‘Post Truth Authenticity’ and other 2017 PR challenges…

Adrienne Robins







By Adrienne


A couple of years ago, I remember writing about the importance of transparency in the social media age. In summary, the narrative went something like this:

  • Social media gives everyone a voice
  • If you talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, you’ll be called out – publicly
  • Be prepared – recognise and prepare for your skeletons; understand your shortfalls; build up your bank of goodness; do more to engage


And then 2016 happened.


This time last year we didn’t really have a clue what was coming. Or maybe we did have a clue – but we couldn’t acknowledge it or put it into words. At least collectively.


From a B2B PR perspective, I’ve seen so many organisations that got the whole ‘transparency’ thing. Trouble is, politically we either couldn’t or wouldn’t make that leap.


With the benefit of hindsight, if politicians had listened and responded a bit more maybe we’d be in a different place right now.
Instead we’re in a world where ‘post truth’ has happened. And 80s ‘dinkys’* (remember them) have disappointingly turned into ‘jams’**. If you’re of a certain age then it is possible that you could have started out a dinky, turned nimby and ended up in a bit of a jam. Really.
Thing is, post truth blatantly stamps all over transparency. So, do we throw our hands up and forget about it and resolve to change the story to fit the situation as required?
I think not.
So, just how should we be preparing our PR and comms strategies for the year ahead? Here are five areas that you should be concentrating on.


  1. Ensure you’re interesting: just because the world around you feels a little bit odd, that’s no excuse to revert to boring messages. Publishers are crying out for content, but unless it’s thought provoking, new and maybe a little bit controversial it’ll head straight into the bin.
  2. Be authentic: authenticity is the new transparency. Live your messaging and follow it through. Of course, you can surprise people – but do it in a good way. Remember those mission statements and values – go back to them and see if you’re really living the dream.
  3. Unleash your caring side: pick up the CSR baton, but try and make it a bit more human and spontaneous. If you or your team do something good – don’t strategise the comms into the ground. Just get out there and talk about it, in a natural, warm voice.
  4. Connect and collaborate: now, more than ever, it’s apparent that people want to meet ‘real’ people and work together to effect change and new opportunities. Get out from behind your content and listen. Add to the debate. Be brave (see point 1). Shape the outcome.
  5. Look for clarity of outcomes: when it comes to PR, measurement has long been a dirty word. Fact is, for most clients it’s about impact on real business objectives. When putting in place new PR campaigns, focus on deliverables and overarching objectives, not column inches. Get KPIs in place and everyone knows the required direction of travel.


Wishing you all a Happy 2017!


* DINKY: double income no kids yet, an acronym from the have-it-all, shoulder-padded, excessive 80s


** JAM: for those that have spent the last month on the moon, Teresa May’s shorthand for those that are Just About Managing and clearly can’t afford a new pair of leather trousers (although they may be wiser to make a different fashion choice)

Exhibitions: are they worth the bother?

Exhibition survey

Adrienne Robins


By Adrienne


Are you responsible for your company or organisation’s B2B exhibitions programme? If so, you’re just the person we’re looking for – because it’s you that holds the key to creating and delivering better event experiences.


When we set up Hanicke Robins Sanderson we knew, from experience, that many B2B exhibitions and events simply didn’t deliver. Not all of them. Don’t get us wrong – some are fantastic. But many leave exhibitors underwhelmed at best.


Anecdotal evidence is great – but we’re living in a big data age. So we set about tracking down the data to prove, once and for all, whether marketing budgets should viably set aside for exhbition space. And if so, what type of exhbition works best.

Exhibition budget

Unsurprisingly that data wasn’t easy to come by. So, we’re developing our own set of data – which, in the spirit of Hanicke Robins Sanderson, we’re happy to share. To create our first dataset we’ve issued a short overview survey.


And that’s where you, my perfect person, comes in. I’d like you to take a couple of minutes (analytics suggest it’ll take you less than 3 minutes to complete) out of your busy day to complete the survey.

Exhibition survey

You can do it anonymously – or you can leave us your details. We don’t mind. But if you do self-identify then we’ll give you some of our creative events thoughts for free as a thank you.


So go on, click here to take the survey and help us all to do exhibitions and events better. It’s a public service really!


Survey closes 5pm 29 February 2016. All respondents leaving details will receive the full survey results. A snapshot of results will be published here in mid March.


If you have any questions, please contact me: adrienne.robins@harosa.com.



Exhibition thank you

Black Friday: marketing magic or mayhem?

Christmas Shopping York

Adrienne yellowBy Adrienne


It’s 7.30am and I’m wondering what this year’s Black Friday phenomenon will bring? Doubtless there will be more shoppers, more queues and more spend. But is it enjoyable? Or memorable – for the right reasons? And does it really deliver value add for retailers and their supply chain?


Let’s unpick this and consider it from a variety of audience perspectives.

  1. The shopper

It’s clear that lots of shoppers, whether online or on foot, love the Black Friday concept. Who doesn’t love a bargain? Actually, the answer is likely to be more people than you think.


Because it depends whether that bargain is something you want – or is just something you’ve chanced upon. In my experience, buying something that catches your eye in a sale is likely to be a mistake. It’s going to stay in the cupboard, unused and unloved. But maybe I’m not a good sale shopper.


And I’m not the only one. There’s a bit of a Black Friday backlash going on, both here and in the USA, with some stores promoting a more considered shopping approach. The Booksellers Association is taking a little bit of the fight to Amazon with the launch of Civilised Saturday, where independent bookshops offer simple discounts, to be enjoyed in the calming surroundings of a book-lined, hushed haven.


I know where I’d rather be. And quite frankly, left to my own devices (and without the scrum) I’m likely to spend more. Much more. Because, as my better half has lamented for more years that I care to share, I am indeed a retail marketing person’s dream.

My Pavlovian response to end of isle displays or emailed discounts is nothing short of perfection.

My shopping ability is, frankly, gold medal standard. It’s just the mess and mayhem of sales that I can’t do. I’m surely not alone in that.

  1. The retailer

It’s estimated that shoppers will spend £1.07bn today, 32 percent up on last year. If I was a retailer there’s a good chance I’d be seduced by this potential. But hold on a minute, there’s another side to this story.


Last year’s Black Friday left Asda, one of the first in the UK to adopt BF, with a bad taste. Over excited customers, whipped into a consumer frenzy, combined with inadequate management and processes led to news bulletins showing customers trampling over each other to grab (and I mean grab) a cheap TV. Not a British queue in sight. Shocking, dangerous, disappointing for many and far from perfect publicity.


To add to the insult, shoppers either left empty handed and upset or grabbed their bargain and left – which really wasn’t the point. Asda will be one of the few to shun Black Friday this year.


By contrast, in 2014 White Stuff, that quintessentially British brand, steered clear of Black Friday, instead opting for the more sedate approach of mailing, vouchers and online offers in the run up to Christmas. Did it miss out? Did it heck.


It announced strong Christmas trading results, with sales up 17.9 percent over the key Christmas trading period, an increase of 6.5 percent compared to the same period in 2013. One of the reasons for this, it said, was its full price trading stance and extra gift card promotion during Black Friday.

  1. The supply chain

The impact of Black Friday on the retail supply chain is certainly worth a mention – and here I think it’s got to be positive. Yesterday I was hosting a media visit to a Tesco distribution centre (very impressive), getting a behind the scenes look at their recycling operation.


They were ready for Black Friday and have calibrated it into their calendar now, so for them it’s busy business as usual. The supply chain plans for events like these, and having them in the calendar makes them all the more manageable and profitable. It’s a win here.

  1. The media

Regardless of other audiences, for the media Black Friday provides a fact-filled picture bonanza. It doesn’t matter whether the figures are good or bad or the shoppers are naughty or nice – they’ve been publishing stories about queues on Boxing Day for as long as I can remember and I can’t see them stopping any time soon.


From a marketing perspective, Black Friday creates opportunities for engagement, headlines and big bucks. But the jury’s out as to whether it has simply redirected Boxing Day sale spend and if it delivers on the critical added value elements of customer loyalty, trust, and additional sales. The figures from 2015 will make interesting reading.


I’m hoping that a more targeted, customer-centric marketing approach will win out.

I’m dreaming of a Hollywood Christmas – already!

Christmas business planning

Kirsty HanickeBy Kirsty

So here we are nearing the end of November – a time most notable for the specific phenomenon: feeling “Christmassy”.

At this juncture the notion of Christmas is exciting, hopeful and expectant.

From any age I have always dreamt of what I call my “Hollywood” Christmas. Winter’s frosty delights captivating me, all dressed, elf like, in garlands of red and green, singing carols while snow is falling and being nestled by the fire nibbling on Christmas delights and mulled wine.

All this talk of performing makes me want to dust off my tap shoes, stuff a mince pie in my mouth and shuffle off to 42nd Street or the set of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or such like.

Just now, putting on my duffle coat and stepping into the cold air, which still comes as a surprise, is cosy and charming. I almost envisage crystals forming on snow clad trees – yes I’m still dreaming. Santa is on his way, and as I’ve only been a tiny bit naughty and a whole lot nice, wonderful delights will be sitting under my, not yet bought or decorated, tree very soon.

I am currently dreaming about hams, lobsters, chutneys and lots of cheese. Oh go on then some champagne and cocktails won’t go amiss. Though in a few weeks I think that I’ll be praying for 1st January to start my ongoing New Year’s resolution of losing a stone. Oh, must correct myself and say 4th January as it’s rude to start a diet mid-week….

Hyde Park winter wonderland

Talking of New Year’s resolutions….every year starts with regular 10k runs around some London park, mentally patting myself on the back for doing ‘so much exercise’. Starting another one of my health kicks and boring myself senseless  with talk of how this is the latest best thing. I get super organised and fill my diary with plans and activities that I’ve yet to accomplish.

Needless to say, in my mind I’m still in January 2015, which would account for the fact that most of my resolutions continue to be just that – resolutions. The only thing that I ever follow through on is business planning and delivery.

If you haven’t yet got your business and marketing plan in place for 2016 then now is the time to get planning. If you have a plan in place, how much of it includes doing something a bit different? Are you looking for ways to connect with your existing customer base, deploy new tactics to bring on board new clients? Then why don’t you drop us a line as you can see we do things differently.

But for now I’m off to see what’s occurring in my winter wonderland! Ta ta.



How aboot something different?

Burns Night

Kirsty HanickeBy Kirsty


Every year, on the 25th January, or there abouts, Scots around the world celebrate Robert Burns (aka Rabbie Burns) life and works and pay tribute to the Scottish culture.


I say this as if I have hosted, or at least attended, many a Burns Night and this could not be further from the truth. I am born and bred Scottish, but in the 20 years I lived north of the border, not once did I go to a Burns Night. I have eaten haggis all of my life, love nothing better than partaking in a spot of Highland dancing – I do a mean sword dance – but I had just never gotten to a Burns Night.

Burns Night


I spent quite some time at university abroad and shattered many a poor foreigners´ assumption that us Scots are all mad, drunkly roam around the Highlands, wearing string vests, eating fried mars bars and everyone is called Mary Doll or Hamish – Rab C Nesbitt has a lot to answer for!


What I am alluding to is that “mair nonsense has been uttered in the name of Robert Burns and oor culture than ony’s, barrin liberty and Christ”. What I mean is that Rabbie Burns was a genius, with an ability to paint beautiful pictures with words, a wonderful command of language and a collector and improver of old Scots songs.


It took a while for me to celebrate the life and work of Burns and my own culture, but when I did, it made it feel all the more special.


The company that I used to work for was looking for a client retention and satisfaction strategy at the tail-end of the year.


If there’s one night in the year to gather all of your nearest and dearest for a hearty feast, with delectable haggis and drams along with rousing verses and ceilidh dancing until the wee hours, it must be Burns Night. And so on a cold January night our clients were enticed and cajoled through the doors for a fun-filled evening where they were to be entertained by their very own service provider.


We had singing, poetry readings, almost a war of words with the toast to the lassies and the retort to the ladies, and our very own mad Scot brandishing their knife whilst addressing the haggis – oh no it was not me! There was even a bagpiper, who moments earlier had had to remove the MD´s sporran from his neck and place it around his waist. The event was a rip-roaring success and for all many were suffering the next morning the Burns Night is still being spoken about fondly.


If you are looking to satisfy and retain your clients and open the door to new ones why not think of doing something that little bit different and personal. A repeat has been asked for many a time but as I have moved on to pastures new, it may be better you drop us a line and see how we can become


New acquaintances


Always brought to mind


New acquaintances never to be forgot


For the sake of auld lang syne!

The people on Grand Designs who ignore their architect

Paul Sanderson Hanicke Robins SandersonBy Paul


I’ve been doing some volunteering work, local to where I live. I won’t say what it is, as that wouldn’t be fair.


However, there was a huge debate a little while ago within this organisation about how we communicate to the wider public about what we are trying to do.


There was recognition that I have the communications experience, and so I put together a strategy.


This strategy outlined a face-to-face approach explaining to the public what we do, a digital approach that used a website and social media to enhance that communication, and finally (and with least priority) an approach of using leaflets and the press.


But some of the more conservative members of the group put all their thoughts and focus onto producing a leaflet as that is what they have always done.


A leaflet is fine in the right circumstances, but in these circumstances, it came at great cost to the organisation (printing etc), and its benefit wasn’t necessarily clear.


The problem is that the majority of the group I am working with are set in their ways. They are used to sending out leaflets, and even if it isn’t working, they still feel they should do it.


Although there are members of the group who recognised my communications expertise was valuable, those conservative ones were holding back the overall aims of the organisation by not adapting to the reality of now.


Adrienne and I have written about the 1980s and the 1990s in our blogs, and we shouldn’t return to those days in terms of communications. We have to build on those days, but also adapt to the realities of 2015.

Kevin McCloud Grand Designs

Working with the volunteering group reminded me a bit of those people you see on Grand Designs who have a vision for their dream house, they employ an architect who draws up the plans and they love the house they are going to get.


But as the build progresses, they keep interfering and changing things, even though the architect looks on aghast or even walks away. Mistakes and misfits start to get introduced, and you can tell the building won’t be as good as was originally planned. Windows are slightly misaligned, or awkwardly shaped walls are introduced.


By the end, Kevin McCloud will usually say something along the lines of “it is a good house, but architects design great houses”.


With communications, if you employ that expertise, you have to know your objective, develop the strategy for communicating it, then implement that strategy keeping in mind the objective.


If you want great communications support, you also have to know why you want it and then trust it.


Eventually, I developed a strategy to communicate to these conservative volunteers. At the meeting, I reiterated the strategy, explained why we shouldn’t focus too much on the leaflet, but should look at our overall objective…and I eventually got my way.


Our communications campaign is already delivering results.


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.

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?