Archive for the ‘entertainment’ category

2011 Reputation – that old ‘roasted’ chestnut


Reputation – that old ‘roasted’ chestnut.  Well, you can’t fail to notice that it is my pet subject and it is also the discipline that I make a living from.  In some ways you’d think from all of the examples and real life experiences that anyone running an organisation or promoting their own profile would have got it right by now but looking back, as I do every year, the reputation low lights are still as prevalent as ever.  When will we ever learn?  Well, maybe that is a question for 2012 and one that I am always willing to debate and discuss.

So, before reading on, just remember reputation is THE factor in determining intellectual capital and that it makes up a whopping 70 to 80% of overall value.  Whether we are talking about personal or organisational reputation then that is an overwhelming figure that means you ought to be taking these examples highlighted here very seriously.

Of course it is difficult to comment on 2011 without regard to the reputation trinity of politics, press and the police.  Politicians have come and gone and none of that is different to any year.  Across the world, political leadership has been awful.  The state of western economies, particularly in the Eurozone is of great concern and is now hurting us all.  In the UK this is the worse time I can remember since the height of Thatcherism in the eighties.  Walking around my home city of Liverpool is a real eye-opener.  Or at least it should be because you have to look closely.

Compare the situation to just three or four years ago and instead of fully occupied offices and retail units you now see numerous for sale and to let signs.  Perhaps more worrying are the number of people sat with pints in pubs at breakfast time.  The betting shops are doing a great trade as is the National Lottery and its new spin off the Health Lottery which managed to launch and establish a positive reputation against a flurry of criticism for only donating 20% to its good cause whilst pocketing 80%.

But they are not alone in terms of some thriving business developments, the Health Lottery is based around the concept of social enterprise and a company structure that is coming in to its own called the Company Interest Company or CiC.  It is my belief that CiCs are the new business model to watch and that whilst charity is not dead (in 2011 charities still continue to hold their reputations and fund raising despite the recession) the lighter regulated and more commercially savvy CiC is the future.  The beauty of a CiC is it allows social need to be met whilst accepting that making money is not necessarily a bad thing – my words.  Of course CiCs can tread a line.  The Salvation Army took a big reputation hit this year turning over £18m through textile trading with a very dubious relationship with a company called Kettering Textiles (check the name of the director who happens to span both organisations and check out K Textiles little earner – £10m – and how little they pay for the textiles per tonne).  Even so, the Sally Army has managed to steer itself through such reputation storms also picking up the BBC Children in Need contract whilst at the same time knocking other charities like the North West Air Ambulance off big supermarket car parks by its commercial approach.  Overall, my prediction is CiCs will be the big story of 2012 as will any aspect of business to do with lifestyle, health and sustainability.

So back to politics.  What a mess.  The coalition has been an unmitigated reputation disaster.  Manifestos are in the bin and Conservatism is in full flow upsetting everyone from students to the rest of Europe.  The economic strategy is off the rails, we have riots on the streets, mass industrial action and the Liberal Democrats imploding.  And yet, David Cameron seems to come out of these disasters stronger and stronger.  It is an incredible result and the opposition seems to get weaker with a leader in Ed Milliband who is being trounced at every point.  Of course, there is a reputation loser and that is Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.  How on earth did a centre left social democratic party think it could work with right wing conservatism – it is beyond me but I am bemused at how well it is playing for the Conservatives and David Cameron.  I still can’t believe the whole plot will not disintegrate and 2012 will be an interesting year.

Meanwhile, as I write this sat on a freezing cold Northern Rail diesel multiple unit that was probably built in 1940 and is clattering up a branch line late I am told that my ticket in 2012 will cost 5% more.  There are a number of businesses that just don’t get it.  The David Lloyd Centres have also announced that due to greater costs they are passing on the costs in higher prices.  Fine, but what all these brands forget – there is a recession and my income and others is not increasing.  Also, their services are not improving. It is a fine line in balancing the marketing 4Ps and they need to be careful.  Northern Rail are generally awful – I take N Rail trains three times a week and the most interesting view of them is working out will I be on a bad train, a very bad train or a very very bad train.  The anticipation at the station platform is great fun!

So who are the big losers this year.  Well let’s skip passed the Police (well if they don’t coral you in), particularly the Met who from kettling to standing back and watching are just an unmitigated disaster.  Their new guy, Bernard Hogan Howe, cut his ‘chief’ teeth in Liverpool and I once sat with him at an Everton match.  Nobody told me who this military type with polished shoes, pressed trousers and impeccably groomed hair was and I decided to sound off about the Police – whoops.  Mind you he took it all well and he is a real PR and digital performer.  There will be few PR or reputation gaffes on his watch or if there are expect them to be dealt with – also expect him to blog and podcast etc.   I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with some bobbies recently for a client.  What a complete bunch of stereotypes they are.  What can I say, they certainly play their parts and they need to get their act together as unfortunately the other two of the trinity, politics and press, will continue to make their lives difficult.

There is little I can add in 2011 about the press reputation except rock bottom and enough said.  The only issue it leaves me with is just how many enquiries, inquiries, inquisitions, reviews do we need.  Every time something goes awry we hold post mortems to the Nth degree.  How about this novel suggestion, why don’t we plan and manage and direct reputation – here comes a plug for my work – well no not really, but the complete lack of investment does worry me and yes I have a ‘for hire’ sign permanently outside my office.  One of the most interesting press reputation issues will be the interaction with the audience.  This week the Lancashire Evening Post announced its intention to suspend comment facilities on its web page and that it is to prosecute a contributor.  The old letters to the editor pages have come a long way and the BBC in particular since moving to Salford, is keen to get down with the people taking everything from Radio 5,s Fighting Talk to BBC One Football Focus into live settings.  It will all end in tears.  Quite honestly, whilst I can stomach a bit of audience participation, the onerous meanderings of chat show phone in groupies is not my choice of viewing and listening.  However, participation is an area of major growth, probably spurred by the Internet accessibility spilling over to other media.  Witness the rise of internet forums, instant messaging (although Blackberry had its service come under reputation flack this summer), phone ins and digital petitions.

Overall business seems to have chartered a fairly calm passage through the sea of reputation although we have lost quite a few brands as the tough climate claims its casualties (Blacks and La Senza being just the latest to cling on).  Interestingly, some businesses actually achieved a unique position of people feeling sorry for them. Those hard hit by the riots gained incredible support.  Brands like Tesco and Starbucks continue to really aim for world or at least high street vs.  out of town/retail park domination. This remains uncomfortable for me as the high street is under threat.  Conversely this has led other traders to fill the gap. 99p Stores is growing fast as a brand as is Home Bargains. For me, the retail brand of the year is Aldi, closely followed by Lidl. Aldi offers a great experience and their prices are exceptional. A brand to watch in 2012.  One of the store assistants in Aldi told me recently they had 50% more people visiting them this year than last.  Of corse four pints of milk in my l;coal Tesco £1.80 and in Aldi £1 – I know who I want to have the 80p difference – me!

So what about organisations that have really made a reputation mess. Well, St Paul’s Cathedral lost the plot when the Occupy camp arrived. A perfect example of an organisation that just did not plan or manage its reputation. I passed by the camp last week and was mildly amused to see that the camp is now sited next to a Blacks Outdoor Store – good planning except that brand is struggling towards a pre-pack and rescue. Travellers and camps took a reputation bashing generally with the disaster at Dale Farm.

But for me, the reputation disaster has to be in the sports sector and in particular football. At the time of writing two high profile international players are embroiled in serious allegations relating to racism, there isn’t a day goes by that doesn’t present another character to the pantomime, whether that be an imature player letting off fireworks or a tempremental prima donna refusing to play and fulfill his contract. The real reputation disaster starts at the top – rules, officials, governance is devoid of any sense of control or balance. So this year I nominate FIFA as the entity with the worse reputation.

Pause for a moment – its not just football. The Rugby Football Union collapsed at the seams as its huge bureaucratic, and if I may observe rather pompous, establishment failed to grasp that professional players had to be just that – professional. London showed how fragile it may prove next year failing to anticipate a late finish at the world ATP tennis finals, the showcase world tennis event already under threat from our archaic tax laws, stranding thousands at a closed tube station. Even Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, got in on the act by holding up play by arriving late to his seat – mind you that was very funny to see the camera on Boris and his bag of popcorn whilst Roger Federer glared at him. And the BBC showcase Sports Personality of the Year unfortunately managed to conjure up a 100% female free event.

So sport is the reputation loser in 2011 – a complete mess of egos, inadequate ownership, overpaid and out of touch practitioners and a gullible following from punters to pundits. FIFA are not the exception, but one wonders who on earth carries out their PR and stakeholder management.

So looking forward, one can only wonder what we will face in 2012. The Olympics is the obvious ‘trip wire,’ sport can be relied on to keep the poor reputation flag flying although I hope it is the opposite and that next year I will be upholding it as THE reputation winner.  The tenuous coalition will no doubt give us a lot to ponder.

From my perspective, convincing organisations and people to plan and manage reputation remains my priority.  It’s a mantra worth chanting.

A tonic for the troops


“…You don’t know what it is but there’s got to be more.  You’d better find a way out, hey kick down that door…”

Lyrics Geldof, Rat Trap by The Boomtown Rats

It was 1976 and as a 13 year old I was fast discovering the important role music played and still does play in my life.  It was an exciting and invigorating period in musical history.  Our economy was in tatters and the ‘iron lady’ was at the height of her Government.  Punk rock was mystical and scary and yet one day in a small record shop I picked up a seven inch single that still to this day is my number one.  The record, Mary of the 4th form by an Irish band, The Boomtown Rats was just raw energy and captured my imagination.

I collected every press cutting, bought every record and attended their concerts.  Thirty-three years on and I was recently looking through their cuttings and one headline stood out.  It described their lead singer as likely to be bigger than Mick Jagger.  Well little did I know that he was going to fulfil that prophecy and also go on to have such a profound impact on our globe through his activism.  Bob Geldof certainly made history and again I was proud to be in Wembley Stadium at the Live Aid gigs but even prouder to meet him six months later at a Boomtown Rats gig.

It doesn’t surprise me that in running my company Bodyproject that  Sir Bob is still the guy I look up to; dishing out the best advice anyone could listen to and that his articulate prose is now being bestowed on us business types.  It is a difficult time for all in business but read these three quotes given by Sir Bob and I am sure you will feel entirely uplifted.

The quotes are taken from a conference hosted by Chris Cardell (

“…Find the idea.  Articulate it, so that everyone working with you agrees to this end object and it cannot be just money – it just can’t be – there has to be some other purpose because you are tired of the bleating of people who become successful…discontent is true of the entrepreneurial lot; so when you go out to make your own jobs, to create your own businesses, to make real intangibles like ideas – you are doing it I suggest for something other than simply cash…It’s the idea that excites you!  It is the realisation itself that you aren’t creatures of another person.  That you are determining your own life and fuck failure – It doesn’t exist.  Not to our mindset…”

Sir Bob Gedolf speaking at Chris Cardell’s Entrepreneurial Summit July 2010

Advertising – times they are a changin’


“…What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself…”

Abraham Lincoln – former US President

Robert Green’s error will no doubt become the domain of advertisers as the inevitable ‘Danny Bakers 101 goal keeping bloopers’ and numerous other World Cup tosh makes its way onto DVDs and books destined for every boy’s Christmas stocking.  But the biggest advertising blooper ‘ever’ was committed by ITV who managed to switch in an advert for Hyundai cars at the very moment England scored their goal.

ITV have apologised blaming a transmission error.  What on earth does that mean?  Of course there was a transmission error as watching choreographed Hyundai cars pretending to play football with a giant ball, at the very moment Steve G scored, was not what the nation had switched to high definition (HD) TV for.

For Bodyproject. as a communications pundit, there are numerous points to discuss following this match.  First of all, how does commercial broadcasting stand up to licensed broadcasts from the BBC.  Second, whilst HD is technically and visually superior, it does have a significant transmission problem and third, the woeful excuse from yet another major corporate entity, intent on ‘spinning’ rather than explaining honestly why it happened and what it is doing to prevent a reoccurrence.

The fact is commercial broadcast remains a pain.  Watching any sport on channels such as Eurosport and Sky Sports is challenging.  Try tennis when the same idents and woefully painful adverts are shown again and again between every set or between every round in say boxing.  It is almost brain washing and, if anything,serves to put you off the product.

The World Cup of course is ‘big bucks’ advertising and the super brands are in town.  But it doesn’t matter how clever Adidas is combining a classic film with cameos from Beckham, Noel Gallagher and Ian Brown; it is still an intrusion when played just before the teams walk out, just after the national anthems and for ITV, in error,  as the key goal is scored.  For me, there needs to be a balance, and at the moment it isn’t being struck, as most comment I am picking up is that people much prefer the BBC for its uninterrupted coverage – which is not great for the brands sinking all this money into promoting their product!

Equally ITV’s HD switch on has all been to coincide with this world showpiece event, so for them last night was as big a disaster as that of Robert Green’s faux-pas.  Their explanation is woeful and to my communication colleagues at the broadcaster I say wake up and hold your hand like Green and apologise properly.  You are not Toyota or BP shying away from reality – face up to it.

HD is suffering teething problems namely in that it cannot regionalise so I sometimes am sat in Liverpool having to watch London’s weather (yes we are still south east centric in the world of TV transmission).  It also shares channel feeds and so watching Rafa Nadal playing at Queens is suddenly interrupted for fifteen minutes to allow BBC2 to join in, credits and punditry an all, leaving me frustrated at losing the match I was enjoying.   At the moment it is all over the place.

I can say that at this time, I and the rest of England, cannot wait for the Algeria match.  Mainly as it may still be at risk from transmission interruption but it will be certainly free of Hyundai interruption.

Cut and Paste Society


“…Perception management – Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations…”

U.S. Department of Defence

I’ve just finished reading a fascinating novel that dealt, in the extreme, with perception management, a distant and dubious relative of public relations.

Perception Management is a form of communication that involves taking a completely false position and presenting it as the truth. In the novel, the fictional Chinese and Russian Governments are brought to the brink of war by the manipulation of a corrupt arms dealer on the basis that such brinkmanship will see both parties placing vast arms orders.

Of course that is fiction but in fact, perception is a highly flexible commodity and communicators need to be highly ethical in the way they seek to influence.

Watching Britain’s Got Talent I am struck by the power of TV editors and how they can influence perception. Watch the credits to see how many people are deployed to undertake this task. The edited sequence shows an eminent judge pronouncing that “this is the most important day of his life, it is make or break for his career” and then the contestant saying “I don’t know what I will do if I lose, it will be the end of the road.” Now forgive me for believing that a ventriloquist act might just survive such an ordeal and whilst the arena tour will be no more, the social club circuit might just still be wiling to pay a few pounds for such an act to see another day.

Maybe comparing the seriously devious military definition of perception management with a talent show is a bit misleading but Bodyproject believes that all communication is about upholding reputation and therefore it has to be explicitly honest, ethical and that modern day editors need to ensure they present output within those absolute values.

Please contact us to learn more about the Bodyproject approach to communications.

A Friend Indeed


…”I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, ‘Would he had blotted a thousand,’ which they thought a malevolent speech…”

Ben Jonson 1630

Last night I went to see King Lear staged at the Liverpool Everyman with the actor Pete Postlethwaite in arguably one of the most challenging roles in the theatre.  The production received a hard time from the critics and was, in truth, a fairly disjointed affair but ended with tumultuous applause and a standing ovation.  It left me thinking about the purpose that underlies criticism and the part critics play in society.  Why would an audience rise in admiration when critics could hardly find anything more than a one or two star rating for the same performance.

One of my roles is to act as a critic but I like to use another phrase which is critical friend.  It is buzz terminology that came into being during the 1970s education reforms but it does aptly describe how I go about my business.  In terms of a definition

A critical friend can be defined as a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend. A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working toward. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work – Costa, A. and Kallick, B.(1993) “Through the Lens of a Critical Friend”. Educational Leadership 51(2) 49-51

Last night I started to wonder what the outcome would be if critics, whether they be panelists on TV shows, writing in newspapers or posting blogs, started to use this definition to underpin their criticism , how much more improvement in performance would there be.

Interestingly, Postlethwaite and the cast had done something remarkable with the criticism they received.  Most actors tend to state they never read the papers but in a recent BBC interview Postlethwaite agreed with some of the points that had been made.  In this case they had used some of that critical comment to make changes to the production.  This is a great example of how criticism, or perhaps we should call it feedback, can be turned positively to make a product or service even better.  This perhaps gives an indication as to why the audience came to their feet last night to recognise the ‘work’ of the cast and the high performance they put in.

King Lear is at the Liverpool Everyman until this evening and then transfers to the Young Vic running from the end of January 2009 to the end of March 2009.

The reality of TV


“…One is a TV star, ‘forced’ to eat bugs to win meals.  the other is a Zimbabwean, forced to eat bugs in order to survive.  We don’t mean to preach, but…sometimes, the injustice of this world just sticks in your throat…”

Front Page Metro Newspaper 18 November 2008

Reality TV is dominating the tabloids, broadsheets and the radio chat shows.  For X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, the issue is the public vote and the tussle between self made experts who are assessing quality (even though their view is subjective and personal) against a public that seems to be assessing everything but quality.  In truth, none of it matters, it is just great light entertainment and ‘fodder’ for us all to debate to get us through the grim grey days of Autumn.     

However, the arrival of our latest annual reality event: I’m a Celebrity get me out of here is posing much more serious questions about our values.  The fact that we are entertained watching so-called celebrities eat grubs whilst elsewhere in the world children are having to do the same to survive is hard to stomach in every sense.
The disaster that is unfolding in parts of Africa is not unusual, but it does challenge our society and its values.  In fact 2008 is fast becoming a real year of reckoning where we are really seeing very transparent challenges about our values.
On Sunday I went to see the latest James Bond movie and was presented with a film with little plot, a poor script but littered with a world of opulence, greed and violence.  But what really struck me was the adverts shown for an inordinately long time before the main picture.  Clearly the account managers with brands aligned to Bond are living in a very different world from me.  The way cars, watches, perfumes and video games were presented was deeply disturbing given the current state of our world.  Sure, cinema is escapism and I enjoyed being out on Sunday but we communicators and in particular advertisers and those producing media such as film, TV and radio need to be very careful to challenge poor values and lead in ensuring we challenge the injustice pointed out by Metro newspaper (see quote above).
Reality TV is playing a dangerous game.  The dubious X Factor editing portraying hopefuls on the basis of feeding their children, commemorating their recently departed or just being little, vulnerable with a sore  throat from Blackburn is beginning to wear thin.  The nasty put downs by the drama queens on Strictly Come Dancing is also wearing thin and provoking a public reaction.  But even with Ant and Dec steering the ship, the way the isolated pampered ones react to their jungle trials may just provide the one that provokes serious debate over values in the coming weeks.
Advertisers and media companies brace yourselves as the reality is times are changing.