Last year I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Canadian Public Relations Society’s (CPRS) AGM to share my public relations CSI experience on the African continent. This is my story….
Before we get started let’s clarify the definition of CSI and CSR, which are sometimes used interchangeably. CSI, or corporate social investment, is the organization’s contributions (either monetary, employee time and resources, or gifts in kind) which bring benefits over and above those directly associated with the core business activities. CSR, or corporate social responsibility, on the other hand is a corporation’s initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing such as companies “going green”.
Companies need to invest in CSI as it ensures their contribution towards building and enhancing the quality of life for the people in the communities that they operate in, both internally and externally. When companies involve themselves in CSI programs it improves the recognition of their brand and can contribute towards brand loyalty.
CSI provides a social return on investment
Corporate social investment is more than just financial spending; it can also intensify a company’s commitment to its own mission. Global pharmaceutical company, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), for example, launched the “Secure the Future” program in 1999 offering grants to countries in Africa for women and children living with HIV/AIDS. To date, this has made a positive and lasting difference in the lives of more than 1 million women and children. The information that BMS has access to in the pandemic, as a result of their social investment, may also prove to be helpful in their on-going research and product development.
CSI initiatives have to be sustainable to be effective
In order for a CSI initiative to be sustainable, it needs to be treated like a business initiative. It cannot merely be an investment with no financial return. Even the most innovative, well-received CSI initiatives will eventually fizzle out if not directly tied to the business motives of the company. It will only continue for as long as the company has the appetite for spending money. As soon as the economy suffers or profits drop, CSI will be the first thing to be cut from a company’s budget. CSI program stand a much better chance of survival if they are tied to the profitability and sustainability of the company itself. Therefore, due diligence should be performed on all CSI initiatives: there should be a strong business case, and like all businesses, there should be a business plan with clear, measureable outcomes.
One company that has succeeded in proving a sustainable CSI campaign that is tied to its organizational goals is McDonald’s McHappy Day. In South Africa, for instance, this is a global charity event that aims to raise money for HIV/AIDS orphanages in South Africa. In the past, celebrities have enthusiastically worked at McDonald’s restaurants nationally over one weekend to raise the targeted amount of money while customers flooded the restaurants to meet their local celebs and to buy a meal.
CSI campaigns have to be authentic to survive
CSI activities cannot be a smokescreen for an organization’s real social or environmental impacts. For example, a company that sells designer clothes that runs an excellent CSI programme aimed at looking after HIV orphans, while most of its clothes are made through child labour in textile factories that use and pollute water unsustainably and foster corruption, is not accomplishing anything but setting themselves up for scandal.
While companies can contribute through CSI initiatives, the impact is far more significant if it is integrated into its core business at a local level, such as its procurement and employment practices.
At the end of the day, a well thought out and executed CSI campaign can work wonders for one’s brand identity and help the brand achieve PR exposure far beyond their expectations. Combined with public relations, a good CSI campaign can take a company to a completely new level and even establish it as a leader and innovator in its industry. As such, companies should consider investing in a reputable CSI campaign to share the love, spread the love and organically boost their brand identity too.
In just a handful of years, the Canadian media landscape has evolved by leaps and bounds. Traditional media outlets like print and television are beginning to give way to digital media, resulting in a significant and dramatic shift in the way media is produced and consumed. Newsrooms have consolidated as digital media continues to change and develop at a faster pace than ever. As more millennials enter the workforce, we’re starting to see brands rely more and more on social media tactics right alongside traditional media.
So, let’s take a look back at a brief timeline of the Canadian media landscape:
It all starts with a strong story: one which not only shares the vision of the brand but is relatable to the audience. This is followed by a commitment to maintain and enhance that story with all other public relations efforts. The Ladurée brand story is intertwined with Parisian history and refinement, and through that story they invite the audience into their world of French luxury and elegance.
The ‘je ne sais quoi’ factor
An important question to ask once the story is defined is, “what makes your product more unique than similar products also on the market?” Ladurée has been able to differentiate themselves through the idea of authenticity, elegance and sophistication, and by being an active part of the definition of Parisian haute couture over the years through partnerships with high fashion houses and like-minded celebrities.
Old world meets new world
For any brand to be strong, it must be an important part of modern culture while still holding true to its own story and uniqueness. This is done in different ways, but most commonly through celebrity endorsement, social media, word of mouth reviews and of course, PR. From a brief sweep of the 20+ official Ladurée Instagram accounts, it is apparent that they have managed to keep the old French sophistication at the forefront, while still being culturally relevant – from creating decadent macarons based on Disney’s Frozen, to featuring celebrities such as Pharrell and Blake Lively, to partnering with Vogue magazine.
Ladurée is also the first of its kind to open in Canada, and with its choice to be on Robson Street, a street known for having high class designer shops and restaurants, it is also culturally positioning itself in Canada as being more than just another macaron shop, but a standalone designer store.
Personality always wins
The product has to appeal to their target audience and allow them to be drawn into the world the brand has created. At this point three questions must be answered – Is the brand appealing? Will I purchase it? And if so, why? In addition to a strong product, Ladurée has surpassed all expectations on this by answering all three questions. Ladurée has created an experience that is not only appealing to a wide range of people, but is an experience people are willing to pay money for in order to gain something they cannot get anywhere else. Macarons can be bought in many places, but curated Parisian culture and art cannot.
From the pretty pastels, fine china and floral patterns to the visually appealing deserts, the brand has curated a story that the public wants to not only buy into, but to share with their friends and on social media. As a result, Ladurée and other brands with similar buzz are not only accessible, but they create an experience worth coming back to, again and again.
Did you know: the average Instagram user only sees 30 per cent of their newsfeed? As social media continues to evolve as a business tool, Instagram (conveniently owned by Facebook) is likewise making large strides to adopt the business-minded algorithm that Facebook newsfeeds adopted years back. With this in mind, here’s why the new algorithm is going to affect you and your brand a little more than you think it might:
You’re going to have to try a little harder
Any savvy Instagrammer that you currently follow – businesses and brands included – will be battling it out to be categorized in the aforementioned elite 30 per cent. How do you do this? The answer’s never as straightforward as you’d like, but the bottom line is that you simply need to generate more appealing content so you don’t get buried in the other 70 per cent. ‘Likes’ and comments matter now more than ever.
So how does this affect the once-authentic (and chronological) nature of this image-based platform? Plenty if you ask John Mayer…
Turning post notifications on may not be the answer
If you haven’t been living under a rock the past week, you’ll have definitely come across brands begging their followers to turn post notifications on in light of the new algorithm changes. But, as a business, is this really your best and smartest option?
Asking followers to turn notifications on is a big ask and it puts the pressure on you to deliver. If people start to get flooded with too many notifications, the quick fix is – you guessed it – to turn those notifications off.
The short answer to keeping people engaged with your page is simply to create engaging content that entices people to ‘like’ and comment on. Unfortunately for content creators, this probably means extra brainstorming hours, but if you keep people coming back despite the new algorithms, you’re golden. Just remember: quality > quantity.
The “Golden Age of Advertising” is now
Advertising on social media doesn’t carry the same stigma now that it did when it was first introduced on Facebook, then Twitter. There’s a reason you’re starting to see more sponsored posts on Instagram these days – it pays off.
And, thanks to the new Instagram algorithms, you’re seeing ads from businesses that are deemed interesting and relevant to you based on the people you follow and things you like on Instagram and Facebook.
As a business, considering advertising buys on Instagram isn’t a sign of defeat. It’s a means of generating engagement from an audience that is hand-picked to fit your target market. The ads are also unobtrusive meaning they look just like any other shared image or video. So, while you may be seeing less organic reach in the future, you’ll at least be seeing more lasting engagement.
So, for now, we’re saying goodbye to the chronological Instagram newsfeed users have come to know and love and embracing (or at least trying to) its new algorithms. Above all, keep calm and don’t turn on post notifications…just yet, anyways.
Today is our 13 year anniversary at Peak Communicators! Yesterday night, we hosted a wonderful celebration of our 13-year milestone and celebrated with clients – past, present and potential – as well as our media friends.
Stories were told, laughs were had, sushi and cheese were devoured and wine and beer were flowing!
Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate ‘#Peak13’ with us. Your support is what got us through the first 13 years and we’re excited to see what the next 13 have in store!
This year’s BCAMA annual marketing agency panel did not disappoint. Expert speakers from top agencies provided a strong sense of what’s to come this year and created a healthy debate around what’s really going to be some of the key drivers. There was a ton of information relayed to the hundreds of branding and communications professionals in the audience. Here are few of the highlights we took away with us.
Speaker #1: Andrew McCarthy – President, Tribal Worldwide Canada
The theme of Andrew’s presentation was around using content to connect with consumers. Research has recently shown that 71% of consumers who have blocked ads have said they’d consider whitelist advertising if the content was decent. Basically, people hate bad advertising.
So, how do you increase the shareability of your content?
Relatability – your content must be relevant
Have a point of view – this will help streamline content and ensure it’s consistent and interesting
Findability – search rankings are key when it comes to content dissemination
Mobility – make sure your content is where your audience is hanging out
Likeability – it’s an obvious one but your audience has to want to genuinely share your content
Snack Time, the milk producers of Western Canada’s cartoon series, was shared as a successful campaign where all the above was put in motion.
Speaker #2 Kelly Stephenson – Director of Strategy, Creature Agency, Seattle
Kelly’s talk centred around the prediction that there will be a rebalance between data and “creative bravery”. Kelly acknowledged the importance of data but cautioned that often marketers can get so caught up in data that the ability to connect with consumers is lost. Her argument around brands not becoming too obsessed with data was effectively summarised when she said, “data looks backwards; insights look forwards.” Marketers need to consider data and use this to create consumer insights in order to produce relevant and creative narratives that will increase the value of the relationship between brand and consumer.
An example used to highlight this argument was REI and its decision to shut up shop for the day on Black Friday and encourage its followers to #optoutside. REI chose to prioritize its shared values with its Millennial audience, putting a short-term need (a lot of revenue on Black Friday) behind the longer-term relationship. It was a smart move as the retailer generated millions of media impressions and a significant amount of content and engagement around #optoutside.
Speaker #3 April Yao – Senior Account Manager, 6S Marketing & Sheng Li Digital
April got up on stage and immediately said she had to disagree with some of Kelly’s points as 6S still uses and responds to data to ensure successful client campaigns that are closely tracked and clearly show ROI. April primarily presented on two topics: retargeting (also known as remarketing) and marketing to the Chinese population. April discussed the virtues of retargeting and dynamic remarketing (getting specific products that someone has already looked at on your brand website in front of the user when they are viewing another site). She said that, if you follow the cost per click (CPC) model, you’ll see the value quickly.
On the Chinese front, April said that approx. 20% of the Vancouver population is Chinese and encouraged the marketers in the room not to forget this growing market which often has high spending power. She talked about some of the equivalent Chinese social sites such as Youku (video),Baidu (search), and Weibo (think Twitter and micro-blogging).
April gave the example of Cirque du Soleil and how they were selling tickets fast in the English-speaking Vancouver community but not in the Chinese community. Through a Weibo contest, creating a Chinese landing page and a retargeting campaign, Cirque saw a significant increase in its ticket sales. Her final point on this community was that ethnic markets shouldn’t be forgotten but they also require their own distinct strategy.
Finally, Dan Scherk took to the stage to discuss the importance of brands adopting a user-centric approach in their marketing campaigns. He talked about how social marketing in particular has proven how brands cannot be organization-centric and that they have to prioritize user needs. Using his psychology background, he delved into social marketing behavioural theories and touched upon reasoned action approach, a benchmark for understanding and predicting human behaviour. Dan emphasised the need for marketers to tap into consumers’ beliefs, showing how that would impact attitudes which would in turn formulate intentions and lead onto certain behaviours.
The last case study of the morning was an interesting one: it was the “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign that was launched by Metro in Melbourne, Victoria. The cartoon campaign series was focused on reducing the number of accidents on its trains. Based on this, it was extremely successful and resulted in a 20% reduction in accidents. The campaign won top industry awards and was hailed a great success by many. But it was viewed as a failure by others. Why? In the real world, the true issue was suicide. So, a successful user-centred approach would have been around suicide prevention. Instead, the brand took an organizational approach and focused on an issue that was not the real problem.
Finally, the panel moderator, Claire Booth of Lux Insights, said that, while #FOMO (fear of missing out) was a real thing last year, this year, it’s apparently going to be all about #FOLO (fear of living offline).
40 percent of B2B buyers say LinkedIn is important when researching technology and services to purchase and 65 percent of B2B companies have acquired a customer through this channel (source: business2community)
More than 70 million photos and videos are sent daily (source: Hootsuite)
53 percent of internet users aged 18-29 use Instagram (source: Jeff Bullas)
Instagram is considered the most important social network by 32 percent of American teens (source: Hootsuite)
Among top brands Instagram has been adopted by 85 percent (source: Hootsuite)
Brands on Instagram are seeing a per follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent – that’s statistically 58 times higher than Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter (source: Hootsuite)
Still photos are more popular on Instagram than videos – generating 36 percent more likes (source: Hootsuite)
Posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6 percent more engagement and posts tagged with a location receive 79 percent higher engagement (source: Hootsuite)
18 percent of marketers plan to increase efforts on Google+ this year (source: SearchEngineJournal)
The +1 button is hit 5 billion times per day (source: Jeff Bullas)
Google+ has more than 2.5 billion users but only 10 percent are active (source: smallbusinesscan)
The lights, the decorations and the Christmas music are in full swing anywhere you go in the city these days. From big shopping extravanganzas to ‘stuff-a-bus’ campaigns to tree lighting ceremonies to the Starbucks red cup fiasco of 2015, it seems that the holiday season is always the time of year business after business tries to out-do each other for the PR spotlight. Case in point with WestJet’s admittedly impressive stunt in 2013.
This Christmas, forget the large-scale, consumer-focused, out-of-this-world PR campaigns to promote your brand and services. Because, let’s be honest, not many businesses have quite the PR/marketing budget that WestJet has.
Few things give people the warm fuzzies more than a simple heartfelt – and sometimes awkward – Christmas card in the mail. As the holiday season approaches, take this opportunity to send out festive cards (bonus points for snail mail!) to clients and business partners to nurture existing business relationships and to tip the scales in your favour for potential new business relationships in the new year.
In PR, we always talk about the importance of key messages. Don’t miss an opportunity to incorporate these in a company Christmas card! More than just wishing ‘Happy Holidays’ or saying ‘thank you’ via email or social media, use your card as a way to remind clients, past and present, of what makes your business unique and the value you can bring to help them meet their business goals. Think about the big themes that give your company its character and charm and use them as the foundation of your card.
Maybe all your employees are big advocates of health and fitness. Or maybe everyone at the office is an obsessive coffee drinker with an unusual love for cats. It doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to be flashy, but utilize your creativity to incorporate your company’s voice, personality and character into a holiday card without just relying on your company logo and tagline to do the talking.
From the message, to the wackiness of your graphic design, this is the perfect opportunity to capture your brand’s values and personality in a non-invasive, feel-good way. Be classy about it – no one needs to see your website URL in bold 20-point Arial font across the front – but use this card as a PR tool to reinforce your brand values and keep your business at the forefront of people’s minds.
A recent CTV interview with Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau filmed days before the Canadian federal election, reveals much about the woman who stands “shoulder to shoulder” with the newly sworn in Prime Minister. The interview was not only a window into the family’s core values, it also revealed why she’s a rising media star.
Across generations, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau has struck a chord. She carries the type of authenticity that doesn’t require age to connect.
In watching the interview, it’s apparent that Sophie’s style of openness and ability to make a connection with people is precisely what makes her so appealing and relatable. You see she’s human.
At Peak we often prepare our clients for media interviews. Whether it’s for print, radio or TV, interviews can be intimidating if you’ve never been put in the hot seat.
Through media training, we help people feel confident and in control of their conversation before they speak with media. There are a few things we could learn from Sophie’s CTV interview. Here’s what she got right.
Know your key messages
While the media may ask the questions, it doesn’t mean they dictate the conversation. In fact by knowing your key messages, which is an essential statement, thought or idea you want to get out in your interview, you remain in control of the conversation.
For Sophie, her key message throughout the conversation was that regardless of what changes around them, “within we’ll stay the same”.
Offer sound bites
By keeping her language simple, short and without jargon means her message is easy to understand. By doing so, Sophie adds more power and credibility to her response.
Here are a few sound bites, which reflect her key message:
“whatever things you go through, you stay true to who you are, and your core values”
“how you grow out of adversity is a reflection of who you are and who you can become”
Talk like a human
While none would mistake Stephen Harper for talking like a human (watch him talk about his love for TV shows), Sophie speaks with a natural tone, and it never sounds like she’s reading from a script.
When the reporter asks about her children’s reaction to the potential change to their lives, she repeats her key message, “I answer honestly. Inside we’ll still be the same people.”
Open body language
Crossed arms, shifting gaze and fidgeting are just some of the non-verbal cues of someone who is uncomfortable. This could translate to public mistrust and leave doubt in the message that is being delivered.
From the way she leans forward in her chair, to her open legged-stance, warm smile and animated gestures, Sophie exudes an easy openness, which translates to trust. Not only do you want to hear what she’s saying, you believe her.
Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon and the features are constantly being updated. PR professionals should consider how these changes impact or enhance their campaigns.
Below is a round-up of recent ‘need to know’ social media news this fall.
Dislike is the new thing
Facebook announced that soon a ‘dislike’ button will launch. Mark Zuckerberg explained that the new function would allow people to show ‘empathy’.
Brands need to pay attention to this; consumers will be able to voice their dislike for campaigns with a simple click of a button. Brands will make headlines for the wrong reasons when a campaign backfires as a result of this function.
Twitter is making its ‘Buy’ button available to everyone in the US, as a result of a partnership with Stripe. This is great news for online retailers and enhances the importance of Twitter as a customer service channel – the more followers you have, the more likely customers are to make an instant purchase.
The value for this activity will be measurable based on sales directly through the Twitter platform – this will make it easier getting buy-in for social media at the executive level.
Retailers should enhance their social media plans to develop an engaged, relevant and sizeable following on Twitter as a result.
Pinterest announced in September that it had hit the 100 million users’ milestone. Out of this number, around 70 per cent are considered to be ‘actively’ engaged. The company also confirmed that while Pinterest users are predominantly women, the gender gap is closing month by month.
The benefit of Pinterest for brands is people are often browsing the site for items they potentially want to buy; it is often treated like a shop window. Advertisers can proactively pay for promotional pins now and this feature will become more valuable as the number of users grow.
Pose for a portrait
Instagram is moving away from simply showcasing square images; now users can choose to post portrait or landscape photos. This is generally better for brands. Images won’t need to be compromised to fit the square frames, and will be better for accommodating specific brand guidelines.
At Peak Communicators we monitor for these social media updates daily and consider how they can be used in client campaigns. We’ll continue to share relevant updates via this blog and also our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin).