How the other half live – offline

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As connectivity becomes more widespread and increasingly faster, many of us are clamouring to secure mobile phone or tablet tariffs which include endless data bundles. Habitually we find ourselves complaining if we stumble in to an area lacking in 4G, or are forced to use a venue which doesn’t offer high speed Wi-Fi.  68 percent of US adults don’t go an hour without checking their smart phones, while 75 percent of millennials are disconnected for only an hour per day.

In highly connected environments advertisers use connectivity to their advantage: displaying a short video clip or image keeps a viewer’s attention; a URL invites the audience to click for further information; buttons for sharing content are featured to ensure content is shared socially with other audience members. All of this activity is intended to encourage the audience to interact with, become more aware of, or purchase from the advertiser’s brand.

Do any of us ever stop and think about the real cost of each megabyte, outside of our inclusive bundles? Probably not… unless you’ve gone over your data allowance for the month, or you’re travelling abroad, at which point you realise how badly you rely on data day to day, and how difficult life becomes when you’re disconnected or rely solely on Wi-Fi.  

Only ten years ago we were largely unconnected, most of the time. We had mobile phones but they weren’t ‘smart’. Our desktop connections were wired. Facebook wasn’t yet an open system. Now, nearly half of the global population is online, with almost a third on social media.

What is life like for the other half of the population, who remain offline?

As well as the debate about the positive or negative social impact of being so connected, of which there are already many articles written, another difference between online and offline cultures is the influence advertisers hold. Brands and online platforms aren’t having the same impact (especially in the same way) in offline environments, and aren’t making as much money as they would like. They are not able to utilise the same practices which are working so well online.

Some are adapting to the different environments, for example Twitter’s acquisition of ZipDial – a mobile phone marketing start up. The popular South Asian practice of ‘missed calls’ is used by marketers to connect with people who are much less likely to visit a website – due to high costs and limited connectivity. By sharing a unique phone number (as opposed to a URL) on print or TV advertising, the call to action is to call the number but hang up before connecting, meaning the ‘enquiry’ is free of charge. The brand can then send out relevant information at no cost to the enquirer.

What are the barriers to connectivity?

The ‘missed call’ solution doesn’t seem to be sufficient for Mark Zuckerberg. The biggest barrier to online brands reaching people in third world countries may come as a surprise to many; it isn’t a lack of infrastructure which is the main hurdle, instead it is the cost of data. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has announced he is going to bring free internet connection to countries who are currently offline through the internet.org project, which will pave the way for online brands and online platforms to reach the half of the population who are currently (perhaps blissfully) unaware of the extent of marketing they are potentially about to become subjected to.

We look forward to seeing the extent to which Mark Zuckerberg’s initiative changes global connectivity, and the resulting changes to the way we communicate with each other and are marketed to.

Battle of the Marketing mix hierarchy

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public relations noun

1.   the practice of creating, promoting, or
maintaining goodwill and a favourable image among the public towards an
institution, public body, etc.

marketing noun

1.   the provision of goods or services to meet
customer or consumer needs

Someone
recently said to us “Justin Bieber has a great PR strategy”.  As communications professionals this really jarred us and not just because we’re not Beliebers: a) based on this we have to question
people’s understanding of what PR is and b) we question how any of the situations
that the pop artist (loosely speaking) has been in are based on a public
relations strategy as we know it. Crisis management is key for celebrities
prone to saying the wrong thing but advising Justin Bieber to apologise for
breaking the law isn’t “PR strategy”; it’s common sense and damage limitation.

It isn’t
just PR which has varying forms of definition; the terms PR, marketing and
social media are all bandied around, with one being mistaken to mean the other,
and more frequently being used in the same sentence to mean the same thing – a
total blurring of lines. This was bound to be the case with the rise of digital
PR (combining traditional online PR with content marketing, social media and
search) and new marketing platforms and social media apps popping up every day.

Of course when
analysing this evolution of the PR and marketing disciplines we must take into
account that it is largely driven by the general public’s changing behaviours.
There is an increasing trend for consumers to use social media to find
information (trusting reviews from friends more than an article in a newspaper)
and, thanks to social media, it is increasingly difficult to control a brand’s
message. But where does social media fit into the marketing mix, is it via paid
channels or earned media?

Prudential Financial CCO Bob DeFillippo, now
retired, once said:
“Reputations
are not built through advertising campaigns”. We need to ensure that
opportunities aren’t missed that can only be obtained through earned media – in
explicit terms we can’t solely rely on paid for platforms to disseminate our
messages.  To reach our target audience
we must use our earned media in combination with our paid for platforms and
owned channels; it is still a fact that customers will believe and trust
something they perceive to be editorial far more than an advertisement.  

At
Conscious Communications we take an holistic approach to the marketing mix
formula; we use market knowledge and audience insight to define the most
effective mix of digital and traditional public relations, social media,
digital and traditional marketing and advertising within each client programme,
for influencing perceptions, behaviour, purchasing and consumption patterns.  As strong communicators we are committed to questioning
and challenging what is happening in our industry and how it affects our
clients in order to deliver the most effective balance of PR and marketing.

Your reputation – why it’s important

There is no
doubt that if your company has a strong reputation, you will attract better
people to work for you, your customers will be more trusting and loyal, and you
will be able to charge more for your products and services.  The bottom line is that reputation equates to
‘value’ in the market and can give your company a tangible edge over the
competition.

We have all
seen in recent years how corporate reputations can be shattered and the
subsequent damage to the underlying business – your company may not be a major
corporation but your reputation is still very precious and you fail to protect
it at your peril.

Your
reputation relies on the perceptions of your customers and other stakeholders,
including suppliers, business partners and employees.  In protecting this reputation it is important
to ensure that the reality of your business continues to match these
perceptions as it grows.  It is also
important to understand that as the world around us changes, the views and
demands of our stakeholders will also evolve, and that what your company offers
needs to change too to meet new demands.
A gap between perceptions and reality will lead to disgruntled
stakeholders and a damaged reputation.  

The best approach to reputation management is,
of course, to ensure there’s nothing negative to say and that no one is saying
it – this can be easier said than done.
A good reputation must be earned and once established needs constant
attention.

What
best to do?  Here are our top tips for
building and managing your reputation
:

1.    
Company
mission and values
:
A strong reputation starts with a clear mission and set of values which the
whole company buys into and lives by.  If
you can demonstrate a set of clearly articulated values and know that your
company’s behaviour mirrors these, then you’re well on the way. The things that
will impact your company’s reputation span right across the organisation, from
the way that you answer your phones to external callers, to your credit control
systems, the look and feel of your office, the way that you treat your suppliers.

2.    
Products and services: Your company’s reputation depends on the
quality and consistency of what you offer your customers.  If this isn’t right, no amount of marketing
spend will make your business grow.

3.    
People: Every single person within your business needs to feel responsible for
protecting its reputation.  To achieve
this, all employees need to understand and feel part of the mission and values,
and of the company’s growth and success. Put a thorough induction plan in place
for new staff and implement a training and internal communications programme to
keep everyone engaged.

4.    
Manage and learn from mistakes: Things can and do go wrong – we are only
human and most of us employ other humans to help us build our businesses.  So it’s important to monitor and predict
where weaknesses may be and have plans in place to deal with them quickly and
effectively.

5.    
Communicate: Building strong relationships with your customers is very
important for lots of reasons, some less obvious than others.  When your reputation is in question, loyal
customers can provide an important ‘balance’ to any negative noise around your
company.  Also, customers who are engaged
with you and your company are more likely to let you know in a ‘helpful way’
when things are not as they would hope; less engaged customers will be more
inclined to shame you using public digital channels.

6.    
Divide personal from professional: Keep personal matters private and well away
from social media to help protect the reputation of your business.  A social media policy will help to guide your
employees and ensure they understand what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour –
it is advisable to include this within your core employment contracts.

7.    
Get social: Your social media strategy should help you to monitor the
views and opinions of your customers, while also instigating and engaging in conversations
with them.  Learn a lesson from the big
brands which are now using social media channels for their front line customer
service – a prompt response to complaints and questions on social media can
turn a potentially damaging situation into a customer service success story.

8.    
Take responsibility: Now more than ever, customers, suppliers and
other stakeholders will expect your business to deliver more than just
profit.  They will be looking for
evidence of how your business is maximising its positive impact on the communities
in which it operates and minimising its negative impact on the
environment.  So, develop a corporate
social responsibility plan and make sure your stakeholders are aware of it.

9.    
Media training: Make sure spokespeople have had relevant
media training and are able to manage media interviews if the company’s
reputation is questioned.  It is vital in
times of crisis that you are not seen to be ‘hiding’ from the issues; you need
to present a concerned, reassuring and professional face for the business.  Stick firmly to the facts and do not try to cover
up truths – your customers deserve your honesty and will respect you for it.

Break through the noise

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The digital marketing landscape is more crowded than ever before; it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd – and most importantly your competitors. 69 percent of marketers are creating more content in 2015 than last year and are using an average of seven social media platforms for marketing purposes.

To increase audience engagement you need to create compelling, meaningful and timely content. Here are our top 10 tips on how to break through the noise:

1.     Understand your brand position and audience – this is easier to get a handle on for B2C businesses but is equally important for B2B companies. Try creating audience personas for target customer groups – this can help you identify content topics that are engaging for users.

2.     Always put your reader first – it’s easy to post content that you are interested in but what about your readers? The only way to attract potential leads is to think of your audience’s interests first.

3.     Be unique – no one wants to read regurgitated content.

4.     Be selective – avoid publishing the same content but with a different title. Do not post content for the sake of it, make sure you always have something interesting to say, otherwise don’t say anything at all.

5.     Avoid over publishing – once you have mastered selecting golden nuggets of content, make sure you give your posts time to breathe, or your audience may miss them.

6.     Keep it simple – it’s tempting to attempt perfection when creating content but a good rule of thumb is: don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. Content that is relevant, timely, unique and important has the most chance of creating an impact on your readers.

7.     Be the first – say it before it’s been said.

8.     Try to make your audience smile – balance your content with a mixture of light hearted and informative posts.

9.     Be creative – when developing your content be original, think about unique layouts and styles of posts. Be imaginative and create your own infographic or make a word cloud. There are some great free tools out there to use. Our personal favourites are canva.com and piktochart.com.

And finally…

10.  Don’t forget to put the word SOCIAL into social media – always remember you are trying to engage your audience in conversation.

Our copywriting team develops marketing strategies that utilise original, curated and repurposed content to conscientiously promote its clients as thought leaders, while building engagement with their business and consumer audiences, stakeholders and influencers, via traditional media, digital and social media, blogs, websites. To find out more get in touch via info@consciouscomms.com.

This month at Conscious Communications

Here’s
a taste of what our team has been up to …

Accolade

The second issue of Accolade,
the termly magazine for St Mary’s School, Cambridge, has been put to bed.  This issue focuses on all things Performing
Arts.  Working closely with the design and
school teams, we have successfully initiated a change in direction for this
school magazine

Brains Eden

Brains
Eden Gaming Festival is an epic celebration of young games creators and the
world-leading games studios, including Jagex, based in Cambridgeshire – this
year Conscious Communications will be managing the event and looking after the
media relations in the lead up to and during this famous four-day extravaganza!
The team is excited to be part of it – and is especially looking forward to the
Games Jam, in which over 150 games course students will take part.

LodeStar Festival

Conscious
Communications is LodeStar Festival’s marketing partner for 2015.  The team has hit the ground running building
awareness and raising the profile of the festival to attract corporate
involvement.  Opportunities for companies
to get involved include sponsorship, team building away days and more! Call us
if you’re interested!

Spring Fair

We
have been out and about this month – Zoë went off to Country Living Magazine’s
Spring Fair in London to have a sneak preview of the new homes and interiors;
food; garden and crafts products on offer.
She also met this little fella!

Education Show

The Education
Show is the UK’s leading training and resources event; education professionals
come together to discuss policy and best practice with their peers. The
Conscious Communications’ team is passionate about education and Alison went
along to the NEC in Birmingham to meet and network with the key players.

The science of e-marketing

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For marketing activity to bring return on investment, your efforts must be unified across a number of different channels. People talk about how many ‘touch points’ it takes for people to be promoted from window shopper to a buyer, supporter, or ambassador of your brand. It used to be thought of as seven points of contact that were required to take place prior to a sale, but as we all now get more promotional messages each day (thanks to the arrival of online connectivity), it is thought to take many more ‘touch points’ to close a deal. So, the more DIFFERENT channels you use to communicate your message to your audience, the more touch points and the more likely the desired transaction will take place.

E-marketing, as part of a coherent communications plan, is one of the simpler and more cost effective ways to communicate with your audience.

Top e-marketing tips:

It’s all about who you know…

Your own list of email addresses is your e-marketing treasure – look after it! It is essential to keep contact lists clean:

–          At the very least this means having efficient systems in place to remove contacts who wish to unsubscribe – an automatic unsubscribe process is best (mismanagement of unsubscribe requests can leave businesses in hot water with data protection laws). Are you offering the option to unsubscribe? You need to be.

–          At best, you will want to be able to automatically segment contacts according to their preferences, buying history, or demographic information. Give people the option to tell you their interests on the sign up page, or by contacting them and asking them to update their preferences.

–          It is almost impossible to maintain contact lists efficiently without using an email marketing platform, such as Mail Chimp, or an off the shelf product for your business – which will ensure unsubscribed email addresses are not re-contacted or re-uploaded to your list, and manage the different segments.

The body of work…

The subject line – is it attention grabbing, or does it look like spam? Have you included an exclusive offer for subscribers, or are you revealing a new dish/technology/team member etc.? Make sure the message is something worth sending!

Use inspirational or emotive images and videos, and link through to relevant content online that will be of interest to your audience. Don’t tirelessly promote your wares – be interesting too, with industry news or local events. Brand every email with your corporate colours/fonts/logo in order to build on the impression the reader may have gleaned, or may be about to glean, from your other marketing materials.

Don’t overdo it…

Nobody likes spam. Try to avoid appearing like spam. Spam’s bad.

Whether you have enough info to send a weekly email (as some fashion brands may do, for example), or whether you’re better off sending one monthly roundup of news/offers, or even a quarterly newsletter – plan how often you are going to be emailing people and let them know. Plan your messages in advance, inform your subscribers that you’ll be emailing them and the frequency so they can start to look forward to the email from you and look out for it in their inbox.

You’ve got to analyse to galvanise…

If you do use an email platform, like Mail Chimp, you should be utilising the free reporting tools. Check out the open rate, the click through rate, take a look at which links are most popular, and potentially track revenue which is a direct result of your email campaign. Based on this information you can assess what content is the most popular, which subject lines lead to highest open rates, what content has led to more unsubscribes than normal. Perform for your audience – give them what they love!

The final word…

Use your other touch points to encourage e-marketing sign-ups: share the link on your social media accounts; have a pop up subscription prompt on the home page of your website; when you come in to contact with your audience in person, provide a special offer or prize-draw for signing up to your e-marketing offering. Furthermore, use your e-marketing to push people towards your social media accounts, or to visit you in person by offering a promotion/special event.

Investors in People finalists

We are extremely
proud to announce that we have been shortlisted as finalists for the Best
Newcomer Award (0-49 employees) in the Investors in People International Awards
2015. Chosen from 400 entries from across the world, we have been selected as
one of the final six in our category and are the only company in our category
shortlisted from East Anglia.

As a finalist,
Investors in People has recognised that as a business, Conscious Communications
shows an incredible passion, dedication and unswerving commitment to investing
in our workforce. We have a clear understanding of what we want to achieve!

This latest achievement
follows our Investors in People Bronze accreditation in November, which made Conscious
Communications the only public relations and marketing consultancy in Cambridge
with the accolade.

The Investors in
People International Awards ceremony takes place on 24 June – keep your fingers
crossed for us!

We’re liking…Augmented Reality

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We are witnessing huge innovations within the digital world. First of all we were in awe of 3-D
printing and now we turn our attention to augmented reality (AR) which is only
now becoming mainstream, despite the term having been around for decades. We
can wave goodbye to 80s-style virtual reality goggles, and can now enter a 3-D
world through the use of our mobile devices – truly magical.

Software developer, Aurasma, has created
an opportunity to enter an augmented world where every image, object and place
has its own Aura, changing the way you see and interact with the world. Check
out Aurasma and watch some of its most engaging projects here.

Our favourite AR campaign to date
is for The Times Magazine – download the Aurasma app and watch it here. By
downloading the app and scanning the cover, readers gain exclusive access to comedian
Graham Norton and his pet dog – genius!

What is most exciting about this
piece of software is how it can completely transform the way we engage with
potential customers on mobile devices. AR provides a richer user experience;
increases the perceived value of products and brands; and conveys innovation
from forward-thinking brands.

Most of all, AR injects playfulness
and fun into everyday products –  M&S
used Auras to bring its new summer collection to life last year – customers
were able to search for the perfect outfit, to share their Auras via social
media, view the range and, of course, buy what they saw.

We are just scratching the
surface of AR’s potential and we are sure it will continue to evolve – make
sure you take advantage of the excitement and creativity it can bring to your digital
public relations and marketing campaigns.

Get the Aurasma app on Google
Play
or the App Store
and create your own Aura!

Investors in People Accolade

Our company recently became the only public relations and marketing consultancy in Cambridge to be awarded Investors in People Bronze – the UK’s leading accreditation for business improvement through people management in the UK.   We wanted to aim high and go for the Bronze award, instead of just the core accreditation, and we’re very proud with what we’ve achieved.   

Investors in People (IIP) describes the award as ‘demonstrating a commitment to employees and representing a solid foundation of good practice in a socially responsible organisation’.

At Conscious Communications we always strive to put our people first.  We understand the importance of employee development in continuing to provide excellent results for our clients – our IIP assessor, Caroline Wormleighton, said: “Their key strengths are within their strong ethos of ethics and transparency, together with their inclusive and developmental working culture which result in a highly motivated, involved and empowered workforce.

“During the assessment process, the evidence showed that people are a valued asset to the business, a culture of involvement, trust and openness is felt throughout the organisation.”

Employees are a fundamental resource for any organisation, the way they are treated and how much they value the individuals they work with impacts their performance and, in turn, the performance of the business.

There is a mass of evidence to support this theory.  One study, led by Andrew Oswald from Warwick University and a team of economists, suggests clear links between workers’ happiness and their productivity, finding that happy workers are 12 percent more productive than unhappy workers.

There are a number of ways an organisation can ensure employees feel valued, respected and engaged in their roles, and a strong management team is an essential part of the mix.  Good managers will lead by example and can make or break a company.

Our IIP assessment report noted that our “managers are inspirational role models and take advantage of management development opportunities and programmes available to them to improve the way they lead, manage, and develop.”

Good managers will also be adept at devolving responsibility, ensuring that individuals feel challenged and stimulated.  And, with this responsibility comes a sense of pride and ownership which reflects in the success of our company – as this year’s Waitrose Christmas gingerbread stall advert says: everyone who works at Waitrose owns Waitrose so they care.

In our IIP report the assessor said: “People are very quickly encouraged to take ownership and responsibility, developing their knowledge with hands-on experience and projects.”

Individuals also need to feel that their personal goals are being met alongside the company’s and by devising a career plan for each member of our team we have established our commitment to their advancement.

Each member of our team has an annual training budget and a training log to complete which helps keep note of courses and workshops they have completed throughout the year.

Everyone also has two paid days each year to volunteer with a charity of their choice which provides them with an opportunity for personal development outside of their day to day work routine.

This is just a snap-shot of what we’ve achieved inside our business in two-and-a-bit short years and we see evidence every day of how our internal culture is reflected in the quality of our work and the results we achieve for our clients.

Of our IIP achievement, Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said: “Achieving the Investors in People Bronze standard is something that a business, as young as Conscious Communications, should be truly proud of. It is the sign of an organisation which is truly committed to good people management practice and we’d like to congratulate the company on its achievement.”

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