PR peer panel

As boundaries between the marketing and public relations sectors blur, five PR specialists answer questions posed by Marketing Week about the sector’s burning issues.

The panel



Our corporate website is instrumental in carrying through many of our PR initiatives and helps to generate traffic for our brands’ sites. We target news sites for both consumer and corporate stories to increase reach – indeed, some newspaper sites will carry stories that the paper wouldn’t if they are for a younger audience.

We find that new music is better targeted online, so with something like the NME Radar Tour – NME’s touring showcase of new music – there’s a higher percentage of digital PR. And there’s a growing number of influential bloggers. For our fashion and celebrity brands, for example, we know that bloggers’ endorsement of a story and audience reach is as important as a non-digital route to coverage.

MW: What digital innovations have you introduced lately?

LM: We have an IHG YouTube channel, numerous Facebook and Twitter sites and we use online photo sharing sites like Flickr to manage internal photography competitions, which have gone down really well with our colleagues across the world.

We now release our quarterly results via video on YouTube and at the time of our half-year results in August, more than 1,000 people had watched our CEO talk through the results within six minutes of them hitting the market. The impact is huge and it’s an excellent way to get a sentiment and tone across that cannot be achieved by the written word.

LB: We are working very hard to improve our digital presence and the way we communicate with consumers to build on successes like CokeZone. We have some really exciting developments and campaigns in the pipeline. In particular, we are keen to use our involvement in the World Cup in South Africa next year to develop innovative content and initiatives.

We’ve also launched a global social media campaign featuring three young people visiting all the 206 countries where we sell Coke. The aim is to bring our “Open Happiness” campaign to life as the group will be sharing their experiences online throughout their journey. It will also be interactive through the Expedition 206 website, with fans giving suggestions on where they go, what they do and who they visit in each country.

“PR should be represented at board level because reputation and trust are now key to the success of every organisation and brand.” Nick Hindle, McDonald’s

NH: Our most successful PR innovation has been the launch of our Makeupyourownmind website, where we invite questions on all aspects of our business and do our best to answer them. It’s not that new and it’s not that innovative technologically, but it enables us to be transparent in a way that helps us to manage our reputation on a number of levels.

KM: It’s great having brands like that can develop topical games at short notice like Jedward: X-Factor Vote Grabber, Spank the Banker and Ashes 2 Ashes: Zombie Cricket (launched for the Ashes series in the summer and still one of the most popular games on the site). PR campaigns to launch new games are naturally digital and word spreads very quickly through social media – and of course journalists enjoy playing the games too.

MW: Which of your peers do you think has elevated communications to a strategic level – affecting their brand’s bottom line in a positive way?

LM: [IHG’s rival] Travelodge in the UK has done a great job in showing how PR can really bolster marketing activity. It has also used PR effectively to build a high political profile, which adds to its reputation. Director of communications Greg Dawson and the team there do a good job.

KM: Paul Charles of Virgin Atlantic – previously Eurostar – who is about to join Lewis PR and bring his strategic experience to bear in an agency environment. I also admire my Time Warner colleagues Deborah Lincoln at Warner Bros and Claudia Coles at CNN.

NH: The NSPCC. To me, its campaigning is consistently more effective than those it competes against for awareness and fundraising. It’s also created and nurtured one of the most long-lasting campaigns in recent times.

LB: Marks & Spencer is an obvious choice – Plan A set the bar for companies communicating their commitment to sustainability.

The retail sector in general has been quick to wake up to the link between reputation and purchasing. The recession has been tough for many companies but switched-on businesses know that a commitment to sustainability is as relevant as ever.



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