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From Black Friday to going green: E-commerce v. traditional retail

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With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and a weekend of gift-buying, deal-grabbing, elbow-shopping chaos over, we started to think about think about how the environment bears in all this (it is one of our sectors, after all). The battle between traditional retail and online shopping in driving sales is ongoing but we wanted to know which is greener, and how can a consumer, who wants to shop in the most environmentally-friendly way, tell?

Online heavy weights like Amazon are quick to boast about the environmental benefits of e-commerce, stating on their website ‘Online shopping is inherently more environmentally-friendly than traditional retailing.’ But can the reality be quite this black-and-white? This might be a great strapline that hooks in ‘green’ shoppers, but as quite research-based PRs, we want to know if this can be backed up!

Retail v e-commerce processes

Retail carbon footprints are generated from a range of processes, from IT infrastructure to vehicle emissions and packaging. It’s difficult then, to measure the eco-impact of each scenario for every consumer purchase, as the factors can vary so much from product to product, even in a single retailer.

Overall though, purchasing online should bypass travel to and from physical brick-and-mortar shops, and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions and yield a lower carbon footprint, unless this journey was taken entirely on foot or by bicycle. This, I suppose, is the black-and-white answer Amazon would give.E-commerce

Consumer habit

Consumer habit, however, can also impact on the eco-friendliness of the purchase, and the route to this purchase in today’s world is rarely direct due to the multitude of options. For example, if you drive to a shop, buy something, change your mind and return it, carbon emissions will be higher you making a double trip to that shop. Modern delivery methods, like Amazon Prime, which offer next day delivery, and more recently just one or two-hour delivery options, also pose a significant toll on the environment. These quick options make it more difficult for delivery companies to combine shipments to the same area, so the distance driven per item increases, as does the carbon footprint.

Similarly, if you see something in-store, then choose to buy it online, this can offset any deductions related to the final e-commerce purchase. Failed delivery or click-and-collect have the same effect.

A green outcome?

So we haven’t really got an answer for which option is greener for the environmentally concerned shopper. Thinking about buying from companies you know to be environmentally-friendly and responsible, opting for eco-friendly packaging (or as little as possible) and if you’re buying online, buying in advance and not choosing short delivery times, all add up to a greener way of shopping.

For anyone in the retail sector, including Amazon, it’s vital to specify to consumers what steps you’re taking to be a green option. Communicating this clearly is key: Consumers know what’s important to them when they purchase but they need the full facts from you. If you’re looking to do this, to communicate and show your environmental merit and what it means as a retailer and for the planet, we know just the team for the job…!

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.