Category: Blog

LEVERAGING BRAND PERSONALITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Social Media

Brands and businesses often misjudge social media and the way it should be utilised. In the midst of polishing and refining a picture perfect online presence, brands can sometimes lose sight of what makes them different.

Every brand has its own story waiting to be shared online.

Social media simply acts as the medium which assists with a brands storytelling process and through this helps express its unique personality. This is not as simple as plastering a logo or copying and pasting the same 30 character long bio across all social channels.

Consumers nowadays crave authentic interaction and exciting content. Which is why injecting personality into every aspect of a brands social media presence is so important.

It’s what makes you and your content stand out.

Establishing a brand personality online can seem daunting at first, especially if social media is an entirely new territory for your business, so here’s a few tips to help get you started-

Focus on the brand, not the product –

Websites are for selling products. Social media is where you tell people about who you are, what you do and how you came about. Consumers want to know more about the brands they buy from and social media is the easiest way to share this information.

Bespoke interactions –

Avoid sounding scripted or generic and take a more personalised approach when engaging with people. This is a simple, yet effective way to take ownership of how your brand is perceived online.

Explore trending topics –

Social media is constantly evolving and trends change at the speed of light. Some of which you may not even know about. This is where google alerts come in very handy. Set up google alerts of key words that are relevant to your brand, so that you never miss an opportunity to reap the benefits of a trending topic!

Develop a social media handbook –

A social media handbook plays a vital role in sustaining a brands online presence, but unfortunately is often overlooked. Essentially, a social media handbook should outline your brands personality traits. It might also include a list of words or phrases that your brand should use or maybe topics that your brand should ‘watch out’ for. Either way, this handbook should act as a bible for you or your team to follow and will help to create relevant content for social media that is consistent with your brand and its personality.

Gone are the days when a product was enough to attract consumers. Now, brand personality is the driving force behind capturing the attention of audiences. For more tips on how to tell your brands story, read Lindsey’s blog here.

If you are wanting to explore social media or PR further, please do give us a call or email.

 

SHARE YOUR STORY: BUILD YOUR BRAND

PR is about telling stories and building brands

Brand loyalty is not what it used to be. People don’t typically have the same affinity with a company they once did. Perhaps because we now purchase for convenience rather than experience. We access our shopping online or from conglomerates. We have absolutely no idea who served us from one day to the next. That is assuming you didn’t use self checkout.

Times have changed and so have expectations. Consumers want quick, easy and accessible. They want price checks and free returns policies. It’s no longer about relationship building or shared values, it’s about simplicity and functionality.

But what if things were to change?

What’s your story?

Storytelling is an underestimated skill.

Sharing content that is useful, insightful and meaningful has changed the landscape for brands, giving them an opportunity to create a point of difference. In a bid to stand out from the crowd, manufacturers and retailers need to let people know why they should choose one product over another.

This isn’t just about why a business started in the first place, it goes beyond that. In order to give a true impression of a company and what it stands for, an organisation needs to decide what themes will resonate with its audience(s).

It may be the values of a business, the sustainable approach it takes, its corporate social responsibility or the skill, time, effort and experience that goes into making the final product. It may be tone of voice and an honesty that is not typical within a given market or all of the above.

Whatever it happens to be, making a plan for posting content and giving consumers the opportunity to learn more about a company will equip them with the information they need to make more informed choices.

Content that matters

There is a belief that posting a blog every now and then will do the trick and sharing copy across social channels will have people flicking on the kettle and grabbing a cup of tea ready to sit down for a good read.

The truth is that people are just as busy as you are.

It is therefore necessary for brands to consider this and to condense copy so that it can be shared in a way that will appeal to the widest overall audience. It is fine to draft a blog, but break the copy up and then provide a revised version which will share the main points across social channels. If people want to read more they can. Working in this way gives them the choice.

Organisations should map out what the audience needs, wants and what they will enjoy. It may be industry specific topics, thought leadership articles, advice and guidance or something more light-hearted, such as a weekly update from the workforce.

Identifying what is most likely to work will save time and also keep people coming back for more. There is no point in sharing the same content over and over. This is a chance to mix things up and to give a brief glimpse behind closed doors.

Content that changes behaviours

Marketing and PR can be a reoccurring point on agendas which never gets the attention it deserves.

What business owners may fail to realise is that well written copy that is shared regularly can change behaviours. That means that people could switch from purchasing one brand to another based on access to information and strategic storytelling.

Some brands do this very well and use the opportunity to share updates as a way of reiterating the importance of every purchaser to them. Not only does this start to build a community of like minded people, it also gives those involved the confidence they have made the right decision.

When you think about it, would you rather purchase from a faceless, transactional business that will seemingly never give you a second thought or from a brand with personality that thanks you for your custom and directs you to useful content that you can access at your leisure.

Forcing the point

It is absolutely imperative that whatever the size of the business, those responsible for drafting copy understand the difference between selling and sharing. There is a fine line between commercial marketing and editorial PR, which can seem like a mountain to climb when you are faced with a blank sheet and a blog post to draft.

When curating content, it is a good to set out a plan. What is the purpose of the copy, what is the point and why will people read and share it? Without the answers to each of these questions, you may find you are wasting your time.

Forcing a point may come across as a sales pitch, which can do more damage than good. The purpose is rather to educate, inform and give people the detail and background they need to make an informed choice about your product and business.

That is why establishing a tone of voice will give you an edge and will make drafting copy far simpler. It will mean that you are able to inject personality and to build this over time. It doesn’t have to remain exactly the same, it can evolve and those that do become loyal follows will become a part of that journey.

Starting small, thinking big

Drafting content and sharing stories should be a part of any businesses planning and strategy if they want to build a strong and resilient brand.

Rather than make this ‘another thing to do’, the best way to implement change is to start small and think big. One suggestion would be to draft a blog a month, which is supported by social media updates across the most appropriate channels to redirect the audience to that post.

There can then be plans to increase this as the audience increases and customers become more accustomed to the sharing of regular content. Setting clear measures of success should be all the encouragement a business needs to continue. After all, if the right approach is taken, the results will follow.

THE POWER OF STORYTELLING FROM ‘MY STREET’

The power of storytelling

I have a guilty pleasure; I really like to watch documentaries while I make dinner. It’s my time to do two things that I enjoy; learning from storytelling and creating homemade meals for my family.

This isn’t a new thing. It was always my Sunday afternoon treat. Since lockdown I’ve started to watch programmes on my iPad while prepping, chopping, baking, boiling and roasting. It is a way for me to destress and unwind while also learning about others.

I am interested in different communities, cultures and lifestyles. The way people choose to live their lives intrigues me and I genuinely believe we can all learn from others: good or bad.

Looking differently at My Street

While perusing the choices, I came across an old programme called My Street. The concept was simple but inspired. A lady had lived on a street for many years and realised she didn’t know her neighbours.

Not usual now-a-days, and something that I feel we can probably all relate to in one way or another.

She set about knocking on doors and asking each family to share their stories about love, life and loss on film. The outcome was an insight into a street that was made up of so many different characters that had one thing in common: their postcode.

Learning from storytelling

This got me thinking.

There is little doubt that one of the reasons I enjoy documentaries so much is that I write stories for a living. Admittedly, the releases and features I draft are often about business, but this doesn’t mean they are devoid of personality.

We always say that passion is infectious, and personality is the one thing that a company has that cannot be replicated. You may be selling the same product as another business but what makes your organisation unique is you. This is where the power of storytelling comes into its own.

I then realised that during lockdown we have started to talk to our neighbours more. We’ve always nodded a polite hello but now we stand in our gardens and we chat. We live on a cul-de-sac in a former mining village and are all very different.

Since lockdown a group of us have come together and during our morning, afternoon and evening chats (which conform to the obligatory social distancing) we have learnt about ‘My Street’. It wasn’t forced it just happened and has made me realise how important it is to add personality to content if you want to really engage with an audience.

Behind closed doors

People like stories. They like to know what happens behind closed doors and to hear about the love, life and loss of others. This doesn’t mean every business needs to share their inner most workings with everyone. In fact, I can’t think of a single client that would happily disclose all their best kept secrets. What it does put into perspective is the need to add interesting facts into the case studies, press releases, blogs and social content.

If you want to harness the power of storytelling you need to think differently.

Adding some honesty to copy and write in the first person to change a piece of content from informative to truly engaging. Creating reactions and changing behaviours is one of the benefits of PR and writing in this way will achieve those objectives.

Going back to My Street

Although I have worked in PR for more than 20 years, I never assume to know everything.

Life is about lessons and I like to learn from others. I try to take the positives from situations and just one of those will be that My Street has reminded me that the true story is the person behind the headline.

Remembering this and using it as a tool going forward, I’m going to put this into practice and make it my mission to find out more about the people behind the stories that we share. But before that, I am going to continue to enjoy the chats that we are having with neighbours and to learning more about what goes on behind closed doors on My Street.

AVOIDING LONG-TERM DAMAGE DURING A CRISIS

Avoiding long-term damage during a crisis

It’s fair to say that for most of us the novelty of working from home has worn off. There are serious decisions to be made that will impact on the lives of those around us. Uncertainty is causing anxiety and sleepless nights are becoming the norm. That is why we all need to focus on avoiding long-term damage during a crisis.

Business owners could be forgiven for finding these times the most stressful of their careers. Although most companies are facing the same challenges, the difference is how they are handled.

Stop, think, act

The best organisations are those that call upon the varied skills and quirks of colleagues. This means there are a range of personalities within a business to contend with. While during normal times this doesn’t cause too much of a problem, when times are tough these differences will be magnified.

Encouraging everyone within the team to stop, think and then act is just one approach that can dilute potential fallout. The last thing any company needs is for someone to make a rash decision that will have long-term implications.

Calling upon those with the most relevant expertise to lead is likely to deliver a more positive outcome. Carrying on with business as usual simply won’t work.

Communicating clearly

It is important that any company recognises the value in communicating clearly with its audiences. Not only does this gives customers, suppliers and staff the confidence they need, but it also reflects positively on the brand.

Taking the time to think carefully about what is being said and to whom is a good starting point. It is then about delivering these messages consistently and across the relevant channels.

As these are unprecedented times, audiences don’t expect that companies have all the answers. They do however want honesty and transparency. Authenticity is a word that is overused in PR but brands that can communicate in this way will almost certainly be most resilient.

Finding the silver lining

As contracts are cancelled, budgets are cut and staff are furloughed there seems to be no silver lining to this dark cloud.

During a crisis it is often best to say as little as possible and to stick to the facts, however there has never been a situation like this. Most businesses are facing the same challenges at the same time.

Rather than focusing entirely on the negative, use this as an opportunity. Share the values of a business and show what organisations are doing to support others. CSR (corporate social responsibility) is very much front of mind at present, so ensuring that this is communicated is essential.

It may be that employees are standing outside each Thursday and clapping at 8pm. A company could have turned its signage blue in support of the NHS, carers and frontline workers. People may be putting together care packages or supporting neighbours. Whatever a business is doing, it may be of benefit to let others know.

Using social media for the right reasons

In recent years, social media has commonly featured in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. It may be trolling, shaming or shared content that was intended to be private. Whatever the situation, social media channels have had their fair share of negative publicity.

That was, until now.

It’s been really enlightening to see social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn used for the right reasons. With light-hearted videos shared by companies and posts offering support, it has been a welcome relief.

Companies can use these examples as best practice and look at ways that they could do the same. As long as these posts are done for the right reasons, they will add personality to a brand and engage with audiences when it matters most.

Calling upon a network

When organisations are faced with a crisis it is often exclusive. This means that they are left to handle the approach, process and consequences alone.

In this instance, everyone is in the same boat. This therefore gives businesses the chance to call upon their networks for help and support. There is no shame in asking for advice and the same can be said for offering it.

Having a company can be isolating and lonely. At times like this it is essential that we all come together and do our best for the benefit of the wider business community. We can then do our best to avoid long-term damage during a crisis.

A focus on the future

While times are tough, we all need to remain focused on the future. There is light at the end of the tunnel, we just need to get there. It is going to take resilience, solidarity, effort, positivity and mindfulness.

These are all strengths we need to call upon and we will.

In the meantime, we need to communicate consistently, remember our values and try our hardest. Before long, we will get to a point where we can celebrate all that we have achieved when faced with unprecedented adversity.

Summary

Finding ways to be more progressive and to put in place an approach that works best for a business can be a challenge. We would urge any company of any size to consider the following:

  • Stop, think and act
  • Communicate clearly
  • Try to find a silver lining
  • Use social media for the right reasons
  • Call upon your network
  • Focus on the future

We hope that this will provide a starting point and a check list for organisations to work from. No company wants this, however having plans in place can support the present while also pathing the way for a brighter future. Hopefully then we can all work towards avoiding long-term damage during a crisis. For access to information and support about your PR, marketing content and social media please call a member of the team.

SHARING THE SECRETS BEHIND PR

Sharing the secrets about PR

The truth is that when it comes to sharing the secrets behind PR, there aren’t any.

Before I go on, let me make it clear, those working in the profession are specialists and they spend years training but there is no need for a scholarship at Hogwarts.

As an industry, PR suffers from a reputation crisis. Many businesses have been let down by false promises, hidden costs and wasted budgets. They have been offered the earth and when that doesn’t materialise they are left with a document full of excuses.

Unfortunately, this has put many companies off, and rightly so, but the good news is that this doesn’t have to be the case. 

Starting at the beginning

All businesses can benefit from PR. This isn’t a statement, it’s a fact.

Whatever the industry or product, there can be a clear rationale made for engaging with staff, customers and / or suppliers. Furthermore, it is really important that companies share their values, approach and where possible, the reason for their existence.

If people are to part with their hard earned money, they want to better understand where their purchases come from. This isn’t necessarily about food miles, but more about the philosophy of an organisation and what it stands for.

Setting a strategy

Clearly, not every business is the same, and the objectives for putting a communications strategy in place will be different. This is one of the benefits of PR; it can be shaped around any organisation whether business to business, business to consumer or third sector.

The other thing to consider is who will be involved in developing the strategy and delivering it. There needs to be clear ownership and input. PR isn’t something that will just happen, it needs to be managed and driven.

A seat around the boardroom table

PR needs to take a seat around the boardroom table. There is no point in making the investment – of time or resource – if putting a strategy into practice is not going to be taken seriously. If PR remains a nice to have then it simply won’t work.

Finding those within the business that have a natural affinity or passion for communication will take some of the pressure off. Giving these individuals additional responsibility and set performance indicators to work towards will keep PR on the agenda.

Discussing the tactics that have worked and those that haven’t with the senior management team will reinforce the importance of PR and what it can deliver.

Sharing the excitement

As a business function, when PR works well, it is difficult for people not to notice. It may be coverage in a newspaper, on the radio or even TV. It could be a newsletter, a blog, social media posts or an internal communication programme.

Whatever the objective, getting excited by the results that can be achieved through PR is fundamental to its success. A further benefit is that once one element of the plan is working, it can evolve and additional actions can be added.

Not enough time in the day

It’s easy to default to this assumption. There just simply isn’t enough time in the day to do everything that is required and PR isn’t a priority.

Well, it should be.

How a company communicates will influence the behaviour of its customers. There are few other specialisms that can make this kind of impact. PR is just as important as the quality of a product or service, which should ensure that it remains on the agenda.

When organisations recognise the real value of PR it can be transformative and that is why setting aside the time is so important.

Relying on the specialists

For those that really don’t have the time and cannot find any available resource within the business, the alternative is to turn to the specialists.

As a Wakefield based PR agency we work with businesses of all sizes. As well as delivering a year-round PR, communications and content strategy for our clients, we also deliver training. This gives smaller organisations the tactics, tools and techniques they need to put the theory into practice.

For those that want to explore PR, content marketing and social media further, please do give us a call or email.

 

CITY CATHEDRAL TO BE ENGULFED IN FIERY GLOW AT NIGHT OF FIRE & LIGHT

Although the brisk remnants of a cold and dull winter are still lurking in the open air, Wakefield is set to turn up the temperature as we welcome in the start of Spring.

As one of the most culturally diverse cities in the UK, the Wakefield district is home to an array of world-renowned attractions. With the likes of the leading international centre for modern and contemporary art, Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP); the award-winning art museum, The Hepworth Wakefield, and the National Coal Mining Museum for England, Wakefield certainly punches above its weight when it comes to things to see and do.

But arguably the most underrated and overlooked cultural offering, which sits in the heart of the city centre, is Wakefield Cathedral.

Although the residents of Wakefield may have become immune to the historic building’s towering and picturesque presence, the public’s interest in the cathedral will certainly be reignited during a two-night event at the end of this month.

Wakefield BID in association with Wakefield Cultural Consortium, the collective of cultural venues and business organisations from across the district, are set to launch a ‘Night of Fire & Light’ as Wakefield Cathedral is transformed into an illuminated cityscape.

Delivered by award-winning outdoor arts organisation, Walk the Plank, on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 March from 7pm – 9.30pm, the Night of Fire & Light will enable families to wander through a series of specially commissioned art installations and sculptures, which will cast a fiery glow around the grade-I listed building and its gardens.

Following flame-lit pathways adorned with intricately carved flower boxes and flame-filled floral chimneys, the event will put the spotlight firmly on the city’s cathedral, which will also be lit as a magnificent backdrop to the event.

Visitors will be able to experience Wakefield Cathedral in a completely new and exciting way! For further details about Night of Fire & Light visit www.experiencewakefield.co.uk/fire-light.

I for one, can’t wait!

UNDERSTANDING THE BENEFITS OF OUTSOURCING PR

Senior management may like it or not, but in order to realise their business’ full growth potential they will have to invest time and money in a robust and strategic communications plan.

Whether it’s raising a company’s profile, increasing brand awareness or protecting an organisation’s reputation, implementing a public relations strategy can be an extremely effective method of generating a significant boost in both revenue and profits.

The challenge, however, is to either keep PR services in-house or pay for an external agency to handle this process.

Although each option will require investment, the focus shouldn’t be put on the most cost-effective approach but rather the one that will deliver the strongest ROI. Looking at the long-term, outsourcing PR and marketing services can be much more advantageous than handling this approach internally.

First and foremost, working with PR agencies gives business leaders full access to an entire team of communication specialists and their varied skill set. No matter how complex the brief may be, agency professionals can each take a key area of focus to deliver a full-service programme of activity.

Once executed successfully, an external service provider can often become strategic partners to the businesses they work with, offering valuable market insight, guidance with future campaigns and expert advice to key decision makers and stakeholders.

Ultimately, PR agencies need to be seen as an extended team of the companies they work with, and not for.

Below are my top three benefits from working with an external PR agency

Team of experts: No matter the marketing or communication requirements, PR agencies will have a team of specialists at an organisations disposal to tackle any issue, often at the same price of hiring just one new employee. Specialisms include copywriting, social media management, digital marketing, press release writing, crisis management, plus many more.

Media relations: PR agencies have developed a vast network of media contacts in many different industries. So no matter what market a business operates in, specific members of press, publications and influencers can be targeted to help generate positive publicity.

Creative outlet: Creativity sits at the heart of PR agencies, whose teams are brimming with unique and imaginative concepts that will create buzz and excitement like never before. Businesses can capitalise whenever they are commenting on current trends, looking to disrupt certain sectors, enter new markets or simply trying to get in front of a wider audience.

Investing in PR should never be seen as ‘a nice to have’ but rather a key catalyst to obtaining further growth.

For more information about how Open Communications works with businesses and brands of all sizes please call a member of the team.

TRANSITIONING FROM JOURNALISM TO PR, ONE YEAR ON…

This time last year, I was preparing to leave my career in journalism behind.

A necessary change

After four and a half years in the industry, I finally made the decision to switch to public relations. But, as my former colleagues often taunted and teased me about turning to the ‘dark side’, I can safely say that the transition has been an extremely illuminating experience.

During my tenure as a business journalist, I was on the receiving end of the hard work of many PR professionals. Whether it was receiving press releases, organising interviews, collecting client comments or the often-tedious task of sourcing high resolution images, collaborating with PR agencies makes the lives of journalists a hell of a lot easier.

Although I’m sure many in the profession may be quick to disagree, or squirm at this admission, it is the truth!

Yes, journalism is a competitive, demanding and high-pressured job, but it can also be extremely exciting and rewarding. The thrill of being the first to break a story, working towards an impending deadline, meeting high-profile individuals, being privy to many major announcements and simply not knowing what the next day may bring were just a few of the things I thought I’d miss about being a journalist.

When my decision came to light, I found myself on the receiving end of the vitriolic questions journalists often pose to their target. But the majority of my contemporaries would simply want to know ‘why?’

Leaving a legacy

In recent years the rollercoaster ride of being a journalist turned into more of a repetitive slog where the twists and turns were becoming less frequent and lacked the thrill they once provided. In a world of economic uncertainty and squabbling politicians, the same doom and gloom headlines dominated the news in a never-ending cycle.

‘What legacy is this?’ I often asked myself. The realisation finally came that it was my time to stop and get off the rollercoaster. Another force pulling me to the ‘dark side’ was the positive experiences I had during my frequent encounters with PR professionals from a plethora of different agencies. I was always intrigued about the variety of clients just one PR agency could work with and the diverse ways in which they strategically operate to reach a certain outcome.

Collaborating with multiple businesses; learning about different sectors; promoting beneficial initiatives; marketing the latest products or just simply learning and refining new skills are a number of aspects which made PR much more appealing to me than journalism. My days of finishing one story then going on to the next were over.

My PR journey begins

Not long after joining Open Communications, I was introduced to what it really meant to be an agency that delivered PR, social media and content marketing strategies for brands and businesses across a range of sectors.

The concept that public relations industry revolved around writing press releases and making phone calls all day was quickly eradicated. My reality check was quick. PR professionals are multifaceted, motivated individuals who need to prioritise their own time, strategically plan out each day and week and expect the unexpected.

The biggest eye-opener for me was initially monitoring the scale of the day-to-day tasks the team carries out and how they all form part of a results-driven process which is applied to every single client.

Gone are the days where I’d be churning story after story for newsletter after newsletter, hoping and waiting for the monotony to end. My daily activities now comprise a range of tasks I didn’t have the means to complete just one year ago.

With no two days ever the same, I can be writing copy for a clients’ new website; laying out a comms strategy to enter new markets or creating promotional content one day, to researching the latest innovative features in a specific field or carrying out a social media campaign across multiple platforms the next.

It is also worth mentioning that the good old-fashioned press release still plays an important part but it’s certainly not the sum of the piece!  This is the sort of legacy I want to leave, and I cannot wait to see where my PR career continues to take me.

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.