Electric Light Bulbs and Other PR Disasters

The way to avoid sending out the wrong message is to avoid any sort of marketing. If you don’t say anything, how can anyone find fault with your message or disagree with you in any way? But, even by saying and doing nothing, you will upset or offend someone. It’s inevitable. So, what do you do?

The first thing is to understand that no-one is perfect, least of all you and me, and that we can only do our best and then accept the results. It might be a learning moment, but you need those as well. We have tried various marketing strategies over the years. Some have worked better than others. But, with each one we either discover what works or find what we need to amend or stop.

Many years ago, during the introduction of self-assessment, I discovered that we could get boxes of booklets from HMRC explaining the new provisions. Anyone remember Hector the Inspector? Anyway, we ordered 3000. We then got someone to go through Yellow Pages and list out all the businesses in our target area. Then we posted out the booklets with a covering letter offering our services if anyone wanted help with self-assessment. This was quite a successful campaign.

We also prepared budget releases that we delivered by hand to many businesses before breakfast on the day after the budget. We did not have our trusty Highland Copiers printers at that time but we got by, albeit we had to let them cool down every now and again through the night. The expansion of the internet has made this sort of thing less effective but we did do it for a few years.

Latterly we have continued this approach. If you are in any doubt, you maybe have not seen our stands at Highland Spotlight over the last few years. Remember the cross bow or the Tax Mastermind quiz? And of course, there is the noise we generate. More on that another time.

Not everything has gone that well. We have had our share of learning experiences.

I have read many times that Edison was once (or perhaps more than once) asked about all his failures. He is reputed to have had thousands of failed attempts at developing the electric light. It is likewise reported that he said that he had not had thousands of failures. Far from it. He had thousands of successful attempts that showed him what did not work. I tend to look at our past marketing in the same way. Some were successful. Some successfully educated us on what not to do again.

However, that changes over time. We produced a monthly paper newsletter for 12 years. It was very successful in spreading our name. I can remember countless occasions when attending face to face gatherings and on being introduced to someone new, they remarked that they had seen our newsletter. It did not get us business directly but it did open doors. Mind you, some of these people were other accountants. Their clients had taken our newsletter in to them.

Anyway, virtually from the beginning, we received requests for the newsletter to be emailed. We always said that it was paper only, but in reality, we did have a secret emailing list. Paper worked best for us at that time. But, the world moves on and today we only email and publish on social media. That is why you need to keep your strategies fresh and under review. The world is changing. Your customers and clients are changing and so you need to change in order to keep up.

When we produced our paper newsletter, I used to produce the content, much as I still do today. That has not changed. I would format the newsletter and then hand it over, first to be checked for content by my editor (Helen!) and then for typos etc. We then printed it ourselves on a rather nice printer from the ever-efficient Highland Copiers and then posted it out to over 2000 recipients every month.

These days, I produce the content and then pass it on to Lauren at Adder Business, and she looks after everything else. The next time I see the content it is formatted in an email or being published on social media. This takes so much less of my time that we now publish weekly.

We bother you every week. We try to make you think of us every week. If you are on our mailing list, you may not use our professional services, but you know about us. I prepare content for you to absorb, but you may like it or you may not. I stay off politics etc. but otherwise, you get my thoughts and I just accept that for some people that might be a real turnoff. So be it.

By the time you read this the Tory leadership election will have moved on and we should know the names of the last two candidates who will progress to the membership ballot. Putting this internal contest live on television was an interesting move. It seems to have backfired spectacularly with the series being cancelled after the first one. What we saw, or I would have seen if I had wanted to watch it, was squabbling and fighting with the candidates showing the worst traits of politicians. They were fighting and clawing for their own personal gain, but at quite a cost in terms of the image of the Tory party. It was a shame because, before that, some of them seemed appealing.

In my own view, the selection process is flawed from the very start but then some very intelligent people came up with this, so who am I to criticise. But, the television debates, maybe planned by some less intelligent people, did not work. But, they have successfully found what does not work and so can move on and try something else next time.

Just in case you thought otherwise, I am not being political here. I am just saying what I think. You can agree or not. That is for you to decide.

So, what will your marketing look like going forward? What will we try next? What are we going to do at this year’s Highland Spotlight in September? Whatever it is, it has to be different!

If you want to carry on this discussion but you are not sure where to find us, please click here.

Alan E Long

The Long Partnership

07770 738770



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