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.

Are you Lissted?

Journalists have adopted Twitter wholeheartedly, so wouldn’t it be useful to have them all in one place, accessible to PR professionals and businesses alike?

Lissted is an attempt to fill that need.

It is an easy to use tool that allows users to select on location (UK, USA as well as worldwide), sectors (which can be broken down in a number of subsets), by individual or outlet.  You can even see someone’s Klout score if you really want.

For those wanting to invest (between £99 -£ 149 a month) there are additional features such as tools to monitor key terms, sentiment and influencers – reputation management rather than media relations (no value judgement intended).

While it is quick amass a wealth of Twitter addresses that you can follow, is it really useful?

I like it and it is a short cut to acquiring journalist’s Twitter addresses although PR databases generally offer this information.  Nevertheless it is probably an easier to use method although some will prefer doing it while building lists and campaigns on their current systems.

However if a business believes this will give it access to millions of pounds worth of editorial coverage it could be disappointed.

Why Lissted is not a complete solution (at a basic level) for gaining coverage for businesses:

  • Journalists often do not talk shop online – I rarely see them asking for specific stories, people, companies etc.  It is often used as a personal social media tool.
  • Journalists have to follow you or your brand to find stories, they often don’t follow back, unless they have time to search.
  • If journalists do follow back can you provide good copy, do you know a good story?
  • Do businesses have the time to monitor and analyse in addition to their roles?

Listted is a very useful addition for those looking to expand their Twitter horizons in regard to journalists.  However e-mail and databases are still are the language for media relations communication although there will be stories of success using this approach.

It might be that the reputation management is the selling point (as the access to Twitter addresses is free).

Lissted is a useful addition and I have used it to follow several PR and marketing journalists all within 10 minutes of signing on.

The tale of the Sky Prawn – a tale of clever rebranding

What do you do when you have swarms of locusts destroying your crops and your culture does not think of these insects as ingredients as typical good old home cooking?

Yes, that’s right you re-brand the biblical pests as lovable and delicious “sky prawns.”

The Middle East is under attack – something that you think they would be used, pestilence rather than war wise – and the question of how to deal with the protein, iron and zinc rich critters is creating a lot of public debate.

The foodies down under dealt with its problem swarms by a re-brand in 2004.  Doesn’t that sound more appetising?

If it does then this list of recipes could be the thing for you as well as reducing the carbon footprint through cutting down on methane emissions.

Happy re-branding and bon appetite

Why PR retainer models are good for agencies and clients

There is no doubt that PR retainers have been under pressure for some time.

Many marketing budgets across sectors are being analysed, scrutinised and accepted, usually after more thorough questioning than had taken place in the past.  It is not a new development.  It is though a good one for clients and in turn agencies as they have to deliver.  It is something that improves the reputation of the industry.

How many businesses want to “tie” themselves down to a retainer?

Wouldn’t a project model with great flexibility be better?

The answer is I think perhaps yes in the short-term or for a very specific campaign with a set goal that has to be achieved in a short space of time.

If it is a new experience for a business then perhaps it is understandable.

However, there are good reasons why it can be to the advantage of agencies and clients:

  • Retainers give agencies time to learn about the business, its employees and sector in more depth.
  • This helps lead to better results as the experience gained identifies strategies and tactics that work and the agency becomes more effective the longer the relationship progresses.
  • Retainers show a commitment from a client to its PR or marketing supplier, which should pay itself back with additional commitment and results.
  • Retainers help agencies plan, grow and develop, projects make it harder to do so. This means that the offering of the agency is improved and not open to the whims of the ups and downs of work-flow.
  • Retainers help build personal rapport, which is key to good PR.
  • Retainers give the agency a sign of confidence in its decision to hire them.
  • If clients chop and change agencies regularly it is a warning sign to the supplier, it immediately fills them with suspicion.  It is not the best way to start a relationship.

While it is a competitive market for PR suppliers, the same rules still apply regarding retainers.

Yes, clients want to have a wide selection.

Yes, they are more careful about budgets than they have ever been.

Yes, the retainer model does not seem as attractive as it once was.

But it is worth considering if you want your agency to perform to its best abilities.

Racism and the Internet

Winston Churchill once stated that the biggest argument against democracy was a 5 minute talk with the average voter.

You could argue that he had a point when you look at some of the comments on the web, in particular for me YouTube.

It is unacceptable in everyday life, in the UK and many other countries, to be blatantly racist.  A few offensive words can lose you your job, livelihood, and bring social exclusion on the individual.

You only have to think about the ill chosen words in a moment of frustration, off air from Ron Atkinson about a black player to realise that it won’t be tolerated in the media.

In Ron’s case he could mitigate, as some did on his behalf, that he had done more to help black players overcome prejudice than perhaps any other English manager – it counted for very little.

The web is different to controlled media.  (It is worth having a look at the implications of the Royal Charter). Even so I don’t fully understand is this:

The number of ignorant people on the Internet – look at a video about anything Jewish or Israel to find some unreasoned and frankly disgusting sentiments that are often nothing to do with the video.

Try it for other minorities – blacks, Hispanics, Gypsies etc – and you can find the same.

I will not write down any comments, but you can find them just the same quite easily.  I do not need to give examples because they are so ubiquitous.

I think people online can hide behind anonymity and say racist things that could not be possibly aired in their public roles.  It is certainly a factor I believe.

The question is what are YouTube, Google and other online platforms and forums going to do to about it?  What can they do in terms of the vast amount of traffic that would need to be controlled?

Well in the case of white supremacist website Jew Watch, it had a high listing on the SERPs for the term “Jew.”  Even though Google said it abhorred the site it still was very much top 5 on page one for years and despite petitions Google would not budge: “freedom of speech.”

We also have issues across borders, laws and cultures – in South America it is notoriously politically incorrect.  Luis Suarez is viewed as someone who said something blatantly racist in the UK, not so in much of South America.  Turcos (Moslem), Rusos (Jews), Chinos (Chinese), Negro (Black) etc is common currency for many and is not meant to be offensive in the way it is in the US or UK.

I think we have to accept that the Internet is a reflection of its users.  But we don’t have to fully accept that certain behaviours should be tolerated.

A holy approach for mobile apps

Semana Santa GPS

With Easter approaching fast I thought I would post this.

This is from Easter 2011 in Seville, but even then the Catholic Church wasn’t slow to adopt mobile technology.


The Semana Santa (Holy Week) parades are big news and are covered on television all day.  Some take several hours to reach the impressive cathedral, and you can see the whole thing from your couch.

But why watch it on television, stuck in all day, when you can follow it on your mobile?

Well, someone saw that GPS is for your soul and not just your car.



Clever use of alternative media for marketing – cost effective guerrilla marketing

Guerrilla PR and marketing

This is a nice piece of guerrilla marketing thinking: simple, eye catching, a reasonably sized audience and it is a targeted audience as many car park users will shop at Kendals with its extensive make-up department on the first floor.

If you excuse the limits of iPhone images you can see an entrance to a car park in Manchester that Boodles has commandeered.  By applying a little paint to resemble eyelashes you have an innovative piece of guerrilla advertising and it must surely be at a low cost.

Whichever agency came up with this simple but clever idea please leave a comment to get the credit you deserve.

For those that enjoy looking at innovative advertising try Mario Pricken’s Creative Advertising.  The section on using alternative media for advertising will entertain and inform as does many other themes covered in the book.

Is it worth learning foreign languages for PR careers?

European language map
European languages map

In these days of continual learning getting an edge, opening up new opportunities and have a more fulfilling career is a mantra of many PR professionals.

But will a new language offer the return on investment?

The answer is: it might.

English is the business lingua franca for now and consequently it is the de facto PR lingua franca (if there is such a thing).

However, in international campaigns the copy needs to be in the local language.  In Brazil, it should be in Brazilian Portuguese rather than the European version.

This requires more than just a grasp of a new language.

To be a C2 (native speaker standard) is exceedingly hard to attain for those learning a language – few really achieve it that have not completed degrees or lived immersed in a foreign culture for a number of years.

It means that you have to use local language skills and additionally know-how of the media landscape.  It is possible though to achieve results from afar albeit with limits.

So is it worth learning a language for PR?

Well many companies internationally work in English.  In Berlin for instance many PR and marketing jobs (often start-up or e-commerce) are conducted in English.

Nevertheless to be able to converse in a foreign business environment is important and is often appreciated.  It might swing an interview and open up more opportunities.

However, it is the PR skill that is key: digital, social media, knowledge of sector.  The language comes second if you don’t have the business skills.

It costs money and time to realise a second language.

It is worth it if you enjoy it and get something out of learning about new cultures and wish to travel.  This reason alone is enough.

For business, for English speakers it is a useful addition, it could make a career but unless something specific is being aimed for it might well not.

It is not however essential for most PR professionals.

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.

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