by Sue Skeats, 21 December 2009

OMG. Have retailers gone mad?

Post-Copenhagen, have they lost any sense of environmental urgency? Why then over this sub-zero weekend, did virtually every shop in Guildford have its doors wide open? With heaters merrily pumping hot air out into the street. And all the staff inside blue with cold.

Do they imagine we'll think they're shut if their doors are closed - and that we don't have the wit or bravado to push them open?

Thumbs up to Kew, the only retailer we saw with a closed-door/keep-the-heat-in policy. Just a shame they needed a hand-written notice on the door to tell people why. Wonder if they're working it as a PR positive.

Patio heaters, the main-in-the-street equivalent, are now deemed socially unacceptable, but that kind of individual responsibility apparently doesn't work for retailers. But if all shops had to keep their doors shut, they'd save on heating, but more importantly they wouldn't waste resources. We'll stick it down on our political wish list for next year.

All the great corporate social responsibility campaigns in the world are a bit meaningless when such profligacy is widespread. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Health & Safety Nightmare before Christmas

posted by Sue Skeats, 17 December 2009

Hope everyone's being mindful of this sage advice...


The Rocking Song
Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you:

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative.
Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Jingle Bells
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched
While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The Union of Shepherds has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via CCTV cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts.
Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his/her glory all around she/he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
You would even say it glows.

You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr R Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

Little Donkey
Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled 'little and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.

We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'cash for gold' etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipient’s name or perhaps give a gift voucher.
We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC Routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camel’s hooves.

Away in a Manger No Crib for a Bed
Apply to Social Services????

Christmas believability fun!

posted by Sue Skeats, 9 December 2009

Ho ho ho... would you believe it - Prof. Richard Wiseman's Top 10 Christmas science stunts:

Not quite best job in the world?

By Sue Skeats, 2 December 2009

Okay, news today is that Skype is sending some bloke off to the most remote phone box in the world to raise awareness of its cheap proposition.
Auditions were held (à la ‘Best Job in the World’) for a guy to hang around said booth for 10 days. Turns out to be in Spain though. Doesn’t sound very remote to us.
Seeing as we like to talk about ‘believability’ at The View, we question this. It was, after all, inspired by The Mojave Desert Phone Box, the loneliest public phone in the world to which all sorts of randoms trek, or call it on the off-chance that someone answers.
Apparently it’s the first global live-streaming campaign for Skype followed by a nail-biting, white-knuckle ride ‘highlights’ film. Nice music though. Catch up on the action HERE


Account planning as a distinct function started in advertising agencies about 40 years ago. Over the years it has come to be seen as made-up of certain skills and key functions, the three core planning activities being: research and the generation of consumer and brand insights, writing creative briefs that exhibit a deep brand understanding - and evaluation of the effectiveness of any work.

In recent years planning has been increasingly adopted by PR agencies as an additional service and as a point of differentiation. They have looked at planning core functions and sought to graft them onto their previous offer. This allows an agency to claim it offers strategy, insight and results-driven work.

But any self-respecting PR agencies, whether purporting to offer planning or not, would always claim to offer advice that is strategic, based on some thinking and produce work that is cost-effective and results-driven. This, among other reasons, probably explains why despite much chatter about PR planning, it is yet to make substantial inroads into agencies. Many agencies when confronted by the checklist of planning craft skills would claim ‘well we do that anyway’. So what’s happening?

What’s happening is that although some of the functions of planning are being adopted, its core purpose is being ignored and not integrated into the way PR agencies work. This is an enormous shame because other changes in the world of communications make planning ever more important for the generation of successful PR campaigns.

The simplest but still most powerful definition of the purpose of planning is to act as ‘the voice of the consumer’ within all the meetings, presentations and thinking sessions that produce campaigns. When it comes to debating the message, the messenger and the likely results, the planner’s role is to keep everyone focused on the question of ‘what’s in it for the consumer?’ Why should consumers believe the message, like or engage with the messenger, or act/think in the intended way afterwards? The core focus of planning is the consumer. [For ‘consumer’ also read publics: be it trade or corporate, or any other stakeholders one wishes to influence]

The craft skills of consumer understanding and research, developing appropriate strategies, and evaluation and measurement all arise out this focus on representing the interests, views and needs of the clients’ target audiences.

There’s a problem with current attempts to adopt planning within PR agencies. You might have the functions, but without this core purpose being fully understood and embraced it’s a bit like having a car but without its engine. The car looks great but doesn’t really take you anywhere.

Given the changes in the communications world, this is increasingly a massive missed opportunity for PR.

Historically PR agencies worked largely through media relations. The audiences were primarily journalists. In the case of many FMCG brands, retailers, telecoms companies and the like, this is no longer the case. PR now embraces a host of promotional, experiential and of course digital communications routes. And this means that PR increasingly talks directly to consumers rather than through journalists. It is also true to say that editorial staff are increasingly closer to their readership or viewers and are loathe to respond to PR prompts that exhibit no insights into their consumers.

Given all this, it is increasingly beholden on PR agencies seeking to produce outstanding, award-winning and cost-effective work to have genuine and deep people understanding. And the truth is that many don’t because they might make the claims of being strategic, but they haven’t really got what having a planning culture means to an agency - and how it changes its focus.

Firstly and most fundamentally the explosion in digital media opportunities for PR agencies requires them to fully understand the needs, motivations and behaviour of consumers. A random brainstorm under the heading of ‘what are 35-44 year old Scottish women into’, conducted by a bunch of 25-30 year old, London-centric media types is not the most rigorous means of gaining consumer understanding.

Likewise just because we have different means of talking to consumers nowadays doesn’t mean de facto everything new is right. This is merely innovation of doing and consumer planning is much more concerned with innovation of thinking. The key element to get right is the message – to say something relevant and interesting about you and your brand.

Thirdly, when you are totally focused on the consumer, measures of effectiveness are not add-ons but become a natural part of the entire process. In generating a consumer-driven PR campaign you are required to spell out exactly how you believe the campaign will work. In this context ‘work’ does not mean an airy-fairy mumble about changing perceptions. It is a clear description of how the campaign you are proposing will impact on consumer thinking and behaviour in order to deliver the commercial client objectives.

The great benefit of planning and having the consumer at the heart of the PR process is that it tends to bring a good deal of clarity and simplicity to the whole process. Consumers tend to talk English rather than marketing-speak. Planning is sometimes deemed to make things complicated by adding another voice. If this is the case then the problem isn’t planning, it’s the planner. Planning, using its understanding of the consumer, should always help by simplifying marketing communications problems and inspire award-winning, effective work.

The growing relationship therefore between PR and planning should help agencies retool for the demands of a far more consumer-centric age. This means thinking again about how we think PR ‘works’. The classic definition of how public relations works is that it is, according to the PRCA, …

“all about reputation. It's the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you. It is used to gain trust and understanding between an organisation and its various publics - whether that's employees, customers, investors, the local community - or all of those stakeholder groups.”

This still holds true but it defines the end-result of PR not how it actually works. A car works by taking you from A to B but it actually works by the engine combusting fuel, to drive motors, which spin wheels, which propel the vehicle.

The purpose of PR might remain the same, but the way it works is changing and planning will increasingly be needed to ensure that the engine of PR works brilliantly. See it in action at The View.

By Andrew Serednyj, 3 December 2009