Tag: pr agency

Don’t reinvent your business

Since we launched Open Communications in 2008, we have learnt a lot – not least the difference between a P9, P11 and P45!  We have also done a great deal of networking and now have a number of suppliers who we regularly rely on to provide us with the products and services we need.

What has always worried me is that there are lots of people we meet who say that in order to ‘stay ahead of the game’ you have to constantly reinvent your business. I don’t agree with this at all. I often come across people who claim to do this and then that and then the other and the harsh reality is that they don’t do any one thing well.

We are a PR agency and we also provide clients with marketing communications – in simple terms we are all about the words. If you want to communicate with someone and you want to bring a campaign to life then we will support you to do it.

We work with businesses of all sizes and there have been times when I have to admit that I can understand why some agencies profess to be ‘full service’ when the truth is that they just outsource to freelancers.

There are two things that are wrong with this approach; you are not being honest with clients and it’s likely to come back and bit you on the backside and any company managing an account in this way is going to take on the hassle of justifying someone else’s work when / if it goes wrong, even worse the client will believe it’s down to you!

Rather than reinventing your business, why not add products or services which complement your current offering. As an example we launched Open for New Business, which allows us to work with smaller companies who cannot afford a retained agency.

The benefits are that a smaller business gets access to our knowledge and time, while we extend our offering to a wider customer base.  Since launching this service in 2010 we have had some excellent feedback and as we have been open and honest with clients about why we are doing this and what exactly we offer it works.

Open for New Business doesn’t mean that we can’t work with bigger business, it just means that we can also work with smaller companies who are in the position of wanting to know more without having the budgets to invest in a month on month service.

If we started to offer design, web development, sampling and event management then that would be a different thing entirely and I’m sure our clients first question would be to see examples of previous campaign and proven results – oops, we don’t have any doesn’t sound too good!

So next time you hear someone suggesting that you reinvent your business, think twice. What will your customers think if you suddenly start offering a host of new services – and be honest, would you have the time to do all of these things to the standards that your customers expect? If the answer is no, then it’s worth going back to the one thing you’re good at and building a reputation for doing it really well.

The glamour of PR

PR is all about Prada, free champagne, air kissing and high profile events…

And if you believe that you’ll believe anything, it’s all just one big pretence

 

The reality is quite different you see, like spinning plates the whole day through

You have to keep them all in the air, if they drop the blames on you

 

It takes hard work, commitment, dedication and thought no less

You have to use your brain to bring the creative thoughts to life from inside your head

 

There are early starts and no lunch breaks – as for an early finish, forget that

But the excitement of getting the headlines you want keeps us smiling and our clients coming back

 

No two days are ever the same in a world that is driven by news

With traditional media, in print and broadcast plus bloggers and their many views

 

There’s events to plan and sponsorship to secure

Copy to draft and website to procure

 

Design to outsource and print to negotiate

All in a day’s work as part of the going rate

 

We have great fun, some laughs and giggles but glamour it just can’t be

When you’re dressed as a giant bear on your weekend off as part of your allocated fee

 

But when all is said and done and the office door is firmly closed

We know we are already looking forward to what adventures and campaigns will unfold.

A changing legal landscape

Reviewing the media this morning I noticed an increasing number of announcements about the merger of legal firms within the Yorkshire region.  No fewer than three mergers hit the headlines today with stories released from Ware & Kay and P J Lawrence, Switalskis Solicitors and Parker Bird Gardner and Petherbridge Bassra and Brimble & Co.

I’m sure that most people working within the legal sector will know that there are likely to be many more announcements before the market settles into a new shape – which will see fewer firms but larger overall practices offering their services.

Having worked within the sector I found the concept of ‘Tesco law’ very interesting, noting that due to a change in legislation any business could offer legal services, if they had the right people with the right qualifications to do so. This change was quickly termed Tesco law as it would mean that supermarkets could offer legal services if they felt it would be a lucrative market.

Needless to say a company like Tesco would also be likely to offer legal support at cut down prices, providing an appealing opportunity for consumers and businesses alike.  This in turn would create a crisis situation for most legal teams who would have to review their offering and potentially change the way they work to maintain market share and customer loyalty.

Although it is not surprising to see that in order to counter the Tesco law effect local firms are coming together to create larger and presumably stronger practices, as a PR professional I hope that these organisations have a strategy in place to manage internal and external communications during the changes and beyond.

Legal firms are notorious for believing that marketing and communications are fluffy and a ‘nice to have’ as opposed to an essential tool for supporting business practice and enhancing reputation, which in turn generates sales.

It will be interesting to see which firms have considered their messaging and tone of voice following a merger and which have a strategy in place to effectively manage the change. It is certainly a period of immense change both for the practices which are coming together and the market as a whole.

 

Do you know your QR from your AR?

It can be a challenge when you work within the media industry, not least because things are changing so quickly – online and in print, digital and viral, integrated messaging and social media platforms – it’s all to take into account when you are coming up with brand plans for clients and that’s even before you decide who is responsible for doing what.

Although we don’t profess to be all things to all people, we are a creative agency and we will make recommendations knowing that it isn’t our team who will bring them to life – or bill at the end of the month. The reason we do this is because if we genuinely feel an idea will meet with the brands objectives we will suggest it – and we all know that no idea is a bad idea!

Another reason we try to go beyond the boundaries of being a traditional PR agency is that we are consumers ourselves and we understand that we, as others, expect brands to want to engage with us, to offer us things for free or deliver great promotions that save us time and money.

The more that a brand invests in effectively communicating with its customers the more they are seen to care and with that greater loyalty and brand awareness is achieved – or that’s the general idea. Of course, it doesn’t always work like that and some brands get it spectacularly wrong, while others can seem to do no wrong.

When reading some trade publications recently in the office, Hannah pointed out some relatively new technology which would allow a brand to bring an advert or promotion to life at the touch of a button. Basically you download an app called Blippar or Aurasma Lite and then that technology allows you to view adverts and promotions using AR codes – or image recognition as it is also termed.

I have to admit that I was never a big fan of QR (quick response) codes, which I felt were basically a mechanic to link to websites and more often than not promotions pages, so this was never going to immediately appeal. What I find myself asking is if anyone will actually be bothered enough to go to the trouble of downloading this technology in the first place, never mind then going to the further trouble of scanning the AR codes to see what brands are doing to engage with them beyond the printed promotion.

BUT on reading through further articles about the technology it has certainly made us think. Imagine if you could encourage people to engage with your brand through an online tool and if you could really bring that brand to life – suddenly an integrated campaign could take shape in front of your very eyes. It could literally jump off the shelf. How exciting would that be!

We aren’t a digital agency but we do work with social media content and with other likeminded agencies to create campaigns that leave a lasting impression and I have to admit that we have spoken to a few brands already about AR and its possible benefits and pitfalls. As an evolution from QR codes it’s fair to say that they are likely to become redundant but if there is something all the more impressive, bigger and better to take its place then I’m sat up and listening.

I would be really interested to hear what others think about it? Is it a fad or something that will change the way that brands interact with their customers forever? Is this a turning point that will see us all understanding our Blippar from our Aurasma and our QR from our AR?

It’s certainly one to watch and I can’t wait to see which brands really embrace the technology to create rich content that can be shared and genuinely meet with expectations, while more importantly achieving brand objectives.

Because the client says so

People think that working with so many clients in such a diverse range of sectors would be difficult but it isn’t as long as you understand their business, communications strategy and wider brand plan. It’s important to get to know their business inside and out in order to put together recommendations that will deliver on objectives.

In my opinion too many PR agencies get caught up in trying to pull the next big stunt without looking at the bigger picture. How will that campaign have any longevity and what will happen once you have secured the column inches. How could it work as a theme that could be delivered in phases so that you get more than one opportunity to speak to the media and greater retention of message?

At Open Communications we work with our clients to create campaigns that grab attention, while also meeting with expectations and delivering on objectives. Anyone can make unrealistic suggestions or over promise on ideas that simply won’t deliver but we choose not to be like that.

One principle that we have employed from day one is to be honest and open. We don’t do something because the clients says so and we are more than willing to challenge an idea if we think it is to the benefit of the client and their brand and business.

As a small agency our reputation is literally our business and we are not prepared to go along with something for the sake of banking some cash. We are however more than prepared to work with our clients to come up with ideas that can improve their brand awareness, engage with their consumers and impact on their bottom line.

I think this is why I enjoy working at Open, not least because I was part of the partnership that set the company up and am therefore completely biased, but more so because we work WITH our clients and not for them. This approach, as simple as it sounds, has led to us sharing long term relationships with the brands we work with and becoming an extension of their teams.

When launching the business we decided that if someone was going to employ us as the experts we are then they deserve the benefit of our experience, recommendations and knowledge. There is no point in nodding politely and then when it comes to reviewing an activity having the embarrassment of saying that you knew it wouldn’t work in the first place but just couldn’t say anything.

I wrote a blog recently about being from Yorkshire and calling a spade a shovel and once again I think this lesson has served me well. If you are honest with people and you work with them to come up with ideas and plans that work you can all share in the results. Otherwise you are just another agency, nodding politely at another client, who will be looking to replace you once your latest stunt is complete.

Business down but PR win for Britvic

Today’s headlines report a profit fall in Q3 for soft drinks manufacturer Britvic leading to a loss of approximately £15 – £23m. Now before we all take a sharp intake of breath, the business reports that this is as a result of the poor weather and more significantly the product recall of the brands Fruit Shoot and Fruit Shoot Hydro bottles, using a new sports cap.

Whereas most people will be looking at this story and wondering how the brand will recoup the losses, I read it very differently. Within the story, which I read first on The Business Desk, the journalist chooses to use the words ‘well-publicised product recall’.

As a communications agency that commends great work and is not too proud to take our hats off to those who do it well – I would personally like to say congratulations to the team responsible for managing the communication for the recall.

Before you think I’ve finally lost my marbles let me explain.

Ok, so it wasn’t the best story that Britvic will ever have to deal with, no one wants to come into work and have to fend off questions about safety issues, particularly not for food and drink products and let’s be honest it shouldn’t have happened in the first place – but it did, so as a press team you have to get on with it.

Overall I think the situation was well managed, handled appropriately and did the job. Everyone was aware of the product fault and why the brand was recalling the items. The statement was clear and the call to action made sense – you weren’t left wondering if the bottles had been tampered with or if little Jonny’s pack up was more of a danger than a snack at lunchtime.

It can be a difficult call when you have to make decisions like this, but Britvic seem to have made their mind up quickly and as a result they deserve the respect of their consumers. The money that went into advertising the recall, as well as relying on the support of a PR team, won’t have come cheap, so when you add that to the loss of a potential £23m it is enough to make your eyes water but before you go dashing for the hankies turn the situation on its head.

A well-managed crisis situation can do a brand the world of good and not only does it get consumers taking about you, it also puts you in the spot light when it matters most. Today’s press are full of interviews, comments and quotes from Britvic, reiterating their concern and commitment to the consumers. They play down the recall as something that happens to all brands, yet do not dismiss the seriousness of the situation.

This is exactly why it is imperative for brands to have a committed and experienced PR team to deal with crisis situations. It isn’t a game when you get a call to recall a product it is make or break and I am pleased to see some businesses getting it right.

So, once again, well done Britvic. It’s hit you hard this quarter but it won’t stop me from purchasing your products and I’m sure others will feel the same

 

 

Supporting local initiatives because ‘Wakefield Works’

As a Yorkshire PR agency and Wakefield based business, we were asked recently to attend a meeting with like-minded  companies in the area, who would support a local initiative to provide unemployed people in the district with advice and guidance, in the hope that they may secure temporary or permanent roles as a result.

The initiative, Wakefield Works, was the brain child of local entrepreneurs Andy Turner from First Choice Recruitment and Marcello Moccia from Room:97 hairdressers. The concept is relatively simple – each business who agrees to get involved will open their doors on Thursday 4 October and will commit to meeting with local unemployed people who choose to visit their business.

Giving around 15 – 20 minutes to each candidate, businesses are asked to provide advice and guidance to each person, while also answering any questions that they have. In addition the company will provide one person from those who visit the organisation with a week’s work placement.

What a great idea! So simple, yet potentially very effective.

Needless to say here at Open Communications we are getting behind this project 100% and hope to meet with some very interesting and inspiring people as a result. I think it’s important to highlight that the people who are looking for work in the region can be any age and any level of experience and that is what makes this approach all the more interesting.

If as a result of this activity just one person finds temporary or full time work then it has been a success – ideally more will follow and we will find that as a result of this activity the companies who choose to get involved will also help to reduce local unemployment levels.

So come on – here’s a shout out to all those businesses within the Wakefield district who aren’t involved in this great initiative yet. Get in touch with Andy Turner at andy@first-choice.co.uk and find out more about how you can help to make our area a better place. You never know, you could just find the new recruit of your dreams. Stranger things have happened!

 

 

Can you weather proof your marketing?

You can’t really say that we’ve had a summer time yet, despite it being mid-July, in fact it feels more like some balmy extended winter. The only glimpse of sun we have had in the UK has been a random day here and there or if we really push it maybe a week.

The problem isn’t just flooding to houses and roads, burst river banks and floating cars, it goes far beyond that.  We work with a range of clients who rely on us to put together PR strategies and plans which meet with their briefs and deliver results, while achieving objectives. Not always as simple as it sounds.

As a PR and marketing communications agency, we do not profess to be all things to all people but we are a creative team and we come up with a range of ideas that the client can then choose from. Sometimes these ideas go beyond PR and include sampling, experiential and even, on occasion, suggestions for advertising campaigns or retailer engagement.

Working in this way allows us to put recommendations forward that we feel will work for the client and better still deliver a return on investment. We know that one theme can create an integrated approach, which can then be used in a number of different ways to achieve results. We also know that the ideas we propose have longevity, which can build over time, and ultimately create retention of key messages throughout the campaign period.

It would be unfair of us to suggest that we always come up with the ideas, as we work with a range of agencies and benefit from their insight and experience.  In order to make this approach work as well as it can, we hold agency days where all agencies come together and share their thoughts in order to agree the best ideas and creative routes, which are able to translate across disciplines.

So what has all this got to do with the weather?

This ‘summer’ has proven that an integrated approach to marketing and PR is absolutely essential. We have heard about the number of events that have been cancelled or rescheduled, which has impacted on sampling opportunities, sponsorship and outdoor activities.

There is nothing you can do about the rain, so in order to weather proof your marketing, by having a multi discipline approach, when one recommendation cannot be implemented as expected another can come into play, meaning a brand can have a contingency in place that will still deliver a return and build on the campaign theme.

As an example, if an activity cannot go ahead, PR activity can continue with features and press releases distributed to the media, sampling activity can take place in doors and advertising on cinema screens can reach an audience that are trying their best to get away from the wet weather.

I’m sure we are all praying for some more sunshine – and I don’t want to be the one to dismiss the fact that we may just get a summer – but on the basis that we do get more wet weather, we would advise that brands consider how they can work smarter to ensure they have a contingency in place.

The first step is to choose an agency that doesn’t simply look at quirky ideas that hit the headlines one minute and are lost the next or those who feel that winning an industry award makes for best practice – but an agency that delivers consistent results with the brand and business objectives in mind, while taking into account their disciplines and those of others.

Ready at the starting blocks – but not for sport

We were asked recently to deliver a presentation during an event in Castleford run by Wakefield Enterprise Partnership. The purpose of the event was to provide advice and guidance to people who were considering starting up a business. As a result we were asked, as a Wakefield based PR agency, to discuss communications and how you could go about setting the foundations before you reach the starting blocks and launch a company to the market.

We really enjoy events like this, not least because you get to meet so many new people with a real passion for the products or services that they have to offer. What was most striking from the event was the variety of businesses that people were hoping to start from web based companies right through to a consultant offering health and well-being in the workplace.

It was encouraging to see that the room was full of people with ambition and a genuine desire to do well. Some of them had been made redundant, whereas others just felt it was the right time to take the plunge.

Events like this always take me back to when we launched Open Communications in September 2008. It feels like a lifetime ago now but we had a clear plan and a definite determination to make it work. We were entering an unknown territory having never owned or run a business before and I think this is what people forget when they consider starting a company.

We were both professional PR consultants with experience and a portfolio of excellent results – what we didn’t have was any idea about a P11d, corporation tax, VAT bills or employer and employee PAYE payments. It’s a real minefield.

Thankfully we were surrounded by people who were only too willing to help and this support was gratefully received. For those out there considering starting a business I would think hard about putting the foundations into place first before offering a product or service to the market.

It sounds like common sense to plan before you launch but the simplest things are those that people overlook, such as getting your messaging right, knowing your market and communicating with your customers and not your competitors.

I hope that those who attended the presentation got the advice that they were looking for and that our talk was of genuine benefit to them. We certainly received some very positive responses.  I will be looking out for some of those people over the coming months and expecting to see them in the pages of their local papers as a result of launching the businesses that they were so passionate about.

One thing is for sure, I’m a great believer in people buying people and those who attended that session were doing so to make sure they had everything in place – if you put the effort in, you will get the reward. All that remains for us to say is good luck to them all.

Has ‘STOP PRESS’ taken on a totally new meaning?

Having worked in the PR industry for more than a decade I have been some significant changes, not least the move to more online mediums and methods of communication. There was once a time when you would draft, approve and print a press release before spending hours at a fax machine – not any more.

Digital technology and new ways of working mean you can have a press release drafted and out of the door in a matter of hours. It isn’t just ways of working that have changed however with more newspapers featuring online content that can be viewed and then shared with millions of people around the globe at the touch of a button.

Despite how easy it is to go online I can’t help but feel a little sad that we are losing the tangible benefit to having a paper and more importantly, in my opinion, the experience that print media delivers; getting a cup of coffee, opening a paper, looking at the supplements, smelling the print, turning the pages, cutting pieces out for reference. It all adds to the whole experience of buying and reading the news.

There will be many people in the PR and marketing industry who will be shouting that I’m in the dark ages and to get with the times, after all you can bookmark or share articles in the same way you could cut out clippings and its simple and easy to turn on an iPad or even access the media through a smart phone while having a coffee but that’s not my point.

We still find that when given the choice a client would rather see a full page printed piece in a regional or national newspaper, rather than a URL to a piece online. This may well change over time as people become more receptive to online news, who knows?

One piece which caught my eye recently featured in The Drum, a trade publication for the marketing industry. The headline read ‘The Guardian moves to deny ‘absurd’ rumours that it will go online only next year.’ Despite moves by the paper to contradict this suggestion, it would seem to me there is no smoke without fire and that perhaps their plan was to implement their five year strategy sooner.

It’s a shame that the print industry is in decline. Not only because of the process that I feel is so heart-warming when you buy a newspaper but also because there is a whole industry reliant on that income – beyond the sale of the papers themselves.

If we consider printers who have spent years in the same role, machinists who are professionals and passionate about their work, maintenance technicians who know the presses inside and out, designers who set the copy and imagery and then let’s not forget the paper boys / girls it paints a very gloomy picture to consider that all of these people will be without work.

I don’t personally want to see printed papers become a memory of times gone by and I hope that others feel the same way. The problem is that being a time poor society, trying to make ends meet during difficult economic conditions, for many of us the choice is made – free online publications at your fingertips in seconds, or a paid for printed version, which requires you to go to the shops or take out a subscription.

Long live print is what I say! However I get the impression that ‘stop press’ is going to take on a very new meaning over the next few years.