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Friday, 16 December 2011

Should my business have a blog?

Think of a business blog as part of your online marketing toolkit. Blogs can really help you to personalise your business and build brand awareness as well as trust amongst your customers.

Business blogs are also not only extremely cost-effective but a great way to communicate with prospects, build long-term customer relationships and generally market your business.

Here’s what blogging can do for you:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge and establish you as an expert in your field

  • Make your business services stand out

  • Attract new business prospects and opportunities

  • Improve brand visibility and search engine rankings

  • Create PR and media opportunities

  • Open communications channels with prospects / customers

  • Generate new leads

  • Show customers / prospects how you can solve you’re their business problems

What should I blog about?

Decide first what you want your blog to achieve. Who are the people you want to reach? Be very specific about this and don’t try to be ‘all things to all people’. The more focussed you are, the more effective your blog will be. Think about what you can you write about that is going to be valuable and interesting to your readers. Remember, a successful business blog is always customer-focussed and never about ‘you’.

Quality and consistency is vital

If you are going to blog, then you need to be consistent and do it regularly to build customer loyalty. Quality is also extremely important; your blog should be ‘brand’ - and ‘reputation-building’. That means you must have compelling, high quality content - for your readers and to boost search engine rankings - that’s spell-checked and factually correct. The design, look and feel of your blog should also be in keeping with your corporate identity and culture.

Invite discussion

An easy way to do this is to ask your visitors for feedback by inviting them to leave comments or suggestions which keep the conversations going. And when people participate, don’t forget to thank and acknowledge them.

Comment on other people’s blogs and social sites

Get yourself known by commenting or guest blogging on other people’s blogs and discussion forums. Try to participate in other social networking channels like LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube and SlideShare.

By following these tips, you will be well on your way to being a successful blogger.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

QR codes: a fantastic business marketing tool you should be using!

Over the past few months we’ve been encouraging our clients to start incorporating Quick Response codes (QR codes) into their marketing communications because they are an extremely cost-effective and useful way of encouraging customers to interact with a company’s products or services.

What are QR codes and what should I use them for?
QR codes are 2-D barcodes that behave like hyperlinks and can be decoded using your smartphone with a QR code reader. They can link to a new product page on your website, a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter profile, a Google maps reference, vouchers or special offers – just about anything you want to show and tell your customers about. You can also use QR codes to send emails and SMS messages automatically or upload people’s contact details into your smartphone’s address book. They were first designed for the auto industry to track parts.

QR codes – a huge marketing opportunity just waiting to be tapped
The great thing about QR codes is that you are not limited in terms of length, size and space. Traditional advertising works on limits. You pay for extra airtime, advertising and newspaper space. But fixing a QR code to your advertisement, you are literally limitless in the amount of information you can include in your advert. According to the latest UK survey of mobile phone users in July 2011, 45% of consumers already own a smartphone with a further 17% planning to acquire one within the year. In terms of marketing opportunities, there is an audience for QR codes that is just waiting to be tapped!

How do I get a QR code?
It’s very easy. There are several websites which will create QR codes for free like Quickqr and Qrstuff.

How do QR codes work?
The first thing you need to do is to download a QR reader. Most smartphones come with readers already installed these days. You can also download one from the internet for free. After you’ve done this, enter the QR reader on your phone and take a picture of the QR code. This will take you to the code’s location. For example, if you put your LinkedIn or website address into the QR code creator, the QR code created will take people to that page when they take a picture of it on their smartphone.

How do you use a QR code?
You can use QR codes to promote yourself, your products and services in all sorts of ways. For example, you might have a QR code next to each product on your web site which contains product details, contact information and the web link to the page so consumers can review this information on their smart phone and share it with their friends. You could add one to your job advertisement, exhibition stand, company signage and business card so it’s easy for someone to add you to their smart phone address book.

In short, you can add a QR code to any marketing and advertising materials from posters to TV advertisements and use them to connect consumers or customers to:

  • Product information

  • Contact details

  • Special offers

  • Special events

  • Competition details

  • Voucher or coupon

  • Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn

  • Latest YouTube video
If you are interested in using QR codes here are some useful links:

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

How to write a good PR brief

A PR pitch and eventual communications programme are only as good as the PR brief you provide.

Here are some quick tips on how to write a good PR brief.

Vision and objectives: state what your vision and key objectives are. What is it that you want to achieve, where, when and why?

Target audiences: identify who you want to reach.

Background: provide background information on your organisation, this could for example, be a company profile explaining what you do and your products and services. Explain what issues and challenges your organisation is facing and any key selling messages and unique selling points you have (e.g. why do people choose your organisation / products / services?).

The PR brief:

  • Identify and highlight the areas you want the PR agency to tackle and what resources, including any additional agency or in-house PR or marketing communications support.

  • Budget: be clear on how much you want to spend as your PR strategy and programme will need to be built around your budget.

  • Deadlines: state your project delivery deadlines.

  • Useful website references: include these and any other resources which will help the PR agency learn more about your organisation.

  • Provide high quality business information: PR professionals are business advisers and strategists, so a good brief will provide scope for consultants to give their perspective and insight on the issues you need to address and strategies. This will also give you an insight into the agency’s creative and strategic thinking capabilities.

  • Account management: ask the PR agency to provide details on how they will manage the account and work on a day to day basis with you, your organisation and management team.

  • Confidentiality: include a statement on confidentiality and intellectual property.

  • Submission date: advise when your submission deadline is.

Experience / references

  • Ask for examples of work and project successes so the PR consultancy or agency can highlight their skills and capabilities and request references too.

Monday, 10 October 2011

What should you put on your homepage?

Your homepage is the most important landing page of your website and yet surprisingly few organisations put the right information on it.

Four seconds to grab the visitor’s attention

The opening text of your website’s homepage should be able to tell visitors in four seconds or less what you do and what you are selling. Think of it as the opening statement of a company résumé – it should highlight the key products, services or skills you are offering.

Some homepage do’s and don’ts…

  • Don’t put a company logo, strapline, video, fancy Flash graphic and ‘click here to enter’ on your homepage, it’s a real turn-off. Visitors want to find what they are looking for instantly so cut to the chase.

  • Don’t put anything to do with you company history, vision and values, mission statements, employee numbers and corporate information on your homepage – these belong in the ‘About us’ section.

  • Do keep your content refreshed by running an RSS or company news feed on your homepage.

  • Do - if you want to be found on Google and other search engines - ensure your homepage contains keywords and phrases that people would use to search for you on the internet. But be careful, your text must make sense and be readable, informative and intelligent to visitors and search engines. Search Engines like Google rank websites on the relevance of their content.
Last but not least, test out your homepage content on people who know nothing about what your company does or sells. Their feedback will tell you very quickly if your homepage is doing its job!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

How do you turn negative PR into positive on the internet?

What do you do if you find your company, products or services under fire on the internet?

A very unhappy listed UK company recently asked us for strategic PR advice after finding negative comments from investors on the organisation’s financial performance. It wanted to know what it could do to stop the remarks on a discussion forum.

Our top three PR tips on managing your online reputation
If these negative comments are highly visible on internet searches, posting a defensive reply on a popular blog, discussion board or social media channel will just ‘fuel the fire’ and make things worse.

In situations like these you need to get the basics right. Here are our top three tips:

  1. Push down negative comments with a strategic PR programme of good news product or company stories which generate positive brand messages on the front pages of Google and other engine searches.

  2. Resist the temptation of posting defensive replies

  3. Don’t order the removal of the comments just because you don’t like them!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

When a PR crisis hits, it’s too late to prepare!

A PR crisis is any situation that threatens your organisation’s image and reputation. Fail to prepare for it, then prepare to fail.

When a PR crisis hits an organisation the rules of the game in normal PR and media relations change dramatically. The speed of information and image delivery over the internet is often almost instantaneous. Speculation and public criticism through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, can overwhelm an organisation within minutes. And if you are not prepared for this, you could find yourself in serious hot water.

Every organisation should have a simple crisis communications procedure or as I call it, a ‘PR protection plan’ ready to go when things go wrong. It’s not just good PR practice, it could be a ‘life-saver’!

Crisis PR requires efficient reporting systems

Whether you are dealing with a fatality, customer complaint, share price crash, or a product fail, you will need effective crisis reporting systems which alert your chief exec and senior management team to the situation in seconds. Staff and suppliers must also have a protocol for referring any media enquiries straight to your communications team.

Be factual, quick and truthful

When things do go wrong, tell your story factually, quickly and truthfully. If you ignore the situation, deny or hide it, it will get worse. People usually remember what they hear first and last so view the situation from their perspective not just yours. On a final note, don’t make the common mistake of handing the crisis PR and media relations over to your lawyers. If they are not communications professionals, it could escalate the problem.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Five simple SEO tips for writing effective online press releases

SEO optimisation is really important if you want your online press release content crawled, indexed and ranked by internet search engines. That’s why you need to make sure that your digital press releases promote both your news and maximise your internet search visibility and rankings.

You can improve the search visibility of your digital press release content by following E=MC2 Public Relations’ five simple SEO tips for writing effective online press releases:
  1. Research, optimise and hyperlink your top keyword phrases (no more than two

  2. Link to a landing page, so you can track interest

  3. Post in the news area of your website (newsdesk)

  4. Distribute via RSS news feeds

  5. Maximise PR distribution to relevant online press (this gets your press release on other sites with backlinks to you)

This should help you create SEO-friendly press releases that will send more potential buyers and journalists to your website!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Ruined in a ‘tweet’ – ignore social media at your peril!

At a time when a good name can be destroyed in a ‘tweet’, it’s surprising how few organisations actively monitor what people are saying about them over the Internet. These days, we’re more likely to be influenced by what other customers are saying about a product on the internet than believe its slick advertising and marketing hype.

Every business should be actively engaged in not just protecting but also strengthening its online reputation. Listening to what’s being said about your company on blogs, discussion forums and other social media channels also gives you an opportunity to respond and contribute to these conversations in a positive and personal way. It’s these two-way conversations which can play a vital role in building customer relationships and keeping people on side when things go wrong.

Social media marketing is becoming hugely powerful and monitoring it is vital to keeping your business reputation intact.

If you are not already tuned-in, there are some great free tools you can use to start monitoring what people are saying about you.

Here are three good ones to get you started:

  1. Google Alerts
    Google alerts, these are free, all you need is a Google account. Google trawls the Internet for conversations about you and sends the links. Also a great tool for keeping tabs on your competitors!

  2. Tweetdeck
    Tweetdeck organises all of your Twitter communications and tracks what people are saying about your organisation or products.

  3. Social Mention
    Social Mention is like Google Alerts but for social media.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Think before you tweet

The problem with Twitter or anything you publish on the web is that it’s permanent. From chief executives and politicians to celebrities and journalists, the Internet is full of damaging examples of disastrous and embarrassing tweets.

So think before you tweet – there’s no such thing as ‘off the record’ on the internet!

Here’s a few tips on what not to talk about...

• Don’t complain about your organisation, products, customers or staff
• Don’t get defensive or angry
• Don’t tell tales
• Don’t publicise sensitive company or financial information
• Don’t publicise private or confidential issues
• Don’t criticise your competitors
• Don’t be inaccurate
• Don’t be defamatory
• Don’t forget to spell-check your words!



The Blog Dog

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Footballers: don’t make a twit of yourself

(Photo courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti)

Has anyone else noticed all the media stories about sportspeople using Twitter? Golfer Rory McIlroy posted a photo of himself with Charl Schwartzel, the day after the South African snatched the US Masters from him. He tweeted: “Flying to Malaysia with Charl! Glad one of us has a green jacket on!!!”

It’s a shame others - often footballers - don’t tweet so graciously. England striker Carlton Cole has been charged with improper conduct by the FA after making ill-advised Twitter comments about Ghana fans. Ipswich Town youngster Billy Clarke used Twitter to reveal that the Tractor Boys were not going to offer him a new contract. The latest offender is St Johnstone player Michael Duberry, who tweeted an expletive-laced tirade against a referee following a recent defeat.

So, what’s to be done? The way I see it, these are the options:

• Impose a complete ban on players using social networking sites – draconian perhaps, but it was about the only thing that worked well during the England team’s 2010 World Cup campaign.

• Threaten players with disciplinary action if they post anything inflammatory – the prospect of being dropped, made to train with the youth team or suspended without pay for a few weeks could be a stronger deterrent than a fine.

• Ban players from posting anything relating to football on their social networking sites – it works for other industries, why not football?

• Get players to clear any football-related comments with their club’s press office – I’m surprised clubs haven’t done this already, updates to Facebook and Twitter are just as public as pre- and post-match interviews.

• Train players how to use social media sensibly – top players get media training at a young age, so it makes sense to teach them about social networking sites too. Attendance should be compulsory if a player has a social networking account.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Why use social media for business?

  1. It’s an excellent way of connecting to your customers where they are and what they are saying about you.

  2. It’s a great way of reinforcing existing client relationships and building new ones. Businesses can share knowledge and information easily on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, consumer forums or via Twitter.

  3. It’s the quickest method of communicating key business messages to a wide range of people. Corporate Twitter accounts are a great way of broadcasting company news instantly and concisely.

  4. Crisis PR: it can be vital to managing corporate reputation, messages and keeping people informed when things go wrong.

  5. Twitter is excellent for driving visitors to your website and corporate blog.

Blog dog

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Latest national spending habits: smart phones, 'apps' and online dating

The latest ONS survey published this week on the nation's spending habits shows the impact of new technology and the Internet.

Added to the British shopping basket of goods and services (used by ONS to calculate UK inflation rates) are smart phones and 'apps' which are replacing mobile phone downloads like ringtones and wallpaper. Also in the basket for the first time are online dating agency fees with the Internet fast becoming the new way to find love.

Bad news for dogs like me. Instead of going out for walks, householders are spending their money on giant TV sets, 'home cinema' systems, sparkling wine and ready-meals.

Frankly, I'd like to see more dog food in the basket – Bakers Complete and Beef and Lamb Pedigree Chum please.

Blog dog

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Give SMEs a fair share of public sector contracts

I’m happy to learn that our PM David Cameron sees SMEs as key to UK plc’s economic recovery. Also delighted that he’s pledged to help SMEs – including hard-working PR dogs like me - win a fair share of public sector contracts. Considering that SMEs account for over 50% of the UK business economy, but only win around 8% of the public sector contracts, it’s clear the current system is grossly unfair. I hope Mr Cameron in the spirit of ‘localism’ is prepared to follow through on his rhetoric, take action and give SMEs a fighting chance by cutting the ridiculously expensive, pointless and wasteful government procurement process. Of course, the question is: can he cut through all the government red tape to make it happen?

Monday, 21 February 2011

Crisis PR: How to handle journalists and the media in a crisis

When crisis hits your organisation and the press are calling you for comment, it is extremely important that the media and journalists understand and feel that you as the company’s spokesperson, really care!

• Express sympathy and grave concern for what has happened

• Reassure the media that the matter has been taken extremely seriously

• Be as open as possible, do not appear to be hedging

• Don’t blame or admit to blame or negligence but do say, “This is what went wrong and this is what remedial action we took to ensure that this type of incident never happens again.”• If it is true, stress that this is the first incident to happen in the history of the company

• Reinforce what remedial action has been taken including anything ‘above and beyond the call of duty’

• Point out that your company’s standards are well above the statutory minimum (safety / hygiene / training)

• Stick to the facts and don’t speculate

• Keep calm and don’t be defensive

• Be honest and courteous

• Don’t commit to compensation!

• Make a record of the contact

• If you don't know the answer, don't answer it. An "I'll get back to you on that" is always a better answer than a made up one. Simply say, "That's a good question. I'm going to check on it and get back to you in 20 minutes." Then do it. Do not leave the reporter without a call back. Even if you call back to let the reporter know that you're still looking for the information, that's better than leaving them hanging.