Author: Katie Coxall

SOCIAL MEDIA: SHARE WITH CARE

For many of us, social media is as engrained within our lives as that all-important morning cup of tea. As such, it can be easy to overlook the importance of sharing with care. However, in today’s world, attitudes and approaches are changing at an ever-increasing pace. None of us knows what the future holds, which is why a responsible approach to what we detail online is vital.

This attitude shouldn’t just apply to brand channels, but personal ones too. Contrary to popular belief, the two personas are not entirely exclusive. What is shared via an individual’s own accounts can reflect negatively upon a business, and vice versa.

So, before diving head-first into sensitive territory, here are a few considerations which might just help you to avoid a social media crisis in the making:

Think ahead

Maybe it was a flippant reference to politics or a barely considered comment about environmental issues, the news cycle of late has shown that past opinions can quite quickly have significant repercussions.

While we must all still be able to share our feelings, carefully contemplating how and where this takes place can never be taken too seriously.

Trust us – your future self will thank you for it!

Consider context

Interpretation is always impacted by context. And naturally, over time, this will change. With social media and other online channels potentially hosting content for an indefinite period, it is important to think about how this could influence the way that a message is perceived.

After all, our thoughts and circumstances at age 20 are highly unlikely to reflect those at age 40. But the chances are that somewhere, those posts are saved and accessible to someone.

Behaving responsibly now, could save some incredibly uncomfortable consequences many years down the line.

Aim for accuracy

Fake news is common knowledge, but that doesn’t always mean it’s easy to spot.

Everyone, news outlets included, has an agenda. Remaining vigilant to this is essential if individuals and brands are to maintain a respectable presence online.

If you are sharing or commenting on an article or situation, make sure that you gain insight from more than one reputable source. This way, you are more likely to project an informed picture of a circumstance or event rather than a rash response you may live to regret.

‘If in doubt, leave it out’

A favourite saying of ours and one that has, to this day, never failed us.

Instinct is often surprisingly accurate. If it feels uncomfortable or risky, it is usually a sign that something is best avoided.

If the urge is still there, at the very least, ensure that you gain some reputable advice. The option to delete a comment, no matter how much you regret it, does not take away the fact that it was made in the first place.

What’s more, these days, technology allows for comments to by captured and stored by other users. This means that remarks can still be shared, long after they appear to have been removed.

Accept responsibility

If all else fails, know when to say sorry. If there’s one thing people hate more than someone who’s made a mistake, it’s a person who refuses to accept accountability for their actions.

But, if you’ve reached this stage, learn from past mistakes and seek reputable advice first. The very last thing that you need is a badly worded apology which doesn’t address the issue correctly. This can quite easily take the situation from bad to worse.

At Open Comms we maintain and monitor client social channels day in day out. So we like to think that we know a thing or two about presenting a positive picture for brands and businesses.

Whether it’s a company Twitter page, LinkedIn profile or Instagram feed, we can take the stress out of social media.

To speak to us about your business’ social channels, contact a member of the team on 01924 862477. Alternatively, email info@opencomms.co.uk.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: MANAGING THE REPUTATION OF A PR AGENCY

As a business, little can be deemed more important than reputation. Formed through the opinions of others, these assessments are based on a number of factors. Influencing everything from who chooses to work with you to who chooses to work for you. Left unmanaged, any negative connotations can easily become a make or break scenario.

As specialists in managing this rather complex balance, PR agencies should lead by example, instilling positive practices within their own organisations. This way, maintaining a strong reputation will always remain at the very top of the priority list – no matter how busy things get.

After all, once lost, a positive reputation can be much more difficult – although, not impossible – to regain.

Below you’ll find just some of the ways that Open Comms keeps its own long-standing and hard-earned reputation, front and centre.

Build a team with shared values

The team that you choose to employ needs to be more than just a box ticking exercise. Skills are incredibly important, but values are even more so. Your employees are a direct reflection of your business and have a significant influence on how it is perceived by others.

At Open Comms we look for shared values above all else. Skills can be taught, but attitude is often engrained. Once you find those that fit with your ethos, they can quickly become the most valuable asset that your business has.

Approach with honesty and integrity

Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. We’ve all seen and heard the stories, it really isn’t worth the reputational damage that can result from taking on a project that is too big, or too far outside of a business’ skill set – no matter how much money it could generate.

Failure to deliver on those promises will cause more harm than good. And may even impact an organisation’s long-term commercial sustainability.

This is why you’ll never find us taking on a project or client that isn’t quite right for us. Our enjoyment comes from securing excellent results – which is never going to happen if ‘the fit’ isn’t there.

Share good news

It may sound obvious, but people are never going to know about the fantastic things that your business is doing unless you tell them!

It could be that your company has exceeded its targets for the year, you could have secured a lucrative new contract or even helped out a charitable organisation in need. All of these developments are great examples of news that could and should be shared. Each will impact positively upon how others perceive your business, so make sure to use a great story wisely.

We’re so busy sharing great news for our clients that we don’t always get chance to share our own excellent updates, but it’s certainly an area that we intend to shout about during the coming year.

Watch this space!

Remain authentic and reputation will follow

There are so many opportunities to put your best foot forward, be that at an industry event or a regular social gathering. No matter what the occasion, forget about impressing others and be yourself. Better to have a reputation that reflects you and your business, than one that isn’t accurate.

It is usually easy to spot someone who remains true to themselves and it’s a much better basis for a future professional relationship. That’s not to say that the line doesn’t need to be drawn somewhere.

No matter what your weekend persona, swinging from the chandeliers at a business event might not be the best way forward!

Anyone who knows us will know that we love to socialise, and we certainly let our hair down from time to time. What you see is what you get, and it’s a mantra that has stood the business in good stead for many years.

If you’d like to discuss ways that the team at Open Comms can help in managing the reputation of your business, contact us on info@opencomms.co.uk or call 01924 862477.

SPINNING PLATES: THE IMPORTANCE OF MULTITASKING IN PR

PR is an incredibly exciting profession to be a part of. Each day is different and there is never time to get bored. With news angles changing by the hour, the industry is relentlessly fast paced. Add to this the fact that we have a portfolio of clients spanning multiple sectors, we must remain constantly alert. All of this while simultaneously managing numerous campaigns and social media platforms. It’s no wonder that working in PR is frequently likened to ‘spinning plates’.

If you feel a little out of breath already, you’re not alone! But, with some careful preparation and a lot of practise, the pace of PR becomes second nature. All while remaining as exhilarating as ever.

Plan, schedule and adapt

Keeping on top of each of these elements requires a lot of planning, so being prepared in this profession is a must. Only by creating robust schedules is it possible to consistently deliver all that is needed for our clients.

That’s not to say that there aren’t unexpected things to deal with too. In fact, much of our work involves little notice and short deadlines. Unfortunately, the news agenda waits for no one. If we want our clients to be on the correct side of it, being responsive and adaptable is vital.

Love to learn and learn to succeed

A love of learning is essential in PR, especially if you work agency side. Not only is it necessary to build on your understanding of the industry, but with each new client there are further opportunities to grow.

Devising social media and content marketing schedules for brands, PR has quickly become the profession responsible for subject matter experts and thought leadership. This means we need to be well versed in topics that we may never previously have imagined.

Being adaptable and willing to learn is a must for anyone wanting a career in PR.

Review, revise and thrive

Just when you think a task has been ticked off your ever-expanding list – think again!

To uphold the highest standards, approval processes are stringent. At Open Comms, regardless of seniority within the company, nothing leaves the building without having been seen by another set of eyes.

Each piece of content is then sent to the client for further approval. While this usually hits the mark, we are always open to revisions. After all, we want everything that we produce to be as close to perfect as possible. That way, our clients receive only the very best from us.

With feedback coming thick and fast, resilience is a really important quality for anyone working in the industry. Each client has their own style, so being able to adapt and respond to the needs of different personalities is certainly a skill worth having.

If you’d like to hear more about our spinning plates and juggling tendencies, or are interested in hearing more about the serious side of Open Comms (although we do find that a little giggle from time to time goes a long way) – visit the ‘what we do‘ page, give us a call on 01924 862477 or contact a member of the team on info@opencomms.co.uk.

REDIRECTING BUDGETS TO PR FOR SUSTAINABLE RESULTS

For many of us, it is human nature to invest in those areas that reap immediate rewards. Depending upon a business’ objectives and the tactics being used, PR isn’t always one of those things. This can lead companies to allocate their budgets elsewhere. However, with a little time, patience and expertise, the benefits achieved through a sustained programme of activity, can elevate an organisation to levels which far outweigh financial spend.

That’s not to say that PR isn’t a specialism with the potential to provide results quickly. Campaigns are a great example of how tangible outcomes can be achieved within a relatively short period of time. However, to deliver sustainable results which benefit the long-term success of a business, PR should be considered an investment for the long-haul.

The true power of PR

Some consider it to be a ‘dark art’, but this is based on outdated perceptions. Actually, put quite simply, public relations does what it says on the tin. It helps a company relate to the public, forming an important interface between an organisation and its customers, employees and stakeholders.

It allows a business to share whatever it needs to say, in a way which is authentic to the organisation. These communications are managed, from start to finish, by specialists who know how to craft a message in a way which will appeal to each unique audience.

The best channels through which to share news are carefully considered, and timed, so that developments are received positively – both by the media, and by the intended audience. Ultimately, PR professionals increase awareness while managing the reputation of a business. This allows brands to reach new levels of love and a position where they can be considered ‘well-known’.

A team that can be relied upon

A good PR agency will become an extension of their client’s teams. A service that can be relied upon during times of uncertainty, and a sounding board for trusted advice and guidance.

Most businesses will endure a crisis at some point during their journey. Depending on the nature of the industry, some will weather a number. However, having a reliable PR team on board, who already know the company and its systems and processes, really can be the difference between a make or break scenario.

The truth is that when a crisis hits, it can often be the first time that a company has considered PR. If you do not have a team in place, it is most certainly a wise move. However, getting to know a brand-new agency, sharing the ins and outs of your business, its culture and the crisis itself can be a time-consuming process. All at a time when moving cautiously but quickly would be the best plan of action. Food for thought which comes that little bit too late for some.

A wise investment

If PR is something that you’ve been considering, chatting this through could be a great way to determine whether it is the right route for your business.

As an agency, we would never take on a client if we didn’t genuinely believe that we were right for you. Our passion and enjoyment comes from securing results, so we firmly believe in being honest and upfront about what we can offer.

For most organisations, PR is a wise investment. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it could, quite possibly, be the best investment your business will ever make.

If you’re interested to learn more, have a glance at our ‘what we do’ page. Read a little more about our team.  Or hear about a few of our clients, past and present, on the ‘work’ page. Or simply give us a call on 01924 862477 – we love to chat!

ALIGNING TONE OF VOICE WITH BRAND PERSONALITY

We all have our own range of quirks which make us unique. These traits mark us as distinctly different to others. And, often, they’re what our family and friends love the most about us. Brands are no different. In order to stand out from the crowd and build up an affinity with consumers, it’s vital that a business is more than just the products that it sells – but a personality in its own right.

An important part of what differentiates each of our personalities is the way that we communicate. This includes the vocabulary that we choose to use. Without being consciously aware of it, we all have a mix of words and phrases which others associate with us. This combination of what we say and how we say it gives us our own, unique tone of voice.

The building blocks of brand personality

Leveraging this concept is one of the most important steps in building a relatable brand personality. After all, while a business can exist without a recognisable brand, it makes life far more difficult than it needs to be.

These days, where there are more businesses, there is increased competition and less consumer loyalty. ‘Deals’ are commonplace, and people switch far more frequently in search of a bargain. Therefore, more often than not, people need an additional reason to choose you over your competitors. This is where personality and tone of voice comes in to play.

If your brand was a person, who would it be?

It can seem more than a little daunting figuring out exactly ‘who’ your brand is. But assigning human characteristics is a great place to start and will really help in the process of figuring out exactly how you’d like to communicate with your customers.

Importantly, remember to remain authentic. The personality behind the brand needs to be an extension of the values of your business. Perhaps you’re a recruitment business with a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture, this should be reflected in what you say and how you say it.

It may be that you’re a toy manufacturer, in which case fun and playful would be top of your list. Maybe, as part of the healthcare sector, your personality is kind and compassionate – this can be showcased in the way that you communicate and the language you use.

Putting it all into words

Once you’ve established what your brand personality is all about, it’s time to put it into words. A favourite past time of ours, as we’re sure you can imagine!

It’s time to think about what you’ll say and how you’ll go about saying it. Mapping out the vocabulary that is, and isn’t, to be used is a must. Remember to adjust tone of voice when needed. As a modern female fashion brand, ‘hun’ might be a frequent greeting but it could just be the thing that pushes a complaining customer to boiling point – so beware!

Similarly, while social media and email marketing is a fantastic place to unleash this newly established personality and tone of voice, tweaks will be needed in other areas. One size doesn’t fit all, and what works in consumer facing communications, won’t necessarily translate so well to a corporate press release, for example.

We love nothing more than to help brands to build and share their personality with their customers, their colleagues and the media. If you’d like to chat to us about the next steps in your brand building journey, and what else you can expect from PR, call a member of the team on 01924 862477 or email us at info@opencomms.co.uk – we’d love to hear from you!

SPECIALISING IN CLIENTS RATHER THAN SECTORS

You’ll often find that PR agencies specialise in a particular sector. At Open Comms we take a slightly different approach. We believe that there’s a bigger picture. So, rather than viewing PR requirements as dictated by industry, we take a more client-focused view. We create bespoke packages that deliver against each brand’s objectives.

But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that we don’t have the experience to deliver. Sometimes we find the assumption is that agencies that specialise could do a better job but that is not always the case.

When receiving a brief, we treat every client the same; we are honest about whether we can do the very best job or not. After all, delivering fantastic results is what we pride ourselves on, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The bigger picture

When working with clients from a single sector, it would be quite easy to ‘roll out’ a PR package which works, time and time again. We would deliver excellent results. Our client would be happy. And the objectives would be achieved. All with minimal effort.

…So, what’s not to like about that?

Well, by diversifying our offering and working with clients across multiple sectors, we have to put in some extra ‘elbow grease’ and that keeps our job exciting. Since our launch we’ve made this our mission. We’ve gathered a huge amount of experience over the years along with contacts and extra creative ideas too.

Rather than taking a narrow view of what ‘should be done’, we can help companies to stand out from the crowd. After all, there aren’t many brands with a grand ambition to be exactly the same as their competitors. They want to be unique and make a name for themselves in their own right – and rightly so too!

Keeping one eye on the competition

For those agencies which operate solely within one sector, it stands to reason that they are likely to be representing competing brands. Now, it might just be us, but that’s not something that we’d want to see from a team who is handling everything from our top-secret new products, to reputational crises!

Here at Open Comms we have a strict policy of never working with competing businesses – offering that extra, much needed peace of mind and the assurance that we always have our client’s best interests at heart. No conflicts of interest here!

Putting clients front and centre

Each of our client’s PR packages are tailored to suit them, prioritising the elements which are of particular importance.

For some, we deliver a basic press office function. For others quirky and creative consumer campaigns. In some instances, corporate comms will be top priority. While, for others, trade PR is a particular area of focus. Most commonly, however, our clients choose a mix of tactics, which work together to achieve each brand’s unique objectives.

With a mix of skilled PR professionals, all with a varied range of experiences, we’re lucky enough to be able to match our team members with the clients that they work with. This ensures that we have all of the attributes to take your business to the next level.

Drop us an email at info@opencomms.co.uk or give us a call on 01924 862477. We’d love to have a chat and see how we can help you take your business to the next level.

THE MANY TALENTS THAT MAKE UP AN EFFECTIVE PR AGENCY

As with many industries, when you work in PR you come to expect that people will have some preconceived ideas. Stereotypes have been developed over the years, not helped by characters in popular TV programmes.

Assumptions are made about the ‘type’ of people who work in the profession. In some organisations, this may be a true reflection of the workforce. However, here at Open Comms, we believe that to be truly effective an agency needs diversity, in every sense of the word.

Nurturing Creativity

Bringing together a blend of genders, ages, personalities and experiences allows for a PR business to be more creative. A vital component when creating any strategic plan or campaign.

What’s more, working across a range of industries, this variety of thoughts and approaches is essential when we are constantly looking at new and more innovative ideas for clients.

Using our collective skills means we can offer each organisation a bespoke service that encompasses creative elements tailored especially to them.

The team here loves nothing more than to take an hour out to brainstorm and let our ideas run wild. It’s amazing to see the knowledge, experience and preferences of the team come to life during the campaign planning process.

However, the icing on the cake is when the plan comes together. This is what we enjoy most; sharing excellent results and a job well done for our clients.

Staying on Top of the Latest Trends

Our many differences influence the way that we perceive changes in the wider world. As a team of PR professionals, we naturally take an interest in trends. After all, it is an important part of our job. However, that’s not to say that we don’t all have our antennas tuned to the products, services and brands that appeal to each of us the most.

A resident shopaholic, for example, is more likely to know about the latest designers, prints and fashions; while a budding chef will probably have a keener take on how taste buds and food preferences are changing.

The more tech savvy among us can keep track of the latest social media software and the tools that help our client’s platforms stand out from the crowd. Whereas a more ethically conscious personality may be more in touch with social movements, and the changing sentiment around environmental issues.

Fostering Strong Working Relationships

One size doesn’t fit all, and an agency with a lack of diversity is likely to have a hard time branching out in the PR business.

Our clients come from all backgrounds, with different target markets and product offerings. With a diverse team in place, we can match personalities and expertise with clients – leading to exceptional working relationships.

Not only does this make life easier all round, but it makes for strong bonds and a friendly, personal approach. Ultimately, this helps us work less like an external agency, and more like an extension of each team.

Empathy and Sensitivity

Some personalities are a little more robust, taking a tougher stance on certain issues. While others are gentler, picking up on sensitivities which may pass the average person by. Then we have those in the middle, the ones who strive to see both sides of every scenario.

In a crisis, this blend of personalities is a fantastic asset and one which is very much valued within our business. After all, for most organisations, facing a PR crisis will be one of the most testing times in its history. Without a team who can be trusted to consider all angles, it can quite easily become a very tricky situation to navigate.

However, having built up a long-term relationship with a PR agency that understands a brand and business, a company can be confident that its reputation and future is in safe hands.

Experience and Guidance

Our team members come with a whole host of experiences, which contributes to the unique approach that Open Comms delivers.

Some of us have been working in the industry for more than 20 years, while others are taking their first steps into the world of PR.

We’re particularly proud of our supportive approach, which sees the team learn from one-another. What remains at the forefront is that we all have something different to share, whether starting out or with a career spanning more than two decades.

Whether it’s our resident (former) journalist; the social media savvy among us or our Masters-level linguist, making the time to learn from one another’s experiences is an opportunity not to be overlooked.

Find out a little more about our team here. Alternatively, pick up the phone and give us a call on 01924 862477 – we’d love to chat.

VIRTUAL INFLUENCERS: CREEPY OR CUTTING-EDGE?

With newspaper and magazine sales dwindling year on year, more consumers are taking to the internet for their daily fix of news and views.

Along with online news platforms, blogs have become a popular source of inspiration. As a result, many brands now work with bloggers and influencers. This gives companies the chance to tap into the appeal that these individuals have among their followers and subsequently spread the word about the latest launch.

As the world continues to become increasingly automated, virtual influencers are tipped to be the next top trend. With high-profile brands already utilising these avatar-like personas, could this signal the future of influencer marketing?

Creepy or cutting-edge

I must admit that initially, there was something slightly unsettling about the whole concept. Particularly our desires being manipulated by a fictional character. However, the more I thought about it, this is already closer to the current ‘reality’ than we may have realised.

Reality television continues to provide some of the most successful influencers. Yet, it’s common knowledge that these shows are often scripted. Therefore, the person that we think we’re emulating is a character, constructed by someone else entirely.

Likewise, any online persona is crafted to present a positive impression.

A personal connection

Arguably, we enjoy these platforms due to the more personal angle that they offer. This begs the question: can virtual influencers ever truly resonate with consumers?

The Drum explores this in further detail, asking whether fictional characters have the same ability as humans to forge real connections with an audience.

In my opinion, as consumers become increasingly technologically aware, virtual influencers are likely to be accepted as the next logical step. However, I believe that there will be limitations.

‘Real life’ influencers have the right to share the more personal, sometimes emotional stories and experiences. This is where I believe these constructed personalities may overstep the mark.

Echoing the thoughts shared in the article, I have concerns about virtual influencers delving into very real experiences such as sexual assault. This could be seen to trivialise serious issues, which should not be belittled in the name of marketing.

Do virtual influencers represent the future of influencer marketing?

I believe that virtual influencers have their place and I can see them becoming successful. However, I imagine their sphere of influence being more limited than that of their real-life counterparts.

I look forward to seeing how this one plays out as brands jump on this latest trend. For more tips on how to pick the right influencer for your brand, read Fareeha’s blog here.