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Coronavirus: Mother Earth is Pressing The Reset Button

Times are eerie and chaotic, as the world wages its war with coronavirus. Schools are closing, supermarket shelves are becoming empty, people are stockpiling, toilet roll has become gold, people are now working from home, telecommunication companies are experiencing a surge in internet use, self-isolating and social spacing are now part of our vocabulary, we no longer shake hands and the list goes on.

Everyone keeps asking themselves (as remember we are self-isolating!) What’s happened? What’s happening? When will this all end? No one has the answers, we are in this Hollywood blockbuster on our own, there’s no super hero to save us.

Except one thing is clear, our habits are changing in real time. We are re-prioritising what is important to us…friends, family, communities and neighbourhoods. Our connected on-lines worlds are more important than ever before and as our children stay home not doing the normal things that they should be doing with their friends, we now want them to connect with their friends online, to have some kind of normal in all this turmoil.

If we all stopped for a moment, stood still and took a breadth, we would realise that right now in this chaos, that our Mother Earth is pressing the reset button and the world needs a rebalance.

There are always winners in battles and in this war on coronavirus, I was wondering who are the winners – Toiletry brands? Supermarkets? Pharmaceutical companies? manufactures of toilet roll?! None of these. There is only one winner and that’s the lungs of the planet. With countries like China forced to scale back on its production and the reduction in air travel, data is already showing a reduction in pollution.

In an extraordinary way brands, businesses and organisations are reminding us to be kind right now…we have Pret giving free drinks to our heroes at the frontline, the NHS. LinkedIn, is opening up its learning courses for free and using its platform to share news more broadly, help businesses use live video to replace onsite events, and deal with business continuity. Luxury brand, LVMH Moët Hennessy, the French company behind major brands like Louis Vuitton, Fenty Beauty and Benefit Cosmetics, announced that its factories, which normally manufacture perfume will shift to manufacture hand sanitizer gel and will be delivering the products to French healthcare authorities for free. Gas and electricity suppliers have agreed an emergency package of measures to ensure vulnerable people do not get cut off amid a virus outbreak. Ex-footballers, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs are opening their hotels to NHS workers free of charge. While Chelsea FC will be putting up NHS hospital staff for free in their hotel during this coronavirus crisis.

So, what can we be doing to get through this, amidst the worries of our finances, jobs and homes. That answer is to reconnect with ourselves, breathe, reflect, read, meditate and most of all learn to be kinder to ourselves, and just be kind.

Photo Credit: Main image by FrankundFrei from Pixabay

How To Manage Your Business Comms During Coronavirus

The world is going through very difficult times with the dreaded coronavirus and everyone is in the same boat. It feels like one of those Hollywood action-packed blockbusters, only there’s no hero to save the world right now.

However, during these times of crisis of complexity, brands are rising to these new challenges and are really engaged with consumers. Over the last week consumer brands such as Holland & Barrett; Boots UK; Riverford; Nanuska; Space NK to big global brands such as JCrew have been emailing their customers to reassure them of measures taken in-store to deal with the virus. Their messages have been mindful of others and reflect their company’s values.

This is an extract of what Seb James, MD of Boots UK sent out to the customer mailing list last week:

“For 171 years, Boots has been at the heart of community care, providing support, advice and healthcare to communities across the U.K. Never has this been truer than today, as our colleagues work tirelessly to support you and your families whilst the COVID-19 situation is ongoing.

We are doing everything we can to help our customers and our team to stay healthy and safe; whether that’s through the products we sell, the experience in our stores, or the support we provide to our employees”.

Brands in today’s chaotic world have a key role to play, especially in these new times of dealing with public health challenges. Companies need to imbibe lots of empathy with a balanced tone that is understanding, cautious and optimistic. Trust needs to be reflected along with the ability for everyone to work together and find solutions. This engagement is so much easier with all the multiple social media channels; and apart from engaging externally, internal communications is also crucial to inspire confidence in the brand.

So, what can you be doing right now as a business or brand? Well, there are three simple things you can be doing to manage your business communications during these times:

  1. Understand and know the role your brand plays in people’s lives, how it has changed and how your brand can help or be useful during this crisis. Look for opportunities to do the right thing, where it makes sense for your business. One brand who is doing this is, LVMH Moët Hennessy, the French company behind major brands like Louis Vuitton, Fenty Beauty and Benefit Cosmetics, announced on 15 March that its factories, which normally manufacture perfume will shift to manufacture hand sanitizer gel.

In a statement according to Reuters LVMH said,

“LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands … to produce large quantities of hydroalcoholic gels from Monday.”

The brand said it would be delivering the products to French healthcare authorities for free.

  1. Stay on top of the news and conversation. Everything is changing fast and what was the right message yesterday, might not be appropriate the next day. Recognising this, is the UK government who has decided to step up its external communications and hold daily briefings to keep the public informed.
  2. Understand the needs of your customers. As people are being asked to self-isolate, or stay home, there will be a number of behaviour changes that might impact their needs, as well as how they interact with your business.

Organisations and brands and that includes governments who continue to communicate factually and with empathy at this time, have the chance to resurface from the crisis with deeper consumer, customer and public connection.

 

 

Here Comes Spring

I can’t believe it’s March, I feel as though I have lived the year. Work has been full throttle and it has been exciting.

In January, I started as a visiting lecturer at Coventry University, teaching my book, The PR Knowledge Book to their second year degree students and am really enjoying it. According to The Guardian University Guide 2020, Coventry is ranked as the 15th best university here in the UK, it is the 1st for Overseas Student Experiences, based on student trips abroad from HESA 2017/18 UK data; is 2nd for Teaching Excellence according to the Times Higher Education UK metrics ranking 2017 and was University of the Year for Student Experience 2019, according to The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019.

Wondering what it is like teaching? Well it’s exhausting, as it demands all your attention and yet inspiring at the same time. It is inspiration to be in a room with the potential next generation of publicists. I am also learning, learning about the future and what will drive the next generation forward.

I have also taken on a few short term client projects and podcasts are popular. I have discovered that everyone seems to have a ‘podcast in them.’ Podcasts are popular because they are an easy-to-consume format for both business and personal topics. This year the podcast industry is going to grow even faster with a flurry of advertising activity and technological changes, which is great news for content creators and listeners. A staggering, 80% of people will listen to an entire podcast episode, or most of it, indicating that podcast listeners are very engaged in the content.

I was invited to moderate a panel organised by A Greener Festival for their annual conference. The session was titled, ‘Sustainable Sponsorship, Brands and The PR Greenwash Wobblies!’ and on the panel were Gary Pitt, Alive Activation, UK; Jacqueline Hochreiter, Budweiser Brewing Group; Adam Pearson, O2 and Zac Fox, Kilimanjaro Live.

During the session we lifted the lid on what impacts brands are having, who is pushing boundaries, what is the best practice, and where do we go from here. It was a great conversation where one of the main takeaways for me – was that brands need desperately need innovation in the sustainability space to allow them to keep making the positive changes that they want to for the planet.

And it is this last line that is going to be a recurring theme with my work this year – making the positive changes that they want to for the planet.

 

 

2020 Will Be The Year Of The New Type Of PR Strategist

 

Traditional public relations (PR) has been evolving for the last ten years, but in 2020, I believe we are really going to see traditional PR experts forced to become all round PR strategist if they are going both survive and to be able to service the needs of their clients. Where we will focus not only on PR but social media, branding, marketing, copywriting, diversity in campaigns, sustainability and technology, where technology will be playing a bigger role than previously thought.

This need to become all round PR strategists will be pushed by the brands who recognize that they have to up their game, which in turn will be driven by consumers who will demand that brands do better and get it right. This isn’t something that marketing or digital professionals will be able to deliver on, but instead by communication experts who will have an overview and a real understanding of the brands they are working with and representing.

For instance, we have seen many of the luxury brands starting to drive diversity in 2019 by employing ‘diversity chiefs’ after many culturally insensitive campaigns. Chanel hired its first ‘Head of Diversity and Inclusion’, Fiona Pargeter, this year, as a way to reportedly “beef up the resources” devoted to creating diverse and inclusive environments. While, Prada launched its ‘Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council’ earlier this year in February. This was after, the brand came under scrutiny when some of its products (black monkey figurines with oversized red lips) displayed in a New York, US, store were thought to resemble blackface imagery.

Other luxury fashion houses, including Burberry, are also hiring for similar roles. Renée Tirado was named as Gucci’s first global head of diversity, equity and inclusion and followed its out-of-touch autumn/winter 2018 collection featuring a balaclava polo neck jumper with large red lips – a product accused of portraying blackface. The Italian fashion company apologized, stating it would turn the incident into “a powerful learning moment”.

These hires are not clever publicity moves, but a must have for companies worldwide who recognize that they need to embrace diversity, as there is no longer the excuse to get it wrong. Consumers are demanding better and for brands to be inclusive and sensitive.

Sustainability will be seen as a bigger core brand value and news item than any PR or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professional could have imagined. With climate change, plastic pollution and reducing waste continuing to dominate global headlines, companies will need to ensure that their CSR initiatives are not just used as marketing tools, as they will face a consumer and media backlash, but are instead integral to their core brand values, which is then sincerely filtered through to all their internal and external communications, operations and delivery.

Thirteen years ago, companies would start CSR projects to show their stakeholders how good they were, which was window dressing. Fast-forward to 2019, businesses need to prove how good they are!

This means creating a human connection between a brand and its audiences will be pivotal in 2020. Where the PR strategy will need to be driven by emotion and have the human element in order to be more meaningful and lead to a growing focus on expert, local and enthusiastic micro-influencers, instead of macro-influencers. Everything will be drilled down, as consumers suffer from constant information overload and expect to engage with businesses on their own terms. It’s so important to create campaigns that provoke emotions that are relevant and memorable, and therefore, PR experts will need to consider all aspects of a client’s social and digital footprint.

The best campaigns will focus on creating not just customers – but true fans who are passionate about the brand, who proactively search for information and become active advocates for the business.

Simultaneously, it will be important and a challenge consider how to reach consumers undergoing digital detoxes. How is your brand providing value to an audience overwhelmed by hypo connectivity? As interactive content and video are no longer enough; no one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf solutions. The challenge is real –creating campaigns that tap into human truths and acknowledge human potential will be key.

I am definitely looking forward to 2020…as Serendipity PR is more than ready.

 

 

 

 

 

Festival Live 10-11 May, Brighton, UK

I am looking forward to being at Festival Live this year on 10 and 11 May in Brighton, and participating on this panel, entitled – ‘Brands & Music Debate – with the world of live events continuously growing in popularity for fans, headliners & brands, what opportunities lie on the horizon? This session is at 12pm to 1pm on the 10th. 

Festival Live is a leading international B2B summit dedicated to the latest festival technologies and live event services. It attracts industry leaders and experts from around the world to reveal the latest technologies, innovations, case studies and updates from the best music festivals and live events on the planet.

The two-day event brings together the industry partners within the Music Festival and Live Events industry, where attendees and sectors include…Festival Organisers; Major and Indie Record Labels; Tour Managers; Artist Managers; Live Acts; Staging and more.

The entire event is sponsored by Discogs, which is the third largest online music website after YouTube and Spotify and the biggest seller of vinyl in the world.

If you are at Festival Live come and say hello! Here’s a  link to the event: https://www.fest.live/

Last Month’s India Britain Trade Expo, Makes The News

Last month’s India Britain Trade Expo that took place at the Queen Elizabeth Centre was a hub of conversations, exchange of ideas and strong connections; and we were delighted to receive this coverage the next day in Asian Voice newspaper featured here. The bottom line from the Expo is that India is an important trading partner for the UK and there’s a lot of opportunities to explore. Businesses here and in India are ready to trade!

We were pleased to have not just our Deputy Mayor, Rajesh Agrawal at the event, but also Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and one of the most influential women in politics right now.

The ‘women in business’ session that I moderated with four other women – Penny Power, OBE; Kamel Hothi, OBE, Dr. Priya Virmani; and Shanu Hindhuja was powerful. Each of the panellists spoke about their own journey and experience. They were all exceptional storytellers, which is why this session was so powerful. Stories have the power to engage us, connect with us and inspire us. There is nothing like a good story.

One of the main points that all the panelists agreed upon and spoke about in detail – is that men are integral to the conversations to end gender inequality — and to do that we need everyone to be involved. This is the same premise of the “HeForShe” campaign launched by the United Nations in 2014 by the actress Emma Watson, who said at the time, “We want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality. And we don’t just want to talk about it, but make sure it is tangible.”

Image Credit: Asian Voice, Newspaper

It’s No Longer Possible For Brands Not To Be Diverse In Their Advertising Campaigns

I was recently invited by a high-end luxury online shopping brand for women to give feedback on its new online advertising campaign. First-off, I had not even noticed it’s new campaign and I suppose that was in itself telling, because it had not been memorable for me. However, when I did carefully consider it, I realised why it had not hit home…and that’s because it was not relatable and it didn’t connect with me. The advert looked out of touch and dated in the context of today’s conversations and I gave this feedback to the ‘enquiring luxury online shopping brand.’ But I also wondered how they could get it so wrong?!

Research shows that female consumers are calling time on airbrushing and have ‘perfection fatigue’, which has significant implications for brands. Therefore, it is no longer possible for brands not to be diverse in their advertising campaigns, and when I say ‘diverse’ I mean diversity in the age of models, race and reflective in body-types. While thin and prepubescent bodies are still the preferred choice for the runway and print media world, social media is giving a platform for celebrating more diverse body shapes. The #bodypositivity movement is empowering women to push against narrow and unattainable beauty standards and instead celebrate their differences and their imperfections.

Again, traditional magazines and other forms of advertising have always heavily featured white models largely from western European backgrounds. This lack of diversity has meant poor representation of other ethnicities. Yet, the explosion of social media has been incredibly positive for making beauty more accessible and inclusive.

Importantly, social media is no longer the natural habitat for millennials, as older women are using the medium to smash one of the most ingrained prejudices in fashion and beauty –  age. With styling, skincare and beauty tutorials aimed at older women, they’ve celebrated and empowered this demographic. Furthermore, they’ve also vanquished the myth that fashion and beauty is limited to youth.

As a result, brands casting only young, thin, white, flawless models no longer feel relevant in the modern age. But crucially advertising campaigns are also very much about the story that a brand is trying to relay to its audience and is connected to the brand values of the company, so any kind ‘tokenism’ will immediately be apparent. It’s important for brands to not stop at advertising, but instead embrace realness and transparency in their values.

It is also important for those of us working in media and communications to keep pulling up those brands that are falling short. The needle is shifting. Diversity and inclusion should not stand as buzzwords; but treated as a reflection point where brand managers and content creators strive for approaches that avoid reductive stereotypes and unintentional continuation of classism, racism and sexism.

 

Working With LID Publishing

It’s September and it’s back to school and back to writing…it has been a busy, happy summer of juggling school holidays and work. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t exhausting, but it has been fun to include my 10-year-old in my business life and that I also have great flexible clients. This leads me on to say that I have been working on some great and interesting book campaigns for LID Publishing, the fifth largest publishing house for business books in Europe.

One of my favourite campaigns has been the Chinese Entrepreneur Series, which are five books: Jack Ma & AlibabaMa Huateng & TencentWang Jianlin & Dalian Wanda; Dong Mingzhu & Gree; and Ren Zhengfei & Huawei. Many of China’s successful entrepreneurs have become huge celebrities not just on China’s mainland but globally, attracting a legion of fans. Their appeal is not just down to their charisma, huge personal wealth, but has a lot to do with being stylish, confident business leaders who have inspired China’s growing aspirational middle classes.

The authors of these books are leading business writers in China, who all had direct access to these influential businessmen and their businesses.

This LID’s China’s Entrepreneurs Series is the result of a unique Chinese-Anglo collaboration between China Translation & Publishing House, a member of the China Publishing Group Corporation, one of China’s largest publishing companies. Further titles in the series are planned, to make it the most expansive international series about Chinese entrepreneurs.

I love working with LID, as their books are all good reads and never boring; and as a company they are always doing something different. If you love business books, then check out their new book club!

Photo Credit: LID Publishing

That Cheeky Question: Can I Pick Your Brains?!

I wrote about this, two years ago now, but felt I needed to revisit it again, as it is one that always creeps in under our business boundaries. While I am a firm believer in paying it forward, helping others and I enjoy giving advice, I write articles, tweet, Facebook and share daily – why is it that someone would think it’s okay to ask if they can ‘pick my brains?’

I often find that these ‘cheeky asks’ are from others who are gathering as much free intelligence and knowledge without wanting to pay. You can’t come to a professional and ask them to work for free; but that’s exactly what you’re doing when you ask to pick someone’s brain.

Why would someone think, I would want to give away my knowledge for free? When there’s training, reading, costs of memberships so I can network, attending conferences and mastering my skills – all this costs me money; and like any other business I want to protect my investment.

It makes no business sense for me to give away all the knowledge that I have acquired and use to make my living. I charge my paying clients very good money for my expertise and results.

I know this is a topic that many in business are also up against, as when I first posted on this subject a few years ago, many responded and commented saying that they too were fed up of people asking them the same – ‘can I pick your brains?’.

So, for all of us out there – our knowledge has value. We have invested time and money into learning our skill, we are experts and it’s not good business for us to give it away for free. Be strong and say politely no.

Photo Credit: NO MORE and Mariska Hargitay 20623 | by tedeytan

Quick Tips To Fire Up Your Instagram

 

It’s All About The Hashtag – Using them in your posts is a must if you want more people to see your visuals. They enable others to find you, even if they’ve never heard of your brand before and you will be able to reach a larger audience, increase content exposure and open doors for new connections to be made.

Two cool apps to use to help find which hashtags are trending in your niche are – Hashtags.com and Hashtagify.me. Through these apps, you can discover the highest rated hashtags, how many posts are currently using them and see examples of how they’re being applied.

Look at the hashtags your influencers’ and competitors are including in their posts. Find out what’s working by viewing the level of engagement they’re generating.

Instagram Stories – Is one of the platform’s newer features, where brands are now able to ‘go live’ to get their message out using video on the platform. A recent study revealed that people will watch live videos longer than one that has been prerecorded. These personalised expressions can create memorable experiences that will help separate your brand from competitors. Try to be the first to report breaking or trending news by broadcasting it live on Stories.

– Know when to post your content, because by posting your images at the right time, it will help boost engagement with your followers. Hootsuite recommends posting on Instagram between 12pm-1pm, Monday-Friday. Instagram has its own business analytics tools to provide insight into when your followers are most active online.