This is our PRmoment!

We’ve got something to smile about here at Skout…

In busy months like this, we’re especially pleased to be rewarded for our hard work. So you can imagine how delighted we were to discover that we’ve made the shortlist for Small Agency of the Year in the PRmoment Awards 2015!

Formerly known as the Golden Hedgehog Awards, the PRmoment Awards recognises all aspects of PR carried out by in-house comms and PR agencies like us. Now in its third year, the ceremony has quickly become a key date in the PR realm. We were keen to showcase what we’ve achieved and the date of this year’s ceremony has been circled on our calendar for a while, so we’re delighted to receive a nomination.

Having been nominated in the North shortlist, we’re looking forward to rubbing shoulders again with other leading PR pros from right across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England. The category we’re part of, sponsored by Prospect, features several Manchester PR agencies and others throughout the north.

With an award from the PRide Awards 2013 already in our trophy cabinet, we’d love to add to this and make ourselves proud – it’s stiff competition though! Getting gold for the PRmoment Awards would the cherry on top of a successful year of business at Skout.

So, with the cocktail dress discussions on the office starting already, roll on March when we look forward to a glitzy ceremony at the Hilton, Manchester.

Alex Brown has just started his career at Skout PR and will be a regular contributor to the Skout blog.

Coverage of the Month!

We’re delighted to announce the November winner of Skout’s new coveted Coverage of the Month Award! This month it goes to our client Wax Digital, for its front page cover story in Supply Chain Digital, announcing the impending arrival of a wearable technology solution for procurement.

At the end of every month the team here at Skout will be nominating the best media coverage, content, stories and results for our clients and choosing the most worthy winner.

This story demonstrates a great way of using Natural B2B PR creatively to bring a relatively standard subject out of the shadows. When Wax Digital developed the world’s first wearable purchasing application for use with Google Glass, a combination of targeted and well-timed pitching, great photography, video content and interview time with Wax’s CTO was used to ensure this piece had the depth required to make the grade. Wax’s new solution also stole the show at eWorld Purchasing & Supply where their stand was rammed with media and delegates eager to try out the new technology.

Coverage was also seen in IT PRO Portal, Supply Management and Spend Matters to name a few.

Well done Wax!

Rob Skinner is Skout PR’s MD and has been working in B2B and Tech PR agencies for over 20 years.

Why Greggs’ social media team is anything but half baked

This week’s logo hack on Greggs once more highlights the power of social media in handling communication crises. And for once shows a brand getting it right. Greggs – the beloved purveyor of the ultimate hangover food, sausage rolls and steak bakes – was the victim of Google’s arbitrary algorithms on Tuesday.

Normally when searching for a company or brand, Google compiles a brief biography of stats that appears on the right hand side of your screen. This includes information such as head office location, number of employees, CEO name and of course a logo. It uses clever automated instructions to do this. No humans are involved. On Tuesday, those who googled Greggs were greeted by the strapline “Greggs – Providing sh*t to scum for over 70 years’. Obviously this isn’t the official logo but Google’s algorithms are unable to work that out.

As soon as Twitter caught on to Greggs logo rebrand it started to spread like wildfire (or virally as we like to say in the business) with users urging each other to google Greggs. Yet rather than hiding behind an ‘official’ response, Greggs’ social media team taught the rest of the communications world a lesson in how to handle a crisis – they were human. What followed was an afternoon of banter between Greggs and twitter, with GoogleUK even joining in at one point.

Greggs Twitter feed featured a tray full of tempting doughnuts and read: Hey @GoogleUK, fix it and they’re yours!!! #FixGreggs.

Google responded saying that if Greggs threw in a sausage roll as well, then they’d fix it double quick. Greggs shot back with a picture of a tray full of sausage rolls cleverly arranged to spell out Google.

We recently discussed the problems associated with handling a crisis publicly over twitter here in a blog. In this instance the outcome was very different, with Twitter providing a platform to snowball criticisms of the customer service fail. So what’s different? Perhaps it was Greggs’ social media teams ability to tap into British humour or pehaps it was because Greggs itself wasn’t actually at fault. Either way we just hope that whoever was handling the twitter feed that day got a pay rise or at least a cheese and onion pasty.

By Claire Lamb

Going for gold!

It’s always nice to come back to work after a holiday to some fabulous news, so I was delighted to hear on my return from sunny Cornwall that Skout was in the running for another CIPR North West PRide Award.

We’ve been shortlisted for the second time in the ‘Outstanding small consultancy’ category. Last year we were delighted to be named Silver winner and it would be great to add another accolade to the Skout trophy cabinet.

The awards recognise and reward the inspirational work of leading public relations teams and consultancies in nine UK regions. From small agencies to corporate communications teams, the PRide Awards celebrate the best talent that PR agencies in the UK has to offer.

Winning a PRide Award is an opportunity to showcase your work to employers and clients and demonstrates a consultancy’s commitment to excellence and best practice. The awards are sponsored nationally by Precise and PR Week and they receive entries from freelancers, consultancies and in-house teams across 12 UK regions and nations. The judging process is rigorous with a national panel of industry experts assessing the shortlisted entries and selecting the silver and gold winners.

The winner of each award in the North West will be announced at a ceremony in Manchester later this year. May the best outstanding small consultancy win!

How much is an award really worth?

Thanks to the unpredictable nature of the English weather the Skout team’s bank holiday plans were disrupted by dark skies and heavy rain. Whilst bemoaning our northern roots, other areas of the UK were treated to some basking sunshine, oh, and some bizarre world record attempts.

In Penzance, thousands of people gathered wearing pirate fancy dress to try and break the Guinness World Record for the most number of pirates in one place. A count (who actually has time to do this?) confirmed that they were 14,154 pirates, 77 short of a new world record – shame. There was similar heartache at a family fun day in Hertfordshire as ‘Burper King’ Paul Hunn failed to beat his previous record for the world’s largest belch of 109.9 decibels.

As a B2B PR agency we regularly research, write and submit winning award entries for our clients. While none of them involve us having to wear fancy dress (sadly) or belching (fortunately), given the multitude of business accolades that are available we are often asked ‘how much is an award really worth?’

Entering business awards can be a time-consuming and (potentially) expensive process. Unlike the Oscars no organiser will accept an award on your behalf if you unwilling to purchase a table to attend the awards ceremony. It’s important then to choose awards containing categories that are appropriate to your business and ones where you actually have a chance of winning.

Before submitting your award entry, picture yourself as a member of the judging panel. Is your new technology, product or service truly innovative? Can you really display tangible and credible evidence that you have saved your customers time and money? Do you have written and approved testimonials to support this? Be wary of making any outlandish claims that you are unable to substantiate. Most credible awards require businesses to provide further supporting information in the event that they are shortlisted.

Get it right though and winning awards can help to differentiate your business from your competitors, inject fresh impetus into your marketing campaigns and impress even the most sceptical of customers. Awards can also help to generate welcome publicity to raise your business’s profile and boost morale amongst your employees.

Don’t be like ‘Burper King’ Paul Hunn and just enter awards for the sake of it. If you want to make some proper ‘noise’ for your business, it’s worth taking the time to research which awards are really worth applying for and which ones you should give a miss. The taste of success will be so much sweeter if you do.

Customers speak volumes

As you’ll have seen from this recent post I’m the newest member of the Skout team. My B2B PR and marketing communications experience spans 14 years, the last seven of which have been specifically spent in tech PR. I’ve previously worked for a range of healthcare and business management software and IT services providers. During this time I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the B2B tech industry evolve massively, driven largely by the proliferation of innovative cloud, mobile and collaborative solutions which offer businesses increased flexibility and agility, particularly when delivered as a managed service.

Irrespective of whether your company is a technological trailblazer or not, your strongest PR stories can often be sourced from the lifeblood of your business – your customers.  A pioneering new product or service, a significant new business win or further investment and growth, will typically generate interest if selectively targeted at relevant media. However, to maximise column inches and keep your name at the forefront of a journalist’s mind, it’s vital to engage your customers to support your PR and reference activity wherever possible. After all, the media really love to hear what the organ grinder has to say, as well as the monkey (so to speak).

As is the case when you start a new job, old colleagues say to keep in touch. It’s a time to be thinking about the past as well as the future. So it was timely that earlier this week I received an invitation from FriendsReunited, one of the inaugural social networking sites that briefly led the way in the early 00s until it was swiftly overtaken by Facebook, and in more recent times Twitter and LinkedIn. FriendsReunited is being re-launched with the site’s original founders, Steve and Julie Pankhurst and their friend Jason Porter, back at the helm. Given today’s plethora of social mediums, it seems inconceivable that FriendsReunited will be able to rise from the ashes. Despite this, I decided to put my scepticism to one side and was surprised by what I discovered when I logged on for the first time in years.

Old school friends, university drinking partners and ex-colleagues who I am no longer ‘connected’ with served as a reminder of some memorable stories and achievements which I had forgotten about. Just like these ‘old friends’, your existing customers can be the source of many anecdotes and experiences that although passed, could inject fresh impetus into raising your company’s profile through the use of powerful PR. In a previous blog we discussed how to use your business back story to promote your business, reflecting on ‘where it all began’ and what happened along the way. It’s a worthy exercise, and one you should also consider when talking to your customers about improved efficiency or productivity gains.

How much time and money have your customers saved as a direct result of implementing your solutions and services? Have you played a part in assisting their growth, or served as a catalyst for aiding their recovery during the challenging economy? Have you taken them through several periods of technological change? If you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to ask them. You might uncover some hidden gems for stories that can quickly be turned into captivating press releases, case studies, blogs, opinions pieces or whitepapers.

This is just one aspect of what we call ‘Natural PR’ – if you’re interested in finding out more our new Natural PR guide could be a good place to start.

- Ben

The true meaning of Christmas!

As we creep towards the big day, Skout PR was pleased to read this heartwarming story this morning that record numbers of Manchester’s poorest families will have a present to open on Christmas day.

In its biggest ever gathering of gifts thanks to charitable donations, Wood Street Mission in Manchester has been able to give out more than 4,000 gifts this year.

The charity provides parents with a present chosen specially for their child’s age and gender along with wrapping paper so they can wrap it themselves.

Many of the toys given been donated by Wood Street Mission supporters, with the charity buying the rest to make sure every child who is referred gets a suitable present.

More than 2,000 families from the region were referred to the charity by social workers and other organisations for help this Christmas, the highest number ever.

For most of the children, the present will be the only thing they get to unwrap on Christmas morning and would otherwise have received no presents at all.

Parents coming to collect the gifts are also given a food parcel to help them while their children are off school and not receiving free meals.

Collection of the toys and food parcels – which include cupboard staples alongside festive treats like chocolate – starts in September, with everything given out to parents at the charity’s base of Deansgate.

What a fantastic initiative and well done to all those at Wood Street Mission that have helped create a happy Christmas for all those families.

Today’s train of thought…

Ouch! Rail commuters have today been hit by the news that they face an average 4.1% rise in regulated rail fares next year. The rises are necessary according to ministers to pay for investment in the rail network.

Obviously, this news was hit with a big backlash from campaigners who are arguing that rail tickets are becoming increasingly unaffordable as price rises outstrip wages.

In an attempt to explain why these fares need to increase, this morning’s BBC Breakfast gave a really interesting breakdown of where our rail fares are spent. On average, for every £1 spent on a train ticket, costs are spent accordingly:

Track and station maintenance 48p

Staffing 17p

Train companies’ running costs 17p

Leasing rolling stock 11p

Train fuel 4p

Profit for the train companies 3p

The cost of rail fares in this country never ceases to amaze me and this break down really shocked me, as it shows that the rail companies’ profits are relatively minimal.

What I fail to understand however, is how other countries like France are able to run a faster, more modern rail network without charging the extortionate fares that we face in this country.

Living in Manchester but working in leafy Cheshire means that the train isn’t a viable option for my journey to work but as B2B PR consultancy with clients based throughout the UK, we regularly use the train to visit our clients and like many SMBs certainly feel the pinch after a few trips a to London.

With the Government keen to get us out of our cars and onto public transport, surely the time’s come to address rail costs once and for all or soon no-one will be able to afford to use them.

Is Twitter just for B2C brands?

So, Manchester United – one of the world’s biggest brands – has announced the launch of its own twitter and Sina Weibo account. We admit, this suprised us a little; surely a big brand with such a global following has had a foray into social media before?

Well, it does have a Facebook page – and a pretty active one at that with over 34 million followers. Of course the club’s official press office has had a Twitter account for a while, since it appears that the media are more engaged in social media than the fans; though that’s unlikely given that 100,000 followers signed up in the first 60 minutes of launch.

What surprised us most here at Skout HQ is that Man Utd has been able to manage its brand across the globe without a microblogging feed in any language. As B2B PR specialists we spend a lot of our time advising companies on social media policies and strategies. In the past some B2B clients have not always seen the value in using social media platforms to engage with their stakeholders, feeling that it’s the preserve of B2C brands only.

We’ve always advised B2B brands that while it may initially feel uncomfortable communicating so directly with interested parties, building relationships in this way is very quick and effective. Which is why we were flabbergasted to discover that the one of the world’s premier (forgive the pun) consumer brand has only just launched their Twitter feed. Or have we got wrong – is social media on its way out as a communications channel? Let us know your thoughts?


SMEs: Share the stage and success in B2B PR

In B2B PR, lesser known SMEs often struggle to find the really big stories that will get the attention of the well-regarded journalists and publications they want to be in. It can be difficult, with the resources and content available, the scope of PR knowledge and fundamentally the awareness of the organisation, to be noticed and reported on at the level they’d like to be. Of course at Skout we espouse our natural PR approach regularly, as the strategy that will get lesser known names noticed, but there are other useful tools in the kitbag too.

One of these is collaboration. Sharing the stage with another B2B company such as a partner, a key customer with a better known name, or a broad range of other third parties, adds an extra dimension to PR which is often what the media are looking for – validation of your claims or an independent perspective on what you say.

Many of Skout’s Manchester based B2B PR clients have seen joint success through collaboration. In the tech market, Thinspace worked with Lancaster University students to build a Total Cost of Ownership comparison model for its thin client solutions, which resulted in outstanding IT media coverage for its launch. Wax Digital has shared the stage with a number of organisations, including Durham University for its study into public sector procurement and the deficit.

SMES often need to think more creatively about their approach to PR, sourcing content that is original, authentic and gives the media something exclusive and different. Collaboration can be the key to raising the bar of press coverage and marketing value.