National Awareness Daze – Researching a better social media plan

social media plan researchI love the little traditions at this time of year – adding the finishing touches to the Halloween costume, lighting the fire at home and putting the Christmas cake in to soak.

Perhaps my favourite work tradition over the autumn and winter months is researching next year’s social media calendar. What could be better than grabbing a big mug of coffee (or some other hot beverage), block booking out an afternoon and spending some quality time researching obscure cultural and historical events?

And there is so much good content out there. Take this week in space travel. Not only is it the 55th anniversary of the first Saturn 1 launch (part of the Saturn rocket family which would eventually take humans to the moon), it’s also the 70th anniversary of the first motion pictures being taken of Earth.

All of this information is simple to find and can easily form the basis for blogs, infographics and other content. That’s why I find it infuriating when brands lean on national awareness days for their planned content.

Why national awareness days?


To be clear, I have nothing against (most) national awareness days. They are a well-established means of bringing issues to the public’s attention.

There are also lots of good reasons for brands to get involved:

  • It’s a chance to support a cause and engage with followers affected by the issue.
  • Hashtags are pre-established and actively supported by the organisation/s responsible for the day. As a result, national days often trend on twitter.
  • The dates are easy to find, either via media calendar services, or a quick internet search. As such, pulling them together takes very little time.

The problem is, many brands seem to base their entire social content plans around these events (with liberal sprinkles of Monday motivation, hump day and TGIF). It makes for a dull, repetitive timeline, and it makes me reach for the unfollow button.

Finding balance

balancing social media

A well planned content calendar should combine awareness days and religious holidays with more niche content that followers can’t get elsewhere. One of the best examples of this is the Google Doodle which will happily switch between national holidays and obscure historical events (358th Anniversary of Tea in the UK, anyone?).  This content can help you to stand out on social media and, not only attract followers, but keep them interested and engaged too.

So, let’s make a deal. For every post about a national awareness day or holiday you talk about on social media, you have to find at least one piece of unusual content to post about.

A master plan

social media plan

We start our planning process by creating a master spreadsheet and adding the most obvious content – cultural & sporting events, holidays and major anniversary events (i.e. next year is the 90th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s non-stop flight from New York to Paris).

Next we dig into our target audience’s interests and search for more unusual content which may interest them. To do this we first identify any key anniversaries within the target audience’s sphere of interest (Wikipedia and Ian Visits are good starting points for this). We also identify a few interesting individuals and topics then look to identify any relevant dates. Don’t get too hung up on major anniversaries, the 353rd anniversary can be just as fun as the 50th.

As ever, remember to observe best practice. Every post should have an image which has been properly optimised and keep an eye out for news events which may compromise your scheduled posts. Also keep in mind this long-term scheduled content should just form one part of your social media plan. Relevance is key, and you should always be on the lookout for topical issues and events to discuss.

More than anything, remember social media is about engagement. Embrace the process, dig around for fascinating stories and obscure facts then reap the rewards.

Planning for Success: PR and the Olympics

Over the weekend, whilst the intrepid Team SG were out tackling the Welsh Three Peaks as part of our charity drive, most of the nation were glued to their TVs watching Team GB rack up enough gold, silver and bronze to fill Gringotts.

Speaking as someone whose earliest Olympic memories are of watching Jonathan Edwards, Colin Jackson and Co. fail miserably at the 1996 games, the transformation has been nothing short of incredible.

So how have UK Sport turned things around? Increased funding is certainly a big factor, but simply throwing money at the task is not enough, it is the meticulous planning, and successful enactment of those plans, which has really helped Britain to become world leaders in sports such as cycling.

Whilst most of us won’t be running 100 metres in under 10 seconds, there is still a huge amount that public relations teams can learn from the success of Team GB:

Planning Training

Be prepared to innovate

One of the most common pitfalls in any job is to continue to follow a process simply because “It has always been done that way”. Olympic history is riddled with examples of athletes reaching new heights precisely because they were willing to go against the grain, regardless of how odd it might first seem to others – just ask Dick Fosbury.

The changes don’t always have to be earth shattering, it can be as simple as switching from Excel to Google Sheets to allow team members to work remotely and simultaneously on the same documents. The key is to stay on the lookout for better processes and approaches and to keep refining the small details (although I wouldn’t recommend taking this quite as far as the GB Cycling team!).

Choose the right tools

From Adolf Dassler’s experimentations with footwear to the data-driven weather playbook of the US sailing team, having the right equipment can make all the difference.

For years, the spreadsheet has been the workhorse of PR planning and it certainly still has its place within the strategic armoury, however, its functionality is fairly limited when it comes to actually enacting plans. Basic task lists, such as those included within Outlook, can bridge the gap to an extent but often require a fair amount of unnecessary duplication from the spreadsheet.

Project management tools such as Asana and Basecamp offer a more holistic solution. The latest versions of these tools are far more intuitive than their predecessors and at their best, they can roll up visualisation, task organisation and tracking in one place. What’s more, many of the tools are available for free or at low cost for smaller businesses.

Of course, even project management tools have their limitations. One of my biggest quibbles with the current project management offering is that they are overly focused on large, multistage projects. Whilst this is ideal for firms such as web developers or for running specific public relations campaigns, it means more creativity is required in order to use them to plan small, everyday tasks across a wide client base.

Ultimately, finding the right solution for your business will take a degree of trial and error. Just remember to keep an open mind and be willing to completely rethink processes.

Olympics Training

Stick to the plan

When things get hectic it is easy to put off planning administration tasks and to jump straight into the work. Knuckling down is fine but if you’re not careful work can easily be missed or resources wasted. The planning processes are there for a reason, they’re your catch-net against disaster and they also make it much easier to spread work effectively so that no-one gets overladen.

Maintain the amateur spirit

Whilst commonly used to describe learners or beginners, the term ‘amateur’ actually derives from the latin ‘amare’ – to love. Amateurs are people who practice a sport, hobby or role because they love it and not just because they’re being paid to do it.

Now I’m not suggesting that public relations staff should work for free, or that everyone should try and love every part of the planning process (let’s face it, few would admit to enjoying filling in a timesheet), simply that we remember that planning is fundamental to the success of any PR work. So, whether your true passion lies in designing infographics, running events or writing technical articles, keep upholding your planning principles and stay on the lookout for ways to take them to the next level.

Developing, refining and maintaining a plan is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. However, as the athletes continue to show, the rewards at the end make it all worthwhile.


5 Ways To Optimise Your Site with Google Search Console

OK, I’ll come clean, this blog post is about SEO.

I realise for many it is still considered a dark art, but times have changed.

With its latest core algorithm update last weekend, Google continued its mission of adapting and refining its engine to actively find and promote quality content, whilst sending wrong-doers into ranking oblivion.

Instead of keyword spamming, good SEO must now centre on the visitor experience. This includes everything from reducing page loading times, to understanding exactly what visitors are looking for, and delivering it to them in a form that both they, and search engines, can easily understand.

There are several free and paid tools to help you to achieve this, but perhaps the most underused is Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools).

Whilst not as refined as it’s more illustrious sibling, Google Analytics, Search Console offers some powerful insights that can help you to better reach your target audience.

Here are five of the most useful features Google Search Console has to offer:

1) Understand EXACTLY What People Are Searching For

Since Google began omitting keyword data from Google Analytics five years ago, it has become increasingly time consuming to check how users are finding your site in organic search.

Google Search Console offers a solution. By opening Search Analytics from the Search Traffic tab you can view a far more comprehensive breakdown of the queries visitors to your site have entered.

Search analytics

The top menu allows you to break this data down by a number of categories including location, timespan and device.

In addition to Clicks, Search Analytics also provides Impression and Click through Rate (CTR) data. This information can help you to fine-tune page titles and snippets to encourage more impressions to convert.

Convert Through Rate

Finally Search Analytics also provides average page ranking position for each query over your chosen timespan. By using the download function at the bottom of the page, you can benchmark your ranking position and track change over time.

Page ranking

2) Build The RIGHT Links

Link building is right at the heart of any good SEO strategy. Sites which gain lots of links from other well respected pages will ultimately perform better in the organic search rankings.

In Links to Your Site (directly beneath Search Analytics on the Search Traffic menu) you can view all of the external sites linking to your website, along with the most commonly used anchor links and the most linked content, allowing you to adapt and improve future content.

However, just as links from respected sites can help your site, links from spammer sites can drag it down.

Through Links to Your Site you can quickly identify any ‘bad’ links and ask the site owners to remove them. If the owners fail to comply, Google also provides the disavow tool to remove these links from their records.

3). Staying Mobile

Mobilegeddon may not have brought the sea change in mobile ranking some had expected, however, last year’s algorithm change was just a sign of things to come and with mobile transactions rapidly increasing in 2015, it is essential to ensure your site is fully optimised.

Mobile Usability, located at the bottom of the Search Traffic tab, quickly highlights any issues with your site and ensures you stay in both Google, and mobile users, good books.

4) Look Through Google-Tinted Glasses

On a similar note, in order to get the ranking position you rightly deserve, it is vital to ensure that the Google bots which crawl your site are viewing it properly.

To look at the site through their eyes open Fetch as Google in the Crawl tab. You can then choose to fetch and render pages both for desktop and mobile. This can help to identify if, for example, the CSS is being blocked by your robot.txt, causing your site to resemble a bowl of alphabet pasta rather than the beautifully styled design you spent so much time working on.

5) Speed Things Up

OK, this is a bit of a cheat as you can access PageSpeed Insights without going through Search Console, however, this tool is simply too good not to mention.

Simply enter a Url and the tool (available through the Other Resources tab on Search Console) will not only give you a Speed Score and identify any issues with the page, it will also tell you PRECISELY how to fix them. You can even download optimised images, Java script and CSS, so there’s no excuses for not getting straight on it!

These are just a few of the benefits Google Search Console can offer. If you aren’t taking advantage of the platform, it’s time you started! If you’re unsure how to get your site set-up on Search Console simply visit the Google Tutorial.