How to…bring simple graphic design in-house

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If you don’t know by now, visual, well-designed, curated content is in. Instagram usage has doubled in the last two years and is well on its way to overtaking Facebook as the most engaged AND popular network.[1] At the same time, both video and infographics have become powerful tools for brands looking to communicate more easily with their readers. Effective communication is undeniably becoming more about visual aspects than ever before.

Agency work is varied; while we at Twelve produce traditional PR, develop media relations, etc., more and more communication relies on visual elements – we also produce newsletters, posters, leaflets, social media adverts etc. Infographics often accompany important research-based press releases as a visual way of communicating the topline news. And with the importance of high quality graphics on the up, clients have high expectations that we need to match.

It makes sense then, that many creative PR agencies are thinking about how they can bring some elements of graphic design in-house. While we do use an external designer and printer for some jobs, sometimes we need to put together a quick, professional-looking creative ourselves.

And while taking a photo at an edgy angle and adding a snazzy filter may be anyone’s game, professional graphic designing is not. Here are some tips to get started on your own in-house design:


For beginners, free online software Canva is your new best friend. It’s super easy to use, intuitive and really made for creative assignments without the fancy, difficult to use features of a professional graphic design programme.

It has a range of background, font, layout and size options and templates, as well as various images, logos and shapes you can use for free. You can also upload your own images, so brand logos and specific imagery can be easily added to your design.

There are some elements you need to pay for, but here at Twelve we use the free account and it’s more than we need to design social media creatives and other simple visuals, like a blog graphic or an email header. There is also a free infographic template which is really useful for creating a simple infographic if you don’t have time (or budget!) for professional design work.

The eye for design 

Many say that some people just have an eye for design. While it may come more naturally to some, it is something you can learn by looking at or finding similar designs to what you are aiming to create. There are all sorts of resources online that you can use to find inspiration and use as a base for your design, whether you’re making a creative for a Facebook advert or your building a four-page newsletter. As you get more experience and more confident with the process of designing, you will start to trust your own nose more and be more creative.

For practical tips and to learn basic design principles, Canva itself has a really useful blog to help beginners get started:

InDesign courses

After becoming more proficient using Canva, you’ll start to notice it can’t do all the things a professional graphic design programme can. This only really becomes a problem with more complicated design jobs, like a newsletter or leaflet for example (Canva is definitely still my go to for social media visuals and smaller jobs). But if you do want to bring these types of more complex graphic design jobs in-house, InDesign is the next step.

InDesign is a paid-for Adobe product, which is used by most professional graphic designers. This means it has a LOT of features so you can get the precision required for complicated graphic design jobs. This being said, if you are thinking of getting InDesign, I would recommend going on a course to get to grips with the programme, rather than trying to navigate it yourself like you can do on Canva. You can get some fantastic results from InDesign, but it is an complex programme to learn to use.

I won’t give a step-by-step guide to using InDesign, as this blog would become VERY long, but to really understand the programme and use it to its full potential, look into booking onto a beginners’ course (probably a 2-day course) and see how you get on.

graphic design in-house

Infographic designed on Canva

Visual PR?

The statistics to the left speak for themselves; visual communication is effective. In order to help brands and products to be heard through the noise across the proliferation of media channels, where visual aspects matter just as much, if not more, than words, design skills are something we need to look to understand as experts in communication, ensuring we keep up with trends and stay ahead of change.





Innovation, digital savvy, sophisticated campaign evaluation

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We’re delighted to celebrate our account manager Jess Friend winning CIPR Young Communicator of the Year Award 2016 in the Anglia, Thames and Chiltern Region.

Here’s the full citation:

“For the judges, Jessica was a standout winner. She is dedicated, passionate and incredibly self-aware. She has a clear desire and commitment to develop her own skill set as well as her team. It’s impressive that, at just 27 years old, Jessica manages three key accounts and oversees 12 in total. Jessica evidenced innovation and digital savvy and has a sophisticated awareness of evaluating her campaigns. Jessica absolutely shows considerable promise as a future leader.”

The Twelve offer

Jess exemplifies what Twelve offers – a responsive, smart service which delivers great results; someone who is passionate about training and keeping ahead of every trend in the PR and marketing industry.

A commitment to training forms one of our Twelve founding principles where every member of staff has their own £1,200 annual training budget. We also have ‘Friday Fixes’ where we address industry or market issues and solutions, and Jess is a keen leader and instigator of these sessions.

Results for clients

But what matters to our clients is how this is translated into action. Here you can see a couple of examples the judges picked up which show how Jess as account manager really makes a difference:

  • 265 media cuttings and over 900 online social media posts per year, providing an international profile and  search optimisation for an international school based in the UK.
  •  A relaunched product website and its first video – with 50% saving on the previous agency’s costs – over 60k impressions and 16K views with 20 per cent watching until the end.

You can read the full case study about Jess and Twelve by clicking this link CIPR Young Communictor of the Year

Or better still, why don’t you test out how good we all are at communication and give us a call?  You could have the industry’s best working for you too!

Call Twelve on 01608 495012

What can PR do for my business?

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or… the Independent to cease publication in print. 

The last print edition of the Independent newspaper will probably be published on March 26th.  What has this got to do with PR and what it can do for your business?

I was working at the Guardian when the Independent was launched.  How we worried about this newcomer and the threat it would pose to our sales. None of us knew there was an iceberg forming in the water ahead of us which would hit the bottom line of every single newspaper, the internet.

Explosion of media channels

While the print edition of the Independent has been sunk, the number of media channels has exploded, and the need to employ a PR agency to manage reputations or meet targets has increased.

News comes from hundreds of different places now, with competition just as intense online as it was in print, as this quote about the Independent’s situation shows:

“The online version faces almost as tough a task in competing with the excellent online offerings of other established news organisations,” said Charlie Beckett, director of the London School of Economics’s Polis journalism think-tank.

“As well as the new digital kids on the block such as BuzzFeed and Politico, the international news brands such as the New York Times are edging into the UK market.”

More skills required

With this proliferation of media channels, it is becoming much harder for any one person to have the skills required to manage communication effectively.

Businesses need to monitor and manage their profile across a much wider range of channels, or work much harder to identify the ones which really make a difference, if they are to change behaviour in their favour.

It requires a team, focused on different tasks, across different channels, repeating activities and learning from them day after day to keep ahead of change and help products or brands be heard through the noise.

One good piece of coverage in a national newspaper can still transform a business – for good or bad – but what is also different now from a communications point of view, is the long tail of the internet and the volatility of opinion.

Good management and preparedness

The volatility of opinion is a particularly new phenomenon which needs careful management and preparedness. A corporate error or mistake can be magnified a thousand times over if it takes off on social media, and a ‘mistake’ can take so many forms now.

At the extreme end it can be a true disaster such as an industrial accident, but it could also be ‘doing nothing’ when challenged with a question on twitter from a member of the public, which is picked up as a sign of indifference or arrogance, which then gains momentum online…

It might be a well-intentioned response to an email which is then publicised on a blog post which is shared a thousand times online until the mainstream media picks up on it and it becomes a crisis you have to deal with.

Proactive communication and marketing

This is just the reactive side of the communications business.  What about proactive marketing and campaigning? Last year, ad blocking grew by 82% in the UK, and by June 2015, 12 million internet users were actively blocking ads.  This makes the need for editorial profile more important than ever, and is where a PR agency can really help, both to create the content and also ensure it can be seen in the right places.

A good PR agency will be able to integrate your communications and help you manage it effectively across the many different channels now available.  Here are some questions you can ask to find out what a PR agency can do for you:

  • Will I have a team working on my account which includes a variety of ages, to give me experience across many channels rather than just one? A very young team for example may cover social media channels brilliantly, but can they also handle broadcast or board level communication?
  • Do they have all the skills I need in-house, for example SEO, video production, content writing, Google goal-setting and analysis, and well as brochure writing? If many or all of these are outsourced, you could be paying twice for a service. Don’t be afraid to ask who is doing what and ask for examples.
  • Can they integrate different marketing channels? For example, can your PR agency deliver and measure the results of an email campaign, which will dovetail with your new product launch and exhibition activity? Can they help you survey customers and harness their opinions?

Integration and relationship building

The one thing that doesn’t seem to change in the communication world is the importance of a good relationship.

A PR agency should help you achieve your business objectives, and should give you the tools to measure how well they are doing this.  Because they work as a team across all media channels they should be a well-spring of ideas for you, able to anticipate your needs and offer creative solutions and ideas.

The better they know you and your business the more they should be able to help, and the more you know about how they work, the greater return on investment you should see from them.