Ideas and opinions from the world of PR
There is a belief, widely held by those who have no actual experience of the industry, that the PR life is all about first class travel, all-expenses jaunts to foreign climes, dining on gubbins like snail porridge in the finest restaurants in the world, and hob-nobbing with the great and good.
And it’s right! That’s exactly what it’s like. It’s non-stop glamour and glitz, and nowhere is this more true than at Small Man Media, your one-stop shop for insight into the jet-setting high life. It’s 9.48am here at the office, for example, and we’ve already polished off two tins of beluga caviar. ON TOAST, FOR BREAKFAST! ON A THURSDAY!
It has been another crazy week of transglobal pootling (pootling, it’s a word, look it up, don’t ask ME to do all the work) for the team, because as the saying goes, ‘When the world is your oyster, pop a bit of tabasco sauce on it and eat it.’ We think it’s something like that anyway. On Sunday, for example, Dynamite Dan was off to London for the latest in the Sheaffer Sunday Matinees series of concerts by celebrated pianist Lucy Parham. Taking place in the gob-smackingly swish St John’s Smith Square venue and featuring the acting chops of Alex Jennings and Patricia ‘Miranda Hart’s TV mom’ Hodge, the concert told the story of the romantic life of the composer Frederic Chopin. Said young Daniel: “My young eyes and ears have never known such grandiosity and wonder! I left for London an uncultured boy, but I return a man with music indelibly etched into my very soul!”
We don’t know why he talks like that, he supports West Bromwich Albion.
The very next day, it was Head Honcho Ben‘s turn to throw a knapsack across his back and head to the capital, specifically The Black Heart in Camden, to meet all of the shortlisted acts in Firestone’s 2017 Battle Of The Bands contest. Six acts have made it through into the round of voting, and one of them, of course, will go onto bag themselves studio time and amp equipment courtesy of Orange Amplification, not to mention the kudos of being recognised as one of the UK’s very toppermost unsigned acts.
The exact identities of the chosen six will be revealed in due course, but the boss man reported back with the news that the shortlist is an intriguing mix of rockers, rappers, pure pop artistes and one band who are happy to admit they they are in their late forties. “I believe I may have discovered The Next Big Thing,” said Ben, and he wasn’t referring to the venue’s lunch buffet.
Not to be outdone by the chaps’ London larks – their ‘capital FUNishment’ if you like!!! – Big Enchilada Rachel was herself racking up the travel miles on Tuesday, as she gadded off to Manchester for the second Manchester Stationery Show at Victoria Warehouse, Old Trafford. The very finest stationery manufacturers packed the venue with examples of their latest wares, and so Small Man just had to be there, because we are to stationery PR what Donald Trump is to ownership of tiny ickle Tyrannosurus hands.
Said Rachel: “I always love attending exhibitions, not only to have a break away from the desk, but I always find it a great way to see what’s going on with new design trends, how companies present themselves and what designs are used on exhibition stands.” Which we reckon is code for ‘I get given lots of free drinks and stuff’.
All of which goes to show that when it comes to miles travelled in order to further the Small Man cause, an average week sees us LITERALLY (by which we mean FIGURATIVELY) going to the Moon and back. And we would not have it any other way.
This blog was brought to you by the Small Man Media Writer Monkey, Pete Cashmore. This week Pete won £11 on a pub quiz machine in Stafford. It is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to him in his life.
Here at Small Man Media, we like to think that we don’t just offer a service to our clients – we offer a service to THE WORLD. Because we’re nice like that.
Our newest member of the team is… Well, it’s me actually. Pete Cashmore: Writer Monkey. Before I joined the Small Man ensemble, I was a journalist. In fact, I technically still am one, as long as there are still publications fool enough to pay me. I have written for national newspapers, local newspapers, men’s magazines, women’s magazines, music magazines, style magazines, tennis magazines, luxury watch magazines and even the Easyjet in-flight magazine.
Over the course of my glittering(ish) career, I have, understandably, worked with many, many PR organisations, and have formed pretty firm opinions on what makes for good PR, and what makes for PR PR (the first ‘PR’ standing for ‘Pretty Risible’).
And so, with these in mind, I present to you now, Five Things That PRs Really Should Not Do.
1. SEND YOU A REALLY JAUNTY AND FAMILIAR EMAIL THAT IS REALLY OBVIOUSLY COPIED AND PASTED AND THEN TYPE YOUR NAME IN, BUT IN A DIFFERENT FONT
You know the kind of thing I mean. “Hi there pete cashmore. Hope you’re having a great Friday! How about this great weather! I hope it holds for the weekend pete cashmore!” It’s a sure-fire way to make a journalist feel like a faceless nobody languishing on an endless mailing list, when we are delicate flowers who like to feel that we are special.
2. ATTEMPT TO PIGGYBACK A MAJOR ONGOING ASPECT OF THE NEWS AGENDA IN AN INCREDIBLY SPURIOUS WAY
You know the kind of thing I mean (again). “Cristiano Ronaldo has been in the news this week after picking up the Ballon D’Or award – but did you know that Cristiano is also a big fan of black pudding? Well, next week is National Black Pudding Week and… Wait, come back! We hadn’t finished!”
There’s actually a serious point to this, and how it can all go horribly wrong. At least one UK PR firm, unbelievably, attempted PR pitches with the news hook being the Grenfell Tower disaster, and as a direct result, lost their client. The pitfalls may sometimes be glaringly obvious – people still fall into them.
3. TELL THE JOURNALIST HOW YOU SEE THEIR ARTICLE ‘WORKING’
Ah, bless ’em. It’s always difficult when you have a wonderful in-your-mind’s-eye image of how a page should look, with all its lovely coverage and branding and enthusiastic messages, but at the end of the day, it’s the magazine writers and designers and editors who make the decisions. As a PR, you can be guide, ideas generator-and-profferer and facilitator, but never, EVER, a dictator. Because dictators are bad.
I remember once, one PR person for A Very Popular Games Console Football Game That Shall Remain Nameless, started one of his emails with the phrase ‘Okay, here’s how the piece is going to look….’ Needless to say, he was not correct.
4. TAKE A GOOD LONG HARD LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND ASK YOURSELF: WOULD THE PUBLICATION TO WHOM I AM PITCHING REALLY FEATURE MY CLIENT?
A classic bugbear of commissioning editors everywhere – being pitched an article that would never, in a month of squillion Sundays, feature in their publication. It’s an infinitesimal waste of their time, it vaguely suggests that you haven’t actually familiarised yourself with the publication whose editorial needs you purport to understand, and above all, it’s a waste of YOUR time. And what is time? It’s MONEY baby!
5. CHECK THAT YOU HAVE ACTUALLY SPELLED THE JOURNALIST’S NAME CORRECTLY
“Dear Paul Cashmole, did you know that next week is National Black Pudding Week?” DELETE. DELETE AND NEVER COME BACK.
Pete Cashmore is (as he has already pointed out) Small Man Media’s Writer Monkey. He also makes a very fine seafood risotto, with cajun spices.
You have 10 seconds in which to name three Top 40 hits by INXS starting… NOW!
The more observant among you will notice that we have started this week’s blogstravaganza with the final prize round from the Radio 2 pop quiz Popmaster, as featured on the Ken Bruce morning show. Answers at the bottom of the blog, by the way.
Popmaster is something of a cult of all cults. On any given day you will find it trending on Twitter, as workplaces all around the country grind briefly to a halt so that employees can play against the radio. Here at Small Man Media, we are no different – at around about 10.30, we momentarily stop writing, tweeting, blogging and ideas generating, and join in the fun. Why are we talking about this? Because it is literally THE ONLY TIME THAT SMALL MAN MEDIA EVER STOPS WORKING.
Christmas is thundering towards us, of course, and so it’s not so much a case of ‘noses to the gridstone’ in our office as, ‘why don’t we have grindstones surgically implanted into our noses so that our noses can be attached to the grindstone all the time?’ The office stockroom currently looks like a Santa’s grotto of delights, stuffed to the rafters as it is with festively fantastic things from the likes of Sheaffer, AT Cross, Mustard, Artline and Bridgestone, and quite frankly, if we do not find good homes for every last item by the time the first snows fall, we will not be celebrating Christmas. Those pigs in blankets we can’t wait to tuck into? They will be going in the bin.
One of the gift ideas that is getting us very excited is Mustard’s range of T-Rex highlighter pens, which as the name suggests is a number of highlighter pens that happen to be shaped like the king of the dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
This got us all thinking, in the office, as to what our favourite dinosaur would be. The conclusions make for fascinating reading for anyone who has ever wondered to themselves: What would be the favourite dinosaurs of the people who work at the West Midlands’ toppermost PR agency? And they are:
Head Honcho Ben: “The pterodactyl. Because it flies. It’s that simple.”
Big Enchilada Rach: “The tyrannosaurus. I like his little hands.”
Demolition Man Dan: “The stegosaurus. They look quite scary but they’re not, they’re herbivores, you know.”
Mother Superior Michelle: “The brontosaurus, because he [Michelle seems to think all brontosauruses are male] has a big long neck.”
Writer Monkey Pete: “The ankylosaurus, because its spiked club tail could be used to repel predators, and also because they are the best bit of Jurassic World.”
But it’s not all dinosaur discussions and gratuitous sausage wastage here at SMM. We are thundering towards the crucial cut-off point of the Firestone Battle Of The Bands competition for 2017, and we are frankly beside ourselves with excitement. The closing date is THIS VERY SUNDAY, as in October 22, as in two days after this blog drops, which is a roundabout way of saying that any musical acts out there who fancy taking a big step towards superstardom, and a bumper prize of two grands’ worth of Orange Amplification Equipment and another £1,500 worth of studio time, can still get involved at battleofthebands.firestone.eu
And with that, we bid you all the very finest of British weekends. May all your puddings be Yorkshire.
Oh, and you could have had Suicide Blonde, Never Tear Us Apart, The Devil Inside, Need You Tonight, Mystify…
This blog was composed by Small Man Media’s Writer Monkey Pete Cashmore, who this week has managed to get into a Twitter spat with former X Factor winner Steve Brookstein, go viral to the tune of 114,000 impressions with a tweet about James Corden being a berk, and get trolled by Celebrity Big Brother loser Samantha Brick, if anybody remembers her. Which they definitely don’t.
Crikey, what a week. WHAT. A. WEEK. It has been, as the young people say, a ‘cray’ (apparently the youth are too lazy to put a ‘z’ in the word ‘crazy’, we despair really) week at Small Man Media Towers. And not always for good reasons, he said enigmatically.
This is a good reason though! Writer Monkey Pete touched on this last week, but it has now been announced to the world at large that Small Man Media is officially, without a shadow of a doubt, the winner of an SME News Midlands Enterprise Award for 2017! IN YOUR FACE! We were declared the Best Press Release Solutions Provider in the region. Quite frankly, we would go further and suggest that we are the best in the world, but that’s really not for us to say.
Meanwhile, working her delicate, exquisitely-manicured fingers to the bone was Big Enchilada Rachel, who has racked up more travel miles than a particularly overworked Ryanair pilot this week. Last weekend, she sashayed elegantly into the Althorp Literary Festival, a distinctly swanky affair for book aficionados at Althorp House, in Northamptonshire.
Althorp, for ye who do not know, is the family seat of Earl Spencer of Althorp, so it is, as we say in Wolverhampton, ‘dead fancy like’, and an afternoon tea in its environs is a bit grander than a cup of Earl Grey and a couple of cream scones.
Her Rachelship was there to ensure that competition winners for esteemed pen manufacturers AT Cross and Sheaffer had the dandiest day possible, partaking of said afternoon tea and meeting some of the assembled writers, which included Judy ‘My Sons Are Quite Handy At Tennis’ Murray (below, doing a book signing) and top columnist Kathy Lette, getting signed books into the bargain.
Meanwhile, Head Honcho Ben has been throwing himself, like a man possessed, into Firestone’s Battle Of The Bands competition, which is being fronted by Theo from top rock types Wolf Alice. The entries have already started to flood in, as well as the contest popping up in the likes of Tyrepress and the Music Industry News Network. It’s shaping up to be a big one and there’s still time for bands to enter, although we must warn you that traditional Bavarian oompah bands are unlikely to make the final cut.
Would that all of our endeavours ran so smoothly this week, dear blog-reader. On Wednesday, the Big Enchilada was on the road again heading to London with Disco Dan for a sit-down meeting with funky stationery overlords Mustard, represented by Reuben Utudjian (who owns Mustard, so he’s pretty important) and Bauer Media, owners of 4Music, Absolute Radio, Empire magazine, Closer, Kerrang!, Grazia and all manner of other top brands.
When such a mega mega meet-up is happening, it’s good to be able to count on your train service provider. However, when said service provider is – well, we won’t name them, let’s just say their name rhymes with ‘Surgin’ Pains‘ – then something somewhere is bound to go awry. Like our twosome’s train being suddenly cancelled at New Street Station due to a ‘driver incident’, the incident presumably being that he didn’t bother turning up.
Now, when you’ve barked up north of 180 quid for two tickets to London, it’s not unreasonable to expect that the train, you know, GETS TO LONDON. A setback such as this would have left lesser PR agencies weeping disconsolately in the pub nearest the station, but SMM is made of sterner stuff, chartered another train (by which we mean ‘got on another train’), reached Euston over half an hour late, and STILL managed to make the meeting on time AND organise a serving of cookies, upon which all in attendance were invited to nibble. We’re made of stern stuff here in Wolverhampton. We’re like well-dressed Vikings, really.
In summary, awards, fancy afternoon teas, top new musical acts galore and rubbish train services. And cookies. Never forget the cookies. Of course, a Small Man week wouldn’t be a Small Man week without lashings of delicious coverage, and this week Disco Dan managed to get into Vogue! Well, in the sense that one of Cross’s fantastic limited edition Star Wars pens was in Vogue. Dan himself wasn’t in Vogue, you understand, he’s not a top male model, although he hasn’t ruled it out for the future. “I’m keeping my options open at the moment,” says Dan.
This blog was composed by the Small Man Media Writer Monkey Pete Cashmore. For more information on all of the jolly hoo-ha featured in this blog and Small Man blogs past and future, hit us up on That Twitter.
‘If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it.’ Duke Orsino, from Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare
‘If music be the food of love, let’s eat it.’ Alan Partridge
If music really does be the food of love, then Firestone’s 2017 Battle Of The Bands is like one of those giant all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants which caters for every conceivable taste known to man. It gives unsigned musical acts and artists throughout the UK, the chance to break through into the big time and bring their music to a larger stage. A very large stage indeed, in fact.
Now entering its third year, Firestone has teamed up with Orange Amplification and musician Theo Ellis, who strums the bass guitar strings for gold-selling band Wolf Alice, to seek out artistes whose music says ‘YOU OUGHT TO LISTEN TO THIS’ through a particularly powerful megaphone.
On offer for the winning act is £2,000 worth of Orange Amplification equipment, studio time to the sum of £1,500 and all the help needed to record an EP.
There’s still time to enter – the closing date is October 22. The hundreds of anticipated entrants will then be whittled down to a shortlist of eight and, between November 13 to 23, they will be presented to the listening public and have their works unveiled for a public vote.
The shortlist then becomes a very short list indeed, as the three finalists get to do their live thing, on the Firestone Stage at a top venue to be yet confirmed, and then the overall winner will be announced to a packed house.
So time is of the essence, but not so much of the essence that you don’t have time to ponder your track selection, pick out the very best of your very best material, and enter it into what promises to be a musical Battle royale. Whether you are rock, rap, metal or Balinese nose-flute septet, here is where you can get heard.
Actually, HERE is where you can get heard, at battleofthebands.firestone.eu – all the information you need for entry can be found here. We look forward to, in a very real sense, hearing from you.