Category Archives: Public Relations

NRG Group Mid-Summer BBQ Fundraiser

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The NRG Networking Group are delighted to once again host our annual Mid-Summer Fundraising BBQ in the Forge Bar & Restaurant, Fermoy on Friday 20th July from 6.30 til late. This year’s proceeds will go toward the Fermoy First Responders, who provide an invaluable service within our community.  The First Responders are all volunteers who operate within the community and respond to incidents within a pre-defined geographical area.

This is the third year of the NRG Group’s Mid-Summer Fundraising BBQ, with the group previously having done some fantastic charity fundraising for the benefit of local organisations.  Most recently they raised €14,000 towards the purchase of a much-needed specially adapted bus for Cope Foundation and almost €8,000 from a sky dive and Summer BBQ for Liam’s Lifts.

The NRG Networking Group is a business networking group that meets in Fermoy Community Youth Centre every Thursday morning from 7.30 until 8.30 and consists of a wide variety of entrepreneurs, business owners, tradesmen, employers and sole traders from the North Cork region.

Tickets for the Mid-Summer BBQ are €20 which includes a food, a glass of prosecco and DJ.  There will also be a raffle on the night with some fantastic prizes to be won and those who cannot attend the BBQ itself are very welcome to purchase raffle tickets 1 for €2 or 3 for €5.  BBQ and raffle tickets are available to buy from Hanley’s Newsagents, Fermoy Community Youth Centre, Frank Morgan Photography & Avondhu Press.

It promises to be a great night and all support would be very much welcomed!

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Presentation on the Importance of Reputation in Business

I was delighted to give a presentation on the importance of reputation in business at a recent NRG Networking Group meeting in Fermoy.

The worlds of marketing and public relations often intertwine but, fundamentally, marketing is concerned with the promotion of goods and services.  PR is more focused on the bigger picture – the brand, image and message of a business, in essence, the management of reputation.

When I asked the group how many had recently googled their businesses, very few had.  It surprised me, but on the other hand, when you are the owner of a small business, you are your business. Both of your reputations are intertwined and it is almost impossible for one to operate independently of the other.

As the old saying goes ‘What other people think of you, is none of your business’ but, of course, in business, it absolutely is your business! That doesn’t make it any easier to hear and accept critique, though- which can often be interpreted as criticism when we are personally invested in a business – which we always are when self-employed.

Imagine how useful it would be though, to know what your customers like, what they want, what you could do better.  Imagine how much you could improve your customers experience if you knew what worked and what was important.  As a small business, our reputation and service are often the only things that enable us to remain viable and compete, especially in this era of online shopping and increasing multi-national competitors.

As a local business, you ignore your reputation at your peril.  If you don’t conduct local market research, that too could be to your detriment.  So, make it part of your business plan to take some time to ‘step outside the building’ every few months.  And, Google yourself – often.

Reputation is important, mind it and it will mind you!

Want to hear more?  Read my previous blog on Corporate Reputation.

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Karen Twomey is a freelance public relations consultant with www.communicationshub.ie based in Fermoy, Co Cork.

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Fermoy Area Sports & Community Awards 2016

Nominations are now officially open for the Fermoy Area Sports and Community Awards 2015/2016 which will be held on Saturday 12th November in the Corrin Event Centre, Fermoy.

The awards, which were resurrected following a few years hiatus in 2014, offer the community the opportunity to recognise the outstanding achievements of various clubs, individuals and community groups in the locality.

There will be seven sports and three community categories awarded on the night including Sports Team/Club of the Year, Sports Club Person of the Year, Special Needs Category, Young Sports Person of the Year, Female & Male Sports Person of the Year, Hall of Fame Award, Community Group/Organisation of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and a Special Merit Award.

A number of nominations have already been received across the categories and all clubs, committees and individuals are welcome to enter any of the categories.  The awards offer a great occasion to acknowledge the impact that such groups and people have had on the quality of life in the Fermoy area.

The closing date for nominations is Friday 30th September and the winners will be announced on Thursday 13th October.  Nomination forms are available from Barnes Jewellers and Slattery Travel or online from the Fermoy Credit Union website and McCarthy Insurances website.  Completed forms should be returned to Hanley’s Newsagents or emailed to fermoyenterprise@eircom.net.

The winners will be presented with their awards at the Gala Dinner on 12th November where renowned actor and comedian Alan Shortt will act as MC.  The event promises to provide an excellent night’s entertainment with a pre-dinner wine reception, photography exhibition, superb spot prizes and a variety of live music scheduled.

Tickets for the Fermoy Area Sports and Community Awards 2016 are €45.00 and available to purchase from Barnes Jewellers and Slattery Travel.  Further details on the event can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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Reputation Matters

Communications Hub

How many of us really stop and think about the true importance of reputation in business?  This concept of ‘corporate reputation’ is often only associated with larger corporations and organisations.  In truth, the smaller your business, the more your corporate reputation matters.

A knock to the reputation of a large corporation may wipe millions off the share price, but for a smaller business, it may shut it down.  This is particularly true in small local markets, where corporate and personal reputations can be of equal importance.

“Corporate reputation can be described as the overall estimation in which an organisation is held by its internal and external stakeholders, based on its past actions and probability of its future behaviour.”                                                                                                                                (www.cuttingedgepr.com)

For many organisations, reputation is one of their greatest assets and they work hard to maintain it and build a ‘bank of goodwill’.   This ‘bank of goodwill’ is the positivity stakeholders hold towards a business.  In times of negativity, such a ‘bank’ may encourage stakeholders to remain loyal and protect reputation.

Larger organisations may generally weather reputational damage better than their smaller counterparts – often  possessing such a market share that it’s difficult to avoid doing business with them. Other times a brand can be so desired, consumers simply just don’t care.

Take Nestle, for example, which has been described as one of the ‘most hated companies in the world’ thanks to its long history of child labour, unethical promotion and mislabelling (to name but a few of its violations).  Despite the company’s horrific reputation, it still remains one of the world’s largest food companies.

Compare this to smaller local businesses.  For these, it can be difficult to compete with bigger companies and the growing online market.  It is often, in fact, thanks to their good reputation that they continue to compete and remain viable in the market.

When I think of my own local town, I could tell you the reputation of most of the businesses who trade there.  Those who are too dear, those who supply the best cup of coffee, and those who are simply nice to visit and provide some old-fashioned banter with your goods.

How many of those businesses are actually aware of their own reputation though?  How many of them take the time to ‘step outside the building’ and listen to what people have to say?  In this digital age, ‘stepping outside the building’ can take many different forms.

The good old tried and tested method of clipboard (or tablet) in hand and pounding the pavements is sure to yield valuable results, but you can also carry out your research without ever actually leaving the building.  There are numerous free online surveys available that can be shared via email or social media.

Or of course, a business could just ask their customers directly -what would help to make your experience a better one?  It seems absurd the amount of businesses who fail to ask their customers what is they want.   How many businesses close down because they fail to do this?

Of course, you can never fully control reputation, but you can try to manage it.  A business’s reputation may vary from stakeholder to stakeholder, according to their experiences in dealing with the business or what they have heard about it from others.

How reputation affects stakeholders:

Customers  If a business is well-regarded by its customers, they will prefer to deal with it ahead of others.  These customers will influence other potential customers by word of mouth & online recommendations – a happy customer tells a friend, an unhappy customer tells the world.

Suppliers  A good reputation increases trust of ability to pay and to provide fair trading terms. If a problem occurs in a trading relationship, suppliers will be more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt where a business has a reputation for fair dealing.

Employees  Businesses who have a reputation of treating staff poorly tend to attract a certain type of people to work for them – this directly impacts on customer experience and satisfaction.

So, what are the benefits of a good reputation:
  • Customer preference in doing business with a company when other companies’ products and services are available at a similar cost and quality – especially important in small local markets.
  • Ability to charge a premium for products and services – Helps to compete with an online market
  • Stakeholder support for an organisation in times of controversy – When the well-regarded Cork restaurant Son of a Bun was recently hit with a HSE temporary closure order they received huge support from their stakeholders, both when they were closed and when they re-opened, and came out the other side reputation intact.
  • Improves a company or organisation’s value in the financial marketplace.
We may not be able to control reputation, but here are some tips for managing it:
  • Establish trust – Keep your word.
  • Be Responsive – Let customers know they are important to you.
  • Crisis Management – Resolve errors and mistakes quickly.
  • Offer value – Don’t rip people off.
  • Confidentiality – Respect people’s privacy.
  • Stay relevant – Move with the times in terms of technology, stock, services.
  • Communication – Be professional in your correspondence with staff, suppliers and customers. Maintain a good online presence.
  • Community Involvement – Sponsorship, volunteering, etc.
And remember…
however much you may value your reputation, one thing is certain – there is a high cost to pay for losing it.

 

Communications Hub
                    (isentia.com)

 

Karen Twomey is a freelance PR and Online Communications Consultant with Communications Hub Tel: 0877642576

 

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Forget Control, The Web Is In Charge

Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper….

or so the saying goes.  These old words of wisdom were often used to console those on the receiving end of unwelcome publicity. The next day would bring a new headline, and the world would move on. Well, not anymore.  The invention of new media has brought about some new words of wisdom and we’d all do well to remember them…

What goes online, stays online.

The World Wide Web has been around for almost thirty years now, and during that time has undergone a number of re-births.  It has evolved from Web 1.0 which merely ‘pushed out’ information, to Web 2.0 which allowed for two-way communication.  According to Dr. Jim McNamara in his 2007 article New Media: How Web 2.0 is changing the world, “Web 2.0 refers to a second generation of internet-based services, the key attributes of which are that they allow openness for collaboration and high levels of interactivity without requiring programming skills”.  In terms of the public relations profession, this change in technology shifted the onus of online communications from IT professionals to PR professionals.

Dr McNamara notes the key challenge in learning how best to utilise the internet is that most of what is written is out of date by the time it’s published.  And true to this, we have now seen the emergence of Web 3.0, a phrase first coined by John Markoff of the New York Times in 2006.  Web 3.0 refers to an ‘intelligent web’ which allows machines to do the thinking, instead of just following commands.  It seems likely we will just be coming to terms with the workings of Web 3.0, when Web 4.0 will emerge, offering new and more exciting methods of communication.

These changes in technology pose enormous challenges for those working in public relations.  Everything has changed, from media monitoring and analysis to media relations and corporate communications.  Media now includes bloggers, podcasters, chatroom hosts, citizen journalists and many more.  Public relations must strive to communicate in a manner appropriate to each and ensure key messages are still reaching target audiences.

A 1996 report on the issues facing communication professionals, Managing the Information Superhighway, said that the role of public relations within an organisation is to act as coordinators or integrators to ensure that the material located on the internet fits the organisation’s image.  The World Wide Web may have evolved since 1996, but the role of the public relations profession still remains the same.

Every one of an organisation’s stakeholders is now a potential communicator, and every one of them holds the ability to affect the organisation’s brand.  According to Heidi Cohen (2014), President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, given the widespread corporate social media use, it is surprising that businesses continue to make the same mistakes that get them into trouble with their customers and their public. She believes such failings point to a ‘hole’ in social media strategies.  Cohen recommends providing social media training and guidelines to all employees to empower them to participate in social media and represent their organisation in a way that takes into consideration the implications of the content used and how it may be interpreted by different backgrounds and perspectives.

As we make our way through this era of fast moving technology, those who work in public relations need to accept that they cannot control the internet.  Only when they accept this, can they truly begin to formulate an effective digital plan on behalf of an organisation.

For more information on implementing an effective online communications strategy for your company contact Communications Hub.
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Online Crisis Management – Be Prepared!

In this era of social media and mobile devices, news spreads faster than ever before.  The web has removed control from those who create content and a crisis can develop in seconds. 

This is why it is vital that companies have an on-line crisis management strategy in place – long before it is ever needed.

When developing an online strategy, we must understand the ethics and rules of digital media and how crisis management on-line may differ from that off-line.

According to Chris Norton online crisis management can be separated into three stages – pre-crisis, crisis response and post-crisis evaluation.  An online crisis typically creates a spike in comments, shares and engagement, the conversations around which are generally negative.  During this crisis, it is essential to monitor and track what is being said and respond immediately.

An online crisis typically creates a spike in comments, shares and engagement, the conversations around which are generally negative.  During this crisis, it is essential to monitor and track what is being said and respond immediately.

When putting together a strategy to deal with on-line crisis, the following should be included:

  • Those who will form part of the crisis management team.
  • Pre-draft templates for on-line content – these can be pre-approved by legal teams to speed up their delivery.
  • The communication channels to be used.
  • An outline of how people can and can’t behave across on-line communication channels.

Finally, a crisis management strategy should have a strong focus on internal communications.  Those associated with the party will need to know what happened, what they should do and how the crisis will affect them.

All information regarding the crisis should be shared and updated regularly with all those who communication on behalf of the company to ensure all outward communication is consistent.

It may be impossible to pre-empt every online crisis, but we can certainly make sure we’re prepared for when one does occur and that the right procedure is followed.

Contact Communications Hub now and let us help you put together an effective crisis management strategy.
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Creative Digital Network Cork

I have had the great pleasure over the last few months of working with Cork Institute of Technology as group facilitator with the Creative Digital Network Cork (CDNC).

The CDNC enables networking opportunities among companies, start-ups and academics engaged in the digital industry in Cork.  It is an output of the Interreg IVC Medi@tic project and is supported in the region by Cork Institute of Technology and Irish Design 2015.

The group was officially launched by Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD, in February 2015.  Since then it has continuously grown and now has almost 60 members from throughout Cork City and County.

CDNC members come from a variety of digital backgrounds, including web development and design, TV and film production, video game design and development, animation, motion graphics, apps design and development, and PR and Journalism.

The ethos of the group is to facilitate the sharing of ideas, research and business opportunities through organised industry events, as well as across its online platforms – CDNC Website, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

As part of my work with the group I had the please of meeting many of the members, hearing about their businesses and helping them to connect with other members and relevant industry influencers.  I also attended the Startup Gathering and Digital Week Skibbereen on behalf of the group.

Through the CDNC we hope to promote Cork as a digital hub and an attractive region in which to do business.  From this perspective, we have connected with Enterprise Ireland, Cork Innovates and Cork Smart Gateway and hope to work together in securing our vision for Cork.

My tenure as group facilitator is, unfortunately, coming to an end.  I will, however, remain an enthusiastic member of the group and I look forward to being part of the future success of the Creative Digital Network Cork.

Further details on the CDNC is available from its website www.cdnc.ie or email mediatic@cit.ie

CDNC

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Five tips for advertising on Instagram

With over 300 million users worldwide, Instagram is one of the fastest growing and most relevant social media platforms today. So why do businesses still not use it as a means of marketing and connecting with their clients? 

Communications Hub
(thestudentblogger.co.uk)

The simple answer is they are unsure how best to use Instagram. Once businesses do start strategically using the picture based social media platform, the vast majority see an instant increase in interaction and referrals to their websites.

So here are some simple tips to help you on your #Instajourney.

  • Use images/videos that not only sell a product, but sell your brand – who you want to be and the vibe you want to create.
  • Post content at least once a week (of the Interbrand Top 100 Brands 86 are Instagram users and 73% of these post at least once a week).
  • Keep it short and sweet.  Under 140 characters is a good guide and has the added bonus of being Twitter compatible.
  • Hashtag clever.  Check out what hashtags competitors are using. Think about the audience you want to reach and the action you want them to take.  There are no limits to the number of hashtags you can use, but seven or less would be a good guide.
  • Connect.  Research has shown that posts which tag other users experience 56% more engagement.  While posts that tag a location earn 79% more engagement.

And finally,  don’t be afraid to experiment.  Instagram is the home of creative content with posts showing everything from holiday destinations to homemade baking.  Work out a formula that works for your brand and your followers and, if you’re not already including Instagram in your marketing strategy, get doing it now.  #Instagram #Instamarketing #Instafun

Contact Communications Hub for more information on how to effectively market your brand on social media.

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The Importance of Online Monitoring

The rise in citizen journalism means that organisations need to constantly monitor what is being said about them on-line.  Public relations professionals need to be the ‘ears’ and ‘eyes’ of an organisation and seek out what is being said about the brand.  

Here at Communications Hub we use many free tools to monitor what is being said about our clients online  – Twitter advanced search, Google alerts andsocialmention.com.

And while it is possible to mostly control what appears on a company’s own social media news feeds using word filters and administrative pre-approval of comments, it is impossible to control hashtags associated with an organisation.

McDonalds learned this the hard way when in 2012 they created the hashtag #McDStories in the hope of inspiring people to share their memories and happy experiences associated with the fast food chain.  The company soon discovered that it is the public who control the meaning of hashtags, and theirs was quickly hijacked to become the hashtag for horror stories involving McDonalds.

Burger King suffered a different kind of social media crisis when in 2013 its Twitter account with 82,000 followers was hacked.  The hacker changed their logo and twitter handle to that of McDonalds and tweeted a huge number of tweets containing inappropriate contents and images.  The hack went unnoticed for hours, by which time the incident had gone viral. The company not only learned an important lesson about password security and the need for moderators, it also experienced first-hand what happens when you are not constantly listening on-line.  On the plus side, the food chain gained thousands of new followers because of the incident.

Despite often having ‘expert’ social media teams, some of the biggest and most tech-savvy organisations continue to suffer social media fails.  Last year The Guardian published an article on The top five corporate Twitter fails and it makes for some very uncomfortable reading.

The moral of the story is, it’s no longer just your P’s and Q’s you need to mind, watch your Hashtags too…make sure your company is monitoring its online profile.

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The Online Working Day

Being annoyed by your employer sending out of hours emails? Well, it may soon be illegal for them to do so – in Germany anyway.

German Employment Minister Andrea Nahles is considering new “anti-stress” legislation, banning companies from contacting employees out of hours.   The move is a reaction to rising levels of workplace stress in the country.

German Employment Minister Andrea Nahles (image: Thomas Rodenbucher/flickr)

“There is an undeniable relationship between constant availability and the increase of mental illness. We have commissioned the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to work out whether it is possible to set load thresholds. We need universal and legally binding criteria” according to Nahles

It is already illegal in Germany for employers to contact staff during holidays. Several major companies such as Volkswagen and BMW have also implemented their own restrictions on contacting employees out of hours.

Recently, car manufacturer Daimler installed software on its systems which automatically deletes emails sent to staff out of hours.

Sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it?

(Image Steve Pepple/Flickr)

That’s one of the problems living in the digital age – we are always ‘on’.  Your employer probably wouldn’t ring your land line at 11 p.m. on a Friday night, but wouldn’t think twice about sending that email.

Social Etiquette 

There’s almost a sense that on-line communications are virtual, and therefore don’t warrant the same social norms as regular off-line communications.  And because we are all pretty much on-line 24/7 now, there’s an expectation that you are available 24/7 too.

Gone are the days of clocking out of the office and retreating to your private life. Your private life is now interlinked with your professional life, especially if you are a social media user.

So when your boss sends you that email at 11.00 p.m., it’s hard to claim you didn’t receive it – chances are your boss has already spotted that tweet you just posted, and knows you’re online.

Mental Health 

Is it any wonder then that mental health issues are spinning out of control in Ireland, with an estimated one in four people affected.   Being unable to switch off because of technology and the changes in how we communicate, are becoming a major cause of anxiety, stress and sleep deprivation.

The growing connection between work and mental health issues led to the HSE recently publishing a guide to help employers reduce the likelihood and effects of work related stress.

(the dynamic turnaround)

It’s a small step in the right direction, but not nearly enough to really make a difference.

What Now?

Will Ireland follow Germany’s lead and make it illegal for employers to contact employees outside of work hours?  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, when you clock out at 5.30, make sure you clock out on-line too.

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