It’s Coming Home: A hit and a miss

With the England football team progressing so confidently though the Euro 2020 tournament, it was inevitable that brands would try to capitalise on the hope of the nation.

But being topical and timely isn’t always enough…

Specsavers and Tesco provided us with great examples of how to score a hit and how to miss spectacularly:

Specsavers – on brand and on point:

Tesco – trying to find an angle, and missing the mark:

Let’s hope the England team’s performance is more Specsavers than Tesco tonight!

How to create a picture story with impact

Including an image with your press release is a no-brainer. Why? A strong picture can:

  • Score you the front-page
  • Make your news more memorable
  • Communicate your message in an instant
  • Boost the physical size of your coverage
  • Make-or-break your story being featured or not
  • Show your announcement / product / service impacting on people, adding colour contextually and visually

With American citizens unable to attend President Biden’s inauguration in person, the typical photo story that we’re used to seeing from this event was simply unattainable. Instead, a ‘Field of Flags’ has been created, resulting in some truly stunning photo opportunities for the global media.

Some of my all-time favourite photo stories, including this one, relied on one or more of the following elements:

  1. Size / scale – show them something very big or incredibly small

2. Humour – surprise people, make them laugh, be unexpected

3. Beauty – is it worthy of being hung in someone’s home or becoming their screensaver? If it is, you might be on to a winner

A little time spent considering how your announcement looks and not just what it says could net you a whole lot more coverage. Good luck!

How much do you think your colleagues are worth?

Have you ever really considered this question? I’m not talking about the monetary value of your professional network, rather the combined worth of their influence, support and the collaboration opportunities they represent.

It was only when I took on a new student to mentor, whose career aspirations are quite different from my own, that I found myself needing to look beyond my experience. The bonus was a realisation that I, personally, didn’t have to have all the answers; I could call on my colleagues, friends and other connections to help.

Each year, I mentor at least one student from my former university to help them figure out what they want to do when they graduate, how they’re going to get there and which steps they need to take first. I usually support students with an interest in marketing and PR, but this year someone with Film/TV aspirations asked for my help. I pushed back at first, thinking she’d be better off paired with someone from that industry, but she was confident and steadfast in her choice of mentor.

While I got to work helping her with her CV and creating a professional profile, I also wanted to be able to more confidently address her questions that I didn’t have answers for and connect her with others who could provide industry-specific insight. This is where my network really came into its own…

I started with a poll which ran concurrently on my Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. It not only garnered some good quantitative data, it also generated great commentary and advice, from a wide range of my connections, that I was able to pass on. I also reached out to people who actually do have experience in TV/film and asked if my mentee could get in touch with them. I was delighted when they both said yes.

So, if you’re wondering whether it’s worth continuing to invest time on Twitter, LinkedIn or any other professional networking site when you already have enough on your plate, consider the future value of that small investment. You may be pleasantly surprised how much they can – and are willing to – do for you!

Has the global pandemic caused a lowering of expectations – in a good way?

There’s no doubt it’s been a crazy year. Everyone has had to adapt to new ways of working and what was dubbed the ‘new normal’. While this has caused a lot of stress and hardship for a lot of people, there are some positives that can be drawn from the ways we’ve all adapted and made it work.

I was talking with a colleague this week about a lowering of expectations that’s occurred this year – but in a good way. When it came to producing video and audio content, there was always great concern about getting the lighting exactly right, checking what everyone was going to say and agreeing who was going to speak when so it ran as smoothly as can be. While professionalism and a high quality output are still hugely important, everyone delivering their ‘bit’ from a distance has meant that things have had to be a bit more organic, a bit less rehearsed and, in my opinion, a lot more authentic.

I believe most audiences can see straight through something that is overly stage-managed and therefore not delivered from the heart. When even the BBC now airs interviews with experts whose cameras are at an awful angle and internet connections are only just up to the job, it feels like we can all relax a little on the set up and focus more on what really matters – the content.

If there’s one positive to come out of this mad year, it’s an appreciation for what is truly important. When it comes to content, for me, that will always be the stories of real people and sharing them in the most genuine way. When we can return to a more ‘professional’ set up, we will no doubt all feel hugely relieved. Until then, we’ll remain focused on helping everyone stay connected by keeping storytelling at the heart of our communications.

From drab to fab – how to give your copywriting a new lease of life

Picture this: you’re sat at your desk and an email arrives from your boss asking you to write a news story about yet another [insert typical request here]. You quickly check what you wrote last time and type out a new version with all of the same information, switching in a few alternative words here and there.

It may be easy but it’s not exactly inspiring.

This is the situation I was getting close to being in when I signed up for a Guardian Masterclass on persuasive writing. I needed to inject a bit of energy into my work to reinvigorate the copy I was delivering.

Thankfully, the course was excellent and I came away with some excellent ‘persuasive writing techniques’ which I now have as a constant reminder on my desk. So, if you’re looking for a few creative ways to approach any writing task, why not try answering the same brief in a few of these different ways and see which one you like best:

1. Emotion

Is there a time in your life when you wanted exactly what this product/service can offer/solve? Can you draw upon that story and how you felt, using the experience to guide what you say?

Humans are emotional beings and reaching for something personal to you might just help you strike the absolute right cord with your audience.

2. Image

Is there something visual that could represent what you want to say, either in a literal or abstract way? An empty chair at the table could symbolise loss or longing, but an empty seat on a plane could inspire hope and excitement.

Don’t forget: you can describe something highly visual with words as well! You don’t have to be use an actual picture if that doesn’t suit the format you’re writing in.

3. Impact

  1. Be provocative
  2. Solve a problem
  3. Use repetition
  4. Ask for an opinion

4. Fascinating detail

Tell the reader something they don’t already know (put your most fascinating fact first). This makes it more of a story and delivers much more than a bland series of statements.

Here’s an example:

New store opening on X date

becomes

It’s taken 200 builders and 60 carpenters 11 months to create your new store…

5. A new point of view

This could be your customer’s, an inanimate object’s or even an animal’s (a cruise line used this effectively to describe what a seabird was seeing from above).

Presenting the same information but from a different perspective forces you to be creative and take a step back from a subject you may, in fact, be too close to.

6. Vary sentence type/length

Every eight or so sentences, have a 3-4 word sentence that distils your message. Keeping it this short means it will get noticed.

Balanced sentences are also good, e.g. the big network for small phones, one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

7.Really stuck? Try some word association!

Choose a random word (nouns like fish, church, cheese… work best), make associations, relate these back to the problem. It’s amazing where your mind will take you and just by working your way through some of these associations, you may land on a new angle that you’d never have considered otherwise.

Do you have any other go-to techniques when your writing is lacking inspiration? Please share them below!