Why are we so behind the curve on diversity in PR?

In my previous posts reflecting on my 20 years in a PR agency, I have written about the challenges, opportunities and changes I have seen over two decades agency-side. In my final one I return to an issue I feel strongly about, which in recent years the PRCA and other agency and in-house leaders have rightly become active on, but where change is very slow. I am talking about diversity.

Although there is research that shows, in terms of leadership roles and closing gender pay gaps in the UK, we still have way to go on gender equality, I am proud to be at an agency in which the majority of leaders in the UK are women, and that has been named by no less that The Holmes Report as the most gender equal of all the global agencies. (Proud also that we are a #HeForShe office in London.)

Although in the past our industry has, to its cost, lost a lot of female talent and experience post having children, more enlightened attitudes to flexible working, and the digital communications revolution, have largely seen an end to such rhinoceros-hide attitudes amongst agency and in-house heads.

Over my 20 years I have not heard any of my lesbian or gay colleagues express any experience of career limiting prejudice in agencies. Some of my top and most successful colleagues, and friends in PR elsewhere, are gay.

Our failure is racial and social diversity. We are not alone in that. But we are the industry that claims to be the dialogue facilitators between organisations and their publics.

As I have done previously, I turned to PR Week as a reflection of our business. I counted all the photos in the recent edition. Out of 63 pictures of PR leaders, commentators and agency people, 61 were white. Worryingly, this edition included the industry’s top 30 under 30 rising stars.

In a subsequent edition, the situation was similar, and one of the few non whites pictured was actually President Obama.

As an industry that claims to understand Britain, we need to look and be a little more like modern Britain. It’s not good enough to merely claim to be an equal opportunities employer, and that anyone is free to apply for our traineeships. We have to work harder on outreach schemes to schools – given the potential talent from less advantaged backgrounds who are now put off university by the prospect of eye watering debt – as well as the less socially elite universities. We have to break down cultural barriers and misconceptions that stop young talent from considering our industry in the first place.

I am not the only agency leader I know who says he wouldn’t get on his own apprentice scheme these days, being a working class half Irish Salfordian with a second class arts degree from a lesser (in the league tables) university.

There are schemes out there – the PRCA and others can advise – and models like the excellent work The Media Trust does with media organisations. We just need to commit, show some leadership in our organisations, and try a bit harder to make real and not cosmetic change.

I am the first to admit that I have only dented the surface in my own agency. But I intend to keep trying.

Cannes, my fifth year, some thoughts

Personal highlights:

Celebrating two more Lions with Weber Shandwick and Prime colleagues against the backdrop of a beautiful Cannes sunset atop the Radisson Blu.

 

scandicsunset

Unilever CMO Keith Weed’s keynote on Marketing for People. Check it out. Even included a spoof of one of his own campaigns.

Marketing for people

Source: https://twitter.com/keithweed

Prof Brian Cox onstage. Little to do with marketing really. Just like him. Northerner and former band member – “Things can (Cannes?) only get better” – who puts sexy into science. What’s not to like.

briancox

Hanging with Sasha Wilkins aka Liberty London Girl and seeing all that prolific tweet action happening live.

liberty

Source: https://twitter.com/LibertyLndnGirl

Watching Entourage leading man Adrian Grenier, UN Women’s inspirational Elizabeth Nyamayaro and Keith Weed join my agency’s president Gail Heimann to talk #HeForShe . Adrian was kind enough to send a photo get well wish to my poorly daughter,

entouragexxxy

Catching up with my old mate David Brain, APAC CEO of Edelman, after too long.

Viewing the work and particularly that tackling the tough issues and challenges, from FGM to child abuse, from climate change to hunger and poverty, from Nazis to gender stereotyping.

marathonwalkblackandwhiteslavedress

 

Low lights:

Getting up at four thirty to flee Cannes to beat the threatened blockade of the airport by striking taxi drivers and spending five hours drinking shit coffee in one of the worst airports I know. Though I did make a friend in the marathon lounge bum numb.

dog

The incongruity of earnest discussions about Millenium Goals and global poverty on luxury yachts and in the midst of Mad Men excess

global goals pano

The crassness the night after the inaugural Glass Lions (celebrating gender equality campaigns),  awarding the PR Grand Prix to Always’ #RunLikeAGirl campaign, and at an event chaired by Save the Children’s Gender Equality Ambassador to celebrate the Millennium Goals (which include one on gender equality and tackling gender stereotypes) of some PR twit deciding to dress girls in skimpy frilly dresses as pastiche cinema usherettes to show us to our seats.

 

glassgirlingolddress

PR still not making the cut through in the Lions – more below.

So, five years since my first trip to the Cannes Festival. Then as a juror where I met my colleague and Prime creative supremo Tom Beckman and one of my favourite creatives and former colleague Gabriella Lungu. My London office won its second Lions, though most entries and winners were from advertising agencies.

Much breast beating and clothes ripping ensued in the PR world – why were we so uncreative, why were those bastards in advertising invading our space etc. I took the opposite view and wrote in my blog at the time that PR agencies should see Cannes as an opportunity to look at and learn from what advertising did so well. We were the newcomers stealing the drinks at advertising’s house party. They had been doing Cannes for sixty years.

Five years on I am a bit more sanguine. One juror trumpeted Cannes as a success for PR this year, because the majority of entries in the PR category were from PR firms. Yes but, I countered, the vast majority of Gold Lions winners were still ad agencies, or ad agency ideas further amplified by PR. Ah, that’s because they have deep pockets to fund pro bono campaigns for worthy causes that win big. Yes, but, you chose them as winners.

And if success is simply based on the number of agencies shelling out entry fees as opposed to winning recognition for the work, well that’s like the time I worked on an election campaign about which Campaign magazine declared “Labour won the campaign – but lost the election.”

Rather than pass the buck and put some good old fashioned spin on the issue, I think it is time for the PR agency world to accept that while we have upped our game on creativity since Cannes opened its doors to us, and we have broadened our intake to include advertising and digital creatives, we are still too often not in the lead on creative ideation. We often use our considerable skills to generate engagement and buzz and shares and likes around a creative idea – but all too often it is someone else’s idea.

(My lovely friend Gabriela is back in advertising where her edgy thinking is plugged straight into the heart of client engagement.)

The truth is that many of our industry’s creative ideas are just not big enough and break through enough. As Keith Weed said in his keynote, in the engagement era it is not enough to just grab people’s increasing short attention. You have to emotionally engage them with ideas and content they want to share (and, I would add, act on). And the PR Lion winning campaigns that engaged us this year, including the PR agency executive jury who voted them Golds,  were still largely not from PR agencies.

Source:https://24infohealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/likeagirl.jpg

PR: what’s changed and what’s still needs to change, part 3

Welcome to the third instalment of my reflections on twenty years in a PR agency, what’s changed and what’s still needs to change

20 years in a PR agency this month – my agency Weber Shandwick in its various forms, and in various specialist, domestic and international roles – and 31 years in PR. In all that time, the most change has been in the past five years or so.

The Cannes Festival of Creativity, FKA The Advertising Festival, which kicks off today in earnest, opened its doors to our industry 6 years ago. Suddenly we were in the bigger world of bigger ideas (and bigger budgets). After a slow start we are holding our own. Last year a PR agency, Edelman, co-won the Grand Prix for the first time. (Proud to say that currently we are the most Cannes Lions winning PR firm in Europe.)

Source: http://www.adamsandadams.eu/

Digital and particularly social media have driven the pace of change. It has changed how we think of our approaches to communication. More engagement, less broadcast (even though, as I point out ad nauseum , our founding principle as a discipline was dialogue).

Creativity at the forefront – though less the creativity of whacky “free media” attracting stunts and photo opps and more the creativity of innovation and helping clients tackle the really difficult issues, seize the bigger opportunities and break through the online white noise and really engage with customers and citizens.

A real focus on measurement and ROI as we move from being a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants discipline to one that talks more about business impact and less about the volume of press clippings.

Creative technology (worth reading the post by our creative tech chief Patrick Chauphan on the Weber Shandwick EMEA blog) increasingly enabling us to bring our ideas to life rather than them ‘living’ on a flip chart in a brainstorm room.

Embedded image permalink

Source: https://twitter.com/adamclyne

Diversifying our intake to include people from advertising, media buying, filmmaking, research and analytics, medical PhDs, computer programming, animation etc.

The PR agency world of today is a much faster paced, intellectually ambitious and curious world than it was 10 or even 5 years ago. It’s an enjoyable ride.

So what does that mean for people trying to break into the PR agency world today?

Firstly, you have to live the digital life, not just study it and be literate in case studies and have a moribund Twitter account. This year we have recruited more proven creative content creators in our trainee intake than ever before, whatever their academic background. I want to hire the next Jamal Edwards, not just the next Alastair Campbell.

jamal_edwards_02

Source: http://webershandwick.co.uk/jamal-edwards-and-adam-clyne-discuss-innovation/

Secondly, get literate in numbers, analytics, measurement.

Thirdly, balance your internships to include time with in-house teams, not just at agencies. Less and less career PR agency folk have spent time in house. You need a balance and to understand what goes on client side. Clients are seeking like minded partners not just service vendors.

Fourthly, look up from the college library computer screen and get curious about the world around you, the issues that are driving debate about business, culture and society. Those are the cross-winds clients are trying to negotiate. No brand exists in a cultural or societal vacuum. Preferably don’t just observe, participate. We have trainees joining us who have helped run non profit campaigns, taken a personal lead on issues.

Fifthly, brush up on your emotional intelligence. Listening is a greater skill in PR than being able to talk the hind legs off a donkey.

Source: http://www.supplychainshaman.com/

The pace of change in PR has never been faster. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

What’s changed and what still has to change – part two of my blog reflecting on 20 years this month in a PR agency

2. COLLABORATION AND INTEGRATION.

When I ran Shandwick Public Affairs back in the late 1990s, I once threatened to fire a staffer for referring to colleagues in the consumer practice as “the girls on roller skates”.

But in truth the guy had probably never met s consumer PR, let alone studied the work. In those days Shandwick was a relatively loose collection of different branded businesses in offices scattered across London, with no connectivity on clients or via technology, and little incentive or the knowledge to collaborate.

I set about wooing the heads of other businesses, most of whom were initially bemused by lunch invites from, and interest shown by, this suited creature from Planet Politics.

But it worked and I started to acquire tech clients and consumer brands by talking about something most of us take for granted, though clients often still see our industry as lacking – integration, fuelled by collaboration.

When I became UK CEO in the early noughties, I did my first talk to our consumer team. I said that it was wrong to regard politics as “corporate”, then a byword for spin doctors in suits and ties. Politics was consumer PR in its most naked form – trying to aggressively earn consumer preference for a brand that will govern many aspects of your life for years to come, not one brand of car or credit card over another.

For all the modern failure of political spin in a digital and politically disengaged world, modern political communications until recently did understand things that brands have learned from and now usually do better – the importance of insights and research, strategy, and seamless integration of messaging from the bumper sticker to the speech soundbite.

Collaboration takes trust, understanding, mutual respect and encouragement, and leadership from the top of agencies. Any senior people I have fired at my firm I have not fired for failure to hit numbers in the short term, but for failure to collaborate.

Fast forward to today. 90% of the clients in my London office use more than one practice area or specialism. That is true across our network. Companies are increasingly converging consumer brand and corporate brand, often under the same CCMO – Chief Communications & Marketing Officer. That’s the way their world is and agencies, or at least those with multiple disciplines and specialisms, have to work in the same seamless way. Nothing pisses clients off more than agencies playing the P&L barrier game.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking the niche specialist agencies. I like to learn from them and some of the PR leaders I admire are running them.  Indeed while convergence and integration is a trend, so is niche specialisation, either in industry verticals or sub-sections of those verticals like clean technology, consumer or corporate or digital healthcare, but also in niche services like employee engagement and sustainability.

Ten years ago niche agencies knocked multi-practice agencies as “generalists”. Quite how having fifty trend and brand and lifestyle savvy consumer specialists, with access to planners and creatives and data scientists, made my firm less consumer specialist than an independent firm of thirty consumer specialists, was never something I understood. It was bollocks then and even more bollocks now.

Of course the great thing about PR coming to Cannes six years ago is we now see the new wave of integration – across the marketing disciplines. Ten years ago the PR agency would be called in by the advertising agency to write a press release about their latest lovely ad. Now PR agencies are equal partners, if not the lead creative partner for the client. (I don’t want to understate it. Last year we partnered with Marketing Week magazine in the UK on a survey of CMOs on the state of client-agency relationships. The majority still saw the ad agency as their lead partner, but then proceeded to moan about them on things like engaging content creation and strategic thinking. A challenge but also an opportunity for PR agencies.)

So integration is a reality and collaboration is good and our industry is a better place where it happens.

Twenty years in PR agency land. What’s changed, what still needs to change?

Hello. Welcome to my sorely neglected, emotionally needy blog. It thinks I spend too much time with Twitter. I love it really.

Twenty years ago this month I took up my first PR agency role. I have been with the same firm in its various states of merger and evolution, and in various roles, ever since.

As an industry we are rightly talking a lot about our evolution, and I have done my fair share of panel discussions, conference keynotes, university and business school talks on the subject.

I thought it was worth reflecting on what has changed, and what has not changed fast enough, in a couple of blog posts this month.

Here’s the first.

Best wishes

Colin

1. CONTACTS TO CONTENT

Prior to joining my PR agency as an associate director in the fledgling PA practice  in June 1995, I had previously held a variety of in-house comms and campaign roles, having given up my dream of being a new wave music journalist ( running a fanzine in those pre-blog and website days involved a lot of glue and cutting and pasting, and selling your wares to queues of drunk punks in the rain outside grotty clubs – the glamour!), with the AA, the NUS, The Labour Party, in local government, The Princes Trusts and The National Farmers Union (an appointment which sparked my first PR Week headline, “Farmer’s Boy”).

It was a heady time of political change. I had never thought of a PR agency career, liking the influence I had as Peter Mandelson’s right hand guy in Labour communications, and trekking the world with The Prince of Wales’ entourage and press pack. I had used a PR agency and thought they were a useless bunch of smug suits.

But there I was in Christopher’s restaurant in Covent Garden, with Tom – now Lord – McNally, then head of public affairs at Shandwick, the largest independent PR firm in the world at the time, not just offering me a job but advising me what salary and car I should ask for. I came away in a daze, being used to modest public sector and non-profit salaries and lunching off the expense accounts of journalists.

I think and talk a lot about PR agency evolution. I find it fascinating. Despite the headline of my friend Robert Phillips’ recent and interesting book, the PR industry is a living, breathing, growing and fast evolving one, expanding its influence and broadening its intake at every turn. If occasionally suffering bouts of self doubt but rightly doing some intelligent introspection (and Robert’s book, “Trust me, PR is dead”, is part of that).

In terms if what has changed in my twenty years in the consulting industry, and almost 35 years in the industry in its various forms,  first is most definitely a move from  “who you know” to “what you know”.

(I realise this is a broad generalisation. In areas like lobbying, financial PR, political comms, publicity, contacts remain important, but contacts without content and context are a short lived asset.)

Back then our worth as senior PRs was measured by the fullness of our black – contacts – book first, our ideas second.

Having been used to being sought out as an informed and – mostly – reliable and “tirelessly available” (in the words of The Independent’s Don McIntyre in a profile he penned of me – political comms was a 24/7 pager-driven affair even in those pre-Twitter days) senior source, it felt uncomfortable to be selling myself on who I knew in politics and the media. The FT had helpfully described me as “a reasonably sized moth around the Blairite flame” (it was 1995, two years before I had the pleasure of working for my old boss Peter Mandelson on New Labour’s landslide election campaign).

But there I was on a sofa in Shandwick International’s HQ sat next to its then UK CEO, seeking his anointment in my new, and much better paid, job. He didn’t ask me what strategic insights I had learned over the years, what PR experience I would bring to his firm. He asked me  if my political contacts were as good as he had been led to believe.

I swallowed my pride and told him that the previous weekend Peter Mandelson had been best man at my wedding and Tony and Cherie Blair had sent flowers. I was in.

I tried from the start to take a different tack. Public affairs was seen as a pretty dodgy branch of PR back then, with no real ethics code and it’s reputation battered by “cash for questions” type media exposes. At the height of Blair’s untouchable majority, William Hague’s – the outgoing defeated Tory leader – deputy press secretary came to see me about a job. Priti Patel, now a doughty Asian woman minister around David Cameron’s cabinet table.

My Labour staff thought I was mad to entertain the idea of hiring a Tory. No other firm was. The hot currency were spotty arrogant researchers to backbench Labour MPS and someone who proudly told me at interview that they had done Gordon Brown’s photocopying. I didn’t  listen and hired Priti on the spot. Why? Not because of her contacts who were then – how things change! – deep in opposition and pretty useless to our clients. No. Priti turned up with her pager clipped to the lapel of her Chanel jacket. That told me she was my kind of tough, proactive, 24/7, blow the doors off press officer and ideal for my media division rather than the lobbying team.

As the media and our industry have been revolutionised by digital & social media, as noise levels rise, channels multiply, attention spans shorten and generational expectations change (hello Gen K/Z ), the ‘what you know’ rather than the ‘who you know’ has become more and more important.

It’s not that relationships are not important. Far from it. Journalists remain important to many if not most clients at one level of their communications. But there are less of them, with less time, and so many more routes to reach and engage target audiences. I always encourage trainees to read print media get to know journalists, go take a tour of a newsroom. But that’s just part of it.

The shift from contacts value to content & creativity premium has also allowed us to bring fresh, different minds and ideas and experience into the industry – more ‘T-shaped’ people with a deep specialist knowledge (sustainability, food science, clean technology, channel planning, sports etc etc etc) but a broad interest in the world of popular culture, innovation and current affairs in which our clients are now framed.

To be continued…

PR and politics: the two most intertwined professions.

As the election campaign gathers pace we are reminded once again of how close and overlapping two “professions” are – PR and politics.

A UK general election campaign may not be the biggest spending marketing event – or anything as big financially as a US election – but it is one of the most sophisticated and – potentially – engaging. Last week’s “non debate” was a pure exercise in modern public relations. Little control on the message, two way communications and a mass of white noise in the social media echo chamber. (Our Prime Minister even worked in PR as an in house communications director – I pitched to him once. Didn’t get the business sadly. I also once turned George Osborne down for a job with my lobbying firm, but I did hire Priti Patel, now one of the brightest sparks on the Tory benches.)

battle

Source: Sky News

But is the closeness of our two lines of business, with almost no discernible barrier between, a good thing?

The man who started Shandwick forty one years ago, Lord Chadlington, was and remains immersed in politics. The guy who hired me, Lord McNally, was a Labour and SDP MP, a minister and is a leading figure in the House of Lords. I was a much more lowly Labour spin doctor. (I don’t regard my time working in politics as PR – it was propaganda, but I learned a lot from it and my brilliant ex boss and mentor, Lord Mandelson.)

On Friday I attended a fascinating event at the LSE, Polis’ “Vote 2015″ conference on politics and the media, organised by Charlie Beckett. It was awash with top journalists and broadcasters, pollsters, politicians, marketers,  social media activists and thinkers.

The first person I ran into was my old friend, Tony Blair’s former top aide Angie Hunter. Angie is now a senior advisor at Edelman. In the evening I want to the retirement party of a former colleague and for most of the past decade head of communications at EDF, Andrew Brown, one of the nicest and most effective operators in PR. Andrew worked in both media and politics and at EDF showed modern PR at its best, influencing what the company did rather than just said. Also there was one of my oldest friends, Michael Prescott, a former political journalist, now head of comms at the mighty BT, and a formidable strategic mind.

You get the picture. And there are many other examples, from Charles Lewington to Alistair Campbell. The latest issue of PR Week heralds the arrival of former Labour Secretary of State Jacqui Smith into our fold.

At a fortieth birthday bash I hosted for Weber Shandwick’s London office last year, Lord Chadlington quipped in his speech that back in the 60′s and 70′s PR teemed with failed politicians and journalists. Those who switched to PR largely traded on their contacts rather than their strategic brilliance. Today I think those with political and media backgrounds largely add enormous value, experience and strategic insight to our industry. Politics and PR are now almost indistinguishable as practices.

PR is traditionally a business that “flies by the seat of its pants” as John Lloyd remarked in his recent critique of PR and the media, “Journalism and PR” (published by The Reuters Institute). Still too many of our practitioners skip the strategy bit, or don’t question the strategy they are handed, and focus on tactics. People with good and cutting edge political experience bring strategic insight, forged against a background of the invasive 24/7 real time scrutiny that brands, CEOs and organisations increasingly face.

In his brilliant new book on UK political marketing, “Mad Men and Bad Men”, Sam Delany tells great stories of how myopic UK political PRs and their bosses were back in the 60s, until the marketing and polling folks got involved. That has largely changed.

mad bad

Source: Amazon.co.uk

So as we sit back and watch the PR-driven integrated campaigns unfold, hit or miss, I for one celebrate the closeness of our two practices ( of course I am NOT talking about the murkier end of what the press refer to as lobbying, politicians trading crudely on their contacts, often with a bad ending).

Sadly though, and ironically, another aspect our two “businesses” share is a poor reputation and public profile. But that’s another story. 

Archeology of Technology

I have a favourite slide for presentations at the moment. It illustrates, in horizontal bars of different colours, the speed at which various mass communication technologies took to reach a 50 million audience. Radio at the top with 38 years, down to Twitter with just 9 months. It looks like one of those sliced side views the earth, with the various periods of history shown as different coloured layers of soil and rock and prehistoric debris. I call it the Archeology of Technology.

 

I had a personal Archaeology of Technology moment at the weekend. My 8 year old wanted me to drive him to our nearest town with a toy shop so he could buy a skateboard with his pocket money. It was a mild and sunny spring morning, so we went in my old VW Beetle with the top down. It’s so old it has a cassette player rather than a CD player.

Source:www.hswstatic.com

I dug out one of my ancient tapes, a compilation of 80′s stuff recorded off the radio. To do this you had to listen to the chart shows, wait for the idiot DJ to stop babbling over the intro to press record, then wait again, finger poised, until they threatened to start babbling again over the outro to hit the stop button.

Source: www.imgfave.com/

The poor kid was treated to me waxing on about the joys of dancing to Clare Grogan and Altered Images doing “I Could Be Happy’ and to Heaven 17, and about how cassettes worked, when all he wanted to do was get his hands on a skateboard.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/

(And let’s remember than the Walkman was the Smartphone of its day in terms of personal technology and lifestyle desirability.)

 

Further back in my technology archaeology, before I had a radio cassette deck, we used to practice what would now be illegal downloads by taping friends’ albums live on a little portable cassette player. This involved playing the album on a stereo and painstakingly positioning the little microphone in the right point between the speakers to try and pick up the best recording. Often this involved having to do it several times as police sirens, barking dogs or friends’ little brothers and sisters yelling intruded on the recording. The result often sounded like you were listening through damp cotton wool. It was a labour of love.

 

Source: http://backgroundgirl.tumblr.com/

I tried explaining all this to my bemused son, whose personal technology archeology starts with the laptop and tablet. He couldn’t figure out all the sweat and hassle involved. Or maybe he was just thinking about his skateboard.

 

Are we all in “advertising” now?

While I celebrate the PR industry, many of its people, it’s growth in influence and it’s innovation, I do not dance prematurely on the grave of advertising. Any visitor to Cannes or Eurobest knows that is a foolish game.

I spent three fascinating afternoons recently as a mentor on the Campaign magazine/Knowledge Engineers’ Future Leaders Programme. The participants were mainly from ad agencies and media agencies, with the odd in house marketer. I was the only non-ad or media agency mentor. I suspect I was eyed with suspicion as well as interest. I also suspect I learned more from watching them prep a pitch than they did from me.

We talk a lot in our industry about client centricity and gaining a deep understanding of our clients’ business challenges as opposed to communications challenges. Companies and organisations don’t have “PR problems”. They have business challenges which in an always on, sceptical communications democracy, require engagement with customers and stakeholders.

Advertising has always got this. Why? Because CMOs are numbers driven business people – hence so many end up as CEOs of their companies. Their ad agencies have done the creative thing, rooted in the business opportunity. PRs have tended to focus on tactics, positive mentions, raised awareness and “Likes” rather than meticulous measurement of ROI in sales and reputation.

(interestingly some of the participants had “Business Leader” as their job title, not Account Director or Associate Director.)

Back to my observations. Firstly, a big chunk of the allotted time for the pitch prep was analysis of “the customer journey”. Deep insights and research. I suspect that there are still many traditional PR folk who think “the customer journey” is whether a shopper takes the bus or their car to the supermarket.

Secondly, more and more insights and analysis. I have blogged and spoken before about how PR has to get this right and learn from advertising. (Interestingly I recently formed a partnership with Marketing Week to conduct some research amongst UK CMOs about the state of agency relationships. 25% said they still saw their ad agency as their key strategic partner, and 22% their digital agency, as opposed to 13% who cited their PR agency. That said, many felt underserved by their strategic partner agency on insights and analytics, content, social media, and the biggest servicing let down was helping them to futureproof their business and alerting them to changes in the marketplace. So from a PR agency POV, an opportunity as well as a challenge. If we get the analytics, content and business intelligence right.)

Thirdly, for a profession cast largely around paid advertising, the teams I saw in action did not rely on this medium but saw it as just one channel in the Paid/Earned/Owned/Shared matrix. For them the business challenge, the customer journey and associated insights, the killer key insight and the engaging creative response were the main focus. Tactical execution included some advertising, but often to boost earned media (John Lewis penguins anyone). Experiential and social were also at the forefront as well as creative technology.

The new breed of advertising leaders (as opposed to the old guard wedded to client budget zapping shoots on tropical islands and 30 second spots that were usually blunderbusses and increasing are getting ignored) must feel as constrained by the traditional view of their craft as many of us in PR feel about media relations, “free media” as the Cannes old guard refer to it, “spin” as many journalists cast it, and the press release.

We were not born a profession of press release writers. For much of our past “traditional ” media was the main channel. Ditto for advertising – the thirty second spot, the DPS etc.

So, are the next generation of advertising practitioners better prepared and more attuned to the new marketing era, with all the challenges and opportunities, than the current output of PR degrees and PR industry training courses?

If advertising is, as one dictionary definition puts it, “the business of persuading people to buy products and services (or ideas)”, as opposed to the craft of producing 30 second spots etc, then are we all in “advertising” now?

Celebrating our #FathersDayHeroes

Just over a decade ago my Dad died of lung cancer, aged 73. Although as a teenager I crossed swords with him, wound him up, was occasionally incomprehensible and disappointing to this hard manual working, rugby league loving poor boy from Drogheda, he was – is – a hero to me.

Born into a poor, large family in Ireland, he left school and started work in a cement factory at 13 – a year before he could legally but the practice in Ireland at the time was not to register kids until they were of working age, then lie about the birth date so they could work to support the family as early as possible. Only when his own mother was dying did he learn that he was a year younger than he thought, and had a different birthday. “Just like the Queen” he used to joke. When I was in my teens he supported my choice to go to college when relatives and friends were telling him to get me out to work ASAP.

Having met my Mum when she was visiting both their family’s Irish home town, he moved to Salford in his late twenties and started a lifetime of  backbreaking – almost literally after an industrial accident – work on what was then The Port of Manchester and the Ship Canal (now home to Media City)  as a fitter on big transAtlantic container boats. It was hard work, long hours to bring home the overtime, scrabbling around hot oily stinking ships’ engine rooms. He hardly ever complained. There was Friday night watching his beloved Salford Reds play rugby at the ground opposite our house to look forward to, and a beer with his mates.

He was a heavy smoker, liked a drink and a party and an Irish sing song. He could play almost any instrument by ear and gave me my first guitar. As kids, and encouraged by my vehemently anti-smoking Mum, we would buy him pipes for his birthday to try and get him to cut down. They would mysteriously “break” in his overalls pocket.

 

When he retired he gave up the cigs, spent time with his grandchildren, helped nurse my mum to recovery from cancer, learned to cook, watched the Reds, walked his dog. A legacy of his working conditions, he developed asbestosis on his lungs, which in time developed into an inoperable lung cancer. It killed him before he could see half his 18 grandchildren even be born.

This Father’s Day I will be donating in his memory to The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation (www.roycastle.org)  and be tweeting a selfie with one of my favourite photographs of him using the #FathersDayHeroes hashtag. I know many people, including celebrities and top-followed Tweeters, will have similarly lost hero dads to this disease. And many others will just want to celebrate having their dad still with them or having survived cancer. I hope they will join me in doing the same selfie, with pic or, if lucky, with their large-as-life “hero” dad, and in making a donation to the Foundation and encouraging others to do the same. To help even more, and give the campaign greater impact and reach, I hope they will join me in signing up to support a Thunderclap (it takes literally two minutes) so we can share a collective message of support for the Foundation via Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr on the eve of Father’s Day in the name of #FathersDayHeroes. For this to happen, we need to recruit 100 supporters on Thunderclap to back this important charity and its dedicated fight against lung cancer in men and woman or all ages.

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men after prostate cancer, with around 23,800 new cases diagnosed in the UK in 2011. There are around 43,000 cases (men and women) diagnosed every year and it remains the UK’s biggest cancer killer.

Early diagnosis is a really key message for the Foundation. Public Health England ran a Be Clear On Cancer campaign (2012 / 2013) urging people with a three-week-old cough to visit their GP. It led to around 700 extra patients (10% rise) being diagnosed with lung cancer – many at an early stage – and crucially resulted in around 300 more patients getting surgery, which gives them the best chance of prolonged survival.

So let’s celebrate our #FathersDayHeroes in a meaningful way, the ones we have or have lost, and help more to survive.

Socialising

It has been a busy week on the social media front

Just finished three days in Sweden – one of Europe’s most digitally advanced and creative economies – with Weber Shandwick’s new friends and partners at Prime PR in Stockholm, the world’s most Cannes Lions winning creative digital PR hot shop. Reviewing the work and meeting the great and lovely people behind it was a joy, and the fulfilment of a personal ambition to work with creative wunderkind Tom Beckman and the team there. (Great case studies on en.primegroup.com.)

A few days earlier on Tuesday I was pleased to host and be on the panel for the Editorial Intelligence/London Press Club discussion on Twitter and all things future social media along with The Sunday Times’ India Knight, EI’s Julia Hobsbaum, Sky News executive editor John McAndrew and chair Charlie Beckett, director of the media and communications studies department at the LSE.

I love Twitter. As will.i.am said so succinctly, it is the pulse of the world. I get breaking news, opinion, gossip, recommendations. I share everything from thoughts on PR and music, art, food, politics, fashion to pics of my chickens.

It is a wonderful platform for sharing other social media platforms – blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube etc. Unlike the rush we all went through to acquire as many Facebook friends as possible, and years later don’t know who half of them are or care very much, I tailor my Twitter feed to the content I want, the people who interest me, the news and views sources I trust or arouse my curiosity. (Note – my 80 year old mum recently friended me on Facebook.)

In eight years Twitter has helped fuel the Arab Spring, exposed the nonsense of the UK’s libel laws, bring us news live and bite-sized without having to keep an eye on the telly captions in the corner of the office, and I haven’t seen a picture of a cute kitten falling off a bookshelf yet.

One senior newspaper type opined that Twitter had peaked and would be dead in two years. I bet some said that of newspapers when TV arrived sixty years ago. I think Twitter will thrive and evolve. Facebook is for old pals and family, Twitter is for the curious, the news hungry and the opinionated. Those traits and values never age. Others pointed to the slow down in adoption – up fifty per cent in the UK last year! – and the size of total user numbers to Facebook’s 1.3 billion.  That’s like saying the FT is a failure because it has a much smaller readership than The Sun. Apples and pears.

In my humble opinion, Twitter excels at gathering us around trends and delivering us bite-sized, real time communications. It is designed for modern life, be it media brands, journalists, politicians – Cameron would not make that “twits and twat” crack these days – celebrities, influencers, and the visually inclined, informed and opinionated citizen.

Twitter is the social media equivalent of coffee and adrenalin.

Twitter is also increasingly a platform for what my digital guys politely call “social customer service” – not just engaging with brands but yelling at them in public and inciting other to do the same when they piss us off.

(As for trolls, expose them, shame them, mass unfollow them and if necessary throw the deranged, racist, sexist, homophobic bastards in jail.)

So Twitter is most definitely a key part of the future of social media. What else?

I talked to several of our digital gunslingers at Weber Shandwick London to get their take.

  • emergent technologies around augmented reality and instant video
  • curation, aggregation, mass-sharing a la Buzzfeed will be increasingly important in shaping WHAT people want to share as well as how
  • immersion, the development of filters to help us deal with content overload so only highly relevant content – to us – reaches us
  • a continued move away from one-to-many back to one-to-one and small group platforms. Whatsapp, Snapchat and more to come
  • in marketing, big data analytics will drive a more science-based approach to targeting key audiences and groups (data will increase by 600% by 2020 – that’s every bit of data we have today, times six, in just six years!)

So, lots of exciting stuff. I’ll follow it all on Twitter.