Tag: brand

COUNTING THE COST OF PR VERSUS THE VALUE IT DELIVERS

Counting the cost of PR

During my career I have often thought about how businesses count the cost of PR without really understanding its value.

While browsing my social media channels last week, I came across a post that had been shared far and wide. It really resonated with me, and those I am connected with too. It reads:

“If I do a job in 30 minutes, it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.”

Having worked in the PR industry for more than 20 years, I appreciate the sentiment behind the words. For me, my training started when I was at college. I then did a four-year degree before securing my first full time position.

So, in total, my academic training was at least six years. That said, you never stop learning in PR, so it would be fair to suggest it is actually upwards of two decades.

PR is an investment

As a professional, it can be a challenge to explain to people that PR is an investment. Of course, any business will consider the cost, but they should also appreciate the value.

PR is about managing the reputation of a brand and business. Arguably, the biggest asset of any company. Without a reputation you have nothing. Putting the right amount of time, effort and budget behind it is essential.

Getting the balance right will ensure that companies get the results they are looking for.

Return on investment

Every organisation wants a return on investment. Having launched Open Communications more than 11 years ago, I understand this whole-heartedly. PR should be no different. Ensuring you choose an agency that is transparent, honest and open is half the battle.

Despite having the endorsement of some of the largest brands in the world, PR is still an unknown for some. In the most part, business owners know that they need it, but they can’t always see the true value.

This leaves PR as a forgotten relative. It becomes a ‘nice to have’ rather than the business-critical specialism it is.

In order to get best value from PR you need to provide a detailed brief. This gives clarity to the agency and gives you the chance to think carefully about the objectives you would like to achieve. These can then become KPIs to measure against.

Being honest about budgets

Providing a budget is really important.

Some people worry that providing a budget means an agency will charge that fee. Perhaps that will be the case, but they will also provide a rationale for the cost. It will allow them to provide realistic recommendations to meet with objectives.

Having no indication of the investment a business is willing to make just wastes time. It leaves an agency second guessing and that rarely works out well. It may mean the costs are too high or that the ideas are too safe. Either way, if a budget is given then everyone knows what they are working with.

We’ve always been very honest with our clients. We go above and beyond, treating our clients’ money as if it was our own. This is a value that has become reflective of Open Comms and synonymous with our approach.

This is one of the main reasons our clients’ work with us for years. They know what to expect and that they never need to challenge our honesty and transparency.

It’s about the years and not the hours

Going back to the main point. When working with an agency it really is about the years and not the hours. The hours are what you pay for. But the experience of a team is where the value lies.

At Open Comms we have a team of experts that have worked with some of the largest brands in the country. We have earnt our stripes and we love what we do. The assumption that PR is easy and that anyone can do it is misguided. The reality is very different.

It may be right that anyone can put pen to paper, however that isn’t PR. The education, training, skills, tactics and constantly evolving landscape means PR professionals are just that. Professionals. They have worked hard and have invested in their careers to be the best they can be.

Trust is integral to success

When you rely on an agency, you are trusting them with your brand. That’s a big commitment. We don’t take it lightly and that is one of the reasons our job is so exciting. Thankfully our clients have very similar traits. They trust us and believe in what we do.

This means we can work as an extension of their teams and to give them advice. Real advice. Honest advice. Uncomfortable advice. Not what they want to hear, but the right advice based on our experience and knowledge.

PR isn’t just about writing press releases or posting compelling content. It is about reputation and managing a brand. It is about avoiding crisis. It is about navigating through hard times and celebrating good.

The beauty of PR is that it doesn’t stand still. There is no one size fits all. Every single client we work with has different objectives. They are specific to their business and require a range of tactics. This keeps us on our toes and is just one of the many reasons we do what we do.

What to consider when choosing an agency

It’s really quite simple.

  1. The first thing to think about when choosing an agency is what you want to achieve. Create a clear brief that shares your objectives and budget.
  2. Next, find an agency that you feel would be a good fit with your business. PR is very much about relationships. You will be sharing information that is sensitive and confidential so you must have an affinity with the people you are working with.
  3. It’s not about them and us. It’s about working as a team to deliver results that meet with the objectives. Treating your agency as you would you colleagues will allow you to get the best from them.
  4. Remember, you are paying for experience. It’s about the years not the hours. Trust your agency to deliver. If you have any doubt, it’s probably time to review the suppliers you are working with.

Getting the balance

The balance between budget and return can be tricky but it’s not impossible. Be honest, be open and set expectations from the outset.

Once these are in place you will start to see the value of PR. When you are celebrating results, you will realise PR really is an investment and not a cost.

SOCIAL MEDIA VS TRADITIONAL MEDIA: WHAT’S THE STORY?

Social-Media-Marketing-vs-Traditional-Marketing

It’s used by everyone from busy-bodies to businesses, politicians to pet pooches and, as the Guardian recently reported, even GCHQ has gotten in on the act.

The question remains, what is it that makes social media so different to the traditional channels we were once used to, and how can effective management of online communications platforms and apps positively impact upon a company’s bottom line?

For many organisations social media is an essential medium through which to communicate messages, form the level of personality which sets a brand apart from its competitors and provides a way in which relationships are built, and subsequently maintained, with consumers.

Whilst there is, undoubtedly, some crossover between the benefits that social media and traditional channels offer, using a combination of the two approaches will ensure that a brand’s message reaches the widest audience in the most fitting manner.

Round 1: sharing news

In today’s busy world we are surrounded by marketing messages at every turn. Whether it’s a text on a mobile phone, a red light whilst driving or an advertising billboard, each method communicates a message, but in a distinctly different way.

In the same way that these mediums differ, so too does the sharing of news from traditional and social media.

Here are two theoretical examples:

  1. Pet Pooch Apparel secures lucrative contract with leading retailer (alongside an image of the company’s directors outside the business’ headquarters)

vs

  1. It’s been a woofing good day here at Pet Pooch Apparel; with one wag of a fluffy tail we’ve made it rain ‘puppy style’ (insert picture of puppy in raincoat)

Example 1 is the type of headline that you’d see on a typical business news platform. Short, snappy and to the point. This message takes a professional tone, which is in-keeping with the readership of such a site. This type of media coverage raises the profile of a business and its achievements; building credibility by association as a result of appearing on a well-known business platform.

On the other hand, example 2 could feature on ‘Pet Pooch Apparel’s’ social media channels and, as such, takes a far more colloquial tone which communicates the personality of the brand. Featured alongside a link, which allows the reader to go directly to a page that features the product, this version of the same news is likely to attract a different reader and, therefore, should be posted in a way that will appeal to them.

Whilst the focus of a business story is primarily building the credibility of a business, the objective of social media channels is to build a relationship with the people who actually buy the products.

Whilst being on the radar of every large organisation within the region has its benefits, most companies will have competitors just around the corner and this makes the importance of creating a brand which appeals to buyers increasingly important.

The truth is that having a strong brand, personality and tone of voice is often the one thing that sets a business apart during a customer’s decision-making process.

In these examples it’s clear to see how each version of news has a distinct purpose. By shifting the focus of the story from a purely business mindset, to a form more likely to be considered engaging to the everyday social media user, the reach of the story can be broadened to appeal to a much wider audience.

Round 2: engaging with the customer

In what I’d envisage to be a fun and trendy business like ‘Pet Pooch Apparel’, magazines and consumer-focused publications are likely to be a part of any PR strategy.

Achieving coverage in this type of media would be the best way to raise the profile of the business amongst potential customers, whilst building the familiarity and trust necessary to achieve repeat sales and encourage loyalty.

However, though companies can submit a press release which is full of personality and is reflective of the brand’s values, this messaging is often significantly diluted when it finally finds its way into a publication.

As a result, relying entirely on media coverage from magazines to communicate with your customers and build your brand is a steady process which does not happen overnight. Instead, through a long-term strategy which targets the relevant magazines at the most appropriate times it will deliver results.

Yet, combine this approach with a stream of interesting, insightful blogs and quirky social media posts, and the whole process becomes much less sporadic and a lot more likely to yield quicker results.

Increasing the comments, likes and excitement surrounding your latest post, is a sure-fire way to gain fans and, with new followers, comes a wider audience with which to share your new products, services and offers.

On the other hand, we must consider that with a busy social media channel comes a certain amount of maintenance. With the ‘always on’ appeal of online apps, comes the potential for a large number of comments which shoppers increasingly expect will be replied to. This gives additional opportunity to stay ‘on brand’ by responding in a light-hearted manner but also takes a great deal of time and effort.

For example:

Question – Which accessories would you recommend for a Yorkshire terrier?

Possible response – Trendy or traditional, we’re sure that your terrier would appreciate this tweed flat cap! With his Yorkshire roots, we know he’ll feel right at home. Don’t forget to let us know what he thinks 😉

Round 3: the thrill of the chase

There’s no denying that coverage in the newspaper, a magazine or on a prestigious online platform feels infinitely more rewarding than simply posting on a company blog or social media channel.

Moreover, the uncertainty that accompanies the process of pitching a story to a publication and then waiting to see whether it appears, enhances the feeling of excitement when you do secure that much awaited coverage.

Once you’ve secured a story that even your mum would be proud of, you’ll most likely want to shout it from the rooftops! Well, once again, this is where social comes in and can be used as a platform to maximise your message and audience reach.

Round 4: consistency is key

It’s not always possible to rely on editorial coverage, for example your story may get bumped by a huge national crisis, and that is why a business should use its own channels to post the message to its audience and upload the news that they have to share.

Though it won’t happen overnight, regular posts and insights, consistent messaging and well managed, interesting content is the key to increasing brand awareness and, if your social media channels become a hit with customers, the chances are that your products will too.

In summary, working in PR and content marketing it is clear that both traditional media and social channels are complementary and can be used to create brand trust and loyalty for a business. If you’d like advice on how to maximise your own social media channels, would like assistance creating original content, or would like to speak to us regarding a PR strategy, please contact a member of our team on 01924 862477.

White-label – more like white flag!

I was talking to a fellow PR practitioner recently (it does happen!) and they mentioned that they’d been approached by a ‘full service’ agency asking them to white-label their offering – for anyone who doesn’t know what this means; it is doing the work for the agency, as if you were them, as opposed to working directly with the client.

I know many agencies who work like this and my feeling on the matter has never changed. As an agency your ‘job’ and objective for your client is to build a brand, if that means working with a series of other agency specialists then so be it – but the idea is that you get people talking and you share messages about that business.

How on earth can you expect to do this for them, if you can’t and don’t do it for your own business? Ok, so I appreciate that some agencies get most of their work through white-labelling but there are two points that I find fundamentally wrong with this;

  1. You should be proud of your work and want to share your ideas with the client direct – knowing that they have been presented correctly
  2. Nine times out of ten the ‘host’ agency claims to be full service and isn’t, hence why they come to you in the first place – so already your relationship with your / their client is on difficult ground

To use a ‘daddism’ ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave’.

You may as well wave a white flag if you are white-labelling because as far as I can tell you must be desperate for work if you are potentially willing to have your values compromised to work for others – who are not willing to give you the credit.

Now, before I get a barrage of people calling me crazy, white labelling is not working with other agencies or even working as a team with a lead agency – it is allowing an agency to share your work with a client as their own. I should also mention here that there are a number of genuine full service agencies who do a fantastic job and good on them but that’s not what my ‘rant’ is about.

We have been approached by many agencies in the past to be a white-label supplier and the answer is always the same – NO. We are proud of our agency, of our values and of the ideas and recommendations that we produce, so why would we pass all of that on to someone to share as their own?

This leads me to my next point – don’t profess to be full service if you aren’t. We tell all of our clients that we are a PR agency, we specialise in PR, copywriting, social media and sponsorship. There are many other facets to what we do but principally it all falls neatly under the banner of PR.

Now here’s the clever bit *puts on sarcastic face*, we are honest with our clients and tell them that if they do need other skills that we are unable to offer, we can work with trusted partners or – now wait for it – pass them the details direct.

BOOM! And there you have it folks, it really is that simple.

If you don’t do something in house then let your clients know and send them the details of trusted partners – unless of course you are out to fleece not only the client but your partner and then ignore my advice because your objective will be to ‘coin in’ mark-up fees from both sides.

Interestingly I have noticed that a higher number of agencies are choosing to specialise rather than claim to be full service and I’m pleased to see it. I’m a huge advocate for doing what you do, and doing it well.

One of my favourite phrases is: “If you want to be all things to all people, you end up being nothing to nobody.”

Our clients have always thanked us for being honest and we’ve never found that a brand chooses to work with someone else because they are full service. In fact, we were recently in a review with one of our largest clients who mentioned that being a specialist PR agency is a huge benefit.

For those of you who are thinking about white-labelling then please reconsider. I have seen some agencies create and produce some fantastic work and never get the credit that they deserve – make sure you’re not one of them.