives.

“Enham also operates a number of Commercial Enterprises. These provide direct employment opportunities for disabled people, improve access to essential products and services and generate income to support Enham’s charitable objectives."

As part of a feature I am writing I was giving a tour of the Enham Binders factory and apart from being stunned at the sheer amount of work that goes into producing an item of stationary that we all take for granted.

I was also amazed at the range of products they can produce and was left wondering why so many people stick with the boring binders that sit on a shelf when you could ask Enham Binders to create something that would have an impact!

The quality of the products I was shown was exceptional, as was their client list, and I would not hesitate to recommend them to any of my clients or readers of this blog.

You can guess I have made a 'note to self' there!