Category Archives: PR

PR Week digital ramble


As requested, here’s a pdf of the Shine essay in the PR Week digital supplement, penned by your’s truly. As such, it’s a bunch of old pony.

(NB: I’m not entirely sure that I’m allowed to post this up here. It might upset the powers that be at PR Week. If so, let me know and I’ll take it down.)

Agency training

For a few years after going freelance way back in 2003 I created and delivered a number of training courses for UK PR consultancies. I haven’t done much for the past couple of years, but have just been asked to meet an agency to chat about its training requirements. If nothing else, it’s good to know that even when things are tight, agencies still recognise the need to invest in their employees’ skills and development.

Digging out the courses I created those years ago, a few things struck me. Firstly, I’d actually built quite a comprehensive set of practical and pragmatic training courses. Created for a number of different clients, I’d never really pulled them into a coherent whole. I really should.

Secondly, it’s interesting to see what content needs updating and what has remained consistent, given the much talked about changes we’ve seen in the PR and communications landscape in recent years. The logical thought might be that a great deal of the content is outdated, and very much more suited to the ‘old world’ of PR.

It isn’t true, of course. Many of the fundamentals have stayed the same. One of my courses which always seemed to go down pretty well was the Strategy Development training. Basing communications strategies on insights delivered through audience research, and the tools and techniques you can use to create a robust strategy within which to unleash your creativity, remain as relevant today as they ever have. I’d be worried if it were any different. Similarly, PR professionals need to be able to manage their time and workloads, and build mutually-beneficial relationships with their clients.

The pool of influencers with which relationships need to be created and managed has expanded; the focus in years gone by has very much been traditional media, so that will need some updating. Helping agency employees get their heads around social media and digital channels has been something I’ve done a bit of in recent years, so that’s a course that should almost write itself.

A couple of areas that I do think will need more original material are crisis management and content creation. The take the second of these first, to PR pros in the past, content creation has primarily meant the written word (so a writing skills course was handy…). Being able to turn out good, accurate, compelling copy is still something that has to be in the toolkit of every PR consultant, but an awareness of and ability to recommend when, for instance, video would be a more effective medium is growing in importance. Further to that, the ability to actually create video and audio content to a decent quality is going to be vital.

Finally, while the nature of the issues and crises that affect organisations has largely remained the same, the way they manifest themselves and the speed with which they spread and grow has changed markedly with the rise in social and digital media. This, again, is something that round PR consultants need to be skilled in.

So that’s all the stuff that has been around for a while and would benefit from some updating. In terms of brand new stuff, well I reckon as the basis I’ll nick Rob Brown’s recent blog post on the five things every PR person needs to think about

Oh, and if you fancy having a chat about any training for your people, drop me a note. Contact details are in the ‘About‘ page.

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About-face book

u.jpgWhen Bite PR, as PRWeek put it back in October, “became the envy of trendy consumer tech agencies everywhere [by] scooping up the Facebook UK brief” I bet in all their excitement the team never suspected that one of the first things they’d be handling would be the fallout from the Facebook founder’s humiliating apology over a dodgy advertising system.  Though perhaps they’re not having to do very much at all…as we all know, when stuff like this happens with our big American clients, it’s generally time to stick to the prepared statements and say nothing else.  I’ve always found that enormously rewarding.

In fact, with all the current chat about Facebook having jumped the shark, I’m not sure that other agencies would be that envious right now.  My gutfeel is that Facebook’s crested the hill and is starting a chilly descent.  I reckon Zuckerberg knows it too, so he’s grabbed the cash from Microsoft and the rich Asian fella while he can…$300m isn’t a bad return for a few years’ work in anyone’s book.  Hopefully Bite has negotiated a long notice period.

I bet the guys at LinkedIn – the client that Bite (rather arrogantly in my eyes) thought wouldn’t mind being serviced by the same agency as Facebook but which (rather predictably) decided that it did – are chuckling away though.

One thing I chuckled away at this morning is Kara Swisher’s decoding of Zuckerberg’s apology on her excellent BoomTown blog.

Annual report 2.0ish

Tim Dyson, CEO of the Next Fifteen Group and therefore my old boss, points to something that he believes to be a world’s first; a company annual report that is also a blog.  It’s for his own company, of course.  I’ll always take a look at the Next Fifteen annual report as (a) I think, somewhere, I still own some shares (though they’re well underwater, wherever they are) (b) I know for a fact that my mum owns some shares and (c) I’m always keen to see how much Dyson gets paid.

I’m not totally convinced about how innovative the social media annual report is…it’s rather like an online annual report (which the company’s done before) with a bit of blogging literally added onto the side.  I mean, it’s not like you can comment on the chairman’s statement or other specific parts of the annual report itself (now wouldn’t that be cool…”so Tim, why did David Dewhurst get a performance related bonus but you didn’t?  What did he do that was so much better..?”)

But I’m happy to agree with Dyson when he says that more and more companies will be producing their annual reports in this way.  That hand on the front page is a bit odd though…I thought it might be some fancy biometric jobby and now my screen’s covered in sticky hand-prints.

A couple of years ago I had a chat with one of the members of the Egg plc PR team about – as I saw it – a new PR discipline which I rather cunningly called “consumer financial”.  The premise was that, as millions of individuals now own shares and are increasingly involved in managing their own share portfolios, quoted companies needed specific communications activities geared towards this audience.  Sure, they’d need all the standard financial info and regulatory announcements, but the tone and approach would be very different to those communications, say, pushed to institutional investors in the City.  While the numbers clearly matter very much to members of the “consumer financial” audience, they’re also, I believe, more inclined to want to understand the culture and ethics of the company in which they have invested.  I see the Next Fifteen annual report/blog mash-up as fitting right into this category.

As I said though, the blogging bit seems a little added on to me.  There are posts from key directors in the Next Fifteen Group, such as Dyson himself, “Social media – the new big thing in PR” (hmm…) Grant Currie of Inferno (a good mate of mine) and Aedhmar Hynes of Text 100.  They’ve kick-started the conversation by commenting on each other’s posts and roping in a few clients, but you can’t blame them for that (in fact Hynes’ post – about virtual worlds, natch – has two comments, one from Cisco, a client, and the other from a bloke called Tony Hynes.  No relation, I’m presuming…or is it?)

What’ll be interesting for me is how well they manage to keep the blog element of the report alive.  Neither Dyson or Hynes have exactly been the most prolific bloggers, and Currie’s contributions to the Inferno blog have been, ummm, sporadic.

Still, credit to them.  I do think it’s original and more companies will do something similar.  Of course, it would have been really cool if Next Fifteen itself had a digital team as part of the group that could’ve developed the social media annual report concept; I could have seen that leading to a load of new business.  But it doesn’t, so used a company called CGI Squared instead.