Category Archives: PR

Seven years of blogging about PR in Manchester and beyond – the best of 2006-2012

The Artisan blog was the first Manchester PR blog as far as I know.

Certainly I cannot think of another that is still going from 2006.

It has around 650 posts to date and covers a myriad of subjects, especially those relating to Manchester PR agencies, technology and of course PR itself.

It is better written now than it was when I started although I have picked out some of the best from 2006-2012.  (The most interesting 2112-2013 entries can be found here.

Let’s begin:

Sometimes I have found myself explaining or defending PR agencies such as with this thread.

Yes PR agencies can give poor service, but this is not indicative of the industry.  There are bad apples in every profession.

Sometimes I am doing the opposite such as this piece on a Manchester PR agency promoting payment by results.

Many posts are on the industry and the issues raised such as this post that highlights the weaknesses of citizenship journalism at a time when it was being lauded.

Tips pieces feature occasionally and these from myself How to pitch to bloggers and these from specialists are still very useful today: Judi Goodwin’s How to unleash your writing power! and Bill Doherty on negotiation tips.

Good PR case studies such as “Who parked their tank on my lawn?”  also feature occasionally. 

Some are sillier than others such as Dog advertising, which was this blog’s most popular page for ages, that was inspired by Puppy Doms (a Jamie Clouting favourite).

Some brilliant PR stories are global in reach such as this: “Keyboards dirtier than toilets.”  My Israeli cousin in Jerusalem picked up on this!

A few Artisan PR pieces were also featured in the blog such as this piece in The Guardian for a Manchester headhunter

Sometimes human interest stories including this one about Belsen featured.

I hope you have got something out the Artisan blog, feel free to leave comments and keep following.

Best PR blog stories celebrating seven years of entries (2012 – 2013)

In April it will be seven years since I started my Manchester based PR blog.

I have got say writing a PR blog improves your writing style and ability to produce content, but it does take time.  PR, marketing and SEO are all time consuming although I only look at the first two, and more inclined towards the public relations.

It also  helps to give a basis to advise clients on online PR and of course improve rankings.

Rather than pick out the best entries from well over 600 posts in one attempt, I thought I would pick out the best from the last 12 months and then possibly do a couple of blog posts to cover the first six years.  I probably don’t want to revisit the first few years, but let’s see.

There have been a lot of posts about PR and its relationship with marketing:

Is marketing merging with PR being one current issue?  Are PR professionals moving into marketing?

PR professionals should understand marketing even if they are not strictly marketers being a recent example of why PR professionals need to be able to using marketing planning structures.   The case for marketing planing to direct PR was also made in September.

One bugbear is marketing professionals thinking they can do PR because it is “easy” – some have found out it is a different skills set by hard experience.

Some pieces have been about PR professionals and their client relationships.  Often both parties (many creative professionals can have this applied to them as well) don’t always appreciate the other’s position.  One example is PR retainers, which can be beneficial to all although there is often resistance against them.  Another is the benefit of a PR freelancer.

While the issues tackled are often applicable to the PR industry, some are Manchester centric, including how Media City has benefitted Manchester PR agencies although it seems to be somewhat aloof of the city, which might change.

The North / South PR divide was addressed in July 2012.  Even though Manchester PR agencies can give London agencies more than a match in quality and certainly budget and ROI, many companies don’t look North, which is their loss.

PR techniques often come up and PR and the English language showed how George Orwell still can teach us a thing or three about writing copy.  Some have been from guest bloggers such as George Dearsley’s talking about crisis PR.

Social media also features for B2B clients such as this one about Pinterest.

A special thanks (although dread to think how much time I have spent on this) to Simon Wharton from search marketing agency PushON for insisting I start writing and helping me get set-up.


PR and marketing – why PR professional need to be proficient with marketing strategy

I was at a creative strategy talk a little while back where we would witness the creative process in its fine glory or so said the blurb.

An issue had been briefed to the members of the panel and they had an hour, maybe an hour and a half, to talk us through a solution to a puzzling and talked about topic of the day.

I went not to have the result but see how other creative and marketing professionals think.  A bit like mathematics, it is the working out, the process that is as important as the result.

However, we had a “pub” discussion.  It was all over the place although chaired and it wasn’t very coherent.  It was patchy to say the least.

Now the subject was given to the panel an hour before and so some had more industry knowledge than others.  But that is not really important.

What is important is how they come with a strategic plan and how they generate creative ideas.

It is sounds boring but having a structure is key.

Having a marketing planning structure is ideal.

It is the grammar in a language.  Without the grammar you perhaps could get the gist of a talk or piece of writing, you might not.  You need the structure to enable the vocabulary to make sense.

Marketing planning is the grammar of creative campaigns.

PR professionals should be marketers.  An understanding, no, being able to think in the mode of a marketing plan is very important.

PR professionals, creatives as well should have this skill as prerequisite as one of their core skills.

PR and marketing are not distantly or closely related cousins, they are part of the same family and should be known to each party.

Is PR merging with marketing?

There has been an inkling of a trend towards PR jobs taking on more marketing communications responsibilities.

I cannot say it was more than a feeling.

But I came across this article in PR Week from October 2012 that seemed to crystallise those thoughts a little more.

For B2B clients the recession has concentrated minds even more on ROI although it was always important.

PR can generate valuable SEO content, links, downloads, branding, Google profile and leads of course.

However the perception is often that PR is a branding exercise alone although this is outdated thinking.

B2B companies that are not of a more substantial size need their marketing needs dealt with as much as their reputation management.

I am helping implement a new website and often help with social media and copy and occasionally marketing strategy – a much misunderstood and vital skill for PR professionals and everyone else.

Those skills that I had left behind and thoughts peripheral now are proving useful again.

So the PR Week article pointing to a merging of roles and more marketing responsibilities being placed on PR professionals is no surprise.

Is it the way things are going?

Perhaps PR professionals want to be marketing heads and not a subset of marketing.

Will PR professionals have to be marketers as well however much they want to remain pure PR practitioners?  They might have no choice.

Manchester PR stunt catches the eye for its creativity

Manchester PR stunt

I like this new outdoor PR stunt in Manchester city centre.

Perhaps interactive outdoor art attraction should follow that description.

However you want to describe it, the agency working on behalf of  Action for Children and its sponsors has come up with something that works on a number of levels.  It should certainly raise the profile and funds of the charity.

Manchester PR stunt

The eggs, with designs by well-known and accomplished artists, are being auctioned.  There is a daily egg hunting competition to draw people back into the campaign.

But it is as a visual campaign that it really works, especially the oversized Lindt chocolate rabbits (additional sponsorship) against a backdrop of Exchange Square.

Manchester PR stunt

Certainly brightening Manchester city centre with street art will gain a lot of goodwill for Action for Children (although it is quite understated in the display.  Perhaps it is clever marketing).



Healthcare PR case study: NHS IT press coverage

The NHS is going through structural changes as it is being re-positioned to offer greater value for the resources directed towards it.

This is especially true of health informatics services (HIS), the NHS’ in-house IT suppliers, which are being tasked with saving money through promoting greater efficiency and effectiveness through the use of IT by clinicians.

One example is Informatics Merseyside, formerly North Mersey HIS, a 300 strong organisation – the largest of its type in England and Wales – that looks after a number of hospital trusts, some 28,000 NHS staff’s IT requirements.  Like many health informatics services it needs to be more commercial in outlook, making bridges with NHS patients and staff, and fellow HISs as well as other public sector bodies.

The PR was an awareness exercise that brought new valued contacts from peer organisations – here are some examples of the coverage achieved in well-regarded and influential E Health Insider for the cyberRen project, and British Journal of Healthcare Computinginterview with CEO Mark Bostock in E-Health Insider (there were other pieces placed here), a double page interview in National Health Executive, which explored mobile working with Mark Bostock with PM Stephen Appleton, Stephen was also featured in Building Better Healthcare.

New agile working practices also featured Stephen again in Building Better Heathcare and British Journal of Healthcare Computing.

Further interviews were also secured for a director at a fellow HIS about its work (although this will be featured at a later stage).  So this area of the NHS could be very productive for some PR agencies as the NHS becomes more commercial in outlook and needs to revamp its communications outlook and strategy.

More PR work can be view here: oil and gas PR study, legal PR case study and accountancy PR study.

PR and marketing roles are merging – part of a new trend?

PR Week has an interesting piece about the move from PR into broader marketing roles.

With particular reference to in-house, it says that high level PR roles are much reduced when compared to last year (40% reduction for Q3 year on year).

This is in part recession, in part possibly a change of business culture and the skills that PR professional can bring to broader amrekting roles.  Click on the above link to get a fuller picture.

Simon Sproule, Corporate vice-president, global marketing comms, Nissan make an interesting point that is worth pointing out:

“Many comms challenges no longer fit neatly into either a marketing or PR category. Every time we approach a product launch, comms should be approaching it with a 360- degree integrated approach and communal budget, rather than thinking which area [marketing or PR] needs it most.”

Could it be that PR and marketing roles are merging and that public relations professionals are aspiring to the Chief Marketing Officer roles?

Stats are still unconvincing but perhaps PR Week is onto something.

Another PR survey? Why and what is its value?

I couldn’t resist another dose of Jeremy Paxman’s cynicism , especially when it is combined with a poke at PR.

So this blast from the past seems to fit the bill perfectly and is aimed at the ubiquitous PR survey, its worth and use.

PR survey
The PR survey – a necessary tool, but needs to be used well, especially in B2B PR


Nigel Hughes now of Havas PR points out (with humour) that consumer PR has the challenge of gaining brand exposure where the  product in itself is often not of much news value.  Hence surveys are a vital method for successful consumer PR.

B2B PR is something different, the service (the expertise of the professional) or product is of interest to the journalist and his or her readership, from the press release to article to interview.  Moreover the business is also generally of interest to the readership of key media whereas consumer publics are more concerned about the product.

(It is not hard and fast rule as shown Richard Branson and Virgin).

Still, enough, enjoy the light hearted tussle about The Survey and its place in the PR world.

PR starts with marketing or at least a strategy

At a recent client meeting about launching the organisation’s social media it was clear that a well-defined strategy was absent.

Plenty of issues, ideas and risks were mentioned in a haphazard way.  It became clear that without going through a planning process the social media would be disjointed, disorganised and perhaps disappointing.

Results, value, ROI are the recession buzzwords and so without a clear targeted strategy that encompasses the issues of the organisation (including being especially risk averse in this instance) it is likely that a successful programme will be compromised from the start.

It is all very well to skip any real planning and “get stuck in.”

Yes, time pressure is there and well as the pressure to drive results, but rushing in without going through a planning phase is a false economy.

But this planning strategy’s roots went deeper than social media.

There is a need for a clear general communications plan.

It is no good having social media guidelines, trained staff and objectives if the foundations are not there: what are we trying to communicate for the organisation and to what ends.

Social media is an offshoot of PR, and it is an offshoot of marketing.  It should serve the marketing needs of a business.  Yet, how often does it come into a campaign for SMEs?

(The organisation in question is more than a micro outfit, it is substantial to say the least).

So, in this case, the social media campaign looks to be beginning with the marketing planning, something that should be more common that perhaps it is in the PR industry.