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CEOs On Social Media: Nicety or Necessity?

In this day and age it is pretty essential for a company to have a social media presence. Most brands not only have social media accounts but social personas, audiences that they interact with on a daily basis and a tightly managed social strategy and team.  They have rightly recognised that social media has the power to drive sales, boost brand loyalty and set brands apart from others in the same space.

So it seems surprising then that the same care and attention isn’t always extended to the social media channels belonging to the CEO’s of these very same brands.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

A post shared by Richard Branson (@richardbranson) on

Whilst some CEO’s are incredibly well versed in the power of social media and use it extremely well, there are some notably lacking in social media presence in this space.  HP CEO Meg Whitman has not refreshed her social feed since October 2011. Apple CEO Tim Cook only joined twitter in September 2013. In fact a report by Domo in 2015 showed that 61% of Fortune 500 CEO’s have no social presence. That’s right. None. Zero.

This is surely surprising. It’s no secret that social media has the potential to impact sales in a positive way. Shopify found that an average of 85% of its 529,00 socially referred orders came from Facebook alone. Surely, it’s worth joining that party?

Giving your customers a seat in the boardroom can grow your market and increase your sales. But more than this it can humanise your brand and give your customers a face to a name. Not only can it increase brand visibility but it can make it all the easier for your business in tougher times.

Jarvis meets the voice of Jarvis. Here he is seeing the AI and the video we made for the first time. Thanks again to the generous and talented Morgan Freeman!

A post shared by Mark Zuckerberg (@zuck) on

Think about it like this. If a large, profitable company undergoes a disaster, say a piece of equipment they develop malfunctions and results in the death of several employees (hey we said disaster!). If a CEO the public have never met before takes centre stage to apologise and assure the world that they are doing all they can to help the families of those involved, you can choose to believe them. Or you could choose not to. After all, why should you? You don’t know this person, you don’t have trust in them and their morality. How do you know they weren’t aware their equipment was faulty?

Now imagine the CEO is Richard Branson. And the equipment is Virgin Galactic. Branson’s personal brand is pretty much unrivalled and his social media presence is a huge part of building the image we all know so well of a man who is well-liked and cares about both his customers and staff. A man who takes the time to engage with his staff and customers on social at least twice a day. A man who doesn’t delegate his responsibility to a team to write on his behalf. A man who takes time out of his own day to answer and ask questions.  It has been argued that his personal brand was very helpful in this instance in controlling the situation. When he apologised, people believed he was truly sorry. When he insisted, he would do everything in his power to look after the families of those involved, people nodded in agreement with him. Because we feel like we know him.

True Branson’s persona is much larger than that of his social media presence and the example is extreme but surely it’s easy to see the value of building those relationships?

Being your First Lady has been the honor of a lifetime. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. -mo

A post shared by Michelle Obama (archived) (@michelleobama44) on

If you’re looking to make a similar impact here are 5 handy tips to getting it right on social as a CEO:

  • Be authentic

There is nothing more important than this. Whilst outsourcing your social might save you time your customers can sniff our inauthenticity in a second. By all means seek assistance but try to keep a tight hold of your platforms because there is nothing more effective in boosting your brand than providing a face behind the company. The aforementioned Richard Branson does this with aplomb by sharing personal stories, insightful career advice and keeping his followers updated on what he’s up to. In return he enjoys a high level of customer loyalty and brand awareness is through the roof. When you think of Virgin, you think of Branson. They are one and the same.

Similarly, Apple CEO Tim Cook since arriving, admittedly fashionably late, to the twitter party uses the channel to thank his employees and customers for their support. This again encourages brand loyalty and I think we can agree, Apple is doing pretty well on this front. As Arianna Huffington told Co.Exist in 2012, “when it comes to championing causes, social media can be a valuable tool for sharing your values and your causes.” She also said, “Social media can be used for mindless escape, or for the opposite, for connection and meaning.”

  • Choose your platforms wisely

Find a way of engaging with social media that you enjoy and doesn’t feel like an onerous task. If your marketing team have insisted that you start posting on 5 different platforms daily, when you’ve previously not even had a twitter handle, you may feel overwhelmed and it will show. Find a platform that works for you and start slowly. Equally there is nothing worse than forcing yourself to use a channel that doesn’t suit your style. See above – keep it authentic.

  • Generate the conversation

Make sure you’re not always on the receiving end; a leader in business will be expected to lead outside of it as well. Engagement is crucial to a successful social media presence, developing a discussion around something of personal interest will signpost your personality and allow people a more tangible understanding of you and your core values. Just make sure these align with the corporate brand! Conversation also provides your brand visibility and the ability to expand your reach. Elon Musk is prime example; he speaks frequently and passionately on climate change. This is of course central to Tesla but also to the wider global audience. His promises to push his environmental concerns in White House meetings demonstrate beyond superficial level commitments and values that garner trust from the public.

  • Be Memorable

As well as adding to discourse, you want to make sure what you’re saying is interesting and relevant. You want to establish yourself as a though leader and central to this is providing sparky and engaging insights. Aaron Levie, CEO of Box the cloud storage system used by 92% of Fortune 500 companies, was the 7th most influential executive in 2015. The Twitter Influence Index calculates engagement rates and the quality of interactions with these accounts. Part of the reason for Levie’s success on Twitter are his witty and outspoken commentaries on current events and issues. This provides the perfect ‘snacking content’ for a millennial audience; 140 characters of easily digestible, yet pithy, nuggets of information that push for a reaction…no wonder his engagement is so high.

  • Develop a thick skin

It’s a scary world out there in the Twittersphere and people don’t pull any punches when it comes to telling you exactly what they think. No matter how valid (or more often than not completely invalid) their criticism may be, it’s important to try not to take it personally. Take Donald Trump as an example. His tendency to leap down the throats of anyone who criticises him and air it on twitter has earned him mockery and, were it even possible, has made him less able to be taken seriously as a leader. Which is quite horrendous when you consider that he’s one of the most powerful men on the planet. EEK.

With 82% of customers more likely to trust a company whose CEO engages on social media, it’s clear that this is channel you cannot ignore. The right approach here can provide an invaluable process for your brand, often holding more weight and influence than the corporate account. People inherently want to interact with other people. Giving your company a face allows for higher engagement, trust and genuine human connection, which will prove very useful should a crisis hit.

CEOs, Social Media & Business

Rune Sovndahl Personal PR Management CEO

Personal PR can be a daunting task for many, especially when you’re thinking about it as an entrepreneur. The first step is of course to get an expert team behind you who can develop a robust and hard-hitting strategy to raise the profile of you and your business. This is what Fantastic Services CEO Rune Sovndahl did; he co-founded the domestic services company in 2009 and it has since grown to encompass 650 employees and over 2000 franchisee experts spanning the UK, USA and Australia. We sat down with Rune to discuss his experience of personal PR:

Find out more about Fantastic Services here!

Why were you afraid of raising your profile through personal PR?

In all honesty, I’m quite a modest guy and at first I didn’t want the attention to be on me!

What made you change your mind?

I started to think about other entrepreneurs that I look up to and realised that so many of these told their story as well as details of their business. I’m a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk who offers a personal insight into his life and his business and he’s broken the conventional mould of the ‘boring businessman’ stereotype. I realised that actually I’ve had a pretty interesting route to where I am today, and that if I could inspire others to follow their passions that could only be a good thing. I also noticed that through raising my personal business profile business negotiations became easier and led to the interest of potential investors.

What do you think makes entrepreneurs afraid of being in the limelight?

I think it depends on the person but I know that a lot of my friends who run businesses, were reluctant because of a fear of failure. I’ve now come to realise that having journalists write something unsavoury towards you, or having a negative comment online or on twitter isn’t the end of the world. I think being in the public eye makes you toughen up and you realise that if on the odd occasion you do face criticism, it’s because you’re being talked about in the first place!

The  hard fact as to why we waited longer was we wanted to know our company was fantastic before we became known, we wanted our services to reflect our personal goals, before we stuck our head out of the box.

Rune Sovndahl Company Objectives Fantastic Services

What advice would you give for other entrepreneurs who are reluctant about being in the limelight?

Think carefully about how you want to be presented and make sure you’re working with a PR team that understand you and your objectives. I think there’s a real risk in PR and communication for agencies to try and mould you into the vision that they see for you, rather than the other way round.

I also think that you as an entrepreneur are much more interesting than you realise yourself, because you are always pushing and you know what you are missing and haven’t done etc and what needs to be done and what can be improved in the business you sometimes don’t see that you are doing something that a lot of people want to do and have looked at or been inspired by, sometimes good sometimes bad, but all of it then you and almost all people are much more interesting when they are themselves and have less fear around their personality and are more interested in doing and growing, as thats what drives the entrepreneurs I know who succeed, we fail many times a day but always make it up, so you can’t be too self conscious. You just have to do, and then try it, the first time on tv is scary the second time scary and it doesn’t get less scary when it’s live, but when you get those call from businesses and from friends and people you haven’t spoken to for years and congratulations, it’s all worth it.

What has been your favourite experience of personal PR?

I’m a huge thrill seeker and I love extreme sports. PHA saw this as a way to raise my profile in an interesting way and we’ve had a few photoshoots and day trips out to cool places across the UK for cave diving shoots. One of these I got to test drive a seriously fast car and then spend the day doing what I enjoy, which is cave diving. If you’re gaining coverage for your business and doing a favourite hobby, it’s a win win situation.

Rune Diving Scuba Cave Deep

How have you found the results?

From a business perspective it’s a great way of raising morale of staff, the excitement around great pieces of media coverage and TV interviews are a sure fire way to build enthusiasm.  I’ve also found that through sharing my interviews on social media it’s a great way to re-connect with my network. You can go years without speaking to old colleagues or friends and suddenly they’ll drop you a message after spotting you on TV or in the paper, which is always nice! And the number of calls that comes and the number of partners is great, when you CV or linked starts with interviews and people their homework before meeting you, I now have investors and business calling  who know about us before they talk to us.

What’s next for you in raising your personal profile?

I’ve always said I’d love to write a book about acknowledging the importance of team success in a Start Up aimed at founders advising them on how to achieve a successful partnership. I find that most entrepreneurial books are written as autobiographies and forget to mention how important partnership and multiple stake holders are.

Why I Was Afraid of Personal PR

The inauguration of Donald Trump reiterated the sheer power of a positive personal PR campaign. Whatever your views on “The Donald”, the success of his personal PR to his key audiences makes clear the inextricable link between a figurehead’s public persona and their brand’s reputation. He demonstrates how, with the right strategy, personal PR can be harnessed to improve the standing of an organisation or brand.

Writing my inaugural address at the Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago, three weeks ago. Looking forward to Friday.

A post shared by President Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

Personal PR should be an essential element of an organisation’s PR strategy, now more than ever before. From a President elect to social media stars, today’s public require personality. This extends to CEO’s of multi-nationals as much as it does budding entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

As the figurehead of your organisation, ensuring you have a positive public reputation, befitting of the organisation you lead, can greatly boost your brand in the public eye. Personal reputation is vital when seeking investment, looking to sell or move on, recruiting employees and especially in times of crisis.

A positive brand reputation which promotes the core values of an organisation is highly ‘sellable’ and stands a company apart from competitors. It is attractive for new business and makes a sounder investment. On the other hand, a figurehead with a negative public persona, think Phillip Green circa 2016, or no persona at all, is cause for concern.

When looking to sell a company, bidders will also be looking at every element that forms its reputation and, even though you may be selling and moving on, in the eyes of the buyer, they are still buying your public identity as part of the package.

Search Engine Optimisation SEO Google

Prospective employees, whilst researching into prospective companies, are now scoping out the backgrounds of the company’s board, it’s CEO, even their potential managers. Ensuring that your own SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) profile paints an attractive picture of you as an employer is key to attracting first class candidates.

Creating a positive personal PR identity can take time. It takes effort to build the right SEO footprint and this may seem a daunting task, requiring more time than you may think you can afford. It is crucial you invest in the right personal PR strategy, one that not only raises your own profile but compliments the brand to which you are affiliated. It may be an investment you had not thought about, but when executed strategically, the personal and professional rewards can be significant.

To ensure your personal PR strategy gives your company the opportunity, that it attracts a loyal customer base, worthwhile investment opportunities and the highest quality employees, here are the key rules to follow:

Rule 1: Know Your Audience

Whilst raising your profile it is crucial that you have a target audience in mind and tailor all content directly to this audience. This may seem obvious when being interviewed by a journalist or when writing an article for a newspaper or magazine, but many fail to audit and curate their social media profiles in much the same way. If you are in the public eye, even your private social media accounts are not private. You must approach them, and the content you put out in the same manner you would formal forms of public communication.

This is not to say you shouldn’t alter your tone of voice to fit with the platform you are writing on and it doesn’t mean you should forgo using social media but do ensure that what you write appropriately aligns with your organisation’s core values.

Audience Group People - Humanise

Rule 2: Beware of Skeletons

Even the most minor of skeletons in a closet can derail a personal PR campaign.

Whether writing an email, Tweeting, or commenting on a status, always bear in mind that what you say can be taken out of context and can also be dragged back up at any time.

Not only should you audit any social media accounts currently in existence, but if you have any concerns about something said or done in the past, however small, seek expert advice and guidance from your personal PR team. It is far better to raise this concern in advance and form a reputation management strategy than be caught off guard and unprepared.

Rule 3: Humanise your Brand

Best practice personal PR gives your organisation a personal touch. Its shows a face behind the name and humanises your brand. This can be a hugely lucrative strategy when trying to build a loyal customer base.

Rule 4: Seek Expert Advice

Your reputation as the leader of your company can have a huge impact on its long-term success. Specialists in reputation and profile management can help provide the framework to boost long term business growth, greater investment prospects and improved sales. Using their expertise not only relieves you of additional work and pressure but will ensure that you are forming the best public reputation for you and for your company.

How To Top ‘Trump’ your personal PR

6 CEOs with Strong Personal Brands

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” said Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He wasn’t wrong. Your personal brand has become more and more important in defining how you and (perhaps most importantly) yourentrepreneur-infographic-final business appear to the world.

Let’s imagine you are the CEO of tech startup specialising in home security. You are dynamic, exciting, you speak at events and often make your voice heard on issues that affect your industry. Your audience knows who you are and automatically identify you with your area of expertise as well as your brand. Perhaps you begin to get invited to speak in the media about issues surrounding home security that occur in the press. It seems likely that this would increase your brand’s authority. When you put it like this it seems obvious that building your personal brand is hugely beneficial however it is surprising how often this is viewed as a vanity exercise, or simply unimportant.

We’ve taken a look at 5 entrepreneurs who have built reputations that represent their business values and enhance their brands. Love them or loathe them their success is undeniable.

 

Richard Branson

In a recent article for Entrepreneur magazine, Virgin boss Richard Branson said his most valuable possession is his reputation. No matter what your personal feelings Branson has, in his own flamboyant style, expertly leveraged his personal brand to add value to the Virgin brand.

From swallowing his pride and dressing up as a flight attendant to riding a jet ski around the waters of Dubai Branson is not scared of an audacious publicity stunt or two. As a result, Virgin has become associated with risk-taking and innovation, giving them the competitive edge over other companies.

Where’s he’s arguably excelled the most, however, has to be in times of crisis. Firstly Branson has consistently upheld excellent relationships with journalists receiving fair and balanced treatment in the press even at times of crisis for the brand. Secondly, he’s not afraid to step in personally. At the time of the Virgin Trains derailment, Branson headed straight to the site to comfort frightened passengers, express gratitude to the staff and assure everyone that Virgin would emerge stronger.

In an article on his site Branson is quoted as saying: “In If, Kipling also wrote: ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.’

“He was probably not talking about the corporate world. Nevertheless, an executive’s ability to lead his or her company during the bad times as well as the good shows why only a few executives deserve to have the word ‘chief’ in their title.”

A post shared by Richard Branson (@richardbranson) on

Karren Brady 

The Right Honourable Baroness Brady, and The First Lady of Football, that’s quite the set of titles Karren Brady has under her belt. She wasn’t born into nobility, however; throughout her career, she has been a sporting executive, politician, television personality, newspaper columnist and an author.

Yet it is not just her CV that makes her so impressive, she has generated a brilliant personal brand, one that has stood firmly with her throughout her years in business. Her personal brand is so strong that it holds its own in a room with Alan Sugar, and has done for 8 years. Maintaining her ‘ballsy’ approach from her first match day with Birmingham City FC, when one player said: “I can see your tits in that top”, and she quickly replied “Well, don’t worry – when I sell you to Crewe, you won’t be able to see them from there”.

And she did sell him. It is this level-headed but lethal approach that encapsulates Karren Brady’s style, making her a prime example of how to affirm your place at the table with a strong reputation and consistent personal brand.

Stuart Rose

Sir Stuart Rose is one of the best known British business leaders, lauded by investors and retail experts alike for stepping in to fight off a takeover bid from Sir Phillip Green in 2004 and bringing M&S profits back to the £1bn mark (something that hadn’t been achieved since 1997).

His strength lies in his own ability to be a powerful ambassador for the brand. Stylishly turned out, his appearance alone gave him gravitas especially as he was often clad from the rails of his own company. Couple that with an even sharper rhetoric and you have a powerful combination: “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck, right? That’s how I operate. I’m not going to take the duck’s bloody footprints, send them away for DNA analysis and find 10 weeks later that it’s a duck, by which time it’s flown away. That’s where I think they have been a bit slow here sometimes. It’s analysis-paralysis”

Rose took a personal interest in his customer’s thoughts on products, refusing to take a step back from the product his business was selling. He famously arranged a meeting with Jeremy Paxman following his criticism of M&S men’s pants. Anyone who doubted his ability to turn things around for the retail behemoth prior to his appointment cannot have doubted him for long.

 

Charlie Mullins

A straight talking, King of Common sense Charlie Mullins has positioned himself as an antidote to the stuffy suits of the city.

Outspoken and well known for his political views and no-nonsense attitude, Charlie has used unique style to ensure Pimlico Plumbers stands out from the crowd. He regularly appears on TV and is outspoken in his desire to distance himself from the bog-standard plumber (pardon the pun) with reputations for unreliability and overcharging.

Pimlico Plumbers’ apprenticeship programmes and fundraising initiatives are directly tied to Mullins ethics of hard work and reflect the way he built an empire from humble beginnings. A patron of the Princes Trust Mullins practises what he preaches as he works to offer young people the same chances he had.

His outspoken nature and transparency have cultivated a trust in his business that is invaluable in the service industry.

Tyra Banks

Ms Banks is the former host of “America’s Next Top Model” and one of America’s most successful and most loved models, turned presenter, CEO, celebrity icon and entrepreneur. She’s built her brand, and empire, on the pillars of self-confidence, frankness and smising.

Her down-to-earth attitude won the hearts of millions and propelled her into the spotlight as role-model and mentor for women all over the country. However, what ties her personal brand up so well is her individual commitment to always learning and evolving, something she preaches to her mentees.

Starting with an executive education program at Harvard Business School, she soon proved herself to the business world with her company ‘TYRA beauty’. Now she is co-teaching her own two-week class for MBA students at Stanford University, the title of her course “Project You: Building and Extending Your Personal Brand”. How fitting for this champion of personal brands, and we are all rooting for you, Tyra!

Got the breakdown on my new Winter Slay Queen TYover… Now you can steal my holiday look

Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour is perhaps the best-known name in fashion, and certainly one of the most feared and influential. Kanye knew the power in her approval and vied after it for years, but what makes her personal brand so impenetrable? For starters, she is beyond consistent; her vision for Vogue has always been completely intertwined with her personal identity, and as such, as Vogue grew, so did her personal brand. Wintour has positioned herself, like Vogue, as sharp, ahead of the curve, aspirational and never wrong. Vogue and Wintour are heralded as the true voice of fashion, and as such their prestige is rarely questioned. Regarding her controversial managerial style, Wintour’s uncaring attitude to these opinions quells most dispute and only continues to bolster her personal brand. And even if she is subject to critique, see Devil Wears Prada or the archetypal villain of the fashion editor, this does little to damage her reputation. She has built these brands with near-diamond integrity and an aura of divine knowledge; her ability to maintain this speaks to the strength of her personal brand and ability as a businesswoman.

Wintour has positioned herself, like Vogue, as sharp, ahead of the curve, aspirational and never wrong. Vogue and Wintour are heralded as the true voice of fashion, and as such their prestige is rarely questioned. Regarding her controversial managerial style, Wintour’s uncaring attitude to these opinions quells most dispute and only continues to bolster her personal brand.

Even if she is subject to critique, see Devil Wears Prada or the archetypal villain of the fashion editor, this does little to damage her reputation. She has built these brands with near-diamond integrity and an aura of divine knowledge; her ability to maintain this speaks to the strength of her personal brand and ability as a businesswoman.

Personal Brands & Business

The old adage of ‘people buy from people’ is never more relevant than in the world of PR. To bring a brand to life, to make it seem personable and real, for the messaging to strike a chord with you, what’s needed?

There’s no hard and fast answer to this question, but one way to raise awareness is to find the face of the brand.

Having a founder, owner or even a staff member that can communicate the benefits of your product or service is vital. However, your communications strategy can also be extended to thought leadership, by creating content which positions you and your team as experts at the forefront of your field. In what is an undeniably saturated consumer market, being a friendly, concise voice of reason can work wonders for improving your credibility and giving you the edge over your competition.

If you think of many of the brands that are household names to us, we’re also familiar with the brains behind the operation, so to speak. A great example of a creator becoming the ‘face’ of a brand is James Dyson and Dyson…he gave his name to the product he created, but more than this, his direct, knowledgeable manner means that he is seen as a voice of authority and innovation.

Sir James Dyson

Sir James Dyson

 

Another example of using a personal profile to help build brand awareness comes in the form of Innocent Smoothies co-founder, Richard Reed. Innocent is a brand with clear values – indeed Reed himself said that it aims to “leave things a little bit better than we found them”. Reed is one of three founders of Innocent, but was clearly chosen to become the face and voice of the brand, whilst the other two co-founders focused on remaining areas of business. Through using Reed as a mouthpiece for these aims, Innocent were able to communicate the more serious messages of the brand through by humanising it, whilst keeping the brand itself light, fun and more than a little tongue in cheek.

Richard Reed

Richard Reed, Co Founder of Innocent Smoothies

 

Even smaller brands need a spokesperson who can convey and embody who they are and what they do. Having a strong opinion and being reliable as a trustworthy source of information and viewpoint is important, but equally making yourself available to the media is key.

Not everyone in business will feel comfortable in making themselves the face and voice of the brand but pushing yourself outside your comfort zone will help the business move outside its comfort zone too.

It’s all too easy for us to think of Sir Richard Branson as a celebrity these days, but when he first started out, he positioned himself as a vehicle to sell the products and services he was offering through the press. That doesn’t mean to say you need to put yourself forward to take up every PR opportunity by dressing up in wigs or flying around the world in a hot air balloon, but being able to make yourself available to the media and to clearly articulate who you are, what you do and why you exist is a crucial in making a name for your brand.

More than a nod needs to be given to longstanding The PHA Group client Charlie Mullins, Managing Director and Founder of Pimlico Plumbers. From a one man band with a bag of tools, Pimlico Plumbers had grown unrecognisable, and Charlie is now an established media and political commentator. His personal profile and that of the Pimlico Plumbers brand are so intrinsically linked that they feed off one another, helping to make a national household name for a London centric business.

The PHA Group Entrepreneurs and Business

Charlie Mullins, Managing Director and Founder of Pimlico Plumbers

 

Founder of WAH Nails, Sharmadean Reid, is another great example of  an entrepreneur who has successfully imprinted on her brand her own very personal brand of cool. Reid’s nail empire has grown unrecognisably from a single East London salon to a brand stocked in the likes of Topshop, largely down to her own inspiring persona and clear message of female empowerment. Reid documents her life on Instagram, and her aspirational yet attainable persona means that her brand is both highly desirable and accessible. There’s the feeling nothing in her range that she wouldn’t personally endorse, making each new product or style seem that little bit more genuine.

Sharmadean Reid

Sharmadean Reid, Owner and Founder of WAH Nails, uses herself as the face of her brand

 

If you truly want to build your brand, to be seen as credible, trustworthy and a leader in your field, developing a personal profile can do wonders for this. Yes you can communicate your message through branding, but branding is a subtlety that’s difficult to explain. By putting forward a ‘face’ of the brand, it’s far easier to communicate your passion and reasoning. More importantly even than this, your brand appears relatable and that little bit more human, giving you the edge over a faceless, corporate competitor.

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HOW TO HUMANISE YOUR BRAND

With an array of marketing tools now available for free and tools that allow you to analyse your market in tiny details, reaching and appealing to the right people can be an easy task.

We live in a society that is constantly yearning and looking for new ideas and inspiration so it is vital you make sure you are part of people’s conversation and give consumers something to talk about.

Competition is also harder than ever before with the foodie phenomenon growing and an ever expanding number of self-acclaimed restaurant critics ready to pounce and review your restaurant at the first opportunity possible; this could be a good or a bad thing.

In order to get noticed it is vital that you:

1.Utilise social media

Social media can no longer be ignored. It is imperative your restaurant has its own social channels it you want to have any chance of standing up against the competition and attracting young enthusiastic foodies who will be happy to shout about your restaurant (provided you impress them!) on their own social media channels expanding your reach further than ever imagined.

Your restaurant doesn’t necessarily have to be on every platform going but Instagram is key.

Instagram now has over 400 million users, 14 million of these users living in the UK, and therefore potential customers of yours. Due to its aesthetic nature, it provides great scope for you to be artistic and really show off your food, drinks, interiors, chefs at work and so on.

As fun as Instagram can be, it is also important to plan your content carefully and think about the tone your audience will want you to take. Are you a fun restaurant disrupting the marketplace? Then edgy pictures and silly captions will work for your target audience. If you’re sophisticated and aiming at the higher end, classy and aspirational images providing a detailed insight in to the experience customers will receive will probably be better for you.

An example of some restaurants working social media perfectly are Patty & Bun, Duck and Waffle and Sosharu.

They all announce new menu items and special on their pages create hype and urgency to visit, they all show behind the scene images providing insight in to the ingredients that go in to their dished and their staff’s daily duties, they announce news such as change to opening times and new openings, they all speak in the tone of their target audience and so on.

pb

2. Speak with key influencers

Build up rapport and a good relationship with these people. They have the power to create hype and make your restaurant ‘the place to be’.

Learn who they are, get in contact with them and invite them down to your restaurant to review their experience.  Some influencers might want payment but others will just be happy with an evening on the house.

By key influencers, we mean people that have large loyal followings to go to for information and decision planning and this can therefore be everything from well-known publications, both in print and online, to bloggers, Instagrammers and critics.

An example of some key influencers are Time Out magazine, a magazine aimed at 18 – 35 year olds interested in quirkier things to do, food blogger CertifiedNosh and Grace Dent, food critic for the Independent and the Evening Standard

Celebrities are just as important too. Invite them down, give them five-star treatment and get them talking about their meal and get them coming back!

certified nosh instagram post

3. Competitions / free food

The best way to get people in to your restaurant is to give them free food. People love a freebie and they certainly love free food!

By making customers feel like they are getting a great deal you will attract the crowds and naturally word of mouth and spreading the word on social media too.

In order to qualify for free food, you can get people to post something on Twitter or Instagram, leave a review, tag a friend in a picture and so on. There are countless mechanisms that can be used to get people chatting about you which will consequently result in popularity.

This is a tactic we use for a lot of our clients from driving schools to fashion brands and really works to not only drive engagement online but also bring the crowds down to you and raise awareness of your existence and great food.

chipote

4. React to relevant stories in the news

As a PR agency we are constantly monitoring the news for any stories that are relevant to our clients or which we feel our clients are expertly placed to comment on.

Recently, for example, a big story has been about ministers being concerned about double tipping to due service charges being automatically added to bills in restaurants, as covered here by the Telegraph. If this is a topic you have on opinion on there is no reason why you shouldn’t be expertly placed to comment on TV, the radio or in written articles regarding the subject. Look out for these opportunities and get in touch with the right people to secure an opportunity.

We are also constantly speaking with journalists and keeping on top of forward features lists.

We have great mutual relationships with them where we provide the content they are after.

5.Ask for reviews!

Incentivise your guests to review their meal after visiting you. This can be on your website or on popular review websites such as Trip Advisor, Trust Pilot, Checkatrade, Yelp and Facebook.

Top 5 PR tips for Restaurant owners

Can Public Relations help Education out of the naughty corner?

Education can seem a world away from the communications industry at times, but should that really be the case, or are educational bodies missing a trick?

Debates around Education tend to follow a cyclical pattern and it is a topic under perpetual media scrutiny. You can’t go a week without opening up a national newspaper and finding the latest scandal or protest at a university or a school. With this in mind, it is strange that there exists a level of detachment between Public Relations agencies and the education sector.

library university education pr

Image courtesy of stocksnap.io

The media impacts directly on the whole education spectrum. The range of PR requirements that an agency can meet opens up a plethora of opportunities for umbrella organisations and institutions looking to communicate. But Public Relations requirements are not just limited to larger bodies: Individual Universities or Public schools often come under fire for any number of reasons and would benefit from external support.

Here are five areas where PR can help to revitalise the image of education:

Reputation Management:

The first step to forging a reputation is to identify what message you want to convey, and then to deliver this in such a way that people buy into it. Education is in an advantageous as the very nature of the sector aspires to benefit society. This is a strong starting point around which to hone a more focussed message. However, identifying your core theme is not enough, you need the skill to deliver on it in the wider media.

Education is a matter of national interest, impacting on our entire community on a daily basis. For this reason, it will always come under intense examination from the media. Having a means and a plan to deal with this is crucial. In a battle of seasoned journalists against an educational body, there will normally only be one winner. Don’t underestimate the difference that a team of experts who work in the media every day can make. You need to be in control of your reputation as much as possible.

Being proactive, not reactive:

One of the best ways to ensure some level of control over how you are perceived is to take a proactive approach by pre-empting potentially bad stories with good ones. You need to show off all of the positives of your organisation. Pushing out good news and positive stories is important as it builds a profile that people will then associate you with.

The public only seem to hear about the NUS, schools, academies and universities when something has gone wrong. You don’t have to wait for things to get bad – shout your success. You wouldn’t ignore your homework until after the deadline, so don’t do it with your reputation.

Example: The press the National Union of Students receive is a great example of this. The NUS positions itself as championing students to decide the future of education, yet the portrayal of the body in the mainstream media is generally negative. We only hear about the union when there is controversy such as the election of Malia Bouattia or the decision of a number of universities to cut ties with the NUS.  Either the NUS are failing to push out positive news about their organisation, or the content they are putting out is ineffective.

Crisis Management:

Crisis Communications is a tightrope and having experts who know how to deal with and have experience of crisis situations are invaluable. Recruiting an agency who regularly help clients or organisations combat bad press is the first step towards putting education and journalists on a more level playing field.

Example: Don’t believe us? Well then look no further than the national coverage of The Rhodes Must Fall campaign, which is a pertinent example of how not to handle bad press. Oriel College failed to take the initiative and the consequence of this was the media seizing control of the narrative and painting a picture of the weakness of British Universities. Oriel were indecisive and conflicting in their public statements, serving only to exacerbate the issue. Institutions like Oxford are so large and renowned that they simply must have a clear and cohesive strategy on dealing with crises. “Must try harder in future!”

Oriel College Oxford education PR

image courtesy of Rex Harris, Flickr.com

Building Relationships:

The lifeblood of good PR is relationships. Everyone wants fluffy headlines and to reach their target audience but to achieve this you need to be talking to the right people. In the media this can be as simple as knowing which journalist to speak with and how to pitch an idea to them.

But this is not limited to the media. Politicians and government play an integral role in education, steering its direction and wielding the power to make the decisions that matter. Having the support of an agency who have an inside track on both media and politics can give any organisation an edge.

Policy Influence:

Leading on from this is the ability to effect change. Politics and education share an intrinsic link and this makes the advice of an experienced Public Affairs team hugely significant when looking to influence policy. But it’s important to note that PR and Public Affairs are best used in conjunction with each other.

An MP talking about an issue is of little help if no one in the media or government is paying attention. Equally, it’s no use banging the drum in the media if this is having no impact on those making policy in Westminster.

Used cohesively, PR and Public Affairs can complement each other to create governmental and media pressure simultaneously. For those looking to bring about educational change, it is imperative to marry these two facets together.

 

PR & Education

The Phenomenon of the Throwback Brand.

Reinvention has long been the story of many a brand’s successes. Although drawing inspiration from the past has frequently played an essential part of the development and design process, recent years have seen modes of inspiration repeated across a much shorter cycle. There is no doubt that evolving technologies and social media have contributed and impacted on the way we source our inspiration.

It is now not uncommon to be yearning after an item, trend or artist that was at the forefront of popular culture less than a decade ago.

Here we take a look at how brands are capitalising on this nostalgic resurgence:

Throwback campaigns

Established brands such as Calvin Klein, Adidas and Kickers are just a few examples of the success with which fashion brands are drawing on cult classics and throwback campaigns to infiltrate the younger generations. Classic styles being recommissioned and branded logos a must.

Example: Calvin Klein have brought back the 90s Icons collection, using the original CK symbol and have used Lottie Moss, younger sister of Kate Moss who made the original collection so famous not so long ago.

Calvin Klein Nostalgia Brand

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart, flickr.com

How retro became cool

Whereas traditionally branding was a form of advertising and status symbol it now represents an ironic nod to the past and is used to make a statement by the ‘cool kids’.

Example: Successful beauty brand Benefit is a great example of how they’ve found their niche by captivating customers with their vintage inspired products and packaging. Benefit have shaped their products and messaging around a retro 1950s inspired era which is now synonymous with their name.

It’s essential to take note of these nostalgic led marketing and PR campaigns and to make the most of free opportunities such as the ever present hashtag #ThrowbackThursday which are showing no sign of waning.

Utilising events

It’s important to note that it’s not just fashion that sees this nostalgic movement across brands, products and campaigns infiltrating our consciousness.

Example: Record store day, held on the third Saturday of April was introduced in 2007 and Universal Music described it as ‘the single best thing to have happened to independent record stores’. 2015 saw a 30% increase in record sales and what was once a niche collective, has evolved to a point where vinyl records are available to buy with your weekly food shop in Sainsbury’s. With 1990s artists Craig David and All Saints back on the radio and selling out gigs, a new generation is discovering the joys of 7 Days and Pure Shores as well as fans old and new turning out for them.

This time last week: we were at the desert island disco wth Fatboy Slim and @laurenlaverne at @residentbrighton

Nostalgia and tech

This nostalgic yearn is even infiltrating 21st century technology with savvy designers creating nostalgic apps to be used on the latest smart phones. The 1980’s inspired games Space Invaders and Tetris are available on the app store amongst countless others. The cult classic Snake is soaring in popularity and even features the Nokia ’97 phone and keypad to play the game on the IPhone screen. Admittedly in a higher definition, the popularity of these throwback games show no sign of slowing down. Likewise, the app VHS Camcorder which was created to look like a 1985 camcorder was an overnight sensation after being created on a whim, and rose quickly to no.2 on the app store, with countless celebrities’ fans using it to capture their videos. The retro inspired element certainly adds to the PR story for these vintage inspired games and the breadth of media that would be interested in this is huge.

Tetris nostalgia brand tech pr

Image Courtesy of Todd Barnard, flickr.com

In PR is is absolutely essential to know your audience, and to ensure that your pitches are tailored. Although you may be discussing the same product, it is essential to know which elements to draw upon and highlight dependent on which media outlets you are speaking with and where you are seeking to gain coverage. In this instance, Tech press would be likely to be interested in the new technologies which allow for these retro games to be relaunched a

nd consumer outlets such as Buzzfeed are keen to reference current fads.

Blasts from the past

Although the way that we consume entertainment has evolved dramatically, the revival prevails here too. The Crystal Maze, one of the UKs most popular TV programmes in the 1990s sees a live return to London this summer as the ultimate throwback team challenge. The aim is still the same, to work as a team to reach the final challenge, The Crystal Dome and the hype around it has been unprecedented with a great deal of media attention. 2016 also sees the sequels of early noughties popular films Zoolander and My Big Fat Greek Wedding back on cinema screens and not forgetting, the long awaited Absolutely Fabulous film with a star studded cast based on the original 1990 television sketch by French and Saunders. Although you would think that the remake of a classic would be enough to incite media attention, that’s not always the case. With many brands seeking to gain media coverage of the back off an anniversary it is vital to note that the media are continually seeking fresh information, as well as weaving in natural opportunities such as #ThrowbackThursday.

zoolander 90's nostalgia brand

Image courtesy of poisal_07, flickr.com

What can we learn from this?

So why is this nostalgic resurgence thriving? Perhaps our position as the rent generation sees us yearning for the familiarity and comfort of trusted and brands from the 80s and 90s. The fashion, food, music, film and even the technology of our youth seem to be returning as renewed incarnations of our old favorites.

For a generation that accepts a new Iphone release every six months and awaits ‘it’ apps and products appearing weekly, we are collectively rebelling against the constant need for upgrades with outcries for the original. While the demand for this nostalgic resurgence continues to grow, PRs and brands globally will use it to their advantage. Although it’s important to note that this is through through reinvention and reinterpretation not through repetition!

 

Nostalgic Resurgence

Can PR put your business in the shop window?

It is the age old question asked by CEOs and Managing Directors when considering a marketing budget – can PR really help me reach my goal to sell my business?

And the answer, put simply, is yes – PR can put you in the shop window. But it can’t be done overnight.

As Lloyd Vassell, journalist at leading news wire service for the global investment community, Mergermarket, told us:

“A positive media representation is so important in the eyes of investors. Not only does it enable businesses to attract a wider audience but it helps them stand out apart from competitors.

If a company has had an active media presence and is visible in credible news outlets such as Mergermarket- investors are more likely to trust their potential investee- as they will know that journalists, who are renowned for digging up dirt- will have checked the facts and the company would have been vetted. Strategically placed PR stories also enable investors to keep in the loop of where a company stands and keep their eyes on potential opportunities.”

As an agency that has worked with many businesses in raising their profile, with the end goal to increase capital growth to sell part of or whole of a business, we’re in a good position to outline how this can be done. But it’s important the context is understood to allow it to happen.

A good reputation exceeds ROI 

Return on investment is the usual burning focus when it comes to strategically allocating areas of a budget and unfortunately unlike sales targets – reputation cannot be as easily categorised penny for penny.

Credibility is priceless. Familiarity with a brand allows businesses and consumers to respect and trust the service or product which effectively helps build a loyal customer base- something very attractive in the eyes of investors.

Last year, leading business magazine Management Today reported a list of the companies with the best reputation in the UK and Lego, Kellogg’s and Rolls Royce came in the top three. All of these brands have worked long and hard to refine their identities and build a customer base that stays with them for life.

Rolls Royce Reputation

Image courtesy of Rolls Royce, flickr.com

Case Study: Rolls Royce

Who: Rolls Royce are renowned for having the best apprenticeship schemes in the UK industry and, of course, the best luxury cars – two areas the brand has worked hard to refine and position its expertise in over its years in existence.

What can we learn?: The communications team or agency supporting Rolls Royce will have achieved this by strategically placing news stories and features in the press to deliver these key messages. Whether it’s done locally to the regional news outlets close to Rolls Royce sites or in the trade or mainstream press, after seeing a few stories about the company’s expertise, consumers and businesses will start to associate such attributes with the brand, contributing to a good reputation.

Championing your field can benefit your business, as well as the greater good

One tactic is to build familiarity in the media by assigning a key spokesperson for your company. A collective decision should be made as to who that might be.

What do you need to consider?

  • It doesn’t always have to be the CEO: But that person should be a consistent media representative and, where possible, be present in meetings with investors, to breed familiarity.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of media training: Even those who are comfortable in front of cameras and microphones can benefit from a reflective media training session.
  • They should be prepared to comment on issues around their business and in the wider industry: This is a good vehicle for showing your expertise and, in turn, shining a light on your company. Five minute slots to talk about your own company are rare – even FTSE100 companies only find they have the opportunity to do this when posting results or trying to counter negative stories. Therefore you need to be prepared to engage with media on certain terms.

When news stories arise surrounding the industry your business is in, your PR team should be ready to jump on them reactively, to offer your insight into such topics and issues. This will open your business up to a wider audience and will add to your credibility as a thought leader and pioneer in your field – both very beneficial when it comes to selling your business.

Case Study: Nick Jenkins, Founder of online greeting card retailer Moonpig.

Moonpig.com

Image courtesy of Jamie.mckeown, flickr.com

What happened? Before Jenkins sold the business to Photobox in 2011, he could be seen in a succession of stories in the media ranging from profile interviews in the national newspapers, to advice and opinion pieces in the business and HR press. Of course, Jenkins’ PR team would have worked strategically to secure coverage around profits and other positive stories in order to raise awareness amongst potential investors

Result? This media plan obviously worked well, with Jenkins reportedly walking away with a cool £45m after selling the business. As you may have seen, he now uses his expertise to coach others and sustain his media profile as one of the latest Dragons to enter the den.

Reputation can be measured in SEO

When you type a company name in Google and negative news stories appear, it will give anyone a bad perception of your business, let alone investors. Whilst you can’t control what Google puts on that first page, you can attempt to increase your businesses’ positive SEO output.

For example, a consistent and targeted media campaign which results in positive online coverage will help your business achieve a positive sentiment online and effectively, back date the negative stories.

This is where PR penetrates where advertising can’t, as not only are ads on Google quite frequently subconsciously dismissed by the consumer eye- no many how many online adverts you invest in, they won’t get rid of those negative stories on the first page of Google.

Social Media is a positive PR output

Over the past twenty years, we’ve all witnessed the sheer power of social media in spreading a message far and wide. For businesses, as many are aware, social media is a crucial tool to leverage key messages from your company. As a business leader, make sure you are following the right people and regularly updating your followers on announcements within your business and positive news stories. As well as keeping investors updated on your business, social media will contribute to a positive sentiment online and SEO. Upon searching your name or business, investors will gather a collective view on who you are and what you do which can make or break your reputation, so be aware of that when tweeting and posting on Twitter, LinkedIn etc.

Impressing the press is crucial but tricky game

Strategically placing stories prior to an investment round is crucial, but to do this relationships need to be formed with key journalists. If you build a good relationship with such journalists, the rapport you build with them will pay off when you want to tactically place investment stories. With good intention, they will write the stories in a transparent and positive light. However, journalists can be sceptical and if you make it too obvious that you are trying to get them on side- they may back off. Be subtle, respectful and honest and it should pay off.

To conclude, PR is a powerful catalyst in reaching an end goal of selling part of or whole of a business but its important to understand that it is a slow and steady burn and a good reputation cannot be achieved immediately. Whilst it may be a process which requires patience, it is can be rewarding.

Bill Gates famously said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR”.  Whilst Gates will probably never experience such a downturn in fortunes, his words certainly have meaning.

How PR can put your Business in the Shop Window in 5 simple steps

Corporate Communications

One of the most commonly asked questions we encounter as an agency is ‘how can PR have a direct impact on my business?’ Here to answer that question is our Director of Sales and Marketing, Sophie Wilson.

Sophie talks the value of PR for Businesses, how to tell a true and honest story and how to build a brand reputation you can be proud of.

PR: Add Value to your Business