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.

 

 


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.


Algorithms as the new editors

By Adrian Ma

If you catch me in an 'in-between' moment, you'll most likely find me scrolling through one of my feeds on Facebook or Instagram. It was while scrolling through Facebook that I learned of the death of Delores O'Riordan from the Cranberries. In fact, it's where I discover a lot of news.

I'm not alone in here. A Reuters study points out, 51% of us are now using social media as a news source, which marks a shift in news and content discovery that we need to build into our own working practices.

the role of gatekeeper to news stories is falling out of the hands of editors, and into the hands of the algorithms that promote organic content on our feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.

I don’t think that algorithms will completely replace editors. I certainly hope not, anyway (that’s another topic). But as PRs, it’s our role to manage the visibility of brand reputation, and because of this, we need to adapt our way of working to ensure that we’re considering the role of the social algorithm in content discovery.

Let’s use the Facebook algorithm as an example. Facebook breaks down the steps to its newsfeed algorithm into four stages

  1. Inventory – Facebook takes an inventory of the stories that you and your friends have posted and the pages you follow
  2. Signals – Facebook considers all data available to determine how interested you will be in a story (these include who posted a story and how much engagement it has had)
  3. Predictions – Facebook then uses signals to make a prediction to calculate how probably you are to read, comment or share a story
  4. Score – Facebook generates a ‘relevancy’ score

 

This process happens every time you open Facebook, and determines what your feed looks like.

Changes that Facebook announced recently may, of course, change all this. But the one thing that remains clear is that if you’re working on a story that you want to be discovered, it’s important to consider the role of ‘Signals’ in discovery. This is true of any social media platform and the algorithms work in very similar ways.

Mainly, this means that if you want your content (whether it be a piece of coverage, or something direct from a brand) to be seen, it’s got to be something that receives engagement.

Of course, there are those that seek to ‘game’ these algorithms. I’ve known Instagram influencers to create WhatsApp groups (or ‘Pods’, as they call them), with fellow influencers to announce when a piece of content is posted, so that they can all ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on it at the same time in the hope that it will increase visibility.

We’re not suggesting that you adopt these practices. In the long term, these algorithms always wise up to them, and you’d run the risk of being penalised as a result of these ‘Black Hat’ practices.

But at the very least, you should be considering your role after a piece of coverage has been landed, or a piece of content is live. Life doesn’t stop with coverage. In fact, for many of our clients, it’s just the start and it's our job to work with them to help get it discovered.

For more about Facebook’s algorithm, check out this article on Social Examiner.


Five 2016 sporting campaigns at the top of their game

By Joey Green

June and July saw Euro 2016 and Wimbledon hitting our screens, which was an emotional roller-coaster to say the least.

We saw England’s embarrassing exit from the Euros 2016 AKA Brexit 2.0, Murray’s Wimbledon win, Iceland’s terrifying Viking clap (it’s why we lost, right? Riiight?) and the infamous scratch and sniff incident from Germany boss Joachim Low, bleeugh.

However, we also got to see brands utilising the events of the year so far, to engage consumers. With big sporting events like these, it’s inevitable that many brands want to jump on the bandwagon. As Rio 2016 approaches, let’s see who cut through with the most inspiring and creative campaigns?

Carlsberg

We’re a big fan of Christ Kamara in this office so when Carlsberg packed him off on the tube, dressed as an older gentleman to reward unsuspecting tube travellers who offered up their seat with tickets, we loved it. Part of the ‘If Carlsberg did substitutions’ campaign, it’s funny, it’s heart-warming, it tackles an on-going discussion about offering seats and it got a tonne of coverage. Kudos to Carlsberg.

Evian 

In order to engage Wimbledon fans and those that like to shake their bootay, Evian launched their ‘Wimbledon Wiggle’ (a move inspired by tennis players) campaign where they asked consumers to send in moves, which were posted on the Evian Facebook page. Here at Fanclub, we love a campaign which utilises user-generated content and the likes of Jonathan Ross, Mollie King and Holly Willoughby all got involved with the wiggle.

Copa 90

Bringing together football and current technology trends, Copa 90 created a chatbot specifically for Euro 2016 to keep fans in the know throughout. Content included everything from guides to articles. Although not in-your-face creative, we like the use of new technology trends to reach an engaged audience and actually provide value, the innovative idea received a lot of pick-up in the tech press.

Orange

Continuing with the innovation theme (oh, we do love to see how people use data), we want to give a nod to Orange who analysed each day’s tweets during Euro 2016 to see which nation’s hashtag was used the most and lit up the Eiffel tower in that team’s colours. Again, use of data, a landmark, and some great colours, made a lovely GIF.

Morrisons

After Andy Murray took home the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, Morrisons rebranded its Wimbledon store to Murriwins, complete with sign. Although the store did it before after Murray’s 2013 win, you have to give some credit for recycling a great, quick-fire idea (and hopefully the sign).

With Wimbledon and Euro 2016 out the way, we’re looking forward to seeing what Rio 2016 will bring.


The 6 integrated client-agency set-ups

Client-agency relationships come in all shapes and sizes. Dave Lewis, the boss of Tesco recently appointed BBH for advertising and Mediacom for media on the basis that they served him well at Unilever and he has a good relationship with them. We’re seeing the results of these appointments in the campaigns for this supermarket this Christmas, featuring Ruth Jones and Ben Miller.

Earlier this year, Jaguar Land Rover announced that it was moving all Land Rover global creative advertising and social media work into Spark 44, an agency which it had created.

A study conducted by a company called R3 Worldwide, identified six models client-agency set-ups. Here’s a quick break-down on the models, along with our thoughts on pros and cons

  1. Multiple Best in Class – here, the client leads with the integration, selecting the best creative, media, PR, event agencies etc., to serve their needs, regardless of who owns them. This is the most common set up and the one that Dave Lewis has adopted. To work well, it requires a large marketing team and agencies that play nicely.
  2. Lead Agency Model – where the onus is on one lead agency to drive successful integration. P&G uses this model and this accounts for 25% of client-agency set-ups. This can mean tighter client-agency co-ordination and requires a lot of trust in that agency to drive strategy and delivery.
  3. Sibling Agency Model – where a client is engaged with a group or network and their sister agencies. This accounts for 20% of setups. This can be great for clients with small marketing teams, because there’s a single agency point of contact. But it can mean that the agencies may not be best in class.
  4. Holding Company Custom Agency – this works well for Apple, Ford and Colgate and looks like the direction that Jaguar Land Rover is heading towards with Spark44. This is where the client creates its own custom agency. Great for controlling the strategy and costs but can lead to challenges in findings and keeping the brightest talent and getting a fresh perspective on things.
  5. The Free Agent – where a roster of agencies pitch for each project. This set-up is used by Sony and can be great for delivery of tactical work. However, the lack of consistency may mean less strategic governance.
  6. One Stop Shop - less common in Europe, but more so in Japan, Korea and Brazil, where one agency does everything for that client.

 

The effectiveness of these models really depends on the individual challenges of the client. Throughout our careers, we've been part of many of these sets ups, and often, it's the big ideas that drive integration. But successful integration doesn't just come from the set-up or the idea, it’s investment into time.

For agencies, this means “walking the corridors”, and investing in time to build relationships with agency partners. For clients, this means thinking long term with all agency partners.

Unilever and JWT recently celebrated 110 years together. Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing officer credits long-term relationships as “part of our success”. If this teaches us anything, it’s that respect, trust and the ability to build and adapt relationships pays dividends.

If you’re interested in finding out more, check it R3 Worldwide’s study here.