News & Blog


Wild Wide Web

Posted on: March 5th, 2013 by Nigel No Comments


Over a decade since the social media revolution and we are still seeing examples of some of the world’s biggest and best-known brands – pardon our French – cocking it up. You only have to look at the recent Starbucks strategy to feed a live stream of #spreadthecheer in the Natural History Museum that was hijacked by tax protestors. This post-dates a whole host of ill advised social media dramas involving Skittles, Chrysler and even Ryanair to name but a few. Only #waitrosereasons managed to claw back some integrity for the brand.


The ‘shoot now and ask questions later’ approach that is adopted when it comes to social media is drawing to an end. The ease with which you can update, upload and respond means that it becomes very easy to lose sight of a strategy. Not only that but it is also very easy for mistakes to be made that will no longer go unnoticed. Rouge bandits can cause more damage with a single misguided tweet than the most scathing of press reviews. The web has gone wild and it’s time to bring back some order.


Within a year, internet use on mobile devices will overtake desktop access for the first time, which is easy to believe when over 60% of all mobile phones worldwide are internet enabled smartphones. Consumers now have the attention span to that of a gnat, with a reduction over the last 25 years from 12 minutes to 5 seconds. Not only that but their ability to multitask has also gone through the roof, 86% of smartphone users will be online in conjunction with undertaking other activities such as watching TV. Only recently it was reported that the general population checks their phone over 100 times a day.


Integrated marketing is not a term that is unfamiliar, so why is it so challenging to implement this across all online activity? Particularly when you know that your target audience is likely to have their fingers glued to their phones and watching your every move, making judgements and drawing conclusions based on how the brand is presented.


The social media obsession is drawing to an end to make way for a new and more advanced management protocol that is designed to ensure a continuity across all digital outlets.


Consideration for the interaction between digital channels is now more important than ever. While a campaign can be run on a singular platform, thought must be put in to how this will translate should the audience wish for it to be drawn out across the web as a whole. The length of a tweet, responsiveness of a website and compatibility of your links will all play a part in determining the flop or flight of your online campaigns.


Digital media management has evolved as the integrated and strategic approach to the management of a digital footprint. There is no longer the option of independent online channels operating in isolation.


The sheriff is back in town…


To get your online engagement rounded up, and find out more about digital media management email


As featured in The Drum Magazine, March edition

Debbie Harvey

Dipping a toe in is not enough

Posted on: January 16th, 2013 by Debbie Harvey No Comments


Keeping pace with technology, especially in the social media sphere, can often feel like running on a treadmill while someone is turning up the speed. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the need for constant updates, something that I am guilty of myself. I can’t sit on a train, in a car or even walk the dog without checking Facebook, typing out a tweet…or the bane of my other half’s life – checking the Daily Mail’s column of shame.


This was never more obvious than a few months ago whilst I was stuck in New York mid-hurricane. The desperation I felt when faced with the prospect of no internet or mobile signal was something that I was not alone in, judging by the hordes of people making the pilgrimage to the few Starbucks that still had a wifi connection.


It was ironic that I was happy to walk ten blocks in the wind and rain, to update my phone with the latest news, only to be told details of the hurricane I was currently sitting in.


I justify my sad little case, as working in communications and PR it has become habit to be at the forefront of updates in news, social media and communications technology. To those outside of this industry – in this case my fiancé, who struggles with the concept of the connection between social media and business despite a degree in economics – it is a totally foreign concept.


Working in an agency environment, we are sometimes blinded to the outside world and their perception of the current communications technologies that are emerging. I’m not talking about updating your Facebook status and tagging a picture (or de-tagging in some cases!). I am considering what the implications are for businesses that fail to keep pace.


Even in the last few years we are seeing giant leaps forward in the use of online communications. Connecting with your customer has never been easier, or more complicated. There are still precious few companies that embrace online communications as readily they should. Dipping a toe in the murky pools is no longer enough.


To those outside the communications industry, there simply cannot be the hours in the day to do their day job as well as keep abreast of the goings on. Which makes me appreciate the vital role that agency support plays when it comes to developing new business.


It was not by coincidence that John Lewis saw soaring sales of over 44% following their integrated ‘snowman’ advertising campaign this Christmas – the entire campaign was masterminded by an agency. The same can most likely be said for any of the nations favorite advertising campaigns.


Online communications are not about whacking up a profile here and there and hoping for the best. Time, effort, strategy and planning all come in to play. Many companies simply don’t have the time to make the most of it. Yet there is still hesitation in employing someone else to do what you think you can do yourself.


Digital media management is the all-encompassing term used to describe what an agency can do for you online, there has to be an integrated approach and getting it wrong can often do more damage than not doing it at all.

Rachel Evans

M2M hits the road

Posted on: August 16th, 2012 by Rachel Evans No Comments

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace and it seems to be filtering its way into every aspect of life. Did you know that thanks to M2M technology a vending machine can now report when it needs more Mars bars?


What is M2M?


It has best been described as an “Internet of Things”, meaning inanimate objects can communicate with one another via the internet. Allowing machines to talk to machines has its benefits: you can track locations, monitor temperature, navigate and even send for a technician if need be.


Can it work in the automotive world?


M2M applications have already made their way into the automotive world. Take GM’s OnStar system, it allows your vehicle to be unlocked and started remotely via your mobile phone. It has built in sat nav and should you have a crash, it will automatically call the emergency services and alert them to your location.


There are a lot of M2M applications waiting for the automotive world to take them up. Ashley Cole, Managing Director of Ring Communications, a leading UK M2M expert said: “There are many automotive applications for M2M technology especially in the future when we move to the next stage of production telematics. One option is to look at driver behaviour, which can then have insurance applications. For example, you can monitor acceleration, deceleration, cornering, and location so you can tell how someone drives.”


“There are already some applications, such as autonomous emergency braking, that have sensors in the front of the car which automatically stop you if there is a problem. Another application that is due to become a legal requirement in 2015 is e-Call. This is when the car calls the emergency services if you have a crash.”


“We have guided bus lanes so in the future there is no reason why we can’t have cars that drive themselves.”


The future


There are numerous M2M applications which will become apparent in the automotive world very soon. Emission control, toll payment, traffic signals and vehicle-to-vehicle communication are all in the pipeline.


Ford has already produced a Focus that can park itself, adaptive cruise control is also available, so the car world is already changing. There are now dedicated communication companies just for M2M that is how rapidly it is growing. The future looks set to be even more interactive as the infrastructure changes and adapts to electric vehicles and hybrids. In a few years’ time it may be a case of cars driving themselves and we will all just be along for the ride.


A booming market for housebuilders to tap into

Posted on: July 31st, 2012 by MattClark No Comments

The number of young people renting rather than buying a property is a rising trend as a lack of credit makes getting a mortgage harder to tie down than a jelly in a bag of sun cream.


It is little wonder that first-time buyer levels are falling but, despite this lack of affordability, developers persist in targeting this group with an array of shared equity schemes that tie up company money.


Arguably the most profitable, cash-rich and untapped market is the baby boomers. People aged 55 and above have the greatest spending power, the highest amount of long-term equity in their property and a higher appetite for a low maintenance lifestyle.


Tuition fees are now leaving young people in debt for longer, while women are becoming mothers later, at an average age of 29, meaning that people in their 30’s are often down to single incomes, or relying on the sum of part-time wages. Not the best environment to pay for cash deposits and comparatively higher rates on larger Loan To Value (LTV) mortgages.


I recently heard that the highest number of people partaking in extreme sports are the over  55’s. They are young at heart, did not have a Gap year, on the whole did not go to university and after a life of hard graft are looking to catch up on lost time.


This may include a second home in the city, or by the sea as not everyone wants to live in Spain, especially if they have grandchildren that they can engage with and, more often than not, support their own children with childcare.


Some clients are reporting high numbers of cash buyers, non-dependents and second homeowners in key locations such as Bristol and Port Marine. I even heard a story about sealed bids on a top floor apartment. Who says the market is dead?


If the location is right and the product does not alienate this key demographic, often the price may become immaterial and this is where real Return on Investment  (ROI) can kick in.


The next niche demographic of extremely well-healed buyers will be aged gay couples, so the ‘Pink Pound’ should not be seen as only being young either.


The over 55’s are also time-rich, so they are more likely to be online and engaged by targeted messaging that offers them relevance and simplicity. They are too long in the tooth for gimmicks, but too young for the nursing home. They want honest core values, service as standard, quality that lasts and a sense of value that is not just about being ‘cheap’ as some of the younger demographics may demand.


In terms of marketing, it should be personalised to increase engagement, segmented and targeted so as not to alienate and be positioned to give confidence in the purchase. Not just about a short-term deal or discount, but the inherent value in the service, the after sales care, the quality of build and the core benefits of buying a new home.


The key to a booming market is unlocking the boomers themselves.


Matt Clark, Ferrier Pearce Client Relationship Director.




Buzzwords that fly

Posted on: June 28th, 2012 by Sara No Comments

The long Summer of sport and celebration is pushing commentators to ever greater verbal dexterity, with new terms created or refreshed to describe successive events. It’s an Olympian task, which coincidentally is the number one buzzword in 2012. Here’s our round-up of other buzzwords this Summer.


Even before Euro 2012, the climax of the Championship League had sports stars reaching for new superlatives, with the term bouncebackability credited to Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie. Cult Sky football show Soccer AM jumped on board, promoting the term in an attempt to get it into the Oxford Concise English Dictionary.


Other buzzwords come from the misuse of words, as witnessed with odium about podiumed and the more recent innovation medalling, a homophone all too easily misconstrued.


Technological innovation feeds into language and one current buzzword is Twypo, a typo on Twitter. There’s also the term likeonomics, which author Rohity Bhargava is hoping will become a household word when his book of the same name, exploring the social currency brands need, is released this month.


On a more serious note, Jubilee is in common parlance across governments and the business community now, though the term is used not just for The Queen but for the ancient debt forgiveness tradition. As Bob Rice, general managing partner with Tangent Capital Partners LLC explained on Bloomberg TV, periodic sovereign debt forgiveness has happened around the world throughout history, notably with forgiveness of third world debt following the Jubilee 2000 campaign.


Other political buzzwords this year include a brief appearance for Omnishambles, the Thick of It-inspired slogan critics were keen to attach to the Government. The fact it quickly disappeared probably owes less to the performance of the PM than the TV show’s demise.


A new favourite is the fashionable lust-have, to describe an item you are desperate to buy. Though it’s not all about want in the fashion world: also emerging is the label conscious, to describe any product which is ethically/environmentally aware: as in H&M’s new Conscious Collection. Making sustainable clothes a fashion lust-have really would be an Olympian achievement.


How to put on a music and arts festival

Posted on: June 6th, 2012 by Nigel 7 Comments


When we launched our first music and arts festival, Fringe in the Fen, what was a late night brainwave quickly became a whirl of preparations. Over six short months we managed to attract international musicians and the entire Clare College choir to sing and play in an eight-day extravaganza.


It was a wonderful festival, which raised £22,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, and of course we are keen to do it again. Only with less stress. So what did we learn from setting up our first music and arts festival?


1 Think big. Think international. On the basis that if you don’t ask, you don’t get, last year we invited composer and conductor John Rutter. He came and was magnificent.


2 It’s never too early to start planning. The first Fringe was pulled together in six months, now there’s a year to go to the second biennial Fringe in the Fen, from 6-13 July 2013, and plans are well underway.


3 Start approaching sponsors from the word go. We are already in touch with some of the generous sponsors who made the first event possible and looking further afield as well. Macmillan is working hard with us to help keep costs down and ensure even more profits for the charity in 2013.


4 You can’t have too many balloons. Nothing says celebration more than photographs of people with balloons, and picture editors seem to love them. Young children too. Though you can have too many of those.


5 It might seem a big risk to debut an event in the midst of an economic downturn, but history celebrates risk-takers. We were amazed at the singers and artists we were able to attract to a very beautiful but small village in Cambridgeshire. As well as John Rutter and Clare College Choir the festival featured close harmony group Over the Bridge, a comedy night, marching bands, big band swing, a blues night and the grand finale, Proms in the Park with the East Anglian Chamber Orchestra, which rounded off with a great display from Kimbolton Fireworks.  In fact we had 360 different musicians perform 12 different musical genres in 18 different locations throughout the village!


The audience came from even further afield, including tourists from Canada. Many wrote to us later to offer their congratulations. Next time we’re unashamedly thinking global.


Changes in communication

Posted on: May 31st, 2012 by Louise 5 Comments



I was driving to work the other day and I thought “I need to text Jo, or maybe I’ll email her, or Facebook.” I’ve been friends with Jo since I was 14 years of age so we have been in touch through various media over the years, going right back to old fashioned telephones that used to be in the hallway of your house. It was this thought process in the car that really got me thinking about the changes in communication that we have seen.


When I started at Queens University Belfast back in 1993 (long time ago!) Jo started at John Moores in Liverpool. Jo being the more up-to-speed on technology, despite my engineering degree, suggested we email each other to stay in touch. I’d only just sussed it when she suggested MSN messenger so we could talk “in real-time”. That phrase totally threw me for a loop.


Now I think nothing of sitting watching British Superbikes on TV with live timing running on my laptop, whilst ‘talking’ on Facebook with friends who are there or watching from home. I speak to Jo on a regular basis via text, email, Facebook and sometimes Twitter. I tend to post something on Facebook or Twitter and get a text from Jo saying, “What are you up to?” She likes to keep an eye on me!


As communication has evolved so have the various media and how they are used. Twitter is now a useful news source as well as being a social medium. It has many different applications depending on how you want to use it. For example, Charlie Hiscott (@charliehiscott), Freelance TV Producer, engages regularly on Twitter with motorcycle racers that he needs to interview. The other weekend (6 May) Charlie was working on Monza World Superbikes as well as coverage from the Oulton Park British Superbikes. So he contacted Glen Richards, Supersport rider, via Twitter to ask if he could do a telephone interview. It was an interesting exchange and it gave race fans an insight into what goes on behind the scenes. Plus it was a good way to use Twitter.


Communication technology is advancing at a rapid pace and I know the changes I’ve seen in the past 20 years. What will the next 20 years bring?


Communications have already converged into hand held devices that do everything your laptop used to do.  Everything will be linked up to provide an engaging rich media experience and even language barriers won’t be an issue thanks to translation programmes that work in real-time (a phrase I now understand).


New 3-D technologies already provide people with a ‘virtual’ presence at meetings. High speed scanning technology makes it possible to make a 3D scan of your face in seconds. In the future there is no reason why your image can’t then be projected into another location. Reminiscent of the Star Wars film when R2D2 projected Princess Leila’s “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi” message.


Whatever the future I will still need to ring Jo, or text her or….


Fortune 500 companies follow the crowd

Posted on: April 24th, 2012 by Sara 1 Comment


The rapid growth in social media use by major corporations continues apace. A study of Fortune 500 companies shows big consumer brands have taken to Twitter and Facebook with alacrity, and are dipping a toe into emerging social media too. put together this great infographic, which shows 58% of the Fortune 500 companies have an active corporate Facebook account and 62% an active Twitter account (meaning they had tweeted in the previous 30 days).


Embracing the web is markedly more pronounced among consumer brands and food and drink companies, who increasingly see social media as an integral part of their marketing strategy. Coca-Cola has the most Facebook ‘likes’ with more than 40m, while Starbucks comes in second with just under 29m.


Though it’s clear companies are discerning in deciding which tools to use.  Only 23% of Fortune 500 companies have a public facing corporate blog, as they now focus instead on more interactive media.


This year the buzz has been all about images, with the sale of Instagram to Facebook for $1bn and the growth of Pinterest. So it’s interesting to see many big names are already moving onto the latter, including Fortune magazine itself, Starbucks and charities such as Macmillan Cancer.


This corporate embrace of social media is a sweeping change offering consumers the opportunity to make their voices heard at the highest levels, demanding better service, praising certain products and often effecting change.


Of course it also offers companies and charities a chance to tailor PR and marketing campaigns to a range of consumers. Look out for increasingly sophisticated use of Pinterest, Twitter et al to launch targeted campaigns and publicise new products and services. Alongside this we expect to see more sophisticated monitoring, so companies can protect their reputation online and respond to any challenges.


The Samantha Brick social media storm

Posted on: April 13th, 2012 by Louise No Comments

Samantha Brick became an overnight sensation on 3 April following her article in the Daily Mail online: ‘There are downsides to looking this pretty’: Why women hate me for being beautiful.


It is quite a headline, confident, self-assured and a little irritating. Why is it irritating? Hard to say, however most people don’t like others boasting about what they have, even if it is simply good looks.


Perhaps if we were all able to meet Ms. Brick we would find her beautiful, with an engaging personality, as that is what counts, and there wouldn’t have been this huge backlash.


Do women hate beautiful women? Not necessarily, they are perhaps intimidated by them, but hate is a strong word. Plus it is a very sweeping statement from Ms. Brick. Having spent many years working in the motorcycle race paddock I know many beautiful women, from models to TV presenters, to motorcycle racers’ wives and girlfriends. I can honestly say I don’t hate any of them for how fabulous they look. In fact I’m happy to tell them when they look great because that is what girlfriends do.


I remember being at the NEC Motorcycle show and I was wandering round the show with a friend who was there modeling for a particular brand. She had waist length hair, was tall, slender and wearing a leather cat suit – she was certainly turning heads. I might as well have been invisible; my company branded shirt and jeans didn’t really cut it! My role was to carry out interviews and her role was to look good. I didn’t hate her for the attention she got; in some cases I was very glad not to be getting that kind of attention.


Now there are many people out there who feel this article was a clever piece of marketing by the Daily Mail.


Could they really have predicted the storm this article would produce? That one story attracted 1.5 million users in little more than 24 hours. It generated over 5,000 comments, 7,000 tweets, 100,000 Facebook likes, and numerous articles online. The Daily Mail monitors reader activity and that influences its content; it has high levels of engagement and a good understanding of its readers.  It certainly sounds like the Daily Mail knows its market and how to reach it and beyond. Monetising this online phenomenon will be the true measure of whether this story worked for the Daily Mail.


And, back to Samantha Brick, is she beautiful? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; it is also more than skin deep. Nothing like an old adage or two to sum up with! I’m going to sit on the fence on this one and will stick with my beautiful girlfriends instead.


Social awareness with Social Sleuth

Posted on: March 26th, 2012 by Nigel No Comments

Many surveys have shown consumers are heavily influenced in buying decisions by what they read online, which means businesses can no longer afford to ignore what’s being said about them on the web.


That’s all the more true with the rise of Twitter and online review sites. The most hard-won reputations can be burnished in an instant when things go wrong.


TripAdvisor was forced to defend itself last month when the Advertising Standards Agency said it was possible for “non-genuine content” to appear on its reviews site. Hotels and restaurants had kicked up a fuss about unfavourable reviews and the ASA ruled their reputations were open to manipulation.


But bad news needn’t be catastrophic if you seize the initiative. Dominoes Pizzas did just that when faced with the PR disaster of an employee shown tampering with pizzas on YouTube, in a distinctly unappetizing way (don’t ask).


The stunt forced the company to respond and ultimately to engage with social media more proactively. They went on to invite customers to give feedback on their pizzas, good and bad. That led them to pledge to change the recipe and publicity around the campaign led to a 14% sales boost.


With more and more business being conducted online, engaging with social media is increasingly a business imperative. Which is why Optimise PR have invested in a new social media monitoring tool, Social Sleuth, to help companies respond effectively to protect their good name.


Social Sleuth collects data from news websites, forums, blogs and social networking to show companies what people are saying about their brand, where they are saying it and whether they should respond.


Crucially, Social Sleuth records in real time whether mentions are positive or negative, so companies can respond if their reputation is challenged.


It’s a level of insight that makes it far easier to stay in the loop, and even learn to love engaging with your customers. You don’t have to be a pizza boss to see it could save you dough.