Take Action! How brands are paving the way to positive change

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According to insight analysts Mintel, in recent years brands have taken great strides to become embedded in the heart of communities. More and more, personalisation has been key to communication – consumers don’t want to absorb generic content, they want to feel that brands know them inside out and what really makes them tick.

A great example of this is the Tod’s restoration of Rome’s Colosseum, a £21million project that will see the iconic landmark restored to its former glory in painstaking phases. Whilst this is a commitment of epic proportions, it’s a fantastic way to show a brand’s passion for its hometown.

Being an active member of your community is scalable, and brands already champion the way with this, through local charity partnerships and customer call to actions – with retailers often encouraging donations at point of sale.

Here are Grayling’s top tips for embedding a brand into the community:

  • Crowdfunding – have petitions or funding websites been set up in your city to restore or introduce a unique or exciting experience for the public? If so – why not donate, or even support the campaign. Honda and Philips have already dabbled in crowdfunding with great success.
  • Local issues – use your PR team to keep their ears on the ground for issues that are important to your consumers, and react to them quickly.
  • Charity partnerships – whilst this is already a done thing, why not look into how you can grow that relationship more than dress down days and charity collections. What tools do you have that will be invaluable to a charity?
  • Become the leader for social good – practice what you preach. Support local causes and be vocal about it. Other brands and businesses are bound to take note and follow suit.

By taking charge of initiatives that are important to your consumers, you can create extra love for your brand and show a commitment for positive change.

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Communicating with consumers in the digital age

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With digital technology continuing to develop at an alarming rate – and consumers increasingly adopting an ‘always on’ mentality – it is vital that businesses keep up with the technological times. Many brands are already utilising platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to provide real time information, but those that stand out are incorporating more advanced technology, such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), VR (Virtual Reality) and MR (Mixed Reality).

Take China’s WeChat for instance. The brand is leading the way in how to bridge the gap between consumers’ online and offline lives. Service users can do everything from answer work emails and take video calls, to buying everyday essentials, theatre tickets, paying bills and booking hospital appointments. For those using the app in a professional capacity, the WeChat QR even takes away the exchange of business cards – one short scan of a code and your networking is complete.

A WeChat user never has to leave the platform as it ‘integrates [all mobile apps] into a single digital identity’ (The Economist), which gives us a glimpse into how technology will eventually blur the line between the virtual and real world.

When Facebook opened up the use of its messenger to chatbots in early 2016, 11,000 businesses developed their own programmes in the first three months (Retail Dive). Major brands bought into the chatbot process on Facebook messenger to give their customers a personalised service that is always available, providing a reliable and exciting alternative to traditional customer service tactics.

Brands that are paving the way to chatbot success include major makeup brand, Sephora. In February 2016 it became one of the first businesses to develop its own chatbot programme, and since then the tool has continued to develop to meet consumer demand. Chatbot users can now try on makeup with a Virtual Artist before buying preferred products. Other functions include a Reservation Assistant and Colour Match.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has also expanded into the chatbot arena, giving users the chance to use their Facebook Messenger platform as their digital boarding pass. Now this may not seem particularly revolutionary, but the way the chatbot interacts with the user is. Using the Facebook Messenger platform, users are greeted with a conversational interface that also reminds users when check-in opens, gives them their boarding pass, sends flight status updates and will answer any questions at any time of day.

When compared to own brand applications, chatbots undoubtedly make more sense. They’re cheaper to develop and increase user interaction as they don’t need to be downloaded onto a mobile device as a separate entity.  The ultimate goal for brands is to become a fixture in a customer’s online identity by making the process for consumers quick, personal and hassle free.

By harnessing the power of the digital platforms that are continuing to evolve, brands will not only gain attention for modernising their ways of working, but also attract a larger customer base.

Human after all

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“Journalists aren’t interested in you or your organisation; they’re interested in covering great stories that are a perfect fit for their audience. So anything that sounds like you’re just trying to plug your company – rather than provide compelling content – is an instant turn off… tell stories, use visual imagery and anything that appeals to the senses.” – Janet Murray, The Guardian

The simplest display of humanity can spur an emotional connection. Sentiment plasters the pages of newspapers and media websites. Christmas adverts which do more than just sell products are one timely example, charity collaborations are another. People want to hear about their local heroes and journalists are keen to pitch these stories to their editors.

Journalists write stories. And what is a story if it contains no characters? What audiences really want is to get to know the people behind the brand. To understand the motivations and aspirations that drive that particular business and inspire its customers.

As a PR or marketing manager, it can be all too easy to get swept up in key messages and corporate objectives, and to lose track of what makes your target audience tick. But, no matter what your business, you should always look for a way to make your story resonate on a personal level.

Bringing the human element of a piece of news to life is the job of a successful PR. It’s what makes a good story. The sort that people can’t help but read, or watch. More and more, journalists at major online news outlets are asking for video content to supplement their articles. Whilst beautifully crafted hi-resolution images have their place, a short video clip of a store manager giving a roundup of Christmas treats to look forward to can add another dimension to a news piece. Better still if the video is pieced together with interviews and clips filmed at a customer’s local store, resulting in a multifaceted story that’s relatable to the outlet’s audience.

The Trump and Leave campaigns have highlighted more than ever that there is a disconnect between people and storytellers. This is the proof that PRs and brands need to explore and understand, leaving those that build locally relevant stories at a distinct advantage when trying to connect with the consumer. It has to be the starting place not the destination.