Plus ça change…


Marketing Week has published a range of essays on the subject of the changing role of PR and communications. They really are worth a read.

The always excellent Michael Barnett provides an introduction and while he makes many valid points, is the realisation that “PR is no longer simply about securing media coverage” really such a ‘revelation’?

Experiences here at Henley suggest that most organisations even 20 years ago understood that effective PR campaigns combine creative thinking and strategic insight. Most saw ‘the bigger picture’, even back then.

And to another point made in the piece, every campaign the Henley Group has ever planned, worked on, or measured, has put the target audience front and centre – before considering the messages that would resonate best.

Does PR face new challenges? Absolutely. Are these complicated by the adoption of new communications channels? Yes, indeed. Have the habits and preferences of campaign audiences changed, and will they continue to change ? Yes, and yes again.

The fundamental need for PRs to understand and engage with an audience, develop creative yet hardworking campaigns, and provide measurement of their success is well established, and remains crucial despite these new challenges.

For the record…


Our latest edition of Passnotes considers whether the press release remains useful to marketers in today’s online world.

In considering the topic, we went back to basics to consider what makes a good press release.  The findings are not surprising, but it’s useful to address them again – if only because so many of the press releases that land on a journalist’s desk fall foul of the recommendations noted here…

  1. Consider very closely whether your announcement really is news
  2. Focus on the Who, What, When, Where – but most importantly, Why?
  3. Consider that many journalists still edit from the top down
  4. Adopt the correct tone, avoiding ‘sales speak’ or marketing terms
  5. Banish jargon, buzzwords or impenetrable technology from the text
  6. Use correct grammar and punctuation and adopt the third person
  7. Keep the release short – around 500 words.  It’s not a feature article
  8. Provide attributable and interesting quotes
  9. Accompany the release with visually arresting pictures
  10. Include a detailed boilerplate with contact information and background

Readers of our latest Passnotes will see we have added to this list by offering tips that help make the press release more relevant, useful and versatile in today’s news environment.  It can be downloaded here.

Why ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ don’t always mean business growth


On the day that Twitter will go to market with a value of $2.2 billion, it’s interesting to note the comments of Mary Jo White, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States.

The Financial Times notes that Chair White questioned whether investors could understand a tech company’s size or future prospects on the basis of “unique financial or operational metrics”.

For metrics, read familiar social media terms such as followers, user numbers or even likes.

Her comments may resonate with many businesses.  In a recent new business meeting, a senior Director at a high-tech engineering company asked us what social media could for his business.  He was genuinely interested in the potential; but needed to be convinced that followers and likes could translate into sales and revenue.

I hope we showed that social media activity on behalf of our clients has brought real business benefits. Crucially, however, where these benefits have been gained it is because social media activity was tied to real and demonstrable business goals; not just the accumulation of the “unique operational metrics” that Mary Jo White claims are no guarantee of profits for investors.

Interestingly, Chair White calls for “clear description” from tech companies. Businesses should perhaps ask for the same when it comes to social media.

Social Taboos


We are now heavily involved in social media activity on behalf of clients. In fact, this part of our business has grown considerably over the last three years as B2B organisations in the industrial, technical and IT sectors have woken up to the importance of social media.

Once viewed as the reserve of large consumer brands, there is growing recognition that B2B organisations have much to gain from setting up their own social media networks;  engaging with customers and reaping the benefits before their competitors do.

Our clients use social media to support the sales process, to bind customers more closely to their organisations and to handle customer queries. And as more trade and business media embrace channels such as Twitter, we can target journalists with news and announcements, and identify additional opportunities for media exposure.

To answer a common question; yes, some social media are more appropriate for B2B use than others. Twitter? Of course. YouTube? Yes. Facebook? Maybe. We recommend that clients fully exploit LinkedIn – especially Groups and Discussions – to create a presence on an increasingly influential conduit to customers, routes to market, and internal audiences.

Of course, social media is a relatively new area of marketing activity and the technology that supports it is changing all the time. There are plenty of pitfalls and many organisations have discovered that a mistake is easily made.

At best a mistake might mean a missed opportunity. At worst it can damage to your brand and reputation.

So, while the internet is awash with tips on social media success, our first blog addresses some common mistakes that are easy to make. Consider this list carefully and see if you are guilty also…

    Undertaking social media activity for its own sake without a clear idea of what is trying to be achieved.
    Instead of treating it as simply another channel and an extension of what you are already doing.
    Letting internal audiences use social media without any guidance or understanding of acceptable or preferred usage.
    Keeping it ‘hidden’ in marketing, instead of using it as a tool that benefits the whole business.
    Creating your own groups, platforms and networks instead of tapping into the ones that are already used.
    Writing that doesn’t consider the audience being targeted – or the requirements of the channel.
    Engaging with audiences only when you can instead of devoting regular time and effort to communicate.
    Measuring activity in terms of “follows”, “likes” and “retweets”; but not terms that mean something to the business.
    Instead of recognising that it takes time to get social media off the ground and working properly.
    Instead of choosing the channels that work best with your business and are of most interest to your audiences.

Download our white paper on social media here!