Monthly Archives: October 2016

Turning companies into storytellers – csuitepodcast Show 30 Part 3

In final part of Show 30 of the csuitepodcast (starting at 44:18), recorded at the Global ICCO PR Summit, I was joined by Petra Sammer, Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Ketchum Pleon Germany to discuss more about the topic of her presentation at the event, which was titled ‘Turning companies into storytellers’.

Petra advised listeners to be clear when it comes to defining storytelling as there are at least four ways to do so:

  • A rhetoric technique, for example, sprinkling some anecdotes into your speech
  • Journalism
  • Corporate/Brand identity, i.e. the history of where the brand or company comes from
  • How Authors and Scriptwriters use it

Petra said that we see the rhetoric technique being used in the PR industry within media training when teaching clients to be more personal and emotional.  She believes that PR is naturally very good at journalism, where it comes to framing a story and that many in the industry are good at corporate and brand identity too.  However, where she feels there is more learning required, is in the original meaning of storytelling, i.e., how authors and scriptwriters tell a story, and she suggests that there is perhaps a need for more skills need in this area to enable us to show emotion or empathy, particularly when it comes to real narrative.  She puts this issue down to the fact that many people in the PR industry, along with end-clients too, are, in her opinion, facts and information driven and therefore, to be able to show emotion, empathy or make people laugh or even cry, is a skill that is rarely seen.

I mentioned to Petra that when I was part of the CIPR’s Social Media Panel, we wrote a Skills Guide on Social Storytelling, within which co-chair at the time, Dan Tyte of Working Word, quoted Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots to a story:

  1. Overcoming the monster
  2. The Quest
  3. Journey and Return
  4. Rebirth
  5. Rags to Riches
  6. Comedy
  7. Tragedy

Whilst Petra thinks that what Booker has done is brilliant, in her experience, when talking with clients, it can be a bit confusing.  So where these categories could be helpful is when interpreting a story backwards and she used IBM turning themselves into a consulting business as an example of Rebirth. She said a good place to start is to watch Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk ‘How great leaders inspire action’ and his reference to the Golden Circle, starting with the ‘Why?’

However, Petra’s own talk at the conference was about the model built on the four fundamental desires that we all have, which she listed along with brands that could be identified with them:

  1. Wanting to be part of a community and be loved, referring to a campaign by Guinness, where Rugby player Gareth Thomas told his story of coming out as Gay to his team mates.

  1. Security and stability – the need to feel safe – a good example being Fedex always promising that they will deliver
  2. Self-fulfilment – Nike, where they say that everyone can be an athlete
  3. Freedom and independence – Harley Davidson selling the experience … the product comes free!

#ad – Many thanks to global media intelligence provider CARMA for supporting the series of shows I produced from ICCO.  Please do visit their website to find out more about how they can help you deliver actionable insights through media monitoring and PR measurement.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud or itunes and please, if you subscribe, can you give the show a positive rating and review on itunes in particular.  You can also now follow the show on Twitter and Facebook – please get involved!

Brand culture in the conversation age – csuitepodcast Show 30 Part 2

In Part 2 of Show 30 of the csuitepodcast (starting at 20:05), recorded at the Global ICCO PR Summit, I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Pascal Beucler, Senior Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer, Global, MSLGroup (and someone I could have happily chatted to all afternoon), on the topic of ‘Brand culture in the conversation age’, which was the title of the presentation he had given at the conference earlier that day.

Pascal said that his talk was based around how PR has evolved from Public Relations to People Relations, creating relationships through content that is full of emotional connections.

He explained this further by talking about how the z-generation, born between the 1990’s and 2010, or those a little older, born between the 1980’s and 2000, have a relationship to brands that is based on mutual respect and parity – that is not top down or intrusive but based on choice, desire, attraction, seduction – and if it is like this it works, otherwise it doesn’t work.

The example of a campaign that MSLGroup had worked on recently that Pascale said was viral video rather than an advert that creates a dialogue between [the brand and] the target they want to address, was the superb Always #LikeAGirl campaign, one that I personally love and continue to feature in my own Using Video in Social Workshop.

Pascale believes the genius behind the campaign is that P&G and Always are saying they deliver much more than protection every month but they deliver a vision of young girls based on the understanding they have a strong desire to be free of the chains that society and men put them in.  This for him, is an example of New Age relationships between brand and people.  It’s not about telling you my product is better than another one, but instead saying there is an issue and so why don’t we discuss it and find a solution. 

Another area Pascale touched on in his talk was that of gamification, which he sees brands using in two ways.  Firstly, gaming is a huge trend for millennials but also for older people, mainly because the smart phone is always in our pocket and so when we have free time, as well as using it to communicate, we use it for gaming and so it provides a perfect compatibility and convergence between the device and the will to be gaming.

The other reason Pascale said gamification is important is due to the power of data created by millions of people on the way they play that you can use to your advantage.  He used the Deutsche Telekom “Sea Hero Quest” as a great example, which, as quoted on their website, was “designed to create the world’s largest crowd sourced data set benchmarking human spatial navigation, helping bring scientists one step closer to developing new diagnostic tests for dementia.”

Pascale believes this kind of activity gives gamification another dimension, something he calls, Brand Utility, where the brand becomes something useful in your life.

There were so many things we spoke about, too much to write about here, and to be honest, it’s much better listening to Pascale explaining it all, but he finished off with what he saw as the main drivers are for brands in the conversation age, which were:

  • Start conversations based on creativity of the mind
  • There is no conversation unless there is equality, equity and parity between the two sides. It has to be two ways. If it is a dominating conversation, it goes nowhere.
  • Conversation is a continuum

#ad – Many thanks to global media intelligence provider CARMA for supporting the series of shows I produced from ICCO.  Please do visit their website to find out more about how they can help you deliver actionable insights through media monitoring and PR measurement.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud or itunes and please, if you subscribe, can you give the show a positive rating and review on itunes in particular.  You can also now follow the show on Twitter and Facebook – please get involved!


Recruiting and Retaining Talent: csuitepodcast Show 30 Part 1

Show 30 of the csuitepodcast was the first of three shows recorded at the Global ICCO PR Summit that took place in Oxford at the start of September.

Part 1 of this episode was on the topic of Talent Creation, Recruitment and Retention within the PR & Communications industry.

Joining for this first section of the show were Mohamed Al Ayed, CEO and President of TRACCS, Tanya Hughes, President of SERMO, Talk PR’s global network of independent communications agencies, and Susan Hardwick, Co-Founder of Global Women in PR – all three had just been part of a panel session at the conference.

My guests all agreed that the critical issues that were being discussed around this topic were global and as Tanya explained, a key theme in her own Group’s international conference was not just on finding the right people, but keeping them happy with job satisfaction and work-life balance too.

When I spoke with Weber Shandwick’s Colin Byrne in Cannes, he said the big issue was the fact that PR agencies’ approach for talent has been to steal each other’s staff and that actually PR needs to recruit the kind of people who are currently going to work at Social Media Platforms or the World’s top Advertising and Digital Agencies, something Karen van Bergen, CEO of Omicom Public Relations Group also touched on in her opening keynote at the ICCO Conference.

Sarah agreed.  She explained that her Spanish agency’s Head of Digital came from an advertising agency and in their Hong Kong agency, they’ve just recruited a creative from a Film Production House.  However, she warned that it works both ways as she’s seen her own talent recruited by Ad and Digital agencies too.

Given Susan’s role in Global Women in PR, I asked her if one way of keeping talent in the industry was to tap into the growing freelance network, particularly in encouraging mums back into the industry.

However, Susan said that whilst freelancers plug gaps, do project work, add value when necessary when you don’t need to employ somebody for 52 weeks in the year, or offer specialists to balance out the team, the difficulty, particularly in relation to mums coming back to work, is in dealing with is the very big gap between leaving work to have children and coming back, as our world changes very rapidly.  She therefore feels there needs to be work on both sides, i.e. perhaps offering retraining to allow returning mums to get up to speed.

Sarah added that in her experience, she felt employers are actually fairly flexible, certainly in her agencies, particularly in creating work-life balance and ensuring people are happy at work.  However, she said that recent experience for returning working mums, particularly after having their first baby, can be a bit of a shock and given the PR industry is a service industry, even if people are working part-time, they are expected to be available to service their client and do longer working hours.

H+K Strategies’ Richard Millar previously said on this series that that the make-up of his agency had fundamentally changed over the last two or three years and that he couldn’t remember the last time he interviewed someone with a typical PR background.  Mohamed made an interesting point on this as he talked about the evolution of the word talent, where it has evolved from ‘employees’ through ‘resources’.  He agreed in that those people who PR recruits don’t need to be PR people by education.  However, in his view, talent is defined by the organisation’s recognition of the skill and the personality of an individual that will suit and best serve their purposes.  At TRACC, Mohamed actually has engineers, a doctor and a psychologist in the team.

One aspect we touched on was retention of as much as attracting new talent and one of the ways Sarah looks to achieve that at Talk PR is in the organisation’s ‘Learning & Inspiration Programme’, which consists of 52 Masterclass workshops, each geared around personal development for everyone in the agency, from junior to board level.  They include everything from helping people to present or run meetings, to handling conflict and business and financial management.  They also aim to inspire the team by getting external speakers in and organising cultural trips plus development for the team’s client relationships too, including measurement and evaluation or helping to pitch great stories to the media and influencers.

When summing up, my guests offered the following advice between them when it comes to attracting the best talent to the industry:

  • Create a great environment in which to work, i.e. a place where people will be banging at your door and want to be part of your team
  • Do great work and promote the hell out of it
  • [ensure] Transparency, Ingenuity and Integrity

#ad – Many thanks to global media intelligence provider CARMA for supporting the series of shows I produced from ICCO.  Please do visit their website to find out more about how they can help you deliver actionable insights through media monitoring and PR measurement.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud or itunes and please, if you subscribe, can you give the show a positive rating and review on itunes in particular.

FuturePRoof Edition Two Book Launch – csuitepodcast show 29

Show 29 of the csuitepodcast was recorded at launch party of #FuturePRoof: Edition Two, a new book featuring 39 new essays from authors around the world, who were brought together by the driving force behind the publication and recently announced CIPR President Elect 2017, Sarah Hall.

The book is available to purchase in print or on Kindle from

For this show, I interviewed a few of the chapter authors, but started by chatting initially to Sarah, who explained that the first edition of the book had achieved more than 2500 downloads and sales, hence why she was convinced that there was clearly an appetite for her to publish a second book within a year.

As with the first edition, this new book’s authors were crowdsourced and covers a wide range of topics that are of importance to the PR industry.

Chapter 19 – Audience Led Communications (7:56)

The first of the chapter authors I spoke to was Sarah Clark who is Head of Communications Insight at the Department of Health.  Sarah wrote Chapter 19 together with Jim Macnamara, who is Professor of Public Communication at the University of Technology in Sydney and their chapter title is ‘A listening and insightful future: Changing PR Practice to Deliver Audience Led Communications’.

Sarah explained that the subject she had written about was about developing communications around how consumers see themselves, so thinking about the consumer needs and how to then use those in an innovative way.

Through Professor Macnamara’s work, Sarah said that they know most organisations aren’t doing genuine two-way communications and it’s something she thinks the PR industry needs to improve at.  She also believes there are a lot of opportunities to be more innovative in the way we can carry research and insight, enabling us to get closer to audiences.

Sarah said the most important thing, once you have garnered any insight from lots of different sources and pooled it together, is to take action upon it.  It’s not about looking at one individual source of information.  She added that it’s also key to drill down into that data – too many organisations in PR talk about the public at large, rather than focussing on segmented audiences and what life feels like for individuals.

Sarah’s chapter talks through many tools that can help some of the actions she recommended and some of the ones that have worked well in her own role at the Department of Health include online public panels, in-depth social media listening (to conversations live as they happen) and video diaries.

Chapter 34 – Embracing SEO (14:33)

My next guest on the show was the author of Chapter 34, Darryl Sparey, UK Business Development Director at Hotwire PR, who had written about ‘How The Futureproof PR can embrace the opportunities of SEO.’

Darryl started by making the point that SEO is as much about creative and content capabilities as it is about the technical aspect but that in the PR industry, many agencies are facing the challenge that SEO agencies are ‘eating their lunch’ and so they need to respond by either hiring or acquiring the relevant expertise – something that some agencies are already acting upon, following the news that Threepipe (an agency I’ve run some workshops at) had acquired Spot Digital back in July.

The key for SEO and PR to best work together is to stop treating them as separate things, according to Darryl, and to start calling it integrated communications.  He explained that there are a number of factors that could affect your Search Engine rankings, such as the back-link profile (how many links are from quality domains) and what keywords you are optimising for, as this has a messaging implication because, if all of your external messaging is around a particular aspect of your product set that no one is searching for online, then you are going to have an SEO problem and perhaps a messaging problem as well.

Darryl believes PR should be leading the relationship with SEO simply because 50% of what influences search engine ranking positions is links from high quality third party websites.

To finish off, Darryl provided a number of resources to learn more about SEO:

Chapter 20 – Procurement (23.15)

For the final interview of show, I was joined by Tina Fegent, an independent procurement consultant, whose chapter in the book is titled ‘Speaking the language of Procurement’.

Tina’s chapter opens with a quote from Astronaut, John Glenn, which I thought perfectly summed up what I would expect is a general perception of procurement:

“As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind – every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.”

Indeed, Tina said that the feedback she gets from many agencies that she deals with is that procurement is always focussed on the lowest costs, and she agreed that some are. However, there are other things, such as value, ROI, PR Coverage  that drive procurement when dealing with PR agencies, that Tina said she wanted to explain though her chapter in the book.

Tina suggests finding out how the procurement teams that you deal with are targeted, as it’s not always necessarily on cost savings.  However, she explained that procurement’s role is to manage the supplier base and to make sure they are maximising value and reducing risk.  The process therefore involves the following steps:

  1. Decide between make versus buy (does the company insource or outsource)
  2. If outsourcing, manage the tender/pitch process
  3. Negotiate with shortlisted agency
  4. Manage the selected agency
  5. Regular reviews (ideally 360) with agency

One interesting aspect of my chat with Tina was about RFPs and whether start-ups or relatively new agencies have any chance of getting through the process given the procurement team of a major corporation will probably expect to see around three years of audited accounts from anyone looking to pitch.  If that is the case, Tina’s advice is to be brave and actually make a decision as to whether it’s worth going through the detailed process (some RFPs could be 40 pages) and weeks of someone’s time against the opportunity cost of that senior person’s time, if they are the one filling in the form.  However, if you are going to pitch but don’t have the right number of years audited accounts, then, according to Tina, you should just be open and explain your situation, but perhaps back it up with a letter from your bank manager, for example.  Basically, don’t be scared by the documentation and explain wherever there is a dip in profits if, for example, it was because you moved premises.  Don’t let the procurement team interpret your responses and make their own assumptions, as they could of course be wrong.

To get involved in the FuturePRroof community, you can join their Facebook Group or follow them on Twitter.

Also, all previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud or itunes and please, if you subscribe, can you give the show a positive rating and review on itunes in particular.