Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Spin Crowd

Reading newspapers and online news sites as part of the job can leave you feeling a bit deflated by the end of the week (depending on the headlines of course). That was why it was with great relief that the Uniquethinking team discovered a lighthearted reality show about an American PR company on TV.

While it might seem to some that there are worthier things to post about at the moment, there are rarely, if ever, documentaries or programmes based around PR and Uniquethinking was intrigued to see how the industry would be portrayed.

Cue some chocolate, a glass of wine and the latest entertainment offering from across the pond, E!’s The Spin Crowd.

The show is a mixture of the Hills, the Devil Wears Prada and Keeping up with the Kardashians (no surprise considering Kim Kardashian produces it) and follows the trials and tribulations of CommandPR West fronted by Jonathan Cheben and Simon Huck.

Within ten minutes, it is clear that the show is reality drama at its best (or worst depending on your view point) with some scenes, hopefully, created for entertainment's sake, such as Jonathan asking an employee to get her lips injected to improve her appearance. It’s undeniable that hard work does take place when the camera isn’t rolling and the team manage to pull off every event without so much as a hair out of place.

Some scenes do seem ridiculous, but delve deeper and the show illustrates some very important PR lessons.

  • Contacts are essential. For Jonathan and his team this consisted of starlets in the form of Kelly Rowland, Mel B and Kelly Osbourne, but this can still apply to the smaller company. Networking is key for developing your business contacts and social media sites such as LinkedIn can further help you.
  • Never say never. With only a day to plan and promote a charity event for Kelly Osbourne, the team, though a little concerned, duly got down to it and produced another successful event. Flexibility is key. If strategies are too rigid and client types too defined an opportunity can pass the small business by.
  • A clear command structure is needed. CommandPR seemed to suffer from a lack of HR skills as employees bickered and resented Jonathan’s sometimes heavy handed approach to leadership. Though this may have been for the benefit of the cameras, it is still an important lesson to learn. Staff need to feel valued, yet know who the boss is, in order to lead to increased productivity and a happier work environment.

The show is over the top, granted, and it does leave you with a sense of concern for the stereotyping of the PR industry. However when taken in the context that it is purely an entertainment show, it becomes easier to digest.

A word of warning to people starting out in PR: don't get into it expecting this. While it is fun, it's an air-brushed version of what the day to day job entails.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

PR and ... Bloggers

The traditional PR role has certainly changed over the last decade, with the PR professional facing new demands on their knowledge and use of social media and the internet. It wasn't so long ago that the PR professional had only the journalist to liaise with but with social media and bloggers having the opportunities to break news stories faster than the journalist, it’s clear that this is no longer the case.

While the relationship between the PR world and the journalist is well established and defined, the blossoming relationship with the professional blogger is less so and has led to some conflicts between the two.

A clear case in mind, is that of Muireann Carey-Campbell of bangsandabun.com who provided the PR world with a lesson in her article entitled ‘The tale of PR and the blogger’. Muireann had been approached by a PR company, working with their client Nokia, to run a half marathon at one of the Nokia events and blog about it. In return Muireann was promised many things, none of which materialised.

While said PR company did apologise, it did not help to build relationships, as it left many feeling that PR professionals saw bloggers as inferior to more established contacts i.e. in Muireann’s own words “a Guardian journalist”.

In an article by PR week, BitchBuzz.com founder Cate Sevilla made a key point in how interactions between the two could be improved, she called for PR professionals to better understand the blogger.

Having read other blogs on the topic, such as contently-managed.com and havealovelytime.com, that key message of understanding is a recurrent theme.

Key areas:

Bloggers often have a large scope and audience and like any other media type, need to be understood and targeted effectively. For example, you would not send a media release about the appointment of a new managing director at a law firm to a publication devoted to news about restaurants.

As PR Week recently highlighted, there are many different types of bloggers and you should take the time to make sure that you understand which type you are about to approach.

They also want it to be made clear that you have read their blog and understand what they are about; a bog standard BCC media release will not have much appeal to someone who receives many emails a day.

Finally, as the above case highlighted, a relationship between the PR person and a blogger should be treated as a professional relationship, they should be treated as you would a journalist or client. Communication is key and deals should not be backed out of.

Above all make time to build relationships. In these days of social media and increased online content, the professional blogger has a lot of influence.