PR Perspective – Richard Millington

Richard_millington
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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Big Bad Bosses

I have fairly recently changed jobs.  I left on good terms with my old boss but some previous bosses haven’t been quite so nice.  Anyway, whilst bemoaning this fact to some friends the following stories (kept anonymous for obvious reasons) came tumbling out….. beware bosses, be an arse and it may come back to bite you in in the, erm, arse!

"I had a psycho boss. 
Who would tell you to fuck off one day, and then be your best pal the next. He was an alcoholic freak, and very very mean.
He also used to pimp out his dog to other people’s lady dogs in our
staff room at lunch time. He was basically a grade A bastard. I was so
glad to leave."

"I once had a boss make me pick up her dog from
her house and CARRY IT on the tube to bring it to the office.  I nearly
resigned that day."

"I had one who was a lawsuit waiting to happen…
His first words to a very shy new person (me)… "it’s always the quiet
ones you need to look out for, I bet you’re a fireball in the bedroom.
Have you got your clit pierced?"


"
I had one who used to take advantage that I was a hard
worker and did bugger all basically leaving me to run the department
whiel he sat around chatting to his friend."

"Erm… there was my first boss who kept hitting
on me.  He’d asked me in (my first ever interview at 19) if I was in a
relationship and if I was planning on having babies any time soon.
Every Friday after work we’d have a bbq and he’d get drunk and leery.
I used to make sure that my boyfriend picked me up (was "expected" to
attend and enjoyed everyone else’s company).  I left after a couple of
months.  He ended up shagging my replacement and his wife found out and
shot herself in the work parking lot.  He continued using that same car
for ages after.

Then my next boss asked me what I thought about sex.  I replied
"what do you mean, think about sex how?" to which he replied "with me".
I said I didn’t."

"My old boss was the reason that I left my old job.
She was awful a real bully, she’d pick on people for not getting enough
leads and therefore they wasn’t enough to converted to sales so the
branch wasn’t making money and colleagues wouldn’t get a bonus.   She would pick on people, out of 8 of us 3 were signed off with depression it was the most awful time."

"My last boss used to pay us by cheque and asked me to remind him, so i
did and whenever I reminded him he used to swear at me. And we were
also due to be paid on the last day of each month and one of us would
pop to the bank on our lunchbreak to pay everyone’s cheques into the
bank so that it would start to clear. The boss cottoned onto this so
would hand us our cheques after lunch break at about 3:15pm so it was
too late to for our cheques to clear which meant the money stayed in
his bank for longer! Needless to say I left due to his attitude with
this and many other things and i just got a load more of abuse for my
last few weeks. Since leaving I then discovered from the Inland Revenue
that he hadn’t been paying my tax or National Insurance which he then
had to cough up!!"

"I left my last job because of my old boss.  She was a complete nightmare and best mates with the overall boss, who
wouldn’t do anything when i eventually got up the courage to complain
about her.  One notable episode was giving my friend a nervous breakdown which
was eventually caused by screaming at both of us in front of the whole
office about something she had asked us to do and forgotten about, and
then assumed we had done it wrong. The final straw was her having gone to a meeting and left me a note
of some work she needed doing that i was to leave on her desk for her
to collect when she got back from the meeting.  I had done the work
exactly as she had asked (and had the note to prove it) and when I got
in the following day, got screamed at in front of the whole office
because I should have known she’d made a mistake on the note she’d left
and asked for the wrong thing. Such a cow."

"My boss regularly goes in a bad mood for no reason, its mostly just me
and him in the office and he thinks its acceptable to completely ignore
what i say on a daily basis, then thinks that he can come in and start
a conversation with me when he’s snapped out of it."

"An old boss threw a paperweight at my head – it
was a glass one about the size of a cricket ball because she could not
find some paperwork and she assumed that I had it. Which I didn’t by the way – the paperweight was thrown because I denied all knowledge!"

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PR Perspective – Alex Pearmain

Alex_pearmain
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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Bloggers – we need you!

Keyboard
I must apologise.  I have dropped off of the blogosphere for a while as I haven’t even had time to read any, let alone write any.  I have joined a new venture, Unicornjobs.com, and as we head towards our soft launch time seems to be one of those things I just don’t have any more.  However, I feel a virtual slapped wrist coming my way and so as my teacher friends keep telling me – I must try harder.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk about my part in Unicorn Jobs for a while – there will be much to reveal but all in good time. 

In the meantime, we are on the hunt for some bloggers and where better to find bloggers than on the blogsphere?

Here’s the details…. drop me a line if you’re interested.

Unicorn Blogs

unicornjobs.com is a new graduate careers website – the one-stop guide for students and recent graduates looking for advice on how to choose, pursue and succeed in their chosen career.

With a ‘soft launch’ in November 2007, unicornjobs.com will include articles on all key job sectors, with guides on how they function and how you can get into them, plus interviews with people working in those sectors, and those who recruit for them.

In addition to news stories and articles, unicornjobs.com will also include a blogs section where readers will be able to read the opinions and about experiences of various people involved in the website, including our editor, publisher and recruiter.

We will also include blogs from people embarking on their chosen careers – either final year students currently going through the ‘milk round’, or recent graduates starting their first jobs.

We are currently looking to recruit:

•    someone who started work this year on a formal graduate recruitment programme – ie some who has started work as a graduate trainee.

•    someone who has recently started their first job after graduation, but who isn’t on a formal graduate recruitment programme.

If that sounds like you, read on…

What we require

Our bloggers will:

•    write honestly and entertainingly about their experiences of their first job after graduation.
•    identify interesting topics to write about.
•    blog at least twice a week on relevant topics, writing between 100 and 300 words each time.
•    submit coherent spell-checked copy.
•    write within unicornjobs.com style guidelines (these will be very flexible for bloggers).

You will email your blog entries to our operations manager, who will arrange for them to be uploaded to our site.

What we offer

Blogging on unicornjobs.com is a great opportunity for anyone looking to develop their journalistic skills. You will have your work published on a high profile new careers website, plus receive ongoing feedback from our experienced editorial team, and direct access to our career advisers. We pay each blogger a fee of £25 a month. Our bloggers write under a pseudonym allowing them to be honest about their experiences in working life.

How to apply

If you are interested in becoming a blogger for unicornjobs.com email your name and CV plus a first blog entry to info@unicornjobs.com, telling us which blogging spot you are applying for.

From time to time we will recruit other bloggers. If you have an idea for a blog which thing will interest our audience of graduate jobs seekers, please get in touch, ideally with a sample blog.

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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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All Change!

I’ve been a little quiet of late and now is the time to share the reason why.   Firstly, Indigo Red moved offices.  After a few teething problems with IT and phones we’re now up and running and are in swanky new offices in the heart of Watford town centre. 

Secondly, I have a new job.  Tomorrow is my last day at Indigo Red and I will be joining my new company at the end of the month – after a week of R&R and visiting parents, taking the cats to the vets and having my eyes tested!  I am going back to my recruitment beginnings and am re-joining the Taylor Bennett family to work on a new venture recruiting graduates.  Although I will be working across all industries recruiting fresh faced grads, I will still keep a hand in the PR industry so if you need AEs, give me a call.

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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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