Blog Archives

The first Bridge in my career

Natalie Hunt, Bridge Account Executive one year on…

“Metaphorically speaking, a career is like a journey of bridges which you have to cross. Some long, some short, and some overwhelmingly high. A year ago I had just stepped foot upon my first real ‘Career Bridge’… at Bridge PR & Media Services.

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”

By applying for an internship at Bridge, I was taking a huge risk. At the time of graduating I was getting paid to do some communications work at a company in Manchester. However it didn’t completely fulfil my appetite for creativity. Bridge was enrolling for an intern, and the prospect thrilled me. I knew that if I wanted to get to the other side then I had to be prepared to take a risk, as I wasn’t going to land my dream job in PR if I possessed diddly squat experience in it. So I moved back down to the Midlands and propelled myself into the world of PR – something I had only experienced within a module at University.

Studying a Journalism degree equipped me with the tools I needed to succeed in the world of PR. With my news head firmly screwed on and my research skills fresh from 12 months immersed in my dissertation, I began crafting press releases with relevant and interesting angles.

After a month interning for Bridge, I was offered a permanent position which I snapped up straight away. I already felt part of the team.

Relationships are essential in the world of PR and marketing. Initially I was daunted by networking events in suits, and calling journalists to see if they would be interested in a story. But then I realised, each client, journalist, or prospect I deal with is a person too, and developing a relationship with them, makes the object so much easier to achieve. For example spotting the stories in a business, getting specific requests from journalists, or getting your services noticed comes far easier if there is already some form of a relationship established. And a lot of this can come through social media. You can start generic conversations with the people who you want to notice you! (@natters4 follow me ;))

I think a common misconception of PR is that you just send a press release out to the masses and expect them all to pick it up. Each publication has its own style and identity (something I learnt on work experience for a local newspaper) and it is important that as a PR professional you mould the story to fit their style.

Since working for Bridge, I have learnt far more than just public relations. For example I have learnt about business strategy, marketing, and social media.

Working for Bridge has allowed my business sense to develop into an exciting direction. My client base includes a B2B market and I have had to learn a lot about business processes etc. I have attended many networking events and more recently an economic Chamber conference where I learned a great deal about the business economy, and I’m now even being asked to talk about my experiences at undergraduate seminars in journalism, media and communications. I’m also currently working hard to further develop my business knowledge academically outside of the workplace.

Right now I love coming to work every day to eat up every challenge that I face. Bridge is a stimulating place to work at the moment, and we face some big and exciting Bridges as a company. Watch this space to see what I write in my second year review…”

5 tips on how to get the most from your PR agency

Recognising the value in public relations is fundamental to a series of successful campaigns and a significant profile raise. Many companies take a PR agency for granted and expect them to magic stories out of the blue. However, a strong relationship is needed between the client and PR if anything good is ever going to come of the contract.

At Bridge, we like our clients to be aware of the real value of PR, and understand what their responsibilities are – after all it is all about communicating the right messages correctly!

1. Develop a comprehensive PR brief

You wouldn’t jump into a pool without knowing how to swim and where you wanted to get to. Prevent your PR campaign from sinking by having a detailed brief on what your business wants to obtain from it. Also, be honest about your budget! If the financial perimeter is set then the agency will not go overboard on their creative proposal, resulting in the company being let down when they don‘t have the finances to support it. If the seeds are sown correctly with a clear goal ahead, then your business will only reap the rewards of a vibrant PR strategy.

2. Maintain regular contact

PR is not intended for sales leads – that is what your sales team are for, however it is important that your agency are able to liaise with the sales team in order to sync the information that is going out in the public domain. If the sales team are regularly updated with info from the PR side then they can refer to it in their sales patter. Speaking to your PR agency regularly will keep your business at the forefront of the PR teams minds, and that foundation of a relationship will enable them to prosper in the work they carry out for you.

3. Frequent face to face meetings

In our experience the best stuff comes from meeting clients face to face. Although we currently live in a digitally dominated society, human nature can prevail all. Face to face conversations have the ability to develop a corporate personality more than any other medium. We have had recent meetings with clients who are very busy people, and some of the best stories come as we are about to walk out of the door and they say “oh did I tell you we’ve just won a massive contract…”

4. Tell them EVERYTHING

A PR agency can only be as good as the information they are provided with. Keep the PR agency updated with the happenings of your company as they will always be researching newsworthy angles in relation to what is going on in your marketplace. If you keep the PR team in the loop when it comes to news and business developments confidentiality will not be a problem as good agencies will always run content past you for approval first. Remember – they are working as part of your team!

5. Identify your ‘Bibles’

Whilst carrying out research on your PR campaign it is vital that you identify the key publications you want to be appearing in. Most publications provide media packs on who their readership is and what the circulation is. Maybe you are a local business and just want to appear in the local newspapers? Whatever the situation is you need to make the agency aware of this so that they can focus their material to the style and format of that specific publication. This way they will also begin to develop stronger relationships with the editors and reporters to ensure you receive regular coverage with them.

Will Google ‘Instant’ kill the SEO star?

Two weeks after the introduction of Google Instant, the new tool from the Google giant is a hot topic on the blogosphere. Google Instant is a new search enhancement that, unlike the previous search engine, enables results to change as you type. Will it or will it not affect the SEOs, this is the question at the moment, and PR is directly involved, since SEO copywriting is practically the basis for digital PR.

Search Engine Optimisation means getting search engines to really like your copy and become involved in a solid relationship with your site. If this happens, search engines will prove their commitment to this relationship by placing your site high up in the rankings on the result page. On the IT part, this is done through some spider like tools that extract keywords and create links and connections to search engines (short version for dummies). But as far as PR is concerned, this relationship is created through keywords, by doing keyword research and finding accurately targeted, appropriate keywords. There is a choice of inserting long or short tail keywords, depending on what better suits your content and audience.

For this reason, SEO copywriting is a highly valued asset for PR and of course, for companies in need of good copy. And as copywriters were starting to master this practice, Google released Instant to challenge their skills. TechCrunch, (btw a very visible site due to SEOs) was quick to take up the topic and has already carried a small study on the consequences of this new tool. It might be overdramatic to say that SEOs are dying but there are definitely consequences for both organic and paid search results.

Basically, since the search result page changes a few times before completing your search, more results than before are pushed after the fold. The ones at the top are favoured and show increases in driving traffic to sites, the ones in the middle are insignificantly pushed down but it’s bad news for the ones at the end as they are mostly sent on the second page. So, getting a top position on the search engine result page is now, more important than ever. For pay per click and adwords, this also means more competition for keywords.

Since suggestions constantly change while you’re typing, the most popular keywords will appear while the less popular combinations and long tail keywords to be less visible and drive less traffic. So less variety and more short tail keywords. There are benefits for local pay per click results as these are enhanced, in the lack of a specified location.

These are the changes noticed so far by the tech community, but we’ll be able to make more sense of it after a longer period of use, so there may be more or contrasting changes.

So what can we do about it? With the information available so far, it seems that there is nothing radically changing but it’s more a case of ‘if you haven’t done it so far, now it’s the time’. Keyword research to discover the popular varieties and using analytics to check which keywords drive more traffic and which not and compress or replace the long-tail ones are important.

The creative part of SEO copywriting is very much valid. Besides digital optimisations, content is still king. Factual information and a strong content strategy are essential for linking the digital to human commitment. The spider like tool might be easily tricked by dense keywords but customers usually aren’t.

Overall, the appearance of Google Instant is a good wake up call for all and it goes to prove, if proof were necessary, that new media is no steady business. Since social media is the new prodigy, new media are not that new and shiny anymore. A lot of knowledge and experience already exists in this field, so it’s rather easy to fall in the trap of seeing new media as a controlled phenomenon, with set practices. But every now and then something even newer comes up, proving that, at the fast pace we’re going, there is little time for expertise and much more for learning, improving and constantly updating. I wonder if someone there at Google is having a good laugh about all this… (link for techcrunch)

The solid base of the iceberg

Irina Hutu

As I’m drinking my coffee, having just started yet another day in the office, a speech given by Trevor Morris at the university pops in my mind. Among other more serious stuff, he was talking about the fascination surrounding the PR business and the three dominant images of PR people. The most common one would be the sexy but not lovable, Macchiavellian character. Who hasn’t seen and terribly enjoyed Thank you for Smoking? What a great film! The second one, another made in Hollywood image is the cosmopolitan, consumerist Samantha Jones kind of character from Sex and the City.

Now, anyone actually working in the PR and not in the film industry could tell you these are extreme caricatures nowhere to be found in real life, not even in big name agencies. However, the fact is that the glitzy and metropolitan aura of the PR people brushing shoulders with all the important people, attending parties and doing more socialising then work partially accounts for the great number of students wanting to get in the PR business (competition alert!).

Surprisingly enough, many of them can only see the tip of the iceberg and miss out on all the content at the bottom. That doesn’t even come close to the reality of PR in our office. Whilst I’m eternally grateful for not having a Samantha Jones anywhere near my desk, I suppose a small PR agency in Coventry has to make do with the third less flashy image of PR: a strategic, serious and ethic discipline with people working together towards mutual benefits.

Well, good because that’s precisely what we’re aiming at! After spending some time in a PR agency you learn that the most of the work done and the most important is research, more research, strategic thinking, creative work and liaising with customers. If this part is done properly, it will then be materialised in an efficiently implemented branding campaign, a good press release or newsletter. But these are only tangible results, or going back to my metaphor, only the tip of the iceberg, held by an immense volume of work. And in any case, that tip does not come with a glitzy party, but with something much more rewarding, customer satisfaction.

Have a lovely day at work!

About to cross the Bridge…

Irina Hutu

Hello PR world! This is Irina and I am the first to start what will hopefully be a successful line of internships here at Bridge PR.

By Bridge PR I mean the nice cosy office and the lovely people inside that manage to stick to their busy schedules and meetings and still find some spare time to show you around, give you a taste of how the PR business works and how things should be done and even treat you with coffee (and cake on good days). So, as you can tell that’s obviously not the bridge I’m most anxious about. Nearly a graduate in Communication Culture and Media, stepping into the real world of business oriented practices from an academic, theoretical environment is not that smooth and easy, not even in a fairly practical field like Public Relations. But that’s what internships are for and with a bit of guidance and support, it’s certainly an achievable goal.

By now, you might have already guessed what this blog is all about. I will take you through my entire experience as an intern as I get more hands-on experience in PR practice. Given my most recent experiences I will inevitably do this from a critical perspective but putting practice against theory at times can come up with interesting and useful insights.

As a heads up from the start, I am mainly interested in the coming on board of the social media practices and its effects on the PR industry and that is a lot to talk and think about. But, as people say around here, we’ll cross this bridge when we get there.

First things first. Every aspiring practitioner should have a clear idea of what PR means and what they have chosen to be doing for a considerable part of their lives. Here is my personal take on Public Relations, adapted and abridged, now, in the first week in an actual PR agency.

  • In its early days, Public Relations was mainly associated with press agentry and mass manipulation. A lot has changed since then and PR has managed to rise as an ethical profession and a very powerful and effective tool, if used properly.
  • Public Relations is not Advertising. Ads mass promote a certain image which may help if granted a generous budget. On the other hand, PR is about building and managing an identity whilst communicating an image consistent with that identity to its audiences. It may not work wonders but I cannot fail and it will certainly not bankrupt you.
  • Many PR practitioners will have difficulties in defining exactly what PR is in a nutshell which obviously gave way to all sorts of labels. It seems however that the label of ‘engineering of consent’ PR got stuck with since Edward Bernays is coming to an end.
  • The new important element to consider is the integration of social media in PR practice. Whilst the Internet has made room for new media distribution channels that are increasingly becoming the main ones, social media promise to transform the very principles of PR.
  • Feedback is the key advantage companies get as targeted audiences can engage in conversation and actively participate in the building of a company’s identity.
  •  It’s an important moment in the history of PR that sets a lot of challenges for both practitioners and clients but also great opportunities. You can choose to see it as a more technological and scary change or as enabling a more direct and transparent relationship between companies and its audiences. The opportunity is definitely there to be seized.

Well, that’s just to give you a hint of what we‘d be dealing with. Having set an introduction I’ll keep coming back with exciting and interesting stories during my experience with Bridge. Fingers crossed and hope you’ll find it worth it taking the trip with me. To be continued…

The ripple effect

The "ripple effect"

Three releases distributed by Bridge recently have had an amazing ripple effect culminating in exposure for our clients in the broadcast and national media.

 This morning Harry Dean from British Forces Resettlement Services was on the BBC Radio Surrey talking about the next BFRS Jobs Fair in Aldershot.  This is the second major jobs fair hosted this year, and brings together large employers, and organisations that offer a wide range of services for Forces personnel who are looking to make the transition to civilian life.  With 45,000 service personnel due to leave the Forces in the next year, this is a key event in the military calendar.    Harry spoke about the transferrable skills that ex-Forces staff have, and how these can be of great benefit to employers. 

 A sister company to BFRS, Gemini Forces, has enjoyed national media interest in the past week following a release that was distributed a little while ago, and which continues to run.  It has been picked up across the newswire by bloggers, a whole host of different websites, a Guardian webinar and finally by a journalist at the Guardian, who is now running a feature on Saturday 17 July about the transition from military to civilian life. 

 Education 4 Conservation (E4C) is a small organisation that has been quietly getting on with running a series of bushcraft and self-development workshops across the Midlands.  Bridge put out a release last week to the local press, which was picked up by the Sunday Mercury in Leicester, and from there by the Leicester Mercury, which is running a piece on the workshops on Wednesday 14 July.   This particular ripple continued with ITV Central getting in touch with E4C yesterday, and who are interested in filming the workshops.

 Not every story we distribute has this complete ripple effect, but it just goes to show what can happen when something is both topical and interesting. 

 As Bill Gates is famous for saying: “If I was down to my last dollar I’d spend it on PR.”  We’ve certainly seen great returns on investment for our clients through a combination of good stories, hitting the right target media, and having a great distribution system.  It’s extremely satisfying to see all our hard work hit the “ripple effect”.

Good Garage Scheme comes to the aid of Bridge Damsel in Distress

Breaking down in a Northern moorland town on a wet Friday evening on one of the busiest routes in the region is not an experience I want to repeat. My car completely packed up, and wasn’t going to take me anywhere at all. I just about managed to roll it to a halt in a reasonably safe place after the clutch completely failed on me.

There were no garages open on a Friday night in the middle of a national holiday week, so I was relayed to my destination by the AA. The following morning, I set about the task of locating a garage that would not only fix my car, but also let me have a courtesy car for a few days. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the process, and so I thought why not test one of our customer’s national schemes.

Bridge does all the PR for the Good Garage Scheme and we are very good at conveying the numerous benefits of the scheme and the garages who abide by its code of conduct. It was now my time to put this to the test. Bearing in mind this was a Saturday morning, and the repair is a reasonably long one.

I logged onto the Good Garage Scheme website, typed in my postcode, and immediately I was presented with a number of different garages in my area. A quick click through the links gave me a list of all the services for each garage I was interested in, and after ringing a few of them I finally managed to locate a garage that satisfied my criteria.

The garage I decided to use in the end bent over backwards to help me, to the extent they sorted out the courtesy car for me on the Sunday, when they were normally closed. At this point I had not told them who I was, or the work I did for the Good Garage Scheme. To them I was just another ordinary customer. I was impressed.

So, does the Good Garage Scheme genuinely work? I believe it does. I was immediately presented with a choice of garages, I could see the services they offered at a glance so could quickly filter out those that weren’t able to help me, and I was armed with the knowledge that each garage on the scheme abides by a code of conduct. As a female driver this gave me some peace of mind.

I will definitely be using the Good Garage Scheme feedback system to let others know of my positive experience with the garage I chose once the job has been completed, but so far they have exceeded my expectations, and I am confident they will do a great job.

I will name the garage in the next blog once I have got my car back and I’m satisfied with their service, so watch this space!

Google Pacman game blamed for lost productivity

Last week Google launched a Pacman game as part of its logo. It was an instant hit, and industry experts estimate that the time spent on the game was almost 5 million hours on just one day worldwide. Given that the game was launched on a working day, the experts believe that this has had a significant impact on company productivity, with staff playing the game during business hours.

Google Pacman game

This raises the very serious question of the abuse of company time on the Internet, particularly when social media is now becoming an integral part of business operations in many companies. Where do you draw the line?

Unless you’re a gaming company, and paying your staff to research games and how they function, then there is real cause for concern about how much time staff spend on activities that are not part of their job function and that have a negative impact on your business through lost productivity.

One of the ways of overcoming this is by having Social Media and Internet Use Policies in place. If implemented properly these policies very clearly communicate what is acceptable and what is not. Employees should have very clear guidance about using the internet during working time, and should be under no illusions that any abuse of company time will lead to disciplinary action.

This is a tough line to take when most of company activity now takes place online, and it is a grey area at the moment for many businesses, most of whom have simply been caught out by the sheer pace of change, particularly in the last five years with the advent of social media sites and Web 2.0 technologies.

It’s now time for businesses to work their way through the minefield that is the online social world, and take control of how their staff use their time. And of course, with the right internet strategies and policies in place, then businesses can plan how to get the most out of the new technologies and social sites, and really move their company forward in this new media age.

Coventry communications firm helps SMEs in digital age

A host of new Coventry and Warwickshire SMEs have been finding out how social media can help kick-start their businesses.

Around 40 start-up businesses from the region attended a presentation from experts at Coventry-based Bridge PR on building their digital presence to help succeed.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber-backed event at the Brooklands Grange Hotel, Holyhead Road, heard from Bridge PR’s commercial director Denise Taylor how social and digital media tools could help build their brand identity and raise their profile.

“Digital and social media are turning how we access news on its head and companies need to look at how they fit these tools into their overall marketing strategies to create their brand indentities and raise their profile.

“Bridge PR is one of the forerunners in helping businesses with new media and new media training and delegates at our event heard how they could use social media tools cost-effectively to their best advantage.”

Gary Lillistone, managing director of Bridge PR, said: “It was surprising to here that a lot of start-ups are already tentatively using these new media marketing tools. Our aim is to help them refine how they use these tools to their advantage to give them a competitive edge in what is still a challenging trading climate.”