Blog

  • An invisible force

    ‘I haven’t seen you all day’ were the words from the CEO of a client we were assisting at a major international exhibition. Some PR consultants might be concerned by this observation, but I was pleased. PR is often something that works in the background. The exhibition had been a huge success, resulting in happy customers, deals made, many new contacts forged and widespread coverage. I had worked on everything from briefing the journalists and directing the film crews, to restocking goody bags and washing up coffee cups. And that is as it should be.

    A lot of the PR work had been done in advance, with press releases being issued under embargo, brochures drafted, and journalist meetings set up. On the day, my job was to make sure that everything went smoothly, or at least appeared to go smoothly, and that the client was seen at its very best. This may mean keeping a film crew happy while they are waiting for an interviewee to become available or calling through last-minute adjustments to materials released on the client’s website. It may also mean rolling up my sleeves to empty an overflowing bin. PR is about the client’s complete reputation, and at an exhibition it is often the little things that make a big impression.

    AIM Altitude, Aircraft Interiors Expo, Hamburg

    ULTRAFLEX – a visionary concept for a social area on ultra-long-haul flights

    ULTRAFLEX – a visionary concept for a social area on ultra-long-haul flights

    AIM Altitude attends the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg each year. It is the single most important show for the company. This year, the big news was the unveiling of ULTRAFLEX – a visionary concept for a social area on ultra-long-haul flights. ULTRAFLEX is a multi-functional space that can be transformed to provide areas for anything from business meetings and private dining, to viewing sports events or practising yoga.

    We knew that ULTRAFLEX was going to be a big story and the PR had to be carefully planned. We aimed to ensure maximum coverage but also to convey the key messages of flexibility and possibility within the tight certification requirements for commercial aircraft.

    The coverage was phenomenal.

    The crucial trade publications ran the story in depth, with many images and explanations of the unique concept and innovation. This is imperative to the product actually being adopted and implemented by airline customers. Due to the nature of the scheme, it was also of great interest among the consumer media and the story was run by such news feeds and publications as CNN and the Daily Mail. From this, the story went truly global with coverage in publications from National Geographic in Russia, to the Adelaide Advertiser.

    Possible space for practising yoga on ultra-long-haul flights

    Possible space for practising yoga

  • ‘And don’t serve posh biscuits’

    This was our final instruction some years ago to a client well known for courtesy towards its own clients. Coffee was always served with hand-made biscuits. Our client was keen to have local residents respond positively to a development proposal and had arranged a public meeting in the village hall. Emotions were running high amongst the local residents by the time Phillips Profile was asked to become involved; too late for us to suggest an alternative to the public meeting advertised. Our instruction regarding the biscuits sadly also failed to register with the client, and sure enough, along with the cups of tea served at the close of the volatile meeting were hand-made biscuits. It was small comfort to have our guidance vindicated by an irate resident snorting to his neighbour as they were leaving that they were being bribed by ‘posh biscuits’.

    There is more than one lesson to be learned from this cautionary tale.

    So much of a developer’s time at the outset of a project is taken up with planning regulations, meetings with planners, architectural drawings, groundwork plans, delivery routes to the site, the city council, the county council, local environmental expectations, that the ‘soft’ diplomacy towards local residents becomes an afterthought.

    Wrong.  It should be the first thought.

    The priority of any developer or business intending to bring major change to a neighbourhood should be to keep the local emotional temperature down. Unfortunately, it rarely is the priority. Time and again the required period of consultation is mishandled by the incoming organisation. Insensitive, clumsy, patronising, are all accusations levelled by residents at incomers. The latter’s consultation communication, more often than not appearing too late in the proceedings, raises hackles even before the consultation begins.

    Make the consultation appropriate to the residents.

    The expression ‘give the job to the person who will do it best’ could have been invented for public consultation with local residents. A busy developer is focused on delivery, not on creating the right environment for the delivery to be acceptable. This is the change maker. Use an experienced communications team.

    Then you won’t serve posh biscuits.  

    Related case studies: Generics, Nuffield Health, Cambridge Water

  • Nimbyism: how to avoid it and save money

    Right this minute, somewhere in Cambridge, local residents are up in arms, fearful of what happens next and indignant that powerful outsiders care nothing for their peace of mind. Just about every tower crane on the Cambridge horizon is a marker representing neighbourhood dismay.

    As the city planning department registers a continual stream of planning applications, many from national companies and construction giants, it is in reality recording a major transformation of the city by external forces, one that to many individuals is disruptive, worrying and deeply unsettling.

    What is upsetting about all this is that it is unnecessary and could largely be avoided. After all, new buildings have risen from the ground in Cambridge for generations.

    Cambridge Water, The Fitzwilliam Museum and most recently Nuffield Health, have all undertaken major building work here in the last decade, and in each case there was the impact of inconvenience, especially during the construction stages. What there was not, was undue alarm and a feeling of helplessness amongst the local residents.

    Why not?

    Good communication.

    Nuffield Health Hospital, Cambridge

    Nuffield Health Hospital, Cambridge

    Take Nuffield Health as an example. Months before the planning application for a new hospital to be built upon Trumpington Road was submitted to the city authorities, every near neighbour to the future construction site was aware of what was in prospect, because Nuffield Health told them. A vigorous dialogue between the incomer and the incumbents was conducted over several months of early-stage planning and at no time was this cut off. That the residents were well-briefed in advance throughout was of equal concern to the Nuffield Health project team as the architects’ design and the choice of bricks.

    Outcome?

    Residents took a deep breath, acknowledged there would be upheaval at times, then did everything to be tolerant wherever they could. Where an intolerable situation arose, it was dealt with immediately by Nuffield Health and the site project manager.

    It can be done. If you know how.

    Cambridge Water headquarters building

    Cambridge Water Headquarters

     

    Find out more about how we have worked with organisations planning developments such as: GenericsCambridge Water and The Fitzwilliam Museum

  • Finding your voice

    You have an impressive marketing programme which matches clear corporate objectives; you are active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; you are in regular contact with journalists; and you run numerous stakeholder events every year. But have you lost your voice?

    Finding your voiceAmidst all the distractions of managing a multi-disciplinary communications programme, it’s essential to hold on to that distinctive element that defines your business and distinguishes you from the rest. You need your audience to know that it’s you speaking and not one of your competitors.

    Along with a strong visual corporate identity, every company and organisation needs a corporate voice – a consistent underlying persona that connects with your stakeholders. Mood or tone may need to change depending on the context, but the personality your organisation projects needs to be coherent, and appropriate for your brand. If you have put in the work on your corporate profile, so that you know who you are and what you are trying to achieve, don’t let the message get lost in translation.

    Different channels demand different approaches and often different teams will be writing for different platforms. Some people have a natural gift for pithy, attention-grabbing posts perfect for social media. Think Donald Trump. Whatever you think of what he writes, he can certainly get his message across in 140 characters! But you wouldn’t ask someone like that to write a technical article for an engineering audience. Press releases for a consumer audience require a lighter touch than B2B, television ads have to compete for attention in a very crowded space. Whatever the medium, however, your communications need to be convincing, consistent and true to the values of your business.

    Just as a corporate identity needs to be safeguarded so too does a corporate voice. The equivalent of brand guidelines in this case is to have consistency in the sign-off process for all PR and marketing communications. Every press release, article, advert, leaflet and brochure should be seen by one individual acting as the guardian of the brand’s voice. Only by seeing everything is it possible to spot minor inconsistencies or major departures. The brand guardian does not need to have the final say-so on what gets published, although often the Marketing Director or CEO will take this role, but they do need to understand the subtleties of the brand.

    Policing an organisation’s voice on social media is a much harder task. Posts and responses tend to be ‘in the moment’ and are a powerful way for an organisation to use its voice. But it’s essential to have a clear policy in place as to who can represent the company and what they can talk about.  Drawing up a social media plan can avoid some of the pitfalls awaiting the over-enthusiastic tweeter. Just as you wouldn’t pick up the phone to a journalist without talking to your PR team, don’t be tempted to take a scattergun approach to social media.

    Every brand has a personality and your marketing and PR activity give it a voice. Make sure yours is a true reflection of your corporate identity.

     

     

  • Specialising in PR

     

    I am often asked if I specialise in a particular area of PR. The simple answer is no. Although there are definite common threads to some of the PR carried out by Phillips Profile, there is no specific industry in which we work.

     

    Our area of expertise is PR.

     

    Much of this comes down to media relations. We know how to approach journalists, and, vitally, how not to. A great deal of PR is about knowing what will appeal to the media, what makes a story news. This is true across all industries.

     

    There are two key elements that work together in the PR we do. Although we immerse ourselves in a new client and understand as much as we can about their work and business, at the same time we remain the outsider, enabling us to have that vital perspective required for PR. Our clients sometimes become so absorbed in their company that they cannot see the wood for the trees. We are often able to tease from them an interesting story, that they had not even realised was news. An external point of view is a great advantage in this situation.

     

    The journalists too know that they will be able to capitalise from our expertise. When they commission an article through Phillips Profile, they know it will be well written, targeting the right audience, informative, and not just trying to work as a sales tool. They know that they can trust our work and will often come to us first, knowing we understand the meaning of a deadline when you have a magazine going to print.

     

    There are PR agencies that trade based on their little black book of journalists. Granted, with the multitude of clients and industries shared among the backgrounds of the Phillips Profile consultants, we do have a great deal of media contacts, but we focus more on the transferable skill of PR and our abilities to generate coverage and raise profiles. Knowing the journalists is not enough on its own to gain editorial space. Not having clients in the same sector also avoids any conflicts of interest.

     

    So no, we don’t specialise in a particular industry, but we do specialise in PR.