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Expert Interview: Mark Chambers MD Syndicate Communications

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Syndicate Communications has consistently won recognition for delivering a broad number of highly successful regional and national campaigns. What would you say are the key ingredients for your continued success?

Syndicate has won a number of PRide awards over the last five or six years, which is really pleasing. I don’t think there’s a magic formula, but I think it is important that there is a clear strategy, a strong plan of delivery and some in depth-analysis which demonstrates outcomes, not just outputs. In the last few years we have used some strong social media evaluation which has enabled us to track our share of voice across a range of platforms, which I feel has been beneficial. And, not to mention a need to work hard to deliver and exceed the outcomes.

Speaking of success and earning recognition – congratulations on receiving gold in the ‘Public Sector’ category with your Shakespeare’s Celebrations campaign at this year’s CIPR PRide awards! What are the key points that you will take away from working on this project?

I think this project is unique – working to promote The Bard, who died more than 400 years ago. We have had to capture the imagination of the target audience to keep them coming back, as part of a tourism campaign – because at the end of the day, Stratford-upon-Avon is a bit of a gem for the region. The work combines a traditional media approach, of press releases and selling to media, with social media activity to engage a range of audiences.

“In the last few years we have used some strong social media evaluation which has enabled us to track our share of voice across a range of platforms…”

“A constant stream of communications can become tiresome for the audience!”

A key part of your aforementioned campaign was to market this over a six month period in ‘sprints’ –to improve comms and audience engagement while on a limited budget – have you ever applied this approach in the past where budget wasn’t a restricting factor?

Budgets are always a factor, as we always look to deliver a measurable return on investment. The approach could be used on other projects, as it is scale-able, meaning that we’d simply increase content and engagement activity during the sprints. A constant stream of communications can become tiresome for the audience!

Which areas of Syndicate Communications would you say have seen the greatest change within the last few years? What are these changes in response to?

For us, the biggest changes have been in the breadth of analysis that can now be accessed if the right building blocks are in place early on, especially around social media. These changes are due to the adjustment in the make-up of communications channels, with social media becoming more prevalent.

Following on from the previous question – do you think these influencing factors will continue to shape Syndicate Communications and the industry in a larger sense? If so in what way?

Social media has already changed the industry dramatically- look at the serious demise of regional and local newspapers, whose readership and circulation have plummeted in the last decade or so. But they are fighting back, using social media as a key channel to connect and engage their local audiences by issuing news articles and features individually and generating reactions from local readers.

They can now really connect with their local audiences – and get some deep insights to help others areas of their business, such as advertising.

“For us, the biggest changes have been in the breadth of analysis that can now be accessed if the right building blocks are in place early on, especially around social media.”

“…they [newspapers] are fighting back, using social media as a key channel to connect and engage their local audiences…”

From your 15+ years of experience in Marketing and Communications what are the main points which your clients seek out to achieve within a campaign? Have these goals changed dramatically in recent years?

As a business our focus has and will continue to be on engaging with public sector and not-for-profit clients. The big change has really been around the buzz phrase of ‘behaviour change’, which is the panacea for a range of our clients. It’s not enough to say ‘X number of people’ read a piece of media coverage, or engaged through a roadshow, it is essential that we track how that initial engagement led to positive changes in behaviour of the audience, which I think is really positive.

An additional change is that clients across the sector are realising, and gaining the benefits of, becoming publishers themselves through their own communication channels. They build relationships directly and have added their own communications channels, (e.g. website, e-bulletins; social media etc) to the mix, to great effect.

With regards to the last question – Is there an upcoming trend or technology on the marketing horizon which looks like it might influence the direction of how campaigns are put together?

I suppose the big one could be smartphones- they continue to get better and better. I mentioned the growth and benefits of video content, and the power and technology is becoming available was unimaginable ten years ago- even five years ago.

I have witnessed journalists and people in the media recording bulletins and updates, for use by broadcast media, on their smartphones. Their growth has and will continue to change the industry in my opinion.

Which types of content have you found to be the most effective in the campaigns that you have run during your time at Syndicate Communications?

I think for all campaigns there has been a growth in the use of video content. They can be used to develop a longer feature, but also edited to create soundbites for use on social networks. This type of content has lots of uses for clients, but the narrative and message has to be right – otherwise it’s a waste of time.

“…clients across the sector are realising, and gaining the benefits of, becoming publishers themselves through their own communication channels.”

“…[smartphone] growth [has] and will continue to change the industry…”

Lastly – looking to the future, what do you see on the cards for Syndicate Communications?

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I hope that we continue to deliver a range of challenging yet imaginative campaigns that helps people. A measure of success for us is to deliver an award winning campaign for a client, so if we continue to do that I’ll be happy- and so will our clients.

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you Mark, for sharing your expertise at Syndicate Communications as well as for providing really valuable insights on the marketing industry as a whole.

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Hailing from an editorial background, a passionate wordsmith and writer, when Jordan's not here burning the midnight oil, he can be either found writing his novel, fulfilling his self-proclaimed DJ skills or lost in a state of rapture on an outdoors adventure.

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