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).


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/



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


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


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.


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/


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

©Copyright 2012

LawsonClarke promotes Bond ‘double agent’ turned author

November 22, 2012

With all the talk of Skyfall, the latest Bond film at the moment, we thought we’d take the opportunity to share the recent news of our very own Bond link – actress Fiona Fullerton who played KGB double agent Pola Ivanova in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill

We have known Fiona for a number of years, originally through our work in the property world and were delighted when she approached us to launch her new book Dear Fiona – Letters from a Suspected Soviet Spy this autumn.  Initially the brief covered just print media, but as the project progressed Fiona also asked us to handle broadcast media.

The story of a high profile, glamorous actress having a ‘pen friend’ relationship with a real suspected and imprisoned Soviet spy sounds both romantic and unlikely.  But this true story is a fascinating insight into both their lives and how they supported each other against all odds and forged a 30 year friendship.  We won’t spoil the ending, but it really is an amazing read and has had great reviews.

We achieved some fantastic results including BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 2 and Radio 4, BBC South Today,  as well as coverage in The Daily Mail, Woman and Home and regional print media and radio nationwideSo we just thought we’d share a snippet of the editorial coverage we achieved here.

Double click on images to view


The overall campaign gained an Opportunity To See (OTS) of an audience in excess of 30 million.  For those of you not in the PR world, this literally means the number of people who had the opportunity to see, read or watch coverage of the book launch!

Neither shaken nor stirred by having to give all those press interviews, Fiona was very happy with the resulting media exposure for the book which is already selling well.


How happy are you with your PR?

January 25, 2012

Journalists can be a very critical lot, and have high expectations of the service they receive from PR people.  So we asked 100 consumer journalists what they thought about the service they receive from us. 

“If you attended LawsonClarke’s recent press event, how useful did you find it?”


Very Useful or Useful


Neither Useful nor Unuseful



“How satisfied are you with the quality of the press release writing?” 93.3%Very Satisfied or Satisfied

6.7%Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied



“When contacting the LawsonClarke press office, how satisfied are you with the overall service including response and the level of product knowledge?” 90.3%

Very Satisfied or Satisfied


Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied


 Additional positive feedback:

 “I received price info and high-res images almost immediately after requesting, very pleased with the service.” Sainsbury’s Magazine

“I have worked with the Lawson Clarke team for many years and have always received a fast and professional service.” SHE Magazine

“Keep up the good work!” Freelance journalist

“Extremely happy with the professional, efficient and friendly service that Lawson Clarke has always supplied over the years.  Long may it continue.” Freelance journalist

If you’d like to improve your brand’s relationship with the press, improve your reputation or discuss any other aspect of your PR communication, just get in touch with us.

PR Interview with Jeremy Clarke, MD, LawsonClarke PR

May 31, 2011

Reproduced from FeaturesExec Media Bulletin, 31 May 2011: http://www.featuresexec.com/bulletin/news.php?newsid=XiEig

Every fortnight, our PR interviews profile an agency head to find out more about their work, their clients and working with the press. Jeremy Clarke, managing director of consumer agency LawsonClarke PR, shares his advice on choosing a PR consultancy and using social media.

About the agency

What areas of PR does the agency specialise in?

LawsonClarke PR is primarily a consumer agency, specialising in automotive, property, home interest and lifestyle, which embraces everything from travel, children’s interests, sport, health & wellbeing. The business was founded in 1981 – 30 years ago this year, and has broadly remained in these market categories, although property has developed strongly as a core pillar over the past five years.

What is special about your agency’s approach to PR?

We have a dedicated team of experienced consultants – not uni-fresh youngsters – who work hard and see things from both the client’s and journalist’s perspective. We know what both parties want to achieve, and aim to meet these requirements quickly, effectively and cost efficiently.

How do you ensure clients get the right coverage in the press?

I believe we have a fairly relaxed approach to how we work with journalists, by working with them rather than bombarding them with material they’re not interested in! We start by targeting the right people – increasingly freelancers, finding out what they want, tailoring our clients’ news and having secured their interest, bending over backwards to meet their timescale and need for interviews/quotes/hi-res images etc.

We say that half the job is about being proactive, the other half reactive which simply means having an effective press office in place to help. Journalists often say they come back to us because they know they’ll get what they want quickly and efficiently, which isn’t the case with many other agencies.

What do you look for in new recruits?

Experience, enthusiasm, commitment and flexibility.

We only field specialist consultants – either with particular market sector experience or communication skills – who get the job done without the fluff and flaff!

About clients

What advice would you give to clients choosing a PR consultancy?

There’s a lot for a client to think about when appointing an agency, and I’ve touched on many of these points in my recent blog post, ‘Choosing a PR consultancy and getting it right’.

While relevant experience, creativity, knowing the press, a successful track record and social media skills are all important, chemistry seems to be the clincher for most enduring client/consultancy relationships. Finding a fair and equitable budget level that meets the expectations of both parties also removes the angst that can scupper a relationship further down the line.

Tell us about the clients you are working with at the moment. What sectors are they in, and how are the campaigns for them going?

Brabantia the housewares brand has been a client for over 20 years, but there’s always something new to talk about. Last year we took them in to social media in a big way, launching @BrabantiaLife on Twitter, a blog, Facebook and Flickr. This year the brand is broadening its offer by moving into casual dining, and we have a major press launch next month at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Richmond Villages has been a client for several years. The company designs, builds and operates luxury retirement villages. We are profiling the company’s five villages and positioning them for their aspirational lifestyle, and with great success. Coverage in the last week has appeared in key target media such as The Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Lady.

SsangYong is a Korean car company and has appointed us to help profile the brand in the UK, and launch its new crossover model, the Korando. We have been involved on a ‘soft launch’ of Korando which started with an international press preview in Mallorca, resulting in some extremely positive media coverage, including an unprecedented seven pages in Autocar.

Clients Butler Sherborn, Ecospace, Manningford Croft, and The Bay at Talland keep us busy on the property front. With a wide variety of stories – from million-pound country properties, to eco homes and designer garden offices, we have had a lot of different angles to pitch to the national and consumer property media, and again with spot-on targeted results.

Is there a potential client you’d love to work for?

We have worked with major corporates, international brands, public sector clients and SMEs (small and medium size enterprises), and for us, doing satisfying work for appreciative clients who we enjoy working with and for a fair return is the name of the game. It’s certainly not about massaging our egos by representing brand x, y or z.

Which campaign are you most proud of?

Our ongoing work for Brabantia is continually satisfying. As the brand has evolved its product range in line with developing trends in design, food, cooking and casual living, we have adapted our messages and outputs to the media, which has itself evolved by spawning a raft of new consumer titles focusing on theses areas, as well as online.

About you

Do you use social media? If so, how useful do you find it?

I was an early adopter of Twitter and definitely an advocate of social media, or online PR as I prefer to call it. My recent blog post entitled ‘Social media made easy’ is designed to help those not yet using it or who remain unconvinced, and to demonstrate that it’s only a small step on from using e-mail or the internet.

Useful? It’s invaluable, and I use it for keeping current and building relationships; we’ve even been offered work by tweet!

Do you attend networking events? If so, which are you attending soon?

As someone once said to me, “You can’t do PR from behind a desk” – meaning you’ve got to get out there. I try to attend a varied mix of events – professional, sectoral, regional. You never know what you’re going to learn and who you’re going to meet. As a member of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association http://www.mippa.com I attend a number of their events which can be training focused (currently on social media), meeting other PRs or journalists.

My next, albeit slightly unusual networking event will be taking my old TR6 sports car on the annual Guild of Motoring Writers classic car trip to France; it’s a great opportunity to catch up with motoring hacks in a relaxed environment without a story pitch being involved!

Extra Information

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.


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


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