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From fake farms to hepatitis C: how can our supermarkets avoid a naming and shaming dilemma

This week it was widely reported that an unnamed British retailer was found to have sausages on its shelves containing hepatitis C. This follows another recent story, claiming Morrisons, alongside other supermarkets, had previously been stocking produce from ‘fake farms’, and as a result would now only be stocking British products.

With Britain’s largest and most loved retailers continually facing scrutiny, how they can manage a situation when it does flare up? As a PR agency, we understand the importance of communicating in a timely and effective manner when it comes to a crisis.

Though no two crises are the same, brands can keep a few key points front of mind when it comes to how to handle these effectively. So listen up Tesco, Morrisons and the many more to come, these points may come in handy!

1.    Be honest

Don’t add fuel to the fire by not being honest, so we would always recommend coming clean about a situation. Often if you don’t, it can whip up an unnecessary media storm, leading to ongoing speculation and make the brand look evasive. Being straight up about your position shows you have nothing to hide, are addressing the situation and are being transparent with your customers.

2.    Be direct

Release a statement as soon as it is requires, and be clear in what you say. Don’t use industry terminology or complicated language; ensure the statement is something your everyday customer will be able to understand and the media won’t be able to misinterpret.

3.    Pick a spokesperson

When someone delivers a statement to the media, it’s important the person is close enough to the situation to understand its gravitas. Often brands will send marketing or PR professionals to speak due to media training, however if product issue arises – send a product developer, financial – send a senior member of the finance team or staffing, let it be HR. It is however important to ensure anyone speaking on behalf of the company is media trained and confident in the subject matter. Or if in doubt send the MD or CEO to show how seriously the company is taking the incident.

4.    Give solutions

The public will want to know what your brand is doing to rectify the situation at hand. Will it be recalling the product, ending a relationship with a third party supplier or putting a policy in place to prevent the situation occurring again? If so, tell the customer!

5.    Make change happen

If you want to be seen as a trusted brand, it’s important not to make mistakes twice. Learn from them and put strict policies in place to ensure change happens. Revaluate policies and their impact every six months: ultimately have they worked or do they need looking at again? Trust can be rebuilt, but if change doesn’t happen, in a market spoilt for choice, consumers can easily shop elsewhere.

Tagged with: Food & Drink, Lifestyle, PR, PR campaign essential, Retail

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Being passionate in PR

99 per cent of PR professionals are passionate about what they do. A love for telling a great story, the buzz of media relations and the fast-paced nature of the job is what gets us up in the morning. Sometimes, however, a love for the industry is just not enough.


If you work in a PR or creative agency, chances are you will have clients in a range of fields. From glitter to plumbing, we have it all at Refresh PR and that old cliché, no two days are the same, rings very true. In order to do justice to your clients, a love of their industry, as well as your own is imperative.


PR’s speak with dozens of journalists in a day, and we need to persuade them that what our client has to say is more valuable than their competitors. Unless you speak about your clients with true passion, you’ll get nowhere. If the news doesn’t excite you, how do you expect a journalist, who’s received 40 similar calls that day, to be enthused? If you love what you do, and love working with your clients, this will come across. 


Being fully engrossed in your client’s work will eventually lead to your PR agency being an arm of their company, rather than a supplier-customer relationship. Once this happens, you’ll automatically be kept in the loop regarding company news, be able to contact everyone and anyone when that golden opportunity comes through and be totally honest with them- a valuable but often over overlooked trait in our industry. At Refresh PR, we promote hot desking at our clients’ offices, giving us a chance to see what they do, and how they work day to day. Realistically, can you ever really get a true insight into your clients from just a bi weekly WIP call alone?


You’re much more likely to want to learn about an industry or topic that you’re interested in. Whether it’s cosmetics, food and drink or heating installations, find what excites you and you’ll never work a day in your life.









Tagged with: alcohol, B2B PR agency Manchester , Beauty, Built Environment, Construction, cosmetics, creatiive agency Manchester, Creative Agency, drink, Food, glitter, heating installation, Leisure, Lifestyle, Manchester, Marketing, North West , plumbing, PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Product Placement, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Retail, Social Media

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AAC back with a bang for 2016


To help make its annual conference the biggest to date, our skincare, cosmetics and nutrition client, Arbonne, tasked us with increasing engagement with delegates on social media.

Arbonne’s Annual Conference (AAC) truly is a celebration of everything that is great about the brand, and this year it welcomed more than 2,000 Arbonne Independent Consultants to the NEC in Birmingham.

The theme for 2016 was ‘Be The Inspiration’ and the event featured motivational speeches from the likes of US comedian, Connie Podesta alongside the launch of Arbonne’s new Festive Collection and an unforgettable ‘Arbonne Does Gatsby’ evening event. As well as celebrating its success in the UK, AAC enabled Arbonne to update delegates on its worldwide expansion programme, which this year saw launches in Taiwan, New Zealand and Poland.

The Refresh PR team was tasked with capturing the energy in the room, delivering accurate and timely posts, in line with Arbonne’s tone of voice, and interacting with any responses. Over the two days we delivered a real time experience on social media, using the live feed feature on Instagram and regular updates on Facebook, which enabled delegates to be part of the action, even if they were unable to attend. As well as this social activity, we interviewed a number of key attendees for vox pops, which were included in the event showcase to encourage further sign up for the 2017 conference.

The team at Arbonne worked tirelessly for months to pull off such a large-scale event (more than 215,000 square feet to be exact!), and the hard work didn’t go unnoticed. With record numbers of Arbonne teams attending and a significant uplift in social media engagement, AAC 2016 was a huge success and planning is already underway for the next big calendar event - the Global Training Conference.




Tagged with: AAC, Arbonne, Beauty, events, Lifestyle, Marketing, PR, Public Relations, Retail, Social Media

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Spooktacular Halloween

Each October the UK is engulfed and bewitched by Halloween costumes, props and products. It is becoming a much loved event for children, adults and not surprisingly brands, especially on social media. Last year, retailers were expected to see a £330 million boost in sales, an astonishing amount compared to the meagre £12 million spent in 2001. Therefore, it is no surprise that brands areRefresh PR Manchester using social media to engage with their consumers, whether it is to increase company sales or just to have a little bit of ghoulish fun.


The great thing about social media is the ‘social’ aspect, especially during timely events such as Halloween, because everybody can get involved. In a world which now focuses heavily on digital and social media, the realms of creativity for brands are endless.

We have selected a couple of examples that we loved last Halloween based on their creativity.  


Mobile network Three helped customers choose their last-minute Halloween costumes with an interactive Vine video, allowing them to flick through a mountain of interactive cards and ‘click’ to discover their perfect costume!


Oreo Cookie, known for amazing campaigns, went all out last year and created the online #OreoLab. Oreo posted five Vines in the run up to Halloween, showcasing different creations made in the Oreo Lab. See some of the examples here. The Oreo Lab Nomster was a Refresh PR favourite. You can understand why we’re looking forward to seeing what the brand does this year!


Brands such as Coca-Cola, Pringles and Guinness also put a twist on infamous logos for the seasonal event and we can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves this October!  


And if you’re looking for thrills, screams and a fright night in Manchester, look no further than Manchester’s number one scare attraction ‘House of Dead’ at the Great Northern. House of Dead opened its doors to the public from October 9th ‘til the end of the Halloween season. It looks frighteningly good!






Tagged with: Halloween, Leisure, Lifestyle, Manchester, Marketing, North West , PR, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Product Placement, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Retail, Social Media

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Does the Co-operative know breast?

We’ve all been there – you walk into your local newsagent to pick up the latest copy of Heat or OK! and as you’re ferreting around for it on the shelf, all of a sudden you find yourself up close and personal with the latest Big Brother evictee’s boobs!

Does it bother me? Not particularly, especially since my job entails flicking through scantily dressed women to find my client’s gadget coverage on a weekly basis! But it seems one particular retail chain has called time on this open book policy…

Last week the Co-operative chain announced it will no longer sell Nuts, Zoo or any other publication that openly portrays ‘lewd pictures’ on its front cover, unless it has been pre-packaged in a ‘modesty bag’. The titles under scrutiny have been given until the 9th September to action this, or it’s curtains for them as far as the Co-op is concerned.

In response to this, Nuts publisher IPC Inspire has announced that it will not use the bags, describing the ultimatum as 'an unreasonable attempt to prevent shoppers from freely browsing a legal magazine that is already displayed according to Home Office guidelines'.

So who, if anyone, is in the right? Well, there’s a valid argument for both sides, which is why this debate seems to have sparked such an interest in the press.

Firstly, it is understandable that the Co-op is taking such a firm line on indecent imagery, given the government’s recent proposals outlining the effects of sexual images on children. Parents shouldn’t have to feel apprehensive about taking their children into their local convenience store to buy a pint of milk, nor should they have to feel embarrassed about the classic awkward questions kids like to dish out in public places!

It also depends on the size of a store and its layout. I quite frequently visit the Co-op store on Market Street in Manchester and the magazine rack (excuse the pun) is rather small and doesn’t really allow for specific title sections, therefore everything is grouped together. This limited space means there’s no ‘top shelf’ and magazines such as Nuts and Zoo are directly in the eye line of any customer who is queuing up to pay.  

But are we all overreacting a bit here? As IPC Inspire rightly states, these magazine formats have been around for years and are as much a part of the corner shop shelf as the ‘get the size 6 look’ messaging that the women’s mags openly promote on a weekly basis. That’s a different issue altogether, but a valid point all the same – magazine front covers are designed to surprise and sometimes alarm you into picking up a copy. Shock tactics are what publications rely on for sales and if we’re policing one section shouldn’t we be looking at them all?

High street chains should also lend consideration to the sheer cost these ‘modesty bags’ will suck from the publishing houses. Not just in terms of materials, but also design and any additional fulfilment requirements.

Personally, the argument to keep what’s on the front cover of these mags doesn’t really affect me, but what I do still value is a print publication. Working in the industry I know how hard publishing houses work to keep consumers going back to the shelf week after week, and I think it’d be a great shame for them to lose retail support – whatever the underlying reason.

Have you got a product you want to get amongst the boobs and banter? Feel free to give me a call to discuss your PR requirements in more detail. You can reach me on 0161 871 1188 or you can follow my musings on twitter: @GemmaC_PR 


Tagged with: Food and Drink PR, IPC Inspire, Manchester, modesty bags, North West , Nuts Magazine, Retail, The Co-operative, Zoo Magazine

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Refresh PR attends STYLEetc Spring Party

Refresh PR attends STYLEetc Spring Party


Manchester has long been established as a hub for the creative industries, with music playing a huge part in capturing the vibrancy and true spirit of the city in recent decades. 

With the Hacienda transformed into apartments, Oasis separated by feuding brothers and The Smiths long defunct, it appears that Manchester-born fashion is the next big thing!

With that in mind, the Refresh PR team went along to the STYLEetc Spring Party at Harvey Nichols this week, welcoming the magazine’s new editor Gemma Latham with a glass of champagne, whilst also taking a peek at the latest edition of the free quarterly glossy.

The magazine is a fantastic opportunity for Manchester-based designers and boutiques to get in the spotlight, and I would urge you to pick up a free copy of the magazine or visit the website to check it out for yourself!

In attendance were Manchester Evening News’ Diary Editor Dianne Bourne, stylist Matthew Moxham and TV presenter Michelle Eagleton.

I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t a Coronation Street cast member in sight, nor was there an appearance from Manchester designer Nadine Merabi.

Despite Manchester Fashion Week being postponed for the foreseeable future, it still remains an exciting time for Manchester fashion and it’s great that it is finally starting to gain the recognition it deserves.

If you have a fashion or lifestyle brand that you would like to see grow, why not get in touch with the award winning Refresh PR Team here.


Tagged with: , Celebrity, Coronation Street, Dianne Bourne, Fashion, Food & Drink, Gemma Latham, Harvey Nichols, Lifestyle, Manchester, Manchester Evening News, Manchester Fashion Week, Matthew Moxham, Michelle Eagleton, Nadine Merabi, Networking Event, North West , PR, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Retail, STYLEetc

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Refresh PR launches video as part of campaign for client OTONE Audio

Our client, speakers brand OTONE AUDIO, has been exhibiting at the Gadget Show Live 2013 this week. We have worked with them to create a cheeky film asking the show’s gadget loving crowd how it likes to relax and let loose... We got some pretty funny responses! Check out the video here:

Tagged with: , Birmingham, Facebook, Home Interest, Leisure, Manchester, NEC. Gadget Show Live, Otone Audio, PR, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Retail, Social Media, Twitter, YouYube

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CIM event review: Creating one of Manchester’s greatest assets

Refresh PR went along to Manchester Airport’s Concorde Conference Centre recently for a very insightful Chartered Institute of Marketing networking event.  Situated just next to the runway, and housing a Concorde (pic to follow we hope!), the facility was a great venue to hold a conference – if you don’t mind the sound of planes taking off and landing every few minutes of course.


So, to start off, here are a few facts that you may not know:

·         19,000 people are employed at Manchester Airport

·         There’s 3,000m of runway serving the three terminals

·         The airport typically targets people in a 90 minute travel time radius with its marketing

·         There’s a brand new Escape Lounge in Terminal 1 (which we like the sound of a lot)

·         There are still opportunities for more carriers to fly from Manchester airport – even now it has capacity


After networking and lots of food, we sat down to listen to some of the marketing plans, strategy and tactics employed by one of Britain’s best airports.  What quickly became obvious is the massive marketing machine that sits behind its public face.   The airport certainly has a well thought out, and continually evolving, marketing strategy that considers every aspect of the customer experience.  So, whether it’s subtle lighting to subconsciously guide a traveller around the terminal (and into the shops) or the amount of research and feedback being constantly processed, everything revolves around making the customer centre stage, and ultimately making sure numbers come through the door. 


Understanding that the most visited page on its website is the flight tracking page, the airport has developed an iPhone app for people to check flights on the move.  Car park booking is now a lot easier over handhelds too – and as a major revenue generator for airports around the country it’s certainly worth the investment.  The car parks have been made much more visitor friendly, with green traffic lights above a space to indicate that it’s free, meaning those in a rush can easily see where the free spaces are – whilst trying to stick to the car park speed limit of course...


Twitter, which began as a discount/promotions newsfeed, became a major news source for customers and journalists during the ash cloud in April ’10.  Again, during the snow for the past two winters, the @manairport feed has been a way to communicate with travellers and those seeking the most up to date information.  It’s got nearly 17,000 followers and Sky News journalists are big fans.


While embracing social media has been a priority, it’s also great to see the airport sticking to tried and tested methods of marketing.  Local door drops to inform residents of changes and promotions are measured for success through visits to specific URLs, redemption of specific discount codes and the general uptake following an e-shot is tracked.  In addition, the team works in the Wythenshawe community (near to the airport) to support local initiatives to ensure the airport gives back to the community.


It was also interesting to hear about a new CRM package being implemented which means that when travelling through the airport, all passengers will soon be tracked and data on each visit recorded.  Those flying regularly will develop patterns of behaviour which will be highlighted on the system, from using the car park to purchases made inside the terminal, opening the door for specific discounts and more targeted campaigns.  Well, I’m hoping for the specific discounts anyway – must remember to hand over my boarding card when I buy a G&T! 


All in all, this was one of the best CIM events of the year so far – informative, interesting, well attended and useful for marketers to know what’s happening on their own doorstep.  More please!

Tagged with: Built Environment, Construction, Leisure, Manchester, Manchester Airport, Marketing, North West , PR, Retail

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We were pretty shocked when the ABC Circulation figures for February 2011 were announced yesterday – not only is there a general downward trend that suggests the predicted shift in Britain’s media consumption habits is finally gaining momentum, but some of the stalwarts of consumer media have been dislodged from their seemingly secure positions at the top of the ladder.


It’s not all doom and gloom, though; there are some definite winners emerging triumphant. Publishing houses BBC Magazines and IPC Media are up 0.5% and 1.1% year on year respectively, and despite Natmags dropping 2.4% year on year overall, its Good Housekeeping magazine boasts one of the highest rises in circulation at 5%. Zest, however, has fallen 11% over the past six months – does this mean we love our homes but not our bodies? Not so, if IPC’s Essentials is to be used as a guide; its circulation is up 9.6% in just six months. IPC will no doubt also be celebrating the fact that its seven home titles are also up year on year, indicating that the home is still the Great British public’s castle.


Hachette Fillipacchi has cause to crack open the champagne too, with Red magazine posting its highest ever circulation at 231,028, a rise of 2%. Elle is also up 2.6% on last year, taking some of the sting out of the publisher’s difficult decision to close Sugar magazine last month as a result of teens opting to consume media online or using smartphones.


Bauer Consumer Media, however, is more likely to be drowning its sorrows than toasting its success. With circulation down 8.6% year on year overall, its former jewel Heat Magazine has dropped 19.3% and Zoo magazine falls an alarming 32.8%. Could we finally have fallen out of love with celebrity culture? It remains to be seen whether this is the case, or whether people prefer the more instant gratification that platforms such as Twitter and celebrity bloggers such as Perez Hilton can deliver. Either way, PR practitioners up and down the country need to keep a keen eye on developments and adjust their strategy and their tactics accordingly – their careers depend on it!

Tagged with: Celebrity, Home Interest, Leisure, Lifestyle, PR, Public Relations, Retail

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Calling all voters!

Refresh PR recently found out that our client Modern Herbals has been shortlisted for Best Product in the Natural Lifestyle Awards and naturally this has made us very proud indeed!  We’ve been working with them for a few months now and we’ve got everything crossed they will walk away with the top spot. 


We’ve just caught up with one Modern Herbals customer who has been using Syno-Vital Hyaluronan – here is how she’s getting on:


Patricia Green - “After suffering with knee pain for a fair few years and undergoing an operation to replace my left knee just over two years ago, I was naturally somewhat distressed when I started to experience some pain in my other one.   While these ailments are certainly related to the wear and tear that comes with age (sadly), I’m not keen to rush back to endure the pain and discomfort of having my right knee replaced.  Not yet anyway!


“I’d been doing quite a bit of research on alternative treatments and looking at ways to help ease the pain that is being caused from my bones rubbing together and the loss of movement between my joints.  I’d heard about a product called Syno-Vital Hyaluronan, certainly a mouthful to repeat, which helps to replenish the synovial joint fluid which depletes as we age, and decided to order it in the hope that it would perform miracles. 


“The instructions advised me to drink the contents of the sachet each morning in a glass of water for at least four weeks.  Within the first month I can certainly say that I’d started to feel the benefits of this product - the aches in my joints have drastically reduced and I’m finding it much easier to move around.   Three months on and shopping isn’t a problem anymore either, although I do need to remember that I’m not as spritely as I used to be (I’m approaching 70!).   While I now only take a sachet every second day, I’m happy with the results and my skin is looking much healthier and plumper too, certainly an added benefit when most things travel south these days!”


We’d like to encourage everyone out there to get behind Refresh PR’s client Modern Herbals and vote for Syno-Vital Hyaluronan by logging on to  Good luck!

Tagged with: Health & Beauty, Lifestyle, PR, Retail, Wellbeing

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Tedious links: Celebrity marketing campaigns - Refresh PR counts down the most cringe-worthy

Michael McIntyre being announced as the third judge on Britain’s Got Talent this morning got the team at the Manchester Refresh PR office thinking about other random celebrity associations with big brands. There have been some real crackers, some fantastically memorable ones, and some we’d rather forget. As, I’m sure, would the celeb involved. Join us as we count down our most cringe-worthy:

·         Jason Donovan - Iceland

I’ve got nothing against drag - I love a good bit of camp cabaret. And I’ve certainly got nothing against food. But when Jason Donovan dons fishnets and full make-up to promote frozen food it’s enough to put anyone off their vaulovants. And the songs aren’t catchy, they’re just annoying.

 ·         Jedward - Nintendo DS

Jedward. Need we say more?

·         Tim Lovejoy - Giovanni Rana. Pure cheese

This ruined Tim Lovejoy for me. I used to harbour a little crush on the Chelsea-loving southerner, but his lack of acting skill has firmly extinguished that flame. I still feel a little outraged that he was used as lazy shorthand for a typical "bloke", and as if he’d be able to seduce his sexy Italian neighbour by asking for help making easy-cook pasta. Any self-respecting Italian lady would be straight out the door. Stick to ‘Something for the Weekend,’ kid.

·         Barbara Windsor – Jackpotjoy

Come on, Babs is a legend – don’t reduce her to a pantomime Queen having to reel out the astoundingly unoriginal line "Come on boys, show us yer ball.” She deserves better than that. Shame on you.

·         Spice Girls - Walkers’ Crisps

Not really sure what the connection is here. Eating Walkers’ crisps gives you girl power? I know, I know, it’s two great British institutions joining forces, but you can’t tell me a crisp has passed the lips of Posh Spice since 1996. False advertising if you ask me.

·         Jamie and Louise Redknapp – Thomas Cook

Isn’t it enough that their domestic bliss trumps ours without even trying? Now they have to have the perfect holiday as well, when we’re stuck in chav hell with no aircon after having believed the brochure that told us it was a ‘lively, sophisticated resort – ideal for couples looking for the perfect getaway.’

·         Justin Timberlake – McDonalds

No, I’m not having it. There’s no way Justin Timberlake loves McDonalds so much that he wrote a song about it.

·         Shane Warne – AHS-FP (hair loss remedy)

Shane Warne’s appeal comes from him being a real ‘lad,’ and this partnership is so off message for the Shane Warne brand. He needs to be promoting beer (and that’s VB, not Peroni), not positioning himself (however temporarily) as a metrosexual gent concerned with such matters as hair loss.

And finally, to show we’re not all bah humbug, two brilliant ones:

·         M&S – various

M&S gets its celeb partnerships on the money every time. The current Christmas ad with Peter Kay is genius, and has our favourite aspirational yet approachable female celebs rocking out in their PJs and partygear. Add an iconic – but always classy - soundtrack, and you’re away.

·         John Lewis

More of a celeb soundtrack partnership than an in-person one, the songs carefully chosen by John Lewis’ ad team for its TV ads consistently have the nation close to tears. The clever cover versions by up and coming British artists reinforce the retailer’s image of an intelligent, thoughtful and elegant British stalwart. They don’t do the original songwriters’ album sales any harm, either!



Tagged with: Celebrity, John Lewis, Manchester, PR, Retail

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Refresh PR takes the panic out of Manic Monday for

Those of you working in the retail and gift industries will know that today, Monday 29th November, is ‘Manic Monday’ – the day when the great British public  all log on to do their Christmas shopping online, with sales peaking at a staggering £22.4 million per hour. One of Refresh PR’s clients, online gift retailer is definitely experiencing the mania today, with unprecedented demand on its newly-revamped website, particularly for its Paper Jamz interactive electronic instruments,, and its cult Slankets (blankets with sleeves) The find-me-a-gift team is busy processing over 400 orders an hour from its Leamington Spa HQ, and it really is all hands on deck as this will equate to around 10,000 orders in a single day.

Keen to maximise every opportunity for our clients, we were straight on the phones this morning, pitching the company’s MD in as a spokesperson for radio stations and newspapers running stories on Manic Monday. We’ve even come to the rescue on Twitter and Facebook, recommending thoughtful Christmas presents for the company’s fans and followers struggling to buy for fussy friends and family. It’s all going down a treat so far – the client has completed live interviews on BBC Radio (click here to listen – it’s at 2 hours 12 minutes in: and comment pieces for the biggest newspapers in its region. Knowing that we’ve got the PR covered has definitely allowed to concentrate on the most important thing about Manic Monday: delivering on all those orders and watching the Christmas takings soar!

Tagged with: Facebook, Gifts, PR, Public Relations, Retail