Chloe Ingram https://www.chloeingram.com Marketing consultancy, digital marketing, strategy and social media. Birmingham, UK. Sun, 11 Nov 2018 21:46:05 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Why JD Wetherspoon is wrong to call time on its social media marketing https://www.chloeingram.com/2018/04/why-jd-wetherspoon-is-wrong-to-call-time-on-its-social-media-marketing/ Mon, 23 Apr 2018 23:33:38 +0000 https://www.chloeingram.com/?p=204 I’ve been amazed to read several articles, including some written by senior practitioners within the marketing industry, claiming that JD Wetherspoon’s recent decision to leave social media somehow demonstrates ‘brand leadership.’ What it actually represents is the failure of JD Wetherspoon’s senior management team to grasp the reach and power of the major social media networks, and the sea-change in human behaviour accompanying it.

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A pint of beer being pouredI’ve been amazed to read several articles, including some written by senior practitioners within the marketing industry, claiming that JD Wetherspoon’s recent decision to leave social media somehow demonstrates ‘brand leadership.’ What it actually represents is the failure of JD Wetherspoon’s senior management team to grasp the reach and power of the major social media networks, and the sea-change in human behaviour accompanying it.

People are using social media to document every aspect of their lives – from checking-in to venues on Facebook, to Instagramming their food – and by refusing to provide a platform to engage with this, JD Wetherspoon appears to be willfully directing its brand towards future obscurity.

Whilst it’s true that you don’t necessarily have to have a social media presence for your business, it’s also true that you’re not obliged to have a telephone number or an email address – but if you abandon these, you’ll find it pretty hard to communicate with your customers. Social media is no different.

The decision to close down all of Wetherspoon’s social media accounts – assuming that at some point it isn’t reversed – may well be seen in the future as the moment when the pub brand started to decline. Suspending social media activity across an estate of 900+ pubs is about more than simply shutting down a communications channel; it suggests a closed culture within the business, of not wanting to listen to customers, or to embrace change within the wider world. A little bit like Marks & Spencer’s perennial problems with ladies’ fashion, further down the line JD Wetherspoon may well find itself endlessly trying to pivot, to work out how to reconnect with the customer base it lost touch with.

As a freelance marketing consultant, I fully appreciate that the majority of Wetherspoon’s customers aren’t going to be regularly eulogising about the latest ale selection on Twitter, or Snapchatting their fish and chips. But a look at tweets addressed to the Twitter handle @jdwtweet showed that immediately prior to the social media marketing shutdown on 16th April, an influential minority were – and their future customers most definitely will be.

A tweet sent to JD Wetherspoon the day before it closed its Twitter account

A tweet sent to JD Wetherspoon the day before it closed its Twitter account

Successful social media marketing isn’t about pulling off big viral stunts like the Oreo Super Bowl tweet, it’s about the every day customer interactions – responding to queries, resolving complaints – which are absolutely business-critical in the hospitality industry.

Some commentators have pointed towards the relatively small number of Facebook likes (100,000) and Twitter followers (44,000) JD Wetherspoon had managed to accrue. Effective social media management has little to do with the vanity metrics of how many followers or likes your business has. It’s about generating engagement: your business’s ability to influence customers to take actions, whether that’s writing a review, visiting your establishment or sharing your latest offer.

The decision to shut down JD Wetherspoon’s social media has apparently come from the very top – a classic case of the decision maker somehow thinking that THEY are the target market.

JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has received a lot of personal criticism on social media for his pro-Brexit stance, and it appears that his decision to shut down ‘Spoons social media is at least partly influenced by his desire to avoid trolls. As a man who has aligned his personal reputation closely with his brand, he needs to acknowledge that there are reputational consequences for taking a public position on this issue. Whilst using an authentic tone of voice is very much to be encouraged in corporate communications, it is naïve to fail to recognise the polarising effect of public pronouncements on Brexit.

The idea that simply shutting down social media is enough to make the bad comments go away demonstrates an alarming ignorance of social media marketing at the highest level. Some senior business leaders seem to be under the impression that expertise in social media should somehow be reserved for millennials; actually it’s a revenue-generating, reputation-changing force so powerful that it has allegedly swayed the outcomes of elections in western democracies. If Donald Trump can master it, so can you. The genie is very much out of the bottle, and no amount of sticking his fingers in his ears or covering his eyes from Tim Martin, or any other business leader, will make it go back in.

JD Wetherspoon is a customer-facing organisation, serving real, living, breathing people face to face every day. It’s a simple, cast iron fact that a large proportion of Wetherspoon’s customers will be active Facebook users. Facebook has a bigger reach than any news organization, radio station or TV channel in the UK; over 50% of the population log in at least once a month.

If Wetherspoons wanted a simple way to increase footfall to their pubs, they could create and run ads for one of their promotions, such as their Tuesday Steak club, across a small part of their estate and test to see if ROI from running these ads is positive – i.e. if the uplift in profitability is greater than the total cost of running the ads. The huge advantage of using Facebook for advertising is that it can be closely targetted; they can show adverts solely to people who are in close proximity to their nearest pub, and who fit the demographics and interests of their target market. Best of all, it’s all measurable.

If you don’t understand how the online world works – the interplay between search, social media and content – that’s fine: stick to your core competencies in delivering your business, and hire someone who does. Hire someone who could, for instance, look at the Google Analytics data for the JD Wetherspoon website, and advise you of just how much traffic comes from your social media platforms before you publicly declare that you’re shutting all of them. Or point out that by abandoning them, you’re also excluding yourself from advertising on some of the biggest media outlets on the planet. Tim Martin undoubtedly knows how to build a pub chain – let’s hope that he hasn’t inadvertently helped to shut one down.

 

 

 

 

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How to write a website brief https://www.chloeingram.com/2016/11/how-to-write-a-website-brief/ Sun, 27 Nov 2016 18:54:52 +0000 https://www.chloeingram.com/?p=178 A successful marketing project always starts with a thorough brief, and websites are no exception. For the majority of businesses, your website is your most important marketing asset and is often pivotal in forming your customers’ first impressions.

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A successful marketing project always starts with a thorough brief, and websites are no exception. For the majority of businesses, your website is your most important marketing asset and is often pivotal in forming your customers’ first impressions.

Ensuring that the technical elements – easy to use navigation, fast page loading speeds and a good user experience across all devices – are in place is crucial in creating a website that converts customers. A great brief will help you to select a website developer or agency who can work alongside you as a partner in your digital marketing activities, and to advise you on the technical as well as aesthetic requirements of your build.

What to include in a website brief:

1) Background – how long have you been in business? Do you have an existing website? If so, how long have you had it and why are you looking to change? Provide the URL to your current website and briefly outline any strengths and weaknesses that you are aware of.

2) Your target audience – who are your customers? How do you usually communicate with them? Provide a description of your typical customer and what they might want from you.

3) Your goals – what do you expect the new website to achieve? Are you looking to improve your search engine rankings? Generate more business to business leads? Gain more sales through an ecommerce store? Give a list of two to three objectives. If there are websites that you admire, list them here to provide your developer or agency with some inspiration.

4) Technical requirements – modern websites need to be compatible with a range of browsers and devices, so responsive web design is essential. So too are fast page loading speeds – not all websites are created equal in this regard. Template sites that include lots of superfluous code for features that aren’t required should be avoided. You can test the page loading speed of your website using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. A bespoke website will cost significantly more to develop than one using an off-the shelf template, however.

5) Assets – will you be able to supply copy and images or do you expect your agency or developer to help with this? Will you need to work with a freelance copywriter or marketing consultant to create content? Your ability to generate content should influence the types of suppliers that you approach – if you need content to be created, you may need to use an agency or recruit a small team of digital marketing professionals to deliver your new site. Remember that commissioning new photography or video may add additional time to your project.

6) Timelines – when is your new website is required? A very short timeline may increase costs as your developer(s) will have to work extra hours or work exclusively on your project. As a rule, from go ahead to go live date, plan for at least eight weeks for the design and build of a simple brochure site and at least 12 weeks for a simple e-commerce store. Always allow at least two weeks at the end of your build for testing and review. For large websites for big corporate bodies, or e-commerce stores with complex inventory requirements, your project could take from six months to a year. Deciding in advance who will responsible for the sign-off of different design stages should significantly speed up the progress of your project.

7) Future proofing – who will be responsible for routine updates and maintenance? All websites require essential security updates and to renew domain names and hosting – who will be responsible for this? Who will update content? Can these activities be done in-house or would you prefer to outsource them?

8) Training and implementation – what will the workflow be for future website updates? Will your staff need to learn how to use a new content management system, and if so who will train them? Will you require documentation to be supplied?

9) Systems and requirements – does your website need to be able to integrate with any existing business systems (e.g. an ordering system for an e-commerce store)? Do you have social media properties that you need to link to? All websites should have analytics software installed in order to measure progress and visitor behaviour. Google Analytics provides free visitor tracking that is suitable for most small to medium businesses.

10) SEO – if your new website is a replacement for an existing one, 301 redirects should be implemented to send traffic from the old pages to the new ones. An XML site map should be submitted to search engines and Google Search Console installed to help troubleshoot errors.

11) Costs – do you have a particular budget in mind? Is your organization easy to work with, with a straight forward sign-off process? A company that is able to provide clear direction to their agency or developer at the start of a new website project can often avoid costly changes or revisions later. The more clarity you can offer at the briefing stage, the more likely you are to obtain a fair quote for the size of the job. Remember that generally you get what you pay for – more experienced designers and developers will be able to command higher fees. It is common for web developers or agencies to require a deposit for a new website before they begin work.

12) How and when will you make a decision? Outline the next steps in your process – do you expect to meet in person with potential developers? If a lot of face to face time is required this may bump up the cost. It is reasonable to expect prospective agencies to pitch for a large piece of work such as a £50K corporate site that will take a multidisciplinary team several months to build, but not for a freelancer to create a £3K brochure site – a meeting over coffee to discuss their proposal should be sufficient. Always allow time to provide feedback to unsuccessful suppliers and inform them as soon as possible when you have made your decision.

If you’re looking for a marketing consultant to help with your next website project, I can work with you to create a brief and liaise with your developer or agency to ensure that your site achieves your marketing aims. Please visit my contact page for further information.

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The Ten Laws of Twitter https://www.chloeingram.com/2013/09/the-ten-laws-of-twitter/ Tue, 10 Sep 2013 20:41:47 +0000 https://www.chloeingram.com/?p=149 Understanding how Twitter works is essential for anyone who wants to promote their business, event, group or themselves. Here are my top ten essentials – the ten laws - that I think that you need to know about Twitter.

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Understanding how Twitter works is essential for anyone who wants to promote their business, event, group or themselves. Here are my top ten essentials – the ten laws – that I think that you need to know about Twitter:

1) Follow more people

When someone tells me that they don’t “get” Twitter, I ask them how many people they’re following… and the answer is always less than 50 people. To get to grips with Twitter effectively, you need to follow more.

Spend an hour finding 100 additional accounts to follow, including local, national and international tweeters (a big retail brand probably won’t follow you back; your local curry house or deli might). You don’t have to be friends with or know the people that you follow on Twitter; following simply means that you’re subscribing to a feed of their tweets. Feel free to follow whoever you like, and to unfollow them – but also remember not to take offence if they don’t follow, or unfollow, you.

Look at the ‘following’ lists of others for inspiration. My personal awesomes list includes some of the Twitter accounts that I enjoy following. My list includes writers; journalists; people I know; people who I don’t know but find interesting; marketing resources and music. I also follow a list of marketing agencies in the West Midlands.

 2) It’s not Facebook

One of the most difficult challenges faced by new Twitter users is the cultural adjustment if they’re regular Facebook users. Facebook and Twitter are completely different platforms, with different user demographics, etiquettes and architectures. For instance, the life of a Tweet can be very brief, appearing in a user’s timeline for seconds, whereas a Facebook status update can hang around for a couple of days. Never, ever duplicate posts to both Facebook and Twitter for business purposes – the two platforms’ audiences and messaging styles are completely different.

3) Follow people back

Twitter is social media and being sociable involves listening as well as speaking. I don’t think it’s necessary or desirable to follow back every person that follows you, just as you wouldn’t strike up an acquaintance with everyone you meet in real life – however I think it’s wise to follow back people who share your interests, profession, industry sector or expertise to begin to extend your Twitter network. Following back those who follow you not only increases the likelihood of them continuing to follow you in future, but also hugely improves your Twitter experience by adding variety and new sources to your home Twitter feed. Feel free to unfollow them later if they tweet something boring or offensive.

There are a number of tools available to manage your Twitter following; a sophisticated tool like ManageFlitter will enable you to analyse and follow/unfollow those who do or don’t follow you back. I personally like the simplicity of Tweepsect, which gives you a quick snapshot of your (or any other Twitter user’s) account.

4) Create retweetable content

In order to extend the reach and life of your tweets, you need to aim to construct tweets that are easy to retweet. In general, shorter tweets are more frequently retweeted than longer ones, so watch your character limit. Shorter tweets can allow others to quote your tweet and add their own comments. People generally appreciate tweets with additional content, such as images or links, but avoid the excessive use of hashtags.

A 2012 study “Who Gives A Tweet? Evaluating Microblog Content Value” by researchers from MIT (amongst others) found that informative tweets were the most likely to be retweeted – so if you have some great information about your service/product/industry, pass it on. They found that self-promotional tweets are fine too – your Twitter following may well help you out if you ask them to RT your event, job vacancy or new product launch.

5) Don’t click “Drink me” DMs

You can receive Direct Messages (DMs) from accounts that you mutually follow. Unfortunately these are a magnet for spammers, who try to compromise genuine accounts and use them to send out spam DMs, such as “Hey! I found this picture of you” or “You won’t believe what people are saying about you.”

Oxford academic Dorothy Bishop nicknamed these “Drink me” Tweets, after the talking bottles in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Resist clicking on these links – they are spam tweets, which can take over your account, sending the “Drink me” DM to all of your contacts – a reputational disaster if you’re running a business Twitter account.

6) Don’t be an egg

Use a picture for your avatar and fill out your Twitter bio, including your full name and location.

7) Use the mobile app

Twitter works best on a mobile, as tweets work best when they’re timely, tapping into trending topics or relating to current news and events. If you’re new to Twitter and haven’t done so already, you should (if you have a smartphone or tablet) download and start using the Twitter app – it will vastly improve your Twitter experience.

One of the most frequent criticisms that I hear about Twitter from new users is that they “don’t know what to tweet.” If you can write a text message on a mobile phone, you can write a tweet. Don’t be self-conscious, and do appreciate that there is a learning curve to Twitter – once you’ve got past your first 100 tweets, you’ll instinctively know what to tweet about.

8) Work on gaining Klout and Kred, not followers

Influence is way more important than your follower count – so interact. Social media is exactly that; be sociable and join in conversations and retweet others’ posts.

Your quantity of followers isn’t as important as your influence – what’s the point in having 3,000 followers if they don’t listen to what you say? Influence can be measured by the ways in which your followers interact with you, via responses, mentions and retweets. There are tools that can help you to measure you influence, such as Klout and Kred and these can be used for personal accounts as well as brands.

9) Tweet things that you personally find interesting

People who are interested are interesting – so share your Instagram photos, Vines, web content or even just links to book reviews, film trailers or news stories to help you connect with your audience and build a following. It is essential that businesses do this too, tweeting about their wider industry, news, products and ideas rather than just corporate messaging.

10) Don’t fake it

Never, ever buy fake followers. There are lots of tools that can analyse an account’s Twitter following to create an estimate of how many of their followers are fake, such as StatusPeople’s Fake Follower Check. If you have been maliciously assigned fake followers in an attempt to undermine your account, delete them immediately. There is absolutely no benefit to your product or brand in artificially boosting your following with fake robotic followers. They won’t interact with or retweet you, and they significantly undermine your credibility if it is exposed that you have purchased fake followers. If you would like professional help in growing your Twitter following organically using a great social media strategy, please contact me.

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Do you really want to advertise your marketing agency in a blog about Pomegranates? https://www.chloeingram.com/2013/07/do-you-really-want-to-advertise-your-marketing-agency-in-a-blog-about-pomegranates/ Tue, 30 Jul 2013 18:09:08 +0000 https://www.chloeingram.com/?p=128 Search advertising can be a great way to develop new leads for your business, putting your website in front of people actively looking for your product. However, poorly constructed, untargetted ads can haemorrhage away your budget and significantly reduce your return on investment. Here are three ways to boost the performance of your Google Adwords campaigns.

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Search advertising can be a great way to develop new leads for your business, putting your website in front of people actively looking for your product. However, poorly constructed, untargetted ads can haemorrhage away your budget and significantly reduce your return on investment. Here are three ways to boost the performance of your Google Adwords campaigns:

1) Don’t advertise B2B products and services on the Google Display network

I recently saw an advert for a Birmingham-based marketing agency in a blog about how to deseed a Pomegranate. I’m not looking to hire an agency, so I’m not an appropriate target for the ad – and more importantly what relevance do Pomegranates have to marketing? The problem lies with the seductive promise of Google’s Display Networks.

Pomegranate

Display Network ads appear in blogs and on Google properties such as YouTube and Gmail. It’s fine for general brand-building or advertising mainstream consumer products (e.g. lots of large retailers use them); advantages include the ability to include images or video in your ad – great if you’re looking to advertise a pair of shoes on a fashion blog.

Google tells you that by ticking that small, innocuous box – ‘Search & Display Networks’ – your ad will have the ‘best opportunity to reach the most customers.’ It will certainly increase the number of impressions that your ad receives, and therefore the reach. But unless the blog in which your advert appears closely correlates to the service that you’re advertising, you’re unlikely to increase the click through rate – and if you do, you’re more likely to receive unqualified visitors who will bounce away quickly.

If you’re marketing a specific Business to Business product or service, change your Google Adwords campaign settings to ‘Search network only’ and ensure that your ads reach only those who are specifically looking for them.

Nb. If you really do want to reach marketing decision makers via a blog that isn’t your own, a better bet is to advertise directly with professional marketing resources such as The Drum or Marketing Week.

 2) Create an integrated campaign to improve the search result position of your ads

Bidding can be costly for competitive keywords (e.g. popular terms such as ‘bingo’ and ‘flower delivery’). But money alone isn’t the only way to muscle into the top spot for Google Adwords ads.

Your ad position – the spot that your advert occupies in relation to the other ads on the search results page – is influenced by your ad’s Quality Score. Google’s aim is to serve up the very best search results for its users that it can, providing a better quality set of search results than its competitors. Therefore it rewards advertisers whose Google Adwords ads reflect the keywords used, and penalises those who don’t. E.g.:

A Google Adwords ad optimized for a good ad position – Office Supplies
  • Keyword used to trigger the ad: “Office supplies”
  • Ad copy headline: “Office supplies”
  • Ad copy description: “Fast delivery on office supplies – 15% discount on first order”
  • Landing page: Links to a page with H1 “Office supplies”

Here, someone searching for ‘Office supplies’ sees an ad containing the copy ‘Office supplies’ and clicks through to a landing page which prominently displays the keyword; Google will reward this ad with a prominent ad position.

Google Adwords Adverts

A Google Adwords ad that will achieve a poor ad position – Office Supplies
  • Keyword used to trigger the ad: “Office supplies”
  • Ad copy headline: “Buy Stationery”
  • Ad copy description: “Buy your pens today – 15% discount on first order”
  • Landing page: links to a page with H1 ‘Your local product specialist’

The keywords that you use to trigger your ad, the ad copy and the words used in the landing page for the ad must all match. If you can link up these three elements Google will reward you with a more prominent position in its Google Adwords advertising hierarchy.

Google Adwords Adverts

It’s worth taking the time to set up several variants of your adverts so that each keyword (or combination of keywords) is included in both your ad copy and your landing page. Google Adwords adverts that achieve position 1 (the first ad in the top box on page 1 of Google search results) will be much more likely to achieve click-throughs than ads in spot 4 (at the top of the right-hand column) and below.

3) Link your Google Adwords campaign to your Analytics

One of the beautiful things about using Google Adwords is the ease with which it displays all of that fascinating data, showing you lots of lovely metrics such as the click through rate, cost per click and the average advert position of your ads. These data are great for showing to your boss to demonstrate how well their marketing investment is performing, right?

Wrong. You must link your Google Adwords account to your website’s Analytics to be able to make meaningful observations. For E-commerce sites the rationale is simple – you can calculate goal conversions and revenue. But for non-transactional websites – where the closure of the sale might take place offline, such as the purchase of consulting services, or a big one-off purchase – you need to be able to compare and contrast the data across your advertising campaigns.

Good housekeeping is key here: ensure that your campaigns are all well set up and appropriately labeled in order to determine performance. Even if your website isn’t transactional, you can still get valuable data on your Adwords performance by looking at the bounce rate (less that 15% is excellent), pages per visit and average visit duration (the longer, the better). Be ruthless with your ad spend and terminate any campaigns that aren’t sending customers to stay on your site.

If you would like me to review the performance of your Google Adwords campaign, please get in touch.

Image credit: adamr courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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My response to the consultation on Moseley’s Strategic Planning Document https://www.chloeingram.com/2013/07/my-response-to-the-consultation-on-moseleys-strategic-planning-document/ https://www.chloeingram.com/2013/07/my-response-to-the-consultation-on-moseleys-strategic-planning-document/#respond Sun, 21 Jul 2013 23:03:56 +0000 https://www.chloeingram.com/?p=114 Birmingham City Council recently produced a draft strategic planning document relating to land use in Moseley, and set up a consultation exercise for it. Here's my response (also sent to BCC) to the question: "Do you have any comment on the vision set out in the draft SPD?"

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Birmingham City Council recently produced a draft strategic planning document relating to land use in Moseley, and set up a consultation exercise for it. Here’s my response (also sent to BCC) to the question: “Do you have any comment on the vision set out in the draft SPD?”

“I welcome the fact that Birmingham City Council has produced this draft SPD, and arranged a consultation on it. As a Moseley resident for seven years I am deeply concerned at some of the proposals in the document and urge the authors to reconsider, for the benefit of both Moseley and the wider community in Birmingham. Areas that urgently need to be addressed:

– The proposal to ‘resist’ the development of non-retail businesses, e.g. banks, cafes, estate agents if they breach the threshold of 50% class A2 – A5 uses is completely detrimental to village life. There are a large number of empty retail units in Moseley, and the best way to bring shoppers back to the village is to encourage it as a visitor destination… with offerings such as banks, cafes etc. The growth of online retailing means that the ‘traditional’ high street offering is in decline and the Moseley SPD should reflect this.

– The reinstatement of Moseley railway station is absolutely key to improving the economic, environmental and social regeneration of Moseley. This should be the number one priority in the document. Merely ‘supporting’ Centro in this vision is weak – bringing back the train station is what residents want, and need, not just for their convenience and carbon footprint but to reduce the horrific traffic congestion and attendant accident problems in Moseley and other areas (e.g. King’s Heath). This should be an urgent priority for the council, who should be lobbying central government to release the funds to support the building of the Camp Hill chords.

– I agree that development should enhance Moseley’s Victorian/Edwardian character, but too often this isn’t enforced. I would like to see a strengthening of the conservation areas and more listed buildings. Change and development are good things – but let’s keep Moseley’s heritage and architectural integrity intact.

– The document pays lip-service to the idea of sustainable transport; a bolder vision is needed. Recommending that people are encouraged to work from home is not the answer to building a sustainable economic future for Moseley. In addition to a commitment to re-open Moseley Station and the Camp Hill line, there needs to be funding made available to create a new network of cycle paths (alongside the existing railway line perhaps?) to facilitate green transport, and to develop the links that the plan seeks to create between creative businesses in Moseley and Digbeth.

– More public car parks are needed in Moseley – this would help boost footfall to retail areas, as well as reducing parking nuisances for existing residents.

– The draft SPD needs to explicitly recognise the unique artistic and musical heritage of Moseley, and to encourage planning use for businesses such as music venues, music practice rooms/rehearsal studios, artist’s studios, art centres and study spaces for music and the arts. The loss of the Jug of Ale some years ago – once one of the leading small venues on the national touring circuit, and a venue for gigs by Blur, Oasis, Editors etc. – is a huge loss for Moseley and it’s reputation as a cultural/artistic centre.”

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The truth about PR https://www.chloeingram.com/2013/07/the-truth-about-pr/ https://www.chloeingram.com/2013/07/the-truth-about-pr/#respond Fri, 12 Jul 2013 00:15:40 +0000 https://www.chloeingram.com/?p=103 On several occasions I have seen well-meaning non-PR practitioners issue their own press releases, only to be puzzled when no coverage results. Often the answer is that the writer hasn’t been able to apply the “so what?” test to their own work, in order to create a story that stands out from the hundreds that a journalist will typically receive each week.

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On several occasions I have seen well-meaning non-PR practitioners issue their own press releases, only to be puzzled when no coverage results. Often the answer is that the writer hasn’t been able to apply the “so what?” test to their own work, in order to create a story that stands out from the hundreds that a journalist will typically receive each week.

Unfortunately there is no benefit to your product or brand in sending out press releases that get no press coverage – all that you will achieve is to send spam to the journalist’s inbox, therefore reducing the likelihood of your email getting read by them next time around.

Successful PR companies can charge handsomely for their services as they can put together releases that have a high likelihood of obtaining press coverage. Good PR practitioners have a range of skills – including strong written English, an understanding of the types of story that will create media interest plus good contacts – that can take years to cultivate.

The TRUTH acronym

Take a look through a newspaper and pick out the most interesting story that you can find. I guarantee that it will include at least some elements from the acronym TRUTH:

T – Timeliness – Relevant to the time, such as a story related to tennis during Wimbledon;
R – Relevance – A story relevant to a particular group, such as the readership of a trade magazine;
U – Unusual – Something out of the ordinary;
T – Tension – A story that has tension within, such as a triumph over adversity;
H – Human Interest – Something that arouses the empathy, sympathy or curiosity of readers.

A press release about your new product/launch/client win is much more likely to get coverage if you can bring in a timely, relevant, unusual, triumphant or human interest angle. An experienced PR practitioner will be able to find the hook within the story to base the press release around. Here are three examples of stories that initially failed the “so what?” test, but were able to get coverage after using an element from the TRUTH model:

Woman gets married in hospital – Timeliness

A hospital asked me to write a release about their patient, who was suffering from a life-threatening illness and had had her wedding ceremony in the hospital’s chapel. In this particular case, timeliness was the most effective way of generating coverage for the story, and I waited until the morning of February 13th to issue the release. Several local newspapers featured the woman on their front page as a Valentine’s Day story (the story of course included other TRUTH elements, tension and human interest – but would have been unlikely to make the front page at any other time of year). As a result of that coverage a number of women’s magazines entered a bidding war to offer the woman a paid interview.

Hotel holds wedding fair – Unusual

I was asked to write a press release for a hotel that was organizing its annual wedding fair. The fair took place on the same day as the hotel’s nearby competitors’ wedding fairs; the hotels felt that they could attract more visitors by holding their fairs simultaneously. Therefore there was nothing unique or unusual about the act of holding a fair itself.

I asked about the suppliers who would be participating at the fair and found out that there would be a dress shop, cake maker, florist and even representatives from the local registry office. So I suggested that we ran a stunt – offering one couple the opportunity to dress up and have a practice wedding ceremony with the fair’s visitors as wedding guests. I issued a press release offering people the opportunity to “Get married without the commitment.” It received coverage on TV news, radio and in numerous print titles.

Solicitor qualifies at law firm – Human interest

A law firm asked me to write a press release about one of their staff members, who had qualified as a Solicitor. Whilst this was a great personal achievement for the person involved, as a standalone story it didn’t pass the “so what?” test.

Whilst talking to the Solicitor it transpired that she had begun her legal training after a career change. I used the press release to tell the story of how an advert in her local paper had encouraged her to look at legal training, and eventually to leave her job and begin working as a paralegal. I also mentioned the barriers that she had overcome in her success, as it is unusual for people to enter the legal profession a little later in life. The story got coverage across numerous local titles, as well as some trade publications.

There is a well-known expression to describe the difference between advertising and PR – “Advertising you pay for; PR you pray for.” Bringing TRUTH into your press releases makes the prayer a little less necessary.

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The art of good listening https://www.chloeingram.com/2013/07/the-art-of-good-listening/ https://www.chloeingram.com/2013/07/the-art-of-good-listening/#respond Tue, 09 Jul 2013 00:07:53 +0000 https://www.chloeingram.com/?p=97 It is often said that we have two ears and one mouth because we should use them in that proportion. Listening is certainly overlooked in the art of good communication. Lots of people go on presentation skills training – yet I have never met anyone who has attended listening skills training.

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It is often said that we have two ears and one mouth because we should use them in that proportion. Listening is certainly overlooked in the art of good communication. Lots of people go on presentation skills training – yet I have never met anyone who has attended listening skills training, even though most of us would probably benefit from it.

Good listening provides us with the powerful opportunity to truly understand our customers and therefore to deliver what they want. It’s the basis of all good marketing – no campaign can be truly be effective without understanding your client’s proposition and listening to their objectives. Most clients give advice as to what to do to really impress them – just listen.

Not listening to your client is like being the hairdresser who gives their client a short, spiky crop when they’ve asked for a long, bouncy bouffant. In a classic episode of Mary Portas’ Queen of Shops, hairdresser John Peers did exactly that, giving a long-haired volunteer model who’d asked for a ‘Cheryl Cole cut’ a good shearing. It made for horrifyingly cringe-worthy television and demonstrated that even the best haircut in the world won’t make the customer happy if you haven’t listened to their requirements.

Listening for marketers

I always think that the outcome of any marketing project is only as strong as the initial brief, so make sure that you have a written briefing document agreed by both parties with clear objectives.

Marketers are usually hired for their specialist knowledge, so don’t expect the client to have all of the answers – but do expect them to provide a clear vision of what outcomes they expect of any activity. Good listening is essential here – never finish others’ sentences or allow interruptions (e.g. mobile phone calls) to take place during your meeting, as meanings can easily be lost.

Do listen intently and use reciprocal body language to show that you’re actively engaged with your client’s conversation.

Listening for businesses

A complaint is a gift – it gives your business the opportunity to rectify your customer’s experience (the ‘moment of truth’) but also provides an invaluable opportunity to improve your service for the next user. Social media provides an excellent platform for your customers to get in touch quickly and to address problems immediately – just remember to develop those conversations offline.

If your business doesn’t currently use social media, bear in mind that it’s now an essential part of the marketing mix, and by not having a presence you are allowing conversations about your brand to take place without you. Do get help from a professional marketer in setting up your social media accounts, who can devise an appropriate messaging strategy for your brand and provide training where appropriate. Use a Twitter client such as Hootsuite to listen out for brand and industry mentions and respond accordingly. Above all, make sure that you listen – never use social media as a one way platform to simply broadcast messages, or you’ll end up like John Peers giving that poor customer a terrible haircut.

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Should social media be allowed at work? https://www.chloeingram.com/2013/07/shoud-social-media-be-allowed-at-work/ https://www.chloeingram.com/2013/07/shoud-social-media-be-allowed-at-work/#respond Fri, 05 Jul 2013 14:44:59 +0000 https://www.chloeingram.com/?p=16 Social networking builds a range of skills that are good for both the employee and workplace. It exposes the user to new ideas; promotes cultural awareness; facilitates work/life balance and even just provides distraction, which can be useful in creating the breaks needed to maintain productivity when completing long tasks.

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Using social media at work is a highly contentious issue, and one that in my view characterizes the difference between theory X and theory Y managers (I’m with theory Y – reward and encouragement are far better motivators than control or criticism). A managerial approach that assumes employees need supervision by default will naturally extend to controlling employees’ access to social media; an approach centered on respecting workers’ autonomy is likely to be more conducive to unrestricted access.

Social networking builds a range of skills that are good for both the employee and workplace. It exposes the user to new ideas; promotes cultural awareness; facilitates work/life balance and even just provides distraction, which can be useful in creating the breaks needed to maintain productivity when completing long tasks. Taking a break to use Facebook has been shown to boost productivity in research undertaken by MIT.

Active participation in social networks can harness your employees as the eyes and ears of your organization, helping to head off crises before they gain critical mass. It can also build up individual skills, allowing employees to engage in industry debates, read up on industry news and hone their critical faculties. It can be difficult to determine what constitutes ‘work related’ and what doesn’t, so don’t try to – trust your employee to make this distinction, and to determine the best way for them to allocate their own time in order to meet their targets.

But the biggest benefit for companies is the ability to prepare workers for the socially networked future. Organizations that understand social media and embed it in their working practices will be able to harness it to communicate positively about their products, services and working environment. With social networks influencing everything from your Google ranking to consumer behavior, this is critical in marketing your business.

By bringing social networks into the office, you help to increase the likelihood of positive sentiments being expressed on them. And by actively encouraging social media use, you can help to transform your employees into product and brand ambassadors. Social media isn’t just the domain of the few people tasked with delivering your digital marketing; it’s the domain of every person who speaks about your brand. So make sure that the people on your payroll have plenty of reasons to speak positively about yours.

An enlightened employer’s social media policy

  1. Tweet, Facebook, Google+ and get LinkedIn with impunity. Comment on newspaper articles, join forums and blog. Have fun taking pictures and instagramming, pinning or flickring as much as you like. Browse, read and engage in whatever you like – whether it’s work related or not. If it’s important to you, you should pursue it.
  2. Make it clear whether your views represent those of your employer or yourself.
  3. Never disclose confidential information on social networks. Protect others’ privacy and data.
  4. Don’t add to the sum of human misery. Never say anything on a social network that you wouldn’t be prepared to say to a person’s face, including figures in the public eye.
  5. The art of good communication places a premium on listening over speaking – this applies to social media too.
  6. Never, ever spam or hustle on social networks. It doesn’t work and can damage your reputation.
  7. Don’t feed the trolls. If in doubt, take a few minutes to check out the posting history of the person that you’re talking to. If their previous interactions are negative, don’t continue – cut your losses and leave.
  8. Remember that what you write could be online forever – even if you later delete it. Be careful about what you discuss, and never make disparaging remarks about yourself or your employer.
  9. Use good English (where space allows); good spelling and grammar demonstrate professionalism.

Social networks provide you with a unique opportunity to showcase your skills and talents, so use them. Follow your interests and passions, and success will follow you.

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