11 free PR resources every campaign needs


The best free PR resources available online

These days, PR pros often find that our inboxes are overwhelmed with fancy, expensive tools designed to make our lives easier. Some of them are great, some of them less so, but for many of us who are on a strict budget, they simply are not an option. Luckily, there are a bunch of fantastic tools available online at zero cost.

Here’s a collection of some of the top free PR resources we recommend – and we want to hear about your favourites too in the comments.

Finding opportunities to promote your brand

1. HARO: Sign up to Help A Reporter Out to receive daily emails detailing journalist requests for sources, organised by sector/industry. When you come across an opportunity for a brand you represent, you send an answer attributed to one of your spokespeople and you can get cited as an expert source and sometimes get a link back that will boost your SEO too.

2. #journorequest: Along similar lines, you can search the hashtag #journorequest on Twitter to find opportunities

Social media

Naturally, organic social media buzz is vital to any campaign. These tools are hugely useful in creating and monitoring your campaigns.

3. Hootsuite: Scheduling your social media posts is a huge time saver. Sites like Twitter can take a lot of maintain, especially if you’re handling more than one account. It’s much easier to sit down for an hour once every week or two than to maintain a high level of engagement day to day. Having said that, it is best to log in and issue some replies and retweets on a daily basis, so your account doesn’t look like a bot!

4. BuzzSumo: This is a great tool for monitoring social shares of your content and backlinks referring traffic to your site. The best free features are quite limited but there’s a 14-day free trial that is well worth taking up if you need to generate some stats for a report.

Royalty free photo sites

In an increasingly visual online world, an eye-catching image can make all the difference to your next campaign. Unfortunately, we don’t always have budget to hire a professional photographer to create bespoke visuals. Luckily for us, many photographers make their images available royalty-free. You can find a huge variety at the sites below.

5. Pixabay: This is a great site to get generic, professional quality photos for blog posts and articles.

6. Unsplash: If you’re something a little quirkier or more artsy than the choices on Pixabay, check out Unsplash. It’s great for lifestyle shots, urban culture, travel, beauty, shopping and features.

7. Flickr: Popular with amateur photographers, many Flickr photographers make their work available for free. Make sure to check if the photographer allows modification or requires attribution.

Creating infographics

Infographics are the perfect way to present a lot of information in a way that’s easy for the reader to understand. Done right, they add colour and context, and can be used to break up blocks of text.

8. Easel: Choose from a huge range of pre-made infographics to edit, or start fresh and create your own using their text, shapes and characters. The free version works well, but if you love if and want more you can go pro for $3/month.

9. Hubspot: The inbound marketing experts over at Hubspot offer 15 awesome, versatile infographic templates completely free.

All things Google

Google offers a ton of exceptional tools for PR pros, but these are two of the most useful. I’ve taken it for granted that you all use Google News and Gmail anyway!

10. Google Analytics: Find out how many people are visiting your site (or your client’s), how long they spend on each page, which social media sites refer the best quality traffic, and track leads. Understanding the data can help you plan better campaigns.

11. Google Alerts: Lots of people pay reasonably large amounts for media monitoring services, but Google does a pretty good job of delivering mentions straight into your inbox absolutely free.

So, those are my top 11 free PR resources – some of them may seem a little obvious but I hope you learned about one or two new ones from this post. I’m sure there are some awesome ones that I’ve missed too. What do you use?

Leave me a comment and let me know!

public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.





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Crisis Communication: Katie Rich tweets ‘joke’ about 10-year-old Barron Trump


NBC is not having a good run with their on-air personalities. You would have imagined that a strongly worded email went around to staff in the aftermath of the Billy Bush fiasco, but if it did, Katie Rich wasn’t paying attention.

The 33-year-old is a writer for the network’s long-running comedy sketch show, Saturday Night Live. Rich is in the eye of a social media storm after a hugely distasteful tweet about Barron Trump, Donald Trump’s 10-year-old son.

Critics have expressed their disgust that Rich would mock a child, and said that there is nothing funny about cyber bulling and nothing funny about America’s school shootings.


As the uproar at the writer’s unfunny joke on social media grew, Rich deleted the tweet and switched her account to private, before deleting the account altogether some time later. This has done little to quell public anger at her, at the show and at the network, particularly since as of now, Rich has not issued any kind of apology.

Many twitter users are calling for a boycott on SNL unless Rich is fired, but so far there has been silence from the network on the matter.

Conservatives have attacked the hypocrisy of the liberal left, who often use Michelle Obama’s mantra “When they go low, you go high”, while many on the left have also tweeted support for Trump’s young son, saying children should never be the target of such ‘jokes’.

Mistakes NBC made in handling this social media crisis

  • They left it too late to respondTime is of the essence in dealing with a social media crisis. NBC should be well aware of how these things can spiral after Billy Bush’s involvement with Trump’s “Grab’em by the pussy” moment. As of now, it’s been more than 24 hours since the crisis broke, and NBC have not yet issued a statement. This is not good enough. Any apology or action that comes at this point will seem empty.
  • They let SNL keep tweetingEven as hundreds of tweets were coming in criticising the show and the network, demanding that Katie Rich be fired and suggesting a boycott of the show, @nbcsnl continued tweeting about Aziz Ansari’s appearance on the show as though nothing was happening. This gives the impression that they are either ignorant of or unconcerned with the public’s fury about the issue.

  • They don’t have the right training in place For an organisation that’s home to a lot of public figures, it doesn’t seem like NBC provides adequate training to their employees, and in particular their on-air personalities, on how to behave on the job and on social media. A mandatory, company-wide sensitivity training should be on the cards at this point.

What could NBC have done differently?

Well, they could have taken a leaf out of Skittle’s book, releasing a prompt statement distancing themselves from the tweet. They should have also promised to look into what happened, and follow up as necessary, like we outline in our article on creating holding statements for the media. They should definitely have a Crisis Response Protocol in place, and they should run simulations once a quarter to make sure that they’re prepared when the real thing happens.

So, have your say below – should Katie Rich lose her job?

[yop_poll id=”1″]

What if it happened at your company?

Would you be prepared? Do you have the right protocols in place?

Hit comment and let me know what kind of Crisis Response Protocol your team has in place for a crisis.

If your company doesn’t have any kind of plan for coping with a communications crisis,  you’re at risk of damaged reputation, decreased brand equity and revenue loss. Companies pay PR agencies THOUSANDS of dollars to prepare for such events.


Our fully customizable Emergency Response Communications Protocol is an easy to follow procedure that covers all bases for dealing with a crisis, and we’re making it available here for $99.

public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.



5 mistakes Corporate Communications pros keep making


When I had just graduated from college, I thought that working for a big multinational was the dream. That’s where the most glamorous jobs were, the best opportunities to be creative and produce amazing campaigns that get results… right?

Since then, I’ve worked with SMEs, government departments and, yes, multinationals. Larger Corporate Communications teams probably do have the best opportunities, but they also run the risk of being change averse, being home to added bureaucracy, killer levels of compliance and cutting levels of internal politics. Here are some of the mistakes I’ve seen repeatedly in theses types of offices, and how to fix them.

Don’t forget to leave me a comment with your view.

  1. Writing for the Board instead of the press

    The single most important rule of writing is to write for your audience. Most Corporate Communications teams know this and still don’t do it. You know in your heart that nobody cares about senior appointments at your company. Unless your new CIO has an incredible back story, his or her appointment does not warrant a press release… But your Board thinks it’s a huge deal. Do you have the guts to break the news to them? You should, because if you don’t explain that it’s not newsworthy to them now, you’ll be explaining why nobody published the press release up later on.

    The fix: Announce the news on your company blog, and amplify it on social media. Make it as colourful as possible. Don’t just tell the world how many years of experience your new hire has; give them a flavour of their personality, and what they bring to the team beyond technical skills

  2. Allowing intra-departmental teams to compete instead of collaborating

    collaborationLarger companies usually have different teams within their Corporate Communications department like Digital, PR, Events, Marketing or Advertising. Although each team is ultimately building toward the same goals, they compete for budget, head count, and other resources. The more intense this competition is, the less likely teams are to work together. This results in duplication of work and all kinds of other inefficiencies.

    The fix: Encourage teams to come together regularly to exchange ideas and create integrated campaigns. Reinforce the idea that each platform supports the others. A big event can only gain from support by the PR and Digital teams. An advertising campaign can have dramatically better results if supported by the Social Media team. Give recognition to team members who encourage collaboration.

READ: Creating integrated campaigns using the PESO model

  1. Outsourcing work instead of giving the in-house team resources

    Often, for big projects, Corporate Communications managers will okay huge budgets to hire an external agency to help their department achieve important goals. If you’re spending $100,000 per year to keep a PR agency on retainer, would that money be better spent hiring two full-time team members? It can be disheartening for teams who know that they could achieve the same results or better if that money was spent on resourcing the in-house team.

    The fix: Trust and value your in-house teams. Ask them for their ideas, and how much of the project is achievable with the skills and talents available in-house. But don’t ask your teams to achieve it with just the budget that is already available to them. Offer them the resources you’re planning to allocate externally.

  2. Being big fat copy cats

    katie-harrington-corporate communicationsImitation is death to innovation. Keeping an eye on competitors is normal, but creating your entire strategy based around what they are doing shows an alarming lack of faith in the in-house team. Constantly looking backward at what was done last year is another sure-fire way to quench creativity. Fear of change can stifle even the greatest ideas.

    The fix: Brainstorm! If something worked out okay last year, people will automatically tend toward doing the same thing again. But that’s so boring and predictable. Get your team in a room and ask them what they would do if there were no rules and no budget constraints. Let ideas come freely and after ten or 15 minutes, bring it back to what’s really achievable now that creativity is flowing.

READ: 3 ways you’re KILLING your team’s creativity 

  1. Failing to comprehend the importance of visuals

    Eye-catching images, colourful infographics and video clips capture attention in the kind of way blocks of text simply can’t. according to research, the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, but too many companies are ignoring this. Most continue to focus on text-based output because it is what they know. Your target audience probably has six other tabs open, notifications coming through on their phone and a load of washing they need to hang up – you need visuals to capture their attention quickly and get your message across.

    The fix: Invest in graphic design, video editors and photographers. If that’s not an option, use websites like Pixabay or Unsplash to find copyright-free images, and use a site like easel.ly to edit them

So… those are my top five corporate communications mistakes; how many are you guilty of? Don’t worry about it if you recognise yourself in some of the above, we all have room to improve. Is there anything in this post that made you think? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.


public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Dublin. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.





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100,000 lives saved – thanks to a PR campaign


How PR can change lives

The following case study is an extract from our book Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art. It’s a practical guide to creating integrated communications campaigns and achieving optimum PR outcomes. Check it out.

Never doubt the real-world impact a well-executed Public Relations campaign can have. A PR firm with a relatively small budget and big ambitions set out to save lives in 2015—and did it.

How? By using the PESO model, of course. This means integrating Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media to create a more impactful campaign than any of these strategies can achieve alone.


Engine was tasked with creating a campaign around National Blood Week for the National Health Service (NHS) Blood & Transplant.

Significantly, this was not intended as an awareness campaign.

The objective was a change in behavior, namely, to register a minimum of 10,000 new blood donors through the campaign.

The number of blood donors in the UK had plummeted.

There was a 40 percent drop in donors in the last decade.

The campaign targeted the 17-24 age group to safeguard the future blood supply for hospitals in the UK.

National Blood Week with the PESO Model

Like many brilliant PR campaigns, the concept Engine created was deceptively simple: The Missing Type campaign.

The idea was to get everyone to drop their As, Bs, and Os to symbolize each blood type.

Engine approached numerous brands and organizations to act as partners in the campaign.

Names included: The Daily Mirror, one of the country’s most popular newspapers; O2, a major phone network, and even Downing Street No 10 (the headquarters of the British government) participated.

Engine engaged in an extensive media relations campaign, across tabloid and broadsheet print and broadcast media.

The centerpiece was the Daily Mirror, who dropped the A and O in the newspaper’s title, marking the first time in its history the newspaper had changed its masthead.

The newspaper, which has a daily readership of 767,000, also ran an editorial explaining how readers could participate.

An extensive social media campaign was supported by brands including Coca Cola, football team Tottenham Hotspurs, Google, Microsoft, Cadbury, and Allianz.

The Results

The result was a record breaking 26,000 uses of #NationalBloodWeek and #MissingType across Twitter.

Combined with sponsored posts on social media, advertising, and extensive promotion on the NHS Blood & Transport channels, each aspect of the PESO model was combined to create a campaign that has won numerous awards and accolades.

While we all love awards and recognition, the real measure of any campaign is whether or not it achieved its objectives.

As mentioned, the benchmark was 10,000 registrations during the course of the campaign.

The actual number signed up exceeded 30,000, with 18,000 of those falling in the 17-24 target age category.

The campaign saved or improved an estimated 100,000 lives.

Broadcast coverage of the social campaign included air time on flagship shows such as BBC Breakfast, Good Morning Britain, This Morning, Sky News, BBC Radio 1, Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2, The Today Programme, and BBC Radio Five Live.

Print and online coverage of MissingType included national dailies The GuardianMail OnlineThe SunDaily TelegraphDaily MirrorThe Times, and Buzzfeed.

The campaign also won the support of more than 60 digital influencers and more than 1,000 brands and organizations.

By using the PESO model to combine traditional and digital forms of media with social channels and paid-for activity, the campaign went far beyond what could be expected if just one type of channel was used.

The campaign was relaunched globally this year, and still save lives today.

We post curated content from some of the world’s top PR professionals, as well as our own articles, over here on Twitter. Follow us there for trends and best practices in PR.

Reputation Matters: Establishing, maintaining and protecting reputation

In 1981, Joan Jett told the world she didn’t give a damn about a bad reputation. But then, she didn’t have shareholders to answer to.

The public perception of a company, institution or governmental body is fundamental to its ability to achieve its objectives. That’s why reputation management is one of the most important functions of a PR team. The hope is that with consistent, creative and clever Public Relations, Communications teams can wield some control over the organisation’s reputation.

The relationship between a company’s brand and its reputation is not entirely straightforward however; despite any brand’s bestwilde-words-reputation effort to convince their audience of its message, the public ultimately decide a company’s reputation based on whether it lives up to its brand proposition. While brand can be defined as how your organisation wants to be seen by the public, whereas reputation is how people actually see you.

Public Relations has a vital role to play in earning, maintaining and protecting an organisation’s reputation. There are a variety of strategies teams can employ to build trust, and in the world of the whistle-blower, this must begin with ethics, authenticity and a two-way dialogue with the people you’re targeting spoken in a human voice.

There is good reason for companies to show such concern for reputation management. The Global RepTrak Pulse 2016 was the largest study of corporate reputation in the globe, involving 7,000 companies, 55,000 consumers, 40 countries and 25 industries. The study claims that reputation is an emotional bond between consumers and organisations that impacts:

  • Whether consumers will buy your product
  • If the general public would recommend your company
  • Policy makers and regulators in giving you a license to operate
  • The financial community’s willingness to invest in your organisation
  • How the media reports your point of view
  • Whether employees deliver on your strategy

wilde-words-reputation-managementRepTrak claims that company’s that deliver on this will earn the emotion, admiration, trust, and esteem. The impact of this is then seen in seven domains – purchases, verbal support, crisis proofing, recommendations, investment and employment.

RepTrak found that 84% of those surveyed would purchase from a company with an excellent reputation compared with 9% who would purchase from a company with a poor reputation. While 83% would recommend the products of a company with an excellent reputation, 8% who would recommend products from a company with a poor reputation.

For companies competing for talent, 73% would work for a company with an excellent reputation compared with 11% who would work for an organisation rated as poor, and 67% would invest in a company with a an excellent reputation compared with 7% who would invest in a company with a poor reputation.

According to RepTrak, regular reputational audits are required in order to prioritise stakeholders and map the road to success.

Global reputation leaders

In 2016, RepTrak named the following as the top ten companies with the best reputations in the world

  1. Rolex
  2. The Walt Disney Company
  3. Google
  4. BMW Group
  5. Daimler
  6. Lego
  7. Microsoft
  8. Canon
  9. Sony
  10. Apple

The link between a strong reputation and profitability is clear. There is a financial imperative to investing in Public Relations that goes beyond “spin”. People are overwhelmed on a daily basis by traditional and digital advertising, product placements and word-perfect corporate brochures, but it’s no longer enough.

What’s the solution?

Public Relations must live up to its name and become the catalyst for real relationships between organisations and the people they want to attract. Reputation management must never rely on spin; it must represent an authentic connection.

Leave a comment below with your thoughts on reputation management.



Katie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Dublin. Her book,
Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launches today. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Crisis Communication: Does your organisation have a Crisis Response Protocol?


Today, I want to share about a major crisis I managed the communications response for in Qatar last year, and how our Crisis Response Protocol helped our team to manage the incident.

I was working for a big oil and gas shipping company at the time. We had a fleet of some of the biggest ships in the world travelling from the Middle East to places as far afield as Mexico and Japan. Crises happened often enough that we had a dedicated Emergency Room, complete with its own wifi, phones, world maps and protocols.

That morning, one of our ships had collided with a much smaller ship off the coast of the Netherlands. The collision occurred at about 4am Dutch time, which was about 7am local time in Qatar. All 13 crew from the other ship had been sent flying overboard, but thankfully they were all recovered alive.

It was a complicated incident – while we owned the ship, a different company owned the gas that was being transported by the ship, and a third company employed the crew on the ship. Fortunately, we had a very clear Crisis Response Protocol that laid out everyone’s responsibilities.

As per the plan, I immediately asked one of my team to monitor Google news and social channels for mention of the incident. She also sent an email to all staff to inform them that a live incident was underway, and reminding them that any journalist enquiries should be directed to me. It’s crucial to keep your internal stakeholders informed during a crisis.

READ: Managing your stakeholders in a crisis 

Meanwhile, I quickly drafted a holding statement using a template that was prepared and saved in our Crisis Response Protocol. We ran it past the other companies involved, who approved it quickly since it was based on a pre-agreed format.

We used this when industry publications heard what happened and called for our comment, so there was no panic when the journalists got in touch.

The statement was provided to our Finance Director so that he could inform the local stock exchange (a regulatory requirement) and to our C-suite executives who were tasked with informing government officials including the Minister for the Environment.

Read: How to draft a holding statement

After a hugely dramatic day, the story blew over quite quickly, with just a few trade newspapers making enquiries. Because we had clear protocols in place, everything went relatively smoothly when it could have gone horribly wrong.

After the crisis had passed, the response team met one more time to debrief and discuss learnings for the future.

Maybe this is not the kind of incident that would ever happen at your organisation, but let me ask you this:

  • What if a former employee decided to sue you?
  • What if a senior executive was found to be embezzling money from the company?
  • What if there was a data protection breach that impacted a large number of your clients?

This isn’t scaremongering, it’s a fact that these types of incidents happen at companies large and small every day.

Would you be prepared? Do you have the right protocols in place?

Hit comment and let me know what kind of Crisis Response Protocol your team has in place for a crisis.

If your company doesn’t have any kind of plan for coping with a communications crisis,  you’re at risk of damaged reputation, decreased brand equity and revenue loss. Companies pay PR agencies THOUSANDS of dollars to prepare for such events.

Our fully customizable Emergency Response Communications Protocol is an easy to follow procedure that covers all bases for dealing with a crisis, and we’re making it available here for $99.

Trump, Farage and post-truth Public Relations

Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art is a practical guide to creating integrated communications campaigns. It’s all about achieving optimum PR outcomes using the PESO model. Check it out.

Today, a man who has never held public office became President of the United States of America. He has been declared bankrupt on a number of occasions. He is the first President of the United States in recent history who refused to release his tax returns. Recordings of him have showed him up unequivocally as a misogynist, and more than a dozen women accused him of sexual assault or inappropriate sexual conduct.

And now we call him President Trump.

Experts say the policies he’s been elected on are all but impossible to put in place. Mexico will not pay for a wall to be built. There will be no ban on Muslims entering the US. Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted over her email server.

But for now, none of that matters. Welcome to the post-truth, post-trust crisis, heralded by Brexit and reinforced by the US election. The average person with a smart phone has access to more technological power and information than NASA did when they put a man on the moon, but instead of creating a more knowledgeable society, this abundance of information has led us to create silos; each man and women finding the media outlets and social groupings that reinforce their beliefs and surrounding themselves with them.

It’s a worrying time for those who believe important decisions should be made based on evidence; that facts still matter.

Public Relations has had a part to play in creating this mess. While admirable steps have been taken in the recent past to distance the industry from our spin-doctor forefathers and embody the spirit of transparency, it’s undeniable that communications plays a part in the problem.

In a recent essay titled Post Truth, Post Trust, Post PR: The crisis of trust is a crisis of leadership, Robert Phillips, former EMEA CEO of Edelman argues that in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, institutions didn’t change. Rather than adapt to a climate that demanded fairness for the 99%, an ethical approach to business and true leadership, orgranisations relied on clever messaging to continue masking problems that lay at their core.

He said: “Clever communications was being used to prop-up bad leadership in business and politics – thereby fuelling the crisis of leadership and, in turn, the crisis of trust. We thought we could spin our way out of everything, even if that spin was only lightly or innocently applied.”

In other words, successive governments and business leaders have ignored the needs of the people who prop them up for too long. They have reneged on the social contract we were raised to believe in that says “If you work hard, you can have a better life than your parents did.” There is an unprecedented level of mistrust in institutional power, and a palpable sense of anger among working class and lower middle class people. This is as true in the old industrial towns in England as it is in America’s rust belt, where once any man willing to work a long day in a mine or on a factory floor could be sure to feed his family.

Politicians, rather than taking responsibility for their role in declining economies, from poor governance of financial institutions to failures in adapting to globalisation have instead chosen classic misdirection. Those who hold power in the world’s largest public and private sector organisations continue to evade accountability by distracting us with an endless series of straw men: Syrian terrorists, Mexican rapists, Sharia Law.

Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have taught us that in an era of shortening attention spans, emotion trumps facts, logic and rationality. Who has the time to fact-check? If it feels true, believe it with all your heart. After too many years of spin, authenticity is intoxicating to resist; Hillary Clinton was undeniably the more qualified candidate, but Donald “tells it like it is”. His Twitter wars may be inane, but they’re real, and we would rather hear ugly, true-held opinions than pretty lies.

Canny Public Relations professionals will have learned a lot from this election. We now know with greater certainty than ever before just how powerful the tools of emotion and nostalgia are, and that simplicity combined with repetition garners results. Repeat “Hillary Clinton is evil” often enough and over time it becomes ingrained in people’s psyche, even if they can’t answer the question “Why do you think that?”

This leaves the industry with a choice to make.

We can lean in to spin. In the post-truth era, it is unquestionable that there will be money to be made by doing so. Unless governments and business leaders change their ways, we will have greater freedom than ever to stretch or simply ignore the truth.

On the other end of the spectrum, Robert Phillips proposes a radical post-Public Relations model of leadership.

He says: “The corporation of the future should look less like a traditional hierarchy and more like a social movement, within which the CEO needs to think and behave like a social activist… This means being citizen-centric and society-first, re-setting the consumption fetish of the late 20th and early 21st century. The activist Public Leader negotiates and enables – and does not impose. Aristotelian values of Truth, Wisdom, Justice and, above all, Courage prevail.

“I have long argued for the ascendancy of profit optimisation over profit maximisation and for a longer-term focus on purpose and not just profit – challenging Milton Friedman and his Thatcher/ Reagan disciples, where the only responsibility of business is to maximise profit for a small group of shareholders. We need to mutualise more. Achieving this also demands activist business leadership.”

On a morning like this, Phillips proposal looks hopelessly optimistic. Governments, organisations and Public Relations companies, whose very survival seem to depend on resisting this call, will be slow to pick up the gauntlet he has thrown down.

But that is not the end of the story.

The people of middle America and Little England turned to Donald Trump and Nigel Farage as a desperate protest against years of empty promises. When our new anti-heroes are found wanting, perhaps we will have truly hit rock bottom, the post-truth philosophy will become less attractive and Phillips’ model will look less radical.

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Social media VS blogging: Which generates more sales?

As regular readers will know, I’m a huge fan of the PESO model, which advocates building a PR strategy around four pillars thatregularly overlap each other: Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media. Today, I want to talk about the last category, owned media, arguably the most misunderstood, underrated and therefore neglected aspect of the PESO model.

First, let’s take a second to think about how the other components of the PESO model work. Most PR strategists intrinsically understand the value of paid media, whether that comes in the form of billboards or TV ads, and also have a massive amount of for earned media coverage, like a profile in a newspaper or a radio station interviewing one of your executives. Shared media, which includes the big sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as well as forums like Reddit have revolutionised how we do Public Relations campaigns.

It’s clear that, generally speaking, Paid, Earned and Shared media are well established methods that PR teams use to generate attention and interest in the brands they represent, to engage with consumers, build and protect reputation and, of course, to support the sales function of the business.

So, why bother with owned media at all?

Each of the three methods described above have one thing in common – they involve pushing information out there and hoping that your target audience sees it and engages with it. Owned media is different. It’s all about adding value for your customers and potential customers so that they come to you instead of the other way around. This means using inbound marketing strategies like free, high quality e-books, white papers, blog posts, infographics, podcasts or other form of media to attract customers to your website.

Any organisation, small or large, can come up with great content to their customers will love:

  • A local bakery could create a free recipe e-book or weekly recipe blog post
  • Gyms could create content that help their site visitors reach their fitness goals
  • An NGO could make weekly videos that show the impact donations make on the ground
  • Finance companies could create infographics that help their customers to save money

In most cases, to access the free gift, visitors must give the company their email address.

This means your company now has multiple opportunities to turn your site visitor into a customer. She may purchase something then and there on the site, but if not, you now have a way to contact her again. And since she opted in for your free gift, it’s a warm lead because you already know she’s interested in what you have to offer. Email subscribers convert to customers at a rate 40 times higher than Twitter or Facebook followers according to McKinsey.

If that’s not enough to convince you to take owned media seriously, consider these reasons to amp up your company’s output.

It’s cost effective

Studies have reported an ROI of of up to a phenomenal 3800% from email marketing. No other type of marketing can come close to competing with that. In fact, if you’ve got decent content creators and designers in-house, your e-book or infographic needn’t cost you a penny to create. The important thing is to create something genuinely useful and to package it attractively, so that when your emails arrive in your new leads’ inbox, they already have a good impression of your organisation.

It integrates perfectly with your social strategy

Your social media and content marketing strategies should complement each other perfectly.  A corporate blog can combine evergreen posts, which are always relevant and can be shared time and again, with posts on current trends, major news occurrences or seasonal events. Your social channels can be used to amplify your content to a wider audience, and creating new content regularly means you always have something fresh to say.

You have complete control over the message

When you deal with traditional media outlets, you can never know exactly how they’re going to report on an interview. Your CEO might speak eloquently on your key messages for 59 minutes and then slip up at the last hurdle and give the journalist a controversial or off-message headline. The beauty of owned media is that you have total control over what you share with the world. This has been seen in the US presidential campaigns, for example in Donald Trump’s nightly news show. By creating his own show where the ideology is supportive of his election, he has avoided more difficult interviews with journalists who may have given him a harder time.

Conversely, it’s important to be able to react quickly to breaking opportunities and get your message out there, so don’t get too hung up on painful, arduous approvals processes.

It builds goodwill with your community

People love getting something for nothing. If your company can provide a How-To for a problem that’s been vexing them, teach them a skill they’ve been dying to learn, show them how to get the best out of your products, or impress their boss in a presentation, they will appreciate it. And if you do it time and again, they’ll come to think of you as more than a company they buy things from, they’ll respect you as a thought leader in your industry.

Here’s the best part: Most companies are doing a really paltry job of this at the moment – and that means there’s a huge opportunity there for you. Companies who do content marketing well are making a fortune from it.

Get started today. Plot out 12 blog posts or three e-books  to use in the first quarter of 2017 and start adding value to your customers. It’s the easiest low-budget addition you can make to your 2017 Public Relations strategy. Plus, our sales team will thank you for all the warm leads you’re going to be generating for them.

Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn  and Twitter to share these articles with your colleagues. If you’re looking for something more in-depth than a blog post to improve or update your PR strategy, order our book Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art

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Running a successful tender: How to choose the right PR agency for you


Recently, I wrote about mistakes that PR agencies make when they pitch to in-house Public Relations teams. But what steps should companies take to ensure that their tender process is a success? I’m delighted to say that after a lengthy tender process, I’m delighted with the choice we have made and definitely feel that we got the best team for our culture and budget.
Here are some tips to get the best PR agency for you.

1. Create a detailed briefing document

Write a detailed brief that outlines your PR needs, the organisation’s business objectives for the next year or two, who your main competitors are and what your company stands for (if you’re worried about confidentiality, have all participants sign a non-disclosure agreement).

It can seem like you’re doing the agency’s job for them, but by approaching it this way you get the most out of the process – the agency gets to spend their prep time on coming up with a creative pitch instead of doing research, and you get a successful tender where you don’t have to listen to pitches that completely misunderstand your business.

2. Give them a ballpark budget

Some prefer not to give the game away when it comes to budget, figuring that if you tell them you have X to spend, the pitch will invariably come in just above that figure. However, it’s important to be able to compare apples with apples. A small, local PR agency with three people on staff might be a lot cheaper than a big international outfit, but their capabilities are likely to be a lot more limited.

Choose agencies of similar standing that are likely to be able to meet your needs and tell them roughly how much you want to spend. Then, sit back and watch which agency offers the most bang for your buck – some will impress with creative campaigns that don’t cost a fortune, while others will sadly choose to put forward the same old ideas that have been knocking around for years.

Ultimately, you know what’s in your budget for this – you know how much you have to spend. So the question becomes who will spend it most wisely.

3. Get detailed credentials

Ask for a deck with credentials. Most agencies have a standard deck that includes some background information, awards won, local and global officers, testimonials, high profile clients, capabilities and specialities. This will be updated to include the specific details of the Account Director, Manager and Executives that will work on your account.

Assess these documents carefully in deciding who to take through to the next stage. Our experience showed that you should judge a book by its cover – the most professional looking decks showed great attention to detail and invariably came from those with the most professional pitches.

4. Screen agencies over the phone

Once you have reviewed the decks, paying careful attention to testimonials from other clients, you’re ready to start shortlisting.

If senior managers are going to be involved, it can be difficult to book a lot of time in their diaries, and you don’t want to take up their time with agencies that definitely are not a fit – conduct screening over the phone to make sure this doesn’t happen.

For the agency, it’s an opportunity for them to ask questions and get a better sense of you as a company. For you, it’s a valuable opportunity to gauge professionalism, experience and team fit, and ensure a successful tender without the significant effort that does into face-to-face meetings.

5. Choose top agencies for face-to-face meetings

After phone screenings, set up face-to-face meetings with the agencies that you feel fit your culture best, who will be able to hit your KPIs, and – importantly – who will fall within your budget. Insist that the team who would take care of the account if they won attends the meeting – there’s no point meeting with three Directors with their vast swathes of experience when a 23-year-old graduate will be doing most of the work on the account.

Create a spreadsheet that lists the criteria the agencies will be ranked on, and mark them based on a clear, transparent basis. Columns could include experience, creativity, budget, personality, response to your brief and overall strength of pitch. The criteria you choose will depend on your specific needs – the important thing is that each agency is given a fair shout, and none receives preferential treatment.

This ensures the best outcomes for your PR department, and also means you have a clear document showing how and why you made your choice when Legal and Compliance come knocking.

6. Bring two back as finalists

After the first round of face-to-face interviews, gather the decision-makers for a meeting. Compare notes. Usually, you’ll find that most people pick up on the same strengths and weaknesses in a pitch, although discussions can turn up some additional observations and help to iron out any confusion. Add up your scores from your spreadsheet and eliminate the two lowest ranking agencies. Then, invite the two finalists back.

The first face-to-face meeting is very much an introduction, with both sides explaining a little about their company’s history, and where they are today. The second meeting is much more detailed, delving into proposed strategies and even specific campaign ideas. Budget may be discussed in more detail. Personalities will matter, as these are people you’ll be working closely with – which team seems like they can stay calm and deliver under pressure? Which team seems like they would be pleasant to work with on a daily basis?

7. Make an offer

Rank the agencies against objective and subjective criteria once again, and make your preferred agency an offer. You may want to bring in members of your Legal, Finance or Procurement teams at this point to help with the paperwork. Set Service Level Agreements in the contract, and retain the agency for no more than three years at a time.

So, that’s my experience of going through a successful tender process. How do you go about hiring for agencies that will be on big contracts? Leave a comment.

Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art is a practical guide to creating integrated communications campaigns. It’s all about achieving optimum PR outcomes using the PESO model. Pre-order it now.

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7 deadly sins of Public Relations redeemed


Backing the Barcelona Principles

All the way back in 2010, Public Relations practitioners from more than 40 countries gathered in the capital Catalonia for a think-in on industry issues. Around 140 people attended the conference, hosted by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC). AMEC is the world’s largest trade body representing communications research, measurement and insights.

The result of that conference was the first draft of the Barcelona Principles; seven core principles aimed at righting the mistakes of the past in the PR industry.  These new voluntary guidelines were to be used for the measurement and evaluation of communications and Public Relations campaigns. Early adopters of the Barcelona Principles included Edelman, FleishmanHillard, Ketchum and StrategyOne.

In the five years that followed, take up has been a little patchy across the industry. The wording of each principle has been debated and fine-tuned, ultimately resulting in the Barcelona Principles Mark II, agreed at the AMEC summit in 2015.

The updated principles are listed below. Do you agree with them as a measure of PR?

1. Goal setting and measurement are fundamental to communication and public relations

To an outsider, this might seem too obvious for words. Yet, a huge number of organisations go from year to year attempting to make their strategy up as they go along: “There’s a product launching next month – we should have an event!” “We should do a press release about something – check if the commercial team has any news we could put out.” If this sounds familiar – your organisation needs the Barcelona Principles. Measurement, evaluation and goal-setting should be at the core of campaigns across paid, earned, owned and shared channels.

2. Measuring communication outcomes is recommended versus only measuring outputs

Outputs can be measured easily in quantitative terms (i.e.  numbers), but the second principle has now been updated to reinforce the importance of qualitative feedback (i.e. words). The original principle stated qualitative methods of measuring outcomes were “often preferable,” but, the updated principle recognises that the use of qualitative methods (along with quantitative) should be used as appropriate. The updated principle also specifically mentions advocacy as an outcome that can (and should) be measured.

3. The effect on organisational performance can and should be measured where possible

The third principle is all about the big picture – it’s all well and good to talk about your PR and Communications goals, but what impact are you having on the organisation as a whole?  While communications and Public Relations can impact the bottom line and increase profits, that is not the only effect it can have. This principle was originally focused exclusively on the impact PR has on business results, but the updated wording reflects the fact that communications can impact the overall performance of an organisation.

To do this, organisations must have, and practitioners must understand, integrated marketing and communication models. The Public Relations channel does not exist in a silo, nor should PR measures.

4. Measurement and evaluation require both qualitative and quantitative methods

In traditional media, quantitative measures (that means stuff you can count) can include press clippings, circulation and readership figures, opportunities to see, air time and volume of coverage. For digital media, quantitative measures include web rankings, followers gained, website visitors, and social media engagement (number of likes, comments, shares, retweets)

For a qualitative analysis, assess the impact the activity had on the tone blogger comments, hold focus groups for consumer feedback, monitor any commentary by public figures including celebrities or politicians, gauge the impact on community sentiment on your social media channels. Internally, it’s possible to run surveys to find if the campaign had an effect on employee morale.

5. AVEs are not the Value of Communications

While some cling to Advertising Value Equivalent as a measure, Public Relations practitioners following best practice should entirely reject this concept. The old school practice of measuring the success of Public Relations by the yardstick of advertising rates is dead. Throughout this book, better models for calculating the qualitative and quantitative impact of campaigns will be outlined.

Measuring our own industry by the yardstick of another shows an alarming lack of confidence in our own abilities. There is no common measurement for advertising and editorial it’s akin to asking a basketball player how many home runs he scored in his last game.

6. Social Media Can and Should be Measured Consistently with Other Media Channels

A variety of sophisticated free and paid-for tools are available to measure social media impact and following. Between the analytics offered within social sites themselves, Klout scores and the numerous other measurement tools that detect share of voice, engagement, followers, likes, retweets and so on, there is no excuse in the present day not to measure and report on social media channels just like any other.

7. Measurement and Evaluation Should be Transparent, Consistent and Valid

Whether you’re working on an in-house corporate communications team (and looking for an increased budget) or you’re an agency looking to demonstrate your value to a client, measuring the success of your campaigns effectively is vital. Despite this, 59% of Public Relations professionals surveyed by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication in 2013 said that biggest barrier they face in measuring their success is that it’s “too complex”.

When we measure performance, it’s vital to compare like with like, and act with integrity, honesty and openness. The updated principle includes more specific guidance valid quantitative and qualitative methods in an effort to ensure quantitative methods are reliable and replicable and qualitative methods are trustworthy.



Where does your team stand on the Barcelona Principles? How many of the seven principles are a part of your day to day activities? Leave a comment.

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