14th October | Matt de Leon back

Climate Change, Sustainability and Our Role In It

I’ve always worked in consumer PR and have been lucky enough to work with some of the world’s best brands, from Coca-Cola, Reebok and Samsung, to Shell, Ford and Estrella Damm. And I’ve worked with those brands in environments that many could only dream of, including the Olympic Games, UEFA Champions League and Formula One.  

I’ve been lucky, worked very hard, and for the most part, had a fantastic time doing it. But. And isn’t there always a but? Fulfilling, fun and rewarding as it’s been, one thing has always niggled me. One question that’s been with me throughout. Is what I’m doing making a real difference to people’s lives? I’m not a nurse, a doctor, a policeman. I’m not helping people come to terms with grief or educating the nations’ children, and I’m not helping innocent people fight for their rights or their freedom. I’ve not even been working for clients that do any of the above. Sure, there have been a few campaigns over the years that have ticked the CSR box. But nothing world-beating or life-changing. I appreciate these views are based on my own career, but from speaking to peers, I know I’m not alone. Our industry is phenomenal, filled with some of the most creative people on the planet. Creatives who are also superb strategists, writers, publicists, content creators and client consultants. Creatives who do brilliant work to help increase clients’ bottom lines. But I don’t believe we’ve had the opportunity, as an industry, to use those skills to help change the world. Until now. Yes, COP26 is coming, Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain are blocking roads (I agree with their message, but not their tactics), and we can all make choices in our personal lives to help save the planet. But it’s what we’re doing and can do for our clients that interests me. At Richmond & Towers, we’re working with amazing brands that are all over this. Like Estrella Damm, who are working hard to protect the oceans, particularly The Med, which has been its home for more than 140 years. We’re working with them to highlight the damage being done to the seas and to inspire people to make more sustainable choices. Or ‘Best For Environment’ B Corp brand, Alpro, cheerleading the positive benefits of plant-based eating for both the health of the nation, and the planet, last year launching the brand’s five year strategy, ‘Feeding our Future with Plants’ – a health and sustainability pledge to promote a measurable dietary shift towards more plant-based eating. And the Confederation of Paper Industries, where our ‘Beyond the Box’ campaign focuses on extolling the virtues of cardboard to consumers, including its unsurpassed recycling rates and versatility. Or even our work to support the work of drinks brands Irish Distillers and Whyte & Mackay, who are instigating programmes to use sustainably grown indigenous oak within their maturation processes. But it’s not just our clients. Brands are falling over themselves to do their bit, and this time, it isn’t just CSR. This time they mean it. It doesn’t matter whether they’re doing it because they want to, have to or because their customers are demanding it, the point is they’re doing it. But what’s key, is how they communicate it. The world is awash with climate change, sustainability, and environmental messaging, and very often it’s just wallpaper. White noise that no longer gets heard. This is where we come in. Our job (as it’s always been) is to ensure our clients’ brands are heard and seen above the noise, to ensure their message gathers momentum, pace, and scale. To avoid it becoming wallpaper, we need to continue to tell the same story, but tell it differently. Every. Single. Time. From different angles and different perspectives, with different audiences in mind so that over time, they all hear the same message, but through a vocabulary and in a tone that resonates with them. The messaging needs to be authentic. Not pretending to be what it’s not or making grand claims about small things they should be doing anyway. If nothing else, Covid has shown us that brands need to be real, to have humour, and to talk to their customers like real people, celebrating the highs, and being honest if they get it wrong. This is when brands gain respect, and their messages are believed. For years, we’ve used our creativity and skills to tell the stories of brand and product benefits. Now is the time to use those talents to tell the world about the changes these brands are making to ‘do their bit’, encouraging purchase as a result. And the more we can encourage purchase of products that aren’t damaging the planet, the more we can reduce the purchase of those that are, to the point that they either fall away, or are forced to change. We can help create momentum, speed up the virtuous circle, and bit by bit, play our part in reducing emissions or keeping plastic out the ocean. This is our moment, where we too can hold our heads up high, and know we’re helping to bring about change. It won’t make us nurses, psychologists, or neurosurgeons, but it will certainly be making a real difference.

14th October | Matt de Leon
Climate Change, Sustainability and Our Role In It

I’ve always worked in consumer PR and have been lucky enough to work with some of the world’s best brands, from Coca-Cola, Reebok and Samsung, to Shell, Ford and Estrella Damm. And I’ve worked with those brands in environments that many could only dream of, including the Olympic Games, UEFA… Read more

24th September | Richmond & Towers
Confused by media? For the uninitiated it’s about…

Ok, so pre-Covid it was clear that digital was king, print was on the way out, and Joe Wicks was among the UK’s most influential sources for advice on health. Read more

24th September | Anouska Leon
Celebrating Talent and Nurturing Careers – Richmond &…

Running a London PR & digital agency is a competitive business, and the one thing that keeps Richmond & Towers ahead of the rest, and makes us what we are, is our people. So, we’re thrilled to announce promotions to: Read more

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11th June | Matt de Leon back

Covid-19 Communications – A View from Europe

Last Thursday I was privileged to join a panel of agency leads from across Europe to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on communications, as part of International PR Week Europe.

What should brands do? What shouldn’t they do? What mistakes have they made, and what have they done well?

On the surface, there are many differences between us Europeans, especially when you look at it from a cultural perspective, consumer behaviours, and of course the different extents to which we’ve been hit by the pandemic.

However, we’re all still human, and when it comes down to it, we’re not really that different. There are lessons from across Europe that could benefit UK brands.

So what can we learn from three of our European friends?

Interestingly in Italy, PR was seen as a front-line activity, due to its close relationship with the news media, and was the only marketing discipline given that accolade. But what are Italian agencies advising their clients?

To be ethical, emotional, and authentic, and to focus on trust and love (how beautifully Italian). With consumers changing their buying habits, trust had to be re-earned, as brands are being judged by the way they’re communicating and acting during Covid-19.

In Germany, it’s been about keeping it local. Consumers are keen to support the local economy and at the same time reduce the miles products need to travel to reach them. It’s not all about money to German consumers, brands need authenticity and a purpose, and the young particularly, are champions of this.

But whilst they are sticking by brands they trust, they’re also watching the way they act very carefully and aren’t afraid to call out actions they dislike, even by the largest of brands. Enter stage left, Volkswagen, who were forced to pull a series of Instagram ads last month which were perceived as racist.

Just across the water in France, NGOs were held up as an example of a channel brands could work with to do good. But the key here was to be genuine, and do it for the right reasons, as opposed to a tick-box exercise or as a publicity platform. Pasta brand Barilla, for example donated two tonnes of pasta to an NGO that feeds the poor, but didn’t communicate it.

But ‘paying it forward’ is often rewarded, because karma is a real thing, and the NGO told the world about it on their social channels, resulting in positive coverage Barilla would probably never have got for themselves.

What can we learn from all this, and what is the common thread that UK brands can adopt?

Consumers will remember brands by the way they communicated during Covid-19. A fact backed up by a survey in Campaign, which found that one in three people have already stopped using a brand they think didn’t responded well during the pandemic.

The key to everything is to be honest, genuine, and authentic. Consumers expect integrity, they want their brands to do the right thing.

Covid-19 has removed the mask of hypocrisy. Authenticity is king.

Without authenticity, you’ll lose your audience in less time than it takes to say, “stay alert”, and it will take a while to earn it back.

Being authentic means keeping sight of your brand positioning, core brand values and key messaging. It means that consumers know we’re all in this together, so they don’t need you to tell them, while using it as a platform to sell more widgets. They see through it.

Many negative articles have been written about overly sentimental, grating and occasionally nauseating Covid ads (hello Facebook, Jack Daniel’s, Microsoft Teams, Virgin Media and British Airways), and rightly so. Why? Because they lack the A-word.

So if there’s one thing brands need to remember, whether in the UK or further afield, it’s this:

Stay Authentic. Protect Your Reputation. Save Sales.

14th October | Matt de Leon
Climate Change, Sustainability and Our Role In It

I’ve always worked in consumer PR and have been lucky enough to work with some of the world’s best brands, from Coca-Cola, Reebok and Samsung, to Shell, Ford and Estrella Damm. And I’ve worked with those brands in environments that many could only dream of, including the Olympic Games, UEFA… Read more

24th September | Richmond & Towers
Confused by media? For the uninitiated it’s about…

Ok, so pre-Covid it was clear that digital was king, print was on the way out, and Joe Wicks was among the UK’s most influential sources for advice on health. Read more

24th September | Anouska Leon
Celebrating Talent and Nurturing Careers – Richmond &…

Running a London PR & digital agency is a competitive business, and the one thing that keeps Richmond & Towers ahead of the rest, and makes us what we are, is our people. So, we’re thrilled to announce promotions to: Read more

Load more
See our latest work
Visit our portfolio
Read our latest news
Visit all latest news