LinkedIn is widely seen as the biggest and best connected business network to which to belong - and yet so many people don't take full advantage of it, or worse still, get taken advantage of by other users.

The connectivity of LinkedIn means you can pretty much find anyone you want in terms of expanding your network of potential clients and suppliers. It can dispense with hours of searching for that dream client, provide you with a good idea of the value of a supplier and, if you are lucky, get you past the gate-keepers who turn you away while engaged in cold calling. And yet so many people fail to take full advantage of it as a marketing tool.

I once asked a client who did not see the value of LinkedIn to name his ideal new client company. I then asked him who he would like to speak to at the company about his own services. With the name of the company and the person's title to hand I hit search on LinkedIn and up came the profile of the very man my client wanted to talk to - "Do you mean him?" I asked, "Yes; how great would it be to be able to talk to him and see if he would be interested in buying from us?", You may be able to guess what I suggested next.

So many people know they need a LinkedIn presence but then fail to do anything with it. I recently spent 20 minutes going through contacts who had connected in the last month but had not actually been in touch with me since. I dropped them a line to say hi, to remind them that it had been a while since they connected and if there was anything I could do to help. Only those that replied after a given time are still in my network.

Now you might see that as a little harsh, but the simple fact is, once people connect with you they have access to your network of connections - in other words, they may not interested in you, but in who you know; these people are not connections, they are networking thieves and you are aiding and abetting them in their endeavors to grow their own businesses.

Of course not everyone will be that way, some will simply not be making full use of LinkedIn, they may not have email alerts set up so they don't know if you have sent them a message or they just might not be that active on social media. That's fine, but what value are they adding to your network and what opportunities are they providing for you. In marketing, we should all be focusing on the targets that provide the best returns.

Are all of your connections providing opportunities and are you making the best use of your connections on LinkedIn and can you spot the Networking Thieves in your connections?

I'm feeling quite humbled to be in such good company in this feature article on the secrets to business success.


You can read the full artcle by clicking this link - here 


I'm delighted to have been appointed as one of the new Community Ambassadors for Homeless and Rootless at Christmas (HARC). The charity was founded in Sheffield in 1989. HARC provides a safe haven for vulnerable men and women during the days over the Christmas period when other services are closed. It provides three hot meals a day as well as a host of other services such as health care advice, clothing and laundry.

HARC Logo Header

HARC is run by volunteers and a part-time project manager. Last Christmas it was based at the Cathedral Archer project, where it was open for nine days over the festive period.

As a HARC Ambassadors, I will be helping to ‘tell the HARC story’ by maintaining relationships with regular donors in our local community such as schools, churches and community groups as well as reaching out to organisations that have not interacted with it before and want to know more about its work in Sheffield.

A key task of mine this year is to reach out to the business community in Sheffield and to help them engage with the project. If you company or organisation wants to know more about HARC, the reasons it exists in the UK's fourth largest city and what you can do to help, then please get in touch. I'll be happy to come along and give you and your team a short talk about HARC, the work we do and what it can mean to be homeless and lonely at a time when very many others are celebrating.

Will whoever is advising Ched Evans, the professional footballer, jailed and then released from prison after being found guilty of raping a drunken 19-year-old girl, please stand up and explain what you hope to gain from using an interview with The Times to offer advice to girls on how to not get raped?

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If someone is not guiding this man's PR then they should because he has just unilaterally reopened the massive and divisive argument about his actions and dragged his new and former employer, Sheffield United Football Club back into the full glare of a very negative public debate. The footballer was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman back in 2011 and jailed for five years; last year he was cleared of the crime after a retrial.

The case split the nation and even more so, Sheffield United fans with sponsors departing the club and a massive petition being signed by thousands begging the club to no longer have anything to do with him. The club, at the time of his release, decided against signing him and he went on to play for Chesterfield FC. With the relegation of Chesterfield to the lowest division of the English Football League tat the end of this season, Evans sought a new club and has resigned for Sheffield United.

Why has he taken this opportunity to open old wounds that he and SUFC must know will only cause a negative and divisive response? Why has SUFC not stipulated to him that he must not talk about the case let alone put himself up as some sort of authority on how girls and women should act if they do not want to be raped?

If Ched Evans really believes that, as he told The Times, "a lot of work needs to be done in relation to consent because I definitely think that the police have an agenda to find ways to charge people and the easiest one is the drunk one,” then maybe he should spend his time talking to men about not getting drunk and being incapable of telling whether or not a girl is giving consent to having sex. If he wants to be seen as someone who wants to take repairable steps, accept his own responsibility for the damage he has done to that young girl, a girl who has had to change her identity five times and is currently raising funds to emigrate due to being vilely hounded by supporters of Ched Evans, then  maybe he should be having conversations with them, telling them that their actions are unacceptable, that his case and their actions have prevented and will prevent more victims of what he sickly refers to as "real rapists" coming forward - and maybe he should have a conversation with himself about not trying to be his own victim.

Ched Evans is in no position to lecture girls and women on how to not get raped. He is, however, in a very good position to be able to tell the fathers, brother, sons, uncles and close male friends, those men most likely to rape a girl they know, that if you get drunk and  cannot tell whether or not a girl is too drunk to give her consent to have sex, then it's best that you leave her alone - otherwise you may end up in court and spending more than two years in prison for a crime that no one will let you forget - especially if you keep talking about it in the press.





On Friday 31st March 2017, Nivea, the skin-care brand that is owned by the Hamburg-based company Beiersdorf Global AG, launched a promotional campaign for its “invisible” deodorant aimed at customers in the Middle East.

It was intended to promote Nivea’s “Invisible for Black and White” deodorant with the advert depicting the back of a woman’s head with long, dark, wavy hair tumbling down the back of her all-white outfit, shot against a brightly lit window.

The company chose to launch the campaign via social media and put out the adverts on its Facebook page. With the Facebook campaign linked to the company’s Twitter page, the opportunity for the campaign to reach a wider public and for them to engage with it was enhanced. Unfortunately for Nivea, the response was not what they anticipated.

When the campaign went live, public furore was ignited by the strapline the company had attached to the image - below the woman’s flowing hair, in bold, blue capital letters ran the slogan: “WHITE IS PURITY.”

Nivea 2

Within a very short time, Twitter was buzzing with negative comments connecting the strapline with racism.

What the HELL is this? White Purity? Shame, Shame, Shame on you. Fire your marketing person and anyone who approved this ad,” Tweeted one user.

“These glaring missteps are directly related to lack of internal inclusiveness,” said one PR professional’s Tweet.

Things took a turn for the worse when right-wing activists started praising the campaign on Nivea’s Facebook page and even adding images of Adolph Hitler appearing to endorse the product. This lead to even more negative Tweets and Facebook comments.

Wow @NiveaUSA. This is horrendous. Your comments are FULL of society’s refuse. This cleared your marketing department? #prnightmare” read one Tweet.

Even worse was to follow, as white supremacist groups attached themselves to the campaign, claiming it supported their racist agendas as they set about posting on Twitter and Facebook.

This resulted in the Daily Mail publishing an image of a post by one of the groups on Nivea’s Facebook page, which read, “We enthusiastically support this new direction your company is taking. I’m glad we can all agree that #WhiteIsPurity.”

“Nivea has chosen our side and the most liked comments are glorious,” read one far-right Tweet, that carried a picture of Nivea’s Facebook post. Another far-right group went so far as to encourage its followers to “LIKE ALL (Nivea) COMMENTS, BUY THEIR PRODUCTS.”

The post on Facebook stayed live for the weekend until the PR storm reached the ears of the Nivea PR team and it was taken down, but by that time the team were in firefighting mode. Media requests for comment were ignored while the team devised a strategy to deal with the backlash.

Nivea set about responding to every Tweet in person, taking the position that everyone who had commented deserved personal contact. In doing so, it distanced itself from any of the Tweets or comments made by the far-right groups.

NiveaUK tweeted: @benjancewicz@plumandmustard@NIVEAUSA This was not a @niveauk post, the NIVEA Middle East post was not meant to be offensive. We deeply apologise and it’s been removed.

NIVEA USA tweeted: @maej43@wickdchiq@niveauk The NIVEA Middle East post was not meant to be offensive. We apologize. It’s been removed. NIVEA values diversity and tolerance.

The company then followed that up with a media statement apologising for the post, which it said had been removed after “concerns risen about ethnic discrimination.”

The media statement read as follows; “We are deeply sorry to anyone who may take offense to this specific post. After realizing that the post is misleading, it was immediately withdrawn. Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of NIVEA: The brand represents diversity, tolerance, and equal opportunity. We value difference. Direct or indirect discrimination must be ruled out in all decisions by, and in all areas of our activities.”

However, a connected advert for the same product with the strapline “Black Stays black. White Stays White.” was still live in the Nivea Middle East Facebook page two days after the offending one had been taken down.

So where did Nivea, a company that had been caught out with advertising deemed to be racially offensive in the past, go wrong? How did it not see the elephant in the room that was so glaringly obvious in hindsight?

The preparation of a PR campaign should take up as much, if not more time than the implementation of it. What’s more, it should look at every angle of possible interpretation by all audiences.

I have no idea who put this original advert together or who approved it for publication – but I will bet a pound to a penny that they overlooked the importance of semiotics and how images and language are interpreted by various readers. It would be easy to point the finger at one or two people in this campaign and blame them – but surely it was seen and approved by a large number of people who should have said, at some point, “hang on a minute, can this be interpreted in a different way?” Unless you look at your advert from as many different hilltops as possible, you are not in a position to anticipate the potential responses to it.

Equally important is getting comments from various people “before” the advert is approved for publication. If you are using an agency or in-house team to develop the advert, they have a responsibility to carry out the blue-sky thinking which identifies potential risks – but they are only human and can get carried away with their own ideas and not see the pitfalls; not that that is an excuse. As commissioners of the advert, the company it is promoting also has a responsibility to run PR health and safety checks on a planned advert. There is no absolute guarantee that an advert will not upset or offend someone, the options for interpretation and the multiplicity of varying opinions held by audiences precludes that – however, putting the right checks and balances in place before publication will prevent you making the same mistakes as Nivea did here.

With thanks to Amy B Wang and the Washington Post.