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.
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?
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.
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
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 email@example.com if you would like to discuss how Liz Lean PR could assist your business, or to arrange a meeting with Andy, Ian or Emma.