CRISIS COMMS JUST TOOK A SPIN IN A NEW DIRECTION

Public relations gets a bad rap a lot of the time, especially when handling a crisis situation – the word spin is often used when a PR steps into the eye of the storm.

Having handled crisis communications for well over a decade now, from court cases to natural disasters, never could I have predicted such a seismic shift in how to handle a crisis as Covid-19.

The world has changed radically in this storm – and finally crisis comms has come round to my way of thinking – transparency is key. The key rules of crisis PR are planning – ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ as they say.

But when we were all sat in our offices at the start of 2020, not many of us were planning for something like this. Covid-19 has affected so many lives around the world, and the economic impact has been and will continue to be massive. As the pandemic has made its way around the world at pace, businesses were also faced with a tsunami of issues  – and the public wanted answers.

When will you close to protect lives? When will you reopen? How are you protecting your staff? Why can’t I buy your goods? How are you self-distancing? Why is my delivery late?

Everyone’s a critic

Social media has made everyone a critic, and before facts are checked, minds are made up in seconds. None of that is really new, but here are my observations of how crisis communications have had to adapt and will likely change the way businesses have to communicate for good.

1- There is no agenda – other than the main agenda. There is only one thing that matters when communicating right now – saving lives. Nobody cares about any other agenda – so you shouldn’t have one.

2- The walls have come down. Many businesses that aren’t used to press attention feel an inbound enquiry is some kind of attack, or at best a trick – and social media criticism is viewed with contempt. I spend a lot of time explaining to business owners that tackling criticism head on requires absolute transparency and speed; we live in a world where nothing else is tolerated now. Be open, be timely and be yourself. If you have to hold your hands up and say you don’t know how you’ll cope but you are trying – that’s ok just now. We are all in the same boat of uncertainty. With an honest approach people understand that you are facing something you’ve never faced before, so if you are being deliberately opaque, evasive or are actually not doing the right thing you will be remembered for it long after this pandemic.

3- Facts matter. I’ve always diffused a situation by simply sticking to the facts. Under attack by an angry customer – what are the facts? A disaster is unfolding by the minute – what are the facts right now? The Number 10 Daily Briefing plays this card – they show the scientific facts first and foremost. Any announcements are often numbered – for example ‘here are the 5 steps to recovery’ or the ‘3 ways we will help businesses’ today. Facts and numbers matter – they should provide clarity and stop us straying into assumptions or confusion.

4- Front and centre. Every business leader should be media trained – that’s what they say. My belief is that every business should show leadership – you don’t need trained how to swerve questions or stop fiddling with your tie – you need empowered people ready to speak openly and honestly with the public. Front and centre – that’s where your leadership team should be in a crisis. Right up there speaking to their staff, their customers and the press. If that comes in the form of a written statement or video, so be it. As long as it comes from you, is direct and honest, and is communicated well before rumours start to breed.

5- Every negative needs a positive. As any crisis concludes I also ask – what are you doing to put things right in the future? At the moment sometimes it’s hard to see past the unfolding chaos to think about something positive from the situation, but many businesses are doing the right thing, right now. For example: Despite having to close all their hotels – they kept rooms open for NHS workers. Despite all shops closing and staff furloughed, they made deliveries in the community where they could. Despite not being able to manufacture – they’ve made PPE. This pandemic has brought communities closer together, and businesses large and small have put aside their normal lives and done some good. This shift in how we communicate shouldn’t always have to come out of a crisis, and one positive of the Covid-19 pandemic must surely be that in the future it won’t.

 

Kari, MD

REACHING THE ‘AT HOME’ CONSUMER

With real life events being cancelled, the Flymo team and O threw our carefully laid plans out the window this year and went back to the drawing board on how to inspire children and families to get out and enjoy their outdoor space.

The end result was an incredibly successful collaboration with influencer Skinny Jean Gardener, for a digital activation which reached just under a million families across the UK. Over the Easter holidays, Skinny Jean Gardener took over Flymo’s Facebook page every morning to encourage families to get gardening while socially distancing, resulting in over 60,000 families tuning in every day to watch the show.

From top tips on how to make gardening fun for families, games and top tips for growing your own, the content kept families coming back for more each day and increased engagement on their social media channels dramatically. The O team worked closely with Flymo to understand the problems that the brand was facing during these strange times and align with the overall business strategy for handling the crisis. Flymo was keen to keep brand awareness high with one of their core markets, families, as well as share positive, helpful and engaging content that their consumers would love.

Working with influencers

Working with influencers successfully isn’t always about picking the person with the highest following online, it’s about choosing the right person at the right time and keeping your target audience at the front of mind at all time. Influencers can be anyone, from celebrities to your next-door neighbour. And influencers with smaller communities are proving more influential than their celebrity counterparts with 54% of consumers believing that the smaller the community, the greater the influence. All in all: bloggers, even the smaller community ones, are influential.

Skinny Jean Gardener fits the Flymo brand perfectly, down to earth, fun and likeable, he makes getting out in the garden an activity to do together as a family, not a chore that has to be conquered before you can enjoy your space.

Flymo is no stranger to pushing the boundaries when it comes to influencer activity. From launching the #FirstCutSunday campaign each year through bloggers and influencers to encourage millennials to get out and  get mowing, to getting product into the hands of celebrities that their target market love, including Joe Wicks.

So why has this strategy been so successful for the brand recently?

While the UK is in the midst of an unprecedented national crisis, we have seen huge spikes in online and social media consumption as people stay behind closed doors. Research by Global Web Index found that we are seeing substantial increases in people checking social media across all ages; 27% among Gen Z and 30% among Millennials, Flymo’s two key markets in the UK.

Influencers doesn’t just mean bloggers. Stars of Instagram, Facebook and more recently Tik Tok draw in huge audiences, and if you can’t physically get your product into the hands of your potential customers, this is the next best thing. If you currently have stock to sell or want to continue to be front of mind and build a connection with your audience, getting your product into the hands of influencers during this period can be extremely powerful, but only if it is handled sensitively, strategically and with expertise. Our message had to be relevant, community-minded and ultimately useful, hard sells are not going to resonate and could be considered insensitive as thousands of people across the UK struggle to make ends meet. As consumer spending habits change, influencers like Skinny Jean Gardener are uniquely placed to provide useful content including great recipes to cook at home, fashion tips for home working, how to entertain the kids, staying fit indoors and healthy or make-up and hair tips if you can’t get to the salon.

Emotion plays a strong role when it comes to choosing a brand

Emotion plays a strong role in the decision-making process, especially if we are feeling confused or scared in other areas of our life – your customers have warm, friendly feelings towards the people they follow online. The lines are blurring between who is a friend and who isn’t. It’s clear that a brand is only as good as the consumer’s mental representation of it. If this representation is only made up of certain attributes like features and pricing, the consumer doesn’t have any emotional connection with the brand that will influence their preference and action. Positive emotional content in the mental representation will not only encourage sales, but also drive loyalty. Basically – we like things that make us feel safe and happy, especially now.

But ultimately your strategy needs to result in sales right? Well here’s the thing, Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than other media and more than 55% of over 45’s trust a review on a personal blog and 92% of customers trust earned media over all other forms of advertising. Not only that, 61% of people have made a purchase based on a recommendation from a blogger and user generated content is 35% more memorable than other types of media. Working with bloggers and influencers is an effective way of building your brand credibility and speaking to your potential customers in an authentic way, and they have their audience’s attention now more than ever.

As we all look for ways to cope with self-isolation and social distancing, we are seeing more than ever people looking for ways to simulate real human contact, exactly where social media and influencers come into their own. We have to remember that influencers are also in the  same situation as us and with more time on their hands they are certainly not going to stop producing content  any time soon, the trick is to harness their increased  visibility and use it to form real human connections with your customers, they won’t forget it.

Digital Transformation – using technology to solve problems

Over the last decade, ‘Digital Transformation’ has been on the agenda for almost every business. This year, the world went digital almost overnight.

Today’s article is from our Homegrown Magazine, Lockdown Edition, where we share insight for future communications and celebrate the home-grown businesses from the North continuing to do great things. For your copy please email kirsty@opr.co.uk

Transformation

We have all been forced to change almost every habit and routine, switch every face-to-face meeting to a video call and even communicate with our teams and our loved ones virtually. For every business and every person the change is having different levels of impact, but one thing is sure, we’re all still finding our way and getting used to a new ‘normal’.

In the UK only 17% of the thousands of businesses surveyed felt their business was fully ready for remote working or to offer their services and products digitally. Of those businesses who were able to operate remotely, 79% felt their team’s productivity would drop and that they did not have the right systems in place to be able to communicate effectively.

But despite the disruption, businesses are adapting quickly, and in the UK we have some real positives to take from lockdown. People are innovating, and finding new ways to engage with their customers, some are developing new websites and apps in super-fast time, others improving their online systems, most getting their online experience right in weeks when it’s been on the ‘to do’ list for years. As a nation we are ‘doing good’ – in the UK, businesses are using their strong digital presence to raise thousands for local communities, charities and to support key workers. They are sharing positive news stories and sending digital love around the world.

So what now?

Online engagement is up 82%, online search and traffic numbers are off the charts and every generation is trying new technology online. We’re spending longer researching, trust is higher than ever before and, what’s more, consumers are enjoying online experiences and sharing them far and wide. 73% of consumers who had tried online shopping for the first time, said they would continue, even after lockdown was over and more than 69% of users felt more confident to seek financial or legal consultancy online and to share personal details.

However, all this extra time to research and explore online, is leading to heightened demands. The number of online reviews and customers dropping off slow, poorly-optimised sites before they make a purchase are at an all-time high. So how do businesses take this opportunity to engage with their customers and continue their digital transformation?

There are a lot of definitions for ‘Digital Transformation’, but the most consistent and widely used is:

“Digital Transformation is the use of new, fast and frequently changing digital technology to solve problems.”

For every business technology should be different: there is no one-size-fits-all approach and technology should be used to solve your problems as a business, to solve problems for your people and to meet the needs of your customers. Do your systems need to be more efficient, do your current systems lack security, is there a risk of breach, do you need better internal communication systems or new ways to process orders online? The list of potential problems that need to be solved is endless.

For your customers, solving their problems should always be top of your agenda, but now it’s even more important to do this well, and you may find that they have a whole new set of issues or needs as we navigate life post lockdown.

Use data and trends to help you to plan your digital strategy

Listening to your customers and watching how they  behave has always been the key to getting your  technology or digital offering right. Now everyone is spending so much more time online, digital interactions, leads and sales are representing a far larger proportion of businesses’ incomes.

It is therefore more important than ever to ensure you are gathering and analysing the data that you have at your disposal and using it to influence your marketing and business strategies. Look carefully at what works, what doesn’t work, where you have gaps or where you may need to improve, and be prepared to tweak your approach to suit shifting demand.

Listen to and analyse consumer trends and behaviours, how your customers are interacting with you, what research they are doing, how they are doing it, and what was their experience: once they arrived on your website, which pages did they visit and what did they buy? If they left without buying, why did they do that and what can you change to improve that in future?

Furthermore, look at their reviews and feedback: don’t be upset if it’s negative: use it to learn from mistakes and make your business stronger. Let all of this this data help you to decide how to use  technology for the best now and in the future.

Going Digital

Digital transformation doesn’t always have to be extreme, but it should be constant. We’ve seen our favourite bars and restaurants switch to online ordering and take away, using their social channels for live DJ sessions at home  and delivering video masterclasses for cocktail making  and gin tasting, they’ve adapted and embraced new ways of maintaining their brand loyalty online.

Whilst Covid-19 has accelerated the need to review all of our technology, our online channels and our strategy going forward, the need to use technology to solve problems will always be there, along with the need for businesses to plan for different scenarios so that you can adapt quickly. This is a great chance to re-set and to think long-term about how you can continuously innovate with technology, improve systems, adopt new technology and change how you operate digitally.

Plan for the future

Trends around cyber security, website performance, SEO, usability, chat functions, app speed, online events and  content marketing are heightened right now, but these  are all topics of conversation that are here to stay. When considering how your business will transform over the next few months and beyond, think about how your digital capability will match the way your customers are feeling right now and what is likely to be important to them in the future.

Maybe it’s chatting to you online, or engaging with an online community group, or maybe they just want to know that your website is secure so they can make that decision to purchase. Digital transformation is not about a new App, a new website or installing the latest team chat tool, it’s about understanding why you need technology, how you can adapt digitally, how changes enhance experience or the problems you can solve.

What skills and services do you need to take your business forward post lockdown?

A few weeks back we released our ‘Planning without a Timescale’ blog, which gave a guide to how we were helping our clients to understand consumer insight and available market data to plan for their future.

Now that we’re starting to ease out of lockdown, we are moving our focus to what you can do with those insights in terms of planning for recovery, new markets or attracting lost business back again when confidence in normal life starts to return.

With a perfect storm of business challenges, heightened by pressure on team members working remotely, the Coronavirus outbreak has tested the resilience of every business.

Whilst some have seen a pivot towards digital channels, and in some cases growth or recovery in sales as a result, for many there is no doubt that this period has highlighted the areas where attention is needed if the business is to survive, recover and grow.

According to research from Raconteur and Forbes the top areas businesses felt they needed to improve included customer services, communications, team leadership and use of data insights.

Customer Services

The jump towards digital customer services has replaced the face to face experience, with consumer trends throughout lockdown consistently showing us a few things, we want a better experience, a better service and most definitely better customer support, regardless of how we access it. Over the last three months our buying habits have changed (we’re spending more time researching, we’re trying new brands and we’re trusting online purchase 300% more), but so have our attitudes to service. We’re more aware and less tolerant of slow website speeds, functional issues or slow response times for customer support queries and we’re leaving 102% more service and product reviews that we did pre-lockdown. You need to focus on what really matters to customers and how they feel throughout their entire journey with your business.

Communications

To communicate or not to communicate? – that has been one of the big lockdown questions. With some brands saying all the wrong things, and some saying nothing at all, which will you remember? As consumers, we’re feeling anxious and nervous for a return to ‘normal’, with data across all sectors showing that our confidence is at an all time low. Now is the time that every business needs to communicate, whether it’s to talk purpose, show how you’ve adapted or to instil confidence in your customers that it’s safe to return to your stores, hotels restaurants or offices. Transparent, honest and regular communications should be at the top of every business marketing priorities for the coming months.

Team Leadership

Aside from the practical elements of leading a team remotely and the individual wellbeing issues as your people continue to navigate this extraordinary time, post-lockdown, leadership skills right across the team will become your most powerful asset. Taking individuals back to team working, physically welcoming an anxious team back to the office and helping them to feel safe, boosting morale and motivation as everyone forces themselves back to the daily commute and forgotten routines, all while needing every single person to give 110% to get the business back on track – this is no easy task. According to Google search data, search terms around staff well-being, internal communications and searches for ‘Head of HR’ rose by around 300% throughout April and May.

Use of Data Insights

Data is always an incredibly powerful tool, whether a business is using it to keep a close eye on their finances or to determine customer insight. But when lockdown began, the world changed fast and so did people. Our behaviours changed rapidly; how we felt about brands and what we considered our new essential purchases; and as we come out of lockdown all businesses need to harness better data to determine which customer behaviour changes are here to stay and how their sales and marketing strategies will need to adjust to meet these new needs. It’s not about having a ton of data, it’s about using it to stay relevant that is important.

Planning ahead

Every one of us has been impacted during lockdown, but as business owners we can’t sit still and wait for the storm to pass before we consider what our strategy could look like for the next six to twelve months and what skills we will need as we move forward. Like every business, we have adapted too, by transforming some of our client-planning techniques into a recovery and growth programme which is acutely relevant to the issues we are all facing right now, but also to help create the flexible strategies we will all need to face the future head on.

Our senior team include qualified marketing strategists, employer brand experts, digital and social media planners and PR & comms consultants that have decades of experience in many sectors from tech to retail, FMCG to finance  – all of whom together build your recovery programme.

These strategy services include:

  • Consumer Data and Insights mapping
  • High Growth Audience Profiling & Segmentation
  • Marketing Performance Audit (Budgets, ROI)
  • Recovery Marketing Plans (to recover lost revenues)
  • BD Strategy (for High Growth Products and Services)
  • Brand and Communications Strategy (relevant messaging post COVID-19)
  • Internal Comms (Employee Engagement Strategies)
  • Outsourced Marketing Director Service (Board-Ready External Support)

This week we also launched our new ‘Outlook Hub’, which is filled with insights, practical guides, useful resources and strategy recommendations for recovery and growth.

ARE YOU UNDER THE INFLUENCE?

Why now is a good time to consider working with influencers

While the UK is in the midst of an unprecedented national crisis, we have seen huge spikes in online and social media consumption as people stay behind closed doors. Vodaphone has already reported that data usage is up 30% in the UK and 50% across Europe, where counties like Italy and Spain have been on lockdown for much longer. Research by Global Web Index found that we are seeing a huge increase in people checking social media across all ages; 27% among Gen Z, 30% among Millennials, 29% among Gen X and 15% among Boomers. Recent reports also show a substantial increase in engagement with influencers, finding a 76% increase in daily accumulated likes on Instagram #ad posts over the past two weeks alone.

Influencers doesn’t just mean bloggers

Stars of Instagram, Facebook and more recently Tik Tok draw in huge audiences, and if you can’t physically get your product into the hands of your potential customers, this is the next best thing. If you currently have stock to sell or want to continue to be front of mind and build a connection with your audience, getting your product into the hands of influencers during this period can be extremely powerful, but only if it is handled sensitively, strategically and with expertise. Your message needs to be relevant, community minded and ultimately useful, hard sells are not going to resonate and could be considered insensitive as thousands of people across the UK struggle to make ends meet. As consumer spending habits change, influencers are uniquely placed in the current climate to provide useful content, including great recipes to cook at home, fashion tips for home working, how to entertain the kids, staying fit and healthy or make-up and hair tips while you can’t get to the salon.

Brands that make you feel safe

We know that in times of crisis or uncertainty, consumers retreat to brands and channels that make them feel safe. Influencer’s fan bases trust and like them, so naturally we will see their affinity grow as the public attempts to find glimpses of “life as usual” online. Emotion plays a strong role in the decision-making process, especially if we are feeling confused or scared in other areas of our life – your customers have warm, friendly feelings towards the people they follow online. The lines are blurring between who is a friend and who isn’t. It’s clear that a brand is only as good as the consumer’s mental representation of the brand or product. If this representation is only made up of certain attributes like features and pricing, the consumer doesn’t have any emotional links towards that will influence their preference and action. Positive emotional content in the mental representation will not only encourage sales, but also drive loyalty. Basically – we like things that make us feel safe and happy, especially now.

Adopting an influencer strategy allows you to introduce your brand to new audiences with credibility. Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than other media and more than 55 percent of over 45’s trust a review on a personal blog and 92% of customers trust earned media over all other forms of advertising. Not only that, 61 percent of people have made a purchase based on a recommendation from a blogger and user generated content is 35 percent more memorable than other types of media. Working with bloggers and influencers is an effective way of building your brand credibility and speaking to your potential customers in an authentic way, and they have their audience’s attention now more than ever.

We have already seen that brands investing in their digital strategy have found it much easier to continue to build and strengthen their relationships with customers during this testing time, but its not too late. Working with influencers is an affordable way to get an introduction to new audiences in a creative and memorable way, gain knowledge and data about their likes and habits and increase your discoverability online – something which is especially important in today’s climate.

Where to start?

Influencers can be anyone, from celebrities to your next-door neighbour. And influencers with smaller communities are proving more influential than their celebrity counterparts, as Technorati also reports 54% of consumers believe that the smaller the community, the greater the influence. All in all: bloggers, even the smaller community ones, are influential.

The bigger the influence, the more exposure your brand gets. This is where a lot of marketers go wrong in choosing influencers for their brand. This is because exposure doesn’t automatically help you create emotional bonds with consumers. If you’re looking to just create brand awareness for the time being, top influencers may be a great idea. When you’re looking to form emotional connections, however, you need to focus your efforts on mid-level niche influencers. They could be Instagram influencers, Tik Tok stars or YouTubers related to your business with good engagement and fan following. Unlike big influencers, mid-level influencers often have the time to engage with their audience and are much more cost effective.

As we all look for ways to cope with self-isolation and social distancing, we are seeing more than ever people looking for ways to simulate real human contact, exactly where social media and influencers come into their own. We have to remember that influencers are also in the same situation and with more time on their hands they are certainly not going to stop producing content any time soon, the trick is to harness their increased visibility and use it to form real human connections with your customers, they won’t forget it.

 

Author: Lauren Regan, Creative Director

People will do business with the good guys

For all the stories of panic stricken bad behaviour, such as empty supermarket shelves or staff laid off in a hurry, there are even more acts of kindness right now.

A complete slowdown has started to create a sharing economy – faced with the fact that our families and friends might get sick or lose their livelihoods means we are seeing businesses large and small step up and play their part in their community.

Having a Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy is not a new thing, and neither is a crisis, but the speed and extremity of the Coronavirus has really put companies’ values and behaviour to the test. Businesses had to react quickly and instinctively – they had to show their true colours – and the ones with a truly purposeful DNA and great leadership are getting the spotlight.

The editor of PR Week put it perfectly in his editor’s letter recently:

“One key message is that creative thinking is more important than ever – but brands must be hyper-aware of the sensitivities in this environment. It should be a time when brand purpose comes to the fore; indeed, the pandemic may end up sorting virtuous brands from the virtue signallers.”

Any business can be part of this new kindness movement, but only if they put their heart and soul into it – from free services or help for health workers on the front line to supporting food banks and providing meals for children in need, the best businesses are playing a part in rebuilding a society that is already different and I hope this new community mindedness will stay for years to come.

Brandwatch monitor social conversation globally, billions of social feeds every day, to see which brands are most talked about and the topics of conversation. Their latest report shows how those brands that have reacted quickly and with kindness are soaring ahead with consumer sentiment and loyalty. From the amazing CEO reactions and companies providing new and innovative ways to entertain children, to the production of ventilators and turning hotels to hospitals, consumers can’t stop celebrating great brands, doing great things. Equally, consumers are incredibly vocal with their disappointment in how some of their most trusted brands have reacted to a global crisis.

Well done Pret, T-Mobile, Morrisons and The National Trust just to name a few nationals and Blueline Taxis and Greggs in our locality, along with lots of amazing independent companies doing all they can to support our NHS and local communities. There are many that we will remember for years to come, but for me the selfish actions of Virgin will take a while to forget (not least the hassle I went through to get a trans-Atlantic flight refund when I had my own small business and family to worry about).

Entrepreneurs will be reviewing their business plans right now, and alongside protecting jobs, recovering lost sales and survival I hope many will be revisiting a renewed purpose.

It takes a shock to make us take stock. Let’s turn this situation into something that makes every business better and enter a new normal where purpose and profit are happy bedfellows.

 

Kari, MD

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How do we plan without a timescale?

Disruption is not a new thing, businesses and people have been dealing with dramatic change, war and crisis since time began, but the extreme change that we are all experiencing as a result of Coronavirus is what has almost every business and individual feeling pretty unprepared.

If history tells us one thing, it’s that the businesses that succeed through any major change or crisis are those who are able to adapt quickly and in line with their market and changes in consumer behaviour. And whilst it’s still early days for the UK to assess long term economic impact, consumer trends are starting to paint a picture of how some of our behaviours could change forever.

Trends are starting to show how our motivations to buy and what we will consider essential products is likely to change, how much importance we place on brands that have purpose and the things we are missing the most during lockdown. For the UK, the real positive is that social chatter is shifting to future gazing and we’re all talking about what we’ll do with our freedom, the things we’ll never take for granted again and the first places we’ll visit.

Whatever your current business situation, whether you’re entering survival mode, busier than ever or riding out a period of uncertainty, it’s essential we start to use the data available, listen to your consumers and think about how your products, services and communications will need to adapt long term to what becomes our new ‘normal’ and what will really motivate us to choose a brand.

For today’s blog, I want to focus on the question I’ve been asked the most over the last few weeks, ‘how do I plan for recovery when I don’t even know when we’ll be able to re-open?’

 

Why plan?

This enforced period of change means we have the chance to take a step back and reflect on what has worked, or hasn’t, in our business. There’s time to invest in revisiting your strategy, but how do you plan when we don’t have a timescale?

This is where scenario planning is key, and is something our economy is based on. Successful businesses adapt quickly because they take time to plan for different outcomes, and there is plenty of data from the CBI, the Government and the likes of Kantar that should help us all to determine what paths the next few months might take, so now is the right time to look at the data and spot emerging trends.

If the current situation has done one thing for most of us, it’s slowed down our usual daily routine and created more time in our day, even if this is just a couple of hours from the lack of daily commute. In our personal lives we’re working out how to use this time wisely; we’re getting fit, learning new skills and bettering ourselves for the future so businesses should be doing exactly the same thing.

We are working with our clients right now to help them understand the data that is coming through, be mindful of the potential pitfalls in their existing plans that could need revisited and spot the green shoots that could lead to new ways of doing things or great opportunities.

 

The Five R’s for Recovery

Planning for recovery isn’t just for businesses that are facing financial challenges or those who have had to temporarily close, it’s also considering how we plan for economic recovery and how our consumers needs or motivations could have changed. Survival, success and growth will differ for each business and each sector over the next 12 months, but all businesses should consider five key strategies when planning for the UKs comeback.

 

Remind

Maintaining brand awareness and reminding your customers (past, existing and new) why they chose you is key not only to survival, but to recovery, growth and your ability to take advantage of any new opportunities. The strongest brands and those who are able to recover quicker are those who adapt their messaging and offering now, to have purpose and meaning throughout crisis and as the economy recovers. Consumers brand loyalty is being tested and so it’s the perfect time to remind your customers of your values, how your expertise can support them, how you are supporting your team, local communities and your industry.

The way in which consumers are interacting with businesses has changed dramatically and so its a good time to consider your tone and your messaging, how you communicate now and how you will communicate in the future. One of the consumer trends unlikely to shift back for any generation, is our new found trust and confidence in communicating online.

 

Restore Confidence

Some of your customers may have been forced to abandon your your business or just to cut back, and whether this was for financial reasons or because you were unable to continue to trade, the challenge remains the same, how do you get them back on board when this is all over? Or maybe you now have a product or service that can be marketed to a whole new audience or sector – how do you get them to choose you? Restoring or building confidence in your consumers that you are the right choice is about positive and bold messaging, reviewing and adapting how you package and price your offering in line with how consumers are likely to feel about your business and what you are able to offer them. You can plan now for how you may need to restore confidence, what your marketing strategy may look like and how you identify high potential growth areas.

 

Re-establish Differentiation

Trends globally are showing that the things we consider to be essential products, services or experiences are shifting dramatically, and that some of these changes are likely to stay. How we are motivated to purchase now and our emotional connection to brands are changing, and how we feel about brands could change forever depending on how they reacted to the outbreak. Making sure that you have fully understood your market, your competitors and your customers and have re-positioned your business will help your brand to stand out in what is a very noisy market place, especially online. Your messages now and as we move forward should restore relevancy to your customer whether that is good value, innovation, a solution, a luxury or an experience.

 

Re-launch

You may need re-launch a service or product which has been repositioned or launch an entirely new offering, some may even consider whether their brand will be fit for purpose, but it’s important to establish why you are re-launching any of those things, what’s different and most importantly – why the difference matters to your customer? At this stage businesses should be considering where their biggest opportunities for growth lie, how they target new customers, how they re-connect with existing customers and how to continuously evolve revenue streams.

 

Rally the troops

When planning for recovery, perhaps the most overlooked strategy is how businesses will engage their team and manage internal communications as we work remotely. As we do get through this, and we will, all businesses will need their teams to return back to work raring to go, more motivated than ever and full of company pride. As businesses look to recover lost revenues, re-build relationships or re-ignite projects they will need their team at their best and ready to support the company’s objectives. Throughout remote working it’s so important that all leaders are transparent, share their goals and engage each member of their team every day, even in small ways. Keeping your culture, living by your values and adding a bit of fun into your day will really help keep the team spirit going. Consider what your return to work may look like and how you can start now to ‘rally your troops’.

 

Author: Kirsty Ramsey, Marketing and BD Director

Why I’m putting purpose at the heart of O’s birthday celebrations

The Why?

Business ‘purpose’ is a much bandied around word, especially when it comes to marketing. But isn’t it time we all ask ourselves why? Why do we do what we do?

Speaking to business leaders I find that asking what their real purpose is sometimes raises a blank. They typically find it easier to talk about their profit targets or acquisition strategy than get to the heart of why they are doing it all in the first place.

But it is being able to communicate the ‘why’ you are in business that wins the hearts and minds of your team and those who do business with you, not the ‘what’ you do.

Turning 15 and paying it forward…

As we get ready to enter our 15th year in business it seems like as good a time as any to reflect on our journey, and what I feel our purpose is as a growing business.

I have been incredibly lucky to have been brought up anchored by the ‘no-questions-asked’, positive environment of a family that thinks I can achieve anything I want – if I work hard enough.

So that led me to choose the career I wanted, the jobs I’d enjoy and ultimately, led me to the day I decided to start a business of my own.

But it was the years that followed that shaped our true purpose. As we have grown the business, we have employed dozens of people that I have enjoyed mentoring and learning as much from them as I hope they have from me. I gained a huge amount of support from many business owners in the North East that had nothing to gain from helping me out. It was that supportive ecosystem that has helped us to grow and become successful.

So, as we enter our 15th year I want to pay it forward to the next generation. In February I became the first North East woman to sign up as an ambassador of the Prince’s Trust ‘Women Supporting Women’ project.

I want to clarify this doesn’t mean I don’t support men, or think we need to be treated any differently in business as women, but the statistics can’t be ignored.

The Office of National Statics reports that 92,700 young women are now excluded from secondary schools every year in the UK. This is an increase from 70,000 last year, and recent data shows that there are currently 388,000 young women not in education, employment or training.

The Prince’s Trust’s belief is that “youth can do it” and their purpose is to help them gain confidence, get a job or start a business.

But year-on-year The Prince’s Trust sees less women coming through their programmes than men, and here in the North East, currently only 41% of Prince’s Trust beneficiaries are young women.

However, three in four of all the young people they support locally go on to employment, education or training within six months and have very successful and happy lives.

If young women are not achieving their full potential then we need to change that, to make our entire region better by creating a more vibrant and diverse community of confident young people.

So that’s our purpose – we create a culture of opportunity, where great people do great work, which in turn helps our clients to be successful so that they can complete the circle by creating even more great jobs.

But we always remember that we are the lucky ones, so as part of our business strategy we choose to pay it forward to help lift up the next generation. It will be them leading the charge in 15 years’ time, and I can’t wait.

We’ll be hosting a number of events, fundraising and working together to do as much as we can to help the future female leaders of the North East to achieve great things.

 

To support Women Supporting Women find out more about it here.

 

Kari x

 

 

O MD Kari signs up as first North East Ambassador for Prince’s Trust Women Supporting Women initiative

We are so excited to announce that our MD Kari has become the first ambassador for The Prince’s Trust’s new initiative, Women Supporting Women in the North East.

Kari has announced a three-year partnership with The Prince’s Trust. As part of our 15th year celebrations, with O being the first company to support the initiative here in the region, helping empower young women to achieve their ambitions.

To mark the beginning of the partnership, ahead of next month’s International Women’s Day, O has launched a birthday year-long series of events and staff initiatives to help spread awareness of Women Supporting Women and encourage other companies to get involved.

Made up of leading female founders, entrepreneurs, business women, professionals and philanthropists who believe that all young women deserve the chance to succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances, Women Supporting Women is a new group that will enable The Prince’s Trust to support more young women through its programmes.

Women supporting the cause as patrons or ambassadors include Chrissie Rucker OBE, Founding Patron of Women Supporting Women and Founder of The White Company, Ruth Chapman, Co-Founder, Matchesfashion.com, Marcia Kilgore, Founder, FitFlop , Melissa Odabash, Founder, Melissa Odabash and Dame Carolyn McCall DBE, Chief Executive, ITV.

The group is aiming to change the lives of 6,500 young women by raising £10 million over the next five years.

Kari said: “Turning 15 as a business is a big milestone for us and we wanted to go back to our roots and what matters to us as a company.

“Our team wanted to pay it forward to young women less fortunate in our community, so when I saw ‘Women Supporting Women’ we jumped at the chance to get on board.

“Many of the founding supporters of Women Supporting Women are businesswomen I admire greatly, but I had noticed there wasn’t any representation yet in the North East of England, so I knew I wanted to step up as ambassador and help make a difference right here on our doorstep.

“We are looking forward to raising vital funds to help women right here in this region get the support they need to achieve their dreams.”

Rhona Warcup of Prince’s Trust North East said:” Young women have so much to offer and we have much to gain by encouraging their aspirations. Here in the North East, 41% of our beneficiaries are young women and we are so excited to launch this partnership with Kari and O Communications to work together and see these incredible young women go on to have very successful and happy lives.”

SCIENCE OR CREATIVITY – WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT?

Traditionally people are seen as being artistic or scientific, rarely both. The North East has a long history of science and innovation, including the creation of ‘The Rocket’, the Geordie Lamp, the safety match and the lightbulb, as well as a rich tapestry of art and culture such as fine art and film making.

Our region’s heritage has been forged by scientific innovation and currently more than one in five people in the region are employed in science and technology, according the Office of National Statistics. Newcastle in particular is home to a large range of companies in the science sector, employing highly skilled people – especially in the life sciences and healthcare sector thanks to the Centre for Life, the world class medical school at Newcastle University and innovative businesses such as Proctor and Gamble.

Despite drastic cuts to the arts sector in the last decade, the North East’s culture sector is thriving. The Great Exhibition of the North brought record numbers of visitors to venues in the region in 2018. Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Sage Gateshead and Northern Stage are just some of the world-class cultural venues attracting major artists to the region.

The power of art comes from its ability to evoke powerful emotions in its audience. Art is not static; it pushes forward and reflects the feelings of the world in which is exists. There is something which intrinsically links science and art together. Creativity. It is only by bringing the two together that we can truly innovate and continue to put the region on the map as a hot spot for pushing innovative boundaries.

Not everyone considers themselves to be creative, nor does every industry, but to some extent we should all try to instil a creative spirit in the way we do business. A creative mindset also increases resilience and allows us to rationalise taking risks, which are essential characteristics for individuals to lead boldly. Afterall, a breakthrough never came from acting on caution.

A common dismissal is that it comes naturally and because we’re not all born ‘arty’, that’s how we’ll keep it. Instead it’s much more refreshing to look at creativity as a skill which can be developed, just like our other professional expertise and personal attributes.

At O we believe in being seriously creative. Design and creative strategy truly adds value to the world when it is used to solve a bigger problem. By working with artists and creatives, science and business can gain a fresh perspective on a problem and look at how to approach it from a new direction.

This article is taken from our latest Homegrown magazine which explores creativity, what it means to us, to businesses, brands and business leaders. If you’d like a copy , contact kirsty@opr.co.uk

Front cover of magazine