A new Michelin guidebook for the UK and Ireland comes out this week and with it, much celebration and criticism. Celebration amongst those restaurateurs who will have their very first taste of being ‘Michelin-starred’; and criticism because in some circles, many are asking if the Guides Michelin are still relevant in a Web 2.0 world. Has the big rubber man lost his edge?

Think of the brilliance of the initial concept: publish a handy guide for a specific audience (motorists) about a topic on which you are expert (quality motorist services, including where to eat) published under the name of venerable brand (Michelin). Tyres-to-food is not such a tenuous link when you think about what Michelin wanted to achieve. Tony Naylor writes in the Guardian: “(Jean-Luc) Naret’s strategy… was to cash in whatever brand value they had, expand quickly, and see whether they could establish some sort of position.” In short, Michelin don’t really have to do much of their own PR these days, because the restaurants do it for them – by the champagne bucket-full.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the Michelin Guide is dogged by reputational issues: of being too stuffy and secretive; of being in denial about the Web (however, I see that @Michelin_100 has made 98 tweets and has 575 followers) ; and perhaps most dangerously, of diminishing relevance. Does it kowtow to big chefs? Possibly. But its traditions are so veiled in secrecy, one might never know for sure.

Personally, I think it’s premature to think that so many years of brand equity could be dissolved overnight. But I do believe the Guide would do well by turning its notoriety for aloofness into something more easily embraced. Like appealing more to young, old and aspiring foodies alike . And it should note that, because we are an ageing society, we’re also a lot less pliable and willing to take things on face value, especially when discovering and collecting various points of view is far more fun.

Will you be ordering your 2011 UK and Ireland guide?

Firefly London has very recently been awarded the Pan-European PR briefs to promote two companies: Leaseweb and Evoswitch.

Server hosting company Leaseweb is one of the largest and fastest growing companies in its field in Europe, serving the global market.  LeaseWeb handles internet traffic for clients like The Wikimedia Foundation, operators ofWikipediaHeineken, and Hyves, the largest social media site in the Netherlands.  Evoswitch is the cutting edge, next generation datacentre, based near Amsterdam that is 100% climate neutral – providing customers with advanced, state of the art, eco-friendly and secure IT housing alternatives.

Firefly’s immediate brief is to build brand awareness in the UK and manage the Netherlands execution through Dutch PR agency partner MarcommIT, before embarking on a Pan-EMEA campaign to build the brands’ profiles across Europe.  Firefly’s remit covers traditional and online PR, corporate profiling, forum engagement and industry analyst relations.


Do you ever strike up a conversation and midway through it, walk away?  I bet you don’t in real life, unless you’re a very rude person. Start as you mean to go on, by following it through.

Looking at the three points in my previous blog post about ‘resisting conversations’, I still have a few more questions.  Are the brands that are not participating in social media having conversations with their audience, or are they just initiating a conversation and then leaving the audience to work the rest out for itself?  Does traditional marketing, advertising and PR not allow the conversation to continue?

Maybe that’s it: if you don’t engage and interact with your audience, are you just an orator telling your audience what you think they want to hear?

Would your strategy be any different from the ancient Romans, like Cicero, who believed that through oration his political thoughts would spread by word of mouth?  Perhaps this is where the problem lies.  Many brands are comfortable starting a conversation – laying the seed for discussion, so to speak – but when it actually comes down to continuing the conversation, they vanish and hide behind their desks.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

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