Meet the media: Peter Hay, PR Week

Peter Hay, PR Week

This week my meet the media interview has a slightly different spin as it is with Peter Hay, digital editor of PR Week. Peter has an interesting position in the media, where he writes about the subject that he gets to see real life examples of daily.

Every time I run these interviews the one major fact that comes out is that most journalist get I get a lot of untargeted emails. I thought that surely someone who works for the industry trade title wouldn’t suffer the same fate…..unfortunately this simply wasn’t true.

Name: Peter Hay
Title I work for: PRWeek

Paul Stallard: What is the best way to contact you?
Peter Hay: I think this depends on the urgency and timing. I work on the early morning news run so afternoons, in general, are better than mornings. I’m happy for it to be via email, Twitter or phone but if there is a lot to say, sometimes it’s better to email the general information and I can call you back if it’s something we would like to run. A link to a relevant web page can be quick and efficient, where appropriate.

PS: Do you think that most PR professionals read the title you write for before contacting you?
PH: We’re in a fortunate position at PRWeek in terms of working with PROs. In our case I think many PR professionals read our publication as it directly interests and relates to them and so understand it before contacting us.

PS: Have you ever done any PR work and if yes what was the experience like?
PH: I worked in a couple of in-house roles, after I graduated, in the fashion and book publishing industries. It was enjoyable and in both cases my place there allowed me to develop skills I still use now – especially in terms of writing and understanding how the PR industry operates.

PS: What is your top tip for PR professionals?
PH: Please don’t send enormous files via email, it’s a little frustrating.

PS: How many emails / calls do you get a day?
PH: I’m sure more than is necessary. I get a lot of untargeted emails and several irrelevant calls a day but that is all par for the course I guess.

PS: How has the increase of social media affected traditional journalism?
PH: I think it has had a huge impact on the way journalists report and operate.

Firstly, you have to be much quicker in getting your story out there, which increases the need for online as a conduit to facilitate this.

Secondly, as a news stream, platforms such as Twitter can be great for picking up on what’s going on in the world before it has broken in the mainstream media. This democratises the way in which journalists obtain stories.

Thirdly, you can really broaden your own audience if you’re active within social media. The more you put into it, the more interest you’ll generate and the more you’ll engage with your audience. It can take some effort but I feel it’s worth it.

PS: Have you had to change your writing style for online copy to incorporate SEO?
PH: Before the BBC started talking about the length of their headlines, we at PRWeek had already established the form of extending ours to allow more SEO keywords where they mattered. This has proved successful for us over the past several months in terms of growing traffic.

In terms of style, short, punchy copy has always been the way we write for online when producing morning web news.

PS: Is there a future long term for hard copy publications or will online rule?
PH: I think there is always a future for the physical. I spend a lot of my time online but I still like to go home and pick up a book or a magazine with a cup of tea.

Life online can be convenient and technology can really assist in making processes of assimilating large quantities of information faster but there always needs to be something in the three-dimensional world to occupy and entertain.

PS: Bar your own, which news titles do you read?
PH: Not surprisingly a lot of my reading is done online so I have a RSS stream of news –based information coming through to me.

Generally I dip into areas of the Independent, the Guardian and the Times that I find interesting. As a guilty pleasure, I read the Daily Mail online for its celeb gossip – they really are the best at reporting these stories in my view.

Blogs also feature highly in my reading, not least because I need to source good tech PR blogs for the technology page, which I co-write for the magazine.

My reading is quite organic and time-dependent, so I take recommendations from friends/followers on various social media platforms via links.

PS: What is your favourite restaurant/coffee house for briefings?
PH: I really like afternoon tea, one of my favourite things, so Patisserie Valerie on Old Compton Street suits me well for less formal meetings – it can become a smidge loud in there! For a quieter setting, the Charlotte Street Hotel is perfect.

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Why do so few PR professionals blog?

Similar to most people I was very lucky to get a load of books for Christmas and am slowly working my way through them. Two of them –Bit of a blur by Alex James and Gonzo the life of Hunter S Thompson by Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour – have been writen in a style that reminds me of blog writing. Instead of chapters there are a series of posts based around subjects or by different contributors.

The result is that the books were both engageing and easy to read. Mainly because they got straight to the point and there is no filling just to hit word counts. I found it particularly interesting that this style of writing is becoming more prevelant at a time when so many PR bloggers are abandoning their blogs in favour of Twitter.

Writing is a skill that requires exercising and blog writing allows someone to share ideas and find their voice which is why I think it is such a shame that so many people are abandoning their blogs. I recently reviewed Matthew Watson’s top PR blog list and realised that most don’t write about PR or blog so infrequently it is hardly worth visiting from month to month.

Some of the top thinkers in our industry first tested their ideas on blogs to get input or formalise ideas before they unleashed them in fantastically successful books. Robert Scoble, David Meerman Scott and Seth Godin are just three faboulous examples of authors and thinkers who trialed ideas on their blogs before going on to release best selling books.

If these guys recognise the power of blogs and mainstream books are now copying this style of writing, why are so many UK PR professionals not bothering with this medium?

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Buying PR: Paul Callow, marketing director of Lexmark

Paul Callow, Lexmark

Paul Callow, Lexmark

I have a geeky respect for the print industry dating back to the first account I ever worked on when I started in PR (Xerox). As a result I was keen to speak with Paul Callow, marketing director at Lexmark after meeting him on Twitter and see if he would take part in my buying PR series.

So after a short summer break, the series is back and Paul offers some interesting insight into the relationship between PR agency and client side.

Name and title: Paul Callow, marketing director UK & Ireland
Company and what it does: Lexmark International Ltd, manufacturer of printers and printing solutions.

Paul Stallard: Have you ever worked at a PR agency?
Paul Callow: No.

PS: What role does PR have within your marketing mix and to helping you personally?
PC: PR is vital to our communications with Customers and the various sales Channels. We have limited marketing dollars to spend so quality PR helps us get messaging out, hopefully in a concise and clear manner.

PS: What most annoys you about PR agencies?
PC: Occasionally I feel that our agency has a view on a particular subject for the sake of having a view. Generally our agency adds value through innovation, good ideas and long term experience.

PS: What are the basic skills a PR agency should have?
PC: Deep understanding of the client, it’s products and services, unique selling points and features and the client’s Customers. The agency should be well connected and up to date with the most relevant and recent communication techniques.

PS: Do you think that social media is now part of modern PR?
PC: I didn’t really until I went on a SM course a few weeks ago. Since the course I have started tweeting (hence how we met) and I can now see many ways that SM can help me get my brand in front of Customers and potential Customers. It’s cheap too!

PS: Does your PR agency help with this or do you outsource your requirements to a specialist consultancy?
PC: They help with some aspects such as training and within the terms of our contract they conduct some SM on our behalf (such as LexmarkUK on twitter).

PS: What is the one thing that PR people say that annoys you?
PC: Having an opinion on something just for the sake of it! Continue reading

Pitching the media

Bill Murray says...

Bill Murray says...

Following a post the other day about a new tool I found online which offered junior or budding PR professionals the chance to have their media pitches reviewed I set one of my team about trying it out. I felt it was a cool concept but didn’t want to just write about it without trailing it. I had initially said that I would show the results on the Berkeley PR blog but decided in the end to not bother.

Why? Well to put it simply it does exactly what it says on the tin…sucks.

After preparing a pitch, my colleague emailed it to them and waited for his feedback. This arrived in the form of an email saying, thanks for the pitch but we no longer offer this service….but we can review it for a fee.
Cool concept but unfortunately not quite the response I was expecting. So if you are a student or someone thinking about how to pitch the media I wouldn’t bother with this site and would instead recommend that you read some of my meet the media interviews. The personal touch always goes a lot further and if have listened to a journalist and know what they are looking for writing a pitch is always that bit easier.

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Social PR Forum: Sam Barrett, Oxfam

Sam Barratt, Oxfam

Sam Barrett, Oxfam

I am very proud to be a media partner of the exciting forthcoming Social PR Forum taking place in London on 4th December at RIBA. The event is looking to bring together people from our industry to address the issues surrounding PR and the social media space, how they are impacting on each other and how PR professionals can relate and work effectively within the new challenges web 2.0 communication channels bring.

In the run up the event some of the speakers have agreed to answer five short questions to help give people a taste of what to expect at the conference. First up is

Sam Barrett, Head of Media at Oxfam where he is responsible for Oxfam’s media work in 80 countries around the world.  Based at the headquarters in Oxford, the Oxfam media team delivers across Oxfam’s international media campaigns on climate change, humanitarian disasters, aid and debt and delivers PR for Oxfam‘s fundraising initiatives and shop network.

Q1. Why has social networking and other social media meant PR strategies need to change?

People no longer want to just be told what is happening but want to choose who they hear it from, when and then either ignore it, share it or criticise it with others. PR work is now so much more diffuse with the big beast of TV now being challenged by online.

Q2. What is your top tip for using social networks with brand PR?

Little and often and remember its a candid conversation rather than predictable corporate noise.

Q3. How do you keep your social media program accountable in terms of time and keeping the balance?

This is really difficult to answer as there is enough to do without even more. My best guess for the moment is to try and just focus down on 3 main projects which should be considered as iterative prototypes that you really push. In terms of day to day, keep wordpress open on the desktop to blog on a couple of themes as you go and twitter is a great place to begin for those that are intimidated by blogging.

Q4. Online PR – is it adapt or die?

For a large chunk of under 30s probably yes, for others probably no.

Q5. How important is understanding SEO to modern PR professionals?

It should be but it often sits in the awkward place between departments  and probably needs to be grabbed by the PR team.

Watch this space for forthcoming interviews

Matthew Fraser, Senior Fellow at INSEAD

Phil Szomszor, Head of Digital, Citigate Dewe Rogerson

Dirk Singer, co founder, Cow

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Meet the Media – Guy Clapperton

Source: Guy Clapperton

Source: Guy Clapperton

This weeks Meet the Media interview is with a freelance journalist whom I have the upmost respect for, Guy Clapperton. To say I was delighted that Guy agreed to take part in my series of interviews would be an understatement and his answers are a brilliant example of why I started this series in the first place.

It isn’t just a platform for journalists to say what PR professionals do wrong but an opportunity to explain how to work better. The tips that Guy has listed are a must read for anyone who wants to understand the pressures of a freelance journalist. These have come from his unique position of having been at the forefront of his profession for many years and also the training courses that his company offers PR professionals/clients. Enjoy.

Name: Guy Clapperton
Titles I regularly work for: Guardian, Times, Independent, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Express, ComputerActive specials, loads – mainly people who throw money at me!

Paul Stallard: What is your pet hate of PR?
Guy Clapperton: That would usually depend on what’s been happening to me just lately. At the moment I’ve had three people in the last week approaching me to work as a speaker or panelist at a conference – and then letting it slip that they’re expecting me to work for nothing. One of them this week accused me of being personally disrespectful when I asked her whether she was being paid for her time approaching me (and if so, why should I work for her for zippo?) She was wrong to be offended, I’d paid her the basic respect of telling her where she was going wrong and why no self-respecting freelance would work for nothing. The idea that we should really gets to me. I’m not above doing freebies of course; if it’s in a cause in which I believe, if it’s for a mate starting a business who needs a bit of content then I’ll help and have done so recently. I’ve been a Bafta juror without payment because I loved doing it and frankly I was honoured to be asked by a body like that. But using my experience and whatever skills I have to add value to something aimed at adding value to a commercial business without any benefit to me is plain crazy, and please don’t tell me about benefits of networking and exposure if you’re being paid to organise an event – you could get the same benefits but you’re being paid! Continue reading

Meet the media – Christine Horton, Channel Pro

Source: Christine Horton

Source: Christine Horton

Dennis Publishing has recently added to its online portfolio with its latest launch – Channel Pro. Christine Horton has been charged with launching and steering this new title so I was keen to contact her and see if she would be interested in taking part in my Meet the Media series.

Thankfully Christine agreed and I think you will enjoy the results. Christine talks candidly about having to change her writing style with SEO in mind and how they look to use words in headlines that will attract visitors to the site.

Name: Christine Horton
Title I  work for: Channel Pro – a new website from Dennis Publishing focusing on the UK ICT channel. It is targeted at distributors, resellers and everyone involved in the channel.

Paul Stallard: What is your pet hate of PR?
Christine Horton: Phoning me to check that I received a press release! If you emailed it to me, then yes I’m sure I received it! And you included your contact details on it, so I will contact you if I need any more information… It’s just a bit of a distraction getting those types of calls, really.

PS: What is the best way to contact you?
CH: Email please. I am producing most of the content for Channel Pro at the moment, and I’m rather busy, so I would rather respond to my email when I get a chance! Continue reading