Deep South Media client makes international noise with Emmy award

by Ron Wain, Joint Managing Director, Deep South Media

Deep South Media (DSM) client Bang Post Production has been making a loud noise in the USA – scooping a coveted Emmy award for sound quality brilliance.

Bang was launched in 2006 by Paul McFadden and Doug Sinclair, the husband of DSM director and designer Kay Sinclair.

The duo first worked on the sound for the BBC revival of Dr Who and since then the company has enjoyed success after success, including winning a BAFTA in 2012 for its work on the prime time series Sherlock.

Nominated for two awards at this year’s technical or ‘craft’ Emmys, Bang faced stiff competition from big-budget American shows including Fargo, Mob City and American Horror Story.

The boys were understandably ecstatic when they scooped the gong for outstanding sound editing for a mini-series, movie or special (Sherlock).

Doug, from Christchurch in Dorset, flew to Los Angeles to attend the glitzy ceremony and upon winning said it was a “great day” for the company.

The Emmy is now displayed alongside the firm’s Bafta at Bang’s Cardiff-based studio.

Bang Post Production is currently working on Glue for Channel 4, Set Fire to the Stars starring Elijah Wood and Jack to a King – the Swansea City FC story, with a number of other projects lined up.

Working with Bang isn’t DSM’s only experience of ‘celebrity’. DSM director Ron Wain and his family recently starred with other families in a national TV advert for Center Parcs – the advert on YouTube alone attracted 1.7m hits to date, with the soundtrack Best Day of My Life, by the American Authors, receiving 34m hits on the online channel as it soared up the UK charts.

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Communication challenges for Tesco amid accounting mess

by Ron Wain, Joint Managing Director, Deep South Media

Prescient words, for sure.

Mike Dennis, an analyst at investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald, pulled no punches in his report on beleaguered grocer Tesco back in June.

Explaining how the retailer was losing market share to discount rivals and the luxury end, he wrote: “”It seems Tesco is stuck in the middle and investors could be questioning management’s strategy.”

Now, four months on, Uncle Tom Cobley and all is questioning that strategy after it emerged that Britain’s largest supermarket overstated forecast profits by a staggering £250m.

In short, this FTSE mainstay, profit warnings ringing in its boardroom ears, has apparently tried to recognise revenue too early on. A bit like counting your chickens before they’ve hatched.

Hence the accounting scandal which has gripped the mainstream media as well as the financial press.

After all, it is not everyday four senior executives of such a large company are asked to stand aside pending an investigation.

Meanwhile, Tesco staff across the country having to put up with quips from paying customers: “I’d better check my receipt to make sure the figures add up.”

Few people without a financial interest in Tesco will shed tears for a giant which made a group trading annual profit of £3.3bn, even if there was a 6% fall.

Or that the share price, at £4.88 back in October 2007, dipped below £1.93 at one point this September.

However, for the corporate affairs communications team at Tesco, the company’s fall from stock market grace will be challenging in every aspect.

Something rotten is smelt by the media and, in this fevered climate, new twists and turns should be anticipated in the same way that the embattled Co-op discovered when the blinding spotlight was turned on its own corporate affairs.

The advisors at Tesco will need to deliver clear, unambiguous messages that address problems head-on, however uncomfortable the reading may be.

A start has been made with a trading statement on September 22nd, which included this quote from Dave Lewis, Group Chief Executive Officer: “We have uncovered a serious issue and have responded accordingly.

“The Chairman and I have acted quickly to establish a comprehensive independent investigation. The Board, my colleagues, our customers and I expect Tesco to operate with integrity and transparency and we will take decisive action as the results of the investigation become clear.”

Integrity and transparency – the cornerstones of any well-run business.

Not to deliver on these fundamentals would play into the hands of a media that rightly turns stones over to see what lays underneath in the dark.

Or, in this case, picks up goods from the supermarket shelves to see if the consumer – us, the public – has been sold something long past its sell-by date.

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A bad day at the seaside

When called by BBC Radio 4 to defend an astonishing piece of invective, headlined ‘Tories should turn their backs on Clacton’, Times columnist Matthew Parris began by pointing out he hadn’t written the headline.

But here was a headline that if anything underplayed the insult to Clacton-on-Sea and the toe-curlingly offensive manner in which the former Tory MP set about the poor people who live there.

“Shops tell you so much,” he wrote after a visit. “Lycra is the textile of choice and I saw not a single woman under 70 in a skirt, still less a dress . . . in Holland & Barrett the ‘Serious Mass Muscle gainer’ came in bucket-sized black plastic tubs at the checkout for the  impulse purchaser.

“There are ten tattoo parlours and no Waterstones  . . . Its voters are going nowhere and it’s rather sad, and there’s nothing more to say. This is Britain on crutches. This is tracksuit-and-trainers Britain, tattoo-parlour Britain, all-our-yesterdays Britain.”

What this torrent of metropolitan snobbery and condescension was leading up to was that Clacton is about to elect Britain’s first UKIP Member of Parliament. There is nothing the Tories can do to stop this and they shouldn’t try because they would have to swing so far to the eurosceptic right that they would lose the support of people in more modern, optimistic places with an eye to the future, like Cambridge.

This is a fair point, although there are plenty who will say it is a recipe for political suicide. But Matthew Parris, whose column can be brilliant, destroyed his own case by the manner in which he made it. And for me, at least, he has wrecked his reputation as as one of our most intelligent and fair-minded commentators.

If you wonder why so many Scots, Welsh and northerners revile the London elite, call them snobs and yearn to get away from them, look no further than Saturday’s Times.

- GARETH WEEKES

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We gain listing on Communications Marketplace

Deep South Media registers on UK government’s Communications MarWe are celebrating a coveted place on an online government buying system.

Our team of seven professionally-qualified journalists has become a supplier on Communications Marketplace, a route for government organisations to buy communications services.

The system acts as a directory putting government departments, local authorities, NHS organisations and other public sector bodies in touch with suppliers including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It governs contracts worth up to £100,000.

As well as our public relations listing, Deep South Media is registered to provide publishing, copywriting and editorial services to public sector buyers across the South of England.

Joint Managing Director Ron Wain, pictured, said: “This is a real feather in our cap and comes as we continue to expand our team of PR account directors and grow our client base. We have a demonstrable track record in providing value to government organisations as well as our business clients and we look forward to working on even more communications campaigns in both the private and public sectors.”

Our inclusion on Communications Marketplace, which was launched in July 2014, reflects a continued listing for Deep South Media as a service provider to government.

Following a competitive tender process in 2009, we became one of only eight suppliers on the Central Office of Information’s accredited South West PR framework and one of only six on the equivalent framework in the South East. We were then successfully registered on the Agile Route to Market, the precursor to Communications Marketplace.

For more information, visit www.deepsouthmedia.co.uk or follow @deepsouthmedia on Twitter.

 

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Truth in driving seat over corporate failure

Whatever the pain or soul searching, we should always try to do the right thing.

Which is why the chief executive of General Motors, Mary Barra, should be applauded.

When your company is heavily criticised in a report into an ignition switch failure, which caused engine stalls in Cobalt cars, with 13 deaths, the temptation would be to issue a short public apology and pay compensation, hoping to draw a line under a distressing issue.

But, in the words of Barra, not good enough, simply not good enough.

It transpired that experienced engineers, with responsibility for safety, didn’t understand that the airbags would not deploy if the ignition switch changed position.

Responding to the findings, Barra pulled no punches in a speech that would reassure GM customers while firing a warning shot across the bows of any complacent staff.

Citing “incompetence and neglect” over 11 years, she told 1,000 employees in Michigan: “This is not just another business crisis for GM. We aren’t simply going to fix this and move on. We are going to fix the failures in our system – that I promise.

“In fact, many are already fixed. And we are going to do the right thing for the affected parties. But I never want to put this behind us. I want to keep this painful experience permanently in our collective memories. I don’t want to forget what happened because I – and I know you — never want this to happen again.”

She also stated: “I can tell you the report is extremely thorough, brutally tough and deeply troubling. For those of us who have dedicated our lives to this company, it is enormously painful to have our shortcomings laid out so vividly.

“I was deeply saddened and disturbed as I read the report. But this isn’t about our feelings or our egos. This is about our responsibility to act with integrity, honor and a commitment to excellence.”

Employees are encouraged to bring any safety concerns straight to her, if they feel they cannot share it with supervisors.

Meanwhile, findings and recommendations from the internal investigation will be “a template for strengthening the company”.

Barra’s corporate moral virtue resonates with the thoughts of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, the Roman emperor and philosopher.

His works are relevant to the boardroom today as they were in his time of rule between AD 161 to AD 80.

For example: “Claim your entitlement to these epithets – good, decent, truthful; in mind clear, cooperative, and independent – and take care not to swap them for other names; and if you do forfeit these titles, return to them quickly…”

Senior management teams across all companies, large or small, would do well to take on board what Marcus Aurelius recommends.

Otherwise they could end up power-mad, out of touch, disconnected, as was the disgraced Commodus, his only surviving son out of 14 children with wife Faustina.

Commodus ignored his father’s austere lifestyle and wisdom.

Egoistical beyond comprehension, Commodus was assassinated by his appropriately-named wrestling partner, Narcissus, a name derived from a Greek legend where a man died falling in love with his own reflection, unable to tear himself away.

What General Motor’s Mary Barra sees in the mirror is something thankfully different – a business leader doing the right thing, direct and honest, unafraid of the truth.

Here at Deep South Media, run by a seven-strong team of professionally qualified journalists familiar with the sharp end of reporting, we would advocate openness and transparency in any similar corporate situation.

The truth is unconquerable. May it always be thus.

* For Mary Barra’s full speech in The Detroit News, please click here.

 

 

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The bad news about good news

The launch of another ‘good news’ local newspaper has brought snorts of derision from professional journalists.

“I wish them well – but fear the worst for this venture,” wrote one on hearing of the birth of the monthly Mansfield, Ashfield and Warsop News Journal. “The nation is already littered with numerous corpses of papers which only printed good news.”

The cover of issue number one is festooned with happy headlines such as ‘Beautiful day for shop’ and ‘Healthy food in classroom’.

For any self-respecting hard-news hack this looks like a business disaster in the making, but in fact there are dozens if not scores of low-cost publications making a modest living for their owners.

The appetite for happy, anodyne ultra-local news and cheap advertising is strong. Editors are often criticised for trumpeting the worst aspects of local life on the front page.

‘Good news’ papers are easy to produce and require little journalistic skill, so you don’t need many or even any pesky journalists to put them together. News from La La Land is cheap.

News from the real world is not always happy. Much of it is sad and bad. It can be time consuming and expensive to produce and often involves risk for journalists and media owners.

I hate to see it, but more and more of our local newspapers are going this way as costs are cut and editorial teams are thinned.

Not having enough reporters to sit in magistrates courts and council meetings means that many important local news stories are no longer being covered.  We are being lulled into a false belief that all’s well in the area while criminals go unreported and in many places the public are ignorant of what councils are doing in their name.

The industry has done a poor job of explaining to its readers why they need a vibrant local press and why they should keep on buying newspapers.  Towns all over the country are sleep-walking to a future where only good news is reported. One day, perhaps, we will all live in La La Land.

And that would be seriously bad news.

- GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.

 

 

 

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No way back for arch-betrayer

He may often have been at the sleazy end of the PR business, but believe it or not journalists often found Max Clifford to be a nice chap.

He seemed courteous and considerate and returned their calls promptly. He provided them with super stories, even if some turned out to be fabrications, such as Freddie Starr eating a hamster.

He was the arch-manipulator of the media and a consummate publicist. He was feted by the media departments of universities. Simon Cowell used to think he was the bee’s knees.

None of them knew what a string of women and young girls knew all along – that he was a vile bully and a serial abuser who exploited his reputation to dominate them for sex.

Now we all know the horrific truth. His victims have expressed relief. His family and work colleagues must feel utterly betrayed.

There may be places in the world where behaviour like this is condoned, or at least forgiven, but not here. His reputation is utterly finished. Not even Clifford can get out of this one.

- GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media

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When promise is silenced

By Ron Wain, Joint Managing Director, Deep South Media

Eyes well up, unexpected.

A reaction triggered by the reading of a small story in The Times, of the secret football match reports typed up by Victoria Hicks, 15.

Match reports of her beloved club, Liverpool FC, ones she compiled, squirreled away, nurturing the dream of becoming a sports reporter.

Victoria – Vicki to her parents – did what many of us did as aspiring journalists in our early, awkward, teenage years.

She practised the writing craft, away from the uncertain scrutiny of grown-ups, growing quietly in confidence, ready for the right opportunity to reveal her gifted hand.

Quieten your mind and you can hear Victoria now, typing away, the flowing joy of words: “The Fulham team were totally humiliated by a fantastic Liverpool line-up and really, after a bright first few minutes, they were never really in the game.” Liverpool had thrashed Fulham 10-0 in the Milk Cup on September 23, 1986.

Victoria’s typewriter – her passport to the world you and I inhabit as communication professionals – was silenced less than three years later.

She was among 96 Liverpool fans, including Sarah, Victoria’s 19-year-old sister, who died of crush injuries on or after April 15, 1989. They had been watching Liverpool play Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough, the neutral venue in Sheffield, in an FA Cup semi-final. A further 766 people were injured. The mental anguish does not bear scrutiny.

The 25th anniversary of this unbearable stadium tragedy took place this month, the memorial service held at Anfield, colourful scarves from clubs around the world laid out in the centre circle to form two stark numbers: 96.

Victoria’s match reports, filed in a red Liverpool FC match folder, were a physical manifestation of her love of journalism, of the Beautiful Game.

I did something similar in adolescence, penning reports for publication in the Richmond & Twickenham Times on the latest matches involving Isleworth Penguins’ water polo club, of which I was a proud player.

Because that’s how you start, with a blank page, thinking with your fingers, creating insight, knowledge, facts, figures, life, bringing the space to life, however insignificant the subject.

Any newspaper editor would have been impressed with Victoria’s copy, her commitment, her attitude, her passion in conveying the excitement and details of the game, down to the attendance figures and team line-up.

These qualities will stand any aspiring news professional in good stead. They are among the fundamentals.

The Times did not stop with the small story about Victoria. A longer piece, comprising verbatim sections from her entertaining articles, was subsequently published under the powerful photograph of the ’96′ display at Anfield. Poignantly, her report was given that all-important byline: By Vicky Hicks.

Another snippet, on Liverpool v Manchester City on August 25, 1986: “Man City were pretty useless. They could only be congratulated for one thing…being able to fit all eleven men in the penalty box.”

Victoria’s parents, Trevor and Jenni, must have been profoundly moved when they read their daughter’s reports in a national newspaper, brought out of the darkness into the Easter sunshine.

If only – if only – there had been no need to publish them posthumously.

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When football managers lose their cool

There seems to be a glaring omission from the training curriculum for football managers.

A useful session for would-be Special Ones might be ‘How to keep your cool with the local media and not look like a prat’. I suggest interactive bits where they could practise how to avoid a media crisis.

Newcastle United’s Alan Pardew’s current spat with the Sunday Sun would make a good case study. See if you can complete the following exercise.

‘Your team has a run of disappointing results. The local Sunday newspaper, reflecting the views of some fans, criticises your actions in a way you find offensive.

‘Should you a, Ignore the criticism and get on with your job or b, Explain your decisions and enter into a discussion or c, Tell the editor to go to hell and ban the newspaper from all matches? Describe the likely repercussions of each option.’

Anyone who chooses option c would be following a well-trodden path taken by managers since time immemorial. It starts as a molehill and ends as a mountain.

What happened in Newcastle was this: Mr Pardew’s ban on the Sunday Sun generated more hostile publicity (surprise, surprise). He then appeared to blame the paper for recent defeats when he said, by way of an explanation: “ I don’t think the local press have helped.”

To which undiplomatic comment the Sunday Sun made this roaring response:sunday sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

. . .which is all highly entertaining for anyone with nothing better to do than watch alpha-male elephants crashing about in the bush trying to knock seven bells out of each other, but is no help to Newcastle United fans desperate to see their side improve.

Managers would argue that they know more about football than sports editors (which in most cases is true) and that local newspapers need football clubs more than the clubs need newspapers (also true).

But the clubs employ press officers to disseminate favourable publicity and it is quite wrong to expect football writers to follow the official line. In fact it’s essential that journalists demonstrate their independence. It is arrogant of managers not to recognise this and disrespectful to the thousands of fans who read the sports pages for their alternative opinions.

GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.

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If you can keep your head while all around you are losing theirs

STORMY WATERS. Protecting reputation in difficult times takes care and skill.

STORMY WATERS. Protecting reputation in difficult times takes care and skill.

By Ron Wain, Joint Managing Director, Deep South Media

A true test of leadership is in a crisis.

A crisis where humanity, humility, courage, and other hitherto unknown personal attributes, coalesce to create a reassuring presence that everyone else will rally around, however desperate the situation, whatever the odds.

Some of these crises are reputational and it is beholden on any well-run company to ensure their own leader is up to the task of facing the eye-bleaching glare of the media.

Don’t be fooled by appearances, though.

Your boss may appear confident, intelligent, capable, driven.

But a barrage of aggressive questioning from reporters on matters of public interest, where your company has blundered, perhaps with the loss of life, may end in humiliation, petrifaction and an ignominious exit from an appalled boardroom.

Malaysia, as a country, faced similar reputational damage after MH370, the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER aircraft carrying 239 people, vanished from the face of the earth on March 8.

Communicating in these challenging circumstances, with relatives’ emotions running high and an information black hole due to an unprecedented event, would place any organisation under stress.

The initial news conferences were shambolic, disordered, amateurish, feverish.

Step forward Hishammuddin Hussein, the country’s defence minister.

He has brought statesman-like gravitas to proceedings, ensuring the briefings have been more controlled, professional, thoughtful.

Mr Hussein has brought another thing in this distressing episode: leadership.

As former reporters ourselves, we regularly put leaders to the test in front of the cameras.

Some stumble, sweat, curse, lose their heads.

Others keep theirs on.

These white-heat media interview training sessions, which are always based on realistic scenarios, prove useful pointers for senior management teams.

They are now informed, with a better degree of certainty, about who would be frontman or frontwoman, should the worse happen and a news conference has to be called in the interests of transparency, the media clamouring for answers.

In fairness, few of us could perform in such a pressure-cooker environment.

But the key question is, who, in your organisation, can show Hishammuddin-like leadership in a reputational firestorm?

If you can’t name the right person immediately, you’ve got a problem.

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