Tag: clients

AWARDS; GLORY HUNTING OR THE RECOGNITION YOU DESERVE

Whatever industry you work in there will be an awards ceremony that celebrates the success of the great and good in your sector. The same can be said for PR and I am really pleased to announce that Open Communications has been shortlisted for the Not For Profit category at the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire PRide Awards.

The awards take place tomorrow (Thursday 17 November) evening at The Queen’s Hotel in Leeds and will bring together hundreds of people from businesses and agencies throughout the two regions.

It has taken us eight years to enter the awards, not because we didn’t feel that our work was of a standard to be recognised but because, if we’re honest, we’ve spent more time submitting and winning awards for our clients.

It was only during a meeting earlier in the year that a client asked why we don’t practice what we preach, and I realised that actually awards for our own work should be as important as those of the brands that we work with.

So, what was stopping us?

Well, to be honest, we’ve never really felt that we needed awards to prove that we could do a good job – the evidence is in the results that we achieve. Then there was the fact that some awards make you feel like you’re simply glory hunting and again this isn’t really our style.

But, when it comes down to it awards do give a credibility by association and you have to be in them to win them! So, is it glory hunting or are you simply getting the recognition you deserve for the results you work so hard to achieve.

It wasn’t difficult to come up with a conclusive answer and so, we put pen to paper.

The challenge then was what to submit? We are very proud of the work that we produce and the results that we get for our clients so it was a difficult choice. We decided that we would focus on the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the only organisation dedicated to former mining towns and villages throughout the country.

We have worked alongside the team at the Coalfields Regeneration Trust for more than 2 years now and have secured hundreds of pieces of coverage, which in turn has communicated with millions of people throughout the UK.

The results are consistently strong and as a result of our work communications is very much an agenda point around the board room table. We’ve even been invited to share our work with the trustees – which is a real achievement.

We have worked with the team to develop a tone of voice, aligned their messaging and revised their three-year strategy. We have also shaped their brand and vision for the future and changed the way that they communicate with different audiences to make sure they get the return on investment both from us and their own efforts.

Although we are confident with the results we have achieved, leading the organisation most recently to secure a Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Award (2016), we know that it can go either way.

We have everything crossed and know that even if we don’t win, we have done a fantastic job and will continue to deliver for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, evolving the way that they communicate to make sure as many people as possible understand what they are trying to achieve.

That said, we’ve cleared a space on our shelf (just in case) and hope to be updating the blog with pictures of Open Communications as we pick up our very first PRide award.

Wish us luck!

A TIME FOR NEW CHALLENGES

The Pretty Muddy event in Rother Valley.

The Pretty Muddy event in Rother Valley.

Once again it’s been a really busy year – we find ourselves more often than not saying “We just don’t know where this year has gone!” in much the same way we did the year before. It seems that we are so focused on doing the doing that we have lost sight of all that is around us.

I don’t want this blog to be negative, we’re having a great year. We’ve been involved in some amazing projects and have some fantastic news to announce (watch this space) but I can’t help thinking that I need a new challenge.

For the last – nearly – eight years we have had Open; we have focused on building a reputation, delivering results and staying true to our values. That, thankfully, hasn’t changed and we are still the straight-talking agency we set out to be.

What has changed since then however is that we now have an enviable, and if I do say so myself, fabulous list of clients that we are very proud to work with, we have a growing team (please pass on details to anyone you know who is looking for their first or next role in PR) and we have plans to make our office space more bright and vibrant.

So, what is it that we don’t have? Well, it’s not so much what ‘we’ don’t have but what I feel that I have lost. Somewhere in the last eight years, I have forgotten that I need to focus some of my time on me.

Selfish, I know. But I have realised that both professionally and personally I have lost my way. That isn’t to say my work has suffered, far from it, but it has become my priority and my only focus.

I’m not sure when it became apparent; there wasn’t so much a lightbulb moment as much as a number of discussions, passing comments and a niggling doubt in the back of my mind that I was doing something wrong and that something had to shift.

And so, I have put a plan into action.

Here’s a really quick list of things that I am going to do and have committed to achieving before the end  of the summer:

  1. Join a gym – I’ve been going for about 3 months now and really enjoy it. I find it a release and it gives me space to think and re-group. Plus, the added bonus is that I should lose some weight. What I need to do is keep it up.
  2. Lose some weight – I’m not so much cuddly as noticeably overweight and so that has to be addressed. I have never been fat but am very aware that I need to sort myself out and stop using excuses to make myself feel better.
  3. Read business books – I went through a phase of buying a number of books that I intended to read but never did. After reading a clients debut book on networking recently (Making a Splash by Rashmi Dube) I realised that I either get on with it or I take them to the charity shop. I’m getting on with it.
  4. Take time out for the business – I was at a new business meeting and was asked ‘Why don’t you put your own good advice into practice?’. I had no answer, other than I focus entirely on clients as a priority. Not really good enough to be honest and so I’m going to start to blog again and give some time to Open.

That’s it for now. There are a few other personal things that I have also challenged myself with and hope that by the end of the summer I will be able to set some new goals, but for now, I’ve enough to be getting on with.

I appreciate some people scale Ben Nevis and others climb Mount Kilimanjaro but for me, I’m going to start with something a little more realistic.

I know already that there are going to be times when, just like with New Year’s Resolutions, I wish I hadn’t bothered, but I am also aware of the feeling that I get when I have achieved something I set out to do.

I’m on a mission and I intend to see it through.

 

Back of the net or getting wet, either way it was Game On

It was wet, windy, cold and I’d spent half an hour curling my hair for it to last a matter of minutes before resembling a collective of rats tails, falling unattractively around my face, which was also streaked with the remnants of my carefully applied make-up.

But still, I was watching football (a game that in the most part I detest) with more than 50 children from youth teams throughout the country who participate in Game On, a programme organised by our client The Coalfields Regeneration Trust and delivered by The Football League Trust.

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Game On aims to take children from some of the most deprived areas of the UK and encourage them to take part in free football training sessions, which take place on two evenings each week. Not only does this programme have a direct impact on anti-social behaviour by providing young people with something to do, but it also teaches those involved about health and wellbeing, participation, commitment, social interaction and engagement.

Knowing that in situations like this the best approach is to roll your sleeves up – metaphorically, it was freezing! – and get on with it, that is exactly what I did.

I was surprised to find that I soon got into the game and was cheering along with the best, especially when one particular player who happened to be a girl made an amazing tackle, which left the side lines squinting never mind the opponent rolling around on the floor!

More than 3 hours later and we were into the final rounds, there were cheers and jeers, banter and back chat but the attitude of all involved really was to be commended. Each team took to the game with the passion you would expect but also with a sportsmanship that belied their teenage years.

The final was a close call with Wigan A and B teams literally taking the title from under the nose of Doncaster when they were chosen on goal difference as the contenders for the next round of the championship, which takes place in Scotland on 1 November.

Next came the bit I had been looking forward to most (until the drenching earlier in the day, which had now resulted in me looking less like a drowned rat and more like I had been dragged through a hedge backwards) we were going to watch the Derby versus Millwall match.

But that wasn’t all, the Wigan winners would get the chance to have a special trophy presented on the pitch! As we walked out of the tunnel I caught my breath – it’s no secret that I am no real football fan – but this was amazing.

Stood in front of an audience of more than 27,000 people the Wigan teams were presented with their trophy and as if that wasn’t enough they were then asked to look up – a huge screen projected their smiling faces to the whole crowd.

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I have to admit that I had a lump in my throat whilst I watched them all waving and jumping to be seen. It really was spectacular.

The game ended 0 – 0  but that didn’t really matter. The atmosphere was great and Rammy, Derby County FC’s mascot, made an appearance and danced around the pitch. The team at Derby were fantastic and whether they realise it or not I am sure that they have created memories that the Game On finalists will never forget.

As for me, I’m pleased to be warmed up but the event was certainly worth braving the weather for. Thanks to the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Derby County Football Club, The Football League Trust and all of the clubs who took the time to compete in the Game On finals. For those who didn’t win, there’s always next year!

An award that REALLY means something

12.20.13 AwardOn Tuesday evening we had the pleasure of attending an event with our client KP Snacks. Like many events, we got suited and booted – dresses out and heels on, even a touch of lippy! – and looked forward to spending a relaxing evening with good food, a glass or two of wine and great company.

What we didn’t expect at this event was to be presented with an award!

What our client had failed to inform us is that they had chosen Open Communications as their Agency Partner of the Year for 2013 following the on-going PR and social media support we provide for POM-BEAR, the fun shaped snack brand.

We have to be honest now – POM-BEAR is an excellent brand to work with and as we have some fantastic credentials within the family brands market (if we do say so ourselves) there are lots of recommendations that we can make in order to raise the profile of the business, while reiterating core messages around the product range. Better still, we also get to have some fun!

Now, we have never really chased awards, we have entered a few but it’s fair to say that we could do more in relation to putting ourselves forward to be ‘judged’ by our peers. It’s not that we are averse to them, just that there’s always something going on that is more important.

We’ve won awards in the past, but I have to admit that this was something else. It’s great to be recognised for the work that you do and the effort that you put in to campaigns BUT most importantly to be chosen by your clients and held in such strong regard that they invite you to collect an award in front of their colleagues – well, what more can we say?

We are so pleased and as you would expect very proud of the work that we have done for POM-BEAR in the last 18 months and we are really looking forward to working with the team from KP Snacks again in 2014. Now that we know that this award exists, we are even more eager to fight to retain our title!

It’s been a very positive month for Open Communications; Top 100 Agency outside of London and now Agency Partner of the Year for KP Snacks. Here’s to ending the year on a high and to many more celebrations in the twelve months ahead.

I’m not down with the kids but…

 

…I do know the importance of keeping it real! I’ve been in a number of meetings lately and it always surprises me when people commend the fact that what you see is what you get with Open Communications.

We’ve been going for nearly five years now (phew – where did that time go?) and we’ve always done the same. The business has evolved but our values have remained the same – if you want a PR agency that can do the job and do it well then our number is on the contact page, if however you want air kissing and champagne then we’re not for you.

It’s not that we aren’t friendly, far from it. I’d like to think that many of our clients have become friends over the years and that this has meant that we have genuinely long standing relationships, which mean we work as an extension of their teams – as if we were internal. This in turn makes it easier to provide honest advice that will help them to develop creative campaigns that meet with their objectives.

We’ve never been a PR agency that goes along with something we don’t believe in, we don’t say ‘yes’ to a contract because it’s there, we feel that being passionate about what we work on is really important and is another reason we are able to do a good job. Our accountant may not agree but there have been times when we have turned work down because although the contract would have been lucrative it didn’t fit with our values or we simply couldn’t see the campaign meeting with the clients expectations.

There has been a lot of news lately about the reputation that the PR industry has and I’ve always been very honest in that I feel many agencies offer the world and deliver very little. The unfortunate situation here is that brands have a bad experience with one agency and then never commission an agency again – and that’s not just the agency who handled the account badly in the first place, it’s any agency!

So for all those who want to work with an agency that DOES delivery and WILL work hard to achieve the results that have been promised, we are here and the kettle is on.

In all seriousness it shouldn’t be surprising to find a PR agency that is open, honest and willing to offer advice and guidance that makes sense. Until our industry realises that then ‘we’ will go on having a reputation that in some cases is very much undeserved.

 

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.

Just your average week – or not!

I’ve been a little quiet on our blogging front over the past week so apologies – I’m sure you have all been sat waiting eagerly for my next update *wink, wink*

So anyway, I do have my excuses for not posting which start with a two day trip to the largest food show in the country. As a PR agency we don’t just sit at our desks writing press releases our relationships and role, thankfully, go way beyond this.

The International Food Exhibition (IFE) takes place every two years and we went along with a client to listen to speakers talk about topics such as how the snacking market is changing, the increase in health claims and changes to legislation within food packaging. We also wanted to take the time to find out what new trends and innovations were hitting the shelves and which brands were shouting loudest – plus, more importantly, how they were doing it.

The show was fantastic. There were two halls full of stands with many of them offering samples – you can’t go wrong!

It wasn’t until Tuesday evening that I realised just how much information I had gathered when I was trying to get my bags – and samples – back on the train. So it was back to good old Wakefield before dashing home, getting changed and setting off to the Wakefield Council business celebration dinner.

The event was held at Space, which is a venue I hadn’t been to before. We all sat down to a super dinner and inspirational speech from Richard Noble, who holds the land speed world record and is working hard to create a car that will go 1,000 mph. Now that’s some going!

The talk was really interesting and it was a great opportunity to chat with colleagues from the District and meet with some new faces over a glass of wine or three.

Wednesday came along and we were exhibiting at the Wakefield Business Conference. As a Wakefield based PR agency we are always keen to get out and about. The city has a great deal to offer and as the preferred PR partner for the event we wanted to show our faces and also meet new contacts.

The day went very quickly and for those who came along we hope you picked up some of our – now famous – mints. Remember people we offer a ‘fresh’ approach to PR – do you see what we did there?

Anyway Thursday came around but felt strangely like it should be Monday and it was catch-up day. Emails, paperwork, campaign planning, new business proposals all to be written in the day. Then an internal (at the pub if I’m honest) meeting after work and back home.

And so we are here today. A meeting this morning and new business session this afternoon all pieced together with copy writing for a consumer competition, recommendations for campaign engagement with clients, social media updates, suggested social media strategies for the next six months and back to traditional press copy with several comment pieces to be drafted before close of play – oh and a blog!

Phew. So, you see, not such an average week in the office but then that’s what makes working in PR so challenging and rewarding.

I’m pleased to say that the week is yet to be over – after all it’s only 4pm and we don’t do part time at Open Comms – so we’re going to a final event in celebration of Wakefield Business Week tonight.

The event is aptly named Beer and a Burger and we are all going along to share in the success of the city and to raise a glass to business. It’s always fun to meet with the great and good of the city and to couple this with beer and burger is inspired.

After that I will be heading home and don’t mind admitting after all that I think I’ll hit the sofa and sleep for a week!  Night all.

 

Because the client says so

People think that working with so many clients in such a diverse range of sectors would be difficult but it isn’t as long as you understand their business, communications strategy and wider brand plan. It’s important to get to know their business inside and out in order to put together recommendations that will deliver on objectives.

In my opinion too many PR agencies get caught up in trying to pull the next big stunt without looking at the bigger picture. How will that campaign have any longevity and what will happen once you have secured the column inches. How could it work as a theme that could be delivered in phases so that you get more than one opportunity to speak to the media and greater retention of message?

At Open Communications we work with our clients to create campaigns that grab attention, while also meeting with expectations and delivering on objectives. Anyone can make unrealistic suggestions or over promise on ideas that simply won’t deliver but we choose not to be like that.

One principle that we have employed from day one is to be honest and open. We don’t do something because the clients says so and we are more than willing to challenge an idea if we think it is to the benefit of the client and their brand and business.

As a small agency our reputation is literally our business and we are not prepared to go along with something for the sake of banking some cash. We are however more than prepared to work with our clients to come up with ideas that can improve their brand awareness, engage with their consumers and impact on their bottom line.

I think this is why I enjoy working at Open, not least because I was part of the partnership that set the company up and am therefore completely biased, but more so because we work WITH our clients and not for them. This approach, as simple as it sounds, has led to us sharing long term relationships with the brands we work with and becoming an extension of their teams.

When launching the business we decided that if someone was going to employ us as the experts we are then they deserve the benefit of our experience, recommendations and knowledge. There is no point in nodding politely and then when it comes to reviewing an activity having the embarrassment of saying that you knew it wouldn’t work in the first place but just couldn’t say anything.

I wrote a blog recently about being from Yorkshire and calling a spade a shovel and once again I think this lesson has served me well. If you are honest with people and you work with them to come up with ideas and plans that work you can all share in the results. Otherwise you are just another agency, nodding politely at another client, who will be looking to replace you once your latest stunt is complete.