The Language of 2020
2020, the year when communication became critical on so many levels; from ‘we’re open' or ‘we’re closed’ for business to keeping in touch with family and friends to the Government’s confusing communications regarding how we should all navigate a global pandemic with one set of increasingly complex guidelines after another! (Who can forget Matt Lucas’s parody of Boris Johnson – work from home, don’t work from home or his equally brilliant publicity for GBBO "stay alert, protect cake, save loaves").
One thing is clear: language matters.
2020 has been a year of acronyms – WFH; PPE; NHS; the R number – if you don’t know what they stand for, where have you been? Probably hiding under a duvet if you’ve got any sense!
It’s also been the year when businesses ‘pivoted’ and ‘learnt lessons from lockdown’; children were ‘home-schooled’; adults ‘worked from home’ and we all ‘clapped for carers’.
Technology became our ‘lockdown lifeline’ with virtual Zoom, Teams and WhatsApp video meetings and webinars keeping us all connected and communicating.
We’ve cancelled holidays; took part in ‘eat out to help out’; invested in home gym kits; worked out in our living rooms; become walkers, runners, cyclists; baked sourdough and banana bread; wiled away hours with board games and jigsaw puzzles; worked our way through book lists; listened to podcasts; live-streamed cultural events; exhausted Netflix and held virtual wine tastings, dinner parties and quizzes.
Rainbows appeared in windows; we got behind local businesses; we found a new sense of ‘togetherness and community spirit’; we embraced Captain Tom as a national hero and jumped up and down in the living room with Joe Wickes.
In these ‘unprecedented times’, we’ve navigated ‘unchartered territory’, ‘minimised risk’ via ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolating’, ‘shielding’, ‘washing hands’, ‘sanitising’ (everything!), ‘taking out’, ‘clicking and collecting’, ‘wearing masks’ – all of which has become part of our ‘new normal’.
As communicators, PR professionals have had a giant role to play: helping to shape communications, hone the tone, use the right vocabulary and manage brand messaging to respond to the mood of the nation and the ever-changing status quo.
An invisible, silent enemy has elicited a completely new lexicon and communication has never been more vital.
The Hoot & Holler A to Z of PR
Here is the complete alphabet of top PR tips from the Hoot & Holler #PRAtoZ, which I ran as a month-long series of daily tips on my social media feeds during September 2020.
The oft’ misunderstood tool in the marketing toolbox, PR isn’t rocket science but it does take a certain amount of know-how and skill.
Whether you actively manage your PR or not, every organisation, business or brand has a reputation. Taking the decision to actively manage your reputation by implementing a PR campaign or strategy will:
A is for Angle – if you’re pitching a story to the media you need a news angle or something that will grab the journalist’s attention and that will in turn appeal to their readers. So, for example, say you’re a drink brand, re-packaging your core line – that alone probably isn’t going to gain you column inches. Imagine how many companies are regularly doing that. You’re probably going to have to take an ad to get that in front of your key audience. However, if your new packaging is truly mould breaking, category changing, market-leading, then now you have our attention. Seasoned PR professionals are great at spotting a good story.
B is for brand awareness – if you are looking to raise your brand awareness this is definitely something that PR can do. By generating column inches, sparking a debate, putting forward an opinion you are getting your brand name out there, increasing your visibility and engaging with different audiences.
B is also for boilerplate – this is the bit at the bottom of your press release that gives some standard additional information about the company / campaign / campaign partners e.g. where you’re based, how many employees you have, what you do (in a nutshell). It can be used on all of your communications.
C is for content creation – as communications experts, PR pros are ideally placed to create content for websites, newsletters, blogs and social media. This can be part form part of your integrated marketing campaign so that your blog, social media posts and company news reflect the messages and stories you are putting out to external media as part of your media relations campaign. Although, the tone and style of your brand content will be less formal, a PR expert can help you develop a style that reflects your brand values and ethos.
C is also for caption – making sure your hi-res images to accompany your stories are captioned. This is a pretty basic one, but good PR is about attention to detail and making life easy for the media – the easier you make it, the more likely you are to get featured. So, if your images are captioned – by this we mean that the file is saved by brand name / product name / name and job title (for a person) plus a date this is going to make matching your image to the copy you submitted for a feature so much easier.
D is for ‘Don’t miss the deadline!’ – the media world works quickly, so PRs have to follow suit and be agile. This means getting information over to journalists in a timely fashion, which is often yesterday! If you can’t meet the lead time then you’re out, no matter how good your story is.
One of journalists’ pet hates is when they decide to run a story and the company is unable to respond in time. The journalist shouldn’t have to chase you. Keep them informed with realistic timings. Have material ready to go – a range of hi-res images (portrait, landscape, cut-out pack shots and lifestyle), ready to use approved quotes, signed-off press releases and quick access to a spokesperson for interviews. This is a sure-fire way to encourage the journalist to work with your organisation again in the future as they’ll trust you to deliver what you say you will.
E is for exclusive – if you’ve got a great story and you have a particular publication that you’re keen to get into, consider offering an exclusive. This means that the publication gets first dibs on the story and you don’t share it with competing outlets. In exchange, you should get some good quality coverage.
E is for earned media / editorial – achieving positive earned media or editorial is almost always the end-game in media relations (there are times when you will be doing your utmost to stay out of the media). By persuading the journalist that your product deserves to be featured because of its great sustainability credentials, you are earning the editorial. Investing or partnering with an expert to bring your brand credibility e.g. a healthy food product that has proven immune-boosting properties would do well to work with a qualified nutritionist who can provide expert comment.
F is for features / forward features – many publications, particularly B2B, have a calendar of editorial feature opps that they work to. This is something you can tap into by finding out who is writing the feature and getting them to share the feature brief or synopsis with some Q&A. You then have the opportunity to supply some expert insight and get credited.
G is for giveaway – this is another relatively low-cost tool in media relations for gaining exposure for your brand. If you have an allocation of product, merchandise or tickets that you’re willing to giveaway to meet a publication’s minimum prize value, then this commitment guarantees you control of your copy and image. You can write the copy, control the messaging and pick a branded image to be used without directly paying for the space. It can deliver some high-profile brand exposure for relatively low cost and generates good will.
G is also for goody bag – media outlets are often looking for branded items as gifts for goody bags for events they are hosting and this can be a way of getting your brand or new product into the hands of some influential people. Just make sure the profile of the event audience is a good fit for your brand.
H is for hot potato – if you have an issue that needs managing then this is a job for a PR specialist. PR pros can help to manage your communications strategy and draft statements for use in all your communications. Ideally, good crisis communications should involve strategic PR consultancy at management level early on, so that advice can be sought before things get out of control. In the long term, PRs can identify potential hot potatoes and put in place some crisis planning, they can also help with media training your spokespeople for the future.
H is also for hours – thinking of hiring an agency or an independent PR? Most work by the hour, so you’ll agree a set number of hours per month to suit your budget and priorities and the consultancy will keep track of activity and hours via a timesheet and monthly reporting system.
I is for influencer marketing – did you know that working with an influencer on social media is a great way of increasing awareness, gaining new followers and even generating sales by gifting them a discount code? Influencers are super versatile and will create a story or post or even a giveaway in return for gifted items. If you have some promotional budget available, they can create a blog post, a series of posts or even do an Instagram takeover where they guest on your channel bringing fresh content and a new audience.
Key things to look at when picking your influencer partners are post engagements, number of followers and is their content high quality, professional, do they use correct hashtags e.g. #gifted or #ad. Also, is there a good match between the influencer’s brand persona and your brand’s ethos and values?
J is for journalists – journalists and PRs have always enjoyed a bit of a love/hate relationship in many ways, after all, on one hand, journalists want a juicy, warts-and-all story, while PRs, on the other hand, are protecting their organisation’s reputation and controlling the messaging. Mostly, the PR-journalist relationship is very productive and mutually beneficial: journalists are always on the hunt for new ideas for stories and features and a good PR – providing story angles, information, expert comment and images – can really make their life much easier and give them access to some good quality resources.
Follow the #journorequest on Twitter and check it regularly during the day to stay up-to-date on media request that are posted.
K & L
K is for kicker – part of a writer’s toolkit. Typically, the introduction to the lead, it’s a sentence or two that leads into the main article or blog. In terms of formatting it is usually set apart from the rest of the copy, drawing in the reader’s attention. A kicker can also be a paragraph that closes the article, summarizing the important points.
L is for lede – the introductory part of an article or blog. Usually the place where the writer includes the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ and the gist of the piece. When I was taught to write press releases as a junior PR exec we were always told that journalists will cut from the release from the bottom up so make sure you get your key information high up in the release.
M is for media monitoring and market intelligence – as a junior exec in my first role in a PR agency, media monitoring or press cuttings, as they were then known, were the bane of my life. We were victims of our own success, with a stack of press clippings to rival the Encyclopaedia Britannica at the end of each month that had to be collated, photocopied and bound (remember binders?) into books for clients. These days there are still specialist companies who can monitor print and online media and deliver inks and articles electronically that feature mentions of your business. As well as searching for your company or brand name you can also search for a generic term related to your business, which will throw up lots of articles showing what competitors are up to and giving you a snapshot of your industry and even potential new business leads.
A word to the wise, if you are investing in media monitoring, you need current NLA and CLA licences to cover copyright. There are also specific licence requirements for sharing articles and links internally or externally and even separate arrangements for re-publishing on social media and company websites.
N is for newsjacking – when you piggyback on a news story, event, film or tv series launch to create noise around your own brand. For example, let’s say you’re a dance studio or a brand of dancewear, you might create a series of social media posts or a press release based around a new series of Strictly Come Dancing to launch a new dance class to learn some steps from Strictly, comment on what happened that week, proffer your own take on movie week or simply discuss your favourite costume or dance style. Be creative, use it as a launch pad or just entertain your community and be visible!
O is for open letter – this is a powerful way of communicating with a wide audience via a letter intended to be read by many rather than a private missive between two individuals. There are two types of open letter:
Still not convinced about the value of PR?
P is for #powerofpr – check out the new campaign to promote the PR industry for the PRCA – more details on their website. #powerofpr is designed to champion the value of PR to business and society.
Don’t leave your reputation to chance – manage your messages and relationships and look after your reputation. It’s about what you do and how you behave more than what you say. Make sure you can back up your claims with bullet-proof credentials. This is where PR comes in at the strategic level of any business planning - advising and consulting on business decisions before a harmful decision is made.
Q is for Q&As – when you are launching a new product or service, it pays to think about things from your customer’s point of view. Developing some key questions and answers will stand you in good stead and ensure you have thought through and around any potential pitfalls. By using prepared Q&As, your team can be consistent in the answers they are giving. It’s also a good idea to have Q&As for the media, who will be researching their story, asking their own questions and looking for fresh angles.
Q is also for quotes – always good to include a quote in your press releases which adds relevant information and insight to your story e.g. it can talk about the motivation for a product or service launch and the benefits it brings to your customers. Providing well-written, punchy quotes can also be an excellent way of getting your business into an industry feature or business story – the media are always looking for expert insight and opinions.
R is for reach – unless you have an incredible marketing & PR budget it’s unlikely that you can stretch to every media opportunity on offer so it’s all about prioritising and targeting the media outlets or influencers who are already talking to your customers or potential customers. In order to make an informed decision, you need to know more about a publication’s circulation and readership demographic or if it’s a blogger you are targeting, find out the DA (Domain Authority) of their blog and their audience reach or for an influencer, check out what sort of engagement they achieve on their posts – the number of followers isn’t enough alone. Most publications have a media pack that will give you all this kind of information and most serious bloggers and influencers will also supply a media pack or at least be able to give you their key stats.
S is for stats – the media love a stat! Sharing some market insight via some research you’ve commissioned is almost guaranteed to get you some column inches. Omnibus surveys are a cost-effective way of asking questions to inform your business practice and comparing trends within markets. It also allows you to position your business as the experts in your field. On the other hand, quirky stats such as the most popular time and place to drink your morning cuppa (if you’re a tea or coffee company) are also great for grabbing headlines.
Day T is for testimonials – customer testimonials are the best way to increase customer confidence and trust in your brand. If a third party who has no vested interest in your business is singing your praises this is the best kind of PR, third party endorsement. How many times have you won business based on a recommendation or used a business based on a friend’s recommendation? Don’t be afraid to share testimonials on your website, on your social media channels and in your customer communications.
U is for understanding your customer – great brands know exactly who their customer is and what their customers want. Thinking about a FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) brand which often has mass appeal, customers will fall into different categories with different motivations for buying a product. In this case you’ll need to segment your messages to show you understand each sub-set of customers.
On the other hand, if you know that the majority of your customers specifically fall into the millennial and generation z segments of the population, then you can use market research studies to understand what motivates them. Even better, poll your customers and ask them what they want. This will inform your customer communications and ensure you are providing relevant blog and social media content that is highly targeted, useful and personalised.
V is for voice and video content – two ways in which you can engage your customer via your social media channels and customer newsletters. Your brand voice needs to chime with your audience. Imagine you are sitting opposite one of your customers telling them about your business over a coffee? Are you using their language, are you holding their attention, is what you are saying relevant to their lifestyle and needs?
Video = hot content. You only have to look at all the ways that are available now for showcasing video content to know that this is a sure-fire way of grabbing your audience’s attention: Instagram reels; IGTV; YouTube; Facebook Live; Tik Tok. Video is a dynamic way of connecting with your audience and great for demonstrating a recipe, showing customers the Covid-19 safety precautions that you have put in place at your shop or just simply putting a face to a name. Social media algorithms love video content.
W is for White Paper – an in-depth, authoritative paper or report, which an organisation can publish and own as part of a wider series of blog posts. This is a good PR tool for B2B businesses who are looking to educate their audience about a particular topic and the challenges surrounding it for their potential customers / partners. It’s a vehicle for presenting evidence and facts in the form of research and data and exploring solutions to the problem. The idea is to influence buying decisions of potential customers but not to overtly sell a product.
Did you know that the term White Paper originated from government publications that sought to explain and educate about complex issues?
X is for X factor and eXceptional – a good PR can identify the X factor that is going to make your brand sing in the media. It’s about pulling out key messages, USPs and focusing on what makes it eXceptional from all the other products out there. It might be a carbon-neutral production facility that promotes looking after our planet and avoiding global pandemics or a completely sugar-free product that can leverage the war against obesity news agenda.
Have you identified your X factor? Mine is brand storytelling.
Y is for Yellow News – this is a brand of media monitoring that I use for Hoot & Holler clients. It monitors set keywords such as a client’s brand name, a generic term and/or a competitor name – in the press and online media. You receive a daily round-up of articles and links to mentions in the media. As well as allowing us to keep a tally on the media coverage we are generating, it also allows us to keep track of the client’s market and can even generate sales leads in some cases. The service also has the ability to generate analysis reports presenting metrics on media reach and the key messages.
Z is for creating buZZ and taking a brand from zero to hero. A great way to round-up the Hoot & Holler A to Z of PR: PR is about amplification, education and generally creating some buZZ around your product or service. It’s about getting people talking about and connecting with your business. It’s about ensuring you’re communicating the right messages, making sure your audience know the story behind the brand, what’s good about it, what needs it meets and why they need it in their life.
And that is what they call a wrap!
Lockdown; delivery and take out; Eat Out to Help Out; the Rule of Six; 10pm Curfew and #cancelthecurfew, all in as many months - 2020 has been a hospitality rollercoaster. If you can predict the next challenge or opportunity for the industry, then you're probably a Government advisor!
Maybe limiting the time you can spend in the pub or the number of drinks you can have before you're no longer considered Covid-safety compliant? God forbid!
One thing is certain: the operators who will survive this pandemic are thought-leaders and activists. They are the ones who are in a two-way dialogue with their customers, clearly communicating their policies and gauging customer feeling. They are pushing back against Government policy - #cancelthecurfew - and feeding back from the frontline where things aren't working via the media and industry bodies. They are positively turning challenges into opportunity. Agile decision-making and creative revenue generating ideas are the order of the day!
I've seen one or two good examples of operators who are creatively drumming up business and give us some good news.
A local food hall, café and deli operator, Macknade, who champion local producers and businesses, are running a Virtual Dog Show to celebrate patrons' pooches, remind people that they can bring their dogs with them to dine out and raise money for the local Happy Endings Animal Rescue sanctuary. This is a lovely social media initiative that can only keep them top of mind and cement their community spirit.
I've blogged before about maximising all of those eating and drinking out opportunities. Well that's even more true now, as the night-time economy is squeezed further. Brunches, coffees, lunches, tea breaks and early evening suppers have all become even more crucial in ensuring a steady stream of custom.
Yummy Pubs are quite literally turning the curfew on its head - 10am is the new 10pm - promoting brunch and Bloody Mary - sounds very appealing but it won't change the fact that they're having to box-up customers' puddings to make sure they are out of the pub by 10pm!
A night out at the pub just became a not so relaxing prospect unfortunately....and there is still a large portion (just under a third, according to polls) of the public who aren't happy to eat out. It must be hard to remain positive if you're an operator, so hats off to those who are making the best of things, innovating and providing safe environments for customers who are prepared to brave it and support them. Hang on in there, the ride is far from over....
Get the Race for Life Glow!
As fundraisers go, Cancer Research’s Race for Life must surely be one of the most inspired and enduring charity fundraising events. Their 5k walk, jog or run offers something for everyone. With a manageable distance and a relaxed attitude to how you complete it, even the non-runners can feel a sense of achievement and bask in the instantly recognisable fuchsia pink glow of the Race for Life brand. It appeals to the masses because of course cancer is something that affects everyone and we all want to feel that we can do something positive to turn the tide.
This year, like so many other life-threatening illnesses, cancer has taken something of a backseat to Coronavirus. So, in some ways, this year’s Race for Life was even more crucial in keeping this relentless killer front of mind and continuing to raise much needed funds.
A Very 2020 Race for Life was my first official 5K. I’d always assumed that you needed to be a runner to do something like this, but thankfully – for someone who is not a keen runner - walking or jogging is completely acceptable. So, when I recently lost my uncle to cancer, after several years of intermittent battles on his part, I felt compelled to do something positive to honour his memory. Enlisting the support of my two daughters – Amelie and Maya - plus the hubby and the puppy, we registered, appealed for donations on Facebook and looked forward for the big day to arrive.
In some ways it felt easier not to be joining a big crowd of participants this year – I’m not really a crowd lover. Setting up our giving page and using the Cancer Research digital resources was super easy - and thank goodness - as I’d only committed a week before race day. Being part of the Race for Life Facebook community page and joining the livestream on race day gave us a sense of being part of something bigger. Reading the stories of some of the participants over the weekend leaves you feeling somewhat in awe when you learn what people have been through and yet some-how they find the strength to participate.
We chose to walk / jog our Race for Life on the seafront at Hythe, sporting our fuchsia pink hoodies – (brilliant colour choice as it matches your post-race glow!) We were aiming to complete it in under 50 minutes, which we just about managed. Most importantly, with the support of generous family and friends, we raised more than £250! Not bad for beginners.
Race for Life is a brilliant brand that works hard for Cancer Research by embracing the community at large – old and young, big and small, fast and slow, healthy and in-recovery. It's inclusive and the sense of community brings you in for that all-important (albeit virtual for now) group hug.
Donald Maxwell, the Kent author and artist, referred to Oast houses as “curious towers with conical tops” that are “the castles of Kent” – and Sussex! After a weekend stay and family celebration at Hare Farm Hideaways very own Oast, just five minutes from lovely Rye, East Sussex, I couldn’t agree more.
Here is a kingdom where boxing hares, loquacious sheep, swooping swallows and majestic barn owls reign in the undulating greenery of the Brede Valley. Breath-taking views draw you in as you round the driveway to the Oast. Once installed, you can sit and while away hours on a strategically placed tree trunk – a casualty of winter storms, given a new lease of life - with a cup of tea or a local wine or cider, depending on your outlook, being entertained by nature’s show. This feels like a world away from virus pandemics!
Stepping foot inside the Oast, you won’t be disappointed. This building was lovingly restored in 2011 by brother and sister Stuart and Jo on the family farm after sitting derelict for decades. Since then, the visitor book tells the story of the guests it has welcomed from near and far, celebrating milestone birthdays and anniversaries en famille, reuniting groups of friends and providing a spacious yet embracing backdrop to feasts and frolics.
In the three roundels of the Hare Farm Oast you’ll find: a kitchen, utility and washroom and a double bedroom on the first floor plus two twins and the master suite upstairs. There’s also a pretty double bedroom and bathroom with windows overlooking those mega views. We were 12, filling the Oast to sleeping capacity (there’s also a Shepherd’s Hut perched out of view in the adjacent field if you need to squeeze in two more!) but never feeling like you’re on top of one another, which in these socially distanced times is something of a necessity!
I’ll avoid mentioning the dreaded C-word, but we can reassure anyone who is feeling strange about staying away that Hare Farm are doing their utmost to put additional precautions and cleaning measures in place. Each bedroom has a black sack provided for guests to scoop up their used linen and help with the additionally labour intensive cleans between guests. There are several laminates with clear instructions and tips on staying safe. There are also enough bathrooms for everyone to stick to their own washing facilities, which is ideal.
The hubby and I were lucky enough to inhabit the master bedroom with its concealed walk-in wardrobe and magical pendant light which spills light in a Middle Eastern mosaic all around transforming it into something of a princess tower room. We slept like logs, cradled in the solidity of the conical tower.
Ceramic baby Oast houses are handles to bathroom light pulls and make for cute touches and original Oast equipment – a local hop pocket, a wooden scupper for scooping up the hops – remind you that you’re somewhere a bit special and part of local history.
For foodies and family feasts, the Oast is well-equipped with two fridges, a large freezer and heaps of tableware. This is also great if, like us, you decide to skip the cooking and ask a local caterer to put on a spread. Kristi at Seasons Wild & Free provided our banquet so that we could toast our mum’s 70th birthday in style. From imaginative canapes with champagne on the terrace to mountains of lamb tagine, delicious salad, cous-cous and potato sides and the best ‘princess and the pea’ style strawberry pavlova at the dining table. Just don’t mention the cheeseboard, which was woefully neglected as we’d all been complete gluttons!
We never got to use the quirky log-fired BBQ as we were rained off – probably just as well as there were plenty of leftovers still to devour from aforementioned banquet! However, we did manage a late-night huddle around the firepit, finishing off our wine before bed.
There are plenty of walks through the Brede valley if your party like expeditions and playing at nature detectives, which are also the perfect antidote to all that feasting.
We spent a magical weekend in this enchanted kingdom that will go down in our family folklore. Has there ever been a time when we’ve all needed to be part of a fairy tale more than this?
If there have been any positives to lockdown, one must surely be the spotlight it has shone on the impact of us humans on the planet. Since lockdown started, pollution has plummeted and Venice’s canals have cleared up with sightings of swans and dolphins.
Thankfully, there are plenty of businesses who are serious about reducing and even eliminating their impact on the environment. Many of them are independent, small businesses driven by values, passion and the desire to do good, while making a living at the same time. As individuals, we can buy into their values-driven economy and together, make the world a better place.
One of the best examples of this is one that’s come directly out of lockdown. A start-up that has embraced a sustainable business approach, has a great backstory and is driven by an immediate purpose: FFSB are makers of up-cycled face masks and champions of the #masks4all movement.
Personally, as someone who has been talking about making facemasks for the family from some old clothes and dusting off my sewing machine from the under stairs’ cupboard for some weeks now, I take my hat off to them. I haven’t managed it, but they have. And they've done it with style. So, when I read about them in a Father’s Day gift guide on blogger Lianne Freeman’s anklebitersadventures, I immediately bought into their story and their funky face masks. And here’s why.
FFSB are Frank, Finn Sebastian and Bela, 4 London teenagers, who found themselves twiddling their thumbs after their GCSE’s had been cancelled and their sports sessions were paused. But the thumb twiddling didn’t last long as they realised a chance to make a difference and join the fight against COVID-19 by making face masks that (in their own words) don’t make you look like a dentist!
Friends since they were four years old, these guys, like so many of us, know the benefits of Zoom as they’ve been working remotely together from 4 different locations. They’ve also been mentored by the awesome fashion company House of Baukjen, so that has definitely helped!
Not only have they made masks but they’ve designed an uber cool, utilitarian logo (which they stencil spray in pink on your envelope), set up a website, collaborated with a family-run factory in Portugal and chose their first batch of fabrics for their masks. They’ve also named the masks after cities echoing Instagram’s story filters – I chose Helsinki and Rio.
I’m a sucker for a good story and this one reeled me right in. Then I found out that the masks have been ethically and sustainably made and they look good too (- just how I imagine my own handmade versions might have looked!!!). They’re up-cycled, made using 100% soft cotton leftover fabrics and cut-offs. Handmade in a double layered, pleated design and they can be worn again and again and again. Finally, I spotted the banner at the top of the website announcing that 10% of all profits go to the Young Minds Charity (they also make black masks in support of #blacklivesmatter,
which are sold out as I write), well, they had me hook, line and sinker!
So, in the space of five minutes or so, I’d ordered a mask for all the family (they do kids sizes too) from their easy-to-use website and hey presto, the masks arrived in less than 24 hours tied together with a paper tag politely asking me to share their brand #FFSB and #Masks4all.
This is exactly how values-driven business and consumers can come together, make the difference and feel good.
Don’t you just love it when great PR, marketing and customer service come together - nice one lads!
www.ffsbshop.co.uk @ ffsb.ldn
Now more than ever, we’re relying on digital communications to stay in contact. Social media is an easy and cost-effective way for businesses to get messages out to existing and potential customers. In times of crisis, it can be a lifeline for businesses looking to quickly and efficiently communicate with all their key stakeholders. Social media content is:
As someone who regularly works from home, I wanted to share some practical tips on how to work effectively and how to stay sane, as many of us are now basing ourselves at the kitchen table for the foreseeable future. So here goes:
All in a year's work!
As we PRs re-emerge from precarious piles of magazines that have risen like a barricade around our laptops (now consigned to the recycling bin with the most recent issue kept for future reference!) and start a fresh notebook with a hopeful, ambitious to-do list that triple underlines getting that CPD programme in the bag before the end of February, it must be almost time to leave 2019 behind.
A natural time to pause, reflect and evaluate the year gone by, the waning of another year sees us making plans to build on our achievements to date. Personally, when I stop and think about Hoot & Holler's achievements this year, there are many and I feel tremendously thankful to my wonderful clients for challenging me and appreciating what I do. But for me, it always comes back to that age-old PR conundrum of evaluation - how do we best evaluate our PR campaigns? Is it based on the reach of each press release? The delivery of key messages? Customer opinion? Or whether we have directly contributed to an increase in the bottom-line? Should we be patting ourselves on the back for the 24 press releases issued? The fact that our client was featured in 10 publications every month? The 12 reviews and competitions run in partnership with influencers, which have resulted in a significant increase in social media followers? Or the 45 blog posts we've written this year for the company's social media feeds? The fact that we've delivered a strategic PR programme that achieved the aims we set out at the beginning is always a good start of course!
But it's more than that.
Not a fan of marketing jargon, I do, however, use the term 'halo effect' when talking about the role and the value of PR in business because I think it describes the depth of a good PR campaign and what it can bring to a business or a brand in terms of its reputation and perception with stakeholders. When you decide to engage in PR and stimulate relationships with the media, offering up story ideas, you're losing complete control (unlike a paid-for advert) but almost always, you're gaining valuable influence via third party endorsement in some form. It's about shining a light on your business or brand and deepening your audience's understanding and awareness of it, piquing their interest, building trust and finally gaining advocates. Finally, do your employees feel good about the company they work for, do your customers feel good and are they telling their friends about you - this is the 'halo effect' of great PR.
All of those press releases, story ideas, blogs, reviews, competitions are of course the building the blocks of getting to this end point, which takes some time and consistency. As we all know, building relationships with longevity doesn't happen overnight. But equally, PR is also beautifully agile and adaptable and can quickly respond to the whims of the market by focusing on a specific message or a niche audience.
So, with all that in mind, here are some additional questions we might ask ourselves as we head into the New Year. Have we widened and deepened our media contacts? Told new stories so that customers can see our clients in a new light? Trialled new media channels and brought valuable new ideas to the table? Got under the skin of a brand or organisation? Offered an agile, creative consultancy to inspire our clients or help them out of a tricky situation? Perhaps most importantly, have we acted with integrity and honesty? If you can answer yes to all of this then I think we should all be clinking a glass of something fizzy with nearest and dearest, looking forward to 2020 with anticipation and always with fresh eyes!
Cheers to a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
“We’re all influencers now” is the title of a webinar that I joined today, featuring Sarah Waddington, Stephen Waddington and Andrew Terry, three of the authors of the “#FuturePRoof guide to influencer marketing governance for public relations”. It’s an invaluable guide and point of reference for PR practitioners giving the ‘nuts and bolts’ of working with influencers.
Still a nascent area developing its rules of engagement, whether you’re a PR, a marketer or social media specialist, you can’t afford not to be in the know. Particularly, as the guide points out, when a global brand like Estee Lauder is spending 75% of its marketing budget on ‘digital social media influencers’.
As an industry, PR practitioners have been somewhat slow on the uptake. Working with influencers is akin to working with print journalists, building relationships and trust, so it should come naturally. It’s just that there’s certainly some confusion when it comes to working with influencers in terms of whether it’s advertising or PR or to put it another way paid-for or earned media. For example, invite a journalist from a glossy magazine to visit your business and experience your offer and the resulting article is definitely editorial, even if it includes a giveaway. However, if you’re doing the same thing with an influencer and anything is given free of charge, the resulting social media post is deemed to be an ad by the regulatory authorities namely the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) and the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority).
When reputation is at stake, it doesn’t take much to tip the scales. So, being aware of regulatory requirements will protect your brand in the long-run. As the guide points out, the ASA are the ones to keep an eye on, as they regular publish guidelines on influencer requirements. From a PR perspective, the main thing to take note of is that if you’ve gifted a ticket to an event or a prize for a giveaway, then the influencer is obliged to mark the post #ad or #advert, even though it needn’t be marked as an advertisement in a magazine.
From my own experience with clients, the traditional media relations form of PR is becoming less critical, which means you risk being consigned to the irrelevant pile! Clients have their own social media platforms and customer communications media now, so they’re not so reliant on media communications. Nowadays, the fragmentation of the media through online means we must include influencers alongside print and broadcast and we must play by the rules and not be put off by the #ad.
If anything, PR has a more long-term and critical role to play in the arena of influencer marketing. The #Futureproof guide has a great diagram showing the correlation between control and trust for PR via earned media with influencers versus advertising via paid-for media. It comes as no surprise that PR initiated work with influencers will have greater credibility but little or no control. Conversely, paid-for ads raise the control stakes but are more cynically received by the audience.
What’s more, we can build relationships with influencers that do so much more than simply providing content opportunities. We can partner with influencers to deliver concrete business benefits through these long-term relationships e.g. we might use our trusted influencer to improve customer service or even shape our future business. I for one am excited about the potential of influencer marketing and my clients are already reaping the rewards of influencer relations.
So, to answer my original question: is it PR or advertising? Well the answer is both, however – and I may be a tad biased - I believe that the PR approach has greater depth and longevity for brands and influencers alike.
Clare Pope, always has her head in a book - current read Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore