Persuasion PR - News

Your reputation opens or closes doors. Protect it at all costs!

Monday, June 15, 2020

A good reputation takes years to build but just one ill-judged decision to destroy – as the owner of a well known national pub chain proved at the beginning of lockdown


Experience has taught us that, in the face of economic uncertainty, budgets for services such as public relations, marketing, social media, B2B and consumer campaigns are often cut, to help improve cash flow and support a business at the coal face.


It is a difficult decision for any organisation and there is no doubt that many – us included – are reviewing working practices in light of the pandemic, to improve efficiencies and provide added value for our clients.


However, we would urge any company flying solo and trying to manage all aspects from finance to human resources and public relations to consider the following:


- COMMUNICATION: The message needs to be clear.


- AUDIENCE: Who are you targeting?  The message, medium and method will differ, dependent on your audience


- KEYBOARD WARRIOR: If tackling social media criticism, beware a ‘tit for tat’ typing battle over a political / sensitive news topic.  This is particularly true if the opinion you are sharing differs from that of the company you represent  and


- VERBAL DIARRHOEA or WALL OF SILENCE: Both can damage reputation.  From information overload to brand fatigue.  Similarly, ‘no comment’ or not providing any company details can lead to unwanted speculation and potentially ‘false’ news


- DON’T PROMISE WHAT YOU CAN’T DELIVER: In a fast-paced world where trust is hard to come by – promises matter. They’re how people learn whether they can truly believe in you, and your company


- HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY: Similar to the above.  Don’t over egg the pudding.  Know your own and your company’s worth but don’t fabricate services / products if you know that you can’t deliver the standard required to time or budget.  As an SME we understand our strengths but also the areas where we require expert support.  We champion working with like minded businesses through an open and honest culture to ensure clients receive the complete package, delivered by professionals who are experts in their field.


Finally, never be afraid to ask for help; or to run an idea past an ex colleague, friend, an acquaintance you have met through networking who has experience of public relations and reputation management.  After all the best form of reputation management is through word of mouth and the positive recommendations of others.


Paul Dobbie

Cummings or goings?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

That news conference in the garden at Downing Street reminded me of the TV quiz show Call my Bluff (Would I lie to you for younger readers), except there was no big reveal!


So, let’s have a straw poll. Who believes Dominic Cummings and was that hour, gripping viewing that it was, the best way to deal with the situation?


As a former journalist and PR practitioner for the past 46 years I am pretty clear on this. No.


My advice to clients is: “If you are in a hole. Stop digging.” In this case, as far as I can see, they have just been passing the shovel from one person to the next as the hole got deeper.


We provide crisis communications advice and would, in this event, have sat down with Mr Cummings, listened to his explanations and then fired the most difficult questions we could think of at him.


His answers and the way he behaved, body language, eye line, tone of voice etc. would have informed us as to whether giving an interview was in the best interests of reputation.


I cannot believe that the PM and his top PR advisors would not have done the same.


So I can draw only the following conclusions:


- He performed much more credibly in rehearsal

- The questions he was asked in rehearsal were not sufficiently probing

Clearly the event did not close the matter down and one thing is certain. If Mr Cummings thought he was under media scrutiny before, he will be lucky if he can break wind without it being recorded from now on.


My advice, to provide the country with a credible explanation would have been to issue the following statement as soon as the story broke:


“I am very sorry for my actions which, if not technically in breach of the regulations, were against the spirit of the lockdown advice. Under pressure, I made the wrong decision and I deeply regret this.


“I have let down myself, the Prime Minister, the Government and many, many people across the UK who have shown far greater restraint in much more testing circumstances.


“If the PM decides I should leave my post, I will resign. Otherwise I will redouble my efforts to support policy making which will help get the country through this crisis for the sake of all those who have followed the guidance far more diligently than me.”


Is that something we could all believe?



Paul Dobbie

Small change, big impact

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The last nine weeks has demonstrated – if nothing else – how small changes in behaviour, attitudes and methods of working can have significant impact.


With likely more followers than the Kardashian collective, Captain Sir Tom Moore captivated a country, with his gesture of walking a 100 laps of his garden by his 100th birthday raising more than £32 million for NHS charities – an achievement beyond his and his family’s wildest dreams.


Similarly, small acts of kindness up and down the country are having a huge effect on the communities in which we live and work. From headteachers delivering meals to students in need, to local singers, including Joe McElderry, performing outside hospital trusts to boost morale – and the thousands volunteering to support the elderly and those isolating – keeping the channels of communication open.


No doubt within your business, personal and family life, you too will have made changes in your day to day living. Some of these may be from necessity, some by choice to help you, your organisation, colleagues, friends and loved ones navigate through these challenging times.


Perhaps moving forward this emphasis on subtle modifications making a dramatic difference is positive. We already know some friends and business suppliers who are considering giving up their offices permanently to work from home – benefiting from no commute to the office and more family friendly working hours. Likewise many clients and larger organisations are reviewing the necessity for employees to be office based and using technology to conduct meetings, improving efficiencies and cost.


There is no question that the impact of Coronavirus will be felt for many months, if not years to come, especially for those who have lost loved ones and the incredible healthcare professionals and key workers around the world who have witnessed its cruelty first hand. Families fractured, a healthcare system hounded and an economy on edge.


However, I think if we all start small, take the first tentative steps into this ‘new’ normal we can support each other as businesses, colleagues and friends to come out of the other side. I have been staggered by the news reports detailing the lengths people would go, to have a takeaway from McDonald’s or their coffee fix from Costa or Starbucks, now that the ‘drive throughs’ are open. I know as Britons we have a reputation for our ability to queue, more so for tickets to see a world class band or sporting events – but for a coffee, surely this is a sign of how behaviour is changing.


I would appeal to many of those making that trip to consider their small local cafe, that has been delivering meals to those isolating / vulnerable during the pandemic. Perhaps miss one of your big brand cuppas a month to buy local, supporting a small business that has given to your community.


This ties in nicely with the #BeKind strapline which has been adopted by the media – make a small change, like occasionally buying produce, a service locally – and that change could have a much bigger impact for the business, its people and the local economy.


As a small business, we pride ourselves on exceptional service and the ability to adapt quickly to meet clients’ needs. This pandemic has pushed all businesses to review how they operate, highlighting areas for improvement and in some cases innovations which are supporting businesses’ survival.


We encourage all organisations to make those small changes – whether it be adapting working hours to support staff with childcare, paying suppliers immediately on receipt of products/services to support cashflow or joining likeminded organisations to identify opportunities for development or new methods of working.


Key to all of this is communication. I am sure many will agree, we have all been given the one thing we used to complain we didn’t have enough of – time! Use this wisely to check in on your clients, suppliers, business contacts, friends and family – these small conversations could become meaningful to many.


Paul Dobbie

Communication works for those who work at it!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Regrettably, during these strange times, my father passed away. It was not COVID-19 related. He was 92 and had made it clear many times in recent years that he had enjoyed a fulfilled life and was ready to go when the time came. All he hoped was that he was in his own home and that it was quick. He had his wish on both counts but there was just enough time for me to set aside social distancing rules and be with him at the end.


So, over the past couple of weeks, as an executor of his will, I have been dealing with a whole raft of organisations that need to know. Obviously, many of these people are working from home and as a communicator by profession it really brought home to me how important communication between people and departments within these organisations is, in these circumstances.

I have been impressed with the response and service I have had from most. In fact, being able to do things over the telephone and online probably made the process much less demanding than it was when my mother passed away a couple of years ago.


Unfortunately there is one organisation that has proved absolutely exasperating. I won’t give the name but it’s a bank with a bright blue eagle logo. Frankly I can hardly recall an organisation getting in such a flap over what should be a straightforward process. Let me explain.


- On April 27th I telephoned to report my Dad’s passing and ask what to do. I was told a ‘closure form’ would be sent to me in the post


- On May 5th I called again because the form had not arrived. I was told that it had not been sent and offered an apology. I asked if it could be done online but was told that it could not


- On May 11th, as there was still no form, I called again. This time I discovered that somehow the bank did not know of my Mam’s passing – even though her estate went through the official probate process. As a result, all Dad’s assets were, according to their records, now Mam’s. I was told I would now also have to officially inform them of her death and so, I asked for another form to be sent. To my surprise and annoyance I was told that it could all be done online


- On May 12th I downloaded, printed, completed, scanned and returned both ‘closure forms’ with copies of the death certificates and proof of ID


- On May 14th, the day of Dad’s funeral, I received a letter of condolence for Mam’s passing and a ‘closure form’. Nothing has arrived for Dad


- As I write this (May 15th) I am spending another hour of my time listening to the hold music on the bereavement help line to try and establish exactly what is going on and whether I do or do not have to return these forms by post


- Meanwhile, eighteen of the other 19 organisations I am dealing with has responded promptly and either completed or is completing whatever needs to be done


- There is one other that is proving a little tricky. It’s a credit card division of the bank with the eagle logo. Bird brains!

However, overall I am very impressed with how homeworking and technology has allowed us to do what would not have been possible a few years ago.


I have no doubt, as per an earlier blog, it will become the new normal for most of us for at least some of the time.


Paul Dobbie

Staying in…business

Friday, April 24, 2020

Here we are, five weeks into lockdown and beginning to realise that things will not return to normal any time soon.


For all of us in business, our attentions are turning to pondering what will be the new normal? Whatever it is, it will surely include a far greater application of communications technology to do business.


Having successfully used such media to conduct business from Europe for several weeks at a stretch, I often wondered why people ‘marvelled’ at what could be done online and digitally, but still jumped into cars or boarded planes and trains to spend a full day – or more – to attend a two hour meeting. And, if we’re honest, a meeting which could easily have been conducted via videolink.


Perhaps the draw of shopping in the West End, taking in a match at Old Trafford or a night in a nice hotel are contributory factors in the way we used to work?


Now, through necessity, we have been doing business differently; harnessing all of the benefits technology offers. And we’re saving money in the process. For some, big businesses, lots of money.


When we know the final cost of all this and the survivors start to consider how to claw back some of the losses, I expect travel and stays away will be among the low hanging fruit. Hard luck for businesses in these sectors but I suspect the penny has dropped in many board rooms.


It will also be interesting to see what affect all this home working has had on productivity. Might it be that we can continue to do so for much of the week, saving time, money and helping to protect the environment by reducing travel. Will we need such large offices? Could businesses operate with staff attending on a rota basis. I am sure all these things will be considered.


So, when we reach the new normal, having stayed in for weeks on end, will we find that staying in business means………yes, you’ve guessed it……….staying in!


Paul Dobbie