Tag: Business

Just your average week – or not!

I’ve been a little quiet on our blogging front over the past week so apologies – I’m sure you have all been sat waiting eagerly for my next update *wink, wink*

So anyway, I do have my excuses for not posting which start with a two day trip to the largest food show in the country. As a PR agency we don’t just sit at our desks writing press releases our relationships and role, thankfully, go way beyond this.

The International Food Exhibition (IFE) takes place every two years and we went along with a client to listen to speakers talk about topics such as how the snacking market is changing, the increase in health claims and changes to legislation within food packaging. We also wanted to take the time to find out what new trends and innovations were hitting the shelves and which brands were shouting loudest – plus, more importantly, how they were doing it.

The show was fantastic. There were two halls full of stands with many of them offering samples – you can’t go wrong!

It wasn’t until Tuesday evening that I realised just how much information I had gathered when I was trying to get my bags – and samples – back on the train. So it was back to good old Wakefield before dashing home, getting changed and setting off to the Wakefield Council business celebration dinner.

The event was held at Space, which is a venue I hadn’t been to before. We all sat down to a super dinner and inspirational speech from Richard Noble, who holds the land speed world record and is working hard to create a car that will go 1,000 mph. Now that’s some going!

The talk was really interesting and it was a great opportunity to chat with colleagues from the District and meet with some new faces over a glass of wine or three.

Wednesday came along and we were exhibiting at the Wakefield Business Conference. As a Wakefield based PR agency we are always keen to get out and about. The city has a great deal to offer and as the preferred PR partner for the event we wanted to show our faces and also meet new contacts.

The day went very quickly and for those who came along we hope you picked up some of our – now famous – mints. Remember people we offer a ‘fresh’ approach to PR – do you see what we did there?

Anyway Thursday came around but felt strangely like it should be Monday and it was catch-up day. Emails, paperwork, campaign planning, new business proposals all to be written in the day. Then an internal (at the pub if I’m honest) meeting after work and back home.

And so we are here today. A meeting this morning and new business session this afternoon all pieced together with copy writing for a consumer competition, recommendations for campaign engagement with clients, social media updates, suggested social media strategies for the next six months and back to traditional press copy with several comment pieces to be drafted before close of play – oh and a blog!

Phew. So, you see, not such an average week in the office but then that’s what makes working in PR so challenging and rewarding.

I’m pleased to say that the week is yet to be over – after all it’s only 4pm and we don’t do part time at Open Comms – so we’re going to a final event in celebration of Wakefield Business Week tonight.

The event is aptly named Beer and a Burger and we are all going along to share in the success of the city and to raise a glass to business. It’s always fun to meet with the great and good of the city and to couple this with beer and burger is inspired.

After that I will be heading home and don’t mind admitting after all that I think I’ll hit the sofa and sleep for a week!  Night all.

 

When selling your business leaves you sour

I remember reading the story of a husband and wife team from Yorkshire who had taken their love of sausages and turned it into a multi-million pound business.

The success hadn’t come overnight and the couple had battled tirelessly to secure listings until they were bought by a larger company who assisted with their vision to see their sausages on the shelves in all major superstores throughout the country.

This blog should now end with a happy ever after however that is not the case – as I found out today when reading the Yorkshire Business Insider.

The couple in question are Debbie and Andrew Keeble and as Ben Pindar explains in his article they found that as a result of selling their business to a larger corporation they lost control of their values. Ultimately they were left holding an ‘ugly baby’ not the bundle of joy they had nurtured for years and invested their time and money in to.

You see Debbie and Andrew saw an opportunity to grow their business, taking it to the next level but in doing so found that they were working in an environment with people who did not hold their brand as dear to their hearts, nor its values which underpin the product and in particular where the raw materials are sourced from, as closely as they did.

Debbie and Andrew wanted to maintain their messaging of ‘real people, real food’ and ‘British is best’ which was impossible under the instruction of a Dutch owned business. This led to an eventual fall out and irreconcilable differences leaving the Keebles to face the prospect of competing with their own product and a brand they developed.

I have to admit that when I read this story today my heart really did go out to the Keebles – although there is little doubt they have made a significant amount of money from the Debbie and Andrews sausage range – this wouldn’t diminish the loss that would be felt if someone took away the values of your business and something that you truly believed in.

When we launched Open Communications we spent a lot of time defining the values of the business and our messaging to ensure that everything we did was true to our beliefs and allowed us to run the business as we felt it should be.

We are a straight talking PR agency, which develops creative and realistic campaigns that meet with our clients’ objectives.  In a nut shell that is what we do and it hasn’t changed. If someone came in and bought the business, allowing us to continue to run the team as directors but wanting us to change the way we do things, then the answer would have to be no.

We, like Debbie and Andrew, have invested a great deal of time in defining what we are – and are not – in order to offer a professional and unique service, to change that simply wouldn’t work. Not only would our clients lose something that they have bought in to but we would have no underpinning personality that makes our agency different – we would be another PR agency doing the same things the same way.

I hope that Debbie and Andrew find a way to build up their new business and to make it a success which rivals their former product. Perhaps the fact that they are engaging with the media suggests that they have picked themselves up, brushed themselves down and decided to take the bull (or pig in this instance) by the horns.

At the very least they know they can create a successful business and should have the contacts of the buyers they need to speak to in order for them to make it happen a second time around. Hats off to them – they certainly have a true Yorkshire spirit and determination to have another go.  When the time is right I’ll have a fry up to celebrate that!

Why careful doesn’t mean boring

I’ve worked with lots of creative people throughout my career, many of whom I totally respect for the fantastic work and ideas they have developed, but I can’t help feeling that fairly conclusively there has always been a belief that when you work with large marketing and PR agencies careful has to mean boring.

I disagree. I think in some instances careful should be changed to ‘managed by professionals’.

If I was the owner of a brand and I had hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of pounds to spend I wouldn’t want to let that budget loose on a team that would come up with stunts and ‘creative’ ideas that could be to the detriment of my business longer term.

Here’s the thing – pretty pictures can be very appealing and they can even make what in the cold light of day would be a ludicrous idea seem like a brainwave. I’ve seen it happen many times before and it usually lands on the door of the PR agency to sort it out once the ‘big idea’ hits the media and is found to be the emperor’s new clothes, or worse.

At Open Communications we have always maintained that we would work within a client’s budget to come up with campaigns that first and foremost meet with objectives. I can hear some agencies groan just reading this but it’s true. What’s the point of even employing an agency otherwise?

We could come up with yet another stunt that put yet another over-sized object in Trafalgar Square, we could consider a one off activity that would mean we claimed much of the budget in management and had little to do for the rest of the year and we could chase industry awards with our big ideas but the reality is that we just don’t work like that.

We try to create long term strategies that we can implement over time to ensure that our clients engage across all channels and with all audiences. We use online, in print, digital, outdoor and sponsorship. We don’t profess to be all things to all people but one of the things that I am most proud of is that we are good at what we do – and that’s PR, traditional and online.

So for all those who think that careful is boring just consider how you would manage your project or brief if you were playing with your own money.

 

A proud Northerner

There have been a number of comment pieces recently requesting that brands and businesses consider suppliers outside of London. I wasn’t aware that there was a need to put out this call to action but apparently some companies feel that in order to get the best you have to go down South.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not a believer of this philosophy, not because I’m from the North and proud of it but because I fail to see how geography can make you the best at what you do. I can only presume that you get to Kings Cross and by some miracle become a guru in your given sector.

It’s laughable that businesses still feel the need to ‘fake’ an office in London in some bizarre effort to 1. Look bigger than they are and 2. Attract bigger business.  Would it not be more productive and indicative of long term relationships to be honest?

With transport links being what they are today you can get to London, should you wish to, from Wakefield in around 2 hours. Knowing a number of people who live and work in London they find it difficult to cross the city in this time.

Not only do I know that there is an immense amount of talent in the North but also that we have leading organisations based here and also the events to support business and encourage growth.

Take for example two events that are coming up in the next couple of months – and I do have to take this opportunity to confess that Open Communications manage the PR for both – Wakefield Business Week and the Buy Yorkshire Conference.

Wakefield Business Week is a celebration of the success of the district. The week-long showcase is an open source event, which means that it is fully inclusive and allows for any business, group or individual to get involved and promote an event they are hosting from 18 – 22 March.

Right in the middle of the week is Wakefield Business Conference which will bring together more than 500 delegates, 50 exhibitors and a selection of headline speakers who will come together to network, connect and share their experiences. What a great way to meet potential suppliers and clients.

Then there is the Buy Yorkshire Conference, the largest business to business event in the North. This event, formerly the Yorkshire Mafia Conference, is off the scale. Attracting a massive 3,500 delegates, 170 exhibitors and a list of speakers that you simply couldn’t pay to see it is a must for any serious business.

We will be exhibiting at both of these conferences and I am looking forward to both. Not because we may generate business as a result, although that is obviously part of the reason we will be there, but to meet with new faces and contacts.

I am looking forward to introducing people to Open Communications and explaining that there is such a thing as a straight talking PR agency that cares more about results than air kissing! I want people to understand that you don’t have to go to London to find a PR agency that you can trust and most importantly that we are part of a vibrant and growing business community.

Business is still booming in the North and companies that only work with those who are based in the South are quite honestly missing out.

 

Do manners really matter?

As a PR agency we receive lots and lots of phone calls every day. Sometimes the calls can be from suppliers, other times it could be contacts with regards to sponsorship, a client or journalist. Although I have to admit that most of the time people are polite and well-mannered there are the odd times when this really isn’t the case.

Take this morning as a classic example.  I received a call which started with the caller demanding to speak to a colleague. No ‘morning’ or ‘would it be possible to speak to’ just an abrupt and quite honestly rude demand.

As we always do, I asked who was speaking, which in turn meant I received a blunt one line answer and nothing further.

Now this person gave me the name of their company when I asked where they were calling from and it happens we were hoping to work with one of their clients. As a result of the way in which they handled the call we will now be moving our efforts to another similar business.

So, due to that person’s appalling attitude their client has lost out.

It’s not often that people surprise me but there have been a few instances over recent months where it’s apparent that people working on behalf of brands or for third parties get some strange delusion of grandeur which in turn results in them losing all ability to communicate professionally.

Although these situations do irritate me I have to say that I also feel rather smug as I know that when people work with Open Communications – whoever they are dealing with – we are able to manage their needs professionally and appropriately wherever they are calling from and whatever the nature of the call.

Perhaps if people took the time to consider how they would feel if the person they were speaking to was to handle their call in the same way they may just choose to change their attitude. We have a saying in our house – ‘manners cost nothing!’

Does it pay to be loyal?

There is no doubt that we live in a cash conscious world and that at the end of the day it is king but a few calls I’ve received recently have left me wondering if loyalty counts for anything anymore?

We, like many others, get constant calls asking if we will change supplier because a new company can deliver the same products or service for a fraction of the cost. I’d like to say that in all of these cases are heads aren’t turned but that wouldn’t be entirely true.

Everyone wants to save money where they can but there is some truth in buying cheap and buying twice! Last week I got a call which really made me think. It was from a new company (who will remain nameless) asking me to move from our current supplier to them because we could save up to 25% on each order.

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth I have to admit I was tempted but then remembered that the supplier we currently use has turned things around quickly for us – in some instances giving us a same day delivery at no extra charge – always been more than helpful and is by all accounts reasonably priced.

I decided to go with my instincts and explained to the caller that we wouldn’t be changing supplier as we had a loyalty to the business we currently worked with. Ok, so I didn’t save a few quid but do you know what, I’d like to think that even during difficult times our clients would do the same.

It’s not always about money. It’s about long term relationships, consistently good service and a quality product. If you’ve got that then I’m a firm believer that the rest will follow. Lesson learnt on my part but I wonder how many others would do the same.

HORSE BLUNDER IS A ‘DEAD CERT’ FOR FARM SHOPS

As expected the story about horse meat being found in products that are specified as beef continues to run and run… sorry!

Having already commented on our blog about the need for food products to be more clearly labelled, it also got me thinking about who could benefit from the blunder. As ever when a PR crisis hits the press there are winners and losers and without a doubt Findus are currently taking the brunt – mainly due to the way they have chosen to manage a crisis, which relied on effective, honestly and timely communication with customers, stakeholders and the media.

Yet another shining example of why brands should have communication at the heart of everything they do and a PR team around the boardroom table.

Anyway, I digress.

As a former Yorkshire Dales Lass and someone who is an eager supporter of farm shops, I think this situation is a dead cert for those who are willing to use it to their advantage.  I can just picture it now, a big billboard sized poster with the strap line ‘Our horses are here for riding only’ or ‘A farm shop where beef is beef and proud of it’ with a cow looking proudly at the camera.

There are so many quirky and cost effective things you could do with this situation to reinforce the commitment by farm shops to provide fresh produce to customers. This is a real opportunity for those who want to shout about the need to buy fresh and to buy British.

I wonder who will take the bull by the horns and be first past the post with a campaign that will take a negative and use it to their advantage. I’ll have a side bet that it won’t be long before we see one of the local farm shops in the West Yorkshire area putting a few well-placed puns out there.

Has anyone seen any great examples of smaller brands and businesses using this ‘cash cow’ (or should that be horse?) to their advantage? I can’t wait to see them.

An agency with an office and proud of it!

There has been a lot of noise in the media recently with regards to the benefits to a ‘team’ that work entirely from home. An office-less environment for a business may be something that some of us gasp at but when you think about it from a commercial perspective it makes perfect sense.

There are others of course who will spend all day arguing that in a world of modern technology with smart phones, apps, iPads, online conferencing, skype and any other social media tools you choose to use for business there is no need for an office and there is an argument to back this theory up.

Not only will you have no rent to pay, as such, but you get to work from the comfort of your own home, which has been proven (in some cases) to deliver greater outputs and actually increase productivity. So you have significantly fewer costs and more work gets done – happy days.

Now the other side to this, and the part that I find particularly hard to get my head around, is what I think makes a company a real success – the team. Although you will still work for a brand and business – and there’s nothing to suggest you can’t develop this remotely – I can’t see how you would build the camaraderie which comes from working together in an office.

I feel that working remotely would lose some of the personality that makes a brand individual and unique. Take Innocent smoothies as a great example, when you speak to people about the brand there is little doubt the conversation will get back to their famous offices, which have faux grass carpets, comfy seating areas and an invitation for anyone passing by to simply drop in.

Without an office Innocent wouldn’t have the opportunity to use such a great marketing tool. It is simple and very, very effective.

Some companies will never be able to run from home due to the nature of what they do however as the director of a PR agency that could quite easily pack up and refurb the back bedroom I think I would miss my colleagues, the chat and banter that comes with everyday office life.

When you have people surrounding you they become your support. Without that, I would feel like any other person, working for any other business but when I work for Open Communications I understand our vision, values and how we all use our skills to give our clients a totally unique service because that service comes from us all and part of that is as a result of the environment we work in.

You could even put this down to the nature, nurture debate but let’s not get into that!

HR magazine have written a great feature about the future of work being mobile and although in theory this is great I do hope in practice people will recognise that there are huge pitfalls to this approach.

The article suggests that people who work from home get a better work / life balance however I would dispute this, as those I know who work from home are logged on at all hours because it’s simple to do so and when you live and work from your office it’s more difficult to draw a line between the two.

It would be silly to suggest that as a business we didn’t consider overheads, turnover and most importantly profits but I genuinely believe that the environment you work in has a huge impact on how you develop, grow and deliver as a market leading organisation.

As a PR agency that has the luxury of being based in the idyllic setting of Nostell Priory Estate Yard we always take the chance to invite clients and prospects to come and have a coffee, chat and mooch around. For anyone out there who would like to take us up on that invite please feel free to do so. The kettle is on and the Open team will be here to welcome you.

SNOW WAY!

Well, well, well… we didn’t see that one coming, it’s only bloomin snowing!

While the country grinds to a standstill and the gritters are out in force, businesses are already worrying about what impact it will have on their performance, sales and month end figures and we’re only at 2 inches.

Although I completely appreciate that some companies and particularly small enterprises are unable to run when the weather turns the roads into an ice rink, there are others who should take the chance to use this to their advantage.

We are very fortunate to work in an industry where most of the action happens online or over the phone. We can write press releases, speak with the media, engage with bloggers and plan PR and marketing strategies from the comfort of our homes and we don’t even have to step outside of our front door.

And so…

Those companies, who are able to make it to work, will know that ‘snow days’ often mean clients aren’t around, people are trying their best to log in or work remotely but it rarely happens like it would on a normal working day.

This is a great chance for these businesses to use the time to their advantage. Take a step back and think about all the things you never get around to. Your clients are happy – let’s be honest they are probably sledging with the kids! – so grab a pen and a piece of paper and discuss all the things that you want to do to make this year your best year ever.

The phones will be quiet so take the 2 hours you would answering calls and dealing with queries and use them to plan your marketing efforts, or sales tactics. Regroup as a business and find out what is working and what could work harder. Find out what ideas people have and how these can impact positively on your performance.

I’m a great believer in using your time to your own advantage when you get the chance, so do it. Get the kettle on (and the heaters), break open that second box of chocolates or biscuits and take some time out. Sometimes the time you think is a waste is actually the most productive.

OPEN SHOWS SUPPORT FOR WAKEFIELD BUSINESS WEEK

We are pleased to announce that Open Communications will be supporting the first ever business week to come to Wakefield. The event, which takes place from 18 – 22 March will celebrate the great and good of the district, while promoting the many benefits that the city has to offer.

As a leading Wakefield based PR agency, Open Communications will implement a full media relations programme for the week, working closely with the team from Wakefield Business Week and also Wakefield City Council and partners.

As a business which has launched and flourished in Wakefield we are so excited to be supporting this week long series of events. The city has a great deal to offer entrepreneurs who are able to see the potential that the district has to offer.

We launched in 2008 and have never looked back. Not only are we close to motorway links but we are surrounded by an active and complementary support network of suppliers that we can call upon as and when required. There really is no better place to be based.

As the chosen PR agency for the first business week we are eager to connect with those who feel they have a story to tell, so please do get in touch if you have a positive announcement or some good news that you would like to share.

We hope that Wakefield businesses will take the time to support this week long series of events and make it the success that is should be.