Media owners and marketing agencies can benefit from planned PR
activity on their behalf just as much as other types of company. It is a
fallacy to suppose that simply because they are in the media business,
PR will take care of itself.
Being in the business does not automatically put you at the front of
people’s minds. And even if you do get lots of media calls despite
adopting such a passive approach, this inevitably leads to reactive
The problem with this is that while you may get coverage - maybe even
lots of it - it may not be in connection with the issues of your
choosing. That being the case, it is almost impossible to position
yourself or develop a strong voice.
Martin Loat, the managing director of Propeller Marketing
Communications, which has several media companies as clients, explains:
’It’s not just about replying to calls. It’s working out where you want
to go as a company, then going and getting it. PR is a planned programme
that builds up to a proper schedule.’
In the dog-eat-dog, dog-writes-about-dog world of today’s media,
companies that do not pay attention to PR risk being misrepresented in
media coverage or -arguably more worrying still - may see their
reputations and their value in the marketplace suffer because of a lack
of column inches or dearth of media soundbites. An important audience
may draw the conclusion that a certain company has a low media profile
because it is unworthy of significant coverage.
There’s undoubtedly a lot of interest in media companies. ’We live in an
age where the media, as well as being the purveyor of the message, is a
story in its own right,’ says Ian Monk, the group media director at
MacLaurin Group, which numbers among its clients the national newspaper
publisher, Press Holdings, Emap Elan, Carlton Productions and the Disney
So what sort of skills do PR consultancies need in order to promote
media clients? And do these skills differ markedly from those used to
promote clients in other sectors?
Julia Hobsbawm, the chairwoman and head of strategic consulting at
Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications, thinks agencies working the patch need
to be ’up to speed on the world of media, journalism, politics and
But she says that broadly speaking the management functions remain the
same as with clients in other fields - IT, for example. Selling articles
that have appeared in a magazine to other media is much like
conventional business-to-business PR, she explains.
Adrian Brady, the joint managing director of Eulogy!, says: ’The main
difference is that in many ways it is far more all-encompassing than
other PR activity. The big thing about PR in the media and marketing
world is that people really demand a PR company that understands all the
elements of the marketing mix.’
When a PR agency works for another agency in the marketing field, there
are also certain sensitivities to observe. Not least the needs of the
client agency’s own clients. Often advertising, direct marketing, design
or sales promotion agencies are unable to talk about their best work
because of client confidentiality issues.
This may make securing coverage more difficult. However, there are means
of generating publicity that do not involve talking about client work
per se. For instance, the development of a PR vehicle with which a
marketing agency can be associated. An example of this is the ambient
media report which Propeller developed for its former client, the
outdoor advertising agency, Concord.
Positioning leading agency figures as star industry spokesmen with media
beyond the confines of the marketing press is another way of building
profile. So is creating spoof advertising to exploit media interest in
particularly hot issues.
When agency clients are more than happy to have attention drawn to what
they are doing, PR can be used as a means of amplifying advertising. One
of the most famous instances of this was the media coverage Jackie
Cooper PR achieved for TBWA GGT Simons Palmer’s ’hello boys’ Wonderbra
Brady says that when an agency has created a great campaign, PR
consultants need to couch it in terms that marketing directors and other
relevant client company decision-makers will understand. This may
involve educating the marketplace on terminology and concepts.
The most successful PR agencies in the sector are those with the
determination and clout to persuade their agency clients to commit time
and effort to their own PR.
Loat explains: ’Agencies have a strong client service culture, and
rightly so. By their nature they run around doing what’s right for their
clients and not doing anything for themselves.’
Finally, we come to the internet. The online explosion has created a
host of online media properties, as well as leading to the emergence of
new PR techniques. The internet PR specialist, Gnash Communications, has
a four-strong team devoted to viral PR - communicating straight to
consumers via the internet.
There are agencies - such as Firefly and Gnash - that have successfully
aligned themselves with internet marketing and are appealing to dotcoms
and new-media agencies. But in many respects, internet media properties
do not differ greatly from their offline counterparts.
’New media is just another medium,’ Sarah Braben, the managing director
of Braben Company, says. ’It has defined consumers, target messages and
brand identity.’ And, more often than not, a need to be promoted through
FIVE NOTABLE PR AGENCIES WITH MEDIA CLIENTS
HOBSBAWM MACAULAY COMMUNICATIONS
Supported the launch of Wallpaper magazine and promoted Vanity Fair for
five years. Clients include the ad agency, BMP DDB, New Statesman, the
Economist Group and BBC news online. Organised the premiere screening of
the recent BBC costume drama, Wives & Daughters.
Set up in January 1994 by the former Capital Radio marketing director,
Sarah Braben. Portfolio of retained and project-based clients includes
Emap, Kiss 100, Empire magazine, 18 radio stations across the UK, IPC,
Felix Dennis, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
PROPELLER MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS
Carries out an annual ’Ads that make the news’ survey. PR consultancy
clients include the Cartoon Network, the media buyer, Motive
Communications (merging with Starcom), Rapture TV, Sky Sites, Granada
Media Interactive and the Telegraph Group.
Marketing agencies specialist whose clients include the trade body, the
Direct Marketing Association, the design and marketing consultancy,
Basten Greenhill Andrews, the ambient media company, Aspen Media, the DM
agency, DP&A, the Zenith Media-owned media strategist, Zed, the PR
consultancy, AUGUST.ONE Communications, the Marketing Store Worldwide
and the below-the-line agency, Tarantula.
New-media specialist with clients including BSkyB, FT.com (for which it
has a viral marketing brief) and the internet portal, Excite UK. Also
handles the PR for First Tuesday, the definitive networking initiative
for web entrepreneurs and financiers.