Tag: strategy

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.

Keeping it lean

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

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

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

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

–          Current position

–          Objectives

–          Target audience(s)

–          Tools that are used to communicate with audiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–          How do we communicate internally

–          How should we communicate to our clients

–          What do we do to appeal to prospects

–          Do our target audiences communicate in the same way

–        What media do they read and by what medium

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

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

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

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

 

Are you giving your business the right tweetment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Educating Yorkshire, a good move or a PR disaster?

Education is a strange sector, not least because the launch of Academies has seen schools and colleges run more like businesses than the traditional classrooms that many of us remember. This in turn has seen many establishments get the numbers right but miss a fundamental point – if they are to run like a business then they need to communicate and as such need a strategy in place to do so effectively with all stakeholders.

As a business model, schools and colleges have a wealth of people that it is imperative that they communicate with, yet many still rely on the ‘letter home’ or email to parents in order to ‘tick a box’. Many have struggled since the introduction of Freedom of Information requests (FOI), which mean that journalists can gain access to data and develop stories that once would have been unfathomable.

The problem with those who work in education is that they don’t see the value in PR. They believe that they can carry on regardless as long as the league tables and Ofsted announcements give them glowing recommendations, the problem is that this, in my opinion, draws these organisations into a false sense of security.

Educating Yorkshire is surely a great example. There is no doubt that it is going to make great viewing and following the first series, Educating Essex, which made the principal and vice principal local celebrities, it will gain the headlines – however I can’t help thinking that after simply watching the adverts I would rather home school than send my child to this Academy.

So why choose to put your Academy forward for a programme like this? The coverage has to be balanced and with a series like this it is most certainly warts (or shaved eyebrows) and all! What would possess a head master who is clearly very proud of his achievements and the local area that he grew up in, stand up to be metaphorically shot at?

Lack of advice is the first thing. I can’t imagine that any PR agency in the land with half an ounce of common sense would put their client forward for this show. Children are unpredictable, staff are under pressure and the very nature of more than 30 hormone induced teenagers in a room together has disaster written all over it!

I could be proven wrong of course and this Academy could be inundated with people hoping to attend with parents leaping for joy that little Jonny and Susie have featured on the television as a result of a playground scrap or because they haven’t handed their homework in, but I doubt it very much.

I think it’s about time that schools, colleges and Academies started to take the role of communications seriously. As the very nature of the industry they work in becomes more competitive, they need to address the balance and start to promote what they offer and what makes them different.  It’s all very well saying that you run an Academy, college or school like a business but this has to be taken literally in every sense, which includes getting your communications in order.

As an agency that has worked with one of the leading Academy Trusts in the country, we know exactly what these organisations are faced with from parents, governors, the local community and the media and it isn’t an easy task to manage, but it is essential that it is handled with care.

For those who get it right they can expect to see headlines with glowing reports but those that get it wrong need to be prepared. It’s no good ringing a lawyer when things go wrong and the headlines aren’t as glowing as you would expect – you need a PR professional and someone who can put together a strategy that will reassess the balance.

As for Educating Yorkshire, only time will tell but I think this is one decision or ‘claim to fame’ that the headmaster of this particular Academy will regret.

Reputation is our biggest asset, how have we got it so wrong?

 

 

 

There is absolutely no doubt that the PR industry has a less than positive reputation – but the irony is that we are tasked with managing the reputation of the brands that we work with, so how has it come to the point where we are unable to create positive associations for our specialism?

 

Personally I think the problems are deep routed and come from times gone by. Long gone are the days of lazy lunches, wining and dining and partying until dawn to roll into the office, totter on Prada heels and ‘fanny about with the press releases’.

 

PR is a specialism and like a naughty toddler the industry has had to grow up. During difficult times clients are looking at budgets, they are considering their spend and they are evaluating what investments are delivering a return. It’s common knowledge that marketing is always one of the first costs to be cut at times of austerity and we have all had to sit up and defend our position around the boardroom table.

 

There was an article on the BBC Website recently which made for uncomfortable reading but I hate to admit it did have a lot of truth behind it. What I find most interesting is the comments that are below the article which are a startling example of the job that we have to do to give the industry the credibility that I believe it now deserves.

 

When asked what I do for a living I often have to explain the role of PR in business and how the techniques that we use are invaluable to brands. Many people look at me with cynicism at best and repulsion at worst – what they don’t realise is that we don’t sit at a desk drafting articles and lunching. What we do is plan and manage the communications strategy for our clients to ensure that we meet with their objectives and support sales.

 

We work with print press, online media, bloggers, stakeholders, employees and partners – it’s certainly not a case of drafting a story and sending it to a database of journalists who may or may not choose to use it.

 

I would like to think that in the defence of PR things have changed quite considerably over recent years. I’m not suggesting that every agency is ethical, moral or even does the job well but there are those of us who are fighting our corner and showing just what PR can deliver.

 

And if you don’t believe me then take some wisdom from the BBC. Even if this article is somewhat dismissive of the PR stunt many of the leading businesses in the world have used PR techniques to create an impression, perception and reputation that in turn has resulted in a multi-million pound bank balance; Virgin and Innocent Drinks are just two fantastic examples.

 

So before you decide that the last thing you need is ‘Patsy’ tottering around your office and re-charging the costs for lunch at the Ivy, take a look at those who are doing the job and doing it well. You just might find the agency that you are looking for – the one that can add value to your reputation and your bottom line.