Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Life starts now…

The recent tragic and untimely death of Brittany Murphy adds to a growing list of young stars and starlets who are dying young. She was found unconscious in her bathroom after suffering cardiac arrest aged just 32. A raft of speculation surrounds her death, eating disorders, plastic surgery, and narcotics but whatever the reason, it is a startling reality that this once bright and successful actress will no longer light up our screens.

There is a whole list of stars who have left us this year Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Patrick Swayze, Stephen Gately and Jade Goody, to name but a few… and however they died they all have one thing in common they all died well before their time and most of them in their 30’s.

I am turning 30 in 2010 so for me it becomes all too real. So my message today is simple - Life is short. Live it to the fullest! Enjoy all that it has to offer. Don’t wait for tomorrow, get started now.

Brittany was a talented actress, was loved by many and seemed very down to earth and likeable so Brittany RIP, and to quote her co-star and ex boyfriend Ashton Kutcher “ the world has lost a little bit of sunshine.”

So if your life starts now what are you going to do differently?

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Snow joke

If you live in the south of England, like we do, you might have noticed that it’s been snowing. A lot. I am writing this from my house, where I expect to be for quite some time, as my Peugeot 206 does not come with snow chains (some NPD for next year, perhaps?). I’ve been wondering, how many other people are stuck at home? Has the economy ground to a halt?

Snow days aren’t what they once were. I have a laptop, server access, a mobile phone… no excuse to stop working. Lucky me! It’s not as much fun as being in the office, but very little changes, except I get to wear my dressing gown over my clothes when I get cold. I’d imagine a lot of the media industry is in the same position, as the benefit of our job is you can do it anywhere. If you have an iPhone or a Blackberry, you can even work while you’re staying overnight in your car (as hundreds of very lucky people had to do in the South East last night).

I’d imagine that other professions are hit a bit harder in extreme weather conditions. My boyfriend, who works with children, is having some ad hoc holiday at the moment as neither he nor said children can get to his place of work. Anyone who builds things, or drives things, is probably at home as well. This must have a massive effect on the economy, especially if the snow carries on for several days, as it is at the moment. I expect the weather is also having a pretty detrimental effect on insurance companies, as cars slide off the road into ditches, bushes, other cars… I hope no-one is too attached to their no-claims bonus.

We all wanted a white Christmas… is this a case of being careful what you wish for? How is the weather affecting you? Do you think I’m being a bit of a Scrooge about the whole thing, or are you finding it harder to drive home for Christmas than Chris Rea?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Digital Media in 2010: The Web Goes Real Time

As the year draws to a close, every man and his dog seems to be publishing summaries of 2009 and predictions for 2010. So, though I don’t have a pooch sat by me, I thought I’d take the opportunity of my last blog post of the year to take a look at what 2010 offers the digital world.

2009’s been about evolution. Aside from the death of MJ, swine flu and canny Geordie Jer Mec-Elderry geein an to win X-Facta pet, Twitter has been the social media equivalent of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment: a big story. After Stephen Fry-led explosive growth in the first six months of the year where brands were jumping on the bandwagon faster than a Usain Bolt 100 metres (to see just how fast that is, see below), there has followed a period of consolidation where marketers and journalists alike have been thinking about how to use Twitter effectively.

Elsewhere, Facebook has come to dominate social networking, having doubled the number of page views it receives in just 12 months and having made constant tweaks and updates to its service to keep users engaged. Both MySpace and Bebo, however, have been losing traffic at a rate of knots and, extending the nautical metaphor, Bebo in particular is starting to look like the online version of the Titanic, with users rushing toward the lifeboats as it sinks without trace. The recently launched MySpace Music may well prove the saviour of Rupert Murdoch’s social media vehicle.

So what of next year? Well, 2010 will be all about Real Time. Sparked by our insatiable appetite for up-to-the-minute information together with technologies such as Twitter and Facebook’s status updates, 2010 promises an even more compelling and perhaps even addictive communications environment. We’ve now become accustomed to posting on Facebook and getting a response in seconds. Add to that the fact that smartphones are now more popular than Robert Pattinson on a hen night and you have an environment where it’s all about NOW. It’s all about the moment. And that moment is becoming increasingly fleeting. It’s going to be a challenging and exciting year for brands and marketing agencies.

Real Time will invade everything we do online during the next 12 months. Google launched Wave earlier this year and has just launched real-time search, whereby search results will incorporate even more recent and (arguably) relevant information, such as Tweets. The days of a search result being hours or days old since sites were last crawled, which now seems hopelessly outdated, are over. Geo-tagging will start to become more mainstream, comments and reviews will become even more prevalent. Another Google platform, Android, has already started to make big inroads into Apple’s iPhone domination and could be almost as big by this time next year.

If you think the pace of communications has been fast this year, just wait until 2010. We no longer want to wait for information. Life is too fast, too furious. We now have the attention span of a…well, got bored with that sentence, move on. So have a relaxing Christmas people and then hang on...we’re about to engage warp drive!

Got a comment? Please leave it below.

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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Is Your Boss a Scrooge?

Fewer than four in ten office workers will definitely have a Christmas party this year, according to new research from YouGov. For many companies, 2009 has been a very difficult year, with redundancies, client losses and cutbacks affecting finances and morale. Many companies have decided that this Christmas it is inappropriate to hold a Christmas party: it may be insensitive to anyone who has lost their job recently, and anyone who has experienced a recession-induced pay freeze may well prefer to see any available cash heading to their pay packets rather than an evening of wine and canap├ęs.

In some cases, the media can also have an impact. I can just see the Daily Mail now, showing “revellers” pouring out of their offices to “squander taxpayers’ money” (and if it really is taxpayers’ money, I might be inclined to agree with them just this once)!

However, I really think that wherever possible, companies should be trying to get out and celebrate with their employees. In many ways, it’s more important this year than ever, with morale having taken a battering during the recession. Employers should be showing their staff that their redoubled efforts have not gone unnoticed, and it’s a great opportunity to build internal relationships.

Luckily, here at Cirkle we’ve continued to grow throughout the last two years, and our brilliant leadership team know how important it is to let off some steam together once in a while, so we’ll be having a lovely Christmas lunch and late night drinking as usual. I really look forward to our Christmas do and it’s one of the only opportunities I have to talk to my colleagues about something other than press releases and trade shows!

Are you having a Christmas party this year? How do you feel about it? Leave a comment...

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Monday, 14 December 2009

The REAL X Factor Winner

So Joe McElderry wakes up this morning with a £1m recording contract, instant fame, an almost certain Christmas number 1 and winner of one of the biggest most successful reality TV shows in history. However, although Joe is definitely the most effortless, natural singer to grace our X-Factor screens for many years we all know winning this much sought after X-Factor Crown is no guarantee of eternal fame and happiness. You do have the Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burkes and JLS’ of this world but you do also have the Steve Brookstein’s who is currently singing out his days at Pizza Express in Maidstone – not exactly the fame and fortune he envisaged I suspect.

No, the only guaranteed winner of these competitions year after year is the man who after collecting all the millions from the phone votes taken over the weekend, through the massively successful TV programme he created which is produced by the TV production company he owns, now has Joe firmly signed in to his record company. Yes, Simon "high pants" Cowell.

Although Joe was not his act and Cheryl has delightedly claimed this year title as Judge Victor, Simon would always have been the winner no matter which act claimed the final prize. Even if the much mocked/adored Jedward had won, Simon would have taken their five minutes of fame, pocketed the money and walked away knowing next year another Leona would no doubt pop up ready to make him even more millions.

The most unforgettable personality and ultimate winner of X Factor every year is without a doubt Mr Simon Cowell. And to quote pop mogul of the 80’s Pete Waterman “He is the artist. Everyone else is just a support act.”

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Monday, 7 December 2009

£5000 for a Chocolate Teapot?!

The chocolate teapot remains a popular benchmark for objects that fail to perform their intended function. But that didn’t put off one eager buyer when the opportunity arose to purchase one created by Sebastian Conran.

The chocolate teapot in question was designed by celebrity designer Sebastian Conran for the Celebriteapot charity auction which will raise funds for the Typhoo Sports for All initiative in partnership with the Federation of Disability Sport. B
ut when the charity received the unexpected and astonishing cash offer of £5,000 ahead of the auction going live on the 4th December, they saw just how useful a chocolate teapot could be!

For those of you keen to get on board, Sebastian Conran is just one of the many celebrities including Jonathan Ross, Alan Carr, The Saturdays, Chris Moyles, James Corden and Terry Wogan (to name but a few) who have given their support to the Celebriteapot auction.

To see the beautiful, sometimes mind boggling and outright hilarious designs (check out Alan Carr’s Susan Boyle inspired teapot!) simply visit and bid for your favourite to support a good cause. The auction ends 14th December, and a
ll the money raised will be donated to the Typhoo Sports for All project, helping disabled men, women and children take up any sport of their choice, at a level and venue of their choice.

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Thursday, 3 December 2009

Google v Murdoch: Round 1 to the Tycoon

The battle between media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and search engine behemoth Google took a new twist yesterday with the announcement by the company that newspaper publishers will now be able to limit the number of free news articles people can read.

Until now, Google has always defended its position against claims that it profits from online news pages by enabling users to bypass subscription websites using search. But it finally appears to have flinched, announcing that users who click on more than five news articles in a day from sites subscribed to the programme may be routed to payment or registration pages.

Rupert Murdoch (above) has accused Google (as well as sites such as the BBC) of generating profits by offering too much free content and/or linking readers to newspaper articles, thus increasing advertising revenues and bypassing some sites' subscription systems. Murdoch is a huge advocate of paying for online content and, with circulation figures declining, newspapers are increasingly looking for new ways of making money from the web.

So what’s the impact for those of us in the PR industry and those of us who use the web to keep up to date? In truth, this concession from Google means little at present as, generally speaking, people search the entire web for stories rather than one specific news site. However, it is small and surprising victory for Murdoch in an ongoing war at a time when it looked like his position was untenable. And it does leave me wondering what’s going to happen further down the line. I, for example, spend at least an hour every day filtering through various news sites and my own RSS feeds to keep up with developments that are important to me. But will I be able to do this in future without paying for the privilege?

What do you think of this development? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Do Not Disturb…

For all those exhausted mothers out there verbally bashing your husbands who swear they didn’t hear the baby crying in the middle of the night, you may want to whip up a fresh batch of humble pie!
According to recent scientific research by MindLab, men are only attuned to wake up to certain sounds, and a baby’s cry isn’t one of them! It’s true! In fact while a baby's sobbing is the number one sound most likely to wake up a woman, it doesn't even figure in the male top ten!

Car alarms, howling wind and a buzzing fly are however the prime noises guaranteed to disturb a man's sleep! Those are closely followed by snoring, noise from drains and crickets!
A woman’s brain however, works in a very different way (as we all know!) The research found that the female’s maternal instincts kick in at the sound of a baby's cry - whether or not she is actually a mother, closely followed by a dripping tap and outdoor rowdiness!

If this is the case, and men really are telling the truth, then isn’t it about time that a woman scientist created a car alarm which was triggered at the sound of a baby’s cry?! Read more...

Monday, 30 November 2009

Twitter Takes the English Language by Storm

It’s not exactly a secret that digital media is changing the face of marketing and PR at an incredible pace. But perhaps more surprising is the way that the two leading social media platforms are now impacting not just on our communication habits, but also on the way we speak. Over the last twelve months Facebook has become a verb, as in ‘Facebook me’. And now, the Global Language Monitor has announced that ‘Twitter’ was the most popular word or phrase in the entire English language during 2009.

The word Twitter beat ‘Obama’, ‘H1N1’, ‘stimulus’ and ‘vampire’ as the most popularly used word in the English language this year, and it was also the second most searched topic of 2009 according to Microsoft’s search engine Bing. Only Michael Jackson was searched for more since the engine launched in June, with the phrases ‘swine flu’, ‘stock market’, ‘Farrah Fawcett’ and ‘Patrick Swayze’ out-Binged by the year’s most high profile social media sensation.

Looking at the words and phrases that make up these lists, there are clear reasons for most of them, with the swine flu/H1N1 pandemic probably the story of the year and popular icons like Jackson, Fawcett and Swayze all passing away in 2009. But for Twitter to beat all of these in terms of public interest is extraordinary and shows just how much impact the likes of Twitter and Facebook now have. Even the word ‘unfriend’ recently scooped the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year.

Are you as amazed and surprised about Twitter’s impact on everyday English this year as me? Please let us know in the comments.

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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Android & Social Media: A Match Made in Google?

In the world of mobile digital media, there’s a war going on. Usage of smartphones is predicted to rocket over the next six months as mobile social media comes more and more to the fore, and that means there’s a huge market just ripe for the picking. So as always happens with emerging technologies, a format war has erupted. But in this case it’s not the devices themselves which are battling it out for market share – it’s the operating systems that smartphones rely upon to work.

On the one hand, there’s the iPhone, which obviously uses an Apple operating system. On the other hand there’s the Blackberry, which uses the RIM platform. And then on the other other hand (yes, you have to be multi-dextrous in the digital world), there’s the Android platform from Google, which is being built into numerous devices. Oh yes, and on the other other other hand, there’s the Microsoft Windows operating system, again being used in multiple devices. Confusing, isn’t it?

It’s no surprise at present that the iPhone rules the smartphone world. Around 44% of mobiles are now smartphones, and the iPhone accounts for approximately 50% of those. But it’s Google’s Android technology that is making up a lot of ground on Apple, rated as vastly superior to Microsoft’s ‘clunky’ Windows platform and more flexible than the obviously Blackberry-centric and rather corporate RIM system. The latest mobile metrics report from AdMob says that in the last six months, use of Android devices has increased by an incredible six times, with market share now at around 20%.

Additionally, digital media website Mashable recently carried out a reader poll of over 5000 smartphone users in which 66% voted for Android over iPhone. People cited “the openness of the platform and third-party development process, as well as Android’s versatility, being able to be put to use not just on phones but also netbooks, tablet devices, eReaders and more”.

As someone who has just upgraded to an Android-powered HTC smartphone, I felt particularly smug to read that my hours of research resulted in making the right choice. But I can’t help but wonder, am I playing into Google’s sneaky plan to take over the entire digital world?

What are your views on the iPhone v Blackberry v Android v Windows war? And what experiences of any of these platforms have you had? Leave a comment below...

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Are lazy men a myth?

New research suggests that women are exaggerating their partner’s faults at home in order to feel more in control. A study involving 15,000 female breadwinners concluded that they feel guilty about working, and so criticise the home-making abilities of the men in their lives in order to feel more in control of the traditionally female household roles.

“Working women who provide the majority of the household's income continue to articulate themselves as the ones who 'see' household messes and needs as a way to retain claims to an element of a traditional feminine identity,” says Dr Rebecca Meisenbach, an American academic. “By highlighting stories of how men have to be told or asked to do specific chores in the home, these female breadwinners are making sure they still fit gender boundaries of a wife as someone who manages the home and children.”

It’s hard to comment on this story without getting into the debate about whether women can ever ‘have it all’, but what really stood out for me is that the whole situation is just a bit sad. It’s almost 2010, and our attitudes don’t seem to have moved on much from the Fifties. More and more women are becoming the breadwinners in their relationships, but they are unwilling to give up the ‘domestic’ role that society expects from them. At the same time, they are refusing to appreciate that their partners can handle things at home.

Is it about time we all just played to our strengths and made them work for us and our relationships? Should women stop expecting their men to be perfect, and stop taking everything on themselves? After all, it’s not good for anyone. It seems to me that by moving away from out-dated ideas about feminine and masculine household roles, everyone could be a hell of a lot happier!

What do you think?

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Friday, 20 November 2009

Overpaid Actors? It’s Official...

Hmm, surely we’ve all known for a long time now that many A-List Hollywood actors are somewhat overpaid. But yesterday this was confirmed when a list of the top 10 most overpaid actors was revealed.

Funny man Will Ferrell apparently gives the worst return at the box office than anyone else with a mere £1.72 return for every £1 he’s paid. Our very own Ewan McGregor comes in second earning an estimated £5million per film but only earning back an average of £2.25. They are in good company though, with Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey and Billy Bob Thornton all featuring in the list's top ten.

There does however seem to be an overriding theme. I personally think Ferrel is a comedy genius in his earlier movies with Anchorman (2004) and Elf (2003) being two of my all time favorite films. McGregor shot to fame with the critically-acclaimed Trainspotting back in 1996 and also had a major role in Star Wars, which is one of the most successful film series in history. But these stars seemed to have reached their peak, had their heyday and are now on their way down with their most recent movies completely flopping at the box office.

Ferrel’s Land of the Lost, released this summer, is said to have cost £60million to make but earned just £39million worldwide for Hollywood studio Universal Pictures – now that’s gotta hurt! On the other hand, if you’re looking for a good ROI, Transformers star Shia Labeouf seems to be a good bet, bringing home £134 for every £1 he’s paid.

Most overvalued stars:

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Thursday, 19 November 2009

Can Corporate Branding in Football Be a Poison Chalice?

There’s an almighty storm brewing between some football clubs and their supporters at present, sparked by perhaps one of the biggest PR disasters in recent sporting memory. In October, the much-maligned owner of Newcastle United FC, Mike Ashley, announced that he wanted to sell naming rights to the club’s home, St James’ Park, in order to maximise the club’s commercial revenues. That in itself wasn’t disastrous, but renaming the ground to his own company’s name to show how the naming rights could work has infuriated fans and turned a once great club into a bit of a laughing stock. After all, the @ St James' Park Stadium doesn’t really have much of a ring to it, does it?

Since then, both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have announced that they are considering selling naming rights to their stadiums, with varying responses. In the case of Chelsea this would involve renaming Stamford Bridge, the club’s home for over 100 years, and supporters aren’t happy about it. But in the case of Tottenham, the naming rights would be sold when it builds a completely new stadium (pictured above), in the same way as Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers have done. History shows that such naming rights are generally accepted by fans.

So why is corporate branding such a PR travesty for Newcastle United but accepted by Arsenal? In the first instance, the name counts for a lot. Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium or Bolton’s Reebok Stadium work. They’re simple and the brands themselves are inoffensive and suited to the clubs they sponsor. On the other hand, the @ St James' Park Stadium is not only a mouthful, but it also further ties an owner and a brand to the club that fans feel has already gone a long way toward destroying it. Even as a neutral, you can’t help but feel that the @ St James' Park Stadium is particularly ugly. It feels like Ashley is kicking supporters when they’re down, and even MP David Clelland has called for him to reconsider his decision.

In PR terms, reputation is everything. It’s just a shame that Newcastle’s owner seems intent on destroying the club’s…

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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The goose is getting fat… but we’re getting thinner!

Apparently, today is the day women will start their Christmas diets, so chances are there’s going to be a lot less cake in the office than in recent weeks ( Six out of ten women are planning to start getting in shape for the festive season, and particularly for their office parties.

On average, each woman wants to lose 10lb, with 71% hoping to shed the weight with a healthy balanced diet. However, almost one in ten plan to skip the odd meal completely, and another four per cent will cut out breakfast from their daily routine.

This is bad news for British Lion eggs, who did the research. However, it’s provided them with the perfect opportunity to encourage women to consider eggs for breakfast. ‘Research shows that eating eggs for breakfast can help to keep you feeling fuller for longer and therefore can help with weight management,' a spokesman said.

It’s a nice story that’s bound to get plenty of coverage online and in the papers, and a great way of promoting British Lion eggs to an audience who are unlikely to be reading about them otherwise.
So how do you like your eggs in the morning? We’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re going to lose 10lb before our Christmas party in five weeks…

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Monday, 9 November 2009

Simon Cow- ard???

So is it rigged, did Simon Cowell feels his own acts were being threatened by Lucy’s talent or is he just a plain and simple wimp?

Lucie Jones’ shock exit from X Factor last night has created widespread speculation and horror not only at the fact that such a talented singer has been ejected from the competition when the entirely talentless Jedward remain but at the gutless way Simon had the opportunity to boot out the ‘horrific” twosome (his words not mine) but instead wimped out and put it down to the public vote.

All the way through this years competition Simon has ranted about the fact X Factor is a ‘singing competition’ but yet his actions didn’t reflect his words when faced with the seemingly easy choice of choosing either the highly talented and gorgeous Lucie Jones or the terrible out of tune and laughable twins. And so is it any coincidence that the twins have been talked about in every newspapers since the live shows began, is Simon just worried the show’s free PR would leave as they do??

Who should we blame for this travesty – Simon for not following his convictions, or us, the public for apparently continuously voting for this ridiculous act?

Personally I think the answer is both. Simon has lost all credibility for doing this and has clearly voted for ratings and publicity over talent and not only that didn’t even have the bottle to do it publicly. For a media mogul such as Mr Cowell, a man who has the responsibility of making or crushing the hopes and dreams of contestants every week, it really is a disgraceful decision.

And as for the public, well what can I say – what are you all doing?? If you really want to hear those two talentless twins on the radio for the next year then keep voting the way you are… or if you would rather someone with actual talent wins then please, please stop voting for them!!!

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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Facebook to ‘memorialise’ profiles

Facebook has announced today that it will be providing friends and family with the opportunity to ‘memorialise’ the profiles of members who have died.

Profiles will have personal information such as contact details removed, and will only be visible to confirmed friends. ‘Memorialising’ a profile will also prevent it appearing in the newly added ‘Suggestions’ panel, which encourages members to get in touch with people they haven’t recently interacted with.

The plans obviously call for a level of maturity, and I’d hope that nobody abuses them by submitting false information. However, even if this does happen initially, I would expect that once the practice is commonplace people would be more inclined to be respectful. To avoid mistakes, Facebook are asking that a death is proved by sending an obituary or news story.

These changes appear to have been in development since the Virginia Tech massacre, when friends of the victims campaigned to have their profiles excluded from a 30-day inactivity rule which sees profiles deleted.

"When someone leaves us, they don't leave our memories or our social network," Max Kelly, head of security at the firm, wrote in the official Facebook blog. "To reflect that reality, we created the idea of ‘memorialised’ profiles as a place where people can save and share their memories of those who've passed."

Personally, I think it’s a really good idea. As Max Kelly says, the reality is that when someone dies their Facebook page will remain, and currently the only option is to leave it as it is, or delete it completely. Neither seems quite right really. A ‘memorialised’ page will allow friends to leave tributes, as well as see pictures. Now that so many aspects of life are played out online, it seems a natural step to extend that into death.

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Monday, 26 October 2009

Cirkle takes one more slice for charity!

With National Baking Week on our radar last week, the Cirkle team decided to put their culinary skills to the test, and conjure up a range of homemade delicacies. I mean after all, with an extensive list of leading food brands up our sleeves, surely we should know how to cook better than anyone?

From Lemon Drizzle cake and Banana cake to chocolate chip cookies, chocolate crispy cakes and even the more creative Mars Bar cake, the girls really stepped up to the challenge. Although whether the aim was to create the best cake, or be seen to be eating the most amount of cake (after all, it WAS for charity!) is still debatable!

Each piece of cake baked was sold for a mere 50p, in a bid to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital’s upcoming Bake It Better campaign. So at the end of what can only be described as a tough week for the Cirkle team who were (obviously) compelled to eat cake in order to generate as much money as possible, we were delighted to have raised an astounding £70 for the GOSH initiative!

For those of you who aren’t great at maths, that basically means that an office of 22 employees managed to put away 140 pieces of cake…and let me tell you, we are one very proud bunch!

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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Cheryl Cole Winning the Media Battle

Much has been made this year about the competitive rivalry between the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and ITV’s X Factor. The latter is edging the ratings war at present, and Sunday’s show when Cheryl Cole made her solo debut and Whitney Houston returned to a UK stage for the first time in a decade pulled in some 15 million viewers.

But there’s also a PR war being fought out in the media between the two shows – and Simon Cowell & co are winning that one too. Research commissioned by PRmoment shows that X Factor is getting 68% of the total mentions of the two shows, over twice as much as Strictly Come Dancing. But the coverage isn’t about the contestants on the shows – it’s about the judges.

Not so long ago, we blogged about the fact that it was the judges who were being judged on Strictly after the hype of Alesha Dixon replacing Arlene Phillips, but analysis of the stories surrounding the shows proves that this was just the start of a trend. Recently, Dannii Minogue was pilloried in the press following a remark she made about singer Danyl Johnson’s sexuality. And this week it’s been all about Cheryl Cole and whether she sang live or not. Meanwhile, on the other channel, Craig Revel Horwood has publically defended Anton Du Beke for making an unfortunate comment about his celebrity dance partner’s spray tan.

What the media coverage of the two shows highlights is just how much of a phenomenon both have become. The tabloids quite simply love gossip, and where celebs compete against each other you can guarantee that someone will put their foot in their mouth at some stage. The PR war is now all part of the shows themselves and ensures that come Saturday night, we’re all tuning in or setting our Sky+ to make sure we don’t miss the next drama unfolding. It’s just a shame that we don’t really care all that much who wins and who loses.

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Monday, 19 October 2009

Get An Instant Facelift…with a Cup of Coffee!

Today’s newspapers reported that a cup of coffee can smooth away those wrinkles! At first I thought this might just be down to some obscure research finding relating to a coffee ingredient that benefited the skin’s elasticity, but after careful reading I discovered that Nescafe has actually included the beauty ingredient collagen within their latest version of coffee to help eradicate those unwanted lumps and bumps! 200mg of collagen to be exact!

Who knew that collagen could simply be added to a food substance in order to reap the benefits?!Surely there are numerous ways to encourage consumers to drink more coffee without having to bribe them with surgical measures?

Nevertheless, before you get excited and rush out to buy some, it has only been launched in Singapore so far, so you might have a long wait until it reaches the UK. Which is not necessarily a bad thing...

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Friday, 16 October 2009

The glitz and glamour of CirkleBody+Soul

Last night marked an evening of glitz and glamour for the Body+Soul Remington team as they celebrated a very exciting award win at the annual Pure Beauty Awards – one of the most prestigious events in the beauty retail calendar which brings the industry together to recognise the best beauty products launched over the past year.

Held at the impressive Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the atmosphere was electric as the gorgeous George Lamb announced that the innovative Remington Wet2Straight hair straightener had won the Best Electrical Appliance Award – beating off competition from Babyliss, Philips and Toni & Guy.

Champagne and a sumptuous 14 course banquet followed and were enjoyed by all. Not to forget the after party!

Keep any eye out for the victorious award win in the Special Pure Beauty Awards 2009 Winners Edition in the December issue

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Thursday, 15 October 2009

Louise Lloyd: PR Star of the Future

We are extremely proud to announce that our Head of Consumer PR Louise Lloyd has been named as one of industry bible PR Week's rising stars of 2009. The magazine's annual '29 Under 29' feature showcases the brightest young talent in the PR industry, and Louise joins PR professionals from the likes of Google, the BBC and the British Chambers of Commerce in this year's listing.

Heading up our consumer division since 2007, Louise manages an income stream of £600K and has been instrumental in helping us to deliver double-digit growth this year despite the current recession. She boasts the highest client retention levels at Cirkle, working with household brands such as Typhoo, Betty Crocker and Pink Lady Apples.

"Louise is an exceptional PR consultant with a passion, intelligence and drive that, if it could be bottled and sold, would elevate the profile of the whole industry", says MD Caroline Kinsey. With professionals like Louise in our ranks, it's no wonder that we've been nominated for seven CIPR PRide Awards this year and that we're in the running for our fifth 'Oustanding Consultancy of the Year' Award. Congratulations, Louise!

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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Is the food industry heading for the perfect storm?

Following the IGD conference yesterday the story hitting the headlines was Sir Terry Leahy’s attack on the standards in Britain’s schools, a theme also covered, albeit less vociferously by Andy Clarke at Asda when he talked about the lack of opportunity for school leavers. The words of the Tesco boss hit the front page of the Evening Standard and have been widely covered in the news this morning.

But for me, sitting in the audience surrounded by many representatives from manufacturers and suppliers, the headline story was quite different - albeit equally sobering. If we fast forward twenty years we could be in what Peter Kendall from the NFU termed ‘the perfect storm’ - a need to increase global food production in order to feed the growing population whilst at the same time facing insufficient energy resources and water scarcity. The Prince of Wales, appearing on video, reminded us of his prediction in March of this year that we have just 100 months to address climate change – that is now only 93.

The buzz words of the day were “value for values” with Joanne Denney-Finch highlighting the consumer’s desire for great quality at low prices but with shopper research showing their number one concern to be ‘poverty and malnutrition’ retailers and suppliers ignore issues like sustainability, ethical supply chain, community and health at their peril.

Needless to say the retailers battled to take the high ground by demonstrating how they are listening to consumers and giving them what they want. Sir Terry talked about following the customer but warned us not to lose sight of long term trends, Sainsbury’s referred to ‘savvy shoppers’ who know how to find value by tapping into different ranges depending on their needs whilst Morrisons highlighted its focus on food through its vision to be ‘food specialists for everyone’.

Peter Marks at the Co-op did not miss the opportunity to demonstrate how they have been giving consumers great value with ethical trading at its core since 1844 – the ‘democratic consumerism’ that Andy Bond referred to recently is not a new idea it would seem!

With the overall theme of Leadership Through Adversity, a powerful speech by Lord Sebastian Coe summed up the mood of the day – having a vision for the future is more important in difficult times and asking ‘Why?’ before we ask ‘How?’ becomes ever more critical. The food industry is one that is trusted by the nation and gives business heads of major manufacturers and retailers the opportunity to use their leadership for good, helping guide consumers to make the right choices. “Doing good is also good business” said Cadbury boss Todd Stitzer.

Let’s hope that values continue to be pushed to the forefront so that we can avoid the perfect storm ahead.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Are Royal Mail Workers Shooting Themselves in the Foot?

So Royal Mail workers have voted in favour of strike action in the lead up to Christmas for the second time in three years. The company says that the number of letters and parcels its core business delivers is falling by 10% each year, losing it £170m per annum, and that it must modernise in order to streamline and cope with the fall. This inevitably means job cuts, but the Communication Workers Union says it cannot agree on the scope of the cuts or on job and pay guarantees for those workers remaining employed. It’s a very difficult position, but surely from a PR viewpoint, strike action really is not the best option.

There are two main reasons for the fall in Royal Mail’s business: increased use of electronic forms of communication, and competition from other mail carriers. And it’s this second point that would seem to make industrial action both self-defeating and nonsensical. In PR terms, strike action under these circumstances is a total disaster. It will force both individuals and companies to look for alternatives and switch to other carriers. Which will surely mean less business and more job cuts. So why can’t those Royal Mail workers who voted in favour of a strike see that?

In the last couple of days, major organizations including John Lewis and Amazon have stated that they are now working with other suppliers to avoid disruption to their deliveries. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds if not thousands of UK businesses that simply cannot afford to have their postal delivery service disrupted by strike action and who will look to other suppliers. The question is, once they’ve changed, will they go back? Will trust have dissolved and will Royal Mail’s reputation have been tarnished for good?

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has criticised the vote in favour of a strike, describing it as "akin to a death wish". “This strike announcement defies logic at a time when businesses and government are working hard to move the UK economy back to growth, said Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the BCC, adding: “Postal delays are already hurting small businesses and major companies across the country.” Postal Affairs Minister Lord Young said: "A national postal strike…will drive even more people away from using mail as a means of communication.”

Personally, I find the strike short-sighted and find it extremely difficult to have any sympathy for Royal Mail workers. It’s obviously a difficult situation to be in, but hurting the very consumers and businesses who are the lifeblood of the service would seem to me to be suicidal. It takes a long time to build a reputation, but a very short time to damage one.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The end of the tache... for one more year!

So, a month of painstaking ‘tache growing and cultivation came to an end last week at the titillating TacheBack finale party in central London where upper-lip furniture growers and fundraisers came together to show off their facial fur. Participants took their turn to strut their stuff down the ‘tache walk’ in the hope of winning the coveted TacheBack 2009 Best ‘Tache’ trophy. I have to say I have never seen such an array of different ‘taches in all shapes and sizes, it was certainly a night to remember! Celebrity judges Keith Lemon, the face of the TacheBack 2009 campaign, Guy Wilks, British Rally Champion and guest of Remington’s and comedian Charlie Higson, were on hand to nominate the winner from 100 hopefuls and crowned Matt Rockell with his very impressive 70’s inspired handle bars the unanimous winner! Then it was off to the Remington Shave Off area where the guys finally got rid of their month long facial fuzz and swapped it for the clean shaven look.

A great night had by all. Until next year…

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Is screening England Qualifier on net an own goal for TV’s supremacy?

I am not adverse to paying to watch sport on TV, in fact when it comes to watching England in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign a few quid in subscriptions seems a small price to pay. But as you cannot have failed to have heard about this week with all the press advertising and media coverage, do we really want to watch this Saturday’s qualifier in Ukraine on the internet and pay at least £4.99 for the privilege??

Now whilst I would dearly love all England qualifiers to be free to view on TV, in today’s commercially driven market, I don’t think that will ever happen. There is simply too much money to be made in screening rights and in the main the subscription channels are winning out over the traditional channels. In the case of the commercial terrestrial channels their efforts are also not helped by the fact they can’t sustain the advertising revenue to support their bids, with companies advertising less on TV in favour of online.

The reason that this Saturday’s game is being screened online is actually as a result of Setanta’s demise. When it bought the rights to England away qualifiers it had hoped to have a much higher level of subscribers to the channel, but they did not materialise and it went bust. Then when none of the traditional broadcasters were willing to pay the asking price, digital sport specialist Perform was appointed to stream the match on-line. The match will now be shown on the website and viewers will be able to subscribe to it using PayPal, the electronic payment service.

So is this "disastrous and an outrage" as one England travelling fan commented on the BBC online or will England fans "embrace" the internet broadcast as you might expect Andrew Croker, executive chairman of Perform to say. Well as rare as it is for me to a) understand and b) agree with, anything that England defender Rio Ferdinand says, he has got it spot on (probably due the fact he received a set of well crafted PR speaker notes). He said “broadcasting of the match marked the way forward and in the future it'll probably be the reality. It’s a good way to gauge how many people are interested.”

What’s clear to me and always seems to be the case with the media, is that actually we the consumers are in control of the future of sports broadcasting. We decide what we watch, when we watch and on what platform we watch. Perhaps most importantly we also decide how much we want to pay to watch (if at all).

I will be watching on-line this Saturday along with an estimated 2.5 million viewers. Of course what can’t be guaranteed is value for money, but with qualification to the World Cup already secure, let’s hope it’s a good performance and convincing win for England.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

What’s Your Guilty Little Pleasure?

It turns out that we are a nation of nose pickers that love to watch reality TV and listen to Barry Manilow! As part of our Life’s Little Pleasures campaign for Montagne Jeunesse we asked 3,000 people to tell us their life’s little guilty pleasures and it seems as though we’re all a bunch of coach potatoes!
It’s a good job then that the government initiative Change4Life is doing such a great job in getting people active. And it really does seem to be working. Just this weekend I drove past 5 different sponsored bike rides and fun runs and I’m noticing that friends and family who have never been the least bit sporty are beginning to feel the urge. Even my past his prime chunky husband has decided to go from zero to hero and has started an archery course so that he can represent his birth country (The Seychelles) in the 2012 Olympics! Truth be told I am getting a little bit fatigued with all the sponsorship requests and it concerns me that millions of keen but crazy cyclists have quite obviously not passed their cycling proficiency tests, but I do think it’s a brilliant campaign. Who knows I may actually do something too – sponsored yoga anyone?

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Has The Sun Set on the Labour Party?

The front page of The Sun newspaper today declares ‘Labour’s Lost It’ and states the withdrawal of its support for the current Government amongst accusations of a catalogue of failures including crime, healthcare and, top of everybody’s list, public spending. So should Gordy B and the Labour Government be scared?

Yes, definitely. But not because The Sun dictates the electoral outcome of the UK - I think the UK public should be given more credit than that. Yes, The Sun is the UK’s highest circulation newspaper and no doubt it does have a certain amount of influence on its audience. However, I would suggest that it is reacting more to turning public opinion rather than shaping it. Let’s face it, who doesn’t like to be on the winning team?

There have been more than enough indications that the political tide is turning and various polls to substantiate this. Although I have total admiration for Sarah Brown, her speech at yesterday’s Labour Party Conference to me smacked of desperation and reaffirmed that the Government is in serious trouble. Who really cares whether Gordon Brown is dedicated, loving and loyal when there are so many more important issues to be debated, and is the political stage the right place for his wife to be discussing how much she loves her husband rather than debating these important issues?

I’m sure this was a carefully planned PR strategy to show Gordon Brown’s more human side, but for me it had the opposite effect of a weakened Prime Minister hiding behind a wife who is known to be more popular with the electorate. So will The Sun dictate the forthcoming election? I would say no, but they may have backed the right horse in the closing stages.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Spotted Richard Stirs Up Ill Feeling

When a case of a council going PC mad was revealed recently, everyone from The Daily Mail to The Telegraph wanted a piece of the pudding, with blanket coverage across both print and online media. The story that prompted the reaction? Traditional suet dessert Spotted Dick has been renamed as Spotted Richard in the canteen of the Flintshire Council headquarters. Why? Because customers kept making jokes about it.

A council spokesman said: "The correct title for this dish is 'Spotted Dick.' However because of several immature comments from a few customers, catering staff renamed the dish 'Spotted Richard'. This was not a policy decision, canteen staff simply acted as they thought best to put an end to unwelcome and childish comments, albeit from a very small number of customers." Typical, huh? It’s always the small minority that spoil it for everyone else…

In a public backlash to the decision, one councillor said the move was "political correctness gone mad" and that the people who made the decision would soon be "frightened of their own shadow". The Daily Mail called Flintshire Council “prudish”, while The Telegraph, Daily Post and BBC also chipped in with opinions.

It’s not the first time that Spotted Dick has come under the spotlight. In 2001, Tesco opted for Spotted Richard on its packaging, claiming that female shoppers were offended, and Gloucestershire NHS Trust caused a stir in 2002 by changing its menu. But both eventually admitted defeat. The Pudding Club has also now spoken out on the matter, stating that “this is totally bonkers”. At last, someone talking some sense…

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Friday, 25 September 2009

Can Too Much of A Good Thing Be A Bad Thing?

As many of us know the common saying, too much of anything can often be a bad thing. And in light of the recent news story surrounding hand gel, I think this has once again, been proven true. Over the last few months, Brits have really stepped up their levels of hygiene in order to avoid contracting the deadly swine flu. I for one can’t swing a cat without knocking over a bottle of hand gel, whether it be in my toilet at home, by my kitchen sink, in my handbag, or most commonly, on my desk at work. So much so, that I have actually become fairly obsessive in my generous use of antibacterial wash, wipes and gel!

But never once, despite my obsession, have I thought to drink the stuff?? Whilst I have no doubt, that it must be fairly dismal being locked inside a prison, starved of all pleasures, luxuries and treats, things must have really plummeted for the prisoners of Verne Prison in Dorset, who opted to use their hand gel as an alcoholic beverage to liven things up! And before you think they just swallowed it whole…no no. The prisoners went all the way to ensure that their latest cocktail was the best that it could be, as they steamed the alcoholic gel, strained it to ensure that just the alcohol content was left, before mixing it with sugar and fruit to form hooch! As you can imagine, prisoners + alcohol will always equal disaster, so following the drunken fight which broke out, the hand gel has now been removed.

If that wasn’t enough, Dorset County Hospital had to withdraw their alcohol based soap, to prevent vagrants from coming in to drink it!

With the threat of a second pandemic wave right around the corner, I would have thought that the alcoholic gel could have been put to far better use, and in time, perhaps these select few may come to regret their moment of madness! I will say one thing, when the pandemic does return…I’m staying well clear of Dorset!