Turning a crisis into an opportunity; key client highlights of 2023

There’s no denying that 2023 has been a challenging year on many levels for businesses. Thriving in an unpredictable economy can be challenging, but with the right strategies, businesses can not only navigate the challenges more effectively but also thrive.

At Sharp Minds we tend to think outside the box and look for ways to turn a crisis into an opportunity. This has been the case for many of our clients for whom we introduced tactical PR and marketing strategies to boost brand awareness, protect brand reputation and help continue to drive revenue, despite volatile markets. As we all begin the countdown to Christmas, Sharp Minds reflects on 2023 and some of the key highlights for our clients.

55Plus: Rebranding and strategic marketing and PR to meet national ambitions

Background: This year the equity release market contracted hugely, 450 specialist brokers lost their jobs, and the big brokers abandoned business plans, halted marketing, and shrank operations. Despite one of the most challenging years for the equity release market, later life lending specialists 55Plus were one of only a handful of companies that not only survived the past 12 months but grew in size and turnover. This year Sharp Minds implemented a mature marketing and communications strategy at the beginning of the year to help the company navigate the difficult market and turn a market in crisis into an opportunity for 55Plus.

Rebrand: Our starting point was a complete rebrand for 55Plus with a new website to build a more mature and dynamic brand that reflects its national ambitions, captures more clients and appeals to introducers.

Tactical PR: The relaunch was followed by a carefully targeted and tactical PR campaign in the national press, with 55Plus becoming the leading authority on later life lending, helping to educate the general public about the benefits of equity release. This included multiple stories in The Telegraph, Financial Times, Daily Express and a front-page story in the Sunday Telegraph. The PR success was picked up and praised by the Equity Release Council.

Employer brand: Building a more modern brand  and boosting brand awareness helped to attract an additional 16 advisors, enabling the company to meet its goal of going national.

Strategic digital marketing to clients and introducers: Sharp Minds built a strategy for 55Plus to have a more targeted and collaborative way of working with its clients/introducers and provide initiatives for feedback. This included a fortnightly newsletter sent out to introducers, helping to improve engagement and feedback. Two blogs a month to help educate its introducers and clients on equity release and reactive/proactive social media strategy to improve customer engagement and service. 55Plus has also begun analytic deep dives to make sure content is personalised and being shared with introducers to improve and enhance 55Plus’s referral network.

Award success: 55Plus was a finalist in the Mortgage Introducer Awards last month and is also in the running to win the Equity Release Awards in January.

Dootrix: Helping a start-up transition to a mid-size business

Background: Dootrix, a national tech cloud disrupter, had a relatively unknown brand despite having built successful long-term partnerships with household names, such as Confused.com, Gridserve and Heathrow. The company wanted to progress its reputation from a start-up to an established, medium-sized business and brought in Sharp Minds to help towards the end of 2022.

Strategic messaging and communications review: Sharp Minds immediately conducted a thorough communications and messaging review, helping to align messaging with desired new direction of travel. We then implemented and aligned marketing and PR strategies to showcase Dootrix’s key points of difference and help establish the brand as a disruptor, outpacing global tech giants. Sharp Minds helped develop the key messaging for the business as specialists tackling the complex challenges of innovative organisations.

Tactical PR: A tactical PR campaign around Dootrix’s work with GRIDSERVE, whereby the firm built a powerful data platform that allows it to process information and take payment in seconds for EV charging sessions across the country, generated more than 16 articles across the UK. This catapulted the brand into the media for the first time, receiving praise and recognition within the cloud industry. Dootrix also implemented a new board and COO after a 74% surge in revenue, which was featured in 6 articles in the tech press.

Award success: Building brand awareness and the right messaging has helped support Dootrix on its upward trajectory and the firm was a finalist for the Tech Business of the Year Award in the prestigious Lloyds Bank British Business Excellence Awards 2023, a testament to its resilience, innovative spirit, and entrepreneurial acumen.

Loch Associates Group: Increasing brand credibility through PR

Background: Whilst having received accolades and recognition within the legal sector, law and HR business Loch Associates Group was an unknown brand nationally, despite having a strong team of dedicated solicitors. The company wanted to progress its reputation from being a law firm, to a multi-service Law and HR medium-sized business. Earlier this year Sharp Minds was appointed immediately following a corporate rebranding.

Media strategy: An internal and external audit was carried out as part of the discovery process, as well as a thorough SWOT and competitor analysis. This was followed by the design and implementation of a clear media strategy to promote the new branding and the corporate division of the law practice.

Media roadshow: A tier-one and trade media roadshow was conducted to highlight new and updated messaging that reflected Loch Associate Group’s new direction, building active relationships with leading business, national and regional press in Kent, Sussex and London.

Expert messaging matrix: A leadership team was formed as go-to commentators on relevant topics, to share media responsibility away from the founder.

Media coverage: Over 70 media articles were generated in the past 12 months, including tier-one publications, such as The Financial Times, The Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph.

Waterlodge: Strategy support and marketing to grow partnerships

Background: An innovate start-up founded five years ago, Waterlodge have grown their portfolio over the past two years to broaden their reach in the holiday park and marina industry sector and to individual customers interested in floating accommodation on inland waterways or coastal marinas. The brand is leading the way with its luxury floating lodges, and throughout 2023 gained new Partnerships with the likes of the largest Marina owner, AquaVista, as well as Liverpool Marina and Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners. With further partnerships in the pipeline and a busy exhibition and trade fair calendar, Waterlodge continue to use Sharp Minds as an extension to their business for help with their marketing strategy and tactical marketing and PR campaigns.

Marketing strategy: This year, Waterlodge were facing an increasingly difficult market, due to the general UK economic situation. They have continued to adapt their portfolio to appeal to the UK staycation market, offering innovative options that need communicating to a niche industry and consumer market. Sharp Minds reviewed past activity and produced a strategic marketing and PR plan that can be implemented into next year to leverage Waterlodge as an industry leader and specialist in their field.  

Exhibition support: Ongoing advertising review and advice given, plus exhibition support material for product or stand display and marketing literature, adapted and/or developed for new ranges at several large shows in the UK and Ireland, such as Ireland on the Water, Boatlife 2023 and the Southampton International Boat Show 2023. Advising on lead generation and post-show marketing.

Tactical marketing: An ongoing monthly tactical marketing communication plan is created and executed by Sharp Minds through e-newsletters, social media and supported by a robust SEO strategy. Ad-hoc communications were created to promote new partnerships, the two AirBNBs at Yarmouth Harbour and for advertising opportunities.  

Award success: Waterlodge was a finalist at the New Forest Brilliance in Business Awards 2023, for the Royal Lymington Yacht Club Award for Marine and Maritime, selected for their commitment to excellence, innovation and sustainability within the New Forest economy.

Based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Sharp Minds Communications offers brand development, digital marketing, offline marketing, and public relations to businesses across Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Greater London.

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Should you be a creator on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn has evolved from its beginnings as a successful job-seeking tool to a powerful platform to build your business network, elevate your brand and learn about your industry and competitors. Keen to expand its appeal further, LinkedIn is seeking to transform into a destination for inspiring content, encouraging members to activate ‘Creator mode’ to unlock additional features, publish content and transform how they and their businesses are perceived on the platform.  But what are the key differences, benefits and potential drawbacks to becoming a LinkedIn Creator for your personal and business brand – and should it be part of your marketing strategy?

What is the difference between LinkedIn Creator mode and normal mode?

The LinkedIn platform has become a cornerstone of many professionals’ working lives, enabling users to keep in touch with – and in front of – their networks. However, the creator feature opens up the site’s possibilities far beyond job searches and digitally connecting with clients, suppliers, (former) colleagues, associates or relevant influencers.

The key difference between the standard professional networking setting and the Creator mode is access to additional tools to expand your network, increase reach and push content to your followers, including:

  • The opportunity to contribute to collaborative articles
  • Access to LinkedIn Live
  • Facility to host Audio Events
  • Ability to publish newsletters
  • Use of the Follow link on your profile

Who can become a LinkedIn Creator?

If you have more than 150 followers, abide by the Professional Community Policies put in place by LinkedIn and actively engage (like, comment, follow, share) across the platform regularly, you will have the option to become a ‘Creator’.

A business profile or a personal profile can become a Creator. We would recommend for larger enterprises the Creator mode is activated on the business page, to keep content streamlined. For SMEs, posting from your personal page can be a great way to forge a human connection to your LinkedIn network.  

What are the benefits of becoming a LinkedIn Creator?

Becoming a LinkedIn Creator gives you access to the marketing tools listed above, which can all help to grow your following and promote your business. It is primarily designed to reward users who contribute to the platform with content and thought leadership and makes you eligible to be presented to other users of LinkedIn by being featured as a suggested Creator, making you more visible on the platform. LinkedIn provides lots of supporting articles to explain how to utilise Creator mode to your advantage.

What is the difference between LinkedIn creator mode and normal mode?

Your profile will change in a few ways once you change to Creator mode:

  • Follow button: Once you become a Creator, users will be able to follow you as well as connect with you. Almost half of your future connections on LinkedIn are estimated to come from profile viewers (rather than people you have met/been introduced to and opt to connect with), so this button is designed to grow your audience.
  • Number of followers: The number of followers that you have will be displayed once you are a Creator, appearing next to the number of connections. This is to allow successful thought-leaders to exhibit their following to the masses, as opposed to simply stating 500+ connections.
  • Hashtags: A notable Creator mode feature is the ability to add up to five hashtags that help you to succinctly define your chosen topics and interests to your profile viewers. This feature also makes you discoverable to new audiences when they search for these topics.
  • Activity section at the top: Your profile will be reordered to showcase your Featured and Activity section first. It takes the focus away from your ‘About’ section and comments on other people’s insights and shifts it towards the content you have recently created.

Things to consider before becoming a Creator

The LinkedIn Creator mode essentially makes you more visible, more discoverable and displays your followers more explicitly. This can be a fantastic way to grow your following further and demonstrate your expertise, reliability and superior standing within your industry. However, there are some negative factors to reflect on if you are unable to contribute regularly and engage with followers successfully.

  1. Are you engaging enough? The increased prominence of ‘Feature’ and ‘Activity’ sitting at the top of your profile page when you become a LinkedIn Creator could be an important change to consider. Of course, prioritising your best and most current posts at the top of the page is a positive step to promoting yourself, but only IF your posts are getting good traction. Some people use indicators such as engagement levels, following and likes to qualify you as a candidate, supplier or client; if these analytics are low, you could be damaging your reputation on the platform as a whole.
  2. Are you committed enough? If you are not able to create at least two posts a week, Creator mode may be best left alone – or handled by a social media expert. By not keeping up with content creation and implementing a strategy to display core brand values and actively engage with the platform, you risk your credibility.  

The LinkedIn Creator mode can transform the way you use the platform. The best way to utilise this tool is with a fully joined-up strategy; this may require expert input to maintain the outputs required to maximise the benefits for your personal and business brand.

Based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Sharp Minds Communications offers brand development, digital marketing, offline marketing, and public relations to businesses across Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Greater London.

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How to build your brand with LinkedIn newsletters

The LinkedIn newsletter feature is a tool that can be used to bolster your following and maximise reach effectively and efficiently. You may even be able to amplify the value of your existing content for very minimal effort to increase your ROI, which sounds like a win-win. However, there are things to consider before you simply start repurposing content to ensure the resource you invest in LinkedIn newsletters aligns effectively with your goals. We guide you through the nuts and bolts, but also the strategic thinking you need to undertake before hitting ‘publish’.

What are LinkedIn newsletters?

The LinkedIn newsletter feature is a way to push your content out to your LinkedIn-based followers in the palatable format of a newsletter, which is fully integrated into the LinkedIn platform. Newsletters differ from a LinkedIn Article as they do not publish to your connections’ timelines automatically; instead, your LinkedIn followers (which may be similar to your email database list, but crucially, could also be far more diverse and extensive) can subscribe to receive push, in-app and email notifications for newly published newsletters. This direct reach is an active way to get in front of your audience – for free.

The newsletter reach is not limited to tailored audience methods or ad targeting, which helps you reach a wider audience. Anyone who has a connection to your followers can view your LinkedIn newsletter, extending the reach beyond your normal target audience.

By speaking about professional topics which engage your target customers, clients, colleagues, followers and sector influencers, you can successfully grow your audience and build a community that regularly engages with you on the platform. A well-structured, insightful LinkedIn newsletter can generate leads, increase traffic to your website and grow your following and influence on LinkedIn.

What content should be in your LinkedIn newsletter?

A LinkedIn newsletter can be used as a secondary place to publish newsletters previously sent to your email database or to reposition articles or insights that you have previously published on LinkedIn. The input of copied text is straightforward and easy to format, which can make it a great way to increase the reach of your content for minimal effort, simply by publishing it to another platform.

However, while a simple copy and paste exercise is resource efficient, you need to consider your audiences on LinkedIn and what you want to be known for on the platform, and whether your existing content aligns with that. For example, if your existing content is largely being sent to prospects and is structured to encourage them to make the final decision to purchase, it may not be relevant if you want to become known as an oracle for latest industry trends.  

The starting point is therefore to be very clear about what you want to achieve through LinkedIn newsletters, given who follows you. If your existing content aligns well with your LinkedIn audience and your platform/brand goals, then great. But if not, you may need to identify and source/create content that will support these goals; this may mean a fresh content creation strategy, or it could be as simple as signposting sector developments that are not widely known, for example news of products that are in Beta-testing.

The nuts and bolts of creating LinkedIn newsletters

If you have 150 followers or more, are active on the platform and abide by the Professional Community Policies put in place by LinkedIn, you will have the option to become a ‘Creator’. With creator tool access you can begin to build your newsletter. If you would like more information on what the Creator mode is and how to use it to bolster your business’ presence on the LinkedIn platform, read our insight here.

At the top of your LinkedIn homepage, below the ‘Start a post’ box, is a ‘Write article’ button. Once you click on this you will be directed to the newsletter template, ready for you to input your content.

Here are some tips on creating a successful LinkedIn newsletter:

  1. A succinct title: Choosing a title which offers a clear solution, or presents a theme or subject that will interest your audience is vital to draw your readers in. Pose a question your target audience is likely to have, then offer solutions within your content. It’s important to remember that all your newsletters will have the same title, so it needs to outline the overarching themes of your content/expertise that you plan to explore across your newsletters, rather than the specific content of a particular newsletter.
  2. Engaging Images: Uploading your logo will increase engagement and brand awareness. Additionally, by uploading a cover photo for each article within your newsletter you create natural breaks in the page, making it more reader-friendly. Choosing images of your staff or friendly faces adds a human element to the text and connects with the reader. Be sure to select images that are bright, relevant to the text and authentic – avoid stock images wherever possible.
  3. Additional context: Include a short description or pose a question when you share your newsletter with your audience. This will encourage engagement with the post itself and increase the chances of connections clicking through to the newsletter. Use the post to showcase your expertise to resonate with your audience and to indicate how reading your newsletter will add value for them.

How do people find newsletters on LinkedIn?

Users can access the newsletters to which they have subscribed by clicking the ‘My Network’ button at the top of the LinkedIn homepage and selecting ‘Newsletters’ from the list displayed on the left-hand side of the page; this reveals a full list of their subscribed newsletters. Another interesting point to note is that readers don’t need to be logged into LinkedIn to access the page, so you can share the LinkedIn newsletter link across other social channels and via email to increase engagement.

LinkedIn newsletters can be a brilliant way to repurpose, redirect and re-engage your LinkedIn network, maximising reach and generating engagement. If you would like strategic, smart advice on developing an efficient, effective, multi-channel marketing plan, our team can assist.

Based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Sharp Minds offers brand development, digital marketing, offline marketing, and public relations to businesses across Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Greater London.

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