Tough penalties await companies that take the name of the Stratford (and satellites) International Sports Festival in vain – or, indeed, misuse a range of festival-related terms in their advertising and PR copy.
With the programme for the British Capital 2013 (minus 1) Frolics set to kick off just 10 days hence, the BBC today carried a warning to business that even some quite common English words such as ‘gold’ and ‘medal’ could in the wrong context land the speaker in hot water.
Even more sinister is that the copyright clampdown is enshrined in legislation passed by that great bastion of Free Speech, the Mother of Parliaments.
Behind this anomaly is the fact that ‘SISF’ is the latest manifestation of a huge global brand in its own right, and it relies on enormous sponsorship support from massive international commercial brands. Big brands demand protection, and legislation is the strictest control.
Given the enormity of the occasion, it’s not unreasonable to expect additional protection for logos and other symbols so that they cannot be used, for example, on this article. But it’s a grey area when words taken from plain English are scooped into the copyright net.
The legislation has also effectively gagged many companies that have supplied materials and services essential to the overall project. Normally, many of these suppliers would already have been using their involvement in such a major project to fuel their PR and advertising. Will they be ungagged automatically after the event, or will we need Freedom of Information-type disclosures to discover which manufacturer supplied which building materials?
In reality there’s just a thin line between sponsorship and censorship. And it’s being pulled tight round the ‘SISF’ fundamental: sportsmanship.
What do you think?
This weekend’s UK media frenzy over the announcement that security contractor G4S is unable to fulfil all its commitment to safeguard the Olympics – now less than two weeks away – highlights PR blunders as well as opportunities.
And there’s a double lesson for any company embarking on high-profile contacts with government or other public sector organisations:
For the media the G4S disclosure was a godsend. Bored with the flood of weather stories, ongoing economic gloom and not much else to excite in the run-up to London 2012, suddenly they had a lead with multiple angles, political overtones and ‘national heroes’ to the rescue.
The TV apology by G4S CEO Nick Buckles was unconvincing and did little to explain what had gone wrong. Even the facts were difficult to glean from his response to questions. He was certainly buckling!
For the CEO of an organisation as big as G4S to come across so feebly in such serious circumstances suggests he has a sad lack of media training and crisis handling skills – two inexcusable PR failures.
He faces an even more torrid time in the coming weeks as media and politicians demand answers. If his PR team hasn’t already put ‘crisis’ at the top of their agenda, they should consider themselves on borrowed time.
The facts, it appears, were that G4S was originally contracted to provide 2,000 trained security personnel to secure Olympic venues – but late last year the government increased the security requirement to 10,000. While G4S has made some progress towards meeting the additional numbers, delays in recruitment, training and accreditation mean that it is falling far short of the target. And this is despite high national unemployment figures – which include many former police and military personnel.
With the Home Office and Locog (the London Olympics committee) sitting on its back all the time, how on earth did G4S keep the problem hidden for so long? Bad management on one, two or three sides? More bad PR all round!
The solution has been to bring in the troops. And that’s a great PR opportunity.
Already the RAF is on standby to deal with any unauthorised air traffic in the East London no-fly zone, the Navy has HMS Ocean providing a floating airbase on the Thames, and the Army has – controversially – installed rooftop missile platforms. Now, by providing troops to work alongside civilian security officers on gate control and other duties during the Olympics, the Army is able to use its personnel in a high-visibility ‘civil defence’ role. They are, after all, security professionals.
Whether regulars or territorials, soldiers deployed on Olympic service have a unique peacetime opportunity to interface directly with the public whose rights and freedoms they protect – and to demonstrate to foreign athletes and visitors that a military presence is not necessarily a symbol of political oppression.
I suspect that many of the personnel involved – many with sometimes bitter experience of service in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and the Falklands – will welcome the chance to do something useful on home soil other than just training, administrative and ceremonial duties.
And I think the Games-going public will actually have greater peace of mind with our forces supplementing the crash-trained G4S contingent. Now that’s really good PR!
Websites are an essential part of the marketing mix for virtually every business. The huge successes of e-business should be enough to convince even the most sceptical of entrepreneurs that they need a strong online presence. So how do you achieve a ‘good’ website?
The most basic website is a shop window, telling the world who you are and what you offer. At the very least, it should also include your contact details. At this level, the website is an extension of your physical shopfront, and the information on your van or in your local newspaper advertising – taking your invitation to do business to a potentially much wider audience.
However, to compete effectively in today’s markets, websites need to be much more sophisticated and attractive. Design is vitally important, and so is content.
What you need is a website that not only entices people to buy your products or services, but also encourages them to return to your site (and buy) regularly. Remember, your website isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s also a major selling tool.
So, change content and add fresh items regularly. Look at other sites for ideas. Include more information about your products and services, publish case studies about products in action or how your expertise has helped solve problems for customers. Publish news about your company, comment on industry trends on your blog page. Stimulate communication and customer loyalty by urging people to sign up for your company newsletter. Spotlight special offers. Enable e-business and e-payment facilities to increase convenience for customers. In short, add value to your online customers’ experience – give them something to come back for.
There is no such thing as a perfect website, so be prepared to experiment to find the formula that suits you best. Then, continue to seek improvements.
The next important thing to remember is that while some people may find it on their own, you must also actively drive traffic to your website. Do this by splashing your web address (url) and its QR code variant wherever you can. Use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to announce developments – and always include a link to your site!
All this sounds like a lot of extra work that could interfere with your business role. I believe communication with stakeholders is a key entrepreneurial responsibility, but it requires careful time-management. You could also delegate some of the responsibilities to a professional communicator whose services you buy in to generate material and manage site content. Cost? That depends on what you agree.
And a final thought: decide what you expect your website to do for your business and ensure you have the tools to measure the site’s success.
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 17 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.