How PR is like Connell’s chain from BBC’s Normal People

It’s safe to say that the breakout star from BBC drama Normal People is Connell’s Chain. After premiering in late April, the curb chain worn by the lead character has not only gained its own Instagram account, with over 160K followers, but actor Paul Mescal’s (Connell) personal chain is currently being auctioned off for charity and has already raised over £14,000 (yes, we have bid more than once). Nobody could predict that a simple silver chain would cause such a stir, and become the most talked-about feature of the entire show - but here we are, drooling over a necklace. 

In this blog, we explore the parallel between the enigmatic power of Connell’s Chain and the world of PR. 

Shareability/getting people talking 

Just like the chain, one of the most important aspects of digital PR is shareability. In simple terms, our job is to find the ‘Connell’s Chain’ and put it at the heart of a campaign to get people talking. Sure, it wasn't easy to predict the chain’s fame, but it’s all about future-gazing. Social media is your best friend when it comes to finding your next big viral PR idea; it’s so important that we are monitoring the trending topics and conversations people are having, as there is no point in pitching an idea if nobody is going to talk about it.

Whether it be creating a custom Twitter hashtag for your campaign, briefing and pitching your brand spokesperson to offer comment on current topics, or executing quick sales data from your brand and sharing with the media- PR is the shareability, virality part of your marketing strategy. This is how we earn people’s attention, and then respect.

Adds value throughout

It can be said that the chain had a consistent role to play across the entire series, acting as the complementing feature to Connell’s character throughout the beginning, middle and end of the storyline. Similarly, just like the chain provides value throughout, digital PR has a role to play across all layers of the Purchase Funnel, acting like the rocket fuel to your entire marketing strategy and amplifying your efforts at the awareness, consideration, and conversion stage.

Traditional thinkers may see PR fit squarely into the consideration stage, sometimes crossing over into the awareness stage. However, the dynamics of digital channels mean that PR can now have an impact at the conversion stage too. Take for example a campaign based on partnerships with social media influencers. This can be used to drive referral and affiliate sales, plus, with the rise of shoppable social, it’s an area that offers huge potential for PR. Campaigns that generate opportunities for shoppable social can benefit all stages of the funnel. PR adds value throughout.

Connection 

Just like the chain connects around Connell’s sleek and muscular collarbone, the chain has also connected the nation during this worldwide pandemic. You could also say that PR is the ‘connecting chain’ in your marketing strategy. Traditionally, PR has been focused on media relations, including crafting strong relationships with journalists for your client. More often than not, clients separate PR and marketing activity.

But, it’s essential that brands understand the connection between marketing and PR, as separating them often leads to missed opportunities. PR and marketing perform much better when we work together and create a brand strategy that will work on both sides.

In short, something as unassuming as a silver chain on an (unquestionably) handsome man’s neck has connected the nation, and PR can be harnessed to do the same for your marketing strategy.

 

 


How to inspire and foster creativity in the workplace

Whilst it’s easy to recall all-singing, all-dancing campaigns when asked about creativity in PR- Thames-floating, shock-inducing, tear-shedding ideas- creativity runs much deeper than that. It’s the foundation for progress and innovation- from pitching to ways of working.

Great PR has to have creativity at the core. Not only because it is a prerequisite to effective communication, but because PR is stepping up as a competitor to its siblings; marketing and ad giants have positioned ‘creative’ as their beating heart since their inception, and PR needs to do the same. And no, you don’t need a Creative Director to set that benchmark in your team (although it does help).

 Creativity unlocks an agile advantage because it demonstrates an understanding that innovation is fundamental to keeping up with how audiences and people change. In this sense, any agency worth its salt needs to foster an entire culture that inspires and supports creativity, in all its forms. That means acknowledging that not everyone’s creativity is nurtured and brought out in the same way- and investing in accommodating this.

 What might help, are the following tried-and-tested tips for what we have found to make the biggest difference.

 1. Start with a diverse team

Bringing a rich tapestry of experience, identity and talent together is absolutely your most powerful creative asset, and competitive advantage. The best ideas are informed not just by a rich set of data, but by diverse minds.

Diversity has long been an issue in PR and the wider creative industries, and the agencies will only fall short of the best work because of it.

This needs to continue beyond recruitment and into process. At Fanclub, we have a flat structure when it comes to creative ideation for campaigns. Everyone gets involved, together- from interns to directors.

 2. Workspace autonomy

 People need to have autonomy of their own workspace, schedule and way of working to accommodate the true definition of ‘creative thinking’: how people approach problems with solutions. This can depend on so many things, beyond personality and skill.

 Allow flexibility with working hours, where people work and their own day-to-day process.

 Don’t just allow flexibility, but support it. This can also make all the difference to retaining great creative talent- a lack of practical support to help balance work and family life, for example, can mean losing them.

3. Brainstorming: consider time and space

Our MD, Adrian, always says that his best ideas come to him in the shower. Each to their own, truly. Mine usually strike me a few hours deep on Reddit (I like to think of it as ethnographic research…).

 The point is that ideas are not always born inside the confines of a meeting room, in a pressured, time-constrained brainstorm. Plus, not everyone feels comfortable shouting out ideas. Let your team stew, think, ponder and be struck by inspiration outside of the office.

 For campaigns, you might not always be blessed with a decent response time (but that’s for another blog post), but encouraging people to take a walk, sleep on things and contribute in their own time and using their own format will lead to stronger ideation.

4. Always-on creativity and a culture of proactivity  

 Don’t just ask for or rely on creativity once you have a problem or a brief. Encourage an always-on approach to ideas-sharing and creative inspiration.

 At Fanclub, we hold a weekly Open Practice Brainstorm for the entire agency, in which we develop a brief for an existing client or prospective one, and develop ideas in pairs over the week. Not only does this mean we mix up collaboration across the team, but we’ve got a stream of creative sessions and ideas at any given time.

 We also have Slack channels dedicated to sharing creative case studies and thought leadership, as well as a weekly forum to discuss them.

5. Moving away from the pressure of big ideas

 Thinking creatively is not just about huge, integrated campaign ideas. Smart creativity is being proactive with smaller ideas, and not just for smaller campaigns; reactive opportunities, strategic copy, byline ideas, and suggestions for better ways of working are all great ways of demonstrating a creative mindset.

Fostering proactivity like this, for clients and the agency team, showcases the impact of always-on creative thinking and the power of creative solution.

6. Support self-identifying ‘non-creatives’

Everyone has met someone who says that they’re just ‘not very creative’. More often than not, this comes from people believing that to be creative means to strive to be a Creative Director, or simply an issue of confidence. But, as we know, everyone has the capacity for creative thinking in their role. And whilst some might think it can’t be taught, they’re wrong- it’s about exercising those muscles more and more.

Those who lack confidence can often end up sabotaging their potential. It’s up to managers to help them explore what it means to be creative, and help empower them with confidence to share ideas and platform their day-to-day creativity. 

Emily Barnes - Account Director at Fanclub PR

 

 

 

 

 


Fanclub favs: Binge-watches

There has been a wave of ‘pandemic productivity’ talk across social media, advocating that now is the best time to write that novel you never knew you wanted to write, become a home fitness guru like Joe Wicks or bake enough bread to feed the entire Great Britsh Bake Off crew. But honestly, sometimes you just need to sit back and enjoy good Netflix series binge.

As a further three weeks of lockdown is now upon us, and we’re all compelled to #stayhome and spend more time indoors than we ordinarily would, the team decided that for this weeks ‘Fanclub Favs’ we’d share our favourite shows that we’ve recently binge-watched. All you've got to do now is get comfy and let that autoplay feature do its thing.

 

Emily: There’s a reason why The Sopranos still has an evergrowing fanbase. I remember downloading every season on Limewire, and it was worth every single hour over the week it took to download. Aside from it being the best TV show ever made (yada yada yada), the style moments (CC sopranosstyle on Instagram) are worth it alone. I don’t have anything else to say except to get your friend’s NOW TV log-in and commit.

 

Hannah: I’m going to go mainstream here and say Tiger King. Not only will the series take you on a weird emotional rollercoaster-ride, but you’ll also start to understand the majority of memes that are currently circulating across social. The Netflix documentary follows the life of big cat zoo owner Joe Exotic, whose personality is even more eccentric than his name, and his feud with rival zoon owner, Carlos Baskin. Be prepared because there’s a lot more drama involved in being the owner of a zoo than you might first expect.

 

Camille: Like others have said, I’ve found it hard to pick just one favourite show to binge-watch. But for me, in times of stress or hardship (or global pandemic) I tend to find it difficult to focus on new shows, preferring instead to fall back on comforting old favourites. Depending on mood this could be Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars or Gossip Girl. But my all-time favourite show to binge-watch has to be Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

A show with great writing, jokes, fashion, love interests, subverted gender roles and an infallible moral centre, Buffy has everything. Plus it’s nice to watch something where the bad guys are clearly signposted and easily vanquished (though don’t get me wrong Buffy and friends have their share of moral ambiguity sometimes). In a nutshell, Buffy is a tiny blonde superstrong “chosen one” destined to fight vampires and demons and save the world. She’s also in high school. It’s binge-watching comfort food, and right now that’s something we could all do with. Because, as Buffy says in the Season Five finale, sometimes “the hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”

 

Emilee: This is a tough one, as I have been watching so many shows recently it’s hard to pick just one. If you know me, I have always been a sucker for a reality show, and before moving to London I was hooked on a TLC show called 90 Day Fiancé. If you haven’t heard of the programme before, it’s an American reality TV series that follows couples who have applied for or received a K-1 visa (fiancé visa) in America and then have ninety days to either marry each other or break up. Since moving here, it’s been a struggle to find the time to keep up, but since I have more time than ever now I am hooked, again. With numerous series and spin-offs, it’s a perfect show to entertain and pass the time. 

 

Adrian: It takes me forever to watch any series. My TV time depends on how long my children will allow me to watch a show for (we have terrible sleepers, and rarely have more than 45 minutes before one wakes up). So binging seems like a luxury to us! But, we do love a good series and have enjoyed dark comedy thriller Killing Eve seasons to date. Both Villanelle and Konstantine are style icons for us. And the drama and humour make for a great escape once the kids are in bed.

 

Fabian: I am a serial binger. As soon as a new album, TV show or documentary comes out, I’ve usually gotten through it at least twice within 48 hours. And now we have a lot more time on our hands, I feel like I’ve seen and listened to everything in existence across Netflix and Spotify. So I’ve used the pandemic to binge a new channel; YouTube. There are certain shows I’ll never miss on YouTube (Unhhh, which is one of the sites most popular shows, and Skincare by Hyram are weekly events for me), but one channel that has really caught my attention and warranted a huge four-hour binge the other week comes from YouTube Natalie Wynn aka Contrapoints.

Wynn is a transwoman that explores counterarguments to right-wing rhetoric, discussing everything across politics, gender, ethics, race and philosophy in video essay formats. A firm favourite of mine is her exploration into masculinity and the rise of ‘menism’, which raises some very valid points on the negative aspect of feminism; men have no new framework of masculinity and therefore feel ostracised, ultimately creating the rise of ‘menism’. If you’re looking to really get into her channel, her essay on cancel culture is a must-watch. The almost two-hour video explores the cancelling of makeup YouTuber James Charles, and then descends into Wynn’s experience of being cancelled by the non-binary and trans community. 10/10 would recommend.

 


Download the crisis comms planning guide

Click to image download the guide

For businesses, when it comes to crisis, it’s a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. A pre-Coronavirus study by PwC showed that 69% of business leaders had experienced a crisis in the last five years. The same study found that companies with over 5,000 employees can expect to experience one crisis per year.

Never have crisis comms skills been more valued than the world we’re in today. I won’t labour the point any more than you’ve already heard; instead, we’re offering practical advice from one of the best in the business.

Richard Peel was the former director of comms for the BBC (where he had to deal with everything from terrorist death threats to journalists, through to defending the very existence of the BBC itself), before departing to head up comms at Ofcom and Camelot. We’ve been working with him for the last year and he’s our go-to person when it comes to crisis management.

Richard has been kind enough to distill his experience into sage advice for our clients, peers and friends in our latest whitepaper; a practical guide to creating your crisis comms plan.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you will be better equipped to deal with the impending crisis on the horizon, helping to safeguard the longevity of your organisation, its customers, jobs and the well-being of all involved in their professional lives.

We could all do with a bit of help at the moment and we want this advice to benefit as many people as possible. Instead of placing this behind a data-capture gate as we usually do, you can access this freely without entering any details. Just click on the image above. And please do feel free to share this as much as you like, too.

We’d welcome any feedback or suggestions you have. If you’d like to share any thoughts, or say thank you, email us at hello@fanclubpr.com


Fanclub favs. TikTok

In case you haven’t heard, TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform in the world. While some of us might automatically think of the 2009 hit song by Kesha, for others the name has taken on a whole new meaning and has led to the creation of a unique subculture. For brands, this opportunity to achieve cultural relevance by tapping into nuances and connecting with consumers is why TikTok should be a priority consideration for communication professionals.

We at Fanclub are admittedly big TikTok fans and during the past couple weeks, we have been spending a lot (maybe a bit too much) of time on the app. So in light of this, we thought we would share a list of Fanclub’s favourite TikTok’s. We hope you find them as funny and entertaining as we do! 

 

Emilee: Everybody at Fanclub will be able to tell you that I have been hooked on TikTok for some time now, so hooked that I have even given myself a specific time and limit every day to watch them. Every night at 10 pm, you can find me in bed scrolling through my feed while silently giggling to myself for 30mins. As I am on the app quite frequently, I like to think TikTok’s algorithm knows me quite well, as 90% of the videos that are suggested to me are of either dogs or cute old people. So, in line with my theme, one of my favourite TikTok’s comes from Grandma Sandy, who recently discovered the Coke and Mentos challenge for the first time.

 

Fab: Ok first thing’s first; TikTok is literally nothing like Vine. It offers way more in terms of creativity with filters, green screens and even music built into the app. Now I’ve stated that, let me introduce you to one of my many favourites. For context, Anna Faris is one of my favourite actresses of all time (no one has her level of range) and teamed up with the current coronavirus pandemic, it does nothing but make me laugh every time I watch it.

 

Hannah: At the start of the week, before we decided to write this blog I wasn’t on TikTok. And to be honest I was a little sceptical about all the hype around it. Fast forward to last night, I was up until 1:30am watching TikTok videos. Think it’s safe to say that it’s a little addictive and in times like these when we don’t have much else to do with our evenings what’s the harm, right? Here’s my favourite from last night’sbinge - it’s just his face and the look of regret, the more I watch the funnier it gets…

 

Adrian: For me, TikTok is a snack-sized entertainment platform. But what really blows me away is the amount of creative talent on there; I’m excited about the future of content. Because TikTok just fills in the ‘in-between’ moments for me, I enjoy the comedy videos the most. They’re like a little blast of joy to lift you up. Before the UK went into COVID-19 lockdown, this video was shared with me, and I liked the way that this creator captured the criticism of the government’s delayed response to the threat in a really funny way.

 

Camille: My participation in TikTok up to this point has been limited to following various recipe accounts, watching the Rosa and Marlene TikToks (if you know, you know) and marvelling at how funny my 14-year-old sister is on there. I think it’s really fascinating seeing what’s gone viral and done well from the platform. It’s often the really weird, unpredictable, and silly content that fares best, making it unlike any other platform right now. To that end here’s my pick, I think we can all find something to relate to in this TikTok. Sometimes we are all this aggressively southern child, just wanting to pet a dog, other times we might be the dog that you’re not allowed to pet. Ultimately this is a TikTok about the human condition. Also, this kid’s voice is hilarious.

 

Emily: Amidst the chaos of the world right now, TikTok is undeniably a destination for light relief. What I particularly love at the moment is how its content transcends generations- and keeps the world connected, no matter what their age. Outside of ruddy-faced dads bounding down the driveway to Blinding Lights, and eating a continental breakfast with Old Man Steve , I was beaming when I watched videos from Westhill Park. The residents at the care home in Kettering have all been isolating, but have been staying connected by learning TikTok dance challenges- from Elvis to Doja Cat. For every naysayer who says that TikTok is a Gen Z cesspit, there is a 90-year-old grooving to Funky Town and becoming a small-scale TikTok sensation. It definitely brought a smile to my face!


Hacking PR to supercharge e-commerce & digital

We know that PR has more to offer the digital world and it’s been our mission over the last few years to bridge this gap.

We have invested in our knowledge, experimented with our clients, created new processes, adopted new tools, and have spent a lot of time listening to digital marketers. What we discovered is that PR has the potential to supercharge digital sales. It just needs to be engineered in the right way.

We’ve taken what we’ve learned over the last few years, looked at what’s coming up in the future and have published a guide to hacking PR for e-commerce and digital sales. It includes

  • an explanation of how the ‘death of the linear customer journey’ has impacted the role or PR in sales
  • an overview of new channels of influence
  • practical advice on how to optimise PR to deliver more value across organic and paid search, shoppable social media and voice
  • an overview of the role of algorithms for content discovery and what it means for PR and communications professionals.

It’s free to download. Just click here

You can thank us by giving us your feedback at hello@fanclubpr.com, or drop us a line about anything else you’d like to hear from us.


"A breakthrough in measurement" and other predictions for PR in 2020

Predictions. Granted, everyone's at it at this time of year and you may be tired of seeing the same old things year in, year out. But we've taken the time to look at current trends in culture, technology and media to bring you our Top 5 predictions for 2020. Happy new year.

TikTok on the clock, but the party don't stop, no

Predicted by Emilee Senchyna

Video-sharing social app Tiktok blasted into the spotlight this year, becoming the most downloaded app of 2019. Focused on the Gen Z generation, the app has brought a whole new generation of influencers. With the audience being in their teens or early 20’s this is a platform we will need to be aware of in 2020. Unlike Instagram, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have – the app rewards and amplifies creative and unique videos, in turn making people constantly deliver engaging content.

Brands are already dipping their toes into the app, with brands such as Apple, Nike and Fenty beauty all using TikTok to promote their products in a unique and visually compelling way. Instagram will still take first place in 2020 being the leading social platform, but with TikTok’s success only increasing, brands will need to adapt their strategies to meet the growing audience.

PR agencies will have to expand their expertise

Predicted by Hannah Kalyan

The role of PR agencies is changing. A 2017 study shows that 87% of professionals believe the term ‘public relations’ will not describe the work they do in five years. Gone are the days of simply writing and distributing press releases. While traditional media relations is still relevant, we must increasingly get creative when looking to secure coverage for our clients. Resources once spent on more pitching should be shifted to content marketing and social. PR will always be important, but its impact is amplified when coupled with digital and social activity. For those looking to get ahead of the curve, you must find ways to disrupt and innovate internally. If you don’t currently have paid social capabilities for example, explore staff’s passions, invest in their education and build the practice from within.

Brand Saturation = Less Voice Infatuation

Predicted by Fabian Castellani

2020 will be the year brands make voice a lot less sexy. We’re going to see an influx of brands that have waited for others to test the platform before they dip their toes in too. But an influx of voice-based products that people don’t want or don’t know exist will result in customers turning off to voice. Let’s hope brands can leave voice alone until they can add real value to the platform.

Brand transparency in the era of fake news: scrutiny increases

Predicted by Emily Barnes

With the spotlight on fake news as an urgent issue, there is an increasing push for regulation as a means to fight misinformation- with a need for PR to safeguard clients  using a watertight strategy for proactive and reactive reputation management.

The surge in scrutiny extends to the heart of brands themselves, which are increasingly challenged by consumers across all media platforms, as well as by employees with sites like Glassdoor. With the conversation around the impact on the environment and ethical practices increasing every day, brands are being held accountable for their choices.

The single solution to this is transparency; consumers want to know everything about what the buy and engage with- where it comes from, who is involved in producing it and the implications of consuming it.

For PR, this means that trust proof points are of particular significance for clients,  but equally that honest communication around mistakes and the quest to improve are fundamental in building brand credibility and importantly, brand affinity.

Finally, some meaningful PR measurement

Predicted by Adrian Ma

2020 will bring a PR measurement breakthrough. Technology already exists on a small scale for brave brands to more accurately measure PR attribution; where spend can be matched to website visitors. This will go two steps further. One, we’ll see attribution to sales rather than visits. And two, scale. The last point is important because from scale, we can establish benchmarks. This is where things will get really interesting, as we’ll be able to measure campaign performance against these benchmarks. Expect a decade where meaningful PR measurement will be the key driver of investment.


Hype Waves

Download Hype Waves e-book

In Hype waves, we decoded media coverage data for mobile handset launches in 2017 to explore what makes the perfect consumer electronics product launch. In this e-book you’ll discover who won the mobile handset battles of 2017 and why. We also reveal the lessons we learned from them, including six-step recipe for product launch success.