Author: Katie Coxall

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.

PLANNING A PR CAMPAIGN THAT RESONATES WITH MULTIPLE AUDIENCES

Having put budget behind a consumer-focused campaign, it’s natural to want to maximise that investment. Planning a PR campaign that reaches as many of your target audience as possible is a great way to do this, often making for very impressive results!

 

Imagine, for example, that your product is a toy which appeals to 5-7-year olds. Not only would you want to showcase the toy to children in that age group, but it is also important that you target the parent as well. After all, they’re the ones with the spending power.

 

In addition, grandparents are known to be rather generous. Particularly when it comes to Christmas and birthday presents. Therefore, it would be wise to ensure that they are aware of your product too.

 

So, how do you appeal to all three groups, but still remain ‘on-message’ throughout a consumer PR campaign?

 

1. Begin with clear messaging

Outlining your key messages at the very start is invaluable. A robust planning process creates an invaluable guideline for any future decisions on content.

 

A brainstorm is a great way to get ideas flowing. Some vital talking points include:

  • Keywords to describe the product – bright, fun, tactile, soft, unique, adorable, cool
  • How does this toy make people feel – is it a comforting item, does it make a child feel grown up, is it designed to make them laugh, does it bring joy?
  • What is its purpose – is it just for fun, does it have an educational element?

 

You will then need to refine these ideas, selecting the words and phrases that resonate most strongly with the item. With your choices made, these key messages become the starting point for content creation.

 

Though the tone of the content will change dependent upon its intended audience, your key messages will remain consistent. This will ensure that each piece complements one another and, most importantly, becomes part of a unified campaign.

 

2. Utilise different tactics

Once your key messages have been agreed, you can begin to think about the tactics that will be used to increase awareness of your product.

 

This is one of the clear benefits to investing in PR; there are several tactics that can be considered and used, including:

 

  • Press drops

Once you’ve established your media targets and contacts, engage them with a press drop.

 

This could be a simple box containing the product and press release or it could be something more interactive. Creating a drop that is visually appealing will really make your delivery stand out from the many others which are bound to land on the journalist’s desk that day.

 

  • Influencer engagement

Bloggers and influencers are becoming an ever more valuable resource when it comes to spreading the word about new products.

 

Making contact with those who are relevant to your product and target audience can have far-reaching benefits for your campaign.

 

Find out more about how to choose the right influencer for your brand here.

 

  • Competitions

Offer people a chance to win! Better still, engineer the competition so that it spreads the word about your product.

 

Organising a social media giveaway, either on your own social platforms or on those of a relevant and credible partner, is a fantastic way to create noise around your offering.

 

As part of the entry process, ask that your post is liked or shared. Perhaps even incorporate a relevant hashtag to increase awareness of your product or brand. If your toy becomes in demand, you’ll likely spread the message about your item while increasing your brand’s social media following at the same time.

 

One watch-out however is to ensure that you are putting in place the correct governance and that anything that is gifted is mentioned within any post that is shared. If this doesn’t happen, you can end up in some very hot water!

 

  • Events

Dependent on the item, hosting an event which invites people to engage with your item can be a fantastic tactic when it comes to increasing awareness and love for your product.

 

In this case, creating a small area where children are free to come and explore the toy itself, is sure to have them tugging at their parents’ sleeves requesting that your product features on their next Christmas or birthday list!

 

However, a word of warning – events which deliver a quality experience can be a rather expensive commitment and should be costed before any commitment is made.

 

3. Maximise social channels

In this case, taking a single channel approach is unlikely to yield the remarkable results that you are expecting. Nor will churning out the same content across each platform.

Instead, do your research. Carefully look into each platform. Consider the typical age demographic, then craft and distribute your content accordingly.

After all, what appeals to a 7-year-old, may not resonate quite so well with a 60-year-old.

 

4. YouTube

These days, YouTube is a staple in the homes of most school-aged children. As a result, the famous ‘un-boxing’ videos are an effective way of sharing the excitement that comes with the latest ‘must-have’ toys with children and their parents.

 

Summary

There’s no doubt that planning a PR campaign takes a lot of work, which is why it’s most definitely a job best entrusted to the professionals.

Learn a little more about what we do here at Open Comms here. If you’d like to discuss an upcoming campaign, simply give us a call on 01924 862477.

NEW YEAR, NEW PERSPECTIVE AND A BRAND-NEW YOU

It’s a brand-new year and the possibilities are endless. The perfect opportunity to put pen to paper and note down any New Year’s resolutions which will make the next twelve months better than the last.

However, while the arrival of a new decade may be positive for some, it can be infinitely challenging for others.

Whichever scenario describes your 2019, here’s a little positivity to begin 2020 which could, quite possibly, be your best year yet!

Perfection is a myth

There’s no denying that each year presents plenty of reason to celebrate. But, with success comes moments of difficulty, feelings of failure and, perhaps, some memories that we’d really rather forget.

No matter what social media tells us, the ‘perfect’ life rarely exists. There are some moments that are undeniably sad, and it’s these times that can have us questioning what we did wrong?

In the most part, a happy life is merely a matter of perspective. Take the time to cherish the positives and celebrate achievements, however small. Only with the right mindset will positivity be able to prevail.

Don’t be a stranger

Following a period which is traditionally spent surrounded by friends and family, a New Year can be an extremely lonely time for some.

Family fallouts are all too common and, I’m sure, a regret that weighs heavily on people’s hearts. It’s never too late to try and bury the hatchet.

If friends and family are not around, take a positive step to meet others. There are many groups, coffee mornings or sports clubs which can be a fantastic way to establish friendships.

Understand your value

Some people are simply more considerate than others. It’s a hard fact that can be difficult to accept and a source of much upset.

However, moving on from situations that are detrimental to your happiness is important. After all, many of us have come to realise that life really is too short.

Give a little kindness

Kindness costs nothing, so give it freely – not only to others, but also to yourself.

It’s amazing what impact a thoughtful comment, offer of support or small gesture can have on someone else’s life.

New Year, new you

In this time of endless opportunity, relish the chance to be the author of your latest chapter in the whirlwind that is life. Setting realistic expectations while also challenging yourself will give you balance. There is no point in creating an unachievable list of tasks from the get-go.

Split your hopes and dreams into sub-categories and spend a little time each month pushing yourself closer to where you want to be. Taking steps forward is more positive than standing still.

For a few more tips on making 2020 a year of progress, read Open Communications PR Account Executive, Nick Hill’s latest blog here.

BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL BRAND

Every day we count our lucky stars knowing that we work with a host of amazing businesses across diverse industries including automotive, recruitment, digital, food manufacturing, architecture and third sector.

Despite our clients operating in such distinct areas, they all have one thing in common; not only do they know how to build a successful brand, they also understand how to maintain that success.

What’s great is that we get to support these organisations and to celebrate their ongoing achievements.

Establishing values

At the start of any brand journey, it’s vital to sit down and think about the bigger picture.

What inspired you to offer your particular product or service? Is there a passion that drives your organisation forward? What issues are important to your business? Which common traits describe your team?

Only with these points addressed can a business truly live, breathe and begin to present a cohesive approach which effectively communicates the brand and its values.

Identifying a brand ‘voice’

Once a company has pinpointed its underlying values, it’s a good time to begin forming a brand voice.

Brainstorming a collection of words which feel ‘right’ is a useful way to start the process. With a bank of vocabulary in place, this can be used as a basis for press releases, website copy and a social media schedule.

Adopting a style of communication which is unique to your business is a great way to add some personality and to give a point of difference which will allow a brand to stand out from the crowd.

A catchy, concise positioning statement

If you could use only one sentence to explain your business, what would it be?

Taking the time to craft a crisp positioning statement which encompasses all that your organisation delivers will help consumers and other businesses to quickly become familiar with the product or service that you offer.

Hierarchy of messaging

With your overarching statement perfected, what other key messages would you like to share about your company?

Perhaps what sets your offering apart is the fact that it is organic, eco-friendly or addresses a problem which has yet to be solved.

Identifying three or four main points will ensure that future communications are prioritised correctly, focusing on the elements which are most important about your product or service.

Authenticity

In today’s world, consumers are savvier than ever. With access to a company’s website, social platforms and any news articles at the touch of a button, it’s important that a brand remains authentic in its approach.

For instance, it’s no good positioning a business as caring about the planet and then using unsustainable materials within the manufacturing process. With social media and on pack guidelines someone will notice, and it could spell a make or break situation for your organisation.

Instead, an honest and open approach which is in line with brand values, is a sure way to build up consumer trust and loyalty.

Right message, right place, right time

In short, it all comes down to communicating key messages to the right people, in the right places and at the right time.

Getting this process correct is imperative if your organisation is to reach its full potential. Here at Open Comms, our guidance has helped a range of leading businesses to build a successful brand.

We’d love to chat about our recommendations for your organisation. With the right support, you could be joining our award-winning clients and celebrating your achievements throughout 2020. For further information, simply give us a call on 01924 862477 or browse our website to learn more.

CHRISTMAS ADVERTS 2019: WHICH FESTIVE OFFERING HAS OUR BELLS JINGLING?

Merry Christmas

With the festive season upon us, it’s no surprise that our television screens have become host to an array of Christmas adverts.

John Lewis, Argos and M&S are amongst the first to share their ad’s, with the hope of igniting that magical feeling that Christmas brings out in us all.

But what makes a great Christmas ad? Well, I conducted a little research to find out what it takes to jingle the bells of those here at Open Comms.

Relatability

Louise’s favourite is the offering from John Lewis.

Featuring Edgar the fire-breathing dragon and his unlikely friend, a little girl, the story showcases the pair’s enduring friendship. Despite Edgar’s many mishaps, which include burning down the community Christmas tree, the duo stick together and eventually impress the villagers by putting Edgar’s fire-breathing talents to good use – lighting the Christmas pudding.

All-in-all an uplifting tale, with a little bit of humour. However, the key, according to Louise, is Edgar’s relatability. He’s far from perfect and gets things wrong from time-to-time, just like the rest of us!

Creativity

This year’s Aldi advert is a Christmas cracker once again – and it’s Lindsey’s favourite!

A little like Robbie Williams, Kevin the Carrot has experienced his yearly revival. If you haven’t seen it yet, think the Greatest Showman but with vegetables, and you won’t go far wrong! Kevin takes on the role of ringmaster while belting out a fantastically festive version of the Robbie Williams classic, Let Meee- eeee Entertain You!

Always a little unexpected, full of fun and creative genius – this year’s offering certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Lindsey also loves the fact that the brand chooses to build on the Kevin the Carrot story year-on-year, successfully bringing in current references to some of the biggest and most successful programmes of the year, while never failing to raise a smile.

But, the icing on the Christmas cake? The advert helps to raise awareness of Aldi’s charity partner, Teenage Cancer Trust. Now that’s real festive spirit in action!

An extra sprinkling of magic

McDonalds perfectly catches the magic of Christmas through a child’s eyes, capturing all of the innocence, imagination and emotion that makes the occasion such a special time of year – and it’s Nick’s advert of choice.

Following the story of a little girl, her ‘reindeer’ and the magic of make-believe, McDonalds has successfully brought to life the elements that make the season so special. Also, depicting realistic family dynamics, the brand has subtly positioned itself as an integral part of the Christmas period.

A surprising but truly endearing angle, this is certainly a top contender!

A touch of nostalgia

Sky is taking many of us back to our childhoods, and Fareeha is particularly impressed with the return of everyone’s favourite alien, ET.

With an especially mysterious start, this ad is definitely a departure from the usual Yuletide brand offerings. Re-visiting ‘Elliot’, who has now grown into a man with a family of his own, ET is introduced to modern life and festive traditions.

Appreciating the nostalgia and the opportunity to reflect on times gone by, Fareeha has placed the Sky advert at the top of her nice list this year.

A sobering message

I have to agree with Lindsey and Nick’s choices this year, Aldi and McDonalds have successfully delivered both entertainment and magic, capturing key elements that make Christmas an extra special time of year.

However, to add a further recommendation to the line-up, The Dogs Trust have put in place a fun creative but with a very serious message. Drawing attention to the fact ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’, it makes an adorably cute but also incredibly touching contender for Open’s own, Christmas ad of the year 2019.

So, what makes a cracking Christmas advert?

Well, according to the Open team: relatability, creativity, an extra sprinkling of magic, a touch of nostalgia and an important message are the key components for our favourite festive adverts.

Which is your favourite this year?

To hear more of our opinions about his year’s winners and losers in the Christmas advert stakes, check out Lindsey’s review of retailer Argos and why she thinks it has missed the mark here.

WAR OF THE WAGS AND A PR CRISIS IN THE MAKING

It’s the debacle that’s had many of us glued to our devices. When Coleen Rooney waged war on Rebekah Vardy for allegedly selling stories about her to The Sun newspaper, people grabbed the popcorn and settled down to enjoy the latest celeb showdown.

Providing the nation with a welcome distraction from Brexit, this comparably light-hearted performance offered a break from the doom and gloom which has dominated the headlines of late.

While I’m not entirely sure what to tell you about Brexit, we can certainly share a lesson or two about public statements, crises and dealing with the media.

Timing is everything

Considering the timing of a statement, press release or media product drop is essential if the message is to be interpreted as intended.

In Coleen’s case, the statement was posted the day before World Mental Health Day. An extremely risky move to say the least. Notable dates have a significant influence on the media agenda and will determine content, so it’s prudent to be mindful.

With mental health in the headlines, the topic was bound to be front of mind with both journalists and their readers. As a result, the timing and nature of Coleen’s statement offered the perfect angle for a journalist to discuss the potential impacts on Vardy’s mental health.

While Coleen appears to have avoided such an issue on this occasion, this could very easily have been a PR crisis in the making.

Consider the wider impact

Whether intentional or not, the behaviour of celebrities influences the actions of others. This kind of public ‘performance’ brings with it a certain level of responsibility and if people are not careful, accountability too.

As prolific users of social media, it’s no surprise that young people are amongst those particularly engrossed in the activities of those in the public eye.  Being followers of the latest trends, children take cues about how to behave from those that they idolise. As a result, there’s no doubt that this method of ‘public shaming’ will be replicated in schools, with potentially disastrous consequences.

What’s more, although it’s entirely understandable that Coleen would feel betrayed – assuming the allegations are true, taking revenge so publicly is precarious territory.

After all, Coleen’s family have endured their fair share of hurtful headlines. The fact is, however guilty Rebekah may or may not be, the implications of exposing a story such as this not only has repercussions for the alleged perpetrator, but also for their family too.

Fact check, and check again

Though Coleen’s investigative techniques have impressed her fans, there are some obvious flaws. Narrowing the possible leak down to just one account, may be rather damning, but what about the people, other than reporters, that Rebekah may have shared the news with?

The truth is, she could just be guilty of being a gossip, who has naively divulged information about Coleen to her friends. And, let’s face it, she wouldn’t be the first person to share a screen shot of someone’s story in a group chat!

For her friends, who may not be in the public eye or have the salary of a football player at their disposal, the lure of a quick buck from a willing red top tabloid may have proved too much.

Of course, there’s also the question of whether Coleen herself has shared her plans with others. A trusted friend or family member could quite easily be the culprit. However unlikely that seems, I’m sure she wouldn’t be the first person to be betrayed in such a way.

Should Coleen’s conclusions turn out to be incorrect, there are bound to be some very red faces and incredibly serious repercussions for her own reputation. Ensuring, without a shadow of a doubt, that any statement is factually correct is absolutely essential.

Plan ahead

Every good PR plan should incorporate an element of crisis planning.

By exploring and identifying areas that could become stumbling blocks, a pro-active PR plan can be put in place to address issues in a timely manner, should they ever arise.

However, it’s always worth remembering that no matter how well prepared you are, it isn’t always possible to see a crisis coming, which is why having professionals on hand to manage a crisis situation can be invaluable.

Navigating unfamiliar territory without professional support is extremely unwise and could have lasting repercussions for your brand or business.

Summary

Reputation takes a long time to build and only a short time to ruin, which is why leaving this important aspect to chance is a perilous strategy.

Making statements to the media is a serious business. Unfortunately, once something has been said so publicly, it is very difficult to take back. That’s why it is important to get it right the first time.

Working in PR involves being cautious, taking time to plan and having a wider understanding of issues that impact upon a brand or business.

Utilising the skills of those who are qualified to advise on issuing statements, press releases or managing a PR crisis is essential if your number one asset, your hard-earned reputation, is to remain intact.

MOVE OVER MILLENNIALS, GEN-Z IS IN TOWN

Millennials move over, there’s a new generation in town and brands are swiftly stepping up their efforts to resonate with this latest group of consumers to hit the high street.

Born during the period mid-1990s – mid-2000s (source: Independent), the preferences of ‘Generation Z’ will play a fundamental role in shaping the future of organisations across the globe.

While millennials put the wheels in motion with a focus on healthier lifestyles and environmental impact, ‘Gen Z’ take this a step further, voting with their feet and actively seeking out companies whose values align with their own.

Disrupting the norms that have long governed a number of industries, businesses must now adapt to fulfil the needs of this group who are quickly rising up through the ranks.

Ethical integrity and environmental sustainability

Placing sustainability high on their list of priorities, this latest cohort of consumers are shaking up big businesses, forcing them to become accountable for the impact that their practises have – not just on the environment, but on their workforce too.

Single use plastic is likely to continue to cause debate, while issues of fair trade and responsible manufacturing are sure to follow suit.

Embrace a more diverse range of diets

Having initially gained momentum amongst millennials, the rise of vegetarian and vegan diets continues amongst Generation Z.

In a further demonstration of this group’s ethical stance, not only is eating meat felt to be unnecessary, it is also detrimental for the planet – something that, thankfully, this generation hold in high regard.

Factor in the importance of a healthy lifestyle

Mindfulness and mental health, issues which were rarely discussed just a short number of years ago, are now staple topics in schools, workplaces and homes across the country.

Following on from millennials who have positioned workplace culture and benefits as increasingly important factors, as Generation Z enters the workforce this is likely to continue with a keen focus on work/life balance and an open attitude towards mental health.

Be authentic

As society takes positive strides forward in its attitude towards difference, future generations are bound to be more likely to embrace their uniqueness.

Increased acceptance and tolerance of differences will hopefully lead to a more diverse society where everyone is free to be themselves.

Overt branding is less important

According to The Drum, overt advertising is a turn off for Gen Z. Recognising this shift in perspective,  Doritos has launched its ‘Another Level’ campaign which has seen the brand remove its logo from advertising and social content, instead relying on its other identifiable features such as the distinctive triangular chip and bag colours.

Brands such as Starbucks and Mastercard have made their own changes, preferring for their logos to be displayed without the accompanying wordmark. Though not detailed as a move motivated by up-and-coming generations, it is likely to play some part in the modernisation of each business’ approach.

What’s more, with Generation Z expected to make up a staggering 40% of the global population by 2020 (source: Independent), it will certainly be interesting to see how businesses adapt to meet the demands of this up-and-coming generation of savvy shoppers.

SOCIAL MEDIA: WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES (IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE)

I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels more than a little duped every time I check in to the other realm and review one of the many social media channels that are available to us.

In fact, I’m quite convinced that many of the people who appear to live their entire lives on said platforms are effectively residing in a parallel universe. You see, when I bump into them in the street, they certainly do not reflect the image that they are falsely portraying to me, MI5 or anyone else who might happen to take a glimmer of interest in their profile.

While a ‘photo-shopped-within-an-inch-of-its-life’ photo is probably a great tactic for those who are evading a life of crime, it’s hard not to despair about the ideals that this sets for the rest of us mere mortals.

What’s more, as the photos continue to blur so too does the line between reality and how we portray our lives online. After all, most of us know that the filtering doesn’t just stop at images; our whole internet existence is governed by a different type of filter which influences what parts of our lives we share on the web.

Life through a filter

Though some photo enhancements might be obvious, when it comes to extracting the true picture it’s far more difficult than we could ever have previously imagined. Not only have we become accustomed to sharing our best angles, we also seem to have been conditioned to put on a brave face, sharing only the best parts of our lives with others.

Our holiday snaps don’t show the rain that blighted what was meant to be a relaxing beachside break or the hotel that wasn’t deemed ‘instagrammable’ enough. Instead, we project only the most jealousy inducing, picture perfect views, which, in the most part, have little to do with our real, everyday lives.

Fantasy or reality?

Having started primarily as a way to get to know one another better and to share memories with friends old and new, it’s hard not to feel that the purpose of social media has changed somewhat during its relatively short life span.

Now, rather than a place to show our true selves and update friends and family across the globe, it could be argued that our online lives are a form of escapism which offers a place to be whatever we please, with little to no restrictions.

When reality hits

Just as quickly as perfection took over, thank goodness there appears to be another, far more realistic trend in town. Taking things a step further than ‘#nofilter’ which continues to do the rounds, ‘social media vs reality’ has taken the online world by storm.

Leading the way with messages of body positivity and a rejection of the principles that have plagued our social media existences for so long, this movement is starting to gain real momentum.

Finally, the array of airbrushed, moody selfies are interspersed with those that celebrate something far closer to reality. Bare-faced shots showing blemished complexions, natural images that put stretch marks in the spotlight and people of all shapes and sizes ‘living their best lives’ signal a break from the conventions that have dictated what’s accepted as relevant online.

Doing it for the ‘gram’

Although I’m reluctant to be cynical about what appears to be a positive development in attitudes to what should be shared, it will be interesting to see whether this trend continues or whether it’s just another elaborate example of a very real issue being exploited for the purpose of ‘likes’.

For the sake of the next generation, I really hope it represents a future where we can all be a little more authentic.