Tag: broadcast

SECURING NATIONAL HEADLINES

Kellingley Colliery

The success of a PR campaign and securing national headlines is directly associated to the strength of client relationships.

It’s not that you can’t do the job if you don’t get on with your client, it’s just that it makes life difficult. With a specialism like PR, you are working with a planned schedule of activity, as well as the daily news agenda.

This is when relationships really do come into their own.

Why relationships matter

Take the Coalfields Regeneration Trust as an example. We had planned to launch the State of the Coalfields 2019 report and had a schedule of activity to support this announcement. It was one of the biggest stories of the year and an import piece of work.

We had been working on the timings for months. We had the plan and the spokespeople available, we now had to liaise with all regional and national media. The story was embargoed for Wednesday 16 October, when the report would be officially launched in Westminster.

Sending this story out was no small task. Hours of work is required when you are focusing on a project like this and there is no guarantee of coverage. It’s the start of the process that you hope will lead to results.

Making things happen

On the day of the ‘sell in’ journalists asked for the story to be sent through, yet there was still no firm commitment to coverage. Frustrating but not unusual. The next day things changed. The phones didn’t stop ringing from the moment we sat down.

Broadcast wanted to arrange interviews and it was up to us to make it happen.

The client was ready to take calls throughout the day and these were planned, scheduled and arranged. It was then that we were asked for a spokesperson to be in London on Wednesday morning. The idea was that we would secure national headlines with two TV channels if the client was available.

Excellent news. All we needed to do was get the client to rearrange all of their plans to travel to London overnight to arrive first thing for an interview at 6.35am and then 10am at the studios.

This is where relationships are critical.

Working together

The client could have said no. They could have said they wanted to spend the evening with their family. They could have said it was too much money to travel to London at such short notice. It may have been that they simply couldn’t be bothered with the logistics.

The response from our client, who we have worked with for more than six years, was that this was important. It was an opportunity. It was too good to miss.

Not only did the client get on the train late at night to travel to the capital, they also did so with a smile. They were excited by the coverage we could secure as a result of this piece. At no point did they complain, suggest it was too much trouble or ask why this couldn’t be done in a different way.

Then came further calls asking for interviews down the line (on the phone) at 6.25am and 6.30am. It was back to the team at the office to ask if anyone would be willing to take the calls despite the early hour.

Again, it meant rearranging meetings and schedules, but they pulled out all of the stops to make it happen.

Celebrating success

From the minute we put the news on this morning the reports started to come in. The client’s story featured on both local TV channels (Look North and Calendar), was the lead feature on BBC Radio Sheffield and was aired on BBC Radio Five Live throughout the day.

We continued to secure national headlines as the story featured on Victoria Derbyshire and Jeremy Vine, which then led it to be syndicated across radio stations throughout the country. Again, back to the client to ask them to detour to broadcast house.

We are continuing to work on this story (literally as I type) with three clients from the office making their respective way to different interviews in varying media houses in London.

I cannot be more thankful of the relationship that we have developed over the years. Without it, we simply wouldn’t be in the position we are now; celebrating success, sharing coverage and looking forward to the next story we have to share.

For interest, here is just one link to the story we shared: https://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2019-10-16/former-coalfields-scarred-by-the-legacy-of-the-past/

AWARDS; GLORY HUNTING OR THE RECOGNITION YOU DESERVE

Whatever industry you work in there will be an awards ceremony that celebrates the success of the great and good in your sector. The same can be said for PR and I am really pleased to announce that Open Communications has been shortlisted for the Not For Profit category at the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire PRide Awards.

The awards take place tomorrow (Thursday 17 November) evening at The Queen’s Hotel in Leeds and will bring together hundreds of people from businesses and agencies throughout the two regions.

It has taken us eight years to enter the awards, not because we didn’t feel that our work was of a standard to be recognised but because, if we’re honest, we’ve spent more time submitting and winning awards for our clients.

It was only during a meeting earlier in the year that a client asked why we don’t practice what we preach, and I realised that actually awards for our own work should be as important as those of the brands that we work with.

So, what was stopping us?

Well, to be honest, we’ve never really felt that we needed awards to prove that we could do a good job – the evidence is in the results that we achieve. Then there was the fact that some awards make you feel like you’re simply glory hunting and again this isn’t really our style.

But, when it comes down to it awards do give a credibility by association and you have to be in them to win them! So, is it glory hunting or are you simply getting the recognition you deserve for the results you work so hard to achieve.

It wasn’t difficult to come up with a conclusive answer and so, we put pen to paper.

The challenge then was what to submit? We are very proud of the work that we produce and the results that we get for our clients so it was a difficult choice. We decided that we would focus on the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the only organisation dedicated to former mining towns and villages throughout the country.

We have worked alongside the team at the Coalfields Regeneration Trust for more than 2 years now and have secured hundreds of pieces of coverage, which in turn has communicated with millions of people throughout the UK.

The results are consistently strong and as a result of our work communications is very much an agenda point around the board room table. We’ve even been invited to share our work with the trustees – which is a real achievement.

We have worked with the team to develop a tone of voice, aligned their messaging and revised their three-year strategy. We have also shaped their brand and vision for the future and changed the way that they communicate with different audiences to make sure they get the return on investment both from us and their own efforts.

Although we are confident with the results we have achieved, leading the organisation most recently to secure a Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Award (2016), we know that it can go either way.

We have everything crossed and know that even if we don’t win, we have done a fantastic job and will continue to deliver for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, evolving the way that they communicate to make sure as many people as possible understand what they are trying to achieve.

That said, we’ve cleared a space on our shelf (just in case) and hope to be updating the blog with pictures of Open Communications as we pick up our very first PRide award.

Wish us luck!

Why the most ridiculous concept has become the most compelling viewing

I am a self-confessed lover of all things documentary; anything that focuses on real life and gives me an insight into the way that others live gets a thumb’s up from me. Some people say it’s because I’m nosy but if I’m honest I think it’s because I’ve always had an genuine interest in behaviour and social psychology.

During my PR degree (back in the day) one of the modules we were taught was Social Psychology and my dissertation focused on the power of positive persuasion through communications techniques when encouraging an individual to donate to charity.

Now, this is all well and good, and I expect many of you are wondering what I’m going on about but the thing is that the way people choose to communicate fascinates me, the way that individuals interact, engage and share messages in so many different ways.

All this said, I never for one second thought that a television concept which revolves entirely around people watching people watching TV (did you get that?) would catch on, never mind be of any interest to me what-so-ever.

And this my friends is where I was wrong, very wrong.

Gogglebox, for those of you who haven’t seen it, is a programme which features every Friday night at 9pm on Channel 4. It shows the reactions of families in houses up and down the country to news, films, soaps and general TV viewing and it is brilliant.

Image source: Channel4

The idea is that you watch how each of these families reacts in their own environment. Obviously the production team have chosen very different and interesting characters to make it all the more compelling with ‘the couple’ who own a bed and breakfast and spend much of their time drinking to a tea swilling vicar, her husband and dog or the friends who eat a takeaway fit for a small street between them, right through to the loveable Leon and his wife June.

When I first came across the programme I expected to dismiss it as rubbish but beyond the laughs and giggles that are to be expected as a result of a programme like this, there is a very thought provoking analysis that each of these households, despite in some instances being just a few miles apart, interact very differently.

The way that each family engages and even addresses each other, to what they eat and wear, along with the comments they make about the programmes, which can be anything from politics to prison break, result in varying degrees of discussion.

What I find really insightful is that in most instances the families are communicating the same feelings on a given topic – some through debate, others a single gesture such as a nod or grunt and others with borderline argument, despite them actually agreeing with each other.

I wouldn’t like to think that the producers introduced more elaborate people to the show, making it more of a Big Brother spin-off, as I feel the characters that currently feature provide a really good balance. Adding any more extremes would make it less credible and I like the fact that ‘normal’ people are giving their opinions about everyday topics; it simply makes it all the more inviting.

It’s almost a modern version of Points of View but filmed in ‘real time’ as it happens, and then aired at a later date.

Well done to Channel4 for such a compelling show with so many layers of intrigue and entertainment value, other stations really should be considering how they compete with a programme that is so widely liked by such a diverse demographic.

I’m already excited by the prospect of what will feature in Friday’s show and for any PR people out there, when your coverage features and is discussed you know you’ve made it. Never mind Have I Got News For You, the challenge is now Gogglebox!

 

A tragedy played out on twitter

 

While following some business hashtags on twitter on Monday evening, I quickly realised that I had inadvertently stumbled across a global disaster – the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Showing in real time the updates, imagery and videos I was shocked to see and hear what was happening at the other side of the world.

I can’t recall a similar instance where announcements on the news were following updates across social media sites. Some of the posts were raw with the terror from those involved and it was awful to know that people were in that position and there was little that could be done to help them.

Twitter quickly came into its own during this event for the good of the situation with the Boston Marathon online registrations and finishing times being used by relatives to find out if they had completed the race. Google quickly developed a ‘person finder’ to help relatives to locate their missing relatives – an ingenius and inspired idea.

The Boston Globe, the local newspaper in the Boston area, quickly started to report from the scene posting regularly across twitter. As the news unfolded the posts came in thick and fast. There’s no doubt that social media can lead to speculation or presumption but in this instance people seemed content to share updates as they were received and to send messages of genuine concern.

What caught my attention most was the response from the media to find out who was posting the images and videos and request that they have permission to use them across their own mediums. Again, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a good example of amateur footage being used across the global news channels.

A piece which appeared in the Drum yesterday gives a good review of how the news updates were posted and shared across social media. It’s almost scary to see how quickly the situation was reported as a result of real time feeds.

Needless to say my heart absolutely goes out to those who were involved and particularly those who lost their lives. This was an event that would once have been a national disaster – yet thanks, in part, to social media it has become a global tragedy and I think I speak for the majority when I say that we are all collective in our grief for what has happened however it was reported.

A hoax too far

The recent news about the untimely death of a hospital worker who had unwittingly answered and transferred a hoax call from an Australian radio station sent a chill down my spine. Not only do I think, like many others, that this was a tragic waste of a life but that it will also go on to affect many others including the presenters involved, who we can presume are soon to be unemployed.

When the news first broke about the transfer of the call from reception through to the nurses who were responsible for the care of the Duchess of Cambridge I have to be honest, I was beyond shocked. My first reaction was to wonder why appropriate measures weren’t in place to ensure that this couldn’t and wouldn’t happen?

The hospital is used to dealing with high profile patients and should be accustomed to taking calls that may be obscure or even unsolicited. It strikes me as strange that even at 5.30am there was no process in place to manage this.

I would have expected that all calls would have been managed in a similar way to how a PR agency would manage a crisis. When we work with clients we put a simple but effective procedure in place to ensure that all calls are handled professionally and efficiently. It works and it means that we are able to respond in a timely fashion – but at the same time it also takes the onus off the receptionist or internal team, leaving them to get on with their day to day roles.

In this case it would seem that this was not possible, leading to the most devastating of outcomes.

The more serious side to this ‘prank’ was that it should never have been discussed never mind considered to be a good idea. I’ve laughed at prank phone calls before, you know the ones:

Caller: Can I speak to Ivor please?

Person on the line: Ivor who?

Caller: Ivor Biggan

Person on the line: Ivor Biggan, does anyone know Ivor Biggan…

I would be lying if I didn’t think these calls made me giggle but at the same time they are by all intense and purpose completely harmless. The difference with a call to a hospital is that for one you are calling an establishment knowing that people are there for a reason – because they are ill. That can never be funny.

By the time the call was made the world was aware that the Duchess was pregnant but also that she had been admitted to hospital with a potentially serious illness, which has been known in cases to lead to the loss of a child. Now, call me overly sensitive, but that can never be funny!

In my opinion the call was inappropriate in the first instance but the presenters took it one stage too far when asking after the health of the Duchess. What if something terrible had happened? What if she had suffered a miscarriage and as a result of this misguided joke these presenters were the first to find out? I fail to see the humour in that outcome, which at any time during this situation was a very real possibility.

The presenters in this case are likely to regret their actions for the rest of their lives and their hoax call will certainly go down in history – but for all the wrong reasons. This story just goes to show how powerful the media can be and the obligation that broadcasters have to consider the outcome of any fun they choose to have before going ahead.

There must be a producer involved in this case somewhere, although they appear to be keeping their heads down. This is a sad case of bad judgement which has led to the Christmas of at least three families being ruined. Let’s hope other ‘pranksters’ will take note and think twice before acting on an impulse.

Don’t presume to know that you know it all

This morning I had the opportunity to attend a Yorkshire Mafia event; Business Breakfast, Write Your Own Headlines delivered by Mary Askew, a former news writer and BBC broadcast journalist. 

People may be wondering why a PR professional with more than 15 years of experience would need to know how to write a press release and what to look out for when working with the media. Well, I will explain. It’s because I don’t believe you can ever know enough about the industry you work in and I’m always interested to hear what other professionals have to say and how they deliver to an audience.

As it happens the event was interesting and insightful, better still it was jargon free. I thought Mary did a great job of keeping the audience interested with examples, imagery and anecdotes. Geoff Major, a businessman and charity ambassador that many of you will know, was even interviewed live to camera. The presentation was clear and concise and I found that some of the ideas were an interesting take on what we already do here at Open Comms. It never hurts to try new things and we will be putting some of the lessons learnt into practice.

I also thought that although I didn’t agree with everything that was said – let’s be honest for a PR and journalist to agree on everything would be a little strange – I did understand the points and why they were being presented.

I don’t want to give too much away because I would recommend that people take the time to go to a session with Mary if they get the chance but needless to say if you need the basics, and a little bit more, then it’s worth a couple of hours out of the office.

Once again, a great session offered by the Yorkshire Mafia and an event that genuinely adds value to smaller businesses who want to manage their own PR and generate their own headlines.