My Protein Project – The Art of Supplementation

MaximuscleI am now entering the third week of my muscle hypertrophy phase, fifth week of my Maximuscle Protein Project . The last couple of weeks have been a little tougher as the excitement dwindles and the 5.40am starts become slower. Nevertheless I’ve kept going and feel much more confident in the gym, seeing great progress in terms of the weight I can lift.

George-NorthThe results I am seeing can be attributed, in part, to my work in the gym but that work would count for very little without the changes to my diet. I have done training plans in the past but never paid such close attention to my diet and I have never taken protein supplements to support my training. The difference is remarkable.

In a recent article in The Sun George North, British & Irish Lions’ star, discussed the importance of protein within his training and recovery. North is quick to point out that supplements are not specifically for elite athletes, they can benefit any person with any level of exercise providing you understand when and what to take. I have certainly felt the benefits of the supplements I am taking. In comparison to previous gym efforts I’ve gained more muscle, I am recovering more quickly from each session and my strength is improving week-on-week. It’s fantastically rewarding seeing continued developments so quickly.

The world of supplementation, however, can be incredibly daunting. What products do I need? When should I be taking them? Do they actually work? Luckily for me I’ve had the experts at Maximuscle, our client, to call upon. My problem from the off is that I am allergic to whey, the fundamental ingredient in all protein supplements. You’d think that was game over. Speaking to the team at Maximuscle, however, I’ve been able to re-work my plan.

I am now taking MaxiRaw Casein as my main protein shake. This is then supported by a MaxiRaw Primary BCAAs drink during my workout. These two supplements support my muscle repair and growth in the same way a Maximuscle Promax shake would. On top of that I am also adding a serving of MaxiRaw Creatine Charge to one of my protein shakes. Creatine, in layman’s terms, supports the growth of muscle mass and can be found in the Maximuscle Cyclone range.

Protein-PancakesMy advice to you, when it comes to buying supplements, is to have a clear goal in mind. The aim for the first six weeks of my Protein Project is to gain size and strength hence I have introduced creatine and I am taking two shakes a day. Following the six weeks growth I will do four weeks in which I try to strip fat at which point I’ll stop using creatine and take one casein shake a day. Different whey protein supplements will support different training goals, make sure you match them up.

Also, there is no need to go mad with buying loads of different supplements. If there is another supplement that supports your goal then include it, for instance Maximuscle Promax Lean can be supported by using Thermobol in a fat loss training plan but it is not essential.

Finally, protein supplements are exactly what they say they are – supplements. They are not meal replacements. Be sure to get your diet right first and then support that with the protein supplements. They are a brilliantly convenient way to ensure you are taking on the right amount of protein at the right time. Mine also taste great and provide me with a daily treat. You can use the protein powder to create a whole host of awesome snacks, I attempted Protein Pancakes this weekend, you can find more recipes here: http://www.maximuscle.com/nutrition/high-protein-recipes

My Protein Project – Preparation is Key

Week three of my Maximuscle Protein Project and things are going really well. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been through two weeks of strength and conditioning and have just started the muscle hypertrophy phase.

Training-PlanMy DOMS phase is decreasing as my body gets used to being worked, allowing me to train harder and, thankfully, walk properly. What has been most noticeable since the start is that I feel like I’m starting to get into a rhythm with my routine both day-to-day and in the gym. This routine has been born from strict preparation.

Everyone in PR knows how important it is to plan and be prepared for events, campaigns, meetings, pitches and just about every element of the job. I decided I should use this professional skill to aid my protein project. My aim from the start has been to show that anyone can change their body or fitness levels around their hectic PR life and here are my top tips for how to do so:

  • Weekly Shop: I have found this is the most cost and time effective way of sticking to my meal plan. Every Sunday I’ll head to the supermarket and buy enough food to suffice for all dinners, lunches and snacks for the week. My weekly shop generally costs £60 – £70 (for two people). Not only does this make it easier to stick to a healthy diet as you get home and already know what you’re having for dinner, it also stops you buying £7 lunches and prevents the temptation of snacking on ‘bad’ foods during the day.
  • Cook in bulk: If you’re lunch menu consists of a few portions of chicken, or foods that need to be cooked, cook them on Sunday so it’s ready for the week.
  • Use your energy: If, like me, you like to ‘switch-off’ when you get home, make sure your get prepared before you start to relax. Use the left-over energy you have from the working day and as soon as you get in the door, get the dinner on, pack your gym bag, make your lunch and have everything sitting by the front door ready for tomorrow.
  • Know your stuff: check your gym plan before you get to the gym. Make sure you know exactly what exercises you’re going to do and how to do them. There is nothing worse than wasting time in the gym by lingering between exercises.

Lunch-BoxThese tips may seem elementary but knowing this is what you should do and actually doing them is a different thing. Preparation not only saves time but it alleviates the possibility of quitting. If your bag is packed, your lunch is ready and it’s all waiting for you by the front door, why wouldn’t you get up and go to the gym? If you wake up and still have all of that to do, turning the alarm off and rolling over is definitely the more appealing option.

For me, being prepared makes it easier to stay dedicated.

My Protein Project – Setting a Base

The start of any training regime can be daunting. A lot of people struggle with the notion of where to start – I know what I want to achieve, I know how long I want it to take but how am I going to get there?

Protein-Project-LogoI have now completed two full weeks of my Protein Project and will share how I have targeted the start of my training plan. The last fourteen days have been focussed on strength and conditioning, getting my body used to going to the gym again. In my opinion it is really important to ease into a training regime and set a solid base from which to develop.

The strength and conditioning phase involves a mixture of weights and cardio with a relatively high-calorie diet. I have outlined a few training and nutrition tips that I have picked-up:

Training

  • Full body sessions: It is important to work multiple muscle sets in each session, pick exercises that work more than one muscle.
  • Don’t ignore your legs: Each session should involve some form of leg workout. Your legs are a major muscle group and it’s very important they’re worked as much as your upper body. It is particularly important to focus on your legs at the start of a muscle building routine as the exercises you do tend to work the full body and it will allow you to set a strong base to develop your upper body, moving forward.
  • Lift light: choose a weight that you can comfortably complete five sets of six to eight repetitions.
  • Form is King: For those who are unfamiliar with the term form, I am referring to technique. Form is vital to ensure your muscles are working as hard as they can but, more importantly, preventing injuries. Focus on how you position your body, how you perform the movement and how you pick up and put down the weights.
  • Respect your rest: Another method of preventing injury, and a lesson that I learnt early in my Protein Project, is ensuring you have rest days. Your muscles need time to recover. Resting will allow this to happen faster and with recovery, comes growth.

Nutrition

  • Plan ahead: plan your weekly meals on a weekend and then buy as much as you need in one shop. This will prevent temptation during the week but it is also much more cost effective than buying lunch every day.
  • Calories are your friends: Don’t be scared to eat. I’m eating six to eight meals a day, including two protein shakes, to ensure my body has sufficient fuel to rebuild every day. Each meal should contain approximately 20g protein, a few grams of fat and around 60-80g of carbohydrates during the strength and conditioning phase.
  • Protein is your pal: protein is imperative to muscle growth. It is important to get the right amount of protein, at the right times. Personally, it has helped my body recover much quicker than before which has therefore allowed me to keep progressing in each training session. This is where my Maximuscle protein shakes are very useful.

Nutrition-PlanThe next stage of my protein project will be the ‘muscle hypertrophy‘ phase, it will involve a similar nutrition plan but my training will now be focussed on bigger weights with less reps. The idea is that the bigger weights will cause greater muscle strain, causing more minute tears, allowing more space for repair and therefore growth.

I’ve got a cricket match on Sunday and, whilst it’s not going to be the most athletically testing sporting occasion, I’m looking forward to seeing how my performance has improved. Surely stronger arms mean faster bowling? We’ll see.

Interview with an Intern – Toby Bradshaw

Toby-poseToday we say farewell to Toby Bradshaw who has been interning with us for the last two months. It’s been great having him on our pod, whilst his dress sense is questionable, his energy and work ethic has been fantastic. Toby offered up some insights into why PR appeals to him, his experience with Speed and the plans for his future, well, as planned as you can be whilst on the brink of the three best years of your life…Uni

You’re on your year out between A-Levels and University, why did you choose to get PR experience?

I have always known that I didn’t want a mundane job. I knew I wanted variety in my work and for it to be focused around problem solving so PR fits the criteria.

What was your understanding of PR before joining Speed?

I think I had associated it far too much with Advertising, where in reality even their premises are quite distant. In PR you aren’t bludgeoning consumers with your client’s opinion of your client, instead you bring them or their product into the forum and ask people to discuss it. I’ve found it surprisingly meritocratic.

Have any campaigns grabbed your attention in recent history?

Not a campaign as such, but my favourite example of a product’s interaction with their consumers is probably Jägermeister. It was a really niche German digestif in 2003 which sold fewer than 70,000 bottles a year in the UK. Seasonaires in German resorts then took the obscure local drink, ‘bombed’ it with Red Bull and brought the phenomenon back to the UK. In 2009 Jägermeister sales were 700,000 bottles a year. By being brought into the wider public domain with the Jägerbomb gimmick a drink which had existed since 1935 increased its sales tenfold in six years. I think it is a brilliant example of how popular culture can create a brand. The brand is everywhere now. If you were able to replicate that as a PR then you would have a very happy client.

What do you think of Speed?

What I like most is that it’s a really dynamic environment. You often work with several different clients in different fields all in a day which keeps you active and creative

What was your favourite moment?

The overall highlight was being asked to a client meeting last week. It was the first one I have been invited to and was with an important client so I was quite nervous beforehand; but being told I had handled it well afterwards put me on a massive high and was my best moment so far

Did you enjoying working with the team?

Yeah I think the consumer team definitely have the most fun on their accounts. It seems to include a lot of sport, food and luxury products.

Toby-TeaWho is your favourite member of the consumer team?

I’m in a good position to answer this question because I hop from desk to desk depending on who is in the office, so I have been able to sample a few neighbours. Sarah Apps is my favourite at the moment – we had a lot of banter the week I was her neighbour.

What did you learn in your two months with Speed?

I have learnt a lot about independent work. You can’t always pester your line-manager for an answer so often it’s better to work out what the right course of action is and come to them with a solution not a problem

Which member of the consumer team is PR personified?

It is the duo of Ciaran and Harriet Courage. If as a client I were employing a PR, I would look for someone who if in a situation they said “Don’t worry, I’ll sort it” I would believe them.

If you could work for any brand who would it be and why?

I would love to work for Red Bull. The Felix Baumgartner space jump and all their interaction with extreme sport have made them a really likable brand.

Can you see yourself pursuing a career in PR after University?

I need to spend a lot more time in the industry before I could make a firm decision but I could certainly see it as one of a few career paths.

How many more ‘Gap Years’ are you going to take?

The ‘Gap Life’ is an appealing concept but I think I will have to grow up soon, possibly after University, possibly later.

Thanks for everything, Toby. We wish you all the best in the future.

My Protein Project – Time to Change

Following the success of the three Maximuscle Protein Project contestants, Oli, David and James, I have decided to take on my own Protein Project. Maximuscle are one of our clients and this was a PR campaign that I completely immersed myself in. I was involved from conception through to the ‘Wrap Party’ and I continue to work on the legacy piece now. It’s been an incredible project to be part of; seeing the success of the contestants and working so closely with the Maximuscle nutritionists and training experts is truly inspiring.

3-ContestantsThrough the last twelve I’ve been witness to intense training sessions and become accustomed to the rigours of training and recovery. I have also learnt the importance of nutrition in any training plan. Armed with that knowledge I felt in a great position to take the challenge on. The first thing was decide my goal.

I was entered into this year’s Virgin London Marathon but injured my ankle four weeks from race day. The injury did more than physical damage, I was devastated. The London Marathon is an event I have always wanted to do and I took the challenge really seriously, I put in a lot of hours training and even stopped playing rugby, to stay injury free, only to watch my teammates  win twelve games on the bounce and take the league title – a bitter-sweet moment.  Being a keen sportsman I hate not being able to be active, the ankle injury put me out for two months and that really wound me up. To add to that frustration I started to build myself a beer belly. My boozing and bad eating habits didn’t suffer a two month lay-off, in fact, they were probably more prominent. By the end of the Protein Project I was in the worse shape I’ve ever been in but my ankle was back to working order and so I decided it was time. Time to change; I want to be fitter than ever, stronger than ever and in better shape than I’ve ever been.

This is a test to myself, I had set myself a target of four hours in which to run the London Marathon and that was supposed to be my big achievement for 2013 but that didn’t happen so now I have to prove to myself that I have the will-power, drive and determination, to become the best athlete I’ve ever been. My formula to achieve this involves four gym sessions and at least one cardio session a week, six meals a day, including two Maximuscle protein shakes, no sweets or chocolate or crisps and no alcohol.

With my goal in mind – improved physique and performance – my gym plan will be split into four sections:

-          Two weeks strength and conditioning: getting my body used to going to the gym again

-          Four weeks muscle build: lots of (good) calories, big weights, low reps

-          Four weeks fat loss: cut down the calories, minimal carbs, intense gym sessions that focus on cardiovascular training

-          Two weeks lean muscle build: Focus will be on body weight training, i.e. press-ups, pull-ups, dips, etc.

Protein-Project-LogoI am now one week in and I can feel it in both a good and bad way. Whilst the ‘delayed onset of muscle soreness’ (DOMS) is impairing my every move,  I feel more energised thanks to my better diet, no booze on the weekend and my pre-work gym sessions. The biggest achievement this week, however, was the reception I got from my mates; at a rugby dinner, on Thursday night, instead of getting lambasted for not drinking I was supported, which came as quite a shock. I guess they’re thinking my Protein Project will come to an end in perfect time for the start of next season and I’ll be a better player for it.

Over the next twelve weeks I will keep you updated with my progress. The highs and lows, the pains and gains but, most importantly, how I am managing to fit this challenge into my hectic PR work schedule. I want to prove that it’s possible to change your life around your work with the right dedication and, quite appropriately for a PR professional, planning.

It’ll be alright on the night

The night before any event I get those butterflies in my stomach. No matter how much preparation time you allow beforehand you can never truly guarantee that little unforeseen circumstance won’t rear its ugly head! But earlier this week I helped run one of the most successful events of my career to date.

Finding the right venue, sourcing a caterer, photographer, and treats for goody bags should never be underestimated. The time, care and precision involved is phenomenal. So here are my three quick fire tips for pulling off a successful event:

Plan, plan and plan again

From critical time paths, running schedules, briefs and to-do lists it’s important to plan everything down to the last detail. And when that’s done throw a couple of curve balls in the mix to plan around so you’re never caught short.

Expect the unexpected

You never know what’s going to happen. People can be relied upon to be unreliable so always make sure you have a stand by or stand in available. If a venue lets you down you may have a problem. If a caterer lets you down, there’s always M&S!

Remember… It pays to be ballsy

As any PR will tell you, you can never guarantee media attendance. You always expect drop outs. You can minimise these by picking dates and times that will suit the key media you’re trying to appeal to. The forefront of your mind will always be getting the best for your client. A couple of months ago we took a judgement call to postpone our event because we knew we could get better but the dates weren’t quite right and people kept going down with the Norovirus. A few months later we secured media attendance from all the key journalists we wanted but hadn’t been able to crack. This resulted in one extremely happy client and 10 converted journalists.

That’s the way to do it

A few weeks ago I wrote about the failed approach businesses were taking when facing criticism about their corporation tax affairs. The advice was simple:

First of all, if you haven’t done anything wrong, don’t act like you have.

Secondly, in such situations where you are facing a direct and clear criticism about a single issue about which you are in the right, keep your response focussed on that issue alone and don’t dilute it.

When I read the Observer article yesterday (Sunday May, 19th) by Eric Schmidt, it was good to see Google taking a similar approach. Have a read, and you will see good, clear messaging that is impactful and positive for the company. If they can stick to their guns on these messages moving forward, and if other businesses take a similar approach, then companies will start to take control of the issue again and mitigate the damage it is having upon their collective reputations.

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Journalist Q&A: 15 minutes with @sparky000 from Management Today

Last week I spoke to Rebecca Burn-Callander (@sparky000), Management Today‘s Web Editor, to find out more about what makes a good PR into a great one, get her thoughts on Apple‘s future and Margaret Thatcher’s management style, and find out just where that Twitter handle comes from…here’s what she said.

1)    Who’s the most inspiring CEO out there right now? What do you like about them?

Ian Hogarth, founder of SongKick, caught my attention recently. Not only is SongKick a really cool start-up – it lets you know when your favourite artists are playing live, the whole company culture is incredibly interesting. Each new hire is presented with a DVD of The West Wing. The team on the show are fiercely driven and extremely bright, and always manage to find answers to complex problems – something that Songkick wants its staff to emulate.

2)    Your colleague Michael recently wrote a piece about Maggie Thatcher’s management style, what do you think of it?

She was definitely called the Iron Lady for good reason. Love her or hate her, for good or for ill, she definitely believed in her policies. I wish today’s politicians had a little more conviction and little less puff and bluster. But I must confess, I’m glad I’ve never had to work for a woman like her. Rumour has it that if she couldn’t get her way in cabinet meetings, she’d burst into tears. Just imagine Maggie Thatcher crying on you…  

3)    Do you think that Tim Cook will succeed in stopping the mighty Apple from rotting?  

If Apple does rot, it will take decades to do so. The company has $137bn in the bank. That’s a lot of cash to play with. That said, I think that Cook definitely needs to start innovating again. He can’t just bring out endless iterations of the iPhone and iPad and expect to keep consumers interested. That’s what Sony though back in the day – after the Walkman it spent decades resting on its laurels to its detriment. I don’t expect that Apple’s greatest innovations will come from the product side, however. I think that the launch of Google’s music streaming service will make Cook sit up and pay attention. Maybe Apple can go one further? A service that streams movies, TV shows, music and games, all for one monthly fee? The first tech giant to get that service sewn up will be sitting pretty. 

4)    What is the most annoying thing about PR people, other than the usual “hi, did you get my press release”!

Without a doubt, it’s when PRs call me to tell me that they are going to send a press release. Just send the release. If it’s interesting, I’ll follow up. I also hate it when I am promised an interview with a CEO or entrepreneur and the PR hasn’t actually checked if the person is available.  

5)    What’s the best thing about the good ones?

The best PRs research the publication they are pitching to and make sure that their release/pitch is tailored to it. Journalists are often busy/lazy/both. If you can tell them exactly why they should be writing about your client, how it’s relevant to their audience, and what a possible topline/topical spin will be, you’re ten times more likely to get their attention.  

6)    MT’s tagline is ‘not just business as usual’ if you had to rebrand, what would you change it to?

If I could rebrand, I’d change the magazine name, if I’m honest. ‘Management Today’ sounds pretty dry and doesn’t reflect the breadth of content we create. I’d go for something like ‘It’s The Business’. It’s cheesy but in a way I like. 

7)    Where did the name @Sparky000 come from?

Ah, Sparky was a nickname when I was a teenager and back in the early days of AIM and ICQ, that was my handle. Even now I’m a grown up business journalist, I can’t quite let it go. I’m a hoarder, even of monikers. 

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Speed’s Chairman and ex Virgin Galactic President, Will Whitehorn, on rockets, brands and Branson

This week, Virgin Galactic took to the skies in a test flight over the Mojave desert. Speed’s Chairman, Will Whitehorn  joined the Virgin Group in 1987 and was made President of Virgin Galactic in 2004,  so he will know more about what that test flight would have meant for the Galactic team than many, as well as what it’s like to work with one of the world’s most well known entrepreneurs, Richard Branson. 

So I caught up with Will earlier today to get his views on the flight, the ‘Branson’ effect and what a strong brand reputation can do for businesses.

1. What do you think of the first Virgin Galactic test flight?

It was incredible. It was like witnessing seven years work take flight and I am hugely excited about what this will mean for the project.

2. What did Sir Richard Branson teach you?

Once all the questions you raise have been thoroughly thought out, don’t take no for an answer in business or in life. Don’t be afraid of trying new things in the face of possible failure but know when to stop if things don’t materialise. Think about the consequences of your actions and never say anything you wouldn’t say in a court of law. Finally, reputation is everything and worth protecting.

3. What is your perception of Virgin’s brand evolution?

Virgin now has the power to cross to a variety of corporate structures and operates on the basis of branded private equity. It has evolved into a globally recognised brand associated with entrepreneurialism, competition, value, quality, innovation and a sense of fun.

4. How can branding give an organisation competitive leverage?

When launching a new product, a recognised brand can spend around 10% less than other brands on marketing IF the brand lives up to its reputation. So based on this, reputation can be the key component between success and failure, and in order to craft such a strong reputation, you must engage consistently and honestly with your customers, especially through the bad times, to instil faith and remove uncertainty.

5. Virgin is a very innovative and ambitious brand, how do you think that has influenced other brands?

As long as innovation and ambition is at the heart of business growth and survival, teamed with a defined view of ownership and management to support the business clearly, the opportunities are limitless. Red Bull’s bravery does have some similar cross-over in the Virgin brand style and I admire their brand building and record-breaking stunts. We can admire other brands in dealing with their own market conditions. For example, Apple has remained at the forefront of a tempestuous IT industry, leveraging itself by being resilient and determined.

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It’s all so taxing

My wife works in the corporate tax department of a FTSE100 company. I work in PR. So you can imagine that we have a particular interest at home in the ongoing failure of firms to put forward a well-received message around how much corporation tax a company should pay.

The first set of companies to find themselves in the firing line – Amazon and Starbucks – got it utterly wrong. At first they got defensive and then they got apologetic. And who on earth advised Starbucks to make a voluntary tax donation? Since when has paying tax been akin to a charitable donation, and from a messaging standpoint you might as well just say you are guilty as charged. Although guilty of what would be the right question to ask here.

This is where the dinner table chat at the McLean household becomes relevant. You see, my wife is employed to reduce her company’s corporation tax burden. She does this by applying the letter of the law to her company’s transactions and activities. The fact that the ‘letter of the law’ takes up volumes and volumes of rules and regulations means that she is gainfully employed and also explains why ultimately the politicians should stop blaming the companies and start blaming themselves. But I digress because at the end of the day, while her profession may make interpretations of tax law to mitigate their tax risk, this is not illegal activity. So why do company’s act like they are guilty?

So step forward this week Eric Schmidt from Google. Again we hear the line I had expected businesses to stick with from the very beginning – i.e. that companies are paying what they are required to pay. If the Government changes the law so that they should pay more, then they will pay more. Of course, then he clouds the message by talking about all the other wonderful things Google contributes to the UK economy. We heard this from the likes of Starbucks last autumn. The result is that a simple, straightforward undiluted message gets lost and gives the many critics lining up to attack big business the opening they need to get stuck in once again.

Two clear messages are evident from the debacle to date.

First of all, if you haven’t done anything wrong, don’t act like you have.

Secondly, in such situations where you are facing a direct and clear criticism about a single issue about which you are in the right, keep your response focussed on that issue alone and don’t dilute it.

Now some reading this might then feel I have missed a point about public brand perceptions. After all, Starbucks found itself the victim of a social media led boycotting campaign. However, the point here is that the lines taken by businesses so far have not been working. The media is on its hobby horse, the MP’s are fuelling the fire and there are enough “outraged”, vocal campaigners to keep the headlines rolling.

So perhaps it’s time for businesses that find themselves under attack to put the shoe on the other foot. Rather than letting the critics such as Margaret Hodge have a free-for-all attacking your brand, tell them that you agree. The law that enables businesses to mitigate their tax bill to such an extent and is not having the reciprocal benefits of attracting/supporting business that was original intended (assuming that is the case, of course) is clearly a law that needs looking at. So basically it’s a message of “the law is an ass.” It might just need to be phrased slightly differently…!

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Final post: handing over to the next generation

Fourteen years, almost to the day, after starting Speed’s forerunner Rainier PR from a basement in Covent Garden, London, both Steve Earl and I are both calling it a day.

Speed has great clients, a market-beating proposition, a strong management team, and an upcoming generation of really smart people.

The simple fact is that our work here is done.

I’m incredibly proud of Speed. The team has built a cracking business that delivers fantastic work for clients day-in, day-out.

The firm, like all creative agencies, is the sum of everyone that has worked with us and everyone that hired us. I owe you all my heartfelt thanks.

When the time comes I will shed a tear at parting company with Steve. It’s personal. We’ve worked together for almost 17 years at A Plus, Weber, Rainier PR and Speed, supporting each other through the highs and lows of agency, personal and family life.

But, we both need to move on, do new stuff, and learn new things. I have no doubt that we will return occasionally to our table at The Stockpot in Panton Street.

As Dr Seuss said “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it’s happened.”

What’s next?

I’ll be here until the end of September and then I’m taking a few months out before starting something new. That’s under wraps for now but if you follow @wadds on Twitter or personal blog you’ll find out before very long.

Six Olympic lessons in communication

Long before it began London 2012 was hailed as the social media Olympics. The reality has been somewhat different. Each day has brought with it new issues and lessons for corporate communicators.

It started before the games began as contrary to its guidelines, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) faced the reality that it wasn’t going to be possible to police every photo shared by athletes or spectators.

The IOC social media policy (PDF) was breached the moment that the athletes moved into the Olympic village and started sharing images of their bedrooms.

Lesson 1 – You can ask people to follow reasonable guidelines but you can’t police Twitter.

During the cycle race through the Surrey countryside on the first day of the gameswidespread Twitter usage was blamed for a surge in mobile phone traffic that overwhelmed networks and prevented real time data from cyclists reaching television commentators via the Olympic Broadcasting Service.

Lesson 2 – If you’re running an event ensure that the network infrastructure is fit for purpose.

Then NBC was slammed in an article by Independent journalist Guy Adams for delaying the broadcast of the opening ceremony to peak times.

Twitter kicked Adams off the network after he shared the work email address of Gary Zenkel, President NBC Olympics and invited frustrated NBC viewers to complain direct.

We’ve since learnt that Twitter solicited a compliant from its broadcast partner NBC. In a huge twist of irony the social network failed to engage initially, but faced with a storm of criticism on its own network it was subsequently forced to back down accepting that its behaviour was not acceptable.

Lesson 3 – Be authentic, communicate and listen to your users.

And then there are the trolls.

A man who can’t be named for legal reasons has been arrested for a malicious tweet directed at Team GB diver Tom Daley. Daly and diving partner Pete Waterfield narrowly missed out on a medal on Monday after finishing fourth in the men’s synchronised diving.

Lesson 4 – Trolls are an unfortunate fact of life on the internet. All networks have in built mechanisms taking action.

But Twitter has also enjoyed moments of sheer joy. It has enabled users to be part of the action and allowed athletes to communicate directly with their fans. I challenge anyone to be anything but charmed by the raw excitement of Rebecca Adlington’s (@BeckAdlington)Twitter feed.

Lesson 5 – The audience can share directly in the excitement of an event by communicating directly with the participants, and vice versa.

Film director Danny Boyle and director of the open ceremony did a remarkable job in keeping details of the opening ceremony under wraps simply by asking people at the rehearsals to keep quiet. Inevitably Twitter exploded on the opening night with almost 10 million tweets shared.

Lesson 6 – People are reasonable and respond well to requests that are communicated well.

That aside you simply can’t control how people use social media. You can issue guidelines, you can appeal to their better judgement as Boyle did, but the control and manipulation of messages and storytelling, traditionally the stock trade of corporate communications, simply isn’t possible.

It’s the story of Brand Anarchy and its an issue that the IOC and Twitter itself has had to face this week.

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Speed sets sights on UK agency top 20 as it acquires KTB PR

We’ve got some exciting news about Speed. We’re taking the business to the next level with the acquisition of KTB PR, the award-winning consumer PR agency focused on the sports, health and wellbeing sectors.

KTB PR’s managing director Kate Bosomworth will lead Speed’s enlarged consumer team and will join the board of Speed.

Speed has the ambition to be a top 20 UK PR agency by 2015. A strong consumer offering is a critical cornerstone of this vision. The acquisition broadens Speed’s existing consumer offer and adds both management and client service credibility.

We’re continuing to invest in developing services for clients in the corporate, media and technology sectors too.

KTB has established itself as a strong player in the sports, health and wellbeing sectors. As well as developing awareness and reputation for start-up clients it has delivered campaigns around major sporting events, sporting and lifestyle celebrities, and personal challenges.

Here’s the official announcement.

Speed sets sights on UK agency top 20 as it acquires KTB PR

Speed is aiming to become a top 20 UK PR agency following the acquisition of KTB PR, a consumer PR agency focused on sports, health and wellbeing clients. Speed is a multi-sector agency focused on the consumer, corporate, media and technology sectors.

The deal brings together two award-winning agencies to create a combined business with a turnover of £4 million, employing more than 45 people and clients including adidas, The Associated Press, The Celtic Manor Resort, Clinton Cards, The Economist, Maxinutrition, Technogym, Tesco, Toshiba and Virgin Media Business.

The cash and shares deal follows the acquisition of Speed’s former parent company Loewy Group and a £4.5 million fundraise by Writtle Holdings last July.

KTB PR will be merged with Speed’s consumer team. Kate Bosomworth, founder and managing director of KTB PR, will lead Speed’s enlarged consumer team and will join the board of Speed.

KTB PR will be integrated into Speed with immediate effect and will move into Speed’s office in Leicester Square by the end of July.

“Speed has the ambition to be a top 20 UK PR agency by 2015. A strong consumer offering is a critical cornerstone of this proposition. The acquisition broadens Speed’s existing consumer offer and adds both management and client service credibility. We’ll be considering the merits of further acquisitions over time to help bolster further organic growth,” said Stephen Waddington, managing director, Speed.

“Speed provides a superb platform to accelerate the growth of my team, our clients will also benefit from Speed’s digital innovation in audience planning and engagement through all forms of media. Both teams are very excited about what will no doubt be a very exciting few years ahead,” said Kate Bosomworth, director, Speed.

-ends-

About Speed
Speed is a public relations consultancy owned by Writtle Holdings that specialises in the business, consumer, corporate and technology sectors. Speed has a combined fee income of around £4 million and works with clients including adidas, The Associated Press, The Economist, Maxinutrition, Tesco, Toshiba and Virgin Media Business. See www.speedcommunications.com.

 

The making of Share This: The Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals

In July last year at a meeting of the CIPR Social Media Panel I suggested that we capture the content from the second successful Social Summer series and self-publish an e-book.

The CIPR Social Summer is a fantastic series of workshops conceived by Philip Sheldrake that has run for the last three years. Each week people turn up to events around the country grab a beer and get involved in a conversation led by experts about different aspects of the development of public relations.

Building a book
We created a Google Document immediately after the meeting and over the next week kicked about ideas as a group. We quickly realised that we’d stumbled upon a neat idea to create a practical handbook about the changes taking place in the public relations industry.

Our ambition grew. We decided that we were going to pitch the idea to a publisher and create a physical book.

By the next meeting of the Social Media Panel the original Google Document turned into a proposal and thanks to Philip Sheldrake and the CIPR’s Phil Morgan we’d got an initial expression of interest from Wiley.

We signed off on a content plan, drafted a style guide, agreed a timeline and over the next three months members of the panel volunteered their time and persuaded other industry experts to contribute chapters to the book.

A social project: content and contributors
The full list of contributors aside from myself includes Katy HowellSimon SandersAndrew SmithHelen NowickaGemma GriffithsBecky McMichaelRobin WilsonAlex LaceyMatt ApplebyDan TyteStuart BruceRob Brown, Russell GoldsmithAdam ParkerJulio RomoPhilip SheldrakeRichard BagnallDaljit BhurjiRichard BaileyRachel MillerMark Pack, and Simon Collister.

The project was managed via a series of Google Documents with contributors reviewing and commenting on each other’s work. It was a truly social project that used many of the techniques that the book itself addresses. Not all the conversations were easy but it has made for a far better product than any one person could have produced alone.

The result is Share This: The Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals, due for publication in print and digital formats on 20 July. Chapter One: An Introduction to Social Networks by Katy Howell is freely available for download via the CIPR website and you can pre-order the complete book from Amazon.

The book is split into 26 chapters over eight topic areas, covering the media and public relations industry, planning, social networks, online media relations, monitoring and measurement, skills, industry change and the future of the industry.

Each chapter has been written as a standalone piece of work and is intended to be read independently. You can either choose the topics that interest you or read the entire book from start to finish.

Inevitably for any book about an industry that moves as fast as ours there are topics that we haven’t covered. If you spot any gaps please share your thoughts on this wiki. We may produce additional digital chapters.

Party planning
During the coming weeks the book launch will be supported by the release of YouTube video introductions to each of the chapters by each of the authors; a social media quiz from the CIPR, designed to test the digital knowledge of practitioners; and will culminate in an exclusive launch event at Google Campus, east London on Wednesday 18 July.

Huge thanks are due to everyone who volunteered their time to contribute to the project. Special thanks to Philip Sheldrake for his drive, persistence and support in delivering the project. And finally thanks to Phil Morgan and Andrew Ross, and the team at the CIPR for recognising the potential of this project, and supporting the Social Media Panel in bringing it to fruition.

Brand Anarchy: 10 Amazon reviews. Thank-you!

You can’t control reputation. You can only earn it. That’s a comment from Seth Godin in Chapter 4 of Brand Anarchy.

When we set out to write the book Steve Earl and I wanted to tackle the upheaval taking place in the PR and communication industry. We wanted to make the book to accessible as possible.

Thanks to social media we know exactly what readers think. Like egotistical narcissists we’ve read every single tweet, blog and review.

So would we change anything? You can always proof your work one more time. Inevitably there are nips and tucks that we’d make, paragraphs we’d polish, and in one case a sentence that needs completing.

But in the main it’s the book we set out to write.

Whenever we’re invited to talk about the book, audiences always want to ditch the corporate stuff and discuss how to be a Brand Anarchist. That might just be the subject of another book.

In the meantime thanks for the reviews from our first ten Amazon reviewers. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you and thank-you again.

I’ve shared excerpts below.

“Unlike many other text books I have had the laborious task of reading (you know the type – full of airy-fairy words that no-one ever really uses and after the first paragraph you want to cry with boredom), this book is common sense, straight talking and actually, an absolute pleasure to read.”
Anne-Marie Bailey

“The authors have distilled the wisdom of modern day PR practitioners into an accessible paperback. If you work in PR make Brand Anarchy part of your holiday reading.”
Ged Carroll

“One of the many things to commend about this book is the breadth of issues raised, analysed and evaluated. The authors don’t shy away from asking the big questions about the definition and meaning of crucial concepts such as reputation, engagement, influence, authenticity, participation, analytics and measurement. What is refreshing is that Waddington and Earl demonstrate their hard earned communication skills by writing in a clear and concise style, thus avoiding the Latinate concatenations of more prolix authors who claim authority in the field of PR and social media.”
Andrew Smith

“I seriously cannot recommend Brand Anarchy enough to anybody interested in the world of marketing and PR. If you are serious about understanding how social media and the fragmented media landscape affects you, your client, your brand or those around you, then buy this [book]. In fact, the hardest part about reading it, is trying to find space at the back to make your notes.”
Jamie Ivory

“Brand Anarchy is a rare thing in the world of social media books – it’s accessible without being flimsy and informative without being dull.”
Sally Whittle

“Brand Anarchy is an insightful evaluation of the changing landscape of the media, where the PR industry should look to position itself in the future, and in my opinion, most importantly – what skills practitioners should be learning to operate in a new era of reputation management.”
Faye Oakey

“Anyone who works in PR and marketing or is just interested in the evolution of the media must read this book.”
Ross Wigham

“Over the years many PR’s have attempted to write books about the industry, in my experience most of them have read like academic text books and consequently I never get past the first few chapters. Brand Anarchy, however, is very different. The thing I liked most about it was that I didn’t feel like I was being taught a lesson in PR, it discusses the crucial influence of social media and its impact on the PR industry by referencing notable case studies whilst also giving useful pointers throughout.”
Andrew Shearer-Collie

“In this world where reputation, and therefore value, can be created, damaged, or even destroyed in a matter of hours communications knowledge is no longer an optional extra. The challenge this presents to non-communication professionals is significant. With its approachable style and language this book is an ideal place to start.”
Adam Parker

“This is an inspirational text written in a language that people will relate to, students will find compelling and intriguing and PR practitioners like myself will think ‘those bastards have only gone and done it properly’.”
John Brown

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SxSELondon slidedeck

Here’s my slide deck from SxSE London last week which took place last week at London’s most technological pub The Thirsty Bear.

The Thirsty Bear is worth a trip for no other reason than the novelty of ordering a pint by iPad. More than one speaker pointed out that the pub has more advanced communication infrastructural than Westminister over the river. Make up your pun.

SxSELondon had a wonderful underground cult feel to it with speakers from finance, politics, commerce, entertainment and the future of digital community.

My session was mainly about the damage that individuals can do to the reputation of organisations using social media.

Organisations must understand the needs of its audience and respond accordingly.

At Speed we call this participation: a real, sustained and organic conversation between the brand and its audience in which the brand responds directly to the needs of its audience on the audience’s terms.

Guest post: PRs and Wikipedia by Wikipedian Tom Morris

The CIPR published guidance on working with Wikipedia for PR practitioners today.

The move follows a CIPR TV discussion last week that is worth catching on replay between David Gerard, an active volunteer for Wikimedia UK, Philip Sheldrake, founder of Meanwhile, and Gem Griffiths, managing director, Crowd&I.

In this guest post we sought out the expertise of Wikipedian Tom Morris who has been a member of the Wikipedia community for almost 10 years.

I think that compared with some public relations people, the CIPR people are being pretty responsible.

I think the main issue isn’t actually evil PR folk vs. PR-hating Wikipedians. The issue I have with PR editing is that it just takes up too much time.

Wikipedians didn’t turn up to help manage a business directory written by PR and advertising folk, they were attracted to Wikipedia for some far less worldly subject: philosophy (in my case) or military history or whatever it might be.

Ideally, we’d have much more restrictive rules on business notability, and we’d avoid the PR problem completely.

As for what to do now?

  1. Register a personal rather than a corporate account. Disclose your conflicts of interest on your user page.
  2. Don’t edit any page you have a conflict of interest on except to remove vandalism. By vandalism, I mean “JIMMY IN EIGHTH GRADE IS A FAGGG!” not legitimate, sourced material you don’t like.
  3. If there are issues with the article, leave a note on the talk page.
  4. If nobody responds to the talk page, it’s probably because nobody is reading. Consider asking on the talk page of the most appropriate WikiProject, or look up “WikiProject Cooperation”.
  5. Familiarise yourself with the noticeboards process and how to report vandalism and other behavioural issues.
  6. Try editing things outside of the things you have conflicts of interest on. It’s fun!
  7. Don’t be a dick. When faced with a situation where you have a choice to be a dick or not be a dick, choose to not be a dick.  Following this rule will mean you will very rarely get into stressful or difficult situations.
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CIPR TV: Working with Wikipedia

Yesterday’s CIPR TV looked at how the PR industry should best engage with Wikipedia. The show followed the publication of draft best practice guidelines. David Gerard, an active volunteer for Wikimedia UK, and Philip Sheldrake, founder of Meanwhile joined Gem Griffiths, managing director, Crowd&I.

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Gorkana debate: Q. Is the press losing its influence? A. On society yes, on politicians no

All newspapers have seen massive falls in print circulation in the last decade. In any other business it would surely be game over?

That was former BBC Director General Greg Dyke’s opening shot at a lively debate last night organised by Gorkana at the Millbank Media Centre, London. The discussion among a panel of veteran media execs set out to determine whether the press is losing its influence.

British newspapers lead the world
Publisher and broadcaster Andrew Neill accused Dyke of counting the wrong things.

“The reach of the UK media has never been bigger. But new audiences haven’t been monetised yet. The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Economist and The Financial Times all have global audiences,” said Neil.

Sue Douglas, former deputy editor of The Sunday Times, agreed with Neil. Douglas is currently hatching the launch of a new Sunday newspaper.

“The news business isn’t about newspapers, it’s about the stories. We need to look at the distribution of stories in a new ways on new platforms. That’s never going to go away irrespective of the channel,” she said.

The UK newspaper business isn’t a conventional market. It is distorted by the ego of wannabe proprietors. Unfit newspapers don’t die.

“Bad newspapers don’t get close down. They get bought by someone that wants to join the British establishment” said Neil, citing The Daily Express and The Independent.

Leveson: regulation unwelcome
The panel was unanimous in its agreement about the Leveson Inquiry. “It’s become a grudge match for every politician that’s had a run-in with a journalist,” said Neil.

The change in the relationship between the media and politicians began during the Tony Blair’s administration.

“Following the media’s treatment of Neil Kinnock [in the early-90s] New Labour changed its relationships with the media forever. Blair’s Government created wide and deep interlocking relationships with News International,” said Neil.

A decade later Cameron repeated the strategy. “Andy Coulson was Cameron’s Alastair Campbell,” said Douglas.

But the panel was unanimous in agreeing that press regulation would be wrong. MP David Davis argued that the Dominique Strauss-Kahn story shows danger of an overregulated press.

French privacy laws meant that reporting of the former IMF chief’s alleged involvement in a legal case was censored until it was broken by international outlets.

Political influence remains as strong as ever
“MPs still believe that newspapers have a huge influence. They still live in an analogue world,” said Neil.

But then maybe media executives do as well to some extent. Neil was the only member of the panel with an account on Twitter.

“The influence of newspapers is in decline and it would be happening a lot faster if politicians realised what was happening,” he added.

The local media and the BBC are the key routes for MPs to communicate with their electorate said Davis.

But increasingly MPs are using digital channels.

“MPs are turning to Twitter to communicate with their electorate. But it comes with a large overhead in time,” said Davis.

Newspapers have a drip, drip, effect on the electorate but their influence is exaggerated said Davis.

“Every newspaper in the last election but three called for the electorate to vote for Conservative. Two called for the LibDems and one for Labour. But it didn’t help the Conservatives secure a majority,” said Neil.

The influence of the press on society is changing of that there is no doubt, but it is seemingly as strong as ever on the political classes.

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Copy of Brand Anarchy for Sally Loudon, chief executive, Argyll & Bute Council

Only the most hardened cynic could fail to be inspired by the story of a nine-year old girl that shamed a Scottish council using a blog, notched up 4.5 million hits, and raised more £60,000 for charity.

Yet again we learn that an organisation does not own the conversation around its products or services and that attempts at censorship, rather than engagement, are more far likely to fuel discussion, than quell it.

Martha Payne’s story started in April when the pupil at Lochgilphead Primary, Argyll started a blog about her school dinners called NeverSeconds. Martha published photos of her lunch and ranked it for taste, portion size, health and price.

Guess what? Martha’s reviews weren’t always positive.

Within a month a community gathered around the blog. School children and parents from around the world shared photos and information about their own lunches, some of which Martha shared. Dozens of people engaged with the blog via comments on each post.

In June Martha set up a JustGiving account for Mary’s Meals a charity that sets up school feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities and invited anyone that was inspired by her blog to make a donation.

In a PR savvy move chef Nick Nairn invited Martha along with council and government officials to his Cookery School to discuss school dinners and cook up some lunches of their own.

The resulting write-up in The Daily Record on Thursday under the headline “Time to fire the dinner ladies..” didn’t impress Argyll & Bute Council and it took action via the head teacher at Lochgilphead Primary school banning Martha from taking photos of her lunch.

But by now the community around NeverSeconds was huge and included the national media. The cocktail of campaigning, censorship, injustice, and social media was just too juicy for news desks to ignore.

Stories in the national and international media on Friday morning forced a defensive response from Argyll & Bute Council claiming that it the article in the Daily Record had “led catering staff to fear for their jobs” and that the NeverSeconds blog “misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils”.

Three hours later the Council backed down. In an updated statement it said that censorship was inappropriate and invited Martha and her father to meet with council officials to discuss school meals.

So Martha’s blog lives on and the community she has created has donated more than £60,000 to Mary’s Meals.

It would be very easy to criticise Argll & Bute Council for handling this situation in such a heavy-handed way. But it is no different from any organisation that has failed to recognise that it doesn’t own its reputation. In a Council’s case its reputation lies in the hands of its citizens such as Martha.

It also failed to realise that thanks to social media a nine-year-old can share her opinions with an international audience via the internet and build a community that in this instance caught the attention of campaigners, chefs, politicians and the mainstream media.

Whether the quality of school dinners at Lochgilphead Primary will improve we’ll only learn by continuing to follow NeverSeconds.

We’ve sent copies of Brand Anarchy to Sally Loudon and Councillor Roddy McCuish, chief executive and leader respectively of Argll & Bute Council.

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