Reputation, reputation, reputation

Imagine owning a brand new hotel retreat in the middle of the Australian desert. The retreat is five-star with modern amenities, stunning scenery and staff that are second to none, but no one is coming to the retreat because your potential customers don’t know you exist and the hotel doesn’t have a reputation. It doesn’t matter how good your hotel is, how brilliant your services are, or how fantastic your products are, if your potential customers don’t know that you exist you will never get the customers in the first place.

Every organisation, no matter how large or small, depends on its reputation for success and in today’s competitive market, reputation can be a company’s biggest asset, make it stand out from the crowd and give it a competitive edge. Effective PR can help manage reputation by communicating and building good relationships with organisation stakeholders. But how do you decide if the time is right to invest in a PR strategy and what steps do you take?

Should you chose a PR agency, recruit an in-house member of the team or concentrate on using social media to gain greater recognition and reputation?

Kursha Woodgate, MD of Mexia Communications, (inset) says: “Consistent, clear communication across a range of media, old and new, is an essential ingredient in building a successful brand and helping your company to grow.

“We act as a broker of stories, developing angles and interesting material that positions clients in the right light while appealing to editors with the right content for their readers. With PR, we aim to encourage clients to consider the longer-term profile and reputation building for their brand rather than focusing on short-term new business opportunities, although clearly there is a need to demonstrate the impact PR is having on the business.”

“PR is changing all the time,” says Davies Tanner’s PR Director Alistair Turner. “The major change is that of niche agencies that make it their business to work alongside a particular industry or specialism. This is hugely valuable for a client who is looking for an agency to quickly understand their business and have further reach in the industry than they may have themselves.
“The other move is concerning how PRs and marketeers in general reach their audiences. Good PR agencies are embracing digital media, live events and stakeholder programmes as part of their campaigns.”

The MD of PR company CM Porter Novelli, Angela Casey, says: “As we all know, when a business undertakes a PR, marketing and advertising campaign, it goes through a number of processes. It starts with examining the business plan to align a communications strategy with the sales drive, goes through an analysis of the audience and what they say, do and read, and then concludes with a plan of what to say to them. The resulting messaging will be consistent, will demonstrate the expertise and commercial benefits of the organisation and will be communicated in a language they understand. We all know this and it is simple communications. However, the days of traditional communications have gone.

The modern business now has to be mindful of a far wider range of tools to reach customers. Naturally, the range still includes traditional print media, direct mail, presence at exhibitions and advertising, but in the new media age we can no longer ignore the importance of online media.  

“At major exhibitions, before the event even starts, their hashtags, such as #IMEX, can be trending, which means more people are talking about the event than other things like mainstream news and celebrity gossip. Businesses use it to draw attention to their stands, to announce news and to engage with like-minded, organisations. 

“We have discovered through our work in the tourism arena that many people in the industry are keen to learn more about social media as a means of communication, and there is a definite demand from businesses to find out information via social media channels,” she adds.

From simple tactical media relations to strategic message development and delivery, if you ask 10 different people to define PR they will probably give you 10 different answers. “Over time, and particularly in the last few years, the meaning of PR has changed so much that we prefer to think of and describe ourselves as communications or reputation management professionals,” says Adam Baggs, MD of Soaring Worldwide (inset, next page).

“As the media landscape has changed, so have we and our role incorporates a far wider reach than ever before. It is no longer just a few industry publications and the drafting of press releases, instead we work at the most senior levels within our clients’ organisations, directly advising their boards on all elements of communications,” he says.

According to Baggs this includes challenging clients’ messages and plans, helping them understand the market and stay ahead of their competitors, producing strategies to reach beyond traditional media channels to influencers and buyers across a given market, streamlining and aligning of brands, from creative copy and design for adverts and newsletters to web development and social media the PR role ensures a cohesive message across all markets,” says Baggs. “Hardest for us, the need to keep pushing clients to try new forms of communications, experiment with developing technology and use every channel available to their message.

“These changes have created a totally different dynamic when it comes to client relationships and therefore the way we are measured.” 

RefTech provides badging services along with registration and appointment setting software for conferences and exhibitions. The company appointed Aniseed PR in May 2012 to raise its profile to both the conference and exhibition industries.

Instead of a typical PR campaign focused on promoting and selling its products and services, Aniseed PR and RefTech created a campaign to promote directors, Ken and Simon Clayton as the ‘Voice of Reason’. The campaign focused on the fact that they are knowledgeable and experienced enough to be able to cut through the hype and wild exaggerations often made by IT vendors, to give clients and journalists a clear and realistic analysis of how new technologies will affect the events industry.

This approach has seen the Claytons established as industry experts in anything IT related. They have contributed blogs and columns to many of the leading industry titles, always commenting on a subject, never with blatant sales messages. This work has built their reputation and resulted in them being asked to speak at several key industry events in-front of audiences of their potential clients.

Ken Clayton says: “Early last year we decided that it was time to allocate a budget to raising our profile. The difficulty, though, was that handling the work in-house is rarely successful because, when you’re running a business, there’s always something more important that needs to be done. So the PR always gets put on the back burner. That meant we needed an outside consultant who would concentrate on getting the job done and I know from past experience that we needed somebody who knows the industry.

“I knew that Jill Hawkins, MD at Aniseed PR , had a lot of experience in the meetings sector and that’s why we appointed her. Jill has helped us to develop a strategy that involves commenting on technology in our industries as a way of establishing RefTech as an authoritative voice. And it’s paying off. We have already created coverage worth in excess of £200,000, a fantastic return on the investment we made. We are also seeing more sales enquiries from new and existing clients so, overall, we can prove we made the right decision.”

This was first published in the June edition of CN. Any comments? E-mail conferencenews@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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