Tag Archives: PR

Bash the PR…

I don’t normally post work related stuff here, but here’s [yet another] exception.

Earlier this week a Nottingham blogger blogged about how he had been ignored by a PR agency hired for the launch of a new hotel. He took the very easy route of assuming that the PR agency was therefore incompetent. I tried to engage with him on Twitter, but he didn’t reply. So I thought I’d drop my thoughts here instead.

Before I start though, a few caveats:

1 – I don’t know the PR agency in question and I don’t know anything about the hotel or the launch event (I clearly wasn’t invited either). So I’m not defending anyone in particular.

2 – I don’t know the blogger, Tony. He seems to have a lot of followers on Twitter, but I’m not one of them. So nor am I attacking anyone in particular.

3 – From what little I can see (and not withstanding the below) it seems that Tony probably should have been invited to this event…

Ok, caveats over, here’s my view on this.

The Brief

Before you can pass any judgement (positive or negative) over a PR project you have to know what the brief was. Other than the agency and client in question I suspect that nobody knows the exact brief or what was considered a success for this project. It may well have been about a ‘treat’ to contacts they already knew; targeted at a very specific audience; or alternatively maybe Tony was the perfect person to be invited and they cocked up. The point is we don’t know.

The Cost

Planning a PR event guest list is a bit like wedding invitations – “We can only invite 100 people and I’d really like great Aunt Emily to come, but then we’ll have to invite her seven kids too and we don’t have room for them all.” Maybe Tony was carefully selected and was the 21st most influential person on their list – the problem was the agreed budget was only for 20 people.

Followers isn’t Influence

This is a mistake that many people make on social media – it’s an easy trap to fall into too as we’re all sold the lie and follower numbers. However influence isn’t about quantity, it’s about quality. The two most important factors are:

  • What you say
  • Who you say it to

And not, how many you say it to.

Tony may have a lot of followers, but if they aren’t the demographic that this project was designed to hit (see The Brief above), then he isn’t influential for this brand. It’s as simple as that.

In closing his piece, Tony suggested he would like to start his own PR agency as he could probably do it better. I’ll let him have these three points as his first bit of training for that.

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When do you get a PR agency?

Please excuse this post. It’s a little bit self-indulgent from me as this is my response to a conversation I was having on Twitter. I’m not even sure the people I was talking to on Twitter will read it, but here goes…

It started with this tweet.

Tweet by @chrissyfarr

And so I replied (if you follow the link above you’ll see my responses). But it got me thinking and I realised that I couldn’t say what I wanted to in 140 characters, or even in several multiples of that.

I can completely understand the sentiment behind this – a reporter has a good relationship with a founder and finds them a good source of information (about their own company, but probably about the wider sector too) and suddenly that relationship and that source disappears. We’d all be pissed off about that.

But if you look at it from the founder’s point of view – they’ve just been given a bunch of money to make a step change to their business. The money is meant to make a significant difference and suddenly the founder’s targets, requirements and responsibilities have changed dramatically. In the same way suddenly the day-to-day activities that they were doing at the previous stage are not the same day-to-day activities they need to be doing now. I can imagine that there are lots of changes and of course the money means that they can now hire people (including a PR agency) to do some of those tasks they are leaving behind.

Personally, I don’t think it’s the fact that someone else is doing the task I think it’s the way the whole thing is handled.

Too often an agency will win the business and suddenly a junior will be employed to do the media relations. The journalist goes from speaking to a senior executive that not only knows their business inside out, but also knows the sector intimately, to speaking to a junior PR exec that isn’t quite sure of their own name (or that’s how it seems). If that is coupled with the fact that the founder hasn’t done a proper handover and highlighted the journalists they already know well (possibly even sending a personal email to a few) then that is bound to piss people off and completely justifiably.

In summary: of course the founder in this situation should get people to help take over some of the workload (that’s what the money is partly for), but pick a PR agency with senior people that know what they’re doing and give them a proper handover.

– – –

Of course I would say all of this – I run a PR agency. But I’m also the founder of a start-up.


Filed under Work


I don’t really like to talk work on here, but clearly this blog is turning into a place for my ramblings about life in general and not just swimming, so here goes.

Last week we found out that the PR agency I run didn’t win a new client we were pitching for. In itself it’s not that unusual – while we pride ourselves on being good and winning lots of new business it’s true that we lose more than we win (we probably average about a 1 in 3 hit rate). However it was how and why we lost it that really annoys me.

The company is a start-up and is pre-revenue and has been doing PR for a while, but it hasn’t provided them with the breakthrough that they wanted. So they looked for alternatives. Yet when it came down to making the decision they played it safe and went back to the old agency.

Having seen the work they’d done previously it makes it even more disappointing. For some people (agencies and clients alike) PR is about writing some things and getting them published. They think it’s about output, about ticking boxes and claiming success – they think it’s about what the agency does.


PR is / should be about so much more. It’s about making a difference to the business – doing whatever it takes (from a communications point of view) to make a breakthrough. That’s especially true of a start-up.

Sometimes, although rarely in the case of a start-up, that can involve lots of writing and lots of very considered and worthy pitching to journalists. But more often it requires something different, a spark, a willingness to be bold and say and do things that get you noticed.

When you only seem to care about the output, you forget the end results. For too many PR agencies coverage is considered a result, yet it is only one step on the journey to real goal – which is usually increased sales. What you say is always more important than how often you say it – one piece of the right kind of coverage is worth more than any beautifully bound clippings books that some agencies pride themselves on. And sometimes you might not even need media coverage as it may be that the right word in the right ear makes a much bigger impact than a year’s worth of press releases.

PR agencies can and should be the catalyst for this of approach – they should match the end goals to the methods and define strategies to achieve the goals. PR agencies should be a strong creative force that drives the business forward – and don’t get me wrong, the best ones are. But too many aren’t, too many only care about their own output. But for this to happen across the board clients need to stop buying safe PR.

I wish this company well, from what I saw they have the potential to be a player in their sector. I fear that they will miss their chance though because they are afraid to be bold.

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