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PR On Demand

PR on demand

As President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party looks about to vote through a measure that will give employees for the first time a “right to disconnect” what does this mean for us?

If France vote yes, companies of more than 50 people will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours – normally in the evening and at the weekend – when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails.

In a world where the once exclusive irregular shift patterns of police, fire services, doctors and nurses are now mirrored across the growing retail and leisure industries – and as consumers engage with brands 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year – can you ever really switch off?

As one of the Midlands’ leading communications agencies, we recognised and were quick to respond to a changing society and with our clients’ evolving needs. We provide complete peace of mind, on call 24/7 for crisis management and reactive media relations. So our clients can unplug and take time out in confidence. And many take advantage of our out of hours service as it can be much more cost-effective to outsource this sort of work than to pay staff additional money for working evenings and weekends or giving them time off in lieu.

And what of our team and work life balance? We’ve got it covered! Motivated, passionate and engaged, our dedicated team of PR specialists is the secret to our success, and so we share the responsibilities and rewards.

 

In search of inspiration

Browsing through the numerous design blogs to which I subscribe, I usually have to sift through a rather staid selection of rebrand case studies or the ‘hottest new typeface’. Simply put, this rarely results in getting the creative juices flowing. But once in a while, I come across something truly creative, work that really inspires. It’s essential for a designer to keep abreast of what’s going on in the industry, something that really helps to feed innovative thinking when grappling with the next design brief that lands on the desk.

Janine Rewell

 

Recently, I stumbled upon the work of Finnish illustrator Janine Rewell; in particular, a campaign for South Korea’s largest shopping centre Lotte World Mall in Seoul. The Helsinki-based illustrator’s work is a whimsical blend of cute and colourful characters in an abstracted world – celebrating the simple joy of the start of spring (see much more here). When describing her illustrative work in the context of the Asian market for which it was created, she astutely points out, “…in the West, brands are often all about maximum product communication and are sometimes boringly grown up.” Now there’s a sentiment I can certainly identify with.

Playfulness is key

Nikita

 

And how about this for some outside (or should that be inside?!) the box thinking? Moscow-based designer Nikita has created this playful packaging concept for pasta – that brown, ordinary cupboard staple that we normally wouldn’t give a second thought to. Here, he has utilised the window to great effect, revealing various hairstyles that play on the different pasta shapes.

So what about you?

Portfolio-CoverPerhaps you’ve reached the stage where you feel your brand is a bit flat, or your company brochure somewhat tired. Why not take a look our way? Clarke Associates is a communications agency benefitting from an in-house design resource, which gives us a real edge when offering our clients a diverse range of creative solutions.

What’s more, our head of design Paul Chipperfield has recently completed the all-new Clarke Associates design portfolio, which showcases the highly creative solutions we offer. It includes case studies featuring illustration, corporate literature, website design, brand identity and advertising – the very best of our recent projects.

Paul would be very happy to drop by for a meeting if you’re interested in finding out how we might be of assistance. Alternatively, simply drop him a line at paul-c@clarke-associates.co.uk, or call on 0121 702 2525.

Paul OQ

Thank you for the days

MarkW

We all love to celebrate, don’t we?

It seems that wherever we are in the world, we’re united in our love of national holidays, coming up with special days – and the wackier they are the more we seem to love them.

Let’s take 2016 as an example. Like me, you probably allocated some time on March 1 to devote to National Pig Day or Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day. Thinking about it, if you want to create a National Very Odd Menu Day, you could combine the two.

Of course, from a PR perspective it gives us the chance to be ultra creative by developing hooks around some of the more unusual ‘awareness’ days.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my Top Ten Awareness Days for 2016 – one for each remaining month of the year. I promise you they’re not made up……

1 Extraterrestrial Abductions Day. Keep one eye on the sky on March 20; those UFOs are everywhere. If they get you, you may well want to phone home.

2 April Fool’s Day. It’s going to be held on April 2 this year. No it’s not really, just my little joke. Traditionally a day when we all play tricks on each other, so get your thinking caps on. Ooh, the laughs.

3 No Socks Day. May 8 is the day to put in your diary. It’s a Sunday this year, so free your tootsies from the confines of sock and stocking, and add your own little aroma to the Sunday roast. Toenail painting optional.

4 Repeat Day is on June 3. It’s an opportunity to do the same thing over and over. Repeat Day is on June 3. It’s an opportunity to do the same thing over and over.

5 National Lollipop Day. The best possible way to celebrate June 20. Buy lollipops, give lollipops to your family and friends, eat lollipops, create lollipop competitions. Look, you get the idea.

6 Kiss And Make Up Day. Ever had a cross word with your other half? No, me neither, but there are people out there who have. End the spat or the long-running feud by kissing and making up on August 25.

7 International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Why are pirates called pirates? They just arrrrrrgh! Suit yourself. Set September 19 aside for your own pirate chat.

8 Frankenstein Friday. Celebrated on the last Friday in October, it celebrates the birth of Frankenstein and its creator. Hallowe’en will be just around the corner too. Handy.

9 All Our Uncles Are Monkeys Day. OK, so it’s actually Evolution Day, marking the date (November 24) when Darwin published On The Origin Of Species. Can still be controversial, even now.

10 Bathtub Party Day is on December 25. A full 20 days before Christmas Day, a chance to have a long soak in the tub, whether you need one or not. Invite a friend or neighbour to join you, or a random person off the street. Actually no, don’t do that.

 

NB There is only one Friday 13th during the whole of 2016. Fact.

The answer’s John Lewis

David1

It’s an obvious question but a good one to ask. “Which retailer do you trust the most?”

It’s a standard line in virtually every focus group discussion about company reputation and nine times out of ten, the answer’s always the same: John Lewis.

Trust is an important commodity. Arguably, alongside reputation, it is just about the most important asset a business can have.

The good news is that trust in business is improving and is now above pre-financial crisis levels for the first time since 2012.

The bad news though is that that trust is not universally experienced by the entire population.

The Edelman Trust Barometer (which has been tracking the state of trust in UK companies for some 16 years) has revealed that while those amongst the richest of British society trust the corporate world that is not true for the less well off. The research has revealed there to be a “trust gap” between those who might be described as informed publics (upper-quartile income earners, university educated, a declared interest in politics and media) where 67% say they trust businesses, whilst of those living in households with an income of less than £15,000 a year, that level drops down to 35%.

Does this matter?

Yes it does. There is direct correlation between trust and commercial success. To win over the ‘distrusters’, business has to do two things above all: make sure they are paying expected levels of tax (yes, really) and contribute, and be seen to contribute to the greater good in society.

It might be thought that both things act as a cost to a business but the truth is, companies that behave responsibly are more likely to create a positive reputation and be trusted.

Trust, it seems, is at the heart of good business sense– and at the heart of a good business.

How’s your reputation? Clarke Associates undertakes specialist work in reputation assessment including reputation audits amongst key influencer markets. Contact David Clarke for more information (david-c@clarke-associates.co.uk).

New faces at Clarke Associates

Louise
Louise Iles, account director

We are delighted to welcome two new faces to the team.

Louise Iles joins us as account director. A consumer specialist, with more than 15 years’ management experience in-house and agency side, Louise was previously with Halfords and more recently an agency representing the leading consumer brands of Lego and Hornby.

Back to her childhood!

It just so happens that Louise finds she is returning to her childhood roots. Her family home is just down the road (on Chapel Lane as well) and as a child, Louise attended Sunday school at what is now The Old School House. How’s that for a coincidence?

Lydia
Lydia Marshall, account executive

 

Lydia Marshall joins us as account executive. A classics graduate from the University of Manchester, Lydia attended Edgbaston High School for Girls and lives in Birmingham.

They’re already car sharing and sit opposite each other: a formidable team! Welcome to them both.

 

 

 

Facebook campaign boosts survey responses

TLFBWe are delighted to have been appointed to handle communications for Tamworth & Lichfield for Business – a business support initiative by Tamworth Borough Council and Lichfield District Council.

A key piece of work so far has been rolling out a social media campaign in support of a vital business survey covering both Tamworth and Lichfield. The survey will provide a better understanding of the issues facing local firms in order to tailor support and advice to better suit their requirements.

And it’s working! Already:

  • 110 additional businesses have participated – representing a 100 per cent increase in respondents on a previous survey
  • Tamworth & Lichfield for Business has reached its target for the number of surveys completed
  • Combined Facebook reach and Twitter impressions have touched 50,000

So how did we do it?

The silver bullet on this occasion has been using Facebook’s phenomenal demographic targeting functionality to reach the target audience.

The approach to content was simple: very direct calls to action and clear explanations of the reasons why people should take part, using self-interest as that all-powerful motivator.

To many a wordsmith, the tone of the calls to action sits uncomfortably. But it works. When it comes to asking people to perform an action on social media, simple direct messaging such as “do this now” is king. Combine this with a reason why people should take part and you’ve got a winning formula. In this case, it was by stating that participating in the survey would help the local economy.

One of the most illuminating aspects of this work has been the lack of incentivisation, i.e. ‘take part in our survey and win an iPad’. This is a useful tactic but it’s not always necessary if you’re able to identify a powerful reason why strangers should support your cause. What we have seen is nothing less than the creation of a movement of people, probably mostly strangers, working together towards a common goal. In this instance, taking part in an activity that is set to aid the prosperity of the area in which they live and work. It’s powerful stuff.

So if you’re looking to hire a communications agency to raise your profile and more successfully use social media give us a call. It should be on every marketer’s agenda.

 

 

Investing in Design

Investing in good design

As head of design at Clarke Associates, you won’t be surprised to hear me waxing lyrical about what good design can do for your business. But it really is a huge differentiator, and I’ve even conveniently rustled up some research to prove it!

For too many, good design can be simply regarded as an option. But with such fierce competition, the differentiating factor is clear – good design will always showcase a brand’s real personality, allowing for consistency of message – in short, enabling it to flourish.

And here’s the science…

Warwick Business School has done a great piece of research* on behalf of The Design Council UK, to back up what we at Clarke Associates have always known – great design can help your business make money. Key points from the research are that good design helps:

  • Strengthen branding so clients, consumers and customers recognise and trust you
  • Drive innovation and gain a foot in new markets
  • Differentiate products and services to attract customers

Great design shows an organisation at its best. It’s a window onto its personality, enabling audiences to immediately know what it’s all about. As a result, they’re more likely to trust the organisation and, who knows, maybe never again look elsewhere!

The thing about a brand is that it’s all about relationships – and lasting ones take a long time to grow. Therefore it really does pay to also invest in the relationship you have with your design provider, because the long-term benefits for your business can be tremendous.

So we recommend:

  • Integrate your design and branding – a consistent look and feel really will make you a cut above the rest.
  • Trust your designer’s talent: Designers train for a reason. Although many people have strong opinions, these alone do not maketh a designer! There’s a subtle and powerful science behind the art – and one well worth having done properly.

So, if you haven’t already, why not make that long considered investment in your brand? It really does pay to build for the long-term.

And if none of this has swayed you, then we’ll just have to talk it over! We’ve just completed our shiny new Clarke Associates’ design portfolio – a great way to give you a flavour of the best of our design work. Simply get in touch with yours truly, and I can arrange to meet with you to discuss what we might do for you.

Email paul-c@clarke-associates.co.uk

*Source: https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/dc_lbbd_report_08.11.13_FA_LORES.pdf

Social-Media

With a raft of widely-reported woes, a lot of folk are down on Twitter. I think they’ll eat their words.

social

Poor Twitter.

In a week that has seen major technical problems with users unable to access the platform for long periods, Twitter’s Chinese imitator Weibo has announced it’s ending its 140-character limit. The move follows recent speculation that Twitter was planning to do just this. Ouch.

In addition to this week’s technical problems and Weibo’s announcement, there is a constant and unhelpful background din about Twitter’s bumpy financial performance. In fact as I write this, a colleague informs me Twitter’s stock price has just dropped.

As someone who advises businesses, organisations and individuals what social media channel to use to best promote their cause, news like this certainly leaves me wondering where Twitter fits in to the wider digital mix.

It lacks Facebook’s immense targeting functionality when it comes to advertising, and doesn’t possess the niche appeal of B2B platform LinkedIn.

From a practical perspective, the linear nature of Twitter feeds makes it virtually impossible for users to read the tweets of everyone they’re following.

Following large numbers of people is a pointless exercise but one needs extraordinary levels of self-confidence to avoid doing this – one can’t help but feel obliged to reciprocate when someone follows them (fear of being unfollowed?).

Another frustrating thing about Twitter is the way in which it seems to attract birds of a feather, ie, if you work in social media and say this on your biog, expect to be followed by lots of other people who work in social media! Who benefits from this phenomenon?

Despite all of the above, Twitter has stacks going for it. Here’s what I like about it and why I think it will survive:

– Real-time updates of events
– Knowing what influencers and sections of the general public think
– Monitoring societal trends
– Getting involved in conversations with complete strangers (not as dodgy as it sounds!)
– Great B2B communication
– Good old fashioned gossip
– Brevity of message

According to the BBC, Twitter watchers are saying the platform now has little choice to expand its character limit. Twitter’s founder says the move is driven by people posting images of text as a way of getting around the limit.

As a Twitter user, I hope they will ignore the “experts” and stick to the 140-character limit. This (and its ability to converse with anyone around the world, Chinese excepted) is the central appeal of this platform.

Twitter might be going through a protracted tumultuous period – but its decline would surely be aided if it were to allow itself to be buffeted by others, especially the likes of Weibo!

So as talk of axing character limits swirls, perhaps I should end this post with a full tweet-length appeal Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey:

Jack, please please keep your wonderful 140 character limit. Communications is speeding up, not slowing down. Brevity is strength. #bestrong

Designing a traditional Christmas card – with a twist!

Paul OQ

This year’s Clarke Associates Christmas card presented a unique and hugely enjoyable challenge for our head of design Paul Chipperfield. The brief was to create artwork displaying warmth, personality and “harking” back to a more traditional style – qualities seen increasingly less in contemporary Christmas cards. We wanted to create a card that would be special for our clients to open, and one that would really stand out.

Process First Stage
Turning a photo of the Old School House into a painting and adding extra snow
Process Second Stage
Santa arrives – now to add the CA team to his ‘nice’ list!

Believe it or not, everything from initial sketch to final artwork was created using Adobe Photoshop and a graphics tablet. It’s quite astonishing to see what can be achieved by this digital illustration technique – from the way in which the application enables you to ‘paint’ just like in traditional media, to the paper-like textures that can be overlaid at the end of the process. We’d wager that you’d find it difficult to separate this from a ‘real’ painting! Of course, using this digital technique isn’t just a gimmick. It’s a highly efficient, fast turnaround method of creating quality artwork; one that our existing clients have been benefiting from enormously.

The final design
And here’s the final card design!

Could you too benefit from some creative design work in 2016? Our head of design Paul would love to stop by with his wider portfolio to show you more of our recent work, and to see if he could help. In addition to our illustration specialism, we’re also experts in branding, design for print, advertising and website design.

Email paul-c@clarke-associates.co.uk or call 0121 702 2525 to find out more.

 

And speaking of cards that stand out…

We’re all used to receiving Christmas cards, but have you ever sent or received a New Year card??

It’s a novel way of connecting with people – and can be done either via email or through the post.

Clarke Associates’ design team can quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively produce these cards – a great way of standing out from the crowd.

Want to know more? Contact our head of design Paul Chipperfield on 0121 702 2525 or email paul-c@clarke-associates.co.uk.

 

New year, new appointments

Watch this space – in the run-up to Christmas, Clarke Associates has been busy recruiting for two exciting positions, which we are confident will make a very positive impact on behalf of our clients.

We’re not going to say too much in this newsletter, apart from that one of our new faces has a real flair for creativity in the world of B2C and comes to us after some 15 years PRing products as far apart as satnavs, bicycles and children’s building blocks. Our other new recruit lists an impressive grasp of Ancient Greek and Latin and has sung with the University of Manchester Chorus and the Manchester University Barbershop Society Ladies’ Chorus – amongst her many skills.

We very much look forward to telling you more in January.

hand-apple-iphone-smartphone (1)

Mobile manners when we’re left to our own devices

MarkW

There’s a rule in our house; when we sit down to eat, mobile phones, tablets and so on are a no-no.

With three kids, it’s a rule that’s sometimes hard to enforce, and it’s getting tougher.

And the reason for that is clear. We’re spending more and more time on these devices. Which of us has not sat in a room where everyone has been concentrating on their phone or tablet, in complete silence apart from the clicking of fingers on buttons and the odd chuckle?

We are now clearly a Smartphone society. They’ve overtaken laptops as internet users’ device of choice, and we’re spending around two hours a day on them. That’s a whole month of ever year. We watch two months of TV each per year (including time spent on Smartphones). I’m setting the ‘rights and wrongs’ of how much time we spend on our devices or watching TV to one side. There’s no doubt we love being on them and they’re often a vital source of information.

And they’re fun. Hands up if you’ve yet to take a selfie?

Fundamentally what it demonstrates is our thirst for access to information and a need for the ability to communicate, often instantaneously.

Interestingly, it also throws up the subject of what might be termed Mobile Manners. According to Ofcom, when we’re sitting down as families or friends together to eat, the majority of people think it’s unacceptable to update their social media status. We’re not Tweeting whilst we’re eating. So there are still certain boundaries, but I suppose precisely what they are depends on the nature of our relationship with those in whose company we find ourselves. Most people will check their Smartphone within five minutes of waking up, but will call and buy a card for a family member on their birthday rather than dropping them a text.
All of which means we’re spending more time online because we like it, it’s useful and in its way it’s timeless. We’re gregarious creatures and, though the way we communicate is changing, staying in touch and exchanging news and views is in our blood.

Is it to the detriment of conversation? Are we losing the art of how to engage, and understanding that listening can be as important as talking?

In order to answer that, I’m thinking of suggesting we introduce one evening a week in our household when all devices are banned, and we talk.

Now, would anyone like to tell my kids for me?