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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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/


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


Modesty prevents….

September 17, 2010

Yeah, like that’s going to happen!

Leading independent consumer motoring website, honestjohn.co.uk, has analysed six months of Twitter data to reveal the car manufacturers that are tweeted about the most, which models are frequently mentioned and which industry figures are the most influential.

The results can be seen at: http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/twitter.

And at no. 10 in ‘The Top 20 motor industry influencers’ is…. you guessed it. (Scroll down if you didn’t!)

Their press release continues:

Those car companies that perform well are not just being mentioned on Twitter, but are actively influencing others, with research showing that it’s not just about building up a massive follower base, either. Although some of the most influential people identified through the research have a large follower base, others don’t. The most successful Tweeters influence the influencers, rather than speak to an audience that isn’t listening.

Top of the pile is Toyota’s Head of PR, Scott Brownlee, who used Twitter to great effect earlier in the year to keep owners updated with news of the brake pedal recall, in addition to more traditional forms of communication. Other top tweeters include Silverstone Race Circuit and the Driving Standards Authority – both of which really connect with their audiences.

“Having an authentic voice on Twitter is becoming crucial for any company that wants to actively communicate with those buying and owning its cars,” explained Daniel Harrison, Editor, HonestJohn.co.uk. “Those companies who are engaging with people are those that are leaving a lasting impression on them.

“There has been a lot of research done in the past into what’s causing a buzz on Twitter – in politics for instance. But this is the first time that anyone’s looked into the motor industry – despite its size and importance. At HonestJohn.co.uk we found this lack of insight into motoring tweeters rather strange, so we have compiled the top motor industry tweets.

“This breakdown finally sheds some light as to who and what have captured the imagination on Twitter. But, things change quickly, so we’ll be updating this in coming months”, concluded Daniel Harrison.

The Honestjohn.co.uk analysis has been broken down into three sections:

Most mentioned models
Top 20 motor industry influencers
Most used words in the bios of @_honestjohn followers

http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/twitter


Top 20 UK Motor Industry Influencers**

1. @ToyotaPR // Head of PR for Toyota and Lexus in the UK

2. @SilverstoneUK// The UK’s premier motorsport venue

3. @DSAgovuk// Official Twitter channel of the Driving Standards Agency (DSA)

4. @NissanUKPR // Press office team for Nissan in the UK – Gabi, Linda & Gloria

5. @valvo // PR Manager for Toyota and Lexus in the UK

6. @AstonMartin // The official home of Aston Martin on Twitter

7. @AutomotivePR// Specialist PR Agency, providing services to the global motor industry

8. @UKNissanLEAF// Official Twitter for Nissan LEAF in the UK.

9. @Andy_Francis// Co-founder of sports and auto PR agency

10. @LawsonClarke// Twitter Stream from Jeremy Clarke of Lawson Clarke

11. @Honda_UK // Tweets from Steve Kirk at Honda (UK) on cars, motorcycles and power equipment

12. @grouplotusplc// Group Lotus plc – Manufacturers of the renowned lightweight performance sportscars

13. @JaguarUKPR // The Jaguar UK PR team and press office

14. @SEAT_cars_UK// Mike Orford – Head of PR for SEAT in the UK

15. @suzanne_tennant// Ex Fifth Gear now @ Golley Slater PR

16. @TomHyundai // PR Manager of Hyundai UK

17. @InsideVolvoUK// Official Twitter feed for Volvo Cars UK

18 @AlfaRomeo_UK// Official updates from various Tweeples in the Alfa Romeo UK PR team

19. @smartfortwoUK// Official smart car news and views from smart UK

20. @MercedesBenzUK// Official Mercedes-Benz news from the UK head office in Milton Keynes


**Calculated by analysing the ratio between activity, mentions and re-tweets.





Brabantia Increases Online Presence via LawsonClarke PR

May 5, 2010

BrabantiaLife blog

BrabantiaLife blog

BrabantiaLife blog – Twitter – Facebook – Flickr

Brabantia is taking a lead in the housewares industry by embracing social media into its communications. Working with its longstanding PR consultancy, LawsonClarke PR, the brand is launching a combination of coordinated online channels – a blog, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

Designed to help communicate with consumers around the globe, the new initiative is intended to help ensure the brand listens to and engages with relevant discussions taking place online.

Brabantia Life blog – http://www.brabantialife.com

The new Brabantia blog – which can be seen at http://www.brabantialife.com – is presented in an easily accessible lifestyle format, and includes a range of hints, tips and comments on colour, design and domestic life, as well as news and information about Brabantia products.

Intended to be both fun and informative, there are competitions and timely musings on what’s current, and people are encouraged to join in, comment, make suggestions, post pictures and even do some guest blogging.

In fact, guest bloggers have already provided their ‘tip-top tips’ on spring cleaning for busy mums & dads, how to use a dishwasher and keep your glassware sparking, and even offered a clever idea on where to store your replacement bin bags. There have also been posts on the contentious subject of Marmite cereal bars, about sparkling Australian red wine, and this month’s colour for Colour Your Bin.

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/brabantialife

The company is tweeting on Twitter as @BrabantiaLife and invites you to come and ‘follow’ what’s being shared and discussed by signing up and joining in.

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/brabantialife

There’s a Brabantia fan page on Facebook where news and views are shared, and which is already attracting fans from around the world.

Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/brabantialife

Finally you can find and post images and videos on Flickr, the useful file sharing site if you ever need a Brabantia image.

Said David Slater, sales director of Brabantia UK: “The communication world is constantly evolving. The internet and social media now give people far more open and participative relationships with their friends, family and colleagues, and this also extends to the products and brands they favour. It’s now about dialogue rather than the one way delivery of marketing messages, and in partnership with LawsonClarke we’re fully engaging with these changes.”

Added Jeremy Clarke, managing director of LawsonClarke PR: “We have seen Brabantia, its products and the media landscape evolve over the 20 years we have worked together, but the speed with which communication has changed in the past 24 months has been unprecedented. It’s very rewarding to see such a well established brand adapt to this new media so quickly.”


It’s media, Jim, but not as we know it

February 9, 2010
Okay, let’s get the bad news out of the way.  In 2009, traditional ‘dead wood’ printed media had a torrid time: thelondonpaper – folded; LondonLite – gone; Evening Standard – now free; Birmingham Post – reduced from daily to weekly.

All these developments took place in just a matter of weeks, but what’s next and what are the implications for PRs?

Global advertising spend was predicted to fall by around 10% by the end of 2009, with the UK worst hit with a fall of around 13.1%, and a decline of 2.5% forecast in 2010.

From a PR perspective that means less editorial space and fewer employed journalists to talk to, making it a lot harder to get your news covered and your features placed.

But there is good news, and that is that we’ve seen an exponential growth in citizen media with online communities increasingly breaking news and emerging as key influencers. 

With 58.4 million global visitors in September 2009 (excluding mobile or desktop app usage), Twitter is being adopted as a mainstream communication channel, offering PR opportunities for monitoring rising trends, talking with influencers, and broadcasting news, both directly and through social media’s powerful word of mouth.

Internet advertising is expected to grow 9%, and that will drive the traditional media to look for new on-line outlets.

On-Line PR has really taken off in the past 12 months, resulting in new opportunities as both ‘branded’ on-line news channels increase their presence, and ‘citizen journalists’ also extend their influence. A year ago, few of us had even heard of Twitter but it is already favoured by Fortune 100 companies (54%) over corporate blogs (32%) and Facebook (29%) as the social media platforms of choice.

Twitter has seen a 3 digit growth in 2009, and was on track to reach 18 million users by the end of the year. It is claimed that 19% of internet users in the USA are already on Twitter.

In the UK as elsewhere, Twitter is being adopted as a mainstream two-way communication channel, both for talking to the media, and as a way the media can talk to their audience.

What’s the evidence?

  • Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy invites the Twitteratti to give him interview questions ahead of news programmes
  • Chris Evans features Twitter reaction on his Radio2 Breakfast show – instant feedback, live on-air
  • Fifth Gear sought Twitter consensus before deciding to send Vicki Butler-Henderson on a car launch
  • Car magazines – trade and consumer – are talking to their readers as well as manufacturers, and Tweet frenetically from motor shows and car launches
  • PRs are releasing news and images on Twitter ahead of sending out press releases. Tuned-in journalists are therefore getting a heads-up on news before their competitors
  • The Today programme Tweets about what’s coming up, and how a particular programme or interview went
  • Tuned-in journalists follow PR Twitter sites to gather news and to keep in touch with the rumour mill

In terms of crisis PR management, the term Twitterstorm has been coined for the instant and voluble feedback to things an audience has an opinion on. Just ask Jan Moir/Daily Mail about Stephen Gately; AA Gill about shooting baboons; and lawyers Carter Ruck about Trafigura and The Guardian.

Meanwhile, to maximise the communication around its recalls crisis, Toyota GB employed almost every form of on-line PR to stay in touch with its stakeholders; from YouTube video statements from its MD, to Tweets to customers, dealers and the media. This level of transparency and openness had never been seen before, and won the PR team much support and admiration from the specialist press and the industry, including their competitors.

So what does this mean for PRs?

Clearly social media is not just a fad.  The clued-up are already fully immersed, communicating direct 24:7 with online media and new influencers, refining their contact lists of journalists and bloggers and actively embracing Twitter et al into their PR programmes.

And more importantly, keeping tabs on the next new change lurking just around the corner.

It’s not media as we knew it, but, if you’re not engaged with this rapid level of evolution, you’ll probably be changing your career.

This article has appeared in marketing and PR magazine The Drum http://www.thedrum.co.uk/indepth/1961-the-pr-impact-of-a-dying-press, and an edited version was published in the Winter 2010 issue of revolve, the members’ magazine of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA),  https://lawsonclarke.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/mipaa-text4.doc.   It has also appeared on Fresh Business Thinking http://www.freshbusinessthinking.com/business_advice.php?AID=4838&Title=

You can follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/LawsonClarke

© – LawsonClarke Ltd, February 2010