Posts Tagged ‘PR Week’

Why CEOs must get PRs on board

Danny Rogers, the editor of PR Week, has, in a recent Independent article, highlighted a curious phenomenon blighting the boards of the majority of FTSE 100 firms. According to a recent survey, 54% of them still do not have a communications expert at executive board level.
Considering that in the modern climate, most major decisions business leaders make will ultimately become public knowledge, thanks to the inherent transparency and traceability of digital communication, this statistic seems like madness. But in my experience CEO are bewildered by the PR process. We in the PR industry have done a poor job of defining and promoting what we do.
The term “PR” has become synonymous with “press releases” (easy enough to understand why), “buzz,” “publicity,” and “spin.” What good PR actually entails is a lot more: it underpins every conversation that is happening around a brand, every aspect of how it is perceived, and it should, therefore, sit at the centre of the brand communication process. But the talent pool is thin and many global networks are struggling to define the imperative. Instead many companies are lassoing their brands and limiting their horizons. Fear and process are embraced both overtly and on a subliminal level, because doing things the way they’ve always been done is easier than recognising the need for change and implementing it.
I’ve a  more spiritual point of view on the issue.  PR thinking comes in two types: processed and intuitive. Of course the former is necessary at the base level, but problems arise when it dominates- and defines- what you do. The best practitioners know when to make the leap from the daily grind to a moment of wild inspiration.
I’ve  always tried to place myself in the latter camp. Borkowski’s culture has remained much unchanged in 25 years, and our PR has always been led by powerful, truthful stories, drawn organically from a brand and fed to media who genuinely want them.
Consider this:  the PR industry, rather than talking about what it attempts to  do, should talk more effectively, more provocatively and to a wider audience about what it can achieve at the heart of the brand. If it is able to decode and present challenging ideas to effect internal and external behaviour, it might achieve traction at board level.
I’m bold enough to suggest all our clients consider disrupting their current processes, and draw PR to their heart. After all this is not an age for opportunism or blind luck. Clever ideas need a strategic backbone. They can’t float aimlessly in the ether, waiting for the herd to react. We think it’s important to make considered, emotional and intellectual observations about the culture of publicity. Strategic counsel is no longer a luxury for big brands and early adopters: the marmite opinions of millions of motivated commentators mean that public opinion is more visible, faster moving and more risky than ever before, and will determine everything about a brand’s success- or otherwise.
However, we understand the challenges many organisations face in the struggle to shift internal structures to fit the demands of the age. Borkowski can help. We’re not simply the go-to publicity agency. We are personable group who offer a sympathetic helping hand, leaving the much maligned ego at the door.

The Art of Change

Is there any excuse for a deferral, hidden behind the familiar “no comment”? For the first time in my career, I find myself pondering this Churchillian aphorism. “No comment” is a splendid expression which I am using again and again.

My old cohorts launched a new offering via PR Week last week, which naturally pasted me onto the front page. Lordy, what a headline. Last week I had nothing to say; I guess when I do, I will. Some wag on Twitter correctly observed that I’m quick to offer opinion as a rent-a-quote on public affairs yet remain tight-lipped on my own. The media landscape can be a funny old vista, if viewed from the outside rather than from within. It’s fascinating to listen to opinion about an idea I’ve provoked; sometimes it’s funny, sometimes cruel, sometimes wide of the mark – but always absorbing. Read the rest of this entry »

Awards and Escapology

Another year, another PR Week Awards night. Winners love it, losers loathe it. My agency, Borkowski, ignored it for years. Truthfully, it’s a somewhat odd night. I met so many friends I just didn’t know I had. I don’t usually have the emotional stamina to stay the course and tend to slope off before the end. This has its dangers; especially when, a couple of years ago, Borkowski took the Grand Prix award.

Last night I mused that few of the gathered PR luvvies didn’t smile at the award for Communicator of the Year. The gong went to Head Prefect, the creepy Nick Clegg, Lord Smug of Camberwick Green. Does anyone else think he looks like the footman in Downton Abbey? Of course, he didn’t turn up. How could he?  Winning an award for his PR skills isn’t something he is likely to be leaping up and down about right now. Read the rest of this entry »

Will the Revolution Not Be Advertised?

It may be stating the bleeding obvious, but we all know the media is changing rapidly – every few months, something comes along that fractures the old order more and more. The latest is the iPad, one more thing in a long line of technological advances that are making it easier for brand and public to connect without the need of the old certainties.

So what will shape the future? And who will shape it? The screaming headline in PR Week warning of ad agencies encroaching on PR territory misses the point a little, I feel. A good PR agency is stronger than people think.

“Ad agencies have always been a threat,” a friend in PR admitted the other day. “WPP et al have been buying PR agencies for decades. What matters is contacts, culture, energy, creativity, bullshit and bollocks. And, of course, your last piece of coverage. And that means scum-sucking, news-junky, urban cosmopolite ambidextrous grasshoppers like us.” Read the rest of this entry »

With a Bang and a Wispa

Luckily, someone at the PR Week Awards was on hand with a camera to capture the Borkowski team’s exuberant stage invasion post the announcement of the team winning the Campaign of the Year Gold Award for the Cadbury’s Wispa campaign. The footage below proves beyond doubt that the only thing to go quietly to the stage was the Wispa itself.

In the grainy film, one can see a clearly over-the-moon Larry Franks, Borkowski’s MD, arriving onstage and skidding to his knees at the feet of Bill Bailey, who gives him a hug, before he leaps up to clutch the award in the manner of an England footballer who’s just scored a double hat-trick in the World Cup Final.

He’s followed by the entire Borkowski team, pleased as punch and just as giddy in their glad rags, smiling fit to split their faces as the award statue flies over their heads, gathering into the sort of group shot that is usually used to sell ensemble TV shows about hip and edgy people doing hip and edgy things in hip and edgy places. Not too far removed from the truth, then…

It’s a shame that the footage ends where it does – but one can always fill in the details of what followed for oneself. I’m currently imagining the entire team taking turns to make their version of the Gwyneth Paltrow Oscar acceptance speech, hot tears of joy soaking the award as they cradle it like a newborn baby. It makes for a most charming scene!

Winning with Wispa!

The last time we entered the PR Week Awards was fifteen years ago. Then, we won the award for Best Promotional Activity for a publicity stunt that involved a circus and a clown. It was a well-earned award, beating Freud’s Planet Hollywood campaign.

For many reasons, however, we have not entered since then. This year, however, our new business director, Suresh Raj, thought it would be a good idea to put forward our Wispa campaign for Best Digital Innovation. So the team –and assorted clients– turned up to the Grosvenor House Hotel last night to eat rubbery lamb and sip mediocre red wine and quaff catering champagne, not expecting to win the award.

The evening was chaotic. I met loads of old pals and was pleased to see Nick Band, as I mistakenly thought he had died a couple of years ago. The Awards floorshow came from Bill Bailey, who was extraordinarily good. His best line was: “I don’t trust joggers, they’re the ones who always find the dead bodies”.  I think he was warned at least twice not to take the piss out of the PR trade via hastily scribbled note-lets.

I have a huge amount of respect for Colin Byrne but, if I am completely honest, I wasn’t too enthused when the Product and Promotion Marketing and Communications Award went to Weber Sandwich for a patio heater campaign, on behalf of the Energy Saving Trust, beating what was without a doubt one of the best campaigns of last year; the Homer Simpson effigy next to the Cerne Abbas chalk giant staged by Beatwax.

I was blown away, however, when we were given the Digital Innovation award for our Wispa campaign. Danny Rogers, the editor of PR Week, noted that the Cadbury’s Wispa campaign stood out because it expertly harnessed social media to great sales effect.

I had to scoot off early, content that we had achieved something significant. To my amazement, twenty minutes later I received a call from Suresh saying we’d been awarded the Gold Award for Campaign of the Year for our Bring Back Wispa campaign. I was gob-smacked and delighted.

I suppose, if we’d lost, that I might be bleating about how unfair and biased the awards were, but clearly they’re not! It was fantastic to hear that some of the Borkowski team disgraced themselves on stage and that our MD had a Jimmy Bullard moment, skidding across the stage on his hands and knees to take the award from Bill. One sobering thought was that I had to pick up an extraordinary bar bill, which underlined the drunken celebrations that went on until the early hours.

That said, I am blessed with some extraordinary people who work tirelessly to forge campaigns. It’s wonderful to have that recognized by the industry.