A Dummy’s Guide To Working With An Agency

When it comes to agencies, you don’t really associate them with Greek philosophers.

But if we’re going to ask the question that you came here for, then we’re going to go back a couple of millennia. To Plato’s Republic to be specific. He said:

“Well then, how will our state supply these needs? It will need a farmer, a builder, and a weaver, and also, I think, a shoemaker and one or two others to provide for our bodily needs. So that the minimum state would consist of four or five men….”

It’s a bit of a weird way of saying it, but what our mate Plato states here is the basic idea of division of labour. That economies work best when people do what they are good at, rather than trying to do everything. 

So, when do you need an agency? 

Well, as the farmer or weaver specialise in farming or weaving, the modern-day agency is a specialist in communications – whether it’s PR, creative, design, social, or whatever. If you can’t feasibly do something internally, for whatever reason, then it’s time to look at hiring an agency. 

We know that this decision can be down to a few factors, so to make it easy, think about the SCOPE of what you’re wanting to do.

STANDARD: Could I do this job internally, and ensure it is of high quality?

The first and easiest question to ask yourself is whether you can actually do this job to the standard you need. Anyone can paint a picture, but to create a work of art you need a capable artist. 

COST: If I could do this in-house, will it actually save me money?

This is biggest hurdle to hiring an agency. Fun fact: every employee costs money to a business (including you) so when it comes to doing a project or ongoing work, whether it’s an external agency bill, or an internal salary bill, your company will be paying for the work.

Assuming that you have the same capability internally as the agency, and you’re weighing it up just on cost, there’s a simple test you can do. Quantify your hours, figure out the real cost of your salary (and the opportunity cost of you not working on other things), and compare that to what the agency has quoted you. 

EXTERNAL OPINION:

Everyone thinks their baby is the cutest, but as we know, it’s not always the case. Unlike a biased mother, when it comes to brand communications, you don’t want someone from inside the business to be the judge of how the brand is perceived externally. Having someone external work on your business is a great reality check and a good agency will be a great bullsh*t detector, taking the position of your audience when it comes to ideas and communication. 

PRODUCTION: 

This one is easy. Agencies are employed to not only come up with concepts, but actually execute them. Sometimes they can do this internally ( stuff like design, writing, etc), and sometimes (like in TV, photography, experiential) they employ production partners to do the job. This is a key element of an agency’s value. 

They do all the sourcing, vetting, quality control, third party payments, and negotiations – an enormous, time-consuming task. As the client, all you have to do is agree to the overall timeline and the cost, and the agency should take care of the everyday minutia. 

END RESULT:

One of the great advantages of employing an agency to do the job is that they are accountable. Because you’ve paid for the work and agreed to a scope, you should expect results. Being super clear on what you expect before the work starts is imperative, and will ensure you can see the real value of the agency and decide whether you want to use them again.

If after this process you’ve come to the decision that you need an agency, well, then you need to find a good one. Easier said than done, but lucky for you, we know a good one you might want to try. Talk to us at [email protected]

How to Organically Build A Solid Brand Presence On Instagram

With an average of one billion monthly users, Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms since it exploded onto the scene in 2010. Understandably, as Instagram’s visual content tends to drive higher engagement than any other social media network, brands have also rapidly jumped onto the platform. While it may be easy to establish an account for your business, the real challenge is to build an Instagram presence that stands out from the millions of other brands on the platform. 

Here are some steps to keep in mind if you want to create a strong and sustainable following for your brand. 

Step 1: Find your aesthetic and stick to it

Instagram is all about the aesthetic. Even before you post your first image, take time to plan how you want your brand to be represented visually as creating a harmonious and unique visual brand experience is key to establishing your online brand identity. Ideally, your artistic vision will align with your brand values as well as resonate with the lifestyles of your target audience.

Additionally, the overall look and feel of the images you post should stay consistent throughout your feed so that it tells a compelling story and makes it easy for people to  associate your aesthetic with your brand. 

Step 2: Share the right mix of content 

One of the top reasons people follow brands on social media is to learn about new products and services. However, others follow to be entertained, educated, inspired and to connect with people similar to themselves. Therefore, it is important that businesses balance the type of content that is published online to cater to these different expectations. So mix it up!

Share a combination of  promotional posts (product and company news), conversational posts (contests, giveaways and polls that drive engagement) and sharing posts (industry news and collaborations with influencers, audience, other companies etc) in order to reach the different segments of your audience. By doing this, it will help your brand avoid being overly promotional by ensuring you deliver content that keeps all types of followers coming back for more. 

Step 3: Diversify your content with Instagram’s full range of features

Instagram has introduced new tools for users over the past few years, such as Instagram Live, a live-streaming option, and Instagram Stories. By using these features, you can find new ways to communicate your brand story and personality and engage with those who follow you. In fact, these features can often inject fun and authenticity in ways that highly stylized and curated posts on Instagram feed are unable to, helping to deepen the connection with your followers.

Such content can include a behind-the-scenes look at events, a peek into the office culture, or tutorials for your products. Content that customers tag your brand in can also be shared and used as conversation starters. Don’t be afraid to get creative and take advantage of all the features Instagram has to offer. 

Step 4: Dive deep into the analytics 

An Instagram business profile not only helps separate your account from personal accounts, it also provides your brand access to page analytics. Paying attention to these numbers can help you understand how your account is performing, how you can improve your strategy and grow your following. While it is important to post consistently to hold audience interest, Instagram’s analytics will provide insight into when the most optimal time to post to catch your followers attention is, as well as how frequently you should post to drive the highest possible engagement.

Additionally, with such insights, you’ll learn about the types of posts your audience prefers and if your page is attracting your ideal demographic. If you review the valuable data provided by Instagram regularly, you can make the necessary tweaks to your social media strategy and optimise it for better results. 

Step 5: Use #hashtags appropriately 

Choosing the right hashtags for your Instagram posts can determine if your content appears as a top post or if it becomes a needle in a haystack. There are two ways to use hashtags – leveraging ones that already exist and creating your own branded hashtags. For the former, you want to incorporate a mix of trending and industry-specific hashtags to connect with your targeted followers.

Make sure you conduct sufficient research for each one by analysing the number of likes on its top-performing posts and if the type of content aligns with yours. But do remember to be wary of using too many hashtags with millions of follows, as your post is likely to get lost in the noise. As for the latter, a branded hashtag should be concise, memorable and include some semblance of your brand name. The number of hashtags you include on a post is also essential. While the allowed maximum is 30, try to avoid spamming hashtags below your caption and risk looking both untargeted and unprofessional.

The above steps are just a few guidelines, but they will help give you a good foundation to begin building a solid brand presence on Instagram. Continue to explore the many other tips and tricks out there and find the ones that work best for you!

Want to build a solid online presence? Talk to us at hello[email protected]!

Going To The Office Is Sooo Pre-COVID

Businesses need to get rid of their flexible working fears if they want to succeed in a post-COVID world. 

The idea of work-life balance is total bulls***. 

At its core, flexibility has been the domain of working mothers trying to juggle going to work and raising children. Either that, or it’s been an engagement tool, granted as a reward for long service, good work, or a recruitment tactic that only pays lip service in order to win Best Employer awards. 

Before COVID-19, flexibility required employees to find ‘balance’ within a predetermined set of rules and accepted behaviours. You can have balance, but not too much. Make sure you’re seen around the office or else you won’t get that promotion! Oooh, you’re not coming in until 11am? I expected better of you, Linda. 

Now, with the entire world having no choice but to work from home, the dirty little secret is out: “balance” is a load of crap, and people can actually still get work done from home, without seeing their colleagues or bosses for months. 

The concept of balance is bulls*** 

Let me explain. In order to benefit from true flexibility as a business, you have to understand that the concept of “balance” is supremely flawed. Balance, by its very definition suggests that something is completely 50/50. If it’s not, then it’s not balanced. The way we speak about balance – a balanced diet, a balanced relationship, work-life balance – insinuates that these things each have equal sides. But: 

No one eats exactly 50% “healthy” food and 50% “unhealthy” food. 

No one’s relationships are 50% in equal favour of each person. 

And no one lives by spending exactly 50% of their time at work, and 50% at home.

Balance is, quite simply, not a thing. Rather, what we’re looking for is harmony. Or a blend. Or whatever jargon you want to use. This is the approach you must come at flexibility with. 

Consider it like this: a single human being has a maximum capacity of 100% to give, and their entire life must be conducted within this 100%. Like a sliding scale, sometimes the marker is all the way up towards “work”, and other times it will swing the other way towards “family”, or “studying” or something outside of their profession. 

This is a more realistic and manageable approach for both people and businesses. Most people don’t have balance over anything in their lives, but they can personally and individually interpret and apply how they conduct a harmonious life or blend of activities, if given the option. And this autonomy over how they achieve the work they’re tasked with is what everyone really wants.

But what about productivity!?

Well, I am so glad you asked. Many employers – especially in more traditional industries and countries with a more traditional work culture – believe flexibility gives people the chance to be lazy. The presenteeism fears reign supreme, and too many leaders still operate with a “bums in seats” outlook, and simply can’t believe that employees can be equally productive if not sat right at their desk all day. (Seriously, give your people a bit more credit!) 

The truth is that the entire premise of our 9-5, eight-hour workdays are a farce and have never really proven to be the only way of doing things. It could even be argued that the “modern” office is ridiculously outdated and still based on the way things were in the 18th Century. Back then, people were required to come together to operate machinery during the Industrial Revolution – the days were long and unforgiving, and productivity required people to be gathered together in one place. Then, in the 1920s, Henry Ford popularized the 40-hour work week, and America eventually legislated it in the 1930s. Even he knew productivity didn’t require 16-hour days. The issue is that since then – nearly 100 years ago – things still haven’t changed.

Except… so much has changed. Where we once relied on the office that housed the technology we needed, we now have these digital tools at home or in our pocket all day (unless, you know, we accidentally leave it at a café or something). 

The good thing about Covid-19 is it has basically proven the way we work to be bulls***, too. Actually, it’s been proven many times before, but COVID made it apparent to everyone. Here’s one study that found workers in the UK only work 3 hours a day at the office anyway, and here’s another saying Singaporean workers only spend 60% of their time on their work duties in the office, too. 

Now the world has flipped, and with the exception of some jobs, many can be done anywhere. Attendance doesn’t matter and people actually prefer working like this. Even at Mutant, when we polled our teams across Singapore and Malaysia recently, we found: 

  • 90% agree / strongly agree that they are as productive when working from home 
  • 87% feel highly motivated to work from home 
  • 68% enjoy the increased flexibility 
  • 77% enjoy not having to commute 
  • 95% say they’re getting enough support from their direct manager remotely 

We’ve seen this in action and it’s worked. It doesn’t mean there aren’t things to work on, though. For example, 46% of our Mutant staff feel isolated from their colleagues and miss working with them, and 32% find it hard to set a clear schedule to get stuff done when working from home. But knowing this is half the battle and it means we can approach our ‘new way of working’ with actual, real, flexibility. 

There might be risks involved for some businesses, sure, but the rewards are high if your workforce is happy and productive. No one’s going to get it 100% right all the time, but work will still get done. People will be happy to have power over their hours. They will feel satisfied that you trust them to get their work done in the best way for them. They will reward you with fantastic work. 

Flexible working doesn’t mean the hard work stops; it simply means the empty pursuit of “balance” is uncovered for what it really is – bulls***. 

We can’t promise “balance”, but we’re fans of harmony and flexibility. Talk to us at [email protected].

A Beginner’s Guide To Email Marketing

Email marketing is an important channel of communication for brands looking to build relationships with their customers and leads. While target audiences might miss a new update on a brand’s website or social media, an email is delivered straight to their inboxes and can be read at their convenience, which makes it a great tool for sending newsletters and special offers to customers. 

But there are a few things to be aware of to ensure you get the formula right and don’t end up spamming (read: annoying) the people you want to engage with you. 

Step 1: Build a contact list

Before launching an email marketing campaign, you’ll need to develop a contact list with email addresses. This can be compiled from existing customer information or new sources such as a website pop-up or in-store poster encouraging people to subscribe to the email newsletter. Consider local data privacy laws and spam regulations when developing your contact list to ensure you have the right permissions to send promotional emails.

In order to send targeted communications, other than basic information such as names and email addresses, ask for details about people’s interests that are related to your business. This is especially helpful if you have multiple product categories. Tailoring your email content to suit a specific customer segment increases the chances of recipients taking action on the email. At the same time, it reduces the likelihood of the email being perceived as irrelevant and marked as spam, or your contact unsubscribing from the database.

Step 2: Get started with an email marketing software

Once you have your contact list ready, it’s time to set everything up on an email marketing software. There are many out there, including Mailchimp, HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, Marketo and more – choose one based on your needs and budget.

Many email marketing software systems will guide you through the entire process of setting up an effective email campaign. Typical features include:

  • Contact database that stores customer information
  • Signup form that can be used on your website to enrol new email subscribers
  • Email templates for different styles of emails (announcement, event, newsletter, etc.)
  • Content personalisation (e.g. customising the email greeting to include the recipient’s name)
  • Email previews on different devices
  • Email scheduling
  • Reports to track email performance

Step 3: Craft actionable emails

As much as sophisticated software could level up your marketing game with personalisation and automation, don’t neglect your fundamentals: the email itself.

Focus on crafting attention-grabbing emails that encourage action based on your marketing goals. Here are some email best practices to keep your customers engaged with your email marketing campaigns:

  • Use subject lines to stand out and make a good first impression
  • Write concisely so readers can take in key points even when skimming through
  • Focus on your target audience and how the information you’re sharing benefits them
  • Include strong calls to action with links that direct readers to relevant pages
  • Use engaging copy for your call-to-action buttons. For example, instead of “click here” or “sign up now”, try “learn more about [topic]” or “join the fun”
  • Keep the email colours, design and tone of voice on brand so your readers have a consistent brand experience

Step 4: Measure email performance

With so many elements to consider, invest some time in setting up A/B tests to evaluate the performance of various aspects of your email. For instance, running a test on the subject line could help you determine which option garners higher open rates, while running a test on the body could help you pinpoint the ideal placement for the email’s primary call-to-action button. Optimising the email will ensure your efforts achieve the best possible results.

The story doesn’t end when you hit “schedule” or “send”. After the email is delivered, it is crucial to measure its performance in order to make corrections for future campaigns.

Five useful metrics that can help you understand email performance are:

  • Delivery rate
  • Open rate
  • Click-to-open rate
  • Unsubscribe
  • Conversion rate

Email is a key component of an integrated marketing plan, and keeping track of your email performance over time will enable you to identify potential areas for improvement, further refining your strategy to build and strengthen relationships with your customers.

Need help refining your email marketing strategy? You’ve come to the right place — chat to us at [email protected]

How to Build an Authentic, Purpose-Driven Brand

In the midst of the pandemic, brands that operate with the consumer and community in mind are the ones that stand out. Companies everywhere have pulled tone-deaf ads, while some have pivoted their business to develop essential products. 

An underlying purpose of what makes a brand relevant to its customers should be at the core of every brand’s vision and mission. This is particularly true in a crisis where consumers weigh their purchase decisions in this economic climate. 

Why? Because it makes business sense 

Profitability and purpose are not mutually exclusive. Kantar’s Purpose in Asia report found that “90% of consumers want brands to get involved in the issues they care about, meaning that an authentic brand purpose is now an expectation not a bonus”. 

But what’s the harm in not having a purpose? 

Well, according to Accenture, businesses lose up to half their customers, with 17% never coming back to brands that don’t serve a larger purpose. Earning brand loyalty is not as simple as giving away free products or making a one-time donation. 

5 steps to build a purpose-driven brand

Start from your brand DNA

Your brand purpose shouldn’t be disconnected from your core business. You should know how your products and expertise can create an impact on your consumers – and this should be a long-term strategy, rooted in a deep issue or opportunity that’s impactful (such as sustainability, education) or identifying specific communities to champion over the years. 

Pick issues that matter to your community

Listen to what’s being said on the ground. If a brand is not actively listening and refreshing how it’s helping the community, then its well-meaning activations could backfire. 

This is a good way to champion local causes and initiatives, particularly if you’re part of a global team where the broader corporate social responsibility goals may not directly impact your markets or region. Find a local nuance that makes sense for your community. 

Inspire your team

Start inspiring and engaging your own employees. If a brand is only seen as helping the larger community, while ignoring or mistreating their own, there is a huge disconnect. 

Your employees are your brand advocates, and being part of a purpose-driven brand attracts, motivates and retains employees. Outside of being proud of the impact they create, an engaged team could also lend their own creativity and ideas towards giving back to society and further driving your purpose. 

Take action 

Once your brand is ready to take action, don’t forget to continuously engage the benefactors and track your performance over time. 

Take a look at your user journey to see how you can activate your own consumers to drive awareness of the impact your contributions have made. Better yet, rope in your consumers so they also feel like they’re making a difference. 

As an example, Trouble Brewing, a local brewery in Singapore, launched an Adopt-A-Pub initiative that gives 10% of their proceeds to the consumers’ favourite bar, pub or restaurant at no additional cost. All it takes is a click at check-out for folks to give back to the Singapore F&B community. 

Communicate & learn

It’s important for brands to communicate with the right stakeholders on the right platform – and to avoid being called out as self-serving. Remember, you’re not doing good to drive publicity. Instead, when employees, customers and even benefactors spread the word, it’s a lot more impactful than sending out a press release. 

Companies also need to listen for feedback – and tweak their approach to remain relevant. 

At Mutant, we’re proud to help our clients engage and help our communities. Here is an example of how our team in Malaysia activated a much needed initiative within a record timespan.

How Kimberly-Clark Malaysia helped 16,000 families 

Kimberly-Clark, a brand that’s rooted in global social responsibility guidelines, wanted to make a meaningful contribution to help ease the burdens of Malaysians who have been affected by the pandemic. As residents were not allowed to venture past their neighbourhoods, they were reliant on donations for food and essential items. 

Mutant connected with the Federal Territories Ministry to identify communities that would most benefit from 1 million RM worth of essentials including diapers, feminine hygiene products and tissues. Kimberly-Clark was able to coordinate the delivery of the donations within a week, fulfilling the urgent need of the donations.

The Deputy Federal Territories Minister YB Dato’ Sri Dr Santhara Kumar shared a message of thanks to Kimberly-Clark, opening up doors to future collaboration.

If you’re keen on developing a brand purpose, or need help localising a global mandate, we’re here to help. 

Need help with messaging and connecting to the right stakeholders?  Drop us a line at [email protected] anytime – we’re here to help.

Getting It Right When Engaging Influencers

Gone are the days where working with influencers meant sending them a bunch of brand swag and scoring a shout out. Despite what many brands still believe, it goes beyond a snapshot of the influencer posing awkwardly with your newest drop, or writing a caption below an aesthetic pic about how great your product works.

The influencer marketing industry has not only matured, but become increasingly savvy over the years, and I’ve witnessed how influencers have worked to balance growing their reach, established authenticity and hustled for commercial work opportunities – some much more successfully than others. Influencers who manage to find the winning formula of staying relevant and connected with their followers while constantly reinventing themselves have been able to become successful – while those who have failed in this regard not only lost their audience and credibility, but the potential for partnerships. 

On the brand side, new ways of working with influencers have been sprouting up as companies explore how to create productive and mutually beneficial relationships. There is a benefit to working with them – but only if they’re engaged wisely. 

So, how can you make sure you’re working with influencers in the right way for your brand? 

Influencer marketing is both a time and monetary investment 

It’s important to have the right mindset when considering influencer marketing. By now, most marketers know that not every influencer out there is a good fit for their brand. You already know the importance of research to find relevant influencers who are already aligned with your campaign objectives and target audience. 

But one thing that doesn’t get enough attention is the importance of dedicating proper resources towards building an influencer strategy. Grouping influencer marketing under the same bracket as a PR plan means that both resource-heavy units are sharing the same budget, which often results in a half-hearted influencer campaign that reaps little success. 

Giving influencers one-off access to complimentary products is no longer enough – from a consumer perspective, they are not swayed into purchasing based on an Instagram video or post, as it does not look genuine when an influencer raves about something only to never be seen using it again. Beyond this, truly impactful influencers know their worth and the best ways to to engage with their followers meaningfully. Working with influencers effectively has to be an ongoing conversation that is part of a bigger strategy, and it must have the resources required to create quality content. This requires both the time to connect with an influencer and discuss with them how best to work together, as well as a financial investment to compensate the influencer for their work. 

The key here is achieving a good balance – you don’t want to be throwing money and/or products at anyone who is keen to come on board, but you also need to ensure the influencer you work with is genuine and can help you achieve campaign results.  

To do this, here are three things to keep in mind when working with an influencer:

1. Respect their judgement

The process of creating good content with influencers can become more complicated than regular campaigns, so simply paying an influencer will not help you meet your objectives. Instead, you need to work with them to create this content.

Don’t be afraid to give influencers creative control. After all, they got to where they are today because they figured out what their audience wants to see from them. Remember that their authenticity is why they’ve amassed their current following, which makes it important for them to be able to inject their voice and perspective in the campaign.

The key to achieving great creative results is to ensure the overall message is still aligned to your objectives, while giving the influencer room to speak in an organic tone that is natural to their followers. You can do this by setting guidelines and helping them understand how their role contributes towards the campaign goals. 

2. Keep an open mind 

The definition of influencers has broadened – it’s no longer only about numbers when it comes to picking a suitable partner. There are many ways to evaluate the level of influence someone has that goes beyond follower count to include the relationship and interaction they have with their audience. So don’t discount the impact a micro-influencer can have! They have usually built up a specialised following through their criteria of working only with brands they are passionate about to protect their relationship with their audience, so you can definitely count on them to be authentic.

For instance, if you’re looking to raise awareness for an eco-friendly solution that helps to cut down on single-use plastics, definitely think about including micro-influencers who are passionate about sharing ways to reduce waste. 

3. Create a mutually beneficial relationship 

Both the brand and influencer need to acknowledge that the relationship is a two-way street. The influencer is not there to just help you sell your product – they’ll want to grow their own personal brand through this relationship.  

Consider what other benefits you can give the influencer. They want to feel valued and heard, so do consider providing more opportunities for them to feel like a part of your brand. There are various ways you can do this that don’t involve extra costs, such as giving them first dibs to exclusive product launches, event invites or even a personal discount code for their friends and family. This can help them become more than just a one-off campaign partner to become something of a (comparatively) low-cost brand ambassador. When there’s something in the deal for both parties, influencers will be much more inclined to go above and beyond to create something great with you. 

When done right, influencer marketing can help to drive strong results for your marketing campaign – but it is only as effective as you are savvy. Do your research, manage internal expectations, choose your partners with care and keep building those relationships. 

Need more help integrating influencer engagement into your marketing strategy? Drop us a line at [email protected]

How Has PR Evolved Over The Years?

In a fast-paced, content-driven world, audiences are highly discerning and watch  brands’ actions and behaviour with an eagle eye. They sharply observe any and all discrepancies between what brands say and the policies they end up enacting, and are generally much harder to win over as loyal customers. 

With the rise of the digital age, PR has expanded beyond its traditional scope of building goodwill, trust and awareness, and ventured into lead generation and integrated campaigns. 

So what has changed and how should PR professionals be navigating this playing field?

Evolving media landscape

Major newsrooms have undergone several rounds of restructuring in recent years. By shifting the focus from print to digital, most operate on increasingly lean editorial teams. Some publications are folding entirely. For example, Questex Asia shuttered its regional operations, which resulted in the closure of a full suite of key enterprise titles, leaving brands with fewer channels for niche technology stories. Most recently, notable marketing trade publication Mumbrella Asia exited the market after struggling with profitability.

The shrinking media pool means that newsrooms must be extra selective when it comes to shortlisting media pitches – not just because they have to identify a highly curated content fit for readers, but also due to manpower and resource limitations.  

The good news is that readers are adapting to change and are willing to pay for digital subscriptions that are worth the fee. Tech in Asia’s comeback is testament that the implementation of paywalls and subscription models can work – but only if backed by differentiated, quality content, carving out previously under-tapped revenue streams for the digital publication.

Combating fake news

The wide reach of unmoderated channels like social media and messaging apps has brought with them the advent of fake news – articles, videos or posts that masquerade as “news” but are not substantiated by real sources, and are not published by real news sources. 

The good news about fake news is that consumers are increasingly cognizant of misinformation, what it looks like and how it spreads, and are aware of the role they could potentially play in perpetuating it. To assist with media literacy, the Straits Times even has a dedicated column for debunking fake news, which has been especially vital during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Combating fake news is not a fight for the media alone –  it is also the responsibility of PR practitioners to provide the journalists they liaise with with accurate and timely information from brands, and positioning key executives as thought leaders and reliable sources of truth. The onus also lies on PR professionals to counter misinformation proactively and to take a stand against the misrepresentation of facts.

The COVID-19 crisis has seen the proliferation of misinformation tear through frightened consumers and communities — using the right combination of PR and thought leadership during these troubling times is the key to emerging even stronger. Talk to us, we know how:

Embracing digital channels

APAC is one of the world’s most digitally active regions, and people here consume news in diverse ways as a direct consequence of the changing regional and local media landscape.

Digital content enables the easy sharing of media through a variety of channels such as e-newsletters, social media, and groups on messaging platforms. By using these avenues, publications can ensure news reaches their audience quickly and directly. What this means for PR is that brands now have more opportunities to get creative with integrated campaigns, which can amplify the reach of their earned media — publicity gained through sustained publicity efforts — via both paid and owned media channels.

Another popular digital format is the podcast, an audio format that has been steadily gaining momentum due to its packaged formula of convenience and bite-sized content that perfectly complements the busy lives of modern audiences. CNA, Straits Times, Business Times and Tech in Asia are just a few of the media publications that have been quick to leverage this tool to provide their audience with another way to access content.

The appetite for engaging, quality content is bigger than ever, despite smaller newsrooms and tighter editorial teams. This is why PR teams are embracing integrated campaigns that marry traditional public relations with content and digital marketing. If your brand has yet to test the efficacy of content, now is a great time to consider how both content and digital marketing can complement your broader communications strategy to maximise audience outreach efforts. 

Need help pivoting your PR strategy, or simply want to understand the modern PR landscape better? You’ve come to the right place — drop us a note at [email protected]

When Is It The Right Time To Do A Rebrand?

I’ve managed to find my way around the Internet a fair bit during the lockdown. Videos, podcasts, articles and tutorials; you name it, I’ve seen it. Lately, I’ve been discovering random facts and I’ve concluded that Mother Nature is the best source for the weirdest facts. 

For example: a caterpillar can eat up to 27,000 times its bodyweight in its lifetime.

It will consume everything it can, make itself ready for adulthood, and lay eggs, because as a caterpillar, it only has one job to do: survive.

I read this random fact and was reminded of something else I saw at a café in rural Australia. 

It was one of those cheesy inspirational quote signs, you know the ones. Deep and thoughtful, it was perched above the coffee machine and written in a hipster font. It read:

“In order to become a butterfly, you’ve got to give up being a caterpillar.”

The conundrum of the caterpillar is a particularly apt analogy for brands in the age of COVID-19 – and it hit particularly close to home for Mutant, as we’ve been thinking of refreshing our own brand image for a long time. It was a decision between staying the successful caterpillar we were or becoming a butterfly.  

Truth be told, we tussled with the decision. Our current branding is what has allowed us to grow for the past eight years, winning lots of new clients and bagging us multiple awards

Why should we give up what we are, when it has been proven to be successful?

In the end, we decided it was time to change. We needed to unveil who we have become as an agency, while still maintaining what we started out as, all while showing what we can offer businesses in uncertain times.

As our name suggests, it was time to evolve. 

So, when it comes to rebranding and updating your communications strategy, here are a few key questions you should ask yourself:

Does your branding reflect who you are now? 

Businesses evolve, and so do their offerings. What you may have started out as might not be indicative of your present state. If that’s the case, you should objectively examine what your brand says about you visually. 

Mutant started as a PR agency in 2012. Some of our first clients were corporate and tech names, and our muted, toned-down branding reflected that. Since then, we’ve built up one of the best content teams in SEA, as well as branding and digital marketing functions. 

The brands we work with now are diverse, including clients across the lifestyle, consumer, and back to our roots, in tech and corporate verticals. Upon further examination, we realised our branding just didn’t match up to our current identity, and that had to change.

Does it look good?

This sounds like a stupid question, but it’s a perfectly valid one. Imagine your brand as a sports car. It is perfectly tuned, efficient, and performs well – but if the paint is faded on the outside, people will never look at it twice. 

Mutant’s original branding was faded (literally, the green had a murky yellowish/green tinge to it). It simply wasn’t communicating the vibrance of our stellar team, and attitude towards work.

Is your branding flexible enough to grow?

Brand equity is something that a lot of people believe comes from consistency in applying your brand, making sure you don’t mess around with logos or colours – that sort of thing. And for the most part, that’s correct. 

However, consistency doesn’t mean having to use the exact same branding or logos until the end of time. Brands refresh themselves in order to ensure they remain relevant and are able to future-proof themselves. Over the past few years, we’ve become an international agency with an awesome team in Kuala Lumpur. So we wanted to ensure that if we were to expand across Southeast Asia, our new look should be able to incorporate any sub-brands or new offerings that might come about.    

Is now really the right time to do a rebrand?

In short, yes. Now is the best time to do it. Research shows businesses that pour more love into their brand and communications (whilst adapting their business model) will be the ones who come out the other side of COVID-19 stronger than ever. This rings true whether you’re a brewery fundamentally changing its sales model, or a PR company trying to conjure a brand identity that captures the full breadth of its services. 

Eyes are on screens, the audience is captive (literally!) and people are consuming information like never before. In a sea of uncertainty, your brand needs to be bold to stand out and communicate its updated identity proudly, loudly and effectively. 

Unless, of course, you want to stay a caterpillar. 

Ask us how we can help your branding efforts by contacting us at [email protected]

What’s in a Name? How to Differentiate Between Types of Content

It happens all too often – a client says they want a blog, but when a blog is delivered, they ask why it’s so short, or why the tone is so casual. Or, they say they want an op-ed that can be pitched to a top-tier industry publication, and then don’t understand why their company’s newest product isn’t specifically mentioned or detailed in the piece.

While it’s wonderful that this client knows content will help them boost their brand and generate leads, if they don’t understand the difference between types of content, things will be frustrating for both the content team and the client. Because, unlike a rose, an op-ed by any other name is an entirely different piece of content.

When communicating with the content team you’re working with, it’s vital that you are on the same page when it comes to the types of content they are producing for you – otherwise lots of time, energy and effort will be wasted. This is because different types of content are geared for different audiences and are meant to reach different goals.

For example, if you’re hoping to increase your CEO’s profile, a social media campaign is likely not the answer – thought leadership articles are. Likewise, if you’re launching a new report and want to extend the coverage of all that data you analysed, you’ll need more than press releases – you’ll want op-eds, blog posts and maybe an infographic or two.

If all of this has your head spinning, don’t worry – we’re here to help dispel the confusion surrounding different types of content. So let’s dive in, shall we?

Social Media Copy, Explained


Oh look, a Facebook post.

Pithy, punchy and to-the-point, social media calls for short-form copy (Sometimes, extremely short-form. A tweet, for example, is a maximum of 280 characters that is attention-grabbing, informative and creative (yes, emoji are completely acceptable and hashtags are a must – they help with discovery). It should be written in your brand’s voice and have a personality that resonates with your audience. 

Though there are several different types of social media platforms today, the platforms most often used for business are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. While similar messaging can be pushed out via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, LinkedIn is a professional network that is better suited. for business goals such as brand or product awareness and communicating employer brand messaging,

Getting the tone right for each platform is an important part of crafting social media copy, so understanding how different platforms operate and which platforms your audience prefers or frequents is crucial. After all, if your target demographic spends most of their time scrolling Instagram and you’re only on Facebook, you’re missing a huge opportunity to speak directly to and engage directly with them.

Thought Leadership Posts and Articles, Explained

When it comes to thought leadership, LinkedIn is the platform you want. Your company’s executives likely all already have LinkedIn profiles in order to network and keep up with industry news. And since the platform caters to professionals, it’s the perfect place to share thoughts on the state of the industry, general business news and the thought process behind your company’s latest developments.

There are a couple different ways to publish thought leadership on LinkedIn: the first is through a post. This is short-form content – anywhere from a line or two to a paragraph – where a professional shares a quick thought about a relevant business topic or a news article they link. Though quick and efficient, these posts do provide insider insights and help to build a personal brand.

The second option is to write and share an original article on LinkedIn. This option allows more freedom and space for an executive to really delve into a topic through a longer-form piece – usually around 400–700 words – providing followers, connections and other professionals a look into their thoughts about a particular event, industry trend or piece of global news. 

In addition to positioning executives as experienced, authoritative, thoughtful leaders with a unique perspective, these pieces could also lead to greater networking opportunities, speaking engagements or even business partnerships.

Blogs, Explained

Behold, a blog post.

The goal of blogs is to communicate your company’s messaging, be it reiterating your vision, launching a new product or report, providing updates to your customers, or releasing a statement in times of crisis. These pieces are where you can not just promote your company and your products, but explain them in-depth and provide behind-the-scenes information or looks at innovation.

Often, blogs and social media work hand-in-hand: you can use your social media pages to promote new blog posts by giving readers a quick taste of what’s to come in the blog and enticing them to click the link and go to your website. 

Op-Eds, Explained

When it comes to pitching articles to the media, it’s generally an op-ed – short for ”opposite the editorial page” (if you want to invite us to be on your pub quiz team, we understand) – that you want to pitch. These should be thought of as thought leadership pieces because an op-ed will include a company spokesperson or executive’s name as the author and will be written in their voice, from their perspective.

But unlike writing for a company blog or for LinkedIn, an op-ed that is pitched to a publication should be long-form – usually 600–1,000 words, depending on their guidelines – and should communicate your company’s vision or leader’s thoughts without specifically selling the company or its products/services. 

This is an important distinction to make, and one that is easy to misunderstand. The reason why the company’s vision or product cannot be specifically detailed or mentioned is that if it is, the publication will consider the piece as an advertorial,  which is, at the end of the day, an ad. And you have to pay for ads.

Op-eds, however, do not cost your company anything if they are accepted to publication and they can not only boost brand reputation and brand awareness, but will establish your business and leaders as a trusted voice in your sector.

Infographics, Explained

A combination of copy and design, infographics help to tell a story or explain events or systems visually. These can be very effective when communicating complicated ideas that are often difficult or confusing to explain with only copy, and are great to share online on any platform.

If you’re unsure about what type of designed content it is that you want, that is completely fine – feel free to provide examples of designed content you like and the content team can help you figure out what will work best for you.

Hopefully this content primer helped shed some light on how different pieces of content operate. However, if the event you head into your next meeting with your content team and you can’t remember the difference between a blog and an op-ed, don’t tell your agency you want five blogs and five articles, hoping they’ll figure out exactly what articles mean to you. Instead, explain your business goals – your content team should be able to help you narrow down what will work best for you. 

Unsure what type of content works best for your brand? The Mutant content team is here for you. Send us an email to [email protected]

When Is It The Right Time To Hire a PR Firm?

So the brown stuff has officially hit the proverbial fan. The head office is in shambles, people are running through the office corridors, you’re pretty sure that weird smell is something on fire and, on top of everything, the snack cupboard is empty (*gasp*). Everyone is asking themselves how they can save the business when the management team comes up with a brilliant idea: 

“Let’s PR this! Call in the agencies for a pitch.”

Though turning to an agency may seem like a smart move during a crisis, the reality is that turning to PR professionals in the midst of a brown-stuff storm will likely be an extremely expensive solution, all things considered. Unfortunately, a company in the situation described above will likely turn into a case of “too little, too late”. 

But more than that, the question is this: is a crisis really the best time to start looking for a public relations firm for support?

So! When is the right time to hire a PR firm, you ask?

When you don’t need a PR agency

Business is good, revenue and profitability are up, the team is growing. With everything going so smoothly, what would you need a public relations agency for? This is, in fact, the most opportune time to start exploring public relations strategies to bolster the business, set up relationships with media, grow awareness and reputation in the market against competitors, as well as establish lead generation strategies with marketing. Why? When business is good, resources are available in terms of budget and time to build the foundational pillars that can help protect a business during times of reputational or operational crisis. 

When you have a clear business strategy

It is crucial that leadership within the business know precisely where the business needs to go to continue its momentum. With a clear strategy, each function has the ability to work towards a common goal, and, more importantly, work in unison with each other, as well as with an agency.

Even if the company is in a volatile period or undergoing dramatic changes, clear direction and communication from the leadership will help a communications team and the agency understand how best to provide support during tumultuous times. What’s more, engaging an agency during times of clarity will prevent them from being stuck working on last-minute, low-impact tactical projects, or, even worse, on initiatives that have been cancelled or are no longer in line with business priorities.

When the ENTIRE management team is on-board

The CEO may be walking in the right direction, but if the full leadership team isn’t walking in-step, some stumbles are inevitably going to occur. This doesn’t just mean sharing a vision and strategy for the business – it means open and clear lines of communication between department heads and the separate divisions, whether that be finance, marketing, operations or sales. When everyone is walking the same path, an incoming agency will be in a position to immediately hit the ground running with proper on-boarding sessions and the development of the right type of strategy to support the business.

When everything is in place and you’re asking, ‘…what now?’

The revelation that everything is in place for a public relations agency to come in can be an exciting one – but what should you actually look for in an agency? How do you start those conversations? How can you tell if that agency is the right agency? 

Luckily, if you have a clear business strategy that the entire management team has agreed upon and your company is doing well, that means your clear business strategy and direction can be communicated easily to the agency. Indeed, the right agency will be able to demonstrate measurable ROI, whether that be through supporting a brand with reputation development, building up the employer branding or developing lead generation strategies.

And if you don’t have everything in place? Well, the right agency will be the first to tell you so. So when the brown stuff hits the fan, your business will not only have a public relations agency that truly understands and fits into the business, media relationships have been developed, awareness and reputation have grown, allowing you to weather that storm with ease.

If you’re reading this article and think it’s the right time to hire a PR firm, talk to us maybe: [email protected]

Get It Right: Following Up With Journalists

It’s a cutthroat business pitching to journalists. If they like what you have to say, you might hear back from them immediately, but if all you receive is radio silence that lasts longer than a day or two… well, sorry. Your pitch probably didn’t make the cut, and you have some damage control to do.

Journalists are busy people – busier than ever these days as newsroom resources are squeezed – and simply don’t have the time to meticulously read every single email. So, what can you do to earn their attention?

Following up after sending a press release or pitch might feel a little awkward sometimes, but too bad! It’s a necessary step to ensuring you land your story, and if you approach your follow-up in the right way, you’ll pique the journalist’s interest:

Be original

The journalist in question might have ignored or deleted your email (don’t take it personally) so it’s important to follow-up with the all the relevant information at hand – including anything that might not have been present in your original pitch. Keep track of the reporter’s recent articles to find out what they are currently writing about, and come up with an original angle based off relevant and recent trends. This will make you stand out, and the journalist is more likely to appreciate the extra effort.

Be familiar with your client 

If you want your pitch to land, you have to understand your client’s business inside and out. The journalist will decide whether they’re worth covering or not, and you’ve got to make them look good by being able to answer all questions (within reason or limitations set by the client) in order to lock down that interview. While the details you share with the journalist will vary depending on the publication, having a solid idea of your client’s business model, revenue (if that’s public information), and top leadership will greatly help you.

Make it personal

One of the biggest reasons pitches get declined is the lack of personalisation and a lazy, sweeping approach that journos can spot a mile away. Journalists receive dozens of emails in a day from businesses who claim to be interesting – but how is your client really interesting to their readers and why should they care? Deliver stories that are new and relevant to their target audience. Understand what that particular journalist covers and is interested in, and consider a new angle that your client might slot nicely into.

Don’t call multiple times

While waiting for a response can be nerve-wracking, resist the urge to call multiple times, spam their inboxes, or hunt them down on social media. An initial follow-up soon after sending a pitch is fine to make sure they’ve received it, but then let some time pass (ideally 2-3 days) before chasing again. Don’t be clingy and desperate – no one likes that.

Find the right time

Journalists like to be pitched to in the morning (between 9am and 11am, or earlier) because that’s the best time for them to decide what they will be working on for the day, and present it to their editors during news meetings. Remember, you’re not the only one under pressure to create a story.

Need help crafting your next pitch? Drop us a line at [email protected]!

Myth BUSting: Get My Ad Off That Bus!

You have an ad on a bus – congratulations, that’s great stuff.

How much did it cost? More than $30,000 for three months? And that’s one bus only? Right.

Your brand awareness must be spiking. Oh, you’re not sure?

You must be getting some leads, though?

While I am sure your CEO is happy to see the brand flash past, it can be hard to tell whether your bus ad has actually made an impact. Bus ad starter-packages of around $30,000 is a big sum for small and midsize companies to spend, so you really need to consider how effective bus ads they actually are for your intended outcome, and what you could potentially do with that money instead. 

What does an ad on a bus do for you?

Many marketing departments (not all, though) are afraid to invest their budgets in testing new ways of reaching their target audiences. They are more comfortable with tried-and-tested campaigns that have worked for them in the past rather than branch out into new territories they are uncertain about paying off.

Now, we aren’t slamming transit ads altogether — they’re hugely effective for certain campaigns and brands. In fact, out-of-home advertising is the only offline media category to grow consistently, thanks in part to huge commuter volumes. Our contention is with brands taking a cookie-cutter approach, given the main argument for running ads on buses in Singapore is that it will generate mass awareness for your brand. 

But does it? Sure, you can get in front of people by riding around Singapore — but how impactful is it?

Here’s what you CAN know about your bus ads: What percentage of people from your target audience takes the bus (in general) and how often; which routes are more likely to be seen by a particular audience (i.e. students, tourists, office workers); and an estimation of how many people could potentially see the bus your ad is on.

But here’s what you CAN’T know about them: Your brand awareness lift as a result of your bus ad; how many people looked at your website or social pages after seeing the bus ad; how many people bought your products or requested your services as a result; cost per conversion and return on investment (ROI) or return on ad spend (ROAS).

For large, established brands, these concerns are minimal. But for small and mid-sized businesses looking to reach a wide audience, to generate mass brand awareness and to track their efforts accordingly, it should be an important consideration. 

So what should you do with $30,000 (if you don’t paste it on a bus)?

A quick bus ride would reveal that most people look at their phones both while commuting or at bus stops. While your ads will get in front of a lot of people, it’s hard to say whether there will be an impact on sales. Following the motto ‘a lot helps a lot’ is suitable here – i.e. the more buses carry your ad, the higher the chance your message will be heard. However, this comes at a significant cost. So, why not try to reach people where they are more responsive and can take immediate action?

Example: Let’s assume you are running a big-ticket event in Singapore for which you want to drive awareness and sell about 10,000 tickets at $70 each. 

Alternative #1 – Digital Reach

Opt for a digital advertising campaign that includes brand awareness and lead generation in the same campaign. Start by running video ads on social media or other digital channels. For a budget of $5,000, your ad can reach more 500,000 people in your target audiences.

Your next campaign can be built and optimised based on the results and data you have accumulated so far. If you run another bus ad campaign, you are starting from scratch because there is no data.

Alternative #2 – Digital retargeting 

Run a campaign retargeting people who have liked, interacted or fully watched your brand video. Choose ‘conversion’ (online sales) as your campaign objective to reach people who are more likely to make a purchase.

Find more people who are similar to those that have already bought a ticket. Create a custom audience based on the conversions in phase two, and then create a lookalike audience. This will find people who are very similar to those who made a purchase and who are more likely to purchase as well.

Alternative #3 – PR 

Define your story angles and pitch your event to lifestyle publications and general media. Typically, after impactful event coverage appears, you will be able to register a spike in ticket sales. Using e-ticketing service for your event, you can keep track of how effective the different media coverage is.

Alternative #4 – Influencer campaign

No matter what target audience your event may have, there will be a number of great influencers. Be sure to work closely with your PR team in selecting the right influencers and outlining the rules of the engagement. Just a simple post that talks about your event might not be enough. Links back to your website and ticket giveaways should be a given. Be innovative and use the influencers’ channels in a creative manner. 

What’s the outcome?

If we’re talking about bang for your buck and tangible outcomes – regardless of whether you want to sell tickets, drive awareness for your ecommerce store, or generate leads for your business – a digital campaign will get you quantifiable results for your  investment. 

And while this is a debatable topic and you might argue that out-of-home advertising is creative and ‘in your face’, until you can show us the data to prove your point…

Took the wrong route? It’s time to step off. If you want to talk about how you could spend your marketing budget more efficiently, send us a message to [email protected].