2020: A Year in Review

2020: A Year in Review

Well, what a year this has been.

It goes without saying that the challenges faced universally this year have been bizarre. If we’d be told this time last year that we’d be greeting friends and family from a 2 metre distance, stock piling loo roll and socialising through “our little squares” in 2020, we’d have laughed in disbelief.

A sudden change to the way we and our clients operate was incredibly daunting, but that fear wasn’t unique to Liz Lean PR. Upon reflection, it was the openness, transparency and measured response from our clients and colleagues that has enabled the agency to remain as steady and strong as we could have hoped for this year and for that, we are all incredibly grateful.

The continual reporting of deaths and restrictions throughout 2020 has taken its toll on our mental health and on morale. While the outlook for 2021 is still a little unclear, there’s an air of hope and the end seems to be in sight. So, instead of reflecting upon the turbulence we’ve all lived through, we wanted to take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge the great things worth noting from 2020.

Congratulations to Belinda, our recently Chartered Account Director

We’re not entirely sure how she juggled it all, but among the craziness of this year, Belinda Rastall our Account Director achieved Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status. Chartered status represents the highest standard of professional excellence and integrity. As well as reflecting Belinda’s breadth of experience and achievements, this achievement is a marker of her dedication to keeping pace in a fast-moving profession, remaining up to date on her knowledge and skills through the CPD programme and a rigorous full-day assessment.

Three new recruits for LLPR

We have also welcomed three new members to the LLPR team this year, including onboarding one remotely in the middle of ‘lockdown 1’. Lucy Mercer joined as Account Manager in early March at a very similar time to Stella Mills, who joined the team as Account Executive. In July, we remotely welcomed Brandon Danao, Account Executive, doing the usual meet and greets from our cosy WFH desks. Despite having had very little face to face time together, all three of our newest team members have gelled into our culture and have succeeded within their roles and built great rapport with their clients.

Leila was promoted to Business and Account Manager

Having shown dedication to the business and its continued success, particularly in the face of challenge, and demonstrated key skills to progress within the business, Leila Willingham was promoted from Development Executive to Business & Account Manager in November this year. In her new role, Leila is responsible for managing a variety of client accounts across a variety of sectors including hospitality, leisure, eCommerce, tech and retail.

Under the business management element of the role, she supports the agency leadership team on business matters such as the vision for LLPR, new business, culture and forward planning. With a deep-rooted and personal understanding of the agency and its values, Leila is well placed to support across different aspects of the business.

A sunny day spent visioning

We did manage to squeeze in a full day of face-to face time though and we couldn’t have timed it more perfectly. It was the first day since early March that our entire team had congregated in one place. We met at Sculpture by the Lakes in the heart of the Dorset countryside on that blissful, warm week in mid-September.

There was no better setting for the day of contemplation, honesty and forward thinking. We spent the day reflecting on what we have learnt individually and as a business through the pandemic, discussing how we can use the opportunities to grow and improve.

The day comprised discussion and the sharing of thoughts and ideas on where we grow from here. It was a well-needed moment, particularly ahead of what has been a challenging winter, to instil faith and confidence that Liz Lean PR is secure in its direction and is in a position to be excited for the future, not fear it.

A successful adaptation to remote working

Having embraced remote working so well internally and benefitted from better connectivity with clients, the opportunity arose to challenge our thinking on our working practises. As a result of weighing up all the pros, cons and evaluating the nuances that come with working from home, we successfully launched our new LLPR 1-2-3 model earlier in the year. This model is based on the principles of remaining as one collaborative and fair place to work, with two office days for all team members and three days of flexibility.

While COVID-19 restrictions have prevented us from living by this model in full over the last few months, we are confident that this is the way forward for us. LLPR 1-2-3 brings immense benefits to our team, clients and agency culture, while still ensuring we deliver the highest level of quality service we pride ourselves on.

You can read more on the LLPR 1-2-3 model here.

New projects, new connections and new prospects

We have been very fortunate this year to have been able to support some fantastic brands on their PR and communications for the first time.

To name a few, we worked closely with Passenger to launch their latest product, myTrip – a mobile ticketing and tracking app which offers live information on bus passenger levels, improving customer confidence in the ability to social distance. Our activity reached over 1 million potential users and operators and assisted in the sale of tickets through the app.

It has also been a pleasure to work with Peter and the team at the Pear at Parley, Simon, Sue and team at Ouch TT and everyone at Medworx.

We have really enjoyed getting to know the team at BV Dairy and supporting on the announcement of some very exciting news and it was a pleasure to work with Bradley Williams from Unique Group, too.

Celebrating client successes

A key thing which has made this year so bearable for the LLPR team is being able to play a small part in celebrating some huge successes with our clients. In amongst a year of uncertainty and confusion, we’ve felt immense pride to represent such incredible, resilient brands.

It has been a pleasure to welcome OnBuy back to the LLPR client portfolio, especially during a year of such epic success. With eCommerce booming off the back of the pandemic this year, OnBuy has literally rocketed in terms of growth. It now employs over 60 members of staff and has recently announced 605 per cent year to date growth. You may have spotted OnBuy on the TV this winter, after it launched its first national TV advertising campaign across ITV channels. We’re super excited to see OnBuy take on the world (quite literally) next year.

We are so incredibly proud to work with Hall & Woodhouse which has continued to support its communities in such a huge way this year. The Dorset-based family brewer truly is a beacon of doing the right thing and has demonstrated its values ten-fold during such a challenging year. From cancelling Business Partner rent, to offering emergency funding for charities through its Community Chest initiative, to raising money by breaking pub quiz world records, the entire team at Hall & Woodhouse has gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic. We were also excited to support in the opening of The Holly Blue in Basingstoke and in the quick launch of the “Hall & Woodhaus Alpine Bars”, which opened for the first time this winter to offer guests a safe and festive outdoor experience.

Paultons Park celebrated a huge award win in the summer and was named one of the world’s top ten amusement parks in  the Tripadvisor 2020 Travellers Choice awards. The family theme park also retained its title of the UK’s number one amusement park for the fifth year running. Following that big achievement this year, the LLPR team is very excited to finally see the park’s newest attraction, Tornado Springs, open in March 2021.

Daish’s Holidays is celebrating three national awards and the successful acquisition of Robinsons Holidays, in what has been a challenging and turbulent year for the travel and tourism industry. The acquisition of Robinsons Holidays is also in addition the acquisition of the Esplandade Hotel in Scarborough earlier this year.

On the trends of acquisitions, Haskins Garden Centres acquired its fifth site in Farnham at the start of the year and welcomed Forest Lodge Garden Centre and Birdworld to its portfolio. At a similar time, the family-owned business opened the doors to its brand new Snowhill centre near Crawley.

Talbot Village Trust launched its £1 million COVID Support Fund in April. The LLPR team secured front page coverage on the Bournemouth Echo and support from local MPs and the Dorset High Sheriff.

Bournemouth & Poole College received a record number of adults enrolling onto its free adult online courses during the first lockdown. More than 500 learners registered to develop a new skill and gain a qualification between March and June 2020, on one or more of The College’s 24 free online courses. This is a 44% rise in learners compared to the same period last year.

And finally (we could go on all day talking about how great our clients are, but we have a word count to watch!), we’re super excited to have been a part of the Kingland project in Poole! Kingland is a new shopping district set to rejuvenate the town centre and to reinvent Poole’s retail offering. Legal & General has committed to provide 10 retail units to start-up and independent businesses with no rent or business rates to be paid for two years. This is to kick-start an unparalleled shopping experience which brings together the cream of Dorset’s most innovative young retail entrepreneurs in one exciting environment in the town centre.

End of the Dorset Chamber Presidency era for Liz

In February 2021, Liz’s two-year Dorset Chamber presidency will conclude.

Recently, in collaboration with Dorset Chamber and other local stakeholder, Liz has launched a wellbeing initiative for the 3am club – the business leaders who are awake at all hours of the night feeling the responsibility and weight of their roles. The platform is for Dorset Chamber members to champion their supportive and emotionally intelligent workplaces while acknowledging the stresses and strains that comes with leading a business, giving them the opportunity to ask for help when needed without judgement.

In September, Liz celebrated her first year as a British Chamber of Commerce Board Member and is looking forward to being able to dedicate more time to this national role as her presidency wraps up in the spring.

You can read more from Liz on the conclusion of her presidency in the latest Dorset Business Focus Magazine.  

We are looking forward to what we hope will be an exciting and prosperous 2021. Even in the most turbulent times, the company of our trusted and compassionate colleagues never fails to be inspiring and nurturing for all. We are incredibly proud, as a team, of how we have performed this year and recognise that without the team resolve and spirit, this year would have been a lot tougher.

As a team, we’re committed to our clients, colleagues and self-progression. As a business, we’re dedicated to remaining relevant in a fast-moving industry, continuing to deliver high-class service to client that we pride ourselves on, working hard to protect and grow their reputations on a day-to-day basis. We take pride in that this service and camaraderie hasn’t faltered, even in one of the toughest years in LLPR history.

We’re ending this year happy with how LLPR has weathered the pandemic and pleased to be looking ahead and excited for what is around the corner.

See you (maybe even face to face for a change!) in 2021!

LLPR wins national app launch brief

LLPR wins national app launch brief

Liz Lean PR (LLPR) has won the PR brief for a new public transport app, myTrip by Passenger, set to launch nationally in September. 

LLPR was approached to pitch for media relations for the app’s launch period after being recommended to the client by other agency partners.  

Liz Willingham, managing director of Liz Lean PR said: “We’re excited to be supporting Passenger in their latest app launch. The myTrip app will truly add value to public transport users in a post-COVID environment and so we’re proud to be supporting the launch and growth of a business we truly believe in. 

“We’ll be taking a two-pronged approach to the launch campaign, targeting businesses and end users through different channels, including regional and business media outlets in counties across the UK.” 

myTrip will make using public buses a smooth and simple process, allowing passengers to feel in control of their journey. It is targeted at small bus operators and will allow them to offer a more confident and secure passenger experience.  

Bethan Hopkins, marketing manager at Passenger said: “We accelerated the development of this app as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. We quickly realised that the platform we were beginning to develop could be pivotal in getting bus services back up and running and encouraging passengers back on board. 

“We were keen to work with agency partners that could quickly become an extension of our team, working closely with us to bring myTrip to market under a tight deadline. Liz Lean PR not only presented a professional yet nimble approach for the launch campaign which met our requirements but also seemed to naturally understand our brand and ethos, inheriting it as their own. We’re looking forward to working with the team!” 

For more information on the LLPR approach to brand launch strategy and to find out how we can help you accelerate the success of your brand, contact us on mail@lizleanpr.co.uk or call 01202 701828.

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.