Tag Archives: PR

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.

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.

Measuring PR ROI – adding the value of links to the equation

measuring PR ROI value of links
Measuring PR ROI – has the value of links been forgotten?

 

Clients want value, a real return, understandably, on their money before parting with it in these tougher economic days.

One of the ways PR can answer confidently the inaccurate preconception that it is hard to determine a ROI for the discipline is to show the generation of links as part of the PR return.

And as more and more clients want links the following question needs to be answered.

What Value do you put on a Link?

I was pitching recently to a business – part business to consumer, part business to business, which has at its centre its website for generating clients.

I was able to show from an on-going campaign not only coverage in nationals such as The Daily Telegraph and The Scotsman, good trade coverage online and hard copy, but also links coming from blogs all the way up to the BBC.

For businesses that have the Internet at the heart of their marketing efforts and consequently their sales, links are highly valued – gold dust.

But until recently I did not have an answer, a system to value links, a price to calculate a ROI.

One response I received from a client was that it was absolutely key, more so than the coverage itself, but as to a value they professed that they did not know where to start?

The answer to the question was surprisingly simple.

When I told the prospective client the fact that it was possible to achieve links through supplying editorial content and not just by placing adverts or (plastic) advertorial, there was amazement.

The SEOs had been factoring in and paying out a none too mean sum to secure links.

I was told that they expected to pay around $50 and upwards (£30-£40) and rising for links from blogs, which seemed to be US based – in a disappointed tone it was relayed that there was some rampant inflation in prices.

For nationals such as the UK’s The Independent they expected to pay £1000 and more to secure links through advertising.

I expect really good trade magazines online might charge a few hundred pounds.

So there it is, if PR can generate links then an accurate valuation can be placed.

While gaining links in nationals is far from easy, nevertheless the accumulation of building profile, improving reputation, creating a Google presence for searches, advertising value of the space achieved, can fit easily into adding the value of links into the ROI equation.

The impact of the media, including social, on the legal profession

Lawyers are no longer just professionals, they have to be marketers.

There is the temptation for lawyers to promote themselves through cases.  The issue of representing the client and self-promotion is a fine balancing act.

Then there is Twitter – is this leading to the mis-reporting of cases?  Are cases regularly reported in an unbalanced way?  The lines are blurred indeed.

The BBC’s Joshua Rozenberg discusses the issues of how the media is impacting the legal codes lawyers abide by in his regular slot: Law In Action.   Click here to listen.

An unnecessary PR gaffe

This is a PR gaffe that could have been avoided:

Rachel Padden and Matthew Steeples and are feeling a bit agrieved, and who can blame them?

Having booked many months in advance to spend their honeymoon in Didsbury at their favourite hotel, they find they have been gazumped at the last moment.

Didsbury House Hotel has decided that it makes more “buisness sense” to take a wedding party that wanted exclusive use of the hotel for the weekend of the booking.

Yet, it doesn’t take a lot of business or indeed common sense to see how this backfired in the way it was handled:

  • The couple discovered their room had been given to someone else only when they called to make an amendment.
  • In an apology – by e-mail, how personal – they were offered a room at another of the group’s hotels with free spa treatment and half a bottle of Champagne – surely a bottle was too much to offer.
  • And when contacted by the press, a spokeman (another mistake – how personal and caring) says, “We don’t make any comments on internal matters.”

This is not earth shattering news I grant you.  But even if the “business sense ” move prevailed and you wanted to make amends to a couple that has used your hotel on five occassions, surely this situation can be handled better:

  • Profusely apologise, acknowledge the error and promise to make amends.
  • State a solution (as such as it can be remedied) that is generous and shows that this situation is of real concern.  Give the couple the best room in another hotel at no extra charge or even no charge.  Perhaps I am not generous, but a little more than half a bottle of bubbly.
  • The manager or someone senior should be handling this, from dealing with the couple to the media – show that the situation is important.
  • When it goes to the press it is rarely “an internal matter,” it is an external one.  Do not dodge the issue, face it and answer it frankly: state the problem and how you are setting about solving it.

I am not saying that the above situation can be resolved with complete satisfaction for Matthew and Rachel.  However, the way it has been approached has generated some very negative PR that could cost the hotel many more thousands than it made with this move.

Who can operate in business with a poor reputation?  This is why PR is important.  This is why a PR gaffe such as this needs to be avoided.

I think I am at a meeting at the hotel on Thursday morning – and I will not be shifted.

An answer to LinkedIn thread and its criticisms of PR agencies

PR agencies sometimes don’t deliver – that is not big news, is it?

There are professionals and organisations that do not measure up in all sectors, perhaps over-selling to ensure the contract is theirs and then disappointing then when tested.

There are real issues concerning the reputation of PR agencies and when I saw this thread on LinkedIn I felt I had to answer.

Here are three comments I think show real misunderstanding – such views need to be challenged.

“The average agency client relationship lasts just 18 months because 99% of agency pitches are dishonest….sounds like PR firms need a lesson in PR!”

Kathy Towner, owner Win Communications

Well if I am honest that means statistically every other PR agency in Manchester and the North West is not – that doesn’t seem quite right.

But let me argue the real point and not the vitriolic bit, which might come from a bad experience and requires a venting of anger.

“Client relationships last 18 months.”

I am not sure where this is sourced and whether it is correct but let’s say it is.

Client relationships can end because a client suffers from a critical cash flow because of tax issues, loss of one of their key clients or the economic conditions.

Client relationships can also end because of the following reasons (I have listed 10 possibles):

  • New marketing director wants his or her own agency brought in.
  • The client feels a new agency will be extra keen, this is a perception that does not always ring true.
  • The PR resource is brought in-house.
  • Some clients only want a project with specified aims and time period.
  • Sometimes after a couple of years the original aims of the client have been achieved or the account has been exhausted; some clients have a restricted range of subjects and news.
  • The client is very busy and feels they do not need a PR agency anymore.
  • The client has become very busy and does not have the time to devote to handling the agency and so has decided to put things on hold
  • The client has grown or has changed and believes a new agency with specific experience or skills is needed.
  • The client has unrealistic expectations and are disappointed when they are not filled.
  • The agency has had enough of the lack of co-operation of the client; sometimes clients might not pay on time or at all.  (I worked for an agency where the client refused to pay and said the work was all done for free to curry favour despite contracts and e-mail clearly stating the work had been commissioned.  Apparently they had done this to a number of suppliers).

I have one client that I have worked with for two years and they put things on hold  in April for reasons that were no-one’s fault.  I met them today and they want me to take up the communication reigns again; I am starting work with them tomorrow.

“I’ve always found retainers to be self defeating in that they repeatedly prompt the same question: “what am I getting for this?” My response always has been to offer retainer, hourly rate and “per project” arrangements and let clients decide which they prefer.”

Bill Brody Professor Emeritus at the University of Memphis

Retainers make sense for an agency and client:

  • Retainers allow an agency to invest time in researching opportunities.  It allows an agency to act on an opportunity; if you had to wait for an affirmative every time something came up it would be an impractical relationship.
  • Retainers enable agencies to plan financially – retainers enable clients to plan financially.
  • Retainers give agencies a robust model to work around.
  • Retainers show the agency that the clients are committed to the relationship – this is reciprocated by any agency worth hiring.

If you want to offer a range of arrangements then do so.  But if you try and bend to all demands and requirements it is going to be more complicated than it need to be.

“We had two disappointing experiences with PR firms. How can you justify the expense of hours worked if at the end of it you can’t correlate any tangible improvement in business, customers, profits, image, or anything?”

Todd Lempicke

OptimalResume.com

It is not always easy to measure PR.  I tell that to all prospects.  I try to give a realistic opinion about possible results and let clients make a call based on sensible estimations.

  • Clients – Let me say that some clients do not ask where new business has come from, so how can you measure it?  What if a client’s website loses a prospect or the way they are handled on the phone? mmmmmmm
  • Profits – Doesn’t this mainly depend on variables that aren’t anything to do with PR such as costs of suppliers, wages, the economy, competition etc?
  • Image – not easy to measure.
  • Anything – PR works on many levels and it has a positive affect on many elements of a company.  If you agency does not deliver at all, either you have a really awful agency and you really need to be more careful in your hiring process or perhaps handle your agency better.

I was speaking to a client I worked for for over two years and whose contract finished in the summer.  He told me last Friday that his agency had got many inquiries, as much as a quarter, from a source he wasn’t sure of.  He supposed, as all his inquiries came from referrals, that this must be PR.  As his agency was small then, he told me PR was an important ingredient in its growth.  But there was no system in place to measure the effect.

I don’t mean this to be a them against us piece: it is not.  All I am saying is that it can be more complicated that is stated by the above statements.

When PR agencies peform and work well with clients the results can make companies.

Another lost generation?

Today it has been officially announced that we are out of recession!!

Well if you are looking to start a career this news will make scant impression on you.

The 1990 recession ended when you had a “proper” job – I still think many people who graduated in the early 90s are still feeling the affects of their bad timing at being born some 20 years earlier.  Can do better next time if he applies himself.

The 90s recession ended in about 1997 if truth be told for many people.  Bill Clinton, new technology, the Internet easing communication and attracting investment, the start of de-regulation of US banks (which had been put in place by FDR in the 30s that helped create the worst recession since the 30s) all had a role to play.

The fact for many is that careers were missed, and why?, because in the case of the marketing industry there was a reluctance to develop people – give them a chance.  Of course some made it nevertheless, but the industry was unwelcoming and expected 21 years experience and candidates to be 20 years old.

I can only hope that the recovery does not exclude vast swathes of able people, but it will.

It is time for business to recognise that talent does not come from doing a marketing degree or experience only.  There is a lot to be said for determination, personal characteristics such as being sociable, open to learning.

For professionals that have lost their jobs who are on the other side of the age divide, there is no reason why some businesses should discriminate – it is the person, not the age that counts.

What am I saying: the world is unfair?

It is true.

What I am saying is:

Treat people with respect – there will be too many graduates wanting a career where there are too few openings and some HR departments will enjoy thinking they are of a higher power.  It is the personal characteristics that I think make a good marketer, but can you spot these and are they developed when you are a new graduate?

If you want a career in PR or marketing, the chances are you will succeed if you are determined and what might seem a bleak age now will dissolve away in time. Give yourself time and accept support when going through the often bleak process of finding a job.

I think I will tackle how to give yourself a real head start in an entry shortly – keep tuned

How to get ahead in marketing and PR

I, like many, struggled to get into a career in marketing.

It’s not easy and the recession makes an attractive career in PR or marketing even harder to come by.

If you are not a marketing / PR / business graduate it becomes even harder, and no experience, well….

So what can you do if you feel that you could grow into this type of career?  How can you invest your time to build a platform to build a career?

Here are a few tips that I hope will be of some help.  They derive from my experience and as you know experience can be described as a collection of mistakes – peppered by a few successes – that helps you learn how to do something proficiently.

Resilience – you are going to get knocked back unless you are very lucky, well-connected or brilliant.  It is not easy to get a letter like this if you feel that you are perfect for a job: “Even though you are an excellent candidate we felt your skills were not quite right for our organisation on this occasion….”

You need to have a thick skin and move on, and don’t look back.  It’s not easy.

Give yourself a range of options – You might want to work in fashion PR, it is your ambition since you were 17.  But be flexible, so if a job in consumer PR comes up consider it carefully.  You can always move to other sectors at a later stage (although HR can have a habit of pigeon holing people).

Make a start and do not wait for the perfect job – You have to start somewhere.  The first job might be far from perfect but does it get you to the place you want to go?

A note of caution:  Sometimes an opportunity comes up but it is not right because it will not develop your skills, you don’t have the right attributes to build on in the first place or the boss or environment is not for you.  It takes real courage to turn something down when you are desperate to get a career started.  However, it is often the best option, so think carefully before accepting a position that you have a bad feeling about.

Desperation – the enemy of job seekers.

If you are desperate it will come though at interview and you will not get the job or as above it will cloud your judgement.  When you are starting out you often don’t have much perspective and little experience – you need to get on NOW!  Try and relax, if you are determined you will get there.

Qualifications – These can be more important in securing your first position rather than what you learn.  (I cannot remember 90% of my Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma).

Apprenticeships – take them.  It shows employers your intent and gives you insight into your profession.  It might convince you that it wasn’t for you all along.  But remember a bad experience doesn’t mean you won’t thrive elsewhere.

Networking – If you develop good contacts it can help flag opportunities.  The least it might do is give you a real insight into the profession.  So start to attend CIPR events, ask friends who they know, can your lecturers help make introductions for you?  Be proactive, it will also deveolop your business skills and you as a person.

Social networking – It is hard to go to a business event as a wannabe PR and feel confident that you will be taken seriously.  You might think, “What can I offer the other attendees?”

These thoughts are understandable, but that doesn’t stop you using Twitter, monitoring blogs or indeed blogging yourself to start to establish a greater insight into your new profession and to initiate contacts.  If you are engaged in these pursuits at this moment in time you will probably be admired by the best professionals.  In a couple of years perhaps it will be nothing special at all.

Take control of things yourself – I have one client that could not get the summer job he wanted so he found projects for himself and by the time he graduated he had enough work to form his own business.

Not everyone is confident or able enough to do this, most people need to learn the ropes before they can work for themselves.  Saying that, if you feel you can offer something, why not do PR for a small charity or organisation?  (Caution: you might look back on the mistakes you made here and cringe, but it could be useful for your CV).

Find a mentor – someone who can help and guide you is invaluable.  Even getting snippets of advice from professionals can help, so be open and receptive.

Someone, family or friend, that can give you support can be just as crucial when you are feeling down thinking about the ridiculous odds you might encounter going for an entry level position.

If you want it you can get into marketing or PR – be proactive, focused and determined.

A few thoughts on Manchester Masters selection criteria

Some time ago – 14.1.07 – I published an entry about the need for apprenticeships for marketing and PR.

Even though I wrote that two years ago it is still a popular post.  This is of course not surprising with the current economic climate.

When Manchester Masters was launched it seemed like a promising development – apprenticeships for students and graduates wanting a career in marketing and PR.  And not only that, it was supportive and generous beyond many people’s expectation – certainly ones that had had to devote unpaid work to get on the career ladder themselves.

Why had such a scheme not been thought of before?

I was looking through The Guardian when I spotted the name of  Sandy Lindsay of Manchester PR agency Tangerine.  I was drawn into an article about selection for Manchester Masters.

Any scheme offering a real opportunity to grow (and a rent free apartment for a year) is going to be popular, in good times and bad.

But how do you select the 10 lucky students out of the 100 applications?  (This actually seems a low figure).

Well The Guardian gave the answer: Apprentice style activities such as putting a flat back together while being questioned.

These tasks were designed to weed out the “wallflowers” but as journalist Daniel Cookney observes “is it possible that the competition overlooked good candidates who were simply not suited to such a format?”  Others agreed.

It might be that the PR for this was seen as key and it was generated successfully.  After all I read about it in The Guardian.  It could be that the PR agency let its instincts take over or they took some publicity for themselves (we all do a bit from time to time).  It could be that this was seen as the best way to select, but I doubt it.

What I know is that it can be incredibly hard to get started, the recession might, I should say “will”, destroy the hopes of some graduates to attain a career in PR and marketing.

But we need to be fair as possible, perhaps this was.

The key thing is that the desperate desire to win one of these apprenticeships is taken with the upmost seriousness.  I am sure it was, but using techniques that have a touch of business reality TV gives the wrong impression.

One winner Charlotte Gush gushed, “My specialist knowledge does not lie in PR, marketing or media, but the competition challenged me to demonstrate my transferable skills, knowledge and abilities.”

How do you exactly know that if you have not worked in any of the fields?  I can’t see how the exercises did at all.

It has the ring of cliched and hackneyed CV soundbites.

For me Manchester Masters is a brilliant opportunity for 10 lucky aspiring marketers to get a real head start.  It is bound to miss talented people that make it through other means.  But it has to show that it has gone through fair and professional means to find the apprentices.  Anything less is unfair on those that missed out and on the integrity and reputation of the scheme.

PR vs SEO (on Twitter)

PR vs SEO
PR vs SEO – who owns social media? Or rather than PR vs SEO, should it be collaboration?

Craig McGinty alerted me to an interesting and furious debate that has been going on in Twitter about the role of PR vs SEO in relation to each other.

It can be hard to follow a conversation that has already happened, but it raised a point that has stirred emotions: as PR and social media / SEO converge where does the power lie?

There seems to be all shades of opinion including between Stuart Bruce and Jed Hallam of Wolfstar (read their entries).

Stuart is of the opinion that PR offers higher level services than an SEO agency can appreciate or deliver.  Jed argues “PR needs to get smart, before digital/SEO/advertising/marketing/online agencies begin to learn traditional PR skills (or hire in smarter).”

I think both sides have merit.  If you are dealing at a strategic or specialist level then an SEO agency will have barriers to entry.  But this is true for a generalist PR.  After all how many PR professionals could quickly switch to effective financial PR or lobbying without considerable skills and experience?

I have tended to take Jed’s point of view as many PR professional are handling accounts that are day-to-day are about bread and butter awareness generation.  Surely the barrier to entry is lower, we are vunerable as PRs.

Yet I sway back to Staurt.  I have worked with advertising and marketing agencies that could have “easily” moved into PR and did not, and haven’t a real understanding of it.  In fact they need to buy in those skills in a freelance capacity or with permanent staff.

So will SEO agencies swamp PR?

I am not so sure.

I think some might become media communications agencies covering both broad disciplines.  (A sort of PR full service agency).  There will be PR and SEO agencies that dip into each others disciplines and take business.  There will be specialist agencies that partner.

One thing is clear PRs need to appreciate and learn about online media if their publics have moved online.