Dear Doctor Claire,

My boss doesn’t understand me. He thinks our reputation is alright but that our fizz has gone flat. He says our personality and passion doesn’t shine through. How can we rekindle the flame and sparkle again? Can you help us?

Yours sincerely,

A Concerned Marketeer


Dear ACM,

You’re not alone. This is a very common PR challenge amongst marketers – it’s very difficult to know where to start.

It’s easy to look at visionaries and high-profile leaders in organisations around the world – Branson, Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg, to name but a few – and think how effortless their profile looks. But no relationship between a marketer and their boss is ever effortless.

Most CEOs take responsibility for offline vision, culture and driving the company forwards, but sweep the online under the carpet. For all the discussions about social selling, marketing qualified leads and awareness funnels, the place of social media and digital channels in commercial corporate communications is still not yet firmly established.

But here are a few things to consider before setting out on your journey to establish leadership, digital brand personality and start to put the life back into your brand:

– Where are your customers? Social media and digital channels aren’t special. They’re not new anymore. They provide another channel for communicating with prospects and customers. So if there’s a big group of CIOs on Twitter and you’re an IT brand, the face of the company should be too. If there are lots of stay-at-home mums on Instagram and you’re a cookery brand aimed at this group, you should get on there right now. You should also make sure that you’re relating to potential customers on both business and personal levels – and this often means blogging and tweeting about personal interests and relating to prospects outside of business hours. But all good senior executives know: being a leader isn’t just a nine to five job.

– Isn’t developing a digital brand personality really time-consuming? It can be. But if approached strategically, it can make a real difference, allowing people to engage with CEOs, give the brand personality and reach prospect groups in a way which shows how your company is different. After all, social media should be used like any other communications and marketing tool: in a targeted, strategic fashion. Occasionally CEOs will dismiss social media as ‘frivolous’ – and there’s no doubt that it can be – we’d never ask John Chambers to spend time posting his holiday snaps on Instagram, for example. However, you need to look at it more as a serious engagement tool to show off your company and talk to prospects.

– Help! I don’t trust my senior execs not to put their foot in it: We’ve all seen disastrous posts from senior staff admitting their views on anything and everything and generally portraying the company in a bad light. Make no mistake: whilst you can delete social media posts, the chances are that someone will have seen it and taken a screenshot. Your executives – whether that’s a brand evangelist, the CEO or the chairman of the board – are the public faces of the company, and there’s little difference between them getting drunk and making a scene at a customer event and posting a bad post on Twitter (although bad tweets can go a lot further than a bar). It’s a real risk – and our responsibility as communications professionals to consult and mitigate this risk.

– We don’t have an online business: You’re in a rare position. But let’s be honest – you might not have an online business, but the chances are, someone is talking about you online, affecting your reputation and commercial prospects. In all honesty, it’s been a while since the online and physical world were considered separate; but digital is just another channel. A few obvious exceptions aside, it’s a bit like arguing that a major tech company shouldn’t sell through resellers as well as directly – it’s just another route to your audience and the market.

– Is there a risk of spreading their name too thinly? Every time your senior executives tweet, post a blog or a LinkedIn post with a link, they increase the possibility of someone clicking through to your company website – which is a good thing. But of course, if you read our latest blog on Google’s Panda algorithm update, just having them spam out tweets with links will actually harm your brand – both from a prospect and SEO perspective. Limit networks and content to relevant channels, avoid overt sales pitches and provide unique, interesting content and you’ll not only make them look good, but you’ll boost the SEO of your overall brand as well.

– How do I fight off the question about why this doesn’t result in leads? This one’s simple. It can … but only marketing qualified leads rather than fully-fledged sales leads. Not only can Google Analytics (GA) and UTM-coded shortlinks tell you if your digital content is being read, but you should also be working towards creating ‘free content people would pay for’ which can be downloaded in exchange for an email address, feeding the marketing pipeline. Don’t have any content like this? Consider whitepapers, controversial opinion articles and the like – you’d be surprised how many brands spend their marketing pounds on content that they only use once, or spend a disproportionate amount on content creation compared to distribution. You might want to think about amplifying blog content through paid social channels as well for a month – then see what happens to your GA website hits.

Of course, because social media and digital tools are still a bit new and poorly understood, it can be tough to keep people informed whilst also keeping the spark of the brand alive.

But once you’ve considered some of these questions, the fundamental ‘why’ and online ‘where’ of digital strategy should feel a little more manageable. And the commercial crux of the relationship between your brand and digital often falls down to this:

Should your brand be on all social channels? Not necessarily

Should your brand be where the prospects are? Absolutely


With the amount of online content and social media in our everyday lifestyle, it’s no surprise that digital PR campaigns are now an important staple in modern PR and advertising.

Give as you Live wanted a stronger social presence and to reach a younger audience that likes to shop, and Firefly advised collaborating with a fashion YouTube vlogger. While traditional media is still valuable, YouTuber popularity is growing fast, and would provide access to a younger audience as well as an authentic assessment of Give as you Live and how they see it in their everyday lives. youtubecomments

Firefly created a campaign plan, including researching the right talent, reaching out and securing a YouTuber within the allocated budget, and working with the vlogger to create a video that maintained their style while weaving in Give as you Live in a way that would resonate with their viewers.

Following the structure of her classic videos, Amy Valentine produced a haul video about products she purchased through Give as you Live. Viewed more than 5,600 times in one week, Amy’s video helped Give as you Live reach self proclaimed shop-a-holics, drove traffic and sign-ups on its website, and increased its social profile thanks to Amy’s mentions.

In the first of a two part series, I’ll be providing tips about how to get the most out of a PR video interview. My background is teaching video skills to would-be journalists and bloggers in Vietnam. What I learnt there translates beautifully to the UK – after all, the art of communication is not limited by geography or language.

Part One: Interview technique


PR agencies can do more than just write a press release or blog post – video is really coming to the fore, both for B2B and B2C communications.

I’m not talking here about full-blown, high budget video production. Rather, the video work we do for our clients is designed to support their marketing activities – for example, video interviews with executives on topical issues, vox pops to support campaigns, or shots from an event our client is attending.

Even before you start to shoot, it’s important to have a sound knowledge of interview techniques.  Here is how we approach video interviews for our clients:

1. Prepare, but don’t be a slave to a script

Draft out a list of questions, but keep it flexible. To get the best out of spokespeople – your ‘talent’ – they must stay relaxed and be able to express themselves in their own words. Also, depending on the responses, it’s sometimes necessary to deviate from the plan and go down a different line of questioning in order to get the best answers.

Our approach is to start a dialogue with the interviewee before the camera starts rolling so that they relax, whilst ensuring their attention stays on us, not the camera lens! There are times where a piece to camera is appropriate, but it’s a harder skill to master and most of the time focusing on the interviewer is easier for the talent.

2. Answer the question with a question

We also encourage the answers to be in full sentences – for example, if we ask “what’s your opinion about PR evaluation?” They say: “My opinion on PR evaluation is that most agencies don’t understand it,” not “Most agencies don’t understand it.” This means that you can better pull out sound bites in the editing process.

3. Listen carefully

It sounds obvious, but really listening to answers can make or break video interviews. We never want to end up in the editing process realising that the interviewee could have expanded on an important topic or could have explained something complex more thoroughly.

Similarly, we ensure that the interviewee speaks more broadly than what we ask – they may add something we’ve not considered. At its simplest, we end the interview by asking “is there anything else you would like to say?”

As a public relations consultant it’s your job to ensure the video stays on message, so if you’re interviewing your own client or colleague, you’ve got a role to play here. Make sure you have your PR messaging sheet on hand and that you’re familiar with it.

Listen out for repetition or verbal tics. Often an interviewee will latch on to a phrase or term, that is repeated. It’s not noticeable in common communication, but on video it sticks out like a sore thumb.

4. Make sure your talent is passionate

As an interviewer and director, your role is to ensure that your talent looks and sounds as good as possible on screen. Most interviewees are too busy thinking about their answers to consider how it comes across.

Encourage your talent to ‘dial up’ their energy levels. Show them what you mean – often it’s important to make the case that no matter how ‘silly’ it feels being extra energetic in the moment, it won’t look over-the-top on camera.

Get them to talk about people they respect most on TV. Chances are it’s because of their passion for the subject. Another technique is to get them to talk about something they have a strong interest in, then dive back into the interview and see the enthusiasm levels maintained.

5. Ensure the answers are clear and ‘waffle-free’

We sometimes find ourselves with an interviewee who is already particularly passionate about a topic. This is fantastic for the energy but it can also mean you get a lot of waffling. In these cases we listen to the answer in the first take, suggest the key points and retake until we have something succinct and punchy. Likewise, if the interviewee sniffs, coughs, sneezes, or another loud noise interrupts their answer, we simply redo the question. The result: neat, clear answers that make the editing process much easier.

The most important thing we strive for in the process of video interviews is getting it right first time. Messaging, particularly for client marketing material, needs to be on point and any mistakes in wording can’t be fixed in post-production editing. That said, while good interview technique is essential in producing a client-worthy result, the technical ability to frame a shot and film it properly is just as essential.

Stay tuned for our next blog post in this series – Part Two: Filming.

As we begin to scribble appointments in the 2012 diary, how do you feel about the year ahead? None of this hovering over a crystal ball nonsense (what is Mystic Meg up to these days?), we’ve listened to our clients and monitored recent developments to come up with what we think will be the trends to watch out for in 2012. Based on these predictions, 2012 will turn out to be a triumphant year for sharing, authenticity, the “everyman/woman” and more. Let’s take a look:

1. Pitch restraint: agencies and consultancies will take greater care when pitching their services; post-Bell Pottinger, they are more likely to think twice before making any sweeping, hyperbolic statements (dark arts, anyone?).

2. Hyper-personal PR: visibility into things like online sentiment is improving with the availability of more sophisticated analysis tools. PR will use this insight to deliver more targeted, one-to-one content to individuals. Alternatively, smart, quick opportunism – especially on Twitter – will increase.

3. What’s mine is yours: the future is bright for curation platforms like Pinterest, Evernote or, which allow you to collect, edit and share information and data. We see this relatively new phenomenon becoming a key, digital tool for brands and individuals wanting to share, share, share.

4. Reviewing the reviewers: consumers are wisely watching where every penny is spent and scouring third-party reviews is the norm. In 2012, the key will be authenticity: consumers will no longer put up with blatantly paid-for endorsement, and will even question hyper-negative reviews that smack of rant versus reality. It places a greater burden on the individual consumer, but is also a huge opportunity for technology to harness opinions in new and more transparent ways.

5. Digital couch potatoes, unite! With YouTube set to launch scheduled programming and the debut of Google TV, increasingly, TV fans will engage with brands via telly-on-demand. This is already happening to a degree (see BBC i-Player, 4 On-Demand); the key difference being that it will integrate intelligent search and product placement – giving brands the power to target you with more relevant offers and the ability to buy at the click of a button through your TV screen.

6. Happy campaigning: Times are tough. Morale-boosting campaigns, in which the general public play a central role, will reach fever pitch in 2012. Also – prompted by the popularity of flashmobs, campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty, and irreverent responses to viral sensations like Awkward Family – companies will increasingly encourage real people to use their communications assets as a platform for positive self-expression.

7. Olympics fatigue? The event will offer rich content ideas and pitches for PRs and clients, with every aspect offering up timely and competitive opportunities for businesses. The trick will be in keeping it original and creative!

We at Firefly love discovering the latest social media trends that can help with effective public relations. The current toast of the web seems to be Pinterest – a visual pinboard for collecting and sharing content online. We also see Pinterest as a great resource and platform for brands.

Launched in March 2010, Pinterest has been included in the top 50 websites of 2011 by Time Magazine and has recently been valued at $200 million. What started out as a fun way to post things you liked – from clothes to interesting websites – or an easy way to organise to-do lists, get ideas for events and make wish lists, has now turned into a platform that companies can use to build their brands.

Pinterest is simply a virtual pinboard where people can “pin” the things they like onto their own board – either from other people’s boards, websites or by uploading photos. So far, we are mainly seeing US companies like Nordstrom, The Travel Company, Urban Outfitters and Whole Foods use this platform to unlock brand success; but it won’t be long before Europe catches on. It really is an effective way for bloggers, designers, retailers, small businesses and even restaurants to PR their products and increase awareness of their brand.

Pinterest is a great outlet for sharing and discussing ideas, and once a photo is re-pinned, it has the potential of being seen by a growing online community. In the PR space, there are lots of potential uses for Pinterest:

• Images form part of our PR content, and have the power to say things that words cannot. Take infographics, as an example. They have the ability to gain traction and provide sharing opportunities on social networks.

• For FMCG, retail, travel and other consumer brands, pinboards can capture the brand essence or personality and inspire the viewer to action – be it a how-to on building your work wardrobe, ideas for budget decorating, or gift guides and new Christmas recipes to try this season. Nordstrom uses its boards to post seasonal trends on fashion, whilst Whole Foods posts recipes, seasonal decor ideas and how to use food as art.

• On the B2B PR side, Pinterest could give another dimension to business leaders and public figures. For example, through themed photographs of a personality during their downtime, or performing charitable work.

• PR and marketing agencies could use Pinterest for their own publicity, too. Different pinboards can help show the individual employees and communicate the firm’s culture ; or they can be used to post “idea” boards to disseminate free ideas for campaigns.

• Pinterest can be used to reach out to bloggers in relevant sectors.

• Contests could also be launched around creating the best pinboard; alternatively, brands can build relationships with their evangelists by inviting them to collaborate on boards together.

Pinterest has the potential to be a very worthwhile channel for brands to figure out what their audience is interested in sharing and providing content for them to curate. Mirroring this practice, smaller brands can also achieve product exposure, drive traffic and – most importantly – build brand culture and awareness.

In short, it’s like tweeting a blog post, but you’re sharing it through images rather than words.

Following on from our recent post on PR top tips, “how to reach Screenagers”, we were intrigued to learn about how fast digital maturity is catching on around the world for this group of savvy young communicators.

According to a Digital Diaries survey, by the time most kids in the west turn 11, they have already moved onto mainstream social networks like Facebook and Twitter. In Italy and Spain, digital maturity starts as young as 10 (wow), a time when many of us Fireflies remember playing ‘I Spy’ or ‘Hopscotch’!

This young and very unique generation represents a new consumer force, with their buying, spending, trendspotting and trendsetting prowess. They are the first to be fully ‘wired’, meaning they cannot be ignored anymore and need to be fully understood in order to be reached. PR consultants need to ensure that any campaigns are tailored to, and suitable for, this audience.

Young people definitely have much greater awareness of what’s going on around them now, than they did eight years ago. They’re seeing the news on their computers and cell phones. They also have the latest products, the trendiest fashions (you only had to look at the number of teenagers queuing outside H&M stores for the Versace launch recently); and now, the must-have Christmas present is the iPad.

Marketing to this generation is something to be handled with care. For one, brands need to ensure that any campaigns adhere to CIPR guidelines regarding direct communication with children. However, with this age group being as digitally savvy as they are, there is certain inevitability in them being touched by many large-scale PR or marketing campaigns. So bearing this in mind, here are our tips on how to do it properly:

Are you trying to reach Generation Y? Make sure you talk to us about how we can help with understanding and reaching this audience.

On Thursday 3rd November, we attended a mashup* event about effective public relations with “screenagers”.

Screenagers, generation Y, millenials, digital natives…this group of savvy young communicators have been given all sorts of catchy titles. In short, these are the people who know more about social media than media, more about social networking than networking.

One of the presentations, from a pre-university student, Eleanor Berney to a room full of media and marketing professionals largely in their 20s, 30s and 40s, summed up one of the key topics of the discussion: should we teach screenagers, or should we learn from them?

Certainly, as PR consultants, effective communications with different audiences is our most important tool. These are our top five take-outs for future success.

1. Social media is never anti-social

As social media is the ultimate way of connecting, sharing and consuming, it should be incorporated into all experiences. For the screenagers, what’s anti-social is to not constantly communicate. Tweeting during conversations with friends and Facebooking pictures throughout an event is a way of life and ultra (not anti) social. This is why you’ll never find a screenager in a room without mobile network coverage for long – proprietors, take note.

2. Screenagers do have awareness and discretion

Screenagers know their social media and how to use it. So it’s no surprise that social media is neatly compartmentalised:

Screenagers consider their audience. They are fully aware that they are putting themselves in the public eye and are confident that they know how to best represent themselves on the right resources.

3. Advocacy may be even more important than we realised

Public relations agencies have long been talking about the importance of advocacy and of brand advocates; communicating with the most influential media, the most influential bloggers and driving conversation. But when communicating to screenagers, we need to take this to the furthest possible extreme. The screenagers we talked to, take to Twitter to ask a question, then might try Facebook, and only then might they try Google. They don’t trust newspapers and their motives; instead, they get their information from friends or followers – whom they trust. Plus, when they’ve got so much going on in their world, Twitter’s 140 characters is way more digestible than a Sunday broadsheet’s 140 pages.

4. The restrictions that brands and marketers need to be aware of

Screenagers are not massively concerned about “their” data being sold for money, but more so about people knowing information that they shouldn’t. As a result, they make it their business to stay on top of changes in privacy settings – which Facebook is renowned for. With their confidence high in their own abilities online, screenagers are more concerned about their families revealing all on social networks. They see themselves as the digital angels, who help those who are not so tech savvy to change privacy settings.

5. For effective public relations, digital is the “D” in DNA

These bright young things wouldn’t take a job that doesn’t involve social media. But what PR agency job wouldn’t, now, offer just that? (On which matter, what client brief doesn’t appreciate that digital PR is at the heart, not just a part, of any campaign now?) These days, shared experiences drive consumer communication – and shared experiences happen mostly via social media. A leading public relations agency is one that converges digital and PR for its clients; let’s allow the screenagers to help us keep ahead of the curve.

Today sees the launch of Google’s long awaited brand pages for Google +. Burberry, Mumsnet and Angry Birds have become the first to launch profiles according to The Daily Telegraph. But for any PR consultant, the question of why Google + as well as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter?

Firstly to answer that, a public relation agency needs to think about what the purpose of Google + is. Bradley Horowitch, vice president of Google + comments, “the primary purpose of brands creating a presence on the social network, which hopes to take on Facebook, was to market themselves and talk directly to their customers.” For PR communications, this will mean instant connectivity with fans via the most visited and powerful search engine.

Brands can:

Google has also launched ‘Direct Connect’ which means that whenever a person types ‘+’ ahead of a company or group name into Google’s search engine, they will be directed to that company’s Google+ page if they have one.

It seems that Google + is an extension of a brands presence through Google’s increasing product range allowing them to communicate directly with customers. This coupled with potential SEO benefits shows how serious Google is – it’s not something that’s going to go away.

Our digital fingerprints are all over the place and it’s a messy affair. Imagine being Sarah Baskerville. Or the Robin Hood Airport guy. Or Twitter itself, after it was subpoenaed by the US government and ordered to release personal information about users connected to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. Wherever you look, social media brands, their legions of fans, and those in positions of power or authority are having an awkward little tango.

Not too long ago, the golden rule was never to put anything on company email that you wouldn’t want to see in print (or worse, a deposition). This required a modicum of restraint and plenty of good judgment. Fast-forward to the noughties and not only have our attitudes changed (Facebook seems to bring out the inner extrovert), but so has the legal environment around social media. At a time when many of us are so keen to connect and share – quickly and profusely – there emerge multiple, sobering reminders of what a friend used to call, “the over-share” gone wrong.

The PCC, amongst others, are holding a talk on social media privacy and data protection laws on 22 March. I’m definitely going to try to be there, if I can peel myself away from ranting and raving on Facebook.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

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