Has the summer heat got you flustered and indecisive? Luckily, Autumn will be setting in soon but given the unpredictable weather we’ve been having have who knows whether we’ll be topping up the tan in t-shirts or cosying up in our jumpers. As we all know from the famous quote by Alfred Wainwright, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.
As the UK is polarised, thinking Brexit is either brilliant, bo****ks or boring, whatever the outcome we are already in and facing a cold economic spell – and it won’t blow over quickly. So with more challenges ahead, are you ready and braced for the Brexit aftermath?
At any time, but especially in uncertain times, a strong brand and a good reputation gives solid ground on which to be successful. It can differentiate your business. It could be the deciding factor in why someone wants to work with you. You need to be known, understood, respected and trusted by your prospects or customers.
Brand vs. reputation
So, what is best to get your business through these uncharted times? A strong brand or a great reputation? These two requirements are often misunderstood. And you need both.
Your reputation is what people say and think about you. It’s the respect you command, the trust you’ve earned. Your brand is what you say about yourself. It’s showing your confidence, stating your conviction – your vision, mission, purpose or values.
For example, if I told you I’m the most incredible piano player, would you believe me? I’d say yes if you knew me, and probably no if you don’t know me.
Would you believe it if someone else told you I played the piano beautifully? Possibly, since you might presume that they’d heard me play.
The truth is I can’t play the piano. And those who know me also know I would never claim to do something I can’t do. So, my reputation for piano playing is intact; it’s non-existent.
You have to earn people’s trust
Whether wanting to build your brand or enhance your reputation, it’s important to know who your prospects or customers are, what matters to them, who else is competing with you, what you want to say about yourself, and what you can help them with.
You can tell anyone what you like about your brand and your business, but it’s best to make it authentic or it just isn’t believable. On top of this, earning respect and trust is difficult, as you need to convince others to say great things about you. Take a look at Iceland, which gained respect and a reputational boost by pledging to remove palm oil from its products by the end of 2018, only to tarnish its own reputation in January after it was caught out removing its branding from products still containing palm oil, so it could hide that it hadn’t met its target.
We’re in the business of shaping reputations, ensuring companies can perform at their best in the public eye and get the recognition they deserve, and the first part of shaping any reputation has to start with a good look in the mirror to assess where you’re at. With Brexit just around the corner, now’s the perfect time to assess your position and make a plan to fix any issues.
Take a test – and be honest!
Honestly answer these questions below. It will determine if you are set for reputational success, or where you could do with some help to establish trust and respect.
These questions have hopefully helped create a reputation audit for your business and highlighted some useful strengths, weaknesses and improvements points. However, your real reputation – the real truth – is what others say about you. If you think you or your business may need some support in building a stronger reputation, get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We specialize in bland identity, bland development, bland strategy, bland building, bland positioning, digital blanding, fully integrated blanding campaigns, bland UI/UX design, and bland environments.”
Hats off to a Baltimore team who designed a hilarious parody agency website called Bland.ly. It had us in stitches (and is surprisingly convincing). We loved the team description of ‘content massager’, (which is) surely an improvement on ‘truth massager’, an accusation more often levelled at PRs. I personally aspire to be a social media ninja, and I’m pleased to know that in the UK at least the PRCA is stamping out the ‘Unpaid intern’.
A PR agency’s website acts as its biggest marketing platform. Written by its own professional wordsmiths (surely?), it should deliver an intended message using carefully crafted and polished words and phrases to grip the reader’s attention and inspire them to want to know more. It shouldn’t be a string of buzzwords to ride the latest SEO wave, whilst lashed with indecipherable jargon and acronyms.
Self-deprecation aside, it is healthy to have a good laugh at your own expense. So fellow agency people take note, then take stock, and then consider redesigning your website. As we at Firefly are certainly doing in light of the bland.ly jolt of reality.
Dear Doctor Claire,
My boss doesn’t understand me. He thinks our reputation is alright but that our fizz has gone flat. He says our personality and passion doesn’t shine through. How can we rekindle the flame and sparkle again? Can you help us?
A Concerned Marketeer
You’re not alone. This is a very common PR challenge amongst marketers – it’s very difficult to know where to start.
It’s easy to look at visionaries and high-profile leaders in organisations around the world – Branson, Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg, to name but a few – and think how effortless their profile looks. But no relationship between a marketer and their boss is ever effortless.
Most CEOs take responsibility for offline vision, culture and driving the company forwards, but sweep the online under the carpet. For all the discussions about social selling, marketing qualified leads and awareness funnels, the place of social media and digital channels in commercial corporate communications is still not yet firmly established.
But here are a few things to consider before setting out on your journey to establish leadership, digital brand personality and start to put the life back into your brand:
– Where are your customers? Social media and digital channels aren’t special. They’re not new anymore. They provide another channel for communicating with prospects and customers. So if there’s a big group of CIOs on Twitter and you’re an IT brand, the face of the company should be too. If there are lots of stay-at-home mums on Instagram and you’re a cookery brand aimed at this group, you should get on there right now. You should also make sure that you’re relating to potential customers on both business and personal levels – and this often means blogging and tweeting about personal interests and relating to prospects outside of business hours. But all good senior executives know: being a leader isn’t just a nine to five job.
– Isn’t developing a digital brand personality really time-consuming? It can be. But if approached strategically, it can make a real difference, allowing people to engage with CEOs, give the brand personality and reach prospect groups in a way which shows how your company is different. After all, social media should be used like any other communications and marketing tool: in a targeted, strategic fashion. Occasionally CEOs will dismiss social media as ‘frivolous’ – and there’s no doubt that it can be – we’d never ask John Chambers to spend time posting his holiday snaps on Instagram, for example. However, you need to look at it more as a serious engagement tool to show off your company and talk to prospects.
– Help! I don’t trust my senior execs not to put their foot in it: We’ve all seen disastrous posts from senior staff admitting their views on anything and everything and generally portraying the company in a bad light. Make no mistake: whilst you can delete social media posts, the chances are that someone will have seen it and taken a screenshot. Your executives – whether that’s a brand evangelist, the CEO or the chairman of the board – are the public faces of the company, and there’s little difference between them getting drunk and making a scene at a customer event and posting a bad post on Twitter (although bad tweets can go a lot further than a bar). It’s a real risk – and our responsibility as communications professionals to consult and mitigate this risk.
– We don’t have an online business: You’re in a rare position. But let’s be honest – you might not have an online business, but the chances are, someone is talking about you online, affecting your reputation and commercial prospects. In all honesty, it’s been a while since the online and physical world were considered separate; but digital is just another channel. A few obvious exceptions aside, it’s a bit like arguing that a major tech company shouldn’t sell through resellers as well as directly – it’s just another route to your audience and the market.
– Is there a risk of spreading their name too thinly? Every time your senior executives tweet, post a blog or a LinkedIn post with a link, they increase the possibility of someone clicking through to your company website – which is a good thing. But of course, if you read our latest blog on Google’s Panda algorithm update, just having them spam out tweets with links will actually harm your brand – both from a prospect and SEO perspective. Limit networks and content to relevant channels, avoid overt sales pitches and provide unique, interesting content and you’ll not only make them look good, but you’ll boost the SEO of your overall brand as well.
– How do I fight off the question about why this doesn’t result in leads? This one’s simple. It can … but only marketing qualified leads rather than fully-fledged sales leads. Not only can Google Analytics (GA) and UTM-coded shortlinks tell you if your digital content is being read, but you should also be working towards creating ‘free content people would pay for’ which can be downloaded in exchange for an email address, feeding the marketing pipeline. Don’t have any content like this? Consider whitepapers, controversial opinion articles and the like – you’d be surprised how many brands spend their marketing pounds on content that they only use once, or spend a disproportionate amount on content creation compared to distribution. You might want to think about amplifying blog content through paid social channels as well for a month – then see what happens to your GA website hits.
Of course, because social media and digital tools are still a bit new and poorly understood, it can be tough to keep people informed whilst also keeping the spark of the brand alive.
But once you’ve considered some of these questions, the fundamental ‘why’ and online ‘where’ of digital strategy should feel a little more manageable. And the commercial crux of the relationship between your brand and digital often falls down to this:
Should your brand be on all social channels? Not necessarily
Should your brand be where the prospects are? Absolutely
It’s the end of the first month of 2016 and as many of us hit the gym, give up alcohol and eat more salads than the British rabbit population, should your brand be given the same treatment? Like a new pair of jeans can increase our confidence, new messaging can really invigorate the brand.
Your brand’s messaging is important for three simple reasons:
Like all transformations, you get out what you put in. Don’t be put off, though, we’ve done some of the hard work for you. Here are our top tips:
You don’t want to be presenting new messaging to your boss’s boss to have them shoot you down. Get the decision makers involved in a workshop where everyone has a say, and more importantly, agree on aspects of the messaging. That said, we all know not everyone will come to an agreement all of the time. I’ve run workshops where I’ve had to break up fights with people unwilling to come to a compromise. Name a referee!
Review the profile of your audience to better understand their motivations as well as turn-offs. For PR, the style and tone will be factual and concise for a media audience – it’ll just need to be tailored for the readership of publications you’re targeting. If you’re running a messaging session for more than PR, conduct some word analysis to understand the tone of voice which resonates best with your key audience.
Conduct a competitor audit to see how they’re describing themselves. Look at their website, social feeds, videos as well as press materials and pick-up. The news coverage of your competitors is a good indication of whether their messaging resonates with the media.
Try and wipe your mind of all the messaging you’ve developed in the past. Leave the corporate brochures and jargon at the door and attend the session with a fresh perspective. Every messaging workshop needs the ‘Grandma test’ – if she doesn’t understand what the brand does, you know you’ll risk confusing others.
Not everyone is all things to all people. Make a list of words and phrases that your brand doesn’t stand for and stick it on the wall. That way, everyone in the workshop stays focussed on what you stand for.
A great messaging workshop helps your brand cut out the fat and tone-up. The result of which can really revitalise the company’s reputation as well as the people behind it.
We can do more than just give you these tips. We run PR messaging workshops; conducting necessary research beforehand, working through a three-part methodology and delivering a comprehensive written report.
If you’re interested, get in touch: email@example.com
Who’d be a Pizza Express waiter(ess) when the company steals your tips? It is like taking your hard earned dough (doh! – ed) away from you. Surprisingly, stories like this don’t impress, especially when the pizza chain in question reportedly made £100m profit this year.
Skimming off the top off the tip jar may add up to a matter of pennies for a company, but is vitally important for low-paid workers who are on the breadline (pizza-line – ed).
And once a company has a bad rep, getting rid of it can take years.
Potential new hires read the papers too, and they have plenty of choice as to where to go and work.
A survey by professional contacts company LinkedIn showed that just over half (53%) of all employees would turn down a pay rise or promotion offer from a rival company if it had a bad reputation as an employer.
Life (and work), just isn’t worth the extra hassle. In an article for HR Magazine, LinkedIn director of UK talent solutions Chris Brown says employer reputation impacts on profitability. “In addition to simply attracting better employees, a strong employer brand helps retention and engagement, so the true value is even greater than this data suggests,” he says.
Manage the employer review sites
Sites like Glassdoor and theJobcrowd.com allows workers to rate their current and past employers. These sites allow users to rate their workplace, share salary reports, rate the CEO and more. Just consider the difference that TripAdvisor has made on hotels and restaurants and you can imagine the effect that these sites could have on your company’s reputation.
On the internal communications side, there is a job to ensure high satisfaction levels of the workforce as well as respecting candidates during the recruiting process. Externally, you need to consider:
The PR and marketing teams should also be managing the company profile on sites like these. Glassdoor, for example, allows employers to monitor for issues such as bullying or defamation, engage reviewers and have their say about the workplace, with a description and photos.
Facebook is your virtual pub
Despite Facebook’s best efforts to engage businesses with initiatives like Business at Work, nothing has yet flown as for many as it’s a personal social network. However, Facebook is a great platform to showcase the social nature of employees as well as rally together alumni.
Our recommendation is to:
Tweet to woo (your future workforce)
At its most basic, companies need to pepper in tweets that will resonate with the people you’d like to attract to your workforce. The type of content will be similar to the Facebook style content mentioned above – showing off the company’s personality through its people.
Another important tactic is to build lists (anonymously) of people you’d like to attract to the organisation – an activity to collaborate with HR on. It gives you one place to go to ensure you’re engaging with the right talent, as well as a target group of people for promotional tweets around job vacancies.
Don’t limit yourself to profiling your execs
Of course it’s important to be profiling senior management who are the public face of your company. That said, we are curious creatures and many magazines and websites like to profile people with unusual job roles. Do you have any people doing unusual work within your organisation? With some media training and carefully targeted opportunity pitching, you can boost your company’s reputation through its people.
These are just a few of the tactics you can incorporate into your PR programmes in order to boost your employer branding. With the plethora of social sites making the inner working of your company more and more transparent, it will become increasing important for marketing and HR to collaborate and build the brand from within, leaving no stone unturned.
We at Firefly love discovering the latest social media trends that can help with effective public relations. The current toast of the web seems to be Pinterest – a visual pinboard for collecting and sharing content online. We also see Pinterest as a great resource and platform for brands.
Launched in March 2010, Pinterest has been included in the top 50 websites of 2011 by Time Magazine and has recently been valued at $200 million. What started out as a fun way to post things you liked – from clothes to interesting websites – or an easy way to organise to-do lists, get ideas for events and make wish lists, has now turned into a platform that companies can use to build their brands.
Pinterest is simply a virtual pinboard where people can “pin” the things they like onto their own board – either from other people’s boards, websites or by uploading photos. So far, we are mainly seeing US companies like Nordstrom, The Travel Company, Urban Outfitters and Whole Foods use this platform to unlock brand success; but it won’t be long before Europe catches on. It really is an effective way for bloggers, designers, retailers, small businesses and even restaurants to PR their products and increase awareness of their brand.
Pinterest is a great outlet for sharing and discussing ideas, and once a photo is re-pinned, it has the potential of being seen by a growing online community. In the PR space, there are lots of potential uses for Pinterest:
• Images form part of our PR content, and have the power to say things that words cannot. Take infographics, as an example. They have the ability to gain traction and provide sharing opportunities on social networks.
• For FMCG, retail, travel and other consumer brands, pinboards can capture the brand essence or personality and inspire the viewer to action – be it a how-to on building your work wardrobe, ideas for budget decorating, or gift guides and new Christmas recipes to try this season. Nordstrom uses its boards to post seasonal trends on fashion, whilst Whole Foods posts recipes, seasonal decor ideas and how to use food as art.
• On the B2B PR side, Pinterest could give another dimension to business leaders and public figures. For example, through themed photographs of a personality during their downtime, or performing charitable work.
• PR and marketing agencies could use Pinterest for their own publicity, too. Different pinboards can help show the individual employees and communicate the firm’s culture ; or they can be used to post “idea” boards to disseminate free ideas for campaigns.
• Pinterest can be used to reach out to bloggers in relevant sectors.
• Contests could also be launched around creating the best pinboard; alternatively, brands can build relationships with their evangelists by inviting them to collaborate on boards together.
Pinterest has the potential to be a very worthwhile channel for brands to figure out what their audience is interested in sharing and providing content for them to curate. Mirroring this practice, smaller brands can also achieve product exposure, drive traffic and – most importantly – build brand culture and awareness.
In short, it’s like tweeting a blog post, but you’re sharing it through images rather than words.
Reading NMA’s article on‘Top brands failing to use social media to fullest potential‘ one key fact caught my eye – only 15% of ‘superbrands’ link their social media activity with their communications strategy by linking back to their main websites.
This particularly low figure would suggest that the majority of ‘superbrands’ prefer to separate their different online activities, which shocked me at first. Why wouldn’t you want to maximise your online presence by linking all your outlets?
However, on further reflection it may make sense for some. Separating your website, your Twitter feed or Facebook fan page enables you to tailor and track your communication activity to suit these different outlets and audiences, creating better engagement. In some cases it may be appropriate to interlink them, but this would depend hugely on what you have to say, how you say it and to whom.
This post was written by Charlotte.
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