Serious PR testimonials

PR BLOG

FREELANCE PR CONSULTANTS: HOME OR OFFICE BASED 
  • Posted 6 days ago

SERIOUS is seeking to recruit a number of specialist PR Consultants to its roster of trusted freelance associates.

We have immediate opportunities for experienced and highly competent technical copy writers and B2C and B2B PR experts.

The ideal candidates will come from an agency background and will have a sound knowledge of the UK and Irish media.

For more info on our agency log on to www.seriouspr.com.

If you would like to be considered please send your cv to growingreputations@seriouspr.com by close of play 30 June 2017.

Experienced PR professional – full time. 
  • Posted 1 week ago

Are you someone who could flourish in one of Northern Ireland’s most exciting PR companies?

Someone seeking an opportunity to play a key role in an agency described by senior industry peers as ‘fresh’, ‘modernistic’, ‘inspirational’ and ‘driven by the delivery of outstanding results’?

SERIOUS is a small, highly-respected specialist agency renowned as being energetic, hungry and ambitious.  Based in 5-star office accommodation in Belfast we represent our clients throughout the UK and Ireland.

Since 2014 we’ve won more UK PR awards than any small agency in Northern Ireland.  We’ve recently had the joiners in to extend our trophy cabinet after our success in the PRMoment Awards where we won Outstanding Boutique Agency and the PRCA DARE Awards where we retained our Small Agency of the Year title and added the Best Social and Digital campaign award.

We’ve got high standards and huge ambition but to deliver that we need the brightest and best talent around.

So, we’re on the look-out for a talented mid-weight PR operator (3-5 years’ experience), with the drive and energy to play a key role in our development strategy.

You will want to join an agency that can offer exceptional opportunities to work with great clients. You’ll want to join a team of leading specialists who are pioneering new ways to deliver PR and Brand communications.

To fit the bill, you’ll possess the ability to create and delivery compelling campaigns, write razor-sharp copy underpinned by the multi-media knowhow – plus you’ll have excellent client relations’ skills.

In return we can provide you with a great team, a key role in helping us take the business to new heights and an all-round market-leading package with the potential for profit share/flexible working.

Interested?  Then send your cv and cover letter in the strictest confidence to david@seriouspr.com by close of play 30 June 2017.

 

SERIOUS nominated in four PRCA DARE AWARDS categories 
 
  • Posted 1 month ago

Delighted to report that SERIOUS has been nominated in FOUR categories in this year’s PRCA DARE AWARDS: Media Relations, Campaign Challenges, Digital and Social Media and Small Consultancy of the Year.

Last year we flew the flag for NI and came away with the Small Consultancy of the Year gong.   Too much to hope for two in a row?

We’re really looking forward to the big night in Edinburgh on 8 June – just two nights after the CIPR Excellence Awards (UK) in London where we have been nominated in the Outstanding Small PR Consultancy.

Goes without saying – no clients = no work = no awards.  So thank you to all our loyal and supportive clients who enable us to deliver great work for them.

And, of course, a rapturous round of applause for our little team that continues to punch above its weight on a UK stage.

Why mental health is costly to employers and how to counter-act it 
  • Posted 1 month ago

 

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week we’ve been providing some simple, effective tips on Twitter to help you look after your mental health in the workplace.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, nearly two-thirds of people in the UK will experience problems with their mental health – and the number’s rising.

Recent research by the charity Mind confirms a culture of fear and silence around mental health can be costly to employers.

  • When asked how workplace stress had affected them more than one in five (21 per cent) of those surveyed admitted that they had called in sick to avoid work

 

  • 14 per cent conceded that they had resigned and 42 per cent had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them

 

  • 30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’

 

  • 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance

This important insight affirms that employees need an opportunity to able to express their mental health concerns within the workplace. It also highlights that employers are eager to provide that space but ill-equipped and inexperienced in knowing how to do so.

A great starting point towards providing better mental health awareness in the workplace is to create a culture of openness. Equipping line managers and HR staff with skills on how talk with employees about their mental health is one productive way to create a more open and aware atmosphere.

With copious amounts of free resources online, creating a better environment to approach mental health in the workplace can be a cost-effective endeavour. Ultimately, both employee and employer will benefit from converting a culture of fear and silence around mental health into a culture of openness and awareness. A more productive workforce can be directly linked to a more profitable business. So it’s a win-win!

For further reading and resources on mental health in the workplace, visit Mind.org

https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/

SERIOUS takes Boutique Agency of the Year crown at Manchester awards’ ceremony 
 
  • Posted 3 months ago

Belfast-based PR and Marketing agency, SERIOUS, has won a top UK industry award for its ‘genuinely fresh approach’ and ‘outstanding results’.
The specialist advisory agency won the Best Boutique Agency at the UK PRMoments Awards’ glittering ceremony held in the Hilton Hotel, Manchester.
The awards are amongst the most competitive within the UK’s PR industry.
Judged by industry experts this year’s PRMoments attracted more than 800 entries from throughout Britain and Northern Ireland. Judges commended SERIOUS for its ‘genuinely fresh approach and outstanding results’.
In the past three years SERIOUS has had its work recognised in the form of a series of UK-wide and NI accolades including the UK Freshest Small Agency, the PRCA Dare Outstanding Small Consultancy for Scotland and NI and several CIPR PRide awards including runner up in the NI Outstanding PR Consultancy category.
SERIOUS founder and Managing Director, David McCavery said his agency’s success had once again set down an industry marker in the company of some of the brightest and best in Britain and Northern Ireland.
“To be nominated in the PRMoments awards was an honour in itself but to win against others much larger than ourselves provides proof positive that Northern Ireland agencies can compete with the best in Britain.
“Later this year we will celebrate our tenth anniversary. However, rather than resting on any laurels we’re determined to keep developing our agency by benchmarking ourselves against the best in the business.
“We are unapologetically small and specialist but big on ideas and client service. Our goal is to build a PR & Marketing agency with true stand-out in our market that is capable of supporting our clients in Northern Ireland, The Republic and Britain with equal ease. Currently a substantial proportion of our fees are delivered for Northern Ireland clients in Britain and we see this trend continuing.
“Furthermore, we have ambitious plans to broaden the range of support we bring to growth focussed clients so we can add even more value through every brief.”
SERIOUS is based in the heart of Belfast city. Its client portfolio comprises top consumer and corporate brands including Tesco, Cleaver Fulton Rankin, Kestrel Foods, Acheson + Glover and McAvoy Group.
/ends.

PRmoment accolade is latest building block on an exciting and SERIOUS journey 
 
  • Posted 3 months ago

The PRmoments awards (formerly known as the Golden Hedgehogs) are amongst the most competitive within the UK’s PR industry.

Judged by industry experts this year’s awards attracted more than 800 entries from throughout Britain and Northern Ireland. In the past three years SERIOUS has been truly blessed to have its work recognised in the form of a series of UK-wide and NI accolades including the UK Freshest Small Agency, the PRCA Dare Outstanding Small Consultancy for Scotland and NI and several CIPR PRide awards including runner up in the NI Outstanding PR Consultancy.

Last night in Manchester’s plush Hilton Hotel we once again set down an industry marker by winning the hotly contested Boutique Agency of the Year category – against some of the brightest and best in Britain (most of whom are much larger that ourselves).

This year we will celebrate our tenth anniversary. However, rather than resting on any laurels we’re determined to keep developing our agency by benchmarking ourselves against the best in the business.

We are committed to building a PR agency with true stand-out in our market that is capable of supporting our clients in Northern Ireland, The Republic and Britain with equal ease.

Furthermore, we have ambitious plans to broaden the range of support we bring to our growth focussed clients so we can stretch ourselves to add even more value through every brief.

Watch out for details on some new trailblazing services we’ll be launching in the coming months. And don’t be shy in giving us a call if you’d like to move your PR and Content Marketing up to a SERIOUS-ly new level.

Are you making the most of your economies of scope? 
  • Posted 4 months ago

To succeed you have to make the most of what you have got and explore different ways to create a competitive advantage.

One obvious route is to examine any potential economies of scale: how can you focus and use your expertise and specialism to do more of perhaps fewer things at a lower cost than the others.

A less obvious strategy is to explore any potential economies of scope.

What do we mean by this?

Unlike economies of scale where you look to do one thing very well in large volumes, economies of scope is about doing lots of things under one roof.

And for many small to medium businesses and organisations this could actually be the most relevant and profitable way ahead.

Whether it is better cross-selling of similar products, to a corner store offering an ATM facility, at the heart of this approach is having a relationship with a customer and asking how can you obtain more value from the relationship?

What you are doing for your customer is reducing their total cost of a product or service. They may have a host of different add-on costs: the time and money to search, locate alternatives, purchasing and receiving costs, after sales.

By offering an economy of scope you are reducing the total cost to your customer – and that is not just money but also time and reducing stress and anxiety.

Offering economies of scope can also make you more valuable to your customer and make them more likely to stay with you.

At SERIOUS for example, we work with our clients to get them the reputation they deserve and also put them in the spotlight of potential customers.

Yet we now do more than this. We now work with a growing number of clients addressing their challenge of what is called their ‘Talent Brand’ – how can you make them as attractive as possible to new recruits and retain their best staff?

We now also offer Brand Story workshops to get to the very heart of their business and its strategy, or create content marketing programmes to maximise the values of their insights, knowledge and experiences.

What economies of scope can you offer your customers? How can you provide a benefit to reduce their total cost in money, time and reduced stress and anxiety to your customers?

Andy Green, SERIOUS Director of Creativity

7 pain points SERIOUS PR can remove for NI businesses 
  • Posted 4 months ago

If you ran a shop you wouldn’t dream of not having the lights on, nor the front door closed. Yet is that a reality for many businesses when it comes to marketing themselves and selling who they are to the world at large?

There’s a legendary ad from 1958 for from McGraw-Hill Magazines. (It was later named the “Best Business-to-Business Ad of the 20th Century” by Advertising Age.)

The ad features a rather grumpy business man, hands folded in his lap, with a defiant expression which read:

“I don’t know who you are.
I don’t know your company.
I don’t know your company’s products.
I don’t know what your company stands for.
I don’t know your company’s customers.
I don’t know your company’s record.
I don’t know your company’s reputation.
Now what was it you wanted to sell me?”

More than 50 years on the fundamental challenge remains the same – but how you tell your story about your business, its services and what makes it special has changed.

Critically, you need to take advantage of the new opportunities presented by technology – the internet, digital communications, and greater connectivity, yet in an age of diminished trust, greater resistance to being sold to, and curiously just getting through to people can be more challenging than ever.

Here are 7 pain points a good public relations team can remove for you.

1. How to get coverage in UK media?
If your business were a shop you don’t just need to sell to the people in your high street, but beyond. For Northern Ireland businesses the need to be seen by potential customers or clients across the UK and Ireland can be critical.

A good PR agency, with good media contacts and understanding of your media sectors can make the difference between being known, or unknown to valuable prospects – across the UK and Ireland and beyond.

2. How to create your Talent Brand?
One of the biggest questions that keeps business managers awake at night is the vexed question of how can they retain their best talent, and also recruit the cream of new talent to join their business.
That managerial nightmare is now being known as your ‘Talent Brand’ – making sure your business brand works its hardest to keep the best with you, and attract the best of the new talent to you. Nowadays, PR works to manage this issue.

3. How you can listen better to your customers
Your ears are your best friend for business success – both on a personal level and for your company. Your brand reputation can be defined as ‘What people say about you when you’re not in the room’. Listening to what is being said about you, or not said can be critical to your future success.
A good PR partner should be your eyes, ears and nose to the outside world, picking up on any negative undercurrents before they become a tide of bad publicity or ill-will, as well as the positives that can be you next killer idea.

4. How you can transform your story
Think of story-telling and it conjures images of sitting on the classroom carpet listening to teacher. Yet everyone in business is a story-teller and every aspect of business is about getting a story known, understood and bought-into.

By understanding how great compelling, authentic and distinctive stories can be crafted – even from the seemingly mundane of subjects is a sign of an outstanding PR communicator. It can be the difference between realizing yourself as a great brand – or being bland.

5. How you can exploit the 1001 things you know that others don’t

You and your people are experts. Day-in, day-out you solve problems. You bring solutions, new ways of doing or thinking. Isn’t time you made your smartness work harder. We now live in an age of what is called ‘content marketing’: you knowledge, insights, anecdotes, views, perspectives are all assets that may have value to someone.

By harvesting your content through advice columns, thought leadership articles, even humorous pictures can all create ammunition for you to connect, engage and build a relationship with your key prospects.

6. How to manage your internal communications

Your people are your #1 asset. Yet how seriously are you addressing the task of ensuring they can deliver at optimum performance by being informed as much as possible.

Good PR is central to effective internal communications.

7. How to manage and survive your next crisis
Your next crisis is not a case of if, but when. The great financier Warren Buffet said “It can take 20 years to build a reputation, and 5 minutes to destroy it.” Nowadays, he would say “It can take 20 years to build a reputation, and 1 click to destroy it.”

Good PR can be as much as keeping you out of the media spotlight as being in it. Intelligent, experienced advice can counsel for the best crisis management – avoiding the problem in the first place. Capable crisis PR management can also put in place the best responses should a crisis occur, where it often is the speed of your response as much as what you actually say.
Good public relations can ensure the equivalent of your shop not only has its lights on and front door open but is connecting with all your important people.

Now what is it you are trying to sell?


Andy Green, SERIOUS Creativity Director

Is it any wonder we chose a career in storytelling? 
 
  • Posted 4 months ago

As our Facebook feeds fill up with Harry Potters, Matildas and Horrid Henries in celebration of World Book Day, we couldn’t help but reminisce about the books we loved when we were young. Some of them have stood the test of time and are probably as popular today as they once were, while others are definitely showing us to be of a certain vintage (cough, cough… not mentioning any names).

Malory Towers, Enid Blyton

Malory Towers was all about life at a girls’ boarding school. The main character, Darrell Rivers, has to get to grips with making friends, keeping teachers happy and dealing with some challenging personalities. Suppose it was a bit like the Mean Girls of its day. Although, on Wednesdays (and every other day), they wore brown.

The Worst Witch, Jill Murphy

Forget Hogwarts, going to Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches was the ultimate dream for one of our team. Like the Worst Witch, she’s late for everything, loves her cat and forever finds ways to get into trouble… sounds pretty familiar alright…

Nancy Drew Mysteries, Carolyn Keene

The Nancy Drew series, followed Nancy, an amateur sleuth as she solved cases, usually ones her father, an experienced attorney, couldn’t. The character of Nancy was the perfect role model for a young girl; she was independent, clever and feisty.

The Rainbow Fish, Marcus Pfister

Upon reflection, it has a slight socialist angle to it but as children we just loved hearing how the rainbow fish wasn’t scared to share all of his sparkly scales with his fishy friends. Modern day lesson – don’t be afraid to be an individual. And definitely don’t be the person who stands at the edge of the dance floor to keep your look intact. You’ll always find this team member in the middle of the floor…

Rikki-Tikki-Tayi, The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling

The story of this valiant young mongoose was a classic case of hero overcoming villain, introduced by the fearsome Mr McCombe at Newtownbreda Primary School. We have a thing for underdogs here at SERIOUS, so it’s no surprise this story has stayed with one of our team members… ever since he was in p5!

The Letter, the Witch and the Ring, John Bellairs

This had one of us hiding our lamp under the bedclothes way past bedtime. His tale charts the quest by the young Rose Rita and her aged friend, Mrs Zimmerman in the fictitious New Zebedee to discover the secret of a magic ring. It’s a page-turner from the start. There’s a huge influence from Belfast’s own CS Lewis too!

PR Execs may need more holidays… 
 
  • Posted 5 months ago

The results are out!

The annual CareerCast report has announced that public relations executive is one of the most stressful jobs in 2017.

The new report says many of us working in the media and public relations industry need to think about taking blood pressure tablets, as our stressful job roles are taking their toll.

Job stress can come in a variety of different forms; a dangerous working environment, tight deadlines, job competition and physical or mental demands.

Other ‘most’ stressful jobs include Military Personal, Firefighter and Corporate Exec, but there’s no doubt that this year has saw a shift in the amount of media related jobs that were recognised as incredibly taxing.

Working within the public eye exposes you to more job scrutiny and higher risks. Not to mention a high number of competitors and lack of job security.

Though PR execs may not be risking their lives on a daily basis, the high levels of pressure, expectations from clients and strict targets has led to it making the list of the Top 10 most stressful occupations.

Whether it’s a business, organisation or individual, public relations executives have an important responsibility to manage the public perception and reputation of their client.
Their skills are often needed at times of crisis, so there can be extreme pressure to deliver much needed results.

Dare I touch on it… clients who don’t understand how the PR industry works can add to the stress of the role.

However, there are those of us who are attracted to high stress jobs; we thrive in them and rise to the challenge, making the accomplishment of the task and success all the more sweet.

That being said, we can combat job stress with careful planning and preparation. A vital factor in keeping us on top of things (and sane!) on a daily basis…

How far is too far in PR? 
 
  • Posted 8 months ago

The footage of a woman in a zebra print coat carrying £15,000 portrait of movie star Steve McQueen sent Northern Ireland into hysterics recently. The revelation that the master mind behind the Scooby-do styled crime turned out to a local GP with a McQueen obsession (and an uncontrollable impulse) left some of us disappointed. Although there were many extravagant theories to explain the mystery, the one that caught our attention was: could it be a PR stunt?

Many of us dismissed the notion immediately; someone couldn’t possibly pull that off, continuing working within defined lines of what we considered PR to be. But instead of assuming ‘that’s a stretch too far’, perhaps we should start saying- is that far enough? Polar bears on the London Underground, naked baristas and THAT Snickers tweet to Jeremy Clarkson, the world of publicity is ever evolving and engineering new and creative ways to manufacture brand ‘noise’.

As Northern Ireland’s PR industry continues to flourish, our role as PR professionals is to help deliver a message with the same vibrancy and individuality reflected in the current climate. Continued growth, calls for increased originality. However, in an era of accessibility, originality is not an easy concept to grasp. Our minds are bombarded with images and information in just one flick of the thumb. The options we consider then feel limited, restrictive and almost as if creative thought is a wall too big to climb.

At School, we’re encouraged to discover what ways we learn best, be it taking notes or watching a demonstration. Yet never in our professional development do we question if the way we attempt to pursue creative ideas is the most productive route.

At SERIOUS we are evolving in our creative capacities but still believe in making the right kind of noise.  A noise that doesn’t try to yell over the top of wall. We find the gaps in between and continue to challenge the contrived limits of public relations.

PS – we don’t advocate committing theft in the pursuit of headlines. 🙂

What’s got us talking this week 
 
  • Posted 9 months ago

“Global brands are not just weathering change, but driving it,”

-Jez Frampton, Interbrand’s Global Chief Executive Officer.

The world’s most valuable brands were announced today, with Apple retaining the top spot as the world’s most valuable brand worth $178bn. Google placed second at $133bn, and Coca-Cola third at $73bn.

Automotive and technology brands dominated the ranking, with Retail recognised as the Top Growing Sector, increasing by 19 percent.

The fasted growing brand was social media giant, Facebook, rising 48 percent to $32.6bn, followed by Amazon, up by 33 percent. Despite a 10 percent loss in its value, HSBC was the highest placing UK brand, $10.5bn.

So what makes a brand so valuable? These brands were rated on four aspects:

Financial performance of the products or services offered

The ability of the brand to influence customers

The strength of the brand to command a premium price

The report clearly shows the top brands are ones that continue to grow by expanding into new markets and create better experiences for their customers.

Congratulations is in order…

We’re delighted for our clients, renowned chef, Chris McGowan and wife, Davina, who have seen great success this year for their restaurant in Moira, Wine & Brine. Wine & Brine has just received a prestigious Bib Gourmand in this 2017 Michelin Star awards. The accolade follows the titles of Best Newcomer in the 2016 Irish Restaurant Awards and Best Local Restaurant in the UK, conferred by the Waitrose Good Food Guide in July.

And there’s no signs of slowing down.

Wine & Brine, is one of the food establishments that have put Moira on the map as something of a foodie hub. In recent years, more food festivals and gourmet dining have encouraged people to flock to Moira to enjoy and engage with great local food.

Speaking of food…

Don’t forget!

Next week (8-16 Oct) is Belfast Restaurant Week, where restaurants will showcase the best local food on offer, and the passion that goes in to preparing the meals. We’ll be leaving the lunch boxes at home and taking advantage of it. From breakfast to an express lunch, afternoon tea to a fine dining dinner experience, there’s lots of delicious options to tuck in to. So why not step away from the over and treat yourself to meal out (or two, or three…)

SERIOUS CHAT 
 
  • Posted 9 months ago

… a round up of the stories that got us talking this week

 

Clinton’s trump card

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail…An old adage it seems Donald Trump forgot ahead of this week’s first US Presidential Election Debate.

With more than five million tweets recorded during the live debate, and a global consensus that Hillary wiped the floor with him, it’s clear that Clinton’s trump card seemed to lie in the hands of her opponent’s arrogance – and ultimately his failure to prepare.

hilary

There is probably no bigger stage in the world than this and ‘winging it’ seems foolhardy of a man keen to be leader of the free world.

Roses’ fever hits Belfast

On the back of their sell-out homecoming tour last year, Ian Brown’s boys will be crossing the water to play in Belfast’s SSE Arena next summer. The honorary Manc among us – our Associate Director, Dawn – is particularly happy about this and has no doubt been straight on to Ticketmaster this morning making sure her tickets are in the bag!

As always, it’s great to see Belfast attracting big acts like this. We’ve an absolute wealth of musical talent here on our shores so this legendary 90s band will be in good company. Roll on the 13th June and in the meantime, we’ll be reminding ourselves why we love the Stone Roses.

Lord Sugar will see you now

The Apprentice returns to BBC One screens for the twelfth series next week and once again we’ll be treated to advisors Baroness Karren Brady and Claude Littner as they put 18 brand new candidates through their paces to secure Lord Sugar’s £250k investment in their business plan.

We’re in the middle of our own recruitment drive at the minute so we’ll be watching closely and getting some tips along the way – but don’t worry we wont be asking our candidates to flog any fish down Billingsgate Market.

If you think you have what it takes to be our new ‘Apprentice’ send your cv to growingreputations@seriouspr.com by the 7th October.

Listen up to the Irish Farmers Journal podcast feature on Tesco Taste event 
  • Posted 9 months ago

It was great to have so many people from the media attend the 8th annual Tesco Taste Festival at Custom House Square.  The event generated significant exposure for Tesco NI as a champion of NI food and provided an unmatched showcase for local producers of food and drink.

You can catch up below with the Irish Farmers Journal podcast where reporter, Peter McCann interviews Tesco NI Marketing Manager Caoimhe Mannion about the Festival.

 

 

PR Exec wanting to move up the ladder?  
  • Posted 9 months ago

SERIOUS is looking for an ambitious PR Exec with up to 2 years’ experience.

We’ve won a string of NI and UK-wide awards for our work in the past 3 years.

We’re the current PRCA’s Outstanding Small PR Consultancy for Northern Ireland and Scotland (2016 PRCA DARE Awards).

We deliver great results for clients in food and drink, construction and professional services and more.

You have cut your teeth in PR with two years + experience. You take responsibility and work tenaciously to achieve results. You have a passion for social media and communications. You take pride in making sure things are done right.

You want to join a winning team. You want to learn from first class colleagues in a supportive team environment. You want to grow your career, working from attractive Belfast city centre offices right in the heart of the city and benefit from our best-in-class training programme.

Responsibilities:

  • Deliver our promises by supporting your team colleague in day-to-day handling and management of clients, programmes and projects
  • Achieve outstanding media coverage and social media comms
  • Demonstrate good writing and design skills
  • Produce multi-channel content across print and digital
  • Manage video and photography
  • Organizational skills in events and producing reports
  • Get on with clients, partners
  • Understanding of digital comms
  • Willingness to learn SEO tools and techniques

Check out our ad on www.indeed.co.uk or send your CV to growingreputations@seriouspr.com by close of play Friday 7th October 2016 and tell us why you think you are the best person for the job.

We also do great coffee.

Specsavers – should’ve listened to Oscar Wilde, or Richard Dawkins about memes 
  • Posted 11 months ago

by Andy Green, SERIOUS Creativity Director

News that Specsavers, the high street optician, is attempting to trademark the phrase “should’ve” shows how they are failing to understand the wise words of Oscar Wilde or understand memes – and are in danger of scoring a massive communications own goal.

The company is reported to have filed a trademark application with the UK Intellectual Property Office to establish Specsavers’ rights to use of the terms “should’ve” and “shouldve” in a range of commercial spheres.

The move was presumably instigated by the use of the phrase, “should’ve gone to Specsavers” at the end of their adverts. There is legal opinion who think the rules would not allow such a common phrase to be trademarked.

Yet the move doesn’t make significant sense in the rules of modern-day communications terms either.

The great observer of the human condition, the writer Oscar Wilde noted in his ‘Picture of Dorian Grey’, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

The enemy of Brand communications and PR are not messages from Brand competitors.

It’s being ignored.

The worst thing for a brand, as Oscar rightly notes, is to be ignored, on an onward journey to oblivion.

Similarly, if Specsavers had an ounce of knowledge about memes they would actually be encouraging people to use the phrase, to adapt, extend and give new energy, life and resonance to the underlying meme.

Guess what? Any time anyone uses the phrases ‘should’ve’ in a different way, it reinforces, reinvests, and gives new vigour to the underlying meme. And who is the parent of the phrase, what brand will people be unconsciously recognising and coupling with their psyches? Why Specsavers of course.

Communicators, PR people need a new mindset. People communicate emotionally. What gets transmitted, received and retransmitted is not the factual best. It’s the most convenient meme.

A common mistake people make about memes is to think they are a special form of communication, or are the viral things that can get passed around the internet.

Memes are the engine of communications, the vehicle for any form of cultural communication, from the act of sitting on a chair to #projectfear.

A convenient meme is one that is coherent, lives long enough to be copied, and is easily copy-able.

The word ‘meme’ is this year celebrating its 40th birthday, created by Richard Dawkins in his seminal book ‘The Selfish Gene’.

You cannot control or limit a meme. You can however, encourage its use, or use counter-memes to limit their potential damage.

Great publicists abide by the apocryphal ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’ phrase associated with showman and circus owner Phineas T. Barnum (Itself, another example of memes at work, with no hard evidence proving his coining the phrase).

This appreciates the oxygen of publicity, requiring usage and fresh sustenance to keep the communication alive.

Great PR people however, recognise how bad publicity can undermine brand reputation, relationships, influence, trust and social capital.

Yet, rather, than oppose, resist or deny the use of a meme, potential mememasters like Specsavers should be, would give their right eye for a valuable asset that could grow, expand and sustain itself of its own volition, without compromising their PR assets.

I prefer the words of another great Irish wit, Brendan Behan who wrote “There’s no such thing a bad publicity, except your own obituary.”

Ignore memes and their precious asset at your peril.

Specsavers need to look again at its potential folly, listen to the wise words of Oscar Wilde and learn about memes. Otherwise, their legal protection could send a powerful meme to its own graveyard.

Pass it on.

Why the PRCA must keep ‘public relations’ – for the future of PR – and even humankind. 
  • Posted 12 months ago

by Andy Green, SERIOUS Creativity Director

The UK organisation currently known as the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) is about to make a decision to change its name – even considering dispensing with the words ‘Public Relations’.

This is a plea to keep the epithet ‘Public Relations’ for its own self-interest and for the wider good of the profession – and the world at large.

For its own self-interest retaining ‘Public Relations’ preserves its acronym and most common usage of its title – ‘the PRCA’.

Neither do you need a crystal ball to predict that at some point, in the not-too-distant future, there is going to have to be a debate about whether there should be a merger between the two organizations operating within the UK public relations sector – the PRCA and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. The PRCA retaining the ‘Public Relations’ part of its name facilitates any future marriage.

It is understandable that an organization formed in 1969 recognized the need to reflect the fact that it was no longer limited to just those working as consultants. ‘Consultants’ has to go.

Yet, the advent of integrated communications, with the blurring of the lines between different communications disciplines such as advertising, brand management and digital marketing could tempt a forward-looking strategist to adopt ‘Professional Communicators’ as a catch-all theme.

This would be fundamentally wrong.

Firstly, there is still a lot of life in the PR dog yet.

Yes, there is a flat-lining in the search words on Google for ‘public relations’. Yet these searches dwarf any rival searches for ‘Integrated Communications’, ‘Content Marketing’ or other terms.

Also, by asserting the qualities public relations possess that other communication s disciplines cannot deliver or match, is the way forward for public relations to give itself a new lease of life.

Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman identified five heuristics’, or what I call ‘Brand Heuristics’, that steer people to say ‘Yes’ if something is known, liked, trusted, front-of-mind, and others are talking about it.
All integrated communications such as advertising, brand management, digital marketing and public relations work towards these heuristics with their goals of ensuring something is known, liked, trusted, front-of-mind and others are talking about it.

Yet PR has more in its locker. It potentially is the lead discipline in five key capabilities:

1. Listening
2. advising on a Brand’s authentic actions
3. managing the corporate story
4. building social capital
5. earning trust.

As a result it delivers five key outcomes in brand reputation, relationships, earned influence, more powerful narratives and greater capability to collaborate.

If the PR profession can get its act together to highlight these key roles and outcomes it can outflank rival disciplines to secure a competitive advantage over them.

It won’t be able to do this however, if we abrogate our name where ‘public relations allows itself to be subsumed within integrated communications.

Lastly, the world needs public relations to survive. Indeed, it will be a crucial tool for the survival of humankind.
Society faces many great challenges and threats. A healthy, vibrant public relations discipline is a crucial tool to enable different groups or tribes to connect, co-operate and collaborate. Without this, humankind is screwed.

Whether our race can succeed will be down to how well the public relations function can work to preserve, build, and nurture its connectivity, co-operation, and collaboration capital.

Over dramatic claims? I genuinely believe not.

If public relations does diminish or die it will be as a result of a 1001 cuts. And the PRCA, should it choose to forsake ‘public relation’ could just be one of those cuts.

So an appeal to the PRCA, please, in your own narrow, specific interest keep the ‘Public Relations’ in your name. And for the sake of the profession – and for the future of humankind – by casting your vote, endorsing PR could propel it to a better, more competitive and successful future.

Please Respect Community Assets.

How Leave won the Meme War in the BREXIT vote 
 
  • Posted 12 months ago

by Andy Green, SERIOUS Creativity Director

The UK is still reeling from a Referendum vote that surprised the global markets, institutions, and even the Leave campaign supporters.

One lesson is how the Remain campaign lost the ‘Meme War’.

Mention ‘memes’ and the fashion now is to think of virial Internet messages that capture people’s imagination and get passed on.

Yet memes are more profound, I would argue they form the DNA of communications, of how information gets passed on, received and crucially passed-on again.

And what’s clear the Leave campaign won its Meme War – by gaining a disproportionate part of popular culture – leading to a majority result in favour of the UK leaving the EU.

Powerful memes are ‘sticky’. By that I mean they have a coherence, often easily visualised or memorable in some way, and are easily copyable. As a result, they are easily remembered and can be passed on intact, and can grow and grow.

Think back to the Referendum campaign, what messages can you remember?

The Leave side’s ‘Take Back Control’ message, #Project Fear response to any expert opinion or surveys, the message that the UK’s National Health Service would get each week/month £350 million by not being in the Euro, its flamboyant and charismatic leaders – notably Boris Johnson from the Conservatives and Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party, Boris’s red campaign bus that toured the country, and the latest immigrant, or manifestation of immigration you saw on your last trip around town.

And from the Remain side…

The Remain side failed to recognise that facts and information alone are weak communications.

The Remain campaign failed to create Brand Icons – the pictures in your head when your Brand name is mentioned.

The Remain campaign had a half-hearted token attempt at creating memes. One of their key messages was they claimed how the average UK household would be £4,300 a year. Yet, I can’t visualise £4,300 a year so the message will more likely wash over me, fail to be believable or stick. I can however, picture in my mind’s eye £330 a month or £82 a week.

Their message of #strongertogether lacked an ability to make people feel better as a result of digesting the information. The Leave’s #TakeBackControl was much more vigorous and self-asserting, making you unconsciously feel better about yourself.

Interesting how the Welsh Football Association (WFA) employed #TogetherStronger as part of its campaign to unite Welsh football fans in the run up to, and during the Euro 2016 football tournament. This word sequence works better that the Remain campaign’s #StrongerTogether, possessing a more inherent logic: first we come together and then we’re stronger.

Also, the WFA had the advantage of possessing a core entity – Welsh football fans’ love of their country and their game – that provide a much more attractive proposition to align and bond with by being ‘together’ and subsequently be even greater as a result of the coming together, than the Remain campaign more wishy-washy ‘Stronger Together’.

Ultimately, the Leave campaign conjured up the most powerful meme of all – a Conspiracy Meme.

Armed with ‘#ProjectFear’ – that whatever other side is saying is part of a conspiracy, every time an expert, authoritative or opposing source opened their mouths they would be met with the response: ‘They’re bound to say that.’

Not only does a Conspiracy meme provide a deflective shield to bounce back any unwelcome messages, it actually gets stronger and deeper every time it’s employed. Instead of persuading someone you end up deepening the strength of their convictions.

So, how can you counter a conspiracy meme? Not by facts. But by counter-memes.

Evidently, the UK is any way not a full member of the existing ‘EU Club’ as a result of not being part of the single Euro currency, or the Schengen Agreement that allows free-er passage within countries. In reality, the UK was, as one expert estimated, just a 65% member of the EU Club.

The Leave campaign talked of establishing a new deal with Europe to retain free trade, and spoke of ‘Norway Models’ – which is not a member of the EU but complies with a certain level of EU rules to enjoy free market trading opportunities.

While you could have rationally argued that the Leave campaign’s message of ‘Take back control’ is a myth, this is a far less effective response than to retort with a counter meme of, for example, all you’re doing is ‘#TakeBack30%Control’.

This is sticky, easy-pass-onable, and ultimately could have toxified the original #TakeBackControl meme. Sure, it is not rational facts. But you can’t beat memes with facts, only by employing other more potent memes.

One of my creative heroes, advertising legend Dave Trott, talks of how middle class people hate jingles in advertising. Despite being meme-friendly, memorable and effective in achieving awareness, message retention, and ensuring front-of-mindedness, the middle class executive is likely to sneer at the prospect of using a jingle in their communications.

Why? Because middle-class executives are successful people on the back of being more intelligent, rational, and logical. Jingles are more likely, and falsely, in their mind just to appeal to unintelligent, lower-class people.

Whenever I run a meme campaign workshop I keep the numbers taking part low. This minimises the risk of logical, middle-class minds expressing their discomfort and undermining the delicate process of creating sticky messaging.

Going forward, the UK needs to create a new narrative, needs to work to build greater Social Capital to bring a divided community together, abut will need to take a lesson from the Leave campaign of the critical need to win the Meme Wars.

Are you guilty of being snobby and reluctant to dirty your hands with memes?

 

The BREXIT vote – the latest consequence of our Social Capital crisis 
  • Posted 12 months ago

By Andy Green, SERIOUS, Creativity Director.

How many working class people do you know? Did half the people you know vote Brexit?

The Referendum result revealed a disturbing reality of two tribes within Britain – and what’s worse they’re increasingly having less to do with each other.

It is all part of a hidden crisis within our society – the decline of Social Capital – and it was partly responsible for the recent Referendum result.

This hidden Social Capital crisis affects the very heartbeat of how our communities work. Fewer people devote themselves to the communal good. Less of us are getting involved in doing things, running things or just hanging around with each other – how we help each other to help each other – reducing our capacity to connect, co-operate and collaborate.

As a result, things we took for granted in our communities start to happen less and less, or not happen at all, and people are increasingly operating within distinct silos of like-minded people – and we are all poorer as a result.

There are less opportunities for dialogue between people. Chances to create alternative views outside your own tribe’s bubble of a worldview.

There are less opportunities to become a trusted source, someone who could be listened to, whose advice and information is not dismissed as being part of a conspiracy theory.

There are less opportunities to be front-of-mind, being able to influence just by the recency of your contact.

There are less opportunities to be at least liked by another person, so that you avoid simplistic labels and stereotypes of other people, even if you hold a contrary view.

Social Capital is not just a nice thing to have. It’s critical to how well we live and work together – and public relations people are in the driving seat to do something about its decline.

PR people need to start recognising the existence of Social Capital – the space to connect, that can range from building on-line and off-line communities, to simple opportunities to be in the same space together.

We need to respect that that building Social Capital is one of the five core pillars of public relations activity, alongside listening, counselling on the authenticity of your Brand’s actions, managing your story, and earning trust.

We need to include in our work recognition that communications and creating change requires managing the gaps within stakeholders as much as the messages to them.

We need to recognise that public relations work is about investing in the Bonding Capital that holds a group together, its Bridging Capital of how it connects with other like-minded people outside of its home group, and its Linking Capital for connecting with others – even if they are not like you, or may even be opposed to you.

I define Social Capital as ‘How we help each other, to help each other’- the capacity within our communities to connect, co-operate and collaborate.

Vibrant communities have strong Bonding Social Capital – the glue to hold a group together

Thriving communities have strong Bridging Social Capital to connect people better with like-minded others

Creative communities have strong Linking Social Capital bringing dissimilar people together

The guru of Social Capital, Robert Putnam identified in his seminal book ‘Bowling Alone’ how bowling alley attendances in the United States are rising but bowling alley leagues have dramatically declined – hence we’re increasingly ‘bowling alone’ – a decline mirrored in every aspect of communal and civic life.

I came across the concept of ‘Social Capital’, and realized its significance, through a community project I ran in my hometown, the ‘Barry IdeasBank’. It started off as an idea of an online repository, a place to share good ideas about where you live.

I discovered that an idea by itself is just an idle thought. You need people to make ideas happen. And these people need other people to realize the potential of their idea and to make it happen – they need strong Social Capital – offline more than online.

A Barry equivalent of Putnam’s bowling metaphor would be the pub game of skittles, played in skittles alleys.

Over the last 20 years half the skittle alleys in Barry have closed. Yes, this reflects changing social habits, the decline in numbers of local pubs, and also the changing nature of employment, evoked by the names of many of the alleys that have closed such as the ‘Dockers’ and ‘Railwaymen’.

Yet the people who used to play skittles have not replaced this activity with another that nudges them to get out of their homes more, mix with people they may not normally have social contact with, or come together to work to a common goal. As a result we have a Social Capital deficit.

In Barry we would have the equivalent book title of ‘Skittling No More’, where the core assets for Social Capital, the hubs for communal activity are being destroyed or significantly diminished – whether it is a skittle alley closing, declining local newspaper circulations, the local record shop or other community retail closing, or fewer milk deliveries – anything where we help each other, to help each other.

This is not about restoring or trying to keep alive what may be commercially or socially unviable or unsustainable, but rather recognising the Social Capital consequences of these trends. We need to invest and create new activities to offset the deficit.

Imagine in the run-up to the Referendum you are in a team or group event with people you don’t normally mix with, and the subject of ‘How are you going to vote?’ came up? You are more likely to hear and respond to a far wider range of views than from your bubble of friends, family and social media contacts.

You would have had a richer discourse, sharing personal experiences, leveraging your mutual trust and also creating a greater sense of mutual obligation to the consequences of your actions.

Once you start wearing Social Capital glasses you see its symptoms everywhere in your work: greater difficulty getting volunteers or participants, more difficult to get your message through, or being failed to be believed and trusted.

The UK faces one of its biggest challenges since World War II. Public Relations people and Communicators need to stand tall. The BREXIT vote is a wake-up call on so many fronts.

We need to create new narratives of our collective story going forward. Yet, we also need to wake up to the crisis in declining Social Capital in our society, and roll up our sleeves to lead the way in addressing its consequences and building new Social Capital for greater connection, co-operation and collaboration.

Charles Darwin observed that the species that succeed are the ones that collaborate better,

We are not just bowling or skittling alone, but could be a country of two mutually alone tribes, failing to collaborate.

Are you going to start the process of reaching out more, and creating richer, more meaningful engagements?

Or are you going to sit comfortably in your bubble, your silo of self-reinforcing, mutually supportive ‘Yes’ people to your worldview?

Facing up to the consequences of BREXIT and working to build a resilient, inclusive and successful UK community could be one of PR’s finest moments. I’m rolling up my sleeves, yet I know I can’t achieve what I want by myself. Are you going to do what you can do to tackle the Social Capital crisis in our society?

 

Going forward from the Euro Referendum 
  • Posted 1 year ago

By Andy Green, SERIOUS, Creativity Director.

We are experiencing a seismic change in our history that is in urgent need of a new narrative. One that explains our past and one that works to rebuild our society and create a stronger platform for a better collective future for the UK.

Otherwise, we face up to creating a future destiny amidst uncertainty, bitterness, rancour and despair.

A narrative is like the string in a pearl necklace, providing the thread for connecting your pearls of your story of the past and of the future, that shape your story of the now.

Not since the darkest hours of 1940 where Winston Churchill stood tall and inspired the British people – and history – of a Britain that its people will fight on its beaches has there been a need for creating a new narrative for our future.

We recognise that in our work in communications and public relations we have a critical role to play.

At the heart of this is the UK needs a new story.

One of our favourite poets Ian McMillan, Tweeted this morning: ‘This is a roar of bitter anger against austerity and powerlessness. It won’t stop me loving the world and its beautiful songs of hope.’

We now need to build on this sense of purpose in life to explain our new reality and future aspirations.

A new script is needed for the United Kingdom, its people, and its role in the world that:

  • Binds our wounds, connects our people together. For 48% of people who voted ‘Remain’ it’s a future they didn’t choose. We face recrimination and polarisation. For the 52% that voted ‘Leave’ there is a temptation for triumphalism. Our reality is that we need to live and go forward together. Democracy is not just about winner takes all, but respecting the whole of the community.
  • Creates a new sense of direction. We now have a pathway without the map that previously defined our route. We need a vision offering a coherent, constructive, and caring mission.
  • Listens and learns from what happened on June 23rd. A majority sent out a signal, beyond the direct question of staying in or out of the EU, of alienation from the political establishment, a lack of trust in previously trusted sources. We need to learn, grow and move on.

The way ahead is to recognise there are inevitable immediate narratives being used to explain what happened.

“White Van Man has decided my future.”

 “The Leave camp lied and misled the British people.”

“We face economic disaster.”

It will inevitably take time to heal the immediate anger felt by the slender minority whose future has been shaped by their fellow citizens.

It is healthy to vent your immediate feelings. It is unhealthy however, to let those same feelings and story of rage dictate your script going forward, masking your ability to make a fresh start, to make the most of our situation and our potential.

During this post-Referendum period we need to create a new ground, beyond those defined by the ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ camps, that creates a new sense of shared purpose and common destiny.

We need to build a new narrative, that explains our past, the reason why people acted the way they did, and the story of our future that will shape how we define our story of now.

We need a story narrative not of ‘Tragedy – a ‘Riches-to-Rags’ plot, but of ‘Re-birth’, where it is a plot of how we find the answer, the resource and capability from within us.

This will require open, honest reflection, but crucially listening to and recognizing the narrative patterns that are being used by the different camps of ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’- and how we, like it or not, have a reality that we need to move forward from.

Communicators, like Winston Churchill in 1940 now need to stand tall.

Yes, a slim majority of 52% has given its verdict. But it’s a future for the 100% of us we now need to work on. And that will require a new narrative, to paraphrase Churchill, where we need to offer our blood, toil, tears and sweat, but will never surrender to a hopeless future.

Let our new journey of a new truth and reconciliation begin.

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