The Northern Affinity Partners Meeting – Friday 24th April 2020

Last Friday, we hosted our second virtual partners meeting. It was brilliant to see so many familiar faces and catch up. We’re all getting smoother with running the old Zoom meetings now! We were pleased to welcome several new partners to The Northern Affinity at this month’s meeting. Thanks for joining us and it’s fantastic to have you on board! Particularly during the current climate, it’s more important than ever to lean on one another for valuable knowledge, support and a listening ear. 

Latest news from The Northern Affinity.

Firstly, Mike kindly updated us on the many ways to get involved with The Northern Affinity. This includes making the most out of the platforms available. We want to be our partner’s cheerleaders and we’re always keen to get your news out there. That’s why we’re introducing guest blogging slots, podcasts, live video collaborations as well as updating our current directory with your latest services. 

We’ve also been working hard to improve the ways our partners can communicate internally; introducing Workplace, a number of collaboration sessions as well as our local events in Harrogate and Huddersfield (obviously on hold for now!) For those wanting support and advice, our peer group and accountability groups are running regularly and have received fantastic feedback. 

Caroline Joynson from Cheerleader PR.

Speaking of cheerleaders, we were lucky to be joined by Caroline Joynson of Cheerleader PR. Caroline walked us through the fundamentals of PR and the steps we can take to becoming our own biggest cheerleader in business. We learnt about the differences between PR and advertising; in other words, earned media vs. paid media. Gather as much social proof as possible as that third party endorsement will help your reputation going forward. Put yourself forward for podcasts, YouTube videos and blogs – anything you can do to make sure you’re sharing your brand with the world.

The shape of PR has changed since the rise of social media. Businesses now have the opportunity to showcase their own expertise through the use of different content marketing. PR and content marketing are a match made in heaven. This is why it’s important to focus your mind on your target audience. You want to make sure the right people are seeing your content. The final message we took away from Caroline was that PR is about getting ‘the right information to the right person at the right time.’ A big thank you to Caroline for sharing with us! If you’d like to present at a future meeting, please get in touch with Michael to arrange a date. 

Thank you to all our partners for another very positive and insightful meeting. It’s always good to see one another and catch up. Our next meeting will be taking place on Friday 29th May (on Zoom unless we hear anything different). To find out more details about the guest blogging, podcast and collaboration opportunities as well as the accountability and peer groups, please get in touch with Michael who can give you all the information you need.

Will working culture change after COVID-19?

It’s safe to say the current climate we’re experiencing is completely (we’re going to say it!) unprecedented. Many of us have had to be creative with our adaptations, play a number of roles simultaneously and also take a step back to evaluate the important things. What we’re wondering is what the lasting impact of the pandemic will be on working culture when things return to ‘normal’. Will things fully go back to the way they were or will we see a sizeable change in working lives across the country?  

Realigning our mission, vision and values.

We know from speaking to a number of our partners over the past few weeks that many of us are finally ploughing through a to-do list we’ve been putting off for months. It might be finally sorting through that admin you’ve been avoiding or finally committing to a website revamp. 

But in addition to this, it’s been a great time for us all to have a hard look at who we are as a business. Mission, vision and values can often be throw away statements and not a true reflection of what we stand for. How have you handled the crisis? Does it fall in with your original mission, vision and values or have you found something else come to the surface? 

A fantastic example of this is the recent story from Great Western Hotels. When the time came to close the hotels to the public, GWH offered their rooms to key workers. Not only did this mean their staff could keep working but they also gave something back; fitting in perfectly with their values of service excellence and being a good member of the community.

Is it time for flexible working to shine? 

Seeing businesses large and small adapt to remote working over the last few weeks has been remarkable; with hoards of employees moving their entire desks to a corner of their living rooms, juggling work and family life in completely unique circumstances. 

Many will have never had the chance to work like this before. For some, it may well be their worst nightmare, for others it may be a transformational way of doing things. In the extreme, months down the line, we may see completely new operational strategies from companies. There will surely be new challenges faced by companies if these things come to pass. The remote working resistance may ease, with workers taking back agency over their own schedules. The rise in coworking may well continue to increase as employees seek out productive work spaces closer to their homes. We talked more about the growing popularity of coworking in our previous blog

There’s no doubt that certain aspects of life as we know it will change forever after the pandemic. The extent of these changes remains largely unknown, but there are certainly interesting times ahead for all of us. At The Northern Affinity, we continue to support our existing partners and welcome new businesses into the fold. Whether you continue to work remotely, return to the office or change your working life completely, we’ll be here for you! Let’s see what the future has in store for us.

Social Media: is it worth it for my business?

Social Media is one of the biggest things to ever happen to marketing. Done well it can benefit businesses hugely; driving engagement, getting your brand out there and importantly, giving your business a personality. With over three billion users worldwide, the power of social media is not to be underestimated. But is social media worth it for my business? Let’s take a closer look. 

Get your brand out there!
80% of businesses using social media say their main objective is to increase their brand awareness. One of the main challenges we all face when we start a business is getting our name out there to key players in our field. We all rely on word of mouth and recommendations but why not utilise some of the biggest platforms around to put your business out to the world? 

Before you dive into your social media strategy, it’s a good idea to firstly sit down and create your brand strategy. One of our partners, Fliss Lee (Honest Folk) wrote a very helpful blog about what branding actually is. That way, you can be more confident that all your social media platforms will be consistent. You want your brand to be instantly recognisable, no matter where you are. 

Maximise your platforms to their full potential.
Similarly to if you were running a print, radio and TV ad simultaneously, think about how your approach might be subtly different on each platform. 

When designing your social media strategy, think about what your objectives are for each platform you’re using. For example, making a certain number of relevant connections on LinkedIn, how many retweets can you get on your latest campaign or increasing your website traffic by a percentage based on visitors from Facebook? 

Connect with current customers.
You’ve established your brand, you’ve set up your platforms, now what? Now is the time to have fun. Sprinkle your content with your personality. Give your audience a sense of you. 

Not only is social media an enormous marketing platform, it has revolutionised how businesses can run their customer service efforts. We can now engage with our customers like never before – getting direct feedback, finding out what services they want going forward, drumming up excitement about new projects. 

On the other side of the coin, your customers can get to know you – your values, your goals, your achievements. Be mindful of how much you decide to share with your followers. After all, this is your company social media profile, you want to make sure things are kept professional and strictly business. 

The world of social media can be a little overwhelming. How often do I post? What content do my followers want to see? If you have any questions, a number of partners within The Northern Affinity can help you to build the perfect social media strategy for you and your business. You can click here for more information on our partners.

Strategy: Business, Branding & Marketing

 

Our Partners Anna Short (Boo! Marketing), Brenda Etchells (Carduus Ltd) and Fliss Lee (honest Folk) sat down this week with Michael Edwards (The Northern Affinity) to discuss the vital connection between business strategy, brand & marketing that’s required for a strong & successful business. You can’t have any of these without the other, they work in synergy.

The outcome of this 25 min chat was that post-Covid19, businesses won’t be able to pick up where they left off with their strategy, they need to be rethinking this now, as the world & audiences’ mindsets are already changing. What worked before may not work in the near future – this places SMEs at an advantage as they can be agile enough to adapt quickly.

SMEs can capture the present situation to be relevant, adapt & refine in short stints. Long term plans just won’t cut it, so an ‘in the moment’, simple & practical approach will see you as prepared as can be.

The key takeaway here is to ADAPT NOW.

Make the simple connection between business goals, brand & marketing for a strong & consistent approach with deep-seated & meaningful values that you live & breathe.

Any questions let us know, we’re not an affinity for nothing, we’re here to support one another.

For more information about our featured partners click on their profile below;

Anna Short

Brenda Etchells

Fliss Gibbeson

Will networking go digital?

We’re all navigating our new normal for the time being; taking a step back from our usual day to day business processes and entering a new realm that’s entirely digital. Many of us have taken part in digitised versions of our usual meetings and networking groups over the last few weeks. Some are thriving with this new format, others are missing the old days. This poses the question – will networking groups eventually go permanently digital? 

Is classic face to face communication the way to go?
There are certainly many arguments in favour of face to face meetings. From both a business and scientific standpoint, we can all gain a lot from meeting our new prospects or colleagues for a traditional cup of coffee.

Body language makes up an enormous amount of what we say (without saying anything at all!) Through the digital sphere, our body language can get lost in translation. It can be difficult to fully read someone’s body language from the small box view on screen, not to mention see whether they’re distracted by their phone or an email just out of shot. 

When focusing on the words coming out of mouths, face to face communications can feel a lot less laboured. Conversation naturally ebbs and flows. This all goes towards helping build that rapport with the other person and hopefully establishing a deeper relationship that will be lucrative for both parties. 

Possibly the most obvious advantage of face to face networking is not having to worry about potential technical hiccups. No patchy connection breaking up your pitch or losing track because of the poor audio; in person, you can be solely focused on the task at hand without worry about disruption.

Digital all the way?
For some, this increase in digital networking and business transactions is much more convenient and stress free; particularly those used to working from home more regularly. Could it be that once things go back to normal, we see an increase in the number of businesses reducing the amount of travel by employees in favour of more digital processes? 

In our busy society today, it’s not always possible to find time to arrange a coffee or a meeting after meeting at a networking event. What could be a 30 minute Zoom call might turn into an entire afternoon’s chatting. For those wanting to maximise their time and cut out the travelling, digital might be the answer. In the same vein, results can often be faster when both parties are their desks, laptops at the ready. This cuts out the wait time between meeting someone and waiting for them to fulfil the actions from the meeting at a later date. 

One thing to be said for digital is accessibility. Webinars, online courses and meetings can be accessed by people anywhere, any time. Businesses can significantly increase their reach and ultimately widen their pool of prospects. 

There will surely always be a divide over best practice when it comes to this argument. No matter where you stand, there are many advantages to connecting with others. Everyone’s circumstances are different and it’s impossible to enforce a one size fits all approach. In the future, we may well see more of an amalgamation of the two platforms now we have all seen what’s possible when we embrace the digital sphere. 

At The Northern Affinity, we are still running webinars and industry collaborations on top of our monthly partner meetings. If you’d like any further information on this, please check the Eventbrite page or contact Michael for more details.

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