Archive for the ‘What Stephen Says’ Category

Stephen says...After recently joining O Communications on an intern basis, I took a few days out of the office to experience my first real PR campaign; Time to Change.

What is Time to Change?

Time to Change is England’s most ambitious programme to end mental health discrimination. It is led by Mind and Rethink and funded by the Big Lottery Fund and Comic Relief

The campaign

This part of the campaign was themed ‘are you feeling blue in the queue’, based around having the January Blues and encouraging people to be there for people who may be feeling blue. To promote the awareness of this, O Comms held road shows around the North East in Durham, Morpeth, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland, where blue people (promo staff dressed from head to toe in blue morph suits) appeared ‘out of the blue’ in the streets to generate curiosity and fuel interest in the campaign.  The O Comms team talked with people on the street about the Time to Change campaign and collected personal pledges from people passing by. People were asked to sign a pledge to say that agreed with the campaign’s message to end mental health discrimination.

What did I learn on my first campaign?

I spent my first day in Newcastle city centre within Eldon Square and on Northumberland Street and my second day at The Bridges shopping centre in Sunderland.

Firstly, I learnt that you can’t be shy; Public Relations is all about communication and when doing on-the-ground street road shows, excellent communication is a must. Your job is to get across a message to as many people as possible, so confidence and enthusiasm are essential.

Secondly, it’s good to listen, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason – I learnt a lot from listening to stories and information told directly from people who cared for or knew of someone who was suffering from a mental illness. The more I learnt about mental illness the more I could engage with others who knew about it as well.

Thirdly, PR really can make a difference, and I saw this first hand. One of the fastest and most credible ways to communicate a message is through word of mouth and what better a way than out on the street in city centres around the North East.

The Time to Change campaign was all about raising awareness, generating interest and communicating key messages about mental health. All of which, I feel we did successfully on the street and through regional newspaper coverage – making the Time to Change campaign a great first campaign to learn from at the beginning of my career.



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Stephen says...I woke up at 4 o’clock this morning, not to the sound of my alarm but to a question demanding an answer before the break of dawn.  How is a person creative and where does their creativity come from? How do you distinguish a great idea from a terrible one? Can you become creative or are you born creative? And so on…

This doesn’t normally happen, but it has led to my own mini creative breakthrough, by giving me an interesting topic to blog about for the first time in what was days and has now been weeks.

Being a creative person is something that every professional in PR and advertising aspires towards. I think that if they deny this, they’re lying.

The frustrating thing is that the process of being creative is so simple:  an ordinary act that combines old information into new ideas – yet it is so difficult to master. This does mean, however, that when creative ideas are successful, the creator is often regarded as having ‘a brilliant mind.’

As I mentioned earlier, it made me think: is someone born creative or do they become creative with knowledge and experience? And also, what external conditions are necessary for a creative person to be most productive (creative)?

In Mad Men, Lane Pryce, a member of the new English management that took over the American ad agency, Sterling Cooper, described the creative department as being a bunch of lazy alcoholics. To which Creative Director, Don Draper, replied: “You came here because we do it better than you, and part of that is letting our creatives be unproductive until they are.”

Andy Green is a conference speaker who specialises in creative thinking. I was lucky enough to see him at one of his most recent talks which was in Newcastle. He talked about a lot of things that evening, but for me, one thing really stuck.

It was about using a role model to help you think more creatively. I have two – one is the fictional character Don Draper and the other is Tony Blair.

The process is simple, when faced with a problem or a creative block, think to yourself: what would my role model do in this situation?

At the moment, I am in the process of creating two campaigns which will heavily determine the final year marks in my PR degree. When I’m struggling to be creative, I think, If Don had this client, what would he come up with?

If you haven’t already tried it, give it a try!



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Stephen says...

Stephen says...

I’ve heard it and no doubt you have too, social media is the best thing to hit the PR industry since sliced bread. It’s the future, it’s the saviour, it’s the golden ticket and the answer to not all, but most of our industry’s problems.

The “New PR”, is going to be different. It’s one to one and it’s personal. We aren’t communicating with audiences anymore, we are communicating with people.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that this is the right direction for the industry; I just don’t think it will work out as perfectly as everyone else seems to think.

The boldest claim is this: The “New PR” will be more ethical and transparent because the practitioner can no longer hide behind a third party (mostly the media).

This claim is the one I have the most beef with.

Twitter is one of the BIG NAMES when it comes to social media. It’s still considered by many to be its infancy yet, it is already being ruined – I often get spammed by random businesses and fellow practitioners and students of PR.

“Check out the new latest tricks to get instant followers” – I don’t want instant followers I want to build meaningful relationships.

“Check out my new great blog on SEO” – I don’t even know who you are, can you not say hello first? Why is this the first thing that you are saying to me????

“Follow me and I’ll follow you straight back” – What’s the point in that?

Social media is already being ruined by the same practitioners that hail SM as the saviour of the PR industry.

And that’s just Twitter, I’m also very concerned about the future of Facebook. At the moment, you “like” a business page and you get a little insight into the company, some nice pictures and a little about what the company’s doing – great.

What about when social media gets bigger and more companies join Facebook? What happens when John from down the street “likes” a few FB business pages and gets a load of spam direct messages asking him to buy company products? John is so irritated and annoyed he no longer wants to engage with other businesess on their fan page.

As social media grows and more people jump on board the same thing will happen that happened with the press release. A few people will spam everyone and ruin the industry.

Social media isn’t the answer to a more transparent and ethical PR industry, stricter regulations are.

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Stephen says...

Stephen says...

Is your blog failing and you don’t know why? Are you assuming that because there are so many other blogs out there no one has time for yours?

If it is the latter, your excuse is a weak one and a little pathetic.

If your blog is failing, and by this I mean it has little to no traffic or engagement, It’s probably because your content isn’t good enough. Other reasons being: it’s not relevant anymore; or, you have no networking skills.


This first one is the most important. Without good content you have nothing. Most importantly, spelling and grammar need to be of a decent standard. If you’re failing here, people are likely to switch off as soon as they notice a mistake. Some may not notice, but most will.

Read Effective Writing Skills for Public Relations by John Foster to improve your writing.

Second to that, it must be engaging, interesting and different. Make it stand out – give it a human angle, something that people can relate to.


Writing about something that happened last week probably isn’t newsworthy anymore, so don’t bother blogging about it.

Think about your target audience and what they are going to want to read. If it is not relevant to them it is not relevant to anyone.


Unless you’re a celebrity, it isn’t easy to build up a following. To gain the reputation of someone who regularly produces good content is tough and is something that most bloggers won’t accomplish.

For me, it’s about being where your audience are. If they’re on Twitter, put your content on Twitter; Facebook, make a fan page; Social bookmarking sites (StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious), make sure your content is there for people to share and be active in these channels.

If you’re not sharing your content, no one else will be – unless it’s VERY newsworthy. However, if you’re reading this because your blog is failing, you probably don’t fall into this category.

I didn’t say I was perfect or my blog, but if you’re looking for advice, this will help.

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Stephen says...


After reading Neal Schaffer’s article on Socialmediatoday, I immediately knew that I needed to start exploring StumbleUpon. For many, this website drives more traffic to their blog than any other channel – including Facebook and Twitter.

When I used to think of social bookmarking sites, I thought of Digg and Delicious. However, when I found out StumbleUpon had over 11 million users – almost twice that of Digg – I realised it was a channel that deserved much more consideration.

It is also a great place to find and share other great content without having to feel like you’re doing a journalist’s job – trawling through a screen full of Twitter headlines looking for that good read.

For more advice on how to use StumbleUpon to direct traffic to your blog, read Schaffer’s article (linked above).


I won’t dwell on Twitter because too many people have already spent too much time talking about it.

If the content is good, it can have significant reach. However, you must have a significant number of followers to start with; otherwise, the article might not even be picked up.

If you # tag a tweet, like this: “#pr #socialmedia”. The tweet will be put into a category with all of the other people in the world who have used the same tag at that time – which is a lot of people. So unless you have a very good headline, the chances that your tweet will be discovered may be slim.

I look for content from people who have delivered good content to me previously. You need to invest some time in establishing a reputation as someone who shares good content. Otherwise your time is wasted here.


I have recently created a NewPRMinds fan page. I think having a Facebook page for your blog is a great idea and I am surprised more people don’t do it.  I see it as an opportunity to cross-network traffic from my blog to the fan page and vice-versa.

On Facebook you can display a range of content all on one page. One post can be a question or statement, while others could be shared content, such as videos or blog posts.

It is also, like Twitter, a many-to-many form of communication with a huge potential reach. However, this is limited unless you spend the time necessary to build up a following of people that will join your page and share your content.

You Tube

I decided to to talk about YouTube, on YouTube. Please click the video below to hear my thoughts.

Please let me know your thoughts via the comment box below or go over to our Facebook page to share them there.

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Stephen says...

Most people know that social media has changed PR forever. This post is for those who are STILL unsure.

I am going to look at a PR campaign from the 1980’s to see how PR used to work before the invention of the internet. Most important of all, I am going to look at how things could be improved if done with the communication channels and technology we have now.

My next word… Brylcreem

First created in 1928 the product was an emulsion of water and mineral oil stabilised with beeswax.

Declining in popularity and mainly bought by older people, Brylcreem started to flag in the mid 1980’s. Someone needed to do something quickly to save the brand. It was decided Brylcreem needed a new, younger target audience.  Beecham’s brand, (owner of Brylcreem) started by creating a new and trendy ad campaign.

Now the special part

Lynne Franks PR came up with the idea to have a competition where the most handsome and intelligent young-men could win a chance to appear in a Brylcreem commercial.

Entrants queued in their thousands for the opportunity to be on TV. This sparked an interest from the regional and national media, securing coverage and making the campaign a huge success.

Imagine this campaign in 2010…

Getting the message out!

How would you communicate such a message 25 years ago? The first thing to do would be to send a news release, or better still, a media pack. But how else would you communicate and interact? What if it was a ‘big news day,’ and the media pack didn’t catch as much publicity as you had hoped for?

In 2010, those same channels of communication would still be used today. The difference being, a bigger variety of channels would be included in the campaign today. New media doesn’t replace old media, it adds to it.

  • Contestants would upload YouTube videos saying why they were the best candidate.
  • They would also post pictures on Flickr or other video sharing channels.
  • Brylcreem would make announcements and regularly engage with the public on Twitter and Facebook.
  • I even imagine the public voting the winner on Brylcreem’s website.

The internet is a many-to-many form of communication. The message would spread like wild fire.

‘The Bylcreem Boy’ campaign has recently made a comeback starring English international cricketer, Kevin Pietersen.

If we were to see a similar campaign to that of Lynne Franks now, I would expect to see more interactivity, engagement and exposure.

At the moment, however, Brycreem seem to be doing a great job embracing social media.

This is evident through the many recent events broadcasted through their Facebook page, such as: the Brylcreem Style Competition in February, the Brylcreem Batting Challenge with Kevin Pietersen, and the very recent Brylcreem Boy Barbers’ Day.

Are you convinced yet? If not, you will fall behind.

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Stephen says...

Hopefully, you have read my previous post about Naked Wines and their great use of social media. If not, just click here.

Now, part two, and the companies who are not so good at it.

Featuring, Nestle (Cheers and Boos).

I’m going to make this one quick because I don’t want to dwell on bad practice. It is true that one can learn from their mistakes and from the mistakes of others. On this occasion, however, there really isn’t much to learn.


The main lesson here is: don’t be patronising or cheeky to your customers.

In case you are unaware, I’ll quickly bring you up to speed. Nestle didn’t want Facebook members using altered versions of their company logo as their profile picture.

It all went wrong…

This happened in the middle of March but there is still talk about it on the web (the internet never forgives).

They’ve done the hard work – investing time and money into social media creating a loyal base of engaged customers.

If a company has a good relationship with their customers online, it can help to limit the potential damage to their reputation in times of crises.

An employee having a bad day? Who knows.

One thing is for sure, it will never happen again.

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