Author: Lindsey Davies

OPEN COMMS TO SUPPORT 6B WITH NATIONAL PR CAMPAIGN

Open Comms will work with 6B

We are very pleased to announce that Open Comms is now working with 6B, the development agency, to deliver a national campaign.

Providing PR and content management services for the business, we will work alongside the team of digital professionals to raise the profile of the brand across the UK, reinforce its disruptive attitude and support the organisation as it continues to expand its client base.

With ambitious targets to become a £10.2m turnover business, appoint a team of 100 digital experts and open four offices, 6B has its sights firmly set on growth and success.

Director of Open Communications, Lindsey Davies comments: “From our initial conversations we knew that Paul and the team at 6B were exactly the right fit for us. The journey they have been on so far is quite incredible and with their sights firmly set on future success we can’t wait to get cracking on our campaign.

“Following an initial immersion session, it was clear that 6B has a lot to shout about and we will be supporting them to do just that!”

Founding Director of 6B, Paul Brown comments: “The immersion session we had with Open Comms gave us the opportunity to look at where we had come from and what we want to achieve.

“We know that we need to make more noise and to shout about the great work that we produce. It’s not just about websites but also our apps, CRM systems and bespoke products for customers in the public and private sector. It’s time to show people just what we are made of and to take the next step in our journey.”

6B launched in 2013 and has since built up an impressive client portfolio to include brands such as Candy Kittens, ITV, Northern Lights, Franke, Experience Wakefield and Bradford Council. For more information about the agency please visit: https://6bdigital.com

Open Communications launched in 2008 to provide businesses with PR, social media and content management services. It works with clients including HARIBO, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Opus Trust Communications, Hortor and iSource Group. For further insight into the agency and what we deliver for clients, please visit: https://www.opencomms.co.uk/what-we-do

BIG BRANDS WON’T WORK WITH A SMALL PR AGENCY FROM YORKSHIRE

Big brands do work with PR agencies from Yorkshire

It would be fair to assume that big brands won’t work with a small PR agency from Yorkshire, but that isn’t the case. We have worked with some of the largest businesses in the country to deliver campaigns and have achieved some incredible results.

Big isn’t always beautiful

Having worked for big agencies before starting Open Comms, I know that big isn’t always beautiful. What goes on behind the scenes isn’t always what a client would expect. Of course, this could be said for any sized agency, it isn’t exclusive to the big ones. It is however only relevant if the practices that are encouraged challenge the values of the business and its employees.

We have worked alongside many large agencies when working with big brands and some of them are fantastic. In fact, some of the best work we have produced has been as a result of getting our heads together with others. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, working collaboratively can be a massive benefit. What we have found is that it’s less about size and more about experience.

As an agency that is completely transparent, our clients always know what we are working on, what tactics we will use to deliver results and how much a campaign will cost. They will also be aware of any mark-up that we are making.

Big brand or SME our values don’t change and the approach we take remains the same. It’s why we have our clients for years and not months.

Furthermore, working in this way means that we can focus on what matters: results. We don’t need to worry about being caught out or not delivering a return on investment. It also means that we can make sure that budgets stretch and that clients have a genuine insight into the costs associated with a campaign.

Same tactics, different narrative

Most agencies will use a very similar toolkit of tactics when they work with big brands. The truth about what differentiates one business from another is experience and personality.

As an industry that seems to rely on impressive terms for repackaged services, let’s take ‘always on’ or ‘brand to hand’ as just two examples, it’s no surprise that some clients struggle to see the wood from the trees.

The narrative we use changes all of the time. It is led by comment and content that is shared. It doesn’t mean that bigger agencies are any better than smaller ones, just that they are more likely to feature within industry press as ‘thought leaders’.

New phrases are added to the agency dictionary every week. It’s not so much about knowing the lingo’ as stepping back and working out what service they relate to.

It starts and stops with hard work

Any agency that wants to deliver for a big brand, whether they are working on a campaign or as a retained partner, needs to roll up their sleeves. PR isn’t easy. It’s about hard work. Finding the right tactics and dialing them up or down (there’s those buzz words again). This can be time consuming.

Results don’t drop into your lap when you work in PR. There is a lot of test and measure. It’s also important to be aware of any new tactics that are coming into the market. When I started there was no such thing as earned and owned content and social was in its infancy.

Things change and so too must the advice and recommendations that we give to the big brands we work with to make sure we deliver against objectives.

White label or white flag!   

It’s no surprise that agencies tell fibs from time to time. It’s not something we get involved with, but there are numerous agencies that claim to be ‘full service’ yet outsource to other suppliers.

We have been approached on several occasions to be a white label agency. I’ve always thought this strange given the objective of what we do often focuses on building the profile of a brand. How credible would we be with no visibility?

It would be an odd conversation to have with a client, to explain that we hadn’t seen the benefit in promoting our services. It’s would appear to me to be a white flag rather than a white label.

As a PR agency that has built its reputation up over 12 years, we do work with other agencies from Yorkshire and beyond, but as Open Comms. I question the value to any client that pays an agency that has marked-up the services of a partner rather than passing them on direct.

In our time, we have worked with many of the larger agencies in both Leeds and London. We have been involved with inter-agency days, where brands bring their partners together in one room. It’s a good approach and often leads to the strongest campaigns and best collective ideas.

I’d recommend any brand that works with multiple agencies gets value from bringing them all together. After all, why rely on one PR agency from Yorkshire when you could have five different specialisms in the room?

Taking the ‘risk’

It’s to be expected that big brands will attract the attention of larger agencies and visa versa. That said, it’s important that companies take a calculated risk. What harm is there in adding a smaller agency to a pitch line-up to see what they have to offer. Also, extending the geography. We’ve pitched all over the country and with all that has happened this year, there’s never been a better time to put remote working into practice.

Over the years we have had the pleasure of working with some great brands including KP Snacks, POM-BEAR, HARIBO, Calbee and Yushoi. We could go on.

The biggest achievement for me was that in every case these clients saw the value in what we were recommending and the results that we secured. We had an incredible time camping at festivals with POM-BEAR during a summer of activation and launching Yushoi with Louis Smith in London.

We managed the opening of a multi-million-pound, purpose-built factory for Calbee in Wales and welcomed dignitaries from across the region. With KP Snacks we provided insight and recommendations on how to avoid advertising to children. There is certainly never a dull day when you work in PR.

A small PR agency from Yorkshire trusted by big brands

Just because we are a small agency, it didn’t mean that we couldn’t be trusted by these big brands. What it did mean was that the responsibility was on us to be honest. That is something we have always maintained. If we are unable to meet with a client’s objectives, we will let them know.

I’m pleased to report, it’s very rare that we can’t fulfil a brief, and that is why we are looking forward to working with many more big brands in the future. We may be a small agency in Yorkshire, but we are a very capable one!

For further details about Open Comms and how the agency could support your business to reach its ambitions, please email Lindsey at lindsey.davies@opencomms.co.uk or for more details about the many businesses we work with, please visit www.opencomms.co.uk.

FORCED LOCKDOWN LEADS TO PLANNED SUPPORT

Planned support for business

It was only last week I asked our team to stop focusing on Covid-19 in our blogs. In all honesty, I just felt it was a depressing topic that was being covered enough. And so, here I am, a week on doing the exact opposite!

I am hoping however that what I am about to share will give businesses something positive to focus on during the next four weeks. It may also change the direction that they choose to go in the future. Rather than dwell on the past, we are looking ahead.

Time on your hands

For many businesses, the lockdown will mean that they have time on their hands. As this wasn’t planned or expected, it can be redirected. Rather than reverting to lockdown habits, think about the future. Where do you want to be and how are you doing to get there?

Things aren’t easy and budgets are tight but that doesn’t mean you can’t invest wisely.

Planning your next six to twelve months will give you a road map to follow and some structure during uncertain times.

Take control

For the first time in my lifetime, I can honestly say that no one knows what is around the corner. We can all make predictions. Everyone is suddenly an expert. Truth be told, we just don’t know.

It’s time to take control of the things that we can predict. Create a timeline of what you want to achieve and by when. Don’t dwell on what might be and start to put your energies to what will happen.

Once you have a plan in place it will be easier to work towards achieving those goals. Make it visual and you’re onto a winner.

It’s good to talk

During the first wave of the pandemic, some businesses went off grid and fell silent. This is a really bad idea. It sends out the wrong messages to your marketplace and gives audiences – including your staff – cause for concern.

Rather than going quiet, think about what you have to say. Pull together some ideas. Put some thought into the topics that you want to discuss and start to engage. For once, find the time to make communication a priority.

Remember, the people that you rely on when the doors are open are the same as when they are shut. Your customers need to know that you are there and that they have a supplier to come back to. Furthermore, employees need some confidence that all is not lost.

Keeping a consistent feed of updates will give the reassurance that all audiences need.

Planned support

One of the first things we did when we started Open Comms was to create ‘Open for New’ sessions. These have evolved over the years and are opportunities for businesses of all sizes to get the professional and planned support they need.

Each session is bespoke and is carefully tailored to each organisation. We make sure that the brands we work with get the very best return and that this takes no more than a day.

Up to six members of a company are invited to get around a (virtual) table and look at where they are and where they want to be. We focus on communications and how this can support the strategy of the business.

The discussion evolves to cover positioning statements, key messages, targets, engaging with the media, social media, crisis management and putting the right processes in place. As mentioned, we speak to the client beforehand to find out what their challenges and objectives are.

In our experience, every single session is different and that is what makes them so exciting! People leave them knackered (it takes work!) but energised.

Full steam ahead

It can be difficult to find the time to focus on PR and content marketing when you are ‘head down’ and in the thick of it. That is why we are suggesting to businesses that communication is put firmly on the agenda.

Don’t waste your time with the latest box set, you wouldn’t wander off to watch the TV if the doors were open. Use this window of opportunity to pave the way, get some planned support, and look forward to a stronger start to 2021 and all that it holds in store.

For further details about Open for New sessions, please email Lindsey at lindsey.davies@opencomms.co.uk and for more details about the agency and the many businesses we work with please visit www.opencomms.co.uk.

Why agencies matter

Why agencies matter

Last week I read an interesting article in the Drum. As part of its Agencies4Growth festival, the publication was looking at why agencies matter. This piece was an interview with Janelle Orozco, Diageo’s chief procurement officer, to find out why the brand values its agency relationships.

The focus was on why businesses would invest in agencies when they could simply appoint the talent they need inhouse. This isn’t a new topic of conversation, nor is it one that has a simple answer. There are arguments for and against.

What was interesting was that Janelle was able to see the benefits to both. In particular, the added value that comes from having the right agencies that can work as an extension of a brand team.

She commented: “The best agencies can be truth tellers, helping you see what you are missing. Brands and companies can benefit from an external perspective to hold up a mirror or shine a light on something that can be missed when you are too close to the problem or too wedded to how things have always been done. Great agencies have a breadth of perspective from working with clients across sectors, and, often, around the world.”

Building strong relationships

It may seem obvious, but building strong relationships is so important when you are working with an agency. It is likely you will be providing them with access to confidential information that could be business critical.

It is crucial that you can share your real thoughts and feelings on some challenging subjects. PR isn’t always straight forward and having honest conversations will result in meaningful outputs. It will also allow the agency to deliver recommendations that have a positive impact.

There are times when agencies and clients disagree. That is fine. Like anything, some topics will be up for discussion. Campaigns will need reviewing and ideas refining. Again, having the relationships in place that allow you to do this productively will deliver stronger results.

When times are hard and relationships are tested, it should become obvious why agencies matter. If not, then there may be some changes that need to be made.

Transparency leads to trust

When we launched in 2008, one of the values of our business was to be transparent with our clients. Nothing has changed. What we have seen over the years is that clients appreciate how we choose to operate.

Hiding costs, increasing budgets and making huge margin on bought in items just isn’t our way. It has never sat comfortably with us, and never will.

Clients know that when they appoint us as their preferred PR partner, they will get honest advice. Furthermore, the ideas and campaigns that we put forward will be realistic. We always work towards meeting with objectives so that our results have a meaningful impact.

We never take our clients for granted and being truthful with them means they can trust us. Working in this way allows our relationships to evolve from third party supplier to trusted confident very quickly. It also provides our clients with the results and experience that gives them evidence of why agencies matter.

Accessing skills

In the piece from the Drum, Janelle comments: “Then, of course, there is the magic of the work agencies co-create alongside marketing teams”.

This really resonated with me, as it is exactly how we approach campaigns for clients. Rather than assume we have all the answers, we pool our resources and ideas. It may be a brainstorm or a briefing session, but we make sure we access all the talent that is available to us.

It is important to remember that clients, just like agency employees, have mixed experiences. This could be from previous roles and may even be agency side. As such, the strongest campaigns are often those that have been shaped by the whole team.

We know that we have the skills as an agency to build and deliver campaigns from scratch, however working collaboratively means our clients get the best of both worlds. We often find that the brand managers we work with want to be involved. As such, working together allows them to do that. It also means we can all share and celebrate success.

Far from de-valuing what an agency can bring to the table, it just means that the campaigns will be influenced by everyone involved.

Added value  

The reason that most businesses invest in agencies is to add value. There should be no dispute that the companies you choose to work with are delivering a return on investment. If they aren’t, then it may be time to review those relationships.

Although we are a PR and content management agency, our clients know that they can come to us with any questions that they have. They also know that we will give them our honest opinion on any subject. It may not be what they want to hear but it goes back to transparency and trust. It also means we are giving them the added value they are looking for.

I remember a meeting we had with a client. We had gone off topic several times and ended up talking about some challenges this client was facing. It had nothing to do with PR, but that was the point. As they left, they turned around and said: “I love our meetings. It’s like a counselling session and a monthly catch up all in one.”

If there was ever a statement that proves why agencies matter, then this has to be it. For us, that’s exactly how it should be. We don’t just meet with objectives or deliver results. We add value where it has greatest impact.

Working with an agency

A critical factor to the way that we work with our clients is exactly that. We work with our clients. We do not work for them. The difference this one small word makes is quite astonishing.

When you start a relationship with the attitude that a supplier works for you, it creates barriers. Changing the way that you look at this will allow you to move from having suppliers to partners. It also helps people to feel valued and that they are part of a wider team. Furthermore, it delivers a stronger return on investment. After all, agencies will work harder for those that value their time and expertise.

In the article from the Drum, Janelle concludes: “In summary, agencies continue to be vital to brands and can be a source of competitive advantage when they fit culturally, commercially and strategically.”

We couldn’t agree more, and when you do find an agency with that fit, it leads to lasting relationships that will benefit your business. It will also give you all the evidence you need to truly understand why agencies matter.

For further details about Open Comms, who we work with and what we do, please visit: www.opencomms.co.uk or call: 01924 86244.

SUPPORTING BUSINESSES DURING TIMES OF CRISIS

Open Communications supporting businesses through times of crisis

As a Yorkshire based PR agency that works as an extension of our clients’ teams, we are often required to access confidential information. In particular, when supporting businesses during times of crisis, we need as much detail as possible.

It is only when we have this level of insight that we can provide recommendations that will benefit a business. This might be uncomfortable for brands to share, but it is essential if we are to deliver the service and results that our clients have come to expect.

Don’t hide behind closed doors

Hiding behind closed doors and ‘keeping your head down’ during a crisis might seem like a good idea, but it isn’t. In our experience, there is rarely a benefit to giving a no comment to journalists. In fact, being as transparent and honest as possible is crucial.

That doesn’t mean that you share everything with everyone, just that you manage the process very carefully. Working with experts means that you can navigate the situation and ensure as little damage to your brand as possible.

There may be two sides to every story, however coming across as defensive or aggressive will not give the right impression. If we are honest, this will just lead people to make negative assumptions that could have a lasting impact on a company.

Scenario planning

We always say that a business never expects a crisis, until it has a crisis!

Very few organisations want to think too deeply about what could go wrong. That said, scenario planning can be a great way to test and measure the robustness of the planning and processes you have in place.

Look at the obvious challenges that you could face as an organisation. Think about how you would respond should a journalist call, or a customer share negative feedback across social media. Are you prepared? Do you have the necessary processes in place? If not, you can expect to be caught like a rabbit in headlights.

Hitting the headlines for the right reasons

We are big believers at Open Comms in hitting the headlines for the right reasons. This gives our clients some balance, even when they do have a crisis. It’s never something that we want to see happen, but if we can counter negative press with positive then we are doing our job.

It may be that through good governance and careful planning we can avoid any negative PR at all, however in instances where that isn’t the case, we have the foresight to plan ahead. Having a strong schedule of positive stories means we have more good news in the market than bad.

On the occasions where we simply cannot avoid negative comment, we work hard to counteract this and to give a true opinion of the brands we deliver PR and content management strategies for. This is just one of the reasons that supporting businesses through times of crisis is so important.

Stakeholder relations

As well as the media, it is important to consider how you will communicate about a crisis internally. This means letting any relevant stakeholders and staff know, ideally ahead of them reading it in the newspaper or online.

Being honest and letting people know so that they can ask any questions will reinforce confidence. No one likes to be left in the dark, and so putting in place the infrastructure to share updates with everyone will support staff morale, even when you are sharing bad news.

Most companies have an intranet, noticeboards or regular staff meetings. Make sure that these are used when you are dealing with a crisis. Being consistent and considered is further advice during difficult times.

Being held accountable

Those that are accountable for their mistakes are also most likely to learn from them. It’s not about holding your hands up and admitting liability for everything. It is about taking an honest look at what has happened and why.

Saying sorry may not be the position that most companies want to find themselves in, however it will make a difference to how people see the brand in the short and longer term. It could even be that you could turn a negative into a positive with how a situation is managed.

This is just further evidence of why supporting businesses through crisis is more than just an investment. It could be business critical.

People pay careful attention to the reactions from organisations and their senior managers during hard times. Managing a crisis effectively, sensitively and appropriately could encourage prospective customers or employees to take a closer look at your company.

Working with experts

As an agency, we have years of experience when it comes to supporting businesses through times of crisis. We also know how nerve wracking it can be but that most situations are manageable. Rather than flapping around and panicking, it is important that brands work with the experts.

There is an investment in crisis management, however it will deliver a return like few others. Having the reassurance that the processes in place are robust and sufficient will make any crisis easier to navigate and to manage.

Supporting businesses through crisis is just one of the tactics that we deliver for the brands we work with. For further information about our approach and how we can add value to your business through our full suite of services, please visit: www.opencomms.co.uk or call a member of the team on tel. 01924 862477.

PR SUPPORTS BRANDS THAT ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS

PR supports brands that are open for business

Despite the challenges that many companies are facing, I’ve been buoyed by the resilience that our clients have shown. If anything, they recognise now more than ever that PR supports brands that are open for business.

It’s the right approach to take. After all, what’s the alternative? It would perhaps be easier to close the doors, ignore the facts and shut off from the world. The reality is that this doesn’t give the right impression to customers or prospects.

A focus on the future

It was enlightening for me to find that the organisations we work alongside are looking to the future. There is a real energy and positivity about what is around the corner. Rather than focus on the negative, we are putting in place plans that will help to achieve business objectives.

We have schedules of good news stories, content ready to be posted, shared and liked and social channels that are frequently updated attracting attention from relevant audiences. It’s great to be so busy and to see how organisations are more aware that PR supports brands that are open for business.

Redirecting budgets   

During hard times it is quite typical for brands to cut marketing spend. It’s almost a default position, but we haven’t found that this time round. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Progressive businesses are redirecting budgets and showing how resilient they can be.

Many companies are recognising that now is the time to shine to stand out from competitors.

Using PR to explain that brands are open for business goes back to the basic principles of what we do. Launching products and services, making sure that people are aware of good news and that they can share it. All tactics that have proven their worth, and those that we still rely on today.

We manage the reputation of brands and businesses. That isn’t something we take lightly. It is however what we do, and we do it well. It’s great to see our clients retaining focus and pushing hard when it matters.

Attracting the right attention  

There have been some great campaigns and initiatives that have been shared by brands in recent months. Marketing teams have been pushed to their limits. Being creative is one thing but resonating during difficult times is another.

It’s important to remain sensitive and to attract the right attention. This doesn’t mean everything needs to be shrouded in negativity, just carefully thought through.

There have been some quirky examples of brands pushing boundaries, while using the right tone. People do still want to laugh, it’s just that they want to laugh with each other, not at each other. That’s where PR can play a real role.

Storytelling adds personality, background and fun. It’s just another way that PR supports brands that are open for business.

New business enquiries

We’ve had some really interesting new business enquiries in recent weeks. As well as showing that we are still very much open for business, this is also a reflection on the wider community. It’s great to hear from companies that have big ambition!

As well as new business calls, we have also heard from those in our network. Although we are unable to share our usual cheeky drink with colleagues and associates, we are maintaining contact and showing our support.

It’s important at times like this that we all remember to come together and to share good news. It doesn’t matter if you work for a big brand or a start-up, the philosophy remains the same: PR supports brands that are open for business.

Those companies that take advantage and put the right PR and content strategy in place will also be those that see a positive impact on their bottom line.

For further information about our approach to PR and how we can add value to your business, please visit: www.opencomms.co.uk or call a member of the team on tel. 01924 862477.

THE VALUE OF EARNED MEDIA AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BUSINESS

The value of earned media

Within marketing industry media there has been much discussion about the value of earned media. This is the return on investment that companies receive from featuring in editorial coverage.

For as long as I can remember, the focus for a PR professional has been on securing good, quality coverage in relevant publications. This then extended to digital titles and has since moved to third party platforms.

Earned media in its truest sense relates to stories that hold credibility by association. The reason being they have been verified and shared by a journalist. The argument could be that working with influencers does the same. They choose what content to share, but for the purpose of this blog we will keep it simple.

Earned and owned

So, earned content typically features in newspapers and on websites owned by these publications. It may be that the media is digital and doesn’t have a print version, but the same theory applies. Owned content is the copy that is written by a brand and shared online and across social channels.

This is not editorial. It is dictated by a brand for an audience. That doesn’t mean it holds no value. It just means that there is no third-party providing governance over its credibility.

Securing earned media

This is the bread and butter of traditional agencies. Securing earned media is often the key objective of a client that has in place a press office function. It is out job to identify a schedule of stories, to research, draft and distribute to the right media.

Sounds simple. The reality is that the copy needs to be compelling, newsworthy and relevant to the audience. You also need to write for the publication, the audience and the client.

Collating a value to earned media

There have been countless discussions about the measurement of PR. It is a constant battle to determine the impact that regular earned coverage will have on a business. The reality is that people don’t always associate their decision to purchase with the profile of a brand.

We can assume that the more you hear about a brand the more likely you are to purchase a product or service but confirming this is difficult.

From years of working in PR, clients do receive feedback from associates and colleagues who will comment positively on press and broadcast appearances. I’ve yet to come across an organisation that has been disappointed to feature regularly within relevant media.

There are also ways in which measures can be set such as audience reach. Publications have ABC ratings or MOZ scores for websites. This gives an indication of the authority of that title, either by purchase or visits.

Using these metrics gives a clear indication of the value of earned media and what it will deliver for a brand.

The benefits of earned media for business

The simple fact of the matter is that when people read about a business, they learn about it too. There is always a key message within a story. Something the brand wants you to know and to take away. It could be the announcement of a new product or service, appointments to the team or industry insight. Whatever the angle, there is reason for that press release to be shared.

Having a strategic approach to PR means that earned coverage can support the objectives of a business. Stories can be planned and scheduled to ‘hit’ at just the right time. This then gives further value to earned coverage as a business-critical tactic.

Getting best return on investment from PR

PR is about more than earned coverage. Content is everywhere and managing the messaging for a brand has never been more complicated. That said, we are in exciting times and PR has had the chance to stand up and to be counted in recent years.

There are many tactics to creating a PR campaign that will deliver results and we ensure that our clients have access to them all. With a balance of earned, owned and social coverage we are able to make sure the brands we work with are in the right place at the right time.

For further information about our approach to PR and how we can add value to your business, please visit: www.opencomms.co.uk or call a member of the team on tel. 01924 862477.

USING THE SEASONS TO INSPIRE CREATIVITY

Using the seasons to inspire creativity

It doesn’t feel quite right somehow; the fact that we are waking up to Autumn. Speaking to friends and family over recent weeks, it is apparent many of us are not ready for this change of season. But what if we were to flip our attitude, and rather than focus on the negative, use the seasons to inspire creativity.

Rather than worry about dark mornings, early evenings and colder weather, let’s think about crisp, bright days that let us clear our heads and focus our thoughts.

Getting out and about

It’s not always possible to get up from your desk and to go for a walk. We are all busy and trying to keep those plates spinning in the air. I have always found it difficult to detach and to believe that to be more productive I should step away from the office.

It has taken me years to put the theory into practice. I now realise that rather than staring at a blank screen, if I step away from my desk and get some fresh air, it can reset my mind. I have also found that using the seasons to inspire creativity has had a positive impact on my work.

Taking influence from nature

Each season brings with it different colours, scents and scenes. A landscape can change dramatically throughout the year. Taking influence from this, we can use all the sights, sounds and settings to inspire ideas.

Just taking the time to stop, to sit and to take in your surroundings can completely redirect your attention. If you are stuck with one idea that you know isn’t quite right, this approach can be transformational.

It doesn’t have to be through the working day. I know lots of people who start or end the day with a brisk walk. Often, they will explain that it allows them to get set for the week ahead or to download from the day.

However you prefer to work, using the seasons to inspire creativity can deliver positives for our mental health as well as our results.

Easter in Autumn

When you work in PR, what is going on outside your window is unlikely to resonate with the plans you are putting in place. Particularly with consumer campaigns, many brands are working six months in advance.

The media also work well ahead of schedule. This means that if a PR wants to secure copy in the right magazines, at the most appropriate time, they need to have copy and images drafted and ready.

Although it sounds like a simple thing to do, getting your head around Easter in Autumn isn’t always easy. At Open Comms we do all we can to get into that zone. We use lots of different tools and triggers to stimulate our thinking and to take us to that place.

Using the seasons to inspire creativity, we share our experiences, thoughts and plans for that time of the year. Listening to the habits of other households can be really enlightening and can trigger some great ideas that resonate with audiences and add value for brands.

Mapping the seasons

There is one thing that is certain; the seasons will come around every year. We have spring, summer, autumn and winter. The weather may be changeable but the fact that these times of year will come up is a given.

Knowing this, it is prudent for brands to be in control and to get their campaigns planned well in advance. It’s not to say that things won’t change but having some outline ideas is a good start.

FMCG brands are those that are most likely to have seasonal launches. This makes planning each time of year even more important.

As a PR agency that works within the FMCG market, it is not unheard of for us to be discussing summer in winter and Valentine’s Day well ahead of Bonfire Night. It might be confusing, but it makes sense to be prepared and to use the seasons to encourage creativity.

Working from a year-round schedule of activity can really help with this. Just looking at what is coming up in six months can be a real wake up call. Time stands still for no one, so taking the time to plan can have a positive impact on results.

Recreating scents, sights and scenes

When we are sharing our creative thoughts as an agency, we will work hard to set the scene. This means thinking very carefully about what experience and feeling each season brings. Harnessing the excitement from each time of year means that our campaigns are more compelling and relevant to the audience.

Using the seasons to encourage creativity means that we can go to that place and get excited about what this year might bring.

There are the obvious times of year; Christmas and Easter for example, but it is just as important that we put the time and effort into other times of year too. For some clients Valentine’s Day or Halloween could be the focus. Whatever the time of year, hopping to that moment in time is essential to get ideas that will have impact.

Creating a space that is themed is a good way to get people to think about that time of year. Surrounding the team with visuals is always a good starting point. These prompts will focus attention and ensure that the recommendations are relevant and right.

Consumer experience

Each season brings with it a different consumer experience. As such, it is important that as an agency we consider what will resonate with each audience. It may not always be the most obvious things, but those that give a person a feeling or trigger a memory.

Finding the experiences that are important to the audience, while also relevant to a brand, will deliver results. Working with companies that want to appeal to families as an example may mean that we create a campaign that harnesses the feeling of time together.

It could be Christmas Eve and festive movies, Halloween and trick or treating or Valentine’s Day and making cards for Mum or Dad. Whatever the season, we will bring together our shared experience to build campaigns that appeal to the widest and most relevant audience for the brand.

Using the seasons to encourage creativity

Going back to the start of this blog, I want people to think about how using the seasons to encourage creativity can lead to positive results. Far too often we look outside and moan about the weather. We are quick to focus on the negative rather than what is good about this time of year.

Take today, it’s cold. Autumn is well and truly in full swing. It’s also one of my favourite times of year because we start to make delicious stews and comfort foods. We sit around the fire and enjoy a glass of wine. We snuggle up and shut the curtains, making our homes warm and cozy.

It would be easier to think about the fact that Christmas is just around the corner and I haven’t done any shopping yet. That the mornings are dark and cold and the nights are gloomy and wet. That we are fast approaching the end of another year where not a single resolution was met!

None of these thoughts are going to give me the inspiration or encouragement to put forward my best ideas for clients, so I’ve changed my attitude. I am going to think about the good things and make sure that moving forward I am using the seasons to my advantage.

MAKING WEB CONTENT WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Making web content work for your business

Most companies have a website, but far less recognise the value of making web content work for your business.  

The simplest description to give a website would be an online brochure. However, as times have changed and buyer behaviours have evolved, so too has functionality. This makes websites a far more valuable business asset 

So, why then do companies put so much time and effort into creating a website only to leave it sat dormant? 

We explore how you could implement some changes to ensure you’re making web content work for your business.  

Planning a platform for business  

Websites are used to describe a business, product or service and also to provide customers with access to purchase. That may be through signposting to a retail outlet or direct to order online.  

Having a site and signposting to it should be part of the marketing strategy. However, before this happens, a great deal of time and effort should go into thinking about what you are sharing and why. 

Questions need to be asked: 

  1. Has the site been designed to be visually representative of the business? 
  2. Does it use a tone of voice and language that would be recognised by staff and customers? 
  3. Will the content be useful and engaging for prospective customers and those that purchase regularly?  
  4. Is the site easy to navigate both to pages and back? 
  5. Was the website worth the investment?  
  6. Would the website be a more valuable asset if greater time and attention was given to it?  
  7. Does it have a strong call to action? 
  8. What measures are in place to monitor the website performance? 

Whether you are updating a current website or starting from scratch, answering these questions will help. Like any business-critical activity that requires investment of time and money, it should start with an objective.  

Setting this out clearly will provide focus and purpose.  

Creating a site map  

Plotting a simple site map will give clarity on the pages that are required and what will be shared on each. One of the most common pitfalls is that companies create websites that share the same information on all pages.  

Repetition is sometimes unavoidable, but this should be discussed at the outset. It will save time and effort later.  

Better understanding the journey a visitor will go on, will also be a useful exercise. Remembering that people will be directed to any number of pages and using this to plot how they get from A to B and back again will be an exercise that pays dividends.  

Compelling copy with a clear call to action  

The copy that is shared on a website may be the first impression a prospective customer ever gets of your business. Getting it right is a must 

Once you have mapped what goes onto each page and what you want that visitor to learn, you will have the basis for your copy. Keeping the language you use simple, and the sentence structures short, is also important.  

As with all marketing, people can misjudge the time and effort that goes into curating good copy and perhaps even fail to recognise its value. When you take a step back and think about the last time you visited a poor website and how it made you feel, perhaps that attitude will change.  

I‘ve heard a website described as an online shop window, and this is probably a good interpretation. Certainly, in recent times, consumers have had to turn to websites, so making sure that the information shared is relevant and will resonate has never been more important.  

Having a clear call to action means a visitor can take away a recommendation. Whether they choose to put that into practice is up to them. However, websites that provide direction are always going to deliver a stronger return than those that don’t.  

Use social signposting to increase traffic  

Once the website is live for all to see, it is prudent to signpost an audience from social media platforms. As an example, if you have a new product to share, make sure to post a link to the relevant webpage across LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Insta.  

Social platforms are often used in this way and it does increase traffic to a website. The trick here is to make sure that the information posted is informative and helpful. If you sell at someone they are likely to ignore you. Give them something that they may want or need and you are far more likely to attract a click in the right direction. 

The principles of a website are the same as any marketing tool. Think about the needs of the audience first, not the business. That way you know the content you are creating will add value rather than create noise.   

It’s not always about starting from scratch  

One mistake that companies make is to forget about all of the historic content that has been created. Just because it is dated, it doesn’t mean that it is useless. In fact, there are probably some real treasures hidden in the archives.  

This content may need updating, repurposing or redrafting in places, but it should not be assigned to the recycle bin. 

Taking the time to go through and find the copy that is relevant may save huge amounts of effort in the long-term. It is also about being consistent with the message. Just because you have a new website, that doesn’t mean the story about the business has to change.  

In some cases, reading the content from when a business was launched will unearth some incredible insights that add personality and really resonate with staff and customers alike. Make sure to pull these pieces out so that you can make your web content work for your business.  

Optimising content to attract customers   

Most websites will have a plugin or tool that can be used to measure the search engine optimisation of the copy that is shared. These are really useful and very simple to use. As well as providing a red, amber or green reference, they will also provide recommendations on how to enhance copy. 

Don’t ignore these tips. They can turn a good piece of copy into a well written, informative and optimised piece of content. The truth is that when you follow the guidelines, the copy that you share is more likely to attract visitors and for them to read it. 

Adding keywords, creating subheadings, using simple language and keeping sentence structures simple are all ways of better engaging through web copy. This will also go some way to making web content work for your business.  

Allocating the time and effort needed   

Updating a website is not a five-minute task. It isn’t a simple job that can be added to a list to be completed on a Friday afternoon before home time. A website is a valuable business tool and should be considered as such.  

The investment that is often made into a website should be some indication of what time and effort is needed to make it work as hard as it can once the build is complete. No online platform is static anymore, so don’t leave your site to become dormant through lack of effort.  

Having a clear plan which focuses on making web content work for your business will deliver a greater return. Only then will you see the true value and what an asset an online platform can be.  

For support with your website content or to discuss how to put a structure plan in place for your PR, social and marketing requirements, please call a member of the team at Open Comms here 

WHY THE BBC HAS MORE TO WORRY ABOUT THAN FREE LICENSES

The BBC has more to worry about than free license fees

Not for the first time this year, the BBC has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The decision to stop providing free licenses to over 75’s being just one controversial move. Now, payments for employees have been shared with some netting more than £1m a year. Not bad.

While it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon, when you consider what the BBC is trying to do, the waters get murky. It’s no longer black and white. You see, the corporation needs to remain competitive without being commercial.

Held accountable to the general public, it is not always as easy as you may think to run an organisation that has to have total transparency. Every decision is scrutinised. The truth is, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Attracting the best talent

Like any organisation, the BBC wants to attract the best presenters. I was watching the news on the BBC this morning and Dame Esther Louise Rantzen DBE made, what appeared to be, a very good suggestion.

She said, cap the pay of all BBC employees to that of the Prime Minister. At £150k a year this would be a significant pay cut for many of the leading figures at the corporation. That said, most of us would be more than content to agree this as our annual salary.

On the surface this idea worked. Make significant savings in wages and pass it back to those over 75 who have historically benefitted from a free license.

However, when you delve a little deeper you must remember that the BBC has more to worry about than free licenses. It needs to attract the very best talent in order to remain competitive. It is, along with programming, arguably its biggest asset.

Consider you are a presenter and you have worked your way up to a primetime position. You have achieved what you set out to do. You are a celebrity in your own right, and you earn the big bucks. Then someone comes along and tells you to give the majority of your ‘hard earned cash’ back for the greater good.

It is fair to suggest, in this scenario, many of the presenters would leave and work for an alternative commercial station. Not ideal for a company that needs to retain and grow audience figures.

Then there is the fact that BBC presenters can’t top up their salaries with work outside of the ‘establishment’. Take Nagga Muchetty as an example, who was recently criticised for appearing in adverts for Natwest while working for the BBC.

It’s easy to see why presenters may find the suggestion of a capped salary hard to swallow, whatever they earn.

The balance of maintaining and attracting audiences

While the BBC may have a loyal following, it also needs to become more appealing to a younger audience. This means creating relevant and compelling content that resonates.

The challenge is that it needs to invest in digital programming to attract a younger demographic, while retaining those viewers that have followed the corporation for years. Not an easy task.

It’s just not as simple as to create programmes that will be watched by everyone. Times have changed and so too have viewing habits. The harsh reality is that the BBC needs to decide which audience will support its growth and future sustainability.

Changing viewing habits

Digital media has changed viewer habits. We don’t sit down as a family to watch programmes at a given time anymore. Programmes are available as and when we want to watch them. We can stream live or catch up at a time that better suits our needs.

The power has passed from programmer to the public.

Those channels that don’t keep up with these expectations are never going to attract a younger audience. They have access to content 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They aren’t going to wait around to watch something or be dictated by schedules.

The announcement that the BBC may remove the news at 6pm and 10pm within a decade was a further indication of this. The theory being that younger people don’t want to watch ‘linear broadcasting’.

The argument again goes back to the older audience. They have become creatures of habit and like to catch up with what is going on in the world. They know when and where they are able to do this. Take this away and many of them will become even more isolated than they already are.

Pushing boundaries

It would be unfair to suggest that the programming on the BBC is in any way poor. It’s just that, as an audience that’s been brought up with access to it, we take it for granted. Other channels are competing hard for audience figures. It’s become a daily struggle.

Take Virgin Radio as an example. Attracting Chris Evans to the breakfast show, using the same format and even the same team. The advertising to migrate the audience was intriguing and certainly got people talking. Many, as a result, will have tried out the station.

While this was great for Virgin, the BBC had to sit back and watch. The corporation can’t advertise. It had to wait and to do its best to retain figures, keep talent and continue to be innovative. That’s not easy for any business.

The BBC can’t push boundaries like other commercial channels can. Again, it goes back to governance and accountability. This is a hindrance but one that the corporation must address if it is to appeal to a mass audience once more. A further example of why the BBC has more to worry about than free licenses.

A world without the BBC

As someone who has watched the BBC for years and works with journalists and reporters from the corporation, I have to show it my support.

Like any business, it has its challenges, but when we consider a world without the BBC, it would be a darker place. It is a valuable and trusted new source, as well as being company for millions of viewers and listeners worldwide.

The BBC has been a staple for many of us, but it must change and evolve. Adapting to new audiences is just one of hurdles it will face if it is to have a sustainable future.

Going back to the very start of this blog, the BBC has more to worry about than free licenses. However, this also needs to be addressed. There must be a way that an organisation with such exceptional talent, experience and reach can meet the needs of a both young and old.

It remains to be seen. For now at least, I will continue to enjoy the news, along with other family viewing offered by the BBC. As a household of three generations, we all have our favourite programmes and we will share in the success of an institution that perhaps, in some instances, is easier to criticise than to celebrate.

For more information about Open Comms and how we get our clients into the headlines for all the right reasons, please click here.