Step forward and be the next automotive leader (hint: read this and do something today)

October 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

MIPAAHow do leaders emerge in organisations? How did your boss make the step beyond the others? Maybe she was prepared to invest time in her own career beyond the ‘day job’ and it was recognised by her boss. Maybe he worked out that there’s always a way to get that extra thing done during even the busiest day and proved the old adage that ‘give a busy person a job to do and they’ll make it happen’.

In the motor industry there’s a well-trodden way for communicators to put themselves in the spotlight, fast-track their careers and secure that first Non-Executive Director (NED) role.

Why not put yourself forward for election to the Board of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association? You’ll be using your experience and skills to help communicators within the motor industry work more effectively by providing training, workshops, events and opportunities for networking.

The current Board is about to change as Chairman Mike Orford completes his term and steps down, providing an opportunity for you (and why not?) to step forward.

Quite a few of us have served in this role during the 47 years since MIPAA was founded. We have all enjoyed the challenge of leading an industry group and been rewarded by seeing people develop and grow in the sector. Our ‘Who’s Who? of previous MIPAA Board members include Gabi Whitfield now Global PR Director at Land Rover, Edmund King now President of the AA, Mike Orford now Head of Press and PR at Volkswagen, Debbie Shields, now Product and PR Manager at Vauxhall Motors, Richard Gadeselli, now Vice President of Communications at CNH, Andrew Francis, now Director at Performance Communications and the list goes on.

WIFM?

If you are prepared to share your ideas, commit some time and step into the spotlight – MIPAA needs you and you’ll join a committed and vibrant team, working to help others. There’s no guarantee that it will help your career, but then it hasn’t prevented talented executives in the past from making rapid progress! And it’s never too early to learn how to be a NED…

The elections for the 2016 Board of MIPAA take place during November, so it’s time to act if you want to make your mark. Have a look at the MIPAA website, and then why not come to the next event and see for yourself? Contact Heather Yaxley, General Secretary and find out more.

About Al Clarke – I am a marketing and communications specialist who has worked in the motor industry at board level since 1997. I have held senior positions in global brands such as Ferrari and the BBC including a decade working as a journalist.

I am a member of the Institute of Directors, the Public Relations Consultants Association, an expert member of the digital community Smart Insights and Life President of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association.

I speak regularly in the field of marketing communications to businesses and the media with particular reference to digital media. Find me on Twitter @alclarkeltd and LinkedIn.

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What do you say when you meet the Prime Minister?

November 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

THE BUZZ STARTED started as the Prime Minister walked into the room, guests edged forward, ignoring their companion’s conversation. Who was going to meet his eye and be introduced? Tall, immaculately groomed, relaxed and confident, David Cameron’s first intro was to a VIP for the charity in whose honour the reception had been arranged. A couple of minutes of smiles, polite laughter chat…. and then it was the turn of my host, the Daily Mail’s Transport Editor Ray Massey to grip the hand of high office and say hello. Ray has grilled the last five PMs and scalped a few ministers in his time, so the small talk was easy and he suggested David Cameron might exchange his glass of water for a more relevant Guinness. Ray bantered with him about the earlier Prime Minister’s Questions. OK, so now I’m now a metre away from the man of the moment (David Cameron, rather than Ray…) What happened next?

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(Left to Right – Al Clarke, Ray Massey, Chris Boffey, David Cameron)

It was Wednesday night at the Irish Embassy in London and I was invited to the reception of the Journalists’ Charity (www.journalistscharity.org.uk) an event long-planned and a commitment honoured by the PM after agreeing to speak to the group many years earlier.

History was made. It was the first visit by a serving Prime Minister to the Irish Embassy in London and the wit flowed between the Ambassador Mr Bobby McDonagh and the PM. 10 minutes of un-scripted speeches, much (genuine) laughter and bonhomie from this gathering of the UK’s senior journalists, a quick pause for a final drink, a word to the guests and that was it. The PM departs and the serious drinking can get underway… trebles all round (Guinness mainly).

The event was important for the Journalists’ Charity which supports those in the industry who have fallen on hard times and provides backup for a group of people not always considered to be the most popular in society. I was a journalist at the start of my career and so this charity is relevant to me – in fact of the 100,000 UK journalists, only 5% are currently supporting the organisation so publicity is certainly needed. The irony of this is not lost on any of us..

So, what do you say to the Prime Minister who is standing in front of you, making eye contact and wondering who the hell you are? There’s an old expression about business meetings that goes something like..

‘you can sit quietly at a board meeting, say nothing and people will wonder if you’re an idiot. Or, you can open your mouth and prove it’.

I decided to continue with silence, having nothing amusing, entertaining or informative to add to the discussion and the moment passed. Maybe next time I’ll have a witty line…

Al

What would you have said? Answers please…

Donations to the Journalists’ Charity are more than welcome at: http://bit.ly/dv2utu . Thanks to Glyn Genin the legendary FT photographer for the images. He gave his time during the event to help promote the activity.

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Al Clarke is the co- founder of a social media marketing business called Pebble in the Pond www.thepebbleinthepond.co.uk combining senior business and marketing experience from some of the world’s best known brands with expertise in cutting edge digital technology to provide actionable social media plans for your business.

Al is the former Commercial & Brand Director of Ferrari GB, and a Director of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) www.mipaa.com

Video killed the Radio Star …or should it now be Social Media Saves the Radio Star?

October 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Social Media is not good news for radio advertising revenue is it?

Well, I think it is. But only if someone gets a grip. And quickly. That’s the subject of a Radio Festival debate next Tuesday in Manchester and I’ll be making the case for social media loud and clear (See the programme details here http://bit.ly/byPvCC ).

‘The pictures are better on radio’ an old slogan we used in the ‘90s when I worked in commercial radio but still valid today – and it can be true, literally, if broadcasters join the new world of social media.

The explosion of entertainment choices provided by the internet and mobile technology means people can do what they want when they want. And they’re fickle. No need to wait for the end of the tune to catch the name of the artist, your iPhone will work it out – or you can read it on the website. Something else catches your ear or your eye and maybe you want to go to the artist’s website, or perhaps follow them on Twitter? Or become a Facebook fan. Or if you’re waiting for the news bulletin – just try Google instead.
No longer do you need to hang off every word of the presenter’s carefully crafted links – or more to the point, to listen to the ads that pay the bills in between the tunes and the news.

I firmly believe that the basics of social media – people in dialogue with other people using electronic media – is just what radio’s all about too. And you can use the loyalty that people feel for the station and presenters to engage with sponsors and advertisers.

How? One of the stations I worked at in Stoke on Trent (now called Signal 1) has a Facebook page with 5000 fans. As of today (15 October) the last update appears to be a week ago. Some stimulating content, links to interest groups and events would keep engagement going. But it needs focus and resource. Images and interviews – all available – could keep people on the site and talking about it.

Signal 1’s Twitter feed has 354 followers. One of their key advertisers (Arnold Clark, a car dealer) has 530 Twitter followers! Really? A car dealer has more followers than this great radio station?
Kiss 100 in London has 1500 Facebook fans. Is that good? You decide. Neither Smooth Radio nor Heart seem to do Facebook (please tell me I’m wrong..) and Radio 1 has just 5,209 followers on Twitter. LBC promote their twitter feed on their site and stream the content (hallelujah!) and have 5,000 followers.

However, Chris Evans has 134,000 Twitter followers, Chris Moyles has 227,000 fans (and what happens to Radio 1’s influence on Twitter if he moves away from the station…) and Tony Blackburn has nearly 9,000 Twitter followers.

So what?

1/3 of 18-34 year old women check their Facebook account BEFORE they use the bathroom in the morning. They’re clearly not listening to your station first of all, but you might be able to engage with them via Facebook. And then get them listening, and engaging with your sponsors if there’s enough interesting content.

It took 38 years for Radio to achieve its first 50 million listeners. Facebook found 200 million in 9 months.

Come on guys – get with the programme… join the debate at  http://bit.ly/radioandsmblog  

Al Clarke is the co- founder of a social media practice called Pebble in the Pond www.thepebbleinthepond.co.uk dedicated to brand and reputation management and the organisational alignment of social media operations. Pebble in the Pond combines senior business and marketing experience from some of the world’s best known brands with expertise in cutting edge digital technology to provide actionable social media plans for your business.

 
Al is the former Commercial & Brand Director of Ferrari GB, now a marketing and communications consultant and a Director of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) www.mipaa.com

The Mail on Sunday Social Media Listening – Big Brother’s here or Wake-Up Time for consumers?

June 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s official. Social media is now newsworthy. When the Mail on Sunday becomes agitated about an issue then you can be sure its time has come. ‘How BT Sarah spies on your Facebook account: secret new software allows BT and other firms to trawl internet looking for disgruntled customers’ http://bit.ly/aH76K2  in today’s (6/6/10) paper sets the hare running.

BT, Carphone Warehouse, EasyJet and Lloyds TSB are sited as brands which have used social media monitoring to identify and engage with customers to resolve issues after they have complained on public websites about poor service. The newspaper reported the surprised reaction of some individuals who did not expect to be contacted after posting their views on social networking sites.  

I’m relieved that Britain’s biggest brands are awake and listening to the social web, it shows they are ahead of their competitors in recognising that their customers are talking about them. Not enough of them are even listening at all.

The point that the article misses by either design or default is that the brands are responding to public information.  This is not a privacy issue, these are not closed forums – they are open conversations being held in public and anyone can hear them.

No different in fact to a letter written to a newspaper by a customer or an appearance on BBC’S Watchdog. If a brand did not respond it would show either disregard for their customer’s concerns or ignorance of the media.

The issue for brands to address when they have a customer issue in front of them on the social web is what to do with it. That’s where your social media strategy is vital. Is it a PR issue because it’s in the public domain? Is it a marketing issue because it affects the brand? Is it a customer care issue alone? Is it a legal issue? And after that how do you engage with someone who is not expecting to hear from you in this way.

Social media has torn up the marketing and communications rulebook and only a few brands have embraced the change beyond having a Twitter account and a Facebook page.

In 2010 we’re entering one of the most exciting business changes in a generation as organisations face the challenges thrown up by the democratising impact of social media. Who should be talking to customers and what is the tone of voice?

If some brands are getting it wrong with clumsy responses to customers (and there are examples), then learn from them and do it better. There are plenty of positive examples, too Dell, M&S, American Express come to mind.  

But, you can’t make an omelette without cracking eggs. And this is cutting edge stuff.

This isn’t a Big Brother issue, it’s about awareness by consumers that what’s online is public information, and for brands that engagement with a client through social media requires a new sensitivity.

Listen to the conversations. Act on the information. Integrate it within your business.

Al

Al is the former Commercial & Brand Director of Ferrari GB, now a marketing and communications consultant and a Director of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA)  www.mipaa.com

He is the co- founder of a social media practice called Pebble in the Pond www.thepebbleinthepond.co.uk dedicated to brand and reputation management and the organisational alignment of social media operations.

Pebble in the Pond combines senior business and marketing experience from some of the world’s best known brands with expertise in cutting edge digital technology to provide actionable social media plans for your business.

Social Media – A Blog eat Blog world?

March 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Broadcast media has co-habited with print media for decades with each reviewing the others’ output in programmes like ‘What the Papers Say’ and the daily TV/radio listings inside the national daily papers – you could say it was the earliest form of media convergence.

Now we’re seeing a new dimension as broadcast media gets cosy with social media and in the BBC’s Food Programme today on Radio 4 (29 March 2010) the full half-hour is devoted to how social media is enabling food companies to engage with their customers in a new and personal way with a report from the Food Show at the NEC in Birmingham.

If you have 30 mins it’s worth the time to listen http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00rl4kg as it is a great example of small businesses getting direct return for their investment in social media and making use of the widely available and easy-to-use tools that are on the web today.

The question I hear most about social media is ‘How can I make it work for me, I don’t have a twitter account or even a decent website?’ The answer to this, like most questions involving a change of thinking about a fundamental aspect of your business is that if you have a ‘can-do’ approach and are open to make it happen, you will find the way.

If the statistics are correct, just 15% of businesses are using social media in a structured way to engage with their clients. My bet is that it will never get above 60% of people using it in a structured way – just think how few businesses have a structured ‘traditional’ marketing plan today!

So, the opportunity is there for the businesses who are able to recognise the opportunity presented by social media, establish a realistic plan based on factual information about their brand (gathered in an audit) and then apply sufficient resource to make it work.

In the meantime as media channels converge, cross-promote and blog about themselves the word will continue to spread.

Since I started this blog ‘Alclarkeltd’ on Saturday here in chilly England I’ve been amazed to see the hits that have bounced back via my Twitter account (USA) and from 15 readers in the UK. This is my ‘live’ experiment in social media and it is clear that once you’re out there the drums start beating. The issue is, will you choose the rhythm or end up dancing to someone else’s beat?

Al

About Al Clarke..

Al is the former Commercial & Brand Director of Ferrari GB, now a marketing and communications consultant and a director of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). He is working in this field with partners to bring together the experience of communications management and the latest software tools to enable his clients to make informed decisions about their brands. Interested to learn more about social media…if you’re in the motor industry join MIPAA www.mipaa.com

Social Media – a tale of the pub, Donald Rumsfeld and the Mexican Wave…

March 27, 2010 § 2 Comments

Interesting to read PR Week today who suggest in their survey of 128 brands http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/992472/PRWeek-Diffusion-Digital-Integration-Report-digital-divide/ that only around 30% have embraced social media in their comms strategy as a core activity, which means that the vast majority of businesses in the UK are not evaluating social media. So what?

My own experience of social media from working in-house at Ferrari and before that at the motor industry trade association SMMT (the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders http://www.smmt.co.uk ) is that in both cases – firstly a high profile luxury brand, and secondly a multi-issue representative body – there is SO MUCH to listen to that it is virtually impossible to make sense of the deluge of information and so you can simply be drawn along in the tail of the hurricane unless you get lucky, or take a stance at the start.

If you’re in a relatively low-profile organisation and have the time/resource you can probably keep tabs by yourself I would suggest. In the same way as you can read the press cuttings, hear the podcasts and look at videos on-line, you’ll probably be able to take sense of what’s been said and manage things. You probably don’t need formal tools to do it.

But, if you are in a company that does have a profile, how do you know what’s happening in the world and who’s playing with your reputation? Remember Donald Rumsfeld and the Known Knowns.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtkUO8NpI84

Someone told me recently that Social Media is like the Pub. There are lots of conversations going on, some of them happy, some not. Some of them are about you, most not. Even when you’re not there the talk still goes on at the bar. Rumours start, some of them true, others are rubbish. Lots of chatter and you can’t listen to all of the conversations, so does it matter?

Well, if it’s only old Fred at the bar who happens to be talking you down, no-one takes any notice. If in fact it’s Jane who is shouting loudly at the bar and she happens to be the opinion leader in the village, then you’ve got a problem.

Unless someone tells you what’s going on, you’ll never know until you stop getting Christmas cards, or you’re not invited to the Village dance because your name is mud. How do you know who started it, and whether you want to have a word with them or can afford just to ignore it?

The analogy is that in social media, unless someone emails you with a link to something that has been said on-line, how do you know who is saying what? A Google search? Maybe. But then you have to read all 21,356,788 results and make up your own mind. Could be a long night!

We need the ability to listen to all the conversations, sort the important from the trivial and decide whether we just want to listen and follow the flow, or whether we need to take some action.

I have worked with Report International http://www.reportinternational.com/ in the past for press cutting evaluation and it worked well on a global basis. (In fact I suggest you have a read of Mike Daniel’s blog today – well worth the time). I was able to see the trends, act accordingly and move the needle in the organisations where we used this tool.

Think of it like this. How does a Mexican Wave start in a football stadium? Someone convinces someone else and soon it happens – the crowd follows a leader. In traditional media, you know which areas of the stadium to look in (the titles of the media) and can keep your eyes on them. In social media you don’t know where it will start, who’s going to join in and where it will end up, and you can’t just engage directly with the people doing the waving!

Social media is so vast, so swift and the source of comment so unpredictable (and permanent)  that you need someone to guide you through the maze. I’m on that journey now, reviewing the tools available and working through the issues with some clients and would like to talk to you if you’re on the same path..what’s your experience and how do you make it work?

Anyone fancy a drink down the pub, I’ve heard that this social media thing is the next big thing and I bet old Fred has something to say about it…

Al

About Al Clarke..

Al is the former Commercial & Brand Director of Ferrari GB, now a marketing and communications consultant and a director of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). He is working in this field with partners to bring together the experience of communications management and the latest software tools to enable his clients to make informed decisions about their brands. Interested to learn more about social media…if you’re in the motor industry join MIPAA www.mipaa.com