By Paul Noonan, Lead Copywriter, Energy and Industrials
Clean hydrogen has long been hailed as the green lifeblood of the future economy, helping store and circulate renewable energy across sectors and decarbonise hard-to-abate industries and heavy transport. It is at the heart of the energy transition, holding the promise of decarbonising sectors that cannot be easily electrified and even providing the Holy Grail of dispatchable renewable power in the form of hydrogen gas-fired power stations. It is also central to Europe’s energy security with the EU aiming to replace 27 bcm of imported Russian gas with 20 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen. Yet green hydrogen is currently little more than a pipe dream because Europe’s policymakers have set pie-in-the-sky policy-driven timelines without being honest about the practical steps to achieving them and the enormous energy costs involved.
Few realise that the EU’s target of 10 million tonnes of home-grown hydrogen by 2030 would consume the equivalent of Germany’s entire annual power consumption, which could max out our electric grids. The EU also aims to create hydrogen entirely from new renewable energy capacity to avoid diverting clean power from other applications. This would require a 44% expansion of Europe’s renewable energy capacity at a time of rising renewable supply chain costs and constraints, exacerbating energy bills and worsening our reliance on rare-earth metals from China. In other words, green hydrogen could ironically worsen the very energy cost and energy security crises it was meant to solve.
Time to go nuclear
Nuclear energy could circumvent this entire problem by creating hydrogen electrolytically or even through direct use of heat from nuclear energy thus avoiding excessive new wind or solar construction and electricity use. Crucially, much more renewable capacity would be needed to cover unpredictable swings in supply whereas nuclear provides a stable power source and thus needs less capacity. This means that producing a million metric tonnes of hydrogen would need just seven gigawatts of installed nuclear capacity compared with 22 gigawatts of onshore wind or 52 gigawatts of onshore solar.
Yet nuclear power is currently caught in a political tug-of-war between Germany and France and the fate of nuclear-produced hydrogen hangs in the balance. Nuclear has been excluded from the EU’s proposed list of renewable hydrogen power sources which is being considered by the European Parliament and Council and will form the investors’ guide to hydrogen. And there is now a major battle looming over whether nuclear can even qualify as “low-carbon hydrogen” with an EU methodology due to be agreed in 2024.
There is an urgent need for communications campaigns to outline the benefits of nuclear and the full implications of sole reliance on renewable electricity for hydrogen. As we transition to new energy, informed communications is vital to ensure that these immensely consequential decisions consider the widest array of technological options and are based on transparent, accurate data. Otherwise, green hydrogen risks becoming the cure for our energy woes that is worse than the disease.
By Louise Douglas, Senior Account Director, Energy & Industrials
The term ‘blue economy’ is not new, but it has had a new lease of life in the era of the energy transition. You’ve probably seen it mentioned in many government pledges, industry articles or corporate strategies. And it’s the leading theme at Subsea Expo this year.
But what does it really mean? More importantly, do you know what it means to your business? Questions you’ll need to know the answers to ahead of this year’s largest annual subsea exhibition and conference.
And with greenwashing scandals rising like our sea levels, sustainability is not a term that should be used loosely without careful consideration.
What’s the business potential?
In 2021 the European Commission proposed a new approach to the blue economy off the back of the pandemic, ensuring a more sustainable approach as part of the green deal. With a recent report showcasing the blue economy provides 4.5 million direct jobs and generates over 650 billion euro in turnover in Europe alone. So, there’s a lot of pressure on getting it right.
This means investing in innovative technologies such as wave and tidal energy, floating wind, waste management and using ports as crucial greener energy hubs. This opens the door to a range of companies who are already excelling at these technologies and innovations. And discussing at Subsea Expo how these businesses must work together to maximise the blue economic opportunities will be key.
But understanding how your company fits within the blue economy is the easy part. It’s getting your communications right that can prove challenging.
Why getting the marketing right is crucial
A word of warning to event attendees… “Oh no, not another buzzword,” is not what you want your audiences to think when they read your external communications. Many businesses can make the mistake of using terms or claims without any real substance or proof points behind them.
Coca Cola is a good example of this when it launched it’s ‘World Without Waste’ marketing campaign, leaving out that it produces 3 million tons of plastic packaging per year. Needless to say, it was not received well.
This can give a negative preconception of your brand, inserting uncertainty around where you stand on important industry challenges.
Simply put, trust can be easily lost.
This is where messaging comes in. Clear and concise messaging is a must to separate you from your competition and to ensure your target markets know what you stand for. And this doesn’t just mean external messaging. Internal communication is just as important to maintain a strong brand identity. It’s also essential to use this messaging in the right way, targeting the right media and platforms for your brand. Done right, it can attract the right attention from potential recruits to investors and key journalists.
To avoid falling into the buzzword trap and to create meaningful communications, a second pair of eyes and ears can be what’s needed. A specialist partner to challenge your thinking, who isn’t afraid to not be a yes man or woman.
This is where a specialist brand, marketing and communications agency can provide you with a wealth of experience.
The good, the bad and the ugly, we’ve seen it all.
If you’d like to avoid being caught up in the next greenwashing wave or simply would like some advice on communications, get in touch with a member of our energy team.
What to do after you leave school is a question that many students consider. Is university the right decision for them? Or is getting hands on experience in the form of an apprenticeship the way forward? Below are three key benefits of why an apprenticeship could be for you.
1) Hands on experience
Hands on experience in a real-world setting is important in any industry you go in to, and an apprenticeship can provide just that! It is invaluable for understanding the fundamentals of PR and developing the skills necessary to succeed within the sector. You are given the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals, learning how to craft effective press releases, pitch stories to media outlets and communicate efficiently. Similarly, an apprenticeship in digital marketing would provide you with the chance to learn about SEO, PPC, and social media advertising.
Learning happens when you’re doing. Actively performing these tasks will allow you to get an idea on the things you are confident in and enjoy but more importantly, the things you struggle with as well. Hands on experience allows you to identify the sectors in which you may not be as familiar with and quickly receive help from the professionals around you.
2) Building connections
Secondly, building connections is crucial in the corporate world. Although important in any career, it is particularly key in an industry as competitive as PR and digital marketing. Having a network in the industry will open doors for future job opportunities, as well as providing a sounding board for your ideas and a source of feedback on your work – things that may be difficult to obtain in a university setting. Building these relationships early on can give you a massive head start and a greater window for success in the future.
Most apprenticeships allow you to attend industry events, connecting you with other PR and marketing professionals as well as potential clients – this is another way to expand your network and gain valuable knowledge in the field.
3) Earn while you learn
Unlike a traditional degree, an apprenticeship allows you to earn while you learn. This helps eliminate the financial burden of a student loan, which according to the UK Parliament website, is forecasted to be around £43,400 on average, once students complete their course in 23/24. So instead of completing university at the cost of a £40,000 debt, you could be completing your apprenticeship with extra cash in the bank!
Additionally, many apprenticeship programmes also provide training and support that can help you pass any industry-specific qualifications such as the Chartered institute of Public Relations (CIPR) diploma or the hundreds of digital marketing courses online.
An apprenticeship Is an excellent choice for anyone looking to build a career in PR and digital marketing. It allows you to gain hands on experience, build a professional network and is a cost-effective way to enter the industry. With the right mindset and willingness to learn, an apprenticeship can be the perfect steppingstone to a successful career in PR and digital marketing.
Find out more about the scheme here and our application form.
Industry events can be a great opportunity to network and learn but, during the pandemic, they were significantly impacted, with many organisations opting for virtual equivalents instead – even long after the easing of restrictions. However, the B2B Marketing Expo was held in London and the bustle of energy was undeniable. Speakers from a vast range of companies shared their knowledge and insights into emerging trends for 2023 in the B2B marketing space. We attended, and below are our key learnings from the day.
A trend seen across businesses is that many are engaging with potential customers too late. Approximately 70% of the buying process is not visible to the supplier, i.e. you.
We’re all familiar with the term ‘buying group’, but how familiar are you with buying group blindness? Most B2B buying decisions are made by groups rather than individuals, and research has shown that buying group size increases as the deal size increases, as does the number of interactions required.
So, what is buying group blindness? It refers to the situation where marketers and sales teams qualify leads on an individual basis, rather than looking at a group level. For example, a single user that downloads ten pieces of content will be qualified as a ‘hot’ lead and be pursued heavily.
However, having multiple people from the same business downloading one piece of content each is more valuable than a single, highly interested individual from another company; downloads from multiple people represent interest from a larger group within one business.
The issue is that in many cases, they may be qualified individually rather than as a group. Taking a group-centric view of leads will ensure that interest from a prospective business will be assessed by the aggregate value of individual employees’ behaviour.
Brand marketing: leveraging the human memory and situational cues
Continuing on the topic of buying, it should be noted that approximately 95% of a B2B company’s target audiences are not in a state to buy at any given time. With that being said, when a potential customer is ready to buy, they typically already have a brand in mind when it comes to creating RFPs and only consider 1.7 alternative suppliers on average.
These statistics highlight the importance of building and maintaining strong brand awareness so that when the time comes, your company is at the forefront of your target buying centre’s minds. How? Leverage human memory and situational cues in the marketing strategy.
Memories are highly situational. Research into context and state-dependent memory reveals that memory recall is improved when external cues present at the time of memory formation are recreated. Therefore, linking your brand messaging to buying situations through impactful campaigns will help trigger a potential customer’s memory of your brand when they encounter a similar situation. When customers think about you is equally as important as what customers think about you.
Finally, on memory and brand awareness, recency trumps frequency when it comes to marketing activity. When memory corrodes, sales fall: a study that looked at sales compared against advertising activity revealed that all brands were impacted by memory corrosion as sales declined year-on-year after advertising was stopped; with the rate of decline greater for smaller brands. Another interesting finding was the cases where companies took a year break from advertising and then began activity again; this restarting did not reverse the trend of decline in many cases, highlighting the negative impact of losing momentum.
As tempting as it may be to take a step back from marketing when purse strings tighten, these findings evidence the importance of advertising to sales and growth, and that it can be more costly to try to regain sales after a pause in advertising as memory in your target audience has corroded, rather than to maintain them.
How to win more sales and customers from organic LinkedIn
With over 800 million users, LinkedIn is a key platform to help B2B businesses win more sales and help gain customers. To do this, following a formatted process can help to increase wins on LinkedIn and reach your company’s goals.
The first step is setting objectives, which are crucial to increase sales and build brand awareness; this will help to set you up for the journey ahead. It can be useful to work backwards when setting these objectives, thinking about what you want to achieve and what steps you are going to take to get there! In this step, working out your priorities is essential to help you move forward and achieve your goals.
Having a clear understanding of the tools you are going to use to reach these targets is the next step. Having a functional tool to enable the specific execution of a task; a valuable tool using specific content and connections; and a resourceful tool through relationships, joining groups, events, and associations.
Your personal profile is the equivalent of an online landing page. It needs to showcase your credibility and authority and is the perfect way to represent yourself in the market you are targeting. Through this, you can connect with the people who are valuable to you and who will help to leverage your business. Seek out the people who you want to engage with and do just that!
Reviewing what works and doesn’t work is the final step to make sure you reach your goals on LinkedIn. This evaluation process ensures that what you are doing is correct and allows you to make any necessary changes in order to reach your objectives more successfully.
Value drives value
An important element for every company should be marketing with purpose and following a purpose-led decision strategy by placing organisational purpose at the core of everything they do. Hearing from the advertising team at Microsoft, they put purpose at the centre of the company and see glowing results. This helps to create a shared meaning between the customer and the brand. With purpose comes trust and loyalty.
Research by Microsoft has found that having trust in a product can increase sales by a substantial amount, a drive long term success. For example, there is a potential increase in sales by 4.7x in the financial service sector, highlighting the importance of trust and loyalty. From loyalty comes growth in responsibility, value and inclusion. These are all essential to any company and should be prioritised to help increase sales and create a positive environment for both the employees and the customer.
Want support with putting these insights into action? Get in touch with us to help you elevate your B2B marketing and achieve a successful 2023.
ESG communications can seem a tangled knot of paradoxes at times. Case in point: ESG can only succeed through standardization and comparability of data, yet at the same time it must be accurate and sincere – and sincerity requires specificity.
Don’t try and keep up with the Joneses…
Credible ESG initiatives are necessarily highly specific to a company’s unique circumstances. There is no one-size-fits all way to decarbonise, for example – each company will have its own mix of scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions sources and need to cut accordingly. Social and governance contexts are equally idiosyncratic. ESG communications must reflect this specificity, too.
Therefore, it is a doomed strategy to simply copy the competition. ESG communications can appear new and fraught with pitfalls, and so it can be tempting to wait and see what the other guys are doing and simply copy and paste. You’ll never be a leader that way, you may reason, but equally you’ll never be left behind or risk poking your head above the parapet. However, the reasoning is flawed. If you cleave too closely to competitors’ ESG communications – which are specific to them – the risk is that the same messages and tactics ring hollow and inauthentic in the context of your brand.
Again: one size does not fit all, and ESG communications should be as bespoke as possible to the individual brand, while respecting common metrics and language. They should incorporate and reflect the company’s overall brand strategy and messaging, speak to the specifics of their ESG initiatives and why the way Company A designed Initiative X respects the unique situation, resources and ambitions of that company.
…but do keep an eye on them
That said, don’t swing too far the other way. No brand is big and important enough to get away with being utterly introspective and ignoring the wider world.
In the context of ESG communications, this can be critical. Rightly or wrongly, your ESG efforts will be evaluated against the competition. Investors, customers and other stakeholders must be convinced that you offer an equal or better option than the competition in terms of the ESG factors they care about.
In simple terms, this can descend to war of numbers. Company A has cut 30% of its emissions versus Company B’s 22%; Company C has a 50/50 board gender ratio while Company D has only 40/60. This is agreeable enough if you’re winning, but simple numbers can hide complex truths.
If you are in Company B or D’s shoes, you might benefit from telling a more nuanced narrative that adds context to the numbers. Perhaps Company C already had a 45/55 ratio and improvement is slow, whereas D has invested heavily to improve. Perhaps C is in a country where culture and working practices make it easier for women in the workplace versus D’s. Context is critical – which brings us back to specificity.
But you can’t introduce that narrative if you’re unaware of the framing that is already out there. Has the competition already established the framing? Or is there still white space for your brand to take the initiative?
You’ll only know if you’re looking at what the competition is doing. So, while you don’t want to try and keep up with the Joneses, you should keep an eye on them.
By Jamee Kirkpatrick, Senior Account Director, Energy and Industrials
As someone who is lives locally to where BrewDog was founded and is still producing beers, I’ve had an eye on their marketing tactics over the years. Agree with them or don’t, but BrewDog has been known to find themselves in the hot seat on more than one occasion.
Some would argue that their stunts over the years were rarely right (although, I may argue that they got people’s attention, and it helped them become a household brand – whether that’s ‘punk’ or not) but the brewing giant has come under fire again with their latest advertising blunder.
What went wrong for BrewDog?
This time, the issues for BrewDog came following a mailer sent in July 2022 titled ‘Feeling Fruity’ which was advertising its Hazy Jane Guava beer alongside a host of other fruity numbers. What was the issue? BrewDog sent the email with the subject ‘One of your five a day’.
BrewDog countered the complaints saying that they believed that recipients would understand that alcoholic beverages were not equivalent to portions of fruit or vegetables, emphasising that the subject was not intended to be a factual claim about the beers.
Understandably, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), who is the independent regulator of advertising across all media, agreed that this was misleading and has upheld the complaint stating: “The ASA acknowledged that the subject heading “One of your five a day” might be interpreted by some consumers as a humorous nod to the fruit flavoured beers featured in the body of the email. However, because the claim referred to well-known government advice on health and wellbeing, we considered that, in general, consumers would not expect advertisers to include such claims unless the advertised product was recognised as meeting the requirements of that advice. Further, the claim appeared in the email’s subject heading, which we considered positioned it as a key element of the ad’s message.” You can read the ruling here.
When advertising goes badly
This isn’t the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last, that advertising has gone wrong.
Some of the biggest household brands have been getting caught up in controversy centred around poor editorial decisions which have led customers to question the ethics of said companies as well as focus on issues such as sexism, racism and just downright bad taste in ads.
Why is getting your advertising – or messaging – right so important?
Advertising is everywhere. From tv and magazines, to social media and your online search engine, there is no avoiding it and it’s a powerful tool for businesses. Effective advertising makes people remember your name… but so does bad advertising.
If you don’t work in marketing, you might not know how many stages there are in creating the perfect ad, but let’s just say, it goes through a lot of people from concept to delivery, so when that backlash hits, you know that somewhere there are a lot of people with their head in their hands.
In some instances, you could argue that the message is subjective. Take BrewDog. They thought they were making a joke, but does that make it okay?
As we’ve seen, the ASA doesn’t think so. Yes, brands need to have room to express themselves or have personality, but even those harmless ‘jokes’ have come back to have some very serious repercussions on brands.
Small print exists on television or picture ads for a reason. Managing your messaging and hyper-analysing your social media ad copy or your email subject lines requires a level of scrutiny that some brands may not feel is necessary, but when the brand reputation is on the line, how important is that joke, really?
Getting it right is crucial. As is working with the right people – or agency – to help you challenge your ‘good ideas’. Sometimes, we all need to be tempered and that’s where a specialist communications agency comes in.
Corrie McBain and Sanjana Rao, Associate Account Executives, Technology
The Elon Era begins
After what was a rather lengthy and unpredictable few months of negotiations, Elon Musk has officially bought Twitter for a staggering $44 billion. With desires to turn the platform into a bastion of free speech, some major shake-ups have begun that will massively change the site’s functionality. Giving twitter a “digital town-square feel” might seem like an objectively appealing makeover, but there are some important considerations and unknowns following this transition that will have business leaders on the edge of their seats. With 50 out of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers already pulling their campaigns, it’s time to assess what the future of B2B social media marketing and advertising may hold.
What are the concerns?
Twitter has massively evolved since it began in 2006. Beneath all the memes, celebrity gossip and political discourse, the app itself has also become an extremely advantageous marketing and advertising platform for businesses. The ability to have an organic, direct line to your target audience has become essential for businesses’ marketing strategy. Now, Musk’s reign might threaten that with implications for businesses already causing concern.
Commercial accounts may need to pay subscription fees, a move that likely reflects Musk’s need to explore new revenue streams to help fund this colossal take over. For many larger B2B firms, this might be a small sacrifice to ensure access to an enormous pool of potential customers. However, smaller businesses who rely on organic advertising on Twitter – particularly during economically unstable periods when budgets are stretched thin – are at a huge risk if this comes to fruition. Engaging users, creating brand awareness, and sharing content is easily achieved on Twitter, that’s why 67% of all B2B businesses are on the site. Making this tool less accessible might be detrimental for thousands of organisations that can’t expend many resources on their marketing funnel approach.
Firstly, in the last two years, almost three times more users engage in customer service conversations with businesses. Twitter is the favoured platform for audiences to discuss products, queries and learn about brands. Twitter is also a great platform for businesses to assess brands and can in part inform their decisions to buy products and services.
Other platforms, particularly Mastodon, simply don’t host the same levels of audiences. Despite Mastodon gaining 500,000 new users since the takeover, it is unlikely this platform will serve organisations to the same extent. Particularly for B2B marketing and advertising, Twitter is one of the favoured platforms. How long will it take for these new platforms to garner that same reputation?
What does the future of B2B marketing look like on Twitter?
Will Elon Musk’s sweeping changes drive away B2B businesses from advertising on the app?
. Musk himself tweeted that he wanted Twitter “to be the most respected advertising platform in the world”. But this hasn’t stopped certain brands from halting spend on their paid adverts as they wait to see what Twitter under Musk looks like. B2B businesses are right to be cautious of Musk’s takeover. A businesses’ brand identity and values are carefully curated and with Musk’s insistence on greater free speech and a more relaxed approach to disciplining users that violate rules, marketing chiefs may worry that these changes may tarnish their brand. Forty-two per cent of marketers are worried with Musk’s takeover citing concerns over brand safety and integrity.
However, with the potential for paid ads to reach up to 486 million users (and growing), businesses must consider whether they can afford to lose this massive audience. Businesses, and CMOs in particular, should also take Musk’s plans with a pinch of salt. Twitter relies hugely on paid ads and B2B marketing. Twitter’s ad revenue for Q2 of 2022 was just over $1 billion, making up more than 90% of its $1.18 billion revenue for that quarter. Even with his clickbait-worthy plans for the future of Twitter, Musk knows the value that marketing brings to the platform and will ultimately seek to protect this.
Change is always daunting and never without doubts. However, as it stands, businesses shouldn’t change their B2B marketing strategies too much. Twitter is a great platform to showcase your brand, form organic relationships and grow your audience and it’s unlikely this will change.
Picture this – it’s the final few months before your A Level exams. Not only are you nervous, sleep deprived and quite frankly fed up, but your plans for the future are a complete and utter mystery. This was exactly how I felt, and so did thousands of other Year 13 students across the UK, according to a recent study looking at how exam stress affects students.
It really wasn’t until the month before my exams that things started to fall in place. And for those reading who are currently in a similar situation, just hang on. Things will eventually work out.
Swooping in, like a giant mystical unicorn, coming to save me from all my troubles and worries, was the Aspectus Academy apprenticeship scheme. My career adviser (who I would recommend building a good relationship with if you have the opportunity) sent me this interesting role. As I begun reading through, I finally began to feel hopeful. This was it. This was exactly the type of role that I had been looking for.
PR and marketing had always been of interest to me, and I had finally found a company that I could see myself fitting into and excelling in. This was a perfect example of ‘going with your gut instinct’.
Don’t be disheartened
Of course, there will be times when you may not hear back from certain companies you apply to, or in some cases, make it so far into the interview stages, only to be told you didn’t get the role and that “you’re just not the type of person we are looking for.”
Fortunately for me, during the interview process at Aspectus, they were extremely helpful, and never made me wait longer than 24 hours for a reply when I had any questions.
What to expect once you get the role (and you will)
From a young age, I had dreamt of working in the city. I would imagine myself in an expensive suit, on the train commuting to a big office, and eating lunch at fancy restaurants. Sure, I don’t actually wear an expensive suit to work every day and the only thing I have waiting for me on the train is the usual, and quite unpleasant, smell of sweaty commuters (of which I could be one myself!) But that’s not the point. The point is, I had an image in my head of what I wanted my life to look like and that helped me find what I wanted to do. I stayed positive, which leads me on to my final point.
Working at Aspectus, it’s difficult not to be positive. How can you not be when you’re surrounded by enthusiastic, happy, and hardworking people? I haven’t been at the company for long but the culture and atmosphere in the office is admirable. Here, there is no such thing as a ‘bad social media post’ or a ‘failed attempt at gaining a journalist’s attention’. These are all opportunities for us to learn and grow as individuals and develop as a team. If one opportunity didn’t go as well as you would have liked It to, it’s okay! The next might well be the perfect one. Try adopting this mindset when applying for apprenticeships too. If one doesn’t go to plan, the next one might go exactly your way. Always stay positive.
Searching, finding, and applying for an apprenticeship can be difficult. Building a good relationship with anyone who you believe can help make the process easier is worth it. If you have access to a career adviser, use them! These people are here to help you.
Finding out you haven’t made it to the next stage of an interview can be very demotivating. However, there are some positives you can take out of it. Think about the experience you have just gained. Now you know what an interview process looks like so you’re able to be much more prepared for your next one. You may have realised that it’s not as daunting as you might have initially thought and therefore next time, you’ll be more confident. If you’d like some in-depth tips on how to ace an interview, give this a read.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” – Confucius
In other words, keep trying! Continuing to actively look for apprenticeships even after being turned down is a great achievement in itself. If you have found your way to this blog, that already demonstrates your proactiveness.
The apprenticeship search: it can be tough, but you’re tougher.
By Ellie Jackson, Head of Brand, Insights and Strategy
Nothing has made me question my ability to write a brief like having small children.
Bear with me here. I’m not for one second comparing the recipients of briefs I write to my 1- and 4- year-old offspring. But where once I thought I was pretty clear in my translation of objectives, clarity of direction and indication of priorities, scenes in our house in the hour before nursery and school drop off suggest otherwise.
And writing a brief for a brand, marketing and communications agency is rather more complicated than getting small people clothed, fed, brushed, shod and out. But the real trouble, as highlighted in research last year as part of the Better Briefs project, is the divergence between those marketers that think they write good briefs (80%), and the creative agencies that receive them (10%).
Historically one of our best-performing pieces of content was a post about how to write a good brief, but since it’s more than a decade old we thought it was well-overdue for a review, and since I recognize my own limitations, I’ve enlisted various colleagues representing different Aspectus services to offer up their insights in addition to mine.
Fundamentally though, the agency needs to understand two things: where you are now, and where you want to get to. But it’s also really useful to understand what you’ve tried before, what’s worked and what hasn’t. Most of all, we appreciate a relatively open brief: tell us the problem and by all means suggest your response, but don’t lock us into rigid tactics. Let the agency use their experience and insights develop their own solution.
Bill Penn, Aspectus Chairman, added: “The brief is really important. So, make sure you have business and communications objectives that are clear and agreed, and led by someone who fully understands those objectives and knows how agencies operate.
“Be targeted. Even if your product or service could be used by several different audiences, you still need to focus to see results. Most agencies will push you to prioritise, so you need to work out your strategy internally in advance.
“You will need to ring-fence a budget. Agencies hate briefs without clear budgets and you will never get the best from their pitches if you leave the matter completely open-ended. It’s a bit like walking into a showroom and telling the sales guy you want to buy a car and letting him guess how much you want to spend. Not awfully helpful to either of you. Are you after a Ferrari or a Mini?
“Invite all agencies for an initial meeting or call. This gives you a chance to meet them and they get the opportunity to discuss the brief in more detail and ask questions.
“Work out in advance a system for assessing the presentations – and keep those presentations to a maximum of three agencies. Think in terms of focusing on the following: capabilities and experience; quality of ideas; quality of team; enthusiasm; response to questions. Be clear with the agencies on both the process and the decision factors.
“Once you have made your decision, tell the winning agency first (just in case they find a reason why they cannot or don’t want to work with you – it does happen) and then inform the others. Do make sure that you give plenty of feedback to the losing agencies. The very least they deserve for all their hard work is the opportunity to know where they went wrong or simply why the winning agency was selected.”
Ed Wilkins, Head of Design and UX, said: “Brand guidelines are a hugely valuable asset, but it’s essential to communicate your relationship with them to avoid unhelpful assumptions being made. This works both ways. There have been many a time where a client has wondered why we’ve shown creative flair when all they wanted is something very close to the examples already included, and others where the guidelines were meant to be a mere suggestion. Even being surprised at the inclusion of their own colours.”
“Never be afraid to share something you’ve seen and liked. It’s easy to worry that your agency will only replicate a shared example, but these are one of the best ways for designers to understand your thinking. They spark more in-depth initial conversations around your likes, dislikes and why you feel that way. It should also then allow your agency to give some early indications of how ideas can be reinvented to suit the project at hand before putting pen to paper. This means a much more effective use of your scoped design time.”
Anna Fishlock, co-head of Digital, added: “It’s often helpful for agencies to know key website stats, for example, top-performing pages, where your traffic tends to come from, and your bounce rate. With this information we can usually get a good understanding of the health of your website. Also, don’t forget to share your SEO keywords or let the agency know if this is an area where you might need additional support.
“If your website isn’t performing, don’t let this be a reason to not start PR and marketing altogether. With new B2B website projects often taking several months to complete, you’ll lose vital brand awareness if you stop running campaigns. Instead share this information with your agency so they can work around it and ensure you don’t lose visibility amongst your target audience.”
Shelley Bowdler-Olagbaiye, co-head of Digital, said: “We always want to know the bigger picture: what are your marketing objectives, overarching business goals and why are you looking for an agency now? Marketing is the fuel for growth, so knowing your purpose and vision means we can build a programme that projects you in the right direction.
“Writing a great agency brief is an art in itself, so talk us through your challenges and we can help you find the best digital and integrated solutions. The best client agency-relationships are collaborative – and for us, that starts from the first conversation.”