Tag: pr agency

MY FIRST PR CAMPAIGN

First PR Campaign

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.

THINK SUMMITS: SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST AN EVENTS PROGRAMME

Tackling all things IT, tech and digital, THINK Summits raised the bar once again when a host of industry experts descended upon Aspire in Leeds city centre.

Hosted by our client, iSource Group, we were eager to join the team in welcoming 150 thought leaders to discuss, make connections and to hear more about the latest developments in the tech space – and we certainly weren’t disappointed!

Following lively roundtable debates about everything from infrastructure to DevOps and software development to digital, guests then came together to enjoy a drink, a chat and a delicious three-course dinner while hearing from a duo of esteemed speakers.

Taking to the stage, Dr Alan James, Partner at Expert Alliance and Former VP at Virgin Hyperloop One, discussed the digitalisation of transport while Richard Black, Director of Technology and Solution – Finance Sector at Accedian Networks, shared his opinions and expertise on cloud technology.

Aside from fantastic company, insightful talks and, of course, food and wine, there was plenty more to be gained from our attendance at the event.

  1. Becoming a part of the story

As an extension of our clients’ teams, we support their progress and where possible have a presence at events so that we can do everything we can to get to the heart of what makes each occasion special and worthwhile. It’s one of the things that we love the most.

After all, it’s all well and good sitting behind a desk and churning out the facts, but to live and breathe a client’s world makes all the difference. Not only does this approach allow us to build better working relationships, but also to produce impassioned and informative content which tells an authentic story.

  1. Content opportunities

With our PR hats firmly in place, each event generates a host of opportunities for content – whether it’s a post-event press release, a blog, gathering guest testimonials, live-tweeting from the occasion or even just observing and generating useful feedback for the team.

  1. Support where it’s needed

As the number one cheerleader for our clients, we wouldn’t dream of not being there to celebrate all of their hard work and to offer any support that’s required on the day. Events rarely take place without some kind of ‘hitch’ and having an extra pair of trusted hands on the ground often proves invaluable.

  1. Knowledge is key

Working for an agency, every day is varied and exciting. With a number of clients from diverse industries, being knowledgeable about the latest developments in each area is vital to the support that we provide. Therefore, any opportunity to learn more about a client or the sector that they operate in is welcomed with open arms.

  1. Sparking creativity

Finally, they do say that variety is the spice of life and there’s nothing like simply getting out from behind the desk to inspire fresh ideas. Taking a break from the day to day and being exposed to something new is a great way to spark our enthusiasm and creative thinking.

So, while PR isn’t all boozy lunches and glamorous events as some would have you believe, on the occasions that we do get out and about, there’s a whole lot to be achieved both professionally and personally.

SOCIAL MEDIA VS TRADITIONAL MEDIA: WHAT’S THE STORY?

Social-Media-Marketing-vs-Traditional-Marketing

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:

  1. Pet Pooch Apparel secures lucrative contract with leading retailer (alongside an image of the company’s directors outside the business’ headquarters)

vs

  1. 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.

For example:

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.

Bringing business together to talk ‘Leeds’

IMG_4006

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a mass brainstorm session which was hosted by Grant Thornton at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. The focus for the day was to bring people from the Yorkshire business community together to debate ‘How can we make Leeds a home where all sectors connect to create inclusive growth?’.

My first challenge when accepting this invitation was that we are a Wakefield based PR agency and we champion the district at every opportunity we get. What we have experienced over the years, on many occasions, is that Wakefield has a huge amount to offer but remains the forgotten relative to Leeds.

With a brief that focused so heavily on Leeds I had to question what value I could add and if I would become more of a hindrance than a help. In fact, I needn’t have worried. What was immediately enlightening on taking my seat in a room full of more than 300 people was that many of us felt the same.

The day was run to a tight schedule – with a countdown clock that actually turned red when your time was up. Despite being a little daunting, it kept us all focused and meant that we completed our tasks in the allocation we had been given.

Split into three sections we first had to use a process called Appreciative Inquiry (AI), which was first developed by David Cooperrider in the late 80’s at Case Western University.

The process is quite simple (which suits me!) it splits a task into four sections; appreciate, understand things worth valuing; the whole system, bringing a diverse group of people together to work on a challenge; task focused, be clear about what the objective is and assign individuals with the right strengths to the right part of the task accordingly and self-management, which gives people the chance to use dialogue and inquiry to reach an outcome.

In the first instance, we had to share stories about each other and what one thing we had done in the past that we were most proud of. This gave us a chance to get to know one another better but also to get animated about things that we wanted to share with a group of strangers.

It was an interesting way of finding out what really made people tick.

It became apparent that everyone around the table had different backgrounds, skills and experiences to share, which was really encouraging. We got to work, pipe-cleaners, pens and paints in hand.

In the second part of the session we had to dream… yes, dream.

Eyes closed – and feeling about as comfortable as a person with their eyes closed in a room full of 300 strangers – we got thinking. The swoony tones from our host made us think about what we would bring to Leeds to make it a better place to live, work and play.

Eyes open (thankfully) and we started to share our thoughts. There was a real positivity to the exercise, which somewhat surprised me as you usually get the odd moaner and groaner at these events, but our table was focused and ready to get to work.

The first decision we made was to change the Leeds to Yorkshire. We all agreed that as a collective, each part of Yorkshire had something different and exciting to offer that when accepted as a sum of the parts would create a region that simply couldn’t be bettered.

We considered each area in turn; Bradford, Wakefield, Halifax, Huddersfield, Kirklees, Doncaster, Calderdale… and so on. It was really encouraging to share the positives and to celebrate the many successes that already exist in the region, while then focusing on the next 10 years.

We were asked to present our ideas back and our table was chosen as just one to share our thoughts. Here’s the picture we created:

IMG_4001

The final session of the day asked us to share as many post-it notes as we could which would provide ideas of how we could meet with our objective, to make Leeds a home where all sectors can connect to create inclusive growth.

Some tables managed to come up with over 100 ideas! Our table was less productive but in fairness we were very much about quality as opposed to quantity. It was then up to us to decide which idea we wanted to share with the room.

Not easy when you’re challenging people’s ideas and contributions to the session but we got there in the end.

We had just one minute to stand on stage and let the world (ok, just the room but it felt like the world from up there!) know what we were proposing.

Throughout the day we kept coming back to one theme that is already synonymous with Yorkshire and its success, sport. And so, our big idea, our dream, our plan and our vision was *drum roll* to become a host city for the Olympics.

Before you snigger or scoff, this was about dreaming – not putting needless hurdles in place of ideas that were calling upon our creative juices to get everyone in the room excited over what could be. Plus, we had a fall-back option, we decided that to host the Commonwealth Games wouldn’t be a bad target should we not get the big one over the line.

I have to admit that the day was long and tough but definitely worthwhile. I met lots of new people and was surprised at how many I didn’t know. It was great to hear the suggestions and ideas of others and to play with smiley faces and coloured pens.

Well done to Grant Thornton for hosting an event that captured the hearts and minds of more than 300 people, it’s no easy task. It certainly got me thinking more about the little things that we can do to make a big difference in the region.  

Most importantly, I just can’t wait for the Olympics to come to Yorkshire.  

Editorial and advertising: perfect bedfellows or simply getting too close for comfort?

Pondering the world of PR and all that it encompasses.

Pondering the world of PR and all that it encompasses.

Obligatory start to all communications this week, Happy New Year to one and all! We hope that you had a well-deserved break and have come back refreshed, albeit a little on the plump side. I certainly have

So, as we embark on another year ahead what are the challenges that you will face? Have you even considered what is around the corner? Or are you still debating whether it’s appropriate to eat those left-over mince pies and to wash them down with sherry or a last glass of fizz?

Anyway, enough about my overindulgence, it’s irrelevant – we are back to it now and so my ponderings for 2017 begin.

Before Christmas, I noticed a shift in the way that an online regional title was reporting news.

Rather than simply sharing updates, as they had done for several years, they instead offered the chance for people to upload their own content for a fee. This is nothing new, it has been done before and as a PR agency we would consider it advertorial.

The reason for this is that those submitting news can write – within reason – whatever they like and share it on the platform as long as they pay to do so. So far, so good. However, what made this approach rather ‘unique’, and I believe added some intrigue, was that the platform made it clear that they would choose the best three articles to feature on their daily bulletin.

The reason I find this so fascinating is that it really does blur the lines between what constitutes advertising and editorial. In the first instance it is advertorial, as the person has paid for the piece to feature as they have written it, but in the second it becomes editorial, as a journalist has shared it with a wider audience alongside content that has not been paid for. Now to clarify, you can quite easily see the bylined author of each article so can still see which have been paid for but it’s a fine line.

I have conflicting thoughts about this; commercially I have to admit that it is a step forward and I also think there are many online titles that will follow, but what is unnerving is that people already find the relationship between advertising and editorial a challenge and I fear this will make it worse.

People will believe that to work in PR you write copy and upload it for a fee, which isn’t the case. What we do here at Open Communications is to draft good quality copy that is then sent to a journalist for them to decide whether to share it with their audience or otherwise.

I’ve been a follower of this particular news feed for a number of years now and am certainly keen to see if this approach evolves – or doesn’t, depending presumably on its popularity and ability to become an additional income stream.

I’m always interested to see how publications change the way that they work while maintaining the integrity of the editorial they share, so again, this will be one to watch.
Another shift in the wonderful world of PR and communications – there’s never a dull day.

Wishing you all the very best for 2017. We will be sharing our thoughts and opinions about subjects that are relevant to PR, marketing, communications and life in general. Remember to come back for updates and of course, feel free to add your own thoughts too.

Why PR is about more than ‘fannying around with the press releases’

The Devil Wear’s Prada and Bridget Jones’ Diary didn’t really do a great deal to raise the profile of the PR industry but I have to admit that the stereotype that comes with this job isn’t entirely unwarranted, so I would just like to set the record straight.

Not all PR people giggle in high pitched tones and understand this seasons fashion, we don’t all totter on high heels and we don’t all wear perfume that is too strong and lingers after we have left bright stains of lippy or your cheek – post air kiss ‘darling’.

There are some of us who work in PR because we want to plan campaigns with interesting and exciting brands that ‘nail it’ and attract media attention, which in turn raises the profile of the business and encourages consumers to buy their products and services.

Yes people, this is exactly what floats my boat. Since day one securing good quality coverage has made me go all warm and fuzzy inside. Knowing that a campaign you are working on will be shared nationally and possibly even internationally sets butterflies a-fluttering – it’s what we do and it’s what we love.

PR isn’t just about writing or media relations it’s also about understanding the brands and businesses you work with and that is why every morning we read the papers. We’re not taking time out or having a leisurely start to the day, we’re working. It’s important that we know what’s going on so that we can work with the media agenda and react accordingly, whether that is by statement, comment or by building on a strategy.

We live in a very different world to when I started in PR and in some instances it’s easier – you can find out what is going on using RSS feeds, google alerts, twitter or web searches, you don’t have to run to the shops to buy the nationals – just log on!

Some of the best coverage I have secured has come about as the result of piggybacking on the media agenda, using it to the advantage of the brands and businesses we work with. It’s not difficult but it does take time and also understanding – you have to know what you are looking for.

PR as a specialism has evolved so much over recent years it’s difficult not to get excited by it. Content is one of the most valuable tools available to a brand and that’s what we do – we create content that can be distributed to the media, shared online or used as a policy, comment piece, brochure, blog, website, leaflet… content is valuable, it’s strong and it delivers.

Just some of the services we offer as an agency at Open Communications are as follows:

–          Press office

–          Blogger engagement

–          Content management (social media)

–          Copy writing

–          Campaign planning

–          Communications strategy sessions

–          Crisis management

The list goes on but it gives you the general idea.

It’s all about reputation when you work in PR and that means your own, as well as your clients. It’s important to be personable and approachable – that doesn’t mean air kissing clients at every opportunity, it means working with them and being knowledgeable about their business so that you can give them recommendations they know will deliver results. We are PR experts and it’s our expertise that sets us apart, it’s what our clients pay for.

I am very proud of Open Communications and of the campaigns that we deliver for the many brands we work with. I don’t always agree with the PR industry and the image it portrays but I hope that through this blog, you get a little insight into what it really means to work in PR and that there are some of us who simply want to do a job and do it well.

Now, where did I put that press release!

Content is king – long live the king!

User generated content has become an increasingly appealing option for businesses, not least because they can share their ideas, thoughts and passions at the touch of a button. In addition user generated content is cost effective and accessible – after all it’s your time that you need to invest.

Whether you have a company blog, or prefer to use social media tools to share your thoughts, there is an international audience just waiting to hear what you have to say.

What to consider

The problem with user generated content is that often once the excitement of uploading your musings wear’s off, businesses are left with websites and social tools that are clearly out of date.

What usually happens is that someone takes responsibility for uploading content, even getting the support of the senior team, only to then find that managing the process is constantly on the bottom of their ever increasing ‘to do’ list.

All this then does is reinforce that marketing and communication is not a priority for the business – whereas user generated content should be used to promote and showcase success and the value that a consistent approach can deliver.

How to manage the process more effectively

Many organisations choose a single person to manage all user generated content, which includes the drafting and uploading of all articles, but a better and more effective approach would be to pick one person from each team to submit an article of their choice.

This will then share the workload and empower those who are asked to contribute to do so on a less frequent basis. So, rather than having one person contributing to a company blog each week, you can share the workload by requesting that each team submits a blog once a month.

What you are also likely to find if you share the management of a company blog is that the content becomes more engaging and it gives people who are genuinely passionate about their job the chance to share their thoughts and have them published.

This will still require one person to chase and ensure that people do submit their copy on time however it makes the process far simpler and less demanding.

How to make it engaging

Some businesses can struggle with finding topics that they feel their visitors, followers, connections or fans will be interested in reading however it’s worth remembering that they have already taken a step to engage with you and without updated user generated content all you are doing is metaphorically turning your back on them – now that’s not friendly when you think about it!

To make things easier all you need to do is add the website, blog and social media to your weekly or monthly meetings. Create a calendar of events, activities, dates, products, services and subjects that are relevant to your business – you can then choose any one of these to expand on and share.

As an example you could be a clothing company and in which case you could consider the following; fashion, materials, manufacture, design or retail. There are lots and lots of things that could be covered.

Top tips

In order to get best value from user generated content, we would recommend that you keep it simple. Consider how you can share updates with your audience that will add some value.

Blogs as an example are a great way to share the personality of those within your organisation. Choose people who you know will want to contribute and who will get a real buzz from seeing their copy online – it will make life much easier than trying to drag content from those who would rather not contribute.

Put together a list of words that can be associated with your business and also the topics that are covered in industry magazines. What’s great about user generated content is that it’s your opportunity to have your say – obviously you need to be mindful that anyone can access your thoughts and there is a fine line between opinion and ranting – but it’s a great way to share your thoughts.

If you draft a simple question and answer document that can be updated in no more than 20 minutes you can send this around to the teams within your organisation and simply use this as a team update or ‘five minutes with’ section to the blog. This is really simple and should provide you with interesting and engaging content to share.

Clients and suppliers are a great resource as well. If you are proud of the work that you do with them then ask that they feature as a guest blog, sharing their thoughts and views with your audience.

There is no doubt that time and resource needs to be invested in generating interesting and engaging user content but once you start to see the value, which can be measured by increased web hits or shares, likes and retweets across social tools, it becomes clear that it can add real value to your business, while also raising your profile and positioning you as an expert within your field.

How often to post

There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should post or update user generated content but as a guide we would recommend that you update your blog once a week to start with. This will give you a realistic target and will encourage visitors to come back to your site or to share your comments more often.

Taking little steps to implement a strategy that you can manage internally is a great way to build on your marketing activities and if you really don’t have the time – you could always ask an agency for support.

At Open Communications we work with businesses to develop a strategy that they can manage. We offer full day sessions with up to 6 people from any one organisation able to get involved.

Getting people excited by user generated content is often the first hurdle to cross and making them understand the value and benefit that can be achieved as a result isn’t always easy. Working with a third party can do this quickly and give you the hints and tips you need to build a strategy that will last and deliver a return on investment.

Better still, if you work with a reputable company they should have examples of other businesses they have worked with who have seen the value and are putting steps in place to create interesting, engaging and up to date content that they share.

Social media policy, why bother?

It would be slightly strange as a PR agency if we put restrictions on the use of social media in our office. As we access so many tools including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube on a daily basis, the team would find it rather restricting if we put a cap on the time they were able to spend monitoring and updating these sites.

I don’t think our clients would be too happy either; knowing that although they rely on us to provide recommendations in relation to the management of their content online that we were limiting the time and sites that the team could access.

The same principle cannot be applied to other businesses however and that is why I feel it is so important that companies put in place a social media policy as opposed to blanket restrictions or bans, which limit or at worst refuse access to these tools during working hours.

 

Why not keep it simple and stop access altogether?

Many companies feel that if they stop people accessing the sites during working hours then the problem would be solved. Wrong.

All that will do is encourage people to use their phones, which will allow them to access the tools that they want to anyway, which in turn is likely to distract them for longer. This approach also sends out a clear message that as employees of the business they are not trusted.

How can you trust someone to support the running of your business yet not consider that they are able to make appropriate decisions when it comes to their use and access of social media tools? If you feel that you are unable to trust the team that you have around you to use these tools during allocated times or to reference the company appropriately then the problem isn’t with social media, it’s with staffing.

 

How could giving access to social tools possibly benefit my business?

Social media has become a recognised and valuable resource for people and if used correctly can be an asset to a business. The difference is how people choose to use the tools that they have access to. If for example, a person goes on Facebook to like the posts that their friends have put on their wall that is one thing but if they were to use Twitter to monitor thoughts on a given subject this could have a huge impact on a campaign or provide greater insight into an industry debate resulting in interesting content that could be shared with the wider team.

Many social tools are now used as search engines or for research purposes. They give great indication into sector specific activity and provide up to date announcements on industry topics and worldwide news.

Tools such as Twitter are also really useful when gaging general consensus on a given subject. Despite what some people may think Twitter isn’t all about reality TV shows, celebrity wannabes and sharing obscure hashtags with people you have never met.

Take the budget as an example. Many influential business people use twitter and it is a great resource for finding out people’s views quickly. With subjects like the budget you can determine what sectors will see the greatest impact of a given decision and how this could in turn affect your industry. You can also follow the media on Twitter, which provides you with a real time news feed that evolves throughout the day. You can’t pay for that kind of insight.

 

Social media isn’t relevant to my industry 

We hear this a lot when we start to work with clients until we explain what tools can be used for. Again it isn’t all about sharing pictures on the beach. Some companies will not gain great value from Facebook and others can see no benefit in Twitter, so don’t use them – but don’t discard all other platforms in doing so.

LinkedIn is a growing and popular tool amongst serious business people and can lead to some very interesting connections that you would otherwise be unlikely to make.

With LinkedIn the basic principle is that you ‘link’ with others that you know or have done business with in the past. The idea was that you wouldn’t get illicit requests and that if someone wanted to connect with you who didn’t know you, then other contacts could forward an invitation.

What is great about LinkedIn is that it has groups, discussions, news updates and personal profiles. Better still you can use the platform to share your own news with your connections, in turn keeping them up to date with the changes in your business or career.

Sharing information on LinkedIn is a great way to drive traffic to your website and to share your updated content online using business pages. Not only can you provide people with an insight into your organisation but also position your business as a market leader.

 

So what about this social media policy?

Having a social media policy in place means that everyone knows where they stand. It is a guide that can be referred to and used to provide employees with the do’s and don’ts of social media for business.

Due to the nature of some businesses, such as those within the legal sector, it can be difficult to allow employees to update their social feeds with any information from their working day as confidentialities and cases could be called into question if they were to do so.

Mindfulness is something that needs to be spelt out in a world that is increasingly digital. Some people don’t realise that what they are tweeting or sharing has the capacity to go viral and that it could be sent to a recipient that it wasn’t originally intended for.

This is why a social media policy can be the difference between online media positively impacting on a business and a potential crisis situation, which could secure headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Ideally a social media policy should give some direction; it should let employees know if they are allowed to use their own Twitter of Facebook accounts for business and if they are required to add a line to their profile stating that their views are their own.

It should also give updates on any social media activity that is carried out for the business and what implications making unsubstantiated claims about the company online could have. As an example, would sharing confidential information be a sackable offence or constitute a warning?

Although social media can be a scary medium to consider, when you think that it is a global platform to share your musings with, if used correctly, it can lead to great things and can raise the profile of a business to a relevant and respected audience.

Here at Open Communications we work with our clients to create social media policies that fit with their business. Like many things, one size does not fit all when it comes to social media and although we advise our clients to be overly sensitive in the first stages, what this does is provide them with a starting point and something that they can use that will evolve over time.

It’s certainly not all bad news when you consider social media policies. Having a simple document in place can empower your team to share the best stories you have with a relevant and receptive audience. You may even find that someone in the team is particularly passionate about a given subject and that they would like to share their thoughts and generate a positive debate, which in turn positions the business as best in class.

Generating content online in this way and sharing it can be hugely powerful and when used correctly social media tools can and do bring great benefits to a brand and business but don’t leave it to chance. Work with an agency that can give you guidance and will take the time to work with you to create a policy that will suit you and your team.

AGENCY TURNS DOSH TO DINNERS WITH DONATION TO DISTRICT FOOD BANK

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In the countdown to Christmas, we decided that this year we would literally turn the dosh that we would typically invest in gifts for our clients into dinners for the Districts most needy.

With pleas from food banks in the local area increasing in the run up to the festive season (a shocking reality for most of us), we decided that the money which would traditionally be spent on treats for clients would be better invested in ensuring that local people have something tasty to eat during the winter months.

The combined average cost of presents that we purchase year on year has meant that we have been able to donate a pile of delicious food including filling soups, pasta, sauces, chocolate, sugar, tea, potatoes and canned vegetables, along with some every day necessities such as soap and toothpaste.

We decided to support St Catherine’s Church and Centre in Belle Vue, Wakefield as it is the food bank closest to our offices at Nostell Priory Estate Yard. You can find out more about what they are doing by following them on twitter @StCathsChurch or visiting their Facebook page www.facebook.com/StCaths.

The team at the Centre work so hard to make sure that food parcels are put together for those who need them and although it is nothing short of devastating to think that there is an increasing demand for their services these people are a real inspiration.

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It wasn’t until visiting the food bank that we learnt that some businesses, like us, has chosen to support the cause but they had donated gifts rather than food. This means that when adults come to collect their parcels they will also get a small present for their children this Christmas. What a wonderful gesture.

It was during the visit that we also found out that the Community Centre works with a further organisation, Community Awareness Programme, or CAP for short. This organisation provides hot meals for people who are unable to provide for themselves. I was absolutely stunned to hear that in ONE single day the charity had served no fewer than 80 hot meals!

Here at Open Communications we are calling on other local businesses large and small to speak to their clients and think about the real meaning of Christmas; to give back to the community and help those most in need who will otherwise go without.

I can’t believe that we are living in a society where food banks are becoming increasingly common. We have to do something to make sure that people are at the very least fed and watered, not just because it’s Christmas but because it’s the right thing to do.

We are very fortunate that our clients will think none the less of us for choosing to do this and we know that they will support our decision to give a large trolley of produce to the food bank. Many businesses are unable to accept gifts from third party suppliers anyway and often hampers and expensive treats simply go into a raffle. I would urge other agencies and businesses to consider spending the money or a proportion of it on produce that will give a family a decent meal this Christmas time.

I don’t mind admitting that I had a little cry on the way back from the food bank – why are we living in a society where we can’t provide enough food for those who need it most? We are not a third world country and while we all spend far too much on things we don’t need this Christmas, and eat so much we are fit to burst, let’s all share a thought for those who have nothing and will go hungry.

I’m pleased that we have been in a position to donate the food that we did to the bank and although this is not going to have the impact that we would like – it will be used to support some of the people from the local community who are unable to feed themselves and their families. Better still if more businesses do the same then we know that we can have an even greater impact.

I am very proud that the team came together to give something back and would like to personally thank those working at St Catherine’s for doing what they do each and every day. The ladies at the Centre were getting particularly excited by a Christmas party that they are arranging for the young children in the area and it was great to see something so positive coming out of a situation that is so devastating.  They are a real example of the true value and meaning of Christmas, which in the most part revolves around sharing, caring and most importantly of all, a smile!

Merry Christmas from all at Open Comms.

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Your customers should always come first in a crisis

There was a collective intake of breath throughout the PR industry this week when news reports declared that a Thai Airways plane had skidded off a Bangkok runway on Sunday injuring 14 passengers on board.

It wasn’t the incident that had caused a stir with PR agencies however it was the fact that in their misguided wisdom, Thai Airways had taken the unusual approach of ‘blacking out’ their logo so that any media reports would  not display the company’s branding.

There are many, many reasons why this was a very misguided act on behalf of the airline, not least based on the fact that all reports would still reference the brand within their stories, name checking the company as they did so, and also that blacking out the logo simply created a reason for the business to continue to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons!

The first rule of any crisis, for any brand, of any size is to stand up and take responsibility. If there has been a problem that you are aware of and you are responsible then hold your hands up. It is far better to say sorry than it is to offer a no comment or attempt to portion blame elsewhere.

Crisis can be difficult, particularly when the press are involved but the simple truth of the matter is that in order to maintain a level of dignity and credibility throughout these situations, companies have to address the matter professionally.

Thai Airlines should have been making a statement in response to an incident, which lets remember had left 14 passengers injured, as opposed to putting their brand first. A simple two minute comment which started with: We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to our passengers… and then ended with: We are in the process of carrying out a full investigation into this matter…

The un-written statement from the brand based on their actions reads more like: We have better things to do than consider our customers at this difficult time. Instead we are going to take poor advice and cover up our logo. We will be back shortly – does anyone have any black paint?

As a result of their actions the business haven’t so much blacked their logo as their name.

Having managed crisis for some of the UK’s leading businesses, here at Open Communications we are no stranger to difficult situations. Our advice to clients is always to be honest. In any event we work from our clients offices to ensure that we are on hand to offer the advice and guidance that they need.

It would be silly to suggest that crisis are simple, they are particularly uncomfortable and potentially damaging. Irrelevant of how disastrous a situation appears it can be handled correctly and professionally, ensuring that whatever the outcome the directors of a business can maintain their integrity and where possible the reputation of the brand.

Here are five top tips for managing the communications in any crisis situation:

  1. If required issue an internal announcement to all employees giving brief details of the situation and also guidance on who to direct any media enquiries through to
  2. Arrange a meeting with all board directors and senior managers within the business
  3. Discuss in detail what has happened and most importantly why
  4. Draft a statement to all media
  5. Manage all media enquiries and DO NOT under any circumstances issue a no comment

As you would expect, we would always advise that in these instances the first thing that you is contact your PR agency. If you don’t have a PR agency then we would strongly advise that you find one with the experience and credentials needed to support you during what could be one of the most difficult times of your career.

In the same way that people rely on legal practices when things go wrong, organisations should trust and rely on communications experts when it matters most.

And remember, no business ever has a crisis, until it has a crisis!