Amber Steventon, Azaria - Reputation is everything

With a newly elected government, now is the time to seize the moment and focus on growth.

Growth. The big 'G'. The holy grail for all ambitious companies this year. Without growth there are two possible outcomes - stagnancy or decline.

The recession prompted companies to stop and reassess their strategies. Survival became the aim of many and knowing that consumer PR agencies faced the same challenges, Azaria adopted a five-year plan. We seized the moment as an opportunity to grow and the agency has tripled staff numbers and quadrupled its turnover. We faced a tough challenge, but our commitment to creating successful consumer campaigns for our clients has remained at the heart of our work; reputation is everything.

Although the nation is seeing green shoots of recovery, we know firms are still facing challenges. This period is crucial in shaping the future of any consumer brand, and the ability to reach key informers and brands' audiences has never been more important. Armed with a good campaign, companies can get messages out there that will help them to stand strong.

I have five pieces of advice for consumer brands wanting to flourish.

- Firstly, know where your company is going. It sounds simple, but it's easy to lose focus. Use your plan to ensure everyone working on behalf of the company is singing from the same hymn sheet. Implement targets and evaluate where you are so you don't lose track.

- Understand the power of your audience. Recommendations from friends and strangers online are trusted more than anything else these days and, for that reason, it's your audience that has the power. Access them directly and regularly. For some brands, social media offer useful consumer feedback. Whether positive or negative, listen to it and learn from it. But don't discount other avenues. Azaria's communications remit for baby brands is aimed at mothers, so we set up quarterly focus groups with mums and toddlers. This has become an ideal platform from which to get detailed feedback. Similarly, on each side of the business, we created a panel of experts consisting of thought leaders and journalists. Make your contacts your assets.

- Play to your strengths. Shout about what makes your company different, and use it to your advantage. At Azaria, we specialise in baby and parenting, and wellbeing. We are immersed in the industries, we know our target audiences and we create bespoke campaigns that enable our clients to reach them. Use your USPs and strengths in consumer campaigns to make your company stand out.

- Don't rest on your laurels. There is always room to learn; existing knowledge does not take you forward. Take social media - they have fallen under the consumer PR remit and growing and maintaining a brand's reputation has changed considerably. However, the next big thing is sure to be around the corner - see how quickly the fate of MySpace and Friends Reunited changed. Staying in tune is crucial.

- Choose carefully. Many companies are reassessing their PR needs. Not all briefs are going to large agencies, which is something Azaria has benefited from. Make sure you chose a PR agency that is right for your company. Find one that understands what you are trying to do and is passionate, willing to be flexible and will work tirelessly to deliver your end goals.

As we enter the next chapter, with a new government, it will no doubt bring about adjustments to growth plans across the board. Now is a moment to seize. Ambitious companies should be looking to their PR agencies to implement consumer campaigns with a clear message and a strong voice that will leave their brand flourishing.

- Amber Steventon is managing director of Azaria


- What is the best coverage your agency has attracted for a story based on a survey?

We ran a Fight Fatigue survey, from which we collated a report for vitamin supplement Pharmaton Vitality Capsules. We hit the jackpot with Sky News Radio, which syndicates to 300 radio stations across the country.

- Who is your fantasy campaign spokesman/woman? Why?

We were blown away by Joanna Lumley's work on behalf of the Gurkhas Justice Campaign. She appeared passionate, eloquent, knowledgeable and persuasive. Her success and likeability factor won praise across society.

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