Blog Archives

The first Bridge in my career

Natalie Hunt, Bridge Account Executive one year on…

“Metaphorically speaking, a career is like a journey of bridges which you have to cross. Some long, some short, and some overwhelmingly high. A year ago I had just stepped foot upon my first real ‘Career Bridge’… at Bridge PR & Media Services.

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”

By applying for an internship at Bridge, I was taking a huge risk. At the time of graduating I was getting paid to do some communications work at a company in Manchester. However it didn’t completely fulfil my appetite for creativity. Bridge was enrolling for an intern, and the prospect thrilled me. I knew that if I wanted to get to the other side then I had to be prepared to take a risk, as I wasn’t going to land my dream job in PR if I possessed diddly squat experience in it. So I moved back down to the Midlands and propelled myself into the world of PR – something I had only experienced within a module at University.

Studying a Journalism degree equipped me with the tools I needed to succeed in the world of PR. With my news head firmly screwed on and my research skills fresh from 12 months immersed in my dissertation, I began crafting press releases with relevant and interesting angles.

After a month interning for Bridge, I was offered a permanent position which I snapped up straight away. I already felt part of the team.

Relationships are essential in the world of PR and marketing. Initially I was daunted by networking events in suits, and calling journalists to see if they would be interested in a story. But then I realised, each client, journalist, or prospect I deal with is a person too, and developing a relationship with them, makes the object so much easier to achieve. For example spotting the stories in a business, getting specific requests from journalists, or getting your services noticed comes far easier if there is already some form of a relationship established. And a lot of this can come through social media. You can start generic conversations with the people who you want to notice you! (@natters4 follow me ;))

I think a common misconception of PR is that you just send a press release out to the masses and expect them all to pick it up. Each publication has its own style and identity (something I learnt on work experience for a local newspaper) and it is important that as a PR professional you mould the story to fit their style.

Since working for Bridge, I have learnt far more than just public relations. For example I have learnt about business strategy, marketing, and social media.

Working for Bridge has allowed my business sense to develop into an exciting direction. My client base includes a B2B market and I have had to learn a lot about business processes etc. I have attended many networking events and more recently an economic Chamber conference where I learned a great deal about the business economy, and I’m now even being asked to talk about my experiences at undergraduate seminars in journalism, media and communications. I’m also currently working hard to further develop my business knowledge academically outside of the workplace.

Right now I love coming to work every day to eat up every challenge that I face. Bridge is a stimulating place to work at the moment, and we face some big and exciting Bridges as a company. Watch this space to see what I write in my second year review…”

Why you should be using social media before your competitors

Once upon a time the internet was deemed unnecessary, now it’s literally everywhere! So if your business isn’t using social media yet, why don’t you leap ahead of your competitors and make your mark…?

We’ve been working with businesses on social media for quite some time now and if we could have a pound for every time we have heard a company state “Social media isn’t for business, it can’t do anything for us!”, then we’d all be happily retired and tweeting from a beach in Mauritius. Unfortunately, reality works a little differently and we are still definitely all in Coventry. However, we have compiled a list of reasons as to why you need to be ahead of your competitors in the social media marathon.

1. Lead the conversations

If you get in there before your competitors then you can lead the conversational topics around things relevant to your business. For example if you are using Twitter then you can demonstrate your expertise through various hashtags regularly and businesses will begin to recognise you as a leader in your field.

2. You’re seen as forward thinking

Take yourself back to school. There was always a kid who was first to have the new trainers, or listened to a certain band before they were played on the radio. He was always deemed the ‘coolest kid in the school’ because he was setting a trend that others wanted to follow. Similarly, becoming competent with your social media repertoire before competitors will give your business a ‘cool factor’ and place you ahead of others as a forward thinking business.

3. Engage with customers

A massive 61% of UK adults were reported to be using social media in 2011, and this will have increased since then. Regardless of whether they operate personal or business accounts, that is a large sector of the population. You only have to see the huge increase of users each year to understand that it will not be long before it is saturated. Among all these users lie your customers – so why wouldn’t you want to be there too?

4. Be seen for free!

Social media accounts cost nothing to set up, however they have room to include all your branding and company news. It only makes sense to be visible in the social media spectrum.  It’s also one of the most cost effective marketing tools for raising the profile of your brand.

How has it helped some of our clients??

The Good Garage Scheme

Manchetts Garage based in Cambridge and Newmarket was already aware of the Good Garage Scheme but was unsure of the member benefits. The independent garage already had its own Twitter account, from which it regularly tweeted special offers and blog posts.  Upon seeing a number of consistently informative tweets from the Good Garage Scheme, Manchetts sent a direct message over the network to enquire about becoming a member.

Titanic Heritage Trust

The Titanic Heritage Trust has been part of an exhibition in Smethwick this year as part of the centenary to commemorate the sinking of the famous liner. We have been helping them with their social media, and they have had a number of visitors to the exhibition who became aware of it through its Twitter page.

Netmetix

In April one of our clients, which is an IT solutions provider, ran a seminar on cloud computing. This was publicised through Twitter and many of the attendees were able to sign up straight through the link in one of the tweets.

 

How you can get started in social media marketing

Bridge has been asked by Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber to run a FREE half day workshop on 3rd September to be held at the Quality Hotel, just off the A45.  This will give you all you need to get started on social media for your business.  More details coming soon, so keep an eye on this blog and our website.

5 tips on how to get the most from your PR agency

Recognising the value in public relations is fundamental to a series of successful campaigns and a significant profile raise. Many companies take a PR agency for granted and expect them to magic stories out of the blue. However, a strong relationship is needed between the client and PR if anything good is ever going to come of the contract.

At Bridge, we like our clients to be aware of the real value of PR, and understand what their responsibilities are – after all it is all about communicating the right messages correctly!

1. Develop a comprehensive PR brief

You wouldn’t jump into a pool without knowing how to swim and where you wanted to get to. Prevent your PR campaign from sinking by having a detailed brief on what your business wants to obtain from it. Also, be honest about your budget! If the financial perimeter is set then the agency will not go overboard on their creative proposal, resulting in the company being let down when they don‘t have the finances to support it. If the seeds are sown correctly with a clear goal ahead, then your business will only reap the rewards of a vibrant PR strategy.

2. Maintain regular contact

PR is not intended for sales leads – that is what your sales team are for, however it is important that your agency are able to liaise with the sales team in order to sync the information that is going out in the public domain. If the sales team are regularly updated with info from the PR side then they can refer to it in their sales patter. Speaking to your PR agency regularly will keep your business at the forefront of the PR teams minds, and that foundation of a relationship will enable them to prosper in the work they carry out for you.

3. Frequent face to face meetings

In our experience the best stuff comes from meeting clients face to face. Although we currently live in a digitally dominated society, human nature can prevail all. Face to face conversations have the ability to develop a corporate personality more than any other medium. We have had recent meetings with clients who are very busy people, and some of the best stories come as we are about to walk out of the door and they say “oh did I tell you we’ve just won a massive contract…”

4. Tell them EVERYTHING

A PR agency can only be as good as the information they are provided with. Keep the PR agency updated with the happenings of your company as they will always be researching newsworthy angles in relation to what is going on in your marketplace. If you keep the PR team in the loop when it comes to news and business developments confidentiality will not be a problem as good agencies will always run content past you for approval first. Remember – they are working as part of your team!

5. Identify your ‘Bibles’

Whilst carrying out research on your PR campaign it is vital that you identify the key publications you want to be appearing in. Most publications provide media packs on who their readership is and what the circulation is. Maybe you are a local business and just want to appear in the local newspapers? Whatever the situation is you need to make the agency aware of this so that they can focus their material to the style and format of that specific publication. This way they will also begin to develop stronger relationships with the editors and reporters to ensure you receive regular coverage with them.

Should you be Pinterested in the next big social network?

Still questioning Quora? Found that Google Plus has turned out to be a negative? Then you are probably uninterested in Pinterest – the very latest in a long line of social networks that experts are citing as the next best thing. However, unlike the others, Pinterest actually has taken off and was one of the fastest networks to reach 10 million users a month. When it comes to sharing content and meeting people with similar interests to yours, Pinterest is perhaps the most useful social network of them all so why should you join in with the buzz?

Firstly, let’s myth bust; Pinterest is not a new social network. It has been around for several years but only recently has found itself blossoming in popularity. Unlike similar hyped up networks like Quora, Pinterest’s early adopters were not typical internet geeks but in fact, average everyday women with mainstream interests, opening up the passageway for a wide ranging audience of users. There is no intimidation factor here; no importance laid upon keeping up with the most influential users. In fact, unlike most social networks it runs at your own pace and can be about anything you want it to be about.

Bridge Pinterest

Your Pinterest boards can be about anything you want - we even have one for Bridgit!

The idea of Pinterest is that you share ideas online by pinning images from the web to virtual pin boards. Users then have the choice to follow a particular pin board or repin something of interest to their own pinboard – much like Twitter’s retweet facility.

Upon first visiting the website, the first thing to note is its appearance and usability. It’s very easy on the eye and very simple to use. Much of the content on the social network is about products; furniture, books, clothes and household items and it can at times seem like a large online shopping store – the female influence coming across heavily. However, leaf through the typical domestic boards, the wish lists and the clutter and there are some very interesting boards. Boards on social media, infographics, images of old newsrooms and even one board looking at hot businesses of the month. It is easy to see why Pinterest is attractive to advertisers – this is a place that they can promote themselves, with links back to their own website without ramming advertisements down a user’s throat.

In terms of content marketing, Pinterest could well become the most useful and important social network of them all. Of course, a lot depends on the user and that is the beauty of Pinterest – it can be about absolutely anything you want so as long as people share interesting content it will always have a purpose. However, unless you are specific, your individual boards may well become lost in translation. Millions of users will be following pinboards about marketing so make yours niche. Title it content marketing, digital marketing or b2b marketing and allow it to stand out from the crowd.

Make sure you are repining interesting content to your own pinboards and sharing it with your own network of followers. As with any social network, following the right people can bring new content to your attention which you can then, in turn share with other creating a chain of content marketing practitioners. 

As a business you need to curate your content properly and organise it into different areas of your business. If you are a retailer, just as you organise shop shelves, you need all your products categorised and displayed together. If IT is your industry, sub categorise the genre into different factions; network systems, new innovations, mobile devices and web devices. The key is to make your content unique, niche and interesting enough for others to repin and share.

Above all else, have fun. Pinterest is unlike any other social networks in that there is no pressure to be seen as an industry leader. It moves along at its own pace and can be personalised to suit your needs. As well as serving as a platform for content marketing, Pinterest can also be your own personal pin board of interests, products you want to look at further and links or diagrams of particular interest.

Pinterest is unfortunate in that it has been tipped for success by the experts and predicted as the hot new social network of 2012. However, unlike fellow victims to this hype like Quora and Google Plus, Pinterest is causing enough of a stir to actually live up to its expectations. The interface is simple, the idea effective and the reasons for using it plentiful. In fact, Pinterest could just be the most (P)interesting thing to happen to content marketing.

Follow Us on Pinterest

Will Google ‘Instant’ kill the SEO star?

Two weeks after the introduction of Google Instant, the new tool from the Google giant is a hot topic on the blogosphere. Google Instant is a new search enhancement that, unlike the previous search engine, enables results to change as you type. Will it or will it not affect the SEOs, this is the question at the moment, and PR is directly involved, since SEO copywriting is practically the basis for digital PR.

Search Engine Optimisation means getting search engines to really like your copy and become involved in a solid relationship with your site. If this happens, search engines will prove their commitment to this relationship by placing your site high up in the rankings on the result page. On the IT part, this is done through some spider like tools that extract keywords and create links and connections to search engines (short version for dummies). But as far as PR is concerned, this relationship is created through keywords, by doing keyword research and finding accurately targeted, appropriate keywords. There is a choice of inserting long or short tail keywords, depending on what better suits your content and audience.

For this reason, SEO copywriting is a highly valued asset for PR and of course, for companies in need of good copy. And as copywriters were starting to master this practice, Google released Instant to challenge their skills. TechCrunch, (btw a very visible site due to SEOs) was quick to take up the topic and has already carried a small study on the consequences of this new tool. It might be overdramatic to say that SEOs are dying but there are definitely consequences for both organic and paid search results.

Basically, since the search result page changes a few times before completing your search, more results than before are pushed after the fold. The ones at the top are favoured and show increases in driving traffic to sites, the ones in the middle are insignificantly pushed down but it’s bad news for the ones at the end as they are mostly sent on the second page. So, getting a top position on the search engine result page is now, more important than ever. For pay per click and adwords, this also means more competition for keywords.

Since suggestions constantly change while you’re typing, the most popular keywords will appear while the less popular combinations and long tail keywords to be less visible and drive less traffic. So less variety and more short tail keywords. There are benefits for local pay per click results as these are enhanced, in the lack of a specified location.

These are the changes noticed so far by the tech community, but we’ll be able to make more sense of it after a longer period of use, so there may be more or contrasting changes.

So what can we do about it? With the information available so far, it seems that there is nothing radically changing but it’s more a case of ‘if you haven’t done it so far, now it’s the time’. Keyword research to discover the popular varieties and using analytics to check which keywords drive more traffic and which not and compress or replace the long-tail ones are important.

The creative part of SEO copywriting is very much valid. Besides digital optimisations, content is still king. Factual information and a strong content strategy are essential for linking the digital to human commitment. The spider like tool might be easily tricked by dense keywords but customers usually aren’t.

Overall, the appearance of Google Instant is a good wake up call for all and it goes to prove, if proof were necessary, that new media is no steady business. Since social media is the new prodigy, new media are not that new and shiny anymore. A lot of knowledge and experience already exists in this field, so it’s rather easy to fall in the trap of seeing new media as a controlled phenomenon, with set practices. But every now and then something even newer comes up, proving that, at the fast pace we’re going, there is little time for expertise and much more for learning, improving and constantly updating. I wonder if someone there at Google is having a good laugh about all this…

http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/21/guest-post-how-google-instant-can-help-and-hurt-seo/ (link for techcrunch)

The solid base of the iceberg

Irina Hutu

As I’m drinking my coffee, having just started yet another day in the office, a speech given by Trevor Morris at the university pops in my mind. Among other more serious stuff, he was talking about the fascination surrounding the PR business and the three dominant images of PR people. The most common one would be the sexy but not lovable, Macchiavellian character. Who hasn’t seen and terribly enjoyed Thank you for Smoking? What a great film! The second one, another made in Hollywood image is the cosmopolitan, consumerist Samantha Jones kind of character from Sex and the City.

Now, anyone actually working in the PR and not in the film industry could tell you these are extreme caricatures nowhere to be found in real life, not even in big name agencies. However, the fact is that the glitzy and metropolitan aura of the PR people brushing shoulders with all the important people, attending parties and doing more socialising then work partially accounts for the great number of students wanting to get in the PR business (competition alert!).

Surprisingly enough, many of them can only see the tip of the iceberg and miss out on all the content at the bottom. That doesn’t even come close to the reality of PR in our office. Whilst I’m eternally grateful for not having a Samantha Jones anywhere near my desk, I suppose a small PR agency in Coventry has to make do with the third less flashy image of PR: a strategic, serious and ethic discipline with people working together towards mutual benefits.

Well, good because that’s precisely what we’re aiming at! After spending some time in a PR agency you learn that the most of the work done and the most important is research, more research, strategic thinking, creative work and liaising with customers. If this part is done properly, it will then be materialised in an efficiently implemented branding campaign, a good press release or newsletter. But these are only tangible results, or going back to my metaphor, only the tip of the iceberg, held by an immense volume of work. And in any case, that tip does not come with a glitzy party, but with something much more rewarding, customer satisfaction.

Have a lovely day at work!

The ripple effect

The "ripple effect"

Three releases distributed by Bridge recently have had an amazing ripple effect culminating in exposure for our clients in the broadcast and national media.

 This morning Harry Dean from British Forces Resettlement Services was on the BBC Radio Surrey talking about the next BFRS Jobs Fair in Aldershot.  This is the second major jobs fair hosted this year, and brings together large employers, and organisations that offer a wide range of services for Forces personnel who are looking to make the transition to civilian life.  With 45,000 service personnel due to leave the Forces in the next year, this is a key event in the military calendar.    Harry spoke about the transferrable skills that ex-Forces staff have, and how these can be of great benefit to employers. 

 A sister company to BFRS, Gemini Forces, has enjoyed national media interest in the past week following a release that was distributed a little while ago, and which continues to run.  It has been picked up across the newswire by bloggers, a whole host of different websites, a Guardian webinar and finally by a journalist at the Guardian, who is now running a feature on Saturday 17 July about the transition from military to civilian life. 

 Education 4 Conservation (E4C) is a small organisation that has been quietly getting on with running a series of bushcraft and self-development workshops across the Midlands.  Bridge put out a release last week to the local press, which was picked up by the Sunday Mercury in Leicester, and from there by the Leicester Mercury, which is running a piece on the workshops on Wednesday 14 July.   This particular ripple continued with ITV Central getting in touch with E4C yesterday, and who are interested in filming the workshops.

 Not every story we distribute has this complete ripple effect, but it just goes to show what can happen when something is both topical and interesting. 

 As Bill Gates is famous for saying: “If I was down to my last dollar I’d spend it on PR.”  We’ve certainly seen great returns on investment for our clients through a combination of good stories, hitting the right target media, and having a great distribution system.  It’s extremely satisfying to see all our hard work hit the “ripple effect”.

Good Garage Scheme comes to the aid of Bridge Damsel in Distress

Breaking down in a Northern moorland town on a wet Friday evening on one of the busiest routes in the region is not an experience I want to repeat. My car completely packed up, and wasn’t going to take me anywhere at all. I just about managed to roll it to a halt in a reasonably safe place after the clutch completely failed on me.

There were no garages open on a Friday night in the middle of a national holiday week, so I was relayed to my destination by the AA. The following morning, I set about the task of locating a garage that would not only fix my car, but also let me have a courtesy car for a few days. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the process, and so I thought why not test one of our customer’s national schemes.

Bridge does all the PR for the Good Garage Scheme and we are very good at conveying the numerous benefits of the scheme and the garages who abide by its code of conduct. It was now my time to put this to the test. Bearing in mind this was a Saturday morning, and the repair is a reasonably long one.

I logged onto the Good Garage Scheme website, typed in my postcode, and immediately I was presented with a number of different garages in my area. A quick click through the links gave me a list of all the services for each garage I was interested in, and after ringing a few of them I finally managed to locate a garage that satisfied my criteria.

The garage I decided to use in the end bent over backwards to help me, to the extent they sorted out the courtesy car for me on the Sunday, when they were normally closed. At this point I had not told them who I was, or the work I did for the Good Garage Scheme. To them I was just another ordinary customer. I was impressed.

So, does the Good Garage Scheme genuinely work? I believe it does. I was immediately presented with a choice of garages, I could see the services they offered at a glance so could quickly filter out those that weren’t able to help me, and I was armed with the knowledge that each garage on the scheme abides by a code of conduct. As a female driver this gave me some peace of mind.

I will definitely be using the Good Garage Scheme feedback system to let others know of my positive experience with the garage I chose once the job has been completed, but so far they have exceeded my expectations, and I am confident they will do a great job.

I will name the garage in the next blog once I have got my car back and I’m satisfied with their service, so watch this space!

Google Pacman game blamed for lost productivity

Last week Google launched a Pacman game as part of its logo. It was an instant hit, and industry experts estimate that the time spent on the game was almost 5 million hours on just one day worldwide. Given that the game was launched on a working day, the experts believe that this has had a significant impact on company productivity, with staff playing the game during business hours.

Google Pacman game

This raises the very serious question of the abuse of company time on the Internet, particularly when social media is now becoming an integral part of business operations in many companies. Where do you draw the line?

Unless you’re a gaming company, and paying your staff to research games and how they function, then there is real cause for concern about how much time staff spend on activities that are not part of their job function and that have a negative impact on your business through lost productivity.

One of the ways of overcoming this is by having Social Media and Internet Use Policies in place. If implemented properly these policies very clearly communicate what is acceptable and what is not. Employees should have very clear guidance about using the internet during working time, and should be under no illusions that any abuse of company time will lead to disciplinary action.

This is a tough line to take when most of company activity now takes place online, and it is a grey area at the moment for many businesses, most of whom have simply been caught out by the sheer pace of change, particularly in the last five years with the advent of social media sites and Web 2.0 technologies.

It’s now time for businesses to work their way through the minefield that is the online social world, and take control of how their staff use their time. And of course, with the right internet strategies and policies in place, then businesses can plan how to get the most out of the new technologies and social sites, and really move their company forward in this new media age.