Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Public Relations and the decline of the print media

Today on FT.com there is a story entitled: 'Writing on the wall for newspapers' which as a reader (you need to register, which is free) I would have found, but actually I'm indebted to blogging heavyweight Graham Jones whose post about the story I did read.

The tight writing of the FT sums it up succinctly in the first paragraph:

The newspaper and magazine industry could be “decimated” in 2009 with one out of every 10 print publications forced to reduce publication frequency by more than half, move online or close entirely, according to a report by Deloitte.
Essentially the drop in advertising revenue brought about by the declining economy and Morgan PR has already witnessed the decline in pagination within many of the publications we deal with; and less pages means less news space to accommodate PR generated stories. Social networking websites too will see advertising drop and their viability threatened.

Faith in PR is well founded; the activities of businesses often warrant news coverage and this can be tremendously effective at promoting those businesses. However, it has always been naive to believe that PR alone will deliver the success that companies crave, not least in the progressive face of new media.

Graham Jones rightly stresses the importance of the internet and how people use their websites and blogs (he convinced us to launch our blog more than two years ago foretelling the vulnerability of those without).

Now new media - or surely it has become 'the media' versus the traditional media? - has been something we have considered alongside press releases. From skilfully targeted e-newsletters to hosting Google friendly press releases online so that your customers can find and read them for themselves.

Blogging too, relevant and targeted, has a key part to play in this recipe for success that does not rely on traditional coverage to create and maintain a reputation.

You'll recognise these elements all focus on the relationship with the client or prospect; they are much less relying on someone reading the right newspaper on the right day. Better still they work on the principles of permission marketing and encourage relationship with those who are genuinely interested and are much less about a numbers game.

There is still a role for PR and the traditional media, but now more than ever it will rely upon real news savvy. As a qualified and experienced journalist that news sense is second nature and can make the difference whatever the economic climate.

So believe the story in the FT for it seems all too likely, but check your PR & marketing strategy and ensure it is multi-faceted. This is something we will be addressing in more detail in our monthly newsletter during 2009 so be sure to subscribe.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Success Fits Morgan PR Director into a Little Black Dress just in time for Christmas!

Normally, January is the time when thoughts turn to health and weight loss. Well, Morgan PR have made a pre-emptive strike and at least one of the directors (and the other by default!) have been on a weight loss and fitness drive for the last few months.

This has been made a whole lot less painful by the fabulous advice, enthusiasm and support from Karen Cremin at SuccessFits. Many, many women will be beating a path the door of her exclusive female-only fitness studio in Newbury in January, so contact her early and beat the rush!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Published in the Sunday Times

There are not many national newspapers that I have not contributed to in one form or another over the years (I am still eyeing The Economist but may wait until we warrant the cover!) however, the illustrious Travel section of The Sunday Times was on my 'No, sigh' list - until today.

Confessions of a Tourist, the weekly column that does not spare the blushes of its self-deprecating authors , today published: 'It started with a Jack and Coke', which had been submitted by yours truly, who is now an official contributor to the newspaper and on request I'm already working on further submissions. If you click on the image below you will be able to read all about it at the Times Online website.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Using extranets and intranets to enhance your business - Adrian Scott reveals how at the Newbury Business Group

Morgan PR is already well versed in the skills of Adrian Scott as we are working together on the new design for the Newbury Business Group website; however today provided the opportunity for other members of West Berkshire’s foremost networking organisation to discover more about what this web guru does.

Adrian explained that essentially Companion Computers, which has been running since 1987, is a bespoke software developer, offering tailored practical software for businesses. He proudly emphasised the power of their solutions with applications that are still running today that were developed in the late 80s!

He distinguished Companion Computer’s services to fellow member Rob Winnett’s company Kaizen Systems, which is also a bespoke software developer, explaining: “We develop software solutions solely for the internet.”

“We develop for the internet because demands for solutions are growing as users demand access to their systems anywhere and at anytime; they want real-time information and the ability to share information between users and best of all you do not need to install software – you just need and internet connection and you don’t even need to use your own PC.

“This is the future. Have you heard about software as a service? It will not be long until we’re all be using our Microsoft Office applications through a web browser and we will be subscribing to software only paying for it when we use it.

“This is secure too with our information and services hosted on a firewalled Web Server, which has to be better than a laptop, which can be lost or stolen, or sustain hard disk damage.

“Now, you’ve hear me talk each week about intranets and extranets – but what are they? Well, when we limit the access to the internally within a company it’s called an intranet and when we then open this up to our customers and suppliers we call it an extranet.

“There are plenty of conditions when an intranet would make sense, for example: when access is needed to company information by remote workers or where it was essential for everyone to access the same version of changing data. It could be to access customer data and can remove the need for email attachments.

“What about extranets?” Adrian sought to reassure the group: “You may have come across some extranets and may not have realised it. They’re often called members areas, client areas or my accounts. Online banking is a prime example of one that we have all used.

“Some of you will argue: ‘Surely that’s a website though?’ Well, it depends on your point of view. Our view is that websites are there to promote the business, market the company and increase sales. At least that’s what it should be doing! Extranets are there to improve your customer service and make day to day operations more efficient.”

Clearly anticipating the thoughts of some of the members he explained that this was not just something for big business, indeed this technology is available now for any type of company large all small.

“We’ve worked on projects starting at £850, although that’s not the norm by any means. It is really all about the complexity of the requirement.

So some extranet examples that we recently completed include an event registration extranet that needed to be interactive and meet clients needs online to improve customer service and reduce enquiries.

“We set up a training facility booking intranet that has reduced calls, meant it is no longer paper based and offers a much more efficient digital record of bookings

“Ultimately, whether intranet or extranet, our services are about improving the efficiency of your company and improving the client experience, both more important than ever in the current climate.”

Clearly a man who knows his stuff! If you have any web questions, not least about intranets and extranets why not contact Adrian or better still, join us at Newbury Business Group one Friday.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Coffee and biscotti?

As firm believers in the power of networking, Morgan PR attend several groups around Swindon, Reading and West Berkshire.

Yesterday found us at Business Biscotti, a networking group held at the lovely Herb Farm in Sonning Common. Both the coffee and conversation were excellent and it was fun to meet a new group of people.

This group runs on the last Wednesday of each month, although it will take a break for December and be back in January. It operates on a very informal basis, so why not just go along and see who you can meet?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Terror in Oxford - Cyclist hit by missile!


I kid you not! I had to do a double take after reading this posting on the Thames Valley Police press office website - it really suggests that: 'Cyclist hit by missile - Oxford'.

I mean, some parts of the world that might happen; or it could be a report of a anti-terror mission with some very precise targeting, but no, it is a report of a cyclist being hit with a missile... or to be more precise a tangerine. However to have said: 'cyclist hit by tangerine' would have possibly been even more ludicrous! Absolutely it could have been serious - what if it had been a harder fruit? Imagine if someone had thrown a pineapple!

Part of Morgan PR's strength is the media handling skills I learned as a former Thames Valley Police press officer. For instance there was always a balance to be struck between sensible reporting of a crime and knowing the fun the media would have with it. Wait and see what they do with this!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Modern web site for Antique Restoration Company

Established in 1978, Brian Matthews & Son, Antique and Modern Furniture Restoration and Re-upholstery, offers the kind of skilled service and personal service that has virtually disappeared in the modern, disposable world.

Brian contacted Morgan PR in order to give his online presence a much needed overhaul. We had already worked with Brian before writing features and taking photographs. To be fair, Brian was better than many who still languish offline; he had benefitted from a one-page website for a few years now.

Working closely with Brian, we created a site that shows the breath of what he and his son, Ben, now offer.

So, if your antique chairs are looking shabby or your vintage table is in need of polishing, contact Brian Matthews & Son. If however your online presence is looking shabby and in need of polishing, contact Morgan PR to discuss how we can restore your reputation. Of course, if you do not have a website we create reputations too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Verbatim reveal call handling secrets at NRG

Morgan PR at at the monthly NRG-Networks meeting at Wokefield Park today and knew that the seminar would be a good one, given by Graham Hill, the founder of client and supplier Verbatim; Graham is passionate about customer service and his call handling company ensures you never have to miss a call again.

Our seminar began with a spot of role play - we stood with our phones to our ears while a recording of a cacophony of unanswered calls, engaged tones, answerphones and automated systems echoed around the room.

"How does that make you feel?" Graham asked after subjecting the audience to a full minute of the frustrating soundtrack to so much of business.

The answers naturally reflected how the situation makes people feel: angry, frustrated... smug? Well, that last view was mine because I knew while I was networking at NRG, Verbatim would be answering any calls!

A quiz revealed the following revelations:

  • 33% of businesses fail to answer all incoming calls
  • 98% of people say that poor telephone handling gives a bad impression of a company
  • 80% of callers hang up when they hear an answer machine or voicemail
  • 69% of those will never call back
  • 15% of all incoming calls are missed by businesses
  • After traffic wardens and junk mail, automated call handling is the most hated aspect of business
  • 8 out of 10 executives has dropped a current or potential client because of failure to return calls, or being kept hanging on for too long.
  • 33% of executives sacked their suppliers because of constantly engaged lines.
We were then guided through some simple maths that reveals how with a little effort on managing the phone calls your company receives, you can have a dramatic impact on your revenue from catching those otherwise lost leads. There is a terrific tool on the Verbatim website that allows you to do this in confidence.

It was great to find myself sat next to Graham on an outstanding table when it came to the networking lunch that followed.

Also on the table were two of our guests - web guru and fellow Newbury Business Group member Adrian Scott from Companion Computers and David Rogers, the recently appointed Newbury Office Manager of Chartered Building Surveyors, Easton Bevins.

There was also business coach David Barkel from Pharos Performance, SEO expert Vernon Riley from KKSmarts and our table was kept in line by accountant Nicola Goringe Larkin, from Goringe & Co.

The mixture of businesses led to some fascinating networking and there was a good rapport between diners and across the table.

Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed... a new flavour to the Newbury Business Group breakfast

When the Newbury Business Group was invited to The Mike Robinson Game and Wild Food Cookery School for its weekly meeting, it was always going to be a special experience - fellow member and wild food guru Cat Sheppard has consistently added value to West Berkshire's foremost networking group and her offer to entertain us at the School had been much anticipated.

Members eagerly made the trip to the wilds of Yattendon to the cookery school established by celebrity chef Mike Robinson, and is just down the road from his near legendary gastro pub, The Pot Kiln.

Fine tasting coffee was awaiting our arrival, together with the tantalising aromas of a breakfast worthy of the champions of business we all are - well, we are all at different points on that same journey perhaps!

Maybe it was that coffee, or the excitement of being at such a fabulous venue, but the networking buzz that the group generates was reaching new levels as we made our way into the dining room for the breakfast:

NBG Breakfast - 21 November 2008

Wild Boar & Apple Sausages
Home Smoked Bacon
Scrambled Duck Eggs with
Hedgehog Fungus
Boston Baked Beans

Homemade Bread with
Blackberry jam and Marmalade

The fabulous food proved superb fuel for the networking chatter and led to some enthusiastic one minute presentations, many of which acknowledged the quality of the spread and were brimming with examples of good practice and business wins that made for inspiring illustrations that vision and passion will bring success whatever the economic climate.

Moving back into the kitchen Cat began her 10 Minute Masterclass
- we have one every week at the Newbury Business Group - and showed us just how easy it was to bone a haunch of Roe deer and how simple it was to seal before popping into the oven.

My predecessor as chairman of the group, Mark Arrowsmith, from Snappy Snaps, had suggested to our host that she should do something special for me... so, with much excitement in the group, I was handed a bowl of a dark, lean meat, clearly from an animal much smaller than the Roe deer we had just seen Cat prepare and cook.

"Pheasant?" I hopefully queried. It wasn't, nor was it any bird... I pondered on Dormouse, that Roman delicacy, but I was pretty sure they were protected. Similarly, it surely could not be a hedgehog?

"It's squirrel", Cat revealed, to the squeals of delight and gasps of disbelief from the assembled professionals.

With that she took the bowl of squirrel meat and added it to the pan with some duck fat - it turns out squirrel is quite a dry meat and the fat stops it from drying out during the cooking! A few minutes and some rosemary and cream later, I was served up 'Confit of Squirrel in a Rosemary and Cream Sauce'. It came on toast.


Honestly, I am not squeamish and grew up a shepherd's son and that, combined some culinary globetrotting, meant I was game even if the squirrel was technically not... So I tucked in with relish, and amid much snapping from the group's sterling photographer Giles Penfound, I discovered the squirrel actually tastes quite nice. Gamey and textured, but certainly agreeable!

I had seconds and there was plenty for a significant number of the group to tuck in themselves while Cat returned to the Roe deer that was ready to come out of the oven; she turned them over so the juices could flow back through the meat and rested them for five minutes - the same time they were cooked for, before finely slicing the rare meat and drizzling a peppercorn sauce over the top.

This too was delicious - possibly even more so than the squirrel!

With a thunderous round of applause the meeting drew to a close, although many seemed to linger more than normal and there were plenty of one to one encounters too.

Cat commented after the meeting: "It was incredibly nice to have everyone here; there is only so much I can say in the normal meetings to explain what we do here. By coming to the Cookery School it has given everyone a whole new perspective and it will be easier in the future for th
e members to give us even more referrals."

The star of the day makes a great point - how on earth can fellow networkers be expected to be raving fans if they do not understand what you do? Make the effort to understand!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Free software was a Critical Non Essential

Morgan PR has written before about the marvellous concept of CNEs - Critical Non Essentials, a term coined by Australian dentist Paddi Lund - and we saw a brilliant one today after buying a new flash memory card for the camera.

It was back on Saturday that a card crashed mid photoshoot at the Little Jogs Nursery School. Naturally we carry spares so the day was not lost - but some great photos were!

I tried a few freeware programs to rescue the images to no avail and in the meantime ordered a new memory card, from SanDisk, via MyMemory. When it arrived it came with a free copy of RescuePRO, which swiftly recovered the photos! How delighted was I with that service? And all because of a CNE!

Paddi Lund says that Critical Non Essentials suggest that paying attention to detail in the Little Things surrounding the customer experience could have such a dramatic impact on the way customers feel about the business, and more importantly about the kind of stories they tell their friends.

He's not wrong!

I guess there is a certain irony that with the program I might not have bought a new memory card for the camera, but being unable to recover those photographs prompted paranoia about crashing cards, hence the new purchases.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Enjoy 20% off the a la carte menu at the Michelin Recommended Le Petit Square

Readers of the Morgan PR newsletter 'creating reputations' have been busy downloading our exclusive offer for 20% off the a la carte menu at the Michelin Recommended Le Petit Square restaurant in Newbury.

The lucrative offer makes a trip to this terrific venue better value than ever - but hurry, you only have until the end of November to use your vouchers and enjoy the finest French food at a fraction of the normal price!

Because we are generous here at Morgan PR, if you missed the newsletter (don't forget to subscribe on the front page of this blog to receive future offers first!) we can provide the link to the voucher for Le Petit Square right here, right now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

High performance and expert handling - it must be Verbatim


Or it could have been the Audi R8! Perhaps it is both!

Morgan PR spent time at Verbatim today, our client and our supplier, to prepare press releases and coverage for the company newly launched Receptionist of the Month competition.

Verbatim answer our telephone when we cannot - whether on another call, with a client, on holiday or simply ring fencing our time, their call handling skills are second to none. Customer surveys reveal the high level of satisfaction among all their clients too, and yet still they strive for perfection and this competition is part of that.

Verbatim clients, including Morgan PR, have offered up prizes to reward the monthly winners of the competition; however, it was the heart racing rumble of the Audi R8, that captured the attention today, for that will be the prize for the overal winner - a weekend with the super car!

Dreamcarhire.com, who is a Verbatim client, have offered the £80,000 car as the main prize and Pete Dando, sales executive for Dreamcarhire.com had brought the good looking beast to the New Greenham Park offices of Verbatim, both for the photoshoot, and to give the staff a taste of what they would be competing for.

The proceedings were also captured by videographer Jay Blake from ichthus video, who also took the opportunity to capture a video testimonial from me; we'll bring you the highlights of that on this blog one day soon!

Incidentally, Greenham Common was pretty windswept today and the Verbatim banner, pictured above, took on sail like qualities as the breeze whipped up. Company founder Graham Hill was happy to wrestle with it, until that is, he needed to fetch something from the office and I was asked to take hold! Hang on for dear life more like!

Videographer Jay kindly swapped his camera for mine to capture the spectacle for this blog: suffice to say I was putting on a brave face, ever the professional.

Win a powerful online public relations profile with the Morgan PR newsletter


If you are reading this on Tuesday 18 November there is a good chance you have arrived here after receiving the latest edition of the Morgan PR newsletter 'creating reputations', so named because that is exactly what we do!

In today's edition we are running a simple competition and all our readers have to do is comment on this blog entry and tell us what they think of our newsletter. If you haven't seen it then check out our newsletter online so you too can comment and be in with a chance to win! And don't forget to sign up if you want to receive your own copy in future by email.

Next week, once everyone has had ample opportunity to add their comments, we will hold a draw of those names and the first one out of my former journalist's press trilby will enjoy a profile of their company on this blog, with an abundance of Google friendly links back to their website.

If you are interested in having your own HTML newsletter like ours then please take a look at Expertise on Tap, the company that is providing such sterling service to Morgan PR.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree...

When it comes to public relations the majority of Morgan PR's clients, whether here in West Berkshire, the Thames Valley or even further a field, they require publicity all year round.

Short of landing Father Christmas as a client, I imagine that Newbury Christmas Tree Farm is one of the few clients who only need publicity for a few weeks of the year, starting anytime now!

We were out on the wholesale side of the business earlier today and I have never seen so many Christmas Trees! Destined for garden centres and shops in plenty of time for Christmas.

Here in West Berkshire the Newbury Christmas Tree Farm, at Bagnor, will represent the best place to buy your own Christmas Tree, not least because we do know that the aforementioned Santa will be there in December - as will four reindeer! Watch this space for more news...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Father's Day in November?

It was Father's Day today! Honest! Well it was at the Little Jogs Day Nursery in Hungerford - a rather clever invention to give the many Dads whose children attened the popular private nursery the chance to see what they get up to.

Morgan PR handles both the public relations and web presence of Little Jogs and were on hand to capture images for both the website and what should be a slam dunk press release considering the originality of the idea.

It was great talking to the Dad's to discover just how thrilled they were to be there. One was so busy with work that they rarely even dropped off or collected their son from the nursery, so it provided a rare opportunity to see how he flourishes within the purpose designed environment.

Other Dads had simply taken the opportunity to spend more time at the nursery where their child seems so happy during the week.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Newbury Business Group discovers the formula for change during 10 Minute Masterclass

Each week at the Newbury Business Group, West Berkshire's foremost networking organisation, we benefit from a 10 Minute Masterclass from a member, based on their own specialist knowledge and this week we enjoyed the benefit of two for the price of one!

Michelle Lucas from Greenfields is a long standing member and Sally Rainbow-Ockwell from ActionCOACH recently joined the group; both are coaches and part of today's Masterclass was to help members differentiate.

Incidentally, this is something that distinguishes the group I chair from so many networking organisations - we do not automatically 'lock out the competition'. Actually it is a more collaborative approach that ultimately means on many occassions companies and individuals with similar offerings can both thrive in the group and often bring one another business - and this is exactly how Sally and Michelle are finding it.

The Masterclass began with the simple explanation that while Sally is a business coach, Michelle focuses in the individual and the changes they might need to implement.

They then hit us with a formula - the Formula for CHANGE:

D x V + F > R

That is Dissastisfaction times Vision, combined with the First Steps, needs to be greater than th Resistance to achieve change - so increasing any or all of those elements to the point where they outweigh your resistance to change - and great things will happen.

Sally explained that 'nice to...' doesn't cut it. You either have to be dissatisfied enough or bursting with enough vision in order to take those first steps to overcome resistance.

Michelle then introduced us to the Identity Iceberg, pictured here, which is a great analogy for everything from improving business to losing weight or getting fit.

What we HAVE, the results, and what we DO, the behaviour that delivers those resuts is often visible, much like the part of the iceberg the Titanic did see, albeit too late!

Actually, you need to focus on who you need to BE - which is all the parts of who you are that lurk beneath the surface. If you BE the kind of person you need to be, you will DO the things you need to to and oddly enough will then HAVE what it is that you desired so.

Michelle said: "There is an overlap between our work. Sally's is more tangible and mine is more about mindset. As strategic partners we can work together.

"Sally might be working with someone on their business and spot something personal which I can work on with them to give them the best chance. Equally I might be working with someone on on a personal level when I spot something that involves their business.

Sally emphasised that even if group members were unsure of which of them to refer to, they could refer to either as between them they would know who was most appropriate to work with.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Kaizen Flo launched

Morgan PR was among the guests at The Corn Exchange in Newbury earlier today for the launch of Kaizen Flo, an exciting software solution designed by SMEs for SMEs.
It has been developed and brought to market by Newbury company Kaizen Systems Ltd, which was formerly Win IT, and Morgan PR first met its Managing Director, Rob Winnett, when we were both finalists in a local Business of the Year competition at the end of 2006 – he went on to win and become a good friend, client and is a fellow member of the Newbury Business Group.

It was created using key business principles in mind to utilise the most useful aspects to companies today. It can save a business time and money, keeps the owner in control and can improve workplace harmony.

It should be said how abundant Rob has always been with business help and advice, so it was reassuring to see that Kaizen Flo has been based on a series of solid business principles:

  • The E-Myth
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Pareto – the 80/20 rule
  • PRinCE2 project management
  • Kaizen

The Kaizen philosophy, which of course also gave this company its name, is drawn from the Japanese word kai which means “Change” and zen meaning “Good” – Change to become good, or Good Change

The main belief behind Kaizen is that a combination of many improvements, however small, will make a measurable impact to any company.

Great Example is the British Olympic Cycling Team Beijing 2008. They won 7 gold medals out of the 10 events. Plus 3 silvers and 2 bronze! Every medal winner talked about continually looking for small improvements which could make a difference – however insignificant they may appear to be on their own.

I suspect an even better example will prove to be the software launched at today's event, which was a great success and was captured through the unique eye of Gile Penfound, who has supplied the photographs for this blog posting, not least the one below of Rob and Judy Winnett.


Yours truly pictured above and an atmospheric illustration of the event below.

Supermarket weep! Somerfield fumbles the PR ball and deserves to lose customers

Crisis management is not for the faint-hearted. Wobble, waiver or blink and you can be dead in the water - or face down in the fresh produce aisle if you are Somerfield in the wake of the staff instigated Chip and Pin fraud in Hungerford.

How incredulous was I to read their unhelpful comments in today's Newbury Weekly News and online at Newbury Today? I'd be shaking my head in sorry disbelief if that didn't make it hard to post this!

Let me recap for those yet to be stunned by the mismanagement of a retailer who is dependent on customer confidence for survival: A staff member has been sacked after stealing 'hundreds of pounds' from customers' accounts after adapting a Chip and Pin machine to clone their cards. Some 14 people were victims and the theft was only rumbled because the banks cried foul.

What jumps out? 'Sacked' - so someone in a position of trust commits a sophisticated and well planned fraud and is sacked. Not arrested so the crime - which is almost certainly more than the work of one person working alone - can be investigated and we can be reassured.

Newbury Today has the store's press officer blundering through comments as follows:

Spokesman for the store, Pete Williams, confirmed a worker had been sacked.

He said that a chip and pin card-reading device had been stolen and tampered with so that it cloned customers' bank details, which could then be used for illegal transactions.

Mr Williams said that quick action from the store's manager had prevented hundreds more customers from having their details stolen.

He said he could not confirm exactly how much money was involved.

“We have increased our security measures at the store since this incident,” he said.“We offer our apologies to those customers who were affected. Fortunately, they are fully covered by their banks,” he said.

He said the police had interviewed the dismissed staff member, but Thames Valley Police spokeswoman Laura Deane said the force had no record of any incidents.

Mr Williams said the case may have been referred to UK payments association APACS, which investigates many similar cases every year, but spokeswoman Sandra Quinn could not confirm or deny whether they were investigating the scam in Hungerford for security reasons.

First let me look at how I feel as a customer of this store. This is the impact of this statement:

I feel really angry that this has been allowed to happen and that it doesn't appear to be subject to a police investigation - do they not consider it serious enough? It is like they are saying: 'No worries - it is only customers' money'! Without knowing what happened and how sophisticated the scam was I am very reluctant to return to the store. I feel that the customers' losses are belittled by the assertion that the banks will refund the money. Oh well, that's alright then! Honestly!

From a PR point of view there are a multitude of ways this could have been handled better. The line about increasing security does work, but how differently would people feel if the statement had said:
"We deeply regret this incident and would seek to assure our many customers in Hungerford that every step has been taken to ensure that this cannot be repeated. Obviously this is a crime and Thames Valley Police has been asked to investigated so it would be innappropriate to comment further at this time."
You would be better advised to limit your exposure by keeping the comment brief, and involving the police effectively makes the matter sub judice so you could not comment much further without risking compromising the investigation.

Customers would have felt reassured and with less said there is less to interpret or feel unhappy about.

Morgan PR offers public relations advice as part of our crisis management service; if Somerfield had spoken to us about this we would have hopefully influenced a much less harmful outcome.

The first rule of the secret business dining club...

In the wake of yesterday's post on the recession I spent the evening amid a remarkably positive and forward thinking group; for over a year now Morgan PR has been part of an elite dining club that brings together business owners for good food, support and discussion.

Not unlike the movie Fight Club, the first rule of the business dining group that shall not be named in this blog is that you do not talk about business dining group the group that shall not be named in this blog, or anywhere else really!

Founded by Michelle Lucas of Greenfields and Lucy Venables of Red Prosper Marketing, the idea behind the group was so much more than mere networking, it was about offering the support network that corporate staff have by default, but for small businesses could be non existent.

During the meals - last night's was held at The Lamb in Hermitage where we enjoyed some superb food amid stimulating conversation.

Someone would raise an issue or dilemma they have in business and by virtue of the calibre of people around the table, their experiences and knowledge, a wealth of advice and often solutions would be offered.

I am sure that now you realise the need for confidentiality; the honesty with which people present their problems and indeed the experiences given in reply, are only done so because nothing will be disclosed.

The selection of guests varies so you are rarely around the table with more than a few people that you have met with before, which means that no two dinners are every the same.

So by all means ask me... But do not expect me to tell!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Counting the PR pennies can rob you of pounds!


Why do companies finding themselves shivering in the face of the recessionary chill determine that the best approach is to cut back on their marketing spend? Where is the logic in tryng to see through the tough times ahead by opting to lower your profile?

Now the vast majority of our clients know that actually, in this tricky times it will be the companies who focus on promoting themselves amid the ill advised who opt to hide who will flourish and be in the best position to burst forth when the good times begin to roll again! Indeed some are actually confident enough to increase their spending and are reaping the dividend.

Yes, businesses and customers are watching what they spend, but equally there are already less suppliers in the marketplace so those remaining are by default bigger fish in a smaller pond. It will be the skilful use of public relations and marketing that will be the fish food that allows such growth to continue during the recession.

Look at the advertising spend of the high street names out there - it has gone through the roof while their revenues are going down. It is a high stakes poker game and the savvy players are left at the table will be the winners.

It is not just marketing which bizarrely gets reigned in when the economy slows; training and recruitment can also be abandoned in the false hope of prudence. These approach also has the potential to cripple your ability to perform!

So just stop for a moment and think about the long term impact of any so-called prudence versus wrapping up in the short term security blanket.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Avoid a bunker mentality in the recession with Profit Club! Now in Newbury

Profit Club, run by ActionCoach Sally Rainbow- Ockwell, is now firmly ensconsced in it's new home at Deanwood Park Golf Club.

Morgan PR has been a member of this group for over a year now and we find the mix of business training and networking to be invaluable. The group meets twice a month on the second and fourth Tuesday at 8.30am.

Often companies reduce or even stop training when times get tight; this is not the smart thing to do, as to thrive and survive in a these troubled times, investing in training is a must.

Recently, an open letter (by top business people including Sir Mike Rake, chairman of BT group and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of Marks & Spencer and Mervyn Davies, chairman of Standard Chartered) was published in national newspapers calling on UK employers not to slash staff training in a bid to cut costs as the economic downturn bites .

The open letter states: ‘Now is precisely the time to keep investing in the skills and talents of our people. It is the people we employ who will get us through. When markets are shrinking and order books falling, it is their commitment, productivity and ability to add value that will keep us competitive. Investing now in building new skills will put us in the strongest position as the economy recovers."

So, to meet your targets and goals, what training does your company need to invest in? Now might be exactly the right time to talk to Sally about what Profit Club can offer.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Morgan PR meets a bright sales Star

It should go without saying that strategic alliances are a key part of any marketing strategy and I am indebted to one of our clients for suggesting, via LinkedIn that Morgan PR should meet with graduate sales specialists Star.

Today I met with the company founder Beth Lorraine and discovered a thoroughly fresh and reportedly successful approach to creating effective sales staff at a fraction of the cost of buying in the supposedly essential 'experience' that sales stars are deemed to require.

Star can find the right graduates for a business in need of sales staff and then works alongside the company to train them in the techniques and attitudes essential to effective selling, and it works.

While experience has its place, it can also bring with it bad habits and pre-conceptions along with that hefty salary. Graduates on the other hand are a relatively inexpensive blank canvas and those chosen by Star are positively chomping at the bit to serve and most importantly sell!

We look forward to working with Beth and Star in the future for as surely as some of her clients will need public relations help, I am certain some of our clients would benefit from a fresher approach to sales.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Lest we forget


We have mentioned in this blog before how proud both myself and Diane are to be Community Governors at the John O'Gaunt Community Technology College in Hungerford, and none more so than today when the staff, governors and pupils laid wreaths at the war memorial in the town.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Rock solid techniques for using Google from Rock IT at the Newbury Business Group

As ubiquitous as Google has become, who among us has not been left frustrated at the search engine’s inability to read our minds and only interprets what we type in?

Well if you have been at Newbury Business Group earlier today there is a good chance you will no longer be drumming your fingers while humming U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ – all thanks to the insight offered by Paul Cowie from Rock IT.

In a 10 Minute Masterclass that was stylishly delivered in considerably less, for the thoroughly positive reason of having lots of guests attending West Berkshire’s foremost networking organisation’s weekly meeting at Donnington Valley Golf Club.

“It’s all about how you ask!” he told us and gave the example that: “How many calories does an apple have” and “An apple has * calories” will produce very different results, with the latter being more precise.

We discovered that singular is different from plural – apple is not the same as apples! Also that Google plain ignores lots of little words – I, where, how, of, is, in. We should enclose them in quotes if we want them included.

The order of words is important – example Brown Bear and Bear Brown return different results and punctuation is generally ignored except apostrophes, hyphen and quote marks.
One other exception is two dots, which is ideal for finding something in a range. Like this "office chair" £50..£75. Or for dates: Newbury 1850..1899

Most people know that using “quotes” narrow searches, but searching within the results can refine these even further.

Paul told us: “If you put three words in your search, all three must be on the page for it to be returned. However, you can use OR to find pages with any of the words and use parentheses to group terms. For instance if you were trying to remember the name of a certain movie with monkeys, you could search for: chimps (“Ben Affleck” OR “Mark Wahlberg”). You will find yourself landing on the 'Planet of the Apes'

“Google does not understand ‘NOT’ however you can use – to exclude a term from you search example: “Ben Affleck” –”Jennifer Lopez”, only returns pages with Ben not Jen.

“Just as a minus sign says no a + sign says yes. For example: +the omen will find references to the film, although you could use quotes to the same end!”

bY tHE wAY – Google is not case sensitive!

A wild card allows an * to replace one word. For example: “Three * * mice” leads to “three blind fat mice” or “three very tough mice”. Wild cards are useful to get around the 10 word limit on searching because they don’t count and miss out stop words (a the if) because they do!

He concluded urging us to visit the Google help page which has all this and more.

Once again a stalwart member of the Newbury Business Group has proven not only their expertise, but been abundantly generous with it and added enormous value to the group.

I did have a Google tip! Use telephone STD codes like 01635 for Newbury and 0118 for Reading when you are looking for geographic specific businesses!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Press release for worthy medial recipient

Morgan PR is proud to work with a number of local charities, one of which is the Royal Merchant Navy School Foundation, and we were delighted to help when its hard working secretary was award a very prestigious medal, and provide the photography for the release:

A Ramsbury man who has devoted his life to the Royal Merchant Navy has been awarded the The Merchant Navy Medal, a prestigious honour which reward meritorious service and acts of courage afloat by British registered merchant seafarers

Commander Charles Heron-Watson is the secretary of the Royal Merchant Navy School Foundation which helps the needy children of those who have been in the service of the Merchant Navy.

“I am delighted of course,” said Commander Heron-Watson. “However, it would not be possible without the Foundation, which for 180 years has been carrying out essential work for the needy children of merchant seafarers.

“I have been Secretary for two years, although before that I was a caseworker which means I certainly understand the problems, but not just because of eight years of casework, but also because of I was chairman of the Education Trusts Forum for three years, which impacts on the lives of some 3,000 children; indeed the Foundation is part of the Forum.”

The chairman of the Foundation, John Adey, said: “The Trustees of the Royal Merchant Navy School Foundation are delighted to note the decision of the Merchant Navy Medal Committee to award the Merchant Navy Medal 2008 to the Foundation’s Secretary, Commander Charles Heron-Watson, in recognition of his services to the education and welfare of the needy children of British Merchant Navy seafarers.

Commander Heron-Watson says the recession will make the work of the Foundation even more essential: “There is no question the economic downturn is going to have a serious impact on the parents of many of our benefactors and more children will become needy.

“To qualify a child must have a parent who has served at sea in the Merchant Navy for longer than five years and they have to been needy; we are able to offer in their personal development provided it is ‘education for employment’ from the start of their education up to the age of about 25.

“Every time we help someone fulfil their potential it is a success, although sometime the help we give can also have a dramatic impact on the lives of others. We helped Emily Maw finish her law degree and now she is a director of The Innocence Project in New Orleans carrying out human rights work which has seen as many as a dozen conviction overturned.

“Our biggest challenge has always been making sure that people are aware of the Foundation and the work that we do; now that is going to become even more important.”

British seafarers are employed by companies, not the State; they had never had a decoration of their own to reward meritorious service or acts of courage until the recent introduction of The Merchant Navy Medal, which is awarded annually on Trafalgar Day.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wine Rack's offer hard to swallow

The Law of Attraction as defined by Michael Losier explains how you effectively get more of what you give, so it was reassuring to see Wine Rack operating a classy piece of permission marketing to coincide with the opening of a new store in Hungerford.

Or rather we were reassured until we read the small print, when it suddenly became a clumsy effort indeed. And all this the very day after Morgan PR gave a seminar on permission marketing

In theory it was a sound offer - 'Save £5 when you spend £25 or more on wine and champagne' and in return you submitted your details that would allow them to market directly to you - with your permission.

Leaving aside that they probably meant 'wine or champagne', its modest offer of a diminishing 20% off with each £1 more than £25 you spend, it was the small print that disappoints.

The offer was severly time limited and in fact only lasted for a week, having expired some days previously.

So were we inspired to shop there? Of course not! Does it incline us to in the future? No, actually it probably disinclines us from using them in the future having had our hopes raises and then dashed.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Morgan PR gives Permission Marketing Seminar

Morgan PR's relationship with many if its clients is understandably confidential; while they deserve to be applauded for addressing the issues we can help with, their competitors might clap for a different reason.

We were in Birmingham today to address the assembled team from a national company on the intricacies of Permission Marketing as we see them, through our experience and not least through the wise words of Seth Godin, author of the PM bible appropriately named 'Permission Marketing'.

Essentially Permission Marketing is the antidote to the garish interruption marketing that we are all exposed to while so few actually respond to; it is about getting people to put up their hands to say they are interested in what you have to offer, and then building a relationship that helps them.

According to Godin:

"Consumers will grant a company permission to communicate only if they know what's in it for them. A company has to reward consumers, explicitly or implicitly, for paying attention to its messages."
Paraphrasing him it means that you should provide something that your customers will want to learn more about, and may be unable to find elsewhere. Some examples include regular e-newsletters with timely news or tips related to your product or service, links to and/or reviews of new and updated Web sites, and problem/solution case studies.

Gather contact information for as many potential customer contacts as you think will be interested in being part of your permission marketing list and then start building the relationship, always respecting them and in effect courting them.

The seminar was delivered to a group who were keen to participate and offer up example of how they work now and they could quickly see how a different approach could deliver better results.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Morgan PR reveals the Seven Deadly PR Sins in Newbury Business Group 10 Minutes Masterclass

No sooner do I become chairman of the Newbury Business Group than I find myself in the hot seat for the 10 Minute Masterclass! Having spent many of my previous presentations explaining tips and tricks to boost your PR it really did seem about time to explain where it can go wrong.

You see, for all the marvellous advice on the best ways to get good publicity, there are some things that you should never do, or at least not without careful consideration. These are the bear traps for PR prima donnas where journalists with sharpened pens await the unwary. These are our Seven Deadly PR Sins that the PR professional knows to resist.

Lust

Lusting after journalists is generally not a good way to go about getting something published, nor is any covetous approach to a story. For instance, pursuing a single publication with wild-eyed abandon rarely works and depending on your story and the background you can often achieve great exposure by having a story published locally first.

Gluttony

You should know when enough is enough in PR. You may be on to a good thing but do not outstay your welcome. Anyone who gorges themselves on a PR opportunity without considering how this will be interpreted runs the risk of the journalists being turned off and the next story you have will be ignored, however good it might be.

Greed

If Gluttony is over indulging in PR, then Greed is about hungering after that feckless feast without regard for a balanced diet. This greed is not good. Journalists rarely respond to desperation and they actually find those repeated calls irritating. So do not be greedy. Ensure that the story is worthy of coverage and accept what it gets. Learn and provide a better story the next time. Or become known as greedy and see how many column inches that translates into.

Sloth

There really is no excuse for any kind of behaviour that either sees you blithely ignoring a PR opportunity or worse still, not helping a journalist once they are writing a story. I can recall times as a journalist where a good news story died on the vine because calls went unreturned. Very rarely is doing nothing the best option. Sloth is a very good way to destroy your PR reputation, though!

Wrath

‘Do you know how much we spend on advertising?!’ No, they don’t and they really do not care. Journalists do not sell advertising and very rarely will they cower at the threat of you pulling advertising. Take a deep breath and work out how to make right the slight that prompted you to think of foolishly threatening to withdraw advertising.

Envy

You may see stories that competitors have succeeded in getting published and wished that you had thought of whatever has claimed them the headlines. Be inspired, but do not dwell. What can you learn and do better next time. Certainly do not be tempted to brief against your rival. That is the advanced class and needs careful consideration.

Pride

Be humble in victory. Certainly there may be times when you are entitled to puff out your chest and bask in glory, but let the media pour on the pride, you should be modest and even slightly embarrassed and your PR will have far greater impact than trading on vanity. Richard Branson, anyone?

What do you think?

If you have fallen foul of any of these sins they may not be deadly if properly addressed. They can however leave any PR strategy starting from a disadvantage. If you think you have suffered for committing a public relations sin we can help you repent! Seriously, with a little tender loving care and a deft bit of remedial PR, Morgan PR can help you back on to the right path.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

West Berks Rapid Response Car caught on camera

Morgan PR is proud to support the West Berks Rapid Response Car in Hungerford, indeed our logo can be seen on the boot of the car as it rushes about on life saving business.

So when new photographs were needed for a leaflet we were more than happy to oblige; working with Neale Marney MBE and a range of volunteers who were keen to contribute we were able to stage three typical scenarios where the Rapid Response car - there are three across West Berkshire - might be first on scene.

A road accident

A cyclist has fallen from their bike

More of the cyclist - with the logo nicely framed!

Taking someone's blood pressure

It was good fun and when used we hope the photographs will bring home to people the reality of what these volunteers do, which ultimately is save lives in our rural community, when it can take precious extra minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Blogging Birthday - the Morgan PR Blog celebrates being two years old today!


Hurrah! The Morgan PR blog has reached the ripe old age of two years - and this is the 359th posting. How does that sound to you?

Well, statistic vary wildly, but a common one I've seen suggests that almost half of all new blogs will be dormant or abandoned within three months and certainly very few of the blogs that I have followed at launch ever lasted.

Friday, October 24, 2008

From Crackpot to Consultant - an entrepreneur tells all at Newbury Business Group

Friday dawned with another sparkling breakfast meeting of the Newbury Business Group, West Berkshire’s foremost networking organisation.

This morning we heard from stalwart member and local entrepreneur Tony Quinn, who took us on whistle-stop tour of his success-studded career to date, visiting the highs and lows and some of the crackpot ideas he came up with.

Actually that should be ‘Crackpot’™ - ‘Heat ‘em, fill ‘em... then eat ‘em’ – This was an innovative naan bread pot that could hold the curry within and Asda loved it with thousands of units being sold... until the day that the supermarket decided all its curries should be microwavable – and the Crackpot goes soggy in the microwave! So ended that dream!

Moving on he soon got to IQ Consulting and expanded on the normal one minute presentation we each get to make every week.

He explained that IQ offers practical advice that works. It was not about gobbledygook, marketing acronyms, guru books or indeed gurus of any kind. It was very much about big ideas – and every business has a big idea, they just might not know it yet!

He said: “I have started, built and sold two businesses successfully. I’ve had a business go to the wall – and I’ve learnt a few things on the way.”

Tony (pictured left) has also become an Accredited Associate of the Institute for Independent Business and uses its Business Support Programme to help prospects with a free business review that can take up to 2 hours.

“The session will unearth a goldmine of good and bad in every facet of the business and by the end of the session the owner will be more aware of every aspect of his business than he was before. It is as simple as that.

“If there is sufficient need, a Business Support Programme will be proposed to fix the need and this attracts a fixed monthly investment to IQ. This programme will be managed by IQ but parts of it may be delivered by other IIB Associates with specialist skills and parts of the fix could be delivered by Newbury Business Group members."

The 10 minute presentation concluded with Tony stressing that we should make sure he knows exactly what we do as we could be part of the fix!

Those are wise words for any networker; referrals from the people you meet rely upon them actually understanding what you do. If they don’t, they won’t!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hungerford day nursery Little Jogs now online with launch of new website

Little Jogs Day Nursery has unveiled a new website designed to keep parents up to date with activities at the nursery and to inform prospective parents about what it has to offer.

Morgan PR designed the website: www.littlejogsnursery.co.uk which has just gone live and already is catching the attention of people searching for nursery care in the Hungerford area through effective search engine optimisation.

The nursery’s owner, Sandra Fell, explained: “We enjoy a good reputation among our parents and many of them refer their friends to us. However we would never take for granted the people who move to this area who might not realise we are here.

“Also, with the slowdown in the economy we have been getting more enquiries from mothers and fathers who are finding they have to go back to work; hopefully the website will help parents facing that difficult decision. Indeed, one of the pages is specifically aimed at helping parents ask the right questions of any childcare provider.

“There are pages on each of our three rooms: baby, toddler and pre-school together with explanations of the provision and approach in each of those.

“We also aim to publish news on the site regularly to keep everyone up to date with all the exciting things we do here at Little Jogs.”

The new website was designed by Diane Morgan of Morgan PR, whose own daughter Beth used to go to Little Jogs. She comments: “We’ve always know what a terrific nursery Little Jogs is, so it was lovely to have the opportunity to reflect that on the world wide web. The team at Little Jogs are a really warm and friendly bunch and all the children are so cheerful - hopefully this website reflects that.”

Incidentally, news of the new website is spreading and it has already been published online at Newbury Today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Neat trick but still spam

Like any businessman who spends time using email I loathe spam and alongside the phishing scams, 419 banking bonanzas from Africa and various priapic therapies I get just as annoyed with genuine - but unsolicited - sales pitches.

One that did make me smile though was an email from some sign writing company that had gone to the trouble of designing an applet that wrote the Morgan PR web address across the boot of a car, while the website itself (visited via a browser rather than click on the email and reveal my curiosity!) allowed you to write anything you fancied - see above!

So clever yes, but unsolicited and junked accordingly.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Impromptu lunch discovers sensational food at sensible prices at The Carnarvon Arms

Fresh from a successful client meeting Morgan PR found itself near another client's venue; we publish the newsletter for Merchant Inns so when the Carnarvon Arms was so close and lunchtime was calling it was something of a done deal.

It is interesting, I have actually written about the food many times for advertising features and yet have never managed to coincide a visit with a suitable meal time. We have on occassions called by on a Saturday lunchtime with every intention of eating, only to discover the car park positively overflowing, which while a sign of good food it does suggest it is already full and we have ventured elsewhere.

It was actually quite busy today and tasting the food it was easy to understand why this venue was bustling on a Monday lunchtime.

The food was sublime I went for the scallops with crispy bacon and butternut squash puree, followed by a hearty plate of 'Mr Parson's Sausages' with mash and shallot gravy. Actually I suspect that Mr Parsons is none other than Gerry Parsons, another client of Morgan PR and founder of the wonderfully named Butcher's Dog Sausage Company. Certainly the meaty might of these beautiful bangers was consistent with those we pluck from our freezer on a regular basis.

I never doubted that the food would be good, but it was a delight to discover just how good!

We are just about to start work on another edition of The Merchant for Merchant Inns and I shall be eyeing the location of its growing stable with a road trip or two in mind.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Chairman for West Berkshire's foremost networkers - Newbury Business Group

We've blogged about West Berkshire's foremost networking group many times in the past; Newbury Business Group is the antidote to the bureaucratic money-making nonsense that typifies many such organisations

At the group’s weekly meeting earlier today the outgoing chairman, Mark Arrowsmith of Snappy Snaps, handed the reins to yours truly.

When I first joined Newbury Business Group a little over a year ago I was so impressed at its dynamic nature and real commitment to benefiting its members; it is totally independent and not stuffed to the gills with ridiculous rules and ulterior motives.

Too many networking groups are little more than money making venture for their founders and you only have to look at the member turnover in these groups and contrast that with the typical length of membership at Newbury Business Group to spot how much our group is valued.

There is some terrific collaborative work that goes on within the group and members bring one another high calibre referrals that will lead to significant business – although there is no compulsion to bring referrals, our members give them because they want to.

It is also a really great way to start the last day of the week and we bounce out after breakfast ready to do business and each week a different member offers a 10 minute master class focused on their area of expertise that always inspire.

We meet 7.30 every Friday morning at Donnington Valley Golf Club and guests are welcome to join us and enjoy a free cooked breakfast. We encourage prospective members to visit two or three times to decide if they want to join Newbury Business Group. It costs £100 to join the group and then £100 per quarter, which pays for everyone’s breakfast – members and their guests – and the annual Christmas party too.

Why not give Newbury Business Group a try?