Tuesday, 11 March 2008

this is an ex-blog

Just a quick note to let you know we are now moving our blog to:


Please update your RSS feeds or just take a wander over to the new blog - or risk missing out on the ammassed wisdom and musings of the Quest team.

See you on the other side,


Friday, 29 February 2008

Can you recycle an idea – or is it all in the packaging?

This week has once again proved that the best ideas aren’t always the new ones.

Yesterday the news was dominated by M&S’s decision to charge for carrier bags, generating so much interest that even the PM felt the need to get in on the action today.

Earlier in the week, the Conservatives announced an ‘honesty box’ campaign for supporters to become friends of the party to much fanfare and a £500,000 ad campaign.

Both these campaigns have something in common (and it’s not just their apparent virtue) – the ideas are nothing new, but have been presented as revolutionary.

Netto have charged for carrier bags since the late 90’s, while David Cameron has admitted the Conservative idea is lifted from Radiohead’s online approach for their latest record, In Rainbows. (For the record – pun intended - I paid £40 for the box set. MP3’s still can’t compete with heavyweight vinyl in the artwork stakes.)

Just goes to show that it isn’t always the new idea that gets the attention, but those who shout the loudest.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Discard the "Dustbin of Europe" label

Having bemoaned the horrors of blatant rubbish dumping in Cairo – a city where recycling is a dirty word and where pollution from the city centre dump and offensive smoke belching from factories and traffic fumes permeates every space – I was horrified to read how almost 10,000 tonnes of waste (the equivalent of 851 bin lorries worth) that should have been recycled in Yorkshire last year ended up on tips or being burned.

Such headlines make Britain, labelled by Paul Bettison as: “The dustbin of Europe, with more rubbish being thrown into landfill than any other country on the continent” a laughing stock.

They also make us seriously question our commitment to attaining our share of EU recycling targets (50 per cent for municipal waste by 2020) which would save emissions equivalent to more than 89 million tonnes of CO2 per year – the equivalent to taking 31 million cars off the road.

Campaigners are calling on the UK Government to support and implement these targets to realise our vision of a low-carbon economy. As two thirds of all household rubbish can be recycled, we can maximise facilites provided by retail “champions.”

As businesses, we can also adopt responsible practices outside of recycling initiatives that can deliver both environmental and economic benefits.

For those of you looking for a starting point, the Carbon Trust’s SME Footprint Calculator will give you an idea of your firm’s carbon footprint – then you can look at reducing it.

For a comprehensive list, Business Climate Change Champions have produced an excellent guide, but steps we have already taken at Quest include:

  • Turning down your heating – costs rise by 8 per cent for every 1oC incremental increase
  • Switch off equipment when not in use – avoiding stand-by modes can cut cots by 30 per cent
  • Maximise natural light and reduce use of artificial light

Let’s all do something more this week as householders and businesses to help reach these targets and make us proud of our contribution

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Hands up who still reads a newspaper

Following on from Nick’s previous post, we attended tonight’s CIPR event at which David Parkin former business editor of the Yorkshire Post and now editor of thebusinessdesk.com highlighted his vision for his new venture – and where traditional media aligned with that.

It was an interesting discussion and I was certainly intrigued to see how successful it has proved – despite the myriad naysayers along the way. However, one of the most intriguing – and for me quite frightening – issues came right at the end. Carol Arthur of Northern Lights and deputy chair of the CIPR in this region asked the 40+ attendees which out of us read a daily newspaper and who consumed their news online. Of the approximately 20 students, who were all studying some sort of PR degree, not one read a newspaper.

Having provided work placements for many students as part of our commitment to giving back and nurturing the next generation, we have encountered some truly outstanding young people – as well as some that worryingly knew very little about the workings of the media nor seemed to care very much.

While we are all embracing online and social media and recognise its importance, it still remains very much part – and some would say only a small part – of the UK’s general psyche and therefore must continue to combine with traditional media. Securing clients coverage in newspapers, on the radio and on television is something we at Quest do every day and something that continues to achieve our clients the recognition and business success they are seeking.

If the next generation of PR professionals fails to even acknowledge or consume on a regular basis our quality daily and weekly newspapers we are going to encounter an even more intense talent war than we are currently experiencing.

To any budding PR I would urge you to pick up a newspaper and start reading, critically examining it and dissecting the origin – PR-driven or otherwise - of a story. Only then will you learn how to position newsworthy ideas and stories that integrate into your new media to deliver powerful PR campaigns for your clients and achieve success for their business.

I would be interested to hear what others within the industry and particularly students and lecturers have to say on this issue – are the next-in-line moving too quickly away from traditional media to the detriment of their potential career progression?

Monday, 18 February 2008

A storm is a brewin’


Time does indeed fly – this time last week I was braving the cold (and restaurant bills) in Reykjavik - and after a hectic week in the office I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the publication of the latest ABC circulation figures. Once again, the conclusion from many commentators is print media as we know it is coming to an end.

We all know online news sources have flourished, not just from national organisations like the BBC but also the growing number of specialist sites (for example, Yorkshire’s own Business Desk.) But ten years after Drudge broke the Clinton-Lewinski affair the print media still is still struggling to develop a coherent response to the challenge it poses. Add to that the continued expansion of 24-hour rolling news channels and print media faces a stern test.

However, the latest ABC figures for magazines clearly illustrate there is a demand for in-depth analysis, quality features and challenging editorial. Titles like Private Eye and the Economist (as David has previously blogged) continue to hold their circulation figures steady, while The Spectator has grown for 11 consecutive six-month periods.

Yet with the New Statesman’s circulation dropping 12%, the risk to established titles is only too apparent. Publishers, like many of us working in media, are finding the pace of change a tough challenge. The question is how long they will be allowed to flounder before we see the first major media casualty.

One thing is clear – news gets older faster. There will always be a demand for journalism that goes beyond simply reporting the facts and as more magazines capitalise on this, the challenge is for newspapers to respond – or face being left out in the cold.

Monday, 4 February 2008

The public gets what the public wants

As a member of the LA paparazzi quits his job in apparent protest at the press’ hounding of Britney Spears, the familiar cries demonising celebrity photographers can be heard.

Ever since the paparazzi were indicted in the Diana accident, stories about paps and their methods have never been far from the headlines.

When I’m not in the office, I can often be found camera in hand taking photos that appear in a range of media. In the past that’s included red carpet and rarely, paparazzi work. Indeed, my first nationally published picture was Wayne Rooney and his girlfriend arriving at a charity ball.

While I personally would never go to the lengths that some do – climbing into gardens, hounding families or girlfriends and so on – I do find it difficult to blame paparazzi when the demand for their work is generated by the public.

Many have already blamed the savagery of the media for Ms Spears’ decline and I am sure they will hail Nick Stern as a reformed soul. However, the simple truth is that across the globe, the highest value photography remains the product of paparazzi work. To give you an idea, this short film about the Diana inquest covers one photographer’s £300k price tag for his photos of the crash scene.

So how can they demand such price? It’s simple - because the public will pay to see celebrities falling over, relaxing in private or in any shocking scenario. Paparazzi shots continue to sell in their thousands and the front pages remain dominated by splashes of ‘exclusive photos.’

If the public genuinely wants to get rid of paparazzi, then they should boycott the media that pays them. Until then, who can blame someone going after a single photo that could change their life?

(For those of you still struggling to link the headline, you should consider buying this!)

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Quit stressing about red tape – reach out to the top talent

Employers seek people who are head and shoulders above the rest.
SMEs need to keep developing and challenging their people.

That was the overriding consensus at a recent Yorkshire Business Insider Economic Forum at Headingley to which over 100 CEOs and MDs flocked on a bitterly cold, dark and bleak winter morning.

Reading about the event now from the warmth of our offices reinforces the importance of the vociferous call to action from a panel of heavyweights including Terry Hodgkinson, chair of Yorkshire Forward, and John Goodfellow of Skipton Building Society, who has risen through the ranks to become CEO.

Hodgkinson was appalled at the decline in investment in people development highlighted in a joint Yorkshire Forward and CBI biannual survey – at a time when it is most needed. Having invested an unprecedented number of days and budget in training for the Quest team (39 days and over £30,000 in budget) in 2007, it appears that we are in the minority.

And in the knowledge that “twentysomethings” will expect at least six career progressions, it’s up to employers to act now to keep them challenged and stimulated. The more savvy, such as Above & Beyond Architecture and Paul Waite Associates, are setting up scholarships and mentoring schemes respectively to attract, develop and retain the best people and maintain a steady flow to ensure smooth succession planning.

And on that very topic, we too are seeking a first-class operator for the role of deputy MD.

Happy talent-spotting, fellow SMEs!

© Quest Public Relations Ltd. www.quest-pr.com