Publicity Power

The power of publicity was brought home to me about 15 years ago when a national newspaper ran an article about a book I’d just published.  The gist of the article was that the book was a disgrace and should be banned. I steeled myself for the hate mail, but it never arrived. There were just two letters of complaint, but they were accompanied by several hundred orders for the book!  Since then, I’ve experienced similar outcomes time and time again. It’s because publicity can be so lucrative that public relations agencies are able to make substantial profits. The aim of a PR agency is to get positive publicity for its clients across as much relevant media as possible.

The great thing about PR is that there are very few barriers to entry.  If you have a laptop, broadband and a phone, you already have everything you need. Clearly, you also need to learn about the business, but it’s not something that’s beyond anyone of average intelligence.

If this field interests you, it’s time to do some research. There are literally hundreds of books on the subject, so try a search in Amazon. Many agencies specialise in particular fields or markets and this would be a good place to start. Look at your own interests, experience and expertise. Could there be an opening for someone specialising in PR to companies operating in one or more of those fields?


Currencies Update

UK Pound

Sterling lost almost half a cent to the euro this week, putting an end to three straight weeks of gains, as Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King used his Quarterly Inflation Report to seriously play down the UK’s growth prospects. (However, the pound was steady against the greenback.)

Speaking to journalists last week, Mr. King said that the UK faced “a long and winding road to recovery” (channelling the spirit of The Beatles) and said “growth is likely to fall back sharply in the fourth quarter.” Though he didn’t go further, this of course raises the strong possibility of a triple-dip recession in 2013.

In line with his comments, UK retail sales fell –0.8 per cent in October (a sharp drop) while inflation jumped to 2.7 per cent, raising the possibility of a continued squeeze on household finances. However, while all that looks bleak, it’s worth keeping in mind that Mr King wants a weak pound to help boost UK exports. He’s hence likely to play down the UK economy any way he can!


What will it take to see the euro fall again? The common currency claimed half a cent not just from the pound last week but the US dollar too, as foreign exchange investors seemingly ignored the fact that the Eurozone re-entered recession, while Greece is still a heartbeat from reviving the drachma.

The Eurozone contracted –0.1 per cent between July and September, putting it in the official recession everyone’s seen coming for months. Holland endured the biggest quarterly fall, shrinking -1.1 per cent, while the headline figure would have been much worse if not for the fact that Germany and France both expanded +0.2 per cent. Of course, with more austerity on the way, any recovery looks a long ways off.

Furthermore, Greece continues to face bankruptcy as Eurozone finance ministers put off the release of a €31.5bn bailout tranche. The FinMins are now meeting  to decide if Greece at last warrants the cash. However, as I mention, the euro has gained in spite of all this dithering, as investors put seemingly endless faith in a solution to the crisis. 

US Dollar

Last but not least, the greenback has endured small loses this week, as negotiations regarding the ‘fiscal cliff’ get off to a good start. This is $600bn in automatic tax raises and spending cuts due to be imposed unless US politicians can agree a sustainable fiscal path for the country and pay down the annual $1tn deficit.

Last Friday, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner said initial talks had been “very constructive,” adding “I believe we can do this and avert the fiscal cliff that is right in front of us today.” US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (a Democrat) meanwhile described the talk as “a good meeting, and the tone was very good. I think this is doable within several weeks”

This raised global optimism, leading the dollar to fall slightly. However, though initial talks may have gone well, there are still significant hurdles to overcome, and this is a process that will take weeks! Given that, there’s lots of potential between now and the 31 December deadline for the greenback to strengthen up again.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed reading this update. To find out how the latest changes in the foreign exchange rate will affect your money transfers, visit foreign exchange specialist Pure FX You can also call on +44 (0) 1494 671800 or email

Arla Tenancy Tips

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has come up with some tips to help tenants ‘identify key property features that could help keep them warm this winter.’ As a landlord, it might be a good idea to check you have the answers before the questions are asked.

Ask about insulation. When viewing a property, be sure to find out what kind of insulation is installed and how recently this was put in. While factors like loft insulation may not be immediately visible, they can make a huge difference to a property’s heat retention, especially if the property is a period conversion rather than a new build.

Look at a copy of the EPC. An energy performance certificate (EPC) should be available for prospective tenants’ consideration as part of the viewing process. This can give a good indication of how energy efficient a property is. The closer to ‘A’, the more likely it is to hold in heat and register lower utility bills.

Don’t forget the boiler. A new boiler can make a significant difference to heating bills; therefore it is always worth asking when the model was installed. This can also be a factor if there are multiple showers in the property, which can be a drain on hot water levels. All boilers should be regularly serviced by a certified gas fitter, and be sure to check the legally required documentation before signing any tenancy agreement. If the boiler has not been checked recently, ask the landlord to agree to a check-up before you move in.

Paying the bills. While many landlords will state that electricity and gas suppliers should not be changed in the tenancy agreement, it is always a good idea to check. If they do allow you to change supplier, it is always possible that you could find a cheaper deal, meaning there is less pressure to use the heating sparingly.
If you are not permitted to change supplier, asking the current tenants about their experiences of running costs is a useful way of getting a broad idea of how much bills will be in a property, especially if there is a marked increase during the winter months.

Double glazing and curtains. Many properties lose heat through windows, so always check the glazing in each room. Single glazing or larger windows can often make rooms colder, and this should be a key consideration for winter months. Curtains can be one solution to this problem, but are only effective if they are reasonably thick and are fitted to the window. For added warmth, be sure to ask the landlord or letting agent if they are happy for you to p

HMRC – Latest Warning

I’m not sure how many of these we’ve put out over the past 10 years. I’ve lost count! Anyhow, HMRC has just announced that it has set up a specialist task force to recover what it states is some £4m in tax from buy-to-let investors in the South East who have not disclosed this income.

You can expect to ‘see tax officers visiting landlords to examine their records… there is evidence of high risk of tax evasion…HMRC will typically target groups of up to 300 individuals.’ Be ready if you are a BTL investor in the South East and, reading between the lines, have taken out BTL mortgages or remortgages this past year.

CSI Summer Camp

Summer camp has a long and successful history in the United States, but now a  New Jersey company have added a twist. Stockton CSI is a summer camp for students with an interest in forensic science. It’s a fascination which crime shows like CSI have helped to fuel.  Attendees get to try their hand at solving crimes, with realistic tasks set by experts

Events like ‘Murder Mystery’ weekends have attracted an enthusiastic following in the UK for many years. Perhaps now is the time to introduce something a bit more gritty and up to date. There are already plenty of sports and activity based events which take place in school holidays. Maybe there’s a market for something similar, but for children with different interests.

Clothes On Tour

Here’s a strange thing…a company at the top end of a market, adapting an idea from the bottom end, and making it work.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of the one day sale. A company hire a hall or empty shop unit and hold a one day sale of sports goods, leather goods, jewellery, furniture or something else. These sales almost always operate at the lower end of the market. The key selling point is that this stuff is dirt cheap and it won’t be here tomorrow.

Clemens en August do something remarkably similar, but at the other end of the market. They are a high end Munich based fashion retailer, but their clothes aren’t available in shops or online. Instead, each season they travel to international cities, selling their collections in contemporary art galleries for only three days at a time. This tour system allows the company to  cut out the retail margin, and the selling point is very similar – this is very attractively priced, and if you don’t buy today, it won’t be here tomorrow. Exclusivity is added into the mix. The concept has been dubbed ‘clothes on tour’.

It’s an interesting concept isn’t it, and I’m sure it’s something that could be applied to other markets. Remember the key factors – a time-limited opportunity to buy an exclusive product at an attractive price. Here today, but gone tomorrow.