Stuff and ThingsTop 50 UK PR Blogs 2013Top 50 UK PR Blogs 2013

Is your PR programme making people want to punch you in the face?







When I read Hubspot’s  blog post about marketing clichés some rang more than a few bells – we try to avoid them but ‘best of breed’ sometimes slips through the net.   PRs have always had to translate marketing speak into everyday language.  We already run the risk of creating a ‘punch in the face’ moment if we call a journalist at a bad time, so adding to it by pitching them a cliché-ridden press release is a real no-no.

However, telesales and PRs are no longer the only ones who have to stand by what we pitch.  Social media marketing means an ad or piece of collateral no longer comes from an anonymous source – companies expect their staff to retweet/repost advertising, marketing and PR materials.  They are not going to be keen if it alienates the very people they are trying to influence.  This change in the way we communicate means that we need to change the language we use to communicate – it has to be authentic, it has to be something you could imagine saying. 

The cartoonist Hugh MacCleod helps with the process of creating authenticity for a number of companies, such as Rackspace, Intel, Cisco and Roche Pharmaceuticals – his role is business transformation through art.  His website has some great pieces that resonate – for PRs the obvious is, “Have a story. And make sure it’s a good one. A DAMN good one.” 

Because we have to pass the journalist test, we have to be able to objectively evaluate whether something is a good story that will resonate rather than irritate.  Are journalists going to use our press release for a game of buzzword bingo? Will they ridicule it publicly on Twitter? Are we sending something that is knowledgeable and insightful; or smug, brash and bragging?  Does it talk about why a story is important in relation to what’s happening in the world and what people care about?  Does it lead with what is new, different, or unique?  But ultimately the ‘punch in the face test’ may well cover all of those things! 

(Image: via gapingvoid)

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Coverage Cup round up w/c 23 June 2014

Coverage cupLast week saw a broad mix of client coverage.  The  iPass team secured a great piece of coverage on the BBC as a result of  pro-actively pitching a business travel technology feature. Other notable mentions included the Damovo team for some contact centre research featured on  MyCustomer, while the Guavus team secured a great opinion piece placement on SC Magazine.  Which piece of coverage do you think deserves to win? 

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The diverse skills required for working in tech PR

V_wordcloud_skillIt’s that time of year again when students are finishing up with their final exams, and getting ready to join the ‘real world’. Many are considering their next move, and technology PR is a great industry for any graduate to consider. Our industry thrives off diversity – you don’t have to be a PR or journalism student to get ahead, and here at Spark we have graduates in politics, languages and economics, alongside more traditional PR and journalism majors. Nevertheless, there are still some must-have skills which are essential to make an effective PR person. Below is my list – and some of these might not be what you expect.

Word, PowerPoint and Excel skills

PR professionals at every level need to know how to appropriately handle these Office programs. Nothing ruins a brilliantly written article, sparkling ideas or fantastic results more than bad formatting, as it’s a distraction for clients from the meat of what matters most. What’s more, being skilled in these areas saves valuable time on a day-to-day basis: no one wants to spend hours trying to get all their bullet points lining up when they could be doing something more interesting and important. So being highly proficient in these programs is a must.

An interest in SEO and Google Analytics

Knowing about the principles of SEO and how to take advantage of useful tools like Google Analytics will be a real boon to any prospective PR professional. PR is increasingly driving online traffic and analytics tools help us to track and measure the success of campaigns in terms of website traffic and search terms used. Demonstrating a clear understanding of this will certainly help you get a foot in the door.

Advanced research skills

We do an awful lot of research in PR. We use it to create pitches to attract journalists, as interesting additions to by-lined articles, and to help us make our campaigns more creative.  And in the world of technology PR, we can be researching some pretty niche things. Need to know how many business trips were taken in Europe last year? How about how many data centres there are in the world and how much total power they use? What about how many people own Wi-Fi only tablets in the UK? This information is all out there…somewhere. Very much like with researching for dissertations, we just need to know how to dig it out, and make sure it’s from a credible source. Being proficient at searching for information makes this job a whole lot easier.

The ability to ‘sell’

In PR, pitching a story to media is much like sales. You have to be knowledgeable about your product and confident to get on the phones to cold call occasionally cantankerous journalists. You then need to be persuasive, persistent and ready to deflect any objections that might arise, until you achieve the holy grail of PR: good, on-message coverage for your clients. It’s not always the easiest of tasks, but it can certainly be one of the most rewarding.

These are just some of the capabilities that we look for in our grads. What do you all consider an essential PR skill? 

(Image: By strategy:User:Eekim (Word cloud generated by [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

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Coverage Cup round up w/c 16 June 2014

Coverage cupLast week one of our clients, ElasticHosts, highlighted how much wasted cloud capacity is costing business each year.  The resulting media alert and sell in garnered some great pick up in the IT press.  In the meantime, the JDA team got a great piece of coverage in The Independent off the back of some retail CEO research.  A round up of the above activity and the other nominations is below – who do you think deserved to wear the CC crown this week?

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Knowing your aaS from your elbow

Elbow_(body)A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and that holds true in technology PR as with other professions. Calling journalists and then not being able to explain what the client does or articulate why they should be writing about them is a definite no-no. Yet there are always cases mentioned of PRs pitching incoherent stories. Here are some key things to bear in mind that can ensure you are a help rather than a hindrance to journalists.

1. Do your research

Working in B2B technology PR requires that you make an effort to understand your clients and the industry they work in. To effectively pitch your clients to the media properly, you first need to understand their business and what it is they are looking to achieve through PR. This means gaining an intimate knowledge of past press announcements, key product offerings, customers, events and social media activity. Basically, the more you know about your clients you will be better able to explain their work to others and think creatively about them.

2.  Know the media

Once you have the client knowledge, understanding your key media is also of utmost importance to get the message out there. The title and the types of stories it covers, whether it has planned features and its core audience are all essential to pitching the right story. This can also help to avoid an unwitting ear bashing on the phone (e.g. being pitched product stories is a particular bugbear for channel press, especially if they have no relevance to their channel audience whatsoever). On top of that, building a solid working relationship can be helped by knowing the journalist’s editorial beat, personal areas of interests, hobbies and even favourite food and pub to go to. Knowing which journalists don’t mind a call and which work best on e-mail is also good knowledge to have – a quick call every now and then is actually not as bad as some would have you believe. While journalists are time sensitive and can’t spend all day on the phone, a quick call to flag an emerging story of the day or discussing a recent piece is a good way to get some useful information. Journalists can always be trusted to give a wholly unbiased opinion which ultimately helps to offer more relevant content.

3. Keep it simple, stupid

Working in technology PR doesn’t mean you can disassemble and reassemble an IBM X3500 blindfolded and so there is no point trying to use the language of a hardware engineer. The most interesting points of a technology story are often going to be the end user benefits rather than the technology itself. You will be expected to be able to process large amounts of complex information and distil it into simple messages. One of the hardest things to do in technology PR is translate a complicated technical story into one that a layperson would understand. PRs should consider this before picking up the phone or even putting pen to paper. As Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

(Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

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