How do I get the respect of my client?

As a belated birthday present for the brother in law Jon, the wife and I arranged for the family to go on a tour of the Houses of Parliament which I have to say is a brilliant trip and well worth the money if you ever get the chance. The reason I mention this is because something struck me during the tour which was particularly true to my working week.

The tour guide explained that when votes are made within the house of commons this has to be done in person and manually rather than take advantage of technology. There are many reasons for this but one of the most important ones is the opportunity it presents to junior or members of the house who are lower down the food chain to actually meet and discuss their ideas with cabinet members. It offers the chance for a lesser known politician to raise the concerns of his constituents to the powers that be, in an attempt to get it on their radar as much as winning the respect of his own constituents by being able to say he has spoken to X politician and they will be looking into it.

In a week where I spent Tuesday on the road visiting a number of journalists, went for drinks in the evening with a new client to get to know the team better, took some journalists to the excellent Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House and attended a black tie dinner and party for an other client with some journalists I have again seen the value in face to face contact.

I have always been someone who prefers to pick up the phone rather than just send an email as it helps build that relationship. Unless you have spoken to a journalist on the phone or met them how can you answer your clients question of “what is X like then?” It would just be impossible to give a true and honest.

Some of the best journalists I deal with on occasions are particularly aggressive during interviews and take the stance of being argumentative. I always like this as it shows they are being professional, have done their research and are looking for a story which will be more interesting than just writing up the press release. But, this is the sort of thing I can only know from having met with them in the past, or have spoken to them on many occasions. I would not know this just from reading their work….well in most cases anyway.

But meeting face to face is not just important with journalists. Meeting clients to exchange ideas, show them the sort of person you are and to give them faith not only in your ability to generate coverage but also in your ability to represent their company as a whole.

A common moan I hear from PR professionals is X client doesn’t respect me. Well, respect has to be earned and if I was going to be paying a retainer fee I would want to feel comfortable in the abilities of said PR professional to represent my company and manage my relationships with the media in a way that won’t embarrass or hurt my company’s reputation.

Technology is vital when it comes to communicating, but in exactly the same way as at the Houses of Parliament, meeting face to face to exchange ideas, build relationships and win respect for your clients or yourself is also unbelievably important.

Oyster phones – conspiracy theory or cashless society?

Picked up a copy of tonight’s Evening Standard and saw a report about how Londoners could soon be able to using their mobile phones as both Oyster and credit cards.  Following trials by O2 and Transport for London at the O2 (dome), west end theatres and the Wireless music festival a consortium of phone makers and payment companies and transport for London to run the project.

Apparently 500 testers spent six months using a mobile wallet and made more than 50,000 tube journeys as well as buying items from shops such as Eat, Yo Sushi and my favourite Krispy Kreme.

A TFL spokesperson said it was hopeful the system would be in place soon and a 2012 Olympics spokesperson confirmed it was looking at the system for the London Games.

According to Claire Maslen of O2 “You will be able to pay for small and large items, and have the phone act as an electronic ticket for both concerts and major events. 

Is this the next step towards a cashless society?, or the next thing for conspiracy theory experts out there to get hot and sweaty about? Is this just another way to track everyones movements or just an inevitable way of making our lives easier.

I am leaning much more towards the later and am quite excited about this announcement although while reading the piece it did make me think about a more sophisticated version of the You Tube video I recently saw on Wadd’s blog about how you can remove the chip from an Oyster card and attach it to something else such as a watch.

PitchEngine – Beta social PR network

While reading ZDNet I saw a piece by Jennifer Leggio about a new beta social PR network called PitchEngine that is looking to provide simplicity for social media savvy PR people and a potential route to help us engage better with the media and reduce their number one gripe – unsolicited pitches.

The three key features of PitchEngine that it’s promoting are the social media release builder, social media newsroom and pitch feed.  How do these tools work?  According to the post on ZDNet in the following way:

Social Media Release Builder — PR pros can build SMRs with a very quick tool that allows for publishing via the PitchEngine site as well as in an iframe on a corporate site. These releases can be posted directly to Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook from within the actual SMR and can include multimedia.

Social Media Newsroom — Automates the corporate newsroom development and maintenance process.

PitchFeed — Allows bloggers / reporters to choose which pitches they will receive based on a customized RSS (it even allows the media to block brands that might be spamming them).

This all sounds great to me.  Social media is all about people having conversations online which is an obvious extention to our work in the PR industry so I am definitely going to have a look at this new tool in greater detail.  As we know the basis of good PR is relationships, with one of the most important being the one we create with the media so anything that will encourage a dialogue with them I feel should be embraced. 

I have registered to this social network tonight and intend to experiment with it over the next few weeks and will keep you updated on my progress.  I would love to hear from anyone else out there who is either actively using PitchEngine, or like me is dipping their toe into the water for the first time.

How we communicate

Sat on the train coming home from London, I picked up a discarded London Lite from the seat beside me and after chuckling to myself about how Shevchenko has returned to Milan as the biggest flop in Premiership history (£30m for 9 league goals) I came across a piece entitled “my month offline”.  What first caught my attention – apart from the cheesy picture – were the stats listed.  All PR people love a stat so I quickly ripped out the page for my “interesting bits and pieces” folder after reading:

60bn – the number of text messages sent by UK users last year
70m – the number of mobiles owned by the 61m people in the UK
£94 – the average spend on communications services per UK household per month

So far so good and then I read the bottom stat.  10 mins – the amount of time the average Briton spends using their mobile phone every day.  What?  10 mins, surely it must be higher?  Who ever produced this stat obviously has never met my wife.

Anyway, this led me to read the rest of Shahnoor Skrzypkowiak’s article in which she decided to try to survive without mod comms for a montg – no text, no email and certainly no instant messaging.  Quite an interesting topic and something I have seen a few variations of recently.

That said, half way through the piece after hearing how when she wanted to get a free ticket for a festival she had to travel across London and doorstop the organizer rather than just phone them, I started to think to myself why?  Having just spent a couple of days in deepest darkest Cornwall with my family (and the rest of the UK judging by the traffic on Monday coming home) one of the biggest things I realized was just how important these mod comms are to us all.  Without them, even the simplest job becomes such a chore.

What I actually think is more important is how we choose to use the many forms of communication tools out there.  For example it is important to know when it is better to call on the land line, when to call a mobile, when to email, when to IM, when to use Twitter or simply when to meet face to face.  All forms have a place but the important thing is how it is used to ensure they don’t become broken.

Britain’s Worst PR Agent

Entrepreneur and ‘business guru’ Guy Kingston is a man to keep an eye out for as he is on the hunt for ‘Britain’s Worst PR agent’. Kingston, who has clearly had a few bad experiences, has set up a forum on his website where dissatisfied clients can share their PR disasters.  As he so eloquently puts it “Have you had been ripped off, lied to or otherwise had your time and money wasted by a scumbag masquerading as a Public Relations agent?”

According to quotes from Kingston on the Management Today site the thing that has really got under his skin is cost: ‘Most seem to spend their time clocking up hours on projects they have invented for you rather than concentrating on delivering the results that you need’, he says. Empty promises is his other big gripe: ‘They will promise you lots of media coverage then when it doesn’t appear they simply blame you.’

I can understand his frustration if as he says in the piece he doesn’t feel he is getting value for money but it does highlight the need for an agency and client relationship to be just that a relationship.  It needs to be a two way thing to work with input from both sides.  It is essential that regular contact is maintained so the client understands exactly what you are doing and any potential pitfalls so there aren’t any surprises down the line. 

Personally, I have just got back home after a few beers with one of my clients after meeting a journalist and it is doing things such as this that help both parties get the most from the relationship.  It allows you to ask in an informal environment what they would like to see more of and what is working and also importantly what isn’t.

PR Week Twitter storm

I love the power of a good story.  On page two of PR Week was a story about how seven out of ten FTSE 100 companies are at risk of being ‘brand-jacked’ because they have left their ID unclaimed on blogging platform Twitter. The research was carried out by Cow PR who found that 69 names related to FTSE 100 companies are unregistered.

Nice piece of research and wish I had thought of it…….that was until those cheeky monkeys at Rainer got to work.  First Wadd’s realized that Cow PR had not registered their own Twitter feed and then that other scamp Matthew found that PR Week also hadn’t registered their Twitter feed.  Good work guys – I have a lot of time for this type of mischief.

That said, I thought I would also get in on the act, so I am calling you out Mr. MD of Whiteoaks, James Kelliher.  I haven’t seen you since the Isle of Wight festival and I think it is your round, so if you would like to get your hands on the Whiteoaks Twitter feed drop me a line….mine is a Magners.

How to improve your LinkedIn profile

While out for a few beers last night with some mates, that don’t work in PR, Amanda (the wife) started telling them how I had my own blog that I work on daily, I contribute to the company blog and use a tool called LinkedIn instead of FaceBook. 

At this point I tried to explain why I use the LinkedIn and what I hope to get out of doing so especially as I have been such a vocal anti-Facebook user in my circle of mates.  I don’t have a Facebook profile and am quite happy not having one.  After every horror story I hear about the dreaded social network I feel that I have taken the right stance…regardless of how sad I sound saying this.

This said, it has got me thinking about LinkedIn and why I use it today.  Initially I started using it when I was leaving my last agency when I wasn’t allowed to tell clients, journalists and other contacts where I was going but instead was expected to let them all think I had fallen off the face of the Earth.  I realized that it was a way of letting these people know where I had gone and most importantly what my new contact details were.

This said, as a PR professional I have found LinkedIn invaluable.  At Berkeley PR we use Gorkana as our media database, a service which I think is excellent, but every now and again it doesn’t have a direct line or email for a journo I want to contact.  At this point I always consult my LinkedIn to find these details.

Below are some ideas from the excellent Chris Brogan’s blog on how to get the best out of LinkedIn:

Who are you?  The headline you use is vital as this is what people see when they choose whether to accept your invite.  If you work for a company, put that name in the headline and don’t lie…..that means you Mr Recruitment agency.  When writing your summary try where possible to lead with what you do, the type of business you want to do, the reason why others would do business with you and then look at what you actually do.

As a Pr person always try to write this not only with journalists in mind but also prospective clients.  Hopefully they will read your profile and think “this is the type of person I want to lead my account”.

I have to admit that the next point is something I am quite poor at but I am trying to improve.  It is vital to keep your summary fresh by updating it every two week and your work experience sections every four weeks.  LinkedIn needs to be more than just something you add contacts to.

Recommendations, is a key part of LinkedIn but you need to be smart about using them.  Can you vouch for the person you are recommending’s abilities?  I have heard many people say that they are recommending someone in return for the one they received from someone else.  Ridiculous.
The reputation engine part of LinkedIn, is the most important part of the tool and you should only recommend people that you would work with again.  Recommendations is an extremely powerful part of LinkedIn and it is important its strength is not weakened by recommending everyone and their dog just because they ask you.

Points to always remember include:
1. Review your LinkedIn profile. Look at it as if you’re a prospective client or journalist.  Would you want to work with this person?  If not, rewrite it.
2. Ensure you include your blog address on your profile page. 
3. Always add a photo.  As a PR we have all gone to meet a journalist we have never met before so this is an important way of getting them to know what you look like.  Use a good picture.  
4. Start writing quality recommendations for people you can vouch for.
5. Grow your network. If you deal with someone on a press release, press interview or case study send a request.
6. Keep reviewing your profile and ensure it is up to date.