CIPR election time is nearly upon us – and you can vote for Chris

Vote for me! Yes, it is nearly time for another round of CIPR elections, except this year, it’s all different. Sort of. There will be a new-look slimmed down CIPR Council in 2015 which is a good thing.

But that has presented a challenge for current President Stephen Waddington and the new Chief Executive Alastair McCapra and their team in maintaining the links between the CIPR’s many sectoral and regional groups and the national Council.

So a new electoral system (yippee) and plenty of different options for CIPR members to use their vote – please do if you are a CIPR member – recent turnouts have been shockingly low.

So, as an added incentive to increase turnout (ahem) – this year you can vote for me.

Why would you do that?

Well, you can read my full statement (other candidates are available) on the CIPR website, but basically this would be a formal role representing the English regions on the council and an exciting new opportunity.

Why am I bothering? Partly to give something back, partly because I think I have something to offer and partly to work with some great fellow PR’s on the Council. The extract below is from my statement:

Almost all of the best people I’ve come across in this industry are CIPR members, whether you are in-house, agency and freelancers. In my opinion most members (especially those who have taken the time to read this) get why the CIPR has such an important role to play in our fast-changing industry.

To new members or those who haven’t really got involved in the CIPR before I would say come on, dive in, the water’s beautiful. It really is an organisation where the more you put in the more you get out.

The CIPR is a great institution. The industry has a great opportunity to be at the heart of good work to build trust and maintain reputation for years to come if we get this right. The CIPR matters. If you work in the industry you should be part of the solution.



Happy holidays

It’s the holiday summer season so we asked the #TeamDTW about their best & worst holidays, top travel tips and why we don’t miss the soggy camping trips of their youth.

CaliforniaWhen it comes to favourite destinations, most of the DTW gang take the Pet Shop Boys advice and Go West. Yosemite National Park, Barbados, Florida and California are the most popular choices although MD Chris rates Australia as his favourite destination, while designer Sarah Bibby loved Skiathos in Greece.

Not every holiday is a great one though. MD Chris had an interesting time skiing in communist Romania, while Social Media manager Guy wouldn’t go back to Riga in Latvia if you paid him “The only city I’ve ever been to designed on an etch-a-sketch”. Director Hayley Stewart endured a nightmare time in Ibiza with her young son – more concrete than beach – while Account manager Karen Westcott and Administrator Jan Tyler were both kept awake all night by boozy brits abroad in Barcelona and Tenerife respectively.

Brits abroad behaving badly is a recurring theme, Sarah once shared a hotel with a family from Middlesbrough in Greece who were so awful she pretended to be foreign so they wouldn’t recognise her accent and try to make friends with her!

The most explosive experience, literally, happened to Karen on her honeymoon in Hermanus, South Africa. The lodge she was staying in caught fire and burned down destroying most of their clothes and her new husband’s expensive new watch. They were rescued by the team from Jackass who were staying at the same place and kindly let them stay the night in their accommodation until help arrived. The charred remains of the watch are now framed on the wall at home!

We all have a lot of affection for the UK and holidays at home throughout the team though; even rainy camping trips in Scotland from our childhood are fondly remembered with the distance of time. The wide-open landscapes of Wales, the rugged coastlines of Scotland and Cornwall, the beauty of the Lake District and the relentless fun of Centre Parcs are all on our collective itinerary for this summer.

We’re a diverse bunch when we get to where we’re going to – designer Paula Dickinson likes walking and exploring the local sights, Hayley enjoys her pool and beach time as well as the relaxing evening meal as does MD Chris. Keen readers Jan and Sarah won’t leave the house without their holiday books or Kindles. Sarah read as many as five books on her last holiday while Guy likes taking in the local culture when he’s away – “going to local sports if any are on or even watching a bit of foreign TV to try and work out what the adverts are for”.

Happy Holidays from #TeamDTW!

#teamDTW Creative PR

Life Through a Lens – Google Glass arrives at DTW

DTW Digital and Social Media Manager Guy Bailey takes us through the Looking Glass…

I’m a gadget guy. Always have been, a child of the ZX Spectrum generation, I measured my own and humanity’s progress based on access to the latest advances and cool devices. For most people growing up in the eighties, Tomorrow’s World was the annoying, swotty buffer between Top of the Pops and The Young Ones while for me it was a catalogue from the future.

Glass-boxOne family in every neighbourhood was always the first to have a Walkman, or a Diskman, or the latest Brevill Sandwich Toaster. My dad shared my love of the shiny so it was us. True, it frequently led us down many a silicon cul de sac as we chose the loser in a two-horse tech race – Betamax over VHS, Intellivision over Atari, TCR over Scalectrix – but at least we were at the party.

I continued to blaze a trail through the nineties and noughties with my calculator watches, digital diaries and Palm pilots until the dawn of the Smartphone revolution when everyone got in on the act. When I heard about Google Glass, I turned into a hyper eight year old again.

You can read about what Glass is and does, and why DTW has sensibly got in on the ground floor – but let’s talk about what it was like when my colleagues and I got to hold the future in our hands for the very first time.

The majority of the designers I work with were far more interested in typefaces, fonts and box layout than the actual piece of kit itself. Although Google being Google, it looked exquisite and as if it had fallen through a wormhole from the very near future.

Holding them as if they were made of Unicorn hair and fairy wings, I gently placed them on the bridge of my nose and powered them on. Adjusting the moveable eyepiece into my field of vision, a black welcome screen emerged with the GLASS logo gently appearing.

A welcome video played and guided you through the first uneasy steps into navigating your way around the device. You literally stroke the side of the glasses with your finger forward and backward to take you through various menu settings and double tap it to select your favoured option.

If you make a wrong turn, which is easily done at first, you can slide your finger downwards to cancel the screen and return you to the ubiquitous homescreen with a pleasing clanging sound.

The homescreen is where you will spend most of your time in Glass and can be accessed with a tap of the glasses, lifting your head up to a certain degree or if you specifiy it yourself, by winking. Yes, winking.

karen-glassThe screen displays the time and the phrase ‘OK, Glass’. This is a phrase you will become very familiar with. Say ‘OK Glass’ loud enough for it to hear but not so loud that you look like the crazy man outside Pret A Manger, and you access a list of suggested commands you can give to glass such as take a photo, record a video, send a message, play a game etc.

Glass works via Bluetooth and wifi so can work independently of another Android device or iPhone but it works best when paired with one. This gives Glass access to your email, calendar, SMS messages and more, so you can see notifications and messages in your screen as and when they appear. Other apps also link into Glass and it has its own select utilities that take advantage of its unique capabilities including a star map to identify constellations, Evernote, Tumblr and the busy media professionals’ tool of choice right now – IFTTT.

The camera and video recording features give Glass another unique edge. Filmed from your first person perspective, you literally just look and click. There is also a manual button on top of the glasses for you to take a picture, or hold it for longer and it will start taping a 10 second video clip. If you press the button again during this recording, it will remove the time limit and continue recording for as long as you want to, or your battery allows. Once recorded, you can upload it to any YouTube account you have or share it via email or SMS.

Sarah-glassIt’s an amazing device in itself but, like the iPhone and iPad before it, its key functionality will come out of what the community makes for it. When the iPhone was launched, all everybody was concerned about was call quality and the novelty of web access. Nobody mentioned the App store – which is its primary feature today.

The potential for Glass is huge with geolocation, augmented reality, facial-recognition, real-time video streaming, social networking and journalism uses waiting to be unleashed. Right now, you won’t see too many in the wild, especially in the North East, but as more users join the Explorer program, new and exciting designs come out from Diana Von Furstenberg, Ray Ban and others and word gets out on one or two killer applications and uses go mainstream, then the Glass ceiling will be broken – and recorded live while you do it.



#teamDTW Creative PR

The future’s so bright, I gotta wear Glass

We’ve just joined the Google Glass Explorer programme.

Now I’m guessing most people reading this are either thinking “The what?” or “That’s cool.”

If it’s the latter you’re right. Not only is it cool but its simple to use and is already adding value to the way we work with our clients.

If you don’t know what Google Glass is you can find out straight from the Google itself, but basically it looks like a pair of glasses but it’s a computer with a tiny screen (and a built-in high quality video-camera) just inches from your eye that you can talk to.

Yes, really.

It’s part of what those trendy types are calling wearable technology, but what’s really interesting is what you can do with it.

The potential for training programmes, almost instant video uploads to Youtube and for capturing content from a unique first person perspective is fantastic.

We’ve let our Social and Digital Manager Guy Bailey loose to do some R&D work with the glasses over the past week, and he still hasn’t stopped smiling. Basically he’s in charge of having fun whilst working out the vast number of applications for the new technology. We’ll keep you up to speed with the opportunities, but in the meantime if you want to have a demo of how it all works get in touch with and let’s talk.

PS – Thanks to Timbuk 3 for the headline inspiration (if you’re under 30 and you care you’ve probably already googled it)

#teamDTW PR

New recruits bring an international flavour to DTW

We’ve gone global in the search for recruits to join our award-winning team at DTW in Guisborough.

Guy Bailey, Chris Sealey and Laura Hepburn have all become part of our growing team in the past few weeks.

Guy returns to the North East following four years in Atlanta, while Chris has relocated following five years in Sydney. Laura is from that other far-flung part of the globe – Yorkshire – Whitby to be precise.

We’re grateful to the help and support we’ve had from Tees Valley Unlimited’s Jobs and Skills Investment Scheme, which has helped us invest in growing the team to continue developing new skills and services.

Find out a bit more about our new friends….

GuyGuy Bailey – Digital and Social Media Manager

Guy is a PR, social media and digital expert, writer and blogger with more than 16 years experience co-ordinating campaigns, messaging and media outreach for organisations such as the BBC, the Open University and Thames Valley Police in the UK, and RE/MAX and Kennesaw State University in the United States.


Laura_flagLaura Hepburn – Creative Project Co-ordinator

Laura has a diverse background in all disciplines of design, marketing and communications for the public, private and third sector. She has a BA (Hons) in Graphic Design. A Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Photography, followed by an MA in Future Design. Alongside her commercial career she has Qualified Teacher and Learning Skills for lecturing at higher education institutes.

Laura brings 16 years experience of the design industry to DTW. She participates in cutting edge exhibitions, conferences and think tanks on behalf of the Parliament of Social Design, Teesside University and the wider design industry. Laura also has skills in photography, illustration and print.

ChrisChris Sealey, PR Account Manager

Chris has 12 years experience in media and public relations. Starting his career as a reporter at the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, in 2005 he moved to the Daily Mail where he reported on the London terror attacks, and that year’s General Election. He has also worked for BBC Online’s UK news desk, as well as a range of regional newspapers.

In Sydney, Chris worked for a number of New South Wales state government departments, providing communications and media support, and working as a ministerial media adviser to the roads and transport minister.


World Cup Fever!

World Cup Fever is in full flow at DTW and while we haven’t been laid low yet, even the non-football lovers in the office are definitely looking a bit peaky.

Early World Cup memories trend towards the iconic rather than the mundane – Account Manager Chris Sealey watching the acrobatic Hugo Sanchez scoring a trademark bicycle kick for Mexico in the 1986 competition; Director Pete Whelan remembers David Platt’s injury time swivel volley against Belgium in 1990 while MD Chris Taylor and Social Media Manager Guy Bailey had just opened their bottles of American cream soda when Bryan Robson put England ahead of France in 27 seconds in 1982.

Italia 90 looms large in our collective favourite tournament although the revisionist views says that unless you’re English, Irish or German, it wasn’t one for the ages although Pete Whelan now understands that this tournament was the exception not the rule for the boys in White or Red. Chris Sealey bravely stated that Brazil 2014 would top the lot but he did reply before Luis Suarez turned up.

Most impressive team seen at a championships tends to gravitate towards the winners with the French vintage of 1998, the current Spain team (again written before the Holland and Chile games) and the boys of ’66 although everyone’s favourite other team – Brazil 1982 gets a nod.

We like our ball-playing midfielders at DTW with Gazza, Steven Gerrard, Zico and Sergio Busquets getting votes for favourite players on the biggest stage and we thought the winners would come from a narrow field of Spain, Argentina, Brazil or Colombia – Guy Bailey enjoying the vicarious thrill of an outsider coming in on the rails.

Regardless of how the rest of the tournament turns out, we all hope that at the end of the day, football is the winner. Unless it’s Uruguay, in which case they can bloomin’ well stage the whole thing again.


#CIPRNC14 – data, content and the PR journey

Happy lunchtime – it’s been a cracking morning at the CIPR’s 2014 Northern Conference over in Manchester.

Joanna Halton from McCann has just kicked off by reminding the room of PR people that it is our job to create the content and tell the stories that engage and enthuse people.

Couldn’t agree more – the PR industry, ably being led by @wadds who delivered this morning’s intro session with a sterling vision for the future of the industry – Mr. Peston take note – is in a great position to lead the way for brands, organisations and communities when it comes to telling and sharing a compelling story about ourselves.

Joanna picked out content, social signals, online links and reognisable brands as being four key factors that all influence Google and guess what – us PR people should be standing up and grabbing that – we do it all, and we do it better than anyone else.

Starting at the end I’m moving back to the other focus of this morning – data, data and more data.

There’s loads of it, big, small, good, bad. It’s numbers, it’s scary. Us PR types are less good at that (which is why we invented inforgraphics – nice pictures to share!) but we can’t ignore it any longer.

That data should be informing everything we do – great PR is about being customer focused – that’s where the journey should start and end, not at the CEO’s in-tray.

Drew Bevine from Bellenden and James English from the BBC both built a compelling argument for why any PR team’s next hire should be a data analyst – at least – that’s what I took away from it.

Drew talked about a colleague whose career path went from good old fashioned PR to social media to becoming a data analyst.

She won’t be the last, and if data just makes you run away then just think about the added value that we as PR people should be bringing to our clients and projects and that you as an individual can bring to your employer.

PR will never secure a meaningful place around the boardroom table if we don’t embrace and take the lead on data.

Social Media

Apples and Oranges

When you work in an emerging industry such as social media, it can be hard to keep up with industry standard knowledge and accepted practice.

Not just because its practitioners in the main are young, inquisitive and exactly the sort of people who will be challenging the status quo but also because it is so new itself. In PR, you can argue about certain tactics but general strategy is more or less fixed because everybody understands what billboards, newspapers and news bulletins are and what they do. In Social Media, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s the equivalent of a newspaper deciding to print a copy one week then transforming itself into a radio station the following week – the very conventions and rules that the various platforms are built on are changing regularly and practitioners have to be more agile than most to adapt to the constantly shifting sands.

Whether its Facebook changing its algorithm to drastically reduce the number of people who will see a business’ posts unless they pay to have them seen; or Google+ taking posts on a topic and showing them to other users in their search results, or Twitter offering businesses the chance to have their own hashtag featured in the previously sacrosanct trending topics list – Social Media is nothing but fluid.

Which brings us to the point of this post – this infographic from Sumall – highlighting the worst times to post on Social Media. It’s a nice twist on the usual best times to post and I’m sure it’s backed up by various analytics and stats to prove that engagement is lower at those times. That’s not what my gut is telling me though.

Speaking as an individual Twitter user for a second, most of my tweeting and more importantly, checking my lists and tweets is done after 8pm, once the bum is parked on the couch and the kids are firmly secured in their holding cells.  LinkedIn is said to be least busy during the working day, which given the nature of the platform being the most professionally and work focused seems out of place. Tumblr users must party hard because none of them surface before lunchtime and there’s a black window on Pinterest users schedule between 5pm and 7pm.  Is this while the users are off preparing those delicious meals they’ve been pinning and repinning all morning?

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing so while you should use data, big or little, to inform and guide your decisions, the final choice should always be yours.  In fact you could make the counter-argument that if these really are the least busy times for posting then maybe that’s a great opportunity for brands and businesses to get their content out when there’s less noise?

Social Media

US Airways Twitter aflutter!

US Airways have joined the long and growing list of organizations that have had some explaining to do after an inappropriate tweet or post appears on their account.

You can find the story details here but needless to say the story focus quickly moves on from the original error to the response. Once that hacking has been eliminated the company has to face up to the fact that it was an inside job and look at securing the damage as soon as possible.

This can involve locking the account, changing the password and making sure that only trusted sources have access in the minutes, hours and days afterwards when scrutiny of the channel is going to be at its most intense.

Regardless of whose fault it was, people are looking for honesty, transparency and accountability – the most effective social media apologies have been all of these things. Not every instance has to end with a sacking.

In the case of the American Red Cross, more funds ended up being raised for the organization by the beer brand mentioned in the tweet because it was handled sensitively and sensibly. I doubt an identikit corporate responsibility statement stripped of its humanity and humility would have achieved the same response.

Red Cross Tweet

All of these stories underline the key truth of social media company accounts – even though they represent brands, they are run by humans and humans are all as fallible as one another – so if an unfortunate post and its aftermath jumps to the top of your in-tray one rainy day, bear that in mind and act like a human, not a brand.

Social Media

LinkedIn says Goodbye to products & services tabs and Hello to Showcase pages

“I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was, now what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s it is weird and scary to me. It happened to me, it’ll happen to you too.” – Abraham J Simpson

Grampa Simpson wouldn’t have known that he was talking about the life of a Social Media manager but he pretty much was.  As soon as you get used to the workings of one platforms after it tweaks its processes, algorythms or associated electronic jiggery pokery, then another goes and changes it’s feathers too – in this case LinkedIn.

For a good little while now, LinkedIn let company pages display their products and services in a separate tab on the page – kind of like an online catalog that could then link back to a website or microsite and could also be recommended by grateful and helpful customers. Last week LinkedIn announced that they were doing away with this feature and replacing it with something called ‘Showcase’ pages. (Above)

These pages at first glance look like subpages – the screenshot shows Microsoft’s LinkedIn company page and the Showcase pages they have set up for Office, Microsoft Dynamics and Microsoft Lync (me neither). There is a ‘see more’ button underneath but if you scroll to the very bottom of the page (again, me neither) you will see a carousel displaying other Showcase pages a Company Page may have. Microsoft has 12 but you wouldn’t know by looking so I’d expect this feature to be tweaked shortly.

If you click onto a showcase page then this is where things start to get a little confusing. The page looks exactly like a Company Page in its own right – there is a large cover picture at the top, a small description, website link, industry category and even a list of followers. There is a small ‘see more’ button underneath which when clicked displays the ‘home’ Company page and other Showcase pages a brand has but it’s very well hidden.

LinkedIn Showcase Pages

The Showcase page functions exactly as a Company page does with updates that can be liked, commented upon and shared within your own network.

All of which confirms my own initial thoughts that LinkedIn is trying to get into the content publishing and sharing game itself and is trying to make up the ground on Facebook and Google+ by building its own little data-mine of your likes and preferences.  The more you tell it about yourself through your own sharing and posting, the more it will learn about you and tailor future product updates and roll outs towards you, and help make you more visible and viable to it’s corporate client base of recruiters and headhunters.

On a personal level, more and more thought-leaders, celebrities and big names have been given publishing capabilities within LinkedIn, which is a shorter form Blog similar to Medium, which is distinct from a regular post.  Ordinary folks like me have are beginning to receive this capability now, again I suspect with the intention of creating more specific content to let LinkedIn narrow down the kinds of things you’ll be interested in down the line.

I think the departing Products and Services tab will be a loss compared to the current format of Showcase pages. If you are a big corporation like Microsoft, then yes, you have more rationale for setting up these pages but if you are a smaller company or producer, by taking the plunge you risk diffusing your content and messages as right now the onus is very much on the user to go hunting through the Showcase pages of a company to find precisely what they want to know – it’s a lot easier if it’s literally on the same page.