Tag: Business

HOW BUSINESSES CAN BENEFIT FROM PR DURING A PANDEMIC

Benefits of PR during a pandemic

It feels like the mood has changed in recent weeks. People are no longer enjoying the novelty of working remotely and home schooling is causing chaos. While we all attempt to motivate each other, we look at how businesses can benefit from PR during a pandemic.

Last year was strange for many reasons. Most companies felt that the best approach would be to keep calm and carry on. We couldn’t predict what was coming. Nor could we contemplate still being in lockdown.

Almost a year on and there’s a sense that it is going to take longer than any of us expected. However, we are making progress. The vaccine is being rolled out and there are some positive steps forward. For business, it has been a time of reflection and we have started to see a change in attitude.

Many businesses are recognising that they need to look forward and that they can benefit from PR during a pandemic.

Increase in enquiries

For us, there has been an increase in the number of new business enquiries. It would seem that companies have recognised that to stand still does not support progress, in fact all it does is hamper growth.

Although a scary and challenging time, the pandemic has given many companies an opportunity. Those that have put in place a content strategy to communicate effectively with audiences are starting to see the return.

Those that have had to change direction or completely overhaul the way that they work to create a sustainable business model are using this as a platform to promote a new product, service or approach.

It isn’t all bad news. Some organisations have had the chance to enforce change that was long overdue. As a result, they are in a stronger position than ever before. Those that have used this time to share their news and to update their staff, customers and stakeholders are seeing the benefits.

Building communities

With the pandemic has come an honesty like never before. People are more willing to share their thoughts and feelings, even those that are less positive. Admitting that we have challenges is building stronger communities within our networks.

Companies are using platforms such as LinkedIn to share support and encourage each other to look out for colleagues, as well as friends and family. This has given many businesses the chance to share their values and to showcase to others how they operate when times are tough.

As an employer brand there are few things that are more powerful than posts which show how strong a team can be when they come together to offer support and encouragement to each other.

This is just one of the ways that businesses can benefit from PR during the pandemic. Having a consistent approach that shares regular updates keeps a brand front of mind. It also gives an audience the chance to engage directly, which can inspire further positive comments.

The power of positive news

It would be easy for us all to focus on the negatives, after all, we are surrounded by startling facts and figures every day. Thankfully, many organisations are choosing to focus their attention on the good news that they have to share.

We have many clients that are recruiting, investing and looking towards a positive future. With ambitious targets in place, they are not letting difficult times stop their journey. Quite the opposite, they are pushing ahead and making things happen.

They are seeing first-hand how businesses can benefit from PR during the pandemic. It is this spirit and dedication that is infectious and that makes you realise that all is not lost. Far from it in fact, there are some very exciting times ahead.

Putting PR into practice

When we consider why our clients choose to work with us as a preferred PR partner, it’s all about creating consistent communications across mediums to educate, build profile and manage the reputation of a brand and business.

Sharing stories with the widest possible audience and reiterating the good news that an organisation has to share is just the start.

With access to many different channels, we make sure that our clients are seen in the right place and at the right time. As well as securing coverage in the media, we also update social channels, share blog posts and encourage word of mouth.

Every action has an objective and that means we can deliver a return on investment. Watching brands benefit from the work that we do is what really excites us.

Investing for the future

Whether it is a full content strategy, a PR programme of activity or a campaign that we are working on for a client, each and every brand we engage with is investing in our services to support their future success.

If you are thinking about investing in PR and want to talk to an agency about an approach that will deliver results that meet with your objectives, then give us a call. We don’t believe that PR is a dark art, it is about having the processes in place to make sure our clients get the maximum return on investment from everything we do.

We know that PR can benefit business during a pandemic and that there are ways in which our tactics can be used to give organisations the boost they so desperately need. It’s about consistency.

For more information about how we would help to raise the profile of your brand and manage the reputation of your business throughout 2021, contact us on info@opencomms.co.uk, call: 01924 862477 or follow @OpenComms_.

AVOID THE BOREDOM OF BLOGGING FOR BUSINESS

Blogging for business

As a writer, I get a real sense of satisfaction from blogging for business. It’s a platform that I can use to share my thoughts and opinions. Like anything, writing is subjective and my passion for it isn’t always shared. For some, blogging for business is exciting – until they get bored.

I remember a time when it was rare for a business to have a blog. A website, absolutely, but there was a lack of understanding about what benefits regular updates could bring to an audience. After all, companies spent months on copy for their websites, so what more was there to say?

Times have changed, and most organisations will have a blog. That said, many forget to put the time and attention into establishing a tone of voice that will resonate with the audiences they want to attract. As a result, they don’t appreciate the value of blogging for business.

In this blog I hope to encourage readers to avoid the boredom of blogging for business by thinking differently and putting some simple processes into place.

Communities not just content

Blogging for business is about building communities. There should be a focus on sharing content that is interesting and insightful. Businesses need to think carefully about what their customers want to read and how they can be made to feel special.

It may be that a company shares the launch of a product on a blog before it is announced anywhere else. Social media channels could be used to tease the news and drive traffic to the website to amplify the message.

Alternatively, other organisations may want to use a blog to provide updates for stakeholders such as share price or investments. The news that is shared doesn’t have to be consumer focused, it could be very much about the business and its bottom line.

The wonderful thing about blogging is that you can share whatever you choose. The content is for you to decide, to draft and to upload. The difference between a good blog and a bad is that one will be written for the audience and the other for the company chairman.

It’s important not to fall into the trap of writing for an internal audience or for niche stakeholder group. There are other ways that you can communicate with these people. Put in place a clear objective for the blog and a target audience and stick to it.

Taking blogging for business seriously

Having a clear understanding of what will be shared on a blog will guide the content strategy. For a blog to be successful it needs to be taken seriously. This means that it needs the support of the board of directors.

It is no use passing a blog to a junior member of the team and leaving them to it. Not only will that person be responsible for writing all of the content, posting it and managing responses, but they will also need to collate the information in the first place.

This will rely on them having access to senior members of the team.

Blogging for business is a marketing tactic. It should be managed and coordinated by the sales and marketing function of an organisation. As a direct method of communicating with customers and prospects, it should be taken seriously.

Setting the tone

Once a company has agreed what information will be shared on a blog; whether that be product launches, category insight, industry comments or simply just news, a tone needs to be agreed.

It isn’t always as simple as to agree an approach and to stick with it. If a blog is to be used as an online magazine for a business, then the way that you draft the content will change. Taking into account articles will come from different sources, it would be unrealistic to assume everyone would speak in the same way.

As such, it makes sense to agree priority messaging, consistency in terms of language and then to add some personality. The last thing you want to do is to lose the story through overcomplicating the copy.

Blogs and the bottom line

Good blogs can attract an audience, capture attention and retain interest. Bad blogs will do the exact opposite. Just like all marketing communications, the opportunities that blogging for business presents to a company should not be underestimated.

With the right amount of time, care, attention and investment a blog could have a direct impact on the bottom line. In fact, entire businesses have been based on blogging and there is now an industry of influencers that are only too aware of the commercial benefits they can bring.

It all goes back to a point I made earlier. Blogging for business has to be taken seriously by the senior management team if it is going to deliver the results you expect.

Setting standards and sticking to them  

The simplest way to ensure that blogging for business delivers a return on investment is to set standards. Putting KPIs in place in relation to visitor traffic, dwell time and bounce rates will give the evidence of whether the content being shared is having the desired impact.

Testing and measuring new features – perhaps a day in the life – will showcase what the audience wants to see. Anything that shows a drop in analytics should be reconsidered or adjusted to make sure it is relevant and resonates.

Sharing not selling

I’ve yet to meet anyone that likes to be sold to. In order to keep the content of a business blog interesting, the focus needs to be on sharing. This could be sharing stories, sharing facts and figures, sharing product information or behind the scenes footage from a factory.

Whatever it happens to be, make sure the posts that are being uploaded have a value to the reader, even if that is purely interest.

Of course, blogging for business is a promotional tool and can be harmlessly used as such. For example, offering coupons or codes for money off. There is no problem with offering prospective customers an incentive, but make sure that it is interspersed with other posts. Blogging for business should always be about more than just another space to sell.

Don’t get bored of blogging for business   

When something is shiny and new it always attracts the most attention. Fast forward a few months and it’s just another piece of furniture in the office. Blogging can be the same. At first everyone wants five minutes of fame and to share their story. Over time this will change. People have less time to allocate and bigger priorities. It’s up to those that manage business blogs to retain interest.

What is great about blogs is that they can change and evolve. They don’t have to stay exactly the same and they can become a space to have fun.

Rather than getting bogged down in the detail, think of a business blog as a newspaper. Put together regular columns and updates from different members of the team. Test and review products or services and provide updates and feedback.

Use blogs for business as a way to add personality that you cannot anywhere else. Once you start to build a community, to interact with people and to attract the attention you want and deserve, you will come to realise the benefits of blogging for business.

Top tips when blogging for business

When starting a blog for business or reviewing the content strategy that you have in place for your online communications, remember to cover the following points:

  1. You are creating communities not just content. Don’t write for you, write for the reader and you will get more engagement and repeat visits.
  2. Make sure you have the support of the senior team before you start. Don’t waste time on something that will become dormant in a matter of months. Put your ideas on the table and get the team excited about the benefits blogging can bring to business.
  3. Take the time to get the tone of voice right for your blog. This doesn’t have to be rigid but sharing consistent messaging and language will stop you from confusing the reader.
  4. Remember that blogs can have a positive impact on the bottom line, but they take time and that means money. Be realistic about what can be achieved and put measures in place.
  5. Set standards that will ensure your content is well written, credible and reflective of the business. Don’t be persuaded to rush a blog or to share content you know is not up to scratch.
  6. The content you post should be about sharing not selling. Don’t fall into the trap of constantly pushing your message to people. Engage and encourage them to join your community.
  7. Don’t get bored of business blogging. Make it exciting, keep it fresh and have some fun. Some of the best content comes from the most surprising of businesses, make sure that you are one of them.

Calling on the professionals

As an agency we work with many clients that have business blogs. As well as managing the press office and social media channels, in many cases we will draft and upload the copy for their blogs too. Every organisation we work with is different, but to provide one example, we have been working alongside the YM to create a series of lockdown stories which have attracted a lot of attention.

Rather than use the blog to sell to others in the business community, the YM has created a space that shares insight, support and camaraderie during some of the most difficult times. It is a great example of best practice when it comes to blogging for business.

If you’d like to discuss ways that the team at Open Comms can help to raise the profile of your brand, manage the reputation of your business and support with your content strategy throughout 2021, contact us on info@opencomms.co.uk, call: 01924 862477 or follow @OpenComms_.

ARE YOU STILL UNDERESTIMATING THE POWER OF PR?

A misconstrued view of the PR industry can often prevent business leaders from recognising the breadth, depth and true effectiveness of communications. As a result, many companies still continue underestimating the power of PR and subsequently miss out on the undeniable value that it brings to a brand and its longevity. 

Though a disruptive year plagued with its own unique challenges, 2020 has taught us all some valuable lessons. The pandemic has reinforced the importance of specialised PR across the globe and has showcased how impactful communications, particularly during times of crisis, can become a lifeline.

Meaningful communications in a post COVID-19 world

As the nation continues to adjust and adapt, brands are acknowledging the changing environment and focusing their efforts on engaging in meaningful dialogue with consumers, rather than centering campaigns around overt selling.

This approach has been fundamental in influencing positive public opinion. Without doing so, companies would have faced the very real risk of losing customers. In fact, a recent report showed that 94 per cent of UK shoppers would walk away from brands if they didn’t agree with their response to COVID-19.

With such high stakes, businesses have started to witness firsthand what impact PR can have and the critical role that communications plays. While advertising campaigns were put on pause during the most part of 2020, many brands instead invested in generating new virus-related content and messaging.

As opposed to being assigned a ‘supporting role’, Public Relations was finally given center stage within marketing strategies.

Using PR to lead the way

Between the pandemic, protests, politics and the US presidential election, 2020 was a year of chaotic headlines and heartbreaking articles. Due to this, an appetite for ‘good news’ grew amongst media channels.

Reporters were constantly searching for up lifting articles to share with their readers. Brands that managed to offer a positive and genuine story, were able to secure media coverage and in turn win the trust of their consumers at a time when it was desperately needed.

Prior to the pandemic (perhaps even now), Public Relations and its significance seemed to have been generally misunderstood.

During my career, I have witnessed a myriad of myths and misconceptions about my professional field. The most absurd being that it is no longer relevant. Last year not only proved this to be completely false, but it has done the opposite and further reinforced the power of PR.

Although the industry at its core is based on traditional principles, it has continued to evolve with the times. PR is so much more than press releases. It is a much broader discipline, encompassing everything from social media to digital marketing and all in between. No longer can it be undervalued or underestimated, it is a toolkit to reach audiences and maximise success. Businesses that don’t recognise that will invariably lose out to competitors that do.

If you would like to experience the benefits of PR first-hand, get in touch with our team here. Alternatively, give us a call on 01924 862477 – we’d love to hear from you!

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.

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 SUPPORTING COMPETITORS ISN’T AS CRAZY AS YOU THINK

Supporting competitors may not be as crazy as you think

In my experience, the PR industry has always been very competitive. During my time in agency, I have certainly faced my fair share of challenges. Far from letting this deter me, these situations just encouraged me to want to do the best job I could. Fast forward nearly 20 years and as a business owner, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt is that supporting competitors isn’t as crazy as you think.

Making friends

In all the agencies I worked at I was lucky enough to make friends. These people aren’t always those that I would tell my deepest and darkest secrets to, but they are colleagues that I value for their professional input.

Over the years, Emma and I weren’t the only people that chose to go it alone. Along the way many of my former team-mates have launched their own businesses. Despite being in direct competition, I quickly realised that supporting competitors isn’t as crazy as you think. In fact, it has very real benefits.

I have seen people who have taken the opposite approach and it never works.

In contrast, we have celebrated the success of others, passed on our best wishes and offered advice when asked. As a result, when these individuals or agencies have received a brief they cannot fulfil, we are often on the list of businesses they feel comfortable passing the information on to.

Influencing people

PR is very much about influence. This goes beyond client activity and can extend into the industry at large. Despite being vast, people in PR talk, a lot!

If, as a professional, you want that ‘chat’ to be positive, then you need to manage that. Providing the right context by behaving correctly is a good start.

I remember coming out of a pitch years ago and we were aware of a competitor that was also involved in the process. Several weeks later I received an email. It was from the same contact saying that they hoped if they didn’t win that we did.

This was a great lesson for me. I realised that in that one simple message I had a renewed respect for this person. They had taken the time to reach out and in doing so had given me greater confidence in our reputation amongst peers. It was further evidence that supporting competitors really does have its benefits.

Attracting the right attention

It is very difficult to hide in PR. Working with colleagues, journalists and brands everyday means that we communicate with a varied network of contacts. Each one of these people will make an assumption about us.

That can be an uncomfortable thought to process, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you want to attract the right attention, treat people the way you want to be treated. Let’s be honest, we all have bad days but managing them gets easier over time.

Recognising when our behaviour is impacting on others is a skill. It’s not easy to master and I’m still working on it, however I know that I have changed for the better over the years.

Taking this back to competitors, I had a meeting with a former colleague recently who has just launched as a freelance. The comment she made on leaving after coffee was that I hadn’t changed at all.

Far from being the case, I realised that what she meant as that I was still honest and willing to give my time to others. The truth is that in the ten years I hadn’t seen her I had changed a lot. I had just focused on addressing the things that held me back.

What I took from this exchange was that this person values my opinion and that means a great deal. Meeting for a coffee and sharing my experiences, warts and all, has helped her out. It was a win, win and further evidence of why supporting competitors isn’t as crazy as you think.

Living your values

We talk about values a lot at Open Comms. They are an important part of the business and the foundations from which we started nearly 12 years ago. A lot has changed in that time, not least the way the industry behaves.

When we started out, we made it clear we would be straight-talking. What you see is what you get, and we work hard for our clients. Delivering results was our focus and doing it the right way was the approach.

It worked and at a time when this was a relatively new concept.

Soon after our competitors started to use the same language. They do say that the biggest compliment is for people to copy or follow what you are doing. Whether this was the case or not, we were doing something right and it put us ahead of the curve.

What it also allowed us to do was to find other agencies that had the same values. Knowing that we were aligned in our approach meant we could confidently work with others. It also meant that we could extend our network and learn from other professionals.

Getting over yourself 

What I really love about Open Comms is that we don’t have a massive ego. We have achieved a great deal, but we don’t go around bragging or needlessly inflating our success. I have worked for agencies where the opposite would be closer to the truth.

When you work for big brands, it is often expected that you will work with other agencies. They may specialise in something different, but you will come together to share ideas. These are often referred to as inter-agency sessions.

We have been in many of these situations and in the most part they work really well. That is because we have learnt that in order to get the best out of groups like this you need to get over yourself. What I mean is that we aren’t scared to learn.

Competitors or otherwise, the people around the table have ideas, suggestions, knowledge and experience that we need. Without it, we wouldn’t be doing our best work for our clients. Coming together encourages thought, creativity, difference of opinion and discussion. In an industry where things change every single day, this can only be a good thing and we really do embrace it.

Leaving a lasting legacy

When we started Open Comms, we wanted to earn a living. It was really that simple. It was about delivering PR in the right way to make a difference for the brands we worked with. What we hadn’t expect was that 12 years on, we would have expanded and would represent some of the largest organisations in the country.

As an agency that generates 90 per cent of its new business through referral, we know that our reputation is one of our biggest assets. Although much of this comes from clients, I am sure that there is also a benefit to knowing other industry professionals.

Open Comms was never a carbon copy. It was unique from the day we launched. Over the years we have learnt a huge amount and if there is one lesson that I will continue to put into practice it is that supporting competitors isn’t as crazy as you think.

In fact, post lockdown, I am going to make contact with a number of former colleagues for no other reason than to have a coffee and a chat. Hopefully, others will do the same and we can create a community of professionals that inspire, encourage and share.

There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition, as long as it’s done in the right way.

STATING A BUSINESS IN A RECESSION: THE LESSONS WE LEARNT

Starting a business in a recession

When we launched Open Communications in 2008, there were lots of people ready and willing to impart their knowledge. Starting a business in a recession was a risk, but it wasn’t without consideration on our part. Although we could see the benefits, it seemed that those most eager to share their thoughts felt otherwise.

What many people didn’t realise is that this wasn’t the first time that Emma and I had worked together. We had in fact been friends for several years and worked for the same agency for around two of those.

Being friends before business partners meant we had shared our achievements and frustrations about work. This gave us a good insight into what each of us expected. With a very similar attitude to clients and a focus on results, it all seemed to slot into place.

Like anyone, we didn’t go into starting a PR agency with our eyes closed. A great deal of time and effort was spent discussing what could go wrong. At the same time, we considered all the benefits of starting a company together, regardless of a recession.

The truth was, for us both, it was now and never. And so, it was now!

Time for a change: a new approach

PR was very much about lunching and ‘shmoozing’ when we launched Open Communications. That wasn’t our way and we decided to do things differently. We set out with a very straight-forward message: what you see is what you get.

We let our clients know that if they wanted air kissing and champagne that we weren’t right. In contrast, if they wanted results, then we were available to sit down and discuss a plan.

This has stood us in good stead over the years. Nothing has changed. We still provide our clients with advice and recommendations that will deliver results. This remains our focus and is what gets us out of bed on a morning.

When we discussed this with our colleagues in the industry all those years ago, they thought we were taking a huge risk. As it happens, it was quite the opposite. Clients seem to really appreciate our honesty and transparency.

Being able to say that we have worked this way since day one gives brands extra confidence. It also sits within our values as an organisation, which is something we feel is very important.

Targeting clients with shared values

The first office we worked in was a ‘plug and play’ rental. It meant we could move in and start straight away. We had two laptops, two phones and a list of businesses that we wanted to target. Nothing more.

We decided we wouldn’t take clients from our previous agencies and set about contacting local brands. Within two weeks we had our first client and within three months we had won our first competitive pitch. The fact it happened to be HARIBO was a further benefit.

It quickly became apparent that as the ‘new kids on the block’ we were doing something right and out approach was resonating with businesses of all sizes.

Being able to research and identify those companies that had similar values and ways of working was refreshing. It meant that we could give our all to every organisation that chose us as their preferred PR partner.

This is still an important factor when we receive briefs through the door today.

Getting excited by results

There is no better feeling than getting excited by the results we achieve for our clients. When we launched, we were very specific about putting campaigns together that would meet with objectives. In our opinion, it’s the best way to showcase how PR can deliver a return on investment.

There were no lunches. No lavish gifts. It was about doing our job and doing it well. The recession meant that budgets were tight. It also gave us an opportunity to show what could be achieved without breaking the bank.

Thankfully, hard work does pay off when you work in our industry. As such, we have delivered some incredible campaigns for our clients. Large or small the brands we work with get the results they deserve.

For us, it isn’t about a stopwatch or how many press releases we send out. It’s about putting together strategies that work. Things change and evolve but fundamentally our attitude to achieving results never has.

Creating a network

I have to admit that when we started Open Comms I wasn’t thinking about our network. We had the support of our friends and family and that was enough for me. Over the years I have realised that extending the number of people you can rely on makes a huge difference.

When the business community hits tough times, it brings out the best and worst in people. Thankfully, it gave us the chance to connect with the individuals and companies that we could trust.

Over the years I would like to think that we have given back just as much as we have taken. Not only do we have suppliers that we recommend to others, we also have friends we can talk to. Equally, there are lots of people who come to us.

It would be unfair to say that everything runs smoothly when you have a business. It doesn’t. This is when these contacts are priceless. Just having the chance to chat openly about your frustrations can make a huge difference.

I am certainly very grateful for those within my network that I can now call friends, as well as business colleagues.

Building a business

Despite the recession, we took on our first employee within two years of opening our doors. It was another risk but one that was considered.

Creating jobs wasn’t something we had in the plan, but nearly twelve years on and we continue to extend our team. As we continue to win clients, we make sure that we have the resource we need. The last thing we would ever want to do is to let anyone down.

We have also given our colleagues the chance to work in an exciting industry where no two days are ever the same. It may not be for everyone, but if people come with the right attitude and ambition, PR can be a great career choice.

Looking back to move forward

Nearly 12 years on and I can’t believe how far we’ve come. I was always confident that Open Comms would be a success, I just didn’t think we would have been on such a rollercoaster ride.

There is no doubt what-so-ever in my mind that the relationship that Emma and I have is integral to what we have achieved. We may be very different in some respects, but when it comes to values, we couldn’t be similar.

Having someone that you can rely on and turn to through thick and thin is so important. Trust is a huge part of having a business and I’m so pleased that I got the chance to take this journey with one of my best friends.

No one knows what the future holds, but as we face another recession, we will do so with a positive attitude. It’s going to be tough; it will take resilience and hard work. That said, we’ve been here before, and we know that we have what it takes.

We will be rolling our sleeves up and making sure we continue to focus on what matters: getting results for the brands we work with.

What we learnt through launching in a recession

Going right back to the beginning of this blog, there are many lessons we have learnt from starting a business in a recession. For those that are thinking of doing the same, here’s a recap of our experiences.

  1. New approach: take this time as an opportunity to do things differently. There is no real value in the thought that ‘if it isn’t broken don’t fix it’. We would all be driving cars with square wheels if that were the case!
  2. Targeting clients: when you launch your own business, you have more autonomy to choose who you work with. Take the opportunity to be picky and to give your professional advice to those that will value it.  
  3. Getting excited by results: remember to celebrate success and to get excited by results. There are times when things will be tough, so make the most of the positives.
  4. Creating a network: having a network of trusted colleagues around you will make life so much easier. Being able to chat and to share the highs and the lows is invaluable when you work in a small business.
  5. Building a business: even if you plan to remain small, consider what would happen if you become more successful than you first thought. It’s a great position to be in but it comes with new choices. These can be hard and need consideration. Building a business isn’t easy. Think about all of the options before you open the doors.
  6. Looking back to move forwards: learning from your mistakes isn’t easy. Recognising you made them in the first place is a start! When you can look back to move forwards, you will be in a better and more resilient position for the future.

For more information about Open Comms and the founding directors, Emma Lupton and Lindsey Davies, please visit.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: MANAGING THE REPUTATION OF A PR AGENCY

As a business, little can be deemed more important than reputation. Formed through the opinions of others, these assessments are based on a number of factors. Influencing everything from who chooses to work with you to who chooses to work for you. Left unmanaged, any negative connotations can easily become a make or break scenario.

As specialists in managing this rather complex balance, PR agencies should lead by example, instilling positive practices within their own organisations. This way, maintaining a strong reputation will always remain at the very top of the priority list – no matter how busy things get.

After all, once lost, a positive reputation can be much more difficult – although, not impossible – to regain.

Below you’ll find just some of the ways that Open Comms keeps its own long-standing and hard-earned reputation, front and centre.

Build a team with shared values

The team that you choose to employ needs to be more than just a box ticking exercise. Skills are incredibly important, but values are even more so. Your employees are a direct reflection of your business and have a significant influence on how it is perceived by others.

At Open Comms we look for shared values above all else. Skills can be taught, but attitude is often engrained. Once you find those that fit with your ethos, they can quickly become the most valuable asset that your business has.

Approach with honesty and integrity

Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. We’ve all seen and heard the stories, it really isn’t worth the reputational damage that can result from taking on a project that is too big, or too far outside of a business’ skill set – no matter how much money it could generate.

Failure to deliver on those promises will cause more harm than good. And may even impact an organisation’s long-term commercial sustainability.

This is why you’ll never find us taking on a project or client that isn’t quite right for us. Our enjoyment comes from securing excellent results – which is never going to happen if ‘the fit’ isn’t there.

Share good news

It may sound obvious, but people are never going to know about the fantastic things that your business is doing unless you tell them!

It could be that your company has exceeded its targets for the year, you could have secured a lucrative new contract or even helped out a charitable organisation in need. All of these developments are great examples of news that could and should be shared. Each will impact positively upon how others perceive your business, so make sure to use a great story wisely.

We’re so busy sharing great news for our clients that we don’t always get chance to share our own excellent updates, but it’s certainly an area that we intend to shout about during the coming year.

Watch this space!

Remain authentic and reputation will follow

There are so many opportunities to put your best foot forward, be that at an industry event or a regular social gathering. No matter what the occasion, forget about impressing others and be yourself. Better to have a reputation that reflects you and your business, than one that isn’t accurate.

It is usually easy to spot someone who remains true to themselves and it’s a much better basis for a future professional relationship. That’s not to say that the line doesn’t need to be drawn somewhere.

No matter what your weekend persona, swinging from the chandeliers at a business event might not be the best way forward!

Anyone who knows us will know that we love to socialise, and we certainly let our hair down from time to time. What you see is what you get, and it’s a mantra that has stood the business in good stead for many years.

If you’d like to discuss ways that the team at Open Comms can help in managing the reputation of your business, contact us on info@opencomms.co.uk or call 01924 862477.

DESPITE MANY CHANGES PR REMAINS A VALUABLE TOOL FOR BUSINESS

Over the past few months and throughout the worst of the Coronavirus Pandemic businesses large and small have been faced with numerous changes and we have supported new and existing clients in several different ways.

More so than ever before, competition between businesses is high and the fight for survival is real. I believe that more companies will recognise the value of PR and understand how beneficial it can be as we move through unchartered territory. Having a good communications strategy to support your future might be the key to succeeding in an ever-changing climate.

Coming out of lockdown, one thing is clear, and that is the need for effective engagement with audiences to secure sales.

Reach a wider audience

As businesses have negotiated the changes caused by the pandemic, the need to appeal to a wider and increasingly varied target audience has grown. Consumer attitudes and trends have changed and using PR helps businesses to market themselves across multiple channels.

The need to reach a new audience or demographic coming out of lockdown is where PR could really help a business, and even extend the opportunities it has.

Social Media as an important tool

I am sure we are all aware by now that our internet and social media usage has skyrocketed during lockdown. While this may reduce a little as we move back to ‘normal’, social media should not be underestimated as a marketing tool. In fact, the benefits of using social media for business are ever increasing.

Social media management and content creation are often a key component of our work with clients. PR professionals have the expertise to support growth in this key area and create compelling content that attracts attention and engagement.

While the need for traditional media remains, it is worth being aware of other ways to communicate with customers and how PR professionals can support in this area.

Reactive to opportunities

PR practitioners have contacts across multiple media and are always on the look out for new opportunities that might be beneficial for clients.

Working with an agency gives businesses access to opportunities they might never have considered. Reactive opportunities can be anything from getting a quote from an expert to offing a product as a prize for a competition on the radio. Both get the name of the business or product out there effectively and raise its profile.

The more reactive opportunities that a business can benefit from, the more chance there is of relationships being built with the media. This means that journalists will come to the brand in the future.

Helpful in advertising activities

While it was concluded that PR is almost 90 per cent more effective than advertising it can be very useful when used in conjunction with other tactics during a wider campaign.

While many still believe advertising is enough on its own, the trust built by PR is invaluable to businesses of all sizes. And, it goes without saying, consumers prioritise trust and brand experience over anything else.

While PR professionals will have to make changes in line with the ‘new normal’, the need for brands to invest in communications will be as great as ever.

If you would like to know more about Open Comms and the services we offer, why not give us a call on 01924 862477 or contact us here.

WHY PR BELONGS AROUND THE BOARDROOM TABLE

PR deserves a place around the boardroom table

When I first started my career, it was almost unheard of that PR would be represented around the boardroom table. Over the years I’m pleased that in the most part this has been addressed. In this blog, we explore why PR belongs around the boardroom table.

Reputation is the most important asset a company has at its disposal. It can be used to the advantage of an organisation or ignored to the detriment of that brand. The choice lies firmly with the business.

PR is the specialism that ties firmly into the management of that asset.

Establish

When a company launches, it is now common practice for a business to invest in PR. It may be for a one-off project or for a more sustained period. The latter will always deliver stronger results, but it isn’t always possible for every organisation to recognise this from the outset.

The idea behind establishing a brand is to communicate with an audience that will become receptive to its message. How a company chooses to do this is up to them. The approach can be different every time, but the objective remains the same; to educate prospective customers about a product or service.

When we think about how important this one piece of work is, we start to appreciate why these decisions need to be made by senior managers. We are relying on a team of experts to communicate effectively with the chosen audience and in turn evoke a response.

Customers are essential for business. You wouldn’t leave that level of responsibility with just anyone. There is a huge emphasis on trust. As such, the person leading this team needs a seat around the boardroom table.

Maintain

Once a brand has been established, it needs to be maintained. We cannot expect that communicating once with an audience will ever be good enough. In a world where there are marketing messages surrounding us all, we need to gain cut through.

Consistency is fundamental at this stage of the process. Having a clear plan that will give a brand the opportunity to share updates, news and further launches will keep an audience interested. As well as attracting new prospective customers, it’s also about building affinity and resonance with those that have purchased.

The journey with PR never ends. It may take slightly different directions however the idea is to take your customers with you. Brands that create real loyalty are those that do this the best. They are also the ones that recognise the value of PR and its role around the boardroom table.

Build

Brand building comes in many forms. It could be about retaining a fresh image and using current language in all communications. In this example, we are referring to PR and the use of a sustainable plan to build a brand over time.

Having a schedule of activity will allow any company to test an idea, measure the results and review. The beauty of PR is that it evolves over time. Any plan can change at the drop of a hat, so flexibility and being agile is key.

The hardest brands to work with are those that don’t really understand PR or what it is used for. It’s those that consider it to be a ‘nice to have’. Anything that is a nice to have is never going to be a priority and PR should be.

For businesses of all sizes, to manage your communications should be an objective. As well as using media relations and content to educate an audience, PR can also be used during a crisis. This is when companies see the immediate value. It shouldn’t come to that.

Establishing, maintaining and building a reputation 

Establishing, maintaining and building a reputation are all skills that will allow a business to become a success it deserves to be. Having the person or team responsible for that around the boardroom table makes perfect sense.

PR should be considered as important as finance. A company would never function without some knowledge of where the budgets are going. The same can be said for communications. If you are unaware of who is saying what about your business and to whom, perhaps you only have yourself to blame.

Give PR the place it deserves in your business and see how it benefits your bottom line.