Mayday – Why Theresa Should Have Taken Some Improv Classes

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll have seen how badly Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference went.

First off let’s reiterate just how important the leader’s speech is at any political conference. It’s the only bit anyone outside the conference really pays attention to. In recent years they’ve become dull because party leaders simply cannot afford to mess up so they play it safe. If you want to find the last Leader’s conference speech that was as disastrous, you have to go back to 2003 and Iain Duncan Smith’s infamous “quiet man” speech.

Mrs May took to the stage with all the usual pressure and then some. This year’s was even more important as she recently led the party to  a disappointing General Election result, there’s tension in the cabinet and Brexit negotiations don’t seem to be going well.

With that in mind it couldn’t have gone worse.

You’ll have read about the voice loss. You’ll have read about the sign falling apart directly behind her. But the part of the speech that got the most coverage was undoubtedly when comedian Simon Brodkin gave Mrs May a P45, supposedly from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

P45

Look at that! That is brutal! It’s iconic and it’s going to follow Mrs May around for the rest of her political career. There’s not much she could have done about the sign falling apart and sure, she could have rested her voice to try and avoid the cough, but once it started she could only struggle through. The one thing she had full control over was (as the stoics tell us) her reaction to the stunt.

Ignoring the question of how a man got that close to the prime minister,  May’s reaction completely fed into the image of her as an unemotional character. By all accounts she is a very warm person but in this instant we can see a microcosm of how people perceive her. Distant. Staring ahead. Droning relentlessly on.

Eventually she took the P45 from the comedian, placed it gently on the floor and continued on with her speech. As he was escorted out by security, she tried a joke about Jeremy Corbyn but by then the whole thing had gone on too long and it didn’t really land.

While Mrs May is undoubtedly damning every comedian under the sun, any comedian worth their salt would be able to tell her how to have handled it. This guy was just a heckler. I’ve worked with loads of comedians and they all have their own ways of dealing with hecklers, because being heckled is a part of being a comedian, it’s a skill they have to learn. The best advice I’ve heard for hecklers is “cut them off early and use the crowd”.

To explain what that means, let’s imagine the situation had gone differently. Imagine if instead of trying to ignore the comedian, May had reached down, taken the P45 out of his hand and spoken directly to the crowd. Remember she’s addressing conference, this is her crowd, it’s the heckler who’s in enemy territory (this is the same with comedians and their hecklers). Now imagine May had said to the crowd something like “This man wants to hand me a P45, but I say we’ve got too much work left to do, are you with me?”

The crowd would have gone wild for it. If May had ripped up the P45 while she said it, the party faithful would have torn the roof off the place and the press coverage would have shown May as triumphant, not awkward; victorious, not embattled.

It’s easy to think of what you should have said in hindsight of course and if I’d been in May’s shoes I might have just cried when I saw that P45, but there was a moment where she could have turned it around, she just didn’t have the skills for it.

I think there’s a really important lesson to be learned here, one that has come up already in my studies and that’s the importance of creativity. Suggesting to the Prime Minister of the UK that she sit in on a comedy class would probably have you laughed out of the room, but  May has for a long time had the communication problem of seeming like she’s incapable of reacting to other people naturally and in that context comedy classes could be a creative solution to a genuine problem.

So my question is this; What’s the most creative/left field/wacky solution to a communication problem that’s worked in real life? Tweet, email or comment, I’ll update if I find any really good ones.

 

Jason Ashford is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Political Lobbying at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter @jasonashford89.

Don’t tweet lies – strategise

Is your company using digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to reel in more interest in your product or service?

They are? Ok. Now ask yourself, is your company using digital platforms effectively?

‘Digital strategy’ can be summarised in seven words – “achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies” (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2012). Seven words can also be – “Did you see that video on Facebook?” or “Just found the cutest bedsheets on pinterest!” – So A LOT can happen in seven words.

You may be applying these ‘digital technologies’ and clicking send on an aimless Facebook status, but what you want to be doing is ‘achieving marketing objectives’ by doing so. And to achieve marketing objectives, you need to create them through a well thought out strategic plan! This blog will help show you the benefits of developing your own digital strategic plan for your business – big or small.

What does ‘Digital’ include?

Since the creation of the first website in 1989, the digital world has been expanding to include more than just websites. Today you can advertise your business through SEO, email marketing, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest etc.), online video content (YouTube), pay-per-click advertising and mobile marketing.

You might have a sound marketing strategy for your physical business, but when it comes to connecting to your target audience on a digital level, you need to know which of these platforms are applicable and which you can utilise in order to build your brand and boost your revenue on a digital scale.

The benefits of going digital are endless….

It is now easier to satisfy customers with an easy to use website, promotional messages that work and are coherent with the rest of your social media and a quicker response time for customer service via messaging.  This can be an amazing way to boost your brand image, creating personal and intriguing content that will entice customers to purchase and repurchase from your business – for example video content has the power to go viral with the click of the ‘share’ button, all you have to do is be creative.

Tip:  With Instagram now introducing a ‘shop now’ feature without the user actually having to leave the app, it is those online retail companies with formidable strategic digital plans who will respond first to this opportunity and increase their online presence further whilst also up-selling their products.

With the help of tools such as Google Analytics, it is now easier to track and monitor your website statistics. This is an easy to use tool that can help you interpret data, transform it into tangible information and increase your awareness of your target audience.

Tip:  Ask your customers to subscribe to promotional emails when they purchase an item from you. This can further your revenue through repurchase whilst gently increasing awareness of your brand.

BUT you need to be careful too!

In the modern age, not just the basic needs of the customer need to be satisfied, but there are numerous extras that are expected from a company’s online website. The ease of use, performance and presentation are all considered when a website is launched, and these are inadvertently judged by those using it.

Be creative, but be coherent. Your website can’t have any broken links, as no one wants to go to the effort of clicking something (exhausting, I know!) to be disappointed with a webpage that doesn’t work. Even worse, for a webpage that doesn’t include the information they clicked on.

Lastly, the reputation of your brand is dependent on the reviews customers give the company – whether by word of mouth or online. Both have the potential to be damaging if they are stories of poor quality, customer service or of a bad experience. A good recommendation by an individual with a strong following on Facebook or Twitter could make or break your business – use this as an opportunity for celebrity endorsement of your product in order to boost your reputation, but make sure they like your product/service first!

Let’s look at Missguided for example

Innovation is at the heart of Missguided’s solid digital strategic plan. They realise that their targeted value market sector – “the determined dreamer, stylish professional and cautious creative” all have strong online presences. They took advantage of this. The aim of their 2015 Executive Summary was to ‘elevate the brands positioning, increase sales and endorse the brands core values and messages’. Instead of their marketing team posting aimless status’ and tweets, they filled the consumer with meaningful content which helped improved the image of Missguided.

Their marketing primarily focuses on competitions, celebrity endorsements, guerrilla marketing, web advertising and a cohesive social media campaign. Building the brand’s personality through informal and fun interactions on social media has been a key part of Missguided’s strategy creating a fun, quirky, youthful and above all – affordable – alternative to the online retail experience.

Most importantly, Missguided realise the need for an integrated strategy for both their digital and physical markets, resulting in both components complimenting each other. For example, their Facebook offered a competition to win two VIP tickets to their store opening in Manchester, they showed sneak peeks on Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr of their new store’s interior which emulates the brand values projected on their website, and their website also featured a live countdown of the opening of the store.

Within the store itself, digital screens were used to display social media engagement, such as when someone hash tagged a photo of a new purchase, and signs which encouraged customers to follow the brand on Snapchat. Even the writing around the store – “99% unicorn” and “eat, sleep, slay” – mirrors the brand’s playful tone of voice that can be seen across its social platforms.

 

Image result for missguided whats snapperin

 

So what can you do to develop your strategy?

PR Smith’s SOSTAC is an excellent framework for developing aims and goals stemming from a detailed situational analysis which looks at your outside and inside environment. This scan helps you get an advantage over your competitors, whilst keeping your own business focused and efficient. Alongside some of the tools mentioned above, SOSTAC will also help you monitor and control your strategy so that you know what to do if something goes wrong.

Image result for sostac

 

In conclusion, don’t tweet lies – strategise!

Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/shannon-quinn-556236132 and on Twitter @ShannonQuinnPR.

Photography in Public Relations

We all know the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and as an amateur photographer I firmly believe in this. So in Public Relations why should this be any different?

How often do you flick through a newspaper or magazine and a photograph catches your eye? Or how often does the photograph encourage you to read the article? So why submit a good story with a low quality photograph and limit the potential coverage your story could achieve?

Within an article or advert photos tend to stand out as they often consume more space; if this fails to capture the public’s attention they will often move on without reading the text, as articles with images gain 94% more views. Often the power of photographs is under estimated, so here are some guidelines on using photographs within your work:

  1. Preparation

Plan and prepare (1) what you intend to photograph; (2) why you intend to photograph it; and (3) how you will capture the photograph. Through preparation it will help you capture a range of photographs for different purposes that may be appropriate for future uses.

  1. Invest in a Photographer

A photographer will have the knowledge to know what type of photographs will be of an advantage to your company as well as being creative to capture unique photos that portray the company’s message. A professional will also have the correct equipment and skills to capture and edit photographs so that they best represent your message.

  1. Tell a Story

Quality photographs have the power to tell the client’s story and deliver a message to those who view it. Well-written stories accompanied by high quality photographs will grab both the editor’s and target public’s attention; therefore increasing the likeliness that the editor will publish your story as the photographs will increase the story’s appeal.

If people hear information they are likely to recall 10% of it three days later, whereas if that information is paired with a relevant image they will retain at least 65% of the information three days later. This highlights the importance of selecting a relevant photograph for your press release, as it will help increase brand recognition within your target publics as they will be able to recall the article when they see the product or service you offer.

  1. Social Media

Using quality photographs on social media is important as all platforms adapting to encourage users to upload photographs. The use of photographs on social media has been proven to increase the engagement rate, for example, on Twitter; tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than those without.

Photography in PR

Lauren Sharkey is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @lsharkey_37 or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-sharkey-25776ab0