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WHY COMMUNITY MATTERS IN YOUR PR STRATEGY

Community relations – sometimes known as CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) – can be overlooked in the face of immediate, tangible benefits. However, a good PR strategy will consider community and the value of it for your brand. Whether that’s using your platform to champion smaller businesses, or actively supporting charities and organisations.

This was proven very recently on April 12th, as pub beer gardens opened across England as part of the Government Roadmap. With the hospitality industry arguably one of the hardest hit amid the Coronavirus pandemic, Tesco decided they would dedicate their advertising space on this monumental day to a better cause. On Monday, they launched the following ad in multiple English newspapers.

Tesco April 12th Print Ad

This kind of media coverage would have been costly, so the idea that Tesco used it to champion smaller, local outlets as opposed to their own business, was very well received. It’s the perfect example as to why community relations matter in any PR strategy. Whether your business is large or small, you cannot go wrong with CSR.

Let’s explore why…

Why You Should Consider The Role Of Community Relations In PR

Community relations are so important to any brand for a multitude of reasons. Some of which include:

  • Building a better brand reputation
  • Making your brand more recognisable in the local area
  • Giving your brand a personality
  • Showing consumers that they’re buying from a brand that cares

For these reasons and many more, is why a whole host of brands work hard on their CSR strategies. Community relations isn’t a black and white area of PR, there are different things that businesses can be doing to improve their image, and it doesn’t matter how big or small your brand is. Some of the things a business can do include:

  • Adopting a sustainability policy
  • Fundraising for charity
  • Donating a portion of sales to charity, such as a % of a sale from a certain product
  • Using a bigger platform to champion smaller businesses
  • Working with local schools and organisations
  • Supporting employees and their own community initiatives
  • Backing smaller sports teams
  • Lobbying for change using your own platforms
  • And so much more (why not ask us what would work best for your brand?)

Why The Tesco Ad Worked

Going back to Tesco and their print advertisement, though it didn’t directly promote their products, it still helped to give the brand a push and generate positive coverage. Tesco’s selfless community relations act ended up returning far more than we can assume a traditional advert would have. Results included more conversation on social media and more positive feelings towards the brand.

Tesco Exaxample Of Community Relations

This links into the age-old debate that PR is not always about ROI and sales. It’s about building a better and more engaging brand. One people recognise as caring and community-driven. This reputation is worth way more than a single newspaper advert. Furthermore, Tesco still got great coverage in the online media as well as from their print ads. Not to mention the fantastic reaction on social media. A traditional advert would never have piqued attention quite like this.

Whilst linking up and supporting your community – whether on a local or national level – might not return immediate sales, it’s a crucial brand-building exercise that any good PR strategy should consider.  At Source PR, we often work with our clients to bring them together with the local area. We often support with this kind of community relations PR work with Miller Homes, one of our clients in the property industry. If you’re interested in finding out more about how this works in a PR strategy, read our case study. Want to know more? Why not reach out to our team?

HOW TO BE AHEAD OF YOUR COMPETITION BY 12TH APRIL

If the Government roadmap goes ahead as planned, then 12th April is set to be an important date for the hospitality industry. Not only can self-catering accommodation open once more, but also outdoor attractions can reopen, as can gyms, leisure centres and beer gardens. This means that between now and then, it needs to be all-hands-on-deck for those businesses to ensure that come 12th April, you’re ahead of your competition and ready to welcome your customers back with open arms once more. Is your business ready for the lifting of lockdown?

To be on the front foot amongst your competitors now, you need to be looking at a PR, social media and marketing strategy – don’t wait until April to start communicating. If you were really on the ball, you may have already been communicating through lockdowns, as we can’t stress enough the importance of keeping in touch with your consumers, even when you’re not open for business.

If you’ve not started yet, then now is the time to. Below we’re laying out some tips and advice for how to be ahead of your competition by 12th April – especially if you’re in the hospitality industry – with the help of a little PR magic.

Beating Your Competition With Communications

Plenty of businesses have been communicating with their customers throughout lockdown, but not all have. Those that have continued to retain a PR strategy, have already started seeing the benefits of it as restrictions ease. Our client Combermere Abbey, for example, in the last lockdown enjoyed almost 100 bookings in the first few weeks after reopening them; and they’re set to enjoy similar successes this time around too. Don’t wait to start talking to your consumers, start now. This is what we’d advise.

Spend time on CSR

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is often wrongly overlooked as a PR exercise. Brand reputation is so important, and you want to be getting your name out there for all of the right reasons. You might not be able to trade at the moment, but what’s stopping you from supporting your local community or charities? We actively encourage our clients to get involved with local schools, care homes and other organisations as much as they can, not only does this open them up to new audiences and reinforces their brand reputation; but it also heightens the chance of some great regional media coverage too.

Become a regular on social

If you’ve not already been utilising a social media strategy, then now is the time to start. We’d recommend communicating with your customers regularly every week – talk about what’s coming up, what they can expect when they return and what you’ve been up to during lockdown. Everybody wants something to look forward to at the moment, and you have the potential to capitalise on that. For hospitality businesses, we’d recommend focusing on Facebook, Instagram – and perhaps Twitter and LinkedIn. Don’t forget about TikTok too – a relatively new platform but one that can do your business many favours if you get it right.

Jump on every press opportunity

Press opportunities are coming thick and fast at the moment, in only the last few weeks we’ve landed client coverage on big publications such as The Telegraph and the Daily Mail to name just a couple. Look out for where you can insert your business into the media and generate some extra exposure, either locally or nationally, to help put yourself in front of your competitors come April 12th. To speak to the team about how to jump on press opportunities like this and get your business some great media coverage, get in touch with us via our website.

Start direct communications now

If your customers are signed up for an email database… Then they’ll want to hear from you! Start putting together a plan for newsletters, but don’t overdo it either. It’s good to give your consumers an update, but make sure you’re tying it into something important, for example, you might have opened reservations or given the go-ahead to open from 12th April. Keep your communications consistent but relevant, and always on-brand.

Work on your website

Finally, don’t waste this period of closure – use it to put your business in a great position for when you can reopen. We recently wrote about how to navigate through the third lockdown and part of this included working on your website, optimising content, updating meta descriptions, page titles and so on. Also, put together an SEO blog strategy that focuses on relevant long-tail keywords, as well as including content that your customers will want to read about. With the right strategies in place, the work you do now may well be ranking where you want it to be by mid-April.

Ready, Set, Go…

If you really want to get competitive and have a great communications plan in place to ensure a successful spring and summer, then why not get in touch with our team of experts? We have a wealth of experience in hospitality PR, and would love to chat about what we can do for your business? Get in touch now, or why not check out the case studies on our website?

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.

THE MARKETING STRATEGIES YOU SHOULD BE USING RIGHT NOW

As the UK is slowly easing out of lockdown, it has never been more important to deploy a number of marketing strategies to help support your business as it begins to resume normalcy. Normality might be a stretch, as life as we know it has changed a lot over the course of the law few months.

Nevertheless, lots of brands have adjusted their procedures accordingly so that they can work and trade in the “new normal” we have found ourselves to be in. Now that provisions have been made, it’s time to start marketing to your pre-existing, and potential new customers – let’s make up for lost time.

The value of marketing should never be understated. Even during UK lockdown where many businesses had to close, there was still a need to communicate and keep your brand alive. The idea was to not let your customers forget about you, and to keep them engaged and excited for when you may be able to resume ‘business as normal’. Now, since non-essential retailers have been able to open, and as the hospitality industry begins to resume next month, your marketing strategies need to change accordingly. No longer is the message: “we are here waiting for your return”, it is “we are back, and this is why you should be spending money with us”.

To get such messages across, you’ll need to use a number of marketing strategies and tactics. One is often not enough. In order to recuperate the losses that lockdown might have brought, you’re going to want to be visible to a large audience of varying demographics and with different interests. As well as remarketing to existing customers, now’s the time to start encouraging new ones in too.

Below, our team have put together some advice on marketing for hospitality, retail and other industries that might have been impacted by the Covid-19 restrictions.

Marketing Strategies For Hospitality, Retail & Other Sectors

As mentioned above, you’re going to want to deploy a number of marketing strategies in order to reach as many (relevant) people as possible. There are a number of ways in which you can do this, and they include…

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is great for retargeting, as chances are your followers like your content, or even better – your brand. As such, utilising social media could be the low hanging fruit for your reopening marketing strategies. Use platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to share business updates, inspirational content, hygiene protocols that will give your customers a safe experience, and anything else that you know is a particular hit with your consumers. To help build following, and to get people excited about your brand again, you might even want to run a social media competition or two. The most important thing is to remain active, you want to be popping up time and time again to your audience so that you’re on their mind ahead of 4th of July, where most businesses will be able to resume trading.

Word Of Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth marketing remains to be the best tactic there is. It’s said that as many as 83% of people would trust a reccomendation, if it came from their friends or family. Though this is largely an organic process, there are some things you can do to help it along. Why not encourage your consumers to leave you a good review on social media, or focus on branding so that even after they leave your establishment, they remember you. This could be a branded gift bag, or even something as small as a branded after-dinner mint if you’re a restaurant. When a customer goes home, and their friend or relative asks about you (perhaps being prompted after seeing your brand), you’re going to want them to say good things. Of course, word of mouth marketing is largely encouraged by the business providing an excellent service or product, so this should be a crucial focus as you reopen, or prepare to reopen on the 4th of July. Remember to share positive testimonials on social media too, as they can help reinforce to stakeholders why your brand is awesome. Reading a good review could be the final push a potential consumer, who’s been sitting on the fence, needs to pay you a visit.

Public Relations (PR)

PR is our bread and butter here at Source PR, but it also fundamentally important to your overall marketing strategy. Public Relations is a blanket term which covers your reputation management, this can be built up in lots of ways. Fundamentally though, it’s important to work on your strategy, possibly by utilising a PR agency, to ensure your brand image is a strong one, and one that rises above key competitors in your industry. A big part of PR is media relations, which involves getting your brand into media titles, both online and in print. This kind of exposure for your brand is great as you adjust to trading again, as it can reach a potential audience pool wider than your social media, for example, might be able to get.

PPC & Paid Social

Another way to reach a wider audience, and one that we would recommend if you’re trying to grow your consumer base is PPC and paid social. This involves using the ad-services on Google, as well as Facebook and Instagram. Paid social ads mean that your content will reach eyeballs that might never have interacted with your brand before (or those that have, that are yet to make a conversion), whereas PPC will put you at the top of a Google results page when potential customers are searching for queries that relate to your business.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Another way to target searchers, and perhaps the most effective, is through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). When your customers search for queries, such as “DIY stores near me” then if your business name appears near the top of that results page, it’s more likely that they’ll come to visit you. In fact, according to Think With Google, 82% of smartphone users use a search engine when looking for a local business. SEO, the process of improving your website so you rank higher for these terms, is a difficult strategy that takes many years to master, but is a marketing strategy well worth considering. Why? Because you can not only reach a new audience, but also one that’s geo-targeted. Plus, the number of searchers is huge. According to Hubspot, Google processes around 70,000 searches every second.

Which marketing strategies will you be deploying as we move out of lockdown? If you need assistance in social media, PR, PPC, Paid Social, SEO, Influencer Marketing or any other means of communication, then why not send us a message and see how we can support your business?