How PRs can maximise their body clocks

It’s quite alarming to think that it’s 10.20am as I write this blog post and, according to experts, I’m supposed to be at my most alert… If I’m completely honest, I’m absolutely shattered. On reflection, perhaps I shouldn’t have stayed up late in bed watching ‘The Island with Bear Grylls’ on my laptop. Desperate to see the end of the show, I fought the urge to fall sleep until the credits rolled. It was a great idea at the time but if this is going to be my energy peak, I dread to think how I’m going to make it through the rest of the day. And I’ve got that difficult client coming in this afternoon – help!

This morning, as reported by the BBC’s James Gallagher, scientists from some of the UK’s leading universities warned us that ignoring our innate need for sleep, greatly increases our risk of developing certain chronic diseases. We’ve heard it all before, everything from cancer to heart disease has been linked to a lack of sleep, but when experts club together and issue a ‘warning,’ it makes you sit up and think.

Off the back of these findings, the BBC’s health and science team (including @JamesTGallagher, @RachMBuch and @Vic_Gill) developed this very helpful #BBCBodyClock, an interactive reference tool that explains how your body should feel at certain times of the day. Perhaps we can use these findings to work out how best to tailor our own schedules to align with our likely energy levels, whilst simultaneously improving our chances of a healthy future? Fortunately for my peers, I have endeavoured to do exactly that by considering what the comms professionals’ ideal day could look like.

Laura’s Ideal Daily Schedule for Comms Experts (based on #BBCBodyClock findings):

  • 6-7am – Wake up early and resist the urge to exercise (Phew – I’ve been getting that right, at least!). This is also apparently prime time for heart attacks so keep a packet of aspirins nearby in case you feel one coming on. This may be more likely if you’ve dealt with a number of comms crises in recent weeks.
  • 9-12am – Set the morning slot aside for all writing tasks – everything from press releases to blogs to proposals – this is when your mind is supposedly most alert and is best for short-term memory.
  • 12-3pm – Have a spot of lunch and then combat the post-lunch alertness dip with an engaging brainstorm. Perhaps consider a standing brainstorm to keep the creative juices flowing.
  • 3-6pm – Apparently this is the best time for exercise, so in the absence of a treadmill at your desk, book out conference rooms for afternoon calls and walk continuously around the room during the call to take advantage of your fitness peak. Or schedule meetings across town and walk to them, avoiding public transport.
  • 6-9pm – Get out there and network! Organise drinks and a light meal with journalists, fellow PRs, industry experts, etc. NB: This is supposedly a bad time to eat a big meal but a great time for your liver to digest alcohol.

bike men

  • 9-11pm – Set morning alarm on smartphone immediately so you don’t feel the urge to read your emails right before you fall asleep, thengo to bed as soon as you’re tired. Perhaps read a few pages of your book to take your mind off tomorrow’s workload but switch off the lights before you fall asleep on the pages.
  • 12-6am – Sleep in a peaceful, dark, quiet environment and retain memories from the day.

Now to put my plan into action…

When #PricelessSurprises became #CostlyMistakes

We wouldn’t have wanted to be in House PR’s shoes yesterday.  No, not even a ticket to the Brit Awards (and the remote possibility of rubbing shoulders with David Bowie), would have made us change places with them after the furore that blew up on Twitter around #PricelessSurprises for their client MasterCard.  So what did House PR do that was so wrong?

The agency committed what is commonly known in the PR world as the eighth deadly sin.  They presumed to tell a journalist what they should write.  They used the sought-after Brit Awards press seat allocation as collateral, dangling the tickets tantalisingly in front of some of the UK’s top showbiz reporters, in return for an agreed list of specific coverage. This even included a suggested Tweet for each journalist to cut and paste.

The relationship between hack and PR professional is a delicate thing, and it’s driven by our news media’s need for authenticity and balance.  There is a fine, unspoken line that both parties respect and don’t cross. For the journalist,  this means cutting the PR person enough slack to let them ask for a brand or website mention in the article that they, after all, supplied the idea, spokespeople, evidence and statistics for. Within the boundaries of good balance and objectivity, sometimes a journalist will be able to do exactly that.

For the PR person, this means perhaps working some of the brand’s key messages into the story that they pass on or perhaps supplying an image or b-roll that incorporates client branding in it. Or even perhaps asking in a slightly embarrassed, humble tone, if they would mind awfully, if it’s not too much trouble, mentioning their client by name in their piece. But true PR professionals never, ever presume to have rights over what the journalist will finally publish. Once that line is crossed, the trusted relationship is over.  Which does nobody any favours.

Telegraph Mandrake columnist, Tim Walker has pointed out, what House PR should have done is to pay for advertising alone.  This, in marketing terms, is how you control what appears in the press and is posted on social channels.  Well, direct advertising is probably not the right medium for subtle brand placement.  But there are an increasing number of other forms of paid and owned media that could have been explored. A paid blogging programme for example, could have delivered the brand mentions and hashtags that they were looking to journalists for. Not to mention targeted, sponsored posts on Linkedin.  House PR was already paying to promote #PricelessSurprises on Twitter and we’re pretty sure, if they’d just asked the journalists that were invited to the Brit Awards to use that hashtag, most of them probably would have done so.

As it stands, #PricelessSurprises was hijacked yesterday by just about every p*ssed off hack in London and yet was still promoted all day. But then there’s no such thing as bad PR, so they say…

It might not have helped the PR industry’s reputation, but this story has certainly provided us with a useful case study for our trainees at Racepoint and for those degree students we regularly provide workshops to.

What The Times’ new paywall update means for PRs

It’s emerged this week The Times newspaper is backtracking ever so slightly on its paywall policy. It really is ‘ever so slightly’, two sentences at a time.

the times paywall

When The Times’ paywall shot up in May 2010 it was unique. Unique because it completely closed off all access to the site’s editorial content for non-subscribers. This contrasted harshly with other paywalls that allowed readers to view a select number of articles or at least read the headline and first paragraph, notably the FT but other trade and specialist titles too.

Now the News Corp owned paper has backtracked. Google, Bing and any other search engine’s crawlers will be able to grab the first two sentences the paper’s editorial articles and index them alongside freely accessible sites. The update should happen next month, says The Telegraph.

Paid Content rightly suggests this is an effort to market the paper to new customers, having reached over 130,000 paying subscribers since the paywall went up. Ignoring the “drive by traffic” has been at the heart of The Times’ strategy, and it’s nice to know the paper’s digital team are willing to reassess their position a few years in.

But what does this mean for PRs?

When the paywall first went up I had a few questions over the value of the paper for PRs, effectively weighing the worth of reaching a fledgling but well targeted audience with a wider, more causal readership. There were also questions of exclusive stories with a site paywalled up to the eyeballs, and generally how monitoring would be tougher for PRs.

The latest update means it is work revisiting these topics:

  • Exclusives: well it seems you can have your cake and eat it too. Or other clichés. From a PR perspective, The Times is much more appealing for an exclusive story with a few bricks knocked out of the paywall. Your story will now get to the national broadsheet readers who are arguably far more engaged than the legions of causal readers hitting guardian.co.uk and telegraph.co.uk everyday. If you’re looking after a brand whose name won’t grab attention in headlines, this is even more appealing.
  • Monitoring: this will get a whole lot easier, especially for anyone scanning nationals for client and industry coverage to compile a morning news scan. If there’s a big story picked up by other nationals, I’ll bet my Gorkana log-in few PRs have included a Times article in news scans over the last two years. You’re just so much more likely to find it somewhere else first. Presumably the update means Times content will be included in Google Alerts too, but Paid Content confirmed monitoring services such as Meltwater are still off the cards. The downside is any client without a sub won’t be able to read the entire article in their scan, but at least The Times will be back on the radar. Which leads us to…
  • Influence vs exposure: this makes me wonder if Times writers have become less influential than their counterparts at other papers, whose stories are freely viewable by PRs, analysts, clients and…everyone. Does lack of exposure mean less influence? It’s not impossible, but if it’s the case the new paywall could reverse this process. Of course the majority of Times’ writers can be followed on Twitter, and the editorial team haven’t been hidden away in a cupboard since 2010. Some of them started a Tumblr.

@simonhill

Hot Wheels performs real life car PR stunt

Hot Wheels has done a cool thing, a very cool thing. A cool thing that happens to count as a PR stunt, so here you are.

Check out the videos below of two cars being driven through a real life loop at this year’s X Games (the Olympics of extreme sports) in Los Angeles.

This is a PR stunt done good.

Source: PRExamples

@simonhill

Want Great PR? Break a World Record (or get David Coulthard’s balls on board)

We’re not strangers to Formula One Drivers getting involved with bits and pieces of PR, but Kimi Raikkonen’s attempt to keep cool with ice cream earlier this year just got blown out of the water by David Coulthard.

In this YouTube video, which has passed the 1.7 million views mark since being posted a week and a half ago, David teams up with pro-golfer Jake Shepherd to set a new world record. The pair now hold the record for the farthest golf shot caught in a moving car, which stands in the Guinness Book of World Records. The shot was caught at 275 metres from the tee at 178mph. Great news for Mercedes, which used the video as a viral ad for their SLS AMG Roadster – the car featured in the video (although sadly Mercedes’ F1 season is not breaking quite as many records).

Check out the video here:

Of course, this is not the first time a Guinness World Record has been broken as part of a PR programme. Our own clients have got in on the game over the years too.

Back in 2008, Mozilla, the open source company behind the Firefox browser, set and broke a world record for the most number of software downloads in a single day with the launch of Firefox 3.0. That was over 8 million downloads by the way, if anyone fancies a pop at it.

And on the more jovial side, ever wondered how fast a lego robot can solve a Rubik’s Cube? One of the guys at ARM Holdings did, and teamed up with a mutual lego robot lover to find out. Turns out it can be done in just 5.270 seconds – which is the current world record.

So there you have it – world records, nice PR is you can get it.

@simonhill