Tag: social media

Are you giving your business the right tweetment?

When we are putting together a PR strategy for a client or discussing how a brand can communicate with its many different audiences, we always consider social media; after all it’s a platform and growing point of reference for consumers of all ages and demographics.

I have never really understood agencies that focus purely on social media, as although I feel it is a mistake to ignore online tools, in my opinion they should form part of a wider strategy. The internet has created new ways of communicating but the process is the same; you need to create a plan that supports a year round campaign and then a series of messaging that allows a company to share its stories, which in turn will raise its profile and understanding of the product and services it offers.

Needless to say PR always sounds far simpler than it actually is but essentially the fundamental purpose has never changed, our main objective is always to manage the reputation of the brands we work with. We want to share stories that lead others to talk about a company. In doing this we generate word of mouth, which is still the most valuable medium for creating credibility, recommendation and in turn sales.

I attended a networking session last night which focused specifically on twitter. In celebration of Leeds Business Week, Leeds Tweet Meet brought together a panel of communications professionals to discuss how to effectively use twitter for the purpose of business.

It was an interesting session but the main theme throughout was to have a plan and keep it simple. What was a very valuable suggestion was to recognise that twitter is now used as a real time resource by the consumer. No longer is twitter all about engagement or two way communication, there is a large audience using it to search for up-to-date news, views, comments and opinions.

For the first time twitter is actually competing with search engines, due to the speed in which information can be shared.

We always advise that clients take the time to review twitter and analyse what competitors are doing before they consider social media channels as a route to market. We believe that it is important to understand how people within a given industry are engaging with their audiences, as this can change significantly from one sector to another. It is also essential that legalities are considered, as there are some instances where information cannot be shared on an ‘open platform’.

What people sometimes forget is that twitter is a global and immediate channel to market. Once a tweet is out there it can be difficult to amend or delete. In order for any social media tool to work as well as it should, a client needs to be comfortable and confident before sharing their stories with the masses and that doesn’t just relate to using the tool but also to the content that a company proposes to share.

Some of the most spectacular #fails have come about as a result of brands jumping in or not taking the time to think before updating a status. Although it takes seconds to put up a post, it can take months to manage the damage that this could cause. We always ask if a person would shout their tweet in a street – if the answer is no, then it may be worth considering if the content is necessary and appropriate.

Although content is more important than ever before, it is worth asking what value your updates will give the recipient. If the content that you share is of no use to those that follow you, then consider how you can change it so that people can join in a conversation with you or use your content to their benefit.

As an example rather than telling people you are taking your dog for a walk, make recommendations on how consumers can get best value from your product or how your service differs from competitors. Twitter is also a great tool for sharing recommendations and testimonials, you can re-tweet positive comments and thank those that make them, which only strengthens those relationships, while sharing your success with a mass audience.

A suggestion from Leeds Tweet Meet was for businesses to develop a social media code of conduct, which in many organisations would provide guidelines for employees about what can and cannot be shared on business specific social media channels.

As a starting point for any business our top ten tips for twitter are as follows:

  1. Decide what your objective is – what do you aim to achieve through twitter
  2. Identify key individuals in the business who will manage the account
  3. Research what others within the market are doing (in particular competitors)
  4. Ask your customers if they would like to engage with you on twitter
  5. Create a code of conduct for employees to follow
  6. Do some scenario planning – what’s the worst that could happen
  7. Put together a simple schedule of tweets; build up a bank of topics / themes to consider
  8. Register an account with a relevant design
  9. Search for people that you would like to follow
  10. Build social media into your communications strategy

Twitter is certainly a good tool for business and has a growing number of followers. For those who ‘have better things to do with their time’ I would question what your customers and more importantly prospects would think.

As an immediate medium twitter can be invaluable to business and gives a brand a voice and personality. As a measure of success all you need to do is search for your favourite brands – the majority of which will now have an active twitter feed.

For those who are still in two minds then speak to a PR agency, they should be able to give you the guidance that you need to build twitter and other social tools into your wider communications strategy.

Bringing together the old and the new

New technologies are great, they allow people to do things quicker and faster, to communicate with people at the other side of the world for free, to explore, investigate and research. As human beings we have access to more information than ever before and as a result our expectations have changed irreversibly – we want something and we want it now!

When we read about new technologies it is usually the announcement of a new gadget, most recently the latest iPhone(s), but what is often missing from these reports is the benefit to these tools. What do they do? What can they achieve? How do they impact on the everyday life of the person using them?

As PR professionals we can get lost in the business of these technologies. How can they be used for brands, how will they add value to a campaign and what return on investment will they deliver for the client? Will they go viral, be shared and raise the profile of a product? Will they result in an award winning stunt that will hit the headlines for all the right reasons?

Whilst having a conversation with a colleague who works with the Girl Guiding Association in Warwickshire, we got onto the subject of new technologies and social media forums and how they impact on young people. We were simply discussing the immediacy of everything and the need for people to think before they commit to communicating with the world.

We then digressed and started to discuss our own hobbies and what we like doing. In a complete contrast to anything that would have appealed to the ‘teenage me’ I mentioned that I had taken up knitting and crochet. Now before you fall over yourself laughing I will explain. I find it very hard to switch off – my brain doesn’t have an off button and my mind is constantly active. I think about new business ideas, plans for campaigns, what I need to do next week, what I have to discuss tomorrow, how many weeks it is until Christmas (*groan*) and so forth, it’s a never ending cycle and I don’t mind admitting it’s tiring.

I decided therefore to give crochet and knitting a go. I used to knit when I was really young and haven’t considered or really thought about it since. My colleague Emma then mentioned a group at The Ridings Shopping Centre who have a Knit and Natter session – what an amazing idea!

Although I don’t have chance to go to the group, I did think that there must be something in the idea of taking some time out and creating a scarf, some gloves, a tea cosy or simply just weaving together row upon row of beautiful coloured yarn. And so I tried it and I’m hooked!

Getting back to the conversation, I was explaining to the lady in question that I had started knitting and doing crochet and she asked me if I had learnt from a relative or if I was self taught. It then struck me that new technologies aren’t all about young people, they aren’t all about communicating in real time and they aren’t all about immediacy – you see I am using YouTube to learn crochet and it’s great.

By simply logging on to the many, many sites that exist, I am able to follow the instructions and see exactly what is going on. I find the steps difficult to follow in books as I can’t see exactly what is happening but using YouTube I can literally follow and ‘rewind’, follow and ‘rewind’.

Later that very same night I was catching up with some old school friends that I hadn’t seen for years on Facebook and noticed that someone I used to go to college with had uploaded an image of a crochet scarf – a very good one I have to admit. I commented and ‘liked’ her work, sharing on my feed. Her response; “I’ve only just started to crochet – I’m learning everything I can from YouTube.”

The moral of this story – new mediums aren’t just for business, they can be for pleasure too. For those of you, who like me, often think about how a social tool can be used to best practice for a brand, perhaps it’s time we thought more about the user experience – what would we want to get out of a technology?

Not everything is about speed. Sometimes we need to take a step back and think about how something can add value, even in the strangest of circumstances. If someone had told me three years ago that I would be using YouTube for crochet I would have laughed but I now have a relaxing hobby that I love and I don’t mind admitting my next tutorial is for a flower with layered petals!

What is PR?

We get asked this question all of the time and the answer is relatively simple; PR is the principle of managing the reputation of a brand or business through the implementation of an effective communications strategy, whether that be online, in print or broadcast.

The very nature of PR means that this top line explanation is woolly at best. It doesn’t really tell you much about what it is that we do – it’s just a sentence that you might find in a book. I’m not a huge fan of jargon or textbook speak so to give you a peek into the life of a PR agency here’s a round-up of what I have been getting up to this week.

An early start on Monday with an email from our international client asking for an update on activity completed. It’s not impossible to work with clients from abroad when you manage a PR agency (even when they are at the other side of the world), as ‘new’ technologies allow you to speak face-to-face making it simpler to communicate as and when required. Unfortunately you can’t change time zones and therefore you have to be awake pretty early to pick up these calls but a little planning solves any potential problems.

The week’s planned activity then starts with the launch of the Bondholder, the Diamond Scheme, an initiative supported by public and private sector organisations in Wakefield, which are hoping to generate a fund that will be used to implement a marketing and communications campaign that will promote the district to local, regional and national audiences.

As we are a trade as well as consumer PR agency, it was then on to some feature writing for a client working within the print sector. They have invested in machinery and therefore we are putting some press materials together that will be sent to trade journalists. Raising the clients profile in trade media means that they are able to shout about their successes and let customers and prospective employees know that they are still a major player within their market.

It’s then down to some social media planning. Like many agencies we manage the social media platforms for some of our clients and this means updating schedules, creating new and exciting ideas and being as creative as we can be with imagery. As imagery is a big driver of social engagement it’s no longer just about the words so we get our heads together and come up with some quirky recipe ideas that will support this particular client during a key seasonal activity we have planned.

Updating the social feeds on twitter and Facebook is a daily task for us and so we manage these accounts, check to make sure all responses have been sent and that the feeds are updated. If necessary we will like, share, retweet or favourite comments and take down any posts which are inappropriate and offensive – thankfully we don’t get too much of this.

We then have a visitor to the office, following the recommendation of another client at Open Communications we have a new business meeting. We are always very humbled (and of course chuffed to bits!) when our clients  recommend us to their contacts. We chat for a good hour and explain how PR works and how it could add value to this particular business. As one size does not fit all in PR some thought has to go in to the audience, media and messaging. We agree to put a proposal together, which will give the contact all of the detail that they need, before we arrange a follow up meeting.

Now, on to something completely different.

We have a full schedule of activity for Pom-Bear, the potato based snack brand, this year and as the consumer PR agency are working hard to make sure the business gets best value from the recommendations we have made in relation to events and sponsorships.

As the brand has just launched a new Zoo themed snack we are touring the country to sample more than 50,000 bags at Wildlife Centres and animal attractions including Dudley Zoo, Marwell Park and Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm.

Lots of planning has gone into each event and we have a programme of activities which run back-to-back. As the lead on this account it’s up to me to manage each event and ensure that everything is running as it should be. As an agency that takes huge pride it the clients that we work with, we prefer to be at the events that we plan. There is nothing worse than leaving things to chance and that simply isn’t the way that we work at Open Communications.

So, it’s off to Dudley. The weather has held off and our gazebo, banners, flags and signs are attracting the crowds in the hundreds. Pom-Bear is on great form and has the children dancing, singing and of course sampling his snacks.

As the events on Wednesday and Thursday are during the morning to early afternoon this means that I have chance to catch up on emails and draft some more copy for a series of clients before starting some research on a project we are looking in to.

Regular calls to the office mean that I don’t miss the team too much, although I’m sure they would prefer that I only call if there’s an emergency – I must work on that!

Media relations is the focus for now. We are managing a press event and launch in a couple of weeks so we need to know how many journalists to expect. I will be calling each to find out if they are available and updating the team accordingly. This is a business based story so means that regional, national, print and broadcast journalists are all invited – it’s a big list!

It will then be a follow up on the recent launch of a new product, which should have consumer journalists munching on some tasty samples from Penn State, the classic American snack brand. I will follow up and find out what they think before updating the team and sending further samples to those that have ‘got lost in the post’.

It will then be on to the next Pom-Bear event, which takes place from 6pm – 10.30pm. It’s more Pom-Bear fun, with competitions, dancing, games and more tasty samples.  Unlike some jobs it’s unlikely when you work in PR that you will have a 9am – 5pm role and I’m no different.

On Saturday it’s off to Gillwell Park for a Beaver Scouts Fun Day. It should be a great event and with more than 6,000 eager young members of the Scouting Association in attendance I’m expecting it’s going to be a busy one.  As sponsor of the Adventure Activity Badge for the Scouts, Pom-Bear will make an appearance and will also host a special trail with prizes to be won.

It’s a varied life when you work in PR and that’s why I enjoy my job so much. Whether we are managing the launch of a business, drafting copy for emailers and website, managing the trade and consumer PR activity for leading brands or engaging with journalists and bloggers no two days are ever the same.

I’m very fortunate to have a supportive (and calming) business partner at Open Comms and for those of you who know Emma you will understand what I mean. Someone once said to me that PR was like spinning plates and at the time I didn’t know what they mean. More than 10 years later I couldn’t agree more but when there are two of you working together it makes life so much easier.

Obviously at Open Communications we also have the wider (and growing) team to call upon and this again means that we have the capacity to manage the PR for leading household brands and smaller local businesses – variety is after all the spice of life.

PR is certainly not for the light-hearted but for those of you who didn’t know what it involves I hope you now have some idea of what it is that we do. Now, I’m off to get some work done – there’s no rest for the wicked you know!

One size doesn’t fit all

When you work in PR you quickly recognise that one size does not fit all when it comes to campaign planning. For a start the audience for every client will differ slightly – you can always use less defined targets such as men, women, geographical location or demographic but being more specific means that we are able to meet with the objectives set by the brands we work with.

What is also important is the medium that we choose to engage with. Not every campaign will rely on all channels and I’ve seen a few frightening examples recently where agencies have mismatched the campaign and the medium. Sometimes it’s best to do one thing really well than lots of things badly.

There is a strange attitude within the industry at the moment with some agencies believing that everything needs to be shared across social media channels and I simply don’t agree. There are some campaigns that sit better on radio, or within printed media – not everything has to feature on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest or YouTube to get results and engagement.

It seems to me that agencies are pitching social media as a sexy alternative to other mediums and rather than tailoring a campaign around a preferred medium, ideas are being shoe-horned to fit social channels.
I think it’s time that we all took a step back and went back to basics.

When we work with brands at Open Communications we look at the following; audience, media consumption, ideas, strongest recommendations. Ok, so it’s not brain surgery but if you use the same process you are likely to get a campaign that is fit for purpose and delivers a return on investment, which at the end of the day is what you pay an agency for!

A tragedy played out on twitter

 

While following some business hashtags on twitter on Monday evening, I quickly realised that I had inadvertently stumbled across a global disaster – the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Showing in real time the updates, imagery and videos I was shocked to see and hear what was happening at the other side of the world.

I can’t recall a similar instance where announcements on the news were following updates across social media sites. Some of the posts were raw with the terror from those involved and it was awful to know that people were in that position and there was little that could be done to help them.

Twitter quickly came into its own during this event for the good of the situation with the Boston Marathon online registrations and finishing times being used by relatives to find out if they had completed the race. Google quickly developed a ‘person finder’ to help relatives to locate their missing relatives – an ingenius and inspired idea.

The Boston Globe, the local newspaper in the Boston area, quickly started to report from the scene posting regularly across twitter. As the news unfolded the posts came in thick and fast. There’s no doubt that social media can lead to speculation or presumption but in this instance people seemed content to share updates as they were received and to send messages of genuine concern.

What caught my attention most was the response from the media to find out who was posting the images and videos and request that they have permission to use them across their own mediums. Again, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a good example of amateur footage being used across the global news channels.

A piece which appeared in the Drum yesterday gives a good review of how the news updates were posted and shared across social media. It’s almost scary to see how quickly the situation was reported as a result of real time feeds.

Needless to say my heart absolutely goes out to those who were involved and particularly those who lost their lives. This was an event that would once have been a national disaster – yet thanks, in part, to social media it has become a global tragedy and I think I speak for the majority when I say that we are all collective in our grief for what has happened however it was reported.

If you can’t say something nice…

When I was growing up my Dad always used to quote a phrase from Bambi, the children’s film. He would say ‘Remember what Thumper said’, which was ‘If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nothing at all’.

Even though the quote is taken from a children’s film the fundamental theory behind the phrase is very relevant and in particular to young people who are growing up with more choice about how they communicate with each other (and the rest of the world) than ever before.

In the news again today there is a startling example of why people need to be very careful about what they share and how they choose to communicate. Kent Youth PCC, Paris Brown, has learnt the hard way that tweets and Facebook updates she is alleged to have shared when she was 14, 15 and 16 have come back to haunt her.

As someone who has taken on a responsible position she should have known better. It goes without saying that some people will think it’s unfair that Paris is being reprimanded in a very public way as a result of comments made years ago however she should have realised that the nature of the comments she was sharing was inappropriate irrelevant of her age.

As is the nature of some social media tools, anyone was able to access her comments about drink and drugs, which then gave her employer the chance to check her twitter feeds and Facebook page to find out just what she had chosen to share with her friends when she felt it appropriate to brag about her antics.

I hope that this sends out a very real warning to anyone who is looking for work. It is common practice to check social media feeds or ‘Google’ a candidate before an interview takes place. How silly to jeopardise your chances at securing a job for the sake of a tweet or inappropriate status update.

Many people use Facebook socially and twitter or LinkedIn for work but it’s worth always keeping in the back of your mind that anyone can search for your comments and opinions and that if you are willing to share your thoughts on social media tools expect that they will be shared by others and possibly accessed by a future employer.

There’s little doubt that Paris will be very conscious of her comments from now on.

PR stands for Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I just called to say… Happy Birthday

Did you know that the mobile phone turned 40 today? I find it hard to believe that the little gadget that I lose regularly around the house and office, which seems to be on permanent charge and distracts me throughout the day with a flashing red light is actually older than I am.

It’s also even harder to believe that in just 40 years we have grown so dependent on our phones that when you do leave it at home, or end up in an area of no reception (the Yorkshire Dales is a nightmare for those who care), you feel more like you have lost your link to the outside world and immediately have some paranoid breakdown that everyone you know really is trying to get hold of you all at once!

It’s not just about individuals, businesses now find it increasingly difficult to function without phones particularly since emails have been received through them and don’t even get me started about social media sites. Now that we can tweet, update our status and share videos there is no stopping us – we’re all multi-media, cross channel, integrated marketing experts (easy for me to say hey?)

It’s even come to the point where you can purchase your KFC and McDonalds using your phone – in fact it seems that you can do almost anything if you have the right device and the perfect app. Ironically the one thing people seem to do least is use the gadgets for what it was originally intended – calling people.

I can’t wait to see how the phone continues to change the shape of the marketing industry and assists with bringing campaigns to life through apps, imagery and video. There’s no doubt with new technologies including Blippar that there is scope to be more creative than ever before.

Long may the success and evolution of the phone continue and Happy Birthday mobile phone, wherever you’re hiding!

 

The humble #hashtag

 

How times have changed. It’s hard to believe that you could once hold a conversation without the word hashtag ever being mentioned, in fact many people would probably have questioned what the little symbol was for until Twitter came along and it became a global phenomenon overnight.

Most celebrities crave for the stardom the hashtag received and continues to attract. Its use, and dare I suggest overuse, is possibly questionable in some instances but it goes without saying that #FF and #Yorkshirehour, plus of course let us never forget #susanalbumparty, are now a part of our daily lives. Ok, the latter not so much so but it still makes me smile!

I noticed today in the i that they have addressed the humble hashtag and even dedicated a DPS (double page spread) to the story – oh what a transformation, from unused and neglected to household reference in a matter of years.

What I hadn’t realised is that the use of the hashtag for grouping information or searching themes and trends should be attributed (if the piece in the paper is to be believed – and we all know when it’s in the paper it has to be true!) to a man named Chris Messina.

Well done Chris – you turned an innocent symbol into a global superstar. But is it really useful? Well, you can debate that people will hashtag any old thing in order to try and engage and converse with others but the truth of the matter is that if leading broadcasters are using hashtags before programmes then they must see some benefit in them.

I do enjoy watching a programme while also following my twitter feed. The Olympics wouldn’t have been the same without it and as for documentaries I simply can’t help but giggle along with some of the comments made – I even go so far as to retweet a few if I think they’re worth it.

So the humble hashtag, are you a hashtagger or do you prefer to stick to straight forward conversation without attempting to be ‘down with the kids?’ There is no doubt that things are changing all of the time and a whole new world of conversation is upon us – the question is #areyouin or #areyouout?

Just your average week – or not!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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