Marketing vs Comms

Photo of Paul Seven Lewis

I’ve never worked in a business large enough to separate marketing and communications. Even at the largest organisation where I was an employee, I was responsible for both. So what is the difference?

As the head of the department, I concentrated on the marketing while carrying out some of the communications. So I was the person who determined the marketing strategy and plan. To grossly oversimplify, I worked out what story we had to tell and to whom we should be telling it.

Communications is about telling the story. Because my team was small and I had certain skills, I continued to oversee brochure production and wrote copy. Others dealt with the practicalities of communications through advertising, social media, PR, the website and mailings.

So how do you plan your communications?

  1. Consult the marketing plan. As an expert in communications, you should be talking to the Marketing Manager to make sure you fully understand who you need to communicate with (clients, customers, funders) and what you are expected to achieve.
  2. Set targets in a time frame.
  3. Carry out an inventory of your resources, both human and physical. Human resources could be a press officer, a digital marketer, an advertising agency etc. Physical resources would be a website, social media, print media, email list etc.
  4. Allocate the resources, single or mixed, that will best deliver each target.
  5. If you have been given a budget, allocate it to the resources that will achieve the best return. Otherwise, work out the budget you will need and negotiate your final spending allowance with the management.
  6. Create the stories in images and words that are appropriate for each medium. I’ve said it before but I can’t stress enough that it is never the case that one piece of copy fits all: an email will be personal while a press release will be quite neutral; a tweet will be snappy while flier copy will go into detail. On the other hand, the ‘voice’ and branding should be consistent.
  7. Test and monitor, adapting as you go.

The above is about external communications. An internal communications plan will be similar but will not take its lead from a marketing plan. Instead it will involve researching the stakeholders and understanding how best to communicate with them- most likely emails, postal mailings, social media groups, presentations and digital forums.

Paul Seven Lewis is the owner of the marketing & website design company Seven Experience Limited and presents the YouTube channel One Minute Theatre Reviews. He was formerly Head Of Marketing at The Mayflower Southampton and Marketing Manager at Theatre Royal Winchester.

The Link Between Ed Balls in Strictly & Chichester’s This House

Ed Balls in Strictly Come Dancing
Ed Balls

How is it that Ed Balls survives week after week on Strictly Come Dancing when he is clearly the worst dancer?

I don’t mean he’s the worst dancer ever on the show- step forward Scott Mills, John  Sergeant, Ann Widdecombe and quite a few others. In fact, he can keep time and some of his moves are pretty smooth. I just mean better dancers have been thrown out. Five out of seven of the weeks so far, he has received the lowest judges’ score but he’s yet to end up in the dance off.

I realise I am revealing that I know far more than I should about a bit of Saturday night entertainment, so let me return to my question: why is he so popular with the public? Politicians are among the least liked members of society, along with journalists and estate agents. As a politician, Ed couldn’t even retain his seat at the last general election.

I think the reason is that, in contrast to the god-like actors, TV presenters and athletes on Strictly, a politician seems like an ordinary person. It may be ironic but the people we normally revile are the most like us, particularly if they show they are trying. He certainly gets my vote.

This House at Chichester

This House, a play seen at the National Theatre and most recently at Chichester Festival Theatre’s Minerva, shows politicians as human beings. It’s set in the 1970s when Labour was running minority governments and ends at the moment the Tories returned to power. But it’s not about Wilson, Callaghan or Thatcher. The play is set in the Whips’ Offices, the people who organise their party members’ voting.

These were dramatic times as Labour struggled to maintain its majority and govern. I would never have thought day-to-day politics could be quite so tense, especially when ‘pairing’ is suspended. This is the agreement whereby members absent through government business or illness have their missing vote cancelled by someone from the opposition not voting. To go behind the scenes and see that our democracy can only work by co-operation and compromise is an eye-opener, especially as our politics seems to be becoming more emotional and populist.

Many people- some of the Brexit voters and Trump supporters, for example- seem to be rebelling against the perceived cosiness of the establishment. This House shows that there is a purpose to this comity. We only have to look across the Atlantic to see how the extreme differences between Republicans and Democrats have brought government to a halt after decades of working together.

Politicians Are People

But more than that, in This House, we meet the real people behind the parliamentary constituencies. Plays and other forms of storytelling need characters and This House is packed with flawed human beings with feelings. They are sometimes bullies, sometimes desperate, and most movingly they show compassion. We see that in many cases these are people who care passionately but still respect their opponents and act honourably.

Politicians often try to show their human side in PR exercises- a pint down the pub or an appearance on Have I Got News For You– but a play like This House or an ex-politician like Ed Balls on the journey that is Strictly shows them as flawed human beings, just like you and me.

This article is written by Paul Seven Lewis, owner of the Winchester-based business Seven Experience. Paul provides marketing consultancy for Theatre Royal Winchester, Hampshire Workspace, The Walcote Practice and other businesses. A version has appeared on the Daily Echo website.

This House is transfers to the Garrick Theatre in London from 19 November.

Shaken Not Stirred- New Sponsors Remind Me Of 007’s Original Drink

James Bond 007 ordered his first martini back in 1953 in the novel Casino Royale. So, was it the traditional gin martini or a more modern vodka version?

Belvedere Vodka have sponsored the new James Bond film Spectre
The name is Belvedere

It’s a great marketing coup when a new sponsor makes the front pages and the feature pages but Belvedere Vodka did just that when they announced their involvement in the next James Bond film Spectre. Not least among the coverage were the mentions of the first martini James Bond ever ordered. It was back in 1953 in the novel Casino Royale. So, was it the traditional gin martini or a more modern vodka version? The answer is ‘both’.

“Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”

It’s an original recipe and Bond even gives it a name. The Vesper. So named because it is to be drunk at Vespers, in other words sunset.

Being a martini lover, I had to try it. This proved to be problematic. Kina Lillet doesn’t exist any more, and both vodka and Gordon’s Gin are weaker than in 1953. Cocchi Americano is said to be the nearest to Kina Lillet but I couldn’t get hold of any so I substituted a vermouth since that’s the usual ingredient of a martini. I could have searched for a stronger vodka or the extra strength Gordon’s Export but instead I went for Absolut and standard Gordon’s on the basis that, in Bond’s Vesper, shaking the ice had the effect of watering down the strong alcohol. Rather than shake, I stirred gently! To ensure the drink is ice cold, I keep my vodka in the freezer.

Belvedere VodkaWhy Absolut, not Belvedere? I love Belvedere vodka and I congratulate them on the success they’ve already had as 007’s sponsors. Interestingly Fleming, who pioneered the naming of brands to add authenticity and a touch of glamour to his novels, doesn’t name a vodka. To him it is clearly simply a way of diluting the flavour of the gin without diluting the alcohol content.

How times have changed. In the last couple of decades, brands of vodka have proliferated. However Belvedere is a premium product, a quadruple distilled rye grain vodka whose beautiful flavour is best enjoyed unadulterated.  So I chose Absolut because, in my opinion, it’s the finest wheat vodka in the standard price range.

I found the proportions of three to one in favour of the gin too much for my taste and preferred the subtler effect of equal measures of vodka and gin. The small amount of the vermouth was right, though, making the martini nicely dry. My vermouth of choice is Noilly Prat. To get the driest martini, put the vermouth in, swirl it round the glass (or rub it round with your finger) and pour any excess away.

The lemon is right for the finishing touch and much better than the vulgar olive. It’s best if you take the thin peel and squeeze it to bring out the oil.

After drinking my Vesper, all I needed was a dinner jacket and a Walther PPK and I was ready for Spectre.

A version of this article has appeared on the Daily Echo website.

Some changes were made on 11 March 2015 to the fifth and sixth paragraphs regarding the anonymity of the vodka.


Just Because It’s Free Doesn’t Mean It’s Worthless

I was going to write about the rights and wrongs of Waitrose giving away cups of coffee but then I read about one of their free coffees poisoning a customer. It wasn’t the fact that cleaning fluid made its way into the cup, it was how Waitrose dealt with it.

As a company, how you deal with a bad customer experience makes all the difference. Many businesses make the mistake of thinking ‘so what? it’s just one lost customer’ without realising that the ramifications go in all directions. The customer tells people she meets, statistically far more than when she has a good experience, and she never shops with you again so you lose a potential lifetime of purchases. For example, I had a bad experience with Kuoni back in the 90s, I felt their response was inadequate and neither I nor any of my family have ever bought a holiday from them since- and we’ve been on a lot of holidays.

The good response is to apologise profusely, show that you’ve looked into the problem and made sure it won’t happen again, and compensate more generously than they are expecting. So, what did this particular Waitrose do when their customer was hospitalised? They sent her an insulting £25 voucher. They soon learnt how much that free coffee was worth when the customer’s husband took to the social media.

Surely an exception to the great John Lewis tradition of serving customers exceptionally well, you might think. Except. It reminded me of an experience we had at Waitrose in Salisbury a few weeks ago. We had found the staff in their cafe particularly inattentive to the point of not listening. Because we thought this was unusual and that the store would want to make sure this didn’t happen again, my wife wrote a ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ letter to the Manager by name.

We received back a hand written note from Customer Service Department Manager. This could be a good personal touch except for there being no apology, simply a terse ‘If you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me’ and a phone number. My wife was pretty annoyed. She’s taken the trouble to write, now she was expected to take even more trouble to phone. Nevertheless she did, only to find the manager in question was away.

John Lewis and Waitrose have made a name for being better at customer service. That’s one of the points of their free coffee. It says, ‘We’re not just another supermarket, we’re a place where shopping is both relaxing and fulfilling. Of course, it will take more than a little bad service to stop us shopping with them because it has to be balanced against all the many occasions the service has been exceptional. Nevertheless, the halo slipped a bit.

I think their halo has slipped a bit over the matter of free coffee, as well. It may enhance their customers’ view of Waitrose as being that bit more civilised  but it will damage local coffee shops, just as their free newspapers will damage the local newsagent. I expect Costa, Starbucks and WH Smith will survive but I can see it being a problem for smaller independents. Maybe I’m worrying unnecessarily since a satisfactory cup of coffee in a supermarket doesn’t have the same value as a good coffee in pleasant surroundings, which is I guess why so many of us pay £2.50 for something that costs a few pennies to make.

This article was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy Seven Experience and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Waitrose customer service response Waitrose customer service[/caption]


No Comment Says It All

Harriet Harman’s response or rather lack thereof to the Daily Mail’s stories about her connection to a paedophile organisation shows exactly what not to do when faced with a PR disaster.

It is of course tempting to ignore adverse publicity or a complaint and hope it goes away. This can work. If there isn’t really a story in the first place, a reporter may float it just to provoke a response and if no-one rises to the bait, there is no conflict and the story dies. I’ve been on both ends of this.

On one occasion a publicly funded body began providing services in competition with one of my clients, a private commercial company. I doubted much could be done to stop them but I thought there was a chance of some publicity for my client so I persuaded them to write a complaint to the local newspaper. It was printed but my hope that the other party would defend itself and we could garner further publicity was dashed. Perhaps we would have been more successful if we’d talked to a reporter about our grievance.

More recently a subsidised organisation with which I’m associated was attacked in a letter in the local press. I was all for responding, on the grounds that it gave us an opportunity to counter the criticisms and  talk about all the good things we do.  I was outvoted and we reacted with dignified silence. I appreciate that it can be a case of ‘least said, soonest mended’ but I still worry that, since we didn’t deny it, some readers will think what was said was true.

You can understand why Ms Harman or her advisors might have thought that the Mail was simply trying to smear her and any comment was only going to keep the smear going. She may have thought that the chance of persuading Daily Mail readers that she was right and the Mail was wrong were remote.

The trouble is, the Mail was confident it was on to something and Ms Harman’s lack of response i.e. apology became the story. In my experience, unless you are absolutely sure your silence will kill a story before it gets into the public domain, you must respond. That response must acknowledge any mistakes or wrongdoing, apologise if necessary, then swiftly move on to a positive story about the changes that have been made and the good work now being carried out.

In Ms Harman’s case, she could count on the support of other media, who hate the Mail more than they hate her. She could explain how these vile people came to be affiliated with the organisation she worked for, regret that they were ever able to do so, show that she was not in any way sympathetic to paedophiles and go on to speak of the good work both of Liberty and herself in combatting child abuse.

I’ve always liked a complaint or a bad news story because it gives a great opportunity to talk about all the positive aspects of your organisation. Yes, it may bring attention to a complaint that some people might have missed but, in these days of social media spreading every little rumour let alone genuine bad news, that’s a forlorn hope. At least when you respond to stories, letters and tweets, you are retaking control of your brand image.

This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy The Lewis Experience based at Hampshire Workspace, and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.