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Working with politicians

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This could be the most unpopular blog post I ever write.  It’s about how to work effectively with your local MP.

Whatever we think of current politics and parliament, a good public relations professional should have a clear understanding of the role of their local MP and how important they can be to their clients.

Let’s think positively, and assume there isn’t another gunpowder plot in the making and normal service will resume soon.

It is normal to call on your MP for help on local matters –  or for help or advice on wider national or international business matters – if the business in question is in their constituency or will impact its residents.

Many PRs are nervous or unsure of how to approach and involve an MP in support of their legitimate business objectives.

This is why we were lucky to have a great panel of speakers lined up for us by the Oxford PUBLic Relations Group in June this year: Ed Vaizey, Susan Brown and Frank Nigriello.

Between them they cover the political spectrum from left to right, with business in the middle.  Ed Vaizey is Conservative MP for Wantage and served as Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries from 2010 to 2016 before Theresa May sacked him. Susan Brown is Labour leader of Oxford City Council and Head of Communications at the Oxford University Hospital Health Trust, and Frank Nigriello is director of Corporate Affairs at Unipart.

Each of them plays an important part in helping to shape where we live and work, but only Ed Viazey is a full time MP. This is why it is especially important to understand and use your MP effectively; because as Ed pointed out, that’s exactly what they’re paid to do – represent you.

They may not reflect the political values of your client or you, but they are still paid to work for the good of their constituents.  That work may mean securing or safeguarding better employment prospects, new homes, access to health care, better road or transport links, or a host of other things. The important thing is that if you don’t make them aware of your needs (or your clients’) then they can’t help.

Here are Ed’s top tips for working with your MP:

  1. The way to an MP’s heart is through his constituency. They will be available every Friday looking for constructive things to do. Do stuff on Fridays
  2. Come with something specific to do – not just an event or opening to attend, but a meaningful action they can do for you.
  3. Give them a photo opportunity.
  4. Do your research and identify their areas of interest and committee membership.
  5. Develop a proper relationship from the start, with a formal, personal letter or email from the MD, rather than their PR, and build a meaningful dialogue between MP and brand.
  6. Ensure you spell out the connection with their constituency, which may require using a home rather than business address.
  7. Support any communication with information and statistics which present your case and highlight the local or specialist subject context, information the MP can then use.
  8. Bring in another business. Look for synergy across your market or subject, and how it dovetails with your MP’s interests and committee work, allowing them to justify working with you.
  9. Don’t neglect the opposition. As well as your current elected MP, involve other parties. They could be in power next, and will appreciate being informed. They may also be able to help right now.
  10. Identify the advisors who work with your MP and facilitate direct communication with them too.

Look out for the next event organised by the Oxford PUBlic Relations Group. They offer great networking and learning opportunities.

“How does PR secure a seat at the Board” Tues 17 Sept 2019, Jericho Tavern 6 – 9 pm

Nicola Green, Corporate Affairs Director, O2 (Telefonica UK)

Fathima Dada, Managing Director Oxford Education, Oxford University Press

Mish Tullar, Head of Communications, Partnerships and Policy, Oxford City Council

Photo credit: Aswin Mahesh, Unsplash

 

 

How to get your message across, nowadays – building trust.

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People don’t want to hear from ‘experts’ any more.

Trust in leaders of any description – from business, charity, politicians, NHS – has dropped dramatically.

You need to give your staff a voice – all staff not just the management  – if you want your company message to be trusted and believed.

What does that mean and how do you go about building trust?

Our day-to-day experience in PR, measuring what campaigns work best, has been showing us for some time that content from junior staff or public feedback gains the best traction – the most views, shares and positive response.

It seems that only people ‘lower down the ranks’ have any authenticity – people who have nothing to gain by promoting a particular point of view, or equally have nothing to lose by telling it like it is.

Now a survey carried out by FleishmanHillard Fishburn has backed this up.

…“leaders of companies were seen alongside politicians as being amongst the least credible sources of information (7% and 2% respectively).

Conversely, employees ranked alongside family and colleagues (34%) as the most credible sources of information.”

The Authenticity Gap

Here’s what to do to get your message across

Be honest

Identify your messages. What are you trying to say? For example, it might be that ‘your company is a great place to work’ or ‘our products are made from better quality components so will last longer’ or ‘our response times will be better’.

Find the evidence which backs this up. The evidence might take the form of internal sales information, product information and supplier details, or actual happy staff and customers.

Identify natural spokespeople

Look for people who are happy and comfortable to describe their experience, and record them or gather their words.  Transcribe what they say or collate the information,

Use as much visual material as you can

Video content is ideal and it must have subtitles, but a slide show of photos is great; a strong graph, a funny picture. An interesting infograph. Visual communication is the most powerful medium you can employ.

Find the correct channels

Don’t try and reinvent the wheel, but do be creative looking for outlets, think of all your stakeholders and what media they consume at work and play, and then explore how your content would be appropriate and engaging on that channel.

Help people find it

After you’ve been creative in developing content and finding the right channel you then have to be ultra-meticulous in how you reference it. You must have the right links, tags, and meta descriptions attached to your content. Describe your photos, check your URLs and snippets.  It does take time but you need to help google help you.

Use the professionals

When you have to work so hard to get your message across, and when false news or disbelief can cost you so much in lost sales or opportunities, it’s worth investing in people to help you get it right.  They won’t speak for you but they will help your voice be heard.

For an informal chat about how we can help your authentic voice to be heard, drop me an email nicky@twelvepr.co.uk or call me on 01608 495012.

To read the original research about trust click on this report title: “The Authenticity Gap”.

Here’s why, if you want to improve your search rankings you need to use PR

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“Search engines have evolved to be much more sensitive to manipulation – to the point that SEO really is indistinguishable from PR in many cases.

“The traditional skills of PR, creating genuinely newsworthy content and earning coverage, mentions, shares and links from respected publications, sites and industry influencers, are key for effective SEO.”

This is why PR has to be an integral part of your marketing strategy if you want to improve your search rankings.  And why we have to be constantly watching out for changes which affect the way search rankings work.

Five search trends to watch from a PR and SEO perspective:

1.The rise of voice search

People search differently by voice than by typing.  What you yell at Alexa or Siri is not exactly what you type in your search bar.

Brands need to create content that works for long tail searches, with key words which are going to be used in this format.  Which is a good thing, as highly specific multi-word phrases tend to be more effective in achieving well in search rankings

“PR agencies that understand the importance of key words and how they work in the mobile world can add real value to clients as content strategy changes.”

2. Featured Snippets

Half of all searches are predicted to be voice searches by 2020.

So Featured Snippets – the block on the top right of your Google search – will be absolutely vital as they are used to drive voice search results.

Activity and content needs to be devised with these in mind.

3. Personalisation

There will be a more searches based on images and personalisation, where the search starts by seeing the right picture for that person.

PR must take this into account. Good quality imagery and visuals should accompany your copy.

4. Eyefluence

Google bought an eye-tracking startup last year Eyefluence. We need to keep an eye out on this trend (sorry, couldn’t resist.)

5. Fred

Fred, Google’s latest update has put a huge emphasis on good quality content.

“The rules of great communication remain constant: understand your audience and give them the content they want.

New technologies mean that search experts can never completely relax as there is always a new trick to learn.”  Danny Parker, editor PR Moment.

These five trends formed the basis of an internal training programme we recently delivered at Twelve PR.    

You can read the original copy and quotes on www.prmoment.com