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?