By Ananda Shakespeare, CEO & Founder of Shakespeare Communications
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not a ‘yes woman.’
I have long been interested in ethics, working with integrity and intelligence.
Of course, I want the best for my clients and that means driving your comms with these values. Why be a sheep and issue a press release about pink cakes for breast cancer awareness? How does that help those with cancer and their families? And this is the exact question a journalist will ask too.
PRs and the brands they represent must deliver messaging with the human touch. The PR agency is the last port of call before your client’s messaging hits the press and stakeholders. That’s why it’s important that we raise any concerns. Yes, we’re servicing the client’s account, but if we don’t share any concerns we have – we might just be leading a lamb to the slaughter.
Gaining share of voice – that is, getting your brand heard – is competitive. Innovative PR ideas and content are integral to getting your clients heard, and on the press radar. Over the years, we’ve been shown risky ad campaigns which go against the values of the region, had requests to be on the cover of magazines, and demands for hundreds of pieces of coverage within the first few weeks of working for our clients.
Shakespeare Comms loves our clients. Just like a parent, we believe in education, so the hard truth may be that unless you’re doing something groundbreaking, most media outlets won’t be making you their cover story any time soon.
PR is about relationships in every sense. Yes, we use our good media relations to raise brand profiles, but the most successful brands are those with a strong brand identity, brand story, and who lead with respect and integrity themselves - and that means at every level of business. Consumers want to know that your client’s employees are treated well and that includes everyone on their supply chain.
Although CSR initiatives have been around for a while, giving back to local communities has never been more important. One only has to look at the amount that businesses have done during the pandemic.
Brands like Pepsi Cola have delivered lentils and other food to communities in Pakistan. Closer to home, independent Thai tea bar and restaurant Café Isan has given away immunity-boosting ginger tea with orders and free meals where possible to any regulars who have lost their jobs.
If you want to be at the forefront of people’s minds as a brand, that means pushing the boundaries, a clear, bold communication, and a willingness to do things differently.
So, what does that mean to your client brands? Working a four-day week? Rolling out sustainability initiatives that are more than greenwashing? Moving towards ethical certifications? There is plenty that a business can do. Keeping your comms team and/or external agency in the loop, involving them from the ideas stage, and listening to them if they think your idea might flop, could save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
If your agency or internal comms team is in agreement with everything, it might be a good idea to think about whether they’re the right team to push your brand forward.
A diverse team with different perspectives - able to challenge management - is more likely to break the mold and ultimately deliver stronger, better engagement with target audiences.
Top tips for challenging a client
1. Always ask why a brand wants to do something
2. Pick up the phone; sometimes tricky conversations are easier and quicker to resolve this way
3. Pick your moment to discuss concerns you have
4. Go armed with a solution
5. Confidence is key - you're a consultant for a reason!