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Lessons from the phone hacking scandal

20th July 2011

Three lessons for any organisation come through very clearly as we receive wall-to-wall coverage of the murky (but perhaps over-exposed) phone hacking scandal:

Lesson One: Let your staff know your ethical policies

Rupert Murdoch referred to the News of the World as 1% of his global organisation.  However, he has ovbiously trusted Rebecca Brookes, and even 1% is just two layers of management below the boss.  "Did Rebecca Brookes know Rupert Murdoch well enough?", is the question, if Rupert Murdoch sincerely did not want his reporters to become engaged in the practices he now says are abhorrent. If his ethics were so different, and he had hired people he not only trusted, but knew, and then communicated his ethics, then he would certainly be in a different position now.

Lesson Two: Get it in writing

News International reporters' main gripe in all of this is that there was a "culture" of "do anything to get your story".  This is conveniently ambiguous and parks the blame squarely in mid air between management and work force.  Obviously from a management point of view this is very helpful with blame avoidance, but any worker should know that ultimately they could be held accountable for their actions, and asking for explicit instructions is crucial.  For us at Oxford Web, and for you, gentle reader, the lesson is the same but for a different reason: having an instruction in writing saves time later when ambiguity can cause additional discussion of how work should have been carried out and what the result should be.

Lesson Three: Take advantage of events to get good PR

Virgin Media is jumping on this opportunity to claim that 'Richard [Branson] likes [its new TiVo device], Rupert doesn't'.  If you're on the brink of choosing a TV recording/playback device and you see this ad, I think you're highly likely to go with Virgin and not Sky.  You needn't take a half page ad in a national newspaper to benefit from this advice - use your customer e-news, tweeting or blogging to push home your advantage or 'hook' an audience with something topical!

Our branding changes

12th July 2011
Labels We've been doing some spring cleaning here... and are delighted to let you know that we've come up with some new labels for our some of our products and services.  The big change is that our web design/development brand is now "Oxford Web". This is shorter, snappier, and better reflects what we do - we're not just all about software, we know the web from A-Z and we want to reflect that in the name. At the same time, we have been promoting a number of disparate brands and we are unifying the branding across all of them as you can see below.
Oxford Web

Oxford Web

Oxford Web is all about web analysis, design, development and marketing, including social media, search engine optimisation, analytics and ongoing business analysis. Our design service covers branding and logo design, and print and electronic media. Our website build service encompasses functions including ecommerce, membership websites, and completely tailor-made web applications.

Express Webspace

Express Webspace

Express Webspace is our unbeatable website deal for information-based websites. It offers you a raft of features for a very modest set up price and economical ongoing hosting and support. The name says it all - but the package includes expert help and advice at the start and as you go on.

bazoox

Bazoox.com

Bazoox.com is a news widget provider. Using Bazoox you can add rss feeds to your 'account' and display them on your website by pasting in the code provided. We're also working on the 'bazoox bar', our social media toolbar.

salient

Salient KMS

Salient Knowledge Management System provides you with an easy way of storing, connecting and updating information across your organisation. Salient brings together your organisation’s knowledge such as sales, marketing, project updates and customer details, to give everyone the management information they need.

Berry CRM And coming soon... Berry CRM - the CRM system for small businesses.

A first look at Google+

12th July 2011

I have to say now, I am aware that some of our readers don't use social networking, don't know how to tweet, and have never heard of this "Google+" thing.  Don't panic!  It's simply a way to share information without having to email it, so for example putting a photo album online for your family to see.  So you never know, you might like it.

However.. there are two main problems with Google+ at the moment (and I say 'at the moment' because I'm sure that both of these problems will go away in a very short space of time).

The first problem is that hardly anyone is using it.  It's as deserted as friends reunited became after facebook caught on.  It's like turning up at a party, finding the door open, and nobody at all at home.  'Coo-eee!  Anybody home?' you call, and there's just an echo.

Of course, it's ridiculously easy to invite people, and to put them into compartments ('circles') so that you can choose what to share with whom.

The second big problem I'm finding is that Google are still overcoming a few usability glitches.  There are little popups and scroll bars that get in the way when you least expect it, and actually stop you looking at the things underneath.  And I am finding little dead ends with photo uploads, including when you go to the large version of a photo that's ready to share, there's no option to share it, only to delete or change the caption.

Still, it's early days, and it has the feel of something that's going to be a lot more user friendly than facebook.  I will almost feel sorry for facebook if everyone deserts it...

friendly URLs - and why you should care

8th July 2011

If you've been involved with specifying and creating web page content over the last few years, you should be aware of a trend towards so-called 'friendly' urls (url being an acronym for 'uniform resource locator' - the full contents of your browser address bar when you look at the page.  if you're looking at this page itself as a single article, its url should be http://oxford-web.co.uk/blog/friendly-urls).

What's a friendly URL?  It's best explained by what's not.

If you go to the bbc (an otherwise paragon of web virtue) a single news article should take you to a url like "http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/14077856".  Well, the newsbeat bit is OK, but the number at the end is far from friendly, in that:

  • It's difficult to remember
  • It looks ugly
  • It doesn't add to the relevance of the page for Google searches (although in the bbc's case it doesn't matter, since all their pages have such a high rank).

No, urls these days should look like they mean something, but even more friendly is a trend towards the "verb/noun" type url.

For example "www.spamco.co/says/hello" (not a real url) which indicates that it's a blog post or other message relating to "hello".

If you'd like to use a strategy like this with your website, please get in touch and see how we can help with this and more.

A marketing strategy that's not hot air

4th July 2011

How do you create a marketing strategy that's not hot air?  

You may be surprised to hear that I wouldn't (necessarily) exclude social media from such a plan, but it does certainly have to be managed and measured like any element of a marketing campaign.

First of all - what have you got?

Whether you measure your leads in terms of x per month or x per year, you must record them and must have a sound basis for the current figures you have.  If you're not recording these at the moment, get a CRM system.

Second, where does it come from?

Is there a way of differentiating between your current new leads based on source?  If not, there needs to be.  Don't be afraid to ask potential customers where they heard of you.  If they don't know, they'll say.  But in a moment we'll talk about easier ways of differentiating.

Now you have your list of existing leads, make a new list of all possible sources of new sales, including twitter, web pages, email newsletters google ads, word of mouth, direct referral from an existing customer (this should be separate from word of mouth, as word of mouth encompasses anyone who knows you), fliers, letters, exhibition stands, networking, and so on.

Create a source identification mechanism for each channel.  Do you have a web page?  Explain your offer and ask customers to quote discount code SUMMER.  Do you have a flier?  Ask customers to phone a separate phone number.  With the possible exception of word of mouth, each source of new sales should have an easy way to identify that source.

Make and record the investment in all the viable marketing channels.  Include your time as a cost.  As a rule of thumb, I cost our time doing internal projects like marketing at half of the billable rate.

Finally, put more investment into marketing channels that pay off.  But give them the appropriate time for the channel.  Networking and twitter, for example, won't normally give you sales leads straight away, while google ads can be judged immediately.

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