Pilot Light

Inferno is a PR consultancy. This is not. This is Inferno’s blog.

Just Desserts

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Beer + Bike =....Before Pilot Light is extinguished and the Inferno boiler is lugged over to Beavor Lane, it is only right to remember that our esteemed leader began plying his trade down at Bite Towers in the days when New Labour was, well… new.

After crowing to all and sundry about his charity cycle ride being mentioned on the back page of PR Week this morning, I only feel it appropriate to remind everyone of the last time Grant ‘I’m going to cycle round the hilly bits’ Currie made the Diary pages:

PR Week Diary – Currie hits hot water and then stays on the boil.
24 October 1997

Press trip horror stories are ten a penny these days, but Bite senior account manager Grant Currie manages to stand out.

When Currie arranged a one-to-one briefing for a hi-tech journalist and a senior Oracle executive in Paris things started going wrong right from the start.

Currie arranged to meet the journalist at Victoria. After four unsuccessful circuits of the concourse it dawned on him that Eurostar leaves from Waterloo.

A quick dash across town and Currie found the journalist, only to realise that he had left his own passport at home and had only booked one ticket.

Some fast talking and, according to Bite, a ‘bit of old fashioned bribery’, saw Currie get himself on board without a ticket or passport.

Feeling he was on a roll, Currie completed the meeting before retiring for some liquid refreshment where, after confidently ordering a couple of ‘beers’ in the local lingo, he instead found himself facing two portions of apple crumble.

Apparently he was trying to order a ‘Kronenbourg’ in his best Peterborough-French accent.
You can sponsor Grant’s trek over the Pyrenees here: www.justgiving.com/grantcurrie
Go on, it’s for a good cause and it will keep him out of the office for 2 weeks.



Written by pilotlight

24/04/2009 at 8:41 am

Posted in PR, Tech

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Well, that’s that done then

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The sign of the dawn of a new era...That is what I tweeted this morning. A reduction in characters can really crystallise statements and facts it would appear (and that tweet was succinct even by Twitters standards!). So basically at close of business yesterday we announced that Inferno will merge with our sister agency Bite under the Bite name.

Which effectively means that, come May 1st 2009 (our sixth birthday coincidentally), Inferno as a PR brand will cease to exist. It will be no more. It has ceased to be. It has expired and gone to meet ‘is maker… etc etc

Although of course, it hasn’t (ceased to be, that is). Inferno was a name. It was a very good name for a PR agency I like to think (Suzy Sammons came up with it in a pub, as all good names should be created!), but it is just a name. The people, clients and the culture that gathered under that name – ah, well that’s a different story. And it is also a story that will not end with the disappearance of a name I like to think.
Indeed, from my point of view the merger was actually all about preserving what we have all worked so hard over the last six years to build – an incredibly strong and happy group of amazingly talented PR people doing exceptional work for some of the biggest, most exciting (and demanding!) clients in the business.

With this move, we provide our people with new and exciting opportunities, career paths and routes for development that, being perfectly honest, we might have struggled to give them over the next year at least due to these ‘interesting’ times. And tied to that we can now provide our clients with a number of additional, value-add services and access to real specialists and more senior experienced consultancy.

Basically, we all think it’s great news. We will be sad to see the Inferno name disappear, but business is all about change and opportunity and we are creating plenty of that!

Oh, here is the official press release if you are interested…

Agencies combine strengths to deliver new communications model to the market

London, 21 April 2009 – Bite Communications Limited (“Bite”) and Inferno Communications Limited (“Inferno”), both wholly-owned companies of Next Fifteen Communications Group PLC, today announced that they intend to merge on 1 May 2009. By bringing together two highly successful agencies under the Bite brand, the merger will accelerate the company’s growth trajectory and further enhance its position in the UK market.

“The merger was conceived as a decisive response to these rapidly changing times. Agencies must be dynamic, agile and prepared to make big decisions. With communications at the heart of every brand’s development, there is a huge opportunity for PR agencies to become centres of strategic consultancy excellence,” commented Clive Armitage, CEO of Bite. “Add to this the developments in social media and the resultant requirement for human and interactive dialogue and it becomes clear that the right PR agency – with the right skills in narrative and storytelling, combined with the multi-channel expertise to take these conversations to market – will be incredibly well positioned now and in the future.”

Bringing together Bite and Inferno will deliver a new engagement model designed to meet the diverse challenges of this ever-shifting landscape. This model will be predicated on distinct areas of specialism that will include content, broadcast, analyst relations, corporate positioning and speaker bureau, underwritten by Bite’s renowned digital expertise that is woven into the fabric of each and every one of its campaigns.
In addition, the merger will bring an injection of senior resource and expertise that will dramatically expand Bite’s capabilities and reach. For Inferno, joining Bite will provide its clients with access to deeper executive resource alongside Bite’s client service teams, as well as access to Bite’s seven offices around the world.
Grant Currie, Inferno’s founder and managing director, will assume a position on the global board of Bite reporting directly to the CEO. He will be responsible for the continued development of Inferno’s tier one clients, as well as providing strategic services to Bite’s global client base. Paul Mackender will take on the role of deputy managing director, Bite EMEA, and will focus on developing the EMEA business supporting Kath Pooley, Bite’s managing director for EMEA.

Kath Pooley, managing director, Bite said: “With this merger Bite has shifted up a gear, exploring powerful new possibilities that will deliver an unbeatable competitive edge in our market. The combined strengths of the two agencies brings to the marketplace an incredibly compelling proposition that will provide existing and new clients the perfect mix of people and skill-sets to address all their communications needs and challenges in this new, complex, world. The new agency that emerges from this process will embrace this evolving landscape, particularly around our shared vision of delivering innovative, audience-centric, channel-neutral communications. In addition, the merger will provide a springboard for Bite’s aggressive growth plans in EMEA and further enhance the career opportunities for Bite and Inferno staff domestically and internationally.”
Grant Currie, managing director, Inferno added: “Inferno is really excited about the merger and joining with Bite. An emphasis on a strong and dynamic culture lies at the heart of both agencies, borne of having been part of the same Next Fifteen family since our formation and having maintained close working links. Over and above this, the new agency brings together all the strengths and depth of skills that clients expect in the modern communications consultancy and positions us incredibly well as a real force in the new world of content and conversations.”

Several clients of both agencies have already expressed excitement in what a combined company would be able to deliver for them. Alison Perkins, head of PR, Microsoft UK commented: “We view the Inferno and Bite merger as a strategic step forward that will help us meet our own ambitious communications objectives. For us, the advantages are clear: we get to keep the strong, core Inferno team that has provided us with stellar service for the last six years, while gaining access to the rich expertise of Bite and its senior consultants. The communications landscape has changed dramatically over the last year and this merger shows smart thinking that will benefit not just Inferno and Bite but their entire client roster. And I look forward to Microsoft being one of the first beneficiaries.”

It is anticipated that the majority of Inferno’s clients will transfer into Bite as part of the merger. At the close of the merger, the expected combined client roster of the two agencies will include AMD, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, Sun Microsystems and Symantec.


Written by pilotlight

21/04/2009 at 10:03 am

Posted in Business, Media, PR, Tech

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Slice of Crisis Comms to go?

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Fast food contaminations continue....

One thing that has engulfed the blogosphere and web this week was the antics of some people with the IQ of a salami finding pleasure in flatulating on someone’s fast food order. Now this is nothing new. For years urban legends have been around about employees of Mc Dougals spitting in hamburgers or Ken’s Fried Chicken ejaculating into the coleslaw so this was no surprise that bored pizza employees would do this, but two things did surprise me:

The first surprise was the PR buzz that this created on the web. Incidents like this have been around in one form or another from the dawn of time – and well before the internet was ever invented. Imagine the PR office in Rome when they caught wind of the Semon on the Mount? The obvious thing to PR professionals is: it’s not the buzz, but the response, and in a situation like this, the speed of reply. Whether a member of your staff has soiled a burger with body fluid or your drunken employee has just sailed 1.5 million barrels of crude oil onto a reef in Alaska, getting out the message as quickly as you can is the most important thing to limit brand damage. And in situations like this no-one does it better than the airline industry.

In crisis situations I think every PR professional, regardless of industry or vertical sector, should take a leaf out of the airline industry’s book- and I’m surprised Domino’s didn’t. These people are crisis comms veterans. They have bibles of the stuff and every time a plane goes down they roll their communications out with surgical accuracy. More importantly, the airline industry has a knack of moving the focus of the story from the loss of life, which is devastating to any brand, and onto another factor in the story which takes the brunt of the blame. Whether it is debris on the runway or a hero crew member – shift the focus and the story will contain itself. This is where Domino’s missed the boat.

By focusing the story on Twitter, YouTube and social networks bringing the culprits to justice, how this was global netizens working together to weed out injustice and wrong doing, I think the story would have taken a better turn. This would have taken the focus away from the apology and turned a negative into a positive. BA did this brilliantly with the Boeing 777 that came down at the end of the Heathrow runway – focusing on the ‘heroic’ crew to distract from questions about BA’s maintenance record- and I think Domino’s should have done the same.

Their comms may still shift, but speed is now of the essence.

Matt L

Written by pilotlight

17/04/2009 at 10:54 am

Advertising, but on a really bad day

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It's good to walk

It's good to walk

Last night while watching television I came across an advert for Berocca vitamin drink, featuring generic looking suit-types using gym equipment. Set to an awful piece of 80’s nostalgia courtesy of Blancmange’s ‘Living On The Ceiling’, the advert is supposed to illustrate how an orange fizzy drink can help ordinary people be ‘you, but on a really good day’.

The advert is clearly a copy of a YouTube video by Chicago rock band, OK Go, who similarly used a bank of powered treadmills for ‘kooky’ effect. Except that like most rip-offs, it’s not a good as the original. Not even by half. It always amuses me how ad creatives can dupe clients into thinking that they can copy something which is extremely popular and get the same results.

Clearly, social networking sites offer advertisers (and PR’s for that matter) a great vat of creative juice which we can use to influence our own campaigns, but to copy it so poorly and blatantly strikes me as lazy plagiarism. Unfortunately, this won’t be an isolated case. As I speak, I’m sure there’s advertisers up and down the land pitching ideas to clients which contain the following words: flash mobbing, Liverpool Street and dancing…


Written by pilotlight

16/04/2009 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Advertising, Business, PR

An App a Day

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App developers are searching for the next killer app

App developers are searching for the next killer app




 But this has become almost obsolete now that everyone is writing apps in their spare time – or at least you could be forgiven for thinking they are.  Apps are appearing for the strangest things – apps to turn your mobile into a flute, apps for helping you decide where you eat out on any given night or an app that allows you to search a search engine.  Great.  But in this world of hyper-app-tivity, how many of these applications are “killer apps”, or even just downright useful?  The answer is not many, but they hold a rather more poignant element to them. 


 In the younger days of technology people got excited, many companies, Hewlett Packard and Dell for example, were started by young entrepreneurs from their sheds, garages or bedrooms.  Technology was exciting and something to get your teeth into – it held opportunity.  After the rise, came the inevitable fall as the bottom fell out of the dot com world, and the technology industry, especially as a career option, became something to be slightly more wary about.    The opportunities were fewer and the risks ever higher as companies struggled to tap into the latest and greater business or consumer need.


 The idea that now we have 16-65 year olds building applications to do something with your mobile, your laptop or your PDA brings back a certain level of creativity and of excitement to the sector.  Bringing spirit and a feeling of adventure back into the IT sector could help make the industry an exciting place to work and encourage everyone and anyone to join in – meaning more chances of finding that next elusive killer app that we’ve been looking for and once more making the industry a desirable place to be. 


Once upon a time in the IT world, everyone was hunting for the next  “killer app”.   A killer app would be perceived as something that users suddenly found they couldn’t do without, a browser for example, or a search engine.

Written by pilotlight

14/04/2009 at 1:06 pm

Posted in Tech, Web 2.0

Email – is there a saturation point?

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Inbox overload

 When email was invented it became a driver for business efficiency. No more memos to hand out, no more documents to print out and pass to a colleague or courier to a client/supplier. Hey presto, everything became instant which meant we could all react to requests or opportunities much more quickly. Over a relatively short period of time – as the technology improved and dial-up became broadband – we could all achieve alot more in the same amount of time. Businesses, particularly service industries, needed this efficiency to fuel demands for growth.

But how efficient has email really become. We cc far more people – unnecessarily in many cases – into email than we ever used to copy into memos, let alone when we used to talk to each other. We send quirky amusing emails around the office and to our friends (btw, I’m not suggesting cutting out fun at work!). We get spam, in some cases quite clever looking spam, that we think might be real so we take a look. All of these require our attention and time even if it’s a fleeting glance. We’ll also interrupt the flow of what we’re doing to look at that email that we see has just popped in to our inbox, read it and deal with it, often forwarding it on or cc’ing more people  into the mix!

So is email intrusive and increasingly becoming a barrier to efficiency? How do we make better use of it? Should there be a better discipline? I don’t have an obvious answer to these questions and I realise that a good amount of email helps us do our jobs well but, if businesses don’t figure out a discipline and email etiquette we could  reach a point where, one day, we come into the office and all we manage to do is read and answer our emails

And that’s before we deal with twittering, facebook, blogs and the like.

Oh – and another thing? What is it with Arsene Wenger? He wins a match, taking his side through to the FA Cup semi-final, gets a dodgy refereeing decision in his favour to boot yet doesn’t smile or have the good grace to shake hands with his opposing manager. Even Fergie and Rafa managed to do that!

Greg B

Written by pilotlight

30/03/2009 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

View from the Street

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 Google launched Street View last week and when I saw the article I thought it sounded cool and popped on to the site to have look. First thoughts – they could have taken a better picture of our office. So then like most of the population I decided to look for my house, and there it was for all to see with our living room windows open. It kind of freaked me out a little, which is completely irrational considering people see more of me on Facebook or Twitter.

Street View has caused public outcry and a formal complaint was sent to the ICO and although I think it’s a little dramatic I can see both sides of the coin. Like a massive Photosynth of London you, can check out landmarks, areas you might move to, offices you could be working in, or just be plain nosey. You could even pick a meeting point for a night out with friends and thankfully mine knew that the big Burger King at Piccadilly Circus, outside of which I’d arranged to meet my boyfriend recently, is now actually a bank…

So is Street View a massive intrusion of our privacy? To be honest so long as you haven’t been caught on camera in an embarrassing position, hiding from the law or the Ex, you don’t really have anything to worry about. Enjoy it for what it is, whatever that maybe.


Written by pilotlight

27/03/2009 at 9:54 am

Posted in Tech, Web 2.0

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