Category Archives: Uncategorized

Trying not to suck at Marketing

Having previously teased with the reasons why Marketing can suck and before we embark on the five part response, here are five ways we are trying hard not to suck.

1. Freshen your look
Not externally visible yet, but working with the extraordinary talent at Stone Creative to revamp our document suite and brand. Clients judge marketing teams internal and external on how they present themselves – it helps them gauge how you represent them.

2. Get offsite
Taking the team away from the work environment, despite hilariously cruel parodies  is almost ever a poor investment. We use High Road House just down the road from our Glamoursmith bat cave which we share with Celebrity Juice. This time our external perspective will be provided by analytics guru Andrew Smith.

3.Re-ping the ‘ones who got away’
Those customers who said ‘thanks, but the time is not right’. We have waited for years (the record is eight) for clients we liked and thought we could work well with, to give us a green light. As Churchill, himself an overlooked leader, who only achieved greatness late in life and in death,  said ‘Keep on, keepin’ on’ (the actual quote is a little more, er, British)

4. Question your processes
Boring you say? Crucial is what we learnt. Our new bag of tricks for 2013 including working with clients on Google Analytics to learn which of our tactics works best for them and a move to a suite of sweet new Gmail-friendly apps like Smartsheet.

5. Keep thinking bigger
It is a depressing fact that while the European market continues to wallow in self-pity. Elsewhere, there are plenty of bright spots, for those who look. Silicon Valley continues to boom which is why we visit regularly (January’s roadtrip will now be followed up by a June tour). In addition, our current client roster includes companies HQ’ed in Finland, Romania and Israel. Pleasingly, we are chosen to lead Thought Leadership globally for many clients. We, like our clients, dream big.

The results? New business this year is tracking nicely. New clients from the emerging tech sector in Eastern Europe, inroads to London’s world-class insurance technology market as well as the world’s largest IT security firm.

NATIONAL EMERGENCY OR TECHNICAL GLITCH?

For the last month the UK banking sector, arguably the country’s most important source of tax revenues, has been under fire. A typically British media circus of Parliamentary Committees, chairman resignations, CEO statements, CEO resignations, declined bonuses, and chairman ‘unresignations’ have created a lot of buzz. We like buzz, we create a lot of it, as you can see from our well-received spoof earlier in the year.

More concerning for those who, like Positive Marketing’s team, promote the vital economic role of technology, is the UK media’s continuing treatment of technology-based stories, even ones described as ‘the industry’s worst ever computer breakdown,’ as a mere distraction from political windbags and celebrities.


Tragically, even in an era where all businesses rely on technology and regulators use IT to check for wrongdoing, the UK press corps seem determined to skim over the important, albeit technical, details of how this happened and could happen again. Much easier to focus on self-serving politicians, calls for resignations and celebrity takedowns. But this was the tech story which would not go away.

To recap – a system error at a UK-government-owned bank meant a batch process, which may have worked perfectly for decades, went hellishly wrong. The results were non-payment of salaries, new homeowners being temporarily evicted from their future homes, vital medication missed and even extended incarceration for those legally free – all because no payments could move. A rip-roaring news story if ever there was one.

So, how was this major news reported? A scant few articles in the week it wreaked havoc (less than 1,000, or about the daily count of a celebrity divorce, according to Google News). Then virtually nothing over the weekend, where it was relegated to a small story midway through the news section of the UK’s best-selling national following, presumably, an effective damping down by the bank’s PR team. Unfortunately for the mainstream media, the issues were not simply resolved by ‘switching on and off again’.

By Monday there were still several million disgruntled UK citizens and a Twitter storm of brand damage and, inconveniently for some, the whole thing had to be picked up once again. The good news (forgive the shameless plug for our work) is this resulted in some intelligent comment as to what went wrong and why it WILL happen again , not least in The Economist (subscription required) and The Independent [Disclosure – this is what we do for clients].

Why did such a major story fail to be covered or even sensibly debated by the nation’s media? Three reasons, some of which we have touched on before:

1. Lack of expertise (as The Guardian’s Charles Arthur’s excellent, much commented, article reminded, few journalists these days have the expertise to even understand the issue)

2. An obsession with blaming the faceless (bankers) instead of taking responsibility (changing banks)

3. Trivialisation of the role of technology in everyday life. The truth is most of the outages which do occur regularly are easily avoidable with decent engineering but instead are seen as technical glitches, the fault of the technology sector rather than the business managers who are meant to be controlling them.

Thank God for the Barclays debacle (more later) which managed to distract the public’s attention away from the glitch and which has effectively let the bank off the hook. To-date there has been no further explanation of what exactly went wrong or what is being done to prevent future outages – nor can we expect any in the near future. As the media circus turns back to Westminster, it seems even ‘computer glitches’ which result in massive disruptions and large-scale pay-outs, are frankly not news for the UK media – yet.

So, let’s just await the next ‘glitch’ – here’s hoping this one’s even bigger. It might be just what this country needs.

UK to suffer week-long ‘news drought’

Unions call seven day industrial action and silence Number 10

News Drought hits Premier League of journalists

Embargoed until Saturday 31 March 2012, UK (NATIONWIDE) – The UK’s two largest Public Relations unions, the Federation of Online Lobbyists and the Association of Public Relations and Information Lobbyists today announced a week of industrial action designed to highlight their grievance over working conditions for their members and their treatment by the press.

From Sunday, the PR industry’s 50,000 UK professional practitioners including lobbyists and spin merchants will down tools. Analysts predict newsrooms throughout the land will grind to a halt as striking PRs fail to email press releases, research story angles or insert interview slots into spokespeople’s diaries. No news at all is expected from Downing Street, headed by former Carlton PR executive, David Cameron, until midday 8th April.

The dispute centres on a ‘complete lack of respect’ for the vital role PRs have in delivering factual news to ever-growing readerships, broadcast audiences and Social Media followers. The week-long protest comes in the light of weeks of nationwide ridicule by journalists and bloggers which included a ‘Wall of Shame’ and a derisory Twitter meme (#prsongs) which saw the microblog misused for open mocking of the PR profession which contributes to the UK economy.

Avril Lefou, founder of the Association of Public Relations and Information Lobbyists, reasoned: “Recent events have forced this unprecedented move by our members. For too long, our members have pitched some of the most unique fodder to ungrateful newsgatherers. Some of these so-called professionals frequently ignore perfectly newsworthy yarns. While perfectly happy to accept press trips and samples, our comrades in news are not putting pen to paper, finger to tablet or phone to ear as we believe they should. We have no option, but to retaliate and withdraw our labour.”

Local protests have been planned up and down the country which will see the printing presses of Manchester grind to a halt, the iPad screens of Hoxton blank and even the world famous BBC flagship Today programme without its trademark shouting matches – a move some predict will see the early retirement of Splott-born John Humphrys.

There is however some good news, rival unions, the Foundation Openly and Objective Lobbying [FOaOL] estimates a saving of electricity from reduced latte consumption, as well as much faster download times for Facebook, Pinterest and other vital PR-related websites.

[ENDS]

For more information please call Avril Lefou on 07900 600013 or Twitter @AvrilAPR_iL

Digital London rocks into the ExCeL

The terms ‘Tech City’ and ‘Silicon Roundabout’ are both the object of derision. Tech companies don’t need to be in close proximity if London has a fully integrated digital infrastructure. Or do they?

Surrounded by the din of aircraft engines taking off from the East London Airport, a burgeoning debate took place last week which gave the UK a chance to ExCeL and make its case to be the prime global location for technology enterprise and innovation. Digital London, the hybrid event where Thought Leaders from the private and public sector, investors and start-ups live networked and debated London’s Olympic year bid to have a successful, connected future.

The inaugural hybrid event lifted the veil upon the East Ends’ substantially botox’d face for 2012. It combined physical exhibition stands with virtual ones as speakers’ videos appeared over the web. Dominic Campbell from FutureGov case in point. It drew attention to London as a key technology long hub before Usain Bolt et al turn London into a sporting carnival during the Summer Games.

With the likes of Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Broadvision divulging their insight on topics such as future innovation, smart infrastructure and development of talent, content was aplenty. This fed into the hands of tech and national writers typing away in the much-appreciated large Wi-Fied support press room.

Note: Event Organisers Houses: Wi-Fi + promise of food + interviews = happy journalists

In total, the event [Positive Marketing ran the events press office] have produced 53 pieces of coverage thus far such as Virgin Media chosen to deliver Wi-Fi to 80 tube stations for Olympics and Open data must not be neglected by local government: Nigel Shadbolt.

Referring to Bolt and his doppelganger Richard Branson, headlines were made and trends ignited at Digital London. Maybe with one eye on appearing in future Virgin adverts, Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor’s Director of Environment & Digital London in his keynote announced that Virgin Media has been contracted to provide hotspots to 80 Tube stations in time for the Olympics. Mr Ranger wasn’t at all subtle about the announcement first calling the audience to get their devices ready before he let it out. Even with Usain Bolt and Fibre Optic Broadband, Virgin was slow in response and finally confirming one day after the original announcement.

Civil servants were in amicable mood during the event. Tom Loosemoore Deputy Director, Government Digital Service kicked off the event with a well rehearsed quip ‘I am from the Government and we are here to help you’. Will these words come to fruition over measuring and releasing transparent data, or will it end up as mere pettifog, only time will tell?

There it is, not #SXSW yet but the ‘Davos of Tech’ it could well be. We will end with an apt quote from Ray Wang, CEO Constellation Research who tweeted “Good for a first year conference. Will be awesome next year.”

If you did not make it along this year, see the highlights here.

Car crash TV or a sharp PR lesson?

As the UK mainstream media obsesses with the usual fare this month; stories about itself (Leveson enquiry), the Westminster circus (Chris Huhne’s alleged traffic offence) and celebrity tragedy (this month it is Whitney Huston).  It remains the case that we need more Technology stories and geek spokespeople, more women in IT and in the view of many of us, fewer politicians on TV.

As you will know from previous rants here, we just need more awareness of the importance of technology employment to the UK economy. Why then, was the appearance of Julie Meyer, CEO of Ariadne Capital, who according to the private equity advisor’s website has ”pioneered a new model for the financing of entrepreneurship” such a ‘Horlicks’? Seldom has one appearance caused so much negativity. Here is a sample of Twitter comments, ranging from the amusing (in an ironic British sense)

@kristiancarter That awkward moment when Julie Meyer gets home, checksTwitter, and finds that all the “digital natives” hate her.
@RolandMooreTV: Anyone else playing the Julie Meyer “entrepreneur” drinking game? I’m smashed. #bbcqt

To the potentially brand-damaging

@stellduffy: Julie Meyer is only following 8 people on Twitter. Does she need a free, young intern to explain how it works?
@carysafoko: Why is BBC obsessed with Julie Meyer? She’s
done #bbcqt and news night this week. Despite being mental.

This is a real shame because, having worked with Ms Meyer (a LONG time ago) in her earlier role as an entrepreneurial founder of First Tuesday, she was clearly eloquent and intelligent in equal measures and others have called her telegenic (judge for yourself if relevant ). In other words, her appearance should have been a breakthrough for smart females in tech.

Elements of her ‘performance’ were refreshing. Perhaps more guests, often clueless but feeling compelled to say something in front of an audience, should follow her lead and simply duck out of discussing topics of which they are totally ignorant or disinterested (as she did when asked about the issue of regionally-elected mayors).

Speaking to ‘sources close to Julie’ it seems she was ill-advised. But the real question is how far has this car crash cost the rest of the Tech community their shot of getting seriously clued-up technology commentators back on mainstream telly?

We fear a lot, in which case the best that the tech community can hope for on the media which ‘middle Britain’ watches (free to air TV)  is the ghastly combo of gadget ghetto and light entertainment which is Channel Five’s The Gadget Show,  its Murdoch rival Gadget Geeks and the BBC’s very dated Click.

Surely there is an audience for intelligent debate on technology in UK broadcast? Sadly we are missing the mark so far. If there are any TV production teams brave enough, we reckon we know where to start. 

Nostalgia; it ain’t what IT used to B2C

Nostalgia; it ain’t what IT used to B2C

We Brits are really world-class at remembering, as the recent first-class Remembrance Day pageants show. While we religiously and quite rightly observe two minute silences, our US brethren tried to reclaim 1/11/11 as Binary Day with special numerological significance for the digital worker. The world it seems moves on faster than we ‘Little Englanders’ would like. “Don’t forget Bletchley” we blurt.

The sad passing of Steve Jobs should and could be a learning point for many in the UK tech media. His amazing devices, contained few true innovations, but perfectly captured the hearts and minds of wealthy UK consumers. This in turn created an unseemly rush for their ‘eyeballs’ which resulted in scant coverage of real British innovation (some of which, in the form, of ARM processors, appears in the iPhone itself).

Pleasingly, a senior national newspaper tech journalist shared her opinion that the rise of the gadget had led to a corresponding decline in ‘tech stories which mattered’. It was then a surprise to hear at least some coverage of the 60th anniversary of the ‘first ERP system’, used by the long defunct, but once legendary, Lyons Tea Company to calculate wages and tea room takings. The reality is that this was more perfect nostalgia, only coincidentally IT-related.

Some in the UK technology scene have seen the light. After Autonomy’s shareholders ‘sold the crown jewels to HP’, (a story which revealed just how uninterested the UK media is in technology compared to Westminster) the BBC’s coverage has picked up – albeit by trawling the same Cambridge campus which spawned Autonomy or the Government-backed and so over-hyped real estate of (ahem) Silicon Roundabout, where some chips are laced into cookies, but none fabricated into microprocessors.

Former Telegraph journo and one man contradiction, Milo Yianniopoulos, who lives in London and San Francisco and writes anti-porn, pro-gay, right wing prose, has been brave enough to ‘say what he sees’. His manifesto, carefully re-positioned ‘live’ in relation to a perhaps unfairly hostile reception from UK tech writers who feel underpaid for writing about the success of largely overseas companies, promises much, though it has yet to deliver.

Would some of the venom directed at this message of hope and change, perhaps have been better spent researching the UK’s new tech innovators? Looking for the UK’s Golden Geese, rather than admiring the Golden Eggs deposited across the ocean and into this island’s dying high streets from vast Asian container ships. Or should we just continue to electronically wire our wealth to the Eastern tech companies that increasingly look like tomorrow’s writers of IT history and mourn the passing of a Golden Age of British Tech?

Are we right to decry the celebration of the past and of the technology achievements of the past? Feel free to comment.

[ENDS]

The Silly Season 2011 – How a hoax displaced real UK tech stories

Each year we patiently explain to overseas clients why large swathes of Europe are not open for business in July and August. A quaint local custom variously blamed on ‘harvest time’, being ‘too hot to work in France’ or ‘school holidays’, but increasingly in a world of flexible hours, Blackberries and hotel Wi-Fi, these are poor excuses for sunny non-productivity.

From a Tech PR perspective The Silly Season is a God Send. Now is the chance to review progress, line-up customers and reach out to writers and bloggers, ready for the news feast to come. In a normal year, we take advantage of the downtime to raise real-life tech issues with writers who, unusually, are not busy checking flights to conferences or speculating on upcoming gadgets announcements.

Sadly this year’s window of sanity has been squandered by two events, one important; Autonomy’s purchase by HP (of which, more soon) the other a simple hoax which in their own ways both indicate a disregard for real technology news.

[Please note, I am disregarding the sterling work of journalists trying to trendsurf this summer’s #ukriots and the UK tabloid hacking stories – well done James Murray of Business Green and Nic Booth of CityAM and well, various]

So it was that The Telegraph, CNN, Mashable and others ran a hooky survey story claiming Internet Explorer users were less intelligent than ‘the rest of us’ puffed up by a company none of them had ever heard of before – because the site was just two month’s old. Then the truth came out (for details see the excellent ‘Anatomy of a hoax’ for a dissection by competitive analysis expert Arthur Weiss). Some hacks, including The Register, were gracious in defeat. Others less so. The BBC pulled its own story but kept links to other technology writers in its amended story to point out other writers who had also fallen for the hoax.

Perhaps the Aptiquant yarn proves today’s IT consumerized ‘citizen journalists’ have more knowledge than generalist writers, but questions have to be asked as to why UK journalists, a cynical lot at best, fell for this ruse at a time when there is very little other technology news around. We suggest three major reasons

  1. It appealed to their prejudices.
    Tech writers prefer new, over good-enough. To some extent this is understandable. The IT industry innovates more than most. But labelling non-techy Internet Explorer users as Dummies, merely for sticking with the default browser on their not-very-new-and-shiny PCs, seems like a low blow or, at best, defensive. Especially when grannies use Facebook and Readers Comments act as due diligence, picking up fake stories.
  2. Damned statistics.
    Researching news is difficult, or more accurately, time consuming. These days, with fewer editorial staff than ever, PR surveys offer tempting pre-researched linkbait. But uncovering this hoax required very little effort. With 100,000 claimed subjects, this survey is unbelievably large. A moment’s pause would have realised that a no-name brand would never be able to fund research at this scale.
  3. Big brands have more power than (most) writers realise
    Most writers would rather face waterboarding than admit being unduly influenced by PR from Apple, Intel and others. The truth is otherwise. A national tech journalist Twitter DM’ed us to explain that ratings often trump news value (innovation). He refreshingly honestly admitted there were so many iPhone stories because ‘Readers like them, I’m afraid.’

So surely, the delayed iPhone 5 (4.5?) and with no press conferences for two months, the Silly Season is an ideal time for the great industry sector we work in to ask questions. Alas, playing into the hands of global brands, it has just become a backwater concocted ‘survey stories’ and thumb-twiddling until the next junket. Hands up we too have also fallen for hoaxes and cock-ups (remember the Samsung Filelogger red herring?) and we love the odd survey story too – odder the better, but paying that much attention to Steve Jobs’ lunch plans is neither innovative nor interesting.

It is always much more interesting to speak to real users and canvass Thought Leaders. This is not easy because they give out mixed messages, hold no ‘black and white’ views and don’t sponsor press events. However this way, rather than confirming existing prejudices, perhaps even during the Silly Season, we all might learn something real.

Feel free to comment, or for more real tech stories, contact us (details http://www.positivemarketing.org)