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

Big in Japan: Turning Reams of Footage into PR Success

tokyo-tower-825196_640This year saw the greatest event in entertainment media history since the Independence Day teaser trailer campaign. TBS in Japan saw fit to broadcast an hour-long special on the UK, featuring a substantial contribution by yours truly. I won’t dwell on the actual content of the programme, although for anyone who has watched it I’d like to point out that I did not dress like that when I proposed, and the thing with the rice is pure fantasy. That is a pretty representative sample of our fridge’s everyday contents, though.

Dom Japan TV fridge shot windowed

What is relevant is just how much effort and time goes into creating 45 minutes’ worth of television, and just how much falls by the wayside. I’ve read before about how 90% of film-making is boredom, but experiencing it in the flesh is another thing entirely. Two days’ worth of filming in London and leafy Buckinghamshire, coupled with another two days in Japan, turned into just one segment in the whole programme. Entire segments were dropped completely, which was especially galling considering I put myself through eating deep-fried Mars bars for nothing. And ultimately what looked to be an unwieldy sprawl of interviews, reconstructions, travelogue and lots of film of cooking turned into a single, tight episode.

In this way, the business of PR is a lot like TV production; especially the editing process. The average client will produce a huge amount of content and ideas that will be more or less useful and interesting for the audience, whether speaking to them directly via content marketing activities or via the intermediary of the media. Our job is to act as editors, sorting through all of this material to identify which will be both of most interest to the audience and of greatest benefit to the client. This judgement is crucial; after all, simply flinging everything out will both be a hugely inefficient use of PR’s time and quickly lead to fatigue from the press and a disengaged audience. Similarly, what’s of interest to the audience and the client won’t always line up. Most publications will be less than fascinated by award wins, particularly those from a rival publication; while not every client story is one they want to see plastered across Twitter and beyond. Taking everything available, judging what is most valuable, and forging a narrative that allows us to tell the client’s story to the right audience is where we really demonstrate our value. Do it right, and clients are presenting precisely the right face to the world. Do it wrong, and people will be asking where and why they spent their money.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my public awaits. I actually got recognised in the supermarket the other day.

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Hello? Good PR is collaborative, not inauthentic

faces-63516_640It recently emerged that Adele is no longer allowed to tweet without first running her tweets by her management team as a precaution against using Twitter while drunk. This got me thinking more generally about some of the key benefits of having outside help. Whether your customers are consumers (like Adele’s) or b2b like most of our clients, it’s good to have someone to collaborate with to stop mistakes being made and show the best, rather than worst of you. No-one wants to engage with drunk, boring or incoherent communications and while we don’t police the drinking we can help our clients with making communications really sing.

Agreeing on a strong message – Working with a good PR team should be a collaborative experience that improves the quality of the messages you communicate rather than just editing out the bad stuff or diluting the message. Messaging is generally the starting point where the agency works to understand your business and the challenges facing your customers, and then uses this to form the key messages that you want to communicate to the market. They are still your company’s messages, just conveyed in a way that makes them a bit more interesting to journalists and aligned with the key industry issues that interest your customers.

A sounding board – While CEOs and marketing managers are the experts on their own business, it can be useful to sound ideas out with someone else not as closely involved with the nuts and bolts, especially if you have been working on the same thing for a while. Running drafts of whitepapers or intended conversation points by your PR agency can help ensure what you are saying is simple to understand and is aimed at the intended audience. Brainstorming with your agency is another good way to come up with fresh ideas, either if there is an important company announcement you would like to make the most of or if you want to come up with a creative idea to generate some coverage. Brainstorming can also be particularly useful to come up with campaign ideas around a new product area or if you are looking to target a specific market.

Specialist experience – Working in the industry means that we can generally gauge what a journalist’s reaction will be before we contact them. Most importantly, you need to be clear on your facts before engaging with the media for publicity. For example, in the early days of cloud, many companies claimed to offer cloud services without fully understanding what this meant. This only served to frustrate journalists looking to cover more cloud stories – their time was wasted by press releases from companies that weren’t actually offering cloud. Working with your PR team can also help you decide if what you are saying is compelling to journalists or is just adding to the noise they hear every day – for example, is that latest software update REALLY going to ‘disrupt’ the market? Is the potential damage from a cyber-attack REALLY as serious as a nuclear bomb?

Getting your time back – It can be hard to keep on top of sending a regular stream of company news to your audience when you are firefighting a massive customer problem or in back to back meetings for weeks on end. On the other hand, if you use the outsourced time and brainpower of your agency, then you can use your time more effectively. If your agency understands your business properly, they should be able to draft any copy for you to review and make minimal edits, and convey key company messages on your behalf when speaking to the press.

While it’s good to be able to do things yourself, there are only so many hours in the day, and there are probably other areas of marketing or product development where your time could be better spent rather than doing PR yourself. This is even more important if you are already paying for a PR agency: you should be getting the value out of them and using them to improve how you engage with your audience.

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Coverage Cup round up w/c 16 October 2015

Coverage cupThe week started off with the announcement that Britain will retaliate in kind to cyber-attacks. Jumping on the news the Venafi team secured expert comment on both The Daily Telegraph and Sky News. Elsewhere, the Green Grid urged datacentre operators to consider the environmental impact of their activity, a sentiment echoed by Romonet’s CEO  Zahl Limbuwala in comment successfully pitched to Computer Weekly.  Finally, there was a double hit for iPass with its Business Traveler Cost Index being widely referenced in a Computer Weekly piece on mobile roaming charges, and CBR featuring an interview with the company’s CCO, Patricia Hulme, on why workforces need seamless W-Fi connectivity. 

A full list of Coverage Cup nominations can be found below:

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A belated Coverage Cup round up

Coverage cupAnother great week of coverage at Spark. First off, the ViaSat team reacted quickly to the latest update from Broadband Delivery UK, and were rewarded with coverage in Computer Weekly. The Verizon team also achieved coverage in Computer Weekly off the back of the company’s latest cloud computing report. Elsewhere, a Changepoint article on project management for CIOs appeared on Information Age, while the Guavus team successfully pitched in comment for Capacity’s article on network-as-a-service. Finally, the JDA team secured two great pieces of coverage on Essential Retail, after securing the publication’s attendance at JDA’s recent FocusConnect event.

You can view the full list of coverage cup nominations below:


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Interview with Banking Technology’s Elliott Holley

FireShot Capture 1 - Banking Technology - http___www.bankingtech.com_I recently caught up with Banking Technology’s Senior Staff Writer, Elliott Holley, to ask him a few questions about the publication and how PRs can work with him. 


In your own words, what is the purpose of Banking Technology and how do you see the title evolving in the next five years?

Banking Technology provides a clear understanding of events to our readership. Anybody can cover an announcement, but we step back and look at the broader picture. For example, Swift recently took part in a panel discussion on an infrastructure project they’re building, which they claimed was going fine. But upon further investigation, I discovered that the project was 12 months behind schedule, and 5 of its original backers had dropped out! This wasn’t mentioned at the event, but this is the kind of background that is crucial to what we write.

We often place things within a context which usually goes back years. Take the London Stock Exchange’s recent announcement about launching its derivatives venture as an example. This is actually part of a long-standing effort by the LSE, which has been trying (unsuccessfully) to break into derivatives for years.

We also break through all the jargon and terminology to explain financial services stories clearly. I believe that you should be able to explain things in language that a five-year-old would understand. Aiming for simplicity allows the insight to be made much clearer, and the true meaning to be understood. Of course, there is a delicate balancing act between maintaining simplicity and making sure that none of the important technical detail is lost. Again, our experience helps to discern which details are important, and which aren’t.

For the PR community out there, can you provide me with some tips on how and when it is best to pitch stories to you?

Yes. First, some basic standards must be kept. You’d be surprised how many people fall foul of these.

  1. Never send me an email with my name spelt incorrectly; titled with my surname, or starting with a generic greeting.
  2. Don’t call to see if I’ve read a press release. If it was of interest, I’d be in touch.
  3. The only exception to rule 2 is if you are genuinely 100% certain that it is something that I’d be interested in. 

Beyond that, the biggest tip is making sure that you are what I would call a ‘named individual’. I.e. you must be someone who I know personally and have met. There is a select group of names, people who when an email appears in my inbox, I always read it. You need to become one of these people. The best way to do that is to arrange a face-to-face meeting with me and make sure you see me in person as often as you can. That way, when I see your email, I know who it’s from, I recognise your name, and I read it (unlike all the emails from people I’ve never heard of, which rarely get opened).

Also, it helps if you’ve done your homework before pitching a story. You should always think a couple of questions ahead – no journalist likes asking a question about a pitch, to be told “I don’t know” or “Let me get back to you”. Make sure you’ve read up first and understand what it is you are pitching. Again, this is mostly common sense, but there are people out there who have made these mistakes! Don’t be one of them. Another related point is, you should always check our website before you pitch something. There is no point pitching a story to us if we’ve already posted a similar story on the website an hour ago!

What is your main gripe with the world of PR?

I think some of my main gripes are already listed above. One of the biggest ones is that PRs often don’t take the time to personalise. They haven’t read the website, they haven’t looked at the kind of stories we write, they haven’t checked to see if their pitch would be relevant, they haven’t made sure they used my name instead of just writing ‘hi there’. No journalist likes to feel like we are just another number. We have names. We are people too!

The other thing is to make sure I know who you are. If you haven’t met me in person, that really should be your starting point. Invite me out to lunch, get to know me. Make things personalised. Relationships need to be nourished by respect on both sides, and this is true in the working environment just as much as in other areas of life.

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