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Why ‘Use a professional’ is a campaign that matters in PR as well as with the Law Society

DTW is in the media today, with the focus on our new client The Law Society – we’re delivering a major PR and marketing campaign for it across England and Wales.

The national ‘Use a Professional’ campaign, which is launching across England and Wales this month, is to promote private practice or high street solicitors and encourage people to use their services.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 13.34.43So, if you’re reading this and you need some good service from a solicitor – jump on to the Law Society’s free online Find A Solicitor website, which matches people needing legal advice to qualified professional solicitors in their town or area.

It’s a great project, and the office has been buzzing with ideas and inspiration with #teamDTW spending the summer finalising and testing the creative concepts, travelling around the country shooting videos, working on real-time bidding advertising campaigns and planning creative PR and social media campaigns.

The focus is all about the importance of using a professional solicitor to deliver important services that you need – sounds simple doesn’t it? Yet many of us don’t do it – we’d rather get something done cheap or fast.

Whether we are getting a ‘good’ service is often overlooked.

The legal profession is not alone – as any PR and comms people reading this will already have realised.

Everyone can do PR, right?

Wrong, but professionalism is something that the PR industry is still grappling with. Talk to people at CIPR Council meetings or the more engaged members of the PR community and they get it – we need to be professional in everything we do to deliver a future for the industry – training, evaluation, ethics and professional development.

What we’ve collectively been less good at is demonstrating the huge value that the public relations function can bring to organisations. In an era when reputation has never been so important, we must take this issue and tackle it head on.

That can mean challenging colleagues, superiors and clients when it comes to devising and delivering campaigns that make a difference. We must be relentlessly focused on outcomes, think from a customer perspective and not compromise on quality.

The Government Communication Service, under the watchful eye of Alex Aiken, is doing a great job in showing the way. Those of us operating in the private sector should take note.

Professionalism and expertise isn’t a ‘nice to have’, whether you are getting legal advice, growing your business or delivering challenging behaviour change campaigns, it’s an essential.


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.


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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 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 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.


#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.


Three communications and engagement rules for CCGs

It’s new year and time for another brave new world for the NHS.

Never mind patients waking up with a hangover, Government reforms will make 2014 a challenging year for GPs and others running the new-look NHS as CCGs, CSUs, NHS 111 and all sorts of other acronyms get to grips with their new roles at the heart of what is still the world’s best healthcare system*.

With patient engagement and the input of friends and family increasingly important in helping shape the delivery of services around the country one of the biggest challenges for those in charge of the new system is listening to and communicating with their customers (aka patients).

Throw in the amount of NHS-related noise you get through social media and the challenges are significant.

For me, CCGs have to follow three clear and simple rules to keep their communications and engagement activities on track.

1)   Listening is as important as talking – communication is not a one-way thing – listening to and acting on patient feedback is essential

2)   Keep it simple stupid – don’t lapse in to dear old Donald Rumsfeld territory – no jargon please when talking with patients and the public

3)   Put customer service at the heart of what you do – as consumers we now expect the best ethical standards of the public sector combined with the best customer service standards of the private sector. Some parts of the UK public sector get that. Other’s don’t and it shows. Make sure you are on the right side of the fence.

*I’m no medic but name me another system you’d like to swap the NHS for that will improve healthcare outcomes and that the UK plc can afford. Answers on a postcard please to @dtwchris.

PS – 10 points if you can spot the key role that Commissioning Support Units play in the new look NHS on the Department of Health’s overview of the new-look system.

Struggling? I don’t blame you – they don’t even get a mention despite being key players in providing


Why comms, comms, comms should be the energy companies’ new year resolution

Being based up here in the sunny north east we have thankfully missed the worst of the flooding and power failures this festive season, but friends and colleagues round the country have suffered – our sympathies are with them in cleaning up what must be a horrendous mess.

Picking up on the public and social media comment the most common complaint (as ever it seems) is all about the failure of companies to communicate with customers about what is happening and when it will be fixed.

Why is this always the case, and do the alleged poor standards of customer service really reflect the reality?

Christmas really presented the perfect storm (sorry). Staffing and other resources were depleted over the break, and the number, frequency and intensity of the storms was almost unprecedented, so I have great sympathy with the communications and customer service teams trying to piece things together with scant information and unhappy customers.

Getting the communications right on these occasions can really reap rewards, and technology has to be at the heart of the solution. Earlier in the year we lost water at home and our provider, Northumbrian Water, was outstanding in the way they communicated with customers on a Saturday morning about the issue for what was a fairly localised problem.

An alert on the front page of the website might be expected (but still pretty good for 8.45am on a Saturday) but to get two texts that morning telling me about the problem, when it would be fixed and how to find out more was a great example of pro-active customer service.

UK Power Networks decision to increase payouts for those affected over Christmas was similarly effective, but on a much bigger scale. Customers no doubt welcomed the extra cash, but what this announcement also did was put the company on the front foot with the national media and gave them an opportunity to hit the airwaves for a 24-hour period and talk about what they were doing to fix the problem, which they did well.

Weather happens and it’s getting worse, most of us get that and will accept it has impacts, but what we won’t accept in 2014 is a failure to communicate. The energy companies (and others) have much to think about moving forward.


Closure of Liverpool Post a warning shot for local newspapers

Trinity Mirror’s decision to completely close the 150+ year old Liverpool Post was a shock in December, but is surely a sign of further consolidation in the local newspaper sector in 2014.

Not good news for journalists, newspaper readers or local democracy. All those local councilors who regularly blast their local media for “getting everything wrong” and misrepresenting them might start having different concerns if their local paper suddenly disappears.

The challenge then for local authorities, as for companies, is to build their own networks online and communicate directly with residents and businesses. Many are ahead of the game – look at the social media presence of the likes of Monmouthshire or Northumberland or the excellent case studies showcased in the Comms2point0 blog – and you can see the great work already happening.

For those behind the curve the culture change and resources required to deliver social media services effectively can prove a shock, but with local media ever further stretched it is local authorities’ online networks that will become the key communications platforms as we move throughout 2014.


Talking to government? Think policy hub, not department

The new Government Communications Plan might have a foreword from Francis Maude but the hand of Alex Aiken, the new Executive Director of Government Communications, is all over it.

Having heard Alex present on the future of government comms at the recent CIPR Northern Conference, it is no surprise to see his favourite word of the moment – ‘exceptional’ – prominent here.

What this document does reflect is both the repositioning of comms and PR at the heart of the government information machine and the creation of the new communications hubs.

The one side of A4 communication plans summaries for each department (I bet the editing was fun) are also a welcome introduction and a good starting point for anyone looking to engage with a particular department on a comms issue.

More important though as a signpost for the future are the seven communication hubs – Health and Care; Tax and Benefits; Infrastructure, Communities, Environment and Personal Safety; Crime and Justice; Growth and Economy; Public Services and UK Interests Abroad.

Joined-up-thinking is one of those great over-used phrases which often doesn’t mean a lot, but this is a clear recognition from Government that real people think about issues, not departmental lines of responsibility, and is good to see.

For anyone looking to work with Government and add value to their own comms work, it is also an invaluable guide to the key agenda issues as we move forward.