Can (and should) agencies be catalysts for change?

April 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now but somehow struggled to find a catalyst for it.

Then I read the ongoing ‘Trust me, PR is dead‘ debate currently being championed by Robert Philips and it somehow came together.

I understand, and to a point, agree with those of the opposite side to Robert who decry the ‘death of xxxx’ as a tried and tested book selling tactic. However it’s very hard to not to view the current transformation of the public relations sector as one on a scale never been seen before.

The points Robert makes for why PR in its current guise is defunct can also be applied to many industries. In fact, everywhere you look industries are being disrupted. From the consulting sector to financial services  Even lawyers,  accountants and doctors are going through change. And what’s bringing this on? We now live in a world now in which there are connections between humans and objects on a scale never been seen before.

To think that the nature of communications services that we provide (and called PR or publicity) won’t change is naive at best and disingenuous at worst. The question is what will the services look like.

For a few years now, I’ve closely followed the social business movement. I was lucky enough to work (albeit for a short period) with a consultancy that tasked itself with using social technology to transform the way organisations work. One of the many things I learnt was that the problem the social business movement had was it was largely too ‘technology’ focused and did not give enough weight to how people behave and the culture that governs them. This in turn has spurred some truly thought leading commentary about how organisations of the future should be set up and run. I encourage anyone involved in any form of communication to read the work of Stowe BoydPhilip SheldrakeLee Bryant, the Change Agents community amongst many others.

So what does any of this mean for the everyday PR professional? Well I’m in no way suggesting that PR people flock to become experts on organisational change but as Robert points out and I completely agree, the future of the industry is around public leadership and radical transparency. In my view this is where the future of the communicator lies. Organisations need to change and need help from innovative communicators to do so. In my opinion, understanding what the public expects of an organisation and acting as an agent of change to ensure that the organisation compiles accordingly is primary role. Or on the flip side, delving deep into what makes an organisation truly different and articulating that message to a relevant public. It might not sound different from what PR was originally set up to do and there are a few internal comms pros leading the way, but if we’re all being honest, it’s rarely what agencies and comms departments have actually be doing.

On a practical level, I believe as communicators we need to skill ourselves up in learning about organisational design and operations, analytics, finance as well as getting a deep understanding on the nuances of communications platforms currently in fashion (ie Facebook and Twitter but likely WhatsApp and WeChat tomorrow).

At the very least, the mere fact that the debate has clearly touched a few nerves must surely be a good thing.

What’s the difference between a social media and a PR agency?

March 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A few weeks ago I caught up with Ben Smith, founder of PR Moment who wanted on get my views on the difference between a social media agency and a PR agency.

In the main, I try not to focus on the intricacies of these type of arguments. I do tend to agree with the point of view that with clients, it’s irrelevant what the agency who supplies their communication services call themselves.

But the argument will no less carry on as social networks mature along the requisite skills to market on these networks. For me, the one thing all communication providers need to do more of is better consulting with clients on what success really looks like irrespective of the channel and how to plan better to get there.

You can hear the full interview here:

5 of my most inspirational reads/feeds from 2013 (I think…)

January 17th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

While I might not have blogged as much as I would have like over the last year (a common problem with most), the amount of stuff I read, listened to and watch certainly went up a few notches. I’m increasingly finding there’s more I want to read than I have time for.

I wrote some time ago about sharing my ‘daily inputs’ so advertisers know when’s best to get in touch. Expanding on this a bit more, I thought I’d share the top 5 articles/podcasts/videos from the last year that have inspired me the most. It wasn’t easy to compile.

In no particular order:

1) The blueprint of a content organisation - I’ve followed Michael Brito for a few years now. He’s someone who truly understands the what makes organisations tick and what they need to do to become open, effective and innovative businesses.

2) Social business adoption in the workplace - My ex-Dachis Group colleague, Kieran Kelly produced a superb and detailed overview of what organisations need to consider (beyond mere evangelism) when getting employees to adopt social practices.

3) Here’s what smart companies get that others don’t - I stumbled across articles by Jay Daragon and the relationship economy over the summer and his posts really opened my eyes to the changing nature of work and how ‘social’ is playing a role.

4) Pretty much every Twist image podcast from Mitch Joel – If there’s anyone working in marketing and communications who hast listened to Mitch Joel’s podcast series, you need to have words with yourself. There’s so much to learn from people who Mitch interviews. The podcasts have a very relaxed ‘let’s talk about what the industry is doing in a down to earth manner’ feel to them.

5) With the unerring focus on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and the like, I’m always amazed about how other networks such as LinkedIn but more importantly Slideshare get overlooked. I spend a lot of time on Slideshare and stumbled on this deck from Julian Cole on comms planning. Highly recommended.

Right, now to press publish before I change my mind again…

(Pro tip: I use Pocket to bookmark my things I come across on the web)

Being social? It’s easier said than done

January 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

As 2014 gets going and we start to see more business adopt a more mature approach on how they view and use social networks, they will be more calls for organisations to ‘be social’ and not just do it.

I’ve long been an advocate for this approach (evidenced by what I call my blog).  Interestingly though as I work with organisations that have a desire to put ‘social’ at the heart of their operations I’m finding that being social just doesn’t come as easily to some people (let only some organisations). You could argue that being social requires  a certain level of openness and extroversion that some people just aren’t comfortable with. A lot of people I know professionally via social networks are that way inclined and hence find it easier to connect with others both on and offline. But there’s a vast amount of people who, like public speaking, have to work really hard at it. When you try to apply this approach at an organisational level, it becomes even harder as truly being social means not having the fear to share your inner workings, fears, triumphs and failures. It means expressing who you really are in a open forum to people who you may or may not have a pre-existing relationship with and no clear sense of how you will be received.

Most people I know who are good at networking (on or offline) tend to be comfortable in their own skin. They’ve gone through a period of self reflection and know enough about themselves to constantly live in the open (so to speak).  Showing the world what you really are warts and all. This is probably the toughest part of being social for an organisation.

It perhaps often doesn’t get talked as much as it should do  but there is a dark side of being a social as an organisation. Where the ugly side of business (such as back-stabbing, arse kissing or incompetence) have the potential to show a company up.

So where do organisations do from here? I my view many now need to go through that period of self reflection. Uncovering who they really are and what makes them stand apart. When I look back at my first tweets, Facebook posts etc I realise I’ve learnt a lot about myself over the years. For organisations looking to ‘be social’ rather than just do social that’s the next step.

Big data meets PR #PRShow13

November 30th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Earlier this week, I spoke at the inaugural PR Show at the Business Design Centre in London.
My topic – What big data means to PR. Here’s my slide deck from the session.

For an even more concise wrap up of the session, the guys at Prezly sketched out these notes from the day. Brilliant stuff.

What does ‘big data’ mean for the PR professional?

November 7th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

We live in a world of buzz and hype words – social media, engagement, social ROI, real-time marketing, social business… the list goes on.

And of course there’s “big data”. A term that is creating optimism and repulsion in equal measures across the marketing landscape.

Of course for all those who work closely in the industry, it’s tempting to roll our eyes at a word or phrase we see banded around a lot. In reality though, the buzzwords (and the sways of conversations around them) serve an important role in helping many practitioners learn and develop their skills on an ongoing basis. As my first boss said to me many a time, “When you’re bored of saying something the 150th time, someone is just hearing it for the first time.”

Against this background, I’ve been asked by the CIPR to help attendees at The PR Show event try and demsytify what big data means for the PR professional.

Some details around what I’ll be spouting on about here:

Eb Adeyeri on Big Data and PR from CIPR on Vimeo.

Hopefully see you there

Fundamental purpose

November 2nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

“You hang on to the idea of who you are as a company, and you focus not on what you do but on what you could do. By being really clear about what you stand for and why you exist, you can see what you could do with a much more open mind. You enhance your ability to adapt to change.”
(Collins 1997)

True that.

Next move in the social business game?

October 24th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night I attended a panel event on the use of social tools in the workplace organised by head of digital and social for Fishburn Hegdes (@fishburnhedges) (and fellow Gooner) Chris Reed (@chris_reed). The panel consisted of Andrew Grill (@andrewGrill) partner at IBM Interactive and renowned social business thought-leader, Miguel Garcia (@MiguelAngelo) Customer Success Manager for Yammer in London, Ben Matthews (@Benmatthe) Head of strategic communications for eBay in Europe) and Jacobina Plummer (@jacobinaplummer) Global Change & Communications Manager, Agile Working for Unilever.
With the debate on the terminology around what social business is and if it means anything at all to the all important C-Suite, it was really interesting getting the views, real use cases and personal anecdotes of the panel session.

Key takeaways for me:

  • In a global organisation with thousands of staff, the use of an internal social network is essentially a ‘can’t live without’ particularly in the modern age of distributed work forces
  • The use (or in some cases misuse) of social tools with any organisation relies on those at the very top setting an example
  • What qualifies as success differs from organisation to organisation as expectations are very different (obvious but worth stressing)
  • Social networks within the firewall should not replace the role of line managers to instilling a sense of purpose for employees but instead serve to augment the organisational culture.
  • Agencies and consultancies (thankfully) have a role to play in helping organisations implement best in class practices but need to be able to demonstrate they can ‘walk the walk’ and not just ‘talk the talk’

As organisations  continually look to transform themselves in digital age, I suspect we will see these discussions ramp up further on this side of the pond over the next 2 to 3 years. Interesting times as they say.

Resetting the ‘PR’ button?

October 15th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad sign but the conversation on the future of the PR industry seems to have kicked up a notch in the last few months. The PRCA in collaboration with Ketchum have been leading the debate/discussion on this.

This is a debate that’s always been around but appears to have more people soul searching than I can remember.

As the whole ‘social media thing’ seems to be entering into the trough of disillusionment, PR firms and practitioners are starting to wonder what value they truly offer clients and organisations. It appears the PR industry is going through a trough of disillusionment.

Something I haven’t seen by way of debate from the PRCA though (which given what the acronym stands for, we should) is the notion of ‘consultancy’ versus ‘agency’ thinking. This is an area I’ve been fascinated with for a while now in particular as the consultancy industry as we know is going through a shake up of its own.

For too long those working in PR have adopted an agency mentality – we’ll do what you want for a retained fee and provide you with the results on a regular basis. The main reason you hire us is because you probably don’t have the time or resource to do it yourself. 

PR, sadly, in most circles has become synonymous with media coverage and relationship building with stakeholders of varying degrees. Agencies are relied upon to ‘oil the wheels of this process’. There are obviously exceptions but in the main this is how things play out. And it works. In fact, it still works for many.

Then however there’s the consulting approach. This is more about businesses having a problem they don’t know how to solve. In most cases it’s not about throwing bodies at a problem. An organisation has already thought through a problem and are stumped. So they’ll call in consultants to help work through how to solve this. Typically this function fell to management consultants who employed very smart people to come up with solutions to specific problems. Again that works. And still works for many.

But the landscape of online behaviour is changing things. Running businesses where the expectations of customers, potential customers, employees, shareholders and competitors are changing by the minute means for those in PR specific functions, areas that might have required an ‘agency’ offering means they now need a ‘consultancy’ solution.

It’s only a subtle difference. But a difference none the less. Setting the expectation and delivering on it are real business issues now because the expectation being set externally by industry-agonistic leaders who’s work is viewed in public forums.

In essence, the communications function is now inadvertently more strategic and thought through than ever before. Governments and public bodies have long realised this. Social networking software has pretty much forced businesses to catch up.

So what does that mean for the the PR industry?

In my view, if you’re in the strategic space you need to follow the consulting methodology. In all likelihood this means project work, developing analytically derived insights,  outcomes based results and pretty much staking your reputation on your recommendations.

As ever, all views and counter points welcome.

My personal API

August 20th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Another day and another cold call from a automated service telling me about a PPI claim that I might have. I realise that companies all have to make money and trim costs wherever they can. Having ACTUAL people cold call only to be told no is an expensive business.

This post isn’t actually about that. I don’t mind people calling me. Well… I do when it’s inconvenient but if they catch me at the right time I’m happy to have a chat (and then say no).

This post is more about defining the terms of condition through which I’ll be marketed to. Hell having worked in PR for years, I’ve done the ‘media pitch’ only to catch journalists at an inopportune time thereby pissing them off. I know what it’s like being on the other side.

For those active in social media marketing will know, we talk a lot about the customer journey and optimise the customer touchpoints (phrases I hate). But as a customer, I feel that I should take responsibility for telling those that want to sell me something the terms of conditions by which to do so. A kind of personal API if you will

So with that in mind, here’s a typical online journey for me complete with the appropriate touchpoints (another word I hate).

Wake up (Between 6am and 7am)

  • Check Twitter for Arsenal news, whoever I spoke to last night, any interesting trends
  • Check Flipboard and Feedly for Sports news and other feeds on marketing, business, and technology news
  • Check Timehop
  • Possibly check Facebook

Bath time (7am ish)

  • Listen to Talksport (unless it’s been a bad day for Arsenal then it’s Radio 4 or LBC)
  • Watch a bit of BBC Breakfast following by Peppa Pig and or Noddy/Postman Pat/Thomas the tank engine (I have 2yr old in case anyone is wondering)

Journey into work (8am to 9am)

  • Listen to Talksport (unless a bad day for Arsenal then see above)
  • Listen to podcast by Mitch Joel /HBR/Jay Baer

Arrive at work (9am ish)

  • Check Twitter,
  • Check LinkedIn on any contacts I’m meeting or prospecting
  • Feedly for industry related topics

Lunch at desk (bad I know) (1pm ish)

  • Read latest Kindle book

Leave work (6pm ish)

  • Listen to Talksport (chances are I’ve gotten over the bad Arsenal news)
  • Listen to podcast
  • Read book (kindle)
  • Write blog post via WordPress mobile (as I’m doing now)

Get home (7pm ish)

  • Watch Peppa Pig (urgh)

Evening chill out time (ie once daughter finally sleeps) (9pm ish)

  • Watch TV (Comedy, drama or sport)

Bedtime (11pm ish)

  • Check Feedly/Flipboard
  • Check Facebook

That’s roughly it. If you’re a marketer and think you can find an gap to ‘interlock’ with me, feel free.


Since writing this post I’ve discovered a great tool built by Visual DNA  that allows you take simple personality test that ascertains what brands you’ll likely be receptive to (amongst other things).

Mine is scarily accurate….

Who is EbA