Tag: content

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 

A BLOG ABOUT BLOGGING: DELIVERING VALUE-LED CONTENT

When asked if blogging is essential to a PR campaign, the simple answer is yes. But that is only relevant when a brand truly appreciates the full potential of owned content.

By nature, the blog is a versatile tool. A brand or business can leverage owned content and its limitless possibilities, not least addressing so many topics. For a company to experience the benefits that this content can deliver, a strategic and purposeful approach must be taken.

And so, that is why we have shared a blog about blogging!

Identity

First and foremost, blogs are arguably the most read and updated asset on a website. They can and should encapsulate everything about a brand or business. This should cover who they are, what they do and how they get it done.

This content will act as a shop window on the high street. When visitors read these posts, they should be enticed and interested. The idea is that they want to know and see more.

Whether this is about employee wellbeing, new product or service launches, case studies or thought leadership pieces, the humble blog can be leveraged to communicate a specific or topical issue. This is a really useful tool when trying to build more robust communications with existing customers, whilst also trying to approach new business prospects.

In reality, the chosen subjects can be used in anyway the author wishes. As expert communicators, we believe that this opportunity and versatility provides brands and businesses with the opportunity to establish and enhance their identity.

Purpose

Unfortunately, creating content can be overlooked and undervalued by businesses. This is mainly because so much content is being pushed out, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Blogs in particular are often used as mundane devices. They become a box ticking exercise, instead of serving a meaningful purpose.

Owned content should form part of a wider communications strategy. Each one should have a clear, defined objective that is geared towards supporting a wider business goal. They need to deliver value.

For instance, an effective way to communicate critical information to vertical markets can be done through a blog post. To do this, the post must focus on something relevant and topical to those particular industries.

Any potential reader should be given a reason to click the link, and then be informed or engaged whilst digesting the content.

Whether a company is looking to attract new talent and expand its workforce or launch new products and services, implementing value-led content through a blog can support with this.

This same approach also applies when creating thought leadership articles. To be positioned as leading experts, brands and businesses must demonstrate their own capability and credibility within their field. This is when a blog entry can help showcase an individual’s specialisms by offering commentary on a topical issue or providing expert advice and insight.

Audience

Yes, creating blogs does provide further avenues for businesses and brands to promote themselves. However, this will only be beneficial if blogs are read by new and larger audiences.

The more people reading a blog, the more traffic a website generates. This then results in a potentially higher conversion rate of new businesses. To get the most out of the blogs, businesses and brands must leverage their social media channels.

Once a blog has been uploaded to a website, put the content to work! Create an ongoing schedule of social activity that sees a blog shared incrementally on LinkedIn and Twitter.

With an aim of generating as much engagement as possible, we would advise each post has an alluring statement along with a visual and corresponding link directing back to the website.

As the frequency of blogs rises, so too will the number of social posts. As the followers of a business become accustomed to receiving blog updates through social media, a brand can expect its audience to increase.

Once a brand creates a community, they have an active and engaged audience to communicate with. This is a really valuable asset for businesses of all sizes.

Summary

In time, if content of value is continually delivered through blogs, it can become a very meaningful resource. This is exactly what the purpose of a blog should be. It informs, educates and advises, whilst helping attract and engage with wider audiences.

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

WRITING COPY WITH AUDIENCES IN MIND

Writing copy for an audience

For PR professionals, writing copy with audiences in mind is second nature. It is an everyday task and is a tactic that we use to work towards meeting with client objectives. However, when this becomes the responsibility of a business owner it can be a challenge too far.

When you launch a company, it is up to you to create a brand, develop a product and test a service. This level of control can make it difficult to change your mindset back to thinking about others and their needs first.

Understanding the audience

Writing copy isn’t just about updating a website or creating a newsletter. There needs to be a purpose and call to action. Knowing your audience will give helpful insight that can be used to shape content.

Prospective customers may want to better understand how to use a product. There are often hacks which share multiple uses of an item. This is common in the household cleaning market. For example, it may be a disinfectant which can be rubbed over radiators to become a subtle air freshener.

Thinking slightly differently about content and how useful it will be for the reader will provide focus. Mapping what you want to write and what you hope the audience will get out of it will also help. Consider three things that you want them to take away and set out sub-headings. This will provide structure and purpose.

Effective use of resource

The importance of writing copy with an audience in mind is important, particularly when you consider the lack of resource that most businesses have. Rather than doing something quickly, and therefore badly, time should be allocated to better communicating with audiences.

PR and marketing content should be a priority for every organisation, but this isn’t the case. Communications is mistakenly considered a ‘nice to have’.

Allocating the resource needed to write effective copy will mean the content shared is of a quality representative to the brand. No director would tell someone to put 50 per cent effort into anything and creating content is no different.

Giving people the right amount of time and the opportunity to produce work that they can be proud of will have a far more positive impact on a business.

Using the tools available

Some companies have an impressive website with well curated copy that is uploaded to a blog. They may also have white papers or resources available to download too. Although this content has real value to that business, they fail to share it beyond the site.

What this organisation could do is to share links across relevant social media channels. The copy could also be repurposed as an article for LinkedIn or as small snippets for Twitter and Instagram. Leaving it exclusively on the blog simply reduces the results that could be achieved.

Again, allocating time is essential if a business wants to use social media tools effectively. It is no good to post a link and consider that job done. It is important that these are then monitored and that any comments are captured and responded to.

What this additional effort will do is further showcase what can be achieved when PR becomes a priority.

Accepting things may need to change

Being flexible when it comes to PR is a must. Communications is often about test and measure and that may mean moving the goal posts or going back to the drawing board. It may be that the medium isn’t right or that the social media platform chosen isn’t working as well as expected.

The beauty with PR is that this can be done quickly and easily. Changing direction is not uncommon and can lead to far stronger results. In order for this to happen, those responsible need to accept that things change.

The best return on investment will come from a PR plan and content strategy that evolves over time.

Again, considering the needs of the audience at every stage is key. People mature and so too do brands. Amending the way that you communicate with audiences, and adapting to fit their needs, will encourage greater loyalty over a longer timeframe.

Sharing the results

As a forgotten relative, the results that are achieved through PR should be shared at the highest level. Including figures, audience reach, feedback and measures of success in board papers is just the start.

The metrics to any content strategy will develop over time. This will become apparent from what impact communications have on audiences. Being specific about objectives and campaign KPIs will help with this.

Going back to a call to action, it will become apparent whether people have changed behaviours or purchasing decisions as a result of the way a brand communicates. The results will allow that company to continue with the campaign or adapt to better meet with the objectives set.

Creating communities with purpose

Ultimately, the main reason we write copy for an audience is to encourage an action. We want those reading the content to do something with it. This may be changing opinion, educating them about a company or encouraging someone to purchase.

There are many reasons that directors can use PR to benefit their business. It all depends on the company, its strategy and what it hopes to achieve.

Those brands that get most from PR will be those that focus on creating communities with purpose. This delivers audiences that are far more than figures on a page. They become brand advocates, loyal purchasers and trusted shoppers.

Once a brand has a community in place, this can be used to collate feedback, measure success, trial new products and bolster the bottom line. I don’t know any business that would turn their back on that.

THE POWER OF PR: WHY REPURPOSING CONTENT MATTERS

The PR industry is constantly evolving, and as a result, agencies are having to adopt numerous tactics when implementing campaigns on behalf of clients.

There is an ever-increasing tool kit to choose from when raising a company’s profile, increasing brand awareness or enhancing an individual’s reputation. Some of the approaches that are frequently adopted include social media campaigns, influencer marketing strategies and sponsored or paid for digital media.

With all these methods to choose from, you could be forgiven for thinking more traditional skills had been set aside. However, this is not the case.

Extending audience reach through compelling content

At Open Comms we feel there should always remain a focus on coherent and informative pieces of content. Whether this be in the form of a press release, comment piece or a blog post. Compelling copy will deliver results for brands that want to communicate effectively with audiences.

As PR professionals, we know that securing frequent press coverage in the right media and using this across relevant channels remains a key objective for many of our clients. This approach allows organisations to build brand presence, communicate with chosen targets and enhance the bottom line.

Ultimately, the channels that are now available to PR professionals allow us to maximise the success of any single piece of content.

Press releases

Although there are many alternatives to the way we now digest news, the most efficient process of securing media coverage remains through the distribution of press releases. For content to be featured in the press it must have widespread appeal, not only to the journalist but also the reader.

At Open Comms we know how vital it is that we understand who the press release is being written for. We can then ensure the angle applies to the specific target audience; whether it’s regional, national or sector specific.

We understand that copy needs to contain a newsworthy or interesting angle in order for it to be read, digested and shared. This then makes this content as strong as it can be before being repurposed and used across multiple platforms.

Blog/news section

Once a press release has secured media coverage, the content can then be updated to feature on a company’s blog page or news section. This serves several key purposes:

  • Anyone visiting a website, including prospective customers, will have access to information about what is happening at an organisation at a given point in time.
  • Keeping visitors updated and informed will increase the number of times they access the website.
  • Frequently updating a blog or news section can significantly enhance a company’s ranking on Google and other search engines.

The reality is that the more frequently interesting and informative content is uploaded, the more likely it becomes that specific search terms will be associated with a company’s URL. This gives the pages greater authority, which improves page rank and as a result, generates even more organic traffic and prospects.

LinkedIn

At the same time as uploading content onto a blog page or news section, it can also be repurposed so that it can be shared across social media platforms.

It goes without saying that social media has become an online search tool of choice when people source information. In recent years, LinkedIn has invested heavily and is increasingly becoming the ‘go to’ platform for business-related activity.

As such, posting an update on a company LinkedIn page allows that business to engage with its followers. It can also extend this reach to those that are connected with its employees if they choose to share or like a post from their personal account.

Not only will this help increase a company’s presence on the platform, but when using hashtags or links to associated articles, it also informs professionals within a specific sector of this newsworthy content.

As a result, a company’s LinkedIn page can become a reliable source of relevant and topical content for existing clients and potentially new business prospects.

Summary

In summary, there are a number of ways that a business can use content to enhance their PR activity. Content is a great place to start. Thinking more strategically about how each article, press release, comment or feature will be used can make a real difference to results.

Start by thinking about the angle. Make it relevant and right for the audience. This can be used to shape a press release for media. Once coverage is achieved it can be amended and posted as a blog. The blog can then be repurposed for LinkedIn and shared across social channels.

Using this tried and tested method will help any business to create compelling copy that reaches the widest audience possible without getting tied up in knots in the process.

The value of producing well created pieces of content should never be overlooked and here at Open Communications, we take great pride in harnessing the power of the written word. Please find out more here or pick up the phone and give us a call on 01924 862477.

USING CLIENT EVENTS TO SOURCE EXCITING CONTENT

Leeds Business Lunch

As a PR agency there are many ways that we work with clients to source exciting content. No longer do we have to rely on the humble press release, we can create content to be shared online.

We have worked with iSource Group and the Yorkshire Mafia (YM) for more than a decade. Like many of our clients, we have built up a strong relationship over the years and are considered an extension of the team.

In addition to managing a schedule of more traditional PR activity, we offer advice and guidance about exciting content that can be shared across mediums throughout the year. This could be anything from comment pieces and thought-leadership articles to specific feedback from the 23,000 pre-approved members in the Group.

Leeds Business Lunch

It is Leeds Business Lunch (#LBL2019) tomorrow and we are lucky enough to have received our invites. As well as enjoying welcome drinks and a delicious lunch, we will be making it our mission to engage with others so that we can further populate the calendar of activity that we have.

There are so many interesting businesses within the YM community, and it makes our job so much more fulfilling to share their news and views across a range of subjects.

Attracting members from the SME market, we are expecting to meet with some familiar faces but also to extend our network. After all, with a room full of senior executives that have companies across the Leeds City Region, it makes sense.

Collating contacts and sourcing exciting content

As an agency we could sit back, relax and enjoy the proceedings, however that just isn’t our style. We are always looking for ways in which we can add some personality and variation to our clients’ PR schedule.

As ever, the YM has secured an impressive line-up of speakers and we will be looking forward to hearing from Sinead Rocks, Managing Director of Nations and Regions at Channel 4; Eve Roodhouse, Chief Officer, Economic Development at Leeds City Council; and Richard Flint, Former CEO of Sky Betting and Gaming.

There are also several sponsors including Lockyers, who have been an advocate of the YM since its launch, Media Works and Quantuma. Sharing their reasons for getting involved with the Group means that we can showcase the benefits that they receive by association.

A further opportunity to source exciting content with added personality.

Last minute preparations

As is to be expected when you host one of the largest lunchtime events in the annual calendar, last-minute preparations are underway. What’s more, we have it on good authority that pictures of Dior samples that were shared on LinkedIn and Twitter were just some of the items we can expect to find in the goody bags!

As a sell-out event the team have a lot to celebrate but it’s important to remember that these things don’t just happen. The team work hard behind the scenes to make each event bigger and better than the one before.

We can’t wait to take our seats and to meet with the great and good from the business community. As the preferred PR partner for iSource and the YM we will have our pen and paper at the ready to take notes and will be sharing blogs in the following days.

If you are attending tomorrow, then please do come across and say hello. For those that are missing out, there is always next year. I hear the plans are already underway to push the boundaries and to use the event as a platform to showcase the North as the powerhouse it deserves to be.

Watch this space.

TEN REASONS TO INVEST IN PR FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Businesses don’t have the budgets, resource or understanding to warrant an investment in PR. It’s too complicated and difficult to measure. Anyone can cobble together a press release or upload a blog. There are bigger priorities and better ways to spend money.

Really?

Here are ten simple reasons why you really should consider PR and what impact it could have on your organisation.

1. Reputation

Despite many changes to the industry over the years, PR remains the specialism that is used to manage the reputation of a business. Some people feel that this sounds too flaky. Consider driving a car without insurance or riding a motorbike without a helmet. The risks are too high. As your reputation is arguably your biggest asset, it should be a priority.

2. Profile

Just because you know about your business it doesn’t mean others do too. Furthermore, if you are considering infiltrating new markets then you will be starting from scratch. You may have the products, service and reputation however you are still new to this audience. Using PR to build your profile in the right places can be very effective.

3. Employer brand

We hear a lot about skills gaps and a lack of talent. If you want to attract the best people to your business, then you need to share details about what it is like to work for you. Using PR to update a company blog and social media tools, such as LinkedIn and twitter, is a good place to start. Adding personality to your content will allow you to attract the people that are a better fit for your business.

4. Website visitors

Over the years the remit of what constitutes PR has broadened. Content marketing has become a big business. If you want to get the most from your website you should be writing regular articles, blog posts and news items. Content should also include relevant inbound and outbound links to attract prospects. Paying thousands for a website doesn’t mean it will work for you.

5. New business

PR will help you to attract new business. No, the phone won’t start ringing off the hook as soon as you implement some of the tactics, but you will notice a change. People will become more receptive and they will talk about you more. There is no greater marketing platform than word of mouth, so make sure you are doing what you can to encourage the right message is shared. This is one of the reasons why story telling is so important.

6. Crisis

No one wants a crisis to happen, but the simple fact is, they do. If you are unprepared then expect the worst. Trying to fumble through a media storm while the phones are ringing relentlessly, and journalists are on deadline chasing for statements, is nothing short of a nightmare. Don’t leave this to chance, it could lead to lasting and irreparable damage. Having the processes and procedures in place will make all the difference.

7. Competition

So, despite points one to six you still think PR is a waste of time and money. That’s absolutely fine. Leave it to your competitors to share their story, raise their profile, manage their communications and reap the rewards and benefits as a result.

8. Cost effective

PR isn’t cheap but when compared to other specialisms within the marketing mix it is cost effective. Given the importance of the tactics that fall under a PR remit, it is a constant frustration that it is the forgotten relative, but that’s the way it is. Some of the largest brands in the world have relied heavily on PR and it has delivered for them time and time again. Think Virgin and Innocent Drinks. They used PR to establish and build brands that made them millions.

9. Flexibility  

With PR you don’t have to sign up to everything in one go. It’s not a single product off a shelf. You could start with a basic press office and then evolve the plans as you go. In fact, this is the best approach. Not only does this mean you can carefully measure the return on your investment, you can also better understand exactly what is happening and why.

10. Return on investment

There is no point in denying it, measuring the absolute impact of PR can be a challenge because the reasons for purchase will differ for every consumer. What we can be certain of is that having a PR programme in place will allow you to manage your message, engage in the right places, target the correct audiences and take some control of the conversation. Millions of businesses across the world haven’t got it wrong, they invest because they see the value.

Back to where we started

And so, we are back to where we started. The first step is to think very carefully about your business and what you want to achieve now and in years to come. PR may not be a priority but consider what it could do for your organisation.

Nothing will change if you continue the way you are going, and perhaps that should be one of the biggest concerns that you have.

For more information about how we work with our clients at Open Communications please visit the What We Do pages here.

YOU SAY IT BEST WHEN YOU SAY NOTHING AT ALL

It might be a great lyric for a song but when it comes to effectively managing the reputation of a brand saying nothing at all really can do more damage than good.

Don’t let your brand become your best kept secret

There are few feelings that beat getting excited by the achievements of a business, and eleven years on that hasn’t changed for us.

It’s not just about sharing our success as we expand and welcome new members to the team or celebrate our recent relocation back to Wakefield city centre, it’s also the updates we get to write and distribute for our clients too.

Sharing stories, building the profile of a brand, creating copy and content that captures the culture and personality of a business all deliver positive results, but it’s essential that messaging is aligned with behaviour.

Saying one thing and doing another will lead to mistrust and fake news.

Using PR and marketing communications to share the right messages, at the right time and in the right place gives an audience the information they need to make an informed decision. It’s no longer good enough to rely on the products and services that you sell, it’s about the approach you take and reinforcing values.

The conversation is happening without you

When you don’t share any news or insights as a business it doesn’t mean that the conversation isn’t going on without you. The truth is that whether you are engaged or not, people will talk. Social media and online forums give global audiences a platform to share their thoughts every minute of every day – literally.

Monitoring these conversations to make sure the comments made about your brand and business are correct and factual is as important as watching your cashflow. Ignoring references that are made online does not mean they will go away, often it can lead to the opposite.

No one is saying that you have to review every social media channel all of the time but checking what is being said is good practice and will keep you abreast of customer comments and complaints.

Building an employer brand

Some companies believe that informing the market that you have the best talent will lead to them being contacted by competitors. Firstly, someone can only be poached if they want to be and secondly, try harder to keep them.

Create a culture that attracts candidates and makes them want to work for you and to stay longer-term. Reinforcing how good your workforce is and giving employees credit where it is due is no bad thing and creates a positive atmosphere.

As LinkedIn becomes increasingly popular, remember that your employees can and will use this platform to share their success and achievements. Being an employer that embraces this, liking or reposting these comments, will set an example for others.

In the same way that employees share their success and achievements online, it is important that you remember that others will see this too. Attracting talent is just as important as nurturing those that already work for you, so do both.

Keeping tight-lipped

I’ve never been one to conform to the belief that if you keep quiet then you can be confident that your closely guarded secrets will remain a mystery. Let’s be honest, in most industries people move within the sector and with that comes the harsh reality that some things simply won’t remain under wraps forever.

As such, it’s worth identifying those things that really are secret and should remain that way and others that don’t really require a trip to the legal team for an NDA!

Make the most from your story

We live in a society whereby we are constantly inundated with marketing messages and it’s often the case that the only differentiation between brands is the story that sits behind why a business was launched and how it got to where it is today.

Use your story to appeal to a wider audience and to attract the right customers. Some businesses get this wrong, but many get it right and their success, in part, is as a result of their carefully curated content and images that reflect their brand.

Put some time into deciding how you want to come across to others and invest in the resource you need to make it happen. Even if you aren’t sure, the benefit of PR is that you can test and measure, but give it time, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither way a globally recognised brand.

Why PR is about more than ‘fannying around with the press releases’

The Devil Wear’s Prada and Bridget Jones’ Diary didn’t really do a great deal to raise the profile of the PR industry but I have to admit that the stereotype that comes with this job isn’t entirely unwarranted, so I would just like to set the record straight.

Not all PR people giggle in high pitched tones and understand this seasons fashion, we don’t all totter on high heels and we don’t all wear perfume that is too strong and lingers after we have left bright stains of lippy or your cheek – post air kiss ‘darling’.

There are some of us who work in PR because we want to plan campaigns with interesting and exciting brands that ‘nail it’ and attract media attention, which in turn raises the profile of the business and encourages consumers to buy their products and services.

Yes people, this is exactly what floats my boat. Since day one securing good quality coverage has made me go all warm and fuzzy inside. Knowing that a campaign you are working on will be shared nationally and possibly even internationally sets butterflies a-fluttering – it’s what we do and it’s what we love.

PR isn’t just about writing or media relations it’s also about understanding the brands and businesses you work with and that is why every morning we read the papers. We’re not taking time out or having a leisurely start to the day, we’re working. It’s important that we know what’s going on so that we can work with the media agenda and react accordingly, whether that is by statement, comment or by building on a strategy.

We live in a very different world to when I started in PR and in some instances it’s easier – you can find out what is going on using RSS feeds, google alerts, twitter or web searches, you don’t have to run to the shops to buy the nationals – just log on!

Some of the best coverage I have secured has come about as the result of piggybacking on the media agenda, using it to the advantage of the brands and businesses we work with. It’s not difficult but it does take time and also understanding – you have to know what you are looking for.

PR as a specialism has evolved so much over recent years it’s difficult not to get excited by it. Content is one of the most valuable tools available to a brand and that’s what we do – we create content that can be distributed to the media, shared online or used as a policy, comment piece, brochure, blog, website, leaflet… content is valuable, it’s strong and it delivers.

Just some of the services we offer as an agency at Open Communications are as follows:

–          Press office

–          Blogger engagement

–          Content management (social media)

–          Copy writing

–          Campaign planning

–          Communications strategy sessions

–          Crisis management

The list goes on but it gives you the general idea.

It’s all about reputation when you work in PR and that means your own, as well as your clients. It’s important to be personable and approachable – that doesn’t mean air kissing clients at every opportunity, it means working with them and being knowledgeable about their business so that you can give them recommendations they know will deliver results. We are PR experts and it’s our expertise that sets us apart, it’s what our clients pay for.

I am very proud of Open Communications and of the campaigns that we deliver for the many brands we work with. I don’t always agree with the PR industry and the image it portrays but I hope that through this blog, you get a little insight into what it really means to work in PR and that there are some of us who simply want to do a job and do it well.

Now, where did I put that press release!

Content is king – long live the king!

User generated content has become an increasingly appealing option for businesses, not least because they can share their ideas, thoughts and passions at the touch of a button. In addition user generated content is cost effective and accessible – after all it’s your time that you need to invest.

Whether you have a company blog, or prefer to use social media tools to share your thoughts, there is an international audience just waiting to hear what you have to say.

What to consider

The problem with user generated content is that often once the excitement of uploading your musings wear’s off, businesses are left with websites and social tools that are clearly out of date.

What usually happens is that someone takes responsibility for uploading content, even getting the support of the senior team, only to then find that managing the process is constantly on the bottom of their ever increasing ‘to do’ list.

All this then does is reinforce that marketing and communication is not a priority for the business – whereas user generated content should be used to promote and showcase success and the value that a consistent approach can deliver.

How to manage the process more effectively

Many organisations choose a single person to manage all user generated content, which includes the drafting and uploading of all articles, but a better and more effective approach would be to pick one person from each team to submit an article of their choice.

This will then share the workload and empower those who are asked to contribute to do so on a less frequent basis. So, rather than having one person contributing to a company blog each week, you can share the workload by requesting that each team submits a blog once a month.

What you are also likely to find if you share the management of a company blog is that the content becomes more engaging and it gives people who are genuinely passionate about their job the chance to share their thoughts and have them published.

This will still require one person to chase and ensure that people do submit their copy on time however it makes the process far simpler and less demanding.

How to make it engaging

Some businesses can struggle with finding topics that they feel their visitors, followers, connections or fans will be interested in reading however it’s worth remembering that they have already taken a step to engage with you and without updated user generated content all you are doing is metaphorically turning your back on them – now that’s not friendly when you think about it!

To make things easier all you need to do is add the website, blog and social media to your weekly or monthly meetings. Create a calendar of events, activities, dates, products, services and subjects that are relevant to your business – you can then choose any one of these to expand on and share.

As an example you could be a clothing company and in which case you could consider the following; fashion, materials, manufacture, design or retail. There are lots and lots of things that could be covered.

Top tips

In order to get best value from user generated content, we would recommend that you keep it simple. Consider how you can share updates with your audience that will add some value.

Blogs as an example are a great way to share the personality of those within your organisation. Choose people who you know will want to contribute and who will get a real buzz from seeing their copy online – it will make life much easier than trying to drag content from those who would rather not contribute.

Put together a list of words that can be associated with your business and also the topics that are covered in industry magazines. What’s great about user generated content is that it’s your opportunity to have your say – obviously you need to be mindful that anyone can access your thoughts and there is a fine line between opinion and ranting – but it’s a great way to share your thoughts.

If you draft a simple question and answer document that can be updated in no more than 20 minutes you can send this around to the teams within your organisation and simply use this as a team update or ‘five minutes with’ section to the blog. This is really simple and should provide you with interesting and engaging content to share.

Clients and suppliers are a great resource as well. If you are proud of the work that you do with them then ask that they feature as a guest blog, sharing their thoughts and views with your audience.

There is no doubt that time and resource needs to be invested in generating interesting and engaging user content but once you start to see the value, which can be measured by increased web hits or shares, likes and retweets across social tools, it becomes clear that it can add real value to your business, while also raising your profile and positioning you as an expert within your field.

How often to post

There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should post or update user generated content but as a guide we would recommend that you update your blog once a week to start with. This will give you a realistic target and will encourage visitors to come back to your site or to share your comments more often.

Taking little steps to implement a strategy that you can manage internally is a great way to build on your marketing activities and if you really don’t have the time – you could always ask an agency for support.

At Open Communications we work with businesses to develop a strategy that they can manage. We offer full day sessions with up to 6 people from any one organisation able to get involved.

Getting people excited by user generated content is often the first hurdle to cross and making them understand the value and benefit that can be achieved as a result isn’t always easy. Working with a third party can do this quickly and give you the hints and tips you need to build a strategy that will last and deliver a return on investment.

Better still, if you work with a reputable company they should have examples of other businesses they have worked with who have seen the value and are putting steps in place to create interesting, engaging and up to date content that they share.

Are you giving your business the right tweetment?

When we are putting together a PR strategy for a client or discussing how a brand can communicate with its many different audiences, we always consider social media; after all it’s a platform and growing point of reference for consumers of all ages and demographics.

I have never really understood agencies that focus purely on social media, as although I feel it is a mistake to ignore online tools, in my opinion they should form part of a wider strategy. The internet has created new ways of communicating but the process is the same; you need to create a plan that supports a year round campaign and then a series of messaging that allows a company to share its stories, which in turn will raise its profile and understanding of the product and services it offers.

Needless to say PR always sounds far simpler than it actually is but essentially the fundamental purpose has never changed, our main objective is always to manage the reputation of the brands we work with. We want to share stories that lead others to talk about a company. In doing this we generate word of mouth, which is still the most valuable medium for creating credibility, recommendation and in turn sales.

I attended a networking session last night which focused specifically on twitter. In celebration of Leeds Business Week, Leeds Tweet Meet brought together a panel of communications professionals to discuss how to effectively use twitter for the purpose of business.

It was an interesting session but the main theme throughout was to have a plan and keep it simple. What was a very valuable suggestion was to recognise that twitter is now used as a real time resource by the consumer. No longer is twitter all about engagement or two way communication, there is a large audience using it to search for up-to-date news, views, comments and opinions.

For the first time twitter is actually competing with search engines, due to the speed in which information can be shared.

We always advise that clients take the time to review twitter and analyse what competitors are doing before they consider social media channels as a route to market. We believe that it is important to understand how people within a given industry are engaging with their audiences, as this can change significantly from one sector to another. It is also essential that legalities are considered, as there are some instances where information cannot be shared on an ‘open platform’.

What people sometimes forget is that twitter is a global and immediate channel to market. Once a tweet is out there it can be difficult to amend or delete. In order for any social media tool to work as well as it should, a client needs to be comfortable and confident before sharing their stories with the masses and that doesn’t just relate to using the tool but also to the content that a company proposes to share.

Some of the most spectacular #fails have come about as a result of brands jumping in or not taking the time to think before updating a status. Although it takes seconds to put up a post, it can take months to manage the damage that this could cause. We always ask if a person would shout their tweet in a street – if the answer is no, then it may be worth considering if the content is necessary and appropriate.

Although content is more important than ever before, it is worth asking what value your updates will give the recipient. If the content that you share is of no use to those that follow you, then consider how you can change it so that people can join in a conversation with you or use your content to their benefit.

As an example rather than telling people you are taking your dog for a walk, make recommendations on how consumers can get best value from your product or how your service differs from competitors. Twitter is also a great tool for sharing recommendations and testimonials, you can re-tweet positive comments and thank those that make them, which only strengthens those relationships, while sharing your success with a mass audience.

A suggestion from Leeds Tweet Meet was for businesses to develop a social media code of conduct, which in many organisations would provide guidelines for employees about what can and cannot be shared on business specific social media channels.

As a starting point for any business our top ten tips for twitter are as follows:

  1. Decide what your objective is – what do you aim to achieve through twitter
  2. Identify key individuals in the business who will manage the account
  3. Research what others within the market are doing (in particular competitors)
  4. Ask your customers if they would like to engage with you on twitter
  5. Create a code of conduct for employees to follow
  6. Do some scenario planning – what’s the worst that could happen
  7. Put together a simple schedule of tweets; build up a bank of topics / themes to consider
  8. Register an account with a relevant design
  9. Search for people that you would like to follow
  10. Build social media into your communications strategy

Twitter is certainly a good tool for business and has a growing number of followers. For those who ‘have better things to do with their time’ I would question what your customers and more importantly prospects would think.

As an immediate medium twitter can be invaluable to business and gives a brand a voice and personality. As a measure of success all you need to do is search for your favourite brands – the majority of which will now have an active twitter feed.

For those who are still in two minds then speak to a PR agency, they should be able to give you the guidance that you need to build twitter and other social tools into your wider communications strategy.