The matm web browser infographic – and why the future is about mobile search

Tuesday 27th May 2014   by Stuart Bickerton

Which web browser should I use? And what’s all this about mobile web search? Two questions we get asked a lot by our web design and web development clients in Shropshire and across the country. That’s why we’ve developed this simple web browser infographic giving the current picture for web browser usage.

We’ll be keeping it up to date, and adding to it, over the coming months. If you have any further questions or concerns, just give us a call on 01952 883526. We’d be glad to help.

 

 

Communication lessons from the Euro elections – big is not beautiful for the voter

Monday 26th May 2014   by Andy Comber

Nigel Farage says his “dream has become a reality”. The UKIP victory in the European elections, following the vote on Thursday May 22 2014 and the count on Sunday May 25 has turned the political landscape for other mainstream parties into a nightmare. There are many reasons why UKIP have been able to, not so much hijack the political agenda but lay seige to it for months and beat it into submission.

Some what are some of the communications lessons that can be learned from the Euro elections result? This is an important excerise, because the way back for parties like the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democreats, as well as the European Union itself, is to find ways to communicate with electors much more effectively. Here are some that come instantly to my mind.

Complex messages vs simple messages – the EU is, by its nature, a complicated organisation. Supporters have failed to get across the benefits of membership because they have not been able to create simple propositions about why it is good to be in it, and find ways to communicate those effectively. David Cameron has tried to simplify the Tories’ messaging by promising an In/Out referendum in 2017. Even that has been open to confusion, partly due to the political infighting within the coalition. On the other hand, UKIP has a much simpler message (or the public has perceived it as being simpler): ‘We are against membership of the EU and we want a referendum now’.

Bureaucracy vs lean machine – the EU, you would have thought, would be big enough to defend itself and look after its own interests. But the Eurpean elections have shown that relatively small organisations (anti-EU parties) can take on monolithic institutions and their policital supporters and win, by depolying simpler, more emotional messages and delivering them cleverly, using all the channels now available to them, including the media and social media. Agility often wins over size when it comes to effective communication, especially when the agile beast is the aggressor.

Confident vs defensive – UKIP, and Nigel Farage in particular, exudes confidence. No matter what claims are made against UKIP, he has this knack of brushing them off and they don’t stick. Voters like a message delivered with confidence. The ‘opposition’, on the other hand, and by this I mean just about every other party taken notice of by the media, have been on the defensive. Their communciations have been about seeking to justify themselves and their policies. They have been on the back foot from the start. Again, Cameron’s referendum pledge is hardly a ringing endorsement of the EU.

In tune vs out of tune – the general public really does have a collective view on things. Hundreds of years ago, there was the mob. Now, the mood is displayed more subtly. But people across Europe have been looking for something to blame, and it’s the out of touch institutions that are the easy targets. UKIP have been able to exploit this. Their communications are simple, direct and deployed using highly visual stunts. Nigel Farage likes a drink or two, but one of the main reasons he spent so much time in pubs is because they’re one British (or English, sadly) institution we all admire: the best way to tell the older voting public that you are on their side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative photography and graphic design – mixing old and new is catching on

Wednesday 21st May 2014   by Andy Comber

A series of images created by Halley Docherty has caught the eye of our designer Neil Dicken. The striking pictures, published in The Guardian, show current views of London, Paris and Berlin, with images from World War 2 overlaid.

It’s a highly effective technique we call ‘windows into the past’, combining photography and creative graphic design skills.

It’s a technique Neil used closer to home to great effect, with the help of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, in and around Ironbridge, to show how life has changed, or not changed, in the last 150 years. The resulting series of images have been used by the museum since as part of public displays and have been enjoyed by thousands of people.

 

Password security – we say it’s Pants to share!

Tuesday 20th May 2014   by Neil Dicken

With many of us using a computer, smart phone or tablet in our day-to-day lives, password security is increasingly important. We need to keep our online accounts secure to prevent cyber crime. And that means having a secure password.

It takes only 10 minutes to crack a lower case password that is 6 characters long. Add two extra letters and a few upper case letters and that number jumps to 3 years. Add just one more character and some numbers and symbols and it will take 44,530 years to crack, says stopthehacker.com.

So we thought we’d make it clear that it’s ‘Pants’ to ignore cyber security. If you want to pring our A4 Pants poster for your workplace, to remind yourself and colleagues, click on the image below. Let’s say knickers to cyber crime!

 

Ed Miliband reinvented – media training advice designed to win elections

Monday 19th May 2014   by Andy Comber

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, was sounding different on Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning. Interviewed by Sarah Montague, there were clear signs that he had changed his approach and style to media interviews. Political leaders are constantly either trying to hone their media interview skills, or are having media training experts trying to do the same for them. Ed seems to have changed his style quite signficiantly.

In the past, his media interview technique was quite combatative. He was eager to get his point across. He sounded excited, someone who had important things to say, and so little time in which to say them. He would often start giving an answer before the interviewer had even finished the question, creating a sense of people tripping over each other as they talked.

If the journalist tried to butt in, as they are likely to, he would carry on trying to make his point, creating a crescendo of rising voices that could sound shrill and confused. A standard technique was to say “…let me make this point, because it’s very important…”, which he probably thought was his way of taking control of the interview and making sure he got the biggest share of voice, and could get his point across.

The overall effect was to make Ed sound like an over-eager schoolboy (“please, me sire, me sir” – hand pointing at the sky). Interviews descended into chaos with few sentences were finished and no complete and fully-rounded point was made. Miliband came across as sounding, not eager to explain his point, but flustered and frustrated. He had fallen into a trap. Journalists use this technique, of verbally bullying politicians to get them off kilter and off message, so they say things they have been briefed not to.

Most listeners are just frustrated and annoyed by such activities. The politicians and journalists deserve each other, they will say.

Well, Ed Milliband was definitely different this morning. The media training had, it appeared, had its effect. His voice was lower. He spoke more slowly. Both are techniqes to make yourself sound more authoritative. He waited of Sarah Montegue to finish speaking. Waited another beat. Then gave his answer. When he was interrupted, he stopped talking instantly.

Not once did he say “let me say this, because it’s important” – something that could, I bet his advisors told him, make him sound arrogant. He was seeking to control the interview by being passive, and it largely worked. Poor Sue sounded a bit confused. At one point, it appeared she expected her interjection to be interjected back by Ed, but he refused to speak, creating a comical pregnant pause.

This was Ed Milliband the unflappable, Ed Miliband the statesman, the calm voice of reason that demands to be heard. Of course, he wasn’t up againt the Rottie of the Today programme, John Humphrys. He was probably gently spinning over a relaxed breakfast of concrete chunks and iron filings. That said, it was an impressive performance. And one, I suspect, is particularly designed to position Ed away from Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, who also regularly makes the mistake of trying too hard in interviews and coming unstuck.

Not Ed anymore. Then again, you are only as good as your last interview.

 

 

 

5 tips for writing perfect press releases

Friday 16th May 2014   by Andy Comber

One of the central building blocks of any media campaign is the press release. There are now many ways and places to tell a story. But preparing a press release to send to journalists in a form that will make them go – “Hold the Front Page!” – well, at least show some interest, is a good starting point. There are many things to consider when sitting down to write a press release, so here are 5 of them.

In later posts, I’ll suggest more ideas, gleaned from many years sitting on news desks chucking press releases in the bin (real or digital), and a few more as a PR professional trying to avoid that fate.

1: Have a story to tell

Identifying the story in the first place is the first step. There is a balancing act between telling a story about something that is important to you, and something that will interest the media. The two might not always be the same.

There are a number of types of story that interest the media: something that is biggest, best or first; stories told by opinion leaders, for example industry experts or celebrities; important trends in society or commerce; something out of the ordinary, or shocking; or something quirky and humorous. Ultimately, news is people. If a journalist thinks your story will get the reader to turn to a friend, or post on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, and say “Have you seen this?” you are most of the way there.

Tip: Ask people you know who are within the target audience for their honest opinion about if they would be bothered to read your story. If the answer is yes, you might be on to something.

2: Choose the right angle

If you think you have a story to tell, how are you going to tell it? What’s the angle? For example, you own a factory and plan to double its size. What’s the story? The amount of money you have invested? The amount of jobs you will create? The amazing new product you will be making? The number of new customers you will attract? Different publications might want to focus on a different aspect of your story. So be prepared to tell it in different ways.

Tip: Be flexible. If there is already a media buzz about something associated with the topic of your proposed press release, it might make sense to select an angle that adds value to that topic.

3: Structure the story

Once you have your topic and your angle, you have to structure your release in such a way that it grabs attention and holds it. The most important thing, the angle, should be presented in the opening line – the ‘intro’. The context for this statement should be given in the next two or so paragraphs so the reader has a good grasp of the whole story very quickly.

Introduce supporting quotes near the top of the release, and give the person being quoted something useful and important to say, so their comments add value, not platitudes.

The press release should be structured so the detail is presented in priority order from top to bottom. That way, it is easier for the journalist to quickly edit the new story by simply cutting off a chunk. And there is less risk that you will lose key messages in the editing process.

Tip: Get other people in your organisation, and outside it preferably, to read through your press releases. If they don’t get an instant understanding of the point you want to make, it needs to be amended.

4. Use plain language

Whole shelves of books have been written about how to write plainly. Avoid jargon. If you do use technical terms that might challenge readers, explain them. Use simple words. Write short, active sentences. Present one thought per sentence.

Keep paragraphs short – one sentence long is fine. Check grammar and spelling. Your credibility could be completely undone by a spelling error. Journalists love to smirk at poor writing (even though most of them make the same mistakes).

Tip: Have a look at the writing style of the publications you are targeting. You don’t have to copy it slavishly. But presenting journalists with copy that they know they can use with few amends is a big plus.

5: Answer the question: “So what?”

This is one of the questions I kept asking myself, and kept asking people who called me, when I worked on news desks. It might be fascinating to you, but is your story really of interest to our readers and viewers? Image the news editor is in front of you. What would you say?

Tip: Make sure you really understand what kind of stories your target media publishes. If your press releases match them in substance and style, there is a greater chance they will be used.

And finally….If you want further advice on how to write press releases that really hit the mark, give me a call. I would be glad to help.