It’s all a matter of opinion

The most important feature of social media, in my eyes, is the information and points of view you have easy access to, but we have seen many a tricky situation spring up recently.

We have seen the public disciplinary of Ashley Cole for a tweet againts the FA and news of changing laws that will rule social media and what can be said online.

You can now find out about your favourite brands and people more quickly and easily than you have ever been able to before. You have access to  information straight from the horse’s mouth and not from a third-party, as well as being able to see opinion from both sides of the argument.

Although we all know that a lot of the content is still generated by third parties, as a form of word of mouth, (arguably the form of communication most taken notice of) it holds weight when sent straight from the brand or people within it or an individual and not a marketing team. Of course it is better again when somebody perceived to be unconnected to the brand reviews it in a positive light. The effect is even stronger if the unconnected person is a celebrity with a large following on social media – we have all seen the effect of Stephen Fry mentioning a product on twitter.

The tourism/ hospitality sector have both benefitted and fallen foul of word of mouth communications online – tripadvisor is just one website which allows visitors to write what they think. Travellers make, amend and cancel bookings all on the opinions of strangers. Would you normally take notice of the guy on the street who tells you a story about their holiday or would you ask people you know?

We have recentlyalso seen how a company can fall into the trap of asking the public what they think, only to become the subject of ridicule. In my opinion, the Waitrose campaign was no negative thing – we are all still talking about it and they gained some real feedback…but most of the industry think it was a massive fail.

So, there are the positive effects of brand endorsement, access to information which may help with decisions and brands trying to force positive endorsement, there is also plain opinion – we seem to have entered a realm where everyone feels the need to publish their thoughts in a very public arena.

For example, when something happens like the abduction of April Jones or the continuing Saville enquiry everyone immediately has something to say about it.

The person eventually arrested for the abduction of April Jones was the subject of an online trial before any evidence was even collected. The allegations, opinions and ill feeling towards Jimmy Saville who was once held in such high esteem have been aired by a public who have been allowed to voice many thoughts on the situation without all of the information – and some seem to be distressing others with simple observations.

So the question is – should you write what you think? Would you speak your thoughts out loud? What are your thoughts on what people should be allowed to say online?


PR, Marketing and Social Media – it’s all communication

Working in an agency and now in and in-house position it never ceases to amaze me the arguements that arise for and against the use of different methods of communication and which is seen to be most successful – PR, traditional marketing, digital marketing or social media.

In recent years it is not surprising that many, especially small businesses, have turned to online communication particularly social media (with varying results). It is an obvious choice when limited budgets are available and has been promoted as the method of promotion that everyone can do.

The general public who before 10 or even 5 years ago would not have been involved in marketing, other than maybe carrying a business card or putting a classified ad in the local paper, now operate with the belief that they know how to communicate to the wider public. Whether a correct assessment or not we have seen the emergence of true two-way communication with target audiences able to share their own opinions and more than willing to do so.

J.J. Colao, Forbes Staff quotes Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot , in the post, HubSpot Ready To Pounce As Traditional Marketing Gets “Obliterated” : “The Millennial generation, he says, have permanently changed the way that people expect to interact with companies and brands. Those that attempt to pass off shoddy products and customer service face the surprisingly potent wrath of social media. Netflix, he notes, likely could have gotten away with their price changes with barely a whimper 10 years ago. To adapt, companies will be forced offer value in their marketing techniques and interact directly with customers like never before.”

So what does that mean for marketing and communications strategies?

Your target audience and even those who are not considered as your audience can view, follow and make judgements about your products, brand and overall company with the ability to make comments in real time, for all the world to see.

So, with a vast majority of the population now active online making comments on the world as they see it, particularly on social media channels, it is seen as the main method of communication to reach the most people. But we have also seen in Forbes article referenced above it is also the method fraught with dangers.

The question that marketeers are now having to defend is: If you can reach so many people through online methods, without the need of a middle man – why not leave traditional methods behind?

In a Marketing Profs guest post by Margie Clayman of Clayman Advertising Margie asks: Why Are Marketers Hating on Traditional Marketing?

This is part of her answer and a comment that makes a lot of sense to me, even though with 5 years experience I am fairly new to the profession: “The only thing I can come up with is that—maybe—if you did not work in marketing before social media exploded or if you did not study marketing, traditional concepts may seem intimidating. Folks who seem to be “gurus” on social media may not really feel that they can come out and say, “Gosh, I don’t really understand this.” And so, alternative realities are created.”

Referring to the second half of that quote, I work on social media everyday, analyse, reasearch, develop strategies and compile content, but I would not call myself an expert. Things change so quickly online that you would need to constantly study it to be an expert.

Although I may seem sceptical, I agree with Ted Mininni’s observation made by GroupM in a post about brands needing an online presence, “The Internet affords consumers with easy access to information, and interaction with companies, whether they purchase from a web site or not. Internet use continues to grow in popularity, thus, the study concluded marketers ignore having a cyber presence at their own peril.”

The problem is if you put too much effort or focus on one means of communication you run the risk of ignoring and alienating large proportions of your potential audience.  Adarsh Thampy, talks about just this in his post Is traditional marketing dead? “Assuming you live in a perfect world where all of your customers use the same medium, understand your marketing message thoroughly, and is happy to get involved with your cause via the same medium, content marketing maybe the only marketing ever left. But, the world we know is far from being perfect. Not everyone likes to be engaged via social media, not all of your customers are searching for a solution online, and not everyone is consuming high value content via your blog or video streaming sites.”

So, the question is, if all brands NEED an online presence and putting too much focus on online communication could alientate some of your audience what are the best tools to promote your brand?

In my opinion – All of them!

Remember that PR, marketing, traditional and online including social media are all methods of communications and just as learning styles differ from person to person, the way people like to be supplied with information and news also changes. Most people now take in information from lots of different sources and talk about all when using their preferred social media channel, but, spreading your brand too thinly is just as much of a threat as over focusing in one area.

Make sure you research and review the aims of your campaign, focus on know what your messages are and know who your audience is.

When you know what you are trying to do, what you need/want to say and who you are saying it to you can work out how best to send them the information. Integrate your strategies for your different tools and draw them in as they relate to the strategy.
Don’t get me wrong all plans can change but knowing what you aim to do from the beginning will help you constantly assess the situation and alter your activity as needed.

Some simple tips we all forget

In a way this is a bit of a moan, in another its just a few pointers for everyone to remember … Including me.

Something that always amazes me is the caliber of writing that is submitted for review and included on blogs.

Amongst the usual proof reading, editing and planning I have been doing a lot of research into blogs recently and I’m shocked by what is published. Let’s just say that there is a reason not all of us are journalists.

Here are a few things I have noticed that will help with any peice of writing, including CV’s and personal statements.

No matter what we write, we need to remember a few simple rules:

  1. Know your audience (who are they, where are they?)
  2. Know what you aim to achieve
  3. Ask yourself, what does your audience want to know (not what do you want to tell them)
  4. Know how your target audience likes to see/find out information (do they like to read copy, watch a video or scan a few bullet points?)

Finally, on an elementary level … please remember:

  • Spell check – in English in England and US in America (and please check for any z’s in words like organise)
  • Check your grammar
  • Don’t over use punctuation – (A colleague of mine hates exclamation marks if not used for surprise, others may feel the same)

The Husky Challenge – (Charity Release)

I don’t normally post work of any kind on my blog but this is for a good cause –

I was asked by a friend who’s taking part in an impressive charity challenge to write a release for local papers.

All the details of the challenge are below so I won’t bore you with the details, but here’s the release and part of my contribution to the cause.  

Press Release
January 2012

Regional Ember Inns start the New Year with charity cheer

The Fox Horsforth fund raising event

Rebecca and the team with Ronnie the Rhino

Leeds Ember Inns managers and local businesses combine efforts to raise over £7500 for cancer research charity, Against Breast Cancer.

Retail Business Manager from Ember Inns Hazel Murgatroyd and The Fox and Hounds  at Cookridge’s General Manager Rebecca Greenwood have taken a once in a lifetime challenge to trek 250km across the frozen Lapland landscape on a Lapland Husky Trail with Global Adventure Challenges in aid of Against Breast Cancer.

During the challenge Hazel and Rebecca will walk between 20km to 60km per day during the six day trek and will be responsible for looking after their team of dogs, pitching their tent to protect them from sub -30° temperatures and preparing foods which will consist of nutrient rich, boil in the bag foods.

For the trek which will begin fromTromso,Norwayon the 31 March; a fund raising target of £7500 was set by challenge organisers. After four weeks of fund raising over the Christmas period, 15 pubs and their guests, located from Nottingham toNewcastlehave helped the pair to realise their goal. Events have been held across all 15 pubs with a £500 challenge for each venue. The most successful pub the Punch Bowl, based inNottinghamrose over £1200 in just two weeks thanks to the efforts of their team and the manager Sean Dransfield.

Hazel Murgatroyd, Retail Business Manager said:

“The nearer our start date for the trek becomes, the more daunted I am by the challenge. Neither Becky nor I like the cold so trekking in freezing cold temperatures will prove to rather difficult. We are excited about the adventure ahead of us but are under no illusion that it will test us to our limits both physically and mentally. I would like to thank everybody who has supported us”

She added: “As one of Ember Inns’ long standing charities, Against Breast Cancer is a charity that our guests are familiar with and one that is close to my own heart. I have been truly moved by just how charitable our guests have been over the past few months.”

Rebecca Greenwood, General Manager, The Fox & Hounds Cookridge added:

“I have been blown away by the level of support we have received from our local community in Cookridge  and from the guests and teams from other Ember Inns. EachInnhas made a valuable contribution to our trip and to our fund raising total. We would like to thank everyone for their support so far, we are both working hard to train in preparation for the challenge and are continuously helped along by all the support we have received.”

The Fox at Cookridge has risen over £1000 so far with themed nights including; carol singers, a Think Pink Party night and a one off photo opportunity with Ronnie the Rhino the Leeds Rhinos mascot. Locals to The Fox and Hounds have also organised a quiz night (18 January) including raffle with locally sourced prizes.

A final farewell party will take place during March to wish the girls well in their trip and thank everyone for their support.

For further details on Against Breast Cancer or to make a donation visit



 Photo Caption

Rebecca Greenwood with her team and Ronnie the Rhino at The Fox in Horsforth

All change.

A quiet few months

Over the past few months I may have seemed quiet on the blog front but have been very busy on the living front – amongst other things I’ve been getting to grips with being allergic to light and also managed to change jobs.

Moving from a small agency of 8 people to an inhouse company with thousands worldwide and hundreds in the UK is an eye opening experience – at least my team is still small!

I’ve also jumped sectors and industries moving from consumer tourism and leisure to B2B materials handling. I can now say I know one end of a forklift from the other and defitnatley know a pallet truck and a reach truck when I see one.

In coming weeks there will be discussions about consultancy versus inhouse, consumer versus b2b, online versus offline and online strategy versus guidelines – a whole host of subjects that I have been experiencing from both sides.

It’s been a busy few months but I had a plan when I finished uni and how many people can say they are exactly where they planned to be at exactly the time they wished for it?



PR and SEO come together

In the evolution of communications PRs and SEOs seem to be at the forefront of change. Both coming from separate and in some cases entirely opposite standpoints the practices of each discipline are helping each other. SEOMOZ shared an example last week of an SEO sharing an infographic in much the same way as a PR shares a press release and photo opportunity.

As bloggers are journalists in their own right online supplying information in a friendly, professional and interesting manner is going to become more and more important for the circulation of your clients information. The more creatively the information is presented may mean the difference between widespread coverage and one or two pieces.

Infographics really are one of the best ways to go.

Specialist or integrated agencies?

I was recently part of a discussion at a digital marketing debate in Leeds, where an in house digital communications manager went up against an agency digital specialist to discuss the processes of delivering successful online communications strategies. One of the questions started a debate between general, overall, integrated communications agencies and specialist agencies asking which was the most adept to deliver a successful project.

Is it possible for an all encompassing agency with levels of executives and account manages with general communications skills to deliver the more specialised briefs which are been born of the social media era?

Should agencies start to look at different branches of communications building teams by specific skills and less of an exact hierarchy? Also investigated by the GolinHarris article in PR Week with GolinHarris as a case study.

Of the two models I am inclined to believe that agencies should focus on the strengths of their employees, teamed with the needs of the industry – ensuring that teams have the right skill sets to deliver specialised briefs where needed. I do think that a management hierarchy is needed for career progression and to encourage ambition but with lateral moves available.

From what I can see the problem has the potential to lie with agencies that are entirely specialised – I believe they have the risk of becoming detached from the overall strategy of the businesses they are trying to serve and there is the potential for other methods to be forgotten or underrated. Where several agencies or teams are trying to work together to deliver an overall strategy this may have negative affects as instead of working fluidly the agencies would be competing for information and undermining each other.

An agency with both general and specialist teams would be able to offer insight on more of the campaign supplying the client with more for their money.

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