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Lazy language – the cardinal sin of copywriting

MarketingEmma CottleComment

It has never been easier to communicate with your customers online, but with the proliferation of social media and blogs has come a number of bad copywriting habits. Do you fall into any of these common copywriting traps? 

Communications - who’s the expert?

Strategy, MarketingEleanor YeoComment

With everyone calling themselves an 'expert' in their field, how do you truly know who the experts are? At McQueenie Mulholland we start with the facts and work together with our clients to develop a successful communications strategy. Find out more and contact us today. 

The power of clear communication in business

Strategy, DesignJonathan AlderComment

Clear communication can be the difference between success and failure in business. The ability to deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time, is what sells products and changes behaviour

Building Relationships with Your Customers Through Storytelling

MarketingSarah Thom

 

Storytelling has always been an integral part of our lives; from listening to the stories your parents read to you as a child, to when you’re telling stories to your friends. It’s a powerful psychological tool, used to evoke feelings and emotions within people and build relationships – something that has not escaped the attention of companies and brands in marketing themselves.

Consumers no longer want to just buy the “best” products, but want to buy from businesses that share their beliefs and values. It’s because of this, that storytelling has become an important tool in the tactical marketing toolbox.

Marketing through storytelling is the indirect sell, it positions your business to the consumer, rather than explicitly sells the product itself. And it can be used by businesses big or small.

So how do you do it?

The cornerstone of any successful storytelling campaign is understanding your businesses own characteristics and values, and how these resolve the pain points of customers who buy from you.

By pinpointing the answers to these questions, you’re not only on your way to being a storytelling success but also understanding the strengths of your brand.

Below we give you some handy pointers on how you can build up engaging storytelling in your campaigns:

 

 

● Don’t just share statistics – people remember stories much more than they remember facts and figures.

● Use real stories, or at least ones based on real stories – you will receive a negative response if consumers perceive you to be false.

● Use your employees, they are a great resource – ask them what they like about your company and why they chose to work there. Then use these stories in your campaign.

● Use descriptive language – the aim of storytelling is to evoke feelings and emotions, so make sure that you use language which will do these things. Imagine a time when you picked up a book to read, or found a blog post, but when you started to read it you found that you felt nothing – did you carry on reading it? Or did you discard it and forget it altogether?

● Write about WHY you do what you do, not WHAT you do. Your unique story and ethos behind your company is what will draw people in and keep them interested much longer than your latest product.

 

 

Storytelling is a great way to build stronger relationships with your customers. So, why not get started on your story today?

What you need to know about using social media for your business

Digital, MarketingEleanor Yeo

We recently came across a situation where one of our brilliant clients wanted to start up a social media strategy for the first time. They’d dipped their toe in the water of Facebook on a personal level, and had heard from another marketing agency that they absolutely had to have profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for their business too.

Which begs the question we asked them, why?

Why do you need profiles on all three social media platforms? We weren’t saying that they didn’t, but we were asking them to think about what they felt they would get out of them. When they told us that they didn’t really know, it got us thinking about what advice we can give people when they’re unused to social media.

We are the first people to recommend that clients use a variety of channels and platforms to get their message across, both to customers, to suppliers, to the media and to the wider public. But we also recommend that this is done in a targeted, planned manner, and that a schedule is written as part of a wider marketing strategy. But what should be included in this?

A few things to think about here:

 
  • Do you know the differences (in terms of consumption and demography) between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat?
  • Do you know your local press and how best to interact with their readers?

  • Are you aware of who your current followers are on each channel? Depending on your product/service, it might be that it’s your suppliers who interact with you on Twitter, whilst it’s your customers who follow you on Instagram. Make sure that you’ve looked at the analytics of each channel – do your research!

  • If you have a newsletter, who is it that reads it?

  • Do your social media posts reflect the messages of your business / brand as a whole? Do they reflect the messages that you put out on your website? In your blog? In your newsletter? Consistency is key.

  • By all means, use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to schedule some of your social media posts. But don’t rely on this for all your social activity, we recently wrote a blog about how to keep your social media, social. You also need to be able to respond to comments, questions and opportunities as they crop up, and if you aren’t sure whether you are going to be able to manage this, it’s worth getting in some additional support to help you.

 

 

We love helping organisations interact with their customers, their suppliers, the media and their local community. We would always ensure that this is done with the support of a plan, so that messages are consistent, timely and aimed at the relevant audience.

If you need help with this or with any other marketing activity, please contact us today.

Our Top 5 Messaging Do's and Don't's

StrategyEleanor Yeo

We often find that the first task for any organisation is to clarify their message. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? All you need to do is define exactly what it is that you’re trying to say. But so often, so many organisations get it wrong.  

So how can you expect potential customers to understand what it is that you’re trying to say, if you don’t fully get it yourself? 

Here’s our top five messaging do’s and don’t’s. They might seem obvious, but all too often we see organisations in the spotlight who haven’t quite got it right. 

1. DO make sure your team knows what it is that you’re trying to say

And by this, we don’t really mean just the team responsible, but the whole organisation. Internal communications is absolutely key to getting accurate and consistent messages across. If one team is launching a new product or idea, the first task must be to ensure that everybody in the organisation knows exactly what they’re doing, and critically, why the organisation is doing it.  

2. DO ensure  digital (as well as traditional) channels reflect your new message  

So often, an organisation will launch something new, only for their website to still be talking about last year’s offering. Or an organisation will adapt their messaging but forget to update their social media profile, directory listings and other digital accounts. Make sure that your messaging is consistent across all channels. 

3. DON’T ignore existing customers  

There is no point in undertaking an advertising campaign and promoting something, if it doesn’t fit with your 3 million customers. Think about what your existing customers and supporters tell you.  Use the data you have on your customers to inform all these decisions. 

4. DON’T lie in your messaging

If you’ve said something just to increase sales, without knowing whether you can actually deliver, you risk losing existing customers as well as new ones. Messaging must always be true and accurate.  

5. DO believe in your core message

If you’re saying something just to get column inches, instead of actually believing what it is that you’re saying, you will soon get found out. You risk seriously damaging the reputation of your business. Also, it’s far harder to sell something that you don’t believe in than something you do! 

PR that's not just PR but Content

PRSue McQueenie

TALK to any marketer who knows their stuff and you’ll be sure to hear the words digital, channels, analytics and content as they discuss strategies for your business or charity. 

And it got me to thinking, in this modern, digital world of instant news and instant information, is there really still a place for good old fashioned PR? 

I have to confess to a bias here, my background is journalism and PR; Robin, the other half of McQueenie Mulholland comes from the marketing and charity world. When we set up our company we felt our skills complimented each other, but I think we have both been surprised at the resilience of PR over the last year. 

With all the client work we do we look at the message we are relaying, who it is being relayed to and how that audience consumes the message. And traditional media, whether newspapers or magazines, TV and radio, still play an important role. The majority of our clients still view the traditional media as vitally important in reaching their target audience. 

So we were pleased that one of our core products, PR, continues to be relevant. But, the thing is, we’re not calling it PR anymore. We’re calling it content (there’s that word again!). 

And this blog is about sharing what we’ve found has worked especially well for our clients, which has been using a traditional piece of PR as a core product which is then developed to be used across many different channels. 

We still approach a subject in the same way. We talk to our clients about what they want to achieve with their marketing and PR. We research and write the subject the same way PR experts have done over the years and then we use our contacts to place the piece - whether it be in the local paper or a national glossy. 

But then we what we do is we give them even better value for money. We take that story (or content!) and we develop it for the client to use on their website, we change it again for them to use on social media, we change it again for them to use in their e-newsletter...the list goes on. One piece of writing (or content) developed for each channel according to the audience we are targeting - it’s brilliant! 

And do you know the beauty of it? We can measure it. So in the dark old days before the internet you might have received a few more calls, or had a few more people visit your shop, now we can see how many people click through to your website from a newsletter or interact with you on social media. And because we can measure it we can make it work even harder for you. 

So, yes, there is a future for PR - in fact it looks pretty rosy. We just have to call it content...

8 tips to consider when carrying out a rebrand

StrategySue McQueenie

We’re currently working with one of our charity clients on a rebrand. In this blog we explore some of the challenges organisations can face when rebranding and have come up with eight top tips to help smooth this transition.

So to give one example from our work, a client we are working with has spent a lot of money on research and developed an exciting new brand which is ready to be introduced. The concept behind the new brand is that it will make the public understand them better and improve their profile in the community. The question is, how do we help them roll it out in a timely and effective way.

And it’s not just a matter of introducing a new look. How do you liaise with the media to tell them about your change? What does it mean to your clients or customers?

If re-branding is something you are considering for your organisation a strategy is essential - here are our eight top tips:

  1. Set up a steering group and identify a project manager to oversee the rebrand, as well as a couple of brand champions from different departments within your organisation.
  2. Involve an outside agency or expert to work alongside you through the process. Even branding experts bring in people from outside to advise them on a rebrand.
  3. You will need to carry out inventories of all the places your brand appears. These will be the ‘physical’ items like letterheads, leaflets and signage, and digital platforms like your website, social media and email signatures. Involve your steering group in working through these.
  4. Talk to your stakeholders, if you are a charity it will be your trustees, about why you are rebranding. Ensure that everyone who needs to be is ‘on message’ about the brand’s new values.
  5. Remember this process will not happen overnight. The bigger the organisation and the more established the brand, the longer it will take.
  6. Give yourself plenty of time to roll out the changes. Some organisations find a phased roll out with targets to be met by key dates is the most effective way to complete a rebrand.
  7. Plan a detailed media campaign to support you as you roll out your new brand. Use this rebrand as a chance to gain coverage in the media and raise the profile of your organisation.
  8. And, importantly, tell your staff. Tell them why it is happening and when it is happening. The re-brand of the client I mentioned above involves a name change, it can take a long time to break habits, so make sure people have plenty of warning.

Our Top 5 (on a budget) Marketing Communications Tactics

MarketingEleanor Yeo

At McQueenie Mulholland we represent clients from a multitude of sectors, from charities to retailers, from B2Bs to farms.

The one thing that our clients all have in common is that they have a story to tell. And telling that story is a major part of increasing awareness, sales, and ultimately, profits. But, how do you go about it? Where do you start?

Last week, we gave a workshop at the Institute of Fundraisers regional conference. We work with a number of charities and, in particular, their fundraising and communications teams and individuals. Our talk was all about using communications as part of a data-led fundraising strategy, all on a very limited budget. We had more than 70 people at our session, suggesting to us that there is a definite need for support in this area. Here are our top tips on making the most of your communications strategy. They are designed to help everybody, regardless of size, scale and scope of business, to communicate to key audiences.

Drumroll please ... the countdown begins ...

Tactic number 5 - Your core message is vital
Do people really understand what it is that you do/make/sell? How good are you at explaining it to others?We start this process with our clients by summarising their business in a statement, and make it as long as it needs to be. Then, reduce it down to something that you could explain to somebody in about 60 seconds - we call this the elevator pitch. From that, reduce it down further to about a ten word proposition. Explaining to others what you do is a key part of promoting your business, and you must make sure that your audience fully understands what sets you apart from the others. You also need to have every single member of your staff clear on what your core message and values are.

Tactic number 4 - Map stakeholders and contacts
Who do you work with? Who do you know? Who do they work with? In what capacity are they useful to you? Get all of your contacts down on a bit of paper and plan a strategy for what they can do for you and how you can get them to reach others for you. Contacts are incredibly useful to you (as are you to them) but you need to know how they work and how they are connected and can be used in helping your business.

Tactic number 3 - Channel selection
How do you talk to your audience? Is it appropriate for everyone? Have you tested it to know how many people read, listened to or watched your piece? Who were they?Lots of businesses use the same old methods for getting their messages out without ever really knowing who has seen it and whether they’ve acted upon it. If you use digital channels you can measure your impact and use this to formulate future messaging and strategies. Ask yourself a little bit about who you’d like to see your story? How do they access their information? Where do they go to for news? Do they use social media? Do they read local newspapers? A few basic questions could really help you to define how it is that you want to get your message across.

Tactic number 2 - Timing
Have a think about seasonality. What else is going on in the news world? Is there a related story in the press that you might be able to respond to? It’s important to stay agile and keep abreast of what’s going on in your sector, in your local region and in the world at large - using gravity from other organisations or issues can give you momentum quickly. What else might your customers be interested in? Avoid working in silos so that you can share knowledge and information with others in-house, and they in turn can help you. Think about when quiet months are for news stories - you may be more likely to achieve positive coverage if there isn’t so much going on elsewhere.

Our top number 1 tactic - Always see your creative output as a content asset
Once you’ve come up with your story, be prepared to keep it alive by adapting it and using it across different channels and therefore audiences too. The days are gone where somebody would write a press release and send it out to their local newspaper and then sit and wait to see what happens. Today, you can write a press release, and send to your local newspaper but also adapt it to use in a number of different ways. Maybe re-write it so that it appears as a blog on your website (look out for a future blog from us, about blogs!!). Create a series of short messages with images to appear on your Twitter and Facebook feeds. Use that same press release but with different images and a slightly different angle for different media. Adapt it for digital. Make it into a video. Do whatever your audience wants in the way that they want it, at the time that they want it! 

Client donations: Test channels not just the ask itself

StrategyRob Mulholland

In our work with charities (especially smaller ones) we see a lot of concern and reluctance to ask clients, who benefit from an organisation's services, for donations. It's understandable and we recommend that all charities consider key client demographic attributes before developing client-focused fundraising strategies. 

Recently, after analysing its client database and concluding its clients were suitable for a fundraising 'ask', a charity we've been working with decided to embark on such a test. 

However, rather than just focus on the obvious, we proposed the charity test not just asking for a donation but also testing the channels in which it used to do so. In doing so, we opted to test post versus email versus telephone all of which would utilise the same creative proposition (a client feedback survey) and fundraising ask - the results were compelling. 

Below is an infographic that gives the basic headline results of our test, from which we learnt:

 


1) This charity's clients are willing and able to give donations - 18.8% said they would do so.

2) While telephone performed the best in terms of clients completing the survey (26.7% did so), telephone also performed the worst in terms of actual donations received (0% - possibly due to the recent scandal and mistrust of telephone fundraising)

3) Email and post had equally the same number of donations but email out performed post in terms of the average donation value (£20 compared with £10 respectively)

4) Due to its non-tangible quality, email by far out performed post in terms of Return On Investment - with a positive ROI of 6.7 to 1.

 

As a result of this work McQueenie Mulholland is now developing a second test for the charity and re-examining its digital strategy for both fundraising and communications objectives.

It’s still all about the brand

Strategy, PREleanor Yeo

Whether it’s Marks and Spencer, Tesco or VW - we are surrounded by “brands”. They are an integral part of our daily life as customers, and crucial for helping businesses to grow, develop and maintain customer loyalty.

But a brand is not just a logo - far from it. A brand is the very heart of the company, the product, the reputation, the staff and the customers - a brand is a living thing, and its visual logo is only an element of that. Brands are the ‘X’ factor - they’re what makes your company stand out from the others.

My usual bleary eyed, early morning scan of the BBC news website, led me to two articles on well known British brands (RBS and Anne Summers), and how those brands have adapted to meet the needs of their customers. The RBS said:

"Our brands are our interface with our customers and through them we will be able to connect (with customers) and rebuild pride."

McQueenie Mulholland have recently been working on one of Devon's and Exeter's longest standing brands - the CVS (Council for Voluntary Service). Working to connect charities and businesses with the volunteers, staff or training that help them operate, the CVS has been in Exeter for about 70 years.

We’ve recently been tasked with starting this branch of the organisation off on the road to re-branding. We’re asking staff all about the organisation that they work for, how they describe it to others and what it really means to them and to the thousands of people that the organisation helps each year. After all, only by them all truly understanding what makes their organisation unique,  can they build a brand that can adapt to new challenges and responsibilities.

This change is not something that will happen overnight. But it will become something that takes this valuable organisation into 2016 with the confidence that their staff, stakeholders, volunteers, partner organisations, customers and the general public understand, and can use, with confidence.

And we can’t wait to get started!

The art of being nosey

Strategy, MarketingEleanor Yeo

I'm a pretty curious person (some might call it nosey!) and throughout my adult life I’ve often found that this has formed the basis for some great friendships. I enjoy asking questions and finding out about the ins and outs, and ups and downs of people’s lives.

Let’s face it, asking questions is human nature. The first thing we do when we see our husbands and wives of an evening is ask how their day was, or what they’ve been up to at work. We ask our friends how they’re doing? And when asking my five-year-old son what he had for lunch that day, or who he played with in the playground, I get told to “stop asking me so many questions – I CAN’T REMEMBER!!"

"He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever." - Chinese proverb.

At McQueenie Mulholland we ask lots of questions. We use questions to get to the heart of our clients’ needs and aims. After all, research and the art of being nosey and finding ‘stuff’ out is what the world’s most successful companies and brands are really good at. Tesco recently announced that it was changing the layout in 50 of its stores because customers wanted related meal items next to each other. It asked, customers answered. Facebook have just announced that they’re including a ‘dislike’ button. Why? Because, when asked, Facebook users told them this was what they wanted.

As a small business owner, how are you going to find new customers, if you don’t know what drives your existing customers to your business? And how are you planning to reach your new customers if you don’t know which media channels they use and respond to? And how can you develop new product ranges if you’re not entirely sure whether people actually want them.

It’s all about asking questions, and making sure that you listen and use the answers. Just like being nosey on a personal level, but making sure that the questions asked are relevant and pertinent. Or in the words of Albert Einstein: