Why your business shouldn’t be scared at Hallowe’en

Paul yellowBy Paul

As a kid, I remember Hallowe’en involving a washing up bowl filled with water, half a dozen apples and a turnip.


Sometimes it also involved your mum covering you in a bin bag, streaks of toilet roll, and lipstick smeared down your face and then you would be sent into the world to beg for sweets at the home of strangers – after they told you every other day not to take sweets from strangers.


The turnip was used like a pumpkin is now – you carved it into a scary face (which took ages as turnips are quite hard) and put a candle in it.


And the apples, you put them into the water, hurled your face into it and tried to catch an apple in your mouth, while trying to stay alive. I’ve never thought about why you did this, until I looked it up.



Apple-bobbing, or duck-apple as it is known in the north, came about as a way to predict which young person would be next to marry. The first person who caught an apple would be next, and if it was a girl, if she put it under her pillow then she would dream of her future husband.


Not sure it worked, but when you think about it, getting 7- and 8-year olds to predict who will be next to marry is pretty weird!


Anyway, yesterday I was in Liverpool and there was an absolutely huge queue outside a fancy dress shop of people waiting to collect costumes.


And if you go into any supermarket right now, Hallowe’en themed produce is everywhere from sweets, cakes and crisps to cheese and onion pasties (well maybe not the last one).


But there is a lesson here. Hallowe’en never used to be a big deal until it gradually became one, as confectionary manufacturers in particular saw an opportunity to sell more stuff prior to the Christmas run-up. Collectively, they reinforced the message that we should all be celebrating Hallowe’en more, and we all are – hence the queues outside the fancy dress shop.


Is your business taking advantage of all of the opportunities that come its way like those that have captured Hallowe’en? And are you then reinforcing the message about those opportunities?


At Hanicke Robins Sanderson, we can help you develop that strategic message, the one that tells potential and existing customers why they are benefitting from your business and then reinforcing the communications to ensure they remember.


And if you want to arrange a Hallowe’en themed corporate event for 2016, we can do that too!


Don’t be scared, and get in touch with us.


Adrienne yellowBy Adrienne.


Paul’s 90s blog got me thinking. Not about the 90s, but about the 80s.


Yes, Paul, the 90s was the decade of the internet and the mobile. But the 80s was when it all started to change. In the 80s we used typewriters and printed things off in triplicate. As journalists, we spent days at the typographers – and then more days at the printers. We used pica em rules – anyone else remember them?


And then, all of a sudden we got word processors. They weren’t linked to anything (sometimes not even the office printer). They had a nasty green screen and a floppy disk drive. And they were a bit temperamental.


The first time I used a word processor (outside of college) was when I switched from journalism to PR. Overnight I changed from copy editor to media relations expert, and shifted up a technological gear. All good – expect that very first day the mean green machine ate my words leaving me with nothing to show but a blank screen. That’s progress for you.

1980s office scene
This is how people worked in the 1980s apparently


Those golden, heady days of 80s PR agencies are now much lampooned. Agencies have changed; there’s less eating and drinking (much, much less) and more creativity and professionalism. Digital has indeed been part of this change, and continues to be so.


But there’s one thing that digital didn’t improve – and that was in person communication. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t wind the clock back and be without email, internet, apps and social media. But I also believe that we’re more creative and productive when we pick up a phone rather than hide behind email. Or spend time physically (or virtually) in the same room focusing on the same goal.


For me, the 90s is when we started to ignore people in favour of technology. Only now, two decades later, are we learning to combine both skills and beginning to re-prioritise in person relationship building. Because, all things considered, when you meet someone you build a deeper connection and a more enduring memory that is more likely to result in action.


And the new breed of Millennial Marketeers know this. So expect to get more invites. Enjoy!



How old is too old?

Adrienne yellowBy Adrienne


My heart says I’ll never be too old. My head says it may happen one day – but not yet.


Let me add some context before you read any further. I’m 48 and I’m loving this decade. I’ve got shed loads of experience that people value. There’s still lots to learn and new avenues that need exploring. Suffice to say, I have high hopes of my 50s too.


The thing is, when it comes to age you need to ask “what for?” And in this instance I’m thinking specifically about social media.


The thing about social media is that it can make you feel old. Even when you’re still in your twenties! The constant change, updates and ongoing affirmation are not for the faint hearted.


Today I had coffee with a couple of ex colleagues, one a marketing strategist and the other an SEO expert. Between us we span three different generations. And to be honest, because we’re marketing bods, we’re good at social media. It’s (part of) the world we work in. The one we’ve embraced, even if none of it existed when we created our first campaign or filed our first copy.



So, while the three of us will happily post, pin, share and comment, we’re probably not representative of our peers. For us social media is about creativity – not age. But for some social media is very age specific.


I say this because one of the comments I hear over and over from my B2B clients is “But I don’t get social media”. Swiftly followed by “I can’t waste my time on Twitter” and “Why should I bother with LinkedIn?”


As for Instagram and Google +, for many medium sized B2B clients, these are still uncharted territories. What’s changed recently, though, is that these same people are now telling me they know they “need to do something” – they just don’t know what. Or who should do it.


Here’s the thing: effective B2B social media needs time. To get time it needs to deliver results. To deliver results it needs to be backed by a solid strategy and messaging.


To achieve this your strategic team needs to combine brand and strategy expertise (likely to be director level) and social media understanding and enthusiasm (likely to be executive level).


Delivery needs to be clearly directed, efficient and responsive. It’s not enough to simply hand your social media over to your newest, youngest, most enthusiastic recruit and watch from the sidelines. But you can manage the process as a team.


My advice for those struggling with social media is this:


1. Understand why and how

Know how they work, who they talk to, and what they can achieve. Relate them back to your marketing goals.


2. Be honest

If you need to do more, are you really the right person to deliver it? It might be more cost effective to enlist the help and creativity of a social media expert or to upskill and manage a member of the marketing team.


3. Find shortcuts

Investing in a tailored training session can be a quick win. DIY social media means you’ll have to find your own shortcuts. Insist that your trainer leaves you with a list of social media hacks.


Back to my initial question: how old is too old for social media?


The answer is never – you just need a strategy and team which plays to your strengths (and interests).



The dying days of old media?

Paul yellowBy Paul.


The other week I read an article that didn’t surprise me.


Print advertising in newspapers was down 30% over the past six months, but ad revenues are down on newspaper websites too. (More here)


On the one hand, people are buying less newspapers – I can’t remember the last time I bought a physical newspaper, but on the other, people are also consuming news digitally. Yet, this consumption of digital isn’t leading to higher revenues.


For the old media, represented most by the national newspapers, I think the problem is that they have become mouthpieces of either vested interests or are staffed by people who have no conception of a world outside of London’s Islington, Kensington, Clapham and Shoreditch.


I lived in London for 15 years and I still think it is a great city, but there are loads of brilliant things going on elsewhere.


When I moved back to my home city of Liverpool a year ago, I was struck by how much energy and vibrancy there is here and how people are giving a collective FU to the London-based national media and just getting on with being great.


There are loads of fantastic businesses here, being creative, being bold, being strategic and taking risks. But too often, the national media sneer at them or just ignore them.


Take Nisha Katona, the founder of the superb Mowgli on Bold Street (and now in Manchester too). This former barrister has created an Indian street food restaurant that is loved in Liverpool and I’m sure will be in Manchester too.



Check out Mowgli’s Facebook page. Nisha has just written a book, Pimp my Rice, and has had a two-page spread in the Independent newspaper on how to cook rice. She is justifiably proud of this.


But as she wrote on FB: “I will tell you why this 2 page spread on Pimp, in the Independent, is a big deal. It’s an encouraging moment not just for me. For a national broadsheet to even countenance publishing an article on a Liverpool local author with no pedigree, no big PR machine, no major TV profile, gives hope to anyone thinking of taking a risk and writing a book. My experience thus far has seen national broadsheet Crackens awake usually, to sneer and slate our northern, outside of Shoreditch attempts, by way of ‘critique’ or caustic one liner.”


While people are still reading national newspapers in print and digital form, possibly the advertisers are starting to realise that their brands are being negatively tainted by this sneering attitude to their customers and where they live. I think brands increasingly want positive associations, and the national press are uniformly negative.


In fact, it is now better to organise your own event for face-to-face comms, set up a digital communications strategy, and maybe then consider traditional PR as the least important bit.


With other communication methods out there that don’t involve them (the sort that we are experts in!), will the national press be able to change?



Paul yellow

By Paul.


Did you watch This is England ’90? I did.


I’ve also been to see Ride in concert twice this year, and I saw Slowdive last year – both bands I loved in the early-1990s until Britpop came along and put an end to shoegazing.


Is is me or are people thinking about the 1990s a lot more? Maybe it is nostalgia as all those people who came of age in the 1990s (like me) are getting close to or passing over the 40 age barrier.


This decade was also the last one of analogue innocence. Remember Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989 and wrote the first web browser in 1990.


I first started to use the internet in 1993, and it was nothing like it is now. You used to sit there waiting for ages for something to happen, and quite often nothing happened except some lurid text on a lurid background and if you were lucky an image might appear.

Channel 4's This is England 90
Channel 4’s This is England 90


In 1996 I was at university in California and I remember staying with the family of this girl I went out with and they let me use the internet to look up the latest Liverpool FC news. This guy who was also visiting worked for NASA and showed me its website, and it was rubbish. Even NASA in those days had a crap website.


And in the 1990s, hardly anyone had a mobile. In fact, I remember going to Glastonbury in 1994, and if you wanted to go and see a band that your mates didn’t want to see, that effectively meant that you wouldn’t see them for the rest of the day.


When I got my first mobile phone, probably sometime in the late 90’s, I was the first of my mates to get one, and the phone was basically there for making calls, texting and playing that snake game. But I had no-one to call until eventually they all started getting one.


If you are 16 now, like I was in 1990, you’d probably think that the 1990’s was crap with no internet and no phones. But it was great and I loved it.


Would I want to live in the 1990s all over again? No way. Times move on and now I can’t live without all those modern conveniences (and inconveniences).


In some ways though, a lot of businesses haven’t moved on. They are still doing things analogue (even if the staff have all got smartphones and internet access) and aren’t being very 2015 about how they communicate.


Like I said in my last post, it is all about networks now, whether face-to-face, digital or both. In some ways traditional PR is analogue, and while at times it still has its place, if you are a business that is still analogue, maybe start thinking how we can help you become more digital.



Business young think people differently

Paul yellowBy Paul. Or young people think business differently.


Hipsters with long beards (the men at least), funky clothes and a flat white have become part of the creative scene in many UK cities.


It probably started in London, but there are loads of places around the UK where you can see this tribe in action.


Hipsters exist in Liverpool too (where I am), and they share many similarities to those elsewhere. But because they are Scouse, they’ve got to be different – some of them don’t even have beards!


These hipsters though are often at the forefront of creative industries, developing new business ideas and ways of doing them.


I went to an event recently at a law firm (Weightmans) and it was excellent – free beer, nice people and a pint after in the upmarket Vincent Bar & Restaurant on Exchange Square with my mate Matt.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 18.32.32


Two entrepreneurial lads from Independent Liverpool, who seemed obsessed by coffee, gave a presentation on their loyalty card scheme that has taken off here and is spreading to other cities too – Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham if I remember.


Basically, the idea is that you buy one of their cards, and you get money off at independent bars, restaurants, coffee shops, clothes shops and the like. Of course, everyone there bought one of these cards for a tenner. Yet to use mine, but I like my moneys worth.


Anyway, back to the point. These slightly hipster lads were in a suited law firm, but still turned up in whatever casual clothes they’d been wearing that day. They didn’t care.


But they had the room in the palm of their hands as they told how they started the company, while drunk. How it had grown through blogging, word of mouth, social media and them basically trying loads of places and getting known.


They were very witty, seemed to be making it up as they went along (but it was so structured that I think they must have put loads of work into it), and crucially they were exceptionally clear about what they were saying.


There was no powerpoint, just them talking and it was brilliant.


So the thing I learned is that these young lads think very differently about business. In some ways the same as always – they want to make money, they are thinking about opportunities.


But they are doing it on their terms. Costs are kept low. It is all about social media, meeting people, building their following and getting about.


Their connections are made face-to-face and digitally, networks are absolutely vital.


Would they have advertised their service in the local paper? No way.


Would they have sent out a press release to everyone they could think of to launch their business? Doubt it.


Are they creative, doing things like their own independent food festival in the newly trendy Baltic Triangle? Of course they are.


Can we learn something from them? I already have.





Have you ever been fishing?

Paul yellowBy Paul


I remember as a kid going fishing once.


Another kid invited me, about the same age, one of those holiday friendships where you can’t wait to go and play with them while you are on holiday for two weeks, and then you can’t remember their name two weeks later when you are back playing footy with your normal mates.


So I was sitting there on the banks of a canal in Cornwall, bored out of my mind with him and his grandad, who in retrospect was the spit of John Shuttleworth and even drove an Austin Ambassador.


I had too much energy then, was too into footy and cricket, going to the beach and mucking about in the sea.


Not a lot happened when you were fishing on a canal other than other people walking past.



A few years later, I get it. I get why you might want to sit outside on a nice day, watching the world go by with peace and quiet. Not then though.


The canal went down to the sea, and you could see the commercial fishing boats while you were sat there all day. They knew what they were doing with their massive boats and massive nets. Brave men too.


A few years back, I was at an exhibition and I was manning a stand and it was just like that day on the canal-side when I was a kid.


I was fishing that day too, waiting for the perfect catch – somebody who I could do business with. And I caught a few fish too, so to speak. But while I was talking to them, and wasting my time with the fish that were no good to anybody, some other prime catches were walking on by.


Now I don’t do exhibitions, and I don’t think you should either.


Instead, organise your own event with our help, and invite the people you really want to network with to it too. We can even help you find new fishing grounds that can expand your business opportunity.