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ChatGPT wants my job. It can’t (and it won’t) have it.

05/04/2023
Time to read: 4 minutes
As a professional and experienced copywriter, AI and how it will come to influence humanity has been the cause of much recent existential dread for Anthony McNamara, content creator at The Comms Crowd. In this post he looks at the risks and benefits of ChatGPT and what it is really in store for us.

As a professional and experienced copywriter, AI and how it will come to influence humanity has been the cause of much recent existential dread. Admittedly, binging on every documentary and podcast the topic has to offer, all with contributions from long-time experts in the field, did little to assuage my fears.

Initially, the dread was far-reaching. The speed with which AI continues to develop is raising questions those in power don’t even know exist, let alone know how to answer. Approaching its adolescence, the advent of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – a term suspiciously innocuous – will mark the technology’s passage into maturity and the point at which our dependency on robotic intelligence will begin its final phase.

It will mark the most significant point in human history since the first homo sapiens discovered how to create fire. AGI, however, will be a blaze we could all too easily lose control over forever. Hence the recent dread.

The dread gets real

When ChatGPT trampled onto the scene like a heavily caffeinated Wildebeest in a pensioners’ yoga class, I admit to not thinking too much of it. “Another AI service that I can spend my free time interrogating on whether 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 is the more effective football formation. Big wow.”

But then I used it, and the cold beads of sweat began forming on my expansive brow.

The solution I opted for, Bearly.AI, offers a variety of ‘prompts’, one of which is called ‘Copy Wizard’ for essays, blogs, and posts. I typed in a made-up, generic title and sat back in horror as the tool generated a grammatically sound and, on the face of it, relevant 1,000-word blog.

If it was dread I was experiencing before, I wouldn’t even know what the word is to describe what I experienced at that moment.

It was a feeling that lasted for weeks. The gig is up. Time to start thinking about re-training.

The importance of knowing your enemy

Having sought reassurance from a selection of family members, friends, and colleagues, I unearthed my resolve. I love my job, and I’m not losing it to a set of cocky algorithms.

It was time for me to step into the ring with ChatGPT, and we were going bare knuckle.

Instead of using some generic blog title, I re-engaged Bearly.AI and typed in the title of an actual blog a real client had asked me to write. The blog outline immediately separated into different sections and looked depressingly appropriate. Next, I clicked the ‘Generate Copy’ button, and within around 30 seconds, the full blog cascaded down my screen.

But then I began reading it, and the sense of elation was almost transcendental. The blog was crap.

It was littered with repetition, from sentence openers to entire sentences. It had zero personality. And, it was laughably light on illuminating facts and figures — just crap.

Friend, not foe

With round one going emphatically to the human, I began to recalibrate my whole attitude toward ChatGPT. Its ability to produce quality content is limited, to put it politely, but it offers other functions that have since proved to be handy.

The ‘Continuation’ prompt designed to help beat writer’s block has merit, as does the ‘Executive Summary’ and ‘Counter Argument’ prompts. In fact, it turns out that learning how to construct the best prompts is arguably the most important skill you can acquire when using ChatGPT-enabled tools.

True though this may be, even with the most ChatGPT-friendly prompts inputted, the resultant copy is not what any self-respecting copywriter or organisation would ever think to submit, much less, publish. But it can give a decent starting point, a handy blueprint for something a competent human can radically improve upon.

In other words, ChatGPT can be thought of as a promising work-experience student approaching their employer and saying, “Hi, I’ve done this for you to try and save you a bit of time.” And I, the employer in this dubious analogy, reply with, “Thank you. I can probably use some of this. Now you run along and finish transcribing that video for me.”

Even if ChatGPT does become a little too self-assured in the future, it faces another problem even more formidable than me.

The search engines won’t stand for it

When the likes of Google cottoned on that people were stuffing their websites with key words as a means of doping their SEO, the backlash was ruthless. Many websites were penalised so heavily with SERP (Search Engine Results Page) relegations, they never properly recovered.

Expect the same for AI content. Indeed, a raft of AI content detector tools are already sweeping the marketplace and it seems to be a matter of time before they’re integrated into search engine result generators.

The last thing any search engine provider wants is for its users to be pummelled with a load of robot content during their cyber surfing sessions.

Apart from the inevitability of this development is the delicious irony – AI saving the livelihoods of copywriters from AI. *chef’s kiss*.

ChatGPT knows its place. For now.

I don’t know what the future holds for ChatGPT. That’s the one thing that’s still quite scary – no one really does.

However, I do know that in its present form, it can’t respond to detailed briefs anything like as ably as a human copywriter. It can’t understand the unspoken reactions of clients during calls. It can’t offer original insight on any topic, question a client’s approaches or ideas, and it can’t inject personality unless it’s pretending to be someone else.

Mercifully, it also seems to understand all of this. With ChatGPT draped against the ropes, sweating and bloodied, I asked it directly if it was coming for my job.

Its response?

As an AI language model, I don’t have the ability to predict the future. However, it’s unlikely that ChatGPT or any other AI language model will completely replace copywriters. While AI can be helpful in generating content and assisting with certain tasks, copywriting involves creativity, critical thinking, and a deep understanding of language and communication. These are skills that are difficult for AI to replicate, and human copywriters are likely to remain an important part of the industry.

Maintain that attitude, ChatGPT, and you and I will get along just fine.

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Three tips to get intentional about your start-up’s culture

20/02/2023
Time to read: 2 minutes
Emma Tucker, our newest team member and Internal Communications Consultant at The Comms Crowd provides her top three tips for creating a company culture that is the right for you.

All companies – regardless of how long they have been running – have a culture. Your culture is that certain something that captures the essence of who you are and how you do things. It’s the thing that attracts people to join you and it’s also what keeps them working effectively and loyally.

For start-ups, your culture and vision are probably the two things that you can use to convince those first few hires through the door. So arguably, taking an intentional approach to define and use it is smart and will keep you honest as you grow. Here are three ways to get intentional with your culture.

1. Define it. Get your people in a room and discuss what makes the company what it is or what you want it to be. Write it down. Get specific on the words you choose and don’t be afraid to disagree; it’s in the debate that you’ll uncover areas of tension and uniqueness. Think about the stories that you each tell about your company – what do they say about you?

Be sure to define the values and behaviours that you want to live by. For example, you might choose “Impact” as a value and explain the accompanying behaviours as “You accomplish important work that positively impacts our clients” “You consider the impact of your work on the people around you” and “You leave a good impression because you take action and deliver on your promises.”

Then test it. And better yet, get more people in your company involved in the process. Let them discuss the values and pick behaviours that are relevant and helpful to their work. Get their input and the behaviours will stick.

Then test it with your clients and external stakeholders. Honest feedback will be your friend.

Keep refining the descriptions until they feel right and truly reflect what you’re all about. Aim to define four or five company values. Teams can then decide on the accompanying behaviours relevant to them (aim for three behaviours per value).

2. Embed it. That means weaving it into every interaction with your employees and clients. It should be part of how you hire, develop, and measure your people. It should become integral to the way you innovate and grow your business offering. It should be part and parcel of how you show up to client meetings and deliver results.

It should be reflected in your communications, both in the tone and in the method; instantly recognisable in everything from financial updates, processes and procedures, town halls, team meetings and one-to-one conversations. Ultimately your culture should dictate how you measure your performance and success.

3. Evolve it. Your culture is alive and will continue to evolve whether you maintain it intentionally or not. So, revisit the definitions – a fitting set of values and behaviours in year one might require a different nuance in year five. Check that you haven’t missed an important touchpoint as you’ve grown.

Smart leaders keep their finger on the pulse so go back to your employees and clients and listen again to their stories, observe their behaviour, and act on their feedback.

The speed and scale of your growth will dictate the frequency of these checkpoints, but every six months is a sensible guide.

This is time-consuming work but well worth the effort because getting intentional about your culture, will ultimately drive better business outcomes. McKinsey’s Organisational Health Index shows that organisations with top-quartile cultures post a 60% higher shareholder return than median companies and 200% higher than those in the bottom quartile.

People who want to positively add to your culture will perform better, more easily adapt to change, and help you to attract more talent. They will be your champions.

And putting in the effort to define, embed, and evolve your culture during the early years of your start-up, will save you a lot of time, money, and energy in the long run.

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Corporate culture: If you’re going to improve it, talk about it

26/01/2023
Time to read: 4 minutes
Anthony McNamara, content creator at The Comms Crowd looks at why it is important for companies to talk about their corporate culture and values and why it is should be part of their communications plan.

For any business to perform at optimal levels, designated KPIs must be monitored and assessed regularly. Typically, these KPIs surround functions such as sales, technology infrastructure, PR and marketing, and client relationships.

Critical though such metrics are, they are the supporting walls and lintels of the corporate edifice, and without a solid foundation, they are liable to collapse.

Sitting beneath the processes, goals, and assets of a successful business, that foundation takes its form as the corporate culture. Often neglected in favour of more short-term pursuits, developing a strong, inclusive, and supportive culture is the key to unlocking maximum potential.

However, simply embedding such a culture is not enough if you want to really reap its rewards; you have to talk about it.

In this blog, we look at the benefits of a great corporate culture, how The Comms Crowd clients have developed theirs, and how we helped them spread news of their successes to the masses.

The ‘Great Resignation’ has put corporate culture to the fore

If the development of a robust corporate culture was important before the Covid-19 pandemic, it became critical in the years that followed.

In what became known as the ‘Great Resignation’, employees voluntarily resigned from their jobs in unprecedented numbers and in the UK, between July and September 2021 alone, over 400,000 workers left their jobs.

Among the cited reasons employees gave for leaving were hostile working environments. Indeed, such was the prevalence of the reported phenomenon, that ‘toxic workplaces’ became a trending topic nationwide.

It is clear that the massive disruption of the last few years prompted fresh expectations among the workforce as to what behaviours they will and will not tolerate. A poor or neglected corporate culture may have been grudgingly endured before the 2020s commenced. But times have changed.

Quorsus, a former Comms Crowd client and strategic financial services consultancy founded just before the pandemic started and now owned by Capgemini, led discussions on the dangers of a toxic company culture and how one might be avoided. Quorsus was established with a vow that theirs would be a corporate culture imbued with positivity and reinforced by core values from the start.

Within consultancies – where your people are your product – the importance of embedding such a culture and values cannot be overstated and goes some way to explaining the extraordinary success Quorsus has enjoyed.

With our help, their approach and their message was amplified across their sector and beyond.

A robust corporate culture breeds productivity

Ask any education professional, and they will confirm that praise is essential for a child’s development. The chemical reaction experienced from being told they’ve done a great job provides an immediate boost to a child’s sense of self-worth and encourages them to continue working hard so they might experience it again.

In other words, it has the power to supercharge their productivity.

Yet, something changes when we reach adulthood and enter the world of work. It’s as though we forget those reward centres exist and how powerful they are. Consequently, praise is often replaced by criticism and our inner child – still so easily motivated by encouraging words – begins to suffocate in a miasma of ruthless expectation.

It is short-sighted, to say the least. A national Workplace Culture Survey of US employees found that 63% of respondents claim that workplace culture directly impacts their organisation’s success.

Productivity also depends on the abundance of opportunity. When a former client and friend of The Crowd dxw,  a leading employee-owned digital agency that works with the public and third sectors, launched its Returners’ Programme to help build a diverse, inclusive workforce, it broke new ground.

To ensure that dxw’s sector and potential stakeholders knew of its endeavours, the agency brought in The Comms Crowd to tell and disseminate their story. The coverage was such that dxw has become recognised as an expert provider not just of digital public services, but of opportunity to those who may have felt it had passed them by.

Together we made sure that the world knew of its leadership position in creating a positive, inclusive culture. Among various steps, this included becoming one of the first companies to introduce gender pronouns into their signatures.

dxw’s small size notwithstanding, the firm went on to win an array of company culture awards, helping to attract exceptional like-minded talent. An essential for any fast-growing technology enterprise.

Positive cultures promote development

Five years on and ‘The Great Resignation’ jolted many organisations into action because they didn’t want to lose their top talent. Recognising that avoiding high employee turnover requires more than just an amenable working environment, many firms put a renewed focus on facilitating professional development.

Ahead of any recruitment drive, senior leaders invariably begin reviewing factors such as pay scales, perks and benefits, and holidays. However attractive they’re able to make each perk, if the organisation is renowned as a place where careers stagnate, the drive is doomed to failure.

As such, building a positive culture requires embedding opportunity and routes to success at all levels of the business. The best cultures underpin this by making commitments to personal development as much as professional, properly rewarding achievements, and understanding of the importance of a healthy work/life balance.

Former client, JDX Consulting, acquired by Delta Capita, attributed their sustained global success to a carefully developed culture of inclusivity, coaching, and empowerment that allowed the firm to attract diverse, high-quality talent from all walks of life.

By entrusting The Comms Crowd with articulating and sharing their methodologies, JDX quickly became the corporate culture benchmark within their sector before their acquisition by Delta Capita.

We then went further by working with JDX to promote their Festival of Learning, a professional development programme set up by the firm’s HR division. The initiative gives employees the space and tools to grow professionally at their own pace and take control of their own career progress.

Showcase your corporate culture with The Comms Crowd

Our clients love us because we’re adept at getting their messages and successes out into the public domain and the publications their stakeholders engage with.

If you have invested time and money into developing a corporate culture that breeds energy, achievement, opportunity, and happiness, it deserves to be celebrated.

Moreover, potential talent, partners, investors, and clients want to know what you’ve done and are doing. Speak to The Comms Crowd today, and our internal comms consultant, PRs and writers can ensure they soon will.

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The Importance of Building Trust in the World of Regtech

21/02/2022
Time to read: 2 minutes
Lauren Bowden, Fintech content lead at The Comms Crowd looks at the opportunities and challenges facing Regtech firms, and the role trust plays in ensuring future success.

When the term Regtech burst onto the scene around circa 2015, it was met with mixed reaction. Some took the cynical path – simply as spin for existing regulatory technology vendors who have been in the business for years to benefit from Fintech’s halo effect. Others saw it as a way for new start-ups to shake things up, offering more cost-effective and agile SaaS-based solutions to post-GFC problems.

Seven years later, with the market projected to reach around USD 33.1 Billion by 2026, countless players are thriving in all areas from tax to cannabis. Established vendors are now embracing the portmanteau with open arms and investing in more flexible forward-looking business models – few would dispute that Regtech is here to stay.

That said – there are still a fair few hurdles these firms need to jump before they can realise their full potential. According to the FCA, one of the most active regulators supporting this burgeoning market, it all comes down to trust:

“The trust element is ingrained in the complex ‘business case for RegTech’ – RegTech firms need to convince firms to allow them to work with their most sensitive data assets and systems in order to solve their problems.”

Policies, procedures, and – most importantly – legal documentation go a long way to ensure sensitive data assets and systems remain safe. But before anything gets signed, to get even a toe in the door Regtech firms need to find ways to demonstrate trustworthiness. Of course, trust needs to be embedded internally first, through a solid culture, stemming from the top down and cultivated by HR, but it needs to be demonstrable externally too, especially in such a crowded market. And this can be achieved with transparent marketing communications.

  • For start-ups when there’s a multitude of moving parts at any one time, external communications should be planned carefully and not rushed. Investing in building relationships with the trade journalists forms the beginning of your journey and is always time well spent, as these independent and credible sources are always essential conduits to getting news out when the time is right.
  • For more established vendors looking to move into the Regtech space, a solid analyst relations programme should be at the heart of any product roadmap. Honest, open, and regular dialogue with the gatekeepers of those ever-important magic quadrants, waves, or rankings should be prioritised.
  • Solid content marketing and a strategic social media plan including blogs, e-books, infographics, whitepapers, and other high value content shared directly with prospects and customers or distributed over curated social media accounts like LinkedIn can work at any size or type of Regtech firm. That is provided it speaks authentically to the right audience, and that content is relevant, it adds value, and is not overtly promotional. And with the amount of change inherent in the regulatory landscape, the opportunities for subject matter experts to demonstrate thought leadership and guidance are plentiful.

There is a whole arsenal of comms tools that Regtech firms can employ at various stages of their evolution, but the art is knowing when, what, how and to whom. Working with marketing communications professionals who understand the nuances of this complex, jargon-filled environment, as well as how to make the message hit home will ensure their voice is heard in this very crowded marketplace.

 

 

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Six ways to annoy a journalist – without really trying

18/03/2021
Time to read: 3 minutes

We are very lucky that our head of tech content Sandra Vogel is also a working journalist, as it helps keep all us PRs on our toes. Here she shares some journalist pet hates – forewarned is forearmed.Six ways to annoy a journalist blog

PRs try their hardest to achieve success with every pitch. Journalists spend significant parts of their day reading pitches, and working out what is and is not useful to follow up.

For both parties it can be a bit of a battlefield. For the journalist there’s never enough time to triage an inbox. For the PR there are never enough successful placements of a pitch.

There are ways PRs can up their pitching game – and perhaps the first place to look for clues on strategy is identifying things that annoy journalists so that these can be avoided.

Here are six things that can annoy a journalist – and obviously enough, they are six things a PR might want to avoid.

1) Bombarding

One email is enough. If you’re going to send a follow-up, wait a while. Wait a couple of days. Sending a follow-up within hours is not going to win you brownie points. If several PRs are working on an account, make sure only one of them sends email to a particular journalist. Journalists don’t want or need to receive multiple copies of the same email from different people.

As for follow-up calls, tread carefully. “Did you get our email about….” is not a good way to go. If you sent it, the journalist got it. If you are going to follow up do so with more information, a new snippet of interest. Don’t give the task to a junior who may know neither the journalist not the subject matter. Follow-up calls are part of your journalist relationship building. Use them rarely, use them wisely.

2) Inappropriate addressing

I don’t want to receive emails that start “Hi, Vogel”, “Hi [name]”, “Hi Andrew”, or anything else that’s not, “Hi Sandra”. But I do receive them. Even though I know this isn’t personal, it annoys. For some journalists it will result in immediate hitting of the Delete key, before the main point of the email has been reached.

3) Media database errors

If you’re taking the personal approach and set aside time to check a journalist out and reference their work, then make sure you get it right. I’ve had emails that start something like “I really enjoy your work at [website], and I wanted to run an idea by you”. OK. But if I’ve never worked at [website] alarm bells ring.

This can cause a journalist to decide in a split second that whatever comes next it’s not relevant to them, and spark another quick reach for the Delete key before any further words are read.

4) Spelling mistooks and word-related offences

Journalists are writers. I know, talk about stating the obvious. But the point is that they are therefore highly attuned to spelling, grammar, and other word-related matters. Emails and pitches that have not been through a spell checker, or those where the grammar and syntax is poor, won’t get much traction. Not everyone is a super-wordsmith. But nobody that can’t write a proper sentence or pay attention to a spellchecker should be let loose on journalist emails.

5) Errors in accompanying documents

Accompanying documents include things like press releases and report summaries. In late February I received a 2021 press releases dated 2020. Seven weeks into the new year. Oh how the PR and I laughed. I’ve also had press releases and report summaries with tracked changes left in them. These can be amusing and informative, but sometimes the tracked changes can be a bit near the knuckle and embarrassing for the PR and their client. The PRs don’t laugh quite as much then. I am afraid an email request to “please delete without reading” is sent more in hope than expectation.

6) Jargon and weasel words

Any pitch that claims what’s on offer is “unique”, “groundbreaking” or “game-changing” gives itself a lot to live up to. Usually it can’t meet the highfalutin claims, and a journalist will not need long to confirm that. Tread carefully about what you claim in a pitch. The watchword here is to show not tell.

Related to this point is the overuse of a range of words that just set journalists’ teeth on edge. Here are a few: showcase, synergy, disruptive, next-generation, revolutionary, innovative, DNA, passionate.

It might be hard to avoid using words like these, but many journalists just find them lazy ways of expressing your ideas. Avoid.

It’s not too difficult to find out what irks journalists. Just ask a few of those your own agency values and respects the most and you’ll get a good strong list of annoyances. That’s step one. Step two is doing something with what you’ve learned. Onwards!

 

 

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Should PRs be doing more to promote the benefits of earned media?

15/02/2021
Time to read: 3 minutes

Tech PR lead Debbie Smith looks to balance the more subtle benefits of earned media against the instant gratification of the click through…Earned media blog

So you’ve just achieved two great pieces of coverage for your client. You send them the links and pat yourself on the back. Then you get a reply from their SEO expert: “But one piece doesn’t link to the website at all, and the other only has a link at the bottom.”

They go on to explain that for SEO purposes it’s good to get links, but ideally these links would be towards the top of articles to increase click-throughs.

Resisting the temptation to throw your coffee at your screen in exasperation, you take a deep breath and explain PR 101: the difference between earned, owned and paid media.

This is not the only time I’ve had to explain earned media in recent weeks. So I’ve been thinking about why the question is being asked. Although it may seem glaringly obvious to those of us who’ve spent our careers in B2B PR, perhaps the convergence of different channels has muddied the waters for some marketeers?

It’s not that PRs don’t understand the value of SEO and the value of obtaining links back to the client’s site, it’s simply that earned media is first and foremost the tool to build credibility, increase brand trust and manage reputation.

 

First, let’s clarify what we’re talking about.

  • Paid media: you pay for visibility or reach through advertising, advertorial, PPC or affiliate marketing. So you have complete control, but it’s the least credible. Ultimately you are paying to get your audience’s attention.
  • Owned media: includes your website, your blogs, your newsletters and your social media channels, where you control both channel and content. This is ideal for education and demonstrating thought leadership. So no money is changing hands but it’s still you explaining to the world why you are so great.
  • Earned media: third party objective endorsement, i.e. someone else is talking about you as an expert, and no money has changed hands. This includes media coverage obtained through PR, where a journalist has covered the story because in their view it’s newsworthy, not because you’ve paid for the coverage. To obtain this you need strong content, whether it’s a product that’s truly innovative, an opinion which provides new and informed views or a piece of thought leadership – which is where owned thought leadership content is valuable, as it can be repurposed for PR.

The great benefit of earned media is the credibility it brings which the other two routes can’t provide.

However, the downside of this is that you don’t get to dictate to the journalists where to put a link back to your client’s site, or indeed if one is there at all, depending on their editorial policy. You certainly don’t go back to a publication and ask for a link to be added or you’ll be promptly referred – with a few choice words – to their advertising department, and they’ll be unlikely to feel inclined to write about your clients again.

 

Where it gets blurry is when earned media becomes ‘online word of mouth’, including shares and reposts, content picked up by third party sites and media developed through partners and influencers.

Say you post on your company’s LinkedIn page about your new blog (owned) or latest piece of press coverage (earned) – when these are shared, they are both ‘online conversations’, even though the content has originated in different ways. Are posts from partners truly earned, or based on a mutually beneficial relationship i.e. owned? And while tech and fintech analysts (i.e. influencers) review products and provide editorial independence, the ASA has taken many so-called consumer influencers to task for not making clear when content has been paid for.

There’s a tendency to class all click-throughs as equal. Perhaps that’s true for buying trainers. It also makes reporting more straightforward! But in the world of B2B, the clicks driven by third party objective endorsements are surely the most likely to generate real interest and preference.

The journalists we work with pride themselves on their editorial integrity. A discussion on a journalist and PR social media group this week made that abundantly clear. So they’ll only cover material that in their view has earned its place on their websites. And we’ll continue to focus on obtaining that earned media, and other third party objective endorsement, as well as on generating the strong owned content that drives it. We’ll celebrate when journalists write about our clients because we know there is more to building credibility, increasing brand trust and managing reputation than including a back link.

Where we sit in the digital marketing mix

 

 

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The editorial calendar is dead – long live the proactive pitch

15/01/2021
Time to read: 1 minute

FinTech PR lead Chanda Shingadia recalls the days of the editorial calendar when features were spoon fed and compares that to how our skills have evolved in order to still be part of the conversation today.Editorial calendar blog

Pitching has evolved in different ways since I started working in PR over 17 years ago. Back when I was a sprightly and eager account executive we spent hours calling and emailing publications at the end of the year to get their upcoming editorial calendars. These editorial calendars were an integral part of our PR programmes and many of us would trawl through these to see which features would be relevant for our clients and ensure we pitched for them in advance of the publication date.

How times have changed. Only a handful of publications now create these editorial calendars and those that still have them chop and change the features around. A lot of this has to do with many print publications moving to online platforms. They are therefore not tied to advertising and can be more flexible with their themes and topics which are more relevant to current market activity and world events.

So if the mountain isn’t coming to the prophet… then we have to get proactive with our pitching.

Reading around the subject, working out where the sweet spot is, where our clients can add value to the debate of the day and then distilling this down to a succinct and compelling pitch – that’s where a decent PR demonstrates their worth.

Proactive pitching and good relationships with journalists are more important now than they have ever been to ensure clients are still getting their spokespeople in upcoming features and articles that the journalists are writing. Relying on forward features lists simply won’t do and speaking to key journalists that are relevant for your clients on a regular basis is imperative. We like to check in with our journalists to see what’s their focus and suggest a proactive topic that might make a good feature or contributed article idea that fits in with their thinking.

As the industry and media landscape evolves, our job as PRs doesn’t get any easier for sure, but being a more intrinsic part of the editorial process is a reward in itself.

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Thought leadership, it’s a mindset

12/06/2020
Time to read: 2 minutes

Where we suggest taking a step back before embarking on a thought leadership comms programme.

So you’ve got news …

Thought leadership blogYes, which PR consultant hasn’t heard this one before: “Our new [insert latest product name here] is the best/biggest/most efficient/etc. …” If it really is: congratulations. You will be able to leave your mark on your industry and be remembered for this innovation. If it isn’t: you will still be able to contribute to the market with a product or service that your customers will appreciate and which will, in all likelihood, enhance and complement your and the market’s existing product offering.

Now the new product is finally ready, you’ll want to give it all the support possible to get sales off the ground quickly. You have done your research and know exactly which products you are competing with and who your target audience is. Now all you need to do is advertise your product and issue a press release. Can it really be that simple? It rarely is.

New technology products and services are being launched every day. Marketing messages promising all kinds of benefits flood your target audience on all channels. How can you make sure that your message is heard and noticed over and above the general chatter? By leveraging your position as an industry expert and thought leader.

Thought leadership is not created overnight. Take some of the most eminent experts in your field of specialism. What are they known for? How long have you been aware of them as industry experts? Where have you heard about them? Do you know them in connection with one specific product? Probably not.

True thought leadership is based on industry expertise, not just product knowledge. You know your market and how your product range fits. You are probably very aware of a number of vertical sectors in which your product is being specified and their particular issues. Take advantage of this knowledge and you take the first step on the road to thought leadership.

It is extremely important to be honest with yourself and your communications team about whether your product is a true first and really unique in the market or not. It will harm your thought leadership standing if advertised as such when it really isn’t. If it isn’t unique, concentrate your messaging on other important features and how it fits with existing technology and improves it.

Take a mental step back from your product and the sales target figures it is supposed to achieve soon after launch. Consider the wider industry and the impact your technology can make on this environment. Perhaps there are solutions in development that will make a difference in a few months or years? Are you aware of the latest relevant scientific research?

Preparing the ground by establishing thought leadership takes time and effort. But, once a reputation is established, it is much easier to maintain it with regular communication and information and will benefit you and your team in the long run.

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Getting our own house in order

01/01/2020
Time to read: 1 minute

Founder Sam Howard reflects on how it’s easy to forget to talk the talk when you’re so busy walking that walk.

Getting our own house in order blogSimply put, our role at The Comms Crowd is to help companies best articulate what they do, how they help their customers, and why they do it better than their competitors. Once we have that position defined, that’s what we roll out in varying engaging formats across the most appropriate comms channels for their target audiences: website, content, PR, social media, etc. We have all built our careers focused on this and only this, so we have become really rather good at it, and as a result we have enjoyed eight years of strong and steady growth.

But then we made the CLASSIC MISTAKE:

We were so busy looking after our clients we fell behind on our own positioning and comms  – fairly embarrassing for a comms agency!

Just like the firms we work with, our strengths have evolved over the years, which means our competitive advantage has shifted, and as a result, the type of clients we work with.

In the early days we sported the start-up vibe of, ‘we are small, agile and affordable’ and of course we were, and still are. However, over time we attracted and retained some of the best independent talent in the industry and developed a deep pool of sector knowledge, as well as a wider skill set. And, as a consequence, we have enjoyed working with a much wider range of companies, so alongside our first loves, the start ups, we find ourselves increasingly working with larger firms too.

Yet our website did not reflect this evolution at all… nor our blog content… nor our social feeds.

Having identified the problem, there have been a few long weeks at the keyboard as we overhauled everything from the ground up. Now, our website and all our social content clearly articulate our core value and how we are best able to help our clients.  We have created the space to demonstrate our fintech and tech/cyber experience and our comms expertise, and made sure we have lots of lovely client stories to go with.

So now we are all set! Bring it on 2020, we’re ready for ya!

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What Does a Great Blog look like?

11/11/2019
Time to read: 3 minutes

So you’re a B2B Tech firm and your marketing team has agreed that a blog is the way forward (and indeed it is). This is the blog you need to read next. Sandra Vogel, who heads up tech content for The Crowd and ghost blogs for a range of firms, passes on her advice.

What does a good blog look like?So what does a great blog look like? The answer depends on what you want to get out of a blog, so for the sake of argument let’s say you run a business that sells goods or services. There’s a lot of competition for whatever it is you do, and you need to remind people you exist. You use a range of different methods to do this – a blog on your web site is part of the mix.

To meet the requirements of your business, your blog needs to keep people coming back. It’s a tool for you to deliver useful information to existing and potential customers or clients. It’s a way of showing off your organisational personality. And it’s a way of helping people understand more about your products, new launches, upgrades, exciting ideas and plans you have for the business.

That’s a lot for a blog to do. Here are some guidelines for better blogging:

  • Keep it short. In general try for no more than 600 to 700 words. People will get bored if they have to read more than that, and you might easily stray off the topic at hand.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t try to cram all your wisdom into a single blog. Have a point to make, make it, expand a little, maybe give some examples. Develop your point of course, but be careful not to make things too complex.
  • Do you need a call to action? I see some blogs that include a call to action every single time. As a reader I know how the blog will end – it’ll be ‘now go and look at our great product’. If that happens every time readers know a blog is a glorified advertisement. They’ll get bored, go away, and maybe never come back. Calls to action are important. But you probably don’t need one in every blog.
  • Connect well with the rest of the site. Do you publish white papers, news releases, new product updates? Of course you do. Tie blogs in so that there is continuity, and so you can link to other resources where possible. Don’t leave the blog out on a limb.
  • It’s a good idea to have a forward plan so that you don’t get to ‘blog day’ and sit staring at a blank screen wondering what to write. If you work with an agency – and that’s a really sensible idea – then they’ll help with this.
  • Be regular. It’s a good idea to have a schedule. Perhaps you want to put a new post online every two weeks. If that’s what you want to do, stick to it. When you make your plan (above), make your schedule too. Both plan and schedule can change in the light of events, but if they’re not in place a blog is the kind of thing that an organisation can let slip if it is busy. A blog that’s not up to date is arguably worse than no blog at all.
  • Look from the outside in. Visitors might not use your product or service, might not know your business at all, might just be passing by. Think about it from their point of view. This can be hard to do in-house. It’s another area where an agency can be really helpful.

There’s another guideline that’s overarching on all of the above. It’s about the writing quality. The tone, writing style, grammatical accuracy and readability of your blog speaks volumes – it’s probably more important than the content. Really. You might have the most fantastic point to make, but if the message is garbled, nobody is going to get to the bottom of the screen.

If a blog is going to work for you, you need to put energy, effort and expertise into it. Writing a blog is hard work, and it is a skill people learn and hone through years of experience. Ensuring that the blog plan and schedule are well managed and that topics are spot-on can also be tricky in a busy business. There is no shame in lacking the skills or the time that’s needed in-house. Bringing them in from outside can take your business blog to the next level.

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