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WHAT MAKES THE BEST PR AGENCY?

As the new year begins and we enter a third lockdown, now seems the right time to think about what will make the best PR agency for clients whether in Manchester, Liverpool or the North West.  Here, we share our thoughts on what makes a PR and social media agency successful and how good client relationships are the secret to taking marketing results to the next level.

Key Characteristics Of The Best PR Agency

Know the client. I mean really know the client

One key skill for PR executives working in agencies is the ability to juggle various client demands at any one time. It can be very challenging working in a PR agency, but it does allow executives to get a broad range of experience under their belts, which in turn adds value back to clients.  You can really become mini experts in a number of different industries in no time, and the best PR agencies will always be the embodiment of this skill.  After working client side, I realised that there’s always more to know about a business, to understand its strategic decisions and its relationship with stakeholders.  If you can take this in-depth approach and apply it on the agency side, whether for B2B clients or B2C clients, you not only offer better communications advice but can also help shape the client’s business direction.

Put substance before style

I’ve never been a big fan of the PR stunt or more general ‘PR puff’.  Although creative ideas remain the backbone of what we offer, the best PR agencies should always consider whether the proposals are achievable and whether they deliver real returns and impact for clients?  There’s nothing worse than a Mr Negative in a creative brainstorm or planning process, however the best PR agencies always keep an eye on the prize and an effective balance between style with a healthy dose of substance behind it all.  Over promising and under delivering is the worst of all worlds.

Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

When looking back on my career, I do recall a moment when working in house for one of the UK’s leading retailers and we were advising the board on how to handle the media in light of a poor set of annual results.  The CEO was his usual bullish self, pushing for us to make this claim or that.  I realised then that my boss, a very successful director of communications, was essentially the grey man of the boardroom by only telling the CEO wanted to hear.  I made a vow to myself never to be that grey man and to always offer honest PR / communication advice based on experience.  Clients are at liberty to adopt or ignore it but for effective relationships, always be honest (perhaps that’s why I never became a Director of Corporate Affairs..!?). To us, this is one of the most important things that makes the best PR agency.

It costs how much?

The days of big spending PR campaigns may be over, but the requirement for showing a return on investment is omnipresent.  It has never been more important and the best PR agency will always demonstrate that great ideas shouldn’t cost the earth to deliver. We live in a quicker, more transparent society and one that does allow great stories and content to be shared easily.  Also, if you know your client, you should know what they need to spend to succeed – don’t turn your back on big budgets but always be aware of what will be delivered in return.

Know what PR campaigns work

You’d be amazed how many clients still view being on a breakfast TV sofa as a success.  Be honest from the outset and tell B2B PR clients that sales of their new widget are rarely achieved after an interview with Phil or Fern.  Be targeted, selective and know their customers and where their products or services need to be – this adds real value.

Be supportive and flexible

With Covid 19 still causing business disruption, the best PR agencies will continue to be flexible and supportive of their client’s changing needs and priorities – including knowing how to handle a crisis situation.  Having the right strategy and the flexibility to evolve it ensures a client’s business remains focussed on priorities and the changes on the ground.  Our work with Combermere Abbey is one such example of a business that faced hardship due to lockdowns but came out stronger on the other side.  Let’s hope the same is true for other businesses as we eventually emerge from this pandemic.

If you’re looking for a PR agency or social media agency in Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire or the North West, please get in contact and let us show you why we are the best PR agency.

A GUIDE TO COMMUNICATING THROUGH THE THIRD LOCKDOWN

For the third time in our lives, and thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, England has been plunged into a third nationwide lockdown. Clear instructions were given by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday that we must “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”. This means that non-essential retailers are to close, with most hospitality outlets such as pubs, restaurants and hotels being closed already due to pre-existing tier restrictions. Navigating the next few months is without a doubt going to be tricky, but we at The Source are on hand to support you with any questions around communications you might have.

Should You Be Continuing With PR & Social Media Through Lockdown?

We might be biased, but we believe it is crucial to continue communicating with your customers, even during periods of total closure. There are many reasons for doing so, which we will explain further below. But first, we’d direct you to our PR case study for Combermere Abbey, a luxury wedding venue and holiday accommodation. Throughout the first and second lockdown, this client retained their PR and social media activity, understanding the importance of consistent communications. As a result, following the lifting of restrictions last summer, the abbey was inundated with bookings, and enjoyed a busy year, all things considered.

A social media campaign we ran for our client Combermere Abbey got great engagement during lockdown, read our case study to find out more…

The financial implications of a third lockdown mean you might be wondering whether a PR and social media strategy is worth the budget, we believe it is because…

  • Your competitors may still be communicating, and you don’t want to lose customers to them if you go quiet.
  • People will want things to look forward to, you can get them excited about the future and ensure that when restrictions are lifted, they’ll come to you.
  • You might be able to pivot your business and still make revenue during lockdown, for example by offering gift vouchers or a takeaway service.
  • With people being at home a lot more, it’s likely social media usage will rise once more, now is a great time to work on building your following and introducing your brand to a wealth of new people.
  • Now is a great time to gauge interest for later on this year, you can subtly generate interest and then introduce a hard-hitting marketing strategy when restrictions are hopefully lifted in the spring.

The Lion at Malpas voucher

What To Say When There’s Nothing To Say

An issue, of course, of communicating through lockdown is that you might feel as though you have nothing to say. It could be the case that your business is fully closed for the next few months, and up until now your social media has been focused around sales. However, just because you can’t sell to customers, doesn’t mean you should stop talking to them. It can be hard to find the inspiration of what to post for sure, so here’s 5 of our top tips…

  1. Switch up your call to actions, instead of directing people to purchase, suggest they visit your website to read a blog, or follow your social media pages for more updates instead.
  2. Get people excited about the future, by showing them what’s on offer for when restrictions are lifted.
  3. Give your customers updates. If you’re a gym and you’re renovating a certain area, shout about this on your social media – people want something to look forward to.
  4. Introduce confidence offers for people to encourage revenue now, for example if you’re in the holiday business, are there deals and secure booking policies that you can introduce, for people who book now for stays later this year?
  5. Share happy memories from times gone by. If you’re a wedding venue, for example, why not encourage past brides and grooms to post pictures from their happy days. Positivity is what got brands through the last 2 lockdowns, and it’s what will get us through this one too.

It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t post for the sake of it, though, as this could end up doing more harm than good. However, if you can find a relevant message to your brand – then hold on to that.

Other Lockdown Communication Tips

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for marketing, but there are some tips and tricks you can go by to ensure an efficient communications strategy throughout this third (and hopefully final) lockdown. If you’re now convinced that it’s important to stay in touch with your customers, both old and new, then here’s some of our advice for actioning that…

  • Use different means of communicating, as not every customer will use the same channels. You can typically reach an older demographic via informational newsletters and Facebook or try Instagram or TikTok to communicate to a younger audience.
  • Test what works well by trying different types of content on different platforms, then stick to what works once you’ve determined a winning formula.
  • This is a difficult time for us all but try to focus on the positives if you can. Share happy memories and get your customers looking forward to visiting you or buying from you when restrictions are lifted.
  • Use this time, if you can, do get involved with the local community and help out. Brewdog recently made headlines by offering their empty bars to the NHS to be used as vaccination facilities. Your acts don’t need to be extravagant as this, but it always helps to generate good PR if you can help out in any way you can. Why not raise money for a local charity in a lockdown fundraiser, or donate surplus stock to a foodbank?
  • Pivot your business and operate online if you can, this can be from offering a takeaway service through to creating e-vouchers. Continue to encourage people to support businesses and shop local.

If there is any more advice you’d like, or any questions for our team of experts, please don’t hesitate to tweet us, or send us a private message through our website. We look forward to hearing from you soon and until then, stay safe.

5 SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS TO KEEP YOUR ENGAGEMENT UP

Plunged into the second England-wide lockdown of 2020, it’s imperative that communications are continued on social media. Remaining vocal not only reassures customers, but it also keeps a brand at the forefront of their mind. When a company has something to sell through lockdown, even better. You can read our blog from the first lockdown on the importance of continuing your marketing efforts by clicking here.

Below, our social media experts at The Source have gotten their heads together and put together some helpful social media tips to keep your engagement up. The kind of advice that focuses on quality engagement, as opposed to vanity metrics and big numbers. After all, it’s better to have 10 interactions from users with purchase intent, than 100 people who’ll just scroll on without a second thought.

Five Social Media Tips For Good Engagement

Don’t Sleep On Boosted Posts

Don’t have the money for a paid ad campaign on Facebook right now? Don’t worry. Boosted posts are a great way to get around this, as you can push specific content out to a certain, refined audience (that you build yourself). You won’t find yourself paying out big budgets for this either. If you have something particular to push over a short period of time, such as last-minute room availability in a hotel, or an offer linked to an upcoming holiday (Bonfire Night, for example), then a boosted post may be the ideal cost-effective solution for you. Pre-lockdown, we boosted a Facebook post for one of our clients in the hospitality sector and for just £30, over the course of 7 days the campaign returned over 100 targeted website link clicks, as well as a reach of nearly 7000 people. That’s around a 30p cost per click and 0.04p per eyeball. You can find out more about the ins and out of boosting posts on Facebook’s help page.

Social media tips - boosted posts on Facebook

Promote On Other Platforms

When it comes to boosted posts, the usual go-to is Facebook – but the same advice can be used on Instagram too, which has a boosted post function that works alongside Facebook (due to their ownership of the platform). This means it’s super easy to do. One that’s often not mentioned in social media tips, but one that’s well worth considering… LinkedIn. Their sponsor function is a little trickier to get to grips with, with extremely specific audience filters that can provide a reach anywhere from hundreds to millions of users – but once you do get a hang of the process, it’s a great way for clients to reach the audience that are exactly right for them. Despite it being a little more costly (a daily sponsored post must be £8.00 minimum), LinkedIn was designed with B2B companies in mind, so if your clients are aiming to reach businesses and business owners, it’s well worth the investment.

Hashtag Phrases, Not Words

You can get a lot of engagement out of hashtags on Twitter in particular, but one of the best approaches (due to character limit) is to focus on phrases as opposed to single words. The reason for this, is that if someone is wanting to find out information about marketing, for example, then it’s easy enough for them to simply type the word ‘marketing’ into the search bar. Whether you’ve hashtag-ged in the post or not, as long as you’ve used the right keyword, your tweet will still be filed there. Hashtags that consist of multiple words or slogans usually get better engagement as they’re related to specific search patterns. The best tactic to use is to jump on the hashtags that are trending, wherever they’re relevant to your brand. For example, if you work with a client that produces cakes or baking ingredients, then rather than using characters up to hashtag #cake, why not wait until a Tuesday and start up a conversation around the Great British Bake Off? Use the hashtags #GreatBritishBakeOff or #GBBO which are usually trending in the UK between around 7pm-10pm on a Tuesday evening (when GBBO is on TV, that is). Another tip when it comes to hashtags, is capitalising each word to make it easier to read, for example you should say #ShopLocal instead of #shoplocal.

Tap In To New Industries

Crossing over to new industries is a great way to build your following up and widen your exposure. If your business is in food sauces, for example, try linking your content in to relate to restaurants or cafes, as opposed to keeping it really niche. This way, your business is available to a much bigger audience – but as those restaurant owners might want to purchase your sauces in the future – it’s a relevant audience too. One of the best ways to reach these new sectors is to share insights and relevant content. Get a Feedly stream going that includes trade publications for the industries you’re hoping to target so you can reshare their content, and don’t miss appropriate hashtags too, especially on Twitter and LinkedIn. They can help make sure you’re reaching the right people.

Try New Things

Lastly, another great social media tip to keep up the momentum with your social media is to experiment and try new things. A/B testing is an excellent method to trial different kinds of content, and you’ll likely find a tactic that works really well for your business. Every brand is different so it’s imperative you find what suits yours best. You could also try different platforms to see what works well for you. You might have traditionally always used Facebook and Instagram, but how about LinkedIn to reach a more corporate audience? Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, TikTok marketing is very new and upcoming and the reach can be insane. You can check out an example here of a local estate agents who’re using TikTok to showcase the homes they have for sale, and average reach is around 20k views with some videos reaching over 900k impressions.

Social media tips - use TikTok

Credit: Social Films

For more social media advice, along with PR and marketing insights too, be sure to keep a close eye on our blog. Or, to keep up with what we’re doing on social – you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.