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We had some great ideas from our readers on how to handle the festive yet fictitious PR crisis of Dickens’ most miserable small business owner, Scrooge.
First up, @SimonJTurner suggested the simple use of a social media and search strategy in order to play to his negative strengths, saying he would recommend that Ebeneezer “go down the Social Media route - Portray his 'Bah Humbug' sentiments as ironic & give him a blog for link bait.”
Similarly, @theinsidelineuk reckoned that Scrooge has all the qualities necessary to be the face of a price comparison website. His thrifty, tight-pocketed character is a natural fit with such a venture and @theinsidelineuk even suggested a name and strapline: “Scrooge.com - Saving you money, on everything!”
The wider debate of dealing with a tricky PR case was explored by Chris Hughes, head of PR and communications with Sine Qua Non International Ltd. “The knack to any crisis is to avert it in the first place!" Chris stressed. "Assuming we are past that stage, the business owner should use local media to give staff the feeling that they are an integral cog in the business wheel.”
The Frockery offered some rather creative thoughts on how to deal with Scrooge the small business way - and got in a cunning plug for their business at the same time:
“As one of our best customers, Scrooge is better known to us as Sustaina Bill! Like us, he believes it’s not only frugal, but also fashionable and eco-friendly to go retro, and he carries off that Victorian re-enactor’s costume better than most. Look after the planet and the wallet will look after itself, he reckons – and besides, it’s all positive PR.
“This Christmas, he tells us that, having saved so much money at The Frockery, he is treating his staff to two pints of lager and a packet of crisps (each!) in true Scroogenessabounds style.”
Of course, Scrooge could be seen as a hopeless case. After all, in A Christmas Carol this cruelles, most cold-hearted of individuals was beyond earthly influence and needed a magical intervention to see the error of his ways. Emily Leary, a Marketing Donut expert, wonders whether ANY PR company could handle sucha difficult account:
“My feeling is that no honest PR could rescue Scrooge's reputation," she admits. "Any claims that put a spin on his motives would be dishonest, and, contrary to popular belief, that's not what PR is all about! You could argue that he's just a shrewd businessman and try to pitch him as a savvy entrepreneur, likeable because of sheer success - but without any evidence of redeeming or charitable behaviour in any area of his life, that would be a hard one to sell. He's a pretty two-dimensional baddy until he starts to reflect on his past.”
A post-visitation Scrooge, however, is a different prospect altogether and Emily reckons any PR firm worth its salt should be able to make hay from the inspirational story of a reformed businessman with a new outlook on life. “There's a great 'turning over a new leaf' angle, of course, which, if pitched right, could get national interest given the amount of money he has accumulated and the very human story of young Tim and his family," she explains. "There could also be interest from HR and business, both in Scrooge the man, and in the business case study if Scrooge was able to measure productivity and profit levels before and after his shift to the goodwill approach. A little regular, ongoing charity work in the community, and he could be looking at a reasonably good reputation."
Amen to that. Thanks for all your contributions - and have a prosperous, enjoyable and realaxing Christmas and New Year.
Checking the squared off map of the UK to see what colour weather was in store for the day ahead, cheating your way through the Bamboozle quiz and waiting for the inevitable flash of Macclesfield Town FC letting in yet another late equaliser. These are my Teletext memories and, undoubtedly, the very things that steered me in the direction of what I am currently calling ‘A Career in the Internet’
As the plug on Teletext is pulled, the easiest direction to point the fickle finger of blame is at the Internet. The super-connected network is eating up every traditional media platform in its path and showing no mercy. Print is on its knees and as the Guardian launches a paid for iPhone application and The Sun releases an innovative television commercial more out of necessity than of frivolity - it is evident that times are indeed changing.
Teletext was a British institution. Steeped in naffness, it came to represent the last ditch attempt to get information and added value out of the standard broadcast of channels One to Four. But as soon as digital became king and the real-time information we all desperately crave was readily available through mobile phones, Teletext quickly became a dated format.
Nostalgia aside, the disconnection of Teletext has vast implications for rural communities that cannot get Freeview or Internet access and have depended on Teletext for information on a daily basis.
As a place of commerce, there was advertising within it, but nothing that could compete with a trackable URL link in an advert online. There were also vast numbers of holidays available through Teletext but - and maybe this is a generational thing - I have yet to come across anyone who actually booked their perfect package holiday through the television.
And so we bid farewell to one of those cosy rituals of yesteryear. Going downstairs, checking Planet Sound for the latest music news, then onto Bamboozle to test my knowledge before catching up on the local news and sport - Teletext had it all. My modern day routine is a much more dynamic affair (and doesn’t require leaving the bed): wake up, check iPhone for email and social networking updates, get the latest news through Google Reader, and so on. I can’t remember the last time I punched in 451 on my remote. Goodbye Bamboozle and to you Teletext, I owe you a lot.
What are your memories of Teletext? Did you ever buy a Teletext holiday?
Do you know how much money you'd like to earn next year? Have you worked out how much product/how many services that equates to? Do you have a spreadsheet somewhere on your laptop that shows how much you'd like to turn over on a monthly basis?
It's tempting not to bother. You don't have time. You're not sure what's possible. You're worried you're being bullish. What if you don't meet the targets? There are plenty of reasons/excuses why people don't create targets. I can't imagine my business that didn't have targets. No wait a minute, I can...
We'd drift along from one month to the next. We'd still do a great job for our clients and my team might be happier for a while: no targets means no pressure at the end of the month! But after a while that lack of direction and sense of purpose would manifest itself in both me and the team. The team wouldn't know how well they were doing, because they'd have nothing tangible or objective to measure their performance against.
Horrors; if I didn't have targets I probably wouldn't have a budget either. I'd spend money when I had it in the bank, and I'd stop spending when I ran out of cash. I'd make decisions based on the cash in my bank account rather than the value they'd add to my business. And it would be touch and go as to whether I'd have a business next year. I'd spend a LOT more than if I'd had a proper budget and the chances are I'd make a LOT LESS money.
Without the incentive of monthly targets I'd probably invoice a good 25% less every month as I'd just be drifting along. And I'd probably have a bit of a rude awakening at the end of the year.
I don't like the sound of any of that! I've always been very targets focused and it's all I've known all my working life. Yes it's tough, yes it's corporate, but I also believe it's essential to anyone serious about running a successful business.
I've had my book-keeper put together a budget for me for next year based on the company performance over the last four years, and also my own personal financial goals. It's exciting! And most importantly, I know what I need to do to get to where I want to get to.
Now all we need to do is achieve them!
I absolutely love this time of year. As the clock starts to climb down to the end of 2009 I can feel a real sense of optimism. My renewed sense of buoyancy is partly down to our customers: working in the ecommerce industry the four weeks leading up to Christmas are their busiest. 2009 was a very tough year for all of us but there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful in 2010.
However, success doesn’t come without hard work and I am determined to make 2010 a successful one! Within this post I want to air my three new year’s resolutions for the business.
Do less, better
It may sound obvious, but for any business to success everyone has to be pulling in the right direction. However the start of a new year is a great time to sit back and review if you are pulling in too many directions.
It’s far too easy to do too much. If you’re anything like me I hate turning down projects and opportunities. However doing lots badly isn’t a strategy for success. Doing 100 mediocre things with your business will only make you 100 times more average. Focus, pick a project, do it well and complete it, even if this means you turn down 99 other things.
Talk to more people
The core driver of any business is customers. Customers, like puppies, are not just for Christmas - they need to feel loved and appreciated all year. My second resolution is to speak to as many of my customers as I humanly can. I want to find out how they tick, how their business works, and most importantly why they are my customer and not someone else’s. Anyone in a decision-making capacity within your business should be speaking to customers, not just sales and support.
One of my sporting heroes is the amazing Rebecca Romero. If you don’t know who she is, Google her, she is inspirational. Romero has won two Olympic medals in two different sports: rowing and cycling. And because of rule changes it looks like she will need to find a third sport to compete in for 2012. I want my business to be like Rebecca Romero, consistently excellent but not afraid to adapt.
Why only three resolutions, well it would be impossible to complete the first one with a list longer than my arm. What are you going to do in 2010 to improve?
The beginning of the story for the organisations with the big money budgets is that they take ideas from the innovation teams and then want to test them out. They either use in-company market research teams or more probably they set up a project brief with external market research agencies.
The researchers look at the product or service and put together a solid market research brief for their client that could include surveys, focus groups, interviews or questionnaires (online and offline). Sometimes, new methodologies such as ethnography are used. This is where you spend extended time with consumers – sometimes staying with them and sharing their lives – a fascinating, if not a rather strange qualitative experience – especially when you are looking through people’s bathroom cupboards!
Research with a large budget is very powerful – research can be done globally using thousands and thousands of people for thousands and thousands of pounds. Once the results are in – the agency can analyse the data and information and comments in depth. Once the agency has completed the analysis they put together a huge de-brief document and present this to the client – this can sometimes take a couple of days! If the results are promising, a product could be born. But then the hard work starts – the full marketing, finance and project management process starts over what could be a year or more up until the launch of the product. You then have to look at the whole marketing mix – watch the competition and analyse their offering, gaps in their offering and of primary importance, look at the return on investment potential.
Article originally appeared at Real Eyes Marketing Blog
For some, Christmas can be a quiet and relaxing time of year. The other day I spoke to a company that designs letterheads, and whose busiest time of year is in line with the taxman’s. They had their proverbial feet up and were tucking into what I expect wasn’t the first mince pie of the season. For others, Christmas is a hectic time when staff holiday needs to be covered or a rush of trade means there are more orders than there are re-runs of Dad’s Army.
For the smaller business, Christmas can be a busy – and expensive – time of year, especially if you are looking to reward, staff, clients and suppliers for their support and custom through the preceding 12 months. Christmas cheer can be in short supply and financial constraints may mean you have to forego the traditional Christmas party; in no time at all, you could be branded a Scrooge.
Our literary friend Scrooge is now a byword for miserable, tight and cold of heart. But he, too, was running a small business and had to look after the needs of his firm. It’s likely he faced many of the same business challenges as you.
But somewhere along the way, Scrooge messed up one very important aspect of running a business: he neglected his reputation. Whichever way you look at it, every firm trades on its reputation and relies on good PR and word-of-mouth recommendation to grow and prosper. As it turns out, Scrooge redeems himself in A Christmas Carol, but only after a series of unlikely ghostly visitations.
If Scrooge were a real business-owner running a real small business, how would you handle his PR? What course of action would you take to put the positive spin into Scrooge? How would you avert a Scrooge PR crisis? Is a Humbug a hopeless case when it comes to reputation management? We want your ideas, creative, serious or otherwise.
You have until next Tuesday (15 December) to get your submission in and we’ll write it up into a festive blog post. Either share your thoughts in a succinct tweet or we will happily accept anything under 100 words. Please submit your contribution to us by: