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Nationwide personalises direct mail with intelligent printing

Excellent piece of corporate communications by Nationwide Building Society using direct mail. It has used intelligent printing to put the forename of the recipient on a cup of cappuccino. This one fell through the letterbox addressed to my son, Michael.

Personalised direct mail from Nationwide

Personalised direct mail from Nationwide

Plenty of direct mail comes through the door. But with this neat personalisation the chances of it being opened go right up.

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.

Charities get the corporate message over: well done Great Ormond St Hospital for Children

Charities have vastly improved their corporate communications in the past five years. The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children has an appeal on to raise millions of pounds to improve wards and services.  And is making a good fist of it.

Chugger wins

I was caught by a “chugger” at a station in London this week. I agreed to make a donation every month knowing the great work the hospital does. And in return I was given a booklet which said thank you. Every double-page spread had a picture of a child or a worker at the hospital and a story. And every page ended with thank you.

Thank you from the hospital

Thank you from the hospital

I felt warmed by this. If you see a chugger from the hospital don’t look away, just donate.

Child Care Action Trust

A smaller charity, the Child Care Action Trust, is also savvy. It uses house-to-house sales of a holiday competition to raise funds. And it knows its competition law. As it says on the top of the ticket: “This is not a gamble, lottery or raffle”. Instead it is a game of skill, which is legal. If it were a gamble, lottery or raffle it would have to have a licence. But the charity asks those who contribute to answer some questions and asks for an unusual fund-raising idea.

What’s the answer?

And I’ll donate another £100 to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children on behalf of the first person who can tell me, in the comment section, what is the connection between the hospital and the law of copyright.

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.

Bad day for Diageo’s suppliers: payment out to 90 days

Disastrous corporate communications by the drinks giant Diageo. It has told its suppliers that they won’t be paid for 90 days, up from 60. As a result it has been expelled from a government-backed scheme to promote good practice by paying on time, the Prompt Payment Code.

Following in the footsteps of Heinz

Diageo follows Heinz in lengthening its payment time to suppliers.

Diageo wrote to suppliers saying that, to improve its cash flow in order to invest more, it is making them wait 50% longer.

Damaging suppliers’ cash flow

What about the cash flow of its suppliers?

Diageo says it values its suppliers and sought to have open and fair relationships. If I follow my intention to boycott Heinz, then it’s no Guinness, no Smirnoff and no Baileys for me.

 

It might be a lovely day for Guinness but a rotten one for Diageo's suppliers

It might be a lovely day for Guinness but a rotten one for Diageo’s suppliers

 

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.

Heinz screws suppliers and leaves a nasty taste

Heinz is, or rather, was a great brand. Tomato ketchup, probably the best in the world next to Amoura’s. Tomato soup, delicious with a sandwich for lunch. And I can’t beat cold Heinz baked beans straight from the can.

Doubling the time to wait for payments

But is has shot itself in the foot, according to The Sunday Times. It has told suppliers they will not get paid for 97 days – up from 45 days. All in the cause of saving its own cash flow.

This damages its suppliers. Changes the terms of its contracts with them. And leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

No comment

Nobody from Heinz nor its owners, a US investor and a venture capital company, would comment on the story.

Shame on you all. I suppose it’s over to Crosse and Blackwell baked beans. I wonder what their payment period is. And what they taste like.

It's not Heinz, but the payment terms may be better

It’s not Heinz, but the payment terms may be better

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.

“Lift the kimono” but do it the right way: Cern fails with Will Self

Opening up your corporation to media scrutiny is a good tactic. You can reveal your values. You can make your corporation more personal, show its values. Yet there are dangers. And this week Will Self showed what they are in his walk around the Hadron Collider at Cern on BBC Radio 4. The European Centre for research smashes particles at great speed and with great energy to find out what’s happening in that world of physics.

Cern fails to expalin

But Cern, with all its intellectual and physical power, failed to explain to him, not a stupid man, what was going on.

Yes, particles were bashing into each other. Yes, the physicists were understood more about how they reacted to each other. But what was the big picture? Why? And what were the big issues they were solving?

 

Will Self confused about role this mighty particle basher: nned not be Cern had expalined itself

Will Self confused about the role of this mighty particle basher: need not be had Cern explained itself

He was perplexed. So was I.

And so should we be. We pay for Cern. Its objective is not to provide employment for scientists, but to explain. And if, in the mid-term let alone the long term, they cannot explain what they are doing, why should we spend our money on it?

Lift the kimono

Cern did something called “lifting the kimono”, revealing a bit of itself to incite interest. In this instance of corporate communications Cern failed.

The Tatler magazine “lifted the kimono” recently and it seemed to work. We saw an up market magazine explain how and why it works.

Three things to do

From the Cern case and the Tatler case we can get some guidance on corporate exposure:

1 Make sure your corporation can explain itself in broad terms throughout the organisation: piecemeal explanations without some “helicopter vision” of how their work fits into the whole picture will fragment the picture. “Helicopter vision” means that people see where they fit into the whole and can explain it.

2 Make sure you have concrete examples of what you have done and what the benefits are. Cern could not convince Self despite the great work done there.

3 Don’t just use your jargon: make sure those outside your organisation will understand. The Cern scientists used a lot of jargon to explain why their work was important. Often Self did not get it. They should have tried to link what they did to what he understood.

Will Self can be critical. Can be acerbic. But he is enthusiastic as well. If Cern had followed my rules, they would have won him over. And we would not today be thinking “why are we paying for this?” And Cern thinking: “how did that go wrong?”

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.

Doddle gets the name wrong: what’s the message to customers about its service?

There is little more important in corporate communications than your company name. Doddle has got it wrong. It has been plastering railway stations with its advertising but I could not for the life of me understand what it did.

Catchy names don’t tell customers what you do

It’s fashionable to have a company name which is catchy. TNT changed, at great expense, the name of its domestic mail delivery from TNT to Whistl. Why? TNT is known. Whistl could mean anything.

What does Doddle mean to its potential customers?

The same for Doddle. There are other Doddles in the world, one of them a teaching resource. But it must have hit a cord in a branding exercise. But you must ask yourself, what does it mean to your customers?

Useless name

Doddle, the one I am writing about, lets you collect or return parcels at railway stations. This may be a useful service. But it’s a useless name.

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.  Don’t doddle about.

Eurostar should train its train crews to handle bumps in the track

Eurostar does not seem to learn from its mistakes: it has had another disaster. Things go wrong. But it’s how a company reacts when they do go wrong that shows its skills at corporate communications.

This time power lines failed outside Lille stranding 1,200 passengers on 2 trains overnight. One of them got to Brussels 9 hours late.

You would not be smiling after being in the dark for 9 hours

You would not be smiling after being in the dark for 9 hours

Yet the passengers were told little. It seems the crews on Eurostar like to hide when things go wrong instead of serving the passengers. There is no worst experience than to be abandoned in these circumstances. Eurostar should train its crews.  After 20 years of operating the service it should know and act better.

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.

Netto puts ball into own net

The fierce supermarket stores in the UK continue to throw up examples of good and bad corporate communications. The latest one is a bad one from Netto.

It has returned after leaving the UK 4 years ago. It could not find its footing despite being here for 14 years.

Per Bank, CEO of Netto’s parent Dansk Supermarked, said as the new store opened this week that Netto would pull out in June 2015 if the venture did not work.

That’s an own goal.

Own goal from Netto: Aldi and Lidl will pile in

Own goal from Netto: Aldi and Lidl will pile in

All its discount rivals, Aldi and Lidl, have to do it beat it up for 7 months and it will fold. And Aldi and Lidl know how to beat up their rivals. Just see how Morrisons, the Co-op and Tesco are bleeding.

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

Use mind maps as a tool in corporate communications

There is a tool in the tool kit of corporate communications which is not used enough: the mind map. Also known as the spider diagram. They are not for everybody, but they help those who see more value and information in pictures than in lists.

Here’s a mind map for how mind maps work.

 

A mind map of how mind maps work

A mind map of how mind maps work

They enforce a discipline about the subject. One thing has to be linked to another. They are also a good guide for a subject for people who are more visually orientated that those who rely on lists. This may be about 30% of your audience.

Some get it, some don’t

I introduced the idea of mind maps last week to a group working on making speeches. Some of them found it a useful tool: others were not impressed and relied on their lists. That’s OK. Let everybody use what they are comfortable with. But make sure your corporate presentation uses all the tools available to get the message across to everybody in the room. Don’t rely only on what you are comfortable with.

Here’s my mind map describing libel law.

My Mind Map of libel

My Mind Map of libel

 

 

It was created in FreeMind, a free mind-mapping tool which you can use.

 

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.

The Co-op used to be known as an ethical brand. Its message was we don’t do the nasty things, customers are members, and we source things ethically.

Went pear shaped

Then it went pear shaped with the poor banking results and the coke sniffing head of its bank, Paul Flowers. Banking customers fled: 38,000 were lost.

This story nearly sank the Coop: not it is fighting back

This story nearly sank the Coop: now it is fighting back

The brand, and it is a brand, was tarnished.   It was also up against the might of the supermarkets. And its share of the market was falling. Market share now is about 8% now. Even worse: its customers are older than the competiton.

The fightback

Now comes the fight back.

  • It has started to offer discounts to students who can show a student card. Well done, feed a younger market.
  • It has used advertising to tell the world it is still an ethical bank: we don’t invest in big oil, is the message. Well done: win back those who left and play to your ethical roots.
  • It is closely identifying the sources of its products, not only Fairtrade which it was the first chain to adopt. One of the original aims of the Coop in 1844 was to make sure people got good quality food. Well done: make it local.

More needed

Yet this is not enough because the damage has been so heavy on the reputation of the Coop. What about trying to engage further the members? They have a loyalty card as they do for other supermarkets. But they are, after all, members. Play on this theme. Because the Coop pays its profits to its members, not to its shareholders or its bankers.

What are your ideas for the Coop fightback?

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

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