Thursday, 25 January 2018

LinkedIn articles – don’t miss out!

I still see many LinkedIn profiles with no articles on. But don’t miss out on this valuable tool for sharing knowledge, wisdom and views on your industry or profession.
Articles are different from updates because they are in-depth pieces where you can write about challenges you or your company has faced, opportunities you've seized and important trends in your market.
They don’t take as long as you think to pull together either. They’re not labour intensive because you may already have some of the content in other forms, such as press releases, case studies or media commentary pieces. These can be redrafted to expand on key points and to introduce a more personal viewpoint on the topic as well as bringing the theme right up to date to cover the latest thinking and market statistics.
So, what you going to write about? There a number of categories that can be shared with your contacts to help build market knowledge and business perception. Here’s just a few ideas to get you thinking:
-         Your Industry: What opportunities and challenges do you see on the horizon and how is your company going to respond in order to succeed? 
-         Sector Trends: What is happening in your industry and how will it look in a year’s time?
-         Your Business: How has your company changed and adapted to the market with new products, services or departments and how have they worked out?
-         Skills: What skills are important to your sector and how can colleagues get those skills to improve industry knowledge and professional improvement?
-         Good News: Don’t be shy about sharing a successful news story. Whether it’s a personal triumph, the company wins a prestigious award or there’s a good set of results to report, let your contacts know about it.
There are plenty more ideas and you can always call upon your experience to come up with more. After all, what kind of articles would you find useful and why, and can you have input on similar issues and topics?
Articles also give you the opportunity to include a photo to highlight the key benefits of your article and thought process. Make sure you pick an eye-catching one that represents your story or company brand.
In short, LinkedIn articles can grow and develop your personal and company mage and help the industry you’re in to move forward by sharing your expertise, experience and a vision of the future.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Ready to dive into the social ocean?

It seems impossible now to imagine a world without social media. In such a short time social networks have made their way into the very fabric of our business lives. They’re used for direct communication, customer service, promoting new products and events and delivering timely news, to name a few common uses.

Many businesses have understood the benefits of integrating social media into their overall communication strategies and those that do reap the rewards of brand profile and customer engagement.

But many companies are still sat at the water’s edge just dipping their toes in.

One of the biggest hurdles we come across for those companies that haven’t yet dived into the social ocean is quite simply finding something to say that’s worth sharing. But, every company has stories to tell. After all, without being good at what you do a company wouldn’t survive and for those successful companies who have worked out a winning formula, there are always interesting points to communicate that others will find interesting and of value. It’s just a case of spending time to formalise them and the methodology to promote them within the overall communication plan.

There are several content keys that can unlock your plans to engage on social media. They include things like promoting new products, service and staff, but also sharing thought and ideas through blogs, case studies and viewpoint articles.

Every business has plenty of content but sometimes finding the time to structure it into bite size chunks of interesting and informative content is where the problem lies.

That’s why using an expert consultancy that can harness the content and hone the messages, then package them up to share on social media is vital to closing the circle in the communications plan.
You should also know what’s working and what’s not is vital in better understanding what your customers or audience want to hear from you. Analytics can help in finding the golden nuggets, and time needs to be spent to fully distinguish the successes from the also rans. Again, this can be worked out by understanding the medium and working out what the interactions mean.

PR can also serve a dual purpose in assisting any company in delivering worthwhile information to its audiences. Firstly the press mentions themselves, but then re-promoted on social media so leveraging news content and improving social engagement. It’s a win, win.

It also adds a credibility factor which is vital for building brand trust and loyalty. After all, if media known by the audience are reporting your news, then your audience in turn will see you as a credible player in the market.

The role of social media in this scenario is to help spread the word even further, via a different medium and get your brand values out to a much wider audience.

Content is king though, and regular postings of interesting and worthwhile stories is vitally important. So, are you still just dipping your toes? Or is it time to dive in? 

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Refresh your company's brand to reflect its future

Maybe your business is heading in a new direction, entering a new phase of growth or planning a major sales drive. Usually, this type of forward thinking raises the question of the brand look and feel: “Does it represent we’re we are going, does it look modern and dynamic, does it reflect our new products and services?”

Clearly if a company wants to enter new markets and engage better with new customers and clients, this needs to be backed by a viable business plan, of which the brand refresh will form part. This will help ensure the visual identity and company language moves in line with the company’s vision and objectives for the next few years.

A wrong reason to refresh would be just for the sake of it or because a few of your competitors are doing it. The latter may initiate a review, but it’s only worth progressing if backed by a sound business rationale and the required resources and budget are allocated.

Once the decision is made to go for a refresh, it can be a very positive move for your staff as it will inject a line of enthusiasm into the new drive for growth, development or sales. It will give focus to the new initiatives and the aim here is to get staff buy-in so they become ambassadors of change.
Freshening up the elements of your visual identity typically includes:

Logo: Often seen as sacrosanct, a logo a can be tweaked to keep in line with the new ethos. It’s very much evolution rather than revolution in terms of a brand refresh. Colours, fonts and icons can be updated. Remember though, changing the logo means it has to go on all elements of the company’s sales, administration and corporate literature as well as marketing collateral. So it can be quite a big commitment to take on. Make sure you’re resourced to do it both internally and with your marketing agencies.  

Brand vocabulary: How does your company speak to customers and business partners? Think about the key words and tone of voice that best reflect the new approach. Blend them in with the propositions that your business wants to promote. Review your old headlines, stale straplines and corporate key words. The tone of voice is important for all communications, because it helps establish the new personality of how your company wants to be perceived. Customers and business partners should be able to tell something is new just by reading the copy, even without the updated graphics.

Colour palette: Look to introduce colours that best reflect where the company is going. This may be a mixture of old and new. A key consideration is to be different to other companies in your sector to avoid visual confusion.

Typography: Bring this up to date with changing styles and the way content is consumed on different platforms and devices. Where are your customers seeing your information? Different fonts work better on different media.

Imagery: An important point here is to introduce a consistent style – images, cartoons, drawings. Follow them through on all everything you do for staff, customers and suppliers. Also pick a style for company and staff photos that look forwards to the company’s future.

Consistency: Bring your brand in line across all marketing media, stationery, staff communications, customer contacts, business partner literature and suppliers contracts. Having a consistent theme will play a huge part in effectively strengthening your brand message.

Branding is about sending out strong, positive and consistent messages. It is essential to establish both powerful propositions and clear communications to ensure what distinguishes you from the competition is well promoted and compelling. A brand refresh will help you communicate these values as your company moves in to new ventures, launches new products or plans to enter new territories.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Shape Your Tweets with Twitter Analytics

The analytics package from Twitter can be used to increase the engagement and efficiency of your tweets, giving them more reach and engagement. Oh, and they’re free which is nice. That’s why it’s just not good enough to issue lots of tweets. It’s now essential to issue messages that are relevant and resonate with your followers so that they want to engage with your company.

The Service Basics
The service gives valuable insights as to how tweets are performing, instantly and the trends over time.
A key parameter is ‘Engagement Rate’ - simply the number of engagements a tweet has had divided by the views (twitter call them impressions) a tweet has had.
Tweets can be tracked in real time and messaging adjusted by the minute, hour or day.
It provides basic graphs and results on retweets, favourites and link clicks (maybe a link to an article on your website for example).
All of the above can be tracked by month, last 7 days, last 28 days, or you can customise a time frame.
By clicking on an individual tweet you can see detailed information for that tweet, such as time of day it was viewed (very useful this) and the link clicks, profile clicks, retweets and favourites. 

Does it Work?
My consultancy runs twitter accounts for a number of clients and the information provided by the analytics has proved to be extremely useful. The frequency, content and time of day messages are issued have all been shaped by reviewing and interpreting the reports.

That last point is key: understanding why something is working or not, so that we can do more of it if it is getting results and change tack if communications aren’t hitting the mark. So, believe what the statistics are saying but also work out what they mean. Although there is an ‘Export Data’ function, we tend to pass information to colleagues or clients, using a simple spreadsheet to quickly record the key performance indicators as an executive summary overview.

Rounding the Circle
To get a more complete picture of the power of content, we closely monitor the social media section on Google Analytics to see the referrals from social media accounts – LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and twitter of course.  By clicking through, information is provided on which piece of activity resulted in the referral, so providing even more information to improve future strategy.

Make an Impression
By studying the data freely available to your business, it’s possible to improve the value of your tweets and see what resonates with your followers. Some examples we’ve found include:
-          - Time of day – the service allows monitoring of the time of day your audience are reading your messages, so you can issue tweets at the best time for them. We are seeing that because clients have different audience profiles, we now issue tweets both in and out of office hours. And don’t forget the weekends too!
-          - High impressions – To get your tweets noticed we try include business partner handles or news website links where a client company is featured. We also include links back to their  websites and check referrals on Google Analytics.
-          - You get the picture? - We have found that use of suitable photos and images have a real impact on engagements, but they have to be relevant to the story or promote the product/service. Brand imagery doesn’t work as well, but they do make your tweets look nice! 
-          - Who you gonna call? - Include a call to action in some tweets when you can respond online or take calls. For one client we saw an increase in phone calls during a promotion, so we worked with them to issue the tweets with a phone number when they had staff available to take calls.

In conclusion, these free statistics from twitter are a welcome addition to the science of social media. Combined with other analysis techniques they are a vital part of our consultancy tool box. However, time needs to be spent interpreting their meaning and taking the appropriate action, which means refining and developing key messages step by step.  

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Are you responding to responsive design?

It’s a phrase we’ve all heard over the last few years, but responsive design for websites and marketing emails, isn’t the future – it’s here already. What’s more, if your website or your clients’ websites aren’t responsive, you should now be starting to get to grips with bringing them up to date.

How do we define ‘responsive design’?

In basic terms, responsive design can be explained as building websites that provide an optimal viewing experience on a wide range of mobile, tablet, phablet, laptop and PC devices. To get that great user experience on all of these, the site will need to be easy to read and navigate without the need for resizing, pinching/zooming, panning, and scrolling.
With mobile internet access and online shopping growing exponentially on smartphones and tablets, your site should now be designed for ‘mobile first’. It makes sense as you need to cater for the growing number of people interacting this way. Put simply, it’s good for business.

To start with, try to de-clutter your site. Check your analytics for popular pages and remove or combine those that aren’t serving a purpose.  Review your menu options, not only the number of them, but the wording. Keep menu options short and to the point, and put them in a logical running order.

These are important as once your site goes from laptop to mobile, the navigation menu will increase in priority, and your content will start to stack on top of each other, so the more relevant it all is the better. Your web designer will also make your site work if the phone or tablet is turned on its side, so designing for the orientation of the device will be taken in to account.

Any link buttons and menu options need to be of a reasonable size, think of the app icons on your phone, these are a good guide. Text on the pages needs to be of a reasonable size so customers don’t have to pinch and zoom to read about you, contact you or buy from your site.

In short, the aim of responsive design is to have your site, or your email marketing campaign, look fabulous on pretty much any device. For many companies, designing a site this way will preclude the need for separate ‘apps’ or different versions of the site.

However, there may still be the need for an app. Responsive design might not be the panacea for all businesses and there may be room for a separate app as well. For example, if you have one particular type of interaction such as a calculator or shopping channel, or you need to use geo-location, then the app could just focus on this one aspect. The good thing here is they are on your customers’ devices and are just one click away and they may not need an internet connection to be used. But remember, apps don’t help with SEO, and you’ll have to promote them directly to your audience, at some cost.

There are many other arguments for and against having both, but the core company website should be ‘responsive’. And now’s the time to make that happen.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Corporate Videos Made Easy - in 7 Steps

Corporate videos have grown in popularity in the last 12 months. Faster broadband, improved mobile devices and more wifi connections, have all helped to deliver media-rich content to customers and clients, whether they are in the office or on the road.

A video can also convey more about your brand than static images or animated gifs. Your clients can meet the team, see your offices, have a full guide to your products and services all from the comfort of the coffee shop or, less comfortable, desk.
So here are a few pointers to help you produce a Hollywood blockbuster rather than a costly flop. 

Camera, lights, action:

1. It starts with a script. Write, edit, refine and rewrite. Time is of the essence so be quick to tell the viewers what you can do for them better than your competitors. About 1minute is the ideal length to have your customers glued to the screen, not their second screen, as people have ever-shorter attention spans these days.
2.  It’s all in the image. Be clear on the creative treatment. Is it mainly live video, photos or animation? Or a mix of all three? Make sure you have, or commission, good quality photos if you use a slideshow approach.  
3. What’s the story? Prepare a storyboard so you know the sequences of voice over, photos, live video, and on screen text. It’s quite easy to plan them out and will save you time later and mean fewer amends.
4. What does your brand sound like? If you’re using one, then choose a suitable voice over that represents your brand. Think about accent, age profile, male or female and delivery style. If one or more of your staff are doing the talking, then ensure their voices are suitable.
5. Who will you cast in the lead role? If shooting live video is the best way to explain your business, ensure the people in front of camera represent your brand – whether your own staff or professional presenters. Have a clear, quiet environment and good lighting; wear clothes that you would normally wear to see your clients; speak clearly and naturally.
6. The sound of music. Make sure there is good sound quality and the right balance of background music or sound effects (office or street sounds) so that you can hear the key messages clearly.
7. Call to action. End with a strong reason your customers or clients should get in touch and put contact details in the end credits. The VO at the end should also say what you want the viewer to do and how it will benefit them. It’s probably not a good idea to leave your customers with a cliffhanger, unless of course you are producing a sequel or a series of videos.

That’s all folks!

Not, quite. Don’t forget to show your staff the video so they too feel part of your brand and company journey (better still, involve them in the process).  Create a buzz about your new release. Publish your video on a Youtube or Vimeo channel. If you haven’t got one, then it’s easy to set one up. Use all of your usual marketing techniques to promote your masterpiece so people can click to view it – email marketing and your social media channels. As well as these, you can also show your video on large screens at show and exhibitions.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

6 Business Twitter Tips for Humans

Twitter can help businesses build brand profile in their market and help drive their corporate communications. However, so many tweets I read seem like they are written by machines, which kind of defeats the object of engaging with people (your clients, your business associates, your prospects).

By embracing the ‘social’ aspect of twitter, you’ll find your business communications sounding more like a human than a robot. To do this, keep your tweets conversational with an engaging tone of voice (oops, there’s another tip!). After all, people still buy people and your twitter feed should reflect your business’ personality and that the twitter account is being run by knowledgeable humans.

It’s also a great way to build or be part of business communities (with other human businesses) in your sector and to keep up to speed with industry issues and people news.
So, here are a few more tips for B2B twitter accounts so they become more human, less robotic:

  1. Post what would be of interest to you if you were a customer or business partner.
  2. Be spontaneous - tweet about things that are happening in your business right now.
  3. Add a photo - we are all quite nosey, so most of us will click to see a good picture of an event you’re at, a PR shoot, an award you've won etc.
  4. Keep it short - you needn't always use the 140 characters - brevity is good policy.
  5. Research hashtags relevant to your business sector and include them regularly as they will  help you get noticed by potential customers/clients.
  6. Use a management tool for your tweets to help you track your account(s) and to provide  results of retweets, favourites, followers etc.