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Big Apple to Britain: A Jersey Girl’s Journey into London PR

After a dozen days in the UK, I’m back in NYC and trying to avoid jet lag by making up for lost time with a much missed Starbucks. Though I did enjoy my tea and biscuits while in London—so much so I brought some back for the DGC team—it’s good to be home and with an absurdly large cup of iced coffee in hand. My time in London was definitely well spent, a perfect mix of work and play (something we value here at DGC). The Eulogy! team did a great job of making sure I met everyone, especially those from various divisions: social media (aka Onlinefire), marketing services, professional services, in addition to the B2B and consumer PR teams.

The Eulogy! team was also careful to make sure I didn’t work TOO hard, so they sent me up on the London Eye (on a thankfully sunny night)…

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…and hosted a lovely pizza party on my last day. One thing that is consistent across countries and cultures is the effect that copious free pizza has on an office: it’s mayhem, wherever you are.

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Overall, it was an amazing trip and I’m so grateful to both DGC & Eulogy! for making it happen. I hope my first “real” trip to London isn’t my last.

As they say, Cheers! xx Meg

Talking the Talk: How to Speak PR in the UK

ImageEver chased a journalist? How many sell ins have you done this week? Chances are, the answers are yes and many, but that’s not how you would say it. A “sell in” is a pitch, and to “chase” means to follow up. While the general approaches and goals of PR are the same on both sides of the pond, the terminology is quite different. When scheduling a “sit down” (meeting) with someone, be sure to check your “diary” (calendar) first. What we call “hits” or “clips” are the more formal “pieces of coverage” in the Queen’s English, and a byline is known as a “comment piece.” A company’s revenue is referred to as “turnover” and where we’d call financials simply “numbers,” here they are “figures.” Though these phrases aren’t what I’m used to hearing, they’re all pretty logical terms (unlike when I learned that a “plaster” is actually a Band-Aid…) and it’s helpful to be able to talk to the talk across various countries—even other English speaking ones!

Beyond the vocab, there are a few other differences when it comes to PR and media relations in the UK and the US. England has a large variety of national papers (approximately 13) where the US of A has mainly regional papers, with a few national exceptions that are particularly competitive. It’s more of result of geography than anything else: compared to the UK, the United States is absolutely massive and there aren’t many national outlets, but there are loads of regional ones. To put it in perspective, the entire UK (including all of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is roughly the size of the state of Oregon. The number of outlets aside, there is also some variation in what the media is interested in. There aren’t as many talk shows in Britain as there are in the US, and they are less likely to cover something purely consumer-facing with no strong news angle. While a hard news hook helps with securing coverage no matter where you are, it’s even more important to get in with the UK media. For this reason, surveys and research are used regularly—with some clients as often as 2 or 3 times a week.

Of course, everyone at Eulogy! has been very helpful in explaining all this to me and has been kind enough to not laugh directly at me when I ask what a particular word means. For the record, “jelly” refers to jell-o, a “biscuit” is actually a cookie, “chips” in the UK are French fries, and I still can’t figure out why Band-Aids are “plasters.”

From Across the Pond: Every Little Added Value Helps

Sometimes it’s refreshing to hear a PR person share her thoughts from a consumer perspective on what brands should be doing to improve shopper loyalty and marketing programs. Claudia_M at Eulogy recently shed light on the fact that today’s consumers – even across the pond – want the brands they use day-in and day-out to listen to their desires and reward them for their continued business.  Take a look below at her opinions on Tesco, BBC and Starbucks, and let us know your thoughts on the matter. For one…Many DGCers would welcome the chance to have an extra shot of coffee in our tall mocha every morning…

It’s common knowledge that the marketing services sector has never had to work harder to gain consumer trust and as a consumer and PR professional alike I feel that this is how it should be. I don’t want to be told what to do, I will make up my own mind whether I choose to buy a product or use one service over another. As consumers we’ve never been so powerful – we can pick and choose where we spend our hard-earned cash and have disloyal love affairs with different brands. “Customer is king” and all that jazz. But seriously, it’s one thing for a consumer to buy a product and a whole different matter for a brand to expect us to be their long term “friend.” Brands must adapt, particularly as we’re increasingly inclined to jump ship for better value. I have been working with marketing agency {united} who are keen to tease out the balance that brands provide in value but also in standing up for their values. This has got me thinking about how brands go beyond selling a product – it’s everything (and added extras) that comes with it. So beyond the cheap price tag, what brands are giving back a little more to the consumer?

Marketing services has a strong role to play in improving people’s lives and helping us to live them. Just a few weeks ago the senior vice-president of marketing at Unilever warned that the profession has become about “selling for selling’s sake” and that it needs to move beyond a pure commercial stance to promote products that “create progress and improve lives.” It was a bold argument which I wholeheartedly agree with. I question the marketing strategies of some of the most well-known behemoths. Take Tesco. Or should I say ‘Detestco.’ Tesco imposes itself on every one of our communities like a stranger that arrives uninvited. In return we receive a highly prized 2-4-1 offer! It has such a great strapline, ‘Every little helps.’ However, it doesn’t do anything in little proportions. Tesco marketing department should perhaps look more deeply into the meaning behind such a promise. Having been largely responsible for changing the look of retail, driving out independent stores by selling everything from clothes to irons, I’d like to see Tesco helping and educating customers to live a little better. Could it remove all plastic carrier bags from its stores perhaps? And the recent halving of Clubcard points awarded per pound of purchases was not such a good idea – it looks to many shoppers as if it is giving with one hand and taking with the other. It is its own fault for getting customers addicted to points in the first place.

Yet, there are some brands out there that are taking steps to listen to consumers’ needs. The beautiful BBC for one. It was no surprise that the world’s best known broadcasting brand made it to 5th place in the recent Consumer Superbrands index. What I admire about it is how it increasingly engages with and responds to consumers’ desires. Choosing to listen to social media groundswell when supporters of BBC 6 Music tried to save it from closure really sticks in my mind as an example of healthy brand-to-consumer friendship.

I have until recently been rather skeptical about Starbucks in terms of its brand values (although I am admittedly swayed by a skinny Frapa-dappa-ccino, or whatever they’re called). Starbucks hasn’t always been friendly to its customers in giving them a little extra to make them want to return, especially with the likes of Cafe Nero providing a good loyalty card scheme. But Starbucks is now providing such a scheme and even better news came last week that it will be pouring an extra shot of coffee into our cups at no extra cost. Amazing! And it’s all down to customer taunts that its coffee isn’t as good as Costa and Cafe Nero. Improving a service directly in response to their customers should keep them sweet and tempt others into the Starbucks fold.

These are just two random examples showing that brands can be aware and attentive to the consumer. As we move deeper into 2012, and with a raft of highly lauded marketing opportunities afoot for brands to capture the public’s attention, it’s time for venerable marketing to be woven into the fabric of the profession.

The ‘goody two shoes’ brand, that honors the consumer, has never looked so appealing.

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