Tuesday, 29 March 2011

St Stephen’s wins national shopping centre award nomination

eskimosoup client St Stephen’s shopping centre is raising the city of Hull to new heights as it is recognised against the likes of much larger London and National schemes.

Efforts to make the shopping centre a real success for the people of Hull and East Riding and to boost the local economy has been acknowledged in the only retail PR and marketing awards in the UK.

The BCSE Purple Apple awards are unique in that they identify effective shopping centre media relations and marketing within the UK shopping centre sector, showcasing new industry standards of delivery, performance and innovation, putting a whole new outlook on shopping centre marketing. Winners will be announced at the Purple Apple Marketing Awards Dinner taking place on Thursday 12 May at The Brewery, London.

St Stephen’s Shopping Centre was nominated within the ‘Public/ Media Relations Category’ for its effective PR and events management which has led to St Stephen’s lifting footfall to over 9 million in 2010 an increase of 17% in just 2 years! The shopping centre offers a complete experience for shoppers with all the latest high street brands, a great selection of eateries and a first-class cinema. Despite the national downturn, St Stephen’s continued to attract shoppers and new tenants, with some stores reporting record footfall and turnover figures throughout November and December.

Jim Harris, Centre Manager, said: “We’re delighted with this achievement. St Stephen’s has grown quickly over the last 18 months to become a thriving shopping centre that is fully-let. That this has been recognised by the industry body; Purple Apple, is a brilliant testimony to the effort and commitment of the entire team.”

John Gilbert, Marketing Director at eskimosoup said: “eskimosoup deliver media relations, PR, marketing and events support for St Stephen’s. They are a premier client and working with them is a real feather in our cap. The fact that our hard work is receiving national recognition makes it all the more exciting.”

Monday, 28 March 2011

How can the Health Secretary deal with the Andrew Lansley Rap?

It's not often that viral videos and the words 'internet sensation' are applicable to government policy. It's perhaps seen as too boring for the necessary youth interest, which is usually needed to take online content from a few views to the holy grail of e-marketing that is viral, where friends pass it to friends and tens of thousands of views soon rack up.

But, as shown by recent Student demonstrations and the massive turn out of at the anti-cuts rally in London last week, difficult times do tend to raise political awareness throughout the population, even in the younger elements of society.

Now, a video on Youtube concerning the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, NHS reforms and especially referencing last year's White Paper, Equality and Excellence: Liberating the NHS, has indeed gone viral. "The Andrew Lansley Rap", written and recorded by 22 year old binman Sean Donnelly (aka MC NxtGen) has already clocked up over 170,000 views since it was published on Youtube just under a week ago.

Though the song does contain some offensive, personal comments directed at Lansley, it's a remarkably detailed and comprehensive critique of the proposed reforms. Donnelly has certainly done his research and stated that he was moved to write the rap by his girlfriend and friends who hoped for careers in the NHS, but were concerned about it's future.

View the video below, but be warned that it does contain strong language.

Interest in the video has been so high that it's gained the attention of not only the Twitter and Facebook communities, but also the national press. Andrew Lansley himself has even responded (though unfortunately not in kind, with his own rap song) stating that he was impressed with the rapper managing to include lyrics on GP Commissioning in a song.

A fairly magnanimous response, but unlikely to have any affect on the spread of the video or the opinions of those who view it. Is there actually anything that could be done to combat such a situation?

It's a worry for any organisation, whether Public or Private, when the internet allows a single voice to be heard by thousands, if not millions of people. It's a lesson United Airlines learned back in 2009, when a disgruntled customer posted a video criticising the company, which became a phenomenon. We've mentioned this before and although United eventually offered recompense, the video is still online and at the time of writing has had over 10 million views.

Being seen to offer compensation, as well as addressing grievances and examining practices to ensure the same doesn't happen again, are certainly avenues that we would recommend in dealing with such matters. The 'head in the sand' approach is a recipe for disaster, as the reach of the negative message will likely just grow and grow without answer.

This can help ease the damage and to a certain extent turn the situation around into a positive, as it show's that an organisation listens to and takes action as a result of feedback. The organisation is responsive and not afraid to admit when it gets things wrong.

But in this case, the rap joins the many voices that are already raising concerns, which Lansley and David Cameron have, somewhat in vain, tried to answer. Answer, but not address by changing policy.

The difference with the new video is that it threatens to take the debate to a wider audience and to be honest, there's little that can be done about it. If making changes in response to criticism is out of the question, then Lansley and the Government will just have to grin and bear it, no matter how many views it gets.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Will Business make good on the new Responsibility Deals??

The Government's long mooted Public Health Responsibility Deals were launched last week, with around 150 companies and organisations signing up to take part. This sees those involved making voluntary pledges to take a more active role in improving the nation's health, addressing problem areas such as alcohol abuse and obesity.

All three sectors are represented, with areas of the NHS and charities, such as Drinkaware, participating alongside companies like Coca Cola, McDonalds and alcoholic drink manufacturers.

The inclusion of these latter, profit-driven corporations has brought scepticism from some parties, who fear their influence on policy making and doubt their sincerity. Put simply, when consuming less of their products would arguably bring the biggest improvement in public health, how can they be expected to support that, when they have a duty to their shareholders to make as much money as possible?

There's a simple answer to that question; selling less was never on the agenda and is nowhere to be found in the pledges.

Ok, to be fair there is mention of promoting sensible drinking and reducing under age drinking, which if effective, could bring less sales, but that's the only concession and one would hope that illegal sales are not a part of any company's strategy anyway.

When it comes to obesity, again the simple answer of selling less is out of the question. Instead, fast food chains and other retailers pledge to do more to promote physical activity. Their products will also have better labelling about their health content. Eating less may be the best solution to obesity, but that means less profits, so promoting exercise is preferred.

So overall, the best option was never really an option, but are the responsibility deals at least a step in the right direction?

As long as those involved pay more than lip service to the initiative, they could well be. As Public funding becomes tighter and tighter, having the huge marketing budgets of private companies available to promote Public Health messages, not to mention their expertise, could be a real help.

We discussed this in an article last year when the deals were initially announced, highlighting how the modern phenomena of openness, honesty and transparency is leading business to redefine how it presents itself. The Private Sector wants to be seen to care and to take it's share of responsibility for society.

This is happening anyway, regardless of any partnerships with Government, so it's likely that the companies will be looking to leverage their Responsibility Deals for maximum good PR. They will most likely exploit them for all they're worth, with a heavy emphasis on positive goals throughout their marketing.

Again, not necessarily the purest of motives, but if the end result is effective and far reaching campaigns, the likes of which are beyond the capabilities of a financially stretched Public Sector, then the outcomes may well be worth it.

Friday, 18 March 2011

A GRAND performance

We are delighted to say that eskimosoup’s Chris Middleton, Rich Quelch and John Gilbert, completed their GRAND challenge on the first attempt today as part of the St Stephen’s fundraiser for Comic Relief.

Handling the pressure of being filmed by BBC Look North, first past the post was John who completed his 1,000 juggles of oranges. Complaining that his red nose was “interfering with his vision” John got through a few wobbles to keep it going for the required amount of time.

This left Rich to continue his 1,000 keepy uppies with a football, whilst Chris dug deep to continue 1,000 crunches in a row (Chris is so hardcore that he even had a heavy session at the gym before taking part in the challenge?!). Both men continued and reached their targets at almost exactly the same time.

As this blog piece is being written, the event is still going strong and DJ Chris Tyas is almost halfway through his 1,000 track mix marathon (on target to finish at 5pm).

There is still time to donate online here and support the fantastic Comic Relief.

PS: All going to plan, you’ll see the St Stephen’s GRAND challenge featured on BBC 1 Look North tonight!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

eskimosoup MD makes his vows

No, Managing Director Chris Middleton hasn’t got hitched… but he did make his vows when it comes to social media as guest speaker at the British Bridal Exhibition in Harrogate (BBEH) this week.

Chris’s presentation followed a taster of “The Mary Portas Guide to Successful Retailing”. Speaking on social media marketing specifically for the bridal retail industry Chris gave an overview followed by case studies and plain English hints and tips to get ahead in social media.

Stating that retail is changing, he described how the Internet is changing our buying behaviour. For instance, how we make decisions to buy is affected by the content found written by people similar to ourselves (recommendations and referrals) and not so much by what big brands and marketing people say about their products. With over 1.3 million people over the age of 18 and engaged to be married using facebook and with over 25 million people UK wide using facebook Chris recommends simple and basic marketing advice... Hang out where your customers hang out!

More information about eskimosoup’s social media approach.

Monday, 14 March 2011

GRAND Red Nose Day Challenge

Three eskimosoup team members are taking part in the GRAND challenge at St Stephen’s Shopping Centre this Friday in aid of Comic Relief at this year’s Red Nose Day.

Chris Middleton, Managing Director must perform 1,000 crunches in under an hour.
Rich Quelch, Marketing & Events Manager must keep a football airborne for 1,000 keepy uppies, whilst John Gilbert, Marketing Director must juggle three oranges 1,000 times. Dropping a ball by either man will mean both starting over again.

As well as our team taking on the GRAND challenge, others are also showing us what they can do:
• Michael Watts will face 1,000 penalty kicks with a prize for anyone guessing how many saves he can make.
• Comedian Simon Gutherless will recite mathematical constant Pi to 1,000 decimal places… and throw in a few jokes along the way.
• Stereo’s DJ, Chris Tyas will be lifting the spirits by mixing a record breaking 1,000 tracks in under 8 hours.
• Plus, space hoppers, a giant canvas and more challenges to follow!

Please donate here, or pop into St Stephen’s Shopping Centre on Friday 18th March to support the team.

Thank you and good luck Chris, Rich and John!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Great help from facebook on suicide and bullying, but could Big Brother culture follow?

facebook, the Social Media giant, has launched a couple of new initiatives aimed at helping seriously unhappy users on their network, which now numbers at close to 600 million people worldwide.

The first looks to help those vulnerable to suicidal tendencies in the UK. Ran in conjunction with the Samaritans charity, the move involves new functionality on facebook, where users can report any friends who post worrying comments. Help and advice is offered to the concerned user in supporting their friend and once reported, facebook will direct a councillor from the Samaritans to actually contact the individual.

This comes following the tragic case of 42 year old Simone Back, who took her own life last Christmas, after posting to over 1,000 facebook friends that she'd taken an overdose. Their reactions varied, but there was no concerted effort to intervene. The new development with facebook hopes to address this, by giving a more visible and defined route for people to seek help.

A further announcement was made by facebook in their continuing efforts to combat cyber bullying. Changes to the website will encourage those being victimised to either seek help from a trusted friend or take it further by contacting the administrators, who may contact Police or appropriate Charities, should the matter warrant such attention. The plan was unveiled at an anti bullying conference, hosted by Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House.

There's an argument offered by those who have resisted the lure of facebook, that it can cause dislocation from the real world, with users more interested in living through this online community than within those away from a computer screen.

This may be up for debate, but if facebook can make it easier for unhappy, lonely and even desperate people to find support and help, then surely at least in this instance, it can bring a connection to other people that may provide an intervention that's vital to an individual's well-being.

These measures represents facebook taking some responsibility for it's role in the lives of those who use it's network and it should be commended for doing so. It does also, however, set something of a precedent, which could open the door for a similar approach to other aspects of a person's life.

It's not too much of a leap, for instance, to expect a future expansion of their help centre, using similar methodology to allow users to report concerns about a friend's drug use. The same may follow for cigarettes or alcohol. Any regular user of facebook will be familiar with status updates detailing drunken nights out and regret filled morning afters. If for a friend, these appeared a little too regular and the option presented itself to seek help, a concerned party might report the matter.

Critics of facebook often quote those status updates detailing what a user's had for dinner, as an example of the triviality of the platform. What if from on friend these regularly described unhealthy eating habits? Could their friends report them to a dietician? Would the friend in question actually welcome that intervention or would it be seen more as interference?

As I said above, I'm certainly not criticising facebook for these recent changes and do genuinely applaud and agree with their intention. I would say though that going further with this 'report a concern' approach should be very carefully considered and employed. Otherwise, there is a danger that a certain culture of paranoia may develop, where people actually have less trust in their friends, almost seeing them as informers in a virtual Big Brother state.

Relationships are the fundamental basis of facebook and all Social Networks. If their integrity is threatened, people may be more reluctant to engage in them, and that could in turn, actually endanger the future of such networks.

Of course, this is speculation at this point, but should facebook go further down this path, they must be extremely careful. Their good intentions may pave a road with a familiar destination.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Team to Take on the No Smoking Day Challenge

Today is National No Smoking Day! The campaign helps smokers who want to quit by creating a supportive environment for them, and by highlighting the many sources of help and advice available.

Here at eskimosoup, as part of a project for NHS Hull, four members of our team have organised distinctive events to promote No Smoking Day to local people and will be competing to see who can have the most impact.

Rich Quelch (Marketing and Events Manager) arranged for Cyril the Cig, the No Smoking Day mascot to appear at a Hull FC’s victory over Crusaders on Friday night and was back at the KC Stadium last night to appear at Hull City’s match against Burnley. Roary the Tiger was striking the ball from different distances on the pitch to try and hit the human size cigarette. Although, at Hull FC Cyril’s poor lung capacity was clear to see as he was trounced by the Airlie Bird in an obstacle course.

Karen Hodgson (Business Development) organised gymnasium staff from DST Leconfield to hold an event in North Point Shopping Centre. There will be 2 treadmills within the shopping centre encouraging the general public to take part in the military test.

Chris Middleton (Managing Director) arranged a human size cigarette and brass band to hit all the hot spots in the city centre. The cheeky Cyril the Cig will be approaching the general public and asking the individuals to put out their cigarettes. The brass band will have the message ‘Try doing this on 20 a day’ to express how smoking reduces energy.

John Gilbert (Marketing Director) has worked with students at Hull University and other volunteers from Hull to run a “Zombie Walk” down Newland Avenue, Prince’s Avenue and Beverley Road. The campaign is accompanied by a tongue in cheek list of comparisons/differences between smokers and zombies to highlight the disadvantages of smoking.

The activities compliment the “Big Reasons” project delivered by eskimosoup on behalf of NHS Hull which included the production of video case studies through which local ex-smokers share the benefits they have experienced since they quit smoking.
See www.youtube.com/nhssmokefree to view the collection.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Who commissions Health Campaigns in the Big Society?

It goes without saying that at the moment the NHS faces somewhat of an uncertain future. The reforms currently going through Parliament propose the largest restructuring of the service since it's birth.

But just who will be responsible for what?

Many are unsure exactly what their role will entail in the new system, as responsibilities shift from the soon to be defunct SHA's and PCT's, over to GP Consortia and local Councils, as well as the new bodies Public Health England and the National Commissioning Board. That's not to mention the Private and Third sectors, who will also have a part to play as more services are put out to tender.

Here at Rewarding Marketing, we're especially interested in our specialist area. Who will be commissioning Health Campaigns, along with other aspects of Public Health, Social Marketing and communications?

It's something we're not particularly clear on and it seems we're not the only ones.An article over at PR Week, draws attention to comments by the Head of Comms for NHS London, Stephen Webb, who himself is unclear on where responsibility lies. He raises concerns that as we move into a more localised structure, coordinated national campaigns may suffer. Country wide communications aimed at raising awareness of potential epidemics, such as swine flu, or addressing a national problem area, like obesity, may struggle with consistency, if delivered through the many GP Consortia's suppliers.

The Department of Health where quick to respond, with a spokesman rejecting the concerns, stating that "... campaigns that have a strong rationale for a single, coordinated action will still be commissioned nationally."

This may well be the case, but the story still demonstrates that we maybe shouldn't feel so bad about not knowing, when even Comms Directors within Strategic Health Authorities are confused.

Clarification on this point may not be as others, but as preventative measures and 'nudging' are both espoused by the Government as key objectives, it needs to come soon.

This is especially the case as Health campaigns and the like are delivered over time frames and are often interconnected, so embarking on one now, when it's completion may be uncertain, is difficult to justify. This feeling may well be the reason for the general freeze on activity at the moment, but taking the foot off the gas, as it were, may well lead to backwards steps in the populations health.

We have demonstrable, positive outcomes as a direct result of the health campaigns we've delivered, as should all good initiatives. When Social Marketing and Health Education campaigns are shown to be hugely effective in improving lives, can we afford to neglect them for long?

These are preventative strategies, with the bottom line being a more healthy country needing less hospital admissions and less doctors appointments. With the NHS needing to make big savings over the next few years, taking too long to establish just exactly who has responsibility and getting Health Campaigns back up and running, could make those savings all the more difficult to obtain.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Proud to be partners of Business Week 2011

eskimosoup have become the communications partner for the prestigious Business Week in the Hull and Humber region.

Now in its seventh year, Business Week is a celebration of star performers and inspirational speakers in the biggest event of its kind anywhere in the world. A programme of conferences and networking events will help promote the best practice of commerce and community across the Humber region, from tourism and the economy through to healthcare and education. The week’s grand finale is the Yorkshire International Business Convention (YIBC), which this year has a winning theme and is the overall theme for the week which runs from 5th to 10th June.

As communications partner eskimosoup will be designing the Hull Business Week brochure, developing a new website and managing media communications.

Yesterday, Business Week organisers where the headline story in The Business section of the Hull and East Riding Mail.

John Gilbert, Marketing Director of eskimosoup and communications lead for Business Week says: “We are very excited to be in the thick of it for this year’s Business Week. The hard work done by the organising team of the past six years means that we are off to a great start and with the ambitious and passionate team that have come together to take the reigns we are confident of building on this success.
I’m not convinced everyone realises just how significant Business Week is for the region and what it has achieved. It really is a global leader for this type of collaborate working between business with the public and third sectors. We are proud to have our role to play.”

Business Week is this year organised by Hull and East Yorkshire Community Foundation. Members of the steering group include representatives from City Council, Institute of Directors East Yorkshire branch, npower, Leonardo’s @ Quayside, Yorkshire International Business Convention and eskimosoup.

The 2011 Business Week website will go live in early April.