Archive for September, 2007

Financial PR

September 26, 2007

We haven’t previously delved too much into the world of financial PR. Sometimes it can appear a bit murky [or just pink if you happen to sit near the in-tray of a finance-minded PRO buddy]. But it can actually be interesting- bear with me- and there is more overlap with corporate/new media practioners than you might at first think. For example, see the really interesting piece on DealBook about VC’s and benefits of blogging.

Blogging VCs seem to be doing pretty well- in a sector which has never exactly been known for openess of practice. Is this a trend we’ll be seeing develop in other areas of financial PR? The answer to private equity’s reputation problem?

It certainly makes sense when you consider the reputation issues; a lack of transparency, uncertainty about what they actually do, and impersonality. Blogginng could offer an outlet for explanation of the benefits PE can bring to companies and employees, whilst putting forward a human face for the industry.

Perhaps new BVCA spokesperson Simon Walker should be considering it…


PR and the McCann family

September 24, 2007

Like most people in this country I’ve loosely followed the Madeline McCann story and although I can’t claim to be an expert (unlike much of the British media), I feel I am relatively well informed of the ‘facts’ of the case. 

I was surprised to read the Matthew Parris column in the Saturday Times this week, blaming PR and ‘marketing positioning’ for the backlash against the McCann parents. The article drew an inflated analogy to that of the ‘Find Maddie’ campaign and the subsequent opinion of the McCann Parents with David Cameron’s use of PR and his recent drop in the polls. According to Parris, people are now suspicious of ‘Market positioning. As a nation we’re learning how to spot it; and we don’t like it.’ 

The article suggests that the British public have turned on the McCann parents because ‘Where we would have expected to see parents distracted and disorganised by grief, we have seen a professionally run campaign to find out what the media want, and give it to them’.  

This really is an inaccuracy. 

If in the direct aftermath of the ‘kidnapping’ the wide scale media campaign had resulted in a positive sighting of the ‘abducted’ girl the media would be praising the McCanns for their professionalism in the brink of a tragedy. Instead, retrospectively, they are criticised for organising a communications campaign that reached around the world and put the issue in every major newspaper in Europe.

The reason the McCanns have been turned into such pariahs (third world policing aside) is that columnists like Parris think that now Madeline McCann is almost certainly dead, her parents are fair game to criticise, type cast and even accuse.

As one contributor to the Times Online comments section below the offending article commented: The Parris article is ‘Superficial rubbish. Why do the McCanns feature in a political opinion piece?’

 It isn’t the first time Parris has attacked the ‘spinners’ but accusing the McCann parents of being ‘too organised’ is as far fetched as it is insensitive.

Don’t mention the flaw – A true story

September 21, 2007


“So you want me to arrange the briefing for two ‘o’clock at the cabinet war rooms… ok good stuff, see you there”.

I put the phone down to my client with a resigned sense of dread. Getting a journalist to anywhere other than a nice restaurant is always a struggle, but getting them to mingle with tourists, in a pre war relic, near damn impossible. The phone rang again.

“Oh I forgot, could you also invite the customer spokesperson, I am sending details now”

The email arrived the second I replaced the receiver. This customer would have to do some travelling by the looks of the German international dialling code.

Customer: Hallo

Me: Oh hi there, I’ve just sent you an email

Customer: Ah yes, dis is no problem. Vhere exactly am I going?

Me: Um the Cabinet (sudden realisation that the customer is German) War rooms…

Customer: Um…ahhhh…….. Do you really think that this is an appropriate place for meeting a journalist?

Me: um…… well…. Um…. I guess I’ll see you next week. Bye.

The day arrived, as did the journalist, the customer, and my client. Gathering at the front desk of the Cabinet War rooms in Westminster, the party of four descended deep into the secretive passages of the war rooms. On we went, through to ‘the bunker’. ‘Why in the name of god did she choose here’ I muttered to myself.

Client: It’s great here, isn’t it. So historic.

I shot a glance at the customer, who looking deeply unnostalgic.

As we entered ‘the bunker’ I got the immediate impression that we were about to be blown to pieces. A virtual simulator in the corner recreated the ‘path of the Luftwaffe’, complete with real bombing sounds and air raid sirens. The realism however was timed, on a 3 minute loop to be precise. Every three minutes, a German bomber (complete with engine roar) would begin its deadly descent to Blighty, the air raid sirens would sound and then the bombs would hit. Every three minutes for an hour.

The journalist quite clearly thought he was being set up and eyed me with a nervous ‘when do you turn into Jeremy Beadle’ stare. I looked helplessly back. The Cabinet War rooms attendant left us to own devices and to the most painful hour of my PR career.

Once the interview was complete, the customer wasted no time in awkwardly shaking our hands, quite clearly already working out how he was going to explain this behaviour to his family.

The journalist also made his way from our military den, whispering that he would write up the interview and find for a space for the article in his magazine (needless to say, 5 months on, no article has ever appeared) and the client continued to congratulate herself for her foresight in holding the briefing in such a ‘cool’ place.

I made my way back to the office and explained what had happened in my account team meeting to roars of laughter and derision.

Another day, another expertly executed briefing.

Is there anything worse than compiling a forward features list?

September 19, 2007

As autumn draws near, the mornings get colder and rolling up your sleeves is no longer possible without the risk of developing hyperthermia, a dark shadow hangs over what for most people is a festive time.

Approaching my 2nd year in PR, I am well aware of what waits around Novembers corner. Yes, there is the Christmas bonus, the Christmas party and those boozy Christmas client lunches, but what I absolutely CANNOT stand is the dreadful thought of phoning around hundreds of magazine features editors to get their latest ‘forward features list’.

As a piece of software, Featuresexec is useful but I found last year that there was quite a delay between feature lists being released by publications and features appearing in the featuresexec database. Unfortunately account leads know this, which means January is depressingly spent asking the same questions, over, and over, and over again.

ME: Is your forward features list available yet?

Journalist: No, but it will be soon  

ME: In a week?

Journalist: Just keep checking the website….  

How utterly depressing.

In sickness and health?

September 18, 2007

How many of you skived of Monday and took a long weekend yesterday? As most of my peer group are relatively new to the workplace and still eager to impress managers and account leads, sick days in PR are fairly unusual. However, I don’t think wanting to impress is the only reason that PR colleagues don’t take as many days off as say general office staff/admin support.

In a recent story in the Scotsman, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said that Two out of five people who had had sick days in the last year put them down to alcohol misuse. Apparently up to 14 million working days are lost each year due to alcohol related problems in Britain. (By Alcohol related problems, I assume them mean something more medical than losing your phone and sleeping on your couch for the evening.)

Now maybe this is just PR but I have never known anyone I work with not to turn up because they were out the night before. In PR, that would be considered very bad form indeed.

Do PR’s not take as many days off as colleagues in other industries because they can handle their drink? Now that would be an interesting survey.

Beware Facebook interviews

September 7, 2007

We’ve never made any secret of just how much we love Facebook. We were beating the drum about how ‘it’s the future man’ way back when it was Uni students only, and we most definitely do not agree with ‘Facebook has sold out, it was so much better back in the day’ type guff others sometimes indulge in.

So, when you’re looking to do a piece on companies and individuals who are encouraged to use Facebook [in contrast to TfL et al, highlighted by TUC this week], Fishburn Hedges, myself, and a couple of other colleagues were natural choices. I’ll link to the BBC London piece shortly, but needless to say we offered some words of wisdom to the unsuspecting public this week.

Great stuff I hear you say? Well quite, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the approaches of randoms who had been watching at home. [but thanks for the thought, Belinda, 35, from Wembley, amongst others]. So, here’s fair warning friends: if you, or clients, discuss social networks on TV, prepare yourself for some bizarre friend requests and messages.

It’s a [social] jungle out there readers.

Sex, Drugs and Case Study Media training

September 3, 2007

There comes a time in every young PRs career when they get the call to attend a media training session. Torn from the usual place of toil, you are sent to some godforsaken place without wifi and forced to endure hours of mindless role plays.  

These were my feelings exactly as I was sent packing at 4.45 in the morning to ‘witness’ a media training for one of my accounts. As you will be only too aware if you have a public sector client, case studies are the jam that makes those client meetings, go that bit smoother. Had a poor media relations month? That double page spread in Bella with mother of two from Nottingham will save the day.

Media training for case studies is a curious business. Media training your CEO who is probably going to have to deal with that arsey journalist who just wont take no for answer, is sensible. Arming your consumer case studies with skills (or worse, ambitions) to take on Jeremy Paxman will just lead to disappointment when Woman’s Weekly calls to find out about their fulfilling, and yet very normal lives.

My recent media training trip however uncovered more than I could possibly have imagined. Desperately trying not to reveal to the 6 fresh case studies that their PR man was actually a caffeine mess, I made it to lunch through a combination of sheer will power and day dreams of scoring that stunning volley in the PR 5 aside league in Mile End.

However, a surprise was around the corner. Over lunch I chatted away to the new crop of eager media lambs and uncovered more than I could possibly have hoped.

Away from the camera lens my case studies were actually real people, had real lives and were even….quite interesting. I gleaned that one played semi professional football, another had worked in the same job for 27 years and another had made a part time career out of freelancing in films.

Consumer feature editors are forever telling me that my case studies aren’t real enough.

I now have all the beans I need, thanks to a media training trip I thought might result in my death, or someone else’s.