SherlockPR shortlisted for prestigious Pride Award

PRide-2015-Shortlist-ButtonOn Friday 17th July I had the absolute pleasure of finding out that I have been shortlisted for the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR) South of England and Channel Islands PRide Outstanding Independent Practitioner Award. The CIPR South of England and Channel Islands PRide Awards cover Bristol, Cornwall, Dorset, Devonshire, East Sussex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Somerset, Surrey, The Channel Islands, West Sussex, and Wiltshire.

Having gone through the panel of 22 judges, I am now shortlisted against one other independent PR practitioner and the winner of this category for the past two-years, Karen Tippett-Lehane of TippetPR.

The awards dinner will take place on 20th November at The Bristol Marriott Hotel City Centre. The full shortlist can be found here:

Over the past 12 months I have secured over 600 pieces of media coverage for a mixture of retailed clients and shorter projects, such as the Sussex Sports Awards and Virgin Holidays. This includes aligning clients, such as Bishop’s Move and Retail Human Resources, with some of the most debated issues across the UK such as fuel duty costs, stamp duty, and the gender pay gap. Most important of all, the coverage I have secured has had a significant impact on both the performances and reputation of my clients clearly demonstrating what a tailored and highly creative PR campaign can achieve.

I am obviously thrilled with this news and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has played a part in the past unforgettable five-years since the foundation of Sherlock PR. Here’s to the next five!

What’s in store now for Southampton, Brighton and Pompey…

Like three excitable youths who have just finished High School, going their separate ways before embarking on a new educational path, Southampton, Brighton and Portsmouth, as close as they may be geographically, couldn’t be farther away from one another now in terms of the football league pyramid.

I wrote earlier this season about how each club should be grateful for each other’s success. Southampton were top of the league; Brighton were third playing an exciting brand of football; and Pompey had just appointed Michael Appleton with fresh hopes of turning the club around, pre-administration.

Each were vying to be the top team on the south coast. But as their backs turn, and they gallop towards next season, the real education begins this summer with the first test coming in August when we kick-off once again, with all three clubs facing different challenges this summer and beyond.

Southampton, in two magical seasons, have finally laid to rest the turbulence of the past seven years which included administrations, relegations and a questionable managerial reign from a certain Mr Redknapp. Replicating exactly what Norwich did the season before them, they have secured back-to-back promotions to the Premier League. The similarities don’t stop there. For Grant Holt, Saints have Ricky Lambert. For Anthony Pilkington there’s Adam Lallana. For Morrison there’s Sharpe. Both are well respected family clubs with a sense of belonging in England’s top flight. Now stable; cautious and dependable.

Manager Nigel Adkins has surprised many, and I’m sure eyebrows were raised by even the most loyal of Southampton fans at his appointment in 2010. However, after speaking to several national journalists, it appears Nigel and the clubs’ owners are in for a shock when it comes to the sheer volume of national media enquiries a Premier League club endures. “Closed off”; “shy”; “unapproachable”; “rude”; are just some of the terms I’ve been handed by journalists writing for our national print press. This approach will have to be severely changed if they are to get on the ever- influencing British media.

But Southampton have it all in place. A history. A reputation. A foundation. Heritage. And unlike recently promoted clubs (note Blackpool), they have a 30,000+ all-stadium which they can fill. The future is bright if they use the aforementioned attributes correctly and hang on to their key players.

On to Brighton, and I must put my allegiance to one side for now. Albion have enjoyed a terrific first season back in the Championship. Had Vicente remained fit then who knows where they would have finished. He is that good. But that’s the point. He didn’t remain fit, and that’s the problem right there: quality within the depths of the squad. Wingers galore, yes. But lack of creativity without the little Spaniard and fire power up top proved crucial in what is one of the toughest leagues in the world.

Brighton are looking to replicate the Swansea model. Pass; pass; pass. Prove yourself at Championship level and push on when ready. Before securing 8th spot in the 2008/09 season, the Swans went on to finish 7th in the 2009/10 season, on 69 points. The following season they were promoted.
Brighton fans must gain a bit of perspective. A state of the art new stadium doesn’t guarantee Premier League football, as we’ve covered looking at Southampton’s past. Murmurs of discontent from some small quarters have been expressed on social media platforms – it seems some will take nothing less than top flight football next year. Give the team a break. As if they weren’t playing with enough pressure already. Unbelievably some have even been criticising the new stadium expansion plans describing them as ‘ugly’, ‘dull’ and ‘disappointing’. Head back to the Withdean then; that’ll give you ugly, dull and disappointing.

I suspect Brighton will achieve the holy grail at some point, but whether that’s next year, who knows. You would expect the Brighton fans, who have suffered so much turbulence since 1997, would understand the need for patience; the same trait which their team demonstrates each week as they caress the ball against their opponents.

Pompey on the other hand will face league fixtures next season against the likes of Crawley Town. Long gone are the memories of FA Cup Finals; Harry Redknapp; and stars such as Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Glenn Johnson. Expected to release the majority of the squad, the one saving grace Michael Appleton can take from relegation is the ‘blank canvas effect’. It’s time to start again; time to right so many wrongs.

Pompey will be looking to mirror what Leeds United have done by bouncing back from League One to Championship play-off contenders. That is opposed to Leeds’ rivals, Bradford City, who nosedived from the Premier League to the depths of League Two and now rank as the lowest placed former Premier League club in English football.

Pompey’s demise can serve a purpose to everyone involved in football. The unpredictable nature and business of the game is expected to hurt others with administration predicted for at least another six football league clubs this year.

So with lessons learned from a season of strict education in the Championship, our three south coast clubs leave with backs turned, and each with a different style of test awaiting them.

How businesses can get in on the Olympic action…

The countdown to the London 2012 Olympics has begun. And through Osprey’s work with charities, Active Sussex and Active Surrey, along with our representation of Peter Mitchell – Olympic hopeful in the cycling team – we are witnessing first-hand the impact the Games is already having on local communities.

All eyes are already firmly on our country, and more specifically London, as an analysis of how we both cope with and take advantage of the Games will be firmly under the microscope. Tens of thousands of fans from the across the globe will descend into London, including approximately 7,500 journalists. This will clearly put businesses, and sectors such as transport and hospitality, in the spotlight. Whether they prevail is a different argument which will warrant an answer in September, post-Olympic Games.

However, this isn’t just about creating a sporting legacy in the UK. This is an opportunity for businesses too; an opportunity that is unlikely to appear again for a generation. So here are some tips as to ways brands and businesses, large and small, can get in on the Olympic act. But you must be quick, as when that starting pistol blasts, a need to be first out of the blocks will be crucial:

– Keep things local: Perhaps you are a small business located within a tight-knit and small community; so what. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a piece of the Olympic action. It certainly isn’t all just about securing national exposure. By thinking that way then you will miss a trick. The public will always support companies who help youngsters get into sport by providing its own tailored initiatives. Therefore you should look for ways your business can support local sports clubs and organisations that provide easy access to get youngsters involved with sport. Smart PR in 2012.

– Brand Britain is something I hear a lot of right now, and it’s refreshing to hear such positivity from a nation who has grown use to moaning about the weather and financial instability. So, as a brand, it’s worth considering pinning yourself with British pride. The best PR move to date, of this kind, is The Sun’s Campaign: “2012 is here, let’s make it great, Britain.” It’s so simple, yet so refined. And with the largest circulation in the UK, The Sun is tapping into a huge audience, most of which are immensely patriotic.

– PR Stunts: Depending on budgets, we all love a PR stunt. What better way for an instant, positive impact for your brand, if done correctly of course. They can create memorable moment and numerous photo opportunities. Surely the Olympics is too good an opportunity to miss out for a clever and creative stunt. It’s the simple ideas which work best – it may be a cliché but it’s true. For example, at the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa, M&C Saatchi projected an image of the football columnists writing for its client, The Sun, across Table Mountain, securing numerous hits across international media.

– Take advantage of London: The city is screaming out to be used and abused this summer, prior to, during, and post-Olympics. It can be your PR whore, there’s no doubt about that. The national media are there and it is easily accessible to international journalists flying in. In fact, it’s easily accessible to pretty much all of us, unless you live in the Shetland Islands.

– Sporting ambassadors: Working with both Active Sussex and Active Surrey this year, we are seeing first-hand how the services of an ambassador helps to capture the excitement of the London 2012 Games and increase the numbers of people taking part, coaching and running sport in their given county, leaving a positive and lasting Olympic legacy.

Something special is happening in sport now, this instant. And together, as businesses, charities, the media and communities, we can ensure a sporting legacy has been built for generations to come.

Sport can evoke all emotions in a matter of seconds: Pain; glory; fear; ecstasy; pride; anger; sadness; frustration and joy.

In other words; sport makes us feel alive. And it can unite. And we can’t forget how instrumental businesses will be this summer too.

The future of young football fans hinges on the FA Cup

The unfamiliar mild weather of January has at last been replaced with the traditional biting cold winds and sub-zero temperatures the UK knows only too well. This can only mean one thing; we are well and truly immersed in FA Cup season.

It has a feel of the mid-80s. The exhilaration of the oldest association football competition in the world is back. Televised games are anticipated to a level they haven’t been for years. Players even have a retro 80s feel about them; Will Buckley of Brighton with his unkempt locks and effective old fashioned wing play brings is a prime example.

The big boys are in; and in some cases already out, often succumbing to lower league opposition. The thrill of the draw is back too. The nervous shakes as you wait for your teams’ number to be drawn echoes of a time when the late Sir Bert Millichip, former FA Chairman, would proudly announce the home teams, standing over the famous velvet bag.

But sadly, it feels like I’m in a minority. Again, the annual debate about whether the FA Cup holds any significance to Premier League clubs is drawn out amongst high profile commentators and journalists.

If current players, who grew up surrounded by the romance and tradition of the FA Cup, feel its holds no importance, then I think there is something mentally ill about them. Being a professional player now and saying you hold no sentiment towards this historic competition is almost like saying you feel nothing when you visit a place of a memorable childhood or romantic experience. In other words, it means you’re cold, and soulless. Gladly though, I don’t think players feel this way; with squads now so big the power to play in such ties is out of their hands. They do what they’re told. No questions asked.

But there is a problem here; this could be the last generation that feels so ardently towards the FA Cup. Young fans watching our professional game must look at it and wonder what the point is of this competition. Does it get in the way of other priorities to younger fans who are overawed by the glamour of the Champions League and Premier League? Do our young fans even know that the FA Cup started with 763 teams this season, back in August 2011 as non-league teams battle it out in the qualifying rounds? Name another competition with such a vast amount of competitors in any sport and in any country…

Take young Wolves fans as an example. Earlier on in the competition, their team was drawn away to Birmingham – what some would say as a feisty and tasty looking Midlands derby. The BBC and ITV obviously thought so; both showing the first game and the replay live respectively. However, Wolves manager Mick McCarthy made no less than 11 changes for the original tie at St Andrews in what finished a drab 0-0 draw in front of a half empty stadium.

McCarthy is offering his fans no optimism for any cup glory and absolutely no respite from dodgy relegation battles. The younger fans of famous old Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club must wonder what the necessity of the FA Cup is all about. I wish they were an isolated example, but they’re not.

Soon, this younger generation, brought up without the romance of the FA Cup, will solely rely on money-spinning competitions such as the Champions League to provide their entertainment, ammo for banter on the school field and more importantly, their passion for the game.

In Sussex, thanks to the current cup runs of both Brighton and Crawley, cup fever is sweeping the county once again. We can let the tradition of this old knock-out competition sweep us of our feet amidst the drama, tension, heartbreak and the glory. We are giving our younger generations and fans of football a chance to fall in love with the FA Cup again, breeding and educating new communities who understand its importance and history. The profiles of future football fans hinge on how we accept the FA Cup now, today.

It is the definition of football. It deserves our respect, and it deserves our love.

Truth about how racism and homophobia are so rife in football

As featured in the Worthing Herald, Chichester Observer, Midhurst & Petworth Observer and the Bognor Regis Observer, my column on the truth about how racism and homophobia are so rife in football

It’s ironic that as this article is published I, among others, will post it on Twitter and various other social media platforms, leaving myself open to all sorts of abuse, praise and insults.

Ironic because the topic of this particular column is racism in sport, and the role Twitter has played in us witnessing this subject rearing its ugly head once again.

At various football grounds this season, and on Twitter and elsewhere, examples that racism is still rife in both sport and society have been unduly demonstrated.

John Terry, the England captain, and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez are among those who have found themselves at the centre of allegations of racist behaviour.

Kick it Out, a pressure group dedicated to rooting out the remnants of racism in English football, is in danger of having its messages swamped by football’s tribal loyalties.

Some recent cases have exposed extreme and deep-seated divisions of opinion. They can be categorised easily enough. Almost everything, it seems, depends on which team you happen to support.

These well-publicised examples seemed to ignite something within a number of so-called football “fans” who seem to think racism is acceptable. To coin an old phrase; “well if he can do it, so can I”.

At the Liverpool v Oldham FA Cup tie, racial abuse was reportedly directed at Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi from an individual in the Kop. The young lad was visibly upset and both sets of players were trying to console him. His experience of playing at one of football’s greatest clubs and iconic stadiums will forever be remembered as the place he was racially abused.

But can Liverpool be blamed for a fan allegedly saying what he said? Can they be expected to really control every single fan and what they say? No, I don’t think they can.

Let’s also make this clear – for every one idiotic person shouting racial abuse on the terraces, there are hundreds of decent human beings surrounding him willing to ensure he never sets foot in their stadium again. Unfortunately by the time vulgar racists have opened their mouths, the damage has already been done.

So on to Twitter. This platform of social media is almost the definition of yin and yang. It displays the good, the bad, and the extremely ugly. Stan Collymore was the subject of racial abuse. I saw these tweets aimed at Stan and was left speechless. Someone had the audacity to publish these disgusting comments on Twitter – others came out with comments which mocked Gary Speed’s tragic death.

This is the problem – society. Twitter is an open field for anyone wanting to publicly contact high-profile names. It puts us all in touching distance of verbal assaults which can stick with you for a lifetime.

Most of us have a computer now, and that’s all you need, so it seems. Common sense and general goodwill towards fellow human beings seems to have dropped down the agenda of life’s priorities. I, among hundreds of Brighton & Hove Albion fans, was subjected to homophobic abuse on Twitter by a handful of Newcastle United followers following the FA Cup draw. We were told that we lived in an “Aids infested town” – among other crude jibes. After biting to these insults, I was subjected to further verbal abuse on my Twitter feed.

Their defence was that they were purely stating the facts and that I should “shut up and die of Aids”.

Society, eh? I wish this were an isolated incident, but like the racist slurs encountered recently, it’s not. Brighton fans are subjected to homophobic chants from opposition fans on a regular basis – so if they can do it in a stadium, what’s stopping them from hiding behind their profiles online and doing it on Twitter too? Nothing, sadly.

But in their eyes they are doing nothing wrong. So many supporters appear to have adopted the old patriotic slogan and adapted it to “My club, my player – right or wrong”. This is the most dispiriting development in what was supposed to be the last assault on racial and homophonic prejudice in English football.

Client profiled in Daily Express

SiteVisibility CEO Jason Woodford
We were over the moon to have secured a full page profile for our client, SiteVisibility, in the Daily Express last week. With complete ownership of this article the client was able to drop in various key messages to demonstrate its services and skills. What’s more, following the interview with the journalist, a photographer came to the SiteVisibility office to take some snaps. Have a good read and learn more about this fascinating company in Brighton.

Road Safety Week 2011

I was once again honoured to help out with Road Safety Week this year. Since 2010 I have volunteered with the charity to help out with the press and publicity around the event but this year was different, as I also put myself forward as a case study.

The theme of the event this year was ‘Too Young to Die”. It’s an important message which I will no doubt be helping to communicate again this time next year.

A survey of 532 young people in the region by Brake and QBE Insurance shows nearly six in 10 (57%) fear for their lives at times when a passenger with a young driver, and more than half (54%) have been endangered by risk-taking peers speeding or drink driving (see below). The vast majority would support a tougher regime for novice drivers: 83% are in favour of at least one type of licence restriction, such as a zero-tolerance alcohol limit or tougher penalties.

Casualty statistics revealed by Brake also show that every eight days a young person is killed on roads in the South of England, leaving behind devastated family and friends. Every 13 hours, a young person suffers a serious injury on the region’s roads, in many cases life-changing injuries such as brain damage, paralysis or limb loss.

Young drivers are also involved in a disproportionately high number of crashes that kill and injure people of all ages. Nationwide, young drivers (age 17-24) are involved in crashes that result in one in four road deaths and serious injuries (24%) – 17 deaths and serious injuries every day [4] – despite only making up one in eight (12%) licence holders.

Brake and QBE Insurance’s survey of young people in the South of England reveals widespread risk-taking among young drivers, and that many young people put their lives on the line by riding as passengers with peers:
• 21% have been a passenger with a young driver who had been drinking or taking drugs
• 50% have been a passenger with a young driver who broke speed limits by more than 10mph
• 18% don’t always belt up when a passenger with a young driver

I was only four years old when my brother was killed by a young driver. I grew up in the shadow of his death. It devastated my family, and it shaped my upbringing. You are told that time heals the pain, but it doesn’t. I think about what could have been. My older brother, so gentle and kind, could have been there, and my family could have been whole. If you break traffic laws you could go to prison or get a hefty fine, but at the end of the day, someone could lose their life and that’s the bottom line. It’s tempting when you are young, to think you can take risks and handle it – but the truth is that no one can – it affects everyone’s ability to drive safely, young or old. Please have a heart at the wheel and drive sober, slow and secure to stop more people being needlessly killed and more families suffering like mine has.