Tag: pr

HOW IGNORING PR CAN BE DAMAGING TO YOUR BUSINESS

PR can have a transformational impact on businesses of any size, yet there remains an outdated and unfounded stigma around the value and results that it can deliver.

It goes without saying that communication is critical in the current marketplace. The success of any organisation largely depends on how it engages with its target audience, whether its towards the customer, client, employee or stakeholder.

This is exactly what PR professionals do!

As an agency, we form trusted partnerships with our clients to deliver strategic communications that meet with business objectives. This could be sharing key messages with the masses or more specific and targeted campaigns.

The one consistent factor is that our results speak for themselves.

In a nutshell, we increase brand awareness, help launch new services and products to market, enhance company or individual reputations to help them to become more commercially viable. When combined, the delivery of our services ultimately helps clients to achieve business goals.

Without a robust PR and marketing strategy, businesses are at risk of putting themselves at a disadvantage within the marketplace and losing all visibility with current and prospective customers.

In order to elaborate further, I’ve chosen just three outputs from PR that businesses will find hard to achieve unless they invest in professional services.

Media coverage

Sitting at the heart of PR is securing media coverage. Communications professionals form and develop lasting relationships with a vast number of contacts and journalists. Despite how specific or niche a market may be, members of press, publications and influencers can be targeted to help generate positive publicity for a particular business.

As there is an abundance of ways to digest news, both in print and digital, PR professionals will use their experience and expertise to approach the media with a story that is newsworthy and relevant. The idea being that it is then featured in regional, national or trade publications.

Once media coverage has been secured, it can then be leveraged to increase brand awareness, create a positive public perception and act as a useful platform to promote the launch of new products and services.

Without any investment in PR, businesses are likely to lose this opportunity and as a result fail to be recognised as a legitimate competitor within a specific marketplace.

Social media activity

Social media channels have now established themselves as the digital high street for many businesses. Now more than ever, a greater amount of attention needs to be given to these platforms as they are arguably the first place that target audiences will visit.

In other words, social media channels must give off a good first impression!

Whether it is Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, businesses need to use each channel to serve a purpose, whether this is showcasing new services or products, promoting brand identity or sharing critical company announcements. They need to act as a reliable and relevant communication resource.

This can be achieved by building the credibility of all platforms, which need to garner a strong following from relevant and influential businesspeople, members of the media, industry counterparts or new and existing clients.

As followers increase, so will the levels of engagement with different posts. This is especially useful when sharing media coverage as it can help significantly increase the amount of people who read about the positive news a company has to share. Thus, increasing brand awareness.

By investing in PR, businesses can ensure that each channel is managed by a team of specialists who understand what type of content should be posted and when. This will enable social media platforms to be used as useful tools to help businesses build towards achieving wider growth ambitions.

Crisis management

Although crisis scenarios are thankfully rare for most, businesses must ensure they have the capability to deal with a problem if one were to ever arise. Whether this be a corporate, public, or internal issue or incident, how this is handled can be make or break for businesses.

Reputation is everything within the marketplace, and once this is destroyed, recovery can be almost impossible!

The most effective way to combat these types of situations is having an experienced crisis management team in place. This forms a big part of the PR toolkit. Communications professionals can explore and identify potential situations that could cause irreversible harm to a brand or business. This is combatted by the implementation of proactive PR strategy.

Despite how prepared the team may be, crisis’ can also occur with no warning at all. This is exactly why it is critical to have a capable team ready to tackle and resolve these issues with minimal collateral damage.

Navigating through these sensitive situations without profession PR support could spell disaster for a business. Damage to brand reputation will have a devastating impact that can never be fixed. The question perhaps therefore is not can you afford PR, but can your business survive and thrive without it?

Investing in public relations is critical to the success of any organisation, now is the time to take action and let PR do the talking.

If you would like to know more about Open Comms and the services we offer, why not give us a call on 01924 862477 or contact us here.

USING THE SEASONS TO INSPIRE CREATIVITY

Using the seasons to inspire creativity

It doesn’t feel quite right somehow; the fact that we are waking up to Autumn. Speaking to friends and family over recent weeks, it is apparent many of us are not ready for this change of season. But what if we were to flip our attitude, and rather than focus on the negative, use the seasons to inspire creativity.

Rather than worry about dark mornings, early evenings and colder weather, let’s think about crisp, bright days that let us clear our heads and focus our thoughts.

Getting out and about

It’s not always possible to get up from your desk and to go for a walk. We are all busy and trying to keep those plates spinning in the air. I have always found it difficult to detach and to believe that to be more productive I should step away from the office.

It has taken me years to put the theory into practice. I now realise that rather than staring at a blank screen, if I step away from my desk and get some fresh air, it can reset my mind. I have also found that using the seasons to inspire creativity has had a positive impact on my work.

Taking influence from nature

Each season brings with it different colours, scents and scenes. A landscape can change dramatically throughout the year. Taking influence from this, we can use all the sights, sounds and settings to inspire ideas.

Just taking the time to stop, to sit and to take in your surroundings can completely redirect your attention. If you are stuck with one idea that you know isn’t quite right, this approach can be transformational.

It doesn’t have to be through the working day. I know lots of people who start or end the day with a brisk walk. Often, they will explain that it allows them to get set for the week ahead or to download from the day.

However you prefer to work, using the seasons to inspire creativity can deliver positives for our mental health as well as our results.

Easter in Autumn

When you work in PR, what is going on outside your window is unlikely to resonate with the plans you are putting in place. Particularly with consumer campaigns, many brands are working six months in advance.

The media also work well ahead of schedule. This means that if a PR wants to secure copy in the right magazines, at the most appropriate time, they need to have copy and images drafted and ready.

Although it sounds like a simple thing to do, getting your head around Easter in Autumn isn’t always easy. At Open Comms we do all we can to get into that zone. We use lots of different tools and triggers to stimulate our thinking and to take us to that place.

Using the seasons to inspire creativity, we share our experiences, thoughts and plans for that time of the year. Listening to the habits of other households can be really enlightening and can trigger some great ideas that resonate with audiences and add value for brands.

Mapping the seasons

There is one thing that is certain; the seasons will come around every year. We have spring, summer, autumn and winter. The weather may be changeable but the fact that these times of year will come up is a given.

Knowing this, it is prudent for brands to be in control and to get their campaigns planned well in advance. It’s not to say that things won’t change but having some outline ideas is a good start.

FMCG brands are those that are most likely to have seasonal launches. This makes planning each time of year even more important.

As a PR agency that works within the FMCG market, it is not unheard of for us to be discussing summer in winter and Valentine’s Day well ahead of Bonfire Night. It might be confusing, but it makes sense to be prepared and to use the seasons to encourage creativity.

Working from a year-round schedule of activity can really help with this. Just looking at what is coming up in six months can be a real wake up call. Time stands still for no one, so taking the time to plan can have a positive impact on results.

Recreating scents, sights and scenes

When we are sharing our creative thoughts as an agency, we will work hard to set the scene. This means thinking very carefully about what experience and feeling each season brings. Harnessing the excitement from each time of year means that our campaigns are more compelling and relevant to the audience.

Using the seasons to encourage creativity means that we can go to that place and get excited about what this year might bring.

There are the obvious times of year; Christmas and Easter for example, but it is just as important that we put the time and effort into other times of year too. For some clients Valentine’s Day or Halloween could be the focus. Whatever the time of year, hopping to that moment in time is essential to get ideas that will have impact.

Creating a space that is themed is a good way to get people to think about that time of year. Surrounding the team with visuals is always a good starting point. These prompts will focus attention and ensure that the recommendations are relevant and right.

Consumer experience

Each season brings with it a different consumer experience. As such, it is important that as an agency we consider what will resonate with each audience. It may not always be the most obvious things, but those that give a person a feeling or trigger a memory.

Finding the experiences that are important to the audience, while also relevant to a brand, will deliver results. Working with companies that want to appeal to families as an example may mean that we create a campaign that harnesses the feeling of time together.

It could be Christmas Eve and festive movies, Halloween and trick or treating or Valentine’s Day and making cards for Mum or Dad. Whatever the season, we will bring together our shared experience to build campaigns that appeal to the widest and most relevant audience for the brand.

Using the seasons to encourage creativity

Going back to the start of this blog, I want people to think about how using the seasons to encourage creativity can lead to positive results. Far too often we look outside and moan about the weather. We are quick to focus on the negative rather than what is good about this time of year.

Take today, it’s cold. Autumn is well and truly in full swing. It’s also one of my favourite times of year because we start to make delicious stews and comfort foods. We sit around the fire and enjoy a glass of wine. We snuggle up and shut the curtains, making our homes warm and cozy.

It would be easier to think about the fact that Christmas is just around the corner and I haven’t done any shopping yet. That the mornings are dark and cold and the nights are gloomy and wet. That we are fast approaching the end of another year where not a single resolution was met!

None of these thoughts are going to give me the inspiration or encouragement to put forward my best ideas for clients, so I’ve changed my attitude. I am going to think about the good things and make sure that moving forward I am using the seasons to my advantage.

REALISING THE FULL POTENTIAL OF BECOMING A THOUGHT LEADER

Delivering a successful PR strategy will help organisations to generate and maintain a positive perception among the public. However, a lot of moving parts are required for PR to make a meaningful and lasting impact.

Whether this includes social media posts, press coverage, new website content or email marketing campaigns, each communication needs to share a common purpose and include the same consistent messaging.

Regardless of the industry or size of the company, the most effective way to engage with any target audience is to be as authentic as possible. Be relatable and real so the public takes notice. To do this, leverage the experience and expertise of the senior executive team by transforming them into thought leaders.

Objective

The benefits of establishing thought leaders can be wide ranging. In essence, they will play a significant role in helping to create trust, form strong relationships with existing and new customers, whilst also gaining the confidence of employees and key stakeholders.

When it comes to showcasing the expert insight and industry knowledge from a team, those chosen as thought leaders must have something of value to say on topical issues that are affecting their specific sector. This should also be relevant to the wider marketplace.

Not only does this build credibility for an organisation as a whole, but it also provides further opportunities to influence the public by putting a spotlight on the people behind the brand. Pulling back the curtain will help the target audience to feel more attached and familiar with the business.

Content creation

Once a relevant topic has been identified, the next stage will be to determine the best way to communicate the thought leader’s opinion to be digested by the biggest number of people as possible.

This can be delivered through a number of different approaches, but it is all about creating engaging and interesting content that is relevant and resonates with the intended audience.

Blogs

Writing blogs is a useful and unrestrictive way of sharing a thought leader’s views in an accessible and frequent way. The versatility of blogs means that they can either be complex and analytical pieces or lighter reads that encourage discussions and dialogue among the readers.

Depending on the topic chosen, it may be that the content written could have an angle that would be of interest to an online trade publication or regional newspaper. The media often have blogs that will publish and share articles from third parties, including companies that have thoughts to share.

It is important that any content submitted to a trade or regional publication is exclusive. Once it has been uploaded and shared it can then be repurposed to feature on a company blog but it is always best practice to offer it to a publication first.

In order to ensure a blog will reach as wide an audience as possible, it must be shared across all social media channels. Not only will this help engage with a company’s followers, but it will also drive traffic back to the website and may even lead to new business enquiries.

Media commentary

Be an ally to the media. Journalists are constantly looking to strengthen their stories with expert and credible opinions, so thought leaders must be willing to be provide commentary. Even if the topic can be somewhat controversial.

Contributing to media publications not only gives thought leaders the platform to demonstrate their expertise and provide insightful advice, but it also opens up the opportunity to be profiled in the press.

Once a thought leader is an established media commentator, they will be seen within the industry as a useful resource of information and, in turn, increase the awareness of themselves and the company they work for.

Social media

Although social media has already been mentioned regarding blogs, there are so many advantages to using these platforms.

Whether it is Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, thought leaders must utilise all channels to showcase their expertise and experience to the biggest audience possible.

By connecting with high profile people within the industry, members of the media, company profiles or other influential businesspeople, thought leaders will start to build a strong social following.

As followers increase, engaging content must be shared frequently. This can take the form of posting topical commentary, sharing articles of interest related to a specific sector or directly addressing other people to ignite debates and dialogues.

Social networking is a major catalyst in transforming a business executive into a thought leader.

If you need help in developing your brand and want to become a thought leader within your field, then our team of experts will be more than happy to help! You can give us a call on 01924 862477 or contact us here.

WHY SUPPORTING COMPETITORS ISN’T AS CRAZY AS YOU THINK

Supporting competitors may not be as crazy as you think

In my experience, the PR industry has always been very competitive. During my time in agency, I have certainly faced my fair share of challenges. Far from letting this deter me, these situations just encouraged me to want to do the best job I could. Fast forward nearly 20 years and as a business owner, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt is that supporting competitors isn’t as crazy as you think.

Making friends

In all the agencies I worked at I was lucky enough to make friends. These people aren’t always those that I would tell my deepest and darkest secrets to, but they are colleagues that I value for their professional input.

Over the years, Emma and I weren’t the only people that chose to go it alone. Along the way many of my former team-mates have launched their own businesses. Despite being in direct competition, I quickly realised that supporting competitors isn’t as crazy as you think. In fact, it has very real benefits.

I have seen people who have taken the opposite approach and it never works.

In contrast, we have celebrated the success of others, passed on our best wishes and offered advice when asked. As a result, when these individuals or agencies have received a brief they cannot fulfil, we are often on the list of businesses they feel comfortable passing the information on to.

Influencing people

PR is very much about influence. This goes beyond client activity and can extend into the industry at large. Despite being vast, people in PR talk, a lot!

If, as a professional, you want that ‘chat’ to be positive, then you need to manage that. Providing the right context by behaving correctly is a good start.

I remember coming out of a pitch years ago and we were aware of a competitor that was also involved in the process. Several weeks later I received an email. It was from the same contact saying that they hoped if they didn’t win that we did.

This was a great lesson for me. I realised that in that one simple message I had a renewed respect for this person. They had taken the time to reach out and in doing so had given me greater confidence in our reputation amongst peers. It was further evidence that supporting competitors really does have its benefits.

Attracting the right attention

It is very difficult to hide in PR. Working with colleagues, journalists and brands everyday means that we communicate with a varied network of contacts. Each one of these people will make an assumption about us.

That can be an uncomfortable thought to process, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you want to attract the right attention, treat people the way you want to be treated. Let’s be honest, we all have bad days but managing them gets easier over time.

Recognising when our behaviour is impacting on others is a skill. It’s not easy to master and I’m still working on it, however I know that I have changed for the better over the years.

Taking this back to competitors, I had a meeting with a former colleague recently who has just launched as a freelance. The comment she made on leaving after coffee was that I hadn’t changed at all.

Far from being the case, I realised that what she meant as that I was still honest and willing to give my time to others. The truth is that in the ten years I hadn’t seen her I had changed a lot. I had just focused on addressing the things that held me back.

What I took from this exchange was that this person values my opinion and that means a great deal. Meeting for a coffee and sharing my experiences, warts and all, has helped her out. It was a win, win and further evidence of why supporting competitors isn’t as crazy as you think.

Living your values

We talk about values a lot at Open Comms. They are an important part of the business and the foundations from which we started nearly 12 years ago. A lot has changed in that time, not least the way the industry behaves.

When we started out, we made it clear we would be straight-talking. What you see is what you get, and we work hard for our clients. Delivering results was our focus and doing it the right way was the approach.

It worked and at a time when this was a relatively new concept.

Soon after our competitors started to use the same language. They do say that the biggest compliment is for people to copy or follow what you are doing. Whether this was the case or not, we were doing something right and it put us ahead of the curve.

What it also allowed us to do was to find other agencies that had the same values. Knowing that we were aligned in our approach meant we could confidently work with others. It also meant that we could extend our network and learn from other professionals.

Getting over yourself 

What I really love about Open Comms is that we don’t have a massive ego. We have achieved a great deal, but we don’t go around bragging or needlessly inflating our success. I have worked for agencies where the opposite would be closer to the truth.

When you work for big brands, it is often expected that you will work with other agencies. They may specialise in something different, but you will come together to share ideas. These are often referred to as inter-agency sessions.

We have been in many of these situations and in the most part they work really well. That is because we have learnt that in order to get the best out of groups like this you need to get over yourself. What I mean is that we aren’t scared to learn.

Competitors or otherwise, the people around the table have ideas, suggestions, knowledge and experience that we need. Without it, we wouldn’t be doing our best work for our clients. Coming together encourages thought, creativity, difference of opinion and discussion. In an industry where things change every single day, this can only be a good thing and we really do embrace it.

Leaving a lasting legacy

When we started Open Comms, we wanted to earn a living. It was really that simple. It was about delivering PR in the right way to make a difference for the brands we worked with. What we hadn’t expect was that 12 years on, we would have expanded and would represent some of the largest organisations in the country.

As an agency that generates 90 per cent of its new business through referral, we know that our reputation is one of our biggest assets. Although much of this comes from clients, I am sure that there is also a benefit to knowing other industry professionals.

Open Comms was never a carbon copy. It was unique from the day we launched. Over the years we have learnt a huge amount and if there is one lesson that I will continue to put into practice it is that supporting competitors isn’t as crazy as you think.

In fact, post lockdown, I am going to make contact with a number of former colleagues for no other reason than to have a coffee and a chat. Hopefully, others will do the same and we can create a community of professionals that inspire, encourage and share.

There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition, as long as it’s done in the right way.

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.

STARTING WITH THE BASICS: A FOCUS ON PR

It is no secret that PR practitioners have many tried and tested tactics up their sleeves. Knowing which to use for a certain client and when to execute them in a campaign is a true skill that can take years to master.

The fundamentals of successfully managing a PR account are often the same, whether the client is a small start-up business or a multinational FMCG. The details however need to be fine-tuned accordingly.

That is where starting with the basics can really deliver. As an agency with years of experience, we make sure that we remember the simple things to achieving the results our clients expect and deserve.

Set clear targets

Having a client set a clear brief will make it easier for you to deliver results. With clear objectives in place, you will have more chance to focus your efforts on a certain tactic such as social media, getting coverage in national titles or making changes to their website.

It is important to remember that your time needs to be spent wisely and you should avoid ‘nice to haves’ if this is not a priority. Having a measurable target to work towards will also help you showcase your work and the results you have achieved at the end of a campaign.

Create great content

This is sometimes easier said than done but creating quality content will deliver results. Having a great press release or an engaging influencer drop can give a campaign the push you need.

Having a relevant story means you can confidently send out a press release knowing you will receive a good amount of coverage. Equally, sending out an attractive and engaging press drop is more likely to be shared on social than something less visually appealing.

Again, it is about thinking more about what the audience will want and what will resonate with them.

Know your contacts

Over time, established PR professionals build relationships with journalists. Being aware of which writers are likely to cover a story can help to streamline efforts and make it more likely that content will be used.

Having strong relationships with journalists means they are more likely to answer your email quickly or point you in the direction of another contact if necessary.

Make the best use of social media outlets

Creating content for a client’s social media channels is becoming a bigger part of our briefs. Creating quality copy that is relevant to the brand and its audience can be time consuming, but when done right can produce fantastic results.

When creating posts for social media channels it’s important to consider the best outlet to suit your client. If their target market use Instagram, then why spend time making content for Twitter? It is about identifying the best use of resource to deliver the strongest return on investment.

Summary

Thorough planning and research should never be underestimated in all aspects of managing a clients account. Carefully considered actions alongside making the best use of contacts, using social media to your advantage and creating good quality content that aligns with your clients’ brief is a good place to start.

Using these tactics along with many others allows PR teams to deliver the results that clients expect. If you would like to know more about Open Comms and the services we offer, why not give us a call on 01924 862477 or contact us here.

HOW PR FITS WITHIN THE PESO MODEL

How does PR fit into the PESO model

Many agencies will use the term PESO when describing the toolkit of tactics they use. This is similar in principle to the four P’s. Rather than product, price, promotion and place, PESO is paid, earned, social and owned. In this blog we want to look at how PR fits within the PESO model.

Far from being more jargon to add to a dictionary full of anacronyms, this breakdown is actually a great starting point for brands when planning campaigns.

Taking each tactic at a time and considering it in detail will give businesses the opportunity to look at where their priorities lie. Aligning this with objectives will give the foundations to a strategic plan that can be put into practice.

As a PR agency we are able to deliver everything within the PESO model. That said, there are certain tactics that rely more on our expertise than others. In the following chapters we will explain when PR can provide best value and return.

Paid for space 

Paid for coverage is advertising. This is typically not a tactic used by PR agencies. Although we do book advertising space for our clients and make recommendations about placements in general, it is not our specialism.

Media buying agencies are better placed to make recommendations and to provide the best costs. Paid for advertising is a push marketing principle. It is pushed to the audience and shares a carefully curated message that has been designed and delivered by the brand.

The most significant difference between paid for and editorial is that a third party has to agree to use the content you share. When there is no commercial transaction involved there is no guarantee.

Earned media coverage

For PR practitioners this is our bread and butter. Earned media is editorial coverage. It is both credible and delivers great value for brands. Securing consistent space within the right media will impact positively on any business.

It isn’t quite as simple as it sounds to secure coverage. Not only does a PR need to identify a story, they also need to curate that copy and make it compelling. Furthermore, they have to think about the reader, journalist and brand before distributing.

As mentioned, there is no guarantee with earned media. This is where third party, independent and unbiased verification comes into play. Given that a journalist has the authority to run a story or not, it is the job of the PR to make sure a story is relevant. The headline should be eye catching and the copy should have a strong news angle.

There are many tactics that PR’s use but providing good quality copy should always remain top of the list.

Social media 

Since sharing content online has become part of our daily routines, it has also become an obvious platform for brands to engage with audiences. Understanding each platform and its primary uses and targets is essential.

This is where PR comes in.

As an agency we manage messages, tone of voice, frequency of posts and monitoring of responses. Again, this takes time. It is not a simple case of logging on and posting a comment each day. Although this is possible, it will not deliver the results that a business would expect.

Social media has given everyone a voice and an opinion. Understanding that people have the right to express that and to manage responses carefully so as not to offend is crucial.

Although there are elements of paid within social media, it is used mostly by individuals who want to become part of a community. They want to engage with others that have similar interests. Sharing relevant content in the right places can be invaluable exposure for brands. In the same breath, infiltrating where you are not wanted will deliver the exact opposite.  

Owned content 

Blogs are common practice in today’s world. They haven’t been around forever, and the truth is that many sit dormant. This sends the wrong message to clients and prospective customers.

Owned content is the copy that you will share across a website or social channels. It belongs to a business and has been written with purpose. It may be to share the launch of a new product, to provide an update about a company or to simply impart knowledge and expertise.

Whatever the reason, as this sits within editorial, it fits within the job description of a PR professional.

Well curated copy that is credible and compelling will attract visitors to a site. It will also provide an opportunity to position individuals as thought leaders about a subject.

Forgetting to assign the time and commitment to owned content is a mistake. Brands don’t always see the value in sharing this insight as a business, but those that do will reap the rewards. Creating communities is the strongest response from owned content. This requires that regular and relevant copy is drafted and shared.

Having a balance of earned and owned content will give any company the profile that they deserve and a genuine return on investment.

Summary

On reflection, when we look at the PESO model, we can see that of the four topics just one would typically sit outside of the PR function. This is paid for advertising.

Using PESO as a tool to plan will give any organisation a good platform from which to create a strategy that meets with objectives. If you would like to work with a team that can deliver and will support you with this process, then please call a member of the team from Open Comms.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROVIDING A BUDGET

The true potential of a strategic PR programme can be transformational, but only if the target audience is communicated with in a way that will resonate.

In this digital age, there are numerous ways that organisations can engage with customers, so knowing which approach will work best is critical. With so many options to choose from, it is equally as important to allocate an appropriate budget.

Setting the programme of activity   

At Open Comms we collaborate with our clients to understand their business and industry, whilst also showcasing how our PR expertise can help them achieve their goals and ambitions. Whether we are supporting a client launch a new service or product, increasing their brand awareness or creating new marketing material, our role is to ensure that the relevant messaging reaches the right audience.

In order to create the right programme of activity for each brand, we need to identify the most relevant channels for each brand. We then allocate a certain amount of time to manage each. This then gives us an indication of the resource that will be needed to deliver results.

The recommendations we then make should be reflective of the client’s proposed budget.

A targeted approach

As there are many strands to a bespoke PR strategy, it is important to access industry insight to analyse and establish whether we are better targeting vertical or horizontal markets. This will then determine the most effective way to secure coverage in relevant media.

Although the securing of earned news coverage, whether it’s through print or online, still remains an extremely successful approach to get in front of the largest audience possible, every PR campaign should allocate time to owned content too.

This again will impact the budget and will require the client to understand that a balance of earned and owned media will deliver the best return on investment over time.

Working in this way will help an organisation to create personality which reinforces the distinction between themselves and competitors. If  managed correctly, with the right thought given to key messages, it will also attract and engage with the intended audiences.

Putting theory into practice

We have recently completed work for one of our clients that specialises in managing critical communications for some of the largest utility providers in the UK.

As they operate in an increasingly competitive sector, we were briefed with promoting a particular service which would ultimately help them to reinforce their market leading position.

We initially created a strategic plan to showcase how our support would help increase the awareness of the company as a whole and also the service it was wanting to promote. As with all successful PR campaigns, we targeted the media first through industry-led comment pieces, which positioned the client as an expert in this field. Furthermore, this also showcased their ability to roll out this service in practice.

Not only that, but we also uploaded the content to the client’s website and also across social channels to extend audience reach.

Following on from our initial market research, we realised that there was a strong opportunity to connect with existing customers and potential new business leads by drafting an original piece of marketing material.

Given the objectives, the most effective way to do this was through video marketing.

In order to make this happen, we demonstrated to the client the long-term benefits of this approach, as well as the costs. Afterall, the ROI is essential to any piece of business activity.

Delivering results on a budget

Needless to say, we got the greenlight.

Calling upon our expertise, the Open Comms team transformed the client’s service offering into a visually dynamic and engaging video.

This was then shared across all of the client’s social media channels, implemented into their marketing packages, sent to new prospects and shown to existing customers.

Within a few weeks after posting, the video had been viewed more than 800 times on LinkedIn alone, with followers increasing shortly thereafter.

Not only did this approach help enhance our client’s audience reach, but it also improved their perception within the marketplace. Because we were able to demonstrate the impact of budgeting for bespoke digital assets, our client has now shown a commitment to adapt and evolve as their industry does.

This will achieve two objectives; to reinforce a sense of satisfaction and trust among current customers and acquire new leads.

If you would like to know more about Open Comms and the services we offer, why not give us a call on 01924 862477 or contact us here.

WHICH BUSINESSES GET BEST VALUE FROM PR

Get best value from PR

When asked which businesses get best value from PR, the simple answer is those that believe in the benefits of communication. Every organisation, whatever its size, needs to communicate with its audiences. These could be employees, stakeholders, customers or all the above.

As an agency, it is our job to meet with our clients and to recommend tactics that will help them to speak to each audience in a way that will resonate. The message will almost certainly remain the same, but the tone of voice and medium will differ.

PR is about earned and owned content. That is, coverage in newspapers and online, along with content that has been specifically created for that business and posted to a website or across social channels.

Both have benefits and that is why creating a PR strategy gives clarity and focus. When I first started in the industry, I was told it was like spinning plates. I much prefer now to think of it as a kaleidoscope. It’s a sequence of colours that when pulled together in the right way creates a picture that attracts and holds attention.

Believing PR will deliver a return on investment

Before appointing an agency or employing someone inhouse to deliver PR, a business must believe in its value. There are no guarantees when it comes to earned coverage. Copy will be drafted and sent to a publication and it is then up to the editorial team to decide if it will secure space or not.

Even if a journalist decides that content isn’t right for them on this occasion, the copy can be repurposed and posted onto a website or shared as a LinkedIn article. This then becomes owned coverage. It belongs to the organisation and has been shared as a news piece for this purpose.

If you are considering investing in PR for your business but you don’t really believe it will deliver, don’t bother. Any agency or professional can rationalise how and why PR works, however if you are already coming up with an argument to the opposite, it’s a waste of time.

PR does take time and commitment. It isn’t as easy as most people believe, and it requires a team approach. The businesses that get best value from PR are those that work with their agency and consider them an extension of the marketing function. It is not those that have a ‘we told you so’ attitude when things don’t go quite as well as we would have liked.

Making an investment to deliver a return

Like any other specialism, PR requires investment. It is a toolkit of tactics that continues to evolve as the way we communicate changes. Maintaining an understanding of this, while also remembering the value of traditional methods, is our job.

There is a lot to learn when you work in this industry and it is not for the faint hearted.

What we need from our clients is the willingness to invest consistently. This is what delivers the strongest results. A rolling programme of activity that can shift and change depending on what is happening in the sector and within the client’s business too.

PR is very adaptable and that is what makes it such an exciting industry to work in. It is also what gives us greater opportunity to achieve results and to enjoy long-term partnerships with the brands we support.

Practicing what you preach

When we work with a client to create a PR strategy, it always starts with objectives. We then build up a programme of activity around what the brand wants to achieve and identify some key performance indicators.

This means we have a plan and a set of measures in place to work against. At Open Comms we recommend six monthly reviews which give us the chance to come together and to review the performance of the strategy we have in place. This also allows us to share further recommendations to shift the focus if necessary.

What is important is that our clients’ practice what they preach. As such, we are very specific about setting realistic objectives and honest messaging. The last thing we want to do is to create a false impression of an organisation. It doesn’t help them or us. What we do want to see is an improved profile, increased share of voice for all the right reasons and a positive uplift in sales.

If we have a story to share, we make sure the facts are checked and the organisation is creating a personality that is authentic and that can resonate with the right audiences, in the right place and at the right time.

Building a brand

This comes with time. You achieve this overnight. It takes resource, investment, commitment and willingness to learn, adapt and change.

Having a PR programme in place will directly impact on how quickly a business is able to build a brand. The more you communicate with your audiences, the more they will know about you and the quicker they will decide whether to purchase your products and services or not. Engagement in the right places will give them numerous opportunities to hear about and from your business.

PR is about influence and that comes with education. Honestly, transparency and openness are all key ingredients to a successful programme that will deliver a return on investment. Starting out with the assumption that it can be used to manipulate, unfairly coerce or misguide is setting the brand up to fail.

There is an integrity that comes with PR and a responsibility of agencies and inhouse teams to meet with a code of conduct. Being aware of this from the outset is advisable.

Delivering an experience

Once a PR programme is in place and is delivering consistent results, it will be complemented by a customer experience. This gives a two phased approach to brand engagement. The customer will read about the business and its products and services. They will then make the decision to purchase. This is then complemented – or otherwise – by the shopper experience they have. If one doesn’t fit the other there is a problem.

This is why PR, marketing and sales teams work together. It ensures that a business gets best value from PR and what it can achieve. Aligning the products with the needs of the customer, based on feedback achieved through PR, is just one example.

Embarking on a journey  

We are often heard explaining that PR is a journey and not a destination. The goal remains to secure consistent results, but the end game is like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The goalposts are forever moving with PR and this must be appreciated if businesses want to get the best value from their investment.

Communicating in the right way with audiences will change an organisation for the better. The benefits will be apparent, and they will become more visible over time. Far from being a magic wand, PR relies on the use of tactics over a period of time. It requires a senior team or board to commit, believe and then achieve.

Those companies that are willing to give their all to a programme of activity are also the businesses that will get best value from PR.

Summary

Going right back to the start, when asked what businesses get best value from PR, it is those that:

  1. Believe in PR as a necessary specialism for business
  2. Are willing to invest in consistent brand communication
  3. Practice what they preach and create content that can be trusted
  4. Have a focus on building a brand over time
  5. Deliver an experience for staff, stakeholders and customers alike
  6. Are willing to embark on a journey that will evolve over time

For further information about how Open Comms approaches PR for its clients, please contact a member of the team. 

PUTTING CAUSE RELATED MARKETING INTO PRACTICE

Cause related marketing

Whether you believe that charity begins at home or that we should all be more mindful of the bigger picture, when it comes to giving, we all have an opinion.

Over the years it has become expected that brands will contribute to good causes. This could be a local charity or a very specific fund that has personal ramifications for those involved. At the same time, it has meant that businesses need to be more mindful of cause related marketing.

Since the launch of Open Comms back in 2008, we have supported many different organisations for the simple purpose of giving back.

Most of these are based within the Yorkshire region and we have chosen them as they are relevant to the business and our wider team. At the same time, we have also supported our clients to do the same. In some instances, this has meant setting a strategy which allows these companies to put cause related marketing into practice.

Finding a cause

How a business chooses a cause is the first step. It may be that there is a shortlist of initiatives and organisations that employees can choose from. The benefit to this being that a company gets the support of its colleagues.

Alternatively, there may be someone with a very personal reason for proposing an initiative and the company agrees for this to become the charity of the year.

Many organisations have a specific schedule in place when it comes to charitable donations. This means they can raise donations and offer support over a given timeframe. As well as creating focus, this provides a chance to review the partnerships.

Some third sector organisations have very structured programmes in place, whereas others are less formal. The best approach for all depends on what each brand wants to achieve as a result of the association.

What contribution to make

There are organisations that will donate a percentage of takings or associated resource from staff to their chosen cause.

We’ve noticed a shift over the years. Once upon a time, companies would give employees the chance to offer their services for free. Now, more than ever, a financial contribution or help with a specific project have become more beneficial.

Like many things in business, it goes back to setting objectives. Although giving to charity can create a warm buzz, it also needs to deliver a result. Working with the right charities means organisations can have a longer-lasting impact for that cause.

Communication surrounding cause related marketing

There is no doubt that when it is right, a partnership between a private company and charity should be communicated. Where this becomes a problem is when the shift is clearly more about promotion than genuine philanthropy.

Any organisation that wants to get involved in cause related marketing needs to do so for the right reasons. If making a real difference to the charity is what the activity is about then the PR will follow. Genuine and honest communication always delivers greater results than forced associations and stories.

Not only do journalists see through giving for the wrong reasons, but consumers do too. The last thing a business needs is to give to a charity and lose customers as a consequence.

This is why planning is so important, starting with choosing the right cause for all involved. The biggest mistake we see from brands is jumping on the band wagon. It is dangerous and often a knee-jerk reaction to something that has already run its course.

Being mindful of these pitfalls is a must when putting cause related marketing into practice.

Getting the messaging right

During the planning stages being specific about the messaging for each audience will help. This gives people a clear understanding of why a business is getting involved in cause related marketing. It will set out the rationale, objectives and what the company hopes to achieve at each stage. Also, whether the partnership is longer term or a one-off.

Providing a context for internal colleagues, stakeholders and customers will create focus for each.

It is likely the messaging will change slightly for each audience, but the objectives should remain the same. The tone will also need some consideration as it will change from more general comms that are shared. Often we find the tone is lighter when it comes to charitable giving and community based work.

Leveraging PR around cause related marketing

When we work with our clients, we create a strand of activity that focuses on community work and charitable giving. This sits very squarely within cause related marketing. It means that when the brands we work with are involved in a charitable activity, we ensure everyone involved gets the profile they deserve.

A number of years ago I met with a charity that explained they were struggling because businesses were scared to promote their associations. The feeling being that if they were to secure coverage then customers would think this was the only purpose behind their partnership.

We supported the charity with a document which they shared with all corporate partners. It made the point that many third sector companies struggle to put the resource in place that will generate regular PR. As such, they rely on associated coverage from partners.

Far from PR being a negative when it comes to charitable giving, it was a positive for all involved.

What goes around comes around

We’ve always felt that giving was the right thing to do. This will continue at Open Comms as it is one of the values of our business. As just two examples, we are a corporate partner of the Theatre Royal Wakefield and we donate to St Catherine’s in Wakefield each Christmas. We have even been known to take to the fields and to roll in mud for a good cause (picture attached from an event a number of years ago).

As well as knowing that we are doing our part, we make it our mission to encourage others to do the same.

If you are a business and you want to think about how you can give back, then give us a call. We can discuss what causes align with your brand and how you can leverage this to the benefit of all involved.