Tag: agency

Celebrating our clients’ successes

header-4Image taken from TheBusinessDesk.com

As an agency, there is one thing that we can definitely be accused of – we get just as excited over the successes that our client’s share as we do our own achievements. We know that this is because we genuinely become an extension of their teams, but it also makes our hard work all the more rewarding.

And that is why we are looking forward to TheBusinessDesk.com Yorkshire Business Masters Awards, which take place in Leeds on Thursday evening. Not only do we have two clients that have been shortlisted across three awards but we have also been invited to attend and to join in with the celebrations.

BemroseBooth Paragon, the specialist ticketing supplier and provider of smart enabled applications, has been shortlisted for two awards; Innovation and International Business, whilst iSource Group, the national IT and procurement recruitment specialist, is hoping to top the tables as Business Master in Contributing to the Community.

Now, we have to be clear, there is no doubt that we are biased, but both of these organisations would be very worthy winners. Not only are they progressive businesses that push boundaries, they are also great to work with.

The competition is undoubtedly fierce but we think that they are both in with a really good chance of bringing home a super shiny trophy to take pride of place in the display cabinet!

So, now all we need to do is decide what to wear – easier said than done – and keep our fingers crossed. We will certainly update with the results and hope to be finishing the week off on an award-winning high.

We’ll keep you posted.

Open drives business forward with Ring appointment

Ring Head Office

We are really pleased to announce that we are driving the business forward *pun intended* with our appointment as preferred PR partner for Ring, the leading lighting and vehicle accessories specialist to the aftermarket.

Following a competitive pitch, we secured the account to deliver year-round support for the business with the remit covering corporate, consumer and trade PR. In addition, we will work with the team at Ring to develop strategic campaigns to reinforce the profile of the company’s growing product portfolio.

Director of Open Comms, Lindsey Davies said: “The brief from Ring was something we quickly got to grips with. Having met the team, we recognised that they needed an agency that would be an extension to their team. Not only did we address the brief but also provided some creative recommendations that would push the boundaries beyond the more traditional approach taken by many in the market. Securing this account gives us a great start to the year.”

Marketing Manager for Ring, Henry Bisson said: “It was apparent from the first meeting that we were going to get along with Open and that was really important to us. The automotive sector can be more complex than people recognise and it can take some time to get used to the nuances involved but the agency is already making an impression and journalists we have worked with for years are accepting them as our PR division.”

We are really looking forward to getting to grips with a business that sits outside of the sectors that we already support including FMCG, food and drink, third sector, manufacturing and retail. We launched in 2008 and you can find us in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

 

White-label – more like white flag!

I was talking to a fellow PR practitioner recently (it does happen!) and they mentioned that they’d been approached by a ‘full service’ agency asking them to white-label their offering – for anyone who doesn’t know what this means; it is doing the work for the agency, as if you were them, as opposed to working directly with the client.

I know many agencies who work like this and my feeling on the matter has never changed. As an agency your ‘job’ and objective for your client is to build a brand, if that means working with a series of other agency specialists then so be it – but the idea is that you get people talking and you share messages about that business.

How on earth can you expect to do this for them, if you can’t and don’t do it for your own business? Ok, so I appreciate that some agencies get most of their work through white-labelling but there are two points that I find fundamentally wrong with this;

  1. You should be proud of your work and want to share your ideas with the client direct – knowing that they have been presented correctly
  2. Nine times out of ten the ‘host’ agency claims to be full service and isn’t, hence why they come to you in the first place – so already your relationship with your / their client is on difficult ground

To use a ‘daddism’ ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave’.

You may as well wave a white flag if you are white-labelling because as far as I can tell you must be desperate for work if you are potentially willing to have your values compromised to work for others – who are not willing to give you the credit.

Now, before I get a barrage of people calling me crazy, white labelling is not working with other agencies or even working as a team with a lead agency – it is allowing an agency to share your work with a client as their own. I should also mention here that there are a number of genuine full service agencies who do a fantastic job and good on them but that’s not what my ‘rant’ is about.

We have been approached by many agencies in the past to be a white-label supplier and the answer is always the same – NO. We are proud of our agency, of our values and of the ideas and recommendations that we produce, so why would we pass all of that on to someone to share as their own?

This leads me to my next point – don’t profess to be full service if you aren’t. We tell all of our clients that we are a PR agency, we specialise in PR, copywriting, social media and sponsorship. There are many other facets to what we do but principally it all falls neatly under the banner of PR.

Now here’s the clever bit *puts on sarcastic face*, we are honest with our clients and tell them that if they do need other skills that we are unable to offer, we can work with trusted partners or – now wait for it – pass them the details direct.

BOOM! And there you have it folks, it really is that simple.

If you don’t do something in house then let your clients know and send them the details of trusted partners – unless of course you are out to fleece not only the client but your partner and then ignore my advice because your objective will be to ‘coin in’ mark-up fees from both sides.

Interestingly I have noticed that a higher number of agencies are choosing to specialise rather than claim to be full service and I’m pleased to see it. I’m a huge advocate for doing what you do, and doing it well.

One of my favourite phrases is: “If you want to be all things to all people, you end up being nothing to nobody.”

Our clients have always thanked us for being honest and we’ve never found that a brand chooses to work with someone else because they are full service. In fact, we were recently in a review with one of our largest clients who mentioned that being a specialist PR agency is a huge benefit.

For those of you who are thinking about white-labelling then please reconsider. I have seen some agencies create and produce some fantastic work and never get the credit that they deserve – make sure you’re not one of them.

Grass isn’t always greener – in fact it could be Astroturf

What do you do when you want to improve your ranking across search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, encouraging your prospects and customers to find you when they search for the products and services you offer?

Some companies choose to work with professionals; PR agencies, digital companies and SEO (search engine optimisation) consultants.  Although this seems like a reasonable suggestion there is a definite need for businesses to choose who they work with wisely.

As social media tools become a viable source of information for those who want a review or recommendation, more companies are recognising the value of this for businesses and in particular those working in industries such as hospitality, leisure and of course food.

With the simple click of a button, an opinion can be formed based on the feedback given relating to the experience of a single individual. We all have bad days and sometimes things go wrong and this is where posts and comments can have a real impact on the success of a company.

As an invaluable platform for some people with sites such as Trip Advisor being considered the fountain of all knowledge when it comes to holidays, these are no longer sites that brands are able to avoid. If there is a bad comment then the first thing we suggest is that a response is given from the brand and if necessary a meeting is arranged or an explanation is given.

With social media the simple fact of the matter is that ignorance is certainly not bliss!

But it’s not all about the comments that people post, which provide a genuine insight into the experience that they have had.  Things are much, much worse than that. You see not all agencies or consultants are quite what they seem.  Although the grass can look very green when a company is securing permanently positive references and five star ratings, what you are actually looking at is Astroturf.

This isn’t the stuff that bloody knees are made of – oh no. Astroturf is another term for ‘fake reviews’. As many of these tools rely on ‘grass routes’ feedback, the term Astroturf is used for false recommendations or criticism. Basically those who claim to be ‘experts’ are actually paying freelancers or individuals that they know to post reviews without necessarily having ever experienced the brand or purchased products from the business.

Not only does this give a distorted view of a particular company but it is very dangerous. An example of how this can go horribly wrong featured recently on the BBC website. The Local Attorney General’s Office created a completely fictitious yogurt shop.

They then asked a selection of companies offering SEO services to support the brand. As a result 19 companies have now been fined £218,470 after creating false profiles and posting inaccurate and libellous comments about the yogurt shop, which didn’t exist.

What’s even worse is that the individuals that were encouraged to post their reviews of the shop, in some instances, didn’t even live in the same country!

Like anything else, SEO companies should have credentials that they can share to prove that they know what they are doing. If you really want to pay someone to support you with SEO services then make sure you have done your checks and that the content that is being created is delivering a return on investment and adding value to your brand and business.

Unfortunately as the internet is so vast and collates information from so many different sources, SEO is absolutely essential for some businesses. All we would recommend as an agency is that if a brand is considering working with a consultant or team that offers SEO’s services, is that they ensure that all content is real, which in turn makes it credible. To do anything else won’t just be creating an inaccurate picture but it could just come back to give you a nasty shock that will hurt far more than a couple of bloody knees!

The value of values

Open Communications is a straight talking PR agency – we get the job done and most importantly we do it well. We don’t ‘do’ air kissing but we do meet with clients objectives and as a result we have long-term relationships with the brands we work with.

You may read that and think – so what? Why do I care that you are straight talking, or that you do what you say you will, but actually these are very important points for us. You see the paragraph above is an outline of our values.

Some people think that values are like a mission statement – it’s a paragraph that you make up, you put it in a business plan and then never set sight of it again, or at least not until you are asked for it and then you blow the dust off and push it across the desk.

We wanted to be different at Open Comms. We didn’t want wishy, washy statements that use long words that sound like they would be better placed in an academic text book. We wanted our values to mean something to us and therefore to our employees, colleagues, clients and suppliers.

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, values are a great reference point when you need to regroup.

We have been involved in some very exciting scenarios recently and some very nerve-wracking situations and although there can be the temptation to become something that you are not, we have always followed the same approach; what you see is what you get. If you want results then great, if you want air kissing and posh lunches, we aren’t the right agency for you. Bold perhaps and perhaps some may say a little too honest, but true.

It’s this knowledge of who we are and what we can deliver, which gives us the confidence to sit in front of brands and businesses of any size and confidently present our thoughts and ideas. Our values are the foundations which have allowed us to grow the agency and to build our client base, which is now a portfolio of brands that we are extremely proud to work with.

All businesses should consider their values. Ask yourself, what makes you different, what makes you tick and how could this translate into the products and service that you deliver for your customers? A brand with true values immediately has a stronger proposition than a competitor without – take The Body Shop as an example.

It is irrelevant whether you like their products or share their values, the message is simple; they are a brand that places environmental issues at the heart of everything they do. This translates across design, advertising, communication and even the way that the products are displayed in the shops.

Often the worry with brands is that they choose values and these change, but this is ok. A company’s values can change over time as the business evolves, all you need to make sure is that you are comfortable with this being the case and that you are making changes for the right reasons. Again, take the example of Innocent Drinks – who are now in the most part owned by Coca Cola. Does this fit well with the brands values? Six months ago, perhaps not but since Coke has changed its approach and moved towards more ‘healthy’ options the decision starts to make sense. The decision as I see it wasn’t for Innocent to change their values in order to become part of the huge corporate machine that is Coke but more for Coke to learn how to change the positioning of its values and use the experience of Innocent to make this transition in the mind of the consumers – and it’s working.

If you are confident about communicating new values – or an evolution of your current values – to your stakeholders, employees and customers then you can’t go far wrong. The most important point is that you believe – truly believe – in your values and that they are shared by those who matter most to you. Trying to be something you are not is like wearing the wrong sized clothes – we may all try it from time to time but it will never work!

As far as I’m concerned if you have no values, you have no personality and as per my recent blog  this is one of the most significant and ‘valuable’ assets a business has. So if you can’t see the value in your values perhaps you need to look from the outside in – what is the perception that you are giving your customers and are you confident that this is a true representation of your brand and business.

Reputation is our biggest asset, how have we got it so wrong?

 

 

 

There is absolutely no doubt that the PR industry has a less than positive reputation – but the irony is that we are tasked with managing the reputation of the brands that we work with, so how has it come to the point where we are unable to create positive associations for our specialism?

 

Personally I think the problems are deep routed and come from times gone by. Long gone are the days of lazy lunches, wining and dining and partying until dawn to roll into the office, totter on Prada heels and ‘fanny about with the press releases’.

 

PR is a specialism and like a naughty toddler the industry has had to grow up. During difficult times clients are looking at budgets, they are considering their spend and they are evaluating what investments are delivering a return. It’s common knowledge that marketing is always one of the first costs to be cut at times of austerity and we have all had to sit up and defend our position around the boardroom table.

 

There was an article on the BBC Website recently which made for uncomfortable reading but I hate to admit it did have a lot of truth behind it. What I find most interesting is the comments that are below the article which are a startling example of the job that we have to do to give the industry the credibility that I believe it now deserves.

 

When asked what I do for a living I often have to explain the role of PR in business and how the techniques that we use are invaluable to brands. Many people look at me with cynicism at best and repulsion at worst – what they don’t realise is that we don’t sit at a desk drafting articles and lunching. What we do is plan and manage the communications strategy for our clients to ensure that we meet with their objectives and support sales.

 

We work with print press, online media, bloggers, stakeholders, employees and partners – it’s certainly not a case of drafting a story and sending it to a database of journalists who may or may not choose to use it.

 

I would like to think that in the defence of PR things have changed quite considerably over recent years. I’m not suggesting that every agency is ethical, moral or even does the job well but there are those of us who are fighting our corner and showing just what PR can deliver.

 

And if you don’t believe me then take some wisdom from the BBC. Even if this article is somewhat dismissive of the PR stunt many of the leading businesses in the world have used PR techniques to create an impression, perception and reputation that in turn has resulted in a multi-million pound bank balance; Virgin and Innocent Drinks are just two fantastic examples.

 

So before you decide that the last thing you need is ‘Patsy’ tottering around your office and re-charging the costs for lunch at the Ivy, take a look at those who are doing the job and doing it well. You just might find the agency that you are looking for – the one that can add value to your reputation and your bottom line.

 

Open expands with new appointment

 

Open Communications, the straight talking PR agency based at Nostell Priory Estate Yard, has expanded its team with the appointment of Tarina Wild, as PR Account Administrator.

 

Following a series of account wins and extended contracts the agency has found it necessary to expand the team in order to drive new business, while also maintaining the level of activity that it is involved with for leading brands including HARIBO, Intersnack and Pom-Bear.

 

Tarina comments: “I’m really excited to be a part of the team at Open Communications.  I’ve always been interested in event planning, and as PR gives the opportunity to do this, I’ll be able to put some of my ideas into practice.  Since starting at Open I’ve felt really comfortable around everyone at the agency and I can’t wait to meet the clients and get to know their brands and businesses better.”

 

Director at Open Communications, Lindsey Davies comments: “Tarina is an excellent addition to our growing team. She brings with her a wealth of enthusiasm, drive, creativity and commitment, which we feel are essential qualities when you work in a fast-paced PR and communications agency. We know that she will be an asset to Open and the clients that we work with.”

 

Have we all gone a tribunal too far?

 

It was one of those really worrying situations where you’re not sure if you’re watching a comedy, a spoof or a real life documentary. Yes people, on Tuesday evening we sat down to ‘The Call Centre’ and I am SO pleased that we did.

Firstly this is car crash TV at its very best but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be watched and enjoyed – just be warned, if you or your other half work in HR you may need a stiff drink to get you through.

For those of you who have not had the absolute pleasure, The Call Centre is real life business based in Swansea. As the name would suggest, it is a call centre employing hundreds of staff from the local area.

As you would imagine from an office of this size, there are more than your average number of characters – as if this alone wasn’t a recipe for TV documentary success, enter stage left, the owner, ‘uncle’ Nev.

We watched this programme for half an hour still debating if it was in fact real or if it was one of those strange programmes we now get where half of it is made up and half of it is ‘kind of’ realish’. As I never watch programmes that can’t make up their mind what they want to be, I was considering turning over when we ‘Googled’ (because Google is the fountain of all knowledge) and realised, despite our absolute horror and amazement, it is in fact real – every last comedy gold part of it.

So, anyway, here’s the thing. Nev clearly doesn’t go by the book. He tells his staff to shut up, throws things at them and screams ‘GET OUT’ at the top of his voice to those he has just interviewed – better still, they are the poor individuals that got the job! He also engages in conversations that in any normal office environment would be an absolute NO GO!

As an example, one of his staff was feeling particularly down after being dumped (it happens to us all), so Nev says ‘You’ve been a right miserable b*stard for the last month and we all know why’. As if this wasn’t bad enough he then parades this poor girl around the office asking anyone if they want to take her out on a date.

It doesn’t even stop there… he then sets up a speed dating event, yes an arranged function with hundreds of people, just to get this girl a date. He then sends her home with ‘said match’ and makes them bake cakes!

Then we move on to the recently appointed tea lady. Having tried to work in the call centre this young girl realises it’s just not for her but rather than get rid, Nev decides there is a role for her to make tea and coffee for everyone. What was astounding and heart-warming was that this girl takes this job really seriously. It’s apparent if she’s going to be a tea lady she is clearly going to be the best tea lady.

When her delightful co-workers decide to hide her tea bags and teaspoons all hell breaks loose and there are tears, tantrums and warnings – I kid you not, you couldn’t make it up!

What was amazing about this programme was that although there must have been at least 20 scenarios where we turned to each other and said ‘He can’t do that’, ‘You can’t say that’, ‘He is going to end up in a tribunal’, surprisingly I think there’s a lot that we can all learn from Nev.

He has a happy workforce for a start and people who are committed to his business. Ok, they know he’s nuts and openly admit that he is one-of-a-kind but that’s no bad thing. As a result of Nev and his attitude (his team meetings are called a s*it sandwich because you have a sandwich and he gives you s*it) people respect and to some degree appreciate him and his straight forward and no nonsense style.

Move over Sir Alan Sugar, Nev is in town and as far as the Davies’ household goes, he’s leaps and bounds in front of any car crash TV that you can produce and after the most recent series of The Unemployable – sorry I mean Apprentice – I didn’t think I would be saying that.

At the very least you can have some sympathy, empathy and dare I add respect for these people. They are real and perhaps we all need a Nev in our lives to remind us of what ‘being yourself’ can achieve. There are definite lessons I’m taking from Nev and perhaps we need to stop looking for reasons to criticise employers and employees. May be what we need to do instead is get some personality back to the workplace and god forbid have some fun!  

I don’t think we will be throwing things at people in Open any time soon or screaming at the top of our lungs but we just may think more about how we can inject some of Nevs better ideas into the agency.

Anyone for a s*it sandwich?

The Skypes the limit

 

We have recently secured our first international client and they just happen to be at the other side of the world! As you would expect we have had to take into account time differences but more importantly how we choose to communicate with the team.

 

We could have chosen to ring them and to hold regular conference calls but it is difficult to build a relationship with clients without putting a face to a name, which is why we always hold regular on site monthly meetings with the brands we work with.

 

In this instance a monthly meeting was obviously out of the question – mores the pity – however the wonder of modern technology has come to the rescue with the well-known social tool Skype.  Not only are we able to see the team but we can build a relationship with them and our calls can include the usual banter you would expect from our monthly meetings.

 

The fact that Skype is a cost effective option for business makes it all the more appealing and an obvious choice for those who want to work with clients that are based across the globe. Better still you don’t feel that you have to keep the calls short, or that you can’t engage with some general chatter as well as the business you have to deal with.

 

Of course this is not the first time we have used Skype for business, we have had calls with suppliers in Croatia who use it as a common tool to connect with prospects and brands in the UK. I have to admit that at first it was a little strange but now it’s just an alternative to the standard telephone call and if I’m honest a far more appealing option.

 

For all those considering Skype for business I would suggest that you try it out. Not only are you able to connect and communicate with your clients but the system also gives you the option to widen your scope, after all if your prospect list could span the globe as opposed to the UK then why not?

 

We are currently looking at other ways that we can use Skype to benefit our clients so if anyone has any examples or suggestions please feel free to comment.

Open goes global and announces expansion plans

 


Open Communications, the straight talking PR agency based at Nostell Priory in Wakefield, has secured its first international contract after it was appointed as preferred PR and social media provider for Print Media Group (PMG) in Australia. 

Securing the contract to supply an on-going press office facility for PMG, which is one of the largest print specialist organisations in Australia with sites throughout the country, Open will also support the business to implement a social media strategy, alongside training and guidance.

With a focus on improving the profile of the business throughout Australia, PMG has appointed Open Communications to assist the marketing team with extending its offering into new markets and territories. In addition the business will work with Open to share its successes with current and prospective customers, while growing its sales revenues over the next twelve months.

 “We’re delighted to be working with Lindsey and the team at Open Comms, they will become a valued extension of the marketing team at PMG. We’ll be drawing on their expertise to raise the company’s profile in select markets here in Australia,” says PMG Marketing Communications Manager, Cathie Agg.

Director of Open Communications, Emma Lupton said: “With the technology and communications channels that are now available to business, we are able to operate in a truly global market and our appointment by PMG is an excellent example of this.

She adds: “We are confident with the service and results that we are able to deliver to our clients and this is without doubt one of the reasons PMG were attracted to us in the first place. We are really looking forward to working with the team and to showing them how PR can support the growth and on-going success of an organisation.”

As a result of the PMG contract win, plus two further appointments over recent months, Open Communications is looking to expand its team. The agency now has vacancies for an administrator and Account Executive.

For more details about Open Communications and the vacancies on offer please visit www.opencomms.co.uk or call Emma or Lindsey on tel. 01924 862477.