STRATEGIC PR FOR RURAL BUSINESSES IS VITAL

Businesses in the countryside are showing great resilience in these testing times and with clever use of strategic PR for rural businesses they are winning valuable goodwill which, along with the positive use of social media, they must ensure continues post Covid-19.

Many farm shops and rural outlets have adapted their operations to run doorstep deliveries and are overwhelmed with demand as supermarkets become unappealing places to visit. While this is proving a lifeline to the elderly and isolated, the opportunity must not be lost amid the Corona chaos of highlighting the quality of local produce and its sustainability when delivered locally. Much of this demand is based on trust and a back-to-basics appeal of receiving safe, affordable, traceable, local food in troubled times. Such appreciation will potentially lead to future loyalty and maintaining a strong PR and marketing message is important.

Social media messaging

Internet use has predictably risen during the crisis and as such it is the best way to raise the profile of an individual business. Rural business owners may now have the time to upgrade their social media and PR messages – this is the moment for the sector to shout about its strengths and capitalise on the wave of goodwill. A communications plan is needed to share with stakeholders and customers to keep them informed about how a business is functioning now and its future plans.

Rural = Safe

Post lockdown, our rural areas will potentially see an upsurge in visitors as foreign holidays may be put on the backburner for the rest of the year, with the UK regarded as a safe place to be. Businesses such as holiday cottages, camp sites and outdoor experience ventures need their websites and marketing strategies to be ready for this.

Appreciation of rural businesses, especially food producers, is now at a high and while it is keeping many of them afloat, it must be sustained by fresh business thinking. Now is the time to build your brand before normal life resumes; that will be the time to launch promotions and offers which can be prepared now.

For strategic PR for rural businesses or advice on using PR and digital marketing to strengthen your rural business contact Source PR on 01829 720789 or email gill@sourcepr.co.uk

THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA: ‘DIRTY TRICKS’ ON HOUSEPARTY SEES USAGE PLUMMET

We’re all feeling the strain of self-isolation. Whether you’re working from home, a key worker rushed off your feet, or a hassled parent trying to keep your children entertained as well as educated, there’s nobody out there who hasn’t been in some way affected by the outbreak of COVID-19.

 

HOUSEPARTY REAPS REWARDS

 

As the connected generation we are, one of the ways to keep in touch with wider friends and family that has boomed in popularity in the last two weeks has been the app Houseparty. A little like Skype or Zoom in nature, but with the added ability to play games with your friends, Houseparty has seen a surge in popularity as users look for new and interesting ways to keep in touch with friends far and wide. You can video or voice call with multiple people, do quizzes, draw with friends and chat with ease.

 

Keeping in contact with loved ones is a vital way of maintaining good mental health; experts put keeping in touch, caring for others and asking for help in the top 10 ways to look after your own mental health.

 

It looked like Houseparty, along with a few other niche companies, was going to enjoy a rapid increase in success from the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

That is, until yesterday, when reports from social media began to flood in accusing the app of hacking their social media and bank accounts.

Tweets showing screenshots of email accounts reporting password changes and unusual banking activity began to flood in.

It’s not clear exactly how users thought they could tell the hacking attempts were due to Houseparty, but due to the online frenzy, users were rapidly deleting the app, and their accounts, instructing others to as well.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time for the company. The usage of Houseparty, since the coronavirus outbreak, has increased exponentially. Where once it was a blip in the download charts, it has now grown a worthy rival to Skype: though Zoom continues to eclipse them both.

Google searches for Houseparty have also increased 100% in the past year – almost entirely in this month alone.

BOUNTY HUNTERS

Houseparty has now alleged that the hacking rumours are a ‘dirty tricks smear campaign’, and are offering a huge $1m bounty for any proof of its app causing the issues users are said to be facing. A spokesperson for Epic Games, the owners of Houseparty, said, ‘We’ve found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts.’

 

 

THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA

 

While social media has become an important tool in holding companies accountable for unethical or unsatisfactory practices, Houseparty’s confidence in its own app security suggests that this might well have been an orchestrated attack on an up-and-coming app.

 

Speculation has begun to arise on just who might be the perpetrator – but until there’s proof of exactly who it was, it seems that it’s safe to continue using the app.

 

Unfortunately, social media’s great power has the potential to be used with great irresponsibility, with no corporation or individual too big or small to come under its fire.

 

At Source, we understand the importance of best practices on social media, including how to avoid misuse and maintain professionalism. For advice on social media, digital marketing and PR, give us a call on 01829 720789, or follow us on Twitter (source_tweets), Instagram (prsource) and Facebook (Source PR).

MARKETING FOR FARM DIVERSIFICATION

As more farms are facing the financial crunch, many are looking to diversify and explore new and different options to sustain their businesses and bring in revenues.  Marketing and PR play an important role in supporting these businesses and helping them reach their full potential.

One such example is the growing of cannabis for both medicinal use and as industrial hemp, increasingly being explored by the farming industry.  This venture needs careful marketing and PR to support this initiative as cannabis is a controversial crop; however, it is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition if markets can be secured.

The UK is already one of the world’s largest growers of medicinal cannabis and now the opportunities from growing non-psychoactive industrial hemp are gaining traction as farms look to diversify further. The uses for hemp are wide-ranging and include cooking oil, dietary supplements and biofuels from the seeds and textiles. The stem contains strong fibre which can be used in building materials and even car bodywork panels. Hemp was widely grown in the UK in the Middle Ages when it was used for making sails, ropes and fishing nets and its oil was burned in lamps.

Farm Diversification

Farmers are taking advice on the many regulations surrounding growing cannabis and what makes a suitable site. Hemp requires dry, light soils and thrives in hot weather. It also absorbs carbon and grows quickly, establishing a sunlight-absorbing canopy which blocks the light preventing weeds from growing, therefore pesticides are not required. Hemp aerates the soil and releases nitrogen into it making it ideal for crop rotation. A drawback is that harvesting requires specialist kit.

A government licence is required to permit the growing of industrial hemp. Sites will be monitored by the Rural Payments Agency to ensure plants do not contain over the legal limit of 0.2pc of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the psychoactive substance of cannabis.

It’s easy to see why this crop is popular with farms looking to diversify as in 2019 the worldwide legal cannabis industry generated around £11.5bn in revenue and this figure is expected to escalate. Prescriptions of medicinal cannabis were legalised last year and are set to rapidly increase. Whilst lucrative, growing high-grade medicinal cannabis to extract CBD oil (cannabidiol) is not straightforward; it is cost-intensive requiring climate-controlled glasshouses: lower-grade industrial hemp is an easier option.

The profits to be made have caught the attention of financiers and institutions. While the biggest profits are set to come from CBD extraction, industrial hemp appears to be a strong prospect if markets are secured for its many and varied products.

For businesses looking for marketing for farm diversification, contact our specialist rural PR division at Source PR for advice on PR, marketing and social media.

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS DAY: WE’RE OFFERING FREE PR SUPPORT TO ONE OF YOUR CHARITIES

PR agencies are often bemoaned for cliché campaigns around specific nominated days, weeks or months, whether National Donut Day, Apprentice Week or Movember, but one that I have a personal soft spot for however is “Random Acts of Kindness Day”.

It’s a great concept and one that helps lift our heads from the daily grind in order to make a small contribution to others that will either bring a smile to their faces or possibly a more profound change.

Ironically it is also the exact day that my son had an horrific accident that put him in a coma for 15 days seven years ago.  It also became a day that opened my eyes to the simple acts of kindness we received as a family from friends, relatives and even people we had never met.

In support of Random Acts of Kindness Day this year, the Source PR team thought it would be great if we led by example and contributed our own act of kindness.

Random Acts of Kindness

So, we are proposing to give six months of free PR support and advice, social media management and content creation to a nominated charity.  We’re encouraging readers of this blog to simply nominate their charity of choice and we can contact them to offer our services as a simple, yet random, act of kindness.

Over the last few years we have been involved in supporting a range of charities as various organisations come in contact with our lives.  I have been lucky enough to have been able to privately raise funds or donate to charity and equally I have been ‘unlucky’ enough to have been at the receiving end of charitable support.

It is not until you are at the point of need that you really understand the incredible work that they so selflessly do.  Some of the charities that have touched my life include:

  • Ronald McDonald House
  • Brain Injury Trust
  • Oscar’s Angels
  • National Autistic Society
  • Cystic Fibrosis Trust

Nominate your charity

If I was to ask readers who are the top five charities that have touched their lives, everyone would be different – there are no right or wrong answers, but just ones that matter to you.

If you have a spare moment, let us know which charity you’d like to nominate via this form or drop me an email at Louis@sourcepr.co.uk and we will do the rest! Keep an eye out on Facebook as in a week’s time we’ll ask you to vote for one of our shortlisted charities.

Nominate here: https://forms.gle/2EoNNTCj8YQhwTCk8

Follow the journey on our social:

Instagram: @PRSource

Twitter: @Source_Tweets

Facebook: Source PR

LinkedIn: The Source

STAKEHOLDER COMMUNICATIONS – FIGHTING FOR FARMERS

The high standards of British agriculture will be heralded at a London rally organised by the NFU in a bid to make the Government think twice about allowing food into the UK which is produced to lesser standards in any trade deal.  By undertaking a programme of effective stakeholder communications, the farming and food community is set to raise awareness and deliver the results and assurances they need.

The rally, on March 25 at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Westminster, aims to secure a commitment that UK standards will be safeguarded in trade deals to be negotiated this year with Europe and the rest of the world.

It will feature speeches from environmental and consumer spokespeople, animal welfare professionals and farming leaders. The message is that UK farmers produce safe, traceable food and this excellence must not be sacrificed in the necessity to strike free trade deals.

MPs will be invited and the event will undoubtedly put pressure on Government to avoid kow-towing to other countries. The Conservative manifesto also pledged to not jeopardise UK animal welfare standards; further influence comes from a letter to the Prime Minister signed by over 60 groups including the RSPCA and Soil Association urging the protection of food standards.

Campaign publicity

Farming is not generally an industry which takes to the streets of the capital to make demands. There’s a swathe of public support for maintaining our food standards and not allowing items such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef into the UK. The unpalatable history of big landowners receiving the largest subsidy payments is now receding, which may also generate support for the industry as it adjusts to provide public goods in return for subsidy payments: this bedrock of support lessens the potential for cries of self-interest to be levelled at farmers.

The publicity campaign surrounding the rally has already succeeded in highlighting the standards of UK farming and coverage in the weeks before the event could add further weight: the power of the campaign will undoubtedly exert pressure on Government.

For advice on successful campaigning and strategic PR, contact the team at Source PR.

DIVERSIFY, BUT TELL YOUR STORY WELL

Adding income streams through diversification projects is focusing the business brains of many farms and estates in this post-Brexit landscape. And while a new farm shop, glamping enterprise or festival requires concentrated attention, it’s also vital to think about PR and marketing for your rural business to actually tell customers about your rural business or scheme.

People are wanting more from the countryside – more to see, do and experience – and this behavioural change creates opportunities. Estates and farms may be thinking of outdoor film nights, festivals, high-end camping experiences or demonstrations of local goods: these are all great stories to tell via social media and structured PR.

Rural Marketing and brand building

Take the example of creating a high-end product by rearing extensively farmed meat;  research shows that some customers are keen to pay more and travel further to make a special purchase of say, Longhorn beef. The story that needs to be told includes the health benefits of the meat, the welfare enjoyed by the cattle, the rearing system, (e.g. a grass-fed diet) and interesting breed traits. By promoting provenance, you can build a brand.

The benefits of nature are increasingly cited as helping with mental health problems; this offers opportunities for creating low-cost schemes such as walking and cycling routes or woodland glamping. With the possibility of outdoor therapy being prescribed by the NHS in future, these are good stories to tell. Likewise, with broadband and the prospect of 5G opening up rural areas creating opportunities for diverse businesses, it’s important to publicise an exciting enterprise, engaging with the local community as well as broader  promotion.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the detail of setting up a business. A different perspective on reaching out to a wider customer base can be illuminating – that’s where professional PR and marketing come in and can pay dividends.  Get in contact with our specialist rural PR and marketing team for a free business consultation.

 

HOW PR INFLUENCERS ARE SHAPING THE HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS OF YOUNG PEOPLE

If you’re a regular user of social media, you’ll know that so-called ‘Blue Monday’ has not long passed. This extremely successful marketing scheme, originally created by Sky Travel in 2005 to sell holidays, is debunked yearly. Yet despite the pseudoscience, it seems to resonate with people: we have post-Christmas fatigue, aren’t drinking or going out so much, and it’s cold and dark. January continues to be the month in which advertisers for travel companies spend the most money, as the trends indicate that this is when people want to start looking forward to a holiday.

 

One of the most sought-after destinations, largely popularised by influencers and celebrities, is the Indonesian island of Bali. In 2017, Bali was voted as the world’s best tourist destination by TripAdvisor reviewers. It can regularly be seen in the backdrop of Instagram influencers, and is a popular destination for Love Island contestants past and present. The appeal is clear: once the pricey flights are paid for, the cost of eating, drinking and travelling within the island are low by comparison to more traditional holiday destinations. Money aside, it’s also one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. It boasts white sands, blue beaches and waterfalls, to name but a few of its ecological attractions.

 

The price to pay for popularity?

 

There are some downsides to the huge surge in popularity for the island. Bali fares better than its neighbouring island of Lombok. Due to Lombok’s Muslim population and governance, it has tighter rules around alcohol, pork and adult entertainment. This severely impacts its popularity. However, the Indonesian government is still pushing for other islands to be visited, since the influx of tourists to Bali is reaching a maximum capacity. Over five million tourists visited the island last year, a million more people than the island’s actual population.

 

Over-exploitation by tourists has led the Indonesian government to declare a ‘garbage emergency’. It now plans to build ‘ten new Balis’ in order to keep up with the demand for tourism.

 

A similar incident occurred on the beach of Phi Phi Leh, the beach made famous by the novel and Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach. It has now closed until 2021 in order to recuperate and let the wildlife thrive. As many as 5,000 visitors per day came to ‘The Beach’, causing a surge of population that the infrastructure and habitat couldn’t handle.

 

Social media campaigns to blame?

 

The over-popularity could be due to the increased awareness of the island’s beauty from social media. TripAdvisor now offers so-called ‘Instagram tours’ around Bali. Does this indicate the true intention of many of its tourists might be less about observation and appreciation, and more about likes and showcasing? Likupang, an Indonesian island similar to Bali, suffers from ‘empty beaches’ despite its beauty. Eliza Borello writes for ABC Australia, ‘With almost no one in the water, there’s a sense tourists are bused to the beach for a selfie and bused back to town not long after […] Beyond the Instagram veneer, rubbish is a problem.’

 

The nature of Bali may carry its own appeal to Westerners. As somewhere less accessible, and in many cases a less conventional place to holiday, it might be seen as a more ‘exotic’ destination than a Spain, Greece or Canary Islands trip. Its exoticism therefore increases its appeal, and it becomes the more sought-after destination for influencers and young travellers.

 

New horizons

 

With any luck, the Indonesian government will be able to curb the over-exploitation of what is a beautiful and unique destination. Whether this comes down to the promotion of islands that are similar to Bali, or creating entirely new destinations, it would be regrettable if an island which appeal stems from its seclusion becomes unable to cope with its capacity for tourists.

 

Whatever happens, Bali’s success story shows the power of social media and influencers. At Source, we can give you the low-down on the latest in the digital world, including social media and online communications. Get in touch with us on 01829 7208789 to learn more, or follow us on Twitter (@source_tweets), Facebook (@SourcePublicRelations) and LinkedIn (The Source).

 

 

Social Media Management

We’re often asked by clients about social media management or support in developing and devising social media campaigns as often they neither have the time nor necessary skill set to effectively attract and engage with their chosen audiences.

When looking to hire outsourced marketing support the key is to ensure you align your broader marketing communications strategy to incorporate what you’re saying to customers through your social channels.

It’s critical to get it right so you’re able to deliver consistent, timely and relevant messages.  Once the strategy is agreed, here are some top tips to getting your posts right:

  • Content is king – remember your audiences and make it relevant to them, not just a sales message
  • Don’t post if you’ve got nothing to say – ‘Happy Friday’ is a waste of time
  • Be consistent – know what you want to say, why and what you’re saying elsewhere
  • Share insight – entice and engage by providing audiences with relevant content that supports their needs or makes them relate to your brand
  • Use pictures or video to tell a story – audiences tend to spend less that 3 seconds per post, using visual aids can quickly convey a message

Outsourcing the management of your social media to a team of people that do it every day has some obvious advantages.  Not only will the team have the time and expertise to develop posts but will also provide you with the valuable insights into post performance and customer interactions.

Benefits of Social Media

Other benefits of effective social media management include having the option to:

  • Manage multiple accounts across various platforms
  • Analyse social engagement
  • Schedule posts in advance
  • Receive comprehensive reports of analytics
  • Monitor comments and respond efficiently
  • Collaborate with team members on content

The ultimate goal of social media management is to save you time, increase awareness of your products or service and therefore ultimately customers and profits.  If you want to know more contact us or slide into our DMs.

 

WHAT’S THE INFLUENCE OF INFLUENCER PR?

Public relations has always been about influencing audiences and ensuring a brand or product is portrayed in the right light – the secret now is to use influencer PR.

Ensuring you are able to influence those who have influence over others is a crucial part of the work whether targeting journalists, MPs or celebrities.  The advent and exponential growth of social media has however seen the emergence of ‘influencers’ whose sole purpose seems to be to share their experiences and influence others.

Admittedly, the successful influencers focus on a market segment as their area of authority, whether mums, teens, fashion bloggers or people with a passion for their homes to name just a few sectors.

‘Being an influencer’ is now one of the most popular career options for primary school children. Gone are the days of kids aspiring to be lawyers, astronauts or firemen – it’s now all about becoming an online influencer.

A survey by  global affiliate network www.awin.com showed that one in five (17 per cent) of kids now wants to be a social media influencer and 14 per cent wanted to be a YouTuber – only doctor (18 per cent) scored higher.

The role of influencers is can pay dividends for the individual as well as the brands looking to engage with audiences.   A Marketingcharts.com surveyfound 22 per cent of 18-34 year-olds made a large purchase after seeing an online influencer endorsing the item – be that games, fashion, make-up or hotels.  The challenge however is finding the right influencer, with a genuine following and who has authority and an ability to engage with their audiences.

This year’s Love Island is already spawning a new wave of ‘influencers’ with huge numbers of followers.  However, research has revealed that many of their followers are in fact fake, undermining their credibility.

Tommy Fury, the most-followed contestant, has 971,000 followers but well over half (60%) of those are fake.  The contestants whose Instagram profiles have the highest concentration of fake followers are Amber Rose Gill and Jordan Hames, at 65% each.

Six of the 17 contestant accounts were reported for suspicious activity, just weeks before the contestants were publicly announced. Strangely Anton Danyluk would appear to have great influencer and support in India, Brazil and Mexico – some of the most common countries where ‘bot farms are commonly located.

Last year, Instagram claimed it was intending to target fake likes and comments from users who use third-party apps to boost their popularity.  The issue is a serious one as research from Social Chain has reported that brands are being defrauded by up to 96% of what they spend with some influencers.

The message from this seems to be clear that when used correctly, influencers have a key role to play in successfully targeting audience groups.  However, remember to do your research to ensure you know exactly how much influence your influencer actually has.