Choosing the right communications partner for 2020

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As we settle into a new decade, most organisations will be reviewing their communications activities and anticipating how they will contribute to their overall business strategy over the coming years.  And despite the current economic climate still looking somewhat uncertain, it’s encouraging to hear that 61% of marketing leaders are expecting budget growth throughout 2020, with 86% even predicting that the political and economic environment over the next two years will have a positive effect on business performance.

However, with this budget growth and optimism comes a responsibility: how do you utilise your marketing spend to get the best return and crucially, how do you find the right partner to help you achieve your goals?

A tailored approach

Look for a communications partner that is flexible and adaptable to your needs, so that you are getting the most out of the relationship to add measurable value to your business. This enables a seamless partnership with your own team and resource so that a communications agency can simply be an extension of your existing operations.

Unique insight

The adage is true that many hands make light work but working with a communications partner isn’t just about having extra pairs of hands. The right agency will also add value with innovative ideas, an external point of view and expertise to ensure you’re making the most out of your existing marketing and communications activity. They will listen intently and ask relevant questions, challenging you with concepts and new solutions that you might not otherwise have thought of. 

Commercially focused and industry qualified

Ask a potential partner to demonstrate how they have added value for their clients. Do they have client case studies and testimonials that showcase previous successes?  Discover how they measure the impact of their communications activities, how they present this information and how often they review activities with their clients. It’s imperative that your communications partner is commercially astute and understands that its function is to help meet your business strategy. The CIPR and CIM are champions of best-practice cost-effective communication strategies, so find out if the practitioners in your communications agency are qualified and active members of these institutes.

Powerful relationships

Building strong relationships with your partner ensures that all stakeholders are aligned with clear objectives, measurable outcomes and a comprehensive understanding of messaging. The better your relationship with your communications agency, the more value the team can add as a business partner. Find an agency team with great business acumen and one that has your best interests at heart.

By getting the right communications agency in place and all fully committing to achieving the same goals, the partnership could be one that continues to add value for decades to come. To find out how brookscomm could become your trusted communications partner, please get in touch.

Christmas TV ads: what are the magic ingredients needed to win the top spot?

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By Mwamba Malama, PR and Digital Account Executive 

Every year the never-ending debate on whether the Christmas season begins in December or November causes a stir. But our favourite brands and retailers are set on making the decision for us by releasing their new Christmas adverts from early November to get us in the festive spirit.

With all the effort and big budgets marketing departments put into their creative campaigns, what is the ultimate recipe for a successful Christmas ad?

A spoonful of synergy

Brands are increasingly optimising multiple platforms to deliver their new Christmas messaging to audiences, and this year is no exception. Incorporating different media such as TV, print and online as part of a strong marketing strategy ensures that the ads have a wider reach and impact.

Marks&Spencer – Go Jumpers

M&S has broken the mould this year from the standard warm and fuzzy Christmassy ad with an energetic dance ad. Dancers shoulder roll to the soundtrack of House of Pain’s Jump Around. With an undeniably good pun, the retailer also partnered with Spotify to create the ultimate throwback playlist and developed the Metro’s first ever video embedded wrap for selected London commuters. And if that wasn’t enough, a flash mob recreated the infectious dance at London stations which sparked online conversation Traditionally, the target market of M&S has been perceived as an older generation, so this modern campaign appears to be a step change from that to entice a younger audience.

Sainsbury’s – Nicholas the Sweep

Sainsbury’s uses age old tropes such as the Dickensian fairy tale and a falsely accused orphan, Nicholas, to pull at heart strings and to commemorate 150 years of service. Like M&S, the supermarket giant invested in a wrap of the Metro designed as an old newspaper that reported on the escapades outlined in its TV advert. The appearance of orange satsumas in the black and white scenes is a smart highlight of the retailer’s brand image and a nice tie in with the festive season. The company has utilised multiple channels to grab consumer attention and no doubt sales of easy peelers will be up this festive season.

A pinch of community

A common theme appearing across many adverts this year is a strong sense of community and the importance of unity during the merry season. This is a theme that is always well received at this time of year and is bound to win hearts and minds all over the country (take a look at our previous blog to see how the Christmas ads tug at our heart strings!).

John Lewis and Waitrose – Excitable Edgar

John Lewis, the godfather of Christmas adverts, joined forces with Waitrose this year to create a two and half minute cinematic experience around Edgar the Dragon. An emphasis on acceptance and inclusion is beautifully depicted in this short film, as the little girl’s flame breathing friend is excluded and eventually welcomed back by the community. The advert has been received remarkably well with #ExcitableEdgar trending for days on Twitter after its launch, achieving over 45k Twitter retweets and eight million YouTube views gained online – not to mention the Excitable Edgar merchandise that’s selling out in stores. Once again, it appears John Lewis is the front runner in best Christmas ads.

A dash of originality

IKEA – Silence the critics

A Christmas ad with no sign of snow, Santa or sleigh bells ringing? Unheard of! We can’t look at this year’s Christmas ads without mentioning IKEA. The home retailer has creatively disrupted the status quo in its very first Christmas ad. The Swedish store enlisted UK grime artist D Double E as the voice of inanimate objects that convince homeowners to redecorate for the holidays. The unexpected arrival of the ad and inclusion of D Double E stimulated conversation online which resulted in #IKEA trending nationally. The retailer is hosting in-store events to help customers be ‘home ready’ for guests over the festive period as part of the campaign.  This is a great example of how originality can help set a brand apart, get people talking and create something memorable for its audience.

Brands continue to compete for the top spot with their Christmas ads each year and while they choose their own flavour, these core ingredients still pop up. Whatever your favourite is, it’s clear a true feast of Christmas ads has been served for 2019.

Which one has been your favourite and why? Tweet us on @PRexpertsUK to tell us or leave a comment below!

Identifying the right communications practices for your business

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A communications strategy isn’t something that any business would doubt is important, but the reality of developing it is a lot easier said than done when there is a wealth of tools and practices at a company’s disposal, with their own benefits and risks attached.

This month’s issue of the Law Support Network’s Briefing Magazine features some invaluable insights from Peter Rogers, Director of Risk at Bevan Brittan, as part of the feature entitled ‘Brain Training’.

While focused on the legal sector, the piece gives a great analysis of the challenges faced by many businesses when choosing the most appropriate internal and external communications tools, due to the wealth of them on offer. Rogers also offers interesting anecdotes on the evolution of information transfer – from a telex machine that occasionally spurted into action to a more recent scenario where emojis were used to instruct a lawyer!

Overall, the piece encourages businesses to maintain a view of evolving trends, ensuring enough assessments and measures are implemented by your risk, communications, HR and IT teams to appropriately mitigate potential issues across your workforce ahead of time.

This evolution of communications channels is something we know all too well working within the PR and marketing industry. Gone are the days when our focus was placed squarely on traditional PR – we now maintain relationships with our friends in the press, while also building a reach with other, less-traditional influencers across a wide variety of outlets and channels.

This is proven to be a more realistic and time-efficient approach to communications and opens a huge opportunity for our clients, but also requires that we offer clear counsel to help manage the potential risks associated with spreading your message too broadly.

Much like Rogers’ own recommendations in the Briefing article, we work with clients to determine the most appropriate methods of sharing information, with key considerations including:

  • Which of your target audiences do you hope to reach with this information?
  • What communications channels do you plan to use and why? How do these fit with your targets?
  • Is this information time-sensitive?
  • Has the information been approved by all stakeholders, both internal and third-party?
  • How will you manage any follow-up, especially relating to enquiries or feedback? Have you considered the impact upon your internal team and put plans in place to manage this?

Rogers also makes recommendations for implementing best practice within your organisation, including carrying out a review of how staff currently disseminate information internally and their experiences with this. Here are some additional thoughts from us on implementing communications best practice:

  • Consider running internal workshops, to inform and promote communication policies and practice.
  • Implement guidelines to cover the use of tools which may increase informality or indiscretion, e.g. social media or messaging apps.
  • Ensure that your workforce understands potential communications risks and are well-versed on the importance of protecting both your business IP and corporate reputation with appropriate, responsible activity.
  • Raise awareness of any relevant legal implications – especially where something might be considered as innocent or informal by your employees.

If you would like to discuss this in more detail, or learn how brookscomm might help your business to implement similar communications practices, please do get in touch.  

Audience Psychology: Content Messaging Development and Emotional Connection

Messaging and audience insights are an essential step in building your communications strategy.

The ability to understand your target personas, whether these be customers, partners, industry authorities or other audiences, along with their goals and challenges – and how your business value proposition answers these – is critical. The more that you can keep this approach at the heart of your content, the more likely you will be to successfully resonate and engage with your targets and, ultimately, achieve your objectives while building authentic brand confidence.

However, as sustainability and environmental considerations continue to dominate the news agenda, there is an increasing pressure for businesses to demonstrate their values and ethics beyond pure product or service positioning, acknowledging and responding to the broader concerns of their target audiences.

Big brands taking notice of consumer values

This morning’s news includes an announcement from Unilever, stating that they are committing to reduce their use of new plastic by half. The BBC article states that the firm currently produces 700,000 tonnes of new plastic every year and they have cited this commitment as a direct response to the concerns of their customers in the Millennial and Gen Z age brackets, as well as securing the company’s market relevance ‘for years to come’. This story follows similar announcements from other large FMCG corporations, including Coca-Cola and Nestle, highlighting the importance of considering your company values in alignment with your audience interests.

Audience insights and persona development are pivotal elements of our strategic communications work with clients. We work to produce content, messaging and supporting outreach across a range of marketing, PR, social and digital touchpoints, to ensure that the results achieve client objectives and remain customer-centric.

So, as you review your communications activities, consider your audiences:

  • Who are they?
  • What are their priorities?
  • How does our business offer clear benefits which answer their challenges?
  • How do we best demonstrate this?

Corporate Social Responsibility

Then consider your CSR strategy and how this may add to your value proposition. What matters to your audience personally and how does your business meet this, to benefit society beyond pure sales? Does this differentiate you from your competitors and are you able to use this to influence your industry?

Demonstrating your positive connection and commitment to these additional values will ensure that you further engage your targets and increase their ongoing trust in your brand, which can only serve to further enhance the authenticity of your business proposition. If you’d like to discuss how brookscomm can help you to adopt this approach and align it with your communications strategy, please do contact us.

Think BIG with your communications strategy

Since its inception, PR has involved managing and enhancing the reputation of an organisation to its target audience via influencers such as key stakeholders, partners, analysts and the media. The overall objective is to raise the organisation’s profile to support the sales and marketing cycle. Though the core principles haven’t changed, the methods of communicating with audiences and stakeholders have dramatically.

When the main way of communicating with the media a few decades ago may have been franking a press release, we’re now in an always-on environment where accessibility to audiences and influencers has transformed the day-to-day role of a PR professional. Despite these considerable developments, many organisations still devise traditional PR campaigns that don’t make the most of integrated communications, new technology and measurement techniques.

Here’s some recommendations from us at brookscomm to ensure that whatever industry you’re in, you’re thinking big with your communications strategy.

1. Be reactive

By developing articles or commentary in response to changes occurring within your market, or in response to national breaking news stories, you don’t have to be reliant on having your own news to secure press coverage. Sometimes these can take the form of thought provoking and quite controversial commentary, which will create a “buzz” within your area of specialism.

Talking about national issues at a regional, trade and national level will help to establish your reputation as an expert in your field. It also provides a level of reassurance to your existing client base, and future clients, as they will see you as an organisation with an opinion that is respected by the press.

2. Spread the word

Social media has a big part to play in an integrated communications strategy. Once your articles have been published, either in the media or on your website, further reach can be achieved via social media platforms. People may not be reading the publication or browsing your website on the day that your content was published, but we can safely assume now that people are regularly checking their own social media and absorbing new content in this format.

What’s more, sites such as Twitter and Facebook have brilliant SEO qualities. This means that if a prospect is googling you, there’s more chance that your name will appear higher in their results as social media sites are pointing to your name or website.

Our Senior PR Account Manager Alison has also been sharing advice with legal firms around making more of your press coverage. Check out our latest article in the Hampshire Law Society magazine, Hampshire Legal.

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3. Go bigger

It’s easy when you’ve been serving a specific set of customers to stick with the same communications approach and focus on them as your target audience. While it’s wise to prioritise this audience, messages you’re promoting to those customers could be replicated to another potential market without much extra work.

Whether that’s a different industry or a region, thinking outside of your existing strategy could reap huge dividends. High quality and informative written material is worth its weight in gold, so if you’ve written it, make the most of it!

4. Track your progress

Whenever you’re completing any communications activity, it’s crucial that you measure the success of your efforts. Not only can you learn the most impactful ways to reach your prospects, you can also discover what content resonates the best and what approach is most beneficial for your sales and marketing strategy.

By utilising online tools such as Google Analytics, you can track what content is bringing the most traffic to your website, and what pages on your website are of most interest to your prospects. Analytics are now also embedded in social media platforms so you can track how many people are viewing or engaging with your tweets, and how your LinkedIn likes have increased overtime.

Whatever your communications strategy, make sure you’re maximising every opportunity to raise your profile by developing creative and relevant content, considering new audiences, showcasing your hard work and measuring your success.

Want to find out more? Get in touch! 
If you have any questions about your communications strategy or how we can help you secure media coverage, please check out our strategic communications offering or get in touch. We’ve helped several organisations raise their profile with their target media resulting in increased sales. Call us on 01483 537 890 or email hello@brookscomm.com

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