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.

 

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.

Audience targeting: Walking the ethical tightrope

AdobeStock_118343721-min (2)Recent news has been dominated by stories which highlight the questionable tactics of some companies, in covertly harvesting user data from social media channels which informs their approach, enables them to target their communications based on profiling and, ultimately, influences opinion.

All of this is especially pertinent as we approach the looming GDPR deadline – in a timeframe where ethics, privacy and data protection are all issues of paramount concern to business.

The brookscomm approach
In our role as trusted counsel to a diverse client-base, we develop and deliver clear messaging to support each client’s value statement and inform their customers’ decision-making. Furthermore, we conduct thorough research to ensure we are targeting end-users and new business prospects as effectively, appropriately and ethically as possible.  This approach enables us to deliver consistency, add maximum value to the audience, whilst attaining optimal reach.
Whether in our PR, marketing or social media execution, our steps toward the most positive outcome are clearly defined and structured:

  1. identify each clients’ target audience/s (WHO do we want to attract?)
  2. determine their reading and influencer touchpoints (WHERE can we reach them?)
  3. develop clear messaging and information which illustrates the value proposition (WHY should they engage?)
  4. provide clear direction, highlighting the call-to-action (HOW do we meet our end-goal? e.g. sales / subscribers / etc in a GDPR compliant process.)

The methods we use to achieve these steps follow a careful and considered ethical pathway, with the utmost care and consideration to ensure compliance, authenticity and integrity – building a sense of trust with our clients and their audiences throughout the journey.

A recent example of this being the counsel we’re currently providing to both US, UK and EU clients on how to ensure that their business communication systems and processes are compliant with the incoming GDPR legislation.

Businesses must always question their data collection methods to meet their governance and compliance responsibilities and respect customer privacy. Hopefully this week’s news will only serve to improve data collection and analysis approaches, protecting the privacy rights of the end-user and strengthening ethical practice within organisations.

Get in touch on 01483 537 890 to discuss how we could help improve your business communications.

Fake News & Alternative Facts

Fake News & Alternative Facts- Can PR Survive in a Post Trusth World-

The world of communications is continuously evolving. With the internet and social media, anybody and everybody can voice their opinion, establish themselves as content creators and distribute articles. Buzzfeed has been criticised for reporting unsubstantiated and unverified reports, raising doubts about the ethics of the publication.

Everyone is a content creator

With platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, anyone can write and share stories riddled with uncorroborated facts and hearsay. By the very nature of social media fake news can easily become viral, potentially having severe consequences. Fake news articles can be written and presented in such a way that it is hard to distinguish fact from fiction.

Distrust of the media

Fake news causes problems when news outlets distribute it without verifying the original source. Understandably, publications don’t want to be perceived as not distributing relevant information in a timely fashion. This can cause a distrust of the media.

Fake news has been around for as long as communication between people. The growth of newspapers and television gave power to the media and the ability to share information. However, with this came a realisation that there was a responsibility to corroborate stories if you wanted to be taken seriously as a reputable news outlet. This did not guarantee an unbiased report, but it did provide an element of discipline and time spent checking information. The change brought by the growth of social media is the instant mass sharing of an enormous amount of information, true or false.

Traditional news outlets have difficult decisions to make – do they share a story, or do they take time to corroborate it, thus potentially missing the opportunity?

News travels globally without validation. Fake news shares our screens with verified stories. So, how do you ensure what you are reading and sharing is real? How do you maintain a good reputation in a world where people can easily share untruths about your business?

How to avoid Fake News in your business:

  • Reputation is ‘hard won and easily lost’. Create your business narrative and be authentic. The more you share your real story with genuine updates, the more you will mitigate any negative effect on your reputation from fake news about you.
  • Concentrate on quality. Be timely but check your sources and share information after consideration.
  • When reading news, keep an open mind and look for different sources yourself. Think, how reputable is this source? Is this a source I’ve looked at previously? How reliable is it?
  • Remember – there has always and will always be fake news – it’s up to us to research, to be authentic and to enable factual communication.

At brookscomm we have over 20 years of PR & marketing expertise and a proven track record of success. We can help boost your business, call us on 01483 537 890 or email michael@brookscomm.com

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Advertising is what you pay for but publicity is what you pray for!

Getting positive media brand coverage was recently rated as a priority business objective by tech PR & Marketing professionals in our survey.

This comes as no surprise as tech businesses can achieve rapid growth when their target customers are made aware of the benefits of their products and services. New consumer technology is desired by trend setters and new technology in the business sector can provide customers with substantial cost and time savings.

So, how does a business go about promoting itself to the media and potential clients? With this and other questions I decided to ask Mandy Brooks, our strategy director, and Alison Scarrot, Media Relations Account Manager at brookscomm:

What’s the difference in practice between PR and advertising? Which do you think is more effective?

Mandy says: ”Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.”

img_1264_lr-minThere are many articles and opinions on this but put simply, Advertising is paid media, public relations is earned media.

There are of course many opinions on which is best and in what measure but I like the thinking of Steve Cody of Inc. magazine , also quoted in Forbes, who notes: “Countless studies report that, next to word-of-mouth advice from friends and family, editorial commentary (usually generated by your friendly, behind-the-scenes PR practitioner) carries far more weight than advertising.”

“It’s not difficult to understand why,” Cody says. “Advertising continues to embrace an antiquated, top-down, inside-out way of communicating. It reflects senior management’s view on what a consumer or business-to-business buyer should think is important. PR, on the other hand, depends upon listening to the conversation and understanding the who, what, when, where, why and how of engaging in the discussion. Public relations executives excel in storytelling and, typically, present a perceived problem (i.e. childhood obesity) and their client’s unique solution (i.e. a new type of fitness equipment designed by, and for, pre-teens).”

Alison adds: “In practical terms, PR is content in the form of a story or news article that a media editor deems timely, relevant and newsworthy to the audience. When printed or posted, it is perceived as a trusted third-party endorsement of a brand. Whereas advertising is the method of paying the publication to ensure a brands messaging will be included. Through advertising, brands can control the exact wording and image of their brand and it’s guaranteed exposure.

However, advertising is always perceived as a company endorsing itself and therefore has less credibility than PR.  In our experience a combination of both is very effective and maximises the reach and credibility of the brand but if I had to choose, I would say that PR is more effective as its more sincere and relevant to the reader. And also because people are accustomed to glancing over advertising.

How can the results of media relations be measured?

There are different ways to measure the impact of media relations.

Mandy notes: “We always provide details of the circulation and readership figures for publications plus the demographics of the reader where this information is available. Although we can’t be sure that everyone who looks at a newspaper or website reads in detail, this gives us a good guide to how many people have had your story put in front of them. We work closely on the right messaging with our clients, ensuring that we include information that resonates with the target audiences. We measure how often these messages are included in PR coverage.”

Alison adds: “A good specific example highlighting how our tech PR campaigns measurably and successfully bring in leads is that we work with some specialist tech businesses whose products are featured in trade publications. In the articles we have published there are reference codes for interested parties to quote if they enquire about the products. Our customers have been very happy with the sales from these enquiries. We provide all of our clients with monthly reports on media inclusion, from these they can see a correlation between media coverage and traffic to their websites. We encourage all our clients to ask where leads heard about them. It’s always nice to hear during review meetings that a client has converted a lead that PR coverage has generated for them!

If I was to consider hiring a Tech PR agency how can I tell if it is good?

alisonAlison says: “Domain expertise is vital when it comes to appraising agencies. If the agency doesn’t understand the product or the industry it may struggle. Likewise, if the agency doesn’t have media contacts with relevant publications, it might not be able to get the brand noticed effectively by the publications and the target audiences and potential customers the client is looking to engage.

Clients should look and ask for testimonials and examples of work to gauge the suitability of an agency. Other factors to consider include how long the agency has been in business and its size.

The most important factor to consider is the strength of the relationship with the account manager you’ll be working with. With some larger agencies, it’s possible that the senior person you meet with won’t be working on your account, this can cause misunderstandings and quality issues.”

What changes in trends have you noticed in Media Relations during your career?

Alison says: “When I started my career the Internet didn’t exist! We relied on print and post for correspondence with journalists and clients which although slow, certainly made life simpler in some ways! The advent of digital technologies has vastly widened the range of media publications and the potential reach of our clients’ brand and messages. The old forms of media (print, radio, TV) have diversified which has provided us with further possibilities with digital publications and the opportunity to harness the power of blogging and online reviews to promote products and services.

The variety of media formats available now is amazing and provides so many more opportunities, although with so many options, it can sometimes be a challenge to determine which publications to target. This is where knowing the publications in detail and understanding your client’s products and objectives comes into play.

Digitisation has also had a significant impact when it comes to influencing journalists. An editor recently told me he receives over 2000 PR requests each day. This means we need to produce articles for clients which are clear, concise relevant, attention-grabbing and newsworthy. When you are writing about complex technology this is even more important.

Mandy adds: “I’ve also seen client’s expectations change, especially during the last 5 or so years. Clients need a more strategic service which aligns with their business objectives and provides measurable results.  They like it that we’re able to integrate media relations, PR and digital marketing services. For us this has made the role more strategic and entrepreneurial, more measurable and more enjoyable.

More than ever, we feel that we are a vital part of our clients team, very much focused on achieving business outcomes for each  individual client by utilising a specifically tailored integration of PR, marketing and lead generation services to achieve the best results.”

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