Supreme Court supports PRCA and Meltwater in landmark blow in favour of internet freedom

April 29, 2013

Last week saw a monumentally important decision for the PR industry in the UK. The Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the Newspaper Licensing Authority (NLA) to make browsing newspaper articles online effectively illegal without paying an exorbitant "licensing" fee. Victory in the case, bought by Meltwater and the PRCA, means that the NLA has no legal right to claim copyright infringement merely for the act of browsing an article online, even though technically speaking the browser is making a copy of the article. The ruling will now go forward to the European Court of Justice for further clarification across the EU.

We are really happy about this as we have long felt that the attempts of the NLA – and indeed its sibling organisation the CLA – are nothing more than a thinly-disguised attempt to rip money out of people. Yes there must be protections in place for cases of genuine copyright infringement; but is it not the case that much of what ends up in the newspapers and magazines actually comes from PR companies in the first place? So how can it be right that we are being charged to view material we wrote in the first place! Not to mention the fact that without the efforts of professional and conscientious PR people helping to research and source material, the lives for many editors on the smaller trade titles would become impossible.

Here is the full announcement from the PRCA – well played, guys!

London, 17th April – The Supreme Court today agreed with the PRCA and Meltwater that Internet users have the right to browse online freely without the threat of copyright infringement.

The Supreme Court, the highest court in the UK, accepted all of the arguments of the PRCA and Meltwater against the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) that browsing and viewing articles online does not require authorisation from the copyright holder, because it is protected by the temporary copy exception of UK copyright law. It has now referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), so that this point can be clarified across the EU.

The Supreme Court states that accepting the NLA’s position would be “an unacceptable result, which would make infringers of many millions of ordinary users of the Internet across the EU who use browsers and search engines for private as well as commercial purposes.”

The Supreme Court further rejected the NLA’s argument that rights-holders would be exposed to piracy as a consequence, as right holders have effective remedies against those who are more obviously at fault.

Francis Ingham, PRCA Director General, said: “We are delighted that the UK Supreme Court has accepted all of our arguments, which we look forward to making again at the CJEU. The Supreme Court understood that this does not just affect the PR world, but the fundamental rights of all EU citizens to browse the Internet.”

Today’s decision represents important forward progress in the series of cases where Meltwater and the PRCA have challenged the NLA on its high fees for reading freely available news. In a previous ruling, the PRCA and Meltwater were successful in reducing the fees for all businesses totaling more than £100 million over three years. The savings for Meltwater clients alone are more than £24 million in the same period.

Jorn Lyssegen, CEO of Meltwater said: “We are very pleased that the Supreme Court overruled the previous rulings of the Court of Appeals and The High Court that the simple act of browsing the Internet could be copyright infringement. This ruling is an important step in modernizing the interpretation of UK copyright law and protects UK Internet users from overreaching copyright collectors.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors

The Supreme Court ruling can be found here:

The PRCA contested at the Supreme Court in February the Court of Appeal’s decision (link) that that the temporary copies made through the purely technological process of displaying a web page on a computer to enable a user to read that web page is a violation of UK copyright law if made without the explicit consent of the copyright owner.

The PRCA and Meltwater have already reduced the cost of license fees at the Copyright Tribunal, saving an estimated £100m for the PR industry

The CJEU ruling is expected at some point in 2014

Time to weed-out those nasty bizspeak phrases

April 8, 2013

Language is a living thing; a constantly changing and evolving environment in which words and phrases spring into being and live out their lives. Some, like majestic trees, live long and grace the literary landscape with their presence. Others litter the ground like scraggly weeds, stifling clarity and choking eloquence at every turn.

Business writing – a soil particularly well enriched with taurine fertiliser – provides the most fertile environment for such unwanted invaders to take root. Bryan A. Garner, writing in the HBR, has been busy gathering handfuls of the worst offenders (as judged by numerous contributors) in an effort to put this rogues gallery to the scythe.

Bryan urges everyone to "Hunt for offending phrases: Start looking for bizspeak in all kinds of documents, from memos to marketing plans, and you’ll find it everywhere. " And when you do, pull it out by the roots!

Bizspeak Blacklist
actionable (apart from legal action)
as per
at the end of the day
back of the envelope
bandwidth (outside electronics)
bring our A game
core competency
drill down
ducks in a row
forward initiative
going forward
go rogue
harvesting efficiencies
hit the ground running
impact, vb.
kick the can down the road
let’s do lunch
let’s take this offline
level the playing field
leverage, vb.
on the same page
out of pocket (except in reference to expenses)
paradigm shift
push the envelope
pursuant to
putting lipstick on a pig
sacred cow
seamless integration
seismic shift (outside earthquake references)
strategic alliance
strategic dynamism
think outside the box
throw it against the wall and see if it sticks
throw under the bus
under the radar
utilization, utilize
verbage (the correct term is verbiage — in reference only to verbose phrasings)
where the rubber meets the road

Hunt for offending phrases: Start looking for bizspeak in all kinds of documents, from memos to marketing plans, and you’ll find it everywhere. You’ll eventually learn to spot it — and avoid it — in your own writing. You’ll omit canned language such as Attached please find and other phrases that only clutter your message.

Request for proposal? We’ll get back to you

March 19, 2013

Last year, we were invited to pitch for a media campaign for a major international manufacturer of industrial products. The brief was to come up with a campaign to re-invigorate the brand with new advertising and a PR campaign designed to create clear blue water between the company and its competitors. Alongside an incredibly talented team of senior creatives from one of our key partner agencies, Tiga UK, we worked hard to create what we judged to be a compelling pitch that ticked all the boxes. Having packed our presentation documents and visuals, our team travelled up the M40 to meet with the client and make our play.

We didn’t get it.

OK – you can’t win them all. But recently, we discovered that the account in question, actually wasn’t…in question, I mean. The company actually had no intention of relieving the incumbent of the account, and appeared to be merely testing the waters. Or possibly even fishing for new ideas at our expense. Alas this is not an isolated incident. Late last year, we we received a Request for Proposal (RFP) from a European government department. In this case, the sector we were being asked to work in was a new one for us. We were completely honest about our modest experience in this area; but having been assured that the lack of track-record was not a problem, we embarked on putting together a comprehensive strategy to achieve the objectives within quite a tight budget. The 30-page proposal took some serious midnight oil to put together, occurring as it did during our busiest period. But we did it and the document was couriered at considerable expense to the headquarters of the organisation concerned.

We were turned down; The reason? a lack of track record in the sector.

I recently came across a great article by John Warrillow on in which he argues that an RFP isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. The thrust of John’s argument is that by going head-to-head with competitors, you are devaluing your offering (and theirs). By competing on price/cost you are sacrificing your USPs and margins in a race to the bottom that does nobody any good. Least of all you. It’s a convincing case and one that I think will inform our decision to respond to RFPs in future. I for one would rather focus on delivering the best quality of service to clients who value our particular expertise, rather than waste energy scrapping over a morsel dangled from above.

It’s More Important to Be Kind than Clever

September 14, 2012

by Bill Taylor  |   9:00 AM August 23, 2012

We spotted this interesting article from the Harvard Business Review recently which reminds us all that business is first and foremost about people.

One of the more heart-warming stories to zoom around the Internet lately involves a young man, his dying grandmother, and a bowl of clam chowder from Panera Bread. It’s a little story that offers big lessons about service, brands, and the human side of business — a story that underscores why efficiency should never come at the expense of humanity.

The story, as told in AdWeek, goes like this: Brandon Cook, from Wilton, New Hampshire, was visiting his grandmother in the hospital. Terribly ill with cancer, she complained to her grandson that she desperately wanted a bowl of soup, and that the hospital’s soup was inedible (she used saltier language). If only she could get a bowl of her favorite clam chowder from Panera Bread! Trouble was, Panera only sells clam chowder on Friday. So Brandon called the nearby Panera and talked to store manager Suzanne Fortier. Not only did Sue make clam chowder specially for Brandon’s grandmother, she included a box of cookies as a gift from the staff.

It was a small act of kindness that would not normally make headlines. Except that Brandon told the story on his Facebook page, and Brandon’s mother, Gail Cook, retold the story on Panera’s fan page. The rest, as they say, is social-media history. Gail’s post generated 500,000 (and counting) "likes" and more than 22,000 comments on Panera’s Facebook page. Panera, meanwhile, got something that no amount of traditional advertising can buy — a genuine sense of affiliation and appreciation from customers around the world.

Marketing types have latched on to this story as an example of the power of social media and "virtual word-of-mouth" to boost a company’s reputation. But I see the reaction to Sue Fortier’s gesture as an example of something else — the hunger among customers, employees, and all of us to engage with companies on more than just dollars-and-cents terms. In a world that is being reshaped by the relentless advance of technology, what stands out are acts of compassion and connection that remind us what it means to be human.

As I read the story of Brandon and his grandmother, I thought back to a lecture delivered two years ago by Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of, to the graduating seniors of my alma mater, Princeton University. Bezos is nothing if not a master of technology — he has built his company, and his fortune, on the rise of the Internet and his own intellect. But he spoke that day not about computing power or brainpower, but about his grandmother — and what he learned when he made her cry.

Even as a 10-year-old boy, it turns out, Bezos had a steel-trap mind and a passion for crunching numbers. During a summer road trip with his grandparents, young Jeff got fed up with his grandmother’s smoking in the car — and decided to do something about it. From the backseat, he calculated how many cigarettes per day his grandmother smoked, how many puffs she took per cigarette, the health risk of each puff, and announced to her with great fanfare, "You’ve taken nine years off your life!"

Bezos’s calculations may have been accurate — but the reaction was not what he expected. His grandmother burst into tears. His grandfather pulled the car off to the side of the road and asked young Jeff to step out. And then his grandfather taught a lesson that this now-billionaire decided to share the with the Class of 2010: "My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, ‘Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.’"

That’s a lesson I wish more businesspeople understood — a lesson that is reinforced by the reaction to this simple act of kindness at Panera Bread. Indeed, I experienced something similar not so long ago, and found it striking enough to devote an HBR blog post to the experience. In my post, I told the story of my father, his search for a new car, a health emergency that took place in the middle of that search — and a couple of extraordinary (and truly human) gestures by an auto dealer that put him at ease and won his loyalty.

"What is it about business that makes it so hard to be kind?" I asked at the time. "And what kind of businesspeople have we become when small acts of kindness feel so rare?"

That’s what’s really striking about the Panera Bread story — not that Suzanne Fortier went out of her way to do something nice for a sick grandmother, but that her simple gesture attracted such global attention and acclaim.

So by all means, encourage your people to embrace technology, get great at business analytics, and otherwise ramp up the efficiency of everything they do. But just make sure all their efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of their humanity. Small gestures can send big signals about who we are, what we care about, and why people should want to affiliate with us. It’s harder (and more important) to be kind than clever.

The (further) perils of Twitter for business

April 18, 2012

Very interesting article this morning on Real Business concerning the legal implications of Twitter use. In particular, what it could mean for users who Tweet about their employer.

We all know that you should be extremely careful about what you say online. One case highlighted in the article is of a civil servant who found herself the subject of an acutely embarrassing (and not exactly career-enhancing) expose in The Independent.

A member of staff at the Department of Transport had a disclaimer in her Twitter profile stating that the tweets were personal opinions and were not representative of her employer. This disclaimer did not stop The Independent from publishing her tweets (about her job, her feelings towards work and wider political issues such as describing a course leader as “mental” and posting links to tweets attacking government “spin” and Whitehall waste) in an article about her employer. She complained to the Press Complaints Commission, but they found that because tweets are public property this was not an invasion of her privacy.

The article is well worth a read – you can view it in its entirety here Five more legal issues to consider when using Twitter

Real Business – The secret to a successful brand: Keep it nurtured

April 3, 2012

Which is more likely to succeed: a great idea left to languish or a good idea skilfully and closely developed over time? The answer is that building a durable and profitable brand requires an exact blend of both nature and nurture, argues Robin Rowland, CEO of YO! Sushi in a great article in Real Business

Advertising agencies tell us that the character and tone of a brand, how it speaks to its audience and what it means to them, is all about first impressions.

This I do not necessarily dispute. Nonetheless, for those of us running a business in the long term and for a brand to succeed beyond the great initial idea, it must be nurtured over time. And this is all about the great people behind it. 

What happens when the advertising does not deliver in reality? A brand is only ever as good as the customer’s last experience and for that experience to "wow" every time the person delivering the brand has to be completely engaged in it. 

If you have not been able to fire up your staff with the enthusiasm, brand knowledge and sheer magic of it all, the brand will not succeed in the real world. This is felt particularly keenly in the hospitality business, where we rely upon our customer facing people to communicate the brand values that underpin our business.

People are also the biggest potential variable within the company. With different locations, people, managers and a higher-than-average rate of staff turnover in the restaurant sector, ensuring a consistent service and brand is the main challenge.

Communicating with every member of the team so they feel part of the whole is essential. There is little point carefully penning brand values, thoughts and ideas, developing them through focus groups and with expert consultancies, if they never make it out of the office and on to the floor.

It is often said that entrepreneurs who start a business with an innovative idea may not always be the best people to take the business to the next stage. And while most people focus on the need for different management skills, when you operate a big brand it is just as important to secure "brand-nurturing" skills.

This is about the ability to grow a brand beyond the inspirational first stage while at the same time preserving the essence and spirit which made it a great idea in the first place. 

This doesn’t stop just because the company becomes bigger and more successful. As brands grow, the nurturing must continue. An essential part of Howard Schultz’s remarkable turnaround at Starbucks was his focus on creating brand value by supporting those working in the business to deliver every detail of it.

His core philosophy is to "take care of our associates so they will take care of the guests…executing even the smallest detail to perfection is the difference between a great guest experience and a failure."

As a restaurateur for virtually my entire career, perhaps it is easier for me to make the connection between people and brand, but I believe that is a sound principle to follow whatever industry you are in. When it comes to fostering the brand it is about making sure that everything you do is real, genuine, believable and distinctive, from the boardroom to the grass roots.

There’s little doubt that nature triumphed with the acorn, but try to rest in its shade on a sunny day and you’ll really appreciate the importance of nurture.

Robin Rowland is CEO of YO! Sushi, which in 2012 celebrates 15 years of serving Japan’s most famous delicacy in the UK.

Real Business – The secret to a successful brand: Keep it nurtured

Cutting through the hype of social media

March 7, 2012

The use of social media by brands is still one of the hottest topics in PR. However there is still a huge amount of debate about why and how companies should get involved. Some excellent research and a very nifty presentation from Content & Motion aims to dispel the myths and help companies make up their own minds.

When it’s time to take off the gloves

March 2, 2012

PR is normally about cultivating relationships and generating a rapport with your audience. It’s not normally the right thing to do to assume a confrontational stance. But sometimes, if you need to create change or make a point, it is. Sometimes – as Alistair Campbell famously once did when he took on Channel 4 News in a live unscripted broadcast – it is in the client’s interest to go on the offensive and say what needs to be said.

Last year, the government launched an initiative called Make it in GB, aimed at promoting UK manufacturing. Certainly a worthy and much needed cause. As the PR agency for one of the UK’s largest manufacturing shows, we were pretty keen to offer our support – offering to make the show available as a launch venue for their campaign and giving them free access to our media activities. The response? "We’ll think about it." Regrettably, that’s about all they did do.

In fact, they didn’t even do that. After a sharp exchange of emails, I was called at the end of the first day of the show to be told that they were still "Having meetings" about participating. This was 3 months after the initial contact and when the event itself was already half over. I listened, open-mouthed, as I was told that we’d "Dropped off the radar". How could the one of the largest manufacturing events in the UK just "drop off the radar" of an organisation that exists solely to promote UK manufacturing? We were promised support – which turned out to be 2 tweets, neither of which contained a link to the show website – and the promise of a phone call after the event to discuss follow-up,  which never materialised.

Frustrated? You bet. Not on our account, nor even on behalf of the show organisers, but on behalf of the hundreds of people we met at the show doing fantastic work, who had worked so hard for success. They deserve support from campaigns like MiiGB.

It is not the place of government-funded campaigns to support private commercial enterprise. However it is the role of government to support business in general, and as was pointed out to the Make it in GB team, our objective was not to support the event as such,  but the 600+ businesses taking part. That was a fantastic opportunity for MiiGB to engage with 600 of the UK’s brightest and finest manufacturers – an opportunity totally squandered. This morning, having read another vacuous tweet from MiiGB about them "Looking for ideas how to support UK manufacturing", I thought it was about time we opened up the debate. Having Tweeted the fact that despite such fine words, they hadn’t shown much inclination to actually spend any time with manufacturers, I hope the message will hit home that there’s only so much you can achieve for UK manufacturers by Tweeting from your cosy West London office. I’m pretty sure there’s at least 600 people who’ll back me up.


Police PR department explains how up is down when it comes to crime figures

July 18, 2011

An amusing and audacious attempt to spin bad news, spotted by “Axegrinder” writing in the Press Gazette.

Police PR department explains how up is down when it comes to crime figures

Posted by Axegrinder on 15 July 2011 at 09:53

Who says that the millions police forces spend on PR is a waste of money?

Axegrinder has been sent this hilarious press release sent out from North Yorkshire Police force’s answer to the Ministry of Truth.

Stop the presses, apparently crime has gone down in the county. Rejoice, you might think – until you get to the fifth par when you find out that crime has actually gone up. I’ve heard about dropped intros but this is ridiculous.

North Yorkshire Police is making great strides to clamp down on crime.

The force’s latest performance figures show a 6.6% reduction between April and June 2011 compared to the previous year.

This period – the first quarter of the current financial year – has seen 741 fewer crimes recorded than this time last year (10,401 against 11,150 crime). Detections have also increased by 3.7% to a total of 33.5%.

This significant impact is in direct response to a small but concerning increase in overall crime last year in North Yorkshire and the City of York.

Published today (Thursday 14 July 2011), the Home Office’s Annual Crime Statistics 2010/11 for England and Wales outlines a 0.6% increase in crime in the county. This equates to 267 more crimes in comparison to the previous year – from 42,196 to 42,464.

This increase was largely down to higher levels of crime in January, February and March 2011 compared to the previous year. North Yorkshire Police also saw a rise in reports of historical serious sexual offences which is a positive indicator in victim confidence in the police, as well as proactive police work to target drugs offences, most noticeably in Selby with the success of Operation Orate which saw a series of raids on cannabis farms and a 55% increase in offences in the district. In addition there were 137 separate fraud crimes committed by a company director from York.

However, the corresponding British Crime Survey figures that have also been released today are extremely positive for North Yorkshire Police, with only 6.4% of the public perceiving a high level of anti-social behaviour – the lowest level in England.

Public confidence in the force and local councils to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour has also increased by almost 6% over the past year, to a total of 55.9%.

The stand alone confidence measure in North Yorkshire Police has also increased to 61.5% from 57.9%.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick said: “This was the first year-on-year rise in recorded overall crime since 2003/04, and whilst this is ultimately a disappointing position, it must be taken within context of a long term reduction which has seen 20,000 fewer offences committed in North Yorkshire and the City of York over the last six years.

“Despite the rise, it is important to emphasise that the North Yorkshire policing area remains the fourth safest and lowest crime area in England and Wales. The results of the British Crime Survey are also a welcome indication of the satisfaction people have in the service we deliver.”

Mr Madgwick added: “Nevertheless, we have taken some very firm action in response to the small spike in crime and I am very satisfied to report that it is now on a downward trend once more.

“A particular success has been our dedicated burglary reduction campaign Operation Haven, which is having a great impact on reducing offences and promoting key crime prevention messages to members of our communities.

“It is this type of proactive and intelligence-led policing activity, together with strong partnership working and engagement with the very people we serve, that will help to maintain the high quality of life in North Yorkshire and the City of York.”

Bill Baugh, Vice Chairman of North Yorkshire Police Authority, said: “The Authority looked at the full year’s data at its AGM in June and it was disappointing to see the slight rise at the end of the last financial year.  Crucially though, the more recent results have shown encouraging downward trends that we are more used to in recent years.

“We are not complacent though and in those more challenging crime categories, particularly burglaries, violence and theft, the Police Authority has requested further analysis of the issues and tactics to be presented at the next Performance and Scrutiny Board meeting at the end of August so that we can be sure that the service is doing all that it can, on its own and with partners, to sustain the good results seen in the last three months for the rest of the year.”

Police PR department explains how up is down when it comes to crime figures | Axegrinder

A successful Tweeting…

June 29, 2011

Probably one of the biggest debates in PR & Marketing is the effectiveness – or otherwise – of social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. In a previous post, I noted that research seems to indicate that 48% of private businesses are, if not actually users themselves, then at least ambivalent to the usefulness of social media in promoting their businesses. But what about in a more tightly defined demographic such as manufacturing? Two things that have happened over the last week have bought this topic to the fore.

The first was a survey by Lee Anne Orange from the International Machine Tool Show 2012 which we wrote about on our Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2012 blog. In her informal survey of exhibitors, she found that the rate of adoption of social media channels in manufacturing is accelerating, yet is still a relatively small number in absolute terms. In total, around 20% of firms at the show use one or more forms of social media. So while that seems to indicate that there is still room for significant growth, their are many that remain unconvinced. One can only speculate what factors are inhibiting growth, but personally I suspect there are two main reasons: Effectiveness i.e. does it actually work? and Production i.e. who is actually going to write this stuff? For us, the question of effectiveness was answered quite conclusively this week in the second of our “social media happenings”

One of the hardest areas for PR to break into is the national media. This is particularly true for specialists like us who tend to work with b2b brands which are relatively unknown to the general public. Getting journalists from the national media interested in engineering and manufacturing stories is very hard work; that’s not a criticism as they have a completely different agenda to trade publications. But it’s none the less frustrating when our overtures concerning stories of genuine editorial value get passed-over because they are deemed too “niche” to be of interest. But we were surprised this week when a slightly sarcastic  (oops!)Tweet from us concerning the BBC’s lack of interest in grassroots manufacturing was answered in person by a well-known TV personality. This has led to a dialogue, which may well result in BBC TV covering Southern Manufacturing 2012! Hugely exciting for us and something we’ve been trying to achieve for the last 6 years. Time will tell, of course, but if there were any doubts remaining about the effectiveness of Twitter in reaching key journalists, they have now completely evaporated.