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Sunday, 14 April 2013
Thursday, 11 April 2013
You can watch the video here
Here are some still photographs from our six day shoot.
The Environment Agency in the North West has a Twitter account @EnvAgencyNW if you want to follow its progress.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Tuesday, 2 April 2013
Boat building is turning into a major money earner for Turkey. Long-recognised as a specialist manufacturer of chemical and oil tankers, it has turned its attention to the luxury end of the market, building super yachts for the super rich.
Foreign investors have been attracted by a highly-skilled, low cost workforce and have set up yards alongside traditional family-owned businesses on Turkey's southern coast. Gavin Hill has been to Gocek and Bodrum in the region to find out more. If you are viewing this on a mobile device click here.
This is a re-edited version of a four minute film Gavin Hill made on Turkey's super yacht building industry. Bloomberg used the re-worked footage as a peg for a studio-based debate on Turkey's economy. Avante is speaking to a number of Turkish boat builders and marinas about corporate video.
Gavin Hill films on the Med.
Monday, 1 April 2013
We travelled to Swindon for a two day shoot on behalf of Companion Care Vets, the vetinary service allied to the Pets at Home store chain.
You can see the video we made here
It’s an amazing story. Pets at Home founder, Stockport-based Anthony Preston started the chain from a single superstore in Chester in 1991. Now it's worth £1 billion.
While working in the family cash and carry business he noted a change in the buying habits of the nation’s pet owners. Animal lovers were not visiting traditional pet shops so frequently and supermarkets were not offering much of a range of pet products. He also observed the rise of the supersheds and a trend for out-of-town retail parks across the UK.
By 1995, the company had 25 stores and attracted private equity investment from 3i, which supported its acquisition of Petsmart UK so Pets at Home could become a market leader. Sales continued to grow and the business rocketed in value from £20m in 1997 to upwards of £200m seven years later.
After attracting bids from 14 private equity houses, Pets at Home was sold to Bridgepoint in 2004 in a deal worth £230m. On 27 January 2010 Britain's largest pet shop chain was sold by Bridgepoint to US investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) for £955milion.
KKR has investments in Boots and Toys "R" Us. The business now has 250 stores with sales of more than £400m in 2009. In around a third of the stores is a fully qualified vet working from a state of the art surgery. The vets are part of Companion Care Vets, a subsidiary of Pets at Home.
But essentially each surgery is a privately-owned business which the incumbent vet can sell at a later stage. The benefits are a regular footfall of potential customers coming to the store and superb support services and advice on things like marketing, PR, accountancy and legal issues from the Companion Care Vets central office. There are also plans to establish “stand alone” surgeries in the future.
Avante shot footage to be used at the Companion Care Vets annual conference, including interviews with suppliers and also filmed vets and vet-nurses talking about their positive experiences of running their own business from a giant pet store.
"Blue Arrow uses the services of Avante Media to create and film bespoke client case studies on DVD format. The quality of the work undertaken has been of the highest order and will be hugely beneficial in both highlighting the partnership approach to working with clients and also supporting the sales team to bring our service to life. Avante Media adopts a truly consultative approach allowing them to understand our business first, therefore ensuring the message we want to portray is delivered exactly how we like it. I would not hesitate to recommend the services of Avante Media to any business looking to utilise corporate and digital media."
At short notice Avante Media Limited and its partner Stake Productions were asked to shoot a video of Coronation Street stars at Manchester's Gay Pride March on August 27th 2011. Here's the result.
On August 30th Avante's Gavin Hill and Stephen Melling travelled to Hampden Park for a hush-hush shoot with Adidas, using "green screen" technology combined with a special software.
The pair filmed top football stars like Charlie Adam, Kenny Miller and Darren Fletcher.
The result has been a stunning marketing campaign in sportswear stores throughout the world where images of football star can be dropped into any location or pop up from the floor to shock and amaze customers. Adidas's own film of the project is here.
An image of Darren Fletcher "pops up" in store
Augmented Reality, is a new buzzword in video and marketing. So far it has been used most successfully in a Lynx guerilla marketing campaign, including an event in March 2011 at London's Victoria Station, when an angel appeared to fall out of the sky.
You can learn more about the process here. Essentially Augmented Reality (or AR) is old technology - green screen and chromakey - given a new lease of life by the addition of relatively sophisticated software. But pioneers experimenting with a whole range of new hardware and software claim the possibilities are limitless.
Right now, for example, you can try on "virtual" glasses via your laptop without going to shop. Imagine the joy of armies of men who will be able to tell their partners that instead of trailing them around the fashion stores all Saturday the girls can wriggle into a range of AR dresses and frocks online!
Analysts are saying that what is already a $100m industry will soon be a $3 billion market. The key is getting a product into the hands of (or up close and personal to) a customer, even if that product is "virtual". Research shows that a significant percentage of customers will buy if they have actually touched or felt the product, even as an AR image.
So after you have met a life size AR image of your favourite football star jumping out into a shop aisle displaying a new piece of kit, what next?
A "virtual" Bet Lynch popping up behind the bar in your local recommending a pint of the best bitter? An AR-style Joan Collins purring in a department store about the virtues of a new fragrance?
A naked Keith Chegwin.....no stop that thought.
For the marketing teams behind many products this could be a novel and effective way forward.
Here is some footage from the filming day.
A still from Avante's footage featuring Liverpool's Charlie Adam
Why? Well, because it affects (not effects, please note) the way people view you. Look at the photograph above. Would you deal with this company? Would you trust it?
The eminent Stephen Fry thinks we should not become too stressed by language "errors". He explains his position in a rather long but illuminating and enjoyable video.
So do you get annoyed when you see spelling, grammar or punctuation errors? Perhaps you take the view that as long as the "sense" is conveyed everything is fine.
Do you tut or send comments, if online, to the relevant website? Of course, being over 50 I am bound to be a protagonist for the "standards are slipping" brigade. I am sorry but they are. Paragons of journalistic virtue like the BBC (see below) and The Times are often found wanting nowadays.
It is probably a subject for another day but it may surprise you to know that when I briefly taught communications skills to undergraduates at a North West university I was instructed: "Don't mark them down for bad spelling".
It always amazes me that people in communications, especially PR, are not more fastidious about their (not there, please note) writing. I accept that people are under more pressure nowadays.
However, your brand, personal or corporate, is only as good as its (not it's please note) weakest link. Does any of this matter? Is Fry correct? If you have time I would appreciate your view. Meanwhile, if you find an error in this post I apologise.
From a PR release
Digital editors need to take care over juxtaposing advertising and editorial. But sometimes they are undone by changing or flashing banner ads that can throw up awkward or uneasy alliances. Here's an example, not that the directors of GMF have done anything wrong.
Hollywood superstars should know better.
Much has been made of the impact of video on page one of a website. People stay longer when video plays. And a film helps to show the man or woman behind the business. Viewers engage more after watching a website video, with clicks for more information increasing by 30% to 40% and phone inquiries by 16% to 20%
We are currently shooting a series of videos of SME owners explaining their vision and services. Here's an example from top sales and change management trainer Tony Park of Marple Bridge near Stockport. We can shoot these at a cost from as little as £199 plus VAT.
Avante Media is now providing video services to an innovative training company Mojo Life, helping people to develop their "story", inspire better communication and leadership skills and eventually to improve sales and marketing potential.
The smartphone app sends data immediately to a company's head office, appearing as bar or pie charts. Customers are many times more likely to use the app than fill in written feedback forms and organisations find they gain better and more reliable information.
Avante Media is working with Lee to provide compelling video for his website and his marketing strategy. We filmed him in our new Manchester city centre studios.
Lee is a great believer in social media marketing and so are we.
We believe business video will become an essential marketing tool in the coming months.
We began our video work for MojoLife by filming an interview conducted by MojoLife co-founder Andrew Thorp with Richard McCann, the son of one of the victims of the Yorkshire Ripper. Richard turned his life around after the murder began a spiral of decline in his childhood. He is now a much sought after public speaker. Above is the full the interview.
Then we filmed an interview with Jo Berry, the inspirational peacemaker who befriended the IRA bomber Patrick Magee, the man who murdered her father in the Brighton Bombing of the Grand Hotel in 1984. Together they set out on a global peace campaign. The interview is her.
We have been filming two charismatic speakers and business gurus for the public speaking and networking venture MojoLife.
Dawn Gibbins is the daughter of the great British inventor, Peter Gibbins, the genius behind seamless resin flooring, better known commercially as Flowcrete. Long term chairman and managing director, Dawn sold the family-run business in 2008 for mega millions. Now she has a new passion, inspiring others and supporting a raft of charities. She dubs herself a “Philanthropreneur” and has appeared on TV’s Secret Millionaire. A much sought-after public speaker, she is currently exploring how Feng Shui can influence people’s attitudes and minds. Spend just a few minutes in her company and you cannot fail to be energised. You can read more about pocket rocket Dawn here.
Management consultant John Woodruffe came into Dawn’s life when her company was managing to make a £500,000 loss on a £20m turnover. Following John’s strategy the company went on to grow revenues to £50m and achieve profits in excess of £5m. His catchphrase is “be prepared to call your baby ugly”. In other words, be ready to see the faults and weaknesses in your business. You can access John's website here. He helps businessmen and women to shape a clear vision and mission, shows them how to be lean and efficient, how to construct profitable marketing campaigns and to define a “Unique Sales Proposition”.
You’ll soon be able to view their wit and wisdom on MojoLife’s TV channel.
The film was edited and duly delivered for the important meeting, designed to keep shareholders up to date with rival bids for the club.
The lyrics of the F.R.David song always make me smile. That is because many senior executives seem to have great difficulty finding the right ones at the most important times for their companies.
But when communicating, especially to the media, "words" is all you have. No natty iPad, no "emotional crutch" Power Point to rely on. Just you...and words.
So words are vitally important. Say the wrong thing and you can easily demotivate an entire workforce. Or, as Gerald Ratner discovered, destroy an empire and lose £500m.
Let's take a hypothetical situation of a company that has to make 12 per cent of its employees redundant. Say around 1,000 people.
Sounds like bad news eh? Heart is already thumping, tongue feels like the floor of a birdcage, nervous twitch appears.
What if I'm up against Paxman? Or the General Secretary of the Union?
What to do...?
Some spokespeople go for what I call the "sackcloth and ashes" interview....
"Well, it could be worse. We're not as bad as company XYZ. I blame the recession/government/banking crisis...Morale is very low but we hope it'll pick up."
That'll really engage the troops, who let's face it, are your front line ambassadors.
But wait a moment.
How about looking for the "good news"?
What's good about 1,000 job losses, you ask?
Well, for a start, you are safeguarding the jobs of 88 per cent of the workforce (VERY good news for them and also for the shareholders, of course).
And these jobs, well they are not going immediately but in a year.
The "colleagues" (not employees, by the way) actually may not go after all because you are in fact outsourcing the roles to another company.
It is the other company's decision in the long run, based on the economic climate in 12 months.
And who can tell right now what that will be?
If anyone does go they'll receive full counselling on seeking a career change and a generous settlement.
"We" (not "the company") want to thank them for the great service they have given and we're sorry if anyone eventually does have to leave.
The decision has been forced on us because most of these colleagues work in call centres and more and more customers now want to buy online.
We've listened to our customers and want to give them the best service possible and the keenest prices (good news for the customers, too).
We have engaged with the unions and will continue to do so.
The company, therefore, has been open, honest and transparent.
Company spokespeople have to learn to tell the story properly.
And to use the correct words.
Yet so many approach the task with their management head on...looking only for the "problems".
I have a video clip of a joint presentation made by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern shortly before the Good Friday Agreement was sealed.
There was a glitch, a delay.
They both spoke for about four minutes but they used very different language and the impact of what they said was totally different.
Blair conveyed optimism, Ahern pessimism.
So, when facing the media, think about the story you wish to tell and take care with those words.
I have just come across a company called Jargon PR. Apparently they seem quite good and have won awards. But I can't help but think the name is so negative.
Why would you call your company Jargon? It's like a business consultancy calling itself Red Tape or Complexity. Or a children's nursery calling itself Risky House or Sharp Objects.
Maybe it's me. Maybe it's reverse psychology. What do you think?
At a networking event I met a guy whose company, selling cheaper phone connections, was called Tel-e-phony.
I couldn't help thinking the "phony" bit was going to cause him problems.
Names are clearly part of your branding and therefore important.
My company's name Avante was invented by a creative pal.
Apart from sounding a bit like the Italian for "forward" he was thinking a business starting with the letter "A" would be at the front of directories.
When you check directories, however, you see absurd companies called "Aardvark" or "AAA Designs".
It also always amazes me when people use long winded names which then translate into e mail addresses the size of crazy Welsh railway stations.
Having an e mail address like "email@example.com" not only vastly increases the chances of correspondents getting it wrong and messages bouncing back, it's also a nightmare for group messaging on Internet Service Providers like AOL for instance which only allows about 15 characters in its automated filing system.
Have you examples of business names that inspire?
This year one of the most interesting panel debates was entitled "Are PRs from Venus and SEOs from Mars? When will the planets ever collide?".
It explored whether PR practictioners and SEO techies could and should work together. If the answer was "no", which one group would be more influential in the future?
Among several important side issues was whether AVEs (advertising value equivalents) had any relevance as a matrix for assessing clients' traditional media and/or digital coverage.
On the panel was James Crawford of PR Agency One, Peter Bowles of Dynamo PR and Simon Wharton of online marketing agency PushON. The session was moderated by Lexi Mills of Distilled, a web development agency turned online marketer.
If they were growing he was prepared to claim the credit, seemed to be the inference.
He went on: "PR agencies are full of clueless, johnny-come-latelies."
Peter admitted that in the past convincing clients of the effectiveness of PR using AVEs was often "like a gameshow".
Although he no longer uses AVES, he confessed that, historically, if a particular bit of coverage in the Dail Mail was actually worth £50,000 (in AVE terms) PRs would often "double it" and call that £100,000.
Simon said AVEs were not quite dead yet because clients are "still not asking the right questions".
When they did some PRs could be in trouble, he intimated.
James agreed: "Sometimes you get a bean counter who has heard about AVEs and still asks for it."
Peter said neither the CIPR or PR Week used AVEs for judging success for awards.
PRs and marketers should go on courses and learn about analytics, said Simon.
Should SEOs attend all agency meetings?
There were advantages and risks, said the panel.
What if SEOs took the client away from the PR agency?
Simon said it was vital that if a PR wants to place a good story there should be initial input from SEO and Pay-Per-Click specialists to drive initial engagement.
PRs therefore need a broader knowledge if this "all agency" approach is to happen.
But he also argued the old fashioned methods of marketing could still be effective.
"Sometimes the best way is just to pick up the phone."
Skype and Google hangouts were other ways of "getting people together".
Good contacts, they all agreed, were crucial.
Peter revealed how one London Radio station dealt with Press releases.
If they didn't include the words "London", "Boris" or "Olympics" in the first few lines they tended to end up unread and in the bin.
He added that the media landscape had changed completely in the last five years.
James argued that in the next five years the whole debate could be irrelevant if Google moves the goalposts and ranks sites by something other than links.
In the event of all out war between PRs and SEOs, Lexi concluded, which camp would emerge victorious?
Simon was convinced that SEOs already held all the aces.
You can see James' slides on the issues here.
Within days the Twitter bandwagon had begun to roll with the hashtag campaign
Then came comments like this after Ireland lost 0-4 to Spain in the Euros.
Pukka's PR idea won't make the gravy train and they may be left to eat humble pie.
MSN UK surveyed 2,000 people (actually carried out by OnePoll) checking audience behaviour in certain news situations.
The survey also asked what news sources were most trusted by respondents. Unsurprisingly, broadcast television and radio come top with 43 per cent, followed by online news sites with 19 per cent.
Newspapers with 15 per cent and magazines with 9.1 per cent came next. Social Networks were bottom.
Take last year when footballer Steed Malbranque's son was alleged to have died or was dying from cancer causing him to quit.
The story rumbled on around Twitter and Facebook for three days before an official statement declared it was complete rubbish. Read the official version here.
Clearly social media has a huge role to play in marketing. But companies would do well not to ignore traditional media.
Only one person, I predict, is going to come out of this with any credit and that is the very enterprising nine-year-old Martha Payne, from Argyll, who began publishing photographs of her Lochgilphead Primary School lunches on 30 April.
Her blog Never Seconds (you can access it here) has already had more the 2.7 million hits.
Martha even uses it to raise money for charity. So far more than £2000. Good on her.
The blog even had Jamie Oliver tweeting: "Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going, big love from Jamie x."
The school itself, we are told, has been very supportive.
But the Town Hall Jobsworths have reached for their rule book and clip boards.
"Martha", they ordered "yer banned".
Banned only from taking photographs, it must be said, not banned from blogging. But the pictures in effect ARE the blog.
A council spokesman said press coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.
Martha gave each meal a 'food-o-meter' and health rating, and counted the number of mouthfuls it took her to eat it.
You might have thought that was very inventive and creative, showing an enviable interest in the world around her. The sort of thing schools are there to promote among their pupils.
In these sorry times when the NHS among others are issuing warnings about childhood obesity how refreshing to find a young person actually calorie counting.
Some posts were very positive. One read "Lunch was really nice today and it helped to cheer me up."
Of course, it wasn't especially helpful of the Daily Record newspaper to publish a photograph of Martha alongside chef Nick Nairn under the headline "Time to fire the dinner ladies."
(Why don't headline writers think before they put finger to keyboard?).
But in a classic case of sledgehammer to crack a nut-ritional enterprise the council has declined to engage in dialogue and simply gone for the nuclear option.
The decision to ban Martha from taking photographs has been criticised by Scotland's Education Secretary Mike Russell, who is also the MSP for Argyll and Bute.
At the last count the story on the BBC website had generated almost 900 responses, the vast majority supporting Martha.
One respondent wrote: "We need more of this not less, make it compulsory! In my opinion every school and hospital for that matter should do this. After all a focus on customer care is a good thing and will drive up standards...as for the councils excuses they are very weak."
The council have got themselves, almost literally, into a pickle over this.
Why didn't they meet with Martha and her parents, in private at first and then later on radio and television to discuss the issues?
Raising awareness often brings an unexpected solution (for example a company prepared to sponsor some of the cooking or the budget).
Censorship is rarely easy to justify and what sort of example does it set to the kids in the school?
Do anything original and we'll hammer you.
Even on a basic crisis news management level council chiefs have been left with egg mornay all over their faces.
Emails, Tweets and Facebook messages have gone around the globe and now put this tranquil Scottish backwater firmly on the map for all the wrong reasons.
Can the pen-pushers get themselves out of this toad-in-the-hole? I doubt it.
I expect, however, the council has one more initiative up its sleeve.
Instead of calling the dinner ladies to a meeting and telling 'em their jobs are NOT on the line, officials will probably send them instead for counselling.
In case they sue the authority for Post Tapioca Stress Disorder.
STOP PRESS: It appears the council has at last seen sense. Go here
Well done Cllr Roddy McCuish, the council leader.
I also received a thank you from Martha's dad for my blog post
Great link! Thanks George. It's been a roller coaster! Looking forward to normality returning but I think the world has changed. Thanks for your support without it nothing would have changed.
But the satire countinues
Apparently more than 50% of businesses do not conduct crisis simulations.
I have run many crisis simulations, for example at the NEC, Earl's Court and at a major UK Airport.
Heads of Communications should really give this some thought.
There are some good tips here.
And here is some raw footage from the airport exercise, which also included police, fire and ambulance services. The "injured" are all actors.
Jeremy Paxman's dismantling of Junior Minister Chloe Smith (see below) will put a lot of people off the idea of engaging with the media, especially the broadcast media. This is a shame because this type of interview is at the far end of the spectrum from the vast majority of interviews undertaken every day by the media.
Here was a Junior Minister trying to defend a Government U-turn and Paxman had every right to go for the jugular.
Of course, a seasoned interviewee like Ken Clarke would have handled Paxman far better. Smith did not help herself by mishandling the first question and when you get off to a bad start it usually gets worse, as it did here.
Was she prepared? Who knows?
Here are my top 10 tips on preparing for an interview.
1. Sit down in a quiet room and decide on your objective. What do you want to achieve from the interview?
2. Organise your story. Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. What is the main point you want to make? You'll start your story here.
3. Do you have a couple of statistics to back up your argument (not a blizzard of figures)?
4. Do you have a human anecdote to support your position?
5. How are you going to end the interview? You usually get notice that it's the final question. Ensure you end on a positive.
6. Learn how to rebut questions. The interviewer, even Paxman, is not the police. You don't have to answer the questions in the way he or she wants. It's your interview, be proactive not reactive.
7. Rehearse. Having formulated your story get a colleague to play Paxman and see how you perform, preferably using a camcorder. Looking uncomfortable on camera can undermine you even if the words are persuasive.
8. Review your work. Bounce your interview off a colleague, preferably someone with a PR or communications background.
9. In the interview itself (unless it is about a tragedy) remember to look positive, smile sometimes, and above all stay calm.
10. Keep your responses short and simple. Don't use jargon. Under pressure Chloe Smith used the acronym "OBR". Do you know what that is? No, neither did I. I had to look it up.
This is the theory....but these tips won’t replace proper professional media training.
Pals are asking girls to rate their mates via a hand held online questionnaire.
The humourous quiz is designed to break the ice and get couples talking.
More than 4,000 people have downloaded the App, usually used to rate restaurants, hotels and guage customer service.
The inventor of Survey Me Lee Evans, 40, of Bramhall, Cheshire said: “I suppose it’s a mobile phone version of the TV show Snog, Marry, Avoid?
“I was quite shocked when I realised what some people were using it for.
“But if it helps to improve their love life, I’m all for it.”
Sales manager Andy Johnston, 40, set up a survey for his divorced pal and fellow Everton fan Sean Liddell, 45, from Liverpool.
Sample questions include:
“How would you best describe Sean’s looks?”
Clooney-esque; On a par with Brad Pitt; Fine but no oil painting; Just about acceptable; Should have stayed in Notre Dame.
Another asks “Sean is the director of a training company. What skills are absolutely essential for him to have before you would date him?”
Ability to leave the toilet seat down; Cooking; Romance; Good personal Hygiene; Will clean the bathroom.
Andy, from Stockport, Greater Manchester said: “Sean runs his own training business and has a lot going for him.
“But the pressure of being a boss leaves him little time for socialising and meeting people.
“So to get the most out of an evening and maybe meet some new people who he could date while skipping the chatting up bit we thought about Survey Me.
“It’s like speed dating but much more fun for everyone
“We’ve used it a few times in clubs and bars around Liverpool’s waterfront and the girls really seem to see the fun side and warm to it.
“Very few girls ever refuse to have a go.”
Sean added: “I was a bit dubious at first but it has landed me a few numbers and led to a couple of interesting dates.
“I can see how it might catch on for single lads and maybe girls too.”
The idea has even been used in New Zealand where businessman Andy McDowell, 40, designed a survey for his single mate Dan Simpson, 36.
One questions asks: “As Dan is unlikely to remember tomorrow, what colour hair do you have?”
Blonde, Brunette, Black, Ginger, Bald
Another asks: “Is Dan likely to get your phone number tonight?”
Recipients can then use an automated sliding scale from 0-10 to register their mark.
Andy said: “It started off as a bit of a laugh in the local bar one night.
“But as soon as one group of girls started laughing at the questions we created, others at the tables around also wanted to have a go.
“Dan ended up with a fair few choices of hotties to date in the next fortnight."
Lee added: “The App is intended for business and has been used in five-star restaurants and leading hotels.
“But we always knew it had wide applications.
“People can sign up and get the first 10 surveys for free. So unless you are very unlucky anyone using it to land a date should be fine.”