Ouch! Rail commuters have today been hit by the news that they face an average 4.1% rise in regulated rail fares next year. The rises are necessary according to ministers to pay for investment in the rail network.
Obviously, this news was hit with a big backlash from campaigners who are arguing that rail tickets are becoming increasingly unaffordable as price rises outstrip wages.
In an attempt to explain why these fares need to increase, this morning’s BBC Breakfast gave a really interesting breakdown of where our rail fares are spent. On average, for every £1 spent on a train ticket, costs are spent accordingly:
Track and station maintenance 48p
Train companies’ running costs 17p
Leasing rolling stock 11p
Train fuel 4p
Profit for the train companies 3p
The cost of rail fares in this country never ceases to amaze me and this break down really shocked me, as it shows that the rail companies’ profits are relatively minimal.
What I fail to understand however, is how other countries like France are able to run a faster, more modern rail network without charging the extortionate fares that we face in this country.
Living in Manchester but working in leafy Cheshire means that the train isn’t a viable option for my journey to work but as B2B PR consultancy with clients based throughout the UK, we regularly use the train to visit our clients and like many SMBs certainly feel the pinch after a few trips a to London.
With the Government keen to get us out of our cars and onto public transport, surely the time’s come to address rail costs once and for all or soon no-one will be able to afford to use them.
So, Manchester United – one of the world’s biggest brands – has announced the launch of its own twitter and Sina Weibo account. We admit, this suprised us a little; surely a big brand with such a global following has had a foray into social media before?
Well, it does have a Facebook page – and a pretty active one at that with over 34 million followers. Of course the club’s official press office has had a Twitter account for a while, since it appears that the media are more engaged in social media than the fans; though that’s unlikely given that 100,000 followers signed up in the first 60 minutes of launch.
What surprised us most here at Skout HQ is that Man Utd has been able to manage its brand across the globe without a microblogging feed in any language. As B2B PR specialists we spend a lot of our time advising companies on social media policies and strategies. In the past some B2B clients have not always seen the value in using social media platforms to engage with their stakeholders, feeling that it’s the preserve of B2C brands only.
We’ve always advised B2B brands that while it may initially feel uncomfortable communicating so directly with interested parties, building relationships in this way is very quick and effective. Which is why we were flabbergasted to discover that the one of the world’s premier (forgive the pun) consumer brand has only just launched their Twitter feed. Or have we got wrong – is social media on its way out as a communications channel? Let us know your thoughts?
In B2B PR, lesser known SMEs often struggle to find the really big stories that will get the attention of the well-regarded journalists and publications they want to be in. It can be difficult, with the resources and content available, the scope of PR knowledge and fundamentally the awareness of the organisation, to be noticed and reported on at the level they’d like to be. Of course at Skout we espouse our natural PR approach regularly, as the strategy that will get lesser known names noticed, but there are other useful tools in the kitbag too.
One of these is collaboration. Sharing the stage with another B2B company such as a partner, a key customer with a better known name, or a broad range of other third parties, adds an extra dimension to PR which is often what the media are looking for – validation of your claims or an independent perspective on what you say.
Many of Skout’s Manchester based B2B PR clients have seen joint success through collaboration. In the tech market, Thinspace worked with Lancaster University students to build a Total Cost of Ownership comparison model for its thin client solutions, which resulted in outstanding IT media coverage for its launch. Wax Digital has shared the stage with a number of organisations, including Durham University for its study into public sector procurement and the deficit.
SMES often need to think more creatively about their approach to PR, sourcing content that is original, authentic and gives the media something exclusive and different. Collaboration can be the key to raising the bar of press coverage and marketing value.
Two informal business networking groups have been set up in Manchester and the North West by Skout PR.
North West & Manchester Media Collaborators is for freelance PR specialists and small PR companies to collaborate and create a pool of highly skilled, self motivated resource that can work together across Manchester in PR, digital media, tech, marketing, b2b and consumer disciplines.
It’s for individual freelancers and creative companies with up to five employees. The intention is to set up regular (quarterly) meetings between the group to develop the network, share ideas and build contacts. We work on the premise of collaboration, not competition. Anyone who fits the bill and wishes to join, or refer the group to others, is more than welcome.
North West Tea N Tech, for business people in Manchester and the North West working in any kind of technology company, from IT to engineering – anything that has tech or technical consulting somewhere at its core.
Here, we’re looking to bring together business managers and senior marketing folk to network openly and build their contacts, find opportunities to partner and increase the potential for referrals within the group.
Anyone working on the business side of technology is welcome. Again the intention is to establish regular meetings for the group, preferably over large mugs of ‘Lancashire Tea’, so watch this space. Please sign up if you are in the business of tech, or feel free to refer the groups to other contacts.
Yesterday I took a few hours out of technology PR and paid a visit The Sharp Project on Oldham Road in Manchester. Sharp Electronics’ old Manchester base is being converted into an exciting “independent hub for the creative and digital industries and entrepreneurs in the Manchester City region” with the support of New East Manchester Ltd and Manchester City Council. The interesting part… Creative and digital start ups are housed in ‘pods’ – business units built from converted shipping containers laid out in a vast open space. The building has loads of natural light and will soon have a tram stop right outside giving it fast links into central Manchester. The site is still under development with a fair way to go, but already has tenants in situ and apparently the existing pods are already snapped up. When it’s finished it promises to be a strong creative hub for Manchester offering much B2B collaboration. Didn’t see any PR agencies in there yet…
I want a pod!