I'm sure I'm not the only one who likes to watch the odd repeat of Fawlty Towers - the series never seems to lose its appeal.
I recently saw (once again) the well known episode Communication Problems, which revolves around a demanding lady who is hard of hearing and refuses to turn her hearing aid on and waste the battery, a forgetful Major, the Spanish waiter Manuel, whose grasp of English is of course very limited, and a win on the horses that Basil wants to keep secret from Sybil.
As well as being hilarious, the confusion which results all boils down - as the title suggests - to communication problems. It is stating the obvious I know, but when it is demonstrated in a classic comedy, it is always worth highlighting by those of us in PR that communications is a two way process. It requires a message to be transmitted clearly and received and understood. Without both sides of the equation, it is likely to fail.
Often in business, people wax lyrical about their industry, company or product, but with little regard for the audience they are communicating too. What turns you on can just as easily turn someone else off. Working at Ethos, a large part of my job is about bringing both sides together to ensure the communication process is effective and that the right message reaches the right people. Sounds simple - but as Fawlty Towers ably demonstrates, communication is never easy!
Now, what did you expect to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window?!
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted at 12:05pm on 22nd November 2012
Within an hour or so of an article appearing in The Telegraph last week saying that The Guardian is 'seriously discussing' an end to its printed edition, Guardian columnist Roy Greenslade had blogged to say 'that The Guardian isn't about to do any such thing'. But in the same week, US-based news magazine Newsweek announced it will be shelving the print edition from the end of 2012. So, in all this, is there something that might mark the beginning of the end of paper newspapers and news magazines?
Ever since the advent of broadband, websites of all type have been developing apace. Where once you had to wait for ages for dial up to download an image, most of us now have easy access to news, photos and even videos in a matter of seconds.
The media has been grappling with the business challenges thrown up by online news dissemination. Even for those of us in PR we have seen how online publishing has changed the way we do our job.
For example, we can now upload and distribute press releases and high resolution photos via our own website and social media channels long before a print publication can turn the story into tomorrow's 'chip paper'.
Newspapers have kept hold of their paper versions for longer than many technical trade journals, which were amongst the first publications to go 'online only'. In fact, many of them have never been paper versions, they started their published existence as online publications.
Fundamentally, I suppose it does not matter to the reader how they get their news. However, for those that work at the printing presses, they will, no doubt, see it very differently.
The move to digital publishing is inevitable. Only Luddites are going to smash up the PCs, tablets and smart phones in a vain hope to save the presses.
As consumers we are going to have to come to terms with the slow disappearance of newsstands, or at least in the way they look now. Who knows, maybe we will pop into the newsagents of the future to grab a 'chip' containing an overnight digest of world news but even that would be a type of physical 'newspaper'. More likely we will just view it online, but the real challenge in this format is the increasing assumption that news is free.
And here The Guardian and others have made a rod for their own back. For the past few years their content has been paid for in the physical paper and free on their website. How will consumers find the prospect of a paywall on a website that was previously free?
Maybe newspaper publishers will find a half way house, by maybe just printing on profitable days so that readers buy a once or twice weekly round-up of analysis and opinion and get the news delivered online for free.
But surely this type of model is just repeating the whole process over again. In another few years, the newspapers will probably feel obliged to offer the analysis part for free. At that stage surely the print version will die.
As I look at my desk with its piles of paper, mostly magazines and newsprint, I feel a slight sadness at the prospect of no printed news. But then my desk also has a PC, tablet and smart phone on it. And I am no Luddite.
Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted at 2:39pm on 23rd October 2012
It occurred to me last week, as I doggedly tried to force my Facebook log in details into my Twitter sign in page, just what a nightmare it is these days with all the passwords and log in details we need to remember.
I suppose, from a personal point of view, it's not too bad, as I tend to have one or two sets of details that I use regularly. However, once I include all the client accounts that we now manage at Ethos public relations - from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and website back offices - it mushrooms into dozens. No wonder it gets confusing!
In fact, if I add in all the log in details I use for my utility bills and other online services, as well as my PC, phone and email, I worked out that I use at least 40 sets of sign in details on a regular basis!
So, as I broke into a cold sweat last week thinking someone had changed our Facebook details without me knowing, or that I was losing it completely, I suppose I shouldn't have worried too much - with all those combinations to run through, it's not surprising I get them wrong sometimes.
Now what are the sign in details needed for me to upload this blog? (If you're reading this, I must have remembered!)
Image courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net
Posted at 3:59pm on 17th September 2012
It was sad to hear about the recent death of Lord Morris of Manchester, the prominent disability rights campaigner and former Minister for the Disabled.
Without Alf Morris’s determination to see legislation put in place to give disabled people the rights they deserve, this country would be a very different place today.
Everything from discrimination law to access to buildings, as far as it concerns disabled people, can be traced back in some way to the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act that Lord Morris steered through Parliament just over 40 years ago. This was the first legislation in the world to recognise and give rights to people with disabilities. I am sure I am not alone in being profoundly grateful for the pioneering work he did.
Lord Morris was also a lifelong supporter of the Co-operative Movement, serving as a Co-operative MP as well as a Labour one, and this commitment was recognised in 1995 when he became Co-operative Congress President.
As the London Paralympics approaches, we’re set to see the biggest celebration of “disabled” ability ever in this country, and I for one hope the games will show just what disabled people can achieve when given the right support and opportunities.
Disabled people are often wrongly perceived as not being able to contribute their fair share to society and the economy, and are sometimes portrayed as being solely dependent on the state or other people. I think this is mainly an image created by certain sections of the media, as I know from personal experience, and from working with charities and other disabled people, what a huge contribution disabled people can make if given the chance.
Thanks Alf for giving disabled people the opportunity to shine and I’m sure we will all be just as inspired by the Paralympians in a few weeks time as we were by the Olympians in the last couple of weeks (if not more so!).
Image courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted at 9:27am on 16th August 2012
For the duration of my career in public relations (albeit short) I have always aimed to build good relationships with journalists.
A couple of the team from Ethos public relations recently attended a very insightful networking event with Stephanie McGovern from BBC Breakfast, who talked about how to catch her attention when emailing across story ideas and, conversely, what not to email her about.
Having a journalism degree and experiencing first hand life in a busy newsroom myself, I know that it is common knowledge that journalists can sometimes become frustrated with some PR professionals, but I think it’s safe to say that the frustration often comes from us PR people too.
Working in communications is very rewarding, and there’s nothing better than seeing your client’s name in the paper or a magazine, knowing that you’ve worked hard to get it there.
However on a number of occasions, I have found myself unfortunately snubbed by a seemingly nice journalist and their team of sub-editors. For example on one recent occasion, I pitched a great case study on behalf of a client, and the journalist happily confirmed they would use it that week. Needless to say it was not all as it seemed, and I discovered whilst reading the printed article a few days later, that my client had not been mentioned once!
It is very frustrating when all your hard work seems to have gone to waste, and even more frustrating, as someone who is a big supporter of traditional journalism, to know that this is actually quite commonplace in the newsroom.
I know that journalists are sent hundreds of press releases a day, and particularly at smaller local papers where reporters are few, they may not have the time or the resources to go out there and find a story the good old fashioned way. It’s much easier to just grab a decent press release from your inbox, add your own by-line, then hand it to the editor to go in tomorrow’s paper. I’m not saying this is what all journalists do now, far from it.
I guess what I’m saying is that if a journalist is going to use a press release written by someone else, at least credit them or the client they are representing. We are, in a way, doing journalists a favour and saving them a lot of time by essentially handing them a story on a plate, at least give us something in return!
The British press are enduring a tough time at the moment, and this is why I think it is important that the media really step up their game.
I have had the privilege of being taught by, and working with, some fantastic journalists who are an absolute credit to the industry – it is these people that we rely on to keep doing what they are doing and to show us, and the public, that ‘decent’ journalism is in safe hands.
Posted at 3:13pm on 20th July 2012
These days, we take it for granted that we can just turn on the TV and watch live news, sport or entertainment from around the world. Only half a century ago, this would have been impossible.
Although there wasn’t much coverage of it in the UK media, exactly 50 years ago this week, Telstar 1, the first active communications satellite went into orbit. The day after the launch by NASA, on 10 July 1962, the first telephone call by satellite was made, then the first fax by satellite was sent, the first images and video were transmitted, and the first live transatlantic TV broadcast took place. The rest, as they say, is history…
To me, the legacy of Telstar, as well as Sputnik – the first artificial satellite launched in 1957 – and the other early satellites, is just mind boggling. In fact, I think it is impossible to overestimate the impact of satellites on our life today. They do so many things – from communications to navigation to meteorology and much, much more – but basically they just make transmitting information around the world faster and easier. Without satellites, global interaction would be a fraction of what it is today. Maybe I’m being a bit too ‘romantic’ about it all, but I think satellites are one of history’s greatest inventions.
And although I’m not old enough to remember its release in 1962, the Tornados’ song Telstar keeps going round in my head as I write this (you’ll know the tune if you hear it!) The song was inspired by the satellite and featured a clavioline – one of the first electronic keyboards – and various other sound effects to give it an ‘out of space’ feel. It was a massive hit worldwide and shows just what a big impact the first communications satellite had on the popular imagination at the time.
So the next time you pick up your mobile phone or turn on your sat nav, think of Telstar and the communications revolution it started!
Image courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted at 2:03pm on 12th July 2012
Ever since The Co-operative Bank introduced free banking to customers remaining in credit back in 1974, the concept of paying for my current account has never crossed my mind. Why would it?
But now Andrew Bailey, a director at the Bank of England who soon takes the reigns as the City's top regulator, has said that free banking is dangerous and needs to be reformed.
His argument is that the idea of free banking misleads customers because they cannot see how their account is being paid for while at the same time, he argues, banks themselves may not understand the costs associated with running the ‘free’ accounts.
Leaving aside the issue of how increasingly people seem to want something for nothing, it seems hard to believe that banks – financial institutions, after all – are not aware of the cost of providing their retail offer. Knowing the real price of a service you offer, seems to me to be one of the first rules of running a good business.
And as for the thesis from Mr Bailey that banks mis-sold products because of the lack of transparency in current account charges, well I have news for the sector. You CAN market responsibly! It requires a corporate decision about how to run a responsible business. It’s not rocket science, just an understanding that a good long-term business needs good long-term customers, not customers seen as a quick cash cow.
But the reason I expect ‘free’ banking on a current account is that I am essentially lending my money to the bank at no interest, the least I can expect for my loyalty is that the bank looks after it for free.
We certainly need to re-instil a sense of worth rather than a focus on ‘free’ across a range of sectors, but in banking it seems we might be in danger of swapping ‘free’ banking for consumers for paid for loans to banks!
Posted at 3:05pm on 24th May 2012
We are 14 years old. Now, compared to many businesses, that makes Ethos public relations a spring chicken, but in the public relations industry 14 years is pretty middle-aged.
During those years, business has changed rather a lot. Back in 1998 there was a newly elected government that promised an end to boom and bust and there was a sense of excitement and positivity about business. Fourteen years later the country (not to mention much of the world) is still trying to recover from one of the biggest economic ‘busts’ in history.
Technologically, much has happened in the business environment – who could have imagined in the late 1990s that people would use their mobile phones to check email; that they would tweet messages to an audience across the world and that book sales would move so significantly to online sites – not to mention that books are increasingly read on electronic readers?
In the PR industry we have all had to try and keep abreast of these developments and at Ethos public relations we have always tried to be first adopters of good practice in social media.
But the one thing that has remained constant has been our commitment to both our clients and the wider community. Since 1998 we have had a set of social objectives which outline how we want to conduct our business. These objectives help us define how we should act in certain circumstances. They are as applicable in the good times as they are in the middle of an economic downturn.
As we break open a small bottle of lemonade to celebrate 14 years in business – well, we had Champagne on our 10th Birthday – I can’t help thinking that if some of the banks and big businesses had the same commitment to their people and local communities as we have, we might not be in the economic situation we are in.
Posted at 8:25am on 5th April 2012
I have just paid for my TV licence for the year ahead and it made me think about the BBC and the media coverage they have been receiving over the past few years.
They have faced a number of challenges – such as the MediaCityUK move and high salaries for celebrities – but I feel that much of the criticism the Corporation has faced has been unfair and, in some instances, quite nasty. They have had a bit of a battering from all sides and that is why I think people should lay off the BBC.
As a service that is funded through its viewers, the BBC of course has to meet and reflect the needs and desires of its funders. I feel however that a lot of the flak they have had to take has been unjust – and from certain organisations with a selfish agenda.
Ever since the BBC announced that it was moving some services from London to MediaCityUK in Salford, it has been attacked by people questioning the move. I have always fully supported the move and when I visited the site I was very impressed by what they have done.
Although London has many great points, I think that the people who don’t appreciate the positives of MediaCityUK are being short-sighted. The North West has some of the best football teams in the country, it produces some of the country’s best music and some of the UK’s best loved shows are made here. People need to appreciate that the BBC stands for British Broadcasting Corporation, so it needs to reflect all of Britain, not just one city in the south east of England.
In addition to MediaCityUK heralding a new era of regionally-based national broadcasting, the BBC also boasts a very popular and informative website whilst producing new creative, entertaining, educational and engaging programmes that meet the varying needs and interests of its viewers.
To meet these needs and interests the BBC has to pay a certain price for top talent. Whether you think Chris Moyles or Graham Norton deserve their hefty wage, or if their pay is ‘right’ in such difficult economic times, is a whole other argument – however I don’t see people complaining when ITV or Simon Cowell pay even more money to their stars.
To produce quality shows you need quality actors and presenters. A hefty pay cut could hamper the Corporation’s ability to produce shows that millions of people love – is this really what the complainers want?
It seems to me that, when it comes to media coverage, the BBC are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
Everyone who pays their licence fee is allowed to complain and deserves to have their voice heard – and they have lots of channels to do this. As we all know, it is impossible to keep everyone happy all of the time but it just seems to me that people want to fling complaints at the BBC over anything and see what sticks.
The BBC is envied around the world yet it seems to get a tough time in the UK. The British are good at attacking success stories but this time I really think they should stop and give BBC bashing a rest.
Posted at 9:37am on 30th March 2012
I am looking forward to a couple of days at home this weekend. Last weekend, and the one before, saw me travelling across the UK – for a mixture of business and pleasure – from the Menai Straits in North Wales to Lowestoft on the North Sea coast. In between, I visited Reading, London and Norwich.
I enjoy travelling around the UK – especially when it is by train and you can take in all the scenery and wildlife from the comfort of your seat, as well as catching up on work and emails.
This epic journey gave me plenty of time for thinking between meetings and, as I sat on the train to Norwich passing the site of the soon to take place Olympics in London, I couldn’t help thinking back to an afternoon on Bangor Pier the week before.
Before paying the princely sum of 30 pence for admission, I noticed there was a plaque proudly marking the reopening of the pier in 1988. This beautiful pier was reopened following a restoration project managed by the then Manpower Services Commission’s (MSC) Community Programme. Today, sadly, the pier, which was constructed for the grand total of £17,000, is facing a shortfall of up to £1 million for its ongoing maintenance.
The Olympic site is rightly held up as a case study in regeneration for a previously deprived part of east London, but from the train window you see so many other places across the UK desperately in need of cash.
In this time of austerity, of course, there has to be some prioritisation of projects, but the recreation of something akin to the MSC, which could utilise the energy and time of trainees and the unemployed, should surely be on the agenda. Not only would this help preserve some of the UK’s greatest physical assets, but would provide meaningful job opportunities and on-the-job training for those who really need it.
Posted at 10:13am on 15th March 2012
As a thirty-something who fondly remembers tea-time as a kid watching and thoroughly enjoying the ITV children’s quiz favourite, Blockbusters, I was sad to hear that its legendary host, Bob Holness had died at the age of 83.
Blockbusters had a simple but winning formula, in which sixth-form contestants would answer a series of questions based on letters of the alphabet and no weekday was complete without the half hour show!
The news of Bob’s death also brought back memories of what a truly great, lighthearted show it was – what with the hand jive and gold run, and who could forget the comedy classic - “Can I have a P please Bob?”
Bob Holness became a massive hit with school and undergraduate viewers, who helped to swell the ITV show’s ratings to 11.5million at its peak.
I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Holness and his wife, Mary, when I was a student studying journalism at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.
Blockbusters came to our Student Union and after the main event, myself and a fellow journalism student went behind the scenes to interview Bob and what a genuinely smashing bloke he was!
A very modest man, Bob was a delight to talk to and I remember him being really enthusiastic about the fact that we were studying journalism at university and he was very positive about the media industry as a whole.
But the main aspect, which was totally obvious from speaking to Bob, was just how much he loved being the host of Blockbusters from 1983 to 1993 and he really did deserve to achieve his cult status at the helm of the show.
A talented and much-loved presenter, Bob will be missed. But as many people continue to pay their tributes to the legend, at least we can rest in the knowledge that his memory will live on as Blockbusters can be seen on digital TV channel, Challenge, which airs a number of the old classics, including Play Your Cards Right and 3-2-1.
I for one will be tuning in.
Posted at 10:54am on 10th January 2012