Author: Lindsey Davies

WHY SUCH THE LONG FACE…

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I was really pleased to wake up earlier in the week to some light-hearted news; the announcement that Ken Cheng was named winner of the 10th Annual Dave’s Joke of the Fringe competition with his one-liner about a pound coin.

For those who missed it: “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.”

It wasn’t so much the joke in isolation that made my day, in fact, I think others in the list were arguably more deserved, it was just refreshing to have something less depressing to focus on than has been the case of late.

As someone who works with the media, the first thing I do is put the television on when I wake up to catch the national BBC news. I then wait for the regional updates before hopping in the car whereby I listen to BBC Radio 2. Once I get to my desk, I start with the online bulletins that I receive through email and then it’s onto the papers.

By this time, as you imagine, I often feel the need for a strong coffee before I can even think about embarking on the to do list.

Knock, knock…

Of course, PR isn’t really this depressing, we are very fortunate to work on some amazing campaigns and with some fantastic brands. Interestingly, the briefs that we receive often ask that we focus on the experience that a consumer will receive as the result of engaging with a brand or an activation.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I have never been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but I would love to go along. The reports have been amazing and I honestly think that as a professional working in the creative sector, it would do me good.

I think we all need to step away from our day to day lives sometime and to let our imaginations run wild. All too often we get stuck behind a desk or embroiled in process and what we really should be doing is sitting back and thinking like children with no barriers or limitations.

There’s no doubt then that many agencies focus on humour. The one thing that makes people feel good is a real giggle. There is no better feeling than laughing so hard you can’t stop and you don’t know why.

Personally, I love a good knock, knock joke from a young relative, not least because more often than not it takes three attempts and we’ve heard it all before!  

Now, for a brand to achieve this feeling would be something short of a miracle, but when humour is done well there is no doubt that it captures the imagination and it engages people in a way that is becoming increasingly challenging for brands. 

Why did the chicken cross the road…

The stumbling block is typically the same time and time again, agencies try too hard. Rather than keeping it simple, like the one-liners used at the Fringe, creatives come up with concepts that are too convoluted and dare I say it, clever.

What’s so wrong with a simple ‘Why did the chicken cross the road’ gag? Ok, perhaps we need to try a little bit harder.

But, we also need to remember that people don’t have time to stop, think, digest and laugh, it just isn’t going to happen. It has to be quick and as close to spontaneous as is possible. See what I mean about the challenge? Then of course there is the fact that humour is very subjective; something that one person openly guffaws at may have someone else cringing.

Take some of the jokes that are listed; there are without doubt a few that any responsible agency (please notice I didn’t say boring!) would never, ever go near. There is a very real line and although some brands push the boundaries, even they would be hard pressed to think these would be appropriate.

And so, I think there are lessons that we can all learn from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, not least to take a step back, keep it simple and have a laugh. After all, it’s said to be the best medicine and with the ‘summer weather’ this year, I think we’re all in need of a bit of that.

OPEN EXTENDS CELEBRATIONS WITH YM SPONSORSHIP

Image source: Chris Wallbank, www.chriswallbank.co.uk

Image source: Chris Wallbank, www.chriswallbank.co.uk

We can’t quite believe where the years have gone, but here at Open Communications we will be celebrating our ninth anniversary in September and thought it would be a great opportunity (excuse) to get together for a drink and a natter! 

As a member of the Yorkshire Mafia (YM) we will be sponsoring the Wakefield Drinks event, which takes place on Thursday 28 September at Unity Works. All you need to do to come along is to register using the following link: http://theyorkshiremafia.com/events/view/438/wakefield-drinks-evening

Like many other businesses in the District, we can be accused of working hard but forgetting to take the time out to meet with others and to step away from our desks. That’s why we thought the drinks evening would be an ideal opportunity for us to let our hair down and to meet with some familiar – and not so familiar – faces. 

Having attended a number of the drinks events in the past, most recently Yorkshire Day at Blackhouse in Leeds, we know how popular they are and how they are a great way to bring people together in a relaxed and less formal business setting. 

Although the Wakefield drinks events are a relatively new addition to the YM calendar, we want to show just what the District has to offer. We are huge advocates of the city and surrounding towns and hope that other professionals from the area will take the time to come along to showcase the diversity of businesses and success stories that we have here. 

So, get your diaries out and pens at the ready, the 28 September from 6pm – 11pm will be the Open Comms celebration at the Yorkshire Mafia drinks evening and you’re all invited. We look forward to seeing you there.

OPEN TIPPED FOR THE TOP AT INDUSTRY AWARDS

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We are very pleased to announce that we have been shortlisted for two industry accolades; Outstanding Small PR Consultancy and Not-For-Profit Campaign at this year’s Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) PRide Awards. 

Celebrating nine-years since we launched in September, Open Comms will come up against some tough competition when we attend the awards event, which will bring together the great and good of the PR industry on the 30 November at Leeds Town Hall. 

As well as providing a submission for Outstanding Small PR Consultancy, we also used evidence of the results we have achieved for our client the Coalfields Regeneration Trust. Having worked alongside the team for more than four years, we are really pleased that our submission now features on the shortlist for the Not-For-Profit Campaign of the year. 

Director of Open Communications, Emma Lupton comments: “We are very pleased to have our work acknowledged and to gain the recognition that comes from being shortlisted at the CIPR PRide Awards. We are very proud of the campaigns that we produce and also of the team here at Open. 

“Since we launched in 2008 we have built our reputation as a trusted partner to our clients and know that the awards will reinforce that credibility. As the leading industry awards for the PR sector it means a great deal to us that we have been shortlisted in the two categories we entered. Fingers crossed we will be a winning team on the night.”

Open Communications, based at Nostell Priory Estate Yard, works with a portfolio of clients from across a range of industries including FMCG, food, retail, recruitment, architecture, print and technology, housing, third sector and legal. 

RAISING A TOAST ON YORKSHIRE DAY

Image source: Chris Wallbank www.chriswallbank.co.uk

Image source: Chris Wallbank www.chriswallbank.co.uk

The beautiful scenery, rolling hills, rich history and heritage and wonderful stories that people have to share are just some of the things that make Yorkshire a region that you can be proud to call your home.

Having lived here all of my life, despite moving from North Yorkshire to West Yorkshire when I was younger, it never ceases to amaze me. We have so much to offer, not least some of the UK’s leading brands, businesses and talent.

That’s why it is no surprise that we have a day that is dedicated to the region, something that we can call our own and that now receives attention from the national media. There were many celebrations going on, with different activities planned but we decided to show our support for our client, the Yorkshire Mafia (YM).

A great organisation, the YM now has more than 22,000 pre-approved members. It started as a LinkedIn Group and simply went from there. It now hosts a year-round schedule of events which include Buy Yorkshire, the largest business to business event in the North.

And so, it was off to Blackhouse, a restaurant in Leeds which I have often been to and class as one of my all-time favourites. Champagne awaiting, we arrived to a bar jam-packed with people. It was great to see that so many people had taken the time to venture out on a sunny Tuesday evening.

The chatter was buzzing and the drinks flowing, it wasn’t long before we came across some friendly faces. There was a real mix of people that we know from the past and those that mentioned it was their first experience of the YM.

Needless to say, the impression that they had was positive, which was good. With more than 200 people at the event it was busy but that didn’t seem to impact too much on the bar, which was awash with thirsty revellers.

Looking around the room, I got to thinking about what makes Yorkshire so special and it’s often said that it’s the people and I have to agree. Everyone was smiling and friendly, as they should be at an event where the purpose is to meet, share and learn.

I was pleased that people following the YM code of conduct and didn’t go around thrusting business cards into sweaty palms whilst announcing that ‘we have synergy’, quite the opposite. I had the chance to speak to some really interesting people, many of whom had just started their own businesses.

Understanding the challenges that you come across when you launch a business, having been there almost nine years ago (I know, where has that gone!?), we got chatting and before long were guffawing about the ups and downs of becoming unemployable as a result of working for yourself.

Overall the event was a huge success and I made some new contacts, one that I am already planning to introduce to a client after seeing first-hand the work that they do and the approach that they take.

I have always enjoyed the YM evenings and will continue to do so, but there was something extra special about this particular one, perhaps because we were all there for the same reason; to get out and meet new people while celebrating the one thing we already had in common, Gods own county, Yorkshire.

Ten years on: what a difference a decade makes

phonemaster.eu

Image from thefonemaster.eu

As the iPhone celebrates ten-years, we look back and see what a difference a decade makes. After all, once upon a time we had mobile phones to make telephone calls – simple – but now we consider them a lifeline and an essential tool to support our daily lives.

Many of us take for granted the myriad of apps that we can download, as we’ve come to expect that there will be a world wide web full of information at our fingertips, but as sales of the iPhone exceed one billion, making Apple the most valuable business on the globe, is there a darker side to the tech that we rely on?

A study by Deloitte in 2016 found that four out of every five people have a smart phone, that’s a huge number and it just proves that we have all become somewhat dependent on our electronic devices. The study also went on to say that with the fear of missing out means that we access our phones during the morning, noon and night with many people admitting that they check their screens as soon as they wake up.

I also read an article recently which said that children no longer use their imaginations in the same way as their parents did as they never have the chance to get bored. What an awful thought. The impact of technology means that children are constantly amused and as such don’t need to make things up or create new games – it’s all done for them.

When the iPhone first launched Steve Jobs was quoted as saying “This is only the beginning”, and perhaps retrospectively this was a huge understatement as consumers eagerly anticipate the launch of the iPhone 8, which will bring with it further user benefits.

No longer is it good enough that we can research, engage, share, photograph, navigate and video using our phones, we expect even more from them, further embedding them into our everyday lives.

What we seem to ignore, while we await the next big thing in technology, is that phones aren’t always used for good. Consider for example how they are used for bullying in schools, something that young people have come to expect, but which should never, ever be socially accepted.

Then there are consumer complaints; we all know that we can tweet a brand and that they ‘should’ get back to us but we’ve come to expect an immediate response.

What surprises me is that people believe that they have the god given right to be rude to people when they are complaining online. I can’t understand how they don’t realise that there is still someone who has to deal with their comments on the other side of the computer and that they are probably not directly responsible for the fault or reason that an individual is disgruntled.

We all need to take a step back and to think a little more. It’s not ok to be rude and it’s not ok to feel that we can harass and berate someone because they work for a brand. Be polite. Be courteous. Treat other people like you would want to be treated!

Don’t get me wrong, there are clearly great things about having a device that can support and facilitate everyday life and that allows us to keep in touch with family and friends on a daily basis across the globe, but perhaps it is time to stop and think.

Do we rely too much on our phones and what benefits are they really bringing to our lives? Brands can use them to collate data and to target us with marketing messages to influence our purchases, while apps such as Snapchat are using GPS to show the world where we are and what we are doing.

There comes a point where you can have too much of a good thing and I think that when we are reaching for our phones at bedtime rather than our partners it is a clear example of misguided priorities.

Steve Jobs was right, it is only the beginning but let’s all hope it isn’t the beginning of the end. As a professional working in communication I want to champion chatter that doesn’t require a WIFI password or a log in.

Get better results by being honest about your budget

Budgets are always difficult when it comes to PR, not least because although we believe in the service that we offer and the results that we deliver, there are very rarely any guarantees. It’s not like advertising where you can give a publication, a date and a cost, PR is different.

There are so many nuances with our specialism, not least the changing media agenda, which let’s be honest, just lately, no one could predict! Then there’s measurement, which is an ongoing debate in the wonderful world of PR.

As an industry, we used to rely on advertising value equivalent (AVE) but that’s now considered to be too subjective, so we are left trying to find other measures such as audience reach. This is all well and good, but if you don’t set defined KPIs at the start of a campaign, the numbers are still more vanity than they are sanity.

And so, we come back to budgets, because the return on investment that you are able to achieve from a PR campaign, like most other disciplines, is often directly comparative with the investment that a brand or business is willing to make.

PR has never had a reputation for being the most expensive of the marketing mix, in fact, it’s often the poor relation as far as budgets are concerned but despite this, PR should not be underestimated. Managing your reputation has to be a priority for any business and as it is arguably the biggest asset that a company has, I’d suggest it’s worth taking seriously.

This is why allocating the budget that you have – and not the budget that you can get away with – is essential. If you trust your PR agency, which you should, then you will know that they will provide recommendations that make the most of every penny, so there should be no need to be anything other than honest.

I do appreciate that some agencies have a terrible reputation for mark-up and for allocating unreasonable fees, but again, it goes back to relationships. Make sure from the outset that you completely trust the agency that you are working with to deliver against the objectives and within the allocated budget.

What’s frustrating is when you are working alongside other agencies and you come up with some great ideas that deliver against objectives and within the restrictions of a budget only for others to completely ignore the brief and present something at twice the cost!

How can that be right? It hardly gives us all an even playing field to work from. We’ve done what we were asked – we can all go out and spend money and make recommendations on a budget that we didn’t feel was feasible, but is the point of a brief not to provide the guidelines?

This is a further reason why it makes more sense for brands to give a realistic budget, so that we can all give the very best ideas that we have, not just those that are being cheeky.

We have delivered some amazing campaigns (if I do say so myself) and they don’t have to cost the earth. There is clearly a budget requirement if you want to spend a week at a festival, sampling thousands of products and engaging with hundreds of families, as an example, but sharing the costs from the outset and being transparent means that there is no reason why it can’t happen and deliver against KPIs.

It’s a commitment by both parties, agencies and brands, to put their cards on the table. If we know that we have a given budget to work with, we can come up with some fantastic ideas that not only meet with our objectives but often go way beyond the expectations of the client.

Having the opportunity to come up with some really creative campaigns and plans is what we do, it’s just one of the many reasons we work in the industry and with the brands that trust us to deliver for them time and time again.

So, the upshot is, if you want to get the most from your agency, choose someone you trust, position them as a genuine extension to your team, give them the budget that you have and ask them to come up with a plan that will meet and exceed expectations.

All you then have to do is wait to be blown away, and if you’re not, perhaps it’s time for a change?

Celebrating the great and good of Wakefield

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Last Thursday, 22 June, we had the pleasure of attending the Wakefield Express, Wakefield District Business Awards. We were invited as guests by our client, HARIBO, who also sponsored the New Business of the Year award.

It has been said many times before that Wakefield can suffer from not shouting loud enough about its achievements and the many opportunities that the District presents for businesses of all sizes. Thankfully, this was one event that would champion companies and individuals from across a range of sectors who have made a difference and reported some excellent results.

After a delicious three-course meal it was up to host, Jon Hammond, to make the introductions and to welcome all of the sponsors and shortlisted businesses in the room. It certainly wasn’t a quiet affair and there was lots of whooping and drumming on the tables as the finalists were each announced.

 

The results were as follows:

–          Business of the year, OE Electrics

–          New business of the year, Heart Medical

–          Small to medium sized business of the year, Mint Support

–          Business person of the year, David Owens

–          Start-up business, Pop-up North

–          Customer service award, Room 97

–          Employee of the year, Pat Coffey

–          Independent retailer of the year, Bier Huis

–          National retailer of the year, Debenhams

–          International business of the year, Planet Platforms

–          Independent evening retailer of the year, Qubana

–          People’s Choice Award, Airedale Computers

–          Lifetime Achievement Award, Richard Donner

 

It goes without saying that all of the winners were very deserving of their accolades and for me, the event really showcased the diversity of the companies that call the District their home. It was really enlightening to hear from some new businesses too and to hear more about what products and services they offer.

As a Wakefield based PR agency, we have seen some significant changes over recent years and that is what makes the District such an interesting place. Unlike other Yorkshire cities, Wakefield is on a journey and the regeneration of the area is a testament to those who see the potential that it has.

This was just one occasion where the great and good came together to share the success of others and I’m very pleased that we had the chance to be a part of it. We would like to extend our congratulations to all those who were shortlisted and of course the winners on the evening.
We look forward to meeting with many of you over the coming months.

Making an exhibition of yourself

mafia conference

As you would probably expect, I have attended a number of exhibitions throughout the UK in recent years and have enjoyed the vast majority. As well as attending as a delegate, I have also worked with clients to provide support and to become the face of the brand, which has given me a useful insight into both sides of the experience.

There is absolutely no doubt that for those taking space at exhibitions it is hard work, both in the run up to and during. There is a lot of planning and preparation to consider and often associated costs that people forget about when they make their booking.

Over the years I’ve come to realise that there is a certain amount of naivety when it comes to exhibiting coupled with wild expectations that often result in disappointment, but that really shouldn’t be the case.

The truth about exhibitions is that you only get out of it what you put in. Harsh but true.

Here are just a few of the myths that I have come across:

–          I’ve booked a stand and therefore I will sell my products

–          There are thousands of people expected so I will sell my products

–          My stand looks great and I’ve invested in a designer so I will sell my products

–          You can win an iPad so I will sell my products

There is a consistent theme here and the truth of the matter is that you will not sell your products unless you change your focus. Exhibitions gives you the platform but you need to make that work for the consumer, in this case the delegates.

Too often exhibitors take the high ground when actually they should remember that every person that comes through that door is a potential customer. Sitting behind a table and expecting someone to come over and ask you questions is simply not good enough.

The best stands that I have seen have been colourful, fun and engaging. In more recent times there are often games or interactive elements that mean your dwell time is longer and the experience with that brand is more memorable.

What often surprises me is that a business will send junior members of a team or sampling staff with no briefing what-so-ever to manage a stand, often at a leading exhibition. A classic example was at the BBC Good Food Show last year.

I went along to the stand of a brand I know well and asked to see the director. The young lady managing the stand was quick to inform me that “Betty* is far too important to come to exhibitions, she has better things to do with her time, that’s why she sends us”.

I was absolutely flabbergasted. So, this business has paid thousands of pounds for a stand, for transport, for product, for staff and yet doesn’t feel that the exhibition is important enough to make an appearance, really?

I’m not suggesting that business owners should attend all exhibitions, it would be impractical to do so, but at the very least brief the team you are using to manage your reputation in front of thousands of people.

I would certainly want to know that those representing our brand at an exhibition would not only be pleasant, engaging and friendly but would also understand and reflect our values, something that we feel is fundamental to our business.

So, here’s a few top tips and perhaps a couple of things to think about for those who have exhibitions coming up:

  1. If you want to get the most out of an exhibition, put aside some investment, you’re going to need it.
  2. Consider how to make your stand engaging and how you will encourage people to stay for longer.
  3. Commission a designer, yes it can be expensive but it will be worth it. Pull-up banners have their place but it isn’t at a leading exhibition! Get printed PVC panels that fit to size and create a space you can be proud of.
  4. Remember, you are no more important than those who are coming through the door, they are your prospective clients.
  5. If you have to have a table and chairs don’t sit on them looking at your phone. Think about your body language and what message you are relying to delegates. If it’s ‘I would rather be anywhere else’ then you may as well go home.
  6. Don’t expect people to come over to you, make an effort and ask them a question so that they know you are willing to chat.
  7. If there are events before or after the exhibition go along. They are not ‘a waste of time’ or for people who just want a drink. They are further opportunities to meet with people and to get greater value from the money you have invested.
  8. Brief the people that will be representing your brand and business. Cover everything from the way you expect them to dress to the way they position your business and everything in between. You are putting your business in their hands, take this seriously.
  9. If you are attending, take the time to visit other stands. You have something in common by being there, so make contacts.
  10. Don’t expect to make a million pounds, be realistic. Go with the intention of making strong contacts and building relationships, that way you won’t leave disappointed.

Bored of it all, that’s probably a good thing

 

Image source: Dpaki.com

Image source: Dpaki.com

No, we’re not talking about politics, it’s about creativity and learning that boredom is a good thing and can lead to fantastic results if you allow yourself the luxury and time to just sit and think, or not as the case may be.

Let me explain.

On Wednesday, Lauren Child was named Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate. As the author of many children’s books, some of her most famous starring the now televised Charlie and Lola, it may come as no surprise that she received the prestigious title, but what made the story all the more compelling was her comments.

Lauren explained during an interview on BBC breakfast that parents shouldn’t try to engage and entertain their children all of the time and that they should be allowed to get bored. Giving some context she said that children when they are bored are at their most creative because it gives their imagination chance to create stories.

Makes perfect sense.

This got me thinking – somewhat like a child perhaps – that as adults we should do the same. We spend all of our time trying to meet deadlines, reading emails, sending emails, on the phone, conference calls, skype… it’s relentless, but is it the best use of our time?   

We all strive to do the best but perhaps sometimes we need to stop, just stop, and let our minds wander.

Working in a creative industry you would think that we do this a lot, but we don’t. We have deadlines to meet and as well as journalist requests we have schedules of activity for clients that we need to fulfil. Sitting around and looking into space is not on the agenda – but perhaps it should be.

I’m not one for wasting time – far from it – but if I thought that we could come up with better and more creative ideas by letting our minds wander every now and then, I would certainly be an advocate.

Then there’s the next generation of talent to think about. They have been brought up in a society that relies on the internet, on phones, on knowing that you can ask a device for information and it will be with you in seconds. How creative, or rather how bored, have they ever been allowed to be?

It’s a real worry to think that young people don’t make up stories, have adventures and sit along to play like we once did. They have apps and iPads that ‘fill’ a space and keep them entertained. They are spoilt by engagement and we don’t even realise what negative impact we could be having on them.

Lauren comments: “Looking out of the window and letting your mind float and suddenly you will see the most amazingly funny thing that will turn into a brilliant idea.”

I found that statement so powerful. I can completely resonate with her words. There are times when I feel like I’m up against a brick wall, I just can’t make a story work, so I will take a walk and get away from my desk, give myself the time to think it through, come back and I’ve got it.

Being bored isn’t a bad thing, it’s a great thing and I think we should all learn to embrace it and to put some imagination back into our lives, both at work and at home.