Tag: communication

A BRAND WITH LITERALLY NO PERSONALITY

LinkedIn has become a platform of choice for me over the last year or so. I like the fact it knows what it wants to be and that it is a work in progress. Having met with some of the team, they acknowledge there is more to be done but that the functionality has been developed to benefit business.

There is no other platform that has taken ownership of becoming an online portfolio of CVs that gives businesses access to a global database of talent like LinkedIn – or certainly not that I have come across.

Company pages on LinkedIn

We manage the Company Pages for some of our clients and make sure to post a selection of news, articles and coverage. We also engage with other brands and businesses to keep the feeds interesting and informative.

As a business that never stops learning, we review other pages to see what companies are doing and what ‘tricks of the trade’ are working. Applying best practice, we can then make recommendations that we know add value.

Making contacts, or not!

This morning when I was reviewing my own LinkedIn feed, I came across an impressive ‘company’ page. It was visual, informative, punchy and had a tone of voice that appealed to me. The page was obviously updated regularly but what stood out as very strange was there was no contact.

I think the page had been set up as a person but should have been a company. So, to be clear, it said ‘Owner of widget business’ but the page was the brand, not the individual.

Inadvertently, I had come across a brand with literally no personality!

There were several reasons I found this odd, not least how had this person not realised that it was a mistake to remain nameless and how were people supposed to make contact?

LinkedIn is about connections and although company pages generate followers, it’s not the same thing.

The power of personality

I’m a big believer that ‘people buy people’ and this has worked in practice for us here at Open Communications. Many of our clients have been with us for years and we have worked with brand managers that come to us when they change company – one of the biggest compliments in our industry and not something we take for granted.

The truth is that personality is one of the very few things that a business has which is truly unique. Of course, companies can try to replicate the tone of voice, messaging and even visuals that a brand uses but it will never be the same.

There are always the values, story and culture that you can never quite replicate. Plus, most brands that try to be something they are not get caught out and it all goes horribly wrong. Authenticity may be a phrase that is overused, but it resonates with audiences.

Keeping it real

The lesson I learnt from this morning’s encounter was that I will make it my mission to ensure that every company director we work with takes full credit for their business on LinkedIn, giving those that want to make an introduction the opportunity to do so.

I will also explain the difference between a personal and company page so that they don’t make any mistakes that could cost them sales.

I can see no reason for having a ‘social’ channel and not being visible as a person. The whole thing really is quite baffling.

As a business that wants to attract customers, this really does need to be addressed and I hope that it is. The page deserves to get the attention that it is attracting but I expect that the leads it could convert are fewer than they should be for this very reason.

THE LATEST DETOX ISN’T A DIET

The amazing scenery looking over St Aiden’s RSPB reserve

Working in PR means that you have to keep abreast of the social media tools that are available and provide a platform for people to communicate. Stands to reason really, given that we are responsible for sharing information and managing the reputation of brands both online and in print.

Being of a particular age (38 for those that are too polite to ask) I haven’t exactly grown up surrounded by tech but it has been in the background for probably as long as I can remember. We certainly didn’t have smart phones when I was at school, college or university, but we had the first handheld games systems and some functionality to communicate online.

It was only really when I left university that digital communications started to become ‘a thing’ and many a PR – myself included – took great pleasure in demoting the fax machine to the back of a cupboard to collect dust as we opted instead to use email.

The real changes though occurred when I had been in work for a number of years and platforms such as Facebook started to make their mark. Some came and went, while others became integral to our lives – not a statement that I think even the founders really considered in terms of scale and global dominance. Let’s not get started about governance and regulatory controls, I’ll save that for another blog.

The very real threat of social media – and it’s not the trolls

Over recent weeks I’ve noticed that there has been a shift in tone when it comes to the use of social media. There was a time when there seemed to be a certain expectation that people would have regular access to as many apps as they could manage. The more the merrier was the general consensus and if you didn’t have the latest you were considered ‘so last season’.

Facebook, SnapChat, WhatApp, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to name a few became more of a reflection of our lives and social dalliances than actually going out. Showing someone your dinner was top of the list, quickly followed by a pouty selfie that may or may not have had a filter!

In the most part, I’m pleased to say I dodged this desire to share everything online, but I did find that I was becoming increasingly reliant on the social channels to fill downtime. No longer was I reaching for a book or chatting to my husband and friends, I would reach for my phone and see who had updated their status on Facebook.

It was at the same time that Chris Evans was commenting on having a detox from tech and the benefits that he felt from moving away from a world that was powered by the internet. At first I wondered what he was making such a fuss about, but the more he explained the more it started to resonate.

Then earlier this week, I opened the Yorkshire Post to see a comment piece from Business Editor, Mark Casci, with the headline ‘Use summer to wean yourself off the smartphone’. So much of what he had written made perfect sense to me.

Within his article he writes: ‘After travelling back in time through my history as a phone consumer (aided naturally with a few web searches on my phone to establish chronology) I came to the uncomfortable realisation that it had been well over more than a decade since I truly “switched off”’

It was at this moment I realised this was the case for me too.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery

There seems to be so much talk about people turning tech off and trying their hardest to get some balance back in their lives. We are all, it would seem, slaves to the smartphone and I’m no exception. I may not pout for selfies at every opportunity but I certainly stare into a screen far more than is healthy or necessary.

One of the ways I rationalise my ‘habit’ is by telling myself it’s for work, that someone might need me and that if a client emails, texts or sends a WhatsApp message at 10pm at night it is my obligation and responsibility to get back to them.

When I read that sentence I can see how unreasonable it is, but when you have a business it can be difficult to judge yourself by the parameters you would set for your own colleagues or suppliers.

As an example, if I happened to be working late and sent a supplier an email, I wouldn’t expect a response until the next day. Furthermore, if I got one I would feel guilty that I had encroached on their free time as opposed to being pleased that they had stopped everything to get back to me.

Mark sums it up really well in his piece when he writes: ‘Perhaps the worst aspect of realising how much I used my phone was coming to terms with the arrogance it entails, the idea that I must check my messages or the world will end.’

A truer word has rarely been said. This is me all over. I am constantly checking my phone for emails and then wonder why I feel anxious. There really is no need.

It’s time for things to change  

I’m not usually a follower of trends and I certainly could never be accursed of being a dedicated follower of fashion – in any capacity – but this is a bandwagon I’m well and truly jumping on the back of.

We recently welcomed Duke, a Cocker Spaniel puppy into our household (that’s another story and worthy of another blog) and as well as getting us up at 5.30am every morning he has also brought about a change.

I don’t know why, but during our walks I decided not to take my phone. At the time it seemed like a bold and brave step but, like Mark, I quickly realised the world wasn’t going to end.

In fact, thanks to our walks I have the chance to chat to my husband about the day ahead and what’s going on at work or with family and friends. It’s very cathartic as we glance out across the beautiful landscape at St Aiden’s RSPB reserve each morning and evening.

Although it’s only 2 hours of my day, I think it’s a good start and it does give me the head space to think about things more rationally. One of the biggest challenges with social media is that it is so immediate and whereas receiving news in this way can be beneficial, responding in the same manner rarely is.

I think that’s where some of the problems with social channels come from; act first and think later which in turn causes lasting damage either to yourself or someone else.

I’m not saying for one minute that I am going to close my social accounts, I don’t see the point given that this is how I stay in touch with an extensive family that are dotted around the world and my business relies on these channels, but I am going to limit my use.

I’m hoping that like Chris and Mark I can report back on the positive difference that this makes, and I fully intend to go home tonight and reach for a book rather than my phone.

If you are thinking about a tech detox or have given up altogether, how has it gone and what experiences can you share? All comments are welcome.

THE POWER OF PERSONALITY

Long has it been said that people buy people but actually the same can be said for brands. What I mean is that increasingly consumers are looking for brands that align with their values and their personalities and therefore the more a business can create a product, campaign or company with character the better.

Starting with marketing materials

The way that marketing literate is designed impacts on whether someone will pick up the piece in the first place and the way it is written will determine if someone will read it. The tone of voice will then either appeal to someone and make them receptive to the message or not.

This is then often followed up by a call, an email or a meeting, all providing a further insight into the personality of a business. This is where people come in and why it’s important that those you employ believe in your product or service in the same way that you do.

As a PR agency working with many different brands across a range of sectors, we always make it clear to our clients that we have to understand and buy into whatever it is they are offering in the same way that they do.

We are essentially an extension of our clients’ marketing and sales functions and there is nothing worse than listening to someone drone on knowing that they are either reading from a script or don’t really care about the company they represent. 

Then there is social media to consider in this mix and that can be a whole new headache. Sharing the same content across all platforms is a classic way to fall at the first hurdle. Think about it, each channel has been created to differ from each other and even if they target the same audience, the functionality they offer can bring a range of benefits to a business, if they are used correctly.

The harsh reality is that some channels don’t work for business. It doesn’t matter how long you spend on them or what budget you assign, they just won’t engage with the people you want to communicate with, so don’t use them. Simple. Put your efforts into something that will deliver a return on investment.

The truth is that marketing isn’t brain surgery. Fundamentally, any marketing campaign, whatever channel you use is about creating an affinity between product and person. It’s a complex tapestry of ‘touch points’ and many have their part to play but there are only so many hours in a day. 

A planned launch

The reality in business is that when a company launches they often have the luxury of time. They are able to take a step back and to think carefully about their marketing which includes design, message and preferred channel. Then, when they become more established, all that goes out of the window.

They no longer have time for the ‘fun stuff’ it’s all about keeping machines running, staying on top of suppliers, invoicing at the end of the month, managing staff and of course nurturing and growing the customers base – but the relationship no longer becomes a focus.

What a huge mistake! 

It’s like making friends with someone and taking the time and effort to become BFF before then turning your back and walking away – because you’re just too busy – but then expecting them to be there when you need them.

They may be. But when it comes to loyalty and brands, you have to remember, for the benefit of this analogy, there is a pub full of friends just waiting to take your place and that’s why it’s so important for businesses to put marketing – in all its forms – firmly on the agenda.

It has always baffled me that when times are tough – or as has appeared to be the case over the last 18 months turbulent – the first budgets that people pull are those that have been allocated to marketing.

I appreciate that factories need to keep running, staff need to be paid and that keeping the metaphorical plates spinning is a priority, but that doesn’t mean you should stop communicating and take your eye off what is arguably the biggest asset a business has: its reputation.

There are few things more exciting than seeing the launch programmes from a new start-up, particularly those that come from former entrepreneurs that have made the mistakes only to come out of the other end stronger and more determined than ever.

Putting marketing front and centre

What is most interesting is that many – or I’d even go as far as to say most – of these businesses put marketing front and centre. Yes, they may be clever with their budgets, but communication and a strong launch campaign with sustainable messaging and a longer term plan is never far from their boardroom table.

For all those businesses out there that are looking for the winning formula – those that are looking for the one thing that they feel is missing – I can almost guarantee it goes back to personality because a company with no character is like a shop window with no display.

In a time when high streets have never struggled so much, yet start-ups that are eager to please are on the rise, it’s imperative that businesses think carefully about their budgets, where they are putting their cash and what they are getting in return.

Marketing will deliver if managed well and whether you choose to appoint in-house or to work with an agency, a good solid campaign that you can get excited about and that delivers against objectives will make all of the difference.

Create your character, underpin it with the values of your business, inject some personality and start to engage with people. You’ll be surprised at what can be achieved when you think like a start-up and go back to basics.

 

Ten years on: what a difference a decade makes

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Image from thefonemaster.eu

As the iPhone celebrates ten-years, we look back and see what a difference a decade makes. After all, once upon a time we had mobile phones to make telephone calls – simple – but now we consider them a lifeline and an essential tool to support our daily lives.

Many of us take for granted the myriad of apps that we can download, as we’ve come to expect that there will be a world wide web full of information at our fingertips, but as sales of the iPhone exceed one billion, making Apple the most valuable business on the globe, is there a darker side to the tech that we rely on?

A study by Deloitte in 2016 found that four out of every five people have a smart phone, that’s a huge number and it just proves that we have all become somewhat dependent on our electronic devices. The study also went on to say that with the fear of missing out means that we access our phones during the morning, noon and night with many people admitting that they check their screens as soon as they wake up.

I also read an article recently which said that children no longer use their imaginations in the same way as their parents did as they never have the chance to get bored. What an awful thought. The impact of technology means that children are constantly amused and as such don’t need to make things up or create new games – it’s all done for them.

When the iPhone first launched Steve Jobs was quoted as saying “This is only the beginning”, and perhaps retrospectively this was a huge understatement as consumers eagerly anticipate the launch of the iPhone 8, which will bring with it further user benefits.

No longer is it good enough that we can research, engage, share, photograph, navigate and video using our phones, we expect even more from them, further embedding them into our everyday lives.

What we seem to ignore, while we await the next big thing in technology, is that phones aren’t always used for good. Consider for example how they are used for bullying in schools, something that young people have come to expect, but which should never, ever be socially accepted.

Then there are consumer complaints; we all know that we can tweet a brand and that they ‘should’ get back to us but we’ve come to expect an immediate response.

What surprises me is that people believe that they have the god given right to be rude to people when they are complaining online. I can’t understand how they don’t realise that there is still someone who has to deal with their comments on the other side of the computer and that they are probably not directly responsible for the fault or reason that an individual is disgruntled.

We all need to take a step back and to think a little more. It’s not ok to be rude and it’s not ok to feel that we can harass and berate someone because they work for a brand. Be polite. Be courteous. Treat other people like you would want to be treated!

Don’t get me wrong, there are clearly great things about having a device that can support and facilitate everyday life and that allows us to keep in touch with family and friends on a daily basis across the globe, but perhaps it is time to stop and think.

Do we rely too much on our phones and what benefits are they really bringing to our lives? Brands can use them to collate data and to target us with marketing messages to influence our purchases, while apps such as Snapchat are using GPS to show the world where we are and what we are doing.

There comes a point where you can have too much of a good thing and I think that when we are reaching for our phones at bedtime rather than our partners it is a clear example of misguided priorities.

Steve Jobs was right, it is only the beginning but let’s all hope it isn’t the beginning of the end. As a professional working in communication I want to champion chatter that doesn’t require a WIFI password or a log in.

Making an exhibition of yourself

mafia conference

As you would probably expect, I have attended a number of exhibitions throughout the UK in recent years and have enjoyed the vast majority. As well as attending as a delegate, I have also worked with clients to provide support and to become the face of the brand, which has given me a useful insight into both sides of the experience.

There is absolutely no doubt that for those taking space at exhibitions it is hard work, both in the run up to and during. There is a lot of planning and preparation to consider and often associated costs that people forget about when they make their booking.

Over the years I’ve come to realise that there is a certain amount of naivety when it comes to exhibiting coupled with wild expectations that often result in disappointment, but that really shouldn’t be the case.

The truth about exhibitions is that you only get out of it what you put in. Harsh but true.

Here are just a few of the myths that I have come across:

–          I’ve booked a stand and therefore I will sell my products

–          There are thousands of people expected so I will sell my products

–          My stand looks great and I’ve invested in a designer so I will sell my products

–          You can win an iPad so I will sell my products

There is a consistent theme here and the truth of the matter is that you will not sell your products unless you change your focus. Exhibitions gives you the platform but you need to make that work for the consumer, in this case the delegates.

Too often exhibitors take the high ground when actually they should remember that every person that comes through that door is a potential customer. Sitting behind a table and expecting someone to come over and ask you questions is simply not good enough.

The best stands that I have seen have been colourful, fun and engaging. In more recent times there are often games or interactive elements that mean your dwell time is longer and the experience with that brand is more memorable.

What often surprises me is that a business will send junior members of a team or sampling staff with no briefing what-so-ever to manage a stand, often at a leading exhibition. A classic example was at the BBC Good Food Show last year.

I went along to the stand of a brand I know well and asked to see the director. The young lady managing the stand was quick to inform me that “Betty* is far too important to come to exhibitions, she has better things to do with her time, that’s why she sends us”.

I was absolutely flabbergasted. So, this business has paid thousands of pounds for a stand, for transport, for product, for staff and yet doesn’t feel that the exhibition is important enough to make an appearance, really?

I’m not suggesting that business owners should attend all exhibitions, it would be impractical to do so, but at the very least brief the team you are using to manage your reputation in front of thousands of people.

I would certainly want to know that those representing our brand at an exhibition would not only be pleasant, engaging and friendly but would also understand and reflect our values, something that we feel is fundamental to our business.

So, here’s a few top tips and perhaps a couple of things to think about for those who have exhibitions coming up:

  1. If you want to get the most out of an exhibition, put aside some investment, you’re going to need it.
  2. Consider how to make your stand engaging and how you will encourage people to stay for longer.
  3. Commission a designer, yes it can be expensive but it will be worth it. Pull-up banners have their place but it isn’t at a leading exhibition! Get printed PVC panels that fit to size and create a space you can be proud of.
  4. Remember, you are no more important than those who are coming through the door, they are your prospective clients.
  5. If you have to have a table and chairs don’t sit on them looking at your phone. Think about your body language and what message you are relying to delegates. If it’s ‘I would rather be anywhere else’ then you may as well go home.
  6. Don’t expect people to come over to you, make an effort and ask them a question so that they know you are willing to chat.
  7. If there are events before or after the exhibition go along. They are not ‘a waste of time’ or for people who just want a drink. They are further opportunities to meet with people and to get greater value from the money you have invested.
  8. Brief the people that will be representing your brand and business. Cover everything from the way you expect them to dress to the way they position your business and everything in between. You are putting your business in their hands, take this seriously.
  9. If you are attending, take the time to visit other stands. You have something in common by being there, so make contacts.
  10. Don’t expect to make a million pounds, be realistic. Go with the intention of making strong contacts and building relationships, that way you won’t leave disappointed.

Supporting the North’s leading business to business event

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When you mention the Yorkshire Mafia (YM), particularly to those outside of the region, it can be met with a surprising variety of responses; some people are shocked that an organisation exists that has such a controversial brand, others want to know more and are intrigued, what many don’t realise is that it has had an economic impact that equates conservatively to £50m.

So, love it or loathe it, the Group has made a real difference to the way that business works in Yorkshire. Geoff Shepherd, founder of the organisation, which started as a LinkedIn network in 2008, didn’t have to put his time and effort into creating a movement that would bring people together to learn, work, meet, share and do business – but he did.

For those who are not involved in the YM the philosophy is simple: Stronger Together. A strap line that has become synonymous with the Group but importantly resonates with those that really have put the theory into practice. As someone who has made some really strong business associates, met many of our preferred suppliers and has also had some of the most memorable nights out in the last eight years, I can certainly recommend the YM and all that it stands for.

When you run a small or medium sized business it can be difficult to create a network that you can trust. ‘Networking’ events can be a challenge and it’s often more about selling to each other than creating meaningful relationships that add any value and that’s where the YM and Buy Yorkshire differ. The values that underpin the Group and the Conference are to encourage like-minded people to come together and to get to know each other. What happens next is then up to you but more often than not, once a trust is formed you start to find ways in which you can help each other, which in turn leads to new business or opportunities.

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The Buy Yorkshire Conference takes place on the 16 and 17 May at the Royal Armouries in Leeds and as the preferred PR agency supporting the event, we know just how much time, effort and commitment go into making it bigger and better each year, which is no mean feat.

Here at Open Comms we have been involved with the YM for a number of years and have supported the Conference since its launch. What has always amazed me is the quality of speakers that the event attracts to the region – there is no other business event that can claim to do the same.

This year is a further example with Deliveroo, LEGO, Channel 4, Just Eat, Uber and Google all headlining. What’s even more exciting is that this isn’t an exhaustive list and delegates – who can register for free – can also expect to see the Billion Pound Panel and Jonathan Pie, the spoof political reporter that has taken social media by storm!

I really enjoy the two-days at the Conference, not least because it is a chance to get out of the office and to meet with some familiar faces while meeting new people too. As you would expect, there is a lot for us to do in the run-up to the event, but what I really champion is the hard work and dedication of the YM team, who are rarely thanked by the thousands of people who attend the show.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all. They do a great job to pull out all of the stops to make the Buy Yorkshire Conference an annual event that people talk about for months and look forward to each year.

For those exhibiting at this year’s event, please do make a point of coming to meet with us. There will be representatives from Open Comms available throughout the two days and as well as listening to the speakers and drafting blogs to give those who don’t manage to come along some insight, we would also like to hear from those who are taking stands.

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The diversity of people who come along to the event speaks for itself so we look forward to meeting with the many and varied businesses that champion Yorkshire as a place to meet, learn, share and do business together. For those who want to learn more about how to do business differently in Yorkshire, come along and experience:

  • 2 days
  • 2 exhibition halls
  • 20+ speakers
  • 185 exhibition stands
  • 4,000+ registered delegates
  • A full programme of seminars, panels and workshops

For further details about the Buy Yorkshire Conference, including the speaker line-up and exhibitors please visit www.buyyorkshire.com.

 

Social media is not a sales tool

ta-da

With the continuing popularity of Facebook and the increasing appreciation of Twitter and LinkedIn as tools for business, people could be excused for thinking that these platforms should sit within the sales function of a business. After all, it’s a great way to ‘target’ an audience and to ‘push out’ information about a product or service.

However this is where many brands and businesses go wrong.

No one, and I mean no one, likes to be sold at. The world is full of marketing messages; just walking down the street and you will be greeted with a plethora of information, all carefully displayed on posters, banners, billboards and digital signage.

The truth is that we live in an era of over-abundance. The best campaigns will attract attention, not necessarily because of the copy that they use or even the imagery that they display, but often because they are simple and they are integrated; they are shared across several mediums, giving a consumer numerous opportunities to engage.

But what about those businesses that don’t have multi-million-pound budgets and those that have to make the most of every single penny? Many turn to social media as a quick fix and again, this is a mistake.

There are three mistakes that people make when they consider social media as a springboard to sales:

–          Social media is free

–          There are millions of people waiting to be sold at

–          Once people like my page or follow me they will buy my product

As a PR agency we try to explain to people that if you treat social media platforms as a sales channel you will immediately turn your prospective customers off. It goes back to the age-old adage, ask not what people can do for you…

The idea of social media was to share insightful and interesting information with people, not to sell at them. There are ways that you can add value through a Facebook page, which may seem like selling, such as offering money off and promotional codes, but the truth is that you are giving something back.

With the rules that are in place with Facebook, which will limit your audience reach unless you put a budget behind paid for advertising, it can be difficult to reach the volume of people you may need to make a real difference to your business.

This doesn’t mean that Facebook should be dismissed when it comes to sharing news updates about products but it does mean that it becomes a very expensive medium if all you are going to do is to pay to share a picture.

There is a balance, and that is why when we work with clients we explain that putting a plan in place that is carefully thought out and considered, that follows themes that will keep people interested and that will encourage them to come back time and time again is a better approach than sending out the same advert or trying to be quirky and falling short of the mark.

People are increasingly time poor and with so much information on the internet they don’t want to spend time clicking to links, accessing other web pages or viewing long and meaningless video. They want content that is helpful, informative and if at all possible, funny. This is what makes is shareable.

Using an example from the real world to put this into context, how would you feel if you walked into a coffee shop and you met someone for the first time and they started the conversation by asking you what insurance you have or whether you wanted an ISA?

For most of us this would make us feel uneasy and it would be more than probable that the next time you bumped into this person you would try to avoid them.

The same can be said for a brand. If you start to ‘shout’ your messages at people then they are less likely to want to engage with you. As an alternative, try to ask their opinion; what are they looking for, what would make the customer experience better for them, what do they want to see from you in the future?

Building brand loyalty isn’t easy, in fact, it is a long-term strategy of most businesses but a starting point is remembering that it is about building relationships. Customers want to feel valued and special. They want to know that you care and that you have them in mind, not your sales targets.

The automotive sector is a good example of an industry that has evolved with the times. Many dealerships have recognised that people research online before they visit a showroom and so they offer as much information as they can online.

You will find videos and podcasts, images and testimonials from customers. At this point you will also find a button which will allow you to visit your nearest dealership for a test drive. What they have done is to give you all of the information you need – that you are searching for. They have then provided you with the option to book a test drive.

The process is driven by you (no pun intended) – not them, which makes it feel less forced. What happens when you get into the dealership is up to the sales team but rather than jump on you and offer a knock-down price, as was once the case, you increasingly find that showrooms look like coffee shops that could rival leading high street brands with their skinny lattes and chocolate topped mochas.

The point is that to use social media effectively it isn’t about selling, it’s about communicating. It’s about building profile. Once you have a strong brand presence you can then start to turn engagement into loyalty. The process is not simple, it is not quick but over time it often works.

If your marketing is planned, sustainable and does not rely on the misguided belief that if you put thousands of pounds behind a Facebook post that it will make you a millionaire, a social strategy could become a useful facet to your wider marketing activity.

PR is no dark art but a top hat can help

Top hat 2Agencies are well-versed in the dark arts of baffling people with science. Whether its metrics that determine an audience reach or a targeted consumer from the right demographic reading a social post, it can be nothing short of a headache when you can’t decipher the fluff from the facts.

PR has changed irrevocably over recent years and this has been a good and a bad thing. Positively, there are online platforms and channels to engage with and extend audience reach, plus opportunities to self-publish, which in turn negates the need for third party copy approval, but there are downsides too.

Agencies get giddy about analytics, and rightly so. We can use online measures to track engagement and to give clients real time feedback. We can also map how this can impact on shopper behaviour and purchasing occasions. What overcomplicates this process is the burning desire for agencies to then reposition ‘clicking the analytics button at the top of the page’ into something far more elaborate.

STOP! Hold it right there. Quit it.

We noticed this some time ago and sat through many-a-meeting where eye rolling became an involuntary twitch rather than a planned reaction. What’s so wrong with providing a client with the facts, keeping them simple and sharing results that you can all get excited about?

As a straight-talking PR agency, we don’t do ‘baffling with science’, we try at all costs to keep things simple so that we can prove to our clients that PR works and that it has a positive influence on their business. We strongly believe that comms and marketing should have a seat around every boardroom table and as such have to practice what we preach and that is why we used simple PR techniques to turn a Gala Dinner into a brand building exercise.

We don’t consider our industry to be a joke, far from it, but we do like to have fun where we can and that is why during the Gala Dinner and Variety Performance at the Theatre Royal Wakefield, we decided to add a little creative flair of our own.

As a sponsor, we were asked if there was anything we would like to do, such as offer a raffle prize. Following a chance encounter with the most impressive balloon expert I’ve ever met, we had a plan and 36 top hats!

Deciding to take this opportunity to explain to everyone in the room that PR is NOT a dark art and that you DON’T need magic wands to create campaigns that work, we had a simple postcard made. This explained that PR is still about managing reputation, arguably a brands biggest asset, and that it takes hard work but you will see results.

As an agency that develops monthly campaigns for clients, we know that a postcard isn’t going to have people jumping out of their seats in eager anticipation of what is written on the full-colour, 180gsm stock, matt coated flyer. We had to do something else to attract attention.

That’s where a top hat, a balloon and a raffle ticket came into play.

Building on our theme ‘Ta-da!’ we put a top hat on each table as a centre piece. We then arranged for a balloon shaped rabbit to sit in the hat. This wasn’t any old rabbit. Inside each tummy was a raffle ticket. All each table had to do was pop the tummy to get their ticket and claim their prize.

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Suddenly our message that PR isn’t a dark art and nor is it magic was being shared by the whole room. It was great to see the engagement that we achieved as a result – and no, there were no fancy metrics, no analytical breakdown of the data, just lots of people wearing top hats and a crowd surfing balloon bunny! Job done.

The point to this article is two-fold; firstly, don’t believe everything you hear. PR is not a dark art, nor does it involve magic tricks but it can deliver results that will impact on your business. Secondly, if you’re going to do something, add some imagination. Tops hats and bunnies might not sound like the obvious tactics for a PR agency to use, but they worked for us.

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#Isitok to integrate social and TV

I hadn’t realised just how used we all are to sharing our thoughts about certain TV programmes and documentaries with absolute strangers until we started to talk about it in the office recently.

I’ve never really considered how my consumption of media has changed as a result of social media, but after taking a step back I realise that actually, in some instances, I expect as much from my Twitter feed as a I do the programme that I’m watching.

Take the Last Leg for example. As well as being one of my all time favourite programmes it is a show that openly champions the use of social media to engage with a captive audience and share ‘real time’ opinions that then instigate further debate.

Using #Isitok the presenters integrate the use of Twitter into the show in order to collate responses from viewers. A series of questions will be asked and the hashtag means that people are able to respond and also engage with each other.

Some people aren’t so sure about the need to integrate social into programming and I can understand that view, after all if you’re watching a programme shouldn’t you be giving it your full attention or just sitting back to relax and enjoy?

I think there’s an element of both. I watch certain programmes without even considering social media, but then there are others that have me almost habitually grabbing for my iPhone.

In most instances it seems to be documentaries and programmes that have a human interest or some element of social psychology behind them that I find most interesting. I like to see what other people think and agree or contradict based on my own feelings.

Gogglebox is another great show when it comes to Twitter. There are always insightful comments, which are often about very serious situations, which despite being ‘out of date’ create engagement and debate online.

For me, social media and TV are perfect bedfellows and as someone who doesn’t spend a great deal of time in front of the box, when I do it’s great to know that there is a wider audience who are willing to compare and contrast views about the programme we are all watching.

So, #Isitok? Yes, I think it is. In fact, I’d be lost without it and if you don’t want to engage with people online while watching TV, the answer is simple – turn your phone off.

Ends.

LEEDS BUSINESS WEEK, IT WAS MUSIC TO MY EARS!

Leeds Business Week is one of the annual events of the business calendar and this year has been no exception. I’m always really intrigued by the variety of seminars and talks that are on offer and in particular those that are either very low cost or free.

Once upon a time there wouldn’t have been the trust there is today; to encourage so many people to come together to share their thoughts, ideas and specialisms, but thankfully things have changed.

Today I attended my second Leeds Business Lunch at Bibis restaurant. I was invited last year and was really impressed by the speaker (I know, let’s be honest this is usually the part that you dread) and this year I came face-to-face with a… legend.

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I’d heard a lot about ‘Tony’ from Leeds Arena but had never had the chance to meet with him. We’ve talked and emailed but never actually taken the time to meet up – such is a busy work schedule and life in general.

I’m always really cautious when people take to the stage – I’ve known some great speakers and some dreadful ones – you know, those people who are so chatty generally, humorous and personable yet come across like a bad Mr Bean sketch when the spotlight is on them *groan*.

Thankfully Tony was none of these things, he had us all laughing from the off.

Rather than talking at the audience Tony chose to present through song – I’m not absolutely convinced he didn’t just plug in his iPod play list and hope for the best but it worked amazingly and went a little something like this…

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  1. First was a blast of U2, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Well, you can’t argue with that. The concept behind the song choice being that if there is a gap in the market for something – such as the Arena in Leeds – then there is also a business opportunity too.  It was also to reiterate that although it can be hard work to get approval on an idea, it will be worth it in the end.
  2. Madonna, Like a Virgin (confession time, I once sang this to my coal man and my Dad has never forgiven me – I was 4 years old!). The thought behind the song choice was that it symbolised the first time that in business we do anything and to remember how you did it and most importantly what you learnt.
  3. Michael Jackson, You Gotta Be Starting Something. Tony explained that in the city there is a trend to start things and not finish them – I don’t think this is exclusive to Leeds but have to admit that he has a point. The idea was to plan and think about how you are going to finish a task before starting it. Good advice that is often dismissed but should be considered, very carefully.
  4. The Troggs, I Can’t Control Myself. The theory behind this was that people aren’t always creative and ‘STOP PRESS’ this doesn’t make them wrong. We need a mix of individuals and characters in a business to make it work; some creative and some not. Without the planning and controls nothing can ever be delivered and although the ‘big idea’ is exciting the doing makes it happen.
  5. David Bowie, Loving the alien. This did make me giggle. Right from launching Open Comms we have always said that we don’t want to be a PR team of clones, and we aren’t, but I wouldn’t go as far to say any of us are aliens. That said I did understand where Tony was coming from. He said that we should accept people for their quirky personalities and different characteristics because the person you consider ‘an alien’ could one day be your biggest asset.
  6. Lady Gaga, Bad Romance. This one was simple. If you have a negative atmosphere in the workplace and you do nothing to try to address it then, like a bad romance, it will continue to deteriorate until there is nothing left. I like this analogy and have seen this happen to businesses in the past.
  7. Freddy Mercury, Great Pretenders. Again, one that is close to my heart. It’s ok to pretend but then you need to be able to substantiate the claims and promises you have made with actions and results. Time and time again we come across this in our industry – promises of names in lights but not even a dimly lit candle to show for the budgets invested! It’s important to be honest and to be realistic with clients’; they will thank you for it in the end.

And so, that was the end of Tony’s talk and what a cracker it was too. I would like to personally thank Tony for making me laugh until my sides hurt. If you would like to hear more about him then follow @FDArenaTony or @JKTChallenge.