Why we should be more than just an email signature

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There is definitely something to be said about how email has revolutionised the world we work in. There are a few veterans in the agency I work in who hark back to the days of faxing a press release to journalists, something unbelievable to the generation newly joining the industry.

Although it certainly speeds up the delivery of news, we have essentially become an email signature, a jumble of letters and logos that does little more than say who we are and not what we’re about. This fast paced way of sharing client’s news seems to have inadvertently left a huge void in the relationship between PR and journalist, a crucial component in effective media relations.

To help alleviate this, a good old fashion desk visit is a sure fire way to sustain that personal relationship and after months of conversing by email, I was lucky enough to be able to put faces to email signatures.

As many of the accounts I work on have a strong presence in the North West, I took myself over the Pennines last week to meet the people that essentially make or break my success at work.

What I found when I met with them was just how important it is to meet in person. Although I had an idea of what they liked, by meeting they open up in a way that is not possible over the phone. By asking open and honest questions, they shared their likes and dislikes, pet hates and how to almost guarantee a story in the paper based on format, style and content.

Journalists know their readers and what they want to consume and although at times it may not be what your client wishes to convey, you are able to consider both perspectives and hopefully find a balance in your delivery that pleases all parties.

All in all, I feel much more confident in being able to deliver the right content for my new found journalist friends and increase coverage for my respective clients, one of the most important measurable outputs in our industry. All of this for the price of a coffee and an afternoon out of the office? Now that’s what I call time and money well spent.

Am I too old to reach my potential in PR?

As I flick through a back issue of PR week and scan the ’30 under 30’ page it suddenly dawns on me, as of this week, I am no longer eligible for this category.

Slightly concerned, I try and reassure myself that if I had entered the PR sector at an earlier point in my life, I could well have been considered for such an accolade. But it does throw up another question, am I too old to reach my potential in PR?

As a mature student studying PR and Communications at Leeds Met, it is pretty apparent that I am years older than my fellow students. No matter how I dress or immerse myself in the group, the silver flecks in my hair and spreading crow’s feet around my eyes make it obvious that I am not a guy in my 20’s with a lifetime of career decisions ahead of me.

With an extra decade under my belt, I have however managed to draw on past work experiences to help with my university work which has been an unanticipated by greatly appreciated advantage. However, with some of my fellow students being ten years younger than me, when it comes to the crunch, an employer may prefer one of the younger graduates. We hear all the time that a younger person is beneficial to a business as they can be moulded to fit the ethos, are more aware of the modern ways to communicate and have fresher ideas. whereas the term ‘bad habits’ is often tagged to those slightly older and more experienced along with ‘slightly out of touch’ when it comes to the future of PR in the digital sector.

With this in mind, am I too old to succeed in PR? It is a question that cannot be answered as yet as only time will tell. I am however taking steps to ensure that I can answer a firm no in years to come. The plan is to learn as much as I can about PR at university, keep abreast of all technological and digital developments and focus strongly on industry experience. Fingers crossed this will help set me apart but failing that, a creative amend to my birth certificate and a lot of anti-wrinkle cream is waiting in the wings as ‘plan B’.
“You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream” C.S. Lewis

Restaurant review: Taro Soho, London

The true taste of Japanese cuisine is proclaimed by many but delivered by few. So when our fashionable London friend suggested we lunch at Taro in Soho, I was excited yet sceptical from previous disappointments.

Upon arriving at the restaurant it was apparent that this was something a bit special; almost all of the communal tables were filled with happy diners, waiters dashing between them delivering bento boxes and sushi platters with the elegance of ballet-esque boys.

The menu is extensive to the point of bewildering and packaged in a folder reminiscent of a Tenerife café however, this is not a problem. The only issue faced is how to whittle down the options to a suitable short list. Luckily our friend had already sampled many a delicacy at Taro so took the lead in ordering Octopus balls, the mixed sashimi and sushi, pickles platter and several noodle based main courses.

One thing to note is that the food doesn’t come out in a traditional sense. The British etiquette of starters followed by mains is replaced with ‘when it’s cooked, it’s on the table’. It was appropriate for our relaxed Sunday social, however evidently distressed fellow diners who apparently liked a little more order in their lives.
When every order arrived we were treated to another beautifully constructed dish; whether it was the perfectly sliced sashimi, expertly rolled sushi or the flavour packed noodles… all were works of Japanese culinary art.
The only negative was my naivety when our friend advised we cleanse our palette with a pickled plum. The sourness of this Japanese delicacy almost brought me to tears but was extremely amusing and enjoyable once the stinging pain had subsided.

All in all this place delivers. The menu is extensive, authentic and reasonably priced to boot. My only concern is that they have set the bar so very high for Japanese food, I’m not sure I’ll enjoy it as much anywhere else.

http://www.tarorestaurants.co.uk/

Restaurant Review: Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse, Chelsea, London

Located on the bustling Kings Road in Chelsea, the restaurant is nestled between bespoke furniture stores and high-end designer boutiques. From the outside it is the epitome of rustic chique; neon lighting, simple signage and a distressed façade likening to on-trend bistros in Paris. Inside it is somewhat more refined; tables draped in white linen, sparkling chandeliers and sharply dressed waiting staff complimented by Conran style furniture with a very warm welcome to boot.

We were lucky enough to get a table in the window which although looked on to a rather vulgar 1970’s high-rise building, it was the perfect spot to take in the sights of the fashionable Chelsea crowd.

When the menu came it lived up to its namesake with the main course options being dominated by steak. Although there was the obligatory fish and vegetarian dishes, the cow heavy menu was not only entirely expected, but well received. I opted for the potted duck to start which was not only beautifully presented, it was served with toast points, sticky chutney and a dressed salad which balanced the rich meat perfectly.

For main course I selected the 10oz rump; not a cut I would normally opt for but on the waiters recommendation I went for it and was not disappointed. The steak was cooked medium rare to a degree of perfection and was accompanied with a Béarnaise sauce that was velvety smooth yet suitably sharp. On the side we ordered the seasonal green vegetables which was in fact a small bowl of boiled broccoli. Slightly disappointing to receive a damp and flavourless accompaniment but definitely not a deal breaker… I will just remember in future not to waste £4 in an attempt to get my ‘5 a day’.

During the course of the meal the staff were attentive; topping up our glasses with an excellent bottle of Australian cabernet sauvignon, while intermittently checking we were having a wonderful evening.
All in all my night at Marco’s was extremely enjoyable and although not the cheapest steakhouse in London, it certainly delivers. Here’s hoping for plans for further expansion in the north so I can enjoy this experience on a more regular basis.

http://www.londonsteakhousecompany.com/

The prawn sandwich of the social media trailblazers

“A prawn sandwich at this time? Are you trying to set a new breakfast trend?”. When hearing this I give a knowing nod and for a brief second I perceive myself as set apart from the flock of sheep that is humanity. It was in fact only due to a quick ‘half-asleep’ grab in Sainsbury’s but I’m not letting this little technicality spoil my buzz. However after a quick Google, I find this isn’t quite so unique, learning that prawns are in fact a staple on several breakfast menus across the world.

Although a little deflated, it did get me thinking about the constant need in the age of social media to be trend-setting, trailblazing, early-adopting…

If I’m honest, I didn’t embrace Facebook at first, feeling that it was utterly pointless until noticing that all of my ‘friends’ were on it and in true peer pressure style, I conformed. I now boast over 500 friends, of which I know a handful in a true sense. The rest are made up of people who I went to school with or random folk added from a past night out, “we’ll be friends forever” I announce on my 7th or 8th gin and tonic, rarely heard from again. The only time I do is on the newsfeed, they’re posting an ‘inspirational’ quote, unfriend button pushed.

It does however provide me hours of entertainment, particularly from pages such as ‘embarrassing nightclub photos’, a smorgasbord of hysterical drunken escapades which I am thankful didn’t exist in my partying days. Even more exciting is that as more relatable businesses set up pages; I can scan new clothing collections, restaurants and holiday packages from the comfort of my personalised lifestyle feed. All in all a great evolution from the early days of pokes, likes and the occasional thrown sheep.

Twitter I was quick to get on board with after my embarrassing late arrival to Facebook. I use the 140 characters to share my views on high-brow topics such as ethics in PR, gay rights and politics as well as the occasional photo of my dinner or a dog in a wig. I have since gained 1800+ followers which either means I am a modern-day oracle or simply followed and forgotten about. Whether it is the former or latter, evidently people seem suitably pleased with my updates as un-follows are few and far between. However, one of the truly great benefits of Twitter to me has been its ability to put me in touch with the likes of Christopher Rizzo from Edelman’s in New York and Steve Waddington , president of the CIPR UK . These pillars of the worldwide PR community have taught and inspired me to be a better PR practitioner and student, as well as providing hours of entertainment on a particularly dull evening… 1000 sky channels and not a single thing worth watching…#firstworldproblems

My years in the social media world have taught me how to use these tools effectively, adding additional strings to my bow along the way including Instagram, Pinterest to name but a few. However, on hearing that Twitter this week has dropped in value, sparking fears of a wind-down, I’m just hoping the time put in to achieving social media maturity has not been in vain. I’m sure it won’t have been as MySpace didn’t actually die, it was just eclipsed by the brighter Facebook star. But my next problem is this, if Twitter is soon to be outshone, who or what by? If you know, please feel free to share this with me so I can get back to chasing the social media trailblazers.

Getting back on the #PR horse…

“Dust yourself off and get back on that horse”… a saying as old as time and one that my mother used on many occasion as words of wisdom when it felt like everything was falling to pieces. It is something that I am now trying to accomplish since she passed away last month. An easy thing to say but a hard thing to do but I know she’ll be up there nudging me along as I try to get back to the normality of being a Leeds Met student.

Since it began in January I have shut myself off from my usual world of communications. I have not blogged or updated my social media as everything else seemed so trivial in comparison. However I know that seeing my ‘social student’ ranking slipping into the dungeons and my university work suffering she would be less than impressed.

Over the last few months I have learnt a lot about communication and it has not been in the lecture theatres of Leeds Met. Communications has always been something that you just do and since starting university it has become a principle that you can learn and use to your advantage. However of recent months I have found its true importance to any given situation but in particular in a crisis.

‘Crisis Management’ is a subject for a semester yet to come however I think I may have begun to grasp the concept with what I have encountered. It is the dark side of communication, the things that need to be said but are the hardest ones to put into words. The face of the doctor as he took me into the side room and closed the door spoke a thousand words but it was his ability to execute his message to me with such compassion and integrity that made it bearable. It is something that we should all be aspiring to when dealing with a crisis, whether it is for a client or in our own lives.

The conversations with her at the end were wonderful yet sad but so very necessary. We got to laugh about the old times, cry about the future and right to the end she reassured me that everything would be OK. Many would have shied away from going through this however I have learnt that the hardest things to say are always the most important.

If I could part with any pearls of wisdom from this I would have to say to keep on communicating but to the right people and at the right times. When the going gets rough you need to see it through. Burying your head in the sand will shield you from the situation but only until you come up for air. It is also fine to be updating your Twitter and Facebook pages on a regular basis but just make sure you are also communicating with the people that matter, as you have no idea when it will be stopped abruptly and indefinitely.

So with this blog post I am already taking her advice. I am in no way back on the horse as yet, but I will be one day soon.

Are all #PR Executives stressed?

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A list of the 10 most stressful jobs for 2013 has been posted on the CNBC website and the PR Executive has been ranked number five. For your reference here is the top ten:

10

Police Officer

9

Taxi Driver

8

Newspaper Reporter

7

Photo Journalist

6

Senior Corporate Executive

5

PR Executive

4

Commercial Airline Pilot

3

Firefighter

2

Military General

1

Military Personnel

 

I will give credit where credit is due; the military certainly should have a much more stressful job on their hands than us. Just the thought of fighting a war decided by politicians on foreign soil thousands of miles from home sets my heart rate soaring. However the idea of being shot at in a police heist must surely be more stressful than the life of a PR Executive.

So how have they decided that the Newspaper reporter is slightly less stressed than us, and a pilot, sipping his coffee in the cockpit whilst ogling the cabin crew can be worse off?

Unfortunately I am not a jack of all trades so there is no way for me to compare. As much as I would like to fly a plane I think for the safety of humanity it is best that I don’t with my accident prone tendencies.

The only thing that I can work on is my limited time working for Quest PR around my studies at Leeds Metropolitan University and the level of stress I have encountered so far must certainly be acknowledged.

In previous jobs I have managed to cap the level of stress dependent upon the situation. Working in Sales took a level of structure and planning to the day along with perfecting a style that gave me the maximum return possible. It was stressful at first however you soon bed in to it and if you’re good, you will always be good. I have also been an Event Manager which also had its share of stress. Things do go wrong on the night; whether it be burnt food or a ‘too drunk to walk’ bride, these things are sent to test us. However you grow accustomed to these and end up planning for every eventuality.

So why is PR different?

It is different because it is unpredictable. Like a military operation we can go into ‘crisis management code red’ at any given time and it’s all hands to battle stations. With news breaking 24 hours a day, the PR practitioner is always waiting to get the stories out there, whether it is breaking the story or its rebuttal, the PR practitioner does not clock off for the night. You could say that this is stressful and this could be the reason why we feature so highly on the list. However, although it may be stressful, it is also exciting and rewarding and it is this that gives us the motivation to do what we do. So if we feature on this list for this reason alone I am grateful to be a PR practitioner, however I may be asking my boss for a Spa voucher come next Christmas.