Happy New Year to all

Friday 31st December 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

As 2010 draws to a close we’d just like to take the opportunity to wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2011

We’re sure it’s going to be an exciting one – we hope it is for you too

From all at team matm

Public relations is a critical factor in the Northern Ireland water shortage crisis

Thursday 30th December 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

Bad things often have the habit of biting the corporate behind just when you least want or expect them to. Christmas is not a good time to leave 40,000 people without water, as Northern Ireland Water is finding out.

As if the practicalities of mending hundreds of pipe burst during freezing weather is not enough, the company seems to be compounding its problems with poor public relations. Nothing new there then! Only days before, BAA had to make grovelling apologies for poor communication with pretty much everyone over the problems causes by snow and ice at UK airports.

A Northern Ireland MP went on the BBC to say he could understand that very bad weather can cause big problems with water supply. What he could not excuse was the failure by Northern Ireland Water to communicate properly with its customers to explain what was happening, why and how they could get help.

He said information was poor and the website, in particular, was “no better than a kindergarten’s”. What is telling about the website is that there is no trace on it of an apology to customers – or an explanation as to why the problems have occured. There is factual information, such as lists of where people can go to get water out of a bowser, but not much else. It may be we have missed the relevant pages, but that is telling in itself.

There are a number of things, from a PR point of view, that go down well during such a crisis:

  • Sincere and often repeated apologies for the inconvenience caused
  • Visible leadership for customer relations and crisis resolution
  • Provision of information through multiple channels
  • Clear communication of what is being done and why
  • Evidence of support by stakeholders
  • And, not forgetting, effective advice on where to get help

Place your bets now on this being seen as a PR disaster as much as an operational one, when the dust settles and the water starts to flow again.

Northern Ireland Water website

BBC News – No Quick Fix For NI Water Crisis

Belfast Telegraph – Northern Ireland Water To Blame

matm uses advertising, social media, print and video in Shropshire smoking campaign

Thursday 30th December 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

matm has helped devise a major New Year marketing campaign to encourage thousands of smokers in Shropshire to ‘Pledge to Quit’ in 2011.

We’ve been working working with Help2Quit, an NHS stop smoking service.

Help2Quit runs drop-in clinics across Shropshire offering one-to-one support for smokers. It also provides a free workplace service where smoking rates are high. Results show smokers are four times more likely to stop with Help2Quit support.

Key elements of the New Year campaign include bus shelter advertising, a leaflet drop to 40,000 homes, video clips of people explaining why and how they quit and a social media campaign.

Pledge To Quit leaflet designed by matm as part of Help2Quit's 2011 campaign

Stuart Bickerton, Director of the matm marketing, graphic and web design, web development and PR agency at Jackfield near Telford in Shropshire, says: “It’s vital that you use the right methods to reach target groups to generate the best value for money and the greatest impact.

“That’s one reason why social media, such as Facebook, will play a part in the campaign. Video provides excellent social media content and can be packaged differently for a range of purposes. Because we have the expertise to shoot and edit the video ourselves, it’s very cost effective.”

The bus shelter advertising campaign will be focused in the Telford and Wrekin area on busy main roads close to supermarkets. The leaflet mailing will be targeted in other areas of the county where there are high levels of smoking.

The Pledge to Quit message challenges smokers to think about the personal benefits of giving up – and explains the range of help at hand if they want to quit.

Find out more about Help2Quit: 01743 366940, www.Help2QuitShropshire.co.uk, facebook.com/Help2Quit

How to write a winning business award entry – the devil is being creative about the detail

Tuesday 21st December 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

In today’s highly competitive environment, customers are more likely to want to want to do business with an award-winning organisation, says Jamie Doran, PR Executive at matm in Jackfield near Telford, in Shropshire.

We’ve had a number of awards successes for our clients in 2010, so we thought it might be useful to share some ideas on the subject.

Why enter for an award? Well, we all like a winner

  • Look at an award as a expert endorsement of your brand
  • If successful, you will be able to generate some great PR and promotional opportunities
  • Awards success can attract new customers and helps you recruit the best staff – most people want to worth with, or for, a successful organisation
  • You have to be in it to win it! It is easy to overestimate the competition and underestimate your chances

Awards success - matm client Lavendon Group celebrates an international award success in 2010

Preparing your award entry

  • Appoint one (interested and relatively senior) person to manage the award entry process. Entering awards is all about motivating busy colleagues to prepare the right evidence, often against the clock
  • Think also about getting some external help (okay, no surprise there!). Your award entry will benefit greatly from good writing skills and an external perspective. An outside agency can spot strong evidence that you might overlook. Bigger award entries can also take significant time and effort to collate, so help may be required
  • Make sure you understand the criteria and award guidelines – the devil and the opportunity to win is often in the detail. Focus on giving the award judges the precise evidence they ask for and you will probably already be ahead of the game
  • Present your evidence in a way that tells a story. One trick is to think what would interest a specialist or local journalist. Most award organisations are looking for entries that give them PR opportunities. So make it easy to spot the great headlines in yours
  • Make your entry easy and interesting to read. Judges will thank you and reward you accordingly
  • Back each point made with solid supporting evidence
  • Check, check and check again that you have provided the right information – and that your spelling and grammar is correct
  • Try to complete all this at least two weeks before deadline – so you have time for final checks

….and to plan your acceptance speech!

Soccer boss Sepp Blatter proves the benefits of media training

Wednesday 15th December 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

There are some public figures who appear to think they can get away with just about anything under the media spotlight. Take Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA.

When asked, at a press conference yesterday, what gay people should do if they want to go to the 2022 World Cup in Quatar, where homosexuality is currently illegal, his flippant response merely enraged gay rights organisations – and many others besides. You would have thought he would know better.

Mr Blatter may think he has the power and influence to ride out any storm. Time will tell. Certainly, the same cannot be said for almost everyone else.

Which is why most people who have a public profile or position of responsibility should consider receiving media training, says Andy Comber, PR Manager at matm, the marketing, public relations, graphic design, web design and web development agency at the Maws Centre in Jackfield, near Telford in Shropshire.

We’ve just published a brochure outlining matm’s media training services. These include formal media relations training, media crisis training and one-to-one coaching. The brochure can be found on matm’s web home page.

Andy says: “As a journalist I created stories for newspapers and TV that caused the downfall of more than a few public figures. And as a senior PR advisor I have protected just as many as well.

“Some people cause their own demise. However, I’m a firm believer that cock-up is a more powerful force in a media crisis than conspiracy – and many pitfalls are avoidable if you think ahead and know the tricks of the trade.

“And now, with the many opportunities and risks presented by social media, as well as the traditional media, taking the right approach to protecting and enhancing your public reputation is more important than ever before.

“A media gaff can be out and running on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn within seconds and can then be much more difficult to recover. The good thing is, most media howlers are avoidable.”