Tag: exhibition

BEHIND THE SCENES AT BUY YORKSHIRE

The Buy Yorkshire Conference

Showing support for the largest business to business event in the North

For the last eight years we have worked with the Yorkshire Mafia (YM) to provide the team that is responsible for an annual schedule of events including the Buy Yorkshire Conference with PR and social media support.

As the largest business to business event in the North, it goes without saying that it’s a busy time for us, not just on the day but in the run up to the exhibition when we spend hours liaising with speakers that will take to the stage on the big day and media that may want to come along.

There are so many reasons why this account is particularly exciting but for me securing broadcast, national and regional media coverage has to come top of the list. Some might think that’s an obvious answer but having worked in the PR industry for more than a decade you would be forgiven for thinking that the leap in my tummy when we secure a great piece of coverage may have waned over time.

Nope. Not a bit. In fact, it’s why I fell in love with PR in the first place.

Getting to know you

Coming a close second on my list of reasons to enjoy working on the Conference has to be the speakers. As the preferred PR partner for the event we are given access to each of the entrepreneurs, brand representatives and campaigners that attend and what an experience that is!

You never know who will be added to the line up next and with candidates such as Helen Pankhurst (great-granddaughter of the leader of the Suffragette movement) and Gerald Ratner (the entrepreneur that lost everything thanks to a glib comment about his products being cr*p) you can see how contrasting they can be and that makes our job all the more interesting.

A change of venue

This year the event took place at the First Direct Arena, a change from the New Dock Hall and Royal Armouries as has been the case in previous years. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how this would work, but after taking a tour and seeing the event from above in the arena seats it didn’t disappoint.

The exhibitor stands were all in one space, which made for a vibrant and engaging showcase for delegates and it also created a camaraderie between the brands. It was great to walk around and see people having a laugh and engaging with each other as well as delegates at the event.

Never a dull moment

As the team that manage all media relations, we don’t get time to wander around, our remit on the day is to manage the media and support any interview requests, while also drafting blogs during the seminars which will be posted on the website after the Conference.

It may sound easy, but it takes a lot of work and makes for a long (but fun-filled) day.

Having access all areas means that we can pick and choose which seminars and sessions we attend, which is a real coup. Over the years I have listened to and met speakers including Michelle Mone, Ann Widdecombe, Jacqueline Gold, Nigel Farage, Alastair Campbell and more… let’s be honest, there was no way I would have bumped into these people in the street, so once again it all adds to the experience.

Working with a talented team

What astounds me most about the Conference is that the team from the YM always seem so relaxed. Whatever comes their way they just deal with it and move on to the next thing. I can’t even imagine what it is like to manage an event of this scale knowing that it takes a full year to plan, arrange and deliver.

Once again, the team did a fantastic job and this year more than ever I heard lots of positive comments that I duly passed on. The philosophy behind the YM is that we are stronger together and I have to say that working with them adds real credibility to that statement.

Practising what you preach is a big part of what we do here at Open Communications so to have clients that work by the same values makes our job all the more rewarding. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers once again for bringing this fantastic event to the region and also to the individuals, brands and businesses that we worked with to pull the content together.

I’m very pleased to report that we secured coverage across national and regional media in print, online and across broadcast media. Well done team Open Comms, good work!

Now let’s get on with planning for next year’s showcase, which will have to be bigger and better than ever. We better get our thinking caps on.

Making an exhibition of yourself

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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.

A new genre of photography, Nigel Tooby pushes the boundaries once more

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I have had the pleasure of working with contemporary artistic photographer, Nigel Tooby, before when he launched an exhibition, Eye Spy, in support of homeless charity, Simon on the Streets. His works and installations for the exhibition were creative, engaging, uncomfortable and moving.

Fast forward to January and I find myself once again working alongside Nigel to share the story behind his most recent exhibition, ‘Of our times: the price of money’, which takes place from 17 January to 1March at the Ropewalk in Barton upon Humber.

Creating a series of images taken from a photobook, which resulted in him receiving a Contemporary Fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, Nigel uses his own unique and controversial style to share the story of a businessman in pursuit of money, power and fame.

Taking some influence from his own autobiographical experiences as a top executive, the series of works, which are to be shown in sequence, take a step-by-step exploration of the uncomfortable and increasingly challenging world of a high flying business man. This person is expected to be permanently available, while being surrounded by colleagues who will do whatever it takes to reach the top.

What I found most compelling and worrying about this exhibition is that I could relate to the images. It actually made me question the priorities I place on work and what impact this could be having on my relationships and my home life. Finding a balance is often difficult but the question does remain do we live to work or work to live?

Whilst talking me through each image in turn, Nigel was approached by two visitors who had come to the preview. The overwhelmingly positive responses that he received for the thought and honesty that had gone into his works were nothing short of remarkable. There was no holding back as the audience gushed their applause for ‘one of the most thought provoking exhibitions of recent times’.

It’s sometimes difficult to be balanced when you are working so closely with a client and in particular when you know how much time, effort and energy has gone into a project. I know what this exhibition means to Nigel and his family and to hear people go out of their way to endorse his works was fantastic.

What I most like about Nigel’s work is that you don’t have to be a serious art lover or culture vulture to enjoy the stories that he tells through his photography. His subjects are hard hitting and gritty, leaving you in no doubt of the message that he is giving. The works invariably lead to discussion as the audience provides their take on the subject, encouraging each individual to think more deeply about what each piece means to them.

What Nigel has done is to create a new genre of photography, bringing together a collection of images which when pieced together become the sum of a story. Although each image can be viewed independently it would be like taking the page from a book and reading it in isolation – it may be good but not as impressive as the whole story, which takes the audience on a progressive journey.

The show has already attracted the attention of leading photographer, Professor Paul Hill MBE, and Nigel is hoping that further interest will be received as the story of the exhibition is shared both online and in print.

That leaves me to wish Nigel every success. His passion for photography and the art he loves is the only thing that leaves no room for debate. I really enjoyed learning more about each piece and know that this is just the start for someone with such an amazing talent.

Nigel, thank you for sharing it with us and for letting us become a part of your incredible story.

For more information about ‘Of our time: the price of money’ please visit www.nigeltooby.co.uk

A different kind of creative

Working in the creative industry can be confusing; there are so many different specialisms and disciplines that there is no single sentence that can describe what encompasses being a creative, it is as vast as the minds of those involved within it.

Just recently I have had the absolute pleasure of working with a creative contemporary photographer, Nigel Tooby. What I get most satisfaction from at Open Communications is the range of clients that we have. Their businesses, brands, objectives and markets are so contrasting that it makes every day a ‘school day’ – you learn something new.

Working with Nigel and his wife Elaine was no different.

Our first meeting was back in August when we hosted an Open Strategy Session with the team. Not only did we all find the session enlightening, it was engaging and a real sharing of insights, beliefs and values. Nigel approaches his specialism, photography, very differently from how I would PR and that made for some great conversations and debate.

Fast forward a month and I took a call to ask if we would support the team with a project and exhibition they are working on, Eye Spy. Needless to say, having seen some of the works I couldn’t wait to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in.

All in the aid of Simon on the Streets, Nigel was originally tasked with creating a series of images for a charity calendar for the organisation, thanks to a referral from Red Media, the local design, print and marketing agency.

Rather than stick to the traditional, which isn’t really Nigel’s way, he chose to take the project one-step further and to recommend that the images were not only taken through the eyes of the homeless but also that they become an artistic installation, using materials from the streets to give the subject deeper context.

I was lucky enough to get a preview of the final pieces and a complete contradiction in terms is the best way I can find to describe them; they make for the most uncomfortable viewing but in the most positive and thought provoking way.

And so, here’s where we came in, it was our job to take Nigel’s creative talents and showcase them within the media. The first challenge was that the subject is interesting but also uncomfortable and the second is that some of the images were definitely unsuitable for print, simply due to the brutal truth behind them.

So, we got to work. A press call, invitations, press releases, media relations… and repeat… PR can be a little bit like a recipe for Yorkshire puddings sometimes, if you get it wrong it will all go flat but if you get it right… well, next time you have a Sunday lunch and you bite into your fluffy, light Yorkshire puddings that’s how PR feels when you get it right!

Thankfully we did. Working closely with Nigel and Elaine we were able to secure coverage in Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Wakefield Express, Wetherby News, Harrogate Advertiser, Ripon Today, North Yorkshire News, BBC Radio Leeds and BBC Look North.

Not only is the work deserving of the coverage it achieved but I am so pleased to see that Nigel’s creative talent is being recognised. I have never met a photographer with such a vision for story-telling.

I have learnt a great deal in the short time I have worked with the team at Mogul Image and I expect that they don’t even realise it, knowing how unassuming and modest they are. Nigel has taught me to see behind an image and to look deeper as there are always things that you miss first time around.

As I said at the start of this blog, the way he approaches his art is very different to how I handle PR for our clients at Open Communications despite us working in the same creative industry. We are all about facts and figures, stories and angles, headlines and news, whereas Nigel deals with perspective, depth, contrast, controversy and creating debate.

The results for us both are similar; we raise the profile of a subject to encourage people to talk about it. The ultimate goal is word of mouth but our skills couldn’t be more dissimilar.

I will be attending the launch event of the Eye Spy exhibition this evening, which takes place at the Workhouse Modern in Harrogate from 6.30pm. I would encourage anyone who isn’t your typical lover of all things photography or arty to come along.

I will certainly be raising a glass to an exhibition well done and hope that people will take the time not only to better understand the plight of the homeless in our region but also to get their hands in their pocket and support Simon on the Streets, which is a very worthy and deserving cause.

Here is a small and very select sample of the images that will be on show at the exhibition, which will run until Monday 6 October. Please do remember that some of these images feature on crates and paving slabs… I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil it but it is certainly worth going to see.

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