6 marketing communications lessons from Rio

Tuesday 23rd August 2016   by Andy Comber

Olympic return

The GB Olympics 2016 team returned from Rio to the UK today – welcomed with the enthusiasm of Caeser entering Rome in triumph. Whole libraries of articles and books will be published about the signficance of their success, for them and for us, as adoring citizens.

So here’s a few of my undeveloped thoughts about communication and the Olympics. They are just the undeveloped inklings of what have popped into my head while negotiating the chaos that is the A5 through the West Midlands.

I would have to embark on a four-year programme of arduous mental exercise and scientifically-proven brain nutrician to flesh them out into lycra-ripping medal-winning brilliance. So I won’t try.

 1. The story makes the difference

Most of us love a winner. But a winner who has a back-story, that’s something even better. Story telling was at the heart of Olympic media coverage. So British cyclist Becky James who was badly injured and ill before riding to Olympic glory (well, silver medal) sticks in the mind. Laura Trott and Jason Kenny being engaged is big news. Nick Skelton breaking his neck and climbing back on to his horse: the personal, physical and emotional journey that athletes have been on really capture the imagination. It is what moves us that counts. It’s what myth is made of.

 2. People need heroes

Sports men and women are outsiders. They are not normal. They achieve the superhuman feats for us. In the past they would be warriors, even political leaders. Now, it’s sports stars. Communications from them affect us more powerfully. Businesses sponsor sports stars to share their glory. Business people can do this more directly. Think of Richard Branson the risk-taking adventurer. Bill Gates the philanthropist. Steve Jobs the innovator. John Timpson the decent employer. Being a hero, in even the smallest way, can win new fans.

 3.  The search for meaning is relentless

Driven by the media, once an event has occured, or a story has been told, we all start asking: what does it mean? And if we don’t, the media will. The obsession with the medal table and Great Britain coming second, above the Chinese, is part of this. The Olympics was once conceived as an event where people can take part together. Not much more. Now, it’s an expession of national psche and success that can propel a whole nation forward to glory. Or not, depending on your point of view.

 4. Great achievements can be easily undermined

The US swimming team achieved great Olympic deeds. Then four of them conspired in a moment of foolishness to undo much of the positive effect by clumsily trying to cover up the fact that they broke a toilet. From podium-topping victory is snatched defeat. Secondly, the Brazilian nation should be celebrating the games’ success. But when asked what comes to mind when they think of Brazilians and the Olympics, many people could well say booing. That’s not a good impression.

5. The winners take it all

The Olympics suggested we’re becoming ever more obsessed with winners. The opportunities presented to the successful few who won medals will be significant, but will come with risks. Their share of market and share of voice in the sports marketing world will be disproportionately large. While those who did their very best, probably sacrified just as much, but did not get medals will struggle on pretty much unseen. It will remain tough out there for the 84% of UK athletes who came home with no medal.

6. It’s the start of a journey

Many of the medal winners will have to learn quickly the significance of what’s happened to them. They have a right to reap the longer term rewards. It would be a good idea to think seriously about how to do this. A moment of magic in Rio could be the start of a very positive journey if they optimise their personal marketing strategy, with PR and social media at the forefront. That might be to get as much exposure as possible, or as much privacy, while achieving post-Olympic goals.

Leicester City – the power of storytelling

Monday 11th April 2016   by Andy Comber

The strong possibility that Leicester City will win the English Premier League title is one of the biggest stories in world sport.

Around the globe, journalists and sports fans are marvelling at the team’s achievements.

The furore around their success is also a lesson in the power of storytelling – and how people and organisations can gain much more recognition if they can tell stories about their achievments.

This hit home for me reading an article about the interest the club has generated around the world in the Sunday Times sports pages yesterday.

Power of storytelling Leicester City

As the Sunday Times reported, people respond positively to good stories!

Dan Masonson, vice president for communications at NBC Sports in USA, was quoted saying: “Having compelling games and great stories is what draws people in. That’s what Leicester provides.”

Okay, Leicester City’s rise is so extraordinary, that there is no real problem finding a story.

From last year’s near relegation failures to this year’s near champions successes.  The lower league also-ran running rings around his opponents, James Vardy. The reject becoming a giant rock, Robert Huth. The goalkeeping son, emulating his more famous father. The rebirth of the ‘Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri. The previous manager who built the team, sacked in the summer, and watching them beat all-comers. The Thai club owner buying lunch for all travellling fans. The team of minnows thrashing Europe’s greats. It goes on and on.

Everyday business life is much more mundane. But there are still business storytelling lessons to learn. Here are just three of them:

1. People process information in stories. When you pitch at a sales meeting you tell a story. When you want to influence people you try to convince them with the story. So, how can you talk about your business activity in stories?

2. People are impressed by other people. Who in your team goes above and beyond, with Premier League winning service? Who are the people in your organisation who would make great subjects for stories about your service?

3. People are moved by stories they can relate to. So, how can you define what you do in a way that, as Dan Masonson says, is compelling? The key, I believe, is to start to define your activities and acheivements from your customers’ point of view.

For Leicester City, the fairy tale that might come true – and the stories it is generating – could have a positive impact on the club for decades to come. More fans world-wide, more revenue, more success. It’s by no means certain. The club could be relegated next season. But it could happen.

In business, the good thing is that effective storytelling can have more predictable results. More engaged customers. A better defined brand. A more motivated workforce. A more clearly-defined marketing strategy.

In my view, that’s well worth the price of the season ticket.

4 reasons why some CEOs communicate like 16-year-olds

Friday 18th March 2016   by Andy Comber

My son has put himself forward to be a senior school prefect. It impressed me greatly. When I was his age, I had no chance even of being a prefect, let alone a senior one. Despite my adolescent bravado, I would have been just too frightened to chuck my hat into the ring.

To pass the first hurdle, he had to prepare a two minute speech, explaining to his peers why he deserved to be selected. They would then vote. The most popular candidates would then be interviewed to decide who’d be selected as senior prefects.

Speech writing - 4 mistakes by CEOs

So, here’s my point. I did my bit to help my son prepare his speech, and it got me thinking that when 16-year-olds decide they want to impress their peers with a presentation, they start to behave a bit like some company CEOs I’ve known. Here’s why:

They use long words and complicated language. My son prepared a speech that used quite a lot of long words and intricate sentences. He might have been doing it to try to impress. But I think there is also a natural tendency to feel you must up your game when presenting to others. Without really thinking, language becomes more dense. Sentences get longer. Real meaning, simply put, gets lost.

This is a real risk for business leaders too. If it’s not long, clever words, it’s jargon. You start to say what you think is expected of you, not what you really think and feel. A little bit of show-off might creep in as well. Why use a one syllable word, when a four syllable one is available?

They feel they need to be profound. My son had clearly thought a lot about why he wanted to be a senior prefect. It felt like he was stretching past the obvious and simple to find something to say that was truly profound. In my view, it’s better to do the opposite. When you have two minutes to impress, what you say must be compelling, for sure, but it must be quick and easy to digest as well. CEOs can make the same mistake. If you don’t put yourself in the minds of your audience, you can very easily talk right over their heads.

They don’t involve the audience. Want people to vote for you, you have to justify yourself, right? Well, wrong. You have to be confident enough to talk about your achievements. But to impress others, you have to show more how you understand them, and care about their interests. The best business leaders draw in their audiences, involve them in the story, and get them on side, not play the big I am.

They don’t listen to advice. Grumpy old man time here. My son didn’t think straight away to ask me for advice about his speech, even though I’ve spent pretty much my whole working life as a communication professional of one sort or another. There are plently of company directors who think they know best, too.

Anyway, I did get to give my son some advice. The night before he was due to give his speech. And, I’m sure he took a bit of it. As I write, he has yet to find out if he’s been selected to be a senior prefect, but I hope he will be. Then again, there can be nothing worse than an overly proud dad.

PDF newsletters hit the mark

Monday 22nd February 2016   by Andy Comber

Building relationships with customers is essential in business, and devices for doing that include eshots, or PDF newsletters.

Winning a new customer can take a good deal of energy, so it stands to reason that you’d want the customer to like you, understand fully what services you can offer, and to recommend you to their contacts.

One way to do that is to keep them up to date with your latest news. It’s not about the hard sell, but being noticed at the right times, using the right communication channels.

We’ve developed eshots and newsletters for many clients. One of the most recent is a PDF newsletter for Lanes Group, the UK’s leading independent specialist drainage, utilities and asset maintenance company.

They wanted to share what they do in an informative and engaging way that reflects the value and quality of their services and the teams that deliver them.

We created a quarterly PDF newsletter which has clickable links to take readers through to longer news items, if they want to read them, and to service pages.

PDF newsletters

It’s designed to be scrolled through, dipped in and out of, read in minutes. Using clickable tags, each story reflects the geographical and sector reach of the Lanes operation.

In its current format, the PDF newsletter is four pages, but more could be added. If need be, a digitally printed version could be created quickly and cheaply.

Lanes Group’s key USPs are highlighted – including innovation, health and safety and comprehensive service mix.

The newsletter has a templated design so it can be created quickly and with minimum cost, though can be easily adapted to different needs.

The same content could also be presented in an html e-shot. Some customers prefer that option. We have our own e-shot system called Coffeemail that allows us to create templated or bespoke e-shots for customers.

If you want to know more about the positive impact of customer PDF newsletters or eshots, get in touch. We’re here to help. Email: ideas@matm.co.uk. Phone: 01952 883526.

Great minds – creative photography from Shropshire to Paris

Wednesday 13th May 2015   by Andy Comber

So the saying goes, great minds think alike: the Daily Mail has published images created by the French artist Julien Knez, formed by holding up photographs taken during the liberation of Paris in 1944 against the same location today.

We used the same creative photography technique – we called it creating a window into history – to  superimpose Ironbridge 100 years ago, with Ironbridge of today. We called it ‘Creating Windows into Shropshire’s History’.

Knez originally created 50 images, published in 2014, which can can seen here.

Creative photography Telford Julien Knez

Creating windows into Shropshire's history

8 reasons why election strategies have been dominated by fear

Wednesday 6th May 2015   by Andy Comber

The 2015 British election campaign, which is about to come to a end, has seen politicians facing a complex political landscape.

Voter scepticism is rampant. The battle to gain trust has been arduous. And there’s no sign that any of the parties have won it. Up to 40% of voters were said to be undecided 48 hours before polls opened. So what have been key themes of election communication strategies? Here are eight to be going on with:

Social media – what social media?

There was a lot of talk about this being the first general election where creative use of social media would play a leading role. That doesn’t appear to have happened. Perhaps because all the main parties have been desperate to avoid making mistakes that could be magnified by social media. The Guardian points out that a lot of the messaging on Twitter and on Facebook has been relatively mundane. Of course, under the radar, many supporters from all the parties have been happily using social media to support their relevant causes. But it seems fair to say that this campaign has been less radical in its use of new media than was predicted.

Fear marketing is alive and well

Fear tactics are still alive and well. Pollsters have been telling politicians that the voting public has become highly sceptical of scare tactics. But they’re still at it: Labour warning the NHS will be privatised; Conservatives that Labour will join forces with the SNP and throw nuclear weapons overboard; Lib Dems that both parties are potential extremists; and UKIP that every migrant who doesn’t tragically drown in the Med is probably an ISIS terrorist.

Don’t make a mistake!

Then there is fear of marketing. It’s clear that another key element of all election strategies is not to make a mistake. It’s one reason why leading politicians have not done many real walkabouts. With every word and action potentially recorded – and even streamed live online through apps like Periscope – the lack of control terrifies campaign managers. Remember Gordon Brown calling an old lady racist? Every step into a crowd increases the risk of “an election defining gaff”, as the media calls them. Maybe only Ed Milliband has bucked the trend and taken a chance this year, with his TV interview with Russell Brand.

In the post-election debrief, I expect many pundits will be saying if only one of the main candidates had taken a chance or two, spoken to voters on their own terms, they may have broken through.

Mainstream media still in running the show

This cautious approach plays into the hands of mainstream media – like national and regional daily newspapers, radio and TV. These outlets now have their own online and social media channels, so messaging goes further, but there is less risk of it being subverted or confused before it reaches voters. And at least traditional media have some rules to play by.

Keep it simple – and keep repeating it

It’s not just three parties any more. There are now up to seven being given serious media air time. So there is an even greater imperative to keep messaging simple:

Labour – fairness.
Conservatives – the economy.
Lib Dems – balance.
UKIP – immigration.
Greens – ending austerity.
SNP and Plaid Cymru – more power.

Can you think of any hard and fast policy promises? I’d bet not many. The focus on a few key issues, most relating to budget control, or lack of it, has been noticeable. Most people will be thinking, if I hear David Cameron say “strong and stable” one or time I will scream. But in a crowded market, repeating simple messages that might influence a wavering hand in the polling booth is seen as the best tactic.

Image is still vital

Perhaps the biggest winner in the campaigning stakes has been Nicola Sturgeon. She’s buffed up her image, sharpened her look. Gone up a few notches on the authority stakes, while also seeming, for many voters across the UK as sensible and charming. Then again, it’s easy for English voters to like someone they don’t have to vote for – and in Scotland, she’s riding the crest of a wave that has been rolling for a long time.

 

Communication strategies in 2015 general election

Her success shows image – what the social scientists call likeability – is still vital. Milliband is a geek. Cameron is a toff. Clegg is a turncoat. Farage is a loud-mouth. They have all been fighting the stereotypes, not least in the TV debates. And the harder they try, the more the fickle voters look for the tell-tale signs. It’s telling that the leaders the ‘performance’ of the leaders in TV debates is the measure of success, not the substance of what they say.

You can’t turn a political tanker quickly

It’s interesting to me how the communication strategies in the election have stayed broadly the same. Thinking on feet, grasping opportunities, making bold changes to create a breakthrough have not been noticeable traits. Perhaps Labour’s tablet of pledges is one exception. But the mixed reaction that got points probably to why others didn’t try similar stunts. Because there are so many undecided voters, and so many new choices for them to make, the campaign managers have decided it’s safety first, sticking to core messages and conventional methods to get them across.

Also, perhaps the sophistication of modern election campaign machines cramps spontaneity. When you’re analysing and worrying about everything in our multi-channel world – with a big team this requires – there is less room to make bold and, arguably irrational choices that might actually wrong-foot your political opponents, and gain an edge.

Boots on ground may count

In war, the infantry has to capture the ground. In business, you have to go out to sell. And in politics, you have to get your voters to the polling booth. Here, Labour may have a little advantage. Most pundits agree, they have the best campaigning machine, which is about to go into action to get out their vote. We will see if it actually does make a difference. In an election dogged by fear, scepticism and voter mistrust, they will have their work cut out.

7 things you should expect from good business copywriters

Monday 15th December 2014   by Andy Comber

copywriting

Successful businesses employ professional copywriters, as in-house staff, as consultants, or as a service provided by marketing agencies.

They know that, in this highly competitive, fast-moving, digital world, it is vital that they get their message across quickly, clearly and in a compelling way.

So, if you are looking to commission a copywriter for a marketing project, what should you look for?

Here’s seven clues that will lead you to a good business copywriter.

1. They should have a head for business. You want a copywriter who quickly understands your business objectives and what your marketing campaign is seeking to achieve. Creativity is important, but so is producing copy that serves a purpose.

2. They can explain complicated things simply. Getting down to the essence of what’s important is a neat trick, which good business copywriters can pull off. You only have seconds to engage and win over potential new customers. Confusing them is not an option.

3. They can tell your story. Almost all copywriting uses story telling techniques to convince the reader, listener or viewer that this product or service is for them. Stories help you build an emotional bond with your customer. So they care, and come back for more.

4. They will give you good ideas. You may have a firm idea about how your marketing campaign should work for you. Good business copywriters should be creative and experienced enough to add suggestions of their own, to make it even better.

5. They should get it right first time. Well, nearly. You should be impressed with a professional copywriter’s first draft. You should be saying: yep, they understand what we need. If a bit of polish is required, it shouldn’t take too long to apply.

6. They should be able to write fast and accurately. If you need copy quickly, good business copywriters should be able to write it quickly. Months spent in a lonely garret pondering the meaning of a word won’t cut it, unfortunately.

7. They should be able to write in different styles. Need something businesslike and sombre? Here’s what you need. Want something chatty and upbeat? You’ve got it. What about a Sun-style quick-fire media release? It’s done – and what a corker!!!

So, if you care about your brand, use a professional  business copywriter. And test their mettle against the points above. You shouldn’t go wrong.

5 reasons why stock photography may NOT be a good idea

Wednesday 10th December 2014   by Stuart Bickerton

In an earlier post, I was extolling the virtues of using stock photographs in your marketing campaigns. I came up with five good reasons to use stock photography, available online, in promotional designs.

I said they are convenient – quick to access. They can be relatively inexpensive, so the price is good. There’s a huge choice. Quality is also pretty much as good as you want it to be. And there are lots of styles, so creativity is also a plus.

I promised also to share some downsides. So here are five of them:

Lack of exclusivity

If these images are available for you to download, they are for others too. A competitor could use the same image for their brochure, web project or poster.

If you want to be 100% fresh and exclusive, commission the photographer and control the content. You can obtain a licence to restrict the use of the image by others. But that will come at a price. I’ve paid over £1,400 for just one image in the past, to give our client a certain degree of exclusivity across the world.

It’s a few years old but this post from FairTradePhographer nails the point I’m trying to make here rather well.

Licence agreements

Always read the small print. Can you use the image across multiple formats? And in multiple countries? Can it be used for advertising, or for press only? You need to make sure the image licence covers your image for the use it’s intended.

Search time

If you are not sure what you are looking for, you may end up scrolling through pages and pages of images and an hour has passed before you know it.
A solution is to give a concise verbal brief to a designer, who has the expertise and experience to look for you. They will have a good idea of what image works best in the space available. It will cost you a little more in design time, but will could save a lot of frustration.

Apparently this woman from istock is "Gathering all the information she needs". A common scene in your offices I guess. COMP IMAGE for representation only - full image available from iStock

Apparently this woman from istock is “Gathering all the information she needs”. A common scene in your office I guess? COMP IMAGE for representation only – full image available from iStock

Fromage

Not a technical term, I know. But some stock shots are cheesy, very, very cheesy. Some of the larger sites have improved dramatically in this respect, but approach with care – and maybe a knife, and some grapes.

Brand reflection

Without the individuality or care and attention a bespoke shot can achieve, it may be difficult to find images that consistently and accurately reflect what you want your brand to be all about. And compromise on brand may feel painful. It may also not make good business sense.

One of many images you can find if you search iStock for "Businesswoman cheering" - I've done the hard work for you here

One of many images you can find if you search iStock for “Businesswoman cheering” – I’ve done the hard work for you here http://istockpho.to/1qvlvsX

 

So, there you go. Stock photography can be excellent. But it also has its drawbacks.

Of course, you can choose stock or original photography on a case-by-case basis. Certainly depending on the level of importance you put on the particular campaign.

Five good reasons to use stock photography in promotional design

Friday 7th November 2014   by Stuart Bickerton

Should I, Shouldn’t I?

Images are extremely important element in the design process – it’s often the first element I’m asked for when presenting a job to our design team.
Today, stock photography is very big business and a very popular option for many designers. However, like many elements of design, there’s a number of pitfalls to avoid and simple rules to consider.

So, what are the pros for using stock photography – or stock shots, as they are known as?

Convenience You don’t need to move off your seat – you can search, select, pay and download from your tablet or computer. You may need to pop downstairs to grab your payment card, but that’s about it.

It’s not hard to find a selection of good quality image from these sites:

That’s just three of the more popular sites you may well have come across already.

Price While it’s not as cheap as it was a few years ago, sourcing from stock photography libraries can prove a very cost-effective way of securing appropriate images. It can take a fraction of the cost and time in arranging to take the shots yourself, or hiring in a photographer, model and dressing the shot with products and props.

Some charge according to photo useage, for example: where it will be shown (known as territory); how it will be used; and how many times it will be used. Others charge per pack of images (up to 5 images for £80 could be one approach). And some charge per image and by the quality of its resolution.

So what seems straightforward can be a little confusing at first. Not quite as bad as using TripAdvisor for planning a weekend away, but perplexing nonetheless.

Choice Type in your search terms in that box and … wow! You are presented with a huge number of images to choose from. Whether it’s a particular age of person, a textured close up or landscape, the chances are something relevant can be found within a few minutes on a stock photography website. If you’re in Shropshire looking for an American diner image, or Brazilian rainforest, these sites can help with both your time, wallet and carbon footprint.

Quality Maybe not so true a few years ago, but many stock photography sites have realised it’s all about the 3 Cs – content, content, content. Today, they have stricter requirements for quality – and not just resolution. Many will check images for lighting and colours. They have come to understand that quality = more downloads = more revenue.

Creativity More and more now, we are expected to try to stand out in the crowd. Stock photography providers know this. Want an image of something from an unusual angle, with a sense of humour, a little bit kooky? There’s a good chance you will find something close to what you have in your mind. It might not be exactly the same, but it should be close.

And that’s another positive thing – if you are looking for inspiration, and fresh ideas, a stock photography site is a good place to look. Even if you don’t use one of their images in the end.

So how much will stock photography cost?

Good question. Without a brief from a client, and a little time to search, it’s difficult to give an answer. But here’s my rule of thumb for stock photography shots:

  • Regular images (Essential from istock), from £20 + VAT each
  • Premium stock images (Signature from istock) from £50 + VAT each
  • Stock video clips, from £200 + VAT
  • Stock audio clips, from £20 + VAT

We can source more exclusive images for you, from larger and specialist photographic libraries, but these will probably cost quite a bit more. Prices for these exclusive images often come with more conditions, so they may depend on where you wish to use the image, how large, and in what territories.

Overall stock photography has an important place in design – it can save oodles of time and huge lumps of cash. But approach with care, keep the design at the heart of your search and don’t be afraid to let (and pay for) the designer to help you find appropriate images.

By saying that, I’m suggesting there are reasons why you might not want to use stock photography. There are some potential downsides. In my next post I’ll be sharing more advice on the negatives of stock photography (no pun intended), and how to make sure they don’t upset your marketing design project.

If, at this stage, you have already decided you need original images, we can help. We can project manage that process for you, from sourcing the photographer, providing the brief, attending the shoot, and carrying out post-production work on the images, including formatting.

Whichever option, please get in touch. We’re here to help.

essentials-stock-photo

Examples of an Essentials stock photo – istock

Signature-stock-photo

Example of a Signature stock photo – istock

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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.

 

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.

Top firm achieves double win after using our business award writing service

Monday 24th March 2014   by Andy Comber

We’re really pleased here at matm to have helped another client win two much-coveted and much-deserved business awards.

On Wednesday March 19, at a ceremony held at the London Hilton Park Lane Hotel, Lanes Group was announced as winners of the Health and Safety Excellence Award at the Construction News Specialists Awards 2014.

Lanes Group team collects the Construction News Specialists Award

This completed a brilliant double for the company, the UK’s largest independent drainage specialist. Because they also won the Health and Safety Excellence Award in the main Construcion News Awards 2013.

We were really pleased to have been asked by Lanes to prepare their submissions and presentations the directors used in a formal meeting with judges as part of the decision-making process.

The health and safety categories are among the most fiercely contested in any construction awards – and the Construction News Awards are, probably, the most coveted accolades in the building industry.

We’ve developed a business award writing service with a proven six stage process that significantly increases our clients’ chances of winning. We know that’s true because our business award writing service has an excellent success rate.

So if you want to win a business award – get in touch. You have to be in it to win it. And you might as well give yourself the best chance of success.

You have to be pretty good at what you do, like Lanes Group, to win. We can make sure the judges are absolutely clear that your business is a contender.

 

The benefits of business case studies

Sunday 2nd March 2014   by Andy Comber

Here’s the case for business case studies in one simple story. Not long ago, I was at a client work site – a service centre run by a global aerospace company. Our client had been called in to do some high value facilities maintenance work.

I asked the facilities manager how he had selected my client and he said:

“I Googled the service I wanted and they came up on the first page. I liked what I saw on the website. It was clear they could do what I wanted to I called them, and here they are.”

So we have a global aerospace manufacturer and service provider Googling for support services costing into five figures. Telling enough. He also said: “What I like to see on websites is case studies, and clear stories about the kind of stuff we do. That gives me the confidence to call in a supplier.”

Our client could now win similar work at up to 20 of this company’s sites across the UK. And all because it showed up on the Google search.

Another story. A short while ago, the owner of another client, a construction company, came to see me and said: “Andy, I’ve got to say a big thank you. We were pitching to a new client and they wanted to see some examples of our work, just be certain that we can do what he needs. We pointed him at case studies on our website, and he signed a contact worth £125,000.”

My conclusion to both these…case studies, is that business case studies work, and can be very effective as supporting evidence to win new business.

Here’s some additional reasons why you should consider the benefits of business case studies:

  • Business case studies help a potential client in the decision-making process. A senior member of the client team may ask a junior to gather evidence before a purchase. By having information in the form of a case study, the junior can offer the business case study to directly support the decision-making process. The information in a case study can be laid out in a business report style, it can be industry or sector specific, it can contain supporting data and additional technical information – all content that will provide assurance for the senior decision-maker.
  • Business case studies can be targeted at specific types of customers or sectors. As such it can be created to appeal directly to specific types of buyers. There can be no misunderstanding: you provide precisely the service they need, and the business case study shows why.
  • A business case study makes best use of marketing content. You may have written a web story or a press release about the success of your service or product. With a bit of tweaking, it can be quickly turned into a case study, a different beast, which enhances search engine optimisation, and gives customers the precise information they need to make decisions about using your services.
  • Business case studies can be used by your marketing and sales team in customer acquisition campaigns, in face-to-face sales pitches and in marketing additional services to current customers.

So, the point about business case studies is, they add to the mix of marketing content you can offer online, helping you attract more customers through web marketing, they can be used offline as well, to support sales promotions and pitches and they will help you better target specifc customer segments. As the two business case studies above also show – they win you more business.

Watch out for future posts, when I talk about how to create effective business case studies.

 

The Plebgate Police Federation officers needed good PR advice

Wednesday 23rd October 2013   by Andy Comber

Police Federation officer prepare to talk to press after meeting with Andrew Mitchell

The whole row about what the three Police Federation officers said when they came out of a meeting with the then Government minister Andrew Mitchell illustrates the benefit of having access  to good PR advice before speaking to the press.

They should have realised they were in the middle of a crisis so should have followed good crisis managment proceedure. But it seems they didn’t.

Let us assume that the officers, from West Mercia, West Midlands and Warwickshire, didn’t have a PR professional on hand on the day they met Mr Mitchell at the height of the Plebgate crisis. There has never been a suggestion that they did.

Whatever those three officers thought of Mr Mitchell’s testimony in the meeting, they knew they were going to have to answer media questions. An obvious question to come up would be, do you think Mr Mitchell should resign.

Unless, you want to take the nuclear option, a good PR advisor would assess the risks of answering that questions with a yes, and would probably suggest finding something less incendiary to say.

Having someone on hand, in the heat of the moment, and disapassionately give clear advice on simple measures to take to avoid major pitfalls – measures that seem obvious in hindsight but at that moment can be easily overlooked – is a really good idea.

It could be that the federation officers now feel that they were bounced by the media, and the moment, into making statements they now regret. It could be that they were always going to go for the jugular after the meeting, no matter what Mr Mitchell said.

Whatever the case, having a public relations expert on hand who can go through the consequences, before you step in front of the microphone, is a sensible option. And, in this case, it might have avoided all the trouble that has followed since.

They might not now be preparing to explain themselves in front of a committee of MPs, along side the chief constables who run their respective forces. I bet they will be getting some good PR advice after that meeting.

 

Good PR companies in Shropshire – Matt suggests you try us

Monday 20th May 2013   by Andy Comber

It’s really nice when someone says they like what you do. It’s even better when that someone is a client. Matt Breakwell at Cornbrook Construction has kindly provided us with a testimonial for the public relations support matm is providing.

We’re really chuffed with what he has to say. We’ve been working hard to get Cornbrook good positive press coverage. We’ve also been doing a lot of web content writing, press photography, writing case studies and revising customer letters.

Let’s face it, if the business is as dynamic, successful, ambitious and good as Cornbrook Construction, there’s always a lot to do. A public relations service doesn’t just involved writing highly effective press releases (though that’s important).

As Matt knows, good PR is about doing lots of different things – professional copywriting, video production, SEO web copywriting, sales brochures – that work together to enhance a business’s reputation and win new customers.

There’s even a new buzz phrase for it: content marketing.

Thank you for your kind words, Matt:

Good PR companies in Shropshire

matm provides excellent public relations support for Cornbrook Construction.

We only want to spend our marketing budget on activities that are targeted and we know will make a difference to our business, which is why we are happy to recommend matm’s PR services.

We get the right kind of media coverage in the right kind of publications. We get excellent copywriting support, both for sales promotion material and web content, and marketing advice, exactly when we need it, which usually means at a moment’s notice.

I can also rely on Andy at matm to get on with managing our PR requirements, allowing me to concentrate on running the business. matm’s PR service is cost-effective and delivers results. We know it is helping us win new business, and that’s what counts.

Matt Breakwell, Managing Director, Cornbrook Construction

Press releases – BNI Landlord Success event in Shropshire

Tuesday 14th May 2013   by Andy Comber

Private landlords face “double whammy” say property experts

Property experts are holding a special seminar for private residential landlords in Shropshire to inform them that they face a “double whammy” from new Government legislation.

The free Landlord Success seminar on Wednesday May 22 is being organised by members of Telford business networking group Severn Enterprise BNI.

The new Universal Credit, being introduced in stages across the UK, starting this month, will result in housing benefit being paid directly to tenants as part of a lump-sum benefit payment.

Also, the Government announced in the Queen’s Speech, on Wednesday May 8, that it intends to make it a legal requirement for private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants before handing over keys to a property.

Both measures have sparked controversy and will be debated during the Landlord Success seminar at the Wroxter Hotel, in Wroxeter, Shropshire.

Speakers from BNI will be lawyer Faye Craggs, a property expert with Darwin Matthews Solicitors, in Shrewsbury, Ellie Garbett, co-founder of Habitat Lettings in Broseley, and Mike Palfrey, owner of Salop Property Services in Telford.

The keynote speaker is Becky Owen-Jones, Benefit Welfare and Assurance Group Manager at Telford and Wrekin Council.

Faye Craggs said the Universal Credit, being phased in to simplify the benefit system, could result in an increasing number of low-income tenants falling into rent arrears.

She added: “The National Housing Federation, among many others, has raised serious concerns. It could lead to an increase in evictions and more private landlords deciding not to rent properties to benefit claimants.

“The Landlord Success seminar will consider the implications for private landlords, what they can do to protect their interests and what the Government has been asked to do to minimise these risks.”

Ellie Garbett said the plans to make landlords check the immigration status of prospective tenants, with fines for those who do not, raises some serious concerns.

She added: “Landlords may feel this is an unfair additional burden from extra red tape. It may encourage them to decide not to accept any foreign visitors as tenants, because they are worried about making a mistake.

“It is not clear, yet, how the law would work. We would not want it to unfairly penalise the vast majority of private landlords who seek to act responsibly and reasonably in managing their properties and providing a service for their tenants.”

The free Landlord Success event is for property owners considering becoming private landlords, and current landlords, who want to get the latest advice and best practice on property management.

Mike Palfrey said: “This is the first time, as a BNI group, we have organised this kind of event. We realised that, between us, we have a lot of expertise on letting out private property, so wanted to share it.

“Any private landlord, or anyone thinking of becoming a private landlord, is welcome to attend. This is an opportunity to get the latest local authority, legal and industry advice and share views.”

•    The Severn Enterprise BNI ‘Private Landlord Success’ meeting takes place at on Wednesday May 22, 6.30-9pm, at the Wroxeter Hotel, Wroxeter, Shropshire. SY5 6PH. For more information contact Faye Craggs: faye@darwinlaw.co.uk, 01743 272931.

 

Press release writing service success: Cornbrook Construction

Thursday 2nd May 2013   by Andy Comber

Here’s a press release we prepared for Shropshire construction company Cornbrook Construction about a tie-up with another Shropshire firm Quad-Lock. It was used as the business supplement lead by the Shropshire Star and several other publications.

Part of its appeal, I think, is the strong picture. Strong news media photography always helps when pitching a news story. I took the picture myself, saving the client the signficant cost of hiring a dedicated photographer. Another benefit of PR from matm!

………………………………………………………………………………………..

Cornbrook Construction is hoping to create new construction jobs in Shropshire by teaming up with design and engineering firm Quad-Lock to build the UK’s most energy-efficient homes.

The innovative building system developed by Quad-Lock is known as Insulating Concrete Formwork (ICF), and involves creating hollow walls made from polystyrene, which are then filled with liquid concrete.

Cornbrook Construction, based in Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire, is already project managing the construction of a £2 million luxury home in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, using the system, and is in line to be the main contractor on future build projects.

Matt Breakwell, of Cornbrook Construction, left, with Peter Townend, of Charcon

The company’s managing director, Matt Breakwell, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for us. The system Quad-Lock has developed has immense qualities and, in my view, represents the future of building design and construction. The potential is huge.

“We already have the largest directly employed labour force of any construction company in South Shropshire – and if this partnership develops as we hope it will, we will be creating a significant number of new jobs in the next 12 months.”

Quad-Lock’s logistics operation has just moved to new, larger industrial premises in Shifnal, Shropshire, as it plans for expansion after distribution rights for the building system were awarded, in 2011, to the Charcon Construction Solutions Group, a joint venture with construction materials giant Aggregate Industries.

Charcon Distribution and Product Development Manager Peter Townend said: “We are pleased to be working with Cornbrook Construction at a time when we are seeing interest in ICF grow rapidly, largely due to the critical requirement, in the current economic climate, to control build times and manage costs.”

“On top of that, our system delivers industry-leading insulation performance, to the point that, to all intents and purposes, some finished buildings can be heated sufficiently simply through heat radiated by their occupants and electrical appliances.

“Cornbrook Construction had demonstrated that it has the particular skills, experience and the right attitude to innovation to embrace the opportunities our system creates. We expect them to be excellent partners as the technique is adopted by many more clients.”

Matt Breakwell said he expects Quad-Lock’s system to be particularly attractive to the self-build homes market across the Midlands. Last year, the Government launched a £30m three-year fund to boost the self-build market.

He added: “Only about 10 per cent of new-built homes are self-built. But the Government wants to double that proportion to 20% in the next decade as part of its plans to help the construction industry out of recession and encourage local, sustainable development.

“A key consideration for people wanting to design and build their own homes is the control of costs, speed of construction and the energy efficiency of the final building. In all these cases, Quad-Lock’s ICF system offers major advantages.”

According to Homebuilding and Renovation magazine, in 2012: 11,160 self-build homes were completed in the UK; just under one third of all new detached homes were self-build; and spend on construction materials in the self-build sector was £2.95 billion.

10 tips for taking great photographs that promote your business

Wednesday 24th April 2013   by Andy Comber

It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, if it is taken properly. With the latest digital cameras and image processing, it’s easier than ever to take a picture and prepare it for use in a press release, online or in promotional material. It doesn’t always have to be professional quality photography (shocking thing to say, but true), but it must meet certain standards.

A little while ago, I put together a 10 tips for a client to give to staff who have the opportunity to take a picture. Of course, there are times when it is essential to use a professional photographer. But if you follow these basic rules and use a decent camera, you may surprise yourself at how good a picture you can take.

Putting your business in the picture

Our top 10 tips for taking publicity photographs

We know we do a lot of great work for our customers. Where we can, we like to tell others about it, either on our website or in the news media, because this will help us to win more work and keep us busy and successful into the future.

Very often, an important part of telling the story is providing a picture to show how something was done or present the key people involved. This simple guide is designed to show how to take those pictures, so they look right when published in magazines, papers and online.

1. Quality counts

The quality of the picture, often called its ‘size’ or ‘resolution’, is very important. If possible, use a decent quality digital camera. However, some mobile devices now have good quality cameras. Set the camera to the highest possible resolution. A simple rule of thumb is – if the j-peg image the camera creates, when downloaded, is 1 megabyte or more in size, it should be alright.

2. Choose your location and background

Avoid taking pictures towards the sun. This results in darkened pictures. Avoid taking pictures that need flash. It is better to go outside and use natural light. Make sure the background is clean, uncluttered and appropriate. It should not show off other companies’ equipment or logos. It should not show unsafe practises. And it should not identify any person who has not given their permission to be in the picture.

3. Put our business in the picture

The story is about our business and what we do, so it makes sense to include the company name and logo in the picture. This can be done by placing a vehicle in the picture so a logo can be shown. In addition, logos on uniforms or other equipment should be prominently displayed.

4. Show us at our best

Make sure all members of staff look presentable and wear the correct, clean uniform, including safety clothing (PPE). Vehicles and equipment should also be the most up-to-date and best condition available. They should also be correctly displayed and clean.

5. Demonstrate best practice health and safety

Health and safety standards are critical to our work. To demonstrate this, pictures taken on operational sites should clearly show that proper health and safety procedures are being followed, so there can be no doubt in the minds of the reader or viewer.

6. Not too far away, not too close

When taking the picture, do not stand too far away, so the people and equipment in it look like dots on the horizon! Also, do not stand so close, that important elements of the story, such as the location, working conditions or equipment,  cannot be seen. Make sure key elements of the picture, for example people and equipment, are shown in their entirety, and not cropped at the edge of the image.

7. Create a focus

So the picture helps tell the story, it is important to pick out the key aspects and make them more prominent. For example, if the story is about the achievements of one or two people in a team, put those people in the foreground so they look bigger in the picture. If it is about a specific piece of equipment, display that more prominently too.

8. Show it off

A story may be about a specific piece of equipment. Or it may be about an employee winning an award, or the signing of an agreement. In such cases, where a ‘prop’ is available, make sure it is prominently and confidently displayed in the picture.

9. Look – and smile!

It is important that we create a professional and welcoming impression. Therefore, make sure everyone in the picture is looking at the camera. Make sure their eyes are open (closed eyes is a common mistake!). And make sure, that everyone has a confident, friendly smile. Of course, the exception is when the story is about something very serious, in which case a neutral expression is most appropriate.

10. If in doubt – ask!

If you have any concerns about how to take the picture, contact the marketing department for advice.

Old Abe’s lessons on professional copywriting and communication

Sunday 14th April 2013   by Andy Comber

I’m in the middle of reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, the book upon which Steven Spielberg based his film Lincoln. It is an excellence journey through a 50 year period during which the modern United States and a future super-power was born.

The book describes how Abraham Lincoln was selected as the presidential candidate for the new Republican Party, then invited three rival politicians he’d just beaten in the race for the nomination to become cabinet members to create a broad church political alliance as the northern Union faced the Confederate South in the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln - a brilliant communicator

Lincoln comes across as an extraordinary man: kind, humorous, self-effacing and generous of spirit to rivals and subordinates – yet hugely ambitious, calculating and single-minded in his approach to personal achievement and doing what he believed needed to be done to protect the nation’s interests. What is clear, is that one of the strands of Lincoln’s political genius was his communication skills. So here’s my view of some of them:

Story telling. Lincoln was known throughout his life, from childhood onwards, as a great storyteller. He always had an anecdote to tell to make a telling point and win an argument. He had the knack of being able to explain complex thoughts in simple terms, through telling a story that illuminated the point he wanted to get across. He also used simple, memorable language that caught the imagination. It’s no surprise his favourate playwright was Shakespeare.

Humour. Lincoln was a great joke teller and enjoyed making other people laugh. But often, he used humour to make vital political points. Also, he appeared not to use humour as a weapon, but to disarm critics and bring people onto his side.

Timing. Lincoln perfected the art of knowing when to make a point and when to stay silent, even when others around him were clamouring for him to get stuck in to a political argument. He showed a keen sense of when and where to say the right thing, for maximum effect. In politics this is vital. For example, when he announced that slaves would be emancipated, he achieved cricital acclaim, but said that, if he had made the same announcement six months before, he would have been lambasted and problably thrown out of office.

Audience. Lincoln was acutely aware of when to say what to whom. Many times, the audience he was giving a speech to was not the audiece he was actually trying to influence. He was also acutely aware of the power of the media and the need to take account of their prejudices and agendas, as much as his political rivals and public mood.

Surprise & symbolism. Just when your audience thinks you will do one thing, do something different. The Gettysberg Address is a speech given by Lincoln at the consecration of the Soldier’s National Cemetery, created to mark one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The speaker before him gave a speech that lasted for two hours, going into great detail about the battle and its historic significance. Audiences were used to very long speeches at that time.

When Lincoln got up to speak next, the crown of several thousand people would not have been surprised to hear Lincoln talk for an hour or more. Yet he gave a speech lasting just two minutes. In it he powerfully reminded the audience of the principles behind the Declaration of Independence and reaffirmed his belief that the war would bring a “new birth of freedom”. The subtext here is that he was talking about the freedom of slaves.

In this way, he used another powerful technique – symbolism – saying the soldiers who died at Gettysberg ensured the survival of representative democracy, and used the moment to cement in people’s minds the rightness of achieving another political and social objective, to end slavery, something that was still contentious, even within the Union.

It’s clear, then that Lincoln was a brilliant communicator, and he was using techniques that are just as relevant today, to anyone who wants to get their message across, influence others and achieve what they set out to achieve.

 

 

A press release service in Shropshire for stories that are used – safely

Wednesday 10th April 2013   by Andy Comber

Want to get a story published about a workshop to learn about risk assessments? Not the most catchy of subject matters for a press release. So, here at matm we found an angle that highlighted an interesting and counter-intuitive trend – recession makes business safer. The press release below was used in a substantial story by the Shrophire Star on April 2 and several other news publications.

Economic downturn is boosting safety standards – so learn how to do the job right, say Midland experts

The economic downturn blighting British industry is having one unexpected positive effect – it is improving safety standards, says a leading Midland health and safety advisor.

Marvin Owen, Chairman of the Midlands West District of the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH), is urging business managers to attend a major annual training event in Shropshire in June, saying good safety practice is becoming increasingly vital to commercial survival.

He said: “Many people might think that, when times are economically tough, companies are going to be tempted to cut corners and health and safety standards will suffer. However, we’re finding the opposite is the case.”

Mr Owen, managing director of Oswestry consultancy MBO Safety Services, added: “When the economy was strong, there was so much work that some main contractors were tempted to cut corners by hiring sub contactors who did not always use the right practices.

“Because there is less work around now, we are finding that main contractors feel they have the time and incentive to impose proper health and safety standards, and sub contractors who can demonstrate they can meet them have a real advantage.”

West Midlands IOSH is holding its one-day risk management event on Thursday 20 June 2012, at Enginuity in Coalbrookdale, Telford, Shropshire,

Business managers can attend a series of four workshops to learn how to carry out effective risk assessments in the workplace.

Emma Walker, event coordinator for IOSH West District, said: “Carrying out risk assessments is now central to safety at work, and for companies to prove they have complied with the law.

“Failure to carry out proper risk assessments is at the centre of many prosecutions which can result in huge fines, ruined reputations and the bankruptcy and even imprisonment of company directors.

“Many companies make the mistake of using generic risk assessments. The workshops will show how they can apply site and process specific risk assessments so health and safety procedures are correct at all times.”

The four workshops will cover the risk assessment process; noise assessment; control of substances hazardous to health; and manual handling. Each will be led by a Midland-based health and safety expert.

The keynote speech will be given by John Lacey, Vice-President of IOSH.

Marvin Owen said: “The increased emphasis being put on workplace health and safety during the downturn is welcomed.

“However, there are companies that, mainly through ignorance, are putting their staff, clients and the public at serious risk by failing to carry out proper risk assessments.

“Some people still wrongly see safety procedures as being a financial burden. But not carrying out risk assessments can be a major hidden cost.

“Companies that haven’t fully understood the full safety implications of the work they agree to can suffer huge financial penalties later on. Good health and safety makes good business sense.”

The IOSH West Midlands risk assessment workshops are aimed at all health and safety professionals; managers, directors and health and safety officers in small and medium-sized businesses; anyone who is responsible for assessing risk in the workplace; and anyone else interested in health and safety at work.

For more information or to book a place, email Leanne Lowther at IOSH (leanne.lowther@iosh.co.uk) or call 0116 257 3100.

Press release writing service in Shropshire – on the right tracks

Friday 22nd March 2013   by Andy Comber

Lanes for Drains solves flood mystery at major cement works

Lanes for Drains got to the bottom of persistent flooding at one of the UK’s largest cement works – and saved the company tens of thousands of pounds it expected to have to spend to cure the problem.

Lanes engineers based in Sheffield were called in to investigate the flooding of a railway track on the site of the Hope Valley cement works near Castleton, South Yorkshire.

Site managers had feared the flooding was caused by a collapsed storm drain under the track – and the only solution was to carry out a major excavation to repair or replace the pipe, requiring the track to be dug up as well.

However, by completing a comprehensive survey and cleaning programme, the Lanes engineers discovered the flooding was being caused by a hidden manhole that had been filled with ballast and silt.

Once it had been cleaned with a powerful water jetter, the flood problem was cured. This was a major boost for the cement works because the affected rail line takes coal to cement kilns. Every time the track was flooded, deliveries were delayed.

Andy Watson, Deputy Rail Manager for the site, said: “Lanes for Drains did an excellent job. We were very pleased and relieved with what their team did for us.

“Flooding had been a problem in this area for the last two years and we thought it was  caused by a collapsed pipe. We had tried many different ways to cure it but none of them worked. The matters came to a head because we had to renew the track at a cost of £60,000 so it was a must we resolved the underlying problem.

“We called Lanes for Drains in and fully expected them to tell us the pipe needed replacing. It turned out to be a catchment pit that had been mistakenly filled in by construction workers during modernisation work on the site.

“The Lanes team did a very thorough job, bringing extra equipment to fully investigate the site. When the problem was identified, they cleaned out the pit there and then. It was a very efficient operation.”

The work was done by drain blockage engineers based at the Lanes for Drains Yorkshire regional depot in Sheffield. Area Development Manager for Lanes for Drains Yorkshire James Oates said: “We’re very pleased with the outcome.

“We were determined to do all we could to identify the problem before advising that excavation was required, because of the significant cost and inconvenience that would have caused.

“We deployed our CCTV team with their HD video robot camera and an off-road water jetting machine, called a Terra-jet, to make sure we had the cleaning power to cope with the quantity of silt and waste we found.

“Because the rail tracks had been there for 50 to 60 years, there were numerous manholes which had to be located and inspected. We eventually found a hidden one that was the cause of the problem.”

At the time of the work, the site had been run by Lafarge Cement. In January, ownership was transferred to a new company, Hope Construction Materials.

Hope Valley Cement Works has been in operation since 1923. It employs 200 people producing 1.3 million tonnes of high quality cement a year, transported from the site in up to 20 freight trains every week.

Hope Valley Cement Works

Professional copywriting as a poetic apology

Friday 8th March 2013   by Andy Comber

BBC publishes article suggesting Tesco is apologisng in poetry

I was interested by this article on the BBC website pointing out that apologies aimed at customers following the horsemeat scandal looks very much like poetry, of the Shakespearian kind.

Whether it is as clever as the experts think or you believe Tesco (your choice) when it says it’s entirely coincidental, it is true that professional copywriters put a great deal of thought into what appears to be the simplest scattering of words.

In fact, it takes more skill to write simply and directly than to waffle on in verbose swathes of prose. So I’ll stop. And let Juice readers decide for themselves.

 

 

The science behind a press release service

Sunday 23rd September 2012   by Andy Comber

Why should matm offer you a press release service to you – and get your story published? Good question. One answer is: because your brain, my brain, every single person’s brain is pretty much bone idle. It’s a scientific fact.

I’m reading a book – an international best seller, no less – explaining how us humans think. It’s by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. In his book, called Thinking, Fast and Slow, he shows how we like to make decisions that are easy. We do whatever we can to avoid complicated, rational decision-making. The reason? The brain is wired up to avoid hard work.

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, explains why using a press release writing service makes rational and irrational sense

It means that, when we think we are being rational, we are, in fact, often making decisions based on ‘fast thinking’ that draw much more than we realise from our irrational, subconscious mind than from rational conscious thinking – otherwise known as ‘slow thinking’.

It struck me that this is a fundamental reason why it is good for businesses to develop a media profile and get stories in the local papers, magazines and trade press. Let me explain.

Kahneman takes his readers through the concept of cognitive ease. When the brain is at cognitive ease, it can rip along doing its fast thinking like Lewis Hamilton storming along the Hangar Straight at Silverstone.

So, what puts our brains in a state of cognitive ease? It’s being presented with information in a form that is:

•    A repeat experience
•    Clearly displayed
•    Offering primed ideas
•    And encourages a good mood.

This leads to information (and decision-making) that:

•    Feels familiar
•    Feels true
•    Feels good
•    Feels effortless to digest.

The process is shown in the image from the book below.

Causes and consequences of cognitive ease - shows how having a news media strategy makes business sense

Let me show how that explains why organisations should have a PR strategy and develop a media profile.

Repeated experience – advertisers understand the concept of cognitive ease – that’s why they expect to have to run multiple adverts as part of a campaign to get the result they need. The same is true on editorial pages. If you can get articles published where your customers and prospective customers are looking, your business and offer will become more familiar to them.

Clear display – the key to good media coverage is to get your key messages across, shaped for particular target audiences. If this is done successfully, potential new customers will take note. The beauty of fast thinking, says Kahneman, is that the brain is clocking your message, even when you don’t realise it. This is as much a subconscious as a conscious process/

Primed idea – if your target audience is primed to treat your message with greater importance, that’s good. And having your story told as ‘news’ in key publications, does just that. It enhances your credibility so makes you more noteworthy than your rivals.

Good mood – you tell a story that explains how your product or service can help a potential customer, it is more likely to have a positive effect on their mood. Again, they might not realise it at the time, but their brains are taking it all in.
The upshot, your press releases will have had an impact. Whether they are read carefully, skimmed or just glanced at, the target audience – or, more precisely, the brains of the many people in your target audience – will get the message.

The accumulative effect is that your products and services will have a greater chance of being considered when your current customers, and new ones, decide what to buy.

They may think they are making a rational choice based, for example, on an agreed internal purchase procedure. But, says Daniel Kahneman, they would almost certainly be wrong. Look carefully, and it will be fast thinking that will have played the biggest part. And there’s plenty of research to show that’s true.

Diamond Jubilee – an exercise in manipulation by the Monarchy?

Tuesday 5th June 2012   by Andy Comber

We have talked about how three’s a magic number previously in The Juice. It appears everywhere, including, I would argue, the communication strategising for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. In a nutshell, the planning goes like this:

Day 1. Give them a spectacular show – to create a sense of awe and remind everyone of the power of majesty. This was done with the usual British sense of whimsy with the great Jubilee Thames River Pageant. Only the weather couldn’t be controlled.

Day 2. Give them a party – the centrepiece was the pop concert outside Buckingham Palace. Populist and fun. The Queen gets down with the masses, and even allows comedians to tell a few jokes at her expense.

Day 3.  Give the big message – the Queen is in charge and has God on her side. So we get the trip to St Paul’s Cathedral followed by the procession back through London to allow the masses to see their leader, blessed by the deity.

Days 1 and 2 prepare the population for Day 3. First impress them, then give them lots fun, then they will agree that you are still in charge and have the right to be.

All three days were shot through with military pomp. That is the ultimate power imagery. Sounds trite (I do hope I’m not locked in the Tower) but it’s a trick that’s been used many times in the past.

Roman Emperors used to return from biffing their opponents by parading their army through Rome, then giving the citizens several days off the go to the games at which, in the finale, he would slaughter all his still living enemies to remind everyone who’s in charge.

The corporate world use the 1,2,3 knockout in a similar way. 1. Establish a burning platform to get people’s attention, 2. Engage staff in conversation and ask their ideas to obtain their buy-in then 3. Tell them what needs to be done (often something that senior management wanted to do in the first place).

The Queen is an impressive individual who obviously cares about her public duty. Most British people also hugely respect her, support the Monarchy and loved the occasion.

But there is no doubt the Diamond Jubilee celebrations amounted to a carefully organised communication exercise to manipulate and set public opinion for the next 10 years and beyond.

There has already been a lot of comment about the slimmed down Monarchy ‘top team’ that appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. And many noticed the picture of William and Kate promenantly displayed behind the Queen during her Jubilee TV message.

Time will tell, whether this exercise in brand positioning will succeed.

 

matm does some sustainable award writing

Thursday 17th May 2012   by Andy Comber

Congratulations to Sainsbury’s for winning Retail Development of the Year in the 2012 Sustain Magazine Awards. We were commissioned by construction company ISG to write the award entry for their development – Sainsibury’s new eco store at Dawlish in Devon.

Despite some stiff opposition from the likes of Marks and Spencer and Waitrose, the judges said Sainsbury’s Dawlish set a new benchmark against which future developments had to be judged. We’d like to think we played a part in making that clear. If you want to significantly improve your chance of winning a business award, give us a call. View our business award writing service brochure here.

Sustain Magazine Awards - winners celebrate at the end of the ceremony

Awards just round the corner – let us do the writing!

Thursday 22nd March 2012   by Stuart Bickerton

Over the next few days we will put a blog post up about a client’s fantastic award win this week – and you guessed it, the submission was written my us!

But in the mean time so you don’t miss the boat, below are a handful of first class awards coming up that we can help you with:

  • Green Business Awards
  • Growing Business Awards
  • Sustainability Awards
  • National Sales Awards
  • First Women Awards
  • Personnel Today Awards

Winning business awards can be a very effective way to generate positive external exposure and to instil pride within your organisation. So to find out more about how we can help, please take a look at the matm award writing brochure: awards brochure.

If you want to find out further information about the above awards, or would just like an informal chat then please do not hesitate to contact Andy Comber on email: ac@matm.co.uk or tel: 01952 883526.

 

Tilt shift photography – we’re loving that!

Wednesday 22nd February 2012   by Neil Dicken

‘Tilt-shift photography’ is a unique, almost playful type of photography in which a camera is manipulated so that the real, life-sized subject look like miniature-scale models.

The phrase describes the use of camera movements on small and medium format cameras and also sometimes refers to the use of tilt for selective focus.

Sometimes the term is used when a shallow depth of field is simulated with digital postprocessing; the name may derive from the tilt-shift lens normally required when the effect is produced optically.

Why not have a go yourself if you have an Iphone:  Art&Mobile TiltShift Generator.

Below are a few of our favourite examples for you to have a look at. We’re loving that!


 

Writing awards applications – with matm, you come first

Tuesday 27th September 2011   by Andy Comber

Doing something special is one thing. Getting recognition for it is quite another. Business awards are a great way to boost your reputation, win more work and get staff recognition they deserve.

matm has the expertise to help make sure your company is a front runner when the judges cast their vote. We have a six step approach to winning awards for our clients. Our awards brochure explains more.

With matm, you have a better chance of winning.

Creating windows into Shropshire’s history

Wednesday 21st September 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

We created these unusual images in August and September 2011 by carefully selecting photographs taken many years ago in the Ironbridge Gorge, then holding them up at the same location and taking a fresh picture.

By carefully matching the old with the new – the new photograph has the unnerving effect of inserting historical scenes directly into modern life. The ‘windows into history’ project is being displayed during celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of Ironbridge Gorge becoming a World Heritage Site.

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust was so impressed with the 16 photographs taken by matm’s creative team, Neil Dicken and Jamie Doran, that it asked to use them to help in their anniversary celebrations.

Neil said: “The images create a real visual and mental double-take. The beauty of the approach is its simplicity, though the trick is to select the historical photograph that creates the most vivid match in the modern scene. “The photographs are up to 150 years old, so allow the viewer to visualise what some of the Ironbridge Gorge looked like – hopefully they have provided a glimpse into the past.”

Jamie said: “We took both internal and external images of buildings. It is fascinating to see just how much some buildings have changed and in other cases, just how little they have changed. I particularly like the images with people in them, especially where you can see people walking from the present day, seemingly into the past.

“We were inspired by a project called ‘Looking into the Past’ by American photographer Jason E Powell www.jasonepowell.com. When we saw his images we realised straight away that the heritage of the Ironbridge Gorge here in Shropshire lends itself perfectly to a similar project.”

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust lent photographs from its collection for the project. The images can be viewed in the Iron Bridge Tollhouse at the World Heritage Festival in Ironbridge which takes place on Saturday 24th September.

Paul Gossage Director of Marketing & PR said: “I was thrilled to see matm using our historic collection of images in such an innovative way. Publishing the images is a great way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the World Heritage Site. I am sure they will be much enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.”

Details of the Festival are available at www.ironbridge.org.uk.

 

Thanks also for the help of MarionBlockley Heritage Management

Would love to know what you think or share your links in the comments at the base of the full post …

New PR brochure available

Monday 19th September 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

A good reputation is worth protecting, especially in this day and age when it can be lost in an instant. matm can build your reputation in the minds of the people who count – your customers, your suppliers and anyone else who can influence your success. Please click on the link below to find out a little bit more about the PR services matm offers.

matm public relations brochure

Public relations from matm in Ironbridge, Telford, Shropshire

Mr Moyden’s cheese is the star on ITV Central Tonight

Thursday 19th May 2011   by Andy Comber

This week we had the pleasure of persuading ITV Central Tonight to cover a story about the continued success of small food and drinks businesses and their growing importance to the rural economy.

At the centre of the story was Martin Moyden and his company, Mr Moyden’s Handmade Cheese. Martin was a farmer who started to make cheese six years ago as part of a longterm plan to diversify his business interests.

Late last year, that led to him giving up farming and concentrating fully on making his award-winning and utterly delicious cheese in a new dairy at the Shropshire Food Enterprise Centre in Shrewsbury.

In my opinion, Martin’s achievements make a great story in themselves. However, to tickle ITV’s news taste buds, we had to develop the theme slightly and show how his success was just one example of how food and drink companies are the new tigers of the rural economy (nifty eh?).

Heart of England Fine Foods, which runs the food enterprise centre, helped by providing some compelling region-wide facts and news lines plus a strong interviewee in Karen Davies, their chief executive.

Ivan Watkiss, owner of Cooper’s Gourmet Sausage Rolls, also based at the centre, agreed to let the cameras in to see his great success story too – and Battlefield 1403 farm shop, one of Martin’s customers, agreed to be featured as well – so reporter Katy Fawcett could cover the consumer end of the story.

The complete package gave ITV Central Tonight the reason it needed to cover the story – and Martin got the publicity he deserves, along with, to varying extents given the vagaries of television news, the other participants. So a great team effort that proves even the business minnows can get noticed by the media big fish.

Thank you to everyone who helped.

Martin Moyden is interviewed by ITV News reporter Katy Fawcett

Reporter Katy Fawcett films Beth Moyden as she salts cheeses

 

 

 

 

Search engine optimisation – get noticed first with matm

Tuesday 17th May 2011   by Andy Comber

“The figures speak for themselves. But, even without seeing them, this SEO campaign has clearly made an impact, with more customer leads generated. It’s definitely good for our business.” matm client.

It’s good to have a website – it’s absolutely brilliant to have a website that your customers and potential customers actually visit. Most people now always use search engines to go to information they need on the web – even if they know the precise web address they want to visit.

What that tells us is that, if you are in business, it’s vital your website is search engine optimised so when your customers use specific phrases to search for something they want – one of your web pages, promoting your service or product, pops up on the first page of search results.

Here at matm, we can help you optimise your website using carefully written web content and, if you choose, a web news service to ensure your services remain attractive to search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Click here or on the image above to see the results from a very recent example of our work. You can also view our Web Copywriting and Web News brochure.

 

 

Capture your world in 3D

Wednesday 4th May 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

I was browsing around and came across this site Photosynth, how cool is that.

Take a look at the court yard outside matm, this a quick one that I took out side earlier, best of all its a FREE iOS app. Hover over the image and drag around to take a look.

To view online you will need to have  Silverlight Installed

Jamie’s top ten email gripes! Grrrrr…

Friday 1st April 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

Emails are a day to day necessity – but here is my top ten most ANNOYING emails list! Let me know if you agree…

 

Jamie at matm gets to grips with his latest email

1. Replying all when you really don’t need to

2. Sending me an email with nothing in the subject box

3. Marking it high priority with your red exclamation mark when it isn’t

4. Read receipts

5. WRITING IN CAPITALS

6. Using text speak

7. Sending me huge emails

8. Using emoticons

9. Using ‘LOL’, ‘ROFLMAO’ etc..

10. If you are a spammer – YOU!

Rant over,

Jamie

 

Client collects prestigious national award after matm writes a “winning” submission

Wednesday 23rd March 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

Lavendon Access Services was last night was one of the winners at the Construction News Specialist Awards.

The company won the Access and Scaffolding section at the awards held, as they often are, in a posh London hotel. We’re delighted for the great people at Lavendon, but we’re especially pleased because the company is one of our clients and we wrote the award submission.

Lavendon Access Services is the UK’s largest provided of powered access to a wide number of industries, including construction. By powered access, we mean cherry pickers, hydraulic booms and those fancy-looking scissor lifts we are seeing in use more and more now, where before scaffolding or ladders would be used.

matm PR Executive Jamie Doran said: “We’re very pleased for Lavendon Access Services. It’s an especially important award for them because, on the shortlist, they were up against mainly scaffolding companies that traditionally do well in the Construction News Awards. This win is telling the industry that powered access is growing in importance and influence.

“It’s also very nice for us to know that all the thought, insight and hard work that we put in to preparing the award submission has paid off. In our experience, winners deserve their awards but it certainly pays to make sure your submissions are as compelling as possible – and getting the support of a company like ours can make the difference between winning and losing.”

Jamie is already working on plans to help Lavendon capitalise on its success. In the meantime,  he would be very happy to talk to anyone else about how we might help them get the recognition they deserve!

You can email him by clicking here or give him a call on 01952 883526.

 

 

 

We’re loving that! Great design that’s a real eye opener.

Monday 21st March 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

We love amazing design – and you don’t have to look far to find it. In fact, why not just look into the eyes of the next person you meet? Here’s a stunning close up of an eye showcased in Bored Panda, the online magazine dedicated to the world’s most quirky artwork. You’ll find more here.

Amazing close-up of the human eye captured by Armenian physics teacher Suren Manvelyan

 

matm’s Freaky Friday – we’re loving the TV ad about the fish that can mend a broken heart

Friday 4th February 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

The British Hearth Foundation has launched its ‘Mending Broken Hearts’ appeal with a very subtle yet eye-catching TV ad. It’s a touching story in two parts – seen from the view of a woman and a zebrafish. That’s right – a fish!

Amazing facts about the zebrafish

  • Their hearts mend themselves – if part of a zebrafish heart is damaged, it is repaired in a few weeks, just like mending a broken arm (human, not fish…silly)
  • They are see-through – in their early development, they are transparent, allowing scientist to watch the development of their heart and blood vessels
  • Zebrafish are commonly studied by genetics scientists, looking to develop new medicines and therapies

 

Mending Broken Hearts Appeal – British Heart Foundation

Nick Radmore, BHF’s Head of Social Marketing and Brand, said: “The idea was to bring the science to life. The zebrafish helps people understand how complex regenerative medicine [on human hearts] could bring hope to millions of people in the UK.”

It’s not very often an ad such as this makes me want to go and google about it, said Neil Dicken, a designer at matm, the marketing, design, web development and PR agency, at Jackfield near Telford, Shropshire.

But as it came to an end, I already had my Iphone out, reading up on this amazing fish!

Find out more about this BHF’s Mending Broken Hearts Appeal.

Find out more about matm’s transparently effective and affordable video service.

Creative copywriting #2: Remember, remember the Rule of Three

Friday 4th February 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

Three is a magic number.

As great communicators from Julius Caesar to Barack Obama know, good things come in threes. In fact, there is the Rule of Three.

Constructing facts, ideas or expressions in three parts just feels natural. It is a structure that is pleasing to the eye, easy on the ear and creates the biggest impact.

There – two uses of it in one paragraph. And I wasn’t even trying, says Andy Comber, PR Manager at matm, a marketing, design, web development and PR agency in Jackfield, near Telford, Shropshire.

That is why being aware of the power of the number three in copywriting is so important. You may use the concept naturally. Sometimes it is good to deliberately make use of the dramatic benefit it brings.

The number three appears everywhere: there are three-line and three character jokes (think Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman), three picture comic strips (think Dilbert), three act plays and, often in news media, the three line factfile.

There is even a name for the concept. A constructed phrase such as “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” that has three grammatically and logically connected elements is known as a Tricolon.

Speech-writing author Dr Max Atkinson has analysed many famous speeches and says three-part lists almost always appear somewhere. He includes the technique in a six part (that’s 2×3) list of successful speech-writing techniques:

  • Contrasts
  • Three-part lists
  • Contrasts combined with lists
  • Alliteration
  • Bold imagery
  • Audience analysis

The two most important, he says, are contrast and three-part lists. Here are examples from President John Kennedy’s inaugural speech in 1961:

  • Contrasts: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
  • Three-part lists: “Where the strong are just, and the weak secure and the peace preserved.”
  • Combining contrasts and lists: “Not because the communists are doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right.”

Adolph Hitler is one of the most notorious users of the Rule of Three. Winston Churchill fought back – with blood, sweat and tears. Only he actually said, “blood, sweat, toil and tears” but the Rule of Three is so strong, most memories have deleted his toil.

So, whenever you write any copy or make any presentation, think of the Rule of Three. And remember, the reader or audience will only ever remember a maximum of three things you ever say.

matm’s Freaky Friday: so, who thinks they know the offside rule in football?

Friday 28th January 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

It’s been in the news all week. After Sky Sports football presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys were both forced out of their jobs for doubting female linesman Sian Massey’s knowledge of the offside rule, we at matm thought we’d conduct a little survey. We went to Shrewsbury to find who really can explain the offside rule.

matm’s Freaky Friday: do you know the football offside rule? from matm on Vimeo.

So there’s a few thoughts from the good people of Shropshire …

for Video Blogging across the West Midlands contact one of Shropshire’s leading marketing agencies matm on 01952 883526 or email ac@matm.co.uk

matm’s Freaky Friday: whose phone would you like to hack into?

Friday 21st January 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

Andy Coulson resigned as Prime Minister David Cameron’s Press Secretary today over claims that journalists hacked into the phones of celebrities and politicians while he was editor of the News of the World.

So we went out to ask the public: “Whose phone would you want to hack into and why?”

The NoW did it – so matm asks, who would you phone hack? from matm on Vimeo.

So there’re a few thoughts from the good people of Shropshire …

for Video Blogging across the West Midlands contact one of Shropshire’s leading marketing agencies matm on 01952 883526 or email ac@matm.co.uk

Creative copywriting #1: The Bible teaches us to speak what we write

Wednesday 19th January 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

I’ve been following the news on the celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of publication of the King James Bible, says Andy Comber, PR Manager at matm, the marketing, graphic design, digital media and PR agency at Jackfield near Telford.

The KJV, as it’s called by biblical scholars, was the topic for a radio programme celebrating its far-reaching influence on the English language. An expert concluded: “The King James Bible reminds us that the very best literature is written to be spoken out loud.”

This version of the bible was written specifically to take the Word of God to the English-speaking masses – spoken from the pulpit. The language was designed to be clear and compelling.

That’s why we still “give up the ghost” and admire people who are “the salt of the earth” and don’t like having “words put in our mouths”. All are expressions first coined in the KJV.

It’s an interesting lesson, if you spare me the pun. When you check any copy you’ve written for publication, try reading it out loud. If it reads easily and sounds like it makes sense, you have half the battle won.

If you find yourself stopping and starting, losing the thread, stumbling over words or wondering what on earth you meant to say, you’ve probably committed one or more of 7 deadly sins of bad copywriting:

  • Failing to structure what you write so it is easy to follow
  • Writing sentences that are too long
  • Writing sentences that attempt to make more than one point
  • Writing sentences that are passive, rather than active
  • Making random use of commas and full stops
  • Using long and complicated words
  • Or long and dull ones

The value of reading copy out loud was made clear to me while working for ITV Central News. Broadcast copy HAS to be read out loud. The best journalists were often the ones who appeared to spend their afternoons talking to a computer screen.

Try it for yourself. Who cares about the funny looks!

Blame game in NI Water crisis shows need for public relations crisis planning

Thursday 6th January 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

A week ago we predicted that the NI Water crisis would be seen as a PR disaster as well as an operational one.

And it looks like it is certainly heading that way, says Andy Comber, PR Manager at matm, the marketing, graphic and web design, web development and PR agency based at Jackfield, near Telford in Shropshire.

The Chief Executive of NI Water, Laurence MacKenzie, has resigned. Politicians at Stormont, home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, are lining up to whip him out of office – and try to ensure he doesn’t get a golden goodbye.

Interestingly, NI Water has been lambasted for not communicating properly over the crisis but there appears to be absolutely nothing on the NI Assembly website about the issue.

In his resignation statement Mr MacKenzie acknowledged:

“I readily accept and recognise that there were aspects of the way in which we handled the situation that could have been better.

“In particular our ability to communicate with our customers and let them know the reasons for and the times at which they were going to be taken off supply.”

That is not the end of it though. Many local commentators, such as popular blog Slugger O’Toole, are pointing the finger at those very politicians, with claims that they are ultimately responsible. The corrosive PR fall-out will not just land on Mr MacKenzie.

What is (or should be) frightening for many who hold positions of responsibility, is how quickly events unfolded over a matter of days.

Having a crisis plan, which includes an effective PR element, is essential. And here we are talking not about PR as some sceptics people think of it – which is seen as using tricks to cover cracks. It’s about building PR directly into your on-going business strategy.

At best this may well (through effective customer engagement) help avoid the crisis happening in the first place. Or, at worst, will allow your organisation to come out with its reputation intact. And the chief executive still in a job.

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.”

Mirror, Signal, Outmanoeuvre – matm client teams up with Audi

Thursday 11th November 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

Which machine is the real star of this picture?

Audi R8 Spyder: 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds. Nationwide Platforms scissor lift: 0 to 10 metres (32 feet) in 55 seconds. Put them together and you have one of the most memorable advertisements of 2010.

matm PR client Nationwide Platforms played a key role in bringing to life Audi’s dramatic ‘Mirror, Signal, Outmanoeuvre’ TV ad for its new supercar. Rogue Films, the makers of the advert, hired a mixture of electric scissor lifts and booms for the shoot, which took place at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands.

We know through experience how important it is to have the correct equipment for video shoots and photoshoots and, the machines pictured above look perfect to support lighting rigs. We thought the image was striking enough to share with you – so come on – which machine is the real star of the picture?

High five! See if Shropshire design agency matm can make YOU happier

Friday 22nd October 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

matm, Telford, Shropshire - High Five Logo design

matm, Telford, Shropshire - graphic device, 5 ways to a happier life

There are simple things we can all do to help give us a healthier and happier life – and matm has developed a brand design to show just what those things are.

matm has been working with NHS Telford and Wrekin’s Health Promotion Team to create High Five – which promotes the five main things we can all do to be more healthy and happy.

The clear and colourful brand design reflects five ways we can all make a difference:

  • Connect
  • Be active
  • Take notice
  • Keep Learning
  • Give

Tom Blockley, one of the graphic designers at Shropshire marketing, design, web and PR firm matm, says: “The brand and logo design process is an enjoyable and creative one. We work very closely with the client, listen carefully to what they require and the campaign objectives.”

High Five will show how you think about and do the small things everyday can help you to feel good about yourself, appreciate what matters to you and get the most out of life.

The Five Ways branding is due to be rolled out across a range of promotional media including print, web, social media and video over the coming weeks and months, helping health promotion professionals to join together all the support services they provide.

Five ways for a healthier, happier life. It’s simple, quick and it works. Try it for a week and see if you notice a difference. . . what have you got to lose?

Oh, and if you want matm to make a difference for you, we’d love to hear from you!