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Monthly Archives: November 2011

I was feeling a little down yesterday for multiple reasons I shan’t be delving into. However, when I went into my sisters room to take refuge I found this delightful coaster on her dressing table, and it cheered me right up…so I though I’d share it :)

“May his JOYFUL SMILE remind us of how much there is to be happy about”

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A SHORT HANDBOOK TO THE SCARY WORLD OF COMMUNICATIONS AND SOCIAL MEDIA

I just added some information about this onto the “Work” section of my blog. However, I just thought I’d share a little about it here…..

I created this little handbook for a client in summer 2011 to gently ease them into the idea of why and how they should use social media to promote the organisation and reach a wider audience. I made the handbook pretty general so it was applicable to any type of business or organisation, emphasising the importance of social media in a digital-era, and how communication tools can be easily incorporated into the day-to-day functioning of a business without having to bring in an external agency.

Below is a brief extract from the social media section, but if you are interested in reading more, please click on the link above to view the PDF version :)

SAMPLE EXTRACT:

“Social media is a relatively new form of online communication which proliferated in popularity with the launch of Facebook in 2004. Other major Social Media sites include Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Tumblr.  

New social media pages are established all the time, but Facebook and Twitter remain the major leaders in online communication and networking. A useful professional networking site however is LinkedIn where you can share professional knowledge and expertise about either your individual self or your organisation. 

Social media is the next generation in communication and it is essential that organisations get to grips with its importance, influence and possibility to avoid being left behind in the online social sphere. Social media is especially useful in creating a broader prospective awareness, and is also great to meet and connect with other people or organisations that you may have a specific interest in, or they with you. At a simple level, social media is a fantastic way to share information in a straight-forward, effective and cost-free way. For example you may have added something to the news section on your website – by simply adding a link to your social media pages, you can easily broaden the spectrum of interest and hopefully promote a greater awareness of your organisation.

Of course in order to do this, you must first build up an online following. By adding social media buttons onto your website, and URL’s on any marketing or PR materials, it will allow people to see that you are an active social media user and encourage them to follow and connect with you. Social media should not however just be used as a one-way mechanism, but should act as a two-way communication tool where other social media users can comment you and participate in active online conversations.

Social media can also be used as an excellent form of internal communication. By encouraging staff and service users to follow the organisations social media sites, you can easily keep them up to date with information and events which will show up on their wall feed.

 Social media has opened up a whole new realm of communication possibilities and should not be overlooked or dismissed as a useless piece of technology. It is dynamic and ever-changing in scope and potential and can easily be actively incorporated into the everyday functioning of an organisation.”

An integral part to any business, let alone Marketing, PR and Advertising, is to understand the importance of “THE BRAND”.

So firstly, what precisely is a Brand?

The word brand is defined as: a type of product manufactured by a company under a particular name’.

Thus, a brand is seemingly a threefold mash-up consisting of:

a) PRODUCT [s]

b) COMPANY

c) NAME

So if we are to take this as a broad definition, which aspect if any is the most important aspect of a brand?

According to the late Steve Jobs, the most important aspect of any company should be its high quality product. A quote taken from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs sums this view up nicely:

“[a] company does a great job, innovates and becomes a monopoly or close to it in some field, and then the quality of the product becomes less important. The company starts valuing the great salesman, because they’re the ones who can move the needle on revenues.” Steve Jobs

According to Jobs therefore, a high quality product aimed at pleasing the consumer should always take precedence over company revenues and figures. And of course, when we think of Apple as a brand, we think of its products: I-Pods, I-Pads, I-Phones, Mac’s. It is these high quality products which have helped Apple as company both become and maintain its place as the brand leader of innovation.

In fact Apple has achieved this so monumentally well that products such as the I-Pod have in effect become ‘brands’ in themselves, promoted through their connotation with cool demeanor and conveyance of sleek, postmodern consumer identity.

Taking Microsoft then, one of Apple’s major brand competitors in the field of technological innovation, it is easily perceivable what a long shadow the Apple brand has cast for this once global market leader. This is because whilst Apple strive to keep their products sleek, simple, and in many ways almost sexy in both design, functionality and name, Microsoft have fallen behind by overexerting and overcomplicating the brand, resulting in a messy concoction of products lacking any real direction.

For example, in opposition to Apple’s I-Phone, Microsoft helped deliver the Taiwanese produced Smartphone HTC.

So thats HTC which stand for “High-Tech Computer”

HIGH-TECH COMPUTER!??!

Are Microsoft actually stuck in a 1980’s Sci-Fi movie!?

This is a prime example of where the NAME of a brand comes into play. The HTC product could be awesome for all consumers know in comparison to the I-Phone or any other market competitors, yet both Microsoft as a brand and its branded products hold connotations with geeks and nerds. Simply put, this equals a very stark contrast to the cool simplicity of the Apple brand.

This however is not to say that Microsoft is not awesome in many other ways, but in terms of brand identity, they have fallen behind…….

Another prime example of the impact of a brand name is the famous Coca-Cola Vs. Pepsi war. We all know which tastes better (Pepsi); but we also know which one appeals the most when presented before us on a supermarket shelf (Coca-Cola, obviously)!

This is the bizarre but brilliant power of The Brand.  

But what impact does a COMPANY itself have on the power of the brand? Let’s look at BP for instance – does anything aside from the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 spring to mind when you think of this company? And from this incident, the BP brand has become a symbol of greed, poor ethics, disastrous PR / CSR and arrogance. But has this halted their profits? No, because BP are in a niche market.

Unfortunately however, not all companies sit within the safety of a niche. If we look at high street fashion outlets for example, we can see how the COMPANY brand can have a direct impact over consumer spending.

Take Marks and Spencer for example – a great brand with good high quality products suitable for all ages. However since the brand over the years has gain such connotations with the elder population, it directly influences consumer decisions to shop there over, let’s say, Topshop!

Now Topshop is interesting – a naff brand name (top-shop!?), selling over-priced and often low quality products.

So why as a brand is it so successful!?

Because, Topshop as a clothing company has connotations with youth, high fashion and the Kate Moss glam lifestyle – something Marks and Spencer will always find hard to compete with no matter how many Twiggy’s, Lizzy Jagger’s, Take That’s and Antonio’s they throw into the mix!

And I for one will hold my hands up and say yes, I’d choose Topshop clothing over M&S any day of the week. And why? Because of the cool brand and cool clothes, obviously…..!?

But what about Primark? A bad name, a bad company and bad products….so why, as a brand, is it so successful? Well, in truth, it is not a successful brand, it is terrible! The company in itself has been successful, especially thanks to the economic downturn and consumer reluctance to spend higher prices for higher quality at stores such as Marks and Spencer.

Popularly known as “Primarni” – the ironic opposite of Armani, I believe the key to Primark’s success is that the company, the name and the products are almost so bad that they are good. Who cares about good branding, good quality and good CSR when the clothes are so cheap, moderately fashionable, and if you are lucky, may last longer than two cycles in the washing machine?  

But Primark as a brand for me at least conjures up images of cheap clothing, child labor and poor CSR . 

The bottom line for any brand it would seem then is this:

If you can’t do it bigger (Coca-Cola), better (Apple), then do it cheaper (Primark)

Working on the house today I have mainly focused on ripping out the top half of the stairs as I want it to be open-plan overlooking the living room area. I have also sanded down the wood panelling on the bottom which is going to look stunning when fully treated!

The underfloor heating and concrete is set to go into the kitchen area this weekend…so fingers crossed there may soon be a proper functioning kitchen to make cups of well earned tea!?

Next task….THE BATHROOM!

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So, on 11.11.2011, after a traumatizing mortgage application and an excruciating ten week wait, my partner Lukas and I finally got the keys to OUR FIRST HOUSE!!!

It was a momentously exciting day as we’ve both been dying to get our hands stuck into renovating the place and making it beautiful. Built in 1870, it doesn’t appear to have had any work done since around the 1960’s going by the decor and sexy fireplace…….

……and with a timescale of approximately 6 – 10 weeks, we are also on a rather tight schedule! Luckily Lukas is an engineer by trade and we are both far from afraid of putting in a bit of hard graft (as are our awesome family and friends).

So, being a quaint village cottage as the property is, we intend to keep it looking rightly so. But this theme will be complemented by a cool, contemporary edge (namely flat screens, leather sofas, under-floor heating and walk-in glass shower) perfect for a young couple like us. We also plan to rip down and lower the upstairs ceilings in preparation for a loft extension for a third bedroom, adding both value and space to the property.  

So yes, many many exciting plans, but for now at least….it mainly resembles a bomb site!!

You never really notice how many PR campaigns are integrated into your day to day life until you have a bit of knowledge or experience in the field itself. For example, this sweet but simple charity campaign “Eggs For Soldiers” caught my eye this morning whilst making my breakfast…..

Using our traditional understanding of boiled eggs and sliced bread soldiers for dipping, the phrase “Eggs For Soldiers” is cleverly turned on its head when you realise 15p of each box bought goes directly towards the Help for Heroes charity. This clever little pun therefore easily and effectively raises awareness of the charity by emphasising that the eggs bought are quite literally Eggs for Soldiers!

Simple, eye-catching and effective!

All American Muslim

Source: Aljazeera

On November 13 2011, U.S TV channel TLC is set to premiere ‘All American Muslim’: the first ever reality television show (RTV), featuring a cast made entirely of Muslim-American citizens.

According to the show, Arab-Americans make up less than 1 per cent of the U.S population. The show is set to follow five different Arab-American Muslim families in their normal everyday lives. Cast members include a Sheriff, a coach of a local football team, a businesswoman and a bride. The show is designed to challenge stereotypes and heighten awareness of the struggles the American-Muslim community faces in the balance between their “faith and nationality in a post 9/11 world”.

Whilst RTV generally has the stigma of being soft entertainment, looking at this from a PR perspective I believe this could be precisely the way to gently ease people from a state of ignorance to a state of heightened awareness of the culture.  This is an example of one of the many tasks PR practitioners often face; that being ‘what is the best tool to use to reach your audience’. People are guided by fear, and by watching these families in their ordinary everyday roles from the safety of a living room, I feel this could potentially be a very successful way of diminishing this fear of the unknown through a somewhat fun, interesting but heartfelt perspective.