Tag: sharing

Content is king – long live the king!

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

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

What to consider

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excitement of uploading your musings wear’s off, businesses are left with websites and social tools that are clearly out of date.

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

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

How to manage the process more effectively

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

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

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

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

How to make it engaging

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

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

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

Top tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

How often to post

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Are you giving your business the right tweetment?

When we are putting together a PR strategy for a client or discussing how a brand can communicate with its many different audiences, we always consider social media; after all it’s a platform and growing point of reference for consumers of all ages and demographics.

I have never really understood agencies that focus purely on social media, as although I feel it is a mistake to ignore online tools, in my opinion they should form part of a wider strategy. The internet has created new ways of communicating but the process is the same; you need to create a plan that supports a year round campaign and then a series of messaging that allows a company to share its stories, which in turn will raise its profile and understanding of the product and services it offers.

Needless to say PR always sounds far simpler than it actually is but essentially the fundamental purpose has never changed, our main objective is always to manage the reputation of the brands we work with. We want to share stories that lead others to talk about a company. In doing this we generate word of mouth, which is still the most valuable medium for creating credibility, recommendation and in turn sales.

I attended a networking session last night which focused specifically on twitter. In celebration of Leeds Business Week, Leeds Tweet Meet brought together a panel of communications professionals to discuss how to effectively use twitter for the purpose of business.

It was an interesting session but the main theme throughout was to have a plan and keep it simple. What was a very valuable suggestion was to recognise that twitter is now used as a real time resource by the consumer. No longer is twitter all about engagement or two way communication, there is a large audience using it to search for up-to-date news, views, comments and opinions.

For the first time twitter is actually competing with search engines, due to the speed in which information can be shared.

We always advise that clients take the time to review twitter and analyse what competitors are doing before they consider social media channels as a route to market. We believe that it is important to understand how people within a given industry are engaging with their audiences, as this can change significantly from one sector to another. It is also essential that legalities are considered, as there are some instances where information cannot be shared on an ‘open platform’.

What people sometimes forget is that twitter is a global and immediate channel to market. Once a tweet is out there it can be difficult to amend or delete. In order for any social media tool to work as well as it should, a client needs to be comfortable and confident before sharing their stories with the masses and that doesn’t just relate to using the tool but also to the content that a company proposes to share.

Some of the most spectacular #fails have come about as a result of brands jumping in or not taking the time to think before updating a status. Although it takes seconds to put up a post, it can take months to manage the damage that this could cause. We always ask if a person would shout their tweet in a street – if the answer is no, then it may be worth considering if the content is necessary and appropriate.

Although content is more important than ever before, it is worth asking what value your updates will give the recipient. If the content that you share is of no use to those that follow you, then consider how you can change it so that people can join in a conversation with you or use your content to their benefit.

As an example rather than telling people you are taking your dog for a walk, make recommendations on how consumers can get best value from your product or how your service differs from competitors. Twitter is also a great tool for sharing recommendations and testimonials, you can re-tweet positive comments and thank those that make them, which only strengthens those relationships, while sharing your success with a mass audience.

A suggestion from Leeds Tweet Meet was for businesses to develop a social media code of conduct, which in many organisations would provide guidelines for employees about what can and cannot be shared on business specific social media channels.

As a starting point for any business our top ten tips for twitter are as follows:

  1. Decide what your objective is – what do you aim to achieve through twitter
  2. Identify key individuals in the business who will manage the account
  3. Research what others within the market are doing (in particular competitors)
  4. Ask your customers if they would like to engage with you on twitter
  5. Create a code of conduct for employees to follow
  6. Do some scenario planning – what’s the worst that could happen
  7. Put together a simple schedule of tweets; build up a bank of topics / themes to consider
  8. Register an account with a relevant design
  9. Search for people that you would like to follow
  10. Build social media into your communications strategy

Twitter is certainly a good tool for business and has a growing number of followers. For those who ‘have better things to do with their time’ I would question what your customers and more importantly prospects would think.

As an immediate medium twitter can be invaluable to business and gives a brand a voice and personality. As a measure of success all you need to do is search for your favourite brands – the majority of which will now have an active twitter feed.

For those who are still in two minds then speak to a PR agency, they should be able to give you the guidance that you need to build twitter and other social tools into your wider communications strategy.

The value of values

Open Communications is a straight talking PR agency – we get the job done and most importantly we do it well. We don’t ‘do’ air kissing but we do meet with clients objectives and as a result we have long-term relationships with the brands we work with.

You may read that and think – so what? Why do I care that you are straight talking, or that you do what you say you will, but actually these are very important points for us. You see the paragraph above is an outline of our values.

Some people think that values are like a mission statement – it’s a paragraph that you make up, you put it in a business plan and then never set sight of it again, or at least not until you are asked for it and then you blow the dust off and push it across the desk.

We wanted to be different at Open Comms. We didn’t want wishy, washy statements that use long words that sound like they would be better placed in an academic text book. We wanted our values to mean something to us and therefore to our employees, colleagues, clients and suppliers.

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, values are a great reference point when you need to regroup.

We have been involved in some very exciting scenarios recently and some very nerve-wracking situations and although there can be the temptation to become something that you are not, we have always followed the same approach; what you see is what you get. If you want results then great, if you want air kissing and posh lunches, we aren’t the right agency for you. Bold perhaps and perhaps some may say a little too honest, but true.

It’s this knowledge of who we are and what we can deliver, which gives us the confidence to sit in front of brands and businesses of any size and confidently present our thoughts and ideas. Our values are the foundations which have allowed us to grow the agency and to build our client base, which is now a portfolio of brands that we are extremely proud to work with.

All businesses should consider their values. Ask yourself, what makes you different, what makes you tick and how could this translate into the products and service that you deliver for your customers? A brand with true values immediately has a stronger proposition than a competitor without – take The Body Shop as an example.

It is irrelevant whether you like their products or share their values, the message is simple; they are a brand that places environmental issues at the heart of everything they do. This translates across design, advertising, communication and even the way that the products are displayed in the shops.

Often the worry with brands is that they choose values and these change, but this is ok. A company’s values can change over time as the business evolves, all you need to make sure is that you are comfortable with this being the case and that you are making changes for the right reasons. Again, take the example of Innocent Drinks – who are now in the most part owned by Coca Cola. Does this fit well with the brands values? Six months ago, perhaps not but since Coke has changed its approach and moved towards more ‘healthy’ options the decision starts to make sense. The decision as I see it wasn’t for Innocent to change their values in order to become part of the huge corporate machine that is Coke but more for Coke to learn how to change the positioning of its values and use the experience of Innocent to make this transition in the mind of the consumers – and it’s working.

If you are confident about communicating new values – or an evolution of your current values – to your stakeholders, employees and customers then you can’t go far wrong. The most important point is that you believe – truly believe – in your values and that they are shared by those who matter most to you. Trying to be something you are not is like wearing the wrong sized clothes – we may all try it from time to time but it will never work!

As far as I’m concerned if you have no values, you have no personality and as per my recent blog  this is one of the most significant and ‘valuable’ assets a business has. So if you can’t see the value in your values perhaps you need to look from the outside in – what is the perception that you are giving your customers and are you confident that this is a true representation of your brand and business.

STOP PRESS: SOME GOOD NEWS!

 

Despite the changing shape of the PR industry a fundamental part of anyone’s daily role is to review the media and be aware of what is going on locally, nationally and globally. Unfortunately this often means that you have to be particularly susceptible to bad news, as well as good.

Recently however I’ve been pleased to see that there has been some really positive news coming from the Yorkshire region. The first piece appeared a couple of weeks ago on the BDaily website. The story focused on a report by Barclays which looked into the entrepreneurial landscape in the UK and Ireland and referenced a notable increase in entrepreneurial activity across Yorkshire.

Although this activity was based on the purchase of shares, it recognised that Yorkshire is the fifth-biggest region for entrepreneurial activity in the country. Even more interestingly, this success appears to have been bolstered by industrial companies.

Hopefully as industrial businesses within the Yorkshire region start to perform ahead of expectations this will then have an impact on other sectors, leading to more green shoots and positive news throughout the county.

The second story that caught my eye featured on the Business Desk last week and reported that 68% of companies in Yorkshire had confirmed that new positions within their organisations were in the pipeline. As a company that is also recruiting, it was great to see that there are real opportunities for jobs and growth within the region.

Better still the piece goes on to report that the Yorkshire and Humber is the region showing most improvement in relation to employment opportunities, up from 54% in 2012, and in addition 84% of those questioned said that they are not planning any job losses this year.

I hope that with more good news to be shared by the businesses in Yorkshire we can all benefit. It would appear that determination, a can do attitude and rolling our sleeves up is certainly helping the companies based within the county to look forward rather than back, and it would appear that many have opportunity within their sights.

So, on that note, may I also take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy St George’s Day – and shhhh, I don’t want to talk too soon, but the sun is finally shining, that can only be a good thing!

 

If you can’t say something nice…

When I was growing up my Dad always used to quote a phrase from Bambi, the children’s film. He would say ‘Remember what Thumper said’, which was ‘If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nothing at all’.

Even though the quote is taken from a children’s film the fundamental theory behind the phrase is very relevant and in particular to young people who are growing up with more choice about how they communicate with each other (and the rest of the world) than ever before.

In the news again today there is a startling example of why people need to be very careful about what they share and how they choose to communicate. Kent Youth PCC, Paris Brown, has learnt the hard way that tweets and Facebook updates she is alleged to have shared when she was 14, 15 and 16 have come back to haunt her.

As someone who has taken on a responsible position she should have known better. It goes without saying that some people will think it’s unfair that Paris is being reprimanded in a very public way as a result of comments made years ago however she should have realised that the nature of the comments she was sharing was inappropriate irrelevant of her age.

As is the nature of some social media tools, anyone was able to access her comments about drink and drugs, which then gave her employer the chance to check her twitter feeds and Facebook page to find out just what she had chosen to share with her friends when she felt it appropriate to brag about her antics.

I hope that this sends out a very real warning to anyone who is looking for work. It is common practice to check social media feeds or ‘Google’ a candidate before an interview takes place. How silly to jeopardise your chances at securing a job for the sake of a tweet or inappropriate status update.

Many people use Facebook socially and twitter or LinkedIn for work but it’s worth always keeping in the back of your mind that anyone can search for your comments and opinions and that if you are willing to share your thoughts on social media tools expect that they will be shared by others and possibly accessed by a future employer.

There’s little doubt that Paris will be very conscious of her comments from now on.

If you’re appy and you know it

 

Looks like a young entrepreneur will be laughing all the way to the bank thanks to Yahoo who has reportedly bought his app for an undisclosed sum – said to be around a cool 30 million dollars. What makes this story a little different, other than the fact the businessman in question is only 17 years old and started to write code for apps when he was just 12, is that what he has developed is actually really useful.

Summly condenses news items from the web into small chunks that are then readable on smartphone screens. Not only is this a handy option but you can click through to the full article if you want to read more – in turn driving traffic to the sites of global newspapers and syndication feeds. As a result he has kept news corporations on side by offering them something back and they have therefore agreed to share their content.

This is a fantastic example of a young and already very successful entrepreneur who has developed something that can make life easier for others. The app is clever, business led and will be of use to millions of people throughout the world. Most importantly it is a shining example to others that if they have a good idea they should pursue it.  

However there is another side to this story…

I’m all for championing passion and entrepreneurial spirit, particularly in the next generation of business minds, but what I don’t want to see is a market flooded with unnecessary content that is neither use nor ornament.

What is absolutely fundamental in this story and what led to Nick D’Aloisio’s app attracting the attention of investors and therefore a significant investment into his business is that he thought it through. He was looking for something useful, that would appeal to the masses and he found it.

The same should be said of brands who are investing in digital content. There are lots of QR codes and AR campaigns that are hitting the headlines as the use of smartphones become every day to the majority of consumers however how many of these apps will be used more than once? And what purpose do they serve?

The best apps in relation to campaigns in my view are those that add value – they bring a different dimension to an integrated marketing strategy that builds on a message and delivers it across channels.

To engage with an audience is to keep them coming back and wanting more and this is where I believe that digital and the use of apps, QR and AR codes come into their own. Consumers want more than ever before – they want visual, audio, content rich communication and they want to be involved, or at least feel as if they are.

So before we all put the CEO of Yahoo into our phones on speed dial because we’ve come up with the next big thing, perhaps we need to stop and decide what it is actually brings to those who are going to use it. What will it do, what will it deliver and if the real answer is not a lot maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board.