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Posts from December 2018

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PR resolutions for 2019



As the year draws to a close, it is customary to reflect on the year that has passed and set goals and plans for the year to come. A key tradition at this time of year is to make resolutions for the year ahead - both personally and professionally. In keeping with this tradition, we asked some of the Refresh team for resolutions for 2019.  

Laura, managing director

1.Don’t panic, stay strong

2019 is going to be a major year of change in our political landscape. As speculation grows about how Britain will leave the EU, companies are currently in no-man’s-land, which makes planning for 2019 and beyond a challenge. For the majority of our clients it’s business as normal, and until we know more, there’s only so much we can all do to hedge our bets. And absolutely, we work with each of our clients to respond to their changing agendas – and we’ll continue to do so as 2019 evolves.

What we do know in times of uncertainty is that businesses which hold their nerve, and look for opportunities to evolve with the changing landscape (however tough it may seem), often come out on top. I will therefore always argue that PR is integral to supporting a business through times of change, so it’s going to be an exciting year for us as we work with existing and new clients to support them through the twists and turns.

2. Get prepared

As an amount of volatility is expected in 2019, a key resolution for businesses should be to get all their ducks in a row as soon as possible. Brief all external agencies quickly, and have them ready and on standby for if/when you need to increase their service levels. If a challenge hits your business and there’s no PR agency support in place, it’s going to be extremely difficult to find agency support at the last-minute. Rushing could ultimately lead to the wrong choice; having an agency you trust and want to hear from (sometimes multiple times each day) is crucial, so not only is this a capability/business match, it’s also about having a good relationship with like-minded account handlers who can understand your requests and action them immediately.  So get prepared but take your time and find the right agency for you.

3. Work out what return on investments truly means for you

For each of our clients, strong ROI means something different. Have a look at your PR metrics and make sure they can stand up to scrutiny from the FD. In 2019 and beyond it’s going to be ever more crucial to demonstrate strong ROI, and the business impact that all elements of the marketing mix are having.

PR must stand up and be counted, so how can it make a tangible difference? If you haven’t already, ask your agency how they propose measuring this. If your FD came in tomorrow and needed to cut budgets, would the PR spend be protected because of the value it’s delivering? Make this a resolution in early 2019 and it’ll make the process of collating 2020’s budgets a lot easier!

Lucy, account director

1. Integrate with clients more closely

As an industry we should be spending more time working out of clients’ offices. In a world where email is king, it can be easy to fall back on this, but getting in front of clients and really integrating in what is going on in their businesses is crucial. The entire Refresh team will be making a bigger effort to hot desk from clients’ offices throughout 2019.

2. It’s time to PR ourselves

As an industry its high time we bigged ourselves up more! We do an amazing job shouting about what our clients are doing but rarely shout about the cool things we’re doing. An agency’s own PR often falls to the bottom of the pile, but expect to hear more from us on this front next year!

3. Continue to upskill

It might seem an obvious one but we must keep learning new skills. Every year, PR becomes even more united with the general marketing and digital mix. The team at Refresh will be looking to further broader their knowledge and not just rest on our laurels – whether that’s dipping our toes in coding or digital marketing, or taking a crash course on influencer marketing.

Matt, senior account manager

1. Keep the basics front of mind

As digital platforms evolve, the media landscape changes and new buzz words like ‘influencer outreach’ bubble to the surface it is easy to get distracted by the latest shiny toys. However, while these new platforms, channels and techniques will play an important role in helping us to reach audiences and drive engagement it’s critical that we don’t forget the fundamentals in the process. Good content, good stories, and good pitching will remain king in PR in 2019 and we’d be wise to ensure these skills and competencies don’t slide at the expense of the next big thing.

2. Become a trusted advisor

All too regularly PR agencies are too easily pressured into actioning something for a client that we would advise delivers little value. However, if we move the perception away from ‘supplier’ to ‘trusted advisor’ we would be better placed to push back on ideas that are unlikely to pay dividends for the overall PR strategy.

3. Pause for thought

PR is a fast paced environment to work in, constantly striving to keep up with the news agenda and ensure no opportunities are missed. However, in 2019 there were one or two mishaps in the PR world which resulted from going ahead with an idea before fully thinking it through. As such it’s critical that we make sure we take time to pause and evaluate ideas before pressing the launch button.

Got your own ideas? Please add them to our list below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, resolutions

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The top tech round-ups of 2018



It’s been a brilliant year for tech, with advances that couldn’t have been imagined in our wildest dreams a few years ago! As you may have been able to tell from some of our latest blog posts, at Refresh PR we love a bit of tech and we’re extremely excited about the future of tech (particularly in our beloved Manchester!).

 

In this blog we’ve pulled together our top tech roundups from the year. If you want the best gadgets, the most interesting stories or the more niche tech, we’ve got a round up for everyone.

 

Engadget

This article focuses on the successes within tech. In a year with many things to complain about, Engadget has found many things worth celebrating. As well as the obvious tech such as phones and laptops, this piece also looks into mini synthesizers, retro emulators and e-readers.

 

TechRadar

TechRadar has pulled together a list for people who expect the best. If only the best is good enough, this is the roundup you need to read. For each category within the round up, there is only product/service, and the article will be continuously updated when something new takes the top spot – so you know you are truly getting the most up-to-date best of the best.

 

Alphr

This roundup describes 2018 as ‘a turbulent one in tech’. The article describes some of the complex news stories that have made headlines over the past year. From Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal to some of the year’s most shocking data hacks, this article has got all the ins and outs.

 

BestProducts

If you are someone that loves to have every bit of tech that’s out there, then this is the one for you. The 100 coolest gadgets of 2018.

 

Popular Mechanics  

And last, but certainly not least, a nod to another one of our passions at Refresh PR, food and drink, with this article on ‘The Best Gifts for the Tech-Loving Foodies in Your Life’. From red wine aerators to coffee mills, there are a few things we wouldn’t mind on this list!

 

The future of tech

What is to come in 2019? We’re already looking forward to seeing 2019’s roundups, and comparing them to the roundup’s in this blog post, because let’s face it every year we sit and think how did we possibly live without the tech that now exists? Stay tuned to our blog for more updates, round ups and insights into the tech industry!

 

 

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , tech, Tech PR, Tech round up

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Influencers: Are they still influential?



2018 has undoubtedly been the year of the influencer… whatever industry you are in, from tech to plumbing and from food and drink to construction, there will be people with a huge online following who are now promoting brands and making a living from social media activity. This ‘trend’ of influencers has gained praise and criticism alike, because amongst all of the genuine influencers, you can often find people who have paid for followers in a bid to become ‘Instagram famous’.

 

I recently attended a brilliant and insightful Chartered Institute of Marketing influencer event at Manchester Metropolitan University. The event reaffirmed my belief that the good outweighs the bad when it comes to influencer marketing, and that despite the rise in the number of influencers, they are definitely still a force to be reckoned with.


The making of an influencer

The panel at the event started out by discussing what makes an influencer, for instance can you be an influencer if you have under 1,000 followers? After all some people have more than 1,000 followers that are just their friends. However, after some discussion, a conclusion was reached that in some cases fewer followers can mean a more engaged following. Through being more engaged, the followers often care more about what the influencer has to say, which can be more valuable.

 

By taking this view, this saturated market can definitely be seen as an advantage, as it just means more choice. For different opportunities, companies can target niches and specific sectors, whereas in the past only ‘traditional celebrities’ and large multinational companies with big budgets had the means to do this. Now, whilst celebrities with millions of followers are still most likely to promote bigger brands, micro influencers (people with 10,000-50,000 followers) are more accessible to smaller companies with smaller budgets.

 


The role of social media

Social media has also meant the rise of unlikely influencers, for example 30 years ago I don’t imagine you’d find many builders that could reach tens of thousands of people as easily as they can now via social media communities. This means that influencers are not just useful to obvious brands, there is an influencer for everyone! This view was supported by a number of statistics at the event. For example:

- 81% of marketers that have used influencers have found them to be effective

- 51% of marketers believe that they have a better customer base due to influencer marketing

- Social Media Explorer discovered that 92% of consumers are more likely to trust an individual (influencer) over a brand

 


Trusted voices

One of the final points made at the event was that 92% of consumers say that they trust word of mouth recommendations, and that influencers are basically an extension of this. For me, this really solidified the important role that influencers should play in a marketing strategy. We all listen to recommendations from friends, family, colleagues, and anyone with an opinion that we trust. And ultimately, that is all influencers are, just an extension of every day word of mouth recommendations. It’s nothing new, it’s just the social media tools that are different. And even with the rules of social media that state you must put #ad in any paid for posts, if followers trust and engage with an influencer, this #ad is irrelevant and people will still listen.

 


Importance in PR

So why should this be considered in PR? As reiterated throughout this blog, influencer marketing is going from strength to strength as the world becomes increasingly integrated. From a public relations perspective, this opens doors to a number of opportunities to improve and increase awareness for businesses through relevant influencers. 

 

 

 

Tagged with: Influencers, Lifestyle, PR, Product Placement, Public Relations

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The Tech Ghosts of Future, Past and Present



There’s nothing like the impending festive period to focus the mind on how quickly time flies. We’re just over a week away from calendars flipping into 2019 yet it seems like a mere blink of the eye since 2017 morphed into 2018.


The speed of which time seems to pass us by, is no more profoundly felt than in the world of tech. We all know the famous quote ‘a week’s a long time in politics’, well in tech sometimes it feels like a day is an eternity such is the speed of change.


So, in an attempt to both take time to reflect and to get into the Christmas spirit, I’m going to attempt to take a leaf out of a Charles Dickens book (quite literally) and condense a year in tech down to a night of vivid dreams (well, a blog actually).


The Ghosts of Technologies Past


If there was to be a ghost appearing from technology’s past this year it would undoubtedly be visiting the CEOs of some of our tech giants with a warning about taking users for granted. Both Facebook, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal and security breach that affected 50 million users, and Twitter, with its lax policy on extremist users, were in the limelight for all the wrong reasons in 2018.


And it wasn’t just social media giants that found themselves in stormy waters. Google faced rebellions over its Dragonfly project, which aimed to create a censored engine for the Chinese market and Project Maven, a programme to produce a computer vision system for warfare, prompting several members of staff to resign.


What all of these incidents made clear is that while people may well be heavily bought into - even maybe reliant - on these tech giants, they expect them to follow a certain ethical code and not to just expect them to accept any actions they decide to take. Moving into 2019 it will be interesting to see whether these incidents see a greater moral consideration in future tech developments and projects.


The Ghost of Technologies Present


For all the warnings of the Ghost of the Past, the Ghost of Technologies Present will almost certainly arrive with a more positive message. There is no doubt that tech is booming. In the UK tech is growing nearly three times faster than the overall economy. Globally the sector is seeing more and more star-ups bringing innovative products and solutions to the market. So, all in all it is a positive industry to be in right now.


However, for all that positivity it’s vital that the sector doesn’t get complacent. Some of us are old enough to remember the dot com crash of 18 years ago and there are small signs that, if the sector doesn’t take steps to prevent it, another similar crash could be on the horizon. It might seem unnecessarily gloomy given all the positives but I don’t remember the Ghost of Christmas Present rocking up with a sleigh full of joy inducing gifts!


The Ghost of Technologies Future


The future of tech is exciting – change, evolution, revolutions even, are occurring all the time in this vibrant sector. But let’s face it, in the UK’s 2018 edition trying to make a prediction is just downright foolhardy – I don’t need to spell out the B word right? And let’s not even spell out GE – it might just push Brenda in Bristol over the edge.


Uncertainty aside I’m going to stick my neck on the line here and make one bold prediction that I believe that any Ghost of Technologies Future would deliver. Ahem, are we ready: AI will once again dominate column (or blog) inches in 2019 with the potential it has to deliver. It will once again advance and evolve and we’ll start to see its capabilities harnessed more widely. However, for all the hype it won’t advance to the stage whereby the machines will rise and take all our jobs. That’s a positive outlook isn’t?


Anyway, I hope you all have a very merry Christmas – I best sign off this blog post now, I’ve just received an email from the MD calling me into a meeting about the PR Professional Humanoid Bot 2000……….

 

 

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , tech, Tech PR

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Three Months as a Grad at Refresh PR



Entering the daunting world of work

Having finally parted with the safety blanket of education, it was time to go out into the ‘real world’ and find myself a job. And whilst the opportunity to take my life wherever I desired was exciting, I know I speak for a lot of graduates when I say that the prospect of transitioning into the working world was also quite daunting.

 

The pressure to succeed and make the right decision to effectively justify all of my hard work up to this point became overwhelming at times. I was about to embark on what I hoped would be an exciting and fulfilling career, and it was important that my final step into adulthood was the right one.


Application process

Following a CV screening and telephone interview, I was invited to an assessment centre at the Refresh PR office along with five other graduates. The day consisted of multiple group and individual assessments followed by a final interview which allowed me to get a better feel for the company.

 

To me, people are the most valuable asset to any successful business, and upon meeting the team at Refresh, I knew I wanted the job almost straight away. Great people coupled with company values that paralleled my own assured me that I would be a good cultural fit.

 

On the job

Like a lot of media and communications graduates, I never thought my first job would be at an agency like Refresh, but now I can wholeheartedly say that I’m so glad it is.

 

Perhaps what I value most in my new role is the exposure I receive to all aspects of the business on a daily basis. There is a real team vibe in the office and I am able to sit with senior people who have years of industry experience and are always more than happy to lend their time and expertise. My colleagues are passionate about what they do and have a wealth of knowledge in a range of sectors including tech, food and drink, and the built environment.

 

I enjoy the fast-paced and varied agency setting, and though it sounds clichéd, no two days are ever the same. One day I could be implementing a multi-platform social media campaign for one of our clients, the next I could be networking with the heating installer and plumbing community rallying up entries for the famous Heating Installer Awards. I’m already seeing tangible results from the work I’ve been doing for clients which is such a rewarding feeling.

 

I was given responsibility from day one and have a great support system around me, as well as a structured personal and professional training and development programme which covers all aspects of PR to run alongside my day job. This will ensure that by the end of the year-long programme, I will have a well-rounded and refined skillset that will serve as a foundation for the rest of my career.

 

It’s also a really exciting time to have joined Refresh. In the short time I’ve been here, the agency has scooped two prestigious industry awards and seen multiple new business leads come through from companies which are keen to join our rapidly expanding client base. I’m eagerly looking forward to immersing myself in the client journey from the very start of the process in the New Year and (hopefully) creating some award-winning work myself!

 

I wanted to join a company that was innovative, collaborative and made a difference with the work it does, and Refresh PR is all of this and more. Everyone brings something different to the agency, and together we have an amazing opportunity to craft the company’s future and continue to reach new heights. I can confidently say it’s an environment in which I will learn, grow and fulfil my potential with a clear path for career development.

 

Refresh has set the ladder out in front of me, now it’s up to me to climb it.

 

Advice for other grads

-        Match the company’s culture and values with those of your own: This is everything. If this isn’t right, chances are you won’t enjoy the work you do

-        Find your unique selling points: Every man and his dog has a degree these days, so focus on what makes you stand out and shout about it

-        Practice competency-based interview questions: Employers will very often want to see how you can think on the spot and respond to situations

-        Fail to prepare, prepare to fail: Whether this mean prepping for an interview, research for a client meeting, or even planning what you’re going to have for lunch tomorrow, it always pays to be prepared

-        Take a gap year/time to think: This is possibly the best decision I’ve ever made. I got to experience incredible new places, immersing myself in different cultures and gaining valuable new perspectives. My gap year also gave me lots of thinking time to reflect on what specifically I wanted to do with my career (and everything else in my life). Plus, when will you ever get a better opportunity to take time off?

-        Make use of your colleagues and don’t be afraid to ask questions (even if you think it might make you look silly): Your colleagues will have all been in exactly the same position as you in the past, so they’ll know what you’re going through, and they’re there to help! Feed off their knowledge and learn from them

-     Always look forward: View all experiences and mistakes as opportunities to learn; take all feedback on board and use this to be even better in the future

 

 

 

Tagged with: Manchester, North West , PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West

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Tech Thrives Outside London



For many of us living outside our nation’s capital, we can be left exasperated by how ‘London- centric’ business and the media can be - especially when there is so much going on outside the M25. However, it’s something that we seemingly can’t avoid and just have to get on with or risk becoming bitter and twisted over the imbalance.

 

Equally, for the frustration at the London-centric attitude that prevails, the rest of the nation is not blind to its weaknesses. After all, if the rest of us are going to compete with the capital city, attention needs to be drawn to shortcomings that may exist to ensure that they are addressed, enabling us to become stronger and stronger.

 

As such, there were mixed emotions recently in the Refresh office when we saw the Guardian run a story under the headline ‘Can Tech Thrive Outside of London?’. On first reading there was a sense of indignation at such a patronising headline: one look at our recent blog posts is enough to tell you that in Manchester alone the tech sector is booming.

 

The city already supports 62,653 digital jobs, creating an output of £2.8 billion per annum.  What’s more, the most recent Tech Nation report revealed that almost 70% of tech investment in 2016 took place outside of London, with £78 million of this invested in Manchester, making it the UK’s second largest tech cluster.

 

However, on further reading, the article was far more balanced than the headline perhaps suggested. Covering a roundtable sponsored by Cisco, the article sought opinions from senior figures from across the UK tech sector on the challenges tech companies face outside of London. 

 

Structural Weaknesses

Speaking at the event, Mike Jackson entrepreneur success director at Tech Nation, told participants that while there are distinct advantages to being based outside the capital (such as a lower cost of living), businesses are still hamstrung by four primary problems. He outlined these ‘structural weaknesses’ outside London as:

1.      Access to capital

2.      Access to growth space for businesses that are growing

3.      Access to second-generation mentorship i.e. experienced people who can help develop younger employees

4.      Wider access to talent such as CTOs, CMOs and CPOs

 

Some of these challenges are not surprising, after all we have explored them in recent blog posts looking at the need for office space and the potential skills gap that is developing in the North. However, the roundtable shed light on some of the issues around the senior staff shortage, further expanding on the skills gap. 

 

Salary drop versus lifestyle boost

For instance, when it comes to the skills gap, one of the problems discussed was people expecting a London salary in Northern cities. Speaking at the roundtable Sarat Pediredla, CEO of Newcastle-based Hedgehog Lab, a tech consultancy, noted that when speaking to senior people based in London there is a “mental block to reducing your wage” despite the fact that a five-figure salary in Newcastle instead of a six figure one in London will “leave you in a comfortable place”.

 

Andy Cooper, co-founder of Draw & Code, a tech studio in Liverpool, said that he felt this message was starting to cut through as tech professionals from London were starting to look for a more affordable lifestyle, including cheaper housing, in the North, saying that he no longer had any issues attracting people to the business. He noted that for those wanting to save to buy a house or start a family the North was an attractive alternative to London.

 

There are strengths – and they need to be played to

In addition to challenges the Northern tech sector faces, the roundtable also highlighted its strengths, including that it is easier to collaborate than in London. Vimla Appadoo, service designer at FutureGov commented that the more “open” northern attitude, and the smaller nature of its towns and cities, gives it a distinct advantage over the capital as “across the north you can know all the startups and all the founders, and what the events are – and you can get involved.”

 

This view was seconded by Ian Finch, Chair of BIMA North West and founder of digital agency Mando, who argued that collaboration has become increasingly important to the tech industry, saying that “you can’t do multiple things well, so the way digital has gone you have to collaborate. The people who’ve been slow to collaborate are dying off.”

 

The future is bright

As a result of the strengths of collaboration and its ability to offer a more affordable lifestyle, the conclusion of the event sponsor, Cisco, was that the future for the Northern tech sector is bright. Speaking at the event, CTO John Johnson said he was positive about the future as “investment in the north now is increasing at pace”, giving a vote of confidence to the tech sector outside of London. Indeed, this tallies with our own experiences of a UK tech scene which is exciting and thriving, and without doubt cities across the North are playing a critical role in its success.

 

 

 

Tagged with: North West , PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Tech PR agency, Tech PR Manchester

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Refresh PR takes top spot at the national Construction Marketing Awards 2018



Refresh PR has won Best use of Press and Public Relations at the national Construction Marketing Awards 2018 for its industry-leading Heating Installer Awards campaign.

 

Refresh PR Construction Award

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

The awards, designed and launched by Refresh PR four years ago, were initially developed to support plumbers and heating installers who were delivering high-quality, professional work to homeowners and commercial companies across the UK but facing increased competition from unqualified workers.

 

Evolving over the past four years, the awards still remain true to their roots while incorporating new elements, including a search for the best apprentices across the UK.

 

Sophie Smith, awards director, commented: “We’ve worked closely with our sponsors over the years, who realise that while the value for heating installers is in the credibility that the awards bring toRefresh PR Construction Marketing Award winner their business, the value for sponsors is in being able to form strong working relationships with these key industry influencers. It is a form of sponsorship that delivers so much more.

 

“We’ve built the campaign in this way to ensure we maximise opportunities for heating installers at every point, whether that’s incentives to enter or prize bundles for regional and national winners that deliver real business benefits for them. At every point possible we’ve kept the campaign digital, with a real focus on creating a supportive community on social media. The challenge now is to continue to evolve to strengthen it again for Year 5!”

 

Beating off competition from five other campaigns, which included Refresh PR’s own PR work for www.myglazing.com, the judges had the following observations: “The campaign had very clear outcomes versus objectives which were surpassed in all cases. Research was undertaken with key audiences and plans made to evolve the awards and introduce new elements. The campaign clearly met its objectives, delivering an annual awards campaign that can grow in future years.”

 

Refresh PR was shortlisted for three other awards on the night including two Best Mid-Budget Campaign awards and national PR Agency of the Year.

 

Laura Mashiter, managing director of Refresh PR, said: “This was a real highlight in Refresh PR’s year. 2018 has been a year of fantastic PR campaigns in the sector produced by some top agencies, making this recognition even more special. Refresh PR's Heating Installer Awards campaign continues to gather momentum thanks to our amazing 2018/19 sponsors, and despite already being part way through Year 4 of our campaign, it's about time the team working on this account took a step back and realised just what they have achieved and how far they have come in a relatively short space of time.

 

“As we go into another year faced with more political uncertainty and Brexit debate, PR campaigns must be able to demonstrate true business benefit in order to secure the support of the Board. Creative campaigns that can cut through the noise to deliver real value will always be in demand, so it’s up to us to continue to push the boundaries and use all the communication channels we have at our disposal – from social media and influencers to broadcast, print and online – to ensure clients’ messages are being heard.

 

With the shortlists and win, Refresh PR cements its place as one of the UK’s leading construction agencies on the national league table.

 

 

 

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , Built Environment, Construction Marketing Awards, Construction PR, Manchester, North West , PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, PR campaign essential, PR Manchester