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.
It’s the month of love, so what better time to take a good look at your PR crush and why you admire them so. I’m talking about organisations, not necessarily PR professionals, but actually there’s always an incredible team behind great PR so it’s good to look at the drivers of the comms engine too.
When speaking to organisations, I often ask the question, ‘who do you admire?’, ‘what is it that they do in comms that gets you excited?’. The answer I get most of the time is, ‘good question, I’ll have to think about that one.’ I don’t forget to go back and ask the question again, because there is so much to learn from what a person says in response to that question – and all the more interesting when it’s an organisation outside their industry.
Could admiration be a reputation measure of success?
Measuring PR impact is a topic continually discussed – it takes many forms and can get a little heated with many differing opinions.
But to use a phrase that doesn’t prompt the nicest visual, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. There are many tools and methodologies to help PRs and marketing folk calculate the impact of PR. The starting point is to determine what’s important to the business and work backwards from there.
A very familiar metric is share of voice, which measures a company’s presence in comparison to a set of competitors. Another often used metric is ‘share of conversation’, which measures a company’s presence in conversations around a certain topic. That’s a great way to look outside of your industry and understand broader points of view and how your company fits in.
I’m adding ‘share of admiration’ to the mix, and this would be measured against companies that you do not compete with, at a sales level, but you may at a reputation level. You essentially benchmark yourself against their reputational strength. To make this measurement a fair comparison, you need to look at universal reputation metrics. This can include:
There are numerous ways to measure these elements, and various sources you can pull from – within and outside your organisation. For comprehensive reputational intelligence, we work with our partner, RepTrak, who have a proven model for corporate reputation management, taking multiple data points and applying its algorithm to create actionable insights.
Whichever way you measure, the most important thing is looking at reputation from all angles. Reputation often feels intangible, but it’s simply the sum total of perceptions and actions, good and bad.
Why it’s important to look outside your industry
Looking at competitors is important, of course, as you’ll be competing with them on sales which is a key driver for growth and success. Often competitive insight either shows what they’re doing differently (where you may need to play catch-up) or certain aspects where your company may be ahead. However, it can be limiting. By looking at companies outside of your industry, it can help with creativity or ideas that can differentiate your company further, not on a service/product level, but in the way your organisation behaves and engages with stakeholders. Getting out the industry bubble can bring real freshness to a comms strategy, and possibly something your industry may not have seen before.
So, who do you admire?
The current economic outlook is not what we’ve hoped for. With inflation rising to its highest level in 40 years, many businesses are rightly concerned about the future. Even some of the biggest tech companies are struggling with the current economic headwinds. Meta are slashing their hiring plans, while others are being forced to trim their current workforce.
While tough times lie ahead, managing the reputation of your company is a business imperative. After all, brand loyalty driven by a good reputation will keep your stakeholders in your corner, even when the going gets tough.
Businesses that have made it through pandemics and economic downturns have all had one thing in common – they’ve placed prominence on their company reputation, internally and externally.
Here are some key actions to consider when looking to create a recession proof reputation:
Embed reputation management into your company culture, so that your entire organisation is onboard with its importance. After all, the reputation of your organisation doesn’t just exist in the C-suite, it cuts across the entire organisation. For IT, it’s about protecting a company’s assets, no consumer wants their data leaked by a company. Whereas for HR, it’s important to be viewed as a good employer.
Stand out from the crowd
Not every company can be a Tesla or a Meta, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stand out. Most organisations have something worth shouting about. Find what that uniqueness is and leverage it and use it to connect with your employees and customers. Having a reputation for innovation, resilience, and agility will help engage your stakeholders and create a ‘halo effect’ with shareholders.
Reputation in the round
As well as engaging internal stakeholders, you should think carefully about your reputation in the round, by considering every avenue of your reputation. Your executives, press coverage, share of conversation, among other things, can have an impact on your reputation. There are multiple touchpoints, and you should be addressing each one.
‘Ensurance’ is the best policy Investing in your employees, suppliers, customers, and third parties is crucial and will pay dividends in the long run. Additionally, you should regularly audit internal policies, as well as those of your partners. While this is a laboursome process, it will ensure you’re covering all your bases. Above all, actions speak louder than words, so don’t be afraid to replace out of date policies or end relationships that no longer align with the values of your company or could be seen as harmful to your reputation.
The world has changed quite a bit recently and, arguably, this difference is most prominent in the working world. Although the amount of people working from home had been rising steadily for some time, homeworking has more than doubled over the past two years compared to pre-pandemic levels. 42% of UK workers now work a mixture of at home and in the office. Clearly, this meteoric shift in such a short space of time has profound implications for working life in general, but especially for the way that organisations communicate.
Maintaining robust internal communications
Internal communication has always been vital to the overall strategy of any firm. Multi-year Gallup research found that employee disengagement costs the UK economy £52-£70 billion per year. In this new working world of ours, with the significant shift towards remote/flexible working, serious questions have arisen as to how to communicate effectively within your team, in multiple locations, via the myriad technological platforms we now have at our disposal.
Critical to this venture is being aware of what personalities you have within your organisation, and subsequently knowing the most effective way to keep them happy, informed and engaged. With people being in the office a lot less, knowing and understanding your colleagues has become a much more complicated task. Video conferencing technology is an incredible tool and without it the last couple of years would have been very rocky indeed, but it can also be stunted. As we lack reading non-verbal cues and body language as well as simply not being around people for extended periods of time, it can be difficult to get a true impression of who someone is. This is particularly challenging for new members of staff who may have joined during periods of lockdown, in many cases not meeting their colleagues in-person for months.
There are many ways we can learn a bit more about each other. The Myers-Briggs® Type Indicator is a great tool to be able to gain this perspective and give valuable insight into the types of people that are working in your team and what makes them tick. It’s like your star sign with a bit of science behind it. There are 16 personalities, split between introvert and extrovert, each with different traits. It is not to say that these are by any means locked in, but more an indicator of the way someone is likely to react to a given circumstance.
Its questions give indications as to whether you sense or use intuition to gather information; whether you make decisions more by feeling or thinking; and whether you judge or perceive the outside world. All of these traits, none of them necessarily good or bad, have an enormous impact on how you communicate and how you like to be communicated with. The awareness that knowing the makeup of your staff gives you when devising internal communication strategies is critical. It allows you to choose the best channels and tone of voice depending on your audience. It can also point out those members of the team that may benefit from a slightly tweaked strategy or a particular focus in order to fully engage them.
Not only will you learn about your team, but very likely you will learn something about yourself. The introspection that comes from your result and the nuances in your personality that are revealed will allow you to tweak and improve your own communication style when dealing with other team members or managers.
It can also be a great team bonding exercise as shouts of, ‘that is scarily accurate’ bound around the room. When my wife saw my results, the cry of ‘that’s what I’ve been saying!’ was deafening.
Being in the office 9 to 5 streamlined communications. People had no choice but to be involved in conversation, managers had many different face-to-face tools to keep everybody on the same page, and the informal chats at the coffee machine or on lunch breaks allowed strong emotional bonds to be formed. Now that we are often miles apart in our own little worlds, more effort must be made to understand each other and stay connected. Only with this can we maintain robust and meaningful communications that contribute to our organisations’ success.
Loneliness. A feeling that most people have experienced at some point in their life. Nearly half of England’s adult population, according to Campaign to End Loneliness, a startling 45%, express feeling lonely occasionally and sometimes even often. Needless to say, the crisis of loneliness and social disconnect was only further exacerbated during the height of the pandemic with strict isolation and social-distancing measures being implemented.
The good news is that from 9th July- 1st August 2022, it is Free Hugs Month. The Free Hugs Campaign began in 2004, founded by an Australian man under the pseudonym Juan Mann, where volunteers offer hugs to complete strangers in public as a random act of kindness. The aim? To spread the love.
According to scientists, the benefits of hugging go far beyond that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from being in somebody’s arms. Hugs have been shown to reduce stress, protect against illness, boost heart health, release the ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin which leads to feelings of contentment, and even reduce pain. In fact, according to family therapist Virginia Satir, humans need four hugs per day for basic survival, eight for maintenance and 12 for growth. So yes, hugs seem like a win-win, if not an absolute necessity. But what does this have to do with leading a successful campaign? Well bear (hug) with me and I’ll explain…
As a successful B2C campaign, the Free Hugs Campaign has been going strong for nearly two decades. So, from a PR perspective, there’s still a lot we can learn in the B2B space. After all, businesses might be selling to other businesses, but it’s important to note that it’s still humans talking to other humans, The secret behind the campaign’s success is predominantly down to two factors: creating a campaign that encourages a level of ‘shareability’ and evoking an emotional response from potential clients and customers.
The Free Hugs Campaign has not shied away from the public gaze and our culture of sharing, capturing, and recording anything attention-grabbing for others to view online. Instead, the campaign used the way in which the public interact to its advantage. In other words, for a campaign with a minimal budget, the Free Hugs Campaign left the public to share and interact with their simple message themselves.
But, of course, not all brands fit into this style of campaign ‘shareability’. Fortunately, however, social media has become our biggest ally and can produce incredible traction if a campaign’s message is eye-catching, memorable, and simple to understand. Even a snappy slogan or retweet can go a long way.
But the question then is, what is it about the Free Hugs Campaign that has made it stand the test of time, and go viral with 78 million views in the Sick Puppies music video alone?
The secret behind this campaign is very clear, yet mystifyingly under-used in many campaigns- understanding and manipulating the power of human psychology, especially that of the buyer. What are most people lacking? Human connection and a feeling of belonging and comfort. What does the Free Hugs Campaign offer? An answer to a societal hug deficiency.
The campaign isn’t complex, in fact, oftentimes the simpler a campaign, the better. The Free Hugs Campaign, touches its audience in an emotive way, giving them a feeling or emotion that was lacking in their life, whilst also adding an element of joy. After all, who doesn’t secretly like to make someone’s day by being kind and loving? Through evoking this emotion, it taps into our intrinsic nature to share the joy, even if just virtually.
As such, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your buyer, such as the HR Director you are trying to grab the attention of. Perhaps they are feeling overwhelmed with how post-Covid life has completely transformed their workforce, and as a result, are operating at a million miles an hour unable to catch a breath…
So, what are you waiting for? Get hugging!
It’s all too common a question for a communications agency to hear – “but show me how a comms plan will generate sales and new leads”. Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as X+Y=Z. The foremost purpose of a communications agency is to shape the reputation of the company it’s working for. Influencing the opinions of customers, partners and even the company’s own employees. Organisations oftentimes underestimate the value of reputation shaping and instead, only want to see facts, figures and a solid ROI.
Now I am by no means suggesting that there isn’t an ROI on comms, it is just notoriously difficult to measure. But if you want to follow the maths to see how the distribution of a press release results in sales then knock yourself out with this blog by Greg Jarboe.
So hopefully I’ve got the numbers people on board by now and with the introduction of Google Analytics 4, this tracking process is only set to become easier. GA4 will use AI and predictive analytics to provide highly granular visitor data. This will mean better tracking of visitors from initial arrival, through various stages of engagement to the end goal, so lots to look forward to!
But in all honestly, the impact of communications stretches far beyond tracing clicks to a website. It’s clear, of course, that you can attribute economic results to comms activities, but the true value lies in the shaping of your organisations reputation.
In this day and age, customer loyalty is as fragile as ever. One poor user experience, a single bad review or even a certain political standing can deter customers from your website. So how do you change these opinions? Here are four simple steps to take to make your brand, and your reputation, shine.
So, moral of the story – limiting comms to numbers and stats is like limiting an artist to only one colour. The painting will be complete but missing a wealth of potential and creativity. So, open your mind, broaden your paint palette, and let your reputation become a masterpiece.
The media landscape has been changing for many years. COVID, however, has acted as a catalyst of this change – just as it has done for countless other sectors and industries. From 2019 to 2021, print subscription circulations fell by 7%, and single-sale copies by 11%. Put simply: when it comes to building reputations, shrinking media pools are becoming a bigger problem.
This places pressure on PR professionals and journalists alike. On the journalist side of the aisle, they are thinly spread – often juggling multiple beats at once and increasingly being judged against engagement and click-through metrics. Adding to this, they’re completely inundated with emails and pitches.
On the PR agency side, the shrinking media pool has an obvious effect – it’s harder to secure the coverage our clients want. It’s harder to get in front of the right people, harder to build relationships, and harder to have our pitches seen and phone calls answered.
Without wishing to state the obvious, a change in landscape requires a change in approach. Of course, a big part of the solution is for PRs – and our clients – to be more creative and thoughtful in how we approach media. Having our finger on the pulse of changing markets and cultural moments, and tying our clients’ messaging into these in an authentic, interesting and valuable way for journalists, is crucial. Being more selective is also important – not every press release is relevant to send to nationals (or anyone, sometimes!), and it’s important for PRs to be honest with our clients about this.
But there are numerous other ways to shape an organisation’s reputation, aside from media relations. Here’s just a few ways:
For us PRs, making clients aware of the many ways of building reputations, and ensuring that we ourselves are experts in these, is a non-negotiable. PRs, and the organisations they work with, need to begin thinking broader and deeper than media relations. Every company should now be thinking about the range of possibilities for PR, rather than gazing through the single lens of media coverage. Shaping a reputation that will carry a company forward is much more than a media profile alone.
Happy Pride Month! No doubt we’ve all seen a flurry of rainbow flags hit our social media feeds this month, along with several hit inclusive campaigns in the media. Some of my personal favourites include the gender-neutral shaving campaign from Harry’s and Flamingo, and Absolut Vodka’s out and open campaign.
What do these excellent campaigns have in common? To put it simply, they engage in brand reputation shaping, rather than so-called ‘rainbow washing’ – using rainbow colours and imagery to suggest to consumers that a brand supports LGBTQ+ equality, without backing these campaigns up with concrete action.
When done right, Pride Month can be a special time to uplift the actions your organisation is doing for the LGBTQ+ community all year round, contributing to an overall inclusive reputation. But when done poorly, Pride campaigns can at best look cheap, and at worst, reflect tokenism.
Why leverage Pride Month for inclusive campaigns?
It’s easy to see why brands choose to jump on the Pride bandwagon for their campaigns. Globally, the LGBTQ+ community possesses a whopping $3.7 trillion in purchasing power. Brands looking to increase their revenue want to market to LGBTQ+ consumers and can be led to believe that Pride Month is the appropriate time to do so.
This isn’t a million miles away from the truth. Events like Pride seek to uncover the stories of marginalised communities, which is evidently a noble cause. And as is the case with Pride, often such dates have historical relevance, marking events that may otherwise fly under the radar.
The issue therefore isn’t that brands are honouring Pride Month. On the contrary, the more people that celebrate Pride, the more effective the month becomes. Marking Pride becomes an issue when it’s done only to drive sales in one specific month, and when LGBTQ+ inclusivity is not part of an organisation’s longer-term reputation programme.
How can organisations do better this Pride Month and beyond?
It’s clear that a one-off, tokenistic Pride Month campaign isn’t the right way to go when it comes to building an inclusive company reputation. Instead, businesses should focus on implementing genuine, year-round strategies to support marginalised communities, and match these efforts with appropriate PR campaigns. Here are some concrete examples for organisations to consider:
Crucially, building an inclusive reputation begins within. It’s all well and good talking about your support of the LGBTQ+ community externally during Pride Month, but if your LGBTQ+ employees and customers do not receive your support all year round, it doesn’t appear authentic. Ultimately, shaping and managing a reputation involves taking accountability for actions and demonstrating strong company values, consistently.
Want to learn more about shaping a brand’s reputation? Check out The Firefly Guide to Shaping Your Reputation.
As revealed in Netflix’s new documentary, ‘White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch’, today’s company is very different from the brand of the 1990s and early 2000s. For more than a decade, Abercrombie and Fitch have been in the process of rebuilding its reputation; this reveals some interesting lessons that we can take away as PR and comms professionals.
In its heyday, Abercrombie & Fitch (Abercrombie) was worth more than $5 billion and had more than 1000 stores worldwide. During this period, the company was led by Mike Jeffries, who once revealed in that now-famous 2006 interview that the company’s marketing strategy was deliberately exclusionary. He only wanted the ‘attractive’, ‘cool kids’ wearing Abercrombie. If we look a little deeper, we see that this was not merely a surface level PR strategy – you want what you can’t have, right? Instead, racist and exclusionary policies were embedded within the company’s culture. While these policies once appeared to benefit Abercrombie, as attitudes changed, they quickly eroded the company’s reputation, which has had a fundamental impact on the business’s long-term growth.
The question is; what can the demise of Abercrombie teach us about the importance of managing your company’s reputation?
As the company’s figurehead, the CEO will always have a significant impact on the reputation of your company – both positive and negative! The former CEO of Abercrombie, Mike Jeffries, who once led the brand’s revival, would ultimately become its biggest liability. Jeffries was known for his bold ideas and commitment to the brand. However, he was also uncompromising, unorthodox, and did not take criticism well.
While Jeffries has long since left the company, Abercrombie is still working to ameliorate the damage caused by his tenure as CEO. Ultimately, Jeffries should not have been left to manage the company for so long. That being said, the current CEO, Fran Horowitz, has been working hard to ensure that the company is accountable for past mistakes. In a statement to CNN, Horowitz said, “we own and validate that there were exclusionary and inappropriate actions under former leadership,” adding that the company is now “a place of belonging”.
While the company has a long way to go, the importance of leadership accountability is evident here. Suppose a business fails to hold its leader accountable or recognise when it is time for leadership change. In that case, long-term damage will be inflicted upon the company’s reputation.
As times change, often should a company’s values. Failure to make the necessary changes will eventually impact the reputation of any company. When Jeffries began his tenure as CEO, he built the brand upon racist and discriminatory values. These values quickly began to seep into company culture and policies, hiring practices, and even the designs on the clothes.
In 2003, 8 former employees sued Abercrombie for race and sex discrimination. Without admitting any guilt, the company settled and was required to pay $40 million and sign a decree to change its practices and promote diversity.
For a while, the company continued to get away with its discriminatory practices. However, these days consumers value and expect brands to promote diversity and inclusion. Abercrombie failed to move with the times, which meant that as attitudes changed, the brand became toxic, and their failure to own up to past mistakes came back to haunt them. Companies should continually audit their values and policies to ensure that they are promoting diversity and inclusion and that they are not breaking the law, for that matter!
The demise of Abercrombie from a multi-billion dollar brand to a disgraced clothing company can teach us a few things about managing your company’s reputation:
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