Blog

  • Finding your voice

    You have an impressive marketing programme which matches clear corporate objectives; you are active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; you are in regular contact with journalists; and you run numerous stakeholder events every year. But have you lost your voice?

    Finding your voiceAmidst all the distractions of managing a multi-disciplinary communications programme, it’s essential to hold on to that distinctive element that defines your business and distinguishes you from the rest. You need your audience to know that it’s you speaking and not one of your competitors.

    Along with a strong visual corporate identity, every company and organisation needs a corporate voice – a consistent underlying persona that connects with your stakeholders. Mood or tone may need to change depending on the context, but the personality your organisation projects needs to be coherent, and appropriate for your brand. If you have put in the work on your corporate profile, so that you know who you are and what you are trying to achieve, don’t let the message get lost in translation.

    Different channels demand different approaches and often different teams will be writing for different platforms. Some people have a natural gift for pithy, attention-grabbing posts perfect for social media. Think Donald Trump. Whatever you think of what he writes, he can certainly get his message across in 140 characters! But you wouldn’t ask someone like that to write a technical article for an engineering audience. Press releases for a consumer audience require a lighter touch than B2B, television ads have to compete for attention in a very crowded space. Whatever the medium, however, your communications need to be convincing, consistent and true to the values of your business.

    Just as a corporate identity needs to be safeguarded so too does a corporate voice. The equivalent of brand guidelines in this case is to have consistency in the sign-off process for all PR and marketing communications. Every press release, article, advert, leaflet and brochure should be seen by one individual acting as the guardian of the brand’s voice. Only by seeing everything is it possible to spot minor inconsistencies or major departures. The brand guardian does not need to have the final say-so on what gets published, although often the Marketing Director or CEO will take this role, but they do need to understand the subtleties of the brand.

    Policing an organisation’s voice on social media is a much harder task. Posts and responses tend to be ‘in the moment’ and are a powerful way for an organisation to use its voice. But it’s essential to have a clear policy in place as to who can represent the company and what they can talk about.  Drawing up a social media plan can avoid some of the pitfalls awaiting the over-enthusiastic tweeter. Just as you wouldn’t pick up the phone to a journalist without talking to your PR team, don’t be tempted to take a scattergun approach to social media.

    Every brand has a personality and your marketing and PR activity give it a voice. Make sure yours is a true reflection of your corporate identity.

     

     

  • Specialising in PR

     

    I am often asked if I specialise in a particular area of PR. The simple answer is no. Although there are definite common threads to some of the PR carried out by Phillips Profile, there is no specific industry in which we work.

     

    Our area of expertise is PR.

     

    Much of this comes down to media relations. We know how to approach journalists, and, vitally, how not to. A great deal of PR is about knowing what will appeal to the media, what makes a story news. This is true across all industries.

     

    There are two key elements that work together in the PR we do. Although we immerse ourselves in a new client and understand as much as we can about their work and business, at the same time we remain the outsider, enabling us to have that vital perspective required for PR. Our clients sometimes become so absorbed in their company that they cannot see the wood for the trees. We are often able to tease from them an interesting story, that they had not even realised was news. An external point of view is a great advantage in this situation.

     

    The journalists too know that they will be able to capitalise from our expertise. When they commission an article through Phillips Profile, they know it will be well written, targeting the right audience, informative, and not just trying to work as a sales tool. They know that they can trust our work and will often come to us first, knowing we understand the meaning of a deadline when you have a magazine going to print.

     

    There are PR agencies that trade based on their little black book of journalists. Granted, with the multitude of clients and industries shared among the backgrounds of the Phillips Profile consultants, we do have a great deal of media contacts, but we focus more on the transferable skill of PR and our abilities to generate coverage and raise profiles. Knowing the journalists is not enough on its own to gain editorial space. Not having clients in the same sector also avoids any conflicts of interest.

     

    So no, we don’t specialise in a particular industry, but we do specialise in PR.

  • The proof of the puding

    You spotted it straight away, didn’t you? Whatever I say now has lost credibility. Except that on this occasion, the typo was intentional. It just proves, however, quite how vital proof reading can be. It is a much under-valued skill – until something goes wrong. Errors online can be changed quickly and easily; although the nature of digital communication means that a vast number of people have probably already seen the mistake before you become aware of it. With traditional print format, a simple typo can be very expensive to correct.

     

    It doesn’t just come down to time and cost either. If the error has already gone out into the public domain, then your reputation will instantly be affected. Employers are known to discard CVs purely because of poor spelling or typos. I myself have rejected a sales website and moved on elsewhere having been offended by simple mistakes.

     

    Having, and even using, spell check is no enough. See what I did there? ‘No’ is a word, so is not picked up by spell check, even though it is clearly a typo in this instance.

     

    Even proof-reading experts can’t proof their own work. You become blind to mistakes, reading what you think you have written. Please recognise the skill of proof reading and don’t let silly typos lose you work.

     

  • Why ‘sales’ are not a great deal for your PR

    ‘Special Offer. Huge reduction. Once in a lifetime chance. Act Now!’ We have seen it a thousand times in all areas of our business and personal lives, but are ‘sales’ all they are cracked up to be?  Could agreeing to buy a discounted product or service do more harm than good for your business profile?

     

    The question I am most often asked is this:

    ‘A publication (insert name) has contacted me offering this great advertising deal, 50% off their rate card but they need an answer urgently. What do you think?’

     

    In a word the answer is, NO.

     

    My perspective is this: if you are going to consider advertising as part of your PR strategy, you should:

    • carefully consider all the publications of interest and benefit to your organisation
    • produce a target list, usually around 3-6 top publications where the target audience closely aligns with your own target audience
    • research your chosen top publications and then make contact and introduce yourself and your organisation to them

    I generally find that those publications on a client’s target list are so good (why would you want them to be anything less?) that they do not need to incentivise advertising rates. Unless, of course, it’s as a result of the excellent relationship you have built with them.

    A general rule is to be proactive when paying for advertising. Pick your target publications well and spend the money wisely, perhaps with a series of adverts, and negotiate the inclusion of some editorial too.  Assess how your advertising plan will work within your main PR strategy and fit with your business objectives.

    Responding to requests to buy discounted advertising is a reactive course of action, prompted by an outside party having their own best interests at heart. So, unless the publication already featured on my target list, I would say ‘no’ and spend the money elsewhere.  Just because it’s ‘cheap’ and a ‘good offer’ does not make it value for money or for a strong PR strategy; if it reaches the wrong audience in small numbers it will be a waste of time, money and effort. Worse still, it could be detrimental to your PR profile.

    Any advertising offer, therefore, should be referred to your PR team. A good PR consultant will undertake advertising on your behalf: producing target media lists; establishing and building relationships with both advertising and editorial teams for each publication; and carefully negotiating deals as part of an overall advertising plan that fits into and supports an agreed, considered PR strategy.

    Don’t be caught out.

  • Trust me……I’m a PR professional

    Ah, trust.

    As any counsellor will tell you, trust is key in any relationship. And it is vital when building relationships with editors and journalists. They need to be sure that the information you give them is accurate, truthful and not twisted into misrepresentation – their own reputations are bound up in the quality of the articles that they publish.

    And in return you need to be sure that ‘off the record’ briefings remain ‘off the record’, that embargoes are respected and that you will be given the chance to respond if a negative story breaks.

    How to build that mutual trust is the question.

    And the answer is that it can only be achieved over time, by working at building each relationship and behaving with the utmost professionalism. So, press releases need to be checked and double-checked and signed-off by all interested parties. If you say that you will provide two hi-res images, then you must deliver. If you have negotiated to contribute a non-advertorial article, then you must not send in a ‘puff’ piece full of references to your client. Otherwise you are simply wasting an editor’s time and it will be remembered the next time you want to talk about editorial.

    Responding promptly is essential. You may not be able to provide the information, images or story that the journalist wants but you should always be clear in your answers and meet agreed deadlines. And don’t be afraid to demand equally high standards from a journalist.

    Don’t allow yourself to be pushed around and never forget that you are representing your client’s profile as well as your own professionalism.

    Relationships have to be worked at. And trust has to be earned.