Blog Archives

Top Tips On How To Avoid A Public Relations Disaster

By Cynthia Mbugua, Second year Media and Communications student at Coventry University

cynthiaIn Public Relations, it is obvious to expect anything to come from it. This can be the good, the bad or the ugly. Any good PR firm has to be prepared to handle any kind of situation that comes along with it. At the same time, it is always good to be able to recognise some of the tips needed to avoid a Public Relations disaster.

1. The number one tip of how to avoid a PR disaster is to recognise that your employees are your social ambassadors. By this you should be able to know that brands, either small or large must face the fact that the people with your closest connection to your organisation are your employees. It is clear that your employees can either be your perfect brand advocates and evangelists, but they can also burn your reputation when they lose control on the social media networks.

2. It is always good to mitigate the risk of employee social media manual which clearly defines how employees should put the company’s messages across. As I said earlier, your employees are the highest percentage of your company’s reputation.

3. Another tip which should be considered is to think before sending off content, for example emails and tweets. Everyone working in the organisation should know that the heat of the moment is definitely not the best time to respond to your clients. During a moment of tension we tend to say things that we do not mean and this can in turn affect any kind of relationship with your clients and potential clients.

4. The issue of security in your organisation should be handled with exceptional confidentiality too. Safeguarding the reputation of your organisation should be everybody’s key responsibility . If your organisation has a clean responsibility then the more chances you are likely to get to work with more clients.

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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…”

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.

Five top tips for Content Marketing

We were delighted to be guest speakers at last week’s Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce event, where we shared our top five tips on content marketing. The attendance figures were impressive with local businesses also benefitting from tips on accountancy from Simpson Financial Services, and how to pitch to local government from Warwickshire County Council. For all those who missed it, here are our five top tips for content marketing…..

1 – Stories are the lifeblood of your business

Without great stories how can you tell people about your business, who you are or what you do?

Stories are in every business. Are you approaching a significant anniversary? Have you launched a new product or won an award for your services? Have any of your staff done something interesting for charity or championed their community in some way? Are your products quirky or unusual? Are there any general business issues that you can piggy back on? All these are stories that, when you find the right angle, people are interested in hearing and sharing. There’s no such thing as a business without stories to tell – you just need to find the right angles for the right audiences.

2 – Love your business strategy

Only when you really understand your business goals and strategy will your marketing follow suit. What is your mission? What is the purpose of your business and where do you see it in a few years time? How are you going to achieve your mission?

Once you have answered all of the above, that is where your marketing plan comes into play. It will help you to achieve your business mission and enable you to set targets for the number of contracts you need to win, the number of new customers you require and which sectors you need to target in order to enjoy growth.

3- Marketing communications planning

There is no substitute for good planning – make it a priority! Make sure you tie your planning in with your business and marketing strategy.

By understanding your target audience, you can plan for long term success. Often your audience will be your target customers but you might also want to target industry thought leaders with your marketing.

Prepare a plan of your monthly marketing activity. How many press releases will you create and send out? How many blogs will you write, and how many hours will you spend on social media?

4 – Content really is King!

These days there is no excuse for not having good content that will help drive traffic to your website or blog, or simply give you an opportunity to interact with your business communities.  It’s always better to generate your own original content about your company, its products and services and tell people the exciting things you are doing.  But you can also curate content to demonstrate your expertise in your industry sector. There are lots of content curation tools on the Internet, but why not try Scoop.it, for example.  Scoop.it allows you to put a few key words into your topic and then brings anything mentioned those keywords into your curation page.  This will generate many interesting stories about your industry which you can then share with your audiences – it really does work!

5 – Do your research

The internet and social platforms are an amazing store of knowledge, information and marketing intelligence for every conceivable industry sector.  Set up Google Alerts on every aspect of your business and industry and subscribe to RSS feeds and blogs so you are notified whenever a conversation is happening that you need to be a part of!

Listening is just as important as informing and sharing knowledge.  Listen to what your communities have to say on social networks and mine them for the gold nuggets that are potential content for you to convert into stories.

A New Year, New Challenges, New Opportunities

BridgitWith 2011 now behind us, we have had time to reflect on what Bridge has achieved in the last 12 months and what we are looking forward to achieving in 2012.

The past year has seen some major changes in our company with the development of new products and services, and the addition of new team members to support our growth. We have also developed  our partnerships with clients and now represent customers across a wide range of industry sectors. 

This has given us a very firm foundation for 2012, and we are very excited about the coming year, especially being a Coventry based agency with all that is about to happen surrounding the 2012 Olympics and Euro 2012.   

New ways of working in PR were very much to the forefront throughout the whole of 2011.  Social media gained in popularity with the majority of our clients and we spent a great deal of time providing training support around this and other marketing communications topics.   The new raft of digital technologies certainly helped us to raise the profile of our clients, a number of whom enjoyed national media exposure.  This was underpinned by having really great stories to tell.  Content is the lifeblood of marketing communications campaigns, and every one of our clients had interesting and topical stories in 2011.

In the summer months, we launched one of our own campaigns based around, Bridgit, a rather engaging red-eyed tree frog, who became the centre-piece for a social media workshop titled “Making the LEAP”.  Bridgit very quickly took on a life of her own after a successful campaign to name her, and we then set about creating her identity as our social media mascot.  You will see a lot more of Bridgit in 2012, so watch out for her.

As we headed towards Autumn, we increased our team again and welcomed our new account executive, Natalie Hunt.   With a breadth of experience across journalism and broadcast media, Natalie is a great addition to our team, and very quickly established herself with a number of our clients as well as building relationships with editors and journalists up and down the country. 

 

Looking Ahead

 It’s going to be great to be in Coventry

It’s particularly exciting to be in Coventry as we head into 2012.  The buzz surrounding  the 2012 Olympic Games is now starting to heat up in earnest, and Coventry will be in the thick of everything with some of the major games being hosted in our City.  In addition, local Company, Imagineer Productions, has created a magnificent spectacle in “Godiva Awakes” which will shine  the spotlight on two of the city’s home grown industries:  Lady Godiva and cycling.  The bicycle was invented in Coventry so what better propulsion to use to take the enormous Godiva puppet on her journey from Coventry to London.  Another Coventry coup is the Olympic torch.  This is yet another Coventry creation that will focus attention on the region, and especially when the Olympic torch relay wends its way through the Midlands on its way to the Olympic Stadium.    In among these major events is an anniversary that also has strong Coventry connections:  the centenary of the maiden voyage and sinking of RMS Titanic in 1912. Bridge client, Titanic Heritage Trust, is hosting a series of events throughout 2012 commemorating this event (hyperlink). 

New ways to boost your business

 As we have mentioned in a previous blog  ‘Boost your Business with “Video PR’, videos are 53 times more likely to generate a first page ranking than traditional SEO techniques, which means more visitors to your website, more calls generated, and ultimately more sales.  Just a short video about your products and/or services that you offer could increase the calls generated to 18%.

Working with our partner, Whirlwind Productions, we are keen to make you aware of the benefits of Video PR and how this can move your company forward, whether it be a short, sharp video release, or a larger budget corporate video.  We will be bring you more information on how you can boost your business through video PR through our own training and workshops, e-shots, and blogs.

 Social Media will continue to grow and develop

 Building on the great successes of 2011, we will be helping more businesses to make the most of social media.  No more can businesses say “Why should we be using social media?”, and finding reasons not to engage with their online audiences.  Instead, we are now hearing “Why would we not use social media, it has so much to offer?”  We predict that the social media revolution will continue to grow, and for some of our clients it will be a case of their social media activity maturing as they reap the rewards of early engagement after spending time building their following and creating and curating great content for their stories. 

Last year was a great year for us and we enjoyed every minute of it.  We are very excited by the prospect of continuing to work with our clients, partners and suppliers. 

 If you haven’t already signed up for our e-newsletters, then please take the time to do so now, and we will keep you up to date on the latest in PR and marketing and how you can use the lifeblood of your business (your stories) to really get noticed in 2012. 

 A Happy New Year. 

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!

About to cross the Bridge…

Irina Hutu

Hello PR world! This is Irina and I am the first to start what will hopefully be a successful line of internships here at Bridge PR.

By Bridge PR I mean the nice cosy office and the lovely people inside that manage to stick to their busy schedules and meetings and still find some spare time to show you around, give you a taste of how the PR business works and how things should be done and even treat you with coffee (and cake on good days). So, as you can tell that’s obviously not the bridge I’m most anxious about. Nearly a graduate in Communication Culture and Media, stepping into the real world of business oriented practices from an academic, theoretical environment is not that smooth and easy, not even in a fairly practical field like Public Relations. But that’s what internships are for and with a bit of guidance and support, it’s certainly an achievable goal.

By now, you might have already guessed what this blog is all about. I will take you through my entire experience as an intern as I get more hands-on experience in PR practice. Given my most recent experiences I will inevitably do this from a critical perspective but putting practice against theory at times can come up with interesting and useful insights.

As a heads up from the start, I am mainly interested in the coming on board of the social media practices and its effects on the PR industry and that is a lot to talk and think about. But, as people say around here, we’ll cross this bridge when we get there.

First things first. Every aspiring practitioner should have a clear idea of what PR means and what they have chosen to be doing for a considerable part of their lives. Here is my personal take on Public Relations, adapted and abridged, now, in the first week in an actual PR agency.

  • In its early days, Public Relations was mainly associated with press agentry and mass manipulation. A lot has changed since then and PR has managed to rise as an ethical profession and a very powerful and effective tool, if used properly.
  • Public Relations is not Advertising. Ads mass promote a certain image which may help if granted a generous budget. On the other hand, PR is about building and managing an identity whilst communicating an image consistent with that identity to its audiences. It may not work wonders but I cannot fail and it will certainly not bankrupt you.
  • Many PR practitioners will have difficulties in defining exactly what PR is in a nutshell which obviously gave way to all sorts of labels. It seems however that the label of ‘engineering of consent’ PR got stuck with since Edward Bernays is coming to an end.
  • The new important element to consider is the integration of social media in PR practice. Whilst the Internet has made room for new media distribution channels that are increasingly becoming the main ones, social media promise to transform the very principles of PR.
  • Feedback is the key advantage companies get as targeted audiences can engage in conversation and actively participate in the building of a company’s identity.
  •  It’s an important moment in the history of PR that sets a lot of challenges for both practitioners and clients but also great opportunities. You can choose to see it as a more technological and scary change or as enabling a more direct and transparent relationship between companies and its audiences. The opportunity is definitely there to be seized.

Well, that’s just to give you a hint of what we‘d be dealing with. Having set an introduction I’ll keep coming back with exciting and interesting stories during my experience with Bridge. Fingers crossed and hope you’ll find it worth it taking the trip with me. To be continued…

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”.