Early this month I had the pleasure of working on the PR campaign to launch the Science Museum’s major new exhibition, ‘Collider: step inside the world’s greatest experiment’ – a recreation of CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider. A rare appearance by Nobel laureate Professor Peter Higgs turned the press launch into a sort of science version of a One Direction concert…
Securing the appearance of a shy and retiring (and incredibly charming and modest) scientist, one who had famously ‘gone AWOL’ during the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Physics last month, resulted in a mini media mob in attendance ready to capture his picture and response to his recent Nobel win.
After the flurry of photo opps and a press Q&A, Higgs left the building and other press and guests were free to explore the Science Museum exhibition and reflect on the increased public appetite for such an abstract and challenging a subject as particle physics. Video artist Finn Ross, who had overseen the striking video art within the exhibition, summed up the craziness of the morning by declaring the media interest in Peter Higgs as “like watching your grandad turn into Rihanna!”
It certainly bore out when media coverage, bolstered again by a launch day talk by an even more famous scientist Professor Stephen Hawking, started poring in – a front page story from The Independent (featuring ‘the Rihanna of physics’), BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, ITV News, Metro, Evening Standard, the Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail Online, Financial Times, The Economist, New Statesman, Huffington Post, Prospect Magazine, dozens of news sites nationally, regionally and, reflecting the truly global interest in this experiment and project, internationally.
The exhibition is enjoying a run of 4 and 5 star reviews, with plenty of pun-heavy (“smashing show”) headlines (favourite? the Evening Standard’s ‘Let’s get this particle started‘…).
‘Collider’ is at the Science Museum, London, until 6 May 2014.
I love my job. Last week I got to meet a man who was the subject of my first year dissertation at university (and I told him about it – oh dear…) – legendary actor Sir Michael Caine.
I’d been working hard on the PR campaign for the Museum of London’s new ‘Michael Caine’ exhibition which celebrates the life and work of the iconic Londoner, from Cockney rebel to Hollywood star. And as he turns 80 today, that has made the media appetite for Caine even greater.
Alongside the exhibition, Michael Caine was awarded Freedom of the City of London in a ceremony held at the museum – a rare break from tradition as they are usually performed inside the Guildhall. We kept press attendance to a minimum (no open call here, but the services of TNR to ensure all photos and video footage is made widely available via PA’s picture and video wires), to ensure the Caines were not swamped by a press scrum.
From the beginning Michael Caine had mentioned that he’d rather not do rounds and rounds of media interviews (who can blame him – this was requested by almost every journalist I contacted about the new show, and at 80 years of age and 60 years in the film business I suspect he’d quite like a break). We had a challenge in generating coverage without access to our big star – but during the Caines’ visit on Friday an incredibly relaxed, friendly and amenable Michael ensured that our photographer, camera crew and sole interviewer got enough time with him for words and pictures. And with that material in the bag, the coverage went global and, thanks to the second burst around his 80th birthday, is still going strong.
Coverage of the visit has (so far) landed in BBC News, ITN, Sky News, Channel 5 ‘Inside Hollywood’, The Daily Telegraph, Mail Online, Evening Standard, Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Independent i, BBC Radio 5Live, LBC Radio and dozens of online news outlets and regional papers.
The months’ of campaigning in the lead up to the opening has also secured recommendations, features, picture galleries and magazine covers including the Wall Street Journal, Evening Standard, Empire Magazine, Short List, Stylist’s Emerald Street, Easy Living Magazine, Time Out, The Lady, The Big Issue and dozens more…
If you want to indulge in some classic Michael Caine movie clips (from Alfie, The Italian Job and Get Carter) and stylish photography by David Bailey, Duffy and Terry O’Neill get yourself down to the Museum of London – the exhibition is free and runs until 14 July. For more visit www.museumoflondon.org.uk/michaelcaine
And here’s what happened when he came to see us… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=op2vKnAhdEo
This blog post was originally published on Judy Heminsley’s website Work From Home Wisdom (thanks Judy!)
The 2013 diaries lining the shops shelves this month may hold the key to your PR plans for the coming year. Don’t skip passed those ‘notable dates’ pages at the front – they could be your best friend when planning your PR for 2013…
If you want to raise the profile of your business, your plans will be ten times more effective if they’re underpinned by what’s going on in the wider world. It’s no trade secret that the media thrives on news (surprise!), but if you are unsure if you’ll have any actual news to release in 2013, here are some tips on how to remain topical and timely:
With the danger of sounding a little like the (much maligned) Pippa Middleton book of the same name, I’m going to give some very obvious sounding advice – advice that a surprising number of businesses fail to capitalise on… The media loves seasonal dates. Outside of the somewhat unpredictable news agenda, the steady trickle of common anniversaries and celebratory dates helps fill pages with news, tips and advice relevant to the season. So why not get in on the act and provide news and feature material from your business that’s relevant. Shopping editors filling product pages really will be searching for heart-covered, romantic gifts in February, and egg-cups and chocolates over Easter – so pull together your most relevant products and promote them in good time. It’s that simple.
An expert for all seasons
If you trade in knowledge, position yourself as an expert by releasing seasonal tips whether it be gardening advice during a summer heat wave, financial know-how for the end of the tax year, or holiday tips for families over the school break. Blog it; tweet it; offer to write a column in your local paper – the media loves an expert.
Moments in history
Beyond the annual dates, a bit more research can reveal additional news hooks – obscure dates, anniversaries and momentous occasions – to help give you the edge. It was no accident that everyone had something to say (or sell!) linked to the Olympics or The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. But do make sure you keep it relevant (nothing irks a journalist more than a spurious PR link that is clearly about cashing in) – have something valuable, new and relevant to add to an occasion.
Keep it up!
Now there’s a whole new year ahead of you, make sure you plan in regular PR activity throughout the year. That doesn’t mean ‘spamming’ your contacts with a press release every week (only major organisations need release that much news – and that’s at a push), but, depending on the ‘rhythm’ of your own business plan in regular contact with your key press targets, regular blogging, and regular sharing on your social media platforms – and stick to it!
This blog post was originally published on Judy Heminsley’s website Work From Home Wisdom (thanks Judy!)
If you’re a small business owner there will come a time when you feel you should be “doing some PR”. But how do you know if PR will be of benefit to your business? Whether you go down the DIY route or hire a professional to do it for you, you’d better be sure any time and money spent will be worth it.
I’ve devised a mini test of essential questions to ask yourself before you make your decision…
Are you looking for a cost-efficient and effective way of promoting your business?
Microsoft magnate Bill Gates once said, “If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget, I’d spent it on PR”. But what’s so great about PR? Because landing editorial in a magazine or newspaper is the Holy Grail of third-party endorsement: a validation of your ‘greatness’ that an advert (clearly created by yourself) can never achieve. This isn’t to say advertising or other marketing tactics aren’t worth doing (it’s all about the marketing mix – paid-for opportunities complementing PR) but if you want to avoid the hefty costs of advertising, PR gives you ‘more bang for your buck’ (although, as with hiring any professional, do be prepared to pay for experience).
Do you have a clear idea of ‘who’ you want to promote your business to?
In my career I’ve read so many briefs that carry the rather woolly objective to “secure media coverage” as if “the media” is one homogenous entity. Securing media coverage is about reaching out to your potential customers – so what media do they consume? Do they listen to your local radio breakfast show and read the local newspaper? Do they prefer the Guardian over The Sun? Do they read lifestyle magazines or particular trade publications? Thinking about specific opportunities will help you create your media target list.
Do you have a clear idea of what you want to say?
It’s all very well building yourself a media profile to promote your business, but do you actually have something to say? Passive information about who you are and what you do won’t get you column inches – you need to be saying and doing. What you say and do supports your brand and maintains your reputation. Make sure it represents what’s important to you and your business.
Does it pass the ‘So what?’ test?
As in, ‘You’re selling a new product? So, what?’ It may sound a little harsh but journalists need stories and they use this litmus test to find the news. You may think that your first year in business is a great piece of news, or that a new client is something to shout about, but why does it matter to anyone else? If you can craft the story into something compelling, topical and (above all) relevant to readers/listeners, you’re passing the ‘so, what?’ test.
Are you a control freak?
Yes? Then you’d better get ready to relinquish some control over how your ‘story’ is told. Journalists don’t take kindly to being told exactly what to write (you’re not buying an advert) – they’re here to report the facts that are of interest to their readers. What you tell them – through your press release or interview – highlights your key messages but the end result is out of your hands. Be brave, don’t succumb to any Malcolm Tucker-style PR power trips, and you’re in the PR game…
Are you in it for the long haul?
There are no quick fixes with PR. Sometimes a story will take off and generate acres of column inches; sometimes weeks of hard work will come to nothing if a bigger story bumps you off the pages. Whatever the outcome you need to sustain your PR activity to help maintain the media relationships you’ve started to build. It’s always hardest at the beginning but as momentum takes hold, PR could end up being the best investment you ever made…
Earlier this month, I was in a gallery at the Science Museum, London, surrounded by BBC staff, their acting DG Tim Davie, and (much more excitingly) musician Damon Albarn. DJ Simon Mayo was also sat at his mixing desk, fading out the sound of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Happy Birthday’ and we were instantly reminded that this little gathering (wine, crisps and chatter) was being broadcast live to millions!
The live Radio 2 drive-time show was in honour of the 90th anniversary of the first BBC broadcast – 14 November 1922. The Science Museum have pulled together a small display in homage to the beginnings of public service broadcasting, including part of the original 2LO transmitter (“This is 2LO calling…” was synonymous with the BBC in the early days). Blur frontman Damon was waiting (a little nervously?) ahead of the BBC radio ‘simul-cast’ of his especially-commissioned 3-minute music montage, ‘2LO’.
And at 17:33 exactly, Mayo greeted an estimated audience of around 80 million listeners, across all BBC radio national and regional stations, and BBC World Service stations across the globe – let alone those listening live online. Standing a couple of metres away from the mixing desk and Damon blocking out the dozens of eyes on him and listening with his eyes close, I was reminded of how wonderful radio is.
Unlike TV, radio is so refreshingly straight forward – you can reach into millions of homes, offices, cars, from a small trestle table in a museum. No need for make-up, lighting, cameras, take after take – just voices, music and the sound of life carrying on in a room somewhere, being picked up in another room halfway across the world.
I love radio – it feels both unobtrusive and engaging; perfect ‘sonic wallpaper’ burbling away at home, plus a frequent supplier of interesting news, thoughts, music – life. Wherever you are in the world, it can give you a snapshot of local life in a much more intimate way than television. I can’t imagine life without it.
If I was ever on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, my luxury item would have to be a wind-up radio.
You can see more pictures from the ‘BBC Radio at 90’ celebration including the Science Museum’s new display here.
I’ve just finished working on publicising a major conference for a new client, a group of City of London Livery Companies (The Clothworkers, The Dyers and The Weavers Company) – fascinating organisations with an illustrious history, they now do a lot of charitable work in supporting their root trades, particularly in skills. ‘A New Dawn: Rebuilding UK textile manufacturing’, co-sponsored by the companies and event managed by my occasional collaborator Abby Wright-Parkes of Optimist Consulting, was a great success (sold out to 250+ industry delegates; national media coverage).
From my side, I’m happy that this business story took off in the media – securing a slot on BBC Radio 4 Today programme, BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland, articles in the Financial Times, The Independent, Guardian, Metro, key trade title Drapers, Vogue.co.uk, Manchester Evening News and several other regional and industry outlets.
The overall messages have been positive – reports of the death of manufacturing in the UK, particularly in the textile industry, are greatly exaggerated. A number of businesses producing woven wools, cashmere, tweed and the like, are thriving at the higher-end of the market that appreciates excellent quality and luxury fabrics. And overseas markets such as the US, China and Japan can’t get enough of the cache of ‘Made in Britain’. Scottish cashmere producer Johnstons of Elgin (of whom Director James Sugden chaired the textile conference and did a sterling job as main press spokesperson) turns over around £50million per year supplying textiles to luxury brands such as Chanel. And who says we don’t make anything successfully in the UK anymore?
Our high-profile speakers, designer Sir Paul Smith and Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable, helped pull in the press interest, as well as delivering some positive support for the industry (particularly Sir Paul Smith’s lively and inspiring talk – here’s a fashion designer who understands the power of branding and PR, and, unlike ‘UK’ labels Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney, is a British brand still owned by a Brit!).
Lord Alliance has recently commissioned research into the economic viability of textile manufacturing in the UK compared to traditional overseas sourcing from Bangladesh and China. Preliminary findings were revealed at the conference and it appears the costs of sourcing overseas (particularly when taking into account levels of quality and reworking, and lengths of supply chains) are making the UK a much more attractive economic option once more (let alone in terms of the environmental and social benefits).
With the story sustaining a high profile, it’s now up to the industry to work with Government and help UK textile manufacturing thrive.
I’ve written on the subject of blogging before, but I wanted to share some updated information from my own experience of starting my own travel blog (and continuing this series of occasional posts on PR and communications).
A blog is a great way to communicate your brand – it doesn’t go through the ‘filter’ of the media, allowing you to get your message across to your audience (of potential customers) undiluted. But if you don’t currently run a blog, how best to get started? Here are a few of my tips for creating a great blog from scratch – that people actually want to read!
1. Do you really need a blog? Firstly, ask yourself this crucial question! So many business owners feel they should have a blog, simply because everyone else does. But do you have the commitment to contribute regularly (or the budget to pay someone to do so for you)? A clear sense of what you want to say? The platform to carry it? What do you want the blog to do? Blogs don’t magic themselves out of thin air – you have to be clear about why you want one. Write down this objective and always keep it in mind when writing your blog posts.
2. Create a professional-looking platform: A lot of people use the free WordPress platform to blog from – the one where you can create a free account and blog from a URL that looks like this – www.[your name].wordpress.com. This is a nice way to start and test the water – many people continue using this and integrating it into their purpose-built website – but it can look a little unprofessional with an unwieldy URL address (that screams “cheap!” – this coming from me, who used a similar free platform for way too long as a ‘stop gap’ until I got around to creating a ‘proper’ website). WordPress (not the free platform but the content management system) is behind some of the most slick looking websites around – after almost resigning myself to having to pay a hefty fee to commission a web developer to create my site, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could create most of what I wanted through WordPress, myself. I signed-up to a great online course Simply WordPress – a straight forward but smart set of modules run by web designer Julie Hall, who has a lot of hints and tips up her sleeve for non-techy business owners (N.B. the next course sign-up deadline is 30 Sept 2012 so book quickly!). Register a domain name (I use 123-reg) and try and get both the .com and another version (such as .co.uk) secured. Then choose a web hosting company – I use Cyber Host Pro who are based in the UK so often easy to get hold of if anything goes wrong. You’re on your way to creating something nice and professional looking…
3. Content is king! You’ve probably heard this phrase before, but it’s certainly true. Good quality content – words and images that are original, inspiring, informative, useful, funny, moving…those are the blogs that people want to read. And want to share – hence your name, and brand, spreads. Take some time to consider topics that are relevant to your audience and reflect your brand. Think laterally as well as literally – posting thoughts or advice on your area of business helps position you as an expert. Traditionally, blogs were online diaries (and some still area), and today topical subjects for blog posts tend to work best – if you have your own take on the story of the day (remember – how does this help people engage with and understand your brand?), write up an entry and post it as soon as possible. For my client ASIP (the Association of Stylists & Image Professionals) I keep blog posts as topical as possible.
4. Proof-read (and proof-read again): There is nothing less professional than copy full of spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Don’t rely on your computer’s auto-check, once you’ve finished writing close your post (as a draft) and open to read again after a decent time gap (you need fresh eyes!) to correct any mistakes or tweak a few lines. If you don’t trust your own ability, get someone else to read it (or just except that you need to pay an expert to do it for you and budget accordingly – this is your professional reputation and, therefore, worth paying for!).
5. Remember the visuals: Rather ironic of me writing this on a blog post that never includes pictures (oops! Check my travel blog Goodtrippers to see that I can do this!). People connect with pictures on a more instinctive level than text alone (yes, OK I’d better start thinking of images here…) – and it also helps take up a lot of space which is always welcome! Either use your own pictures (put your copyright in the file info or embedded on the picture) or, if you’re blogging about another brand go to their press office (us PRs can be very obliging if you’re promoting our client/employer) to ask if you can use any images to accompany the blog post. Otherwise, you’re left with the option of stock photography websites – the varying fortunes of which I’ve already blogged about here…good luck!
6. Keep it up! It can be very off-putting when you click on someone’s blog and see that the last entry was several months ago (are they still in existence?). Visitors won’t assume that you’re so successful and busy that you haven’t had time to update your blog; they’ll think you either lack commitment, attention to detail, get bored easily, have run out of things to say, or have just given up – any of those assumptions is bad for your brand/you. When you start, commit to a (realistic) schedule for new posts and stick to it – whether it be daily (short 250-300 word posts for daily, please, no-one has time to read that much from one blog!), weekly, fortnightly or even monthly (pushing it for effort). And if you haven’t got time to commit to that – just pay someone else!
7. Spread the word: Blogs don’t find readers, and readers don’t find blogs all by themselves. Promote every new post through your social media channels and e-newsletters. Remember to add these social media icons to your blog so that people can easily follow you, and add an RSS sign-up button so that subscribers will automatically see new content when posted (don’t worry, Julie Hall will show you how).
Those are my tips on getting started, but it’s all down to what you write – good luck!
As we count down the final days of summer, I’ve been pondering whether there is such a thing as ‘silly season’ in news land anymore. There used to be a time when the long, hot (about 1 in 10!) days of July and August, with government in recess and half the country on holiday, that not a lot (in terms of hard-hitting news) happened. Journalists struggled to fill their pages with more than a “And finally…” type story.
But last August ‘silly season’ was most definitely cancelled (quicker than Boris and Dave’s holidays) when the riots kicked off and England burned for days. There was no space for funny animal stories then as acres of column inches were given over to news and analysis.
This August hasn’t been as grim – quite the opposite with the joyous and non-cynical response to the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics – but certainly not a return to ‘silly season’ in its traditional sense. Sport has leaped off the back pages and into news, comment, features, picture galleries – any bit of space! The impending Olympics did make PRs (me included) pause to consider whether August (traditionally a great month for ‘softer’ stories) was the smartest time to release a story (thankfully some journalists were still desperate for non-sports news – my ‘stowaway cat’ release for Cats Protection took off as quickly as Usain Bolt!).
However, in between the sports-fest of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, we might have caught a glimpse of the ‘silly season’ of old… Prince Harry’s naked Vegas pictures aren’t really ‘silly’, being dressed-up as ‘public interest’ although more a case of ‘old’ verses ‘new’ media battling for relevancy – it would be a big tabloid story whatever the time of year. The real sniff of ‘silly season’ has just raised its regal head in a field in Essex – nothing like a ‘mysterious animal on the loose’ story (thanks Essex Lion!) to remind you it’s August…
The BBC are pulling out all the stops. After being royally trashed for their “inane”, “patronising”, “boring” coverage of the The Queen’s Jubilee, they know they’re on extra time with their coverage of the London 2012 Olympics.
But I think they’re putting in a medal-winning performance so far… Yes, the live feed will sometimes crash; yes, the twice-nightly highlights programmes sometimes look like repeats of each other; and yes, some commentators are resorting to rather tiresome post-event interviews full of questions like, “How do you feel?”, “What was the crowd like?”, “Isn’t it amazing performing in front of a home crowd?”, “You’re in London – your home town – the noise from the crowd is something else, isn’t it?” (and countless variations on that theme – I’m not exaggerating).
At such a huge, live event, the logistics are staggering and so a rare technical hiccup shouldn’t warrant cries from armchair commentators shouting, “See! The BBC can’t even get this right!”. I think some of the camera work – the aerial views across London from the equestrian events in Greenwich Park; the underwater cameras in the Aquatics Centre pool; the views from basketball hoops and under weightlifters’ chins – really does put the viewer at the heart of the action. The high-definition slow-motion sequences of gymnasts, tennis players and rowers, when you can witness every contorted muscle and emotion, reminds us how Olympians are pushing themselves to the limit.
And some ‘star guest’ commentators have really proven their fees’ worth: Ian Thorpe, who doesn’t seem to be able to escape the BBC studio or Aquatic Centre (he’s there morning and night!), has divided opinion on Twitter between those that find his continual refrain of “Look…” and the Topman jumpers just too much, to those (the majority) who find his measured opinions, proper insights and dry humour to be just the thing to get us through (seemingly endless) swimming rounds.
Thanks to NBC’s commercially-driven lack of comprehensive, live coverage, the US are tuning in to the BBC’s coverage via iPlayer. Perhaps we sometimes forget what a brilliant broadcaster we have…