Wednesday, 24 October 2012

‘Networking’ – Homing Pigeon, Limpet, Blackberry Hugger, Consummate – recognise yourself?

Everyone can network, for me its just how much individuals enjoy networking that varies. For some, it elicits joy as they’re bang in their comfort zone, loving to work-the-room; but for others the mere word strikes them with fear and loathing and creates small beads of sweat. 
Whether you love networking or want to confine it to Room 101, being better connected through strong networks breeds business success. Evaluation of our new business leads here at Cirkle shows that 85% come from advocacy: positive word-of-mouth and recommendation from people we’ve worked with and impressed, including current clients, past clients, ex colleagues, media, suppliers and associates.

So do you recognise what type of event networker you or your colleagues are from our list below?

  • THE HOMING PIGEON – hangs around the people they know all night
  • THE RABBIT IN THE HEADLIGHTS - nervous, limp handshake, doesn’t want   to be there
  • BLACKBERRY HUGGER – immersed in their mobile
  • NETWORK BORE – dominates the conversation, mostly about themselves - loudly
  • MBT – Married to the Buffet Table to seek refuge
  • MTB – same as MBT but Married To Booze to pass the time 
  • LOUNGE LIZARD – ‘nuff said 
  • THE LIMPET – locates a friendly face and sticks to that person for the rest of the night
  • THE BUTTERFLY – flits from group to group without engaging in meaningful conversations
  • THE CONSUMMATE  - the networking pro

Networking has grown up and evolved, it’s not just about attending events with the obligatory glass in one hand and unwieldy canapĂ© in the other.  In fact so many things can be turned into networking opportunities, and it doesn’t have to end at ‘who you know’, it’s about who ‘who you know’ may know. For example one of our ex-client’s sisters knew someone at ‘one of our dream prospects’ who went on to become one of our biggest clients. Or,  one of our suppliers was married to someone at a business we wanted to target, that went on to become a client… you get the gist.

As well as physical networking, it’s about working the net to build these two-way relationships. Six degrees of separation is reduced to 4.74 for Facebook users and 3.43 for Twitter, whilst for Linked In, having 170 connections can put you at the centre of a powerful, professional network of over 2 million users.

Our Chairman, Caroline Kinsey’s, black book is proof of her consummate status of connectivity. She’s shared some of her insights here:

Increase the number of ‘conversation’ opportunities

Compile a database of contacts, including where you met, when, who, how, why and interesting facts about that person

Strategically map out timing touch points for regular dialogue, be it meetings, online forums, sponsorships, socials, memberships, events, phone etc

Track ex-clients, ex-colleagues, faded contacts, anyone of interest and mutual value.  At events, be generous – introduce people to each other; approach people who are on their own

Take new contacts with you to meet others in the room; if someone’s looking lost, invite them to join your posse

Feed people’s need to talk about themselves

Go pre armed with interesting questions; comment on the day’s news - have a point of view; remember it’s not a sales pitch, so hone your elevator speech and….

Always follow up connections the next day.

So up the engagement ante and get connecting by networking the b’jesus out of life; it’ll reap rewards.  And finally, some food for thought  …  ask yourself how you’d like people to remember you once they’ve met you.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The changing face of the PR expert

Danny Rogers, editor of PR Week, ran editorial in The Independent earlier this month talking about the still small voice of the comms expert. As he states 'a majority of FTSE 100 firms still do not have a communications expert on their executive board', shocking, as he puts it, when reputational errors regularly wipe millions of pounds off the price of shares, listing examples including BP's handling of the Gulf of Mexico crisis and Bob Diamond and Barclay's role in the libor scandal.

His insight is that thanks to the 'inherent transparency and traceability of digital communication' any big decisions business leaders take will eventually become public knowledge, making the senior comms adviser the "conscience" of the firm.

He quotes one director of comms: "Sometimes you simply have to tell other leaders: 'Ethically, we cannot do this'. But you may be seen as standing in the way of revenue-driving decisions and take a lot of flack."

One thing our industry isn't short of is labels and stereotypes, from Ab Fab's airy hedonistic excess, to the amorality evidenced in Absolute Power, or the recent (close to the bone?) absurdity of Press Officer Siobhan Sharpe in BBC mockumentary Twenty Twelve.

Outside of TV drama, Tony Blair's office openly elevated the 'Press Officer' to the upmost echelons of power, moving through the dizzying heights of the 1997 landslide victory to the vilified lows of 'sexing up' and 'spin'.

'Spin' left the context of the political floor where it was conceived as a word used openly as part of the workings of the political tradition, and became shorthand in the public lexicon for emptiness at best, and the dark arts of politicians distorting for their own ends at worst.

Set against this backdrop, the label of the "conscience" of business is one I'd like us to hold on to and embrace. The noughties (plus) look set to be remembered as the decades wrong doings of big institutions finally came to light, with politicians, media, police, banks and public persona receiving their share of the limelight via the expenses scandal, phone hacking, Hillsborough/Stephen Lawrence cases, banking collapse and the unfolding unsavouriness of Jimmy Saville's career, respectively. Communications, as a two-way mouthpiece between business/industry and the public, should be adapting accordingly, whether its strategically; advising and acting ethically, or tactically; creating content with substance.

In his article, Danny Rogers went on to list the well-known FTSE firms who do employ comms directors on their executive board: Ian Wright at Diageo, Dominic Fry at Marks & Spencers, Charlotte Lambkin at BAE Systems and Sir John Grant at British Gas, showing that while in the minority, there's a positive future for the new "conscience" of business.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The ultimate Sunday-for-Monday story…

Written by, Nick Woods.

“This is a case study for the ages. A global world-class event. And they're not paying for distribution @redbullstratos

A very well respected ad guy tweeted that on Sunday night just minutes before Felix jumped… someone should explain PR to him.

Because Red Bull have just shown the watching world, and the PR industry, how to do great consumer PR. That was it. On a Sunday night for just over four minutes. They created a story so good they didn’t need to pay media for distribution.  So compelling it qualified as news.  And conversation.  And it was 100% on-brand.

Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the edge of space was a story which was about a someone, not a product; a story which embodied a brand’s values; a story which was about a first, a brave innovation, about pushing human boundaries; a story which had international appeal (I had tweets from Puerto Rica to Qatar and Indonesia about it and clearly the US, UK and chunks of Europe were watching); and which had some key elements which define great contemporary creative: it was creative (never been done before), conversational (global trending status), had controversy (will he survive? should we be watching?) and involved multiple collaborations (it’s difficult to imagine just how many official bodies, authorities and partners must have been consulted and worked with).

And Red Bull played a blinder.

The practice jumps which acted as teasers, the ‘postponement due to high winds’ as the big final teaser which took it from x-sports fans to mainstream, the ground-breaking Youtube-as-media-partner platform (some reports of up to 8m people watching a live-stream), the visual branding, the ‘mission control’ (what exactly were they all doing?) and of course, the media production itself.

Producers of The X Factor will have watched wishing they too would one day be able to create something so highly scripted and yet seemingly organic. The detailed data, the one-small-step speech, the camera angles (which had all been meticulously tested on practice jumps), the cuts to family members, the live Twitter feed, the avuncular main man on the ground, the science story, the angels-will-carry-you element and the live conference afterwards with three questions from the watching millions. Ber-illiant.

The post-event films have been started by Lego and will undoubtedly flow all week and beyond; God knows how many fake Twitter and Facebook accounts there are. Does Red Bull mind?  Are they suing anyone for infringement of their intellectual property?  Are they b*llocks.  That’s the conversation. They know it and they are only too delighted to see the fans flamed by people taking their idea and playing with it.

I know it took years to make it happen.  I know it cost millions.  And I know Red Bull was ‘only’ a sponsor. But to paraphrase someone else who tweeted shortly afterwards: I pay 50p for a can of Coke so they can make Coke ads, I pay 70p for can of Red Bull so they can do really cool stuff like jump from the edge of space…

This was brand-as- Barnum, pulling crowds to the circus for the modern age.

Just incredible.

Brings a whole new meaning to ‘doing a Sunday-for-Monday’ story, huh…

Friday, 12 October 2012

Put your trust in brand communications

I’ve been going to the IGD Convention for a good many years now and each and every year the one thing that keeps CEO’s awake at night changes. It used to be health, then it was sustainability and now it is fundamentally about the erosion of consumer trust and importantly how to rebuild it in order to win back loyalty. It’s an extremely tough challenge in today’s increasingly transparent and digital world. Consumers are better informed and connected than ever before. 65% now own a smartphone and they are demanding more and more product information. But it doesn’t stop there, they also want to know about a brand’s whole code of conduct, its principles and its ethos. Brand communications are therefore critically important. The key is ensuring they are timely, honest, informative, relevant and interesting. If they are, consumers will then be compelled to share them with other people. PR stands for Public Relations but increasingly for me it stands for Positive Relationships. A two way dialogue that creates a positive affinity between consumers and brands which can be used to positively disrupt and enrich the shopping experience at that critical "Actual Moment of Purchase", as identified by Asda Chief Operating Officer Judith McKenna.

Banks, MPs and businesses have an all-time low level of trust with consumers and therein lies the opportunity. Companies and brands who are ready to stand up and be counted and invest time, effort and money in fully understanding how to build positive relationships with their consumers and thereby demonstrate themselves to be worthy of their trust, will certainly win. As Diageo’s President of Europe, Andrew Morgan said: “Customers need to trust something - with careful stewardship brands can fill that vacuum.”  And for me this is certainly not a short term brand strategy, it needs to be a long term brand commitment. This is why I believe trust will remain a key strategic challenge discussed at the IGD Convention and keeping CEO’s awake at night for a good many more years to come.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Fashion & Sport – Cut From The Same, Very British Cloth

The Olympics were rightly held up as an era-defining example of what ‘best of British’ means today… humour, wit, irreverence, inclusivity, organisation, warmth, success.  And LFW displayed all the same characteristics.

Show after show was a riot of originality. I loved the clashing prints at Clements Ribeiro and the potent cocktail of hologram, neon lace and patent at Kane and Saunders. And as for Dame Vivienne Westwood … who else would pair models with green faces and 1950s ladylike elegance? Show after show revealed serious, cutting-edge style wrapped up in a wonderfully eccentric, British sense of humour.

Organisationally, London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013 was also a master-class in scheduling, transportation and co-ordination. No dedicated lanes for the fashion pack, but there were eighty-plus shows running to time (well, almost), thousands of models, the world’s media and 50 different venues including a furniture store and a car park. It was a logistical nightmare, but also an amazing showcase for yet another side of the capital.

Our fashion industry has never been stronger, contributing gabillions to our economy during even the toughest times and is a leading light among the creative industries we are so rightly renowned for.

And it’s another part of Britain which regularly showcases what the Olympics shone such a bright light on – our creativity underpinned by superb technical skills and unrivalled organisational skills.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Is the B2B world listening?

Social media is just that - social. 

Eighty-six per cent of b2b companies now have a social media presence, but I wonder what percentage of the time is spent on the good old hard-sell, and how much really listening, advising and cultivating their social media presence. Just selling is like being at a party where you just talk about yourself over everyone else… pretty quickly, they stop listening. 

Whilst a quick-fix social media blitz might deliver a short term sales boost, b2b organisations need to consider it strategically within the context of long-term work to develop and grow their reputation.

Businesses also need to be wary of falling into the social spam trap. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a blanket message through a LinkedIn group or a random direct message on Twitter from a business you’ve never even heard of, let alone done business with. I never have and never will respond to one of these messages… they’re just annoying – and who likes the annoying guy at a party? 

The key for b2b is to spend far more time actually listening to customers and prospects in the social media space in order to really understand what it is they are saying and what their needs are. Only then will they be able to engage them in meaningful and frequent online conversations using carefully crafted content marketing campaigns. 

The variety of tools available to listen is endless, as is the creativity required to create original content, but the skill and the opportunity lies in understanding in the first place.  

We’re listening and we’re ready to have a conversation. Are you?