CIPR publishes State Of The Profession report

CIPR

The Chartered Institute Of Public Relations has published its annual ‘State Of The Profession’ report, which takes in the thoughts and insights of 1200 of the professional body’s members.

And the one trend that stands out is confirmation that senior PR professionals are taking on increasingly wide-ranging responsibilities, some outside what would traditionally be considering public relations. This trend has possibly been escalated by attempts to keep costs down at a senior level in difficult economic times – ie expand the top communicator’s job description rather than create new roles.

But on the up side, it is also seen as recognition that in the online era, where a company’s reputation is more important yet more fragile, having a more coordinated approach at the top when it comes to relationship and communications management is ever more important.

And that trend, says the CIPR, means that despite continued economic uncertainty senior PR people have seen average salary increases of nearly 14%.

You can browse the CIPR report in full at this URL.

New internal comms awards shortlists published

CIPR

NEWS-BITE | PR | Internal Comms: The CIPR’s internal comms group is launching a new awards event celebrating the work of those communicators targeting the internal audience, ie good old employees.

Called the #insidestory awards, shortlists for the seven categories set to appear at the inaugural event were announced last week, with the awards themselves due to be dished out at London’s Hospital Club on 28 Feb.

Commenting on the first ever #insidestory awards shortlists, Kevin Ruck, who leads the CIPR internal comms group, said: “Congratulations to the finalists. We have had a wonderful response to our first ever awards. We received an amazing number of entries and they were of a very high quality. Our judges, experienced industry professionals, have spent the past two weeks assessing the entries and today we are very pleased to announce the shortlists”.

He added: “The quality and number of entries show just how much the internal communication profession is growing and moving up the corporate agenda. We are now gearing up for the awards celebration evening, where the winners will be announced. It’s going to be a great evening with some surprising and fun entertainment”.

And the nominations are…

Best Agency: H&H, HarknessKennett, Sequel Group, Scarlett Abbott, The BlueBallroom, Banbury Howard.

Best In-house Team: NSPCC, The Regenda Group, City & Guilds, Essex County Council, Royal Bank Of Scotland, SSP UK.

Best Change Communication: Morrisons Supermarkets Plc, Royal Bank Of Scotland, HarknessKennett, Shell International, onebite
Maersk Line.

Best Employee Engagement Programme: Direct Line Group with Instinctif, Essex County Council, Public Health Wales – Champions, HSBC, Pret A Manger, Northern Ireland Water.

Best Intranet: Coca Cola Enterprises, Marks & Spencer PLC, South Eastern Railway, The Glasgow Housing Association, National Trust, Leeds City College.

Best International Programme: dunnhumby, HSBC, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Emic Communications, AVEVA Solutions Ltd, HSBC.

Best Internal Social Media Programme: Gatwick Airport Limited, University of Birmingham, Coca Cola Enterprises.

PR sector optimistic in new PRCA survey

PRCA

NEWS-BITE | PR | Stats: The PR agency sector is feeling optimistic, according to new research by the PRCA, after a healthy fourth quarter in 2012.

In particular, many agencies reported having won more retainer work in the latter part of last year, such work being generally considered more secure than project-based accounts, with over a third of the PR firms surveyed saying that “the proportion of retained work covering fee income is at 81-90%”, a rise of 9% from the previous quarter. Agencies also reported that they’d seen their client budgets rise slightly last year, by about 2%, which is seen by most as good news in the current economic climate.

Commenting on his body’s latest survey of PR agency leaders, PRCA boss Francis Ingham said: “Compared to similar disciplines, such as advertising, public relations is really showing its resilience. Whilst PR professionals tend to be overly-optimistic – and we should not dismiss the general UK economic performance – I share the industry’s confidence in the year ahead”.

For a breakdown of the stats published by PRCA, check the report on the trade body’s website here.

PRCA launches new guidelines on internships

PRCA Interns

NEWS-BITE | PR | Internships: With unpaid internships in the PR sector remaining a hot topic throughout 2012, the PR Consultants Association last week published new guidelines for agencies utilising interns. Amongst the recommendations are that PR companies should treat internships as “contracted, non-voluntary work”, and therefore minimum wage rules should apply.

Launching his organisation’s new internship guidelines, PRCA Director General Francis Ingham told esPResso: “It is now our duty, and our responsibility, to attract the very brightest talent, regardless of background – and to remove the barriers to accessing our industry that unpaid internships are creating”.

The guidelines come as part of the trade body’s intern campaign, launched in 2011. As part of that initiative 79 PR agencies have now signed up to a list of comms firms which commit to pay at least minimum wage to those working as part of an internship programme.

Backing PRCA’s bid to end unpaid internships in the PR industry, Mike Maynard, Managing Director of Napier PR, and a contributor to the new guidelines, added: “Using interns as cheap labour is dumb: you might imagine your clients don’t realise what’s going on, but they probably do, and they’ll question the value”.

Link Of The Week: Brighton Christmas lights

Brighton Lights

RECOMMENDED LINK | Digital | Viral Videos: Yes, this is a hoax, but pretend you don’t know that and enjoy the idea that the man charged with the task of putting up the Christmas lights in Brighton this year got his own back on bosses by subtlety including some rude images and messages in with the festive fun and flashing bulbs (I suppose I should add a mild NSFW warning here!).

A council rep has told Brighton paper The Argus that local businesses, not the local authority, pay for Christmas lights in the city, and that the video has been created to create a little buzz around Brighton’s Christmas shopping season. Said the spokesman: “The video is a creative spoof, but it is making people smile and getting thousands of people talking about Brighton and Hove in the run up to Christmas. That has got to be good news for the city and good news for its traders”.

And looking at the social networks this morning, if chatter about Brighton city centre is what the video’s makers wanted, they’ve definitely succeeded. Here is the video…

 

Virgin Atlantic to keep name after CEO sparring

Virgin Atlantic

NEWS-BITE | PR | Public Squabbles: Virgin Atlantic will stay branded as such despite the acquisition of a 49% stake in the company by Delta Air Lines. The news follows an interesting war of words this week between British Airways chief Willie Walsh and Virgin boss Richard Branson.

The executive sparring began when Walsh predicted that the Virgin brand would disappear from the airline sector in the next five years if and when Delta acquired the half of Virgin Atlantic owned by Singapore Airlines. Branson hit back by betting Walsh a million pounds that Virgin Atlantic would still be operating with that name in 2017.

In a subsequent interview with the Telegraph, Walsh said he didn’t have a million pounds, and that the two men should instead base their bet around something that would be equally painful to both of them, a “knee in the groin”. Of course public hostilities between the BA and Virgin airlines are nothing new, though even by their standards, this exchange of words was particularly forthright.

Either way, it’s been confirmed that Branson’s new business partners in his airline are happy to keep the business operating under the existing brand name. For the time being at least. Walsh, no doubt, would point out there’s still plenty of time for him to be proven right.

Using the attention his executive squabble with Walsh secured for his blog, Branson said the Virgin/Delta alliance would further shake up the airline industry for the good of the consumer.

Wrote the Virgin chief: “For almost three decades Virgin Atlantic has been punching above its weight. We fought hard to stop BA and American Airlines getting together but they created a complete giant across the Atlantic. Now we are partnering with Delta we can give them a real run for their money, which is I suspect why BA’s Chief Executive has behaved the way he has over the last couple of days”.

PRCA responds to Leveson

Lord Leveson

NEWS-BITE | PR | Regulation: The PR Consultants Association yesterday published its response to last month’s Leveson Report, recommendations from which are currently being considered by the government. The major debate stemming from the report, of course, is whether or not a new independent press regulator should be ultimately controlled by statute.

The issue currently splits the UK Coalition partners, with the Lib Dems backing Leveson’s proposal that while press regulation should be independent from both the newspaper industry and government, it should be ingrained in legislation, while David Cameron’s Tories are generally of the opinion that, providing the new press overseer is sufficiently independent, a change in law should not be required. Though he’s possibly wobbling on that viewpoint, despite support from most (though not all) of Fleet Street.

For its part, the PR industry trade body backs Cameron and most of the newspaper owners. Director General Francis Ingham told esPResso: “We agree that there should be a stronger independent regulatory body. But we do not agree that there is a need for legislative underpinning, nor for OfCom or any other statutory body to recognise the work of the regulator”.

He added: “Statutory underpinning to deal with a handful of recalcitrant journalists in an industry which broadly functions well would be the proverbial sledge hammer to crack a nut. The majority of our press act responsibly already and will continue to do so. A free press holds the PR industry and those that it represents to account, and we believe that the healthiest environment for our industry is one where there is public trust in our communications”.

Inham’s comments followed a survey of 100 PRCA members, in which 26% said they
favoured a non-statutory newspaper ombudsman while 31% supported a revamped Press Complaints Commission with tougher powers.

Thinking social with crisis planning

Social Crisis

RECOMMENDED LINK | PR | Crisis: In a year when public outrage on the social networks – usually picked up on by conventional media and the political community – has caused tangible damage to a number of companies and brands, most communication directors and business leaders would surely now agree that social media strategy is not just about offering discount coupons via a Facebook profile. And even companies for which a prolific Twitter presence isn’t appropriate need to be in tune with the social networks as part of their reputation management strategy.

One issue is that the people managing social media activity for companies on a day-to-day basis may not be equipped or empowered to stop and deal with online criticism that could grow into a bigger reputation issue. To that end, freelance Social Media Manager Kasio Martin has provided Social Media Today with some useful tips for senior PRs and crisis management experts on how to plan today for online reputation threats tomorrow, ensuring that those on the digital frontline are able to spot potential problems, and are able to connect with decision makers when required. It’s a good read.

Some tips for public speaking

Public Speaking

RECOMMENDED LINK | PR | Public Speaking: Doing some public speaking anytime soon? Whether you are an in-house communicator having to present some important information to investors, employees or the press, or an agency boss booked to deliver a speech at an upcoming conference, these quick tips from Ragan.com are a good starting point when planning your speech.

A good check-list of what to remember, tips include being honest and gracious, and always – ALWAYS – assuming any microphone is live. Check the blog post here.

CIPR to stage new election for 2014 President

CIPR

NEWS-BITE | PR | Trade Bodies: The Chartered Institute Of PR has said that it will restage the election for its 2014 President, who will spend 2013 in the President Elect position, after a complaint was made about the fact that, ahead of the recent vote, the winning candidate was allowed to put himself forward shortly after the nominations deadline.

Lionel Zetter of APCO Worldwide took 54% of the vote in the recent poll of CIPR members to become the PR trade body’s new President Elect, beating Miti Ampoma. But earlier this week the Institute admitted that it shouldn’t have allowed Zetter to put himself forward for the election after the deadline for nominations in September, and that by doing so his subsequent election should be declared void. A new election will now be held in the new year, though it’s not clear if either Zetter or Ampoma will stand again.

Confirming the decision of the trade body’s ruling Council, CIPR CEO Jane Wilson, who in consultation with the body’s Chairman accepted the late nomination earlier this year, told the Institute’s members this week: “I want to take this opportunity now to apologise to both candidates, who put a tremendous amount of effort into their campaigns and to all members, particularly those who voted in what they believed to be a valid election. In this instance, we did not meet the high standards that our members expect of the CIPR”.

Wilson continued: “This was a tough decision for [the CIPR] Council to make and one which they knew could cause immediate reputational damage to the CIPR and the trust in its processes and procedures. [But] in reaching this decision, I believe that the CIPR Council has put a requirement for transparency, an adherence to our regulations and the long-term trust of our members as their first priority. I am sorry for the reputational damage caused to the CIPR by our original decision. Council’s action is the first step to rebuilding trust in our election process”

A report into the recent election used by the CIPR Council to make its decision this week also included some recommendations on improving the body’s voting processes.

PRCA calls for tightening of ‘revolving door’ rules

PRCA

NEWS-BITE | PR | Public Affairs: The PR Consultants Association has called on the government to tighten up the rules regards former political advisors and civil servants taking jobs in the public affairs sector.

While there is a logic to people who have advised senior politicians moving into PR roles advising companies on their political relations, the PRCA reckons that the rules that govern such career moves need to be more rigorous, to help reassure the public that the lobbying sector is legitimate and above board. The PR trade body has spoken out on the issue following the news that Jonathan Luff, a senior advisor to David Cameron, is joining controversial loans company Wonga to lead its government affairs team.

The PRCA also notes that, under the government’s original plans for a statutory register of lobbyists, Luff would not be listed, because ministers proposed only listing those in agency roles, rather than in-house public affairs professionals. The government is currently reconsidering its plans on the statutory register after criticism from various quarters regards the agency-only proposal.

PRCA boss Francis Ingham told esPResso: “It is ridiculous that a lobbyist that was until recently advising the Prime Minister would not be included on a statutory register. The government needs to take transparency seriously and require all professional lobbyists to register. At the same time we need tighter regulation of former government officials to end the practice of ‘revolving door’ lobbying, which harms an industry that wants to be more transparent”.

Anti Page 3 campaigners turn attention to brands

The Sun

NEWS-BITE | PR | Protests: A group lobbying The Sun to axe its infamous Page 3 slot has turned its attention to some of the newspaper’s biggest advertisers, forcing brands like Tesco and Morrisons into the debate.

The No More Page 3 campaign isn’t campaigning for any change in the law regards the publication of Page 3-style photos, but is trying to persuade The Sun that the daily photo of a topless female model is a “sexist relic of an unhealthy 1970s culture”. Campaigners have got over 51,000 signatures on a petition aimed a The Sun’s editor Dominic Mohan.

But with the newspaper so far resisting the pressure, campaigners have now written to Sun advertisers Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda asking them to boycott the tabloid until Page 3 is axed, and last weekend the campaign’s supporters handed out flyers at five supermarkets around the country.

The campaign’s founder Lucy-Anne Holmes told The Guardian: “Supermarkets are selling family values and yet they are advertising with a newspaper that encourages people to see women not as a human but as an object. We are calling for them to stop advertising with the Sun, to send out a really positive message that they value their female customers”.

It’s not the first time a group campaigning against a media organisation has targeted advertisers. It’s a practice that puts a lot of pressure on brands who would rather not get involved in social or political debates only indirectly linked to their businesses.

According to The Guardian, Sainsbury’s and Asda have declined meetings with campaigners to discuss the Page 3 issue, while Tesco and Morrisons are planning on meeting with Holmes and her colleagues, though the former insisted “it is not for us to comment on editorial decisions”.

The supermarkets are not the only brand targeted by the No More Page 3 campaign. Lego was criticised for running a front-page promotion with the tabloid, with Holmes saying: “What do children think if they open a newspaper because of this offer and see pictures of men doing things – running the country, succeeding in sport – and women naked apart from their knickers?”

PR budgets rise again

PRCA

RECOMMENDED LINK | PR | Survey: A survey of in-house communications directors conducted by the PR Consultants Association has found that comms budgets across the board increased in the third quarter of 2012, which is the second successive quarterly increase this year.

27% of those surveyed said their budgets had increased in the third quarter, while 30% said their agency spend had gone up. Only 14% saw their budgets decrease in the same period.

Commenting on the new stats, PRCA boss Francis Ingham said: “Reduced budgets are still a key concern for many in-house teams, but on the other hand staff numbers look likely to increase across the industry. Our industry’s optimism has taken us this far and we should continue to embrace it”.

See the full results of the poll here.

Latest lobbying exposé shows need for register

Ministry Of Defence

NEWS-BITE | PR | Public Affairs: The lobbying sector is facing another scandal after a Sunday Times article this weekend that claimed that several retired military officers offered their services to defence firms to lobby political leaders on procurement matters. The paper also alleged that some of the ex-officers filmed pitching their services were breaching rules regards how soon after leaving the armed forces they can work in such roles.

All of the accused former officers have denied any wrongdoing, though one of them, John Kiszely, has resigned his position as the President of The Royal British Legion after allegations he told the Times he could lobby ministers at a Remembrance Day event. The British Legion and the Ministry Of Defence have both said they are now investigating the paper’s claims.

Meanwhile, the PR Consultants Association has said that the latest scandal in the lobbying strand of the PR industry shows why a register of lobbyists is needed, to ensure more transparency in the way companies talk to government. As previously reported, ministers have been considering how to introduce such a statutory register, though their original proposals were criticised by the PR industry for defining lobbyists too narrowly.

Commenting on the Times’ report, Emily Wallace of Connect Communications, and Chair of the PRCA’s Public Affairs Group, told esPResso: “The resignation of the British Legion President demonstrates anew that making exaggerated and foolish claims about who you know is never a good lobbying strategy, business strategy or career development plan. This episode reveals the importance of ensuring that any statutory register of lobbyists should cover all those who are paid to lobby, and that includes retired Generals”.

Meanwhile the Chartered Institute Of PR, which has also been pushing for a lobbying register system (and have been involved in launching a voluntary register for the public affairs sector), also criticised the army officers in the Times exposé, adding that the services they were offering were not typical of those provided by public affairs professionals.

The Institute said in a statement: “Good public affairs professionals know the limits of influence, and that engaging Whitehall and Westminster with well argued policy is far more effective than a word (or the promise of a word) in the ear with the Prime Minister. Access should be sought using the correct channels and can be achieved through hard work, a well considered argument and knowledge of how policy-making really works”.

BBC’s slow response to Savile scandal will damage reputation

Jimmy Savile

NEWS-BITE | PR | Reputation: PR leaders reckon that the BBC’s handling of the Jimmy Savile scandal will damage the Corporation’s reputation.

In a survey of 150 professional communicators by the PR Consultants Association, over half said they thought the broadcaster had responded badly to the flurry of allegations of sexual abuse against the late BBC star, while 77% reckoned the scandal and the Beeb’s response would damage the organisation’s reputation.

Much of Savile’s fame stemmed from his programmes on BBC radio and television, of course, making it hard for the Corporation not to be caught up in the scandal around the former star.

Added to that are the allegations that Savile sexually abused young teenagers on BBC property, and the mystery as to why the BBC’s own ‘Newsnight’ canned an investigation into the abuse allegations late last year, and the claim it was pulled so not to conflict with a series of Christmas time tribute shows to the DJ and presenter, who died last October. In the end it was an ITV News programme that gave those who were allegedly abused by Savile a platform.

And, of course, most British newspapers will hype up any scandal involving the BBC, not least because the licence-fee funded broadcaster is a much envied rival of most Fleet Street operators.

Although new BBC Director General George Entwistle has been on the offensive this week, issuing firm apologies and promises that the Corporation will actively assist in police investigations, many PRs reckon the Beeb reacted too slowly to the scandal when it first emerged in the newspapers ahead of the ITV documentary, putting it on the defensive ever since.

Commenting on the PRCA poll, the Association’s chief Francis Ingham told esPResso: “Reputation is the cornerstone of any organisation, whether it is a private enterprise or a publicly owned corporation. The results of our poll show that the BBC has a long way to go to restore its reputation, and that it should reconsider its response to allegations against Savile”.

Taylor Bennett Foundation wins award

TBF

NEWS-BITE | PR | Diversity: The Taylor Bennett Foundation has won the Collaboration & Partnership Award at the Race For Opportunity Awards organised by Business In The Community.

The Foundation was created by Unicorn’s sister company Taylor Bennett in 2008 to address the under-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates in the communications industry. The initiative was based on the belief that talented people from these communicates had rarely been encouraged to consider the sector, nor been suitably prepared.

TBF addresses this issue by running ten-week paid training courses, each involving eight talented BAME graduates, who receive formal training and careers coaching, while being exposed to a wide range of media and communication companies and disciplines, giving them a fully rounded overview of the wider PR industry, and a head-start when looking for that first full-time role.

Having originally founded the programme in partnership with the University Of East London and communications firm Brunswick, Taylor Bennett has worked with numerous other partners on the initiative in the last four years, with four comms companies joining Taylor Bennett and Unicorn in contributing both time and funds to the venture this year: Brunswick, Talk PR, MHP and Edelman. Countless other partners, including media, agencies, in-house teams and trade bodies, have donated time, training and expertise.

The Race For Opportunity judges particularly commended the ambitious length and scope of the TBF training courses, and cited the number and range of partners involved as a winning factor.

Commenting on the award, Taylor Bennett Foundation Director Anne Groves told esPResso: “This award means so much to us. Since starting the programme four years ago with the support of Brunswick and UEL, over 70 trainees have been through the course, over 70% of whom are now working in the industry. We are hugely appreciative of our supporters and business partners, and believe that, together, we are helping to change the face of the communications industry”.

Borkowski on Boris

Boris Johnson

RECOMMENDED LINK | PR | Political Comms: So, while George Osbourne and David Cameron’s respective speeches have generated considerable press interest, the arrival of a certain Boris Johnson seemed to stand out as one of the biggest news stories at this week’s Conservative Party Conference.

True, that’s because journalists of all persuasions were busy looking for the next chapter in what may or may not become the London Mayor’s slow but steady journey to Number 10 Downing Street. Of course Johnson has used the Conference to restate his loyalty to the current Tory leadership and UK government, though the mayor’s increasing star presence at events like this will only fuel the ‘Boris is aiming for No 10′ rumours.

But should the opportunity arise in the next five years to seek the top job in his party, could Johnson overcome the negative side of his larger-than-life ‘bumbling fool’ persona that has, arguably, won him the fame that enables his mere presence at party events to count as lead news?

PR guru Mark Borkowski reckons so, to an extent. Partly by ensuring his gaffes are less serious in recent years. And partly by choosing to build his political status outside of Whitehall and Westminster, allowing him to avoid the inevitable reputation damage any minister suffers simply by being in government, mainly because of the constitutional principle of collective responsibility. Though if he returns to that arena – which he would have to if the PM job was really in his sights – then that’s when the real challenge would begin, Borkowski tells Channel 4.

“As the majority of the media is centred on the UK capital, he has a lot more visibility [in his current role]. But the Mayor Of London also enjoys the position as an ‘underdog’, someone who does not have a parliamentary seat and who is outside of the centre of UK politics. When you are a politician in the centre of power then you can’t do anything right. Look at Vince Cable. He was everyone’s favourite politician when he was out of government. When he was in power then he was restricted in what he could do and the stakes became higher”.

Looking ahead to any return to mainstream politics for Johnson, Borkowski concludes: “That’s when the knives will come out. That’s when he will start getting internal spin against him, it won’t be his enemies he will need to watch but his friends”.

You can read the full interview here.

More PR directors take on marketing roles

Pearlfinders

NEWS-BITE | PR | Roles: Could the divide between marketing communications and PR/corporate comms be getting smaller in big companies? Well, possibly so, with new research that shows that an increasing number of senior PR executives are seeing their remits expanded to include responsibility for the comms side of marketing too.

According to PR Week, a new report from business analysts Pearlfinders says that while the number of senior level PR appointments being made in quarter three of 2012 was 40% down on the same period in 2011, the number of PR professionals taking on new jobs that incorporate elements of the marketing function were up.

Examples given include Thomson Reuters’ PR boss Jolie Hunt moving to become Chief Marketing Officer of AOL, Nintendo’s Shelly Pearce moving from Head Of European PR to a Marketing & PR Director role, and the appointment of Alex Weller of Splendid to a Brand Comms Director job at Converse.

How companies should link together the various units of their businesses involved in communications has always been a challenge, though in most organisations those divisions involved in media relations and corporate communications have generally reported into a different senior executive than those involved in advertising and marketing communications (with perhaps the exception of consumer PR, which might be more closely linked to marketing, especially in companies with both consumer and corporate brands).

How the most senior communicator and most senior marketer have worked together will vary greatly from company to company, though traditionally the latter was much more likely to have a seat at the boardroom table than the former, much to the annoyance of those at the top of the PR profession.

The evolution of senior jobs in big companies with both PR and marketing remits could simply be a sign that budget-conscious businesses are looking to streamline their senior management teams. But it’s more likely a sign that the rising importance of digital and social media communications – which arguably need the skills of both PR and marketing professionals, preferably united – is making the need to unite comms operations at the top of an organisation ever more crucial.

That PR people are being handed marketing remits, despite marketing directors traditionally being placed a little higher up the corporate hierarchy, probably shows that one of the biggest challenges in the social media era isn’t getting your brand in front of Twitter and Facebook users, but protecting corporate reputations in a world where critics and disgruntled consumers have more influence than ever before. And that’s where PR professionals have the lead.

Pearlfinders MD Anthony Cooper told PR Week: “We’re seeing a softer job market, with decision makers often staying in roles and adding expertise to those roles. We’re seeing extra responsibility being added to the PR director’s job spec – you could call it empire building. The responsibilities of CMOs increasingly require a shift from expertise in data, analytics and technology to comms, charisma and influence, and many firms are now seeking senior figureheads who can bridge the gap”.

Apple boss posts full apology for maps

iPhone 5

NEWS-BITE | PR | Crisis: While the arrival of Apple’s iPhone 5 last week proved that the IT firm’s big product launches remain global news events, despite the untimely death of the company’s chief showman Steve Jobs last year, coverage of the company’s latest smartphone wasn’t entirely positive.

The problem? Apple has replaced the Google maps app that previously came as standard with its own proprietary mapping service, which has all sorts of things in the wrong place. Quite a faux pas given that for many smart phone users maps are a key function.

But great news for the newspapers, because every journalist in the world could get their hands on a phone running iOS6, look for a local error, screen grab it and print. A nice fun item. Then keep your ear to the ground for someone who suffering some misfortune after being misdirected by the IT giant’s news app, and follow up the funny with a human interest piece next week.

All of which meant Apple’s iPhone 5/iOS6 cuttings were not quite what the tech firm had anticipated. And if they’d gone online, they’d have found blogs set up specifically to celebrate (aka mock) the more humorous errors.

Apple is a funny company, in that it does so much clever branding and PR, yet always seems a little foxed when having to admit to getting something wrong. Any prolific tech company is going to occasionally release products, especially software, that don’t quite work as planned. The good news is that often the mainstream audience doesn’t notice. No such luck with Apple’s maps though, making a helping of humble pie almost inevitable, whatever the circumstances or excuse.

Nevertheless, the IT firm’s initial response looked a bit like an albeit polite ticking off for iOS6 users for being impatient with the new mapping tool, which – as a cloud-based content service – would get better every day as more people used and engaged with it. Which is true, but that’s no help if you’re trying to find a train station today, and can no longer access the Google maps you used to like so much (actually, you can via the phone’s browser, but not directly via the desktop). A more resolute apology was definitely needed.

And seemingly the powers that be at Apple now agree, because earlier today the firm’s top man issued a full apology. “We fell short on our commitment” to deliver the best experience, Tim Cook writes, “we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you” and “we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives” up to our expectations. In the meantime, the Apple chief admits, various competing map services are available via the firm’s phones.

Cook does manage to throw in a some of Apple’s always impressive user stats as he goes, but his response is far removed from that initially put out by his company last week. See whether you reckon it will draw a line under this particular mini-crisis by reading the full note here.

PRCA award nominations announced

PRCA

NEWS-BITE | PR | Awards: If you follow just a few PR types on Twitter, you’ll probably already know that the shortlists are out for this year’s PRCA Awards, one of the UK PR industry’s annual award shows, this one staged by the PR Consultants Association.

PRCA chief Francis Ingham says: “I’m always utterly delighted by the incredible quality of award entries every year. As a judge I know how difficult it is to decide between the remarkable campaigns we see, all of which illustrate the excellence and creativity in our thriving industry. I would like to thank everyone involved in the Awards , especially our sponsors. So much work goes into making this the PR event of the year, and I look forward to seeing everybody on the night”.

The awards will be presented on 13 Nov, and you can check the nominations here.

Could Apple’s lawyers damage its reputation?

a.pl

RECOMMENDED LINK | PR | Reputation: While Apple has been weathering some bad press over the weekend for its somewhat lacking proprietary maps app that comes as standard on the company’s new mobile operating system, blogger The PR Coach has been wondering if the IT giant’s lawyers might be doing as much damage to the company’s brand as its cartographers.

Of course all technology companies are known for being somewhat heavy handed when it comes to enforcing their intellectual property rights, whether they be patents or trademarks, but The PR Coach asks whether such enforcement might not backfire in corporate reputation terms if the company sends its eager legal beagles in against sympathetic brands that aren’t head-on competitors.

This wondering has been motivated by a PR Pro report that Apple is suing a Polish grocery website called A.pl, claiming the food seller’s brand is too similar to its own. I say The PR Coach is ‘wondering’ – he’s actually pretty angry about Apple’s behaviour in this case, though that anger has motivated consideration about the reputation impact such action might have, especially if coverage of it goes mainstream.

If it does, that will be another challenge for Apple’s PR team to tackle. Assuming they can find their way to their work once they are utilising their new iPhone 5s.

Doritos starts Superbowl ad frenzy early

Crash The Superbowl

NEWS-BITE | Marketing Comms | Competitions: The Superbowl is the single biggest day in the US advertising year as America en masse tunes in for the big game (and the commercial breaks, it seems).

All the big American brands put in a lot of effort (and cash) to try and create the Superbowl ad that gets America talking, and such is the fad these days that USA Today compiles an annual Ad Meter poll, based on focus group responses, to identify which advert, and therefore brand, dominated.

Will 2013 be the year that Doritos gets the Superbowl audience talking? Well, it may be, as the snack brand turns the whole Ad Meter phenomenon into the campaign itself. Doritos has teamed up with Hollywood director Michael Bay to stage a competition aimed at aspiring film-makers which will climax during the 2013 Superbowl.

Entrants have to create and submit a home-made crisp advert. A judging process will select two of the entered video promos, both of which will then be aired during the big game. And the maker of whichever one Ad Meter declares to be have had the biggest impact will get to work on Bay’s next film, ‘Transformers 4’ (not to mention a $1 million prize).

A clever way to expand an advertising convention into something more viral, and with life beyond the break. It will be interesting to see how the home-made ads compete with the big ads aired by other brands next 3 Feb.

Link Of The Week: Clegg reworked

Nick Clegg

RECOMMENDED LINK | PR | Political Comms: Opinion seems divided on how effective Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s YouTube address, in which he admits he got it wrong on tuition fees, will be in placating angry voters at the next election, or critics amongst his own supporters at this weekend’s party conference.

Though today more attention has been given to this rather marvellous re-edit of the address that turns the apology into a song. Word has it Clegg has even endorsed a charity release of the track. Oh well, at least there’s a career in pop if the politics thing runs aground at the next election.

Tesco hopes to build trust with new blog

Talking Shop

NEWS-BITE | PR | Blogging: Tesco has launched a new company blog, called Talking Shop, which execs at the supermarket giant will contribute to in a bid to show the faces behind the brand, and to make the company seem more human.

In the first post on the blog, Tesco CEO Philip Clarke writes: “When your organisation reaches a certain size, everyone else has to stand further back to keep your organisation in view and pretty soon they stop seeing all the people and just see the organisation. Our motives, sincerity and principles are harder to understand because the human beings who stand behind them become indistinct. People trust people, and after the 2008 banking crisis, they don’t trust organisations”.

He continues “I want this blog to help put Tesco’s people back in focus, to zoom in on our business and examine what we are doing, explain what we are thinking and how we see the world. Tesco is an incredible business, in its breadth, in its energy, expertise, creativity and dedication to serving customers to the best of our ability. Inside the business, we are excited to be part of it and we want you to get a sense for how we feel”.

Public trust is clearly important for Clarke, whose company is expected to post its first drop in global profits in 20 years next month, with the CEO adding: “Success on its own is not enough; it needs trust to sustain it and we can’t take that trust for granted”.

You can check out the new blog at www.tescoplc.com/talkingshop

Tech types lead in Guardian’s Media 100

Media Guardian 100 2012

NEWS-BITE | Media | Media 100: The Guardian has published it’s annual list of the 100 most important and influential people in the British media and, as is customary these days, it’s tech companies that top the poll.

Google’s Larry Page is at number one followed by Twitter’s Dick Costolo at two. That Twitter beats Facebook in the list, despite the latter have much bigger reach, possibly shows the influence the former has on more conventional media. Facebook is represented by its EMEA chief Joanna Shields at 6, with Apple’s Jonathan Ive at 5.

The BBC separates the giants of digital at positions 3 and 4, which go to BBC Trust Chairman Chris Patten and incoming Director General George Entwistle. The most powerful Fleet Street man in 2012, according to The Guardian, is the Mail’s Paul Dacre at number 7. Somewhat tellingly, Brian Leveson is at ten, ahead of all the other UK newspaper editors, who are still waiting with baited breath to see what the judge will be proposing on the back of his wide-ranging review of media ethics.

On the communications side of the fence, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell is highest placed at number eight, while the highest ranking exec from a specifically PR background is Matthew Freud at number 30. Max Clifford is at 43, while on the more corporate side of things Brunswick boss Alan Parker leads at number 63. Also listed from PR are RLM Finsbury’s Roland Rudd at 74 and Portland Communications’ Tim Allan at 86.

Read the full list here.