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PR, marketing and communication news and views.

20 things PR pros should know NOT to do

This is inspired by a post over on PR Daily naming the 20 things a PR pro should know how to do.

This is my take on things PR pros should know NOT to do. A few obvious ones, but sometimes they’re the ones most easily forgotten.

Anything to add? Make your suggestions in the comments box….

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5 things we need from you (the client) to make your campaign a success

I’m not a lawyer, or a shopping centre owner, or an estate agent. I don’t manufacture printers or low carbon vehicles, and I’m not a small business owner.

Yet I have been involved in successful PR and marketing activity for all of these sectors.

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8 tips to keep your meetings productive

I read with interest a blog post on PR Moment which cites meetings as a waste of time.

Although the article, written by Hacked Off Flack, is tongue in cheek to some extent (at least I hope so – he states falling asleep as a way to keep your meetings short!) I can’t help but come back with a rebuttal.

Having started a new job two weeks ago, building client relationships is one of the most important things I need to do in order to effectively manage my client’s accounts. I am passionate that this can’t be done without regular face-to-face contact.

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What’s next for NOTW?

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Many red-top haters have dreamed to hear the words ‘the News of the World is closing down’.

Those dreams became a reality yesterday as News International announced that its last ever issue of the tabloid will be published this Sunday, in a bid to limit the political and commercial repercussions of the phone hacking scandal.

Allegations of phone hacking at the paper have been rife for years. Hacking into celebrity’s phones is pretty low on the scale of journalism ethics, but this time the NOTW stooped lower than even its most reverent haters could have imagined.

Under the watchful eye of editor at the time Rebekah Brooks (who denies all knowledge), the NOTW allegedly ordered a private investigator to hack into the mobile telephones of murder victim Milly Dowler, families of murdered children Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, relatives of London bombings victims and members of the armed forces that died on duty. Messages were apparently deleted to allow room for more ‘story leads.’

Those who stand by the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ mantra will swiftly point out that the key word there is ‘allegedly’. But, after paying off celebs such as Sienna Miller in phase one of the scandal, one can only jump to the conclusion that these allegations must have at least a little fire behind the smoke – if not a full-blown furnace.

And it seems advertisers feel the same. They have been dropping like flies throughout the week, and Sunday’s final edition will publish with NO corporate advertising. I’ll be buying it just to see what that looks like.

However, despite this background of hacking claims and falling advertising, coupled with Murdoch’s ruthless reputation, the announcement that the paper is to close still came as a massive shock to the industry – an industry which is still reeling a day later and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

It’s been around for 168 years, employs a staff of over 200 people and sells over 2.5 million copies a week. You just don’t expect a media institution like the NOTW (and it is an institution – whether you like or agree with its particular style of journalism or not) to fall at all, let alone fall so quickly and amidst such a, well, such a sh*t storm.

But then again, on closer inspection perhaps it’s not a shock as such – more a well-timed business decision. And a clever one at that – who knows if it would have survived such hideous allegations – and this way it doesn’t have to wait and find out.

It’s no secret that News Corporation has an £8 billion bid on the table to buy BSkyB (although reports are in that this is already under threat). And with a price tag that big, there is more at stake than just a UK newspaper. No one wants to be associated with such horrendous and inhuman activity – whether the allegations turn out to be true or not – and Murdoch is well aware of this.

With rumours already spreading that there will be a Sunday version of The Sun on the shelves within two weeks one can only wonder what effect, in the long term, this will have on the one thing that it all comes down to – News Corporation’s bottom line. Will one cash cow be replaced swiftly with another? My opinion is yes, although perhaps not quite as quickly as some suggest, especially as the story continues to snowball and arrests are happening even as I’m writing this. Plus, as the saying goes – mud sticks.

Whatever the next steps may be, my thoughts go out to the real victims of the phone hacking scandal; the families whose privacy has been so grossly invaded and the staff who await with baited breath to see if they have jobs to go to, or if they are the ones made to take the fall for other people’s mistakes.

My best bookmarks from the last two years

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I have a very bad habit of bookmarking things and then never getting around to looking at them again.

Over the last two years this has resulted in hundreds of bookmarks and favourites – otherwise known as a big, unorganised mess.

This week I’d had enough and decided to sort them out.

I found some gems – here’s some links I found that I just had to share:

SOCIAL MEDIA:

1. Behind the scenes of 8 social media campaigns:

This post can’t fail to get you excited about the potential of social media. From the talented peeps over at Mashable, it gives 8 examples of innovative and successful social media campaigns which have captured their target audiences’ attention and generated some great results for clients.

2. What the f**k is social media

Does your boss (or you?!) still need convincing of the validity of social media? This no-nonsense slideshow is just what you need. It contains some impressive statistics and examples – though it is two years old now so it might be a bit outdated.

3. Seven deadly sins of social media

I’m a sucker for a list – and I love this one. It gives us the seven ‘deadly sins’ of social media including ‘Deafness’, ‘Phoniness’ and ‘Greed’.

4. Fifty digital resources you might have missed

Another great post from Mashable. This mammoth list gives you 50 resources worth reading including ‘How to make a 3D YouTube video with two cameras and a roll of sticky tape. I can’t wait to try that one!

PUBLIC RELATIONS:

5. Nissan’s online news room

WARNING: This post will make you want to work for Nissan. It talks about the company’s in-house newsroom which creates and develops news for the brand across all platforms, from video to print. In my opinion – all brands should be striving for this, or at least taking elements of it. A great, inspirational read.

6. Big list of free press release sites

I don’t use these sites, but they can be useful as an additional tool when selling in news releases.  This post lists LOADS of sites which you can upload your releases to for free.

7. How and why to write SEO releases, plus where to submit them:

SEO should be a skill which every PR pro is willing to learn – and it should be built into all content you create which may find itself a home online. This article is a great crash course into why SEO is so important, and how to use it for press releases.

8. Times Style Guide

Every newspaper and magazine has its own particular style, and PRs should always try and take note of these. It’s also worth having you own ‘house’ style. If you’re still trying to implement one then this could be a good post to refer to.

PHOTOGRAPHY:

9. Photography challenge:

I have a secret desire to become a photographer. Two things stand in my way; a lack of decent camera and a lack of talent. When I get these things, I will definitely be doing this challenge from the White Peach Photo blog. It gives you a photography challenge every day for 30 days – from ‘Self Portrait’ to ‘Clouds’.

OTHER:

10. Top 16 UK marketing blogs

Looking to expand your blog repertoire? Well, look no further. This post offers up 16 of the UK’s best marketing-focused blogs.

Are there any gems hidden in your bookmarks? If so, share them here.

Modern communication: The 10 ways we speak to each other

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I saw this tweet on Friday from finance journalist James Andrews (@financejames).

Of course the first thing it makes you want to do is count up your own channels, which is exactly what I did.

I have 11 altogether.  I found it pretty shocking to be honest – and a little scary when you think about just how connected we are nowadays.

What about you? What channels do you use that I’ve missed off? And is it a good or a bad thing that we are so connected 24/7?

USED DAILY:

1. Email

Ah, good old email, how I love thee. Simple to use, lets you write as much or as little as you like, send attachments, group contacts, instantly file messages into separate client/personal folders. Email is still my favourite way to be contacted and it is still the most popular way people contact me in work, and out of work for anything other than a friendly chat.

2. Phone

Look at me! I have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR phone numbers I can be reached on. I have to admit I sometimes think the phone call is a little neglected nowadays. The downside of virtual communication is that tone and humour can often be misunderstood. I often think that one quick call would make things so much simpler.

3. Twitter

It took me a while to ‘get’ it but I wouldn’t be without it now.  I don’t really use it to organise things as such, or chat with people at length, but it’s a nice way to connect with people outside of my immediate circle, and keep up-to-date with news and opinions.

4. Facebook

Facebook for me is most definitely for friends only. It’s probably the main way that I sort out where and when I‘m meeting friends for dinner, drinks or whatever. Plus it’s a good way to connect with those you don’t see as often as you like. A quick ‘hello’ on someone’s wall is the modern day equivalent of a postcard.

5. Text message

I probably shouldn’t admit this; but I hate texting. I find it laborious and boring and I am much more inclined to simply pick up the phone to speak to someone. Still ‘tis a necessity sometimes, and friends still seem to prefer to text than anything else.

6. Forums

Possibly not one on most people’s list (anymore), but I check my sports team’s forum everyday. Not only do I play the sport (roller derby if you’re interested!) but I’m also the league’s PR spokesperson and there always seems to be plenty of news to catch up on and posts to reply to.

LESS FREQUENTLY:

7. Skype

I don’t use this as often as I used to when I lived in America, but I still love using Skype to catch up with old friends in different countries – both via calls and messages. I’m also trying to get it used more at work to speak to international clients.

8. Instant Messaging

There was a day when Hotmail messenger was the hottest tool around, but it’s moved on now to Facebook chat and Blackberry Messenger. I don’t use IM as much as I used to, but I have a feeling my new Blackberry next month might change this!

9. LinkedIn

Usually I use LinkedIn simply for the initial connection. If I’m interested in speaking to anyone after that it usually migrates to email, Twitter or phone.

10. Snail mail

I love receiving post, and writing a good old letter or postcard. I liaise by post regularly with my auntie in Canada and my close friend in New York. Nothing will ever quite beat the excitement you get when you receive a letter (that you know for sure isn’t a bill!), or the feeling that actually, someone must care about you a fair bit to spend the time and money to contact you the ‘old school’ way.

AND A BONUS ONE:

11. In person

Yes, that’s right! I am not just an Avatar – I am indeed a real person. If you ever want to speak to me properly I promise you I am not a hologram and I am fully capable of conversation without aid of technological tools or methods.

Timesaving ‘V’ privacy – why I can’t wait to use the new Facebook tagging tool

Facebook now automatically recognises the people in photos

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Facebook has hit the headlines yet again this week after rolling out a facial recognition tool which automatically recognises the people in photos, and then gives users the option of tagging them.

The feature has been available in the USA for six months – but since launching in Europe last week it has caused outcry among some, who suggest that, yet again, those evil Facebook programmers are out to invade our privacy.

To be honest I’m not quite sure I get what the problem is.  It seems to me that the conspiracy theorists are just low on material at the moment.

For me, any tool which is added to makes things like uploading photos quicker and easier can only be a good thing, and I can’t wait to try it out.

Remember the days of ‘simple upload’ when you had to upload 5 photos at a time and albums had a maximum capacity of 60 images?

It was very frustrating – as is tagging friends in photos.

There are so many photos of me and my friends on holiday and at weddings etc that I would quite like to see, but can’t be bothered to go through everyone’s albums to find.

Same as I know that there are loads of photos of friends in my albums, who would love to be tagged, but don’t know the photos are there. And I certainly don’t have the time or the inclination to go through and tag them all myself!

This automatic facial recognition system will no doubt make things quicker and easier for all involved.

So what’s the problem?

From what I’ve read:

  • It only recognises your friend’s faces (and you know what they look like already, surely?!)
  •  It won’t recognise complete strangers who happen to be in the background, or people who you are not direct friends with on Facebook already
  • It won’t go through and tag all existing photos linked to your profile – only ones you upload from now on (and then you can choose whether or not to tag them)
  • Users who are tagged will receive a notification and can then untag themselves if they wish
  • And perhaps most importantly – you can turn the feature off! That means that your friends will have to continue to manually tag you in every photo

Don’t know how to turn it off? Check out instructions here.

This sort of technology has been around for years (there is even an exisiting app for Facebook which was launched in 2009), and I just simply don’t understand why it is an issue for Facebook to be using it to make their users’ experience more efficient.

What do you think?

Is Facebook invading our privacy or are people making a big deal out of nothing?

Photo via

Bloggers are human – and yes – we make mistakes!

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Like many people in the PR industry I read a lot of blogs.

I have the ones I read on a regular basis, as well as those that I stumble across on Twitter and Facebook.

The thing I love the most about blogs is the abillity people have to comment – to add value to a debate or a topic and help spark even more interest than the original post itself.

Or at least thats my idea of what comments are for – but apparently not everyone feels the same.

During my rounds today I found three comments on different blog posts – all pointing out mistakes which have been made by the blogs author.

Some were grammatical mistakes; others were statements or sentences which could perhaps have been written a little more clearly.

The comments weren’t written in a friendly way – they were rude and you could tell the people leaving them were feeling smug at the fact that they had spotted an error.

Now, I know that blogs should be correct and anyone in PR who makes a grammatical error should know better.

But do you know what – it happens! Get over it!

Why feel the need to leave a smug comment about it?

I also spotted a post on one of my favourite social media blogs which had – shock! Horror! – not one, not two, but THREE spelling mistakes.

Did I leave a rude comment chastising the author? Or did I think; “You know what, I bet they wrote that in 10 minutes in-between client meetings, phone calls and drafting copy for a deadline, so let’s give them a little slack shall we?”

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t call people out on errors (especially if they are factual errors) – indeed in some ways its a good thing. As an author you can then correct it and make sure you pay more attention next time.

But I don’t think it should be done rudely – and you should still add more to the conversation than just “oh, by the way, you’ve spelt that wrong.”

So, the moral of my rant is that mistakes DO happen! It’s making sure they don’t happen again, and how you handle the mistake that makes the difference.

Here are some tips:

1). Always approve negative comments on your blog, or ones that call you out – unless they are overly rude, personal or use bad language. Then craft your reply carefully. If someone points out an error thank them for there eager eyes and make a note not to make the same mistake again.

2). Get your work proofed. Part of my role as a manager is to proof any work drafted by other members of my team. But equally I always ask our account executive to proof my work. I’m human, mistakes happen, and sometimes you get too ‘close’ to your work to realise your making mistakes.

3). If you make a factual mistake, or you alter your post significantly after people have commented, always let your readers know you’ve made the change.

I’ve made six errors on purpose in this post (here’s hoping you don’t find more than that!). Let’s play ‘Call me out’. Go on – get it out your system!

What can Lady Gaga teach you about PR?

Lady GaGa on stage at the Radio 1 Big Weekend

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Last weekend saw Europe’s largest free ticketed music event take place – Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Carlisle. Alas, I wasn’t lucky enough to be there, but curiosity got the better of me and I couldn’t help but check out online some of Sunday’s headline performance from Lady Gaga.

She is one of the most outlandish mainstream performers the world has seen in a long time – yet the public love her.

Some clients can be afraid of anything which is too ‘out there’. But, whatever your opinion of her, perhaps Lady Gaga is proof that people are a lot more open than we think.

So, with that in mind, here are five things PR pros can learn from her:

1). Be inventive

Lady Gaga appeared on stage in a coffin, wearing a PVC cat suit and a plastic baby bump. Odd, yes. (Although perhaps not a patch on some of her other outfits – meat dress anyone?!). Her approach is certainly creative. And creativity and innovation is something which in PR we should have in abundance. We should be able to come up with inventive, innovative, yet viable, ideas for clients at the drop of a hat. Take the time to regularly brainstorm with your team – come up with ideas which aren’t restrained by budgets or client briefs. Even if you don’t use the ideas they are still useful for keeping that ‘creative on-switch’ working, as well as providing a bank of material when your campaign needs a vital dose of ‘oomph’.

2). Don’t go too far – unless you can handle the repercussions

Usually shrouded by glowing reviews, Lady Gaga’s ‘Alejandro’ video has caused outrage in some circles, with MTV asking ‘Has she gone too far?’ The controversial video features sexual and religious imagery which is a bit too much for some people’s taste. Although creativity is important – it is also important to remember that it’s subjective. Think about your audience – will they find it amusing, exciting or insulting?

3). Support what you believe in  

Lady Gaga is mostly seen in the press for her weird and wacky dress sense, and for hit single after hit single – but she’s also been in and out of the papers for her charity work. Charity partnerships are a great way for any brand to raise awareness of itself, get in the public eye, and build compassion. Lady Gaga’s charity work includes quitting Facebook for the Keep a Child Alive charity, designing a charity bracelet for the Japanese earthquake appeal, and performing at a benefit concert for the Robin Hood Foundation.

4). Be current

Splashed across the press after her appearance last weekend was Lady Gaga’s homage to the royal couple, Kate and William. The singer dedicated a cover of Nat King Cole’s classic jazz tune, Orange Coloured Sky to the couple and admitted that she wished she’d been part of their big day. Linking into the news agenda and ‘piggy-backing’ onto the hype surrounding current affairs is a great way to gain more coverage for your clients, and something all good PR pros should be able to do.

5). Always exceed expectations   

Lady Gaga was half an hour late to the stage – leaving many fans wondering where the loyalty was. Always strive your utmost to meet client expectations – and where possible exceed them. This should be across all aspects of your campaigns; great ideas and amazing content count for nothing if you’re always late or never keep promises.

What makes a great press photo?

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Earlier this month I attended a free photography workshop hosted by TNR Communications, part of the Press Association.

The workshop set out to “give a real insight into how to get national picture desks to run your PR photographs.”

I’d highly recommend the workshop – it was a great insight into one of the UK’s busiest news and picture agencies – and they illustrated the presentation with some really strong picture examples, as well as offering valuable insight into the day-to-day workings of a picture desk.

Here are some top tips from the day, to help make sure you get that perfect press shot – and the coverage it deserves:

1). Track record is important

Make sure that the photographer you use has a strong track record in securing national coverage for their photos – even if you have to pay more for it. They should have an intuitive eye and know what a national paper is looking for and how to get it. They should also know how to distribute photos – if you have no connections it can be hard to get your photo seen by the right people. Make sure they also offer solid insight and knowledge into the best times to send photos and the best resolution, file size and photo captions.

2). Know what picture editors want

When pitching photo stories, picture editors are your audience not newsrooms – you need to understand them. You need to know what they’re looking for and how they operate. Avoid clichéd photos (smiling business men holding big cheques are most definitely a no-no!) And remember that news is about people – the photos needs to reflect this.

3). Be more creative

Picture editors at national newspapers are inundated with photos – over 20,000 per day, and this is climbing everyday thanks to the rise in digital photography and citizen journalism. For a PR story to gain coverage this way it needs to be imaginative and eye-catching. Think of the wider story, and come up with creative ways of capturing it. If the story allows it try and be fun and humorous. And remember – a picture editor only sees thumbnails on screen – and hundreds of them at that. Your photo needs to be pretty special to stand out.

4). Try and sum up the story

An ideal photo for national press will sum up the story in one go. Even if you need to stage a shot which does this, then it could well be worth it. Often, strong photos aren’t run with a full story – just a photo caption. Make sure that your picture tells the story you want it to.

5). Manage branding

From a PR’s perspective getting branding into a photograph in the nationals is the holy grail of success. From a picture editors perspective it’s a nightmare. Try and find a happy medium – you can get away with branding but only if it looks natural within the setting of the photo. Don’t go overboard, and don’t try and make your branding the focus. Doing that will simply result in your photo not being used – or your branding being cut out.

6). Planning is vital

If you are planning a photoshoot or a photocall you must plan before hand. If it’s in a public place visit the site first; how busy is it? Is it too crowded? Can you get the right angles? Think about the environment and the background. What will be in your frame? If possible take your photographer with you – if not, take a digital camera and take a few snaps. You want your photoshoot to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible so planning is vital. You don’t want people hanging around on the day while you look for the perfect spot, or try to avoid the crowds.

7). Be aware of the news agenda

Pay close attention to the news agenda and time your photos well. Royal weddings, holidays, Wimbledon, hottest day of the year – all of these things can offer you hooks to get that perfect photo. BUT, it’s also worth sometimes going against the news agenda. For example election time, when picture editors are bombarded with man-in-suit after man-it-suit, it could well be worth doing something dramatically different to offer some light refreshment.

8). Move quickly

Once your photo has been taken get it re-sized, captioned and sent ASAP. But make sure that you pay attention to timings. Don’t send it on a Friday, and avoid afternoons if possible. The best time is around 10am in the morning. It’s also worth trying a Sunday morning – papers are often lacking content for Monday’s paper.

For some examples of great press photos check out TNR’s gallery.

Photo by graur razvan ionut

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