Launch of Message in a Bottle Collection

Well known Cork ladies Siobhain Steele and Mai Manning are this week celebrating the launch of their new keepsake ceramic giftware, Message in a Bottle.

Each bottle comes beautifully presented in a gift box with a scroll to write a personal message which can be placed inside the bottle and kept as a treasured keepsake until the ‘to open’ date.  A message that lasts, isn’t that refreshing?!

One of the bespoke bottles in the collection, nostalgically titled First Day at Big School, offers the opportunity to capture those treasured emotions of sending that special little one in your life off to ‘Big School’ and has generated huge interest since it was launched.

Message in a Bottle is an Irish handmade product with each piece individually designed and carefully crafted by ceramic artist Siobhain Steele in her North Cork Studio.  Siobhain is well known within the Irish craft industry for her unique pieces which evoke a sense of simplicity and connection.

Mai Manning, a Cork entrepreneur, is the vision behind the Message in a Bottle journey. Explaining the concept, Mai says: “First Day at Big School offers the opportunity to gift a more personal and lasting keepsake.  In this digital age there is something refreshing about taking pen to paper and leaving a lasting mark for the little one in your life to look back on.”

Mai and Siobhain will launch further bottles to the range in the coming months to commemorate milestones right up to starting ‘Big School’.  “The idea of Message in a Bottle is to offer the opportunity to build a unique collection of keepsake bottles that can be added to over the years” says Mai.

The Message in a Bottle collection is available to buy online at www.messageinabottle.ie or in Cork Craft & Design Centre, Douglas Village Shopping Centre, Cork.  Prices start at €29.50.

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Fermoy Area Sports & Community Awards 2016

Nominations are now officially open for the Fermoy Area Sports and Community Awards 2015/2016 which will be held on Saturday 12th November in the Corrin Event Centre, Fermoy.

The awards, which were resurrected following a few years hiatus in 2014, offer the community the opportunity to recognise the outstanding achievements of various clubs, individuals and community groups in the locality.

There will be seven sports and three community categories awarded on the night including Sports Team/Club of the Year, Sports Club Person of the Year, Special Needs Category, Young Sports Person of the Year, Female & Male Sports Person of the Year, Hall of Fame Award, Community Group/Organisation of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and a Special Merit Award.

A number of nominations have already been received across the categories and all clubs, committees and individuals are welcome to enter any of the categories.  The awards offer a great occasion to acknowledge the impact that such groups and people have had on the quality of life in the Fermoy area.

The closing date for nominations is Friday 30th September and the winners will be announced on Thursday 13th October.  Nomination forms are available from Barnes Jewellers and Slattery Travel or online from the Fermoy Credit Union website and McCarthy Insurances website.  Completed forms should be returned to Hanley’s Newsagents or emailed to fermoyenterprise@eircom.net.

The winners will be presented with their awards at the Gala Dinner on 12th November where renowned actor and comedian Alan Shortt will act as MC.  The event promises to provide an excellent night’s entertainment with a pre-dinner wine reception, photography exhibition, superb spot prizes and a variety of live music scheduled.

Tickets for the Fermoy Area Sports and Community Awards 2016 are €45.00 and available to purchase from Barnes Jewellers and Slattery Travel.  Further details on the event can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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Reputation Matters

Communications Hub

How many of us really stop and think about the true importance of reputation in business?  This concept of ‘corporate reputation’ is often only associated with larger corporations and organisations.  In truth, the smaller your business, the more your corporate reputation matters.

A knock to the reputation of a large corporation may wipe millions off the share price, but for a smaller business, it may shut it down.  This is particularly true in small local markets, where corporate and personal reputations can be of equal importance.

“Corporate reputation can be described as the overall estimation in which an organisation is held by its internal and external stakeholders, based on its past actions and probability of its future behaviour.”                                                                                                                                (www.cuttingedgepr.com)

For many organisations, reputation is one of their greatest assets and they work hard to maintain it and build a ‘bank of goodwill’.   This ‘bank of goodwill’ is the positivity stakeholders hold towards a business.  In times of negativity, such a ‘bank’ may encourage stakeholders to remain loyal and protect reputation.

Larger organisations may generally weather reputational damage better than their smaller counterparts – often  possessing such a market share that it’s difficult to avoid doing business with them. Other times a brand can be so desired, consumers simply just don’t care.

Take Nestle, for example, which has been described as one of the ‘most hated companies in the world’ thanks to its long history of child labour, unethical promotion and mislabelling (to name but a few of its violations).  Despite the company’s horrific reputation, it still remains one of the world’s largest food companies.

Compare this to smaller local businesses.  For these, it can be difficult to compete with bigger companies and the growing online market.  It is often, in fact, thanks to their good reputation that they continue to compete and remain viable in the market.

When I think of my own local town, I could tell you the reputation of most of the businesses who trade there.  Those who are too dear, those who supply the best cup of coffee, and those who are simply nice to visit and provide some old-fashioned banter with your goods.

How many of those businesses are actually aware of their own reputation though?  How many of them take the time to ‘step outside the building’ and listen to what people have to say?  In this digital age, ‘stepping outside the building’ can take many different forms.

The good old tried and tested method of clipboard (or tablet) in hand and pounding the pavements is sure to yield valuable results, but you can also carry out your research without ever actually leaving the building.  There are numerous free online surveys available that can be shared via email or social media.

Or of course, a business could just ask their customers directly -what would help to make your experience a better one?  It seems absurd the amount of businesses who fail to ask their customers what is they want.   How many businesses close down because they fail to do this?

Of course, you can never fully control reputation, but you can try to manage it.  A business’s reputation may vary from stakeholder to stakeholder, according to their experiences in dealing with the business or what they have heard about it from others.

How reputation affects stakeholders:

Customers  If a business is well-regarded by its customers, they will prefer to deal with it ahead of others.  These customers will influence other potential customers by word of mouth & online recommendations – a happy customer tells a friend, an unhappy customer tells the world.

Suppliers  A good reputation increases trust of ability to pay and to provide fair trading terms. If a problem occurs in a trading relationship, suppliers will be more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt where a business has a reputation for fair dealing.

Employees  Businesses who have a reputation of treating staff poorly tend to attract a certain type of people to work for them – this directly impacts on customer experience and satisfaction.

So, what are the benefits of a good reputation:
  • Customer preference in doing business with a company when other companies’ products and services are available at a similar cost and quality – especially important in small local markets.
  • Ability to charge a premium for products and services – Helps to compete with an online market
  • Stakeholder support for an organisation in times of controversy – When the well-regarded Cork restaurant Son of a Bun was recently hit with a HSE temporary closure order they received huge support from their stakeholders, both when they were closed and when they re-opened, and came out the other side reputation intact.
  • Improves a company or organisation’s value in the financial marketplace.
We may not be able to control reputation, but here are some tips for managing it:
  • Establish trust – Keep your word.
  • Be Responsive – Let customers know they are important to you.
  • Crisis Management – Resolve errors and mistakes quickly.
  • Offer value – Don’t rip people off.
  • Confidentiality – Respect people’s privacy.
  • Stay relevant – Move with the times in terms of technology, stock, services.
  • Communication – Be professional in your correspondence with staff, suppliers and customers. Maintain a good online presence.
  • Community Involvement – Sponsorship, volunteering, etc.
And remember…
however much you may value your reputation, one thing is certain – there is a high cost to pay for losing it.

 

Communications Hub
                    (isentia.com)

 

Karen Twomey is a freelance PR and Online Communications Consultant with Communications Hub Tel: 0877642576

 

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Online Addiction, Me? Surely not…

A few months back, I wrote a blog about the importance of ‘switching off’ from work in this 24/7 online environment that we now live in.

Online addiction is an issue which I feel strongly about, and one which has become a real contributor towards mental health issues in our society and workplaces.

On a recent (much-needed) holiday, I found myself reflecting on my ability to take an online hiatus (also much-needed).  It occurred to me that it was reasonably easy to make the decision to ‘switch off’ from work.  If we’re lucky enough to have a separate work mobile, we can switch it off.  We can choose not to log into our work emails, or to check our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.  It’s not an impossible feat.

What is becoming increasing impossible, is the ability to ‘switch off’ from an everyday perspective.  There is little doubt, no matter what our age, most of us are becoming increasingly dependent on the online world in our day to day lives – be it death notices, current affairs, or match fixtures – it’s all there at the click of a button.

Take my father, who is in his sixties (early sixties – important to distinguish or I may risk losing the coveted ‘favourite off-spring’ title).  He was the generation who lived by the daily newspaper, maybe even two or three different titles on a Sunday.  Like most of us, he has abandoned his beloved newspaper and now gets his news online.

Some statistics would indicate this online reliance is not an unusual trend for those his age with the fastest growing Twitter demographic in Ireland the over 55s.  It represents an interesting shift.  Traditionally, those with online addictions were often portrayed as sulky teenagers glued to the couch taking copious pouting selfies.  Not anymore.

Social media addicts are now as likely to be those of us in our late 30s, and upwards.  We may not be snap chatting our buys from Pennys, or Instagramming with the latest hashtags (I said MAY not – ahem), but we are using social media, for all types of reasons, all the time.

As I work in social media, I made a very conscientious decision to try to switch off my Wi-Fi as much as possible during this year’s holiday.  I’ll put my hands up and admit – I failed miserably.  Why?  I’m just too reliant on the web.  I logged on every day.  I checked the weather in France (mostly raining), weather at home (mostly sunny), I googled tourist attractions in our area, I logged onto the wine depot website to see what treats I’d stock up on to bring home (well worth a visit if you find yourself touring Brittany).  I googled, and then I googled some more.

It wasn’t all holiday and cheap wine related, of course.  Even though we were cocooned in our holiday hideaway, the world was still turning, and tragedies still happening.  While we were away the terrible and senseless shooting took place of 49 innocent souls at an Orlando nightclub.  It was shocking and unbelievable, and we wanted to know Why? How? Who?  So, we logged online to help us understand.  What else could we do?

On reflection, I feel disappointed in myself that I couldn’t ‘switch off’ for two short weeks.  I wonder what it says about me and my dependency on the online world.  I wonder if I’m becoming (or perhaps already am) an addict.  With 46% of the world’s population now logging onto the World Wide Web every day, it would seem I may not be alone.

Karen Twomey is a freelance PR and Online Communications Consultant with Communications Hub Tel: 0877642576
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Forget Control, The Web Is In Charge

Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper….

or so the saying goes.  These old words of wisdom were often used to console those on the receiving end of unwelcome publicity. The next day would bring a new headline, and the world would move on. Well, not anymore.  The invention of new media has brought about some new words of wisdom and we’d all do well to remember them…

What goes online, stays online.

The World Wide Web has been around for almost thirty years now, and during that time has undergone a number of re-births.  It has evolved from Web 1.0 which merely ‘pushed out’ information, to Web 2.0 which allowed for two-way communication.  According to Dr. Jim McNamara in his 2007 article New Media: How Web 2.0 is changing the world, “Web 2.0 refers to a second generation of internet-based services, the key attributes of which are that they allow openness for collaboration and high levels of interactivity without requiring programming skills”.  In terms of the public relations profession, this change in technology shifted the onus of online communications from IT professionals to PR professionals.

Dr McNamara notes the key challenge in learning how best to utilise the internet is that most of what is written is out of date by the time it’s published.  And true to this, we have now seen the emergence of Web 3.0, a phrase first coined by John Markoff of the New York Times in 2006.  Web 3.0 refers to an ‘intelligent web’ which allows machines to do the thinking, instead of just following commands.  It seems likely we will just be coming to terms with the workings of Web 3.0, when Web 4.0 will emerge, offering new and more exciting methods of communication.

These changes in technology pose enormous challenges for those working in public relations.  Everything has changed, from media monitoring and analysis to media relations and corporate communications.  Media now includes bloggers, podcasters, chatroom hosts, citizen journalists and many more.  Public relations must strive to communicate in a manner appropriate to each and ensure key messages are still reaching target audiences.

A 1996 report on the issues facing communication professionals, Managing the Information Superhighway, said that the role of public relations within an organisation is to act as coordinators or integrators to ensure that the material located on the internet fits the organisation’s image.  The World Wide Web may have evolved since 1996, but the role of the public relations profession still remains the same.

Every one of an organisation’s stakeholders is now a potential communicator, and every one of them holds the ability to affect the organisation’s brand.  According to Heidi Cohen (2014), President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, given the widespread corporate social media use, it is surprising that businesses continue to make the same mistakes that get them into trouble with their customers and their public. She believes such failings point to a ‘hole’ in social media strategies.  Cohen recommends providing social media training and guidelines to all employees to empower them to participate in social media and represent their organisation in a way that takes into consideration the implications of the content used and how it may be interpreted by different backgrounds and perspectives.

As we make our way through this era of fast moving technology, those who work in public relations need to accept that they cannot control the internet.  Only when they accept this, can they truly begin to formulate an effective digital plan on behalf of an organisation.

For more information on implementing an effective online communications strategy for your company contact Communications Hub.
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Why Your Business Needs to be on LinkedIn

When it comes to LinkedIn, I’ll admit I’m a relative newcomer…but like most people who discover things later in life that they enjoy, I’ve taken to it with gusto.

In fact, it’s swiftly becoming one of my favorite social media platforms.  And, I’m not alone.  According to IPSOS MRBI Social Networking Quarterly, LinkedIn registered a 5% increase in Irish users from September 2015 to January 2016.

With almost 30% of Irish professionals now having accounts, LinkedIn is becoming the social network of choice for those looking to build professional connections and showcase their skills.  And where the online masses venture…businesses quickly follow.

The benefits of LinkedIn in business are multi-faceted.  Not only is it the natural place to attract and headhunt for top class staff, but it also provides invaluable opportunities for B2C and B2B networking. Best of all, it offers companies an opportunity to grow their brands in an affordable, flexible and interesting way.

Still not convinced?

Here are even more benefits of having a company profile on LinkedIn:

  • Makes a brand more credible.
  • Improves SEO.
  • Helps personalise a brand.
  • Showcases products and services.
  • Targets specific audiences.
  • Allows for customer interaction.

While Facebook and Twitter may still be the more popular social media platforms in Ireland, those on LinkedIn (over 300 million worldwide) are there for a completely different reason – to grow and promote themselves and their business.

To really impact online, LinkedIn must form part of a social media strategy for Irish companies.  Regardless to the size of your business, maintaining a well-managed LinkedIn page will boost your company’s profile and ultimately, your business will reap the benefits.

For more information on social media strategies for your business, contact Communications Hub today.
Communications Hub
(business2community.com)
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Local Enterprise Offices (Cork) CIT Prize for Innovation

There has been a record number of entrants for this year’s Local Enterprise Offices (Cork) CIT Prize for Innovation, which awards €10,000 in cash prizes to inventions and business ideas judged most creative, novel, innovative, and likely to succeed in the workplace

The prize forms part of Cork Institute of Technology’s Innovation Week 2016 taking place all this week across CIT’s five campus locations with a series of events and activities promoting entrepreneurship and innovation.

The applications for this year’s prize offer proposals from a wide variety of disciplines.  The field of technology features strongly with entrants such as Touch – a digital alternative to tradition notice boards, and Flashbox – a combined USB flash drive, battery pack and Bluetooth locator for mobile devices, just some of the creative proposals.

Mental health was also a popular focus this year with the promotion of a holistic approach to coaching, mentoring, nutritional advice and mindfulness for women forming one business idea, while various APPs supporting and promoting positive mental well-being were also submitted.

Last year’s first prize winner was sole trader and founder of the Roll Out Vegetable Garden Company, Cara Tremayne from Dunmanway, Co Cork.  Cara, who was a fourth year Horticulture student at CIT, picked up a cheque for €4,000 and the title of CIT Entrepreneur of the Year for her roll out coco coir woven matting impregnated with vegetable seeds.

“To finish fourth year after winning the Prize for Innovation made me feel so positive and driven towards making my own business a success and becoming self-employed.  It gave me huge hopes for my future,” said Cara, who was the first ever female winner of the prize.

Other prize categories awarded as part of the Prize for Innovation include Most Innovative Award, Best Business Plan, Best Presentation Pitch and Best Exhibition Stand.

The CIT Prize for Innovation is sponsored by Local Enterprise Offices (Cork).  Further details available from www.cit.ie/innovationweek.

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CIT Innovation Week 2016

Cork Institute of Technology’s Innovation Week 2016 will kick off on Monday 7th March with an official launch taking place around a supersized box in the main Atrium of the CIT Bishopstown campus.

Pic. Provision
Pic. Provision

The launch sees the unveiling of the larger than life CIT Innovation Week 2016 box which promotes all aspects of innovation and creativity, as well as paying homage to past winners of the Local Enterprise Office (Cork) sponsored CIT Prize for Innovation.

The week-long event includes a wide range of seminars, exhibitions, workshops and demonstrations. The highlight of the week is the Local Enterprise Offices (Cork) CIT Prize for Innovation which awards €10,000 in cash prizes to those whose inventions and business ideas are judged most creative, novel, innovative, and likely to succeed in the workplace.

Last year’s first prize winner was sole trader and founder of the Roll Out Vegetable Garden Company, Cara Tremayne from Dunmanway, Co Cork.  Cara, who was a fourth year Horticulture student at CIT, picked up a cheque for €4,000 and the title of CIT Entrepreneur of the Year for her roll out coco coir woven matting impregnated with vegetable seeds.

Pic. Provision
Pic. Provision

“Innovation Week is a celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship across the many disciplines and campuses of CIT.  Throughout the week we will be showcasing seasoned entrepreneurs, many of whom are trading internationally, as well as students who have come up with business and App ideas” says Carole O’Leary, Industry Liaison Manager, CIT.

Other prize categories during the week include NIMBUS Product Development Prize, The Apprentice, Bank of Ireland Business Canvass Wall, CIT CodorDojo Competition and Build Your Own Rocket Workshop.  The competitions are open to all students registered at CIT during the academic year.

CIT Innovation Week 2016, which is now in its 6th year, will take place from 7th – 11th March across CIT’s five campus locations.  Further details available from www.cit.ie/innovationweek

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Why Video is now King

Move over Content, there’s a new King                  in town….

With video content now receiving up to 60% more online interaction than photos, it’s becoming a key part of content marketing strategies.

According to Cisco video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic by 2017 and video-on-demand traffic alone will have almost trebled.

In the U.S. mobile video ad spend is growing faster than all other digital advertising tactics.  EMarketer states that $7.46 billion was spent by companies on digital ads, an increase of 42% from 2014.

Social media platforms are reaping the benefits of this shift to video, with Facebook reporting 8 billion video views daily, while Snapchat delivers over 7 billion videos to users each day.  This represents an unbelievable growth of almost 50% in video usage on Snapchat in just 4 months.

In this era of information overload, video is naturally engaging and easy to digest.  It also delivers a message in a more personal way, evoking more passion and emotion, and creating better community engagement.

Here are some useful tips when creating video content:
  1. Be Passionate, not attention grabbing -your audience will know the difference.
  2. Be engagement-driven, not hit driven – communities are built on interaction, not selling.
  3. Think small to achieve big – creativity wins over cost of production.
  4. One size does not fit all – have a multi-platform video strategy.

Online video is set to continue its rise and will remain an important element in marketing and communications strategies going forward. 

Ignore it at your peril!

For further information on communications and marketing strategies for your business, contact us today.

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Online Crisis Management – Be Prepared!

In this era of social media and mobile devices, news spreads faster than ever before.  The web has removed control from those who create content and a crisis can develop in seconds. 

This is why it is vital that companies have an on-line crisis management strategy in place – long before it is ever needed.

When developing an online strategy, we must understand the ethics and rules of digital media and how crisis management on-line may differ from that off-line.

According to Chris Norton online crisis management can be separated into three stages – pre-crisis, crisis response and post-crisis evaluation.  An online crisis typically creates a spike in comments, shares and engagement, the conversations around which are generally negative.  During this crisis, it is essential to monitor and track what is being said and respond immediately.

An online crisis typically creates a spike in comments, shares and engagement, the conversations around which are generally negative.  During this crisis, it is essential to monitor and track what is being said and respond immediately.

When putting together a strategy to deal with on-line crisis, the following should be included:

  • Those who will form part of the crisis management team.
  • Pre-draft templates for on-line content – these can be pre-approved by legal teams to speed up their delivery.
  • The communication channels to be used.
  • An outline of how people can and can’t behave across on-line communication channels.

Finally, a crisis management strategy should have a strong focus on internal communications.  Those associated with the party will need to know what happened, what they should do and how the crisis will affect them.

All information regarding the crisis should be shared and updated regularly with all those who communication on behalf of the company to ensure all outward communication is consistent.

It may be impossible to pre-empt every online crisis, but we can certainly make sure we’re prepared for when one does occur and that the right procedure is followed.

Contact Communications Hub now and let us help you put together an effective crisis management strategy.
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