A website is as essential in your marketing armoury as a distinctive logo and snappy business cards – but is your organisation reaping all the benefits of being on the internet?
Never before in the history of commerce have businesses enjoyed such opportunities to broadcast tailored corporate messages cheaply, instantly, to wide or targeted audiences and without fear of editorial intervention. But many organisations still don’t make full use of the internet to spread their messages: as a result they are not being heard.
One of the reasons the internet and its spinoffs – email and social media – are so powerful is because the content that reaches the reader is precisely what the sender intended. This is also true of printed newsletters, brochures and direct mail – but the internet has immediacy.
In contrast, the traditional press release was often edited and rewritten by journalists keen to add their own touch – sometimes with dire consequences for the original corporate message. Not that all editing was bad – some press releases were (and still are) in need of extensive improvement.
Companies now have virtual carte blanche online to say anything (within the law and bounds of common decency, of course). Some have in-house resources to craft creative content. Others rely on outsourced skills (like mine) to produce copy that ticks all the boxes. Either way, good content is essential.
As citizens of the internet, we are all looking for a massive return on our investment in a domain name and content. To achieve that ROI we have to get the right people to visit our sites and then to be sufficiently impressed to take action.
The first step is to ensure we have the right content. This means providing information that people will need in order to make a ‘buy’ decision. People respond more readily if they are told what they want to hear, rather than what we want to tell them. But too many companies focus on how good they are rather than what they can do for the customer. In short, promote the benefits not the features.
Content needs to be refreshed frequently to keep the search engines interested and to give customers a reason for returning to the site over and over again. Just think of the big e-commerce sites: people keep looking at them to see what’s new.
The second step is to attract people to the site: unless you are extremely well known or on the first Google page you’re unlikely to get random hits that mature into valuable customers. This is where social media marketing plays a vital role, affording the opportunity to publish a brief ‘teaser’ with an all-important link to the real article. And if your posts are clever enough, others will ‘like’ or ‘share’ them to the wider audience of their own connections.
Now, please share this article and have a look round my website!
Content is everything these days. It’s what goes into websites, email marketing, social media, brochures – even old-fashioned media releases. No surprise, then, that it’s become a big talking point in the marketing sector.
In reality, content is what I – and countless other PR professionals – have been producing for clients over many years. Our challenge is to keep abreast of the latest content opportunities and to adapt our output appropriately.
But it’s not that simple. There’s so much content around that we have to be even more creative in our word-crafting if our clients’ messages are to stand out amid the swelling mass of communication clutter.
It’s refreshing to see some of the profession’s thought leaders suggesting that the key is not to pump out clients’ sales messages – basically what they want to say – and instead to produce what their customers might want to hear.
As one of the experts I follow suggested recently, content creators need to stop selling and start listening. After all, communication is a two-way process: a one-to-one conversation is nothing but series of balanced responses. Why should content be any different?
So, to promote a product in today’s market, the content copywriter should be focusing on the benefits rather than the features. The sales messages can still be woven into the text, but subtly.
If we give the reader a captivating story, with which he or she can easily identify, we are surely on the way to converting prospect into customer.
I believe many companies are losing out because their messages are clouded by outdated construction and blind obedience to what pleases the managing director. This may be because neither they or their communication advisers have embraced change.
I have spent many hours writing about ‘boring’ products including bricks, plasterboard and various systems that go into modern buildings. I’ve also addressed more glamorous subjects. Whatever the subject matter, I always try to develop a human angle to help readers associate more effectively with the products my words are promoting.
My clients are happy.
As a profession, though, we need to put greater effort into educating more clients on what it takes to communicate effectively.
Then we can all be happy.
Most people have probably used – or at least heard – the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words”. But how many remember this when they select a mugshot of themselves for their social media channels – especially LinkedIn?
The expression dates from 1911, when leading New York editor Arthur Brisbane told the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club: “Use a picture – it’s worth a thousand words.” It remains true today.
The thumbnail pictures we post on LinkedIn and other social channels reveal a great deal about us, our personalities, interests and careers. A good analyst might easily get 1,000 relevant words out of a typical head and shoulders image.
It’s important to choose our images well – so that anyone looking at them is steered in the direction of 1,000 positive words.
In today’s visual world, there’s no excuse for using a bad picture as a thumbnail – but many people do. It’s my guess that many people with bad pictures don’t enjoy the full benefits of social media exposure.
Some people are naturally better looking than others, but we can’t all be beautiful/handsome. So we have to encourage viewers to look beyond the flab, wrinkles and odd hairstyles and go behind the face to see the real person they are about to link with.
Here’s a list of 10 don’ts – if your thumbnail has one or more of them, I’d suggest you think about changing it.
Do not look away from the camera – you want to engage with the viewer: in most modern societies, that means eye contact. Looking away may convey impressions of disinterest or having something to hide.
Do not frown at the camera – a ‘black’ look is a great turn-off, whereas a slight smile suggests approachability and a degree of friendliness.
Do not share the frame with another person – it’s you they are potentially linking with, not your spouse, partner, relative, colleague or best friend. Two heads in one thumbnail can make it difficult to decide which is the named person – and it may also conjure up the idea that the person is unable to stand on his or her own two feet.
Do not drag your children into the picture – sadly, other people’s children are not always as endearing as one’s own!
Do not use a logo or product image instead of your face on personal pages – it marks you as a pushy sales person, looking for any opportunity for a free advertisement. Logos and products are fine on corporate pages.
Do not portray yourself relaxing on a Caribbean beach, in the snow-clad Alps or bungee-jumping at Victoria Falls – it may suggest that leisure, rather than business, is your number one interest.
Do not hide behind the default egghead image – it suggests either that you are afraid to show your face in public or that you just don’t care: two views that are not conducive to engagement.
Do not select a fuzzy, out-of focus or blurred image – or one that makes you look like you’ve escaped from Crimewatch. Again, pictures like this are not likely to win friends.
Do not use special interest pictures or ones that are totally irrelevant – people don’t want to link with steam trains, aircraft or double basses. Let your connections learn about your relevant interests later.
Do not put another face where yours should be – you aren’t Alfred E Neuman, Morph, Kermit or scores of other iconic characters. If you can’t show your face, perhaps you should not be on social media?
The internet is awash with advice for successful blogging – so why do so many people have such difficulty with this great way of communicating? Here are five possible reasons and some suggestions for overcoming them.
‘I’m too busy’
This is a valid reason – many people are so busy ‘doing’ that they have minimal time for ‘thinking’. Blogs don’t just happen, they require a bit of thought before the writer can start composing, and the writing also takes time. The solution is to brief a trusted writer.
‘I can’t write’
This is also a good reason for getting a professional writer to do the job for you. You may be an expert in your field, even a brilliant speaker – but if you cannot communicate your ideas in writing, your blog will never achieve its purpose – and you could risk damaging your corporate and personal reputation.
Don’t recognise opportunities
Blog posts don’t have to long, turgid and philosophical: if they are, people won’t read them. Keep an eye open for a chance to comment quickly and briefly on current issues that affect you and your customers. Use your posts to tell the story of how you are maintaining your delivery schedules, despite bad weather. Use them to demonstrate the knowledge and understanding that lies behind the products or services you supply.
‘I don’t see the reason’
If you have a blog page on your website simply because the web designer told you to, then you are wasting your time. Your blog should be part of a co-ordinated and sustained communication programme, designed to establish you and your organisation as leaders in the field. The blog is also a neat way to get fresh copy on to your website – making it more interesting to the search engines.
Failure to plan
You might be a great writer, with the inspiration and time to channel some of your energy into a blog – but unless you can commit to producing the necessary flow of material, results of the blog could fall well below expectations. Plan your content, plan your time and stick to your plan!
Forget those ideas of cutting back on chocolate, alcohol and other trivial items – you need some serious New Year’s resolutions. Here are our top five recommendations for simple public relations ideas that are easy for you (or your PR consultant) to implement – and will certainly benefit your business in 2014.
Engage with your customers
Customers are your most valuable asset – talk to them, research them, listen to them, monitor their social media channels, understand their needs, seek fresh opportunities to serve them.
Keep your website fresh
It’s your electronic shop window and it’s as important as your in-store displays. Freshen it with frequent changes of copy and images to maintain search engine interest and to keep it attractive to customers.
If you blog, blog often
A blog is among the easiest ways to generate new copy for a website. Talk about things that matter to you – but always write with good reader-appeal. Keep blog items nice and short and post them as often as you can.
Tweet your heart out
Use Twitter and the other social media services regularley to drive people to your website (and into your business). Set an attainable target for daily posts and keep at it. Follow interesting people. Use every opportunity to interact.
Proclaim your news!
Most businesses are awash with exciting news about products, services and people. Share your excitement with customers and prospects and highlight your professionalism through eye-catching print or email newsletters.
Have a great 2014.
Many of us, through our career or business choices, can rightly claim to have developed a certain expertise in our particular fields. Some of us may also have become seasoned thinkers about our area of business. But do we make enough of our expertise and our thoughts?
Every business needs to market itself, using advertising and other forms of communication. Advertising sets out the offer to sell, and strives to elicit a buy response. Other channels – loosely ‘public relations’ – educate customers to make informed purchasing decisions.
Expertise (not to be confused with experience) is a powerful marketing tool – and a good hook for a PR campaign. Thought leadership is even more powerful, because it couples ability with understanding.
From personal experience: two clients, one manufacturing bricks, the other, plasterboard. At face value, two relatively boring subjects. No! Both clients were able to showcase expertise in wide product ranges and great technical quality. Both were also able to demonstrate thought leadership in terms of the contribution their products made to the built environment, and the application of the products to solving problems facing building specifiers and contractors. The result: people noticed.
These days, one can sometimes convey thought leadership via articles in the mainstream press, both national and local, as well as consumer and trade publications. Increasingly, however, better results are achieved electronically – especially where you or your PR team control the final output: in your own email newsletters, blogs and online news pages. Get maximum ROI by using the same basic words in as many channels as possible – and remember to use social media to drive readers to your words.
Too busy with the day job to worry about thought leadership articles? That’s where you need help from a PR professional – preferably one who can also demonstrate expertise and thought leadership.
You are in the widget business, and you have decided to step up your communication with customers. So you are thinking of a website, a newsletter and, perhaps, some news releases and a blog to get the ball rolling. You managed to write your way through school and higher education – so why, you may ask, would you need to hire a professional writer?
Let’s first look at some of the underlying issues: who are you trying to reach, what is your message, and what is your desired outcome?
In most cases, the main targets will be existing and potential customers. The message will be to tell or remind them about the goods and services you offer (and how good you are). You want them to buy from you – not once, but repeatedly.
Achieving this goal may require patience and dedicated effort to influence perceptions and change buying habits. Breaking through may require more than one type of communication. You’re a bit like the BBC – you must inform, educate … even entertain. Each type of communication needs a different approach, which makes more difficult for the non-specialist to produce.
If you can do it, good luck to you. If you can’t here are five reasons why you should hire a professional writer instead.
1 The time factor
A good piece of writing requires research, composition and editing. That translates to a briefing interview, reading source material, gathering contributions from various people, sorting and selecting key information, writing it into a readable article, and checking to ensure the words convey what is intended, in a manner suitable for the recipients.
Many businesspeople can write – some extremely well. But I doubt that there are many whose business responsibilities give them enough freedom to tackle in-depth writing on a regular basis.
Hiring a professional writer means you can minimise your involvement in the process and focus your attention on your primary responsibility: managing the business.
2 Not all writing is the same
Very little ‘grown-up’ writing bears any resemblance to what we learned at school – and what we did pick up at school and university may not provide adequate grounding for addressing today’s plethora of media channels.
As a business person, unless you are unusually talented with the written word, the chances are that you will struggle to write effectively for all the media now available to promote your business.
Professional writers, on the other hand, draw on their multi-channel experience to produce copy in a variety of styles. For example, they will package your basic message in news releases, feature articles, blogs, case studies, web content, brochures, speeches, presentations and more – even Tweets.
3 Presenting a balanced, objective view
Many professional writers trained as journalists, and were taught the importance of reflecting both sides of a story in their copy. They would also have learned how to pitch their writing at a level appropriate to the mythical ‘average reader’.
People who write without this background tend to write for themselves, highlighting the facts they want to hear in language that sounds impressive to them. This often results in stodgy, self-congratulatory verbiage that does little to convey the real message.
The professional will ask lots of questions to get to the core of the subject – and then write about it objectively, in a clear, concise fashion, to ensure the message gets across, loud and clear!
4 Knowing what to say
Business people often find themselves approached for comment on issues relevant to their business. Some are blessed with the eloquence to dash off a quick sound bite that adequately puts their point and demonstrates their thought leadership on the particular subject: others are less able.
A professional writer is quickly able to get a good understanding of the client’s views and ability to comment on key issues. This enables the writer to develop suggested words for the client to approve – and if the job’s done properly, there won’t be many amendments.
Equally, the professional who becomes deeply involved in the client company’s products, people and ethos is able to write authoritative, image-building articles with a minimal brief on the requirements.
5 Good grammar and spelling enhance your reputation
What you say is very important – of course. How you say it is also vital, because the delivery impacts the effectiveness of your communication – as well as the listener or reader’s perception of you and your company.
Professional writers sometimes make mistakes (we’re only human, after all), but generally we can be relied on to spell well, use words correctly and to be masters of grammar and punctuation.
In these times of predictive text and gr8 messaging shorthand (lol), it may seem pedantic to show concern about spelling and grammar. But there’s good reason to believe that a company’s image suffers significantly as a result of poor attention to detail in this regard.
Consider: if you were choosing between two ‘professionals’ and one had a mistake-riddled website – all other things being equal, who would you choose?
So, if you are really serious about your widget business and promoting it through quality communication, brief a professional writer today.
Difficulties facing retailers in towns and cities nationwide – typically too few customers spending too little money – are also typical of the problems being experienced in many other sectors of the economy.
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for improving the business outlook, but communication is an area we should all be looking at, whatever our sector.
It pays to advertise, according to the old saying, and it’s certainly a good way to transmit a repetitive sales message. But what today’s businesses need is a deeper way to change behaviour – to turn potential customers into actual customers.
This is where communication comes in. Retailers – and others – who educate and inform their customers properly will also entice them. And then they’re well on the road to behavioural change.
So, what’s needed? First, it’s the right products, prices and attitude. You should also know your customers and potential customers – they may have very different characteristics. Then you need a story to tell, which could relate to your product range, expertise, brilliant customer service, your ability to solve customers’ problems cost effectively, and so on.
Fill your website with useful information, then use social media, emails and every other opportunity to encourage people to visit your site. Ensure there’s always a strong call to action … and clear contact details.
Whatever you do, don’t simply talk to people: talk with them. Real communication is a two-way process, and feedback from customers can be extremely valuable.
Whatever your line of business, in the run-up to Christmas you are probably wondering what you can do to make 2013 a whole lot more profitable.
You know your market, your products and pricing are right, your service is excellent – but somehow you are not quite cutting it.
It’s likely the one thing you are not doing adequately is communicating. That is the activity you simply must step up during prolonged periods of downturn or recession. You must keep telling people what you offer and why they should buy from you.
Advertising is good – if you can afford enough placements across a wide range of media to reach all your target customers. A public relations programme, on the other hand, can make a limited marketing budget go a lot further. You don’t need to spend huge sums on PR, but plan for ongoing activity, every month.
To help you, here are five PR-related ‘New Year resolutions’ for better communication:
Most over-used word of the London Olympics must be … amazing! Just seven letters, and derived from the verb ‘amaze’ – which my Concise Oxford Dictionary explains as ‘overwhelm with wonder’.
Don’t get me wrong, the Olympics was great, and in so many respects. I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw at Stratford – and on TV. The facilities were magnificent, the sporting achievements were Olympian – while the excitement and emotion of victories and near-misses were a huge test for the adrenal glands.
Wonder? Yes. Overwhelming? No.
But listening to the TV commentators, the interviewed Olympians, and the vox-pops in the park, one would think the entire UK population plus the multitudes of athletes and others visiting our shores were all in a trance-like state. Why? Because everything from the sight of David Beckham lighting the first cauldron when the Olympic flame arrived at RNAS Culdrose, to the act of carrying the torch on its round-Britain tour, the spectacles of the opening and closing ceremonies, and the tremendous achievements of so many athletes was almost inevitably described as – you’ve guessed it – amazing!
It’s only a word – so what, I sense you thinking. We have a rich heritage of words, and people in places such as the BBC should be taking a lead in using the full diversity of the language, not repeating a single word to express a range of emotions that may – sometimes – amount to genuine amazement. Similarly, it is sad that excitement seems to strangle linguistic creativity – leaving people ‘amazed’ instead of searching their vocabularies for more varied, more appropriate descriptive words.
So let’s all give a bit more thought to the words we choose, striving for correctness of meaning and greater variety to add colour and depth to our communication. Let’s be more than just amazed!
Websites are an essential part of the marketing mix for virtually every business. The huge successes of e-business should be enough to convince even the most sceptical of entrepreneurs that they need a strong online presence. So how do you achieve a ‘good’ website?
The most basic website is a shop window, telling the world who you are and what you offer. At the very least, it should also include your contact details. At this level, the website is an extension of your physical shopfront, and the information on your van or in your local newspaper advertising – taking your invitation to do business to a potentially much wider audience.
However, to compete effectively in today’s markets, websites need to be much more sophisticated and attractive. Design is vitally important, and so is content.
What you need is a website that not only entices people to buy your products or services, but also encourages them to return to your site (and buy) regularly. Remember, your website isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s also a major selling tool.
So, change content and add fresh items regularly. Look at other sites for ideas. Include more information about your products and services, publish case studies about products in action or how your expertise has helped solve problems for customers. Publish news about your company, comment on industry trends on your blog page. Stimulate communication and customer loyalty by urging people to sign up for your company newsletter. Spotlight special offers. Enable e-business and e-payment facilities to increase convenience for customers. In short, add value to your online customers’ experience – give them something to come back for.
There is no such thing as a perfect website, so be prepared to experiment to find the formula that suits you best. Then, continue to seek improvements.
The next important thing to remember is that while some people may find it on their own, you must also actively drive traffic to your website. Do this by splashing your web address (url) and its QR code variant wherever you can. Use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to announce developments – and always include a link to your site!
All this sounds like a lot of extra work that could interfere with your business role. I believe communication with stakeholders is a key entrepreneurial responsibility, but it requires careful time-management. You could also delegate some of the responsibilities to a professional communicator whose services you buy in to generate material and manage site content. Cost? That depends on what you agree.
And a final thought: decide what you expect your website to do for your business and ensure you have the tools to measure the site’s success.
Along with hundreds of people of varying age, shape, size and ability, I exercise fairly regularly at our local swimming pool. Apart from the obvious cardiovascular and related heath benefits, I find my pool time provides a great opportunity to think. During a leisurely early morning 1,500 metres this week I found myself exploring the parallels between swimming (or a visit to the gym, if you prefer) and public relations activity.
Watching others as we passed in the water I came to the conclusion that, unless one is engaged in competitive swimming, distance covered, speed and pureness of stroke are irrelevant. What really matters is progress towards achievement of personal goals and the 'feel good' factor this engenders.
Translating this into PR terms, it does not matter which mix of PR tactics one chooses to employ, or how they are implemented, providing they move the PR campaign in the right direction. Detailed measurement of PR results is always problematical, but in my experience most clients start to feel good when they know they are making progress: so much the better if there's a tangible result such as increased inquiries or substantial media coverage.
So what's the best way to swim yourself to fitness in the choppy waters of PR?
Your campaign needs frequency to build top-of-mind awareness. Remember that your target audience is constantly being bombarded by thousands of other messages. Don't assume that a single media release will be seen by everyone – it won't. To be effective, you need to parcel your messages in various ways so they can be used repetitively – but without obvious repetition.
At the same time, spread your PR tactics across a wide range of media, ranging from traditional print titles to newsy websites and your own in-house channels such as the corporate website, e-mailers, newsletters and your social media sites. Don't pump out the same message every time – make it varied, new and interesting. Don't waste time worrying about what you 'should' do – just get on and do something!
Measure what you can
Even the weakest athlete can benefit from keeping half an eye on the clock and counting laps. Similarly, in PR, some measurement is better than none – if only to prove to management that their investment is paying off. Your campaign should always elicit one or many forms of formal or informal feedback, all of which can be quantified.
… and feel good!
You should always get a thrill out of seeing/hearing your company's name in print, and on TV, radio, social media or websites. The more bases you can cover, the greater the chance you have to influence your target audiences. And there's no greater thrill than seeing target audiences responding positively.
An overnight request from a professional commentator who specialises in financial matters has provided some valuable food for thought. His question is one we should all be asking – regularly – if we are blogging to stimulate our businesses.
Blogs – the popular abbreviation of ‘web logs’ – give any computer user the ability to contribute knowledge to the internet, where it may be shared among closed groups or publicly. Suddenly, Everyman could be a ‘published’ author, and an authority on anything. Some of Everyman’s blogs are brilliant, others are just a waste of cyberspace.
Corporate bloggers – myself included – use blogs to engage with key target audiences. Typically, we are striving in the first place to communicate with existing and potential customers, closely followed by others who may influence future ‘buy’ decisions. Theoretically, the company blog is a great PR tool.
The drawback is that while some people may follow blogs published by top politicians, journalists and academics, I suspect very few actually read company blogs on a regular basis. Even if they do, unless they respond by leaving a comment or ringing the sales desk, there’s nothing to complete the communication loop. And unless you get the feedback, you don’t get a measure of your blog’s effectiveness.
Ironically, perhaps, one target audience that welcomes every new blog post is the search engine fraternity. It responds by improving website rankings, which means better visibility in search results – but that’s still many clicks away from boosting sales.
So, how can we make blogs more attractive, and facilitate real engagement with customers?
Write what readers want: This post and its immediate predecessor are prime examples of direct responses to requests. My posts also include comments on professional or topical issues where feel I can add value to my readers’ knowledge and understanding. So if one is an ‘expert’ it is perfectly legitimate to give readers what they need, perhaps before they know they want it.
Write for an easy read: However technical your subject, never assume the reader has anything near your level of understanding of the topic and its background. Keep it simple, interesting and informative. Ensure everything is explained properly, never leave questions or statements hanging…
Say something: If you really want to be read, be prepared to say things that really matter to the people you want to reach. Stick your head above the parapet, be slightly controversial, and provoke comment and debate. But remain professional at all times, and be very careful if you criticise in public.
Make it attractive: Let’s start with the assumption that you have selected a blog or website style (basic layout, colours, typography) that won’t change. You can still experiment with use of images, clever headlines and varied writing styles to create variety within a basic style. Follow the lead from your favourite newspaper: it has rigid rules on editing and layout, but still plenty of variety.
Encourage feedback: Make sure your blog has comment and social networking facilities (many do, automatically). Remind people to use them. Put in a live link to your contact/enquiry form, include your sales/info e-mail address. Ring some of your key contacts, ask them to read a particular blog and respond. Check your blog stats regularly. And when you get feedback, verbal or statistical, use it to sharpen your future focus!
Drive people to your blog: People won’t read you unless you keep reminding them. Advertise your blog prominently on your website – especially if you have a post of major importance, and in any literature going out to key targets. Get readers to ‘bookmark’ your blog. Cultivate a strong following on Twitter and/or other similar networks. Tweet to announce new posts (include a direct link). Intersperse your blog Tweets with comments and retweets, so your stream does not become totally one-sided. If you update more than once in a day, do a combined Tweet. If you have very short blog updates, perhaps they would be better as Tweets?
Finally, ask yourself: “Would I read this? Could I benefit from it?” Don’t make changes just to please yourself – be sure that any improvements will be seen as such by your readers.
And now, please add your comment below and feel free to share this with your contacts.
'So how do you make walls sexy?' That was the challenge from an industry expert concerned that partitions and ceilings don't get much space in the media, while the more glamorous elements of a building – such as furniture and fittings – enjoy extensive coverage.
I've risen to his challenge for two reasons. First, because the basic PR or communication solutions for walls have echoes across a vast range of products and industries – and perhaps this is a sector that needs to become more proactive in its communication. Second, while I've written PR material for a broad spectrum of products and services, two that stand out for longevity are bricks and plasterboard. I reckon I know a bit about making walls sexy. So, how?
Start by asking some questions.
Step 1: Why communicate? Are you trying to sell a product, or the skills necessary for a perfect installation? What makes you different?
Step 2: Who are your targets? Ultimately we are all selling something and it's important to know who our buyers are, because we need to communicate with them in terms they can understand.
Step 3: What are the core messages you want to get across?
Step 4: What are the best media? The potential range is huge – from traditional print to the new electronic media such as websites, blogs, emails … and Twitter.
Now let's think more closely about today's example: walls and ceilings.
Apart from being part of our shelter from the elements, bricks, plasterboard, timber, glass and other materials define the space in which we live, work, learn and play. Walls convert a naked structural frame into a fully clad human environment. Walls are the blank canvas that we decorate to turn a house into a home, commercial space into an office, or retail space into a shop.
Walls and ceilings also contribute to our quality of life. Masonry, insulation and plasterboard, for example, combine for enhanced thermal and acoustic performance that puts a brake on our energy costs and separates us from noisy neighbours. The excellent fire resistance of many modern partitioning and ceiling products also improves our safety in emergency situations.
Many products now used for partitions and ceilings are eminently recyclable, so construction and demolition waste no longer need to go to landfill – indirectly enhancing our response to environmental issues.
By now it should be clear that if I want to make walls sexy, I have to think outside the construction box to identify their ‘human’ side. Where there's people there's news. Installing a partition isn't news; creating an office just might be. Lining out a new building in less than the scheduled time, with minimal wastage and no compromise on quality is a tribute to skill and good management – and if it's publicised properly, it can bring more business.
If all you do is install partitions, you can't trumpet that all the time. But if you can showcase each example of your work in case studies, you can underline your installation brilliance endlessly. This means that you can continually be ‘in front of’ your potential customers so that when they need what you offer, you are already top of mind with them.
Having lots of case studies also helps to keep your website fresh and exciting, and gives you an excuse to use Twitter to drive people to each new entry (how did you find this blog?).
If you are Tweeting about walls, or any other subject, rekeep it professional – your company image is at stake!
If you are a busy installer you probably don't have the time or the inclination to develop case studies or other PR material. You'd do well to call in specialist help to identify news angles and exploit them editorially, so you get a fully professional product to match the high standards of your own work.
You could spend a fortune on PR, but you don't have to. Good PR these days is all about providing cost-effective solutions and value for money. You can make your walls really sexy at surprisingly little cost.
Contact me if you’d like to know more about making walls (or other products and services) sexy.
After dispensing some quick-fire ideas this week to a company seeking to improve its website, I've been thinking more deeply about the underlying purpose of virtually every business site.
It's very easy to become obsessed with search engine optimisation (SEO), one's relative position on Google, and the statistics on unique visitors etc. These are all important in good site management, but they detract from the real purpose of a website. In my book, websites exist to add value to the customer experience and, in turn, to the corporate bottom line.
Navigation, design and content are provided to give the customer easy access to information that facilitates intelligent purchasing decisions. The site and its constituents are updated frequently to stimulate interest and encourage return visits. This is one side of the communication loop: it should prompt the visitor to respond through one of the customer-facing departments – preferably sales.
So to get the best return on an investment in developing and maintaining a corporate website – i.e. a substantial increase in sales – we need to cater for the specific needs of the visitor. We need to showcase what we offer, but couched in terms that translate to customer benefits. We need to show that our solutions meet or exceed customers' expectations. And we need to keep the whole thing spring-fresh so that when a customer returns there is more value to be derived from discovering new information.
I don't believe there is such a thing as a 'perfect' website, but if we are looking for value we'll get a lot closer to perfection if we strive to offer as much value as possible.
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 16 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.