Apple announces the latest iPhone, PewDiePie finds himself in trouble again and the momentum of Climate Week sees big tech firms commit to aggressive sustainability goals. Here’s what’s caught our attention in the news this month.

Following in the footsteps of Instagram, Facebook announced that it will be trialling removing like and reaction counts, see more on Forbes. Meanwhile, Instagram continues to impose regulations on the platform by clamping down on posts promoting diets and cosmetic surgery. See The Guardian for the full story. Elsewhere in Social Media, security concerns have forced Twitter to shut down its tweet via SMS function (who knew you could text your tweets?), visit the Daily Mail for more on the story.

In the consumer tech world, just in case you might have missed it, Apple revealed its latest products including the iPhone 11 Pro and ‘always-on’ smartwatch. Head to BBC News for the full download. Toyota also announced its solar-powered Prius this month, see Reuters for more information.

A poorly executed PR effort from PewDiePie left a bad taste after he decided to pledge $50,000 to an anti-hate speech group to celebrate his 100m follower milestone, only to scrap it completely following backlash from his fans for not being “genuine”. Read the full story on BBC News. Other public figures, however, have been in the spotlight for better reasons. A group of celebrities and public figures including Eddie Izzard and Gary Lineker are campaigning against online abuse, advising people to stop engaging with trolls altogether. More on The Guardian.

The climate crisis has received lots of attention this month with climate strikes taking place across the world on September 20th and the key climate summit taking place in New York at the end of September, and many of the big tech firms are getting involved. Amazon has said it plans to be carbon neural by 2040, hiring a fleet of 100,000 electric delivery vans, see more on The Telegraph. Whilst Google signs 18 wind and solar energy deals across the US, Europe and Latin America as reported by the Financial Times.

And just as you thought we lived in a world where the internet is everything, it turns out, a fifth of Brits don’t use it. Check out the full story on the Daily Mail.

Want to stay up to date with the latest tech news? Every morning, the Firefly team creates a roundup of the biggest news stories across the technology space. Sign up to Firewire by emailing

We’ve hired graduates who studied archaeology, we’ve had Fireflies start a career in one European office to continue it in the next; the beauty about entering the PR industry is that you can come into it from many different angles and it gives back many transferrable skills. My story is from turkeys to technology (this will make sense in a sec, trust me!), recently talking through my own PR journey and the Firefly ethos with our friends at Shout! – the presenter, Catherine Bayfield, was actually a Firefly 16 years ago before setting up Shout with another Firefly, Keren Hayes!

I’ve always found it so humbling to know the impact Firefly has had on people’s career journeys, and I have hired very many talented people and believe there’s always inspiration to learn from others. Tune in to Shout! Radio Five at Four, to hear my interview with Catherine. I hope you enjoy something a bit different from me this month – I’ll be back with some timeless tips in May!

This year’s PRCA Awards recognised Ketchum’s European CEO David Gallagher for his contribution to the industry. His accomplishments as an agency leader as well as his unrelenting support for the PR industry though his ex curricular roles at the PRCA and ICCO were celebrated at the annual awards.

Mark MellorThe leaders of the PR world gathered at the PRCA Awards 2015 at the Hilton Park Lane on Tuesday evening, hosted by Countdown’s Rachel Riley.

David, past chair of the PRCA and current President of ICCO, was handed the Mark Mellor Award for outstanding contribution to the PR industry, named after Firefly’s late MD Mark Mellor, whose PR career was cut short in 2012, aged 49.

The award was handed to David by Firefly Communications Group CEO Claire Walker, Mark Mellor’s widow. She said:

“This award is for the PR industry’s unsung heroes and heroines. Those who support from behind the scenes, keeping calm, sticking to long-term goals and commitments, just resolutely getting on with what needs to be done and making real progress. This is about going above and beyond your remunerated position; it’s about giving time and effort for the good of the PR industry. But clearly, only the most highly regarded and respected PR professionals could be recipients.

“David’s calm and measured demeanour belies the impressive juggling act that must surely go on behind the scenes. This is why he is worthy of The Mark Mellor Award. As well as holding down demanding top positions at Ketchum over the past 15 years, David has given back way beyond his agency remit. He has supported the PR industry as a whole by co-steering the PRCA through the most economically challenging period in the PR industry’s history, and since then, by being President of ICCO.”

PRCA 2015 Awards

Those who have broken into the PR business in the last five years are often recounted with stories of ‘the good old days’ when PRs would write press releases, mail them out (literally) and wait for the coverage to roll in.  Times have most definitely changed.

According to the FT, the ratio of PR professional to journalists in the US is almost four to one – and I can’t imagine the ratio in the UK being far behind. It’s not just a case of the PR industry thriving but, as Ian Burrell reported in The Independent at the end of last year; there were 70,000 journalists in traditional media in 2002, whereas there were just 40,000 in 2010. If updated figures are published in 2013, I will be afraid to look.

So, what does this mean for ‘media relations’?

Harder for PRs

There are two ways of looking at it. One may be forgiven for thinking ‘only the strongest survive’ i.e. publications which attract the most readers and therefore the most advertisers continue, whereas ‘duds’ die out. This would mean PRs simply have to work harder to trim the fat and set expectations of what clients can expect in terms of coverage. Anything short of Apple releasing a new iPhone is faced with intense competition to attract the attention of vastly reduced editorial teams at major publications.

Against a lot more competition, PRs for lesser known brands have to find new and inventive ways of catching the attention of the media while pitching only the purest, non-self promotional content, let alone considering what the readers of the publication are interested in.

Easier for PRs

With reduced editorial teams and less budget for investigative journalism, there is an argument that journalists are more reliant on the PR industry than ever. When clients talk about staging press events these days, PRs will try and discourage them in favour of telephone briefings (again, unless you’re Apple or the like) – why? Because journalists often cannot afford five minutes out of the office, let alone hours. As a result, they can often rely on PRs to do the leg work.

PRs get hundreds of journalist requests a day, ranging from ‘comments on the budget’ to ‘case studies of people that are scared of furniture’. Whereas in the past a journalist would have to deal with layers of bureaucracy to get to a company’s CEO on the line, now all they have to do is simply email the company’s PR team saying “can I speak to Mr. CEO” and wait for the PR team to turn things around as quickly as possible.  There are not too many professions with that level of support.

What’s a PR to do?

Competition is good for any business – it brings out the best in all parties. The consolidation of traditional media means PR, like journalism, has to adapt and innovate. The innovations are not always clear – for example, effectively pitching to journalists is so incredibly important and is the difference between effective PR and complete failure – and that’s before we even address what the story being sold in is about.

As there are fewer journalists, PRs are increasingly picking up the slack, while at the same time educating clients on the need to comment on topics and issues that are not always directly related to plugging products and services. That surely cannot be a bad thing.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that while traditional media may be consolidating, in today’s world of blogs and online publications, journalists are by no means the only ‘influencers’ out there. Social media, blogs, podcasts, online video and e-zines are all on the up and perhaps present the greatest array of channels to reach stakeholders that there has ever been.

These new channels are covered extensively on our blog, such as Podcasting: why it should be the PR consultant’s best friend just last month, and my colleague’s look at Vine in this issue of Spark.

The PR/Journalist ratio may be widening, but so too is the array of channels to stakeholders.

Well, here I am, Firefly’s newest recruit.

I join today as Head of Business and Digital. How do I feel about it? One word: positive.

OK, we’re in the after-glow of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, where if you had chance to get into the Olympic Stadium, you were probably in the most positive place on the planet. It’s hard not to be affected by that.

London 2012 - Paralympics

But there’s more reasons to be positive than the Olympics and Paralympics.

The PR industry has seen a lot of changes in the past few years. From the decline of newspaper and magazine readership, to the rise of social media, it’s fair to say that we’ve had to re-evaluate what PR actually means.

So, the first reason I’m feeling positive is that I’ve joined an agency that really gets PR. I’m not talking about the opening a digital team, because clients keep asking about it, or forming a partnership with an ad agency to “create mutually beneficial opportunities”. It’s about understanding how it works – and importantly responding to the industry changes.

I’ve seen that agencies have generally adopted one of three approaches to exploiting the growth of digital PR. The first is to create (or buy) a digital team and offer their services as separate social media specialists. The second approach is to embed digital into the agency, where every consultant is as comfortable with social media communications as traditional media relations. The third is to do nothing.

Personally option one doesn’t work for me. The digital team simply becomes an adjunct to the rest of the agency, rarely invests enough time into understanding the clients’ needs and runs the risk of not understanding how digital fits into the communications mix.

To me, digital needs to be hardwired into every PR consultant’s thinking and social media needs to be just understood as a communications channel, with its own rules of engagement. So, option two is the best as far as I’m concerned. If you are appointing a PR agency, the trick is to spot and then rule out the agency that is saying they’re doing option two, but is actually doing option three (I’ll be writing about this in more detail soon).

The second reason for positivity is that I think that business-to-business PR is a very exciting place to be right now. The rise of social media means that there are new channels to exploit that offer B2B firms the opportunity for real engagement with their clients. This unlocks the ability to be really creative with campaigns and, using analytics tools, measure their impact far more effectively.

From a PR service delivery perspective, there’s also a blurring of the worlds of B2B and B2C communications. Exploiting business data to tell interesting stories is a tactic that works equally well in both a B2B and B2C situation. Meanwhile, video, infographics, blogs and other rich content is starting to relieve reliance on the dull old press releases for business as well as consumer audiences. Finally, there are tons of opportunities to extend a business story off the back of a consumer story (just look at how Cisco exploited it’s sponsorship of London 2012). I think that these relationships will become more inter-dependent in future.

So, lots of reasons to be positive. I’m thrilled to be part of the Firefly team and can’t wait to get stuck in.

Public Relations sometimes gets a bad rap, be it from journalists who have become jaded by the practises of amateur PR practitioners (who mindlessly push non-news on them) or be it from pop culture, which has typically portrayed the industry as ‘a bit fluffy’ from time to time (think Ab Fab).

Of course I believe PR is invaluable and truly makes or breaks companies (but I would), but does it matter what I or others think about the industry? Yes and no.

In many ways, PR is not meant to be the focus, it is meant to be the force behind the success of others. The comparison that springs to mind is with fictional boxing trainer Mickey Goldmill. Mickey trained Rocky, taking him from a hungry unknown fighter with potential and turning him in to a world champion. Was Mickey the star? No. Did he want to be the star? No. His job was to get the champ ready and Rocky’s success was his success.

To those not involved in the inner workings of boxing, it would seem that Rocky had ‘done it alone’. And in fact this was great for Mickey – it made for a better story, equalling more media interest, and resulting in bigger fights for his client. But those involved in boxing – the potential clients for Mickey (had he been real) – they would know the importance of Mickey’s contribution and want a piece of it for themselves.

The point is that PR is about targeting the right people. The people who enlist PR support are the people involved in the inner workings of an industry, the ones who know what is really going on. Would it be nice for the average BBC sitcom viewer to highly respect PR practitioners? Sure. Would it be good if bad PRs didn’t give the industry a bad name with journalists? Of course. Does it ultimately impact those doing PR in the right way? Not really.

And there we go, a good PR agency is comparable to Mickey Goldmill (although you will always get the occasional agency that craves a little glory for itself and views itself as a bit more of a Don King).



Gorkana, the daily media and PR industry news service, has recently interviewed Fiona Hughes, our Head of Consumer.  Gorkana’s weekly “Behind The Headlines” feature delves into the brains of select figures in the PR industry, and we’re pleased that this week, the team at Gorkana has decided to share Fiona’s industry views and secrets.

You can read the results of the interview here:

Last month (on 26th May) the new EU privacy directive came into force, demanding that all websites are to provide information to consumers on the use of cookies in online advertising.  You know the ones?  The small text files from a website that sit on your computer identifying the time, location and details of your browsing on that site.

Currently advertisers use these cookies to find customers, based on previous online behaviour.  Here’s an example: imagine you’re looking for a new sofa, you do your research and you have an idea of what you like, you visit the sofa you have your eye on, the next time you’re on the internet you can see adverts for your sofa.  It’s because the website you visited dropped a cookie on your computer and, and as a result, retargeting technology has identified you and placed an advert on another website that you’re visiting.  Thus providing you with a gentle reminder of the sofa you’ve been looking at so much.

The impact of people choosing not to accept cookies to the online advertising industry is obvious; consumers can’t be targeted, can’t be reminded, and bespoke advertising will become less common.  Some may think this is a good thing, but most people actually prefer to see advertising that’s relevant to their interests rather than random adverts.

This legislation could have a dramatic impact on the online media landscape that we’re used to.  We’ve seen publications like The Times go behind a pay-wall to increase their revenue and protect their content; this could become more common as online publications seek to increase their profits if advertising revenue starts to diminish.  This is all a lot of ‘what if’s’ at the moment as the legislation is still young, but change is upon us and the free internet we see today is evolving.

Those who will be most affected include bloggers, who rely on good quality, insightful content to attract sometimes millions of readers.  Their revenue is generated through advertising on their site, and without behavioural targeting and retargeting this will become more difficult and brands may be less enthusiastic to invest their marketing spend with un-trusted sites.

How will this impact upon the PR industry?  My prediction is that more and more online publications will put up pay walls in order to monetise their content.  It will become harder for enthusiastic individuals to start blogs and turn them into businesses; in other words, the internet is becoming more commercial.

Good and relevant content will become gold-dust for online publications’ survival on the web in order to entice and maintain a steady stream of paying readers.  Websites will also have to think of innovative ways to entice advertisers and ensure they attract the right audience for the right adverts to become viable commercial entities.  PR practitioners will need to develop a more tailored approach, as websites will look for increasingly more exclusive content to stand apart from the competition.

What is certain is that our online media landscape is changing. It’s still early days for the EU privacy directive and these predictions may never come to light, users may not care about cookies or might be happy to disclose their browsing information to ensure the content they’re used to remains free.  This is a case of ‘only time will tell’, but the PR industry needs to keep a close eye on the developments and consequences this law could, and possibly already is, having.

By Sophie Mackenzie, ValueClick


Firefly Senior Account Manager, Simon Bibby on why to be king of the swingers you need to walk and talk on both sides of public relations.

When conversations with industry folk turns to how my career in PR has taken me to my new role at Firefly, I know my in-house background is a good conversation starter. A common question is which discipline I prefer. Having given it some serious thought (then deciding I needed to use Jungle Book metaphors to explain it), it’s an unanswerable question that could have featured in one of my favourite 2010 tactical press releases.

It’s possible to argue a case for both; however the best answer is to do both. It’s the only way to guarantee a leopard changes its spots and in doing so, ensure a PRO understands the pressures and needs of both prowls.

The established norm with agency folk is that you learn your living in agencies first, and then earn your living in-house.  Having chosen a different path already in my career, I can see obvious pit falls in their concept that you rise in an agency and then step into “semi-retirement” in your in-house home.

Now I’m back agency side (I first worked in an agency after studying PR at Uni – the merits of which is a debate for another blog), here’s what I appreciate and respect about in-house heroes:

Now I’m working for a successful and driven EMEA PR agency, here’s what I understand about agency action junkies:

These values are interchangeable, but unless you have played out both scenarios, it can be difficult to see that both sides are more alike than most people think. In the end it comes down to how you contribute to business growth, which at a granular level is determined by the human condition.

This is something Mowgli gets by the end of The Jungle Book and should be a bear necessity for fulfilling your PR potential.



What makes someone an expert? Can it be a self-declared description or should it be a deserved description, bestowed by others? We all know that people who claim to be cool, immediately vaporise their ‘coolness’. Should this theory apply to self-proclaimed PR social media experts as well?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of so called ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’ on social media, entire agencies dedicated to it and people with fancy job titles. But what distinguishes them from the other millions people who work in the PR industry? If I blog, am on LinkedIn, use Facebook, tweet a lot, YouTube publish, know how to use Twitalyzer, Google analytics and a few other measurement sites, does that make me an expert? If so, shouldn’t most of us in the industry be experts?

I’ve come to the conclusion that to be a social media ‘expert’ is not just about everything you know… but about how you apply that knowledge to advise clients and brands on how to engage and converse with their audience online, as well as how you can formulate strategies and campaigns that really deliver business results.

At the end though, I think that no matter what title you get in relation to social media, it all comes down to judgement. If you deliver poor judgment in determining whether a communication challenge should be addressed through traditional or online/social media channels, whatever title you have doesn’t really hold up, whoever you are.

Surely, the best way to learn is by starting to do it for your own company. At Firefly, we asked ourselves some questions by Daryl Wilcox (who also drafted a whitepaper three years ago on the subject that we found very useful!), which triggered some discussions and laughs in the office. How well do you stand up to these?

Is it time to shape your reputation?

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