‘Post Truth Authenticity’ and other 2017 PR challenges…

Adrienne Robins







By Adrienne


A couple of years ago, I remember writing about the importance of transparency in the social media age. In summary, the narrative went something like this:

  • Social media gives everyone a voice
  • If you talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, you’ll be called out – publicly
  • Be prepared – recognise and prepare for your skeletons; understand your shortfalls; build up your bank of goodness; do more to engage


And then 2016 happened.


This time last year we didn’t really have a clue what was coming. Or maybe we did have a clue – but we couldn’t acknowledge it or put it into words. At least collectively.


From a B2B PR perspective, I’ve seen so many organisations that got the whole ‘transparency’ thing. Trouble is, politically we either couldn’t or wouldn’t make that leap.


With the benefit of hindsight, if politicians had listened and responded a bit more maybe we’d be in a different place right now.
Instead we’re in a world where ‘post truth’ has happened. And 80s ‘dinkys’* (remember them) have disappointingly turned into ‘jams’**. If you’re of a certain age then it is possible that you could have started out a dinky, turned nimby and ended up in a bit of a jam. Really.
Thing is, post truth blatantly stamps all over transparency. So, do we throw our hands up and forget about it and resolve to change the story to fit the situation as required?
I think not.
So, just how should we be preparing our PR and comms strategies for the year ahead? Here are five areas that you should be concentrating on.


  1. Ensure you’re interesting: just because the world around you feels a little bit odd, that’s no excuse to revert to boring messages. Publishers are crying out for content, but unless it’s thought provoking, new and maybe a little bit controversial it’ll head straight into the bin.
  2. Be authentic: authenticity is the new transparency. Live your messaging and follow it through. Of course, you can surprise people – but do it in a good way. Remember those mission statements and values – go back to them and see if you’re really living the dream.
  3. Unleash your caring side: pick up the CSR baton, but try and make it a bit more human and spontaneous. If you or your team do something good – don’t strategise the comms into the ground. Just get out there and talk about it, in a natural, warm voice.
  4. Connect and collaborate: now, more than ever, it’s apparent that people want to meet ‘real’ people and work together to effect change and new opportunities. Get out from behind your content and listen. Add to the debate. Be brave (see point 1). Shape the outcome.
  5. Look for clarity of outcomes: when it comes to PR, measurement has long been a dirty word. Fact is, for most clients it’s about impact on real business objectives. When putting in place new PR campaigns, focus on deliverables and overarching objectives, not column inches. Get KPIs in place and everyone knows the required direction of travel.


Wishing you all a Happy 2017!


* DINKY: double income no kids yet, an acronym from the have-it-all, shoulder-padded, excessive 80s


** JAM: for those that have spent the last month on the moon, Teresa May’s shorthand for those that are Just About Managing and clearly can’t afford a new pair of leather trousers (although they may be wiser to make a different fashion choice)

Exhibitions: are they worth the bother?

Exhibition survey

Adrienne Robins


By Adrienne


Are you responsible for your company or organisation’s B2B exhibitions programme? If so, you’re just the person we’re looking for – because it’s you that holds the key to creating and delivering better event experiences.


When we set up Hanicke Robins Sanderson we knew, from experience, that many B2B exhibitions and events simply didn’t deliver. Not all of them. Don’t get us wrong – some are fantastic. But many leave exhibitors underwhelmed at best.


Anecdotal evidence is great – but we’re living in a big data age. So we set about tracking down the data to prove, once and for all, whether marketing budgets should viably set aside for exhbition space. And if so, what type of exhbition works best.

Exhibition budget

Unsurprisingly that data wasn’t easy to come by. So, we’re developing our own set of data – which, in the spirit of Hanicke Robins Sanderson, we’re happy to share. To create our first dataset we’ve issued a short overview survey.


And that’s where you, my perfect person, comes in. I’d like you to take a couple of minutes (analytics suggest it’ll take you less than 3 minutes to complete) out of your busy day to complete the survey.

Exhibition survey

You can do it anonymously – or you can leave us your details. We don’t mind. But if you do self-identify then we’ll give you some of our creative events thoughts for free as a thank you.


So go on, click here to take the survey and help us all to do exhibitions and events better. It’s a public service really!


Survey closes 5pm 29 February 2016. All respondents leaving details will receive the full survey results. A snapshot of results will be published here in mid March.


If you have any questions, please contact me: adrienne.robins@harosa.com.



Exhibition thank you

How to Forge Stronger Connections and Still Have Time for a Bath

Kirsty Hanicke

By Kirsty

“Don’t talk to strangers!”

That was the advice we all received as children and many of us will find ourselves saying those words to our own offspring. No one told us when to start talking to strangers again, 21? 30? 40? We have had to figure that one out on our own. As professionals and communicators we need to not only talk to strangers to build our network but we need to talk to the right strangers to build a robust, meaningful network.

You only need a small network. 25-50 people can get you what you need. There are essentially three levels of networking that really matter: a friend of a friend of a friend. That means that the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend (4 removed) won’t do much for you.  Further, if you want to build a meaningful professional or personal network, you need a warm introduction by someone. That fourth or fifth removed “friend” won’t get you places.

Other great advice that I have obtained over the years, and wholeheartedly try to put into practice is:

  • Your network is your critical asset; your network equals your net worth
  • Just be nice
  • Communicating is about listening more than talking – have to admit to having trouble with this one!!!
  • You can disagree without being disagreeable
  • Don’t ask, don’t get
  • Sometimes great ideas come when you’re not thinking about work
  • Kick fear to the curb
  • Work with people who have intellectual curiosity and a sense of humour – I am very lucky to be able to do so
  • Learn how to say NO – you will miraculously clear your calendar for more important things – this is so liberating but has taken me forever to implement
  • Rethink your assumptions – you know the old adage….
  • Work hard, work fun and take more baths.

That’s right: take more baths. Some of the best advice is the simplest.

It’s you not me

Email newsletter tips

Adrienne Robins


By Adrienne



Email newsletters continue to work in terms of marketing ROI. In truth, some work better than others, though.


So what does a good B2B newsletter look like? Clearly, it needs to motivate the recipient to take a specific action and communicate brand personality and principles.


For many B2B marketing teams email newsletters should also be quick, painless and cost effective to put together, distribute and monitor. By contrast, many businesses find themselves bogged down in content calendars, copywriting and distribution schedules.


And therein lies a huge problem. Email newsletters, like social media, can become a time thief if you let them. So, here are my top five tips to keep your email newsletter schedule lean and focused.


  1. Clean and segment your data.People change their emails regularly. Get someone to look at the hard and soft bounces and review the list. You’re wasting your time and money if your newsletter doesn’t even get to the right inbox.
  2. Less is more. People don’t open newsletters expecting to read lots of copy. They want to be directed to an opportunity or something of interest. Give them a snippet and a link and then tell them to use it.
  3. Make it mobile. If you use Mailchimp or similar, your e-news will be optimized for mobile. If you’re coding your own or outsourcing the process, take a moment to check it makes the mobile grade. Many people open newsletters away from their desks while multi-tasking; make it easy for them.
  4. Be relevant. Your e-newsletters should be about your customer not you. Most are interested in content that makes their life or prospects easier/better. What’s the best way to do this? Answer your clients’ questions and problems. It really is about them, not you.
  5. When do you open newsletters and when are you most likely to take action? When you’ve got a bit of downtime? The morning commute or over a lunch break is good for business propositions as people are less likely to be head down in research or in back-to-back meetings at these times and yet will still be in the work zone.

There’s one important area I haven’t covered and that’s subject lines. That’s for another day…

RIP Black Friday

RIP Black Friday

Adrienne yellow


By Adrienne


Maybe it was the wind and rain that kept UK shoppers at home on Black Friday. But I suspect it had more to do with Black Friday over-run.


With deals available in store and online from the preceding Monday and widely available for a full seven days (some being available even longer), shoppers could be forgiven for their lack of urgency, excitement or belief in the whole bargain fandango.


If you read my pre-Black Friday blog, you’ll know that I wasn’t very enthused with the concept, and it seems that I wasn’t alone. As it happens, I ventured into Oxford city centre on Friday. Parking space – tick. A lovely lunch – tick. Crowded shops – not a bit of it.


RIP Black Friday

Official figures from retail analyst Springboard (and featured here in The Guardian) said that footfall across the UK had fallen 9.6% on the same weekend last year. Numbers at retail parks, however, were up, possibly reflecting an increase in online sales and the increasing preference for click and collect.


In the main, reports to date are recording more online activity with the high street floundering. It is, they say, a change in shopping behaviours.


I’m inclined to think, however, that while online shopping and weather are in part responsible, it was a serious misjudgement to extend Black Friday offers beyond the 24 hour period.


Marketing and events need to make an impact. They shouldn’t run the risk of becoming background noise.


The clue is in the name. Special offers need to be …. Special. Otherwise the event should be re-badged ‘Black November And Early December’.

Black Friday: marketing magic or mayhem?

Christmas Shopping York

Adrienne yellowBy Adrienne


It’s 7.30am and I’m wondering what this year’s Black Friday phenomenon will bring? Doubtless there will be more shoppers, more queues and more spend. But is it enjoyable? Or memorable – for the right reasons? And does it really deliver value add for retailers and their supply chain?


Let’s unpick this and consider it from a variety of audience perspectives.

  1. The shopper

It’s clear that lots of shoppers, whether online or on foot, love the Black Friday concept. Who doesn’t love a bargain? Actually, the answer is likely to be more people than you think.


Because it depends whether that bargain is something you want – or is just something you’ve chanced upon. In my experience, buying something that catches your eye in a sale is likely to be a mistake. It’s going to stay in the cupboard, unused and unloved. But maybe I’m not a good sale shopper.


And I’m not the only one. There’s a bit of a Black Friday backlash going on, both here and in the USA, with some stores promoting a more considered shopping approach. The Booksellers Association is taking a little bit of the fight to Amazon with the launch of Civilised Saturday, where independent bookshops offer simple discounts, to be enjoyed in the calming surroundings of a book-lined, hushed haven.


I know where I’d rather be. And quite frankly, left to my own devices (and without the scrum) I’m likely to spend more. Much more. Because, as my better half has lamented for more years that I care to share, I am indeed a retail marketing person’s dream.

My Pavlovian response to end of isle displays or emailed discounts is nothing short of perfection.

My shopping ability is, frankly, gold medal standard. It’s just the mess and mayhem of sales that I can’t do. I’m surely not alone in that.

  1. The retailer

It’s estimated that shoppers will spend £1.07bn today, 32 percent up on last year. If I was a retailer there’s a good chance I’d be seduced by this potential. But hold on a minute, there’s another side to this story.


Last year’s Black Friday left Asda, one of the first in the UK to adopt BF, with a bad taste. Over excited customers, whipped into a consumer frenzy, combined with inadequate management and processes led to news bulletins showing customers trampling over each other to grab (and I mean grab) a cheap TV. Not a British queue in sight. Shocking, dangerous, disappointing for many and far from perfect publicity.


To add to the insult, shoppers either left empty handed and upset or grabbed their bargain and left – which really wasn’t the point. Asda will be one of the few to shun Black Friday this year.


By contrast, in 2014 White Stuff, that quintessentially British brand, steered clear of Black Friday, instead opting for the more sedate approach of mailing, vouchers and online offers in the run up to Christmas. Did it miss out? Did it heck.


It announced strong Christmas trading results, with sales up 17.9 percent over the key Christmas trading period, an increase of 6.5 percent compared to the same period in 2013. One of the reasons for this, it said, was its full price trading stance and extra gift card promotion during Black Friday.

  1. The supply chain

The impact of Black Friday on the retail supply chain is certainly worth a mention – and here I think it’s got to be positive. Yesterday I was hosting a media visit to a Tesco distribution centre (very impressive), getting a behind the scenes look at their recycling operation.


They were ready for Black Friday and have calibrated it into their calendar now, so for them it’s busy business as usual. The supply chain plans for events like these, and having them in the calendar makes them all the more manageable and profitable. It’s a win here.

  1. The media

Regardless of other audiences, for the media Black Friday provides a fact-filled picture bonanza. It doesn’t matter whether the figures are good or bad or the shoppers are naughty or nice – they’ve been publishing stories about queues on Boxing Day for as long as I can remember and I can’t see them stopping any time soon.


From a marketing perspective, Black Friday creates opportunities for engagement, headlines and big bucks. But the jury’s out as to whether it has simply redirected Boxing Day sale spend and if it delivers on the critical added value elements of customer loyalty, trust, and additional sales. The figures from 2015 will make interesting reading.


I’m hoping that a more targeted, customer-centric marketing approach will win out.

I’m dreaming of a Hollywood Christmas – already!

Christmas business planning

Kirsty HanickeBy Kirsty

So here we are nearing the end of November – a time most notable for the specific phenomenon: feeling “Christmassy”.

At this juncture the notion of Christmas is exciting, hopeful and expectant.

From any age I have always dreamt of what I call my “Hollywood” Christmas. Winter’s frosty delights captivating me, all dressed, elf like, in garlands of red and green, singing carols while snow is falling and being nestled by the fire nibbling on Christmas delights and mulled wine.

All this talk of performing makes me want to dust off my tap shoes, stuff a mince pie in my mouth and shuffle off to 42nd Street or the set of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or such like.

Just now, putting on my duffle coat and stepping into the cold air, which still comes as a surprise, is cosy and charming. I almost envisage crystals forming on snow clad trees – yes I’m still dreaming. Santa is on his way, and as I’ve only been a tiny bit naughty and a whole lot nice, wonderful delights will be sitting under my, not yet bought or decorated, tree very soon.

I am currently dreaming about hams, lobsters, chutneys and lots of cheese. Oh go on then some champagne and cocktails won’t go amiss. Though in a few weeks I think that I’ll be praying for 1st January to start my ongoing New Year’s resolution of losing a stone. Oh, must correct myself and say 4th January as it’s rude to start a diet mid-week….

Hyde Park winter wonderland

Talking of New Year’s resolutions….every year starts with regular 10k runs around some London park, mentally patting myself on the back for doing ‘so much exercise’. Starting another one of my health kicks and boring myself senseless  with talk of how this is the latest best thing. I get super organised and fill my diary with plans and activities that I’ve yet to accomplish.

Needless to say, in my mind I’m still in January 2015, which would account for the fact that most of my resolutions continue to be just that – resolutions. The only thing that I ever follow through on is business planning and delivery.

If you haven’t yet got your business and marketing plan in place for 2016 then now is the time to get planning. If you have a plan in place, how much of it includes doing something a bit different? Are you looking for ways to connect with your existing customer base, deploy new tactics to bring on board new clients? Then why don’t you drop us a line as you can see we do things differently.

But for now I’m off to see what’s occurring in my winter wonderland! Ta ta.