The cornerstone of PR has traditionally been the media sell in. Turning the clock way back to when I started in the industry, I can still vividly recall my very first one. Armed with a media list, crib notes and a press release, I was ready to tell the world. It was a fairly dull story, but to me it was the biggest news ever. A few practice runs with my seniors, and I was off to pass the story onto some of the most jaded, yet important people in the world.Read More
When I started my own PR career as an account assistant (many moons ago), I wanted big-name brands, a bit of glamour and, most of all, a good salary. Money was the most important factor for me – as it is for many new execs. From listening to those we interview at junior level, who are dealing with sky-high London living costs, this is now even more pressing.
Honestly, of course money will always remain a major consideration while scaling the PR career ladder, but when do other things start coming into play? Where’s the point at which a job turns into a career, and you start to think bigger than client work? I reckon that reaching Account Manager or Account Director level is the pivotal point. At this level, PR professionals begin to define what they like, and think about what’s important for their agency and their sector. you have your own vision and ideas bigger than a story or campaign. It’s this stage that will define how an individual grows in the industry, and also when they’ll inevitably start thinking about which agency will serve them best.
When an Account Manager is thinking of sticking or twisting, they should actually forget about money. Instead, it’s all about your prospects and the ability and opportunity to influence and change things. Have a good think about what you want to be achieving as a consultant, and what you enjoy most. What do you want from your worklife? Is it the desire to work with a favourite brand, the wish to try and influence an agency’s path, or flexibility working hours and the opportunity to freelance? Don’t be restricted by the job-spec, as the more you desire, the more successful you will be. The question remains as to whether your existing agency can or will adapt to allow you as an individual to grow.
From the other side, as an Account Director who now deals with recruiting myself, it is this personal drive that interests me most in candidates. Everyone has a big brand name or three on their CV, so those don’t impress me much. Instead, it’s all about what someone did for the business through PR – I want to know what they gained for the brand, how they shaped the account, and how creative they can be. I want someone who will not only push themselves, but also challenge me and all of the agency too!
At Brazil, we know it’s essential for us all to maintain the desire to change and question the way we as an agency do things, and also how brands and the industry does things. The PR industry is changing a lot and it’ll be a different place in the coming five years: it’s time for people to put their cards on the table, and decide how their career in PR will work for them.Read More
Google has recently closed its Google Reader service: cue outrage and dismay from its legions of fans across social media. The response reached such hysteria that you could have been forgiven for mistaking it for a cruel personal tragedy or a national bereavement. And yet, on some level, this was a response entirely appropriate for Google’s decision.
Since Monday 1 July 2013, the official date of Google Reader’s demise, there has been much debate about Google’s motivation. The official line was that user numbers had dropped and showed little sign of resurgence. But this just doesn’t ring true. The sheer passion in the aftermath of Reader suggests a loyal and engaged community of users and there’s a whole host of Google products which survive without significant traffic – have you ever actually met someone who uses Google Schemer? (Yes, it does exist.)
Much more likely is that Google were not able to turn Google Reader into a something that could make money. In itself, this simply adheres to all existing precepts of business. But it goes deeper than that. Google Reader was an online portal for news feeds from across the internet, a direct connection between you and what you wanted to read. Google was the beneficent facilitator, nothing more. That was no longer enough. The closure of Google Reader is confirmation that Google is turning its back on anything it cannot monetise.
Google’s search engine, and its reader product, epitomised the open, optimistic and connected potential of the internet – the very ideals which Google pioneered so successfully in the first place. Instead, mimicking Facebook, Google is desperately striving to channel all online activity through its own URLs. To achieve the highest possible revenue, Google is trying to own the internet, and the illusion that tech giants are helping their users is beginning to evaporate.
2013 will surely be remembered as the year the internet turned against its users. PRISM has revealed the true extent to which governments have their online citizens under surveillance, the discontent about institutionalised personal data theft is reaching unprecedented volumes and ecommerce seems to be an enormous exercise in tax evasion. Lest we forget, the internet belongs to everyone, not just a moneyed few.
And consumers are refusing to play this game anymore. Alternatives are emerging: Brazil is working with several companies who have championed the rights of the online population. HideMyAss.com, a VPN provider, is protecting people from online surveillance and targeted advertising whilst new start-up, Handshake.uk.com, is putting control of personal data back in the hands of the consumer.
People were right to rail against the closure of Google Reader because it is only the beginning. The public, and the tech start-up community, must make Google remember who the internet belongs to.Read More
As Tony Montana nearly said, “In this business, you gotta get the fans first. Then, when you get the fans, you get the power”.
Self-styled social media experts have taken this to heart, dedicating all their efforts to building up armies of followers and becoming the bane of many a Twitter feed, divulging such well-kept industry secrets as ‘Twitter is important’ or ‘Facebook is an essential platform’ to their hundreds of thousands of followers. The real question is this: how on earth do these guys build up such an enormous army of followers without tweeting anything of interest?
This brings us neatly to the curious case of Santiago Swallow: the 42 two year old, Mexican-born, American quickly became the darling of the tech world. He gave speeches about social media at SXSW and at TED, and his forthcoming book was to ‘define a generation’. His follower count rose sharply to 85,000 on Twitter; prominent journalists and bloggers were hailing him as a social media messiah. The only problem was, he didn’t exist.
A high number of Twitter followers can be a red herring. There are numerous companies that sell followers for a small fee (1p per follower appears to be the going rate), allowing people and businesses to seem more important or popular than they really are. A recent story saw Justin Bieber exposed for having nearly 20 million fake followers. Unlike Bieber though, Santiago Swallow was a creation, and leant heavily on fake followers to build up credibility.
A British technology expert, Kevin Ashton, created Santiago as a way to show how easily the internet can be tricked, and if Kevin Ashton managed it in his spare time, you can bet that more dedicated fraudsters will have done better jobs which will be undiscovered to this day. Why would anyone do such a thing? It’s simple: followers mean power, and a person who is perceived to have an audience of millions appears to be more influential than someone tweeting to hundreds. It’s balderdash of course, as influence is affected by much more than follower numbers, but as Santiago Swallow demonstrates, it’s surprisingly easy to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes. The lesson: don’t put too much faith in follower counts!
In the days of 24 hour news channels, 100 page newspapers and instantly-updated online news sites, a day without news is almost unimaginable.
On 18 April 1930, rather than the customary announcements, an announcer simply read “Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.”
The announcement was partly reflective of the self-obsessed nature of Britain at the time – you can bet that plenty of things happened around the world, even if none of them affected British interests enough to arouse the attention of the BBC that day – but also shows how different today’s news cycle is.
The biggest observation is that today, a day without news simply wouldn’t be allowed to happen. Editors have pages to fill, and silent presenters don’t make for great radio – as a result, even if a day were to go by without anything of note happening (almost inconceivable, but bear with me), the vacuum would be filled. A good example of this would be a newspaper creating moral panic against a particularly sweary late-night talk show, or an exclusive squirreled away by a forward-thinking news editor to be wheeled out on a rainy day such as this.
For better or worse though, no day passes without something of note happening, even if it is easy to ignore tragedies on an epic scale – see Bono’s 2006 collaboration with the Independent for a stark reminder.
So while we might laugh at the idea that a day could go by without anything of note happening, it’s worth reflecting on how subjective ‘news’ really is. Incidentally, if, like me, you’re wondering what such a day would look like, here’s an idea.Read More
Crowdfunding, social lending, peer-to-peer finance: whatever you want to call it, what started as an undeniable revolution has gradually morphed into a growing, dynamic and relatively well established industry. Sure, there’s a lot of education still required before peer-to-peer lending is universally understood, however anyone reading the PF pages will know exactly what Zopa, Ratesetter and Funding Circle do. This market is in an interesting place now and the media coverage on this sector is an indicator of the excitement generated to date.
However, just like anything that’s been around for a couple of years and becomes fairly widely accepted, the crowdfunding industry is in danger of becoming uninteresting to the media.
We’ve reached the stage where the launch of a new peer-to-peer lender or a “bank-bashing” comment will no longer generate headlines in itself. On the other hand, crowdfunding isn’t yet mainstream enough to be on news editors’ radars for everyday articles. Big financial institutions such as banks and building societies will – for better or worse – have their products dissected and evaluated on the PF pages on a daily basis, generating coverage regardless of the proactivity of PR teams, but the same isn’t true for the majority of crowdfunding companies.
Thus crowdfunding finds itself in an uneasy twilight zone: not a wunderkind anymore, but not sufficiently established to generate coverage by default (not yet at least). Companies need to be inventive, creative and very proactive if they’re to get the coverage they need in order to continue to attract core audiences.
The current market situation is this: there are now at least a dozen companies all doing similar things and – crucially – all fighting for the same editorial space, along with banks, businesses and independent bodies. The winners will be the companies which aren’t afraid to do something new, which don’t just issue success stories and canned comment but create inventive and compelling content, constantly innovate and use internal data in exciting ways for the benefit of PR.
In fact, the sector may well be about to mirror the comparison sites of the early nineties. After a handful of comparison sites showed the world what was possible, six or seven new players entered the market in the space of a year. The big boys of the time fought relentlessly to become the consumer champion in the public’s eye with mixed success – moneysupermarket.com seemed to take the crown, but competitors never stopped snapping at their heels. Then, as now, case study placement was key, and even as huge above-the-line spending has become the norm, PR still plays a huge part in the sector’s activity with some really innovative and interesting tactics being used by their marketing divisions.
We’re fast approaching a new stage for the crowdfunding/sourcing sector as it becomes a recognised segment in its own right and gains acceptance as part of any individual’s investment portfolio. As a result, there’ll be a continued interest in all of the options from the likes of Zopa, Funding Circle and Market Invoice as well as the likes of WeFund, Bloom VC and Microgenius. How the originals stand out from the second wave of crowdfunding start-ups will determine whether or not they achieve long term success – it’s certainly an exciting industry to be a part of.Read More
While personal finance brands have been slower to embrace social media than brands in other sectors, there’s no shortage of commentators shouting about the big, general reasons for using social media, normally focusing on engagement. That’s not all there is to it though – while there are some obvious reasons to use social media, there are lots of unsung benefits. Here are the ones we think are most interesting:
1) Perceived legitimacy
Numbers aren’t everything, but they do make a brand look good – the more people appear to trust you, the better. There’s a trend at the moment for self-styled ‘social media gurus’ to boldly proclaim that “numbers don’t matter”, and while this is true to an extent (they’re certainly not the ultimate goal), numbers do count. Engagement is crucial, but having a few zeroes at the end of your fan/follower count makes a company appear more legitimate to the public. Imagine searching for a bank and finding a patchy page with a handful of followers, or worse still, a fake page put up by someone looking to damage the bank’s image – not a good first impression. Get a page up there, make it look good and earn some followers!
2) Sounding board for new ideas and product development
While you shouldn’t expect Facebook and Twitter to render detailed research redundant, they can actually be pretty useful if you want to find something out. What do people think of your website? Do they like the spokesperson you’re considering using? There are some big caveats – most importantly, your fans aren’t necessarily your customers or target audience – but it’s a great (free) way of testing the waters.
Anyone not using social media is missing a trick when it comes to SEO. Neil Jackson at iProspect, explains: “Today we are not only seeing social media activity featuring in Google search results (think Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest) but are also directly influencing the results. As Social Media has grown in use, we are moving to a situation where ‘votes’ which come from inbound links may be outweighed by ‘sentiment’, sourced from social media.”
As search engines such as Google place more and more value on social media and less on traditional links, brands that don’t make good use of social media risk being left behind.
4) Control the conversation
“We’re not on social media because we don’t want to create a hub for people to complain about us publicly”. Ever heard that one before? This excuse shows a misunderstanding: whether or not a business has a Facebook page, people will complain about it. HMRC doesn’t have a Facebook page, but that certainly doesn’t stop people complaining about it in print, in person and of course on social media. What it does preclude is HMRC responding to complaints. Paradoxically, if you don’t provide a place where people can air their grievances, you’ll make yourself more vulnerable to complaints. Better that they do it on your terms where you can step in rather than on HMRCisshite.blogspot.co.uk where you can’t have a say or take it off line. A quick resolution is key; the best way to manage this is by having a social media presence.
We’ve launched and managed brand pages for companies large and small, so if you’d like to speak to us about yours, do get in touch. Here’s a couple of examples to get you started – www.facebook.com/swiftcover and www.facebook.com/penderynRead More
Starting out in the PR industry can feel like quite an alienating experience. A myriad of journalists, experts and potential clients are out there, tantalisingly out of reach. The names seem unfamiliar and the sheer quantity of jargon is weighing you down; you are ready to communicate, but you don’t know where to start.
Fear not! With time and lots of reading, the mists of incomprehension will clear and you will be able to start recognising target publications and journalists as well as key spokespeople and contacts. However, no matter how long ago you embarked upon your PR journey, there is no better way to understand your industry, understand the industries of your clients, and get in front of those elusive journalists than by old fashioned-networking.
Networking can take many forms. Whether you jump in at the deep end and start attending social trade events, become recognised at Silicon Roundabout meet-ups or just take journalists out for lunch, the benefits will quickly reveal themselves.
Done properly, networking will open doors with journalists, transforming pitches from uncomfortable cold calling to a collaborative, rewarding and successful process and it can consolidate burgeoning new business relationships. However, you are representing your agency, your clients and yourself. You are working. There is an enormous potential to misjudge that fine networking equilibrium which must span friendly conversation and getting what you want. No-one wants to spend an hour of their lives listening to why you think your client’s great. Try to keep ‘business talk’ to the last 10% of the conversation and, for the rest of the time, be interesting and interested.
The art of networking comes with practice. And all journalists are different – some will inevitably prefer to communicate via email alone. But taking the time to develop relationships based upon conversations will radically improve your performance and results at work. Slowly but surely, journalists will start replying to your emails, you will start using the alien language your AD uses and, eventually, you will get some purchase on the world of media relations.
As a starting point, give yourself achievable monthly targets to work towards. If you aim to have lunch with one relevant contact and attend one industry trade event a month then your little black book of contacts will blossom whilst still leaving time for the rest of your busy schedule.
As you meet interesting people and learn about interesting companies, the journey from confusion to confidence can be incredibly rewarding. Just don’t overdo it at the free bar…Read More
“Official sponsor of the largest athletics event in London this year. There you go, we said it. (Ahem, London France that is)”
A careful read of the advert will tell you that Paddy Power is sponsoring the egg and spoon race in the small French town bearing the same name of England’s capital. LOCOG, as you’d expect, hit the roof and, according to the Guardian, demanded that the company controling the space where the advert appeared remove all reference to it. However, Paddy Power is sticking to its guns and has sought a court order to stop LOCOG.
You’ll need to ask a lawyer to tell you who’ll win, but I’m always fascinated when companies take calculated risks like this. Let’s say that Paddy Power’s lawyers warned the marketing team that a fine of £50,000 would be inevitable. Chances are, the team would still go ahead: it’s notoriously difficult to put a value on press coverage, but few would deny that the increased profile would be worth it. Combine that with the consumer love that comes from confronting an unpopular behemoth such as LOCOG and it looks like a pretty good trade-off.
It’s not always as clear though: marketing execs at certain pharma companies are rumoured to factor the cost of lawsuits into their marketing budgets when they consider making bold claims about their products, and while Ryanair has made a habit of using deliberately provocative adverts (this one being a personal favourite), their benefit is debatable – the ads certainly get a lot of print coverage, but they also appear to alienate a lot of people. Plus, Ryanair looked terrible when they went crying to the ASA after Easyjet decided to give them a taste of their own medicine.
There are no unbreakable rules when it comes to this kind of thing, but it’s certainly a lot of fun to watch from the sidelines. As far as the Olympics are concerned, LOCOG seems to have its claws out in London, but only time will tell whether it’ll result in an ambush-free event. Initial signs aren’t good though – we’ve alreaday seen plenty of brands taking liberties, and Nike is planning an enormous marketing push at the same time of the Olympics. Watch and enjoy!Read More
The seventh Rugby World Cup is upon us. Joy for rugby fans, not so much for everyone else… Being an Englishman (Sean) with only an interest in victory when it comes to anything other than football, I’ll pick it up at the semi-final stage. But we have some expert pundits amongst our client base so after discussions of car insurance, whisky and peer-to-peer lending, discussion turned to the sport I know little about. I fancy the Americans this year! But what did everyone else think? The reading is interesting…
Robin Reames, chief claims officer at AXA and swiftcover.com
- Winner: All Blacks (I think that’s New Zealand)
- Player to watch: Zac Guildford
- And the home nations: Scotland don’t make it past the pool. England and Ireland lose in the quarter finals. Wales surprise everyone and lose in the semis
Jade Trimbee, marketing manager at swiftcover.com
- Winner: South Africa (what a surprise, Ms South Africa…)
- Player to watch: Tendai Mtawarira (The Beast)
- And the home nations: Wales make it to the semis. Scotland and Ireland knocked out in the quarter finals. England lose in final to South Africa!
Elizabeth Obee, head of business marketing at Funding Circle
- Winner: Australia (one guess where you’re from…)
- Player to watch: Sekope Kepu
- And the home nations: Fairly well…close to Australia’s form but not enough to beat them!
Nigel Short, chairman at Penderyn
- Winner: Australia
- Player to watch: George North
- And the home nations: Not well, the Welsh and English being the biggest let downs
John Carter, captain of Oxford and ex Sale Sharks
- Winner: New Zealand
- Player to watch: Rory Lamont
- And the home nations: Ireland and England will do well…not sure about the rest!
Tim Stevens, general manager at Oxford University RFU
- Winner: Australia
- Player to watch: Will Genia
- And the home nations: All to qualify from their groups, but only one semi-finalist
Mark Davies, managing director at Scarlets
- Winner: All Blacks (New Zealand)
- Player to watch: Dan Carter
- And the home nations: England to semis, Wales to quarters
Joshua Van Raalte, managing director at Brazil
- Winner: New Zealand (with a wife from Timaru, NZ, he can’t say anything contrary)
- Player to watch: Israel Dagg
- And the home nations: Not very well. Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England all out in the quarters
So, it looks like a New Zealand (or Oz) v Wales final! I’ve sure there would be a bottle or two of Penderyn drank in Wales if that was the case…Read More