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Time And The Creative Process

Working in a PR agency, you are constantly challenged to deliver creative ideas within very tight deadlines. Despite the short amount of time available, it never fails to amaze me that we all constantly turn work around. That said, this video about time and the creative process, which Cafe Creative made and circulated to their clients clearly illustrates how you will get better results by giving an agency the time and space to deliver. Their point is simply made in the video by contrasting the drawings of primary school children given ten seconds to draw a clock face and then given ten minutes to repeat the same task.

So You Want A Career In PR?

I get contacted often enough about people thinking about pursuing a career in PR looking for advice, so I’m writing down my thoughts here so I can copy and past them in future.

1. Go for a cup of coffee for someone who works in PR – It never fails to surprise me that people will spend a lot of time and money to get into the world of public relations, but not actually have a clue what the world of communications involves. Meet someone for a cup of coffee, ask them what their day job involves and then decide if it’s the career for you. A simple step to save a lot of stress in the future.

2. Don’t waste your time with a PR degree – There only seems to be a couple of PR degree courses in Ireland to be fair, it seems to be a much bigger UK phenomenon, but you should not spend up to four years of your life to learn how to work in public relations. A different qualification will allow you to offer far better insights. If you really want to do a course, do a post graduate qualification, but to be honest you would be just as well off by buying a copy of Ellen Gunning’s book and teaching yourself. My biggest hangup about PR courses in Ireland is that there simply isn’t enough entry level positions to cater for the amount of students coming through each year.

3. Get experience – One of my biggest regrets from university was not doing a work placement over the summer. If you’re doing a four year course, you have three potential opportunities to do an internship and get to learn about the world of communications and see if it’s what you actually want to do. More importantly, it’s a great way to position yourself for a job with a future employer as there simply isn’t enough entry level positions out there.

4. Help out a charity – There’s no better way to gain experience and build media contacts by helping out a charity. It’s a great way to demonstrate to employers how capable you are.

5. Read papers, listen to the radio, watch TV and surf the web – I am consistently amazed at the amount of people I meet in interviews, who tell me they want to work in public relations, but can’t tell me much about what they read, watch or listen to. You have to know what is going on in the world around. How else will you be able to know what’s newsworthy, what is top of mind for the public and what inspires people to take action.

6. Be social – Besides the fact that your future employers will automatically assume you’re a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat et al addict, social media is actually one of the simplest ways to develop media relationships. It’s a window into journalists’ personalities and what they cover. You should also take a step back to understand what content works on social media channels and which organisations use it well from a communications perspective. It’s also important to familiarise yourself with things like the Facebook admin or the WordPress admin panels.

7. Think visually – I’ll leave you with this video below. It was made by a seventeen year old. I would love to be growing up now and be able to develop skills like this. People with the technical skills that are able to communicate effectively visually are going to be the winners in the multimedia world we’re moving into.

I Believe That We Will Win! – Belvedere College Basketball from Bold Move on Vimeo.

Love this ad by Samsung as part of their sponsorship of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

Fantastic stunt by the Wu-Tang Clan to launch their new album by only selling one physical copy.

MHP Communications are keeping up their good work for GAME in the UK by offering Man United season ticket holders to trade in their tickets for a copy of the latest FIFA video game.

Everyone is having pot shots at Manchester United this year, Hotelsdotcom also got in on the act by offering United fans 10 per cent off hotels in Europe after they were knocked out of the Champions League.

Nice gesture by Fulham, with players ringing fans to say thanks for renewing their season tickets.

Pilion Trust charity’s F*** The Poor stunt is inspired, it really underlines volunteering your time or donating money to a cause is more impactful than a rant on Twitter or a Like on Facebook.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffet.

In Manchester United’s case it took them 26 years to build their reputation and they have spent the last couple of days tarnishing it.

From a PR perspective, it has been fascinating to watch the dismissal of David Moyes unfold, particularly as a fan of the club.

When Moyes was originally appointed last July, there was a lot of effort put in by the club to highlight that he was a long term appointment. Alex Ferguson’s retirement speech was used as a platform to urge fans to get behind the new boss; Moyes was deliberately given a six year deal to show the faith the club was putting in him; the Chosen One banner; and club representatives like Bobby Charlton were rolled out to deliver messages about the long term future – “We have secured a man who is committed to the long-term and will build teams for the future as well as now. Stability breeds success.”

Lots of public displays of commitment, but as the saying goes you’re only singing when you’re winning and United’s results on the pitch called for a change of tune.

While the majority of supporters probably accept that it was the right decision to make a change at the top, the manner that Manchester United dismissed Moyes left a lot to be desired.

The writing was on the wall the day after a woeful performance against Everton, when at 2.15pm on Monday a number of journalists simultaneously tweeted that Moyes was to be sacked. This was quickly followed up by news stories on their respective websites within five minutes. Something like this is not mere coincidence, it is the result of background briefings with media under the specific agreement that the news is embargoed until a certain time.

Once the clock struck 2.15pm, Twitter was alight as the news made its way around the world in seconds due to the reach of the journalists and outlets selected for the briefings.

What followed next was even more cloak and dagger as media outlets then approached Manchester United for comment. In their responses they deliberately chose their words carefully, stating that Moyes had not ‘been’ sacked, but as Stan Collymore quickly pointed out they didn’t use the word ‘being’ as it was clearly only a matter of time.

Moyes by all accounts was clearly unaware up until this point and had apparently been working on deals for a number of targets with his supposed transfer warchest – another PR stunt rolled out weeks earlier by United to show their faith in their man. The message clearly struck home as he turned up at the club grounds the next day at 4.30am to avoid the cameras, ahead of his inevitable dismissal at 8am.

Over the twenty six years of Ferguson’s reign at United, the world of football had clearly changed. Whatever romanticism it once involved was dead and buried. Money is now the name of the game. That made Manchester United that bit more special, as fans largely ignored the Glazers’ takeover and Ferguson continued to deliver on the pitch by primarily putting his faith in young players. In contrast, a lot of United’s domestic rivals seemed to dismiss managers on a whim and money was no object. United were something to be admired, yet twelve months later they seem no different from their peers.

While there has been a lot of commentary over the last couple of days about Moyes’ communications gaffes, whether it was with media or his players (this article by Simon Kuper in the FT probably sums them up best for me), his statement after his dismissal was full of class.

In contrast to the obvious briefing by insiders, the lack of support by his club in the face of all the rumours, and the schoolyard gossip coming out from the dressing room, Moyes’ statement reflected his integrity. I’ve included his comments from the LMA statement at the bottom of this post.

Standing back, I’m left to wonder what the club hierarchy’s objective was in terms of how Moyes’ sacking was handled. From a reputational perspective, I’m mystified as to how anyone could think it would reflect well on the club. Yes his appointment now appears to have been a mistake, but the only benefit for insiders going behind the manager’s back to the press could only seem to be to deflect attention from the Glazers. All the people who were paraded out in support of Moyes around his appointment were now nowhere to be seen.

Oliver Holt has written the best column summarising how the club has now permanently lost part of their identity. If you’re reading this post, Holt’s piece is a must read.

Quoting Gary Neville, Holt writes:

We look at football management and think of it as being a world of madness, an absolute world of madness, where the average manager gets sacked every 12 months. I’ve always felt that Manchester United should be different and hold itself up as a club that basically stands against what is happening in the game,”

Before adding his comment:

We know now that the idea of dynasty at United started and finished with Ferguson.”

Now the club is left trying to spin about how they will bring in a world class manager, but with limited options it doesn’t look like they will be able to bring in the type of star studded name to match the brand. Sure enough the gains made on the stock market have quickly dissipated as shares closed 5.3% down today after a 6% rise yesterday. It looks like the investment community doesn’t believe the hype.

The world of football never fails to surprise and this week is no different. Naively I obviously thought United were different, but reality has coming crashing home today. In the words of Alex Ferguson, “Football…Bloody hell!

David Moyes statement:

“To have been appointed as manager of Manchester United, one of the biggest football clubs in the world, was and remains something of which I will always be incredibly proud.

Taking charge after such a long period of continuous stability and success at the club was inevitably going to be a significant challenge, but it was one which I relished and never had a second thought about taking on.

The scale of the manager’s job at United is immense, but I have never stepped away from hard work and the same applies to my coaching staff. I thank them for their dedication and loyalty throughout the last season.

We were fully focused and committed to the process of the fundamental rebuilding that is required for the senior squad. This had to be achieved whilst delivering positive results in the Barclays Premier League and the Champions League. However, during this period of transition, performances and results have not been what Manchester United and its fans are used to or expect, and I both understand and share their frustration.

In my short time at the club I have learnt what special places Old Trafford and Carrington are. I would like to thank the United staff for making me feel so welcome and part of the United family from my first day. And of course thank you to those fans who have supported me throughout the season. I wish you and the club all the best for the future.

I have always believed that a manager never stops learning during his career and I know I will take invaluable experience from my time as United’s manager. I remain proud to have led the team to the quarter finals of this year’s Champions League and I remain grateful to Sir Alex Ferguson for believing in my ability and giving me the chance to manage Manchester United.”

Anja Niedringhaus RIP

This is a wonderful video tribute to Anja Niedringhaus, the AP photographer killed in Afghanistan.

Enda Kenny and Fine Gael came into Government riding on a wave of popularity, promising that they would be different to Fianna Fail and restore Ireland’s economic fortunes. While the economy has begun to turn the corner since 2011, Fine Gael’s popularity has begun to sink ever since. Initially the party benefited from the lack of credible alternatives, but a succession of tough budgets and mini political crises has seen their popularity plunge as low as 21% (depending on which political poll you believe.)

So what is Fine Gael to do? A recent article about Pope Francis in the Economist caught my eye in this regard. The article positions the pope as a turnaround CEO in charge of a crisis-ridden company with a demoralised workforce. Swap the terms “crisis-ridden company” and “workforce” with “economy in the doldrums” and “electorate” and there’s not much difference between the Catholic Church and Ireland in many respects.

In contrast to Enda Kenny, the Pope has managed to regalvanise the Catholic Church and the main reason for this as the article points out is that “Francis has refocused his organisation on one mission: helping the poor.” The Church had been rocked by a number of scandals in recent years and was increasingly looking out of touch, but through a simple repositioning, Francis now looks like a man of the people, despite the fact that the Church’s view on a number of areas like abortion, women’s role in the Church and gay marriage still put it at odds with a number of people.

Enda Kenny should take note of Pope Francis’ success in changing perceptions and commentary about the church. Some of Fine Gael’s decline was inevitable as they had to deliver some tough cutbacks whilst reining in Government spending, but a certain degree has been their own doing as they have failed to deliver genuine political reform, despite a clear desire from the general public for a different kind of politics as highlighted by Fianna Fail’s stagnant poll numbers and the increasing popularity of the independents. People are fed up with the current political system, but don’t seem to see much choice available in terms of credible alternatives. Is it any surprise that we’re now seeing the same low levels of trust in the political system as before the last general election?

While Ireland’s economic bounceback remains heavily dependent on the global economy, Kenny has far greater control in terms of political reform. Imagine he followed Francis’ lead in terms of shunning some of the luxuries associated with his role – the Economist reports that the pope “swapped Benedict’s red shoes for plain black ones and ignored his fully loaded Mercedes in favour of a battered Ford.” If Kenny decided not to claim any expenses for example, it would be met by a positive public reaction.

Obviously delivering political reform is not as easy as it sounds as the failed Seanad referendum showed; in some ways it’s like getting turkeys to vote for Christmas. Real leaders, however, lead by example and they have to bring people on a journey. Setting out a roadmap and timeline for political reform, even if it consists of populist moves like foregoing expenses, would go some way to getting people to accept some of the cutbacks that are inevitable as part of the recession. Various sectors are reluctant to reform if the people asking them to deliver change don’t seem to be incurring any pain themselves.

Irish Media Movement

Emma Kennedy has been appointed as the new editor of the Money Plus section in the Sunday Business Post.

Richard Curran has been unveiled as the new host of RTE’s The Business following George Lee’s appointment as agriculture and environment correspondent in RTE.

Jill Kerby’s personal finance column in the Sunday Times has finished up.

The Irish Examiner has appointed Mary Regan as political editor, John Walsh as business editor and Michael Clifford as special correspondent.

Joe Humphries has been appointed as education correspondent in the Irish Times.

I spotted the image below on So Bad, So Good yesterday.  In my view, it sums up the newspaper industry’s woes quite simply in terms of consumers being able to access a range of content for free from their pocket.

Newspaper Woes

After seeing the image, I couldn’t help but remember Gerard Cunningham’s tweet from earlier in the day about the sad news announced by Landmark Media about voluntary redundancies at the Irish Examiner and its other regional titles.


There was a bit of car crash radio on RTE a couple of weeks ago as Gerry Byrne and Declan Waugh were on Today With Sean O’Rourke, with Keelin Shanley standing in as presenter, to discuss fluoridation in Ireland.   As part of the interview, Declan Waugh made the claim that fluoride was a factor in Down Syndrome levels in Ireland.  Shanley immediately asked him to cite the research which supported this claim, which Waugh was unable to do and was admonished by the presenter for making such a claim on national radio without the evidence to back it up.

The anti-flouride lobby has made giant strides in making their cause a national issue, which frankly I’m amazed by considering all the scientific evidence which supports fluoridation.  When it comes to science, however, media have been found quite wanting on a range of topics, whether its fluoridation or climate change due to succumbing to ‘false balance’ and giving opinions and scientific fact the same weight (this damning report – pdf – on the BBC’s coverage on climate change is well worth a read.)

Waugh could have at least made the claim, however, if he imply was able to reference the research he based his claim on.  Whether it was a slip of the mind or simply a case of never being challenged by a journalist in the past, he floundered and rightly came in for criticism from Shanley.  This single moment completely undermined him and he lost all credibility to the listener.  So it just goes to show that if you want to position yourself as an expert, make sure you know your facts when you’re asked for them.

I was listening to NewsTalk’s Down To Business last Saturday as the show’s host, Bobby Kerr, interviewed Wayne Byrne from Oxymem, winners of the 2014 Innovation of the Year at the Irish Times & InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards (you can listen to the interview here about 22 minutes in.)  Oxymem produce a piece of technology – a bubbleless aeration solution – for wastewater treatment, which isn’t the easiest thing to get your head around particularly on a Saturday morning.

As Wayne tried to explain what his company does to listeners, Bobby quickly jumped in with this classic line – “With all these things, I try to summarise them into one sentence and with your concept what I did was – it saves energy when it breaks down sewage.”

Simple and straight to the point.  Exactly what you need when you’ve got a limited amount of time to explain what you or your product do.

We should all ask ourselves the question, can I explain what I do for a living in one sentence.  The best audience to test your answer on is your mother, because if she understands then you know you’re on the right track.

First impressions count, particularly in broadcast interviews as if you lose your audience from the outset, then they are likely to drift off and not pay attention to what you are saying.  Bobby played a blinder as the host by giving context to the audience for what Wayne’s product does, instantly making the interview more accessible.

So next time you are preparing for an interview, it’s worth bearing Bobby’s advice in mind and making sure you can explain what you do in one sentence.

Piaras Kelly
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