Articles Tagged with communications

Is vague the new grey in PR?

Is it the hot weather or is there another reason for a plague of vague press releases?

Lately, as part of my journalist role, I’ve been receiving a lot of press releases that not only miss the occasional detail but sometimes the entire story: awards to companies for something or other, presentations to an individual who worked for a couple of organisations, a financial services provider supplying . . . financial services.

Now, every journalist has specific interests and what’s interesting about the role is discovering a nugget about the topic or area you cover. I enjoy picking up the phone to find out more about a story, but not to dig out the basic details so I can figure out whether it’s interesting or not.

These press releases have come from press offices of UK government agencies and business organisations as well as from private companies. Does it matter?

Well, clients are paying fees to PR agencies and employers paying staff to produce and distribute these press releases when a lot businesses now promote themselves very effectively. Last week, I suggested an idea for a photo to accompany a company’s press release and the next morning I received a high quality image from them by email. There was no PR agency involved and I didn’t receive a tiny 72dpi, badly posed image, like the government agency sent.

If that’s the case, why use a PR agency or corporate marketing professional? Why not do it yourself?

I see it as a warning to anyone in PR, marketing and communications to sharpen up and provide the value that clients and employers expect . . . or perhaps they won’t want to pay for us any more.

Posted via web from z2zine

Too much to handle?

There are few people in business who have enough time to sit twiddling their thumbs. In fact, the reason for the gap between our last blog and this one is that we’ve been extremely busy. So what do you do when new business enquiries go ballistic and there isn’t any time to blog, send out press releases and manage all your other marketing activities?

The worst thing you can do is to stop everything. The most important aspect of all marketing and communications is to do them regularly, even if only in small doses. They really are like great locomotives which require a lot of effort to start from a standstill, but far less to keep rolling at low speed.

The danger of letting your marketing activities stall is that they will take a long time to restart if you find business drops off and you suddenly need to generate new enquiries. By keeping everything ticking over, web sites and blogs will continue to work for you and attract enquiries.

So take this into account when planning your marketing and communications to ensure that, however busy you are, you don’t neglect them. We’re still very busy, but finding time to keep this blog rolling.

After our last blog, have you checked your content? We were alerted to a broken link on one of our web pages and fixed it, as there can never be room for complacency.

z2zine tomorrow: More words are not any easier to understand

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What can a press release do for me?

When something happens in a business, a press release is often used to tell the world about it.

Fine.

Does the world listen?

Not everyone: perhaps 10, 100, 1,000 or a million, depending on how interesting the news is, how well the story is told and what else is happening that is newsworthy.

So what’s the point of a press release?

To tell an interesting story that people will want to hear.

Is that all?

To be of any use it should link back to you so that people make a note of your name and awareness of your business grows. Depending on the strength of the story, the press release could attract actual business through visits to a web site or real shop, telephone or mail orders, attendance at events or other responses.

But it’s too much to rely on a single press release to drive continuing sales. It’s a good idea to plan a whole public relations programme over a period of time, based on a number of press releases, articles, events and other activities and tied in to the rest of your marketing communications. Identifying an objective (eg getting a new product name known by your customers) and planning your press release can make the difference between it reaching hundreds or thousands of people or just reaching a couple of journalists on its way to the bin. And so can the way you tell your story: bare facts are likely to be as exciting as reading a tax return, while a real story, such as how you turned a near disaster into a success, can capture your target audience’s imagination.

Like everything else we do in business, we’re more likely to get the best out of a press release if we understand what we want from it and how it can achieve this for us.

After Friday’s blog, have you thought about your writing or blogging style and how you appear to others?

z2zine tomorrow: Does anyone know what you do?

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What can I say about my business?

When everyone else already seems to be saying everything that could possibly be said about business, there are times when the choice of going outside and enjoying the sunshine can appear preferable to thinking about something original to say about your own business.

However, no business survives without customers and most of us have to promote or advertise our products and services to attract those customers.

So what can you say that hasn’t already been said a million times before?

Ideas rarely come out of thin air, so it’s good to start with your business plan and objectives, as all communications should be based on these. If you’ve got a communications plan, this should also give some ideas of what you want to achieve.

Start by listing topics based around products, services, launches, events, achievements, changes or industry developments. If your business is seasonal, do you change your products every quarter? If your business is linked to events triggered within your industry, list key changes about to occur or important dates. If you have product launches or events, list these too.

When you’ve made your list, start to fit these to dates when you need to blog about them, issue a press release, update your web site or produce a new brochure. If you don’t already have a communications plan, this could be the basis of one.

Announcements don’t need to be major, although the appointment of a junior employee is unlikely to hit the broadsheet newspapers and you should have realistic expectations of what each piece of news is capable of achieving. That doesn’t stop you aiming as high as possible, especially when you do have a really good story.

Also, you may have a great story without knowing it. Ask colleagues or contacts what they think about specific issues. If they’re excited about them, will your audience also be interested in them? What appears uninteresting to you could be exciting to your audience.

By creating a store of ideas, which you can add to regularly, you’ll never be short of an interesting topic to write or talk about.

After yesterday’s blog, have you thought about how well you check your written material?

z2zine tomorrow: Think before engaging typing finger!

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What difference does a single letter make?

I’m surprised that people continue to argue about the need for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. If you’re in any doubt, try working as a proofreader.

We regularly proofread material produced by companies, councils, universities, schools and other organisations, and frequently grind to a halt because we can’t understand something.

In novels or poems, writers sometimes aim to entertain through using language that is a challenge to understand. This is not the case for companies or organisations dealing with customers who need information fast and in an easy-to-understand format.

So when you read a brochure or letter where you have to stop, go back and re-read a sentence three times to figure out what the writer is trying to say, you know that something needs changing. Perhaps there’s a word missing, a plural noun with a singular verb or three sentences crammed together in one.

Rather than being there to annoy us, spelling, grammar and punctuation aim to make text easier to read and understand. They can also make reading and writing more enjoyable and more effective, especially for companies producing marketing material to sell their products and services.

Accuracy is also very important. Would it matter to you if you published an advert with one wrong digit in the postcode? Would it make any difference if a newspaper published the wrong date for an event you were holding? (This happened to me recently – it was the newspaper’s mistake.)

If we use the language tools available to us to make our material as easy to understand as possible and we check all details to make sure our material facts are correct, we do all we can to help our communications achieve the best results for business.

After our last blog, have you decided how well print and digital communications work for you?

z2zine tomorrow: What is there say about my business?

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Print or digital?

If we live in the digital age, why do I recycle so much printed marketing material?

Just like the myth of the paperless office, printed words and graphics still play a powerful part in marketing and communications. While the digital world offers very many useful advantages, it complements, rather than supersedes, print.

Bearing this in mind, should we still print business cards and brochures or depend totally on our online presence? The answer is: it depends.

Some businesses can quite easily forego printed material and just refer to their web presence, while others are likely to find a web site almost irrelevant. I know of one business that posts leaflets through doors before following up with a personal visit: they are achieving a good response rate without any online presence whatsoever. However, I believe that a web site would help them.

Personally, I get annoyed by printed catalogues I receive through the post, as I recycle these immediately without looking at them. I used to believe that these were a complete waste of money until recently I began leafing through a catalogue just as it was about to hit the recycling pile and spotted a very good offer for a product that I needed. I ordered the product and enjoyed a hefty discount, which I wouldn’t have been aware of if I hadn’t received the catalogue. So it did work for this supplier.

I think the best course is to review your material regularly and consider what your target audience wants. Do they want to find information and interact through a web site or do they want hard copy to read at their leisure? And what responses do you receive from online and printed materials? The answers will help you to decide whether to produce one or the other or both.

Print is still useful and should not be dismissed without serious consideration, even though digital media can often offer speed and cost advantages.

After our last blog, how are you measuring your success?

z2zine tomorrow: the difference a single letter can make

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Understanding the numbers game

We seem to be obsessed with numbers and targets, but what actual use are these? And do we really understand them?

With so much effort being put into communications, it’s a sound idea to measure what they actually achieve. Just taking internet activity, there are many statistics that you can monitor, from web site visitor numbers to page views, click-throughs and bounce rates (where a visitor leaves a web page without exploring further), but what do they mean?

For any business that wants to sell or promote itself over the internet, figures are useful. Sites that sell products online can measure success directly through sales figures and profit generated, but brochure sites aiming to attract customers to call or email are not so easy to measure.

The number of visitors or page views alone are not that useful if those visits are not from your target market. Thousands of visits are pointless if nobody ever responds, whereas low numbers of enquiries leading to large amounts of business are valuable.

So we have to be careful when we analyse numbers because they don’t always reveal the quality of performance. Delving deeper to find out if we are attracting our target audience, monitoring how many web visits convert into actual enquiries and calculating the value of business obtained from web site responses give us a real indication of success.

If we do this with all our communications, we’ll have a better idea of how well they are performing.

After our last blog, do you need to find suitable providers?

z2zine on Monday: print or digital?

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Choosing communications providers

Whatever supermarkets say, each one has different strengths and weaknesses and not one of them ever offers precisely what we want. It’s the same with communications and marketing providers.

When you want a specific communications job done, it’s best to select someone who either has existing expertise in that field or can demonstrate the capability to do that type of work. Just like the supermarkets, some providers are better at some things than they are at others.

When you’re selecting a copywriter, look at what type of work they specialise in: advertising, online content, print magazines, public relations, corporate communications or consumer material. Each one requires a specific approach and not all copywriters will be capable of handling them all, although some will.

It’s useful to see samples of the work that a copywriter has produced to help decide whether you want them to write your copy. It’s not the most important thing, as you also need to develop a good working relationship with a writer. Also, just because they have no experience of a particular type of work, doesn’t mean that they won’t be good at it. If you want a versatile writer who can write for different media, the relationship and overall ability could be more important.

On the other hand, if a writer feels out of their depth or is not confident about a certain type of work, they shouldn’t take it on.

All this applies to other providers, including graphic designers and web site developers.

The best result is to find communications providers you can trust to come up with effective material that will meet your objectives.

After our last blog, have you checked your communications to see if everything is up to date?

z2zine tomorrow: Understanding the numbers game

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Up-to-date details

Everything seems to change faster these days, although in reality fashion has always been fickle. Nevertheless, when you publish business information with technical details, prices, dates or statistics, these seem to need updating almost as soon as you look away.

At least with web sites you can often alter details fast. Details to review regularly could include:

  • range of products – have some been withdrawn or are new ones available? Have specifications changed?
  • prices – have these gone up or down and what about the rate of VAT applicable?
  • dates – do adverts for events now passed need deleting or archiving?
  • special offers – are these still applicable or should details be removed?
  • copyright notices, terms and conditions – are these up to date?
  • employee names and titles – are these current? Has anyone left or joined who needs to be deleted/added?

While it is usually easy to amend web sites, printed material can cause more of a problem. If you produce a large annual brochure, it could be expensive to reprint and distribute an amended version just two months after launching the original. Such publications need careful planning to consider the options of a separate, smaller price list that can be reprinted at minimal cost without reproducing the whole brochure.

What is most important is to have up-to-date information available at all times and to show that you review and amend your material regularly. Changes to information also present opportunities to communicate with potential and existing customers to tell them about new products, events or special offers. By letting people know you have updated your web site you can attract more visitors to it and generate more sales.

After our last blog, are you focusing on what you can actually do now to develop your communications?

z2zine tomorrow: Choosing communications providers

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Finding your focus

When you look at the extensive range of communications you could get involved in, it’s easy to feel swamped by it all. Keeping in touch with customers, employees, suppliers and associates can take a lot of time and effort and there are so many things to do: web sites, newsletters, emails, phone calls.

Everyone has finite resources so it’s useful to focus on what can be managed rather than attempting, and failing, everything.

For many businesses, a web presence – even just a brochure web site – is the bare minimum for creating awareness. That’s not to say that the majority of your customers or target audience don’t prefer other means of communication, so the main focus should be on what really counts.

Just keeping everything up to date is a start. An out-of-date piece of information on our own web site was pointed out to me today and we’re amending it so that it is correct. This will happen for most businesses and there’s no point in worrying about it as long as you take speedy action to put things right as soon as you can. This shows how important it is to review material regularly.

Once you start planning and managing your communications, it does get easier as each activity will require less time to keep it going than was needed to get it started.

So focus on what’s really important to your business first and gradually widen your activity as and when you’re able.

After our last blog, have you achieved the right balance of challenge and achievement?

z2zine tomorrow: Up-to-date details

Follow us on twitter @z2zine

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