This blog is dark and full of Season 7 spoilers…
As we mourn the fantasy series’ departure from our screens (until potentially 2019!), we have taken solace in reflecting on what we have learnt from the drama. In the process, we recognised a number of strategies that carry across to the modern PR industry.
1) Plan how and when to unleash your dragons
We may not have dragons but, occasionally, a wondrous and unique story arrives that makes PR legend. This story fills PR practitioners with excitement, as we know that this is something that every journalist in the Kingdom (or at least occupying the top tier of our media lists) will want to cover. In turn we will be able to create amazing, impactful coverage for our client that will be sung about by minstrels – perhaps even recent cast member Ed Sheeran – for years to come.
As we know, PR success can depend so much on timing and with rare and magical stories such as these, we want to release them at the moments that will create the most shock and awe. Creating multiple media angles offers each outlet a slightly different take on a story, allowing us to release news to a number of publications and generating a greater impact.
Daenerys has successfully done this throughout the series; each time a dragon appears on the show we see something more spectacular. From their hatching at the end of Season 1 to the first time Daenerys flies Drogon (Season 5, Episode 9), the audience never tires of seeing dragons.
Even in this series we are still learning more. We discover that dragons aren’t infallible – with Bronn’s attack, (Season 7, Episode 4) and the Night King’s javelin-throwing (Season 7, Episode 6). We also see that they have a softer side as Drogon enjoys being stroked by Jon Snow (Season 7, Episode 5). And who could’ve predicted that Viserion would become a wight dragon, breathing blue flames to destroy the Wall (Season 7, Episode 7)?!
Lesson: Give your audience exciting new content and they will keep wanting to hear more.
2) Winter is coming
If something is going to happen it pays to keep reminding your media contacts that it will be happening, whether it is releasing your client’s annual financials, launching a new product launch or organising a huge event.
Since Game of Thrones first aired, the Stark family has been heralding the arrival of winter and urging the population to prepare for it. Winter officially arrived at the end of Season 6, yet in Season 7, only Winterfell, the seat of the Stark family, is stockpiling ahead of the years of bad weather, dwindling food supplies and the Long Night. Building preparation time into PR plans will certainly help to ensure that your messaging is right, your strategy is in place and also allows you to warm up the media.
Lesson: Planning for preparation pays off.
3) Make the right amount of noise about your achievements
PR is all about making your voice heard and your accomplishments known and this series aired a scene that could not have demonstrated the power of introduction more.
In the third episode of the latest season, two major characters, Daenerys and Jon Snow, meet for the first time. Daenerys is announced by an incredibly long list of titles and achievements, whereas Jon Snow is introduced as “Jon Snow”, followed simply by “King in the North”.
This scene demonstrates two extremes, both introductions risk failing to make an impact particularly when pitching your client into the press. On the one hand, bombarding the journalist with so much background information about your client that they are bored before you reach the crux of your story fails to secure interest. On the other hand, by failing to properly introduce your client or make their importance known, you risk oblivion and wasting your whole launch strategy. Strike a balance when pitching to press, exude Daenerys’ confidence and major accomplishments but do it as succinctly as Jon Snow.
Lesson: Craft a short descriptor to introduce clients to the press, within it champion the most interesting points to capture attention.
Incorporate these three lessons into your next communications strategy and, while you may not be able to sit on the Iron Throne, your story could be shared across the seven kingdoms.
Why should you start engaging with us twenty somethings on social media? Because we’re glued to our smart phones – trust me! I can almost guarantee my entire age group will spend more time refreshing their newsfeed, than talking to another human in one day. “That’s terrible!” you say? Well I would say use it to your advantage. Every time we refresh, click on a related post, watch suggested video after suggested video, there are so many opportunities for you to engage with us.
Instant communication is a way of life. Taking notice of The White Company’s clothing brochure, posted through my letter box is out of the question. But show me pictures of your latest outfits and bed linen on Instagram?! I’ll like every picture and possibly take a look at your website, but only if the link is in your bio, or if I can swipe up… Not sure what I just said? Ok, let me explain.
Features on social media platforms make my life instantly easy, and Instagram is a great example. Let's say Urban Decay post a beautiful image of their latest eyeshadow palette and my initial reaction is “I need that”. I could close Instagram, open up Google, search for Urban Decay, go to their website, search again for the product and then buy it. This may take two minutes tops, but I want to cut out the middle man (sorry Google!) and Urban Decay know this all to well. In the description box of the image, they use the phrase “link in bio” which is the direct way to reach the product’s page on their website. This will take two steps, clicking on their icon which takes me to their profile page, tapping the link displayed in the profile description box, and there I am credit card in hand. Easy right? Now let's take it a step further.
Posting a tutorial on their Insta Story using this product, shows me how easy and quick it is to create a flawless smokey eye, I’ll swipe up and find myself ready to purchase. Does this make sense? We crave consistent engagement with online profiles, we want material gain, maybe a discount or a winnable competition and most importantly, we want to be entertained. The most successful online profiles are those who regularly post, with a consistent and engaging feed that appeals to their following.
The same rules apply to Social Media Influencers. If their feed consists of things we are interested in, (e.g. food, fitness, makeup, design...), they are entertaining and consistent with their online activity, we will want to engage with them. We enjoy watching them, getting to know them and asking them questions. Even though we’ve never met these people, we trust what they say and believe the teeth whitening kit they have just used which has changed their life, and naturally we will want to buy the same product. Do they always work for us? Not always. Do we continue to watch the influencers and buy the products they suggest? Of course we do. We might not engage with an advert at a bus stop or in a magazine, but if my favourite influencer on YouTube or Instagram uses a product, I’ll probably take an interest. Some companies have started involving online influencers with developing new products. Announcing these partnerships online will also help drum up interest before the product has even been made. “Sneak Peak” posts will encourage their following to engage with the brand.
Our relationship with brands has completely changed because of social media and if you don't have a strong and proactive online presence, filled with engaging personalities and relevant, topical content, you will struggle to engage with us twenty somethings.
Once a new brand is created it needs to be launched internally to get everyone behind it. It then needs to be promoted to the outside world to make the maximum impact.
Over many years the team at Westgate has distilled the process of launching a brand down to three key stages. Here is a quick snapshot of this winning formula:
Stage One – Living the brand
For a new brand to be truly effective it needs to be embraced by the organisation's employees. They need to be able to champion their new brand internally and externally.
An internal communications plan is essential to embed this change and to educate everyone in the organisation about the new brand, what it means and what is expected from everyone. At Westgate we create and run engaging workshops and presentations for our clients, designed for a cross section of different employee groups, to make them "brand champions".
These employees or brand champions will then help to educate and inspire the whole company on the new brand, its values and how everyone is expected to conduct themselves when doing business.
Stage Two – Promoting the brand
When all the key employees and leaders are fully up to speed with the new brand, it is time to launch it to the wider world. We develop a bespoke multi-channel communications plan using a blended programme of marketing, content generation and PR tactics to promote the brand values in a tailored way to engage with all the key external audiences and to generate maximum impact.
Stage Three – Assessing the brand to ensure long-term impact
Once all the proactive brand communications are underway, internally and externally, it is really important to then review all the new brand activity and make any appropriate changes or adjustments to ensure that it is as effective as possible and making the most commercial impact.
This process includes clearly agreeing the evaluation metrics, reviewing the current brand values and messaging and then taking any appropriate action.
Our focused approach to brand development always delivers impact internally and externally, as well as allowing a brand to remain as dynamic as possible both in the short and the longer term and delivering maximum value for our clients.
Today, social media platforms are everywhere. We are constantly fed stories and updates from brands and companies by social media feeds all the time.
With the power of the picture, or in almost all cases the photograph, telling a thousand words, most of these updates are essentially photo stories, depictions of "reality" featuring normal everyday situations with normal everyday people.
Whether this is someone enjoying a packet of crisps on a park bench, getting a haircut, working out at the gym, diving into a pool on holiday... we now all know these images all too well – real people having a fantastic time! These images first appeared as updates from friends and now brands and companies have taken up this candid approach to communicate commercial sales messages to their target audiences.
Which poses an interesting question, particularly when these brands and companies are featuring real people, not models, in their social media feeds. What exactly are the dos and don'ts in this new area of etiquette, both for the individuals themselves and for the brands that want to feature them in their social media?
Despite the enthusiasm of the Millennial generation to share everything across their social media channels, increasingly many people are not actually happy to be featured, particularly if, for either personal or professional reasons, they do not want to be seen to be associated with the brand in a particular environment.
Being seen out at a bar when you have just told your partner you are having a quiet night in would spell the end of a relationship, all thanks to an innocent social media update. Innocently being depicted enjoying a brand whilst actually working for its key competitor could prove awkward the next day in the office. There could be real issues if you are working in the military or police where anonymity can be key. Even just being photographed by a third party, without being able to approve the images, can be really embarrassing and even traumatic for many people.
So the need for a clear etiquette is clear. No business wants the issues management headache of any individual questioning the use of images that feature them after an update has appeared across all their social media channels.
For brands and businesses, it is really important to have a clear procedure in place to check that anyone featured on social media has specifically approved the image before it is then broadcast across all the chosen channels. If possible, although this admittedly can take a bit of time, it would also be advisable to even show them the image in question, to make sure that they are happy with it, before it goes out. It is far better to spend a little bit of time before the pictures are posted to avoid any possible fall out later. It is also a really good idea to be clear about which channel it is going to be broadcast on as well.
In terms of the individual, in this digital age everyone has a right to protect their image, either personal or professional, online. If you are aware that you are in an environment which might become the subject of a social media feed, and you are unhappy about being featured, then make your feelings very clear to whoever is in charge of the social media feed, or even to the person taking the actual shots. Any responsible brand or company will immediately take note and will act accordingly, so that you're not included.
Essentially this whole new area of etiquette is based on clear communication, both for the individual and for brands and businesses. It is wonderful that we can highlight the best aspects of brands and businesses in such a candid way, so that everyone can see the reality of the value they offer, but it is also important to respect the rights of the individual along the way.
Having never experienced a working environment before, I had no idea what to expect in the time I’d be spending at Westgate Communications. As a result of this, I was pretty nervous walking up to the building, but I certainly didn't need to be!
Thanks to the friendly and supportive office here at Westgate, I instantly felt comfortable and welcome. I learnt so many valuable lessons that you’d never be taught in school and gained loads of new experiences, many of which I’m sure will prove helpful throughout my entire life.
I started my week here with little to no knowledge of branding, yet finished with so many designs and products I never thought I’d be able to create! It was a thoroughly enjoyable and educational experience, as I learnt to use many softwares (such as Illustrator and InDesign) all in the space of a week. I was given a wide variety of tasks to accomplish, none of which included the typical ‘work experience jobs’ I assumed I’d be doing. I could independently try out and experiment with my ideas, and whenever I was stuck or confused everyone was keen to help. It’s because of the happy, friendly atmosphere at Westgate Comms that I could enjoy my time here as much as I have.
The biggest difference between my time at Westgate and my secondary school is that here, you’re given so much freedom to design and create anything you want, rather than just being told exactly what to do. I’m extremely grateful for all the help and tips I’ve received, as it’s really helped me improve in so many different ways! Before this experience, if you told me to create a ‘monogram logotype’, it would be as useless as telling me to speak fluent French.
I’m so glad I chose to do my work experience here, as it’s the perfect place for anyone to experience the real world of work, due to the huge diversity of work and the fast-paced nature of the office. It’s impossible to feel bored with so much going on!
Out of all the lessons I learnt here, I think the most valuable one is not to give up, and to keep developing your ideas. Even if you think you can’t possibly change or improve anything more, somebody else might have a helpful suggestion so don’t be afraid to ask for another opinion. I understand the fear of meeting and talking to new people more than anyone, but I found that I could easily speak to others due to the positive team of people who are always willing to help you, even if you're completely lost!
Overall, I highly recommend spending time at Westgate Communications if you’re looking for work experience, even if it's just for a week. If you’re interested in design, branding, marketing or PR, and want to see what a job revolving around these areas is like, or if you just want to experience the world of work, Westgate is the perfect place.