Author Archives: amber

  1. Are these Agency Anchors Dragging Down Your Business?

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    By Paul Smith

    Calling all Agency Leaders! With thoughts returning to work after the festive break, it’s a great time to highlight the top 5 agency anchors we see dragging down businesses year after year. Here are our anchors to address for a successful 2024.

    Sales is a dirty word. We’re consultants, we don’t sell!

    It’s a common phrase we hear from agency teams that haven’t experienced the benefits of consultative selling. With the right training, agency people quickly realise that their natural skills in questioning and problem solving make them great at opening new opportunities.

    Over service – Everyone is busy but it’s not showing on the balance sheet.

    It’s often easier to just say yes but with the confidence to have that crucial conversation, your team can claim back time and be more profitable. 

    Accidental managers – Inadvertently pushing your best talent straight out of the door.

    Just because someone is great at their job, doesn’t instantly make them a good people manager when you promote them. It’s one of the most important and difficult skills in the industry, so why don’t we invest more in people management training? 

    Senior folks used as sticking plasters – Because you don’t trust your team on their own in front of the client.

    It keeps directors working in the business, rather than on the business and holds back your other people. Investing in impact communications and presentation skills can equip your team with the wow factor in front of clients.

    Hiring clones

    Yes, you’re great but a business full of people just like you is never going to scale.  Getting the right mix of personality types and skills is essential to grow an agency business beyond the cult of an individual leader. Using a psychometric system like Insights Discovery can be instrumental in helping identify the right individuals to hire and to enable the team to communicate effectively with each other and clients. 

    By cutting the chains on these Agency Anchors, leaders can avoid that sinking feeling and another 12 months of steering the ship through choppy waters.

    Agency Leaders – Are there any other Agency Anchors you have identified?

    Good luck with the year ahead and shout if we can help.

    cutting chains
  2. DELIVERING FEEDBACK: How to Structure Your Conversation

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    By Liz Baines

    Delivering Feedback

    People often tell me they find giving feedback to others difficult, no matter how well-intentioned it is.  So here are some tips to help you prepare for and structure a feedback conversation:

    1. Consider the outcome.
      Decide what you want the other person to do differently as a result of the feedback you’re about to give. Being able to articulate this will help them to understand the change that’s required.
    2. Use facts or examples to give context to your feedback. 
      For instance; telling somebody they’re “always late” is vague and may be interpreted as an attack on their character. Pointing out that they arrived at work late on three occasions last week then asking to talk through the reasons is factual and less judgemental. Plus, it gives them the opportunity to picture themselves back in the situation and account for why.
    3. Discuss the implications of their performance or behaviour. 
      Most people will be open to change if they’re made aware of the effect unsatisfactory performance or behaviour is having on their work, their colleagues, their career progression or other peoples’ perceptions of them.
    4. Identify the actions they could take to improve. 
      Resist the urge to tell them what to do – what works for you may not work for them. Instead, explore the options and help them to choose the one most likely to lead to success.

      And finally…
    5. Get their commitment to act.
      Confirm the next steps and time scales, agree what support you will provide and how you will monitor progress.
      By structuring your conversation this way, you will increase the chances of your feedback being understood and acted upon.
  3. TIME MANAGEMENT: Three Tips for Improving Your Effectiveness

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    By Liz Baines

    Time is scarce. There’s never enough of it to do everything we need or want to do, so it’s important to make the most of the time we do have if we are to fulfil our commitments and achieve our goals. 

    Here are three tips for managing your time effectively:

    Prioritise around outcomes

    Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a task and realised what you’re doing either won’t get you to where you want to be or simply isn’t the best use of your time?

    Before starting a task, think about its purpose. Ask yourself, what result it will achieve. For example; a client asks for a report summarising the work you’ve completed for them. It will be time consuming to prepare and it’s an admin task you don’t enjoy, so you might be tempted to relegate it to the bottom of your ‘to do’ list. But the report will also allow you to communicate your results and the value you deliver to your client’s business, possibly leading to more work in the future. So perhaps this task has more significance than you thought?

    Thinking about the outcome will give you a clearer sense of a task’s importance and help you to appropriately prioritise it.

    Manage expectations

    There’ll be times when your own priorities mean you’re unable to accommodate the needs or priorities of another person. When that happens, it’s important to set their expectations.

    Acknowledge the other person’s request. Show that you recognise its importance to them before explaining why you are unable to accommodate it. If the other person feels heard and understands your situation, they’ll be more open to collaborate to find a win: win solution that works for both of you.

    Limit interruptions

    These are commonplace at work and most of the time we simply deal with them before getting back to the task in hand. But regular interruptions affect our productivity and wellbeing. They increase our workload, our effort and put pressure on us, often making us feel stressed and overloaded.

    To stay productive, consider turning off notifications for a brief time while you focus on important tasks or agree times with colleagues when you will be available to answer questions or provide help.

    These three time management tips will give you more control over your time and workload and help to ensure you deliver your best work.

  4. STRATEGIC THINKING IN PR: Putting Strategy First

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    By Paul Smith

    Strategy must be one of the most overused and misunderstood words in PR. So how do we encourage more strategic thinking in our agencies?

    First, we must remember that when you boil it down, clients only buy PR for one of two reasons, either:

    • to help them sell more stuff, or
    • to change a target audience’s behaviour – like the NHS does by trying to encourage us to eat more healthily and exercise to prevent heart disease or diabetes.

    Everything we do in our PR programme must easily tie back to achieving these over arching goals.

    So, what do we need to create a good PR strategy?

    First, we must understand the client’s business objectives – what they want to achieve – and make sure they are measurable.

    Then we identify our communications objectives. This is what we, as an agency, have control of to help our client achieve their goals. For example, if the client wants to grow their ecommerce sales by £1m a year, our communications objective is to drive enough people to the website to help them achieve that goal.

    However, what happens once the customer arrives on the website is beyond our control, so it wouldn’t form a part of our communications objective. But with some simple maths around website sales conversion rates and average sale prices, we should quickly be able to put measurable targets around our communication goals.

    Next, we need to do our homework by researching all the things that might help us or prevent us from achieving our goals. This includes understanding the target audience, the competitors and any trends or influencers that are affecting the market.

    As we do our research, we are looking for insights – those nuggets of information that will form the basis of our strategy. Insights help us to grab our target audience’s attention and switch them on to new possibilities or behaviours. They are the magic ingredient of any PR strategy.

    Once we have our insights, then our strategy – i.e., how we will help our client – becomes clear.

    Remember, there can’t be a strategy without clear business and communications objectives…and key insights.

    So, are you giving enough thought to your client’s PR strategies?

  5. How to Put Consultative Selling into a SPIN

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    By Paul Smith

    Consultative Selling

    When I ask PR people if they are good at selling, most of them say no. But that simply isn’t true.

    Most PR people are brilliantly equipped for consultative selling because they are great at asking questions and enjoy talking to people – they just need to apply the SPIN technique.

    Spin stands for Situation, Problem, Implication and Need.

    First, ask your client lots of Situational questions such as, “how’s business?” or “what are the biggest problems your business faces right now?”

    Then home in on a potential Problem. It could be they are having trouble breaking into a new market or converting leads into sales. 

    Next, and this is important, get the client to quantify the Implication of not solving this problem. For example, will failing to break into a new market cause them a £1m, £10m or £100m problem?

    Then you can focus in on their Need and start to discuss the solutions you can offer to help them solve their challenge.

    By already quantifying the implication of missing their targets, it makes the prospect of spending £200k with you to solve a £2m problem much more attractive. 

    Before you know it, you’re bringing in lots more sales opportunities for your agency.

    Who said PR people were no good at selling?

  6. PERSUASIVE WRITING: Understanding Your Audience

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    By Paul Smith

    There are three things you should think about if you want to your audience to be persuaded by what you have to say:

    • the reader
    • the result you want to achieve, and
    • your messages

    Let’s start with the reader. Just who are they? What’s their demographic, their interests and background?

    Consider the reason they’re reading: is it for work, pleasure or education, and what do they feel about the subject you’re writing about?

    Understanding these things about your reader will help you to write using language and cultural references that connects with them. 

    Knowing if they are reading for work, pleasure or education also allows you to adapt your writing style to meet their needs:

    • If it’s work, you want to be clear and concise to allow the reader to quickly take want they need from the prose and get on with their task. 
    • If it’s pleasure, your copy should be interesting and entertaining. After all, the reader could be doing other things with their time!
    • And if it’s for education, it should be comprehensive, for them to be able to learn. 

    Next, think about the result.

    Be clear about what you think is achievable with this one piece of writing. For example, do you want the reader to recognise a brand name or to understand why a product or service might be useful to them? Be realistic and focus your writing on that goal. 

    Lastly, think about the messages – the information you use to convince the reader.

    Choose a maximum of three pieces of information – readers rarely take on board more than three – then write them in a logical order on your page. They form the spine of your copy and you can write around them.

    If you’re thinking about the reader, result and messages before you begin writing then you are in the best position to write persuasively. 

    Click here for details of the Amber Group’s Persuasive Writing training.

  7. STORYTELLING: Tales Your Audience Will Want to Retell

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    By Ken Deeks

    Telling powerful stories has never been more important. Increasingly, audiences – whether that’s employees, clients or prospects – want to be inspired and entertained when learning more about what we do as a business.

    The best way to do this is through impactful and memorable stories. At the Amber Group, we talk about the power of the retellable story. The idea behind this is that if you tell a story, you should tell it in a way that your audience – reader, listener, viewer – will want to, and feel equipped to, retell.

    So, what makes a retellable story?

    Firstly, it should be easy to understand.

    • Individuals cannot retell the story if they don’t understand it. This can be tricky. You are telling a story that you are familiar with, but the person you’re telling it to could be hearing it for the first time.
    • If you are marketing or selling complex solutions, think about the benefit to your client or the outcome they could achieve by using your product or service. Focus on this and build your story around it. Always keep it simple. One of my favourite quotes is: “If you can’t explain it simply enough, you do not understand it well enough.”

    Which brings me to my second technique. Every story needs a headline.

    • Think about how you digest news. It’s the headline that makes the difference between whether you click to find out more or scroll to another story. Your headline should make the reader want to know more.
    • Now you’ve got your audience’s attention, consider how you will keep them there.

    My third tip is to paint pictures by telling stories about people.

    • You’ve probably heard the saying, “every picture tells a thousand words.” This is partly because we digest and remember pictures in a way we can’t always digest and remember words.
    • So, paint a picture. Rather than talk about how your products and services helped Natleys bank, talk about how you and your team first met Jane, the new CEO, and how – when you first met her –  she had her head in her hands, looked up and said ‘help.’
    • I bet you’ve just pictured that. You ‘saw’ a different Jane, right? Someone with their head in their hands needing help. It painted a picture. It was memorable.

    Use these three tips to give longevity to your stories through others wanting to retell them.

    For more information on the Amber Group’s Storytelling and Writing Skills training, click here.

  8. Developing an Account Manager Mindset

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    By Ken Deeks

    Account Manager Mindset

    The shift in role from an account executive to account manager in a creative or PR agency is one of the most challenging transitions you can make. It involves a move from the client seeing you as an administrative doer to a strategic consultant.

    A major thing that underpins this transition, and will help you along that journey, is this: you must understand that you do things that the client can’t do; that you provide a service that the client does not have the expertise to do for themselves.

    We all buy services and we buy those services for two reasons.

    • Firstly, we buy a service because we don’t want to do something. For example, we could wash our car but instead we choose to take it to a car wash, or we could make a sandwich for lunch but hey, there’s a Pret a Manger on the way to work… While we value these services, they tend to be a commodity purchase, based on price.
    • Now think about the services you buy that you can’t do such as solicitor, plumber, financial adviser, electrician etc. It’s because you can’t do them or have the expertise to do them, you value them that much more.

    We often don’t remind our clients that we can do things they can’t and it can lead them to taking us for granted, because we haven’t educated them on what we do.

    Next time you are reporting back on a piece of coverage you’ve achieved, explain what went into achieving it; how you built up a relationship with the writer over several years, the spin you put on the story to suit the publication’s audience, how you linked it to a piece of well-regarded industry research and how you came up with a compelling headline that grabbed the editor’s attention.

    Think about the last time you did this – or have you ever? It’s something you should consider if you want your client to appreciate your value.

    After all, when was the last time a plumber popped round your house, looked at the leak and said “Oh that’s easy, it will only take me a couple of minutes?”  

  9. MEDIA TRAINING: How to Handle an Interview

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    By Ken Deeks

    Media Training

    Every trainer shares their favourite techniques on how to handle an interview during media training sessions.

    Here are my top 3:

    Firstly, you need to focus on the journalist’s audience. 

    Too many spokespeople rely on providing generic content without thinking about the journalist’s readers or viewers. When I worked on the Daily Mirror, the editorial team was laser-focused on what our readers wanted – the type of story, the angle, the way it should be written. It was a brilliant lesson in an early part of my career.

    Secondly, think about what you want from the interview.

    All too often spokespeople are happy to let the journalist run the interview, and answer the questions posed. This is fine, but you also need to deflect so that your messages land.

    Here’s a technique to help achieve this:

    As part of your prep, write down the headline you’d like to see as a result of the interview. Then write down the first two or three paragraphs. Have this in front of you when you go through your interview. This will help you to focus on your own key messages.

    Thirdly, use what we call verbal underlining to really drive home those messages. Use words like ‘importantly,’ ‘significantly’ and ‘crucially,’ and then pause before you slowly deliver your message. These words will prompt the journalist to want to listen.

    My three favourite techniques: Think Reader. Think Message. Think Verbal Underlining.

    I hope these work for you!

    Click here if you would like more information on the Amber Group’s Media Training courses.

  10. PRESENTATION SKILLS: Top Tips for Presenting with Impact

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    By Richard Baines

    Presenting is something many of us have to do. If you find it challenging, you’re definitely not alone.

    When we present, we communicate through three channels:

    • Our words – what we say,
    • Our tone – how we say it,
    • Our behaviours – or more specifically, our delivery style.

    Presentation skills training can help you enhance your delivery and become a more impactful presenter. In the meantime, here are a few tips to get you started. Let’s begin with words:

    Our words should INFORM our audience. To achieve this, they should be simple; free of unnecessary jargon and framed in short sentences. 

    To add impact, consider the occasional underlining word, such as significantly or importantly to tee up your key messages. 

    The use of framing statements such as, “so why is this so important for us?” is also a great way to draw your audience’s attention to your key point or takeaway. 

    If words inform, it’s our tone that CONVINCES the audience.  As the saying goes, it’s not what you say but how you say it.

    Consider two techniques here: 

    1. Place emphasis on key words and statements to underline them and ensure they stand out. You can even repeat the occasional point for greater resonance.
    2. Vary your volume. All good presenters use this technique to add a little theatre and variety to their delivery. You don’t have to over-do it. Remain authentic and try not to fall foul of a monotone delivery at all costs.

    Finally, consider your delivery style. This is what engages your audience so focus on:

    • Pace: often when presenting we speed up, usually because we feel anxious. As we get faster, we use more ‘filler words’ because our brain is struggling to keep up with our mouth. “Err,” “umm,” “basically,” and “sort of” are all good examples. A few of these are ok but too many can reduce your impact. So slow down. It will allow you time to think. It will also enable your audience to keep up. Remember, they are probably hearing this for the first time.
    • Use the power of the pause: a well-placed pause compels your audience to reflect on what you have just said, while building anticipation for what is to come. Like a well-crafted song, it’s the gaps between the notes that are just as important as the notes themselves. So don’t be afraid to let your delivery breathe a little with a timely pause here and there to keep them engaged.

    Like any skill, practice makes perfect so don’t be afraid to experiment with your words, tone and delivery style to add impact to your presenting.

    Good Luck!

    If you are interested in Presentation Skills training, click below for information on the Amber Group’s training courses.