The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Member Blog: Social Media for the Construction Industry

By Zahid Hussain - Script Social Media

The construction industry is lagging behind on social media.

Social Media is challenging, because you have to continually connect with clients. It’s exhausting. The problem is made more complex by the bewildering array of social media platforms. So, what do you do?

Like anything that commands long-term commitment, a solid foundation is essential. Without detailed planning, the right assets (marketing materials), and long-term commitment, whatever you build is bound to collapse.

Getting Started

Here are some of the questions that you might be mulling over to get you started:

Which social media platform offers the best return on investment?
How do you get noticed over the din of noise?
How much does it really cost?

These are all good questions and you probably have many more. But let’s say you had to start with no budget and wanted to supercharge your presence on social media, can be it done? Absolutely.

To do it well, we’re going to give you a process to follow. It’s completely free. However, you will need time to think things through, but by the end you will have a social media strategy that will frame your online digital presence. So, are you ready?

Step ONE:

Your Identity

a) List your brand values: can you think of three words which capture who you are? For example: customer-centred, ethical, quality-focused.

b) Gather your assets: these are your logo, house style (key words and rules for how you communicate your brand at present), collection of key URLs etc.

c) Update your house style with your branded values.

RULE ONE:

All social media posts, irrespective of platform, must adhere to your updated house style.

Step TWO:

Your Audience

For the construction industry, you might come up with:

The public sector (contracts)
Private sector
o Buyers (B2B or B2C)
o The industry itself
o Third-parties
Yourself (staff, your board members and so on)

For each, add why you want to connect with that particular audience and the difference it makes to your bottom line. Then, list the kind of material that would engender the greatest engagement. For instance, under the sub-heading “The Industry Itself” you may well develop the following Tramlines:

Changes to legislation/building regulations
Opportunities/trends emerging in the sector
Your successes

RULE TWO:

All posts must connect with at least one audience.

Step THREE:

Mapping audiences to social media platforms.

Some platforms are better at engaging with particular audiences. Facebook remains the largest social media platform with the most powerful demographics-based advertising. Pinterest has the best ROI. Instagram is the best for branding. LinkedIn is a sure winner for B2B, but requires a specific type of engagement.

You will find that some platforms cater better for multiple audiences than others. Facebook and Twitter are rock solid choices.

Once completed you will have produced a table that maps the following:

Audience > Content > Platform

You now have a social media strategy. If you then apply it to a calendar, you will have a working operational plan too: well done! 

Summary 

Social media isn’t like putting up a tent, it’s like building a small town. It takes a lot of planning and dedication. With the right approach, you can guarantee a solid presence across digital media that resonates with clients and cements your brand’s reputation.

http://scriptsocialmedia.com/

Friday, 20 January 2017

Chamber Blog: Prime Minister May lays out plans for Brexit

By Alex Davies - Research Analyst, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Following Theresa May’s speech laying out Britain’s objectives going into the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, overall, we don’t know a great deal that we didn’t suspect already, but we now have confirmation of a few things in particular.

The Prime Minister made it clear that the deal she wants for Britain cannot mean continued membership of the single market. The objective instead is to work towards a “bold, comprehensive and ambitious” free trade deal with the EU in order to maintain “the greatest access possible”. I’ve explained before why the term ‘access’ is meaningless, but there were a few more details. May said that she is not against the idea of replicating aspects of the single market, specifically mentioning financial services and the automotive industry, and saying that it makes no sense to start from scratch.
May has made it clear in the past that she does not view our status within the customs union as a binary thing, and reiterated this in her speech today. She made it very clear that we would seek to find ourselves outside of the EU’s Common Commercial Policy – allowing us to do our own trade deals – but again, May mentioned something along the lines of an associate membership of the customs union in order to keep trade flowing freely.

The other main announcement was that the final deal would be put to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, a welcome development for many but one which for now has no clear implications. Nobody seems to know what would happen if Parliament did reject a deal, supposedly towards the end of the two-year negotiating period. At this point would we revert to WTO rules and the hardest Brexit of all? The pending legal case on the revocability of A50 will surely have a massive impact on exactly what this means.

May rounded off her speech by proclaiming that “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal”. This echoes the Chancellor’s previous sentiment that in the event of a rock-hard WTO-rules Brexit, Britain would strip regulations and lower taxes to establish itself as a Singapore on Europe’s doorstep – something the EU would be concerned about certainly. For now, this strategy is being put forward as a worst case scenario backup plan, and as a mild threat to the EU27 to work with us in good faith towards a new arrangement. The reaction to this from the rest of Europe however, remains to be seen.
There were a few other good details in the speech. On EU citizens in Britain, May said that the government would seek to guarantee those rights as soon as possible, but perhaps in a veiled jibe at Merkel’s previous refusal at such a deal mentioned that there is no unanimity on this from the other side. There was a commitment that workers’ rights would be fully protected and indeed bolstered once within our remit. There was also a commitment to continued collaboration on matters of crime and foreign affairs, as well as science, research, technology and medicine. May suggested that it is reasonable for us to continue to pay into the EU budget for some of these privileges, but that these sums would not be vast.

Another unclear but important part of the speech covered how the PM sees the Brexit process happening. May is hoping for an agreement on the future relationship by the end of the two-year negotiating period, followed by a “phased implementation” utilising multiple “interim arrangements”. How this is different than a transitional arrangement is anybody’s guess, but it was made clear that a cliff-edge is to be avoided. How much detail the PM expects us to agree upon within two years is not clear at all, as would be impossible to negotiate even the trade deal alone within such a time. Instead, it feels as if the PM is hoping to agree upon a broad position within two years, but is happy for the minutiae of process to take much longer, my guess would be a decade or more.

I’m sure that many leavers got a bit tingly during parts of the speech, but the main criticism of it will be that it is undoubtedly a ‘have your cake and eat it approach’, despite being told by the EU27 that such an approach is unacceptable. It seems from how May addressed the ‘phased implementation’ strategy though, that the position she is talking about is the end-game, not where we will be in 2019. The suggestion of multiple interim arrangements necessitates that May understands realising her vision of a global Britain in full won’t be happening in the near future, most likely not during her premiership. In reality, exiting the single market and the customs union was almost always an inevitability at some point in the future of post-EU Britain, but we still don’t have a lot of clarity over the steps we will be required to take to get there. The type of trade deal May is proposing would be more comprehensive than Canada’s CETA agreement, and when such an agreement has never been concluded in less than seven years, often taking more than ten, it could be a long time before we drop out the SM. Until then, interim arrangements will surely be some kind of quasi-membership until we have figured things out, which makes me still reluctant to call this a hard Brexit. In fact, any new UK-EU trade deal will require an independent dispute resolution regime handled by a supranational court. May explicitly said that she is okay with supranational institutions, just not any as strong as the EU ones. This points us directly towards membership of EFTA, which has its own court ready to take the European Court of Justice’s place. Alongside a comprehensive FTA, this would essentially put us in a Swiss-plus position.

Once again, the vital missing piece of the puzzle here is timelines. If following the negotiations, we accept that we won’t be able to do any of this stuff for a long time, then what do we do in the interim? May even conceded that interim arrangements would be up for negotiation. In terms of our final destination then, May has been quite clear as to the government’s objectives. As to what steps we take to get there though, I would still say that nothing is off the table.

Alex.davies@gmchamber.co.uk

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Member Blog: Who’s afraid of 2017? The view from the Northern Powerhouse

By Simon Collingwood, Director for Quatro North

2017 brings turmoil at the global, national and regional level. But what does this mean for the North of England? The Northern Powerhouse will enter its third anniversary this year. This is a long time in politics and unlike many other Government initiatives, it has firmly and successfully galvanised support across the North. What can we expect going forward and what should we be looking for in 2017?

1. It’s the economy, stupid

The Northern Powerhouse is both a political and economic construct. Political in terms of devolution and positioning adopted by the Conservative Government; but economic, because substantively the mission is one of growth through increasing investment and narrowing wage differentials with the Greater South East (and international competitors).

The forecasts at the national and regional level are not good; EY’s recent analysis pointed to price rises, increasing uncertainty, increasing inequality, and falling household income and spending. For the Northern Powerhouse region, forecasts are for lower growth 2016 - 2019 than experienced in the previous 3 years in the North West, Yorkshire & Humber and North East.

Against this backdrop, it will be interesting to watch for further spending commitments or the use of other policy levers from the Government to offset this gloomy picture.

2. Metro Mayors

In May, we are due to participate and observe the election of Metro Mayors in Greater Manchester, Greater Birmingham, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region and Tees Valley. (Though Sheffield City Region will have a challenging time to meet the May deadline for the election following the High Court Judgement just before Christmas which upheld Derbyshire County Council’s complaint about the quality of the public consultation.)

I will be paying close attention to the posture adopted by each of the candidates toward central Government and indeed between the newly elected Mayors. I think it will also be critical to look at how they galvanise their wider political constituencies on strategic matters of housing and infrastructure development. The voter turnout numbers will certainly be something to keep an eye on.
Similarly, voter turnout for the PCC elections will also be one to watch, as poor voter turnout could undermine the reputation of the role.

Its finally worth noting that while the Mayors will be the spectacle, it will also be necessary to look at the pursuit of wider devolution deals such as in Leeds City Region, Lincolnshire, and Lancashire.

3. Industrial Strategy

It has been suggested that the Government’s Industrial Strategy should be published by the end of January. It was earlier anticipated for the Autumn Statement and then before Christmas, so it will be received with considerable expectation. No.10’s appointment of Giles Wilkes of the FT to lead their involvement in the policy development is an interesting addition to the mix.

For the Northern Powerhouse, I will be looking to see how the Strategy will dock in with the earlier pronouncements on the Northern Powerhouse (HMT’s Strategy in November) and the well-regarded Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review (Transport for the North). The latter was very strong on identifying the sectors where the North has clear national and international comparative advantage - Advanced Manufacturing, Energy, Health Innovation and Digital Technologies. What will the Industrial Strategy contribute to these growth sectors in the North?

4. BREXIT

Brexit will continue to dominate political headlines in 2017. It will be interesting to see how close we get to answers on what Brexit might look like rather than just the rhetoric. The Prime Minister has reconfirmed that she intends to invoke Article 50, formally signalling the UK’s intention to leave the EU, in March 2017. Central Government will rightly take the lead on these negotiations. The question will be how strong will the engagement be between regions, business, and wider civil society in the formation of their positions and analysis.

5. Housing

Four of the 14 new Garden Villages announced by Housing Minister Gavin Barwell this week are in the North – St Cuthbert’s, near Carlisle, Bailrigg, outside Lancaster, Halsnead near Liverpool and Handforth in north east Cheshire. It remains to be seen whether this type of Government-inspired initiative will succeed in delivering the scale of new homes needed.

The evidence, so far, from the public response to the Greater Manchester Spatial Strategy draft allocations is that some communities in many parts of the Manchester conurbation will present a challenge to the politicians in the run-up to the Mayoral elections in May.

6. Transport

We’ve enjoyed working with clients on the importance of transport infrastructure to the growth agenda in the North of England. Strategic investment in both transport infrastructure and services in the North of England to link our cities and their hinterlands will be a critical ingredient to accelerating growth here. As such, we will be looking closely at the profile of spend and indeed fresh commitments to drive confidence and growth.

A key part of the transport debate, and indeed all the points above, will be the ability of a range of stakeholder organisations to work together to best advocate why the North is a national economic priority. This is a process of building the business cases and delivering the messages to the right audiences at the right time.  We will all have a role to play.

From Quatro, we wish you and your families a very happy 2017.

http://www.quatro-pr.co.uk/