Crisis Communications – The Kay Burley Effect – latest csuite podcast

Current CIPR President and MD of Pinch Point Communications, Sarah Pinch, Stephen Humphreys, Director of Communications at the Food Standards Agency and Andrew Vincent, Associate Partner at Instinctif Partners joined me last Wednesday as I returned to the studios of my old company, markettiers4dc, to record Show 9 in the CIPR’s Social Media Panel c-suite podcast series, with Social Media’s impact on Crisis Communications on this month’s agenda.

This was a very timely show given in recent weeks we’ve seen:

The general feeling from all guests was that Alton Towers had responded very well to the awful incident and that this was possibly reflected in the positive comments they had received on their Facebook page.  Andrew pointed out that they probably wouldn’t have had this reaction, had they not done the right thing and been so proactive, with Merlin CEO, Nick Varney, leading from the front, ensuring the company takes responsibility and undertaking difficult media interviews, such as the one he did with my new twitter follower, Sky NewsKay Burley.

Now I’ll admit, I’m not Kay’s biggest fan, and if you search YouTube, you’ll find plenty of examples of interviews that have been uploaded, where viewers clearly share a similar view to me on her style and approach.  However, incredibly, off the back of the interview in question, she has managed to deflect the attention away from Nick Varney, who she attacked so rudely and at times, viciously, and turned the situation into a crisis of her own, with, at the time of writing, there now being over 50,000 people calling for her to be sacked by Sky!

Personally, I wouldn’t want to see someone lose their job over something like a poor interview, but I do believe she should stop being so defensive, as she appears to be on her twitter feed, and learn some lessons about taking responsibility from the same person she tried to grill in that very, as Andrew described, aggressive and hostile environment.

Interestingly, Andrew’s take on that interview is that he thinks there is a need now for journalists to sharpen and tailor their output to get shared on social media, which I should say is exactly how I came to be aware of Burley’s interview, and so it’s something we, as communicators, need to be aware of, as questioning will get more hostile as the journalists look for that exciting soundbite to get shared.

Sarah emphasised the importance of being able to say ‘we’re sorry’, and that you have to have empathy and show some of your feelings.  She believed Merlin had done brilliantly and that we’d felt for their CEO as he seemed to be having a difficult time, which she stressed was a good thing because as a consumer, she would want to see that he is upset by what had happened, although that doesn’t mean we think it’s his [or the company’s] fault, as we have no idea at this stage.

Bringing it back to role social media has to play in a crisis, Andrew highlighted that the medium is a very emotional and often emotive environment and the problem is that if you, as an organisation or a spokesperson for your organisation dealing with a crisis, don’t demonstrate sufficient empathy and emotion, then social media will do it for you.

Comparing Alton Towers to Thomas Cook, Andrew highlighted that the latter was a very sad spectacle of a company hiding behind its lawyers and demonstrating no evidence of having an ethical approach of dealing with the situation, being on the back foot and then trying to remedy the situation by making a donation to a charity completely independent of what the family concerned might have wished.

Stephen added that where social media has changed the dynamic in dealing with a crisis is in the speed of response, and gave the example that at one point, he believed FIFA were up to about 8000 comments or questions on their Twitter feed, but had provided no response or statement.

Other areas we covered in the interview included the horse meat investigation, which Stephen described as the biggest incident/crisis that he has had to deal with in his time at the FSA and the first where social media played a significant role, and the FSA’s latest campaign, their 2015 Chicken Challenge,  which has the objective of educating consumers about campylobacter in chicken, which is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

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Finally, if you are interested in getting involved in this series of podcasts, please do drop me a line at

Social CEOs & Blue Unicorns – the latest CIPR csuite podcast

Colin Byrne, CEO of Weber Shandwick UK & EMEA, Paul Frampton, CEO of Havas Media and PRMoment’s Ben Smith joined me in the studio last week for the latest, slightly extended (all three like to chat a bit), c-suite podcast.  The topic of discussion was The Social CEO.

Colin began the chat by making reference to Weber Shandwick’s own research, which highlights that CEO engagement and visibility is recognised as particularly critical to company reputation, according to 81% of senior executives worldwide.  He highlighted the different benefits from the numerous channels available, but where the CEO focusses their attention is all dependent on what is right for the business objectives.  However, he highlighted the growth of video storytelling as a platform for the most social CEOs – encouraging to hear given I spent 16 years at markettiers4dc evangelising about the benefits of using video content for distribution through social media.  Indeed, whilst there, back in 2010, I produced and presented (alongside Stephen Waddington, Philip Sheldrake and Gemma Griffiths), – we were so ahead of the game!  I’m actually considering testing out Periscope to stream the next c-suite podcast live on Twitter, so should my next guests be up for it, I may give it a go.

Following on from me mentioning a blog post of Paul’s, where he wrote that ‘brilliant leaders have an omnipresent, consistent voice and share continually and widely’, he raised a good point about his ‘fondness’ for twitter was just as much about using it as an internal communications tool, sharing information with Havas’ own talent, as it was to engage with his external client audience.

However, Ben highlighted that many CEOs may not have the right personality and time to be on Twitter every day and that it needs to be sustainable, as he felt that there is nothing worse than a CEO giving Twitter a quick go and then not tweeting for the best part of a year.  Paul followed this up later in the discussion saying that CEO’s do need to understand and acknowledge the time involved if you do lean into it in this ‘always on’ world, and termed those who are doing it well, acknowledging and responding to messages sent to them personally via social, as ‘Blue Unicorns’, i.e. there isn’t a lot of them, although he said they are increasingly starting to appear.

As part of the show, I try and use as many questions from the listeners as I can, rather than just my own, and this month we managed to answer two really good ones that I received.  The first response was to a question from Janet Morgan, Director of Global Content Strategy and Planning at GSK.  Janet asked about the issue of what would happen if, after a company has invested in their CEO’s becoming social, they leave for a rival, as their following stays with the individual, not the company, and so Colin made the point that any CEO should be responsible for succession strategy and developing the next team, although generationally, that next level down will probably be more social anyway, so they should build their team’s sociability and not just their own.

A second question was submitted by Kate Clough of Instinctif Partners who, as Paul was on the show, asked to hear more about the Havas Meaningful Brands report, which, timing wise, tied in nicely to a recent update that Unilever gave on their Sustainable Living Plan in which Paul Polman, the company’s CEO, stated that their ‘brands with purpose’ as they call them, ‘accounted for half the company’s growth in 2014 and grew at twice the rate of the rest of the business.’ This aligned well with a key finding from Havas’ report that said that ‘Meaningful Brands outperform the stock market by 133%.’  Interestingly though, Colin brought the discussion back to the role of the CEO when he pointed out that Polman had been named as the most powerful PR player in the latest PRWeek Power Book and felt that it was because he is one of the CEOs that had put social purpose at the heart of his brands and his organisation.   Colin followed this up by saying that the modern Public Relations industry is no longer about being in the spin business but instead, we are in the authenticity and change business.

Don’t forget you can help this series of podcast climb the itunes charts by subscribing to the feed, and you can keep the conversation going on twitter using #ciprcsuite.  If you would like to help me produce more interviews you can sponsor the show, which I produce on behalf of the CIPR’s Social Media Panel, and so if you are interested, please do drop me a line at

Finally, anyone from Havas reading this blog who is struggling to think of what to buy Paul for his birthday or for Christmas, how about his very own Blue Unicorn onesie from Amazon?!

The importance of getting the language right in international PR campaigns

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the Globalization and Localization Association’s (GALA) annual conference. Whilst this meant having to fly out on my birthday, it did mean I got to celebrate in the beautiful city of Seville and had the opportunity to be a true geek and get a photo at a Star Wars film location, whilst wearing my Star Wars t-shirt!


I should say that I did manage to squeeze in some proper culture by also visiting the tomb of Christopher Columbus in Seville Cathedral

There were over 400 attendees at GALA representing Language Service Providers from all over the world, most of whom spoke numerous languages, but all perfectly versed in English.  And then there was me, whose linguistic talents comprise of a ‘B’ in my French O’Level (that’s like a GSCE for younger readers) and the ability to order a ‘large beer’ in German.  It was quite an embarrassing situation to be in, but probably typical of many Brits abroad.

Last July, the APPG for Modern Languages published its Manifesto for Languages calling for all political parties to make a general election manifesto commitment to improve the UK’s linguistic skills base. At the time, Baroness Coussins, Chair of that particular APPG, said that the UK economy was losing around £50 billion a year in lost contracts because of lack of language skills in the workforce.

Given the timing of this blog, I decided to do a quick search for the word ‘language’ in the Labour and Conservative party manifestos.  In terms of our kids’ education, the only reference the Tories made was stating that they will require secondary school pupils to take a GSCE in a language.  However, the word didn’t even appear in Labour’s document at all.

It’s no surprise therefore, to hear many examples that show a naivety around the importance of language in the English-speaking PR industries both here in the UK and in the US, given the global nature of communications and our ability to access information instantly from anywhere in the world.

Getting the language right when communicating internationally can make a huge difference to the success of your PR campaign.  After all, according to Common Sense Advisory, 85% of international consumers prefer native language webpages when researching prepurchase, which impacts your SEO strategy too.

There are a number of challenges faced by PRs when planning an international campaign.  Gary Muddyman, CEO of Conversis, the translation agency that I recently joined as Director of their Corporate team, puts linguistic and cultural challenges at the top of his list and says that ‘literal translation is often not enough,’ and that ‘we need to engage the international audience in a way the source copy does for your domestic market.’  Gary believes that the influence of local resources with local knowledge is vital.

This is probably best summed up by a recent experience that, Karolina Davison shared with me. Karolina is a London-based PR Consultant who has worked with me on a few projects over the last 6 months. She describes herself as having one foot in the UK and the other in Scandinavia – she’s Swedish, but has lived and worked in the US for many years as well.  Recently, a client with a significant global presence asked her to translate and distribute a press release to the Swedish media. Instructions from the US HQ were simple and non-negotiable: ‘Translate, but do not change the legally-approved content in any way.’  However, since the press release was a corporate announcement and not specific to the Nordics, Karolina said she soon realised that her odds of securing coverage would be limited if she wasn’t able to rewrite it.  Her view is that ‘translation can be a wasted exercise if not combined with localisation’. In Karolina’s experience from working in the US, it is completely acceptable to use poetic adjectives to describe a company’s mission and the habits of its clients. However, in Sweden, she said that you stay close to the facts and refrain from using ‘flowery’ words or ‘lofty’ exaggerations. When American consumers are ‘passionate’ about a product, Swedes are ‘appreciative’, even though the direct Swedish translation would be ‘passionerade.’  She therefore believes that it comes down to adhering to cultural subtleties and argues that ‘it is not uncommon for entire company descriptions, i.e. ‘boiler plates’, to need a complete make-over in order to make sense and be taken seriously in a foreign country.’

Heidi Lorenzen of translation software provider Cloudworks summed up localisation in a blog I read whilst researching for this post.  She wrote that it goes well beyond word-for-word translation and takes into account the nuances of regional audiences and customs to get the tone, phrases, and even images correct so that materials read naturally in each target audience’s own language, and do not convey unintended messages. Research and knowledge of your target market may reveal cultural differences and beliefs that can have a big impact on how marketing messages are perceived.’

This aligns with Gary Muddyman’s view that ‘competent translation is just the starting point’.  His second challenge for International PRs is that of the tightly-controlled brand, managed centrally, versus local influence and adaptation.

The issue of local nuances and cultures is perfectly summed up by a case study that Jon Meakin, International PR Director of Grayling shared with me.  Jon’s view is that ‘The challenges of understanding and adapting to cultural nuances are even greater than that of language.’ Last year Grayling ran a pan-European Christmas campaign for a global client with a US HQ, which he feels illustrates this perfectly. Jon said that ‘Churchill described Britain and Americas as ‘two nations divided by a common language’ and the first issue was our US client’s insistence on referring to the Christmas period as the Holiday season. That and an assumption that ‘Europe’ is a homogenous entity, rather than a federation of 50 or so separate countries. While there are undoubtedly similarities between European nations – and we were able to identify five or six Christmas shopper archetypes that apply almost universally – there are many differences, and when you start to explore the different ways in which Christmas is celebrated you quickly realise that a template approach just won’t work.’

To make his point, Jon uses the example that in Spain, gifts are not exchanged until Twelfth Night and that the same is true of Russia, although not all of Russia. He says that ‘it’s wonderfully complex’ and stresses that the key lesson is to ‘resist the temptation to ‘command and control’’.

Whilst he agrees to set a framework, Jon believes that if you follow his advice and ‘allow individual markets the freedom to move within the parameters you set’, you will ‘celebrate the differences and reap the rewards.’

This concept of the English and Americans sharing a ‘common language’ was highlighted in Curzon PR’s recent blog post following the opening of their New York office, highlighting small differences in spelling such as ‘colour’ and ‘color’, or that whole sectors of the [PR] industry go by different names in these two countries, with ‘food and drink PR’ known as ‘food and beverage PR’ in the USA.

I thought I’d stress the point further by coming up with two versions of the same (rather silly) sentence, both written in ‘English’:

‘The sidewalk outside the drugstore, on the opposite side of the cross walk from the gas station was covered in trash that had fallen out of the dumpster.  There was an old soccer ball, used diaper, a ripped pair of pants, and some half eaten cookies.’


‘The pavement outside the chemist, on the opposite side of the zebra crossing from the petrol station was covered in rubbish that had fallen out of the skip.  There was an old football, used nappy, a ripped pair of trousers and some half eaten biscuits.’

Karolina probably puts it better than me though by stating that ‘You don’t have to be bilingual to be faced with a localisation dilemma. Any English-speaking person who has worked with an American client knows that US-produced content often needs to be modified to suit the UK market. Sometimes it takes a lot more than just changing the z’s to s’s for the key messages to make sense. The more culturally distinct the country is from the territory where the copy originated, the more work it will require.’ In the case of her US client looking for coverage in Sweden, she ended up writing a pitch to make up for the cultural shortcomings of the press release she was provided and to spend more time than usual selling it in over the phone. She said that the end-result was ‘decent’ but not nearly as good as it could have been had she been allowed to rework the copy. The experience furthered her belief that ‘brands should be bold and invest the extra cost up front to make sure that their collateral is appropriately localised before sharing it globally,’ also making the point that ‘a misrepresented image of a company in the media can do more harm than good.’

A further challenge highlighted by Gary Muddyman is that ‘every stage in the communication process available to potential customers needs to be localised.’  For example, he stresses that ‘it’s no use if your website is in a local language, if the telephone contact details leads to a Call Centre where there are no language skills.’

Finally, the last challenge to overcome is when you are trying so hard to make your existing copy work in a different territory, you might be better off going back to the original brief, and simply starting the copywriting process again.  This is when to consider transcreation, which Conversis defines as taking the values, concepts and key messages of the brand, but recreating them in the different markets by perhaps using more culturally relevant examples to ensure that audiences the world over experience the same emotional reactions to your brand.

A version of this blog post was first published on

The birthday blog

So just over a week ago on March 22nd, just in case you wanted to put it in your diary for next year, I turned 48 (Christ I’m getting old!).

The breakdown of my birthday messages these days tends to be:

  • Cards – from family members
  • Facebook messages – mostly from friends that I don’t tend to see that often
  • Txts – from closer friends who feel the urge to be rude about my age

And then there’s email – left purely to the CRM databases of the various companies that I’ve signed up to their mailing lists or bought something from. However, so poor are they at their these types of campaigns, I genuinely wonder what they bother.

A few examples included Virgin Atlantic, who, fair play, were first to wish me a Happy Birthday at 6.34am, but suggested I celebrated by visiting their site to enter a competition where I could win a three day break to New York.  Nah, you’re OK thanks.

I then got a special birthday message from that bloody annoying robot, Brian who didn’t know how old I was, despite surely knowing my date of birth for all the various insurance quotes I’ve submitted there, although at least he got my name right!

And then there was Spurs, the club I have spent thousands of pounds on over the years, who gave me a whopping 15% off any purchases I made in their store (subject to Terms and Conditions of course!

Come on guys, you can do better than this surely!

Feel free to share below any good or bad birthday CRM examples you’ve had.

Oh when the Saints go tweeting in – the latest csuite podcast

Whilst last month’s csuite podcast show 7 was on the topic of fan engagement in Sport, I encourage you to listen to the interview whatever sector you work in, as I believe the ideas and concepts I discussed with Antony Marcou, CEO of Sports Revolution and PRMoment’s Ben Smith are relevant to everyone in PR.

Naturally I really enjoyed this show as we got to talk football, but before you non footie fans moan, I don’t mean we were discussing what’s better when it comes to 4-4-2 or 4-5-1.  Instead, Antony gave us some really interesting insight into a number of areas of Sports marketing including:

  • how the PR aspect of maximising a brand’s sponsorship through social media has a huge impact at the negotiation stage of the deal
  • the benefits of the award winning project that he worked on, where installing high density Wi-Fi into Celtic Park solved the connectivity problem of trying to get a signal in a ground with over 60,000 people, changing the way fans experience their visit to the game, as well as the impact it could have on the bottom line for the club
  • ownership of new technologies and platforms as they launch and the role of the clubs and federations in the process, i.e. to police or participate

Having Ben back on the show though was great from a PR perspective as he brought the discussion back in terms of the impact social media in sport is having on regional media.  He used his personal experience of how he used to go to the Daily Echo’s website to read about Southampton FC, but now gets better content directly from the club’s own website and social channels such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter feeds.  This then lead us on to a discussion about ‘unofficial’ reporting, using examples of fan based podcasts like the one both Antony and I listen too – The Spurs Show, which I appeared as a guest on recently, and what it means to the clubs.

Other topics we covered included how players can have more influence across social media than the clubs they play for when you compare the numbers of followers they have, which again is just as relevant outside of sport when you compare it to the case of key executives at major businesses.

We also touched on campaign examples from the worlds of Basketball, Rugby, Sailing, Motor GP, F1, Golf and Cycling – in many cases, sports that have to work harder to engage with fans as they don’t have the money that flows in The Barclays Premier League, or are not the easiest to watch at the venues, where the TV experience is better from a viewing perspective.  Many of the examples we discussed are arguably doing a better job at engaging with their audiences through social media and mobile apps with real time data updates or certainly have the potential to, using the stats generated from wearable or on-board tech that can be shared through social.

I produce this series on behalf of the CIPR’s Social Media Panel and we’re now looking for sponsors of our own to cover the costs of production and help us bring more interviews to you, so if you are interested, please do drop me a line at  Our shows are currently averaging over 400 plays each, and growing, and we’re aiming to bring you some great guests in the future, the next one lined up being Colin Byrne, CEO of Weber Shandwick, who will be discussing the Social CEO.

You can also help us climb the itunes charts by subscribing to the feed, and please keep the conversation going on twitter using #ciprcsuite

Social Hubs, War Rooms and Chief Engagement Officers – the latest csuite podcast

Back on the 26th February, I recorded show number 6 of the CIPR csuite podcast series I’m producing for the CIPR’s Social Media panel.  My guests this time were Stuart Thompson, European Director of new CIPR partners TINT and immediate past president of the CIPR and Chief Engagement Office at Ketchum, Stephen Waddington (Wadds).

In the first section of the show, we discussed the benefits of Social Hubs like Tint, which as Stuart explained, is ‘a technology platform that allows organisations to display social feeds and port them to any digital device, anywhere in the world’.

Stuart talked us through a great case study of how Tint worked with the People’s Climate March in New York, which broke all sorts of records in terms of digital engagement for a charity campaign, which then led us on to a side discussion about war rooms in PR agencies.  As Wadds explained, war rooms are a way to describe people working in an integrated agile way around a table for a campaign, although they call them newsrooms at Ketchum!

The interesting point for me about using technologies such as Tint though, was that by bringing all the user generated content from various platforms like Facebook and Instagram etc. into one hub, perhaps hosted on the brand’s website, it could help to bring ownership back to the brand itself, rather than lose it to the Social Networks, which I feel has been happening over the years.

Whether the likes of Tint ultimately benefit the client or not (and looking at their client base, it looks like they are doing something right!), Wadds feels that it’s beholden to anyone in the PR business to jump on any new tool and try it out and explore it as part of their continuous learning.

In the second half the show, Wadds talked through the role of a Chief Engagement Officer but first had to explain that he wasn’t after David Gallagher’s job of CEO of Ketchum Europe, as in an interview with McKinsey in April last year, Richard Edelman used the term to describe the CEO’s new role.  Stephen, however, explained that Ketchum have a slightly different view to that of Edelman explained in their Trust Barometer and so his brief is to make social and digital ‘normal’ across the agency, but that’s it’s good that both agencies, and indeed other organisations are using the same language around this issue.

We then went on to discuss the findings of the CIPR’s recent State of the Profession survey, specifically around the issues related to social media and how he was ‘pissed off’ with some of the results when he discovered that as an industry, our business is still slow to move, whilst the pace of technology and pace of change is incredibly fast but behavioural change is incredibly slow.  He believes that the industry is polarising between traditionalists and those at the forefront of the business, and feels strongly that members need to get to grips with digital and social media skills or face becoming irrelevant, one of a number of points he made in a recent blog post.  He summarised his thoughts by saying that we need to recognise that there is a massive shift from publicity to influencer relations then branded forms of media and communities as a means of engagement, and we either embrace it, or you say “no” and stick with what you’ve done traditionally.

We did finish off the podcast on a positive though, as a lot of the issues raised in the survey are being addressed by the CIPR and that Wadds believes that it’s an exciting time for PR and so we, as practitioners, have to embrace it.

Are you linked in or out?

At my most recent CIPR Social Media Panel ‘csuite podcast’ recording, I had the pleasure of welcoming Ketchum’s Stephen Waddington to the studio as one of my guests on the show.

Before we sat down in front of the mic, we got chatting about the pros and cons of LinkedIn, as you do, with me being a fan of the platform and Wadds arguing that it’s just become very noisy and full of spam.

As a result, Wadds asked me to write a guest post for his blog highlighting a few tips on how to get some true value from this particular social network.

Without justifying anything with user stats or how important your personal social media profiles have become in terms of social selling (let’s take it as read that that is the case) here are the ten suggestions I shared for why you should be LinkedIn and not LinkedOut.

  1. Share knowledge

If you blog, you may find you get far more engagement to your posts if you publish them on LinkedIn, and you never know who might end up reading them.  Over Christmas, my family visited Disneyland Paris, and I wrote a post about why I thought the park needed a sprinkle of pixie dust on my return.  The post has been read 490 times to date, but interestingly, it found its way to a number of employees of Disneyland Paris, which led me to now be connected with the company’s Senior CRM manager.  Having discussed this with Wadds, on his birthday last week, he published his first post on the platform – 45 lessons at age 45 – which I’m proud to take some credit for as he commented that he followed his own rule No. 36 after our discussion – ‘Knowledge is power’, which stated ‘Never stop learning and develop an openness and enthusiasm about the world. Curiosity wouldn’t have killed the cat if it had read more books.’   In the space of one weekend, his post had 550 views, 64 likes and 32 comments (Wadds has a little more influence than me!)

  1. Plan your travels

If you are heading anywhere for the day, whether in the UK or further afield, and have time in your diary to fill, search on LinkedIn for the destination you are visiting and see who you know there.  You can do a more detailed search using the ‘Advanced’ search feature and typing in the post code or city that you are travelling to.  This does rely on whether users type in their home postcode or work post code when they first register of course, and often (myself included) may forget to update it when they move jobs.

  1. Reconnect

In the 20+ years I’ve been working since graduating, I’ve picked up just a few business cards and every now and then, I do a cull of the ones I’ve not been in contact with for years, or can’t even remember where I met them.  But not before I do a quick search on LinkedIn to see where they are now and so try to reconnect with them if relevant.

  1. Welcome visitors

Look under your Profile tab to see who is viewing your profile? There could be a whole bunch of reasons for people visiting your LinkedIn page, including some going to the wrong person with the same name of course, but wouldn’t it be good to know why?  Send them a note, thank them for stopping by and ask how you can help.

  1. Don’t be afraid to network

That doesn’t mean spam people. The LinkedIn mobile app doesn’t currently allow you to personalise invites, so I only ever send them via my desktop, using the ‘Personalise invitation’ option, as that way I can introduce myself and give a summary of why I want to connect.  There is nothing more frustrating than getting an invite, accepting it, and then getting hit by a standard sales email.

  1. Say who you are.  

I hate the fact that when I look to see who has viewed my profile, I see the following:


The clue to getting the best out of Social Network like LinkedIn are in those two key words, i.e. being  sociable and using it to network.  You wouldn’t go up to someone in the real world at a conference, for example, ask them to explain who they are, but not introduce yourself, so why do it here?  What do you have to hide, even if you are a competitor?

  1. Join Groups

This, again, is a great way to find new people to connect with.  I am off to an industry conference in Seville this month, and so have joined the specific organisation’s group to start my networking early and see if I can set up meetings during the breaks at the conference. Being in a group also helps when you send out invites as it gives you more reason to connect with someone new, again enabling you to personalise invite further by saying you share x many connections and y number of groups, so you obviously have quite a bit in common.

  1. Give feedback

I’ll admit that I don’t tend to read many of the updates that appear in my home page stream – I often browse through the top few when I go on the site but that’s all – with over 2000 contacts, it’s impossible to read everything.  But if you’ve connected with likeminded individuals in a similar field to yours, then the chances are a lot of the updates will be relevant to your work, so it’s worth scrolling through every now and then and picking out the odd article to read that has been shared that catches your eye.  Similarly, if someone has taken the trouble to publish a post, and you liked it, or had something to add, tell them and share it too (feel free to do both to this).

  1. Keep your profile updated

Many people see LinkedIn as a dynamic CV to help find their next job and don’t appreciate that people/companies may be using it to seek you out for your expertise in your current role.  So keep your profile updated.  Let people know what you’ve been up to and what you do for a living.  Share your expertise by embedding your presentations from Slideshare, or if, like me, you record podcasts, you can embed those from Soundcloud.

  1. It’s not Facebook

And finally, just a polite reminder, this is a business social network, not a personal one.  Whilst I was flattered that 0.35% (8 people) of my LinkedIn network liked my new photo when I updated my profile recently, I also found it a little strange, but perhaps that’s just me.  Thanks all the same though!


There are lots more tips and ways to benefit from LinkedIn and these were just the first few that came to mind.  Of course, if you want to find out more, you can always connect with me and ask – I’m at

CPD Done!

Back in August last year I decided to stand for the CIPR Council elections and through that process I realised that in all the time I had been a member, I had never been questioned about what I do for my Continuing Professional Development (CPD), something I now believe every member should have to commit to.

The topic of ‘Professionalism’ was highlighted by Stephen Waddington.  As one of his 10 pledges when he was CIPR President in 2014, he stated that we need to ‘Recognise that the public relations industry must shift from a craft to a profession by putting Continuing Professional Development (CPD) at its core’, and therefore he wanted to ‘Set a roadmap to ensure that CPD is recognised and seen as a key CIPR member benefit’.

In his Handover report in Q4 (see slide 4), Wadds talked about how work is now underway on scoping the development of an enhanced CPD offer for mid-career and senior practitioners. He confirmed that CPD completion rates in the 2014 to 2015 cycle have continued to increase year-on-year and that increasing this number will be a key focus for 2015.

Whilst I didn’t win my seat on the Council, I have seen through my commitment to complete my CPD this year.  It was easy, provided me with a bit of needed focus, was educational and surprisingly, it was actually quite enjoyable.

Inspired by Stuart Bruce’s blog post over the weekend, I’m sharing my CPD report below:


I’ve actually been lazy in that I haven’t recorded anything like the number of CPD activities I’ve attended, downloaded, read, watched or been involved in myself in terms of supporting others.  I intend to improve this next year to ensure I keep a note of more than is required just to reach my 60 points.  However, having finally gotten involved, I do believe the system needs improving.  60 points isn’t a hard total to reach, especially as two thirds of that was achieved through my participation on the CIPR’s Social Media Panel (CIPRSM), and attending and presenting at the Festival of Marketing.  I also claimed an easy 5 points by listing the csuite Podcast series that I produce.  So in effect, the main bulk of my points are in me providing support, although to be fair, I’ve actually found this is the best way I learn new things too.  For example, the Festival of Marketing had a really high quality of delegates and the presentations that I managed to sit in on whilst there were excellent, especially the one by my fellow CIPRSM member Dom Burch who discussed how Asda have engaged with YouTubers for their Mum’s Eye View YouTube channel (this was a good review of it on Econsultancy).   Another great presentation was by Philip Byrne, creative director at Buzzfeed who talked about shareable content (again, another good review here on Econsultancy)

Similarly, being an active member of the CIPRSM has enabled me to meet some inspiring minds in our industry and I always come away from those meetings enthused and full of new ideas and I encourage members to get actively involved in other panels that are of interest to them, plus I won’t lie in that by doing so helps your business development as well as personal development too.  Finally, producing the Podcast series gives me access to some great guests.  I have committed to write up each interview as a blog post too and I can honestly say I have taken away some great learnings from each of the interviews I have carried out so far.

But I do feel that improvements can be made to the CPD process.  It will be interesting to see how many people, like me, are frantically completing their report this week ahead of the deadline – nothing changes really, from doing your homework on the bus, to calling your accountant on the last day that you can submit your tax returns!

So perhaps we need to encourage better participation and learning throughout the year.  Maybe there needs to be a monthly or quarterly target to reach, plus a commitment to participate in something from a number of different disciplines or different activities, just to show you have a commitment to learning more about our profession, rather than simply taking an easy route to reaching your target points.

In the meantime, however, I really do encourage all members to take part.  You can still reach your 60 points this week, even if you haven’t started yet, but if not, at least make a commitment to do so for 2015/16.  You never know, you might learn something!

Have you got the E Factor?

Earlier this week I met singer song-writer Janet Devlin and her manager Rick Chambers of Insomnia Music Management, who kindly gave up their evening to chat to me about how they use Social Media for Janet’s direct to fan engagement for my latest CIPR csuite podcast.

X Factor fans may recognise the name, as at just 16 years old, Janet came fifth in the show back in 2011.

But, to her credit, as she explains in the interview, rather than take the easy route of accepting the record deals that were on offer to her straight after the show, Janet has instead worked non-stop for the four years since, to produce the music she wants to write.  However, she acknowledges that her fans have had a huge influence on her achieving that aim, and that Social Media has enabled it to happen.

I was therefore keen to find out from Janet and Rick about all the channels they use to engage with her fans, and there’s enough of them (channels as well as fans that is) and whether the lessons they have learned can be used by people working in other sectors of PR & Marketing.

Janet regularly uses the usual suspects of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram, and, as Rick confirmed, she is rarely off her phone posting updates!  But the areas we explored in more detail in the podcast were how she crowdfunded her first album on Pledge Music, regularly plays live online on, and sells merchandise on Music Glue that she designs off the back of feedback and request from her fans.

I found StageIt fascinating as fans can pay whatever they want to enter the events, so as Rick explained, no one cannot afford to come in and watch.  However, they can also ‘tip’ Janet too, which they do regularly for shout outs for example.  He also said that it’s a progression coming from Pledge Music and it shows how you can give back to your fans by providing exclusive content who will in return help to fund you, which helps Janet to ‘hit the road’ and put on the live tours.

By the way, Janet’s next live show is on 4th Feb at 11.55pm (I’m assuming that’s GMT)

But with all the channels mentioned already, together with other content outlets such as Vevo, Vimeo and Spotify along with her own website too, there’s a lot of work going on to stay in touch with her fans, which of course, all takes a lot of planning and strategy, or as Rick calls it, choreography.

The key lesson that Rick and Janet said all industries can take from their experiences on fan/client/customer engagement is about keeping the content fresh and supplying them with what they want on a regular basis.  What is crucial, however, is not to just take and not give back, but to ensure you give more and more back instead, which could be by way of exclusive videos as that’s how word starts to spread.

Finally, Janet Devlin’s latest album, ‘Running with Scissors’, which I absolutely loved, is available to download from itunes, or you can order a physical copy from her store on Music Glue.


Why Disneyland Paris needs a sprinkle of pixie dust

Having recenlty returned from a Christmas family trip to Disneyland Paris, it was no surprise to read that the theme park had been reported to have received a €1 billion bail out a few months ago.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great few days away and there is, without doubt, a magical feeling you get when you walk through the entrance, which is still the case for my 17 and 14 year old too.  However, the park looks tired and clearly shows a lack of investment and it’s therefore no suprise to read that it’s been losing money for years.

I can’t pretend to know how to run a theme park, nor do I have any idea of the cost of building rides and maintaining them, but here are my ten very simple observations as to where that huge investment could be spent to help restore my faith in the Magic Kingdom.

  1. It’s time for Michael Jackson to Beat It

In Discoveryland you will find what’s described as ‘A fantastic 3D film relating the adventures of Captain EO, alias Michael Jackson, featuring a rhythm-packed musical soundtrack and a whole host of dazzling special effects’

This film was made in 1986.   At the time, it was the most expensive film ever produced on a per-minute basis, averaging out at $1.76 million per minute and starred the biggest pop sensation directed by the guy that brought us Star Wars.  It didn’t get any better.  But what does that mean to kids of today? Michael Jackson sadly passed away over five years ago now and I understand the reasons that this attraction was brought back to the park as a tribute to him, but it’s time to move it on.  The film couldn’t look more dated and the ‘dazzling special effects’ look so basic compared to what we’ve come to expect with films such as Avatar and Gravity its almost embarrassing to watch.

  1. Did they not wanna build a snowman?

Wandering around the park are of course the famous five of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto but you’ll also spot the likes of Chip & Dale and … Mr Smee.  Where are the new heroes like Olaf, the snowman who stole the show in Frozen?  Disney need to stop living in the past.  The choice of characters you can meet still seems to be based on the ‘trying to live your childhood through your kids’ theory.

  1. Time to update the rides, Savvy?

I get that Pirates of the Caribbean was a ride before it was a blockbuster film, but would most kids going to the park know that?  So when you get to the ride, it makes no sense to me and must surely be huge disappointment to many not to see any reference to Captain Jack Sparrow.  Time to have a facelift.

  1. The not so Fastpass®

‘You can save time with Fastpass’, except that when you read your small print, ‘you may only have one Fastpass ticket at a time’ and despite Disney Hotel guests being able to enter the parks early, the Fastpass machines don’t open until 10am.  So choose wisely which one you want, because within minutes you are already only able to get into that ride say about an hour later.  By the time you have then used your Fastpass, the next one you try to use isn’t available until about 2-3pm, after which you’ll be lucky to get another one.  The system simply doesn’t work

  1. #nohashtagorwifi

Disneyland Paris has had over 14.2m visits in 2014, and almost every one of those must have been taking photos just as we were. So with the amount of pictures that were no doubt being uploaded to social media, the park could be trending online pretty much every day if they simply offered free wifi throughout it, which is not currently available, and perhaps ran competitions encouraging you to tag your photos with a hashtag where the best photos won Disney related prizes.

  1. Figaro Figaro Figaro

Far be it from me to tell Disney how to sell product, but I do find it odd that you come off a ride, say in Fantasyland, such as Pinocchio, and in the store you can buy a Lilo and Stitch toy.  I may have a vested interest in this one as my favourite Disney character is Figaro, Mister Geppeto’s cat.  I know, an odd choice out of all the characters there have ever been. But my point is, would there not be more chance of selling more product if, when you finished the ride you could perhaps buy a bigger selection of toys from that particular film?  After all, there are stores all over the two parks and in the Disney Village area where you can buy all the other stuff.   FYI, there was no Figaro on sale, and surprisingly, neither could we find a cuddly Olaf.

  1. Early Starts, but not for all the workers

Guests of the Disney Hotels benefit from being allowed into the park earlier than the general public, which is great, if all the rides were open.  But they are not.  For example, we made a bee-line for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in Walt Disney Studios, but that didn’t open until 10am, so instead made the long walk back to the main park to go on Space Mountain, except that ride had ‘technical problems’ and was therefore closed at the time.  Unlucky I guess, so instead we went to the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, but by 9.30am, it was already at a 30min queue, and of course you couldn’t use a FastPass at it was too early!  Open all the rides and make it a true benefit to the guests to get up early.

  1. These are not the rides you are looking for

Disney paid over $4bn for LucasFilm, so I get that it wants to see an ROI out of Star Wars.  But still having the original Star Tours simulator, which like the Captain EO film, is almost 30 years old, is just simply not worth queuing for, when your time can be better spent on amazing new and original rides like Ratatouille, which opened earlied this year.  Star Wars also seems an odd choice to show on the screens in the Videopolis area which, despite having a stage, had no live show on it.  Instead, across the screens they were showing clips from the animated series Star Wars Rebels.  This seemed strange, especially at Christmas time.  Surely kids would prefer to see the songs of Frozen playing whilst they are having their lunch, or something from Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  I don’t have the stats, and haven’t done the research, but I can’t believe too many kids under 10 would get excited by Star Wars Rebels whilst at Disney.

  1. Interactive Queuing

We were lucky in that the longest queue we had was 45mins, but the timing of many queues were shown as 70 minutes or more.  So how hard can it be to make that time pass a little faster by giving something for you to do whilst standing in the freezing December cold.  The impressive ‘Crush’s Coaster’ ride did get it right by offering a local wifi link enabling you to download a game onto your smartphone, which certainly helps.  So why can’t they do something similar on all the rides, or why not have screens above the queues showing scenes from the films, or the characters walking along the queue giving the kids a chance to take a selfie with Snow White, for example.  How difficult could that last one be?

  1. Disney on-demand

And finally, when you do crash out in your room, why not offer the chance to watch a Disney movie of your choice on your TV.  I’ve never understood why, in this age of Netflix, which does indeed have Disney films on it menu, why the Disney Hotels don’t offer an on-demand service of all the films available to show.


So there you have it.  My 10 simple marketing tips (and I had plenty more) for the people at Disneyland Paris on where to start spending their billion Euros.

In summary, as I said, we had a great time away, but perhaps Disney need to take a leaf out of their own song that has driven just about everyone mad in 2014 and that I can’t get out of my head since returning from my trip:

“the past is in the past! Let it go, let it go.”