Tag: social media

Be careful what you tweet about

I remember a time when a tweet was the noise a bird made – not anymore. People of all ages and from all backgrounds and sectors are taking to the social networking tool, using it to communicate with a global audience.

Most people have got their head around the hashtag and now recognise the importance of using twitter as a business generation tool, as well as a platform from which to simply engage and share content.

As tends to be the case, there are always a minority who try to spoil things and in this instance these people are known as ‘trolls’. They aren’t green and they don’t live under bridges but in my own opinion they probably should!

These people go out of their way to provoke reactions from others using twitter by being rude and offensive. The good news is that this may become a thing of the past – or at least be reduced – if new laws are to come into force which will directly apply to tweets.

The BBC has created a great news article today which focuses on the laws in relation to twitter and how they will change. It also uses some really good ‘real life’ cases to put the legal implications into context.

It goes without saying that there will be some who criticise these new legal practices but personally I think something has to change. There is a definite argument for free speech but what needs to be determined is when that becomes defamation of character or brand and takes an option to the masses, which is then reproduced (retweeted) and misconstrued as fact.

My advice to anyone reading this blog is to remember that when you use twitter it isn’t like talking with your mates down at the pub – you are publishing material to be shared. Twitter is a social messaging tool which promotes the opportunity to share and be shared – it is not a personal diary.

However accessible the internet is, sharing content needs to be taken seriously and until people recognise the implications my advice would be to carefully consider what you make public. It wouldn’t be the first time someone found their ‘joke’, light hearted comment or retweet landed them in a whole host of hot water and in some instances behind bars!

Perhaps we should take some advice from a cartoon friend of mine: “If you can’t say nothing nice, then don’t say nothing at all.”

It’s all in the timing

Social media, content marketing, engagement, push, viral, digital… need I go on? These are all words that are used frequently in the world of marketing, PR and communications and they all lead back to one thing – attracting attention and sharing a message.

What I’ve noticed is that brands who have got it right, in my opinion, are those that are able to turn things around quickly. Take Bodyform as a classic, or Specsavers as another, then there’s Richard Branson and his stunt announcing the BA couldn’t get it up and Paddy Power’s ambush of the Ryder Cup.

The way that these brands have been in a position to turn around their campaigns so quickly, never mind come up with them in the first place, is fantastic. Not only are they creative and quirky they capture attention and get their message across. At the end of the day, most brands use PR and marketing in the first instance to raise the profile of their business and in these cases they do exactly that.

The problem of course is that it is often impossible to get approval to turn something around in such limited timescales however the more that brands become aware of the benefits to ‘almost real time’ engagement the better.

It seems to me that the future is all about the timing and that means reacting within hours as opposed to days. Let’s hope that more brands see the benefit in putting PR at the top of their list of priorities because this is simply the best way to shout about your brand which subsequently puts your products in front of the consumer.

Finally, PR takes it seat at the boardroom table

I’ve just finished reading an excellent article in Management Today magazine. The piece focuses on the changing face of PR – and I don’t mean one shade of designer lipstick to another – no, finally it would appear that the industry is getting the recognition that it deserves and is taking a seat around the boardroom table.

Having worked in the PR industry for more than a decade and with a BA (Hons) degree in the specialism, I have long been an advocate of the merits of PR when it is practiced correctly and professionally.

As I see it there are problems with the PR industry in the same way that there are problems with any other; you have the good and you have the bad and it can be difficult to decide which is which. One will wine and dine you in fancy restaurants, while the other tells you the harsh truth and what to do about it – far less appealing than a good lunch but undoubtedly more beneficial in the long run.

The truth of the matter is that PR has always been about reputation – that has never changed and be it online or in print, what is said in the street or down the pub, it all goes back to the same thing; if you don’t know what people are saying about you, there is nothing you can do about it.

Businesses are thankfully coming around to the understanding that during any situation, good or bad, the first point of call is to make sure that you are communicating effectively with your audiences. In order to do this an organisation requires an advisor, a specialist, someone to rely on with their plans, aspirations and concerns.

The piece in Management Today very much focuses on the changes to PR based on the use of social media but I think there is more to it than that.

Tim Bell comments: “If you want to live in a transparent world then someone has to give the information about you. If you don’t want someone else to, you have to do it yourself. That’s what PR people do.”

Sure, social media and a desire by the consumer to share their thoughts and opinions with the world – plus having the ability to do so quickly and easily across a multitude of platforms – has meant that PR professionals have more to do but that is simply good practice and the evolution of an industry which spans hundreds of years.

The real change I think has come in a shift of mind set. People working in PR have thankfully taken a long, hard look at the industry and realised that as a discipline we were losing out. We weren’t taken seriously in our tottering high heels and we needed to toughen up and take our seat around the boardroom table.

Those who were serious about a career started to showcase their skills in the situations that deliver harsh recognition; a crisis without a communications professional who is experienced, able and capable of dealing with it can bring a business literally crashing to its knees.

In Management Today Jeremy Hazlehurst comments:

“PR the profession has changed beyond recognition in the past decade. Although media relations activities have burgeoned, involving the paper press, online publications, television and bloggers, it is only a small part of the job now. Press offices have been swallowed up by communications departments that deal with investor relations, analysts, shareholders, regulators and government. All are the guardians of the most precious and difficult to measure of assets – corporate reputation.”

I’ve never been ‘typically PR’ and have always felt that the discipline should be considered a necessity as opposed as a nice to have, not just because I work in the industry but because I see every day the benefits that it delivers, which are often measured less by coverage and more by ‘real life’ results and the situations which are in some cases avoided.

It’s no secret that I almost left the PR industry altogether before launching Open Communications with my business partner Emma because of the way in which some agencies work. I didn’t want to go to lunch or out to parties, I didn’t want to charge by the hour working on campaigns I knew were over-priced and wouldn’t deliver and I didn’t want to feel like I was doing the clients I was working with a disservice by not going that extra mile.

What I did want was to work with journalists so that my clients would hit the headlines, I wanted to use communication to generate business, really get to the heart of the companies I was working for and be a part of their success. I wanted to advise them in the best way possible and explain in no uncertain terms that as a direct result of my actions their business was stronger and that was down to reputation, which was driven by PR and communications.

Thankfully I can now do all of these things. I have always been a champion of ‘real PR’ but I am pleased that others are now recognising the merits to working with agencies and practitioners.

Cynical or otherwise when you look at the organisations that have failed over recent years in many instances arguably the banks have been at fault but it is also interesting to note that many of them were lacking in direction, their customers and prospects weren’t aware of exactly what they offered and this was down to poor communication. As a result they weren’t selling and in turn ceased to exist.

I hope that this new attitude to PR continues and that businesses recognise the value of the services that practitioners and agencies offer.  The truth of the matter is that PR should be at the heart of any business model and in order to get it right you need to rely on a professional.

 

Never mind a gym membership – is your business in shape?

It’s that time of year again when all we hear about is detoxing, joining a gym and getting back in shape after eating and drinking far too much over the festive period. While we all take the time to consider our personal health during January, how many of us actually stop to ask if our business is fighting fit so that we are ready to take on whatever 2013 has to offer?

There’s no doubt that 2012 brought with it some challenges and that the news headlines were once again littered with announcements of companies falling into administration but that’s no reason to pull the covers over our heads and close the doors. If anything after a festive break and rest we should be ready and raring to go with great ideas and creative plans for the forthcoming year.

Whether it’s new opportunities, expansion and growth or more of the same we need to put all of our energies into getting excited about our plans and sharing them with our employees, customers and prospects. If we can pass on our enthusiasm and passion we can encourage others to do the same and this helps to keep our businesses, products and services front of mind.

Here at Open Communications, we are suggesting that businesses put together a list of their New Year’s resolutions for 2013 – but that first they focus on the company rather than themselves as an individual. These resolutions could be anything from improving internal communications to increase productivity, right through to generating new business through effective PR, marketing materials and use of relevant social media tools.

The easiest way to manage this process and get some real value out of the exercise is to write down your resolutions in one column and then put simple steps to achieving them in another. Although it sounds almost too straight forward, approaching challenges in this way means that you are more likely to work hard to achieve them.

It’s also a great excuse to ‘regroup’ and get your whole business involved and working together. Hold a meeting and find out what employees want to see from the company over the next twelve months.  Ask what drives them on and what they think makes the organisation different and exciting from others in the market? Encourage them to get behind the business and to want to be a part of its success during the year ahead.

The most important thing is to use the New Year to get motivated, organised and ready to learn something completely new that will add value to your company.

We would guess that many of the resolutions that people make will focus on a business communicating more effectively with an audience; this may be current customers, prospects or employees. Remember that in order to communicate you have to consider setting aside the time to do this and do it well. Reputation comes from the impression that you give and you need these to reflect your values and vision.

If you would like to start the New Year as you mean to go on and you want to get excited about the year ahead and all the benefits that it has to offer then think about what impression you want people to have of your company. What do you have to give (product or service), how does it differ from others and most importantly how are you going to let people know about it?

We are sure that 2013 is going to be a very exciting and productive year and we are looking forward to working with both current and prospective clients large and small. We hope that you will join us in making resolutions that we will work towards, keep and evolve throughout the year.

Here’s to a great 2013 and the many opportunities that it will bring.

Food for thought this Christmas

There was one headline in the news today which really caught my attention. The story suggests that children who sit around a table with their family during mealtimes are more likely to eat their recommended five fruit and vegetables a day.

Although I agree completely with this statement I also think that there are even greater benefits to sitting around a table together at mealtimes. As a family we try to do this as often as we can – it doesn’t always work out like that with one or both of us coming in late and the other playing out with friends – but we try when possible to make the effort.

The reason I’m so conscious of it is that with a teenager in the house it can be difficult to have the chance to catch up. Plus when we get in from work we fall into bad habits and turn on our laptops or iPads meaning we pretty much ignore each other all evening other than the odd grunt or murmur of agreement here and there. Mealtimes are the perfect opportunity to communicate and to natter, laugh and generally engage with each other.

Although our worlds are very much consumed by social media and technology (I’m texting my husband about what we should do for dinner as I write this blog and sending a Facebook message to my step son to let him know what time it will be ready!) I still feel that there should be importance placed on quality time together.

I don’t want to sound too ‘fluffy’ and I’m certainly not expecting any awards from Super Nanny anytime soon but I know that mealtimes in our house are our time and that after thinking about it this is one of the reasons that I enjoy Christmas so much.

We all get together and have a huge lunch, where we all spend hours catching up. We don’t count our vegetable intake and there’s rarely a piece of fruit insight – unless you count sugar coated or dipped in chocolate – but all of the food is freshly prepared and delicious. Better still once we’ve finished our meals we have a nap and it starts all over again!

So, this Christmas I’m going to put it out there – I think that everyone should take the time to come together and just think about how much fun it can be to sit together around a table, eat, drink, chat and be merry. Perhaps if we all appreciate the time we have with each other face-to-face we will do it more often.

Merry Christmas everyone!

An innocent drink with a banker adds value to PR

On occasion there will be a conference or networking session which catches my eye and yesterday I found myself surrounded by bankers (insert your own pun here!) at an event in Bradford.

The Ignite Business Growth seminar was hosted by Barclays and was pitched as an opportunity to hear key note speaker, Adam Balon, one of the founding entrepreneurs behind Innocent Drinks, speak about his business journey and the challenges faced by the brand.

I never like to pass up the opportunity to hear it from those who have ‘been there and done that’ and so went along. Getting the negative out of the way early on in this blog, I was extremely disappointed to find that although Adam was in fact a key note speaker we were watching him through a screen.

It became quickly apparent that the seminar was a collective of smaller events around the country all tuned in to the same station, so to speak. I would have found this quite impressive, particularly as the use of social media and twitter (using a dedicated hashtag #BarcT2M) at the event was a great example of how to use these tools for effective networking, but the fact that this was almost hidden from delegates was not my idea of best practice.

Anyway, on with the show. We were first introduced to Luke Hodson, the brains behind promotional merchandise company Awesome Merchandise. Luke explained how he had taken an idea, which started in the bedroom of a student house he shared with 10 others, to become a successful enterprise turning over more than £2 million a year.

Explaining how he had turned to simple marketing techniques, such as sending out his own products as free samples, to encourage engagement with prospects and build the business was refreshing. It may not set the world alight but ideas like this work.

Luke even mentioned a really simple, yet effective, campaign he had launched using a mug, which had an image of an arrow on it saying ‘I’m awesome’. He sent the mugs out and asked that people have their picture taken with them and send it back. The response was overwhelming with people taking the trouble to have their ‘mug shot’ taken in a whole host of weird and wonderful places, including America.

It was really pleasing to see a local business doing good and to listen to someone who clearly has their head screwed on and the drive, passion and dedication that is needed to make it work.

Next it was over to Barclays to do a not so hard sell before Adam took to the stage.

I don’t know what I was expecting but I have to admit that Adam was a real inspiration. The way he told the story of Innocent Drinks was funny, charming and surprisingly down to earth.  What was most interesting about Adam’s talk was the way that he used experiences alongside tips to make it relevant to the audience.

In some of these events you can find yourself wondering why you are wasting your time listening to some multi-millionaire witter on about how they finally got to the top and that they can confirm that money really can buy you happiness – well, nice work but that isn’t really helpful.

Adam was different. He mentioned that in order to develop a sustainable and successful business you had to have values, vision and purpose. He also mentioned the importance of having a clear tone of voice for the brand, which is used across all communications.

This was music to my ears. We constantly explain to clients and prospects that you need to have an established tone of voice in order to give a brand personality and to provide consistent communications across all platforms.  It makes sense when you think about it but many businesses carry on regardless, leaving customers and prospects wondering why in one sense the company is personable and friendly and in another professional and aggressive.

It was apparent from Adam’s talk that the team from Innocent had done a fantastic job on their PR. They had used the media to secure a listing with Harvey Nichols and from then on went from strength to strength. TV, radio and print media were eager to cover the story of the three boys from London who had launched a fruit juice business from a back bedroom and they made the most of it.

Adam was eager to point out the value of PR and of course I couldn’t agree more. I had no idea that PR would be such a strong topic during this session but I really do hope that people in the room were paying attention and recognising just how important clear, strategic and managed communications and messaging are to a business and its long term success.

The session wasn’t just about the successes of Innocent, although mention was made to the fact that in just three years it went stratospheric making the three owners multi-millionaires and allowing them to employ a full team to support their enterprise, there was also talk of the things that went wrong including dressing as Nuns and trying to ‘pull’ at London fashion week – but I’ll leave those little nuggets under wraps just in case you have a chance to see the Innocent team speak in the future!

Overall the session was inspiring, engaging and useful and certainly made me step back and think about Open Communications and what we do well and perhaps not so well. I strongly believe that you need that reality check sometimes and am sure that other businesses in the room felt the same.

So, well done Barclays, I still think you should have been more honest about the way the session was being run but overall a really good event, which was well worth attending.

Open Comms makes a move and secures two new clients

“Open Communications, the PR and marketing communications agency based at Nostell Priory Estate Yard near Wakefield, is celebrating four years in business with two new account wins and a move to larger premises.”

How exciting, we are finally in a position to announce our office move (it was three months in the planning!). After achieving four years of growth we have moved to purpose built offices at Nostell Priory Estate Yard. It’s exciting times and not least because we now have our very own meeting room and a store cupboard for all of the products we manage for our clients – Hannah still looks gleeful everytime she comes in and doesn’t have to move a pile of boxes to get to her desk.

In addition to the office move we can also confirm that we have been appointment as preferred PR supplier to Al-Murad Tiles, the largest independent tiles re-seller in the UK and Abduls takeaway and diner with sites in Pontefract and Wakefield.

We will be managing the PR and promotions for both businesses and will work with the teams to generate campaigns that run throughout the year increasing footfall and improving brand awareness.

It has been an interesting and eventful four years to say the least. We set out to create a straight talking PR agency that would care less about air kissing and more about achieving results and that’s exactly what we have done. As a result, we now have new premises and a list of clients that we are incredibly proud of.

As well as securing retained clients, over the years we have also developed a range of services including Open for New Business, an offering which makes PR accessible to smaller businesses and Open 27/7, crisis management for companies who require support during their most challenging times.

Since we launched in 2008 Open Communications has developed as an agency and we now work with some of the UK’s leading businesses including snack manufacturer, Intersnack and confectionery brand HARIBO. We have also been proud to work with smaller businesses who we continue to support as they develop and grow.

All in all we are a very proud and passionate team and would like to take this opportunity to thank our clients, our suppliers, colleagues and those we network with. Here’s to four years and many more to come!

The benefits of being office based

At Open Communications we always talk about understanding our clients business so that we are able to make realistic and appropriate recommendations to support their PR, social media and corporate communications briefs.

As an agency we always think it is important to take the chance, where possible, to work from our clients offices in order to get a real idea of how they work and what ‘a day in the life of’ that business would really be like.

I had the pleasure of spending such a day with Gent Visick recently. We were asked to look at some copywriting for them and suggested that it would be more efficient in terms of time and effective in relation to approval if I worked from their offices – rather than calling and emailing every few minutes.

The day was a real success and it was certainly a huge help from my side. It can be difficult to write copy when you don’t truly understand a business – but when you are literally surrounded by it and listening to what is going on you get more of an insight and better still a sense of the personality of that company.

This Friday I will once again be working with a client in their offices and will be looking forward to ‘Fat Friday’, which I have been warned is the name given to the only day of the working week when all diets are banned.

It is this insight that you don’t get when you maintain a ‘them’ and ‘us’ relationship with your clients. This is why when we started Open Comms, many moons ago now, we decided to work WITH our clients rather than FOR them.

Not only does this make building relationships easier but it means that we are able to work as a genuine extension of their teams and also that they are able to share even the most confidential of information with us knowing that it will remain just that – confidential.

I wouldn’t change our approach to the way we work with our clients as I believe it is of mutual benefit. What I don’t understand is agencies who clock watch and prefer to give exactly what their clients pay for and nothing else. This might be commercially beneficial in the short term but longer term I still think we’ve got it right. But then I would.

 

Don’t reinvent your business

Since we launched Open Communications in 2008, we have learnt a lot – not least the difference between a P9, P11 and P45!  We have also done a great deal of networking and now have a number of suppliers who we regularly rely on to provide us with the products and services we need.

What has always worried me is that there are lots of people we meet who say that in order to ‘stay ahead of the game’ you have to constantly reinvent your business. I don’t agree with this at all. I often come across people who claim to do this and then that and then the other and the harsh reality is that they don’t do any one thing well.

We are a PR agency and we also provide clients with marketing communications – in simple terms we are all about the words. If you want to communicate with someone and you want to bring a campaign to life then we will support you to do it.

We work with businesses of all sizes and there have been times when I have to admit that I can understand why some agencies profess to be ‘full service’ when the truth is that they just outsource to freelancers.

There are two things that are wrong with this approach; you are not being honest with clients and it’s likely to come back and bit you on the backside and any company managing an account in this way is going to take on the hassle of justifying someone else’s work when / if it goes wrong, even worse the client will believe it’s down to you!

Rather than reinventing your business, why not add products or services which complement your current offering. As an example we launched Open for New Business, which allows us to work with smaller companies who cannot afford a retained agency.

The benefits are that a smaller business gets access to our knowledge and time, while we extend our offering to a wider customer base.  Since launching this service in 2010 we have had some excellent feedback and as we have been open and honest with clients about why we are doing this and what exactly we offer it works.

Open for New Business doesn’t mean that we can’t work with bigger business, it just means that we can also work with smaller companies who are in the position of wanting to know more without having the budgets to invest in a month on month service.

If we started to offer design, web development, sampling and event management then that would be a different thing entirely and I’m sure our clients first question would be to see examples of previous campaign and proven results – oops, we don’t have any doesn’t sound too good!

So next time you hear someone suggesting that you reinvent your business, think twice. What will your customers think if you suddenly start offering a host of new services – and be honest, would you have the time to do all of these things to the standards that your customers expect? If the answer is no, then it’s worth going back to the one thing you’re good at and building a reputation for doing it really well.

For flood sake!

Once again the weather is taking its toll on business and not only those who are struggling to get to and from work but of course those who provide the transport in the first place and then there are those who are self-employed and have to open their doors or take their products and services to their customers to earn a living.

The biggest problem with the weather impacting on business is that there is very little you can do about it. It is difficult to assume that a situation is going to be as bad as it is until it happens and as for predicting it – well, we all try to leave that to the weatherman!

Natural disasters come in all forms and flooding is just one of them. I was surprised to see that Catterick was one of the areas that was most badly affected this time around, with many of the roads resembling rivers.

More importantly I didn’t have to rely on the news to let me know the scale of the problem – my younger cousins, family and friends were posting regular Facebook updates to actually show me almost real time what was happening. I had access to photographs from my home village, videos from the local town and then update’s every minute from those stuck in traffic trying to get home.

Another great source of information was twitter, with local journalists posting regular tweets and pictures of what was happening, as it was happening.

Although we often put social media into a box labelled ‘business’ it would be much more appropriate to place it in a box labelled ‘communication’. If it hadn’t been for my friends and family updating me about the flooding at home and the fact that I follow local news reporters on twitter then I would have had to rely on regional news online – which is fine but not as frequently updated as I would have liked during a situation like this.

When people have stopped tweeting and adding pictures and videos to Facebook perhaps we can take some time to reflect on this disaster. The clean-up process will no doubt take some time with businesses, schools and of course those who have had their homes flooded needing to go through lengthy processes with their insurance but at least we know that there will be a normal again.

It’s at times like this that we need to remember that things could be worse. It’s not easy when you have a mop in your hand but perhaps we should all take the time to think and be thankful for what we do have, rather than what we don’t.