Monthly Archives: August 2007

PR Perspective – Simon Wakeman

Simon_wakeman_5 PR Perspective this week features Simon Wakeman.  Simon is a marketing and public relations professional with a wide range of marketing, strategy and digital communications experience.  He is currently Head of Marketing and PR at Medway Council in Kent, as well as working as a freelance marketing and PR consultant.  He started his career at retailer Boots, but then soon developed a passion for the internet and using new technology for marketing and public relations.  Since then he has worked in marketing and PR for some of the UK’s leading digital companies, including the world’s first transactional interactive television services, Open (now Sky Active) and the world’s largest internet bank Egg.

Simon blogs at www.simonwakeman.com

How long have you been blogging?
I started my website way back in 2001, but didn’t really do anything useful with it until January 2006 when I started writing a couple of posts a month.  In May 2006 I relaunched the site and started blogging "properly". 

Why did you start?
Two reasons really: I was keen to expand my professional network and knowledge base, especially as working outside London and having moved into the public sector I was conscious that I needed to make a real effort to broaden my horizons beyond the sector I work in.  Having moved into public relations from marketing I wanted to brush up on my writing and editing skills.  Reading other blogs, commenting and writing my own blog has really helped me develop my writing styles.

Do you thinking blogging has helped your business?
On the freelance side I’ve definitely had more enquiries from my website, both directly from blog posts and from the improved search engine rankings that regular blogging gives the site.  I now have more freelance work than I can handle as a part-time freelancer.  I think my blogging also benefits my main employer too.  The blog conversations I have, both on my site and other blogs, really improve my PR knowledge and awareness of latest developments in the profession.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?
Having enough time!  Developing an audience for your blog means writing regular posts.  Finding the time to do this alongside work and family commitments can be a challenge.

What do you want your readers to know about you?
I’d like them to know that there’s more to me than marketing and PR! On the blog I try to be strict with myself and stay on-topic – I think readers subscribe because I write about marketing and PR, not to read about my running or anything else about my personal life.  I do sometimes worry that this approach makes me seem impersonal – I’d like my readers to know I do have a life outside marketing, PR and blogging too!

Which other blogs do you read regularly and why?
Hundreds!  My feed reader is tracking around 300 RSS feeds, ranging from general news (BBC, FT, Guardian) through to specialist blogs on marketing, public relations, web development.  In the public relations area the ones I always check first are Neville Hobson, Stuart Bruce, Simon Collister and Stephen Davies – these were among the first PR blogs I subscribed to and continue to provide consistently interesting content.

If you knew someone was thinking about starting a PR related blog what advice would you give them?
Read, read and read more PR blogs.  Get to know the PR blog scene, learn the unwritten rules of the blogosphere and be very clear why you’re doing it.  Then find a niche in which you can be authoritative.  There are more and more general PR blogs, so to differentiate your blog is important if growing and audience is among your aims.

Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?
I think it’s probably the reputation of the profession.  Tarnished by a combination of "spin" and dubious practices from the fringes of the profession, we have a challenge to promote what public relations people actually do and to demonstrate how they add value in the private and public sectors.

What would be your advice to someone who is looking to embark on a career in PR?
I’d advise them to get as much practical experience as possible, and combine this with a decent academic qualification too (like the CIPR Diploma).  Take opportunities to broaden your skills, even if they don’t look ideal at the time.  In the nine years since I left university I’ve learnt that every job I’ve had has given me more skills, knowledge, exposure and confidence to open another door for me later on in my career.  There’s no such thing as a "traditional" career path – when I started out in marketing the internet was just emerging as a consumer tool and I’d never have anticipated the impact it would have on my professional life now.  I’m sure I’d say the same another nine years into my career – all you can do is keep up-to-date with professional skills and embrace change in your career.

Is there a question you wish I had asked you?
The question I usually get asked is "how come you’re working for a local authority in Kent?". And the answer is quite simple – three years ago I made a significant decision to stop the two and a half hour commute from sunny Whitstable into London and get a job closer to home.  I have a young family and I chose seeing them each evening over working in London.  Technology’s changing working practices so I may never need to go back to full-time commuting, although when my family is older I expect I’ll be moving back to work in London in some way when the time and the role is right!

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Arse about Face

A bit of Friday frivolity for you…

http://www.arsebook.org/

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PR Perspective – Jonny Rosemont

Jonny This week’s PR Perspective feature’s Jonny Rosemont.  In a strange twist of fate, it turns out I used to work with Jonny’s mother.  Small world.  Anyway, Jonny is a PR professional of four years. He is currently a consultant in Weber Shandwick’s dedicated web relations team, comprising digital and social media strategies for all of it’s and Golin Harris’ (Weber’s sister agency) clients. His existing and previous client portfolio includes high-profile names such as Microsoft, Gartner, BT, Toshiba and Berry Bros. & Rudd. His blog, The Rosemont Loving, offers a reflection of his opinions and interests relating to PR and beyond.

How long have you been blogging?
Since August 2004, I’m celebrating (by myself) my 3 year blogging anniversary this month.

Why did you start?
I didn’t really start for professional reasons, although one of the reasons was to improve the quality of my writing. Effectively though, I used to be one of those people who sent loads of “funny” emails to friends…you know the type of emails you get loads of on a Friday afternoon! I decided not to continue annoying people and run a site where people could ultimately opt-in to see. I think the remit of the blog continues to be the same – it’s a place where people I know can be updated on the things I care about and the opinions I have. PR is only a small bit of it; I don’t want it to be just another PR blog. I’d like to thank PR Lord of the Sith Ged Carroll (http://renaissancechambara.com) for showing me the light though, he helped me set up the first incarnation of the blog.

Do you thinking blogging has helped your business?
I’d say so…for a start it has played a big part in me getting my current job (web relations consultant at Weber Shandwick). My blog has ultimately led me to be interested in the Internet and how it is continually changing communications and how we practice PR. In my previous job at Bite Communications, my fascination of blogging and all things social media helped me play a big part in developing the company’s online services. I worked closely with James Warren, who I then followed to WS. Robin to his Batman and without the silly costumes.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?
Simple: it is the challenge to keep it going and interesting. Time is obviously a constraint and when you have so many other responsibilities, blogging is often neglected. I try to post at least three or four times a week, even if it’s just highlighting the links to stories that I’ve taken an interest in. Having been an active blogger for three years though, I know it’s all about peaks and troughs – so you’ll probably see a ramp up in activity in the near future.

In the last few months I’ve also seen a great number of PR professionals entering the blogosphere. The challenge remains the same – i.e. keeping blogs fresh with decent content – but it is also a great opportunity for the PR industry to really drive forward thought leadership, which can only be a good thing. There might be an argument to create some kind of industry body, but someone less busy than me can organise that!

What do you want your readers to know about you?
They probably already know too much about me already! New readers will probably come to learn fairly quickly that I’m pretty opinionated and politically incorrect. I think that’s partly why I’ve managed to build up a wee, but dedicated following. Ultimately though, to be a successful PR or marketing person, I think you need to have interests outside of work and my blog is a great reflection of mine. I’m always free to meet for a beer with any like-minded folk.

Which other blogs do you read regularly and why?
You’ll probably see that my blogroll is pretty extensive…I often find it is the bane of my life when reading. That said, I really do feel that most of the best thought-provoking stuff is in blogs; that’s why I’m so committed to the cause. Some of my PR blog must-reads are Colin Byrne, Steve Rubel, David Brain and TWL. I really could go on, there are absolutely loads worth mentioning. It is, however, in my “contract” to read Mr Warren’s (http://jameswarren.wordpress.com), so I really have to give a shout out to him 😉 Oh and watch this space for something from us in the near future…

If you knew someone was thinking about starting a PR related blog what advice would you want to give them?
Go ahead! If it improves your learning about PR, marketing, the media etc. then it can only be a good thing for your own career progression and the industry as a whole. Read others, get engaged in the wider debate and enjoy it. There are loads of blogs that are already out there but that doesn’t matter – ideas and thinking can come from many a source. Personally I’d like to see a rise in collaborative blogging, which I’m sure we will.

Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?
I hope so – otherwise I’ll be out of a job! Personally I’m of the opinion that the PR industry will be dead if it doesn’t engrain itself in Web 2.0 and beyond. The simple fact is that Generation Y and others are consuming more information on the web than any other media, so it is our job to make sure our clients are there, entering discussions and having direct contact with their customers. There is so much we can do, and clients/agencies should be embracing it with open arms. That said, in my opinion, there are still way too many sceptics. I really feel we are at the tipping point right now, so the industry has to decide which way it should go. It really doesn’t get anymore fascinating.

What’s the biggest challenge in PR?
Getting decent talent in is a problem for the industry; effectively you really have to be adamant and committed to be successful in PR because the wages at a junior level are, frankly, outrageous. London is a pricey city after years of university debt, and it’s even harder work once you’ve embarked on your PR career.

The other big challenge is the ongoing focus on media coverage. PR is not all about getting media exposure; ultimately, it is about improving and maintaining  perceptions about any given company and improving their bottom line.  This objective is often lost in the battle to justify marketing spend and the biggest barrier we are having is getting clients to commit to social media activity and view this as a vital way to engage influencers and consumers.

What would be your advice to someone who is looking to embark on a career in PR?
PR is all about developing decent relationships, being creative, understanding the media and working bloody hard. If you are a personable individual who is always up for a bit of a challenge then PR is certainly a good career option for you. Not many other industries give you an opportunity to really affect corporate strategy from day one – not even in the city. So, how can it not be appealing?!

Is there a question you wish I had asked you?
Enough about me, let’s talk about you.

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PR Perspective – The World’s Leading

Twl_3 This week’s PR perspective comes from The World’s Leading.  I’d like to write a bit of a biography on TWL, but as they’re anonymous that makes it rather tricky.  I’ll just say that it’s a blog focused on tech PR.  It’s funny, irreverent and sometimes close to the bone.  It’s also recently moved to a swanky new pad, and can now be found at http://www.theworldsleading.net/

How long have you been blogging?

Since May 20th 2006.


Why did you start?

After drinking rather too much beer, I thought it might be fun to prick some of the pomposity that too often, sadly, permeates the PR industry.  Sober, it still seemed like a decent idea.  I considered all sorts of publishing media.  Perhaps a poster on the Cromwell Road?  How about little round advertisements at the bottom of pint glasses?  My favourite was a large banner towed behind a small single-engined aircraft, but this turned out to be unfeasible on almost every level.  So a blog it was.

Do you thinking blogging has helped your business?

Business?  What business?  The thing about…the world’s leading…is that (as is often pointed out and indeed criticised) it’s anonymous.  There isn’t a promotional agenda, there’s no ego massaging going on (or at least, only when I massage it myself).  Who knows?  We might earn a little bit of pocket money out of it one day, but that’s not the raison d’etre.  It certainly hasn’t had any great impact on my professional life.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?

Time, inevitably, and also interesting content.  It’s all about the content, really.  As soon as that dries up, we’re buggered.  Happily, however, the PR industry seems to be a rich hunting ground for the ridiculous.  It’s an orchard full of story trees with particularly low-hanging branches.

What do you want your readers to know about you?

A few want to know who TWL is.  A few do know who I am and, frankly, it’s a road to disappointment.  Other than that, I don’t think they’re very bothered!

Which other blogs do you read regularly and why?

Oh, crikey.  I tend to scan a lot of headlines but seem to do less and less actually reading!  A few of the PR ones, obviously.  I’m enjoying The Friendly GhostByrne’s is nicely put together (and he doesn’t blather on about social media stuff like most of the others do…).  I’d like Paul (notes to editors…) to write more as I’ve met him and he’s a really funny bloke.  It’s always nice to dip into a bit of ranting on Charles Arthur’s blog and I read…the world’s leading…too, of course!  I don’t write all the stuff (am I giving away a secret there..?) and a lot that doesn’t come from me is bloody funny!  I can see why people like it.

If you knew someone was thinking about starting a PR related blog what advice would you want to give them?

Set expectations about how often you’re likely to blog.  So many start off like their pants are on fire and then become less and less frequent.  Only post when you’ve got something genuinely interesting or entertaining to say.  Blog about PR.  Don’t start blogging about the latest social media widget…Mayfield’s better at that than you are.

Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?

Yeah – it’s distracting everyone, clients and agencies alike.  Most normal people (i.e. most client ‘audiences’) still read papers and magazines, watch TV, listen to the radio…talk to their friends.  So most PR should target these channels.  It’s changing, but not as fast as we all think.

What’s the biggest challenge in PR?

Continuing to find it a rewarding career year after year after year.  And then finding something else to do when you get the 35, realise you’re far too old to be working in a PR agency and the thought of moving in-house makes you want to leap off a tall building.

What would be your advice to someone who is looking to embark on a career in PR?

Be prepared to work your nuts off.  Be honest.  Have a plan and stick to it.  Think about a life beyond PR.  Don’t moan. When it stops being fun for more than a week or two, change jobs or careers.  Live beyond your means for a few years.  Have a lot of sex…you’ll regret more of the sex you didn’t have than the sex you did.

Is there a question you wish I had asked you?

Yes.  I wish you asked me to take receipt of US$40,000,000 into my personal bank account that you need to urgently get out of a West African country on the premise that by helping you out, I’d get to keep 10% of it.

And meant it.

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PR Vlogs

Inspired by the Golin Harris vidos of their away days (as mentioned by Alex Pearmain), I had a quick scout around YouTube this morning for other PR vids.  Here’s a selection….

Golin Harris

Hill and Knowlton Graduates 2006
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jhPJlIAfRc
(Embedding of this vid is disabled by request apparently!)

Edelman
Recruitment ad

Weber Shandwick
Multicultural communications insights

Burson Marsteller
A minute with Robert Leaf

Fleishman Hillard
FH Away Day

Cohn & Wolfe
Promo Piece

Borkowski
Borkowski Movey

Mark Borkowski Virgin Megastore video blog

Cake
Cake Showreel

Cake – This is what we do

Waggener Edstrom
Lunatic Fringe 2007

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NetRep rears its head again

Those nice people over at Brands2Life sent me a link to this video today on behalf of their client Viadeo.  I’ve spoken a fair bit about net reputation and how it may enhance (or destroy) your chances of getting a job and this vid nicely illustrates some of the things I wouldn’t recommend putting on your Facebook, Viadeo or Linked-In profile.

That said, I’m not really having much luck with Viadeo, or Linked-In, these days, but then I don’t invest a lot of time in them and they’re rather clunky to get round.  My efforts seem to have wholey migrated to Facebook and until the other networking sites can convince me otherwise, my loyalty is likely to stay there.

I was particularly disappointed last week when the Sonia Veysey, Marketing Director at Viadeo, sent me an email saying she’d like to have a chat about new initiative networking for Viadeo, so intrigued I replied saying I’d love to talk to her about it.  Whereupon someone else emailed me and arranged to call me….and then never did.  I haven’t heard from them since.  Has anyone else had any success finding out what their networking initiative is?

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PR Perspective – Stephen Davies

Inspired by Louise Triance’s "Interview with a Blogger" series, this week heralds the beginning of "PR Perspective".  Every Wednesday, Offer and Acceptance will feature a blogger from the heady world of PR.  Many thanks to Louise for allowing me to blatantly rip off some of her questions, and throw a few of my own into the mix.

 

Stephen_davies_2_4 To kick us off, we have Stephen Davies.  Stephen is the social media manager for online news distribution and monitoring company, webitpr. Prior to this he worked for the world’s largest independent PR firm, Edelman and leading consumer agency, Frank PR.  He currently lives in his native North East.

Stephen blogs at http://www.prblogger.com

How long have you been blogging?
I started blogging on April 20 2005 so I guess that makes me a middle-aged blogger by today’s standards.

Why did you start?
I wish I could say it was because I identified blogs as a new communication channel that would increasingly affect the PR profession but, alas, it was purely for self-promotion. I started my blog while I was studying a PR degree at the University of Sunderland to get myself known. Finding a job at a good agency is tough for any graduate so I saw it as a means to put myself out there and differentiate myself from others. It worked too. I got a job at Edelman which is one of the best agencies in the world.

Obviously the more I blogged and the more I read other PR bloggers I began to understand how they and other forms of social media were playing a part in PR and the overall communications mix. And like the name ‘social media’ illustrates I’ve met a lot of great people since.

Do you think blogging has helped your business?
Well I’ve never actually owned a business but the companies who I have worked for obviously see the benefits in it. The company I work for, webitpr, is an online news release distributor and work on behalf of a number of PR agencies and corporate clients in the UK and Europe. The whole point of what we do is to distribute clients’ news release to our large database of online media which includes blogs. So I would guess we’re doing the largest scale blogger outreach in the UK and Europe … Possibly the world.

So, yes, the blogosphere and the individuals participating in it do help our business.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?
In a word ‘time’. Writing a blog is a slog (hey that rhymed) and often a solitary exercise so you’ve got to be prepared to put in the time.

Some people have tried it and fizzled out after a couple of months or, indeed, weeks even. Which goes to prove that blogging isn’t for everyone and often people do have lives to live in the real world.

Must admit, I’m finding it more difficult as times goes on and my work load in the regular day job increases. But as long as I keep connecting with new and like-minded people I’ll continue to do it.

What do you want your readers to know about you?
Um, er, that I want to look after endangered animals and bring about world peace?

Joking aside. On my ‘about’ page I clearly state that my blog is a perso-professional blog and by that I mean I’ll normally write in a professional capacity – but you might find the odd post that’s off topic. And if it is off topic I’ll try and put PR twist in it.

I think I’m pretty open on my blog and don’t take myself too seriously. And I reckon the people who kindly read my content (thanks mam) have a decent idea of what I’m like in the real world.

Obviously I wouldn’t put warts and all on my blog but I am pretty open.

Which other blogs do you read regularly and why?
I’m subscribed to many PR blogs and for fear of missing someone out I wouldn’t want to say. I will say, however, that my mate, Ben Ayers
(http://benayers.blogspot.com) who’s a publicist at ITV is a good read. His blog is a PR blog which focuses on broadcast media (as you’d expect given his job) and I think it’s quite a refreshing change from the norm. He’s a top bloke too.

If you knew someone was thinking about starting a PR related blog what advice would you want to give them?
Don’t do it! Are you insane? 🙂

I would say go for it, you have nothing to lose. Obviously take some time to find your writing style before you announce it to the world though. And please, please, please don’t announce it when you’ve only written one blog post.

Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?
Yes but there’s lots of hype. Newspapers still have an audience of millions, I, along with many others, still listen to the radio and my 10 year old nephew continues to watch a lot of TV. The day when we’re all Twittering one another and we’re all living our lives exclusively online is a long way away. If at all.

What’s the biggest challenge in PR?
Trying to explain to my parents what PR is. 🙂

What would be your advice to someone who is looking to embark on a career in PR?
If you’re looking for a good salary in a relatively short space of time you should choose a different profession. PR isn’t one of the best paid professions and it usually takes quite sometime with a lot of hard work in between before you’re making the big bucks. However, if you want to work with some smart, inquisitive, creative, media-savvy individuals who like nothing more than to socialise after a hard day’s work then step forth.

Call me biased but the PR industry is full of the most funniest and friendly people I’ve ever came across. Always loads of gossip and always time for a laugh.

Is there a question you wish I had asked you?
Yes: "What have you been up to at webitpr?" And I would have replied:

We have recently launched our (and the UK’s first) version of the Social Media News Release – a new kind of news (press) release catered for the online world. So far with excellent results.

You can read what we did with New York based agency, Converseon here: http://www.prblogger.com/2007/07/webitprs-social-media-news-release-for-converseon/

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