The PR Guru

August 2, 2012


Finding and training the next generation of PR gurus is a problem for the industry at the moment.

Like many PR agencies, we are often approached by recent graduates looking for work experience, usually to help them eventually find work in marketing or journalism. We have often organised placements for between one and three months – in a couple of cases for people on journalism degree courses at Staffordshire University, who need to gain industry experience in their final year to help them graduate.

We’re pleased to say that many of them have gone on to find full-time jobs in PR and marketing, often finishing their placement early as they’ve found paid work earlier than expected. I like to think their placements here have made a big difference to their job prospects, although I don’t want to take all the credit 🙂

Over the past few months though we’ve pulled back from temporary placements, because I found it was taking up too much of my time – instead of giving me more time to focus on my campaigns (and bring in more business), I was actually using it creating work for them to do, and training them up.

This wasn’t a good use of my resources, because they were only with me for a short time. There were limitations on how much responsibility I wanted to give them, and how far I wanted to go with the training, because they were likely to leave within weeks when a paid position was offered to them.

That could be about to change though. I’m off to an event in Birmingham on Monday to find out more about PR apprenticeships. They are available through Pearson in Practice and the PRCA, and last for up to 18 months.

Training is available nationwide, through the PRCA, and starts in September. The apprentice ends up with plenty of industry experience and a Level 4 qualification – equivalent to the first year of a degree – and the employer (whether they are an agency or any other type of organisation) has a PR person on their workforce for at least a year – at a fraction of the cost of employing someone who’s already well into their career.

You will need to invest in training – unless the apprentice is aged 16 to 18, in which case the training is subsidised – and of course their wages. The apprentice wage at the moment is £2.60 per hour, and an increase due to come in on October 1st which lift that to £2.65.

At 37.5 hours a week, that would add up to under £5200 for the year – at least three times less than you could expect to pay someone with two or three years experience.

It’s a no-brainer for PR companies, in my view. It presents a great opportunity to grow without having to make a major investment in wages. And it gives graduates a chance to gain real experience in PR, rather than a month here and there.

Monday’s event is at Malmaison, at The Mailbox, and kicks off at 8am. If you can’t make it to Birmingham, there are others in Bristol and Brighton next week.

For more information contact Erika Smallridge at Pearson in Practice on 0845 055 6404 or

Look forward to seeing you there!




June 28, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — richardswancott @ 5:00 pm
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A few weeks ago I wrote about the need for PR companies to diversify and offer more services or risk being consigned to the scrap-heap.

With that in mind we’ve been working tirelessly to develop our own service portfolio and provide clear returns on our clients’ investments.

Many of them are connected with traditional PR and have been part of our offering already, but we’ve never said anything official about them:

  • Social media: we will set up and maintain profiles on all relevant social networking sites, but we will go much further than that – we guarantee our work will generate at least 300 unique visits to a customer’s site in the three month period of the campaign. It’s all well and good to build a following and engage with them, but if it doesn’t ultimately have an impact on your business, is it really worth it?
  • Search engine optimisation: we will define the best keywords to use in our SEO campaign, based on what people type in on Google when looking for your products/services, and then write and distribute up to 30 articles in three months to improve your search engine performance. We guarantee your site will feature on page five or above for at least one key search phrase by the end of the campaign.

Alongside that we are now offering much more direct marketing services to complement the softer approach of PR:

  • Email marketing: we will design your newsletter/other email promotion and write the content to ensure you get a response from the campaign. We can use your data, or source it for you. The promotions will be sent to up to 20000 email addresses, with a guaranteed click-through rate based on the size of the database.
  • Telemarketing: we will write a winning script, sourcing data (or using your own), and will continue making calls until we have organised 10 quality appointments, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes us – we’ll keep going until we hit that target.

As ever, our guarantees are all money-back guarantees, so if we don’t perform (and get results quickly) you would be fully entitled to ask for your money back. Thankfully we have never had to write a refund cheque in more than eight years of business (*touches any kind of wood he can find in the office*).

Please feel free to contact us if you’d like more information on these, or any of our other services, which include copy-writing and event management.

We’ll be adding more services too, so pop back soon for more news!


April 30, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — richardswancott @ 6:37 pm
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I spotted an article in industry mag AdAge earlier on how more PR companies are turning to media buying – basically using their contacts to secure good advertising deals for their clients – to earn a crust, and it struck a chord with me. It also reminded me of a blog I posted a few weeks ago, on the future of PR.

The PR industry is going to look very different in a few years, as the more traditional methods of raising a client’s profile (i.e. newspapers and magazines) are going to be increasingly thin on the ground. In my opinion though, we can still use our contacts and abilities if we focus on the strength of the story.

That’s why a move into media buying, which is what some PR companies in the US are doing, grates with me slightly. They are crossing over to the dark side and jumping into bed with the advertising departments, which creates a conflict – they are not concentrating on the strength of the story, but on the strength of their dollars.

For me, that takes away the whole reason for doing PR in the first place – to create an interesting story and establish credibility for our clients.

We are diversifying too, but in different ways. We are branching into new media, and offering podcasts, videocasts and live webinars to our clients, promoting them as industry experts and putting the story at the heart of the campaign – because if we don’t have an interesting story, no-one will listen!

And we are building on our market research, SEO and social media offerings, focussing on engagement, driving traffic to our clients’ websites, and protecting their reputations.

This is the way forward for PR. Let’s not start sleeping with the enemy.

April 27, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — richardswancott @ 5:17 pm
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It’s important for PR companies – all companies in fact – to differentiate themselves from the competition.

There are various ways they can do that.

They can demonstrate great results, produce client testimonials, and offer different services, which would all be good reasons to choose them over other PR companies. Or they can offer great money-back guarantees and performance-related payments.

We do all of those things, and while that does give our clients confidence that we know what we’re doing, they are all elements we are in control of, and for that reason arguably have a reduced value.

In the majority of cases, it’s us saying how great we are – which all companies should do, of course. But it’s very easy for us to do that, and if we were inclined to – and we’re not, I hasten to add – we could manipulate that to suit our own interests.

That’s why we’ve gone for the ISO9001 accreditation. We’ve worked very closely with Wayne Pearce at Eaglet Business Systems to put systems in place to demonstrate that we do what we say we’re going to do.

We now have systems in place for record-keeping, accounting, and even purchasing our pens!

But more importantly our PR process – the one we use to deliver our guarantees and generate great media coverage for our clients, which is unique to us (as every PR company’s is, because we all have our own ways of doing things), is down on paper and has been audited by an independent body.

And they will be auditing regularly to make sure we are sticking to our processes.

We have no control over what they say. So the lovely new certificate, which has now taken pride of place on our wall, is someone else’s stamp of approval that we stick to our promises.

And, as far as we know, that is something no other UK PR company has.

So there you are, one more thing which makes us different from other PR companies 🙂

April 12, 2012


In my quieter moments I often think about the future of public relations and PR companies in general. Sad, I know, but true!

Unfortunately PR has got its claws into me now! It’s something I’m very passionate about, and something I want to still be around in 50+ years time.

The industry is facing a number of challenges at the moment, most notably the increasing competition for marketing spend, and the decline of the traditional media. But our biggest challenge is defining the term ‘public relations’ and showing it’s more than just getting your face in the paper.

This is something we’ve struggled with from Day One, something we’ve never really communicated to the public at large. If we don’t get to the bottom of this, PR could be increasingly marginalised in years to come.

PR needs to be more direct, more measurable.

While newspapers, magazines and other traditional media outlets will continue to downsize or disappear, the proliferation of the web and digital marketing will continue and this offers us an opportunity. It will enable us to generate coverage more quickly, in more titles than before, and have a greater impact on traffic to client websites.

As my colleague Dan Winchester says, we need to embrace search engine optimisation: “SEO is increasingly about building media and blog links, and driving social signals. PR companies are well-placed to be doing this. And getting your client to the top of Google could well be more valuable than conventional coverage.”

We must also develop our offering to communicate directly with our clients’ stakeholders, making greater use of social and new media, email and the good old telephone. Podcasting, viral gaming and film are all concepts we have to consider and add into the mix.

Miki Haines-Sanger, from Golden Goose PR, said: “A large part of our role is to rely on our ability to listen and interact with them in the same way that they talk to one another: through social media and networking. 

“Whether they are spending all their time on websites or forums however, or within family or community groups, people will still consume the news via instant news alerts, radio, tv and publications (print or digital) and we can’t forget that the voices that carry the news – whether it’s citizen journalists, columnists or news readers – need to be informed of relevant and non-commercial messages. 

“That is where PR shows its true value.” 

The beauty of PR is it’s subtlety, but that’s also it’s downfall. We must continue to embrace that, while also providing better value for money for our clients.

The only way we can do that is by continuing to evolve and demonstrating the impact of our campaigns more effectively.

I’ll leave the last word to Dave Morgan: “If you think it’s just about getting coverage in newspapers, then yep, maybe PR is dead because newspapers won’t be around forever.

“If you think it’s about enhancing the reputation of your client then nope, it’s probably not dead as long as there’s still some clients who care about their reputation.”

It’s going to be an interesting few years in the world of PR, that’s for sure.

Thanks to Dan, Miki and Dave for their contributions.

December 2, 2009

PR Coaching Programme – What Should I Call It?

I’ve had a fabulous response to yesterday’s announcement on the PR coaching programme.

I mentioned it at BNI this morning and three or four of my fellow networkers said what a good idea they thought it was. I may even have a couple of people signed up already!

And I’ve had some hits from the local media too. Six to be precise, including Midlands Business News.

So it’s encouraging, but I need to do what many PR agencies in Staffordshire fail to do – promote myself effectively. I should point out that I’m not suggesting this is just a Staffordshire problem! It affects PR firms everywhere 🙂

It’s bizarre and ironic that PR companies – the ones always telling other companies how to raise their profile – aren’t very good at doing it for themselves.

I am working on some coverage in The Sentinel, but they’ve asked me to come up with an idea for an image! Surely that’s their job? They are the photographers!

And I’ve done an interview with Staffordshire Life which should be published in a couple of weeks.

But I need to maintain that momentum and I’m thinking of organising a launch event for the beginning of January. What do you think? I’ve heard of (and managed a few) product launches – but service launches????

I’m also struggling for a name for it – what do you reckon? I’d welcome your suggestions…

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