Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Do Business Blogs Work?

Erstwhile 'Internet Psychologist' Graham Jones is constantly making good points on his own blog and a common theme is how many businesses simply do not get business blogs.

How right he is! Now I should declare an enthusiastic interest at this point. It was Graham who was the motivation for the launch of this business blog way back in October last year and has been a constant source of encouragement.

And somewhat sadly he accurately predicted just how many of us enthusiastic novices would falter as we pursued blogging as a business strategy - alas of all those who started blogs almost a year ago I am the only one who still posts regularly.

Although I hasten to add that Graham Chapple (dashingly pictured right) launched Garden4You soon after and it remains an entertaining tale of one man's battle with greenery and is regularly maintained - rather like the gardens looked after by Garden4You!

Now Graham Jone's constant beef with the sceptics is over whether blogging works and it is a question that I am frequently asked by people daunted by the prospect of maintaining a blog.

So does it work? Well Morgan PR is selling a service more than a product, so with the exception of a handful of clicks on Amazon books I might mention from time to time I do not get revenue directly from the blog per se. Although I know plenty that do!

However, as part of an overal marketing strategy that encompasses traditional advertising, networking, a propert website, commenting on other people's blogs, exhibitions, direct mail, newsletters - you get the idea - it definitely works.

Leaving aside piping hot referrals where those who visit the blog via a link on another blog they like or where it has been recommended by others, I have clients who found my website through Google and clicked on the link to my blog. Because it accurately reflects how we do business and our approach to public relations in Newbury and the Thames Valley it allows a reader to familiarise themselves with us and make a decision on moving forward with that.

When I write about work we have done with clients it certainly promotes them, but it is also a clear example of how I can help others too.

A prospect introduced via the blog is very likely to become a client and plenty of businesses have and some have proved very lucrative - and I would never have met them without this blog, the blog you are reading!

Something that does not work is an abandoned blog. It is worse than no blog. To discover a company has started a blog and abandoned it does not inspire confidence in prospective clients.

So check out Graham the blog guru's blog and indeed Graham the garden guru's blog, but most of all consider how a blog could benefit you - and send us the link so we can tell people about it!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Not Many Kitchen Shopping Days Until Christmas

Once upon a story I got sunburnt sat outside a pub in August while interviewing the chef about his forthcoming Christmas menu; and while I fully appreciated the need to get those Yuletide tables booked early, it felt wrong, wrong. Wrong!

So how come I had so much fun when Morgan PR visited Thatcham Kitchen Designs today to capture the images that would illustrate the demand that exists from people who realise they absolutely must have a new kitchen designed and installed in time for Christmas?

Looks ranging from scowls to bemused grins came from shoppers in The Broadway as they saw us ‘dressing’ a corner of the Thatcham Kitchen Designs studio to look like a typical Christmas kitchen. And who can blame them?!

Well here is how it ended up looking and director Caroline Ware stepped up to pose as the attentive host with preparations for a clearly sumptuous Christmas dinner well underway.

The photograph will appear in next month’s edition of the Newbury Business News in a feature about getting ready for Christmas. And this time I did not get sunburnt!

Business Networking in Newbury

I was up bright and early, well initially it was just early but I soon brightened at the welcome I received from the members of the BNI Jack O'Newbury chapter at their breakfast networking meeting.

Admittedly I did know a good few of the members and was ribbed by Anne Thomson, of Mindset Hypnotherapy and Diets Make You Fat fame, when she discovered I was substituting for Lucy Venables of Red Prosper Marketing. Anne has been asking me to go for many many months and I have just never been able to fit it in!

I've been to BNI Jack O'Newbury, which meets every Friday at the Newbury and Crookham Golf Club, once before to write a piece when they received an award and I have also guested at the BNI Kennet chapter, which meets on Thursday mornings at Donnington Grove Country Club.

So I gave Lucy's one minute presentation - which she had diligently sent me - and then got to give my own, which I used to talk about the www.floodadvice.org website we set up for Easton Bevins in the wake of the recent floods.

BNI is more formal than many of the groups that have followed in its successful wake and that suits many, but not all - which is presumably why so many other networking groups have also flourished in West Berkshire and beyond.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

As if by magic… the shopkeeper appeared.

The Mr Benn analogy may be obvious but I am certain it will strike a chord with readers as surely as it did with me when I stepped into Pageant today, Newbury's premier fancy dress emporium.

Pageant will be appearing in the next edition of the Out & About Magazine, published by the Newbury Weekly News Group and it was they who had asked Morgan PR to visit the fancy dress store to craft a feature that will send people in their droves to this fast track facilitator for reality escape.

Visible from the A339 on the corner of Station Approach and Cheap Street, Pageant has been dressing Elvis impersonators and a myriad of superheroes for over a decade and while owner Heather Strickland does not resemble the mustachioed, fez wearing shopkeeper of the Mr Benn television series of my youth, she did 'appear', albeit it from a display cabinet of fancy dress goodies.

With a passion for what she does and surrounded by costumes and props it is little wonder Heather and her team help visitors escape and she positively glows as she recalls the countless men, women and children who have stepped, sometimes nervously, into the changing rooms armed with a costume and then emerged a character!

You can shop online at Pageant, but nothing beats a visit to this little gem.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Game of Dog & Mouse

That saying about never working with children (I'm a school governor) or animals (chickens and a dog) has always seemed a bit dramatic to me, and recently I was lucky enough to work with a consummate professional and said star, Oscar, is pictured above.

He might be a dog, but Oscar is a key part of Publicity Project's team and Owner (of the business and Oscar) Sue Elsden was keen he appear in the photographs Morgan PR was taking for the current edition of the Newbury Business News.

I suggested getting him working at one of the Macs, half joking, but moments later he was tempted into the chair and encouraged to 'look businesslike'.

Thank Japanese technology for designing cameras that allow for burst photography, for Oscar briefly put paw to mouse and looked every bit the essential member of this leading graphic design team, as your can see here!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Why Thames Valley Police should identify the 'Babies on the Beat'

If you are spending enough time online to find this blog then you cannot have failed to notice the media uproar over the recruitment by Thames Valley Police of two 16-year-olds as Police Community Support Officers.

A legitimate debate over whether fresh faced youngsters should be pounding the beat (Babies on the Beat was how the Daily Mail described it.) has been hijacked by the media frenzy to try and discover the names and to secure photographs of these two teenagers in the face of stubborn refusal to co-operate by Thames Valley Police.

Hands up those spent a little more time in education than the new recruits who can see why this particular media strategy is doomed to fail? Anyone? Oh everyone!

I should declare more interest than some at this point and as a former police press officer - actually a former Thames Valley Police press officer - I do feel more than a little entitled to comment on this story. Through Morgan PR I often advise people on what they should or should not tell the media and once upon a time such sage advice was issued within Thames Valley Police.

Oh how differently I would have played this one!

Even without medialand being gripped by the Season of Silly this was always going to be a page one story and one that an approach should have been worked out long before the newspapers caught the scent of the teenagers being recruited. Perhaps getting away with 17-year-olds at Oxford tempted them into complacency? The Oxford Mail were swiftly upon that one!

I would suggest what they should have done from the moment this story emerged is released the (preferably pre-prepared as someone surely spotted this monster coming over the hill) statement and photos of the young Police Community Support Officers. No need to actually put them on parade, but just give the media something to publish to ease the pressure demanding this information, which is going to emerge sooner or later - either pitifully late from the police themselves, or merrily leaked by one of the multitude that must know - or perhaps the media might just find out for themselves. Neighbours must know, the new recruit's friends, their old school - all must be realising the bounty that the names are worth?

And unless released by Thames Valley Police they will lose what little control they can retain on this story and let's not forget they are making a spirited, if limited defence of their position. So whilst senior staff stroll out to defend the position that Thames Valley Police finds itself in, no press release is published - presumably in the hope some media might not pick up the story through this conventional route. Let's hope they don't read the papers then.

Oh and if you know who they are and want to pay off your holiday... do get in touch!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tell Someone You Love Them – Or That You Don’t With a Mungogram!

TWO entrepreneurial Newbury brothers today launched www.mungogram.com a revolutionary website that allows people to log on and send greeting cards suitable for a host of special occasions – with their own message recorded inside.

“The idea for Mungogram came about on a road trip with my brother Sam,” explained Alex Green as he posed with Mungo amid the greenery of the Madagascan Gin Palace for a pre-launch photoshoot with Morgan PR. “We were going to see a relative and stopped to buy a greeting card. Sam came back with some hideous card that spewed out a repetitive tuneless noise, which he then insisted on singing for the rest of the journey, driving me insane.”

“With a little imagination and a touch of brainstorming we realised we could do this better and soon after Mungo was born – well actually we looked at different characters before choosing the friendly gorilla you can see here.” he said hugging the life size cut out of Mungo, who will feature on some excellent radio adverts from today on Kick FM.

“Essentially visitors log on to www.mungogram.com and choose their occasion – birthdays, thank you, get well soon, congratulations on your divorce – we have a very wide selection and also an ‘Adults Only’ section that is a bit more risqué!

“They can then choose one of a host of pre-recorded messages from our own library, or – and this is where the fun starts – record their own 12 second sound clip to go in their card. This can either be done through the site using their PC or if they prefer via a free 0800 telephone number. They can preview, re-record and make any changes until they are happy – and then we can post that directly to the recipient, or send it to the customer to sign and deliver, and all for just £4.99.

“There is nothing out there, either in the shops or on the web that compares with Mungogram.com and hopefully generations to come will be spared some of those awful excuses for cards lurking in the shops and will instead be entertained by Mungo!”

The success of Mungogram hinges on the ease with which the website operates for visitors and that is down to BCL Numedia, the Newbury web solutions company headed by Darin Brockman.

“Mungogram is a fabulous idea,” Darin Brockman commented. “It has been a real fun project to be involved in and a challenge to realise the vision behind the concept.”

Alex Green was quick to praise the team at BCL Numedia too, he said: “We had the idea, but could not have brought it to market without the help of Darin and his team; they have brought it to life and made Mungo a reality. They are a seriously talented company and I shall be sending them a Mungogram to say so!”

The above article features in today's Newbury Business News and readers can send a Mungogram too and enjoy a generous 10 per cent discount just by entering the code NBN when prompted on the website www.mungogram.com The offer is valid until the end of August.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Flooding Advice Website Advert Launched in Local Press

The promotion of Easton Bevins' flooding advice helpline and website - cunningly called www.floodadvice.org gathers pace and today we began placing the above advert in a multitude of local newspapers across the flooding region.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Flooding Advice Website on The Best of Reading

No sooner do I mention The Best of Newbury featuring a story about www.floodadvice.org than it appears on its independent sister site The Best of Reading. The combination of the two probably goes someway to explain the increasing amount of traffic to the website and the enquiries that are coming through.

Flooding Advice Website on The Best of Newbury

News of the launch of flooding advice website www.floodadvice.org is spreading as media organisations grasp how important the service launched by Easton Bevins actually is.

The latest to feature www.floodadvice.org is The Best of Newbury, the foremost directory of local business services and certainly somewhere that those effected by the floods will be looking for help.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Flooding Advice Website on Severn Sound

Another radio interview followed hot on the heels of my session with BBC Radio Berkshire this morning when I was asked to talk about www.floodadvice.org on the leading commercial station for Gloucestershire, Severn Sound.

This one sought to tie today’s introduction to the Home Information Packs to the flooding and need for surveys. Admittedly I’d encouraged this in a conversation with the reporter, for it provided an opportunity to illustrate just how vital it is to get a survey done now if you’ve been flooded, because you can be sure the next person to buy your home will.

Once again the floodadvice.org website statistics showed the number of hits going up just after each news broadcast on the hour, which bodes well for Easton Bevins as it will be able to help anyone who uses the website or calls the local rate 0845 003 8757 helpline number.

Flooding Advice Website on Radio Berkshire

With my Easton Bevins Chartered Building Surveyors regulatory if metaphorical Hard Hat at a jaunty angle I made my way to the near palatial environs of BBC Radio Berkshire today, part of the BBC Monitoring Station at historic Caversham Park, to talk about the launch of www.floodadvice.org on the Andrew Peach Show.

It was nice to finally meet Andrew, someone who often interviewed me back when I was reeling out the thin blue line of spin for Thames Valley Police, but whom I had never actually met!

In the fabled (on Radio 4 that is) 8.10 am slot I was quizzed about the website and in true BBC style Andrew was quick to challenge me on what was in this venture for Easton Bevins.

The encounter lasted all of 1.45 seconds but led to a flurry of activity on the website over the next two hours, anyway, courtesy of the wonders of modern science - and for the purposes of a review under the 1988 Copyright Act, here is that interview: