The value of PR as part of your comms strategy

I was recently asked to talk to a group of school marketing and admissions colleagues about why PR should form part of their communications strategies.

Here are a couple of short clips of me talking about the value of PR as part of a wider strategy and how to identify a potential story:

Why should you do PR?

Three elements of a good PR story



The truth about bad publicity

Having been forced to watch a TV programme about the battle of the low-cost airlines this week (my husband wouldn’t surrender the remote), I was subjected to some of Ryan Air CEO Michael O’Leary’s outdated views on PR.



The old ‘all publicity is good publicity’ view seems to be alive and well inside Ryan Air HQ, standing completely in contrast to the CIPR’s current definition of PR as a way to protect a business rather than just promote it:

Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

One particular example which stood out for me was Michael O’Leary’s attempt to retract one competition winner’s ‘free flights for life’ because he claimed no official paperwork had ever existed. After a court battle which Ryan Air lost, one employee admitted that the court case was the major turning point when people started to realise how little the airline actually valued its customers.

So, if PR is all about reputation, grabbing headlines regardless of whether they are good or bad simply cannot be the right approach. But if it’s plain and simple publicity that you’re after – and you’re not afraid of what damage it might do to your reputation – you can always rely on the Ryan Air play book for a bit of inspiration.

Top 3 PR silly season stories

It’s the same every year. As August arrives, PR professionals are given a rare opportunity to give some strange stories the hard sell – survey results that don’t reveal an awful lot, food that looks like other things, even bizarre animal behaviour gets a moment in the spotlight.



Dubbed ‘Silly Season’ by the PR world, while most of the country takes a break, a select few journalists are left searching for stories to fill their papers with. With a lack of stories being submitted, it sometimes means that those which wouldn’t normally stand a chance suddenly get surprising amounts of column inches.

My top 3 silly season stories are:

3. Nude flash mobs – Want a sure-fire way to get into the tabloids? Go nude! Everyone can remember at least one example in this category.  The one that no-one’s quite measured up to (in my opinion) has to be the Calendar Girls. An inspiring story and fantastic PR surge raised a lot of money for leukemia research – and continues to do so year after year. It even netted a movie deal.

2. Food art – Yes, making things out of food somehow continues to translate into column inches for some brands during silly season. That said, you can’t help but admire Flake for this edible Ascot hat.

1. Celebrity lookalikes – This type of PR stunt has certainly been the big thing this year. Poor Wills and Kate have been the hot subjects lately and this lookalike PR stunt from Poundland was particularly memorable (for all the wrong reasons).

What are your favourites?

How to use PR power for good, not evil

A group of six PR professionals, including myself, have formed a PR Council to voluntarily support and advise a fantastic charity called Create.

Our aim is to help the charity (which uses creative arts to transform the lives of society’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable people) raise its profile nationally and consequently raise more funds.

I first had the privilege of getting involved with Create earlier this year and ever since I’ve wanted to volunteer for a charity – but wasn’t sure what skills I had to offer. Create provided the answer: my aptitude for PR.

My first Create project, “sound:images”

After one short meeting on a cold and dark Thursday night, I already feel confident that this newly formed council of volunteers will be able to do a lot of good and really help the charity achieve its goals.

Watch this space (and hopefully your newspapers!) for more as it develops…

Proudly part of a winning team

You’d expect individuals working in PR to be the very best at self promotion since they’re trained to gain their clients/companies maximum exposure. But, in my experience, this is rarely the case.

Personal PR tends to take a back seat to client or company needs and is sometimes forgotten altogether.

With that in mind, I wanted to take the opportunity to publicly congratulate my team at Lakeside. We won two merits at the Purple Apple Marketing Awards last week (the only awards which recognise and reward effective shopping centre marketing in the UK)!

Lakeside's marketing team with Austin Healey

Lakeside’s marketing team with Purple Apple presenter Austin Healey

It was a great evening and a brilliant event that truly reinforced our team spirit.

Thanks to the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) for the awards and here’s hoping the success continues for next year.

Do you live and breathe your brand?

Working in consumer PR there’s always lots of exciting events, campaigns and promotions to manage – and you often find yourself wishing you were just a regular customer so you could take part in them all!

Luckily for me (or unluckily, depending how you feel about it), I was given the opportunity to become part of Lakeside history when I was asked to take part in a photo shoot to promote the shopping centre.

Source: Lakeside Shopping Centre

This made me wonder how many PR and marketing professionals actually live and breathe the brands that they promote. I was proud to be featured in a Lakeside advertising campaign but I’m sure many of my peers wouldn’t be so keen to feature on some of their clients’ posters and websites…

Perhaps that’s the difference between in-house and agency roles. Working in-house you choose one particular brand that you feel strongly about whereas in an agency you work with a whole range of brands, some that you love and some you simply can’t. Is that view a bit harsh or could it be true?

Writing in a way that’s deceptively simple

Many students decide to enter the PR and marketing industries because they simply love to write. It therefore often comes as quite a shock when their reams of cleverly crafted prose get momentously reduced to just half a page which contains only the essential details.

For PRs who are sending news to the media, less definitely means more to the journalists who are bombarded with hundreds of announcements on a daily basis. The marketer’s job is hardly any easier since members of the general public rarely have much more time than the journalists as they battle their way through daily life just trying to find the information that they need.

With attention spans as short as these, there’s simply no space for cleverly crafted analogies or page-spanning metaphors; people just need the details in a digestible format.

So the next time you’re drafting a quick media alert, writing a case study or putting together a brochure, make sure all of the important bits are at the top and keep your creative overdrive under control until you can be sure that it isn’t masking your message.

Paying a professional agency, copywriter or consultant to write for you can often be a challenging experience. They may return just a few paragraphs from countless pages of background information; reduce your company overview to a few brief sentences; rarely use the big and clever words that you think they should know and work with daily. Instead you’ll get impactful, effective and to-the-point writing that simply does its job well (if you pick the right people to work with, of course).

The value of really good marketing writing lies in its deceptive simplicity.

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