With the festive season upon us, it’s no surprise that our television screens have become host to an array of Christmas adverts.
John Lewis, Argos and M&S are amongst the first to share their ad’s, with the hope of igniting that magical feeling that Christmas brings out in us all.
But what makes a great Christmas ad? Well, I conducted a little research to find out what it takes to jingle the bells of those here at Open Comms.
Louise’s favourite is the offering from John Lewis.
Featuring Edgar the fire-breathing dragon and his unlikely friend, a little girl, the story showcases the pair’s enduring friendship. Despite Edgar’s many mishaps, which include burning down the community Christmas tree, the duo stick together and eventually impress the villagers by putting Edgar’s fire-breathing talents to good use – lighting the Christmas pudding.
All-in-all an uplifting tale, with a little bit of humour. However, the key, according to Louise, is Edgar’s relatability. He’s far from perfect and gets things wrong from time-to-time, just like the rest of us!
This year’s Aldi advert is a Christmas cracker once again – and it’s Lindsey’s favourite!
A little like Robbie Williams, Kevin the Carrot has experienced his yearly revival. If you haven’t seen it yet, think the Greatest Showman but with vegetables, and you won’t go far wrong! Kevin takes on the role of ringmaster while belting out a fantastically festive version of the Robbie Williams classic, Let Meee- eeee Entertain You!
Always a little unexpected, full of fun and creative genius – this year’s offering certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Lindsey also loves the fact that the brand chooses to build on the Kevin the Carrot story year-on-year, successfully bringing in current references to some of the biggest and most successful programmes of the year, while never failing to raise a smile.
But, the icing on the Christmas cake? The advert helps to raise awareness of Aldi’s charity partner, Teenage Cancer Trust. Now that’s real festive spirit in action!
An extra sprinkling of magic
McDonalds perfectly catches the magic of Christmas through a child’s eyes, capturing all of the innocence, imagination and emotion that makes the occasion such a special time of year – and it’s Nick’s advert of choice.
Following the story of a little girl, her ‘reindeer’ and the magic of make-believe, McDonalds has successfully brought to life the elements that make the season so special. Also, depicting realistic family dynamics, the brand has subtly positioned itself as an integral part of the Christmas period.
A surprising but truly endearing angle, this is certainly a top contender!
A touch of nostalgia
Sky is taking many of us back to our childhoods, and Fareeha is particularly impressed with the return of everyone’s favourite alien, ET.
With an especially mysterious start, this ad is definitely a departure from the usual Yuletide brand offerings. Re-visiting ‘Elliot’, who has now grown into a man with a family of his own, ET is introduced to modern life and festive traditions.
Appreciating the nostalgia and the opportunity to reflect on times gone by, Fareeha has placed the Sky advert at the top of her nice list this year.
A sobering message
I have to agree with Lindsey and Nick’s choices this year, Aldi and McDonalds have successfully delivered both entertainment and magic, capturing key elements that make Christmas an extra special time of year.
However, to add a further recommendation to the line-up, The Dogs Trust have put in place a fun creative but with a very serious message. Drawing attention to the fact ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’, it makes an adorably cute but also incredibly touching contender for Open’s own, Christmas ad of the year 2019.
So, what makes a cracking Christmas advert?
Well, according to the Open team: relatability, creativity, an extra sprinkling of magic, a touch of nostalgia and an important message are the key components for our favourite festive adverts.
Which is your favourite this year?
To hear more of our opinions about his year’s winners and losers in the Christmas advert stakes, check out Lindsey’s review of retailer Argos and why she thinks it has missed the mark here.
September marked a memorable milestone in my career; I was given the opportunity to work on my very first PR campaign.
Entrusted with the responsibility of bringing a client’s vision to life was undoubtedly a daunting one, however seeing my plans put into action was a truly rewarding experience. My contribution to the campaign not only improved my knowledge on how the process works but also public relations overall.
Here is what I learnt –
Research is the unsung hero of PR
Press releases, content writing and social media maybe pillars of Public Relations, but it is research that lays the foundation for everything we do.
From initial planning stages to execution, every effective PR campaign must have research at the forefront of all decision making. Overlooking the importance of it can lead to unwanted repercussions and essentially damage a brands reputation.
In contrast, when done correctly, research provides countless benefits. It is not only a vital tool for targeting the right audiences, influencers and journalists, research also helps to prepare for all eventualities that may or may not occur.
Every decision in PR is accompanied with better and worse options. Research is what helps to determine which approach is most appropriate.
Ideas are always welcome
Regardless of how big or small a campaign may be, new and creative ideas are always appreciated.
Although expressing ideas as a PR newbie was slightly intimidating, I soon recognised that the team at Open Comms encouraged original thoughts and valued all suggestions. The philosophy here is that no idea is a bad idea.
PR requires out of the box thinking and notions that gain attraction. Ideas can be expanded, reduced and inspire other ideas. So, simply because a suggestion may see farfetched or perhaps not big enough, are not reasons as to why it should not be expressed.
Expect the unexpected and prepare for the worst
While no one wants to fixate on all the things that could go wrong, an effective campaign is one that evaluates all negative possibilities and is equipped to respond accordingly.
Operating in an especially unpredictable world, it is essential to prepare for the what ifs. Without correct preparation and planning in place, a campaign cannot cope or adapt to challenging situations. Whereas covering every outcome (with a HEAP of creativity) has the potential to minimise any negative impact on a client.
I have always known that a client’s reputation is the number one priority in PR but now I also understand that for this to be true, risk management and robust scenario planning are key.
As I write this blog I am filled with a mixture of emotions: nostalgia, as I look back to where we started; pride, at our journey so far; relief, that we made it through some tough times and a sense of immense achievement, that our experiences good and bad have only served to make us stronger.
The story starts in 2008 over a couple of bottles of wine. As two PR professionals with years of experience, we were tired of our day jobs and wanted to start out alone. We had very different approaches to work but the same values. It was this that would be the deciding factor and would see us launch Open Communications, a PR agency based in Wakefield.
I still remember how exciting it was and the encouragement we received from those we told before our official launch. When we commissioned the design for our branding and website, it all became real and was the start of so much more than a business.
A lot can change for a PR agency in eleven years, but I am thankful that those changes have shaped us to become the people and the business that we are today.
People often ask what we have learnt, and it is impossible to share everything. Every day is a new opportunity to learn something new or to adapt an approach to get a better outcome either for a client or the agency.
For me, having a business has been a challenging journey that has pushed me harder than I ever would have imagined. It wasn’t the things we could plan for, it was recognising that change was inevitable if we were to survive.
Being overtly self-aware isn’t something I find comfortable as I know that it will mean having to reflect on the positive and negative attributes to my personality. Over the years I have learnt to appreciate the need to be more open, aware and accepting of others, even if I don’t agree with what they have to share. This can be difficult, but it is something that I must take on board as part of my own personal development. After all, how can I be the best role model to others if I am unwilling to work on my own weaknesses.
In many respects, having witnessed how those that inspire me most are also that those accept and apply the lessons they learn from others, whatever stage of their own journey, has given me the encouragement I need. Being stubborn and resistant often leads to a single outcome; stubborn-indifference.
We have worked with some incredible brands over the years and delivered some amazing campaigns and projects that have delivered outstanding results. I’m not embarrassed to shout about our success because we have earned it. Nothing has come easy but then I don’t think we would value it as much if it had.
This year has been a momentous one for Open Communications. We have trebled the size of our office space with a move to Wakefield city centre; appointed three new members of staff; secured three new clients and are still standing to tell the tale!
What’s more, we have some really exciting plans for the future and that includes new ways of working with businesses to provide greater access to PR, content marketing and social media support. A further example of how we continue to evolve and to challenge our own thinking as an agency. There’s no time for getting bored.
As we celebrate eleven years in business, we can look back at all that we have achieved with a smile. We’ve come along way and there is an exciting road ahead, but the most important thing to me is that we started out as two friends with an ambition, and eleven years on that is still the case.
I think I speak on behalf of us both when I say thank you. Without our amazing network of colleagues, clients, suppliers, family and friends we wouldn’t be where we are today.
When we sat down to plan our business, values were of upmost importance to us both and we decided that rather than try to be something we are not, we would set our cards on the table and work with those that wanted a straight-talking PR agency that would get the job done and do it well.
Many things have changed over the years, but those guiding principles remain the same. As we raise a glass to the past eleven years, we hope that you will join us in celebrating what is to come as we look forward to what lies ahead.
It’s used by everyone from busy-bodies to businesses, politicians to pet pooches and, as the Guardian recently reported, even GCHQ has gotten in on the act.
The question remains, what is it that makes social media so different to the traditional channels we were once used to, and how can effective management of online communications platforms and apps positively impact upon a company’s bottom line?
For many organisations social media is an essential medium through which to communicate messages, form the level of personality which sets a brand apart from its competitors and provides a way in which relationships are built, and subsequently maintained, with consumers.
Whilst there is, undoubtedly, some crossover between the benefits that social media and traditional channels offer, using a combination of the two approaches will ensure that a brand’s message reaches the widest audience in the most fitting manner.
Round 1: sharing news
In today’s busy world we are surrounded by marketing messages at every turn. Whether it’s a text on a mobile phone, a red light whilst driving or an advertising billboard, each method communicates a message, but in a distinctly different way.
In the same way that these mediums differ, so too does the sharing of news from traditional and social media.
Here are two theoretical examples:
- Pet Pooch Apparel secures lucrative contract with leading retailer (alongside an image of the company’s directors outside the business’ headquarters)
- It’s been a woofing good day here at Pet Pooch Apparel; with one wag of a fluffy tail we’ve made it rain ‘puppy style’ (insert picture of puppy in raincoat)
Example 1 is the type of headline that you’d see on a typical business news platform. Short, snappy and to the point. This message takes a professional tone, which is in-keeping with the readership of such a site. This type of media coverage raises the profile of a business and its achievements; building credibility by association as a result of appearing on a well-known business platform.
On the other hand, example 2 could feature on ‘Pet Pooch Apparel’s’ social media channels and, as such, takes a far more colloquial tone which communicates the personality of the brand. Featured alongside a link, which allows the reader to go directly to a page that features the product, this version of the same news is likely to attract a different reader and, therefore, should be posted in a way that will appeal to them.
Whilst the focus of a business story is primarily building the credibility of a business, the objective of social media channels is to build a relationship with the people who actually buy the products.
Whilst being on the radar of every large organisation within the region has its benefits, most companies will have competitors just around the corner and this makes the importance of creating a brand which appeals to buyers increasingly important.
The truth is that having a strong brand, personality and tone of voice is often the one thing that sets a business apart during a customer’s decision-making process.
In these examples it’s clear to see how each version of news has a distinct purpose. By shifting the focus of the story from a purely business mindset, to a form more likely to be considered engaging to the everyday social media user, the reach of the story can be broadened to appeal to a much wider audience.
Round 2: engaging with the customer
In what I’d envisage to be a fun and trendy business like ‘Pet Pooch Apparel’, magazines and consumer-focused publications are likely to be a part of any PR strategy.
Achieving coverage in this type of media would be the best way to raise the profile of the business amongst potential customers, whilst building the familiarity and trust necessary to achieve repeat sales and encourage loyalty.
However, though companies can submit a press release which is full of personality and is reflective of the brand’s values, this messaging is often significantly diluted when it finally finds its way into a publication.
As a result, relying entirely on media coverage from magazines to communicate with your customers and build your brand is a steady process which does not happen overnight. Instead, through a long-term strategy which targets the relevant magazines at the most appropriate times it will deliver results.
Yet, combine this approach with a stream of interesting, insightful blogs and quirky social media posts, and the whole process becomes much less sporadic and a lot more likely to yield quicker results.
Increasing the comments, likes and excitement surrounding your latest post, is a sure-fire way to gain fans and, with new followers, comes a wider audience with which to share your new products, services and offers.
On the other hand, we must consider that with a busy social media channel comes a certain amount of maintenance. With the ‘always on’ appeal of online apps, comes the potential for a large number of comments which shoppers increasingly expect will be replied to. This gives additional opportunity to stay ‘on brand’ by responding in a light-hearted manner but also takes a great deal of time and effort.
Question – Which accessories would you recommend for a Yorkshire terrier?
Possible response – Trendy or traditional, we’re sure that your terrier would appreciate this tweed flat cap! With his Yorkshire roots, we know he’ll feel right at home. Don’t forget to let us know what he thinks 😉
Round 3: the thrill of the chase
There’s no denying that coverage in the newspaper, a magazine or on a prestigious online platform feels infinitely more rewarding than simply posting on a company blog or social media channel.
Moreover, the uncertainty that accompanies the process of pitching a story to a publication and then waiting to see whether it appears, enhances the feeling of excitement when you do secure that much awaited coverage.
Once you’ve secured a story that even your mum would be proud of, you’ll most likely want to shout it from the rooftops! Well, once again, this is where social comes in and can be used as a platform to maximise your message and audience reach.
Round 4: consistency is key
It’s not always possible to rely on editorial coverage, for example your story may get bumped by a huge national crisis, and that is why a business should use its own channels to post the message to its audience and upload the news that they have to share.
Though it won’t happen overnight, regular posts and insights, consistent messaging and well managed, interesting content is the key to increasing brand awareness and, if your social media channels become a hit with customers, the chances are that your products will too.
In summary, working in PR and content marketing it is clear that both traditional media and social channels are complementary and can be used to create brand trust and loyalty for a business. If you’d like advice on how to maximise your own social media channels, would like assistance creating original content, or would like to speak to us regarding a PR strategy, please contact a member of our team on 01924 862477.
Emma Lupton and Lindsey Davies launching Open Communications in 2008.
This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this fact but running a business isn’t easy. In fact, sometimes it can be quite the headache. There is so much to think about.
When you first start it’s strange because you have what feels like all the time in the world and things are still exciting. All you want at this stage is to be established, to be taken seriously and to run as a ‘real business’.
Conversely, when you are more established with the necessary processes and procedures in place, you crave that time that you had to take a step back and to consider your options. At this stage, not only are you now responsible for what you would hope to be a successful business, but you are likely to have staff, as well as clients, to think about.
The best analogy I can use is that it’s like getting married. When you’re planning your wedding it’s full on but exciting, you then go on honeymoon and it’s all new – you feel nervous but you know that you’ve made the right decision. A few years down the line and the washing on the floor is becoming annoying, the house never seems to be clean and it doesn’t matter how many times you tell them to put the lid on the toothpaste it never seems to happen – yet you still love them.
And that’s why it’s so important that when you start a business you believe in what you do.
Don’t make it up, make it count
When you start a business, you have to truly and passionately commit to delivering results for your clients. You have to know that the advice that you are giving them is the very best that you can offer and that you will stand accountable if things don’t work out quite how you planned.
No one is perfect but when you run a business you often feel as if you should be. In PR there are so many people that you need to consider; business partners, employees, clients, journalists and the public.
Increasingly the public are relying on journalists, and therefore by association PRs, to deliver honest news. It’s a challenge – there is no time for editors or sub-editors to fact check everything and news is so instantaneous that it’s no longer about quality but about first to ‘the post’ – literally. Who posts the news online first wins, but do they?
We all need to work together to make sure that we deliver a service that for us (PRs) meets with the client’s objectives and for journalists delivers a story based on fact that their audience are going to want to read and share.
Using your passion to share news
This leads me back to my first point, in order to deliver good, quality news you need to create a business that you believe in.
We are very fortunate as an agency to have clients that have values that are aligned with our own. They are fundamentally to do a good job and to do it well. Here at Open Comms, our mantra tends to be: forget air kissing and going out for lunch, let’s celebrate when we’ve got the results, not before.
I’ve noticed recently that over the last (almost) ten years we have attracted similar kinds of people and we now have an incredibly strong network of associates, suppliers and clients that we trust. Beyond that, many of them we can now confidently refer to as friends. This isn’t something we take for granted, it’s something that we are immensely proud of.
The truth is that we couldn’t have done this if we were living a lie. Again, I go back to a marriage. If you were marrying for money or your head was turned by another, yet you still went through with it, before long it would show. People would realise that you were being disingenuous and that what comes out of your mouth is not necessarily reflected in your eyes (my nanna always said to trust the eyes not the mouth – wise woman).
We always say that passion is infectious (we’ve finished with the marriage analogy now!) and that you can sense the energy when people talk about their product or service and how much it means to them.
My advice to anyone starting a business would be to believe. Put your heart and soul into the planning and create a list of values that you intend to be governed by. Be honest, both to yourself and to others.
Having a business isn’t easy but when you truly believe in what you are trying to do and the service that you deliver, then I see no reason why you cannot be the success that you set out to be. This will also resonate in the future when you want to give up – and there will be times – it will be easier to get through and to move on knowing that your business is founded on solid principles that mean something to you and to your customers.
PR Senior Account Executive £22 – £26,000
We are looking for a Senior Account Executive with at least 18-months experience to join our team. The preferred candidate will have worked on consumer and business to business accounts on behalf of a range of clients and will be looking for a new and exciting challenge.
As a busy but friendly office, we are looking for someone who can get stuck in and thrives on delivering results. Coming up with creative ideas and pushing boundaries, while also being aware of social media channels and the importance of consistent communication across platforms is essential.
Being able to handle a press office function including drafting press materials, features and comment pieces, along with confidently handling media relations and reporting is the very least we are looking for. On top of that, we hope to find someone who can add their own twist and who isn’t afraid of coming forward with suggestions.
Open Communications is an established agency with a strong reputation. Based just outside of Wakefield, the team are responsible for accounts which cover housing, manufacturing, retail, FMCG, leisure and third sector.
If you want to take the next step in your career and want to learn from and progress in a busy agency where no two days are ever the same, please contact Lindsey or Emma on tel 01924 862477 or email firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com.
We are very pleased to announce that we have been shortlisted for two industry accolades; Outstanding Small PR Consultancy and Not-For-Profit Campaign at this year’s Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) PRide Awards.
Celebrating nine-years since we launched in September, Open Comms will come up against some tough competition when we attend the awards event, which will bring together the great and good of the PR industry on the 30 November at Leeds Town Hall.
As well as providing a submission for Outstanding Small PR Consultancy, we also used evidence of the results we have achieved for our client the Coalfields Regeneration Trust. Having worked alongside the team for more than four years, we are really pleased that our submission now features on the shortlist for the Not-For-Profit Campaign of the year.
Director of Open Communications, Emma Lupton comments: “We are very pleased to have our work acknowledged and to gain the recognition that comes from being shortlisted at the CIPR PRide Awards. We are very proud of the campaigns that we produce and also of the team here at Open.
“Since we launched in 2008 we have built our reputation as a trusted partner to our clients and know that the awards will reinforce that credibility. As the leading industry awards for the PR sector it means a great deal to us that we have been shortlisted in the two categories we entered. Fingers crossed we will be a winning team on the night.”
Open Communications, based at Nostell Priory Estate Yard, works with a portfolio of clients from across a range of industries including FMCG, food, retail, recruitment, architecture, print and technology, housing, third sector and legal.
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.
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.