Time for a bit of ‘binge-watching’!

My favourite story of the week comes from Collins Dictionary.

I was on the M69 heading to Leicester yesterday morning when I heard they had declared ‘binge-watch’ the new word for 2015.

Given the choice my preferences for a spot of binge-watching are The West Wing or Game of Thrones.

Whether you’re a binge-watcher or not, this concept is a great hook for a news story. And it’s one they use again and again. Last year the word was ‘photobomb’ and in 2013 it was ‘geek’.

But why does it work so well?

Obviously it’s right on message for Collins.

The Oxford English Dictionary is probably the dominant brand in the sector; they claim to be the ‘definitive record of the English language’ on their website. To get noticed Collins needs to be a little different; they need a distinct ‘personality’. The Word of the Year concept gives them exactly that.

It’s fun, quirky and they’ve done more than just publish the list. In Etymology Corner on their website they have a great piece on ‘Dadbod’, the second word in the top ten and there’s an entertaining column by Lucy Mangan on the whole list. They’ve also produced some really witty cartoons.

The media love the story. By definition it taps into the popular discourse so it’s relevant, and turning it into an annual event makes it timely, giving everyone a reason to cover the story today.

Plus it’s lighthearted at the same time as providing an angle for commentary on society. This means the story can be adapted to suit different media outlets – it’s can be spun to be relevant to outlets as diverse as the Today Programme, The Mirror and Newsround.

But I think they’ve missed a big opportunity on social media. There’s plenty on Twitter, but everywhere else is pretty barren, despite #bingewatch being used a lot, as you would expect if it’s the word of the year!

If you want some advice on how to increase the impact of your stories, give me a call.

Click here to read the top ten words of the year.

8 features of great news stories

Screenshot 2015-10-28 18.47.07I’ve been working in PR and communications for over 25 years. I’ve generated thousands of column inches for my clients and am often asked how to do it.

To my way of thinking great news stories have eight features in common:

  1. The story is universal. You might think it’s incredibly interesting but is it relevant to others, particularly those who read, listen to or watch the media outlet.
  2. Good news stories are more than just important; they’re topical. 6,500 people dying by suicide each year is important but it’s just as relevant tomorrow as it is today.
  3. People are interested in people. Great stories have people at the heart; we can immediately see who’s affected and why.
  4. The story says something. I know you’re ‘delighted’ Jane Smith has joined the business but how will her skills help you transform it? What’s the difference she can make?
  5. There’s a narrative, a story, not just a bunch of facts and bits of information. ‘The management team grabbed with both hands the opportunities for growth presented by collaboration with an international partner’ not ‘turnover grew by xx% year on year’.
  6. There’s no nonsense. Nothing is ‘further enhanced’ and there are no ‘unique, bespoke solutions’.
  7. Language is straightforward, not ‘pseudo-intellectual’. Growth is quick not exponential.
  8. And finally, but importantly, it’s brought to life by great pictures.

Get in touch if you want some help crafting effective news stories.

[Image courtesy of Shutterstock.]

That’s nice … but what is it you do again?

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 07.22.46I’ll never forget it. We were sitting in a coffee shop in Birmingham and she was telling me about her business. All I could think was … eh??

I’m pretty good at getting my head round things, more than happy to ask questions. But at the end of an hour I had absolutely no idea what she did!

It came flooding back to me this week when I was looking through an exhibition guide. Each business had only a couple of lines of blurb about themselves.

Some got straight to the point but with others I was right back in that Birmingham coffee shop.

“We provide bespoke solutions to meet customer needs.”

“We offer a range of workshops to organisations who want something cutting edge.”

“Innovation never stops. And neither does our passion for creating ideas that connect your customers and partners with the latest advances.”

These are real quotes!

Service companies might be amongst the worst offenders but no business is immune.

The problem is they’ve been seduced by their offer and completely forgotten the most important person in the room; the customer.

The customer has got a need. But if they have no idea what you do they’ll never turn to you to satisfy it.

I’ve just done a psychology degree and there’s lots of chat about things being necessary and sufficient. Knowing what makes you different is necessary but it’s not sufficient. You’ve also got to express your points of difference in such a way that the customer immediately gets it.

Give me a call if you want some help with your messaging.

[Image courtesy of Shutterstock.]

Time to warm up your cold clients

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 10.42.50Want to drive up fee income or increase sales?

Yes? Then you’ve probably opened up your contact book as the first step. Almost certainly there’ll be the names of people you’ve just worked with on a first project. Convert them into a second and before you know it you’ll have regular work.

Just as certainly there’ll be people you haven’t spoken to for a while, or even years. You did that first project then they just slipped off your agenda.

Failing to warm up a cold client is a big mistake. But letting them get cold after that first project is an even bigger one!

Keep them warm and you’re on the way to developing a great relationship. Warm them up and they’ll probably be more emotionally committed to you and your business than ever.

But how?

As with everything in communication, put the person you’re talking with at the heart of the conversation..

Listen to them … actively. Get your head around the issues they care about. Find out what they are trying to achieve. Who do they want to influence? Who do they want to connect with?

Then re-frame your messages so they grab their attention. But don’t lose your authenticity. Relationships are built on trust and you’ll lose it if you’re not authentic.

Finally, connect with them. But do it in a way they get to achieve their goals.

Lorraine Francis and I can help.

I devise and deliver communication and PR programmes and Lorraine forges strategic connections.

We have a simple three step programme to help you warm up cold clients.

Get in touch if you want to warm up your cold clients.


You’re having a diversity drive. Lovely. But will it make any difference?

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 07.56.50I believe fostering diversity is the right thing to do.

Every business or organisation should be representative of its community and everyone in the community should have fair access to the opportunities that exist.

But whatever you think about the right thing to do, diversity is commercially sound.

A diverse business is a creative business.

If everyone in the room is the same – same background, same sort of life experiences, same age, same gender, same ethnicity – chances are they’ll come up with the same old solutions.

Introduce a sprinkling of something different and thought processes may shift a little. Imagine if the group was truly diverse, every participant bringing their individual experiences and perspectives. The dynamic in the room would foster creativity. You’d get radically different solutions, ones that give you real competitive edge.

So how do you build a diverse organisation?

I was at a brilliant event recently; it met its brief perfectly and everyone there loved it.   But the gender balance was awful.   Someone asked me how to attract women to the event. My answer … if you’re serious about engaging with new cohorts, whoever they are, you have to think in a new way, behave differently.

Like it or not the leadership sets the culture, whether it’s by passive laissez-faire or defining the mission, vision and values and embodying them in their behaviours. A business will only be truly diverse if the leadership fully embraces the concept.

People like me would say I don’t have any prejudices, but I’m kidding myself. Of course I do. I’m human.

So the first step is for the leadership to openly acknowledge, understand and then challenge their own prejudices.   Then they will be able to develop initiatives like the one at mac birmingham I heard about this week.

My understanding is mac birmingham wanted their workforce to reflect their local community so they did away with application forms and interviews. They now run ‘job open days’. Those who come along are assessed in live situations and only complete the application form once they are offered a job. No one is screened out based on the number of GCSEs or the professional layout of their CV; they are screened in according to their attitude and ability to do the job.

[Image courtesy of Shutterstock.]