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How do YOU decide what is and what isn't news?

A web media company I work with did some analysis recently on why articles had been rejected by Google News. Whereas just about anything can go on to the web search, Google vets sites before it will include them in the 'news' category. It then checks each article against a set of pre-determined criteria to decide if it's a genuine news article - we can't have bloggers masquerading as journalists now can we?

As America goes to the polls today, I am worried about how both candidates seem hopelessly out of touch with European issues. I mean - neither Obama nor the Other Guy have expressed an opinion on Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross.

At least Gordon Brown shows he is a man of the people. Even if he didn't hear the broadcast himself, he knows what will swing the voters of Fife.

One of the most fascinating things about working in media relations is trying to understand how and why news becomes news.

This last week there should have been two main stories: the US election and Gordon's last stand in a Scottish by-election. Instead we had almost blanket coverage of a prank phone call on a radio show. How did that happen?

In an interview with the FT today, the "new, enthusiastic" transport secretary Geoff Hoon says he has ordered a review to find infrastructure projects within his brief that can help Gordon Brown stimulate demand with a spending spree on public works projects.

But, he says, he can't find enough that have existing planning permission.

Broad Street tram.jpg

"I'd like to play my part ... I wish I could get out my spade and start digging," Hoon tells the FT.

Why doesn't he pay a visit to Birmingham then? There is a project right on our doorstep that has been granted a Transport and Works Act Order (the equivalent of planning permission for these sorts of things).

One hot summer when I was a two-packs a day office worker and visited the local M&S every lunchtime for my prawns and BLT rations, I was given a free gift of a branded cool bag to take my sandwiches back to my desk.

This same cool bag it turned out was even better for carrying a single home-made sandwich into work, so it helped me break the lunchtime habit, loose weight and save money.

M&S on the other hand have lost several hundred pounds in lost revenue. It was perhaps not their brightest marketing idea.

PR agencies are struggling to get media coverage for their clients at the moment.

So says the weekly trade title PRWeek.

Quoting top people within the profession it says agencies are finding it tough going because the global economic downturn continues to dominate the headlines.

One London agency was forced to delay a client launch (they don't say what for) because finance journalists were preoccupied with the collapse of Icelandic Banks.

Yeh, right. That's what media relations is all about.

I suppose any company that routinely requires its staff to answer the phone by saying "good morning, nite nite" must have a fairly relaxed attitude to correct use of the English language.

But what might raise a wry smile on the phone, creates an angry customer when it is applied to advertising. Misuse of the language is no longer humorous, it is misleading.

When it is a Birmingham hotel that is upsetting visitors it not only loses them potential customers, it impacts on the image of the city too.

So how much was it all worth to Birmingham? I'm talking about the Conservative Party Conference of course.

It reminds me of a fairy tale.

Once upon a time a city staged a big race around the streets. In many ways it was a great success, but there was a problem with the weather - so when they counted the spectators, this tale is of what might have happened if someone added a few to make the figures look good?

(We had a related issue with our gas meter reading recently, where the man who came accidentally wrote down an 8 instead of a 6 in the tens of thousands column. Once that was in the British Gas computer it took ages to convince them that the current reading really is less than last winter's figure and, no, our direct debit should not go up by 210 per cent thank you very much.)

I digress. Back to the imaginary motor race...

My colleague over on Lifestyle (look to the right and scroll down), Jo Ind is having a bad week understanding the financial news.

Believe me Jo, you're not the only one. I read the newspaper three times yesterday and I still don't get this 'short selling' stuff. Thank goodness for children's tv.

Please excuse any typos in this blog posting. It may be because of margarine on my fingers or keyboard.

Collecting the 'cooking for schools' vouchers is a messy business.

I don't know whether its since my children have been of school age that I have noticed this more, or whether it has been a recent trend - but a growing number of companies seem to think the way to win our hearts and minds is to give things to local schools.

Debating the big issues is never easy. Perhaps that's why we elect our leaders, choosing people capable of seeing and delivering a vision (?).

I've seen important staff meetings called to give employees a voice in the future structure of an organisation dissolve into small-minded debates about the tea and coffee fund - because people can't grasp or don't want to face up to the bigger issue.

What's more important? The future shape of public transport, or the colour of the trams? The development strategy for a town centre, or the colour of the lampposts? Both these are based on a true stories.

So the Birmingham Post report of a city council debate on climate change makes very depressing reading.

Business authors

David Bailey

David Bailey - Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School, Birmingham
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Stuart Pemble

Stuart Pemble - Construction Lawyer, Mills & Reeve
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John Clancy

John Clancy - Birmingham City Councillor and director of mediafuturesalert.com and justliteracy.com
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John Samuels

John Samuels - Professor of Business Finance, Birmingham Business School
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Chris Tomlinson

Chris Tomlinson - Chris Tomlinson is the founder of social media and online PR agency Friend (frienddigital.com)
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Andrew Whitehead

Andrew Whitehead - Senior partner at law firm SGH Martineau, leading the firm's Energy & Climate Change practice.
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Keith Gabriel

Keith Gabriel - A Birmingham-based PR Account Manager
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Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen - Lecturer, Design Management, at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BCU
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Mike Loftus

Mike Loftus - Director of News from the Future Ltd. Writing on the trials of setting up your own business
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Richard Halstead

Richard Halstead - Midlands region director for EEF, the manufacturers organisation.
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Karl Edge

Karl Edge - partner at KPMG in Birmingham, specialising in automotive, manufacturing and house building sectors.
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Peter Owen

Peter Owen - Managing director for construction firm Willmott Dixon Midlands.
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Dr Steven McCabe

Dr Steven McCabe - director of research degrees for Birmingham City Business School.
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Francis Greene

Francis Greene - Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at the University of Birmingham.
My postings

Alan Gilmour

Alan Gilmour - Director at Cogent Elliott, experienced in marketing, brand development and customer relationship management.
My postings

Paul Noon

Paul Noon - Paul Noon, OBE, West Midlands International Trade Director at UK Trade & Investment.
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