Tag: pr

Open drives business forward with Ring appointment

Ring Head Office

We are really pleased to announce that we are driving the business forward *pun intended* with our appointment as preferred PR partner for Ring, the leading lighting and vehicle accessories specialist to the aftermarket.

Following a competitive pitch, we secured the account to deliver year-round support for the business with the remit covering corporate, consumer and trade PR. In addition, we will work with the team at Ring to develop strategic campaigns to reinforce the profile of the company’s growing product portfolio.

Director of Open Comms, Lindsey Davies said: “The brief from Ring was something we quickly got to grips with. Having met the team, we recognised that they needed an agency that would be an extension to their team. Not only did we address the brief but also provided some creative recommendations that would push the boundaries beyond the more traditional approach taken by many in the market. Securing this account gives us a great start to the year.”

Marketing Manager for Ring, Henry Bisson said: “It was apparent from the first meeting that we were going to get along with Open and that was really important to us. The automotive sector can be more complex than people recognise and it can take some time to get used to the nuances involved but the agency is already making an impression and journalists we have worked with for years are accepting them as our PR division.”

We are really looking forward to getting to grips with a business that sits outside of the sectors that we already support including FMCG, food and drink, third sector, manufacturing and retail. We launched in 2008 and you can find us in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

 

What you really achieve during a 16-hour working day

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It seems to have become a bit of a trend over recent years, where people make a point of letting you know just how many hours they have worked. It’s no longer considered acceptable to get into the office at 9am and work to 5.30pm, if you don’t work until your mind is whirring and your eyes are burning you simply aren’t committed.

I have to admit that before the Christmas break I had got into the habit of coming into the office at 7.30am and working through to around 6pm every day, thinking that this was reflective of my desire to do a good job for my clients. WRONG!

Most of my clients were still in bed, and although I do still get into the office earlier than my contracted 9am start, it is for the right reasons – usually to read the news and to prioritise my tasks for the day ahead.

While reading the i today I came across a really interesting article written by Katie Law, which further reinforced my fear that working longer hours doesn’t necessarily make you more productive. In fact, quite the opposite.

The piece, titled ‘How to do a full day’s work in only four hours’ (no surprises for why it caught my attention) places the emphasis on efficiency as opposed to the hours that we spend doing stuff. The main message, which was taken from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a 52-year old former Silicon Valley consultant and lifestyle expert, was that most people can only focus for four hours each day.

If that’ the case, why are we trying to drag this out to eight or more and commending people for it? Basically, we are rewarding inefficiency or at least giving someone who should be recruiting the kudos to believe they are super-human.

In order to be as effective as you can be, the idea is that you work to your limits and that we try to change the mindset that we have all created; longer and longer hours translates to commitment and results.

What started as a desire to do well suddenly manifests itself as a route to ill-health, tiredness, inefficiency and resentment.

But, here’s the good news, there are ways to change. The tips from the article are as follows:

1.       Four hours focus

Focus on tasks and don’t be distracted by emails, voicemails or unnecessary meetings.  Interestingly, it suggests Smartphones should be turned off at least two-nights a week.

2.       Curse of the open-plan office

We have an open plan office, and whereas it definitely has its benefits, the article makes a good point – it’s a honey pot of distractions. The recommendation is to use headphones to cancel out the noise and chatter or go back to individual offices *gasp*.

3.       Break-out areas are bad

Although breaks are confirmed as being a good thing, the idea of having a break-out area doesn’t serve its purpose. Rather than giving people the time to refocus, the article says that all they do is keep people in the office for longer.

4.       Keep meetings short

Pang says that meetings should never be longer than 40 minutes and any devices should be banned! I could marry this man. One thing that irks me above all others is people taking phones or laptops into meetings. It’s rude. As far as I’m concerned, we should go into a meeting, get to the point, create a plan, assign actions and get on with it. Perfect.

5.       Routine is critical

Probably my favourite of them all, and not easily achieved in PR, but routine keeps the mind focused and allows someone to be more organised. Needless to say, this means that you also use your time more wisely.

6.       Take a nap

I love this idea but it’s totally impractical. Apparently, companies including Google have nap pods and encourage employees to take 20-minute shut-eye every six hours. Bonkers, but hey, you can’t fault a multi-million corporation for trying something different. I’m all for a bit of disruption – in fact, I might go for a lie down. Zzzzzzz…

7.       Stop working mid-sentence

Finally, neuroscientists have found that when people stop working on something knowing that they will go back to it, their subconscious keeps processing it. As such, the idea is to embrace this and ‘zone out’. Let your mind do the work for you.

Although I don’t agree with all of the points made by Pang, I am going to try and put more routine into the way I work and to stop believing that working 16-hour days makes me a better and more productive person.

The truth is that no one will thank me, least of all the husband that I never see.

The subjective terror of humour in advertising

Humour is a tricky business when you work in marketing, not only is it very subjective but it is often easier to offend than it is to raise a smile. The challenge is that humour sells, but whether your particular preference is innuendo or something a little more subtle, you have to strike the right balance for your preferred target audience.

A recent example of a brand that I think have got it spot on is Maltesers with their ‘Look on the light side’ campaign. Not the obvious brand to push boundaries but what they have done is two-fold; use humour to encourage word of mouth and also champion disability, to celebrate inclusiveness and challenge perception.

Not something that you expect, but the way in which this series of TV adverts – and most recently the first ever braille only billboard – is nothing but superb. The subject of disability is handled sensitively and without the usual patronising undertones.

The TV adverts feature a series of people with a range of disabilities who share their unfortunate stories with friends. Everything from spasms to driving a wheelchair over the foot of a bride! What is really impressive is that rather than leaving you cringing, as you may have expected, they somehow bridge a gap and have you laughing out loud (I just can’t bring myself to write LOL).

What surprised me was that when the adverts were first launched – brilliantly timed to coincide with the Paralympics – people wanted to laugh but were unsure if it was ‘correct to do so’. The first advert shows a young woman explaining her most recent sexual experience with her new boyfriend and the fact that he benefits from her unfortunately timed spasm. Brilliant!

The way that the advert brings together human interest and humour makes for fantastic storytelling.

Hats off to Maltesers. I think the Paralympics this year really did showcase some exceptional talent and the Games were just as exciting as the Olympics. I also think The Last Leg is one of the most hilarious shows on TV and what these small steps continue to do is allow us all think differently and to celebrate each other for what we can do, as opposed to what we can’t.

My final thoughts, #Isitok to use humour and disability as the foundations to a marketing campaign – yes, when it’s done well.

Make sure spending a penny doesn’t make you an ar*e

Whilst browsing a local news site yesterday evening I came across a story which caught my attention. It was about the owner of a book store in Hawes, who has found himself in hot water – and headline news – for being a little less than friendly to his customers.

Wracking up an almost impressive 20 complaints in the last four years about his rudeness – in one instance referring to a customer as a ‘pain in the arse’ – Steve Bloom has got more than he bargained for. Not only is he considered rude but he brings new meaning to the phrase ‘spend a penny’ as he asks for a 50p donation for people to browse his store.

His excuse for being rude is that ‘he’s not really a people person’, but it does beg the question why he chooses to have a customer facing business. The donation on the other hand is apparently to make sure that his shoppers are ‘serious’. Book reading has suddenly become an extreme sport!

He resides in an area known for its attraction to hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, which are absolutely essential to the economic sustainability of the region, so again, to not be wholeheartedly welcoming is somewhat missing the point.

However… there’s always a but… and I feel quite sorry for this fella and I’ll explain why. For those who don’t know Hawes, it is a beautiful town in the North Yorkshire Dales and as well as being famed for its views, it is also the home to businesses such as The Wensleydale Creamery.

Coming from the Dales I am hugely biased and find it difficult to hear negative stories, however deserved, about the area and particularly the people and businesses based there. What did make me smile was that living in this area is like no other. People are ‘real’ and they say it as it is. There are no ‘airs and graces’ and everyone is on a level playing field, usually up to their knees in sheep muck.

There was many a time when we first arrived back in the Dales and I was astounded at how abrupt people were, only to realise that actually it’s just the way it is and you either like it or quite frankly leave.

People don’t always mean offence, they are just unwilling to change their ways to suit yours.

There has to be a little give and take. Clearly, not everyone is the same, and I suspect this man has made a bit of a nuisance of himself with the local parish council but is it the end of the world and should it be attracting national headlines?

The people in the Dales are honest, hardworking and typically friendly. They would do you a good turn before a bad and I am guessing some neighbours have been round to make sure that Mr Bloom, with his lovely flowery name, is doing ok following his rocket to fame.

We discussed this in the office and weren’t absolutely sure if this story wasn’t a PR stunt – albeit a good one. There must be an opportunity to find the grumpiest – yet most loved – shop owner in the country as a result. Someone that would make Mr Bloom smell like a sweet bouquet of fresh cut roses.

The outcome of the article in many media was a statement from Hawes Parish Council Chairman, John Blackie who said: “He is doing a disservice to the other traders, to the reputation of the town, which is very much a friendly town. We welcome people to come and visit us.”

The irony is that I would put 50p on the fact that this particularly book store owner is going to become somewhat of a local celebrity and tourists will be flocking to hand over their hard-earned coinage to take a serious nosy around his shop.

Not only will this benefit his business but also those around it. As they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity and I have to admit, I’ve considered suggesting a ride out on Saturday myself.

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.

AWARDS; GLORY HUNTING OR THE RECOGNITION YOU DESERVE

Whatever industry you work in there will be an awards ceremony that celebrates the success of the great and good in your sector. The same can be said for PR and I am really pleased to announce that Open Communications has been shortlisted for the Not For Profit category at the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire PRide Awards.

The awards take place tomorrow (Thursday 17 November) evening at The Queen’s Hotel in Leeds and will bring together hundreds of people from businesses and agencies throughout the two regions.

It has taken us eight years to enter the awards, not because we didn’t feel that our work was of a standard to be recognised but because, if we’re honest, we’ve spent more time submitting and winning awards for our clients.

It was only during a meeting earlier in the year that a client asked why we don’t practice what we preach, and I realised that actually awards for our own work should be as important as those of the brands that we work with.

So, what was stopping us?

Well, to be honest, we’ve never really felt that we needed awards to prove that we could do a good job – the evidence is in the results that we achieve. Then there was the fact that some awards make you feel like you’re simply glory hunting and again this isn’t really our style.

But, when it comes down to it awards do give a credibility by association and you have to be in them to win them! So, is it glory hunting or are you simply getting the recognition you deserve for the results you work so hard to achieve.

It wasn’t difficult to come up with a conclusive answer and so, we put pen to paper.

The challenge then was what to submit? We are very proud of the work that we produce and the results that we get for our clients so it was a difficult choice. We decided that we would focus on the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the only organisation dedicated to former mining towns and villages throughout the country.

We have worked alongside the team at the Coalfields Regeneration Trust for more than 2 years now and have secured hundreds of pieces of coverage, which in turn has communicated with millions of people throughout the UK.

The results are consistently strong and as a result of our work communications is very much an agenda point around the board room table. We’ve even been invited to share our work with the trustees – which is a real achievement.

We have worked with the team to develop a tone of voice, aligned their messaging and revised their three-year strategy. We have also shaped their brand and vision for the future and changed the way that they communicate with different audiences to make sure they get the return on investment both from us and their own efforts.

Although we are confident with the results we have achieved, leading the organisation most recently to secure a Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Award (2016), we know that it can go either way.

We have everything crossed and know that even if we don’t win, we have done a fantastic job and will continue to deliver for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, evolving the way that they communicate to make sure as many people as possible understand what they are trying to achieve.

That said, we’ve cleared a space on our shelf (just in case) and hope to be updating the blog with pictures of Open Communications as we pick up our very first PRide award.

Wish us luck!

Empowerment of women leads to an unlikely enterprise

During the Buy Yorkshire Conference on the 28 and 29 April, it was with great interest that delegates welcomed Jacqueline Gold to the stage. Not knowing what to expect from one of the most successful women in the country, who has reinvented a business that has changed the lives of women (and men) up and down the country, it was hard to determine what she would share. Her story was not only compelling but inspirational. For more details about an entrepreneur who she never be underestimated read below.  

As a naïve and shy 19 year old, Jacqueline Gold had no idea what path her career would take. Sitting in a smoke filled room at 21 in a council house in South East London drawing pictures of her boyfriends ‘meat and two veg’ on her head wasn’t quite what she had planned!

And so, Ann Summers was born, well, reinvented at least.

Admitting that Ann Summer was multi-channel way before it’s time, she explains that the business was set up by Kim Waterfield and that the brand was actually meant to represent an image of an English Rose.

With no real direction the business went into liquidation within a year and in stepped Jacqueline to purchase two stores and the brand name for just £10,000; one of the best deals she says she’s ever made.

Recognising that women wanted to buy sexy underwear but didn’t want the embarrassment of going into a sex shop, Jacqueline came up with the concept of house parties. Taking the suggestion to the board she was met with some resistance and a comment that still resonates today: “Women aren’t even interested in sex!”

Pushing forward with her idea, Jacqueline advertised in the London Standard for party hosts and was met with 25 candidates. Not all were suitable but the concept quickly grew and in just a single year the business was growing so rapidly a decision was made to stop advertising altogether.

Creating something that sat outside of the typical and traditional ‘raincoat brigade’ Ann Summers was on to a winner and the mantra to unleash sexual confidence in women was born.

Shops quickly followed, which would become a portfolio of 140 that now amount to 60% of the business, but this didn’t spell the death of the party. More than 5,000 parties still take place every year attracting tens of thousands of women.

Results show a performance that in the first year reported £83,000 and now boasts a staggering £35m. Now that’s a lot of fun and very happy couples.

When asked what makes Ann Summers different Jacqueline explains:

–          We have a female friendly focus

–          The business is controversial

–          The company stocks a range of innovative products

–          The customer experience and engagement are fundamental

Today the company sells 2m vibrators every year, which amounts to 5,000 every day and 7 sex toys every waking minute.

Despite this success there are some concerns at the business and in particular with the perception of quality. However this is being address and as Jacqueline explains, ‘We use the same manufacturers as Stella McCartney’.

In order to be successful Jacqueline says you have to have a point of difference to set you apart, innovate not imitate and rely on feedback from customers who will be your greatest advocates and your biggest critics.

The company continues to grow at a rate of 20% every year and the parties are still a big part of the package offered with this being the first experience that most people have when they embrace the Ann Summers brand.

As an advocate of PR, marketing and in particular social media, the business has used some situations to its advantage creating great opportunities to generate sales such as the launch of the Seven Shades of Grey novel. During the launch phase of the book many Ann Summers stores sold out of handcuffs and blindfolds.

So, what is around the corner for this international phenomenon? Well, the future development of the brand perception is high on the agenda, along with in store technology and further international expansion.

Giving further advice to those considering starting a business Jacqueline says:

–          Create a story and brand identity

–          Have a clear proposition

–          Embrace technology

–          Have an international strategy

–          Put in place a seamless omni-channel infrastructure

As a huge advocate of empowering women Jacqueline leaves the audience she has so obviously captivated with one final thought “If a shy and naïve 21 year old can walk into a room of grey suited men just because I had the will and the courage to do so, then so can you!”

Straight talking entrepreneur takes to the stage

We had the privilege once again this year of being the preferred PR partner for the Buy Yorkshire Conference, which took place on the 28 and 29 April.

A lot has happened since then, as I’m sure you can imagine, so apologies for the delay in sharing our experiences. Over the next few days I will upload a series of blogs that we drafted to support the event with the intention of extending the experience to those who were unable to come along, we do hope you enjoy them.

Please do, as ever, feel free to comment on ask any questions that you may have.

And so, on to the first…  

Jonathan Straight is a long term supporter of the Buy Yorkshire Conference and we were delighted to welcome him back for a further year. As a businessman who has worked for 21 years to build a recycling company that he then floated on the stock exchange before selling it many years later, he certainly knows his stuff.

Speaking about his departure from Straight Plc, Jonathan laid bare an honest account of the decisions, challenges and humorous occurrences that can only come from such a roller coaster journey.

Having spoken for several years as the CEO of Straight this was one of the first occasions that Jonathan was taking to the stage as a former member of the company.  Taking us right back to the beginning he references his departure from school in 1965 with an A Level in Business to his name.

He comments: “Being an entrepreneur was never a real option back in those days. The idea was that you went to university and you got yourself a proper job. I had seen my Grandfather run his own business but he left nothing behind, no legacy or real social impact. I didn’t want to be like that.”

Jonathan had a number of jobs before taking the plunge and choosing to launch Straight. The journey was far from a depiction of the businessman’s surname and came with many a battle not least the fact that recycling was a relatively new concept.

He adds: “It was after reading a book one day which included the sentence ‘We pay to buy our waste and put it in a hole in the ground and yet this material we bury has a value and so we pay for it twice’ It was a real lightbulb moment for me. How could we possibly go on buying something twice and why hadn’t anyone done anything about it?”

Fuelled by the enthusiasm and passion that Jonathan had for both his business idea and the need to recycle, Straight soon became a £1m turnover business with 4 employees and that is when he decided that in order to be taken seriously he would have to get a listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Never one to give up, Jonathan got his listing in 2003 but was aware that the challenge had only just begun as he now had to ‘deliver for the shareholders’. Times still weren’t easy for the business and the next challenge was to purchase his main competitor Blackwell, which he did in 2004.

Taking risks doesn’t seem to effect Jonathan in the same way it would others but the next steps in his story were clearly a worrying time as he explains his share price went from more than £3 to just 18.5p thanks to a drought.

Still this didn’t stop him and once again he rolled his sleeves up and built the business back to its former glory – not thanks he explains to the faceless bast*rd banks.

The tale doesn’t end there however as despite its ongoing success Jonathan left the company in 2014 for an 8 figure sum. It wasn’t about the money though, he explains, it was the right thing to do and at the right time.

So, has Jonathan hung up his glasses and combed out his much-loved moustache – of course not! As a true entrepreneur he is working on a number of projects and there is no doubt that he will be back, in time, with another exciting business that he can call his own and make a success all over again.

Leaving the audience with 10 missions (which are actually 11) he says:

  1. Know where you’re going
  2. Communicate effectively
  3. Tell the truth
  4. Never give up
  5. Be memorable
  6. Dare to be different
  7. Know your competition
  8. Keep reinventing
  9. Help others
  10. Lead by example
  11. Plan the exit first

We wish Jonathan every success with his future ventures and look forward to him sharing his next exciting journey with us next year.

Breaking news or ketchup on your face?

I can’t help but think that as the ‘breaking news’ is announced that Jezza (Jeremy Clarkson) has been dropped from the BBC *please insert sarcastic shocked face here* causing Twitter to go into meltdown and every media group in the country to fight for the front page scoop, the world is missing the bigger picture. 

You see, at the same time as this announcement was made it was also released that two of the world’s largest and most iconic brands will combine. Heinz and Kraft are coming together to create a portfolio that few pantries in the country can live without.

I have to admit that I like Jeremy, I think he is funny but intelligent, aloof but aware – however he has gone more than one step too far over recent years and enough is enough. I’m sure this isn’t the end so why the drama?

On the other hand two massive companies have come together to create a powerhouse that will inevitably have an impact not by country but on a global scale. Think about the possibilities; chocolate ketchup (Philadelphia got there first but it seemed to be a winner), Kraft slices on beans and salad cream with your Lunchables – and that’s just the start!

The business talks of ‘integrating these two companies’, which may sound simple but with hundreds of products to consider, along with two huge global teams, will be no mean feat.  The results however are almost certain to lead to one of the world’s largest food production and distribution companies and I cannot believe that this is not breaking news.

After a quick google search Jeremy is everywhere, hitting every headline, appearing already on many a blog (ahem, yes, this one included) but the news about Kraft and Heinz is relatively low key, featuring on a few trade titles but interspersed with general news from each company.

Now don’t get me wrong, I work in PR, so understand the principles of having to make an announcement but doing it in such a way that you actually avoid wide scale headlines – but the news is out there now, it’s ready for sharing.

The media should be all over this not least as it ticks all the boxes; business, consumer, trade and fun. Imagine the fun you could have with this story and the images you could create with taste tests of combined products from each range. It is perfect for print and broadcast, a dream for daytime and headline.

My biggest worry is that the way the news today has been reported is actually a true and accurate reflection of society; no focus on business or real interest for future strategies in relation to the global economy but a bun fight over the first pictures of a man that makes headlines through singing nursery rhymes!

And this is why I ask us all to take a step back and to think this through – again, a man who has behaved badly (according to media reports) is rightly punished for his actions OR a global business is launched? I know what headlines I want to read about and in this instance Jezza you’re just not my top gear.