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November 29th, 2012

Uk Public Relations viewpoint: The British press needs regulation

Uk Public Relations viewpoint: The British press needs regulation

As a public relations consultant I think today is a landmark day for the British press, with today’s publication of the Leveson report and a call for legislation to regulate press practices and ethics.  Press freedom, Leveson, Leveson inquiry, view from Prompt Communications: copywriting and tech PR firm

The 2,000 page report is an unprecedented examination of the British press, resulting from the much-publicised inquiry led by Lord Justice Leveson and launched by the British Prime Minister in July 2011.The inquiry itself was prompted by what can only be described as atrocious acts of phone hacking by a section of the press of a number of individuals. Of paramount public concern was the hacking of the mobile phone of murdered 13 year-old schoolgirl Milly Dowler, which gave her family false hope that she might still be alive. The culmination of these events led to the closure of The News of The World newspaper by the News International media group.

The damning report published today details the need for press regulation, sparking immediate consequences. Leveson concludes that a tougher form of press self-regulation should be imposed, backed by appropriate legislation necessary to uphold press standards. British PM David Cameron broadly welcomed the principles for change recommended in the report, but has expressed “serious concerns and misgivings” over the concept of statutory regulation. The PM articulated concerns over the curbing of Britain’s proud tradition of free speech and a free press, when he told MPs today: “For the first time we will have crossed the Rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land. We should think very, very carefully before crossing the line.”

The Leveson recommendations do put the PM in a rather tricky position, with many media and public observers concerned that this might be the start of some kind of slippery slope as far as British press freedoms are concerned. Mr Cameron’s concerns also put him at direct odds with his deputy Nick Clegg, who made his own statement claiming the recommended changes in the law were “the only way to guarantee” the press remains in check in the future. This sentiment echoes that of opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband, who is today urging the government to adopt all the recommendations of the Leveson report by 2015.

As Brit, I’ve always been very proud of our press freedoms, and the acutely balanced edge that this has encouraged. But no-one can deny that the much-publicised phone hacking scandals, highlighted by the awfulness and moral wrongness of hacking Milly Dowler’s phone, revealed a need for restraint. Like many others, I had assumed to this point that publishers and editors would continue to serve as moral compasses for their own publications. However, since the phone-tapping accusations and the arrests that have followed, my view has changed, despite my sadness at the very thought that any legislation is required to underpin the regulation of the practice and ethics of our press.

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Posted in Hazel Butters: Opinion, Media, UK press | Comments Off on Uk Public Relations viewpoint: The British press needs regulation

 

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November 28th, 2012

Media interviews: Some quick tips and a free Public Relations guide

Media interviews: Some quick tips and a free Public Relations guide

Yesterday, one of our clients had a phone interview with the Boston Globe, and after a successful discussion with the journalist (more on that to follow), the client thanked us for our advice which comprised simple best practices that have a real impact. We thought we’d share some here with you.

You can also download our handy ‘Dos and don’ts guide to phone interviews’.

Tip #1: Speak slower than you typically feel comfortable

Media interview quick tipsEspecially on phone interviews, it can be difficult to gauge how fast you’re speaking because you can’t see the journalist furiously typing or writing your every word. But just because you can’t see them, you need to assume the person you’re talking to is transcribing the conversation in real time. Therefore during every phone interview try to: take a breather between each sentence; enunciate, especially words that are complicated or overly technical; and speak as slowly as possible. This will ensure the journalist represents your words as accurately as possible.

Tip #2: Nail down your three main points prior to speaking with a journalist      

The internet has proven to be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to interviews – a blessing because journalists rarely ask the correct spelling of your company’s name or when it was founded, as the internet has already provided them with that information. A curse because the interviewer can get to the hard-hitting question faster and without much context. One of the most important things you can do to prepare for this is determine your three main talking points before that phone rings. If you have a 20 minute interview, have a sheet in front of you with point #1,# 2, and #3, most often around your company’s market offerings, and strive to discuss those points in as many of your answers as possible.

Tip #3: Just answer the question

While getting your three main points into each of your answers is the goal of any interview, don’t spend too much time over-analyzing or picking apart the journalists questions. If he asks your opinion on an industry trend, answer it from whatever perspective you feel most comfortable with (yours or your company’s). Oftentimes journalists will ask questions they know they want to include in their article, regardless of your answer. So the less time you spend figuring out how to answer the journalist’s question as precisely as possible, the more time you can spend getting your points across during the interview.

Like with most things, mastering media interviews takes practice, so continue to look for interview opportunities as often as possible. And if you’re still interested in learning more about how to become media interview expert, email us at info@prompt-communications.com for a free hour of consultation and don’t forget to download our dos and don’ts guide to phone interviews.

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Posted in Communications consultancy opinion, Copywriting, Media, PR Practices | Comments Off on Media interviews: Some quick tips and a free Public Relations guide

 

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November 20th, 2012

Is mobile technology killing the spirit of Black Friday?

Is mobile technology killing the spirit of Black Friday?

Tradition (noun): A long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting

Thanksgiving tradition is something not to be messed with. Year after year, Americans can count on a few of the essentials during the fall holiday: home cooked turkey hitting the dining table, a child and grown man bickering over whether to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the national football game on the lone television set, and of course, Black Friday bargain shopping.

Crowds attempt to enter retail shops during Black Friday salesBut in the age of tablets, smartphones and everything digital, Black Friday has shifted – and the changes are only getting more apparent.

First there’s ‘Cyber Monday’, a marketing term given to the Monday after Black Friday where shoppers can get similar money-saving deals online, without having to leave home in the wee hours of the morning and wait in lines longer than The Great Wall of China.

Personally, I’m okay with Cyber Monday – the day has been around since 2005, and this year, Adobe is predicting that Cyber Monday’s online revenue will grow 18% since last year to $2 billion, making it the most lucrative digital shopping event in history. I can only hope it helps cut down on the amount of people I bump into with shopping carts during the Friday frenzy.

However, what I am not quite on-board with are the latest mobile apps available to help shoppers navigate through Black Friday mazes. Some new apps are helping bargain hunters strategically map out their route. For example, Google Maps partnered up with stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s to offer store-specific maps for the shopping event of the year. I mean, isn’t all the fun of Black Friday supposed to be finding your sought after flat screen television in the women’s clothing section? It is for me!

We also can’t forget about the ‘Black Friday Survival Guide’, a new mobile app that lets shoppers view leaked and confirmed Black Friday ads and search for the best deals ahead of time. In my opinion, this ruins the fun of post-turkey family time spent looking through flyers released on Thanksgiving Day.

To me, this all seems like cheating tradition. Yes, sitting in the freezing cold at 2:00am without any assurance that you will get the product you are patiently waiting for may not sound like the most pleasant experience, but think of the memories attached to such a morning! I don’t know about you, but I’m ditching the apps and cyber deals, grabbing the warmest pair of socks and mittens, and hitting the lines Friday morning like most old-fashioned Americans do around this time of year.

On behalf of the Prompt team, we wish you a safe and very happy Thanksgiving (and best of luck during your digital or traditional shopping adventures)!

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Posted in Boston, Google, Holidays, Opinion, Prompt locations, Technology | Comments Off on Is mobile technology killing the spirit of Black Friday?

 

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November 16th, 2012

Tech to the rescue: Five reasons why you’ll want to upgrade to iOS 6.1

Tech to the rescue: Five reasons why you’ll want to upgrade to iOS 6.1

Here at Prompt, our PR and copywriting consultants are big fans of tech upgrades, especially those that make life that much easier. When it comes to smartphones, most of our ‘Promptees’ have some version of the iPhone, while others get by with a less popular, but just as reliable, Android device.

A look into the Apple store on Boylston Street in BostonFor those on team iPhone, the big news this week was Apple’s announcement of the second beta of iOS 6.1, with improvements and bug fixes that had been reported from the previous installment of iOS. While the upgrade has only been made available to developers, we decided to take a closer look for those considering making the move to 6.1 in the near future.

Here’s a breakdown of future features and some of the glitches the upgrade can fix:

1. Improved features on PassBook

Apple introduced PassBook with iOS 6, which allowed users to store tickets, gift cards, coupons, boarding passes and more all on their iPhone. Critics complained that Apple did not properly explain the e-wallet, or integrate it with third-party apps.

Problem solved: Apple fixed the issue in the new beta release by adding an explanatory note on the digital-wallet app.

2. Siri gets even smarter

An update to Siri, Apple’s ‘intelligent personal assistant’, can now help users purchase movie tickets and view show times at local theaters. By asking “what is playing nearby?” Siri searches and lists everything you need to plan a perfect movie night through third-party site Fandango.

The days of leaving the house early to secure show time passes are long gone. Thanks Siri!

3. So long static keyboard

Many users were complaining about static lines when typing across the iPhone’s keyboard.  With iOS 6.1, that bug is now fixed. No more eye-twitching? Hooray!

4. Wider spacing between music control buttons

With iOS 6, the music controls on the lock screen were very close together, making it easier for users to hit the wrong button – and we all know the aggravation that can cause.  On the second beta of iOS 6.1, Apple has increased the spacing between the controls, making playback easy and stress-free. Cue the classical music.

5. ‘Report a problem’ attempts to solve Maps problem

Users were complaining of misplaced location markers and unusual satellite images on Apple Maps with iOS 6.  Apple did not fix the Maps app, but they did add a ‘report a problem’ option.

But the ‘report a problem’ feature hasn’t completely satisfied iOwners. In Gizmodo.com, a blogger shared his thoughts on the option by writing, “[Apple] fix your own maps for the devices we paid hundreds of dollars for. We’re not you’re beta testers.”

Now if only the updated iOS 6.1 could solve the 100 percent customer satisfaction glitch – Siri, can you help?

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Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Opinion, Technology | Comments Off on Tech to the rescue: Five reasons why you’ll want to upgrade to iOS 6.1

 

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November 14th, 2012

Next stop, e-tickets: Boston’s commuter rail gets digital

Next stop, e-tickets: Boston’s commuter rail gets digital

As followers could sense from our tweet sent out earlier this week, PromptBoston is looking forward to the latest innovation stemming from the MBTA – a smartphone digital ticketing system.

Image of the MBTA commuter railFor those outside of the bay state, MBTA is an acronym for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the company in charge of Boston metro’s public transportation. Want to sound really Bostonian next time you’re in Beantown? Then just refer to the subway system as ‘the T’, common city slang for ‘the train’.

The implementation of a digital ticketing system makes the MBTA the first major US commuter rail to offer passengers a paperless alternative, according to Boston.com. Coincidentally, a British mobile-ticketing agency is the developer behind the historical move – here’s looking at you, PromptLondon!

On Monday, commuter rail riders at North Station were able to purchase and display tickets on their smartphones. South Station regulars will be able to do the same after Thanksgiving, meaning pesky paper passes will have to do for another week or so.

In my opinion, the move means great news for both the MBTA and commuters in general. Boston.com reported that the option of digital passes will eliminate the handling of nearly $20 million in cash, meaning a faster collection process for conductors and service members. E-tickets will also help cut back on littering – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen expired passes tossed onto the floor of the commuter rail.

Smartphone userFor commuter rail riders, the digital upgrade will reduce time spent waiting in lines at ticket windows or automated machines, and eliminate the hassle of digging for loose change in pockets and purses when the conductor comes around to collect.

The transition to digital seems like a no brainer – after all, in today’s world, who doesn’t have a smartphone? To try the e-ticketing out for yourself, download the MBTA mTicket app available in both Apple and Android stores.

For the latest in Boston happenings and tech news, follow us on Twitter – and why not browse through our feed on your smartphone while waiting for the next train to arrive?

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Posted in Boston, Communications consultancy opinion, Innovation, Prompt locations, Technology, Twitter | Comments Off on Next stop, e-tickets: Boston’s commuter rail gets digital

 

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November 7th, 2012

A PR without Coffee: Day Two

A PR without Coffee: Day Two

There are things in life that you are told will never be easy: buying your first house, packing everything back into the same suitcase on the return leg of your holiday, changing a car tyre in the rain…

I now have a new one to add to this list: giving up caffeine.

As someone who has worked in PR, copywriting, social media and communications (I find that what I do for a living expands every year) for more than a decade and a half (yikes), I have always enjoyed a very close relationship with caffeine. When I am in the US I tend to lean towards coffee, and likewise whenever I am spending time out in France. While in the UK, especially while at my desk, I seem to spend most of the day gripping a half-full cold cup of tea (yum). But this time I’ve decided to take a real break from caffeine – even decaff is off the menu while I retrain my taste buds.

But there are so many places that caffeine and I have hung out together. Here are just a few scenarios:

At work:

* Need to get up for a 9am call while inconveniently in a timezone several thousand miles away? Wake up to the smell of strong, synapse-prodding coffee.

* Have a potentially lengthy in-person meeting with a contact that likes you to stay engaged and enthused throughout?  Make sure you’re armed with great coffee and really fancy biscuits

*Trying to decide how to incorporate those edits into that release? Ponder it over a cup of tea

* Finishing up a pitch or a really-last minute project (for example, the time that client gave us a weekend to write, edit, design, layout and print an entire brochure)? Consider coffee as a foodstuff, skip the water

Socially:

* Meeting friends at the weekend? Prepare for a combination of shopping, coffee, shopping, drinks, shopping, tea… (you get the picture)

* Staying at your parents’ house and not sure what to do in TV breaks between the soaps?  Head to the kitchen and contribute to the National Grid surge by putting the kettle on to make a cup of tea

* Going out in town for the day with my mum or my sister? Head to Debenhams and experience its new ‘coffee simplicity’ menu.

This week my morning brew is liquorice tea. I am currently gripping a cold cup of green tea (I say green, it looks decidedly yellow). And for the first time in my life I am seriously contemplating the need to overcome my abhorrence of the smell of peppermint tea so I can give it another go. I am planning to carry around packets of tea, and I won’t be able to ask for a ‘really, really milky coffee’ at the Debenhams counter.

In short I’m wondering what a caffeine-free future will look and feel like. Will I have to give up conference calls, client meetings and getting up at 4am? Will I have to change jobs?

Of course, I have to make it through the headaches first…

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Posted in Copywriting, Hazel Butters: Opinion, Opinion | Comments Off on A PR without Coffee: Day Two

 

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November 6th, 2012

Microsoft vs Apple: Prompt Survey Smackdown!

Microsoft vs Apple: Prompt Survey Smackdown!

If you’ve read our blog or our newsletter, you’ll know that we love technology launches. We’re also kind of nosey, and like to hear other people’s opinions. So with the launch of Microsoft Surface, Windows 8 and Apple’s iPad Mini, we’d like to know what you think.

* Can Windows 8 really live up to Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer’s hype and “shatter perceptions of what a PC truly is”, or is it just another upgrade?

* Is Surface a “compromised, confusing product”, as claimed by Apple CEO Tim Cook,  or genuine competition for his iPad?

* Will techies continue camping outside Apple Stores every time an ‘iSomething’ is launched?

* When will they ever get that excited about launches from Redmond?

* Is a new era for Microsoft dawning?

We have so many questions that we’ve put them all into our Microsoft vs. Apple: Prompt Survey Smackdown, and it’s already well underway. The PromptBoston team has been out asking folks their thoughts in the Boston and Cambridge area. We’ve also been quizzing fellow tech aficionados at Prompt’s Boston offices in the Cambridge Innovation Center, while our UK counterparts @PromptLondon are surveying Londoners to get their take.

Microsoft or Apple? Have your say today. There are only six questions, so please take a few minutes, click here and let us know which side of the Apple / Microsoft fence you stand on.

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Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Polls, Survey, Technology | Comments Off on Microsoft vs Apple: Prompt Survey Smackdown!

 

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November 6th, 2012

Apple: We want to see the iPad mini ‘in the flesh’. Can you help?

Apple: We want to see the iPad mini ‘in the flesh’. Can you help?

Last week we thought it would be fun and interesting to go and check out the new Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad mini, camera in hand (check out the video here). We wanted to get to grips with some of the new hardware that our clients and colleagues are busy discussing, and we also hoped to find out, in a Prompt Survey Smackdown, what everyone is saying about the latest goodies from MS and Apple.

At the Microsoft Store in Boston’s Prudential Center, we were welcomed in, offered a spokesperson, told to film at our hearts’ content (which we took full advantage of), and given a full demo by a very helpful store manager called Ty Happworth. The product tour helped us get the most from the Surface experience, and really understand what Microsoft is aiming for. We found the Surface to be fun, a really innovative product, and enjoyed seeing it in action. We also got a first-hand look at the Windows 8 touchscreen interface in preparation for own office PC upgrades (watch this space for more about that!)

Over at the Apple Store, just around the corner on Boston’s Boylston Street, our experience was entirely different. We were told not to come close to the store at all. This is somewhat understandable – and we would never infringe on anyone’s privacy against their wishes – but we’re also fans of balanced comparison and we’d really liked to have made a short film showing an Apple iPad mini demo. So far this morning, I have called the Apple Store, been placed on hold, and have been deflected with numbers for Apple’s PR department, with the result of a simple recording asking for a detailed message after the beep. We’re still really hoping that Apple will eventually allow us to film a demo.

Yes, we’re just a PR, copywriting and comms firm, and not a major independent publishing house or broadcaster. But we only want to showcase Apple’s own demonstration messages to provide a balanced picture, not a savage critique. We like Apple products. In fact I don’t think there’s one person working for Prompt that doesn’t own an iSomething. Unfortunately no-one as of yet has an Apple iPad mini (although it now looks like we’ll have to invest in one in order to film our own demo, rather than allow Apple to work with us on this).

So if you’re reading this, and you work with Apple or one of its commercial partners, perhaps you could come to our aid and help us showcase the Apple iPad mini? We wouldn’t take up much of your time, and we’d really appreciate the opportunity. Please get in touch with us: whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, by phone, or by email.



Update: Unfortunately, Prompt’s request to Apple’s corporate office for an in-person demonstration of the iPad mini was declined. Apple explained that it applies a comprehensive policy of not allowing cameras in any of its retail stores. We fully understand and respect Apple’s position, but apologize for not being able to bring you a demo at this time. As always, any further feedback or comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you.


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Posted in Apple, Boston, Microsoft, Prompt locations, Technology | Comments Off on Apple: We want to see the iPad mini ‘in the flesh’. Can you help?

 

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November 2nd, 2012

Can I get some PR with my coffee?

Can I get some PR with my coffee?

Earlier in the week, one of our favorite neighbors in CIC, CEOExpress, sent us a link to this story about British department store Debenhams offering a ‘plain English coffee menu’, or a list of drinks that describe caffeinated goodness in the simplest possible terms.

It prompted (geddit?) much discussion in our Boston, London and San Francisco offices, and across the Atlantic, as from @PromptLondon to @PromptBoston we have varied coffee drinking tastes. Debenham PR coffee menu

From a copywriter that, regardless of the menus in coffee shops, always orders a black coffee and not an Americano – because if he does he is then asked if he wants milk.  He says a black coffee is a black coffee:  it’s direct and descriptive.  Although if he wants an espresso, he’ll order an espresso, as that’s what it is called, and the most understandable term for what he wants.   Meanwhile we have Boston-based PRs that love the range of lattes available at Voltage, the awesome local coffee shop near the CIC. Some of our favorites at Voltage are the ‘Paper Plane’ (cardamom-flavored and rosewater), ‘Atticus Finch’ (vanilla with burnt sugar) and ‘Beyond the Sea’ (caramel with a hint of sea salt).

Then there’s the coffee station on every floor of the CIC. Take your pick of flavor shots – from the standard hazelnut and French vanilla, to seasonal pumpkin and Irish cream. As if that weren’t hard enough to choose, then you have the choice of coffee to drink – 50/50, Columbian, or café mocha. Yum, one of each please!

Whatever our coffee preferences are, I think we’re in general agreement that the repeat of ‘really’ in Debenhams’s new coffee signs could be interpreted as a little, well, patronizing.

You could argue that this is also very clever PR on Debenhams’s case – from speaking to PromptLondon-ers, a lot of Brits remember going to town centre department stores like Debenhams, C&A, British Home Stores, and Co-Op as children, and stopping halfway through a tiring shop to get a cup of tea or coffee in the in-store ‘caff’.  And renaming products may ring a chord for Brits, and garner some sympathy (and custom) for the shop.

This could also be seen as a reaction to the continued drowning influx of global coffee shops brands into the British retail segment.  If you go to any town centre today the reality is that you’ll find a Starbucks where once you would have found ‘Poppy’s Coffee Shop’, and although it’s just one more inevitable change in a global retail world, it doesn’t mean that everyone in small town Britain, or anywhere else for that matter, sees it as progress or evolution.

It’s not all about the half-and-half vanilla skinny mocha latte than it is about friendly service, a smile and a chat with a familiar local face over a cuppa.

One of the biggest changes we’d like to see in coffee shops is the refusal to serve people who say “Can I get a…”  – it’s not self-service. It’s “May I please have…” – and don’t forget to say thank you. Take that for a personal PR tip.

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Posted in Boston, Communications consultancy opinion, Copywriting, London, Media, Opinion, PR Practices, Prompt locations, UK press | Comments Off on Can I get some PR with my coffee?