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Posts from March 2013

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Go go Gadget Show Live 2013



Apologies for the bad Inspector Gadget pun.

Here at Refresh we are looking forward to our trip to the Gadget Show Live 2013 next week, taking place at Birmingham’s NEC.

We’ll be heading down to the show with our client Otone who’ll be launching its new, powerful soundbar and two spaceship-style speaker docks (come and check them out, and you’ll know what we mean!).

As well as the cool new products, Otone will be showing off its full range of existing speakers to technology enthusiasts, professionals and journalists at the show.

One guest we’re especially excited to meet is Youtube sensation and gadget enthusiast Mr Thai Box, who’ll be popping along to check out Otone’s new products so he can feature them in his video blog.

Be aware, our film crew will be working their way around the NEC looking for volunteers for a video project (don’t worry we won’t be asking you to sing. We’re not searching for the next Rebecca Black. One is enough!).

Also the Otone ‘big o’ (cheeky) will be at the stand with our promo girls. Guests who pose with the O are automatically entered into our exclusive Otone competitions for free products and more!

And of course we’ll be keeping an eye out for celebrity guests. Along with The Gadget Show’s presenters (see picture of Jason Bradbury on stand), last year’s special surprise guest was 50 Cent (someone we’d definitely let take us to the candy shop).

There’ll be updates, sneak peeks and competition winner announcements from Otone throughout the event so pay attention to their Twitter and Facebook pages.

The Gadget Show Live starts on the 2nd April. If you’re going make sure to say hi, we’ve giveaways and freebies on offer all week.

Check out Otone's site for more information on their products and The Gadget Show Live:  www.otoneaudio.co.uk

Tagged with: Birmingham NEC, Facebook, Jason Bradbury, Lifestyle, North West , PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Social Media, The Gadget Show, Twitter

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Leave Pippa Middleton alone- she's perfect for Waitrose



Waitrose has faced a lot of criticism in the last few weeks in its decision to replace the ‘godmother’ of British cookery, Delia Smith, with Pippa Middleton. Food writers and journalists are up in arms that the legendary chef (who taught millions how to beat eggs ) is to be replaced with the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister.

But it seems to me that Pippa is the perfect fit for Waitrose; she’s pretty, posh and thanks to her sister, practically a princess. Isn’t that Waitrose’s dream customer?

And she has a vested interested in cooking and entertaining – she publishes her own online party magazine and debuted her guide to entertaining before Christmas 2012.

True, the book was badly received; the tips were mocked for being too obvious and launched a parody Twitter account called ‘Pippa’s Tips’ which posts such advice as “If your guests are thirsty – give them a drink” and “As it’s Christmas, why not serve turkey?”.

Although it’s easy to mock Pippa’s writing, as a brand she is in step with Waitrose. Many a young Waitrose customer no doubt dreams of having Pippa’s glamorous life, glossy hair and perfect derriere. It makes absolute sense for her to be a part of what is perceived as a ‘posh’ supermarket.

I’d like to wish Pippa good luck with her column - apparently the first one is an Asian themed supper for friends (my friends aren’t especially fond of Thai curries etc though, so I’ll be giving that one a miss. Sorry Pips).

And Delia has no need to worry about losing her crown. She’ll always be Queen of the Kitchen so long as my mum keeps making her fruit cake and sticky toffee pudding.

Tagged with: Delia Smith, Duchess of Cambridge, Food & Drink, Kate Middleton, Party Pieces, Pippa Middleton, Pippa's Tips, PR Agency Manchester, Public Relations North West, Twitter, Waitrose

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Jaffa Cakes are MP’s favourite biscuits. Here’s what they’re missing out on



A report in the Daily Mail reveals that Jaffa Cakes are the favourite snack for our MPs and their staff. They love the chocolaty treat so much they’ve spent £13,000 of their own money on them in the last five years.

Other biscuits to make the top ten were Crawford’s mini packs of bourbons and custard creams. Oreos also made the top ten. In five years MPs have parted with £112,698 to satisfy their craving for a biccie.

But what’s even more alarming are the biscuits that haven’t made the top ten. Our members of parliament are missing out on some seriously delicious biscuits it seems.

Where were the Hob-Nobs? As we all know, these are the ultimate biscuit for dunking in a cup of tea.

How could they not put a crunch cream (especially a ginger crunch cream) on the list? Or the naughtiest and most calorific biscuit of all (in my opinion) a chocolate and caramel digestive?

The absence of party rings is almost comforting - it’s good to know our parliament enjoys a slightly more mature biscuit, although we like the idea of the cabinet chewing over the economy with a pink iced biscuit in hand.

Here at Refresh we’re very fond of biscuits. The appearance of this news story promoted quite a debate over what biscuits better the MP’s choices (Kimberley strongly advocated that a Fox’s biscuit of any variety is the best in British biscuit).

What’s your favourite biscuit and what would you like to see those in power munching on?

Tagged with: biscuits, Daily Mail, Food & Drink, Jaffa Cakes, Manchester, MPs, PR Agency Manchester, Public Relations North West

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Cheesecake in the City



Last night Refresh PR had the pleasure of attending an event structured around cheesecake. And if there’s anything Refresh PR likes, it’s an event structured around a dessert.

 

‘Cheesecake in the City’ took place at the Bali Health Lounge in Manchester’s China Town, just a stone’s throw from our office in Piccadilly.

 

On offer was a massive range of desserts, each one reflecting a different country to fit the international theme of the event. For example, France offered up a crème brulee take on cheesecake while Jamaica’s dish featured spiced potato and coconut.

 

Surprising favourites among the Refreshers included the Moroccan rosewater cheesecake with spiced plums and the Indian mango and lime creation.

 

We’re not going to lie, not every combination was for us - using Tofu to create a vegan cheesecake isn’t something we’ll be attempting at home anytime soon. 

 

The spread was provided by two Manchester-based bakers, Teatime Collective and Manchester Cheesecake Company, both of whom love to try out new flavour combinations. They even created special recipes just for the event (for which we, but probably not our waistlines, are very grateful).

 

As always, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, and we ate far too much of the cake on offer. If you’re bored of your average vanilla cheesecake, check out these bakers for something new.

 

Or, if you’re a company looking to boost awareness of your baked beauties, why not give us a call? We may be interested in a contra deal. J

Tagged with: , Bali Health Lounge, cheesecake, Cheesecake Collective, Food & Drink, Lifestyle, Manchester Cheesecake Company, Networking Event, PR, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West

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US doctor says sugar is to blame for the obesity epidemic



My name is Corey. And I’m a sugar addict.

I get through a frightening amount of the stuff. There’s my Haribo binges, my cups of tea (milk, three sugars) and daily cans of full fat Coca-Cola - and that’s just the start of it. I shudder to think how much sugar I get through on the average week. I ought to buy shares in Tate & Lyle.

And all this sugar consumption is doing my health no good by all accounts.

Dr Robert Lustig, a leading US doctor, compares sugar to hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, because sugar is just as addictive. "We need to wean ourselves off. We need to de-sweeten our lives. We need to make sugar a treat, not a diet staple," he said.

"The food industry has made it into a diet staple because they know when they do you buy more. This is their hook. If some unscrupulous cereal manufacturer went out and laced your breakfast cereal with morphine to get you to buy more, what would you think of that? They do it with sugar instead."

Sugary foods can lead to heart and liver disease and are apparently the easiest way to add fat around the tummy (my biggest bit as it happens).

I’m inclined to agree with Doctor Lustig, and think it might be time to cut back on the sugar. Slowly.

Just the thought of it makes me want a Twix and a can of coke.

Tagged with: coca-cola, fat, Food & Drink, haribo, Health & Beauty, Manchester, obesity, obesity epidemic, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations North West, sugar

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Healthy meals champion Jamie Oliver adds hotdogs to his £150m empire



Jamie Oliver already has a huge list of ventures; there’s his restaurants, crockery line, range of sauces, magazines, advertising deals, cookbooks, worldwide TV shows and cookery school. With all this going on it isn’t surprising that Jamie tops the list of The Times richest chefs with a whopping £150m fortune.

 

What is surprising however is the chef, who has very publically campaigned for healthy school meals, is adding a hotdog and burger bar to his portfolio of restaurants.

 

The Dog House and Diner is set to open on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue later this year. Hotdogs and a range of burgers and steaks will make up the American themed menu.

 

Although a spokesperson for Jamie says that the menu will feature healthy options and will not be what is traditionally known as fast food, it does seem an unusual venture for a chef who has taken such a staunch view against the serving of fatty food.

 

Perhaps, in the words of Jessie J, it’s all about the money, money, money?

 

Jamie has already been criticised for the amount of calories and levels of salt in his (highly-profitable) line of ready meals.

 

I’ve no problem with calories or salt (a fish and chip supper makes me quite the happy chappy), however if you are going to harp on about nutritious food a la Jamie, then marketing fast food probably isn’t the best idea.

 

Stop preaching to me Jamie; I know it’s bad for me, I just want the occasional kebab. Stop whinging and I might even be persuaded to try your hot dog.  

 

Tagged with: Celebrity, empire, fast food, Food & Drink, healthy eating campaign, hotdogs, income, Jamie Oliver, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations North West, ready meal range, wealth

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American children can finally have a surprise, Kinder style



After a 70 year ban in the USA, a Kinder surprise style chocolate has been launched in America.

 

Although the British style Kinder is still banned, a new product has managed to sidestep a ban that was imposed in 1938. The ban stopped the selling of any food product containing inedible toys.

 

New Jersey confectioner, Kevin Gass, got around the problem by creating a thick plastic ridge that breaks and more clearly defines the difference between the two chocolate halves and the toy. This ridge has satisfied American regulators, who are happy that a sufficient warning has been given to parents and children.

 

As a further safety precaution, the toys are also chunkier than their counterparts across the world.

 

It is however still illegal to import Kinder Surprises into the US, and those caught with one at customs can face large fines.

 

I’m glad US children can finally enjoy a Kinder egg. I’ve spent many a shopping trip harassing my Mum into buying me one (not recently of course, I’m 22, if I want a Kinder, I can just get one – yay).

 

It seems America will be overjoyed at the launch of Candy Treasure. Petitions, both physical and online, have campaigned for the return of Kinder to the shelves of America, and have managed to gather over 3,000 signatures. The petition signs off with “Help us bring joy to millions of children in America.”

 

Candy Treasure will no doubt be a massive success. What child doesn’t love something that combines toys and chocolate?

Tagged with: Candy Treasure, Chocolate, Food & Drink, Kinder Egg, Kinder Surprise, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations North West

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Facebook starts work on using Twitter style hashtags



Until now, the hashtag has mostly been the preserve of Twitter, however a report in the Wall Street Journal says Facebook is working on adding hashtag use to the site. Posts by users would be grouped by hashtag into personalised newspapers.

 

For example, if tonight we’re all talking about the Rovers Return burning down (will Sunita burn!?), then Facebook would create a special update listing everyone’s posts together.

 

However, it wouldn’t be just your friends who’d see your posts. In a drive to make Facebook more and more public, the entire network of users would appear on a hashtag post unless you changed your privacy settings.

 

It began its move towards more public facing content when it added the subscribe option to each member’s page. This option allowed people to follow selected posts without being friends with them. Celebrities including Victoria Beckham and Jessica Alba were quick to pick up on this feature.

 

Facebook and Twitter are already fierce rivals, and Facebook hopes to increase its lead by adding this element to the site, although it will be quite a while until this feature is added.

 

Personally, I’m not thrilled by the idea – isn’t Facebook about sharing things with family and friends?

 

In other hashtag news, Will.I.Am has released his latest single, a duet with Justin Bieber called #thatpower. Our opinion: #epicfail

Tagged with: Coronation Street, Facebook, hashtags, Jessica Alba, Justin Bieber, Manchester, North West , PR Agency Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Social Media, Twitter, Victoria Beckham, Will.I.Am

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Promoting a hashtag increases tweets about a TV show by a massive 63%



A new study by Brandmatch has looked at the characteristics of a sample of Twitter users. The study reveals that while women tweet more, men are more likely to have a moan and complain via the social networking site.

Interestingly, the report also finds that TV shows promoting a hashtag at the beginning of transmission saw massive increases in the number of Twitter users commenting and talking about the show.

 

For example, when X Factor used the hashtag ‘#xfactor’, it got 63% more tweets than shows that didn’t use a hashtag.

 

That’s a huge increase in online traffic; and if all these people are talking about your show or product (hashtags also feature in adverts) online, you could also consider how many people will turn over to watch or research what’s creating the Twitter frenzy.

 

It’s like an enormous living room of people discussing their viewing habits together.

 

The survey also found that viewers of Downton Abbey tweeted throughout the show whereas Homeland viewers only tweeted before the show started or after it had concluded.

 

This seems perfectly plausible to me. Poor Downton Abbey viewers have to go for the hardship of beloved characters dying unexpectedly every week (i.e. cousin Matthew and Lady Sybil). Of course they’re going to tweet ‘OMG’ mid episode.

 

#Jointheconversation with @RefreshPR on Twitter. We'd love to hear your thoughts.

 

Tagged with: Brandmatch, Downton Abbey, Lifestyle, PR, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, report, Social Media, Twitter, X Factor

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Beyonce, Jay Z, Britney and Kim Kardashian’s finances leaked online. But it isn’t just the A-list in danger



Celebrities including Jay-Z, Beyonce and Britney Spears have had their financial information leaked online by a group of hackers - but it isn’t just the rich and famous that need to be wary.

 

A number of celebrities woke up to the news that financial details including mortgage payments and earnings had been posted on a website created by fraudsters.

 

The details posted online also include highly sensitive information such as social security numbers, which can be used in fraudulent activity.

 

Other victims include US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Kim Kardashian. Unflattering pictures and anti-police posts make up the rest of the site.

 

The website which posted the details uses a suffix linked to the Soviet Union and contains posts in Russian.

In less exciting circumstances this week, my bank account was hacked too.

 

The bank called on Monday to check I hadn’t tried to withdraw money in the Republic of Korea (I hadn’t). Thankfully, the bank had declined the transaction and I didn’t lose any money.

 

Admittedly my own financial information is quite dull compared to mega-stars like Beyonce (she has multi-million dollar endorsement deals, my statements include £2.99 for a Boots meal deal).

 

However, both examples show that anybody can be targeted by a financial hacker, and that perhaps we should be more aware of how we bank online and how financial data is insured.

 

Oh, and if anyone does fancy making my bank statements more interesting, I can be booked to front advertising campaigns at a fraction of the cost of the average star (Beyonce is reportedly raking in $50 million from Pepsi). I’ll happily do it for a bag of chips and a quick trip to Topman.

 

Tagged with: , Beyonce, Britney spears, celebrities, finance, fraud, hackers, Hilary Clinton, income, Jay Z, Kim Kardashian, Manchester, North West , PR, PR Agency Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West

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Britain’s oldest building site unearthed in Berkshire



Think of building sites and you’ll probably think of the modern ones we see in big cities today such as The Shard or Gherkin  -  masses of steel, hard hats, high-vis jackets and maybe the odd wolf whistle if you’re lucky. You probably don’t think that large scale construction projects were attempted in pre-industrial days 5,700 years ago.

However archaeologists think they’ve found just that, a construction site which was put up in 3700BC in Cemex’s Kingsmead Quarry, Berkshire. That makes the remains of the buildings older than Stonehenge!

The site would have consisted of four houses made of timber with the largest measuring 15x7 metres. Quite an impressive feat when you consider everything was built without large scale equipment. The timber materials which formed the walls have rotted away, but the foundations and examples of pottery and even leftover food remain.

It’s unlikely the hunter-gatherers who might have lived in these buildings thought about creating eco-friendly residences; but amazingly that’s what these houses are. Made of natural materials such as timber and weathering quite well in their five thousand year history, these buildings could also be the first example of green housing.

Much to my disappointment however, the houses wouldn’t have looked like the Flintstones’ rather chic residence with leopard print accessories. They would have had no windows and indoor smoking fires. I suppose the cavemen couldn’t have it all.

Tagged with: archaeological dig, archealogy, Berkshire, cavemen, Cemex, Construction, Kingsmead Quarry, Lifestyle, Manchester, neolithic, North West , PR, PR Agency Manchester, Public Relations North West, settlement, Stonehenge, The Gherkin, The Shard

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Sainsbury’s takes over entire show in massive product placement stunt



 

Product placement has been routine on US TV for years; Carrie Bradshaw was never far from her Macbook on Sex and the City and even a minor star like Jessica Simpson managed to rake in $400,000 by promoting a few products during a music video.

 

It is only now however that it’s begun to make a mark on our TV screens, as up until February 2011 it was illegal in the UK.

 

This Morning was first to jump on the bandwagon. The daytime show placed a Nescafé  machine in the background during kitchen segments. Since then, the show has added more and more placement opportunities, the kitchen now comes courtesy of B&Q and the sofas where Holly and Phil perch are provided by DFS.

 

Hollyoaks followed suit soon after -  it’s no coincidence that most of the characters use a Nokia phone – Nokia has paid for them to be there.

 

But the biggest example of product placement comes from Channel 4’s newest daytime show: What’s Cooking? From The Sainsbury’s Kitchen.

 

Presenters Ben Shephard and Lisa Faulkner hold cue cards bearing the Sainsbury’s logo, the chefs are seen to shop for and cook with Sainsbury’s produce, the recipes all form part of the Sainsbury’s Live Well For Less ethos and the show is even filmed live at a studio attached to a Sainsbury’s store.

 

That’s a lot of Sainsbury’s. It’s even in the programme’s title.

 

The show is basically a Sainsbury’s advert, without Jamie Oliver feeding children and chucking fresh herbs everywhere.

 

It does however show what can be done with product placement; you can co-produce and dominate a piece of TV while indirectly advertising to an audience of your choosing.

 

Studies by groups such as Thinkbox suggests the effectiveness of traditional TV advertising, while still strong, continues to dip.

 

Could product placement and the control of entire TV shows be the answer for advertisers looking to showcase products to unsuspecting audiences?

 

Oh and as a viewer, look for the ‘p’ symbol during the opening sequence of a show. That way you’ll know whether or not it’s a massive coincidence that Coronation Street’s Dev has a Nationwide cashpoint in his shop these days. 

Tagged with: B&Q, Ben Shephard, Coronation Street, DFS, Good product placement examples, Hollyoaks, Lisa Faulkner, Manchester, Nescafe, Nokia, North West , PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations North West, This Morning, What's Cooking? From The Sainsbury's Kitchen

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Downing Street and North West developments win awards for sustainability



It’s not often that the Prime Minister is the recipient of an award (or praise of any kind for that matter – sorry Dave), so David Cameron must be particularly pleased with the news that Downing Street has been named Most-Sustainable In-Use Building by environment assessment group BREEAM.

 

BREEAM (the BRE Environmental Assessment Method) awarded the coalition’s headquarters the prize because of the building’s year on year efforts to become more sustainable.

 

These include ingeniously heating water via IT equipment, recycling 90% of construction waste into the building and cutting back electricity use by 13.5% by installing features such as motion detection lighting.

 

The building, which is over 300 years old, serves as an office to 152 people as well as being the official residence of the Prime Minister, Sam Cam and their children.

 

Downing Street wasn’t the only building honoured for its efforts; many of the winners were from the North West including a redevelopment of Victorian terraced houses in Salford, an industrial renovation in Wigan and the new Co-operative Building in Manchester.

 

Manchester can be proud to say that the Co-op’s office at One Angel Square is one of the most sustainable (and therefore green) buildings in Europe. And if there’s one thing Refresh PR loves its sustainability and being green.

 

Many of our clients provide sustainable solutions for the home (yes, it’s time for a massive plug, brace yourselves): Polypipe Home Solutions, Refresh conservatory roofs and Planitherm all offer sustainable solutions for the home, should you wish to follow the Prime Minister’s lead (sustainability wise, not texting kisses to former News Of The World editors obv).

 

All of the winners, including Downing Street, received their awards today at Ecobuild in London.

 

 

 

Tagged with: Built Environment, Construction, Ecobuild, Manchester, North West , PR, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations North West

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Pinterest’s got my interest



According to a recent survey by Active Network, nearly half of social media users have taken some type of action offline (such as purchasing an item or attending an event) because they’ve interacted with a social networking site. The survey found that Facebook drives the most offline actions; a whopping 87% said that they had taken some form of action having had an interaction via Facebook.

 

Across the five social networks studied – Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter - what was interesting for me to read was that it was Pinterest that provoked the second most number of offline actions.

 

I started my Pinterest account last year, using it at Christmas to inspire ideas for the Christmas table decorations, and creating several boards linked to work. However last Saturday I discovered a whole host of funky gadgets on there, and in the space of about 30 minutes I amassed a board full of ideas for the Refresh PR office of the future. Giant grass, a very cool fridge and an aquarium coffee table are on the list.

 

But it’s this gadget – the iPhone projector - that has, in the space of 24 hours, been repined 60+ times and liked 30+ times. It’s not a particularly new gadget, in fact it’s been out a while. For this reason I hope the company’s PR agency is thanking me for the 100+ interactions I’ve generated for them over Pinterest. The audience is certainly out there on this social media platform; it’s an audience that welcomes new ideas and new information.

 

So which companies should be looking at using Pinterest in a PR campaign?

 

If you have a new product that has a real point of difference – and it’s easy to visualise – get working at Pinterest. From my experience, to promote the launch of a product for the home – a new living room accessory, kitchen appliance or simply a new range of wallpaper or bed linen – Pinterest is one social media channel that I’d recommend considering. This goes for gadgets such as household speaker systems and clever furniture ideas such as space saving shelves. In fact, pick up a copy of Ideal Home magazine, read the product pages and that’s what I’m expecting to see even more of on Pinterest going forward.

 

I’d also expect to see more food and drink images on Pinterest soon, as budding chefs pin their carefully crafted creations to inspire the nation. In fact, to build up a portfolio of images while experimenting with recipes and meals is a great vehicle to promoting their own abilities.

 

After all, if an iPhone projector that’s been out for 12+ months can create 100 interactions in 24 hours, think how word could spread for you – whatever your reason for pinning an image.

 

And now to apply it to our clients and generate the same response – it’s on next week’s to do list already. If you want to follow what I’m doing, here are my boards 

 

 

Tagged with: Manchester, Pinterest, PR, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Social Media