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JCBs in the basement??

This blog post first appeared in the Somerset County Gazette.

We are in the middle of building chaos at Chez Wall. Not that anything has actually started yet…no brick has actually been purchased, no sod literally cut. But I am juggling the demands of planners, building regulators, surveyors, CAD operators, mortgage providers and various craftspeople in an attempt to get it all done at some point before I retire.

The children are being helpful by telling me how they want their new rooms decorated, and planning a time capsule that we can put beneath the extension. This will allow their grandchildren to see what life was like in the early 21st century and marvel at the references to strictly come X factor, 5SOS and the fact that life is, these days, apparently all about that bass.

Much as I complain, I recognise that we are lucky in Somerset to have the options of building stuff.   In London, where I lived for the first 35 years of my life, there is now officially no room. You cannot build up as the planners won’t let you, and you cannot build out as you’d be in your neighbours lounge.

So people have started building down. There is a real trend in building new rooms in the basement. Homeowners (I guess at the wealthier end of the spectrum) who have been refused planning permission for a traditional above ground extension are instead hiring companies to dig out the foundations under their house; creating new vast rooms underground where gyms, swimming pools, granny flats and the like can be safely inserted.

They do this using JCB diggers; they dig down as they go, making the space and kicking out the soil behind them.

But when they’re done, you have a problem. It is very difficult to get a JCB out of what is now in effect a deep hole. In fact, it costs more to do this than actually buy a new JCB. So they don’t bother. The JCB is buried as part of the new foundations and the builder gets a new toy for their trouble.

Dozens of houses across London now have a JCB digger buried beneath their basement.

This fascinates me. In centuries to come archaeologists will dig down and find these magical buried monsters. They will no doubt assume that we worshipped the creatures, or maybe that they were a servile species kept in the cellar until their usefulness was over or perhaps that we were attacked by them and these are the remains of the vanquished.

Either way, it’ll no doubt be the subject of many a TV documentary. And of course presents a significant challenge to me and the girls as we try to make our Taunton based capsule half as interesting…..

Top ten tips for a PR campaign

Ten Top Tips for a PR campaign (part one)

There are so many ways to launch a PR campaign. And I would guess that most fail. So, here are my ten top tips (there are always ten, don’t ask why, it is just the way life is…) for a decent campaign.

  1. Have an end game. You would never invest cash without having a clear sight of what you want to achieve. So why oh why oh why do people spend time effort and real cash on media marketing and PR campaigns without having any idea what they want to get out of it. It can be anything; more referrals, more business, increased press coverage, people recognising you in the street. Doesn’t matter what (well…..), but do some thinking.
  2. Be innovative. Don’t use the same old methods that everyone else has already done. Challenge every assumption, think of weird ways to get attention, ways that will cause a double take in your audience. Talking of which…
  3. Know your audience. Throwing stuff at a crowd doesn’t work; giving one person something individually does. So segment, segment and segment again. The tighter your defined audience, the better your chances of connecting.
  4. Don’t say too much. People will only remember 2 or 3 things you say. So make sure they are the right 2 or 3 things. Journalists only read the first paragraph of your press release and customers only skim your leaflet. If you have 2 or 3 killer facts that you refer to again and again, then you have a chance of getting through.
  5. Stories not statistics. People like stories, they don’t enjoy facts. So think about the story you want to tell – your narrative – and tell it. Where we were, where we are now and crucially where you’re going. And why your audience need to know this and be involved.

So that’s 1 – 5 out of the way, 6 – 10 will follow soon.  Watch this space.

Writing Press Releases (order, order!)

With introductions out of the way, (see below) we can move on to the second part of our look at what makes good press releases.

Like news stories, good press releases tend to adopt a standard journalistic structure, widely known as the ‘inverted pyramid’.

Essentially, this means thinking of what you’re writing as fitting into a triangle where the bigger, wider part is at the top and the point is at the bottom. (more…)