Friday, 30 March 2012

Fuelling the flames of negative PR

You would’ve had to have been out of the country this week not to have seen how badly handled PR can affect our daily lives. I am, of course, talking about the threat of fuel strikes which this week has gripped the UK population in a seemingly paranoid frenzy over potential shortages. From a PR perspective it has been interesting to witness the power of messaging going wrong. Government calls to the public not to panic buy, combined with almost contradictory (and at times misguided) advice on how to store reserves of fuel, have resulted in chaos at petrol stations across the country. Even drivers making their scheduled fill-up in the last few days have been met by unprecedented queues of other drivers opportunistically filling up to save themselves from the threat of running dry. Overall it shows how critical the timing of PR can be, making the right noises at the wrong time can cause just as many problems as an ill-advised comment. Had the threatened strikes materialised the advice given may well have been sensible, but sometimes pre-empting problems can actually fan the flames of panic. We always recommend that our clients think through the implications of answering a potential PR crisis – sometimes it can be better to manage an issue reservedly to stop the threat of trouble becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On the flipside of PR, it can also have a tremendously positive effect as reported on the BBC News website this week. A San Francisco-based video games developer is making history by financing its next title using money pledged by its fans and supporters. Using its groundswell of support, Double Fine Productions was able to generate headline-grabbing news which has further fed the campaign to raise funds. As a reward the fans (or perhaps we should say investors) that pledge money get to talk directly to developers, make suggestions and ultimately get a free copy of the game once its completed. It’s interesting to see the relationship that could develop from customers and stakeholders merging into one group and its potential development in the future.

Another big story in the world of technology this week was the news that games retailer Game went into administration on Monday. The Guardian’s Keith Stuart blogged the story and how it could be a sign of wider changes in the consumer technology market (not just games) as highstreet retailers struggle to win a seemingly diminishing market against online retailers and big supermarkets who have the clout to cut costs and offer cheaper products and services. The article also looks at the potentials and pitfalls of selling games via online download, which could transform the market in much the same way that music downloads have all but crushed the physical music format market. What the potential demise of Game demonstrates is that the technology industry is going through some uncertain times and as a whole needs to work harder than ever to get its message across to existing and potential clients. Inevitably Marketing and PR have a greater role than ever in attracting essential sales.

Friday, 23 March 2012

PR on the case!

Photo: EPA
The case study is a staple of the PR and Marketing world, a third-party endorsement that is a valuable asset both for the press and your sales team alike. At MCC International we relish the chance to write a good case study, it not only gives us a good opportunity to speak to real customers about their experiences, but also gives a great refresh on the strengths of the products/services of the company. That’s not to say it is always an easy experience. Getting approval (especially when multiple parties are involved) can be a challenge in itself, but ironically this is part of what has driven up the value of a good case study. Precisely because of their relative rarity, an interesting, relevant, well written case study will have the right press chomping at the bit for an exclusive. If you can get some good quality photography to accompany it, the chances are that a relevant publication will sit up and take notice, especially if it covers a key sector or product that is getting your industry buzzing. It can also be a win-win situation for your client too, a nice bit of free PR that catapults their name into the press too – another excellent excuse to make the most of the goodwill from happy clients.

The biggest story this week was always, inevitably, going to be the UK Budget as it affects all parts of our society. Debate is always fierce on the outcome of a Budget, many people complain about tax rises in luxuries such as cigarettes and alcohol (surely an old Oasis lyric), rises in fuel costs and changes to social security. From a technology point of view, our eye was caught by the announcement of government support for broadband upgrades and tax breaks for the video games industry - which will probably be welcomed whichever side of the political chasm you reside on. However The Telegraph’s Emma Barnett felt IT education was a better route to follow to encourage growth, something which has been echoed throughout the education sector lately. There is no doubting the UK has a huge potential in the IT industry but debate rages as to the best ways to nurture and promote this. Aside from the political debate, did anyone else notice that George Osborne is now using a new red budget box? (replacing the classic battered Gladstone one which has always been a favourite photocall for the press). Perhaps the old one did give the wrong impression about the UK economy, despite the challenges we face!

The Daily Mail ran a story this week claiming that 27% of Americans get their news via a smartphone. To those of us who work in IT circles this probably isn’t a surprise. How many of us use our smartphone as a micro version of our main internet access? And is this in any way a bad thing? The rise and rise of the iPhone and iPad, plus a whole industry of alternative products, have undoubtedly promoted this still further and mean that now we have access to as much news as we want from whichever source (or sources) we choose. A completely different story that also caught our attention this week was covered by the BBC news website. A British woman wants doctors to fit her a cutting-edge bionic hand, the catch being that she would need to have her own hand amputated to do so. An accident has left her own hand virtually paralysed but visually normal. It certainly raised some debate in our office as to the merits of form over function and vice versa, but it is a good reminded that technology always has a human and moral cost – something that is worth bearing in mind with technology PR.
Don’t forget to put your clocks forward one hour this weekend. It means an hour less in bed but equally the benefit of lighter evenings – enjoy!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Easter bunny comes to Southampton Science Park

MCC International is welcoming Easter by hosting an Easter egg hunt around the Southampton Science Park on Thursday 5th April. The MCC team will place vouchers around the park, both inside buildings and outside, for tenants on the park to find. Once you find a voucher come over to MCC International’s office in 2 Venture Road to claim an Easter egg of your choice.

The egg hunt will start from 10am when our MCC bunnies will have hidden all the vouchers and will continue until all the vouchers have been found. We hope you all come and take part.

The vouchers will be placed around Venture Road and Enterprise Road. We won’t make them too hard to find, and we will also be tweeting clues throughout the day to help, so follow us on @MCC_Int and hashtag #MCCegghunt for clues.

Good Luck and Happy Easter!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Advice on Drafting and Issuing Successful Press Releases

Issuing a press release is the tried and tested method of generating noise and trying to get coverage in the media. They will not necessarily generate articles or extensive, in-depth features, but they are useful tools for announcing news and products, simply edited to extract the relevant information to generate news snippets or published in their entirety – which is often the case these days thanks to deadlines, online publications and websites.

The story, as with all media outreach, is the most important thing. Journalists are not mugs and can sniff out marketing waffle a mile off and quickly disregard it. All they want is simple, straightforward facts that will be interesting to their readers. Some companies may not even know that they have something highly interesting to say – it’s worth chatting to all employees to dig out these ideas and bits of news.

A successful press release, which will get beyond editors and journalists’ trigger-happy fingers hovering over the Delete button, needs to have a compelling and attention-grabbing headline. It should also include all the important information in the opening paragraph. You really only have a couple of seconds to interest a stressed, over emailed hack. It’s simply a case of adhering to the ‘who, what, where and when’ philosophy.

A major faux pas, and one of the major bugbears with journalists, is not taking the time to research and understand what the journalist actually writes about and for which publication. Targeting the right people and making sure the news is relevant to the intended journalist is paramount. And definitely make sure that the intended recipient’s name is included. Dear journalist or blogger is a sure-fire way of a release ending up in the Recycle Bin. Failing to understand any of these guidelines can quickly ruin the journalist’s perception of the company and can actually have a negative impact.

Attachments are also another major issue. It is amazing that some companies and agencies deem it suitable to issue press releases in a PDF format. Yes it looks nice and can include design elements but extracting text, as some of you may know, can be a burden. Journalists simply need to cut and paste any information or quotes quickly and easily in order to write a news story or upload it online. Making a journalist’s life as hassle free as possible is the best approach, so simply including the release in the body of an email is the best method. Attachments can quite often be blocked by spam filters and prevented from reaching the intended recipient.

Another element to definitely consider is imagery. Providing access to high-resolution images (300dpi is the resolution that magazines require for print) will also enhance the chances of getting the news covered – especially if it is a product. If images are not provided, editors and designers have to trawl through company websites or photo stock libraries for relevant images - another time-consuming aspect that they could well do without. In respect of the previous comment regarding attachments, images should, ideally, be hosted on a company website or uploaded to a FTP server with the relevant download links provided in the body of the email.

With a strong flow of news stories and interesting, relevant copy, editors and journalists will begin to keep an eye out for future releases, ask for further information and hopefully generate the coverage being sought.

For further information on press releases or for support in writing and issuing a press release please contact us on

Monday, 19 March 2012

MCC International Twitter Clinic

Every Wednesday morning for half an hour, the team here at MCC International will be logging on to Twitter to answer any questions you have about your PR and marketing. Whether you are looking for some general hints and tips, or have specific issue that you would appreciate some free expert advice, hashtag #MCCclinic is the place to be.

We promise to respond to every tweet. However, if your issue is of a confidential nature then please do email (, or give us a call (Tel: 02380 111 977) and we will be ready and eager to help. There are no strings attached. We just want to enlighten businesses to the world of PR.

It is easy to take part! Follow us on @MCC_Int and join every Wednesday between 10:30am and 11am and we will answer all of your questions, just make sure to hashtag #MCCclinic.

Tweet you soon!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Meeting the Press Face-to-Face

What do you imagine when you think of a press briefing? For many business leaders they probably have an uncomfortable image of flashing bulbs, a packed room of gossip-hungry hacks and immense pressure to say the right thing. Images of a tabloid roasting are a common cliché, boosted by celebrity and political scandals and yet the reality can be a completely different, far more agreeable experience if managed properly. At MCC International we take a special kind of pride in setting up beneficial press briefings. If you’re selling an interesting new service or product, or if you have something interesting to comment on your industry sector, a good technology journalist is likely to want to have a friendly and genuinely interested chat about it. Of course you need to be careful, what’s said can’t be un-said – but some of the finest press coverage can come from a good one-to-one meeting with the right journalist (and increasingly through video interviews that many publications are becoming hungry for). Not only does it demonstrate your expertise to your clients (and potential clients) but also shows your competitors that you mean business too. We’ve had a great week of pitching clients to the press, and as the trade show season progresses it becomes an increasingly important weapon in the PR arsenal.

If you want a demonstration of how PR (and digital social networking channels such as Twitter in particular) can have a huge influence on the world of business at all levels, look no further than the case of The Hobbit pub in Southampton, as reported in our local newspaper The Southern Daily Echo. The whole furore over the name of the pub and the corporate licensing ramifications of it went way beyond the city as actors Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellan (who both appear in the upcoming adaptations of The Hobbit – debate in our office wondered how this might affect their situation there!) waded into the mire to defend the establishment against branding scrutiny. It will be interesting to see if the ballooning of this story can bring a peaceful resolution to the situation – if nothing else it has brought the dispute to a much higher level of public awareness and seems to have persuaded the protagonists to engage more directly to find a resolution. It’s amazing the power that 140 characters can unleash through Twitter!

The big technology news this week is the launch of the new Apple iPad – although it seems to be a little coy on its identity. Tech Radar in its review is referring to it as the iPad 3, and yet Apple themselves have avoided this nomenclature simply referring to it as the ‘New iPad’. Since the new model hosts a full 1080p HD screen, some commentators had suggested using the HD moniker – but whatever name you favour, the press reviews, such as Charles Arthur in The Guardian, rate it very highly and consider it a marked, if subtle, improvement on the iPad 2. Realising that even slightly older technology is still popular (look at the sales tiering of the iPhone models for instance), Apple is still selling the iPad 2 at a reduced price, making way for the new model to take on the premium price bracket and appealing to early-adopters. Apple obviously understands that for many businesses the previous model will cater for more modest needs very nicely, especially as its products have burrowed out a very lucrative niche in the business world. Surely this is a key to the success of the product range as a whole - our client, IT Solutions Consultant ramsac has even created an Apple Business Unit to cater for this commercial interest, recognising that the iPad has helped to fuel a big shift in the business IT sector as a whole.