We’ve reached that time of year where everyone is just about focussed on the new year ahead, already thinking about their New Year’s resolutions in the hope that this is the year they’ll be able to stick to them longer than a few weeks. We hear the phrase, ‘New year, new me’, as we make promises to ourselves that next year we’re going to try and be a better human, one way or another.
In doing so, do we make our resolutions for the new year too ambitious and, sometimes, too strict? We see it as almost a punishment for over-indulging and enjoying the holidays and yet, most of us don’t stick to our resolutions because we’re too hard on ourselves and we can’t make them a habit. We’re in for another turbulent year ahead in an already hectic world and if we set ourselves completely wild new year’s resolutions, we’ll only add to the chaos in our lives.
Instead of conjuring up really out-there resolutions and then feeling struck down, we should be kinder to ourselves and look at improving what we already know and do. With this in mind, here’s a manageable and sticky approach to New Year’s resolutions and a look into what we could be doing more of next year:
Whether we’re aware of it or not, we learn something new every day. It could be a new piece of technology that we’ve read about in the news, a new way of working that we’ve learnt from a podcast or a new way of thinking we’ve learnt from our friends. The digital resources around us are saturated with new content every day and we need to continue to take advantage of it. As well as continuing to learn new facts, figures and information, we also need to learn more from our mistakes too.
This makes me think about the parallels between Samsung launching its first foldable phone and Greggs launching its first vegan sausage roll a few years back. Samsung, having experienced a string of hardware problems in the past, chose to rush its highly anticipated product to market only to discover that the product was flawed once in the hands of reviewers. Greggs, on the other hand, did well. Whilst it may not have been the first brand to break into the vegan sausage roll market, it executed a campaign that boosted shares by 13%, the best performer on the FTSE 100 at the time.
The difference? Greggs listened and learned from its audience. The spike in veganism and vegan-friendly products over the last couple of years meant that it was the perfect time for Greggs to enter the market. So much so that everyone wanted to taste the new product. That’s where listening and learning can take you.
One of the things I admire about Bill Gates that he talks about in his documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain, is his ‘think weeks’. Twice a year, he’ll spend a week locked away in a secret cabin reading papers on all different kinds of topics, expanding his mind and outlook of the world. When I learned about this, I was in complete admiration and jealous! One of the busiest people in the world still finds time for himself and uses it in a productive way. So, for us, there are really no excuses.
Whilst I’m not suggesting that we all run off to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and read all the Jane Austen novels backwards, we should make the time to read something outside of our daily reading routine. Most of us will probably read the latest headlines, social media updates or newsletters, so why not try exploring a new platform? Maybe find a new subreddit or Forbes columnist, even broadening out to the likes of podcasts and audiobooks to find another way to digest information. Reading and digesting information helps us in many ways whether it’s inspiration for a blog, learning something or just keeping up to date with the world. And we should be doing more if it.
Walk into a gym in January and no doubt it will be heaving with people trying to shave off the pounds after Christmas. Then, in February, it begins to die down because people have stretched themselves too much. Instead of going in at the deep end when it comes to exercise, try making small changes. Remember, we’re not starting new, we’re trying to improve what we already do. That could mean walking to work rather than taking the tube or taking a regular walk round the office to stretch your legs.
Wellness remains a huge trending topic, and everyone has a desire to be healthier, but that doesn’t mean we have to push ourselves or plan to run a marathon. Small changes and switches to our normal routine is enough to clear our mind and start fresh.
More quiet time
With social media and news outlets churning out content every hour of the day, there’s never a quiet moment in comms. That means as comms professionals, we also have little quiet time. Although it’s in our nature to work in fast-paced environments and keep busy, we also need to make time for more quiet moments to avoid complete exhaustion and burnout. That could mean taking ourselves away from the office for a couple of hours or working from a different environment. A quiet environment where you become lost in your own thoughts is important to let creative thinking flow.
More face-to-face time
I knew a headmaster who called any TV a moron’s lantern, but these days the email has become the modern-day mind pollutant. Every time we come back from a long holiday or break; we dread the first day back where we have to sift through the mountain of emails we’ve received. As well as taking up a lot of our time, emails can also be poor at getting our message fully across because we don’t have any audio or visual cues to justify the tone or style of the communication.
Psychology professor, Albert Mehbrain, says that there are three basic elements in face-to-face communications: words, the tone of voice and body language. And according to his study, words account for only 7% of the messages, meaning tone of voice and body language make up 38% and 55% respectively.
So, to really make our message count and mean something, it’s best to meet face to face or at least have a conversation on the phone. An email will only get us so far in terms of communicating and building a relationship so face-to-face time is valuable.
Staying strong in the New Year
We often associate the New Year with starting afresh and whilst it’s good to be ambitious and motivated to do more good things, we should also maintain and do more of the things we enjoy too.
In that case, maybe we should drink more coffee because sometimes, and for all the right reasons, we need that extra burst of energy!
Or maybe we should commit and focus on just one resolution that will last all year.
Here’s wishing all our clients, employees and colleagues in the comms industry a good reprieve from the year that was and happy planning for the New Year!
How many times have we uttered these words in defeat during the festive season? After hours of trying to decrypt the magic combination of ‘yesses’ and ‘nos’ in a chatbot window while online shopping, desperately trying to reach the inbox of a human employee.
Well, if you believe the AI industry’s announcements, come the new year, that will soon be a struggle of the past.
Yes, chatbots are undergoing a rebrand. No longer are they the cryptic gatekeepers to the human behind the screen; companies are working on making virtual assistants more humanised. Take bank NatWest’s new AI-powered chatbot, ‘Cora’ for example. Human name aside, it has been developed with the goal of being more personable by being able to provide information to the user in a friendly conversational style.
The humanising of chatbots comes at a time when we are living a strange duality of both fearing AI’s scope and embracing it as one of us. At the same time world leaders met at Bletchley Park to discuss next steps around regulation for AI, we were asking Alexa for quick dinner recipes.
And while identified by some as “one of the biggest threats to humanity”, we are calling it the names of our friends and family. This isn’t a new phenomenon. One of the first chatbots was called ELIZA and was developed in 1966. In fact, you can still chat to ‘her’ today. But more confusingly in the past year, celebrities like Kendall Jenner sold their images to Meta to create chatbots who look and speak like them.
The effectiveness of using a celebrity image in humanising chatbots is questionable. When speaking to Billie (Jenner’s AI counterpart), watchers of The Kardashians are transferring their parasocial relationship they have with Jenner from the show to Billie – adapting quickly to using and trusting the bot.
Further to the way chatbots are looking and speaking to us, we are unconsciously accepting the personalisation of the software. Using language for human actions is increasing anthropomorphism of AI in our everyday conversations. Terms like ‘hallucinating’ – for describing when a chatbot AI programme produces false information – has become Cambridge Dictionary’s word of the year, cementing it in the 2023 zeitgeist.
Many of us, especially the older generation, are resistant to the chatbot, preferring to pick up the phone and have a real person handle our queries about returning gifts or logging into our banking apps. But a study at the Technical University of Berlin found that working alongside robots causes us to slack off in the same way we would with human colleagues. Is this a crack in the wall between humans and machines?
Perhaps as 2024 continues, and AI’s rebrand becomes more streamlined, the lines will blur between how we treat other humans and how we speak to chatbots.
Which begs the question – how long will it be before we are asking “Can I just speak to a chatbot, please?”.
It has always been essential for businesses to maintain a solid reputation. However, this has taken on another level of importance in the modern context. Social media, 24-hour news cycles and the ubiquity of information have put reputational issues at the forefront of any organisation’s strategy.
Efforts must be made in terms of public relations, brand management and leadership reputation, but it cannot stop there. To build a truly robust reputation, those who represent your company in day-to-day interactions should fully understand the values you wish to project.
Those who are responsible for sales, by definition, have a huge impact on any business’s success. However, this goes beyond revenue generation. They are also a significant driver of your wider reputational efforts due to their countless interactions with the outside world, including current or prospective customers, partners, sponsors and beyond.
If your firm has a poor sales reputation, this will impact the overall image you portray and may even go against other efforts by your leaders or marketing. As a result, it is critical that your sales teams are kept updated on reputational matters—and are well-versed in your firm’s values and are able to communicate them effectively.
A lingering and often unfair perception of sales teams is that their approach can be too “pushy” and not focused on building trust or those long-term relationships that are so important to creating sustainable success. Highlighting the importance of honesty and transparency in negotiations is something that the majority of businesses will already be doing, so what other efforts can be made?
Fundamentally, all your employees must buy into your company’s ethos and what it is trying to achieve. We have all been in an organisation or dealt with a representative of a company who couldn’t care less about how they or the company are perceived. As much as we may try not to let them, these sorts of interactions can have a strong influence on our opinion of the company, and if many others have the same experience, this can cause significant reputational damage.
Therefore, it is important for your company’s leadership to maintain a two-way dialogue with its people. To a large extent, reputation will be top-down—the heritage, culture and personalities of those who founded or run the company will have a significant impact on how it approaches sales and the reputation it wants to build. However, it is important to not be out of touch and to make sure to listen to the wishes and outlook of the people you have throughout your organisation.
There is a wide societal focus on authenticity, and we have seen many examples of companies being called out, even canceled, for not living up to the high moral standards that consumers and workers have these days. For example, many companies have been accused of greenwashing, being misleading in their advertising or having sales practices deemed out of sync with their values. Clearly, this will have a big impact on the reputation of the firm more broadly, but also on sales teams. A team should be comfortable promoting a product or service, not worried about having to make any moral compromises. This can make them more effective in driving revenue and helping build a more positive reputation.
Revenue is a good measurement of many business outcomes, and reputation is no exception. If your revenue figures are strong, it is likely that a strong reputation has helped make that happen. However, it is a mistake to not look beyond revenue and seek different indications as to how your reputation is doing. The use of customer success teams can be a great way to keep in touch with customers throughout the lifecycle, getting constant and useful feedback to measure how your company is doing and the way it is perceived by your customers. Similarly, engagement programmes between stakeholders and your senior team can also fulfill a critical role and ensure that strong bonds are created and trust is shared.
Other established ways of measuring satisfaction beyond simply revenue include the Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a score that organisations are given that measures how likely a customer is to recommend or promote that company to someone else. This can help give a good indication as to how your brand is viewed—for example, if you have strong revenue figures but a poor NPS, trouble may be down the road.
However, due to NPS’ simplicity, it has its limitations regarding the insight it can give you into customer sentiment and behavior. This is why it is important to review all of the different metrics out there and use the one you think would be most relevant to your business. It may even mean combining a few different ones to try to fully understand your reputation and the lasting impressions that your sales team leaves on customers. As a result, a concerted focus on not only revenue and outcomes but on the process to get there should be factored into all strategic decisions and subsequent training of your workforce.
In business, what you say matters, but what you do is crucial—the reputation you’re building is only legitimate if those in your company back it up with their actions. This is why building a positive reputation and putting wider reputational efforts at the core of your business, prioritising them alongside other key business goals such as revenue or costs, is key to future success.
In the world today, talk travels quickly, and there are countless examples in recent times of business outcomes being inextricably linked to the perception a company has in the public forum. Ensuring that you approach sales with integrity, transparency and honesty is more important today than it ever has been. Creating the right culture within your company can lead to the right reputation being presented outward.
This month, Eurovision exploded back onto our screens in all its campy, zany, extravagant glory. Broadcast from my hometown of Liverpool, millions of people across the globe danced and sang along to some predictably cheesy music – in my eyes, Finland were the clear winners. This celebration of diversity, inclusivity, creativity, and culture was a clear reminder that the human influence is invaluable for businesses – particularly as AI creeps further into our lives.
There’s an overall mix of curiosity around how AI can help companies, fears about it negatively impacting jobs, and pressure to regulate it as it grows more knowledgeable. It can perfectly replicate human voices, churn out content in seconds, and explain advanced astrophysics to a five-year-old. It can’t, however, replicate or replace the human touch, particularly when it comes to reputation shaping.
AI isn’t going anywhere. There are around 5,855 tools that have the potential to be used in PR currently available online, and that number will only continue to rise. But a reputation is curated through the business’ relationship with the public, and relationships are the foundation of the human experience. By working solely off data, AI tools lack the emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, and interpersonal skills that are so imperative in PR. If a business experiences a reputational setback, wants to improve media relations, or is looking for a creative new way to boost visibility, there is a need for soft skills that only us humans can bring to the table.
Eurovision is a perfect example of how the human influence shapes reputation. The longest-running annual international televised music competition, its reputation reflects its core value of uniting people and nations by showcasing musical diversity and cultural nuances. It is powered by human creativity and an understanding of culture, attracting audiences of over 180 million people across the world who share a wonderfully wacky and meaningful experience. Love it or loathe it, Eurovision’s reputation has an undeniably and overwhelmingly positive impact on visibility, cultural influence, and tourism.
When considering how AI can discern a brand’s reputation, the tools may be able to use their vast amounts of knowledge to gauge popularity, identify cultural differences, and calculate the positive financial impact Eurovision brings, but this information is gathered and collated through human input. Because AI lacks the aforementioned soft skills, its inability to think critically or creatively generates concerns surrounding ethics.
Firstly, if the human input is not neutral then the AI-based decisions are susceptible to bias or inaccuracies. This is especially concerning if a company is experiencing a reputational crisis, and neutrality and nuance are needed. One well-known example of this is the bubbling undercurrent of political tensions that surround Eurovision each year. Despite these, the event remains fiercely politically neutral, and makes every effort to bar highly politicised performances and promote peaceful relations, in order to avoid reputational damage.
Secondly, AI is inherently inauthentic, meaning that any creative ideas it suggests stem from human creativity. This also means that AI-generated content or ideas are more likely to result in plagiarism accusations, a serious reputational setback.
Thirdly, there are the ever-present fears around increased surveillance. Once an AI tool is fed a piece of information, it can never be retrieved and wiped from the database. If sensitive information is inputted, the tool has no understanding that it should not be outputted – and if that occurs, it makes for navigating some seriously tricky waters.
So, is AI the future of PR? It can certainly augment, but there’s no doubt that the human influence will continue to drive the industry forward. And with the countdown on until the next Eurovision in Sweden, ask yourself – would this be nearly as much fun with a glittery, AI powered, humanoid robot on the stage? Personally, I’d prefer to see another rendition of the classic Ukrainian entry circa 2007, “Dancing Lasha tumbai”. The contestants may be dressed like robots, but they are hilariously and undeniably human.
Quiet thriving (the opposite of quiet quitting) is the newest HR buzzword doing the rounds. Quiet thriving essentially means making small changes, shifting your mental state and helping give you a positive outlook. And we could all do with that positivity right now after the disruption of the great resignation teamed with economic uncertainty.
For those in comms, what does this trend mean? How much positivity is there within your organisation and are you using that to fuel growth?
A company’s reputation is shaped by perceptions of others – that includes your workforce, and their voices can have huge power in enabling success. When employees become advocates, they act as a reliable source of truth. But like everything, if it’s not authentic, you’ll get found out and it will backfire. So, how do you know when the time is right to tap into the advocacy potential of your workforce, particularly if you have had a lot of turmoil following the great resignation?
Step 1: Where do you stand on employee sentiment?
Before creating any kind of communications strategy, you must understand the current sentiment of your workforce. The best way to do this is to carry out an audit and analyse your current company culture. During the great resignation period, many organisations have had their true culture revealed for all to see. For some it’s been great and for others it’s surfaced underlying issues. Regardless of where you are, you must understand what situation you face and how you want to shape your culture here on in.
In particular, evaluate your values. Does your workforce embody the ones you have? Is there a value set not covered that resonates more strongly? Do the values align with behaviour – i.e. more than just words on a page? It’s important to understand these as they become guiding principles to where there needs to be a change and shift in behaviour.
Once confident that your people are on side, are true advocates and believe in the goals of the company, you can work with them to amplify that passion for the good of all.
Step 2: Crafting an employee advocacy programme
All employees will have influence – when it comes to where to place your efforts, it really depends on your communication goal. If a goal is to attract young talent, fresh from universities, then spotlighting your new recruits and using their university networks is the right path. But if your goal is to reach more prospects, then a communication programme which profiles your executives and experts is the best way to go. And there’s no reason for a multi-pronged communication programme if you’re looking for communication to serve several goals – what’s important is to not have a one-size-fits-all approach.
Also, there are often synergies between your communication goals and HR goals. For example, HR may want to showcase a successful LGBTQ+ employee community programme, which could lead to more unusual perspectives and storytelling. For example, a new product may be about to launch, and instead of having the CEO talk to a journalist about it, how about having a member of the team who helped develop the product, and was greatly supported by the company’s LGBTQ+ community? Often, this version of the story is more refreshing!
If you’re looking to scale your employee advocacy programme, start small and build up. In the era of authenticity, the quality of the communication is more important than the quantity.
Step 3: How do you measure up?
Starting small helps you establish meaningful metrics, particularly if this is a new approach for the company. Getting a baseline in place, means you can benchmark yourself from there, then build and pivot as your communication programme grows. Part of measurement must drive back to employee sentiment, because if there’s a shift, it may mean putting the brakes on your employee advocacy programme to fix things internally.
So, as we head into Spring, with sunnier days, are you using your people’s positive sentiment to help shape your organisation’s reputation?
ESG is big on the comms agenda but it’s a complex subject. It’s not just about addressing a company’s ‘environmental’ impact.
ESG is short for Environmental, Social, Governance, so there are a host of wrap around components, like skills development, workforce reform or equality and social impact on communities. An ESG programme ultimately serves as a framework for measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of a company’s operations. Due to its complexity, breaking ESG down for your audience is vital, whether that be clients, prospects, employees or investors.
Seeing as April is Earth Month, let’s unpack the E in ESG – environment – and the comms challenges that surround that element.
Companies are increasingly being called out for greenwashing when their ESG comms lacks substance or is seemingly a PR stunt. What should be communicated is proper progress, plans and even challenges.
A report recently published by the IPCC reinforces the urgency of taking more ambitious action around decarbonisation. According to the report, to keep within the 1.5°C global warming limit, emissions need to be reduced by at least 43% by 2030 and at least 60% by 2035. Granted, we have a long way to go but every effort contributes to the overall impact and there are a number of steps companies can take to break down the barriers to decarbonisation.
Instead of trying to be all things to everyone and painting a picture of a perfect organisation with a faultless ESG programme, openness is the best policy. Rather zone in on the one or two things that you as an organisation are doing well and communicate this effectively, acknowledging there is always more to be done and that you have a roadmap. Sharing your journey will resonate with others in your position and they will be appreciative of the advice and learnings.
Green hushing on the rise
On the flip side, green hushing is on the rise due to companies fearing scrutiny of their stated targets and facing accusations, or even lawsuits around greenwashing. A Swiss carbon finance consultancy South Pole surveyed over 1,200 self-professed “heavy-emitting” companies across 12 countries, and their report revealed that 25% of respondents were “keeping quiet” about their science-based climate goals. These companies have mostly set themselves net-zero targets but just aren’t publicising them.
We get it – organisations are opting to withhold information on their climate strategy for fear that releasing it will bring some form of reputational risk to their company, but radio silence may not be the way to go.
By not divulging any information, companies may be perceived as hiding something or already greenwashing which could also pose reputational risk and put them at odds with their stakeholders.
ESG influencing employee decisions
No doubt, there is pressure to address the climate crisis, with personal views on sustainability and environmental impact now being carried through into the workplace and influencing employee decisions. In a recent Yale survey, 51% of 2,000 business students said that they would accept a lower salary to work for a more environmentally responsible organisation. Employees are now more willing to leave their jobs, otherwise known as conscious quitting, if they feel an organisation’s ESG commitments are lacking.
Interestingly, research by Cornerstone, revealed that employee demand for corporate responsibility and workplace sustainability learning content increased by 100% from 2021 to 2022 – indicating a gap between company sustainability policies and employees’ understanding of how to support those policies. Companies should create a common language and understanding within their organisation, and the first step in achieving that is through communication. Who better to be your environmental advocates than your employees.
Keep it real!
ESG should be more than good intentions, which should be reflected in a company’s communications plan. It’s about communicating a tangible, practical plan that is achieving real results. ‘Fake it until you make it’ should certainly not form part of your ESG comms plan. Our advice? Have a voice, be consistent and be authentic!
Social media marketing is an essential string to any comms professional’s bow in today’s industry landscape. Increasingly, B2B and B2C businesses alike are engaging with influencers as part of their social media marketing strategies, and this means managing influencer relations.
Influencer relations is a relatively new concept, meaning that global regulation is far from aligned. When working across Europe, it is therefore important that communications professionals know how to navigate the variety of legal restrictions they may encounter.
Influencer relations is about more than relationships with influencers
As comms professionals, relationships are our bread and butter. When brands engage with a comms agency for their social media strategy, they expect the agency to have great connections with relevant influencers in their sector.
Relationships are crucial, but they’re only one piece of the overall pie. Looking at this from a traditional media relations perspective, we can see why. Yes, it’s important to have that close connection with a journalist to secure press coverage, but comms professionals also need to be excellent content creators, top-notch organisers, and events management afficionados. We’re constantly wearing different hats – and we must do the same when developing an influencer relations programme.
Influencer marketing has legal implications
When scrolling through Instagram or TikTok, you will likely have noticed your favourite creators adding ‘#ad’ to the captions of their posts. This isn’t just a gesture of transparency, but a legal requirement for anyone creating content online in the UK.
In the UK, influencers are regulated by the Competition and Markets Authority. They have a handy guide which sets out how influencers can promote brands and products online. This helps both companies and influencers alike to comply with consumer protection law. Rules are similar in Germany.
Seems simple, right?
Ensuring compliance across borders is crucial
Influencer relations vary significantly across Europe. For example, in France, social media regulation recently shifted. Previously, influencers were not legally bound to signal product placements in their posts, but this is set to change to a more UK-style approach.
How can brands ensure they have an effective influencer relations strategy across Europe?
Thinking of boosting your influencer relations strategy in Europe? Get in touch!
We all aspire to be savvy buyers, of anything. However, consider how often you buy something you want, but you don’t really need. Or you find the perfect piece but find an identical item at a lower price somewhere else. Or think about a time where you bought something that is clearly the wrong size and can’t be returned.
We’ve all been there, and buyer’s remorse applies to business procurement decisions too. Business investments may not be coming out of your personal pocket but there is still an expectation to be savvy. As you could be dealing with figures that equate to a purchase of a decent car or property, it’s crucial to get it right, especially in these current economic conditions.
Embarking on a partnership with a PR agency is one of those business purchasing decisions that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But how can you be sure you are choosing, or working with, the right-sized communications and PR agency and getting value out of every dollar, pound, or euro you spend on comms?
There are thousands of excellent communications agencies in Europe, of all shapes and sizes. We all have different expertise, strengths, experience and cultures, however the “client/agency relationship fit” is critical in the smooth running of a communications programme if you wish to yield the most impactful results.
A value buy
When searching for a new PR agency partner, quality and price are often the foremost factors under consideration. On quality, it’s imperative to establish whether the people on your team:
On price, ask yourself whether the service and results expected from the programme tie back to what is needed for your organisation. Basically, do the numbers add up so the spend yields enough impact to make the difference you need?
While a great cultural fit is harder to determine, as much of this decision is subjective, there are approaches you can take to make it more objective.
If you were interviewing new members for your team, what personal qualities would you look for? Consider applying a similar process when selecting an agency team. Engage with each member of the team to feel the strength of connection at every level.
Also interrogate the agency’s values – do they match up with your company’s values?
The right size
Looking at how your company is positioned on the PR agency roster is another factor to consider when rightsizing your agency choice.
Few clients want to be the smallest client or to be seen at the bottom of the pecking order. Most clients like to be the biggest or nearly the biggest client – at the top of the pecking order. And even fewer clients like the agency itself to be larger and with more people than their own organisation. For the most part, organisations like to know they will be considered a valued client by their agency – every one of them wants to be the favourite.
If you’re a medium-sized agile business, you may be better off selecting a small or medium-sized agile agency.
If you are a large global organisation on a global mission, perhaps you need the same large global agency representing you in every market where you operate. Be warned though, a large global network is only as strong as the weakest link, so be sure all links individually demonstrate and deliver strength.
Making the purchasing decision
A fundamental benefit of working with smaller agencies is that they tend to pay more attention to detail and are not only strong on developing strategies but also executing against those strategies and seeing the programme through. They are generally more agile and can offer more personalised and bespoke services or solutions.
So when sizing up your options, don’t rule out a smaller agile agency – they may just be hungrier and the fit you’re looking for!
Europe is a fascinating place. Its history, cultural diversity and impact on the globe make it truly unique. And although it has gone through many challenges in recent decades, including some questionable decisions and a surprising election or two, Europe still remains a great place to do business.
It is also a pivotal market for many companies’ global success and for anyone looking to establish a good base for doing business throughout the region it is critical to establish a strong reputation. To achieve this, a comprehensive PR strategy is crucial. However, Europe is comprised of over 40 countries and 23 languages, and subsequently requires a lot of nuanced thought, particularly as it relates to measuring success.
When compared to other markets, such as the US, there are several key things to bear in mind when assessing how impactful your PR efforts in Europe have been, most important of which is to look beyond the numbers.
Although in simple terms it may seem that the larger the audience and reach of your content, the better, this is not always the case. It’s true you should always look to maximise the impact of your content, but there are a few important aspects to consider when measuring success. Firstly, if you are used to numbers that can be generated in a market such as the US, numbers in Europe can seem underwhelming. Ensure that you are aware of the size of the markets you are dealing with – the population of the Netherlands for example is smaller than that of New York State.
However, also think carefully about comparisons between countries within Europe. Due to the variety within the region, there can be vast differences in reach between countries – you shouldn’t be disheartened if your figures from outreach in the Vatican City aren’t quite on the same level as those in Germany, for example.
Quality not quantity
Be sure you are putting things in context. Instead of counting pieces and their impressions, develop a scoring system in line with your business goals that focuses more on the quality of your content and its specific impact. Measurements like type, tier, message penetration could be a much better indicator of success compared to straight numbers. Part of this is looking at target audiences in those markets you are focusing on and assessing what opportunities they can provide. For example, a readership of a few thousand people in Sweden, may seem like a tiny number, however if these are business or industry leaders with a very specific interest in your sector, that number all of a sudden looks very appealing. However, beyond that think of what it is you are trying to achieve and perhaps target a specific country for a specific industry or goal – for example, manufacturing in Germany, or financial services in the UK.
Additionally, look into measuring a reusability score. We are all having to look after the pennies these days, and as a result anything that can be done to get the most value out of your work should be pursued. If money spent on a single effort can act as your Swiss army knife, generating press releases, media alerts, commentary, thought leadership and beyond, this can be a great indicator of the overall impact that your strategy is having.
Different markets. Different appetites
Media appetites vary hugely throughout the region – in the same way that fish and chips is not a delicacy in France, nor frogs’ legs in Germany, the media is also hungry for different things. It is crucial to have a good understanding of the cultural differences between countries. For example, in a situation where you have a press release to send out that will be localised in a few key languages and distributed throughout Europe, it could be tempting to directly compare results between countries. However, it is highly likely you will see significant differences in the coverage numbers between these countries, even adjusted for population. For example, media in France and Germany have a big appetite for press releases, whereas the UK media is not so keen, and this will have a big impact on results. Other examples include the French and German media’s preference for local spokespeople and brands, meaning you will most likely see increased competition in those markets and coverage numbers could be lower if you do not have a local flavour.
Clearly, measuring success is a crucial aspect of any effort, especially when dealing with limited time and budget. If you are keen to kick off a PR campaign in Europe, be sure to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and avoid comparing between countries.
For a small continent, Europe is full of a wide variety of different attitudes, tastes and quirks. To understand them all is an almost impossible task, however a little effort can go a long way. By ensuring that you take the time to understand key differences in media attitudes, specific areas of expertise and potential reach you can maximise your ability to measure success.
We’ve all seen reputational disasters play out before. Crisis comms kick in, and leadership is forced to make tough decisions about the future. But, what about when a company reputation isn’t totally obliterated, but it takes a knock?
Tackling a PR setback
England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) has a partnership with British Airways. British Airways has leveraged this partnership in its comms activity, with various marketing actions including sharing pictures of the England men’s rugby team flying first class to their matches. So, when the sporting world found out that the RFU and British Airways declined to fly the England women’s rugby team first class to their World Cup matches late last year, both organisations experienced a PR issue.
Ever since this information became public, debate has ensued about whether the two organisations made the right or wrong decision. Whether you agree or disagree with the decision, we can all agree that this situation is about reputational impact.
Character vs capability reputation
Company reputation is split between character reputation and capability reputation. Capability reputation is the organisation’s ability to deliver a product or a service, in this case, the RFU and British Airways’ capability to transport the team from A to B.
Capability reputation is always balanced with character reputation, which is all about how a product or service is being delivered. In this example, both organisations were perceived as capable of getting England’s women and men alike to the pitches. But, in a context in which sexism in sport remains prevalent, the organisations’ decision to offer superior treatment to the men’s team was always going to result in a character reputation setback.
Building a consistently winning character reputation strategy
Shaping a company reputation is a lot like playing a game of rugby. Organisations hype themselves up, formulate a winning strategy, and then start to make moves. But it’s important that leaders don’t let their gameplan slip.
Consistency is Queen, as proved by the Red Roses breaking the world record for most consecutive wins in International Rugby Union. Similarly, a company reputation is formed over years, and every action counts. Above all, leaders must avoid reputational blunders by building out a long-term strategy that avoids contradiction and always remains consistent.
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