The background

Our client is releasing draft recommendations for reforming the UK’s Public Inquiry process, following an Inquiry into Public Inquiries’.

The day

I wake early and stop myself immediately looking for coverage online. I know two national papers filed stories yesterday afternoon, but there is no guarantee either will have made the cut and now the news is ‘out’, it is highly unlikely a news journalist will attend today’s event. This was our call – if there’s no coverage, we’re in trouble. Over breakfast, I receive a text from a colleague, “Have you seen the Guardian piece?” and I feel a wave of relief come over me.

There is no doubt it’s a good story, but a complicated one – and getting journalists to listen was harder than I’d expected. This was not a ‘quick story’ and required a little more investment to cover properly.

The Guardian’s story however is bang on and testament to the journalist who took the time over several phone calls to really listen and understand what was interesting about a genuinely important issue.

The venue

Arriving at The Royal Society an hour early, my two Firefly team members are not far behind. And behind them are two camera men, who will be filming the event.

While my boss directs the ex-BBC staff in getting exterior shots of the building, my other colleague and I help to reorganise the conference rooms (which are slightly different than expected at recce stage).

aus pic1

We welcome a journalist who will be covering the day in-depth for a monthly publication and my colleague sets up in the back of the main room, ready to tweet throughout the day.

The Radio

The event is going very well and as we approach lunch time, a BBC radio van arrives to interview a guest on the event, live on The World at One.

Having the radio van outside is a good sign as radio is the biggest culprit in ‘pulling’ interviews at the last minute.

Thinking I will be helping to test the equipment, I go along with the Radio Car driver’s request to close the door and sit inside with the headphones on – he tells me that we are getting ready for my broadcast and I inform him that I’m not the Lord being interviewed. He tells me he thought I “looked a bit young for a Lord” and I scuttle off to find the legitimate interviewee.


20 mins before we’re due to go live and the radio car is having trouble getting a connection. I’m in a mad dash, talking to producers and trying to find a quiet room with Skype, or at least a land line.

In the back of my mind, I doubt either will be good enough quality and fear the opportunity slipping away as they ‘go to something else’.

My mission isn’t going well but I receive a call that the van is fixed – relief for the second time today. The interview goes well and it’s back to the event.

The Video

Around this time, the cameramen have edited the morning’s footage and uploaded the video to the client’s YouTube channel.  Yet, interviews are still taking place for a longer, more in-depth video, which will take a few days to turn around.



All day, my colleague has been keeping the client’s Twitter followers up to date with the event and tweeting links to media coverage, videos and fresh blog content. Now it is time to feedback some of the Twitter reaction to the delegates in attendance.

A list of questions and comments from Tweeters is handed to the chair, who reads them out to the room. Answers are then fed-back to those who posed them.


In summary

The event concludes and we’re all happy things ran smoothly. This has been a good example of how successful PR event support works in this day and age. ‘PR events’ are by no means confined to those in physical attendance now; adding complexity and opportunity for the PR team.

Last week I volunteered my PR organisational skills to assist at the The Europas, TechCrunch’s annual awards for start-up technology companies. It proved a great place for PR consultants to network and find out about emerging technologies that can be used towards effective public  relations, corporate communications and reputation management.

The TechCrunch Europas are at the forefront of raising awareness and elevating the profile of unknown brands touting cool, new technology.  The event started with a bang as Mike Butcher, editor of TechCrunch rode into the Carbon Bar on the back of a Harley Davidson motorbike, wowing the 500-strong crowd —a real who’s who of Europe’s start-up scene – including VCs, angel investors, PR companies and of course, technology start-ups.

The event itself was more of a networking do, with everyone knowing everyone in this community of like-minded people. It was all about helping each other and promoting goals through knowledge-sharing. There was even a short welcome video recorded by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who encouraged start-ups to set up operations in the city.

It’s a great place for PR professionals to learn more about upcoming technology that can assist with providing digital PR services to clients; but it’s also a great way to meet interesting companies. Although many of these companies will have limited (if any) PR budgets, they are interesting and may someday grow into the Facebooks, Spotifys and Twitters of the world, so are definitely “ones to watch”. Of course, Firefly has a rich legacy with start-ups, having worked with bebo and launched and Give as you Live.

The awards were the highlight of the event, with winners determined through public voting and expert judges. The coveted Grand Prix award went to PeerIndex, the social ranking service, who showed market traction against larger competitors despite fewer resources, and demonstrated a clear appeal to both business and consumer customers. UK companies such as Conversocial, Pusher, OneFineStay and Mixcloud took home coveted prizes and there was also a clear sign that start-up innovation remained strong across Europe. Start-ups from Berlin (Amen, EyeEm, 6Wunderkinder), Belgrade (Nordeus), Copenhagen (Podio), Stockholm (iZettle) and Helsinki (Rovio, AngryBirds) won in their category or were highly commended.

Tech entrepreneurship is alive and well across Europe. While Silicon Valley is the undisputed home of tech industry behemoths, European tech start-ups are grabbing every opportunity to reach global markets. The awards were described by Ben Rooney in The Wall Street Journal as, “(a) bit chaotic, all a bit of a seat-of-your-pants thing, but executed with huge amounts of energy,
enormous good will and mutual support.”

In my view, there is no better summary for tech start-up culture, itself.

As the song goes, “back to life, back to reality”.  August 2011 has been an eventful month and (social upheaval aside) repeated a long-time trend. For those working in PR and communications, August is rarely ever slow; more often than not, in our profession, August is often breathtakingly frantic. This is due to a number of factors: picking up the slack for colleagues on holiday; end of fiscal year planning cycles; pockets of unused budget being assigned to last-minute projects;  and proposals (that you submitted in the spring) finally getting sign-off for immediate implementation.

This is obviously a good thing for business, but the challenge for all communicators, whether you’re in-house or agency, is giving yourself enough thinking space to plan ahead for even busier periods. Because what’s ahead is autumn/winter, and if you work in the b2b or technology PR world, September marks the beginning of conference silly season.

For one client alone, Firefly is assisting with content for the Intel Developer Forum, IFA, Salon de la Photo and SMAU shows – a real, international event smorgasbord if there ever was one, with the events taking place in San Francisco, Berlin, Paris and Milan, respectively. And this is in addition to the big daddy of consumer technology events, CES, which rears its all-singing, all-dancing head in Vegas come January 2011.

It’s a given that content planning for major conferences should kick off months before opening day. But the need for smart planning even earlier in the process (e.g. six months of more) is becoming more critical because of dwindling attendance numbers coupled with a real need to prove event ROI. Furthermore, new UK bribery laws should get more PR teams thinking about whether old ways of drumming up journalist interest in their company’s products/services – including certain types of entertainment, freebies, etc. – are now outdated or even illegal.

Here are a few our quick tips for surviving conference silly season:

Before the event

At the event

 When it comes to conferences, planning is paramount. So get your whiteboard, dry-erase markers and excel spreadsheets fired up: it’s going to be a bumper-crop autumn.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

We operate in London, Paris and Munich, and have a network of like-minded partners across the globe.

Get in touch

Sign up to Spark, our newsletter

Receive thought pieces from our leadership team, views on the news, tool of the month and light relief for comms folk

You can unsubscribe at any time, please read our privacy policy for more information