Tag: social media

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.

PR stands for Press Release

When you work in PR (public relations) there are some days when you wonder what your job description may look like if you were to write down everything you were asked to do. This is no bad thing you understand, as the huge variety of tasks certainly helps to keep things interesting, while raising a few exciting challenges along the way.

This is perhaps why I find it so frustrating when people tell me that they can ‘do PR’ because they have written a press release or had something printed in a newspaper. The purpose of appointing a PR agency shouldn’t be to just write copy – that’s what copy writers are there for and the clue is in the title.

A PR agency is there to manage a brands reputation, to identify opportunities that will extend the messaging of a campaign to take it to a totally new level, or to come up with creative recommendations that will deliver a stunt that will capture the attention of the media, while also educating consumers about what that particular product or brand has to offer.

There’s also the corporate side of things, when an agency may be appointed to manage a stakeholder or internal communications campaign, ensuring that a message is clear and concise, using the right tone of voice and being disseminated in the right way, to the right audience.

Sponsorship often falls under the remit of a PR agency, along with third party associations and event management. Although you may find that copy is required to support these activities, it isn’t the sum of the process and everything from launching to making sure the brand gets the most from an association – which often includes sampling – can be included along the way.

Really the job of a PR has no defined start or finish, as long as you are managing and supporting the reputation of a brand and business, focusing on how it chooses to communicate and engage with its target audiences, then it kind of falls in to our remit.

As we have said in the past there is no point in trying to be all things to all people and that isn’t what I’m suggesting – there are times when we work with other specialist agencies to deliver integrated briefs and this is when you can take one concept or theme and really push it to make as much noise across as many mediums as possible.

At the moment we are working on so many different things that when Friday comes around I feel like my head is spinning with ideas and variations on the campaigns and proposals that we are working on for clients both in business to business and consumer markets.

PR is creative, expressive, exciting and demanding and writing is just one element of what we do on a daily basis to manage the reputation of the brands and businesses we work with. So next time you hear someone say that they can ‘do PR’ because they can draft a press release, please pass on my advice, they can’t! If you think that PR is all about writing a press release then it’s time to take a long hard look at your future career in the business because it won’t last long.

 

I just called to say… Happy Birthday

Did you know that the mobile phone turned 40 today? I find it hard to believe that the little gadget that I lose regularly around the house and office, which seems to be on permanent charge and distracts me throughout the day with a flashing red light is actually older than I am.

It’s also even harder to believe that in just 40 years we have grown so dependent on our phones that when you do leave it at home, or end up in an area of no reception (the Yorkshire Dales is a nightmare for those who care), you feel more like you have lost your link to the outside world and immediately have some paranoid breakdown that everyone you know really is trying to get hold of you all at once!

It’s not just about individuals, businesses now find it increasingly difficult to function without phones particularly since emails have been received through them and don’t even get me started about social media sites. Now that we can tweet, update our status and share videos there is no stopping us – we’re all multi-media, cross channel, integrated marketing experts (easy for me to say hey?)

It’s even come to the point where you can purchase your KFC and McDonalds using your phone – in fact it seems that you can do almost anything if you have the right device and the perfect app. Ironically the one thing people seem to do least is use the gadgets for what it was originally intended – calling people.

I can’t wait to see how the phone continues to change the shape of the marketing industry and assists with bringing campaigns to life through apps, imagery and video. There’s no doubt with new technologies including Blippar that there is scope to be more creative than ever before.

Long may the success and evolution of the phone continue and Happy Birthday mobile phone, wherever you’re hiding!

 

The humble #hashtag

 

How times have changed. It’s hard to believe that you could once hold a conversation without the word hashtag ever being mentioned, in fact many people would probably have questioned what the little symbol was for until Twitter came along and it became a global phenomenon overnight.

Most celebrities crave for the stardom the hashtag received and continues to attract. Its use, and dare I suggest overuse, is possibly questionable in some instances but it goes without saying that #FF and #Yorkshirehour, plus of course let us never forget #susanalbumparty, are now a part of our daily lives. Ok, the latter not so much so but it still makes me smile!

I noticed today in the i that they have addressed the humble hashtag and even dedicated a DPS (double page spread) to the story – oh what a transformation, from unused and neglected to household reference in a matter of years.

What I hadn’t realised is that the use of the hashtag for grouping information or searching themes and trends should be attributed (if the piece in the paper is to be believed – and we all know when it’s in the paper it has to be true!) to a man named Chris Messina.

Well done Chris – you turned an innocent symbol into a global superstar. But is it really useful? Well, you can debate that people will hashtag any old thing in order to try and engage and converse with others but the truth of the matter is that if leading broadcasters are using hashtags before programmes then they must see some benefit in them.

I do enjoy watching a programme while also following my twitter feed. The Olympics wouldn’t have been the same without it and as for documentaries I simply can’t help but giggle along with some of the comments made – I even go so far as to retweet a few if I think they’re worth it.

So the humble hashtag, are you a hashtagger or do you prefer to stick to straight forward conversation without attempting to be ‘down with the kids?’ There is no doubt that things are changing all of the time and a whole new world of conversation is upon us – the question is #areyouin or #areyouout?

Just your average week – or not!

I’ve been a little quiet on our blogging front over the past week so apologies – I’m sure you have all been sat waiting eagerly for my next update *wink, wink*

So anyway, I do have my excuses for not posting which start with a two day trip to the largest food show in the country. As a PR agency we don’t just sit at our desks writing press releases our relationships and role, thankfully, go way beyond this.

The International Food Exhibition (IFE) takes place every two years and we went along with a client to listen to speakers talk about topics such as how the snacking market is changing, the increase in health claims and changes to legislation within food packaging. We also wanted to take the time to find out what new trends and innovations were hitting the shelves and which brands were shouting loudest – plus, more importantly, how they were doing it.

The show was fantastic. There were two halls full of stands with many of them offering samples – you can’t go wrong!

It wasn’t until Tuesday evening that I realised just how much information I had gathered when I was trying to get my bags – and samples – back on the train. So it was back to good old Wakefield before dashing home, getting changed and setting off to the Wakefield Council business celebration dinner.

The event was held at Space, which is a venue I hadn’t been to before. We all sat down to a super dinner and inspirational speech from Richard Noble, who holds the land speed world record and is working hard to create a car that will go 1,000 mph. Now that’s some going!

The talk was really interesting and it was a great opportunity to chat with colleagues from the District and meet with some new faces over a glass of wine or three.

Wednesday came along and we were exhibiting at the Wakefield Business Conference. As a Wakefield based PR agency we are always keen to get out and about. The city has a great deal to offer and as the preferred PR partner for the event we wanted to show our faces and also meet new contacts.

The day went very quickly and for those who came along we hope you picked up some of our – now famous – mints. Remember people we offer a ‘fresh’ approach to PR – do you see what we did there?

Anyway Thursday came around but felt strangely like it should be Monday and it was catch-up day. Emails, paperwork, campaign planning, new business proposals all to be written in the day. Then an internal (at the pub if I’m honest) meeting after work and back home.

And so we are here today. A meeting this morning and new business session this afternoon all pieced together with copy writing for a consumer competition, recommendations for campaign engagement with clients, social media updates, suggested social media strategies for the next six months and back to traditional press copy with several comment pieces to be drafted before close of play – oh and a blog!

Phew. So, you see, not such an average week in the office but then that’s what makes working in PR so challenging and rewarding.

I’m pleased to say that the week is yet to be over – after all it’s only 4pm and we don’t do part time at Open Comms – so we’re going to a final event in celebration of Wakefield Business Week tonight.

The event is aptly named Beer and a Burger and we are all going along to share in the success of the city and to raise a glass to business. It’s always fun to meet with the great and good of the city and to couple this with beer and burger is inspired.

After that I will be heading home and don’t mind admitting after all that I think I’ll hit the sofa and sleep for a week!  Night all.

 

Why careful doesn’t mean boring

I’ve worked with lots of creative people throughout my career, many of whom I totally respect for the fantastic work and ideas they have developed, but I can’t help feeling that fairly conclusively there has always been a belief that when you work with large marketing and PR agencies careful has to mean boring.

I disagree. I think in some instances careful should be changed to ‘managed by professionals’.

If I was the owner of a brand and I had hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of pounds to spend I wouldn’t want to let that budget loose on a team that would come up with stunts and ‘creative’ ideas that could be to the detriment of my business longer term.

Here’s the thing – pretty pictures can be very appealing and they can even make what in the cold light of day would be a ludicrous idea seem like a brainwave. I’ve seen it happen many times before and it usually lands on the door of the PR agency to sort it out once the ‘big idea’ hits the media and is found to be the emperor’s new clothes, or worse.

At Open Communications we have always maintained that we would work within a client’s budget to come up with campaigns that first and foremost meet with objectives. I can hear some agencies groan just reading this but it’s true. What’s the point of even employing an agency otherwise?

We could come up with yet another stunt that put yet another over-sized object in Trafalgar Square, we could consider a one off activity that would mean we claimed much of the budget in management and had little to do for the rest of the year and we could chase industry awards with our big ideas but the reality is that we just don’t work like that.

We try to create long term strategies that we can implement over time to ensure that our clients engage across all channels and with all audiences. We use online, in print, digital, outdoor and sponsorship. We don’t profess to be all things to all people but one of the things that I am most proud of is that we are good at what we do – and that’s PR, traditional and online.

So for all those who think that careful is boring just consider how you would manage your project or brief if you were playing with your own money.

 

Be careful what you tweet about

I remember a time when a tweet was the noise a bird made – not anymore. People of all ages and from all backgrounds and sectors are taking to the social networking tool, using it to communicate with a global audience.

Most people have got their head around the hashtag and now recognise the importance of using twitter as a business generation tool, as well as a platform from which to simply engage and share content.

As tends to be the case, there are always a minority who try to spoil things and in this instance these people are known as ‘trolls’. They aren’t green and they don’t live under bridges but in my own opinion they probably should!

These people go out of their way to provoke reactions from others using twitter by being rude and offensive. The good news is that this may become a thing of the past – or at least be reduced – if new laws are to come into force which will directly apply to tweets.

The BBC has created a great news article today which focuses on the laws in relation to twitter and how they will change. It also uses some really good ‘real life’ cases to put the legal implications into context.

It goes without saying that there will be some who criticise these new legal practices but personally I think something has to change. There is a definite argument for free speech but what needs to be determined is when that becomes defamation of character or brand and takes an option to the masses, which is then reproduced (retweeted) and misconstrued as fact.

My advice to anyone reading this blog is to remember that when you use twitter it isn’t like talking with your mates down at the pub – you are publishing material to be shared. Twitter is a social messaging tool which promotes the opportunity to share and be shared – it is not a personal diary.

However accessible the internet is, sharing content needs to be taken seriously and until people recognise the implications my advice would be to carefully consider what you make public. It wouldn’t be the first time someone found their ‘joke’, light hearted comment or retweet landed them in a whole host of hot water and in some instances behind bars!

Perhaps we should take some advice from a cartoon friend of mine: “If you can’t say nothing nice, then don’t say nothing at all.”

It’s all in the timing

Social media, content marketing, engagement, push, viral, digital… need I go on? These are all words that are used frequently in the world of marketing, PR and communications and they all lead back to one thing – attracting attention and sharing a message.

What I’ve noticed is that brands who have got it right, in my opinion, are those that are able to turn things around quickly. Take Bodyform as a classic, or Specsavers as another, then there’s Richard Branson and his stunt announcing the BA couldn’t get it up and Paddy Power’s ambush of the Ryder Cup.

The way that these brands have been in a position to turn around their campaigns so quickly, never mind come up with them in the first place, is fantastic. Not only are they creative and quirky they capture attention and get their message across. At the end of the day, most brands use PR and marketing in the first instance to raise the profile of their business and in these cases they do exactly that.

The problem of course is that it is often impossible to get approval to turn something around in such limited timescales however the more that brands become aware of the benefits to ‘almost real time’ engagement the better.

It seems to me that the future is all about the timing and that means reacting within hours as opposed to days. Let’s hope that more brands see the benefit in putting PR at the top of their list of priorities because this is simply the best way to shout about your brand which subsequently puts your products in front of the consumer.

Finally, PR takes it seat at the boardroom table

I’ve just finished reading an excellent article in Management Today magazine. The piece focuses on the changing face of PR – and I don’t mean one shade of designer lipstick to another – no, finally it would appear that the industry is getting the recognition that it deserves and is taking a seat around the boardroom table.

Having worked in the PR industry for more than a decade and with a BA (Hons) degree in the specialism, I have long been an advocate of the merits of PR when it is practiced correctly and professionally.

As I see it there are problems with the PR industry in the same way that there are problems with any other; you have the good and you have the bad and it can be difficult to decide which is which. One will wine and dine you in fancy restaurants, while the other tells you the harsh truth and what to do about it – far less appealing than a good lunch but undoubtedly more beneficial in the long run.

The truth of the matter is that PR has always been about reputation – that has never changed and be it online or in print, what is said in the street or down the pub, it all goes back to the same thing; if you don’t know what people are saying about you, there is nothing you can do about it.

Businesses are thankfully coming around to the understanding that during any situation, good or bad, the first point of call is to make sure that you are communicating effectively with your audiences. In order to do this an organisation requires an advisor, a specialist, someone to rely on with their plans, aspirations and concerns.

The piece in Management Today very much focuses on the changes to PR based on the use of social media but I think there is more to it than that.

Tim Bell comments: “If you want to live in a transparent world then someone has to give the information about you. If you don’t want someone else to, you have to do it yourself. That’s what PR people do.”

Sure, social media and a desire by the consumer to share their thoughts and opinions with the world – plus having the ability to do so quickly and easily across a multitude of platforms – has meant that PR professionals have more to do but that is simply good practice and the evolution of an industry which spans hundreds of years.

The real change I think has come in a shift of mind set. People working in PR have thankfully taken a long, hard look at the industry and realised that as a discipline we were losing out. We weren’t taken seriously in our tottering high heels and we needed to toughen up and take our seat around the boardroom table.

Those who were serious about a career started to showcase their skills in the situations that deliver harsh recognition; a crisis without a communications professional who is experienced, able and capable of dealing with it can bring a business literally crashing to its knees.

In Management Today Jeremy Hazlehurst comments:

“PR the profession has changed beyond recognition in the past decade. Although media relations activities have burgeoned, involving the paper press, online publications, television and bloggers, it is only a small part of the job now. Press offices have been swallowed up by communications departments that deal with investor relations, analysts, shareholders, regulators and government. All are the guardians of the most precious and difficult to measure of assets – corporate reputation.”

I’ve never been ‘typically PR’ and have always felt that the discipline should be considered a necessity as opposed as a nice to have, not just because I work in the industry but because I see every day the benefits that it delivers, which are often measured less by coverage and more by ‘real life’ results and the situations which are in some cases avoided.

It’s no secret that I almost left the PR industry altogether before launching Open Communications with my business partner Emma because of the way in which some agencies work. I didn’t want to go to lunch or out to parties, I didn’t want to charge by the hour working on campaigns I knew were over-priced and wouldn’t deliver and I didn’t want to feel like I was doing the clients I was working with a disservice by not going that extra mile.

What I did want was to work with journalists so that my clients would hit the headlines, I wanted to use communication to generate business, really get to the heart of the companies I was working for and be a part of their success. I wanted to advise them in the best way possible and explain in no uncertain terms that as a direct result of my actions their business was stronger and that was down to reputation, which was driven by PR and communications.

Thankfully I can now do all of these things. I have always been a champion of ‘real PR’ but I am pleased that others are now recognising the merits to working with agencies and practitioners.

Cynical or otherwise when you look at the organisations that have failed over recent years in many instances arguably the banks have been at fault but it is also interesting to note that many of them were lacking in direction, their customers and prospects weren’t aware of exactly what they offered and this was down to poor communication. As a result they weren’t selling and in turn ceased to exist.

I hope that this new attitude to PR continues and that businesses recognise the value of the services that practitioners and agencies offer.  The truth of the matter is that PR should be at the heart of any business model and in order to get it right you need to rely on a professional.

 

Never mind a gym membership – is your business in shape?

It’s that time of year again when all we hear about is detoxing, joining a gym and getting back in shape after eating and drinking far too much over the festive period. While we all take the time to consider our personal health during January, how many of us actually stop to ask if our business is fighting fit so that we are ready to take on whatever 2013 has to offer?

There’s no doubt that 2012 brought with it some challenges and that the news headlines were once again littered with announcements of companies falling into administration but that’s no reason to pull the covers over our heads and close the doors. If anything after a festive break and rest we should be ready and raring to go with great ideas and creative plans for the forthcoming year.

Whether it’s new opportunities, expansion and growth or more of the same we need to put all of our energies into getting excited about our plans and sharing them with our employees, customers and prospects. If we can pass on our enthusiasm and passion we can encourage others to do the same and this helps to keep our businesses, products and services front of mind.

Here at Open Communications, we are suggesting that businesses put together a list of their New Year’s resolutions for 2013 – but that first they focus on the company rather than themselves as an individual. These resolutions could be anything from improving internal communications to increase productivity, right through to generating new business through effective PR, marketing materials and use of relevant social media tools.

The easiest way to manage this process and get some real value out of the exercise is to write down your resolutions in one column and then put simple steps to achieving them in another. Although it sounds almost too straight forward, approaching challenges in this way means that you are more likely to work hard to achieve them.

It’s also a great excuse to ‘regroup’ and get your whole business involved and working together. Hold a meeting and find out what employees want to see from the company over the next twelve months.  Ask what drives them on and what they think makes the organisation different and exciting from others in the market? Encourage them to get behind the business and to want to be a part of its success during the year ahead.

The most important thing is to use the New Year to get motivated, organised and ready to learn something completely new that will add value to your company.

We would guess that many of the resolutions that people make will focus on a business communicating more effectively with an audience; this may be current customers, prospects or employees. Remember that in order to communicate you have to consider setting aside the time to do this and do it well. Reputation comes from the impression that you give and you need these to reflect your values and vision.

If you would like to start the New Year as you mean to go on and you want to get excited about the year ahead and all the benefits that it has to offer then think about what impression you want people to have of your company. What do you have to give (product or service), how does it differ from others and most importantly how are you going to let people know about it?

We are sure that 2013 is going to be a very exciting and productive year and we are looking forward to working with both current and prospective clients large and small. We hope that you will join us in making resolutions that we will work towards, keep and evolve throughout the year.

Here’s to a great 2013 and the many opportunities that it will bring.