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Nicola Robbins: Freelance writer

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August 2016

Lessons in communicating from Brexit

It’s true that not many of us will ever find ourselves in the position of running a big budget, high-stakes political campaign.

However, there are some lessons to be learned for us communicators from the Brexit fiasco that has played out over the last few extraordinary weeks in this country. Namely in how NOT to do things.

So if you are in the business of communicating, here are my 3 pieces of advice for avoiding a Brexit-style comms disaster…

1. Always tell the truth – you will eventually come unstuck. Some would say that repeating the now infamous ‘lets put £350 million a week back into the NHS’ claim, even though it was widely recognised that it wasn’t true, worked. Indeed repetition is a popular tactic – if you repeat something often enough then it sticks.

But equally if you are going to make bold claims, you have to be able to back them up. The leave campaign didn’t, couldn’t and the leaders paid the price with their reputations.

2. Pictures travel faster than words. There won’t be many people who haven’t seen this picture of Boris – shared, tweeted, and published all over the media within hours of his colleagues admitting the statement he was pictured next to wasn’t actually true.

At least his advisers were savvy enough to cover up the emergency exit sign spotted by Katherine Haddon on twitter over the entrance to his ‘I’m not running for PM’ press conference… scuppering the inevitable ‘Boris heads for the exit’ snap…

… Nigel Farage was not so lucky, but really his advisors should have spotted this one, as it has been rehashed in the media 3 years on!

3. Engage your audience. The success of the leave campaign and the failure of remainers boiled down to the same thing – audience engagement. Remainers failed to recognise the deep dissatisfaction with the status quo in some parts of the country, which the leavers had managed to link to EU membership.

Make sure you find out what your audience is bothered about, work out how to meet their needs and tell them.

Small business? Can’t afford PR? Think again…

Many smaller businesses believe that because they haven’t got the cash for a retainer with an established PR firm, they can’t do communications well. This is not necessarily the case. With a bit of work, research and a small amount of money, you can improve how you communicate with your customers, increase your visibility and grow your business.

Here are my top 6 ways to improve your PR…

  1. Sort out your website

Your website is your window on the world and first impressions count! Make sure that your homepage is clear about who you are and what you do – with great pictures and clear and concise writing.

  1. Build up your contacts

Find out who the key local journalists are in your subject area, and what they like to write about. See if you can arrange to meet them.

  1. Make yourself an expert

Journalists love ‘industry experts’. The next time there is an item in the news linked to your area of expertise, contact the journalist and offer your expert opinion. They may approach you next time around.

  1. Target your ‘news’

Work out who your audience is and what they are interested in – a good story for your specialist industry magazine will not be the same as a good story for your local newspaper.

  1. Social media

Get yourself a twitter account and a facebook page and start connecting with people in your industry. Offer your opinions, and get involved in debate but always remember that what you post or tweet carries your reputation with it.

  1. Hire a flexible communicator!

Just because you can’t afford a PR agency, doesn’t mean that you can’t get professional help. There are affordable professional freelancers who you hire when you need some communications advice, copywriting work or help on a one-off PR campaign – this needn’t cost the earth but could save you money and a whole lot of time in the long run.

Have a look at my blog – Why hiring a flexible freelancer could be great news for your business

Useful links

PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Association)

CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations)

Why hiring a flexible freelancer could be great news for your business

You’re a small business. You know that engaging people quickly is more important than ever. But money is tight, you can’t afford a full time communications expert and have no experience in communications or writing. Where do you go for help?

Have you thought about hiring a freelancer?

This is a great way to access some of the best professionals around at less than the cost of a full-time salary, without having to compromise on the talent you need.

Top 5 reasons why freelance communicators are great for your small businesses:

  1. Value for money.

You pay for what you get – either by the hour or by the project, and because we often work from home they have fewer overheads so are better value for money.

  1. Quality professional expertise

Is it time to think a bit more creatively? Hiring high quality writer or communications professional for shorter hours could be more cost effective than hiring someone with less experience, full time. Just because someone isn’t in your office doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t do a great job. Ignoring the freelance marketplace means your business could be missing out on a huge bank of talent that is out there.

  1. Fresh eyes

Copywriters are experts at communicating through writing, and freelancers are independent, so we are able to step back with fresh eyes, free of preconceptions to see you and your business as if they were a new client or customer.

  1. Personal touch

Freelancers often have a small number of local clients. We can spend time getting to know you, your company, product or service. We will also painstakingly research your target audience to find out what makes them tick, and tailor our writing to reach them.

  1. Better for your business

Leaving your communications in the hands of the experts means you will be able to focus on what you do best – running your business (and also to drink your coffee before it goes cold).

Contact me to discuss your communication needs

Useful links

Professional Copywriters Network

What is this blog about?

Having worked as a media professional full time until having my three children, I am discovering the ups and downs of working from home as a flexible freelance writer.

This blog is a collection of thoughts on my emerging freelance career and also some observations on great and not so great examples of communication that are out there…

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