Annie Bowden

anniebowden

Annie Bowden is a PR Manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing communications agency in Lincoln. Specialising in consumer engagement and social strategy, Annie has previously worked in the communications team for the Wildlife Trusts and at Loughborough College.


Nine out of 10 people across the globe want brands to share more with them according to Brandshare, a consumer study by PR firm Edelman. Sharing ranges from having more brand transparency, to asking consumers for their thoughts and input.

We work closely with our clients to create and manage brands which do exactly that, because we know sharing encourages consumers to engage with, and ultimately purchase from, a particular brand. We know that listening, and sometimes responding, is vital to build relationships with customers.

Edelman’s research surveyed 11,000 people across eight different countries, measuring six aspects of how brands relate to their customers: shared dialogue, shared experience, shared goals, shared values, shared product and shared history.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, 91% of respondents identified sharing the product as the most important in their purchasing decision, wanting to have a hand in the design and development process.

Openness about product performance was also key, with nine out of 10 people keen to know how products were made and how they compare with competitors. Sharing brand values was also found to be extremely important to consumers, with 92% of people citing this transparency as vital.

The conclusion? Brands that successfully share with their customers are well rewarded as a result – consumers are more likely to buy and recommend a brand with which they have a relationship. If you are looking for some tips on how to build relationships with your customers, check out my Lava colleague, Ed’s last column for some advice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on brand engagement or how your business approaches consumer relationship management, so do leave me a comment or tweet me @anniebowden.

Annie Bowden is a PR Manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing communications agency in Lincoln. Specialising in consumer engagement and social strategy, Annie has previously worked in the communications team for the Wildlife Trusts and at Loughborough College.

It’s never nice being faced with a crisis, but these top tips can help you to handle what the world throws at you and come out alive at the other end.

Have a crisis plan

Rather than panicking when a crisis hits, having a plan ready to go when it does will make life much easier. Start by jotting down the potential scenarios and then assume that they have happened.

Crises fall into two categories: uncontrolled (employee death, fires and the like) and controlled (job losses, takeovers etc) so you will need to have a plan in place for these different scenarios.

Decide what you will need to do – issue press releases, schedule media interviews, update your website, and create action points. Align these with the level of the crisis, assign specific people/roles responsibility for each task and create a crisis plan document so you’re prepared when disaster hits. And don’t forget to include an internal communications chain.

Use one voice

When a crisis hits, it is very tempting for different people to answer questions and queries – often giving different answers. But it is essential to ensure a consistent message is delivered by one central spokesperson – at the highest possible level within the business. Make sure the elected person has the knowledge, sensitivity, authority and interpersonal skills to deliver your message and is accessible to the media.

Be prepared

Before speaking to the media, make sure that you are prepared to answer any difficult questions. Be informed about the situation and understand what you can and can’t say. Don’t volunteer potentially damaging information and make sure to stick to the facts.

Don’t overlook social media

In this digital age, social media is one of the biggest headaches facing companies in crisis. Within minutes, the whole world can know – and be making comments – about your crisis. Use this to your advantage and be proactive in communicating with your customers – answer their concerns and provide information. It’s also a great tool to gauge public reaction to a situation.

Be honest

No matter how many bad examples of crisis management you read, many businesses still insist on learning the hard way. A network of smoke, mirrors and untruths will be discovered and you will end up with egg on your face and your reputation in tatters. Combat this by being as honest as you can with your customers and taking responsibility – they will respect you for it.

Don’t hide

Another mistake many companies make is falling into a black hole the second a crisis hits. Make sure to keep communicating – even if nothing has changed – and be proactive.

Monitor public opinion

Make sure to keep on top of public opinion – social media is a great tool here – and respond accordingly. This will help you to evolve your crisis communications plan as the situation develops.

Learn & improve

Once the dust has settled, get your crisis team together and evaluate your response. What worked well? What didn’t? What could you do better? Make sure to update your plan.

Annie Bowden is a PR Manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing communications agency in Lincoln. Specialising in consumer engagement and social strategy, Annie has previously worked in the communications team for the Wildlife Trusts and at Loughborough College.

In recent years the media has changed dramatically. We no longer rely on our morning newspaper, or breakfast television to tell us what is going on in the world. Never before have we had so many ways in which to hear about the news and information.

Instead, more people than ever are “logging on” to get a live feed of news and views. Social media, news websites and even videocasting are quickly becoming the UK’s most popular way to learn about top headlines and breaking news.

With the surge in social media activity, it is no wonder that we have also seen a global explosion in bloggers. From Perez Hilton to Guido Fawkes, mummy bloggers to food writers, there is something for everyone. it is understandable though that one might be suspicious of the worth of blogs in terms of marketing. What benefit do the opinions of Joe Bloggs give to your campaigns? Surely recognised media outlets are far more influential?

However, times have changed and the role of bloggers has grown in significance. Blogger outreach campaigns are becoming increasingly common, with clients placing more and more emphasis on their engagement.

Here are some tips for how PRs can maximise their relations with key bloggers:

Research your target market

There is no point wasting your time and energy focusing on a blog which attracts only a handful of visitors or that does not communicate with your target audience.

Get to know key bloggers

Familiarising yourself with the people behind the blogs is vital for ensuring you get the best out of them. Maybe they work during the day and a phone call during working hours may be counterproductive, or perhaps they are located in another country and inviting them to a press launch is pointless.

Social media

Engage social networks in your communications. It is highly likely that bloggers will be using Twitter to help promote themselves, so make sure you follow and engage with these key players.

Treat them as you would a journalist

It’s important to remember that they may have a greater readership than the traditional media that you target and will receive a huge number of requests from PRs.

Beware blaggers

There are plenty of people out there who think that setting up a blog will entitle them to free products from willing PRs. Make sure to consider any request carefully and research their blog and social media presence before committing to anything.

Pitch

Just as you would with a journalist, you must tailor your pitch accordingly. Make sure to pitch in something that is relevant to their blog rather than sending a generic email.

With an increasing number of people heading online for their media fix, it is likely that the blogging community will continue to expand. Ignoring bloggers is not an option for the PR industry, and doing so may well cause you to miss on out exciting opportunities for your clients. However, it is vital that PRs examine each blog carefully – just as you would a trade magazine or newspaper – to ensure that you can maximise efforts and target the right audience.

Annie Bowden is a PR Manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing communications agency in Lincoln. Specialising in consumer engagement and social strategy, Annie has previously worked in the communications team for the Wildlife Trusts and at Loughborough College.

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