Asah Adolphe joined us for the month of July 2020 as an intern, and many of the team were involved in giving her some experience of different aspects of our work. Sandra Vogel, head of tech content and working journalist, volunteered to guide Asah through conducting and writing up an interview. This involves several different skills, including researching your subject, working out interview questions that will get you the results you think you need, and crafting an article out of what you learn. Below you can read the result – Asah’s interview with our founder Sam Howard.
It has been eight years since Sam Howard started The Comms Crowd, and it has never been more of a success than it is today. She discloses all in this interview from her favourite procrastination habits to her greatest career achievements and even admits how it was never her initial career plan to work in PR.
Earlier on in Sam’s professional journey she did not consider that PR would be her future career path and even resented the suggestion when her boss recommended it to her. Nevertheless, we can now understand that the software CEO had the right idea as his encouragement led her into the right direction, as she is now the head of a thriving comms agency.
As the creator of a ‘new breed of communications agency’, Sam’s main responsibilities are to ensure that the company is healthy, financially balanced and that that their clients are happy as she emphasises, ‘good enough is never ever good enough.’ Her determined mindset filtrated through every response she made to the questions I asked and accentuated why not only the company but her professional career has been such a triumph.
When asked about the key to developing an efficient team she explained that it is vital that each member is articulate, maintains a technical understanding and exhibits an interest in their role as this all contributes to the smooth sailing of the business. After all, an enthusiastic team builds the foundation for a successful, prosperous organisation.
In any professional field every individual is guaranteed to face hurdles and experience failure, Sam even acknowledged that to fail ‘is how you learn to become better at what you do’ and I could not agree more. When I queried the award-winning writer on the topic of failure, she confessed that she had failed on numerous occasions, which is understandable when you have twenty plus years’ experience in B2B tech PR. She recalled one ‘unpleasant’ experience which happened to be when she was relatively new to the industry and was approached with a new role in the city that she was not prepared for at that point in her career. She expressed it was an honour to be chosen for the job, so she completely ignored the skill level it actually required and ended up ‘leaping in’ and being devastatingly inadequate. Although, she added that headhunting is common in the industry, so it is all too tempting to take a role that you are not yet qualified to do.
It is fair to say that failure can open the door to many successes, Sam’s professional experiences reinforce this as she has accomplished a lot within her time in the industry. However, her greatest achievement she claimed was her having the incentive to start the Comms Crowd. In 2012 traditional work environments made it mandatory for employees to work in offices for long hours, and even getting a 4-day week or working one day a week from home was still frowned upon. Sam decided to go against this model entirely and set up a fully virtual agency with no office at all (and none of the overheads so no extortionate agency rates). Now in the midst of a pandemic, the model is finally recognised as the way to go, but Sam has been making it a success as she has ‘pulled-off’ managing a dynamic, efficient, and professional team that operates from various locations across the country.
The determination and passion that built this tech comms agency stemmed from Sam’s desire to collaborate and work with people she respected. She recognised from early on that it was unfair of the PR industry to have impractical expectations of its mainly female work force, therefore her aim was to embrace these expectations and create a flexible supportive environment, as she stresses that ‘your personal life and your children and your family and your dogs are as important as work and anyone who acts as if they’re not is kidding themselves.’ Clearly, staying true to these values is what stimulates and inspires her drive.
Sam was certainly not reluctant in shedding some light on the challenges she has come across in her career. She revealed, that when working in PR ‘it is vital to learn how to adapt as every client is unique and getting it spot-on with a client can always be tricky’. However, this does not seem to deter Sam and her team from reaching their goal and ultimately impressing their clients. In her view the most rewarding element in her role is witnessing her team blossom and seeing how her team manages to have such a positive impact on their clients.
The Chief Storytelling Officer went on to describe her typical day, and I have to admit it is very productive considering she works from home but it happens to be a routine that she has evolved over the eight years of running The Crowd. Intriguingly she gets to pick her own working hours which begins at 1pm in the afternoon until 7:30pm in the evening and she clarified that between those hours ‘she is in deep concentration.’ However, she promptly starts her day at 8:30am when most people are commuting to work so she can get an early start on her domestic tasks, then she goes outdoors to take her dogs for a walk and after that she would normally get in some exercise, such as Pilates swimming or cycling; as a result of COVID-19 her exercise routine has undergone some changes, unfortunately as we have all experienced this pandemic has affected our lives in many ways. Nevertheless, this has not deterred Sam as her routine remains proactive.
Maintaining a productive and successful work-life along with a satisfying balanced personal life can be stressful, especially when being the executive of a company, but Sam has the perfect yet quirky coping mechanism that helps her which she shares as ‘very calming.’ *Drum roll* it is…creating spreadsheets! Yes! colourful, bright, multicoloured spreadsheets is what relaxes her from a demanding day at work. After all, everyone needs a stress reliever.
I realised prior to conducting this interview that Sam is very ardent and committed in encouraging the next generation of talent. I asked her for any advice she could offer any young person considering a career in the field of PR or the media industry in general. She responded that individuals that wished to undertake a career path into Media and PR must have a ‘strong work ethic’ along with determination and an understanding that the industry is fast paced, she also stated that the person must take into consideration their skills and mindset; as the industry ‘ is competitive and changes like the landscape’. This interview with Sam Howard has been enlightening and informative with a hue of humour. Sam has shared inner and concise mental abilities it takes to be successful in the Media and PR world. She has shown us what it takes to be a part of the industry and the positive yet resilient, tenacious attitude one must have to succeed.
Asah Adolphe joined us for the month of July 2020 as an intern, and many of the team were involved in giving her some experience of different aspects of our work. Debbie Smith, head of tech PR, volunteered to guide Asah through exploring how different media report a story. Below you can read the result, which reminds us that we all need to read the media with a healthy dose of cynicism.
“I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.” The Duke of Sussex discloses that his wife has been a target in the UK media.
When Meghan Markle became the Duchess of Sussex on the 19th May 2018, she resembled a progressive, fresh addition to the royal family. However, despite the Duke and Duchess of Sussex choosing to step out of the limelight since, the media has definitely not passed on the opportunity to keep tabs on the couple, especially the duchess. But why has the majority of the British press chosen to take an opposing stance against her?
Meghan has unfortunately faced significant media invasion ever since Kensington Palace released a public statement back in 2016 where Megan was referred to as ‘Harry’s girlfriend’ for the first time. This is where the international press had a field day and the negative media attention began.
To explain the scrutiny that she was experiencing in an ITV documentary interview screened in October 2019, she admitted that “it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes…” During this interview it was clear from Megan’s facial expression that she was struggling under the constant media attention and her actual words clarified this to the public. Evidently the attention had been a strain on the couple. Prince Harry expressed that this has been a familiar situation for him as he had watched his late mother experience the same pressure from the media. He claims: “Every time I hear a flash it takes me straight back – it’s the worst reminder.”
Different sources have taken sides on how to sell their viewpoint of the couple, but this has been considered more than just harassment. The couple have taken legal action in the past to sue the Mail on Sunday newspaper as they stressed that ‘This behaviour destroys lives.’ The treatment towards Meghan was and still remains malicious and they would go as far as to describe it as ‘bullying’.
Newspapers like The Sun seem to have chosen to focus on negative aspects of the couple’s lives ever since they stepped back from their royal duties; almost as though they are trying to create the narrative that since they are no longer ‘a part’ of the royal family everything has gone downhill for them. This is prevalent as they construct headlines like ‘Amazon slashes the price of Meghan and Harry’s book before it’s even released’. They have even accumulated the phrase ‘Megxit’ as a reaction to the pair choosing to leave the royal family for financial and personal independence. Even the words that they implement in their articles and headlines imply that Meghan is the dominant partner in their marriage by using harsh, negative language when writing about her.
In comparison, newspapers such as The Guardian publish a variety of articles that depict them in an impartial way and tend to stick to the facts of the event that occurred. Different news outlets seem to report the same story but lean towards one side or another in order to sell their narrative. After all, controversial topics and sarcastic phrases do sell.
Evidently the UK news sources have chosen their viewpoint on the couple, but it makes me wonder: if she were white, would they continue to portray her in a controversial way? If she were less opinionated, would they persist in treating her like this?
In the past it has been inferred that the press does not appreciate opinionated women. A prime example would be Gina Miller, as she stood up for parliamentary democracy by fighting against the government. Despite twice leading legal challenges against the government and winning she has had to pay the price with constant media attention and even suffered online abuse and death threats against her and her family. As we can see, there seems to be a pattern of behaviour in terms of how the media treats opinionated women.
As the couple have left their royal duties, are their lives still newsworthy?
Recently, articles are being circulated about Meghan as it seems that most of the British tabloids aim to keep up with the Sussexes, especially their little bundle of joy Archie. The pair made their own lifestyle choice to have independence from royal obligations with the approval from the Queen, but there seems to be a continuous cycle of pointless headlines. For example, The Mirror published a piece with the headline ‘Meghan Markle left beloved dog in Canada as he didn’t like Prince Harry’. In my view this is not a significant topic that the public needs to know about. It is more of a personal experience that is not required to be shared publicly.
Therefore, I believe that it is imperative to remember that news sources are very influential and possess the power to manipulate the public into thinking in particular ways, whether implicitly or consciously. It can affect an individual’s life both positively and negatively, but in Meghan’s case negatively.
The past few months have forced us all to re-evaluate our lives at home, at work and beyond. We’re spending more time on video calls, sharing more on social media and taking greater advantage of online learning to expand our skills. So it’s no surprise that we’ve seen a big uptick in messages from clients wanting to boost their online presence, not least on social media. Requests vary, but most want to elevate their corporate accounts, especially the number of followers and engagement levels on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Our social media strategist Peter Springett shares his findings from recent audits he’s conducted.
- Profile page: most look professional, but solidly corporate. Profile photos and header images are often in line with the overall brand but show little of the ‘softer edge’ you need to stand out on social media.
- Followers: somewhere between 100 and 500 (it tends to be a little higher on LinkedIn).
- Posting frequency: about twice per day (maybe twice a week on LinkedIn).
- Tone of voice/personality: varies, but in many cases this is inconsistent or non-existent.
During the audit we also look at the personal profiles of the leadership team. That’s when my jaw often hits the ground. A typical CEO has thousands of followers. Thousands! Even when their profile is incomplete. Some even lack a portrait photograph. Impressive? Yes, except that most organisations fail to take advantage of the opportunity. The skill is to turn these passive LinkedIn connections into active networks that promote the business, its offering and the people who make it possible.
With a little more time I usually find at least half-a-dozen employees (at all levels) who are active on social media in a professional capacity. They post and engage regularly, sometimes about their employer, more often about what fascinates them in their industry. Bringing these people into the mix is vital too. By the way, I’m not arguing against having stand-out corporate social media accounts. They matter enormously for the credibility of your business.
The trick is to combine both personal and corporate networks in a virtuous circle that boosts followers, engagement and inbound enquiries.
With one client we assembled and trained an employee advocacy team of 50 people, including the CEO, who were active on LinkedIn and Twitter. Some had thousands of followers, some had hundreds. But with the right training, they became enthusiastic participants, with some even reaching ‘influencer’ status in their industry. At the same time, the number of corporate account followers on Twitter grew from 800 to 7,000 and on LinkedIn from 12,000 to 75,000. The engagement uptick was equally positive. This growth was entirely organic, by the way. We didn’t pay a penny to advertise for followers or sponsor external influencers.
This doesn’t happen overnight.
You need to put a plan and a consistent resource in place to generate momentum on social media. Put it another way: there are no shortcuts, but there is a direct route to social engagement and leads, and we can show you where it lies.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can support your corporate and employee advocacy social media networks, get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tech PR Katrin Naefe suggests taking a step back before embarking on a thought leadership comms programme.
So you’ve got news …
Yes, 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.
Eria Odhuba, Head of AR, goes deep into the influencer mix.
Remember this line from Morpheus: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
In the good old days when I started off in the tech industry, we’d just begun to move away from floppy discs, computers booted up really slowly (at least mine did), mobile phones multi-tasked as house bricks, social media didn’t exist, and organisations that wanted to get an idea of what technology to buy read industry analyst reports – sometimes, very long reports. I should know, because I wrote a few of them.
The role of analysts as THE primary third-party influencers was clear, and they really played an excellent role guiding organisations through complex decision-making processes regarding IT.
Fast forward to today, and while industry analysts still play a major role, they are not the only party in town. At the end of last year I went to an event at which industry analysts were joined by technology journalists (as expected), management consultants, bloggers, storytellers and academics driving student meet-ups.
All these influencers play a huge role in testing messages, driving conversations and amplifying what is great about a vendor’s technology. And they do this across multiple platforms – check out this blog post by our very own Marc Duke on the science of influencer marketing on how to deal with this complexity.
So how do you drive analyst relations programmes given the different influencers making their mark in the industry?
Well, fundamentally, how you view industry analysts should not change (see my white paper on how organisations can ensure AR delivers to the bottom line). Analysts are not irrelevant or losing their influence (just look at their increasing revenues). It is just that AR programmes need to take account of wider influencer relations activities, and organisations just have to be very clear what they want to get out of their engagements with analysts versus the other types of influencers.
So analysts still produce reports for those that want them, but even they have changed the way they get information out to a wider audiences (i.e. those that don’t have subscription seats). Analysts write their own blogs, interact with other industry bloggers, host webinars (many of them free), and speak at or run their own events. And, as I saw at the event, they pretty much know all the relevant journalists in their research areas and happily have drinks with them.
The crucial thing is that the core messages you deliver to industry analysts should be consistent to other influencers and across all the platforms (sure, you may give analysts some information under NDA). Ultimately the intermingling of various influencer types means it is easier to get caught out if your strategy or messages have holes in them.
Mapping this matrix of influencers, messages and engagement takes time and, more importantly, needs executive sponsorship. Board-level buy-in is necessary to develop the consistency in messaging to all influencers despite the engagement models with each, and it also means more employees are willing to take ownership of contributing to the developments of great relationships with influencers – including industry analysts.
Considerations for balancing AR programmes with wider influencer marketing or PR strategies:
- Focus on the core messages you want to deliver to ALL influencers, but tailor the delivery to match the different types of influencer;
- Point analysts to great work that other influencers may have produced (e.g. academics may have some data that would be useful to analysts as they build a picture of market trends and technology barriers/uptake);
- Identify the analysts relevant to you that use social media:
- read their blog posts and contribute to discussions they have started (sometimes, the exchanges are worth more than a 60 minute briefing);
- follow them on Twitter and comment on their posts etc;
- If you’ve connected with an analyst, make sure you also connect on LinkedIn and follow their posts – opportunities to commend them, comment or refer to others then become possible – just don’t use this as a platform to sell!
- THEN – use the picture you have built of analysts on social media to plan for and engage with them as part of the briefing / consultative process – bring all the various strands together but remain focused on the consistent message you are trying to deliver to them;
- Think about the conversations you have had with industry analysts – how can the information shared be used to drive engagements with other influencers? If you’ve used an analyst for message-testing, get that message out to customers and drive conversations with other influencers so they can amplify or provide feedback from an even wider audience.
Your plan should be to get industry analysts, technology journalists, management consultants, bloggers, storytellers and academics all telling your story – the way you want it.
So, why reference to the movie, The Matrix?
Blue pill = you have a very narrow view of industry analysts – just brief them, see them as people who simply churn out reports or pay expensive subscriptions to access reports which, while valuable, may not be balanced with output from the wider influencer audience.
Red pill = you start to do all the above and realise you are just beginning a journey that will spin faster and faster. This requires a new way of managing the various influencers and measuring the impact each has on sales or market perception, and figuring out how AR can drive engagements with analysts so that the final output is a consistent message that resonates in the market – and across all the influencers.
Which pill do you want to take?
Debbie Smith looks back on nine years as a freelance, including five years as a member of the Comms Crowd.
It seems like only yesterday that I was weighing up what felt like a massive decision. Should I swap my senior role in a national PR agency, with too much travel and time away from home but a guaranteed salary at the end of every month, for the life of a freelance? As I swam lengths in the hotel pool in Turkey on our autumn break, I calculated the sums in my head. If I charged £x per hour, how much work did I need every month to pay the mortgage and bills?
With the encouragement of my partner and my friends I decided to go for it! Nine years on, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I work with interesting clients and encouraging colleagues (who knew that being freelance didn’t mean working alone?) and have discovered a wonderful and supportive small business community in Cheltenham that I never knew existed when I was commuting around the UK.
Here are three unexpected things I’ve learned which have been key to going from zero business to happy freelancer.
1. I really enjoy networking!!
Everyone talks about networking as though it’s incredibly daunting – and sometimes it can be. But when you work from home, it’s important for your mental well-being to get out and about regularly. You also need to keep improving your skills and knowledge, and what could be better than a networking meeting with a speaker on a topic that interests you? If you treat networking as an opportunity to meet like-minded people and learn something new, rather than a hard sell, it immediately becomes something to look forward to. Of course networking groups vary massively; it’s important to be selective and pick the ones that are right for you, but there are plenty to choose from.
I also discovered Local ‘Laptop Friday’ co-working sessions. These continue to provide a weekly opportunity to chat to other freelancers and small business people and bounce ideas around, all for the price of a good coffee.
2. Be bold and reach out to strangers – many of them will help you
When I first started freelancing, I took a deep breath and contacted everyone I thought might be able to help me. One former client put me in touch with two freelancers he used, as he thought they were part of a network I could join. The one I knew wished me luck; the one I’d never met referred me to someone who ran a communications consultancy. Before long I was meeting her for an informal chat, which swiftly led to a fascinating and lucrative project for an international bank.
My work with The Comms Crowd began in a similar way. After reading an interview with Sam, I cheekily emailed her suggesting a coffee. She politely replied to this stranger saying “not yet”, but a year later decided the time was right to meet. As I hobbled into London recovering from a broken toe, I wondered what on earth I was doing, but we immediately hit it off and the rest, as they say, is history!
3. To enjoy media relations, you just need the right clients
Media relations has never been my favourite aspect of PR. It’s partly based on being forced to do the dreaded ‘ring-round’ when I first started and didn’t know any better. And if you’ve worked for an international agency, you’ll know the stomach-churning moment when you’re told that a US executive from a client is coming to the UK in three days’ time and wants you to arrange for him/her to meet key journalists, including national press, even though s/he has no news whatsoever.
However, it’s a completely different situation when you’re pitching thought leadership for clients who are experts in their field and have something interesting to say. You also have the freedom to decide which organisations to work with. If it’s not your area of expertise, or they want the impossible, you can politely say No (and ideally suggest a better approach).
So as I move into year ten, I’m still enjoying media relations and still reaching out to strangers, including those I’ve met when networking – most recently the IP expert I sat next to at a cyber event in early March who turned out to be the ideal person to help a new client in April.
Of course I’m looking forward to when I can actually meet people for coffee again, even though no doubt it will be at a 2m distance!
Marc Duke, head of Influencer Engagement, takes an in-depth look at why even in B2B circles peer review sites matter.
Influencer Marketing, as the name suggests, is about influencing the various people, groups and organisations that are trusted by the buyer or decision maker when making a decision to purchase products or services. One such group are Peer Review websites, where customers leave reviews of recent purchases, and their importance is growing all of the time.
A couple of statistics to back this up:
- Nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase (Spiegel Research Center, 2017)
- 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review (G2 and Heinz Marketing, 2017).
While you may have read a tale or two about fake Amazon reviews and getting friends and family to write about a holiday chalet on TripAdvisor, when it comes to B2B peer review sites things are much more regulated and the process of working with influencer sites is a lot clearer.
To give some context here, peer review sites are most relevant to software providers that are targeting businesses. For example, the adoption of cloud software has increased beyond all recognition in last decade. The Software as Service (or SaaS) market has become mainstream and with it the importance of reading and relying upon peer reviews to inform purchasing decisions has also risen. The reason for this is simple; it’s great to get a free trial of a piece of software but even better if you can read about the experiences (positive and negative) of your peers.
So what peer reviews sites are we actually talking about? Four major sites are:
Before you start to target peer review sites, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What categories do they cover?
- Are my competitors listed?
- Are my markets covered?
- Do the sites just generate traffic or also provide leads?
- Do I have the resources to create accurate product and company profiles?
- Do I have the resources to handle negative reviews?
- Does my marketing process enable me to maximise positive reviews/endorsements?
Assuming you can answer all of these questions, you are then in a position to look at working with Peer Review sites. The first thing that needs to be done is create a profile of your company and product/s, which doesn’t cost a penny. Once you have a company and product profile the next step is sourcing customer reviews. If you have happy customers it’s a case of asking them to provide a review of your product in much the same way you would ask a connection to endorse you on LinkedIn. If you don’t have a large bank of customers, you might find that some users will discover your profile.
You also have the option of contacting the account management staff at these sites who will be happy to discuss how to run a reviews programme (how to get reviews on your product page) and ways in which to generate branded collateral with reviews left by your customers to help with your sales process. You will need budget for this, so you have to weigh up the benefits compared to the costs. Just remember that all of these sites want to cover every vendor in the market. so Getting set up will just cost you some time and information so even a start-up should consider peer review sites.
The main benefits of working with peer review sites include:
- Traffic – people can click from the review page to your site or landing page
- Endorsement – some reviewers are happy to be referenced and to be used in customer reference programmes
- Leads – some sites offer ‘click to trial’ so a prospect reading a review can request a demo
- Insight – there is a lot you can learn about your competition.
One thing is for certain – businesses can’t ignore peer review sites as they are increasingly becoming a decision making tool of choice for some customers, and a positive review can help move a prospect from the top of funnel to the bottom. However you look to engage with peer review sites, they are certainly worth considering as part of your marketing strategy.
Sam Howard looks back on the ninth year of The Crowd
So when I first drafted this blog it was along the lines: last 12 months have seen our clients weathering a second year of political faffing, and we saw a fair amount of short-termism and turmoil. But on the upside it did give us the opportunity to assess our strengths and tap into them while developing new services designed to deliver hard returns to the client’s bottom line in such uncertain times. And round about December I was thinking, everything is looking calmer now, we’re in great shape and all set for a steady 2020!
Er yeah about that…
For sure, our remote business model means we are no strangers to the joys of self-isolation and virtual collaboration is not a novely for us but a way of life. But for the industry as a whole, with global travel cancelled and social distancing restrictions wreaking havoc with every family, every community, and every business, let alone the marketing plan… I’m already looking back on those halcyon Brexit days with nothing but a warm nostalgia.
Here’s our year in numbers as more words fail me.
Founder Sam Howard reflects on how it’s easy to forget to talk the talk when you’re so busy walking that walk.
Simply 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!
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.
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.