Top 5 Client PR Traits

In the previous post, we ran through some of the traits that successful tech PR pros need, but how about clients? The relationship between PR agency and client, be it a quick fling for a project or a marching down the aisle long-term retainer, is a two-way thing.

The best clients, and so those that are most successful, understand this and will work with their agencies to provide them with the knowledge they need to hit their shared objectives successfully. Here are five traits of top PR clients:

  • Don’t be a jack of all trades: And a master of none. You know your business and your customers better than anyone, the most successful clients know exactly what they arequalified to comment on and don’t try to comment on every passing trend.
  • Trust us: We’re not doctors, but we know what we are talking about. The best clients trust their PR advisors when they give them advice and don’t just go it alone.
  • Spend money: Now, we’re not just saying this, but PR is important – don’t neglect PR and invest in it where you can, the results will pay dividends down the line.
  • Content is king: Very often, clients produce lots of great content internally or for sales purposes that can be useful for external PR. And then they forget to share it with their agencies! Don’t forget to send us that whitepaper.
  • Think about what is important: Do you want to be in the channel press, do you want to be in the tech press, do you want to be in the business press? Having a few ideas about what outcomes you want from PR before you start is crucial.

The world of technology throws up lots of different types of clients, from small start-ups developing innovative solutions to established companies supporting customers with legacy technologies. Wherever you are on the spectrum, having or developing, these traits will ensure that the relationship you have with your PR agency is a fruitful one.


Top 5 Tech PR Traits

Public Relations is a changeable beast. It encompasses anything and everything from media relations to event management, to content production and far more in-between. It also spans every industry and imaginable niche. Nowhere is this truer than in tech PR; where conceivably, on a daily basis you can go from talking about big data in drug discovery to business intelligence dashboards in the NHS, to fin tech applications in the cloud.

Being able to juggle, understand and communicate such varied themes is a challenge. Here are some top tech PR traits that all PR pros need – from the very greenest graduate to the most frazzled flack.

  • Organisation: Without fail, the ability to organise oneself, manage your time, meet deadlines and handle several clients at once is crucial. They don’t call PR plate spinning for nothin’!
  • Liking technology: Incredibly, if you don’t like technology or you can’t tap into your inner geek, it’s pretty hard to find interesting things to say about it. If you prefer handbags to HPC, tech PR probably isn’t for you (handbag PR definitely is).
  • Put it in a nutshell: The ability to understand, digest and then communicate complex technical information in a few simple sentences cannot be underrated.
  • Project confidence: It’s a PR-eat-PR world out there, and you can be sure every other agency in the world is pitching for that national cloud feature. So being able to confidentlytell a journalist exactly why they should talk to your client is going to come in handy.
  • Be literate: Tech PRs very often find themselves writing about topics that could charitably be called ‘dry’, being able to inject some life and soul into your writing is invaluable.

So, now we’ve covered some of the attributes of successful tech PR pros, what about our clients? It takes two to tango you know, and we’ll take a look from the other side of the aisle next week.

Google Pluses and Minuses

Most of us probably can’t imagine a day without Google, but how about the poor cousin of its portfolio, Google+? I’ve always had an interest in G+, even having faithfully signed up back in the early days when it was an invitation-only ghost town. I’ve dutifully updated my profile when required, made myself login every week to look active and shared the odd article. But I confess I forget it is there most of the time – what with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, my social network cup runneth over. So I’ve taken a little time to reacquaint myself with G+ and have a closer look at it.

G+ does seem to be getting more popular, so what’s driving it? Well, Google being Google, its making it virtually impossible for businesses who want an SEO presence (and let’s be honest, what business doesn’t) to not be on G+. Additionally, G+ is now increasingly used for authorship verification, meaning you need to be on it if you want to share content/make comments etc. In fact, just this week Google has announced that it is changing the YouTube comments section to be powered by G+. You will now need a G+ account to comment on YouTube and G+ will even decide the relevancy of your comment – unsurprisingly, if you’ve a strong G+ profile, your comment has more chance of being boosted above others. This is a move sure to drive even more G+ take up.

There is a mix of personal and private on G+ with company pages equally as prominent as personal profiles, which integrates nicely with the search results of course. G+ has a very smooth and clean interface which is easy to use, especially if you’re already a user of other Google products. It’s easy to re-share and to +1 (‘like’ stuff, in Facebook lexicon), which means content has a good chance of being seen by more people. Advertising is less noticeable, which makes a nice change from the other big three social networks increasingly aggressive ad strategies. You don’t even need to leave your hashtags behind on G+ as they are as much a feature of the site as on Twitter.

So all in all, I’d say G+ looks nice, feels nice, is easy to use and has some good features. But the biggest reason for being on G+, particularly if you work in technology PR? Well, with the increasingly integrated nature of digital communications and technology PR, you’re going to miss out by not being on it. G+ is becoming an increasingly important part of good SEO practice and Google’s drive towards independently curated editorial content. You’ll find many publications on there, whatever your sector; from big business to niche verticals – lots of journalists, analysts and commentators too. Finally, as it grows clients are going to be asking about G+ sooner rather than later, so now is the time to get familiar with it. So, I’m giving G+ a +1, what do you think?


PR vs. Journalism. World War…not sure, I’ve lost count.

It’s the world’s worst kept secret that PR practitioners and journalists have what can most generously be called a fractious relationship. To any new entrant into the PR industry, it can still come as something of a shock. I have seen people reduced to tears mid sell-in by some particularly rude treatment. In all honesty, the industry probably isn’t for them if that’s the result. You need a thick skin to get by, and you need to acquire it quickly. Having said that, being reduced to tears in your workplace is absolutely not right and no one should feel it’s acceptable to do so.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a few journalist rants and have found the best method for dealing with them can be summed up thus: style it out. It’s going to happen, you’ll learn from it, and next time you allocate a press list you’ll probably give that particular journo a swerve.

Whilst the tear-inducing, apocalyptic journalist rants are thankfully few and far between, they do still happen. And it begs the question, why? I am lucky in my job that, in the main, I deal with journalists who are respectful and rarely give me the rude treatment; and I like to think that I am equally as approachable. I think the problem, like with any relationship, is all about understanding. That is, PRs and journalists seem to rarely understand each other, what each other wants/needs, and what each other can do/deliver.

My biggest tip from a PR point of view to gain that understanding would be research. What interests the journalist you’re about to call? What to they write, what are the angles, what do they tweet about, have you tailored your pitch, are you calling on press day, have you spoken to this journalist before? And the biggest question, is this actually news? This (and more) should be standard protocol before picking up the phone, though anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise.

And if I could suggest for our journo friends a little understanding too? We all have a job to do, and our jobs involve ringing you sometimes. And you never know, it might be useful/interesting/fruitful. I know you get a lot of phone-calls, and so do I, but let’s refrain from outright shoutiness and nastiness, eh?

Can’t we all just get along?!

How to win at social media with the Clintons

Here’s a post I recently wrote for the Spark blog

You may have seen recently that Hillary Clinton became the latest of the Clinton Clan to join Twitter, following in the footsteps of husband Bill and daughter Chelsea. And whichever PR pro helped Hillary launch her first tentative social footsteps was something of a genius, she may have only tweeted four times (to date), but she’s gone down a storm.

Bill and Chelsea are far more active, as are all their associated profiles which encompass their many charitable and action foundations. The Clintons have built a formidable presence on Twitter, perhaps learning from Barack Obama himself, whose social media practices have been near flawless. As a ‘brand’, the Clintons are impressive – managing to do what many businesses fail to do; build a cohesive, united, ‘joined-up’ presence on social media networks to get that all important message out there.

Social media, as we all know, is here to stay (as are the Clintons). Having a social media ‘presence’ is deemed as an almost necessity for businesses these days – and whether it is the right thing for your business or not (it isn’t always!), there are lessons to be learned from the Clintons if you’re making the jump to social.

So, what tips can companies pick up from the Clinton’s foray into the Twittersphere?

  • Make an entrance – Hillary’s inspired first tweet, a play on the #TextsFromHillary meme was a great start. Retweeted 11,042 times so far, that first tweet itself generated a whole lot of headlines and goodwill.
  • Have a sense of humour – Well done Hillary, referencing your own meme and taking‘selfies’ with your child; clever, wry and in the best of humour.
  • Choose your time wisely – Do not, under any circumstances, try to gain capital or make jokes out of tragic events (I can’t believe that even needs to be said, but sadly it does).
  • Don’t forget your profile – The 140 characters under you name is your first chance to draw the user in. Hillary’s is excellent, and that clever ‘TBD…’ ending hasn’t put those 2016 rumours to bed.
  • Be active – Now Hillary is letting the side down here a bit, but Bill and Chelsea are regular tweeters; businesses with inactive streams or infrequent updates are not engaging in the conversation which will deliver them customers.
  • Build your brand – Chelsea Clinton does this very well, her Twitter profile page has the Twitter handles of all her other associated accounts listed down the side – a good tip, make it easy for users to find your other connected networks.

Now, the Clintons were starting out with a good deal of reputation and cache already in place – very, very few businesses will have that type of expectation or welcome if they decide to go social. Building a social media following is a slow and involved process, and can’t be done half-heartedly. But whether you decide to make the social leap, or if you already have, why not strive to be like the best?

A couple of posts from elsewhere…

Some recent posts I wrote for the work blog (@Sparkcomms), both on corporate comms.

The first takes a look at BlackBerry’s evident lack of media training. There’s really no excuse in this day and age…

Why media training matters: BlackBerry has (another) bad day at the office

And the second examines Tesco’s recent ingenious crisis comms. Sonnets of sorrow, whatever next eh?

Crisis communications and saying sorry: not just when, but how

The changing of the guard

Amongst the thousands of articles written about the superinjunction/Ryan Giggs debacle, one woefully out of touch article from The Guardian stood out. Written by Richard Hillgrove, who is described as a ‘business and political public relations consultant’, the article seems only to emphasise the divide between the old and new guard.

Many of the below the line commenter’s make the point that regulating what people write on a social network is nigh on impossible. Indeed, a couple liken the article’s point to the Royal Mail being sued for something they have written in a letter to a friend, or the fact the Twitter is somewhat analogous to a phone network.

Twitter is primarily a medium of communication, as is Facebook and numerous other social networks, people use them to chat to friends, make new friends, and sure, gossip now and then. No different really to a conversation I may have with a colleague around the watercooler surely.

Except the key difference is the potential for it to be heard; I may say something on Twitter which may get re-tweeted, replied to, discussed, even trending. Now, I may be somewhat overstating my Twitter reach here, but you get the point. It’s the same theory as when something goes ‘viral’; it might start off as a conversation between two people, but end up as it has in Ryan Giggs’s case, as one between millions of people.

And I suppose that’s the beauty and the terror of social media in a nutshell. Whatever the musings about whether social media is here to stay or not, the question of how it can be regulated is ultimately academic in my opinion, unless we really want to experience even more of a big brother society.

Current libel and privacy laws are not compatible with modern forms of communication, which seems simplistic to say, but changing the law is more feasible than fact-checking the trillions of status updates and tweets made on Twitter and Facebook. Which are just two of the ever growing number of social networks.

Twitter is not in and of itself a media outlet, it’s a conduit for words to be spread, between individuals, corporations, businesses, governments, and myriad other organisations. There is a fine line between free speech and libel, and walking that line becomes more perilous as our social and digital networks grow, but ‘reeling it in’? It’s not only an impractical suggestion, but a very naive one.

And if Richard Hillgrove needed proof in the power of Twitter, he now has his very own parody Twitter profile

That old chestnut: in praise of the BBC

I’ve always had a soft spot for the BBC, I can’t help it. Despite the fact it has occasionally churned out some tosh (‘My Family’, ugh), and that recent Christmas programming seemed to have been entirely predicated on five hour long ‘Eastenders’ specials, the Beeb has been on a good run of form recently.

And thankfully, there are no adverts, which means hour-long shows are actually 60 minutes of broadcasting, not one hour of the actual show, and one hour of adverts, see ITV’s ‘Dancing on Ice’ Sunday night advertising marathon for proof…

Firstly, there have been some excellent documentaries over the past few weeks; including the return of the excellent Louis Theroux to the BBC, his expose of Ultra-Zionists in Israel made for jaw-dropping watching.

Andrew Neil’s investigation into the old boys club populated almost exclusively by public school alumni at the centre of British politics was pretty eye-opening too. And our public school kids got even more of a battering in a second documentary by Richard Bilton. ‘Who Gets the Best Jobs?’ was informative and stirring in equal measure. It seems what we all already suspected is true; that if you’re parents are rich, you went to a fee-paying school, and you can afford to work glamorous internships for nothing, you’re a shoe-in for a top job overseeing the great unwashed. Anyway, rant over, back to the programming.

I have to give a little thumbs up for Silent Witness too. Although occasionally requiring the suspension of disbelief, this series has been largely excellent, well acted and entertaining.

And finally, The Human Planet…brilliant, awe-inspiring stuff, the kind of thing the BBC does so well. This week’s episode featured jungle and rainforest dwelling tribes; and if you watched this show, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that was the most amazing tree house I have ever seen. I’ve been recommending this show to everyone I know.

And interestingly, I’ve been able to recommend The Human Planet online, through the much improved and much

The new BBC iPlayer layout

more social BBC iPlayer. The iPlayer’s facelift is very successful, its far easier to navigate, you can integrate your Twitter and Facebook accounts simply, can share and recommend what you’re watching or listening to, and more importantly, you can see what your friends are watching. It may have taken the BBC a while to catch on to what many of us already know, that we as individuals are far more likely to watch, listen, like or buy something that our friends are recommending to us, but they got there in the end.

My only niggle is that most of this good stuff seems to have been squirreled away on BBC2, but beggar’s can’t be choosers. So, a big well done to our favourite Auntie, I’m not even complaining about my licence fee this month!

The Changing Face of PR? Indeed.

I read an interesting article in Recruitment International Magazine this week, entitled ‘The Changing Face of PR’, its opening sentence boldly stated, “PR may be at the cusp of its evolution.”

Why? Well, the ‘digital boom’ according to the article’s author Davina Forbes, of Major Players – a Randstad owned PR and comms jobs recruitment company.

With the greatest respect to Forbes, I have to disagree with the majority of what she writes. I read, with some incredulity, “The digital boom, the birth of the media hub and the fall of the journalist may have sparked the beginnings of a new trend within the industry that could inevitably lead to a new focus for PR jobs – content.” A ‘new trend’?! Hasn’t PR always been about good content? And I’m not so sure this ‘digital boom’ is at the ‘beginning’ of its evolution, having been in full flow for a good couple of years now.

Sure, it’s been a learning curve, but the majority of PR practitioners and students I know, already work exceptionally well within the ‘new’ digital rules of PR engagement. Most are also clued up with social and digital media; having your own Twitter account and blog is a matter of course for most practitioners, and in general, these outlets are managed very well.

Talk to, or listen to, the vast majority of PR practitioners, both old and new, and they have a thorough understanding of digital/new media/social media communications. According to Forbes, “…the PR talent has the capability, perhaps it’s just a case of brushing up, particularly for those new to the industry.” This is an unfairly inaccurate representation of the skills of new entrants to the industry; especially in light of the large number of well trained and educated PR students and graduates. Many universities offer PR modules dedicated to social media and digital communication; producing industry entrants who are amongst the best practitioners of communications in a digital world.

The reasons for this are two-fold; firstly, young PR students and graduates have grown up through an age of digital communication, and are used to communicating and being communicated to across a digital medium. Secondly the overwhelming move towards teaching, training and guidance from experienced practitioners at countless numbers of university courses, traineeships and internships has consolidated this knowledge in practice.

I’m not just painting a rosy picture of the PR industry; of course there are still practitioners who stick by their traditional methods. And while traditional methods still have a key role in PR, the dinosaurs are dying out. In general, the PR industry is doing a good job of moving with the times.

It is quite astounding to read this statement, “…content generation is becoming an increasingly important skill to possess for the PR…” Content generation has always been a key skill, whatever the media outlet – print, digital, oral, visual; and PRs have always had to be good at it. As a self proclaimed ‘leading’ PR recruiter, the relatively negative view Forbes presents of the industry and its practitioners seems worryingly out of touch.

Twitter in Motion

I had a great experience this week of Twitter doing it’s thing, and perfect fodder for reposte when a Twitter non-believer doesn’t ‘get’ Twitter, or thinks it doesn’t ‘do’ anything. I was having problems with Plusnet, my new broadband and landline provider, generally poor customer service, non-delivery, and taking a age to get the broadband going. I’d tried the traditonal routes, I called them (costly and time consuming); I’d tried the ‘raising a ticket’ on the website method (‘we will reply in 12 hours’) and had no result. So in a fit of frustration, andwith a quick Twitter search, I found Plusnet’s customer service Twitter account (@plusnet). Why not I thought? I tweeted @plusnet, a simple, ‘not very impressed with @plusnet’s customer service, doesn’t bode well for a new customer’ and lo and behold, in no more than 10 minutes, I received a phonecall from a Plusnet customer service manager. His opening words? ”Hi Michelle, I’ve seen your post on Twitter…” He went on to apologise profusely, promised to rectify the problem and was generally very nice and reassuring. Plusnet also tweeted me back with a ‘glad the problem is sorted, feel free to tweet if there is anything else we can do’.

I have to say, I was really impressed. With one  little tweet, I’d had my problem sorted, I was feeling much less annoyed, and I was seriously impressed with Plusnet’s response and methods. They had won me right back! It also guaranteed them some good worth-of-mouth, as I went on to tell everyone I saw that day my little tale of Twitter success (and blog about it…). I use Twitter a lot, but I’ve never had a good ‘moan tweet’ at an organisation; but Twitter managed to raise a result within 10 minutes, far more quickly than the old call or email method!

Plusnet’s Twitter account is a good example of an organisation doing Twitter and social networking well. Their profile is clean, branded, just the right side of serious organisation, and friendly approachable people. There are four dedicated tweeters, whose initials follow every tweet, and they appear to work around the clock. They reply to every tweet, and give service and customer information throughout the day. So well done Plusnet, I’m duly impressed, and other organisations would do well to follow this example.