Are you a fresh grad looking for a PR gig? An agency is the place to be

Can we take a moment to acknowledge just how pressuring it is for a prospective tertiary student to decide on a major that might define their professional career forever? As a tourism student-turned PR practitioner, the transition into the world of public relations comes with a steep learning curve. But it pays off massively if you have an eye for current affairs and an excellent command of one or more languages.

 After a couple of internships later, I realised a whole world lay beyond the familiarity of working for a brand. There was a mystery to these elusive agencies which hardly basked in the spotlight themselves, yet worked laboriously to ensure that their clients shone the brightest.

As a humorous nod to the hit comic series which our agency is affectionately named after, we think that the dynamic between agencies and in-house brands mirrors that of the one shared between mutants and humans in the X-Men universe. Being in an agency is like being a part of the X-Men, there are always more experienced practitioners that you can learn from and when the going gets tough, it truly helps to know that your team understands exactly what you’re going through.

With the exception of crisis prone industries, in-house PR and comms teams tend to be very lean. A small, tight-knit team comprising of a few experienced individuals are usually  responsible for overseeing and managing entire marketing campaigns. Does this sound appealing to you? While you will enjoy the autonomy of being able to call the shots, you might feel weighed down by the sheer size of the responsibilities which lie solely on your shoulders. 

So, how do you ascertain which working environment would be most conducive to your professional and personal growth? If you’re a fresh graduate exploring the possibility of a career in PR and communications, here are some reasons why we think agencies are the best place to work in – especially if you’re still on the fence.

Developing expertise across different verticals

As agencies evolve to stay ahead of the curve, many now offer a wider range of complementary services. From PR and content marketing to digital and social media management, agencies are usually filled with folks who bring diverse skill sets to the table. Depending on the client’s business objectives, people from different teams come together to get the job done. 

For example, Mutant’s portfolio of clients spans across the consumer, lifestyle, technology and corporate verticals. Having the chance to explore a myriad of sectors and industries is ideal for those who are undecided about the industry they eventually want to carve out a career in. Focus first on mastering the fundamentals of the trade, before jumping into a specific field. 

Learning from a team of experienced practitioners

With a shrinking media pool and mercurial audience habits, it takes more than just a seasoned practitioner to be a good mentor. From the undeniable force that is influencer marketing to the rising adoption of messaging apps, good mentorship comes from the ability to guide, while also adapting quickly to the changing times.

In an agency environment, the matrix-style organisational structure which requires you to sit across multiple practices will expose you to a plethora of unique perspectives and ideas. The great thing about working in an agency is that no two days will be the same, due to the nature of the client work involved. 

Character development

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that extensive relationship-building, be it with the media, clients or other stakeholders is a part and parcel of agency life. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a social butterfly to flourish in a client-facing role – as long as you have the ability to empathise with people and forge sincere, genuine relationships, you will succeed. 

While having to juggle the expectations of multiple parties might seem a tad challenging at the start, you will find yourself easing into it as you spend more time in your role. Sometimes, you will feel like the cards are stacked against you. However, the pain is short-lived, and you will find yourself emerging relatively unscathed, having grown more confident and eloquent. 

We could always spend time wondering if an agency function or in-house PR and comms role would suit us better, but the truth is we’ll never know for sure without experiencing a job firsthand. So if you’re still looking for something to nudge you into taking that leap of faith – take a deep breath, get your résumé in order, and apply away!

Well, what are you waiting for? If you’re on the hunt for a PR gig, you ought to write in to us at : hello@mutant.com.sg

Copy That: How to Protect Your Agency from Ideas Theft

So, you were invited to pitch for some business. You spent hours – weeks, or months – coming up with a creative direction, a strategy, and an execution plan that you then shared with the potential client in a formal environment. Your pitch was well-received. You nailed it. You leave the meeting, go and have a drink and hope all your hard work pays off.

And it does! Only, not for you. Instead, you discover, the client loved your ideas – but not your (reasonable and justifiable) retainer. So they took your plans and your creative concept and passed it along to a smaller, cheaper agency to execute your vision under the guise of “going in a different direction” or some other excuse. But you soon see your vision – your exact vision– come to life, and you just about burst a blood vessel over the unethical practices of some businesses. How dare they be so bold as to steal your creativity while another agency reaps all the glory? Maybe they even win awards for it. You bitch and moan with your team, but you grit your teeth when it comes to actually doing anything about it. What can you do, really? What’s done is done, right?

Yes, idea theft happens – we all know this. In fact, almost half of all PR agencies have experienced it, according to a new report by PRCA.

We’ve experienced variations of this at Mutant over the years. Some have been a shock, while others have given off a bad smell from the outset. We’ve even had a potential client demand several time consuming rounds of comprehensive proposals, only to take it all in-house while simultaneously trying to poach our staff to run the show.  Thankfully, we’ve got a loyal team and a strong culture, and this was flagged by our people pretty quickly.

To be fair to clients, some crossovers may have been unintentional. Creative PR strategies are often closely tied to the clients’ business goals – and several agencies may have pitched ideas that are similar. But while I try to believe all clients have the best intentions, sometimes things are just way too coincidental.

So, instead of sitting there clenching your fists, I believe we all need to do more to combat these poor practices and hold clients accountable for their lack of ethics and blatant theft. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Call them out

This is probably less popular solution here in Asia where saving face is a big deal, and confrontation can be difficult. But if there are no consequences for these actions, then the practice will never stop and the industry won’t change. Keep things civil, but know you’re well within your rights to at least ask what the hell happened and why they are running with your exact idea with another agency. At the very least, you might get an apology and stop them from doing it again – at most, you might end up winning additional work with the client in the future (if you still want to work with them).

Protect yourself

So many clients ask the agency to sign an NDA ahead of sharing business information with you, so why can’t we do the same? Unfortunately, we have seen some unethical pitch demands and briefs that specify how all ideas submitted at the proposal stage will remain the property of the client, with no legal recourse given to agencies.

But our creative ideas are intellectual property. We know our value and that our top quality services cost money. Our ideas and approaches to briefs are not magicked out of thin air, and it’s fair to expect the parties you are sharing them with to acknowledge this if they want to hear them. We all need to stop underselling ourselves and placing a higher value on the great results we know we will achieve.

Qualify, qualify, qualify

Receiving a clear, concise brief with an indication of how agencies will be evaluated as well as a shortlist of other players we are up against is a breath of fresh air. Agencies give as much as we get – and this helps us to focus on showcasing our approach and share an idea alongside several case studies with proven results. If required, agencies are always happy to work closely with clients to help shape their briefs to truly nail their business objectives.

What doesn’t pass the sniff test is a topline brief with no clear indications of budget, timelines or evaluation metrics.

Pay for pitches

Sounds like a dream, but it makes sense when a client needs to evaluate actual work by an agency before a longer term commitment. We have experienced this firsthand when a client handed us a clear content brief and compensated us for the articles we wrote. Two weeks later, we realised it was a test they conducted amongst two agencies – and we were handed over the other half of the scope as they were satisfied with the results. It was a smart move by a client who’s still with us four years later.

While getting paid for pitches will never be commonplace, it does help a client who need a stronger justification for a content or integrated marketing retainer investment. Plus, it’s just good manners, honestly.

Industry regulators

The PRCA have created the Ideas Bank as an option for agencies to store their creative ideas, intended to serve as an independent body that can help mediate suspected IP infringement. This is a great start as transparency is key – and we need to work together as an industry to move ahead.

The bottom line is: if something smells fishy, it’s probably gone bad. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information or walk away. As agencies, we are allowed to make money, too – so reserve your time and best ideas for fair clients who are looking for partners, not vendors.

Need a partner who can formulate compelling, original pitches? Drop us a text at hello@mutant.com.sg

Expectations and Realities of working in a PR agency (from an intern’s POV)

It was daunting, entering an industry that I had next to zero knowledge about. I was a sociology graduate, you see, fresh out of university and looking to explore opportunities. A friend recommended Mutant ‘I’ll try,’ I told her. Three weeks later, I found myself on my first day of work at the communications agency, exchanging pleasantries with my new co-workers. I had so many questions. How will I fare? What will it be like? Most of all, will I enjoy my time there? 

As my internship at Mutant draws to a close, I thought I’ll break down my initial expectations and compare them to what I actually experienced. Hopefully, it’ll reassure and help encourage some of you to take a step outside of your comfort zone. 

Expectation: My co-workers will be too busy to guide me or provide feedback. 

Reality: Just because I’m an intern, doesn’t mean I’m not important to the team or my ideas are not valued I learned PR thrives on creativity and that fresh perspectives are always welcomed. With every task I completed, I was given feedback and constructive criticism – this allowed me to better understand my weaknesses and how to transform them into strengths. As the PR industry is extremely detail-oriented, it was great to have a group of individuals willing to share recommendations and give pointers, not only with me, but with one another, too. 

Working in a PR agency is akin to working on one huge project, everyone is extremely collaborative and communicative to get deliverables out the door. 

Expectation: I’ll have to work long hours and will have little to no work-life balance. 

Reality: While I did stay late occasionally, I was never burning the midnight oil – ‘late’ meant staying about an hour later than usual. I could always finish checking my to-do list for the day as we had a system of collaboration anyone could sound off if they felt that they needed help in a particular task or meeting a deadline.

At Mutant, there’s an emphasis on work-life balance; we work hard, but play harder. For the past two months I’ve been here, we’ve had a BBQ night, a games night, countless of doughnut and panipuri parties and even a mahjong night! I still remember during one of my first days with Mutant, Matt, our director, shoo-ed me off at 6pm and told me to and I quote “go have a life!”

Expectation: I’ll spend my days doing the same menial work.

Reality: Initially, I did spend my time on simpler tasks like tracking media coverage and creating media lists. But as I became more comfortable with how Mutant works, I was slowly introduced to crafting reports and social content, researching influencers and pitching to local media. In the midst of all that, I learnt the PR industry is constantly changing – it became evident when no two work days were the same. Clients often have differing expectations and I had to be ready to embrace change and willing to try new projects that I had no prior experience in doing. 

Expectation: The learning curve will be steep. 

Reality: I mean, duh. It was and still is, there’s still so much more that I look forward to learning. Initially, it took me awhile to adjust to the line of thinking required for PR work you have to be extremely meticulous and focus on minute details in order to be an effective communicator. What took someone an hour to do often took two hours of my time, but practice makes perfect, right?.  I’ll get there – slowly, but surely. 

I’m so incredibly glad I accepted my friend’s suggestion to apply to Mutant and grateful they extended me the opportunity to intern. I’ve never been surrounded by a more hardworking and fun-loving group of individuals (including the resident office dog, Muffin). I’ve gained so much with Mutant, from experience and skills to knowledge about popular games in New Zealand (shout-out to my table buddy, Evaan, who constantly engages me in discussions about our cultures). Mutant, I’m glad you didn’t meet my expectations! 

Don’t we sound like a dream to work for? Join the gang at hello@mutant.com.sg

Why You Can’t Camouflage a Rotten Company Culture

Infinite snacks, sleep pods and an unrestricted flow of bottled wine on Friday afternoons do not a company culture make.

As nice as it is to boast to your friends about how you have unlimited leave, a never-ending supply of saccharine treats, and virtually no dress code (rather, one that is liberal for the most part), none of these perks really answer the question,. “So, what’s your company culture like?”

There is a general practice of describing company culture in terms of the perks and benefits available. After all, it is the existence (or absence) of these comforts which help people form an impression of what a workplace might be like to work in. And stereotypes help: a workplace where people can absentmindedly munch on snacks while downing carbonated drinks in a hoodie and sweatpants screams liberal and laidback, with virtually no hierarchy. Having to wear formals to work, or any other prescribed outfit, coupled with minimal perks may signal a rigid and stuffy work environment, where micromanagement is the norm.

However, company culture – an integral part of a company’s core identity – is a complex thing to understand and explain. Company culture is an intangible concept, which permeates across all facets of a company – from the way the bosses guide and mentor their subordinates on a daily basis, to the types of corporate partnerships secured.

All the perks and bonuses in the world will not be an adequate camouflage for a company culture that is rotten to its core. A company that doesn’t possess a culture which influences all of its myriad aspects would, simply, collapse. Without a firmly cemented culture, it would not be possible for a company to achieve whatever higher goals it wishes to pursue.

Company culture and organisational behaviour

Claiming that a company has an “open and supportive” company culture means little unless it is put into action. In order to build a concrete culture, firms should draw up actionable, measurable steps in order to achieve it. Culture is an integral part of a corporation’s personality – remove it and you’d be left with a husk of a structure, at best.

Rather than racking their brains trying to put together catchy phrases and quotable slogans, higher executives should set an example for everyone else to follow, and conduct themselves in a way which would act as a gold standard for everyone else to follow. Take Netflix for instance: while their company culture(which is available in the public domain for all to read) has drawn mixed reviews from onlookers, it is unmistakably set in stone, practiced by employees at all levels, and reinforced by senior management.

Company culture and employee satisfaction

A robust company culture sets the blueprints for day-to-day functioning in an office. A healthy company culture will nurture and celebrate all of its talents, provide them with ample opportunities to grow and prove their worth, and harbour a healthy and inclusive working environment for one and to thrive. There is no room for toxic office-related politics and unhealthy workplace rivalries which may end catastrophically for everyone involved.

Being a part of a team would actually mean something, as opposed to company cultures where people treat each other as mere desk-mates. As a result, employees can realise their full potential and be more productive. It creates satisfied and engaged employees who are happy to sing praises about the highly supportive company they have the privilege of working for.

However, cease to take care of the people who work for you, and you will find yourself looking at high levels of burnout, employee turnover and attrition rates, and most crucially, employee dissatisfaction and resentment.

Company culture and external business nature

Piggybacking off of the previous point – if your company’s working “culture” generates more drama than seven seasons of a badly-written soap, you can rest assured they’ll be telling everyone about the thoroughly riveting (code for “harrowing”) time they experienced. And sometimes, disgruntled people don’t just “spill the tea” to their inner circle – if they suffered enough, they will make sure that everyone, from old internship mentors to university professors get to know. So don’t be surprised when people might not want to do business with your company.

Who you choose to do business with, which products you decide to endorse, and which clients you represent – are all an extension of your company culture. Ideally, the businesses you choose to associate your company with should share some of your own corporate culture and values, and represent a stepping stone towards achieving your overall organisational goals. To this end, Mutant follows its own advice – and we have turned down potential clients due to moral misalignments and dodgy tactics.

Work with entities who can reinforce the narrative you choose to create. If you boast of a diverse and inclusive company culture, yet consistently work with people or organisations who are either racist, or support racist ideals, you will just come off as inconsistent or hypocritical.

Mutant’s (awesome) company culture

Here at Mutant, we do have plenty of office perks. I can come to work in an iridescent off-shoulder gown, and no one will bat an eyelid because productivity and capability trumps dress codes. One of our directors bring his dog to the office, so we allow ourselves a little break by taking Instagram stories of Muffin in a hypebeast jacket specially designed for dogs.

The real “perk” however, is Mutant’s wholesome and robust company culture. Given that we’re a mid-sized, tight-knit team, we have ample opportunities to collaborate, and produce great results for all of our clients. While there is a hierarchy in terms of titles, everyone’s ideas are given equal weights, and everyone’s voices are treated as important. Activities such as client brainstorms and kick-off meetings frequently see the younger employees carry their weight, even with senior executives around.

If there is a problem, we work together to solve it. Micromanaging people isn’t a thing here because everyone is trusted with their respective responsibilities – though we are not averse to giving each other a gentle push if work is not done.

Don’t we sound like an awesome place to work? Join the Mutant family by saying ‘hi’ at hello@mutant.com.sg

 

 

 

4 PR Trends to Look Out For in 2019

It’s that time of year where companies take stock of their performance in the first quarter of 2019 and make plans on how best to move into their new fiscal year. If your numbers aren’t what you hoped, or it’s clear you need a new strategy, now is the time to pivot. To help get you on your way, here are four PR trends you should watch out for in 2019:

1) Content marketing will be better aligned with PR

PR teams are often the best advisors to lead the content marketing narrative, as they own the brand narrative and are great at storytelling. As marketing teams see an increase in engagement and quality leads driven by strong content strategies, PR folks will move from just amplifying content to being more involved with assisting in the initial stages of crafting it.

2) PR pros will prove their worth with savvy measurements

Moving beyond vanity metrics, PR teams will be under pressure to prove how they have impacted the bottom line. PR firms that don’t do this well will get left behind. By showcasing how earned media ties into building awareness, engagement, trust and even leads, 2019 will be a year of absolute accountability. Using tools to measure share of voice, sentiments and lead generation is the way forward.

3) PR tech stack will drive more efficiencies 

Gone are the days where an entire morning is spent media monitoring (thank goodness!). With news alerts pushed 24/7, there’s simply no reason to do this any longer.

From data-driven newsjacking to spotting a crisis before it escalates through real-time social listening, the right tech tools can help a team focus on what’s important by automating tasks – such as reporting and upkeeping an ever-changing media database. PR teams should invest in the right tech stack in 2019 to become more efficient and agile.

4) More journalists will join the “dark side”

The “dark side” is an old trope, but it ain’t so “dark” anymore. As the need for great content-driven by storytelling increases, more writers – including experienced journalists and editors – will find great opportunities in communications. At Mutant, we have built a team of senior editors and writers who are essential to creating smart content that’s amplified through PR.

At the end of the day, storytelling is at the core of what we do as PR professionals, and that won’t change. But how brand stories are told and the ways in which PR and marketing teams operate are changing – and those companies that need to breathe new life into their strategies should consider jumping in on these four trends in order to have a great 2019.

If you want your brand to keep up in 2019 and beyond, give us a shout at hello@mutant.com.sg

How to be a Mindful Communicator

When I worked for a government organisation, I was tasked with drafting an internal document that would help outline a new project. After a month, it was a multi-chaptered, highly detailed and cross-indexed behemoth – the kind of document you complain about putting together, but are secretly proud of when you send it “upstairs” for approval.

Unfortunately, “upstairs” was not as in love as I was, and what followed was a week of vague feedback about “alignment” and “strategic integration”. Frustrated and dejected, I eventually went to a more senior colleague who, after a quick read, said “Aiyah! No wonder they said no. Don’t have the buzzwords they wanted!” He then proceeded to give me a list of “key terms” that needed to be added to the document. These phrases did not add much meaning, they did not communicate anything new, and, in some cases, had to be shoehorned in to fit. But you can guess how this story ends: magically, the document was now perfectly aligned and strategically integrated.

Most people laugh at this story because it’s relatable –  everyone in the working world has come up against this type of corporate speak at least once. But to me, it’s both a humorous anecdote and a cautionary tale: because I sometimes catch myself automatically lapsing into buzzwords and corporate speak.

So in 2019, let’s Marie Kondo our habits and aim to be a more mindful communicator.

The importance of mindful communication

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, he introduced the idea of “Newspeak” – a totalitarian government’s attempt at stripping language down to its bare essentials to eliminate “undesired thoughts”. Within the novel, Orwell theorised that if people had restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, it would limit freedom of thought.

Though the world hasn’t completely reduced the value of discourse (okay, maybe a little), I’ve seen many instances where people opt for the shorthand of corporate speak instead of taking the time to explain fully what they mean. Though the use of corporate buzzwords can be essential at times, the danger lies in when it comes time to think about new things or to improve on existing models.

To help us break out of the spin cycle and practise mindful communication, I’m sharing a few lessons I’ve learned  over the years and that I, too, am using on the daily.

1. Communicate with intent

There’s a misconception that many people in the PR industry talk for talking’s sake. I believe the opposite is true. Most of my peers are hyper-aware of everything they say, and if it’s a choice between saying nothing or risk saying something that doesn’t have value, they tend to err on the side of caution. Before starting on any type of correspondence, ask yourself if there’s a clear intention behind it. If there really isn’t – and you’d be surprised how often this happens – then not communicating might even be a better choice. If there is a clear intention, though, then let that be your starting point. For example, if your email is to request information from a client, then start your email with that request upfront and gear the rest of the email towards helping your client fulfil that request.

2. Think beyond words

Communication is closely tied to words and language, but it’s about so much more than locution. There are studies that indicate using mind maps helps with the ability to recall that information. This makes practical sense, as the bias toward visuals is probably why YouTube has become the world’s second most used search engine (consider the last time you needed a “how-to” guide).

A mindful communicator should be prepared to explore other means of communication, such as illustrations, videos or charts, in order to make a point. Even with text-heavy documents something as simple as inserting bullet points and tables can be immensely helpful when discussing dense information.

3. More than just buzzwords

Jargon, buzzwords and industry slang can be great in certain situations, but you’ve got to be mindful of how you use these terms.

Take, for example, the phrase “end-to-end solution”. Technically it means a product or service that encompasses an entire process, but this term has become overused (and misused, in some cases) within the tech industry. Not only has it lost its meaning and impact, those outside the tech likely will not fully understand what it means. This happens often with buzzwords (e.g. “sustainability”, “holistic” “360-degree-approach”), and thus the challenge is to find new ways to phrase concepts that are both accurate and succinct.

So, the next time you find yourself slipping into a buzzword fugue state, take a cleansing breath and try to bring a little more awareness and mindfulness into how you communicate – hopefully you’ll find a new way of breaking through an already noisy world.

 

Why Brands Should Consider Being Woke

Of late, brands have woken from their corporate slumber to take stances on socio-political issues. Diversity, racial and gender inequality, LGBT rights are just a few of the issues which companies have been addressing and incorporating into their brand—from marketing campaigns to core business values and beliefs.

Leading this politically aware pack is rebellion’s poster child Nike, which succeeded in raising eyebrows doing what other sports brands wouldn’t dare to do–courting the controversial Colin Kaepernick in its latest ad campaign. Nike is not alone in receiving heat for its marketing campaigns. Citibank became the first Wall Street Bank to restrict firearms sales by its business customers – a move both lauded and criticised by people on either sides of the gun control debate.

Enter purpose-driven brands, the latest entities to dominate today’s saturated, hyper-politicised media landscape. While maintaining an opinion used to be a right enjoyed solely by humans, the companies of the 21st century bear little resemblance to their corporate cousins from the previous century. Today, companies who fight the good fight resemble a sentient humanoid with well-rounded, coherent, and informed views on sensitive socio-political issues.

By right, the phenomenon of corporations being politically aware is not new — there have always been some who considered activism to be as important as their bottom-lines, if not more. In the Eighties, ice-cream company Ben and Jerry’s went against the grain by extending health benefits to same-sex couples–almost unprecedented in a time when homosexuality was deemed unnatural. The Body Shop’s Anita Roddick dedicated her entire life to being a vocal advocate for animal rights and environmental causes also while also managing a multi-million-dollar skincare and beauty business.

When firms assume positions on sensitive issues, they transcend their status as capitalist entities and resemble full-fledged humans. In short, by espousing the views of their consumer base they become just like the person they serve, or hope to serve.

Of course, brands with a global reach are likely to have a customer base diverse in thought and belief. Choosing a side in any hotly-debated political topic means alienating some customers on the socio-political spectrum–but also winning the endorsement of several others.

Down with the Youth

Many young people of today no longer view corporations (or capitalism, for that matter) as a positive force. Social media has made it much easier to document and scrutinise in detail the shortcomings of corporate entities. As millennials are one of the biggest consumers of online content, they have no difficulty in accessing vast amounts of information about the companies they patronise. More and more youngsters are taking time to educate themselves on critical socio-political and economic topics, and expect the same from the entities providing them with goods and services.

There is plenty of research to suggest that more young people resonate strongly with “woke” brands than other generations. Gen-Zs are a force to be reckoned with and command considerable financial influence. As a result, companies must work harder to retain relevance with those aged 16-35–and not just perform lip service in the form of rainbow filters and themed merchandise. Levi’s, American Eagle, and Converse are examples of companies who talk the talk and walk the walk–in addition to selling LGBT merchandise, they work with and donate to several organisations which support marginalised communities. Conversely, several consumers have boycotted fast food chain Chick-Fil-A, which reiterated its stance against gay marriage.

Look Beyond Yourself

The relationships brands share with consumers can no longer simply be transactional. Nowadays, people make informed choices regarding products, taking into account not only their own selves but also the wider ecosystem. For instance, consumers are turning to “ethically/responsibly sourced” or “cruelty-free/vegan” products (clothes, food, make-up) which are not environmentally detrimental. When a company goes out of its way to do good, it usually wins the unwavering support of loyal consumers.

If the corporations they patronise do not share their value system or do not make good on their promises, consumers will simply find another company whose actions resonate with their belief system. Consumers in the 21st century seek affirmation through the products and services they consume, and consider factors such as sustainability, inclusivity, and quality to be an integral part of their purchase and consumption journey. Urban Decay Cosmetics, Fenty Beauty, Patagonia and H&M are companies which put sustainability and inclusivity at the core of their businesses.

Court Quality Employees

The implications of a socially conscious brand extend not only to consumers, but also to employees. More millennials and Gen Z-ers are gravitating towards companies whose political stances and actions echo their own. Employees are likely to be happier and more productive in a socially-conscious firm. As an employer, if attracting the next generation of talented changemakers is a priority, then it’s time to start speaking to them in a language they understand.

Of course, purpose-driven brands are not without their naysayers. People proclaim that by latching themselves onto pressing issues, companies are distracting the gullible from considering their “dark deeds”. Keen observers of pop culture have been quick to point how the patterns of brands suddenly becoming social justice warriors is nothing more than late-stage capitalism — a ploy where companies use emotionally-charged marketing tactics to get tongues wagging, generating traction for themselves. In the case of a sports brand whose hard-hitting rebranding campaign proved to be highly profitable, netizens brought to light its unethical and inhumane business practices in foreign countries.

Picking a side is a risky move, both socially and financially. While established companies can weather consumer boycotts and other controversies, smaller firms struggling to establish themselves might not fare so well–unless they have very clearly defined goals and visions from the get-go.

Brands who wish to embrace a meaningful cause in addition to their business endeavours must be consistent in their efforts. For instance, a brand which champions gender equality while underpaying its female employees is clearly faking its wokeness to exploit the emotions of liberal youth. Its cause of choice must be relevant to the history or culture of the brand–if not, its efforts will appear to be shoehorned in and insincere.

Need help crafting an assertive voice? Talk to us at hello@mutant.com.sg

3 PR Lessons We Can Learn from Bey And Jay

Recently, Beyoncé and Jay-Z dropped their first fully collaborative album, The Carters. Critics and fans alike immediately embraced the tracks and hailed the LP as a celebration of Black art, excellence and legacy.

Over the years, the Carters have managed to exert an ironclad control over their public image despite their humongous stature. The four-pronged strategy of largely staying clear of public squabbles and scandals, carefully curating their social media feeds, rarely giving interviews and not hyping their new projects before they’re released has only deepened the mystery surrounding hip hop’s foremost family. This decision is no accident – the couple is notoriously private and this strategy has infused intrigue into their reputation. Because they are rarely in the public eye, when they do pop up, it seems that the whole world sits up and takes notice of them.

From a business perspective, this type of PR strategy seems impossible to implement. But there are some lessons that can be gleaned – here’s what we can learn from the Carters:

Controlling the Narrative

When rumours of trouble in the couple’s marital paradise broke out in 2013, neither party added fuel to the fire. Unlike other celebrity couples who rush to give a statement when their relationships hit rock bottom, the Carters remained mum on the state of their marriage. They addressed the hearsay when Beyoncé released Lemonade in 2016, an entire album peppered with lyrics and visuals that suggested the possibility of marital strain. The endless speculations that ensued proved to be massively profitable for both Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

While controlling the narrative should be a basic skill for any company’s PR team, in this age of hyperconnectivity and non-stop streaming, firms will find themselves with a very small window of time to prevent crisis situations from becoming communications disasters. Whether it’s appeasing a crowd bent on obtaining answers or addressing unsavoury gossip, it’s imperative to weave a story that sets the tone for all future conversations surrounding the topic at hand. That way, your narrative will drown out all other chatter.

A Well-Oiled Social Media Machine

Both Beyoncé and Jay-Z are known to shun traditional PR paths when announcing new content. For albums Beyoncé and Lemonade, Beyoncé decided to bypass mainstream media outlets and release the albums digitally via an announcement that came from her own account. By doing this, she broke the fourth wall and gave the content directly to her fans via social media. The result? Unprecedented success for both albums. For Lemonade specifically, the release of the album was timed at a juncture when social media was rife with conversations surrounding racial tensions and feminism, and the album’s messages on both topics seemed especially poignant. The couple also demonstrates a deep understanding of curated visuals in today’s social media landscape, as reflected in the multiple music videos of Lemonade and Jay-Z’s 4:44.

It’s no secret that combining social media and highly creative visuals is a winning combination. But to ensure the success of your client’s products upon launch, you must leverage social media to reach your target audience. Follow up with a steady stream of high-quality visual content that’s shareable, accessible and most importantly, relevant.

Authenticity

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a recent Beyoncé or Jay-Z interview. Instead of relying on the media, or even social media, to give fans an inside look at their lives, both Bey and Jay prefer to pour little details of their life into their music. Beyoncé’s mastery of social media is impressive – she occasionally posts rare snapshots from her day-to-day life, puts time and effort into creating a spectacle when announcing milestones and hardly ever adds captions or hashtags, letting the images speak for themselves. As a result, fans interpret and discuss the images, and are left wanting more.

Audiences are smart and can easily discern an inauthentic brand. So cut through the clutter by staying true to your brand’s core values and identity; be honest and daring, let your voice ring true in all your communications and never be afraid to weigh in on issues that are pertinent to your business.

Though you may encounter 99 problems, PR should never be one. A good PR strategy is irreplaceable – so why not invest time and energy in creating a fail-proof communications game plan? Reach out to us if you’re in the dark about how to get started.

Need help crafting the ideal PR strategy? Drop us a message at hello@mutant.com.sg

(Cover photo source: Pinterest)

Tips on using PR to build a brand for small businesses

For most small businesses with limited resources, public relations tend to be overlooked as a viable business strategy.. However, an effective public relations strategy can be incredibly valuable. In many cases, it is a cost effective way of getting your brand out there and building a strong reputation without the expensive cost of traditional advertising.

So, if you run a small business, consider these tips  to get the right kind of attention your brand needs – all without breaking the bank:

Find the right people

Journalists are constantly getting emails with story pitches that don’t often relate to their beat. To cut through the clutter, make sure what you are sending their way is relevant to their publication, and what they cover.

Do your research to find out who you should be targeting, and spend time understanding their publication. Reading what journalists are currently tracking and covering is a good starting point in building a media list. Remember, journalists who are already interested in the space you’re in are more likely to publish what you have to say.

Know what the media needs

Sure, your story is important to you, but is it newsworthy? The key to a well-written press release is not imbuing it with flowery language; it’s nailing down a compelling news angle and getting straight to the point. Journalists are often on the go just like you, so go with a punchy headline to grab the journalist’s attention, and keep it short and sweet.

Strike while the iron is hot

Sometimes, tying your announcement in with a timely moment can help give it an extra boost through that connection. If you’re launching a new product, do a bit of research to find out if there are any upcoming events, occasions or even trending topics that are relevant to your product. Use a recent trending topic that is linked directly to features of your business or business model. For instance, McDonalds struck gold with their nasi lemak-inspired burger by launching it ahead of Singapore’s 50th National Service anniversary. A clever spin on a classic dish, the burger was a massive hit thanks to its local appeal and opportune release date.  Connecting the two can enable you to tap on that trending issue.

Communicate your expertise

Even as a small business owner, you are still an authority in your field. Communicate that expertise by positioning yourself as an expert in the industry, and build yourself up as a thought leader with a story to tell the media. There’s always a story to tell, you’ve just got to find the right angle to communicate it. The key here is to step out of living and breathing your product. Showing thought leadership requires you to go beyond just how amazing your product is. You will have to demonstrate your understanding on the issues faced by your target audience and how you can solve them.

Make it visual

In today’s multiscreen world, people respond well to visuals. If you’re pitching a story involving data and numbers, putting them into one neat infographic can bring your story to life. You will be surprised at how much a good image can enhance your press release or media kit. It is definitely worth the investment to have a professional come in to take pictures of your products and spokespeople.

Getting your brand off the ground when you’re running a lean operation may be a daunting task, but when done right, an effective PR campaign tailored to the needs of your small business can do wonders – even with limited resources.

Need a helping hand on getting your brand and voice out there? Reach out to hello@mutant.com.sg

How to get the most out of your relationship with your marketing agency

A client-agency relationship is more than just a business transaction. It takes more than charismatic account management and savvy sales pitches to make the relationship really work. What many agencies and clients miss, is in the on boarding process– from the business objectives to the culture. Here are 5 key points to help you kick-start an awesome partnership with your marketing agency:

Invest some time

Given that you’re trusting this agency with the reputation of your brand, you need to feel confident about the ability and reputation of the team. Plus,  actually getting on well with the people you’re dealing with has a huge impact on your relationship – so don’t be afraid to explore the company culture, values and, of course, technical expertise. Developing authentic, trusted connections with your customers is at the heart of marketing; similarly, you need to feel confident in your relationship with your agency. The best way to do this? Invest some time when it comes to finding out a little bit more about the agency, whether it be heading over for a lengthy chemistry meeting, going out to lunch or arranging a happy hour.

Agree to a communication plan

At the start of any new client relationship, a communication plan should be mutually agreed upon from day one. 

Some tips to consider when agreeing to a clear communication plan:

  • How often and how you’ll catch up, whether it’s in person or over a call
  • Your point of contact – Knowing exactly who your liaison is saves a lot of time and effort when you’re in need of a prompt  response
  • The agreed goals and objectives for your business and what you expect from your agency.
Set measurable key performance indicators (KPIs)

In order to keep up with and evaluate the performance of your campaigns, your agency will need to provide you with specific metrics against which to benchmark success. These should be based on business goals and expectations that were set out at the very beginning of your relationship. Reviewing them thoroughly will allow for greater productivity moving forward, and will also signal when there needs to be a change in strategic direction as well.

Make your meetings count

No matter how often or seldom your meetings occur,  preparation will enable you to get the most value from your meetings with your agency and negate the need for continuous threads of emails or calls outside your regular meetings.

Tips:

  • Agree upon an agenda before each meeting. This will give you the opportunity to include topics that are a priority
  • Have objectives clearly defined before the meeting
  • Ensure all relevant people are present to allow decisions to be made
Make the most of your agency’s expertise

You know your brand and industry the best. Similarly, your agency will know the latest developments and technologies in their industry best. In order to optimise your campaigns, they should be able to anticipate twists and turns, and should have the ability to adapt quickly when things don’t go as first planned or when new opportunities arise.

Your agency should always work according to your agreed plan and scope, but flexibility is crucial to the success of your campaign performance. Not only does this benefit your outcome, but its encourages your trust in them to be able to deliver on outcomes that matter to you.

At the end of the day, your agency contains a wealth of knowledge and expertise, so use it! Explore all the ways you can learn from them;  whether it’s downloading guides, reading their blog or regular newsletter or simply asking questions your agency can help you grow your own skill set.

Want to talk more about how an agency of experts could help your business? Drop us a line at hello@mutant.com.sg

4 PR Takeaways from the Winter Olympics 2018

The frozen mountains of South Korea have seen much action over the last two weeks, as Olympians brave the freezing temperatures and unforgiving landscapes to bring glory to their countries. As the 2018 Winter Olympics draws to a close, here’s a few PR lessons to consider:

Relatability is key

Brands should take a page out of teen virtuoso Chloe Kim’s book- even in the middle of competition, the Olympic gold medalist shamelessly tweeted about her dog, being “hangry” and her eyeliner. Her sincere and heartfelt posts won over netizens, making her one of the most popular athletes in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

While we don’t suggest that your brand blog about everything under the sun, it is necessary to speak the language of consumers. Chloe Kim became everyone’s best friend almost overnight because she came across as a regular teenage girl to her peers despite being an accomplished athlete. Similarly, your brand should engage with your target audience in a way that feels authentic, relatable and honest. Speak the language of your consumers, and encourage two-way dialogue wherever possible.

Switch things up

Historically, figure skating costumes have been always been gendered. This year, Hungary’s Ivett Toth, France’s Maé-Bérénice Méité and Latvia’s Diana Nikitina were amongst the few women skaters who challenged status quo by ditching the usual skirts and dresses in favour of embellished bodysuits. Ivett Toth’s leather-and-AC/DC routine made her an instant internet sensation.

Similarly, the PR industry has undergone massive changes in the past century. Digital disruption and the emergence of a new generation that perpetually lives online presents a new set of challenges to brands. To keep things fresh and interesting, your business must come up with unexplored ways of reaching out to potential consumers. Amp up your communication game by daring to go where your competitors have not ventured before — and, your customers are bound to sit up and take notice of you.

When the spotlight is on you, shine

For two weeks, South Korea had the world’s undivided attention as top political leaders, elite athletes, tourists and journalists congregated in PyeongChang to experience the 2018 Winter Olympics. While South Korea has consistently engaged in a display of “soft power”, courting the international community with entertainment and technology,  the last few years have been focused on their diplomatic squabbles with neighbour North Korea. The success of the Winter Olympics will not only bring long-term economic prosperity to South Korea, but will also give the country a chance to shift its narrative from disgruntled neighbour and producer of K-Pop to an influential player in the international community.

If your business is thrust into the limelight, even unexpectedly- do not shy away from the opportunity to take control of your narrative and create goodwill. Embrace the attention and use it as a springboard to propel your brand to the forefront of your consumers minds’.

Don’t talk unless you have your facts in place

Recovering from a massive “foot-in-the-mouth” moment is much harder in the age of technology and social media and is likely to set you back by a few millions in damage control. American Broadcasting Network NBC is still reeling from their coverage of the Winter Olympics, where a supposed “expert” on Asia made insensitive remarks about the Japanese occupation of Korea. After angry netizens swooped in, NBC was forced to fire the commentator, apologised to the organising committee and read their apology on-air.

The internet has the memory of an elephant and little mistakes can be blown out of proportion. A single gaffe could cost you heavily, which is why it is wiser to subject public statements to several rounds of editing before they are sent out. An embarrassing typo or a glaring factual error could end up as internet fodder, propelling your brand to infamy if you aren’t careful enough.

Want to speak more about your PR campaign or media training? Drop a note at hello@mutant.com.sg

My company is profitable! Do I still need marketing?

According to a recent report, the success of SMEs is essentially like flipping a coin – there’s an estimated survival rate of 50%. This means that establishing a strong and profitable core business is more crucial than ever before.

Since survival is a major focus for SMEs, investment in other aspects that may not seem to have immediate trackable results on business performance are often highly scrutinised. But even when SMEs manage to survive and find their stride, becoming profitable without the help of marketing, content, public relations or social media, many decide to continue without these things. Why would they need them even if they are profitable? Let’s dive right in.

Marketing

With the view that only large, multinational organisations have dedicated marketing teams, many SMEs outright dismiss the idea of hiring dedicated marketing staff. If SMEs do have a staff member focused on marketing, the scope of that role is usually tied up with additional tasks, such as business development.

Without the attention and focus of a true marketing professional, marketing initiatives usually end up in the form of more traditional activities, such as developing collaterals or organising events, which often do not drive easily trackable business results. A dedicated marketer will be able to identify broader business issues and create solutions to fix them, whether that be an online lead generation, sales team support or employer brand management to help bring in the best talent.

Content

Content is on the radar for many organisations, but often only in the form of a few commissioned articles for the company website. The truth is that content has many more practical uses for a business than most business owners realise. Content can be presented in many ways – think text, infographics and videos – and have the ability to engage potential customers across a wide array of platforms, ranging from the company’s website to social media channels to content-led PR campaigns.  

A singular piece of content, such as a research report, can be reworked into different pieces of satellite content, including infographics, toolkits and short, digestible videos that can be shared on different channels. Lead generation, client relationship management and sales support are all business-focused goals that can leverage content to deliver measurable results.

PR

Crisis management and spin-doctoring are often the first things that come to mind when thinking of public relations, but these functions are usually back of mind when it comes to successful businesses who are focused on growth.

Public relations can do much more than just clean up sticky situations. Good PR will play a key role in stakeholder management, putting the business in the midst of relevant discussions happening in the industry and the media, and positioning key people in the company as thought leaders. Strong PR can boost the visibility and credibility of the business and open new doors for the company in the process.

Social media

If you think that social media is simply a Facebook page for consumer brands to deal with angry posts, think again. Social media can act as a multi-platform ecosystem that can be used to engage with different types of audiences. By using specific targeting, businesses can reach new and relevant customers from literally all around the world.

From customer support and sales to employer branding and community management, every employee can learn to use social media in a way that influences the business, no matter if it’s a B2C and B2B operation. It’s important to establish goals and outline clear roles that each social media platform will play for the business, though; only then can a business truly start to see the benefits of a social media strategy.

Do you want to find out more about what marketing, content, PR and social media can do for your business? Drop us a line at hello@mutant.com.sg