Powering through lockdown at Liz Lean PR during my first three months

Powering through lockdown at Liz Lean PR during my first three months

We all know how starting a new job often comes hand-in-hand with a wave of emotions – excitement, determination and nervousness are just a few that spring to mind. But for me, starting my new role at Liz Lean PR marked the beginning of a whole realm of changes, and not just from a career perspective. I was leaving the hustle and bustle of London to start a new life in beautiful Dorset, pursuing a dream that’s been a long time coming.

Part of that involved taking on a new challenge in an agency which sold itself to me from the moment I walked in the office door. No, it wasn’t solely the stunning views of Sandbanks which did it (granted, they’re certainly a welcome perk). I was inspired by the energy of the team, the clear commitment and determination to deliver to clients, and the opportunity to really develop my role as an Account Manager, working across a broad range of sectors. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

My first month was a busy one, as I was inducted on my accounts and started to learn the ways of working at LLPR. It was brilliant to get really hands-on from the offset, getting to know my clients and the scope of work on each account. February and March seemed to fly by!

Admittedly, when that fateful day came about where lockdown was announced on 23rd March, I was a little concerned. I’d only had a matter of weeks of getting to know my clients and team members face-to-face, and suddenly ‘working from home’ went from being a convenient thing to do now and again to a full-time fixture. Thankfully, I can happily report that working remotely has been successful. Setting myself up a mini ‘office’ in my fiancé’s parents’ caravan, I’ve found myself able to be incredibly productive and focused. Regular video calls with clients has allowed me that vital face time to help me foster those important relationships. What’s more, weekly team catch ups over Microsoft Teams help give me and my colleagues that much needed ‘human’ interaction.

During my first three months at LLPR, I’ve been very lucky to work with some really interesting clients, where there have been plenty of opportunities to be creative and develop new ways of working. I’ve always loved writing, so a key highlight for me has been writing content copy for surveying and construction consultancy Rund Partnership, helping  the business to reach its objective of driving new business opportunities. I’ve had lots of one-to-one time with various people within the business, chatting through upcoming projects, the technicalities behind their roles and also developing thought leadership pieces around wider industry topics. A particular highlight was developing an engaging thought piece around the importance of Building Safety during the coronavirus pandemic, and how cladding remediation still needs to be top priority.

With several years of retail PR experience under my belt, I was also particularly eager to work with leading clothing brand, Weird Fish. Their ethos is all around offering relaxed, easy-going and feel-good clothing to give a ‘forever weekend’ feeling – adding some creative contrast to the mix when it came to copywriting. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been involved in multiple influencer campaigns with Weird Fish, where we’ve focused on targeting micro influencers to give a more authentic feel to content and a higher engagement rate return. As well as continually pushing for product placement opportunities for the brand, I’ve also helped them drive their ‘Hero of the Moment’ feature, seeking out goodwill stories and local heroes to profile on their website blog.

In addition, I’ve been working with the Dorset County Show to help manage communications around their Show cancellation, due to COVID. As a particularly difficult time for the Dorchester Agricultural Society as a whole, I’ve worked closely with Show organisers to develop effective messaging for multiple stakeholders, and also put forward new ideas to help continue driving awareness for next year’s Show.

It’s safe to say my first few months working at Liz Lean PR have been incredibly rewarding. As we’ve all had to adapt to this new way of working, it certainly hasn’t tainted my experience. I feel very lucky to be part of such a strong team during this time, as we’ve all been supporting each other. It’ll certainly be a period to remember in the coming years, and I’m looking forward to continuing my career journey as we see ourselves through the pandemic and get back to normality.

Media Training with Liz Lean PR: limiting the risks of a costly media blunder

Media Training with Liz Lean PR: limiting the risks of a costly media blunder

As many businesses reopen following the government’s phased ease of lockdown, businesses can expect increased scrutiny of safety requirements and processes in response to the health crisis. As a result, the media are going to be reporting on various aspects of this, covering different sectors and applications.

This interest poses a great opportunity for media coverage and profile raising, which businesses should grasp with both hands.

Interviews with the media provide an opportunity for businesses to share their messages more directly with their audiences, however for some business leaders and spokespeople, the idea of being interviewed about a delicate issue, such as COVID-19 social distancing measures, could be daunting and feel like a threat to the reputation of the business.

At Liz Lean PR, we advise clients regularly on how to best present themselves in the most positive way possible when undertaking media interviews. We understand how intimidating these can be for some and always recommend that spokespeople are media trained before a major interview with a journalist. Although, the idea of an online video interview or distanced face-to-face interview may feel uncomfortable, now isn’t the time to be turning down opportunities that may support the future success of the business.

We are offering an exclusive number of slots to deliver fast-track media training sessions for business owners and spokespeople, to provide advice on how to handle questions and different interview formats as a result of the current situation.

These tailored, 90-minute sessions will be run online by our MD, Liz Willingham, who has over 30 years’ PR experience, and one of our Account Managers, Lucy Mercer who has significant consumer brand PR experience. Within the session, business leaders and spokespeople will receive tips and hints for successful interviews. Those in the session will learn useful tactics for gaining confidence in delivery, whether your interview is on or offline. There will also be the opportunity to test your skills in a friendly context to critique and perfect your technique, with a dedicated practice Q&A that’s tailored to the participant’s specific circumstances and business.

At the end of the 90 minutes, spokespeople will leave feeling ‘Zoom camera ready’, with the confidence to embrace any media opportunity that may present itself over the coming weeks and months, however sensitive the subject.

 

Within 90-minutes, participants will gain:

  • An understanding of the different types of media and how they are likely to engage with you
  • An idea of the types of interviews you may be asked to do
  • Practical and actionable advice on how to nail the interview including answering tricky questions, delivering top class online video call interviews and conveying key messages
  • Feedback on interview technique, after running through a short ‘practice’

 

These sessions are available to director, c-suite or manager level individuals or those who are spokespeople for the business at £125 + VAT per 90-minute session. To ensure all participants find the sessions valuable, we would recommend that a maximum of two people take part in one session. We will soon be launching a larger, group short-course which may be more appropriate for other roles within the business.

Please email Leila.willingham@lizleanpr.co.uk to book your session. Slots are available from Monday 1st June.

What will your business be remembered for?

What will your business be remembered for?

This article was written by Stella, one of our Account Executives. Stella joined Liz Lean PR early this year, and has a background in marketing communications.  

Corporate social responsibility, or doing the right thing?

With Pret A Manger giving away free drinks to the NHS and Burberry repurposing its factories to make PPE, it begs the question, are brands using the COVID-19 outbreak as a CSR opportunity, or are companies just doing their bit to help out?

The truth is, the pandemic has given businesses a chance to demonstrate the human aspect of their brand. As community has recently taken on a new meaning, businesses have been able to show that they are not just able to engage with communities for their own benefit; but that ‘giving back’ is now a critical part of their business strategy.

It is crucial for a brand’s survival that they operate efficiently during times of austerity, but it’s also essential that brands respond in an ethical manner to this crisis, playing their role in helping the wider community. PR Week’s Danny Rogers captures this perfectly, describing business leaders as walking a “tricky tightrope”. The business must strike the right balance between serving self-interests and helping others during this time, and communications will play an important part.

During times of crisis, audiences appreciate clear and consistent communication. If a business is planning to help the community, the gesture should be genuine, rather than an attempt to gain media attention. A consumer should be able to walk away (or more likely scroll away) with a clear picture of how the business is navigating the new environment, understanding the logic behind decisions which have been made.

It is important for a company’s reputation to share good news stories – in fact, it is a fundamental element of my day job. There is a real appetite for positive news stories amongst the media. If the offer to help their community stems from a genuine place, the company stands to gain reputationally. However, if the gesture is empty and more of an attempt to ride on the coat tails of this pandemic, consumers are savvy enough to recognise this, and the business’s reputation stands at risk.

Pret A Manger

From both a professional and consumer point of view, I appreciate the comms which Pret has been putting out. From the start, the brand led with a human-centric approach, asking themselves “how can we help?”. All subsequent decisions, complete with justification, were then clearly communicated across their social channels. In early stages, the brand made clear to consumers through a short video why it made the decision to reopen 10 stores, with reasoning rooted in their proximity to the new NHS Nightingale hospitals.

It’s admirable that Pret has been able to reopen a further 71 stores across the UK, and this decision has been well received by its audiences. Messaging was well explained and rooted in CSR reasoning. Pret’s CEO explained that by gradually reopening their shops, they can do more work with their homeless charity partners across the UK. This is a perfect example of a company putting out relevant communication which is both sensitive and business sense checked. This approach and method to communication will serve the brand well not just during, but after this crisis has finished.

Hall & Woodhouse

Despite being in an industry which has gone cold, the company took action to warm up the local communities in which it operates. Faced with a surplus of stock, teams worked hard to donate food to local charities in need whilst chefs cooked meals to fuel essential NHS workers. The company also decided to open their Community Chest funding scheme early, providing crucial support to charities. By responding quickly, the brand was able to adapt its standard practices to support local communities – despite, for the first time in the business’s nearly 250 year history, no pub doors being allowed to open.

These efforts have not gone unrecognised by both local and national media, as the brand received a high amount of media attention on its response to the COVID-19 environment. It is the clear generosity of Hall & Woodhouse’s actions which will position the brand at the heart of the community, as pubs have always been. They’ve demonstrated that despite facing huge challenges in their industry, a business can still be seen to do the right thing, which will provide a solid foundation for their reputation in the long term.

Burberry

By repurposing its factories to make PPE for the NHS, the high-end fashion brand moved to active assembly of facemasks for the nation’s key workers. Economic stresses, limited social interaction and financial uncertainty have seen a shift in consumer priorities – with the need for high ticket fashion items being low on that list. By adjusting its business practices in the short term, reflecting the public sentiment and national crisis, Burberry has positioned itself as a true British brand, here to support its country in a time of need. The business’s understated shift in production received recognition from both the Government and the media, with efforts being noted by its current and future consumer base.

During this time businesses should not forget that their consumer base are watching how brand are responding to this crisis. Burberry demonstrates how a business can adapt to its new background, whilst also servicing the wider community, doing what they can to help.

Despite spanning different sectors, locations and scale, all three examples have one thing in common: practicality. They add real value to people who need it, providing help during a time when help has never been needed more.

At a time like this, communication specialists also have a part to play. In my view, PR is not about quick wins, it’s about building a longstanding, lasting reputation which in turn builds customer affinity to a brand. It would be difficult to do this if company activities have no depth to them. Efforts do not need to be costly, and most of the time even the smallest acts can hold reputational value, as long as the actions of a business align to their normal branding values.  

Although the spotlight is not necessarily directed at brands right now, how a brand behaves throughout this pandemic will be remembered for years to come. We know reputation is essential, and recently certain brands have really shone through with their reaction and approach. Through a careful utilization of both internal and external comms, brands have an opportunity to prove to consumers they are more than just another brand – and have an essential part to play in helping their local communities.

I will leave you with one final question.

What will your business be remembered for?

Liz Lean PR secures a trio of client wins

Liz Lean PR secures a trio of client wins

Communications agency Liz Lean PR has won strategic PR and marketing briefs in the construction, sporting and leisure sectors, demonstrating the firm’s continuing growth within multiple sectors.

Rund Partnership is a specialist construction consultancy with offices in London, Eastleigh and Birmingham, working across a wide variety of sectors including arts, education, healthcare, leisure and residential. Liz Lean PR will be working on a full-service communications strategy for Rund Partnership, including PR and marketing, internal communications and social media strategy, calling on the team’s skills in the property and construction sector to help springboard the client to even greater success.

Founded in 2011, Dorset Polo Club provides sociable and competitive polo for all abilities, with two full size grounds and a brand-new arena, priding itself on its relaxed and welcoming setting. The brief includes marketing, PR and sponsorship sales for the popular Dorset Polo Festival, a one-day event offering attendees from across Dorset and beyond the opportunity to watch exhilarating polo matches and take part in a variety of enjoyable family-friendly activities.

Daish’s Holidays is a family owned and operated holiday company with nine hotels in England and Wales in some of the UKs most popular tourist destinations. Having supported the business through a crisis last year, Liz Lean PR will be continuing to bolster Daish’s marketing department by providing full PR services to boost sales in key geographic areas including Kent, Yorkshire and the Midlands.

Commenting on the agency’s recent successes, Liz Willingham, Managing Director of Liz Lean PR, said: “We’ve started 2020 on a real high with three exciting new business wins. As a non-sector specific agency, demonstrated by the latest additions to our client portfolio, the variety of clients we work with is vast and the work we deliver is always bespoke to the individual client needs. However, it is the purpose, ethos and commitment behind each brand that we share as a collective.

“It is an exciting time for the agency as teams get started on their new challenges and we’re looking forward to showcasing the breadth of our expertise and skill to this dynamic and mixed group of new client wins.”

Dorset-based communications and PR agency Liz Lean PR is now in its 22nd year of operation and since its formation has worked with clients in a variety of industry sectors on a national and regional scale, successfully supporting more than 180 firms with public relations, public affairs, strategic planning, marketing, crisis management, social media, corporate social responsibility projects and event management.

Gaby’s work experience at Liz Lean PR

Gaby’s work experience at Liz Lean PR

Now in my last year of college, I was excited to have the opportunity to do a week’s work experience with Liz Lean PR.

I came in wanting to expand my knowledge of my future career options, gain insight on what PR is and how a PR agency works.

Throughout my week at Liz Lean PR I was set tasks that were all completely different. I have developed so many skills and understood the important factors influencing day-to-day working life in PR.

Everyone at Liz Lean PR made me feel a part of the team and I was very lucky with the tasks that I was given, as these allowed me to get involved and hands on with real work. During my week’s work experience, I scheduled social media posts for clients, researched and got in contact with hotels for an event, sat in team meetings, planned a floor plan for an event, handled RSVP’s and managed a guest list – these are not even half of the tasks that I was lucky enough to undertake. It makes me very happy to know that the work that I have done is helping the team and that it will be used within the company.

The office was a great environment to work in too, with laughter, teamwork and loads of cups of teas every day! Each member of the team was kind enough to sit and have a one-to-one with me, so that I could understand their job roles in more detail. They also took the time to give me some really helpful advice on my next steps. The Liz Lean PR team was extremely welcoming and kind from the minute I stepped in the door.

I cannot express how thankful I am for my week with the company, they have really helped me with improving my confidence, my understanding of the working world and also the different career paths that I can take. I am really happy that this opportunity was available for me as now, I can see myself working in a PR agency.

Thank you to every member of the team, you have made my experience at Liz Lean PR one that I will never forget.

By Gaby Manning-Sinclair

Liz Lean PR announces expanded services and new senior hires

Liz Lean PR announces expanded services and new senior hires

Dorset-based PR agency Liz Lean PR has expanded its senior team, making three new senior appointments and formally expanding its planning and stakeholder engagement offers.

The agency has worked with clients on planning and stakeholder engagement throughout its 20-year history but is now bolstering these clients with a series of new hires.

Through their experience as journalists, editors, and political advisors, the three new hires will significantly diversify and enhance the agency’s offering and will set Liz Lean PR apart from other south coast PR agencies.

Ian Murray, former Editor of the Southampton Daily Echo, has been working with LLPR on select projects for several months and has now been appointed as a Senior Advisor with a focus on media in Dorset, Hampshire and nationwide. Ian left the Southern Daily Echo, based in Southampton, in 2017 after 19 years at the paper, during which time he was also Editor-in-Chief for a variety of Hampshire-based Newsquest titles. He is currently the Executive Director of the Society of Editors and is Vice Chair of the UK’s Defence and Security Media Advisor Committee as well as being a board member of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

Andy Martin, former Editor and News Editor of The Bournemouth Echo, has been appointed as a Senior Advisor on media and stakeholder engagement, working outside Dorset and Hampshire. After 31 years at the Echo, Andy stepped down in June, and will be working on current clients and new opportunities with Liz Lean PR. Andy is also involved in training journalists for Newsquest and the National Council for the Training of Journalists, is a lecturer at Bournemouth University, and a councillor on Highcliffe and Walkford Neighbourhood Council.

Emma Coakley has joined the agency in the newly created post of Head of Engagement. She builds on her time working with Liz Lean PR on several planning and development projects and has been appointed to expand the agency’s work in this area and on wider political stakeholder engagement. Bringing with her over 5 years of agency experience in London, she has also spent time as a Special Advisor to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and has worked on several local political and General Election campaigns. She will be working with clients to devise and execute effective strategies for both planning projects and community and reputation management.

All three will be providing advice and support to existing clients whilst also working to expand the agency across Dorset, Hampshire, and nationally.

Commenting on these hires, MD and founder Liz Willingham, said:

“With the media landscape ever changing, and as PR reshapes and evolves into new areas within our clients’ businesses, Andy, Ian and Emma bring an enviable amount of experience to the agency, allowing us to harness the change and push forward with our plans to grow.

“I am delighted that we have secured such strong talent around and am excited to see the significant value they are going to add to our client’s businesses across the country.”

Please email emma.coakley@lizleanpr.co.uk if you would like to discuss how Liz Lean PR could assist your business, or to arrange a meeting with Andy, Ian or Emma.