Category Archives: Interviews with PRs

PR Perspective – Tom Murphy

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I met my latest interviewee, Tom Murphy, about 18 months ago when he was delivering part of the "Delivering the New PR" conference.  So it seems only fair that as he was one of the people that inspired me to start Offer and Acceptance that he gets his 15 minutes of, erm, well not fame exactly – but he gets to say what he loves about PR and blogging and gets a nice link back to his blog.  Tom has been working in both agency and in-house PR roles across North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America since 1991 and is currently responsible for Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility for Microsoft in Ireland.  Prior to joining Microsoft in August 2005, He was director of corporate communications for Cape Clear Software and his most recent agency posting was as general manager of EMEA consulting for Text 100, where he helped clients plan and execute PR plans in multiple countries across the region. Tom has worked with companies across practically every technology industry sector including BEA Systems, Corel, Gateway, Intel, Marrakech, Microsoft, StorageTek and Visio. He has been blogging about Public Relations since 2002 and when time permits he writes the “Murphy’s Law” blog.

How long have you been blogging?
I started my first blog in March 2002 – it feels like an eternity!

If my memory serves me correctly the only other PR blogs at the time were Jim Horton, Phil Gomes and Richard Bailey – and I’m delighted to report that all three continue to blog today.

Why did you start?
I have to be honest and admit that I fell into blogging, I certainly didn’t see it as a “platform with the potential to change the world and build an interactive transparent means of fostering conversation”.

Nope. 

What actually happened was that in 2002 I was looking (mostly in vain) for good PR-related content online.  There wasn’t a lot of stuff outside subscription only web sites, so I thought it would be a great idea to find a way to bring together links to the content I did find, and then keep them in one place online.

I found Blogger and started posting any links I found there and all of a sudden people started commenting on the links and it went from there.  Between 2002 and 2005 I spent a huge amount of time monitoring and blogging, unfortunately I am finding I have less time these days.

Do you think blogging has helped your business?
When I was in my previous role with Cape Clear Software (who has been recently acquired by Workday) we got a lot of benefit from blogging and blog relations.  I think probably the greatest return I’ve got from blogging is connecting with PR people all over the world, whom I would not have met or heard of, without blogging.  That has been a fantastic spin off and made the whole thing worthwhile.  It’s a fantastic medium for finding like-minded individuals.

I think that this “network” is well illustrated by the fact that Philip Young pulled together a very successful series of events in the UK under the “Delivering the New PR” banner.  Philip brought together a range of speakers including myself, Elizabeth, Neville and Stuart, who had never met before, and only knew each other through our blogs, yet the group immediately gelled. 

That’s pretty unique in my opinion.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?
The most obvious thing is time.  It’s hard to fit it in alongside the day job.  It’s not just the writing, it’s the thinking, the monitoring, the reading and the browsing.

However there are other challenges. 

I fear that the blogosphere is in danger of becoming less relevant due to the “echo chamber” effect.  There’s too many PR blogs just reacting to other blogs and not enough bloggers delivering value through sharing their thinking on our profession, on how these new tools integrate with our traditional tools etc.

We are facing so many changes and challenges but I’m not sure the collective PR community is helping to address them. 

I hasten to add that I include myself in that.

What do you want your readers to know about you?
I’m not as grumpy as I sometimes appear on my blog ☺

I am passionate about the potential of Public Relations to help individuals and organisations to communicate and educate.  I am also passionate about how new online tools can help that process.

However, it’ll be no surprise to the three people who read my blog that I have no time for the zealots. 

There is a lack of authenticity in much of the posting around PR.  This typically takes two forms.  First there’s the “PR people are evil” crew who base their assumptions on hearsay and ignorance. Then there’s the “New PR” people who believe traditional media and PR are dead or dying.

I’m growing tired of these simplistic arguments.  The world is a far more complex place.

Of course online communication is becoming more important, but let’s not forget that in many countries and industries, traditional media and communications tools remain far more influential and important.  The challenge for every PR practitioner is to understand these dynamics and make the right investments for their client or employer.

My other pet hate is blog postings that regularly begin: “As I told President Bush last Monday…”

Which other blogs do you read regularly and why?
My RSS reader (FeedDemon) is a trusted tool for monitoring as many blogs as I can, some of the PR blogs I read include: Alice, Allan, Brendan, BrianS, Colin, Constantin, Elizabeth, Eric, Frank, Gerry, James, Jeremy, Jim, Kami, Kevin, Neville, Paull, Phil, Philip, Piaras, Richard, Shel, Stephen, Stuart, Susan, Todd, and Trevor.

I have to be honest and say my non-PR blog reading isn’t as varied as it should be! But here’s a few I read regularly: Guy Kawasaki, Steve Rubel, Seth Godin, John Collins, Bernie Goldbach and Lifehacker.

If you knew someone was thinking about starting a PR related blog what advice would you want to give them?
There’s a couple of things I’d advise. 

First and foremost think about what you plan to write about.  You don’t have to stick to one topic or pigeon hole yourself, but be clear on the general areas you’re going to cover and what style you’ll cover them in.  Great blogs have a clear personality.  It doesn’t matter if everyone doesn’t agree with you!

Remember that the wonder of search engine technology means that once published, your words will be archived forever!

If you are thinking of kicking off a blog (and why not!) do understand there is a serious investment of time, not just writing the blog, but managing it, talking with other bloggers etc.

I think the more PR people blogging the better.

Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?
Yes I think Web 2.0 will have a major impact on the whole world of Public Relations not just “media relations”.  However I am also pretty pragmatic about it.

When you break it down, we are talking about new tools and channels for delivering information and having conversations.  These new tools should be integrated into a communications plan in the same way traditional tools are used.

Start with your audience, what are their current perceptions, issues.  How can you best communicate with that audience. Where do they find their information?

For many people print newspapers and magazines are still number one, for a small number of companies online channels are the most effective channel. However for the vast majority of individuals and companies an integrated approach using online and traditional tools will probably be most effective.

There are two major challenges I see for PR professionals:
1)    Understanding your audience – To executive effective Public Relations across traditional and online channels, we are a profession need a much more in-depth knowledge of our audience than was previously the case.  Circulations statistics have made us lazy, we need to engage with our client’s customers and find out how they are finding and sharing information.  This should inform our decision making.
2)    Balancing time and resources – While Web 2.0 brings interesting new tools and channels.  Our traditional tools and channels haven’t gone away.  The biggest challenge (and it’s related to the first point) is how do we balance our investment in new and traditional tools.  We don’t have any more time, so doing more online will mean doing less traditional communications and vice versa.  How we make those decisions will impact the success of our campaigns – and those decisions can only be taken when you have a great insight into your audience.

What’s the biggest challenge in PR?
PR faces a number of challenges. As I outline above we need to get a better understanding of how our audiences are finding, consuming and sharing information and conversations. 

We also need to start to think about how we balance and resource online outreach alongside traditional communications.

Finally, we as a profession need to start to take a leadership position in online reputation management.  Too many firms are trying to re-create traditional media relations online without realizing that an online reputation goes beyond that.  It incorporates search engines, discussion groups, blogs etc.  If we don’t start taking ownership of these things then other people will.

What would be your advice to someone who is looking to embark on a career in PR?
When I was in college there were two things I had no interest in.  One was PR and the other was “computers”.  Given I’ve spent over 17 years in Tech PR I’m not sure how valuable my advice is!

PR is without question a fantastic career choice. 

It’s always changing, always challenging. Of course that’s good and bad.

Great PR people are always learning, always investigating and thinking.

That’s the key asset, being inquisitive, always keeping up to date on what’s happening inside and outside your industry.

I also think it’s vital for PR people to have a broader understanding of business.  Great PR people understand how PR impacts the bottom line, where PR can have a major positive impact and often more importantly where it can’t. That’s invaluable knowledge.

Finally, if there were two things that I’d recommend to anyone thinking of a career of PR, they would be developing a love of reading and gathering knowledge; and building your capability to explore. They are incredibly valuable strengths, inside and outside the world of PR.

Is there a question you wish I had asked you?
What will PR look like in five years – what will be the main online tools or channels?

I don’t think anyone honestly knows the answer to that question.  There’s a lot of snake oil salespeople on the Internet who will tell you in no uncertain terms where we’re headed.

I don’t believe them.

The only thing I am convinced about is that there will be an online element to everything we do, and our audience will continue to face information overload at work and in the home.

Every day a new widget emerges somewhere on the Internet and is proclaimed as the new new thing.  People’s time is their most precious resource and only time will tell what tools and channels are relevant for your audience.

The better we connect and understand our audience, the better we will be able to deliver great communications programmes.  The Internet continues to evolve and we need to evolve with it.

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PR Perspective – Richard Millington

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After a bit of nagging (I felt a lot like his mother – wash behind your ears and pick those pants up off of the floor), Richard Millington gives us the latest PR Perspective.  Richard is 22 and is currently a marketing student at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, He is also a freelance copywriting and marketing/social media consultant, and his clients include Gloucester City Council, Rancon, Hazina and HLTV.org. He is taking the rather unusual step of hoping to go freelance straight from Uni rather than pursue the traditional corporate route. Should be interesting.  He’s just moved his blog over to Typepad and here is the  necessary link to FeverBee.

How long have you been blogging?
I began a personal blog for just a few friends back in 2004, but I only started blogging about PR in May 2006. After I completed my work placement my blogging slowed down a little, but recently as part of my new year’s resolutions I’ve cut my feeds down, switched to a brand new blog at www.feverbee.com and got things going again. I think it’s going to be important for me when I finish University.

Why did you start?
My first few weeks of my placement were quite intense and one evening I decided to see if anybody else was at my stage of a PR placement. So I typed in ‘Student PR’ and ‘Young PR’ and came up with the blogs of Chris Clarke and Paull Young. I then spent the rest of the evening, reading their blog archives and those they linked to. The next day I asked my boss at apt marketing & PR if she was ok with me starting a blog, and it’s been going ever since.

Do you think blogging has helped your business?
I think it’s helped both my former paymasters at apt, and now my current freelance income. For apt it’s something we began offering as an extra service to clients, one early client took us on specifically for a social media project. It also ranked high up on the agenda for recruiting my successor, Samantha Wilcox.

Personally, I’ve been staggered by the number of opportunities my blog has given me. From a freelance perspective I would consider it essential, one of my current clients found me because my blog ranked higher on local searches than the websites of Gloucestershire’s PR agencies. I’m a firm believer that the indirect benefits of blogging (networking opportunities, knowledge sharing etc) are far more important than any direct advertising revenue/freebies/money benefits.

Blogging and reading the blogs has given me some fantastic insight into modern practices. Every morning my bloglines is filled with practical PR ideas, modern approaches and progressive advice. It’s amazing how many people are willing to share so much information.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?
I think at times it can be a struggle to write something that’s both original and relevant. There has been several nasty instances this year when young PR bloggers have been slated for opinions on topics on which they aren’t experienced. Which can put us in a difficult position, what can we blog about? I haven’t worked in a PR agency on a daily basis for over a year, so it can be a struggle to keep it fresh.

What do you want your readers to know about you?
Aside that I’m open to work from June 08? I’d like readers to know how much I love what I do. I honestly believe that social media is a much a growing industry as it is a new movement to shakeout the corp-speaking, legal-worrying, suspicion-raising company ethos of the 80s – 90s. And I’m very fortunately to be graduating University at a time when there is such a radical shakeup going on. There’s plenty of opportunities for younger communication professionals to gain valuable work experience early, and rise quickly.

Which other blogs do you read regularly and why?
I put 5 blog feeds into my ‘essential reads’ at the start of the year. These were Seth Godin, Ducttapemarketing, Viral Garden, Copyblogger and Ramit Sethi.

•    Seth Godin: Is the ultimate modern marketer, albeit sometimes dismissive of PR. His blog is the best business blog on the internet, and he practices everything he preaches. A truly remarkable blog.
•    DuctTapeMarketing is John Jantsch’s small business marketing blog. This blog, whilst aimed at small businesses, is actually full of insight and advice for entry level marketers/PRs.
•    Viral Garden is just a damned good blog about marketing and social media.
•    Copyblogger helped me get a lot of copywriting work over the past year. The advice is good, up to date and is useful for anybody writing anything to be read by an online audience.
•    Ramit Sethi: I’m a young freelancer earning enough to begin investing; Ramit Sethi’s blog is my dream come true. Truthfully, I’ve never taken the time to read up about personal finance, and I’ve learnt many costly lessons. Ramit’s blog helped me both catch up and even give advice to others about their personal finances. I just wish there was a UK equivalent.

I read much more, of course (85 feeds per day) – but if I only have 5 spare minutes, those are the blogs I read.

If you knew someone was thinking about starting a PR related blog what advice would you want to give them?
I would say that sooner or later, you’re going to say something that someone doesn’t agree with. Try to react professionally to those situations and treat it as a learning experience. Nearly all bloggers have to weather such storms, some have actually benefited greatly from the opportunity.

Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?
Yes, but not at the speed most bloggers are predicting. Bloggers, by nature, are usually tech-savvy and work either in technology or communications sectors. Working in Cheltenham on my placement year I learnt that a lot of companies aren’t ready to begin blogging yet. If your audience never goes online and relies on newspapers, as some of our clients did at apt marketing & PR, a blog isn’t going to be much help.

In other industries however it became more of a case of how best PR and social media fit together. In Autumn 06 I worked briefly with a company called Wiggly Wigglers, founded by Heather Gorringe. Heather’s quite well known in social media circles these days through her brilliant Wiggly Wigglers podcast. Yet whilst Heather really was a perfect client for our new Social Media division, we struggled (as many PR agencies are doing) with figuring out quite how our PR expertise and her existing Social Media success fit together. We’ve learnt a lot since then, but it’s a struggle many agencies are still experiencing.

Agencies outside the biggest cities are still lagging behind with clients who wont grasp the social media concept for a few more years yet.

What’s the biggest challenge in PR?
There are so many answers to this question. I think from personal experience the most important challenges in PR is agencies trying to make clients sound more interesting, rather than advising clients how to be more interesting i.e. how to do things worth generating coverage, and what to do with that coverage.

Too often the client tells the agency they’re releasing a product in a new colour (or whatever) and want media hits. Why didn’t the client get more out of their agency fees by asking in advance what they could do to generate hits? The agency/client relationship is one which needs a lot more work.

Perhaps the other more obvious challenge is the blurring of industry lines. What’s marketing? What’s PR? What’s advertising? What’s Sales? What’s SEO? So much is overlapping at the moment that it’s difficult to keep up. I can’t say how it’s going to evolve, but PR agencies needs to broaden up what they can offer clients.

What would be your advice to someone who is looking to embark on a career in PR?
Read. Read blogs, books, newspapers and magazines. Don’t stick to just Public Relations material but read around in marketing, social media, copywriting, business and as many other sectors as possible. If possible, try to specialize in an area. Have something to offer a company which they don’t already have, it’s a great way of standing out from the crowd. In your application try to be something other than a “determined and ambitious graduate”. A lot of this goes back to what Mitch Joel and Anna Farmery have discussed – what is your personal brand.

For example, treat yourself as a client. What is your core message? Focus on what you really want to achieve, and specialize yourself to get there.

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PR Perspective – Alex Pearmain

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Alex hails from deepest darkest Northumberland, and following a stint studying history at Oxford headed for PR consultancy, with Fishburn Hedges. Realising Facebook was useful for more than just status updates, he set up the PR and Comms Network with fellow FH-er Alain Desmier. Aimed at bringing together PRs in a more relaxed, useful way, the group now has over 3000 members, a blog, and are about to have their latest drinks event.   Alex blogs at both www.alexpearmain.blogspot.com and www.prandcommsnetwork.wordpress.com.

How long have you been blogging?
I dabbled at uni, and then, and put my blogging on a more formal footing when I started work. About 18 months in the various blogs I’m currently involved with.

Why did you start?
Like most bloggers, because I’m self-indulgent and self-important? No, more seriously, it’s a combination between an enjoyment of writing, sharing opinions, and importantly a belief that social media offers better opportunities to communicate with each other, which in turn leads to better lives all round.   

Do you think blogging has helped your business?
I think every PR has a responsibility to consider how we communicate, individually, and on behalf of clients. There’s no better way to develop social media skills than putting them into practice, which will in turn assist clients.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?
Undoubtedly having enough [worthwhile] thoughts to share. I’m not a believer in boring on for the sake of writing things, but equally am very conscious of the need to blog regularly to meet your ‘invisible pact’ with readers.

What do you want your readers to know about you?
Well my Twitter bio simply says ‘deeply interesting’. so I’ll stick with that!

Which other blogs do you read regularly and why?
My personal favourites are Fake Steve Jobs and Innocent, which are big parts of my daily routine. When it comes to PR blogs, I have a large number of feeds demanding my attention, but would pick out Stephen Davies, Simon Collister and Ed Lee as those which most often provoke me to thought.

If you knew someone was thinking about starting a PR related blog what advice would you want to give them?
Do it differently. Unless you’re David Brain or in a similarly privileged position, your view will just be one of many. So take a theme, and develop it, or blog from a  different perspective. Just not ‘another’ mainstream PR blog.

Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?
The rumblings have begun, but they haven’t yet translated into a material difference in the lives of  PR practioners right across the board. 

What’s the biggest challenge in PR?
Making sure you never stand still.

What would be your advice to someone who is looking to embark on a career in PR?
Ensure you actually enjoy media, in all its forms. If you’re not actually all that fussed about magazines, newspapers, blogs, social networks etc, you’re really going to struggle to enjoy anything you’re doing.

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PR Perspective – Simon Collister

Simon_collister_2 So I’m a bit late with this week’s PR Perspective.  The eagle eyed amongst you will notice there wasn’t one at all last week.  Blame BT – they cut our internet connection earlier than we’d asked for in our old offices so it took a week for us to get back online.  Humpf.

Anyway, this week the victim interviewee, is Simon Collister. 

Following an internship with The Times Simon worked for a number of national organisations where he was responsible for planning and implementing creative high-profile campaigns across the media and in Government.  After leaving the voluntary sector Simon worked for a Yorkshire-based PR agency handling a range of not-for-profit, public sector and commercial clients.

Simon is an expert on blogging and developing the use of social media within PR and campaigning.  He blogs at Simonsays… and eDemocracy Update and has been named as "one of the to UK PR bloggers" by PR Business magazine.  He joined EIS in May 2007.

How long have you been blogging?
Oh…since February 2006, so 19 months.

Why did you start?
I went along to the fantastic conference Delivering the New PR put on by the lovely people at Don’t Panic.  It talked about the ‘future’ and ‘PR’…so had me immediately.

Do you think blogging has helped your business?
From an Edelman perspective, blogging and the changes being brought to the PR and communications business by wider online social changes are at the heart of what we’re doing as a PR firm.  Personally, I agree entirely with what we – the company – are doing.  I am 100% confident that we are seeing a major shift in public behaviour and attitudes being unleashed by technology – rather than the other way around.  Smart PR firms are recognising that and changing the way they do PR but also the way they operate as an organisation.  But that aside, blogging has definitely helped me as an individual…helped me get jobs, making amazing contacts, and meet loads of fantastic people – sometimes even in person too!

What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?
At the moment, the biggest challenge is finding time to write.  Between trying to move house, working full time and having a life it’s a real struggle.  What to write about shouldn’t really be an issue – if it is, then perhaps you shouldn’t write a blog.  Always a handing bit of advice for clients who want to blog as well.

What do you want your readers to know about you?
Oh.  Deep.  Erm…That I write for them.  That I’m passionate about society and how improving communications and understanding can help make the world a better place.  For me technology is great – but on inasmuch as it represents progress; is a means to an ends and not the end itself.  There was a great quote I read on Richard Bailey’s blog.  It came from John Naughton at the Open University: "Focusing entirely on technology is the wrong way to go about this stuff… The future will be determined by how people and institutions shape these technologies."

Which other blogs do you read regularly and why?
Too many to mention.  Lots of good UK PR ones and lots of thinking US ones.  Have a look at my blogroll for a full list of must reads.

If you knew someone was thinking about starting a PR related blog what advice would you want to give them?
Think about it first.  There has been a huge slow down – I believe – in the quantity of blog posts coming from even established PR bloggers.  I think it’s partly the Facebook factor sucking everyone in and partly Twitter… but the blogosphere’s growth is definitely slowing and consolidating.  As a result I think it’s harder to enter into established networks.  Also, think about what you want to blog about.  ‘PR’ blogs in general I think won’t cut it any more – it needs to be specific.  I tend to focus on PR, technology and social change with a hint of politics/democracy from time to time.  Once you have decided what is your chosen subject and you’re happy to have something original to say that can add to the conversation go for it!  Doing all that in advance will also mean you won’t end up with a naff name for your blog, like Simonsays…

Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?
Absolutely… I mean you can argue it’s not really ‘Web 2.0’ and probably not ‘PR’ – but fundamentally technology and the internet are changing society and the public.  This means that anyone in the business of communicating  with the public needs to be aware of these changes and adapt accordingly.

What’s the biggest challenge in PR?
Broadly, understanding how society is changing and adapting.  More specifically: clients!

What would be your advice to someone who is looking to embark on a career in PR?
Do your research so you understand the industry and then go for it.  Don’t be afraid to take risks.  Definitely be prepared to learn from your mistakes.  Always ask the question why?  Not really PR specific advice…but, hey!

Is there a question you wish I had asked you?
That was it!

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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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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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