Tag: pr

Open adds to the awards cabinet

Some years ago now, when I was taking a BA(hons) PR degree at Leeds Metropolitan University, it was explained to a lecture room full of under-graduates that if we really wanted to make a success of our PR careers we would have to go to London.

There were a couple of problems with this statement; firstly, I didn’t want to go to London and secondly, for anyone who knows me, you will agree that I simply don’t fit into the mold that is often expected of PR people in the capital – and certainly not back then!

Instead, I took my bloody-minded attitude and focused on doing what I wanted to do best – forge a career in Yorkshire, the largest county in the country and a region that I believe is home to some of the UK’s most successful, innovative and forward thinking entrepreneurs.

More than 15 years later, I was sat at my desk – trying to get to the bottom of my ever increasing ‘to do’ list – and a letter arrived announcing that I had been acknowledged as one of the regions 42 leading entrepreneurs under 42 – what an accolade.

The letter explained that the annual 42 under 42 Entrepreneur Awards was created to showcase the brightest local talent, whilst bringing together the next generation of business leaders, who have helped to bolster the Yorkshire economy through innovation, expertise and investment.

This was a real achievement for Open Communications – not for me – but for the team and in particular my business partner, Emma. You see, every award, accolade, achievement and testimonial at Open Communications is down to team work and is absolutely as a result of a decision that we made more than 5 years ago; to go it alone – but to do it together.

Team1

I believe wholeheartedly that this accolade comes as a result of the consistent approach that we take at Open Communications to clients, which includes our ‘no air kissing’ policy, which is just one of the values that forms part of the solid foundations of the business that we have today.

It goes without saying that it is a real privilege to be acknowledged as one of the leading entrepreneurs in the region and it’s not something I would ever have expected. There is little doubt that the success of the agency is down to our no-nonsense approach to PR and marketing communications but more importantly to simple hard work.

The PR industry has suffered from a terrible reputation that isn’t entirely unwarranted; going back to my first comments about having to go to London to have a career within the industry gives you a glimpse of ‘the good old days’ and an attitude that thankfully has waned over the years.

When we launched Open Communications back in 2008, we set out to work as an extension of our clients’ teams and to deliver creative campaigns that add real value. As a growing and ambitious team, I am extremely proud of the campaigns that we produce and the clients that we work alongside.

In an attempt to turn the PR industry on its head we set out to provide clients of all sizes with a straight talking agency that would deliver results driven campaigns that would meet with objectives.

Almost six years later and we are a five-strong team, working with a range of clients from a variety of sectors including KP Snacks, HARIBO, The Ridings Shopping Centre, Xamax, Paragon and Abdul’s Indian takeaway and diner.

So, well done team Open. Here’s to many more successes along the way.

White-label – more like white flag!

I was talking to a fellow PR practitioner recently (it does happen!) and they mentioned that they’d been approached by a ‘full service’ agency asking them to white-label their offering – for anyone who doesn’t know what this means; it is doing the work for the agency, as if you were them, as opposed to working directly with the client.

I know many agencies who work like this and my feeling on the matter has never changed. As an agency your ‘job’ and objective for your client is to build a brand, if that means working with a series of other agency specialists then so be it – but the idea is that you get people talking and you share messages about that business.

How on earth can you expect to do this for them, if you can’t and don’t do it for your own business? Ok, so I appreciate that some agencies get most of their work through white-labelling but there are two points that I find fundamentally wrong with this;

  1. You should be proud of your work and want to share your ideas with the client direct – knowing that they have been presented correctly
  2. Nine times out of ten the ‘host’ agency claims to be full service and isn’t, hence why they come to you in the first place – so already your relationship with your / their client is on difficult ground

To use a ‘daddism’ ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave’.

You may as well wave a white flag if you are white-labelling because as far as I can tell you must be desperate for work if you are potentially willing to have your values compromised to work for others – who are not willing to give you the credit.

Now, before I get a barrage of people calling me crazy, white labelling is not working with other agencies or even working as a team with a lead agency – it is allowing an agency to share your work with a client as their own. I should also mention here that there are a number of genuine full service agencies who do a fantastic job and good on them but that’s not what my ‘rant’ is about.

We have been approached by many agencies in the past to be a white-label supplier and the answer is always the same – NO. We are proud of our agency, of our values and of the ideas and recommendations that we produce, so why would we pass all of that on to someone to share as their own?

This leads me to my next point – don’t profess to be full service if you aren’t. We tell all of our clients that we are a PR agency, we specialise in PR, copywriting, social media and sponsorship. There are many other facets to what we do but principally it all falls neatly under the banner of PR.

Now here’s the clever bit *puts on sarcastic face*, we are honest with our clients and tell them that if they do need other skills that we are unable to offer, we can work with trusted partners or – now wait for it – pass them the details direct.

BOOM! And there you have it folks, it really is that simple.

If you don’t do something in house then let your clients know and send them the details of trusted partners – unless of course you are out to fleece not only the client but your partner and then ignore my advice because your objective will be to ‘coin in’ mark-up fees from both sides.

Interestingly I have noticed that a higher number of agencies are choosing to specialise rather than claim to be full service and I’m pleased to see it. I’m a huge advocate for doing what you do, and doing it well.

One of my favourite phrases is: “If you want to be all things to all people, you end up being nothing to nobody.”

Our clients have always thanked us for being honest and we’ve never found that a brand chooses to work with someone else because they are full service. In fact, we were recently in a review with one of our largest clients who mentioned that being a specialist PR agency is a huge benefit.

For those of you who are thinking about white-labelling then please reconsider. I have seen some agencies create and produce some fantastic work and never get the credit that they deserve – make sure you’re not one of them.

Keeping it lean

Managing the PR for a number of business to business clients, across a range of sectors, we hear a lot about lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing isn’t a new concept but it is certainly an interesting one and can deliver huge benefits to business, not least the money that can be saved as a result of applying simple changes, which make a big difference.

When speaking with clients I started to wonder if actually the principles of lean manufacturing can be applied to communications. It may be a crude suggestion, not knowing the more intricate aspects of the role of a professional who would implement lean concepts within a manufacturing setting, but I think it is worthy of further investigation.

As a starting point, communication forms the foundations of a business whatever its size. When creating a marketing strategy a company is taking the steps necessary to manage its reputation, which is arguably its biggest asset.

In doing this a business needs to focus on some key aspects of their company, these include:

–          Current position

–          Objectives

–          Target audience(s)

–          Tools that are used to communicate with audiences

When it comes to a communications strategy every business is different – we always explain to our clients at Open Communications that no size fits all when it comes to putting together a plan that will meet with specific objectives.

Whether a company is considering a communications strategy for the first time or reviewing what they already have in place and how effective it has been, what is imperative is that they set the foundations from which to build and evolve.

This is where I believe that lean principles can come into practice. If as a business you already have a marketing and communications strategy in place, when was the last time you thought to review the processes that you use?

In considering whether it is worthwhile to even consider a review of an organisation’s marketing strategy, I would challenge a company to pose the following questions to their senior team:

  1. What are the objectives of our marketing communications strategy
  2. What measures do we have in place to determine the results of our marketing campaigns
  3. How do we measure real impact
  4. What communications tools do we use
  5. Who is responsible for implementing the marketing strategy
  6. What resource are we committing to building the profile of our business

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘I don’t know’ then it is certainly time to consider a review of the processes that are – or are not – used.

Marketing communications should be discussed at boardroom level within every business, irrelevant of size. The way that you communicate with employees, suppliers, customers and prospects is absolutely fundamental to the future success of your organisation.

When working with clients, we often find that communications is dismissed because a company is too busy ‘doing the doing’. Although we can appreciate this, after all we are all busy and clients must come first, you have to stop and think:

If I am making no effort to tell people about my product and service or to shout about the success of my business, who is?

Time and resource are often the biggest concerns for companies that would like to build a strategy for marketing and communications but simply don’t have time. Again, going back to the principles of lean manufacturing, this would be a great opportunity to review what is in place and what could be implemented to show the quickest return for the least resource.

As mentioned earlier, a communications plan should evolve over time, meaning that you don’t have to do everything now. With that in mind, it may be worth a meeting with your team to determine what is in place and what needs to be considered for the future. You can then build a plan around the ‘now’, with a focus on what can be achieved moving forward.

As an agency we always suggest putting achievable targets in place that can build over time, rather than trying to do everything all at once.  Some considerations when building a plan should be:

–          How do we communicate internally

–          How should we communicate to our clients

–          What do we do to appeal to prospects

–          Do our target audiences communicate in the same way

–        What media do they read and by what medium

We are often considered as consultants by our clients and at Open Communications we host strategy sessions, which are the closest thing to applying lean principles as I have come across within the industry. We work with clients to set the foundations; to review the current ways of working and to create a strategy that will deliver the best return on investment based on resource and results.

As an agency we have hosted these sessions for over two years now and I have to say that without exception they have proven to be a huge success. Perhaps if more organisations placed the same emphasis on the significance of effective communications, as they do on manufacturing, they would gain greater value from the efforts and budgets they commit to marketing.

What we all need to remember is that the way a business chooses to communicate reflects the personality of that organisation – and knowing that people buy people this in turn reinforces the significance of having a robust plan in place, which meets with and supports the objectives and future aspirations of a company.

Next time you have a board meeting consider putting a review of marketing and communications on the agenda. I can say without hesitation or reservation that doing so will give you the opportunity to empower your workforce, raise the profile of your company and support your objectives to become the success that you hope to be.

 

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!

Where have all the gurus gone?

There was a time when PR was almost a dirty word and when prefixed with traditional was tantamount to commercial suicide – well, as far as the ‘cool’ agencies that were offering digital innovations from the world’s leading social media gurus were concerned.

Web rankings, algorithms and search engine optimisation – or SEO as it was more commonly known (nothing like a good acronym) – were all phrases that were banded around like sweets at a children’s birthday party – but many clients were left baffled and those that were blown away needed to see results, measurable results that went beyond a Facebook breakdown.

Changing times

Over recent years, and with some tough times faced by most, this trend has thankfully started to change. I don’t mean that digital campaigns are any the less impressive but that clients want to see a real return for their investment and ideas that will add value to the customer experience, while delivering to the bottom line.

As brands see the value in developing a consistent strategy throughout the year that supports and manages their reputation – which is arguably their biggest asset – public relations has once again stepped up to be counted.

We have certainly seen a shift in the number of new business enquiries which have come as a result of client recommendation (a huge compliment and not something we ever take for granted) and the campaigns that we have worked on. This is great news for our business but also for the industry as it shows that people are seeing the value that PR and marketing communications can deliver.

What about the sexy stuff  

Just because you work with a PR agency that doesn’t mean that they don’t do the sexy stuff and before I’m completely misquoted, what I mean is that PR should not be considered the boring relative at the marketing family get together. As has been the case with other marketing disciplines PR has had to change and move with the times too.

We work with businesses to make sure that when we put together a PR strategy we consider how we can secure coverage in printed media, online and across broadcast channels as we have always done but we also focus on user generated content and how our plans can fit into those that are either managed in-house or by other agency partners.

Working together

Experience has shown us that agencies have a reputation for not working well together however we don’t agree. We have worked with many design, planning, media buying and production agencies over the years and in most cases have delivered campaign ideas that have been much stronger as a result.

What we do is take an idea or theme and see how each specialism can contribute to the success of that overall campaign. When this approach is taken, there is no doubt that the results are far stronger than if each discipline works independently and tries to shoehorn their idea – which of course is the best of the bunch in their eyes – into a plan.

In summary

PR is an exciting and creative industry and I think that people have lost sight of that over recent years, primarily due to the huge increase in the number of ‘social media gurus’ who were going to change the world!

Needless to say, time has shown that social media needs to form part of a wider strategy rather than being handled in isolation. The first hurdle for agencies is getting clients to understand what certain tools can be used for and what likely return they are going to receive. The other consideration is what market the client works in and what social media platforms are relevant or otherwise.

This year is certainly going to make for some interesting reading as far as marketing campaigns are concerned and I for one am really looking forward to seeing how brands use an integrated approach to come up with something that will be fresh, simple and successful.

Only time will tell if the next big headline or #WIN is going to come from a self-proclaimed social media guru, but I’m guessing not.

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.

An award that REALLY means something

12.20.13 AwardOn Tuesday evening we had the pleasure of attending an event with our client KP Snacks. Like many events, we got suited and booted – dresses out and heels on, even a touch of lippy! – and looked forward to spending a relaxing evening with good food, a glass or two of wine and great company.

What we didn’t expect at this event was to be presented with an award!

What our client had failed to inform us is that they had chosen Open Communications as their Agency Partner of the Year for 2013 following the on-going PR and social media support we provide for POM-BEAR, the fun shaped snack brand.

We have to be honest now – POM-BEAR is an excellent brand to work with and as we have some fantastic credentials within the family brands market (if we do say so ourselves) there are lots of recommendations that we can make in order to raise the profile of the business, while reiterating core messages around the product range. Better still, we also get to have some fun!

Now, we have never really chased awards, we have entered a few but it’s fair to say that we could do more in relation to putting ourselves forward to be ‘judged’ by our peers. It’s not that we are averse to them, just that there’s always something going on that is more important.

We’ve won awards in the past, but I have to admit that this was something else. It’s great to be recognised for the work that you do and the effort that you put in to campaigns BUT most importantly to be chosen by your clients and held in such strong regard that they invite you to collect an award in front of their colleagues – well, what more can we say?

We are so pleased and as you would expect very proud of the work that we have done for POM-BEAR in the last 18 months and we are really looking forward to working with the team from KP Snacks again in 2014. Now that we know that this award exists, we are even more eager to fight to retain our title!

It’s been a very positive month for Open Communications; Top 100 Agency outside of London and now Agency Partner of the Year for KP Snacks. Here’s to ending the year on a high and to many more celebrations in the twelve months ahead.

AGENCY TURNS DOSH TO DINNERS WITH DONATION TO DISTRICT FOOD BANK

Christmas v2

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.

St Catherine's

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.

Christmas v1

 

More than just a PR agency

We often say to the businesses that we meet that we are more than just a PR agency but this can be difficult to substantiate. It doesn’t mean that we are professing to be a full service agency – we aren’t – we are specialists in PR but we also make recommendations that we feel will add value to the brands we work with even if this falls outside of our typical remit.

Ok, so again, what does that mean? Well, as an example, last weekend I had the absolute pleasure of spending an evening with 192 seriously ill and disabled children. As the PR agency for POM-BEAR we were contacted by the team from Dreamflight, a charity that takes poorly children on the trip of a lifetime.

At a cost of almost £750,000, the team fundraise throughout the year before chartering a Boeing 747, which then takes the children all aged between 8 and 14, along with a team of volunteers and medical experts, to Orlando in Florida.

Initially the team were just requesting snacks, and as an agency that deals with many food clients we are used to these calls. We always make a judgement and put forward our recommendations to the client to provide a rationale for offering free products. In this instance, it seemed to make perfect sense – it was a party setting and as POM-BEAR are gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and have no artificial flavours or colours it was a treat that many of the children could enjoy.

In addition to offering snacks we also suggested that POM-BEAR make an extra special guest appearance to add some more magic to the pre-flight party, which took place at the Renaissance Hotel in Heathrow. So that’s what we did. From 6pm – 9pm POM-BEAR danced, ‘high fived’ and hugged as many children as he was able to. It was a little warm for him at times but he certainly got into the spirit and was even handed a glow stick by one of the children – an honour in deed.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous before joining the team at Dreamflight. I was concerned that I may get upset, on the basis that the children are seriously ill and disabled, but the look on their faces said it all – they were absolutely delighted to meet with POM-BEAR and to have him come along and join in at their party, and who was I to start blubbing – they certainly weren’t.

It was a fantastic event and I can’t reiterate enough how much work and effort clearly goes into this event. As a PR agency we do provide recommendations on sponsorship, brand buddying and product donation and this is one activity that I would happily be involved with again and again.

The children have now set off on their once in a lifetime trip to America and I hope that they have an absolutely fantastic time – each and every one of them truly deserves it.

Is there any sensitivity when it comes to social media?

As a PR agency we build social media strategies for our clients, which, in the simplest sense, allow them to engage with an online audience. More importantly, using these tools, we are able to gleam some idea of the sentiment a collective audience has towards a brand and business.

At an event recently social media tools, including twitter, were referenced as the world’s largest and most quickly evolving search engine – an interesting suggestion and one that I am beginning to agree with more and more.

Opinion and online interaction has never been such an integral part of the communications process, which we are all starting to build into our daily lives. Something happens and the first thing that people will do is tweet about it or take an image and share it with their network of contacts online.

I was surprised recently to watch a programme, similar to Police Camera Action, which focused on a car chase and subsequent crash, which seriously injured the driver and passenger. As if this situation wasn’t disturbing enough, with two young people hurt and needing help, the team of police and paramedics weren’t able to dedicate all of their attention to the needs of those that really required it as they were faced with a ‘paparazzi’ of phone users – a crowd of people taking images and videos.

Now I’m all for sharing interesting and relevant information, but a car chase and those injured – come on! Does anyone really need to see that and does having an iPhone really make you a journalist?

When something in the world happens, the press often now request footage from the scene and I can see how life changing events would be of interest but I think we all need to take a step back and determine what is and is not ethically appropriate to share.

I hadn’t really considered the implications of people’s desire to share before but I have to admit that I am now thinking that people have lost all sensitivity when it comes to social media. I always say to clients and the team her at Open Comms that if you wouldn’t stand in a pub and make a comment then you shouldn’t tweet it. Just as importantly if you are going to share someone else’s comment or opinion by retweeting or liking their status make sure you have the facts first – do not regret your actions later.

In many businesses now there is a code of conduct specific to social media, and I think that this should be considered by individuals too. There should be six simple steps to social media:

  1. If you won’t share a comment or opinion with a stranger, then don’t share it socially with the world
  2. Think before you tweet / share, these seconds could make all the difference
  3. Consider what value your comment will add – is it likely to cause unnecessary offence or emotional hurt to another
  4. If you are going to like / retweet or share content from others,  take the time to read it properly first – be aware of what you are putting your name against
  5. With so many social platforms available make sure that you are using them correctly – privacy settings are there for a reason, so use them
  6. Be sensitive, consider why you are filming or photographing something. If your actions mean that a person will die or come to extreme harm because a paramedic is unable to do their job properly, is that content ever going to be worth your conscience.

These are just my thoughts but I’m sure that others will have their own to add. I don’t propose that social as a medium is regulated or ‘policed’, I would like to think that people were intelligent enough to make their own informed decisions but perhaps I’m wrong.