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B2B Awards: 7 Magnificent Tips - 13/06/2014

 

It won’t be news to anyone who knows us at Smith & Smith to hear that we’re big fans of awards.

They’re a fantastic way for your business to go the extra mile and prove to your customers, competitors, employees, the wider public and even yourself just how good you are at what you do – something we’ve already talked about in detail.

For this reason, we’ve put together some advice for B2B companies looking to get started with awards entries and are in need of a helping hand.

B2B Awards: Top Tips

  1. Cast your net wider than your individual industry and embrace more general innovation and technology, customer service, business excellence, management, ‘best places to work’ and charity - do the necessary research legwork to pinpoint the most relevant for your company.
  2. Draw up an annual schedule, with perhaps one entry each month to include local, regional, national, sector and other awards.
  3. Don’t dismiss national awards just because they sound big. If you’re doing something well, you could be doing it better than anyone else in the country.
  4. Designate responsibilities for who does what – including research, collating necessary figures and paperwork, writing the actual entry and following up. Make sure you’re giving whoever’s writing the entry enough time in the working day, as this can be time-consuming to start with.
  5. Remember to tell all your staff, customers, suppliers and other contacts – as well as relevant journalists – about your win. This calls for a press release.
  6. Mention it on your website, blog, stationery if possible, and e-mail sign-offs of all staff, including the awards logo if possible.
  7. Don’t take it badly if you don’t make the long-list or short-list. Awards entries are a skill in themselves, and if you’re confident of the winning potential of your company, take this as an opportunity to revisit your entry and work out how you can improve on it next time.

It may seem daunting at first, but awards entries are more than worth the effort to demonstrate your talents and consequently be used as a tool to help grow your business. And if you’re stuck, you can always download our free ebook below or give us a call for advice on +44 (0) 161 927 9487.

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Topics: awards

PR Crisis Plans: The Best and Worst of 2014 (so Far) - 11/06/2014

 

Envisaging a ‘worst case scenario’ is never pleasant, nor is imagining your business in the midst of a crisis, so many organisations would rather focus on the ‘feel good’ power of PR. Despite this, it’s important to be prepared for the worst.

Crises can hit any business, at any time – they can range from product faults or financial problems, through to staff misconduct or legal trouble. Yet while a crisis hits almost every day, there can be complacency, as people think ‘it won’t happen to us’. It’s a truism that you only truly appreciate a crisis communications strategy when you are in the midst of one (or, to be unkind, you only really believe it’s necessary after it’s too late).

With that in mind, we’ve examined two big crises that have hit this year, highlighting where a crisis plan works and how a lack of one can be highly damaging.

 

Malaysia Airlines and Missing Flight MH370

When flight MH370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March, and remained missing for days, then weeks, then months, mystery quickly turned into disaster.

The situation was exacerbated by an extremely misdirected communications campaign from the airline, which in the immediate aftermath of the disappearance handled the crisis in-house. The organisation seemed to reel from one mistake to the next; accusations quickly came from families and the world’s media of inaccurate information, with the airline issuing corrections almost immediately after statements – a surefire way to lose credibility. Search zones seemed to shift on an hourly basis, while the families of those missing – the key people the airline should have been talking to regularly – seemed to be no better informed.

 

This could be said to be an unprecedented situation – the first time such a major incident has played out, been reported on and been responded to in real time thanks to social media. In that sense, remaining in control was never going to be possible. However, Malaysia Airlines made a cardinal sin in crisis communications – which was to make the situation worse.

This poor crisis plan clearly damaged the reputation of Malaysia Airlines, with The Telegraph terming it “a masterclass in how not to deal with the aftermath of an incident”. The company is paying a financial price for this and, while of course its primary focus will be on locating the plane, it cannot ignore the fact that losses in its first quarter have been far deeper than would be expected, while passengers cancel flights and new bookings are extremely weak.

You may not operate an international airline, or ever conceive of the eyes of the world being on you in such a way, but the notion that an incorrect response can be incredibly damaging (to everyone involved) is one that should be universal.

 

Justin Bieber Tarnishes Clean Cut Image (see also: One Direction)

It’s a classic trajectory: young, successful artist with a huge, young fanbase gradually sheds their clean-cut image to appeal to a wider demographic. One Direction could be the torch bearers for such a move, with recent allegations of drug use by members, were it not for a certain Justin Bieber.

Bieber, who shot to fame on the back of a clean-cut image, has certainly ‘matured’ into a more edgy personality. He’s hit the headlines for all manner of things, including trouble with the police after his home in Los Angeles was searched when he allegedly threw eggs at a neighbour’s house, where cannabis and cocaine were found. He’s also been arrested for allegedly drag-racing his Lamborghini on a public street in Miami and being over the drink-drive limit.

Bieber has a very passionate fan base and these incidents seem not to diminish his appeal or popularity (and a cynic might say the negative PR could widen his appeal), but the latest scandal to hit may well prove a step too far. A video has emerged of Bieber telling a racist joke, which has prompted much uproar.

The response initially, according to reports, was to supress the video. When it emerged, the star moved quickly to apologise, distancing himself from what was termed a “reckless and immature mistake”. Clearly aware of the video for some time, this statement forms part of a clearly defined communications strategy that could have been in place for some time. This has been tempered by the emergence of a second video, which he scrambled to apologise for – making two mea culpas in as many days.

But how effective has it been? Well, response in the media has been largely accepting, with this editorial by TIME magazine highlighting the strength of the first apology. The second incident could well lessen the effectiveness of the response, while any further evidence of such behaviour would surely have a significant impact, and whether the apologies are enough to ward off any long-term damage, only time will tell. But by having a plan in place and putting it into action swiftly, Bieber’s team has gone some way to lessen the damage of what might have been career-ending mistakes.

 

For pointers on how to effectively manage a crisis, along with four other essential PR tips, download our free eBook: ‘5 Killer PR Tips’:

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Topics: Crisis PR

Five Tone of Voice Essentials for your Brand Guidelines - 09/06/2014

 

One of the first steps businesses take when starting up is to establish a strong brand identity. A great deal of time and effort is often put into determining factors such as a name, logo and colour scheme. This is rightly the case, as it’s integral to the way customers perceive your brand and your company’s ‘personality’.

However, if your business is planning on creating written content, this too means unleashing an element of your brand to the public. Whether this takes the form of a press release, blog, feature article or news item, your tone, language and writing style is just as important as the visual elements of your brand.

As it’s highly unlikely that just one person will have sole responsibility for every piece of copy that is published, you’ll need to develop house-style guidelines to help your employees put across the right message. In case this is something you’ve overlooked, or are just starting to formulate, we’ve listed five things below that you’ll need to include:

house-style-guidelines

1. Spell it out

One of the most important aspects of creating a strong brand is consistency, so for written content you’ll need to deal with the English language’s occasional spelling confusions. UK readers aren’t usually happy for an army of Zs to invade a piece of writing (even though it’s technically not wrong in British English), but US spelling may be more appropriate for some markets and customers.

2. Make a date

The date format you use should be consistent in all of your communications, from official press releases to business emails and posters. This obviously avoids confusion for events and announcements. Turning again to our international friends, the format 05/07/2014 will be interpreted differently in the US than the UK. Another good example is “21st May” will need to be written as “21ste Mai” in German, “21e mei” in Dutch and so on… it’s much easier to write “21 May” to avoid these suffixal issues.

3. Cut the jargon

If you’re a highly specialised company dealing with complicated technology and concepts, remember that your readers need to understand in layman’s terms exactly what it is you do. This means instructing your writers to avoid jargon, even if it’s common to your industry, and eliminating abbreviations, unless you’re absolutely sure your audience is clear on their meaning.

4. Take a number

If there’s one thing that you might have overlooked, it’s defining a written number format. However, poorly written out numbers can throw readers and reduce the impact of statistics. House-style guidelines should point out that numbers up to ten should be written as full words and 11 upwards as digits. Also, bear in mind that in some European countries, a comma acts as a decimal point e.g. 1,054 is one point zero five four.

5. Set the tone

Your tone of voice is exactly that – it’s more than just a list of rules or dos and don’ts. Your house style should articulate how you want your company to come across. Think about how your customers, staff and suppliers want to be spoken to and how receptive they are. Remember it should match the personality of your company – but be careful in defining which colloquialisms are acceptable, as some don’t even translate between different regions in the UK (which mithers us from time-to-time).

House-style guidelines are something that your employees can constantly refer back to and helps new joiners adopt your company’s style quickly. It really is an essential part of your brand that you shouldn’t overlook.

If you’d like to learn more about how content is vital to your business’s success, download our free eBook below or give us a call on +44(0) 161 927 9487.

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Topics: PR

Kicking Off World Cup Celebrations, Smith & Smith Style - 23/05/2014

Brazil World Cup Mascot Bearinho

The World Cup presents an excellent opportunity for diligent PR pros to carefully plan a range of campaigns in order to secure valuable coverage for clients. Here at Smith & Smith we have a few campaigns kicking around, but have begun the World Cup celebrations early with a fiercely contested sweepstake.

To get everyone in the World Cup mood, the big draw took in a glittering ceremony; however the results have been met with suspicion, as some illustrious figures were unfortunately absent.

Account Executive David Savage emerged as the undisputed front-runner after drawing no less than three tournament heavyweights including current World Cup, European and U21 champions Spain, second-favourites Argentina and the ever-dangerous Dutch.

Having drawn Spain on his first pick David was already spending his winnings. However, as the draw progressed it became clear that the sweepstake was likely to be a two horse race between Savage and Account Manager Benjamin Pfeffer, who looked particularly smug after drawing tournament favourites Brazil, along with (often) reliable quarterfinalists Portugal and France.

Lady luck was not so kind to Managing Director Nathan Smith, who was the recipient of a less impressive array of teams, with a last-ditch pick of Belgium providing a late life-line to the MD’s hopes of winning the sweepstake. Although unfortunate, this result did prove that those involved in the draw were more interested in winning the coveted title than pleasing the boss.

Smith & Smith financial wizard John Whitehead emerged as the sweepstake outsider after drawing two strong teams in the form of Italy and Uruguay, but sceptics believe he will need more than magic in order to emerge as the winner.

Having picked up England, Account Executive Matthew Judge will be expected to show his patriotism by coming into work in a white van for the duration of the tournament, wearing a string vest and replacing his coffee mug with a can of Stella.

Bookies are offering odds of 2000/1 on either PR Director Alison Dwyer or Digital Executive Nathan Cousins winning the sweepstake after each drew four teams that would optimistically be described as ‘outsiders’. Alison was vocal about her disappointment commenting: “There’s more chance of a donkey winning the Grand National”.

Account Executive Jade Brodie showed more positivity about her chances after drawing fourth favourites Germany, but hopes that regardless of who wins the sweepstake, colleagues ‘won’t mention the score’.

In the spirit of the World Cup and show that it’s the taking part that counts, each member of the team will decorate their desks in order to show support to their selected teams, keep an eye on our blog for updates and images!

To ensure that there will be no (further?) cheating, we have set the results of the draw in stone by including a full breakdown within this blog post which will remain on the world wide web forevermore:

 

Benjamin Pfeffer:BenjaminTXT

France, Portugal, Croatia, Brazil

 

David Savage:David_TXT

Spain, Netherlands, Argentina, Colombia

 

Matthew Judge:

USA, Ecuador, England, Chile

 

Jade Brodie:Jade_TXT

Germany, Russia, Mexico, Costa Rica

 

Alison_TXTAlison Dwyer:

Ghana, Algeria, Korea, Australia

 

Nathan Cousins:Nate_TXT

Nigeria, Cameroon, Switzerland, Greece

 

John Whitehead:John_TXT

Uruguay, Bosnia Herzegovina, Japan, Italy

 

Nathan Smith:Nathan_TXT

Iran, Honduras, Belgium, Ivory Coast

 

Good luck to everyone!

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Topics: World Cup

JMC IT Award Nomination for Investment In Skills - 15/05/2014

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We talked a couple of weeks ago about the great reasons for companies to be entering awards, so we’re delighted with our client JMC IT’s timing in being nominated for the inaugural Skills for Business Awards 2014.

JMC is being recognised for its investment in the skills of its people in the category Medium Business of the Year, adding to a long list of previous award nominations and wins for recruitment, training and employee engagement.

The Salford-based IT company is regularly lauded as one of the best places to work in the country, with recent accolades including the highest possible three-star status from Best Companies for the fourth consecutive year and The Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For in 2014 for the 10th year - an incredible achievement, we're sure you'll agree.

Fingers crossed there’s another trophy added to the cabinet on Thursday 3rd July.

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Topics: awards

Raising Your Media Profile for B2B Companies - 09/05/2014

 

If you’re looking to raise your B2B company’s profile in the media, we have some great news for you: without doubt, you’ll have something of real value they’ll want to know about.

Local, regional or trade media have a basic survival need for new stories, exclusive insights and on-the-ground access. It could be straightforward news on technology developments, business growth, account wins, award recognitions and additional team members. Or it could be critical understanding of current trends and how your business is meeting economic challenges.

So what’s the trick to getting your company out there in the media? Put simply, it’s working out how to consistently provide the above content in digestible form to today’s whirlwind media industry.

Jargon Busters

A major problem for many B2B companies – whether in IT and software, construction, legal or recruitment  – is translating their expertise into laypersons’ terms that journalists and their audiences can quickly understand.

Cutting-edge firms are often peopled with incredibly smart people who live and breathe innovation but for whom speaking about their work in non-jargonised language can be difficult; and even the most profitable B2B firms can sometimes struggle to make their products sound interesting to journalists.

Here, you need to step back a little, away from your own office and out into the public arena. Imagine you’re at a party or a wedding, explaining to someone you’ve just met what your business does and why it’s interesting. Very often, the what-you-do part is the boring bit and the why-it’s-interesting part is much more appealing.

We’ve also worked with clients whose innovation per se left journalists cold, whereas the applications of that innovation, expressed in necessarily futuristic terms (“in 10 years’ time we will all have this in our homes, and here’s why”), made everyone sit up and take notice.

Why the media will love you for it

Check out major online newspapers or industry magazines, such as The Guardian, PR Week or a big publication from your own sector. Then go back in an hour and check it again – does it look the same? Or have new stories and articles appeared, or old ones been “expanded”? There’s a good chance they have.

This behaviour is even further personified by social media – Twitter has become a news and thought leadership channel for your own personally selected, trusted sources of content. Updates arrive in minutes, not hours or days, and are delivered in bite-sized chunks to keep audiences grazing.

For the media, it’s all about breaking news now, developing the story later. On the one hand, journalists desperately need immediate content that’s relevant this second, not 15 minutes ago. On the other, there’s only so many “stories” out there, and finding good quality substance to pad out articles and features is a journalist’s nightmare if they don’t have knowledgeable business contacts on-hand to provide it.

Where do you fit in?

If you’re part of a breaking news story or technological development, you’re obviously first in line to be providing exclusive access and insights, so make sure you’re fully prepared. However, if you’re the one who needs to take a proactive approach, it’s vital to understand the news-now-develop-later mind-set that you can – and should – be using to your advantage to provide a fresh look on existing issues that the media craves.

Talk to your in-house Communications or Marketing department or download our free “5 Killer PR Tips” eBook below to turn your company’s expertise, achievements and innovations into a constant source of inspiration for the media. We’re obviously also happy to chat about how a media presence can help grow your business, so feel free to a call us on +44 (0) 161 927 9487.

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Topics: public relations

Six Years of PR Rock 'n Roll - 07/05/2014

Yesterday I celebrated six years with Smith & Smith. We started life as a Manchester-based boutique PR agency and we remain the same - small but perfectly informed. 

I probably should say something strategic to demonstrate our unique abilities in b2b PR - including our dramatic success as a result of embracing inbound marketing well ahead of the curve. But I won't! Instead, I want to reinforce that I remain steadfast in my desire to one day pitch to a client using the medium of mime or interpretive dance.

I will leave the last word to my wonderful friend and S&S co-founder Jane Smith, who describes my arrival at S&S as follows:

"Yes we fondly recall the day Alison Dwyer came into our Great Ancoats Street office and immediately impressed us all with her precise bob and her Swing Out Sister leather jacket...Nathan and I initially considered the idea of converting Smith & Smith to a lookalike agency, but after much deliberation decided that the low popularity stakes of both Stelios and Linda McCartney would adversely affect business, despite popular demand for Corinne Drewery doubles, and we decided to carry on in PR instead. The rest, as they say, is history - although we do occasionally find ourselves humming 'Break Out' when Alison pulls another PR blinder."

Here's to another six years!

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Entering Awards - If You've Got it, Nominate It! - 02/05/2014

 

Entering_awards

Some companies like to hide their light under a bushel – not least those in B2B industries. Our buttoned-up British culture sometimes seems to frown on the idea of letting people know how good you are at something, whether you’re punching above your weight or just happen to be better at something than your competitors.

This is somewhat understable, as your success may be down to running your business well and gaining custom through word of mouth. But if you're going to keep growing, hiding in the shadows won't get you very far.

So, to paraphrase a great British icon - why wait to have greatness thrust upon you?

Talent is its own award

Talent, innovation and business acumen should all be rewarded. Yes, they tend to be their own reward (again, a peculiarly British concept), but you’re in business – so you need to go the extra mile and actually prove to yourself, your colleagues, your competitors, your customers and the wider public just how good you are at what you do.

Luckily, there are some ready-made, raring-to-go tools out there that act as a platform to showcase your success and achievements to your peers.

In case you hadn’t guessed yet, we’re talking about awards.

To enter, or not to enter?

Every sector has its own accolades. In IT there's the UK IT Industry, Real IT and the Software Satisfaction Awards, whilst construction has the Insider Property Awards and in recruitment the Recruiter Awards for Excellencein fact, most B2B industries have many. You can also receive recognition regionally, such as the Salford Business Awards, or nationally, for example the Chamber Awards.

Awards are worth entering for the PR benefits alone, but there are of course many other reasons:

  • Your clients and customers like to know that their supplier has won an award – it makes them feel they have good business taste, and they can bask a little in your glory
  • Everyone likes to work for an award-winning company, including your staff. It’s good for morale - and you don’t have to tell them you’ve entered until you’ve been short-listed
  • Having the logo of an official recognition on your website, blog, e-mail sign-off or company literature looks good. It’s an extra credential from a third party
  • The very process of entering, with the detail needed for the nomination, can often be enlightening and help to inform strategy
  • You don’t even need to win a category to tell the world about it. In many cases, even making the shortlist is an achievement in itself that sounds good to your trade media and other interested parties

And we almost forgot one – if you win, it feels really, really good!  If you’ve done something well, it’s just nice to be rewarded for it, officially. Entering awards really is worth it, so make sure you’re up-to-speed with those relevant your company or download our free eBook below for advice on how to start getting your name on those trophies.

Click here to download our free eBook: 5 Killer PR Tips.

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Topics: PR Awards, business awards

Smith & Smith Work Experience - 14/04/2014

As a Media, Communication and Cultural Studies undergraduate at Newcastle University, I have enjoyed completing modules in a variety of media disciplines including journalism, online communication, television and public relations. In addition to my studies, I’m having a great time being involved with sport, societies and writing for The Courier, the university’s student newspaper. However, with graduation (and the real world) looming in little over a year, I decided after Christmas that I would use my Easter break to gain some work experience in public relations  – an area of my course that I’ve enjoyed, excelled in and have resultantly decided to pursue as a career after university.  

After speculatively emailing Smith & Smith in February, I was delighted to be offered a two-week work experience placement at their office in Hale. In all honesty, I knew very little about the agency prior to my arrival (April 6), other than the information I had read on its website, and that they are a small, well-respected agency. Despite this, I learnt an incredible amount about Smith & Smith and the workings of a successful PR agency during my first week.

The small friendly team at Smith & Smith has been very welcoming, and I have had the opportunity to complete a variety of interesting tasks (contrary to the stereotype, work experience in the media industry isn’t simply making tea and coffee!) On my first day, I used the ‘Agility PR Newswire’ platform (a web-based application which contains a database of worldwide journalists and publications) to create a list of media contacts for a press release to be sent to. After identifying relevant journalists from several publications, I was tasked with distributing the press release to them via email on Tuesday (it was important that my email was friendly, succinctly summarised the release and identified its newsworthiness). The next day (Wednesday), I was very happy to find that the release had been covered by some of the news outlets – it was satisfying to have been given the opportunity to make a difference on only my third day! I also conducted a variety of client research during a jam-packed week.

My first week at Smith & Smith was definitely a unique, rewarding and enjoyable experience. While my university lectures and seminars have undoubtedly been useful, applying my enjoyment of public relations to a real-world scenario has really enhanced my understanding. I look forward to the week ahead!

 

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We're on a mission to find a talented new PR account executive! - 19/02/2014

Looking for a successful career in PR?

Good news, the Smith & Smith team is expanding and as a result we’re looking for a bright, motivated PR account executive to join us on our journey.

PR isn’t about schmoozing and air kisses, which is why successful candidates will be able to assist our account team by nurturing our high standards in both this field and that of marketing.

We represent firms that operate in a wide variety of industries, supporting them in media relations and engagement, copywriting and crisis management, to name a few.

Working for a busy agency that has added inbound marketing to its skill set, this executive will also need to speak digital and appreciate what makes compelling content.

Inbound training is on offer so that this self-starter will be able to expand on their abilities that need to include: excellent time management, the ability to handle multiple deadlines, strong client liaison skills and excellent technical writing ability.

Successful candidates should possess the following key attributes:

 

Account handling skills

§  Writing: agendas, contact reports, press releases, technical features and social media outreach.

§  Media liaison: develop a good understanding of UK or foreign media (as appropriate) and including digital media and blogsphere.  Research and develop media lists for specific clients/projects.  Liaise with selected media and develop contacts.

§  Media monitoring: read relevant and specialist publications (including online / digital) as appropriate and develop an awareness of opportunities and items of general interest.

§  Media evaluation: monitor and track press coverage, present in Smith & Smith PR format, analyse in line with set objectives.

§  Client liaison: establish and maintain professional and effective relationship with client(s).

§  Supplier negotiation: develop relationship with key suppliers and demonstrate ability to achieve optimum outcome for agency/client.

§  Event management: assist in organisation of exhibitions, photo calls and other events.

§  Digital and design management: develop understanding of print, photography and design terminology.

§  Accompany account handlers on client meetings, supplier briefings, photographic shoots, assist at press conferences.

§  Develop an awareness of team working, workload planning and meeting deadlines.

§  Develop good telephone manner: importance of clear message taking and responding to information requests.  Manage press ring-rounds e.g. exhibitions and product launches.

§  Provide administrative support to team as required.

 

Knowledge

§  Develop a good understanding of the role of public relations and the range of techniques available to PR practitioners in the UK and abroad.

§  Develop understanding of client business and industry issues.

§  Ensure compliant with company procedures to generate best practice.

 

Commercial skills

§  Ensure profitable relationship with clients by maintaining service to agreed levels.

§  Juggle workload/work across a number of clients effectively.

§  Demonstrate effective time management.

 

Personal skills

§  Demonstrate flexibility.

§  Support the company culture and positioning.

§  Proactively seek and suggest solutions to problems.

§  Take joint responsibility for learning and development of self.

§  Build sound and productive relationships internally and externally. 

§  Communicate well to a wide range of people and audiences.

 

If you think you’re up to the challenge, please email your CV to Fiona@smithandsmithpr.co.uk

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