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.


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.


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


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.



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.



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.”


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

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Corporate seminar for tech entrepreneurs in auditorium. Unidentifiable audience participants in development workshop. Executive manager giving speech at symposium. Business training at university lecture hall.

99 problems but a pitch ain’t one

Finding a like-minded, trustworthy creative agency is like picking a partner for marriage – you and your agency will be investing equally in each other and ideally, you both want the relationship to stand the test of time.

Jeopardising the outcome of the entire process by ruling out potential candidates because they aren’t – in the words of Love Island cohorts – ‘your type on paper’ means you have to think beyond first impressions about your perfect agency match.

So to ensure you get the chemistry right, we suggest following our roadmap to help you find the perfect  creative agency match:

Identifying your need – Whether it’s an advertising, PR, communications or design agency that you’re seeking, the first question you must ask yourself is “what do we want to achieve?” before deciding which service you need and where to search for an agency. Make the main objective for your brief as SMART as you can – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

Approaching agencies – start your research online and look at agency case studies as well as their social media profiles to get a feel for their approach and culture. Then get in touch to ask them to supply creds of their experience.

The audition – Match-making is as much about shared ethics as it is about chemistry. Before shortlisting your creative agency list to proposal or pitch stage, try to get out and visit up to eight of them on their home turf to meet their team.

Creating a brief – A good brief has restrictions yet leaves room for interpretation, and is straight-forward while asking enough of the agency. Build in enough time to allow for agency questions and to create a good quality response – a few working days will not get you the best they can do.

Awarding the contract – If you’re unsure don’t be afraid to ask questions after the pitches – if you loved everything about an agency apart from one solution they gave, do request an alternative solution equipped with hindsight.

Onboarding – To make your new-found partnership a fruitful one, it’s essential you are open and proactive right from the start. Hold up your end of the bargain by transferring knowledge and assets promptly, and making a point of contact readily available to manage the agency. Once you’re fully into the swing of working together, don’t become slack in setting KPIs and reviewing how things are going by building in clear and reasonable review points.


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

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High angle view of magnet attracting traffic on wooden table

Words by Kari Owers, Managing Director

It’s a war on talent out there, and whilst most businesses focus their effort on winning new customers, the real battle lies in attracting the best employees to help their business grow and be successful. Employer brand strategy takes the principles of marketing communications, but looks through the lens of recruitment and retention of people rather than customers.

At O we are specialists in brand storytelling, a strategy that works particularly well in an age of ‘social sourcing’, where your future hires are checking out your company online long before they decide to change jobs.

Recently our team held an Employer Brand workshop for the Entrepreneurs’ Forum on how to design a magnetic employer brand strategy.


So, what’s your story?

The power of social storytelling allows you to open up the doors of your company and let people in, to look around and meet your team, hear about your purpose and values and see what life might be like if they worked for you.

Getting this right requires creativity, and always starts within. We start by asking you to tell us your story, who started the company (and why), what has your journey been, where are you heading and how do your people shape that?


Social stories

If we take millennials as a key audience (apparently by 2025 they will make up 75% of the workforce), we need to understand where they find out about your company long before they apply for a job.

68% of millennials will check you out on social media, way before they even reach the carefully crafted job advert on your website or jobs board.

They will be looking for evidence of your purpose, career development opportunities, flexibility and a diverse workforce. Dubbed the ‘giving generation’ they are looking for somewhere they can really make a difference, and your company should evidence that you live and breathe these benefits.



With so many opportunities to post content on social media, where do you start? By choosing the format that allows you both to tell a story and get the best ROI for your effort – video.

There’s a lot of inspiration out there – from telling the story of your people through their life story like the Netflix #SheRules campaign, to creating fun videos or initiatives that make you stand out like Brewdog’s puppy parental leave. Video marketing doesn’t need to cost the earth – but should always be creative in the story it tells and reflect your brand well.


Look inwards…

Your employees are absolutely your main channel for new recruits so look inwards rather than outwards when considering how you can grow your team – they have valuable peer-to-peer relationships which you can tap into which will help you significantly when it comes to recruitment.

Likewise, everyone is a publisher these days, so how can you harness this and use your employees and their connections to your advantage? Are you giving them a reason to post content about your business? How can you engage them to do this? This begins at the recruitment stage – does this employee even share the same values as you?

Just like any content marketing strategy a customer persona allows you to target the right message in the right place, so consider what ‘brand character’ your ideal employee is – what does this mean in terms of what their values, interests and lifestyle looks like?

Don’t just go by age when targeting messages, values-based personas help you create something they will care about and ideally like and share. You could even go as far as giving them a name, family, interests and imagined career pathway – it really helps you align your brand story with their life and passions.

Strong leadership and a clear direction of travel will ensure they feel they are on a journey with you, as will giving them their ‘share of voice’. Consider which parts of the business different people in your team could lead on independently, so they can help drive some of the journey for you – ideally an area they feel passionate about. A share of voice can be as simple as having a company blog which staff can contribute to, or contributing to your company’s social channels and the content you are putting out there.



Culture, health and wellbeing are all buzzwords of the moment but they are so relevant in today’s workplace and job market and certainly non-negotiables for graduate job seekers.

Clear and consistent communication is essential; your people are your best advocates so make sure you understand what makes them tick! Spend time with them, listen to them and open yourself up for feedback – however formal or informal they need this to be – but be sure to act.

Giving your people ownership and autonomy will naturally give them a sense of pride in working for you and this can only have a positive impact on your customers, as will staff recognition, because if people are happy and succeeding in their work, why wouldn’t they sing the praises of their employer to the outside world? Here is where having a not-for-profit making purpose can play a key role, as will having a clear CSR strategy, which is increasingly becoming a non-negotiable for people moving into a new role. Are you giving your people something to share and be proud of?


An informal name for the Friday after Thanksgiving in the USA, Black Friday has become an annual retail celebration of hot deals and widespread media coverage of shoppers fighting over televisions. Originally kicking off as a popular shopping event for Americans, the Black Friday phenomenon has reached us in the UK and we can’t get enough of seeking out the best sales on gadgets and popular brand names.

Both Black Friday and the following Cyber Monday offer retailers a real opportunity to maximise footfall in-store and online by offering customers outrageous discounts. The hype around Black Friday can even start at least a month before the main event, with shoppers seeking out the sales before the date is even here.

Black Friday

Whether you dabble in Black Friday as a customer or not, in the retail industry it is difficult to ignore that this is arguably up there with one of the most important events of the year. Each year it’s a battle of the shops as the likes of e-commerce giant Amazon goes head-to-head with the high street electrical retailers. That being said, it’s not all about the tech. This year Boots are even involved to save shoppers money on exclusive beauty products – a great opportunity for Christmas gift shopping.

But with these huge brands competing for the top spot this year – how can you really stand out from the crowd and do something a bit different? Backed with glittering creative campaigns, you’ll find the global retailers splashed across advertisements and social media posts. So how do you release your inner Amazon and bring the excitement to your products this year?

Whether you’re an independent retailer relying on Shopify, you have your own boutique store or you’re a high street favourite, the O retail communications experts are here to share some top tips for those looking to dazzle this Black Friday.

What’s the offer?

Everyone loves a deal but with so many stores competing for the best percentages off on Black Friday, why not ditch the BOGOF and launch an exclusive limited-edition product for one day only? Record Store Day is a perfect example of this – by intriguing customers with a product they can grab on one occasion only, you’re immediately adding a sense of excitement before shoppers have filled their shopping baskets, physical and virtual.

Make it an experience

We’ve learnt over the past few years that creating an experience for your customers is becoming more crucial than ever – everyone wants to feel something and it’s exciting to be physically part of something. Instead of focusing on the discounts, why not host an event to coincide with Black Friday and give your best customers the VIP treatment?

Consider in-store activities such as cosmetic demos or fashion shows accompanied with goodie bags and Instagrammable spots for social sharing.

Consider your CSR

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is extremely important nowadays and your customers want to see that you care about the same things they do. Consider getting a local charity or initiative involved to have a day where you match the profits made and donate the money to charity or give back in other ways such as work experience for job seekers or the homeless.

It’ll make your brand more relatable and your customers may even want to get involved.

Ditch Black Friday altogether

Love it or hate it, the promotion of Black Friday is unlikely to go away anytime soon. So why not be bold and throw a spanner in the works by doing something quirky on a completely different day?

Consider focusing on another date away from the competition of Black Friday and carve your own special date that’ll get people talking.

If you’re a retailer looking for support with your communications get in touch today for a chat on letstalk@opr.co.uk.