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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…

BITE AND INFERNO TO MERGE
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.

Grant

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

Surface to Air

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Point away from face

Wednesday we launched Microsoft Surface to the UK media and managed to get it on air with More 4 News, BBC Working Lunch (that’s still to come) and others. OK, now I’ve explained away the marvelous pun-headline of this post, I can go back to blowing Inferno’s trumpet. And so I should; the team did an amazing job. The US and UK clients, and all the partners involved, have been bombarding me with compliments – I love my job when I get this kind of feedback, unsolicited, from clients.

What is great though is the fact that my guys and gals at Inferno get to work on launches like this. Without taking anything away from the team who helped develop everything from the concept for launch, through to the partner liaison and deciding what compelling content needed to be included, the fact is that Microsoft Surface is an awesome piece of innovation. Surface is going to change the way information is displayed to consumers by businesses – In banks, in stores, in airports, on tables, on walls. This is where technology is going and it’s exciting, engaging and pervasive. To be working on such futuristic-type technology here and now is a real thrill. There are few other companies in the world doing anything like this and being able to craft messaging, strategy and events around this kind of pioneering technology is amazing as well as fun.

What makes it even more amazing though is when we are given a rare glimpse into the future – something the guys in Microsoft Business Division over in the US did recently. They put together a video on technology in 2019, which you can view here. While this looks incredibly far-fetched, I’ve worked with Microsoft on some of the developments and I would halve the timeline to this becoming a reality. This stuff will be here, or close to it, in five years not ten and I personally can’t wait.

Grant

Written by pilotlight

20/03/2009 at 11:21 am

Posted in Business, Media, PR, Tech

Tagged with , , ,

What is news?

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News-sense

There have been discussions for some time now over the shelf life of the daily papers. Now you can access all the news you want online, quicker and for free. It seems that with the advent of blogs and micro blogs such as twitter, even these online sites have lost some of their news value as people are updating on the news in real time, as it happens. The recent plane crashing into the Hudson river being a classic example.

By the time a journalist has written up a story and posted it online, there are likely to have been several tweets about it and a conversation already developed. Likewise, many of us use Google or similar search tools to find the latest information we need, but is this now also ‘old news’? Will real time search be the Google killer, and is news already considered old by the time it has been categorised and listed online? With so much content updated in real time now, Google search cannot hope to find it all. As the weekly and monthly publications continue to disintegrate into nothing, will the national papers follow hot on their heels? Will our news resource become dominated by social media channels where information can be supplied and shared by anyone and everyone, instantaneously? And what does this mean for the future and power of the media? How should we define ‘news’?!!

The fairly new concept of the Sony Reader or Amazon eBook has meant that books can be downloaded and read online via a small computer screen. Perhaps this is also how newspapers will be read in the near future? I am not a particular traditionalist and am always excited by the new and innovative ways of accessing the information around us, but I also find it quite sad to imagine a tube full of people reading the news via a machine, like a carriage of robots. Despite having someone’s elbow shoved in your side, there’s something rather comforting and perhaps quite English about seeing men in suits on their way to the office, opening a broad sheet or that smell of the crisp pages when you start a new book. I admit I haven’t been to a library in at least a year, but watching someone dust off and open a tired old book with the library stamp in the front still makes me smile with slight nostalgia 🙂

Beth

Written by pilotlight

05/03/2009 at 10:29 am

Posted in Media, PR, Web 2.0

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Hordes hold (Earls) Court

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It was a tight squeeze at the TFM&A show

It was a tight squeeze at the TFM&A show

The vicious rumour doing the rounds over the past several years, since the sad demise Comdex in Las Vegas and the toning down of CeBit, is that trade shows are dead. People, so the rumour goes, no longer have the time, inclination or willingness to spend the day in what amounts to an aircraft hanger basically being sold to.

But while some tech trade shows may have had their day, it seems people still have appetite for learning. Attending the Technology for Marketing and Advertising show yesterday at Earls Court, the education seminars were not only full, but people were being turned away by bouncers at the entrance – a scene unheard of at most trade show seminars.

The Google seminar centred on website analytics was, as expected, full to the rafters half an hour before the event even begin. It seems even if Google is slipping out of favour with many, the power of its search engine cannot yet be overlooked by those with websites and e-commerce portals.

Other seminars such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing were similarly busy, even if they had slightly smaller presentation theatres. The real eye opener was that even the sponsored seminars, which are, let’s face it, are tantamount to someone selling to a large audience via a PowerPoint presentation, were jam-packed.

But what is the reason for all of this keen-bean enthusiasm? The first is the content. As with all things these days, content is king. And the content of this trade show was right on the ticket – social media, cloud computing, marketing and advertising in a recession, digital marketing.

Added to this that the show was free to enter so the only outlay for most businesses is the time of the attendee, which when weighed up with the possibility of increased web traffic, better customer engagement and more knowledgeable staff, is a no-brainer.

Another reason is that presentations and seminars are trade shows are now a lot better than they used to be. Gone are the hour-long pitches and death by PowerPoint. Instead companies have woken up to the fact that the audience wants something; that they, as presenters have to give value to their audience, whether in terms of knowledge-sharing, research, discounts or just hints and tips, no longer is it about pure selling.

A change in culture also has a part to play too. As we are beseeched by this digital and social world, employees know they need to know more in order for their companies to thrive – although this could also could be selfish reason that they want to increase their own knowledge for career progression or alternative jobs. In the tight economy people look for new ways to invent themselves and with the hype around social and digital media, becoming an advocate cannot do any harm and it enhances their personal brand.

The seminars from the show are available here

Sara Driscoll

Written by pilotlight

25/02/2009 at 3:53 pm

Wherefore art thou Iggy?

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Shine on you crazy diamond....One piece of marketing heresy I have come across recently is the latest campaign from Swiftcover Car Insurance. They have taken one of the world’s greatest visionaries and reduced him to a car insurance salesman. I’m not sure whether to throw up or start drafting a letter to David Bowie to say “With my dearest sympathies…” expressing my condolences for the death of a lifestyle born of broken glass and heavy distortion in a room in 1960s Michigan.

But who’s to blame for this punk charade? Is no ground sacred for advertising, marketing and PR anymore or has the credit crunch started to squeeze the sales of rocks last remaining legends? What next? Radiohead bin liners?

I guess the irony of the whole situation is they have someone selling car insurance who is most famous for being The Passenger.

Matt L

Written by pilotlight

19/02/2009 at 11:20 am

Is twitter the new email?

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Next stop Tweeters corner - Hyde Park

Now that Twitter, the micro blogging site, has reached the heady heights of one of the top 100 sites in the UK, I thought it might be useful to have some kind of Twitter language discussion; not just the usual how you should use it, why you should use it, how it helps you business (or not) etc, but also tone, language and style of tweets.

Following in the footsteps of email, 10 or more years ago, Twitter has people excited, bored and cautious all in the same breadth. And, in the same vein as email, businesses are attempting to understand how this new form of communication can help their company develop, or indeed if it’s just a time-wasting, productivity-reducing, miniature FaceBook ‘status’ type application.

But while FaceBook is designed for and mainly used by Friends to reunite and share their lives, email has become the primary source of business communications. Back in the mid-1990s, email was shrouded in FUD, and many businesses blocked their workers from using it – an eventuality that could happen to Twitter.

To stop that from happening I have come up with the following ten tips for those of you starting out in the Twitter tundra.

1 ) If your followers are mainly colleagues use appropriate language – if you wouldn’t use it in an email to a client – don’t Tweet it

2 ) Saying that, don’t be boring and corporate. Twitter is a social networking tool, so keep the tone light and simple

3 ) Twitter is only 140 characters, but this is no excuse to start using text language like a teenager. L8r and 4u aren’t professional

4 ) Abbreviations can be things such as, pls, tho, thru – general rule of thumb – if your parents would understand it, then you can use it

5 ) Ensure you use the right capital letters in the right place, this is 140 characters, it doesn’t mean 140 characters of bad grammar

6 ) Use punctuation, otherwise people will not understand what you are talking about and may misinterpret your tone

7 ) Remember discretion. You wouldn’t put what you think about your customer/client in an email to them, so don’t announce it on Twitter

8 ) Don’t run over 140 characters – if you can’t say it in the allotted space then maybe you shouldn’t be saying it to a Twitter audience

9 ) Be useful – you wouldn’t just send an email out to customers telling them what you had for breakfast so don’t Tweet it

10 ) Twitter is developing a sub-language. Don’t succumb to this. Twitter is just micro blogging no need for a new vocabulary

And there you have it. 10 rules all succinctly conveyed in 140 characters or less in true Twitter style. But in the meantime, let’s make hay and get busy twittering our thoughts, passions, funnies and important news articles, to our loyal followers. With any form of communications you have to think about the audience – who is reading this and why? And from that point, adapt your style, language and content accordingly.

Happy tweeting.

Sarahttp://twitter.com/saradriscoll

Written by pilotlight

16/02/2009 at 2:03 pm