Tags: recycling, waste management, journalists, export, Daily Mail
Printed in Secondary Commodities May 2013 issue
No-one expects The Daily Mail to publish positive recycling stories, but few will have anticipated the half-baked front page exposé that they unleashed last month, branding the UK’s municipal recycling programmes a sham.
I suspect that many within the sector have become anesthetised to the ignorance and disinterest displayed by a large proportion of our national media. With a few exceptions, most journalists only want to write about bin angst, collection woes, health scares, export scandals and the overall futility of the entire process. If they write about it at all.
Of course, from the inside we know that not everything in our industry is perfect. As with any sector (journalism included), there are some who ignore legislation and work to the lowest common denominator. We also know that quality continues to be an issue.
But to suggest that 12 million tons of household recycling is being collected by contractors who want only to make a fast buck on collections and who are happy to ship it to foreign landfill sites is plainly ridiculous.
I’m not going to de-bunk the figures (Peter Jones’s blog from 12th April does that, http://www.isonomia.co.uk), nor am I going to refute its claims (I’m sure we’ve all done that for ourselves). Instead I’d like to propose a means of collectively counteracting this damaging and uninformed misinformation.
Finding a strategy that encourages the British public to trust that their recycling is worthwhile is essential for the improvement of input quality. Because it’s those that either don’t believe or who can’t be bothered to engage who are contaminating loads delivered to MRFs, reprocessors and, dare I say, exporters across the country.
Of course, the Mail fuels the scepticism of these nay-sayers. That is to be expected. More worrying is the impact that it might have on previously committed recyclers who could turn away from the process, resulting in a worsening of quality.
So what should we do?
As an industry we must decide who is responsible for managing the overarching reputation of Recycling UK. There are many individual voices, opinions and experts at a trade level, but who is our industry figurehead challenging untruths levied nationally?
Both the CIWM and WRAP have the gravitas, but are they known beyond the boundaries of industry debate? If I were to talk to my non-industry friends and family about the CIWM or WRAP I don’t think they’d know who or what I was talking about. I’d like to see our sector bodies assuming a stance like that taken by the insurance industry’s Association of British Insurers who counteract misinformation and promote professionalism and advancement.
With a driving force behind the industry, the strategy must address the development and delivery of key messages, through traditional and social media channels, through a co-ordinated partnership approach with local authorities and directly with householders.
When it comes to media relations, there’s little we can do to change the Mail’s stance, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t try. Journalists can only use the information they’re given – and if we don’t give them information or answers, they’ll go to those who will supply them.
Our strategy must be to keep in their collective ears, telling them about our successes in a way that resonates with their readers in the hope that some will be regurgitated. This will give us a bank of good news credits to counteract the inevitable bad ones that will come in our direction.
When working as a journalist, I know that even if I didn’t always use the good news, the residual knowledge remained with me, making me question the validity of future allegations. Companies who kept their good news to themselves did not have the same benefit.
The strategy should also encompass a national programme for direct householder communication, delivered in partnership with local authorities. In an age when much interaction is online, research shows that improved trust and engagement is delivered on a one to one personal level. Rather than publish dry newsletters or hide recycling facts and figures on a website, Recycling UK should work with local authorities within communities to make householders aware of exactly what happens to their recycling and the importance of their actions.
Those who are willing should be encouraged to visit good local examples of reprocessors, MRFs and renewable energy plants, to see what happens to their recycled materials and to recognise the real challenges that everyone, as waste producers and managers, face.
Combined, this should go some way to counteract the damage caused by those who are simply seeking a front page scoop.
Tags: Angry Birds, apps, content, technology, web design
The latest technologies may cause one to stand in awe, reviewing the brilliance of the scientific advances with no more comment than ‘that’s really cool’, compelled to view it further, with no real sense of use coming to mind.
One of the most recent additions to the technological hall of fame is the app. Apps are great. They can be accessed by anybody with a smartphone, they can even be chargeable – BUT – are all apps necessary? Apps should deliver something. An app should provide an experience that you shouldn’t be able to find elsewhere, it should be viewed as a product or service. If you find yourself struggling to shoehorn content in to an app, it is obviously not the right platform for your delivery. Luckily, there is another option available.
Web design has come a long way since its beginnings in the early 80s. The addition of smartphones has presented the world’s web builders with a new challenge. Responsive web design has been around for a while but sometimes loses out to the ‘glamour’ of an app. So what is responsive web design? In a word, it is ‘accessible’. A responsive site will re-model itself for the media it is being viewed on. Typically, this would include a tablet, a smartphone and a computer screen.
If the problem with your app is a lack of worthwhile content, why not look at a responsive site instead? The number-one goal for your digital communication is successful user experience and interaction. A non-interesting or poorly laid out app will not last long on the user’s device; Angry Birds however, will be there forever (unless the advertising becomes too extreme!).
Think carefully about what you are trying to say and choose the right platform for your messaging.
Tags: economy, financial year, marketing, PR
The weather may not herald the start of Spring, but with Easter behind us and the start of the new financial year now is the time for new beginnings and to review your current operations.
With 2013/14 in its infancy, there is never a better time to confirm that your business is on track or see whether the course needs to be realigned. The vast majority of people that I talk to agree that the last few years have seen difficult trading conditions. But, although tentative (and at times contradictory) there does seem to be the occasional drip of positive economic news coming through, that should at least bring forth a little bit of optimism. The companies that will ride the wave of the economic upturn are those that are prepared and ready to accelerate their marketing and promotions when the conditions allow.
So, Spring is about new beginnings, and now is the best time to dust off your marketing plan to make sure it’s still fit for purpose and ready to carry you through as trading conditions improve – or alternatively ask Quantum to give an expert appraisal of your plans.
Tags: Boden, copywriting, customer service, good copy, Royal Opera House, web design
“Do you know the Butterfields?”
Hyacinth Bucket certainly did, and fans of ‘Keeping up Appearances’ will know that this was her way of making sure her friends were well aware that she knew them too.
Few people would go to the lengths that Hyacinth did to prove their worth, but many companies have taken a leaf from her book when creating their corporate image; namedropping their past client list and business connections online.
Normally this might mean the inclusion of a list of awards the company has earned or their customers’ logos proudly displayed on the website. However, a few companies have
taken this approach a step further with customer registration forms such as the one below:
In addition to the standard entries of ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’ and ‘Ms’, clothing retailer Boden has chosen to include titles such as ‘Sir’ and ‘Marquess’. It has even made itself accessible to potential customers with the rank of ‘Wing Commander’, should there be many who could be tempted to order items from Boden’s collection of floral prints and knitwear.
A more extreme version of the stunt was pulled by the Royal Opera House in 2011 which offered customers who registered on its website the option of being addressed by titles which included ‘HRH The’, ‘President’ and ‘The Venerable’.
Few businesses could get away with positioning themselves through a drop-down menu of this calibre, but the copy suits these companies. It gave them great PR which fitted their ‘upper crust’ image, provides a quiet form of royal approval and highlights attention to detail by giving consideration to a crucial but often neglected element of a website: all adding up to the perception of exceptional customer service.
So while not everyone should consider becoming a Hyacinth Bucket, many firms would benefit from asking themselves:
- What does your web copy say about you?
- What does it say about where you’re going?
- Are you ‘keeping up appearances’ online, even in the smallest, more banal detail on your website?
Quantum PR is a full-service PR and marketing agency based in Ashford, Kent. Our web designers work seamlessly with our copywriters to ensure that our clients’ websites fully reflect their corporate image. For more information on what we do for our customers, call us on 01233 500200 or email email@example.com.
Tags: communication, copywriting, emails, etiquette, good copy, PR
(Rant alert value: high)
As a deadline-driven yet perfection-seeking writer, I can sometimes be contradicted when it comes to quality of copy.
For starters, I understand that there are times when speed of delivery conspires against naval-gazing prose perfection. (I don’t afford the same latitude to proof reading.)
And then there’s the question of subjectivity. As any arts student will attest, once you go beyond the mistaken and the misguided, perfection is in the eyes and ears of the reader or listener.
Great communication, whether written or spoken, however, can be spoilt in an instant by thoughtless clichés and platitudes. The latest and most prolific of these “spoilers” appears to be the benign phrase or question that is found at the start of almost every email: “I hope you’re well”.
I often wonder whether all (or any) of these people are concerned about my health, or do they find it difficult to launch into an email without an inconsequential platitude? What would happen if I replied telling them that I’d been suffering from flu and had broken my toe (or worse) but would, despite this, ensure that I met the deadline? Doubtless, they wouldn’t really want to know the former but would remain mighty concerned by the latter. Which is 100% fine. It’s a business email, nothing more, nothing less.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, a notable morning DJ (I’m not going to say who) recently opened his show with the very same phrase. Now I’m sure he does hope his listeners are well, but doubtless some of them were not. Some were probably downright dreadful. How did they feel? And did this really add anything to the broadcast other than to make me cringe?
There are three reasons for this blog (rant):
• The first is a plea for sincerity; ask me about my health if you really want to know the answer. If not, please feel free to plunge directly into the business of the day.
• My second is that people scan emails quickly for actions and points of note, normally giving them between three and five seconds’ attention; why waste one valuable second on a meaningless platitude?
• Finally, using this phrase at the start of an email is just plain lazy. If you want to engage your reader then do so in a personal way, referring back to a previous meeting or perhaps some shared understanding to show that you really do remember and care.
If you’ve got to the end of this ranty blog, thank you. I’d love to hear the phrases that drive you to distraction. Here’s another one to get you started:
“Please feel free to (insert action)” – does anyone else find that patronising? I edit it out of copy all too frequently.
Adrienne Robins is PR Director at Quantum Public Relations. Previously a journalist, despite many years of being a warm, friendly, approachable PR person she still retains the stroppy journalist gene which requires her to strive for copy perfection. You can call Adrienne to discuss copy woes on 01233 500200 – but please remember, this is an art form! One person’s great copy can be another’s drivel!
Tags: graduate, interns, internship, media relations, PR
Quantum PR is on the hunt for a graduate with get-up-and-go to join the busy PR team for a three month internship. This is an exciting opportunity for someone looking to take their first steps on the PR career ladder.
From us you will receive experience, guidance and each day will be a learning curve where you’ll get a chance to take on different challenges. From you we’ll expect someone with a keen and genuine interest in PR and marketing along with a few other key skills:
- Communication – both written and verbal. This is vital for a role in PR and you need to be a good listener, too – you’ll pick up on lots by keeping your ears open!
- Working under pressure – we often work to tight deadlines so our intern will be organised, level-headed, have the ability to multi-task and be on hand to help different members of the team to get the job done.
- Confidence – you’ll be turning your hand to many different tasks during the internship. This applies to media sell-ins to journalists to presenting yourself within the team you are working with – confidence is a must.
- Perseverance and motivation – we’re looking for someone with energy who’s a good problem solver, too. Sometimes PR can be tough, so you need to be able to show that you can find solutions.
These (and a great attitude) are just a few of the key skills PR employers will be looking for from potential interns.
If you fit the bill then we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch by sending your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org and a note as to why you think you’d be a great fit for the agency. Interns will be paid the minimum wage.
The power of brand colours: Cadbury’s High Court victory secures exclusive rights to Pantone 2685c purple. In the search for consistency, has Cadbury taken a step too far? By Yaiza GardnerFebruary 26, 2013 at 10:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: Asda, branding, Cadbury, graphic design, Nestlé, Pantone
After a four year court battle between Cadbury and Nestlé, Cadbury now owns the rights to the purple Pantone colour 2685C and has the exclusive rights to use it on chocolate bars and drinks. At Quantum, 2685C is our brand colour, but if we wanted to brand a Quantum chocolate bar or drink in that colour we wouldn’t be allowed. The brand police would be out in force!
Having used the colour for more than 90 years, is Cadbury right to claim ownership? Or should the Pantone colour spectrum be free for all designers to play with, allowing them to apply it to any format? Will Asda follow suit with their green?? Or Virgin with their red?
This illustrates the importance of colour choice in design, and how it can influence your marketing campaign and the world we live in.
Colour is an essential part of how we experience the world (and marketing messages). For example, in the main a large expanse of blue sky evokes calm, so sky blue is considered calming while darker shades are considered intellectual. Green works well with environmental references and pink evokes femininity.
As designers, much time is allocated to finding just the right colour for your brand in order to make the appropriate connection with the consumer. What emotion do we associate with our company? Or which would we like to portray? Colour becomes part of the graphic language of a brand and therefore becomes a key influencer.
Regarding Cadbury, its colour ownership battle has simply highlighted the power of the graphic language of a brand which we as designers shape, refine and deliver to the masses in the form of a campaign, identity or product.
Next time you look at a company, look at the use of colour in their brand…it all has meaning and therefore has power.
Tags: creative content, garden, journalists, marketing, Valentine's Day
After several years’ managing retail PR and marketing campaigns, I guess my approach to hearts, flowers and all things cupid could be a little jaded. It’s the same at Christmas, Easter, Mothers’ Day … finding the right elf for the job is fun the first, second and third time around, but do it year in, year out and elves become somewhat annoying.
But this year, a cheap as chips, just for fun Valentine’s PR promotion has helped one of our clients to win their first industry award, engage with key media and highlight brand awareness amongst trade influencers, proving that, with a creative approach, Valentine’s Day is still very much a marketing opportunity.
The key has to be in developing creative content that talks to your audience – and gets them talking back to you. Simply issuing a survey-style press release listing the top ten romantic films, as one company did, doesn’t cut it. It’s not newsworthy and it’s been done many times before.
As PR and marketing professionals it’s up to us to come up with something that works across today’s multi-platform media. Similarly, it’s essential that we deliver real client ROI.
So, what exactly did we do to win the Garden Media Event’s Valentine’s Day award yesterday? Quite simply, we developed a Valentine’s messaging service for exhibition attendees. If, by chance, they arrived at the event only to realise that they’d forgotten to send a love note to their nearest and dearest – then we’d do it for them, with the added bonus of sending a special gift too.
The objectives of this mini campaign were many:
- We didn’t want to overshadow our main objective of promoting our new greenhouse
- We didn’t want a schmaltzy hearts and flowers display
- We wanted an effective ice breaker
- We wanted a reason to email journalists again, so providing a further chance to see our brand
For us, the success rate wasn’t in the number of messages sent – it was in the opportunity to engage with those walking past our stand. Our nicely designed poster, strategically positioned at the front of the stand, proved a great ice-breaker. And it wasn’t difficult to turn conversations to the product. That poster certainly hooked up to 50% of the passers-by to come on to the stand and discuss our offer. Of course, as with any face-to-face event, the success was driven by the enthusiasm of the people manning the stand. But that’s a blog for another day!
So exactly how much did this promotion cost? Two hours to develop the mechanism, another two hours for the poster design, £20 for the poster print and then a little to manage the messaging service and post.
And what did it deliver? Around 30 discussions with key gardening journalists – we’ll be monitoring the resulting cuttings, tone and future opportunities in the months to come and also linking these to key season sales. The award will also be featured in the trade media – and has been tweeted and promoted on Facebook.
In summary, Valentine’s Day does represent an opportunity, but only with a creative and engaging approach. Being creative doesn’t require a big budget, but it does need a couple of hours of freeform thinking time. You also need to have clear objectives to ensure that you stay focused.
In need of creative inspiration? Email me at Adrienne@quantumpr.co.uk and we’ll help you unlock your inner marketing muse!
Putting a dampener on ‘Great’ Britain: why negative advertising should be used with caution By Rebecca MorganFebruary 7, 2013 at 10:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: audience, campaign planning, Channel 4, communications, government, Guardian, negative advertising, stakeholders
Last week, an anonymous government minister was quoted as saying the government is considering a negative advertising campaign to coincide with the expiration of existing EU immigration restrictions. Aimed at potential Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants, the campaign would “correct the impression that the streets here are paved with gold” by highlighting a struggling jobs market and disagreeable weather.
Although the campaign has not yet been given the go-ahead, it has already struck a bad chord with its intended Bulgarian and Romanian audience, ruffling political feathers and sparking demonstrations.
It has made waves on British shores too. Here, the proposed scheme caught the attention of both Channel 4 and the Guardian which both requested that their readers and viewers send in their own versions of the campaign.
A flurry of homemade ads followed which suggested that Britain’s streets are lined with flytipped rubbish, inebriated party-going youth and the discarded product of Britain’s troublesome press— sentiments that ministers may not have wished to encourage from a domestic audience. In an age of 24/7 digital media, the government should be aware that it can no longer have firm control over which audiences receive its messages.
Had it given greater consideration of the effects to their campaign, ministers would never have to experience their campaign backfiring at such an early stage. Proper communications campaign planning takes account of all stakeholders that may receive messages— intended or otherwise.