Tag: social media

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Who owns social media? Let’s discuss!

Last week I had the privilege of being invited to a thought leadership roundtable event in Leeds. Held at Aspire, Think Yorkshire, which is organised and supported by the Yorkshire Mafia and in this instance sponsored by Salesforce, was a roundtable event with a twist.

As a Director of Open Communications I was asked to attend as a representative for the marketing roundtable. The subject and question that we would be discussing was ‘Who owns social media?’

Great topic and a subject that was likely to generate a great deal of debate. I arrived at the venue, which is a former penny bank – and for those who haven’t had the chance to visit yet it’s beautiful and very ornate – and took my seat.

The table I was directed to was chaired by Rob Wilmot, the former CTO of Freeserve and internet entrepreneur. I have met with Rob before but have never had the chance to really discuss social media with him. Knowing his background and credibility as an advisor for all things social to some of the largest companies in the UK, I was keen to listen to what he had to say.

Along with others from a range of differing sectors, we gathered around and started the debate. Interestingly we ‘fell’ at the first hurdle. Almost all of us had interpreted the question differently. I had presumed that the question was asking whether social media is a digital or PR driven discipline, whereas others were looking at department responsibility and ownership based on brand or employee.

As a result of the question (and I still don’t know if it was simply luck or great judgement) and our differing interpretations the debate quickly gathered momentum and built over the course of the next hour and a half with comments and opinion exchanged and advice offered for those seeking the answers to ‘real life’ concerns or problems.  It was great!

Having worked with the team from Buy Yorkshire and The Yorkshire Mafia for some years, I was aware that events that they host are always well worth attending however I have to say that this was really something else.

I have been invited to round table discussions before; you sit, you talk, you drink coffee and you leave. At these sessions you may get some feedback and learn a trick or two but it’s more a sharing of common themes and beliefs than knowledge and strong opinion.  Also, with many of these events you are a mere observer, rather than a participant.

This was completely different and what made it even more impressive was the wider format of the event. You see, I was just one representative of two marketing roundtables that were taking place simultaneously – along with a further series of tables that were discussing other topics.

So, rather than hosting a roundtable event about a given topic, Think Yorkshire chose to bring together best in class professionals to discuss and debate subjects that they specialise in before the event culminated with a three course dinner. The finale of the dinner was a stroke of genius, as people were allocated to tables that would give everyone the chance to meet someone new and to share the outcomes of the discussions they had – therefore never being short of conversation.

What a fantastic idea.

I’m sure that lots of organisations will now follow this format and so they should but it will take some work to get the balance of business with relaxed discussion absolutely right. This is the first event I have been to in a long time where I genuinely felt that everyone was there to share their knowledge and get to know each other – not a single person asked for my card and better still I wasn’t told that ‘our businesses have synergy’ or the dreaded phrase ‘I notice you work with…’

A truly excellent event and something that I hope will be repeated very soon.

Well done to the Yorkshire Mafia, once again, job done.