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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Make 2013 the year to put your business in the spotlight

The first quarter of 2013 has been of the best ever at Bridge after securing five new clients in just four new months. You may have seen in the press news of our biggest ever client win following a successful pitch to independent garage scheme: Trust My Garage. This came amid new contracts with Obsession Salon & Spa, atg airports, BAKER and most recently, logistics company, BDA.

It seems that businesses throughout the UK are starting the year with ambitions of growth and in order to achieve this growth, they are taking a fresh look at their marketing strategy.  Financially, it continues to be a very difficult time to be in business in the UK, but the latest quarterly findings from BDRC Continental’s Business Opinion Omnibus reveal that SMEs continue to remain optimistic about the UK economy, posting a net optimism score of +10% in Q1 2013, more than twice the level seen in the same period last year. This optimism is backed up by the large number of enquiries we have been receiving for our own services so far this year.

business_spotlightThere has never been a more important time for businesses to market their products and services. Competition is fierce and the UK economy is proving tough for traders. By investing in specialist marketing support, you can make sure that your business is always ahead of the game and the first name on the lips of potential customers. Here are our top five reasons why you should be proactively marketing your business, and how great PR can help:

1. If nobody knows you exist, how are you going to win new business?

Whatever line of business you are in, one of the biggest challenges remains the same and is crucial to business success – how do I attract new clients and win new business? You can have the best company in the world, but if nobody knows that you exist how are they going to buy from you? PR is all about raising your profile and getting your business in front of the people that matter most, whether that be fellow businesses or consumers. We employ a mix of traditional and digital PR services to help put your company name in front of your target audiences includingarticles in trade press, local consumer press, social media activity and e-marketing. By developing  a robust marketing strategy and taking the care to understand your business and your audience we can make sure that you are getting seen by potential new customers.

2. Get ahead of the competition

Competition in business has never been more fierce and the battle for business remains difficult to win, whatever industry you operate in. PR and marketing can help. If you keep seeing your competitors’ names everywhere then perhaps it is time you looked into doing some PR and marketing of your own?  Why not put your business in the spotlight and be the one that is always being seen!

3. Win the support of your local community

When it comes to success in business, it helps to have your local community on your side. If you don’t already have the support of your local community or you want to strengthen this support, now is the time to join millions of other business in planning some PR and marketing activity. Utilising local press to tell positive stories about how your business is injecting cash or jobs into a local community can be really useful in winning over your local area.

4. Attract commercial partners or investors

These days, the banks are rarely generous when it comes to lending so an alternative source of funding is commercial sponsorship or investment. If potential investors do not know about your business, however, they certainly won’t be investing any money into it any time soon. Trade press can be a really useful way of reaching out to potential investors and letting them know all about your business by sharing some of your success stories.

5. Move into new markets

You have already saturated your existing markets and are looking to branch out somewhere new. PR and marketing is the answer. By employing a mix of traditional and digital PR, you can help create a name for yourself in markets that you have otherwise been missing out on or that you have not yet explored.  Whether your new market is a geographical one, or in different sectors, we can help by targeting your key messages specifically to these audiences.

It is said that the editorial endorsement of PR is so powerful that a page of PR coverage is worth 3-5 times a page of advertising. We have welcomed five clients so far this year with ambitions to grow, attract new business, saturate markets and get ahead of the competition. Join them and give us a call on 02476520025 to discuss where we can take your business with a successful strategic PR and marketing campaign.

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…”

Grab the keys to great brand exposure

What is the first thing you think of when searching the internet for a company or service? It is something you might not even notice you are doing, so subliminal it has become. And yet it is something that we all do every time without fail – come up with key words or phrases to input into a search engine so that websites can find useful matches.

It’s not just search engines that require key words though. In fact, a successful and strategic marketing campaign also requires a whole host of key words and phrases. Key words can be used to get across your messages and ideals when used consistently throughout marketing. Think of soft drinks, Christmas and children, think of Coca Cola. Think of cars, windows, scratches, think of Autoglass. Think of your products, services and key audience – do people think of your business?

To be successful, keywords need to be implemented from the start of a marketing strategy and consistently spread throughout all activities. From the beginning of your strategic marketing planning, think of all the buzz words that help to describe your business. If you were searching Google for your company, what words would you enter to find yourself? What values are you trying to promote with your business? Put them into words.

What words should I be using?

Think of words that describe your business. If you are a PR and marketing firm, those need to be your keywords. If you work in engineering, engineering is one of your keywords just as dentistry is one for dentists and computing one for IT companies.

Where are you? Are you in Coventry? Then that needs to be a keyword. Offering removal services from Manchester? Then removal services and Manchester need to be in your keywords.

Who do you work for? What audience demographics are you trying to attract? If it’s specialist medical chairs for over 60s then you need to be using words like ‘elderly’ and ‘pensioner’ in your key words. If it’s younger people, use the words ‘teenagers,’ ‘twenty-somethings’ or ‘children.’

That’s the obvious but what about the not-so-obvious? Have a good think. Is there another word that describes one of the existing keywords you have thought of? A good idea is to go through a Thesaurus and find all words similar to those you are including in your keywords. People search for different things. While one person might be looking for accountants, someone else might be looking for financial advisors. It is highly likely that you fit into both titles so make sure your keywords leave no room for error.

Never miss an opportunity

It’s not just a case of sitting down and penning your keywords – you need to use them as much as possible. Consider them in everything you do that helps to market your business. Keywords can be used anywhere in marketing material to get across your products and services to the right audiences.

Begin with the most obvious place – on your website. Your website may have been live for quite some time and gathering a consistent and impressive hit rate but that doesn’t mean it can’t be made even better. Now you have your key words, go back over your website copy and insert them in wherever and whenever appropriate. Even if one of your keywords is a cliché that you don’t want included on your web copy, make sure you still tag it in your META data so it is still present should somebody run a search for it.  Done properly, it really does help with your search engine optimisation or SEO, driving your website up the search rankings.

Keep these keywords at the forefront of your mind for any other marketing material you produce. A press release about a new product or service offers a great opportunity to embed some of your key words while a direct marketing letter gives you the chance to be bolder when including these terms. Blogs are written by you and read by industry experts, followers and those interested in your business. What a fantastic opportunity to stamp some of your key words into your prose! What’s more, when writing a blog, unlike a press release – you have the final say over how it is published. Be striking and get your keywords as prominent as you can. Use one in your headline, add a sub-headline and don’t forget to tag the entire post with your key words.  Again, keywords in blogs help with your SEO, and don’t forget to tag any images or videos you use with your key words.  Be consistent.

Evaluate and monitor

Your keywords aren’t working? Then you need to sit down and think why this is not going to plan. Perhaps your industry is changing and your keywords are not supporting these changes? Maybe your target audience aren’t searching for your key words because your keywords are old fashioned or outdated. Put yourself in the mindset of a potential customer demographic. If you are selling to businesspeople think what kind of terms businesspeople will be using. It is unlikely to be slang words or terms that have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary within the last five years. They are more likely to be searching for the more traditional words that describe your business.

By regularly evaluating your key words and implementing them within your marketing strategy you can be sure that your key messages are being picked up by the right people operating in the right circles. Just as Google regularly reviews and changes its SEO terms, you need to be updating and changing your keywords for maximum effect.

And don’t forget, you can monitor the effectiveness of key words in your industry sector by using a free tool: Google Alerts.  This will bring you regular updates and information from across the Internet using the key words you set up.  It’s  great for keeping an eye on your customers, competitors, and key industry trends as well as what is being said about your business – all because you’ve invested some time in thinking about key words that are important to your business.

A picture tells a thousand words – Why good images make good PR

When was the last time you flicked through a newspaper or magazine and stopped to read an article after seeing an interesting image? Not too long ago we bet! Have you considered how dull and uninteresting a publication would be if it was just pages and pages of text with no imagery at all? Very few would read it. Even fewer would remember a piece they read in it.

The truth is good images make good PR. Take the upcoming Olympics as an example. The opening ceremony is set to be a visual extravaganza. All competing nations will put on their own parades, the Olympic Flame will be on view for all to see and there will be a feast of UK culture for spectators to enjoy. How many national newspapers will have picture specials? How many front pages will be adorned with Olympic images?

Your PR story may not be on the grand scale of the Olympics but that doesn’t mean your images shouldn’t be. A strong image can really add life to a story and persuade an Editor to run with it – even if the subject is not all that interesting. If an Editor has two stories of equal strength, then they are more likely to run with the one that has the better image. Not only do images fill space but they also add an extra dimension to news articles, so it is worth getting it right. Here’s what makes a good press image:

  • Make it relevant

If your story is shouting about how great your new product is then including a picture of your Manager smiling and playing golf isn’t going to suffice. Make your image relevant to the story. Particularly if your story is about a new product, you need to show people what the product looks like so they can recognise it next time they want to place an order.

  • Don’t be boring

Images of people sitting at desks in suits are just not interesting. Are you going to stop flicking through a magazine and read a story because there is an image next to it of someone sitting at a desk? Thought not – so why should anybody else?

  • Caption your photos

It all comes down to the ‘w’s. Who, what, when, where, why? If you are taking a picture of a person, then the publication you are approaching needs to know who it is in the image and how they are associated with the story. Images of random, anonymous people are of no use to publications so neither will your story be.

  • Framing

This is particularly key if you are going to take your own images. Make sure everything you include in the image is centred nicely. Make it tight, with the subject of the image almost filling the frame. Photo editors are busy – the last thing they want to be doing is cropping and editing images that have been sent to them externally.

  • No logos

Please, no logos. Nobody likes logos.  Sending a company logo with a press release is lazy and shows that you have not gone to the effort to put together some interesting visuals. Logos are traditionally associated in the press with advertorials – paid for coverage – they have no place in editorial space where your inclusion in a publication depends on the quality of your story.

  • Use the professionals

If you can’t take a decent press picture yourself, then get the professionals to do it for you.   We work with a number of professional press photographers up and down the country, and they have the knack of understanding what a particular newspaper or magazine editor is looking for, whether it’s the shot from a quirky angle, an action shot, or something more abstract.

  • Tagging images increases your visibility

Images very often make it into online media these days, and this gives you the perfect opportunity to tag images with keywords and phrases that describe your business.  These are searchable online and can drive traffic back to your website.  So when you take any image that is going to be used digitally, do take time to think about how you can also increase your search engine optimisation.

These are just some brief points about why good images are so important.  A good picture really can tell a thousand words. Perhaps that’s why Infographics are now so popular, but that’s a story for another blog.

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.

How to utilise social media effectively

A brand new report from Digital Marketers E-Consultancy has found that only ten per cent of UK businesses actually monitor their ROI from social media. This is despite the fact that more than three-quarters of respondents to the survey said they are either running an online community or plan to do so in the next 12 months. We have been promoting the value of social media and helping our clients utilise it effectively for the past couple of years but this report reveals that very few UK businesses are still not utilising the medium effectively enough to enjoy company growth Further figures state that 29% of marketers had set up their company’s own social media accounts in the last 12 months while 35% had been using social media for more than a year. Only 23% of businesses asked quoted social media as a part if their online presence. Those unable to monitor their ROI through social media must not be using it accurately so we thought that we would share our top five tips to effectively utilise social media marketing.

1. Plan

What do you hope to get out of your social media activity? Business growth and profit are one thing but which audiences are you looking to reach out to and connect with? Once you have niche audiences in mind, sit down and list as many keywords and phrases as you can that are dedicated to those audiences and your own business. Set up Google Alerts for those terms too – its free and provides valuable information with which you can monitor and measure you social media activity. By setting out with a clear plan in mind, you can execute a social media campaign that will bring the kind of results you want to see.

2. Build communities

From your list of words and phrases, research which ones would be good hashtags for Twitter and use them whenever you tweet about relevant content. Search for these hashtags within Twitter and follow those tweeting similar stories and information to you. Most importantly though, let people know that your business has entered the social media world and show them where to find you. Have follow icons on your home page and include your social media URLs on your business cards and promotional literature. Nobody will join your community of they don’t know it exists.

 3. Broadcast

Get conversations going on Twitter. Ask people their opinions on topics relevant to you and your business. Make sure you only provide valuable content for people to engage with. They don’t care about what you had for breakfast but may want to discuss popular topics in the news with you.

 4. Content

As we have been saying for years, good quality content is the secret to successful social media. Create a blog and blog regularly on topics that matter to you and your audience. Share your blog posts with your social media collectives and encourage them to comment and share within their own circles. When sharing content though, make sure you are consistent. Pay attention to your tone and style and be consistent with this. If you suddenly switch things around, people will just lose interest.

5. Convert

Get in your call to action. Offer a free ebook or catalogue for example or invite them to read your testimonials to get an idea of the kind of successful work you have done in the past. Without an effective call to action, very few people will actually consider your business for a service; many choosing to keep you as a social media associate instead.

To get the most out of your social media activity, give Bridge PR and Media Services a call today on 02476 520 025

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.

What is PR?

It’s a question that is commonly asked – particularly by businesses owners who think they need PR, but are unsure exactly what it is. Some people think it is a way of winning new business; others think that it’s simply an exercise that gets them in the local paper and others believe that it just enhances their reputation. The real answer? It can do all this and so much more.

Reputation

ImagePublic Relations is all about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. It’s about not only developing a good reputation for your business but managing that reputation once you have built it up – establishing and maintaining goodwill and mutual understanding between a business and its public.

How does it work?

PR comes in many different forms; marketing, social media, public affairs, corporate communications, event management, content marketing public information – all titles which contribute to the umbrella that is Public Relations and all topics that cover a part of what PR is.

It’s about establishing trust between a business and the public, which could be done through many forms. Telling stories to the local, national, global and trade presses will catapult a business in front of a large public base. Being active on social networks and engaging with customers; old, new and potential shows the public that a business cares about the public. By holding regular events or seminars, your business can help educate the public about what it is you do. Through research, feedback, communication and evaluation, a business can enjoy positive PR and subsequent positivity when it comes to sales and customer lists.

PR is a more credible source of promotion than advertising. An editorial in a local magazine, promoting your business is worth far more than the price of an advertisement in exposure and credibility. Adverts are paid-for pages, targeting a specific audience whereas an editorial is placed because you have a good story worth telling – not because you are paying for the pleasure!

Do I need PR?

Yes. PR can only be good for business. Your company need not be the biggest, the most profitable or the most powerful in your industry sector to reach out and build trust with the public. In fact, without this circle of trust, you may never be the best in your sector.

Just as it doesn’t matter how brilliant your services are or how ground-breaking your products are – if nobody knows about them, they aren’t going to buy them. Every inch of your business can be run to perfection but you will make no money of nobody knows who you are – they will continue going to your competitors. With PR, the public will know who you are; they will see for themselves the successes of your business and grow to trust your brand and its services.  If you communicate more effectively with the public than your competitors do, it will be you who the public turns to going forward.

Still not convinced?

Take a look at the question below and if you answer yes to any of them, you need PR!

  • Do I want to grow my business?
  • Do I want to build a foundation of trust with the public?
  • Do I want to be ahead of my competitors?
  • Do I want to move into new markets?
  • Do I want to win new customers while retaining my existing ones at the same time?
  • Do I want to win over my local community
  • Do I want to be recognised as the best in my field of expertise?

To kickstart your PR and marketing, give Bridge PR and Media Services a call today on 024 7652 0025 and we can work out a plan that works for you.