Tag: pr agency

It’s all in the timing

Social media, content marketing, engagement, push, viral, digital… need I go on? These are all words that are used frequently in the world of marketing, PR and communications and they all lead back to one thing – attracting attention and sharing a message.

What I’ve noticed is that brands who have got it right, in my opinion, are those that are able to turn things around quickly. Take Bodyform as a classic, or Specsavers as another, then there’s Richard Branson and his stunt announcing the BA couldn’t get it up and Paddy Power’s ambush of the Ryder Cup.

The way that these brands have been in a position to turn around their campaigns so quickly, never mind come up with them in the first place, is fantastic. Not only are they creative and quirky they capture attention and get their message across. At the end of the day, most brands use PR and marketing in the first instance to raise the profile of their business and in these cases they do exactly that.

The problem of course is that it is often impossible to get approval to turn something around in such limited timescales however the more that brands become aware of the benefits to ‘almost real time’ engagement the better.

It seems to me that the future is all about the timing and that means reacting within hours as opposed to days. Let’s hope that more brands see the benefit in putting PR at the top of their list of priorities because this is simply the best way to shout about your brand which subsequently puts your products in front of the consumer.

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.

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.

 

Optimism, now, there’s a good word

The headlines can be depressing at times and although as a PR agency we are often trying to explain to clients that they need to see beyond the doom and gloom, it can be difficult. We try where possible to reinforce that the media promote a balanced account to the news (good and bad) in order to provide the reader with the chance to make up their own mind.

In the most part this it true however where the recession is concerned it can be tricky. How do you write an article about the fact that thousands of people have lost their jobs and keep it light hearted – it’s simply never going to happen and so I find myself feeling a little sorry for the journalists who are tasked with handling these stories, particularly when the announcements are coming through thick and fast.

It’s not often you will find a PR professional saying that they have any sympathy for a journalist but when all is said and done  they just want to get their copy filed and do their job.

I was pleased however to see that Ian Briggs from The Business Desk wrote a genuinely balanced piece last week, which took a look back on the good, the bad and the ugly of 2012. The piece, which was titled ‘Ian Briggs on why his glass if half full for 2013’, did make reference to the recession and also to businesses that had fallen into administration but he also took the time to focus on many excellent pieces of news from around the Yorkshire region.

Ian said: “For me the tide is turning from a ‘we’re never going to get out of this situation’ mentality to one where the attitude is ‘we are where we are so let’s get on with it’.

Here, here, I couldn’t agree more.

As a business at Open Communications we have tried to steer clear of those who harp on about the recession all of the time – you know the ones, those who you get lumbered with at a networking lunch who start the conversation with a long sigh and then proceed to say in a voice that should be saved for funerals ‘How’s business?’.

I’m pleased to say that this year does seem to have marked a step change in attitude with many people rolling their sleeves up, as opposed to putting their heads down and long may it continue. I appreciate we are only in January (and the second week at that!) but we need to pull together, stay strong and carry on.

I’m a great believer in attitude and if you go into a year thinking you will do badly the chances are that will be the case. If however you have a strong product or service, a passion for what you do and a desire to get stuck in, then at the very least you stand a fighting chance.

I know lots of businesses who have reported better than average performance during 2012 and there should be no reason why this shouldn’t continue.  In a further piece, written again by Mr Briggs, he mentions that confidence is rising in Yorkshire as profit expectations increase.

The report that Ian highlights (The Lloyds TSB Commercial Business in Britain survey) uses feedback collated from more than 1,800 businesses. With 98 of these 1,800 based in Yorkshire it made for positive reading to find that optimism is at its strongest since the UK first reported coming out of the recession in 2009.

In addition to these findings a poll from the IoD, which is cited within the piece, has also revealed that 31% of directors expect 2013 to be better than 2012.

This is all good news and should give every business leader, entrepreneur, employee and job seeker the confidence they need to go into 2013 with a positive attitude and the belief that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and whatever a balanced article may say it is not a train coming!

Finally, PR takes it seat at the boardroom table

I’ve just finished reading an excellent article in Management Today magazine. The piece focuses on the changing face of PR – and I don’t mean one shade of designer lipstick to another – no, finally it would appear that the industry is getting the recognition that it deserves and is taking a seat around the boardroom table.

Having worked in the PR industry for more than a decade and with a BA (Hons) degree in the specialism, I have long been an advocate of the merits of PR when it is practiced correctly and professionally.

As I see it there are problems with the PR industry in the same way that there are problems with any other; you have the good and you have the bad and it can be difficult to decide which is which. One will wine and dine you in fancy restaurants, while the other tells you the harsh truth and what to do about it – far less appealing than a good lunch but undoubtedly more beneficial in the long run.

The truth of the matter is that PR has always been about reputation – that has never changed and be it online or in print, what is said in the street or down the pub, it all goes back to the same thing; if you don’t know what people are saying about you, there is nothing you can do about it.

Businesses are thankfully coming around to the understanding that during any situation, good or bad, the first point of call is to make sure that you are communicating effectively with your audiences. In order to do this an organisation requires an advisor, a specialist, someone to rely on with their plans, aspirations and concerns.

The piece in Management Today very much focuses on the changes to PR based on the use of social media but I think there is more to it than that.

Tim Bell comments: “If you want to live in a transparent world then someone has to give the information about you. If you don’t want someone else to, you have to do it yourself. That’s what PR people do.”

Sure, social media and a desire by the consumer to share their thoughts and opinions with the world – plus having the ability to do so quickly and easily across a multitude of platforms – has meant that PR professionals have more to do but that is simply good practice and the evolution of an industry which spans hundreds of years.

The real change I think has come in a shift of mind set. People working in PR have thankfully taken a long, hard look at the industry and realised that as a discipline we were losing out. We weren’t taken seriously in our tottering high heels and we needed to toughen up and take our seat around the boardroom table.

Those who were serious about a career started to showcase their skills in the situations that deliver harsh recognition; a crisis without a communications professional who is experienced, able and capable of dealing with it can bring a business literally crashing to its knees.

In Management Today Jeremy Hazlehurst comments:

“PR the profession has changed beyond recognition in the past decade. Although media relations activities have burgeoned, involving the paper press, online publications, television and bloggers, it is only a small part of the job now. Press offices have been swallowed up by communications departments that deal with investor relations, analysts, shareholders, regulators and government. All are the guardians of the most precious and difficult to measure of assets – corporate reputation.”

I’ve never been ‘typically PR’ and have always felt that the discipline should be considered a necessity as opposed as a nice to have, not just because I work in the industry but because I see every day the benefits that it delivers, which are often measured less by coverage and more by ‘real life’ results and the situations which are in some cases avoided.

It’s no secret that I almost left the PR industry altogether before launching Open Communications with my business partner Emma because of the way in which some agencies work. I didn’t want to go to lunch or out to parties, I didn’t want to charge by the hour working on campaigns I knew were over-priced and wouldn’t deliver and I didn’t want to feel like I was doing the clients I was working with a disservice by not going that extra mile.

What I did want was to work with journalists so that my clients would hit the headlines, I wanted to use communication to generate business, really get to the heart of the companies I was working for and be a part of their success. I wanted to advise them in the best way possible and explain in no uncertain terms that as a direct result of my actions their business was stronger and that was down to reputation, which was driven by PR and communications.

Thankfully I can now do all of these things. I have always been a champion of ‘real PR’ but I am pleased that others are now recognising the merits to working with agencies and practitioners.

Cynical or otherwise when you look at the organisations that have failed over recent years in many instances arguably the banks have been at fault but it is also interesting to note that many of them were lacking in direction, their customers and prospects weren’t aware of exactly what they offered and this was down to poor communication. As a result they weren’t selling and in turn ceased to exist.

I hope that this new attitude to PR continues and that businesses recognise the value of the services that practitioners and agencies offer.  The truth of the matter is that PR should be at the heart of any business model and in order to get it right you need to rely on a professional.

 

Never mind a gym membership – is your business in shape?

It’s that time of year again when all we hear about is detoxing, joining a gym and getting back in shape after eating and drinking far too much over the festive period. While we all take the time to consider our personal health during January, how many of us actually stop to ask if our business is fighting fit so that we are ready to take on whatever 2013 has to offer?

There’s no doubt that 2012 brought with it some challenges and that the news headlines were once again littered with announcements of companies falling into administration but that’s no reason to pull the covers over our heads and close the doors. If anything after a festive break and rest we should be ready and raring to go with great ideas and creative plans for the forthcoming year.

Whether it’s new opportunities, expansion and growth or more of the same we need to put all of our energies into getting excited about our plans and sharing them with our employees, customers and prospects. If we can pass on our enthusiasm and passion we can encourage others to do the same and this helps to keep our businesses, products and services front of mind.

Here at Open Communications, we are suggesting that businesses put together a list of their New Year’s resolutions for 2013 – but that first they focus on the company rather than themselves as an individual. These resolutions could be anything from improving internal communications to increase productivity, right through to generating new business through effective PR, marketing materials and use of relevant social media tools.

The easiest way to manage this process and get some real value out of the exercise is to write down your resolutions in one column and then put simple steps to achieving them in another. Although it sounds almost too straight forward, approaching challenges in this way means that you are more likely to work hard to achieve them.

It’s also a great excuse to ‘regroup’ and get your whole business involved and working together. Hold a meeting and find out what employees want to see from the company over the next twelve months.  Ask what drives them on and what they think makes the organisation different and exciting from others in the market? Encourage them to get behind the business and to want to be a part of its success during the year ahead.

The most important thing is to use the New Year to get motivated, organised and ready to learn something completely new that will add value to your company.

We would guess that many of the resolutions that people make will focus on a business communicating more effectively with an audience; this may be current customers, prospects or employees. Remember that in order to communicate you have to consider setting aside the time to do this and do it well. Reputation comes from the impression that you give and you need these to reflect your values and vision.

If you would like to start the New Year as you mean to go on and you want to get excited about the year ahead and all the benefits that it has to offer then think about what impression you want people to have of your company. What do you have to give (product or service), how does it differ from others and most importantly how are you going to let people know about it?

We are sure that 2013 is going to be a very exciting and productive year and we are looking forward to working with both current and prospective clients large and small. We hope that you will join us in making resolutions that we will work towards, keep and evolve throughout the year.

Here’s to a great 2013 and the many opportunities that it will bring.

An innocent drink with a banker adds value to PR

On occasion there will be a conference or networking session which catches my eye and yesterday I found myself surrounded by bankers (insert your own pun here!) at an event in Bradford.

The Ignite Business Growth seminar was hosted by Barclays and was pitched as an opportunity to hear key note speaker, Adam Balon, one of the founding entrepreneurs behind Innocent Drinks, speak about his business journey and the challenges faced by the brand.

I never like to pass up the opportunity to hear it from those who have ‘been there and done that’ and so went along. Getting the negative out of the way early on in this blog, I was extremely disappointed to find that although Adam was in fact a key note speaker we were watching him through a screen.

It became quickly apparent that the seminar was a collective of smaller events around the country all tuned in to the same station, so to speak. I would have found this quite impressive, particularly as the use of social media and twitter (using a dedicated hashtag #BarcT2M) at the event was a great example of how to use these tools for effective networking, but the fact that this was almost hidden from delegates was not my idea of best practice.

Anyway, on with the show. We were first introduced to Luke Hodson, the brains behind promotional merchandise company Awesome Merchandise. Luke explained how he had taken an idea, which started in the bedroom of a student house he shared with 10 others, to become a successful enterprise turning over more than £2 million a year.

Explaining how he had turned to simple marketing techniques, such as sending out his own products as free samples, to encourage engagement with prospects and build the business was refreshing. It may not set the world alight but ideas like this work.

Luke even mentioned a really simple, yet effective, campaign he had launched using a mug, which had an image of an arrow on it saying ‘I’m awesome’. He sent the mugs out and asked that people have their picture taken with them and send it back. The response was overwhelming with people taking the trouble to have their ‘mug shot’ taken in a whole host of weird and wonderful places, including America.

It was really pleasing to see a local business doing good and to listen to someone who clearly has their head screwed on and the drive, passion and dedication that is needed to make it work.

Next it was over to Barclays to do a not so hard sell before Adam took to the stage.

I don’t know what I was expecting but I have to admit that Adam was a real inspiration. The way he told the story of Innocent Drinks was funny, charming and surprisingly down to earth.  What was most interesting about Adam’s talk was the way that he used experiences alongside tips to make it relevant to the audience.

In some of these events you can find yourself wondering why you are wasting your time listening to some multi-millionaire witter on about how they finally got to the top and that they can confirm that money really can buy you happiness – well, nice work but that isn’t really helpful.

Adam was different. He mentioned that in order to develop a sustainable and successful business you had to have values, vision and purpose. He also mentioned the importance of having a clear tone of voice for the brand, which is used across all communications.

This was music to my ears. We constantly explain to clients and prospects that you need to have an established tone of voice in order to give a brand personality and to provide consistent communications across all platforms.  It makes sense when you think about it but many businesses carry on regardless, leaving customers and prospects wondering why in one sense the company is personable and friendly and in another professional and aggressive.

It was apparent from Adam’s talk that the team from Innocent had done a fantastic job on their PR. They had used the media to secure a listing with Harvey Nichols and from then on went from strength to strength. TV, radio and print media were eager to cover the story of the three boys from London who had launched a fruit juice business from a back bedroom and they made the most of it.

Adam was eager to point out the value of PR and of course I couldn’t agree more. I had no idea that PR would be such a strong topic during this session but I really do hope that people in the room were paying attention and recognising just how important clear, strategic and managed communications and messaging are to a business and its long term success.

The session wasn’t just about the successes of Innocent, although mention was made to the fact that in just three years it went stratospheric making the three owners multi-millionaires and allowing them to employ a full team to support their enterprise, there was also talk of the things that went wrong including dressing as Nuns and trying to ‘pull’ at London fashion week – but I’ll leave those little nuggets under wraps just in case you have a chance to see the Innocent team speak in the future!

Overall the session was inspiring, engaging and useful and certainly made me step back and think about Open Communications and what we do well and perhaps not so well. I strongly believe that you need that reality check sometimes and am sure that other businesses in the room felt the same.

So, well done Barclays, I still think you should have been more honest about the way the session was being run but overall a really good event, which was well worth attending.

Open Comms makes a move and secures two new clients

“Open Communications, the PR and marketing communications agency based at Nostell Priory Estate Yard near Wakefield, is celebrating four years in business with two new account wins and a move to larger premises.”

How exciting, we are finally in a position to announce our office move (it was three months in the planning!). After achieving four years of growth we have moved to purpose built offices at Nostell Priory Estate Yard. It’s exciting times and not least because we now have our very own meeting room and a store cupboard for all of the products we manage for our clients – Hannah still looks gleeful everytime she comes in and doesn’t have to move a pile of boxes to get to her desk.

In addition to the office move we can also confirm that we have been appointment as preferred PR supplier to Al-Murad Tiles, the largest independent tiles re-seller in the UK and Abduls takeaway and diner with sites in Pontefract and Wakefield.

We will be managing the PR and promotions for both businesses and will work with the teams to generate campaigns that run throughout the year increasing footfall and improving brand awareness.

It has been an interesting and eventful four years to say the least. We set out to create a straight talking PR agency that would care less about air kissing and more about achieving results and that’s exactly what we have done. As a result, we now have new premises and a list of clients that we are incredibly proud of.

As well as securing retained clients, over the years we have also developed a range of services including Open for New Business, an offering which makes PR accessible to smaller businesses and Open 27/7, crisis management for companies who require support during their most challenging times.

Since we launched in 2008 Open Communications has developed as an agency and we now work with some of the UK’s leading businesses including snack manufacturer, Intersnack and confectionery brand HARIBO. We have also been proud to work with smaller businesses who we continue to support as they develop and grow.

All in all we are a very proud and passionate team and would like to take this opportunity to thank our clients, our suppliers, colleagues and those we network with. Here’s to four years and many more to come!

Tears from laughing or a crying shame?

I made the mistake of watching Work Experience, the new reality sitcom, on E4 last night. I was really looking forward to the programme after noticing the adverts and was eager to see what it was all about – expecting, wrongly, that it would be a laugh a minute and something to discuss with friends over a few drinks at the weekend.

I usually enjoy these types of programmes – you know the ones – where people are ‘set up’ Jeremy Beadle sty-lee, in a situation which could be real yet isn’t, and there are hilarious consequences as a result. The first problem with this programme was that it wasn’t funny.

The scene was set at a fashion PR agency in London. The agency named, Grade PR, has the usual stereotypical boss; bitch in high heels, hoping to fall pregnant and being generally rude and abusive to everyone she meets, particularly her PA. Her side kick, who she had naturally slept with, was equally condescending, while also being a complete sleaze.

This cast, which includes a few others who are ridiculously over the top and not worth a more descriptive mention, are supposed to be providing two genuine placement students with work experience – and this is where I get really angry. The students are made to run around like idiots, tanning people, casting models and being shouted at – dealing with the tantrums and traumas of a ‘professional PR agency’ in a bid to win the real prize, which is… you’ve guessed it, an intern at a real agency.

What annoys me most about this programme is that it is a huge insult to the PR industry and I’m appalled that in both cases the placement students clearly expected some level of deva-esque behaviour. There were moments where I was so outraged I was literally shouting at the TV.

As a PR professional I find it insulting that a programme like this should be considered comedy and not because I can’t laugh at the industry I work in, after all I’ve come across my fair share of air kissing, Prada wearing luvvies in my time, but because we feel it’s appropriate to allow this perception to continue and to be fuelled. In my opinion it’s gone beyond comedy and is now a genuine expectation.

Many PR professionals will agree that to do the job you need to be qualified, experienced and able not only to write copy and secure coverage but to manage the most precious asset a business owns – its reputation. So why then do we all sit back and allow these stereotypes to continue, which only seek to ruin the one thing we maintain to know how to manage, the reputation of our industry.

I dread to think what will happen in next week’s episode but I think I’ve had my fill. I will continue to hold my own opinions about the industry and will promote PR as the professional specialism it is, after all if I’m not prepared to try to change these perceptions all I am really agreeing to do is to conform to them, and that simply is not going to happen.

As for placement students, please, please don’t think that even during difficult times you should be treated like this, irrelevant of the industry you are working in – it’s not funny and it’s not right.

 

Wakefield really does work!

I recently posted a blog about Open Communications agreeing to get involved with a local initiative, Wakefield Works. The concept was thought up by Andy Turner from First Choice Recruitment and Marcello Moccia from Room: 97, in partnership with the Wakefield Express.

Rather than sitting around and complaining about the lack of jobs for young people within the Wakefield District, these two entrepreneurs encouraged more than 35 local companies to agree to open their doors to prospective employees for a day. The only real commitment from the businesses who chose to get involved was to give some time and also a minimum of two weeks work experience to any relevant candidate that was interviewed.

As an example of businesses being pro-active and supporting the potential of the district I think this was a shining example of working together and making a difference.

In contrast, I attended the First Friday event last week and was disappointed to hear some people focusing on the negative and referencing the number of candidates who registered yet didn’t take the time to get turn up for the respective appointments.

I don’t think that when providing feedback about an event that this should have been the focus. I think it would have made more sense to give those who arranged the initiative the credit that they deserve for taking their time to do so and then for those involved to provide examples of how well the activity had worked.

We had two candidates turn up to Open Comms on the day and I am pleased to announce that we have agreed to provide a two week work placement for one of them. The candidate that we chose has relevant experience and has the chance to prove themselves to be a real asset to our team.

This is the kind of feedback that we should be focusing on, not the negative. Perhaps by showing how many work placements were agreed as a result of this activity those who didn’t bother to turn up to their appointments will recognise the mistake that they have made and the opportunity that they missed out on.

I would personally like to say a huge thank you to Andy, Marcello, the Wakefield Express and Wakefield Job Centre Plus for their support in making this initiative a success. Without their time and effort it would never have happened and we would be another city just sitting around waiting for someone else to turn the employment statistics around.

I’m hoping that businesses who did get involved in Wakefield Works will agree that it was worth the time and effort and that it should become a regular event in the Wakefield business calendar. Let’s get Wakefield working, focus on the positives and benefit from what we can achieve as a collective.