How companies innovated to thrive during lockdown

Who would have thought that the year 2020 would have seen such a dramatic introduction to the new decade? Empty supermarket shelves and people scrambling for the last bottle of hand sanitiser were scenes that became all too familiar.

Adjusting to the new norm, web-based technology has been the saving grace that has kept people connected. During a time when physical contact has been limited and social gatherings prohibited, social media and video conferencing apps have been the solutions to help everyone stay connected.

Businesses and brands have also had to think of creative approaches to engage with their customers and provide high-quality services in new ways when they cannot meet or engage customers, prospects, or stakeholders as normal. It’s no surprise that for both personal and professional usage, Zoom has become a lifeline.  Last December the video conferencing platform had 10m users and by March 2020 this grew exponentially to 200m.

Zoom has become an important tool for our work at brookscomm to maintain both internal and external communication. We’ve been onboarding new clients, running workshops and providing digital PR and digital marketing training via Zoom, as well as the usual progress meetings with our clients.

With lockdown measures now beginning to ease, we would like to share with you some of our favourite ways that brands have innovated to keep their business thriving during lockdown:

Brightening lockdown days

Daydreaming of a spring break or summer holiday that never happened due to the pandemic was common for most people. Holiday rentals website Airbnb offered free downloadable images of its stunning spaces and idyllic location to soothe the pain of being stuck indoors. Burger King also played its role in encouraging people to stay at home by making its delivery app into a social distancing device that tracked a user’s location using the geolocation function. With their consent, users that stayed at home were rewarded with prizes such as snacks and vouchers for free combos.

Home workout boss

It is safe to say Joe Wicks is the king of home workouts now. Eager to encourage school children to exercise, the body coach was scheduled for a nationwide school tour before the pandemic hit and decided to switch to daily workout routines on YouTube. Over 13 weeks, Joe Wicks amassed over 70 million views and smashed the world record for largest workout live-stream. With all gyms closed across the country, local gyms offered online classes as an alternative to get people active.

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Fitness trainer innovates with huddle camera

Online PT sessions that either need two instructors or include a lot of different activities may be tricky to show on an ordinary webcam, which hindered many fitness trainers looking to deliver classes via video call. We’ve seen Surrey-based personal training company Marek’s Fitness overcome this by using an innovative wide-angle digital camera from AVer Europe for his fitness classes so that he and his partner could showcase a range of movements to a full class without having to squeeze into the shot. The camera allowed the class experience to be as close to the real thing as possible for Marek’s Fitness customers, and as a result, the company’s business has thrived during lockdown.

Immersive virtual reality

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With the global pandemic disrupting the summer mosh pits, most festivals and outdoor gatherings have been cancelled or postponed till next year. It was, therefore, a welcome surprise for fans to see that Wireless festival was not only going ahead virtually as Wireless Connect but also in collaboration with virtual reality platform MelodyVR to make the experience more interactive. Wireless streamed the ticketed festival on Facebook Live YouTube and made performances available in 360​° immersive virtual reality on smartphones and VR headsets.

The return of football

After a long hiatus, sports are finally back on screen. The Premier League returned mid-June but with empty stadiums due to government safety guidelines, the industry had to find a solution to regain excitement, atmosphere, and energy. Sky Sports partnered with EA Sports FIFA to add artificial crowd noise to the match broadcasts, which is controlled by a virtual audio director who can alter the intensity of roars, claps, and chants with one tap of a finger. The show – or in this case the game – must go on, and this innovative approach has brought the beautiful game back to life.

A new way of life

Agility and flexibility have been the name of the game for businesses worldwide, who have been making quick changes in these unprecedented times for the good of society and their customers. Technology has continued to connect us, helping us to maintain the human connection which is fundamental to our daily lives. It has fostered personal and business communities behind screens.

Before the pandemic, it was common to hear about the negative effects technology may have on individuals and people were encouraged to limit their time on social media. While many of us would agree that moderation is key, it’s clear that with creative thinking, agility and flexibility, brands have been able to use technology to maintain relationships with consumers and thrive during these unprecedented times.

 

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.  

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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The Benefits of a Placement with a PR & Digital Marketing Agency

Looking for a career in PR & Digital Marketing? Our current Junior PR and Marketing Expert Aaron Jackson discusses how a placement with brookscomm has benefited him.

A foot on the career ladder

Often, when I tell people that I’m studying a degree in Media Studies with Film Studies, questions are raised about the employability that accompanies this type of qualification. The connotations with subjects associated with ‘the arts’ are that opportunities following graduation are few and far between thanks to the extremely competitive nature of the industry.

While it may be true that the bright lights of Hollywood are reserved for that select few, studying media equips you with a broad range of skills that can be applied to a number of professional disciplines.

I was introduced to brookscomm through the online recruitment portal that University of Surrey has in place to help students secure a placement in fulfilment of a ‘sandwich’ course (3 years study, 1-year work placement).

The role brookscomm offered was that of a Junior PR and Marketing Executive. A handful of the modules that I had studied covered areas of marketing directly, but PR was more or less uncharted territory from an academic perspective. However, having dabbled in music journalism for the last couple of years, I had been working with PR agencies to some degree.

What attracted me particularly to the role that brookscomm were advertising was the opportunity to dip my toe into not one, but two areas of knowledge that I had a prior interest in. The marketing element would allow me to break away from a lecture theatre and put theory into practice. The PR element would afford me invaluable insight into a world that I had to thank for affording me so many fantastic opportunities as a music journalist.

Moreover, I recognised the role as a rare chance to take another step on the career ladder. As I mentioned, I was already recognising how competitive the media industry is – particularly for students fresh out of university with very little experience.

Research “show(s) that almost two thirds (69%) of hiring employers believe experience is the most important asset when recruiting with 72% of employers also admitting that too much emphasis is placed on qualifications and not enough on experience”.

Now, with nearly a year of experience as an industry professional at brookscomm, I feel well equipped to finish my degree and have a go at that ‘real life’ thing that my parents kept going on about…

The importance of integrated approach

One of the most crucial lessons from this placement that I will take away with me is how important it is for companies to manage their communications with an integrated approach.

In an industry that moves as fast as this one, it’s not enough to focus attention on PR or marketing. The average consumer won’t be thinking about a brand in terms of PR, marketing or social media – they will recognise a brand and their message as one whole entity.

The different areas that contribute to a company’s communication strategy will naturally overlap and cross over into one another to produce the message received by the customer. In light of this, communication professionals should be observing a brand’s messaging strategy through the same lens as a consumer would.

In practice, this involves being flexible and adopting a skillset that spans across the likes of social media, PR, traditional marketing and digital marketing. It has been a massive learning curve to become familiar with all of these variables and, as is often the case, it has taken a bit of time to comfortably work with this mindset.

However, the induction process at brookscomm ensured that, from the start of my placement, I was given a wealth of knowledge and resources with which I could get to grips with this industry.

Within the space of a week, I was contributing to crucial work in the office and was already beginning to feel like an important member of the team. At the point of writing this, I can confidently say that brookscomm has helped me reach a professional standard that has allowed me to work in a way that is integral to the team’s day to day success.

Now is your time

At brookscomm, I have learned things that books could have never taught me. If you’re keen to learn what it takes to work in a professional environment and further progress yourself towards being a top candidate for your dream job in the media industry, then look no further than a work placement.

Our MD Mandy Brooks says: “The placements we offer bring young energy into the office, which is a great way to share experience, generate new ideas and keep the business fresh and exciting.  With the original founders, myself and Chaz, still an integral part of the company, we have established a wide and diverse, knowledgeable, productive results-based team. Each team member is hugely valued and in turn adds particular value to brookscomm.”

At brookscomm we have over 20 years of PR & marketing expertise and a proven track record of providing an integrated communications strategy. We can help you boost your business, email hello@brookscomm.com or call us on 01483 537 890. 

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