Tag: pr

PR stands for Press Release

When you work in PR (public relations) there are some days when you wonder what your job description may look like if you were to write down everything you were asked to do. This is no bad thing you understand, as the huge variety of tasks certainly helps to keep things interesting, while raising a few exciting challenges along the way.

This is perhaps why I find it so frustrating when people tell me that they can ‘do PR’ because they have written a press release or had something printed in a newspaper. The purpose of appointing a PR agency shouldn’t be to just write copy – that’s what copy writers are there for and the clue is in the title.

A PR agency is there to manage a brands reputation, to identify opportunities that will extend the messaging of a campaign to take it to a totally new level, or to come up with creative recommendations that will deliver a stunt that will capture the attention of the media, while also educating consumers about what that particular product or brand has to offer.

There’s also the corporate side of things, when an agency may be appointed to manage a stakeholder or internal communications campaign, ensuring that a message is clear and concise, using the right tone of voice and being disseminated in the right way, to the right audience.

Sponsorship often falls under the remit of a PR agency, along with third party associations and event management. Although you may find that copy is required to support these activities, it isn’t the sum of the process and everything from launching to making sure the brand gets the most from an association – which often includes sampling – can be included along the way.

Really the job of a PR has no defined start or finish, as long as you are managing and supporting the reputation of a brand and business, focusing on how it chooses to communicate and engage with its target audiences, then it kind of falls in to our remit.

As we have said in the past there is no point in trying to be all things to all people and that isn’t what I’m suggesting – there are times when we work with other specialist agencies to deliver integrated briefs and this is when you can take one concept or theme and really push it to make as much noise across as many mediums as possible.

At the moment we are working on so many different things that when Friday comes around I feel like my head is spinning with ideas and variations on the campaigns and proposals that we are working on for clients both in business to business and consumer markets.

PR is creative, expressive, exciting and demanding and writing is just one element of what we do on a daily basis to manage the reputation of the brands and businesses we work with. So next time you hear someone say that they can ‘do PR’ because they can draft a press release, please pass on my advice, they can’t! If you think that PR is all about writing a press release then it’s time to take a long hard look at your future career in the business because it won’t last long.

 

Just your average week – or not!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Don’t give up your day job

Recently I was supporting a client with a store launch in Reading. As the journey was around 4 hours it gave me chance to think – which isn’t always a good thing!

Although I don’t like jumping on band wagons I have to admit that the roads were in a pretty appalling state with pot holes on motorways and dual carriageways, as well as the smaller country lanes. Not only did I think it was dangerous to be swerving around these wheel crippling ditches but I also found the sheer number of them quite startling.

Now many of you will tell me to stick to the day job but as someone who thinks about brands, how they communicate and what opportunities are available to do so to a mass market I had a bit of a light bulb moment.

Hold on to your hats ladies and gentleman, here it comes…

As I was not-so merrily driving along I noticed the digital signs which say things like ‘Don’t drive when tired’ or ‘Check your speed’ and that kind of nonsense. I don’t think that many people read these signs and then act on the information – the call to action is to look up and then ignore them completely in my opinion.

So, here’s my idea. Why not offer brands the opportunity to sponsor a message? As an example Costa Coffee could sponsor a sign that reads ‘Take a break, don’t drive when tired’ with their branding across the bottom or perhaps they could be more commercial with seasonal messages such as ‘Don’t forget Mother’s Day, flower shop at the next services’.

Not only would this mean that the signs, which let’s be honest are enough to drive you to despair as they stand, would become more interesting they would also become a real communication tool and the money raised from sponsorship could be put back into the highways so that we could all enjoy and benefit – safer roads.

So, what do you think? Should I just stick to my day job or is there a real idea here that Councils up and down the country could benefit from? Let me know your thoughts.

Why careful doesn’t mean boring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A proud Northerner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

HORSE BLUNDER IS A ‘DEAD CERT’ FOR FARM SHOPS

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

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

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

Anyway, I digress.

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

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

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

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

An agency with an office and proud of it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.