Tag: social media

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.

What does social media really mean to your customers?

Within the marketing industry the term social media is now widely accepted and used on a daily basis. People clump together a series of tools, which in the most basic sense are controlled by the Internet, and we refer to this collective as ‘social media’ or digital.

Some people are well aware of what social media groupings include, in particular tools such as Facebook, twitter, pinterest and possibly even foursquare and google+ but many don’t. There are still people who would prefer not to understand social media and who will remain resolute that the best way to target customers is through traditional methods; advertising, marketing, PR and *gasp* face-to-face meetings.

There is no right or wrong approach to social media as far as I’m concerned. I think there are a lot of agencies who make social media sound more complicated than it actually is in order to bump up their prices and charge a fortune for a relatively simple schedule of activity, which could be implemented by the client. There are others who do amazing things and rightly deliver on what they promise.

I also see the opinions of business owners in relation to social media. There are a number of businesses who could really benefit from having a greater understanding of the basic techniques that can be used to help drive the communications of a company online but are still very sceptical.

The most important question isn’t do I understand social media but what do my customers and most importantly prospects think about the tools that are available to them and which are they actively using?

Is it likely that even a small proportion of your target audience will be searching for information about your products and services online? If the answer is yes, then you have to question your approach to social media. You also need to find out if people are discussing your brand and business and what they are saying about the service that you are delivering.

If you are still resolute that there is no chance that your customers will be online or using these tools then your time is  better spent elsewhere – perhaps with a get together, colourful piece of direct marketing or promotion, which will drive footfall to your store or business.

One thing to consider however is while you are ignoring social media and what it could do for you, it’s likely that your competitors are making the most of it and you need to question whether you are happy with that.

Do you know your QR from your AR?

It can be a challenge when you work within the media industry, not least because things are changing so quickly – online and in print, digital and viral, integrated messaging and social media platforms – it’s all to take into account when you are coming up with brand plans for clients and that’s even before you decide who is responsible for doing what.

Although we don’t profess to be all things to all people, we are a creative agency and we will make recommendations knowing that it isn’t our team who will bring them to life – or bill at the end of the month. The reason we do this is because if we genuinely feel an idea will meet with the brands objectives we will suggest it – and we all know that no idea is a bad idea!

Another reason we try to go beyond the boundaries of being a traditional PR agency is that we are consumers ourselves and we understand that we, as others, expect brands to want to engage with us, to offer us things for free or deliver great promotions that save us time and money.

The more that a brand invests in effectively communicating with its customers the more they are seen to care and with that greater loyalty and brand awareness is achieved – or that’s the general idea. Of course, it doesn’t always work like that and some brands get it spectacularly wrong, while others can seem to do no wrong.

When reading some trade publications recently in the office, Hannah pointed out some relatively new technology which would allow a brand to bring an advert or promotion to life at the touch of a button. Basically you download an app called Blippar or Aurasma Lite and then that technology allows you to view adverts and promotions using AR codes – or image recognition as it is also termed.

I have to admit that I was never a big fan of QR (quick response) codes, which I felt were basically a mechanic to link to websites and more often than not promotions pages, so this was never going to immediately appeal. What I find myself asking is if anyone will actually be bothered enough to go to the trouble of downloading this technology in the first place, never mind then going to the further trouble of scanning the AR codes to see what brands are doing to engage with them beyond the printed promotion.

BUT on reading through further articles about the technology it has certainly made us think. Imagine if you could encourage people to engage with your brand through an online tool and if you could really bring that brand to life – suddenly an integrated campaign could take shape in front of your very eyes. It could literally jump off the shelf. How exciting would that be!

We aren’t a digital agency but we do work with social media content and with other likeminded agencies to create campaigns that leave a lasting impression and I have to admit that we have spoken to a few brands already about AR and its possible benefits and pitfalls. As an evolution from QR codes it’s fair to say that they are likely to become redundant but if there is something all the more impressive, bigger and better to take its place then I’m sat up and listening.

I would be really interested to hear what others think about it? Is it a fad or something that will change the way that brands interact with their customers forever? Is this a turning point that will see us all understanding our Blippar from our Aurasma and our QR from our AR?

It’s certainly one to watch and I can’t wait to see which brands really embrace the technology to create rich content that can be shared and genuinely meet with expectations, while more importantly achieving brand objectives.

Social media, editorial or advertising – where’s the line?

Ok, I don’t mind saying that I am confused. There was a recent story in The Drum which reported that an Australian court had ruled that comments posted on a facebook advertisements should themselves be considered advertisements – are you keeping up? That means that the advertiser, in this case Smirnoff, would be held responsible for the comments of others.

So basically a person’s comment is no longer considered editorial, despite the fact that it is opinion led and is not necessarily promoted or endorsed by a given brand in any way. It is now, as per Australian law, advertising – although not paid for! Confused? Yes, me too.

This is where the lines with social media start to blur and real confusion creates misunderstanding and concern over whether brands should even consider using online tools for promotion. Many business owners I come across consider it to be too much like hard work and they literally close a door on it altogether.

We work with a number of brands who have active social media profiles from MAOAM who have more than 600,000 likes on their Facebook page and more than 1,000 followers on twitter to Pom-Bear who have 30,000 likes on Facebook. We monitor the pages and update with posts that are relevant to each brand and their audience.

Some people argue that the brand should manage this internally but as we work so closely with our clients it becomes almost irrelevant. We work with them to engage with consumers and to ensure that when questions are asked they are answered appropriately using the correct tone of voice and approach – every client is different so it is essential that we get this right.

Obviously we are unable to monitor a brand page all day, everyday and so on occasion (although very rarely) someone will put up a post which we would deem to be unreasonable. We always remove these posts – more to ensure that others are not offended than anything else but sometimes it may be a couple of hours before we get to them.

With this new ‘law’ the brands we work for would be held accountable for the comments of others and would be liable for any action that was taken as a result of them. Thankfully a further story was issued by the Drum to say that the ASA were not considering reviewing the policy in relation to brand social media comments in the UK but it does beg the question how long will it be before this is considered.

Personally I think this is balmy. The whole idea of social media is to encourage comments and opinion from a mass audience and admittedly some people abuse that but then some people aren’t particularly nice when you meet them in the street, it doesn’t mean they are doing something which will be liable.

What does everyone else think? Should a brand be held liable for the comments of others whether promotional or otherwise? And if this is the case then should social media become another advertising medium, which does not accept editorial, and be done with it.

 

Business down but PR win for Britvic

Today’s headlines report a profit fall in Q3 for soft drinks manufacturer Britvic leading to a loss of approximately £15 – £23m. Now before we all take a sharp intake of breath, the business reports that this is as a result of the poor weather and more significantly the product recall of the brands Fruit Shoot and Fruit Shoot Hydro bottles, using a new sports cap.

Whereas most people will be looking at this story and wondering how the brand will recoup the losses, I read it very differently. Within the story, which I read first on The Business Desk, the journalist chooses to use the words ‘well-publicised product recall’.

As a communications agency that commends great work and is not too proud to take our hats off to those who do it well – I would personally like to say congratulations to the team responsible for managing the communication for the recall.

Before you think I’ve finally lost my marbles let me explain.

Ok, so it wasn’t the best story that Britvic will ever have to deal with, no one wants to come into work and have to fend off questions about safety issues, particularly not for food and drink products and let’s be honest it shouldn’t have happened in the first place – but it did, so as a press team you have to get on with it.

Overall I think the situation was well managed, handled appropriately and did the job. Everyone was aware of the product fault and why the brand was recalling the items. The statement was clear and the call to action made sense – you weren’t left wondering if the bottles had been tampered with or if little Jonny’s pack up was more of a danger than a snack at lunchtime.

It can be a difficult call when you have to make decisions like this, but Britvic seem to have made their mind up quickly and as a result they deserve the respect of their consumers. The money that went into advertising the recall, as well as relying on the support of a PR team, won’t have come cheap, so when you add that to the loss of a potential £23m it is enough to make your eyes water but before you go dashing for the hankies turn the situation on its head.

A well-managed crisis situation can do a brand the world of good and not only does it get consumers taking about you, it also puts you in the spot light when it matters most. Today’s press are full of interviews, comments and quotes from Britvic, reiterating their concern and commitment to the consumers. They play down the recall as something that happens to all brands, yet do not dismiss the seriousness of the situation.

This is exactly why it is imperative for brands to have a committed and experienced PR team to deal with crisis situations. It isn’t a game when you get a call to recall a product it is make or break and I am pleased to see some businesses getting it right.

So, once again, well done Britvic. It’s hit you hard this quarter but it won’t stop me from purchasing your products and I’m sure others will feel the same

 

 

Nike – Just do it, unless the ASA says no!

For some time now there has been an on-going debate about who ‘owns’ social media; digital or PR agencies. The problem being that while one can be engaging visually, creating games, competitions and advertising which attract attention, the other provides consistent content, with an appropriate tone of voice to encourage two way communication and increase ‘organic’ engagement with consumers.

The line is blurred to say the least, but as a PR agency we find that sticking to the words means that we are able to offer clients the content, while we leave the digital aspects and design to other third parties that we work with.

We don’t find this to be problematic as when each digital campaign finishes we simply take control of the content and engage with consumers to provide a sustainable level of conversation. There’s nothing worse than brands that push out big campaigns and then have nothing in place to support the aftermath.  The outcome being you engage with thousands of people who become brand ambassadors, are willing to listen to the messages being pushed to them, only for the brand to turn their back on them once their budgets run dry – not good.

Another interesting dilemma to come out of social engagement has been the line between advertising and editorial. As social media is often positioned as a direct interpretation or opinion of a person or a brand it would be perceived to be editorial – however as platforms such as twitter have evolved is has become increasingly difficult to ascertain whether a comment or opinion has been influenced by a third party.

The problem has arisen from celebrities who have used their personal twitter accounts to ‘tweet’ about brands that either pay them or sponsor them to do so. The ASA have challenged two high profile cases; Snickers and Nike.

Now despite the fact that I work in editorial I’m not sure that I agree that the ASA should be in a position to demand that people delete the content that they choose to have on their personal twitter feeds – promotional or otherwise.

What’s even more baffling is that within the most recent case involving Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere the hashtag #makeitcount.gonike.me.makeitcount was clearly visible. Surely any idiot can recognise that this is a promotional tweet?

I expect that this situation will only get worse, with the ASA monitoring social media more closely than ever – but there has to be a balance. If I suddenly become a high profile multi-millionaire (unlikely but you never know!) and I decide to tweet that I love a particular brand then is that considered advertising?

Equally is it wrong for celebrities to thank brands for sending them free products? Isn’t it just polite? I am interested to see what others think about this. I don’t think there is necessarily a right or wrong answer but I do think we need to be careful to ensure that social media platforms are able to be used as a platform for people to engage, interact and use their rights to free speech, whether that be about a brand or not.

The Dragon’s Den Effect

Dragon’s Den is one of few business ‘reality’ television programmes that I have continued to enjoy watching. It is informative and although I often feel some of the comments are unfair and a little insensitive it does give the viewer an insight into how it is to own a business – people don’t walk around on egg shells and they don’t give you ‘owt for nowt’.

I quite like the mix of Dragon’s in the Den now and I really admire and respect most of them, particularly as they have come from nothing. What always gets me is that the people who choose to feature on the show know what it is all about and they understand their product or service inside out.

They have real passion, energy and excitement by what they are doing, selling or making. Then they stand in front of these entrepreneurs – who have a wealth of knowledge that you could tap into – and ask for a hand out. Now here’s the bit… how many times have you heard people ask for money to support marketing?

It is almost always the case. If it isn’t suggested as the reason that the whole sum is required, it is in there somewhere. So why do people struggle with marketing budgets so much? What makes them think that marketing is so expensive in the first place? And why go to a leading entrepreneur so that they can pass you on to their preferred PR or marketing agency?

There is no doubt that marketing and effective communication are an essential element to a business strategy and the two should be absolutely aligned with objectives, but why do these entrepreneurs find it so difficult? I have decided to call it the ‘Dragon’s Den Effect’.

It’s a nasty heritage of stories which include bad advice and burnt fingers.

Business ‘A’ goes to big agency ‘B’, they are blown away with pretty pictures, they receive a catchy ‘logo’ and perhaps a quirky strap line, they then receive a big bill and that’s that. Job done. No questions asked. No further forward with a strategy – but you have a nice logo!

Now I genuinely think that times have changed, particularly since the last recession. It almost seems that it is becoming the trend to rely on smaller agencies that are genuinely doing great things. Not only are they often more cost effective but they also (in my experience) care more about their clients – irrelevant of size or budget.

You don’t have to work in a ‘full service’ agency to get the best – just choose them. You get to handpick the very best designers, copy writers, PR people and brand managers. Some agencies will tell you this takes time and is difficult to manage but I disagree – better to have a collective of the best, who can work together, than the internal politics that come from a big agency; who gets what budgets, who is first point of contact for the client and who takes the glory when it goes well or handles the fall out when things go wrong?

So next time you come across a business who is going through the ‘Dragon’s Den Effect’ just ask them what they are doing about it. If the answer is keeping their head down and hoping for the best then I’m afraid to say that ‘I’m out’.

However if they want to chat about how to get excited by their business and put in place some excellent PR and communication campaigns, which meet with objectives and manage reputation – well, that’s a different story altogether. I’m not just in, I’m here and waiting in the den.