Archive for the ‘Destination Branding’ Category

A Tale of Two Cities and The Cork Opportunity

January 7, 2017

One Albert Quay, Cork

With busy offices in both Dublin and Cork I am in the privileged position of witnessing both cities up close and personal and with the nature of our work we get close to many of the key issues and challenges.

In Dublin I am a Council member of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and in Cork I have been working on various marketing initiatives for the region so I guess I have a unique perspective. The recent Connecting Cork initiative by Cork Chamber has the city proactively connecting with our business diaspora around the globe.

Undoubtedly, there are terrific opportunities but there are also big challenges that must be addressed if we wish to seize them and Cork can play a pivotal role in ensuring that these opportunities stay in Ireland.

We hear the fantastic headlines on the news everyday about the many companies announcing new jobs but we also hear about how much demand there is for housing and the limited supply of high quality office space in the locations that contemporary businesses and their talented employees want to be in – high quality, accessible urban destinations with an attractive lifestyle mix.

While unemployment levels are half what they were at the peak of the recession the headlines are dominated with news of sky rocketing rents and the resulting social issues due to the huge imbalance of supply and demand for housing. The brave ‘Home Sweet Home’ campaign with the occupation of Apollo House has just put a huge spotlight on the issue of homelessness, which is in part a consequence of an improving economy.

So, it doesn’t always quite feel that we are succeeding.

While I am hugely proud of Cork, my hometown it is vital that Ireland has a strong, effective capital city to rival any in Europe. As part of my role in Dublin Chamber of Commerce we regularly feed into briefing documents and housing has been clearly identified as the number one issue for Dublin followed by infrastructure.

At the moment, it feels to me that Dublin is “broken” and it needs radical fixing so that the opportunities that present themselves can be seized without causing further problems for those living and working in the city.

The government for obvious reasons were unable to prime the development context to support the housing, office and hotel development that urban Ireland really needed. It also failed to really get to grips with the major infrastructure deficit in Dublin and we are now in major catch up mode.

To complicate matters further the management of the city of Dublin is totally fragmented, which makes cohesive planning and effective action extremely difficult.

The private land and property sector can shoulder some of the blame but there are huge tracts of brownfield land and property owned by State Agencies in Dublin, which should have been primed for development in 2012,13 and 14 for delivery now.

We talk about the genuine opportunities for Ireland as a result of Brexit but you must question if we could honestly cope with them if they came to fruition. If we are struggling with major issues for those living here now, are we crazy to be still talking about attracting even more businesses and talent?

Getting the companies here and then trying to sort out homes, schools and transport for the people afterwards will not be that easy.

ireland

While we proudly proclaim that “Ireland is the best small country in which to do business” we are in real danger of this message changing to “Ireland is the worst small country in which to find a suitable home“.

We need to be really careful because this message will catch on and once it does it will be very difficult for us to change the it.

This is where I believe Cork can step up to the mark.

In my hometown, something exciting is happening. Cork, has been progressing well with office, hotel, retail, leisure and community projects completed or under construction and at the same time public realm improvements are helping to present Cork in a better light.

However, Cork is also facing housing and infrastructure challenges but like any smaller ‘entity’ we should be more agile and flexible with the capability of reacting quickly as long as we have the genuine will to do so.

If Cork is positive and works diligently, cleverly and cohesively we can position the Cork ‘Metro’ area of some 500,000 people as Ireland’s only genuine second tier European city region full of innovative and creative people who are hungry to succeed.

Cork would then be in an ideal position to provide solutions for Ireland that Dublin will be unable to provide.

Cork can and should complement Dublin, adding more depth to Ireland’s global offer, helping IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the private sector to attract and retain businesses and people in Ireland and helping all to grow and succeed.

We now have real critical mass in global growth business sectors including technology, agribusiness, bio-pharma, tourism plus business services so a person can enjoy a great career along with other benefits.

Living in Cork is unquestionably a fantastic alternative with cheaper housing, cheaper office space, superb education, little congestion, the amazing countryside and coastline plus you can access Dublin, the rest of the island plus the global hubs of London, Paris and Amsterdam along with 50 other European cities easily. Into the bargain, we will soon be able to fly direct to the US.

Our most precious asset is the very special quality of life that is second to none in Cork, which many clever people, domestic and foreign, have already figured out. So many people who locate to Cork just don’t leave!

We have this superb opportunity and it is within our grasp once we are proactive and accelerate the development, infrastructure and marketing of the Cork region. House building must be front of centre with this agenda to ensure that we can provide all of our current and new citizens with suitable homes.

While Cork is “Big on Life” it needs to be just as Big on Action if we are to seize the opportunities that are there, right now.

Greg Canty 

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

In Dublin’s “not so fair” city

September 25, 2016

Smithfield Dublin

We were just after leaving a really successful client event in the Smithfield area of inner city Dublin, just north of the River Liffey.

I love this quirky, eclectic area of Dublin with a mix of old and new, the large cobbled stone plaza, new apartment blocks and old houses surrounded by coffee shops, little stores, the old Jameson distillery with a buzz of young and old including plenty of ‘cool’ hipsters making this area their own.

On this occasion it was nearly 8pm on a dark dreary night and the heavens had opened. A taxi was nowhere to be seen so we made our way in the pouring rain to the Luas stop (part of the much used Red Line, which would have come all the way from Tallaght with a stop at Heuston Train station).

There seemed to be an edge to the atmosphere as we waited for the tram to arrive. A woman was asking us as well as others if we had “two tens“. You could see she wanted people to open their wallets or purses.

Sorry, we don’t” Deirdre responded politely. “That’s alright love” she replied.

After about 5 minutes the tram arrived and we embarked with many others as well as the woman who had been asking for change.

On the tram we were standing next to a middle aged guy wearing an old black tracksuit with runners that had seen better days and a laptop case slung over his shoulder.

Three lads in tracksuits (they weren’t on the way to or from the gym!) were making a racket and they started exchanging banter with the guy in the black tracksuit – it was hard to figure out if they were spoiling for a fight or just messing but you knew inctinctively not to make eye contact with any of them.

During their banter there was plenty of “colourful language” being used as well as statements about “getting a syringe and doing ya“. They were now shouting down the carriage at another group of young girls who were shouting back at them.

At this stage we were feeling very uncomfortable as I am sure were the others including some visitors to Dublin with their suitcases who would more than likely have boarded at the train station.

The three lads in tracksuits jumped off at the next stop along with the woman who had been looking to change money leaving the guy in the black tracksuit, who at this stage was talking loudly to himself.

The Spire, Dublin

Eventually we were glad to get off the tram at Abbey Street just off O’Connell Street – as we stepped off the tram a man and two women, all soaked to the skin passed us by. The woman who may have been in her forties was like a woman possessed with her dead hair, pale face, mad eyes and missing teeth. She was shouting and roaring at everyone she passed by as well as those with her.

The man with her who was wearing a green tracksuit top and jeans, was pushing a tiny, quite old kids bicycle. Deirdre winced as he accidentally walloped the bicycle pedal off her leg as be brushed past her – he didn’t even notice.

Keeping our heads down we kept moving but then noticed the toothless woman had bumped into another weather beaten  woman with a hard face. Life had been hard for her, I’m sure. They clearly knew each other and now the other woman was crying and shouting something we couldn’t quite understand.

Lets get out of here quick we were thinking…

We passed them, pushed onto O’Connell Street and made our way as quick as possible towards O’Connell Bridge. Once you got to the other side of the river you could see and feel that it was a much safer area. We noticed that at no point along the way did we see anything resembling a police presence.

Dublin, our very popular capital city is a fantastic place but it has a dark, dangerous anti social edge to it in many central locations that are sadly witnessed by many visitors as well as natives.

While we can curse and detest these ‘louts’ for tainting our beloved capital we should first wonder how these desperately troubled and deprived people have ended up behaving and living like this and then begin to figure out the huge job of breaking these awful cycles of misery.

While the economy continues to improve we must figure out how we can leverage this opportunity and make our capital a safe and enjoyable place for everyone to work, live and visit.

Greg Canty 

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

 

 

 

 

Promoting Cork in London and Leadership

September 26, 2015

Cork - BgOnLife

We were delighted to have won the tender with Cork City Council to support them with the sponsorship of and participation in the FDI Forum in London, which was run by the Financial Times.

For me it was a great opportunity as we had been a key part of the work on the Cork Brand Marketing team, which involved literally all of the Cork stakeholders who wanted to market Cork with one consistent voice. This forum was the first expression of this work where we were able to use findings and language from the Cork brand book that we helped to develop.

#BigOnLife

With all marketing you need to do your very best to deliver a clear message that helps you to stand out in some way. From our work it was clear that Cork is very attractive for business as it works Economically, there is a strong, well educated Talent Pool, it has an abundance of great things to see and do (locals and tourist offering) and the Quality of Life is second to none in our fantastic region.

This is a ‘perfect mix for business and personal success‘ with a special emphasis on the person. You can achieve your career and business goals in Cork and at the same time enjoy a fantastic quality of life. This for us was the extra special, stand out ingredient that Cork has to offer and even though our region is relatively ‘small‘ we have quality of life in abundance.

If you were to use a tagline to highlight this most special characteristic about the Cork region then ‘Big On Life‘ might just be it!

Brochures and other marketing materials had to be prepared and printed so it was first time we could give our ‘Big On Life‘ message a test run.

FDI Forum - London

London

A strong contingent left for London including senior people from Cork City Council, Cork Chamber, Cork Airport, Developers, and significant businesses all with the intention of flying the flag for Cork and attracting foreign direct investment to our special place.

Cork Chamber organised a dinner in London to bring this team together and to invite some key members of the Cork business community in London (the IIBN network) as well as officials from the IDA.

Cork Chamber president Barrie O’Connell made sure that everyone introduced themselves to the group and then quite cleverly sparked off a conversation about Cork by asking a few people to speak on a topic. This generated a huge and very fascinating ‘Cork‘ conversation about a wide range of topics and issues and helped for all of us to hear different perspectives and to learn.

Michelle Conaghan of the IDA gave us an insight about how they work and their challenges and how competitive the market is. She spoke about the importance of sector clusters, which is important for a talent pool but she also mentioned that the ‘life‘ package is important.

We learnt from the Irish guys working in London about how expensive it is and how global businesses must look at other locations.

Donal Sullivan of Tyco spoke about evolution. Years ago they reduced their numbers in Cork for cost reasons but now the nature of their work is different so Cork is relevant again. He is on a huge recruitment drive and he says the talent pool in Cork and Munster is great but most interesting is the ease of getting people to relocate from Dublin.

The Cork operation is the best performing one globally from a staff retention point of view – I wonder why?!

Cork Chamber president Barrie O’Connell spoke about tax advantages nearly being gone and it is the other factors that must now come into play to attract investment to Cork.

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy spoke about the need for ‘ambassadors‘ who will spread the word about Cork and that we should focus on the positives with Cork Airport, the good news and the potential. He is right.

Niall Sheehan, Head of Property from Dairygold who have a huge office development about to start in Cork spoke about the compelling facts about Cork and that we should be more confident about the strength of our offer.

Roger Hobkinson (the adopted Corkman!) from Colliers International who led the Cork Brand Marketing project spoke glowingly about participating in activities such as the FDI forum as a vehicle to promote Cork and bring the brand book to life. He also spoke about the importance of urban locations as being key when promoting a region.

Jonathan Grey (who is very excited as he has bought a house in Cork) of the IIBN who is working and living in London spoke of competition for FDI from regions in Scotland, England and Wales. The new London flights to Cork will be an advantage. He coined a fantastic phrase “you can live in Cork and do business with the world” – I love it!

We heard from John Cleary of JCD about the key messages that he uses when he is attracting American IT companies to Ireland. Lower cost is a big advantage in Cork but quality of life means that staff retention rates can be a lot higher, which is another big selling point. From his conversations connectivity to the U.S. is a big deal so the recent announcements about Cork Airport are very welcomed. He also stated the obvious about Ireland – “people will look at Dublin first”. Cork is a very viable and compelling alternative.

Theo Cullinane of BAM (a Cork sports star with some unique achievements as we discovered!) also spoke enthusiastically about the super quick work they are doing at One Albert Quay for JCD. This will be an office development with the best specification in the country, which is what new companies are looking for.

Pat Ledwidge from Cork City Council who led the participation in the FDI Forum spoke about how Cork, now has “product to sell” so it must gear up its marketing efforts abroad.

Ann Doherty, Chief Executive of Cork City Council emphasised the cost advantages of Cork as well as the quality of life aspects.

Of course I had to get my few words in..

Dublin is a fantastic city with lots of advantages but it is heating up and it is starting to get quite costly. Cork presents a different and very compelling offer “The Cork offer makes the Ireland offer a lot stronger“.

The engaging conversation bounced from one side of the table to the other with each person talking enthusiastically about our ‘favourite place‘ until the restaurant staff politely gestured that it was getting late … it was past midnight!

Goodie Bags

Reader ..bear with me for a few minutes as I talk about goodie bags – this is leading somewhere!

We wanted to leave delegates at the FDI  forum with something different than the usual flyers and brochures. We decided that we would place a ‘Cork – Big On Life‘ box in each of the delegate packs instead of the normal so they would remember us!

We had handmade sweets from Cork, postcards and a few other little bits and pieces all to go in our ‘Cork Big On Life box‘. While this was a great idea it did however mean ‘Big on Hassle‘  as the boxes had to be assembled in London (no short cuts I’m afraid!) and filled.

Elmarie McCarthy from Cork City Council selflessly took responsibility for this monumental task along with everything else that she had to coordinate and her bedroom became a mini production line in the early hours of the morning (there was no access to the conference venue beforehand).

After the meal and the networking the Cork team that were staying in the same hotel took responsibility and pitched in and assembled and filled these boxes until 1:30 am. Well done to Ann Doherty, Pat Ledwidge, Conor Healy and Barrie O’Connell for jumping in, simply because a job had to be done.

The next morning there was a repeat performance – the Cork ‘Big On Life’ boxes weren’t going to magic their way into the delegate packs in the short window of time that was available before the event started  – there was no standing on ceremony and our leaders took responsibility once again, got to the venue early, jumped in once again and quickly did the job that was needed. I did help along with Roger from Colliers.

The FDI Forum

This was a fascinating day with a huge array of speakers and panelists as well as fantastic networking opportunity. Cork were there in force joined by Denis Collins of Smarter Dynamics, Kevin Cullinane of Cork Airport, Malcolm Allan from Place Matters (our destination branding guru who was fantastic to work with on the Cork Marketing project) and Doug Howlett from Munster Rugby all chatting to delegates and spreading the word.

Delegates

Cork was there proudly promoting ourselves along with other places such as Essex, Tblisi, Cyprus, Jersey, Melbourne, Lousiana, Singapore and Qatar.

I had an interesting chat with a delegation from Essex – they have a team of five people working for them proactively in the marketplace seeking opportunities as well as a Marketing/PR team supporting the communications of their message. They take a sector by sector approach and have identified four different ones to target. Promotion of your region is now sophisticated, big business and if we want these opportunities to come to Cork we need to gear up.

Ann Doherty - Chief Executive Cork City Council

Ann Doherty represented Cork superbly on a fascinating panel discussion and I am convinced that she must have worked in sales at some point because she didn’t let one opportunity to slip by to highlight what we have to offer here!

A lot of tired and weary Cork folk made there way to Heathrow airport to take the last flight home. 20 minutes after landing I was at home and I reflected on our little excursion (our airport is so incredibly fast and convenient).

As a proud Corkman I was privileged to have been part of this work and if this FDI community hadn’t heard of Cork before they certainly did now. Cork did itself proud in London and all of our various stakeholders need to do much more of this together. Individually we are all ambassadors for Cork and familiarising ourselves with our Cork brand book is a great starting point to stay on message with what our region has to offer.

The most impressive aspect of the London trip for me was the huge sense of pride and togetherness demonstrated by everyone, including our leaders and that willingness to take responsibility and do what was needed.

Cork .. #BigOnLife

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design, with offices in Dublin and Cork

 

Cork Merger – A poor process has us all scrapping

September 19, 2015

Free-State

When we worked on the Cork Marketing Project I was so proud and excited that all of the stakeholders were working so well together and that we made great progress towards our collective goal of attracting people and investment to Cork.

So many people told me this level of co-operation just wouldn’t happen in Cork and I genuinely didn’t believe them – I had faith!

Now I am deeply saddened to read in The Irish Examiner this morning about all of the opposing views and in particular today the bitter war of words between the Cork Chamber and the Cork Business Association as well as local politicians.

The Cork Chamber are “all for the merger” quoting the benefits of greater capacity and a unified voice and the Cork Business Association are against it declaring that you cannot ignore the strong advice that came through in the minority report by the two UCC members who were on the committee charged with making the recommendations in the first place!

Guys …this is really lousy for Cork!

I have my own strong opinions about what should be done but at this stage I don’t really care about my opinions or anyone else’s because I feel the process which was adopted with such monumental consequences for so many of us Corkonians was not fit for the huge purpose that it was intended for.

I have gone out of my way this week to find out more by talking to many of the people involved and everyone has deep rooted opinions, lots of suspicions and theories, very opposing views and I am definitely not seeing anything in place that will sort out this awful situation in the near future.

Personally I can’t believe the insubstantial make up of the CLRG committee (it lacks sufficient expertise), the research undertaken can be challenged too easily (I don’t believe the committee had sufficient time or resources to do this properly), there seems to have been very little ‘real‘ consultation and I can see issues with the recommendations as I understand them (Read my blog post – Cork Merger Drama).

Most significantly the minority report prepared by Prof Keogh and Dr. Theresa Reidy (effectively 50% of the committee excluding the Chairman) totally undermines the whole process and cannot be ignored. I believe this was sufficient grounds for not publishing the recommendations until their concerns were properly dealt with.

Even worse my understanding is that there is no mechanism in place to take the recommendations from the report (maybe there is huge merit in many of them?) and evaluate them robustly by people with the appropriate expertise, assessing the benefits and potential downfalls of each. In particular this assessment must deal with all of the valid concerns and issues raised by the various stakeholders in Cork who for many years have been representing our many and varied interests.

Their opinions, experience and expertise are too valuable to ignore.

If the process was robust with all aspects and arguments considered and with all parties brought along then we might start to get some understanding and agreement and only then, move positively into the future.

The last aspect is dealing with those directly affected, namely the many employees in Cork City and County Councils who also deserve a very robust process, which they can understand and believe in.

I don’t think for one moment that this will be all plain sailing or that we will end up with agreement on all sides but as with any change programme it should at least be both transparent and robust and it must bring people along carefully.

Hand Grenade

To summarise what has happened is that a poorly thought out grenade has been thrown into Cork by the Minister and his team, the pin has been removed far too quickly and we are the ones who will suffer as a result.

This process has already done huge damage to Cork and it has the potential to do even more if corrective action is not taken quickly.

My request to all of us including our Cork Politicians and our representative organisations is:

For the love of Cork can we please stop squabbling and instead focus on reversing this awful process with something robust that we can all believe in and one that will let us together move powerfully into the future”

We can’t afford to get left behind ..

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design, with offices in Cork and Dublin

 

Cork City and County – Merger drama!

September 10, 2015

Cork bridge

The report has been issued and in true ‘Cork‘ fashion it is a car crash of confusion and of course we couldn’t even get consensus among those on the small, tight evaluation panel!

A good friend of mine in Dublin who is in a position of authority in a powerful organisation tells me that “it’s pointless trying to get anything done in Cork because of the politics“.

This is sickening to listen to but is he right?

I eagerly awaited the reports in the local newspapers to try to get a grip on the issues and some sense of what is being recommended.

Maybe I am very simplistic on all of this but before delving into what they are saying we need to assess what we have currently in Cork:

  • A vast geographic area with a very definite large urban centre surrounded by a collection of rural towns and countryside
  • Urban issues and quite different rural issues to manage
  • A management structure where the city council is managing only part of the ‘effective‘ city and a county council which is managing a chunk of the ‘effective‘ city and a vast rural area with country towns
  • Two complete management structures with separate Chief Executives, Mayors and Councillors
  • One fantastic place that needs cohesive marketing with meagre resources (the best attribute of our city is the county and the best attribute of the county is our city)

So we have a real difference in types of issues, a real potential for duplication of overheads through two structures, politics at play and a hunger for power, history and how it has always been and a real need to pull together to achieve anything meaningful.

Alf Smiddy Alan Kelly, Cork City and Country Merger

I was hoping the recommendations would resolve this and before arriving at my own conclusions I wanted to soak up the feedback as it has been reported:

City Mayor Chris O’Leary reckons it relegates the status of the city – it will become one of ‘three divisions’ but with a larger better defined, more sensible catchment area

Micheal Martin, Fianna Fail leader  reckons the city will be marginalised and out voted – the overall Chief Executive will be in the County and the Deputy will be in the city, running one of three divisions

Cork Chamber of Commerce see it as being a “winning formula” but the Cork Business Association says it realises their “worst fears” …ah come on guys!! (Cork Chamber have a wider geographic spread than the Business association, which is mainly city centre, which probably explains the difference)

Ciaran Lynch, Labour TD feels it would “relegate the city to the status of a town council”

Significantly the two members of the CLRG  committee who vehemently oppose the merger (Prof Keogh and Dr. Theresa Reidy feel so strongly that they have produced their own minority report outlining their concerns)  state that “the two county divisions will be able to out vote the city” ..that’s not good I’m thinking!

Neither City or County Chief Executives are allowing themselves to be drawn on the matter but it is speculated that the more experienced County Chief Executive, Tim Lucey would get the senior role and Ann Doherty the City Chief Executive would become Deputy, with responsibility for the city.

The City Mayor, Chris O’Leary stated that the merger recommendations are “an insult to the people of Cork” – I’m not sure if too many would come up with that one in all fairness Chris!

When power and position are at stake it’s hard to believe anything that these guys will say – its logical that if they are losing something it is a travesty and if they are gaining then it will be the best thing since the sliced pan!

Even the ‘anti austerity‘ crew vowed to block the merger – basically they feel that urban working class communities will lose some of their clout

CIT welcomes the proposal and Cork County Council issued a statement saying “it would create jobs“. This is a funny one as if anything it should eliminate duplication.

The very wise, commercial and practical Alf Smiddy the Chairman of the process said things I would expect such as “more can be achieved with combined resources instead of divided responsibility” – ok, now someone is talking sense.

Cork County Hall Statue

It was now time for me to review the proposal to see where all this reaction was coming from.

  • One clear structure that achieves resource efficiency, eliminates duplication and creates a real synergy of purpose and intent would be fantastic for Cork – I’m not seeing this in what is recommended. I see divisions and power hubs.
  • One merged entity makes sense as long as we have a robust structure to manage this large area and one that takes into account the very different issues between our core urban centre and our rural areas – The proposal of three divisions, one city and two rural is sensible if these are management units and not power bases. This is not clear and I don’t like the word ‘divisions’.
  • The power structure (as opposed to management structure) between the divisions will cause big problems as they seem to be power bases with “votes” – the opposing members of the committee should really be listened to here
  • In my opinion the city must always be at the ‘core’ of the region and must not be relegated in any way to having a secondary voice. The urban area must be the economic driver and must never run the risk of being minimised in any way. This is not clear in the plan at all, which is a big worry.
  • Our region must be marketed as a cohesive region both to tourists and economically. Three divisions will not be a viable proposition and there must be a provision for one cohesive marketing team. I didn’t see this in the plan.
  • Politics and power games are clearly at play which will confuse all of the feedback
  • There is a lot of fuss being made of the Lord Mayor’s position in all of this – am I the only one who views them as just ‘nice’ figureheads?
  • It is clear that there are huge divisions and differences in opinion and we need to tease all of these out fully before we have any chance of moving forward

Based on what I have read and heard it is clear to me that there are major issues with the recommendations that cannot be ignored.

We need to put politics and power games aside, patiently work through all of these issues, address the real concerns and for once pull together as ‘Cork’ so that we can manage our fantastic place effectively and embrace all of the many opportunities that are available to us.

I want to prove my friend in Dublin wrong!

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design 

 

 

 

Michael Cawley, Cork Airport and “What’s the Point?”

May 2, 2015

Cork City

It was my first time listening to Cork born Michael Cawley, the Chairman of Failte Ireland and former Ryanair deputy CEO and Commercial Director. He was speaking at a business anniversary breakfast for Paul O’Donovan and Associates, Accountants.

Everyone is a product of what they do and Michael a former accountant and a senior member of the Ryanair team for 17 years is certainly a product of his career.

At first he spoke a lot of sense and he believes that everything starts with great management. He spoke about Dubai “a hole in the ground” and how great management has turned the place into a major travel destination.

He then spoke about the Irish tourism and hospitality sector, which employs 205,000 people. He reckons this could easily rise by another 50,000 but says we must ‘elevate’ how we view the industry and start respecting the work that people do in it.

Cork Airport – hopelessly uncompetitive

He then went on to talk about the €17 landing charges at Cork Airport that he says makes the airport “hopelessly uncompetitive“.

He expanded on this by talking about the Ryanair perspective “The passengers belong to the airline, not to the airports. The airlines will seek to make money, whether that is in Bari or in Cork“.

While this message was delivered with all of the arrogance you would expect from a Ryanair executive it gives you a clear insight into the thinking of airlines that are removing routes from Cork Airport.

However he makes a good argument and suggested that if the airport wants to compete for traffic it must drop the rates, suggesting that the region could even subsidise it because passengers will spend significant money when they visit. We must look at the big picture.

All of this makes perfect sense and those running Cork Airport need to start listening and start to view Cork as an economic gateway to our region instead of a stand alone cost centre. If this requires some write off of the debt then it will be no different to so much other debt that has been written off in Ireland over the last five years.

Michael Cawley, Failte IrelandMichael went on to give some general business advice to those gathered in the room “You must define your competitive advantage to be successful

He explained that in Ryanair’s case “price” was it and this was achieved by relentlessly driving down costs .. airport landing charges is clearly a big part of this and in Cork’s case it is easy to see how we are losing Ryanair routes to Shannon and other locations.

He also spoke about the importance of “innovation” and in his view driving costs down is the ultimate innovation – I don’t agree with this as I detest what Ryanair represent and I hate how they have wrecked the flight experience, which was a ‘treat’ many moons ago, even if it was a lot more expensive.

Bring back the peanutsI say!

Michael joined the panel at the end of this breakfast briefing whereby guests were able to ask questions – I asked the question “What did the panel feel was the unique selling point of Cork?

Michael took this one on and gave the room his very worrying opinion of Cork – We should get over ourselves and realise that we are not as special as we think. All talk of us being a “competitor” in a European context is silly as Ireland is really about Dublin.

..I couldn’t believe I was hearing this

Even worse he reckoned that it was pointless for money to be invested promoting Cork as it was not a proposition worth promoting.

When a Cork born Chairman of Failte Ireland holds this view it is very concerning – who is going to subsidise Cork Airport’s costs/landing charges (as he suggested) if no one believes it is a region worth investing in?

Michael …

I 100% disagree with you and as much as I respect your role and your ‘cost squeezing’ experience I think you and your colleagues in Dublin are misguided.

Cork is a very special place for both tourism and business as we witnessed in our research on the Cork Brand Marketing project and a few others have noticed too ..

Lonely Planet were the first to start talking about our ‘friendly city’ and the Huffington Post included Cork in a list of “Overlooked European Cities you must visit in a lifetime

Please take a fresh look at the place that you were originally from and ask the question..why are we so overlooked?

All of us in Cork, our business and tourism groups, our stakeholders and politicians need to start making a lot of noise if we want something in change.

As for Michael…thanks for the helpful insight

Greg Canty 

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

 

 

 

When harsh criticism can be the best thing ever!

October 27, 2014

Boring conference

I was recently at a large, high profile business conference and unfortunately the first segment of it was dominated and ruined by shockingly poor presentations.

I couldn’t believe how these senior business individuals broke nearly every presentation rule – they used boring powerpoint slides with way too much text laid out in bullet point after bullet point.

What’s worse is they insisted on reading each long sentence, word for word letting these shockingly awful slides hijack the knowledge they undoubtedly possess and in the process making them look very foolish in front of a large audience.

The slides should help guide you not hijack you!

To make matters even worse one of the guys drove on, slide after slide, ignoring the ‘warning‘ bell and selfishly ate into the next presenters time – as a result the whole schedule was forced back, which meant many people had to leave that day before everyone had finished.

Despite this when they finished their presentations they each received a polite round of applause leaving them quite oblivious to the fact that they were truly awful.

At the coffee break the predictable chit chat started ..”weren’t those presentations shocking?” ..”the worst I have seen” …”that’s a real pity because he’s a good guy and his presentation let him down” …”surely someone will say something to him

Just as we were chatting one of the ‘car crash‘ presenters passed by and one of our guys who knew him said “well done” ..”oh ..thanks a lot

Why do we do that?

I have no doubt that these guys would have left the conference feeling satisfied that they had stood up, done their presentations and based on the feedback they did quite well. Next time they are asked to present they will probably do exactly the same again ..it worked last time, didn’t it?

Thankfully the day improved and there were some really superb presentations later, which did a huge job for the profile and the credibility of these speakers – they grabbed the opportunity to shine!

killarney lakes

In 2000 Bridgestone Guide author John McKenna, caused a storm of controversy when he slated the fantastic and nationally treasured tourism gem Killarney. In a review this travel writer and food critic stated that “the best way to see Killarney in County Kerry is through the rearview mirror of a car. He added that discerning tourists will avoid the town as it was an Irish travesty surrounded by beautiful lakeland“.

This review sparked an outrage, which made Mr McKenna a hated figure in the town – how could he say such a thing about our beautiful and perfect place?

Despite despising those words and the cruel messenger the savvy locals started to process this truth – maybe our product has deteriorated, maybe our food offering is poor, maybe the town is dirty and shabby, maybe our service levels aren’t quite what they should be and maybe, just maybe this critic might be telling the truth.

Killarney dug in and got to work on their offering and 11 years later they proudly invited back the much maligned John McKenna as a guest speaker to ‘eat his words’ following the town winning the Irish Tidy Town award. He conceded that “the Kerry holiday hotspot has improved enormously and is the undisputed capital of Irish tourism“.

While hearing the truth might hurt deeply (lets face it we all hate being criticised) it could turn out to be the very best thing for you.

Whatever we do we should always look for the person who will tell us the truth instead of applauding and saying “well done”

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

At Fuzion we help our clients with their Presentation Skills and Speech Delivery from our offices in Dublin and Cork

What is it about Cork and Dublin rivalry?

October 21, 2014

welcome to cork

Recently I was at the inspiring IGNITE UCC graduate innovation programme launch event whereby this years participants were introduced to the attendees.

One after the other. each of the enthusiastic new entrepreneurs stood up and very quickly pitched their business idea to the audience.

Hi, my name is Greg and I am developing an APP that records receipts for valuable things you purchase just in case they need to be returned at a later date” (not a bad idea..huh!! )

The simple routine was, ‘My name is ..and my idea is..‘.

We heard one good idea after another and then it came to Eileen Weadick’s turn.

Hi, my name is Eileen Weadick, I’m from Dublin and I hope you don’t hold that against me!” She went on to tell us about her company, eXtensicon that offers a technical content service for companies mainly in the Information Communications Technology sector.

Eileen was one of the only people to mention where she was from.

I chatted to her after and asked her why she felt she had to mention where she was from in such a way – no one else did. Even though she has been living in Cape Clear for years she explained to me that she still gets stick from some people for being a ‘Dub‘ or a ‘Jackeen‘.

Often it is harmless but sometimes there is a little bit of an edge to it she further explained.

While it seems odd and makes no sense that anyone would feel negatively disposed towards her there is a clear and real ‘truth‘ in what she was saying.

In Cork being very honest we do have an issue with the ‘Dubs‘ and the normal, friendly welcome that we are well known and much loved for, can be put firmly to one side if we hear the wrong accent.

What is that all about?

Do we think they feel superior to us and do we feel inferior to them?

Do we feel they get the breaks that we never get?

Do we feel they think we are all from the ‘country‘?

Is it so engrained in our history that these feelings are automatically passed down to us?

Maybe we feel they might know more then we do and it is our automatic defence mechanism?

I spoke to a guy from Dublin last week about the whole Cork/Dublin dynamic and he said he spent three years trying to ‘crack’ Cork but he never succeeded – he reckoned being from Dublin was the reason for his lack of success.

When we worked on the Cork Marketing project we found there was no reason to compete with Dublin – we are a modern European city with plenty to offer in our own right. If truth be told and we were to compare we have the distinct advantage of having a more relaxed and better quality of life.

When I worked with Guinness in Dublin I was surprised how enjoyable the whole experience was and how the anti-Cork feeling that I was expecting before I joined never, ever materialised.

We work a few days a week in Dublin and I do find myself stressing to anyone we meet that we have a real office there and often I wonder if my Cork accent is a disadvantage to doing business.

Based on my experience I genuinely don’t feel there is a similar prejudice against Corkonians but they do want to know that you are physically there and that you are up to the job in a larger market. Once you convince them of that you get business on merit.

While local knowledge is valuable and priceless, so too is a fresh perspective.

Why not enjoy both equally and have the best of both worlds?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion who have two Dubs working for us in Cork!

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

 

 

 

Sicily and the Manager of first impressions

May 27, 2014

Sicily

Dee is the absolute best at holiday arrangements – she looks after everything and every year we have the best time when we go away.

I can’t stand picking through brochures and websites but she loves it and locks down every detail including great places to visit, excellent accommodation and this time she even managed discounted advance parking at Dublin airport!

Months in advance she managed to get a great deal on a cabriolet car rental and she double checked this with the car hire company, Atlas Choice a few days before we were about to fly out. Car hire can be a little hit and miss in particular when you can get the car you booked “or similar”, which is a term that is quite open to interpretation.

Dee had booked a Renault Megane cabriolet and the plan was we were to collect it at Catania airport after our evening flight and then drive to our hotel, which was an hour away. All going well we would be sipping on a cocktail before 10pm looking out at the Mediterranean and up the next day spinning around the coast with the top down and the wind in our hair!!

I am sorry, there is a problem with your car and we will have to give you something else” our lady from OS Car Rental said (these were the local agent for Atlas Choice car rental).

But we confirmed this with you just two days ago?” we said…what was the point?

There is nothing I can do except give you a bigger car, a Kia Sportage” was her solution and hopefully they would deliver the replacement car to our hotel in a few days.

Hmm..You just couldn’t trust this crew judging by the girls attitude – at this stage she was really annoyed that we would not just accept what she was giving us and move on and out of her way.

She asked us to sign a contract for the Kia Sportage for the duration of the hire. We weren’t very happy being presented with a ‘contract’ that would technically lock us to this car. “We will sign it if you note on it that you will change the car as promised in a few days“.

At this stage she totally lost it “I sign nothing” complete with hands waving and extravagant gesturing ….”If you want a car tonight you sign the contract and take the Kia“. At one point she tore the contract out of Dee’s hand as she saw that we were going to write a note on it.

I was so amused at this point that I managed to get her to repeat her “I sign nothing” performance but this time I recorded her – if anyone from her company gives a toss about customer survive they will enjoy this!

Hotels booked and paid for and getting nowhere fast with our Sicilian friend and determined that she wasn’t going to muck up the start of our holiday we relented ….20 minutes later we rolled out of the car park in something we wouldn’t have booked in a 1,000 years with 114,000 miles on the clock.

Our first thoughts were that Sicily was a big con job and we were on high alert – what were we to expect next?

Thankfully we got the friendliest welcome from the hotel, which was much better than we could have expected and we had our cocktails a little later than planned! We were too late for dinner but the kitchen managed a club sandwich for us.

My daughter Ellen and her boyfriend arrived to Sicily the following evening and got stung paying a €96 euros charge for ‘outside normal hours‘ collection of their car and were thinking ‘what next‘. They had a frustrating hour trying to argue that people coming off a regular evening flight to collect a pre-booked car was quite normal and should not incur a penalty. Con job?

My son Brendan and his girlfriend arrived to Sicily a few days later and got caught with a €25 taxi bill for a 2 minute ride to their hotel. When they questioned the amount he grabbed their suitcase and threw it in the boot of his car until they coughed up. Rachel’s first thought was ‘I just want to go back home‘.

First Impressions All three of us had a lousy first impression of Sicily, which thankfully was replaced quickly by some fantastic ones.

Should every country, every place and every business have a ‘Manager of first impressions‘ to make sure that your first impression is great because that first impression lasts?

Greg Canty

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

Destination Branding and the “special” Cork DNA

March 18, 2014

Cork region

We’ve been privileged to have been working on a really interesting marketing project in conjunction with Colliers International, Placematters and Location Connections for the Cork region, which was commissioned by some of the key stakeholders.

Destination branding is something all cities and regions must now consider as they must market themselves in a clear, concise and consistent way to all target audiences they wish to attract. How a region markets itself must be believable and true so that the actual experience matches the reality.

As part of this marketing process you must first understand what the offering is, decide what parts of this offering are attractive to relevant target audiences and then package this offering in a clear brand description for the region.

All the subsequent marketing of the region should be consistent by all stakeholders so that maximum return on investment is achieved and that target audiences develop a clear understanding of the unique offer from that destination.

As part of the research work we conducted about the Cork region we discovered that many people are attracted to the size of Cork, “it’s not too big and not too small“, they love how quickly you can get from the city to the country, they love the nearby  coastline  and they also love the friendliness, humour and warmth of the people.

Even the Huffington Post identified Cork as an “overlooked city in Europe that must be visited in your lifetime!

It is easy to understand the physical attributes of the region but the people dimension is one that is more difficult to pinpoint.

The Queen visits Cork, Friendly City

Is it really true that Cork is a friendly city just as the Lonely Planet Guide declared in it’s Top 10 List of cities to visit? The guide praises the city saying ‘Cork is at the top of its game right now: sophisticated, vibrant and diverse, while still retaining its friendliness, relaxed charm and quick-fire wit.

How can you explain this friendliness?

Do Corkonians really have this special “friendly” gene in their unique DNA?

In our research in Cork we conducted questionnaires with many foreigners working in the Cork region and they consistently told us how they had no intention of staying initially but this is now home and they would not be leaving. Cork is great fun and the people are very “friendly“.

As much as this proud Corkman would like to think people from Cork do not have a special gene, no more so than people from any other part of Ireland.

If it’s not a special gene then why do we behave in such a manner?

  • In Cork you can enjoy a good career with small SME’s or with large multinationals without the big commute.
  • You and your children can receive a great education right on your doorstep
  • You can enjoy a vibrant and friendly city where strangers still chat to each other that is easy to access
  • It’s a relatively safe place to live, visit or go to college
  • You can be in the country or walking on a beach within half an hour
  • You can enjoy a lively, entertaining, art loving, multicultural place where independents can still thrive
  • The food and entertainment offering is diverse and top class
  • You are connected to the world and major city hubs via an airport that is 10 minutes from the city centre.
  • On the very practical side of things Cork is a significantly cheaper place to live than Dublin and a more economical place to do business.

While the career opportunities aren’t as great as in Dublin or London, an internet world makes this less of a problem and the overall sense of well-being from an exceptionally better life balance makes the Cork region a very clever place for people to choose to live their lives.

So why are people from Cork friendlier, warmer and wittier?

Maybe this ideal sized region with an abundance of natural attributes just makes us happier?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion are a Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency in Ireland with offices in Cork and Dublin

Colliers International offer Destination Consulting services

Placematters are Destination Branding experts

Location Connections are an International FDI  site selection consultancy