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PR & MARKETING STRATEGY – IS YOUR BUSINESS READY FOR LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN?

As we approach the end of Lockdown Mark III, the government believes that the UK economy will bounce back like a ‘coiled spring’. The question is, are you ready for a return to normality, what are you doing to prepare yourselves and have you got their marketing strategy in place to maximise opportunities? If not, now is the time to take action before it’s too late.

The Bank of England suggests that consumer spending is set to surge with that the British public having saved as much as £250 billion while being locked up. Restaurants, pubs and bars are the likely immediate benefactors as well as UK holiday providers, but all these industries have suppliers and employ people who, who when earning again, will look to treat themselves after months of curtailment.

We have talked earlier about the importance of maintaining a marketing presence during lockdown and have an excellent case study of Combermere Abbey, one of the region’s leading wedding venues and accommodation providers, on how they managed it so well. The case study shows how the business was forced to close due to the Covid restrictions but rather than twiddle thumbs, took proactive measures so they were well placed to take advantage when the lockdown was lifted.

Businesses preparing for the lifting of what is believed to be the ‘last lockdown’ should also consider how the economy has been permanently altered since March 2020. Consumer spending habits, lifestyles and trends have been shifted online, people have adopted new hobbies and outlooks, and it is hard to see how the high street can bounce back without innovation or embracing more digital opportunities.

It is not just the hospitality and retail industries that is expected to bounce back, but house builders and construction industries are also likely to benefit as people look to either move home or make renovations following months of being in lockdown. A report from our client Miller Homes suggests that lifestyles have been changed by the pandemic with more home working or a demand for more outdoor space. These new ways of living and working present clear marketing opportunities.

The use of social media has also grown significantly as users feel that they have a safe space to interact, be entertained, distract themselves, and find inspiration without any risk of contagion. July 2020 saw a rise of 10.5% in social media usage, compared with July 2019, according to a GlobalWebIndex survey. Some 46% of women and 41% of men said they’ve spent more time on social media during the pandemic, making it the second-most popular digital activity.

Businesses should alter their marketing approach to reflect this and have a marketing and social media strategy in place that maximises the opportunities presented. It’s likely that the space will remain competitive and it will be the brands that have relationships with their customers and who are able to excite, entice and engage that will come out strongest.

If you’re looking for a PR or marketing strategy, the team would be delighted to have a chat to understand where you are, what the vision is and to help pull plans together so you can get there. The end of the ‘last lockdown’ is fast approaching, make sure you are ready like a ‘coiled spring’ to take your opportunities.

WHY SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT ROI

Social media: a powerful tool that will connect you to your audience and help spread the word about what your brand has to offer.  It is of course another platform that can encourage sales but a recent campaign had us thinking about how social media does not necessarily need to lead to an increased ROI.

Have you ever thought about putting baked beans on your Weetabix?  I’m guessing your answer is no.  Well, it turns out that Weetabix have thought about it, to the point that they got tins of Heinz Baked Beans and delicately placed them on top of the nation’s favourite breakfast cereal.

On the morning of 9th February 2021, the Twittersphere went into meltdown with calls from Twitter users for Weetabix to delete its account.  It’s safe to say people were disgusted.  But it’s the disgust that carried this campaign to the point that the tweet became viral.  Weetabix’s tweet currently stands at 36K retweets, 65.6K quote tweets and 124.2K likes.  It’s certainly not a brand partnership that people would be expecting but that’s what makes the campaign so successful.  Pairing two foods broke the internet and catapulted the Weetabix and Heinz brands straight onto headlines.  The tweet was covered by media titles including, Sky News, Telegraph, Manchester Evening News and Daily Mail.

 

Piers Morgan even tried it on Good Morning Britain, adding to the conversation on social media and giving the campaign an even bigger boost to those who don’t have an online presence.  The campaign was given an opportunity to get another bite of the cherry, as Piers sampling the new delicacy made headlines and gave Weetabix and Heinz even more press coverage.

 

It wasn’t just the general public that made their opinions known on Twitter, other UK brands joined the conversation too, making for a hilarious Twitter thread.

Other brands were even trying their own disturbing Weetabix combinations…

Innocent Drinks are well known for running outrageous campaigns and causing a stir on social media.  At the end of 2020, Twitter descended into chaos as they claimed they had teamed up with Heinz for a ‘Beanz Machine’ breakfast smoothie.

So, it was all too funny when one Twitter user replied to the thread saying, “@innocent levels of chaos on the Weetabix page today.”

What followed was yet another strange brand collaboration, Weetabix took it even further…

 

The campaign worked so well because the country is living through lockdown 3.0 and everyone is in serious need for something to laugh at.  Plus, food combos are always a popular topic of conversation, Weetabix created a large-scale conversation that lasted for days.  The campaign brought everyone together, even if it was to share their disgust with Weetabix.

 

It’s evident from these types of campaigns that social media is not all about pushing sales messages and products.  It’s all about brand-building and gaining interest from the target audience.  A brand won’t go viral by simply tweeting about what they have to offer.  As the other brands started to respond to the Weetabix tweet, they were opening up a conversation for their own followers.  This was purely organic social media content and Weetabix only needed to spend money on Heinz Baked Beans.

 

You can almost guarantee that people had Weetabix on the brain for the rest of the day and added it to their shopping list for the next food shop!

 

Find out how we can support your business with its social media management by emailing us on louis@sourcepr.co.uk or calling 01829 72078.

 

THE BEST CRISIS PR CAMPAIGNS TAKE COURAGE

The best PR campaigns often take courage of convictions or a willingness to do something differently in order to influence and engage with audiences to improve outcomes.  This is even more the case in a crisis PR / communications, where the stakes are high and a wrong move can be costly.

As is often the case, the risk reward equation needs to be carefully balanced, with business leaders making the call based on the advice and expertise given by their PR agency or advisors.

But equally sometimes in business, politics or society the right action just feels right, is based on a calculated risk and an intuitive understanding of the people you are looking to engage with.

There is no better example of this than the crisis communications undertaken by Chris Swanson, Genesee County Sheriff, who put down his helmet, weapons and joined protesters marking the murder of George Floyd saying, “I want to make this a parade, not a protest”.

Simply brilliant.  He had a clear understanding of his audience, the courage of his convictions and the leadership to take his team with him.  He also faced significant risks as he faced a potentially angry mob who were protesting against police brutality and who in other regions and states had clashed violently.

Swanson took off his helmet, ordered other officers to put down their weapons and smiled and high-fived people in the crowd.  The crowd responded by chanting, “walk with us!”.  So, he did. “Let’s go, let’s go,” Swanson said as he and the cheering crowd proceeded. “Where do you want to walk? We’ll walk all night.”

His leadership and actions marked a change in behaviour as well as the emergence of #walkwithus.  Several law enforcement officials have taken his lead with more in the past few days engaging with marchers and showing solidarity either by marching, kneeling or publicly denouncing the death of Mr. Floyd.

This positive and persuasive response is in marked contrast to the confrontations that have escalated and cities, including Chicago, New York and Philadelphia, where violence and vandalism have targeted police in recent nights. Videos have shown police officers using batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters, bystanders and journalists, often without warning.  Sadly at least five people have been killed so far in violence connected to the protests that started after Mr. Floyd died in police custody.

So why was this crisis communication so successful?  It was not a crisis PR campaign orchestrated with big budgets and celebrity influencers but simply honest and genuine communications that understood and related to its audiences.

It also took a lot of bravery and showed exceptional leadership in a time of crisis.  It was however considered communications and one based on an understanding of the audience, confidence in the team and an honest appraisal of the situation.

Well done Sheriff Swanson, setting an excellent example not only in policing, humanity and empathy but crisis PR communications as well.

WORKING WITH INFLUENCERS IN 2020: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

According to the annual UK influencer survey, a yearly research piece published by Vuelio in partnership with the Canterbury Christ Church University, there has been a year on year increase in the amount of earned and average income of influencers in the UK – this includes bloggers, vloggers and instagrammers. Today, we wanted to talk to you about working with influencers in 2020, covering:

The State Of Influencer Marketing In 2020

According to the findings mentioned above, around 1 in 5 influencers say that it is their main source of income, this is twice as many as in 2016. This tells us that the influencer marketing industry is on the rise, and therefore is still – as ever – a profitable means of generating publicity for your brand (if utilised correctly, which we’ll cover further down).

A quick look at Google Trends will also tell you all you need to know about the state of influencer marketing over the past years, ending of course, at the present day in 2020.

Working with influencers - State of the influencer marketing industry

Unprecedented growth in this industry means that influencer marketing is certainly a channel you should be considering in your wider communications strategy, if it suits your brand.

Influencers are operating on a number of channels, the most popular being blogs, but also across social media on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and even TikTok. The average number of accounts that an influencer runs at any one time is 5, so there’s often a great chance that your brand will be seen by a vast audience and through a variety of media types.

The report from Vuelio also tells us that influencers are posting more frequently than ever before, with the highest percentage of survey respondents saying they post 5 or more times a week – meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for sponsored content for marketers and brands.

Working With Influencers: What Do You Need To Do?

If you’re a brand owner, working with influencers could be a golden opportunity. But how do you work with influencers? There are a few grounds rules that you should follow…

  1. Do your research

Before going out on a whim, do some background research into what kind of influencers you want to promote your product or service. Be mindful, though. Googling ‘fashion influencers’ will often turn up the most popular influencers out there, but these people tend to charge thousands for a single post, that’s if they’ll even consider your brand – if you’re just dipping your toe into influencer marketing, you’ll want to find more mid-tier accounts that have a loyal following but that won’t cost the earth to utilise. You can do this by looking through Instagram and in Facebook groups, or better yet, work with a PR agency with experience in working with influencers, and tell them your goals.

  1. Target the right audience

Be sure that firstly, your brand suits influencer marketing (you can determine this by cross referencing your target audience against demographics of different social media channels). Then, you’ll want to utilise influencers who are based in your niche. The most popular areas of influencer marketing are fashion and beauty, travel and lifestyle – if your brand fits into these sectors than working with influencers is certainly an avenue worth exploring.

  1. Make sensible offers

Vuelio’s UK influencer survey found that most influencers received between £1 and £100 per sponsored post, and over half of influencers said they would reject a pitch due to lack of sufficient compensation. Most influencers will promote a product or service for a fair price so long as it is relevant to them. However, you do risk harming relationships if you do not make a sensible offer. Brands will pay influencers different amounts depending on the type of content required, and to answer the question: “can I work with influencers for free?” the answer is yes, sometimes. According to Vuelio, 23% of influencers have produced branded content without any compensation, mainly because the pitch sent to them from brand or PR added value to their audience. Just be careful and considerate when making contact for the first time.

Working with influencers survey

  1. Set goals and follow them

As with any type of marketing, you’ll want to set goals and use KPIs to track them. What do you want to achieve with your influencer marketing? Is it sale of products, brand recognition or simply just more traffic to your website? Once you have defined what you want to achieve from working with influencers, you’ll then be able to work with them on a method that best suits you. It could be a social media post, a sponsored blog or even an Instagram takeover.

Why Should You Work With Influencers?

If your influencer marketing strategy is spot on, then working with influencers can be an invaluable experience for your brand. Why?

  • It can help to grow your following on social media channels
  • It creates endorsements for your products or services
  • It can drive traffic to your website or social media pages
  • It can result in sales of your product of service
  • It can create testimonials for your brand that can be used at a later date
  • It can help build your brand image and by creating a positive association with a prominent person
  • It can help reach your target audience in a new and exciting way
  • It can help find a new audience of potential consumers for your brand

For assistance with your influencer marketing strategy, call us on 01829 720 789 or send us a message for a free consultation, we have affluent experience in working with influencers and will help you open your brand to this modern way of marketing.

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

CORONAVIRUS CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS PLAN: HOW TO USE PR TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS

The rapid spread of the Coronavirus has pushed the WHO to declare a pandemic.

To date, there are around 139,075 cases of Coronavirus (also known as COVID-129) globally, 5,117 have died and cases are now found in almost every country in the world.

Stock markets have been hit and the International Monetary Fund has declared that the world’s ‘fragile economy’ could be derailed if the virus is not contained.

Coronavirus Crisis Communications Plan

Source: Worldometers

Now, the question to be raised is “how can businesses deal with the Coronavirus outbreak?”.

Read more

AGRICULTURAL MARKETING CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO TACKLE DEPRESSION IN THE SECTOR

Agriculture has one of the worst safety records of all industries and so a new agricultural marketing campaign to tackle the issue has been widely welcomed. Being depressed and not focused can lead to accidents – with 85% of young farmers saying there is a correlation between farm safety and mental health.

The Farm Safety Foundation, which runs campaigns such as Farm Safety Week, Yellow Wellies – Who Would Fill Your Boots and Mind your Head, funds courses to train farmers on how to deal with risks in the industry and to challenge risk-taking behaviour. The effective PR campaign targeting the agricultural sector – Mind Your Head – ran from February 10-14 and Farm Safety Week is coming up from July 20-24.

Mental health awareness is at the top of the news agenda and the farming industry is demonstrably susceptible to mental health problems; according to the Farm Safety Foundation, 84% of farmers under 40 believe mental health issues are the biggest problem they face.

The main reason is perhaps the way of life experienced by many farmers: the combination of long working hours, isolation, uncertain markets and high levels of borrowing can take their toll. As agriculture becomes increasingly automated, tractor drivers may spend days alone, often out of contact due to a lack of signal; this also applies to remote hill farmers. As well as being isolating, it is concerning in case of an accident.

Social media influence

Rural isolation can be as harmful as smoking and obesity according to a study commissioned by the cross-party Commission on Loneliness which described it as a silent epidemic, with links to dementia and poor mental health.

The value of campaigns and social media influence on rural industries is immense in helping disseminate information. Contact Source PR for advice on rural PR campaigns, rural marketing and effective social media.

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.

 

THE PR PUSH FOR BIG BEN TO BONG IN BREXIT..?

The PR campaign that aimed to get Big Ben to chime at the point of the UK’s departure from the EU has failed to reach the required funding to go ahead.

The StandUp4Brexit group conceded that they aren’t able to raise the required £500k to hear the bell chime in the change, saying that the £272,000 already raised will instead go to veterans’ charity Help for Heroes.

Although the StandUp4Brexit team ran a good PR and social media campaign, securing 14,280 donations from 56 countries in under a fortnight, they did not manage to get the ambitious project over the line.  They did however create a debate that trended widely across national and international media through on-line, broadcast and traditional media outlets.

Although Big Ben has chimed at significant occasions in the nation’s history, including the end of wars, New Year’s Eve, royal weddings and funerals – Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice told the BBC’s Today programme that he felt “bureaucrats in the Houses of Parliament” had blocked the idea.

In an attempt to reconcile the leave and remain public, Downing St has sought to distance itself from the Big Ben chime campaign, instead focusing on plans to mark Brexit Day with a less ambitious PR campaign – preferring a simple illumination of the whole Elizabeth Tower.

PR Campaign Evaluation

If evaluating the success of Standup4Brexit’s campaign, on one level it has clearly failed in achieving its principal aim of securing the funds needed to fulfil their aims.  However, as often with PR, it has undoubtedly succeeded in getting its messages, story and position to a wide audience.  It’s created engagement and debate while also successfully linking to its core messages around sovereignty, self-determination and ‘Britishness’.

The campaign has also pressured the government into marking the occasion with its own illuminations.  There is even rumour that a recording of Big Ben’s chimes will be played through a loudspeaker at an event in Parliament Square.  They even managed to get “provisional authorisation” from the Office of the London Mayor – a staunch Remainer.

So perhaps the Standup4Brexit campaign was not a total failure after all, but let’s hope the next concerted PR campaign is focussed on healing the Brexit rift.  If used correctly, PR is uniquely placed in its ability to bring people together – then the nation will certainly have something to celebrate.

Contact the team if you’re looking to crowdfund for a campaign or if looking to raise your profile amongst influential audiences and stakeholders.

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