21st March 2018 0


Despite all of the modern communications technology at our disposal, presentations are still the most powerful and persuasive tool we have to convince people that we’re their best choice.

Presentations are part and parcel of working life. Love them or loathe them there’s no escaping them.

Over the last 25 years in the PR industry, I’ve delivered hundreds of presentations – some great, some good and yes, some dreadful. But how do you avoid going bright red and wishing the floor would open up beneath you?

Someone once told me, that for every ten minutes of presenting time, you should rehearse for an hour. So, a 20 minute presentation needs at least two hours preparation. I guess this does depend on your personality, confidence and experience of presenting though. One thing is for sure though, the more preparation you do, the better the presentation will be.

Fill The Set-Up Silence
You need to be confident as soon as you enter the room. If you’re using PowerPoint or another presentation programme or if the presentation is on a USB stick and needs loading onto a laptop, then there’s going to be a period of silence while you set up. Think about how you can fill this period. What questions can you ask? What little story about your trip to the venue can you tell? If you have some colleagues with you, can they engage your audience in some way while you set up the IT equipment? Getting off to a good start is crucial.

Be Confident, Be Bold
The opening of your presentation needs to grip the audience. It needs to engage them. It needs to tell them what great things await them. No one wants to sit through a dull presentation. If you’re not confident and bold at the start, people could switch off.

Speak Slowly & Breathe
When we’re nervous we breathe quicker and talk faster. If you get nervous when presenting, deliberately slow down the pace of your voice. Your nerves will work against your slower tone, and ensure you’re speaking at normal speed. Focus also on breathing. Deliberate deep breaths will also help to slow your voice down.

Don’t Read Out Your Slides
If you’re using PowerPoint and your slides are mainly text – don’t read each line out word for word. The audience is already doing this. You need to add to the words on the screen. What else can you tell the audience about these key points?

Don’t Have (Too Many) Words On Your Slides
Do you really need words on your slide? Could a picture be more useful? Replacing words with pictures will focus your audience on what you’re saying. They will have to actively listen to you to connect the picture to the points you’re making. If you can’t or don’t want to lose all the words from a slide, try to limit them. Six lines of text with no more than six to ten words on each line is a reasonable ambition. Guy Kawasaki recommends that presentations follow the 10-20-30 Rule: no more than 10 slides, no longer than 20 minutes and no less than 30 point for the font used in the presentation.

Be Confident, Don’t Hide
Try to project a confident image. Move out from behind a lectern. Use your hands to illustrate key points (but don’t go overboard), smile and try to enjoy your moment. Make eye contact with people and hold it as you deliver a point. Don’t break eye contact with someone half way through a point as it will look like you’re uncertain about what you’re saying.

Do You Really Have To Stand Up?
If you’re presenting to a small group of people, do you really need to stand up in front of them? Probably not. Why not make the presentation a little bit more informal by presenting off a laptop on the table next to you. You can then sit down and look your audience in the eye and make the whole experience a little bit more relaxed while still being professional.

Tell People What You’re Going To Say
Presentations require a bit of repetition. The best presentations open with the speaker telling people what they’re about to hear, then they tell them and finally, they wrap up by telling people what they’ve heard. Have a look at some of Steve Jobs’ presentations when launching Apple devices and you’ll see what I mean.

Thank People For Their Time
When you come to the end of your presentation, thank your audience. They’ve given you their time and if you thank them for listening, you should receive a thank you in return (maybe even applause) and that should give you a great sense of satisfaction and put you in a great mood to take questions from your audience.

I hope these tips help you when planning and delivering your next presentation. And remember, Clinton, Trump, May and Corbyn have spoken in public for years and have much more experience than us. Presenting takes practice.


14th September 2016 0


Around this time two years ago Facebook was full of people pouring freezing cold water over themselves or others. This summer, it appears the #22PushUpChallenge in aid of Combat Stress is the latest awareness campaign to capture the imagination. But why? What has made these two campaigns so successful?

As someone involved in marketing, I am always trying to make things as simple as possible. If you want people to buy your product, dine at your restaurant, choose your IT company over another, then you need to give them clear and persuasive reasons to do so.

The simpler your messages, the easier they will be to communicate to people. What the ALS ICE Bucket Challenge and #22PushUpChallenge campaigns have done so successfully is to identify what their most persuasive key messages should be. Then they came up with a simple, accessible, easy and shareable way to communicate those messages.

In the case of the push up challenge, a US Marine decided that because 22 veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder commit suicide each day, he would raise awareness of this by filming himself doing 22 push ups a day for 22 days. He published the videos on Facebook. After seeing the videos, lots of other people decided to do the same; most likely for several reasons.

They wanted to support a worthwhile cause – donating to Combat Stress or funding research into Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as motor neuron disease.

Perhaps, it was because both activities were fairly simple things to do – pouring cold water over someone or doing push-ups don’t take long to set up and the instructions are really clear.

There’s an element of enjoyment and fun in both, especially watching the expressions and reactions of someone when ice cold water hits them! The light hearted nature of the campaign and the use of video are ideal for sharing across social media. The footage and photos taken by onlookers was perfect for YouTube, Instagram and Twitter as well as Facebook, which further increases the campaign’s reach.

Both campaigns gained momentum quickly as there was a sense of urgency. In the ICE Bucket Challenge people had to act within 24 hours of being nominated, which allowed the campaign to spread. The push up challenge is more of a commitment but people are doing it and 22 days highilghts the number of daily suicides and increases the chance of people seeing the videos.

A final thought, is that both campaigns make people feel better. Participants are helping genuinely good causes and having a good experience at the same time. There’s also a sense of community, being part of a group of people all taking part in the same activity. Receiving that nomination invites you to join the community, which is a very powerful motivator – we like to be involved in things that our friends are doing and don’t want to be left out.

Capturing people’s imagination and encouraging them to participate in something is really difficult and for every #22PushUpChallenge or ALS Ice Bucket Challenge there are lots of less successful campaigns but by keeping things simple and trying to include an element of fun, urgency, sharing and reward you’ll have a better chance of engaging with people.


15th August 2016 0


Our success in promoting Festival800, a city-wide celebration of Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary, has been recognised by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

Our campaign for the cultural response and celebration of Magna Carta, which took place in August 2015, has been shortlisted in the Best Integrated Campaign and Best Arts, Culture and Sports categories of the CIPR PRide awards, which celebrate outstanding Public Relations activity across the UK.

Organised by cultural solutions UK on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council and supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Festival800 offered ten days of live music, comedy, spoken word, street theatre, lectures and debate. Artists such as Billy Bragg and the Levellers; author, screenwriter and comedian Shappi Khorsandi; YouTube sensation Alfie Deyes; Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, FRSL; were joined by a host of national and international artists and human rights activists, including the family of US Civil Rights Icon, Rosa Parks, in Lincoln for the festival.

David Lambert, director of cultural solutions UK, who appointed Lava to the brief said: “With such an eclectic cultural programme we needed an equally eclectic team of professionals to reach and engage the potential diverse audiences. We could not have secured the services of a more switched on, professional agency. Lava surprised us in all the right ways. They worked with us to create an innovative marketing campaign within budget and on time. It was a fantastic relationship! I wish them every success at the awards and hope to work with them again.”

Established in 2006, Lava is no stranger to success in the PRide Awards having won eight Gold and Silver awards since 2009. “We are about to celebrate our tenth anniversary and two more awards, our ninth and tenth CIPR Pride wins, would be fantastic birthday presents,” says Lava’s managing director, Matt Hammerton. “We have a particularly strong track record of delivering effective campaigns for clients in the arts and cultural sectors. We’re really looking forward to a trip to Leeds in November and hopefully adding another two trophies to our collection.”

The CIPR PRide Awards recognise the best in public relations across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. Over 1,000 entries were received from freelancers, agencies and in-house teams the length and breadth of the UK.

Lava, which is the only agency from Lincolnshire to be shortlisted, will find out if they’ve won either award on 24th November.



20th May 2016 0


At the beginning of the week, all the talk about Manchester United focused on their cancelled game against Bournemouth.

The team’s many sponsors will understand the media attention on the discovery of a suspicious package within Old Trafford but quite a few people will be disappointed that their promotional plans didn’t come off.

6th April 2016 0


So you’ve decided you need some external help with your marketing and you’re going to engage a marketing agency. But should you be looking to work on a retainer or project basis?

For those that haven’t worked with an agency before, a retainer is a regular payment, normally over a 12 month period. A project relationship sees you work with an agency for a much smaller period of time.

There are benefits to both ways of working and which one is right for you will depend on what you want to achieve.

Most agencies and consultancies prefer retainers as they guarantee regular, repeated income, which is good for cashflow. How much the retainer is set at will normally be based on a simple calculation: The value of the time needed to meet the brief divided by the campaign period.

The benefits of a retainer are that you are giving the agency a much longer time frame to work with you. This will mean that they get to know you, your audiences, target markets and target media (in the case of PR) a lot better as they have more time to invest.

Another benefit is that you are securing the agency’s loyalty. This is particularly important for PR, social media and marketing campaigns. You don’t want your agency working with one of your competitors. You need to ensure there is no conflict of interest.

Another benefit of a retainer relationship is that your marketing activity will have a consistent tone of voice and style.

The vast majority of agencies want to have long-term relationships – years not months. A retainer agreement shows that you think the same. Because you want a long-term relationship, the agency will be keener to please. They will be constantly thinking about you. This isn’t to say agencies aren’t focused during project work, they are. However, they are only focused on you for the duration of the project and tend to stick to the confines of the brief rather than looking around the brief.

Project agreements work best when there is a set start and end date or a specific target you want to achieve.

Festivals, event support, exploiting specific trends and product or service launches lend themselves perfectly to project-based relationships. Design work – whether it be a piece of print or a website – are also projects.

Project agreements allow organisations to work with a wide range of agencies and not commit to a long-term agreement. They give you a chance to work with agencies with specific skill sets. So, if you have a niche product or market (young people, for example) you can work with an agency that specialises in that sector.

Project work is also a good way for companies to ease themselves into a longer-term relationship. If your chosen agency makes a good job of a project, you can then give them another and another.

A word of warning though – because of the short-term nature of projects, agencies sometimes charge a premium hourly rate for them compared to retainer relationships.

Whichever way of working you decide on, it is vital that you prepare a detailed brief, set a budget and, most importantly, have SMART objectives – things that you want to achieve that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

So, which way do you prefer to work? Project or retainer? We’re happy with both!


11th September 2015 0


How do you capture and sustain the interest of a potential customer in the age of information overload?

As consumers, all of our devices – from TV and tablet to PC and smartphone – are awash with blatantly promotional messaging. Most of us have now developed an inner filter. We know what genuine content looks like, and have ways of avoiding the rest, by skipping YouTube adverts, installing adblock apps and fast-forwarding TV ads on our Sky or Tivo boxes.

So how does a business break through these filters to promote itself?

Well, content marketing is a good place to start. But what exactly is it? The Content Marketing Institute defines it as: ‘The marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.’

To give you an idea, some examples of content marketing include e-books, video tutorials, audio resources, webcasts, podcasts, forums, blogs and events.

OK – so, producing resources does require a bit of time and effort, but the benefit is that people will be given the opportunity to engage with your business in a deeper and longer-lasting way. According to Demand Metric, though, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and trying some of these methods yourself, here are some tips to producing content that will get you noticed, and help you build a loyal following!

Know your audience
You may already have a good idea of who your target audience is and what their needs are. Evaluating your web traffic and social media engagement is a good way to do your own market research. Think quality, not quantity. You’re not just looking for the amount of casual likes and page visits, but how fully your audience is responding. Try to get a feel of what is important to your followers, and what their wider interests are. Have this in mind when you are creating content.

Don’t be overly-promotional
Content marketing is not just one long sales pitch. We’ve all seen those infomercials that tell you in detail what is wrong with your life before, right at the end, suggesting a product as a remedy. Buyers will sniff this out immediately. Remember that this is a golden opportunity to develop your brand tone of voice, beyond the 140 characters of Twitter. Let them know what you’re all about!

Keep it short and sweet
We know that attention spans can be short online, and several pages of text can be off-putting. But remember that memorable content does not have to be long. Instead, you can share something substantial in the form of a short video or blog post.

Provide a tangible ‘takeaway’
Give them a tip or a piece of advice – something which they can try doing themselves, using one of your resources. This is empowering and feels more natural than suggesting there is product they cannot live without.

Create a community
Webinars and Twitter chats can allow you to answer questions and interact with your customer base in real time. Forums and Facebook discussion groups are a way of allowing the audience to build itself. By paying attention to these forums, you can pick out the frequently asked questions, talking points and key interests of your audience. Also, don’t forget events! Public speaking and interaction are a great way to build rapport. You may like to reserve exclusive digital content for those who attend your event!

Encourage subscription
Social media is becoming more commercially-oriented, with users having to change their settings to ensure they are seeing what matters to them. So encouraging subscription has never been more important. YouTube Channels and email newsletters are great places to starts. Producing genuinely interesting, useful content will ensure your message is getting through and not going straight to junk mail.

Call in favours
Have you thought about featuring an expert guest-bloggers or interviewees? This can be time-saving and give your content an extra bit of cachet. Do your research and find guests who would appeal to your audience. Sometimes a fee might be attached, but contra deals are great way of reaching each others’ audience.

Have a call to action
So where does the buyer go next? Where do they find similar content? How do they explore the topic in-depth? Having relevant web-links, preferably to your own content, is a good starting point. A lot of websites will now automatically generate those links underneath an article.

Cross promote
Make sure your content does not just sit on your website, gathering dust. Share it on social media or try putting promotional codes on printed marketing materials, encouraging people to go online. Another idea would be to film events and post them to your website and social media channels.

Make sure your design is on-point
You might have a very compelling message, but if your design is not up to scratch, few people will take notice. Ensure that your online and offline marketing content has consistent branding which looks professional and sums up what you stand for.

As you can see, marketing in this way can be not only be creatively fulfilling, it can also help you to form a deeper connection to your buyers!