Earning the trust of the public in a post-Trump, post-Brexit (I wish I could say post-Covid) world is a tough task. But the good news is there’s some data, insight and guidance around to get you started.
Some great news to start the month of October! DTW has risen three places to #23 in respected trade website Prolific North’s annual list of Top 50 public relations companies across the north of England.
With the growth of digital channels, we have never consumed as much written content as we do now.
Well written content can resonate with your audience and communicate messages well. But if you don’t get it right, you can switch off your readers.
It’s not been a good week for Government communicators and public relations professionals in the UK. Our MD Chris Taylor takes issue with anonymous briefings about spin doctors, the plans to massively cut UK Government comms activity and the challenges ahead.
Very occasionally we see an advert or campaign that stops us in our tracks: something that resonates, speaks our language, and makes us sit up and listen.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t happen as often as it should – especially when the aim is behaviour change.
Maybe that’s because there’s so much noise out there: we have become partially deaf and blind to the millions of messages we see every day.
Perhaps, many are bland, exactly the same as what’s gone before. Or, perhaps, they are not actually speaking our language at all.
Hats off then to City of York Council, which has knocked the ball out of the park with its anti-litter campaign.
Bold, brave and brilliant, it talks directly to the litter louts, uses a language they recognise, and ultimately shames them into changing their behaviour.
Hitting the right buttons
This campaign does everything a good campaign should. It:
- Identifies its audience ✅
- Understands how they think ✅
- Speaks their language ✅
- Uses clear messaging ✅
- Tells people what to do ✅
- Results in a change of behaviour ✅
Most people want to do the right thing and want to be seen as a good person. We want to fit in.
Nobody wants to be classed as the village idiot, or a ‘tosser’, as in this case. It’s just not cool.
And nobody wants to be the butt of the joke. And with this campaign, litter louts are certainly that.
It will have a far greater impact than simply asking people to put their litter in the bin.
Dare to be different
Direct, head-turning campaigns, such as this, are more common in Australia and New Zealand, especially around road safety and public health. But in the UK, we have been too risk averse to adopt them, perhaps fearing a public outcry from a minority.
It’s refreshing to see a local authority – normally the epitome of straight and proper – talk in our language, confront the offenders, and use humour to get their message across.
Big round of applause to the City of York Council teams that created this campaign, and then gave it the go ahead. 👏🏼
We hope to see more of it!
It has been a crazy ten weeks or so. Chris Taylor, DTW Managing Director, gives his take on life running an agency in lockdown.
Firstly, my heart goes out to everyone who has suffered or lost someone they care about to Covid-19 (or anything else) over recent months.
Secondly, I’m sure most people would join me in paying tribute to the amazing work done by NHS, social care and other frontline key workers. You’ve been awesome. Thank you.
Moving into the DTW world, we closed our office on Friday 13 March. Since then the team has been working remotely – some in spare rooms, at kitchen tables and even in motorhomes on the drive.
In all honesty, we thought we’d be away for a few weeks rather than several months. But it feels like lots has changed since 13 March.
A massive thank you to our team, our clients and our partners for everything you have done to work with us over the last ten weeks. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you.
Here’s a few takeaways from agency life in lockdown.
Content is still king
Everything has been urgent and important. Almost every piece of content or campaign that was planned back in January/February now feels like it’s from a different age or another planet.
Marketing and communications activity has often been leading the way as organisations re-adjusted to the world changing around them. Digital channels became even more important and we all had to learn a whole new Covid-19 language and apply it quickly.
The engagement levels for the campaign work we’ve been doing with fresh, relevant and appropriate content have increased. Turnaround times have been remarkable. People have responded to the challenge.
Talk to people. Even better, listen to them
Staff, clients, partners. Listen and understand their challenges and work with them. Video chats may not be perfect but with technology being updated constantly, they are becoming more and more effective. We’re making huge use of them. Keep your camera on for small group discussions. Eye contact is important.
Remember that people of all ages have faced very different personal choices and challenges over the past two months. From a leadership perspective, keep in touch so you understand what the problems are before you try to provide solutions.
Whether it’s with colleagues, your family, your local community, or across your professional network. Communication, honesty and quick and clear decision-making are all important.
We shared our 12-week emergency plan with the team on 26 March. It was critical in showing the way forward and keeping us focused. We’re working on the plan for the next 12 months now we’ve had a chance to take stock and work out what the ‘new normal’ might look like.
Events, dear boy, events….
I don’t often quote Lenin, and certainly not in combination with Macmillan, but 101 years ago he said “There are decades where nothing happens, and then there are weeks where decades happen.” We’ve just been through some of them.
The pace of events and change has been phenomenal. Just from a DTW perspective, we’ve been commissioned for major new projects, some clients have increased marketing investment – recognising that it’s a good time to get noticed if others are scaling back, and others have cut their investment while they work on their own emergency plans.
Whatever your plan is or was, you have to be nimble, flexible or agile (insert your own buzzword here). But stick to your principles and values and make sure your actions reflect your words.
We’ve furloughed a couple of members of staff who couldn’t work due to much lower demand for certain services.
The human impact for many people has of course been much more profound. You can’t forget that.
Be prepared for next time
Updating our business continuity plan over the years was never a task any of us looked forward to with much relish, but I’m glad we invested time and money in doing it. Covid-19 has pushed through major organisational changes around the world that would have taken years otherwise.
Similarly, any business needs some cash reserves. Your rainy day fund (note the irony of the best British spring weather ever) is there for a reason. This has been it.
Covid-19 has challenged us like never before but this preparation and planning meant our emergency 12-week plan was implemented almost immediately. Now we truly understand the importance of business continuity and expecting the unexpected. Preparation is key.
Look after yourself
You can’t take care of others if you’re silently drowning. Much more qualified people than me have given much better advice about the importance of looking after yourself. They’re all correct. The CIPR’s mental health resources are a great place to start if you’re looking for support.
Looking back, my stress level first peaked early on the morning of 12 March when reading about hospitals in Italy being overwhelmed, as I lay in bed with a cold. I was back there a couple of times that first fortnight in particular. Support from the team, friends and family and going on a daily bike ride with my amazing kids kept me sane.
So, what happens next?
In one way, nothing has changed. We carry on providing an important and valuable service for our clients, and I’ve never been prouder of the work our team delivers.
In every other way, almost everything has changed. We’re not all going back to the office any time soon. Working from home is working fine.
More importantly right now, it’s the best way we can contribute to keeping everybody as safe and well as we can and preventing a second wave.
Thanks for reading. Stay safe everyone. See you all on the other side.
It’s time for a guest speaker! We were really pleased to welcome Emma Morton – joint winner of Teesside University’s Public Relations Student of the Year 2019 – to DTW for a week.
Emma was with us for a week’s work experience and became a real part of the team during her time at DTW. But don’t take it from us – you can watch and listen to Emma talking about her week with DTW in her own words.
We’re going to be sponsoring the Public Relations Student of the Year prize again in 2020. It’s important organisations in our industry are involved with initiatives like this. It gives students a chance to shine and learn and helps keep businesses like us on our toes. In our experience, the ideas, creativity, and passion that work experience students and graduates bring when working with us is a huge asset to DTW.
And we should know, we’re proud to say we have six Teesside graduates as part of our team. They are specialists in everything from animation and video to marketing strategy, and we’re regularly in and out of the University to chat with students and lecturers about various industry issues and opportunities.
As for Emma, we think she’s a star in the making – one we’ll be keeping an eye on.
We’ve been doing our bit to recognise talented communicators of the future this month. We’ve sponsored the Public Relations prize at Teesside University’s annual Journalism Awards.
The joint winners of the Public Relations Student of the Year prize – Emma Morton and Ellie Dalton – will each spend a week on work experience at DTW over the next year to give them an insight into working life at a public relations and communications agency in 2019.
It was a pleasure to be invited to the awards evening at the Uni’s Love it Lounge and present Emma and Ellie with their prize. We’re looking forward to seeing them over the next few months and welcoming them to #teamDTW.
It’s important organisations in our industry are involved with initiatives like this. It gives students a chance to shine and learn and helps keep us businesses on our toes as well. In our experience, the ideas, creativity and passion that young graduates bring when working with us is a huge asset to DTW.
And we should know, we’re proud to say we have six Teesside graduates as part of our team. They are specialists in everything from animation and video to marketing strategy, and we’re regularly in and out of the University to chat to students and lecturers about various industry issues and opportunities.
Huge congrats to Emma and Ellie!!
Thanks for reading.
I was there with our client emovis, whose Chief Exec Anthony Alicastro was on the panel to give an industry perspective in front of a packed ‘standing room only’ crowd of around 200 delegates including London Mayoral candidates, campaigners and assembly members.
So, what might happen in London?
The Centre for London report titled“Green Light: Next generation road user charging for a healthier, more liveable London”, calls for London to move towards an innovative new road user charging scheme which charges drivers on a per-mile basis. Costs would vary by vehicle emissions, local levels of congestion and pollution and availability of public transport alternatives – and prices would be set before the journey begins.
The scheme would be integrated with London’s wider transport system via a new app and digital platform, which the report proposes would be run by Transport for London. The scheme, which the report calls City Move would provide Londoners with more choice about how they travel around the city.
City Move would utilise the latest technology to give Londoners all their travel information in one place, allowing them to compare, plan and pay for journeys. Drivers, for example, would be presented with costs and impacts of using their vehicle versus alternative modes of transport.
It’s not policy yet – but the report’s authors are calling on all Mayoral candidates in the capital’s 2020 election to make a commitment to tackle the issue, and momentum is gathering, so watch this space
What’s the role for communications, PR and marketing?
Where do you start. It’s all about good communications. There are challenges around public acceptance of the introduction of road user charging or tolling, but in cities like London the debate has moved on – it is no longer about whether to charge people – it is about how to do it.
Our top three tips for communicating with the public and stakeholders on road user charging are:
- Be clear on WHY you are introducing road user charging (e.g. to benefit the environment, to raise money for road improvements, to relieve congestion, to boost the economy). This doesn’t just shape what type of scheme you should deliver but it frames the public debate from day one.
- Be clear how you are going to use the money raised. Transparency is critical for buy-in and focusing on the benefits you are delivering will be crucial.
- Keep it simple – the great thing about the City Moveconcept is it keeps things as simple as possible for customers.
Once you get this strategic approach right you can get start being creative with the comms tactics and branding, but it is the messaging and positioning that sets the agenda and frames the discussion.
From our work on the merseyflow project and wider work with emovis over the past year on other schemes they are looking at around the world, it is clear this is something that both national governments and local authorities/major cities are looking at very closely.
In terms of maximising public acceptability, once you add in
- the possibility of road user charging replacing road tax and maybe even fuel duty
- an easy to use app that shows you the cheapest and quickest way to travel and gives you viable alternative public transport options
- a scheme that can offer refunds if there are delays…..
…..then my view is this starts to become a very meaningful and realistic policy option.
For London, City Move would be healthier, fairer, simpler and greener than existing charging systems. Hard to argue against when you think about it.
Thanks for reading.
Last week we played host to a third-year journalism student – Joe – from Teesside University – on work experience. We think it is important to give young people opportunities and experience in the world of work and in the PR and communications industry in particular. And it also keeps us on our toes having bright young things coming in and asking lots of awkward questions. Good luck with the future Joe!
Read on to see Joe’s views on his week at DTW Towers.
Hi – my name is Joe – I am a third year Teesside University student studying Journalism.
I’m in the final stages of my degree and I wanted to learn more about public relations, how it works, how companies operate etc.
I was given this opportunity by DTW for a week of work experience to gain an insight into the world of PR. I learned a huge amount over the week as I spent the week learning how to write press releases, work shadowing, sitting in on meetings and learning about problem solving, strategies and the bigger picture of PR.
Everyone who worked there was extremely friendly and welcoming which made settling in quickly much easier and meant it wasn’t difficult to ask anyone questions when I didn’t fully understand something.
I spent the week sat with Chris, Managing Director and Karen, Senior Strategist. Again, this could have been daunting, but their friendly nature was relaxing. I learnt a lot and the experience was hugely enjoyable, it has confirmed that PR is certainly an option as a future career for me.