Content Localisation, aka How To Be Relevant To Different Audiences

You’ve heard it before: what speaks to me might not speak to you. This is the overarching idea behind content localisation,  a buzzword in content marketing, which is – just like content marketing – often misunderstood. Officially defined as “the process of making something local in character or restricting it to a particular place”, localisation is often only talked about in the context of different markets or languages. This isn’t wrong, but it does ignore a full scope of what the term means.

So what does content localisation mean, then?

Localisation isn’t just about translating text into another language, exchanging images to make the people them look like ‘local’ people or changing certain keywords to make your content more searchable in different countries. (Although that part of localisation is important, too).

Localisation means relevancy. The basic question brands need to ask themselves is this: how is my business / offering / content relevant to a particular audience?

Content localisation doesn’t just apply when moving across borders, but  when appealing to different audiences in the same market. A brand’s product or offering may be of interest l to both young millennials and baby boomers, but not in the same way.

For example, the reason why Gucci has recently risen in popularity among millennials and teens is not the same reason why celebrities and more affluent older generations love wearing the fashion brand. They like it for different reasons. The brand is relevant to them in a different way. As a result, Gucci markets, or localises, its brand differently to these two audiences. 

Fashion labels in particular are a great example of how a brand can be perceived differently across borders. The American brand Coach, for example, is considered a premium designer label in Southeast Asia, but has a somewhat more ordinary positioning in the U.S. 

So here comes the next question: is it great content localisation if a low-quality beer from Germany is sold in Southeast Asia as a top-shelf premium import brew? I would say: yes (although slightly misleading in this case). 

After all, the positioning of a brand changes with different audiences and markets depending on what else there is. (Reader: Are you saying Southeast Asia offers such bad beer that it makes other low-quality beer seem premium? Me: I would never say that.)

Let’s remember that localisation isn’t just changing imagery and translating social media copy – it’s about branding and positioning, finding a new audience, discovering a different value product. For Gucci, it was finding a way to appeal to a younger audience. For the German beer, it’s insinuating that a beverage imported from a country renowned for beer is a more informed, more high-quality choice than what is available locally.

What can content localisation look like?

  • Adapting your visuals to resemble your target audience (regardless of the market)
  • Using the right tone of voice and language complexity that will speak to and resonate with a particular audience
  • Be aware of cultural and political sensitivities across customer segments, generations and markets

Create a flexible content strategy, instead of following a yes-or-no, black-or-white, brand strategy. Remember what is true for your brand in one market, or with a certain customer segment, may not be universally true. Rolling out a localised version of a global brand campaign is not an oxymoron. 

What’s the ‘local’ channel?

The localisation of your content extends to considering which channel it will be published on. While Facebook and Instagram enjoy great popularity in Southeast Asia and across different demographics, other markets may also have other more popular channels. 

For example, if you are planning to venture into South Korea, you’ll want to be on KakaoTalk, on WeChat in China, or on Line in Japan. Crossing borders doesn’t just require translations – brands also need to adapt their content to each new channel.

The same applies for different target audiences. While young millennials and Gen Zs may scroll through the TikTok and post on SnapChat, older millennials and Gen X tend to dig through Reddit to consume content.

Finding the right channel for your message is important. So do your homework and find out where your audience plays online.

Here is your content localisation checklist:

  • Market Research: Find out as much as you about your new market and audiences. Is there a need for your brand? What are consumers looking for?
  • Brand Research: Who are your competitors? What’s their positioning? How does your brand fit in the market?
  • Cultural Considerations: What sensitive topics should you avoid? What major events and trends can you leverage?
  • Content: Revise your text, images, videos, reports and more. Translate, transcreate, adapt and curate new content.
  • Audiences: Find new audiences that you may have not considered previously. Test and learn about who you are talking to.
  • Measure: That’s the only way to find out what actually works. Make sure you measure your activities and campaign.

Get lost in translation? Don’t worry, it even happens to Bill Murray – and he’s great. If you want to talk about how to upgrade your content to cross borders or find new audiences (or chat about Bill Murray over some Suntory), send us a message to [email protected].

 

Are you a fresh grad looking for a PR gig? An agency is the place to be

Can we take a moment to acknowledge just how pressuring it is for a prospective tertiary student to decide on a major that might define their professional career forever? As a tourism student-turned PR practitioner, the transition into the world of public relations comes with a steep learning curve. But it pays off massively if you have an eye for current affairs and an excellent command of one or more languages.

 After a couple of internships later, I realised a whole world lay beyond the familiarity of working for a brand. There was a mystery to these elusive agencies which hardly basked in the spotlight themselves, yet worked laboriously to ensure that their clients shone the brightest.

As a humorous nod to the hit comic series which our agency is affectionately named after, we think that the dynamic between agencies and in-house brands mirrors that of the one shared between mutants and humans in the X-Men universe. Being in an agency is like being a part of the X-Men, there are always more experienced practitioners that you can learn from and when the going gets tough, it truly helps to know that your team understands exactly what you’re going through.

With the exception of crisis prone industries, in-house PR and comms teams tend to be very lean. A small, tight-knit team comprising of a few experienced individuals are usually  responsible for overseeing and managing entire marketing campaigns. Does this sound appealing to you? While you will enjoy the autonomy of being able to call the shots, you might feel weighed down by the sheer size of the responsibilities which lie solely on your shoulders. 

So, how do you ascertain which working environment would be most conducive to your professional and personal growth? If you’re a fresh graduate exploring the possibility of a career in PR and communications, here are some reasons why we think agencies are the best place to work in – especially if you’re still on the fence.

Developing expertise across different verticals

As agencies evolve to stay ahead of the curve, many now offer a wider range of complementary services. From PR and content marketing to digital and social media management, agencies are usually filled with folks who bring diverse skill sets to the table. Depending on the client’s business objectives, people from different teams come together to get the job done. 

For example, Mutant’s portfolio of clients spans across the consumer, lifestyle, technology and corporate verticals. Having the chance to explore a myriad of sectors and industries is ideal for those who are undecided about the industry they eventually want to carve out a career in. Focus first on mastering the fundamentals of the trade, before jumping into a specific field. 

Learning from a team of experienced practitioners

With a shrinking media pool and mercurial audience habits, it takes more than just a seasoned practitioner to be a good mentor. From the undeniable force that is influencer marketing to the rising adoption of messaging apps, good mentorship comes from the ability to guide, while also adapting quickly to the changing times.

In an agency environment, the matrix-style organisational structure which requires you to sit across multiple practices will expose you to a plethora of unique perspectives and ideas. The great thing about working in an agency is that no two days will be the same, due to the nature of the client work involved. 

Character development

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that extensive relationship-building, be it with the media, clients or other stakeholders is a part and parcel of agency life. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a social butterfly to flourish in a client-facing role – as long as you have the ability to empathise with people and forge sincere, genuine relationships, you will succeed. 

While having to juggle the expectations of multiple parties might seem a tad challenging at the start, you will find yourself easing into it as you spend more time in your role. Sometimes, you will feel like the cards are stacked against you. However, the pain is short-lived, and you will find yourself emerging relatively unscathed, having grown more confident and eloquent. 

We could always spend time wondering if an agency function or in-house PR and comms role would suit us better, but the truth is we’ll never know for sure without experiencing a job firsthand. So if you’re still looking for something to nudge you into taking that leap of faith – take a deep breath, get your résumé in order, and apply away!

Well, what are you waiting for? If you’re on the hunt for a PR gig, you ought to write in to us at : [email protected]

Decoding data – driven stories: Dealing with data gatekeepers for an insight-driven story

Any good communications professional – whether they appreciate the fast-paced agency life or prefer to strategise in-house – will at some point push for a story based on data-driven insights. On the surface, this approach always seems like an easy and effective method to land a credible story: procure data that complements your brand narrative, and pitch it to your target audience. 

But those who have worked extensively with data will tell you it’s never as easy as it seems. 

But never fear! Here’s a rough guide to getting started on your next data-driven story: 

Start with the end result in mind 

Data-driven stories typically involve multiple parties, from PR agencies to in-house communication managers to data scientists or analysts. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to hear various forms of this frustrating yet classic exchange: 

“Could you share what kind of data you’d have available?”

“Well, we have a lot of data. What kind of data do you want and how are you going to use it?”

“Well, we need to see the data first before we know what we can do with it.”

“Well, we won’t know what’s going to be relevant unless you tell us what data you need.”

Ad infinitum, ad nauseam. 

As communication professionals, the onus is on us to put an end this conversational stand-off. Keep in mind is that while the data gatekeepers are usually specialists in data analysis, they may not necessarily know what goes into creating a story with data. As such, it should always be the communication professional’s responsibility to first outline what they are trying to achieve.

This should be done by providing a detailed overview of what the brand is trying to communicate, while giving them enough flexibility to propose what kind of data would best fit the narrative. 

For example, if a food-delivery company wanted to craft a story on how their service is helpful to F&B vendors, then a communication professional would need to construct a brief for the data specialists. That brief would include details on the general overview of the story, the kind of information would be of interest to both media professionals and F&B vendors, and other factors which would provide a well-rounded perspective. 

Value, Variety and Viability

But what actually makes a good data-driven story? First and foremost, it’s the value the data brings to the target audience. For marketing collaterals that cater to a specific demographic, this is relatively straight-forward – but content that doubles as a media pitch needs to be relevant to the target publications, too. 

It sounds like common sense, but it’s very easy to get stuck using data that is entirely self-serving or doesn’t provide any valuable insights. For example, there was a report which found that “companies that performed better in marketing metrics were more successful”. That’s akin to saying that athletes who run faster win more medals. Duh. Make sure your insights are impactful enough to provide new information and potentially affect business decisions. 

Returning to our example of a food-delivery company, instead of talking about average delivery times, why not talk about peak ordering times, trending cuisines, or other consumer behaviours? These are data points vendors could potentially use to tweak their operations, and that the media could also find interesting. 

Next up is the variety of data available. While it’s good to lead with a strong statistic (for example: over 40% of all office workers in the CBD area use food delivery for lunch), a good data-driven story goes beyond this. One way to map this out is to first start with the key statistic and expand the width and depth of the data. In the food example, depth could refer to data about popular types of cuisine, and the reasons for their popularity (price, convenience, availability) – or it could mean examining the same statistic, but from a different point of view (the percentage of people ordering food in the heartlands during dinner time). 

Lastly – and arguably most importantly – is the viability of the data. This is a little tricky as different industries and publications have different interpretations about what is considered “viable” data, but as a general rule of thumb, the larger the data sample, the better. It’s also important to note that if you start to carve out demographic insights, you don’t end up with a respondent pool that is too small. 

Collaborate and Pivot with your Data Gatekeepers

Once a solid brief has been put together, it’s time to start working with your data specialists. With a more definitive end-goal in mind, these professionals are in a better position to provide advice about the type of data which works best for the story – which is where communication professionals need to be flexible enough to pivot their perspective if needed. Another common stumbling block at this stage is working with data that goes against the chosen narrative. 

In our food delivery example, the data may show that overall deliveries are on the decline – but all is not lost, The communications and data teams need to investigate a little deeper to see if there’s an angle which aligns with the narrative of the overall story, while still providing the value to the target consumer. Perhaps the drop in deliveries could be attributed to the fact that people are looking for healthier options, or they prefer to order and collect their food.

The piece could then lead with a controversial statistic, before bringing the story back to align with the narrative. But of course, it should be noted that sometimes data can only be stretched so much, and if the picture the data paints is overwhelmingly negative, then perhaps silence is the wiser choice. 

There are of course many other factors that come into play and every data-driven story would have a different process, but by starting off with a clear objective, while balancing flexibility to shift the story where the data leads, communicators can land data-driven stories that are relevant and impactful.

Need help dealing with data specialists for a story where data is the hero? We can help: [email protected]

Bigger isn’t always better: Why (Agency) Size Matters

Bigger isn’t always better… at least when it comes to agency size.

In a mature market like Singapore, the PR and comms landscape is constantly evolving. In recent years, we’ve seen more brands turn to boutique agencies instead of opting for the default route of playing with the big boys. 

To industry outsiders, it may seem as though a large agency would be in a better position to support their clients based on size and access to resources. However, the reverse is often true – it’s a classic David and Goliath story. While big names may be perceived to have more manpower and resources, they can often lack the dynamism and agility needed to effectively execute a solid communications plan. 

Mid-sized and boutique agencies, on the other hand, have a number of traits that can give them a competitive edge over their larger counterparts. Their small size allows them to be nimble, adaptive and extra-attentive to the needs of their clients.

So before you reach out to the same ol’ ‘big name’ agency, here’s why going small could suit your needs better: 

More attention

The most common feedback we receive from clients who have switched over from a bigger agency is that their business wasn’t getting enough attention. While this can depend on their definition of “enough”, larger agencies often have hundreds of clients, meaning teams are stretched and when newer business comes on board, that client can get passed along to the ‘B-team’. In a small agency however, there is no B-team! The same group of people you meet at the pitch meeting will be the ones dedicated to handling your project, ensuring that it gets enough love regardless of how far you are in the relationship.

Personalised solutions

We’re operating in an advanced media landscape where to truly be heard, you need to go above and beyond the expectations of your clients. Small agencies often involve even the most senior, experienced team members in the day-to-day operations. One of the first things we do when we get a client brief is to have a brainstorm with the bosses and develop a personalised approach that will actually help to drive your business goals – be it awareness, engagement or even direct leads.

Faster action

The communications industry moves fast, and brands that want to make a splash by riding on key trends need a team that can take prompt action. This is often easier in a smaller agency with a flat management structure and less red tape, leading to quicker turnaround times and approvals, saving countless billable hours.  

Agility & dynamism

Walking hand-in-hand with efficiency is agility, which is in abundance at a smaller agency. At Mutant, for example, rather than having strict teams for lifestyle, corporate or tech clients, we are able to pull together the best team of individuals for that particular client’s needs – and we can do this, because all our Mutants are flexible, adaptable and can handle multiple accounts across all industries.  

Lower agency fees

In general, smaller agencies can charge less because they don’t have the same massive overheads that network agencies do – but keep in mind smaller agencies still need to charge fairly for their time! Good boutiques are priced fairly for a senior team – although this will always end up cheaper than larger agencies – and clients need to evaluate the fees provided against the senior counsel they’re getting.  

Strong culture

A positive workspace directly contributes to better results for clients. As clichéd as it sounds, there’s no denying smaller agencies often foster a better working culture. That doesn’t just mean after-work drinks or fancy perks – we’re talking about a team with a collaborative attitude, mutual trust in each other’s skills and a shared passion to drive results. This is something that we Mutants personally believe in and always try to embody, and it’s the driving force for our success. 

In summary, we get to know your business on a personal level, drive stronger results and are great to work with! While a larger agency might still be the right fit for you, why not reach out and see how we could truly help your business?

If you were convinced by what we had to say about smaller agencies, why not work with one? You know where to find us: [email protected]

Copy That: How to Protect Your Agency from Ideas Theft

So, you were invited to pitch for some business. You spent hours – weeks, or months – coming up with a creative direction, a strategy, and an execution plan that you then shared with the potential client in a formal environment. Your pitch was well-received. You nailed it. You leave the meeting, go and have a drink and hope all your hard work pays off.

And it does! Only, not for you. Instead, you discover, the client loved your ideas – but not your (reasonable and justifiable) retainer. So they took your plans and your creative concept and passed it along to a smaller, cheaper agency to execute your vision under the guise of “going in a different direction” or some other excuse. But you soon see your vision – your exact vision– come to life, and you just about burst a blood vessel over the unethical practices of some businesses. How dare they be so bold as to steal your creativity while another agency reaps all the glory? Maybe they even win awards for it. You bitch and moan with your team, but you grit your teeth when it comes to actually doing anything about it. What can you do, really? What’s done is done, right?

Yes, idea theft happens – we all know this. In fact, almost half of all PR agencies have experienced it, according to a new report by PRCA.

We’ve experienced variations of this at Mutant over the years. Some have been a shock, while others have given off a bad smell from the outset. We’ve even had a potential client demand several time consuming rounds of comprehensive proposals, only to take it all in-house while simultaneously trying to poach our staff to run the show.  Thankfully, we’ve got a loyal team and a strong culture, and this was flagged by our people pretty quickly.

To be fair to clients, some crossovers may have been unintentional. Creative PR strategies are often closely tied to the clients’ business goals – and several agencies may have pitched ideas that are similar. But while I try to believe all clients have the best intentions, sometimes things are just way too coincidental.

So, instead of sitting there clenching your fists, I believe we all need to do more to combat these poor practices and hold clients accountable for their lack of ethics and blatant theft. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Call them out

This is probably less popular solution here in Asia where saving face is a big deal, and confrontation can be difficult. But if there are no consequences for these actions, then the practice will never stop and the industry won’t change. Keep things civil, but know you’re well within your rights to at least ask what the hell happened and why they are running with your exact idea with another agency. At the very least, you might get an apology and stop them from doing it again – at most, you might end up winning additional work with the client in the future (if you still want to work with them).

Protect yourself

So many clients ask the agency to sign an NDA ahead of sharing business information with you, so why can’t we do the same? Unfortunately, we have seen some unethical pitch demands and briefs that specify how all ideas submitted at the proposal stage will remain the property of the client, with no legal recourse given to agencies.

But our creative ideas are intellectual property. We know our value and that our top quality services cost money. Our ideas and approaches to briefs are not magicked out of thin air, and it’s fair to expect the parties you are sharing them with to acknowledge this if they want to hear them. We all need to stop underselling ourselves and placing a higher value on the great results we know we will achieve.

Qualify, qualify, qualify

Receiving a clear, concise brief with an indication of how agencies will be evaluated as well as a shortlist of other players we are up against is a breath of fresh air. Agencies give as much as we get – and this helps us to focus on showcasing our approach and share an idea alongside several case studies with proven results. If required, agencies are always happy to work closely with clients to help shape their briefs to truly nail their business objectives.

What doesn’t pass the sniff test is a topline brief with no clear indications of budget, timelines or evaluation metrics.

Pay for pitches

Sounds like a dream, but it makes sense when a client needs to evaluate actual work by an agency before a longer term commitment. We have experienced this firsthand when a client handed us a clear content brief and compensated us for the articles we wrote. Two weeks later, we realised it was a test they conducted amongst two agencies – and we were handed over the other half of the scope as they were satisfied with the results. It was a smart move by a client who’s still with us four years later.

While getting paid for pitches will never be commonplace, it does help a client who need a stronger justification for a content or integrated marketing retainer investment. Plus, it’s just good manners, honestly.

Industry regulators

The PRCA have created the Ideas Bank as an option for agencies to store their creative ideas, intended to serve as an independent body that can help mediate suspected IP infringement. This is a great start as transparency is key – and we need to work together as an industry to move ahead.

The bottom line is: if something smells fishy, it’s probably gone bad. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information or walk away. As agencies, we are allowed to make money, too – so reserve your time and best ideas for fair clients who are looking for partners, not vendors.

Need a partner who can formulate compelling, original pitches? Drop us a text at [email protected]

Media Training: A definitive guide to not soiling your pants

We’ve all seen it, a bumbling celebrity spewing nonsense on camera, digging their graves even deeper for the whole world to see. Even worse, the mindless politician blatantly dodging serious questions just to repeat the same thing over and over again. 

Listening to badly media trained politicians like

The reality is that both of these individuals have most likely sat through some form of media training, given their backgrounds. So even with media training, ensuring quality trainers (that’s a whole other story) and practicing as much as possible, what are the main things one should watch out for in regards to media time?

Let’s dive right in, and in true media training fashion, I’m going to structure this around three key messages, just like a good spokesperson should!

Confidence 

Confidence is necessary for any good spokesperson, but this confidence needs to be laid in the right area. It should come from knowledge in the given topic of discussion as well as your own preparation for the interview (more on that later). Things can quickly go awry when this confidence is placed in the wrong areas. Overconfidence can lead to spokespersons not caring to prepare for the interview or even foregoing media training altogether – it’s very common to see individuals who are extroverts and are comfortable in many different social situations believing they can handle media.

Preparation

Similar to confidence, a good spokesperson should approach interviews with a good amount of preparation. Note that preparation has a close relationship with confidence, as preparing properly will help boost confidence. For a spokesperson, preparation should not only evolve around the subject matter and clearly define key messages, it is also about understanding the context of the topic in the wider sphere. 

However, be careful, as over-preparation can be deadly if the spokesperson remains focused on the topic or questions shared by the reporter prior to the interview, prohibiting a natural conversation flow and causing the spokesperson to freeze up.

A great example I always like to bring up is of a business leader I had once worked with. He was incredibly intelligent and charismatic, and while he was confident around his knowledge of his subject matter, he liked to prepare by having myself attack him from all angles with left-field questions to try and pull him off his key messages. He never rested on his laurels and was always a perfect spokesperson on camera, even when reporters tried their best to get a juicy headline.

Conversation

Most media trainers will emphasise the importance of the main key messages a spokesperson has to hit during an interview. This is to prevent the spokesperson from getting caught up in the conversational flow with the reporter and letting them get what they want. 

This, however, is not the only way to fail at controlling the conversation. While the bridging technique is often brought up to help a spokesperson bring back conversations to the topic and key messages they need to focus on, an overreliance on them can be problematic. Poor bridging technique or a robotic reliance on them will make any spokesperson look disengaged and unauthentic, not only coming off negatively for the audience, but also making it difficult for the reporter to get something to talk about. 

Once upon a time in Hollywood, Tarantino had a major interview fail

So this brings us to the end of some of the key things all spokespeople should watch out for, by no means a fully exhaustive list, but at least a list that is simple to digest (hey, only three key messages!). 

Do you have what it takes? If you want to find out about media training sessions or want to be grilled by our in-house media trainers, send us a message to [email protected].

Expectations and Realities of working in a PR agency (from an intern’s POV)

It was daunting, entering an industry that I had next to zero knowledge about. I was a sociology graduate, you see, fresh out of university and looking to explore opportunities. A friend recommended Mutant ‘I’ll try,’ I told her. Three weeks later, I found myself on my first day of work at the communications agency, exchanging pleasantries with my new co-workers. I had so many questions. How will I fare? What will it be like? Most of all, will I enjoy my time there? 

As my internship at Mutant draws to a close, I thought I’ll break down my initial expectations and compare them to what I actually experienced. Hopefully, it’ll reassure and help encourage some of you to take a step outside of your comfort zone. 

Expectation: My co-workers will be too busy to guide me or provide feedback. 

Reality: Just because I’m an intern, doesn’t mean I’m not important to the team or my ideas are not valued I learned PR thrives on creativity and that fresh perspectives are always welcomed. With every task I completed, I was given feedback and constructive criticism – this allowed me to better understand my weaknesses and how to transform them into strengths. As the PR industry is extremely detail-oriented, it was great to have a group of individuals willing to share recommendations and give pointers, not only with me, but with one another, too. 

Working in a PR agency is akin to working on one huge project, everyone is extremely collaborative and communicative to get deliverables out the door. 

Expectation: I’ll have to work long hours and will have little to no work-life balance. 

Reality: While I did stay late occasionally, I was never burning the midnight oil – ‘late’ meant staying about an hour later than usual. I could always finish checking my to-do list for the day as we had a system of collaboration anyone could sound off if they felt that they needed help in a particular task or meeting a deadline.

At Mutant, there’s an emphasis on work-life balance; we work hard, but play harder. For the past two months I’ve been here, we’ve had a BBQ night, a games night, countless of doughnut and panipuri parties and even a mahjong night! I still remember during one of my first days with Mutant, Matt, our director, shoo-ed me off at 6pm and told me to and I quote “go have a life!”

Expectation: I’ll spend my days doing the same menial work.

Reality: Initially, I did spend my time on simpler tasks like tracking media coverage and creating media lists. But as I became more comfortable with how Mutant works, I was slowly introduced to crafting reports and social content, researching influencers and pitching to local media. In the midst of all that, I learnt the PR industry is constantly changing – it became evident when no two work days were the same. Clients often have differing expectations and I had to be ready to embrace change and willing to try new projects that I had no prior experience in doing. 

Expectation: The learning curve will be steep. 

Reality: I mean, duh. It was and still is, there’s still so much more that I look forward to learning. Initially, it took me awhile to adjust to the line of thinking required for PR work you have to be extremely meticulous and focus on minute details in order to be an effective communicator. What took someone an hour to do often took two hours of my time, but practice makes perfect, right?.  I’ll get there – slowly, but surely. 

I’m so incredibly glad I accepted my friend’s suggestion to apply to Mutant and grateful they extended me the opportunity to intern. I’ve never been surrounded by a more hardworking and fun-loving group of individuals (including the resident office dog, Muffin). I’ve gained so much with Mutant, from experience and skills to knowledge about popular games in New Zealand (shout-out to my table buddy, Evaan, who constantly engages me in discussions about our cultures). Mutant, I’m glad you didn’t meet my expectations! 

Don’t we sound like a dream to work for? Join the gang at [email protected]

Using data to get media attention isn’t as hard as you think

Your company is not special. Your product is probably not “revolutionary”. Very few people care that your best-selling system has a new feature – and I guarantee no one cares that you hired a new CFO.  

Sorry (not sorry) for the hard truths, but the simple fact is that most companies still don’t understand what makes a good story. What you think makes a great story is probably not the same as what a journalist considers to be a great story – this is mainly because journalists know their readers won’t care about what you have to say. To make things harder, shrinking newsrooms translate to journalists being more stretched than ever, so your press release will often go unread and that interview you pitched will likely never happen.

Now that’s all out of the way, it’s time for the good news: the best stories you possess have actually been at your disposal this whole time. Okay, there might be some digging around to find the right spreadsheets, but the point is you’re probably already sitting on a goldmine and you don’t even know it. 

Because the way to get a journalist’s attention is with – say it with me now – DATA! 

Even if you don’t have anything interesting to say, you can create news with data. When handled the right way and moulded into a usable story, data can deliver the media attention you have always wanted, but have never been able to achieve – even with paid content. 

But first, a quick PR lesson

Before we can talk about why data is essential to your PR strategy, we need to touch on why public relations might not currently be working for you. If you’ve been burned before by agencies that promise the world, but only hand over a ‘strategy’ that relies on press releases, then this is especially relevant for you: 

Despite what you may think, you are not important. A story is never going to be about how awesome your company or product is – that is not news. News is a story that’s broader than an announcement of something new (unless that new thing is incredibly timely). News is something that has impact and affects people’s lives or businesses. It’s timeliness, something close to  what we value, and something that carries a human interest angle or solves a conflict. News is unique and it carries consequences. News is not hyperbole and exaggerated claims of being “the best”, “the newest” or “the most revolutionary”. 

Your goal to get the media’s attention is to provide a reason for them to write about you. This means selling them a story, not a product, and avoiding your usual press releases chock-full of corporate jargon that says a lot about, well, nothing. If your press releases and pitches haven’t been picked up, it likely because you or your agency haven’t figured out how to tell your story in a compelling way. You need to speak the journalists’ language and give them information that can be turned into news – this is why they love data. 

Create the news for journalists using your own data 

If you think the only way to share news is via press releases, then how are you going to get anything written about you in between each pitch? When there’s no news to share, data is a vehicle that can be used to create news and provide new avenues and angles for journalists to explore, based on real, unique statistics that tell a story. There are a couple of ways you can do this: 

  1. Use a research agency to run a survey: This is the most expensive option, but a streamlined way to gather new data on a particular topic or issue across a broad sample. A good PR agency will get involved at the early stage of survey creation, ensuring the right questions are being asked to get the headlines you want at the other end.
  2. Run your own survey: You might not have the money for a research agency, but perhaps you have a big database of clients and customers? There are an abundance of online tools that allow you to send out surveys and questions to your existing and potential customers. Some agencies (*cough cough, hello!*) can help you manage this entire process from end-to-end to ensure you get the best and most accurate data.
  3. Delve into your own existing data: Chances are you’re sitting on a mountain of data that can actually be used to tell a story – you just need someone to identify what that story may be. This is why it’s often good to connect your communications team or agency to other parts of the business (such as the sales team) to better understand what data you have, and then to provide guidance on how it can be used in PR.
  4. Use third party research paired with your own thought leadership: If you don’t have any of the above, it doesn’t matter. There is so much research out there you can draw from to create interesting whitepapers and tip sheets on a topic. Add in some high-level commentary and thought leadership from your company’s key spokespeople, and you’ve got yourself a pretty compelling piece of content to share. 

Reverse engineer your approach 

When constructing your survey and data-led approach, you need to consider your end goals and work backwards from the headlines you want to achieve. This is why it’s so important to work with an agency partner that has a strong editorial team and understanding of how news editors operate. If you can provide a media outlet with exactly the right kind of headline and angle, you’re more likely to get the epic coverage you’re craving. 

For example, let’s say a recruitment company is looking to increase its contract roles in light of the growing gig economy, and needs to attract more employers to enlist their services in filling these roles. Ideally, they’re hoping to gain awareness via a PR push that gets their company name and expertise in front of their target demographic across trade and business publications.

The agency, understanding these goals, suggests a survey of both employees and employers in their target market and industries to find out what the biggest needs, challenges, and misconceptions are about gig economy workers, their salary expectations, key attraction factors and ultimate career goals. The survey questions are constructed to gather the most relevant information that can be used individually and comparatively, to result in potential compelling headlines such as: 

“One in three companies in Singapore are expanding workplace benefits to cover ‘gig’ talent” 

Or 

“Growth in Singapore’s gig economy workers set to grow by 30% in 2020” 

By understanding the types of headlines a client wants to achieve (specific to each target publication, of course) the agency can construct a better, more effective survey that asks the right questions. The end result? A compelling story that can be told in a newspaper, via a live broadcast interview, or written into a professionally designed report to share with both media and client customers. 

We won’t lie: a lot of work is required to turn this from ideation to execution, but the outcomes are well worth the effort. In fact, for one of our clients, a SG$15,000 investment in data-led insights resulted in a 3,000% ROI via the creation of a report and a push via PR and lead generation campaign.  

The content you can create with the right data is a story that never stops being told. Your data belongs to you, and you can use it across social media, to write blogs or to create entire advertising campaigns. You can continue to refer to your unique statistics and data-led insights for years to come, building crucial credibility and educating your customers not only on what you do, but why they should give a crap.

Need help talking to journalists? Drop us a line at [email protected].

 

When Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Elton John hit the nail on the head when he melodiously crooned these words – and in 2019, plenty of local brands are really struggling with doing just that. The simple act of saying “sorry” doesn’t seem to be so simple. 

While there have been plenty of bad examples of half-hearted apologies muttered in the past, one only needs to look at the embarrassingly recent Brownface saga in Singapore to know that we still have a long way to go in terms of saying sorry and actually meaning it. 

As usual, not all apologies were created equal. Some are met with plenty of derision and eye-rolling. 

A brand in crisis control mode is doing itself no favours by putting out a bad apology – all it does is further damage its reputation for a long time to come. After all, brand goodwill takes years to build and mere moments to destroy. 

So, in this age of cynical, hawk-eyed audiences who are quick to call out even the smallest instances of corporate shortsightedness, how can brands apologise and actually mean it?

Assemble the Right Team 

Multiple stakeholders need to play a part in crafting a heartfelt apology; brands cannot just rely on their PR teams. While the exact make-up of the team will probably differ depending on the brand and the issue, here are the players that need to be involved:

Senior Management: When a brand is being steamrolled by a crisis situation, there’s bound to be a lot of internal buck-passing, scapegoating and finger-pointing. As a communications professional, you need to borrow some clout from your senior managers to ensure people stay focused on responding quickly and accurately. You also need to quickly make decisions on what corrective actions the brand should take, and whip up a blueprint for how to move forward. 

Operational Team: This should be someone who directly oversees or was a part of the incident. If there is a need to recap what happened, they need to be able to talk about it to speed up the process of responding. 

Legal: This is a tough one. Legal teams generally err on the side of caution and try to ensure brands do not implicate themselves – however, this needs to be tempered with public perception. If a debate about words erupts between the communications and legal teams, it’s important all players keep in mind that everyone is on the same side, and that they must work towards the same long-term goal. 

Timing and People 

Once the A-Team has been assembled, it’s time to get cracking on the actual response. One important thing to remember is that while people associate public apologies with press statements, the general public is not the brand’s only stakeholder. Deciding the order in which you reach out to different groups is important, as you don’t want to be accused of pandering to a certain audience, or seem too furtive. 

For instance, let’s say that your company’s latest blender model has been blowing up (and not in a good way, but in the literal sense). Your first outreach needs to be to the consumers whose safety and well-being were compromised, followed by your employees and distributors, and then media and rest of the public. If those most affected were to read about the apology in the newspapers first, it is going to come across as disingenuous. Similarly, if your employees get to know about the mishap only after extensively scrolling through their social media feeds – it’s safe to say that there will be very little trust left between staff and senior management.

No ‘Ifs’

Think of the last time you had a fight with a significant other. Isn’t it absolutely infuriating when instead of acknowledging your feelings, they say something callous like “Well, I’m sorry IF you were hurt”? If you can’t relate to that feeling, you’re either chronically single and have our sympathies, or your communication skills are on point and you have our admiration. 

By inserting ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ into your apology, you are moving the fault onto the victims and making a big show of not really being all that genuine about it. Let’s look at an excerpt from the last apology by Havas in regards to the Brownface saga: “Our multicultural society defines us as a nation, and we regret if anyone has been offended by the campaign.”

By having that qualifier, they avoid acknowledging that they absolutely did offend people. What’s worse, they seem to imply that if people were offended, it was partly their fault for being so overly sensitive and not thick-skinned enough.

If that’s still not quite clear, imagine getting hit by a van, only to have the driver come out and say “Our van defines us as a logistics supplier, and we regret if you were hurt by our driving.” Sounds unacceptable, right? 

Instead of burying their heads in the sand and pretending as though the crisis was nothing more than a midsummer night’s fever dream, companies should acknowledge the reality of the situation and show that they’ve been listening – actually listening – to public discontent. If you’ve hit someone with your metaphorical bad driving, all you have to do is say “we are sorry we hurt you, we made a mistake, and we will strive to ensure that such an oversight will never occur again,” and mean it. It’s honestly that simple. 

So… what now? 

Once you have acknowledged your audience’s feelings, their next question will probably be along the lines of “what now?” And yes, this is pretty daunting for most brands. 

When NUS was dealing with the fallout from their mishandling of a sexual harassment case, they tried to address the demand for change by going as far as calling for a town hall where a speaker panel consisting of university professors and officials attempted to address various student grievances. Unfortunately, the town hall was widely panned and students accused the administration of doing the bare minimum to address critical issues. 

The main takeaway from this example is that a proper apology must go hand-in-hand with a tangible plan to bring about real change. Building an effective long-term plan may feel like an uphill struggle, especially when you are under immense pressure to respond to a horrible situation in the best way possible. 

However, to further prevent the dissolution of public faith in your brand, you need to spell out exactly how you and your team are committed to addressing the offensive incident in question and ensuring it will never happen again. It can be tempting to lean on the crutch of vague language when making promises to the public, but now that people are highly attuned to corporatespeak and (pardon our French) they can smell bullsh*t a mile away. 

Ultimately, the purpose of an apology should be to set the record straight and make things right. While people may seem at times a hardened, sceptical lot, you’d be surprised by the general population’s capacity to forgive and move on… but only if brands are willing to eat a bit of humble pie.

This blog was originally published by Mumbrella Asia

Need help crafting a genuine, sincere apology? We can help with that: [email protected]

Is lead generation the right strategy for your business?

Throw a stone into a sea of marketers and you’re sure to strike someone who’ll tell you that their priority for the year is lead generation, the process of attracting and converting strangers and prospects into someone who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service. With digital media bringing greater transparency to metrics, marketers are increasingly held to KPIs that have more impact on sales – namely, the number of qualified leads that can be handed over to the sales team.

How does lead generation work?

Lead generation can be achieved through a mix of inbound and outbound marketing tactics. Inbound marketing focuses on creating relevant content, such as SEO-friendly websites, the ubiquitous white paper, and ebooks or webinars, to “pull” the target audience towards the brand. These content assets are often gated online so users must fill in their contact details in exchange for the information they’re interested in. The contacts are then exported by marketers as leads for the sales team to follow up with.

White paper is evergreen. Source: LinkedIn

Outbound marketing, on the other hand, involves “pushing” messages out to the target audience regardless of whether they’ve indicated prior interest in the brand. These include methods such as cold calls, direct mail, events, prospecting emails and display advertising.

The most effective lead generation strategies nowadays put the customer’s needs at the centre of all marketing activity, and use a mix of inbound and outbound tactics at different stages of the customer journey to encourage greater interactions with a brand.

However, before you jump onto the bandwagon and spend a significant cut of your marketing budget on the latest marketing automation platform for lead generation, ask yourself this very pertinent question: is lead generation the right marketing strategy for your organisation?

It may seem like the answer is always yes, but in certain cases the answer is actually no.

How do I know if lead generation is right for my business?

It all comes down to how a business acquires customers. If the customer journey is slow and convoluted, with much consideration (e.g., booking a holiday or buying a car) or approval from multiple decision-makers required (e.g., a business looking for new software) before a purchase, a lead generation model could be suitable. Engaging with customers through lead generation strategies can increase trust and familiarity with the brand, encouraging them to proceed to the next stage of the customer journey. But, if a business is focused on making quick sales, an e-commerce model that revolves around a seamless user experience could be more effective for customer acquisition.

Even if lead generation is a suitable strategy based on business model, it is crucial to consider if it is the right strategy right now. Perhaps for a fresh start-up, more resources should be allocated to building brand awareness. Or, for a more mature business, maybe a recent issue means more effort should be placed on crisis communications and managing brand perception. Organisations experience peaks and valleys as they mature, and marketing methods have to change accordingly to be aligned with business priorities.

Now, if you have determined that lead generation is the way to go for your business, here are four pro tips to help you launch a successful lead generation initiative.

Know the answers to these questions before launch:

      • Who are your potential customers?: This forms the target audience for the campaign.
      • What do your customers value?: This helps identify relevant content that a brand can offer to foster customer engagement.
      • How will you measure success?: Using consistent metrics across similar lead generation campaigns allows for benchmarking and comparison. 

Qualify leads generated after launch

Once a campaign ends, it is imperative to follow through with, or “qualify”, the leads gathered. Leads can be qualified through lead scoring – a system that totals up “points” to determine how close a potential customer is to making a purchase – to ensure prospects meet the criteria necessary to be considered more likely to become customers.

Establish rapport between sales and marketing

Sales and marketing alignment is a challenge for many companies – and with the potential for 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates when sales and marketing teams cooperate, teamwork cannot be ignored. To generate higher revenue, marketers should work alongside salespeople to establish open communication channels, gain an in-depth understanding of the sales team’s needs, and provide targeted marketing collateral and qualified leads for sales to be able to contact speedily.

Measurement

With the emphasis on transparency and accountability, reporting is an essential part of any marketing campaign. Numbers speak louder than words – use the metrics identified before the campaign was launched to evaluate performance. Positive results can help marketing teams gain senior management buy-in for bigger marketing budgets in future.

Active lead generation initiatives empower brands to grow and scale, driving today’s performance and tomorrow’s progress. Just be sure to consider if it is the right strategy for your business right now.

Having trouble getting quality leads? We can help at [email protected]

How B2B brands can make tech narratives sexy

We hate to break it to you, but not all technology gets consumers equally excited. 

Think of the immediate onslaught of news articles and social media posts that accompany the announcement of a new Apple product. Now, contrast that with the response to the latest innovation announced by an integrated business-to-business (B2B) software solution people use every day. You see what we mean? 

Customers might not know it just yet, but they do come in contact with the products of B2B business more often than they think – ever used Ninja Van’s automated chatbot? That software is provided by Zendesk, a customer service software company.  Relatability is exactly what it takes for people to start caring about what tech brands, especially B2B ones, have to say.

But why should consumer perception matter to your B2B tech businesses?

Much like how B2B brands turn to their customers for validation,  consumer tech companies also look to customers – the end-users of B2B brand products – for theirs. By playing a significant role in shaping the way people (positively) perceive your customers, you boost the credibility of your own brand. 

If you ever find yourself trying hard to connect with an audience who has no idea 5G is upon us (let alone 6G), here’s how you can talk about technology without sounding like you’re quoting The Matrix.

SIMPLIFYING JARGON

To the average person, the tech industry seems to be full of long-winded acronyms, nonsense words, and seemingly meaningless catchphrases (“SEO optimisation,” anyone?). Though it can be hard to resist using techspeak in promotional material, that won’t impress your audience – instead, it could just confuse them, or worse, drive them away. 

For instance, a company may install a complicated new software which improves employee efficiency and productivity. However, if the audience is unable to understand what exactly the software does for them, and are not educated on how to go about using it, they’ll probably stick to doing things the way that works best, even if it is comparatively slow or clunky. Similarly, B2B software companies dealing with complicated products should drop the technicalities and instead articulate the value they bring to their customers. 

DATA-DRIVEN NARRATIVES

If you have data, insights, or even simply announcements that impact the local and regional tech or businesses community, you should work to create interesting story angles centred around your and your customers’ data. 

If data is not readily available, though, commissioned reports produced by third-party research agencies can also help you deep-dive into industry trends to produce an opinion piece that also showcases your brand’s technical product capabilities in a non-promotional light.

What’s more,  your data or opinion pieces can be distilled into more digestible satellite content – short-form pieces like social posts and blog posts – that can grab readers’ attention and then funnel those who want to know more towards your website, which can in turn help boost both awareness and generate leads.

CUSTOMER CASE STUDIES

Software companies who also act as vendors for their consumer tech clients can sometimes blur the lines between genuine thought-leadership and an opportunistic, promotional plug – especially when pitching to the media. For instance, if you’re a cloud service provider, it would be natural for you to speak with the media about how “organisations need to be cloud-ready” before 5G networks arrive.

But instead of telling others how something should be done, why not show them? The success stories of your customers make for great case studies, which prove the success of your products and services when applied in the real world. 

But here’s the catch: when sharing case studies with trade publications or other news outlets, B2B brands must understand and be comfortable sharing the spotlight with other parties – otherwise the neutrality of the story might be undermined. 

REACTIVE PITCHING

‘Reactive pitching’ – often called ‘newsjacking’ – is the art (if you will) of getting your organisation’s key messages into media coverage by riding on the back of breaking news. To leverage reactive pitching effectively, you should think about the type of data or thought-leadership your company spokesperson can bring to the table in the event of major tech-related news – brainstorming possibilities and having a ready-to-go bank of ideas is definitely not a bad idea. 

As a B2B brand, you likely work with partners that provide service to consumer tech companies. Work with them to tap into their available data in order to create compelling news hooks for journalists – especially those in the tech and business world. By inserting yourself into the conversation subtly and tastefully, you’ll be the expert on the situation and topic at hand. 

These tactics are for tech companies, as newsworthy corporate announcements may not always be available, and even when they are, they might be too technical for audiences of mainstream or business titles. By creating user-friendly content and positioning your business leaders as industry experts, you’ll be able to more easily get the word out about your company.

Are you a B2B tech company in need of figuring out how to tell people what you do? We can help uncomplicate things. Drop us a line at [email protected].

What goes into the recipe for maintaining a good client-agency relationship?

Relationships take lots of hard work. Be it a marriage, friendship, or courtship –  effort is required from both parties. And unlike almost every other romantic comedy out there, the story does not end after you find The One and ride off into the sunset. After that glorious moment, both people have to continue communicating as they grow together.

Believe it or not, the same type of relationship principles should be applied to the relationship between a client and an agency. Good work doesn’t magically happen, and the success of a client-agency partnership is a two-way street.  

But how can two parties, perpetually portrayed to be at loggerheads with one another, make the most out of their relationship? 

A healthy client-agency relationship is built on mutual respect and trust, with both parties heading towards a common goal. Remember that  you hired the agency because you believe in their abilities – instead of seeing them as a nagging nuisance, think of them as a friend supporting you.

When provided the right communication and materials, agencies have space to function as the client’s extended team. It’s then that an agency can bring valuable insight and tricks-of-the-trade to the table, and ensuring rewarding outcomes for both parties. Here’s how to make it happen:

Get on the same page

Few things are more important than the initial kick-off meeting between a client and agency, as this is what sets the stage for an effective working partnership. Think of the meeting as a third date – you’ve met a couple of times and are interested, but need to have a serious conversation to move forward together. Take the opportunity to encourage the building of trust and openness with the other party. Be honest, clear, and most importantly, up front. 

Clients, you should take this opportunity to tell your agency everything – disclose your business objectives, divulge details about expectations set by upper management, and fill them in on all your hopes, fears, dreams for the relationship. If you’ve had a less-than-satisfactory experience working with an agency in the past, it’s completely understandable that you would be skeptical this time round. This would be a good time to bring this up and share why you had been disappointed. Being honest with your experiences will help the agency communicate better about what they can deliver. When agencies have an intimate understanding into your business – blemishes and all – they can truly add value and do great work, which is what you are paying for!

The kick-off meeting is also the perfect time for the client to learn how the agency works and for agencies to clarify what can and cannot be done. For instance, while a solid public relations strategy is effective for building brand awareness, it doesn’t mean it will definitely increase conversions, as that requires a targeted content and lead generation approach.

It’s also imperative that both parties leave the meeting aware of the various moving parts of the projects, especially with regard to deadlines and the scope of work. After all, everyone is working towards the same goals, and expectations will be easier to manage when there’s trust and understanding of how each team works and why. 

Set realistic expectations

Whoever said to shoot for the moon so if you miss you’ll still land among the stars has never had to manage a professional relationship. If something can’t be guaranteed, neither the client nor the agency should set or agree to  sky-high expectations.

For example, let’s say there’s a fixed launch date at the end of a four-week timeline, but 10 days have been lost due to a longer-than-expected review process. The unforeseen approval limbo is frustrating and presents a lose-lose scenario for both parties as the agency has lost 10 days to deliver good work while still trying to meet the expectations of the original timeline. Sometimes unexpected delays happen – but if you know it’s unlikely to receive upper management approvals as quickly as your agency expects, give them a heads up so they can buffer in extra time when planning.  

Communicate and collaborate

Communication doesn’t stop after the kick-off meeting – it’s an ongoing process. The more communication there is between an agency and a client, the more transparent and open the relationship becomes. Making regular chats a top priority means clients will be up to date with what’s going on from the agency’s end, and any issues or concerns they are having can be addressed quickly and efficiently. 

The same goes for clients, too. Update your agency when important information comes in. Has there been a change of plans or direction? Explain it. It’s a good idea to consolidate the internal team’s feedback when reviewing the project deliverables before sending it to the agency for edits. Multiple streams of feedback can be confusing for the agency, and can sometimes result in wasted time, especially if there are contradictory comments to sift through and clarify. 

To build trust, tell your agency how you feel frequently. If you’re delighted with their work, tell them. Feeling underwhelmed by a recommendation? Talk about it. It’s natural to feel frustrated when the agency and client don’t see eye to eye on a particular approach, but the key is to remain constructive when discussing the disagreement, and to keep in mind the ultimate aim for both parties  is to achieve the best possible outcome. 

Take initiative

One common gripe clients have is feeling unsatisfied with their agency’s lack of initiative. As an agency, are you answering what your client is really asking for? Think beyond the brief and show how your ideas can complement the client’s overall business strategy. It’s okay to say no if you disagree with your client’s approach, but always provide a sound explanation as to why, as well as alternative suggestions that can help the client achieve their goals.

Clients, when your agency disagrees with you, it’s okay to feel taken aback or confused – but do your best to listen to them and see things from their perspective. If they have good reasons as to why they disagree with you and are bringing other ideas to the table, this shows that the agency is invested in your business, and are not just going with the flow and taking orders.  

In the end, there’s no magical formula to making relationships work well – but the most rewarding results are only possible when a true collaborative partnership has been formed between a client and an agency rather than a mere transaction. Behind businesses are people who thrive on a sincere bond, and positive emotions rather than fear or negativity will inspire both parties to not only meet, but surpass expectations. After all, the agency and client are heading towards the same goal – they are just approaching it from different directions. 

Want to know more about achieving great results as a productive team?  Drop us a note at [email protected]