Return of the intern: What I have learned during my second spell at Aspectus PR

The PR industry offers a great route into the media world for graduates such as myself. I’m entering my final year at university and having interned at several companies, it is PR that really captured my imagination.


26 Aug
by Aspectus PR

Written by Sofie Skouras

Aspectus PR - PR logoThe PR industry offers a great route into the media world for graduates such as myself. I’m entering my final year at university and having interned at several companies, it is PR that really captured my imagination. Not just because it provides the opportunity to interact with the media, but because each day is diverse and exciting.

When I first interned at Aspectus PR in April this year, I was greeted with a warm welcome by the team and immediately felt at home. The friendly, hard-working and fast-paced atmosphere in the office was contagious, so I was thrilled to be asked to return over the summer period.

Unlike some other professions where the tasks set for the intern involve photocopying, making tea, and running around London doing menial tasks, my role has taken in anything from compiling press lists, coverage reports and supporting social media campaigns, to writing blog posts, and liaising directly with clients and journalists.

As a result, I believe I have developed a much greater awareness of the commercial environment, my communication and business skills have increased significantly, and I have become much more confident.

So for anyone else considering an internship, or a career in PR, here are six lessons that I have learnt during my time at Aspectus:

  1. Social media is crucial – following relevant accounts, being regularly active and – most importantly – engaging with your audience. The latter is something I learnt during my Twitter outreach project. As a result of simply tweeting companies and individuals, I set up new business meetings.
  2. ‘To-do’ lists are your friend – the world of PR is incredibly fast-paced and with lots of tasks keeping you busy, I found to-do lists essential. They allow you to prioritise tasks and time-manage more effectively, which is something that I will continue doing when I return to university.
  3. Perseverance pays off – this is something I learnt during my ‘benchmarking opinions’ project for one of Aspectus’ clients. I was required to call individuals and ask them their opinions of the client after a PR campaign; their answers were then used to gauge the campaign’s effectiveness. Getting hold of highly mobile professionals was extremely challenging and required several attempts. In the end however, my perseverance paid off.
  4. Calling journalists is not ‘dead’ – being a part of ‘generation Z’, I have grown up in a world where we communicate via texting, emails, social media and so on. I am part of the generation who supposedly ‘only knows how to communicate through a screen’. So seeing my co-workers simply pick up the phone to pitch a story to a journalist was refreshing and gave a personal touch.
  5. Keep a work diary – maintaining a work journal is so beneficial; jotting down what you have done is both handy and satisfying. It allows you to keep track of what you have accomplished and build your portfolio. In your portfolio, you can neatly organise the tasks you completed, what strategies and ideas you created, some writing samples and so on. It can be easy to forget things when you’re very busy so taking a quick minute to jot them down will help you in the long run.
  6. The importance of teamwork – in a PR agency, you are never working alone. Being a team player is imperative in PR because, ultimately, everyone is trying to achieve the same goal. Participating in group brainstorms, meetings, conference calls and so forth really illuminated the benefits of working collaboratively.

I have greatly enjoyed my time at Aspectus and have enjoyed working alongside such a brilliant and supportive team. I would like to thank everyone at Aspectus and I hope to see everyone again very soon.


Top five tips for a winning communications campaign when entering new oil and gas markets

Breaking into new markets can be a long and complex process. This is particularly true in the oil and gas (O&G) sector, where global demand, technological innovation and the discovery of new reserves mean firms must frequently step into new […]


21 Aug
by Aspectus PR

oil-gas-pr-mapBreaking into new markets can be a long and complex process. This is particularly true in the oil and gas (O&G) sector, where global demand, technological innovation and the discovery of new reserves mean firms must frequently step into new markets and geographies. This calls for a well thought-out communications strategy, and one that is tailored not only to the needs of the business in question, but for the locale they are entering.

Certainly, the task can seem daunting from a communications standpoint. There are countless companies in the O&G sector with something new or interesting to say, fighting for voice share on the global media stage.

With more than 15 years’ experience working in the O&G sector, Aspectus PR’s energy team is trusted by major international players and respected by journalists around the world. It has represented scores of companies selling into the O&G niche and many operating within it.

Here are our top five tips for getting your communication strategy right:

1) Research
Get to know the local media landscape. This means identifying the publications most relevant to your target audience, sourcing the most credible and influential news outlets, establishing the journalists that cover your type of organisation and, importantly, understanding the issues driving the local news agenda.

2) Messaging
Messaging is the basis of all communications activity. Therefore, you need to be confident that your messages are appropriate for, and of interest to, your regional audience, as well as aligned with the aspirations of your organisation.

3) Language
This goes beyond simply translating your communications into the local tongue. Also consider how your current messages translate and whether they resonate in another language.

4) Digital
Optimising your website correctly can make or break your success in a new market.

5) Social networking
Social media is crucial for improving search engine optimisation (SEO). The more engagement you have online, the better your search ranking will be. Relationship building is at the very heart of PR, so remember that getting to know people on the ground is equally important

Successful PR doesn’t happen overnight, so be realistic and persevere. This is where a communications agency can help. Bringing in specialist knowledge and expertise can ensure that the communications strategy and tactics you employ work as hard as possible to generate the highest return.

To find out more about PR for breaking into new markets, pick up a copy of this month’s Scandinavian Oil & Gas magazine, or get in touch with us directly.


Reports of the death of the press release are an exaggeration

There’s been buzz in the PR world that press releases are slowly dying out and are no longer a useful medium for companies. Some industry commentators argue that journalists have no interest in simply republishing content that’s already been circulated […]


19 Aug
by Aspectus PR

press-releases-not-dead-PR

There’s been buzz in the PR world that press releases are slowly dying out and are no longer a useful medium for companies.

Some industry commentators argue that journalists have no interest in simply republishing content that’s already been circulated widely and published online because it is no longer newsworthy. Others feel that in today’s world of evolving technology, there are better ways to share company news other than the traditional press release.

Even executives at large corporations have voiced the opinion that the press release is a thing of the past. Coca-Cola, for example, has stated publicly that the company is moving away from “press release PR” to focus more on digital content data, and plans to eliminate all traditional press releases by 2015.

Perhaps the most notable part of Coca-Cola’s statement is the use of the word ‘traditional’. Certainly, the media has evolved beyond all recognition within the last decade, thanks to the rise of digital, social and prosumers, so it would be no surprise to see the traditional press release become a much more interactive document – with embedded video and links, for example.

However, as an accepted channel of corporate communication, it would be surprising if a firm such as Coca-Cola was to eliminate press releases entirely from its media strategy.

Indeed, Aspectus has long argued that the press release is alive and well and living on the internet and that it is how you approach them that counts.

But it’s good to revisit the basics as to why we still view the press release as a valuable PR tool in today’s digital world:

  • Press releases are an effective way to communicate news to your audience in a concise form – new hires, new products, technology advancements and more
  • Keeping an updated newsroom – containing an archive of past releases – not only shows your company’s history and accomplishments in one accessible location, but provides journalists with an essential, searchable resource should they want to examine your heritage
  • Press releases are still relied upon by journalists, bloggers et al as a great source of concise information

Ultimately, we would argue that the press release is not dead. Rather, it is our role as PR professionals to counsel our clients on how and when to use press releases effectively. Companies might need to adjust their press release distribution strategies to accommodate evolving technology and social media but, for now, it is still very much alive and kicking.

 


Why good manners equal good PR

Sophie Hodgson muses why, in her opinion, good manners still have a role to play in PR. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a long list of pet peeves. They range from people eating like washing […]


08 Aug
by Aspectus PR

Sophie Hodgson muses why, in her opinion, good manners still have a role to play in PR.

good-manners-PRAnyone who knows me will tell you that I have a long list of pet peeves. They range from people eating like washing machines through to media call round lists littered with ‘voicemail’ as an update. The latter is likely to send me into outer space. But I digress. The king of all peeves, for me, is bad manners.

Now you might be reading this thinking that perhaps your mum has started a blog and you’ve somehow stumbled upon it. No, I can assure you that I am sub-35 and have a bee in my bonnet about manners. This might be odd given that I work in PR and that as well as working with a lot of lovely people, I also interact with a lot of rude people. It would be conceivable to think that I spend a lot of time secretly seething. But there is a difference between a journalist that finds new and inventive ways to be rude to you, for example, and plain bad manners. Rudeness I can cope with. Poor manners I cannot.

But why does this even matter? You might not even realise it, but good manners can be the difference between winning an account or losing it. No respectable agency would go to a pitch and not be polite to the receptionist. The use of the words ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ are well received. In a number of pitch situations where we have won, part of the feedback – aside from the strategy, ideas, quality of team etc – was that on top of all that, the receptionist thought that we were lovely. First impressions matter, and if you’re bad mannered with the receptionist, what does that say about your approach to people in what is still very much a people industry? Are you the right agency to be conveying the client’s message to the wider world?

Bad manners simply have no place in modern business. Yet good manners create the right impression and ensure that people want to deal with you. And when used to their best effect, they make people feel good about themselves. This last point is underlined by a recent event in our office. The lovely @amyredhead interviewed a potential intern, who we then offered a position. He is American and coming to the UK in a few weeks. We’re excited about him starting and feel we can learn a lot from him (he is a real networker) and vice versa. But do you know what really made us exclaim with delight? The fact that when he got back to the US he wrote us a handwritten note of thanks. That right there is the power of good manners AND good PR.


Technology start ups are businesses too

Over the last few weeks – since joining Aspectus – I’ve had the pleasure of meeting contacts old and new in order to spread the ‘Aspectus Word’, writes Sophie Hodgson. During that time, I’ve had a variety of conversations from […]


04 Aug
by Aspectus PR

Over the last few weeks – since joining Aspectus – I’ve had the pleasure of meeting contacts old and new in order to spread the ‘Aspectus Word’, writes Sophie Hodgson.

start-ups-technology-pr

During that time, I’ve had a variety of conversations from the future of agency and client interactions through to the needs of start up and early stage companies. And it’s the latter that I have found the most interesting, because the conversation hasn’t just been about PR, but about what start ups need from the wider business community.

Let me explain. There are a lot of larger companies looking to help and partner with start up and early stage companies through great new initiatives that give them the opportunity to showcase their wares. Clearly this isn’t an altruistic move; the benefit for the big boys is that they get to try and add a little bit of ‘start up’ sparkle to their own organisation. Moreover, this new wave of businesses represents their potential customers of the future too. The elders of tech need to understand how their services will be consumed in years to come and shape their businesses accordingly.

So, they get involved throwing a lot of money and energy in the direction of Silicon Roundabout. From Hackathons through to mentoring schemes and more. Clearly these initiatives are a ‘good thing’ and in no way is this blog aimed at criticising these efforts. Certainly the start ups I have spoken with view them favourably, describing them as networking opportunities with the potential for column inches and social media interaction that can put their company in front of new audiences.

This is all well and good, but do these schemes overlook a key factor – that start ups aren’t there for a beauty parade? They are businesses too. Of these grand initiatives, how many result in start ups actually growing their business? Publicity is great, a shout out on Twitter from a key influencer even better, but what about leads? Actual sales leads? The opportunity for start ups to benefit not from the technology the sponsor has to offer them, but the opportunity to pitch to a division within the business and possibly win a contract?

Networking and mentoring – what most of these events and programmes see as a key benefit for participation – are all wonderful things that could lead to something bigger, but how often does this actually happen? Larger companies need to be more focused in how they engage start ups and be prepared to not just throw marketing budget at them, but give due thought and consideration as to what tangible sales leads and commercial growth opportunities they can engage them in.


The UK energy Big Six – why the wrong reputation means the wrong story

The BBC reported yesterday that, according to Ofgem estimates, the UK’s infamous ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers are set to double their profit margins for next year (8%) as compared to a year ago (4%). In a hostile environment (to put it […]


31 Jul
by Aspectus PR

energy-big-sixThe BBC reported yesterday that, according to Ofgem estimates, the UK’s infamous ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers are set to double their profit margins for next year (8%) as compared to a year ago (4%). In a hostile environment (to put it mildly), it’s a headline statistic that’s sure to rankle and makes for yet more bad publicity for an already unpopular group.

In a sense, the raised hackles are understandable: consumers living through a recession are likely to be touchy when their energy suppliers go from making £53 profit from them (average dual fuel customer) to making £106 – especially when bills seem to be going only one way.

Except they’re not.

Because there’s another statistic buried in the report. A few paragraphs in, the article cites Ofgem as calculating that, in the same period, the average dual fuel bill is likely to fall by around £18 ‘as energy efficiency measures improve’.*

So wait, what is the story here? Is it that the UK’s energy giants’ rampant profiteering continues unabated? Or is it rather that these companies have simultaneously made themselves better businesses and reduced costs to their customers through innovation in and commitment to energy efficiency measures (which, it’s worth mentioning, may well also mean carbon reduction too)?

In reality, it’s probably a bit of both – there are two sides to every story. However, the sad fact for the beleaguered PR department is that it was only ever going to be told one way. It’s a lesson for others in the industry that a toxic reputation goes a long, long way towards poisoning even positive future stories, and all but ensures they’ll be negative wherever there is even a hint of ambivalence.

Many will argue that this is where the Big Six reap what they have sown and the disadvantages conferred are deserved. Perhaps this is the case, perhaps it isn’t. For PR practitioners it’s enough to take this as a reminder – prevention is always better than cure, and whatever you do in the present, a terrible reputation inherited from the past means a PR mountain to climb.

*In a separate but simultaneous announcement, Ofgem have predicted that bills will fall by £12 due to new rules relating to the distribution arms of the businesses. This has been reported alongside the profit story and as a story in its own right, but should not be confused with the separate reduction here.

Tags: big six, Energy PR, Ofgem,

Posted In: Blog, Energy PR

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Why regulation is a financial services PR pro’s best friend

There’s no doubt about it: the financial services world is in an Age of Regulation. The debate over increased regulatory oversight within the myriad financial services sectors has raged on for years, but with considerably more vigor since the financial […]


25 Jul
by Aspectus PR

regulation-compliance-financial-servicesThere’s no doubt about it: the financial services world is in an Age of Regulation. The debate over increased regulatory oversight within the myriad financial services sectors has raged on for years, but with considerably more vigor since the financial crisis at the end of the last decade.

While many companies in the financial services sector scramble to get their ducks in a row in the face of regulations that are increasing in both number and complexity, PR professionals have a great opportunity to prove their value.

With FATCA (July 1, 2014) and AIFMD (transitional period ending July 22, 2014) – the two majors to come into effect in recent weeks – there is a huge audience out there for content providing guidance and best practice on how best to journey the road to compliance.

The sheer number of regulatory deadlines, milestones and anniversaries provides plenty of reasons for PR pros to connect their clients with reporters interested in writing about topics that affect their readers and who are looking to speak with those that are knowledgeable and can offer first-hand experience in compliance.

In recent months, Aspectus PR’s clients have spoken about regulatory topics ranging from how effective data management is essential in FATCA compliance, to the importance of transparency in regulating global FX markets, to tips for preparing for your first SEC examination, among others.

Much of this client coverage came down to just a few key things to remember:

  • Keep track of deadlines and go-live dates for important industry regulation
  • Speak with your clients regularly about the issues and challenges they face; after all, if they are facing these tests, it’s likely that others in the industry are as well
  • Get out ahead of breaking news by having different client views at the ready. That way, key reporters know that they have an expert source the moment they need them – regardless of the angle taken

Whether it’s FATCA, AIFMD, the JOBS Act, Dodd-Frank or the Volcker Rule, regulation can be a blessing in disguise for those PR professionals ready and waiting to offer their clients up as experts once the news hits.


Examining the many faces of content marketing

Last Thursday, Aspectus PR headed to the Institute of Education’s Logan Hall near Russell Square in London for the Content Marketing Show. Organised by Kelvin Newman at Rough Agenda, the twice-yearly event examines the good, the bad and the ugly […]


21 Jul
by Aspectus PR

Content-marketing-show-2014Last Thursday, Aspectus PR headed to the Institute of Education’s Logan Hall near Russell Square in London for the Content Marketing Show. Organised by Kelvin Newman at Rough Agenda, the twice-yearly event examines the good, the bad and the ugly of content marketing in rapid-fire sessions delivered by professionals drawn from across the media industry.

The core theme underpinning the show was the human aspect of social media. Captured succinctly in the form of an infographic produced by Clicky Media, it was brought to life by Axonn’s Fergus Parker in the Content Marketing Yearbook 2014: Highlights and Low-lifes – an irreverent look at those that succeeded and those that didn’t quite pull it off.

Personas featured strongly, with Tanglewood’s Raph Goldberg delivering an interesting take on using archetypes in video marketing strategies, and a brilliant presentation by Andrew Tipp at Suffolk County Council as to why thinking like a poker player will make you a better content marketer.

Goldberg explained how the types of person and stories hardwired into our minds act as a kind of filing system that enable us to quickly identify new characters or stories without really thinking about it. The same mechanism, he argued, applies in video, where brands can employ archetypes to instantly identify and resonate with their target audience – an essential aspect given that people decide whether they’re going to watch a video within the first 10 seconds.

Similarly, Tipp took the audience through the typical personas usually found round a poker table – and how content marketers must avoid the tactics of the reckless cowboy and look to the example set by the analytical maverick by creating an original strategy for every single game and not relying on branded templates. Most of all, he concluded: don’t persist with content ideas that aren’t winning. In other words, know when to hold’em and when to fold’em.

The most powerful session was delivered by Ketchum’s Stephen Waddington, who began the show by asking whether brands can be social as media shifts from mass forms of communication to social forms of communication. He argued that this shift has created an awkward disconnect for brands looking to get involved in the conversation. Comparing the social web to a party, where brands are the guests, he drew some telling character analogies:

  • ‘Nice but dim’ – e.g. those brands trying to get involved with the World Cup but who have nothing to do with football (trying to be cool but just not)
  • The ‘nutters’ – brands that appear almost psychopathic in their attempts to insert themselves into the conversation but lacking any form of empathy
  • ‘Auto mate’ – brands wedded to content calendars and robotically pushing out content with limited engagement

He warned against attempts to ‘automate the conversation’ using industrial-scale tools, and urged brands to be brave and recognise that social media is intrinsically human.

Waddington also drew on a deeply personal experience of how he used social media to carefully manage communications with friends, family, and his Facebook network after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, his wife is well on the way to recovery, but it was an incredibly powerful way to illustrate how social media can break down barriers and bring people together.


Data protection laws create tangled web for international businesses

Summer 2014 has seen a raft of data and consumer protection laws come into effect around the world. These are adding layers of operational complexity for organisations that are subject to them, and puzzlement for agencies entrusted with policing the […]


18 Jul
by Aspectus PR
Current Google Image

Summer 2014 has seen a raft of data and consumer protection laws come into effect around the world. These are adding layers of operational complexity for organisations that are subject to them, and puzzlement for agencies entrusted with policing the rules. Predictably enough, the confusion over the laws has been met with derision from sections of the media.

Firstly, there was the EU ruling on the right to be forgotten where Google was forced to comply by removing a search result relating to an outdated bankruptcy.

This opened quite the can of worms, as the company was inundated with removal requests. Most notably, BBC economics editor Robert Peston complained that a 2007 story he’d written had been ‘cast into oblivion’ when it was apparently removed from search results following a request. Links to that story and others noted by the Guardian were subsequently reinstated, with Google citing teething troubles to account for the confusion.

At the heart of the issue, as Danny Sullivan succinctly points out in Search Engine Land, is the notion that Google is under no obligation to comply with requests because it could be reasonably argued that it isn’t in a position to make a judgement to balance the right to be forgotten with the right of free speech. Individual requests could (and should) be passed to arbiters in the locality of a dispute who would be better qualified to decide what action should be taken based on the EU’s ruling – after which Google might more legitimately remove search results.

Should this hypothesis come to bear, there are further issues to muddy the waters. The ruling applies to EU countries, so removed articles may still be ranked and viewable in non-European regions. Also, it is likely that a result is only ‘removed’ for a selected number of keywords such as someone’s name, rather than Google removing entire pages from its index. Given that Google ‘removed’ and ‘restored’ Peston’s story pretty quickly, it’s evident that the URL Google had indexed hadn’t been permanently expunged.

Canada also dipped its toe into online consumer protection with the rollout of its anti-spam law at the start of July. It is particularly newsworthy as firms can face fines of up to $10 million should they fall foul of the new law. Controversially, it states that an email could be considered spam if the recipient hadn’t consented to its delivery.

Such complexity means that the body responsible for its enforcement – the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission – had to clarify its position, stating that it has a ‘range of enforcement tools available to it, from warnings to penalties‘. Certainly, this is a clear example of the headache caused by enforcing legislation on the web, which by its nature, is unfenced and global.

Singapore’s new Personal Data Protection Act also came into force at the start of July. Notably, its intent and wording – ‘Organisations may collect, use or disclose personal data only for purposes that would be considered appropriate to a reasonable person in the given circumstances’ – is clearer than others that have been enacted recently. However, the ramifications could be significant for Singapore and businesses looking to operate there due to its importance as a gateway to business in Asia.

Ultimately, firms must be alert to the potential risks posed by the increasingly complex regulation relating to data protection and the web, ensure they have practical policies in place, and that these policies are communicated clearly throughout their organisation to ensure compliance.


Why there’s so much more to PR than newsjacking for security companies

The technology market place is jam-packed with security companies. And with the NSA revelations fuelling growth and sparking new ideas, both hot new start-ups and established firms are jostling for business and looking to attract mega bucks from investors, writes […]


17 Jul
by Aspectus PR

cyber-security-prThe technology market place is jam-packed with security companies. And with the NSA revelations fuelling growth and sparking new ideas, both hot new start-ups and established firms are jostling for business and looking to attract mega bucks from investors, writes Aspectus PR’s Sophie Hodgson.

The reason is simple. Unlike the rest of the world, hackers weren’t subject to austerity measures or cost cutting. Indeed, cybercrime is believed to cost $445bn to the global economy, making it more lucrative than the drugs trade. So whilst enterprises were cutting IT budgets, hackers have been investing their most prized resource – their time – into evolving their methods and digital weapons armoury.

Stories relating to hacks, attacks and data privacy happen pretty much every day. And security companies fire out comment on these latest developments to the waiting media. The problem is that whilst the newsjack is an excellent PR tactic for achieving high volume coverage across multiple online and offline assets, it also creates a shouting match. One day you might win, with your company name in lights across national, broadcast and social media channels. The next day you might be lucky to get one small snippet in an industry forum. And from a PR perspective, you’re only as good as your last piece of coverage, tweet, or LinkedIn post.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a newsjack (or rapid response, issues response, issues hijacking, whatever the term you use). There’s nothing better than sniffing out a breaking news story and getting your client’s comment out there. And yet, I wonder just how valuable it actually is for security companies.

With so many businesses wanting to be heard, is it actually helping security companies to affect behaviour, increase brand awareness or create meaningful engagement that drives the bottom line? Moreover, with hacks now a common part of everyday life, are CISOs or IT Directors even reading about them or are they as effective as the graphic pictures on cigarette packets at deterring hardened smokers?

The simple fact is that PR has to work harder and smarter than ever before. The newsjack will always hold a place in my heart, but frankly I can’t help feeling that with some boldness and daring there’s real scope to disrupt the conversation with smarter, snappier and more creative campaigns that really pack a punch.