I’m sure many PR professionals will agree; public relations is one of the most misunderstood of industries. When I ask friends and family if they know what I do, I’m usually met with: “You try to convince the public that we should buy things we don’t actually need/believe things that aren’t true/trust organisations that aren’t trustworthy.” We are no strangers to misconceptions and stereotypes.
Some may visualise careers similar to Samantha Jones in Sex and the City, while others seem convinced we are event planners, wicked spin doctors or even celebrity publicists. In fact, Bill Gates once said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” This quote clearly highlights the power of PR. However, there are unfortunately still many misconceptions of the industry we work in. Ironically, this could be due to the fact that PR hasn’t had such good PR over the years.
So, in this blog, I’ll aim to debunk some of the most common myths about the industry and show why it’s so much more than Samantha Jones portrays!
Myth 1: PR is easy
One of the biggest myths about PR is that is easy, which usually stems from people’s misunderstanding of what PR is and what a PR campaign comprises. PR isn’t just firing out press releases. It involves crafting messages that will resonate with both your target audience and industry influencers; it requires creativity in aligning your client’s voice with topical issues; and it should always be part of a strategic plan that supports business objectives.
PR requires you to constantly be aware of how people are thinking, interacting and talking about your client and their brand. It takes a lot of hard work, attention to detail and time to build a positive image and reputation, and often the coverage you see is the result of months of effort behind the scenes.
Myth 2: PR is slogans, spin and propaganda
Propaganda has been around for hundreds of years, and is typically used as a form of persuasion to influence people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours. It can be defined as the spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. Spin is inherent in propaganda, but shouldn’t be present in PR. As professionals we hold ourselves to high ethical standards and avoid slogans, buzzwords and propaganda techniques at all costs. In fact, PR practitioners are held to codes of ethical and moral professional conduct.
Audiences today have never been more intuitive or switched on. Thanks to the explosion of social media there are now countless alternative sources for the public to gather information from, meaning they are less easily fooled by biased or ethically questionable content. At Babel, we engage in authentic and honest communication with our clients to achieve their goals through two-way conversations and interactions. Transparency is also key when communicating our clients’ messages, and we work closely with them to make sure content is accurate and effective. In essence, PR is far more than just spin, slogans and publicity stunts.
Myth #3: PR is all boozy lunches and glitz and glamour
Finally, many people think it’s prosecco, canapes and long lunches. I’m sorry if this comes as disappointment, but public relations is a highly strategic profession built on trust, knowledge and relationships.
We see ourselves as an extension of our clients’ business, which means our days are varied. Sometimes we spend our day with our clients to gain first-hand experience of the company and the people that make it a success. Other days we challenge, evaluate, create content, brainstorm, pitch, report and monitor. While there is undoubtedly a social element, and building relationships with journalists is an integral part of our role, PR is so much more than that, and so much more than just smoke, spin and mirrors.
There’s nothing quite like working in public relations. I hope that debunking some of these myths will help you better understand PR and, more importantly, how it can be used as an incredibly effective tool to help your business reach greater levels of success.
You hear it on the news almost daily: a well-known company has been breached, often on a catastrophic scale.
Cyber security has become one of the most urgent issues facing modern businesses, with attacks increasing, impacting all kinds of organisations, and now even several governments. In the past year alone, we have seen major breaches at multinational companies such as Facebook and British Airways –firms we hoped we could trust to protect our data.
While there is still no magic formula to eradicate cyber crime, there are steps that organisations and government bodies can take, as well as things we can do individually, to help reduce risk.
Firstly, there are a number of ways businesses can protect themselves from falling victim hackers. These include assessing the possible risks and pinpointing exactly where the threat to their company lies, and what sector of the business could be targeted. Cyber security consultancies offer services which make it possible to ‘hack’ a company’s infrastructure, enabling them to identify weaknesses and the area’s most vulnerable to threats. Once identified, solutions can be put in place to strengthen systems and data.
However, businesses also need to educate employees, as they can be a vulnerability factor; 88% of UK data breaches in the last two years were caused by human error. No matter how strong your defences are, one malicious email could allow a criminal to break into your IT systems and access sensitive information, such company files, internal communications and employees’ personal data.
To mitigate risk, businesses should make sure that all employees are aware of potential cyber security threats such as phishing emails and using an unsecured network. Security should be built into the culture of an organisation. Companies must have a robust security system in place, but this will become a wasted investment if companies don’t also train their staff, which means going beyond the standard PowerPoint presentations and box ticking exercises.
So, companies are responsible for educating employees, employees are responsible for implementing these teachings. However, should device manufacturers also take responsibility for bolstering the security of devices? California seems to think so. The proposed legislation, which if approved would come into effect in January 2020, requires connected devices to have a ‘reasonable’ security feature or features included at the point of manufacture. This means that whether the products are cars, phones or even fridges, they must come equipped with unique passwords, or a feature requiring the user to set their own unique password. Supporters of the bill say that the threat of litigation will make manufacturers quite rightly turn their attention to security. Similarly, following the introduction of the EU’s GDPR, companies now have a responsibility to ensure data protection is ‘by design and by default,’ placing further onus on device manufacturers to inbuild security into products from the very beginning.
Initiatives such as these show that cyber security is increasingly becoming a legal issue, which may incentivise companies to take greater responsibility for data protection. However, to best mitigate risk, a three pronged-approach, where businesses, governments and individuals all play a role in tackling cybercrime, will undoubtedly be most effective.
Find out more about Babel’s work and experience in the cyber security sector.
Fashion has always been a hotbed for innovation, and has traditionally harnessed the latest in tech and industry developments to better business outcomes. The mills of the industrial revolution transformed production and manufacturing, whilst the internet has done the same for marketing and the customer experience.
Today, technology continues to transform fashion. Have you seen Burberry’s VR mirrors at its Regent Street store? However, high-end fashion companies haven’t exactly been quick to incorporate technology, perhaps due to the fact that much of this industry’s branding is based on heritage, exclusivity, limited quantity and intensive, traditional crafting methods. Compare this with the stack-them-high, sell-them-quick, mass-market appeal of pure-play e-commerce brands and online shopping.
It’s only in recent years that luxury brands have awoken to the power of technology to improve the shopping experience, revive sales and give them an edge over competitors.
Take Gucci, which has worked extremely hard to incorporate technology into its brand. Gucci closed out 2017 with its most profitable year on record and comparable sales rising 45% in the fourth quarter. Creative Director, Alessandro Michele, has successfully used technology and digital transformation to reach new audiences – and new growth figures. Here’s how the lines were blurred between high tech and high fashion.
Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2018-2019 fashion show had people turning their heads for all the right reasons. The Cyborg show took place in what appeared to be a surgical theatre, complete with operating tables and mint-green décor. Models were portrayed as trans-human creatures: one grew a pair of horns, others carried animals, and one had a third eye on her forehead. The concept of the cyborg, which blurs the boundaries between human and machine, was transferred from technology and science-fiction to mainstream apparel.
In another tech-inspired move, Gucci recently launched its ‘Gucci Hallucination’ campaign, a collaboration with artist Ignasi Monreal to promote its Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Using AR and VR, the campaign used Renaissance artworks as inspiration, putting a new spin on Old Masters paintings via video and digital effects. Scenes included impeccably-dressed mermaids and women in clouds fishing for airplanes. The video concluded with Monreal stepping into a painting of a picturesque lily-covered pond to help a beautiful woman dressed in a gold sequinned Gucci dress out of her watery grave.
The campaign also featured in-store AR and VR installations, which allowed consumers to become part of the campaign rather than just bystanders. Stickers located on shop windows throughout the world could be scanned using a smartphone to give shoppers access to an assortment of Gucci products and Monreal illustrations. This was also extended to print media, with a variety of publications featuring scannable ads revealing 3D pages with special AR effects.
Gucci has raised the bar with its technology and digital transformation strategy, giving customers a new, exciting brand experience by merging technology and fashion. Like the fantastical human cyborgs at its fashion show, the line between these two industries are becoming more progressively blurred. AR and VR have provided opportunities for some of the most traditional and historic fashion brands to play among the most modern and cutting-edge, by providing new ways to interact and engage with customers.
Getting your first job after leaving university will always be a proud moment which should be celebrated. Once the dust has settled, however, there is naturally a lot of uncertainty about how to succeed in your new role!
You thought the worry would be over after you answered the competency-based questions or completed an interview task, but reality inevitably hits. The fear of the interview turns into the fear of starting at your new job. So, based on my own experiences, I’ve compiled a list of a few things I have learned to help those starting out in PR.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
While it can be daunting to ask questions when you’re new in a job, no matter what stage of your career you’re in, you’re never going to know all the answers. PR teams are comprised of people with a diverse range of experience and skillsets, so don’t be afraid to ask them questions. They are there to help you achieve your best in the tasks you’re assigned, such as when clarification is needed on an issue or discussing how best to approach a journalist. Having someone explain a topic one-to-one is often far easier to understand than simply reading an article or browsing the web. On top of this, you have the benefit of asking questions to clear up points you are unsure of. Be proactive and ask questions about the specific subject to help you get under the skin of your clients and their business.
- Ask for feedback wherever you can, and accept any criticism that may come along with it…
Asking for feedback allows your managers to see that you truly value the work you’re doing that you want to achieve your best not only for yourself, but for the client as well. It also allows you to understand those aspects of your work which need improvement. Therefore, ask your managers how you’re doing: be open to criticism, but take it as constructive feedback.
I strongly believe that you can really benefit from this type of feedback, as it’s where you’ll learn the most about yourself, including how best to improve your work and what to do differently next time. This demonstrates you’re capable of change and you want to progress in your job role.
- Organisation is crucial
PR involves juggling a number of different tasks and accounts, and you’ll need to be able to alternate between these accounts daily, spending a set number of hours on each. While your managers will keep track of the work you have on, make sure you take ownership of your workload and properly plan your time. Having daily and weekly plans are essential. Find a format that works for you and stick to it.
Thanks to my super-organised line manager Sophie who’s passed on her organisation skills, all my emails go straight into designated folders, and I definitely live every day by my to-do list! This means I know what I have to do each morning before I start work, where I’m up to with certain tasks and whether I can take on more.
Finally, remember that everyone was new once. You’re learning, just like everyone around you. Don’t expect to know everything all at once, or complete tasks as quickly as others in your team. PR can be demanding, but ultimately incredibly rewarding, along with the skills you learn.