Tag Archives: Mail & Guardian

Bocca Restaurant on Bree Street a delightful mouthful, first to offer pizza!

Bocca Interior Whale CottageThe opening of Bocca (meaning ‘mouth’ in Italian) Restaurant on Bree Street was eagerly awaited, having been held up by a last piece of paper to be approved by the City of Cape Town.  Three weeks after opening the Italian-style restaurant, seating about 90, is packed to the rafters, doing more than 200 covers per day most days.  Following a lunch last week, waiting for a car repair a block away, I enjoyed a special lunch with tastes of a number of the dishes on the Bocca menu on Tuesday.  The restaurant had been introduced to me in August already.

I was invited by Five Star PR owner Janie van der Spuy, with freelancer writers Jenny Handley and Bianca Coleman, Mail and Guardian‘s Amit Raz and Brent Meersman, and Katharine Jacobs of Eat Out.   We were joined by co-owners Neil Grant and Barry Engelbrecht, who opened Burrata at the Old Biscuit Mill in 2012.   Having bought two pizza ovens from Naples when they opened Burrata,  it was a long-term plan to open a second pizza restaurant in CapeBocca Neil Grant Whale Cottage Town. Pizzas bake at  a temperature of up to 485°C.  The two owners looked at a number of properties in the city centre, but the unusual venue on the corner of Bree and Wale Streets grew on them, allowing them space to add a mezzanine level, as well as an outside deck, which is already a hit, and attracts attention from passers-by. More space is available if they need more in future. Bocca is the only pizza restaurant on Bree Street. Natural oak wooden slats have been used throughout, from the exterior cladding, to steps into the restaurant, on the deck, and inside the restaurant, on its walls, and serving as banisters on the metal staircase, giving an Continue reading →

How honest and ethical is 2oceansvibe? Playboy bares all about owner Will Mellor, aka ‘Seth Rotherham’!

Having been on the receiving end of a deceiving, defamatory, and dishonest attempt to extract information about my guest houses from 2oceansvibe ‘Chief Whip’ Simon Hartley, we were interested to read about the dishonest past of 2oceansvibe founder ‘Seth Rotherham’ in the March issue of Playboy!

The article highlights the following about 2oceansvibe and its owner:

*   Its slogan of ‘Work is a sideline, live the holiday‘, implying that the owner sits on the beach or at Café Caprice in Camps Bay all the time is obviously not truthful, and interestingly does not reflect the content of his website. Through the slogan he has created a profile of himself as a wealthy person who has hooked in some brand ‘partners’ at great expense to feed his extravagant lifestyle. Those who have met ‘Seth’ know that he works hard, writing for his website, and being involved in his Radio and TV stations 2OV.  He has also run a luxury villa rental business (DG Rentals with the Dogon Group), but appears to have fallen out with its owner.

*  A sensitive issue appears to be the use of the pseudonym ‘Seth Rotherham’, instead of his real name Will Mellor. When we sent an sms to ask him why he hides behind a false name, he referred us to Playboy, as he had been asked the same question by them.  His weak reply was that he needed a clean name for the property rental business (but which he has not operated in the past 4 years), therefore using his real name for that business, and he created ‘Seth Rotherham’ for his 2oceansvibe website, as his ‘risqué party-times might not sit well with my daytime clients’.

*   The article shares how dishonest he was whilst working as a Butlers pizza delivery boy, cheating the system so that he got the largest orders, guaranteeing him the largest tips, at the expense of his colleagues, and which led to him being fired!

*   He explains in the magazine that he rarely takes calls (one a week, he says), wanting to be contacted on his terms, which is only via e-mail or sms, as we discovered last week, when I tried to contact him about Hartley’s information request. He explains that he is ‘actually quite shy. I need to be in my comfort zone and I don’t like surprises. I feel bad if I don’t remember people’ names. So, everything I do daily is managed digitally’. Having Will’s cell number, I attempted to call him, but I should have known that he never answers his phone. I sent an sms, and he (cowardly) wrote that he could not take the call as he was in a bad reception area (a predictable cop out), but surprisingly he was able to send sms’s perfectly, and almost immediately!

*   His radio station 2OV, with Darren Scott’s Ballz, was embarrassed last year when IT expert Shaun Dewberry discovered that their radio listenership data was highly suspect and overstated.   NetDynamix, the company hired by both radio stations to supply listener data, said the botch up was a miscommunication on its part and that the figures supplied to the radio stations referred to the number of times people had logged on to the station instead of the actual number of listeners.  One wonders how someone as IT astute as Mellor would not have known instinctively that the numbers were inflated, and that he was misleading his brand ‘partners’ (including Pierre Jourdan – it was Boschendal until recently, Vespa, MINI, Mail & Guardian – just the other day it was still News24 – Block & Chisel, Puma, Jack Black, Vida e Caffè, The Westcliff, The Mount Nelson, De Grendel) in terms of claimed listenership! Will tells Playboy: ‘Darren and us (and indeed the public) were all duped by the same incorrect data’ – come on Will, you were paying the company to generate the data!

*   The article claims that Mellor is karmic, and that he fired a staff member after four days of being employed, in not fitting the karma of his business, which led to Mellor being called to face a CCMA hearing, which he described as ‘not cool”!

2Oceansvibe has been a benchmark for bloggers, having been created long before most bloggers had even heard the B-word.  Many envied ‘Seth Rotherham’ for his advertised lifestyle arrogantly communicated via its pay-off line.  As a new blogger I had held Mellor in high esteem, especially after meeting him at a bloggers’ function.  He generously organised a pair of Rayban sunglasses from his client Sunglass Hut when our hug led to my sunglasses being crushed.

However, I saw a different side to him and his business last week, when he allowed his website to post a story devoid of all journalistic ethics.   On Friday afternoon we received a call from Hartley, mumbling indistinctly about a story he was ‘researching‘ relating to the SA Butler Academy, and requesting a radio interview.  I told him that we were frantic, having had a large number of check-outs, and new check-ins expected for the afternoon.  I requested more time, explained how busy I was, and asked Simon to e-mail the questions.  He set a deadline for 3 pm, and would not budge.  The two questions were not related to our SA Butler Academy blogpost at all (which it is evident that he never read, so much for balance!), and when I asked him to explain what the relevance of the questions was to the SA Butler Academy he brushed the question aside. He did not even send the link of the City of Cape Town’s property valuation roll, the crux of his story, and request an explanation.  It is clear now that he was in a rush to leave Cape Town to get to Hermanus for the weekend, according to his Tweets.  He did offer an opportunity to opt out if I did not want to respond, saying that ‘you will be credited as being unavailable for comment’, but that would have been dishonest, so I did not accept that option!   I had sought advice from two communications specialists, and both encouraged me to do the interview initially.  In the last minute however one of them sent an urgent sms: ‘Don’t agree to the interview. The chap is apparently not above board’. Seeing the story that Hartley wrote, the advice was spot on, as Hartley had not written about the SA Butler Academy at all, and had tried to dishonestly mislead me, not revealing the real topic of his story.

It made me wonder why 2Oceansvibe would have wanted to publish a non-story, with such a weak headline as ‘Outspoken Guest House owner Knee-Deep in Controversy‘!  Short of traffic they are not, with ‘350000 unique readers and nearly a million page views in the past month‘, Mellor smsd proudly, and he was clearly annoyed and sounded almost threatening when I decided to turn the tables, and asked him a few questions, just as Hartley had done to ourselves: ‘Chris I think I need to make something very clear to you because it seems you might be going down a bad path here’. Quoting his readership and page views, he continued: ‘I say that to make clear the fact that it is no longer a blog, it’s a news outlet with 10 permanent editorial staff. Simon is the editor overseeing all of that. This is his job. I can only interfere to a certain point’.  He continued, now clearly fired up and concerned about this blogpost: ‘Regarding standards, I expect my staff to be thorough and truthful and to give subjects an opportunity to respond. I also insist they include comment post-publication, if the subject  was initially unable to respond. Again I must stress that I can only interfere with Simon’s work to a certain extent. He is a highly ethical person and known for his integrity. Chris I assure you that I am giving every effort to ensure this doesn’t come out as bad as it could, and will keep doing so’ (our underlining). Now please Mr Mellor, don’t think that we will buy that – you ARE brand 2Oceansvibe!  You have been lied to by your editor, and the PR industry does not agree with your faith in Hartley either.  ‘Response’ is not answering two questions unrelated to the false and misleading topic Hartley spoke about, meaning that Mellor’s instructions are not being followed by his staff! On the top right of the website ‘Seth Rotherham’ is introduced as ‘Editor in Chief’, with no mention of Hartley!

A long sms from Mellor highlighted that ‘I insisted he (Hartley) gets your side of the story before publishing’. This did not happen, as Hartley unprofessionally denied us the opportunity to be told the real topic of his story, or even be given an opportunity to see the full story before it was posted.  A follow-up sms from us, to express the disappointment with Hartley’s unprofessional conduct, received Mellor’s reply: ‘I don’t have browsing internet access where I am – data very slow. Simon smsd to say he tried to get comment from you and were able to reply more than once but refused to‘, which is devoid of all truth!  Clearly Hartley was desperate to get the story posted, and used Mellor’s absence to post it without any ‘journalistic’ integrity!

Our blog being highlighted as being controversial is not newsworthy, and we carry the badge from the SA Blog Awards, having been nominated as ‘Top 10 Most Controversial Blog’ in 2010 (the category has been discontinued since then), a category that was won by 2oceansvibe in that year, even though it wasn’t controversial, it never was a blog, and Mellor was a judge for the Awards too, showing how poor his ethics are, his sms claim of no longer being a blog being noted – it never was!  In fact, his website is nothing more than a rehash of other writers’ work, with little original writing!  He is not universally liked, seen by many to be arrogant and a ‘cheat’here, here, here, here.

In one of Mellor’s sms messages he wrote that he has opened his own Twitter account (@SethRotherham): ‘I even had to get my own twitter handle as I can no longer use 2oceansvibe twitter for personal use

That brings us to Hartley, someone I have never met.  Asking what his agenda was with the story, he replied that ‘I was following a journalistic lead’, and that we had not met previously.  However via Twitter (great research medium which Hartley likes to use too for his so-called ‘research’) we discovered that he had been alerted to the story by Twitch Marthèlize Tredoux, a good friend of Hartley’s wife Lize, and a continual abusive Tweeter (as @konfytbekkie) about ourselves (she and I have never met, but she does love our Blog and Tweets, obsessively reading them and writing about them ad nauseam)!  Unsurprisingly, Hartley’s defamatory call via Twitter for information for his ‘research’ was eagerly replied to by Skye Grove, PR and Communications Manager of Cape Town Tourism!

Asking Hartley why he did not send me a copy of his story before posting it, so that I could give him a detailed response, he arrogantly replied:  “There is no onus on 2oceansvibe, or any other publication (sic) to send the subject of their investigations an entire article before it is published. On which journalistic handbook do you base this expectation? The onus on the publication is to strive for a balance of views, which we did in earnest by calling, texting and emailing you. Despite your ability to answer multiple emails, you did not comment on two short questions. Quite frankly, I did answer your questions as to how my questions for you were related to your dispute with SABA. I informed you that dozens of readers alerted us to the dispute you had/have with SABA, and while reading all of the available correspondence, an important lead appeared (you’ll see the screenshot in our post) – a lead that required its own investigation. So, as I answered at the time: the questions to you arose over the course of our reading through your dispute with SABA. I completely reject any assertions that I or 2oceansvibe Media acted dishonestly at any point in the investigation or publishing of the article, and should you be able to demonstrate any error in our reporting (we are confident there is none), we will gladly publish an amendment”.

We have highlighted the dishonesty of his misleading approach, and his unprofessional unwillingness to reveal what the story was really about. There was no balance sought, as claimed, as Hartley did not even verify which aspects of the SA Butler Academy blogpost were indeed honest and truthful (we did not terminate the services of Mrs Novacovic, for example, as he claimed, both our blogpost and that of the SA Butler Academy stating that, reflecting his poor research capability!).  He spent three hours looking for information, yet gave us an unfairly short lead time to respond.  He Tweeted libellously during his research, as he did on Tuesday too, proving how unprofessional he is: Currently standing behind J Arthur Brown in the line for Cirque du Soleil. He’s looking terrifically rested for a criminal’.

‘Infamous’ 2oceansvibe (Hartley’s description) has a chequered past as far as honesty goes, and it makes one wonder how honest and balanced any writing on the website is!  Clearly ethics and honesty are not part of the 2oceansvibe karma and vibe!

POSTSCRIPT 8/3: A blog reader asked about the tax liability of Mellor receiving the use of the MINI and the Vespa for free. We sent him a text message: ‘Hi Will, one of my readers has asked if you pay tax on the use of the MINI and the Vespa? What value is placed on each of these two vehicles?’ It was sent at 20h36 last night, and given no reply, again at 9h56 this morning. There has been no response from Mellor!

POSTSCRIPT 20/3: We have sent a lawyer’s letter to 2oceansvibe about their blogpost, which contained numerous untruths and is defamatory.  Will Mellor has reacted in anger, and launched another attack.  The two (unanswered!) sms messages (the second one was a repeat of the first because of non-reply!) we sent him about his own affairs (the value of and tax paid on his MINI and Vespa) he labels as ‘harrassment’, rich coming from someone who does not allow one to call, and who deals with communication with humans via sms or e-mail, on his terms.  This is what we wrote: “Hi Will, one of my readers has asked if you pay tax on the use of the MINI and the Vespa? What value is placed on each of these two vehicles?”. So much for ‘harassment’!

POSTSCRIPT 20/3: 2oceansvibe has added a further article to their website, an angry reaction by Will Mellor to our request to the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) to take down the defamatory and dishonest 2oceansvibe article. Their response ridicules the Take Down notice they received, as well as the ISPA Code of Conduct, especially the clauses relating to “Lawful Conduct’.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Hermanus Tourism Bureau Sweet and SA gas industry Sour Service Awards

The Sweet Service Award goes to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, for almost daily calls since the Whale Festival, for accommodation enquiries for tourists visiting the town.  This is something we have not seen for a good two years, and reflects on the greater fairness in spreading tourist bookings across the broad spectrum of accommodation establishments, and not favouring a select few, as was the case during the regime of the previous Board of the Bureau.  The enquiries are turning into bookings, and are most welcome.  The Bureau also assisted in passing on CVs it had received for a position it had advertised, leading to a successful appointment.

The Sour Service Award goes to the South African gas industry, which is in short supply, leaving half of the estimated 2500 restaurants in the country powerless to prepare food for their clients this week, says the Restaurant Association of South Africa, and reported in Mail & Guardian.  In the past few years most commercial enterprises switched to gas, to not be vulnerable to ESKOM electricity outages experienced in the past.  The SA Petroleum Industry body has not been able to indicate when production of LPG will return to normal, after ‘unplanned shutdowns in the local oil refinery industry’.

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

Public Relations consultants: feedback from a blogger!

Having blogged for almost three years now, we receive an increasing number of media releases from PR agencies.  Having run a food PR consultancy before starting our Whale Cottage Portfolio, I have long wanted to write a blogpost about how we view PR consultancies, and the recent Mail & Guardian article, pitting food journalists against bloggers, and detailing how PR consultancies have to deal with the blogging politics, has been a further inspiration to do so.

Our observations are as follows:

1.  As the representative of the client, we are surprised about the spelling and grammatical errors that we see in media releases sent by PR consultancies.  One would expect clients to sign off media releases, and they too do not seem to pick up the errors.

2.  In the era of social media, everyone knows where bloggers are, as they like to Tweet about it.  One of the biggest problems this causes is that bloggers know when they have been left off the invitation list for a lunch or launch, without explanation or warning.  While one understands that not everyone can be invited to all functions, there is an automatic affront if one is left off such a list, and one picks up from Twitter who is present.  This is a minefield for PR consultants.  One would think that they would rather host a small number of events with bloggers and journalists who tolerate the presence of others than invite all of them to one function. To be sent the media release about the restaurant/product after the lunch that one has not been invited to is adding insult to injury!  No PR consultancy should pander to blogger or journalist egos in dictating who they want/don’t want to be in a room with at a function! 

3.  My biggest issue with PR agencies is their inability to say ‘thank you’ when one has written about their clients’ brand, whether it results from an invitation to attend a function, or is a spontaneous visit to a restaurant and it receives a good review.  Not saying thank you for coverage received is as rude as a blogger/journalist not thanking the host and PR agency for the invitation!  As a blogger we are spending our own money and time to evaluate a restaurant or product, and are not remunerated for this by an employer.  In the pre-Social Media days, our PR company subscribed to an agency that tracked all coverage we achieved for our clients, especially in print.  It was difficult in those days to track TV and radio mentions.  To pick up Social Media mentions, one can subscribe to Blogs that one expects coverage from and to whom one sends releases, check Hootsuite for mentions on Twitter (via keywords reflecting the clients’ names/brands), and via Google Alerts for the client name/brand.  One should not have to write the PR agency’s Twitter handle into the Tweet linked to the blogpost about a restaurant/product, for the agency and/or its client to pick up the coverage.  Blogging has an important role in gaining awareness for a new brand/restaurant, and bloggers with high readership can get the product/restaurant onto the first page of Google, the ultimate goal for any brand, with resultant financial benefit if it leads to bookings.  We rarely receive feedback about the business that is created for the restaurants we write about.  An exception has been De Huguenot, which is tracking via Google Analytics where its website traffic is coming from, and could tell us how many hits it had received from our write-up about their launch lunch.  An absolute no-no is a PR consultancy requesting that one informs them when the blogpost about their client’s brand has been published!

4.  What is surprising is how few PR consultancy staff appear to read the Blogs they send media releases to, firstly in not picking up the coverage their clients’ brands achieve, but also in asking for coverage in our ‘events diary’, something we don’t have.  This means that everyone on the media list receives the same release and request for coverage, making the PR consultancy look unprofessional in not understanding the bloggers’ writing interests (we are all diferent), and the media release will be deleted as a result.  One cannot help but think that media consultants are still old-school, valuing print coverage more than coverage in blogs.  Part of the problem is the valuation of the coverage, the measure PR consultancies use to prove to their clients how good they are, and what the coverage achieved would have translated into in advertising Rands.  There is no official public information about the readership of an individual blogpost, or even of a Blog, or a means of placing a value on this readership, making it appear that blog exposure is a secondary achievement for PR consultants compared to print coverage, even if the blogpost achieves an excellent Google ranking, and therefore could be far more beneficial to the client’s brand and its sales.  There is also no quantification of the value of the immediacy of coverage in a Blog compared to that in a magazine three to four months later. 

5.  While we appreciate receiving information that can help us write an interesting story on our Blog, we don’t want to receive information that has been sent to every other journalist and blogger.  Only one PR agency, representing the Stellenbosch Wine Festival, took time to request which angle I wanted to write about.  In the end I chose my own perspective on it.  However, background information on a brand launched at a function to which one is invited helps in writing the blogpost, as one can add the personal individual touch from one what one has learnt at the function itself.  An exclusive angle is great, but these are seldom seen.  Reuben Riffel’s visit to America  earlier this year, and his appearances on TV there, was an exclusive story we were given by Manley Communications. 

6.  Another sign of the lack of understanding by PR consultancies is being sent high resolution photographs, which slow down the download, and are unusable on a Blog.  Bloggers prefer using their own photographs, and would not want to use those that every other blogger and journalist have been sent.

7.  While we sometimes fear that we will run out of things to write about, there is not such a dearth of material that we have to be flooded with media releases. One wine client PR agency sends a media release almost daily, and they look boring, and have minimal news in them, and are without attractive ‘packaging’ of the release, to entice one to read it.  I am unable to write about a wine or a food product if I have not tasted it, and the fewest PR agencies send one a product to evaluate.  I would never write about a product that I have not experienced, events being an exception.  This does not mean that I feel I have to write something positive because I received the product for free – I may choose to not write about it if it is not exceptional, or if the story does not have an interesting angle.  The worst thing that the staff of a PR consultancy can do is to chase coverage.  There are no coverage guarantees in journalism and blogging.

8.  While branded CD’s look attractive and professional, I far prefer a printed media release, to write from.  An attractive interesting media release is preferable to a bland and boring one, for obvious reasons.  But the release should be printable, and one should be able to read communication between the two parties, if it is against a dark background.

9.  Bloggers do not know all other bloggers or journalists, and it would be really nice to have name tags at events hosted by PR consultancies, with an introduction to those we may not know.  I rarely see this at functions.  PR consultancies may not realise that the acceptance of an invitation to an event may be more about meeting other bloggers (an ever-growing band), and less about the meal!  

10.  We would like to be updated on changes happening at restaurants, such as changed names, changed opening hours, winter specials offered, changes in chefs and restaurant management, etc.  This may not justify a media release, but an e-mail would be appreciated, so that one can update one’s blogpost.

11.   Last, but not least, a free lunch cannot ‘buy’ most bloggers!   I have been questioned about the degree of feedback one can give about an event if one has been invited to it, some feeling it rude to provide criticism of an invited event.  This is a difficult question, but if the blogger is known to be honest in writing, then one would expect that person to write about the event with warts and all. There is no greater compliment when one’s feedback has led to a positive change.  Many critical commenters on blogs question the credibility of write-ups based on lunch/dinner invitations.  Any blogger with ethics will declare that a complimentary product/meal was received .

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage