Tag: pr

An unusual approach to news

PR isn’t the simplest of industries to understand, especially when you don’t work within the media or creative sectors. I have often had to explain time and time again what it is that I do for a living and people (my closest family and friends included) still get it wrong.

My Dad spent the first 6 years of my career telling people I was a PA and my friends just leave it as you work with the media. Of course there is a lot more to my job than that – in fact a staggering amount when I take the time to think about it – but in a nut shell it will do as a top line explanation.

Things are changing so quickly within the media, with many titles choosing to go online and in some cases media launching with no print versions. Take the Business Desk as an example, launched by David Parkin formerly Business Editor of the Yorkshire Post. Great idea. Worked well. You can’t fault them for wanting to do something that at the time was a little different.

BDaily is another title which took a very similar approach. Based in the North East this news website, for want of a simple term, provides an update on what is going on in the business world in the North East. The concept is simple and it works well.

What BDaily have done which is completely unique to my understanding is that they have named the people who write the stories under the headline. So if they receive a story from a PR agency, they actually attribute the article to that company.

This is often why people find it so difficult to understand what we do. You see, we will draft a press release for a client and then send it on to the media. Often the copy can be literally pasted with an image as a completed article but rather than saying that it was written by us, the article is attributed to the journalist who places it.

This is very common practice and is what we have become used to but when I noticed what BDaily were doing it made me think. Is this the future? Will more online publications start to attribute copy to PR agencies and will the line become less blurred between what we do and don’t do?

I’m interested to see what other people think. I have no real desire to be labelled as the author of anything and I always take it as a compliment if articles appear unchanged but I wonder what the PR industry at large think of this?

Any comments, thoughts or opinions please do share them.

Because the client says so

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yorkshire born and bred

For those of you who don’t know it was Yorkshire Day yesterday. There were a few stories in the news to celebrate the occasion with a sprinkling of brands investing in PR stunts, allowing them to briefly claim a few column inches here and there.

It’s fair to say more is usually made of this momentous day in the Yorkshire calendar but with the ‘O’ word going on (we have to be careful what we write at the moment for fear of the powers that be knocking on the door!) the headlines are mostly dominated with jumping, swimming and cycling.

That aside, I have to admit that I did take a moment yesterday to think about what makes me so proud to be from Yorkshire and to be passionate about the county that I was born, raised, educated and finally, despite other offers, chose to reside in.

Although I have to hold my hands up and admit to skipping the border, going from North to West Yorkshire (mainly for education and work commitments), both areas have similarly impressive things to offer; wonderful scenery, fantastic food, great ales, a warm welcome and I think most importantly a brutal honesty.

This is one of the things I most admire about Yorkshire and the people that I know who live in the area. As I have mentioned on the blog before, my parents run a fish and chip van in the Yorkshire Dales and have done for the last 32 years. During that time the most common reason for people coming back time and time again was for the banter and sometimes brutal honesty that they receive – along with a good meal.

As my parents are a little like a comedy duo – a mix between something from Open All Hours and Keeping Up Appearances! – they never fail to amuse their customers while also providing them with a service that they will never forget. I don’t know anywhere else in the country where you find people who would behave in the same way and in some instances get away with it!

My admiration does not stop at my parents, there are many, many business people in Yorkshire that I could name who have for one reason or another caught my attention and made me sit up and listen – better still there are even more that I have learnt a great deal from and for that I am eternally grateful.

Coming from Yorkshire originally means that of course I am biased but I still think that this is the only place in the world I would want to be. It has everything I need, family, friends, fun and a deep honesty that will always be a big part of me. I once remember someone I worked with saying to me:

“Lindsey you don’t so much call a spade a spade as a spade a shovel”, I think it was meant as an insult at the time but I took it as a great compliment – so much so that I remember it today.

I interpret that to mean that I can be too honest but perhaps that is because I find it difficult to put a spin on things or to ‘manipulate’ the truth both at home and work. If that’s the cross I have to bear then so be it. I’m happy with that.

So, here’s to Yorkshire and all the honesty that it brings – I will be raising a pint (or half at least) to that this weekend.

Cheers!

Business down but PR win for Britvic

Today’s headlines report a profit fall in Q3 for soft drinks manufacturer Britvic leading to a loss of approximately £15 – £23m. Now before we all take a sharp intake of breath, the business reports that this is as a result of the poor weather and more significantly the product recall of the brands Fruit Shoot and Fruit Shoot Hydro bottles, using a new sports cap.

Whereas most people will be looking at this story and wondering how the brand will recoup the losses, I read it very differently. Within the story, which I read first on The Business Desk, the journalist chooses to use the words ‘well-publicised product recall’.

As a communications agency that commends great work and is not too proud to take our hats off to those who do it well – I would personally like to say congratulations to the team responsible for managing the communication for the recall.

Before you think I’ve finally lost my marbles let me explain.

Ok, so it wasn’t the best story that Britvic will ever have to deal with, no one wants to come into work and have to fend off questions about safety issues, particularly not for food and drink products and let’s be honest it shouldn’t have happened in the first place – but it did, so as a press team you have to get on with it.

Overall I think the situation was well managed, handled appropriately and did the job. Everyone was aware of the product fault and why the brand was recalling the items. The statement was clear and the call to action made sense – you weren’t left wondering if the bottles had been tampered with or if little Jonny’s pack up was more of a danger than a snack at lunchtime.

It can be a difficult call when you have to make decisions like this, but Britvic seem to have made their mind up quickly and as a result they deserve the respect of their consumers. The money that went into advertising the recall, as well as relying on the support of a PR team, won’t have come cheap, so when you add that to the loss of a potential £23m it is enough to make your eyes water but before you go dashing for the hankies turn the situation on its head.

A well-managed crisis situation can do a brand the world of good and not only does it get consumers taking about you, it also puts you in the spot light when it matters most. Today’s press are full of interviews, comments and quotes from Britvic, reiterating their concern and commitment to the consumers. They play down the recall as something that happens to all brands, yet do not dismiss the seriousness of the situation.

This is exactly why it is imperative for brands to have a committed and experienced PR team to deal with crisis situations. It isn’t a game when you get a call to recall a product it is make or break and I am pleased to see some businesses getting it right.

So, once again, well done Britvic. It’s hit you hard this quarter but it won’t stop me from purchasing your products and I’m sure others will feel the same

 

 

Has ‘STOP PRESS’ taken on a totally new meaning?

Having worked in the PR industry for more than a decade I have been some significant changes, not least the move to more online mediums and methods of communication. There was once a time when you would draft, approve and print a press release before spending hours at a fax machine – not any more.

Digital technology and new ways of working mean you can have a press release drafted and out of the door in a matter of hours. It isn’t just ways of working that have changed however with more newspapers featuring online content that can be viewed and then shared with millions of people around the globe at the touch of a button.

Despite how easy it is to go online I can’t help but feel a little sad that we are losing the tangible benefit to having a paper and more importantly, in my opinion, the experience that print media delivers; getting a cup of coffee, opening a paper, looking at the supplements, smelling the print, turning the pages, cutting pieces out for reference. It all adds to the whole experience of buying and reading the news.

There will be many people in the PR and marketing industry who will be shouting that I’m in the dark ages and to get with the times, after all you can bookmark or share articles in the same way you could cut out clippings and its simple and easy to turn on an iPad or even access the media through a smart phone while having a coffee but that’s not my point.

We still find that when given the choice a client would rather see a full page printed piece in a regional or national newspaper, rather than a URL to a piece online. This may well change over time as people become more receptive to online news, who knows?

One piece which caught my eye recently featured in The Drum, a trade publication for the marketing industry. The headline read ‘The Guardian moves to deny ‘absurd’ rumours that it will go online only next year.’ Despite moves by the paper to contradict this suggestion, it would seem to me there is no smoke without fire and that perhaps their plan was to implement their five year strategy sooner.

It’s a shame that the print industry is in decline. Not only because of the process that I feel is so heart-warming when you buy a newspaper but also because there is a whole industry reliant on that income – beyond the sale of the papers themselves.

If we consider printers who have spent years in the same role, machinists who are professionals and passionate about their work, maintenance technicians who know the presses inside and out, designers who set the copy and imagery and then let’s not forget the paper boys / girls it paints a very gloomy picture to consider that all of these people will be without work.

I don’t personally want to see printed papers become a memory of times gone by and I hope that others feel the same way. The problem is that being a time poor society, trying to make ends meet during difficult economic conditions, for many of us the choice is made – free online publications at your fingertips in seconds, or a paid for printed version, which requires you to go to the shops or take out a subscription.

Long live print is what I say! However I get the impression that ‘stop press’ is going to take on a very new meaning over the next few years.

Nike – Just do it, unless the ASA says no!

For some time now there has been an on-going debate about who ‘owns’ social media; digital or PR agencies. The problem being that while one can be engaging visually, creating games, competitions and advertising which attract attention, the other provides consistent content, with an appropriate tone of voice to encourage two way communication and increase ‘organic’ engagement with consumers.

The line is blurred to say the least, but as a PR agency we find that sticking to the words means that we are able to offer clients the content, while we leave the digital aspects and design to other third parties that we work with.

We don’t find this to be problematic as when each digital campaign finishes we simply take control of the content and engage with consumers to provide a sustainable level of conversation. There’s nothing worse than brands that push out big campaigns and then have nothing in place to support the aftermath.  The outcome being you engage with thousands of people who become brand ambassadors, are willing to listen to the messages being pushed to them, only for the brand to turn their back on them once their budgets run dry – not good.

Another interesting dilemma to come out of social engagement has been the line between advertising and editorial. As social media is often positioned as a direct interpretation or opinion of a person or a brand it would be perceived to be editorial – however as platforms such as twitter have evolved is has become increasingly difficult to ascertain whether a comment or opinion has been influenced by a third party.

The problem has arisen from celebrities who have used their personal twitter accounts to ‘tweet’ about brands that either pay them or sponsor them to do so. The ASA have challenged two high profile cases; Snickers and Nike.

Now despite the fact that I work in editorial I’m not sure that I agree that the ASA should be in a position to demand that people delete the content that they choose to have on their personal twitter feeds – promotional or otherwise.

What’s even more baffling is that within the most recent case involving Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere the hashtag #makeitcount.gonike.me.makeitcount was clearly visible. Surely any idiot can recognise that this is a promotional tweet?

I expect that this situation will only get worse, with the ASA monitoring social media more closely than ever – but there has to be a balance. If I suddenly become a high profile multi-millionaire (unlikely but you never know!) and I decide to tweet that I love a particular brand then is that considered advertising?

Equally is it wrong for celebrities to thank brands for sending them free products? Isn’t it just polite? I am interested to see what others think about this. I don’t think there is necessarily a right or wrong answer but I do think we need to be careful to ensure that social media platforms are able to be used as a platform for people to engage, interact and use their rights to free speech, whether that be about a brand or not.

Football fever kicks off

I am not a fan of the football. I don’t care that I don’t know the offside rule (irrelevant of the number of times it’s been explained to me – once using a 50p coin!) and my life is no less meaningful because I absolutely do not – and never would want to be – a W.A.G, nor will I ever follow their latest fashion choices even if I was a size zero and had the budgets to do so.

What I do admit to having is a secret love of the camaraderie that comes with the Euros and the World Cup. I like that people get together and spend 90 minutes cheering and chatting, cursing and collectively deciding that when things don’t go to plan the team could be better managed by a pack of rabid wolves.

I also enjoy the way that brands and businesses get behind the teams that they support. Suddenly there is a realisation that everyone in the workplace isn’t necessarily supporting England (shock horror and gasps from each corner of the office) and so the fun begins. Some businesses allow their employees to take the time off to watch the game, while others put it on the TV and radio.

Shouts and calls, boos and hisses are suddenly heard from departments you didn’t even know existed and even though some people don’t want anything to do with whatever match is on, it’s difficult not to ask when the final whistle goes – just so you feel a part of it.

For the next few weeks brands will be announcing quirky ways that they have used some tenuous association to the sporting fun to push their latest red, white and blue products to the masses, and despite many of these seemingly being hair sprays, shower gels and razors it does get you in the spirit.

What did make me smile was to see in the Metro that following the supposed psychic powers of Paul the Octopus, there has been a definite increase in the number of animals which can apparently predict the outcomes of each match including a cow, a pig and a seal – I kid you not. There are even a few elephants and the now deceased Heidi the Opossum with the same claim to fame.

What we want to know is why aren’t the people of Wakefield all over this? We should be supporting the Euro’s and getting this great city on the map and what better way than jumping on the bandwagon?

We have our very own famous, talking sheep literally on the doorstep. Come on people, Curly could predict which teams will or won’t win.  We can’t believe a local brand isn’t all over this. We wait with anticipation – there has to be someone who will use this gift of a PR stunt and simply ask Curly  – ‘who do ewe think will win the Euros?’.