AS IF: the blog

Categories

Archives

Journalists working with PRs – how to avoid conflict of interests

16/07/2018

Can a  journalist comfortably hang out with PRs ? 

Our in house writer and working tech journalist Sandra Vogel explains how it works for her…

 

There are some who say journalists and PRs are chalk and cheese. They want different things, they see the world in different ways, and it is impossible to work in both camps.

But that’s not true. It is possible to be a freelance journalists who also works with PRs.There can be significant benefits to working in both camps.


On K.I.S.S.ING – Keeping it simple, stupid!

01/05/2018

Fellow freelance PR Lianne Robinson makes it brief.

I saw this tweet from Tom Knowles a few weeks ago, And it stayed with me. I see this type of thing all the time. Paragraphs beyond paragraphs of long clunky words with no clear explanation as to what it is they are trying to say.You can spend what seems like an age watching a company description going around the various the heads and powers that be of a company. I know this as I’ve worked in-house too. Everyone wants to add their own point of view, something that makes them feel that they played a part in the creation of the copy. But in doing so, adding a long word here and a bit of jargon there, we can completely lose all sense of what we’re trying to say.


Brexit – speak now, or forever hold your peace

12/07/2016

Newest Comms Crowd recruit and PR Pro, Lianne Robinson, looks at how the brave and the bold can get the better of Brexit.

Any economic event brings with it a period of uncertainty. We saw it back in 2008 when the market crashed and we are seeing it again now courtesy of Brexit.

When situations like this happen, it’s tempting for a company to crawl under a rock and keep quiet. But, at a time when staff, clients and other stakeholders are looking for answers, it’s imperative to have a voice and adopt an honest and open communications strategy. Doing this not only helps to protect its reputation but it also reduces the risk of a negative fallout later down the line.

In 2006, I landed a job in property PR. Back then it was one of the most exciting and fastest moving sectors in which to work. The industry was booming and companies were reporting significant growth and opportunity across the board. Then at the turn of 2008 the recession hit and disaster struck.

In those dark early days of fear, the companies who realised that the situation could yield opportunity had to react fast and work closely with their PR teams to reassure their stakeholders. In such volatile markets, it became vital for businesses to be much more visible, open and out there promoting the positives. There was a real need for company spokespeople to provide shareholders with a degree of confidence that action was being taken and businesses needed advice on how best to proceed.

It is widely noted that the Brexit result came as quite a shock to many. But companies across the country would have spent months, even years, planning for the possible outcomes of the EU Referendum and discussing their business strategy. Most businesses will have a game plan to put into action and now is the time to engage with key stakeholders on the significance of the decision and what it means for the business.

When markets become nervous, it is important to be a voice of reassurance, emulating a sense of calm and trust in order to bring people with you and protect the reputation of the business. Companies who think carefully about the issues and position themselves with care, have a real opportunity to use recent events to help build their profile and garner support. There is a lot to be said for those who are among the first out there providing guidance and confidence.

With something like Brexit when the outcome as a surprise to many, it is difficult to know what the right thing to say is and easy to let other put their head above the parapet to offer their opinion. When no one knows the most appropriate thing to say, only the brave and the bold are prepared to go on the record.

Right now there is much speculation around the future of the United Kingdom might and there are no ‘right’ answers. And while it’s true that yesterday’s news is no longer today’s chip wrappers as the growth of online and digital means that what you say is here to stay: offering a level of insight can pay dividends for the sake of supporting your stakeholders and the continuity of your business as much as anything else.


Piggybacking on the headlines

08/11/2015

PR Pro, Debbie Smith looks at how to ‘ride’ a current news story to raise your client’s profile…

George Wright

When you choose to work in B2B technology PR, most of your career is spent pitching to trade press and freelance journalists who specialise in the same area. Unless you’re working for a megabrand such as Microsoft or IBM, you’re not going to have many opportunities to pitch to the national press.

OK, let’s rephrase that – nothing’s stopping you pitching to them, but you’re unlikely to get much response unless your client’s invented a computer processor that isn’t based on silicon or found a solution to climate change. However, there’s a useful tool to add to your PR kit bag: link your story to something that’s already making the headlines, and your client suddenly becomes relevant to mainstream media.Critical to success are speed and relevance. The link has to be genuine, and you need to act fast. If you’ve spotted the link, you can be sure that another PR will have done so too. But if you get it right, you open up a whole new conversation for your client. Here’s how we made it work for Comms Crowd client, Elliptic.

Elliptic specialises in security and analytics for the blockchain. The firm was the founding member of the UK Digital Currency Association (UKDCA), and in this role provided input to a Government consultation on digital currencies. Earlier this year we thought the results of that consultation might be announced as part of the Budget a couple of days’ hence. This was an ideal opportunity to link Elliptic to a topic which would be given extensive coverage in the print media and online as journalists analysed every last detail of the Chancellor’s speech – assuming of course that digital currencies were included.

So we wrote a short alert to let key media know about the potential announcement and outline why Elliptic could provide expert comment. The following day we listened carefully to the Chancellor’s Budget speech – but no mention of digital currency. However, an online search led to the supporting papers for the Budget and there it was – the Government’s recommendations on how it proposed to make the UK a world leader in digital currency. We quickly followed up with our key media, providing a link to the announcement and offering comment.

The results exceeded all our expectations – interviews with the FT and the Guardian and several requests for written comment, resulting in 15 items of coverage including City AM, the Independent and the Wall Street Journal. Our client was delighted and so were we.

Opportunities like this don’t come around very often. It’s important to be aware of what’s making the headlines, think creatively and look for new and unusual ways in which you can link your client to a story. It may be straightforward, such as when a former colleague was working on a campaign against workplace bullying for a leading trade union and bullying in the Celebrity Big Brother house hit the headlines. A few media calls later and the client was on Sky News explaining what an individual should do if he or she was being bullied. But even if it’s a more tangential link, remember that journalists have pages to fill every day and may be looking for a different angle to keep the story alive. Why shouldn’t you be the one to provide it?


PR the big question do you phone or email journalists?

22/12/2014

To phone or email? That is the dilemma. Our junior Hiwot Wolde-Senbet shares her learning experiences on pitching journalists. 

Hi is that the City desk? I have a lovely story about a new tractor that can be driven by a sheep dog…

When you work in public relations your relationship with the media is crucial to your performance. You can be as creative as you like but if you don’t generate coverage for your clients, it is pointless.

Having spent the best part of a year agency hopping, I have had to do my fair share of pitching, using phone and email. Therefore I have learnt that every agency has its own attitude towards phone pitching. Some ask for phone pitching experience and put a massive emphasis on one’s ability to pick up the phone and sell in. On the other hand, others, particularly those with journalism experience understand the pressure journalists face and wouldn’t dream of bombarding them with calls. And then there is me. I dread the silence you get from email pitches!

At the beginning of my career, as an intern, I spent hours after hours calling journalists, who I didn’t know from four pages of media lists, downloaded from Gorkana. Believe me, I am surprised how this experience hasn’t left me scarred for life, particularly when the phone is picked up by a weary and aggressive journalist. The whole process often made my heart race.

However, once in a while, there was ‘the match’, that resulted in a decent coverage making the whole experience bearable.

Specialising in fintech PR, we talk to the same people all the time and that gives us the advantage of knowing the stories they are interested in, so selling in doesn’t feel like cold calling – but exchange of services. However, even within this niche sector most journalists claim they don’t want to be bothered on the phone.

Taking that on board, I learned to be careful who I am calling, I had more success in placing an article if I knew the journalist and had researched and learnedall about  the journalist than just hoping for the best.

So who and when do you call?
Taking my own experience and other PR pros that contributed to Sam’s debate on CIPR’s LinkedIn group discussion, I have compiled  some steps that can help you establish that ‘phone relationship’ with your journalist.

  1. Understand journalists are always on a deadline and get to know their deadline. Better yet, plan in advance and look at their editorial calendar for the year ahead.
  2. What is your story? Does it match their criteria? Nothing annoys journalists more than PRs that pitch the wrong stories. Preparing a few points in advance helps with staying on track!
  3. Be polite! Ask if they have time to talk to you and keep it brief, just enough for you to be able to gage their interest. If they show interest, you can follow up if not, be respectful and don’t bother them again.
  4. Never ever waffle! I learned this the hard way! Know your story, and exactly what you want to say and why you are calling them and not other journalist.
  5. Have an email pitch ready to send as soon as you come off the phone. Email will always fill in the details you missed out.

Having said that, it is important to know everyone is different and should be treated accordingly so keep notes and follow through.

 


Fintech PR – How to get a bank to put its name to a story

28/11/2014

Throughout her career, Sam Howard has always maintained that providing PR for fintech companies isn’t rocket science, however it is a bit tricky.

Not only are you, the PR, the only person in the brain-chain without a PhD or three, which can leave you feeling perma-insecure; but also ‘tis hard to tell good stories if there are no good stories to tell.

Listening banks are great but talking ones are my favourite

Actually no news isn’t good news – but owing to the nature of the deals, it is not unusual for a small or a start-up fintech company to have just a few client signing announcements a year and those signings usually fall into three categories:

  • The no comment: you may not mention the bank in anyway shape or form – great thank you sooo much for that one.
  • The vanilla bean: you can prepare something but the details are to be so vanilla and that the quote so bland that it’s barely worth the effort.
  • The never never: You get the go ahead on the Friday night, write it on a Saturday, it gets signed off by your team on the Sunday and it’s with the bank for approval first thing Monday morning. And there it will stay, stuck in the corporate food chain awaiting sign off forever more, never to be seen again.

Five tips for getting a bank to sign off a press release

Over the years, working for a fintech start-up, then a fintech multi-national and then a fintech PR agency, these are the tactics I have seen work. It’s a bit of a team effort:

  1. Incentivize your sales people to negotiate press as part of the contract. Cash bonuses for press releases and double again for a case study, seems to work well enough
  2.  Incentivize your bank by giving them a discount in the contract if they agree to do press, get dates.
  3. During the sales process and the implementation, stay close to your champion in the bank and work directly with them on the story, using them as the spokesperson, and making sure your story shows your champion as the pioneer they truly are.
  4. Have the release written and ready to go so that it can be slipped under the nose of your happy, happy client the day everything goes live ahead of schedule and under budget.
  5. Make the release hardworking and insightful tell the story of the partnership between your company and the bank. Do not dwell on what was wrong in the first place, be realistic no bank is going to sign off a story that goes, ‘well it was just chaos here till you guys showed up’. And keep the quotes real and relevant not an unadulterated and shameless plug for your company. This will make it easier to get sign off, and more credible with the journalists, on whom you ultimate depend to publish it.

What if you hit an absolute  wall and can’t get the bank to talk no way no how?

Rather than issuing a no name press release, which somewhat reeks of desperation, consider going down the analyst relations route where your client can freely talk about the project and its successes to the industry analysts under the comfort of NDA.


Lessons learned in B2B social media managment

18/09/2014

PR junior Hiwot Wolde-Senbet shares her learning experiences on managing social media channels in B2B.

finding out B2B does not stand for Bunny to Bunny

Most of us in this game know how to use the main social media platforms; along with some measurement tools such as Sprout and Hootsuit. If your target audience is the average Joe and you are doing social media for B2C, you can share something a bit witty with a fairly attractive photo of your favorite product to generate likes and build up your followers.Growing up as a part of the social media generation, I have seen many of my PR and marketing counterparts adopt different practices. And of course, some are better than others and some are simply laughable. We all know those that send out mass messages to their families and friends on Facebook asking them to like and follow a certain company. Sure, it could work if your company sells milkshake that appeals to everyone. However, in B2B, your friend’s aunt that works at Asda isn’t really going to help you spread the word about the merits of enterprise wide trading systems. In B2B you must know your audience and really understand their issues.

 

However, I’ve learned that you have to work that bit harder with social media management in B2B. You have to demonstrate understanding of your market and its needs and most importantly – interact with your niche.

Your objectives in B2B must go beyond creating a buzz for your business and need to work towards creating a platform that is credible and attracts the power brokers and the influencers. It is also important to remember, social media is more than a communication platform; it is part of your marketing, PR, customer services, business development and sales. Therefore, managing it in a way that reaches the right people and shares appropriate insights is vital.

Since clients have to find you relevant and interesting to follow and engage, here’s some tips that I have picked up along the way to make sure your social media comms don’t sound like a broken record but resonates with those that will affect your business’s performance.

  • Clear messaging: Identify and clarify what you want to say about your company and how you want to say it. This can help promote the services or the products you provide along with your company’s values and mission.
  • A targeted audience: Know who your industry’s leaders are, who your current and potential clients are, anybody who is anybody in your industry that is relevant to you and ensure you connect with them.
  • Relevant talking points: Identify issues, trends and regulations that impact your audience’s business and share relevant news.
  • Platform consistency: Ensure your platforms are up to date and consistent.
  • Listen as well as talk: They say the best way to lead is to listen more and talk less, so tune into what your followers are discussing and participate when relevant.

Subsequently, you need to put some performance measurements in place, regularly track your progress and re-evaluate. By following the steps above, you are on a road to growing your B2B social media platforms in an organic and sustainable way and ensuring ROI.

 


Sibos – no rest for the wicked or even the wise

30/06/2014

Eria Odhuba, resident analyst relations lead reviews the ‘dos and don’ts’ for getting the best out of the mighty trade show.

Sibos  – comes round quicker than Christmas

So I’ve just been to a couple of big industry events, and it got me thinking about the preparation exhibitors need to do to make them worthwhile. I am going to use Sibos 2014, this year in Boston, as an example here as I have shed so many tears getting clients Sibos-ready over the years.

Obviously there are many exhibitors who have got Sibos running through their veins and if they had time, could write this post with their eyes shut, but here’s a guide for Sibos newbies, or a useful checklist for the seasoned salts.

What are some of the issues with events like Sibos 2014?

  1. ROI – if you’re going to exhibit, you want to make sure you recoup your costs and some! It’s a very expensive line item, the return needs to be quantifiable and equally impressive.
  2. Poor preparation before the event – If you don’t plan your communications and resources properly, you will look amateurish and it will show compared to those companies that have this event down pat.
  3. Being heard above the white noise – if you don’t know your key message, if it’s not relevant, fresh and exciting, then you won’t get heard.
  4. Thinking lead generation begins at the event – People come to Sibos to continue conversations, not to start them, Sibos needs to be the culmination of a campaign that results in a face to face meeting.
  5. Recruitment consultants – not much you can do about this. I remember a consultant at Sibos who told me, at a party, that he had received or processed CVs for about 25 people in the room. The recession is over; it’s a seller’s market.

What should you NOT do before Sibos 2014? 

  1. Panic (!) i.e. wait until it is too late before preparing for the event.
  2. Keep your head in the sand and ignore industry trends leading up to the event – you need to know what pain delegates are feeling so you know what your products and services best address it.
  3. Miss the opportunity to try and connect with signed-up delegates before the event (more on this later).
  4. Prepare conference material that is bland or off topic.

How should you prepare for Sibos 2014?

  1. First of all, you need a three-month activity timeline with specific actions and deadlines, allocating responsibility for each action. So, with Sibos 2014 in October, you need to start planning now, July.
  2. If you’re reading this and you haven’t booked your hotels and flights yet, suggest you stop reading right now and get on it 🙂
  3. To stay ahead of the game, read the Sibos 2013 summary by Aite Group here and other post-event summaries.
  4. Read Sibos Issues and other news to understand what people will be talking about this year. Don’t repeat the last year’s messages or themes – find something new and relevant to attract attention in the lead up to the event. If you can’t figure out how to articulate your value proposition, get help.
  5. Think how this event falls into your sales funnel. Identify key prospects from the delegate list, and plan multi-step communications or lead generation activities to get them to want to talk to you at the event. Each step should add value to the relationship, so use content to increase interest. Get delegates to self-select themselves to contact you for a meeting based on the content you have provided BEFORE the event.
  6. Plan your press and industry analyst engagements now. Influencers don’t have time to speak to everyone so make sure you know how and what to pitch to them. If you don’t know how, get an expert in. Don’t be unprofessional about this and ignore the value of great influencer meetings.
  7. Focus on meeting influencers you rarely see, rather than those that are down the road from you who you can catch up with any time.
  8. Go for feature opportunities that get you in the news the week of Sibos, and make sure whatever news announcement you have is actually informative and not simply white noise.
  9. Contribute or link to pre-event social media communications to help build your profile before the event.
  10. Plan your post-Sibos steps now – what content or steps will you follow up with and who will be responsible for these steps? What you do after the event is even more important if you want to convert prospects into sales?

What to do at Sibos 2014?

  1. Make sure you set time and proper spaces aside to speak to delegates you have meetings planned with.
  2. Document your meetings and make someone responsible for managing follow up actions.
  3. Plan how each contact will be communicated with after the event and when.
  4. Get someone to walk the floor to see what other exhibitors are displaying. You need to understand what competitors are saying and how they might be getting their message across.
  5. Have content that is sharp and precise enough for someone to read in two minutes that would make them want to ask questions.
  6. Enjoy yourself; ergo no rest for the wicked!

 


Why is US B2B PR so difficult?

12/04/2014

Just so happy to be doing transatlantic PR again, here’s a post from our US PR partner, Lorraine Russell on why it’s not easy securing the US column inches. Lorraine Russell

It doesn’t matter where in the world you want PR coverage, you will find the journalists you need are a busy lot. Their publications are under competitive attack, staff have been cut, acquisitions and closures are commonplace, everyone is doing more with less and covering more areas and, well, it all sounds rather familiar doesn’t it?

Journalists and their organizations face many of the same issues you do in your business. And just like any busy company expert, journalists want only the most insightful and relevant information and sources to ensure they do the best job possible. That makes getting their attention, building a relationship and winning their trust all the more challenging and important.

The U.S. journalistic landscape is similar to the UK although larger. According to Pew Research’s “State of the News Media 2014” report there are 38,000 full time journalists employed within the traditional U.S. newspaper industry alone (not to mention TV, magazines, etc.). Comparatively, the European Journalism Centre reports similar full time newspaper journalists in the UK. Digital native sites are growing on both sides of the pond, yet still employ only a small numbers with about 5,000 full-time U.S.-based editorial jobs at nearly 500 digital news outlets.

Whether traditional or digital, one big difference is ownership. Certainly there are U.S. conglomerate owners, however the UK newspaper market is generally far more nationalistic with fewer owners.

What does all this mean to you? Obviously you aren’t after every US journalist. You want only a logical niche of decision makers to notice your new product/service or entry into the market. As you should. But that doesn’t necessarily make it easier.

Here’s why. Think about your competition. How many companies will you compete with in the U.S.? 10? 20? 50? More? How many of your European competitors are also entering or active in the U.S.? How many non-industry companies are nipping at your heels trying to steal the same potential customers?

Each of those and all the ones not yet identified are engaging PR to contact the same journalist you want. Whilst there are about 50,000 PR professionals in the UK, there are nearly 230,000 PR professionals in the U.S. Talk about competition!

Now think back to that busy journalist looking for someone to validate or negate the premise of an article (yes that has a lot to do with it). The journalist must be accurate. And the editor and the publisher need them to have a differentiated story than the other media outlets in their niche. After all, eyes on their story and their publication translate into revenue for survival.

So, who does the journo turn to? Someone they know will deliver. And yes, despite journalistic outcry, the line is blurring between editorial coverage and those who do or could buy advertising or sponsorships. Remember how different the ownership of US media outlets is compared to the UK? That can increase in importance when those paid and earned media lines blur.

So the number 1 reason it is trickier to get your story told by a U.S. journalist is pure and simple -competition.

And #2? Your story absolutely must be relevant to the U.S. reader/viewer. It is not enough to believe your product/service is right for them. It means understanding U.S. centric issues and trends – not just of your potential customers, but of the journalist as well.

Your chances will significantly improve if you can produce a U.S. customer. Some journos won’t talk to “vendors” without one. If you don’t have a U.S.-specific example, the challenge for coverage is even greater. Not impossible, but challenging. It is very likely you will share the story with one of those U.S. competitors you identified.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Truly, it’s not. You just need the experienced insight of localized PR. That’s the same in any country. A world view is quite important strategically but localized insight is invaluable.

As for the U.S., remember those growing digital outlets? Turns out, whilst mainstream U.S. media are sharply decreasing their global coverage, digital is on a quest to include more global coverage. And that spells opportunity! Plan your strategy wisely. This is the perfect time to think global and act local.


PR – Five reasons why it’s called ‘earned media’

20/03/2014

If your’re a software compnay thinking of doing PR, this one is for you:
 http://www.sofarbeyond.com/pr-5-reasons-why-its-not-called-earned-media-for-nothing