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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Why every business needs a PR strategy: client update

Tactical PR strategies for our clients have resulted in some strong coverage in recent months. But what do we mean by PR? How has it changed in recent years? Which businesses is it appropriate for? What makes good PR? And what are the benefits PR can bring to your business?

PR update: tech challenger

Sharp Minds’ PR campaign for Dootrix, the national tech start-up, and its work for EV-charging pioneer, Gridserve, generated more than 16 articles across the UK in key trade titles. This catapulted the brand into the media for the first time, receiving praise and recognition within the cloud technology sector. Digitalisation World, The Business Magazine and the UK’s leading industry trade title Technology Record were just some of the strong media placements.

PR update: law and HR firm

In October law and HR business, Loch Associates Group, stole the show by generating 13 articles in just four weeks with key regional titles such as Sussex ExpressThe Times of Tunbridge Wells, as well as key national trade titles, such as Solicitors JournalHR Magazine and People Management. In November, the company was featured in the Financial Times discussing nepotism in the workplace.

What size businesses should have a PR strategy?

Businesses of every size can benefit from having a well-considered strategic PR plan, one that reflects your brand’s overarching goals and desired positioning within the media landscape. Whether you’re a start-up, a thriving direct-t- consumer brand or a national business, there are numerous benefits that PR can provide.

There’s no company too big or too small for press to do PR. In fact, fledgling startups can often attract the most attention as reading about new business ventures can be innovative and inspiring. Positioning and knowing what makes a good story is something Sharp Minds excels in. We are also extremely well connected within the media and our senior team is made up of ex-national newspaper and BBC broadcast journalists.

Why PR?

PR adds credibility to your business. PR has intangible and far-reaching benefits; you simply can’t put a price on getting featured in media outlets and setting yourself up as a thought leader. It puts you in a position of strength within your industry, becoming the go-to person for commentary, insight and expertise.

What do we mean by PR?

Many people think PR is simply getting mentioned in the press, but it’s so much more than that. It’s everything you do to promote and increase the visibility of your business.

The media landscape has changed so much in the last few years, especially with the shift towards digital and remote working during the pandemic, and our definition of PR needs to adapt accordingly. PR is anything and everything that helps get your business talked about, including social media and influencer brand relations.

PR in its true definition refers to strategic communication from an organisation to the public to maintain or cultivate a public image. PR is what other people say about you. It’s how your services and brand are perceived by others and the efforts you undertake to build a positive brand image. But it’s also so much more than that.

PR is about how the public feels about and interacts with your company. Yes, it’s about image; but it’s also about connection and appeal. It’s what springs to mind when the name of your company has been mentioned and how people engage and respond to the content you post online. PR is about the emotional connection you’re able to build with individuals through your work, which in turn leads to sales opportunities and results. We all have relationships with the brands we buy from, the companies whose services we use, the experts we trust, and PR can fast-track building these relationships.

PR is about getting in front of your audience and creating trust with them. Getting featured in the press is a medium for nurturing relationships with your desired audience. If you find other effective methods to help you build those relationships such as Instagram, LinkedIn or email marketing, then traditional PR can complement this. Getting featured in the media helps build your credibility, thus strengthening the bond with your audience. Word of mouth is often cited as the most powerful method for getting business traction; with PR you simply get in front of more mouths.

What makes good PR?

The execution and successful application of a PR activation or campaign relies on a thorough understanding of the brand. Whether your PR process is being headed up internally or externally by an agency, it’s crucial to get under the skin of the brand, its ethos and its client base. When implementing an integrated campaign, Sharp Minds undertakes a thorough analysis of the brand’s audience base, what they like and what they see, as part of a discovery process.

The success of any campaign is based on knowledge of the landscape and what the brand wants to achieve. Whether it’s increased sales, brand awareness, reputation management or the promotion of a new product or service, good PR is a competent combination of meticulously planned communications, in the brand language, placed in relevant spaces that your audience will be.

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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