Tag: pr

THE LATEST DETOX ISN’T A DIET

The amazing scenery looking over St Aiden’s RSPB reserve

Working in PR means that you have to keep abreast of the social media tools that are available and provide a platform for people to communicate. Stands to reason really, given that we are responsible for sharing information and managing the reputation of brands both online and in print.

Being of a particular age (38 for those that are too polite to ask) I haven’t exactly grown up surrounded by tech but it has been in the background for probably as long as I can remember. We certainly didn’t have smart phones when I was at school, college or university, but we had the first handheld games systems and some functionality to communicate online.

It was only really when I left university that digital communications started to become ‘a thing’ and many a PR – myself included – took great pleasure in demoting the fax machine to the back of a cupboard to collect dust as we opted instead to use email.

The real changes though occurred when I had been in work for a number of years and platforms such as Facebook started to make their mark. Some came and went, while others became integral to our lives – not a statement that I think even the founders really considered in terms of scale and global dominance. Let’s not get started about governance and regulatory controls, I’ll save that for another blog.

The very real threat of social media – and it’s not the trolls

Over recent weeks I’ve noticed that there has been a shift in tone when it comes to the use of social media. There was a time when there seemed to be a certain expectation that people would have regular access to as many apps as they could manage. The more the merrier was the general consensus and if you didn’t have the latest you were considered ‘so last season’.

Facebook, SnapChat, WhatApp, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to name a few became more of a reflection of our lives and social dalliances than actually going out. Showing someone your dinner was top of the list, quickly followed by a pouty selfie that may or may not have had a filter!

In the most part, I’m pleased to say I dodged this desire to share everything online, but I did find that I was becoming increasingly reliant on the social channels to fill downtime. No longer was I reaching for a book or chatting to my husband and friends, I would reach for my phone and see who had updated their status on Facebook.

It was at the same time that Chris Evans was commenting on having a detox from tech and the benefits that he felt from moving away from a world that was powered by the internet. At first I wondered what he was making such a fuss about, but the more he explained the more it started to resonate.

Then earlier this week, I opened the Yorkshire Post to see a comment piece from Business Editor, Mark Casci, with the headline ‘Use summer to wean yourself off the smartphone’. So much of what he had written made perfect sense to me.

Within his article he writes: ‘After travelling back in time through my history as a phone consumer (aided naturally with a few web searches on my phone to establish chronology) I came to the uncomfortable realisation that it had been well over more than a decade since I truly “switched off”’

It was at this moment I realised this was the case for me too.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery

There seems to be so much talk about people turning tech off and trying their hardest to get some balance back in their lives. We are all, it would seem, slaves to the smartphone and I’m no exception. I may not pout for selfies at every opportunity but I certainly stare into a screen far more than is healthy or necessary.

One of the ways I rationalise my ‘habit’ is by telling myself it’s for work, that someone might need me and that if a client emails, texts or sends a WhatsApp message at 10pm at night it is my obligation and responsibility to get back to them.

When I read that sentence I can see how unreasonable it is, but when you have a business it can be difficult to judge yourself by the parameters you would set for your own colleagues or suppliers.

As an example, if I happened to be working late and sent a supplier an email, I wouldn’t expect a response until the next day. Furthermore, if I got one I would feel guilty that I had encroached on their free time as opposed to being pleased that they had stopped everything to get back to me.

Mark sums it up really well in his piece when he writes: ‘Perhaps the worst aspect of realising how much I used my phone was coming to terms with the arrogance it entails, the idea that I must check my messages or the world will end.’

A truer word has rarely been said. This is me all over. I am constantly checking my phone for emails and then wonder why I feel anxious. There really is no need.

It’s time for things to change  

I’m not usually a follower of trends and I certainly could never be accursed of being a dedicated follower of fashion – in any capacity – but this is a bandwagon I’m well and truly jumping on the back of.

We recently welcomed Duke, a Cocker Spaniel puppy into our household (that’s another story and worthy of another blog) and as well as getting us up at 5.30am every morning he has also brought about a change.

I don’t know why, but during our walks I decided not to take my phone. At the time it seemed like a bold and brave step but, like Mark, I quickly realised the world wasn’t going to end.

In fact, thanks to our walks I have the chance to chat to my husband about the day ahead and what’s going on at work or with family and friends. It’s very cathartic as we glance out across the beautiful landscape at St Aiden’s RSPB reserve each morning and evening.

Although it’s only 2 hours of my day, I think it’s a good start and it does give me the head space to think about things more rationally. One of the biggest challenges with social media is that it is so immediate and whereas receiving news in this way can be beneficial, responding in the same manner rarely is.

I think that’s where some of the problems with social channels come from; act first and think later which in turn causes lasting damage either to yourself or someone else.

I’m not saying for one minute that I am going to close my social accounts, I don’t see the point given that this is how I stay in touch with an extensive family that are dotted around the world and my business relies on these channels, but I am going to limit my use.

I’m hoping that like Chris and Mark I can report back on the positive difference that this makes, and I fully intend to go home tonight and reach for a book rather than my phone.

If you are thinking about a tech detox or have given up altogether, how has it gone and what experiences can you share? All comments are welcome.

WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO BELIEVE IN YOUR BUSINESS

Emma Lupton and Lindsey Davies launching Open Communications in 2008.

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this fact but running a business isn’t easy. In fact, sometimes it can be quite the headache. There is so much to think about. 

When you first start it’s strange because you have what feels like all the time in the world and things are still exciting. All you want at this stage is to be established, to be taken seriously and to run as a ‘real business’.

Conversely, when you are more established with the necessary processes and procedures in place, you crave that time that you had to take a step back and to consider your options. At this stage, not only are you now responsible for what you would hope to be a successful business, but you are likely to have staff, as well as clients, to think about.

The best analogy I can use is that it’s like getting married. When you’re planning your wedding it’s full on but exciting, you then go on honeymoon and it’s all new – you feel nervous but you know that you’ve made the right decision. A few years down the line and the washing on the floor is becoming annoying, the house never seems to be clean and it doesn’t matter how many times you tell them to put the lid on the toothpaste it never seems to happen – yet you still love them. 

And that’s why it’s so important that when you start a business you believe in what you do.

Don’t make it up, make it count

When you start a business, you have to truly and passionately commit to delivering results for your clients. You have to know that the advice that you are giving them is the very best that you can offer and that you will stand accountable if things don’t work out quite how you planned.

No one is perfect but when you run a business you often feel as if you should be. In PR there are so many people that you need to consider; business partners, employees, clients, journalists and the public. 

Increasingly the public are relying on journalists, and therefore by association PRs, to deliver honest news. It’s a challenge – there is no time for editors or sub-editors to fact check everything and news is so instantaneous that it’s no longer about quality but about first to ‘the post’ – literally. Who posts the news online first wins, but do they? 

We all need to work together to make sure that we deliver a service that for us (PRs) meets with the client’s objectives and for journalists delivers a story based on fact that their audience are going to want to read and share. 

Using your passion to share news

This leads me back to my first point, in order to deliver good, quality news you need to create a business that you believe in. 

We are very fortunate as an agency to have clients that have values that are aligned with our own. They are fundamentally to do a good job and to do it well. Here at Open Comms, our mantra tends to be: forget air kissing and going out for lunch, let’s celebrate when we’ve got the results, not before. 

I’ve noticed recently that over the last (almost) ten years we have attracted similar kinds of people and we now have an incredibly strong network of associates, suppliers and clients that we trust. Beyond that, many of them we can now confidently refer to as friends. This isn’t something we take for granted, it’s something that we are immensely proud of. 

The truth is that we couldn’t have done this if we were living a lie. Again, I go back to a marriage. If you were marrying for money or your head was turned by another, yet you still went through with it, before long it would show. People would realise that you were being disingenuous and that what comes out of your mouth is not necessarily reflected in your eyes (my nanna always said to trust the eyes not the mouth – wise woman). 

We always say that passion is infectious (we’ve finished with the marriage analogy now!) and that you can sense the energy when people talk about their product or service and how much it means to them. 

My advice to anyone starting a business would be to believe. Put your heart and soul into the planning and create a list of values that you intend to be governed by. Be honest, both to yourself and to others. 

Having a business isn’t easy but when you truly believe in what you are trying to do and the service that you deliver, then I see no reason why you cannot be the success that you set out to be. This will also resonate in the future when you want to give up – and there will be times – it will be easier to get through and to move on knowing that your business is founded on solid principles that mean something to you and to your customers.

 

Ends

THE POWER OF PERSONALITY

Long has it been said that people buy people but actually the same can be said for brands. What I mean is that increasingly consumers are looking for brands that align with their values and their personalities and therefore the more a business can create a product, campaign or company with character the better.

Starting with marketing materials

The way that marketing literate is designed impacts on whether someone will pick up the piece in the first place and the way it is written will determine if someone will read it. The tone of voice will then either appeal to someone and make them receptive to the message or not.

This is then often followed up by a call, an email or a meeting, all providing a further insight into the personality of a business. This is where people come in and why it’s important that those you employ believe in your product or service in the same way that you do.

As a PR agency working with many different brands across a range of sectors, we always make it clear to our clients that we have to understand and buy into whatever it is they are offering in the same way that they do.

We are essentially an extension of our clients’ marketing and sales functions and there is nothing worse than listening to someone drone on knowing that they are either reading from a script or don’t really care about the company they represent. 

Then there is social media to consider in this mix and that can be a whole new headache. Sharing the same content across all platforms is a classic way to fall at the first hurdle. Think about it, each channel has been created to differ from each other and even if they target the same audience, the functionality they offer can bring a range of benefits to a business, if they are used correctly.

The harsh reality is that some channels don’t work for business. It doesn’t matter how long you spend on them or what budget you assign, they just won’t engage with the people you want to communicate with, so don’t use them. Simple. Put your efforts into something that will deliver a return on investment.

The truth is that marketing isn’t brain surgery. Fundamentally, any marketing campaign, whatever channel you use is about creating an affinity between product and person. It’s a complex tapestry of ‘touch points’ and many have their part to play but there are only so many hours in a day. 

A planned launch

The reality in business is that when a company launches they often have the luxury of time. They are able to take a step back and to think carefully about their marketing which includes design, message and preferred channel. Then, when they become more established, all that goes out of the window.

They no longer have time for the ‘fun stuff’ it’s all about keeping machines running, staying on top of suppliers, invoicing at the end of the month, managing staff and of course nurturing and growing the customers base – but the relationship no longer becomes a focus.

What a huge mistake! 

It’s like making friends with someone and taking the time and effort to become BFF before then turning your back and walking away – because you’re just too busy – but then expecting them to be there when you need them.

They may be. But when it comes to loyalty and brands, you have to remember, for the benefit of this analogy, there is a pub full of friends just waiting to take your place and that’s why it’s so important for businesses to put marketing – in all its forms – firmly on the agenda.

It has always baffled me that when times are tough – or as has appeared to be the case over the last 18 months turbulent – the first budgets that people pull are those that have been allocated to marketing.

I appreciate that factories need to keep running, staff need to be paid and that keeping the metaphorical plates spinning is a priority, but that doesn’t mean you should stop communicating and take your eye off what is arguably the biggest asset a business has: its reputation.

There are few things more exciting than seeing the launch programmes from a new start-up, particularly those that come from former entrepreneurs that have made the mistakes only to come out of the other end stronger and more determined than ever.

Putting marketing front and centre

What is most interesting is that many – or I’d even go as far as to say most – of these businesses put marketing front and centre. Yes, they may be clever with their budgets, but communication and a strong launch campaign with sustainable messaging and a longer term plan is never far from their boardroom table.

For all those businesses out there that are looking for the winning formula – those that are looking for the one thing that they feel is missing – I can almost guarantee it goes back to personality because a company with no character is like a shop window with no display.

In a time when high streets have never struggled so much, yet start-ups that are eager to please are on the rise, it’s imperative that businesses think carefully about their budgets, where they are putting their cash and what they are getting in return.

Marketing will deliver if managed well and whether you choose to appoint in-house or to work with an agency, a good solid campaign that you can get excited about and that delivers against objectives will make all of the difference.

Create your character, underpin it with the values of your business, inject some personality and start to engage with people. You’ll be surprised at what can be achieved when you think like a start-up and go back to basics.

 

My First Week at Work (by Ellie aged 15)

From the very start, here at Open Communications, we have made it our mission to give people a chance. Not everyone in the agency has come from a PR background but when people approach us, we take the time to think about the transferable skills that they have and how they could benefit our clients and the campaigns that we deliver.

It’s not all about degrees and qualifications!  

When it comes to young people, when possible, we like to give them the chance to experience the variety and wonderful world of PR through short placements. This isn’t just an exercise in CSR, it’s an opportunity to encourage, to nurture and to build the confidence of students that just may decide PR is the career choice for them.

And so, here is just one example of how we have done just that. Ellie (aged 15) is a secondary school student that lives in the same village as me. She was finding it hard to find a placement – and given that we live in a very remote part of the Yorkshire Dales, it’s hardly surprising!

Ellie approached me one weekend and asked if it would be possible to work at Open Comms. In the following blog (in her own words) she describes the week that she had with us and how in just five days she was able to draft a press release, write a blog, attend a client meeting and learn more about PR, an industry that before this experience she hadn’t heard of never mind considered as a career choice for the future.

 

My First Week at Work.

Finding a Placement.

A couple of weeks before work experience was due to begin, I found that it was more difficult than I had expected to find a placement, so I was going to stay at school for a week, which is really frustrating, because I was eager to get out and to learn outside of the classroom.

So, I decided to use my initiative to look for a placement outside of the local area. I was speaking to some family friends who have their own business and that is when Lindsey started to tell me about PR and what she does for a living.

It sounded really interested and I got really excited by the conversation. I had never heard of PR before, so this was completely new to me. I wasn’t sure if it would be possible, but I asked if she would be willing to offer me a place with her for my work experience. I felt so relieved when I knew I had a different place to go rather than school, nobody wants to stay in a classroom when they can experience something new and exciting!

Leaving home for a week.

Because the agency is in Leeds I have had to stay away for a week. I don’t normally stay away from home for so long, but I have done it on occasion before so I know what it’s like. Because I have never worked in an office before, just the local pub in my village, I had no idea what to wear and no Idea what I needed to bring with me.

Rather than stress too much about it, me and mum just threw some of my nicest clothes in a bag and hoped that I would have an outfit each day that would be suitable. I had to bring some of my dresses, which I very rarely wear, and it felt weird walking into an office with clothes on that I felt would be more suited to a night out. Needless to say, it was quite out of my comfort zone.

First day.

For a start, getting up at 7am every morning was the first hurdle! I normally get up at 8am for school, so it was a bit of a challenge getting up and ready to leave the house so early.

Once I was ready – and I had managed to get everything in my bag for the day ahead – me and Lindsey went to Tesco’s to get some lunch before setting off on the 30-minute drive to the offices.

The estate the office is in (Nostell Priory Estate Yard) is lovely and the sun was shining so it looked even better. Once we are all parked up and got our bags out of the car, we came into the office and I had a little desk set up for me with a laptop, sticky notes and pens.

I sat down and got out my note pad out ready to get started. Just then, Ed walked through the door and came straight up to me to shake my hand. I wasn’t really sure what to do, people don’t usually greet me like this and it freaked me out a little. I literally never shake anyone’s hand and I don’t know why but it scared me to death! (I have been laughing about it all week).

The first task of the day was for me to watch Anna go through the social media accounts for HARIBO. When she goes through all the social media she has to reply to any messages on Facebook and Twitter. It was great to feel useful, as I helped her to choose what to put in the replies to each of them.

Some of the comments can be quite interesting, while others are quite funny and made me laugh, it just goes to show what a varied mix of fans the brand has.  

When we had finished that, Lindsey sat me down to talk about a press release; what it is and what it is used for.

I had no idea where to start and although I could have asked for help, I could see everyone was really busy, so I used my judgement and watched a number of podcasts on how to structure a press release.

I noted it all down and put it together like a facts sheet off the internet. I then put some time aside to do some research about the charity that I was writing the release for.

Before long I was ready to put it all together; my first press release done, and in wasn’t that difficult although it did take me a while.

So, my first day done and I have to say, my first impressions of the team where that they’re really nice people and so welcoming. They’re also talkative which I really liked.

Day two.

On my second day I finished off the press release. I was very proud of the completed piece and I went through it with Lindsey. Although she made some amends, I was still really pleased to see that much of the content I had drafted was used.  

We then sent the press release to the organisation that it was about for their approval. Within the hour the company had come back to us and agreed it was a really good piece.

It felt really good to have it approved because it’s my first ever press release that I have ever done and they liked it, so when they came back with such positive comments it was great.

The next step was to send it off to a selection of local journalists. We did this using a platform called Vuelio. It is a website that has all of the contact details for all of the journalists in the country on so you know who the best person will be to send a release on to and which publications are relevant.

Day three.

On my third day I came into the office and Lindsey suggested that I draft a blog about my experience. I think blogs are important because they give people a little glimpse into your personality and what you’re interested in. They also draws people’s attention to the website that you are posting them on and can be shared on other channels like YouTube or across social media pages.

By this stage in the week, I feel quite settled in the office now, I’ve had a chance to get to know everyone a little bit better and they are all so lovely and friendly. I love the fact that they all watch Love Island (even Ed!) and it’s the topic of most of the convocations we all have together! 

On my lunch break I went for a walk around the park and it was gorgeous, its’s quite different than at home because all the fields and land is filled with cows and sheep (and their muck) but here it’s so well looked after and it’s such a big area to just walk around and take some time to relax. 

When I got back I was asked by Emma to pack some boxes for a campaign that the agency are planning. I didn’t really understand why I was doing it at first, but then Emma explained that it is a way of sending products to journalists and that it gives them chance to experience and eat the products that we distribute.

On this occasion we were working on an updated product for HARIBO which is still top secret!

Day four.

On the third day me and Lindsey went to see a client. It felt weird going into another office and discussing future plans with them about their company and on this occasion their new website.

The office looked quite modern and everyone that I met was very friendly, which was nice. Lots of people where smiling at me and I felt really welcomed.

We went into a large meeting room on the top floor, which was quite daunting, but we were soon discussing plans for the website and I felt confident enough to share my thoughts and suggestions. The client seemed quite pleased that I was interested and that I had some views to share.

It was quite a long meeting and we didn’t get back to the office until gone 3pm. I continued to write my blog and to record all of the things that I had done and learnt.

Day five.

Well, it’s Friday, and my last day of work experience. It’s been great; being a PR for a week is completely different to what my normal life is like. I like working in an office because the atmosphere is calm and the environment is quiet – until Anna and Mish start chatting about Love Island!

There are always lots of different things going on in PR and different ways in which you can approach things. It has been weird being away from home, but like I said, I have done it before and it’s not like I’m staying with strangers!

I’m pleased that I have learnt what happens in a PR agency and what the team is tasked to deliver for clients. The biggest achievement of the week has to be that I was able to draft a press release and understand more about the stages that it goes through to get to where it needs to be.

Lindsey has promised to keep me updated with the coverage and to share it with me when it comes through. I can’t wait to add it to my portfolio.

Over all it’s been a great experience and who knows, PR just might be the career choice for me in the future but for now it’s back to the classroom.

BEHIND THE SCENES AT BUY YORKSHIRE

The Buy Yorkshire Conference

Showing support for the largest business to business event in the North

For the last eight years we have worked with the Yorkshire Mafia (YM) to provide the team that is responsible for an annual schedule of events including the Buy Yorkshire Conference with PR and social media support.

As the largest business to business event in the North, it goes without saying that it’s a busy time for us, not just on the day but in the run up to the exhibition when we spend hours liaising with speakers that will take to the stage on the big day and media that may want to come along.

There are so many reasons why this account is particularly exciting but for me securing broadcast, national and regional media coverage has to come top of the list. Some might think that’s an obvious answer but having worked in the PR industry for more than a decade you would be forgiven for thinking that the leap in my tummy when we secure a great piece of coverage may have waned over time.

Nope. Not a bit. In fact, it’s why I fell in love with PR in the first place.

Getting to know you

Coming a close second on my list of reasons to enjoy working on the Conference has to be the speakers. As the preferred PR partner for the event we are given access to each of the entrepreneurs, brand representatives and campaigners that attend and what an experience that is!

You never know who will be added to the line up next and with candidates such as Helen Pankhurst (great-granddaughter of the leader of the Suffragette movement) and Gerald Ratner (the entrepreneur that lost everything thanks to a glib comment about his products being cr*p) you can see how contrasting they can be and that makes our job all the more interesting.

A change of venue

This year the event took place at the First Direct Arena, a change from the New Dock Hall and Royal Armouries as has been the case in previous years. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how this would work, but after taking a tour and seeing the event from above in the arena seats it didn’t disappoint.

The exhibitor stands were all in one space, which made for a vibrant and engaging showcase for delegates and it also created a camaraderie between the brands. It was great to walk around and see people having a laugh and engaging with each other as well as delegates at the event.

Never a dull moment

As the team that manage all media relations, we don’t get time to wander around, our remit on the day is to manage the media and support any interview requests, while also drafting blogs during the seminars which will be posted on the website after the Conference.

It may sound easy, but it takes a lot of work and makes for a long (but fun-filled) day.

Having access all areas means that we can pick and choose which seminars and sessions we attend, which is a real coup. Over the years I have listened to and met speakers including Michelle Mone, Ann Widdecombe, Jacqueline Gold, Nigel Farage, Alastair Campbell and more… let’s be honest, there was no way I would have bumped into these people in the street, so once again it all adds to the experience.

Working with a talented team

What astounds me most about the Conference is that the team from the YM always seem so relaxed. Whatever comes their way they just deal with it and move on to the next thing. I can’t even imagine what it is like to manage an event of this scale knowing that it takes a full year to plan, arrange and deliver.

Once again, the team did a fantastic job and this year more than ever I heard lots of positive comments that I duly passed on. The philosophy behind the YM is that we are stronger together and I have to say that working with them adds real credibility to that statement.

Practising what you preach is a big part of what we do here at Open Communications so to have clients that work by the same values makes our job all the more rewarding. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers once again for bringing this fantastic event to the region and also to the individuals, brands and businesses that we worked with to pull the content together.

I’m very pleased to report that we secured coverage across national and regional media in print, online and across broadcast media. Well done team Open Comms, good work!

Now let’s get on with planning for next year’s showcase, which will have to be bigger and better than ever. We better get our thinking caps on.

Why it pays to use PR

Making PR pay

It can be difficult for businesses to know where best to allocate their budgets – after all, you want to do everything but at the same time every penny counts. PR is often a forgotten relative when it comes to finding and assigning the necessary resource to manage PR in house.

The problem arises when ‘managing PR in house’ actually means putting it on the bottom of a list that you never get around to. This is a common problem and something that we come across a lot.

PR isn’t about drafting a press release and sending it to a journalist, it is about managing the reputation of a business, arguably the biggest asset of any company. When you say that sentence out loud you start to appreciate just how significant PR is as a specialism.

We appreciate that businesses and in particular SMEs find it a challenge to allocate the resource and that they are so caught up in meeting with client demands that PR is the least of their worries but just think about the difference that having an agency could make.

Yes, there is an investment, but that is exactly how you should perceive any budgets you attribute to PR and marketing communications. You are investing in the reputation of your business. You are sharing good news and positive updates with those that matter most – your current and prospective customers and your stakeholders.

It simply isn’t good enough in a world where we can self-publish that businesses don’t allocate the time necessary to keep people informed. PR is one of the most valuable tools that you can use to generate new business and yet it is an oversight. That doesn’t make any sense.

We work as an extension of our clients’ teams, meaning that we take every opportunity to showcase how hard PR can work and the results that can be achieved.

For those who don’t believe in PR or think that it is a waste of money, I always ask them why the largest brands in the world invest? Surely these people have the money, the skills and the knowledge to know better. They are surrounded by ‘advisors’ who would tell them to put their money elsewhere.

The truth is that they don’t invest elsewhere, they appreciate the value or PR because they recognise that it is an essential tool for business.

Companies that invest in PR will see a difference; they will notice people talking about them, they will secure credibility by association, they will educate a marketplace about the goods and services that they have to offer and they will become a bigger and better business as a result.

Bold statement – not really. We’ve been working with our clients for years and this is exactly the results that we have achieved for them.

Of course, as a PR agency, we are bound to say all this. We are going to champion PR and we are going to recommend that every business allocates a suitable budget to ensure that they can manage their reputation. But think about it. What is the alternative?

We all pay insurance because it is a legal requirement to do so and often we feel it is unfair that contingencies have to be put in place but when something goes wrong the relief is overwhelming. The same can be said for PR. Don’t leave your reputation to chance, it’s far too valuable.

PR is no dark art but a top hat can help

Top hat 2Agencies are well-versed in the dark arts of baffling people with science. Whether its metrics that determine an audience reach or a targeted consumer from the right demographic reading a social post, it can be nothing short of a headache when you can’t decipher the fluff from the facts.

PR has changed irrevocably over recent years and this has been a good and a bad thing. Positively, there are online platforms and channels to engage with and extend audience reach, plus opportunities to self-publish, which in turn negates the need for third party copy approval, but there are downsides too.

Agencies get giddy about analytics, and rightly so. We can use online measures to track engagement and to give clients real time feedback. We can also map how this can impact on shopper behaviour and purchasing occasions. What overcomplicates this process is the burning desire for agencies to then reposition ‘clicking the analytics button at the top of the page’ into something far more elaborate.

STOP! Hold it right there. Quit it.

We noticed this some time ago and sat through many-a-meeting where eye rolling became an involuntary twitch rather than a planned reaction. What’s so wrong with providing a client with the facts, keeping them simple and sharing results that you can all get excited about?

As a straight-talking PR agency, we don’t do ‘baffling with science’, we try at all costs to keep things simple so that we can prove to our clients that PR works and that it has a positive influence on their business. We strongly believe that comms and marketing should have a seat around every boardroom table and as such have to practice what we preach and that is why we used simple PR techniques to turn a Gala Dinner into a brand building exercise.

We don’t consider our industry to be a joke, far from it, but we do like to have fun where we can and that is why during the Gala Dinner and Variety Performance at the Theatre Royal Wakefield, we decided to add a little creative flair of our own.

As a sponsor, we were asked if there was anything we would like to do, such as offer a raffle prize. Following a chance encounter with the most impressive balloon expert I’ve ever met, we had a plan and 36 top hats!

Deciding to take this opportunity to explain to everyone in the room that PR is NOT a dark art and that you DON’T need magic wands to create campaigns that work, we had a simple postcard made. This explained that PR is still about managing reputation, arguably a brands biggest asset, and that it takes hard work but you will see results.

As an agency that develops monthly campaigns for clients, we know that a postcard isn’t going to have people jumping out of their seats in eager anticipation of what is written on the full-colour, 180gsm stock, matt coated flyer. We had to do something else to attract attention.

That’s where a top hat, a balloon and a raffle ticket came into play.

Building on our theme ‘Ta-da!’ we put a top hat on each table as a centre piece. We then arranged for a balloon shaped rabbit to sit in the hat. This wasn’t any old rabbit. Inside each tummy was a raffle ticket. All each table had to do was pop the tummy to get their ticket and claim their prize.

Bunnies

Suddenly our message that PR isn’t a dark art and nor is it magic was being shared by the whole room. It was great to see the engagement that we achieved as a result – and no, there were no fancy metrics, no analytical breakdown of the data, just lots of people wearing top hats and a crowd surfing balloon bunny! Job done.

The point to this article is two-fold; firstly, don’t believe everything you hear. PR is not a dark art, nor does it involve magic tricks but it can deliver results that will impact on your business. Secondly, if you’re going to do something, add some imagination. Tops hats and bunnies might not sound like the obvious tactics for a PR agency to use, but they worked for us.

Top hats 3

If you want lasting love, don’t fake it!

It’s been a difficult month for journalists and PR’s alike as the news agenda was indefensibly challenged as the sharing of fake news hit the headlines.  

Far be it that this was a one-off incident that could be swept under the carpet with the abrupt resignation of a non-descript recruit from some back office, this was serious. It was creating conversation and debate, and of any profession that should recognise the significance of that, it’s PR.

PR has long had a reputation for manipulating, ‘spinning’ and even inventing news stories in order to secure coverage and encourage positive responses from consumers, so we have to question what has changed and why are people so concerned?

The truth is that people want to trust the news sources that they have long believed to be credible. They want to know that a journalist – or PR – has done their research and has pulled together a balanced article that will allow them to form their own opinions based on fact – not fiction.

The struggle is that we live in a culture whereby people want breaking news. Invariably with this mistakes will happen – but fake news isn’t just about mistakes, it is absolutely about the sharing of content that the journalist, PR or brand knows is false.

It’s lying and often in a bid to manipulate a given response which may have further implications to a wider campaign.

What I have found most troubling is that the term ‘fake news’ is now widely used, referenced and understood. This is really worrying. When we work with clients the first rule is don’t lie, which is swiftly followed by the second and third; don’t suggest that we lie and don’t manipulate the truth.

If you can’t find an angle to a story then the likelihood is that you don’t have one to share.

People are undoubtedly going to become increasingly cynical of news and you can’t really blame them. They are going to question what they should believe and with such an array of sources to collate information from – positive, negative, neutral and all that is in between – it does become mind boggling. 

What we as an industry have to do is to continue to champion good practice. Spin is not a positive term as far as I’m concerned and I have an ongoing joke with a client who uses the insinuation purely to wind me up!

If PR is to be considered a specialism and the profession I certainly believe it to be, then it is our job to showcase why that is the case. We manage the reputations of brands and businesses, so we must be able to change the perception of an industry that without too much trouble is going to get pulled into the gutter.

There are agencies that will do anything for coverage – let’s be honest, we all know that’s the case – but we need to take a stand and to work harder to create good quality stories that people will read and feel informed, enlightened and engaged by.

All we can do is take the facts that our clients give us, but that’s another thing. Work with brands that you trust. It’s just as important that we can be sure of the facts that we are then sharing with a journalist, as it is that the journalist takes that story and prints it or posts it online to thousands of readers with the knowledge it was sent in good faith.

Choosing where you share news is of course another thing. If a PR is going to work with publications or sites that have been consistently discredited, then you can’t expect that they will share the content that you have given them without adding their own inflection to the piece. 

We are surrounded by content at every turn; from our TV or radios when we get up, to newspapers and our phones or iPads and that’s even before we get to work. What we should do as individuals is to remember that despite some misguided beliefs, not everything you read in the news is the truth.

Most brands are aspiring for the holy grail of results – brand loyalty and you simply will not get that if you lie. It’s a pretty simple concept really, if you want lasting love, don’t fake it!