Tuesday, 3 December 2013

WSM students take a Leaf out of PR veteran's book

PR veteran and author Robert Leaf
Over forty-five PR and business students on the University of Chester’s Padgate campus attended a guest lecture from Robert Leaf, former International Chairman of Burson-Marsteller, about public relations this week.
Robert entertained and informed students about his varied career in ‘perception management’, from bringing PR to the Soviet Union during the Cold War to setting up the first official PR firm in China. Throughout his 55 year career in public relations, Robert has set up offices around the world and worked with clients such as Rocco Forte and Robert Maxwell.
The American PR veteran, who is listed in ‘Who’s Who in the World’, has published memoirs about his career in the book ‘The Art of Perception’. He told the Warrington School of Management students about some of the defining moments of his career and provided them with career advice, based on having conducted thousands of interviews during his time at Burson-Marseller.

Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Associate Dean of the Warrington School of Management, says ‘We were delighted to have Robert as a guest lecture at the business school. Students not only enjoyed his talk but went away with first-hand insight regarding International public relations and some great tips about job seeking and preparing for interviews. The business school actively seeks visiting lecturers of Robert’s calibre to provide students with inspiration and industry knowledge.’


To find out more about Warrington School of Management, visit our website and follow us on Twitter

Register now for free business help

Small and medium sized businesses across Cheshire are invited to make an early New Year resolution and register for a free programme of business support at the University of Chester, starting in January

The Knowledge Action Network (KAN), which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, has already helped more than 25 Cheshire businesses in the past year.The project brings together local businesses and University expertise to encourage creative approaches to innovation and growth.
Business owners are asked to take a critical and objective look at their companies with support from specialist speakers, University experts, individual business coaches and business peers. Recruitment has now started for a new group of businesses to take part in KAN during 2014. The latest programme will include workshops, business diagnostic sessions and networking opportunities with other KAN groups in Cheshire, Manchester and Cumbria.

Kay Kent, University Project Co-ordinator, said: “KAN provided an exceptional opportunity for small and medium sized businesses to work with the University and with a network of like-minded businesses on a fully funded business support programme.”
She added: “Do get in touch with us to find out more and register your interest, as places on the 2014 programme are limited to ensure we can give individual support to each business.”

Delegates at the first KAN session in July 2013
At the first KAN event in July Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Associate Dean of Warrington School of Management, commented : “At the University we know that small businesses are at the heart of the UK economy with creative, innovative and entrepreneurial ideas. However, we also understand that setting up and developing a business can create obstacles and challenges. Through our work with small businesses we have found that when business owners work together to share, support and network, it sparks creative and innovative thinking which is a catalyst for growth.”
Businesses interested in joining the Knowledge Action Network should contact Catherine Theobold on 01244 511177 or email mailto:c.theobold@chester.ac.uk for a programme brochure.


Monday, 2 December 2013

What are the issues that really matter to your business?

Dr John Risk, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader at  Warrington School of Management, University of Chester discusses the challenges faced by today's businesses and how to rise to them.


There is never an easy time to run a business, especially for people leading small to medium sized enterprises. The challenges are many and changing all the time; some are closer to your business and you have the time and knowledge to sort them out to survive, make a profit and grow. Meanwhile, external and international factors are impacting on your business, demanding response.
Few businesses are immune from global impact. Something happens unexpectedly across the world and the shock reverberates. Whether it is natural disasters or new competitors and ways of providing your product or service, conditions are changing.  This is what academics call “the business environment” which in the modern world is highly dynamic. These challenges for businesses of all sizes have to be addressed and anticipated so you can spot business opportunities and keep ahead of the threat of competition or substitution in the market.
There are certainly plenty of these challenges around. You need to know your market and your customers and where the industry is heading, competition is fierce. That alone keeps you on your toes but then there are all the factors more outside your control and uncertainty abounds.

Economic Challenges
Economic cycles rise and fall for varying lengths and time periods. The economic trends are currently on the up after four to five of the most difficult years for nearly a century, especially within the financial sector.   As recent problems and scandals have exposed, the banking system is still fragile. Interest rates remain low and the Bank of England’s forward guidance indicates that this will be so for a while. However, the necessary loans for investment (and in some cases survival) are still not properly feeding through to small businesses, who are seeking alternative solutions.  Maintaining investment in Research and Development and managing innovation are crucial to business growth, not just for global firms but also for many small to medium sized enterprises.
Closer to your business, cash flow is a perennial issue, with late payment of debt by customers, especially larger ones, a problematic concern.  You have taxation matters to address and all the regulations that surround your business and the Chancellor and Government seem always keen to change these as in the recent Autumn Statement and the Budget in the spring. More locally, there are business rates to consider, with a particular potentially negative impact for example for high street stores competing increasingly with out of town and on-line trade.  
Regulations (red tape) local, national and European will abound in your field and all this takes time and resources away from your key business priorities. Some regulations may seem well founded for example within health and safety; but with others, seemingly pointless detail takes over, grows and becomes an excessive burden for business.  Indeed, regulatory and legal issues and constraints are generally growing in the aftermath of the corporate governance problems of recent years.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Increasingly too businesses of all sizes wish or seem expected to show customers and stakeholders their ethical and environmental credentials. Some of this makes good business sense for example in reducing utility costs over energy and fuel usage and potentially improves the organisation’s image with the public. At best this can be a “win, win” for both business and good causes.
Infrastructure issues such as road condition, congestion and future transport development are vital to varying degrees. This is even before we consider the pros and cons of longer term issues such as the proposed HS2 rail development and all that means; not least to business and residents close to it but not necessarily feeling the full benefits.  There are more local business issues such as parking or Planning Development, Transport Plans, crime levels and access to local contract opportunities.
You need, through workforce development and training, to maintain and develop the skills and qualifications of both yourself and your workforce in order to have the skills to meet global challenges and changing markets. Education has a role in providing you with people with the aptitudes, skills and right attitudes for the workplace, and in developing and training your staff. With an increasingly knowledge based economy this is all the more crucial.  IT and information systems are changing all the time. Many industries are experiencing technological change of unprecedented proportion and a flexible and appropriately skilled workforce is essential. 
There is your own work life balance and trying to fit in family time, your own education requirements and training, as well day to day operational matters and strategic planning for your business. Not yet to mention your own long term financial concerns or pension provision.


Look Ahead

Before you start reaching for the blankets and pulling the bed covers over your head, in many ways all these issues challenge you to lift your head and look to the future direction of your business.
How far ahead you look and plan is a matter related to your own business and sector. Not many take the view of the likes of companies like Shell who look ahead 30 or more years given the long term nature of their markets, investments and projects. For you the timescale may be far more modest and relatively short term but still crucial. Whatever your planning horizons may be, market opportunities are changing.

In taking a strategic view, business organisations and networking opportunities through the likes of Warrington School of Management are a resource to be harnessed, helping you meet new customers and suppliers, develop new ideas and take a wider view. There are lessons to be learnt by keeping in touch with business networks and knowledge bases in anticipating the changes in your industry, market or sector and positioning your place in it for the future.

The team at Warrington School of Management
Dr John Risk is Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader at Warrington School of Management.

To find out more about us visit our website, email wsm@chester.ac.uk or follow us on Twitter

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Buy a ticket; invest in Warrington

Warrington Town FC have recently appointed a new Chairman and Managing Director. The club which is flying high in the Evo-Stik league, has taken a decision to change roles and responsibilities whilst on the up. Frequently such decisions are only made in a downturn, giving the new management little room for manoeuvre.
Senior appointment concerns have been in the press recently, with the Co-op being held up for scrutiny. Looking at The Wire senior management they are certainly not short on business experience and the new senior roles are being occupied by people who have been working with the club for some time, so they know the operations well.  In addition they have a clear vision; progression to the Football League. To do this they will also need further investment.
Warrington as a whole should be firmly behind them.   Strong sports teams promote their home town and good sports people can make great ambassadors.  The Wolves are clear evidence of this. So whilst The Wire is currently only a small concern, they have large potential.  Additional supporters would help the club and in turn help Warrington with jobs and spending in the local economy.  Buy a ticket; invest in Warrington.

Professor Lawrence Bellamy is Associate Dean at the Warrington School of Management, University of Chester Warrington (Padgate) Campus.

Follow us on Twitter
@WSofManagement @ProfLawrenceB

How do you make youth employable?

Database statistics (DORIC) comparing the numbers of unemployment benefit claimants in Warrington in October 2012 and in October 2013 show a reduction of 22%. Some of this may be down to counting methods and government initiatives, but overall it does show that unemployment is falling.
Using the same figures the rate of improvement in Warrington is also better than the rest of the North West and England overall. The country is in recovery. However for Warrington, like many other parts of the country, youth unemployment (ages 16-24) remains an issue. So how do you make youth employable?
Engineering and technology capabilities are in demand. These take time to learn. Construction is an obvious area, where once some basics are learnt people can become useful quite quickly and may move on to up-skill later. There are many jobs available however, that require only a basic education, not craft or technical skills. They require people with the right ‘attitude’.
A positive attitude can have many dimensions; being customer focused, showing initiative, enthusiasm, being enterprising and a positive work ethic. It may be harder to demonstrate than skills and requires confidence to display. Both together will make your employability much stronger.

Professor Lawrence Bellamy is Associate Dean at Warrington School of Management, University of Chester Warrington (Padgate) Campus, Crab Lane, Warrington WA2 0DB.

@ProfLawrenceB @WSofManagement

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A Premier League start for WSM students

The University of Chester, with campuses on either side of the Mersey at Chester and also Warrington, has a unique reputation for work-based learning initiatives which prepare students for work, placing great emphasis on connecting business theory to business practice.
An excellent example of this was a recent visit to Everton Football Club where some 50 Undergraduate students had first-hand commercial experience of business theory being applied in a dynamic, exciting environment.
Under the supervision of Senior Lecturers Andrea Harper, Jim Stockton and Terry Smith, the trip was part of the Warrington Campus Induction programme for Level 4 Business Management undergraduates and gave 50 students their first exposure to the University’s ‘transfer of knowledge’ ethos.

This is part of a programme of University/Industry co-operation which has featured similar trips to Wigan Athletic Football Club and Warrington Wolves Rugby League Club where evidence of a modern organisation in action is incorporated into student academic assessment.
The Goodison Park trip featured a comprehensive stadium tour, a 30-minute DVD viewing of “The Everton Experience” and a detailed presentation on the club’s outstanding community achievements, history and successes on and off the field given by Stephanie Kinsella, HRM Manager for Everton.

Students were treated to a unique 'speed dating-style' business induction session where each business function in the club was presented and discussed. Representatives from the club’s IT, Media, Fundraising, “Everton in the Community”, Everton Academy and Veteran’s teams gave a comprehensive talk on the roles and functions of their respective departments and students from a wide range of backgrounds were afforded time to question staff.

Michael Salla, Manager in charge of Everton’s excellent Health and Well Being initiatives said that “Hopefully it will help University of Chester students in giving them a good insight into our diverse area of work and open their eyes to different career paths out there”.
Andrea Harper, who organised the trip, claimed that “It was a great opportunity for our Business undergraduates to gain invaluable commercial exposure in a very dynamic and exciting context. The aim was to link business theory to business practice and this was hopefully the first of many co-operative projects such as placements and voluntary work as well as academic work such as case studies, research projects and dissertations”.

A great day and an excellent start to any Business undergraduate's university experience.  Thank you to everyone at Everton Football Club.
To find out more about our Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses, visit our website http://www.chester.ac.uk/warrington-school-of-management

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Engage with your customers before someone else does!

A recently unveiled study by research consultancy Hall and Partners suggests that up to two-thirds of an organisation’s profits may rely on effective customer engagement.

Since the start of the current economic downturn, it’s never been more important for companies to communicate with its target audience. More power is in the hands of the customer and engagement has never been more difficult, more complex or more fragmented. What do we mean by engagement?
According to the Advertising Research Foundation in 2008, engagement is ‘Turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context’. In other words, customer engagement encompasses awareness, interest, and desire to purchase, customer retention, and brand loyalty. How can customer engagement be achieved and maintained?

Terry Smith, Senior Lecturer in Marketing,  Programme Leader for MSc Management courses at  Warrington School of Management, and author of Marketing Communications: A Brand Narrative Approach gives us some insights into how successful companies can sustain brand attachment through effective marketing communications by promoting intangible values.

Know Your Customer: Customer insight comes from findings, observation, analysis of sales figures, experience, and other internal and external information which help you to serve those customers better. As a result of research, Pampers unblocked sales inertia in Germany by changing to a more acceptable eco-friendly bio-degradable formulation of its product. Their ‘dry layers’ innovation came as a response to the customer need for better sleep than merely water capture.

Help Build a Brand Story Together: When consumers add their own experiences, associations, symbols and images to the brand, they ‘co-create’ meaning. It is fair to say that until this co-creation has happened that consumers are not truly engaged with the brand. Organisations like Unilever have helped co-create the Dove brand narrative or story by ‘widening the definition of beauty’. When company and customer are locked together in the creation of the brand’s story, this is a powerful way to maintain engagement.

Understand the New ‘Terms of Engagement’: Social Media is the all-pervasive route to connecting with your customers through communications. Following some simple rules of thumb will help you build valuable relationships, increase brand loyalty and encourage customer advocacy:

  • What is the personality of your brand or organisation? What does your brand mean to your customers? What voice could it have?
  • Listen to online conversations and learn about what they think of you. Monitor customer attitudes and perceptions. Search engine analytics like Spiral16, Google Blog Search and Analytic.ly can be an effective way to ‘listen in’.
  • Follow the alert systems on these tools to optimise the opportunities to engage online.
  • Where are your customers interacting online? Are positive engagement or negative impressions present on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or blogs?
  •  Become part of the online community and its conversation. Monitor the responses and feedback to give insight and possible action.
  • Recognise the ‘opinion leaders’ in these networks. Who are the most influential and can affect the purchase behaviour of others?

Ensure all communications and all company communicators speak with ‘one voice’: Integrating all messages across all media is critically important. This will avoid confusion of message, reinforce brand image and offer a more coherent identity to both customers and staff. Make sure all staff are fully briefed and ‘on the same page’ in order to project confidence and consistency.

Have a customer engagement plan:
The process of product purchase tends to be a cycle of activities: brand awareness, consideration, inquiry, purchase, and retention stages. Sashi (2012) promotes the idea of a ‘virtuous circle’ which comprises: connection, interaction, satisfaction, retention, commitment, advocacy, and engagement.
This brings us back to the most important question: how are you going to achieve and maintain engagement with your customers? This is an important question because if you don’t, your competitors will!

Terry Smith is Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Programme Leader for MSc Management courses at Warrington School of Management, University of Chester, Warrington Campus, Crab Lane, Warrington.
Follow Warrington School of Management on Twitter.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

How can you be more communication savvy?

Andrea Harper
The success of any firm, large or small, is based on relationships and the key to any relationship is communication. Even organisational systems, processes and guidelines are ineffective without effective communication. However, numerous employee surveys highlight communication issues as top of the list when it comes to employee complaints writes Andrea Harper, Senior Lecturer in Business Management.
Research in this area also highlights the link between poor communication management and motivation, satisfaction, recognition and the bottom line – profit and success. Therefore, communication and how it is valued and managed can be viewed as an enabler or a disabler; it can be the means to both motivate and demotivate staff, to produce satisfied or dissatisfied staff.
The big question business owners and managers need to ask themselves, is: ‘Do we disable or enable our staff to help make our organisation successful?’
One of the main problems of communication in the workplace is that communication is all too often not managed. Organisational communication, in many firms, tends to be an unconscious concept – yet human resources, marketing, finance and operations are all managed consciously.
They are all important functions in an organisation and time, effort and resources are used to ensure they function effectively. The process of communication in the workplace, however, is often left to its own devises; communication just ‘happens’, it ‘doesn’t need to be managed’.
Therefore, in order to create a more successful business, communication in the workplace needs to be managed consciously. Communication needs to take its place in the hierarchy of organisational functions and processes; it should no longer be the Cinderella of organisational life. Therefore, it needs to be made a central part of organisational strategy and be viewed as pivotal in not only getting things done but getting things done successfully.

How can you be more communication savvy?

1. Recognition

Managers, not just top management, but all managers need to see communication for what it is – an enabler, it’s not just a tool to be wheeled out from time to time.
Communication as a concept/process should be embraced and needs to be recognised for its ability to unite a team by creating and maintaining openness; encouraging true involvement of  all       employees and facilitating cooperation.
Informed and motivated employees are ones who will take your organisation to a new level.

2. Conscious management of communication in the workplace

This should naturally follow on from managers’ recognition that communication or, more to the point, effective communication, is an enabler.
If its importance is recognised, managers will naturally start to manage the process consciously. Therefore, put it at the top of your agenda, build strong relationships and encourage your team to do likewise. Create more openness with your communications, e.g. think about the channels of communication you use, could you be more innovative in how you disseminate information?
Could you encourage two-way communication – not just to obtain feedback but to use your staff and their experience, knowledge and skills to get involved, to contribute more?
Employees need to believe that their contribution and ideas are welcome; they could make a difference. Managers should keep asking themselves have I shared ideas sufficiently? Have I included enough/the right people? Have I encouraged contributions? Who have I spoken to today? Did I persuade or did I tell? Has my communication been effective?

3. Lead from the front

When the management of communication starts to become effective, communication in the workplace starts to become effective. It breeds; it spreads. Openness and collaboration become the norm. Furthermore, if communication is valued and takes on a central role in manager’s lives, employees throughout the organisation will also start to embrace the centrality and importance of effective communication – helping to change attitudes.

4. Evaluate and learn

Review and evaluate are well-known manager mantras and many managers have the belief they are ‘good communicators’. The problem lies in the fact this belief isn’t necessarily held by their staff. What are staff saying about the organisation, about you, about the state of communication in your workplace? If you don’t know, find out. This is definitely good practice when an organisation has shifted to new thinking, new ways of doing things.
When all of these elements are pulled together, the organisation should start doing things differently. This will be demonstrated through employee motivation, satisfaction and organisational commitment. Stronger relationships with colleagues will ensue, employees will collaborate and cooperate more readily – they should feel more encouraged to challenge and get involved.
Andrea Harper is senior lecturer and Programme Leader in  Business Management at Warrington School of Management, University of Chester, Warrington (Padgate) Campus, WA2 0DB
You can find out more information about WSM by visiting our website. You can also follow us on Twitter 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Social Media: A key device in the business world


THE floatation of Twitter on the New York stock market and its pre-valuation at over $10bn indicates the high perceived value of social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others are now recognised as powerful devices of communication for businesses to reach their present and potential customer base.

Much of this is driven by the adoption of ‘smartphones’, now estimated in the UK at around 35 million users.  
Events such as the Rugby League World Cup have highlighted how this media can be used to keep ‘a buzz’ going and maintain an information stream. With ‘retweets’ going throughout the world this has also helped to raise the profile of Warrington.
However, most businesses have a long way to go in using social media to build their brand and communicate effectively. Marketing has moved on and some firms have been left behind.
A 30 minute drive from Warrington (traffic permitting) will take you into Merseyside, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and well into the heart of Cheshire. This gives the 8000 businesses in Warrington a potential regional customer base of several million people.
It’s no wonder that the excitement over Twitter is so high on the world financial markets. How else could you communicate with so many people?

How can Social Media help your business? Tanya Hemphill, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader tells us how in our four-part guide.
Professor Lawrence Bellamy is Associate Dean at the Warrington School of Management, University of Chester Warrington (Padgate) Campus.

Follow us on Twitter
@WSofManagement @ProfLawrenceB


Social Media: What is All the Fuss About? Final Stage

Stage Five: Evaluation

Many smaller businesses are interested in directly aligning their social media strategy with their sales funnel. Some of the core measurement metrics to do this are:


Retention Rate

Sales Volume per Customer

Revenue per Customer

Customer service Costs per Customer

The metrics you use should be directly linked to your social media objectives. If you want to clearly to see an ROI and monetised conversion rates associated with social media channels the best way to do this is by linking Google Analytics (free software)  to your website and setting up conversion goals. Further discussion on this topic needs a whole new article! However, you can visit http://www.google.co.uk/analytics  for more information. If you are considering going down this route make sure that every social media campaign is tagged by using Google Analytics’ ‘URL Builder’.

Hopefully, this article has given you a general overview of social media and how it can be utilised effectively to help generate leads, aid customer retention and build brand awareness. This article has only just scraped the surface of this topic – there are so many different aspects to social media and its uses that it is impossible to cover everything in a few pages. Sometimes, businesses rush into using social media channels because they are free and easy to set up – don’t fall into this trap because you can damage your reputation more by not understanding the characteristics of the medium being used. It is also a time-consuming marketing tool, so be sure it’s right for your business before rushing in.
Tanya Hemphil profile image

This article has been written by Tanya Hemphill, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader in Public Relations, based at the Warrington School of Management (University of Chester) @WSofManagement.

Social Media: What is All the Fuss About? Stage 3 & 4

Stage Three: What are Your Social Media Objectives?

Once you have matched your customer persona/s to targeted social media platforms you need to be clear on your social media objectives, which should directly align with your core business objectives. Social media tends to achieve three marketing goals:

·         Lead generation
·         Customer retention
·         Brand awareness

You also need to consider the 3 Ms of: Management, Monitoring and Measurement. Generally, marketers dedicate an average of 1 hour a day to social media activities and according to research by EML Wildfire (May 2012), the following business benefits have been experienced from the on-going use of social media:

31%        Customer engagement
30%        Loyalty
25%        Traffic to website
21%        Sales turnover (due to active use of social media)

Stage Four: Plan Your Campaign

Once you have decided what channels to use and have clear objectives, it’s time to consider your overall strategy and tactics. Example strategies include:

·         Generate product awareness with solicitors who deal with ligation cases
·         Generate product awareness with new mums
·         Increase lead conversions from the company website
·         Develop and promote content to help facilitate a prospects’ decision-making process
·         Reduce customer service calls by dealing with enquires via social media channels

Ideas for tactics should be gained from: researching case studies, attending a course or employing a digital/ PR consultant to help you.  Four key questions to ask yourself at this stage are:

1.       Does the tactical idea deliver on the strategy?
2.       How likely is the customer persona likely to respond to this tactic, compared to others?
3.       Does my business have the resources to implement this tactic (in-house or outsourced)?
4.       What are the critical success factors and main barriers to achieving these?

Tanya Hemphill profile image

Social Media: What is all the Fuss About? Final Stage

This article has been written by Tanya Hemphill, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader in Public Relations, based at the Warrington School of Management (University of Chester).