Tag: social media

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.

 

Why careful doesn’t mean boring

I’ve worked with lots of creative people throughout my career, many of whom I totally respect for the fantastic work and ideas they have developed, but I can’t help feeling that fairly conclusively there has always been a belief that when you work with large marketing and PR agencies careful has to mean boring.

I disagree. I think in some instances careful should be changed to ‘managed by professionals’.

If I was the owner of a brand and I had hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of pounds to spend I wouldn’t want to let that budget loose on a team that would come up with stunts and ‘creative’ ideas that could be to the detriment of my business longer term.

Here’s the thing – pretty pictures can be very appealing and they can even make what in the cold light of day would be a ludicrous idea seem like a brainwave. I’ve seen it happen many times before and it usually lands on the door of the PR agency to sort it out once the ‘big idea’ hits the media and is found to be the emperor’s new clothes, or worse.

At Open Communications we have always maintained that we would work within a client’s budget to come up with campaigns that first and foremost meet with objectives. I can hear some agencies groan just reading this but it’s true. What’s the point of even employing an agency otherwise?

We could come up with yet another stunt that put yet another over-sized object in Trafalgar Square, we could consider a one off activity that would mean we claimed much of the budget in management and had little to do for the rest of the year and we could chase industry awards with our big ideas but the reality is that we just don’t work like that.

We try to create long term strategies that we can implement over time to ensure that our clients engage across all channels and with all audiences. We use online, in print, digital, outdoor and sponsorship. We don’t profess to be all things to all people but one of the things that I am most proud of is that we are good at what we do – and that’s PR, traditional and online.

So for all those who think that careful is boring just consider how you would manage your project or brief if you were playing with your own money.

 

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.