branching beyond tech communications

By Rebecca Lansdell

The Hoffman Agency, Hong Kong

With our heritage in the technology sector, Hoffman has traditionally excelled in markets of complexity including telecommunications, Web 2.0 and energy. Today, while our teams across the world continue to do what they do best in tech communications, things are starting to change.

In 2012, Hoffman accelerated its ‘going wide’ strategy, diversifying our portfolio far beyond tech into financial services, education, and business consulting clients. Over the past 12 months, our teams across the world – particularly in Asia – have been working on prestigious education assignments such as Kellett School, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business and Harvard Business School Association of Hong Kong.

So what ties all these very different sectors and organisations together? What has enabled our teams to win pitches for schools when some of our best case studies are about mobiles, maps or mainframes?

Really, it all comes back to effective storytelling.

Using our collective nous to work with a brand – regardless of sector – we identify what they are trying to achieve, craft a relevant communications strategy and effectively hammer home the right messages, online and offline.

It sounds like an easy enough formula to follow, so what’s the snag?

In reality, performing these steps without telling an interesting story along the way simply won’t result in a significant business impact. As our CEO has pointed out, content itself is not king – compelling content is king.

Last year we started working with Kellett School, the British International School in Hong Kong. Our main objectives were to raise awareness for the school as it expands and help attract new students.

We could’ve put out a press release highlighting the school’s growth, its new campus opening and impressive academic record. But taking a step back, we realized that this approach only scratched the surface.

So we collectively thought about our own school days and came to the conclusion that we all had at least one teacher who had truly inspired us. For me it was my Latin teacher, who not only entrenched every known grammar rule into my brain in indelible ink, but also instilled in me a love of ancient civilisations which inspired me to go on to study Classics at university.

And so our ‘Inspiring Minds’ series was born; a campaign focused on unearthing the everyday legends within the Kellett community, from teachers to parents to pupils. We highlighted the mentors that empower students to become confident, articulate and well-rounded, epitomising the very culture of the school in our communications approach.

Our first piece of coverage (in the South China Morning Post) focuses on inspirational parent governors at Kellett. The three-quarter page story clearly positions Kellett as a school that puts students and their families at the heart of all its decisions. Despite adopting the strategy of focusing on a few individuals, the strong story has the halo effect of highlighting the immense commitment of parents across the Kellett board, and the benefits to students and other parents at the school come through loud and clear.

We believe that effective storytelling underpins every successful client campaign, regardless of who they are or what they’re trying to achieve. As our client portfolio diversifies, so will the types of stories we’re telling, which ultimately makes our ‘assignments’ more intriguing and satisfying, making us happy PR pupils always keen to learn something new.

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