Tag: social media

A BRAND WITH LITERALLY NO PERSONALITY

LinkedIn has become a platform of choice for me over the last year or so. I like the fact it knows what it wants to be and that it is a work in progress. Having met with some of the team, they acknowledge there is more to be done but that the functionality has been developed to benefit business.

There is no other platform that has taken ownership of becoming an online portfolio of CVs that gives businesses access to a global database of talent like LinkedIn – or certainly not that I have come across.

Company pages on LinkedIn

We manage the Company Pages for some of our clients and make sure to post a selection of news, articles and coverage. We also engage with other brands and businesses to keep the feeds interesting and informative.

As a business that never stops learning, we review other pages to see what companies are doing and what ‘tricks of the trade’ are working. Applying best practice, we can then make recommendations that we know add value.

Making contacts, or not!

This morning when I was reviewing my own LinkedIn feed, I came across an impressive ‘company’ page. It was visual, informative, punchy and had a tone of voice that appealed to me. The page was obviously updated regularly but what stood out as very strange was there was no contact.

I think the page had been set up as a person but should have been a company. So, to be clear, it said ‘Owner of widget business’ but the page was the brand, not the individual.

Inadvertently, I had come across a brand with literally no personality!

There were several reasons I found this odd, not least how had this person not realised that it was a mistake to remain nameless and how were people supposed to make contact?

LinkedIn is about connections and although company pages generate followers, it’s not the same thing.

The power of personality

I’m a big believer that ‘people buy people’ and this has worked in practice for us here at Open Communications. Many of our clients have been with us for years and we have worked with brand managers that come to us when they change company – one of the biggest compliments in our industry and not something we take for granted.

The truth is that personality is one of the very few things that a business has which is truly unique. Of course, companies can try to replicate the tone of voice, messaging and even visuals that a brand uses but it will never be the same.

There are always the values, story and culture that you can never quite replicate. Plus, most brands that try to be something they are not get caught out and it all goes horribly wrong. Authenticity may be a phrase that is overused, but it resonates with audiences.

Keeping it real

The lesson I learnt from this morning’s encounter was that I will make it my mission to ensure that every company director we work with takes full credit for their business on LinkedIn, giving those that want to make an introduction the opportunity to do so.

I will also explain the difference between a personal and company page so that they don’t make any mistakes that could cost them sales.

I can see no reason for having a ‘social’ channel and not being visible as a person. The whole thing really is quite baffling.

As a business that wants to attract customers, this really does need to be addressed and I hope that it is. The page deserves to get the attention that it is attracting but I expect that the leads it could convert are fewer than they should be for this very reason.

SOCIAL MEDIA SHOULD NOT EXCUSE RUDENESS

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Billions of pounds have been spent to allow people to converse and communicate freely with each other, to share ideas and challenge concepts, to share thoughts and to learn, to create hope, generate support and nurture a space where everyone can have a voice.

What an incredibly positive and powerful movement.

Well yes, in theory, however in practice the irony is that it has become a growing beast and is being used for anything other than what it was intended*.

Hiding behind a screen

Social media is now a default position that gives anyone the ‘right’ to hide behind a screen and moan, bitch, shame, stir nastiness and share hatred. It is used to reach the masses with fake news and boastful claims and make others feel inferior at best and suicidal at worst.

Many will argue that this isn’t the case and that there is a lot of good that has come from social media tools. In part, I agree, but when reading the papers over recent weeks the truth is there in black and white.

Two recent headlines from the i newspaper as an example: “Depression and social media risk doubled in girls” and “Black Mirror star quits social media”.

The first refers to a study, which has found that teenage girls are twice as likely to shows signs of depression linked to social media than boys. The University College London has looked at the association between social and depression and the results are far from surprising.

The second headline quotes an actor, Will Poulter, who says: “In light of my recent experience I am choosing to take a step back, of sorts, from Twitter. I accept all criticisms and it’s been a delight to learn that so many of you enjoyed what many people worked very hard to produce. As we all know there is a balance to be struck in our engagements with social media.” He has been referred to as ugly by ‘trolls’ on the platform.

Let’s just take a step back.

Two articles which announce that young people are commonly experiencing signs of depression due to their use (and the misuse by their peers) of social media and a successful actor who can no longer watch in silence as he is torn to pieces by people who have no greater right to comment on this person’s appearance as he does on theirs.

When did this become ok? When was this headline hitting news? And, most importantly, when are we going to start to encourage the use of social media platforms for what they were intended – not to rant and rave in order to have a knowingly negative impact, but to share positive news and to become a platform to communicate for the right reasons.

Bringing it back to business

It would be unfair to ignore the fact that social media channels including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have provided brands with a platform to promote their products to a global audience and that increasingly intelligent algorithms allow for more specific targeting than has ever been possible.

The questions is the same however, at what cost?

Irrelevant of the budget, thought, creativity and man-hours that go into social campaigns it would appear that increasingly they are coming under the same scrutiny as any social engagement with people feeling that their negative and nasty comments should be shared and somewhat bizarrely responded to.

What many people that work outside of marketing may not appreciate is that it still takes people to respond to social media posts and they, like those complaining or sharing their ‘constructive thoughts’, have feelings.

I have seen some appalling examples of people who think that because they are hidden behind a computer screen can make the most terrible comments and expect a response within minutes.

Firstly, no brand – whatever the size – has a legal obligation to get back to a consumer because they feel they are worthy of that engagement. Secondly, if you are that kind of person, think about how you phrase a complaint and then consider how you would respond given the chance.

I have said this before and I will say it again, if you are posting to a social media channel for whatever reason, if you wouldn’t walk into the street and make those comments out loud then think twice and even three times before posting them.

You do not have the right to be rude

Social media does not give anyone the right to be rude.

For those who go on thinking its ok and that to be outwardly aggressive to the people on the other side of that Twitter, Instagram feed or Facebook account, I urge you to think about how you will feel when your child, partner, friend or family member comes home in tears from school, college or work.

Remember, if your behaviour is reflective of a bully – even when targeted at a brand – you are no better than the people that are directing the same hate filled bilge to your loved ones.  

Ends

*We know that there was a commercial rationale for all of these platforms and they were not based on a philanthropic endeavour to allow freedom of speech or communication across the globe. But for the purpose of this blog, let’s just assume that was the case.

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

Social-Media-Marketing-vs-Traditional-Marketing

It’s used by everyone from busy-bodies to businesses, politicians to pet pooches and, as the Guardian recently reported, even GCHQ has gotten in on the act.

The question remains, what is it that makes social media so different to the traditional channels we were once used to, and how can effective management of online communications platforms and apps positively impact upon a company’s bottom line?

For many organisations social media is an essential medium through which to communicate messages, form the level of personality which sets a brand apart from its competitors and provides a way in which relationships are built, and subsequently maintained, with consumers.

Whilst there is, undoubtedly, some crossover between the benefits that social media and traditional channels offer, using a combination of the two approaches will ensure that a brand’s message reaches the widest audience in the most fitting manner.

Round 1: sharing news

In today’s busy world we are surrounded by marketing messages at every turn. Whether it’s a text on a mobile phone, a red light whilst driving or an advertising billboard, each method communicates a message, but in a distinctly different way.

In the same way that these mediums differ, so too does the sharing of news from traditional and social media.

Here are two theoretical examples:

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

vs

  1. It’s been a woofing good day here at Pet Pooch Apparel; with one wag of a fluffy tail we’ve made it rain ‘puppy style’ (insert picture of puppy in raincoat)

Example 1 is the type of headline that you’d see on a typical business news platform. Short, snappy and to the point. This message takes a professional tone, which is in-keeping with the readership of such a site. This type of media coverage raises the profile of a business and its achievements; building credibility by association as a result of appearing on a well-known business platform.

On the other hand, example 2 could feature on ‘Pet Pooch Apparel’s’ social media channels and, as such, takes a far more colloquial tone which communicates the personality of the brand. Featured alongside a link, which allows the reader to go directly to a page that features the product, this version of the same news is likely to attract a different reader and, therefore, should be posted in a way that will appeal to them.

Whilst the focus of a business story is primarily building the credibility of a business, the objective of social media channels is to build a relationship with the people who actually buy the products.

Whilst being on the radar of every large organisation within the region has its benefits, most companies will have competitors just around the corner and this makes the importance of creating a brand which appeals to buyers increasingly important.

The truth is that having a strong brand, personality and tone of voice is often the one thing that sets a business apart during a customer’s decision-making process.

In these examples it’s clear to see how each version of news has a distinct purpose. By shifting the focus of the story from a purely business mindset, to a form more likely to be considered engaging to the everyday social media user, the reach of the story can be broadened to appeal to a much wider audience.

Round 2: engaging with the customer

In what I’d envisage to be a fun and trendy business like ‘Pet Pooch Apparel’, magazines and consumer-focused publications are likely to be a part of any PR strategy.

Achieving coverage in this type of media would be the best way to raise the profile of the business amongst potential customers, whilst building the familiarity and trust necessary to achieve repeat sales and encourage loyalty.

However, though companies can submit a press release which is full of personality and is reflective of the brand’s values, this messaging is often significantly diluted when it finally finds its way into a publication.

As a result, relying entirely on media coverage from magazines to communicate with your customers and build your brand is a steady process which does not happen overnight. Instead, through a long-term strategy which targets the relevant magazines at the most appropriate times it will deliver results.

Yet, combine this approach with a stream of interesting, insightful blogs and quirky social media posts, and the whole process becomes much less sporadic and a lot more likely to yield quicker results.

Increasing the comments, likes and excitement surrounding your latest post, is a sure-fire way to gain fans and, with new followers, comes a wider audience with which to share your new products, services and offers.

On the other hand, we must consider that with a busy social media channel comes a certain amount of maintenance. With the ‘always on’ appeal of online apps, comes the potential for a large number of comments which shoppers increasingly expect will be replied to. This gives additional opportunity to stay ‘on brand’ by responding in a light-hearted manner but also takes a great deal of time and effort.

For example:

Question – Which accessories would you recommend for a Yorkshire terrier?

Possible response – Trendy or traditional, we’re sure that your terrier would appreciate this tweed flat cap! With his Yorkshire roots, we know he’ll feel right at home. Don’t forget to let us know what he thinks 😉

Round 3: the thrill of the chase

There’s no denying that coverage in the newspaper, a magazine or on a prestigious online platform feels infinitely more rewarding than simply posting on a company blog or social media channel.

Moreover, the uncertainty that accompanies the process of pitching a story to a publication and then waiting to see whether it appears, enhances the feeling of excitement when you do secure that much awaited coverage.

Once you’ve secured a story that even your mum would be proud of, you’ll most likely want to shout it from the rooftops! Well, once again, this is where social comes in and can be used as a platform to maximise your message and audience reach.

Round 4: consistency is key

It’s not always possible to rely on editorial coverage, for example your story may get bumped by a huge national crisis, and that is why a business should use its own channels to post the message to its audience and upload the news that they have to share.

Though it won’t happen overnight, regular posts and insights, consistent messaging and well managed, interesting content is the key to increasing brand awareness and, if your social media channels become a hit with customers, the chances are that your products will too.

In summary, working in PR and content marketing it is clear that both traditional media and social channels are complementary and can be used to create brand trust and loyalty for a business. If you’d like advice on how to maximise your own social media channels, would like assistance creating original content, or would like to speak to us regarding a PR strategy, please contact a member of our team on 01924 862477.

THE LATEST DETOX ISN’T A DIET

The amazing scenery looking over St Aiden’s RSPB reserve

Working in PR means that you have to keep abreast of the social media tools that are available and provide a platform for people to communicate. Stands to reason really, given that we are responsible for sharing information and managing the reputation of brands both online and in print.

Being of a particular age (38 for those that are too polite to ask) I haven’t exactly grown up surrounded by tech but it has been in the background for probably as long as I can remember. We certainly didn’t have smart phones when I was at school, college or university, but we had the first handheld games systems and some functionality to communicate online.

It was only really when I left university that digital communications started to become ‘a thing’ and many a PR – myself included – took great pleasure in demoting the fax machine to the back of a cupboard to collect dust as we opted instead to use email.

The real changes though occurred when I had been in work for a number of years and platforms such as Facebook started to make their mark. Some came and went, while others became integral to our lives – not a statement that I think even the founders really considered in terms of scale and global dominance. Let’s not get started about governance and regulatory controls, I’ll save that for another blog.

The very real threat of social media – and it’s not the trolls

Over recent weeks I’ve noticed that there has been a shift in tone when it comes to the use of social media. There was a time when there seemed to be a certain expectation that people would have regular access to as many apps as they could manage. The more the merrier was the general consensus and if you didn’t have the latest you were considered ‘so last season’.

Facebook, SnapChat, WhatApp, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to name a few became more of a reflection of our lives and social dalliances than actually going out. Showing someone your dinner was top of the list, quickly followed by a pouty selfie that may or may not have had a filter!

In the most part, I’m pleased to say I dodged this desire to share everything online, but I did find that I was becoming increasingly reliant on the social channels to fill downtime. No longer was I reaching for a book or chatting to my husband and friends, I would reach for my phone and see who had updated their status on Facebook.

It was at the same time that Chris Evans was commenting on having a detox from tech and the benefits that he felt from moving away from a world that was powered by the internet. At first I wondered what he was making such a fuss about, but the more he explained the more it started to resonate.

Then earlier this week, I opened the Yorkshire Post to see a comment piece from Business Editor, Mark Casci, with the headline ‘Use summer to wean yourself off the smartphone’. So much of what he had written made perfect sense to me.

Within his article he writes: ‘After travelling back in time through my history as a phone consumer (aided naturally with a few web searches on my phone to establish chronology) I came to the uncomfortable realisation that it had been well over more than a decade since I truly “switched off”’

It was at this moment I realised this was the case for me too.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery

There seems to be so much talk about people turning tech off and trying their hardest to get some balance back in their lives. We are all, it would seem, slaves to the smartphone and I’m no exception. I may not pout for selfies at every opportunity but I certainly stare into a screen far more than is healthy or necessary.

One of the ways I rationalise my ‘habit’ is by telling myself it’s for work, that someone might need me and that if a client emails, texts or sends a WhatsApp message at 10pm at night it is my obligation and responsibility to get back to them.

When I read that sentence I can see how unreasonable it is, but when you have a business it can be difficult to judge yourself by the parameters you would set for your own colleagues or suppliers.

As an example, if I happened to be working late and sent a supplier an email, I wouldn’t expect a response until the next day. Furthermore, if I got one I would feel guilty that I had encroached on their free time as opposed to being pleased that they had stopped everything to get back to me.

Mark sums it up really well in his piece when he writes: ‘Perhaps the worst aspect of realising how much I used my phone was coming to terms with the arrogance it entails, the idea that I must check my messages or the world will end.’

A truer word has rarely been said. This is me all over. I am constantly checking my phone for emails and then wonder why I feel anxious. There really is no need.

It’s time for things to change  

I’m not usually a follower of trends and I certainly could never be accursed of being a dedicated follower of fashion – in any capacity – but this is a bandwagon I’m well and truly jumping on the back of.

We recently welcomed Duke, a Cocker Spaniel puppy into our household (that’s another story and worthy of another blog) and as well as getting us up at 5.30am every morning he has also brought about a change.

I don’t know why, but during our walks I decided not to take my phone. At the time it seemed like a bold and brave step but, like Mark, I quickly realised the world wasn’t going to end.

In fact, thanks to our walks I have the chance to chat to my husband about the day ahead and what’s going on at work or with family and friends. It’s very cathartic as we glance out across the beautiful landscape at St Aiden’s RSPB reserve each morning and evening.

Although it’s only 2 hours of my day, I think it’s a good start and it does give me the head space to think about things more rationally. One of the biggest challenges with social media is that it is so immediate and whereas receiving news in this way can be beneficial, responding in the same manner rarely is.

I think that’s where some of the problems with social channels come from; act first and think later which in turn causes lasting damage either to yourself or someone else.

I’m not saying for one minute that I am going to close my social accounts, I don’t see the point given that this is how I stay in touch with an extensive family that are dotted around the world and my business relies on these channels, but I am going to limit my use.

I’m hoping that like Chris and Mark I can report back on the positive difference that this makes, and I fully intend to go home tonight and reach for a book rather than my phone.

If you are thinking about a tech detox or have given up altogether, how has it gone and what experiences can you share? All comments are welcome.

TROLLING NO LONGER BELONGS UNDER BRIDGES

Despite the fact that social media platforms have been around for a number of years now, with many of us incorporating these communication channels into our everyday lives, there are still people who either don’t understand how to use them or worse still, abuse them.

There is a real difference between the two audiences; one simply can’t get their head around why you would share information online to a potentially global audience, whereas the other takes it upon themselves to misuse the platforms to target, insult and intimidate other users with harmful or hateful comments.

Thankfully, most of us would never dream of sending a comment with the explicit intention of hurting another person’s feelings, but sadly that’s not the case for the minority. As ever with these situations, these people have now been given a name and it has been widely adopted by the social community.

Using social media for all the wrong reasons

Now, in my day, trolls featured in nursery rhymes and books. They typically lived under a bridge or in some other insalubrious environment and they would scare anyone that came near. Unfortunately, young people today now associate ‘trolls’ with individuals that intentionally target others with negative comments online.

Trolling is so prolific that there is even a programme about it. Far from being ashamed about their behaviour, some of these people actually make it a ‘hobby’ to post regular and often unnecessary comments to celebrities and those who have a larger social media following in the hope that they will incite a reaction.

The worst thing that a person can do is respond to a troll, but you can imagine how difficult it must be when your personal account is ‘under attack’ from these people as they spread malicious content online to be reviewed by a worldwide audience. It can’t be easy and it must impact on their lives.

I’ve never ‘got’ trolling and nor do I want to. In order to understand the psychology behind these people’s action would require me either to be a. a psychologist or b. someone who has some affinity or capacity to ‘understand’ the logic behind their actions – I don’t mind admitting, I’m neither.

Tackling the trolls

When I turned the TV on recently there was a programme which immediately caught my attention. Anything to do with social psychology or communication has me gripped, so this was a winner: Celeb Trolls: We’re Coming to Get You. It featured on Channel 4 and the basic idea is to find a celebrity, review their social channels – in this case twitter – and identify those that troll them most frequently.

I consider myself to be pretty thick skinned but some of the comments were aggressive, suggestive, violent and in most instances hateful, all of which was likely to cause at the least psychological distress. What’s interesting however, is these trolls often post as an alias – basically, they hide.

I’ve always said to clients, friends and family, before you post anything on any social media channels ask yourself if you would shout it out loud in a pub or coffee shop – if the answer is no, then question if you should be sharing it at all. It appears that these people could have done with the same advice.

When there’s nowhere left to hide

The producers of the programme made it their mission to find just one of the people that had been trolling the celeb, in this case it was Zahida Allen, who has appeared on a number of reality TV shows. The person that had been trolling her made a series of comments that were unnecessary and offensive – standard practice for a person trying to antagonise and in turn generate a response.

At this point, the search was on, as an investigation team started to piece together the information they could from the troll’s social media accounts. It was no surprise, but all the same a harsh reminder, to see just how easy it is to identify someone and to find out where they lived, worked and what interests they had.

It didn’t take long for the individual to be tracked down and he was sent an email to give him the chance to explain his actions to Zahida in person.   

In all fairness, the individual agreed to meet and was very apologetic. He had no excuse for his behaviour other than he felt that it was common practice and therefore ‘joined in’. Zahida wasn’t the only celeb he had trolled and he freely admitted he never thought it was cause real harm or offence.

Although somewhat ashamed, he didn’t seem as appalled by his own behaviour as he should have been but did mention that his parents had both advised him against featuring on the programme and made it clear he would be finding somewhere else to live if he ever did it again.

Lessons learnt

I really enjoyed this programme and felt that it could and should be used as a real lesson to the younger generation that are using social media channels for all the wrong reasons. It’s so easy to hide behind a screen but sooner or later your behaviour will catch up with you and that’s what people need to realise.

Social media has its benefits and when used correctly can be a very powerful communications tool. Like anything, in the wrong hands it can be dangerous and damaging.

I’d like to see more programmes like this, that provide case studies of the impact that an individual’s actions can have when they abuse the technology that should enhance our experiences and improve our engagement.

For me, I will be passing on details of the programme in the hope that more people learn these lessons and start to implement best practice. Perhaps trolling will take on a different meaning as these people are made to take responsibility for their actions and the comments they make, intended or otherwise.  

Social media is not a sales tool

ta-da

With the continuing popularity of Facebook and the increasing appreciation of Twitter and LinkedIn as tools for business, people could be excused for thinking that these platforms should sit within the sales function of a business. After all, it’s a great way to ‘target’ an audience and to ‘push out’ information about a product or service.

However this is where many brands and businesses go wrong.

No one, and I mean no one, likes to be sold at. The world is full of marketing messages; just walking down the street and you will be greeted with a plethora of information, all carefully displayed on posters, banners, billboards and digital signage.

The truth is that we live in an era of over-abundance. The best campaigns will attract attention, not necessarily because of the copy that they use or even the imagery that they display, but often because they are simple and they are integrated; they are shared across several mediums, giving a consumer numerous opportunities to engage.

But what about those businesses that don’t have multi-million-pound budgets and those that have to make the most of every single penny? Many turn to social media as a quick fix and again, this is a mistake.

There are three mistakes that people make when they consider social media as a springboard to sales:

–          Social media is free

–          There are millions of people waiting to be sold at

–          Once people like my page or follow me they will buy my product

As a PR agency we try to explain to people that if you treat social media platforms as a sales channel you will immediately turn your prospective customers off. It goes back to the age-old adage, ask not what people can do for you…

The idea of social media was to share insightful and interesting information with people, not to sell at them. There are ways that you can add value through a Facebook page, which may seem like selling, such as offering money off and promotional codes, but the truth is that you are giving something back.

With the rules that are in place with Facebook, which will limit your audience reach unless you put a budget behind paid for advertising, it can be difficult to reach the volume of people you may need to make a real difference to your business.

This doesn’t mean that Facebook should be dismissed when it comes to sharing news updates about products but it does mean that it becomes a very expensive medium if all you are going to do is to pay to share a picture.

There is a balance, and that is why when we work with clients we explain that putting a plan in place that is carefully thought out and considered, that follows themes that will keep people interested and that will encourage them to come back time and time again is a better approach than sending out the same advert or trying to be quirky and falling short of the mark.

People are increasingly time poor and with so much information on the internet they don’t want to spend time clicking to links, accessing other web pages or viewing long and meaningless video. They want content that is helpful, informative and if at all possible, funny. This is what makes is shareable.

Using an example from the real world to put this into context, how would you feel if you walked into a coffee shop and you met someone for the first time and they started the conversation by asking you what insurance you have or whether you wanted an ISA?

For most of us this would make us feel uneasy and it would be more than probable that the next time you bumped into this person you would try to avoid them.

The same can be said for a brand. If you start to ‘shout’ your messages at people then they are less likely to want to engage with you. As an alternative, try to ask their opinion; what are they looking for, what would make the customer experience better for them, what do they want to see from you in the future?

Building brand loyalty isn’t easy, in fact, it is a long-term strategy of most businesses but a starting point is remembering that it is about building relationships. Customers want to feel valued and special. They want to know that you care and that you have them in mind, not your sales targets.

The automotive sector is a good example of an industry that has evolved with the times. Many dealerships have recognised that people research online before they visit a showroom and so they offer as much information as they can online.

You will find videos and podcasts, images and testimonials from customers. At this point you will also find a button which will allow you to visit your nearest dealership for a test drive. What they have done is to give you all of the information you need – that you are searching for. They have then provided you with the option to book a test drive.

The process is driven by you (no pun intended) – not them, which makes it feel less forced. What happens when you get into the dealership is up to the sales team but rather than jump on you and offer a knock-down price, as was once the case, you increasingly find that showrooms look like coffee shops that could rival leading high street brands with their skinny lattes and chocolate topped mochas.

The point is that to use social media effectively it isn’t about selling, it’s about communicating. It’s about building profile. Once you have a strong brand presence you can then start to turn engagement into loyalty. The process is not simple, it is not quick but over time it often works.

If your marketing is planned, sustainable and does not rely on the misguided belief that if you put thousands of pounds behind a Facebook post that it will make you a millionaire, a social strategy could become a useful facet to your wider marketing activity.

#Isitok to integrate social and TV

I hadn’t realised just how used we all are to sharing our thoughts about certain TV programmes and documentaries with absolute strangers until we started to talk about it in the office recently.

I’ve never really considered how my consumption of media has changed as a result of social media, but after taking a step back I realise that actually, in some instances, I expect as much from my Twitter feed as a I do the programme that I’m watching.

Take the Last Leg for example. As well as being one of my all time favourite programmes it is a show that openly champions the use of social media to engage with a captive audience and share ‘real time’ opinions that then instigate further debate.

Using #Isitok the presenters integrate the use of Twitter into the show in order to collate responses from viewers. A series of questions will be asked and the hashtag means that people are able to respond and also engage with each other.

Some people aren’t so sure about the need to integrate social into programming and I can understand that view, after all if you’re watching a programme shouldn’t you be giving it your full attention or just sitting back to relax and enjoy?

I think there’s an element of both. I watch certain programmes without even considering social media, but then there are others that have me almost habitually grabbing for my iPhone.

In most instances it seems to be documentaries and programmes that have a human interest or some element of social psychology behind them that I find most interesting. I like to see what other people think and agree or contradict based on my own feelings.

Gogglebox is another great show when it comes to Twitter. There are always insightful comments, which are often about very serious situations, which despite being ‘out of date’ create engagement and debate online.

For me, social media and TV are perfect bedfellows and as someone who doesn’t spend a great deal of time in front of the box, when I do it’s great to know that there is a wider audience who are willing to compare and contrast views about the programme we are all watching.

So, #Isitok? Yes, I think it is. In fact, I’d be lost without it and if you don’t want to engage with people online while watching TV, the answer is simple – turn your phone off.

Ends.

OPEN CLEAN UP WITH ASTONISH(ING) WIN

11.10.14 Astonish 2

Ok, we know the headline is a little cheesy but you can’t blame us with such exciting news to share. Believe me, corks would be popping if we were your typical champagne quaffing agency… but then we’d get nothing done, so we’ll keep it to a blog and a few cheeky team drinks.

So, back to business, we are really excited to announce that here at Open Communications we have added a further client to our extensive portfolio following our appointment as preferred lead PR and marketing communications agency for Astonish, the UK top ten cleaning brand.

We will be working with another local team, Statement, to devise and implement an annual communications and social media plan for the business focusing on engagement, reach and penetration into households throughout the country. Creative is well underway for a series of campaigns that will uplift activity throughout the next twelve months with the objective to raise the profile of the brand and reinforce its strong heritage and cruelty free credentials, along with its value for money and quality proposition.

We are always keen to share our news – it would be strange for a PR agency not to – and more so the feedback from our clients.

Head of Marketing for Astonish Cleaning Products, Katy Clark said: “We have big plans for Astonish over the next twelve months and beyond; as a result we wanted to work with agencies that would share our passion for our product range. We have some great news and exciting plans to share and we know that Open Comms and Statement will assist us in doing just that.”

Astonish is a successful, ambitious and growing brand. As a British manufacturer with a rich heritage we are very excited to be working with the team to meet with their objectives. Astonish is a great addition to our growing portfolio of clients that require a full PR programme of activity to cover consumer, trade, corporate and social media support. It’s great to see that once again our straight talking, realistic approach to the brief meant that we could hit the ground running and get to work.

Plans are underway for the launch of the first creative campaign for the brand, which will focus on its success to date and will rely on social media, managed content, corporate, consumer and trade PR activity. Watch this space, there is lots of exciting news to share from Astonish and we hope to do a sparkling job for them! Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Why guidelines can be a lifeline

It never fails to amuse me when people say that they have all of their marketing under control and whip out a document with ‘BRAND GUIDELINES’ proudly displayed across the front. What people don’t seem to appreciate is that even though having brand guidelines is a good starting point, it does not always take into account the bigger picture.

As an example, if someone picks up your brand guidelines document it is likely to explain how your logo or strap line should be displayed. It is not however as likely to go into the detail about the tone of voice you should use when communicating about your brand or the factors you should take into account when using social media.

You see, brand guidelines are one thing but communications guidelines are quite another. The two do and should work hand-in-hand but very rarely are they proudly displayed together.

I recently hosted a strategy session with a local artistic contemporary photographer – Nigel Tooby – who is building his brand. In addition to understanding the importance and significance of how he projects his image, he was also more than aware of the need to develop his communications strategy.

I was pleased that as a creative, Nigel had taken the time to consider how he communicates effectively with his audiences. Many companies and even big businesses and corporations focus on their branding but not on their marketing communications.

A communications strategy should support the business objectives, making it a fundamental part of a company’s growth potential. Taking the time to consider the personality of your business, the tone of voice you use, a positioning statement and longer term aspirations and goals can be the difference between success and so, so.

I’m not sure whether this business has gone through a communications strategy session or if they have specific guidelines for their engagement but Yorkshire Tea do a great job of reinforcing their personality in all that they do. As well as being consistent across mediums, they are also friendly and funny (which is not easy!).

There are lots of other brands who get it right but many that seem to neglect their marketing communications in favour of ‘bigger things’ that command significantly higher budgets. I find it endlessly infuriating that the foundations of a company are discarded due to cost – we can all put our prices up but as specialists we also deliver a professional service and this should be recognised.

My advice would be to start with the basics. Get your positioning and messaging right and then everything else will follow – don’t skip to the branding because you think it’s more exciting; all that happens is that your audience will see a disconnect between the image your project and the personality you portray and that certainly won’t give you the return on investment you’re looking for.

COALFIELDS CALLS UPON OPEN FOR PR SUPPORT

07.09.14 Coalfields Regeneration Trust

The Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the organisation dedicated to providing support, guidance and funding for people living within former mining towns and villages, has appointed Open Communications as its preferred PR and marketing communications agency covering England.

Working closely with the team from England at the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Open Communications is tasked with raising the profile of the organisation both within the communities and to a national audience, securing coverage in relevant regional, national and trade media and supporting with social media activity and marketing communications.

Following a trial period of three months, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust has already experienced the results that Open Communications can achieve when working as an extension of its team. Achieving an audience reach of more than 8 million with a recent story, the agency now looks forward to building on successes to date and its productive relationship with the charity.

Head of Social Investment at Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Andy Lock said: “We had been in need of effective PR support for some time and approached Open for an informal discussion as we had heard good things about them. It was clear from this meeting that their philosophy and no nonsense approach to PR matched our aspirations and objectives.

He adds: “Open has very quickly established itself as an extended part of the operation, getting to know us and what makes us tick and translating this into impactful PR which is delivering great results. Their insightful input has challenged our preconceptions about `what works’. We are always impressed with their hard working ethic and commitment to go the extra mile to get the job done.”

Director of Open Communications, Lindsey Davies said: “We always work with our clients as opposed to for them, this means that we can add extra value to the service we offer. The Coalfields Regeneration Trust is a fantastic organisation and we are very much looking forward to developing our relationship further as we continue to support them with PR, social media and marketing communications.”

Open Communications, the straight talking PR and marketing communications agency, was launched by Lindsey Davies and Emma Lupton in 2008. The business, which is RAR approved and was named as one of the Top Agencies outside of London, has since grown and is commissioned by a range of brands from family run businesses to multi-national household names.

Based at Nostell Priory Estate Yard, the agency now manages the PR and social media activity for companies including POM-BEAR, the teddy shaped snack brand; Paragon, the print and document management service provider; Xamax, the branded clothing specialist and HARIBO, the UK’s leading gums and jellies brand.