Morgan – a suitable case for treatment

October 18, 2013

What price reputation?

News of the ‘divorce’ between the Morgan Car Company http://www.morgan-motor.co.uk/ and its eponymous former MD and brand champion Charles Morgan, shocked and disappointed the automotive world in equal measure this week.

A bland and largely uninformative statement http://www.morgan-motor.co.uk/mmc/downloads/pressreleases/morgantechupdate2.pdf announcing the departure of Charles, the third generation Morgan to steer the legendary car company, was contrasted by comments from Morgan himself about his intention to overturn the decision, http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry/charles-morgan-fight-morgan-motor-company-ousting-mmc-responds-updated and a Twitter profile set up by Morgan employees: https://twitter.com/mogemplyees

As with any separation, the story will be complicated, messy and may never be fully told, or at least not until someone writes their book. While money talks, share ownership has the shout – just watch any episode of Dragons’ Den, and a pound to a penny the bean counters have decided that the business will be commercially better off without Mr Morgan. But in the meantime they’ve left the brand’s reputation at risk.

Accountants don’t much care for PR, reputation, brand value, call it what you will. You can count the volume of parts in the stock room, the number of manufactured units leaving the factory gate and the positive or negative effect that and a few other things have on cash flow. While possibly and begrudgingly accepting that ‘goodwill’ might have an invisible net asset value, it’s an easy one to overlook, and besides: ‘This will soon blow over and everyone will forget what all the fuss was about….’

Or will they?

There are others better placed to talk about the history of Morgan, but surely what its customers like, why they pay handsomely and wait so patiently for their cars to be built, is that everything is so different. Different from the cut and thrust of the modern disposable nature of consumerism, yet nostalgically familiar and yes, old fashioned. Values that also include knowing that members of the family whose name appears on the badge are still running things.

So if the top man is suddenly and unceremoniously removed, what does that say about those who made such a decision, and the future of that badge?

While it might be difficult for an accountant to attribute increased orders in the sales ledger to reputation, it’ll be a lot easier to pin point the moment when sales started to decline.

The Morgan Car Company is about people not spreadsheets. The people who run it, work for it and buy its cars. It needs to talk to its audience and explain what’s going on – and quickly.

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Are you getting the most out of your PR?

October 16, 2013

Much has been said about the last few years of economic difficulty, but as we emerge from the bunker and dust off the cobwebs, what does this mean to businesses wanting to promote themselves?

A lot of change has taken place in the intervening years, both within businesses and the media, and we’ve been reflecting on what this means to organisations wanting to promote themselves as the economy starts to gather pace.

The property market is a key economic barometer and also one of our areas of specialization, so while much of our observation is centred on property the same holds true to most other sectors.

Property coverage

The value of PR

  • Press coverage helps to promote and sell good/photogenic properties
  • Builds awareness of the business
  • Enhances its reputation, especially in regard to its geographic area, field of operation and type of property sold
  • Establishes a dialogue with journalists writing about that area and type of property
  • Helps integrate press and online coverage with other social media channels – especially Twitter and Facebook
  • This consequently aids SEO and reach

What’s happened to the media over the last few years?

  • During the recession, national newspapers scaled back their property pages and supplements as their advertising revenues declined
  • This reduced the amount of editorial space, making it even harder to achieve coverage
  • Consequently, fewer journalists are employed by the principal national newspapers, and many have gone freelance and work from home
  • This has made contacting employed journalists harder
  • Knowing where freelancers are, what they specialise in and how to contact them is also difficult, partly because the newspapers won’t tell you
  • Newspapers, their journalists and freelancers are all online – blogging and on Twitter

The way most agents generally handle PR

  • Local coverage is usually easily achieved and often on the back of paid-for advertising
  • Property particulars are sometimes and randomly sent to certain national publications such as Country Life, but not on a planned or regular basis
  • Consequently few regional agents secure much national coverage

In summary

  • Communication channels have multiplied and splintered
  • The consumer is accessing information via this multitude of sources – so new media cannot be ignored
  • Finding out who is writing about what is more difficult
  • Determining the influence of journalists and bloggers is harder
  • Securing coverage is even more valuable than it was
  • Sharing and seeding coverage is vital to maximise reach and investment

With the increased complexity of reaching and communicating with your audience, it is more important than ever that your PR role is taken seriously and managed professionally.  This either means employing someone in-house with the right skills, or using a PR consultant with the knowledge, press contacts and relevant market sector experience.  With the market showing signs of recovery, now is a good time to review your current arrangements.

We have worked with a range of property businesses over the past 10 years, and helped them all to ‘punch above their weight’ by securing regular national media exposure alongside much larger players with hefty advertising spend.

Our property clients include Richmond Villages which designs, builds and operates premium retirement villages; Monte Nibbio Estates, a small portfolio of properties in Umbria; The Bay, a contemporary development of holiday homes in Cornwall; Butler Sherborn, the Cotswolds property specialist; and EcoSpace, the architect designed and original contemporary garden studios. All have successfully secured coverage through LawsonClarkePR in the likes of The Sunday Times, Daily & Sunday Telegraph, The Times and London Evening Standard.

Some examples of recent media coverage are included here, and others can be viewed at: LawsonClarke PR

We are happy to work on short, one-off projects through to planned, on-going programmes of activity, and operate to sensible budgets that deliver realistic results.

If you would like to increase your national press coverage and think an initial discussion might help, please contact us at : clarke@lawsonclarke.co.uk or call: 01285 658844


Think about your avatar

April 2, 2013

The whole social media thing evolved at such a phenomenal rate that typically when most people joined the rush to be on Facebook or Twitter they simply scrabbled around and grabbed any old image for their avatar.

Bish, bash, bosh and with little thought to strategy, it was up there for all the world to see where probably it remains to this day.

But whether you’re online as an individual, a company or brand, we’d venture to suggest that the image you choose needs a bit more consideration.

As has been commented on ad nauseam elsewhere, if you’re online you should have a strategy….or at least have given some thought as to why you’re Tweeting, on Facebook or whatever platform you’ve chosen.

For strategy, read: who, what, where, when, and most importantly – why!  Oh yes, and how?

Who do you want to communicate with?

What do you want to talk about?

Where will you be doing it – at home, work, on the move?

When and how often?

Why do you want to?

How – what tools are you going to use – laptop, desk top, iPad, smartphone, TweetDeck, HootSuite?

Which brings us back to the image or avatar.  Your avatar should be – as the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) puts it – a ‘visible manifestation of an abstract concept’.

Some Top Tips

1. As a company or brand, using your logo as it appears in the corporate identity manual seems the obvious answer – but isn’t that just a bit too corporate and obvious?  It also completely misses the point behind social media which is about engaging with your audience and joining them in conversation on the same level, not preaching to them in the authoritative manner of yore.  If you do use a logo, at least come up with a creative interpretation to help communicate the brand’s personality.

2. Your avatar should be an expression of who you are or what your company is about.  It should also be distinctive and instantly recognisable, especially as your online reputation will be associated with the visual icon you select.

3. If you choose to use a head and shoulders shot, make sure it’s clear and recognisable as you or associated in some way to what you’re writing about.  And under any circumstances, do not use a cut out from your best mate’s stag do or hen party!

4. Use the same avatar to link your profile on different channels – this will aid recognition so your friends and followers can easily find you.

Here are a couple of examples worth checking out from Twitter:

Richard Branson gets trotted out as the exemplar of ‘best practice’ for so many aspects of business, and no change here. He is the embodiment of Virgin, so no surprise he chooses an image of himself over the brand logo: @RichardBranson   @RichardBranson
 Mipaa  @MajorGav

@mipaa does use its logo, or at least part of it and creatively.

Blogger @MajorGav employs a distinctive avatar that visually communicates his subject area.

 @ButlerSherborn  @SYMotorUK

Estate agents @ButlerSherborn took the lime leaf from its identity which stands out well from the crowd.

SsangYong @SYMotorUK utilises the badge on the front of one its cars, while the colour combination is both distinctive and memorable.

5. If you’re considering refreshing your avatar or even changing it to reflect a particular initiative, season or campaign, give this careful thought.  Aim for evolution rather than a complete change to retain some identifiable element to aid recognition.  Alternatively, use an evolved image temporarily and return to the master avatar in due course.

6. If you are ever tempted to apply a Twibbon http://twibbon.com/ in support of a particular cause, do make sure you remove it afterwards. It doesn’t look good to still be sporting a Remembrance Day poppy on your avatar weeks after the event!

For more tips on ‘Creating a Better Professional Online Profile’, click here:

http://www.commpro.biz/corporate-social-media-zone/social-media-marketing/twitter-who-10-steps-to-creating-a-better-professional-online-profile/


Why the red bus?

December 18, 2012

 

 LawsonClarke Avatar

LawsonClarke avatar

We frequently get asked why we have a London bus as our Twitter and Facebook avatar.

The answer is quite simple.  We own one, in fact the very one in the photograph – Routemaster RML 2352.

That inevitably results in the next incredulous question: “What on earth do you want a bus for?” to which the answer isn’t nearly so straight forward.

The short answer lies somewhere amongst the following:

 CUV 352C doing what it did best, Marble Arch late 90s

CUV 352C doing what it did best, Marble Arch late ‘90s

  • It’s a design icon and top 10 British design classic
  • An automotive engineering masterpiece
  • A fascinating 50 year time capsule of London life since the ‘Swinging Sixties’
  • Nostalgia – like many others I used to travel home on double deckers after school and commuted on Routemasters when working in London
  • As advertising manager at Peugeot we advertised on them
 Top 10 British Design classic

Top 10 British design classic

  • They make people smile

Admittedly it’s also slightly eccentric but we cope with that!

The long answer is not only longer and involves a number of people to thank – or blame! – but probably only of interest to classic vehicle enthusiasts, so feel free to jump off here!

The story starts on the Guild of Motoring Writers’ diamond jubilee celebration classic car run to Northern Spain in September 2004.  After several days touring – we were in a 1973 Triumph TR6, a celebration dinner was held in the Centro del Vina Villa Lucia Cena in the Rioja region.  After a fair quantity of the wine cellar’s contents had been sampled, the conversation turned to what vehicle we might bring on the next Guild Classic.  On asking the rally planner Steve Brown of European Rallies Ltd (ERL) if we could have a route with a 14ft 6ins height clearance, he picked up the challenge and said “you buy it, I’ll plan it.”

Shortly afterwards, motoring journalist Brian Laban wrote a piece in the Daily Telegraph in which he compared driving a Routemaster with the Volvo VLW Wright Eclipse Gemini – Transport for London’s (TfL) then new generation ‘low-floor’ double-decker, and the now infamous Mercedes Citaro Bendi-Bus at the Millbrook Proving Ground.  In it he commented on how “astonishingly easy” the Routemaster was to drive while also providing details of where you could buy one as TfL was selling off its remaining stock of these iconic buses.  Read his piece here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/2731580/On-the-buses.html

Somewhat bizarrely – it must have been fate! – a few days later I found myself sitting next to Brian on a table hosted by Andrew Didlick, PR director of Peugeot UK at the annual Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) dinner.  Poor man was quizzed ruthlessly, but he patiently answered my questions and confirmed just how easy it was to drive.

 Routemaster Technical Data

Technical detail

Contact was made with Steve Newman of Ensign Bus, the company charged with handling the disposal of buses as each route had its Routemaster fleet de-commissioned and replaced with new vehicles.

Several visits to Ensign at Purfleet, conversations with Steve and online research narrowed the search to our preferred model, an RML.  At 30ft the ‘Routemaster Long’ is 2ft 7ins longer than the standard RM and more pleasing aesthetically than its shorter cousin.  The RML seats 72 people, eight more than the RM and is instantly recognisable from the side by its additional small centre windows on both decks.  We also wanted one powered by either a Scania or Cummins engine, the other option being an Iveco which we had been warned off for various reasons, not least because it didn’t sound like a Routemaster! (The Routemaster fleet was re-engined during the early 1990s as the original AEC units needed replacing).

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Not in great shape

We eventually found RML2352 languishing in a yard packed with old buses.  It was in less than perfect condition, but it appeared as though it wouldn’t take too much TLC to get it roadworthy and apart from a gearbox failure (!) on the day we were due to collect it, took delivery the following week – 18 July 2005. Less than a year later and with the promised height clearance, we took part in the 2006 Guild Classic to Ypres in Belgium.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Journos and PRs set off for the gala dinner  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arriving in Calais

Journos and PRs set off for the gala dinner

Fill ‘er up Jean   Claude!

Today RML2352 is as they say in classic bus vernacular ‘in preservation’.  Classed as an historic vehicle, it benefits from being free to tax and is insured complete with roadside breakdown cover for a relatively modest annual premium.  This restricts it to carrying just eight passengers, but can be driven on a car licence!

 Annual MOT test  All aboard for the LawsonClarke Christmas lunch
Annual MOT test      All aboard for the LawsonClarke            Christmas lunch


More information about the Routemaster:
 

The Bus We Loved by Travis Elborough: http://traviselborough.co.uk/books-3/the-bus-we-loved/

Routemaster Association: http://routemaster.org.uk/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Routemaster

 

Good photography for successful PR images

December 5, 2012

At a time when we all have a smartphone, it’s easy to believe that anyone can be a good photographer.

But achieving great photographs that work for your brand and communicate your key messages needs thought and consideration.

In today’s media savvy world, photography is essential both in print and increasingly online.  It used to be important for accompanying press releases or marketing collateral, but now strong images are also needed to attract and engage socially via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest et al.

In this blog we’re going to look at the basic requirements for commissioning photography primarily for print, and a future blog will look at creating ‘Images for the Internet’.

So here are 10 Top Tips to help you achieve successful images.

Know what you want

Only then can you properly brief a photographer to achieve what you’re after.  Have a vision for the images you want to achieve – even source some examples – so you can discuss this with them in advance and they can tell you whether it’s realistic.

Choosing your photographer

Work with a photographer who has the experience you need.  Start by having a good look at his or her folio or website.  Make sure they have the experience you require by subject – people, fashion, still life, sport, automotive, interiors, reportage etc – and see whether they are best suited to working on location or in a studio.  Just because someone did a great job of your sister’s wedding pictures doesn’t qualify them to take action sports shots.

What’s the story?

Remember these two sayings: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, and ‘Every picture tells a story’.  This is especially true today.  We are all now ‘time poor’, and with so much information available to us through so many different channels, everyone’s attention span is getting shorter.

Faced with hundreds of different stories, editors often select images they think will look good on the page and then decide on the copy. Help them by providing images that will enhance the look of their publications and websites – and get your story featured!

The Round House Waterside homes are a firm favourite with property journalists, and the rowing boat helps set the scene and tell the story.
Credit: Butler Sherborn

Composition

Remember that the subject or product has to be the hero of the image.  A creative shot may look great, but will people focus on what you want them to see or just an overall impression?

Also choose a background or location that complements the subject and helps communicate the story.

 Korando We needed a commercial background to promote this van version of the Korando 4×4.  While providing an attractive backdrop, the line up of JCBs also added to the story.  This portrait shaped image was designed as a possible front cover. 
Credit: SsangYong

Variety

The more different and varied images you can produce, the more likely an editor is to find a shot they like.  Remember to provide different angles, as well as shots that can be used as cut outs.

Korando - 2 Korando (off rd)-5919
Credit: SsangYong
These two shots were part of a series to illustrate this new off-road vehicle; both have featured widely in the press and online.

Format

When briefing photography for print media it is worth considering the format needed to maximise your opportunities.  Not every shot needs to be landscape (horizontal), and be sure to include some portrait (vertical) formats for possible use as a magazine front cover – editors often struggle to find images that are the right shape.  Remember to allow clear space at the top of the image for the publication’s masthead/title to be printed, as well as at the bottom or the side for cover mentions.  Think about the way the shot could be used.  If it’s for a possible double page spread (DPS) think about where the gutter (space between the columns of text) or spine (central crease) will fall on the image.  You don’t want a person’s face or a company’s badge or logo falling into this area.

Avoid stereotype images

It’s easy to create the same-old clichéd images such as pictures of two businessmen in shiny suits shaking hands as they agree a contract, hand over keys or receive an award.  Try and come up with something a bit different that will grab the editor’s attention and leap off the page.

 Owen Vaughan When Owen Vaughan, head gardener at Richmond Villages Painswick won an RHS Gardening Excellence award, we wanted a shot of him doing what he does best!
Credit: Richmond Villages


Write a brief

This needs to confirm the objectives, the type of images and their purpose.  Confirm the venue – location or studio, any props, models and materials required, as well as the budget.

Attend the shoot

See for yourself what is and isn’t achievable.  By actually looking through the lens and reviewing the images with the photographer as the shoot progresses, you’ll learn about important things such as light, shadow and background.  This will also help ensure you get the pictures you’ll be happy with.

Attention to detail

Keep looking and questioning to see what might be wrong.  For example, if a car is being driven, is the driver wearing a seat belt?  If people are involved, are they smiling, grimacing, wearing sunglasses or light sensitive glasses that darken in bright light?  Avoid these at all cost!  While retouching is always an option, you want to avoid the expense of a re-shoot.

Compiled in association with award winning photographer, Michael Bailie  http://www.michaelbailie.com/

Note:

Another blog in the near future will look at creating ‘Images for the Internet’.

©Copyright 2012


Social media* made easy

May 10, 2011

*Aka Online PR

There’s a lot of hype surrounding social media, and for many people, still much confusion.

To help get you started and ensure you get the most out of it, here are a few thoughts and ‘top tips’.

What is it?

Social media – or Online PR – is simply about having a conversation on line.  Both speaking and listening.

Many dismiss it – and especially Facebook as being just for kids, but collectively it is now a highly regarded form of business communication.

The key advance over traditional media communication is that it provides the opportunity for a two-way discussion with your stakeholders, not a one-way broadcast.  Traditionally PRs wrote press releases and spoke to journalists, but now journalists and their readers – your customers, are online, too.

The blogger has also arrived on the scene.  These can be journalists, politicians, opinion formers and pundits, or simply enthusiastic private individuals who write about things that interest them, become authoritative in their chosen subject, and because of what they are saying attract an audience.

The channels?  Many and various but primarily Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Double click on diagram to expand


Social media is not digital marketing

Social media isn’t about trying to sell you anything.  There isn’t an online shopping basket or PayPal page.  It is all about conversation, reputation and hearing what people think.  Imagine dropping into the pub for a drink or having friends round for a meal.  It’s not long before someone is recommending or deriding a product or service.  Reputations are made or lost based on third party endorsement.  So just ask yourself the question: do you know what’s being said about you, your product or brand online?  And if not, don’t you think you ought to be finding out by listening in?

Much of this relationship building work is what has been achieved by traditional PR for years.  The key difference is that now you can listen and converse directly and immediately.

So what’s the big deal?

Change happens, and arguably as in the case of social media, it now happens extraordinarily quickly.  Getting used to new ideas and new ways of doing things is just part of everyday life.

How did we cope before e-mail?  What business operates without the internet, and who doesn’t use a Blackberry or smart phone?  All have arrived and impacted on life in just a few years.

The way we communicate and do business evolves, and social media is just another new way of talking to your stakeholders, albeit in a very open and potentially global way.

Keep it simple

There are numerous computer tools and smart phone applications (apps) available to help, but to get going, we would recommend using Twitter, possibly Facebook and setting up a blog; YouTube if you can create or have access to relevant video footage, and LinkedIn is useful for professional networking.

Generation Y cut its teeth absorbing significant amounts of information from multiple sources – more so than any previous generation.  There’s less time for in-depth reading and attention levels are diminishing.  The 140 character tweet, images, video clips and web links are now the order of the day.  Short and punchy: just like a good newspaper headline.

Strategy

As with any other business investment decision, you’ll need to think about a few things first.  This will obviously vary if you are representing a company or organisation, or just engaging as an individual:

  • Why are you going online?
  • What do you want to achieve?  Set some objectives
  • Agree who will be the ‘champion’ or spokesperson
  • What are you going to talk about?
  • What do you want to measure, and how often?

Start slowly

Dip a toe in.  Set up profiles, then watch, listen and learn.  You’ll soon feel ready to join in.

Starting to Tweet

Engage when you feel ready.  As with many things, the more you put into it the more you’ll get out.

Use it to network, to conduct research and find out what people think. It’s also valuable for accessing news, from topics of global importance to what’s happening in your neck of the woods, geographically or professionally.  You can search for any topic.

Trust your instincts

If you understand the basic principles of media communication you’ll be fine.

The same rules apply as for writing a press release.  News is still the number one reason for engaging, so be concise, keep the language simple, direct and to the point, and avoid overt advertising puffs.  If writing corporately, avoid personal views and opinions unless expressed as a statement from the company.

Check what you’re saying

Check spelling and grammar and keep it clean and legal!  The law applies to online just as it does to printed media.

Generate traffic

Make sure you include links to – and from your website, blog, online press office and all social media locations so there’s a virtuous circle. Add hyperlinks to the sign-off of your e-mails, and include the addresses on promotional literature, signage etc.

Double click on diagram to expand

Measurement

You can measure your engagement in a variety of ways, and thereby validate the investment.  This can include:

  • Number of hits directed to your website
  • Number of followers on Twitter
  • Number of Facebook fans or ‘likes’
  • Number of customer complaints intercepted and satisfied, especially if you have turned a negative tweeter to a positive advocate
  • Number of YouTube viewings
  • Number of new bloggers writing positively – qualitative measures are also invaluable

What does it cost?

Here’s the good news – it’s free!  Well it is if you do it yourself.  If you employ a consultant to advise or manage it for you, expect to pay for their time, and only you can put a value on that and decide.

Getting help

Online PR – as with traditional PR, is fundamentally about reputation and relationship management, so a PR consultancy with social media experience or a specialist social media agency is where to head for, not a website designer or online marketing agency.

Just grasp the nettle – Don’t be afraid, you’ll soon be a natural!

Need to know more?

Follow us on Twitter, check out our website lawsonclarke.com or mail Jeremy Clarke at clarke@lawsonclarke.co.uk

©LawsonClarke Ltd