Effective marketing and communication starts with listening….FACT

At the risk of sounding a bit David Brent, effective marketing and communication starts with listening.

But as communicators working in the charity and public sector, how often do you take the time to really listen to your beneficiaries/patients and those who you work with to ensure your marketing materials cut the mustard?

Too often charities assume that they know what people need from them and are falling short of their needs and expectations. It’s therefore really important to take the time and make the space to ask your audiences whether there’s anything you could be doing better.

It could be as simple as asking for feedback on your membership newsletter or e-bulletin – are you giving people the information they want to read; do they like the format, the frequency…? I carried out this exercise at the Wildlife Trust in Sheffield and discovered that people wanted more expert articles on wildlife. The organisation was so busy promoting their campaigns and events, they’d lost sight of why people joined… because they loved learning about wildlife!

Nailing your marketing collateral might also mean asking people whether the language you use is right for them. Are you using jargon they don’t understand or terms that offend or put them off in some way? This can be particularly important if you’re dealing with a health condition or issue which is sensitive, or around any stigma relating to their condition or circumstances. A panel of ‘expert patients’ or service users to vet your draft materials can provide the assurance that your language doesn’t jar.

It’s fashionable now to talk about ‘unconscious bias’, which means showing a prejudice for or against a thing, person or group Even the most ‘right on’ people can perpetuate stereotypes without realising it. Working with a charity that supports sex workers has really challenged me to unpick some of my unconscious biases and admittedly, ignorance about those who choose to do sex and erotic work.

Consider if there are any unconscious biases in your marketing or communications materials – are there staff groups, volunteers or external partners you could consult with to iron out any language or beliefs that could be controversial or discriminatory?

Focus groups (yes, remember the good old days when we could all get in a room to talk face to face) are also an awesome way of testing whether your branding, messages or materials resonate with their intended audiences. Tasked with testing the new Girl Guides badges with young girls in my home town of Chesterfield, I duly recruited several groups of girls, ranging from 7 -12 years of age to get their reactions to some potential designs. The feedback was mindboggling, highlighting issues around what icons and insignia young people relate to (SatNav type imagery for an orienteering badge, for example) and those they engaged less with; as well as revealing varying levels of literacy. The lesson being that unless the organisation was solely aimed at middle class educated kids the new badges needed to take on board the needs of girls from other backgrounds.

Of course, listening is one thing, but showing that you’ve heard what people have told you by making changes, is another thing. Just remember to take staff (and volunteers) along with you in the process and don’t be coy about showing where you’ve upped your game to respond to service users’ (and other audience’s) needs and expectations. That might mean changing the format of your marketing materials, the channels you use, adopting a new language style or tone of voice, or perhaps adapting your materials for people with dementia, sight loss or for those who don’t speak English as a first language.

Give me a shout if you want some advice about how to understand your charity’s audiences better. I’m only an email away and am all ears! kate.dawson@wellreadpr.com


Why do we need museums and heritage projects?

As a storyteller working in the heritage sector, it’s really important I understand why history, and in particular, heritage projects that engage local communities, are valuable, as this informs how I work with others who share my passion to remember, celebrate and learn from what’s gone before.

By understanding the ‘why’, I can ensure that history isn’t just regurgitated from the history books but interpreted as something meaningful and relevant to a range of audiences. 

Whilst this topic surely deserves a whole PhD thesis, I’ve tried to distil my answer into five core reasons, as follows:

  1. History provides communities with a sense of pride in place. Heritage projects capture what may be in living memory now, in order to pass down to future generations before its lost. It’s important to celebrate not only the places which have come and gone, or which have been protected because of their historic importance, but also the values which are embodied in the local history which may be intrinsically linked to that community’s identity. A great example of this was my work with primary school pupils in Coalville, Leicester, who learnt about the men who’d fallen in WWI and whose names were inspired on the memorial clock tower there as part of the Memorial Clocktower Project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. What a buzz seeing these youngsters become the custodians of their local heritage through their compelling presentations to ‘Save the Clock Tower’ inspired by what they’d learnt.
  2. History provides a salient reminder of why we must be stamp out discrimination in all its forms. Whilst I’m not personally in favour of toppling statues, I do believe that history can be revisited to ensure it is spoken about truthfully. The telling of the industrial revolution and the philanthropy of those that prospered needs to be told alongside the now unthinkable slave trade. Where possible stories should be told through the voice of those affected, which is why the accounts of survivors at the National Holocaust Museum are so incredibly powerful.
  3. History inspires creativity and innovation in future generations. Whether it’s learning about the awe-inspiring history of industrial innovation at the Derby Museum of Making or hearing about the invention of the pioneering water-powered frame for cotton manufacture (through a film of the inventor Richard Arkwright himself, no less!) at Cromford Mills, museums inspire the scientists, designers and medical pioneers of tomorrow.
  4. History teaches us about sacrifice and justice. It was wonderful to hear the National Justice Museum in Nottingham put under the spotlight on BBC Radio 6 – describing how the courtroom and cells, and extensive collection help bring the concepts of law and justice to life for visitors.  Personally, I have just finished an education resource for the Mill Waters heritage site which includes details of the Luddite leader, Jeremiah Brandreth, who was active in Nottinghamshire in the early 1800s and who lost his head for sedition and standing up for the rights of the working man.
  5. Last but not least – history entertains …and if it doesn’t, you may be doing it wrong! I can still remember the thrill of travelling around the Jorvik Viking Centre as a girl on a rather clunky motorised car on wheels – taking in the sounds and smells of the Viking village that had been recreated there. For my young niece and nephew, (Lottie and Ralph, pictured), a visit to the National Emergency Services Museum in Sheffield is just the best day out EVER!

I would love to hear your thoughts on why museums and heritage projects are so valuable.

To find out more about how I can help your heritage organisation or project please take a look at my leaflet here.

Lottie and Ralph having a fun day out at the National Emergency Services Museum, Sheffield

Is your charity’s brand fit for purpose?

I’ve just spent £50 quid on a pair of FILA trainers for my daughter’s 10th birthday. [Sucks through teeth]. Apparently, nothing else will do – that is according to Tik Tok, members of Little Mix and the talk in the playground.

The fashionistas among you will know that FILA are a sportwear brand established in 1911 whose chunky Dad style trainers peaked in the ‘90s, before falling onto hard times and then making a recovery in recent years with the reissue of ‘old school’ ranges, earning favour with rap stars and even a catwalk show at Milan Fashion Week.

The revived popularity of FILA struck me as a good example of brand value – in a nutshell: a recognisable brand identity, resonance with target audiences (across the appropriate channels), carefully orchestrated brand endorsement and key influencers talking about you. Interestingly, RNID has also recently gone a bit ‘old school’ – reverting to their original name after their ‘Action for Hearing Loss’ rebrand flunked.

Those of us working in the charity sector know, however, that it takes more than a bit of nostalgia combined with a celebrity endorsement to build our brands. A good reputation is hard won and depends on consistently delivering on your charity’s brand promise: demonstrating that you’re being true to your charity’s objects (what you were set up to do); that you’re genuinely making a difference; that your actions and behaviour reflect your values; and eventually, if your brand identity packs a punch, it should become synonymous with your work and what you stand for. 

Charities with a strong brand value are without doubt in a better position to raise funds and influence policy because they’ve earnt a high level of understanding about what they do and reputation for being a ‘good cause’. It’s no surprise that Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Salvation Army and Macmillan regularly top the leader board of top charity brands (in terms of income generation) – we just know them and their logos are everywhere: on shop fronts, inside our Sunday supplements, popping up in our social feed.

But, if you’re a small charity without a big marketing budget that doesn’t mean you can’t still build the credibility of your brand with your target audiences. Take a look at the Evelina Heart Organisation which refreshed their logo to reinforce their aims as a professional yet supportive community for families of children with heart problems, whilst retaining their heart symbol which supporters knew and associated with their work. They also developed a rather natty sub brand for their bespoke support for teenagers – again using the heart symbol but this time using a computer type graphic which would resonate with younger audiences. Supporters and other audiences were involved in the rebrand and the charity reports it’s been well received.

Another example which springs to mind is YoungDementia UK Homes which was set up as a separate entity to YoungDementia UK to deliver an innovative supported living facility for younger people (in their 40s and 50s) with young onset dementia  – and yours truly was commissioned to help develop the charity’s brand identity. Having consulted with people with young onset dementia and liaised closely with the mother charity, I worked with the talented designers at Red Wire to come up with their visual identity, which clearly builds on the existing logo (and ergo brand value of the mother charity) but provides something distinctive for the ‘Homes’ project. The resulting logo and website takes on board the fact that some forms of dementia result in colour blindness – hence the introduction of an orange accent colour rather than shades of blue and green (which can look the same). The moral of the story here is that like any aspect of marketing, brand development should always be based on audience insight.

Charity branding, of course, is a different kettle of fish to the world of consumer branding, but none the less, it boils down to people making choices about where they invest their hard-earned based on how they feel about a brand. The motivations for giving to a good cause may be different to choosing footwear – but as with FILA’s customers, your supporters are faced with an array of choices, so ensuring your brand stands out on the virtual charity catwalk is essential.

I love working with charities (and any organisation with a strong social purpose) to consider how they can have better visibility and brand recognition. So, if you’re looking for a FILA style comeback, or simply looking to develop a more professional suite of marketing materials which builds recognition of your specialist expertise, then please get in touch for a chat.

Find out how Well Read can help your charity improve its brand and marketing strategy here.

Charities are doing what they do best during the Coronavirus pandemic

The voluntary sector is providing vital telephone contact during the pandemic

Historically charitable work provided for the poor and the needy before social welfare existed and many were associated with religious organisations. The third sector today is a different animal with the voluntary sector working alongside statutory services; influencing governments to make changes to the law; and working with academia and the private sector to tackle a host of society’s ills. They continue to provide a lifeline for many on the margins of society.

Now in the thick of the Coronavirus pandemic, charities are more needed than ever, providing vital signposting and support and to those who were already facing desperate poverty, ill-health, or loneliness.

On my doorstep colleagues at Derbyshire Voluntary Action (DVA) have reacted quickly by working with Community Chesterfield and others to create a Covid 19 Support Directory to help map the myriad services available across the public and charitable realm during the pandemic. The directory – like many others which have been produced at breakneck speed by the voluntary sector and others – shows how active charities and community groups are in the current circumstances.

And with incidents of abuse in the home soaring during lockdown, with at least 16 deaths in the UK due to domestic violence*, the value of the Elm Foundation, which supports people in North  Derbyshire affected by domestic abuse, has been brought into sharp relief. The charity has pulled out all the stops to launch its new telephone helpline and text service, funded by Derbyshire County Council, on April 1st, despite staff going off sick with coronavirus. In parallel, the charity has had to deal with an increased number of referrals for refuge support, working closely with the Council and other domestic abuse charities to find safe accommodation for those in desperate need. It is also working closely with the Police and Social Services to monitor and support those at risk.

CVSs too have demonstrated the vital role they play advising and supporting voluntary groups, especially during this challenging period. Credit is due to High Peak CVS, who has continued to provide support to their 300+ membership whilst simultaneously launching their new social prescribing project at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak. With the consent of the funders, Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group, and in partnership with the Primary Care Network of GPs, the team of two quickly modified their plan of providing face to face delivery to instead back up the primary care provision across the High Peak. In the last few weeks, they have contacted hundreds of potentially vulnerable people that have been identified either through the local GP or have been referred through the Derbyshire County Council Community Response Unit (CRU) requesting support. This has varied from issues such as delays with benefits through to problems with anxiety due to the lockdown. The social prescribers have been diligently working through the list, providing a listening ear, and putting people in touch with other services and volunteers who can provide further help.

As well as being agile and rallying the troops (aka volunteers) to do what needs to be done, charities are also doing what they do best: collaborating and being innovative to meet their beneficiaries’ needs. One such example is Versus Arthritis, which has designed a condition specific chatbot for people with arthritis affected by coronavirus.

Charities are also repurposing their staff and resources to support those on the NHS frontline, for example wildlife rangers from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust delivering PPE to health organisations across their local area.

Given this monumental effort by the third sector, it is no surprise that the paltry relief package pledged by the government for charities has been met with disdain. The stalwarts at NVCO and ACEVO are doing a brilliant job fighting the corner for the sector, notably through their Every Day Counts campaign, and I would urge any charity to let NCVO know how Coronavirus is affecting their organisation to help them in this regard.

As charities forge on plugging gaps in service provision and working in partnership to meet unprecedented social need despite their loss of income (due to charity shop closures, cancellation of events and funding streams hanging in the balance) and having to furlough staff, it will be more important than ever for them to monitor the vital contribution they make during the pandemic. Keeping track of new models of delivery, partnerships, digital innovations, as well as recording case studies evidencing how they are alleviating the pressure on statutory services, will serve them well in the inevitable discussions that will follow about charities’ social and economic value, the essential role of civil society and justifying public funding to help them survive as the country embarks on its long road to recovery.

Useful links:

*Domestic abuse killings more than double amid Covid 19 lockdown, Guardian

The Elm Foundation – telephone helpline/ textline

Chesterfield Covid 19 Support Directory

High Peak CVS

Civil Society News – Versus Arthritis launches UKs first ever condition specific coronavirus chatbot

NCVO and ACEVO joint press release: Every Day Counts

NCVO Coronavirus case study form


Photo credit: by Akshar Dave on Unsplash


How storytelling can help promote your charity or social enterprise


I usually introduce myself as a storyteller at networking events. I’ve been helping charities and the public sector to tell their stories for more than twenty years. In this post I share with you some of what I’ve learnt honing my craft…

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all great stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But in PR, the best stories often end with a question, a ‘what next’ and crucially, a compelling call to action.

Of course, in novels the story can unfold over several hundred pages, as we get to know the key characters, their lives and the issues they face. For a PR storyteller, the trick is being able to describe the individuals in our story quickly (be they beneficiaries, or organisations that can change policy or hold the purse strings). We then need to convey the environment (the problem, the struggle, the prejudice…) and finally, describe how YOU, the reader, and the main protagonist can play a role.

Any good storyteller will capture their reader’s attention straight away – a punchy headline, killer statistic or compelling image can help with that. Your story should also resonate with your target audience. Whether you’re writing for a professional journal or the local press, then make sure your story strikes a chord with them. Local and regional news will want local case studies, or to know how you’re having an impact locally; a professional journal will want to understand what new intelligence or insights you’re bringing to the sector, or existing body of knowledge. Think about what’s going to cut the mustard with the editor – or for a quick and dirty guide just watch Press on catch up and you’ll get the gist!

I usually start by asking ‘So what? Why should people care? What’s the problem you ‘re trying to fix?’ The ability to shock or provide a wake up call, is another tactic used to garner traction – be that the melting of the ice caps or the shocking rise of poverty. Get researching all the evidence available and any data to back up your argument and present it in an easy to understand way – such as a year on year comparison or an infographic.

Humour is another great tactic you can employ in storytelling – listen to the Ken Robinson Ted talk ‘Do schools kill creativity’ and you’ll understand how this works… he tells funny stories, you laugh, you warm to him, these funny stories also illustrate important arguments – namely that the classroom isn’t always the best place for creative kids to flourish. This tactic is best suited to speeches and blogs where a more conversational style is acceptable and can also work in social media posts – typically Facebook, where followers are seeking out information and entertainment.

Finally, remember the power of images and film to pack an emotional punch or illustrate your story. The point is that it’s really worth the investment to get good photos to issue to the press or use on your website. So many clients simply don’t have the budget, or wont commission good photography, but really I do think it’s a worth developing a bank of images to use in your publicity. If budget is a problem, consider investing in a decent digital camera and sending one of your team on a photography course. Indeed, most smartphones take pretty decent images these days and with a bit of knowhow about how to set up a good shot, you’re half way there. Another option is to approach your local college to see if any of their students would like to get involved with your project. Many are happy for the opportunity to build up their portfolio.

Of course, if you want some help telling your charity’s story, I’m always happy to chat – and the coffee and cake is on me!

Kate Dawson of Well Read PR provides communications support to charities, social enterprises and public sector organisations. She is also editor of The Good Times e-zine, which shares the impact and learning from the third sector and other organisations working to bring about social change across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Bringing history to life to inspire future generations

It’s fair to say that I found history lessons at school a bit dull. Learning the dates of wars in far flung places just didn’t resonate with me in the same way the works of Shakespeare did, or indeed, excited me in the way that taking part in a protest march against the Poll Tax did (my Sociology teacher’s hands-on approach to teaching ‘collective action’).

Skip forward 25 years and I’ve been getting lost in history books, poring over old parchments in Nottingham Archives and getting excited over old maps. The reason for this new-found interest has been a wonderful opportunity to work on the King and Miller to Kingfisher project led by Ashfield District Council in north Nottinghamshire and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Pending second stage HLF funding the project, (which focuses on King’s Mill Reservoir, Hermitage Ponds and Sutton Pleasure Lawns), will attract visitors to a new heritage centre that will principally tell the story of the mills that once stood around the Reservoir and along the River Maun towards Mansfield.

The brief was to produce the content for a compelling and interactive visitor experience, as well as to create two initial education packs – working with Red Stone design agency – to help local teachers engage pupils with the industrial heritage of the site.

As an experienced communicator I knew that simply churning out facts and figures, would be a sure-fire way of turning people off – as it had me, many years before. What I needed to do was to bring to life the people at the centre of the historical narrative; provide visitors with an opportunity to reflect on the pivotal moments in history that have changed industry and society forever and above all make it fun!

Desk research into what makes a good visitor experience revealed a common thread: creating an emotional experience and allowing people to draw personal connections with what they see increased their satisfaction.¹ Increasingly, people also expect to be able to personalise their visit using APPs, audio guides, multi-media kiosks and podcasts².

The boundless enthusiasm of local heritage groups was infectious and invaluable in terms of mining for historical records, as well as learning about local folklore and traditions. A medieval play, The King and Miller of Mansfield; the gruesome beheading of local Luddite leader, Jeremiah Brandreth; and speculation about whether Hamilton Hill, an escarpment overlooking the site, was once a burial ground or a place for delivering speeches were all absolute gifts.

So, what is the vision for the heritage centre in Sutton-in-Ashfield? Well it’s certainly more than simply describing the historic mills. It’s about how the pioneers of the past heralded the beginning of the factory system and effectively, the introduction of a new working class; the importance of social justice and last, but not least, an insight into the Sutton spirit – combining a work ethic, integrity, a passion for sport and humour. We hope a visit to the site will get people thinking, make them feel good and hopefully, they’ll come back again.

With the architectural plans and interpretation for the site all prepared, we’re now waiting with bated breath for news that the project can be taken through to fruition.
To find out more about our research and interpretation services click Heritage research and interpretation or get in touch via email: kate.dawson@wellreadpr.com or call 07866 762401


  1. SLAudienceResearch
  2. maa journal

Image courtesy of Wikipedia circa 1817. Jeremiah Brandreth (1790 – 7 November 1817) was an out-of-work stocking maker who lived in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire who was hanged for treason. He was known as “The Nottingham Captain”. He and two of his conspirators were the last people to be beheaded with an axe in Britain.

Long live the PR poppet

Over the years I’ve been referred to as somebody who can make documents ‘look pretty’; somebody who can ‘chat up’ journalists; and my all-time favourite: a ‘PR poppet’.

There’s a fraction of truth in all of these statements of course, although at 43, juggling my consultancy work with family responsibilities, it’s fair to say I’m probably more ‘PR haggard’ than ‘poppet’ (see footnote).  I never enjoyed any boozy lunches with journalists in my 20s and 30s… although I frequently worked late to meet deadlines and ensure all ‘i’s were dotted and ‘t’s crossed.

The sad fact is that misconceptions about PR – the poor cousin of marketing – remain, with some still believing that it is little more than faffing around with press releases and keeping bad news from the door with our witchlike charms.

More frustrating still is that some managers think it’s a skills which anyone can just pick up and so cost cutting exercises often see the PR resource reduced or amalgamated into another role, with the end result that great PR opportunities are missed or copy for websites and newsletters etc. lack consistent messaging or relevancy to readers.

Perhaps PR itself could do with… well, some good PR?

As PR practitioners it’s essential we bang the drum for our profession.

PR should not be an afterthought or a ‘nice to have’, but should be embedded in strategy, policies and staff training. It’s about listening and responding to stakeholders and ensuring that the values we espouse in our communications are embedded in the organisation’s actions and behaviours.

Skilled story-telling continues to be at the heart of the service we offer, but today the proliferation of the media means it’s all about creating great content which can be re-nosed for a variety of channels – be that a company blog, stakeholder newsletter or indeed, a press release.

Great newspaper coverage still goes a long way in helping to build the trust and consent which Henry Ford, one of the first exponents of PR, set out to achieve back in early 1900s America; but opinions about organisations are now formed 24/7 in the vast open talking shop we call ‘social media’.

Social Media campaigns can gather momentum like wildfire and communities are formed to champion a cause, challenge authority, as well as inciting fear and prejudice.

Having a two-way dialogue continues to be the basic premise of PR, but today it’s important we utilise all the communications channels available to truly protect and shape the brand of an organisation.

I now describe myself as being in the business of ‘reputation management’.  I help organisations to create compelling copy that resonates with or motivates their target audiences.

So, call me a ‘PR poppet’ if you will, but I can help you engage new audiences, gain credibility amongst your professional peers, start new conversations with thought-leaders and demonstrate your impact more effectively. Please do get in touch: kate.dawson@wellreadpr.com


Footnote: Poppet: ˈpɒpɪt’ , noun

British, informal, an endearingly sweet or pretty child (often used as an affectionate form of address). “‘Here you are, poppet,’ the nurse said”

historical, a small figure of a human being used in sorcery and witchcraft.


Image courtesy: pixabay.com


Where are the marketing skills gaps in the charity and voluntary sector in Derbyshire?

Are you working in the third sector in Derbyshire?

Do you need to impress grant-making bodies, or evidence the difference you make to commissioners? Are you struggling to build a community using social media? Do you need a better profile to support fundraising or to engage people with your cause?

We want to find out which communications skills the charity and voluntary sector in Derbyshire need most help with.

We want to hear your views so we can tailor a programme of FREE workshops and resources that will enable charities and other not-for-profits  improve their reach and impact through improved communications.

Our survey takes just 5-10 minutes and by completing the survey and entering your contact details you could be the winner of a free communications audit by Well Read that will help you understand where you could improve the way you talk to key audiences.

Complete the survey here

Many thanks, Kate Dawson

Top ten tips for writing a press release that cuts the mustard

Getting coverage in print and online helps to raise the profile of your organisation and builds trust in your brand and if you’re a charity, having an awareness of your cause can really boost your fundraising efforts.

The challenge is getting the attention of journalists who are looking for something that’s fresh and relevant to their readers.

So, to give you a head start, here are my top 10 tips for producing press releases that will get followed up:

  1. Journalists should be able to get the gist of the story in the opening paragraph – the ‘who, what, where, why, and when’. Critically, don’t forget to include key dates, such as the announcement of a research finding or an event, so the news outlet can publish the story before it becomes old news.
  2. Write in Plain English and avoid technical or scientific jargon, except when this is intrinsic to the story, in which case explain in layman’s terms. Ditto use of acronyms: don’t assume journalists will know what they stand for, so write in full the first time around.
  3. Try and link your story topical issue or event; for example how your organisation is responding to the impact of austerity measures, or a guide to successful project management inspired by the TV show, The Apprentice.
  4. Include a supporting quote from an independent authority, be that a service-user or expert in your field of business, in addition to your own spokesperson’s quote. This will add credibility and avoid it reading as PR ‘puffery’.
  5. Send your release to a named contact rather than you firing it off to everyone at the publication or website. Get to know your target publications and journalists, follow them on Twitter and find out which topics they’re interested in.
  6. A great picture tells a thousand words and can often make or break a PR pitch. If your promoting a prestigious event or if there are particular conditions on photo usage, (for example the photographer needs a fee for any front cover usage) it’s a good idea to set up an online photo gallery and ask journalists to request the large files.
  7. Ensure that your company/charity spokesperson is available for interview 24 hours following distribution of the release and that a back-up is available. Nothing annoys journalists more than a story which they can’t get their own unique angle on, or fresh quotes for.
  8. Keep it succinct. Use Notes to Editors to provide essential information about your mission, turnover etc and attach case studies separately if necessary – this is especially useful if you’re pitching to broadsheets and consumer press.
  9. Find out when the publications goes to print and avoid issuing releases at their busiest time. Keep follow up calls for those journalists you know are happy to chat. If you are given short shrift by a journalist or editor – keep a note and don’t do it again.
  10. Remember to thank journalists if they do run with your press release / story. A little thank-you email, tweet or even a hand written card for something really special will go a long way to nurturing you future relationship. Journalists are only human after-all!

For help telling your story in the media why not drop me a line to arrange a chat? kate.dawson@wellreadpr.com

Tone of voice – and how to avoid sounding like an embarrassing Mum

As marketeers and PR professionals, understanding how our words make people feel and their likely response is at the crux of what we do. Indeed, any organisation wanting to up their game in their particular marketplace needs to spend time establishing their tone of voice before embarking on developing their marketing content.

Combined with your visual identity, actions and behaviour, tone of voice is an essential, but often overlooked element, of brand identity. So where to start? Well it’s worth considering your brand personality and how you want to be perceived by your target audiences – if you’re selling urban clothing to the under 25s it’s worth involving young people in defining your brand and gaining some real intelligence into youth trends and parlance, to avoid sounding like an embarrassing Mum trying to ‘get down with the kids’.

Clarity about whether your target audience sits within your business or professional field; is an expert consumer (with good knowledge of your industry); or a general member of the public with little knowledge of your product or services is important before you get started. If you’re an online education business for example, you may need to adopt a different tone of voice for teachers and education partner, to parents and individuals purchasing your products directly. Educators will want to know about your pedagogical credentials, whereas parents may be turned off by technical language and simply want to know in Plain English how purchasing your resources will help their child do better at school.

Once you’ve established your tone of voice you need to ensure that there’s some consistency across all of your communications channels. Nothing will turn a potential customer off more than seeing an enticing advert in the press, or a great product description on an affiliate website, if your own website doesn’t cut the mustard –  it’s too turgid, technical or simply doesn’t reflect the brand promise. (Of course, tone of voice is only one aspect of having a great website: it also needs to be user-friendly, provide your consumer /service user with the information they are looking for and make it as easy as possible for people to make a purchase or contact you. Once for another blog-post.)

I have helped a charity establish more consistent messaging and tone of voice in order to build their brand and ultimately, to help them attract more funding and donations.  A survey of their supporters and members, combined with a review of their competition, revealed that although they came across as being compassionate and well-established, they weren’t perceived as being particularly professional and people weren’t aware of their incredible expertise and the impact they were making. The creation of key messages and a more authoritative tone of voice has enabled them to present themselves not only as an organisation dedicated to their cause, but also with much greater conviction about the difference their work makes – essential, to build credibility and motivate potential supporters to give.

Ensuring your tone of voice sits comfortably and authentically with front-line staff is another common pitfall. I recently advised a very wealthy family run-business operating in the country leisure and sustainable fuels industry. An honest discussion about their brand messaging and tone of voice resulted in them agreeing to tone down some of their flamboyant language and to instead focus on the trace-ability of their products and pride in the region. We also discussed involving staff in drilling down on the values of the organisations and how that translates to their particular enterprises.

Their values and tone of voice are now actually being spoken, rather than sitting within a written document, which means they are much more authentic and believeable to target customers.

If you’d like a chat about how I can help you create a brand that really resonates with your customers or target audiences, why not drop me a line? Email me at kate.dawson@wellreadpr.com

Photo credit: http://www.istockphoto.com CREATISTA