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Good Clean Fun with Ireland's first Mud Run!

Good Clean Fun with Ireland's first Mud Run!

Ireland are having their first Mud Run on Saturday 27th February 2009, sponsored by Persil, and to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland.

The challenge was to create an visual identity for the event, and a microsite accessible through MSI's main website, that would enable users to log in and monitor their own contributions to their account.

They've had a record number of sign ups, and hopefully the event will go off with a bang - it'll certainly be something worth taking a look at for next year!

Created on Wednesday February 24 2010 05:21 PM

Tags: charity ireland focus multiplesclerosissocietyireland

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Happy Birthday YouTube!

Happy Birthday YouTube!

YouTube is 5 years old!

No, we couldn’t believe it either. Hasn’t it always been around? Whether it’s for watching music videos (which we’re now allowed to do again), prison inmates dancing to Thriller in unison or just for giggles, YouTube has well and truly ingrained itself into our lives. And with TV broadcasters such as Channel 4 enabling users to view their 4OD content  through the channel, it continues to pioneer the way for free video content online. Even if the newspapers are all looking to start charging!

Happy birthday YouTube! Here’s to another 5 years...

Created on Friday February 19 2010 11:18 AM

Tags: blog youtube

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MBE for our client - Rhiannon Holder

MBE for our client - Rhiannon Holder

South Gloucestershire employee and client of Focus, Rhiannon Holder, 22, has been awarded an MBE in recognition of services to young people’s healthcare.

Rhiannon, who was named on the New Years Honours list, is employed as a project worker (teenage pregnancy) by South Gloucestershire Council and has been volunteering since she was 15 to offer advice to young people on a range of issues.

Rhiannon is now offering advice and support through the No Worries scheme to help reduce teenage pregnancies by increasing young people’s participation in the project and ensuring that services are young people friendly.

Rhiannon is using the No Worries website, which was designed and developed by Focus, to support the work carried out by the scheme by ensuring it is a useful resource with up to date and relevant content.

The site can be accessed via the Youth Unlimited site, which promotes positive activities for young people, in and around South Gloucestershire.

She said: “I've always been very passionate about young people's health. Just because I've got an MBE doesn't mean I'm going to stop the good work I am currently involved with at South Gloucestershire Council. Teenage pregnancy rates are falling nationally but there is still a lot of work to do to give young people the sex education, clinics and services they need to make informed choices.”

The No Worries site will soon be updated with a tailored search of information from 1 Big Database. Rhiannon will be able to login to the directory and flag which records she would like to be available via the No Worries site – ensuring that only the most relevant information is returned.

Created on Friday February 12 2010 02:04 PM


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Focus Rebranded

Focus Rebranded

A different flavour Focus...
...still the same great taste!

We’re starting 2010 with a bang here at Focus. A bang and a whole new name, brand and website! We love it and hope you will too.

2009 was a busy year for us. There were new business wins, additions to the team and we added a number of services to our portfolio. We also took some time to talk about who we were and what we wanted Focus to be for our clients, and we decided what was really important was to be up-front, no fuss and honest, as well as delivering cracking personal service. A sort of 'back to basics' – a change reflected in our change of name. The wonderful world of digital can still be scary at times and we want to strip all that away. We create fantastic websites for lovely clients. Simple. Who said digital had to be complicated?

So 2010 will see us ramping up our digital marketing services and getting knee deep in SEO, AdWord campaigns, newsletter management as well as giving our clients first rate advice and consultancy on the new world of social media. All this as well as our bread and butter – creative and accessible web design and build. It’s all stuff we were doing before, but with a bigger team, we’re really able to go for it! And go for it is what we fully intend to do!

The changes also mean there will soon be a new 'arm' to the Focus group, solely concentrating on the development of large scale bespoke web applications for businesses. More on this exciting development later.

So in the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy the new Focus site. It’s got some new features, lots of new content and of course a new look. Have a click around and let us know what you think! Suggestions are always welcome.

This is Focus!

Created on Wednesday February 10 2010 09:30 AM

Tags: website bristol

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Up, Up and Away....

Up, Up and Away....

We’ve been working with Bristol Balloons for five years now, and designed and built their three websites Bristol Balloons, Bath Balloons and Ballooning Network. You could say it’s a close relationship - fortunate, as our offices are up the stairs from theirs!

We revamped the design of all three sites last year, updating the look and feel of each, assigning each site its own identity within an overarching brand umbrella. We helped the team there to develop their online booking system, enabling people to check availability and book flights online as well as being able to being able to book flights as gifts for others.

We’ve yet to check out the flights themselves (I don’t have a head for heights!) but from what we’ve heard, the weekday dawn ones are pretty impressive!

Created on Tuesday January 26 2010 10:39 AM

Tags: new-web-site bristol focus balloons bath e-commerce onlinebooking

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1 Big Database - Ahead of the game!

1 Big Database - Ahead of the game!

The new Family Information Direct  programme (until 20 January 2010 the Parent Know How programme) has been set up to provide information, advice and support to all parents, carers and families on issues they may face with bringing up children.

All Local Authorities are required to submit their family information and childcare data to the national directory which can then be searched via a number of sources such as Direct Gov and now
1 Big Database.

The programme was officially launched in London on Tuesday 19th January where the DCSF recognised 1 Big Database as being ‘ahead of the game’ as it can already accommodate a search of the national information via the local system.

The Family Information services at Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council all keep their local information up to date via the 1 Big Database system, which has an automated feed to the national directory.

We’re dead chuffed that the hard work has paid off and been recognised on behalf of us and the whole 1BD team.

Created on Wednesday January 20 2010 04:04 PM

Tags: public-access web-development youth

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Opt-in/Opt-out trickery and confusion

Opt-in/Opt-out trickery and confusion

I am becoming far more aware of large brands trying to deliberately mislead their users into opting in to receive future communications.

An "opt-in" generally refers to a tick box which, if filled in by the user, indicates that they would like to be contacted by a particular form of communication. Unless the user ticks the box then the organisation cannot use their details for the form of marketing listed. This is in contrast with an "opt-out", where the default position is that the user will be contacted by that form of marketing, unless they tick the box to indicate that they would prefer not to be. The benefits of opt-out over opt-in are obvious, whereby the assumption is that the user wants to receive future communications, meaning more emails can be sent to more people.

People already receive enough SPAM or unsolicited emails so it should be best practice to make it as easy and clear as possible to the user that if they wish to opt-in to future communications then they can do so.

The All Party Parliamentary Communications Group (ApComms) said the internet advertising industry's self-regulation on behavioural advertising was inadequate, and that a law change was necessary.

"We do not believe that it is at all appropriate to consider the deployment of any type of behavioural advertising system without explicit, informed, 'opt-in' by everyone whose data is to be processed, and whose behaviour is to be monitored and whose interests are to be deduced," said ApComms in a report on its findings.

"We do not believe that 'opt-out', however commercially convenient, is the way that these systems should be run. To that extent, the Good Practice Principles promoted by the Internet Advertising Bureau are insufficient to protect people," it said.

"We recommend that the Government review the existing legislation applying to behavioural advertising, and bring forward new rules as needed, to ensure that these systems are only operated on an explicit, informed, opt-in basis,".

A technique I've also seen used is to include a combination of both opt-in and opt-out, one after the other. For example, when recently applying for a credit card from a leading brand they say:

Using the boxes below, please specify whether you want to hear about these offers, and, if so, how you want contact to be made.

Please DON'T CONTACT ME with offers from:
XXXX and XXXX companies:
by post ❑ by phone ❑

Please DO CONTACT ME with offers from:
XXXX and XXXX companies:
by email ❑ by text message ❑

Let’s hope that the existing legislation is reviewed and the rules will be made clear for businesses and consumers alike.

Created on Monday January 11 2010 12:34 PM

Tags: opt-in opt-out emailmarketing spam emails campaigns

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Welcome to 2010!

So... it’s all over again for another year... no more turkey, mince pies or mulled wine for another 12 months. We’re all agreed here that this is not entirely a bad thing! With Christmas over and done with, it’s time to look forward to the New Year!

Things we’re looking forward to in 2010:

  • Google’s Nexus One Phone. Launching today – likely to well and truly divide the camp here. So long iPhone? The jury’s out as yet.
  • Celebrity Big Brother. Or the backlash anyway. At the very least, we can be pleased that it’s the last one. EVER.
  • Real – time search taking off. Still not sure whether I need to know everybody on Twitter’s opinion on my desired search term, but could be a giggle to start with.
  • Onwards and upwards for Focus. We’ve had a great 2009, with a bit of a team reshuffle, and we’re looking forward to a cracking 2010. 

Created on Tuesday January 05 2010 01:00 PM

Tags: christmas new-year technology google realtimesearch googlephone focus

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Happy Christmas from Focus

Happy Christmas from Focus

The big day is nearly upon us so we would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Focus team.

Created on Thursday December 24 2009 09:23 AM

Tags: christmas

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Social Media and why you should care about it

Social Media and why you should care about it

2009 has seen the proliferation of a whole range of words and phrases that may have left many business owners scratching their heads. It's seems like it's no longer enough to surf, to click or to blog. We're now expected to Twitter, to LinkIn and to 'poke'.

All of these strange terms are generally thrown under the umbrella of “social media”, for which (as with most things in life) lots of people offer lots of different definitions. But one of our favourites comes from Andreas Kaplan of ESCP Europe, who says:

“Social media is a group of internet based applications that build on the ideological and  technological  foundations of web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user  generated content.”

For now lets ignore the “web 2.0” side of things (as that's another story) and concentrate on that last sentence as it mentions a key aspect when thinking about social media – user generated content. Consider the old days where one of your customers may have experienced a bad ice cream from their local parlour. They may have told a friend or two, who in turn may have told a couple of their friends – but on the whole the damage to the brand may have been fairly minimal.

But times have changed. That bad ice cream could now be blogged about on a web site for the world to see. Or through a social networking site such as Facebook, where with one status update all that user's friends and contacts would know all about the ice cream based trauma. And even worse, the sight of that ice cream could be vividly captured and shown to the world on photo or video sharing sites such as Flickr and Youtube.

In general these applications – and the use of them to spread 'word of mouth' – sums up social media nicely. It's the use of these modern techniques to share opinion, thought, comments and – this is where it can get interesting for businesses – recommendations, ratings and referrals. But why should you care? Because if you're not using these applications to talk to your customers, it's a fair bet they're already using them to talk about you.

Let's get away from our negative ice cream experience and instead look at the positive way that some of the most fundamental elements of social media can be used by businesses to communicate with customers and colleagues:

  • social networking sites such as Facebook. They might have a reputation for only being useful for keeping your grandmother up to date with your life (females aged 55+ is currently the biggest growth sector for Facebook usage) but Facebook now has over 300 million users and a business profile page can help some of them become “fans” of your organisation or your products. Nike currently has over 825,000 fans. Fans include links to your profile page as part of their profile, which can then spread to their friends, and their friends – you get the picture. For very little effort suddenly you've hit upon an effective 'viral' method of spreading awareness of what you're up to.
  • Twitter is a popular 'micro-blogging' service that essentially allows you to climb to the top of a big hill and yell things at those who have chosen to listen. Helped by celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, Twitter usage has risen dramatically this year and will continue next year as brands truly discover how they can use this tool effectively. At Focus New Media, we have just over 310 'followers' who always get our latest news and announcements – lucky things! And Twitter also includes useful built-in tools that help you identify when your organisation is being talked about and by whom, really valuable marketing information and helping you connect with customers directly.
  • founded in 2003, LinkedIn has become a leading site for online networking – acting much like a Facebook for businesses, but without the updates for grandma. LinkedIn now has over 53 million users in 200 countries and it can be used for connecting with past and present colleagues, posting projects and business opportunities, finding industry experts and according to some reports has become a crucial resource for HR departments, with 80% of US companies saying they use LinkedIn as part of their recruitment process.

That's just a very quick overview of some of the core blocks that make up this strange new world of social media. They form only a part of your organisation's digital strategy – but it's a crucial part at that, and in these times when online spend has now overtaken spend in traditional channels such as television, radio and print, it's important for you and your business to understand them and take advantage of the new opportunities they may bring.


Simon Newing

Created on Tuesday December 22 2009 04:59 PM

Tags: social-networking twitter

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