hmv Empire, Coventry, venue, live music,

Writing for PR

I don't do much PR these days but it's a pleasure to be part of the upcoming success story that is the hmv Empire, Coventry - taking live music to the centre of the city. I always like to write a press release and take pleasure in publications that use my words in their entirety. I recognise that this is often due to the dwindling numbers in newsrooms around the country but the story still has to be good enough and well told to get the results. This was our recent statement.

Empire and hmv join forces:

Empire Coventry strikes landmark deal with legendary entertainment brand hmv

Coventry music venue, The Empire, has today announced details of a partnership with leading entertainment brand, hmv. The venue, which is in the process of re-locating to the city centre, will be known as the hmv Empire in this historic three-year deal.

hmv Empire, Coventry will open on Hertford Street this year following a £500,000 re-development of a former retail site and cinema. Although Covid-19 has delayed the opening by a number of months, this exclusive partnership gives the music venue a significant boost, placing them at the forefront of the national touring scene.

hmv Empire, Coventry Head of Programming, Dave Brayley, welcomed the partnership: "We've had a long association with hmv back to our original site in Far Gosford Street where we co-hosted a number of exclusive performances including a fantastic show with Sam Fender.

"This extended commercial relationship is a great step for us, putting the venue and city firmly on the map with artist, agents and labels".

Patrizia Leighton, Marketing and Commercial Director, hmv, said:

"hmv has had a very close relationship with performing artists since we started selling recorded music in 1921. We wanted to show our support for live music, performers and all those working behind the scenes at a time when that support is more vital than ever.

“As Coventry celebrates being the City of Culture for 2021, and as we celebrate our 100th anniversary, hmv’s sponsorship of this incredible new venue will help cement live music’s place at the heart of Coventry’s cultural scene and introduce music fans to new bands and artists. Together with the hmv Empire team, we’re looking forward to offering amazing live experiences as the country comes out of lockdown.”

Empire founder, Phil Rooney, is delighted to have hmv on board: “When we first thought about commercial partners for the Empire, we were keen to avoid the usual lifestyle and utility companies, we always wanted a brand with a strong musical heritage and there’s none better than hmv.hmv Empire Coventry, live music, venue

“Growing up in Cov, the hmv in Hertford Street was the one place you were guaranteed to find me every weekend. To think now that we’re going to have a premier entertainment venue in the centre of the city, carrying the name of this iconic music retailer, it just blows my mind”.

The sponsorship, which runs until 2024, is hmv’s only venue naming deal in the UK and includes the potential for artist showcases and unique album launch events, bringing a host of names to Coventry. Shows already confirmed at the hmv Empire include Tom Grennan, Arlo Parks, Roy Ayers, Maximo Park, Jimmy Carr and a number of events curated by Specials frontman Terry Hall as part of the City of Culture.

Subject to further Coronavirus restrictions the hmv Empire, Coventry is due to open with a socially distanced performance from the comedian, Al Murray, on June 11th.


So far we have gained coverage from Music Week, Complete Music Update and a number of industry titles plus significant social media andall the main local news outlets including a breakfast interview with BBC Radio CWR. When we have the branding in place and the venue is closer to completion, we will look to execute a 'reveal' which will be staged for TV and online use.

Culture war, what is it good for?

Happy Pogues day everyone!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, that annual event when people, usually spurred on by click-bait media organisations, lose their minds over whether Fairytale of New York should be censored. Previously it may have been known as the day when radio stations started playing Christmas songs (a month & a bit prior to the date) and we’d all ruminate over whether it was ‘too early’, but now we have a real argument to get our teeth into.

In some senses it’s a more orderly and less divisive re-run of the Christmas vs Winter Festival or ‘war on Christmas’ debate favoured by the ‘red tops’ and right-wing shock jocks which blighted the start of festivities for many years. At least we can sing-a-long to this one.

The decision over whether to clip or obscure some lyrics which can be construed as homophobic and misogynistic is one of changing and challenging cultural norms. What may have been acceptable once upon a time is not always going to be the case and all media outlets have to be sensitive to the times and opinions of their audience.

fairytale of new york censorshipCulture wars demand that we pick a side and defend it but there are instances, and this may be one, where it is possible to see both sides. When this argument bubbled up again last year, I was minded to reflect that you must always consider the context, particularly in a work of art. The questionable lyrics are exchanged in the setting of an argument, one conducted by characters in a different time and place. This being the case, a fixed mindset benefits no-one and there are rarely any good reasons to willingly cause offence. I might defend your right to express an opinion but choose not to share it with others, and certainly not broadcast it.

This time around the BBC are executing their right to straddle both sides of the fence as befitting an impartial broadcaster.  The decision - playing different versions dependent on the choice of station - seems rational in many senses, in that it changes the use relevant to the market the station is serving and their respective attitudes. It also allows the debate to fester, which in turn promotes the fact that the Christmas songs have started up again. It’s a win-win in a situation that rarely produces a positive outcome.

That Christmas is often known as a time for consternation and celebration, of tradition and turbulence possibly reward the song’s legendary status: it reflects the mood of the times, it is universal, and it is loved. If we remember nothing else each year it should be that The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl created the definitive Christmas anthem and caused almost everyone else to give up trying. Happy Christmas your arse.

How to communicate in a crisis

It’s no great secret that effective communication is important whether faced by crisis or otherwise, however a crisis does heighten the need to convey important messages and ensure that they’re understood.

The UK Government’s apparent inability to take hold of the Covid-19 catastrophe is a lesson in communication, with both good and bad examples. Without heaping further criticism on them it is possible to see what we can learn.

Rule of three

It is obvious that the Govt. comms team are obsessed with the rule of three. Most will be familiar with the rationale behind this, it's a triptych which apparently dates back to Aristotle.  For those who are not, it is an effective means of communicating in both written and verbal forms. A pattern of three units combines both brevity and rhythm and is the smallest grouping to allow this. In the early days of Covid the simple message of ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives’ was effective mostly because it led with a clear instruction. Frequent repetition of the message was invaluable to drive it home, following the holy grail of presenting information: Tell them what you going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you just told them.

It is suggested that the first message was so successful that it became difficult to modify it in later stages. Indeed, the mistake at that point may have been in trying to repeat the process with slightly different messaging, thereby prompting confusion. Latterly, particularly when backed up with simple graphics, they got back on track with ‘Hands, Face, Space’ although they had undermined their own efforts by this point, enabling sufficient doubt and suspicion to creep in during the process. Distrust from your target audience will naturally scupper most of your efforts.

For our purposes, the rule of three to apply to your comms efforts can be clarified, with a bit of alliteration to help it stick. Always communicate clearly, calmly and confidently.


Communicating with a wide audience is impossible without clarity. Ideally you would know your target market and your model customer and aim the messaging at them, in a language they speak – terms and phrasing they’d use. To communicate more widely and take in a broader audience you need simplicity, common words and clear ideas. It is broadly accepted that the most popular newspapers in the country are written for a reading age of 9-12. To be easily understood you may have to mimic the masters.


A crisis often induces panic, and this clouds the mind as it races around trying to find a safe-ground of reason or explanation. In order to cut through this you will have to deliver the message calmly, to provide the solution and pacify the crowd. Choice of words is all important here, think of positive terms instead of negative ones, you want to establish control.


If you want to be believed you will have to appear confident. To be sure of the facts enables you to transmit them to a receptive audience. Clarity, calmness and confidence are the three tiers to any communication, crisis or no crisis. If you’d like to add a fourth, then consistency is also valuable. People distrust back-tracking and u-turns – if you’re following the science one day then ignoring it on another will badly undermine your credibility.

communication in a crisis
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

In the situations and circumstances surrounding Covid-19 it can be argued that there was too much complexity, too many differentials and changing circumstances over too wide an audience and geographical area. It should still have been simplified and having a 3-tier system using both numbers and explainers could seldom hit the intended goal of being readily comprehensible, particularly when the lowest or starting tier is ‘medium’. It’s never a great idea to try and bend widely understood words to a new meaning.

If you want to cut-through a crisis, think and communicate clearly, calmly and confidently with consistency and credibility. Check your thinking and wording with external advisors or consultants if you have any doubts, and always be sure of the points you’re trying to make.

Chris Hadfield 2018

For the third year running we are delighted to be assisting Unique Lives & Entertainment in the promotion of Chris Hadfield's UK tour. The ever-popular astronaut will be appearing in Southampton, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast next February. Full info is here.

Chris Hadfield at Symphony Hall
Howard Szigeti, Unique Lives; Paul Flower, Profound Media; Chris Hadfield; Chris Proctor, Symphony Hall