Tag: results

WHY PR BELONGS AROUND THE BOARDROOM TABLE

PR deserves a place around the boardroom table

When I first started my career, it was almost unheard of that PR would be represented around the boardroom table. Over the years I’m pleased that in the most part this has been addressed. In this blog, we explore why PR belongs around the boardroom table.

Reputation is the most important asset a company has at its disposal. It can be used to the advantage of an organisation or ignored to the detriment of that brand. The choice lies firmly with the business.

PR is the specialism that ties firmly into the management of that asset.

Establish

When a company launches, it is now common practice for a business to invest in PR. It may be for a one-off project or for a more sustained period. The latter will always deliver stronger results, but it isn’t always possible for every organisation to recognise this from the outset.

The idea behind establishing a brand is to communicate with an audience that will become receptive to its message. How a company chooses to do this is up to them. The approach can be different every time, but the objective remains the same; to educate prospective customers about a product or service.

When we think about how important this one piece of work is, we start to appreciate why these decisions need to be made by senior managers. We are relying on a team of experts to communicate effectively with the chosen audience and in turn evoke a response.

Customers are essential for business. You wouldn’t leave that level of responsibility with just anyone. There is a huge emphasis on trust. As such, the person leading this team needs a seat around the boardroom table.

Maintain

Once a brand has been established, it needs to be maintained. We cannot expect that communicating once with an audience will ever be good enough. In a world where there are marketing messages surrounding us all, we need to gain cut through.

Consistency is fundamental at this stage of the process. Having a clear plan that will give a brand the opportunity to share updates, news and further launches will keep an audience interested. As well as attracting new prospective customers, it’s also about building affinity and resonance with those that have purchased.

The journey with PR never ends. It may take slightly different directions however the idea is to take your customers with you. Brands that create real loyalty are those that do this the best. They are also the ones that recognise the value of PR and its role around the boardroom table.

Build

Brand building comes in many forms. It could be about retaining a fresh image and using current language in all communications. In this example, we are referring to PR and the use of a sustainable plan to build a brand over time.

Having a schedule of activity will allow any company to test an idea, measure the results and review. The beauty of PR is that it evolves over time. Any plan can change at the drop of a hat, so flexibility and being agile is key.

The hardest brands to work with are those that don’t really understand PR or what it is used for. It’s those that consider it to be a ‘nice to have’. Anything that is a nice to have is never going to be a priority and PR should be.

For businesses of all sizes, to manage your communications should be an objective. As well as using media relations and content to educate an audience, PR can also be used during a crisis. This is when companies see the immediate value. It shouldn’t come to that.

Establishing, maintaining and building a reputation 

Establishing, maintaining and building a reputation are all skills that will allow a business to become a success it deserves to be. Having the person or team responsible for that around the boardroom table makes perfect sense.

PR should be considered as important as finance. A company would never function without some knowledge of where the budgets are going. The same can be said for communications. If you are unaware of who is saying what about your business and to whom, perhaps you only have yourself to blame.

Give PR the place it deserves in your business and see how it benefits your bottom line.

MAKING BRAND MESSAGING ACCESSIBLE

Making brand messaging accessible

Open Communications is a PR agency based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Working with a range of businesses across a variety of sectors, it is our job to make their brand messaging accessible. This in turn ensures that we secure the results they deserve.

Every brief is different and therefore every approach requires our undivided attention.

The basic principles of PR are to increase the profile of a business and manage its reputation. Easier said than done. We work with a toolkit of tactics to deliver against the objectives that we are set.

Fundamentally, we make sure that our clients’ messaging is accessible to their audiences so they can secure sales and growth.

Where and when

When we receive a brief, we breakdown the objectives so that we can see where we need to communicate and when. This requires us to look at all of the different options that are available to us. This means we can make brand messaging as accessible as possible.

As mentioned, one-size-does-not-fit-all. That is why we handle each client exclusively. We don’t work with brands in competing sectors, so it isn’t as if we have models that can be rolled out. That being said, we do have nearly twelve years of proven results to call upon.

If we are to get the best return on investment for our clients, we need to think about where their audiences are accessing information. This could be a combination of outlets and news sources.

Online or in print

In a world where we are bombarded with content, it would no longer make sense to assume that any audience relies on one medium. Most people find that they have preferred sources and then those that are supplementary.

Some people like to read a newspaper while others rely on radio, TV or social media. This gives them the updates on what is going on in the world where it suits them best.

It is up to us to create a PR strategy that will allow our clients to share their messages across a range of outlets.

Achieving reach

The reason that we consider multiple communications channels is that this gives us the chance to reach the largest audience possible. This doesn’t mean that we expect every client to be mass market. It just means that we can share content and repurpose it so that it can be seen numerous times.

This gives as many people as possible the chance to read it . It also means those that see it have more opportunity to digest it. Furthermore, when a message is shared consistently, it allows a brand to educate an audience about their products and services.

Being specific

Although the purpose is to reach the largest audience, they still have to be relevant and right. In some cases, choosing a niche outlet with thousands of readers, visitors or followers will be far more useful than an outlet with millions.

The rationale behind this is that to communicate with those that resonate will have a stronger impact. So, the likelihood of a piece of content leading to an action is far more likely.

PR is used to share stories about a brand or business that give consumers the information they need to make informed decisions. Choosing the right combination of relevant outlets will enhance results and return on investment.

Complementary channels

Being specific about the audience, message and channel may be the perfect combination but ensuring these are complementary is also a factor. There is no point in targeting consumer media but then sharing the same messaging on business to business or trade channels.

The point is to make sure that the messages shared are done so in the right way. This requires thought about language and tone of voice. Although you may be sharing the same message, it will be done so differently across consumer and business to business mediums.

PR is like a complicated jigsaw or puzzle. Getting all of the elements right can be a struggle but once you get there the results will follow.

Frequency and consistency

Making messaging accessible isn’t as simple as people may first think. There are a number of elements to take into account. In addition to those shared above, the frequency and consistency of the communications needs to be agreed.

There is a fine balance between providing opportunity for the audience to see and share a message and creating brand fatigue. A PR strategy should take this into account; providing a clear timeline for when and where to communicate in order to reach the relevant audience is a good starting point.

For further help with how you can ensure your brand messages are accessible, call Open Communications on tel. 01924 862477 or email info@opencomms.co.uk

WHAT KIND OF BUSINESSES BENEFIT FROM PR?

What businesses benefit from PR

When we ask the question ‘what kind of businesses benefit from PR?’, we are making certain assumptions that organisations fit neatly into boxes.

It is presumed that those most likely to benefit will sell products direct to consumers or have huge budgets to invest. The good news is that neither of these are strictly true.

Companies or all sizes and sectors can benefit from PR. They could be business to consumer, business to business or third sector. The trick is to make sure that the strategy behind the schedule of activity and tactics chosen will deliver against objectives.

Setting objectives

We’ve said it before, and we will say it again; businesses must set clear objectives if they are to secure the return on investment they expect from PR. Without targets in place, agencies have nothing to compare results against. There is no benchmark of good or bad, success or failure.

Any organisation that is going to spend the time and money required to implement an effective PR strategy should start with what they want to achieve. Irrelevant of sector or target audience, there needs to be some clarity when it comes to what constitutes an outcome to be celebrated.

Sector specific

It is true that some sectors have embraced PR with open arms, seeing the benefits that it delivers. Take FMCG (fast moving consumer goods). Many brands within this marketplace will implement a PR strategy from launch. They will also benefit from the results that this delivers long beyond.

The argument is that these businesses have a captive audience and often a mass market to communicate with. Perhaps this is the case, however they have also recognised the benefits that can be achieved through PR. This is the first step to setting strong foundations for any brand.

In contrast, consider manufacturing. This is huge and varied industry. Whatever the company is making, in my experience too many businesses are missing out by believing that PR will add no value.

Far too frequently, I hear people say that their audience wouldn’t be interested or that their products are too niche.

This is where PR is underestimated. As a specialism that is used to communicate, it can also be used to target many different audiences. This may be internal colleagues, stakeholders, investors, board members or future talent.

Remembering to communicate effectively with those that matter to a business most should never be over-looked.

When it doesn’t work

We work across a range of sectors from retail to print, confectionery to third sector. We have always said that if we couldn’t deliver for a business, we would let them know. There is no point in taking on a brief that isn’t going to work. Worst still, taking someone’s money knowing you will deliver no results.

In eleven years, I can count on one hand the number of times we have had to have this conversation. It isn’t because PR wouldn’t work, but because the approach or tactics the client wanted to use didn’t fit with our recommendations.

There are so many different tactics you can choose when you work in PR. As well as being a blessing this can be a challenge. It is our job to use those that will deliver a consistent return but there are occasions when a brand will want to do things their way.

All we can do is offer honest advice and that’s what we do.

Getting the tactics right

With a toolkit of tactics, we are in a very fortunate position to be able to curate a campaign that is specific to each client. There is no one-size-fits-all in PR. We have to think long and hard about what we can do to make the brands we work with stand out from the crowd.

Thanks to experience, we are able to do this. We work with our clients to make sure they get the very best value – and consistent results – from the campaigns and year-round programmes we deliver.

It may be a press office, which ensures these brands are featured regularly in the news. It could be shared content that reiterates expertise and builds trust. It might be social media posts that engage with a specific audience and build a community. Or, all of the above and more!

Relying on experts will make life easier and results quicker. There is always an element of test and measure with PR. Knowing you can change approach at any time limits risk, which is a further benefit to PR.

Making the most of what you have

PR is one of the most cost-effective marketing tools there is. That isn’t to say it is ‘cheap’ or easy. The truth is that it takes time, and time is money. However, when you get it right the results will have a positive impact on your business and its bottom line.

Building profile, securing coverage, increasing online presence, managing a crisis, preparing for a product launch, consistently communicating with customers – these all fit under the umbrella of PR.

As a business, when I look at where we will invest, I consider the impact that product or service will deliver. Should other companies do the same when it comes to PR, I am sure that many more brands would be benefitting. Whatever sector, I am confident that most organisations would benefit from PR.

It is a specialism that should be taken as seriously as finance. PR is still about managing the reputation of a brand and business. Arguably, the most valuable asset of any organisation. If ever there was a more significant reason to consider PR, this has to be it.

For further information about how we work with businesses of all sizes to deliver against their objectives please contact Open Communications on tel. 01924 862477.

WHAT A BRAND CAN EXPECT FROM PR

What a brand can expect from PR

The most common question we get asked, is what a brand can expect from PR? It isn’t quite that simple to answer, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some obvious returns. As long as the brief is specific, the objective clear and the budgets available, then you should expect results.

PR isn’t simply about drafting copy and getting it in the paper. It is one tactic, yet not the sum of the whole. When you invest in a PR practitioner or an agency you should set specific objectives. You need to be absolutely clear about what you want to achieve.

Far too often, a company will say that they need PR with no explanation as to why? Knowing what you want as an outcome gives those working on a project or year-round strategy some focus and direction.

Consistent message

PR allows you to share a consistent message, with multiple audiences, across a range of platforms. Depending on how your targets are most likely to find information, a PR will ensure your products feature in that space.

It may be drafting regular press releases that are shared with the media. It may be uploading content to a blog. Sharing engaging updates across social media channels. Providing access to a monthly podcast. Whatever the tactic that is chosen, the focus should always be on sharing a consistent message.

As well as becoming synonymous with a brand, it will mean that this information can be used to educate your audience. They will better understand your products and over time, your business too.

Tone of voice

Deciding on a tone of voice can be a challenge for brands. It can be difficult for someone to think about their business as they would a person. What would it sound like? If you met your product in the pub, what language would it use? How would it choose to interact with others?

Some will think this is a silly ‘game’ and not worth the effort. The reality is that when you see the results from brands that have got it right, it suddenly becomes very worthwhile.

Thinking about the words that you would and would not use. The technical terms and jargon. The approach of being friendly or factual. Considering how a business will come across should not be underestimated.

The best part about getting the tone right, is that once it is there, it will become second nature. It will also appeal to an audience that can resonate with your message. This is incredibly powerful.

Recognition

Again, this is just one tactic, however awards can bring great credibility. They are also an opportunity to celebrate and to claim the recognition you deserve. Too often, companies think of awards as ‘blowing their own trumpet.

In contrast, they are an opportunity for team building and extending thanks to colleagues. I have never in my career had a client be disappointed at winning an award. Not winning, of course. The truth being that if you don’t enter the outcome is only going one way!

The trick is to find the awards that will raise your profile in the right places. They should be delivered by reputable organisations and come with some credibility. Many of these awards have been running for years and are hosted by media companies. They have a phased process of entry, shortlist and event. These are the types of awards we consider for our clients.

If you get a call from an organisation to say you have won something, yet you didn’t enter, think long and hard before you accept. Chances are you will have to pay, and I would question whether the outcome is worth the investment.

Personality

PR gives a business the chance to add some personality. Again, this can be overlooked. People don’t want to buy from faceless brands. They want to better understand those behind the business and what makes them tick.

Adding a back story is always a good idea. It allows an audience to feel that they are more than a purchaser. Overtime, the objective should be to build a community of like-minded followers. Once this is the case, you then have a captive audience to engage with.

It isn’t about sell, sell, sell. Adding some personality to an organisation is a great way to detract from this. We were responsible for some personal posts for Myers Group and they really got to the heart of the business.

The stories that each individual had to share – including the MD’s – were honest and funny! A great combination when this content was shared on the website and across social posts. Not only did they attract attention, but also encouraged engagement.

An audience

Without an audience there will be no sales. Without sales, there is no business!

Identifying targets can be tricky. It isn’t always as simple as to suggest one size that fits all. This is why a mapping exercise will help.

Once you do have your audiences, you can start to communicate with them using PR in a way that will be most receptive.

This is where the beauty of PR really does come out in all its glory. Like many marketing disciplines, PR uses an element of trial and error. This is why we have a toolkit of tactics to choose from. It’s a blessing rather than a curse.

The way we work is to put in place a strategy that will evolve over time. What we ask of our clients is that they are willing to be flexible and to attempt new things. Even those that may make them feel a little uncomfortable. We wouldn’t make recommendations if we didn’t feel they would work.

Results

If you are working with the right practitioner or agency, then you will start to see results. The profile of your business will increase. People will start to chat to you about the latest news they have read. Business associates will comment, like and share your content. Associates will start to follow your social media channels. You will have the chance to celebrate awards with colleagues.

What a brand can expect from PR, depends entirely on its objectives. The greatest benefit being that PR can be so many different things, to so many different people. There is however one thing for certain, a return on investment should be a given!

AWARDS; GLORY HUNTING OR THE RECOGNITION YOU DESERVE

Whatever industry you work in there will be an awards ceremony that celebrates the success of the great and good in your sector. The same can be said for PR and I am really pleased to announce that Open Communications has been shortlisted for the Not For Profit category at the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire PRide Awards.

The awards take place tomorrow (Thursday 17 November) evening at The Queen’s Hotel in Leeds and will bring together hundreds of people from businesses and agencies throughout the two regions.

It has taken us eight years to enter the awards, not because we didn’t feel that our work was of a standard to be recognised but because, if we’re honest, we’ve spent more time submitting and winning awards for our clients.

It was only during a meeting earlier in the year that a client asked why we don’t practice what we preach, and I realised that actually awards for our own work should be as important as those of the brands that we work with.

So, what was stopping us?

Well, to be honest, we’ve never really felt that we needed awards to prove that we could do a good job – the evidence is in the results that we achieve. Then there was the fact that some awards make you feel like you’re simply glory hunting and again this isn’t really our style.

But, when it comes down to it awards do give a credibility by association and you have to be in them to win them! So, is it glory hunting or are you simply getting the recognition you deserve for the results you work so hard to achieve.

It wasn’t difficult to come up with a conclusive answer and so, we put pen to paper.

The challenge then was what to submit? We are very proud of the work that we produce and the results that we get for our clients so it was a difficult choice. We decided that we would focus on the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the only organisation dedicated to former mining towns and villages throughout the country.

We have worked alongside the team at the Coalfields Regeneration Trust for more than 2 years now and have secured hundreds of pieces of coverage, which in turn has communicated with millions of people throughout the UK.

The results are consistently strong and as a result of our work communications is very much an agenda point around the board room table. We’ve even been invited to share our work with the trustees – which is a real achievement.

We have worked with the team to develop a tone of voice, aligned their messaging and revised their three-year strategy. We have also shaped their brand and vision for the future and changed the way that they communicate with different audiences to make sure they get the return on investment both from us and their own efforts.

Although we are confident with the results we have achieved, leading the organisation most recently to secure a Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Award (2016), we know that it can go either way.

We have everything crossed and know that even if we don’t win, we have done a fantastic job and will continue to deliver for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, evolving the way that they communicate to make sure as many people as possible understand what they are trying to achieve.

That said, we’ve cleared a space on our shelf (just in case) and hope to be updating the blog with pictures of Open Communications as we pick up our very first PRide award.

Wish us luck!

A different kind of creative

Working in the creative industry can be confusing; there are so many different specialisms and disciplines that there is no single sentence that can describe what encompasses being a creative, it is as vast as the minds of those involved within it.

Just recently I have had the absolute pleasure of working with a creative contemporary photographer, Nigel Tooby. What I get most satisfaction from at Open Communications is the range of clients that we have. Their businesses, brands, objectives and markets are so contrasting that it makes every day a ‘school day’ – you learn something new.

Working with Nigel and his wife Elaine was no different.

Our first meeting was back in August when we hosted an Open Strategy Session with the team. Not only did we all find the session enlightening, it was engaging and a real sharing of insights, beliefs and values. Nigel approaches his specialism, photography, very differently from how I would PR and that made for some great conversations and debate.

Fast forward a month and I took a call to ask if we would support the team with a project and exhibition they are working on, Eye Spy. Needless to say, having seen some of the works I couldn’t wait to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in.

All in the aid of Simon on the Streets, Nigel was originally tasked with creating a series of images for a charity calendar for the organisation, thanks to a referral from Red Media, the local design, print and marketing agency.

Rather than stick to the traditional, which isn’t really Nigel’s way, he chose to take the project one-step further and to recommend that the images were not only taken through the eyes of the homeless but also that they become an artistic installation, using materials from the streets to give the subject deeper context.

I was lucky enough to get a preview of the final pieces and a complete contradiction in terms is the best way I can find to describe them; they make for the most uncomfortable viewing but in the most positive and thought provoking way.

And so, here’s where we came in, it was our job to take Nigel’s creative talents and showcase them within the media. The first challenge was that the subject is interesting but also uncomfortable and the second is that some of the images were definitely unsuitable for print, simply due to the brutal truth behind them.

So, we got to work. A press call, invitations, press releases, media relations… and repeat… PR can be a little bit like a recipe for Yorkshire puddings sometimes, if you get it wrong it will all go flat but if you get it right… well, next time you have a Sunday lunch and you bite into your fluffy, light Yorkshire puddings that’s how PR feels when you get it right!

Thankfully we did. Working closely with Nigel and Elaine we were able to secure coverage in Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Wakefield Express, Wetherby News, Harrogate Advertiser, Ripon Today, North Yorkshire News, BBC Radio Leeds and BBC Look North.

Not only is the work deserving of the coverage it achieved but I am so pleased to see that Nigel’s creative talent is being recognised. I have never met a photographer with such a vision for story-telling.

I have learnt a great deal in the short time I have worked with the team at Mogul Image and I expect that they don’t even realise it, knowing how unassuming and modest they are. Nigel has taught me to see behind an image and to look deeper as there are always things that you miss first time around.

As I said at the start of this blog, the way he approaches his art is very different to how I handle PR for our clients at Open Communications despite us working in the same creative industry. We are all about facts and figures, stories and angles, headlines and news, whereas Nigel deals with perspective, depth, contrast, controversy and creating debate.

The results for us both are similar; we raise the profile of a subject to encourage people to talk about it. The ultimate goal is word of mouth but our skills couldn’t be more dissimilar.

I will be attending the launch event of the Eye Spy exhibition this evening, which takes place at the Workhouse Modern in Harrogate from 6.30pm. I would encourage anyone who isn’t your typical lover of all things photography or arty to come along.

I will certainly be raising a glass to an exhibition well done and hope that people will take the time not only to better understand the plight of the homeless in our region but also to get their hands in their pocket and support Simon on the Streets, which is a very worthy and deserving cause.

Here is a small and very select sample of the images that will be on show at the exhibition, which will run until Monday 6 October. Please do remember that some of these images feature on crates and paving slabs… I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil it but it is certainly worth going to see.

End of beginningsml

SOTS Untitled 6sml

The Company I keepsml

Keeping it lean

Managing the PR for a number of business to business clients, across a range of sectors, we hear a lot about lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing isn’t a new concept but it is certainly an interesting one and can deliver huge benefits to business, not least the money that can be saved as a result of applying simple changes, which make a big difference.

When speaking with clients I started to wonder if actually the principles of lean manufacturing can be applied to communications. It may be a crude suggestion, not knowing the more intricate aspects of the role of a professional who would implement lean concepts within a manufacturing setting, but I think it is worthy of further investigation.

As a starting point, communication forms the foundations of a business whatever its size. When creating a marketing strategy a company is taking the steps necessary to manage its reputation, which is arguably its biggest asset.

In doing this a business needs to focus on some key aspects of their company, these include:

–          Current position

–          Objectives

–          Target audience(s)

–          Tools that are used to communicate with audiences

When it comes to a communications strategy every business is different – we always explain to our clients at Open Communications that no size fits all when it comes to putting together a plan that will meet with specific objectives.

Whether a company is considering a communications strategy for the first time or reviewing what they already have in place and how effective it has been, what is imperative is that they set the foundations from which to build and evolve.

This is where I believe that lean principles can come into practice. If as a business you already have a marketing and communications strategy in place, when was the last time you thought to review the processes that you use?

In considering whether it is worthwhile to even consider a review of an organisation’s marketing strategy, I would challenge a company to pose the following questions to their senior team:

  1. What are the objectives of our marketing communications strategy
  2. What measures do we have in place to determine the results of our marketing campaigns
  3. How do we measure real impact
  4. What communications tools do we use
  5. Who is responsible for implementing the marketing strategy
  6. What resource are we committing to building the profile of our business

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘I don’t know’ then it is certainly time to consider a review of the processes that are – or are not – used.

Marketing communications should be discussed at boardroom level within every business, irrelevant of size. The way that you communicate with employees, suppliers, customers and prospects is absolutely fundamental to the future success of your organisation.

When working with clients, we often find that communications is dismissed because a company is too busy ‘doing the doing’. Although we can appreciate this, after all we are all busy and clients must come first, you have to stop and think:

If I am making no effort to tell people about my product and service or to shout about the success of my business, who is?

Time and resource are often the biggest concerns for companies that would like to build a strategy for marketing and communications but simply don’t have time. Again, going back to the principles of lean manufacturing, this would be a great opportunity to review what is in place and what could be implemented to show the quickest return for the least resource.

As mentioned earlier, a communications plan should evolve over time, meaning that you don’t have to do everything now. With that in mind, it may be worth a meeting with your team to determine what is in place and what needs to be considered for the future. You can then build a plan around the ‘now’, with a focus on what can be achieved moving forward.

As an agency we always suggest putting achievable targets in place that can build over time, rather than trying to do everything all at once.  Some considerations when building a plan should be:

–          How do we communicate internally

–          How should we communicate to our clients

–          What do we do to appeal to prospects

–          Do our target audiences communicate in the same way

–        What media do they read and by what medium

We are often considered as consultants by our clients and at Open Communications we host strategy sessions, which are the closest thing to applying lean principles as I have come across within the industry. We work with clients to set the foundations; to review the current ways of working and to create a strategy that will deliver the best return on investment based on resource and results.

As an agency we have hosted these sessions for over two years now and I have to say that without exception they have proven to be a huge success. Perhaps if more organisations placed the same emphasis on the significance of effective communications, as they do on manufacturing, they would gain greater value from the efforts and budgets they commit to marketing.

What we all need to remember is that the way a business chooses to communicate reflects the personality of that organisation – and knowing that people buy people this in turn reinforces the significance of having a robust plan in place, which meets with and supports the objectives and future aspirations of a company.

Next time you have a board meeting consider putting a review of marketing and communications on the agenda. I can say without hesitation or reservation that doing so will give you the opportunity to empower your workforce, raise the profile of your company and support your objectives to become the success that you hope to be.