Hot off the press!

To PR people, the concept of not keeping up with the news is unthinkable.

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Source: KellyB. (Flickr)

Whether its via broadsheets, tabloids, online or offline, keeping on top of the latest news is a key part of our day. How else would we be able to follow all the developments in current trends, let alone see the opportunities or face the challenges that might influence our clients’/employer’s brand(s).

I even know of one girl studying for her masters in PR whose primary source of news was Instagram – something that deeply shocked me until I realised that (given her passion for celebrity fashion and beauty trends) it was actually a pretty understandable outlet for what she wanted.

That being said, when I read this article over at Clareville Communication‘s blog, I was stunned to find that a whopping 10 per cent of Brits don’t keep up with the news and that this number DOUBLED in the last year alone.

*ENDLESS FACEPALM*

What is going on Britain? There is more to life than Celebrity Big Brother and what little ‘news’ that works its way onto Facebook to be scrolled over for want of yet another prank/cat/baby video.

Check it out anyway and let me know what you think and why you can (or can’t) be bothered.

 

Check out this CIPR event!

CIPRevent1

CIPR Midlands is giving you the opportunity to hear from a range of video content experts who can advise on getting the most from video content.

Not only will you get to hear from Vermillion Films MD, Lee Kemp, and Rob Glass from Flotilla Video Training, but you’ll also get the chance to see a campaign showcase of inhouse and PR agency work incorporating heavy use of video content, as well as take part in an expert Q&A where you can quiz the experts themselves.

What’s more, if you’re a CIPR member, you’ll not only get a cheeky discount (lowering the price to a mere £19.75) but attending will also earn you 5 CPD points!

WHEN: Tuesday, 2 February 2016 from 18:30 to 20:30 (GMT)

WHERE: Vermillion Films – 20 Victoria Works. Vittoria Street. Birmingham B1 3PE

Book at Eventbrite

 

The top three WORST things you can do as a PR graduate

People can be their own worst enemies sometimes, and new grads are no exception. In fact, I believe new graduates can be very hard on themselves. After finally getting over the stress of your final year at university, you’ve now ticked that academic box of (hopefully!) success and have been firmly thrust into a dauntingly big pond. *Hint: You are the little fish.

There’s an awful lot of competition out there and everyone is vying for attention; so, rather than adding to the swathes of articles/blogs/columns touting what you *should* be doing, I have made a list of the top three worst things a grad can do to damage their chances and nailing that sought-after role.
1) Assume you have nothing left to learn

This is key. Don’t be arrogant and assume that now you’ve graduated or attended a prestigious school that you’ve got nothing left to learn. PR degrees have become increasingly popular over the last few years and although some of them are very good (I like to think my MSc was), you don’t need one to start a career in PR.  In fact, you don’t need a degree at all.

Yes, you’ve earned that certificate saying you know about your subject but knowing the theory for why something works doesn’t always translate into being able to do absolutely everything entailed in a role.That often only comes with hard graft and experience.

Employment is a learning curve but common areas for personal growth once in a PR role include:

  • Phone skills and ‘selling in’ to journalists.
  • Email Etiquette for different stakeholders depending on your/your agency/client’s relationship with the recipient.
  • Technological capabilities – There is a HUGE number of programs and tools out there that you won’t have had access to whilst as a student.
  • Client management
  • Confidence in your abilities – This is something that comes with time but being a new hire and a new entrant to the industry understandably comes with a bit of insecurity and if you’re like me that means you might overthink things on occasion. Trust in yourself and and don’t be afraid to ask for help/support/a second pair of eyes.

2) Sell yourself short

That being said, don’t let yourself feel that you need a degree from a prestigious college to be successful, or that you need to live up to your peers’ achievements or that you need to have all these skills going in. Without sounding trite, everyone has their own journey and although yes it might feel frustrating to feel like you’re struggling, good employers will make a point to support new hires in building these skills. After all, it’s a win-win.

It’s a balancing act of acknowledging your areas for improvement and demonstrating the confidence, initiative and passion for the industry you want to succeed in. A lot of the time it’ll really come down to being willing to learn so have confidence in yourself and go in to interviews with a positive mindset.

 

3) Disengage from your personal brand 

This is something I will openly admit that I personally struggled with once I started working. Managing all of my personal branding and research on top of a jam-packed professional day was difficult to adjust to, particularly given that I was also battling long commutes and a landlord with a vendetta against modern technology…

Seriously… no wifi?! How is a girl supposed to connect with the world?!

It should come as no surprise that my mobile data plan was wiped out within days…

The first tip for countering this is to try taking some time out of your weekend to write. Depending on what you can juggle around, you can either write a post a week just giving updates or you can write a few posts and then schedule them to be published during the week whilst you’re at work – the latter being more successful in practice for us PR folks I think.

As for my second tip, it isn’t really what I’d call a tip but more of a tool.

*Disclaimer: If you haven’t come across ‘If this, Then that‘, prepare to have your mind blown!

IFTTT (as it’s more commonly known) is an online and mobile app that connects your platforms to each other and basically does what it says on the tin with very little in terms of faffing.

Once you’ve set up your preferences the way you like, the app will automatically respond to you doing ‘this’- ‘this’ being anything from uploading a picture to Instagram or posting a Tweet – by doing ‘that’ whether its sharing that photo on your blog (*See below) or sharing a blog post to Facebook.

It’s a great way to make sure you integrate all your online platforms so that your online profile is consistent and up to date.

Getting your proverbial ‘ducks’ in a row is really very simple with a little bit of planning and once you’ve managed it, it’s even easier to fire off those CVs, wow the recruiters, and nail that all important interview.

If you’d like to look at a more comprehensive list that relates to both senior and junior professionals, I highly recommed Edelman’s latest post.

 

 

 

What holiday feelings?

Capturing the very essence of Christmas is at the heart and soul of this season’s campaigning, but what emotions are we seeking to captivate?

Excitement?

Thousands of twinkling christmas lights and the soft shimmering of tinsel wrapped around the tree has become the annual embodiment of the millions of childhood hopes and wishes. Successfully recapturing that magic – within a PR campaign – is a sure-fire way to succeed. Getting a celebrity involved such as as in ? Well that’s just the icing on the cake.

Humour?

Sometimes some of the best harvey-nichols-giftface-hed-2015campaigns disrupt the publics’ consciousness.
Harvey Nichols has became known for breaking the mould in 2013 when it launched the notable “Sorry I spent it on myself” campaign. This year it repeated the sentiment with its latest #Giftface campaign.

Based on research suggesting 72% of U.K. adults have admitted to pulling “gift face” to save the feelings of a loved one—and 63% admit to wearing or using an unwanted gift after Christmas to keep up the pretense.

Novelty?

Singing raindeer and christmas jumpers might be tacky but they are most definitely a cultural staple of the holiday season. Used creatively in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, PR campaigns can shine a beam of holiday humour for all those scrooges out there.

Sympathy?

Christmas has a way of making us recognise what we have and appreciate the situations of others. This is a time of giving, so is it any small wonder why so many charities are so successful at this time of year when we feel spurred to share our wealth, our possessions and our time with those less fortunate than ourselves. This year’s campaign by Pret A Manger – who “donated” their marketing channels and media to five charities this Christmas – probably epitomises this concept best. After all, its far better to give than to receive.

Nostalgia?

Tugging on those heartstrings is something that always brings a tear  to our collective eyes. Whether it’s Sainsbury’s 2014 Great War themed “Christmas is for Sharing” campaign with the Royal British Legion, or this year’s collaboration between Sainsbury’s and publisher HarperCollins which returns us to the innocence of our childhood with a new story by Judith Kerr about Mog the Cat.

During the Christmas period, the book will be sold for £3, with Mog cuddly toys also available for £10, with all profits going to Save The Children, which will spend the money on literacy programmes.

Do you know of any other emotions that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Countering the public’s poor perception of PR

In a society where instant communication is the accepted (and expected) norm and where citizens are actively engaging with brands, it’s no surprise that Public Relations has become a key component of any business’ communications strategy.

That being said, PR as an industry is known for having a less than favourable reputation thanks to a few unscrupulous actors who have been falsely assumed to be demonstrative of the industry as a whole – Yes, we’re blaming you, Max Clifford…

Do not assume Ab Fab is accurate… its not. Credit: Sports Relief 2012

The irony of this poor rep is not lost on us.

Contrary to the misconception, PR professionals are not evil propaganda merchants weaving a web of lies for the public.

Viv Segal (Managing Director of South Africa’s Sefin Marketing) said that “PR means telling the truth and working ethically, even when all the media want is headlines and all the public wants is scapegoats. Public relations fails when there is no integrity”, and that’s a statement that is heartfelt amongst many of my peers.

Yes, what we do is centred around managing our clients’ reputations, and yes, our aim is to promote their brand and the work they do. But rather than some sinister plot of lies and spin, we do this by paying attention to what the public is interested in, finding solid connections with the work of our businesses, and by building relationships with those who matter whether they’re journalists, influencers, celebrities or Joe Bloggs from down’t road.

The main issues we face can be isolated in a variety of ways but at the end of the day, it all boils down to a lack of trust.

We have a symbiotic relationship with journalists – though they remain the gatekeepers to our securing media coverage. By lazy PRs – or those new enough to the industry to not know any better –sending out swathes of badly-written, untargeted, and often unsound press releases with often little actual news value, this relationship is being eroded.  When you consider how many of these they must receive on a weekly basis – given that there are approximately 55’000 PR professionals currently working in the UK according to the most recent ONS Labour Force Survey – is it any surprise why they are becoming increasingly cynical and unwilling to work with us.

Counteracting this issue is one that can only be tackled by good work being created on an agency by agency basis, with experienced PR professionals teaching those more junior what is and isn’t appropriate.

That however is not the whole picture. Its not longer enough for agencies to just come up with great creative content. Although this is indeed the first step, we must additionally assess and prove the impact of our work.

That means… METRICS.

Everything we do for a client must be measured; and measurement must be methodic, regular, segmented, accessible and agile. We may generate customised PR reports containing our outputs and then create clipping decks to trace how these outputs performed. The primary focus of most measurement for PR professionals is qualitative i.e., how our clients look, where our work has been published, the tone attached by the journalist to our clients information. This is the core challenge for us to meet as clients often find it easier to understand and appreciate concrete quantitative information on the number of press releases published, number of attendees to an event or number of ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ to a page.

No matter what type of measurement we use however, tying our results to our overall objective(s) is imperative. After all, outputs that don’t relate to what we are attempting to accomplish are really just wasted energy.

By applying the principles of good communications to our own industry, businesses and careers – rather than just to the work we do for our clients – we can better challenge the next person who jokes about our industry being full of spin, and perhaps educate them a bit more about what we actually do and what our work can accomplish.

Do you have any bigger ideas on how we can change the perception on PR? Let me know in a comment below.

I’m nice when you get to know me, honest!

Day in the life

Making that transition from education into professional life can often be a struggle. Suddenly, you’re expected to hit the ground running and put all that theory into practice with often only the support of your colleagues and online career advice to guide you.

That being said, it’s important to get an idea of what you’re jumping into as an Account Executive so – taking into consideration that no day is really the same in PR – I thought I’d grant you all a small exposé as to what a normal day at London’s Houston PR (the agency which gave me my ‘break’ into the world of professional public relations) would involve.

6am – My first alarm which (unsurprisingly) I would snooze… repeatedly. Suffice to say, I’m not a morning person.

7.10am – Leave for the bus, usually running because I’d rather do that than spend an extra second standing out in the cold/wet.

7.30am – The bus arrives. It’s supposed to be an hours journey by (perhaps typically for the London rush hour) it never is; luckily I’m early enough on the route to regularly manage to get a seat for the majority of the journey.

8.40am – Arrive in central London and buy coffee no. 1 of the day as well as a bagel or small salmon baguette. The baristas in both Pret and Cafe Nero know me on sight, but Cafe Nero wins the morning coffee slot with their extra shot – something I definitely need.

8.45am – Arrive at the office (just around the corner) and check national news websites, my to-do list for the day and my inbox (both in-case of something urgent that needs attending to and also in case I’ve heard back from any journalists).

9.10am – Weekly staff meeting to discuss updates on all clients as well as where we are within our new business pipeline.

9.40am – Quick briefing with my direct superior to go over my notes and discuss direct actionables for the week which I add to my to-do list in order of priority. I also provide an update on the progress of the bi-weekly insight sessions I currently run on social management and analytical tools.

9.50am – Check keywords for whether any coverage has been achieved overnight and (after verifying them) add any new pieces to the clients’ cuttings files and coverage documents alongside their respective details. We have a couple of clients who prefer daily updates so this is a common (and relatively simple) task for when I first get into the office.

10.10am –  A few responses have come in from a couple well-known magazines requesting more information about a client’s product line. There are also one or two blogger requests for items to review. I check their circulation; one has a high enough reach to be suitable so I fire off an email checking how the client would prefer it handled in terms of logistics.

10.30am – Called into an impromptu meeting by an Account Manager to discuss a new client whose meeting they want me to sit in on later today.

11am – Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. And I finally get the chance to eat the breakfast I’ve been picking at for the last two hours.

11.15am – Back at my desk and client has called in needing a list of all major technology publications so I start going through our online databases pulling out titles that are appropriate for their market, outlining their circulation as well as contact information for the most appropriate journalist, and collating them within a report to mail over.

12pm – A call comes in from a client requesting feedback on something I have been involved in but not directly enough to be able to help. She sounds stressed and expresses that it’s needed within the next day or two. I make a note of her request and forward it to the appropriate colleague with an offer to handle it if needed; they’re in meetings for most of the day but will most likely be checking email periodically. I also make a point to reassure the client and give a fair estimate of when she can expect to hear from us. I’m hoping that after a month or so of emails, she might remember me – she doesn’t, but she sounds a lot more positive by the end of the call so I hope she will do soon.

12.10pm – Back to trawling databases for leads. I’m now cross-referencing the list I’ve compiled against publications’ reach and the names of journalists with whom I know our agency has a pre-existing relationship. It’s always nice to skip the introduction stage after all.

12.30pm – Proof and make edits to a press release that is due to go out. It needs bulking out with more facts and/or quotes so I trawl through the hivemind of Google for something appropriate and tweak it before sending it back to my colleague to go out.

1pm – The coverage report I sent out for one of my clients was missing a couple of items that didn’t show up on our media monitoring. The client noticed the omission and – given that its the second time in as many weeks that our cuttings service hasn’t picked up everything it should – understandably they’re pissed and (because they know it’s not an oversight on our end) I’m tasked to recify the issue and liase with the media monitoring agency to try and find out where the gap is in their scope.

1.20pm – Lunchtime! Due to living in a glorified box without kitchen facilities, this is my main meal of the day so I take my leave of the office for a short walk and some “me” time (often used to plan these blog posts) before making a choice on what to eat… working on the Strand means the options are endless so today I swing by Koshari Street (an Egyptian street food cafe on St Martin’s Lane) for a Lentil and Swiss Chard soup.

2.20pm – Social media is an important and essential tool for both our clients and our business. To keep ourselves up to date with the myriad of tools and tricks out there, I host a bi-weekly insight session on key tools that would benefit specific clients but this means taking the time to research and assess their relevance before adding the relevant details to the powerpoint I’m designing.

3.30pm – I sit in on a client meeting with a manager and the MD. We have a couple of international clients so despite the difficulty of juggling timezones, regular conference calls allow us to better understand their needs and expectations as well as making sure they appreciate our role and where we are within their campaign.

4.30pm – The meeting took longer than expected so I start finishing up today’s To-Do list and make my final calls to journalists following up on coverage or pitches.

5pm – Before I leave, I tidy my desk space and write up the key actionables for tomorrow morning.

5.30pm – Leave the office and grab a sandwich or soup before I get to the bus stop. I can already see that the traffic is insane and – as more people leave the office – I know it’s only going to get worse.

7.15pm – Home. Finally.

7.30pm – Shower

8pm – Blog and skype my family and friends.

9.30pm – Put on a film and try to relax. More often than not I end up scrolling through Twitter and industry news sites.

11pm – Sleep.

GET INVOLVED in blogging! Behind the Spin’s #BestPRBlogs competition launches for a third year!

Blog yourself a job!

Autumn has officially hit and the new academic year is about to launch itself in earnest, bringing with it all the lectures, seminars and assignments that become the staple features of our lives as we strive towards the best possible grades we can manage – after all, its those grades which are going to be the deciding factor in getting us a graduate job….aren’t they?

I’d actually argue that its in fact the ‘extra-curriculars’ which set you apart from your peers and get you that all important foot in the PR door.

Don’t mistake my meaning; securing a decent qualification (especially one that you’ve invested a considerable amount of money and time in) is of course important in showing people that you know what you’re talking about. But, saying that, in my job-hunting experience at least, my grades (despite being good) were always only a MINOR part of what grabbed employers’ attention when it came to my applications.

Instead I discovered (admittedly to my shock) that it was my social media presence and in particular my blog that secured me my interviews and, eventually, my role at London-based agency, Houston PR. I know that my position at Houston in particular was gained in this manner as I was invited to interview via Twitter after Managing Director, Hamish Thompson, read through some of my posts.

However, what my interviewers and employers may not know is that without Behind the Spin‘s annual ‘Best PR Student Blogger’ Competition, I might never have stuck with my blog long enough to fall in love with writing and appreciate the ways that my own unique ‘voice’ can break through the noise.

My love for blogging is by no means unique however, as last year’s winner, Livi Wilkes (whose blog ‘Live, Love, Laugh PR‘ was commended for its “honest and engaging” writing style) shared this love claiming that:

“I blog because I love it’… …’ being recognised so highly for something I love doing is such a lovely feeling!”

So what IS #BestPRblogs?

Offering aspiring PR students the opportunity to learn, practice, build their networks, and promote their expertise within a lively community, Behind the Spin’s contest now enters its third year of highlighting the best blog posts written by UK-based PR student bloggers.

Keep in mind:

  • It doesn’t matter if your blog has all the fancy bells and whistles that make it visually perfect.
  • It doesn’t matter if your posts are written as an assignment or in response to something topical you’ve seen or read.
  • It doesn’t even really matter if you don’t manage to write something each week (though the more you post, the more chances you have of being chosen as a weekly winner.

The important thing is that you are interested in what you’re writing about; that you have proofed your work before publishing (Typos never look good); that you use social platforms to promote and try to build a community around your work; that you reference the source your images/videos if they’re not ones you’ve taken yourself; that you use relevant hyperlinks when appropriate; and (without sounding ridiculously cheesy) that you have fun – after all, it’s enjoying the experience that makes it easier to type out the cacophany of brilliance in your head.

WORKING

Each week, PR academic and Behind the Spin‘s Editor, Richard Bailey, will browse the #bestPRblogs and #PRstudent hashtags, and collate a selection of the best blog posts written by UK-based PR students (plus the best photo taken by a PR student (usually taken from Instagram)).

Weekly winners will be recorded in an ongoing leaderboard which will determine the final shortlist of talented writers announced next April. These five bloggers will then be given just four weeks to polish, edit and impress the discerning and digitally-savvy, Michael White (Associate Editor for Behind the Spin and Digital Account Manager for Lansons), who will go through each of their blogs with a fine comb before announcing Britain’s Best PR Student Blogger 2016!!!

There are plenty of blogs out there you can use for inspiration such as:

If you’re still really stuck on where to start after reading all those though, you can always read: How to write a blog post, which outlines all the basic things you should be paying attention to.

Happy Blogging!!!