A salute to my first boss, James Barber

November 19, 2018

Greg Canty

I was really sad today to find out that my very first boss, James Barber sadly passed quite recently at Marymount Hospice.

Many people play a big role in your life, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a teacher, a classmate, a colleague, a child, a life partner but your very first boss is a very special role and in my case, James Barber was the very best boss I could have had.

Why James choose this enthusiast, post leaving cert 17 year old with a big afro, beyond other candidates I’ll never quite know but I’m very grateful that he did and I’m forever in his debt that he treated me so well and gave me a hunger and love for business as well as a lesson in how to treat young people in their first ever roles.

(The pic is of me on my first day in the job, September 1982 – my mother was very proud if me!!)

The brilliant thing about James is that he always treated me with respect. I never felt like a young kid, he brought me to business meetings when we met clients and he made me feel like my opinion and my input was always valuable.

In particular, I remember our long trips in the car to see a client in Tralee and at the end of those days I used come away from them buzzing after learning so much.

He gave all of us in the office great training, he always gave us detailed briefings and clear guidance about each client so that we were always fully informed and therefore confident that we could execute our work well and we did just that. He was the ultimate professional but he also knew how to motivate us.

James was the first person who introduced me to the world of computers – god knows how much it cost but the practice bought a machine and it sat in his office and we were invited to use it and complete tasks for clients. It sounds odd now but it was really progressive and great for all of us.

My proud boast was that we (Barber & O’Leary) were a lot more than auditors and accountants, we were business consultants and for the most part it always felt like we were adding huge value and I credit James for that clever brand positioning, which always helped us to differentiate against competitors.

He was a great accountant, but he was also a great businessmen and I loved every minute of the work on some of the projects that he was involved with.

Towards the end of my days there after I had qualified I was getting itchy feet as I wanted to be even more involved in business and not just working on accounts, so I moved on.

I think James had other plans for me and it was always a regret of mine that I didn’t explore that more but I had made up my mind to move on.

A few years ago, James actually became a client when he came to Fuzion for help with media for a project he was working on and thankfully our input made a difference and we achieved our objective for him – in a very odd way I found it strange to work for him as I still felt he was my boss, still Mr.Barber and not a peer in the business world!

To this day I still talk about those formative years working at 80a South Mall so warmly and I credit James for my grasp of all types of business and the valuable skills he taught this eager young man.

When anyone passes I firmly believe that they live on through everyone they influenced and I know there is a part of him in me.

James…Thank you for being a great boss and for giving me such a great foundation and I hope I can be just as good for all the young people that start their careers with Fuzion.

Sincere condolences to his wife and children, Vivienne, Stephen, David and Amanda.

Rest In Peace..

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Social Media Consultancy Services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Warning: Disturbing Video (Yemen)

November 3, 2018

Yemen children

I was having a lazy Saturday morning, cup of coffee in hand, a delicious cheese swirl that I had bought in Dunnes Stores last night, flicking through the newspaper, which had been delivered by the milkman and contemplating if the rain would stop so I could consider a walk in the park with the dogs.

I have some work to do today as we are really busy but for now I’ll flick through the channels and enjoy my cuppa.

I stumbled onto CNN news and as usual there was the daily digest of Trump hatred, who to make an ugly point is sending 15,000 troops to the border to stop a caravan of refugees, who according to reports are weeks away. Why does he get so much satisfaction from his constant stream of lies and propaganda and in truth the throngs of people at his pre-Midterm rallies seem to sadly, lap it all up?

And then the next segment come on with a stark warning…

WARNING: Disturbing Video  

They proceeded to show a video of a malnourished child in a hospital in war torn Yemen, which was heartbreaking. The skin and bones and gaunt face with a swollen belly showed a person, a defenceless human being looking at the camera.

When the segment finished the CNN new anchor had to compose himself before continuing with other news items.

The warning was right, the video was disturbing, and while it was dreadfully uncomfortable to look at while relaxing on a Saturday morning in the comfort of my own home, it’s really important that we do not turn away.

How is it that these problems still exist in our world…what is wrong with us? 

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Social Media Consultancy Services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

We have one brand, it’s called Cork!

October 25, 2018

Cork Brand Book

When the headlines in national papers about our thriving favourite place, read “Cork City Council slammed for spending €300k on rebranding design that’s similar to three other logos – and slogan has already been used too” you just get a little bit frustrated.

This same topic has been played out in local papers and on local radio as well as these national papers and it is really unfortunate as it comes from a great, positive, progressive decision from the various players in the region to come together and market our fantastic region as one.

The stark truth is we have to pool our resources and market as one, to avoid confusion, to achieve some consistency of message and to have any chance at all of making an impact in a competitive world where we are in the mix against much bigger regions with much bigger budgets!

Our work – The Cork Brand Book

I need to be very transparent here and tell you, the reader, that we were the local partner who worked with a talented team led by Roger Hobkinson from Colliers International in the first phase of this work, which delivered a ‘Cork Brand Book‘ for the region.

This really is a confusing area, and when I heard Pat Ledwidge from Cork City Council and Derry Cronin of Cronins Coaches trying to explain on mainstream radio about the investment in a ‘Place Brand‘ you have to forgive the respective DJs for not being able to understand what they were talking about and furthermore why all of this “stuff” seems to cost a large sum of money – to them and the general public, this just doesn’t make sense.

A strong communications strategy needs to be part of this work (that’s where we come in folks!!) to ensure that the work and investment is understood by everyone, but even with this it still is a little complicated as people just don’t and won’t get it.

Cork Brand Book 2

A brand is a logo….right?

During the course or our work we explained to all of our audiences that the brand book was not and would not be a logo. 

The brand book was the presentation of the “true story” about the region in a way that we felt would resonate with target audiences – for our work this audience was people who wanted to live in Cork, work in Cork, invest in Cork or start a business in Cork.

Our process was simple but yet very complex – we analysed the different audiences in the region to understand what were the attributes, the hard and soft things that they said made it a special place to live and do business in.

We researched the large FDI companies, the small start ups, the people from overseas who decided to make Cork their home – what was it about this special place that made them choose here and how could we weave this story to others in a way that made it a compelling proposition to them?

When our research was done we gathered all of those special attributes about the region and it was our role to collate and shape these so we could package them and ‘tell the story‘ in a way that would resonate.

When we had this ‘story‘ about the region drafted we tested it extensively with our audiences both in Ireland and internationally to see how it resonated.

Is the story we are telling about Cork compelling to you?

Would you invest or want to work and live in a place like this?

The result of this work was ‘The Cork Brand Book‘ which is still available to download and this outlines what we believe is special about the region and it is shaped in a way that is designed to resonate with our target audiences.

The simple idea once this work was done, was that all stakeholders when they are talking about Cork or describing it in their own marketing materials (website/brochures), would use this language – if all stakeholders talk about Cork in the same way then we will achieve synergy and a consistent message with audiences.

The process above took months with a team of us conducting research, facilitating workshops, meeting stakeholders, executing surveys, compiling findings and then writing, designing and testing along with many meetings with the client.

The process takes time to do it properly and this does cost money and we didn’t even get to design a logo!!

As a passionate Corkonian I was privileged to work on this project and for months there was an extra skip in my step in the realisation that we lived in a very special place and this was played back to us clearly by the many people, not from Cork but who chose to live and work here because they loved it.

Shaky Bridge

Next Steps

The controversy in the papers and on the radio about “expensive logos” and confusing brands was about Phase 2 of the Brand work.

Unfortunately our team (pretty much the team that did Phase 1 with one or two others) narrowly lost out on the tender for this phase and I must admit I was disappointed at a business level but I was gutted as a Corkonian.

I’m passionate about this beautiful, diverse region and I was really sad to see the contract going to others.

The tender assessment committee had a tough job and had to apply their criteria and at that time they decided that someone else was more qualified or skilled to take on this contract than our group.

Effectively the job in this phase for the winning team was to:

  1. Bring the Place Brand Book to life in a website and marketing materials
  2. Gather and maintain relevant metrics for the region
  3. Devise a detailed marketing plan to promote the region
  4. Execute this marketing plan
  5. Manage the brand with stakeholders
  6. Liaise with relevant stakeholders

We haven’t been involved in any of the process (I did offer!!) since our phase was completed so I can’t really comment on the work that has been completed but I can comment on point 1 above, which was the bringing of the brand to life – this is the website and the ‘We Are Cork‘ campaign.

The website features some great photography (this should bring the authentic stories to life for the reader) and compelling copy, which should tell the story of the region in a convincing way – the Cork Brand Book that we produced should be a good reference point for the content.

I think the website does a good job at delivering the messages of the region.

The ‘We are Cork’ name and logo (Collectively, The Brand Identity) were also devices developed as part of the work, which seems to be the part that has attracted all of the controversy with the media and the public.

These should convey a modern, vibrant, welcoming place with a warm, original heart – ‘Quality of Life‘ was without doubt the number one attribute that people loved about the region and this is something that the brand identity should try to convey.

Design is a very subjective area so I am not going to comment about the work here and I will also pass on the name for the same reason – I’m sure the team did their research and were satisfied that of the options they developed these were right for the purpose they were intended.

However, I don’t believe that the Place Brand ‘We Are Cork’ is for general consumption (a consumer brand) so I feel that part of the confusion was caused by seeing this appearing on signage around the city – this should be reserved for the consumer facing, Visitor brand, which in this case is ‘Pure Cork‘.

Unfortunately when you are explaining you are losing, and while it is easy to understand the reason for the different brands it does confuse these audiences when they see both brands and not the one that was intended for them.

€300K for a logo!!

Of course a logo didn’t cost €300,000, but unfortunately when you can only show people a website and a logo as the tangible results of the work then the City and Country Councils are an easy target and it is difficult for them to start talking about the value of developing a ‘Place Brand‘ in a way that the regular reader or listener will understand as I have already mentioned.

Take me to the Church

Beyond the Logo..

The most important thing now is that the work continues and that the other aspects of this phase of the tender come to life with tangible initiatives that promote the region to the target audiences.

As someone involved in the tendering process for this promotional phase it was clear that the budgets were very challenging and the region would have to excel with online promotion (it’s feasible on a tight budget) and it would have to be very laser focused as to the activities that it could realistically engage with.

More phases will have to come and these will require significant budgets if the region stands any chance of making an impact with audiences overseas.

I sincerely hope that all of the stakeholders stay brave, stick with the course and continue to invest in the promotion of the region.

This will involve working together, pooling the limited resources, harnessing the passion and energy, choosing some clever, laser focused initiatives to invest in and then letting it all happen!

Cork is a very special place with a very special story and it is a great place to work, live and visit.

Do we have too many conflicting and confusing brands?

We have one brand, it is called Cork and I love it.

Cork….#BigOnLife

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Social Media Consultancy Services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

Nike: A brand with beliefs and balls?

September 5, 2018

Nike Colin Kaepernick

Nike made a huge statement this week as they launched their 30 years ‘Just Do It‘ campaign and used one of the sports stars on their roster, Colin Kaepernick with a provocative message:

“Believe in something, Even if it means sacrificing everything”

Colin was one of the NFL star players who decided to highlight social and racial injustice in the United States by controversially kneeling during the national anthem before games, which is one of the main reasons why he is out of contract since 2016.

It is two years since he first knelt during the national anthem and this quarterback’s movement quickly spread around the NFL causing uproar with many including the idiot President, Donald Trump suggesting they should all be fired for their gesture.

Kaepernick has been a Nike-sponsored athlete since 2011.

Colin Kaepernick kneeling

The NFL didn’t respond specifically to Nike’s decision to use Kaepernick in their ad campaign but issued a statement saying: “The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action. … We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities.”

The campaign has engaged many people but there has also been a backlash with many on social media declaring that they will throw out their Nike sportswear.

The recent figures also show that the stockmarket has reacted poorly with a negative performance of their shares.

Nike clearly took a gamble on this campaign by grabbing the controversial but powerful sentiment behind Kaepernick’s actions and harnessing it. They knew from the public and media reaction to the kneeling “movement” that it would polarise opinions and that it would get a very strong reaction.

Did they do this for the publicity, did they do this because they believe in someone fighting for a cause or did they do this because they really believe in the cause they were fighting for?

If this is core to the brand values and beliefs, then Nike have won as we now know they have bravely put these out there. regardless of success or failure.

If this was a calculated publicity stunt, then we still don’t know if Nike have won or lost.

I’d like to think they are bravely standing for something they believe in.

Just Do It!

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Social Media Consultancy Services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

What have you got to say?

August 29, 2018

Donald Trump

Every day without fail he is at it.

He is on Twitter consistently pumping out his messages, over and over garnering our attention and fuelling the stories that the media grab onto.

His content is on message: Make America Great Again #MAGA, Witch hunt, Fake News, Crooked Hillary, Build a Wall, Jobs, the Economy, I’m Great and those before me were rubbish!!

As much as we might hate him, his (lack of) beliefs, policies and philosophy we do get to see who he is and yes, we do make up our minds about him.

He has a target audience that he seems to understand quite well and sadly, he knows what they want to hear and he fires them up relentlessly in his favour with his often dangerous rhetoric.

This social media stuff is powerful and you and your business can use it too:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do you want them to know about you?
  • Start telling them
  • Start telling them often
  • Start telling them consistently

Donald…thanks for the social media tips!

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Social Media Consultancy Services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

Mourinho and the mystery of the lost magic?

August 28, 2018

Mouinho - three fingers, respect

As a Liverpool FC fan it was a natural thing to watch for the Manchester United result coming through last night from their home match against Spurs, three games into the season.

Things were ominous for moaning Mourinho and Co. as they had lost their last match away to Brighton the previous week and the self declared “Special One” has just not been himself for quite a while – in truth he hasn’t been himself for a really long while.

While I have always detested him I remember enviously watching the clear comradery that he seemed to share with his players, back in the early days of Chelsea FC where that combination of talent, money, team spirit and passion seemed to create an unstoppable force, which resulted in three Premier League titles, which he was quick to remind the press about last night in his press conference.

He wants respect from them for what he has achieved before.

Mouinho Chelsea

The magic seems to have deserted Jose Mourinho, whatever has happened. He doesn’t seem to be happy and even with his expensively assembled squad (of course he moans that he doesn’t have more) including World Cup winners, they stuttered at home and lost 3-0.

Spurs are a really good side and there is no shame in this but the timing of the result was awful for him, the team and their fans.

The big question is what happens next?

A great manager will use this result to dig deep, to reboot the team, to rally them to the cause, to make them believe in themselves and to motivate this talented group to start performing to their optimum level.

Great players who believe in this cause, this club, their teammates, their manager and themselves will treat this result as a big line in the sand and will together, use it to kick-start their season.

While this could be a possibility it seems a remote one as Jose has clearly lost the magic he once had in abundance might just need to take a break, to look deep inside himself to find out what has changed and why isn’t he smiling anymore?

We all have bad days and when we lose this feels lousy and inevitably leaves us lacking in confidence and motivation – when this happens it’s up to us, all of us, managers and players to rally together and reboot.

It’s easy when you are winning, it’s tough when you are not and that’s when the true leaders appear, to turn things around.

Jose is not winning but even worse (for Manchester United fans!!) he is not happy – is he the guy who can reboot this team?

#WinHappy

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

Sumud and jumping off the busy “Wheel of Life” with Mick Hannigan, Co-Director of the Indie Cork Film Festival

August 19, 2018

Mick Hannigan

When I sat down to record an episode of the Fuzion Win Happy podcast, with Mick Hannigan, Co-Director of the Indie Cork Film Festival the conversation turned up many surprises, as these chats always do!

Sumud

The first thing that I learnt was that Mick was just after returning from a three month stint volunteering in the West Bank, organised by The Quakers.

He was more than surprised to find himself up a mountain in a place called Yatta (Hebron) herding a small flock sheep with a shepherd – this was just one of his duties as an international monitor in this troubled area.

He witnessed many things in his time there, including many experiences that would leave him with hope, or Sumud as they would say in Arabic.

Since I took a job in an accountancy office in the South Mall, in 1982 as a seventeen year old I have never stepped off that wheel of working – Would you step off your busy ‘Wheel of Life’ and volunteer for three months and really make a difference?

Listen to Mick’s experience in the West Bank by clicking here.

Fuzion Win Happy Podcast

30 Years Talent Spotting

Mick grew up in Blackpool in Cork, had a fun childhood but didn’t like seeing his classmates getting beaten in school.

His colourful life took him to a punk era London in the seventies and then with a few more years under his belt and more maturity he returned to Cork to complete his education in UCC.

Voluntary roles in the Quay Co-op and the Triskel, eventually led to a role as Director of the Cork Film Festival, which he held for 27 years.

His acrimonious removal from this role that he was passionate about, hurt deeply, but eventually he picked himself up, he dug deep and was instrumental in creating the Indie Cork Film Festival, which is now in it’s 6th year.

He carefully followed the ownership model of Cork City FC to ensure that some of the “politics” that he feels affected his previous organisation would not be allowed to reoccur at the Indie Cork Film Festival.

For Mick both of these roles allow his passion for spotting Irish film talent to flourish, and allow a Cork and Irish audience the chance to enjoy something special every year – thank you Mick!

When you get kicked do you have the resilience to pick yourself up and stay on your chosen course?

Click here to listen to Part 2 of our chat with the very special Mick Hannigan.

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

Have we gone past the Sweet Spot?

August 6, 2018

I think we are now well and truly at that point in the economic cycle where we have gone past the sweet spot.

We’ve pulled away from the dark days of the recession and things slowly got better and better, we’ve lost that sense of caution and we find ourselves here, still in the upside but we have passed that sweet spot and we are starting to experience the downside of that upside.

We can see recognise the clear signs..

  • Business costs are increasing
  • Cost of living is increasing
  • Landlords are pushing up rent
  • Team turnover rates are increasing
  • Wages are increasing
  • Attracting great talent is getting more difficult
  • Expectations are higher but without the sweat
  • Traffic is getting worse
  • Hotel rooms are in short supply and increasingly expensive
  • We end up making decisions that don’t make sense anymore

This is the time when we can easily end up in dangerous territory if we make too many bad decisions, which will leave us vulnerable to even the slightest ill wind.

While this might seem like a negative post it’s a positive, future proof one.

Don’t undermine your solid foundations, keep doing the right things, carefully assess all of your decisions, keep a close eye on all of your KPIs, keep your team motivated and stay focused and stick to your plan.

Stay calm and keep doing good business,,

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

The Mother, the Mother-in-Law and the Queen

July 28, 2018

Pat O'Connell and The Queen, English Market

I just had to grab the man, with the heartiest and biggest laugh in Cork, Pat O’Connell for the latest episode of the Fuzion Win Happy podcast.

Pat, for those few who don’t know him is the famous fishmonger who is in that iconic photograph with a smiling  Queen, during her visit to Cork.

Pat runs the very successful Fishmerchants, K.O’Connell, in The English Market, which is now one of the popular attractions in Cork city for locals and visitors.

In the podcast I explored his early career and what it was like to grow up in a hard working, entrepreneurial family where his clever mum, Kathleen understood what was needed to differentiate your business.

While we all take the fantastic English Market for granted, Pat explains how this wasn’t always the case. Just like markets all over the world, it was a very functional, drab, market for locals, which opened a few times during the week and it required the clear vision of a few forward thinking people to change direction and evolve into the special place that we experience today.

Pat’s story is one of a family business and succession. His mum, an early female entrepreneur with a gift for people started this business, which Pat joined full-time after a brief stint working for the City Council. His brother Paul works with him in the business and the next generation of O’Connell’s are also involved..

Like so many stories, there have been bumps along the way, including the passing of his mum, work partner and great friend, Kathleen, which has left Pat and Paul to take the special business into the future.

Pat is a very proud Corkonian, a recent President of the Cork Business Association and anyone who has spent even five minutes chatting to him will understand why he believes Cork is the best place in the world to live and work.

In our chat I learnt a lot about his business philosophy and he also shared some exciting news about a new development with Dunnes Stores, which will be opening very soon in the Bishopstown store.

I hope you enjoy listening to Pat share his story as much as I did!

Click here and enjoy the show..

Fuzion Win Happy Podcast

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

What does the customer REALLY want?

July 9, 2018

Fuzion Communications team

We had our team day planned- we were all heading to Kinsale for the day!!

The mini bus was ordered and I went on a quick off-licence run with one of the guys, nothing mad but a few beers and ciders, something for everyone.

Instead of the mini bus that was ordered a few taxis arrived – my heart sank.

To the taxi company there was no difference between a mini bus and a few taxis. In their book each option got our crew to our destination – isn’t that the point of transportation?

Fuzion Communications team

To me this was a real let down – the team bonding, the banter and the fun and yes, the few drinks together was going to be an important part of our team day, including the journey there and the journey back.

There was no point saying anything – they just wouldn’t get it!

It’s really important that you clearly understand what your customer really wants when they order your product or service …. what do they really want?

Of course we had a great day but it could have been even better.

A big thanks to Hal McElroy of the Trident Hotel , who organised our boat trip with Ocean Addicts.

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland