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WH Smith breaks the four golden rules of communications

WH Smith needs to buck up its corporate communications. It has been hit by two mini scandals:

  • It is charging up to 50% more for the same goods in its WH Smith hospital shops than on the high street; and
  • It is not refunding vat at it airport shops and pocketing about £10 a year of customers’ money.

Faced with dents like these in its reputation it needs strong corporate communications to defend itself. But it has handled both issues poorly.

It says the two businesses, hospital shops and high street shops, are run separately. So they set different prices. So that’s all right, then. Hardly a good reason for price gouging of a captive market in hospitals. WH Smith faces competition on the high street and could not get away with such high prices.

Only comment: “wildly inaccurate”

It also told the Daily Mail that the figure of £10 million was wildly inaccurate but did not comment further.

The rip off means that it can plough the money back into promotions such as the low price of Toblerone bars.

But customers should be able to make their choices on what they want, not be dictated to by WH Smith.   It says it is doing quite well in trading and results out in October will be above analysts’ projections.

WH Smith breaks the four golden rules

WH Smith breaks the four golden rules: pic by MIkey

Four golden rules

But it has broken the four golden rules of corporate communications when faced with such charges.  They are:

1 Disclose all of the information rapidly.

2 Apologise.

3 Rectify and change the policy.

4 Tell the world you’ve changed the policy.

 

 

John Lewis screws up the Sharpe’s blinds

John Lewis, the department store, trades on its reputation for goods and services. In the Sharpe house this reputation is pretty low.

It has taken from early April to the middle of July to get some blinds fitted. That’s the date we have been given. We placed the initial order in early April. John Lewis staff came and measured on the 7th of May. The payment was taken and the order placed on May 18thb. Then the long wait.

Reputatioon dented by poor service and lack of communications

Reputation dented by poor service and lack of communication

The blinds were ready on 25th of June. But they could not deliver, we had to pick them up. No way: so they now say they will deliver.

Every time we phone to try to sort it out the phone lines are jammed. Perhaps with people complaining about the delivery of blinds.

The delay is annoying.  The lack of response is worse.

You can win a free e-learning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Picture Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.  You could win our new updated course on libel.

Do sponsors hate Fifa enough to put on real pressure?

The only way to get reform soon in Fifa will be through pressure from the sponsors. And even that may not work.

Adidas, Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Hyandai and Visa pour $177 million and more a year into Fifa’s coffers. A further $131 million comes from second-tier sponsors such as McDonalds and Budweiser. A further $46 million comes from a third tier of sponsors.

Will Coke put real pressure on Fifa?  Pic by Mike Mozart

Will Coke put real pressure on Fifa? Pic by Mike Mozart

Lack of advertisers sunk NoW

It was, after all, the collapse of advertising that forced the closure of the News of the World, not a lack of readers.

We can’t expect much from the Fifa congress. Many of the delegates will come from countries where payments we may consider corrupt are seen as a commission. And they will not take to being lectured by the west given the involvement of western companies in bribery. Here’s a short list of what they could point to:

  • Siemens pays out $1.6 billion to settle bribery allegations in 20 countries;
  • Rolls-Royce, the engine company, under investigation for bribery as we speak;
  • Airbus under investigation for briary;
  • Hewlett-Packard coughs up for bribery;
  • WalMart executives depart after bribery scandal; and
  • Microsoft distributors in Romania caught up in bribing politicians.
Fancy a Big Mac or a big bribe?  Pic by Norio Nakayama

Fancy a Big Mac or a big bribe? Pic by Norio Nakayama

 

But will the sponsors take real action? It depends how big the stink is. And there’s others waiting to take their place who do not have such sensitive noses. Gazprom, the Russian oil giant, is hardly likely to pull out given Putin’s support for the present leadership. Putin sees this as yet another attack on Russia by the west, upset at not getting the World Cup. So there may be more sponsors from Russia. And from its allies: perhaps companies in Belarus, China and Kazakhstan will want to enhance their global brand awareness through sponsorship.

This is the sentiment of many fans of the beautiful game.  Pic by jeremiah.andrick

This is the sentiment of many fans of the beautiful game. Pic by jeremiah.andrick

 

You can win a free e-learning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Picture Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.  You could win our new updated course on libel.

Thorny issue for corporate communications: declare on EU membership or not?

Corporate communications teams this week face a thorny issue: do they commit their corporation to continued membership of the EU or not? Should they try to stand above the debate? Or should they, like the Ford Motor Company, commit early?

To be in or to be out, and whether to make an announcement or not, that is the question.

To be in or to be out, and whether to make an announcement or not, that is the question.

A corporation faces the accusation that, if it delays its announcement of its views until closer to the coming referendum, that it is fiddling with democracy. This happened with late announcements in favour of the UK by companies in Scotland.

But if it declares its views now, will it damage its business?

Ford knows its mind

Ford has committed early and clearly: stay in. As early as 2014 it said this.

But JCB, the equipment company, says it does not matter. The UK should not fear leaving the EU, said Lord Bamford this week.

JCB is willing to dance with an exit of the UK from the UK: pic by Dave Catchpole

JCB is willing to dance with an exit of the UK from the EU: pic by Dave Catchpole

CBI and BCC say stay in, but want reform

The Confederation of British Industry and the British Chambers of Commerce are both for staying in they said this week; as long as there is reform. I presume that their leaders consulted widely before making these statements.

The arguments for making an early announcement on the issue are:

  • Make your position clear and influence the debate;
  • Make it now so that you may not be seen to be panicking if the polls show it may be an out decision;
  • Keep your global HQ happy because it is probably the view there; and
  • Raise the profile of the company in Europe.

The arguments for not making an early announcement or any announcement at all are:

  • Keep out of politics;
  • There were nearly 4 million UKIP voters in the general election and you want their custom;
  • We do not want to be seen as trying to influence our employees;
  • The CBI or the BCC says it for us; and
  • We don’t really know what the outcome will be and we don’t want to be on the wrong side of it.

Should corporation or should they not make it clear what the corporate view is? Your comments, please.

You can win a free e-learning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Picture Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.  You could win our new updated course on libel.

Don’t change your name, Thomson holidays: TUI has no pull in the market

What’s in a corporate name? Nothing but reputation and a connection to customers.

Rumour has it that Thomson, the holiday company, is about to change its name to TUI. That’s the name of the holding company.

Hoiw would TUI look here?  Pretty poor.  Pic by Jeff Dejevdet

How would TUI look here? Pretty poor. Pic by Jeff Dejevdet

A mistake to change

What a mistake it if does. It will lose the goodwill of all the millions who have enjoyed a Thomson holiday. And spend millions trying to establish its new name with fresh marketing. And what a sad name: TUI. I hope the company ditches the plan.

You can win a free e-learning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Picture Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.  You could win our new updated course on libel.

3 tips for a better CV

CVs are selling documents: they are selling you to an employer. And they can be so bland and boring that they soon end up in the waste-paper basket. Here’s 3 tips to make your CV stand out.

You don't want your CV to end up in this, even though it is an elegant waste basket from Wicker Paradise

You don’t want your CV to end up in this, even though it is an elegant waste basket from Wicker Paradise

  • Make sure that at the top you have a personal statement that really says something. I call it the “see me” of the CV. Why should anybody even think of interviewing you if your CV is bland and reads like anybody else’s?
  • When listing previous employment put in the most important thing you learned in that job. A young man showed me his CV this week and it said he had been a Team Leader at Tesco. What does that mean? It means he ran a team of 7 people. And what did he learn? He learned how to motivate people. Put that in, I said.
  • Use an unusual font for the typeface. Not too unusual.   The Times reports today that typography experts think Times New Roman is a no-no. It shows that you have not put any thought into the typeface you use, they said. Helvetica was considered safe.
Helvetica is safe for CVs

Helvetica is safe for CVs: pic by Denis Dervisevic

You can win a free e-learning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Picture Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.  You could win our new updated course on libel.

Fragmented libel blocks documentary on Scientology from the UK screens

The fragmented state of libel laws in the UK means you will not be able to see a US-made documentary about the Church of Scientology. English and Welsh libel was reformed in 2013. The hurdles for the claimant were raised and the defences strengthened.

Northern Ireland has the old libel

But Northern Ireland kept the same old libel laws. The Church’s solicitors in Belfast have warned Sky that if it broadcasts Going Clear it will be sued there for libel. Sky cannot select which parts of the UK it transmits to so nobody is going to see the documentary.

No action in the USA

It’s been broadcast in the USA where it was seen by 5.5 million. And no libel action by the Church there.

 

The Church of Scientology in LaLa land Under creative commons: the licence is at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Church of Scientology in LaLa land
Under creative commons: the licence is at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

No public interest defence in Belfast

In England and Wales Sky could argue the documentary was in the public interest. And it could argue that the reputation of the Church was not seriously damaged. But in Belfast there is no such defence.

Plug for course

I explain the whole position of libel in the UK in our new updated e-learning course.

You can win a free e-learning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Picture Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.  You could win our new updated course on libel.

Vue lost a customer because of poor film listings

Vue, the cinema chain, needs to pull its socks up when it comes to listing its films. I wanted to go to the cinema over the weekend in Portsmouth. Vue has a 14-screen multiplex in the Gunwharf Quays complex.

Gunwharf Quays: shopping, restaraunts and bars and a cinema with poor listings

Gunwharf Quays: shopping, restaraunts and bars and a cinema with poor listings

But I could not work out what was on. A single poster of about A3 size listed everything, times dates. It was really hard to see what was on. I asked about a film I wanted to see but it was not on that day.

Vue lost me as a customer: I could not see what was on

Vue lost me as a customer: I could not see what was on

With so much choice the potential customer must be guided carefully. It should be clear what is on when. Vue lost a customer that day because of poor corporate communications.

 

You can win a free e-learning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Picture Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.

Image

Here’s your top tip of the week on effective writing

Effective writing

Mercedes second-hand car salesman shows great corporate communications

Who do you trust least for truthful corporate communications: estate agents or used-car salesmen? Used-car salesmen have just dropped out of my list as a result of a great job of sales and corporate communications by Jason Leporte at the Mercedes dealership in New Maldon, London, just off the A3.

There are lessons for all of us in corporate communications to be learned from this encounter.

Not happy bunnies

We need a new car. A few weeks of searching and we found the one we wanted: a new C class Mercedes from a leasing company. And we want it new having had so much trouble with older cars. And we want it now. But the leasing company we were working with could not deliver until June. We are not happy bunnies.

Out we go this Saturday morning to look around. We arrive up at the Mercedes dealership which I thought sold new cars. No, only second hand.

Great opening line: save some money

“We are looking for a new model,” says I. “Why not try to save some money?,” says Jason. Great opening line. We start to look. And we find several C class cars at good prices, but I see a slightly taller car at a better price. A year-old B class. It’s got great good visibility: but I know nothing about cars so won’t try to be Jeremy Clarkson.

It parks itself!

It parks itself! Don’t worry, ours is right-hand drive

Sales technique

In all we will have it next Saturday. Partly because of his sales technique which included:

  • His opening offer on saving money got us interested.
  • There was no pressure. Maybe he is such a great salesman that he did pressurise us but we did not feel it.
  • He seemed interested in satisfying us.
  • It was all explained.
  • He loves his product and, as far as I could tell, genuinely.
  • He saw us change our minds for another car and a cheaper one and went with it, rather than pushing for the more expensive model.
  • He demonstrated the car well.
  • He showed us the process he was going through, turning the screen on his desk around.
  • When we got a fact about the car we are putting in for part exchange wrong, like the number of previous owners, there was no surprise or quibble.
  • He said he had been there for 11 years and his Linkedin profile says the same.

Parks itself

He said it parks itself. I thought that he meant it was easy. But it does park itself for parallel parking: he flipped some buttons, took his hands off the wheel and in it went. You car buffs know that but I was astounded. Don’t know when I shall have the courage to try that when it is ours.

And a notice to the leasing company we had been talking to: make sure you have the car available when you’re close to the deal. Deliver what you promise you can in corporate communications.

You can win a free e-learning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Picture Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.

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