Category Archives: Cheshire PR

Why New PR Agencies Thrive in a Recession

I’ve just been reading in PR Week about the wisdom or otherwise of starting up a PR agency in a recession. Hmmm, I think I’ve come across this theme before, probably in 1991 – or was it 1982?

The story goes something along the lines of: new agency is keen to build a credible client base by offering rock-bottom rates.  The clients they’ve targeted are only too happy to benefit from high calibre PR expertise at recession-busting prices.

This does of course make perfect economic sense.  I would also venture that start-ups bring more to the table than low prices to sustain their initial appeal and keep their more established competitors at bay.

The hunger to prove a point probably gives a new agency a head start with things like client service and innovative problem solving.  Fresh ideas are priceless and if PR creativity is called for, then start-ups will be more likely to tick all the boxes. 

There’s a danger that complacency may set in with typical client-agency relationships.  Some would argue that this is a comfortable environment in which personal chemistry can thrive.  Others might say that no-one wants to rock the boat when all standard PR procedures are being followed.  A new agency, on the other hand, has a blank canvas on which to introduce a raft of new ideas and follow them through with enthusiasm.

For this is the life-blood of any new business.  Enthusiasm will carry all before it when sustained and supported by true expertise and service.  The new agency’s stock will soar when everything is going well.  Needless to say, the initial rock-bottom fees will take on a value-for-money aura that no other agency can hope to shift.

There’s an intrinsic momentum with a new PR agency, a self-perpetuating energy that harnesses business opportunity with a need to succeed.  The fact that they’re operating against a backdrop of economic recession lends the whole process its own unique frisson.

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PR 101: Four ways to improve your writing

With 2012 well under way – and plans to launch Buzzwords’ new copywriting courses (online and face-to-face) at an advanced stage – what better time could there be to spill a few beans on how to improve your PR writing. Here are four things that may set you thinking:

1. Use short, simple words

Don’t show off! French phrases and rare words might cut it in certain circles, but copywriting is all about communication.  You need to make sure ALL your readers know what you’re talking about without them having to scurry off for a dictionary (or, worse still, abandoning any attempt to read your gems altogether!).

2. Know who you’re writing for

Create a mental picture of who your readers might be.  Think about their age, interests, educational level, social influences and so on.  What will turn them on?  And what might put them off?  These are largely common sense things, but it’s wise to give them a thought before you start blazing away on the keyboard.

3. Research your subject

With business-to-business PR, you’re talking to specialists.  With consumer PR, you’re talking to savvy consumers who will twig right away that you’re not really on their wavelength and therefore not worthy of too much of their time.  Research material is everywhere on the Internet – so use it!.  You don’t need to regurgitate dry facts.  Think around the subject.  Put facts and events in the context of your own particular message.  Be relaxed in your writing by all means; but most of all, make sure you’re credible.

4. Aim high – and keep it that way!

Quality PR writing is all about clarity and energy.  If you can achieve that in everything you write, then your readers will stay with you until the bitter end.  If you’ve read this far, you’ll know what I mean!

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The Social Media Explosion!

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Should you have a Tumblr account? Or is the number of social media platforms tumbling out of control?

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate, Buzzwords Limited

Social media has now entered mainstream marketing, and for many companies social media has become the number one online marketing platform. Only last week HSBC announced that they would be putting social media at the heart of their UK business growth strategy, with an ambitious plan to create their “Own version of Facebook”.

Many companies only consider the traditional social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter…etc) and overlook new social media platforms, for example, Tumblr.  In case you don’t know, Tumblr is a blogging platform with over 30 million blogs, 10 billion posts and is completely business friendly!  It’s quickly becoming a force in the social media world, as it has taken all the elements of traditional social media platforms to create its own user-friendly platform!

So who should be using Tumblr? If your audience is young Tumblr is perfect, it provides mobile-friendly, visual-orientated content and is especially popular among designers and fashionistas…

If you’re looking for simplicity, Tumblr again is a perfect platform as it can provide you with an instant blog! It is easy to use and anybody can use it. Although not as powerful as WordPress, Tumblr gives a more visual, user- friendly experience!

For designers, publishers and anybody considering using Tumblr it may be worth trying to gauge the nature of the Tumblr audience. The general profile tends to be young, trendy types, but this is a generalisation.  The Tumblr audience is always changing and many businesses now have a Tumblr presence, including Buzzwords.

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Press Releases: Four Simple Ways to Make Sure Yours Stand Out

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate, Buzzwords Manchester

Editors get hundreds of press releases a week – and most of them bite the dust. Why should this be? It’s obviously important that your release is professionally written. More important, however, is your content. This will be the decider when it comes to whether your release is read and used.

To save you from the agony of rejection, here are four simple ways to make sure your press release stands out from the crowd and that it is actually published:

  • Make sure the subject of your release is relevant to the readership of the publication

Sounds obvious, but many people forget this. The information and story in your release need to be important to the publication’s readership, and not just to your business.

  • Don’t use your press release as a means of free advertising

Editors are wised-up to companies using press releases as free advertising, and can distinguish a genuine press release from ‘advertising in disguise’. Trying to use press releases as a means of free advertising will almost certainly see your release in the bin. Press releases do provide a great means of publicity, but write your publicity to give news or information only.

  • Short and simple is key

Editorial space is limited, meaning your release needs to be short and to the point. Write clear and concise sentences using only the important, relevant information. Avoid jargon, repetition and create lively text that is relevant to the publication’s readership.

  • The release should be able to stand on its own

If you feel a cover letter – or e-mail – is needed to explain why you have sent the press release or why it should be published, then the release isn’t good enough in the first place. Editors should want to publish your press release, so there’s no need to bother with a letter or explanatory e-mail.

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Social Media: Fighting Fire with Fire

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate, Buzzwords Manchester

In the wake of recent riots, social media has received a bad press. The government claims social media “fuelled” riots and helped orchestrate organised vandalism and looting. Unlike the government, GMP (Greater Manchester Police) have embraced social media as a tool to prosecute, and publicise the prosecutions, of those involved with the recent riots.

GMP also used social media as a live platform during the riots to quash rumours and deter potential rioters. Greater Manchester Police’s early adoption of social media has demonstrated the trust social media can create with publics in times of crisis.

The Internet age has made winning and losing trust more complicated, faster and measurable than ever. This was demonstrated last week by the rioters, who were able to organise and publicise the riots quickly and on a mass scale. The digital revolution has enabled more people to have a voice. Anyone can publish their views and share them instantly.

This ability to publish instantly, combined with increased social networking sites creates a powerful tool that influences the views of people we trust (our friends). Communications has been turned on its head; the public now create the conversations and messages, putting marketers in the back seat.

Throughout the rioting in Manchester last week, GMP were engaging with the public and collecting evidence through the Twitter community by listening to conversations. This strategy can also be applied to business. Listening and engaging with your public through social media is vital, as the right kinds of conversations can inform sceptics and encourage new business. The wrong kinds of conversations can be monitored, evidence can be collected and companies can change.

In the end, building trust through social media is quite simple; it’s all about having more conversations with more people, about the things they care about. Many people (and the government) forget that social media is “social” and listening is at the heart of it.

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Five Reasons Facebook Groups Are Still Important

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate, Buzzwords Manchester

Only a few years ago many businesses relied solely on Facebook groups to promote and market to their Facebook audiences. Many businesses have simply overlooked the power of groups since business pages were introduced.

Groups can still work well when you want to take quick action around a current issue, and are still often used to rally people around causes or current events. These are the five reasons why Facebook groups are still important:

  • Getting the message across

Sending messages to group members is very powerful because Group messages are sent directly to members’ inboxes, just like messages from a friend. Facebook pages restrict you from doing this, only allowing page updates!

  • Organising events

Groups are a great way to organise events and they also the give you the capability to message attendees. Group content is also now included in the Facebook Newsfeed, something once exclusive to Pages. This is a major factor in retaining members and driving engagement.

  • Time

Groups can be grown quickly, perfect when time is not on your side. Bulk invites to join a group can be sent to friends, which can also be helpful for viral marketing.

  • Control

Facebook groups provide you with much more control over who can be allowed in and out of your group! Groups can be made exclusive to certain networks; they can be private so they are only visible to members or available to all Facebook members. The control that groups provide can be helpful when creating a subsection of your page.

  • The personal touch

Facebook groups generally create a more personal feeling. They allow for close interaction with the administrator of the group, unlike a more anonymous page. Many find this personal interaction to be a welcome bonus in what can often seem like an impersonal digital age!

 
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The PR Agency – And New Turks on the Block!

The latest edition of PR Week magazine features an article about PR agency structures. On the face of it, that may seem like the most boring topic in the world. For anyone in the agency business, however, it’s endlessly fascinating!

We all know that the media and marketing landscape has changed dramatically in the past few years. It’s interesting to ask how PR agencies have responded in terms of their structure and operational approach. It also begs the question: has there been any NEED to change PR agency business models?

If we’re talking here about the rise and rise of social media, another more apposite question might be: have agency people got to grips with the new social media and digital marketing age?  All the changes in the world that are made to ‘structures’ won’t affect anything if PR agency people are ignorant about the new Turks on the block.

Now, if new structures (or new business models) are devised that accommodate new-age media and marketing, then we may be getting somewhere.  If, on the other hand, there’s some nebulous shifting of deck-chairs along the lines of ad agencies (or even, god forbid, along the lines of responding to client needs!), then a lot of people are surely missing the point. 

Effective responses to change reside in people – not structures.  Flattened corporate hierarchies went a long way in recent decades towards liberating the energies of workforces across many sectors.  The beauty of the agency world – PR, advertising, design, marketing and the rest – is that traditionally they have been small enough to avoid the fug of ‘corporateness’.

By virtue of being ‘small’ (in corporate terms), agencies tend to be flexible, creative and adaptable.  Trying to apply business school organisational theory to agencies runs the risk of destroying the informal structures that made them so effective in the first place.

It will always make sense, of course, to look at how companies of any description are organised.  Getting the most out of people and other resources is the driving force behind business progress.

As far as PR agencies are concerned,  that needn’t involve structural change.  Rather, the issues are about individual mind-sets and effective leadership that will embrace change and run with it – hopefully into the arms of grateful clients. 

Who in the agency world can honestly say they know where social media is taking us?  Some will have a good grasp of the impact social media has already had and the changed context that the digital marketing world has created.  What no-one can foresee is where it’s all heading.

Less than 20 years ago, search engines weren’t on anyone’s radar.  Five years ago or so, the likes of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn were marketing unknowns.  What will happen in the next ten years – and the impact it will have on marketing – is almost impossible to predict. 

Changes made to agency structures now may be obsolete or, even worse, hopelessly inefficient in five or six years time.  The best way to respond to change is to keep things informal and generate a culture of  awareness and responsiveness to the kaleidoscope of  ideas, technology and techniques that are no doubt spooking ‘traditional’ agencies in 2011.

It’s right that people in the PR industry are questioning the status quo.  Change can be a threat if it’s not addressed.  With the appropriate responses, however, it can present new worlds of opportunity.  Age-old arguments about whether PR people should be ‘generalists’ (for which, read: G & T-tainted dilettantes) – or specialists in areas such as social media, web development or video obviously raise questions about how people-skills are organised within agencies.

Yes, we know that these skills go down in the lift every night.  PR is a ‘people business’.  Not surprisingly, though, people don’t respond well to the heavy hand of ‘structural engineering’, particularly when it constrains their creative side. 

Surely, a more productive approach would be to focus on individual development, ‘training’ if you will.  In an age where the rate of change is accelerating beyond belief, constant skills appraisal and injection (not the more complacent-sounding Continuous Professional Development!) should be a bigger priority than changing job titles, departments and command chains.

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Blogging: 4 Simple Steps Towards A Successful Blog…

By Nicholas Beeson – Marketing Associate, Buzzwords Manchester

In the age of social media, blogs should form the backbone of your social media marketing campaigns. The content is also valuable in its own right.

Blogs drive traffic to your website and create valuable links. Despite this, many of us forget what makes a blog successful. As a reminder, here are four SIMPLE – yet effective – tips on how to maintain a successful blog:

  • Develop a strong blogging ‘voice’

The overall style of your blog should reflect your business or brand. It should be designed to meet your overall marketing objectives. Your blog should be written in a tone that is open and credible, conversational and jargon-free. Use the blog as an extension of your website.

  • Blog frequently

For your blog to be successful, you need to add new content often. You should post at regular times to make it easier for your subscribers to follow. As a minimum, you should aim to post three new blog entries a week.

  • Avoid rambling on

Many bloggers don’t realise that the most successful blogs are very narrowly focused on specific issues and are made up of short entries. The title of your blog is also important as it helps optimise each blog post across the web. Blogs are meant to be read quickly. This should be reflected in your writing style.

  • Optimise for ‘The Links Effect’

Make sure you include relevant keywords – and add tags to match! This will help generate back-links to your website and thus help with SEO and search engine rankings. This in turn will generate traffic to provide the sales leads or other enquiries which will ultimately justify your website’s existence.

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How to Optimize your Facebook Page in 3 Simple Steps

Buzzwords' Facebook page

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate at Buzzwords Manchester

To get the most out of a Facebook page, you need to gain members. In order to do this, some basic SEO skills can be applied. Optimizing your Facebook page will enable it to be found on both Facebook and the World Wide Web!

Believe it or not, Facebook pages are indexed by search engines and can even be viewed by those without a Facebook account. Facebook pages also have the potential to rank highly!

Ranking well on Facebook’s internal search is even more important, as those searching for your brand or business on Facebook know what they want and will be able to find it with ease!

3 simple steps
To begin optimizing your page so it ranks well on both organic and internal searches, follow these 3 simple steps:

1. What are you about?

The “About” box is one of the most undervalued elements of a Facebook page. The “About” box provides you with a platform to add keywords that can tell customers and search engines what your page is about! The box also allows you to add clickable links that can direct customers back to your company’s website or any other related sites.

2. The category you place yourself in is vital

When deciding on the category in which to place your page, be careful. The category affects what you can add to your info, and how much you can add! When completing the info section, use lots of key words and add links to all of your related sites including your company website, blog, LinkedIn and Twitter.

3. Choose an appropriate URL and page name

When choosing the page name, make sure it is related to your organisation and easily visible to those searching for you. Once you have gained 25 ‘likes’, create a unique URL that is memorable and related to your brand!

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PR and the simple art of zapping your competitors

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate at Buzzwords Manchester

If you thought PR was mainly about providing a bit of background noise while your other marketing activities did the ‘real’ business, think again! More and more companies are realising that PR is a powerful and cost-effective way to achieve a wide range of business aims – and that all-important competitive advantage. Here are just five reasons to go for it:

1. Times are changing – and so is marketing effectiveness
For a variety of reasons, many companies have found that certain ‘old favourite’ marketing tactics have declined in effectiveness over time. Direct mail is a great example of a traditional marketing technique that has declined in recent years. Printing and postage costs continue to rise, yet response rates have dropped. When current marketing tactics are failing, it may be worth adding PR to the equation. PR can generate significant returns and the odds are you’ll see some impressive synergies when used with other marketing communications tools.

2. Get yourself noticed – it’s not before time!
If your competitors are continually getting media attention and leaving you unnoticed, it’s time PR was introduced into the equation! Conducting an ongoing PR programme will increase your company’s chances of featuring in the media, as editors (and potential customers) will now be thinking of you – not just your competitors.

3. PR helps you compete with the ‘big boys’ of marketing
Your competitors may be more established, and have bigger budgets than your company, but PR can level the playing field! With PR in your arsenal, creative thinking can deliver big gains in valuable media coverage.

4. Marketing budgets have been cut
The current economic climate has seen many businesses cut their marketing budgets. With marketing costs increasing annually, a more cost-effective marketing technique needs to be introduced. PR is cost-effective and can achieve equal or better results than paid advertising.

5. You enjoy the media spotlight!
Finally, if you enjoy media attention, put your natural enthusiasm to work. Launch a PR campaign that will generate measurable results for your company and your products!

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Manchester United show red card to Facebook advertising

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate at Buzzwords Manchester 

In the space of a year, Manchester United have acquired more than 14 million “likes” on Facebook. This is a fantastic display of Manchester United’s clout as a brand and it would be expected that the club would take full advantage of Facebook as a marketing platform.

Yet Manchester United have come out this week stating that they will not be advertising on their Facebook page.  The club launched the page last July which was regarded by many as quite late. Maybe this late entry into social media was because Manchester United didn’t know how to approach social media marketing as a football club?

With Manchester United’s Facebook page acquiring 14 million likes in under a year, it would seem to be an obvious move to advertise on their page. This hasn’t happened and the club have decided to opt out of Facebook advertising as they feel it will stop the growth of the fan base.

United’s Head of Marketing, Jonathan Rigby, has been quoted as saying,

“”We don’t sell off Facebook and are resisting until we are satisfied it will not mess up the growth of the Facebook page. Our big concern is that if we get it wrong then the fan base will stop growing.”

This fear that advertising may stunt the growth of Manchester United’s Facebook page is understandable, but what benefits could Facebook advertising bring to the club? Obviously Manchester United advertise, but unlike conventional advertising, Facebook ads can target and segment markets depending on the information on users’ profiles.

This segmentation could be used in countries where Manchester United are looking at the potential for growth, such as the US, India (where Facebook already has 40 million fans) and China. Facebook ads can provide all businesses (regardless of size) with the potential to target specific audiences – and it can be done efficiently and cost-effectively.

Manchester United also refuse to embrace other social media platforms, such as Twitter. The club have stated that they don’t feel there is a “role for Twitter”. With recent reports in the tabloids relating to Manchester United players and their use of Twitter, it is understandable why the club are cautious to have a Twitter platform.

Manchester United’s scepticism about the effectiveness of social media is hardly surprising. And it’s clear why they want to keep their Facebook page “for the fans”. It’s an admirable decision and, speaking as a United fan, I feel the Facebook page should be about the club – and not the profits.

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Marketing 101 – The Digital Marketing Question…

 Written by Nicholas Beeson – Marketing Associate at Buzzwords Manchester

The past 15 years have seen the Internet revolutionise our society. The way we communicate, shop and socialise have all changed – meaning that marketing strategies had to follow suit. Nobody could have imagined the drastic impact the Internet would have upon our lives and marketing practices. Today, there’s a whole generation of consumers who have embraced the Internet, proving early sceptics wrong.

This has led to the development of digital marketing which has been described as the “execution of marketing using electronic media”. With digital marketing becoming ever more important, many companies are ditching traditional offline marketing (or reducing how much they spend on it).

In 2008, Orange announced that they would be investing all their marketing budget in digital by 2012. A company of this size switching to digital underlines the growing importance of the medium. Sarah Messer – Head of Commercial Research and Insight at ITV – was quoted in 2008 as saying:

The same ad content could be more effective online than on TV. In testing, ads on itv.com generated a 40% recall rate compared with 17% on ITV1.”

With digital marketing becoming a predominant part of many companies’ marketing budgets, it is important to gain an understanding, keep “up to date” with new marketing practice and determine how digital marketing is affecting traditional marketing strategy. Because the practice of digital marketing is relatively new, marketers will continue to have conflicting views about the issues surrounding it.

 
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Marketing 101 – Websites

Written by Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate at Buzzwords Manchester

It is generally accepted that online marketing revolves around having a web presence. Accessibility, communication, credibility, understanding, appearance, availability – these are all vital to successful websites. To maximise their potential, they need to work in conjunction with other online and offline marketing strategies.

Usability and accessibility are key elements for a successful website. They enable a site to be accessed by the widest possible audience and provide consumers with information and functionality they’re comfortable with. Usability is all about how easy it is for a visitor to achieve their objectives when visiting the site.

A website that provides good usability can pay dividends. If a user can accomplish their goals efficiently and effectively, it can increase website traffic, repeat visits and increase sales. The term “accessibility” in relation to the Internet, refers to the process of designing a website that is equally accessible to everyone. An accessible site enables a larger cross-section of the target audience to visit the site, thus increasing visits and sales.

For any website to reach its full potential, consumers have to be able to find the site. The majority of consumers today use search engines to find new websites. 80 percent of Internet users find new websites by typing a query into one of the major search engines. This emphasises the importance of the Internet search engines. As a result, the practice of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has been developed.

SEO is all about making a site attractive to search engine robots by presenting its code and content in such a way that its pages will achieve high rankings in response to keywords typed in to make an online search. Matt Cutts, the head of the quality team at Google was asked in an interview with wired.com “Does search engine optimization work?” – to which he replied:

It does to some degree. Think of it this way: When you put a CV forward, you want it to be as clean as possible. If the CV is sloppy, you’re not going to get an interview for the job. SEO is sort of like tweaking your CV”.

SEO is becoming ever more important, and will continue to do so as long as the Internet continues to grow. In an online study commissioned by Google, it was found SEO could increase brand recall, increase purchase intent and brand affinity.

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Marketing 101 – Social Media Marketing

Written by Nicholas Beeson – Marketing Associate at Buzzwords Manchester

Social media has changed the way we interact with our friends, family, customers and colleagues. It has enabled consumers to become opinion leaders, leaving marketers only one option: to listen to their customers’ opinions.

Social media can be explained as, “The sum total of people who create content online, as well as the people who interact with one another.”

Through social media, consumers are now able to add their own opinions and content to sites. This has enabled them to form opinions between one another on social networking sites, blogs and forums. As a result, marketers have developed Social Media Marketing (SMM) which can best be described as;

‘A term used to encompass any online marketing strategy or tactic which uses social media as the medium for its communication. Further use of social media is where the marketer engages in discourse with members of the general public (potential customers) in virtual communities.’

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are at the forefront of social media sites and, as the world knows, they are growing exponentially. Expert Larry Webster states that social networks are “Member-based communities that enable users to link one another based on common interests and through invites”.

Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all provide users with different experiences. Ultimately, however, they all give users the ability to find and connect with friends, family, colleagues etc. Social networking sites enable marketers to advertise, improve online exposure/reputation and nurture pre-existing brand advocates. Although the security and privacy that these sites provide is often questioned, they continue to grow and influence modern society.

As an example: when a US blogger called Vincent Ferrari felt that he had been insulted by an AOL customer service representative, he decided to take revenge. Ferrari posted the audio recording of the conversation online. As word spread, 300,000 listeners requested downloads of the audio file, the story was picked up by thousands of other bloggers and websites, and eventually made national news. This is a great example of the power blogs have and the true freedom consumers now have to vent their frustrations and offer opinions.

Businesses are also using blogs to add a human connection to a previously bland corporate image. Marketers have realised the importance of blogs as they can create massive exposure and also engage consumers on a personal level. Micro-blogging site, Twitter, gives business the opportunity to put out short 140-character blogs that can be just as effective as conventional blogs in moulding and influencing public opinion.

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Marketing 101 – E-mail Marketing

 

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate at Buzzwords Manchester

E-mail has become a part of our everyday communication. It is now one of the most powerful elements of digital marketing, enabling marketers to communicate quickly, efficiently and at low cost. When used correctly and ethically, it is one of the most effective forms of online marketing.

E-mail marketing is like traditional direct mail. It goes without saying that accurate targeting is vital. Digital marketers use CRM to build a database of customers, to build and maintain relationships with consumers through regular e-mails, where they’re offering discounts, vouchers and so on.

CRM is an acronym for “Customer Relationship Management”. It’s a marketing-led approach to building and sustaining long-term business with customers. CRM enables marketers to build a relationship with customers and understand their needs. Customers can be segmented according to their tastes, resulting in e-mail marketing campaigns that are targeted towards customers most likely to respond.

E-mail marketing can also enhance brand loyalty. Regular e-mails that give consumers access to what they want, when and where they want it will clearly keep them interested in the brand.

E-mail communication gives the consumer a sense of being valued which will further enhance brand loyalty. Furthermore, ongoing communication reassures the customer they are using the right brand and helps to develop a relationship between them and the brand. Most importantly, E-mail marketing is low-cost, effective and very efficient.

 
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Marketing 101 – Online PR and Reputation Management

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate at Buzzwords Manchester

PR is one of the most important elements of the marketing mix. It’s all about building positive relations with your company’s customers through publicity that builds a positive image around the company.

PR is even more important online. On the negative side, rumours and stories about companies can spread like wild-fire, damaging reputations and credibility in double-quick time. On the positive side, customer feedback can be invaluable in gaining an understanding of what the market is really thinking about your company, its products and services.

Internet marketing author and blogger Dave Chaffey gives a good description of Online PR: “Online PR is about maximising favourable mentions of your company, brands, products or web sites on third-party websites which are likely to be visited by your target audience. Online PR can also be used to support viral or word-of-mouth marketing activities in other media.”

Overall, Online PR boils down to two key things: raising the online profile of a business and managing the online reputation of a business.

Although the Internet has allowed companies to monitor and influence online conversations, it can also present them with a new set of problems. In particular, the complete freedom of speech that is possible online has worked against many companies.

The Internet is to a large extent uncontrolled. In principle, anyone can say or show anything. Much of the material that reaches the public no longer passes through traditional gatekeepers such as newspaper editors, radio or television producers. The result is both freedom of speech and distribution of unreliable, unconfirmed and often untrue information. This can be a threat – but also an opportunity – for PR practitioners.

An example of this lawlessness on the Internet was seen with the recent BP oil disaster. The social media site “Twitter”, saw 1 million conversations about BP. Of these conversations, 59% were deemed to be negative towards BP. This absolute freedom of speech can be damaging to companies, which further underlines the importance of Online PR and having a fall-back strategy in place. Communicating with online communities and PR ‘publics’ is vital as it raises the company profile as well as maintaining the reputation of the company or brand.

Social media is of course at the heart of the Online PR frenzy. Blogging and online news releases are other inter-related techniques used by companies to promote themselves online. The Digibuzz blog talks about the importance of online press releases;

In a significant report, titled ‘Search Marketing Benchmark Guide’, MarketingSherpa reported that online press releases, combined with organic search engine optimization, are among the most effective Internet marketing strategies.”

In its aims and effects, Online PR is not hugely different to offline PR. The principles are the same but the channels are different. Nowadays, Online PR and reputation management are a crucial part of any digital marketing plan. Online conversations constantly need to be monitored to pre-empt any negative feedback. Whilst Online PR raises a company’s profile, wherever possible it also needs to be carefully managed to protect the online image and reputation of a company.

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Who’s Driving the Social Media Bandwaggon?

The slightly opportunist stance of GolinHarris in announcing its new, flatter agency structure shouldn’t obscure the fact that PR and marketing services are undergoing a major sea-change at the hands of social media and the ongoing online revolution.

Who cares how a PR agency organises itself?  Even its clients shouldn’t be too concerned – providing the end result is a better service.  We can only assume that something along those lines was behind the GH announcement! 

Of course, revolutions spark some big changes.  Some would argue that it’s inevitable PR agencies will wrestle with their own internal response to the rise of social media, and everything else that goes with consumers and clients grabbing the marketing initiative.

Others would say that, ultimately, agencies will have no choice but to respond in the most optimal ways available.  Juggling with staffing structures, departmental responsibilities and individual skillsets is something that any responsible and responsive service sector consultancy will do (or should do) as a matter of course.

In the PR industry, change has never been as dramatic or as sustained as it has been over recent years.  With change comes opportunity, especially for the fleet of foot.  It could be argued that publicly announcing just how ‘fleet’ you really are is a shrewd new-business move calculated to attract clients who may feel they’re on the receiving end of some serious inertia as far as their existing agency is concerned!

Being seen to be pro-active will always contribute to PR success.  Responding to the ways clients and markets can be reached by co-ordinating social and digital media with ‘traditional’ PR skills is a sensible route to take when your competitors may be struggling to understand what is happening in their hitherto stable world.

And yet, making changes in response to market needs by shifting accountability, job labels or responsibilities may be too premature when the full implications of ultra-new media are still throbbing their way through every marketing channel. 

Whilst it’s probably better that even an embryonic response is better than no response to the demands of market complexity in an ever-shrinking global village, there’s a danger that the diversity of recent reaction among some of the bigger PR agencies will, in the end, be self-defeating.

 
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PR in Manchester – Changes begin with MediaCityUK

(Written by Nicholas Beeson)

The recent relocation of the BBC to Salford’s MediaCityUK has provoked a lot of discussion in the PR world. A recent article featured in PR Week, discusses the impact MediaCity will have upon PR in the northwest.

The construction of MediaCity alone has cost the BBC in excess of 189 million pounds and will see high profile news outlets such as Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast relocate to the new Salford headquarters. The move will also see 2,300 BBC staff making the move north, but how will this impact on PR in the region?

To many, the move is seen as symbolic as the BBC try to improve relations with audiences in the north and portray the BBC as representative of the UK as whole (not just London). With all the hype surrounding the construction of MediaCity it would be expected that agencies are getting excited by the pending move.

This proves not to be the case, as Brazen founder Nina Webb says:
“I haven’t re-written my business plan on the back of it.” (referring to MediaCity).

Although the enthusiasm of MediaCity might not be shared by all, there’s no doubt that new PR opportunities will arise from the new BBC North headquarters. Many of the programmes that are being relocated are interviewee-intensive which will of course provide opportunities for agencies with clients based near MediaCity who can comment on news issues.

MediaCity is also being touted as a catalyst for growth in the regional creative industry.  The relocation will enable many agency people to create new relationships with journalists.

In many ways, the BBC’s relocation to MediaCity is great news for Manchester and the northwest. A greater emphasis may be placed on stories coming from the north, although it has to be said that London as the centre of the media universe is not under threat!

The danger with all this is that many people could overestimate the potential impact of MediaCity, and the whole exercise could prove to be a massive white elephant – as Julian Bailey, Head of Media Relations at Morrisons, so neatly puts it:

“As a PR professional based in Bradford,” he says, “I will continue to spend more time in London than Salford”.

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Manchester and PR Week’s ‘Power Book’

As if evidence were needed that PR in the UK is decidedly southern-centric, along comes the annual edition of PR Week’s ‘Power Book’, a ridiculously-named booklet packed with several hundred bright lights from the world of PR and its periphery.

If you’re looking for confirmation that Manchester, Cheshire and even the north of England actually exists in PR terms, don’t go to the Power Book. There are of course a few token luminaries from the likes of Staniforth and Tangerine but, for the most part, you’ll be hard pressed to round up a good gang of northern folk.

Not that PR people in the north will be bothered.  Whilst they can never hope to compete with arch-schmoozers like Matthew Freud or Alan Parker (who top the UK list as the most influential PR operators), northern PR practitioners know their worth.

Having said that, we all like a little recognition – especially from our peers.  Before the hair-shirts went on, there were probably a few breakfast-table smiles in Manchester and district as the selected ones saw their faces beaming out from the Power Book.

It’s only when you drill down into the content of this hideously-misnamed publication that you realise it’s all about trivia, and absolutely nothing to do with power. 

To wit, answers to questions about one’s favourite haunt for breakfast; the age of your cat; favourite gadget; and your ideal birthday present.  O Lordy – even the mighty have foibles, northern or not!

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